Yoga Music: Vinyasa Yoga Music Playlist No.7

Angela Kukhahn in meditation photography by Leelu MorrisMusic Playlist For Vinyasa Yoga No.7

1. Sat Nam Delight – Dakini Mandarava

2. Karma Busta Rythm – DJ Ravin

3. Bless You – Lulu Rouge

4. When I’m Small – Phantogram

5. Play – Flunk

6. Pure ShoresAll Saints

6. Beautiful – Damian Marely & Bobby Brown

7. Sixolele Baba – South African Rythm Riot

8. Cosmic Yogi – Soulfood

Most music available through itunes.

Lessons In Flying Unlocking the Mysterious Mulha Bandha

 

 

Angela Kukhahn in Handstand. Photo by Leelu Morris

How Does One Unlock The Power of Mula Bhanda?

Bandhas are energy locks that help us to direct Prana within the body. For some they are somewhat of a mystery and are seldom discussed in depth within the yoga classroom. For some discussing Mula Bandha in particular is may be difficult as it deals with the pelvic floor muscles and for some teachers may be embarrassing.
mula_bandha

To engage mula bandha, exhale and contract the muscles between the pubic bone and the tailbone, pulling the perineum up in towards the abdomen. As you pull the pelvic floor up, feel the lower deep abdominal muscles engage and pull towards the spine. This sort of feels like stopping the flow of pee, or for guys stepping into icy cold water I am told. Initially you will need to contract the anus and the genitals, but over time work you will learn to relax the external muscles and solely isolate the perineum deep inside the body to find the lift.(the space between the anus and genitals). You can practice isolating Mula Bhanda with the breath and work on lifting it in and up and either holding it or using rhythmic contractions with the breath. Do not hold the breath or strain. Try to maintain calm and centered breathing throughout your practice of Mula Bandha. Below is a drawing of exactly what you are lifting, the muscles of the pelvic floor form a hammock of sorts that supports the internal organs at the base of the spine.
mula bhanda

My hero Sadie Nardini explains it here in a fantastic YouTube video I highly recommend you watch she calls it The Most important Yoga Pose

Using mula bandha with yoga postures has many benefits. It helps with jumping especially as it integrates your core on the very deepest level. It helps build core body strength, enables you to hold the postures longer, and helps to prevent injuries. Mula bandha also increases your energy and vitality, and provides an overall feeling of well-being. Using mula bandha to support the asana from your core body allows the distal muscles to relax, enabling the body to use less energy to hold the posture. Mula bandha usually begins to happen naturally over time with the practice of arm balancing and inversions.

If you have a hard time finding Mula Bhanda at first don’t worry that is very common and over time breath work in particular will help strengthen it until you can feel a strong contraction and lift.

David Life founder of Jivamukti yoga centers in NYC wrote an excellent article on Mula Bhanda called “To Infinity and Beyond” and says

“Mula bandha is said to cut through brahma granthi, the energetic knot of our resistance to change, which lies in mula-dhara chakra. On the physical level, practicing mula bandha creates attentiveness in the supportive musculature of the pelvis. This increases the stability of the pelvis, and, since the pelvis is the seat of the spine, its stability creates a safe environment for spinal movement. Thus, mula bandha strengthens—and teaches the importance of—the solid foundation that should underlie any movement.”

Another fantastic article is found HERE and is a very practical guide on some exercises meant to guide you into discovering Mula Bhanda in some very basic asanas to get you started!

Spiritual Gangster Video: Rise Of The Cool Yogi

 

Spiritual Gangsters: Rise Of The Cool Yogi

Sounds like a movie title, doesn’t it?

Well, that’s because I copied Transformers (Rise of the Machines) forgive me,..but I had to get your attention…

Onward and upward to the point of this post then…

(woot! woot!)

Well, before I get blasted for saying “rise of the cool yogi” what I mean by that is, when I was first getting involved in yoga I had a fear that fitting in with my fellow yogis meant wearing patchouli oil, not drinking my favorite wine and speaking barely above a whisper…(and a breathy one at that!)

Thank God, that is not the case!

In fact, I think this video is really proof of the fact that yogis are quite stylin’ these days! (and by stylin’ I mean we are setting trends and taking names, but don’t let it go to your head yogis…remember? No ego!)

You go Spiritual Gangster!

This video gets me all excited!

It makes me want to boogie around my living room wearing my stunner shades, a bandana, Spiritual Gangster clothes (of course!) and maybe even a mustache!

