Yoga For Lower Back Health
In January, we spent time strengthening the entire back body. We did chest opening poses and backbends that contract the shoulder blades. We engaged in twists and movements that activated the middle back muscles. We also worked on core and balance movements that keep the hips and spinal muscles strong and supportive.
In February, we are going to focus specifically on unlocking discomfort in the lower back, which often means exploring the hips in a big way. We're going to strengthen and stretch the front and back of the hips (the hip flexors and extensors) in poses like lunges, rolling bridges, chair pose, and flat-back forward folds. We will strengthen the outer hips and external rotators as well in poses like tree pose, goddess pose, and warrior 2. All these movements can be performed in a chair, on a mat, and everywhere in between, so get ready to have some fun!
I'd love to finally get around to recording some video for those of you who can't make it to my in-person classes. If I do, you will hear me crowing about it in your email, on my website blog , and on my youtube channel . Don't forget social media as well, specifically Instagram and Facebook. See you there!
Try Something New!
"MEDITATION & MOVEMENT" - This class will run every Saturday morning at Riverside Wellness in Milford at 8:30 am. We will begin with mindfulness and breathing practices. We will then do simple and gentle stretches and movements to help settle the mind. The class will conclude with a long guided meditation practice and final relaxation, including scalp massages with lavender oil. Pre-registration requested but not required. $18 drop in, or less with a class package. This class is accessible to those who would rather practice seated in a chair.
"BEGINNER/BASIC YOGA" - Wednesdays 9:30 to 10:30. This is one of my favorite kinds of yoga to teach. This style class is more like a workshop then a 'regular' yoga class. I'll ask what you are looking for in your practice, and we will do a lot of discussion and adjusting to figure out how to get a pose right for your body. Consider this a mostly private yoga training session where you set the itinerary, including preferring to practice in a chair! This class is currently only at Riverside Wellness and has the same pricing structure as the above mentioned meditation class. You can buy a class package and use that to join any of the yoga classes available at Riverside. Check out the Riverside website for full schedule details and pricing packages.
"ACCESSIBLE YOGA" AT HCL - Tuesday 12:15 to 1:15 at Hunterdon County Main. My original intention was for this class to be just a mat yoga class. However, since there are no other props at the library, and since a chair is the ultimate yoga prop, this class will be a combination of chair and mat yoga as it suits the student. That means that some students will do a pose in a chair while others are doing the same pose seated on the mat, or on their hands and knees on the mat. It's a challenge for me as a teacher but I am really enjoying the pose variations that we can explore by having chairs handy. You MUST pre-register for this since the library classes are limited in size and are getting close to full. Go here to sign up the the coming week's class!
Workshop Sneak Peek
So far, the newsletter covered what you are (or can be) doing in terms of yoga. But hey, I'm a student too! I'm taking a handful of really interesting training courses in the next few months, so that will likely affect the class offerings I have this spring. Here's a peek of what I'm doing.
Breath Coach Training - The ancient study of breathing practices (pranayama) combined with modern scientific research about breath, sleep, and the nervous system.
The Science of Stretching - I haven't started this yet, but I think there will be a lot of stretching!
Accessible Yoga Teacher Training - Making yoga available equally to all students, which I love! This course has special topics like wheelchair yoga, bed yoga, queer and trans yoga and lots and lots of chair yoga practices.
Tantric Meditation Courses - I'm in three of these this year, so clearly that's my favorite.
I love diving deeply into learning about yoga philosophy and practice. Once I've processed and embodied my new techniques, I plan to incorporate them into existing classes and add some new workshops as well. I also anticipate offering private breath and yoga training sessions via zoom and in person!
As always, thanks for reading! Feel free to drop me a line or ask any questions about my classes or yoga in general by emailing me at email@example.com.
It's that time of year again! And since I love lists and plans and writing lists in my planner, January first is a great day for me.
Last January, I made up a fitness challenge that involved "doing jack shit," and I wrote every day about mindful meditation and yoga practices that promoted restful self care.
I loved sharing what I've learned for the years in my own practice and trainings, and enjoyed the challenge of writing every day. I've decided to pull off another January blog theme. Hopefully I actually have the time and energy to teach eight classes a week and still write stuff!
