Yoga Pose Breakdown: Lotus

Lotus (Padmasana)
It’s the pose many people associate with yoga – a calm, wise-looking yogi, meditating with crossed ankles. It seems painful and impossible to get into – and while it can be if flexibility is missing in certain areas of your body – it doesn’t have to be. With consistent stretching of the correct muscles, Lotus is within reach more than you might think!

So let’s break the pose down a little bit:

What muscles need to be stretched?

TFL Outer hipsTensor Fascia Latae:
This muscle connects to your IT band and the top/front of your pelvis. It helps internally rotate the femur at the hip – when tight, it limits external rotation.

Gluteus Medius:
Internally rotates the femur bone in the hip socket – when tight, it limits external rotation.

 

 

adductor muscles


Adductor Muscles:

Since these muscles cross the hip joint + connect to your femur bone, the flexibility of these muscles are necessary for lotus. Tightness can prevent your knees from reaching the floor and creating deeper external rotation in the hip.

 

 

 

 

hamstringsHamstrings:
The hamstrings don’t contribute to the rotation of the hip, but they do affect the tilt of the pelvis. If your hamstrings are tight, you are more likely to have a posterior tilt (pelvis tucked under), as your hamstrings attach to the bottom of your pelvis. This affects posture while in lotus (or any sitting position) – having a slight anterior tilt releases tension in the lower back and improves posture.

 

While stretching the above muscles will help create more space in externally rotating your hip, the hip must be doing the rotation (it is a ball and socket joint!). More rotation in the hip (versus treating your hip socket, pelvis, and surrounding muscles as 1 unit) = less tension/stress on your knee joint.

So what poses can be done to prepare for Lotus?

Low squat (Malasana)
Externally rotates the femur bone, opens up the hip joint, stretches adductor muscles.

Malasana  Modified Malasana

Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)
Externally rotates the femur bone, opens up the hip joint, stretches adductor muscles
*Do not put a lot of pressure on knees to get them closer to the ground. Instead, perform a PNF stretch, which will bypass your stretch reflex & help release the adductors. Push hands & knees against each other, at 20% effort for 8 seconds. Relax for one breath, then gently press your knees down a little further than before.  **Only perform PNF stretching 1-2 times every few days on a single muscle group.

Baddha Konasana

Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Stretches the outer hips/glutes. Add a twist to stretch adductors & external rotators. Place block under glute for modification.

Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose Modification

Reclined Figure 4
Modification for pigeon pose – stretches the outer hips/glutes & inner thigh muscles.

Figure 4

Figure 4 Yoga

Figure 4 Yoga

Forward Fold
Stretches hamstrings, lower back. Place block between legs & rest head on block as a modification.

Forward Fold Yoga

Forward Fold Modification

Seated Cat’s cradle stretch
Stretches tensor fascia latae & glute medius – make sure to pull knee into chest before externally rotating your leg (creates more space in your hip joint) to cradle it + also flex your foot. Gently rock leg from side to side.

Revolved Triangle
Stretches the hamstrings and the muscles attached to the IT band – Tensor Fascia Latae & Glutes. Use a block for modification.

Paravrtta Trikonasana

Revolved Triangle Modification

Hero’s Pose (Virasana)
Opens up the hip joint (internal rotation), stretches quads & hip flexors. Place a block between legs as a modification. For a more intense stretch, lean back on elbows or lay on back. **I was able to do this around 6-8 months post-knee surgery, so patience is key with this pose 🙂

Heros Pose

Heros Pose Yoga

Heros Pose

Heros Pose Modification

Once you’ve done a few of the above stretches, you can now try to enter lotus. **If you don’t feel comfortable attempting lotus just yet, do the stretches above 2-4 times a week (or more if you are looking to increase your flexibility faster!), holding for 30-60 seconds.

Begin in a seated position, both legs straight in front of you. Hug your right (or left) knee to your chest, and allow the knee to fall out to the side, relaxing the muscles around your hip in order for the external rotation to happen. If your knee is not close to the ground, stay here, and repeat the above step with the other leg, staying in butterfly pose.

***Also, if you feel any tension in your knee, that is a signal to STOP. When the external rotation of your hip stops (a ball and socket joint), the rotation is then transferred to your knee (a hinge joint, NOT a joint that can move freely like the hip!). This puts pressure on your cartilage and meniscus, which can cause serious injury to your knee(s).

If you feel no pressure on your knees, begin to move your (flexed) foot up and across your thigh so that it rests on the inner crease of your hip. If you feel pressure at your knee at any point during the movement of your foot, do not continue with the stretch.

