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 Yoga Poses to Alleviate Low Back Pain from Lordosis or Swayback

Numerous adults suffer from low back pain and related bad posture. Yoga exercises can alleviate back pain in many situations. One of the conditions that can be improved by yoga practice is Lordosis, or “swayback,” which is the excessive curvature of the spine. It typically occurs in the low back (lumbar area of the spine) and can be caused by tight hip muscles, weak abs and hamstrings, and bad posture habits. Lordosis causes the pelvis to tilt forward, the abs to stick out, and the lower vertebrae to compress. This can lead to pain.

Yoga poses that relax, stretch, and lengthen the hip flexors and/or strengthen and tighten the hamstrings and abs can help realign the pelvis and spine, thus improving posture and alleviating pain. Helpful exercises include:

  1. Anjanayasana (Low Lunge) – Stretches and lengthens the psoas and other hip muscles, making it easier to take a normal posture.
  2. Bujangasana (Cobra)- Stretches the hip flexors making it easier to stand tall.
  3. Dolphin Plank Pose – Strengthens the abs. Be sure to take extra time to stretch the hip flexors after this one as it engages those muscles too.

Hold each pose for 1 – 5 minutes, breath deeply, and imagine the air swirling into the area you want to stretch or strengthen. Do this daily and over time you will notice these yoga poses relieving low back pain and improving posture.



 One Month Anniversary of Doing Yoga Tummo Breath and Cold Baths

So today was the 30 day mark practicing Wim Hof’s Yoga Tummo Breath and Cold Water Baths. HURRAY!!! I realized it when I was getting in the cold water tonight. My goal was to stick it out at least 30 days, but I do intend to keep experimenting with the practice.

Surprisingly, it is not particularly easier, but at least I have been sticking it out.

Today I went under the water kind of slowly and could not stop shaking. The shaking does not happen every time. I think it happens mainly on days I am very tired. After I got out of the water my back felt like it was on fire. Now I still feel a bit strange.

Anyway,  I made it to the 30 day mark. That was my goal.



 Still Practising Yoga Tummo Breath and Ice Baths – Progress is Spectacularly Imperfect

It is getting close to the one month mark of my training with and practice of the Wim Hof yoga/energy/breathing techniques and I am still doing a quite imperfect job of mastering them. So far every day I have done 30 minutes of the yoga breathing, and have immersed my body in cold water.

Today, the cold bath was one of the somewhat slower days. I was feeling tired and a bit under the weather. It seems harder to do the bath those days. The important part is not just powering through, but controlling the breath and body reactions as you move into the cold water. Even at the one month mark my body still has an impulse to want to gasp for air as I hit the water. This tendency increases on days I feel tired. However, the goal is to overcome this, making an automatic, unconscious body function conscious and controllable.

As always, once I get out of the water I feel AMAZING!!! My body is energized. My skin feels like ice, just like a vampire out of the Twilight series. Inside, I feel warm.

The breathing is a struggle still. I do many other yoga breathing (pranayama) practices that are quite comfortable for me. This one might take some time. It is related to the secret Tibetan yoga Tummo breath, but is not the complete process. We were told that with practice the rest will be revealed to us. I know this principle is true and have had it happen in other areas. This one though, is one of my very imperfect areas. The one good thing is, like the slow, ploddy turtle, I doggedly (or down doggedly) stick with the practice every day – imperfect or not.



 Training with Wim Hof – How to Become an IceMan – or Woman

This weekend I am training with Wim Hof, the IceMan. Wim Hof’s instruction is meant to help you strengthen your immune system, will power, and ability to connect with spiritual secrets. He has studied the yoga sutras, met the Dali Lama (if I am remembering correctly), and holds numerous world records for submersion in ice water, marathon running in the desert with no shoes or water, and all types of amazing things.

Wim has taken the yoga, physiological, and spiritual secrets he has learned, and made them accessible for the average (imperfect) person. Although there are many benefits from his techniques, his number one goal, per my understanding, is to spread the physical healing benefits to every day people, particularly those who are not able to get medical treatment. He is passionate in his quest to help people overcome the injustices going on in the pharmaceutical and medical industries.

Wim is an approachable, humble, down-to-earth guy. He makes people feel comfortable and accepted. Not only is Wim a great guy, but every other person there in the small group was amazing! Many attendees were healers and all were very spiritual. We even had a genuine Tibetan Monk there! The moment I saw him I knew he was a Monk. Later, when I talked to him I found he grew up in a monastery in Tibet but was no longer an official Monk. Nevertheless, he still carried a positive energy with him that you could feel immediately.

