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Monthly Archives: January 2015


enrich your yoga practice with pilates

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enrich your yoga practice with pilates

by sascha ferguson

Practice Yoga | Tips

getting to the core

Pilates and yoga are often said in the same breath, as forerunners in a quest for awareness through movement and to “get out of the gym.” It’s easy to see why devotees of one are quite naturally drawn to the other: both are rewarding mind-body experiences which calm the nerves and use breathing, which flow between poses, and which engage the whole body with every movement.

Although many devotees stick around for the emotional stability that stems from faithful yoga practice, newcomers are often attracted to the results of either practice: long, lean muscles, flat tummies, tight bottoms, and calm, centered lives. Pilates can be an extraordinary compliment to a yoga practice as a fun and challenging diversion, a deepening of your practice, or a matter of rehabilitation.

Whereas the “goal” of both Pilates and yoga workouts is to “stay present,” and to energize the body, yoga is traditionally practiced on a mat with occasional use of props like straps and blocks. Pilates was developed and is often done on the mat, yet is universally recognized for the “apparatus,” wicked and sexy-looking equipment which looks a lot like kinky beds and chairs. Joseph Pilates developed many of his exercises on hospital chairs and beds, hence the look and the design.

Many people mistakenly presume that you are being pulled and stretched by the equipment in Pilates, but in fact, it is quite the opposite. You are learning how to move and control the apparatus with your body. There is much stretching and strengthening, but it is not passive – you are working very hard. In fact, part of the fun in Pilates is learning to move quickly and with control so you don’t poop out, like with yoga. All this exertion has a bonus: as with yoga, many Pilates devotees report a “buzz” after a session.

Yoga was quite an influence for Joseph Pilates, which is why yogis recognize asanas marbled though many Pilates exercises. Joseph Pilates was a bit of a linear thinker, however, and yoga practitioners used to such poetic nomenclature of asanas as “warrior” and “cobra,” may chuckle at Pilates’ “single leg stretch” or “legs over the roll down bar.”

Many yoga asanas require holding a pose for a series of breaths. One doesn’t hold a lot of poses in Pilates, moving often through the breath. This is for multiple reasons, and trains the muscles to contract specifically during movement, slimming the physique and keeping joints in sockets (for those deep and difficult asanas.) The mental focus of a Pilates workout is always to power movement from the core muscles. Once this becomes automatic, you can take your newfound skill back to yoga and deepen your ability to relax into poses.

If you have never experienced truly generating power from the core and torso, you may be doing yourself a disservice. With no anchor for corresponding joints and limbs, you may be burdening your joints with the load. Odds are you’ve been borrowing strength from your joints and limbs, even as an advanced yoga student. The power you can tap into as you borrow from your core will astound you and take your yoga to new heights!

Many yogis who reluctantly turn to Pilates with an injury, which often prevents them from practicing yoga, are surprised and delighted to find a fulfilling, challenging, and interesting compliment to a yoga practice. They may return to yoga not only healed, but stronger than before the injury had occurred! Your core can take a real beating and still provide much support to joints that need a break to recover, like a shoulder or a knee. Building a “cast of muscle” around your spine and pelvis is important so that when you bend, twist or just stand, you are protecting your organs, vertebrae, joints and muscles from injury.

If you are already dealing with injury – especially a back, shoulder or knee injury –  the Pilates apparatus creates natural boundaries that aren’t quite so easy to find in yoga, unless you are an advanced and highly aware yoga student. Pilates is a stable place to start moving again, and once you are able to support your injury and move fluidly you will find you can enter a yoga practice without fear of re-injury.

While a typical yoga class is ninety minutes, a Pilates session averages about fifty-five. The more advanced the Pilates student, the more exercises can be executed within the hour. A typical beginner can handle around twenty, while a more advanced student, can handle about seventy to eighty. The quicker flow between poses and constant adaptation of the body dynamic is great for people with rapid-firing minds who find peace through having so much to focus on at once, rather than having to learn how to clear their minds by meditation and breath alone.

Because the emphasis in Pilates is on precision, flow, and speed, it tends to keep the mind pretty busy. As you advance through the Pilates system, you are likely to find yourself upside-down, or balancing on one arm, or flipping over on the equipment. If you find your mind wandering even for even two seconds, you’ll simply fall off the apparatus. So for those of us with hyperactive minds, the quick pace of Pilates and the fact that you have to create an awareness of many dynamics at once gives us the break we need from the gears in our brains. The kind of person who just can’t stop thinking even when in savasana usually takes immediately to Pilates, and paradoxically learns how to quiet the mind, and become better prepared for a fulfilling yoga practice.

