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Shouldering a Burden

A number of my yoga students present with shoulder injuries: dislocation; rotator cuff; bicep tendonitis; stiffness; frozen shoulder; and impingement.  The shoulder gains its high degree of mobility from being a ball and socket joint however, this brings with it a propensity for vulnerability and instability. Moreover, the forward position of modern lives contributes to rounded shoulders: pushing the head of the upper arm bone, the humerus, forward; weakening the muscles of the upper back; and tightening the chest.  This coupled with insufficient activity leaves the shoulder with little protection against injury.  Once a student has consulted their healthcare provider, there is much we can do in yoga therapy to co-activate muscles to strengthen and support this area.  However, there...

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Be Easy

‘Don’t do anything you don’t want to do.  If you have to do something you don’t want to, be easy about it,’ wrote Tara Stiles recently.  This is part of her Strala yoga philosophy and the idea stuck with me for several days. Be easy.  The concept has a similar effect to the message of ‘being present’ interpreted by Eckhart Tolle’s work over the last decade.  It’s an idea simply expressed but no less profound.  Maybe ‘be easeful’ is more accurate but, either way, this links a few important yogic concepts together.   ‘Sthira Sukham Asanam’ is a principle found in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2.46-2.48[1].  It can be translated from the Sanskrit as, ‘The seat should be steady and comfortable’.  The...

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Yoga AND Walking: more effective against Diabetes than either alone

According to recent studies, yoga is more effective than walking in improving the health of diabetic patients.  However, yoga and walking together, is the most effective therapeutic combination for diabetes treatment and prevention.  In 2011, Researchers at Alagappa University in India studied 60 patients between the ages of 30 and 40 for 12 weeks in four groups: Control Group Experimental Group 1 Walking Experimental Group 2 Yoga Experimental Group 3 Yoga and Walking Six characteristics were measured including: Respiratory; Vital (Lung) Capacity; Blood Sugar; Cholesterol; Anxiety and Stress.  Blood sugar levels, in particular, showed improvement in the study.  The Walking Group demonstrated a 3.25% improvement over the Control Group. However, the Yoga Group showed 13.31% and the Yoga and Walking Group,...

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Practice Notes: Push Up Elbows

My practice partner today felt pain in his elbows.  He has a long term strain injury akin to 'Tennis Elbow' from over-exertion during yoga.  As he worked on Chaturanga (Push Up) during this morning's daily practice, he felt a sharp pain down the back of the triceps and across the elbow joint nearing right angles. Immediately, we decreased the intensity and moved him from toes to knees. Then we ran through a checklist, to see if he had: 'Set' his shoulders (Shoulder Amsa Bandha) Drawn the shoulder in and down Drawn the outstretched arms together (adduction) Activated the armpits and the side body when bending the arm (muscles of the Serratus Anterior and Latissimus Dorsi) to lock the elbows into...

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