Full Moon Practice

The Full Moon happens on Saturday at 6:09am so here is a companion practice to the gentle New Moon Sequence. The Full Moon Sequence centers and grounds the body and nervous system to counter the sometimes manic energy of the Full Moon period. The sequence also features Head Stand in an encasement, where a series of poses that both leads you into and out of the pose.

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Prasarita Padottanasana 1 (Wide Spread Feet Pose 1)

Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose)

Paschchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Adho Mukha Virasana (Downward Facing Hero Pose)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand)

Adho Mukha Virasana (Downward Facing Hero Pose)

Paschchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose)

Prasarita Padottanasana 1 (Wide Spread Feet Pose 1)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose)
    • Over bolster

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)

Ardha Halasana (Half Plough Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
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The Quadriceps

The muscle group known as the quadriceps--or "quads"--is made up of four different muscles that run along the front of the thigh bone. ("Quadriceps" means, literally, "four heads.") All four muscles act on the knee to extend the joint, straightening the leg.

rectus femoreis, vastus intermedius, vastus me, vastus lateralis, thigh, knee


Rectus Femoris


Origin: The anterior superior iliac spine (hip bone) and part of the ilium (the largest pelvic bone) near the acetabulum (the hip socket).

Insertion: The patellar (kneecap) tendon, which attaches the kneecap to the tibia (the shin bone).

Action: Extends the knee, straightening the leg. When the pelvis is fixed it also flexes the hip.

Vastus Intermedius


Origin: The upper two thirds of the front of the femur (the thigh bone).

Insertion: The outer edge of the patella.

Action: Extends the knee, straightening the leg.

Vastus Medialis


Origin: Along the inner edge of the linea aspera (a line that runs down the back of the femur). The muscle wraps around from back to front where it meets vastus intermedius to attach to its insertion.

Insertion: The lower medial (inner) edge of the patella.

Action: Extends the knee, straightening the leg. When the knee is bent it contributes to turning the tibia medially (inward).

Vastus Lateralis


Origin: Similarly to vastus medialis, it attacjes along the outer edge of the linea aspera at the back of the femur and wraps around to the front to meet vastus intermedius.

Insertion: The lower lateral (outer) edge of the patella.

Action: Extends the knee, straightening the leg. When the knee is bent it contributes to turning the tibia laterally (outward).


(The origin of a muscle is the end that it contracts towards, the insertion is the end that it contracts away from.)


SOURCES:

"Anatomy of Movement," Blandine Calais-Germain, 1993, Eastland Press, Seattle.
"Lower Extremity Muscle Atlas," Michael L. Richardson M.D., 1997, University of Washington,

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Inversions

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Sportakrobatik

There's some scary things going on in the lower back and knees here, but otherwise this is pretty phenomenal:



Thanks to Souljerky for the link.
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Fruits and Vegetables

From WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show:

"Please Explain: Fruits and Vegetables
On today's Please Explain, renowned food journalist Russ Parsons answers your questions about how to pick, store, and prepare the best fruits and vegetables. He's joined by farmer Jeff Bialas, who grows 80 different kinds of vegetables on his family farm in Orange County, New York. "

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Bones of the Knee

femur, tibia, patella

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Pattabhi Jois Teaching

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Bones of the Hip and Pelvis

pelvis, femur, sitting bone

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Vrtti



One of the main concerns of Yoga, as expressed in the Yoga Sutra of Patañjali, is sorting out the yogin’s true, essential and eternal self from that which is other, that which is temporary and changing. By becoming able to distinguish between the two, the yogin hopes to free him or herself from the anguish and suffering of existence and perhaps even cease the continual cycle of death and rebirth. Patañjali states it succinctly in his opening verses:

I.2
Yoga is the process of restriction of the fluctuations of consciousness.

I.3
Then the observer can know its own true nature.

I.4
Otherwise, the observer identifies itself with the fluctuations of consciousness.


Patañjali’s way of thinking about existence and the mind resonates strongly with modern scientific thought. He expresses many of his ideas in terms of energy. For him, thought is an energetic activity of the mind. The word he uses to represent this, vrtti, often gets translated as “fluctuation.” Think of the surface of a pond. When the water is perfectly still, the surface becomes transparent and it becomes possible to see all the way to the bottom. Drop a rock into the pond and the surface is disturbed with ripples. The bottom of the pond becomes obscured.

