Core Strength and The Top 10 Mistakes in Behavior Change

First of all, for those of you doing my 100x100 challenge, here are some NEW core exercises for September: 

  • Crunches (yes, I am still working on these!) I am slowly building up the number of these I can do in a row, and working toward being able to sit up further
  • Kayak row: hold something heavy (I like to use a 25lb weightlifting plate, but you could really do this with anything heavy, even a gallon of water would work), sit on the floor with knees bent at ~90 degrees and feet or heels planted on the ground, holding heavy object in both hands rotate to the left and bring object toward the floor, then rotate to the right doing the same thing, rotate back and forth 20x, rest and repeat! 
  • Partial plow: lying on your back on the floor with your arms down by your sides, slowly lift your butt up off the ground and bring your legs up and overhead like you are going toward plow (to avoid excess strain on the back I do not recommend going all the way over to plow, where your feet touch the ground overhead), then slowly lower back down, repeat 10x and rest, then do it again! 
  • Hold plank and side plank for 1 minute each (I usually count one minute as 10 repetitions, but that is completely arbitrary, if it feels super hard you could count it as more). 

Since my birthday in mid August I have been plugging away at my self-designed core challenge, which I dubbed "100x100" (100 reps of core exercise every day for 100 days). I have had a few days along the way where I have not made it to 100reps, but for the most part I have been keeping up with it every day and my spine and hips are feeling great! The days I have missed (2 missed days when Gabe and I were hiking and camping at Katahdin because I was dead tired, and 1 day at home last week when I just straight up forgot to do them) got me thinking about a wonderful piece of literature I read during my last semester at UVM. The work is titled "Top 10 Mistakes in Behavior Change" and comes out of a study conducted at Stamford University looking at the various reasons people fail when it comes to making changes in their lives. One of the takeaways I got from the study was that it is important to look at failure as part of the process of change, and not to feel like "well, I missed 1 day so now the whole thing is ruined and I failed!" We are bound to trip up and make mistakes and take steps backward along the way when trying to change our own behavior, it is part of how change takes place. So, for those of you joining me in my challenge (or those who want to jump on board now, or those who are working on other life changes), don't sweat it if you have messed up here and there, just keep working one small step at a time, that is how change happens!

Here are the other "Top 10 Mistakes in Behavior Change" from the Stanford University: 

  1. Relying on your willpower... imagine willpower does not exist, forcus on concrete, manageable steps 
  2. Attempting big leaps instead of baby steps... seek tiny successes, one at a time
  3. Ignoring the ways your environment shapes your behavior... change your context to change your lifestyle 
  4. Trying to stop old behaviors rather than creating new behaviors... focus on taking action toward something you want rather than avoiding something you don't want 
  5. Blaming your failures on a lack of motivation... if a behavior is difficult to accomplish, find ways to make it easier for yourself
  6. Underestimating the power of triggers... behaviors do not happen without triggers, avoid the settings and scenarios that make change more difficult, seek those that make it easier
  7. Believing informationwill lead to action (knowing is doing)... humans are not as rational as we think we are
  8. Focusing on abstract goals vs. concrete steps... "loosing weight" or "getting in shape" are difficult goals to attain, "walking 15 minutes every day" is much more navigable 
  9. Seeking to change a behavior forever rather than for a set amount of time... forever is impossible, a set period of time is not 
  10. Assuming behavior change is hard to do... behavior change is actually easy when you have the right process in place and come at it with the right attitude attitude 

Birthday Challenge: 100reps x 100day

My birthday is rolling around and in celebration I have challenged myself to step up my core routine for the next 100 days. Starting August 1st I will do 100 reps of core exercise every day for 100 days (last day will be November 9th). For me the core is an area in constant need of strengthening as I am naturally weaker there than I am in my arms and legs (this is a common pattern that a lot of people - but not all - exhibit). I am excited to do this extra bit of work to help protect my back and hips and to see where it gets me in a 3 months! If this is something you think would benefit you and you are inspired I hope you will join me! Cheers to another year around the sun and 10,000 more abdominal exercises! 

