Optimal Workout Equipment Settings for Your Fitness Goals

Young fit woman rowing indoor on a rowing machine

With the range of equipment on the market these days it’s important you’re not just choosing the right workout piece, but engaging in the right settings to achieve your goals too. Whether you want to push for weight loss with summer around the corner or need to build muscle tone and strength, sometimes the ‘right’ equipment can be very wrong for you when you’re not using it properly.

Regardless of it you love training at the gym or you’ve purchased a few key workout pieces to set up in your home gym, finding the optimal settings can help kick those fitness goals more effectively. Get more out of what you’re using with these tips:

1. Exercise Bikes

Getting fit for summer on an exercise bike is a popular option because of the level of comfort it provides. Great for those that prefer to sit down whilst exercising, this piece will help to burn calories and boost cardio exercise. For those that want an extra level of support on the exercise bike, recumbent bikes are designed to have a reclined body seat and pedals in front of the bike instead of under the body like a regular bike. This offers the use more comfort and a better leg workout.

To get the most out of your workout, you’ll want the speed level to sit between 80-100 RPM. It’s crucial you don’t pedal at the same speed for the full workout though – especially if you’re wanting to burn calories. Instead, mix it up by riding at lower speed (50-70 RPM) and then crank to 120-140 RPM. The lower speeds will help to build leg muscle, whilst the switch to more intense speeds will assist in shredding weight and boost endurance.

You’ll also want to consider the resistance and heart rate monitor settings. By alternating between low and medium resistance settings, fat-burning will happen quicker. For the most effective workout, keep your heart rate between 50-85%.

2. Treadmills

If you’re looking to build muscles in your calves, quads and glutes your treadmill should be set to 9% incline. This is the ideal setting for marathon training, boosting endurance and slashing kilos too and will give you that burning sensation in your legs after a workout. If you’re just looking to boost those running skills though, a simple 1.5% incline will mimic outdoor running. For extreme marathon or steep hike training change the incline closer to 15%.

Both the speed and incline of the treadmill should never be too high where you find yourself walking, sprinting or running without moving your hands. Like with the exercise bike, you want to switch your speed and incline settings to mix the workout up. This will save your body getting too comfortable in a certain setting – as soon as you’re ‘comfortable’ your body is burning less calories! To build endurance, use high-intensity workouts and switch between a 4-5% to a 0% incline during various running intervals. Walkers and slow joggers will only need to a speed of 10-12km/h whilst serious joggers and runners should go for 16-20km/h.

3. Elliptical Machines

A steady 20 minute workout on an elliptical machine can shred that extra weight and get your heart rate up, boosting endurance and strength training.  But to get the full effect, the right settings are important. As far as cardio equipment goes elliptical machines, also known as cross trainers, are the powerhouse of cardio equipment; having the potential to burn 270-400 calories in less than 30 minutes.

Interval workouts are the best on these machines to boost metabolism and burn more calories. Because it gets your whole body moving, it’s ideal for strength training too. To boost strength and improve weight loss, the resistance of the machine needs to be increased – the more you turn that dial up, the more strength you’ll be building.

For a medium workout on the cross trainer, aim for a RPM of 90. Keep increasing the resistance and incline though to ensure your heart rate is high. For a full-intensity hard work out to get everything burning (including calories!) you can still go for a 90 RPM but aim for a maximum heart rate between 90-100%, as opposed to a medium work out of 85-90%. Resistance is key to achieving fitness goals on a cross trainer; once this level is bumped up, your arms and legs have to work harder to keep the machine moving. This offers a full body workout to build endurance and strength. For a more intense interval, adjust the incline to a higher level too.

4. Rowing Machine

These machines have a reputation for offering a low-impact workout that increases stamina, builds on muscle strength and drops those calories. The biggest problem with this machine is users tend to forget the damper setting – a crucial lever on the side of the rower’s wheel that can give you a solid cardio workout.

