Don’t let Yoga be a pain in your Asana

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I have heard a lot of alarming stories recently about Yoga related injury. Many of these injuries are unfortunately serious spinal injuries which can be avoided. This is concerning as the Yoga movement becomes even more widespread and more people include practice as a part of their daily lives. I have been training teachers for over a decade now and as a Yoga student and teacher, my first priority in practicing is that I maintain the health of the spine and avoid potential injury to any part of the body. The spine is where we experience the path to liberation, the sushumna nadi. By maintaining correct posture and alignment, the energy flow through the spine is correct and we can avoid injury. However, I often witness in myself and in my students a lack of proprioception, a sense of where one’s body is in space, the ability to control movement, position and the effort one needs to move the body in an effective way. It has motivated me to discuss it in this Blog and also explore it in an upcoming workshop (February 18-19 To book click here).

In my teaching I usually stick to the same precise script when it comes to the spine. I ask a class to forward bend, a simple Uttanasana by stating “keep the spine long, ground the four corners of the feet, micro-bend the knees, hinge from the hips to fold forward, keeping the integrity of the spine long, neck and head in line, and breathe.” This precise script however, let’s just say, gets varied results. If you would like to create suffering for your teacher and ultimately physical suffering for yourself, by all means don’t listen to any of those instructions and do just opposite! Floppy feet, locked knees, don’t move the pelvis and round the spine forward letting your head hang off your neck as if you are willing to lose IQ points as it falls off and rolls across the floor with your integrity. Moving in this way is a good way to end your relationship with Yoga, this rebelling or not listening or understanding how to move is a great way to create suffering and bring long term damage and pain. Keep choosing bad alignment and you will keep doctors, osteopaths and other body-based therapist employed!

Consider this point that illustrates the need for a bit of anatomical enlightenment; We have a conditioned nervous system that is in charge of creating the patterns of movement we experience. We get this from our genetics, inherent characteristics from parents and beyond. We model from our first impressions learned from all who were around as we grew up. We shape these patterns from our activities, like dance, cycling, martial arts, training our bodies to be able to do the physical exercise we partake in. Our injuries effect and influence how our body moves. However, we can change this conditioned pattern by practicing Yoga or Cognitive breath-centric movement therapies where you create an awakening and retrain the mind to create intelligent movement, releasing old patterns of held physical, emotional and mental movement impressions.

This awakening refers to a condition people experience called “sensory motor amnesia”. The idea is that there is an ineffective pattern of muscular activation, or, lack of, that are so habitual, you can’t sense nor control them. In Yoga, we become sensory (Prana) junkies as we want to feel energy moving in all tissues. We use the sensation to move us to this experience of breath, body and mind union, using the intensity of stretching to ascend the mundane world. However, if we are in bad alignment, we not only feel the intensity of the practice in all our tissues, we will also cause future (or immediate) suffering as a slow degeneration of the joints occurs or worse, tendons, ligaments and muscles can tear.

One of the main causes of chronic pain is either a lack of a variety of movement or an excessive movement of the body. By re-educating and re-acquainting ourselves with our neurological conditioned movement patterns, (through Yoga) we can deviate from the path of chronic pain and find balance and good health. It is said that one of the definitions of Yoga is an artistic expression and a science which benefits us differently, however it is a discipline of the body, the mind and the breath. By awakening the mind and informing it with basic anatomy and learning how to intelligently move the body we can be freer to experience the body and breath to draw us into greater states of Yoga.

This is where I encourage you to seek education. Yoga done incorrectly can be dangerous. By learning basic applied anatomy and physiology to your yoga practice you can make sure you will not become injured and can carry your practice with you for a lifetime.

My objective in practicing and teaching yoga is to restore pain-free movement by resetting postural alignment in stillness and in dynamic movement. The goal is that we don’t just have amazing alignment on the mat, but that we keep this yogic-bodily awareness as we carry ourselves off our mat. One of my teachers (Doug Keller) calls this idea “Tensegrity (=  tension + integrity)” healthy neurological connective tissues that hold the bones in space to find balance, strength and flexibility. In my upcoming workshop we will focus on the evaluation of posture, methods of assessing problems with movement issues, the three diaphragms and we will also discuss the myofacial planes. We will assess techniques for dealing with Flexion and Extension Syndrome, while putting a special focus on understanding the focal points of weakness and stability and how they are affected by our lifestyle and genetic predisposition. Seems like a lot of intense and advanced stuff, but it really isn’t. This workshop is appropriate for all levels of Yogis and especially beginners as creating healthy movement early in your Yoga experience makes it easier to maintain healthy movement throughout your life.

