Category Archives: Benefits

Posture Clinic: Balancing Stick

by Barbora Simek

Balancing Stick

Tuladandasana

One of the most invigorating and challenging postures in the Bikram Yoga series, balancing stick is a hugely beneficial to the internal organs and as a large calorie burner, helps to tone the entire body. Like standing head-to-knee and standing bow-pulling pose, bringing the chest parallel to the floor helps to stimulate and strengthen heart giving huge cardiovascular benefit. Finally, it requires extreme concentration and helps to release emotion and open the heart.

Leslie Christiansen in Balancing Stick Pose photo: Bikram Yoga College of India


Anatomical Focus

Strengthens

  • Upper Thighs
  • Buttocks
  • Shoulders
  • Abdomen
  • Trapezius Muscles
  • Deltoids
  • Ankles

Stretches

  • Hip Joints
  • Shoulders
  • Full Stretch of the spine

Stimulates

  • Pancreas
  • Liver
  • Spleen
  • Kidneys
  • Nervous System

Physical Benefits

Improves balance

Increases endurance

Increases lung capacity

Stimulates the heart and arteries, strengthening the heart

Helps to clear blockages from arteries helping to prevent future cardiovascular problems

Helps varicose veins

Burns fat (up to 300 calories during the posture according to Rajishree Choudhury)

Slims waistline and eliminates deposits fat on the body

Relieves tension from the spine

Energetic Benefits

Activates and opens the heart chackra

Mental Benefits

Improves memory and concentration

Emotional Benefits

Releases doubt and fear of giving and receiving love (by activating the heart chackra)

Allows you to open yourself to love and soul expression

Posture Tips

BREATHE This is especially important because you are working the cardiovascular system which is aided by the respiratory system

SUCK YOUR STOMACH IN, using the abdominal muscles in this posture will stabilize your core and will ultimately help you to balance in the posture.

Point your toes from beginning. After you step forward and before you bring your body down, lift your back leg one inch off the floor, and point your toes.

Improvement in balancing stick will help your locust pose and vice versa.

Tips from the Pros

The set up determines how well you will do the posture, lock everything before (knees, elbows, etc) so that you will have more stability in the posture – Craig

Lean back slightly in the set up to stretch the chest as you step into the posture – Craig

Come down absolutely straight, and use your strength immediately – Bikram

Use your eyes to continue the stretch of the spine, the spine stays straight but the eyes look forward – Craig

At the end of the posture stretch forward a little more than you stretch back – Craig

Check out more posture tips from Bikram Yoga NYC here

Tips for Teachers

Keep the set up in a regularly paced tone, once the student is in the posture make the dialogue more energetic – Craig

“Sound is almost the same as solid matter. Voice and volume is tangible.” Craig Villani

Because of the intensity of the posture, you must increase your vocal energy and intensity to help the students complete and endure through the pose.

Put emphasis on stretching forward. Before coming to the repetition of ‘stretch, stretch, stretch’ at the end of the pose, make sure the final instruction is to stretch forward. – Craig

Correcting the alignment of the hips is a correction for intermediate and advanced students only, not for beginners – Craig

Share this article with your friends by clicking on the icons below…




Leave a comment

Filed under Benefits, For Teachers, Posture Clinic, Posture Tips, Tips and Tricks

Posture Clinic: Why back-bending is good for your spine.

“If you have a good spine, the gods will chase you. Nobody has psychological or emotional problems, everyone has a bad spine.” Bikram Choudhury

Ashley Hooper and Elisa Matthews back-bending photo: Bikram Yoga College of India

by Barbora Simek

Understanding why and how back-bending is beneficial for the spine is a challenge for many yoga students. For many, back-bending is an emotionally charged, challenging and often uncomfortable part of practice. However despite its discomforts back-bending can be one of the most therapeutic parts of a yoga practice.

Think of all the time you spend bending forward in a day, from enjoying a coffee with a newspaper, to driving, to typing at a computer, cleaning or lounging with a friend. The reality is, we spend most of our day in an unsupported forward bend.

