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Resistance: A Benefit or an Obstacle to Optimal Health?

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During a yoga class, as we were in a challenging pose, the teacher made the following comment, “your body wants the path of least resistance; in yoga, you want the path of most resistance.” Is this really true?

Not all yoga teachers would agree with this statement. Yet many people do associate yoga with a strenuous practice of some kind. In fact, there is a trend for resistance training that encourages this approach. And yes, it appears logical and practicing this way can yield results as well.

This may seem an appropriate way to do Cobra/Updog because it is a widespread way of doing it but it does not mean that compressing the neck part of the spine is a good thing to do in any pose.

Is it really necessary to intensely go against the guidance of your whole-body intelligence to build up strength? Is there a price to pay if you don’t have an effective tool to assess when to stop (beyond your own subjective notion of what is enough or not)?

The truth is that without an objective tool, it becomes too easy to overdo and create excess tension while you are building strength. So, yes, you are getting stronger, but you are also getting stiffer in the process like the yogis compressing the back of their neck to expand the front.

Neck tension does not come from stress but stress enhances misuse and overuse of the body. So stress reveals neck tension more than it creates it.

What are the signs you may be overdoing unknowingly?

  1. You need to stretch your muscles constantly, whether on or off the mat
  2. You experience sensitivity or pain in your joints periodically
  3. You struggle with frozen shoulders or poor posture
  4. You behave in an unflexible manner more often than not

If you experience one or more of these challenges, you may be getting more than you bargain for while working on strengthening using resistance to an extreme.

This is an integrated expression of a pose. Head poised over hands.
No neck compression, yet she is working her body as a whole and getting stronger in the process!

In truth, you can challenge yourself and work with resistance in a way that does not have such side effects. How?

  1. Approach all forms of exercise as a whole-body experience in the same way you approach walking, running, going up the stairs or riding a bike. In these activities, you don’t tell each body part how to do their job. You trust they know what they are doing.
  2. Discover how your skeleton and muscles can work as team partners to develop flexible strength. Your muscles don’t need to steal the show as if your body strength was their exclusive responsibility.
  3. Realize that challenging yourself as a whole is more efficient and effective than focusing on isolated body parts alone. For instance, doing a squat while still fully balanced above your feet benefits your whole body instead of just your quads.

Resistance becomes an obstacle that tends to backfire when you focus on individual muscles, isolated body parts, or pushing to an extreme while losing track of whole-body harmony.

It creates excess tension that shows up sooner or later and promotes injury.

Resistance is a benefit serving all of you when you practice resistance as a whole-body experience (whatever body parts you hope to strengthen). It works from head to toes in a mind/body partnership.

The fact is that the whole is designed to take care of the parts 
which is not true the other way around...

Would love to know your thoughts and experience with this.
Let me know what you think?

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THE YOGA OF SHOVELING!

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Hopefully, this is the last wave of snow this winter for us New Englanders. In the meantime, many of us need to shovel snow. And the way you use your body shows up whether you are on or off your yoga mat, whether you shovel snow or dirt!

So if you tend to push yourself in your daily life, 
you muscularly push yourself when doing yoga 
and vice versa viewing it as a good thing.

However, pushing comes with building excess tension. 
Eventually, it manifests with NECK, SHOULDER, BACK OR JOINTS TROUBLE.

Now, I am not saying that challenging yourself is not a good thing. What I am saying is that there are different ways to do so.

MUSCLING YOURSELF THROUGH SHOVELING IS THE BEST WAY TO GET HURT!

On the other end,

allow yourself to keep your muscles and joints relaxed while shoveling. Yet, don’t slouch into yourself as you release any excess tension (like the woman in the picture).

Keep loose in a state of expansion. It will help you function as an integrated whole. You will be guided into your movements naturally and efficiently. Use your body weight whenever possible and your body as a whole at all times, from head to toes.

You will discover that your strength comes from your mind and bones more than from tight muscles.