Yogacampus Workshop February 18-19, 2017

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Moroccan Yoga Holiday Retreat May 15-21, 2017

“Happy: Finding joy in every day and letting go of perfect” Fearne Cotton’s New Book

I am so “HAPPY” to support my beautiful and courageous friend, Fearne Cotton, who has just published her new book Happy: Finding joy in every day and letting go of perfect. The book is part cook-book, part self-help guide, part autobiography and part reference guide to spiritual wisdom. In it she shares her personal stories, observations, techniques and the tools she has used working to help guide her through life’s challenging ups & downs.

I have been reading my way through her book (I got a pre-release copy, thanks Fearne!) and have marvelled at her straightforward and sincere methods of discussing not only the Happy bits of life but also the gloomy issues like self-doubt, discontent and other dark feelings that can keep us stuck in depression. The book itself takes a look at all aspects of what can bring happiness and very aptly integrates ideas on maintaining that happiness. In my own experience when the doldrums of life have descended upon me I have always turned to Yoga, yogic philosophy, psychology and other methods that serve me in gaining more insight into our human condition. I helped Fearne discover Yoga many years ago and we have practiced together ever since. In Happy, she writes a chapter on how Yoga has helped her in life’s daily struggles. She also very thoughtfully told my story about personal struggles, loss and how yoga has helped to give me more insight into the human condition. I was happy to share that insight with Fearne and am chuffed she thought it worthy of sharing with her readers. She did an incredible job of describing how Yoga and Meditation have unending benefits and applications to the underlying peace we all have the potential to feel. Addressing the superficial self, reversing negative patterns and showing us a deep way of BEING in our life, Yoga is an integral component on the quest for Happy.

I am very honoured to have been apart of Fearne’s life over the years, sharing in our ups & downs during our yoga sessions. Using our practices as a therapeutic tool to find acceptance and serenity in dark times. Even though I play the role as a teacher, I have always felt I am equally a student sharing in this very human journey together, bravely facing the vulnerability we both experienced with compassion for each other and being a part of the solution rather than reinforcing the problems. I know I wouldn’t have been able to face my darkness by myself. I needed a variety of methodologies and safe people to hold space for me when I felt groundless and the faith in taking action in moving forward in my life. Fearne and her husband, Jesse, brought so much light, laughter and love during our sessions in whatever we were going through or facing week by week. I am truly grateful and blessed to have such friends.

Ultimately, Yoga and Mediation is about acceptance and letting go of perfectionism. That we are perfectly imperfect. That we are gifted with life’s challenges to teach us how to navigate down our path skill-fully, bravely facing each speed bump with loving-kindness, compassion and courage to move through the painful times to embrace the “HAPPY” times.

To purchase this book visit amazon

Fearne’s Happiness Project Yoga Video & Interview click here

Fearne Cotton website click here

Luxury Moroccan Yoga Retreat with Zephyr 15-21st May to book click here

Conscious2 Interview

Zephyr’s Interview with Conscious2

Thank you Conscious2 for capturing my story and some of the tools I use in my life. I hope it inspires people to practice and to seek help whether it is joining Conscious2 online Yoga classes, a yoga studio, AA, NA, or Alanon.  I am deeply grateful to Adam Green and my family for inspiring my life to continue to seek and grow.

 

Conscious2 Facebook Link to interview

YouTube Conscious2 Link to interview

Yoga with Zephyr Wildman 

Conscious2 online Yoga classes with Zephyr

The Life Centre Notting Hill, London

Yogacampus London

18 & 19 February Anatomy Centred Approach to Alignment at Yogacampus to book click here

Luxury Moroccan Yoga Retreat 15-21st May to book click here

Greek Island Yoga Retreat 15-22nd July to book click here

Movement for Modern Life online Yoga classes with Zephyr

Helpful Resources

Alanon Family Groups support groups for those who’s lives have been affected by addiction.

Alateen Groups for 12-17 year old’s who’s lives have been affected by addiction

Alcoholics Anonymous & Narcotics Anonymous

The Recovery Centre in London

Oasis Addictions Treatment Centre and Drug Rehab Facility South Africa16142403_586783514861031_7144159030986936223_n