Ashthanga yoga & running

(Ashthanga) yoga & running
Ashthanga vinyasa yoga practice can benefit your running practice.
“I cannot take a yoga class because I’m not flexible is like saying I cannot take a shower because I’m dirty “. As yoga isn’t about being flexible, actually not even about becoming flexible (though it is a beneficial side effect), it is about purifying the body and mind. Mosts sports start with “I can’t do that”. But after the initial start it moves towards the attitude of “I ran 5 miles, maybe I can ran 10 next time” or” I did 10 push ups, maybe I can do 15″. The reply to not able to do yoga would be;” you could when you start training”. Which coincides with the infamous saying of the father of Ashthanga yoga himself, Sri K Pattabhi Jois; “practice, practice, practice and all will come.
Running will not make your physical practice of asana better, but yoga will definitely make your running better, physically speaking. As long as runners can make peace with that idea, it will make it a whole lot easier to move through 1st series ashtanga yoga for 90 minutes. You are bound to be tight, but without yoga you will only get tighter and probably experience more injuries.
Both in 90 mins of ashtanga yoga or 90 minutes of running you will have to overcome the quitter’s mind. That during 90 minutes of either activity you are probably going to question yourself ; “What was I thinking to do 90 minutes of yoga/running.” Something is going to hurt, some posture, or mile is going to be brutal, and you might start to lose your motivation. When doing anything physical you are going to run up against that voice in your head that is the pessimist, the nay-sayer. This is where running and yoga are similar. They are both working on the mind, more than on the body. Your body can do just about anything it is the mind that is often the limited factor.
When practicing / training 99% of the people are actually facing doubt, insecurity, worry, fear the “negative” self. The nay-sayer voice that around mile 16 tells you, “You can’t do it.”, is the same voice in yoga that will try to tell you you can’t come up out of a back drop either. The voice is the same, it comes from the same place and can be put to rest the same way no matter if it’s running or yoga. The yoga teacher, Tim Miller, likes to say “Experience is the remover of doubt.” Every time you run 5 miles, it erases the doubt that you can’t run 6. Every time you run 6, it erases the doubt that I can’t do 7. .
The surya namaskars are equivalent to the first mile of any run you go on. It’s the warm up mile, where you find your legs and the rhythm of your breathing. The standing poses are equivalent to a 5k (3 miles), it’s enough of a run on a busy day. The seated postures, up to Marichyasana are equal to about 5 miles. Right in the heart of what are commonly called the speed pump poses in ashtanga there is navasana, bhujapidasana, kurmasana. These are like mile 6, where you start second guessing yourself, and this crazy idea of staying fit. Mile 7 of a 9 mile run starts to smooth out just a bit as you start thinking you’re in the home stretch. Just like the poses baddha konasana, upavishta konasana, and supta padangsthasana do in yoga. You might think backbends are mile 9, but they are only mile 8, you must save enough energy after backbends to complete your inversions and come in strong to savasana. Savasana is equivalent to the cool down after a long run. You don’t just sit down after a long run, or you will quickly stiffen up. You will struggle just to get your shoes off later, if you don’t incorporate a good cool down. Savasana is necessary and so is a good cool down walk after a long run.

