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Yoga

Pregnancy

My 5 Favourite Yoga Poses To Do in Pregnancy

You’re pregnant!  Yay!

But…you’re also achy.  Your body is stiff.   And you still want to keep active?  Give YOGA a go!

If you haven’t already heard, the benefits of prenatal yoga are endless.  From keeping your body moving to strengthening the back and pelvis to practicing some amazing breathing techniques….the list goes on and on.

While pregnant with my daughter, Rosie, prenatal yoga was one of the only things that kept me from going crazy in those last few weeks before her arrival!  It provided me a sense of inner calmness and helped reduce the swelling in my ankles…it was a win-win.

I’m often asked by mamas-to-be if there are any particular yoga poses I suggest they do more than others.  And while all prenatal yoga poses are amazingly beneficial – I do have some personal favourites.  In this video, I share with you my 5 favourite prenatal yoga poses!

 

1. Cat-Cow Pose

2. Child’s Pose

3. Reclined Cobbler’s Pose

4. Deep Squat Pose

5. Legs Up the Wall Pose

These poses are so helpful at any stage in pregnancy.  They keep the pelvis and hips aligned and increase mobility and strength.   Give them a try today mama!

 

 

 

Babies + Kids

YOGA: Not just for grown ups anymore!

 

The benefits of yoga for grown ups are well documented- helping with things like stress reduction, increased physical strength and flexibility, mental clarity…the list goes on.

But I bet you didn’t know that yoga for babies and children is also super beneficial giving kids increased emotional awareness and boosting their self-esteem and confidence!

Recently, a study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies found that gentle mindfulness-based yoga helped children regulate their emotions (bye, bye tantrums). Children’s ability to stay focused and attentive was also noted after yoga.

Exposing your kids to yoga at a young age helps them to learn about themselves and empowers them to be in charge of their emotions.   Our daughter, Rose goes to a daycare centre that incorporates yoga into their weekly routine and she absolutely loves it!

We’ll do a yoga session together and she’ll be the teacher, showing us all the poses. It allows us to take some time out of our crazy hectic schedules and find some calm and peacefulness together as a family.

Here are a few ways you can practice yoga at home with your child:

  • Be the example. One of the most important things is for parents to do yoga while their kids are present. Modeling poses or lying still in Savasana will peak your child’s interest and curiosity and they will definitely ask what you are doing.
  • Create a warm yoga space. Lie out mats, use cushions and pillows and choose a space clear of furniture and toys to eliminate distractions.
  • Get creative. Encourage your children to use their own creativity and invent their own poses. Children will love playing animals, trees, flowers and warriors. Barking in dog pose, hiss in cobra pose and meow in cat stretch!
  • Make it a ritual. Similar to brushing teeth, your family yoga practice can be included in a daily or weekly routine. It could be a few minutes of quiet breathing or a 20 minute yoga practice with posture. Our daughter knows that “yoga time” means bringing out her little yoga mat and towel.

Yoga classes for families are a great way to spend some time together. Toronto Yoga Mamas offers weekly weekend family yoga classes. For more information, check their website www.torontoyogamamas.com.

I would love to hear about your family’s yoga time – send me a note at hello@draliya.ca.

Pregnancy

Prenatal Yoga: Is It Safe Late In Pregnancy?

Many pregnant women often ask me about the different ways they can keep active during the later stages of their pregnancy.  It is quite common for their regular exercise routines – running, cross-fit training or resistance training – to become increasingly painful and uncomfortable in their the 3rd trimester.

Never fear mama…Yoga is here!

 

Yoga is a great way to keep active during all stages of pregnancy, but especially in the later stages of pregnancy.  While previous exercise routines focused on strength building and high impact cardio exercise like running, yoga focuses on stretching, relaxation and breathing which can help through the last stages of pregnancy and prepare the body for labour and childbirth.

However, there are a few precautions you should take when you are pregnant – even in a yoga class!

