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All About Fascia and What You Need To Know About It

All About Fascia and What You Need to Know About it

Blog sponsored by our friends at Atherial Fitness, in Northwest Denver

Blog sponsored by our friends at Atherial Fitness, in Northwest Denver

“If you’re feeling discomfort, that’s the fabric breaking up your fascia!”  This is something aerial yoga instructors say often, but you may be wondering, “what is fascia?” and “do I want to break it up?”.  Yes you do! This article will explain why. 

What’s Fascia?

There are four types of tissue in our body: muscle, nervous, epithelial, and connective. Fascia is a connective tissue.  It exists throughout the entire body and it helps to support your muscles, bones, and organs. Fascia has been described as being similar to a spider web or like the white part of the orange after you remove the peel.

Fascia is made up of three components. The first is collagen which is a type of protein. Collagen fibers are long, strong, and can support ten thousand times its own weight. Collagen provides structure and support which keeps our muscles and bones in place.  The second component of fascia is elastin. Elastin allows the tissue to stretch (like when we do yoga poses) and it absorbs shock (from running, jumping, etc.).  The final component of fascia is ground substance.  This substance allows muscle fibers to slide over one another with ease. An interesting fact about ground substance is that it changes from gel to liquid when pressure is applied. This process is called thixotropy.

Finally, there are different types of fascia.  Superficial fascia which exists close to the skin, deep fascia which exists around muscles and bones, and visceral fascia which is around our organs.

How Do We Keep Fascia Healthy?

Fascia needs to be cared for just like our muscles and bones do. Otherwise it can become distorted making us more susceptible to various medical issues like chronic pain after injury, plantar fasciitis, and IT Band Syndrome.  Thirsty fascia will pull itself together very tightly and cause puckering in the skin (cellulite).  Fortunately there are a couple of different ways to keep our fascia healthy.

1. Staying Hydrated. Fascia needs hydration to be in an optimal state. Just like a car engine needs oil to work properly, our fascia needs water. An engine without oil will freeze up and stop working. The same thing happens to our body and our fascia when we aren’t properly hydrated. Water ensures our fasciastays well-lubricated and malleable which makes movement easier overall. 

With that being said, drinking more water won’t necessarily solve all of our issues.  As mentioned earlier, fascia is like an intricate spider web and it has many valleys, nooks, and hidden pathways. In order to hydrate these hard-to-reach areas, we need to work into our soft tissue and make the pathways more accessible.  There are many ways to work into our soft tissue, including massage, use of a roller ball, and aerial yoga.  In aerial yoga, the fabric works on our soft tissue through compression and release, ultimately opening up fascia in the part of the body we are working on.

2. Movement. Our fascia will also freeze if we don’t move around.  Sitting at a desk all day, poor posture, and tension from chronic stress all result in our fascia becoming hard and immobile. We can combat these effects with movement.  One way to implement more movement into your day is by rolling around in bed before you get up in the morning.  Stretch out and wiggle around before you get your cup of coffee to keep your elastin (a component of fascia) healthy and happy.

Another component of fascia, collagen, is very strong and made to withstand pressure.  Because of this, a quick stretch won’t change much.  We can work into these strong fibers by holding gentle stretches for longer periods of time (3-5 minutes). This is why Restorative and Yin yoga is so beneficial for the body. As we hold poses for a minute or longer, the tissue begins to release. 

Atherial Fitness offers unique Restorative and Yin Yoga classes which work to keep fascia healthy.  During these classes, you’ll hold postures for longer periods of time which helps to release tight collagen (a component of fascia).  Plus the fabric is a great tool for self-massage. As your body weight is transferred to the fabric, you’ll work into your soft tissue, break up those hard-to-reach pathways, and give your body the space to hydrate more efficiently.

Sources:

https://www.realbodywork.com/lesson/anatomy-of-fascia/

https://www.runnersworld.com/advanced/a20784481/understanding-your-fascia/

https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/the-top-5-ways-fascia-matters-to-athletes

https://ashleyblackguru.com/what-is-fascia/

http://stretchcoach.com/articles/stretching-fascia/

About the author: Jen Callahan is a Denver-based yoga instructor.  She teaches aerial yoga and aerial restore classes at Atherial and also serves as the Community Marketing Manager for the studio. Connect with her on Instagram at @jendoesaerial.

