May 2, 2020
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woman teaching fitness

The closest you can get to a studio yoga class right now is a livestream class.

No, it’s not the same, but it’s actually not a bad substitute, especially for a group class. You can take classes at times you normally couldn’t, with teachers and trainers you may never otherwise access in person.

Yes, one day we will be back in fitness and yoga studios together. But you best believe things are going to be different. There will be a lot more/different offerings, and a lot of them will still be online. So now is a great time to get comfortable taking classes via livestream services like zoom.

For those of us who had already been using zoom for years, this was no big deal. If you, like many of my yoga students, thought it was a magazine for senior citizens, you are not alone…if you, like my parents, don’t even want to hear the word app, that is OK…if you are registered for a class and the zoom link is being emailed to you, you can open it in your browser. You do not have to download an app.

Here are my top 7 tips for attending a live class via zoom.:

  1. Camera is optional. Yes, it can be helpful if your teacher can see you. It allows them to see whether or not their message is coming across clearly and it gives them energy to see you participating (and maybe even enjoying yourself – maybe). But if you just don’t feel comfortable with that / haven’t showered since St. Patrick’s Day, you can absolutely Stop Video and your name or profile photo will appear instead.
  2. Please respect the work of your teacher/trainer. ‘We’ realize that it is easy to replicate and share video recordings, but your studios and teachers have worked really hard to create these classes for you and rely on it as a part (or all!) of their livelihood. Knowing this and, per the legally binding terms and conditions that you have agreed to in attending this class, we ask that you please refrain from sharing meeting or recording links and passwords.
  3. Listen to your own music. Everyone handles this differently and we are all learning here. From my students’ feedback, no music creates the best experience. I have been emailing my students a playlist before class. They can play it during class to emulate the experience I would want them to have in real life. Of course, you can also listen to your own music or playlist. My advice is to turn the volume on your computer or device all the way up and turn the volume on iTunes or your music-playing app almost all the way down so that you can still hear the instructor and hear your music as background music.
  4. Mute yourself.  Most hosts will know to do this before class begins, but you can help them out by muting yourself when class begins. This keeps the audio pure and keeps your screen from popping up as the Speaker View for other participants who are using Speaker View (see next tip).
  5. You have choices about what you see. If you would like to see your teacher the entire time, select Speaker View (usually in the top right-hand corner of your screen). If you would like to see everyone who is participating, like a big Brady Bunch, select Gallery View. If you would like to see primarily yourself (to watch your form maybe), find the 3 dots at the top right corner of your video and select Pin Video. Please note that where these options are located will depend on what kind of device you are using (phone, tablet, computer, etc.)
  6. If your video freezes, try Stopping Video for a moment and then Starting Video again.
  7. Taking a class and the teacher is sharing their music through zoom? Sometimes the audio can become unsynced with the video. This isn’t a problem unless it’s a choreographed class where the music is key! To remedy, go to the bottom left corner of your screen and click the arrow between the mic and the Stop Video icons. Select Leave Computer Audio, then click Join Audio. Ta da!

Looking for a great, live zoom class? Here are some of my favourites:

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Las Vegas Zumba Jammer Ashley teaching Zumba Fitness via Zoom

And if you’d like to practice live with me, you can do that, too.:


December 27, 2019
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“How can I improve my happy baby? Because I struggle to get a deep bend in the hips and still keep my low back/pelvis on the floor, it’s a huge pull on my arms/shoulders to hold my feet.” – Gillian

 

Most conversations in response to this question about any yoga pose will go something like this:

Me: “Why do you want to ‘improve’ the pose and why do you feel you need to improve the pose?”

Student: “Everyone in class just seems to have their knees so much closer to their torso and I imagined be how good that must feel…”

Me: “You can see how a pose looks on someone else, but you can’t see how it feels.”

 

If you want to get deeper into the pose because it actually feels better for you, or you want to improve your hip flexion, for example, here are some ways to do it:

 

  1. Hold onto something closer. Back out of the pose before you dive further into it. If you are unable to keep your tailbone on the ground or have very long legs/short arms, but are set on holding your feet, your tailbone will never reach the ground. But if you try to grab something closer to your body, you may be able to keep your tailbone on the ground and it may actually feel better. Grab hold of one of the following body parts, listed from closest to furthest away – which ever you can hold while the back or your head and shoulders remain comfortably on the floor. (Be sure your chin is not tilting up and your shoulders are not craning away from the floor.)
    1. The backs of your thighs
    2. The backs of your knees
    3. Your shins
    4. Your ankles
    5. The pinky-toe sides of your feet
Happy Baby Progression 1
Happy Baby Progression 2
Happy Baby Progression 2

2. Make it active. Ananda Balasana is usually a passive posture, as opposed to an active one. By making it active, we can increase our active range of motion and potentially, get deeper into the pose. Here are some ways you can make Happy Baby active:

  1. Gently press your sacrum down into the floor like a foot on a gas pedal. This will lengthen out your spine and bring the lumbar curve into your lower spine, instead of rounding it into the floor (not what we want).
  2. Use your hip flexors to actively draw the tops of your thighs down towards the floor on either side of your ribcage.
  3. Dorsiflex your feet to stabilize the ankles and knees and avoid overstretching.