Remember every pregnant woman’s favourite hormone – relaxin?  Relaxin is the hormone released to help “relax” and open the pelvis, giving your baby the space it needs to descend into the pelvic inlet and pass through the birth canal.  What you may not know is that relaxin also affects other joints in your body, and can create hyper mobility (or looseness around joints that should be stable).   You may notice that getting into certain postures or poses may be easier than before pregnancy and that your flexibility has increased. These effects however can result in injury due to the instability or looseness of your joints.  Pushing yourself too far can cause you to damage a joint or over-stretch a ligament or muscle.  You may not even feel the result of this damage until well after baby is born and after the relaxin has left your body.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind during your next prenatal yoga class:

  • Tell the instructor how far along you are in your pregnancy and if you have been experiencing any joint or muscle pain or discomfort.
  • Avoid any poses that put your head below your waist this includes downward dog in the later stages of pregnancy (try the posture against a wall instead of on the floor).  It’s a good alternative and gives you the openness in your chest and shoulders that this pose encourages.
  • Focus on standing poses with both feet planted at a hip width distance apart for stability.
  • Take advantage of savasana (or dead body pose) in side-lying position as an opportunity to connect with yourself and your baby.
  • Avoid the straight arm plank.  The plank position puts too much pressure on the connective tissue that keeps your abdominal muscles together (particularly if you have Diastasis Recti – abdominal separation).  Try side planks instead!

And most importantly, enjoy a few moments of relaxation and practice your breathing!  Only a few short months left!

Om, Mama.

Read my Q&A expert column and get amazing mama and baby advice & resources at BabyPost.com.

For more information on prenatal yoga, visit torontoyogamamas.com 

(Original post at babypost.com)

Babies + Kids, Pregnancy

Chiropractic care now at Toronto Yoga Mamas

Great news Mamas and Mamas-to-be!  There’s now one more place to find me in Leslieville!

In addition to my regular hours at Restore Integrative Health, I will now be offering chiropractic care to all of the lovely and wonderful mamas at Toronto Yoga Mamas studio in Leslieville.  I am so thrilled to be a part of this amazing team and community.

The Toronto Yoga Mamas (TYM) was founded by the amazing Jamie Kalynuik, yoga instructor and doula extraordinaire!  She has created a studio full of warmth and love where mothers and soon-to-be mothers can connect with their babies and with each other.  Not only do they offer a huge variety of classes (prenatal and baby yoga to pilates) but the studio also serves as a meeting place for women to share stories and experiences in their weekly Mama Group (every Tuesday).  Workshops, such as Baby Massage and Reflexology, Infant CPR and Baby Sleep are also offered and are super popular.

Recently, Jamie has added Wellness Services to her growing studio and I am thrilled and excited to be a part of their team.  Offering Massage Therapy and Acupuncture, Chiropractic Care fits nicely within the studio’s Wellness Centre and their new space is beautiful!  Come find me at the Toronto Yoga Mamas studio in Leslieville on Wednesday mornings!

xo

 

 

 

Health + Wellness

Spine Strengthening Series: Locust Pose – Salabhasana

Full expression of this posture may mimic a locust at rest, however there really isn’t anything “restful” about this pose.  For yogis, this pose encourages mental focus and determination as well as upper and lower back strength and core stability.  It also helps to stretch and induce blood flow to the elbow joint, which is often repetitively strained (e.g tennis elbow, golfers elbow, carpal tunnel, tendonitis).

The pose has many of the same benefits as Cobra Pose, but is even better for relieving disc related back pain and sciatica.

Essentially a back bend, Locust Pose can serve as a blueprint for finding good alignment in other back bends such as Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) and Ustrasana (Camel Pose). Locust Pose strengthens the back and abdominal muscles and cultivates the mindfulness needed for a balanced back bend.

However, if you focus your attention on how high you go, you may feel strain in your lower back. Instead, you want to distribute your weight throughout your upper and middle back. Although the back muscles contract, you also want to lengthen the spine so that you feel as though you are simultaneously reaching backward through the legs.

Locust Pose – Do’s and Don’ts

The Do’s

  • Place your elbows against your abdomen, making sure they are straight (bending the elbows will only cause more strain and thus more pain)
  • Spread your fingers (only posture in the series where fingers are spread apart) so that they are pointed toward your knees
  • Keep your leg muscles contracted; “the tighter you are the lighter you are”
  • Make sure your hips square and always touching with your arms while lifting legs up
  • Try to shift your body weight to the top of your body (chest and shoulders)

The Don’ts

  • When lifting both legs, avoid separating the legs; keep them glued together
  • Forget to breathe – breathe normally in and out through your nose!