Before using this setting, make sure your rowing form is in top notch. Like gears on a bicycle, the damper setting will offer a heavier feel on the body the higher the gear. Start it on between 3-5 which will mimic the feeling of rowing in the water, and build it up to power your legs and upper body. You should feel it working your legs, butt, arms and back muscles.
Author Bio

Jayde Ferguson writes for Orbit Fitness – the largest supplier of fitness equipment in Perth. You can catch Jayde on Google+ to discuss this piece.

Burn Fat Fast With HIIT

Fitness by HIF Health Expert and Gabriel Method Fitness Coach Brian Killian

What I’m writing about today I’m hoping you will take on board and change the way you exercise forever.

If I was tell you with only 8 minutes of exercise every 3 days, you can help turn your body into a fat-burning super engine, would you be interested? If so, read on.

I worked out very early in life I was blessed with some speed in my legs. With older brothers this ability to run fast came in very handy, and I’ve used it to enjoy a fun athletics career. However it’s the type of training I did and its effect on my body shape, which I want to pay closer attention to.

Fortunately I am and have always been fairly lean, but have definitely not always eaten the right foods. With 3 kids, a wife, a business, I am no stranger to stress either, and come from a family who are all shapes and sizes. So what is it I’m doing which helps to keep my body fat levels down?

The answer is HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING (HIIT), and you can do it too!

What is HIIT?

A typical HIIT session consists of a warm up period of exercise, followed by 6 to 10 repetitions of high intensity exercise [EFFORT], separated by low to medium intensity exercise [REST], and ending with a period of cool down exercise.

The EFFORT should be done at close to your maximum intensity, with the REST being no more than 50% intensity.  One proven protocol for HIIT sets a 2:1 ratio of EFFORT to REST periods.

For example, 30 seconds of hard sprinting or your fastest walking, alternated with 15 seconds of jogging or slower walking. You perform this cycle 6 to 10 times. This protocol can be used effectively for swimming, skipping, cycling or any other form of aerobic type exercise you enjoy.

My own training experience, and that of the body shape displayed by sprint athletes, suggests this short, intense training is effective in encouraging your brain to reduce body fat and lay down muscle tissue.

But why? The key is HIIT tricks your brain into initiating your Fight/Flight stress response and as a result a cascade of hormones are released. These hormones cause a liberation of fat, an increase in muscle tissue and an improvement in aerobic capacity, even while you’re resting. Let me explain this in more detail.

FACT: Exercise is stress on your body. Your brain must always  interpret any stress, respond to this stress and subsequently adapt to it. Regardless of the origin of the stress, your brain interprets ALL as a physical threat and responds. For example when nervous I have the sensation of ‘butterflies in my stomach’, now I’m pretty sure there aren’t any in there but it sure feels like it! This is just one example of the direct correlation between a mental stress and a physical response, and it happens all the time.

HIIT is a stress on your body, it’s high intensity, short and powerful and very similar to the stress say, if you were getting chased by a predator or fighting for your life. Your brain adapts to this stress, that is, it prepares your body to reduce the risk of this type of threat ending your life. Your brain wants to keep you alive, that’s its job. So it’s appropriate then for you to be faster, stronger, leaner so you don’t get caught by the predator or you can fight off the predator, otherwise you’re dead. Your brain is in control, it controls what hormones are released, and it responds to HIIT by releasing the hormones which make you slimmer, faster and stronger.

 A word of warning though, HIIT may result in injury. The protocol I suggested isn’t set in stone, if you need more REST have it. The key is in the EFFORT and doing it once, twice or eight times doesn’t really matter, do what you can at your present level of fitness and health. Always warm-up appropriately and check you’re performing the exercises correctly and safely.

Warm regards

 

Brian Killian

Try this 15 minute routine at home now. You will need a fit ball.

Top 10 Fitness Facts

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Fitness by HIF Health Expert and Gabriel Method Fitness Coach Brian Killian

 eFit30 is delighted to welcome guest blogger Brian Killian, owner of bnatural in Adelaide to our health and wellbeing blog. For the next two months, Brian will provide weekly articles crammed with fitness information, exercise tips and much more.