If you are able to get into half lotus, repeat with the other leg. Sometimes, we are more open on one side of our bodies, so switching the order of the left/right leg on top might help you get into this pose easier on the other side.

And that’s it! By understanding the muscles involved with getting into lotus pose, you now have an awareness of what to work towards. Give yourself a few weeks or 1-2 months of consistent stretching, and you’ll begin to notice an opening of your outer hips & inner thighs, making lotus a little more accessible.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Yoga for Athletes

Growing up an athlete, I always struggled with flexibility. Basketball, Soccer, Track, and even Gymnastics – my body always felt stiff and limited. For anyone who has ever played sports or exercised, lack of flexibility seems to be a pretty common theme. And while you don’t need to be bendy like a gymnast, there are many, many benefits to stretching, which I have personally found through yoga.

While there are many other ways to stretch on your own, Yoga has been a go-to not just for improving flexibility, but also for core strength, balance, increasing strength, alignment, body awareness, and focus!

Yoga for Athletes

It’s easy to write off stretching before or after a workout, but I am here to tell you… don’t! Before I began consistently stretching, I was always stiff, prone to injuries, and struggled to progress in my workouts. Below are just a few reasons that I became a huge advocate for stretching/yoga:

  • Compliments strength by creating more space and movement surrounding your joints
  • Improvement of endurance by holding yoga poses and using all muscles in your body to move through yoga sequences
  • Improves body awareness by focusing on alignment, muscles, and joints
  • Certain types of yoga (Yin, Deep Stretch) can be relaxing and meditative, and it releases stress
  • Everyone deals with stress differently by holding it in different areas of the body – yoga helps release tension & built up stress through the combination of movement and stretching
  • During the Industrial revolution, there were many more jobs that involved moving and standing, and there were no lower back issues. Now, many of us have lower back issues due to tight hips, psoas, quad muscles, all from sitting at a desk all day. The unique movements of yoga help increasea mobility in the body, leading to less pain & more freedom of movement
  • Stretching the muscles surrounding your joints gives them more flexibility and mobility

So when is the best time to stretch?

Sometimes muscles are so tight that just stretching won’t work. Like a Chinese finger trap – the muscles must be shortened, then stretched to release. So working out the muscle first, then stretching right after is key to releasing tight muscles.

My favorite time to stretch is through Vinyasa yoga, where the technique of Dynamic Stretching is used, or immediately after a long run or workout when my muscles are warmed up and have a lot of blood flowing to them. As long as you are getting a stretch in, it doesn’t matter when – just find what works best for YOU!

So if you are completely new to stretching/yoga, where the heck do you begin?

 

Just 5 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week. I swear by this – I committed to 5 minutes of stretching a day, and noticed results within just 1 month of being consistent. I picked a few poses, then held them while watching TV or reading. Super easy, and it wasn’t something that added much time to my already-busy days. The more you stretch, the more your body gets used to it, and it starts to feel GOOD (I promise!). Trust me, forward folds used to be my least favorite thing to do in the world!

After a month of consistent stretching/yoga, I noticed my workouts were changing – I was running faster, had less pain/tightness in my hips, and my legs didn’t feel like bricks when I went on runs! My body started to feel like it moved with more ease, and my lower back pain started to decrease.

**Please note that consistency is key. When you stretch, you are creating a new set-length for your muscles. If you only stretch once a week, your muscles will not stay at that new length. Think of it like working out – if you don’t work out, you’ll lose muscle, endurance, etc. Same with stretching – keep up with it, and you’ll notice results over time. 

So what poses can be done if you just stretch for 5 minutes a day?

 

Below are a handful of yoga stretches that can be done every day, or every other day. I’ve included poses for every area of the body, depending on what you are looking to focus on. Pick a few for each day, and watch the magic of your body opening up after just 1 month!

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana: Down Dog
Stretches:
Hamstrings, Calves, Upper back, Shoulders, Pecs
Strengthens: Shoulders, arms, and engages the core while pushing the hips up
Misc:
Lengthens the spine, releasing compression from poor posture or running
Time: Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat 2-3 times

Paschimottanasana: Standing Forward Fold
Stretches: Hamstrings, Calves, Lower back
Strengthens: Mental strengthener 😉
Misc:
Contract your quads in order to relax your hamstrings
Time: Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times

Toes Pose
Stretches: Shins, arches of feet
Strengthens: N/A
Misc:
Modify if the first option is too intense
Time: Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 2 times each side

Option 1:

Option 2 (Modification):

Malasana/Garland Pose
Stretches: Ankles, achilles heels, groin, back, and opens up the hips
Strengthens: N/A
Misc:
Use elbows to push knees out for a more intense stretch on the inner thighs
Time: Hold for 1 minute

Option 1:

Option 2 (Modification):

Supta Gomukhasana/ Reclined Cow-Face Pose
Stretches:
Glutes/Outer hips, Piriformis
Strengthens: arms, if you are pulling legs towards you
Misc:
Pull feet towards you for a more intense stretch
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side

To enter: lay on back – cross one leg over the other, bending both. Reach hands to grab outer edges of feet, ankles, shins, or knees. 

