Category Archives: Stretching

To Engage or To Allow Engagement? A Crucial Difference On & Off the Mat!

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Every time I go to a yoga class or attend an online class, I am struck by the lack of distinction between “engaging” and “allowing engagement”. Do you use your mind to control your body muscles as if it knew better than your whole-body intelligence? Maybe you are so used to it that you don’t even know you have another option to stretch and strengthen that is more efficient? Then read on!

When you are spontaneously running, dancing or simply walking, you don’t need to tell your body what muscles to engage and when to release the joints. It has a postural mechanism, an ambassador for your whole-body intelligence, designed to handle it all for you. Its job is to manage your best balance, coordination and posture.

 

This mechanism works at its best when you don’t interfere with it. Children and animals are good examples of this perfectly functioning mechanism.

When you are on the mat, your mind can decide what pose you want to go into. After that it is best to let your postural mechanism handle your muscles and joints activity for you as you go into the skeletal expression of the pose. I know, it requires having trust in your whole-body wisdom to be there for you!

The thing is that when you “allow engagement” by your whole-body intelligence, it knows exactly what needs engaging and how much to engage so that the pose is good for all parts of your body. When you “engage” specific muscles and joints, you create unnecessary body tension that interferes with the best expression of your pose.

Releasing excess tension is neither going limp nor decreasing how much strength you are building. It is preventing building body stiffness while you are building strength!

Want to learn more about how to activate your whole-body intelligence guidance 24/7?

1) Free Email Seminar 2) Free Webinar 3)  90 Day B.I.A. Process Program.

Cecile Raynor has been teaching the Alexander Technique for over 25 years out of which came her B.I.A. Process to assist yogis enhance their practice bypassing the intellect. She is also a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist and a Reiki Practitioner. Faculty at Akasha Yoga Teacher Training, she runs a 12 months Mastermind for Yoga Teachers with a Vision, and a 90 Day Virtual Program for trainees, new teachers and committed yoga practitioners interested in using their body more efficiently on and off the mat. She is currently writing a book on her personal and professional experience to be published this year with BlissLife Press, San Diego California.

When & Why You May Be Overdoing Unknowingly?

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Life Is Not Meant to Be So Hard When You know What Drives You!

Instead, it becomes efficiently productive on and off the mat. You can enjoy any kind of yoga you like even power yoga, yet you are safe from promoting injuries and you get the best out of your practice.


Overstretched back and compressed neck

Overdoing can be easy to change when it is not intertwined with cultural and emotional attachments to doing things the hard way. And when intertwined, this underlying motivation interferes with your best practice of yoga and your general well-being on and off the mat.

That is why overdoing is not as clear-cut as it sounds!

1) You may choose to overdo because you see it as pushing your limits in a good way. When practicing yoga, you may even consider pain something to ignore to build mental strength and to better your practice. This way of practicing and teaching comes from an old interpretation of the yoga teachings that have come to you from teachers who learned from teachers who jived with extreme asceticism. However, many new and experienced teachers are totally letting go of this approach to yoga, others are in the process of letting it go. Buddha himself had to overcome that way of thinking before he could get to enlightenment. Where are you at on that journey?

2) You may strain without wanting to but you do not know how to not strain in a given pose. That often comes from the way poses are still currently cued to you in your yoga classes or yoga books. Any encouragement to willfully “engage” specific muscles or body parts is overdoing because it is interfering with the natural movement design of your whole-body. Instead, learn to let your whole-body intelligence handle the muscle engagement of your whole-body for you within each pose or movement you chose to do. And till you learn, stay present to your whole-body whatever the pose you are in, it can help already. Nature works as a whole, not in parts.

3) You may strain your body without even being aware that you are doing so due to “unconscious habits” you have brought from your daily life onto the mat. The thing is that your mind may have pre-conceived ideas around what it means to “lengthen the spine” for instance. Mainly, your habitual way has come to feel more natural than the natural way. So as you are straining,  it “feels right” to your habit even though it may not be natural or beneficial for your body at all.

And these 3 ways of overdoing are often combined or overlapping in various ways.


Over-arched back and over-tensing of the quads.

Most likely, excess tension brought you to your first yoga class. And am with you, it does feel good in the moment to stretch the tension with various yoga poses. Or it feels good to strain some if you associate straining with positive effort to gain strength.


Overstretched back, locked hip joints sockets, over-tensed calves and compressed neck!

The truth is that if you are straining, you are not letting your postural mechanism do its job. And it is designed to handle your best balance, coordination and posture with no strain and with vitality.  Instead, you may compensate for it by creating unnecessary muscle tension or by overstretching your muscles to the point you meddle with your muscle tone just because it “feels good” in the moment.

When you learn to let your whole-body intelligence be in the driver seat, you can regain accurate perception of your “feelings” and your yoga practice can be most efficient without straining. How do you do that?

