Monday, April 21, 2014

Yoga Pt 2

In this second part of my yoga trio blog I'm going to go into some more challenging poses. They will work on stretching your side and front body, balance, and strengthening multiple muscles. Remember, yoga is about breathing, stretching, and going into the pose so that you get the most out of it. It is not about who can do what, I do yoga for myself and my health, I hope you all do too. Even the most simple of poses is great for you.

Disclaimer: I am not a yoga instructor, all of the poses and descriptions that I have are from learning during my practice and through the help of trained yoga instructors at Zanti Power Yoga. For you paddlers out there, check out Anna Leveque's (owner of Girls at Play) Yoga for Kayaking series which is online, you can find them here:
Extended side angle
From Warrior 2, "tic toc" your torso over your bent leg keeping your torso engaged and as long as you can. Bring you lower hand to a block, your knee, your foot, or to the ground. Extended side angle is known to help with sciatica, infertility, constipation (by stimulating the abdominal organs), and lower backaches. Your back leg is staying very strong and rooted to the ground, using your torso to support weight and strengthen your side body while getting a very strong stretch in your legs.
Concentrating for a full bind. 
The next two poses are advanced and do not attempt them until you are comfortable with extended side angle. Keeping your torso engaged, place your upper hand behind your back, by your bum. The lower hand clasps with your upper hand between your legs behind your back. Get it? Me neither. :-)
Bird of Paradise
When you get your shoulders strong and flexible enough to clasp behind your back, go even further and fly into a "Bird of Paradise"! Bring your back foot forward (with arms still clasped behind you) balance yourself and open your chest to the world while standing on your rooted leg. This pose, not only is a balance pose, but it stretches and strengthens your arms core and leg. I also find it a mentally challenging pose because you are like a flamingo with one leg, breathing (and smiling) always helps me through this pose. 
For crescent pose, start in the low lunge position and use your core to lift you up so your arms are straight up. Keep your back leg as engaged as you can. This pose will stretch the quad of your back leg, strengthen your glutes and thighs. It is also a great way to help sciatica. 
Revolved side angle with prayer hands. 
From Crescent, place your hands in front of your heart in the prayer position. Keep your torso as long as you can and lower your torso over your bent leg. You should feel this stretch in your side body and your back leg the most. Make sure to remember to keep your back leg as engaged as you can by lifting up on your knee cap. Use your lower elbow to push your chest more open and deepen the stretch. Just like extended side angle this pose is great for constipation, sciatica, infertility, and even osteoporosis.
Side plank (with raised right leg)
From Revolved Side Angle, place your bottom hand on the ground next to your foot front foot, move your front foot from the bent position to stacked on top of your left foot, balancing on the side of your left foot and your left hand. To deepen this strengthening pose raise your top foot from your bottom foot. I love this pose so much because it is hard to stay in for an extended period of time. With your top foot raised from the ground, every muscle in your body is contracting and in turn, getting stronger. 
Engage your top hand by extending all the way to the ceiling, engage your core by being sure your hips are not dipping towards the floor. At the same time, you are stretching your abs, legs, and arms while building strength in your lumbar and thoracic spine. Side plank is also great for making your balance better. Remember to breathe!!
Wild Thing
Using your core, drop your top foot to the floor behind you and open up your body to the sky bringing your eyes to the wall behind you. Wild thing relieves mild depression and fatigue. The whole front of your body is also being stretched within this pose, including opening up your pelvic girdle and lungs, chest and shoulders. Your bottom (supporting) arm is also getting strong and stabilizing your shoulder joint.  
Upward Plank
For one last chest opener, upward plank is great. From a seated position with your legs straight out in front of you, place your hands behind your butt, with your fingers facing your feet. From here, lift using your torso and core strength. This pose opens your chest as well as gives strength to the shoulders and wrists. Also, it is a great posture for relieving mild fatigue. 
Ahh.... Savasana (corpse pose)
After a hard class at Zanti, we all end in Savasana. This pose is about restoring your body and thanking your body for being as beautiful and amazing as it is. It is also about clearing your mind and taking a moment for just yourself, letting all of the tension of life go and 100% relaxation. Sometimes, if I am really tired after class, I will fall asleep in this pose, maybe that's why I like it so much!!