With years of his own training experience as a professional athlete, and his effort to add variety and fun to exercise, Brian is well known for his non-conventional, but highly effective fitness programming. His mission is simple – “to cut through all the misinformation presented on health and provide honest, simple advice which everyone can follow”. 

To add to Brian’s impressive resume, he also works as HIF – Health Insurance Fund of Australia’s Fitness expert as well as being a Fitness coach alongside the world renowned Jon Gabriel, bestselling author of ‘The Gabriel Method’

Now I am an expert when it comes to exercise and keeping healthy, but even I get confused these days. There is just so much information on the net, TV and radio about fitness. Each day we’re bombarded with the ‘best new product for this’, the latest and greatest for this’, and it sends me into a spin, so I can only imagine how confused you guys must be.

So in my first post for eFit I’ve come up with a list of my FUN FITNESS FACTS to do my bit to cut through the pile of discarded ab rollers, vibrating platforms, thigh masters and my personal favourite, the sauna belt.

10 FUN FITNESS FACTS

1. You are never too old to build muscle.
My oldest client is 93 and she trains with me twice per week and lifts 5kg dumbells.  Age is no barrier to getting stronger.

2. A muscle dehydrated by a mere 3% will have a decrease in strength of 10%.
Always have water handy when exercising it’s the most powerful ‘supplement’ on the market.

3. The more muscle you have, the more energy your body uses at rest.
Adding some muscle to your body is a great way to help shed some body fat. The more muscle you have generally the faster your metabolism, and the greater amount of fat you use while resting.

4. You can lose fat and still gain muscle, so you can gain weight but lose fat.
Throw out your scales, such a poor way to measure your progress. Scales are so demoralising and I’m not in favour of their use. What your body is made of is of much more significance that what you weigh.

5. There’s a high correlation between the fitness level of the people close to you, and your own physical fitness.
Find yourself some fit friends!

6. People who exercise outdoors burn more fat than those training inside.
I love this one because I’m an ‘outdoorsie’ type, love the beach, the wind, anything natural. Combining being outside with exercise seems to me to be the perfect antidote for our modern, indoor lifestyle.

7. It takes twice as long to lose muscle as it does to build it, muscle builds fast. 
Now that’s good news, you’ll be showing off ‘your guns’ in no time (sorry that’s my gym speak, I meant to say ‘toned arms’)

8. There is no ‘best time’ to exercise.
The real and only best time is whatever works for you – Do it when you can, as often as you can, and make it something you enjoy. I have 3 kids, a wife, a business, I understand it can be hard to get some training done, to fit it all in. But it’s important, maybe it’s not urgent (yet) but regular exercise is important.

9. Regular exercise is linked to a better sex life. 
That’s a good enough reason for me!

10. Sleep is the most important factor is fat burning.
Studies show the more you sleep  the more fat you burn. The longer you’re awake the slower your metabolism, as your brain attempts to preserve energy. Studies show 8.5 hours to be the optimum amount of sleep.

Thanks

Brian

Embrace Simplicity

woman doing yogaA yoga practice can appear complicated when a novice watches experienced yogis do their moves. It is understandable why one would hesitate getting on the mat. Not to mention the plethora of styles that are emerging on what seems a daily basis. The photos of serious twists and balance can push the “not me” button in the mind of one on the fence of giving yoga a try.

Here’s the deal…it is a practice. Start simple, stay simple. The more you practice, what appeared too complicated to even attempt will eventually join the ranks of what is simple in your practice. Practice to embrace the inner workings of the body as you immerse yourself in a move.

It takes life experience to truly embrace the philosophy of “keep it simple.” The word simplicity implies there are no bells and whistles to enjoy. One assumes simplicity lacks complexity; however, this assumption is wrong. It is the perceiver’s choice to feel and absorb the details of what appears to lack substance. The heart and mind are given time to synchronize. Allow that to happen and feel what happens.

