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Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The bright side of pain

Sigh. The past two weeks have been horrid. Or, at least, the pain has been horrid. Which kind of makes the day horrid. Which makes a week horrid. I'm sure you get the picture.

I am, once again, on the verge of being diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylosis (Ooh! I found out: spondylosis refers to the disease state, while spondylitis refers to the inflammatory flare, or specifically to the inflammation of the joints). My most recent scan shows severe inflammation in my lumbar spine, and, to a lesser degree, in my cervical spine, hips, SI joints, and knees. On top of that, I've been in a wrist brace to immobilise my wrist, so that it hopefully heals from an injury that I sustained two months ago, whilst ice skating. Or, more accurately, whilst falling, while ice skating :-p



On meeting a new client, I explained to her about my injuries (I had the brace on and she asked), and I also explained to her that, while several of my injuries are yoga related, I feel that that has contributed to making me a better teacher. My non-yoga related injuries have done the same in the sense that I know very well what to look out for, how to modify, and when to back down. I realised, while explaining this to my client, that being a chronic pain sufferer myself, puts me in a unique position to relate to people in similar situations. I know from experience that no amount of explaining or empathy can fully reveal what someone in chronic pain is experiencing, so it's super useful to have an instructor who already knows first-hand what you're likely experiencing.

While my pain and awareness of injuries may make me a little hyper cautious, I have overcome so much in the process of dealing with my own pain that I have grown my determination and confidence in my ability to help others with the same problems. Coupled with my thorough understanding of anatomy, I help people get into those show-off-y yoga poses too. Because I'm a pretty awesome yoga instructor, for people on a broad spectrum of levels and abilities.

And that is my bright side of pain!

Laughter is the best medicine. As is movement.



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Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Teaching and fear

Last week I was teaching a class, and there were only two students. So I asked them if there was anything in particular that they wanted to do. The one requested shoulder stand (Salamba sarvangasana), and the other wanted to deepen her backbends... not the best combination of poses to sequence for 😁 We decided to focus on the shoulder stand for that session.

...I was scared! For me, personally, Salamba sarvangasana is a horrid pose. I think it's because of my prominent C7 vertebra, but I get dizzy and see stars and feel nauseated very quickly in that pose. Similarly, but to a lesser extent in Halasana. Anyway. Besides not enjoying shoulder stand in my own personal practice, I also learned on my teacher training course that several prominent teachers and higher-ups had decided that teaching it unpropped, should not be done. Which makes perfect anatomical sense.

The cervical vertebrae are way smaller than your lumbar vertebrae, which are made to bear weight. Now you want to put close to your full body weight on your comparatively tiny cervical vertebrae, at a severe angle... with poor little C7 getting smooshed into the floor... So I was happy to not teach Salamba sarvangasana. Because I didn't like it, and because the propping takes a long time. More on that at a later stage.

Comparison between the three different types of vertebrae, showing the size of cervical vs. lumbar vertebrae.

BUT. I had asked the students what they wanted to do, and teaching Salamba sarvangasana became unavoidable. Which was fantastic for my growth as a yoga instructor. Because I forced myself to step way out of my comfort zone to sequence that class into a safe, properly activated and executed shoulder stand. Yes, I gave very many warnings about not feeling any pressure on the neck and properly engaging the shoulders, abdominals, back, and legs. Even more cautions than I would normally give 😁

And it worked!! I faced my fear, and I got both my students into beautiful, and completely safe propped Salamba sarvangasanas! I was admittedly relieved by the end of that session, but I felt like I had accomplished something. Like I'd gotten over a long-standing fear of mine. And you know what, I actually feel less scared now of including it in my own practice. Which I think is a fantastic thing. Of course, I would never do it unpropped, but I'm much less nervous about doing and teaching that pose now. And it feels good.
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Friday, 27 October 2017

The funny of Bhujapidasana

This is one of my favourite poses to teach. For no reason other than it's hilarious to try to get into it. Or, more hilarious to watch students try (and succeed) getting into it. I'm pretty sure that I get this semi-fiendish delight from my own yoga teacher. See, the way that I was taught to get into Bhujapidasana is by doing a funny walk backwards and forwards on your mat, whilst in a forward fold, your arms wrapped through your legs, and your hands holding onto the inside edges of your heels. Supposedly, this helps you to get your shoulders further behind your knees. Which helps to make the pose accessible/ way easier. It's also the same set up used to get into Tittibhasana; especially the version where your legs are pointing straight up to the sky =) (Yogis come up with some crazy stuff.)

 Some obvious limitations for this pose: hip flexibility, hamstring length (to some extent), arm length (hahahahaha t-Rex arms), and, very importantly, wrist flexibility. Also fear.

 The wrist flexibility is a big thing, actually. If you look at the angle of the wrists in this pose (and in many arm balances), the wrists are massively extended (even hyperextended). Students often complain of sore wrists when doing yoga, and especially when a class is focusing on arm balances. It's extremely important that we look after our wrists, and, in the same breath, look after your shoulders, too! I have some lovely (read: torturous) exercises to build 'wrist'strength, as well as some funky stretches to do. I'll probably share those in an upcoming post. Or you can just come to one of my classes ;)

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