Thursday, March 31, 2011

Karate Instructor Belt

Recently at the most amazing Karate Dojo, Harmony by Karate, we had another belt ceremony. Harmony By Karate encourages students to grow physically and spiritually, with the combination of disciplined approach to the Karate Katas and emphasis on the "Philosophy of the Week" as written by Sensei John on the welcome board, and discussed after every Karate class. All the students stood in line, as the incredible Sensei Joseph pulled out new belts for the students and Instructors. It was pretty incredible that he could hide so many belts in his Karate Gi, but then again if you know Sensei Joseph, you would know he truly is incredible. Sempai Fariha was awarded an actual Black Belt, and Sempai Jose and myself were awarded Instructor Belts (Black belts that have two white stripes). While I have been totally comfortable with my lovely Yellow Belt, this allows the children in the Kids Karate class to better distinguish the Instructor. I really did not expect to be getting a new belt, what an amazing surprise! Yet again, Sensei Joseph got us all good, since we were all completely unsuspecting to this wonderful event. Thank you Harmony By Karate for teaching me to grow and embrace a lovely practice of Karate.
Pictured: The Amazing Sensei Joseph tying my new Instructor Belt on me.

Utkatasana - Chair Pose

Utkatasana (translation: powerful pose) also known as chair pose is a beautiful pose to build strength, balance and stability. It appears as someone is sitting in an imaginary chair. The muscles that are strengthened include the hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, and the erector muscles behind the knees. The arms and the core also need to be stabilized. The Bandhas also known as locks that work in this pose are Moola Bandha (root Lock) and Uddiyana Bandha (Abdominal Lock). Eyes are gazing to the heavens, biceps are framing the ears, pelvis is slightly tilted, and "lift the corners of the lips" (lifting the corners of the lips is a cue from the Sutras of Ambriali). It is very important to have a joyful expression on your face in this pose, and squat as deep as comfortably possible, without allowing the knees to extend beyond the line of the ankles. "Be the happiest Chair you can be" ~ The Sutras of Ambriali

Friday, March 25, 2011

Yoga And Anatomy

The most amazing Dr. Robert Baker, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, enlightened students of Bamboomoves with his knowledge of the human body. Dr. Robert is a student at Bamboomoves, and has displayed a tremendous love for the practice of yoga, and was not at all timid to admit how many osteopathic injuries are results of poor yoga practice. What is a poor yoga practice? Perhaps, a practice that is driven by the ego, that is determined to get into the poses without any mindfullness to the concept of breathing into the pose. A practice, that pushes and grunts into poses, without the effortless mind-body-spirit connection that is found from floating with pranayama.

The main pose that is the culprit in question, is the beloved Headstand, Sirsasana. While Headstand is the King of Poses, and a wonderful way to decompress the spine, when we kick up to a wall, we risk injuring our cervical spine, which is a fact that many yoga teachers, unfortunately tend to overlook. Originally the headstand is meant to use "Uddiyana Bandha" the abdominal lock, and gracefully float up. Here in the west there is a obsession with just getting up, and while it is wonderful to get up in headstand, 8 months later when you are visiting the chiropractor you may have a different opinion. In my case, when I go up into headstand I tend to feel dizzy, nauseous, and pain on my skull, which was the result after a car accident/head trauma that I was in, this was not always the case in my life. Thus, I have tended to avoid the pose, because in order for me to get closer to God in my practice, I don't think I need to feel uncomfortable in the process. This was a topic of controversy for some NYC Yogis, and I just let it go, because I knew I had to listen to my body. Dr. Robert confirmed my suspicions and observation, and noted that my skull is actually in need of cranial sacral therapy, to realign my skull. WOW!

Special note to all yoga teachers, every student has a unique body, and body history, it is important for us to never assume that every pose can be done by each student. We must respect the practice itself, and teach to the needs of the student. While it is great to inspire progress in the practice, make sure it is done in a safe way. It is also important to respect pranayama and anatomy of the body to ensure proper alignment in poses.

