Boycotting the out-breath

Boycotting the out-breath

Boycotting the out-breath… I love it. I love to close my eyes and at the end of the exhale, to ‘dissolve”. It is absolutely wonderful and so relaxing. The quotation is from one of Chogyam Trungpa’s books: Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery. A great book to be read and re-read, slowly, mindfully, lovingly...
Low Energy = Feeling Down

Low Energy = Feeling Down

The equation governs the life of most people with MS. Right now, I know that I am in a great place. I know I am lucky: I have a wonderful partner, amazing friends and relatives, a job I love. But despite this knowledge, I feel down. Why? Because my energy level has run low. I usually pay very close attention, a bit like a stingy accountant: I am only allowed to give out energy if I have good reserves. However, over the last two months I tended to overspend. Flying to Amsterdam to shoot videos, then driving to Portugal for a one week yoga for MS retreat, back to the south of Spain to pack, driving through Spain and France to move to the South of England, unpacking and getting organised here…  I am now in the red! And although I am absolutely amazed at how swiftly everything went and feel blessed by all the opportunities I am given, I cannot fully enjoy it. The lower part of my body is numb. The upper part is aching. The back of my head aches as if someone just hit me with a baseball bat. So what do you do? Do you say “I’m happy” although inside you feel pretty low? Do you say “I’m down” although you know you are not really really down? I think the best is not to say anything but to RESTORE your energy! I only do restorative yoga at the moment. But I also enjoy reading, having a bath (not too hot otherwise it makes me tired) without feeling guilty! Ps: I am not sure...
Stretching & Strengthening the Thoracic Spine

Stretching & Strengthening the Thoracic Spine

Thoracic pain is not as common as lower back or cervical pain – mainly because the vertebras don’t move as much but tension is fairly common. Whether you have experienced thoracic pain or tension, you can find relief through yoga. Thoracic Pain Thoracic or mid back pain is often felt between or behind the shoulder blades and the usual cause is some form of muscular tension in the area. Thoracic Tension Thoracic tension is quite common among people with bad posture. Sitting for long hours in a bad position like slouching on a couch all might lead to tension in the thoracic spine. This slumped over posture can also be caused by our moods.. but whatever the cause, the question is…. what is the solution?  The solution Body – If you know that you tend to have bad sitting habits, the first thing you can do is to make sure you sit correctly whether at work, in front of your computer or at home when you relax. Mind – Our mood also affects the way we hold our spine. Feeling low can sometimes lead to collapsing in the chest and slumping. A simple thing you can try is to “look up”! Try it next time you feel down, just gaze at the horizon, roll your shoulders back and down and see how you feel. What muscles are involved in thoracic tension…. When ‘slumping’ becomes a habit, it obviously affects the muscles. There are many muscles that contribute to thoracic tension, but the two main ones for me are: Serratus Anterior – ‘boxer’s muscle’ The serratus anterior muscles connect the shoulder blades to...
Developing Core Strength for a Healthy Back

Developing Core Strength for a Healthy Back

As we have probably all been told before, the key to prevent lower back pain (LBP) is to have a strong core… True, lumbar-pelvic stability is indeed crucial to maintain a healthy back. Having strong abdominals helps to keep the spine in place and the pelvis stable. However, some abdominal workouts might actually increase back problems rather than alleviate them. Why? Because many abs exercises tend to be either: Global – in that they engage all the muscles in the core area, including the often over contracted psoas, or Focused exclusively on the rectus abdominis (the six pack muscles). We do need to strengthen these but when they are overworked they tend to pull the ribcage down and create tension in the shoulders. The key is thus to target specific muscles – the transverse abdominis – as concluded by Carolyn A. Richardson (1): “The studies support the argument for LBP exercise treatments to focus on enhancing the stabilization role of the transversus abdominis by precise self-bracing contractions, independently of the other abdominal muscles, rather than general, whole-body exercise programs.” Tightening the Drawstring & Zipping Up So what are these “self-bracing contractions”? Doug Keller recommends a very simple and efficient way to practice these self-bracing contractions with the “Tightening the Drawstring” and “Zipping Up” actions. In order to tighten the drawstring, lie flat on your back and imagine that you want to lift your legs. But you don’t actually do it. Can you feel the action across your lower abdomen? As if you were tightening a drawstring. ​Next, still lying on your back, imagine that you want to put on a very tight pair...
Healthy Back: Stretching, Releasing & Toning the Psoas

Healthy Back: Stretching, Releasing & Toning the Psoas

According to the World Health Organisation, 60 to 70% of adults in industrialised countries will suffer from lower back pain during their lifetime. It is one of the major causes of disability and lost days at work. Lower back pain can be due to various reasons, from a slipped disc to scoliosis or vertebral fractures. But very often, tension in the lower back is linked to our lifestyle: we basically spend too many hours sitting and this is not good news for our psoas! The psoas: A key muscle The psoas is really a vital muscle which links the upper body and the lower body. It attaches along the spine at one end, in the lumbar area, and at the inside of the thighs at the other end. It is involved in a variety of movements and actions such as balancing the core, connecting with the diaphragm or stimulating the internal organs and nerves – but it is mainly a hip flexor that draws the thigh towards the upper body. The psoas and lifestyle Although we might not notice it, the psoas is contracted when we sit. In other words, if we sit for long hours every day, the psoas is constantly contracted. What happens then? It tightens, shortens and pulls on the lumbar spine, sometimes even twisting it. This not only puts pressure on the discs but also on the surrounded muscles. Hence the sensation of tension and compression in the lower back! What should we do? Since a tight psoas is a problem, we should stretch the psoas. However, we also want to tone the psoas. Why? Because a weak psoas muscle also...
Runner’s  Lunge  “the asana treasure waiting to be discovered”

Runner’s  Lunge  “the asana treasure waiting to be discovered”

In an article published in Yoga International, Luke Ketterhagen described banarasana (one of the names given to the Lunge pose) as “an asana treasure waiting to be discovered”. This reminded me of a workshop I attended with Ana Forrest. She also recommended practising Lunge pose. In her book “Fierce Medicine”, she  wrote: “When you are moving into Lunge, you’re dealing with big muscles –quadriceps- so it takes a while for the pose to take its effect. This pose is so simple, and it works deeply. Anatomically, it’s straightforward, but energetically and physiologically, it’s a mover and a shaker.” (page 30) In Yoga Therapy, we learn that the benefits of the pose are varied: it tones the abdominal muscles and gives a good stretch to the back and hip flexors. It strengthens the hips, legs, ankles and feet and induces balance in the nervous system! So here are the instructions to come into Lunge: Starting from the table position, on all four, step your left foot forward between your hands.  Left knee is directly over the ankle and the shin perpendicular to the ground. Extend the right leg behind and place the knee and the top of the foot on the floor. Make sure the neck is in line with the spine, head looking down. Fingertips are on the floor or if you feel more comfortable, place blocks under your hands. Then lengthen the left thigh forward and the right thigh back, lowering the hips towards the mat. Stay in the pose for 30 to 60 seconds and then come back to table position and change side. Repeat a few...