Since we are BACK to the beginning of a new year and BACK to making lists of resolutions, I've decided that in January, we should go BACK to our BACKS!
So, over the next few weeks, I'm going to share poses and movements that I've been teaching for years to promote back strength and mobility. I'll also be teaching these poses in my mat and chair yoga classes this month at Riegel Ridge Community Center, @riversidewellnessmilford, and @hclibrarynj .
So join me in person, or keep an eye on my blog/social media posts for a month of healthy back care!
#yoga #chairyoga #Hatha #hathayoga #backcare
I feel like 2023 has been the year I recovered from Covid.
In March of 2020, I had been teaching in multiple locations in Hunterdon and Warren County when I suddenly found myself locked in my house and filling the role of homeschool teacher to a first grader and a special needs 16 year old. It was a bit of a jolt, if you can imagine. I finally got back to teaching in the Fall of 2021, only to lose my mother a month later. As many of you know, there are no words to describe that shock. Although I continued to teach once a week, I felt like I was still getting my bearings in all of 2022. By the end of that year, I really felt like I had reached some kind of safe ground to launch from, energetically and emotionally. I made a vague intention that I was going to get out of my comfort zone and teach more.
Now we're closing out 2023, and I am so very happy to see how that intention played out. I'm especially pleased to have gotten to know so many wonderful students at the Library and the Riverside Wellness Center, along with my steadfast crew at Riegel Ridge. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for helping me find the way through my own personal darkness. Practicing yoga with you brings me immense joy and meaning, and I'm grateful for you all!
I am also so grateful to my sangha in Frenchtown at Yoga Loka. I will always be a teacher who sees herself first as a student and a practitioner, and I know that my online and in-person spiritual studies groups are my emotional path forward through obstacles and confusion. I am eternally grateful for my mentors and teachers, especially Bonnie Pariser and Uma Parvathi Nanda Nath Saraswati.
As we turn the page to close out 2023, I wish you all health and happiness in the coming year, and I'm looking forward to even more joy and connection as your teacher and friend!
For our gentle yoga chair and mat practice this month, I'll be playing beautiful classical piano music composed by local musician (and yogi!) Heidi Breyer. Heidi just departed to live in Germany where she has family, but I'm sure we'll be seeing her back in Frenchtown for visits!
Heidi and I are fellow yoga students at Yoga Loka in Frenchtown, and her soul is as sweet and deep as her music. Her most recent album "Amor Aeternus: A Requiem For the Common Man" is inspired by the Latin Mass and is performed with a full choral ensemble. During classes I have been playing her earlier albums, and my favorite is "Moonlight In Empty Rooms."
You can find her streaming on all platforms with her latest single releases, updates, blog, and samples of her albums on her website at www.heidibreyer.com.
We're busy, right? But we can't keep running around forever, no matter what the calendar tells us. So let's just stop, drop, and RELAX into some gentle yoga!
This month on Friday mornings at Riegel Ridge, we will take it slow. On December 1st, we will do our regular monthly Joint Freeing Series practice. Every Friday after that, we will continue to relax with gentle yoga postures (like the "Reclined Cobbler's Pose" above) and extra long relaxations at the end of class, which include a lavender oil head and neck massage by your truly. Seriously!
In Chair Yoga at the HC Main Library, Riegel Ridge, and Riverside Wellness Center, we will move with gentle flowing poses to classical music, sending our bodies into rest with a moving meditation that is more like a beautiful dance. I'll be playing the simply gorgeous piano music by Frenchtown composer Heidi Breyer. If you check out her music (streaming everywhere) you will NOT be disappointed.
Go to the schedule page to see which class fits into your day!
Help us help the community! There are so many fun classes and experiences to try out.
My favorite charity this time of year of the United Way's "Holiday Hands" program. With generous donations from the community, the UW provides gift cards and newly purchased gifts so income strained families in Hunterdon County can still have a happy holiday celebration with loved ones. You can donate yourself to this program in multiple ways - giving cash donations in person or online, shopping from the Amazon wish list, or choosing a family's wish list and do the shopping yourself. Get more info about this wonderful program at https://www.uwhunterdon.org/our-programs/holiday-hands.