Extra information: I practice hot power yoga. These classes are generally 1 hour long and are hot, sweaty, and sometimes challenging. I have burnt 800-1000 calories every class. There are many types of yoga in the world, find a class that looks good for what you want/need and try it out. Most classes in the area give you introductory times of a week or two to see if you really like the studio or the type of classes. I know Zanti does their first class FREE, just come with water, a towel, and a positive attitude. 

See you on your mat!! Until next time. 


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Yoga Pt 1

During the winter, I have been trying to stay warm and in shape by doing loads of yoga. I am going to do a series on some of the best poses that I have fallen in love with and also some health benefits of the poses. Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not just sitting a room with a bunch of hippies who chant "Om" for hours. There are multiple different types of yoga and one type may not work for you but another one will. 

Shannon and Caroline found Zanti Power Yoga on the west end of downtown Greenville. This place is brilliant. I have been to a lot of different studios and I have always felt like I was being judged or looked at like I was doing something wrong. The culture and the people who come to Zanti to practice and teach are amazing, always welcoming and there are always smiles on peoples faces. 

These blogs are only to educate my readers on some of the benefits of yoga and to encourage people to try something new, it may surprise you what your body can do. Disclaimer; I am not a yoga instructor, if you want to try yoga go to a studio to get proper education from a trained professional like Julie or Ramsey at Zanti Power Yoga.
Childs Pose
 I love childs pose. Knees spread apart, arms stretched forward, stretching your lower back, thighs, and ankles all at the same time. This pose is a great resting pose for recuperation as it slows your heart rate when you get into the posture. With your head touching the ground this causes your body to begin relieving stress naturally and it also calms your mind. When I am feeling really stressed out at home, I will get into the pose and just sit for a few minutes to gather my thoughts. 

Downward facing dog
From childs' pose you can push up to downward facing dog. Try to flatten your lower back and push your shoulders out, hollowing out your under arms. If you get into this pose and you are not feeling comfortable, change it, try to bend your knees, migrate your heels to the ground and most of all, remember to breathe. Aside from stretching almost the whole back part of your body this pose is great for improving digestion and decompressing the spinal column. Some other benefits include treating headaches, insomnia and back pain. Also, as an inversion, this pose brings fresh oxygen to the central nervous system. 
Plank pose.

Low plank.
Plank pose is brilliant for your abdominal muscles and your wrists. If this pose is challenging, drop your knees to the ground. Push the floor away from your with your hands and engage your body from the feet to your shoulders. Plank engages your mind and gives you full body awareness. From here, lower to low plank with elbows squeezed to your ribs, keeping your body in a straight line. This pose will strengthen your core muscles along with your wrists, arms, and shoulders.
Upward facing dog
Straight from a low plank, you can transition to upward facing dog. You will be balancing on the tops of your feet so the only things making contact with your mat will be your feet and hands. This posture is going to stimulate your abdominal region and strengthen your arms, wrists, and back. It is also really good for your BUTT!!! 