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How Yoga Helps Us Relax (And Why We Need To)

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How Yoga Helps Us Relax (And Why We Need To)

How Yoga Helps Us Relax (And Why We Need To)

Authored by: Annie Martens, Teacher at RiNo Yoga Social and Owner of Cosmic Kundalini 

RiNo Yoga Social

Whether you’re new to yoga or not, you’re probably familiar with that blissful state of peace after a deep practice. Why is that? And how is it that we often lose that relaxed feeling within hours, or for some, even minutes? Read on to discover what it is about yoga that actually makes us so relaxed, and why it is terribly important to be relaxed.

 Part of the basic truth of why we feel so darned relaxed after yoga practice is that the space and time it sets up for us allows us the freedom to rest. In a society heavily dominated by the need to “get more done,” work harder, make more money, get more followers, subscribers, clients, whatever — there is rarely a moment to rest just for the sake of relaxation. Rather, we reward ourselves with time to rest only after we accomplish said tasks. Haven’t you ever said something like, “if I can just get the last two things on my to-do-list done, then I can relax!” Oddly, in the name of relaxation, our life becomes about doing more. (1) In a yoga or meditation practice, the mind is stimulated in a way where it is allowed and advised to focus on only one thing — the breath or  bodily sensations — and suddenly all of that other mind-stuff gets to sit on the back burner.

When that happens, the brain changes. We can look at sleep as an example, because sleep is perhaps the most relaxed state you ever enter on a regular basis. During the deeper states of sleep, the brain enters what is called the Theta (deep) or Delta (deepest) brainwave state. In these states, the brainwaves rest somewhere in between 7 and 0.5 cycles per minute. That is extremely slow compared to the cycles in normal waking life, the state you are likely in right now, where Beta brainwaves can reach 100 cycles per minute. Unlike Beta, the slower states allow the body a chance to restore. It releases human growth hormones that maintain healthy metabolism and reduces cortisol levels, a stress-inducing chemical that accelerates the aging process. (Stay away!)

Can you imagine what it would be like if we didnt enter these slow, deep brainwaves states that occur during sleep?! Life would be so stressful, we’d be tired all the time, and don’t even get me started on insomnia. We absolutely need to enter these slower brainwave states that are vital to our ability to relax, heal, rejuvenate, and some even say to experience empathy and compassion. (1)

But what about when we are not asleep? In a meditative yoga practice like yoga nidra, seated meditation, or a very mindful asana sequence, the brainwaves can slow down enough to reach Alpha, (8-12 cycles), or perhaps even Theta (4-7 cycles), allowing the body to restore in similar ways that it does in sleep. And ta-da! You leave feeling AH-MAZING! You just gave your whole body a beautiful gift, the chance to do what it is designed to do — to take care of itself, something it certainly cannot do when it is put under stress or is sleep deprived.

And the scary thing is, the less time we spend in a relaxed state, the harder it is for us to enter it. This relates to what we call in yoga philosophy samskaras — or deeply engrained habit patterns. Unhelpful samskaras (tendencies) are difficult to dissolve, but it can be done. The good news is, helpful samskaras become just as engrained, and once part of your regular lifestyle, they are easy to maintain. For example, the more time you spend meditating, the easier it is to do again. The more time you spend in a relaxed state, the easier it is to maintain even in a stressful situation. It is possible to stay calm and at ease in a high-energy, fast paced world. All it takes is practice and the ability to recognize just how important it is for your health.

Yoga is not just about flexibility or having a fit body, it is about your ability to experience the external world with a calm, relaxed internal state of mind. The more we engage in yoga practices that slow down the brainwaves, the more easily we are able to enter a deeply relaxed state of mind at any time! Not just in a yoga-setting… So, do you want to live a healthy and happy life? Then you better relax, my yogi loves.

1. Desai, Kamini. Yoga Nidra: The Art of Transformational Sleep. Lotus Press, 2017.

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My Yoga Teacher Training Journey: Part 3

MY YOGA TEACHER TRAINING JOURNEY: PART 3

This post is dedicated to how much time we spent on our mats PRACTICING yoga.

It's probably pretty obvious - we did yoga every day during YTT! For most of the 4 week intensive program I participated in at Kindness Yoga, we started each day with 60 to 90 minutes.