To participate in our day of giving at Riverside Wellness Center, register online and save your spot in the classes you choose. Go to www.riversidewellnessandenchantments.com. ASAP!
Beating the Holiday Blues
I don’t know how it happened, but I think we can all agree on these two points.
1.) November is already almost over and
2.) We have SO MUCH to do.
Or maybe it’s just me!
This time of year brings out my festive side, especially as a mom of young (and young at heart) kids. I want us to do all the fun stuff – decorating the house, going to tree lightings, baking cookies, shopping for family, making crafts, and so on and so on, forever. Add all that to the regular obligations of teaching and keeping the house in working order, and the result is that low hum of anxiety whispering in my ear, “You are running out of time…….”
So what to do?
In my case, I hold fast to my personal daily meditation practice. Even if I only have a half hour a day, I make sure I take that time to get on my mat and find some inner quiet. This time of year is also wonderful to add a restorative yoga pose after meditation, like lying down on the mat under a blanket and a lavender eye mask (called “Shavasana” in yoga speak). Taking this time to connect to self allows me to replenish my drained energy. With my sense of calm back on track, I can connect more to the joy of the holiday season, than the stress and obligation.
If you feel like you could use a similar reset, join me December 5th and 12th at Riverside Wellness Center for “Meditation For Stress Relief”. We will do some gentle seated yoga movements, breathing practice, and then settle into Shavasana while I guide you through a relaxing meditation, which ends in a head and neck massage with lavender oil (if you choose). You can attend one or both sessions, and both will have a recording so you can practice on your own at home - although you will have to enlist outside help if you want that neck massage!
We will meet from 6:30 to 7:30. Pre-registration is required, and you can reserve one class for $25 or both for $40. Click here to register!
Whether you join me for the class or not, please take time for yourself this busy month to find joy, peace, and the connection to your True Self. Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season to you all! Thank you for being my students and my friends.
Time To Let It Go
Ah, summer. My approach to summer is to spend the end of May and beginning of June in a panic to "get everything done" by the time school ends, turning me into an unfocused bull in a China shop. This year's "everything" list included getting the summer veggie garden fully running, researching native trees and shrubs and building a new bed with them, and making a YouTube yoga channel. Veggie garden (and a nosy rescue dog) pic featured below!
I have to admit, of the three projects, the YouTube channel was the most difficult - and I dug the native shrub garden bed during the drought when my clay soil was nearly baked to pottery level.
Why? Technology wise, it was very simple. But I worked myself into such a mental block about videos because I didn't know the ins and outs of video production, and I didn't want to put out a product that wasn't EXCELLENT out of the gates. I was sure I needed to do more research, buy more gear, maybe take a class about making videos. I put obstacles galore in front of this project, and at the rate I was going, I was never going to actually meet this (many years old) goal.
In the end, it was the act of service that got me going. We had to take a month long break from Chair Yoga at the library, and my students asked for a video so they could practice at home. Finally, I realized that my ego's need to be seen by others a certain way (in this case, being seen as an excellent yoga teacher and video maker) was getting in the way of actually bringing yoga practice to others, which is the point of teaching in the first place! I let go, and just went for it, allowing that I would not love the first videos I made.
And I most definitely do NOT.
However, I'm no longer in "analysis paralysis" and I am excited about the videos I want to make in the future. Thank you to my students for the inspiration, and to my teachers for years of yoga philosophy study that allows me to see when my ego and attachments are getting in the way of my own happiness!
That's the story of my summer so far - settling into family activities, getting down and dirty in actual dirt, and overcoming some emotional obstacles. Hope your summer is going just as well so far!
Building Strong Hips
In March I did a series of blog posts featuring hip opener poses, and we worked on hip openers in my Riegel Ridge mat classes. Everybody loves hip openers! But it is not enough to stretch the hips, happy as they may be at the idea. So this summer in both chair and mat yoga, we will work on strengthening the hip flexors and extensors.