But back to the training – we started with a brief introduction. I was not there on the first day – Friday – so I missed a bit. After an update on Wim and the techniques, one of the hosts played the Didgeridoo while we did toning. Toning is a way of raising vibrations through sound, and using the human voice instrument in particular. We just followed our intuition and started in as soon as we felt comfortable. The sound was beautiful and reminded me of times I have been on pow-wow weekends that were also as harmonious. On the other spectrum, I have been at events where we never seemed to raise the harmony and vibrations.

After maybe 30 – 60 minutes of toning we started in with Wim’s special breathing technique.  I was sitting front row, center and watching Wim like an admiring hawk. Whenever he took a breath I took one. Whenever he held a breath I did too. I figured if I tried to mimic him exactly I would have the best chance of getting this breath down properly so I could do it on my own. I think we did the breathing for about an hour.

Next we did playful yoga on the grass. It was so fun and exactly the opposite of the part of the US where I live. Basically, Wim would demonstrate a fun, cool, and/or kooky yoga pose and then ask us to try it too. He would also ask, “Who else has one? Who else has one?” At one point I think we even walked around on all fours like a bear. It was a quite awesome practice and I am using the “fun, playful” theme in all of my yoga classes this week.

After yoga we had a break for lunch, rest, and to change for….YIKES!!!!… ICE WATER SUBMERSION!!!!!!!!!!!! I didn’t sign up for this!!!

Oh, wait. Yes, I did.

When I initially made arrangements to attend I did not know about the ice water part. Sure Wim does that, but advanced yogis do all kinds of things. It does not mean I have to do it at a training. I thought we would be learning easy secret techniques like advanced yogic breathing, metamorphosis, and levitation. Once I found out about the water part I had a private scream inside and then decided to give it my best.

The others had already tried a practice water immersion on Friday. They went into the ocean and did Wim’s breathing technique. Today’s event was taking place in a tub filled with ice and water. I felt particularly alarmed because I could not understand what we were supposed to be doing and what the “trick” was to make the water warm. Each time I would ask someone what we were supposed to do they would tell me something totally different. Most confusing to me was that apparently we were NOT supposed to use the breathing. The whole time we were practising the breathing I thought that is what it was for. Also, so many people had told me they used the breathing when they were in the ocean the day before. Super confusing!! Well, I kept moving to the back of the ice water line, stalling the moment of ice entry, watching each person before me with rapt attention. It sounds like a trivial thing, but I was scared to go in the ice water. You can read about my first “jump” into the ice water and find out about the secret “trick” to ice water submersion in this entry (link will be added momentarily).

Afterwards, we all talked for a while. I think no one wanted to leave the good feeling. Also, we were all hanging on to every last word from Wim – trying to soak in the wisdom. Finally, we went home with plans to return the next day for… PART TWO – UNDER THE ICE WATER FOR A SECOND TIME – The training with Wim Hof, the IceMan, continues…



 JR Martinez – An Example of Tapas and Santosha

Tonight as I was watching “Dancing with the Stars” I was touched to hear JR Martinez tell about the tragedy that mutilated his body, and the courage he found to be positive despite the losses. He fought against the odds to make the best of a horrific situation, even going on to become a successful actor on “All My Children” TV show, and an inspiring example.

While serving in Iraq he was injured in an explosion. The next thing he remembers is waking in the hospital and eventually seeing his face was totally disfigured. Like any of us might, he felt his life was over and he would be better off dead. He felt no one could understand what he was going through.

One day his mother said something that changed his life. “Whoever is going to be in your life now will be there because of who you are as a person, and not what you look like.”  Those words deeply impacted him to make a conscious choice to fight back (Tapas, or standing in the heat/struggle in yoga terms) and to try to be positive (practising contentment even in challenges/Santosha).

JR said, “…I just chose in that moment to fight and just to try to be upbeat – try to be positive every single moment from that day on.”

What an amazing example! Not only has he made his life so much better than it would have been given the circumstances, but he also achieved acting fame and has immeasurably touched the lives of millions who watch him and will try to be a bit better, a bit stronger, based on the path he is setting. This is yoga off the mat.

JR is truly beautiful.

 

EXERCISE:

Today pick a situation where you usually feel frustrated or upset in some way. It might be something big or small. For some, it might even be on the mat in your yoga practise. Whatever the situation, make a conscious choice to be positive – to practise Santosha (Contentment). 

