Posts filed under Yoga Flows

Uplifting Pranayama (useful for those of us with Hypothyroidism)

For those of you who don't know me, I suffer with hypothyroidism. This means my thyroid gland produces less hormones than it should. As the thyroid regulates the metabolism, when it is sluggish you feel lethargic and energy-less. It also means I often feel tired and lethargic, so I have shaped my yoga and pranayama practice to create an uplifting energy that keeps me moving.

Every morning, I practice an uplifting pranayama before having breakfast. I drink a litter of water and then I start this breath work. This pranayama wakes me up and gives me the energy to keep my day going. This particular exercise is helpful for those with low thyroid function, but it can also help to others that my be experiencing lethargy from other conditions like lupus, depression, winter blues, etc... I recommend you follow it up with some sun salutations to wake up your body and prepare you for your day. And, if you need extra prolonged energy, check out my other post on a raw vegan version of the "bulletproof" coffee (here). It uses coconut butter to maximize the effects of caffeine on your body without the slump that the usual coffee consumption gives you. I hope you enjoy this pranayama practice! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out! 

 

Namaste!

Sexism in Yoga: No flow during Aunt Flo?

I don't like it when someone tells me women shouldn't do something because I grew up in a sexist country where women are told all the time that they are inferior to men. In Portuguese, my native tongue, words are usually either feminine or masculine in nature. Some words have both female and male versions, but the word president, for example, is a masculine noun only. This probably means that whoever invented the word, or the group of people that did, thought that a woman could not be president. After all, why even bother having a unisex word - or a female counterpart for the word? When a woman president finally came into power, Dilma Rousseff, all hell broke loose when she decided to create the word "Presidenta" (meaning the word president as a feminine noun). People in Brazil, including close friends of mine, relentlessly complained, even my woman friends, judging the presidenta, going as far as saying that the most powerful woman in Brazil was uneducated. So, I grew up in a country where women judge other women trying to fight sexism. Wow. 

For that reason, when I was told I couldn't practice yoga during my menstrual cycle, my sexism alarm went off.... Despite what other people told me, I continued to practice like nothing happened. I rebelled. In fact, when I went to Mysore, I got my menstrual period and I made sure I practiced every single day. I practiced with a snarky grin on my face (Sorry there Saraswasthi). But, just to be fair, I am not a woman that is much affected by her menstrual period. I don't suffer any type of cramping and I remain pretty even keeled (even though my husband might tell you a very different story...). However, as a yoga teacher, I felt an obligation to do more research and get to the bottom of this. So why are we told not to practice during our periods? Is there a legitimate scientific reason behind the madness?

Here is what I found:

1) In the Ashtanga world, we are told not to practice during the first three days of our period or even longer if the menstruation is heavy. The reason being that the bandhas are activated during practice creating an upward energy while our menstruation creates apana (or downward flowing energy). In an interview given to Ashtanga Yoga Shala New York City, Saraswasthi (Guruji's daughter) said: " [...] Here in India, according to the Brahman tradition the woman rests on these days, she does not cook and does not even go into the kitchen. Other women cook for her and she eats and sleeps a lot." Although the energy flow is a good reason not to practice if you feel drained, I don't really feel any different during those days. So, rather than going by the Brahmanic traditions, I needed a more scientific reason as to why we should not practice.

2) When I asked around, I was told that any inversions during that period would create a reversal of my menstrual period. Meaning, inversions could reverse the flow of menstrual blood. This made me start wondering if there was a legitimate medical reason behind the whole "don't practice/ invert, when menstruating" advice. So I googled "menstrual period flow backward" and found out this back flow of menstrual period was a potential cause of endometriosis. Of course this got my attention, so I devoted more time to research about endometriosis and the whole "retrograde menstruation" phenomenon. It turns out that the actual causes of Endometriosis are unknown and "retrograde menstruation" is one of the many theories scientists have developed to try to explain why women develop the disease. Also the retrograde menstruation phenomenon seems to be caused by uterine contractions, rather than by inversions. However, based on this finding, I would err on the side of caution. I am no medical professional, but if you have history of endometriosis in your family or you feel like you shouldn't be practicing, I suggest you listen to your body and take it easy during that time of the month. It turns out the advice may not be sexist after all....

As for myself, I will continue my rebellious ant flo day practices that are just as sweaty and hard as any other day... After all, there are no cases of endometriosis in my family and I feel completely fine during my period. If unlike me, you would like a more restorative and calming practice focused on diminishing anxiety, take a look at the video below which balances your energy during that time of the month!

Enjoy and Namaste!




