Post-Natal Pilates

Whether it’s post-natal Pilates or yoga, the emphasis is on toning the abdominal muscles and the core, so if you’re looking for core work don’t let the name fool you. All you need to do to perform the following Pilates exercises is a mat.

A Pilates mat tends to offer a little extra cushioning as compared to a yoga mat since many exercises are done on the floor and the extra thickness or padding will help cushion your spine and joints. Check out our Harmony Fusion Mat which is 5/16″ thick, Natural Fitness Powerhouse Mat 3/8″ thick, our Extra Wide/Extra Long Mat at 1/4″ thick, or if you’d like a padded exercise mat take a look at our Tri-Fold Exercise Mat.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome : Wrist Stretches

HOW TO Stretch Your Wrists When Suffering from Carpal Tunnel 

This is a continuation of last week’s article on Yoga and Your Wrists.  Here are a couple of the wrist stretches recommended by Marian Garfinkel, who has created a whole series of yoga asanas for Carpal Tunnel.  In addition to stretching, using props – such as a yoga wedge -  to help reduce the angle of extension can help you during your practice.

The Yoga Prescription: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Five minutes a day can help anyone get the benefits of yoga, says Marian Garfinkel, doctor of education, senior Iyengar yoga instructor, and lead author of a promising study on the effectiveness of yoga for carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel sufferers who attended an eight-week, twice-weekly yoga class had less pain, greater flexibility, and a stronger grip than those who wore a wrist splint, the standard treatment for the condition. Whether your hands hurt because of too much time at the computer keyboard, other repetitive stress injuries, or even a chronic illness such as arthritis, “A few simple stretches can really help,” says Dr. Garfinkel. She recommends the following three exercises to help you get started.

Overhead arm extension (urdhva hastasana)
Do this first thing in the morning, or as a break during the day.

Stand straight, with feet parallel and arms at your sides: a posture that promotes blood flow to the hands. Stretch your arms and fingers straight out in front of you, palms facing the floor. Keeping the arms and elbows straight, slowly raise your arms over the head to the 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock positions, inhaling through the nose. Be sure to keep your throat and shoulders relaxed. Lift the sides of the body, keeping the shoulders away from the head. Maintain for 15 to 30 seconds, breathing in and out through the nose. Exhale and lower your arms to your sides. If you feel the blood flowing through your hands, says Dr. Garfinkel, it’s a sign you’ve done the exercise correctly.

Trunk extension (dandasana)
A good exercise for the office or anywhere you’re seated.

Sit on a chair with your trunk upright. Place your hands at your sides and press the palms into the seat, taking care not to tense your shoulders or neck. Press shoulder blades into your back, moving the shoulders back and down. Hold this position for 30 seconds, breathing in and out through the nose. Relax, then repeat. Spreading the chest and shoulders, Dr. Garfinkel explains, also has benefits for the wrists and hands.

Chair twists (bharadvajasana)

A more advanced position, also effective for back and neck pain.

Sit sideways in a chair, with the right hip and thigh towards the chair’s back. Keep the knees and feet together, with the heels aligned under the knees. Stretch your trunk upward and pull the shoulders back. With knees together and feet on the floor, turn your trunk towards the right and place both hands on the back of the chair. Pull with the left hand, bringing the left side of the body toward the back of the chair; at the same time, push with the palm of the right hand, moving the right side away from the chair back. Turn the body, then the head, and look over your right shoulder. Hold for 15 seconds. Relax. Repeat on the left side.

For additional information: Journal of the American Medical Association, 11/11/98. Dr. Marian Garfinkel teaches the Iyengar method of hatha yoga, which stresses precision and alignment; E-mail Contact the B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga Association (1-800-889-YOGA; for a list of certified yoga instructors.

For more on vitamins, herbs, and other therapies for painful wrists, see our library entry on Carpal tunnel syndrome.

Date Posted: 01/22/2001

Prenatal Pilates

In this video you will learn several easy-to-follow exercises that are beneficial for pregnancy, but aren’t just for pregnant women. Good cueing to engage the pelvic floor and core. In these simple pilates exercises all you will need will be a pilates mat and a small inflatable exercise ball.