Dr. Robert further analyzed other poses, and the anatomical benefits and contradictions. Myself and students were very blessed to learn from this wonderful expert and fellow student. He took time to do some spinal therapy on all who were in attendance. Thank you Dr Robert Baker for your wisdom and precious time!

Monday, March 7, 2011

From Handstand to Toe Breakers

It's official, I have been injured from my head to toes. Why? I recently broke (fractured) my right big toe. How? Well, I had tremendous inspiration to be a "handstander" this year, which resulted in practicing diligently, and lack of focus when coming down. I started out the quest and rearranged my private Yoga Session Students, so I could take classes with some of my favorite Yogi's in NYC that I knew would help me further the quest to be a handstander. One day, before Karate class, I was walking my feet up the wall, and walking my hands closer to the wall, in efforts to get vertical, alongside Sempai David. On the 5th or 6th handstand, I was inspired to go higher up the wall with my toes, (coached by Sempai David of course) and my arms had enough, so I jumped my feet down too quick, and smash. Ironically, everyone heard a "snap" except for me. Let me say, this was not Sempai David's fault, it was mine, and thanks to his coaching, I did get up higher! Nonetheless, I got ready for Karate class, and was happy to win the Plank Pose holding contest, watching all the Black belts fall to the floor, until it was a showdown between myself and Sempai David (because the pain in my foot was growing, I was on one foot, therefore, even though it was declared a tie with Sempai David, hello?? I WON). Throughout class I noticed the purple color on my toe, the swelling, and obvious soreness. I did what I could in Karate, and left to go teach my private yoga session. I went home, and iced the foot. The next morning, I woke up to a purple foot that is literally 3 times the size, and pain! Off to the doctor (Chiropractor), and x-rays to find out I have a non-displaced fracture. Since this amazing Dr. doesn't deal with feet, he referred me to a Orthopedist, I investigated to family medical professionals, and Dr. Google. I decided to tape up my toe myself to the next toe and put a splint on it, with regular ice. Pain was awesome, and I felt every bit of it. For anti inflammatory purposes I took Turmeric (natural alternative), and prayer. This experience taught me so much.

1. The toes are important! Feet are our foundation. Take care of your feet.
2. Gratitude! I have 9 other amazing healthy toes!
3. Gratitude! My awesome student Michelle hooked me up with a "boot" for my foot, My Awesome students Doris & Milta brought me to their lovely sis/aunt who works at a Podiatrist office and gave me some sexy boots for my foot, x-ray confirmation that the fracture has healed a little, and taped the bad boy up.
4. Gratitude! to those wonderful folks who have driven me home on numerous occasions from BX to BK! So much love for just one toe!
5. Inspiration! Breaking a toe can only further the inspiration to improve arm balances, so since Sempai David felt bad about his "lack of Spotting me" he has since taken on the job of walking me on my hands around the room in the dojo, and catching my feet when I go up into handstands (again gratitude, thank you Sempai David for helping me)
6. Inspiration! Breaking a toe, can also influence the flow of an entire yoga class, we have now embraced the multiple 5 second chutturunga count down! YES!!!
7. Yoga Focus - it is important to come in and out of poses with equal grace and breath awareness.
8. Gratitude! People in NYC have been so kind, giving me seats on the train, offering to carry me down the steps and random well wishes! Awesome!
9. Gratitude! Both my private and group yoga students have inspired me and supported me to rest a bit more than I do.
10. Growth - When we injure a part of our body, we learn how to use our body in other ways, and have a choice to focus on the one negative, or in my case the 9 other positives, and most importantly we learn patience.

6- 8 weeks of healing...Two more weeks marks 6 weeks, we shall see. Positive thinking, meditation & prayer, and so much love from family, friends and students allows for the healing process to be joyful! Be good to your body, from your head to your toes. While I am lucky the break was "non-displaced" and since I am active and fit, it seems to be healing good, still one should be mindful in all that they do. Thank you everyone for all the love. Always remember the RICE approach to injuries R=Rest, I=Ice, C=Compress, E=Elevate.
Pictures : Sempai David assisting my handstand (while I wear the sexy boot) & Sempai David and Ambria