Sunday, March 30, 2008

Yoga and Men

I have been taking yoga classes regularly at Sunset Yoga and my gym and I have found that nearly 70% of the students are women. Men are far and few. When I was in Pune last year and took classes at Guruji's institute, I found that there were a lot more Indian men in the class. There seemed to be more international students who were women as well. I wonder why in the western society acceptance of yoga is so low amongst men. I know we men are not as flexible and working out at the gym and doing cardio, pumping weight is more masculine, jockish. Its what men are meant to do. Trying to do some of the poses with our tight hamstrings is obviously harder, more painful and we look like wimps while the fairer sex nail these difficult poses with perfection. It hurts our ego.

EGO! Thats it! Its the male ego that comes in the way of us men accepting yoga in higher numbers than women in our society. So I wonder if we can let go of our ego so more of us can benefit from yoga. I know my teacher Terry Peterson would love to have more men in his class. I am one of his two male students in his advanced class at Sunset Yoga and I am not a regular. He is always happy to see me in his class to add some additional testosterone to the mix. Maybe its time to find a class called "Yoga for men" or how about watching Tara Stiles' video appropriately called "Yoga for Jocks" for some inspiration.

yoga for high blood pressure

I have been diagnosed with high blood pressure for a few years now. As I get back into my yoga practice I find the following poses help me with regulating my blood pressure.

1. Janu Sirsana
2. Virasana
3. Paschim uttasana
4. Savasana

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How to manage your stress with Yoga?

For the last many months I have been dealing with very stressful situations in life. Stress has so many manifestations and effects on your mental, physical and emotional state. Irritability, sadness, depression, aches, pains, low self esteem, anger, defeat, over eating, weight gain or loss all are can be traced to stress. I have talked so much about managing physical in life with yoga therapy - but there is a silent 900 pound gorilla pain called STRESS.

We all deal with stress every day. How many of us really truly deal with it or manage it? With the plethora of drugs being bombarded at us for depression, it has become a fashion to be prescribed with an anti-depressant medicine. No one yet knows about all of the side effects of such medication. All I can say from experience is that it is no panacea for stress. Stress in my opinion is the root cause of many depression related and psychosomatic problems. I have been anti-depressant medication free since I started doing yoga two years ago. I am proud to say that today despite being under tremendous stress, I have not succumbed to anti-depressants again. As a matter of fact my physician is militant about me not going back on these medications. Yoga has saved me from medication hell. Combine it with some behavior changes and you have a new way to deal with stress.

Here some yoga poses and behavioral techniques that I use to deal with Stress:

1. Uttanasana
2. Salama Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand)
3. Salamba Sirsana (Head Stand)
4. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
5. Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Bend)
6. Adho mukha Vriksanasana
7. Shavasana

The best sequence would be : 1, 5, 6, 4, 2, 3, 7

Most days when I feel really stressed or depressed I try some of these poses, maybe even one. Its an instant relief, but a continuous regular practice including one or two classes a week at a yoga studio like Sunset Yoga will help you manage stress and depression in the long term. I have also incorporated some behavior changes to deal with stress, most recent :

1. Drop your sail down: Acquiesce to the stressful situation or stress's in your life. Don't fight it - accept it.
2. Don't show up for war: Dont make your presence in situations that cause stress. Avoid them. If someone starts a fight - don't show up to the fight to react.

Such techniques require mental strength and courage, most of which I attribute to my continued practice of Iyengar yoga.


The Yogi

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Yoga for Sciatica

A number of visitors on my blog are interested in managing their sciatica. Here is an interesting article I found. It discusses many yoga posese to help manage Sciatica. Sciatica can be caused by a variety of problems. Please see a medical doctor if it persists to rule out a herniated disc problem. Iyengar yoga is a great way to to manage Sciatic nerve pain. Please follow this link to Yoga poses for Sciatica.