(and, sometimes I do,… mustache included,…video to follow!)

Enjoy My Spiritual Gangsters!

How To Do “Ninjasana” (Not Its Real Name)

Here is a short instructional HD video on how to do “Ninjasana” yoga move that I sometimes throw into my flow sequences when I teach.

Of course I made up the name “Ninjasana” so you will not find that name in “Light on Yoga” or any other Yoga Book.

However, I do think this pose comes from the Anusara tradition so it is not entirely made up. I like to follow it with coming into Gomukashana (Cow Face Yoga Pose) and then Ardha Matseyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Yoga Twist) and then pick it up to an arm balance Eka Pada Koundinyasana (One Foot  Pose to honor the sage Koundin yoga arm balance) but it is also just a fantastic IT band and hamstring stretch all by itself!

Enjoy, and let me know if there are any other request you may have for poses or perhaps flow sequences! (This one is by request of the lovely April!)

View on my YouTube channel

Fuel for Super-Yogis: 7 Foods for Optimum Health and Fitness

healthy foodEating healthy is a must to feel healthy!

Yes, some of us would like to just ‘do our yoga’ and be done with it, however, food is at least 80% responsible for how you feel and excercise is about 20%!

Isn’t it time to supercharge your amazing yogi body with the foods it needs to grow and thrive to the fullest?

Health expert David Zinczenko says

“Research shows that the vitamins, minerals, and active compounds specific to certain fruits, vegetables, and even chocolate and red wine have an immediate and lasting impact on your mood, your health, your fitness — even your sex life.”

Sounds good to me!

Here are 7 Foods he recommends for fueling your body…

1. 1 Cup of Low-Fat Yogurt or 2 Tbsp of Mixed Nuts

Scientists in Slovakia gave people 3 grams each of two amino acids — lysine and arginine — or a placebo and asked them to deliver a speech. Blood measurements of stress hormones revealed that the amino acid–fortified public speakers were half as anxious during and after the speech as those who took the placebo. Yogurt is one of the best food sources of lysine; nuts pack tons of arginine.

2. Green Tea

Catechins, the powerful antioxidants found in green tea, are known to stoke your metabolism, making it burn hotter and torch more calories. A study by Japanese researchers found that participants who consumed 690 milligrams of catechins from green tea daily had significantly lower body-mass indexes and smaller waist measurements than tea-totalers (i.e., they avoid the stuff).

3. A Handful of Trail Mix

Raisins provide potassium, which your body uses to convert sugar into energy. Nuts stock your body with magnesium, which boosts metabolism and improves nerve and muscle function. (When magnesium levels are low, your body produces more lactic acid — the same fatigue-byproduct that makes your muscles ache at the end of a workout.)

4. Blueberries

Antioxidants in blueberries help protect the brain from free-radical damage, which could decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and improve cognitive processing. Wild blueberries, if you can find them (or grow them!), have even more brain-boosting antioxidants than the cultivated variety.

5. Ginseng Tea, Hot or Iced

In a Canadian study, people who took 400 milligrams of ginseng a day had 25 percent fewer colds than people who popped a placebo. Ginseng helps kill invading viruses by increasing the body’s production of key immune cells.

6. Eggs and Whole-Wheat Toast

Eggs are a great source of protein, and having them for breakfast sets you up for a perfect day of eating. Saint Louis University researchers found that people who eat eggs for breakfast consume 264 fewer calories the rest of the day than those who eat bagels and cream cheese.

7. Dark Chocolate

The cocoa in chocolate contains stimulants that increase your body’s sensitivity. Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, a chemical that can give you a slight natural high. And Italian researchers found that women who often eat chocolate have a higher sex drive than those who don’t. Make sure your chocolate has at least 60 percent cacao.

No Food, No Water,…Just Prana for this Guy!

This man has spent the last two weeks under 24 hour surveillance at the hospital and neurologists confirm that he did not eat, drink or use the restroom during that time. He was also monitored with video cameras.

An 83-year-old Indian holy man who says he has spent seven decades without
food or water has astounded a team of military doctors who studied him
during a two-week observation period.

Prahlad Jani spent a fortnight in a hospital in the western India state of
Gujarat under constant surveillance from a team of 30 medics equipped with
cameras and closed circuit television.

During the period, he neither ate nor drank and did not go to the toilet.

“We still do not know how he survives,” neurologist Sudhir Shah told
reporters after the end of the experiment. “It is still a mystery what kind
of phenomenon this is.”