If the mind is filled with thoughts and emotions, the fluctuations are strong and energetic and the mind can become easily distracted. It makes little difference if the thoughts and emotions are positive or negative. The seductive memory of a pleasant experience can be just as involving as, say, the righteous anger towards someone who has done us wrong. And when the mind is wrapped up in those thoughts, Patañjali says it takes their shape and it ceases to be self-aware. That self-awareness is akin to the clarity of the pond water that enables us to see the bottom. Without it we will be unable to see plainly the world around us for what it is. We will always be at the mercy of circumstance and a slave to our emotions.

This may not seem like such a bad thing when we are happy, or when our fortunes are on the up. But just as every cloud has a silver lining, every silver lining has a potential cloud. Basing your identity on the blessing of your life can be just as fraught as identifying yourself with those things that limit you. If we define ourselves by the insults levied against us, how can we ever rise above them? And if we become attached to the good things in our lives, how will we feel when they are threatened? Without the discernment and self-awareness that comes with a calm and open mind, we will never be able to go deep enough to find the enduring freedom of an enlightened life.

The Idea in Practice


Our yoga practice gives us a perfect place to begin to address and work with the fluctuations of the mind. Here are four ways to approach your asana practice and take it out of the physical and into the spiritual plane.

Practice #1: Becoming Aware


The first thing is to observe how different kinds of poses affect the mind. At the beginning of your practice, check in with your thoughts. Observe their quality without going too deep into their content. Is the mind sluggish and lethargic, or is it vibrant and fluid? Do you feel up or down, happy or melancholic? Do the same after you have finished and note the change, if any. Keep track of your practice in a journal and note the following:

    What was the quality of your thoughts at the beginning of practice?
    What type of poses did you practice overall (back bends, forward bends, standing poses, etc.)?
    What was the quality of your thoughts at the end of practice?


In this way build up an understanding of how the different types of poses affect the energy of the body and mind.

Practice #2: Tracking the Flow


Once you begin to have a grasp on how an entire practice can affect the fluctuations of the mind, you can begin to observe how the mind and body can fluctuate within an individual practice. Poses in a practice are generally grouped together by type. We do some standing poses, then perhaps a seated pose or two, then inversions, and so on. At the end of each section, check in with yourself and observe how the quality of the body and mind has changed. Each section becomes like an act in a play, or a verse in a poem, each with its own idea, its own message and effect.

Practice #3: Becoming Mindful


To go deeper, start to observe the fluctuations of the mind pose by pose. Observe where you begin to lose yourself in the pose, either because the sensation is strongly pleasant or strongly uncomfortable. Observe also the moments when the mind is thrown out of the pose to think about something completely irrelevant. Start to become aware of patterns in your practice along these lines. Does a certain pose always have the same effect? Do you bliss out with some kinds of poses and sink into dread when faced with others?

Practice #4: Single-Pointed Focus


This last approach is perhaps the hardest. As you do your poses, can you observe your thoughts as if they were part of your body and not your mind? Can you find an inner perspective of calm self-awareness that allows you to experience both your body and the fluctuations of your mind as akin to a suit of clothing that you have put on, but that you could just as easily change?

This is a very subtle idea. At first you might not be able to truly experience it. If so, play with the idea as you practice. Think about it. Think about how it makes you feel. Pretend, even, that you can experience it. Eventually you might actually find yourself spontaneously in this mindset for short periods of time. When this happens, observe how the mind flip-flops between playing with the idea and truly experiencing it. As time goes on and the practice becomes firmly established, you can begin to take the exercise into your daily life and observe the changes it will create there.

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Street Yoga

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Bunions and Hammer Toes

Here’s another nugget of information from Donald Moyer, author of "Yoga: Awakening the Inner Body."

Bunions


With bunions, the big toe turns out and up, pressing against the other toes. The end of the first metatarsal becomes pronounced and a lot of pressure ends up being placed on the big toe mound as it is required to make up for the now-ineffective big toe. It becomes necessary to strengthen either side of the big toes, both the neck of the toe and the front base of the arch. Try these two approaches to strengthen and bring balance to the foot.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)


1. Come into the pose and lift the heels to bring the weight into the neck of the big toe.

2. Turn the heels out to make the big toes point forward.

3. Ground down and strengthen the neck of the big toe (the part between the big toe mound and the pad under the toenail).

