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What's my tongue got to do with anything?

What's my tongue got to do with anything?

I love you guys so much, you know that? You ask such smart questions. This one came after last week's blog post.

You said to drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.

I was curious what benefits this had for a muskeloskeltal issues and general tightness? 

I find myself now constantly trying to drop my tongue now but it keeps going back like it's supposed to be a natural position for it.

It’s a very good question - this is my as short as possible answer.

How to tell when enough is enough

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I do yoga every day.

When I tell people this, they often look at me in wonder, and I’m pretty sure they’re imagining that I spend an hour a day standing on my head, or doing 108 sun salutations every morning.

Nope. Some days I do five minutes. Nothing more. I only stand on my head rarely and I probably only salute the sun once a week.

This is enough. This still counts as doing yoga every day.

Once I finally got it into my head that one minute of yoga as often as I'm able is better than, say, three hours of yoga once a week -- that is, regularity is more important than the length of any given yoga session -- doing yoga every day became easy.

Image via the fabulous  Breanna Rose

Image via the fabulous Breanna Rose

So how much is enough? How often is enough? How dynamic a practice is enough? Is simply lying on the floor really yoga?

Here’s the thing: whatever you’re doing, it’s probably enough. Truly.


Yes, there's always more you could be doing, but just because there’s more, doesn’t mean you’re not doing enough. (This is also true of life more generally.)

Here are some specific signs that you might be approaching (or have gone beyond!) 'enough':

  • It’s difficult to breath relatively calmly

  • You feel exhausted (either during or after the practice)

  • You feel more than a little anxious (either during or after the practice)

  • You find yourself wanting to avoid altogether starting your yoga practice or going to class

This applies to individual yoga poses too. Yes, not every yoga pose will always feel like the most blissful place to be, but you want to feel like you can cope with where you are.

Because when we're coping with where we are in a yoga practice, we can build up the strength and flexibility to move on—either to something more, or just something different. If we're not coping, building anything is awfully difficult.

This is true of other parts of life too, of course, and those signs that you might have gone a little beyond 'enough' are pretty good ones to watch out for off the yoga mat too.

The other thing to remember is that 'enough' changes, on and off the yoga mat. It depends on what's going on in your life—and what's enough for you might not look the same as anyone else in the yoga class or in your life. And that's okay.

So take a mental load off (and a physical one too, if you like): you're probably doing enough.


How to get (and keep!) people excited about yoga at work

Yoga at work. Obviously we think it's a great idea: it's our specialty. (Also, infographic on yoga for blokes here.)

When we did our survey, a fair number of you wanted to know how to get people excited about yoga at work. It's true: running successful and well-attended yoga classes at work can be a challenge, even if you and your colleagues really do love yoga.

So we thought we'd ask the organisers of a couple of the longest-running and most successful MmYoga classes for their expert tips! 

Alyson has had MmYoga classes running consistently in her workplace for about five years; Rosanne for about four.

How do you go about organising for people to get involved? 

Both Alyson and Rosanne use email to gauge interest and inform people about classes, and Rosanne also uses word of mouth.

“About three weeks prior to the end of term, I send out an email to the group asking for their intentions for next term,” says Alyson. “So I need to know if they want to continue, and if so, how many sessions are they wanting to attend,” she says.

Flexibility with the number of sessions helps, Alyson says. At her workplace, the terms are 20 classes long, but participants are able to attend 5, 10, 15 or all 20 of those sessions, which allows them to work around annual leave. 

“I keep a list of email addresses of anyone who has EVER expressed an interest in anything remotely related to yoga,” says Rosanne. “We also have a social yammer network at work and this has been used occasionally with mixed results,” she says. 

Both Alyson and Rosanne say it helps to occasionally open the invitations to classes out beyond the current list of attendees.

“If it looks like I'm not going to get the numbers, I send out a global email to all people in the building, with a bit of a spiel about the yoga,” Alyson says. “I always get a lot of interest from this,” she says.