Anjaneyasana/Low Lunge
Stretches:
Psoas, Quads/Hip flexors, Groin, Hip joint
Strengthens: Quads and glutes
Misc:
Roll to outer edge of front foot to stretch inner thigh & open hip joint. Slightly squeeze glute to allow your quad muscle to relax.
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side

Low Lunge w/Quad Stretch
Stretches:
Psoas, Quads/Hip flexors, Groin, Hip joint
Strengthens: Quads and glutes
Misc:
Modify – place towel under knee if experiencing pressure/pain
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side

Parsva Balasana/Thread the Needle
Stretches:
Shoulders, Chest, Arms, Upper back, Neck
Strengthens: N/A
Misc:
Modify – place towel under knees if experiencing pressure/pain
Time: Hold for 30 seconds – 1 minute. Repeat on other side

Janu Sirsasana/Head-to-knee Forward Bend
Stretches: Shoulders, Spine, Upper back, Hamstrings, Groin
Strengthens: Back
Misc:
Modify – wrap a towel or strap around your foot if you cannot reach
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side

Reclined Twisted Figure-4
Stretches: Glutes/Outer hips, Piriformis, IT band, TFL, Spine
Strengthens: N/A
Misc:
Pull knee closer towards you for a deeper stretch
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side

To enter: lay on back withbent knees. Place your nakle on the opposite knee, creating a “4” with your legs. Drop your legs to the side so that your foot is flat on the ground.

And that’s it! No need to do every single stretch in one sitting – just choose a few and call it a night 🙂 If you are new to yoga and are interested in taking a class, I recommend going to a yin or deep stretch yoga class – both are slower-paced, perfect for beginners, and offer many variations + props. **If you are in the South Florida area, pop-in to my Deep Stretch class on Wednesday’s at 6:30 pm!

Any other good stretches that you have done to compliment your workout as an athlete? Leave a comment below!

Upcoming Workshops: Arm Balances

Hi all!

Finally getting settled back into the states, and I have a little time to put on a few workshops! Melt Hot Yoga & Fitness will be hosting me at their studio for an arm balance series – check out the info below!

nina-elise-yoga

Part 1: December 4, 2016 2-3:30 pm:
Fundamentals of arm balances
We will explore the fundamentals of arm balances, focusing on drills for strength & flexibility. No experience required!
 
Part 2: December 18, 2016 2-3 pm:
Intermediate poses
Eka Pada Galavasana, Astavakrasana
, Eka Pada Koundinyasana, and variations of crow/crane – building on the fundamentals of Part 1.
**Recommended to attend “Part 1” in the series before taking this workshop
 
Part 3: January 8, 2017 2-3 pm :
Advanced postures
Mayurasana, Pincha Mayurasana, Ganda Bherundasana
 – some experience needed.
**Recommended to attend “Part 2” in the series before taking this workshop
 
Sign up under the workshop tab at the link below! You can sign up for 1, 2 or all 3 workshops! 

Post-ACL Surgery Yoga Flow

It’s been about 2.5 years since my ACL Surgery… Since then, I’ve fully recovered, trained to become a yoga teacher, and have been instructing for the past 1.5 years. During this time, I have learned a LOT about the anatomy of the body (actually, just the body in general!), and I’ve been getting more technical when creating my classes/YouTube videos.

There was a request from a few of my readers to put together a post-ACL surgery yoga sequence, and I was finally able to record something after returning from my recent travels. Check out the video below and let me know what you think! I can create more based on each person’s timeline recovery & what needs to be strengthened. I hope this helps!! <3

Weekend Recap: 5K PR + New Youtube Channel!

Hello to all of my beautiful followers!

I hope you all had a wonderful Holiday weekend and are recovering from binge eating pumpkin pie and turkey! This past week has for sure been super eventful for me – visiting friends & family, running, shopping and spending WAY too much money, and of course, being lazy. A lot of exciting things have been going on + are coming up in the pipeline, and I wanted to share it with all of you!