Leonardo da Vinci said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Teaching a magnificent woman, who is handling the challenges of cancer, expanded my appreciation of simplicity with just one
pose. Still weak from a recent chemo treatment, we focused on breathing and grounding poses to stabilize and nourish. Dandasana
(Staff pose)
revealed the magic of stillness.

To help the spine re-learn the action of being straight and strong, she sat with her back against the wall. The shoulders were rolled back and down so that she could feel the scapulas gently press the wall. The straight arms pressing on the palms into the Earth enhanced the sense of strength. The dorsi flexed feet of extended legs with engaged quadriceps activated the leg muscles. She was strong without force.

As she inhaled, she felt inspired. As she exhaled, she felt the flow of energy move. A simple pose with complex results. Anatomically, the
body was active while the mind  relaxed. The synaptic connections in the brain relayed the message to release the enzymes that ignite the internal pharmacy to deliver the chemicals to restore. It is only when the body is in the parasympathetic state the immune system can truly function.

The connection to the Earth in an active, conscious state provided stability and confidence. Taking time to push fears into the ground to be recycled awakened a sense of well-being. Psychologically, the mind experienced a new perspective and truly enjoyed the
beauty of the present moment. Each moment built onto the next moment and a new bridge was crossed.

The envisioning of a golden thread coming down from above into the crown of the head added to the strength of the pose. I could see
her be lifted up ever so slightly. I guided her to “see” each organ smile…then, each cell. The power of smiling added to her input of positive
energy. In fact, her Dandasana transcended from being a pose to a sophisticated state of being.

Ten minutes of Staff pose felt like a timeless sense of bliss. Simple…yet, not. To guide and interconnect with this state of being was
a gift for both of us. The uniting of the energies emerged with the simple action of being present and aware of the details. Healing was taking place.

After our practice, she felt more energy, no more pain, and the color of the skin was vibrant. I share this story for those blessed with good health and those in pursuit of homestasis. There is always plenty to learn why and how something works. But, sometimes just letting it happen without mental interference is just what the mind, body, and spirit needs.

Practice sophisticated simplicity. You might find it was just what you have been seeking

Valerie Goodman

Father Time, 2013 and Yoga

Father Time has gone full circle once again. Being a traditional time to make a list of resolutions, it is a good idea to reflect. Do you feel you’re on the right path? Do you have dreams to push you forward? Or, are you in a stalemate…not sure what to do or even think about doing? Time has a mysterious way of moving quickly or quite slowly. It depends on what is going on in the mind. What goes on in the mind depends on you.

Father Time fades away when you’re in the zone of doing what you love. Take a great yoga class, for example. The energy is great, you’re focused on each move and breath, things are just flowing…and before you realize it…you’re getting up from a delicious Shavasana. You stare at the clock and wonder where the 75 minutes went! All you know is that time seemed to cease to exist. And, it did. You took the road of Now.

We cannot change the past, but we can learn from it. We can try to predict the future, but it is just a guess. There are a plethora of articles giving advice on how to make your list. Over the years, I have made my lists and saved them. What I have found is that the few things that I really wanted got crossed off and things that felt like chores did not. And, some things took a little longer than a year to manifest. But, the timing was right.

The most gratifying “checked off” achievements involved pursuits that ultimately have helped others. That won’t change….only grow.

2013 is going to be a great year to focus on growth. Mother Nature reveals the magic of growing while appearing still to the impatient eye. A seed is planted, watered and left alone. Then,  when no one was looking, a young sprout breaks ground. The energy of what the seed of the plant is to be keeps it growing. Next thing you know, the plant expands itself in all dimensions…perfectly, without resolution. It just wants to grow and only be what it can be best…itself.