Internally, forward bending causes the front of vertebrae move closer together, forcing the inter-vertebral disks and spinal nerves back. Prolonged poor posture can:

  • cause or aggravate back and neck pain
  • constrict blood-flow and put pressure on vital organs and glands preventing them from functioning properly
  • has been shown to have negative effects on self-esteem and mood in studies

Ironically, when most people experience back pain or discomfort their first reaction is to bend forward, not knowing it is the cause of their discomfort. In reality back-bending is what is needed to counter-act the impact of continuous forward bending. This impulse is not easy to unlearn.

First it is important to recognize that back-bending is a natural range of motion for the spine. “Think of monkeys or children climbing in a tree who reach backward for a branch, the spine bends backward,” says Jeff Weisman a Toronto based Bikram Yoga teacher and Hellerworker.

As you bend backwards you compress the posterior part of your spinal column, pushing your disks away from the spinal nerves and decompress the front of the vertebrae. This effectively counteracts the damage of hours spent forward bending.

Those concerned and intimidated by back-bending should rest assured that the controlled environment and proper progression of the Bikram Yoga series allows for back-bends to be preformed safely. For those with limitations and injuries, remember to speak to your instructor, move slowly and listen to your body.

Physical Benefits

  • Stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and prepares the body for action.
  • Helps counteract damage of bad posture.
  • Relieves back pain, bronchial distress, scoliotic deformities, tennis elbow, frozen shoulder.
  • Realigns the spine.
  • Promotes proper kidney function.
  • Helps with digestive function, eliminating constipation and flatulence.

Energetic Benefits

  • Stimulates all the chackras, primarily creating opening in the fourth (heart) chackra.

Emotional Benefits

  • Helps to break through insecurity and fear.
  • Relieves stress and tedium.
  • Opening the lower back helps to free you from insecurity and taking yourself too seriously.
  • Helps to build confidence and self-esteem in children.

Tips from the Pros

Allow your exhale to lower you into your maximum depth, allow your inhale to lift you up and forward. Reverse this pattern on purpose by pulling backward more vigorously into the posture during the inhalation (taking you more fulling into the posture) and then relaxing and easing off the posture during the exhale (thereby reducing tension).- Anatomy of Hatha Yoga, Dr. H. David Coulter

“Lift your breastbone up as you go down into it, instead of jamming only the lower waistband spine.
You HAVE to have your elbows pressing IN, not bowing out before you go down.

Also, LIFT the front of the neck and shoulders and armpits before you drop down.

Then you lift UP, OUT and OVER your waistband spine so you do not get that crimping feeling.” – Mary Jarvis for All Back-bending Heals the Spine

Do not contract the gluteal muscles until you reach your maximum expression then tighten – Rajishree Choudhury (for more read this article)

The standing back-bend is regulated by locked knees – Craig Villani

Drop the head back as far as it goes. The head and arms do not need to stay together. – Bikram Choudhury

Tips for teachers

Beginners are always afraid of back-bending. Make sure to stress that the hips, stomach, legs everything must come forward. – Bikram Choudhury

14 Comments

Filed under Benefits, Posture Clinic, Posture Tips, Tips and Tricks

Posture Clinic : Full Locust Pose

by Barbora Simek

Full Locust Pose

Poorna Shalabhasana

Ashley Hooper in Full Locust Pose image: Bikram Yoga College of India


“This is the hardest posture to improve. No matter who you are if you just struggle, you will get 110% benefit.” Bikram Choudhury

Anatomical Focus

Strengthens/ Firms:

Lower and Upper Back

Muscles of the upper arm (deltoids, triceps)

Abdominal Muscles

Bottocks

Muscles of the upper thigh (hamstrings)

Calf Muscles

Stimulates:

Liver

Spleen

Benefits: Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Benefits, Posture Clinic, Posture Tips

Posture Clinic: Fixed-Firm Pose

by Barbora Simek

Fixed Firm Pose

Supta-Vajrasana

Fixed Firm Pose photo credit: Bikram Yoga on the Hill, Boulder Colorado visit their great site here!