First off: I ran my fastest 5k since my knee surgery!  I remember 1 year ago, I ran my first race post-surgery – a 4-miler – with an 8:40 pace (I think I was so embarrassed of my time that I never blogged about it). I know that time is nothing to be ashamed about, but compared to my sub-8 minute pace pre-surgery, I was pretty upset with it. Anyways – fast-forward 1 year later, and I ran a 7:38 pace 5K!

The funny thing is, I barely run anymore – probably about half the amount that I used to do. Instead, I go to hot yoga 1-2 times a week, run 1-2 times every 1-2 weeks, practice handstands/yoga at my apt, and maybe do a circuit workout every 1-2 weeks. I am realizing that the more hot yoga I do, the better my cardio seems to get. Definitely better than spending hours running! Longer distances, however… a little more running may be required for the endurance aspect of training 😉

Anyways – my next goal is to beat my official pre-surgery PR – 7:22 pace. However, it will have to wait, because running in the cold is my least favorite thing in the world to do!

turkey trot kent 2015

2 PRs on Thanksgiving!

I ran the race with one of my good friends from high school – she set her own PR as well! After a night of drinking with friends, I would say this was a nice way to start the holiday!

thanksgiving 2015

catching up with high school friends!

Next up: Shopping! No woman ever passes a good sale up – 5 scarves, 3 pairs of shoes, clothes, an ipad, and a gopro… My bank account was basically sending me hate mail by the end of the weekend! However, I am most excited about my go pro… After all the adventuring I have been up to this past year, I thought it was necessary to have a cool camera to capture everything. Also – Youtube.

Yep! A few friends of mine suggested that I start a yoga youtube channel, posting quick 15-20 minute videos, handstand tips, etc. I never, EVER considered doing this, because I absolutely hate seeing myself on camera. Totally dumb, right? However, I do need to take my own advice sometimes ALL the time…. so, I must go do things that scare me the most, no matter how hard or uncomfortable it might seem at the moment. I mean, if I can become a certified yoga teacher even though I am terrified of public speaking, travel to a bunch of new countries by myself for the first time, AND go bungee jumping even though I am petrified by heights… I think I can create a video and post it to the internet (even though millions of people can view it)!

So with all of that being said, I created my first-ever yoga video – a short clip on how to do a Sun Salutation A – to test the waters a bit. Feeling a bit awkward, not saying everything I think I need to say, and saying UM a lot – I posted my first video here. Check it out and let me know what you think! I am definitely my own worst critic, but we all gotta start somewhere I guess! I will be creating more videos when I can find some free time – so if there is anything in particular you would like to see, let me know! It’s a little weird to record myself for long periods of time, but I am having a little fun with it! Also – any tips on how to use, good editing apps/software is appreciated! I feel like such a newb and have no idea what I am doing half the time!

yoga for beginners

A few last things:

I have an upcoming handstand workshop in December! Teaching at Melt Hot Fitness in Westerville, the class is $30 and limited to the first 20 people who sign up. I will post more details soon!

Traveling to NYC in a few weeks to take a yoga workshop + visit friends + explore the city. Any place I absolutely need to see while I am there?

Traveling to San Francisco in January for the Yoga Journal Event! A weekend full of yoga, plus taking a few extra days to visit friends.. and maybe take some surfing lessons! More to come on this 🙂

Thanks for staying and reading my long recap! So many exciting things going on, and I love that I can share with all of you!

love you all!

Yoga for Breast Cancer

Hello!

Unfortunately, Cancer has become a common, everyday word that we hear. Friends, family, coworkers – we are all affected, whether its someone close to us or someone we see on TV. The chemotherapy process is long, and it leaves those going through treatment drained of energy and unable to live their every day normal life.

After learning that a dear friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, I began to brainstorm ways that I could help make her days a little easier while going through chemotherapy (Did you know 1 out of every 8 women will be diagnosed with Breast cancer in her lifetime?!). There isn’t much besides comforting words and actual gifts, so I decided to do some research and put together a few simple, modified yoga poses that could help increase energy, and even help manage pain.

Below are a series of poses I have researched and put together information for my friend – and for anyone else going through cancer treatment. It can be hard to summon up any energy during treatment, so for those who are used to being active, these poses are a nice way to incorporate a little workout in your life. They will also help bring relief, as well as encourage movement to fight the fatigue and pain!

**Hold each pose below for 5-10 DEEP breaths. This helps brings body awareness, increases energy circulating throughout the body, and helps with fatigue.