 

This pose can do no wrong! Another fabulous (back-friendly) asana that offers a great way to strengthen and stabilize the spine as well as increase flexibility of the elbow and wrist!

FEEL GOOD, BE GREAT!

Blog-4_Locust-Pose-Pic-300x221

 

Health + Wellness

The Science behind Cobra Pose: Why it helps back pain

A Case of Radiating Lower Back Pain

Back in March 2012, I first experienced lower back pain with tingling and aching in the back of my left leg and I had no clue what caused it. This sensation literally came out of no where. After many doctor’s visits and tests, it was determined that the lower back strain I experienced in November 2011 caused some nerve inflammation in my leg. My chiropractor, Dr. Aliya, suggested I couple my chiropractic treatments with weekly yoga classes.  Although hesitant at first, I started to notice that specific Yoga poses, in particular back bending and cobra pose always gave me some relief.

You may have experienced something similar to this patient if you have ever suffered from back pain, sciatica or nerve-related pain. Back bending (or extension) exercises have been found to provide relief to patients by helping ‘centralize’ or move pain away from one’s arms and legs towards the back, where it is usually better tolerated. The reasoning behind this mechanism of relief comes from a technique called the McKenzie Method or McKenzie Technique.

What is The McKenzie Method?

In the 1950s, physical therapist Robin McKenzie developed a system of assessment and treatment protocols based on observing how patient’s sitting, standing or moving positions or activities affected their pain.

McKenzie found that extension exercises helped centralize patient pain, moving it away from the extremities and towards the back. He theorized that centralizing the pain allows the source of the pain to be treated rather than the symptoms.

The McKenzie Method is a therapeutic approach that moves a patient through a series of activities and test movements to gauge the pain response.  The therapist then uses this information to develop an exercise protocol designed to ‘centralize’ the patient’s pain.

Think of it as bringing the pain back to the pain source.

Pain Centralization with Yoga

One of the centralization exercises for back pain utilized by the McKenzie method is the ‘Prone Press Up’.  Yogis call this ‘Cobra Pose’.  This pose provides relief from disc-related pain by alleviating compression of the disc on the nerve root (see last week’s post).

Named after the king cobra, said to have the strongest spine in the world, Cobra Pose is meant to resemble a snake before it strikes.  As mentioned, this pose is fantastic for your spinal health – but make sure you perform it correctly!

DOs and DON’Ts

The DOsPreview Changes

  • Squeeze your glutes tight and push your hips down into mat
  •  Use your eyes to start the movement – “where your eyes go, your body will follow”
  • Keep your heels together and lock your knees in order to lift them up from the floor

The DON’Ts

  • Avoid using all (100%) of your hand/arm strength; most of the strength comes from lower back muscles (remember it’s not a Push Up); Bikram recommends you use up to 15% of your hand/arm strength
  • Shrug your shoulders up to your ears; remember to drop your shoulders down
cobra pose

Cobra Pose performed by Bikram Choudhry (www.bikramyoga.com)

 

I continue to be amazed of the benefits of this Yoga and how it helps my patients get better and stay healthy.

Until next week…FEEL GOOD, BE GREAT!

Health + Wellness

Bikram’s Spine Strengthening Series and Back Pain

If you are a Bikram Yoga practitioner, you know what I mean when I say “Spine Strengthening Series”. However, for the non-Bikram Yogis, here’s a recap. The Spine Strengthening Series is part of Bikram’s Beginning (Hatha) Yoga Series and includes the following postures (or asanas):

1. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

2. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

3. Full Locust Pose (Poorna-Salabhasana)

4. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

You either love them or hate them….but here’s why you need to DO them!

New research has shown that spinal extension often decreases symptoms of lower back and leg pain often caused by a herniated or bulging disc (which creates pressure on nerve roots causing pain radiating down the buttocks and legs).

These four postures all include elements of spinal extension – or back bending – by lifting the lower extremities (legs), the upper extremities (arms, shoulders), or both.

How does spinal extension help lower back pain? It may seem counter-intuitive, since we associate spinal extension negatively with “scrunching” or compressing the lower back.

But consider that when vertebral discs bulge out, they often bulge backward (posteriorly). Spinal extension wedges open the front of the disc and allows the disc fluid to resettle into its normal forward position. This helps push the disc back into its original position and can diminish the intensity or extent of lower back or leg symptoms.