We are all imperfect, so if it is particularly challenging try setting a time limit of one hour. If you find yourself slipping, think of JR or some other person who inspires you. Afterwards, write about your experience in a journal. How did you feel in the situation practising Santosha versus how you feel when you are not?

We can’t control what happens on the outside. But we can control what we think about it. We can choose to practise Santosha.

“Contentment (AKA Santosha) is a pearl of great price, and whoever procures it at the expense of ten thousand desires makes a wise and a happy purchase.”
John Balguy



 Santosha – the Yoga Principle of Contentment

This week in my yoga classes I am focusing on the principle of Santosha or contentment. Santosha is one of the basic guidelines of yoga given to us in Patanjali’s Sutras.

 Yoga Sutra 2:42 – Santosha anuttamah sukha labhah.
“From an attitude of contentment,
unexcelled happiness and joy are obtained.”
 

Our goal is to find an inner contentment no matter what the outer circumstances. Outer things come and go. If we rely on them 100% we are in for a higher level of heartbreak. If instead, we learn and cultivate a quiet attitude of contentment we find peace even during struggle.

This does not mean deny or ignore feelings. Quite the contrary. Feelings deserve to be honored and addressed. If ignored they will come up in other ways. Allow any feelings to be accepted. If needed, work to change things. But focus on finding happiness in the journey. Even in the most tragic situations we can find some small piece (peace) of Santosha. Maybe that only comes from feeling the love of others, or having faith that there is a wise God (or higher power) who sees the bigger picture and is there to help us, or knowing this thing will pass. No matter the situation, we must search to find the aspects that give us contentment.

With a mindful choice and lots of practise, we can make Santosha a habit.

 

EXERCISE:

During one of your yoga practises this week make Santosha your focus. Notice how you feel as you go through the poses. Pay particular attention to the challenging ones.

Consciously decide to find some level of Santosha in every pose – even the ones you don’t like. Breathe through the feelings that arise. Send yourself love. If you need a chlid’s pose or modification by all means do that. But whatever you choose, can you bring in contentment? You might want to write down your experience in a journal.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The good news is, the more we notice and practise these things, the more we can choose how we feel and act. If we learn to find Santosha in the challenging yoga poses, we can learn to find santosha in the challenging life situations.

If you would like to share your experience with the above exercise, with Santosha, or anything else related please add your comments below.



 Still Grateful I Did Not Catch on Fire, but Unfortunately Not Quite as Passionately

Last entry I was telling about leaving food cooking in the stove unattended for 2 hours and 45 minutes while I went to a yoga class. I was panic stricken when I realized what I had done and thought for sure things were up in flames. Here is the rest of what happened:

 

Finally arriving home I race up the stairs looking for the familiar flames, fire engines, smoke and smoke smell, still praying with all of my faith. And SURE ENOUGH…

AAAAaahhhhhh!! My prayers were answered (and I really do believe that was what did it). Inside the oven the broccolis and carrots were black fossils. The pastas were cobalt pebbles. But NO FIRE.

What a LOVELY and most auspicious way to start the weekend, NOT catching an apartment on fire.  It felt like not catching me and all of my life on fire. Maybe some of you too today have NOT caught your homes or selves on fire. HURRAY FOR ALL OF US!!! If we could be that grateful every day for all of the mini miracles we rarely notice, just think how fantastically happy we would be all of the time. I wish I could stay in that state of utter elation about not being on fire right now. It is a great thing, but easily taken for granted.

Today may we notice the little gifts in our lives (like NOT being on fire right now, etc.) and may our gratitude shine like bright, non-flammable flashlights.

 

Yoga Sutras 2:33 Vitarka Badhane Pratipaksha Bhavanam.
“When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive] ones should be thought of.” 

EXERCISE:

Today if a negative thought or mood comes up, replace it by coming up with the most unusual, craziest, opposite, POSITIVE gratitude thought. Maybe think how wonderful it is that you did not catch on fire today. If you had, you would be feeling a lot differently than you do now. Feel the joy of sending gratitude for something important, but often overlooked. If you have something, kooky but sincere, that you are grateful for list it below.



 Grateful to Have NOT Caught on Fire Today

Life gratitude: Today I went the entire day without catching on fire.