Monday, March 17, 2008

Advanced Yoga with Nina Pileggi at Sunset Yoga Center

With much courage I attended the level 3 class this evening. Tonight I was as humble as I could be. I was rusty and apprehensive. The class is nearly full and I am at the back rather than the front at my usual spot. I am nervous. We go through the usual call and response invocation of OMs and Patanjali prayer. We start with adhomukha virasana and then to adho mukha svanasana (dog pose). My left leg hurts, I still can't fully stretch it. Then to chaturanga dandasana. I can't do it well at all, but I have to keep going. We are preparing for back bends, so Nina gets us to do the back pack pose with a belt. This is where you wrap the straps around your shoulders and upper back. You then pull the straps down as if you have a back pack. Your shoulder blades are pulled down, the trapezium muscle is pulled down and your shoulders naturally roll back. It gives the actions that are needed for many poses including back bends and you get a perfect upper body Tadasana. It is also an amazing therapy exercise for stiff neck and shoulder pain. One of the first therapy exercises I did with Nuvana. Yes I have seen many sorts of pain - shoulder, back, hip, sciatic, butt.

I can never get the straps to wrap correctly so Nina helps. Then we try the hand stand - adho mukha vrikshasana. My favorite. But I bomb. Nina has to spot me. I am tired already. Where is my ego when I need it !!! We then do the head stand. I did it longer than I ever had. We then transitioned to back bends on the chair. And this was the highlight of the entire class - Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana or Upward Facing Two-Foot Staff Pose.

We used a chair by the wall (with a mat and blanket on the seat), back of the chair facing the way. Sitting in the reverse form (chest facing the back of the chair), I lowered myself on the seat with shoulders slightly over the edge of the seat and then pushed myself away from the wall. You get the coil in your back and look at the world turned upside down and faces panting on the other end of the studio. I wish I could have video taped this moment. Your world upside down in a back bend kind of way! Carolyn you are right - this is why we yogis don't get sick. It is the inversions and back bends.

This was the first variation. We attempted the shoulder action, learn't in the strap based Dandasana. That helps get the coil. Then came the harder variation. Blankets were placed on the floor and then you had to lower yourself till your head touched the blanket. Then the hands came down into the headstand. I couldn't do it. I felt I was choking and the reaction was to come right back up.

Nina says "stay in the previous pose - you haven't been attending classes for a while". Ah! there goes my ego again. I am tired and back bends open up my heart chakra. I hold back my tears. She asks if I was OK. The ego comes back and I say "yes I am OK". Another student also felt the same as I did. She felt like she couldn't breathe. So I am not alone in this. The fear had set in but my inner voice said "let go of your fear and just observe, breathe and have patience. Let it come slowly". I was reminded of the progression I experienced when I first accomplished the hand stand on my own. Its progression stupid!
Then the belts come to the chair legs to help you pull down. I put three blankets and could lower my self. My head touched - Bingo! The confidence was back and the ego was still in check. I cannot over-extend and kill my right glute this time. The short girls on both sides are completely down on the floor with their heads and hands around the heads. They did it, despite their very tight shoulders and height. Everyone is crowded over them watching Nina help one of them through the progression.

It motivated me to let go of the fear and try again. I go down again as I push my shoulder blades down (or up as I am upside down) and my back coiling as I push down further. I shove the blankets out of the way and there goes my head all the way down to the floor and the arms come down and the hands cup around the head. I DID IT! While everyone momentarily watches my moment of accomplishment - I am humbled but fearless at the same time. All the pain and discomfort was worth the moment in which my arms, head and hands touched the floor and the back coiled. I was in Dwi Pada Viparita Dandansana heaven - even if it only lasted a few seconds. There was a surge of energy in my body - i am back in the groove of yoga. Bud, a teacher at the center and a student of Nina commented "it was great to see you progress into the complete pose!". Go away Ego but thanks Bud for the compliment - it made my evening. Thanks Nina for a wonderful class! I have the badly needed energy and fearless mind for a very hectic day tomorrow.

Here is Guruji practicing the same pose and additional back bends reminiscent of today's class! I spent hours sitting on the stairs next to this hall this summer watching him and others - awestruck and inspired. Enjoy this beautiful moment of yoga with guruji and memorable sounds of India.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Restart of yoga - pain relief

I went back to class at sunset yoga on Wednesday. It was a level 1 class with Julie Burris. She is an excellent teacher, very calm, pleasant and has that wonderful texan twang. I like her style. Its very relaxed. She spends a great deal of time teaching you how to do sitting postures correctly at the start of the class. She will stop and correct you and modify poses for you if you have pain. I had announced up-front about my sciatica. There is still some pain when I stretch my left hamstring especially in Uttanasana, Dog pose, or Halasana. It was a basic class, but it was a good way to ease myself back to my class practice. Julie spent a month at the Pune center last year.

