Monthly Blog

4 Plank Mistakes You’re Making—And How To Fix Them

Plank

“When you have the strong foundation of a good plank pose, then everything else you do in a fitness class is going to be more effective—the key is to get it right,” says Bria Tavakoli, a NYC-based yoga teacher and retreat leader.

Planks may be a common move—you’ve probably done them countless times in boot camp classes—but that doesn’t make the pose any less challenging. All sorts of wonky alignments are possible, and a sloppy plank can cause a slew of ailments including wrist, neck, shoulder, and lower-back injuries. The key to avoiding these injuries is moving mindfully—if possible, do plank pose in front of a mirror to see exactly where your body is in space. And be on the lookout for these 4 common plank flubs:

1-Sagging hips

sagging hips

Instead, keep your hips in line with your shoulders, lift your thighs away from the floor, and draw your navel toward your spine. If it is too difficult to keep your hips up in high plank, place your hands on a bench or a wall. Or keep your hands on the floor, but shorten the duration of your hold. If your hips sag in forearm plank, lower your knees to the floor.

2-Wandering arms

wandering arms

Does your plank feel wobbly? Many people set their hands too wide or too far away from their bodies. “This can lead to additional strain in the shoulders, wrists, and neck—especially in a side plank variation,” says Aguiar.

When setting up your side plank, align your shoulder directly over the top of your wrist. Create a “T” shape with your body. Actively press your bottom hand into the floor, and lift your hips toward the sky—this will ensure you are using your arm muscles to support your body and will lessen tension in the shoulders and wrists, says Aguilar.

For the perfect plank position, align your hands directly underneath your shoulders, keeping your hands shoulder-width distance apart. If your shoulders are tight, place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders, adds Tavakoli.

3-Chicken neck

plank

Is your neck jutting forward? People frequently make this mistake because they’re already in the text-neck posture throughout the day, says Tavakoli. This low plank no-no is detrimental to the cervical spine, since the compromised position of the neck increases tension in the upper spine, back of the throat, and base of the skull. Letting your neck jut forward during planks can also lead to headaches and neck pain, says Aguiar.

To avoid this misalignment, think of your head as an extension of your spine. “Draw the chin slightly back, keep eyes down, and keep the back of the neck long and in line with the rest of the spine,” says Aguiar.

4-Knock-knuckled

Knock Knuckled

Are your hands angled in toward the center of your body in high plank? If so, it can cause your chest to collapse, making it difficult to stabilize your shoulders. It’s also fairly common for your thumbs and index fingers to peel away from the floor—which can cause the wrists to become achy, says Tavakoli.

Instead, place your hands parallel to one another or slightly turn the fingers out. This will help you broaden your collarbones and stabilize your shoulders to prevent injuries, says Tavakoli.

 

2021: Radical Acceptance Resolution

Last year at the end of my 300-hr yoga teacher training, our teacher, Katie, went around to each person and gave them a word she felt best described them, during our time together. She gave me the word Svādhyāya.

Svādhyāya is one of the Niyamas in the eight-limbs of Yoga. It is a compound Sanskrit word composed of svā + adhyāya. Adhyāya means “a lesson, lecture, chapter; reading”.   Svā means “own, one’s own, self, the human soul”. Therefore, Svādhyāya literally means “one’s own reading, lesson”, in short, it is the practice of self-study.

While contemplating this word I realized that I had been engaged in self-study for over twenty years! It’s the process of being aware of your actions and reactions. It’s the work of trying to understand why you respond to life the way you do without judgement and with compassion. It is a way of uncovering the truth of who you really are when all the layers are removed.

It can be a tumultuous journey. There are things you find you don’t really like about yourself, and then there are things you start to understand and eventually even love. What a novel concept; to love yourself.

This year my resolution is to practice radical acceptance and to start with myself (we cannot give, what we do not have for ourselves!).  The idea of radical acceptance is to love yourself unabashedly, perhaps even with reckless abandon. Everything inside and out without making excuses. It includes forgiving yourself every time you make a mistake, learning to be your own best friend and being kind with yourself.

Radical acceptance is about letting go of the person you were in your teens, your twenties, thirties etc., and accepting the person you are now, today.

So, this year make all your resolutions for self-improvement, but do them with kindness, love and radical acceptance. You/we deserve that much!

Happy New Year!