What does that even mean? The hip flexors are the muscles that connect the hip/lower spine to the thigh bone which allows us to bring the leg forward, like the psoas and quadricep. The hip extensors move the leg behind the body, like the gluteals (your butt!) and hamstrings, and are important in walking, pushing off a step, and going from sit to stand. These sets of muscles are in a relationship because when one set is stretching, the other is contracting. We are going to have a fun month or two focusing on contracting these muscles to build strength and increase mobility in our daily activities!
If you missed the hip opener practice and like the idea of deep stretches, you can find the blog posts on my website. CLICK HERE to check it out!
Doing the YouTube Thing
As mentioned in the diatribe above, I finally did it. Like legions of yoga teachers before me, I made a YouTube channel called @GroundedEarthYoga and began uploading videos. And like the practice of yoga itself, I have to assume you get better the more you do it. Let's just say these are not high quality productions, but I'm getting better at the process and have high hopes for the future!
I recorded both a chair and mat version of the Joint Freeing Series, and a guided meditation. Please check them out, and do that whole thing where you "like" the video and "subscribe" to the channel, because that will make the videos more searchable through YouTube. Also, feel free to comment under the video itself, even if you don't like them! I won't be offended, and will likely agree with you.
Connect to the videos right through these links! The mat practice is embedded below.
Mat practice - https://youtu.be/CuWYITjH5zs
Chair practice - https://youtu.be/0OmhoGixurs
Meditation - https://youtu.be/iVTSVulUCoE
FREE Library Chair Yoga Restarts
Hello library friends! I missed you! We had a short break for vacation time but now that the kids are back to camp and summer school, Chair Yoga returns for a six week session.
Please register for this event directly to the Hunterdon County Library Headquarters by calling 908-788-1444 or CLICK HERE to register online. The main headquarters library branch is 314 NJ-12, Flemington, NJ 08822.
Well, that was fun! I enjoyed sharing some favorite hip opener poses with you, and I know my Riegel Ridge students enjoyed our month of actually practicing them in real life on Friday mornings.
I did not, however, love the yoga selfies.
I know that’s how the whole online yoga teacher thing works, but I’m super uncomfortable taking pictures of myself when I’m trying to be “serious and professional.” I also don’t enjoy the “being pretty” selfies. If given the option, I’d always go for the “being a self-deprecating clown” photo, but that doesn’t seem like a very effective way to be a credible yoga teacher. But since the teaching yoga part of our hip series is over, please enjoy this series of outtakes I found as I scrolled through my videos.
Anyway, about those hip openers. I hope you enjoyed the reading, and got inspired to do some simple stretches, even if that means trying out seated pigeon pose while watching college basketball. There are so many moments during your daily routine when you can take five minutes to stretch and strengthen your body. Incorporating yoga into your regular life is a great way to build a long term practice!
Next month I’ll share more chair yoga poses, since I’m continuing to teach Tuesdays at the Hunterdon County library, and will be adding a chair yoga class to Monday morning at Riegel Ridge. Clearly, I’m a fan of the chair. So stay tuned in April and learn how to exercise while watching tv, scrolling facebook, or waiting for your dentist appointment!
Well that is some bendy BS, isn’t it? 😄
Cow facing pose is one of those poses that make people think they can’t do yoga because they “aren’t bendy enough.” If this pose was the criteria you needed to meet to start a yoga practice, most of us would not make the cut, including me. Regardless, there are other ways to practice this pose to get the hip opening benefits, or alternate options that help build the flexibility to go into the full pose.
In cow facing pose, the hips are in adduction (legs moving towards midline) and in external rotation (toes pointing outward from the body). You can do the same movements sitting in a chair crossing one leg over the other, and also sitting on the floor but extending the bottom leg straight. Either way, you can experience the adduction and external rotation without being in the full pose.
This pose also features an intense shoulder and chest stretch, but since this is a hip series, we’re going to save that for later. I do show a few options for the arms just for fun.
Chair: Sit on a chair with a straight spine. Cross the right knee over the left and contract the inner thighs. Pick up the right ankle and gently bring it toward the left hip. Rest in the stretch, then switch sides.
I want to share with you the yoga I practice, teach, and live.