I am experiencing utter elation! It’s a peculiar sensation to be so happy about not catching myself or something on fire. Not that I am a pyro or anything, just that I usually go every day WITHOUT being grateful for NOT catching things on fire…

I came home from some “office work” feeling rather disheveled mentally. I was trying to heat up  food before leaving to take a Relax Deeply yoga class, when what do I do but run out of time for the food BUT forget to turn off the oven. I drive to the studio, do an hour and a half class, and drive home, when suddenly at the last few blocks I remember…

DANG!!! I LEFT THE OVEN ON!!! TWO HOURS AND FORTY-FIVE MINUTES!

Does anything cook that long without catching the house on fire?!?!? In between prayers and driving just up to the upper speed limit I start having flash backs…

As a youth I was an accomplished fire starter. There was catching my dad’s business on fire by trying to broil bologna. Catching my dad’s business on fire by trying to boil water. Knocking over the candles I had placed on my bed. Trying to light a candle and instead lighting my thumb. My cat following my fire example and pulling the light fixture off the wall and into a box of combustible items…. But wait!

What about turkey?

Turkey cooks for a good 5 hours or more, right? Why can’t other food, vegetables and pasta maybe, why can’t that cook 5 plus hours?!? If my calculations are correct I may have another two hours and fifteen minutes of cooking time left to go.

Finally arriving home I race up the stairs looking for the familiar flames, fire engines, smoke and smoke smell, still praying with all my faith. And SURE ENOUGH…

(To be continued…)



 Everything is Yoga

Everything is everything.

Everything is yoga.

Today I took my imperfect yoga practice off the mat and into my street wardrobe. I went the entire day (unknowingly) wearing sunglasses with a price tag sticker still on the side band AND a little SUV rating sticker on one of the glasses. That’s pretty bad! Or good I guess, depending on how you look at it, lol. Well, what can you do but laugh, right?

Sometimes you will find this same type of imperfection happening in your yoga poses. Whether it is an inability to defy gravity as you float from Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand)  into Chataranga (the bent armed plank pose), or a tight calf muscle in your Adho Mukha Svanasana (down dog). Whatever the “imperfection” notice it with loving kindness and keep going. Eventually, all of these things will pass. You will be left with what is most important – the love and kindness you have grown on the inside.

 

EXERCISE:

Sit in a comfortable position for meditation. Take a moment to think of something you did recently that was embarrassing or imperfect. Close your eyes and visualize, imagine, or pretend an image of yourself doing that less than perfect thing just in front of you as if there was a TV screen or hologram a few feet away from you. With each inhale imagine breathing in the pain or embarrassment or hurt from that other you. With each exhale imagine sending back love to that image of yourself. Keep with it. You might start adding a mantra like, “I love you. I love you.” Eventually, imagine any hurt being breathed away and just breathing love and acceptance to yourself. If there is still some hurt or embarrassment left that is OK too, but just keep sending the love.

When you are ready to end your meditation gently blink open your eyes keeping the loving feeling inside. As you go through the rest of your day periodically send that love and acceptance back to yourself with a breath or two.

 

Wisdom tells me I am nothing.
Love tells me I am everything.
Between the two my life flows.

Nisargadatta Maharaj

 



 Monkeys Gone Wild – How to Tame the Beasts of the Mind

I just finished the most monkeyest-mindiest meditation ever. “Monkey mind” is a term used to describe a restless mind that is jumping from one thought to another, just like a hyper-active monkey swinging from tree to tree. 

Today 100 or more monkeys swung by and tried to hang out in my meditation. They were trying to help, telling me things like 1) what I need to do today, 2) what I need to do this month, 3) things that happened in the past, and even 4) the horrible, gruesome news story my co-worker told me today and that I wished she had not. All of this and more.

Sometimes meditations are like this. At other times, there are no monkeys and sitting for 30 minutes feels like 3.

Weirdly, after all of the monkeys, I felt calm afterwards and still have this good, tingly-brain feeling. I can’t get over the number though. I’ve never seen that many before – definitely a Monkey Extravaganza!

 

EXERCISE – COUNTING BREATH:

If you are doing a meditation and having a Monkey Extravaganza try adding a counting breath.  There are lots of counting related meditations, but this one is easy, forgiving, and soothing.

Sit down in your desired meditation position. Close your eyes and start taking some deep breaths. Add a steady count with your inhale and exhale. In other words, as you breathe in count, “One, two, three, four…” Exhale and count, “One, two, three, four…” Try to keep the inhale and exhale even so they both last the same amount of time and extend with the count. You don’t have to count to 4. You can pick any number that works for you – 5, 8, any number you can match with your breath.

Keep the count going during your entire meditation. When you are finished, gently blink open your eyes and keep the relaxed feeling with you as you go about your day.