The Body Intelligence Activation Process activates your postural mechanism so you receive reliable guidance from your whole-body intelligence 24/7. Each time you consciously activate it, and progressively more so over time, your feelings become increasingly reliable again, your balance, coordination and posture improve organically in the process. Anyone can do this and you can too!

Want to explore this further and learn more about this amazing natural skill that can be regained? Read more of the posts on this blog-site, sign up to my free email seminar or join my free live interactive webinar series which will be offered a few more times before I start my 90 Day Live Interactive Program in May.

1) Free Email Seminar 2) Free Webinar 3)  90 Day B.I.A. Process Program.

Cecile Raynor has been teaching the Alexander Technique for over 25 years out of which came her B.I.A. Process to assist yogis enhance their practice bypassing the intellect. She is also a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist and a Reiki Practitioner. Faculty at Akasha Yoga Teacher Training, she runs a 12 months Mastermind for Yoga Teachers with a Vision, and a 90 Day Virtual Program for trainees, new teachers and committed yoga practitioners interested in using their body more efficiently on and off the mat. She is currently writing a book on her personal and professional experience to be published this year with BlissLife Press, San Diego California.

When Is It Not Good To Perform Toe Standing Poses?

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You may have been told that Toe Stand Poses strengthen your abdominal muscles, hips, knees, ankles, and toes. Have you actually experience that without straining?

Going on your toes in Downward Dog or other poses using both feet equally can be fine, even helpful sometimes. However, poses on toes with a high level of imbalance is unlikely to be done by the average person without promoting injuries down the line.

When in a class using lots of these poses, I could not help but noticing in other yogis body distortions and compensations. Those, I knew, were causing muscles and joints straining which promotes body stiffness.

It is not because your yoga teacher can do a pose that the pose is good for your own body. Nor does it mean that staying in a straining pose is how you get better at it, it is how you get injured.

Staying in a pose using a tool to activate your whole-body guidance and get its 100% approval is how you prevent injuries and get the most out of your practice.

The first principle of yoga is “Ahimsa”, do not harm anyone. That includes yourself! And despite the widespread belief that strain is good for you, it is not so, this is only a “belief” that is getting outdated!

Strain may indicate that you are bringing unconscious habits of movements from your daily life to the mat. It is also the first step of injuries to come.

The Body Intelligence Activation Process or B.I.A. Process is an awesome solution to these challenges.

If you want to learn more about how to activate your whole-body intelligence on demand so you can prevent injuries on and off the mat and get the most out of your practice?

Join my latest FREE 6-part EMAIL SEMINAR:

“How to Unlearn Habits that Create Body Stiffness On and Off the Mat”
Based on the Alexander Technique & The Body Intelligence Activation Process
(B.I.A. Process)
To sign up to my local or online offerings click at the top of this homepage

Stretching the Same Tension Over & Over?

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There is a reason for that and it may not be what you think!

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You may be stretching for flexibility and doing strengthening exercises for strength, yet does this keep you tension free on or of the mat? Or the same tension seems to come back endlessly?

Focusing on stretching and strengthening as two separate qualities is doing just that, focusing on “Separateness”! Learning to focus on these two qualities as the two sides of the same coin is the way to focus on “Unity” and its benefits which is to keep you tension free on or off the mat as you keep getting strong and flexible.

How can you do this when you think that mostly your muscles are your main pathway to strength and flexibility? How can you attend to both at the same time and know how to assess how much of which you need?

Maybe your true strength is not coming from your muscles as much as your skeletal structure and your mind working with your whole-body intelligence? Maybe your joints and muscles are more of a pathway to your flexibility as they keep everything together? And maybe, learning to release your joints is more key to your flexibility?

Releasing excess tension is neither going limp
nor decreasing how much strength you are building.
It is preventing building body stiffness while you are building strength!

In fact, if your bones were suddenly melting, no matter how strong your muscles, would you not turn into a puddle?

Flexible-strength as a skill where both strength and flexibility can be nurtured simultaneously is my personal and professional experience of what Patanjali recommends in his Sutras, namely that each yoga pose be practiced with “Steadiness & Ease”!

When you understand your body functioning in that way, you can build up muscle strength without building excess tension at the same time. When you learn to activate your postural mechanism, you can release excess tension while in a strengthening pose, as you build flexible-strength, prevent injury and reach your highest best without side effect like stiffness in your joints and muscles.

Interested in this way of thinking your movements and poses? Want to learn how to activate your whole-body intelligence via your postural mechanism, opt in my live offerings, local or online.

1) Free Email Seminar 2) Free Webinar 3)  90 Day Virtual & Interactive

Self-Consciousness, Self- Awareness & Straining!

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Do you know what really motivates you to exercise deep down?

