How and why yoga benefits skiing Skiing About , Mike Doyle
Beginning a home yoga practice Karen Dalury
Although I would love to see you in class 3-5 days per week I know it is not feasible for most of you. This does not mean that you can’t keep your practice up. By attending class class a few times per week you will soon be able to do a short, daily maintenance practice which can keep you from falling back into your old slouch right in your own home! Last winter I designed and taught a series called “Six weeks to Self Empowerment” where each week I presented during warm ups, a simple, ten minute routine with handouts that you could do at home. The response was strong, and even some of my newest students were proud to say that they were able to follow the program. I have included the first of 6 practices here for you to try:
Six Weeks to Self Empowerment- Your Daily Home Yoga Practice
Week One: 10 minute super basic routine – be in each pose for about 30 seconds
Downward Dog, walk the dog
Cat and Cow on all fours
Plank 10- 30 seconds, then repeat Low Lunge on second side
8 point prone pose
Sphinx pose or cobra pose
Eye of the needle pose
Supine leg stretch
Windshield wiper twist
Corpse (don’t skip this important pose)
Is musculoskeletal disorder becoming an epidemic?, Karen Dalury
Modern medicine helps us to live longer but are we preparing ourselves to enjoy this quality time? No one wants to add more time on the planet living in chronic pain or spending time immobilized in a nursing home. Research has shown that as people over 60 begin to make up a larger percentage of the population some doctors are predicting an epidemic of disability caused by musculoskeletal disorders like back pain, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis. Our health system has come a long way in early detection and treatment of illness like heart disease, breast cancer and prostate cancer.
This is great! I, however have never had a MD routinely test range of motion of my shoulders, hips, neck or back unless I was there for treatment for some pain or after an accident. Is a well functioning musculoskeletal system not considered good health too? It seems early detection of postural misalignments and the mild strain of overuse could go a long way in prevention of joint deterioration and consequently the need for many joint replacements and repairs. Could a regular trip to the spa prevent a costly trip to the mechanics? Maybe we need to start the revolution in health care and start demanding some of these tests. Let’s get our chiropractic care and body work covered. How about a physical therapy checkup?
I would love to have treatments which help prevent these disorders be covered in my health care system rather than just the drugs and surgeries that patch them up after they have run rampant. For now at least you can do your part a by maintaining your flexibility and stimulating bone health. Check your work space and car seat to make sure they are not causing strain to your neck, back or wrists. Eat a healthy diet and get some sunshine. Wear shoes that fit. The list goes on and is nothing new. We all get stiffer as we age but you might be amazed to find that you can re-gain and even surpass your previous range of motion by practicing yoga regularly.
Yoga has also been shown to be better than most exercise in preventing bone loss in the spine. With good instruction you can improve not only your range of motion but also your posture. With healthier posture not only can you perform better in every day life and sport but move with more efficiency and ease. This will cut down on the repetitive stress resulting from overuse of certain muscles and joints. Join me and my incredible students this summer for classes and workshops at Killington Yoga.
TMI or TMJ? I’ll be brief so you can get relief. Karen Dalury
One day long ago as a kid as I was waiting to tee off on the golf course I casually slipped the top of the handle of my driver between my upper and lower sets of teeth to pass the time. This seemed like a good idea at the time. Much to my surprise a few minutes later I could not open my mouth the take it out! My jaw had locked up and I had to twist the handle repeatedly to be able to coax it out. I never did that again! I still experience occasional stiffness and clicking in my jaw. For me relief comes from being more conscious of it coming on. I can then change the facial expressions that contribute to tension in the area, practice some yoga therapy, and do a few massage techniques.
Recently I attended a weekend of master yoga classes with Tias Little in Santa Fe, NM. We spent one afternoon learning to re-creating space in the neck, skull and jaw. It was fascinating to learn that the nerves of the jaw are so close to those of the inner ear. This got me wondering is there was a direct correlation between TMJ and Tinnitus (ringing in the ear). I found this to be so interesting as I have had this experience too for many years. Not having found an effective treatment that was based on healing rather than just suppressing symptoms this workshop intrigued me. Tias taught us many variations of familiar yoga poses along with specific stretches to alleviate problems associated with headaches, vision problems, tension, and misalignment of the jaw. I have been practicing some of these. Jaw, ear, and face stretches: Hold each stretch for 30 seconds up to 1 minute.