The rhythm of breathing, the rhythm of the legs and arms working together, and how the pessimistic mind doesn’t have to win out. Most runs and most yoga practices conquer negativity. Push through the rough spots and come out on the other end better for it. Staring down your inner self has a profound way of changing you. Running and yoga remove doubts by doing the things that you thought couldn’t be done.
Running tightens you, Yoga will save you from injuries and even burn-out. It will also give your running longevity. Ashtanga yoga is an excellent tool for building strength, flexibility, reducing anxiety, and keeping a person fit. To give an inner focus which often lacked and increased body awareness. Running tightens and stresses the body; it can be harsh and jarring. Yoga strengthens the entire body; lubricates each joint; deepens and calms the breath; and, in addition to all the physical and emotional benefits, is a deeply spiritual practice that makes us more mindful and peaceful.
Deep or diaphragmatic (as opposed to chest breathing) brings more oxygen deeper into the lungs, ultimately engaging the parasympathetic nervous system. When were are in “parasympathetic dominance,” the mind is calmer, the heart rate is slower, less stress hormones are produced, and perceived exertion decreases.
In “Going the Distance”, (again in Yoga Journal, though this one is available to read online), Nancy Coulter-Parker writes about increasing athletic endurance—what she defines as “the ability to persevere”—with yoga, which made her feel strong and capable. Through her asana practice she became intimate with her breath, and learned what pushing too hard sounds and feels like. Before yoga she felt like her body was an inanimate object outside of herself. Something that, for better or worse, hung dispassionately from her head. Yoga has and continues to reintroduce and reintegrate herself to herself.
Yoga helps athletes focus on what is going on inside the body. It is really good at honing that internal voice,” she says. And because Ashtanga is so physically challenging, she has been forced to cultivate the yogic practices of mindfulness, awareness and non-self.
Yoga is not an athletic endeavor. It is much more, and in some ways, more difficult (much like the practice of maintaining self worth apart from achieving the full expression of a particular pose). So while runners should be mindful of the practice they choose, the lessons yoga has to teach any athlete are many. The yoga’s tradition of interconnectedness where all things—including running—are as divine (and yogic) as you let them be.
Often, even our understanding of “concentration” is equated with a straining mental force. In meditation we begin to learn that real concentration depends on a light, delicate, patient kind of mental control, and in time this becomes an effortless, undistracted mindfulness. Both Ashthanga vinyasa yoga  and running, or anything else with a repetitive rhythm (like just breathing!), helps to enable that mind falling “into the moment”.

Based on the post by Stand and face the sun, Posted on 11/15/2013 and other online articles.
Related Online Articles:
BoulderRunning.com, “Runner’s Best Friend – Downward Dog,” by Katrina Mohr.
LA Yoga, “Running into Yoga,” by Ryan Allen
Yoga.com, “How Yoga Can Better Your Running Technique,” by Maia Appleby
Yoga Journal, “Yoga for Runners,” by Baron Baptiste and Kathleen Finn Mendola
“Running Buddahs ” Christopher J. Hayden wrote and produced a 1992 documentary on the the monks of Mount Hiei and John Stevens wrote the book The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei, published by Shambhala Publications.

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sarvanga laghu vajrasana ( supported little thunderbolt pose )

sarvanga laghu vajrasana   ( supported little thunderbolt pose )

laghu vajrasana
This post is related to a series of post about asana variations.
similar posts >>>
gomukhasana C, horned double pigeon pose <http://wp.me/p3RIqJ-3F&gt;
urdhva mukha baddha konasana, butterfly-fish pose <http://wp.me/s3RIqJ-217&gt;
Some yogi’s claim that are as many asana’s as there are life-forms in this universe. Every being is a unique expression of the divine, an electron-magnetic signature. Others say that are 72.000 asana’s, some say 72 and others hold that if you master the 12 basic asana’s, you will receive all the benefits and attain yoga. The last see the majority of asana’s as variations on these 12. Yoga is honoring the diversity of nature, with that the expression of you body mind. Be your own teacher, and keep a beginners mind, when ever you practice yoga asana. Keep exploring, experimenting, that is how you will learn. Find calmness in a pose, that doesn’t say you have to be completely still or motionless. Keep the body mind active, let the body explore the pose. Exploring in ways of endurance, focus and relaxation. (sthira & sukha) Some days you want to take it even further, letting creativity into the asana and see where the asana will take you.
A supported variation of laghu vajrasana, little thunderbolt pose.  And more or less an hybrid of usthrasana and the laghu vajrasana. A level deeper into the back bend, but not yet as deep as in laghu vajrasana. A good preperation for advancing into full laghu vajrasana and the supta vajrasana in the “nadi shodana” (2nd or intermediate series), ashtanga vinyasa series.  Same actions apply as for ustrasana, but now taking the elbows into the inside arches of the feet.