3. Take it upside-down. In Ananda Balansana, you are upside down, on your back, allowing gravity to help move your thighs and knees towards the floor. You can work this pose upside-down (upside up?):

  1. Stand with your feet wider than your shoulders.
  2. Sit down into a deep squat.
  3. Place your elbows on your inner knees.
  4. If necessary, stick your bum out until there is a concave curve in your lumbar spine.
  5. Relax your hip flexors and pelvic floor and let gravity help you to sit down into the squat. I find that constantly revisiting Step D helps to move my hip flexors out of the way and sit down deeper.
  6. You can stay with elbows on inner thighs…or start to work your hands down towards your ankles, just like you would on your back in Happy Baby.
Happy Baby Prep Squat 01
Happy Baby Prep Squat 01
Happy Baby Prep Squat 02

Happy Happy Baby-ing!


May 14, 2018
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Last week, I took over Vayusha Yoga’s Instagram and attended the studio for eight yoga classes over one week. As a full-time working mama, it got busy fast, but I am so glad I did it. Here is what I learned attending a yoga studio class with a different teacher every day of the week:

  1. Attending class is the best way to share yoga with friends. Over the week, I brought friends to three of the classes. Taking a friend to a class at a studio/with a teacher you know they will love and learn from is easier and more genuine than just repeatedly telling them to do yoga.
  2. Even after 13 years of practice, I still have to check my ego at the door. As a massage therapist and yoga teacher, I preach knowing your limits on the daily. But it’s still hard not to try to be a ‘yoga superstar’ when you know there are people watching. Letting go of my ego is something I get to practice more in studio than at home.
  3. I have a greater respect for commitment to others than to myself. My commitment to the takeover brought me to the studio on busy days when I would have done a shorter practice at home if I wasn’t committed.
  4. Leading yourself into Savasana is just not the same as having someone else talk you into Savasana.
  5. There is a difference between your ‘yoga in the morning’ body and your ‘yoga in the evening’ body. I practice flow yoga after my workouts (in the morning or early afternoon). Before bed, I usually practice some Restorative or Yin Yoga. I rarely flow in the evening. So attending two yoga classes after working all day, I realized that I was practicing in a completely different body than the one I practice in in the mornings. I was tired, and it felt dang good to take my shoes and socks off at the end of the day. And my body was so warm from moving and working all day! It was an exhausting, satisfying feeling. I liked it.
  6. Yoga teachers work freakin’ hard! Having taught yoga for almost 10 years, I already knew this to be true, but it is still evident from a student’s perspective. Over my eight classes, I had yoga teachers ask me for suggestions, greet me, massage my head, offer me modifications, and tuck me into Savasana. I know how passionately I care as a yoga teacher, but it is nice to know that it is evident as a student, too.
Anne at Vayusha Yoga in South Surrey

March 17, 2018
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Last night, I was thinking about how we call yoga “a practice.”

We say, “my yoga practice,” but not “my exercise practice” or “my workout practice.”Should we? What is the difference? Here are some ideas, which may be right or wrong:

  1. Competition
  2. Duration
  3. Ego
  4. Intention

What is the difference between practicing to achieve a challenging arm balance and practicing to achieve a max lift?

Well, my answer (right now) is going to be d) intention.

I think we have a greater opportunity to treat our yoga as medicine and as therapy.If we call yoga a practice, it means we are in it for the long-haul, not just until a competition or goal is met. If we are in it for the long-haul, we have to put our egos aside and accept that what our practice feels and looks like will ebb and flow over time as our bodies and lives change. Break a bone? Your practice is going to look different, but you can still do it. Cancer? Divorce? Injury? New baby? Your practice is going to look (and probably feel) differently, but you can still do it.

Here are three short (and possibly unrelated) anecdotes:

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Prasarita Padottanasana with Blocks as Props
Story 1:

Bad news: yesterday I woke up with acute low back pain.Good news: I knew what I had to do. It was a combination of my yoga practice and my ‘exercise practice.’ I diagnosed myself and prescribed a remedy, which involved a yoga block, a lacrosse ball, and a yoga mat. Sorry to keep bringing it up, but I had a baby four months ago; I do not expect my body to feel or look the same as it did before I was pregnant.

