I'd like to EXTEND an invite, to stop your hyperEXTENsion!

My previous blog post mentioned a mild elbow injury that I was experiencing after practicing yoga and attempting to lift weights.  Safe to say, I now feel 100%!  My body naturally healed itself over time as I was extremely aware of my injury and took precaution.  Since this occurrence, I have elbow fever and constantly look at elbows in my yoga classes or at anyone in general.  What I’ve noticed is that there are countless amounts of people who hyperextend in the elbow.  I never realized how common it was until my new obsession went full force. 

What I’ve found is that most people ARE aware that they hyperextend, but do not realize how often it happens or the injurious affects it has on their bodies.     

  • Hyperextension is common in the elbows, knees, and hips.  In regards to the elbow, hyperextension occurs when it is bent beyond comfortable range of motion.  This overstretching damages bones and ligaments which can cause serious injury.  

These injuries occur mostly during strenuous activity.  For example, when practicing yoga.  The common yoga postures that overstretch the arm for those who hyperextend are:

  • Downward Facing Dog
  • Plank Pose
  • Side Plank
  • Warrior 1 and 2
  • Wheel Pose
  • Postures involving interlaced fingers with hands behind the back.  
  • Handstand
Notice how this woman’s bottom elbow is hyperextended.

Notice how this woman’s bottom elbow is hyperextended.

The elbow is bent back in the wrong direction in these postures.  With the weight of the body adding extra pressure to the elbow, this can cause major injury and permanent damage.  

What to do?  Try these tips which have helped me with my elbow issues! 

·         Be aware of your body in space

·         Micro bend your elbows in weight bearing postures or exercises

·         Don’t lock out your arms

·         Drop to knees in Plank Pose or Side Plank

·         Drop to forearm in Downward Facing Dog, Side Plank, Plank Pose

If you are one to hyperextend or have elbow injury, taking precaution is an important step in keeping your body healthy.  Whether you are working out or maneuvering through daily activity, keep in mind a few of these easy tips.  It helped me out so I'm sure it can help you!  Namaste!

 

 

Practice Safely!

“Listen to your body.”  That phrase should be repeated on my playlists as I overemphasize caution like a broken record in class.  If your shoulders are screaming to cool it with the Chaturangas or your low back has had enough Backbends for the day, it is always best to listen to those signals.  I can't stress that enough.  Ever since my Yoga Tune Up® Teacher Training with Jill Miller (www.yogatuneup.com) I have become hyper aware of safety both in my own practice as well as my students' practice.  Over time no matter what form of exercise you do, injury can be caused if alignment is improper. There are times however, when our bodies don’t give us those signals, warning us about injury.  In turn, we carelessly whip our bodies around in class until one day our aches, pains, and tears just pop up and say HELLO!  Ouch!

I teach a lot of hot power yoga and I am in a constant struggle to keep my classes powerful but safe.  Safe for students as well as for me when demoing postures in class.  As teachers, demoing postures can cause serious damage if we are not warm.  Popping up into a pose when we are cold is death for the joints, muscles, and tendons!  Breaking down asana in a class is an excellent way for students to learn but, protecting yourself as a yoga teacher is equally important.  I have been blessed to have little or no injuries from practicing yoga.  My body has always felt great and at times I feel invincible.  It’s natural to feel that way because our minds don’t grasp what we haven’t experienced yet.  But for me, something had been brewing and I had no idea.  I am very careful when I teach but sometimes I make decisions to demo quickly and later think to myself, “That wasn’t a great idea”.  Jill Miller’s Yoga Tune Up® teachings discuss targeting areas of that body that are overused, underused, or misused.  In my case, I was overusing and over working my elbow without any warning from my body.     

I can’t remember the exact moment when I injured myself but I started to feel as If I had hit my funny bone in my right elbow.  The numbness traveled down my forearm towards the pinky finger.  It seems to be Ulna Nerve Sensitivity (http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00069).  I took a break from practicing and thought it was getting better until my shoulder, bicep, elbow, wrist, and all 5 fingers felt a dull pain.  The thought of lowering down into Chaturanga or lifting weights sends shivers down my spine.  I never fully appreciated my healthy body until this moment.  Why is that always the way???  This experience has definitely opened my eyes to safety when practicing and teaching.  It’s so important to take care of our bodies to live a healthy, long, and beautiful life.  Here’s to hoping my elbow gets better quickly! Namaste!



Let It Go!

Ever since the movie Frozen came out I can’t go a day without hearing Idina Menzel sing, “Let it Go!”  I have two nieces ages 3 and 5 who absolutely love that song.  They sing it on the top of their lungs, arms wide and hearts open.  The glow on their faces and the happiness it brings them is the best thing to see.  I find myself walking around singing “Let it goooooooo,” to myself on occasion.  The message of the song is very empowering and liberating.  I really don’t know anyone who could sing those lyrics without a huge smile on their face.  The correlation between letting go and happiness is something I started to think about recently.