A lot of days the theme of the practice we had in the morning was used as a jumping off point for the lessons we would learn later that day.  For example, one morning we used straps to stretch our hamstrings, and then later that afternoon practiced with straps, and reviewed best practices for how to use them properly and safely.  Another morning, we learned a breathing technique called Nadi Shodhana Pranayama or “alternative nostril breathing”. That afternoon we learned about other breathing techniques you can include in your classes to warm up your students.

The yoga itself was really nice and turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the training and of each day. (Surprising, I know.) I loved going there and waking up with a class by Jack or Ellen.

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One of my personal breakthroughs in YTT was with crow pose. When learning about this pose it was suggested to place 4 blocks in front of your nose as a safety net. I didn’t realize until I did this that part of my issue with crow was completely mental. Having the 4 blocks in front of me calmed fears of falling on my face, and gave me the confidence to learn fully forward. As a result, I held the longest crow I’ve ever held.

Lynn Koves Yoga - Crow Pose

Another afternoon, Jack debunked for us handstands, forearms stands, headstands, and shoulder stands. Learning forearm stand ended up being on the the best ways for me to improve my handstands, as it allows me greater stability, while feeling what it's like to have everything from my hips up properly stacked to keep me inverted. 

The day we learned inversions we spent mostly sitting against the wall to use it as support.

The day we learned inversions we spent mostly sitting against the wall to use it as support.

For me and a few others one of our favorite activities was getting into groups of two one afternoon, taking pictures of each other doing 10 different poses, then matching up our photos against the pictures of B.K.S. Iyengar in Light On Yoga to see the differences in form. During this exercise it was when I fully realized that sometimes I bend at the back instead of bending at the waist.

As Jack once said, “It’s the little things.”  This phrase stuck with me, and became more and more apparent to me as true as we learned about the benefits of proper alignment.

We also had the great opportunity to learn from guest teachers about other styles of yoga, including Yin, Nidra, Restorative, and pre-natal.

During the pre-natal lesson we did with Kristen Boyle, we tied blankets around our waists with straps and practiced yoga that way to feel what it would feel like to do poses with a huge bump. 

In this lesson we discussed modifications for pregnant women, some poses that are probably best to stay away from, and the whole notion that yoga teachers are not doctors – and shouldn’t be treated as them either when it comes to people’s abilities if they are experiencing complications or are worried about them.

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The last week of training, we did A LOT of yoga in order to practice our final projects.  And on the last two days, we did a total of 5 1-hour classes in order to participate in each team’s final project. It was a bit strenuous, but also a great experience and so fun to see each person rock their part.

Have any questions about my experience? Please leave any questions in the comments below. 

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My Yoga Teacher Training Journey: Part 2

MY YOGA TEACHER TRAINING JOURNEY: PART 2

This post is dedicated to the concepts we learned and put into practice regarding TEACHING yoga.

To set the stage for the rest of this series, here’s how the Kindness Yoga training program I did was structured on a day-to-day basis.

Training was Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m for 4 weeks. My day-to-day teachers were Jack Cuneo and Ellen Kaye!

Each day consisted of a mix of activities balanced with movement (yoga), listening, teaching each other, working alone, working together in groups, and coming together as a class for group discussions. More specifically, a lot of our days looked like:

 Yoga /  5 minute break / lesson / 15 minute break / lesson / lunch from 1:30 to 2:15 p.m. / lesson / 15 minute break / lesson

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Alright, now about the TEACHING.

Learning to teach yoga was my number one goal for the program so I’ve focused on that aspect first. (it might come as a surprise that it’s not everyone’s top goal or reason for doing YTT)

All in all, throughout the training Jack and Ellen gave us a lot of tools “for our toolbox” to pull from related to creating a 60-minute sequence, teaching it, and facilitating an experience that appeals to all types of students.  

On Day 1, we learned what a Sun Salutation is and how to teach one. Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar A and B) are a series of poses that have been passed down from the grandfathers of yoga, and are “the foundation of vinyasa yoga”.