Extension of

  • Quadriceps muscles
  • Spleen
  • Lymph glands in arm pits
  • Ankles

Compression of

  • Knees
  • Adrenal glands
  • Lower Back

Physical Benefits

  • Improves circulation to kidneys, liver, pancreas and bowels.
  • Rebuilds the flexibility of the knees and ankles
  • Helps to boost the immune system through stimulation of the spleen.
  • Helps to stimulate the lymphatic system, particularly the lymph glands of the arm-pit.
  • Helps with digestion problems including indigestion, gas, constipation.
  • Good for asthma and respiratory conditions.
  • Stimulates adrenal glands through creating pressure and compression in the lower back.
  • Muscles of the thighs, abdomen and pelvis are stretched.
  • Helps to flush knees and ankles of calcium deposits, scar tissue and arthritic starts.
  • Helps to minimize menstrual pain for women.
  • Helps with sciatica, gout and varicose veins.

Energetic Benefits

  • Regular practice of this asana helps to activate kundalini energy.
  • Helps to liberate sexual energy, helping you maintain sexual longevity with age.

Posture Tips

Fixed firm pose is particularly challenging for athletes and those suffering from knee injuries. It is important to recognize that this is an anatomically correct asana, and helps to rebuild a natural flexibility of the joint.

ALWAYS maintain correct alignment, heels touching with the hips, just as the dialogue says. This will ensure the ligaments of the knees and ankles are stretched evenly building balanced flexibility.

DO NOT compensate in the posture by changing the position of your feet. Your ankles should be straight, toes pointing to the back wall.

DO correct the depth of the posture if you feel pain, less is more.

Posture Tips from the Pros

ALWAYS keep your knees on the floor. – Bikram

“Do not mess with the knees, you can mess with the Gods but you cannot mess with the knees” – Bikram Choudhury

Even if you are experiencing pain in the pose, start with your knees together and your heels touching your hips to ensure proper alignment. Once you have the alignment, then separate the knees as much as you need. – Emmy

2 Comments

Filed under Benefits, Posture Clinic

Posture Clinic- Standing Bow

After an inspiring weekend of watching competitors with next to perfect standing bows at the International Bishnu Ghosh Cup Hatha Yoga Championships, OMB gives you a breakdown of the pose.

Standing Bow Pulling Pose

Dandyamana Dhanurasana

2009 US Champion Courtney Mace in Standing Bow photo: USA Yoga

Anatomy

Contraction of

  • Quadriceps
  • Gulteus Maximus

Extension of

  • Shoulders -Trapezius / Latisimus Dorsi
  • Groin – Sartorius / Hamstrings
  • Chest – Pectorals / Diaphram / Ribcage

Compression

  • Kidneys
  • Spine

Stimulation

  • Circulatory System
  • Digestive System
  • Reproductive System
  • Urinary System
  • Endocrine System
  • Heart

Benefits

  • Creates natural irrigation of the circulatory system – transfers blood flow from one side of the body to the other
  • Clears plaque off artery walls
  • Helps to stimulate circulation through out the body
  • Eases back pain through compression of the spine
  • Improves elasticity of the spine
  • Tones hips and buttocks
  • Trims and strengthens the thighs
  • Strengthens the ankles and knees
  • Opens the shoulder joints, helps with frozen shoulder
  • Helps alleviate carpal tunnel, arthritis, tennis elbow
  • Helps with cervical spondylosis
  • Good for prenatal recovery
  • Stretches diaphragm and ribcage improving respiration (breathing)
  • Flushes kidneys, bladder and urinary system
  • Alleviates gas, constipation and clears digestion
  • Improves balance

Energetic Benefits

  • releases shame, abandonment
  • resolves issues of self-worth, fear of betrayal
  • develops determination, patience

Posture Tips

Be sure to start with the knees touching together to ensure balance.

Keep your weight toward the front of your foot, watch that the weight does not move into the heel as you initiate your kick

Always remember that, “kicking and stretching are 50/50, equal, simultaneous.” When you increase the force of your kick you must also increase the energy of the arm stretching toward the mirror to maintain your balance.

Just as in standing head-to-knee, the standing leg is your foundation, keep the knee locked with a firm contraction of thigh.

Bikram’s dialogue says to touch the shoulder to the chin, not chin to the shoulder. Keep your chin lifted and extend the arm forward to bring the shoulder and chin together, helping to promote the proper alignment of the shoulders.

BREATHE, try to take a few focused deep breaths in the pose.

On the inhales, harness your energy and stretch the arm forward, on your exhale deploy that energy into your kick.