I find one of the most challenging things to do is to have the strength to let go.  Letting go of negative thinking, memories, material items, arguments, friends, or relationships is scary.   We hold on longer than we should for many reasons, but mostly because of fear.   We hold on to a relationship in hopes that things will get better or hopeful it will change.  We hold on maybe because we are fearful of being alone.  Sometimes we hold on to anger from an argument we may have had with a friend or significant other.  We obsess over what was said or what could have been said differently, filling our souls with toxic energy.  Sometimes we hold on to memories of the past or recreate memories that seem like happier times when in reality they were not.   

I recently was in a situation that I knew was not good for me.  My inner voice was telling me to run for the hills but I was ignoring it.  I knew right away that it wasn't right for me but I was holding on longer than I should.  During that time, I wasn't myself.  I felt lost, unfocused, uninspired and sad.  The momentum I was creating in my career had been halted because I had focused all of my energy on the one thing that caused me pain.  It took me a while but I dug deep and realized I was wasting my time putting all of my attention and energy into something that only caused me pain.  As soon as I “Let it Go,” I was able to breathe again.  New opportunities started flowing in for me and the appreciation for my friendships grew stronger.  Each day became easier and I felt the power to inspire my students again in my yoga classes.  Every experience is an opportunity to learn.  Even if it’s a hard lesson.      

Having the mentality to let things go truly opens our hearts, releases toxic vibes, and clears our paths for new possibilities.  If we learn to let go we open our hearts to new people, adventures, and lessons.  Something truly transformative and beautiful could be right around the corner if we simply just, “LET IT GO!”  

Looks can be deceiving my friend

"Looks can be deceiving."  I have found this to be true on numerous occasions. Our perception of reality and what is actually real do not coincide.  The best example of this is negatively judging a stranger on first handshake.  Like a dope you learn their story and realize you were completely wrong about them.  Generally, we form opinions about people/places without learning more about who or what is truly underneath the surface.  In these times, everyone ( I say everyone but I know not evvverryone) is on high alert and scared of anything that doesn't look like them.  It makes me sad.   

My first trip out of the country was to Marrakech, Morocco.  

Danielle Stack Photography

Danielle Stack Photography

Those of you who have visited, might be wondering why I chose such an exotic location for my first stint out of the U.S..  It was a spur of the moment thing.  A bunch of my friends had been traveling for some time and I was envious of the memories they were creating.  I wanted to experience life outside of my comfort zone and go see the world. 

My roommate Danielle had just come back from Brazil with her contagious traveling bug in tow and I wanted to catch it.  I felt inspired by her stories and craved the chance to experience it for myself.  After many long conversations and "Googling" sessions, we booked a flight to Portugal.  Two days into our trip we were on a flight to Marrakech having no clue what to expect.  I was a nervous wreck and doubled over in anxiety.  (Portugal was not much of a shock to me because Lisbon was like a second New York City).  As the plane landed in the Marrakech Airport, I embodied the motor skills of the Tin Man.  I was scared out of my mind and felt like I was never going to see my family again.  There were so many men everywhere and most of them cab drivers harassing us to hop in their cab.  All of my senses were on overdrive and from the outside I must have looked like a deer in headlights.        

Looking back, I laugh thinking about this.  I was so scared of what I didn't know.  But isn't that where a lot of judgment and prejudices come from...fear?  

We stayed in Marrakech for 4 days and by the end, I wished it was longer.  After getting over the sudden impact of the people and culture, I was in love with the beauty and excitement of Morocco.  To this day I still quote, "Welcome to Morrocccoooo," that was a common phrase among the people there.  Most of the Moroccans I came in contact with were so nice and friendly. (There were some jerky people but there's always a skunk in the mix wherever you go.)

My favorite memory was when I slept overnight in the Sahara Dessert.  I've never seen stars so crisp and clear and probably won't ever again.  

(Below is a picture of me and Mohammed... My bro.)  I will have these memories etched in my brain forever.  If I didn't take that chance and delve into the depths of the unknown, my eyes wouldn't have been opened to see what was really there all along. 

Lauren and Mohammed.jpg

Be True to You

"Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you will be criticized for it anyway."- Eleanor Roosevelt

Are you someone who cares what others think of you? Or are you able to disconnect from how you are perceived by living life based on what makes you happy?  I have always admired people who could care less what others think of them.  

Human interaction would be completely different if we were always our authentic selves.  If we didn't care about being judged, there would be less pressure to please others. Our masks would be unveiled,  presenting who we truly are.   

It's very easy to allow someone's opinion of you to change your mood or love in yourself.  I was initially attracted to yoga because it was the first place I didn't feel judged.  It sounds cliche but it is very true.  I am a creative person who lives life a bit outside the box.  I often hear this a lot,  "You're not married!?", "You're a yoga teacher?"  "You actually like living in New York City?"  (Questions like these give me the opportunity to react in two ways.  Either shrink up into a little ball and immediately feel judged or I could tell the person to go scratch.  Decisions, decisions.)  Once I delved deeper into my practice, I found that I truly focused on me.  It didn't matter if the whole room was in Chin Stand while I sat in Child's Pose.  I was just happy that I was sticking to a exercise routine for a long period of time.  There's something about being in that environment where I could let go and be me.  If you're not a yoga person, I challenge you to find something that makes you feel that way too.    