If you do not have a dream or passion to pursue, now is a great time to determine one. As kids, we would dream of all kinds of crazy things…like being a famous writer, a professional in some sport, an astronaut or a ballerina dancer. By God, some of those kids actually made it happen. But, it was not an overnight event. It took work, patience, faith, and relentless perseverance. You do not have to be a kid to dream and it is never too late. Some of the greatest accomplishments happened in people’s latter half of life.

A dream would not be as gratifying if it was simple to achieve. Take the deadline (in this case, a year) off some of your goals and see what emerges as you actively water it with action.When you practice the art of pursuing dreams without attachment of results, the unexpected emerges much like the seed in the soil. You might find what you thought you wanted lead you to what you really needed. Maybe that is what it is really all about.

Save the same old resolutions for the past. Losing weight, eating healthy, quitting smoking and exercising x number of times a week comes and goes. These are conscious, active efforts that demand your effort at sometimes a minute by minute basis. You can do it if you really want to. Let the intentions list be one that inspires you. You might even discover the energy of inspiration make the “other list” a bit easier!

Lastly, suspend the “out with the old, in with the new” concept. Everything new that exists came from the old. The wheel is still round. Fire can still be ignited by rubbing two sticks together. Art from centuries ago still inspire. The music of Mozart still moves. Words of profound individuals from hundreds and hundreds of years ago are still relative to us today. We still dream.  We still have hope. We simply strive to be better at what we love. Yogi Pattabhi Jois said: “Practice and all is coming.” So true.

Father Time is timeless. Mother Nature is ever evolving. Together, they offer us the wisdom and beauty to nourish the seed within our hearts. Let it be what you love. The rest will fall into place at the right time.

Here’s wishing you a healthy, happy, prosperous year!

Teaching, Me, and Yoga

Finding a yoga class that is in sync with what you seek can be a challenge. You wouldn’t think so since there are so many different studios in big cities. There are a plethora of styles of yoga to try out and an even larger group of yoga teachers to give a chance. One can do a personal practice at home; however, there is a subtle, sweet blend of energy shared while in a collective united group practice. As a teacher of yoga for only four years, here are the top five reasons I believe and have heard my yogi following has remained strong and stable. I will never claim to know it all, for I feel I have only scratched the surface. However, I know what I am about to write to be true….for me and my students.

Action #1: Teach and practice from the heart. If the energy is feeling low, the moves practiced are designed to lift one up…physically and mentally. Synchronicity of energies consistently coincide with a collective group and it is truly beautiful to share it. To teach what you think what a group wants takes out the secret ingredient of the heart. The heart doesn’t have to think…it feels. Thinking complicates. Feeling completes. Open your heart to help others open their own.

Action #2: Teach a core of familiar poses with new twists to them. Familiarity breeds monotony. Finding a blend of staples to have in your practice along with new poses is key in staying fresh. A yoga practice is like a relationship. You love the heart of a person; however, one of the keys to keeping a relationship strong is novelty…the unexpected…an unknown truth revealed. Yoga is no different. Doing the same thing again and again and again can become diminish the vision of new horizons. Being monogamous does not coincide with monotony….lack of growth in all realms breeds monotony. Keep them expecting the unexpected. It’s fun.

Action #3: Practice to the energy of great music. The eternal debate of practicing yoga with music or no music will continue. As far as I am concerned, great music complements the moves of a yoga practice. Remember, that it is a practice of mind, body and spirit. Music that speaks to your heart and propels you to move is magical. Beautiful voices, thought provocative verses, and a great beat that flows with your moves is an element I would feel cheated if I did not have it. Music adds to creativity. After all, music that moves you is from someone’s heart of creativity. Move to the hearts of many.

Action #4: The power of touch is indisputable. To give a person a soft touch of the fingertips on the third eye place or to gently press their shoulders down gives their body permission to let go a bit more. People fear that touching another will get them in trouble or they don’t have the desire to do it. Truth is…a great yoga teacher will intuitively know how to integrate the power of touch that so many seek, but don’t even know it until they receive it. It is a privilege to share the energy of love and a wordless message to release an internal grip many hold. I consider this privilege sacred.

