squats

Building a yoga habit

Morning yoga has become a ritual for me. 

I roll out of bed and do a few yoga poses on my bedroom floor in my pjs. I do this every day, sometimes just for ten minutes. It doesn't always feel good, but it tunes me in to how I feel, and I am usually calmer afterwards. 

This habit has a significant impact on the rhythm* of my day, my productivity in my work, and how stressed I do or do not feel. 

Rituals and habits are closely related. 

I think of rituals as habits that give us a little space to find meaning, or to remind ourselves of it.  

The dictionary definition of ritual is “any practice or pattern of behaviour regularly performed in a set manner”, and there’s plenty written on how rituals can give meaning to events (even a study that showed that performing a short ritual before eating food increased the enjoyment of eating it!), and how the things we do repeatedly are who we become. 

(These two, on the relationship between personality and habit, and on how long it takes to form a new habit, are particularly interesting.)

What does this have to do with yoga? Well, yoga is a tool both for noticing our habits (in posture, movement, thoughts, emotions) and for changing our them so we spending more time with the ones that help us.

And, of course, yoga itself can be a habit or ritual. 

Do you want to build a yoga habit?

I’ve written here before about how a home yoga practice can be an antidote to Busy. It’s also a way of noticing things about ourselves and how we are in the world, and, potentially, to begin to build more helpful habits in other parts of life.

But how to start?

I’m going to give just one piece of advice.  

Start small. 

A small change is easier to do regularly, and to form a habit we need regularity. (There's a great post here on the Zen Habits blog about forming habits.)

So perhaps start just by standing for a minute (yes, just a minute) each morning or evening in tadasana with your feet at hip width apart, spine tall, face muscles softening.

Or, you might like to try just a minute each day of any of these simple postures:

Build a yoga habit

Pick a time of day, and do it each day at (or roughly at) that time. Be flexible though. If the time doesn't work, change it until you find a time that does. Then stick to it. And that one little change may lead to bigger ones. After all, from little things big things grow.

*A note: I prefer the word ‘rhythm’ to ‘routine’ because it’s a little more flexible and a little less mechanical (and hey, life isn’t always predictable).


Prenatal Yoga

This is a post from Janene.

 

I had a conversation with my fellow mm..yoga teachers recently about the special teaching adaptions required for pregnant students. During my own pregnancy I taught yoga up until a week before the due date, but I knew intimately what I could and couldn’t do safely (both formal learning and of course life experience) and what my body could handle. I was also very conscious about what worked and didn’t with my evolving shape.

Image via

Here are my top ten points to keep in mind for any woman who is pregnant or knows someone who is:

  1. In yoga and in daily life, remember everything is just a guide. You might read books, hear stories, or have people telling you about their experience. These are helpful, but what is right for others may or may not be right for you. For example, that whole 140 beats per minutes (bpm) exercise limit, can only be a guide, because if you normally had a higher heart rate, then even walking could tip you over 140bpm. A better guide: can you can comfortably hold a conversation while exercising? Listen, but make your own decisions.
  2. Only lie on your belly as long as it feels ok – depending on how fast you show will guide you, but it’s still a personal choice. Once your belly is too large, use hand and knees as your modification to practice.
  3. As you get bigger, lie on your left side for relaxation – why, well this is because the body is pumping more blood around and your body is under strain just due to this. As you grow larger it becomes harder for the body to do this so when you lie on your left side you are relieving pressure on the inferior vena cava which runs along your right side, thus helping return blood to the heart. And it’s also really nice.
  4. Lying on your back - yes or no? – now I found that working in a pose on my back for a short time was ok, but if it was an extended practice your options are –i) use a cushion under your buttocks to lift the hips higher than your heart ii) work in an alternate position or different pose iii) lie on your side. If you feel a tingle then you’ve done enough. The official stance is don’t do this after Trimester 1 but see point 1.
  5. Don’t squat high after 34 weeks – this is because you want to start to relax the muscles around the hips and pelvis in preparation for birth
  6. Don’t work your core after first trimester – this one is the most contentious. Yes you do need to relax your belly muscles to help the muscles stretch to accommodate the increasing belly, BUT, there is a difference between actively working and strengthening the muscles for that 6 pack and keeping the muscles engaged to help support your baby. I always encourage mums to be to keep gentle engagement through the abs to support the baby’s weight, and to help keep posture. The back can get very overworked if the tummy muscles are not active, and this can lead to complications later. Point 1 again.
  7. Work your pelvic floor until around 34 weeks – your pelvic floor helps keep the baby supported in a little hammock, so strengthen this area to help keep that load supported. Only stop when you have to. This was my life saver. (Nadine's note: read this too. Super important for HOW to work your pelvic floor)
  8. Now the one I wish I had known – don’t stretch to that point where you go ‘cool look at what I can do’. Why? This stretch is only possible because you have hormones racing around your body relaxing your muscles. Yes they are stretching, but it’s not in your normal range of movement and this means you are really making the area stretched unstable and unsafe. This can lead to evil problems eg back pain, pelvic instability etc. Nasty.
  9. Breath deeply, keep relaxing and go with the flow - the body is under great stress so remember, be kind. No harm every came from resting did it. And, if you feel short of breath then it’s likely your blood volume.
  10. Your pregnancy is unique to you, right here, right now. Just because a woman is pregnant doesn't mean that they will have issues, BUT pregnancy will exploit known and unknown weaknesses in your body, known or not.   

Neen headshot

About the author: Janene Watt crams a lot into her days. She's a working mumma who teaches yoga on the side. 

If you can sit + stand up from the floor, you will live longer.

Have you noticed the very strong squatting theme round here lately? Here's (another reason) why. Squatting develops musculo-skeletal fitness, in a way that, say, walking, doesn't.

When you are strong, supple, and balanced, things like sitting down on the floor and then getting back up are easy.

And there is evidence to suggest that this particular kind of fitness decreases your risk of mortality from ALL causes! Yeah, eventually we are all gonna die, but there's nothing wrong with putting that off as long as possible.

So, could you stand up from here?
So, could you stand up from here?

According to this article:

The test was a simple assessment of the subjects' ability to sit and then rise unaided from the floor. The assessment was performed in 2002 adults of both sexes and with ages ranging from 51 to 80 years. The subjects were followed-up from the date of the baseline test until the date of death or 31 October 2011, a median follow-up of 6.3 years.

 

Over the study period 159 subjects died, a mortality rate of 7.9%. The majority of these deaths occurred in people with low test scores - indeed, only two of the deaths were in subjects who gained a composite score of 10. Analysis found that survival in each of the four categories differed with high statistical significance. These differences persisted when results were controlled for age, gender and body mass index, suggesting that the sitting-rising test score is a significant predictor of all-cause mortality; indeed, subjects in the lower score range (C1) had a 5-6 times higher risk of death than those in the reference group (C4).

 

It is well known that aerobic fitness is strongly related to survival, but our study also shows that maintaining high levels of body flexibility, muscle strength, power-to-body weight ratio and co-ordination are not only good for performing daily activities but have a favourable influence on life expectancy.

 

Yeah. Time to get squatting. And yoga-ing in general, actually.

Have a great week.