What is a SMART Yoga Flow?

Annie Carpenter Smart Flow Lab at Exhale center for sacred movement in venice california

If you do not know the answer to that question don’t feel too bad, neither did I before I met Annie Carpenter.

The body does have a safe and logical way in which it can be opened.

That being said, there is also an unsafe and illogical way in which some people approach the yoga practice.

In fact there are many…

Two words…

It Hurts!

Yoga shouldn’t hurt.

So how do you practice in a safe way?

In the hands of a knowledgeable teacher who cares about your body, and will guide you along your path.

Annie has countless years of training, teaching, and sharing this information in a concise way. She is my mentor and I learn from her daily!

(Yes, I said daily!)

How?

Long after leaving her class (and even years later) stuff will start to reveal itself, like “Ahah, so that’s why she told me to stretch my psoas muscles because it was pulling on my hip,”…I will have these little momments of discovery about what she was able to see in two minutes of looking at my body. (funny how that works when it may take me years!)

I highly recommend you go see Annie at her new home at Exhale Center For Sacred Movement in Venice, CA and see for yourself.

I will be heading over there to visit her at her new yoga studio home tonight at 7:30pm for her evening class so perhaps I will see you there!

Below I cut and pasted her info for you guys. See you in class!

Yoga Teacher Training Group with Master Teacher Annie Carpenter
Assisting Annie Carpenter in Sydney Australia for a Yogaworks 200 Hr Training

Pranayama and Meditation class starts this Sunday!

8-9am may seem early, but breathing and sitting in community every week is a powerful way to move your practice forward.

Also, this Sunday is the second YogaLAB. We’ll be awakening the core and activating mula and uddiyana bandha. From 2-4pm.

This Summer:

July 1-11 and August 1-12

SmartFLOW yoga celebrates the innate intelligence of juicy, flowing movement. This training is for anyone who wants to take their practice to a new level: teachers, future teachers, and lovers of yoga. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions.

For information about registering, click here.

Here’s my permanent Exhale schedule:

monday

10:30am-12:00pm (2/3)

tuesday

9:00-10:30am (2/3)

7:30-9:00pm (2)

thursday

9:00-10:30am (2/3)

7:30-9:00pm (2)

friday

10:30am-12:00pm (2/3)

sunday

8:00-9:00am — pranayama and meditation

9:00-10:30am (2)

Annie’s YogaLAB Series

May 16, 2010 – this Sunday!

2:00-4:00pm – To the Core

May 30, 2010

2:00-4:00pm – Backbending and The Happy Sacrum

exhale.com for more information.

I look forward to seeing you soon.

Love and peace, and joyous spring!

Annie

Upcoming Travel Schedule

June 4-6, 2010

Midwest Yoga Conference

Bloomingdale, IL

http://www.midwestyoga.com

July 30-August 1, 2010

Wanderlust Festival

Lake Tahoe, CA

http://www.wanderlust.com

September 10-12, 2010

Bhakti Fest

Joshua Tree, CA

http://www.bhaktifest.com

The Key to Getting Strong Abs and a Sexy Mid-Section

Do you want to have strong, sexy abs that you actually want to show off?
Me too!

(And no, I don’t think it makes me or you less of a yogi for wanting that.)

So lets talk sexy and lets talk abs because I am sure you guys are ready to get started…

Oh, and for those of you so enlightened that sexy abs mean nothing to you, chew on this for a momment…

50% of all doctor visits in the U.S. are due to back pain, for which either weak or imbalanced core muscles are responsible.

So grab your yoga mat and get your enlightened self a little stronger today.

  • There are 4 muscles that make up your abdominal muscle anatomy: rectus abdominus, external oblique, internal oblique and transverse abdominus. They work together to flex the spine forward and sideways, rotate the spine, and compress the abdomen.
  • Most movements involve more than one muscle.
  • Possibly the most misunderstood, underrated, and overlooked of these muscles is the Transverse abdominus.
  • Most people overwork the rectus abdominals, which is the largest superficial abdominal muscle
  • The Transverse abdominals usually get neglected altogether. This is a huge mistake!
  • An overworked rectus abdominal flattens the lumbar spine, which reverses the natural curve of the lower back, and restricts the movement of the diaphragm.
  • If you overtrain your rectus abdominals your abs will protrude.
  • The Transverse abdominus runs horizontally and serves as a girdle for your internal organs, and it also supports the back.
  • These muscles connect to both the lower back muscles and the rectus abdominus and form a girdle for the entire midsection.
  • You engage this muscle when coughing, sneezing, or exhaling forcibly.
  • Unlike the other three abdominal muscles, the transversus doesn’t move your spine.

