Yoga Remedies

Megan Bond is a  RYT-200 instructor with training completed through Open Source Yoga here in Nelson, BC. She also holds a diploma in visual arts from RDC, and a business certificate from Selkirk College.

Through her teaching she strives to create safe, fun, and mindful classes that encourage students of all levels to try something new each time they experience yoga.  She teaches alignment-based yoga, with emphasis on the breath and strength poses that will encourage you to challenge and surprise yourself (on and off the mat!).

As an active teenager, she turned to yoga for support of chronic lower back pain .  Now practicing for ten years, yoga has provided a remedy for body ailments, a way to cultivate awareness of her thoughts and actions, and dive deeper into her spirituality.

A Great Way to Feel Stimulated and Vibrant at this time of Autumn
By Megan Bond

As summer comes to a close and autumn’s cool air and deep colors begin to take hold, we not only feel a change in temperature, but in ourselves too.  Summer projects are rushed, kids are getting back to school, new jobs with new schedules, or perhaps a change of town.  Wherever you live, we are informed visually, physically, and mentally that an energetic shift is occurring.  So how can we prepare our bodies and minds for this change? Start by adapting or perhaps starting a yoga and meditation practice, choose the right foods, and implement some easy hygiene routines.

It is important to be constantly reminded that yoga is not just the asanas, the poses.  If we look at the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, yoga philosophy composed around 200 CE, it says there are eight sequential stages in an individual’s life journey (Mark Stephens, 2010).  Since I will only elaborate on a few of these stages, I encourage you to read more about this eight-limbed path, known as ashtanga yoga. One of these limbs I will highlight besides asana is the saucha niyama; a personal observance of our body also said as treating your body like a temple (Stephens).

In Ayurveda, an ancient Indian nutrition practice, fall is the vata time of year.  A Vata imbalance may occur consisting of cold and damp physical and mental qualities and a weakened digestion that promotes a build up of toxins in the body (Todd Caldecott, 2012).  Vata symptoms include dry skin, indigestion, restlessness, depression, and anxiety.  To relieve these symptoms, incorporate more nourishing and warm foods into your diet such as soups and stews, root vegetables, and fermented foods.  Also try drinking hot water with fresh lemon in the morning to fire up digestion.  The study of Ayurveda suggests avoiding uncooked vegetables, so try to eat less cold salads. Slightly cooking your food will simply allow more nutrients to enter the body when consumed.

Help the skin by massaging sesame or coconut oil all over the body before a shower.  This is called abhyanga, also practiced within Ayurveda.  Practicing abhyanga can increase circulation, relieve dry itchy skin, release muscle tension, and remove toxins.  Coconut oil has amazing antioxidant and antimicrobial properties due to the large amounts of vitamin E, lauric acid, and monolaurin that nourish and protect our skin, organs, and hair.  Try another Ayurveda practice of kaval or oil pulling.  Swish a tablespoon or two of coconut oil in your mouth when you first wake up in the morning for an el natural mouthwash.

I find with the turning of the season into autumn the most important aspect of a yoga practice is to get a routine going. Before getting into what poses are best for the season, first we need to recognize that this can be a chaotic, anxious, and depressing time for many.  Have at least 30 minutes to 1 hour and a half per day, preferably in the morning, set aside for mediation and asana.  Get into an established rhythm of practicing poses and breathing exercises, whether it is in a quiet space of your home (without interruptions!) or a specific class at your local yoga studio. Get that punch pass or membership you’ve been mulling over, find a teacher and class you like, and keep at it! Pattabhi Jois, founder if the Ashtanga style, said, “Yoga is 99 percent practice, and one percent theory.” Repetition is key to building a strong practice that can be relied on to give you the calm, focused, and relaxed energy you are looking for within this cooling season.

So how exactly should you alter your yoga practice? First, include more twists in the beginning, middle, and end of your practice. Just as eating warm, nourishing foods helps digestion, as do twists. Twists penetrate deep into the body’s core, stimulating and toning internal organs while creating openness in the chest, shoulders, neck, and hips.  They are also great to help you breath fuller and stronger. As we twist the torso, the rib cage and lungs become slightly constricted, which encourages us to inhale a little deeper in order to keep a steady breathing rhythm.  If in a seated twist, it is important to keep the sitting bones evenly rooted into the floor.  I like to tell my students to imagine their spine like a tornado, spiraling up from pelvis, navel, chest, neck, and the head last.  If in a supine twist, make sure both shoulders are evenly rooted in the mat.

Another great way to feel stimulated and vibrant at this time of year is to include more back bends into your practice. If you are new to back bends or find tightness in the chest, gently ease your way into these types of poses. Back bends tend to stimulate our emotions simply because our chest, our heart, becomes open vulnerable.  They are difficult because they are the opposite of our repetitive movements throughout the day of bending over and sitting.  Be patient, feel compassion toward yourself, and always keep the breath present.  When performing back bends, internally rotate the thighs, never squeeze the buttocks, and lift with the sternum. I also like cue a lengthening of the lumbar spine to avoid crunching in the low back. Never brings the knees immediately into the chest after a back bend and avoid forward folds if you have not yet completed a back bend series! It is very important to clear out the energy in the low back, coming to a neutral spine position before moving further into your practice. I like to rest in supta baddha konasana after a supine back bend. If seated or standing, simply breathe and imagine the breath expanding the low back.  Proceed to twist the spine, THEN forward folds.

One last suggestion to add to your routine is Yin Yoga, originally a Chinese practice. Autumn and winter are perceived as Yin seasons, while summer and spring are Yang.  The reasoning can be clear; summer is hot, energetic, sunny, and winter is cold and slow. The same describes Yin and Yang. As the summer comes to an end the nights become longer, our digestion and travel plans slow; we move inward, eager for sweaters and warm rooms. This is Yin. Yin is not comparable to the classic Hatha or flow styles of yoga. These practices can be seen as Yang Yoga, designed to work the muscular tissues, whereas Yin Yoga allows us to work the ligaments, joints, facial networks, and bones. Because these tissues are less elastic than our muscles, they require gentler pressure, applied for longer periods of time, in order to be stimulated to grow stronger. Therefore most Yin poses are held from 1 to 30 minutes long.  Most poses are held seated, prone, or supine, in positions that can be held long and safely. This practice allows one to focus more on the mental aspects of yoga rather than the physical, forcing you to overcome bodily discomfort from the pose, and keep the breath strong and present.  Find a certified Yin teacher to help lead you through this type of practice.

Whether you are new to yoga or have practicing for years, it is important to remember that as the seasons change, so do our bodies. Respect and notice this change and adapt routines accordingly.  Know autumn is a time to serve our immune and digestive systems, modify our asana practice, and focus on strengthening our mindful, internal awareness.

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