"Yoga is not about self-improvement. It's about self-acceptance." -Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa

No matter what we say or do, we will most likely be judged for it.  There are always parallels to life on and off our mats but how can we physically/mentally put this into action?

CONFIDENCE- It is your journey, not anyone else's.  Be confident in your decisions.  

COMPASSION- Know that everyone has their own issues and even if they seem like they are judging, they are probably envious of you.  Revel in it.  Whoops! I mean be compassionate towards them. :)

CLARITY-  Be clear in what you want out of life.  If you have a clear head and are focused on what you want, it really won't matter who's judging you or not.  

Life is really hard but absolutely breathtaking at the same time.  I'm gong to work on this and get back to you. xo

 

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HOLIDAY HEAVYWEIGHT

It happens every year.  A momentary lapse in judgment called, Thanksgiving.  As soon as this wonderful familial food-fest, otherwise known as "STUFF YO FACE" rolls around, all bets are off.  I find myself diving head first into a bucket of carbs, starches, and sugars with a mug of booze on the side.  It's like I've been held captive for months while being subject to small rations of rice and snake meat.    

My smoothie addiction and yoga practice keep me in check as I try to live a healthy lifestyle throughout the year.  Overeating is very easy for me to do as I come from a long lineage of big eaters.  Family style portions for one person were common in my household growing up.   It took years of trying every diet in the book, until finally crashing and burning, to find something that worked for me.  But once I’m back together with family on Thanksgiving, my little angel called “Willpower” has taken a vaca and the “Holiday Heavyweight” is back in tow.  (I’d like to emphasize that I don’t think skinny and starving is cool.  I do think healthy eating and moderate splurges of desire, combined with a workout routine that you enjoy, IS cool.) With that said, the internal struggle of that damn proverbial wagon I’m trying to stay on during the holidays, is a challenge for me.    

Why is temptation so easy to fall for?  It can be sex, drugs, alcohol, or food, but any amount of temptation can throw you off balance in one decision. We all know this, but our desire outweighs our willpower causing us to jump ship into a sea of Thanksgiving stuffing.  Maybe it’s temptation or maybe it just a bunch of family members getting together to enjoy delicious food and drink with one another, or maybe we just really don't care.  Whatever it is, it got me thinking and that’s why I write this blog. 

I’m not kicking myself too hard for my turkey day feast, but I would like to have one holiday where I don’t change into sweat pants halfway through the day.  I know I can’t be alone here with this issue, but I would like to meet the Kelly Ripa wanna-be who stays in check during the holidays. Who are you???  Next up is Christmas and New Year’s (YAY!!!), so I have that to look forward to…Or do I??

        

Create Space

In the age of technology we are bombarded daily with advertisements and excessive email blasts. Iphones are glued to our hands as we Tweet, read Facebook status's and look at Instagram photos of people we hardly know.  We are constantly told what new fashion trends are happening for the season, the fad diet that will get us into our best bikini body, and what coupons will get us discounts on the trendy restaurant in town.  With technology and material items cluttering up our lives we have little room to breath and clear our minds.  If we let go of what no longer serves us and open up the possibility for more space, we will be able to introduce new things into our lives. YES!!!! 

I can get easily overwhelmed and feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders when my life is full of clutter.  When this happens, I immediately want to shed away all of the negative and bring in positive.  I try to let go of material items, clean my living space, and make an effort to have a daily yoga practice.

I spend a lot of time trying to find new ways to create space in my yoga practice whether its in my mind or in my body.  When I'm in a particular posture, I use my body as a guide to explore new ways to breath deeper.  Expansion and breath awareness brings me to a place where I can feel less cluttered and open to receive new things. Ideas, emotions, and new human interactions are much more available to me with an open mind and open heart.

Align yourself

In yoga class, teachers talk about "alignment."  What is the purpose of alignment and why is it crucial for our bodies and minds?   

When we bring awareness to our bodies in space, our knowledge of alignment changes.  We feel it in our bodies from the ground up.  The breath circulates through our lungs, one movement to the next, creating energy and light as we flow with ease.  If we don't take the time to properly adjust ourselves in class, we can put pressure on our joints, and irritate muscles, ligaments, and tendons.  This can cause injury. The effects could be worse if these same movements are done improperly over a long period of time.  Taking the time to align ourselves and make intelligent decisions when practicing yoga, can only create results that make us feel great afterwards. 

What are the parallels between alignment physically and alignment mentally?   Allowing people into our lives that bring us down in any capacity can cause stress and pain, disrupting the flow of our daily lives.  If we focus on alignment by surrounding ourselves with positive, supportive, and open minded people, then we start to feel better about ourselves and our goals.  Positive people lift us up and make us happy, which in turn, allows for great things to come into our lives. The alignment of people, places, and things that bring out the best in us and allow us to shine, gives us the same outcome as a completely aligned yoga practice. 

When there is misalignment in yoga, we are hurting our bodies, but when we are misaligned in life we are slowing down our journey to happiness.  What is that famous Albert Einstein quote? "Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

 So, align yourself.  Align your body, mind, soul, and life.  Everything else is secondary.