Throughout training there were many instances where we independently created our own sequences, and taught them to each other in small groups. For example, we learned and then put into practice these teaching concepts: 

·      Classes have 5 stages:  Centering, warming the body, pathway to the peak, exploring the body, and cooling the body

·      It’s important to pick your "peak" pose, and create a class that works the body in ways that lead up to the peak pose

·      We learned that there is an order of operation in order to keep bodies aligned and balanced, including: setting the foundation, contracting muscles, internal and external rotation of the arms and legs, and energetic expansion away from the body

·      There are lots of categories of poses to choose from to incorporate into your class: standing, sitting, core strengthening, twisting, arm balances, backbends and inversions

·      We learned that are several “strategies” for creating sequences and building up the intensity of a class: hold-to-flow, stair step, and progressive

·      We learned about assisting people into poses; why you would assist people, when you shouldn’t, and how to assist properly so that you don’t hurt yourself in the process

In the Kindness program they also focused a lot on communication for getting people into shapes, and also refining the language we are using to be more affective. Here are some of the formulas and best practices we learned for communication:

·      A formula for cueing is:  Inhale or exhale >> verb >> body part >> direction >> pose name (in English and/or Sanskrit) . Ex. Inhale, step your right foot back, lunge pose

·      It’s best to cue from the ground up. Tell people where to move their feet first, then legs, hips, side bodies, arms, and head.

·      We also constantly worked on being better at the 3-step approach to cueing people.  SHAPE IT. Start with cues that get them into the right shape. WORK IT. Provide cues that help your students gain stability and strengthen the right muscles. REFINE IT. Give cues that escalate the pose to be more challenging or require paying attention to small subtleties in order to get optimal alignment.

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·      Ellen and Jack re-enforced using verbs that inspire action, and aren’t passive. One of the bad habits that I (and others) had to curtail was adding “ing” to action verbs. For example, it’s better to say, “raise your arms high” than “raising your arms high”.  It’s more direct and ignites action when you drop the –ing.

·      Perhaps most importantly, be conscious of everything you’re saying, eliminate filler language (um’s, extra and’s, etc.) and observe your students to see where you can be more clear.

We also learned about theme-ing, or adding in stories and personal touches to classes. Although Jack and Ellen let us know that it’s not ‘must’ for a teacher, theming can change the entire experience for a person. For better or for worse. And that great themes balance both personal touches, and universal concepts that all types of people can relate to. 

To put this into practice, we picked out a couple of themes that burn in our hearts and matter to us, then wrote them down and discussed in groups how those themes could tie in while also maintaining the aspect of relating to anyone. 

For our final project for the program, we got into groups of 3 and together created a 60 minute sequence that we co-taught together the last day of training.  For me, this was a really great exercise because I walked away from training with a 60-minute sequence that I created, and know how to teach. 

In a nutshell, we learned A TON about how to create a progressive and balanced yoga sequence, about affective teacher communication, and some best practices for providing a great experience for your students.

Have any questions about my experience? Please leave any questions in the comments below.

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My Yoga Teacher Training Journey: Part 1

My Yoga Teacher Training Journey: Part 1 

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If you are considering yoga teacher training, or are curious about the value it can bring to your life, this blog series is for you.  

In February of 2017 I fulfilled my goal and dream of completing a 200-hour yoga teacher training program.

As a way to document my experience and help anyone considering Yoga Teacher Training (whether the goal is to teach or not), this 6-part blog series is designed to help prospective YTT students get an idea of the sorts of information and lessons one could expect to learn in a Yoga Alliance certified yoga teacher training program.

In this blog series I will be sharing about my experience in themes. Truth be told, every day we did a little bit of everything. So for those interested in one aspect or another, the content has been broken up into the following 5 themes:

·      STUDY ~ BECOMING A PROFICIENT TEACHER I’ll review the things we learned related to: crafting a 60-minute yoga class, communicating yoga poses, and about how we put everything into practice by teaching each other.

·      PRACTICE ~ HOW MUCH TIME WE SPENT ON THE MAT Everyday we practiced. Most mornings we started with an hour or 90 minutes, and worked on individual poses and sequences throughout the day depending on the scheduled activities. We also learned from other Kindness Yoga teachers about Yin, Nidra, Restorative, and pre-natal yoga styles.

·      LEARN ~ ALL THE TOPICS WE COVERED We were given a lot of other context into topics related to yoga. We learned about anatomy, the impact of injuries, breathing techniques, meditation, yogic philosophies, the history of yoga, and much more.