 Here is the sequence of exercises I will be doing to get started (I will update as I add more): 

- 1 set of 50 "bicycles" (hands clasped behind head, alternately bring opposite elbow to opposite knee, each touch counts as 1) 

- 3 sets of 10 straight leg raises (back flat to floor, alternately lower one straight leg toward floor ad then the other) 

- 1 set of 20 sit ups (or crunches if a full sit up is not an option... feet can not be held in place by anything) 

Free Chair Yoga Videos!

Look, I made movies! 

Chair Yoga Video #1 is approximately 12 minutes long and includes some chair yoga sun salutations and other "warm up" type poses that involve active movement and movement with the breath. This sequence is a little more on the energizing side and aims to facilitate: connection with the breath, range of motion of the shoulders and wrists, strengthening of the legs and core, building skill with balance, increasing heart rate and body temperature to prepare muscles and joints for the static stretching included in my second chair yoga video. 

Chair Yoga Video #2 is approximately 21 minutes and includes a sequence of static stretches for the legs, hips and back (this portion is around 12 minutes long) followed by a guided relaxation  (this savasana portion of the video is around 9 minutes long). This sequence is more on the grounding/ relaxing side and aims to facilitate: flexibility of the hips, legs and back, connection to the breath, general relaxation and de-stressing. 

Enjoy! 

Sequence #3: Stress, Pain, and Other Reasons Why Yoga Should Never be Last on the 'To Do' List

Sequence #3: Stress, Pain, and Other Reasons Why Yoga Should Never be Last on the 'To Do' List

This week has been one of the most stressful periods thus far in our entire house building process. I won't bore you with the details of our housing woes, but I have been having a very poignant 1st hand experience of how stress effects the body that I wanted to share. I have been very good about sticking to my New Years resolution to do at least 30 minutes of yoga every day for 21 days straight, but two days into this week's stressful scenario, Wednesday to be exact, I skipped a day of yoga. I had so much I was trying to do and, as usual, yoga had ended up at the bottom of my list. By the time the end of the day came I had no petrol left in the tank so I just gave up and went to bed. The next morning I woke up to the same stressful set of thoughts, and also a horrible muscle spasm in my neck. The spasm worsened throughout the day as I continued to fret and worry about all that was going on, and around 5:00 the spasm made an abrupt jump out of my neck and into my back. By the time Thursday night yoga rolled around I could hardly take a deep breath my back hurt so much. It was one of the most profoundly painful experiences of stress embodying itself I've ever had. So I did some yoga with my Thursday night class, and I woke up this morning and did some more, and you know what? I feel a LOT better! SO DO YOUR YOGA!! ESPECIALLY if you have a lot on your plate, ESPECIALLY if you are stressed, put yoga FIRST on the list! And if you can't, if all else fails and it ends up being the last thing you do, do this sequence before bed (use a timer in case you fall asleep)

1. Balasana (child's pose) 5 mins 

2. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog) 10 breaths

3. Uttanasana (standing forward bend) 5 minutes

4. Anjaneyasana variation (deep bowing lunge) both sides

5. Savasana / Viparita Karani lie on you back on the floor or with your legs up the wall for whatever is left of your 30 minutes 

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21 Day Challenge Sequence #2: Fire Up Your Core!

21 Day Challenge Sequence #2: Fire Up Your Core!

Today I did the long core-focused practice that Jill Miller teaches on her “COREgeous” DVD and I feel fantastic (I highly recommend checking out Jill’s website www.yogatuneup.com, she has a ton of great short and FREE videos on there to get you jump started, as well as longer ones you can pay for and awesome DVDs, including one all about how to do self massage using Yoga Tune Up balls or tennis balls that is phenomenal). In that spirit, I thought I would share my own core-centric routine with you. If nothing else, it’s this is a great way to get warm!!!

