The One Yoga Posture To Ease/Prevent Back Pain

This will help if you sit in a computer for long periods or if you drive a lot...



Try it once an hour, Let me know.

Back Pain costs us in the United States about 85 billion dollars per year. It is a huge industry.

When the time came to investigate it for a workshop on prevention and yoga I was surprised to see that there are a ton of alternatives, movements even, that have been healing back pain in different ways since the 1950's.

For example, there is Robin McKenzie out of Australia whom in the fifties discovered "by mistake" that extending the front of the body can help relieve back pain.

He had a patient come to see him, and this patient was sent to wait in a room that had the examination table at a 45 degree angle.

And he laid down on it, face down, with his lower back at 45 degrees, and relaxed.

When McKenzie came to see him he was in shock... he was scared! that was NOT a good thing as per his medical training.

And yet, when he asked the patient how he was doing the man said he was better, the pain had receded from the leg and was only in the lower back, and he could bend forward (which he had not been able to do before)

p.s.: that is a good sign, when the pain is radiating all the way into the legs and returns to just the low back, is progress

You can read that story in the book: 7 Steps to A Pain Free Life How to Rapidly Relieve Back and Neck Pain.

He made the remarkable connection between the posture we have most of the time, and how it has an effect on back pain, rather than the events we mentally associate them with.

So for example, if you are driving for hours in a curved position, neck sticking out, or if you are sitting at a desk for hours, or lifting things out of the trunk of the cars with a bent spine (instead of squatting to leverage the weight onto the legs) then you are likely to experience more back pain.

McKenzie came up with a series of exercises (just 7) to relieve back and neck pain.

They are all about stretching, and extending the FRONT of the body, and then doing some counterposes, which we normally do as we sit at a desk.

"Respecting the normal curvature of the spine, both at the lower (lumbar) area and at the neck (cervical) area is key to keeping a healthy back"

The exercise I propose here helps anyone who is sitting most of the time.

This particular exercise is the first sketch of a very advance posture on the primary series of Ashtanga Yoga.  In its full form we attempt to drop onto the floor.  But that is not necessary, just the slight dropping back and breathing there is helpful in OPENING THE FRONT OF THE BODY.

The exercise is at towards the end of the book for McKenzie.  He starts with laying down flat, then lifting the trunk into a cobra position, then into an upward dog (with tights on the floor), then he does some counterposes and finally the pose you will see here.

BUT THERE IS A DIFFERENCE,  the EDGE that yoga brings is the BREATH.

In yoga we pay very close attention to how we breathe, and this is not something I've seen in the methods of alternative healing like the Mayo Clinic or McKenzie.

Leveraging the breath makes the practice a lot more powerful and effective.

Make sure to pay attention to the counter-intuitive "INHALE AS YOU COME UP".

FINANCIAL PROBLEMS ARE LIKELY TO CAUSE BACK PAIN

Anything that mentions back pain must refer, of course, to John Sarno's book: Healing Back Pain: The Mind Body Connection

It is a great book.

When we are stressed about financial matters, the mind might choose to cut the oxygen supply to certain muscles rather than deal with the issue, which in turn starves muscles that are key in supporting the back.  That is roughly what the book says.

And our back "goes"

But really at the core of it is the inability to deal with financial problems.

I get it.  It's scary to have no money.

I never thought the finance-back pain connection was real until...

When my father died the issues that came up were and still are distributing.  They had to do with money, with the house he left and some other moneys  (which was not a lot, believe me).

I did learn by now that it is never about the money, for me it was about loosing my sister (which I did, because of all the trauma around it) and maybe loosing my brother as well.

Because when there is money around, even if little, people get crazy, or scared, or both.

All the emotions around money are the hardest thing to deal.

In my own training through yoga, I had to read a book by Rudolph Ballentine called Radical Healing.

What I like about the book is that he has "phrases" or "intentions" or "initial thought patterns" that can lead to disease.

For example for Alzheimers he has "I don't want to see this" as a first thought that leads towards the disease.

Guess what he has for back pain?  -  He says it relates to financial issues and to go read John Sarno

KEEP THESE IN MIND FOR A HEALTHY BACK

- Respect the low curvature of the spine (don't slouch so much)
- Respect the cervical (neck) curvature of the spine
- Invest in good sitting chairs for your office
- Use a lumbar roll (I use this) or a  cervical roll
- Watch your posture when you sleep, at least before you fall asleep
- Be careful while driving as cars are not well designed
- NEVER use a phone between your ear and neck while you do other things (neck pain will follow)
- Address financial matters as soon as you can, and the emotions around it
- Be mindful of posture when doing things like vacuuming or strenuous activities with machines
- Squat to lift heavy objects so that some of the weight is absorbed by the legs
- Try yoga... Within any decent yoga class you will find a ton of postures that use breath and that move the spine gently into flexion and extension as well as releasing the hips
- Talk to a doctor if your pain is intense, always take care of you and your back

WARNING #1

Do not do this exercise sitting down because a friend of a friend of mine did that and woke up in a pool of her own head's blood.

