Category Archives: Posture

From Muscular Control to Whole-Body Efficiency in Yoga: A Personal Journey!

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This personal story relating to my artwork illustrates the transformation that needs to happen in yoga practice and teaching so that yogis stop wrecking their body unknowingly whether on or off the mat.

It has to do with a change in mindset. Mine started with a very controlling mindset as I tried to get every drawing done to perfection (does this ring a bell?) and evolved into a trusting mindset that surrendered to what is, allowing my innate body wisdom to guide my hand effortlessly (does it not sound appealing?).

MY OWN MINDSET EVOLUTION

When I was a teenager, my friend loved the portraits I used to draw from a black and white picture they would bring to me. You can see that I was being very meticulous and used a lot of erasing pencils to get details of the hair, eyes and shirt just so. It was tedious work although still a way to express my creativity at the time.

These drawings were my attempt to reach an attractive yet illusive perfection by controlling every stroke. And my early interest was mainly focused on portraits maybe because then, the “head” was my familiar place of comfort.

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It was not until later when I studied the Alexander Technique and connected to my whole body that progressively a new style emerged as you may have noticed in prior blogs and in this one. By then, I was connected not only to the whole body but to a whole body in motion. From then on, I had the most amazing feeling of freedom and fun creating artwork, which I actually sold in Open Studios and at a Gallery. Drawings of dancers, musicians and yogis in action!:)

That transformation from fear to not get it right to implicit trust in your whole-body guidance is what I can offer you. It brought me from drawing portraits with tedious mental and muscular control of the lines to drawings where I allow myself to free flow and capture the movement without even looking at my paper initially. In the process, I have developed full trust that my Whole-Body Intelligence & Awareness of Movement are always present to guide me and you can too.

I have learned to practice yoga based on natural movements in line with my whole-body intelligence which is the ultimate safety net and injury prevention on and off the mat!

And the beauty of this work is that it translates in everything you do!

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MINDSET EVOLUTION & YOGA PRACTICE

Similar to my teenage drawings, modern yoga teachers tend to entertain some illusive idea that perfect form and anatomical knowledge are the answer to perfect yoga practiceDue to the Industrial Revolution and its focus on “Machines, Money & Appearances”, since the 19th century, the body is being handled as if it is a machine made of parts to workout. Teachers study anatomy in details and describe poses meticulously yet even those teachers get injured. Maybe we have been through the teenage years of modern yoga evolution. Yoga poses must be revisited so they can be done in line with our “Whole-Body Intelligence”, which knows better than our educated mind.

The difference between my teenage controlled drawings and my adult free flowing drawings is the difference I have been teaching yoga teachers so they can stop assessing yoga from a purely visual or analytical perspective. It helped their yoga practice and teaching because they no longer need to know everything with mechanical precision, they just need to know how to activate their whole body intelligence and guide students to activate their own. This way, they can guide or be guided effortlessly into the perfect and safest expression of each pose in every moment.

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This breakthrough process can be applied to any kind of yoga style you are attracted to practice, from Hot Power Yoga to gentle Kripalu Yoga. It has to do with discovering and un-learning common unconscious habits you have developed on and off the mat, and also with learning to activate your whole-body intelligence in every movement or pose.

Want to discover and unlearn these common unconscious habits that interfere with your best yoga practice?

Join my blog site, attend my online or local events and learn about the Body Intelligence Activation Process. You won’t regret it!

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

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 better on and off the mat. Her blog read by over 20 000 people and her webinars have an international audience. She is currently writing her book on “The Yoga of the Future and the B.I.A. Process: the Missing Link to Drop the Strain and Keep the Gain.” with BlissLife Press, San Diego California.

PS: For those curious about my artwork, you can go to http://studiocecile.com/

Habits that Wreck Your Body Unknowingly On & Off The Mat!

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Forcing your back to stretch to reach your toes may feel good but it also destroys your back muscle tone.
Lengthening of your back muscles comes from freedom in the hip joints and armpits,
not from forcing the muscles to lengthen!

In this time and age, like most working individuals, you are probably busy and often overwhelmed with more work to do than you have time for. As it turns out, you have plenty of opportunities to tense up between home and work, back and forth, day after day.

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Multitasking mom listening to the phone, carrying her child and cooking all at the same time
bringing in the process body distortions that soon come to feel more natural than the natural way!