Story 2:

A good friend attended what I believe was her second yoga class ever. It was called a Level 1/2/3 class (whatever that means). This friend has been a fitness and healthcare professional for many, many years and is extremely body-aware. At this class, the yoga room was pitch black, so she could not see the teacher. The teacher called out the names of poses of which she had never heard. She had no clue what to do. When she got home, she told me she would have to do some YouTube research for her next class. Should that be necessary? Should our students have to research prior to attending an all-levels yoga class? Isn’t that why it’s called a “class” because the teacher teaches you how to do yoga?

Story 3:

I got a message from another fitness friend, telling me how awful it was that she had to use several blocks and a towel as props in yoga yesterday. Is this terrible? Why is this terrible? Isn’t that awesome?! Isn’t it awesome that my friend (and her yoga teacher) had the sense and knowledge to make her practice accessible, feel better in her body, and not cause more harm? I sure think so.If we approach our yoga as medicine and therapy, there should be no shame associated with the diagnosis or the prescription.If we approach our yoga as medicine and therapy, as students, we understand that our prescription and treatment is not going to be the same as that of the person on the mat beside us. If we approach our yoga as a practice, we understand that it will be ebb and flow, like life.If we approach our yoga as medicine and therapy, as yoga teachers, we should recognize that students are putting their wellbeing in our hands and we have a responsibility to teach, to give them the tools to feel better and do no harm.

July 8, 2017: 6-Months Pregnant & Teaching Yoga in the Park in South Surrey

If we approach our yoga as a practice, as yoga teachers, we understand that students are practicing. They are practicing with the information they had when they came in the door. If we give more/new information, it may add to their practice, but it will not finish it.A practice is never finished.


January 14, 2018
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Flying to a snowy location for some outdoor fitness?

Getting ready to hit the slopes in transit is a great idea for keen skiers and snowboarders.You will want to move as much as possible to warm the body and prepare specific tissues for skiing/snowboarding.

  1. Cat/Cow: Sit slightly forward in your seat and place your hands on your knees. As you inhale, arch your back and stick your bum out into the seat behind you. As you exhale, draw your abdominal muscles in, round your entire spine and look down towards your navel. Repeat these actions 8-10 times each.
In Flight Cow Pose
In Flight Cat Pose

2. Seated Hamstring Warm-Up: As best as you can, stretch your legs out under the seat in front of you. Sit tall in your seat as you inhale. As you exhale, keep your chin up, stick your bum out, and lean your chest forwards towards the seat in front of you until you feel a gentle tug in your hamstrings. Since the body is cold, you do not want to push this movement. As you inhale, sit back up and repeat the movements 8-10 times each.

Seated Hamstrings Stretch

3. Seated Hip Flexor Warm Up: Keep your left leg extended. Inhale. As you exhale, bend your right knee and draw it in to your chest, without the help of your hands if possible. Inhale and extend the right leg to meet the left. Repeat 8-10 times on each leg.

4. Seated Ankle and Calf Warm Up: Extend both legs under the seat in front of you. Sit up tall in your seat. Draw your toes towards your face as you flex your feet and then curl and point your toes as best you can. Repeat 25-50 times.

5. Seated Twist and Core Warm Up: ​​Sit tall in your seat and take a big breath in. As you exhale, turn your torso to the right, using the strength of your abdominals to assist. Inhale and return to centre. Exhale and repeat to the left. Repeat eight times to each side.

Seated Twist

6. Seated Upper Back Warm Up: Undo your seatbelt if it is safe to do so. Sit forward in your seat and interlace your fingers behind your back. Bend your elbows deeply and let your shoulders shrug up to your ears. As you exhale, reach your knuckles towards the seat, straightening your arms as much as you can with a tight core. Repeat eight times.

7. Side Body Stretch: ​​In your seat, inhale and reach your right arm straight up. Being mindful of your neighbor, exhale and lean to the left, keeping both sides or your body long. Inhale and return to centre. Repeat 6-8 times on each side.

Side Body Stretch

8. Seated IT Band Stretch: In your seat, extend your right leg under the seat in front of you and lift your heel off the floor. Inhale. As you did in the Seated Twist, exhale and rotate your torso to the right, keeping your right heel up and drawing your right toes towards your face – particularly your right pinky toe. Depending on your body, this stretch may feel intense or subtle, but it will lengthen the tissues that insert into the iliotibial tract (IT Band).

Now drink some water and hit the slopes!