Child’s Pose
Benefits
: relaxes the spine, stretches muscles in back
Modify: Bring arms to side
Body Position: Sit hips back on heels and lower your chest to your thighs, and head to ground. Bring arms over your head, or keep them at your side.

Childs Pose_2 - Yoga Cancer

Childs Pose - Yoga Cancer

Hero Pose
Benefits:
 Improves posture, stretches thighs & ankles, promotes circulation, reduces swelling
Modify: Kneeling, knees together, on toes; towel or blanket between calves & hamstrings
Body Position: 3 ways to do this pose

1) Sit back on heels, then slowly lower down to butt and let feet splay out to the side

Heros Pose - Yoga Cancer

2) Sit back on heels, knees together, feet tucked under

Hero Mod2 - Yoga Cancer

3) Sit back on heels, knees together, on toes

Hero Mod - Yoga Cancer

Crescent Lunge
Benefits:
Helps manage physical pain pre – & post op; stretches/lengthens lower & upper body; opens chest
Modify: Cushions or chair under front leg (optional), back knee on floor, hands rest to sides on blocks
Body Position: Front leg bent, knee over ankle; back knee bent, resting on the floor; arms rest at side with chest raised, or hands are resting on blocks at sides for support.

Crescent Lunge - Yoga Cancer

Warrior 2
Benefits:
Encourages deep breathing; nurtures lymphatic system
Modify: Chair under front leg (I used a side table with a blanket for cushion)
Body Position: Front leg bent, knee over ankle; hips open, back leg straight, grounding foot into the ground; arch of back foot should be in line with the heel of the front foot; hands at hips, or arms up, gaze over front fingertips.

W2 - Yoga Cancer

W2_2 - Yoga Cancer

Bridge
Benefits: 
Improves Circulation, stretches muscle tissue around breasts
Modify: Towel or pillow under back
Body Position: Lay on back with pillow underneath the small of your back. Place your hands on your hips or keep them to your side.

Bridge - Yoga Cancer

Seated Twist
Benefits: 
Releases tension; wrings out toxins in organs; gentle stretch
Modify: Do not bend knees as much; do not twist as deep
Body Position: Come to a seated position, feet in front, knees slightly bent. Chest up, spine straight. Twist slightly to the side, bringing one hand to knee & other arm behind hip. Option to sit cross-legged as well. (Don’t forget to repeat on other side!)

Side Twist3 - Yoga Cancer

Side Twist2 - Yoga Cancer

Reclined Twist
Benefits: 
Helps blood flow to chest; lymphatic drainage
Modify: Lay on side, with pillow in between legs
Body Position: Lay on one side with pillow between legs – bottom leg straight, top leg bent. Place your hands on your hip, then slowly raise your arm up over head, then back to hip. Simply laying in this posture while deep breathing is also beneficial. (Don’t forget to repeat on other side!)

Side Twist 2 - Yoga Cancer

Side Twist Arm - Yoga Cancer

Side Twist_3 - Yoga Cancer

Savasana
Benefits: 
Helps release stress & muscle tension
Modify: Towel/pillow under back (not much to modify when laying on your back!)
Body Position: Lay on back with towel/pillow under the small of your back. Close your eyes and relax all muscles in your body! You can stay in this pose for longer than 5-10 breaths 😉

Savasana - Yoga Cancer

Hopefully this helps bring some relief for anyone going through cancer! There are a lot more poses that you can do, but I wanted to just give a few specifically focused on breast cancer.

For those who have had cancer or know someone who has/is going through treatment – have you heard of Yoga benefits for cancer? If yes, what have you heard? I would love to learn more!

PLEASE NOTE:

The information I have provided is not intended to be used in place of professional medical advice. This is information that I have gathered on my own through a variety of sources, and if you decide to use/apply any of the ideas from my site, you are taking full responsibility for your actions. This information is not meant to diagnose or to treat any medical condition. Please consult with your primary care physician holistic doctor to diagnose/advise of any medical condition if you have any questions. I am not liable for any damages or negative consequences resulting from any action by any persons reading or following the information on this site.

Sources:
http://breastcanceryogablog.com/
Being Her Rock
http://www.everydayhealth.com/pictures/yoga-exercises-that-help-with-breast-cancer-recovery
http://www.breastinvestigators.com/content/yoga-pose-breast-cancer-side-body-stretch-twist-%E2%80%93-extended
http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/diana-ross-uses-restorative-yoga-heal-breast-cancer-patients

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