10 Yoga Poses For Instant Calm

Blissfully Calming Yoga Poses to Kick Holiday Stress to the Curb

Here are 10 yoga poses for instant calm during the holidays that you can do anywhere, anytime. They can be done as a short sequence or selected one by one, holding for anywhere between 10 breaths and several minutes.

These poses offer much needed moments to breathe and just be, so you can come back to your friends and family with a genuine smile firmly in place.

 

1. Alternate Nostril Breathing

 

Coming to a comfortable seated position, rest left hand on lap. Begin by covering left nostril with middle finger of right hand. Take a slow, deep inhale, then release finger and cover right nostril with right thumb as you exhale through the left. Continue for three to five minutes.


2. Mountain Pose

mountain-pose

Ground down through the four corners of your feet. Grow taller with your breath, as you feel the chest rising and falling with the breath. Keep the palms facing forward to open yourself up to receiving positive energy and calmness.


3. Standing Forward Fold

standing-forward-fold

This is an instantly calming pose known to relieve stress and fatigue while energizing the body as the blood flows to the head. Hold this pose with a gentle bend in the knees and shoulders free of tension.


4. Seated Forward Fold

Seated Forward Bend Yoga Pose

Use cushions to allow you to remain comfortable for several minutes. Relax your muscles, release any stress, resting your head onto the cushions and simply coming to your breath.


5. Warrior II

Warrior I Yoga Pose

Possibly the most empowering, “Be true to yourself” yoga poses ever! Stand tall, stand strong, and settle into your pose. Try closing your eyes. Feel the muscles in the body working to hold you steady as you connect to the absolute power that resides within.


6. Eagle Pose

Eagle Yoga Pose

This is an empowering and energizing pose that works the whole body, sending blood flowing throughout the body, which is great for increasing your libido for sexy times with your partner at the end of a stressful day!


7. Child’s Pose

child-pose

An amazing pose that you can come to at anytime for instant calm! Feel your troubles melt away as you rest your forehead on the mat, cushion, or block and just breathe.


8. Reclined Hero

Reclined-Hero-Pose-Virasana-(Supta Virasana)

A pose to release any stored tension in the hips. Make the pose more restorative and heart-opening by bringing a bolster between your shoulder blades, increasing flexibility in the spine and reducing fatigue and stress—absolute bliss!

Modification: If there is pain in the knees, keep one leg straight and change halfway.


9. Legs-Up-the-Wall

legs up the wall

An all time favorite! You can’t fail but feel lighter after holding this pose for several minutes.


10. Savasana

Savasana

Savasana is THE relaxation pose. It truly encourages the body to come to a still position and just breathe, bringing us naturally to a more peaceful state.


 

 

 

 

Post written by:

Caroline Layzell
ERT 200, 500 RYT currently teaching yoga full-time in Nusa Lembongan, Bali.

Written for: DOYOUYOGA

The Power of Gratitude

No practice has made a deeper impact in my life than the practice of gratitude. I have always said thank you here and there when things worked out right, however real gratitude is more than that.  My practice really started about ten years ago when I had three young kids, a rambunctious seven-year-old and twin girls who were four. Everyday was difficult for me. I had transitioned from working full-time to suddenly being a full-time mother.

A lot of the qualities that were esteemed in my profession were insignificant while doing laundry, picking up toys, cooking etc. There weren’t any timelines or a sense of completing anything successfully. The more laundry you did the more there was to do. There were always dishes to wash and no matter how many times I organized you’d have to start over the next day.  As much as I loved my family most days I was overwhelmed.

One day I came across a small magnet that was hand illustrated, it said, “start your day seeing what’s right instead of what’s wrong.” It was simply enough. Each day I started making an effort to notice what was right in my life at that moment. Every time I saw the den looking like a hurricane had blown throw it, I thought “I am grateful to have a house” most are not lucky enough to own their own home. Every time the laundry was piled high, I thought “I am grateful for all of our nice clothes”  many people can’t afford to buy new clothes. When I was washing those big stacks of dishes I thought “I am so grateful for running water” there are places in the world with no running water. When my kids were running around like crazy little people I thought “I am so grateful for healthy children”, there are many kids with serious diseases.

Each day I found more and more things to be grateful for. They say, “the more you practice gratitude the more you will have to be grateful.” It is so true. Now, not a day goes by where I am not grateful for many things. I don’t even think about it anymore, its just a constant part my thoughts and my being.

