Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pranayama Breathing for Dancing?

Well, my ankle is feeling much better, and I have decided to take more care into warming it up before rehearsals and Yoga class so I don't injure it like that again.

Speaking of warming up, I have been thinking a lot about the Pranayama breathing that we do in Bikram Yoga class. The teacher always talks about how we use the breathing exercises at the beginning of the class to warm up the inside of our bodies, especially (and obviously) the lungs, and I wonder if I could hurt my lungs the way I hurt my ankle, because I don't warm up my lungs before dance rehearsal.

So I decided to read up a little more about Pranayama breathing and all the good things it can do for you. Other than relaxing your mind and keeping you focused during your practice, I learned that Pranayama breathing helps high blood pressure and relieves irritability. In Bikram class, the Pranayama breathing even quadruples lung capacity, helps control breathing problems like asthma, and even detoxifies the body. The elbow lifts done in Bikram during the first breathing exercise also help to lift and separate your rib cage, and dropping the head back to exhale opens the cervical vertebrae, relaxes the shoulders, stretches the nervous system, and even strengthens leg and abdominal muscles. That is doing a whole lot of good for your body - just by breathing in and out!

I also read about the different (wacky) types of Yogic breathing. Alternate Nostril Breathing is a special way of breathing in through one nostril, and breathing out through the other. It is supposed to be very calming, but requires you to alternately physically close off notrils with your finger. I tried this one, but didn't find it very soothing because I was congested in one nostril from allergies. Another way of breathing is a Cooling Breath, and involves breathing in through your nose, but then out of your mouth through a curled tongue. That's right, you curl your tongue and blow the air out that way. Since I am one of those people that can't curl her tongue, this breathing doesn't work for me either.

The Kapalbhati breathing that is done in Firm Pose at the end of Bikram class is a type of breathing that has always intrigued me. The fact that it is possible to only exhale, and allow the inhalations to occur unconsciously is a hard thing to comprehend. However, when it happens naturally, it is pretty amazing. I learned that Kapalbhati breathing not only helps strengthen your abdominal muscle wall, it also helps detoxify your body, normalises your bowels, and brings you mental clarity. I'll bet it helps with mental clarity because in order to do this breathing properly, you really have to not think about what you are doing at all, and just clear your mind. The second set, which is double the speed of the first set of breathing we do in class, is always the hardest for me because I think I go into panic mode too quickly from the short, quick spurts of breath.

In conclusion, after reading more about the different ways you can breathe, I suppose warming up my lungs before rehearsal would be a good idea, but probably isn't as necessary as warming up my ankles. However, I am going to try a few breathing exercises before I dive into my next few rehearsals and report back...just to see if I feel anything different.

I'll keep ya posted!

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Importance of Warming Up

As I mentioned earlier, I have problems with my ankles...

Well, I ended up missing Yoga class this week because I didn't warm myself up properly at our last dance rehearsal and messed up my right Achilles tendon. I think I had a partial rupture. It was weird because my ankle didn't hurt me the whole time I was dancing...but then as I was about to take a step out of the studio to leave, I felt a nasty sharp pain in my Achilles and it prevented me from walking for about a minute or so. There was no pop or snap, but there was definitely some intense pain, and I seriously saw my life flash before my eyes when it happened. I am an extremely active person, and not being able to walk is not something I would be able to deal with.

I know eventually after resting my ankle, it will feel better, but I really wish I had warmed myself up properly before rehearsal. Especially since it has been absolutely beautiful outside lately, and not being able to jog is really killing me. And I hate missing Yoga class as well.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Zen and Surfing

I went to Bikram Yoga again on Saturday morning. Since the class starts at 9am, I woke at 7am and ate breakfast then (you aren't supposed to eat anything right before class). The class was very refreshing, although I felt again like I was nauseous during Half Tortoise pose. If it happens again when I go to class this Thursday, I am going to ask the teacher what is up, because this has never happened before.

I went surfing for the first time yesterday. It was such a beautiful day, and my friends and I woke up early and drove to a beach in Rhode Island. When I was young, I got stung by a jellyfish while wading in the ocean water, and I really hadn't gotten back in the water since because the experience just turned me off. However, I have always wanted to surf, and learning to surf means getting back into the ocean. So I sucked it up and got over my fear. I screamed a lot when the waves came crashing on me, but after a while I found the waves to be so zen and calming. I didn't want to get out of the water!