 

1. Sun Salutation:

            a.) Tadasana w/ arm sweeps (inhale arms up, exhale arms down)

            b.) Uttanasana (standing forward bend)

c.) Cat Plank (Phalakasana variation) round your back like cat pose and hold, then extend your spine into ‘regular’ plank and lower to the ground KEEPING your core engaged and bottom edge of ribs lifting away from the floor/shoulders back

d.) Bhujangasana (cobra pose)

e.) Adho Mukha Svansana (Down dog)

f.) Virahabdrasana I (warrior 1) + switch sides

            g.) Uttanasana (standing forward bend)

h.) Tadasana

             i.) Uttanasana (standing forward bend)

j.) Cat Plank (Phalakasana variation) + lower down 

2. Elbow Plank Ups: lying on your belly prop up on your elbows (elbows under shoulders) and clasp your hands, as you exhale look down at the floor and sequentially lift the bottom of your rib cage, navel, pubic bone, and fronts of your thighs off the floor (you can lift your knees up too or leave them down), hold and then lower slowly (in reverse order) back down to Sphinx pose (looking forward in a small backbend) 

3. Adho Mukha Svansana (Down Dog variation) – pull knee in toward your nose and hold, inhale lift leg up and back and step to lunge 

4. Virahabdrasana II (warrior 2) to Trikonasana (trinagle)

5. Repeat 3. And 4. on second side

 6. Elbow Side Plank Ups: lying on your side with legs in line with the rest of your body prop up on one elbow, press down into your elbow and lift hips up off the floor sideways (you can do this with your feet as the balance point or with your knees bent and your knees as the balance point), hold, then lower down slowly toward the ground without touching down and lift back up again, do 3x repetitions and then repeat on second side

6. Parsvakonasana (side angle pose)

 7. Intercostal Curl Ups (using a rolled up towel, blanket or a stability ball): roll or fold a towel or blanket up so it is a couple of inches or more tall when you lay it on the floor, lie backwards over the roll with the roll positioned near the bottom of your shoulder blades (you should be able to curl backward over it into a bit of a backbend… you can also do this with a big stability ball, in which case you would just drape yourself backwards over the ball with your feet on the floor and ball positioned under your mid to upper back), inhale and fill your belly and ribs as you lean backward over the support (your ribs will poke upward into the air a bit), exhale and as the ribs draw down to press the breath out use this action to initiate a small crunch (you are trying to get the muscles in between the ribs, the intercostals, to initiate the crunch… this exercise is aimed at them in particular), do 10x reps and then rest for a few breaths in the backbend position (if comfortable)

 8. Leg Lifts: lying on your back on the floor lift both legs up in the air (either straight or with a slight bend in your knees), engage your abdominal muscles and stabilize your upper body so that it does not move around as you do this exercise, inhale and lower your right leg toward the ground, hold, and bring it back up on an exhale, switch sides and repeat until you begin to tire.

 9. Down Dog Sliders: put a slippery piece of cloth (a towel or rag or even just wear slippery socks) down on a slippery floor (finished wood is best) and do downward facing dog… if you want to up the difficulty a bit try pulling your feet toward your hands using your core strength and then sliding them back again

 10. Eka Pada Bhekasana Belly down quad stretch

 11. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge pose)

 12. Savasana

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New Year’s Sequence #1: Cold, stiff, and halfway dead

New Year’s Sequence #1: Cold, stiff, and halfway dead

Well, we’re 5 days in to 2015 and so far I am doing well with the 21 Day Yoga Challenge. When I stepped on the mat January 1st I had not done any yoga in little while and had also been spending a lot of time out in the cold working on wiring up at our new house and skiing with the dogs so I was feeling exceptionally tight and immobile. Cold temperatures not only encourage us to move around less, they also lead to stiffness in our connective tissue. Since the forecast this week looks to include some exceptionally cold weather I thought I would share my favorite sequence for times when I feel extra stiff. Enjoy!