OMB is going to teach, posture tips from the pros to come tonight!


8 Comments

Filed under About Bikram Yoga, Benefits, Posture Clinic, Tips and Tricks

The Skinny on Coconut Water

Over the past few years coconut water has become to Bikram Yoga what cosmopolitans are to socialites. Whether you sip, chug or nurse your tetra-pak, here are the reasons why picking up some coconut water after class is always a good idea.

What is coconut water?

Before the meat in a coconut begins to grow (about 7 months), young coconuts are filled with water that has an extraordinary chemical composition that is naturally beneficial for the body. As coconuts age, they begin to produce oil and milk which are heavy in healthy saturated fats (these are not present in coconut water).


Contains 5 essential electrolytes:

  • calcium (40mg/330ml) 4% of your daily average
  • magnesium (25mg/330ml) 6% of your daily average
  • phosphorus (17mg/ 330ml) 2% of your daily average
  • sodium (60mg / 330ml) 2% of your daily average
  • potassium (670mg/ 330ml) 19% of your daily average and more than one banana (which has about 460mg of potassium) and 15 times the potassium of a regular sports drink

Other Goodies:

  • fat free
  • no added sugars
  • low in cholesterol
  • safe for children

Fun Facts

  • Is an isotonic beverage, which means it contains the same levels of electrolytes found in human blood
  • 330 ml (one small tetra-pak) of coconut water has the same short-term hydrating effects as drinking 1 liter of water and eating a banana
  • According to medical research, coconut water has been shown to effectively help in dissolving kidney stones
  • Coconut water can be taken intravenously into the blood stream to re-hydrate the body, and was used intravenously in WWII when IV supplies were low
  • Coconut water has saved countless lives in tropical and developing countries, as it is more effective than regular water at re-hydrating the body quickly and providing nutrients for the body to fight infection
  • In medical studies, women drinking coconut water have reported a boost in their sex life
  • Potassium and magnesium has been shown to reduce high blood pressure, the FDA has found that coconut water is so effective at reducing heart attack in heart disease patients that it allows for coconut water to carry the claim “may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.”
  • Is the highest natural source of cytokinins, a plant growth hormone that has been proven to have anti-aging effects in the body, benefiting the skin and reducing the risk of degenerative and age related diseases
  • hydrates the skin, nails and hair
  • excellent, natural hangover cure

Coconut Water Recipes from Zico:

REPLENISHMENT SMOOTHIE

1 cup mixed berries
1 ripe banana
1 scoop protein powder
1 pak of natural coconut water

Mix all ingredients together in a blender using fresh or frozen fruit. Yields approximately 16 oz. Enjoy!
ZICO MANGOTINI
3oz ZICO mango
2oz vodka
twist of lemon
-or-
+ 2oz gin
+ twist of lime

Add ingredients into a shaker filled with ice, Shake, strain and garnish into a chilled martini glass. Enjoy!
Find more recipes at www.zico.com

*Coconut water is available at most studios in the GTA for $3

**OMB wants to know where you get your coconut water (and for how much) for our upcoming Toronto Coconut Water Map! Comment and let us know!! **

Sources:

Summary Article by Dr. Lita Lee based on the research of Dr. Bruce Fife

Macalalag, E.V., Jr. and Macalalag A.L. Bukolysis: young coconut water renoclysis for urinary stone dissolution Int Surg 1987:72(4):247

ONE Coconut Water, Zico Coconut Water, Vita Coco Coconut Water

14 Comments

Filed under Benefits, Nutrition, Tips and Tricks

Posture Clinic: Standing Head to Knee Pose

One of the most dynamic and challenging postures in the Bikram Yoga series, here is OMB’s breakdown of standing head-to-knee.

Standing Head to Knee Pose

Dandayamana Janushirasana

Huiping Mo, Bishnu Ghosh Cup Champion demonstrates standing head-to-knee pose. photo: Bikram Yoga College of India

Anatomy:

Contraction of :

Compression of:

Extension of:

The proximity of the heart to the floor, puts pressure on the muscle, exercising the heart through elevating the heart rate.

Continue reading

18 Comments

Filed under About Bikram Yoga, Benefits, Bikram, Bikram Yoga Toronto, Posture Clinic, Posture Tips, Tips and Tricks