By the time you feel your tension big time, if you are a yoga lover, you can’t wait to get to your yoga mat as soon as you get a chance. When you actually reach your yoga class or you situate yourself on your mat, you are so ready to stretch that nagging accumulated tension in your neck, shoulders, back, arms or legs that you totally go for it. As long as it “feels” good and you can do it, you’ll even go to the maximum expression of your pose and naturally, you’ll feel good about that accomplishment.

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Butt pulled back with back excess straining. Front expansion with neck compression
or both happening at once in extreme version of warrior one

Yet, is it always a good thing to make a fire just because you have matches in your hands? Is going into the maximum expression of your pose the right thing to do for every part of your body? Is more always better? What do you think?

Of course, there is something to be said about a good spontaneous stretch. Especially if you are stretching like the cat, naturally indulging with delight into a good stretch from head to toes, upon awakening from a nap.

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This organic way of stretching, which human beings are also gifted with, is called “pandiculation”. It actually starts with enhancing the tension briefly to signal the brain that your muscles are ready to relax. Then your whole body can enter into sweet delightful surrender the length of a long yawn!

Are the stretches you do at the gym or in your yoga class different in any way from the cat stretch? Do they each spread all over your body in a delightful surrender or do you actually work at them, tugging at the tension in one specific area of your body in the hope to get more length out of your stretch?

If your stretches are  not a whole body experience, you may be handling your tension with the same mindset that created the tension in the first place. You usually feel good in the moment, but you are not free of the unconscious habits that created the tension which is why, before you know it, it is back again, nagging at you as you assume it an inevitable part of living this modern life.

That is how your yoga practice can feel good and still wreck your body!

What if you could discover these unconscious habits and learn how to unlearn them?

Join my blog site, attend my online or local events and learn about the B.I.A. Process. You won’t regret it!

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

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 better on and off the mat. Her blog read by over 19 000 people and her webinar have an international audience. She is currently writing her book on “The Yoga of the Future and the B.I.A. Process: the Missing Link to Drop the Strain and Keep the Gain.” with BlissLife Press, San Diego California.

Can Your Yoga Practice Feel Good & Still Wreck Your Body?

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Does your yoga practice keep you free from tension between classes or do you go back to yoga because your tension builds up again somehow? Or maybe you are addicted to yoga thinking it can free you from tension and prevent injury? It can, but does it? Is the stress of life creating your daily tension or how you manage stress does? And is the stress of life the only reason why you may experience tension or pain in the first place? Read on to find out!

Did you know that Lady Gaga, the famous singer and Bikram Yoga enthusiast, cancelled a music tour with hip pain so severe she could barely move and was unable to perform for over two years after hip surgery at age 27?

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No, I am not claiming that yoga can wreck your body.  However, how you use your body while you do yoga (or any other daily activity) can absolutely wreck your body over time. I am not referring to how well you know each poses because if that was the case, yoga teachers would never get hurt and it is not the case, as you will see in the video below. Of course form matters up to a certain point. And anatomy matters up to a certain point as well. Yet, if anatomy knowledge was enough, doctors would be safe from injuries, which is not the case either.

By clicking on the picture below, listen and watch this teacher who is sharing her experience as a seasoned Ashtanga teacher. Listen to what happened to her, how it happened and what she learned from it.

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As Diane Bruni learned, even highly skilled teachers don’t always know what is right for your body despite their knowledge of anatomy or their mastery of yoga poses form. The thing is education is key because you can only be mindful of what you are aware of. So who to learn from if the blinds are leading the blinds? How did this even happen? It is partly to explain this that I am writing my book on “The Yoga of the Future”.

In short, yoga teaching has been influenced since the 19th century and even conditioned by the ideals of the Industrial Revolution. That is when modern fitness began and the love for machines gave birth to bodybuilding and a focus on fitness viewing the body as a machine made up of parts to exercise. Bodybuilding and Yoga influenced each other as more people had the financial means to travel.

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In the department stores of that time, the customer was always right to promote business. In the yoga world, the teacher was always right because he came from a patriarchal culture. Yet not all yoga masters were equal. Besides, lots got lost in translation or reinvented and additions were made over the years. Your inheritance has been to focus on body parts, and to muscle your way through both strengthening and stretching. Mainly, you have been led to trust your educated mind more than your innate body intelligence.

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Lahiri Mahasaya (One of Yogananda’s Gurus) versus Ascetic Yogis
All yogis were not made equal!

The truth is that you need to go inside to activate your inner teacher’s guidance available to you 24/7. It is never wrong.

