In June I had the honor of being asked to join my teacher Swami Atmarupa at the First International Yoga Nidra Conference held at Kripalu. The confernce was a vision of Richard Miller's of iRest Yoga Nidra and he brought together a variety of presenters teaching different versions of the ancient practice. With over 300 people in attendance we had break out sessions of each type of Yoga Nidra with evening programming that brought us all together with more Yoga Nidra, kirtan, trance dance, etc. It was truly an amazing opportunity to be included with so many who have been promoting this practice and healing people with it from around the world.
The practice is one of the most powerful practices for healing and to be able to present Satyananda Yoga Nidra along side of Swami Atmarupa was truly a blessing and I learned so much through the experience.
In previous blog posts I have shared my personal love for this guided meditation practice as well as illustrated the positive feedback I have received from university students and athletes. The benefits of practicing Yoga Nidra regularly are enumerable; such as better sleep, more energy, lower stress levels, mental clarity, etc. Knowing that I have seen progress in my own practice and have the fortune to facilitate others healing through this practice is very rewarding.
Yoga International recording all sessions and this conference is now for sale world wide to all those who were unable to attending this first of a kind event.
With just about any research, a small sample size decreases statistical power. That is if there is something to be detected in a study, the larger the sample size, the more likely it is to be detected and more accurate the results. Our small sample size of 7 participants was a limiting factor in our study. That said, the study did elicit some significant findings that, to our knowledge, had not been previously tested.
- Core Strength and Stability
The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) was administered in both pre and post testing. The FMS is comprised of 7 tests that serve to identify muscle asymmetries, tightness, weakness and other risk factors for injury by examining the mobility and stability off the hips, core, shoulders, knees, spine and ankles
Of the 7 FMS tests, we found significant improvement in the “trunk stability push up” test. The trunk stability pushup measures the ability to stabilize the core and spine in an anterior and posterior plane and is a marker for core strength. Core strength and stability is the result of the muscles of the pelvis, low back, hips and abdomen working in harmony. Many adults experience an imbalance between back strength and abdominal weakness, which often leads to low back pain. Obtaining and maintaining core strength throughout a lifetime leads to better balance and stability while performing daily and fitness related activities reducing the chance for low back pain and other injuries related to a weak core.
Conclusion: Inline Skating can increase core strength and stability.
- Exercise Efficiency
In the 3 exercise modalities tested (skating, Elliptical, running) we found significant improvement in the average heart rate between pre and post testing on the Elliptical. There was improved efficiency on the Elliptical as evidenced by a decreased heart rate despite going a further distance in the allotted time. Given that there was such a significant improvement in skating efficiency, as well as some carry-over into the elliptical, it can be a deduced that the benefits of inline skating regularly would also be noticed in related sports such as skiing and various ice skating disciplines.
Conclusion: Inline Skating can positively impact cardiovascular efficiency in related sports such as skiing and ice skating.
- Oxygen Uptake (VO2)
Oxygen update or VO2 is the amount of oxygen utilized by the body per minute per kilogram of body weight. It is the most relevant measurement of efficiency or inefficiency of the cardiorespiratory (heart & lung) system. The study showed a significant improvement in the VO2 of participants between pre and post skating testing. The increase in VO2 can be an indication of the greater amount of muscle mass (legs, hips, buttocks) being used during skating and more efficient skating technique acquired from the beginning to the end of the study. This increase in VO2 coupled with no significant change in heart rate between pre and post skating testing, indicates an improved cardiovascular performance.
Conclusion: Skating regularly can improve the function of the heart and lungs.
- Skating Distance
The study showed a significant improvement in the distance covered on skates between pre and post testing. It was not surprising to see this increase as I have experienced it myself when I have been training regularly and have seen this type of distance gain with my students. Each part of the skating stride contributes to overall efficiency. When there is attention placed on proper form (knees bent, pushing to the sides, bringing the feet back underneath the body, etc.) skating becomes seemingly effortless leading to smoother and longer skates.
Conclusion: Skating more efficiently leads to skating more comfortably with less effort covering more distance in the same timeframe.
- Level of Enjoyment: Running vs. Elliptical vs. Skating
At the end of the 6 week training we found that almost half of the subjects (43%) preferred skating over running or Elliptical and all of them said that they would consider inline skating as a mode of exercise in the future. Having lead many of the training sessions I saw the transformation from awkward “I’m not so sure about this” skating to “I got this!” kind of skating. Anecdotally I can report a huge improvement in attitude that correlated with an increase skill level. The stronger their skating became, the more fun they had on skates.
Conclusion: The better you skate the more you enjoy the skating experience.
Although we had a small subject population and did not control for variables such as diet and additional physical activity, this was a successful pilot study. Above all, we were pleasantly surprised to have some significant findings, especially in variables not tested or observed in previous skating research. An added bonus was that our students received 3rd place overall for their research poster presentation in the USRA grants program at CSU, out of more than 60 studies conducted, bringing recognition to our department and more awareness of the benefits of inline skating to the Cleveland State University community. The training study results were presented at the the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) Midwest Conference November 10-11, 2017 in Grand Rapids, MI expanding the reach to the fitness world and bringing even more positive attention to the merits of inline skating.