  • From vajrasana (or taking a vinyasa), diamond pose; inhaling deeply, coming on the knees with the thighs perpendicular to the floor.  Exhale arching back taking the elbows at the inside of the heels, support on the arches of the feet, and pressing the palms into the buttocks.  (Try to keep the lower legs in contact with the floor. If necessary, separate the knees, make sure that you are not over-straining the muscles and ligaments of the legs). Keep pressing the thighs and hips forward. The buttocks are taking support on the palms.  Crown of the head on the floor, relax into the pose, breathe deeply and slowly in the final position. Getting out of the pose, reverse order, squeeze the shoulders more together to release the elbows from the ankles/arches and get back up on an inhalation.

sequencing; before the classical laghu vajrasana (A) for preparation, or using this pose as an alternative. It can be sequenced together with other back bends (after ustrasana, camel pose), or on its own and being preceded or followed with a forward bend and a twist.

  • From; on both knees, knees hip width apart, inhaling lengthening the spine, exhaling arching back pushing the hips and thighs to the front. Inhaling back out of the pose, using elbows and abdomen for support.
  • Alternatively from a supine position taking the arms under the spine, arching the back and come into the asana on an exhale. To release, reverse order .
  • breath; exhaling into the pose, inhaling out of the pose. Deep calm breathing while in the pose.
  • time; 5 to 9 deep and slow breaths.
  • awareness; on the lower back, abdomen or breath.
  • dhristi; in between the eyebrows,

health benefits;

  • This asana massages the abdominal organs alleviating digestive ailments and constipation. (strengthens the abdomen)
  • It tones the spinal nerves, makes the back flexible and realigns rounded shoulders. The nerves in the neck, the thyroid and parathyroid glands are particularly stimulated.
  • The ribcage is stretched and expanded fully, which helps to fill the lungs to its maximum capacity and bringing more oxygen into the system.
  • It enhances courage and confidence level in the personality.
  • It is beneficial for those suffering from asthma, bronchitis and other lung ailments.
  • It loosens up the legs and strengthens them in preparation for sitting in meditation asana’s. (opens the quadriceps)
  • It enhances creativity and intelligence as it increases the circulation in the brain.

Precautions
This asana should be avoided in case of groin, knee injury, back problems, high blood pressure or any cardiac problems, recent surgery and pregnancy. Be slow and careful while doing the asana as in almost all the yoga asanas. It is an intense backbend and should only be attempted by experienced yoga practitioners. Camel pose is a more moderate version of this position.

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urdhva mukha baddha konasana (butterfly-fish pose)

urdhva mukha baddha konasana (butterfly-fish pose)

urdhva mukha baddha konasana

This post is related to a series of post about asana variations.
similar posts >>>
gomukhasana C, horned double pigeon pose <http://wp.me/p3RIqJ-3F&gt;
sarvanga laghu vajrasana (B), supported little thunderbolt pose <http://wp.me/s3RIqJ-217&gt;

Some yogi’s claim that are as many asana’s as there are life-forms in this universe. Every being is a unique expression of the divine, an electron-magnetic signature. Others say that are 72.000 asana’s, some say 72 and others hold that if you master the 12 basic asana’s, you will receive all the benefits and attain yoga. The last see the majority of asana’s as variations on these 12. Yoga is honoring the diversity of nature, with that the expression of you body mind. Be your own teacher, and keep a beginners mind, when ever you practice yoga asana. Keep exploring, experimenting, that is how you will learn. Find calmness in a pose, that doesn’t say you have to be completely still or motionless. Keep the body mind active, let the body explore the pose. Exploring in ways of endurance, focus and relaxation. (sthira & sukha) Some days you want to take it even further, letting creativity into the asana and see where the asana will take you.
Urdhva mukha baddha konasana (upward facing bound angle pose)  is a hybrid between baddha konasana and matsyasana. It combines the benefits of both poses and adds an extra squeeze in between the shoulder blades, and loosens them from the spine. It is a strong groin- and hip-opener, + chest (hearth) opener. Considering this it can have an effect on your emotional body. Ideally practiced at the end of the practice, after sarvangasana.

