Tag Archives: yoga

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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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.

 

 

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.

 

Yoga Body, Daily Body & Sensory Perception

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  woman-on-computer-3Daily Body Sitting

 Do you see a difference between your Yoga Body and your Daily Body?
Would someone observing you (without you knowing it) perceive a difference?
What is your Yoga Body focused on while on the mat? Core strengthening? Flexibility? Proper Alignment? Relaxation?
All of the above? What does your Daily Body remember between classes?
Does it remain strong, flexible and does it display sustainable good posture? Or not?

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Yoga Body Sitting

Often, there is a bit of a discrepancy between those two bodies
and yet they impact each other greatly in a positive or negative way
depending on how in touch you are with your body wisdom.

DAILY BODY STORY
Do you find yourself slouching at the computer or on the couch? Do you find yourself crossing your legs always favoring the same side crossing over the other? Or if you are a parent, do you favor one hip over the other to carry your young one? Or maybe you crane your neck forward and down to read or send text messages?

640-01351420 Model Release: Yes Property Release: No Portrait of a mother carrying her son

Right hip locked to the right, left foot forward and to the left

As you sit at your computer, you probably try to stand more upright once in a while and you bring your shoulders back and lift your chest up. Doing so you may be arching your back and this feeling becomes a synonym for feeling taller, only is it sustainable for long? Not really, unless you are a chronic holder, seconds later, the synergy of your whole body reclaims the habitual slump. Does it sound familiar?

The fact is if you repeatedly spend time in a distorted position,  you start distorting your skeletal structure in a way that is so habitual that it feels more natural than the natural way. As a result, your skeleton is not organized for effortless balance, so your muscles are overworking creating stiffness and tiredness or giving up all together into an inevitable slouch. You can’t wait to go to your yoga class to stretch and strengthen yet why is your back not getting strong enough to stay upright in a sustainable way?

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The danger of regularly catering to harmful habits is that, although it may feel comfortable in the moment,
it weakens your postural muscles because you do not let them do their job.

YOGA BODY STORY

You finally make it to your yoga mat, it feels so good to stretch and move your body. Whether you do power yoga or gently yoga, you enjoy yourself because this is the style of yoga that speaks to you. But whatever the style, you are also bringing with you your Daily Body habits to the mat. You may be aware of some of them but habits can become invisible to your awareness after a time.

The confusing thing is that, you can still feel better on some level because yoga is a wide field of many colors, the asanas being only a small part of it. However, how you use yourself on and off the mat must be addressed if you are to get the most out of your practice and truly prevent injuries even if you choose to challenge yourself on the mat?  Stretching tension or building strength can be beneficial if done in line with your innate body wisdom. Overdoing can be seductive and often misleading because of the element of physical pleasure and instant gratification it includes. And this is true both for stretching and strengthening!

How can you know for sure if you are in line with your innate wisdom of your whole body when you listen to parts of you at a time and your sensory appreciation is no longer fully reliable?

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The woman on the beach is an example of distorted torso to gain the end of touching her toes.
An integrated pose that respects your innate body wisdom as the woman in purple is more beneficial!

SENSORY PERCEPTION & INJURIES

As mentioned earlier, your Daily Body sensory perception gets somewhat corrupted over time. As a result, it needs a bit of reeducation. Without regaining accurate sensory perception, you cannot truly rely on what you feel while practicing yoga or engaged in daily movements and yet most people do. As a matter of fact,  it is my experience that this is the real culprit in most yoga injuries. Whether they happen on or off the mat, the majority of neck back or joint injuries if you are a healthy yogi, tend to start with your Daily Body habits brought to the mat.


SENSORY PERCEPTION REEDUCATION & BODY WISDOM

Controlling your habits on the mat then catering to them the rest of the time
is not going to get you out of the tension cycle.
It is like collecting water from your dripping ceiling when it rains 
instead of fixing the roof problem in the first place!

On the surface, it may seem that tension is the problem and yoga the solution. However,  you will get more out of your yoga when unnecessary tension is dealt with for what it is, a symptom of something else that needs addressing to get lasting results. And sorry to say that no costly gadgets can get around the need to regain accurate sensory perception!

You have a wonderful mechanism in your body called “Postural Mechanism” and it is an ambassador to your Innate Body Wisdom. It is in charge of handling your posture, fluidity of movement and balance. When you learn how to stimulate it, you can stretch and strengthen without taking a chance to overdo. In fact, as you unlearn your harmful habitual patterns, you keep empowering that mechanism to do its job. And it is available to you 24/7.

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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)

 

OFF-THE-MAT YOGA with Cecile FB Closed Group!

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Dear Blog Followers,

Off-The-Mat Yoga with Cecile is exclusively for people who have taken classes or workshops with me. It is also for those who have read and enjoyed my Free Email Seminar, my blog posts and/or the teachings I offer based on the Alexander Technique and other related experience from Meditation to Thai Yoga and Yoga Philosophy.

These teachings are all about moving and doing yoga in a manner that is in line with the Natural Design of our Innate Body Wisdom on and off the mat. They are also about how we can apply the Alexander principles and Yoga philosophy to how we live our life to help us reach our highest potential. They are all connected one way or the other with becoming more aware of our tendency to react so we can respond as we truly want.

