Muffin Top, Yoga Boat Pose, Yoga Plank Pose, Yoga Reclined Staff Pose, Yoga Staff Pose,
January 4, 2012 by staff
Muffin Top, Yoga Boat Pose, Yoga Plank Pose, Yoga Reclined Staff Pose, Yoga Staff Pose,, That chub spilling over your jeans isn’t just unsightly—it’s unhealthy too. “Fat around your belly can be a reflection of fat in your gut and in your liver, and that’s when you start seeing people at an increased risk for diabetes and heart disease,” says Dr. Lamm.
Whittling your middle is the same as losing weight anywhere else, Dr. Lamm says: Eat less, watch your carb intake, and try to get 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least four days a week. For extra help toning your tummy, try ab-targeting yoga moves such as Boat Pose, Plank, and Reclined Staff.
Get out that space heater and warm the room before we practice…
Brrrr. Winter months are cold; there’s no doubt about it! walk around town all bundled up and huddled over–our shoulders hunched up by our ears, arms crossed over our chest, and head looking down. These physical actions can cause us to become emotionally depressed and physically constricted. Other than move to the tropics, what can we do? We can, for one thing, adjust our yoga practice to include more warming and opening poses. We can, in addition, hold the poses for longer periods of time and/or do more of them. If you are a new practitioner, they suggest that you practice the same pose several times during a practice session until your body feels warmer and able to hold that same pose for a longer duration. More experienced practitioners can hold an active pose for an extended period of time to help the body warm up. You can move from one pose to another without much time between them as well, as long as you are still mindful about your alignment. It’s easy to get sloppy if we move too fast–in life as well as on the mat!
Warm up with this Sultry Sequence
When I found yoga I started to feel much better. My back and neck did not hurt so much, my mind felt brighter and I felt more in control of my emotions. I didn’t have near as many monthly ups and downs.
But what was this new pain? What was this horrible, stabbing pain at the base of my spine that plagued me when I walked? Why did it hurt so much after shoveling snow or vacuuming the house? I was just done with a 4 year stint of working in Antarctica and traveling the world (where I shoveled and walked plenty). How could shoveling, vacuuming or walking be hurting me now? I didn’t have this particular problem before. (Just all the other ones – ha ha.)
I continued practicing yoga. I even found a real, live class – not just yoga to a TV show. I got a lot of compliments on how flexible I was. My ego liked this so I pushed harder, stretched further, went deeper. And, no surprise, continued to have pain. I could not figure it out. I did not hurt while doing yoga; only while walking. I was pretty sure I was going to end up hunched before my time.
Fortunately, we moved and I had to switch studios. My new teacher, Ann Maxwell at Yoga North, was into teaching about the inner core, moving in a pain free range of motion, building awareness, and retraining forgotten muscle groups. She had been studying with Julie Gudmestad and Susi Hately Aldous and she shared what she learned with her students.
I learned that I did not have sciatica, I had SI joint dysfunction. I started to notice that the asymmetrical, hip-opening poses that I loved – triangle, pigeon, easy seated forward fold – were not the best poses for my body. I was instinctively stretching the part that hurt (my hips and SI joints) but by stretching, I was pulling myself more and more out of whack.
I was starting to take pre-walk ibuprofen to mitigate the feeling of stabbing pain in my behind. Nothing ruins a walk more than feeling like you have a knife in your back/butt. Finally, I saw a chiropractor. Even though yoga had been helping with my back and neck pain, I still had tons of misaligned bones. My neck curved the wrong way, my occiput was jammed, and my hips were uneven. I had good results with Chiropractic. I had fewer headaches and less pain walking. But my bones slid back out of alignment so quickly it was like they were greased.
I knew yoga was both helping and hurting me but I loved yoga. I didn’t want to give it up. As a matter of fact, I wanted to learn more. I signed up for teacher training and started to learn how to strengthen my inner core from the arches up.
Yoga is about being peaceful, healthy and strong. It’s about empowerment. It’s about transcending the many expectations of who we should be, super successful, super slim, and finding our center, our authentic self.
These are the messages found in the new documentary YogaWoman, which explores the many ways women have co-opted what was once an exclusively male practice to serve their own bodies and needs. And I resonated with them all.