We offer several sizes of these small exercise balls – a 7″ Exercise Ball and a 9″ Exercise Ball. When using them to provide resistance in your exercises, they will generally be slightly under-inflated. When using between the legs, you’ll still want your knees about hip-distance apart and if between the arms, arms should be shoulder-width apart depending on the specific exercise. Hopefully that will give you a rule of thumb to determine which size is best for you. We also offer a 6″ ball that is used for body rolling (a wonderful massage technique), that could also be used in many exercises as well.

Pilates Exercises for Breast Cancer : Part 3

The final article in this three-part series on recovering from Breast Cancer with Pilates exercises.  As previously noted these articles were written for teachers to assist their students.  So, if you are practicing these exercises at home, please be mindful of your own body.  Also, these exercises are to be done in order starting with the first series posted on Dec 16th.

To get started:  gather your Pilates Mat, soft-weighted Pilates Toning Balls, and Pilates Resistance Exercise Bands.

Pilates Exercises for Breast Cancer: Rebuilding the Foundation, Part Three

In this third part of our phase one programming for breast cancer survivors it’s critical to acknowledge the importance of parts one and two of the program, adhere to the goals of each segment and honor your client’s readiness to progress. There is no definite time frame allotted for each part—it truly depends upon the client’s success and comfort level.

The phase one exercises are essential building blocks recommended for a lifetime.

Follow these simple guidelines to assess readiness to progress:

  • The client has developed a good understanding of basic Pilates biomechanical principles.
  • The client applies Pilates principles both during the sessions and in daily life activities.
  • The client remembers from session to session the skills reviewed previously and the lessons are becoming second nature.
  • The client can maintain proper alignment throughout each repetition.
  • The client leaves the session energized, not fatigued.
  • The client experiences no residual soreness or discomfort post-workout.

Part Three Movements
As previously stated, the exercises here do not replace those shown in parts one and two; they are a continuation and are meant to be executed in the order in which they have been outlined.

If you have been scheduling your client’s workouts for 30 minutes, two to three times per week, you may opt to increase one of those weekly sessions to 40 minutes. This will help develop the client’s exercise endurance and give you a nice arena to add in the new repertoire.

It’s important to work within the guidelines outlined in part two: only add one or two new exercises at a time and vary the exercises from upper to lower body to avoid overtaxing one area.

You will note we have added the STOTT PILATES® FlexBand Exerciser® and 1- or 2- pound Toning Balls to either support the weight of the limbs and/or provide gentle resistance. Note: the movements may be done without the props.

  1. Side-lying Arm Circles
  2. Hip Rolls
  3. One Leg Circles
  4. Swimming Preps

1. Side-lying Arm Circles with STOTT PILATES® Toning Balls

Benefits: This move improves shoulder joint mobility and increases blood flow to the joint. The ball provides proprioceptive feedback and adds gentle resistance. The light load helps recruit the deep stabilizing muscles (e.g. rotator cuff).
Note: Only do this exercise if the client is comfortable lying on her side.

Start Position: Lie on side with both knees bent and a spacer between thighs to keep the hips more neutral. Head rests on a pillow or cushion; spine is neutral, top arm reaches toward the ceiling. Hold toning ball in the palm, facing forward.

Exercise and Breath Pattern:

  • Inhale: make tiny circles in one direction for 5 counts.
  • Exhale: make tiny circles in the other direction for 5 counts.
  • Repeat for five full breath patterns.

Beneficial Cues:

  • Keep the movement very small and execute circles slowly.
  • Feel as though the ball is resting gently in your hand; do not grip.
  • Keep the arm directly over the shoulder joint.
  • The movement should feel like a shoulder massage.

2. Hip Rolls
Benefits: This exercise encourages proper sequencing and fluidity of the spine, pelvis and femurs. The goal is to strengthen the abdominals, hip and spinal extensors while relieving tension. While appropriate for all breast cancer clients, this is especially beneficial for those who have had TRAM flap surgery and experience core weakness and lumbar spine and hip flexor tension.

Start Position: Lie supine on the mat with spine neutral, knees flexed, legs hip-distance apart, arms long by sides. You may use a spacer between knees to encourage proper alignment (place pillow under arm of affected side if necessary).

Exercise and Breath Pattern:

  • Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale, engage abdominals to rock pelvis away from the femurs. Activate the glutes and hamstrings and lift the pelvis, rolling through the lumbar spine until the hips are in line with shoulders.
  • Inhale, stay at the top of the movement.
  • Exhale, roll down—starting at the upper spine—all the way back to the start position.
  • Repeat 3-5 times.