After reaquainting myself with the ocean, I was excited to grab a surf board and try my luck with the waves. I tried two different boards - a short one without a foot leash, and a long thick one that was supposedly easier for beginners. Catching waves is pretty tricky. First you have to wait for the right one, and then when it arrives, you have to belly flop onto the board and start paddling toward the shore as much as you can, and eventually, if the wave lets you, you will be swept forward and taken for a ride. And during that ride, if you are travelling fast enough, you have to magically get your feet up on the board in one foul swoop. That was the hardest part, as I only managed to get my knees up on the board. However, I did get to ride a few waves and it was the best feeling. Surfing really is a zen sport, and makes you feel really connected to the ebb and flow of the ocean. I do wish I had worn a stronger SPF sunscreen, though, because my body is as red as a lobster right now from sunburn. I am going to try surfing again next weekend!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Half Tortoise Made Me Nauseous

After 3 nights of really strenuous rehearsals for Soma Dance Company (the modern dance company I perform with), I was really looking forward to stretching out my aching muscles at my regular Bikram Yoga class (I go to Bikram Yoga Farmington in Connecticut).

For the first half of class I found that I was just having one of those days that I couldn't balance at all! I tried relaxing myself & just breathing instead of thinking about how wobbly I was, but I pretty much fell out of every standing posture that required me to stand on one leg no matter what I tried. All except Balancing Stick pose, which is the one I usually fall out of. But I think the only reason I was able to "stick" that pose (pun intended) was because the teacher was standing right next to me at that point, saying "stretch equally in opposite directions - body down, leg up...BODY DOWN LEG UP!" So i did :) I heard from someone that if you have citrus fruits, it kind of throws of your balance, and I had been drinking a lot of orange juice. So maybe I can use that as an excuse for being wobbly.

During the 2 minute corpse pose I felt REALLY good, which is unusual. I usually lay uncomfortably in that posture because my mind tends to wander everywhere, but I think I was just so exhausted from rehearsals that I really allowed myself to just lay there and breathe. The next few back bending postures went really smoothly, although I started to feel a little nauseous. So I tried to breathe, but nothing was helping. Before Fixed Firm pose, I took a sip of water, which is something I normally do. During the first set of Tortoise Pose, I was feeling extra bendy, so I pushed myself a little farther than I usually do, and then I got a little nauseous again. So I continued breathing. I almost felt like I was going to throw up!

So today, looked up what others have had to say about feeling nauseous during class, but most people have said nausea may be a sign of heat exhaustion, or dehydration. However, I am not sure this is true in my case, as I am a regular in class, and I always drink plenty of water during the day. I looked to see what Half Tortoise Pose does to the body, hoping to find that it does something to your digestive system. I learned that Half Tortoise pose massages your heart, lungs, and coronary arteries, stretches your lower lungs, and cures indigestion, constipation, and flatulence. Bingo. I guess maybe that water I had sipped before Fixed Firm hadn't gone down to my belly all the way & Half Tortoise stirred it up a little bit. Ha! I don't know for sure, but I do know that it wasn't pleasant. I am definitely going to think twice before I take a sip of water during the second half of class again!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Warming up

So I thought I'd start my first post by introducing myself. My name is Maendy and I work at, the best place to get really good Yoga props and equipment for very reasonable prices (and I'd say that even if I didn't work there! :)

I am also a Yoga FANATIC! I am an avid BikramYoga student, but I also love Vinyasa Yoga. I am dying to find a good local Ashtanga Yoga class that fits my schedule - anyone know of one? Finally, I am a modern dancer and Pilates student.

Let's see...what else can I tell ya....

My favorite style of Yoga (so far) is Bikram Yoga, because it is so challenging. I know that some people have dissed Bikram Yoga because of its static structure (the same postures are performed in the same order every class) and its teaching style (teachers recite a "script" and tell students to lock their knees and stretch beyond your flexibility throughout class), but I feel that because every class is the same, it allows me to learn something new about my body every time I am in class. The intense heat of the room is especially challenging. I feel a real sense of accomplishment after I have stretched my body in all sorts of ways in a hot as hell room full of sweaty, smelly people for 90 minutes. Makes me feel like I can do anything!

I am also such a big fan of Bikram because I have a lot of built up scar tissue in my left ankle from dancing on pointe shoes too early as a child. Because of this, my ankle was always very stiff and it has prevented me from doing a certain postures in Yoga classes. However, after attending Brikram Yoga class regularly, I have slowly worked through that scar tissue (it took a little over a year, but the heat really helped), and now I have greatly increased the range of motion in that ankle. Now, I am pretty much addicted to Bikram!

Well, that's all for now - Namaste!