ALLOW YOUR BONES AND NECESSARY MUSCLE TENSION TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE INSTEAD.

They naturally assist you in your task which organically feels easier and safer. It will add a spring to your steps.

So good luck with your shoveling and your way to move in general!

If you are local to Boston and you want to learn more about this organic way to move, sign up to my next Alexander Technique workshop sponsored by the Newton Recreation Department on March 9 at the Kennard Park Mansion.

To register or for more info, go to parks@newtonma.gov
or call 617-796-1510.

Cecile Raynor has been teaching the Alexander Technique for over 25 years out of which came her Body Intelligence Activation Process™ (B.I.A. Process) to assist yogis in enhancing their practice towards best performance with optimal safety. 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 Live Online Program for trainees, new teachers and committed yoga practitioners interested in using their body more efficiently on and off the mat in a way not taught in regular training courses. She is also the author of a June 2018 publication called THE WISE WAY TO YOGA which is available on Amazon or from Cecile if you are local to Boston!

NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS, BUSINESS & YOGA

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I want to start by wishing you a wonderful, joyful, healthy and prosperous New Year. And I want to recommend to look inside for what you need before spending time, money and energy outside of yourself assuming others know more. They may but your intuition has to have the last say for you to get the most out of what information you are given.

I have been away from my social media routine for about a month and it gave me some perspective on what is worth doing and not-so-worth doing going into 2019. And I will share below my 5 thoughts based on my experience and 5 top resolutions in the hope it can be of service to you too.

1) Not all businesses automatically blossom with social media exposure and yet, solopreneurs feel they have to do it or else. It has not worked efficiently for me yet. However, I have expanded my business more substantially (with paying clients ) in the past few months going out, socializing, and having fun than when I was spending endless hours connecting to people online.

2) Sticking to our resolutions becomes a lot easier when it is part of a bigger picture rather than when it is a list of isolate ventures. Whether losing weight or growing a business, it becomes a meaningful venture when you are clear about why you want to do it and if that goal includes your personal needs and the needs of others (rather than focusing on one or the other). It is also more efficient when you start by knowing you are enough to start with. You don’t need to do anything else to be enough. Anything you do will only enhance your enoughness!:)

3) Many of us want to live in a more harmonious world, and yet, we do not really know how our body parts function as an integrated whole or how our inner parts function as a happy family. The truth is that the whole takes care of the parts but it is not true the other way round. And yet, modern fitness is still focusing on body parts. The thing is how can we create a better world if we are not ourselves functioning in an integrated way whether we are on or off the mat?

Body parts or Inner parts working harmoniously is as beautiful as the various contrasting colors of this bird’s feathers.

So, my 5 top resolutions
(not in any order of importance) are as follows:

1) Focus on having fun while growing my business
2) Less screen time, more personal connections out into my local world
3) Keep going to my hot yoga class as the integrated body that I am, using poses as a guide, not a goal. Disregarding what others around me are doing or what the teacher is saying if it does not agree with my whole body intelligence.
4) Make a point to have outdoor time daily in any weather and to keep prioritizing meditation and exercise first thing in the morning.
5) Remind myself daily that I am enough as is, and I am beautiful and successful despite the greyness of some days. Remind myself how beautiful we all are deep down, even when we witness negative words, gestures or behaviors.

Cecile Raynor has been teaching the Alexander Technique for over 25 years out of which came her Body Intelligence Activation Process™ (B.I.A. Process) to assist yogis in enhancing their practice towards best performance with optimal safety. 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 Live Online Program for trainees, new teachers and committed yoga practitioners interested in using their body more efficiently on and off the mat in a way not taught in regular training courses. She is also the author of a June 2018 publication called THE WISE WAY TO YOGA which is available on Amazon or from Cecile if you are local to Boston!

IS FEELING GOOD ON THE MAT ALWAYS PROMOTING WELL-BEING OFF THE MAT?