Many yogis enroll in Pilates teaching or advanced programs to absorb as much as possible. Teacher trainees who come into the program with a background in yoga find that it “explains feelings they already knew” in their bodies, and furthers their ability to share that knowledge with others. Conversely, many people who were once frustrated and overwhelmed with yoga find that after Pilates, they are not only more physically prepared, but more confident and able to expound the benefits of yoga.


Everlasting Youth with Yin Yoga

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Everlasting Youth with Yin Yoga

Practice Yoga | What is Yoga? | New Style

Would you like to turn back the clock? The healing art of Yin yoga may be the secret to deepen your practice while looking and feeling your best

How wonderful would it be to easily listen to your body a hundred percent of the time? Imagine yourself as a small child taking your first step when only your inner voice was telling you what to do. You were born with the gift to be able to listen to yourself. Your body is perfect, it knows exactly what it needs and it talks to you every time you move, but as a busy lifestyle often gets in the way it is not always easy to read its precious signals.

The good news is that Yin yoga can help you pay more attention to what your body is trying to tell you, and by listening closely, you can restore its natural healing ability creating a genuine fountain of youth right on your mat.

Perceiving Yourself

Have you ever noticed that you may get used to functioning even if you are not comfortable with the way you are moving? We can sit in an office hunched over with crossed legs for several hours without even realizing that our bodies are not so happy doing so; at times, we can go on autopilot for days!

This may happen with your practice too. You know that yoga is vital for keeping your body and mind healthy, but certain movements may not always work for you, especially when your body is trying to communicate its specific needs.

This is basically what inspired the birth of Yin yoga. In the early years of study with his master, Paulie Zink realized that a yoga style that was open, free and innovative was missing. He wanted to flow and open up to an intuitive form of self-expression that was true to himself, so he developed a limitless art form in which your own body has the lead: Yin yoga. Just like you did when you were a small child learning to walk, the same way animals move intuitively in the wild, Yin yoga is an art that “allows you to bring forth your own creative potential in how you move,” says Master Zink.

A Healing Art

The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine says that disease can be avoided “when internal energies are able to circulate smoothly and freely and when the energy of the mind is not scattered, but focused and concentrated.” Yin yoga has such a powerful healing effect because it has its foundation in the energy that emerges from the cycle of transmutation of the five elements always present in your body. It draws upon the theory of the five elements and the principle of yin and yang used in Chinese medicine and acupuncture,” explains Master Zink. He defines Yin yoga, in part, as “a Taoist form of yoga that uses postures based on the five transforming energies of Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire.” Each of the above-mentioned alchemical components portrays distinct properties such as groundedness, strength, fluidity, springiness and lightness respectively.

In Traditional Acupuncture: The Law of the Five Elements, Dianne M. Connelly, PH.D. explains how in Chinese medicine, health is based on the balanced cyclic interaction of the five elemental energies. “We are YinYang. We are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water,” she says. Each of our organs corresponds to one of these elements, which are always in motion from one to the next.

Yin yoga balances the different energetic elements and their ongoing cycle of transformation within the body. “This improves health by correcting excesses or deficiencies of one o more particular element,” says Zink. Yin yoga also involves postures and movements, which are founded upon the energetic and physical characteristics of certain plants and animals, so when you perform them often, you can begin to embody the spirit of their qualities.

Practicing Yin yoga invigorates your innate healing response by equilibrating your body’s energy flow. “The elemental powers and their corresponding properties are activated and enhanced in our body and our energetic field,” explains Master Zink. “Our blood flow circulates better and our energy moves in a more efficient way so our health can be optimized.” Yin yoga is about movement: “From stillness comes motion,” Zink says. “The smooth transition from pose to pose is as important as the postures themselves.”

What is Yin and Yang yoga?

Master Zink’s Yin yoga is a complex art form that was born from a fusion of various Taoist alchemy and Chi Kung healing arts and flexibility training along with Zink’s own insights and development of postures, movements and meditations.

Zink’s art form comprehends yin or still postures to promote growth and calmness, and yang or dynamic postures for strength and balance, resulting in the harmonizing between the body’s yin and yang inseparable and complimentary energies. It also encompasses specific Chi Kung breathing techniques used for cultivating vitality and stabilizing the natural physical rhythms. This helps bring your body into a state of resonance with its own energetic field.

When the benefits of these healing modalities get combined, the natural physical attributes of the elemental energies are revitalized in your body and in your whole being. “We liberate ourselves from the thinking obsessed mind and become more playful, spontaneous and resilient,” explains Zink. Also, an improved circulation and balance, inner calm, confidence, stamina and enhanced vitality will support the natural restorative potential of the body while building considerable core strength and muscle tone.

The result? A flexible and strong body that looks and feels light, young and healthy, paired with a clear and focused mind that allows you to listen to your body, to be present in yourself.

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