Tag Archives: Posture

Can Fitness Goals On the Mat Decrease Wellness Benefits Off the Mat?

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Your fitness goals affect how you go about a pose
and how you feel once you are off the mat.

Fitness is defined as the condition of being physically fit and healthy. However, is it still the case when fitness is more about appearances than wellness? How does this fitness goal affect yogis and yoga teachers on and off the mat?

Let’s look at your experience!

Do you think that being fit means having a firm and defined body shape? Does it mean you can do challenging poses worthy of being posted on Instagram?

Do you push yourself as much as you can to reach these goals?
Or do you want more than that from your yoga practice?

In either case, how do you know that your fitness goals are not robbing you from your optimal wellness?
 

Simple!

When your practice keeps you feeling tension free off the mat and allow you to enjoy good posture even when you don’t think about your posture, you’re doing great!

When, despite a committed practice, you experience daily excess tension urging you to stretch your muscles or joints throughout your day.
When you feel muscular aches or pain lingering in your daily activities. 
Or when you experience slouching and poor posture
repeatedly and unavoidably while off the mat.

Then, you know you have been sacrificing part of your wellness in the name of fitness.

The truth is that, unknowingly, you have been developing excess tension and killing your muscle tone at the very same time that you have been strengthening and stretching…. which is why muscles or joints tension shows up in your daily life.

And yet, puzzled, you’re not quite sure
why you experience so much tension or poor posture
when you are so very committed to your practice?

Know that, if you are suffering from this common cycle,
you are not alone! And it’s not really your fault!
You are just a product of the evolution
of popular fitness and modern yoga since the 19th century.

The good thing is that, it is never too late
to approach your practice differently and avoid this cycle.

Becoming aware that you’re stuck in a cycle is the first step towards improvement since you can’t change something you’re not aware of.

It’s never too late to approach daily movements and posture in a more holistic way.  You just need to discover the unconscious habits that are keeping you in this cycle and learn how to unlearn them.

Such a discovery process anyone willing and ready can learn.

And if you’re a yoga teacher, new or experienced, this process will enhance your teaching skills to a higher level adding clarity and simplicity to your teaching process!

If that resonates with you.
If you’re open and ready to change, let me know.

I’d be happy to answer any question you have about what’s keeping you away from your natural good posture and optimal well-being. As a result, you’ll feel better in your body whether you are on or off the mat!

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!
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How Your Body Image affects Your Body Use into Straining & Slumping!

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Have you ever consciously thought about what your body image is?

The one that drives you to eat, exercise, or dress a certain way? As a woman, do you want to look thin, sexy, professional? As a man, do you want to look strong and unaffected? Whether man or woman, do you think your looks and wealth equals your worth? For better or for worse, those values are actually 19th century by-products of the Industrial Revolution in a society that has been valuing: appearances, money and machines.

On a more personal level, where is your body image coming from?
 And is it serving you?

Considering your body image shapes your current beliefs, you may want to explore your thoughts on the subject. They are creating feelings and actions that are possibly holding you back. Once you uncover these thoughts and beliefs feeding your body image, you can choose to create new ones if need be and see your life change progressively; sometimes drastically. Check this inspiring one minute video with Kate Winslet:

Kate Winslet

Unlike Kate do you remember words from a parent, friend or teacher that sent you on a specific body image path?

My Story with Body Image

My well-intentioned mom projected her limiting beliefs about weight on me at a very young age.  I became a slave to my body image around weight for decades.  The process to free myself from a body image that did not serve me started when I was pregnant with my first child.

One day, when very pregnant and quite absorbed in my studies, I caught myself in the library studying with my belly squished against the table. It was a powerful moment. I wondered about what I was doing to my baby and to my own body? And in a flash, that is when I realized something had to change. Being in my head so much as a PhD student only emphasized a mind/body disconnect that had started long ago with my compact body image. I saw this clearly then. My mind had taken over and I did not experience my body fully except as a number on a scale.