Beneficial Cues:

  • Activate the abdominals first, then the glutes and hamstrings.
  • Use your exhalation to activate the deep abdominal muscles and take the tension out of your neck and shoulders.
  • Re-engage the abdominal muscles before rolling back down from the top position.

3. One Leg Circle
Benefits: This exercise focuses on spinal stability in neutral against a circular leg movement. It brings blood flow to the hip joint, mobilizing the hip, and brings attention to the use of breath to activate the inner core musculature (e.g. transversus abdominus, pelvic floor and multifidus). This is another exercise that is very specific for developing core and spinal strength and stability for those who have had TRAM flap surgeries.

Start Position: Lie supine on the mat with spine neutral, both knees bent with band wrapped around one leg (which is in the tabletop position). The other foot is flat on the mat. Arms are bent, hands hold band with an overhand grip and palms face body. (do not wrap the band around the wrist). Note: If the client needs arm support on the affected side, place a cushion under the elbow.

Exercise and Breath Pattern:

  • Inhale, allow the leg with the band around it to cross the mid line of the body.
  • Exhale, continue to circle the leg downward, outward and around back to start position, maintaining a neutral spine throughout.
  • Repeat 3 – 5 times on both legs.

Beneficial Cues:

  • Use your exhalation to maintain core stability as you circle the leg.
  • Keep the range of motion small enough so you can maintain core stability.
  • Allow the band to support the weight of the leg; avoid gripping in the hip.
  • Press against the band to activate the hamstrings, releasing the hip flexors.
  • Keep the foot on the floor energized to help stabilize pelvis and spine.
  • Watch that the pelvis doesn’t rock and roll.

4. Swimming Preps
Benefits: This exercise helps retrain oppositional movement patterning between the upper and lower body, which is essential in daily functional movements. For example, when we walk it’s natural to swing our arms and legs in opposition. This exercise also brings awareness to how our abdominals support our spine against gravity. Four-point kneeling is a perfect position to notice and feel this effect. Note: it may be uncomfortable for a client to bear weight on her arms. Avoid this exercise if it creates tension.

Start Position: Kneel in “four points” with the hands directly under the shoulders and the knees under the hips. Entire spine is neutral and knees are hip-distance apart.

Exercise and Breath Pattern:

  • Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale, engage abdominals with the breath and lift the opposite arm to leg.
  • Inhale and return back to the start position.
  • Repeat 3-5 times consecutively with one side, and then do the other side (opposite arm to leg).

Beneficial Cues:

  • Think length, not height, when lifting arms and legs.
  • Engage the abdominals to keep the spine from sinking.
  • Activate the glutes to lift the leg.
  • Visualize the hips are headlights shining on the mat in front of you.
  • Hold a ruby in your navel and do not let it drop.

PJ O’Clair is the owner of Northeast Pilates Certification Centers and Master Instructor Trainer, STOTT PILATES®.

Pilates Exercises for Breast Cancer : Part 2

Part 2 of a three-part series of Pilates exercises for recovering from Breast Cancer.  Please see last weeks post for Part One as these are meant to be done in order.  As a reminder, these articles were written for teachers so if practicing them at home, please be extremely mindful of your body.

To get started, you’ll need a cushioned Pilates Mat and a pair of soft-weighted Toning Balls.

Pilates Exercises for Breast Cancer: Rebuilding the Foundation, Part Two

In the second part of phase one programming for breast cancer survivors, the goal is to continue to introduce some very basic biomechanical principles commonly used in Pilates. These basic principles focus on restoring joint mobility with gentle range of motion exercises designed to break down residual scar tissue both from surgery and various treatments. We continue our work to increase overall body awareness with slow, controlled and concentrated movements. These simple exercises in the phase one work are designed to prepare the client for the exercises that will be added for strength and endurance in phase two.

While Pilates is a wonderful format for joint mobility and overall strength, walking is the cardiovascular exercise of choice for breast cancer survivors and should be incorporated as part of a well-balanced recovery regimen. Start slow and progress as able—a little goes a long way in rebuilding the foundation. Remember to work closely with the client’s medical team and don’t begin without clearance.

Phase Two Movements
The following exercises are not meant to replace the foundational exercises from part one of this series (see the April issue), but rather as an adjunct to progress the client in a conservative yet effective fashion. Introduce movements a few at a time to avoid overload. Only add one or two new exercises at a time; it’s easier to determine which exercises are successful and which may prove problematic. If you add too many at a time and the client doesn’t respond favorably, you may not know immediately which exercise was premature. Consistency with quality movement is the key to success with this population.