These postures all help stabilize and strengthen your core abdominal and lower back muscles through the contraction of your paraspinal muscles that support either side of your spine.  This helps prevent future injuries.

Love them or hate them, the postures of the Spine Strengthening Series are one of the best things you can do to maintain a lovely, healthy back!

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll review each of these postures highlighting do’s and don’ts and their benefits….until then – FEEL GOOD, BE GREAT!

 

Health + Wellness

“First Legs Stretching…Then Lower Spine Stretching….Eventually Whole Body Stretching…”

Currently, I’m in Los Angeles, California at a 9 week intensive Bikram Yoga Teacher Training with 442 other aspiring Yogis.  The motivation behind my decision to embark on this journey came from the many health benefits I continue to witness from patients with chronic conditions who perform yoga.

Time after time, yoga has helped patients with not only musculoskeletal conditions (neck and shoulder pain, lower back pain, sciatica, postural complaints etc) but also those with high blood pressure, menopause, depression and other mental health conditions.  Although studies are still being conducted on the benefits of yoga on some of these conditions, results have been impressive enough that investigators expect yoga will soon become part of the standard treatment for a number of disorders.

For this reason, I decided that the time was right to explore and learn about the various limbs of yoga and its practice.  Particularly, I chose to study a specific form of Hatha Yoga called Bikram Yoga.  Many of you may recognize Bikram Yoga as the “Hottest of the Hot” types of Yoga.  However, Bikram Yoga is a type of Hatha yoga which incorporates a series of 26 poses called Asanas, while relying on 2 breathing techniques, referred to as Pranayama.  The postures are all performed in a heated room to 105 degrees F.  While this may seem ridiculously hot to some, there is a good reason behind this. We’ll get into this in another post (coming soon!).

First, let’s talk about just a few of the many physical benefits of Yoga.

Strengthening

Yoga helps increase strength in very specific muscles.  Holding the positions in yoga requires concentration, focus and specific contractions in many muscles of the body.  Muscle strength improves by remaining in this postures and remaining mindful of the contraction.  Many of the postures in yoga gently strengthen the muscles in the back, as well as the abdominal muscles.  Back and abdominal muscles are essential spinal muscles helping the body maintain proper upright posture and movement.  When these muscles are well conditioned, back pain can be greatly reduced or avoided.

Stretching and Relaxation

Yoga incorporates not just an element of flexibility but stretching also reduces tension in stress-carrying muscles.  Yoga requires that the individual hold gentle poses anywhere from 10 to 60 seconds. Within the pose, certain muscles flex, while others stretch, promoting relaxation and flexibility in muscles and joints.

Posture, balance and body alignment

Yoga poses are meant to train the body to be healthy and supple. Consistent practice and application will result in improved posture, and an increased sense of balance, with head, shoulders and pelvis in proper alignment. Additionally, unlike many other forms of exercise, yoga helps stretch and strengthens both sides of the body equally.  Proper body alignment and good posture also helps maintain the natural curvature of the spine – an important part of reducing or avoiding lower back pain.

There are many more benefits to yoga (both physical, mental, spiritual).  Some studies have suggested that yoga may have a positive effect on learning and memory and other researchers have been studying whether yoga can slow the aging process or improve energy levels.

At Bikram’s Teacher Training I have met a researcher studying Bikram Yoga’s effect on depression at Harvard’s Research Center at Massachusettes General  In fact, they are creating a Bikram Yoga Research Center at Harvard and hope to perform many more studies on the specific effects of this type of yoga on health.

Nevertheless, regardless of clinical trials, there is an abundance of anecdotal claims for the many benefits of yoga. Visit any yoga studio and listen to students after class. Some will even tell you that yoga can help improve marriages and relationships.

The only way to find out what yoga can do for you is to try it for yourself and see first hand the effect it has!

 More from Bikram Yoga Teacher Training Fall 2012 to come!

 

SOURCES:
International Association of Yoga Therapists: “Health Benefits of Yoga.”
American Council on Exercise: “ACE Yoga Study.”
Sarley, D. and Sarley, I. The Essentials of Yoga, The Omega Institute and Dell Publishing, 1999.
SFGate.com: “Doctors study the health benefits of yoga.”