- Place the knuckles of two fingers vertically between your upper and lower sets of teeth. Breathe slowly and relax your jaw as you hold. If this is not too intense try adding a third or fourth finger to the game.
- Tongue vinyasa: Touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth and curl it as far back as you can towards your soft upper palate. Hold for 30 seconds and relax. Now stick out and stretch you tongue like Mylie Cyrus or Lion Pose toward your chin, breathe deeply and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat
- Cup a palm on the center of the base of your chin and lower you chin into your palm meeting and matching the pressure with resistance from your hand.
- Place a cupped palm against one side of your chin and slide you chin laterally into your palm meeting and matching the pressure. Repeat on the second side.
- Now moving on to the ears: With two fingers take hold of bottom of one of your ears just inside the notch above the earlobe, the antitragus. (See photo) Catch the tissue and gently draw downwards while relaxing your face and jaw.
- Now take one finger just inside the tragus or little flap of cartilage closest to your cheek and stretch the ear tissue toward the center of your face.
- With two fingers hold the top most part of your ear and pull gently upward.
- Holding the side part of your ear the antithelis with two fingers draw the tissue toward the back of your skull.
These are just a few examples of self-empowerment tools that you could do to find more peace and quiet and comfort in your day. As wonderful as they are you will not find me including them in a regular asana class, as it is specific work and more suitable to a private
Mindfulness meditation, Karen Dalury
September 15, 2013
If you have been practicing yoga diligently you are aware of the more subtle benefits of a regular practice besides just the amazing things it does for your body. The deeper practices which include pranayama or breath control, concentration and meditation are often overlooked in our fast paced, wanna get fit now culture. This time of year is perfect for looking inward and taking care of the inner you. Meditation techniques vary widely to suit the individual personality. If you are brand new I suggest starting with just 5-10 minutes once or twice a day and increasing as you get more comfortable. Here is my personal favorite meditation technique which I invite you to try.
If you don’t like it don’t worry there are hundreds of thousands more! Use a timer so you are not checking the clock every 5 minutes. (been there, still do that) Take a comfortable seat on a few blankets, yoga blocks, or a firm chair. Honor your body if you have back knee or hip issues. Sit up tall and do not slouch because this will quickly cause discomfort and keep you distracted. When you are settled close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Notice the feeling of the breath at the tip of your nose, as it enters your head and travels down the back of your throat and into your lungs. Notice how your lungs expand to accommodate the breath, how your ribcage moves, your abdomen etc. Listen to the sound that the breath makes like ocean waves rolling in and out. Then bring your attention to the feeling of the air on your skin, the sounds of the space around you and eventually the sounds of the world around you.
As your attention takes on more and more of the external world also stay tuned into your self. Your breath, your posture, even your thoughts. As your thoughts arrive notice them but try not to dwell on them. They are just thoughts, they are part of this beautiful, full universe that you are part of but they are not you. When the timer goes off gently open your eyes and without self judgement go do what you need to do.
Keeping it fresh and keeping it real. Karen Dalury
May 1 2013
“Thank you dad for bringing me up the rope tow between your legs at age 5. Thanks for teaching me to ski. I hope it brought you great joy to watch me from the new chairlift as a pre-teen ripping the same line over and over again practicing the turns I learned from Ski Magazine. Thanks for hooking me up with the job with your old high school buddy, a supervisor at Vail Ski School in the 70’s when money for college was short and I needed to take a leave of absence. Fast forward 50 years later: Still digging it, maybe not exactly ripping it, but definitely feeling the love. Keeping it fresh After so many years what keeps skiing fresh for me? Learning to telemark of course.