Action #5: Keep on learning. It does not matter if you have you been practicing or teaching for twenty plus years…you will never know it all. There is immense knowledge in the concept of “teach to learn and learn to teach.” The two go hand in hand…beyond yoga. Apply it to anything you do and will find that integrating those two actions will solidify what you know and keep you adding to the foundation of knowledge layer by layer. To stop learning is to quit. Unless you’re ready to quit doing something, never stop the quest for learning. What seems insignificant to know initially will reveal its purpose when the time is right. That is…along as you consistently follow Action #1. (Follow the heart)

These words of Helen Keller have been the foundation of how I teach and learn. Nothing could more true:

“The most beautiful things cannot be seen or even touched; they can only be felt in the heart.”

Discovering these words have been instilled in my mind, heart and body. Integrating them in how I teach has hopefully touched many hearts to truly move to their own beat.

Valerie Goodman

Inversions, Hormones and Yoga

Inversions are an integral component of not only a good yoga practice, but good health. As kids, we used to hang upside down from the jungle gym like monkeys, do somersaults, or swing as high as possible gripping the swing’s chain and leaning back to get the feel of flying. Little did we know it, but our bodies were getting some great internal benefits. Besides being fun and giving a sense of daring to play to edges, we were giving our endocrine system a chance to share its magic. Use your yoga practice to re-ignite the smiles you had just being a kid. And, for goodness sakes, do not let the ingrained thought “I’m too old to do this…” deter you from doing what can make you happy at any age.

First of all, there are medical contraindications for inversions. It depends on the style of inversion and the physical ailment. (When in doubt, leave it out…until you discuss it with your doctor.) The body’s glands, or endocrine system, produce approximately 50 hormones. These hormones ignite the release of chemicals that send messages to your body and mind how to feel and function. Some hormones get the energy revved up and others get you to chill out. Over time, a consistent yoga practice increases your sense of awareness of what your body needs to stay balanced within the endocrine system.

Your glands reside from the top in your brain down to your reproductive zone and many places in between. In fact, it is not just glands that host the necessary hormones we need to function. Your heart, besides pumping oxygenated blood throughout your body and dispensing the carbon monoxide load returned 24/7, it also makes a hormone (atriopeptin) to help regulate your blood pressure. The pituitary gland, considered the master of all glands, is only the size of a pea within the brain and generates hormones that trigger a ripple effect of the other gland’s in the body. Some consider the hypothalamus the chief gland; but, irregardless of that debate, each are profound contributors to your physical, emotional, and mental existence.

Now, let’s get to the power of yoga inversions. To be clear, an inversion is a pose that gets your head below the level of your heart. Inversions stimulate your endocrine system into action depending on the type of inversion you do. For example, a Forward Fold ignites the parasympathetic nervous system into releasing hormones like dopamine and serotonin. A sense of well-being and releasing tightness from stress residing in the cells and mind is an amazing result from simply letting yourself hang over and breathe. Child’s pose is another surrendering pose that lets the blood flow to the brain and tell the pituitary gland to start the sequential release of calming chemicals that your own body makes.

Other inversion moves integrate a use of strength and balance that ignite a different set of hormones and results. Headstand or handstand actually raise your blood pressure, increase the heart rate, strengthen balance, and ignite a release of hormones that increase your energy levels. One of the hormones released in headstand is glucose, which is produced in the liver, and increases energy in the brain….then the body. It is a great pose to do at the front of the day to get the “juices” flowing.

Be aware that due to the various hormones released during certain poses, it is wise to know what to practice in the morning and what to practice at night. The inversion of shoulder stand lowers your blood pressure, slows the heart beat down and ignites the release of serotonin and melatonin that help relax you and provide a good night’s sleep. Forward fold, either standing or sitting, is another calming pose. Remember to inhale and exhale slowly and deeply and you will enjoy the soft flow of peaceful energy. Legs up the wall is another great pose to do a little before bedtime.