Knee to nose

Low lunge
Moving into some basic standing poses. Start in a downward facing dog and lift your right leg straight in the air, bend your leg, round your back like an angry cat and try to kiss your right knee. This pose is brilliant for working out those abdominal muscles. It will also work on strengthening your base (leg) and work on your balance. From there, bring your right foot to between your hands, into a low lunge. Staying in this pose is going to relieve constipation and indigestion while helping take the pain out of sciatica. At the same time, you will be working on balance, core strength, and mental focus. Physiologically, your hips are naturally opening and you are strengthening your knees.  
Warrior 2

Warrior 2 is such a strong feeling pose. Keep your back foot rooted to the ground and bend your knee until you feel a stretch in both legs. Your arms go out to make a "T" and reach to the walls with your hands. This posture is great for back pain and it increases your stamina. At the same time, this will stretch and strengthen your legs, ankles, and shoulders. While gazing over your front (left in photo) arm you will increase your concentration and focus, warrior focus!
Reverse Warrior
 From Warrior 2 use your core to place your hand on the back leg and get an intense side body stretch. Be sure to not put too much pressure on your back leg. This is an intensely calming pose and makes you feel vulnerable because of opening up your whole side body to the world. Your hips will open up and you will strengthen your hips and gluteus. 

I truly hope people are finding this helpful. I really want to encourage people to live a healthier lifestyle and show how easy it is, if you put your mind to it. I see yoga as an hour in my day that I don't have to worry about everything else going on and I can worry about only what my body is doing and what amazingly good things I am doing for my body.

All photos are shot by David Dodge in the Zanti Power Yoga studio on 1116 S. Main Street, Greenville SC

Till next time!!!!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Where have I been??!!

In the cloud forest, raining really hard with 50 MPH winds!!
Some people know, after the Green Race I kind of fall off the planet of paddling for a little while. I paddled so much in 2013 training for Worlds and then straight into the Green Race, I was pretty ready for a break!! For the third year in a row my amazing boyfriend and I went to Costa Rica for a month. We traveled up to Managua, Nicaragua for something new to see. The boarder crossing was a bit funny but we made it. 

One of the many volcanoes around Nicaragua
 So, we made it to Costa Rica and my mom and her boyfriend came to visit this year! It was awesome having then with us and we took a few day adventure back to Rincon De La Vieja. We did a mud bath, zip line, 450 meter water slide, and horse back ride in the jungle! Action packed days here. 
Mom and Ken
Mud bath!!
Back on the beach with Tony and Teri 
We primarily stay in Nosara while in Costa Rica. It is an amazing area of the country and the beach is perfect for surfing or just sun bathing. The days there consist of surfing at 5 am, eating breakfast at 8, napping at 10, adult beverage at 12, nap at 2, surf at 4, dinner at 6, bed at 9. Rough days.  
Shannon was with me every day!!
Its always hard for Snowy and I to come home after being there for a month. Snowy came home on the day the polar vortex hit so he was pretty bummed. I, sadly, missed out on the polar vortex and got an extra 2 days in the tropics! But, alas, we all have to come home to reality at some point. 

 Well, I started school again this semester. Microbiology and a few other classes. Between class, work, trying to be a housewife, and attempting to stay in shape, I was a bit busy. But, it made the winter go by quickly. As it was everywhere, it was cold and really snowy for the south!!

Saving lives, making a difference. (note the snow, in SC!)
For three months, my life consisted of all things "normal". Work, school, and no play. This also means no kayaking for me, which is a big deal when I compete against people who paddle year round.  
Slaloming and freestyle at the NOC
Thankfully, it started warming up and I got motivated to go paddle again. The NOC was cold but all of my friends were there so we were all stoked to be back together after a long winter apart. I reunited with my 5x5 comrade, Haley Mills and we were happier than clams to be back together.  
US Slalom Team Trials at the USNWC
Last weekend I went to the Charlotte USNWC and competed in the US Slalom Team Trials. I have wanted to compete in this event for a long time and I finally committed to doing it. I had a very good time and I could feel my runs getting better as the weekend went on, faster and faster every day. I ended up 4th overall, one spot out of the team but I am so happy that I went and it only made me stronger!!

As the Whitewater Grand Prix looms over some of our heads, I am trying to get as strong as I can and get some more time in my kayak. All in all, barring the cold slightly long winter, it has been a great one. I am so thankful that it is 80 degrees outside now!!

Its true.