This is the goal of the Body Intelligence Activation Process or B.I.A. Process; it teaches you how to instantly connect with your whole-body intelligence which is way more than just listening to your stretch edge or your pain edge as Diane was doing which led her slowly but surely towards injury. The B.I.A. Process on the other end empowers you to work with your whole-body intelligence hand in hand every step of the way. Notice the dash between whole and body. It is key to this process.

Without knowing how to activate your inner teacher, it is difficult to unlearn already established patterns that create excess muscle and joint tension. When you do know how to do it, you won’t even need to use a body braid as Diane does and recommends to keep your body properly toned and have great organic good posture.

If you want to learn more about this, join my blog site, attend my online or local events and learn about the B.I.A. Process. You won’t regret it!

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

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 better on and off the mat. Her blog read by over 19 000 people and her webinar have an international audience. She is currently writing her book on “The Yoga of the Future and the B.I.A. Process: the Missing Link to Drop the Strain and Keep the Gain.” with BlissLife Press, San Diego California.

Muscle Soreness, Strength and Ahimsa!

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Do you feel good when you experience soreness after a yoga class or a workout of any kind, believing it means you did well? Do you feel you are not doing enough when you don’t feel your muscles clearly stretching or strengthening? Do animal feel sore when they get sporadically very active? Humans definitely do, why is that?

Have you ever considered the possibility that stretching and strengthening could be experienced in a different way and be as efficient?

What led you to start yoga in the first place? Injuries you wanted to resolve? Lingering body stiffness? A desire for peace of mind? Do you experience flexibility and peace between classes? Have you healed your injuries completely? Here is why I am asking you these questions.

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I recently attended a wonderful writing retreat in the Redwood Forest in California, and I was privileged to meet a group of 20 wonderful writers working on their book to help the world change for the better by promoting the unlearning of old ways that no longer serve us. Mine is about the Yoga of the Future.

Anyhow, I met a beautiful and intelligent woman there who was very much into her Ashtanga Yoga practice that she attended 3 times a week. A scientist with 2 PhD under her belt, she also was clearly a good listener as we engaged into a conversation. She came to some understanding of the value of my work after she had a mini intro to it. Still before leaving the retreat, she was questioning how one could strengthen without straining or feeling sore when pushing oneself?

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I knew from personal experience that I had seriously strengthened doing yoga without feeling sore because I was releasing outer muscles the whole time I practiced. For instance, I had trouble keeping my arms up in Warrior 2 but I kept at it, releasing fingers to fingers through shoulder blades and all the way down into my support every time I was in poses requiring my arms up like this. Months later, I could stay in that pose with no problem whatsoever, having obviously strengthened the muscles required to keep my arms up.

Also, I wondered, how could creating trauma to the body be in line with yoga first principle “Ahimsa”, do no harm? Is it ever appropriate? After all, yogis do teach us that we are all one, so hurting others or hurting oneself comes to the same. No gain without pain has become no gain without strain. Is this tendency to strain a product of universal wisdom or of our human mind always shooting for more?

On his website, Dr Gabe Mirkin said ” We used to think that next-day muscle soreness is caused by build up of lactic acid in muscles, but now we know that lactic acid has nothing to do with it.” Muscle soreness is no longer seen as a good indicator of a good workout. It does not mean that muscles were built, strength gained, or fat lost.

He also points out that even pushing your muscles to the limit to make them work harder to strengthen is not something you do every day. Dr Mirkin explains that most healthy athletes may have a hard workout one day, but then they go easy for one to seven days afterwards before challenging their body again. He adds “world-class marathon runners run very fast only twice a week” and “the best weightlifters lift very heavy only once every two weeks.” while “high jumpers jump for height only once a week.”

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When once a week I go to a hot power type of yoga, I do it to sweat and challenge myself. I follow the poses called for, yet I go about them my own way. No muscular lifting, squeezing, pushing or holding in my yoga practice. Instead, I use my Body Intelligence Activation (B.I.A.) Process which connects me to my whole-body guidance in every pose. It always guides me to do the poses the way that works best for me in each moment and although I have quite a muscular body, I never run the risk of overdoing because my mind is not calling the shots, I allow my inner teacher to do so.

Without a tool such as the B.I.A. Process teaching you to connect to your whole-body wisdom even when your focus is to challenge one body part especially, the door to injury remains open.  If you are already injured, it prevents full healing and the injury becomes chronic.

You can only be mindful of what you are aware of, so a little education goes a long way especially when you are already mindful!

If you want to learn more about this, join my blog site, attend my online or local events and learn about the B.I.A. Process. You won’t regret it!