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Start the New Year with MORE YOGA: Take the 21 Day Yoga Challenge

Start the New Year with MORE YOGA: Take the 21 Day Yoga Challenge

I recently taught a class all about circles and cycles, and it got me thinking about the way in which, any time a cycle begins again, it offers us an opportunity to 'do over' what we have already done before. Every birthday, every solstice, every anniversary, every morning, every breath and (the American classic) every New Year. For me it is important to single out these 'do over' moments and ask the question 'how could I potentially improve on what I did last time around?' ...... 

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YOGA LAB: The Sacroiliac Joint

YOGA LAB: The Sacroiliac Joint

On August 23rd I offered my first Yoga Lab workshop exploring the sacroiliac joint. The Yoga Lab is a place to explore, ask questions, and delve deeply into specific areas of interest relating to the practice of yoga. This blog is an attempt to share some of the many things we talked about as well as the basic structure of the sequence we worked with. I hope you enjoy it and can make it to the Yoga Lab in person some day! 

 

The sacroiliac joint, often referred to simply as the SI joint, marks the intersection between the spine and the pelvis, the juncture through which the force of gravity is transferred from the torso, head and upper limbs to the hips and legs. The spine rests on the hips via this joint. The sacrum, a group of five fused vertebrae beneath the lumbar spine, articulated with the iliac bones of the pelvis at the SI joint, which is ligamentous and has rough, bumpy articular surfaces that fit together in a lego-like manner. There is disagreement within the medical community about how much movement is meant to occur within this joint, but there is consensus that the range is somewhere from none to very little. ‘Sacroiliac dysfunction’ is the broad term for any pain arising from the sacroiliac joint and is a common form of back pain. 98% of all ‘sacroiliac dysfunction’ arises from hypermobility (too much movement) within the SI joint.

 Because almost all pain arising from the sacroiliac joint is due to weak muscles that allow for too much movement within the joint, our exploration in this Yoga Lab focused on the question: how can we create strength and stability in this region? Our class focused on strengthening exercises for three groups of muscles commonly understood to stabilize the SI joint; the abdominals (rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques, the hamstrings and glutes (hip extensors), and the outer hip rotators (muscles such as piriformis)

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Sequence #6 (calming/ settling)

Sequence #6 (calming/ settling)

Re-watching Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech this weekend I was once again inspired and deeply impressed by the eloquent power of his words and his immense skill as a public speaker. Speaking to large crowds, and particularly speaking out about an issue as important and politically inflammatory as racism, takes a tremendous amount of courage and an immense capacity to stay focused and calm. In honor of Dr. King and the vital social practice of having the difficult conversation (on any scale, personal to national) this sequence has a centering, calming and steadying focus. In order for our words and actions of opposition to be clear and meaningful, we have to find ways to cope with the stress of upsetting those we disagree with.

“The ultimate measure of man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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New Year’s Challenge 2014!

New Year’s Challenge 2014!

This January I have decided to take the ‘21 Day Yoga Challenge’ and I want to invite you to join me! The challenge, which you can begin anytime in January, is to do at least 30 minutes of yoga for 21 days in a row. You can do your yoga at home or in class. To support you (and me!) in completing this challenge I will be posting half hour long yoga sequences on my blog throughout the month. My “Start The New Year” week-long series January 6th through 10th at The Art House in Craftsbury will be a great way to get a head start on this challenge, and my 6 other weekly classes in the are all running throughout January if you need a jump-start....

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The Mind IS What The Body DOES

The Mind IS What The Body DOES

The mind, our inner, subjective experience of ourselves and the world around us, is the product of what the body does as a whole. Our subjective experience of the world, our emotional experiences, our thoughts and perceptions are not created by simple isolated electrical impulses within the autonomous containers of our brains. These experiences arise from a complex web of electro-chemical interactions amongst all of the body’s parts. The body is not like a car or a robot, it is not a system of discrete parts functioning in relative isolation from one another while the brain mans the driver’s seat. The body is more like an ocean, it is vastly complex, rich in nested systems of interrelationship, and its fluid nature lends itself to comingling not to segregation....

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