The mind can trick us into thinking that it's OK to do this sitting down because we "don't have time".
Beware of its foxy temptation.  If you drop back on a chair you can fall back, and that is not a good thing.

WARNING #2

I am not a doctor, visit one if you are having big troubles with this.

Other Recommended Books:

Pete Egoscue is in vogue these days and his videos are all around as well as his clinics.  These are his books:
Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method For Stopping Chronic Pain
Pain Free for Women
The Egoscue Method Through Motion

Also by John Sarno:
Mind Over Back Pain
The Mind Body Prescription: Healing the Body Healing the Pain

And more by John McKenzie:
Treat Your Own Back
Treat Your Own Neck
Treat Your Own Shoulder

May you have a healthy back and neck!

P.S.:
I answer questions at AskClaudiaYoga.com



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THE GURU IS DEAD

THE GURU IS DEAD

Can someone please explain it to me? When a guru tells you he needs you to have sex with him for your sexual grooming or advancement, why do people believe?

What is actually happening here?

I am shaking as I read the sexual abuse allegations over Satyananda's yoga center, while in Australia in the 70's and 80s.

I've read probably 20 books by Satyananda. I was in awe of him. Until ten minutes ago.

I am shocked and angry, because with Bikram I had a feeling that the guy was bad news, and Kausthub Desikachar too, because of his enormous aggrandizing of himself in his newsletters which pointed to delusion, but Satyananda had been a direct student of Sivananda, and I thought I trusted him and his teachings.

Before that there was also John Friend and even further in the past the founder of Kripalu, Amrit Desai, who resigned in 94:

"after admitting to sexual intercourse with followers. Kripalu paid $2.5 million
to settle a purported class action lawsuit brought by 
more than 100 former residents who had served as unpaid staff" 

I am angry because abuse angers me.

But the truth is this points to a much more important point, which is:

WE MUST CHOOSE TO BE OUR OWN TEACHERS

Yes, we can seek advise.

Yes there are those who know a little more than us and can help us along the way on "asana", or "pranayama", or "meditation", but they CAN NEVER TEACH US ANYTHING.

Because the path towards clarity of mind is lonely and personal.

Teachers can point the way, but the moment we give our power away to them, i.e. when we call them "gurus", whomever they may be, that is when we lost it.

When we do that we are not grounded any more, we are at the mercy of another person's mind who is fragile, just like ours, and can be seduced by the adoration.

Yes, even the guru, in his or her own way, is as lost as we are at moments. 

If you have not seen the movie Kumare, then do yourself a favor and watch it.

Because it is THAT easy to convince people, in OUR TIME, not in the 70's or in the 80's or pre-internet, or whatever. NO.

This is in our very own time, in New Jersey, in New Mexico, in the USA, it is THAT easy to lead someone to believe that a male dressed in rugs has "power" over you or me.

And convince not just easily confused people. But convince you and me. People just like you and me. 

After the movie is over, after Kumare admits he is a fake, after it is all clear, there is still a woman that comes to him and says:

"I thought you had superpowers"

or something like that... I forget, point is, she still wanted to believe!

And so, on the screen, we read: "He doesn't"

Which is the joke.  The big joke.

Who are we giving our power away to?

Whom do we think can save us? Elevate us? Bring us closer to a better career?  Illuminate us? "Choose us"?

Why can we not see this is just all fake.

There are no more teachers of yoga if there ever were.

In the end,  the goal of yoga is about clearing the delusions and being able to be present here and now, in this moment, without preconceptions, that is the goal of yoga, when the "mind stops going crazy".

I am angry because I learned quite a bit from Satyananda.  He has well written books, he has literature that has inspired me.

But the anger stems from myself.

I am angry because I can still be stupid - I still think someone else knows better and has the power or the lineage to show me how to do it.

WE ARE THE LINEAGE.  You and me, right now, in our private practice, in the decisions we make in every moment as we live in the real world, thank you very much.

We are the living aspiring practitioners of this time.

Nobody else has that power unless we give it away.

Please tell me why this happens.