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

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 better on and off the mat. Her blog read by 19 000 people and her webinar have an international audience. She is currently writing her book on “The Yoga of the Future and the B.I.A. Process: the Missing Link to Drop the Strain and Keep the Gain.” with BlissLife Press, San Diego California.

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/

 

The Secret to Ultimate Safety and High Performance on the Yoga Mat!

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“Striving Yogis” by Cecile Raynor

Since 2012 when the New York Times published an article called “Can Yoga Wreck Your Body?”  followed by a Huffpost interview with Glenn Black,  many yoga studios and teachers everywhere have been innovating to increase safety on the mat. Teachers have been learning how to assist yoga students. Practitioners at risk have chosen gentle forms of yoga, while many others shy away from yoga all together.

In the meantime, yoga studios are filled with a big majority of young yogis with forgiving bodies who still handle a lot of strain. For them, “no gain without pain” has been replaced by “no gain without strain”. Pushing to their limit just because they can (whether stretching or strengthening) is seen as a good thing. So they follow their teachers guidance and are satisfied to push and pull to their heart’s content as long as it feels good and they pay attention to not reach their pain threshold.

NO GAIN WITHOUT PAIN has become NO GAIN WITHOUT STRAIN

But is that enough for ultimate safety on the mat and is it even the best way to reach highest performance? Are yoga studios safer than before? Is yoga practice enough to keep yogis bodies strain-free and their minds able to manage stress gracefully between classes? How is it for you? Which part of your yoga practice is sustainable in your daily life and which is not? We all know yoga is not what wrecks people’s body, so why do many people still get hurt on and off the mat even when they exercise in the gym or on the mat?

For one thing,  some of the assisting has been questioned to the point that some studios have created special tokens or cards used on mats to signal teachers whether they are welcome to assist or not.  True, some yoga assists have turned into well received massage moments although some yoga students simply do not care to be touched and always want the option to say so; mostly, students asking for tokens have gotten hurt by teachers assisting hands. Why is this happening?

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There are 3 main reasons for this happening.  Despite the numerous assist workshops given out there, the first reason is a lack in quality touch experience in teachers as well as a lack of awareness of the mind-body foundation of all movements. These happen to be strengths of Alexander Technique teachers who have a 3 year training of 1600 hours before they get certified. Yoga teachers start teaching after 200 hours of certification with little training if any in these two aspects. Secondly, there is the way teachings were passed on through generations of teachers suffering from loss and misinterpretations which led to some asanas created only in the past century to be widely embraced even when not necessarily appropriate for everyone nor always in line with our innate body intelligence.

Last but not least, since the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, men have been focusing on appearances, money and machines. We have come to think of the body as a machine with parts to exercise and replace when necessary. For all the buzz on holistic health, the norm remains to focus on body part exercising across the fitness world. Do you catch yourself chronically holding your back trying to sit or stand upright to slouch only seconds later? Could it be happening because it is neither comfortable nor natural to being up that way?

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Organic good posture, no conscious efforting involved!

Many are disconnected from their “whole body” wisdom as they are exercising their “body parts”. Do you go to yoga to improve your posture, strengthen and stretch? Yet do you still experience neck or back tension, or strained knees on or off the mat? As it were, there are more gadgets than ever on the market to address “bad posture” and its consequences: neck, back, shoulder or joint discomfort or pain. However, are they only band-aid solutions or do they produce sustainable results?

Much of the teachings on posture tend to equate alignment with good posture which results in a static expression of aligned posture.  Like posture gadgets, they also imply that muscularly correcting posture is the ultimate solution. The reality is that there is more  to good posture than alignment. “Good Posture” is a dynamic and organic happening like in children!

Learning to activate your postural mechanism is the secret breakthrough skill that can lead you to improved posture with no neck, back or joint straining on or off the mat. It is a reflex-like system we are born with that is activated when we step out of our own way to let our body intelligence do its job. And every time we release excess tension without sacrificing our skeletal height, it gets activated. You probably stumbled unto it before when you suddenly reached your effortless balancing spot. Only it is a skill you can learn and access on demand based on undoing conscious and unconscious habits of movements. When under your belt, that skill allows you to approach every yoga poses from a totally different angle where straining is not necessary to strengthen or stretch with ultimate safety and to reach your highest performance!