Gratitude has helped me live a life in abundance, not just material things, it has also helped deepen relationships. When people feel appreciated their whole attitude changes.   This simple practice has helped transform my life. It shifts your perception from thinking you lack anything because your busy being grateful for everything. Even if I lose (loss is an inevitable part of life), I am so grateful to have had the experience whatever it was. Gratitude is a game changer.

One of my goals is to inspire the practice of gratitude. For years now, I end all my classes by asking everyone to reflect on three thing they are grateful for. I can’t end it any other way because I am so grateful for being there. I am grateful for all the people who joined me. I’m grateful for my/our healthy bodies that allows us to enjoy yoga, and I am grateful for the beautiful studios I worked at. There’s so much to be grateful for.

Take this month of Thanksgiving and start a gratitude practice that lasts year-round. As I constantly remind my students, “no matter what’s s going on in our life there is always something to be grateful for.”

Go With The Flow

Years ago, I remember watching the movie Forrest Gump. It started with a white feather free flowing in the breeze. It was a visual metaphor for Forrest’s life journey. His life was about someone following the flow without attachment to the results. There weren’t any “what ifs”, there was no second guessing and there was no anxiety. He dealt with what life brought him at the present moment and made the best of it. He was not intellectually gifted but had many great accomplishments. There was no ego, only life and going with the flow. It was brilliant. The movie ended with the feather continuing to blow in the breeze. Of course, because going with the flow never ends.

For years I experienced life as a struggle. I felt like I was always going against the current. As people around me struggled, I thought that’s how life was supposed to be until I learned how to go with the flow. What does that mean anyway? And how does one learn to go with the flow? Ah…life is truly about the questions.

To go with the flow means to be in the experience without judging it, without wanting to change it or control it. Accepting things exactly as they are. Easier said than done! I wish I could say I’ve mastered it and that I am beyond those learned impulses but I am not. Going with the flow is a work in progress. One thing is certain, the more ease that comes into living my life, the more ease I want.

In order to go with the flow we have to trust in the process of life. It’s an affirmation from Louise Hayes I use often especially when I’m anxious and unsure. It works! If you want to see a great examples of going with the flow watch nature shows. You will see that everything has its time. Recently I watched Connected on Netflix, in the episode called Digits they describe Benford’s Law. It shows us how there is a natural order to everything. It’s hard to consider with all of the craziness that goes on.

To go with the flow, we have to believe we are exactly where we need to be, having the experiences we need to have, in order to help us grow. Sometimes the experiences are positive other times not so much. Surrendering to all of it is hard. I’m not gonna lie. Most of us go through life wanting what we want, when we want it and how we want it. It creates a never ending cycle of never really being happy. It’s not so fun!

Going with the flow requires us to let go and let be, like the serenity prayer “…give me the courage to accept the things I cannot change”. It requires us to be present instead of reactive. In one of my favorite poems by Brenda McMorrow she says “…and may I be in allowance of others having their own experience.” Wow…how many times do we try to control the outcome? Ugh… We struggle against our own patterns of behavior. Patterns we’ve been practicing for years consciously or not, like deep grooves in the sand that keep us stuck.

Finally, we have to be able to release our attachment to the end result. This is probably the hardest. Accepting that the outcome is exactly what it needs to be. What?!? Most of us want what we want, when we want it and how we want it. However it may not be for our higher good. What seems like a big disappointment or a failure may simply be because it is not the right opportunity for us. It was not serving our higher good.

I remember when I first started teaching Zumba. I went on an audition and the owner was in the process of  building this beautiful new studio with a stage etc., and I wanted to be part of her crew. I didn’t get the job. I was so disappointed I cried. Then I met people who worked for her. They didn’t have nice things to say.  Her personal life was a wreck and the studio closed after only three years. Meanwhile the studio I was working at renovated their fitness room, made it bigger, more beautiful and added a stage! I’m still there today almost ten years later. Looking back I was happy I didn’t get that job.

It’s worth the effort to learn how to go with the flow. After a while life begins to feel effortless, exactly as it’s intended to feel, like a feather blowing in the wind, unfettered.  I am grateful for yoga, both the physical and spiritual practice. It has been essential in teaching me how to go with the flow. It’s helped me be aware of my attachments to superficial aspirations. If my desires are not aligned with my higher good, I can feel myself struggle against the current. I am learning to fine tune my internal go with the flow barometer, because my intention is to live life serendipitously.  At least now I know it’s possible.