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Photo: Kripalu "Portable Yoga" - And The One Thing I Learned

I had no idea that in teaching yoga, the one playing the role of 'teacher' also needs to balance and regulate his or her energy.

This awakening happened to me at the Kripalu workshop.

We had a great group: everyone was bringing something to the table, they were all willing to try,  to explore, to talk yoga, to listen, to plunge into pranayama and to experience silence.  It was a beautiful gathering.


Here is the OUTLINE OF THE WORKSHOP

It seems that when teaching, in my willingness to give, I forget my own posture sometimes, and so after this workshop I ended up with a bit of neck pain, which was a total joke on me as the following week  I was set to give a workshop on "preventing neck and back pain".    It made for great experimentation.

The one thing I learned:  If you are teaching yoga, be careful to not over-do it, and balance how much you demonstrate as opposed to how much you talk.  And when I say "you" it is me I am talking to.

Talk.  Must learn to talk more and with even more refinement when it comes to the exact directions so that people in the workshop can get the most juice out of their own yoga practice.

Other than the small incident of the neck the workshop was very rewarding.  I got to meet people I have been talking to for years through the newsletter and even see two people come to a repeat (they had come before to the workshop we gave with James in 2012).


Practicing with others and going over why we do it, is rewarding.

The sense of community was invigorating and even though I was tired by the end of it, knowing that I am not alone in the daily practice is nice.

If you are a member of the newsletter then you know the drill, if not you can sign up here (it's free) and we can stay in touch.

Om, Peace









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Outline of My Yoga Workshop This Weekend

I am on the way to Massachusetts to a yoga retreat I am facilitating called "Portable Yoga: A Thousand Yoga Tools To Live your Best Life".

It is my intention to offer the tools I continue to use for my practice because they help, in daily life. Today. In a practical way.

There are many little details that can be absorbed throughout the workshop and I hope people who are coming will benefit.  I am grateful for all the participants making it in on the cold weather.

This is the outline:

Introduction:

Welcome, and congratulations on taking time for exploring the depth of this moment through yoga. Here are a few things to keep in mind as we go through the workshop:

-       Keep hydrated
-       Be punctual for all classes
-       Commit to our weekend so you can get the most out of it
-       Eat very light in the morning (since we will have yoga and pranayama)
-       You can eat a more fulfilling meal at lunch when your digestive fire is at its peak
-       Allow yourself the space and chance to slow down
-       Never force.  Always respect your body.
-       Respect your rhythms
-       Go within while we are practicing so you can access your inner silence and let others access it too.
-       If possible try to evacuate your bowels in the morning
-       We will observe functional speech after we retire at night and until we join together for class in the morning

The First Four Yoga Sutras

1.1 - Atha yoga-anuśāsanam
Now we start the exploration, study, and practice of yoga.

1.2   yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ
When you are in a state of yoga, all fluctuations of the mind cease.  We are in a state of integration.

1.3   tadā draṣṭuḥ svarūpe-'vasthānam
Then we reside in our true SELF

1.4   Vṛtti sārūpyam-itaratra
Otherwise, misconceptions skew our perceptions.

Practice

We will explore chapter two of the Yoga Sutras through practice on Saturday and Sunday

SCHEDULE

7:00 – 8:30 AM Breakfast (try to keep it light)

8:30 to 11:30 AM
Saturday Morning Portable Yoga Program

-       Contemplation
-       Portable Yoga Asana Exploration
-    Pranava Japa (Repetition of OM) to find the seat, and to quiet the mind.
-       Practice of Pranayama - Breathing
-       The Mental Muscle of The Yoga Practice

11:30 to 1:30 Lunch

1:45 – 3:45 PM Saturday Talk. Mantra and Silence:

-       Interview and Q&A with James on the Yamas and Niyamas
-       Mantra  - The Gayatri: Why?
-       Sitting In Silence (5 minutes)

3:45 to Dinner Time: Reflection time on your own – Suggestion: Journaling.

5:30 to 7:00 PM Dinner

8:00 to 8:30 PM Saturday Night Program:
-       Chanting
-       Trataka
-       Relaxation
-       Silence (Functional Talk)

8:30 PM Sleep and rest

SUNDAY

7:00 – 8:30 AM Breakfast (try to keep it light)

9:00 to 11:00 AM Sunday Morning:
-       Contemplation
-       Asana
-       Pranayama
-       Recap
-       Questions And Answers

MORNING OF SATURDAY

The Poses

Sun Salutation A
Sun Salutation B
Standing Forward Bend
Triangle
Airplane
Transition
Dandasana - Sited with extended legs
Sited Forward Bend
Transition
Janu Sirsasana (Head to knee)
Transition
Marichasana C modification
Transition
Boat Pose
Transition
Baby Back Bend
Full Back Bend (Wheel)
Sited Forward Bend
Shoulder Stand
Headstand – Or Wide Angle Forward Bend (standing-modification)
Sited breathing
Lotus exploration
Relaxation pose

The Pranayamas

Breathing Oceanic, three part-breathing

Pre-Nauli 

Agni Sara

Jivha Bandha 

Kapalabhati (Skull shinning) it is not hyperventilation, it is a fanning of the sacrum, sacred area. 