Rosanne says she has found it useful to have an ‘open’ class towards the end of a term and invite people who haven’t already enrolled in a term to come along and try.

How do you keep them involved?

Alyson says people are more likely to stay involved if they feel like the space is a safe one and that people from all levels within the organisation can feel comfortable in. 

“We also have a bit of fun, and joke around a bit so everyone feels comfortable,” Alyson says. 

Money also comes into it. Alyson says keeping the numbers up means the cost is more manageable for everyone, and this is something she is clear about when she’s organising the classes — which encourages people to recruit their friends and colleagues to come along too. 

Having one term roll into the next helps to keep the enthusiasm up too, Alyson says. (Building a habit helps keep up the enthusiasm in a home practice too — here are some tips about how to do that.)

What are some of the challenges of organising a yoga class in a workplace?

Alyson says that finding the time to keep things going and keep the lines of communication open can be difficult at times because there is quite a bit of organising and chasing people involved. There are also lull periods where the organiser needs to amp up the advertising to get the numbers. Rosanne says it can be difficult sometimes to find an available space in which to hold the class. 

Tips for meeting the challenges

While every work place is different, Alyson and Rosanne have some good general tips for getting around some of the logistical challenges of organising yoga at work. 

“It really is about making everyone aware of it,” Alyson says. “So talk about it, publicise it, get it talked about in the workplace,” she says. Getting the support of the Workhealth team or Occupational Health and Safety representative is useful too.

Being knowledgeable about the bureaucratic ins-and-outs of the organisation really helps, Rosanne says. 

“And, trite but true — professionalism and being courteous always helps,” Rosanne says. 

Unexpected benefits

The challenges of organising yoga at work are worth it though. Rosanne says she’s had good recognition from her workplace for organising the yoga classes.

“I used to worry about the potential for injury (even minor) of a work colleague during a yoga class that I’ve organised,” Rosanne says. “I feel responsible for their safety (particularly for new participants). On the other hand, I also get a nice warm-fluffy feeling thinking that I’ve contributed in a small way to peoples’ health,” she says. 

Alyson has noticed a huge improvement in workplace culture: people from different teams talk to each other, and people from all levels come along - from junior to senior.

Warm and fluffy, plus a better work environment. Yay!

yoga at work

How to have happy knees (in yoga and in life)

I want to teach you how to use your feet.

So yes, this post is about knees. Promise. But happy feet equal happy knees.

Our knees work in collaboration with our feet and pelvis to keep us upright. How we hold our weight when we stand and walk (let alone run), and whether or not we're engaging the muscles in the feet, legs and hips the way they've evolved to engage will dictate whether we're comfortable in the knee joints (and just generally, really).

Learning how to use your feet will help ease any tension/pain in your knees.

The foot low-down (excuse the lame joke)

Your feet are your foundation. And they are, as a result, a very complex structure. Around a quarter of the number of bones and muscles in your entire body are below your ankle. 

Look at all those little bones in there! They need muscles to support them too.

Look at all those little bones in there! They need muscles to support them too.

They're so complex because they've evolved to adapt to whatever surface it is that we're walking on -- and before we built footpaths and roads, and put our feet in shoes, that would've been some pretty uncertain terrain. Unfortunately, not using the feet to their full potential has a knock-on effect on the legs and hips and -- you guessed it -- the knees.

So for happier feet (and knees and hips) the first and most important thing you can do is to spend as much time as you can barefoot, to get some of that adaptability back into the muscles and joints in your feet.

Where to put your weight, and where your toes and knees should be pointing

Your foot is a set of three arches like this:

Why are drawing apps so hard to draw with? But you get the picture. Three arches, three points of contact. Also, I really need to paint my toenails again.

Why are drawing apps so hard to draw with? But you get the picture. Three arches, three points of contact. Also, I really need to paint my toenails again.

You want to make contact with the ground at the point in the centre of each of your heels, the point under the ball of your big toes and the point under the ball of your little toes. The outside edges of your feet should be parallel to one another; the toes may even turn in slightly.