Vary the exercises from upper to lower body repertoire to avoid stressing the affected areas and allow for adequate rest in between exercises. Work with the client one to three times per week for 30 minutes. This may prove more beneficial than working with her once per week for an hour.

You will note we have added STOTT PILATES® Toning Balls to a couple of the exercises. The weight of the balls is not relevant, as you will not be using them for resistance. Rather, use them to support the limbs and assist in the movements.

  1. Scapula Elevation and Depression with Toning Balls
  2. Hip Release
  3. Butterflies with Toning Balls
  4. Spinal Rotation

1. Scapula Elevation and Depression with Toning Balls
The lymphatic system helps rid the body of toxins and is an essential part of the immune system. This is vital for cancer patients. In addition to gravity and muscular contractions, the breath serves as the primary pump for the lymphatic system. The breath also encourages engagement of the deep core musculature—transversus abdominus, internal obliques, pelvic floor and the multifidus.

Benefits: Like the scapula protraction and retraction shown in the first part of this series, this exercise creates awareness of how the scapula glides along the rib cage. This move warms up the shoulders, improves mobility and helps restore range of motion. The balls assist in the muscular action by providing proprioceptive feedback.

Start Position: Lie supine with knees bent, feet hip-distance apart, entire spine neutral, arms long by sides with palms resting on the balls (you may support the weight of the affected arm with a cushion as shown).

Exercise and Breath Pattern:

  • Inhale: slide shoulders up toward ears, elevating the scapula.
  • Exhale: slide shoulders away from ears, lightly pressing hands down on the balls, depressing the scapula.
  • Repeat 8-10 times.

Beneficial Cues:

  • Allow the balls to roll up and down, which will help keep the movement smooth and steady.
  • Watch that the arms do not round forward as they roll down away from ears.

2. Hip Release
Benefits: This exercise mobilizes the hip joint and strengthens the abdominals and spinal muscles to help hold the spine in neutral. The goal is to use the abdominals to maintain symmetry while moving the leg away from the midline of the body. While appropriate for all breast cancer clients, this is especially beneficial for those who have had TRAM flap surgery and experience core weakness as well as inflexibility in the hip joint.

Start Position: Lie supine on the mat with spine neutral, knees flexed, legs hip-distance apart, arms long by sides (place pillow under arm of affected side).

Exercise and Breath Pattern:

  • Inhale, rotate one leg laterally, allowing it to drop out away from the midline of the body. Extend the knee and slide the foot down along the mat.
  • Exhale, medially rotate the leg and slide the foot back up. Bend the knee and return to the start position.
  • Repeat 3 times on each leg.

Beneficial Cues:

  • Keep core muscles engaged when the leg drops out to the side, think small range of motion first.
  • As you exhale visualize the core musculature wrapping around you like a gentle corset.
  • Keep leg relaxed and hip socket tension free; avoid rigidity.

3. Butterflies with Toning Balls
Benefits: This exercise focuses on scapulohumeral rhythm, which is often compromised with breast cancer surgeries. You want to mobilize the shoulder, but not at the expense of dynamic stability. The balls are a perfect prop to assist in controlling range of motion and aiding dynamic stability.

Start Position: Lie supine on the mat with spine neutral, knees flexed, legs hip-distance apart. Arms are bent and hands hold toning balls on the tops of the shoulders. If the client needs arm support on the affected side, place a cushion under the elbow.

Perform this exercise in two parts. Do not add part two until client can do part one without pain. Keep the range of motion small at first.

Exercise and Breath Pattern:

  • Part one: Inhale, lift elbows off the mat straight up to the ceiling. Exhale, lower them back down to the mat.
  • Repeat 5 times.
  • Part two: Inhale, lift elbows straight up to the ceiling. Exhale, open the elbows out to the sides. Inhale, lift elbows back up straight over shoulders. Exhale, lower them back down to the start position.
  • Repeat 3-5 times

Beneficial Cues:

  • Let the arms feel as though they are floating. Avoid tensing hands or forearms and do not grip the balls.
  • Only open arms as wide as you can while maintaining pain-free control.
  • Use your exhalation to maintain core stability as you open the elbows. The breath precedes the movement.