Ujjayi

Sitali

Rest

The Mental Part of The Practice:

Why?

-       Sharing ideas is the currency of the 21st century. 
-       When the idea muscle is exercised it sweats, giving it a better chance of relaxing later on, when in need of silence.
-       Ideas are the way out of being stuck

Waiters’ Pads Distribution

SATURDAY AFTERNOON

Talk with James Altucher

The five Yamas of Patanjali  - Restrains

1.         Non-violence, or ahimsa
2.         benevolent truth, absence of falsehood , or satya
3.         Non-stealing, or asteya
4.         Spiritual advancement by learning and practice. Some traditions associate it with celibacy. Or brahmacharya.
5.         Non-appropriation, absence of avarice. Or aparigraha

The Five Niyamas of Patanjali - Observances

1.         Cleanliness of thought, mind and body. Traditionally, this item is listed under Yama; this word means purity. Or Saucha
2.         Happy satisfaction; good contentment. Or Santosha
3.         Spiritual effort; austerity. Or tapas.
4.         Self study. Or svādhyāya
5.         Surrender. Or ishvarapranidhana

The Gayatri Mantra:

Why?

All teachers on the lineage of Krishnamacharya (grand-father of all of our current styles yoga) devote pages and praises to the Gayatri Mantra.

For example: Krishnamacharya himself chanted the Gayatri mantra while holding his breath in pranayama practice

Pattabhi Jois  (as Sharath told us candidly in conference) would sing it one hundred and eight times a day. 

B.K.S. Iyengar recommended it for japa, or mantra singing, to help with concentration.

Swami Sivananda had this to say about it:

"Gayatri is the Mother of the Vedas and the destroyer of sins. There is nothing more purifying on the earth, as well as in the heaven than the Gayatri. The Japa of Gayatri brings the same fruit as the recitation of all the four Vedas together..."

The Mantra:

Oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ
tát savitúr váreṇ(i)yaṃ
bhárgo devás yadhī mahi
dhíyo yó naḥ prachodáyāt

What It Means:

We meditate on the adorable glory of the radiant sun; may it inspire our intuitive intelligence.

In the Media:

The Gayatri Mantra is the opening song (arranged by Richard Gibbs) for the television series Battlestar Galactica.  Here is the beautiful YouTube video:

Benefits ascribed to the Gayatri mantra include: (as per Virasami Pastor’s book which I found in Mysore, South India)

-       Vitality
-       Light
-       Toleration
-       Strength
-       Riches
-       Reputation
-       Divine Effulgence
-       Material objects
-       Age
-       Countenance
-       Name
-       Fame
-       Breath
-       Juices
-       Food
-       Desired object
-       Nourishment
-       Attendants

SATURDAY NIGHT

-       Chanting Gayatri Mantra
-       Trataka Practice
-       Relaxation

Benefits of Trataka:

2.32 of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika says "Trataka eradicates all eye diseases, fatigue and sloth and closes the doorway to these problems".

Some of the benefits associated with Trataka include:

·      Improves eyesight and vision.
·      Improves concentration, intelligence and memory.
·      Enhances self-confidence, patience and willpower.
·      Calms the mind and provides inner peace and silence.
·      Brings greater clarity in mind and improves decision-making ability.
·      Helps to overcome mental, behavioral and emotional ailments.
·      Provides stress relief and deep relaxation.
·      Deepens the sleep and cures sleep related disorders such as headache, insomnia, nightmares, etc.
·      According to Gherand Samhita (shloka 5.54), Trataka promotes clairvoyance or perception of subtle manifestations.

SUNDAY MORNING: Making the Practice Your Own

-       Contemplation
-       Asana
-       Pranayama
-       Questions and Answers









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Tony Robbins Gives Me An Amazing Yoga Tip

I'm a lucky girl, I got to meet Tony Robbins in his house in Florida because James was interviewing him for his podcast, and because of the release of Robbins's latest book: "Money".



[If the video is not showing here is the link]

Tony has been an inspiration to me since forever. And meeting him in person was amazing, because he exudes positive energy.