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On the surface, it is easy to assume that you do it because exercise is good for you as doctors and scientists keep telling us. Could it be that it is not all that black and white? Not that I am discouraging you from exercising at all. You’ll always gain some benefits from exercising, but do you always get only benefits? And do you get the best out of your practice regardless of how or why you do it?

When I used to exercise out of being self-conscious about my weight or the way I looked, I was totally overdoing it. I was exercising with all the uptight energy coming from efforting to control my body, shape it, trim it, make it thinner. And although exercising was still beneficial to me in some ways, the problem was that it was motivated by a sense that I was not good enough, I was not lovable or attractive enough as I was and would not be till I reach this unrealistic ideal (for most of us) imposed by the media to all of us, especially women.

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Why is it a problem? It is a problem because when the underground reason for exercising is fear-based self-consciousness, you are actually stressing the body in a way that stems from and activates your “reptilian brain”. This results in the production of a stress hormone called Cortisol which affects both your mind and body into protective mode favoring holding and contraction. This tends to keep you in the fear based cycle of not feeling good enough unless you are pushing yourself. Exercise becomes an addiction of sorts. How do you truly feel when you reach your goal, do you appreciate it and relax or are you driven to keep going like the hamster on his wheel? Does this sound like a familiar cycle? You are definitely getting some good benefits from the physicality of yoga, but is it worth it to not examine the real reason motivating you to practice when it can actually strengthen your underground stress level in the process? Not to mention that this is what promote straining on and off the mat.

When practicing yoga is really love-based, you are truly nurturing your body in a way that stems from and activates the “pre-frontal cortex”. It creates a feel-good hormone called oxytocin or the “love hormone” which affects both your mind and body into open-mindedness and expansion. It also allows you to function as a fluid coordinated self. This develops flexible strength as one skill instead of focusing on stretching, strengthening or posture organizing as if they were separate from each other. The more you approach movements as a coordinated self, the more your body handles the perfect adjustments necessary for any chosen activity. Your Whole Body Intelligence knows how much to stretch this muscle, or strengthen that muscle and realign your postural balance for you all at once. Straining becomes unnecessary.

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And in this process, your synergy changes to be more functional without needing to strain or push yourself in the usual sense of the term. You challenge yourself by choosing and staying in a specific pose or activity yet you let go of the strain so your body can step up to the plate and do its magic! The idea is to let your body do its job and trust its innate intelligence. It knows better than your mind and the results are safer.

I once was totally off balance for months. As I got out of my overthinking mind to observe my every movements , I was able to discover and then let go of habitual patterns that were straining my body. While letting go, I was also rebooting my whole body synergy using my Body Intelligence Activation Process (B.I.A. Process), a way to allow the natural way to take over. As a result, my own body reorganized my very twisted posture into perfect balance in a month time when constant visits to chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists had not given any sustainable results for a period of 6 months.

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Acting on and off the mat from a place of “Self-Consciousness” is not serving you because it is rooted in a feeling of inadequacy that you feel you must overcome,  product of your intellect judging your self as not good enough.  I know because I have been there and it is easy to revisit that familiar place when we are not in the now. Instead let’s be rooted in the present moment, accepting of what is. Acting from a place of “Self-Awareness” outside the intellect is the way to blossom into whatever you choose to do on or off the mat.

And learning to activate the Intelligence of your Whole Body is an awesome key to letting go of  self-consciousness and embrace self-awareness, it is a process that allows your mind and your whole-body wisdom to be team partners, living in the same time zone in a way that gives you optimal safety and best performance whether you are on the mat or in daily life. It positively affects your level of self confidence and  self appreciation while you get the most out of your yoga and out of life.

Interested in exploring this further? Then check:

1) My Free Email Seminar 2) My Free Webinar 3) My Pilot 90 Day E-Course Special.

Physicality, Embodiment & Yoga

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Do you feel that unless you strain when you exercise, you are not doing enough?
Are you sure that strain is necessary to get strong in body or mind?

Do you think you are connected to your body because you exercise or practice yoga?
Are you sure that being physical means that you are well connected to your body?

What if strain only added body stiffness to the strength you could build without the strain?
What if being physical was not enough to be fully connected to your innate body wisdom?

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On the left she tightens and creates body stiffness in her outer muscles,
on the right she allows space to relax and let her core muscles strengthen themselves!
My  journey from physicality to awareness of disembodiment

When I started exercising and decided to eat right, I was motivated by wanting to look the best I could and keep my weight down. I used to exercise 3 hours a day. Half of that time was walking to and from campus for 45 minutes each way and the other 90 minutes were at the gym, running or an aerobic dance class plus using the universal machines of the time.

I thought I was very connected to my body and although I never strained to the point of hurting myself, I did judge the amount of appropriate tension by how much I was pushing myself. Burning calories was high on my list as I have a compact muscular body and always wanted to trim it down.