4. Supine Spinal Rotation
Benefits: Rotation of the axial skeleton is a necessary and functional movement that may have been compromised during treatment. Abdominal tightness and spinal rigidity are common side effects of certain breast cancer surgeries. This exercise will help mobilize the spine and core musculature as well as provide a nice stretch to the upper body.

Start Position: Lie supine on the mat with spine neutral (may imprint the lumbar spine for additional support), knees flexed, legs together, arms out to sides just below shoulder level with palms facing up.

Exercise and Breath Pattern:

  • Inhale to prepare. Exhale, rotate lower torso allowing both legs to lower toward the mat, keeping legs together. Inhale to stay. Exhale, rotate back to the start position.
  • Repeat going in both directions 3-5 times.

Beneficial Cues:

  • Keep the inner thighs engaged as you lower legs to one side—this will help with abdominal connection.
  • Do not let your upper body rotate with the lower body.
  • Maintain a lifted sensation in your pelvic floor muscles as you rotate your spine.

Look for the next installment of phase one Pilates exercises for breast cancer in the June issue of Inner IDEA Body-Mind-Spirit Review.

PJ O’Clair is the owner of Northeast Pilates Certification Centers and Master Instructor Trainer, STOTT PILATES®.

Pilates for Breast Cancer : Part 1

This is the first of three articles describing Pilates exercises that you can perform to help in your recovery of breast cancer.  Unfortunately the images in this first part were not available from the original article, but hopefully you’ll be able to follow along with the detailed descriptions.  When performing Pilates floor exercises it is helpful to have a cushioned Pilates mat.  Pilates mats are non-slip mats with a little more cushion than a standard yoga mat.  We’d recommend 1/4″ thickness or greater to help cushion your spine and joints during your practice.  Visit our Pilates Products page for our selection of Pilates mats.

These articles are written for instructors to help teach their students.  So please keep this in mind if you are trying this on your own at home.  Some knowledge of Pilates would be very helpful when starting your own home practice.

Pilates Exercises for Breast Cancer: Rebuilding the Foundation, Part One

According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 2.4 million women living in the United States in 2004 had been treated for breast cancer (American Cancer Society 2007). Fortunately, thanks to early detection and advancements in treatment, many more women will survive breast cancer and go on to live out their natural life expectancy. Despite this good news, cancer treatments take an enormous toll: in just a year of treatment, the body can age a decade. Between the inherent weight gain, muscle atrophy and premature bone loss, women are left weak and physically challenged even by normal day-to-day activities.

Pilates is a gentle restorative exercise regimen perfectly suited for women as they recover and work to rebuild their bodies. (The benefits also extend to the very small minority of breast cancer patients who are men.) Many people considered Joseph Pilates a master of rehabilitation during his lifetime. His approach emphasized precision and control. Combine those qualities with current exercise science and you have a recipe for success.

For a cancer survivor who is re-building her foundation of physical strength—flexibility, endurance and self-esteem are priorities. Once the client’s medical team has given the okay to begin a gentle exercise program, the process begins.

Phase One
In the first session, be sure to review the client’s overall health history as well as the types of treatments and surgeries she may have undergone. This information is instrumental in developing an effective and safe Pilates program. Remember that you are not here to diagnose, but to help with her rehabilitation. Therefore, it is imperative that you prepare by gathering all of the facts before beginning.

Keep in mind that the usual stages for tissue healing and exercise progression for a client who has had cancer differs greatly from a client who has an acute or chronic injury. Symptoms like muscle tightness and joint stiffness are present in both instances. However, while the symptomology may appear similar, you cannot treat a mastectomy or a lumpectomy like you do a rotator cuff or joint injury. Treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation coupled with surgery greatly affect the time it takes to heal and fully recover. Also keep in mind there are ongoing side effects this client may experience that are unlike those an injured client might have.

The phase one exercises focus on developing the clients’ kinesthetic awareness and teach very basic biomechanical movement principles. These principles are foundational and can be part of the client’s daily exercise regimen forever.

In this first of three installments we will cover three principles:

  1. Breathing
  2. Pelvic Rocking – Imprint and Release
  3. Scapula Protraction and Retraction

1. Breathing Flexed Forward
Benefits: The lymphatic system helps rid the body of toxins and is an essential part of the immune system. This is vital for cancer patients. In addition to gravity and muscular contractions, the breath serves as the primary pump for the lymphatic system. The breath also encourages engagement of the deep core musculature—transversus abdominus, internal obliques, pelvic floor and the multifidus—all important for restoring posture and functional strength.