Wake Up to Life With Yoga!
As most of you may know that I am a yoga teacher. I have been studying, practicing and teaching yoga for almost 20 years and I am initiated into the Satyananda Yoga lineage out of Bihar India.
I don’t know how much you know about yoga, but it has been around a long time and believed to be over 5000 years old.
However, longevity of existence, does not equate with universal understanding, and there tends to be a lot of confusion surrounding the word YOGA and more than a few “Yoga Myths” to be dispelled.
Here are a few…
Many people think
- Yoga is a religion.
Because of it’s origin in the region of India it is often associated with Hinduism, Buddhism, or other Eastern religions. However, taking up yoga should not make you undermine your own current religious beliefs. Yoga can be done by anyone with or without religious preference.
- You have to be flexible to practice yoga
Yoga is really for “every BODY.” Inherent in yoga postures are many movements that can be tailored to individual needs and current levels of flexibility and health. There is no need to be able to do the splits, wrap your leg around your head, or even touch your toes to practice yoga.
Speaking of wrapping your leg around your head…. Many people believe
Yoga is all about the Poses
While the poses tend to be the face of Western Yoga, there is so much more to yoga than downward facing dog or tree pose!
Yoga is really the science of right living providing us with tools such as breathing techniques and meditation practices etc. that are intended to be integrated into one’s daily life. Tools that can “WAKE us up to ourselves and the world around us.
Mr. Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters and Guests tonight we are going to look at some simple and practical ways that we can use yoga to Wake us up to life and help us be the healthiest, happiest version of ourselves.
The meaning of the word “Yoga” is “union” or “oneness” It is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj,” (pron. “yug”) meaning “to join”, or to “to yoke”.
This union or yoke can be with God, the universe, a partner, or something as simple as the present moment.
Being at one, or in union with the present moment, the NOW of our lives, is often called mindfulness or present moment awareness.
Bill Keane the Author of the comic strip “Family Circus put it perfectly when he said “Yesterday is the past, tomorrow the future, but today is a gift, that is why they call it the PRESENT. And in that Present day gift…..
There are 1,440 “present moments…” 525, 600 in a year.
That’s A LOT of opportunities to be present! A lot of gifts to recognize!!
What does it mean to be present?
It means to be aware of what you are doing when you are doing it.
When you are walking, you know you are walking.
When you are eating you know you are eating.
When you are sitting in a Toastmasters meeting listening to a speech you are doing your best to truly listen, to be present with the speaker, to be where you are, to be in this room.
So, if you mind has already wandered to what you could have done instead of coming to this meeting, what you are going to do after this meeting, or if your thoughts have gone off on a tangent of something I said…
Come back to this room, come back to my speech NOW!
Paying attention, staying present with what you are doing is not easy. There are so many distractions-phones, people, noise, etc.
But like a muscle, if trained, properly nourished, and rested, your attention, your awareness, can regularly work at an optimal level.
So how can we train our awareness? How can we wake up to the present moment, wake up to our life with yoga?
One way is to make more connections to mind, body or breath throughout the day. And you don’t even have to go to a yoga class to do this.
Let’s go through a sample scenario
Let’s start with the 1st present moment of our day. The minute you wake up.
YOUR FIRST THOUGHT
What is your first thought in the morning? Is it one that is inspiring or one of anxiety or dread?
Our first thought in that first moment can often set up our day. Why not make it a positive one? Consider replacing it with a prayer, a positive affirmation? I have 3 mantras or chants that I bring to mind and repeat the first minutes I wake up. One for healing, one for wisdom and one to over come distress in life and to live in harmony with it. So when I find unserving thoughts creeping in…I go to to these first.
YOUR FIRST MOVEMENT
Instead of jumping out of bed and rushing to get ready, take your time. Make a connection to your body and wake it up slowly. You are going to ask a lot of it today.
Become aware of your feet and ankles and begin to slowly move your ankles in a circle. Slowly and carefully. This simple ankle rotation is from the the Pawanmuktasana series called Anti Rhuematics-they release energy blockages and are helpful for alleviating stiffness of joints and muscles. By moving your ankles slowly with awareness you are making a mind body connection to the feet. Preparing the feet that are going to literally carry you through your day. If you have ever had a foot ailment such as planter fasciitis, this is a MUST DO before putting your full weight of your body on your feet.
Hey, but don’t stop there…go to the wrists and the fingers attached to them. Bring the hands out in front of you beginning to bend them up and down at the wrists. Our hands do so much for us as work on our computers, text friends, drive a car, workout etc. Due to our constant use of of the fine motor movements in our hands many of us have or on the way to having overuse injuries. These injuries can be painful and limit our movement significantly.