Made by filmmaker Kate Clere McIntyre, in collaboration with her husband Michael McIntyre and sister Saraswati Clere, the film celebrates how women “from the streets of Manhattan to the dusty slums of Kenya” are discovering their own strength, vitality, peace, and power through yoga. Narrated by Oscar-winning actress and yoga devotee Annette Bening, the film is now available on DVD.
Essentially, the film is one long commercial for yoga, encouraging women who haven’t yet taken up the practice to do so. The filmmakers want us to know that yoga is for every woman, no matter her age, social status, or ethnicity. And as one plug used to promote the film states YogaWoman will help you “feel your own strength and make you want to get on the mat.”
But sadly I found some dissonance with this message. From the super thin, superstar yoga teachers interviewed, to the visual sequences featuring thin muscular women flowing effortlessly through difficult poses, there was nary a ‘real’ body in sight. And by real bodies I mean bodies that look a little more ahem, like mine. Bodies with bellies and a little jiggle in the behind.
As a yoga teacher, it’s been my experience that images featuring incredibly lithe bendy women actually discourage those who aren’t young, thin and flexible (the majority of the population) from trying yoga in the first place. I’ve done a lot of explaining that yoga isn’t about pretzel poses, anyone can do yoga, despite their size or fitness level. Yeah, right.
Now maybe I’m being a bit sensitive, but by not depicting a few more women with a little “junk in the trunk” doesn’t the film reinforce the same old dis-empowering strictures telling women what they should look like? And while no one actually says thinner is better, don’t images speak a thousand words?…..
While the documentary credits ‘women power’ for making yoga a multimillion dollar business I wish it had taken more time exploring how it’s com-modification is also perpetuating unrealistic body images. Fact is, as yoga has become big business it has also become the latest tool in the corporate arsenal to make us feel like we don’t measure up. Ads featuring incredibly slim young women clad in beatific smiles and skin tight yoga pants are being used to hawk everything from tea to cereal, vitamins to vacations.
While the film delves into the societal pressure women feel to be thin, and toots yoga as the antidote, nearly all the yoga icons featured in the film, teachers like Seane Corn, Patrica Walden and Shiva Rea were practically devoid of body fat.
Is this really a healthy ideal? Research reveals that underweight women face issues with menstrual regularity, fertility and bone density, and get this, even die younger than their moderately overweight peers. According to Paul Campos, author of The Obesity Myth: Why America’s Obsession with Weight Is Hazardous to Your Health, despite our notion that thinner is healthier, studies have found that moderately overweight women have lower incidence of lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, anemia, osteoporosis, just for a start.
But Yogawoman never mentions any of this. Which is strange, considering that the film spends so much time detailing the many health benefits of yoga?
The film does a beautiful job of illustrating how, from motherhood to menopause; yoga enhances women’s reproductive health, even their sex life. It explores how yoga has helped women deal with cancer, infertility, anxiety, depression, and given them strength to recover from substance abuse and eating disorders. As one young woman states, yoga will save your life, change your life, make you more accepting of yourself than you ever thought possible.
And I agree- yoga does all these things and more. But where YogaWoman falls short is in exploring the ‘why’. In one portion of the film, illustrated by a class of upside down women in headstand, we are told how yoga helps us “tune in” to ourselves. The film seems to imply by becoming physically stronger, we become more confident, and this confidence makes us more ‘real’. But does the transformative aspect of yoga really lie in the fact that postures exercise our pelvic wall or help our lymph fluids flow more easily? I think it goes way beyond that.
I believe yoga’s power lies in the spiritual aspects of practice. Our image-orientated culture, by demanding we look a certain way, disconnects us from our body’s desires and needs. But yoga draws our attention towards what the body is feeling. And the more we practice and listen to these sensations, the more we connect with what is authentic – our experience in present moment.
I believe that one of the reasons women resonate so powerfully with yoga is they discover something we don’t have a name for in our culture, something we don’t even know were missing – until we experience it. We forge a spiritual connection to our own bodies.
That’s why I was a little disappointed that the filmmakers, perhaps in the interest making yoga more accessible, decided to skirt its metaphysical aspects. Barely 7 minutes of an hour and half film are given over to talk of inner peace and achieving lightness of mind. For a film that explores how women are changing one of the oldest spiritual practices in the world, there was little, if any, direct mention of spirituality at all.
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