4. Without losing the strength and alignment of the big toes, slowly draw the heels back towards parallel. At first you might not be able to bring them back into alignment.

5. Strengthen the ends of the arches, especially the end closest to the big toe mound.


Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)


1. Come into Uttanasana with a slant board under the toes.

2. Draw the big toes into alignment with the fingers while pressing the thumbs into the base of the arch behind the mound.


Hammer Toes


With hammer toes, the underside of the digits retracts back towards the heel, curling the toes. This can be worked on in Uttanasana by softening the top of the foot and strengthening from underneath.

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)


1. Come into the pose with a slant board under the toes.

2. Work on each toe either individually or together, bu pressing the neck of the toe down with the fingers and grounding the underside into the slant board.

3. Continue grounding as you first reduce the effort of the the fingers and then remove them completely.

4. Broaden the sole of the foot from the Big Toe to the 4th toe.
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Happiness

From WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show:

"Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of The Happiness Myth: Why What We Think is Right is Wrong (Harper San Francisco, 2007), says our modern-day assumptions about happiness are nonsense."

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Sugar

From WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show

"Please Explain: Sugar
On today's Please Explain, Dr. Jock Galloway and Sharon R. Akabas, Ph.D answer your questions about sugar. Jock Galloway is Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto Department of Geography. Sharon R. Akabas is Associate Research Scholar, Director of M.S. in Nutrition Program, Columbia University Medical Center."

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Actions of the Feet

The very wonderful teacher Donald Moyer, author of "Yoga: Awakening the Inner Body," came to share some of his ideas in a workshop at Yogasana Center in Brooklyn a few weeks ago. It was an intense three days of practice and observation that has left me with much to ponder. I thought I would share with you some of his ideas from this year and years past. There was a LOT of information, so I’m going to have to break it down. Here is some information about the feet:

1. Broaden the toes and metatarsals from underneath.




We often work very hard from the tops of the feet, causing the muscles to harden and pop up, creating a deep groove across the top of the feet. Better to work the feet from underneath so that the top of the foot and the ankle can remain soft.



So as not to over work the little toe and sap the strength of the outer foot, think of broadening across a line spreading out from the big toe mound to the fourth toe.


2. Roll the metatarsals.



To broaden the body of the foot, and to bring weight into the inner foot where the bones have evolved to support it, think of rolling each of the first four metatarsals inwards along its axis while turning the fifth metatarsal, connected to the little toe, outwards, spreading the bones like a fan.


Interestingly enough, B. K. S. Iyengar has apparently been teaching a similar idea, only turning the fifth metatarsal inwards along with the rest.




3. Stretch the neck of the big toe forward as you draw the inner foot (1st metatarsal) back and the outer foot (5th metatarsal) forward.



These actions together strengthen and support the ankle, and become the base of a wrapping motion in the leg that can translate all the way up into the hip and lower abdomen creating strength, stability and release. Stretching the big toe forward stabilizes and anchors the movement of the metatarsals so that the foot does not turn in.

If the feet are naturally very wide, the outer foot can lose strength. Rolling the outer foot/5th metatarsal forward can contain the spread, sharpen the outer edge of the foot and bring the lost strength back.

I have found that if you have a tendency to press into and over work the inner knee this combination of actions can aggravate this. Narrowing the inner thigh by bringing the hamstring forward (coupled with taking the inner quadriceps back to stabilize) can balance this out. Look for for more information on this in an upcoming post.


4. Ground the neck of big toe.





Sometimes we over work the big toe mound. Instead of pressing down hard into the big toe mound, soften the action by grounding the neck of the big toe itself. This can be experienced most effectively in Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) by lifting the heels, or in Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) by putting a slant board under the toes.






5. Firm the ends of the arches.


It is possible to over lift the arch and throw the ankle off balance. Activate the arch instead by strengthening either end, just behind the big toe mound and just before the inner heel.



If you are not sure how to achieve this, press the fingers into these point to bring awareness there while in Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose).

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