By Danna Faulds, guest blogger My first yoga teacher introduced me to the Forward Bend in the summer of 1983. Until that afternoon, I’d never paid much attention to my hamstrings, but I quickly made their acquaintance. If I kept my spine elongated and rotated my hip joints as my teacher, Sue, instructed, I could […]
There are many benefits to forward bends, both standing and sitting. They create length and space in the spine, counteracting compression, and their inward nature can promote introspection. Yet forward bands can also be a challenge to many people, especially those with tight hamstrings. Common physical patterns, such as overstretched back muscles and rounded shoulders (mostly likely from sitting in front of a computer for hours) are often exacerbated in forward bending poses.
But as senior Kripalu Yoga teacher Cristie Newhart says in her R&R retreat workshop Forward Bends, yoga can help us dissolve patterns so we can uncover fresh ways of looking and experiencing ourselves. This multifaceted awareness about how we move can help us cultivate a deeper, richer yoga practice, allowing us to discover new ease in our forward bends.
In the workshop, Cristie shares these tips for getting the most out of your forward folds:
Lorraine Cannatta, guest blogger
My decision to study Ayurveda evolved out of a family trauma. My son, Jacob, and his wife and daughter were visiting me and my husband, Peter, in the summer of 2005 when Jacob became severely ill. He was hospitalized and put on life support. The doctors were unable to determine a diagnosis, which made treatment difficult. For several days, we were unsure whether he would speak again, or even awaken. One or more family members were with him around the clock.
After 11 days in the critical-care unit, Jacob came home and began his recovery with us. Today, we are blessed to have him well. Though we were never able to get definitive evidence, we believe inhaling mold while renovating his newly purchased home caused what is called a “whiteout” of the lungs—when the alveoli constrict so tightly there’s no longer any space for air to pass.
Twists are some of the most versatile—and requested—poses in the yoga-posture canon, and for good reason. There are numerous benefits to twisting, which makes it an integral part of a well-rounded asana practice. “Twists can help us regain a sense of homeostasis, the body’s relaxation response, which allows us to come back to balance from […]
Where Yoga and Shamanism Meet, Bold Directions Unfold
In 2006, Kripalu faculty member Ray Crist was recovering from a debilitating illness. A yoga teacher, martial artist, and Reiki practitioner, Ray had spent four years traveling the world seeking those who could heal him. His quest took him from the Buddhist monasteries on the borders of Cambodia to the clinics of the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. But when he ventured into the jungles of Peru to study with Incan shamans, the experience opened new doors of perception—and healing—within himself.
Guided by Don Manuel Portugal, a shaman in Cuzco, Peru, Ray discovered the culture, mythology, and practices of Incan shamanism. “Shamans are the medicine people of their tribe,” Ray says. “Their methods of healing center on the ‘energy body’ and plant medicine.” The deeper he delved into Incan shamanism, the more he began to notice profound similarities with yoga. “Yogis and shamans view the world as a physical world,” he explains. “Traumatic experiences are embedded in the body—near a joint, muscle, meridian, internal organ, or chakra. Yoga and shamanism help us delve into the root of our traumas to find healing on physical and emotional levels.” Ray began incorporating shamanistic principles into his yoga practice, imbuing it with a new richness. “Shamanism brought to my practice a direct awareness of energy moving through my body, a visceral understanding of what each asana offers,” he says.
How does yoga philosophy apply to healthful eating? According to Kripalu Lead Nutritionist, Annie B. Kay, MS, RD, RYT, in her R&R retreat lecture, The Yoga of Nutrition, examining our nutritional choices through a lens of mindfulness can help us become more aware and empowered.
When there’s balance in all areas of our life, Annie says, when we’re eating whole plant-based foods, getting enough physical activity, and managing our stress, we are nurturing our whole beings—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—and nourishing our deepest selves.
One of the cornerstones of the yoga of nutrition, Annie points out, is mindful eating—slowing down, paying attention to what’s happening by focusing the sensations occurring while we eat. “Are you a fast eater, or do you savor every bite? Do you zone out and eat in front of the TV?” Annie asks. These questions can lead us into a new understanding of what guides our choices and allows us to examine our cravings.
Sometimes in our yoga practice we strive so hard to “get it right”—mastering our alignment, coordinating our breath, focusing our attention—that we stifle our inner energy (prana). Meditation in motion, or, spontaneous posture flow, is a hallmark of the Kripalu Yoga approach. In this practice, the inner wisdom of prana is allowed to guide the body, as opposed to the will of the mind. By surrendering rather than striving, prana can flow freely throughout the body, allowing movement to become spontaneous and un-choreographed. Ready to try it on your own?
At the end of your next yoga practice, close your eyes for a minute. Take some long, slow, deep breaths to get in touch with prana. Then respond to what your body is asking you to do. Allow your mind to step aside so the breath can orchestrate the movement of your body. As prana begins to move, your mind can relax into witnessing and your movement may evolve into meditation in motion.