From a cosmetic perspective, inversions use the power of gravity to help diminish the “fine” lines on the face that develop as we age. The utilization of gravity to help the blood flow to the face and brain helps what has “moved South” (your skin) to get moved in the opposite direction. The increase of oxygenated blood to the face is revitalizing for the cells. A healthy balance of working the endocrine system and the use of gravity to move the skin is a fantastic way to slow down the physical aging process. If anything, you just might find yourself smiling more for no reason.

Additionally, the inversions flip your organs upside down. To invert is to stir up sediments so that they can be more easily flushed out. Think about it. If you stir in a little sand in water, it will eventually settle to the bottom. The body is no different. Granules of what you consume are broken down in the digestive system. The organs that receive and use what is shared with them can retain tiny remnants over time. Not moving much keeps things where they settle. Throw in an inversion and things get stirred up and a chance to be moved out. Consider it a purging of what you don’t need or use like when you clean out your closet and drawers. It is showing good will to yourself.

Remember, you have an ample supply of power within you. We all grow a little bit older each day and there is no stopping the clock. But, with a conscious yoga practice, you will maintain and improve the health of the body and mind incrementally. Do not worry about setting time expectations of results. Instead, there will be a day when you suddenly become aware of a change or difference that you did not see before. Once that happens, know that you’ve just scratched the surface.

 

by Valerie Goodman

Flexibility, Candy and Yoga

“How long will it take before I can get more flexible?” is probably the most common question asked by most upcoming or new yogis. This is like asking the classic Tootsie Roll lollipop question of “how many licks will it take to get to the center?”

There is no true answer. It depends on the person experiencing it. With the Tootsie Roll, you can take your time and relish the flavor drop by drop until that chewy center reveals itself. Or, you can take a few quick rolls of the lollipop in the mouth until you crunch down to the core and enjoy it for a few brief moments. Which sounds more gratifying?

The same approach is with yoga. Forget about time. Forget about the agenda of poses to be able to do by a self-imposed deadline. Forget about flexibility. It sounds strange and conflicting to the task motivated mind. What is more amazing is that the moment you stop worrying about what you think you should be doing, you will discover the bliss of enjoying what you ARE doing. The more flexible you become with time, the more details you will notice. Whether it be music, art, acting, a single flower in the grass or yoga, the beauty of all masterpieces are in the details.

When in Downward Dog, do you use the time to feel each fingertip press down? Do you feel the subtle lengthening of the muscles in the body take place? Do you envision the cells moving around enjoying your exterior movements that nourish them to be stronger? Do you feel the gift of inhaling and exhaling consciously? So many details to observe moment by moment….breath by breath. Use this flexibility of time off the mat. It is in the details of active living that we learn more, grow more, become more. The advancement of technology has not given us more time…it has made the “to do list” longer with less time to experience the details.

If you’re going to eat the Tootsie Roll lollipop, savor every nuance of it. The sweet flavor covering every taste bud the longer you let it rest in your mouth. The subtle change of the smoothness of the candy as you let it melt and coat your throat. The silly guilty pleasure of savoring sweet sugar. The anticipation of getting to the core.The priceless gift of just being in the moment. The center will come soon enough and then it is gone. It is not wise to just keep on eating candy to enjoy the moment; however, yoga is a candy you can devour for a lifetime.

Practice it long enough and you will uncover a core of yourself you never really knew. You intuitively know it is there; however, if you let time press you forward too fast, you might overlook the most beautiful of details. Fortunately, the unraveling of the layers of Self via yoga is a lifetime practice.

So what’s the hurry? Enjoy the flavors that make you who you are. You just might find there was more to you than you could ever imagine. Let the mind become more flexible with time and the physical changes will emerge. The sweet core will not dissolve and leave nothing else to enjoy. Instead, it will do just the opposite. Expect an expansion and be ready to share it. You will not run out of sweetness to share.