Now, if you told me a few months ago that I would find an incredible yoga tip in a book called "Money" I would be suspicious, but there it was, on page 42... in black and white.

The tip was so shocking to me that it left me thinking about it for days and inspired me to make a video.

When the interview was finished and Tony Robbins agreed to have a photo with James and myself I disconnected the equipment as quickly as I could and ran behind him to thank him for writing that special story on page 42.

I told him how it had made a difference to me, especially because of my practice, but really in the way in which I look at life as a whole.

He was happy that we had read and paid attention.

I hope you get as much of an AHA! Moment as I got from it.

To order Robbins's book you can go here:

http://youtu.be/g0KIHUJcXys

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YOGA: How Do I Motivate Myself To Practice Day After Day - 3 Suggestions

Paula shared her frustration with the repetition part of the asana practice.  Do you sometimes feel like quitting? she said.  I think is fair to say we've all been there at some point.

As per me,  I find that the rigidity is mostly  of the "mind" because the mind gets bored easily.  And it wants out.


[If the video is not showing, here is the link]

I also find that when the mind gets "bored" it is probably because a break-through or a deepening is happening.

Leaving the practice could be counter-productive at a time of discomfort because it is exactly when things are shifting.

So, to continue with a daily and dedicated practice, and yet keep it real, I do three things:

1.- KEEP THE RITUAL AND DITCH THE PRACTICE FOR THAT DAY

On days when I cannot practice it because my mind just WON'T, then I do the "ritual", meaning that I set up the mat and get ready, take one breath or do just one sun salutation and that is it...

I stop right there.

So I keep the ritual, and ditch the practice, for that day.

I get to keep the "container" and the "sacred space" so that whenever the energy or the urge to practice returns everything is ready.

2.- READ INSPIRING YOGA LITERATURE

The energy of other practitioners, funneled through books, stimulates me...

For example I recently read (and interviewed) David Keil's Functional Anatomy Of Yoga and the book proved to be a gem.

Little tips from the book helped me go within, into the body, and concentrate as I practiced.  I tell a little tip in the video that is making all the difference.

Not only that but I learned new ways to approach poses and correct some mistakes.

There are also books on philosophy that inspire me, like Light on Life by BKS Iyengar among hundreds of others.

3.- GO TO A NURTURING YOGA RETREAT

When I find myself bored or not wanting to practice, that is exactly the time when the practice is about to get deeper, and a retreat helps me...

I choose retreats carefully.

I go to teachers I respect and that know a lot more than me, then I feel this nurturing... this new insight, this time to forget the world and go within.

I am grateful for the questions that people send me here and I hope this inspires you to keep getting on the mat, to practice and let all the rest come.  Because it does come.

Here is a previous question I received at AskClaudiaYoga with the video answer:

How Do I Roll Over My Feet (from down dog to up dog and vice versa)

Stay tuned for "TheYogaPodcast.com" coming up in January.



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One Word That Can Make You Or Break You

 I just managed to make James upset. “Don’t interrupt me every time I say that word”, he said.

“Please” he said, “I lose my train of thought”.

He was sweet but firm. And I’m an idiot.

It all started at a workshop in 2006 where the facilitator had us simulate a gag reflect until we would almost vomit every time we heard ourselves say the word “should”.

For four days I felt my stomach turn every time I uttered the damn word.

At first it was uncomfortable, then we were all laughing, then it made sense…

“Should” is what I think is true because someone else convinced me (I should go to college I should buy a house, I should have a baby before 35)

“Should” hides unexplored territory. It means I’m at the mercy of uncommon sense.

“Should” means I’m scared.

When I type: ‘define should” into Google, the #1 response is: 

Used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone's actions.

Should is always a criticism of me, done by me, and based on what someone else thinks. 

YIKES

“I shouldn’t come across as too pushy, or determined”   GAG

“I shouldn’t talk about that”   GAG

“I should seek permission first”   GAG

And being a woman doesn’t help.

500 years of burning at the stake make for a vast collective source of anxiety and “I don’t know if I should take a chance”.

Time to appease that fire.

Ever since the seminar I’ve changed the word.

Now I use “CHOOSE”

- I choose to be determined. And how I come across is none of my business.

- I choose to talk about this.

- I choose to ask for permission where applicable.

“Choose” shifts the responsibility from “what they think”, whomever they are, back to what I can control.

I choose implies I make my own decision.

James types away on the other room, he is always writing. That is what he loves, and I respect that.

And from now on I choose to stop the “should” harassment.

I choose to let him use any word he wants.


He is a freaking writer.

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