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Is your main concern to feel good when you are on the mat? (Whatever that means for you personally).

Do you believe that if your practice feels good on the mat, it promotes your well-being off the mat? How sure are you that this is always the truth? Or that it is the WHOLE TRUTH?

Poised Pigeon

Have you ever thought that maybe, going far in a pose just because you’re able to, could potentially promote injury? Or do you think that the more the better whether you are strengthening or stretching (as long as it feels good in the moment)?

For instance, when you extend your head as far back as you can in COBRA or PIGEON, do you realize that you are actually compressing the back of your neck, and possibly your midback?

I know it is a common way to do this pose, some teachers do it this way as well and it is considered Instagram worthy. Yet IS THIS REALLY SERVING YOUR BODY AS A WHOLE?

And where does all that compressed tension go? Are you bringing it back home?

Could it be why daily tension seems to linger endlessly despite your committed practice?

Do you find yourself caught in this ADDICTIVE CYCLE that produces both benefits and drawbacks? And you are left not knowing how to get out of it without letting go of your yoga practice (which you naturally do not want to do)?

If that resonates with your experience, 
I want you to know that THIS IS NOT REALLY YOUR FAULT. 
And it can be confusing because a safe practice does feel good as well!:)

You’ve been taught to handle your body this way by your teachers themselves taught by their teachers since the 19th century. Only, the Hatha yoga revival of that time period came with challenges that have not yet been resolved.

The truth is, it is time to face and solve these challenges if you truly want to experience well-being off the mat. It is the job of every teacher and every practitioner to stand up for a safer approach to yoga regardless of body shape, fitness level or yoga style. 

Yoga feeling-good sensations can be part of the picture, but not the whole picture if you want to safely enjoy yoga for a lifetime. They are a very SUBJECTIVE ASSESSMENT of how you are doing with your practice.

When you understand that your MIND AND SKELETAL STRUCTURE have more to do with your STRENGTH AND FLEXIBILITY than your muscles, you can increasingly reach the best expression of every pose without the need to strain one bit. You stop telling your body how to handle your every move. You remember that its innate intelligence already knows.

To learn to practice yoga with such EFFICIENCY, handle movements or improve your posture without muscle straining, choose to be exposed to The Wise Way to Yoga by attending my next Free Masterclass or be inquisitive and private message me. All you’ve got to lose is some unnecessary tension. 

Cecile Raynor has been teaching the Alexander Technique for over 25 years out of which came her Body Intelligence Activation Process™ (B.I.A. Process) to assist yogis in enhancing their practice towards best performance with optimal safety. 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 Live Online Program for trainees, new teachers and committed yoga practitioners interested in using their body more efficiently on and off the mat in a way not taught in regular training courses. She is also the author of a June 2018 publication called THE WISE WAY TO YOGA which is available on Amazon or from Cecile if you are local to Boston!

IS THERE A SHADOW SIDE TO YOGA ADDICTION?

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Queuing to attend a popular yoga class!


Are you addicted to yoga?
Maybe not. But just in case, read on….

Yoga can be very addictive. And because it is recommended as a solution for good health, or because you have gotten some benefits from it already, it is easy to assume it is a GOOD ADDICTION.

Yet, are addictions ever a good thing when the foundation of all addictions is some loss of control over a specific behavior?

Why does this matter with your yoga practice?

When addicted to your practice, you don’t control your habit,                  YOUR HABIT CONTROLS YOU!

It affects your decisions and intention regarding your practice, It affects the quality of your movements…

YOUR HABIT PUSHES YOU TO OVERDO in an attempt to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Or it is simply ADDICTED TO WHAT FEELS GOOD AND FAMILIAR (whether it serves you or not).

All the while, you are unknowingly reinforcing limiting beliefs about yourself, all based on “I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH”. Yap, that’s right even if you do not feel this on the conscious level!