In short, this led me to a meditation practice, to a career change and to train as an Alexander Technique teacher in the hope to become a more integrated being. Although this tends to be a lifelong journey, training then teaching this work has made a serious difference. I have discovered my body from a different perspective and learned to appreciate many dimensions about it thanks to becoming more of an “embodied” mind.

One important thing I discovered was that my body image was affecting the way I was using my whole body, and the way I was using my body was affecting its functioning. On the other end, improving my overall functioning by improving the way I used myself seriously decreased the impact my body image had on me. Now, I can dance through life joyfully!

How Your Body Image Story affects Your Body Use

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Familiar slump leaning into the comfort of habits

 

Your body image is affecting how you use yourselves in everyday life and vice versa. When you are not happy with the way you look or feel, you consciously or unconsciously want to curl in, hide or cover up. Have you experienced this familiar slump where you lean into the comfort of your habit despite its cost? As you know, slumping often translates into back or neck discomfort, sometimes into breathing and digestive issues as well because your inside is being squished constantly interfering with the best functioning of your organs. Have you just been triggered to pull your shoulders back in an effort to straighten up because of what you just read? And yet, you know it is pointless since you go right back down in seconds?

Does this sound like you? Do you have muscles and joints discomfort, pain or tiredness? Are you prone to feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Do you tend to worry uncontrollably? It comes with the territory of this familiar pose. There is a reason for it as explained in this Ted Talk video. Luckily for you, there is a way out!

And it has nothing to do with you trying to control your body muscularly. Otherwise you may turn into a chronic holder when it comes to your posture and an over-doer on the mat.   Like many people, unless you strain on the mat, you may think that you are not doing enough, not strengthening enough, not stretching enough. And yet, you do not really want to strain, do you? You just want the benefits of exercising whether on or off the mat.

How to Stop the Straining & Slumping Cycle

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The difference between sitting in a balance way
and sitting with your gravity center behind your sits bones: A big difference!

 

What you really want is “Flexible Strength” and “Sustainable Good Posture”. And the secret to acquiring the flexible strength of the cat is to behave like one. No kidding! Do you see cats exercising one body part at a time? I don’t think so. They use their body as a whole when they move. And guess what? You are designed that way as well!

The truth is that you may not be moving and exercising your body as a coordinated self even if you know, intellectually, that all the parts are meant to function as a whole. The reason for this lies in a handful of common unconscious habits that interfere with your best efforts. Since you can only be mindful of what you are aware of,  becoming aware of and learning to overcome these common habits is the key to functioning with optimal safety and optimal performance,  the key to stopping the cycle from straining to be upright, to surrendering into your inevitable habitual slump.

Interested in exploring this further?

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

 

3 Common Oversights by Yoga Lovers that keep their Muscles and Joints Strained Part #1

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Prayer-Twist-Yoga-Pose when all is in balance!

Prayer-Twist-Yoga-Pose when all is in balance!

* Do you still feel your muscles and joints complaining
even though you do yoga to stretch, strengthen, balance and relax?

* Do you find yourself micro-adjusting muscles and joints in search for balance,
never being sure if or when you will find your sweet spot?

* Do you want to know how to safely expand your growing edge?

* Would you like to enjoy the benefits of yoga without the strain?

* Would you like to improve your posture without holding yourself up ?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, you will enjoy and benefit from reading this blog series!

Before revealing those 3 common oversights that may  keep your muscles and joints strained unnecessarily, I want you to experience what happens when in your daily life and on the yoga mat,  you plug into your beginner’s mind. It is helpful because your daily mind guided by habits tends to be attached to the way you do things, the way you think or talk and that is limiting.

If I say to you  “Less muscular efforts allows for more strength, observe how your habitual way of thinking receives this, observe if and how you want to react, yet choose not to and see what comes out of this choice. Stay in a spirit of discovery: “Let’s see what happens if I don’t try so hard…can I really get stronger?” and maybe you’ll discover that indeed you can get stronger and even gain flexible strength as it were. Mainly this blog is designed to inspire you and open doors to safely go further than ever into your growing edge! As a yoga lover, I know how much you love growing past your limits and I do too!