Last evening on a whim I attended the level 3 class taught by Terri Peterson. But he was not there. It was being taught by Marianne as a substitute. Wonderful! Marrianne is a great teacher and her style is very therapeutic and she is very attentive to each student. Its always a fun and relaxed class. She spent a fair amount of time on Suptapadangusthasana using belts for support, and I got to show her the Nuvana approach of pushing the belt down on the hip, to relieve the sciatic pain.

She talked about the similarities between sitting, standing poses, how each pose is related and linked to another pose. She calls it "science" - there is a lot of science behind these poses, for instance she mentioned that before you enter into a complete Sarvangasan, you fold your legs down - that action and posture is similar to Virasana. Marriane spent time at the Iyengar center in Pune many years ago. She speaks fluent Japanese and is a writer. Her passion, writing and yoga. Another very attentive, skilled and dedicated student and teacher of Iyengar yoga at Sunset Yoga Center.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Harvesting Health - Iyengar Yoga in an indian village

I found this interesting article online. Its written by Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh, who runs a popular iyengar style yoga center in Mumbai India. He is also my yoga teacher Nuvana's cousin, a yoga master and a close disciple of guruji. I have seen him teach and had the honor of being given instructions by him a couple of years ago at his studio.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Getting back to your yoga routine

It was Jan 28th when this horrendous glute pain hit me and took me completely out of my 3-4 day a week yoga routine. And have I ever let go of my ego and kept patience to get beyond it. This Friday it was back to Nuvana for a restart of the routine. We started with a badakonasana, a good height with cotton blankets from India and the kids all jumping around me. Having these 4 munchins (2 of mine and 2 of Nuvana) running around while I practice and learn certainly may sound very distracting, but its a great test of patience and concentration for me. I can focus and concentrate on the pose with kicks, nudges and taps, not knowing sometime if they come from the kids or the yoga guru.

I persevere to a supported upavishtakonasana, with a blanket and block under each inner thigh and then to a rajkapotasana. Rajkapotasana (Pigeon pose) and it felt so good. It felt really good. Then I tried a supported adhomukhasvanasan (Downward Dog) in a support form with a rope around my lower waist and keeping myself high trying to stretch my hands and arms to a chair vs the floor. Painful on my left inner thigh, oh that dreaded shooting pain came back. Instant reaction to back away from this. So I tried adho-mukha virasana with my arms pushing the wall. Felt good, but getting into a downward dog from this didn't. The left leg is still tight from the injury.

We had an intellectual discussion about my left and right leg. Since I lean on my left leg so much, my right leg is much more flexible and left leg more tight. For that reason in pigeon pose I felt the pose easier to do when my right leg was stretched out and left leg folded in. Makes sense? If not post a comment and I will have the expert explain more. Ended with a viparita-karani, with kids wanting to sit on my uplifted feet. My left leg couldn't handle it. Nuvana had planned to give me a back traction, but the kids were cranky and hungry, so ended the session. All in all, it was nice entry back to into my routine. I will have to restart with level 1 and have to modify some poses like downward dog.

So a small step to start back into a routine. It will not be as intense for sometime - maybe not till I hit Pune and then I hope to be back in the same class I was in July. I can't wait to be yanked and yelled into place. Oh what a feeling!



Sunday, March 2, 2008

The gluteal pain - Its over and gone

I was travelling the last 4 days and was at a trade show. Ever since the last yoga therapy session with Nuvana I have become even more aware of my posture, I have been pulling up my knees, pulling up my feet and stretching my calves, performing supta padangusthasana. THE PAIN IS GONE... It really has gone. So now I look forward to getting back to my yoga classes. Its been one month since I was at the Sunset Yoga Center. I will probably skip the advanced class for now and start again as a novice level 1/2. I also have finalized a plan to visit Pune in early to mid April for 2 weeks for business. I hope to stay next to the Iyengar Center and I hope they will let me take classes. I will blog every day. I can't wait for it.


The Yogi