I know a yin yoga practitioner who was addicted to her yin yoga practice because it always felt so good to stretch her body. Yet she had killed her muscle tone in the process and her body was aching all the time when off the mat. She could not step out of the cycle because she did not understand the root of her predicament.

When addicted, you dread the thought of skipping a class. YOU’RE AFRAID you’ll get out of sorts or worsen without your daily fix.
You may feel you’re not good enough if you can’t do a specific pose the way you want. So, you keep at it. You assume persistence is the only way to improve even if it is not so.

Or else, you feel you need to do more yoga to keep thin. To get a firmer and stronger body or be more flexible.

In the process, you become A CATASTROPHE READY TO HAPPEN

The tension you stretch keeps coming back day in and day out. And sooner or later, you get injured and you wonder why?

Do any of these scenarios resonate with you?

THE TRUTH IS: – You can challenge yourself and get awesome results without being addicted to your practice.- You can get fit without overdoing.

To be truly fit, your body must function well as the integrated whole that it is. When it does, you don’t experience excessive bodily tension or poor posture in your daily life. And,
– You feel that YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH BEFORE YOU GET TO THE MAT yet you don’t act overconfident acting from a need to show off (overconfidence is another form of not feeling good enough and it can still keep you disconnected from your whole body intelligence)
– Your yoga practice becomes a way to promote and MAINTAIN GOOD HEALTH rather than an ongoing attempt to fix your body.

If challenging yourself without fostering injury is what you REALLY want, if you want to enjoy yoga without the shadow side of addiction then join my next FREE MASTERCLASS!

“Learn 5 Strategies to Prevent Injury & Practice or Teach Yoga at your Best!”

Cecile Raynor has been teaching the Alexander Technique for over 25 years out of which came her Body Intelligence Activation Process™ (B.I.A. Process) to assist yogis in enhancing their practice towards best performance with optimal safety. 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 Live Online Program for trainees, new teachers and committed yoga practitioners interested in using their body more efficiently on and off the mat in a way not taught in regular training courses. She is also the author of a June 2018 publication called THE WISE WAY TO YOGA which is available on Amazon or from Cecile if you are local to Boston!

THE SHADOW SIDE OF YOGA TIPS

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Clearly, you have received helpful tips to date. Yet, can you think of examples where you were guided to apply tips and beliefs to your practice which did not make it easier? Although suspicious, you thought the teacher knew best and you did what they recommended. Only to find that your knees or back remained tense in your daily life. Or maybe, as I heard new teachers say, they developed sciatica from training and teaching.

When we give tips to students, it can be very helpful, or it can create trouble. Why?

  1. They do not necessarily apply what they were told, the way it was meant (mainly due to their personal habits).
  2. Or, it helps them with one aspect of their challenge, but it doesn’t change their overall approach to movement. As a result, they are still creating trouble for themselves in other ways. And still looking for tips to solve these challenges.

Teachers have a whole repertoire of tips & beliefs meant to help with yoga poses. And they are always looking for more. Some are helpful, and some are actually dangerous. Here are a couple examples:

  1. Do not let your knees go past your toes. In some poses, it is sound advice to save your knees while in other poses it actually kills your knee joints.
  2. Lengthen your back. When you hear it as “allow your back to lengthen”, it is fine. When you arch your back, thinking you are lengthening it, you are actually stressing your spine and your whole body. And since you do it out of habit, you may not even be aware you are doing it.

So, tips and beliefs around movements can create more trouble than they are worth even though they come from well-meaning teachers who heard it from their own well-meaning teachers.

Child Pose in a Classroom

The truth is that, although fitness was meant to help you be fit, it has evolved into a mixed bag. It helps you in some ways. You see some good results, so you stick with it. Yet, you can also damage your body in the process if you do not have a bigger picture. If you do not have an approach to use your body as the integrated whole that it is. And most of the time, you do not realize this. You do not necessarily connect the dots when an injury happens, especially if it is off the mat.