STOTT PILATES®  photography © Merrithew Corporation.  <image missing>

Start Position: Seated with knees bent, pelvis vertical, spine neutral, arms resting long by sides.

Exercise and Breath Pattern:
Inhale to prepare, exhale, initiate from the top of the head and articulate the spine into forward flexion (position shown in photo). Maintain a vertical upright pelvis, relax arms over shins, inhale through the nose and expand the entire rib cage. Exhale through the mouth, allowing the ribs cage to soften.

Complete three to five full breaths while flexed forward. On the last exhale, initiate from the tail and articulate the spine, rolling up to the start position.

Beneficial Cues:
• On the inhalation, allow the ribs to expand like an accordion.
• On the exhalation, feel a gentle wrapping sensation around the torso.
• Focus on full breath patterns and relax; get centered.

2. Pelvic Rocking – Imprint and Release
Benefits: This move helps mobilize the lumbar spine and strengthen the abdominals, especially the obliques, which are essential in the case of TRAM flap surgeries where the rectus abdominus is used for breast reconstruction.

STOTT PILATES®  photography © Merrithew Corporation. <image missing>

Start Position: Supine on the mat with spine neutral, knees flexed, legs hip-distance apart, arms long by sides (place pillow under arm of affected side). Note: photo shows arms in the air so that the reader can see the neutral shape of the spine, but the arms should be kept long by sides, supported with props if necessary on the affected side).

Exercise and Breath Pattern:
Inhale to prepare, exhale, contract the abdominals and imprint spine toward the mat. Inhale to release back to neutral.

Beneficial Cues:
• Gently rock the hips toward the ribs.
• Visualize a fossil imprint of your spine in sand; avoid pressing the lower back into the mat.

STOTT PILATES®  photography © Merrithew Corporation. <image missing>

3. Scapula Protraction and Retraction
Benefits: This exercise focuses on scapulohumeral rhythm, which is often compromised with breast cancer surgeries. Strengthens the middle and lower fibers of the trapezius, the serratus anterior and the rhomboids, which are all are extremely important for shoulder girdle mobilization and dynamic stability.

Start Position: Supine on the mat with spine neutral, knees flexed, legs hip-distance apart. Arms are long to ceiling (may have to do one arm at a time and use the strong arm to help hold the affected arm up). Note: photo shows exercise seated upright so reader can see the scapula movement. However, this exercise should be performed on the mat in the supine position with the arms straight over the chest reaching toward the ceiling. See photo #2 for reference.

Exercise and Breath Pattern:
Protract: Inhale to protract the scapula, reaching arms toward the ceiling, exhale to come back to neutral. Repeat 3-5 times.
Retract: Inhale to retract the scapula, bring them closer to the spine; exhale go back to neutral. Repeat 3-5 times.

Beneficial Cues:
• Feel the gliding of the shoulder blades along the ribs. They glide toward the spine and away.
• Visualize holding a roll of paper towels in your hands so that arms don’t go wider or narrower.
• Minimize the range of motion and pay attention that movement occurs just with the shoulder blades and not the spine.

Look for the next installment of phase one Pilates exercises for breast cancer in the May issue of Inner IDEA Body-Mind-Spirit Review.

PJ O’Clair is the owner of Northeast Pilates Certification Centers and Master Intructor Trainer, STOTT PILATES®.

American Cancer Society. 2007. Breast cancer facts & figures 2007-2008.; retrieved Feb. 14, 2008.

Yoga Straps : Relieve Back Pain

HOW TO Relieve Back Pain using Yoga Straps

Featured Product: Yoga Straps 
Brand: Varies
Purpose:  Improve Balance, Strengthen Yoga Poses, Assist with Flexibility
Compatible Exercises: Yoga, Stretching
Rolling Sands Harmony Retail Sale Price: $5.58-$15.98


Many people suffer from chronic back pain. This video will teach us how to do three yoga poses that will help relieve our pain. The poses are: Reclining Big Toe, Standing Twist, and Legs Up the Wall. If practiced daily, you are sure to see some results.

Before following along with this video, gather your yoga mat, two yoga blankets, a yoga strap, and finally a folding chair (or straight-back chair).