sequencing;

  • From baddha konasana, carefully recline back with an arched spine. Bring the top of head on the mat, not the back of head. You may want to take the hands next to ears for a moment to give yourself a push up and get comfortable into this position. Take the hands under the outside upper legs and let them take the outside ankles. Pull the ankles closer to the pelvis and squeeze the shoulders more together and rest on the elbows and forearms. Adjust the positon of the head and hands to find your maximum arch of the back, and depth of the hips. Getting out; release hands and arms take support on the elbows and fore-arms, slowly come back up.
  • From mastyenasana, take the legs into a baddha konasana position, soles together, and take the hands around the outside ankles and pull them closer to the pelvis. Keep the top of head on the mat, and carefully arch the spine, support on the elbows. Getting out; releasing the ankles,  slowly get back up, support on the elbows and fore-arms. (or taking an ashtanga vinyasa variation; cakrasana to get out of the pose).
  • From dhanur asana roll into parsva dhanur asana. Roll further into urdhva mukha baddha konasana, adjust to make your self more comfortable. Getting out; roll on to the other side to take the other half of parsa dhanur asana, or roll back into the same side parsva dhanur asana.

(as you will be resting on the top of your head, which is a sensitive spot, you may want to make sure that you have a yoga mat under the head)

  • breath; exhaling into the pose, contracting abdomen and arching the spine, inhaling out of the pose. Deep calm breathing while in the pose.
  • time; when practicing it as a counter-asana for sarvangasana, take half the time of the time in sarvangasana, to stay in the pose. When practicing it as a more restorative pose at the end of a practice for opening the heart, chest and hips, before going in to a shavasana, take about 2 min or more if comfortable. Otherwise, 5 to 9 deep breaths.
  • awareness; on mooladhara chakra, anahata or the sahasara chakra.
  • dhristi; in between the eyebrows, (internal)

health benefits;

  • Expands the lung capacity
  • Stimulates the heart and improves circulation
  • Encourages deep breathing
  • Helps relieve asthma
  • Opens the chest, correcting round-shoulders
  • Strengthens the back muscles
  • Gives a backward stretch to the thoracic and cervical sections of the spine
  • Gently stretches the neck muscles and shoulders
  • Brings an increased supply of blood to the cervical and thoracic regions of the back
  • relieves sciatic pain and prevents hernia
  • The pelvis, the abdomen and the back are stimulated by a plentiful blood supply.
  • Stretches the inner thighs, groins and knees
  • Massages your internal organs and improves digestive circulation
  • Stimulates abdominal organs, ovaries, prostate gland and bladder
  • When practiced regularly, it relieves pain and heaviness in the testicles
  • High blood pressure
  • Flat feet
  • Infertility
  • For women, coupled with Sarvangasana, it checks irregular menses and helps the ovaries to function properly.
  • Stimulates the anahata chakra (heart psychic center), mooladhara (root center)  and sahasara  chakra
  • Brings more prana to the neck, shoulders and pelvis
  • Helps to regulate emotions and stress

variation; let go of the ankles and take the hands on the knees to add a little weight to get them a bit more close to the floor.
Precautions
This asana should be avoided in case of groin, knee injury, back problems, high blood pressure or any cardiac problems, recent surgery and pregnancy. Be slow and careful while doing the asana as in almost all the yoga asanas. This asana should be avoided by ladies if menstruating or should be performed under guidance of a yoga expert during those days.