Your weight, however, should be back in that centre point in the heel.

Try it. Stand up with your feet hip width apart. Make contact with the ground with those three points, but bring your weight back into your heels. All of it. Yep. All of it. Keep going. Good that's it. But keep those points on the balls of the feet pressing into the floor. Try not to scrunch your toes too much. Tricky huh? Feels pretty weird, am I right?*

What you're trying to do by bringing your weight back into your heels is line your knees and hips up with your ankle joints, which allows your body to use the different parts of the leg more evenly, and keeps each of those joints from compressing (ouch!). From the side, when you're standing, you want to look like this:

Beautiful! Lovely alignment, Ms Artists' Mannequin. Knees on top of ankles; hips on top of knees.

Beautiful! Lovely alignment, Ms Artists' Mannequin. Knees on top of ankles; hips on top of knees.

Most of us, unfortunately for our knees, look more like this (Nadine's still working on this too.):

Oh no! Even on the artists' mannequin you can start to see the extra pressure in the ankles, knees, hips and lower back. Ouch.

Oh no! Even on the artists' mannequin you can start to see the extra pressure in the ankles, knees, hips and lower back. Ouch.

Lining the knees up from the front

You also want to line everything up from a front-on perspective.

So from the front, you want your legs to look like this (straight up and down and with the knee caps pointing out over the outer toes -- the little ones):

This is almost perfect alignment. Her left leg is still turned in a little too much -- turns out it's almost as difficult to put a mannequin in correct alignment as it is to do so with a human!

This is almost perfect alignment. Her left leg is still turned in a little too much -- turns out it's almost as difficult to put a mannequin in correct alignment as it is to do so with a human!

Rather than this:

Does she look like she needs to pee? Funnily enough, not using your feet and leg and hip muscles properly does often mean you can't use your pelvic floor muscles properly and, ahem, might need to stand like this more frequently than other folk.

Does she look like she needs to pee? Funnily enough, not using your feet and leg and hip muscles properly does often mean you can't use your pelvic floor muscles properly and, ahem, might need to stand like this more frequently than other folk.

This is what we yoga teachers are going on about when we talk about internal and external rotation of the various parts of the legs. We're trying to get you to have each of the parts of your legs pointing in the same direction, so the muscles of the legs are engaged evenly. Doing this takes pressure off the knee joints. Happy knees! Hurrah!

This is true in poses more complicated than simply standing with the feet hip width apart. 

A similar joints-in-legs-lining up principle applied to Warrior One.

A similar joints-in-legs-lining up principle applied to Warrior One.

Other things to help with problematic knees

Now, wouldn't it be great if we could all just go immediately from what's essentially dysfunctional use of the feet, legs, knees and hips, to wonderful alignment and a pain freeeee existence? Yes, it would. But unfortunately a lifetime's habitual (mis)use means that's at least very unlikely. 

Chances are (and this had definitely been the case for me), you'll have tightness somewhere that needs releasing and weakness somewhere that needs addressing, in order to stand and walk and move around using the body in the most advantageous way.

Step one: spend as much time as you can with no shoes on. (I'm repeating myself, I know, but it's important.)

Here are some other things you can do to help your knees:

Practice standing in the way described above as often as you remember -- not just in a yoga class!

Hip stretches, hamstrings and calf stretches, high squat (chair or awkward pose), pressing down with one foot at at time on a tennis ball. (Click on the image below to see a picture of each of these.)

Rolling feet out on a tennis ball.

* Standing with the weight back in the heels like this feels really weird because most of us are used to wearing a heel of some kind (and I'm not even talking about high heels, which, well, don't even get me started -- they look lovely, but they cause chaos in the structure of the skeleton, let's just leave it at that for now). We're used to bringing the weight forward into the toes. But ultimately, this weakens the muscles in the arch of the foot, and changes the way the muscles are used in the legs and pelvis, which means that we come to rely either on the joints themselves or inappropriate muscles just to keep us upright. Let alone walking.