Back Pain:
Yoga – Postures To Help Relieve Back Pain

Yoga Blanket : Neck Pain

HOW TO Use a Yoga Blanket for Neck Pain 

Featured Product: Hand Woven Yoga Blanket
Purpose: Use during kneeling poses to cushion bones and joints, underneath you in repose positions to insulate from cold flooring, rolled or folded to provide support and stretch in poses, or just as a cover to warm you in Savasana
Compatible Exercises/Uses: Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Iyengar, Meditation
Rolling Sands Harmony Retail Sale Price: $13.98-23.98

Here’s a quick fix to get that kink out of your neck.  All you’ll need is a yoga blanket.  We offer several for you to choose from!

Crick Fixes Asana Sequence – Yoga Journal

By Barbara Benagh

Neck Blanket Stretch

Roll a blanket into a firm, even cylinder large enough to wedge between the base of your skull and the tops of your shoulder blades. Lie back over the roll so it gently stretches your neck; the roll should wedge just under the occipital ridge at the back of your skull and support your neck and your first few upper back vertebrae. Keeping your knees bent, place both palms on your forehead, fingers pointing toward the crown of your head, and bring your elbows close to each other. Close your eyes and tune in to your breath, feeling how its rhythm creates subtle movement. Notice areas in your neck, shoulders, and upper back that seem dense, dull, and resistant to the breath’s wavelike action, and invite them to relax against the blanket roll. As your muscles begin to release, slide your shoulder blades away from your skull; you may want to repeat this movement several times as your muscles continue to relax. Remain on the roll for up to five minutes, then remove it and continue to lie on your back for a few breaths, tuning in to the sensations in your neck, shoulders, and upper back.

For nine more poses to practice to reduce neck tension, see the entire sequence from Yoga Journal’s website.

Anxiety & Stress : Yoga

Why should you practice yoga?  Here’s just one more reason…

Yoga may be better at reducing anxiety and lifting mood than other forms of exercise, study finds

By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times

3:07 PM PST, November 11, 2010


Yoga has many proven health benefits, but does it stand up to other forms of exercise? Researchers pitted it against a walking routine and found that those who practiced yoga showed greater improvements in mood and anxiety.

Researchers randomly assigned 19 people to an Iyengar yoga program and 15 to a metabolically matched regular walking regimen.

Both groups took part in the programs for an hour three times a week for 12 weeks. Study participants were tested several times to measure mood and anxiety. They were also given magnetic resonance spectroscopy scans to measure levels of the brain chemical gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that quiets brain activity, reducing anxiety and producing a state of calm. The scans were done at the beginning and end of the study and immediately following a yoga or walking session.

Those in the yoga group saw better changes in mood and less anxiety than those in the walking group. The yoga group also saw increases in GABA levels linked with improvements in mood.

The study was published recently in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

Post-Natal Meditation : Breastfeeding Mothers

HOW TO Meditate while Breastfeeding 

As a new mom you may find yourself spending hours a day sitting quietly while breastfeeding your new baby.  To utilize this time wisely, without disrupting this special bonding moment, you may want to consider practicing meditations for both you and your child.  Meditating may help you draw strength, energy, and calmness back into your life.  Below are several meditations with imagery that you could consider, or write your own.  You could also find this to be the perfect time to repeat a favorite mantra – either silently or softly out loud for your baby to hear.

When practicing your meditations sit erect with a straight spine and plant your feet to the earth. Wait until the baby has properly latched on to your breast.

Information was taken from article, Breastfeeding Meditations for Moms by Andrea Dougherty.

Deep Belly Breath

Sit in a comfortable upright position with eyes closed. Focus on your breath flowing in and out. Your pulse slowing down in turn slows down your baby’s pulse. You are connected thru the umbilical cord your pulse feeding your babies pulse. Start by taking a deep belly breath and slow down your body’s chemistry and circulation. Deep smooth slow breathing is a way of letting your baby know that everything is all right. It is a way of communicating your confidence in the pregnancy and relaxed state of mind. You can communicate to your baby while in the womb not only by talking to your baby but thru your heart beat and the slow monitored breathing techniques. This technique can be practiced out of the womb as well.

To practice the Deep Belly breathing technique after birth place baby on your chest. Feeling your heart beat and your breathing patterns, the baby will relax and slow down, he too will be coaxed into relaxing.