Core Exercises:

As with any new workout routine please consult your physician particularly if you suffer from back issues. And of course always warm up as well.

Begin by lying down on your back with your feet about 8 to 12 inches from your buttocks. Keep the knees and feet inline with the hips and the toes pointing straight forward. Again you want to maintain the natural curves of the spine. Your neck should have a small space underneath it to protect the cervical vertebrae, as well as your lumbar spine while keeping your tailbone pressing down.

Place your hands on the bony parts at the front of your hips. Move your hands in an inch towards your belly button and down and inch towards your toes. You should now be directly over the transversus abdominus muscle. When you contract your core correctly you should feel a gentle tightening under fingers when they are in the above position. If you feel a ‘bulge’ you are contracting too much. Failure to contract properly will mean unwanted contraction of the larger muscles surrounding the core. These will take over the movement and thus defeat the aim of the exercises. In the same position as above take a deep breath.

On exhaling focus on ‘drawing up’ from the pelvic floor muscles (mulha bhanda), and at the same time release the buttocks. Imagine that you wish to stop yourself going to the toilet while moving your sitbones away from each other. This will take practice. Be patient!
1. Pelvic Tilts

This stomach exercise requires lying on your back on a flat surface, such as the floor or a bench. Use a mat or towel to cushion your spine. Bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Raise your pelvis (and only your pelvis) off the floor, hold momentarily, and then lower it back down. Repeat for an entire set. Maintaining a controlled movement is crucial to this exercise. This will allow you to use your abdominal muscles, rather than your body’s momentum, to do the work on the exercise. Also, be sure to keep your upper body on the floor throughout.

2. Crunchless Crunch

This exercise is fairly simple but can also be fairly difficult. Essentially, it involves trying to pull the belly button in towards the spine. This can be tricky, as it involves using muscles which you may not be used to activating. To start, either lie or on your stomach or kneel. You might want to try both ways and see which helps you feel the exercise better. Relax your body as much as possible, then try to use only the lower abdominals to move your belly button toward your spine. Hold for ten seconds. If holding for ten seconds feels easy, hold for a longer period. The goal is to hold the contraction until you either cannot feel it, or you feel other muscles working harder than the transverse abdominus. When you feel this, let the contraction out. Remember your neutral spine if you can manage it here, and the engagement of the pelvic floor muscles.

3. Office workers Delight

This one is fantastic and easy to feel. Again these movements will be small and subtle to work properly; any large movement will recruit the other muscles and defeat the purpose. Sitting in your chair with your knees bent to 90 degrees. Draw the navel in towards your spine. Contract your pelvic floor muscles as if you were trying to stop the flow of urine. Maintain the contraction in your core as you tuck your pelvis and then arch your lower back. Start with a set of 40 slow controlled hip rolls.

Breath of Fire

Sit in a comfortable seated position, for most of you sliding one or two blankets under the hips will be beneficial. Sit up with the spine long reaching up through the crown of the head, and your hands placed on the knees with your eyes closed. Practice several calming breaths to get started bringing awareness throughout your body. Move into your ujjayi breath saturating the body with fresh prana. Next take an inhale and expel it with a quick strong blast by drawing the belly muscles in towards the spine. (Imagine being hit in the stomach, or a pair of bellows used to stoke fires) If you exhaled correctly your inhale will happen naturally without any effort. Continue 4 to 8 times if you are new to this to complete 1 cycle, ending with an out breath. Return to your ujjayi to recover, or if you wish you can hold onto your breath, for 5 to 8 seconds engaging the pelvic floor muscles drawing them in and up. Exhale slowly if you held the breath, and take several rounds of the ujjayi breath. This will rest your lungs and the diaphragm and prepare your body for the next round of breathing. Repeat 3 to 4 times with or without the retention. Remember to rest between cycles and relax with several rounds of deep satisfying ujjayi breaths. Afterwards take a shavasana (final relaxation pose) to release the body completely.

(Please refrain from doing this if you are pregnant, are on your cycle, or have high blood pressure. Stop if you feel dizzy or lightheaded or if your breath becomes ragged. Being a yogi means listening to what your body is telling you.)