Sometimes, there is a blind spot in our awareness and we do not realize it till it is pointed out to us. Ignoring it holds a danger factor just as ignoring the blind spot while driving a car would. Keeping a beginner’s mind opens our gate of perception wider. Understanding and experiencing become deeper and more accurate!

As a yoga lover, you already have some level of mind and body awareness. However, there are many levels of awareness to open up to as you live, learn, and mature in your life journey. Studying Yoga from learning Asanas to developing Spiritual Depth which is the  purpose of Yoga is one such journey. Learning to practice yoga based on the natural movements of the body and its postural mechanism is one dimension of this same journey.  It allows you to move safely on-or-off the yoga mat, thus preventing injuries.

Natural movements based on the innate wisdom of your postural mechanism is a sound foundation and a perfect tool to progressively merge the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual at every step of the way on your life journey. It is a mind and body relationship that improves the quality of your life by improving the quality of your movements, the mind and the body being the two sides of the same coin really. And it is what Off-The-Mat- Yoga blogs, classes and workshops are here to assist you with!

Food for thought till next blog: Muscular Overdoing & Will Power.
When do you use Blind Will and when do you use Wise Will?

In the meantime, make a point to explore with your beginner’s mind between now and the next blog and I’d love it if you would share your experience on this blog!

Off The Mat Yoga, Inner Motion and Sitting Meditation (Cushion or Chair)

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You know what moving your body means , but do you know about inner motion?
On the Mat Yoga and Off The Mat Yoga are the two sides of the same coin. The way you understand and perform movements in everyday life affects how you understand and perform yoga poses or how you sit in meditation. When you “hold” a yoga pose or “hold” yourself upright on the meditation cushion or chair, inner motion is difficult to experience . Unnecessary muscle tension is used to hold the skeleton. True stillness is effortless. Holding is an effort. This is why at the end of a meditation, you may feel an urge to collapse in relief!

What is inner motion? Does it bring about an easier way to sit in meditation?
Inner motion is an ability you have to release unnecessary tension all over your body without loosing your skeletal height. Instead of releasing tension by stretching your body,  do it on the inside without moving. Like sand in an hour-glass, allow tension to drip down your body into your support while you stay tall.

As the constricting muscles soften around the skeleton, your whole body is free to expand up and out like bread dough rising. This is inner motion in action. Your postural reflexes get activated when the released tension reaches your support. As they activate, your posture realigns itself with ease. No holding or stretching is necessary to be relaxed, tall and wide as you sit on the meditation cushion.

What is meditation?
Meditation is the art of being aware of what you are doing while you are doing it. Breathing in, you are aware that you are breathing in. Breathing out, you are aware that you are breathing out. You are in the present moment. Yesterday no longer is. Tomorrow does not exist yet. Your mind tends to be distracted by ongoing thoughts pertaining to the past and future. Meditating is coming back to the now, over and over.

Stay present to whatever arises. If a thought comes in,  don’t push it away,  just choose to not engage with it,  let it go like a little cloud passing by in the sky. You do not need to sit to meditate but sitting meditation does help you strengthen your ability to come back to the now in daily life. Anything you do, with awareness of what is in the now,  becomes a meditation. With inner motion, yoga and meditation become deeper practices!

HELPFUL HINTS:
THE PRACTICE OF SITTING MEDITATION

– Choose a quiet space with no draft but not overly warm either so you can stay alert

– Preferably, sit on a leveled chair, feet flat on the ground, the back of your hands resting on your legs

– If you can, do not lean against the back of the chair as you want your torso to stay aligned

– If need be, you can use a firm pillow for extra back support if you can stay upright

– Make sure however you can release any excess tension straight down into your seat

– Aligned above the sits bones tip,  there is no urge to arch your back to sit up and no urge to slouch when you relax.

– Your meditation can begin!

Just listen to the silence of your mind, observe your breathing and go back to it as often as you can. Enjoy!

For more instructions on meditation or being mindful, check Vietnamese Monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s books

such as “The Miracle of Mindfulness” or Spiritual teacher Eckart Tolle’s books such as “The Power of Now” or “A New Earth”.
Here is a very short U Tube videos just to give you a taste: