Join the Women's Health Online Training

Learn More

Most Popular Articles

Month: April 2016

Meditate Your Weight Review: Book Tardis

Book Tardis’ Meditate Your Weight book review by author and YogaMedicine founder Tiffany Cruikshank.

“This book is life-changing! I started a meditation practice two years ago which has had a huge, positive impact on my life. Meditate Your Weight: A 21-Day Retreat To Optimize Your Metabolism and Feel Great is THE tool I have been looking for to tie my meditation practice to my goal of losing weight for an important family event later this year.”

Read the full Book Tardis review here.

Book Tardis shares a Meditate Your Weight review.

Yoga Glo: 6 Yoga Poses to Help Strengthen Wrists

Looking for a way to strengthen your wrists or just wanting to give your wrists a break?

This week’s featured classes on YogaGlo will help to build strength and flexibility in the wrists, as well as offering ways to practice that are nearly wrist-free.

Check out Help for Your Wrists with Tiffany Cruikshank for a ten minute quick series of exercises for your wrists.

You can use it every so often preventatively or as needed for tension or discomfort. This practice is helpful if you spend a lot of time at the computer or play sports that use your forearms or wrists a lot. It is also helpful if you are new to inversions or are doing a lot of inversions in your practice.

Tiffany Cruikshank teaches 6 yoga poses to strengthen wrists, improve practice, and prevent injury.

The Power of Yoga Medicine Teachers

“If to be human is to be limited, then the role of caring professions and institutions ought to be aiding people in their struggle with those limits. Sometimes we can offer a cure, sometimes only a salve, sometimes not even that. But whatever we can offer, our interventions and the risks and sacrifices they entail are justified only if they serve the larger aims of a person’s life. When we forget that, the suffering we inflict can be barbaric. When we remember it the good we can do can be breathtaking”.

These are inspiring words written by Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, in his book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

As Yoga Medicine Teachers, these words may inspire us in many ways. As with other health practitioners, Gawande’s words may encourage the honing of our skills. Building rapport, listening, questioning. Observing and assessing our clients to support our clients’ health and goals in life. Yet, Yoga Medicine Teachers may have additional ways to aid people.

Helping in a New Way

According to Being Mortal, “each year, about 350,000 Americans fall and break a hip. Of those, 40 percent end up in a nursing home, and 20 percent are never able to walk again. The three primary risk factors for falling are poor balance, taking more than four prescription medications, and muscle weakness. Elderly people without these risks have a 12 percent chance of falling in a year. Those with all three risk factors have almost a 100 percent chance”. These are staggering statistics, especially considering our modern world of high prescription intake and more sedentary lifestyles.

So how can Yoga Medicine Teachers support individuals? Considering these risk factors -our modern age of prescriptions and sedentary habits – we offer a new solution.

It starts with our intake and evaluation. During our intake and evaluation, we have the opportunity to observe and assess balance, muscle weakness, the range of motion. We can assess function, posture, and pain, and offer preventative intervention. We have the opportunity to recommend yoga poses and techniques to help restore strength, balance, and function.

Additionally, during the intake and evaluation, we may ask questions related to the number and prescriptions a client may be taking. While it is outside of our scope to recommend reducing or eliminating these prescriptions, we may be able to share information regarding the number of prescriptions, interactions, and side effects, and recommend a further discussion with the primary care doctor.

Yoga Medicine Teachers may have ways in aiding people, that other health care practitioners can’t. Our power lies in our building rapport, listening, asking questions, observing our clients, assessing anatomy and physiology, and most importantly recommending aspects of yoga and referrals to other health care practitioners to support our clients’ health and goals in life.

by Joy Esler, AP, MMQ, RYT.

Yoga & Meditation for Self Image & Weight Loss

MindBodyGreen article by Tiffany Cruikshank explores concepts from her book Meditate Your Weight. It discuss how yoga and meditation are powerful tools to improve self-image and self-esteem, and how meditating might be the missing piece to your weight loss goals.

MBG_TiffanyCruikshank_MeditateYourWeight

Why Meditation Is The Key To Loving Yourself & Reaching Your Healthy Weight

We know that meditation can help with many things, from reducing stress to improving concentration.

But there’s one big benefit of a regular meditation practice that’s often overlooked. How it assists with self-image and weight loss.

As a yoga teacher and wellness expert, I found that there were many people who were doing “all the right things” in terms of health. But, they still weren’t feeling their best or reaching their healthy weight. I noticed that the two common denominators standing in their way were a high-stress level and their self-concept.

I started using meditation with many of these patients, and when they finally started seeing success, I realized just how important mindfulness is to a holistic health plan.

Here are three key reasons meditation can help your health goals, in a way that clean eating and exercise alone can’t:

1. Meditation addresses the stress response.

In our busy modern lives, stress is such an important component of weight loss. Regulation of cortisol levels—along with the sympathetic nervous system response—is crucial for things like abdominal fat, poor digestion and poor sleep.

2. Mindful awareness brings our self-destructive habits into clear view.

A meditation practice is not about forcing ourselves to eat better. Instead, it helps you focus on how your food, exercise, and other habits affect you and your ability to move toward optimal weight and health.

3. Meditation improves our self-concept.

This last one is often the hardest to explain in scientific terms. But, in my experience, it’s often the most important. If you’ve been overweight for more than even just a few weeks, your view of yourself actually changes along with your body shape.

Why is this so important? I believe how you see yourself is crucial to finally reach your healthy weight.

Meditate Your Weight by Tiffany Cruikshank is available now – click here to order.

Originally published on Mind Body Green.

Eccentric Hamstring Training: Fire Up Your Forward Fold

By Jenni Tarma.

Here’s Part 2 on how to build eccentric strength in the hamstrings! Eccentric exercises are fantastic for injury prevention and boosting metabolism. They are even more effective at increasing strength and muscle fibre recruitment than traditional concentric work. Eccentric exercises are also far more potent for creating functional mobility than passive stretching, which, while useful for relieving acute tension, doesn’t actually create any permanent change in muscles’ length, or their ability to function in a lengthened position. If you’d like a refresher on what eccentric contractions are, and an asana example on how to get your hamstrings working eccentrically, take a look at Part 1 before proceeding.

Eccentric Stretch in Hip Flexion

Now that we’ve got the basics down and hopefully have a good sense of what an eccentric stretch feels like in real life, let’s find some ways to incorporate this action into a yoga practice. An opportunity for eccentric work presents itself whenever the hips are in flexion. In this instance, we’ll also want the legs to be as straight as possible. This causes significant lengthening in the hamstrings. We also want to avoid excessive rounding in the lumbar, which can allow very stiff students to inadvertently bypass the hamstring stretch altogether. While seated forward folds cover all these bases, they tend to be quite challenging to hold with good form for most athletes. So we’ll go with something a little more forgiving: Uttanasana, or standing forward bend.

Most people will benefit from having a couple of blocks handy for this. A mirror (or second pair of eyes) is also useful. Eccentric exercises are definitely on the more challenging end of the movement spectrum, so I wouldn’t recommend this for beginner-level yogis or athletes. But if you’re a teacher, or teaching advanced students, this is an interesting way to spice up a pose that’s traditionally associated with release and relaxation. And it’s challenging enough that three or so rounds should suffice!

IMG_0852_628x353

Instructions:

  1. From standing, come into Uttanasana by hinging at the hip and draping your chest down towards the fronts of your thighs. Position the blocks under your hands at a height that lets you gently lengthen your spine forward, and takes any major effort out of the upper body. Look for a degree of hip flexion which produces a hamstring stretch that feels manageable and sustainable; things are about to get more intense, so resist the temptation to go for a deep stretch just yet.
  2. Your hips, knees and ankles should be vertically stacked up on top each other. Check the mirror, or have a friend correct your stance. Many people automatically move their hips back in space in Uttanasana to counterbalance the weight and forward movement of the upper body. This also instinctively avoids the much more demanding task of using the hamstrings to hold themselves in place instead.
  3. Maintain this alignment, and actively drive down into the floor with your heels.
  4. Maintain the grounding movement in the lower leg, then eccentrically contract the hamstrings: imagine that you’re attempting to lift the femurs up away from your knees and into your hip sockets. There will be no actual movement, but the sensation in the hamstrings should be something like a stretch and a contraction, happening simultaneously. Hold for as long as feels manageable.
  5. Carefully release and take a break in Uttanasana by letting the upper body relax and gently walking out the feet. If you’re teaching, cue a couple of deep inhales and exhales; most people focus so intently during this exercise that they forget to breathe. Take another round if you like, or try incorporating into sun salutations!