FREE LIVE EVENT:  BREAKTHROUGH SKILL
 << Not taught in Yoga Trainings >>
 March 16, 2016 @ 7.30pm EST
 

It is to bring you an experience of this breakthrough skill that I have been learning about webinar and e-course technology. I am now happy and excited to invite you to my first webinar offering and I will personally introduce you to this breakthrough skill which can help you open the door to ultimate safety even within high performance level! You will be given a chance to engage in some experiential activities and I am scheduling time for Q & A as well. I will also explain how this skill can lead you beyond band-aid solutions, to sustainable results.

Why mark your calendars and sign up asap? It is a global offer to yoga practitioners and teachers in the world, yet I am only offering 50 spots. Participants will be accepted on a first come basis.  At the end of the webinar, participants will be given a chance to sign up for my 90 Day Interactive E-course First Launch at 50% off which includes loads of bonuses as well. Available only to 25 people!

So here is the link to sign up to the Free Webinar: https://offthematyoga.leadpages.co/free-webinar-breakthrough-skill/

Hope to meet some of you in cyberspace!

Cecile Raynor
Alexander Technique Teacher, Thai Yoga Therapist & Kryia Yoga Initiate

Vision/Posture Connection & Drishti

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This time of year seems appropriate to talk about vision for various reasons.

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On the physical level,  the health of your eyes is a precious thing you may take for granted especially when they don’t give you any trouble. However,  they can affect your overall health depending on how you use them in your everyday activities. Neck craning forward or head tilting back while slouching at the computer for instance can actually create compression or over-extension of the back of your neck and rounding your shoulders.  On the mental level, you envision a specific future for yourself. New Year’s Resolutions for example require you to have a vision of the future you want to see happen. Or you may have a personal vision on a work project or on how to solve a given issue. Such vision guides what you manifest in your life or not. Spiritually, vision is a reference to your ability to see with your intuitive heart beyond what is visible. It refers to your inner vision.

Yoga teachers may talk about “Drishti” (vision), and on the mat, they often refer to it as a form of gazing in the distance to focus your mind in the present moment. Focus is fundamental in yoga practice. Focusing your eyes and your attention is using this yogic technique called “Drishti”.

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However, although using your vision to stay in the now or come back to it is an excellent tool, there is something important to consider in “Drishti”. Along with this intention to gaze so as to step out of your over-active mind, you need to always make sure the gaze direction does not lead you to sacrifice your spinal length so the kundalini energy can flow through it.

The woman in the triangle pose above is using her vision well to support an integrated triangle pose. As she is looking towards the tip of her fingers and beyond, her head neck and torso remain nicely aligned. However, there is more to good postural balance than perfect alignment, there is dynamic alignment.  Dynamic postural alignment implies the harmonious relationship between the various part is respected so that the energy can flow back and forth through the muscles into the support and up the skeleton then able to expand in its full space.

Straining interferes with getting the benefit of any yoga pose. Having space to release while in a pose is the most dynamic way to engage in a pose. It challenges the muscles to work without adding body stiffness to the mix. If you have gone to a place where release into your support is no longer an option, you are doing too much.

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These women engaged in a seated twist are using their vision to lead their seated twist as they stay balanced and centered above their supported sits bones. Led by the direction of their vision, each is going as far as they are comfortable without sacrificing their skeletal height.

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On the other end, the instructions for the seated twist on this picture are incomplete and it shows on the model illustrating this pose. The sits bones are arched a bit like a rocking chair so it is not enough to feel your sits bones, it is crucial to be aligned above their balancing point. Otherwise, any attempt at releasing your back will take you into a slouch.

Here it is clear that she is not balanced because her gravity line is behind her sits bones. As a result, she is slouched in her twist. It is straining her back, squishing her internal organs, limiting her breathing and how far she can go into her seated twist. Although she certainly seems like a happy camper on this picture, she is not getting the best out of her yoga pose! 

Even in daily life, you need to know how to do this. Whether you are siting on a chair or in a car, you can hurt your neck if you do not apply these principles as you turn your head to look behind yourself.

Helpful Tips

1) To maximize a seated twist, connect to the balancing point of your sits bones so your head is still above them without loosing your skeletal height which comes by sending your sits bones into your support rather than tensing your back muscles. Then look in the direction you are turning moving from the joint at the top of your spine first.  As you go, keep releasing neck and back muscles straight into your support. This prevents you from creating body stiffness or muscle straining.

2) Do not fix your gaze, a fixed gaze creates a fixed body which is not the purpose of yoga, keep it soft and wide using your peripheral vision as in driving. Keep it connected to the rest of you! You are on the mat to stay present and to tune in, not to tune  out!

3) When doing asanas, just do asanas. Don’t start to think about the meaning of life or anything else but what is happening right there and then. Your vision, your breath, your kinesthetic senses are all ways to anchor yourself in the present moment.