THE FIRST BREATH
Before getting out of bed. Bring the awareness to the breath. Notice the natural breath. The life giving breath. You will take approximately 22,000 breaths today…pay attention to the next few and as many as you recognize throughout the day. Did you know that when you breath mindfully, it comes from a higher brain center then automatic breathing? When you are AWARE, when you know that you know that you are breathing, the parasympathetic nervous system’s flight of the the fight or flight is activated.. And because of that, your heart rate is lowered, your blood pressure lowers, cortisol levels, which are associated with stress, decrease. All of these heart healing benefits associated with mindful breathing. Take 3 deep. mindful breath, get out of bed, and carry the awareness of the mind, body and breath into you day.
Throughout the day you begin to notice spaces… where you can take a few deep breaths. Where you can connect with your body moving it carefully, keeping the energy going.
Spaces where you can see things from other people’s perspective. Choosing to remain silent when you realize you don’t need to make yourself known, you don’t need to defend or deflect. In yoga, this is called ANTAR MOUNA inner silence. The ability to watch and the thoughts as they surface but not necessary act on them. The ability CHOOSE or change your thoughts.
Flash forward to the end of the day
Lying downin bed… take a moment to think back through the day…from the first present moment until now…
You realize, the more PRESENCE you bring the more PRESENTS your receive. You very may well realize you have had ONE OF THE BEST DAYS EVER!
For the last time today, come back to the breath for a simple breath meditation. Bringing your awareness to your natural breath begin to count your breath backward from 108 down to one… It is a yogic way of counting sheep! Breathing in 108, breathing out 108… Breathing in 107, breathing out 107….so forth down…well deserved sleep is on its way.
“Yoga is bringing suppleness in body, calmness in mind, kindness in heart and awareness in life”
And with that…Sweet dreams… as you look forward to waking up with yoga to the best version of yourself tomorrow!
Mobile Yoga Update
The Mobile Yoga Workout was originally designed to connect the cardiovascular and muscular benefits of an inline skating workout with the serenity and deep physical and mental relaxation that is inherent in a well-rounded yoga practice. However, since this time, it has become much more to me. "Mobile Yoga" as a concept is really much, much bigger than "Mobile Yoga" as a "workout". Mobile Yoga is really about being aware and connected as much as possible to everything you think, say and do.
But let's start with Mobile Yoga as a workout.
Originally, however, the concept came out of a discussion with the marketing director at the skating company Rollerblade. A yoga practitioner and long-time skater herself, she felt that there was some kind of connection between the two disciplines and was looking for new ways to promote skating. While it may have been seen as a way to hop on the "yoga bandwagon" in 2010, I never looked at it that way as I had already been combining the benefits of skating and yoga for years in my own life and the lives of skating athletes that I coached.
Mobile Yoga as a workout can benefit skaters, yoga practitioners and those looking to improve their overall health and wellness.
For skaters The Mobile Yoga Workout incorporates the natural push and glide rhythm of inline skating with the mindful breathing and relaxation benefits of yoga. By applying the basic yoga principal of body and movement awareness to inline skating, The Mobile Yoga Workout enhances skating technique, efficiency, and performance, which leads to a more satisfying skating experience. The physiological and psychological by-products of conscious breathing and body awareness together with the increase in flexibility by performing various yoga postures regularly, can give the beginner and even the seasoned skater the edge
For those that practice yoga but may not have spent a lot of time on skates, the Mobile Yoga Workout provides a moving meditational experience. Since most yoga practices do not inherently have a strong cardiovascular component, skating serves yogis and yoginis well.
Yoga practitioners can draw upon the familiar of body and breath awareness when attempting to master the basics of the new task of skating. Once comfortable on skates and familiar with the basics of moving, stopping, turning, the speed and length of time on skates can be increased to meet the individual’s personal physical fitness needs.
For those looking at a way to improve cardiovascular health and reduce bodily and mental stress but don’t have a lot of time, the Mobile Yoga Workout provides the best of both disciplines.
Since 2009 when the first "Mobile Yoga" as a workout discussion commenced, I have incorporated the concepts into all aspects of my teaching. If I am working with hockey players on the ice my focus is to help them learn to make the connection between what they are doing and what they are thinking about. This is not easy for children. On the whole htey are very intuitive and often move before they are aware of how and why. Also, depending on the age and level of development it is often difficult motorically to make the connection between mind and body. That said, through the break down of skills into progressions, they begin to make those connections. They become aware of what they can and cannot do easity and begin to "self correct" or at least "self report" when they don't "feel" that they did the move correctly or when their mind has gone off task.
When I am working in my part time job in a cardiac rehabilitation unit I apply the concepts of mobile yoga when talking to patients about the interconnected between behaviors and health. Helping to align their goals with behaviors, we are often discussing daily habits and how they can have a positive and negative effect on health. Yoga is about being aware and connected to the present moment and maintaining that connection. When it comes to behavior change, this can be extremely difficult!
So Mobile Yoga started as a workout to bring together skating and yogic concepts and has evolved into a way of life that has not only impacted how I approach life, but through my efforts of teaching others, has become part of their awareness as well.