Why? The late nineties new ski design allowed alpine skiers to turn rounder, cleaner and faster. I found myself making just a few turns and reaching mach 1 on anything that was groomed. I needed a way to slow down and I needed it fast Telemarking looked really cool and seemed like a good way to slow down. Everyone doing it seemed to be having a blast. I noticed tele friends seeking out the freshies on the sides of the trail like we used to in the old days. They would hoot and holler for each other in the bumps, and seemed to love skiing in groups, happily waiting for each other to rest their legs. Borrowing a smelly old pair of boots from a friend and mounting up an old 165 race stock slalom ski I went out. How hard can it be? I thought. I found out quickly that I pretty much sucked at telemark skiing. What I loved though was how big the mountain seemed again and the challenge of learning something new. Thus I persisted at wearing my self out physically and nurturing a strong sense of humility as I skied under the chairlifts.
Keeping it real: Enter, Jim Tasse, yoga student of mine, then instructor at Killington/Pico, currently on PSIA Eastern Ed Staff for Telemark. Jim noticed me on the hill (I was so bad how could you not?) and began offering helpful tips. I took a few lessons with him and even though I could not yet put his suggestions into action I saw the light and understood more about how the turn worked. I purchased my own boots and kept at it for the rest of the season. The following year was the breakthrough: My husband and I visited our daughter in Taos and we both brought only telemark gear. Whoa, steep, yikes, fun Several years later I am happy to say I no longer suck at telemark skiing. I love the challenge of skiing on lighter, less supportive gear.
I enjoy practicing dynamic balance with precise timing and I love the fluid feeling of a good telemark turn. My feet don’t hurt, there is much less stress overall on my joints and my back doesn’t hurt. My legs and core are strong. Don’t tell the local authorities but I usually drive to the mountain in my boots. Telemarking makes the easy cruisers just as sweet the steeps and bumps. In the trees telemark equipment offers much more versatility and control than alpine gear with the bonus of being able to virtually pivot the skis in place in tight spots. Being slightly knock kneed, learning to telemark has taught me efficient use of my inside ski and finally cleaned up an old A-frame habit. Not sold yet? Try this: Get good at tele then put on your alpine gear and notice how incredibly easy it is to ski well on the stuff. When people ask me about it on the chair I tell them telemark skiing is like using fly- fishing gear, it’s like playing an acoustic guitar or riding a one-speed bike. Yeah it’s hard, maybe a little old fashioned, but that’s what keeps it real Karen Dalury PSIA Eastern Telemark Examiner
Healthy, happy, shoulders. Karen Dalury
Often called the wings of the heart, healthy, happy, shoulders are related to an open and vibrant heart chakra. It is easy to take our shoulders for granted until they act up. The shoulder is not just a joint but an amazing system of bones, muscles and fascia. When they work harmoniously together there is good range of motion and stability, when one part is not contributing stiffness and pain can flare up. Sometimes the cause is trauma but more often problems stem from overuse, muscular imbalance and less than optimal posture.
A malfunctioning shoulder girdle can also be a contributor to pain in the neck, jaw, and wrist. Most yoga poses involve some activation of the shoulder girdle – the area surrounding the joint connecting the upper arm with the trunk. Ideally these poses develop strength and stability while maintaining and improving range of motion. When shoulders are injured or weakened however, certain poses or transitions from one pose to another can do more harm than good. Usually the culprit is when lowering from plank to the floor or to chaturanga – half down push up. Here precise discipline of the shoulder and upper back is needed along with healthy core activation to prevent causing injury or aggravating already injured shoulders, wrists, and lower back. When viewed from the side in plank or chaturanga the shoulders should stay in line with the body not rolling forward, and the shoulder blades should remain flat on the back without winging while lowering to the floor . This is not easy and takes attention to detail, a well-trained teacher to monitor and give feedback, and lots of practice.
Safer modifications for newer students would be to lower to the floor from knee plank or to eight point prone pose and skip the chaturanga altogether until one can keep the “shoulders on the back”. Shoulders on the back means more than just keeping the shoulders themselves from rounding forward but also keeping the shoulder blades wide and flat. One common cause of shoulder strain is weakness or inactivation of the serratus anterior muscles located on the sides of the body under the armpits along the ribcage. The ‘saw/ front’ muscle connects the upper ribcage to the shoulder blades. This moves and stabilizes the blades providing strength and stability while allowing for range of motion of the shoulder. Signs of weakness here are inability to keep the shoulder blades from winging as discussed earlier in plank or chaturanga.