Oasis Meditation

Goal of Meditation: Sweep away previous nights stress and relax.

Affirmation: I live in Abundance

Imagine yourself sitting in an oasis in the middle of the desert. You and your baby are happy healthy and focused on each other. The breeze wafting thru your tent is warm and fruitful. Palms are being fanned, whisking cool air onto you and your baby. The circulating air caresses your cheek, neck and chest. Your baby is gently caressed by the palms releasing any energy from the previous nights encounter. Breathe deeply filling your lungs with the fragrant breeze. Release tension from the sleepless nights, clearing your mind. Bring your focus back to feeding your baby. Recognize that you are provided for, just as you are providing for your baby. Breath deeply. The cool breezes from the palms brush against your skin allowing your mind and body to go limp. Just be in the present moment.

Spa Meditation

Goal of Meditation: Building strength of character and trust in self.

Affirmation: I have a generous heart

Imagine you and your baby have stepped out of a steam spa and you skin is open, clean and clear. There is a stack of white towels. Take as many towels as you need. Gently dry you and the baby off with the white towels. Taking time to dry the little folds of baby’s skin around the neck, groin, wrists, fingers, ankles and toes. Lift the towel and hide your face, peeking occasionally at your baby. The baby laughs as you play peek a boo with a towel. His face all shiny and glowing with health and wonder. There are white robes waiting for you to put on. Select your robe taking care to put it on and wrap it correctly. It fits perfectly and the material is delicate yet strong. It feels like silk against your skin. Select your babies robe, take care at wrapping your baby in the white cloth. It is pristine and you would not dress him in any thing less due to his importance. Your baby is an extension of your self. You trust in your judgment and your baby trusts in your judgment. The silk wraps, bonding you two. Recognize that your baby will follow your lead. You have a generous open heart and your decisions reflect compassion and a giving character,(Image of Sun and Rays)

Sunny Days

Goal of Meditation: Raise Energy Levels.

Affirmation: I am a happy person.

This meditation was there for me when I was house bound. It really seemed to boost my energy levels.

Imagine pulling energy from the sun, yellow and golden filled with vitamin D. The light is humming and buzzing as the rays enter the crown of your head. You are open, the sun shinning into you raising your alertness, stimulating your breath. Release tension from our scalp, forehead, eyes, cheeks, jaw and lips. Gently lift the corners of your mouth up in a slight smile. You feel the suns rays warm, giving life and feelings of joy to you and your baby. Breathe deeply as the light circulates allowing your spine to sit up straighter, your shoulders back and lungs expanding. I am a happy person, seeing humor in circumstance, always choosing to be smile and laugh. Your happiness flowing from your body into your baby. Milk flowing endlessly, energy to your happy baby.

Starry Night

Goal: Trust in a greater intelligence.

Affirmation: Infinite possibilities

Imagine stars surrounding your being and your babies being. You are floating above the earth not touching or bound to any gravitational pulls or earthly laws of physics. You and your baby are at the center of everything and everything is circulating around you. The energy of the universe is connecting and protecting you. It runs thru everything and can be felt and channeled with thought. Feel the energy pulsating in your body, like static electricity buzzing lifting the hair on your head. Your energy is mixing and feeding your baby in the form of breast milk. The universe is generous with possibilities, seek and follow energy paths that require the least amount of effort. As you make decisions recognize that you now have an additional life that is dependent on your decisions. Keep your goals set with out conflict or competition. Stay focused knowing you are supported in a constant state of growth.

Cleansing Meditation

Goal: Release Toxins

Affirmation: I am healthy.

Fighting sicknesses throughout the winter months or throughout the year.

Imagine your blood heating up, a red hot heart expanding thru vibration, turning white hot and pumping molten blood thru your veins. This heat is sent into your baby to build his immune system, flowing into every corner of his body. Hear the pulsating drums in your ears, focus on the pulsating feeling in your body and now in your babies. See the white lava circulating thru you into your baby, it is circulating even reaching into his fingers and toes with each pulse of your heart. This heat is cleansing. Destroying toxins and germs as the liquid heat circulates his body. Imagine that you see the cleansing occurring. Your molten blood, surrounding germs, boiling the germ until it is gone. With each impurity that the heat encounters the white hot liquid consumes and boils it until it is gone. Volcanic disturbance brings life and health to the earth. Recognize that heat or a fever is not something to fear but the body looking to correct an imbalance.