4) The spiritual dimension of “Drishti” can only come from the practice of being present yet non attached to thoughts, body senses and sense pleasures. Mind grasping or muscular grasping (the two sides of the same coin) take us away from such practice. So stay in touch with yourself and don’t tense your muscles. Body stiffness is not body strength. Body strength remains flexible, like the strength of the cat!

5) Stay aware of the direction of your vision as often as possible. When lost in your thoughts or in your body feelings, you may be gazing in a way that stiffens your neck. So watch out for your neck by making sure your vision choice does not conflict with the need of your neck to stay free of tension. This will give you an integrated movement connecting you from head to toes.

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When not aligned above support and relaxed, gravity promotes slouching.
When aligned above support and relaxed
, gravity promotes effortless good posture.

Do you want to learn more about this mind/body approach to natural good posture? 
Do you want to learn how to reclaim efficient moving for balanced living?
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 Principles and Facts)

Wishing you a wonderful New Year,
filled with Gratitude, Health, Prosperity and lots of Laughter!

https://offthematyogablog.com/

Bandhas, Blocks and Bones!

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Yogic Bandhas are a form of energy activation via special centers in the body to temporarily contain the body energy (prana) in the torso. The 3 specific bandhas are : Mula Bandha, energy activation at the perineum, Uddiyana Bandha, energy activation of the abdomen into the rib cage, and Jalandhara Bandha, to energize the throat.

It is common to practice this energization by squeezing and tightening these centers to close energy gates as a way to create energy flow when the tightness is released (it functions a bit like a damn). However, when practiced this way, unnecessary tension can also be created from muscular overdoing out of habit and because of the conditioning around more being better. But is it?

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Listen to Leo’s experience with block squeezing versus blog hugging when activating Mula Bandha

Bandhas are about energy activation above all else. Although performed on the physical level engaging the skeletal muscles (part of the core muscles), they also function as an internal energetic process. The key is to not overdo muscle tension so the energetic process can happen most efficiently and body stiffness can be avoided.

It is my personal experience and the experience of yogis I have worked with, that when you focus only on the local area around the centers, you loose connection with the whole body and its innate intelligence. You still can get results from your practice yet you also develop or reinforce body stiffness in the process. How can you avoid overdoing in this context? Stay connected to your bones and skeletal structure!

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Watch or re-watch this easy to view 7 min video by Kathleen Porter
about how the skeleton works as your primary support system!

Muscular overdoing overshadows the skeletal structure and bone strength. To experience this, explore energizing the root chakra with Mula Bandha using a block between your legs as high as it fits to hug the block with your bones.  Start exploring in Mountain Pose or Bridge Pose for instance and compare plain squeezing to bone hugging. Bone hugging instead of muscular squeezing prevents excess tension while connecting you with your complete skeletal structure and the support under it. This way, your bandha activation is allowing your whole body to be engaged in an appropriate way, each part using just the right amount of muscle tension.

Once you have experienced energizing the root chakra with the block to connect with your skeletal structure and strength, it can be done without the block as well even in lotus pose. As a result, the outer muscles can let go, the core muscles kick in organically working with the skeleton and its support. The energy activated by the bandhas is then both localized and generalized so that when released, the gates for the energy to flow are wide open all over the body.

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Notice the muscular pulling down created by the squeezing versus the lengthening and improved alignment
when simply hugging the block to activate the root chakra for Mula Bandha!
(Compare the red line in h
is shorts on both pictures!)

With an awareness of bones hugging rather than muscles over-squeezing, you will experience the strength of your bones working harmoniously with necessary muscle tension to create flexible strength and powerful energy flow. You can use a block to practice through a flow of poses or a single pose. All the while, you activate the bandhas in an integrated way that includes and respect your innate body intelligence guidance.

This way of handling the bandhas, based on Cecile’s experience and teaching of the Alexander Technique, reminds us to always use the body as a coordinated self, rather than focusing on isolated body parts. This allows all your movements to be in sync with your innate body intelligence. Such movements then become your safest and most efficient movements. Yoga poses or other yogic practices then benefit from optimal safety and efficiency.

Do you want to learn more about this mind/body approach to strain-free yoga? 
Do you want to learn how to reclaim efficient moving for balanced living?
Join my FREE 6-part EMAIL SEMINAR:
"How to Unlearn Habits that Create Body Stiffness On and Off the Mat"
(Based on the Alexander Technique Principles and Facts)