Posted on October 14, 2015 and filed under Yoga Flows, Articles about Yoga.

Yoga for Runners

One of the best gifts resulting from a regular yoga practice is being in tune with our bodies and noticing what it tells us. Fall is starting here in Chicago and I suddenly feel a tremendous need to perform a warming activity. After fighting the idea for a while as I firmly believed running would tighten my muscles and decrease my flexibility, I gave in and decided to run. The last time I ran was 8 years ago before I moved to the US. Since then, my fitness regimen has consisted solely of yoga. 

One day I was teaching a yoga class and a dear friend named Elyda attended. Elyda is a woman who is half diva, half Wonder Woman, who finds time to run, workout, do yoga, work and still has time to be the best mother in the world. During this class, I realized that Elyda remained super flexible even though she ran everyday. I asked her how she kept her flexibility with all the running she did and she told me she spent a lot of time stretching after her running workouts. At that moment, it became clear to me that in addition to my daily yoga practice, I needed to develop a second post-run yoga practice.

With that, I began a quest to develop a practical, short-yoga practice, which could be made after right after my run. As you will just have finished your run, the sequence skips the warm up, and it aims to stretch the muscles most used by running (IT bands, quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, lower back). I hope you enjoy and have a great practice!

Namaste!


Posted on October 7, 2015 and filed under Yoga Flows.

Beginner Yoga Class 5

Here's last Saturday's class. If you were in class you know that the class aims to open your hips and hamstrings to get you in those splits and mermaid pose. Use the video if you would like to repeat practice throughout the week and keep me updated on how it is going for you! 

Posted on October 6, 2015 and filed under Yoga Flows.

Beginners Yoga 1/31/2015

If you missed class today and you would like to practice, you can follow the class on this page. This week I have done a video as opposed to a sheet of images as one of my friends thought it would be easier to follow. It is specially useful for understanding the transitions. When you are doing the class feel free to pause the video so that you can hold poses for longer. And always try to do the vinyasas correctly. Usually upward movements are to be accompanied by an inhale, while downward movements are paired with an exhale. Let me know if you like this format better! Hope you enjoy! Namaste!

Posted on October 6, 2015 and filed under Yoga Flows.

Beginners flow

Hey girls,

This week I will be out of town, so feel free to follow this flow in the comfort of your own home. Each pose should be held for 5 breaths (slow and deep breaths of course!). Make sure you do the unilateral asanas on both sides. I have also prepared a spotify playlist to make the flow a bit more fun for you (CLICK HERE FOR THE Beginners Flow PLAYLIST). If you try this out at home let me know if you liked it in the comments section below!

Meditation

Start with your legs crossed and hands on your knees. Take a few minutes to be silent. Clear your mind. Maybe take some time to practice Visamavrtti Pranayama - or the unequal breathing exercise. To do that make your exhales longer than your inhales. This breathing technique has a calming effect and helps you prepare for class.

Warm up

Start with the warm up depicted below. The warm up is made up of cat and dog ondulations to warm up the spine followed by a few half sun salutes, a sun salutation A, and a sun salutation B. Once your body is warmed up move on to the main part of the flow where we work our upper and lower bodies.

Main flow

In the main part of the flow, make sure you do both sides  as some of the asanas are unilateral. Also, if you can stay longer than five breaths on the closing postures (shoulderstands) as they benefit the function of your thyroid gland.

Hope you like it! Any comments or criticisms are welcome!

Posted on October 6, 2015 and filed under Yoga Flows.

Beginners flow from 1/17/2015

If you missed class last Saturday or if you would like to establish a home practice, this might be the perfect flow for you this week.  There are 4 parts: A warm up, a flow that focuses on the legs, one that focuses on arms, and a closing. Feel free to do the entire class, or to start by doing just the warm up and one of the flows focusing on a particular body part. The playlist is also available here so that you can follow the flow (CLICK HERE FOR PLAYLIST  yoga class). Make sure to hold each pose a minimum of 5 breaths (slow breaths!) Any feedback on the flows will be welcome! 

Meditation:

Start the flow in a cross legged position and place your arms on your knees. Take a moment to close your eyes and place your attention on your breath. Don't make an effort to breathe in any particular way, but just focus your attention in your exhales and inhales.

Maybe roll your shoulders back and forth, lean your head from side to side, and stretch. Take a few minutes to just be.

Part one  - Warm up:

Part II: Standing Sequence (Leg Flow)

Part III: Arm Flow

Part IV: Closing


Posted on October 6, 2015 and filed under Yoga Flows.