However, I had a profound realization that changed the course of my life. One day, while finishing grad school and being very pregnant with my first child. I found myself leaning on the table at the library so my belly was totally squished against the edge of the table. Noticing that was like a wake up call. I asked myself ” What am I doing to my baby? And what am I doing to my body?”. I started noticing other such instances. Maybe I was not as connected to my body as I thought? It made me realize that physicality was only part of being fully connected. I became aware that my physicality had been driven by my mind that acted as if it knew better than my body.

My journey towards embodiment of my aware mind
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That profound realization led me to practice meditation and let go of a promising career teaching French Literature at the college level for which I had just studied several years. Everyone thought I was crazy. But academia was going to keep me in my head so I had to find another more holistic type of teaching, and I did. Although embodiment is a life long evolution, working in a mind/body field with the Alexander Technique has made a huge difference in my life, especially combined with my meditation practice.

Over time, I realized and experienced that my addictive straining was only adding body stiffness to the strength I was building. It was true in the gym or on the yoga mat. I found it to be a mindset that reveals itself throughout all aspect of my life as self-created stress if I let it. And when I am flexible and strong in my mind, I can enjoy flexible strength in my workout or my yoga practice.

It became clear that I wanted flexible strength and that flexible strength starts with an aware and embodied mind. When your mind is embodied, there is no room for strain when you are being physical because you are in harmony with your innate body wisdom. And this is a whole body affair through every movement and every moment of the day. When you focus mainly on physicality, you are missing a dimension and the door to injury is still wide open whether you are at your computer, in your kitchen or on the mat.

When your mind is embodied, there is no room for strain when being physical
because you are in harmony with your innate body wisdom.
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Connecting to your body in a holistic way means that you are not tending separately to the mind and the body. You are aware of both whether you meditate or exercise. It also means that you allow your whole body wisdom to guide you as it is designed rather than controlling your skeleton muscularly according to the dictates of your mind as if it knew better than your innate body intelligence. It means organic good posture takes care of itself in a sustainable way like it does in children.

There is a breakthrough process that can help you access your whole body wisdom with ease whatever type of exercise you enjoy doing. It helps you to be embodied in a way beyond focusing on your stretch edge or your pain edge which represents only a small percentage of your whole body wisdom. It helps you reclaim organic good posture and strain-free living.

Interested in exploring this further? Then check:

1) My Free Email Seminar 2) My Free Webinar 3) My Beta 90 Day E-Course Special.

 

 

The Art of Flexible Strength: Drop the Strain, Keep the Strength!

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Striving to Stretch

As a yogi or fitness practitioner, do you  feel it is important to develop strength and flexibility? And yet do you truly feel you are developing flexible strength in the process? The flexible strength of the cat for instance which allows the cat to be totally tension free one minute and in an instant, display amazing strength, flexibility, accuracy of aim and speed of action.

If you are like most of us, the answer is no, not really!

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Beautiful natural integrated stretch

The truth is you strive for more flexibility and you may succeed up to a certain point. Yet are you tension free between yoga classes or even on the mat? If you can say yes, then you can stop reading right here. If the answer is no, then read on.

One reason you may not feel as flexible as you would want to be in your body (even though you work hard at it), is because flexibility starts in the mind, it is not just a body feature. And since the mind and the body are the two sides of the same coin, if your mind is not flexible, your body will reflect that by feeling uptight and it goes the other way round as well if you are flexible as a whole rather than having some flexible parts.

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Different bodies and awareness levels, different practices, different level of benefits

Another reason is that you may have unconscious habits of movements that are in the way of getting the result you are working for. I have found this to be a common explanation for nagging muscular and joint tension. In fact there are five such common habits that stem from misconceptions of movement. They have to do with you using parts of your body to do the job of other parts of your body so naturally, the misused parts end up complaining that they are not suited for the task. Becoming aware of this in your own body is a game changer.

The young man in the picture is aware of the way the pose is supposed to be but some of his unconscious habitual patterns prevent him from doing the pose the way he sees it and if he tries to straighten his back muscularly, he can only strain. Luckily he sensed that and was not trying to force anything. And the habits could manifest more subtly and be harder to detect but still doing a job on the synergy of your body. The fact is these common unconscious habits make you use your body in a way that is not in line with your innate body wisdom. As a result, no matter how much exercise you do, you feel you are not getting the results you want or when you do, you find them not to be sustainable.

One way to address this is to attend my free webinars or better yet sign up for my 90 Day Live Interactive E-Course. The work I do is very practical and can benefit you from the start by expanding your awareness with a new way to approach movement. It can also help you handle mind or body stress from a fresh new perspective and truly transform your life.

For more info or to sign up to June 9 webinar, go to: https://offthematyoga.leadpages.co/free-live-interactive-webinar/
For the E-Course, go to: https://offthematyoga.leadpages.co/cecileclearofferinteractivee-course/