This group is designed for you to ask questions, get answers from Cecile and other members, as we are all sharing our journey practicing yoga and living our life based on the reality that we are a coordinated self, mind body and soul!

Mind and body are the two sides of the same coin and cannot be separated to enjoy an integrated way to function as a whole person. Let’s integrate that understanding in togetherness with other like-minded yoga lovers.

For your information, I am now offering Skype sessions. They are designed for you if you want to work with me and are too far away to come to workshops, classes or private sessions. They can help you with how to use yourself more efficiently in your daily movements and yoga practice. They can also be great for you if you want support on being personally accountable to the private you in achieving personal growth goals. Just contact me via the blog for now.

To join the private OFF-THE-MAT YOGA with Cecile FB group, click below to request being part of it.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1416394871990487/

Hope to see you there for an interesting, friendly exchange and learning experience!
Till then, be well!:)

Cecile Raynor

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

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SECOND COMMON OVERSIGHT: SKELETAL MISUSE

Let’s see how it happens and how you can remedy this oversight!

Here is what Yoga Guru IYENGAR himself had to say this month of May 2014 at age 96 to the question“So what exactly does yoga do?”: “Yoga generates a lot of energy in the body. Correct positions generate energy. If the asanas are done correctly, according to the body constitution, without putting any impediment in the flow of energy, it gives tremendous recovery.”

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It is important to address skeletal misuse properly on-and-off the mat, because intending to not overdo on the mat cannot prevent all the overdoing happening on-or-off the mat when skeletal misuse is happening. And by addressing skeletal misuse, I am not talking about holding yourself upright. “Holding” is actually a big part of the problem. It interferes with flow and is neither sustainable, nor necessary thanks to your postural mechanism, which is designed to work for you. As you release all excess tension into your support, your postural reflexes are being triggered to do their job and in response, you can expand from the ground up and out, like a tree. When you do this, you become “Balance”.

My recent Survey Monkey for “Yoga Lovers and Injuries “ showed that many yoga lovers still suffer from chronic discomfort in the neck, shoulders, back, as well as knees and wrists, which puts them at risk of getting further injured on the yoga mat or in daily activities. At best, they can modify or avoid some poses. The fact is, once injured, sometimes, yoga lovers cannot do what they love so dearly because of how they used themselves on-and-off the yoga mat before getting injured.

Before reading more on skeletal misuse and solutions, check this video that says it so well!

As seen on this video, skeletal misuse actually comes from habitual patterns of movements you develop in everyday life such as the way you walk, the way you sit at your computer or the way you carry your backpack on your right shoulder for instance. As shown in my blog about working in the kitchen, it can get quite complex like the way you carry your young child on one hip while squeezing the phone between your shoulder and ear as you are stirring the dish simmering on the stove. These repeated ways of being take their toll on your postural alignment, which gets distorted progressively. At some point, you mistake what is habitual for what is natural. This corrupted postural sense becomes the basis for all your movements’ on-and-off the yoga mat. As a result, the muscles overdo to compensate for a lack of integration in your movements and yoga can enhance the issue instead of fixing it. Here is how this on and off the mat connection plays itself out.

Let’s say you catch yourself slouching in a daily situation and you decide to sit up or stand up instead, you may be arching your back in the process and pulling your shoulders back in an effort to feel taller and straighter. However, this being neither natural nor comfortable, you cannot sustain it for very long and most likely, seconds later you find yourself right back where you started. Sounds familiar?

As a result, when you are on the yoga mat and a pose requires proper postural alignment, you only know to arch your back to a lesser or bigger degree, yet you experience yourself to be aligned. Although proper alignment is part of good posture, there is more to good posture than proper postural alignment. Unless all excess tension is totally released, holding is happening and good posture is compromised. This is how skeletal misuse can make yoga harder than it is meant to be. Yoga has its challenges but creating unnecessary strain on your muscles and joints is not one of them not to mention it is counter-productive to your yoga practice! Yoga can help release tension or create more tension depending on the quality of your movements in general. This is why it is so essential to optimize the quality of your movements on and off the yoga mat.

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Do you see the difference between these two chair pose demonstrations? Which one is more balanced because her weight is evenly spread through her feet? Which one is arching her back and overdoing with her legs to compensate for her lack of balance?

NEXT TIME YOU ARE IN  A POSE, TRY THIS:

Using your beginner’s mind, as you picture the pose you have in mind and as you get into the chosen pose allow your muscles to let go of all excess tension into your support and refuse to strain. Allow small changes to happen on their own. Remain flexible as you stay in the pose while embracing your support. You will be guided instantly and every time to your sweet spot, the best way to handle the pose of the moment with no unnecessary tension. If you let it, your body wisdom can micro-manage your skeletal alignment as you release excess tension from muscles and joints. It is a fascinating experience.

Observe and learn from your own body wisdom guidance, your very best teacher!

Good luck practicing releasing all excess muscular tension while keeping your skeletal height and width.
Let the innate wisdom of your body guide you and say good bye to the unnecessary straining in your yoga practice!

Part 4 coming soon!