About the Author

Jenni_628Jenni Tarma is a Los Angeles-based yoga teacher, writer, runner and CrossFitter. She specializes in making the yoga practice accessible and beneficial to athletes. She loves learning about anatomy and is currently studying for her 500hr certification with Yoga Medicine. You can find her on Facebook, or follow her on Instagram @jennitarma.

Eccentric Muscle Training: Hamstring Strength

by Jenni Tarma.

The notion of muscles working eccentrically can be tricky to grasp even for seasoned athletes. It includes two seemingly opposing actions: a muscle lengthening and contracting at the same time. Eccentric contractions, though, are occurring constantly during even the simplest actions, helping to make our movements smooth and controlled. Training muscles to function well in eccentric scenarios is a very effective way to build both strength and functional mobility. Eccentric exercises are of particular relevance to athletes looking to enhance performance and increase functional, sport-specific flexibility.

Why Train with Eccentric Movements?

In order to better understand how eccentric contractions work, let’s focus on one set of muscles: the hamstrings. As both extensors of the hip and flexors of the knee, the hamstrings generate power crucial to athletic performance and are also a frequent site of chronic tension and injury. Hip extension and knee flexion are both achieved by the hamstrings contracting concentrically, meaning that the muscles shorten to create the joint action.

Conversely, when the hip flexes and/or the knee extends, the hamstrings don’t simply go loose and floppy; instead, the hamstrings continue to engage at the same time as they lengthen. This is an eccentric contraction. In the context of hip flexion, the hamstrings’ eccentric contraction provides a sort of light, steady braking action that counters the concentric effort of the hip flexors in the heel strike phase of the gait cycle. Another way to think about it: the eccentric action of the hamstrings in hip flexion is what makes the difference between your leg lifting smoothly and steadily, rather than just being flung out in front of you.

Risks of Eccentric Overload

With this in mind, it hopefully becomes easier to understand why the hamstrings and their tendons are vulnerable to injury. This is especially true in high-level sports that require the hamstrings to function eccentrically at a much higher level of intensity than most of us encounter in normal life. Some examples of this include situations that demand hip extension under extreme load. For example, an Olympic weightlifter pressing up from a weighted squat or a sprinter overstriding with a combination of hip flexion and knee extension.

In other words, the hamstrings become vulnerable when tasked with generating power in a lengthened position. Injuries happen when the muscles are eccentrically overloaded, in which case a tear in either the muscle or the tendon can occur. It’s also worth noting that most athletes are incredibly tight initially, which can add to the risk of acute injury. While athletes need high levels of muscular tension for good performance, in their hamstrings and elsewhere, it’s easy to see how too much tension can make them prone to injury, too.

Minimizing Injury

So, how do we minimize the risk of injury? As we’ve discovered, stretching the hamstrings for the sake of flexibility alone isn’t that useful, since what we really need is for them to lengthen and still have the ability to contract and generate power. This is exactly what eccentric hamstring exercises are for! The more familiar the contracting-while-lengthening scenario becomes, neurologically speaking, the more the athlete will reduce the risk of a hamstring blowout during the most demanding parts of their workout.

Below is an effective way to start building eccentric hamstring strength. It should be noted that the intensity in sensation is in direct proportion to the effectiveness of this exercise. Most people agree that it feels, shall we say, “challenging”. I would not recommend this for beginner-level athletes or yogis.

IMG_0246_628x628

Instructions:

  1. Start in a low lunge, and scoot your hips back as you straighten your front leg to come to Ardha Hanumanasana. The hip of your front leg is now flexed, and the hamstrings are in a lengthened position. You should be feeling a stretch in the back of the thigh. You can place blocks under your hands if it prevents you from hunching forward. This will ensure that the stretch is isolated to the hamstrings, rather than letting it go into the low back. If the hamstrings are very tight, keep a little bend in the knee.
  2. Flex your front foot, and firmly press the heel down into the ground.
  3. Without actually moving the foot, attempt to drag the heel towards the back knee. In addition to the hamstring stretch, you should now also feel the muscle contracting.
  4. This is usually a great time to remind your student(s) to breathe, and maybe ease up a little if the stretch is very intense. Many athletes/ sensation junkies will work way too hard here; remind them that it’s best to stay at roughly 80% of what their maximum effort would feel like.
  5. While you’re here, explore sensations around the hamstrings. Maintain all the above engagements in your front leg, and carefully roll onto the outer heel so that the toes turn slightly outwards; you’ll feel the stretch move into the inner hamstrings. Roll onto the inner heel to bring the stretch into the outer hamstrings.

Finishing the Stretch:

  1. When you’re done, slowly come forward into a lunge, and step into Uttanasana. Take your time here, paying attention to differences between the right and left sides. The hamstrings you worked on probably feel noticeably more open and loose. (teacher tip: most athletes absolutely love it when they can feel immediate results from a stretch or exercise- play it up). It’s also useful to notice the breadth of the sensation. The entire back of the stretched thigh should feel pretty warm, which is a cool way to visualize the physical placement and width of the hamstring muscles.
  2. Repeat on the other side!

Jenni_628Jenni Tarma is a Los Angeles-based yoga teacher, writer, runner and CrossFitter. She specializes in making the yoga practice accessible and beneficial to athletes. She loves learning about anatomy and is currently studying for her 500hr certification with Yoga Medicine. You can find her on Facebook, or follow her on Instagram @jennitarma.

Interview with Shannon Paterson, RYT-500

Shannon Paterson, RYT-500, is a yoga therapeutics instructor who completed her Yoga Medicine 500HR certification at the end of December 2015. We interviewed her to find out more about her experience as a student in our teacher training program and how she’s using her knowledge and experience to serve her community in Vail, Colorado.

_DSC0064_628x

1. If you teach privates – what kind of people do you work with, why?

I live in Vail, Colorado, which where many Olympic athletes come to train. This makes it a unique athletic bubble, and I find that I teach a lot of private classes to athletes. Especially those who have undergone surgery(ies).  Afterwards, they’re deemed as “graduated” by their Physical Therapist and then advised to do Yoga.  This is where my YM  knowledge really kicks in. Often times they’re still recovering, and I find that they also have a lot of other stuff going on in their bodies from their years of sports training; so I also get to work with a lot of imbalances.  It also gives me the opportunity to teach them some yogic head game tricks so they’re mentally stronger when they return to their normal sports routines and competitions.

2. Have you had any remarkable examples of yoga as medicine with your students?

Most definitely!  There are several. My favourite example is a student of mine who used to be a competitive “Snowboarder Cross” racer, who is now a Snowcat Supervisor for Vail.  Between her previous injuries and her job grooming our ski runs she was suffering some pretty severe back pain.  Her PT recommended me to her and after about 10 Privates she had cut her pain half and became a regular yogi in my classes.

3.  How has your training with Yoga Medicine helped you to better serve your community?

My 500 Hr YM training has really opened up more possibility not only for me but has helped me create more opportunities for my students to find their optimal health.  I love that I’m able to teach to so many different body types and yogic needs!  With yoga gaining more and more popularity I find that we have so many students from our community coming to class not necessarily to do a Handstand but because they want the therapeutic health benefits, they want the competitive edge in their sport and more importantly; they want to learn the science behind why it’s so beneficial.

4. What are some highlights of your training?

I think the biggest highlight of my training has been finding my “YM Clan”, as I call it.  A clan of yoga teachers who truly want to heal with yoga and who are so amazingly supportive, authentic, and creative about how we, as teachers, can spread the YM love. When I look back over the past 2 1/2 years of training though; I think the most magical moment was meditating in Sevilla, Spain with this beautifully vibrant colorful sunrise each morning and realizing how infinite my talent as a teacher really is.  Oh!  And being chosen as Lulu’s preferred human lap pillow in Napa!

5. What did you love learning the most & why?

Out of all my modules; the “Yoga for Athletes” was the most eye-opening. It really helped me relate more to my students as a teacher since I was armed in how to teach to their sport.  I loved taking the anatomy modules too because they really empowered me to work more with sports injuries.  I have so many athletes now, some of which are sponsored Pro’s; that will come to me for a “drive-by” consultation and ask me to fix them so they can be ready for their next competition.  It’s so rewarding to see them buying into Yoga as Medicine and then going out and crushing it!

Control Your Anxiety: 8 Quick Strategies

Alyssa Raiola for Greatist shares 8 quick tips to calm down and take control of your anxiety.

Greatist_IG_626x353

8 Fast Ways to Calm Down When You’re Anxious AF

There are plenty of great ways to relax, from sweating it out to doing something nice for others to taking a nice, long stroll in nature. But when you’re about to walk into a big meeting with your boss or finally meet Tinder bae IRL, ain’t nobody got time for a walk in the park. Next time you feel that rush of anxiety—and that red face—coming on, try one (or all) of these easy tips to calm down before anyone sees you break a sweat.

1. Think about pancakes.

We’re always down for pancakes, so we were pretty stoked when Meg Jay, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and the author of The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter— and How to Make the Most of Them Now, told us to think about the breakfast treat during a stressful event, like a performance review.

If your manager suggests things you can improve upon (such as replying to emails more professionally or turning around reports more quickly), think of them as pancakes on the griddle. “You need to take them off the stove, turn on a fan, or open a window,” Jay explains, “but the house is not burning down, so you don’t need to run screaming from the place.” In other words, if a meeting is getting you all worked up, thinking about “pancakes” can put it into perspective.

Similarly, turning to Mother Nature (whether it’s looking out a window or Googling some awe-inspiring photos), can help your stresses seem small compared to how huge the world is. It can also help clear away inner turmoil, research suggests. Finally, as Tiffany Cruikshank, a certified yoga teacher and author of Meditate Your Weight, says, remind yourself (in your head or out loud) that everything passes. And think of past experiences where that has been true.

2. Count your breaths.

You’ve probably heard that breathing can help you calm down, but have you actually tried it? Thought so. Here’s an easy place to start: Take five conscious, deep breaths anytime you feel stress coming on, Jay suggests, so your body starts to receive the breaths as a signal to calm down. Cruikshank suggests inhaling for three or four seconds and then exhaling for one or two seconds longer.

Whichever breathing exercise you choose, it’s best to stick with one, consistent method that works for you. “Having a regular practice of some sort is really the way to train the mind and the nervous system,” Cruikshank says—just like training a muscle.

3. Imagine being in your favorite yoga pose.

Or doing any other exercise you love. Picture something that’s particularly relaxing when you start to get nervous, Cruikshank says. Even if you can’t launch into tree pose or sneak out for a run, imagining the feeling of a calming activity can help you chill out.

When you conjure up the specific details of what it feels like to be on a nice, long run or killing it at kickboxing class, you’ll be surprised how your nervous thoughts will begin to drift away.

4. Wiggle your toes.

Mindfulness is a term that gets tossed around a lot, but at the most basic level, it’s all about being grounded or centred, and aware of your body in some way. Go ahead and “ground” yourself: Focus on your feet, pushing them into the ground or wiggling your toes (easier in sandals!) to check in with your body. “Picking one point of your body to focus on helps direct your body into relaxation mode,” Cruikshank says.

The Takeaway

We can’t control the way our bodies respond to stress (thanks, evolution!), but there are ways we can train—and maybe even trick—our minds to go from freaked out to excited or calm. It’s also important to remember that anxiety is something everyone faces at work and in life, but not everyone has an anxiety disorder, which requires professional help, not a few quick tips.

Finally, stress at work (outside the normal “Ahh! This meeting is a really BFD!”) could also indicate that you may be in the wrong job. “Listen to the things you say to yourself when you’re feeling anxious at work,” Jay says. There’s a major difference between “I really don’t want to do this” and “I really don’t want to fail at this.”

See the other 4 Tips Here

The Five-Minute Meditation That Will Stress-Proof Your Mind

Erin Magner, a 200HR Yoga Teacher Training grad, shares a five-minute meditation to reduce stress from Tiffany Cruikshank’s book Meditate Your Weight.  This article was originally published on Huffington Post and Allure.com.2016-04-06-1459975820-4165680-ScreenShot20160406at4.49.48PM-thumb_628x353

The Five-Minute Meditation That Will Stress-Proof Your Mind

We’ve been conditioned to believe that stress is the ultimate 21st-century evil, but Tiffany Cruikshank wants you to know that’s not exactly true.

As the Yoga Medicine founder and meditation expert explains, our innate stress response is actually super useful; it’s what causes us to act fast when, say, we’re about to get hit by a bus. But when we perceive every little less-than-ideal event in our day as a potential threat–a full inbox, a traffic jam, a grumpy barista–we keep our minds stuck in the fight-or-flight danger zone.

In other words, says Cruikshank, it’s our (totally controllable) response to stressful events that’s dangerous, rather than the stressful circumstances themselves.

Read the rest of the article here.

Join The Yoga Medicine® Community

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date with
our latest trainings and resources.

Yoga Medicine
Scroll to Top

Find Out More