So, to simply reverse roles with inquiring minds of flexibility, I ask you…once you become more flexible, how many practices will it take for you to leave the mat?

by Valerie Goodman

 

The ABC’s of Yoga

Sometimes it is good to take a refresher course on what you do. Being a teacher of yoga, I introduce new ways to pursue a move or get to a new edge. After having the same students for over three years, I assumed they understood the most fundamental part of yoga…breathing. One day, a brand new student to yoga ignited me to ask the class: “Does everyone know how to practice ujjayi (ocean) breath?”

To my surprise , most of the class admitted they did not. It was a humbling reminder that it is imperative to re-visit the foundation of what you build yourself on…whatever it is. One can add various structures on this base; however, it is wise to check on the foundation to make sure you’re on solid ground. This realization about the folks I have been teaching was a divine reminder that they did not necessarily make it to the class that explained breathing. So, I taught them as if they (and me) were all beginners. We went back to our ABC’s of yoga.

A is for attitude. Whether it is your first or you’ve lost count yoga class, your attitude of having a beginner’s mind is a must. A beginner’s mind is also known as a Zen mindset. The way to do this is to be aware of each moment. Focus on feeling the body’s sensations when you’re in a pose. Feel the sensation of the breath flow in and out. Yoga is a lifetime practice which means there is no finish line to cross. The sooner you understand that, the easier it is to enjoy the practice without an agenda. Just learn, baby, learn.

Have you seen the awe in a child’s eyes when they experience or see something new? Can you remember that feeling you once had as a kid? Yoga is helping me remember. Each yoga practice is different. It may seem the same based on the poses you do; however, that is impacted by your attitude. When you make a shift in perspective to experience something differently, a lot happens. You can start to feel the heart beating, the muscles tightening or loosening, and more. The sky’s the limit.

The attitude of being the observer and letting whatever sensations arise be a source of learning makes it a much richer practice.

B is for breathing. There are various breathing techniques out there that achieve different results. To stay with my KISS philosophy, it is best to master “ocean breath”. A great analogy for this type of breathing is that you sound like Darth Vader from Star Wars. Focus on inhaling in a slow, steady pace and equally on the exhale. In yoga, a great way to remember to focus on breathing is what you are doing in your moves. When you are starting a move that opens your chest or has you reaching up, you inhale to receive. When you are going into a move that closes the chest or moves your body downward, exhale to give back what you took. It is a beautiful flow of give and take.

Let’s go back to when we were babies. If you notice, babies’ bellies rise and fall when they breathe. Perhaps that is where the saying, “sleep like a baby” came from…for that rhythmic and deep breathing is very calming and imperative for the entire body to get what it needs. It goes beyond oxygen. The art of conscious breathing can help ignite the release of the hormones that can either relax you or energize you. It is your choice. There is even a yoga practice that gives your body the message that it is time to get a good night’s sleep!

C is for calmness. You will notice that if you practice A and B, you will ignite C.  As you erase the thoughts of deadlines and goals to get to a certain level by a certain time, you relieve your internalized pressure. When you consciously breathe in with the attitude of nourishing the body, you induce physical and mental calmness. There is a lot of strength in surrender.

As your cellular structure gets the oxygen and positive chemicals ignited, they function better. As you improve the well-being from the molecular foundation that work the cells, the physical benefits will emerge. Each practice open you up a little bit more.

It may seem extreme to take the practice of yoga to the cellular level; however, your cells are the foundation of what you are physically comprised of. Give the cells what they need and they will happily return the favor. Deprive them of what they need and they will do what they can, but will eventually weaken.

Now when you get on your mat to practice yoga, remember your ABC’s. Have the attitude of a beginner, breathe with purpose, and let the calming effects flow through you. Explore new ways of feeling poses and reaching new edges.

By allowing your roots to grow deeper in solid ground, you just might find that you can lean just a little bit further than you ever expected. Remember your ABC’s and the rest will fall into place…

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