When serratus anterior gets weak, stabilization is lost, and it can lead to a number of dysfunctions, including impingement of the shoulder (painful), and degeneration (even more painful – find and use your serratus anterior for happier shoulders and better posture. 1) Stand facing a wall and place hands on the wall at shoulder level with arms straight. Firm legs and torso then press hands into wall to activate serratus. You will feel a firming sensation around the lower outsides of the shoulder blades. Continue pressing and draw the shoulder blades down your back toward your waist. Keeping the previous actions, allow your chest to move slightly closer to the wall without bending the elbows to plug arm bones deeper into their sockets. Keep your core engaged and stable so there is no sagging or collapse in the mid section. This is a plank with hardly any weight bearing with proper positioning of the shoulders. 2) Lie on your back on floor with knees bent, feet on the floor and with arms extended straight up toward the ceiling. Hold a yoga block or something solid between hands over chest. Press into it to tone the arms. Keeping arms straight with no bend at the elbows push the block toward the ceiling bringing shoulder blades off the back. (protraction) Then bring the block back down flattening shoulder blades against the floor and onto the back (retraction) still keeping the elbows straight and the spine, rib cage, and pelvis still. Repeat slowly 10-15 times. Once this is mastered it can be done with light dumbbells 5-10 lbs.
To keep the shoulders in alignment when lowering to the floor from plank the shoulder blades must draw down the back as the elbows bend allowing the chest to move forward and the shoulders to lift away from the floor. To improve this movement of the shoulder blades try this exercise: 3) Set up as for the first exercise with a block over the chest and arms straight. Retract the shoulder blades as above and slowly raise the weightless block overhead while keeping the shoulders back. As the arms slowly reach overhead see that your blades stay flat, or in other words try not to round your upper back. Stop if there is any pain and continue to work on gaining stability before mobility by sticking with the earlier exercise.
Are your wrists the weakest link in down dog, arm balances or wheel pose ? Karen Dalury
Wrist stiffness and pain can be due to repetitive overuse of the hands but more likely due to improper shoulder and upper back and neck alignment and posture. To relieve pain when they act up try these simple fixes: With one hand take hold of the other arm just above the wrist toward the elbow. Gently but firmly squeeze the two lower arm bones (ulna and radius) together and draw with traction toward the elbow. Keeping the compression and traction rotate the hand in circles in both directions several times then repeat on the second arm. Rest your hands then again take hold of the first wrist just in front of the wrist bones closer to the hand where the wrist is the narrowest. Gently but firmly squeeze the wrist while opening the fingers wide and making a fist. Repeat several times then repeat on the other wrist. To strengthen the hands and so that they can bear weight more efficiently let’s begin at the beginning.
After initial period of rest after injury it is good to get moving and retrain the body to move more efficiently so that injury does not recur. Place the hands together in front of you in a prayer position…. It’s always good to start with a prayer. Press the pads of the fingers under the nails together firmly allowing the palms and fingers to bow apart. Look for a nice even arching of the palms and a groove at the base of the palm where it meets the wrist. Press firmly but draw or suck the palms away from each other. The goal here is to re-build the arches of the hands and re-grow the carpal tunnel relieving compression of the nerve channel. Hold until your fingers get tired then repeat. When you can be effective with the previous exercise then you are ready to amp it up a bit. Start the same way by pressing the finger pads together. Keep this action strong then also bring the bases of the fingers and thumbs together (the metacarpals) without losing the strong action of the finger pads pressing. Try to get even pressure with the finger pads and the metacarpals including the base of the thumb while still drawing the arches of the hands away from each other. This may not be so easy. Look for a channel at the base of the palm where it meets the wrist and aim to get a nice little tunnel growing there. Rest when your hands get tired and repeat.
It may take some time and persistence until you see a tunnel but continue to do the exercises and know that you are on the road to happy wrists. In a perfect world we would have this same alignment of the hands in all positions where weight is borne on the hands like downward dog, wheel pose and all arm balances. Not only will your wrists feel better but more than likely so will your shoulders, neck and jaw.