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pratyahara yoga

pratyahara yoga
no gain, no pain
Commercially known as “yin-yoga”, which is a branded name of saying “passive-stretching” or “staying longer in the pose”, is a practice to target the connective tissue in the body, especially the hip joints, the knee joints, the shoulders joints and the spine. With that, it also works on the meridians within the body, as they are related to the connective tissue. Easily said, connective tissue is everything that cannot be directly labeled as something else, and what is holding the whole body together. Visualizing the yang-yin symbol; the black area has a white dot, the white area has a black dot, everything is relative. Muscles are labeled more “yang”, as they create heat and movement, but they contain connective tissue (more yin) too, and at one point a muscle is named “tendon”. From the tendon the muscle connects to the joint (more yin), and wrapped around it to create firmness are the ligaments (yin). Joints have to be flexible but not to flexible, they create movement and at the same time they hold two connecting parts strongly together. There we have yoga. To stretch connective tissue it is necessary to stay longer in a pose, it is like braces slowly molding the teeth into a better form. A passive stretch molds the body into form. B.K.S. Iyengar uses the passive stretch (often with help of props; when the body is supported, the pose can be longer hold, at the same relax more, which takes the stretch more into the connective tissue rather then into the muslce) for the therapeutic benefits, (re) aligning the body into its natural and designed posture. The passive stretch also works on the brain and mind, by keeping longer in the pose, especially in combination with calm deep breathing, there is time to relax & reflect, calming the mind. Giving time to the mind to digest all the mental impressions of the day. Here the name “yin” comes in; the relaxation (which is yin), is counteracting the effects of the physical and mental activity of our everyday life (yang). It is still yoga though, finding balance, union and walking the middle path; meaning it is not that you just “collapse” into  pose, or can just fall a sleep (actually while sleeping the mind isn’t really resting, it is still working to digest all those impressions). The relaxation is being used to find that balance, with means of breath awareness and active relaxation. Actively the student is asked to relax body & mind, and ‘work’ the pose. This ‘active relaxation’ has multiple effects; as the body is relaxing, it has time to re-direct the energy first used for being active (working the sympathetic nervous system), it can use the energy now for other tasks that could not be done while active (working the parasympathetic nervous system). It gives time for the body to grow, heal, clean, repair, rebuild and strengthen. Active relaxation and passive & long stretching have great impact on the immune system and endocrine system,  targeting the body and mind, and gives better physical and mental health.
Prolonged periods of activity is stress, there are about 80 diseases directed related to stress. Prolonged periods of non-activity is sloth, many diseases are related to this too. Finding the balance between those is what yoga can do. A “yin” practice can be complimentary to a “yang” practice, and actually give more “results” in “gaining” mobility (flexibility). (if that is something you want to ‘achieve’) Active relaxation is actively letting go, Actively letting go of tension, actively emptying the mind. Saying active, does not mean “pushing”, neither forcing, it is again about finding the balance. It is like walking on a razor edge, the edge is so thin that you cannot see it.
Contemporary society tends into the yang mode of living; telling us to always go for the max, give 100% ( 200%?), to be in control etc. Multiple stimuli 24/7 outdoors and in doors. Fast food. Connecting and using all kinds of devices and machines, creating bad posture and using the body in ways it wasn’t design to do. All these factors creating high level of stress, with all it effects on the our total body. The “yin” approach is a very effective way to counteract the stress, it is not easy though.
Ahimsaka is taking the 8 limbs of yoga together into one asana practice, naming it after the “middle” step of the 8 limbs; pratyahara. Pratyahara is the cross road of that path, where we go from the outward and physically focused, into the inner and mental body. Turning the senses with in, we are calming the breath. Slowing down the breath, we are calming the mind. Taking longer time in the poses will gives us time to reflect and digest. Trying to get rid of the tendencies society is pressing on us; always gaining, always wanting, always needing more, reflecting “aparigraha”, the 5th yama, non-collectiveness, non-grasping. Trying the student to let go and to surrender to the present moment, taking time to heal, recharge and strengthen. Instead of wanting to gain something from this yoga practice, try to loose something.  Become lighter.
When you don’t gain now, you won’t be in pain later.
more information;
http://www.yinyoga.com
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yin_yoga

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