·      GROW ~ THE LESSONS I LEARNED From what I’ve both heard and experienced, YTT can be a transformational experience. In this post I’ll share what life lessons I learned from training that I feel transcend past yoga into life off the mat.

·      TEACH ~ THE BUSINESS OF YOGA What I learned about the business of yoga, what you need to get work as a teacher, and how to find teaching jobs. I will also offer a couple of tips based on my own experience in the Denver yoga community over the last few years.

Before diving into the content of the program, here are a couple of things to keep in mind about the posts:

·      200 hours is a lot of time! This blog series is a mere summary of how my 200-hour YTT program at Kindness Yoga was structured, and about the broad topics we learned about and put into practice during the 4-week intensive.

·      Kindness Yoga in Denver, CO was where I chose to do my training.  After much research, I chose them based on their reputation in the community, the fact that they teach Vinyasa style yoga (the style I wanted to learn), and because I heard from other teachers that Kindness’ YTT program would give me the tools and knowledge to become a teacher shortly after program completion. As a full disclaimer, Kindness offered me a scholarship (discount) to blog about my experience on unlimitedyoga.com. That said, all opinions in this blog series are authentically my own.

·      While exploring YTT programs I quickly learned that YTT curriculums differ from one program to the next.  And no program, from my research, shares their entire agenda online. So you really have to make an effort to talk with people about their experiences and with the program managers in order to get an idea about the details and nuances of each program. I was surprised to learn that some programs make the ‘learning to teach’ part ancillary and focus more on yoga history, philosophy, and about the individual poses. Depending on your goal(s) for training, the details you find out could affect which program you invest your time and money in. Definitely do your own research and weigh your options.

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·      Something that cannot be understated in the whole experience is the people. While this blog series documents my experience, and my experience only… my classmates and teachers shaped everything about the program and the feel of each day. I am grateful to each and everyone one of them for their friendships and the lessons they taught me. They inspired me by the strength they exuded in the face of challenges and uncertainties, the vulnerability they let go of to learn something new, and their perseverance in a program that is appropriately entitled an “intensive”. 

If you have any questions or thoughts, please drop them in the comments below!

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Experiencing ARISE Festival in Loveland, Colorado

Experiencing ARISE Festival in Loveland, Colorado

ARISE Festival 2017

Big thank you to ARISE Festival for the awesome August weekend. It was our first ARISE, and we were sorely impressed by the organization, thought provoking content, eco-activism, yoga experiences, musicians, local vendors, food options, and more. 

Here are just a few of our favorite parts of ARISE Festival: 

- Not usually campers, we were pleasantly surprised how easy it was to pull everything we needed together for the weekend. When we didn't have all the gear, a friend loaned us her tent, and we found Outdoors Geek in Denver to rent us the rest of what we needed at an affordable price. When we arrived at Sunrise Ranch in the dark, we were so relieved to set up our tent under a light. (phewww.) 

- Waking up to beautiful Colorado scenery never gets old. Sunrise Ranch is nestled in Loveland, CO with naturally expansive views of the landscape, including a nearby lake. Walking around the campgrounds before sunrise yoga, we enjoyed our morning coffee and checking out people's camp set ups and festival gear, the Acro yoga tent, Wisdom Village, and observing other festival art we came across. 

- Sunrise yoga with headliner Shiva Rea included some free form movement for self-expression, and finished with a dance party. Not your typical yoga class, but we still got in all the pranayama (breath) we needed and even a hug with a couple of neighbors. 

- The art installations placed around the campground and festival space reminded us of pictures from Burning Man. With ARISE's mission as a leave-no-trace event, some of the art focused on sustainability and things like recycling - which we love. Our favorite > "Your small actions add up to big change. For better or worse." #Truth 

- Last but not at all least, we value and honor ARISE's focus on eco-activism, the notion of living and staying AWAKE, and conversation to better understand one another and spread ideas. On Saturday we partook in a group discussion with the Permaculture Action Network about sustainable farming and regenerative systems. And at night we attended a panel discussion about the Resistance Movement, highlighting the types of action we can take in our own communities to create positive change. (Show up. Vote with your dollars. Support the marginalized.)

We can't wait to see what next year has in store. Thank you ARISE Festival for the great time! We'll for sure be back.

This post is sponsored by ARISE Festival. However, all opinions are authentically our own. Namaste.

 

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