Listening to your body is definitely a first good step to prevent hurting yourself. However, until you know if you are catering to the preferences of your body habits or listening to the guidance of your whole-body intelligence, you may be reinforcing daily habits that are not serving you.

There is a deeper way to listen to your body that bypasses both your conscious and unconscious habits. When you learn how to do that, you are truly listening to the guidance of your whole-body intelligence. It takes you effortlessly into your best posture, your best expression of any pose or your most efficient movement, both on or off the mat.

With this deeper way to listen, you need a very minimal number of tips for your yoga practice. The more you know how to connect and listen to your whole-body intelligence, the less you feel you need loads of tips whether you practice or teach yoga. As a teacher, you can teach this amazing skill to your students who then, can let their own whole-body intelligence guide them.

Interested in learning this skill? Email me and we’ll talk. I’ll tell you what your options are after I ask you a few questions to assess where you are at right now. Remember that it is never what you do that you regret, but what you did not do when you had the chance! 

 Cecile Raynor has been teaching the Alexander Technique for over 25 years out of which came her Body Intelligence Activation Process™ (B.I.A. Process) to assist yogis in enhancing their practice towards best performance with optimal safety. 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 Live Online Program for trainees, new teachers and committed yoga practitioners interested in using their body more efficiently on and off the mat in a way not taught in regular training courses. She is also the author of a June 2018 publication called THE WISE WAY TO YOGA which is available on Amazon or from Cecile if you are local to Boston!

HOW SAFE IS YOGA?

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I want to share a video that I just watch on YouTube on the safety of practicing yoga.

Anthony Davis

And OMG! I love this yoga teacher! He is addressing the elephant in the yoga community room and says it like it is: practicing Ashtanga yoga and Iyengar yoga to the letter can and will eventually hurt your body! In this first video, he focuses on the common issues regarding flexibility, hypermobility, and joints.

We all know teachers and committed teachers who have badly strained their body or who had to have surgery at some point. The danger is that younger yogis may think they are not affected because often, damages happen slowly and progressively till it is too late and crisis strike.

The truth is that we need more teachers sharing those truths to prevent new yoga teachers and new students to injure themselves at some point or another. Teachers in training and yoga students need to be educated about the fact that being comfortable with the uncomfortable is totally a misunderstanding of yoga when it comes to asana practice.

Although we come from a different perspective, what Anthony says in his video goes right along with what I teach to the teachers and yoga students in my free masterclass or local and online courses. Namely, always remember the yoga principle of Ahimsa: do no harm to yourself or others. And to respect that, you better know that strain is delayed pain!

What he says in this video aligns with what I write about in my book The Wise Way to Yoga where I offer a new and very practical way to prevent injury and enhance performance. This approach supports the healthy evolution of modern yoga, away from the misunderstandings and misconceptions that currently permeate modern yoga teaching.

I reached out to him as I sense we could do great work together, along with other like-minded teachers and mind/body practitioners. We all have an important piece of the puzzle and together we can do more than each on our own. This is called forward thinking. It is called a win/win scenario. And I am all for it!

My piece of this puzzle is my awareness and expertise with the postural mechanism, an unknown aspect in the mind of most yoga teachers or fitness trainer. And yet, we all agree how good posture is so critical for enjoying efficient movement on and off the mat (or gym).

Let’s yoga practice be safe once and for all by being aware of some not spoken about truths. Kudos to him for starting this video series. Will be checking the following ones!:)

Cecile Raynor has been teaching the Alexander Technique for over 25 years out of which came her Body Intelligence Activation Process™ (B.I.A. Process) to assist yogis in enhancing their practice towards best performance with optimal safety. 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 Live Online Program for trainees, new teachers and committed yoga practitioners interested in using their body more efficiently on and off the mat in a way not taught in regular training courses. She is also the author of a June 2018 publication called THE WISE WAY TO YOGA which is available on Amazon or from Cecile if you are local to Boston!