yoga for rounded shoulders

To address tight and rounded shoulders, something commonly seen in our society, we can use the serratus anterior and middle trapezius to balance and stabilize the shoulders.
In our body, muscles work in pairs – one contracts, and opposing one relaxes (i.e. think about how your biceps and triceps work when you bend your elbow). This means that we need to exercise muscles in pairs.
In rounded shoulders, you can feel your serratus anterior (side rib, pulls scapulas forward) by creating a big bear hug action; you can feel your mid trapezius (middle of shoulder blades) by bending your elbows at side and squeeze your shoulders together.
To realign back to a neutral shoulder, we need to work out tension in the serratus and strengthen the trapezius.
Try the following sequence to bring your shoulders back to neutral:
Crocodile (makarasana)
Lie flat on the floor on your stomach. Your arms should be in front of you, with your elbows just in front of the shoulders. Widen your legs mat width. Squeeze your buttocks together and press into the floor. Lift up in your chest and bend your elbows to clasp each elbow with the opposite palm. Tuck in your chin and gently rest your forehead on your arms. Reposition your body if you need to for comfort. Hold the pose for several breaths and release on an exhale.
yogadopa-crocodile-side yogadopa-crocodile
Heartbed
Place a rolled up blanket lengthwise along your mat. Place your hips and lay your spine along the rolled up blanket to open your chest. Bend your elbows and place the back of your palms on the ground (“cactus”).
yogadopa-heartbed-blanket yogadopa-heartbed-prep yogadopa-heartbed-full
Downward dog (ardo mukha svanasana)
Starts on your hands and knees and lift up into downward dog (see “Teaching an old (downward) dog new tricks” for more instructions). Open up front of armpits, press through pad of index fingers, draw your belly in, life through sits bones, ease through side ribs, slide your shoulders down your back, relax your neck (I need to relax my neck in this picture!) and jaw.
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Cobra (bhujangasana)
Lie face down on the floor on a yoga mat with your palms flat, placed beneath your shoulders. The tops of your feet should be flat on the floor. Engage your abs by tilting your pelvis and drawing your belly button toward your spine to protect your lower back. Spread your fingers and press your palms into the floor. Rotate your shoulders back and down – away from your ears. Push your upper body off the floor and straighten your arms as much as is comfortable while keeping your hips, legs and feet planted on the mat.
yogadopa-cobra-front yogadopa-cobra-low yogadopa-cobra-mid
Bridge (setu bhandasana)
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Extend your arms along the floor, palms flat. Roll your shoulders back and underneath your body and bend your elbows to 90degrees. Press your feet and back of upper arms firmly into the floor. Exhale as you lift your hips toward the ceiling. Draw your tailbone toward your pubic bone, holding your buttocks off the floor. Keep your thighs and feet parallel and press your weight evenly across all four corners of both feet. Lengthen your tailbone toward the backs of your knees.
yogadopa-bridge
Regular practice will help strengthen and stretch those muscles (traps, serratus) to help you greet the world with a more open chest, deeper breath and fuller heart. much love.
For more info, watch “Trapezius and Serratus Anterior” by Sara Guglielmi on Yoga Internation.
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what happens to your body when you exercise?

exercise changes you.

Neuroscientist Judy Cameron, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Tommy Boone, Ph.D., a board certified exercise physiologist, and Edward Laskowski, M.D., co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center take us through what happens in the body when we exercise.

Increased blood flow during exercise benefits the brain: brain cells function at a higher level, increasing alertness, focus and awakeness. This may be neuroprotective. Neurotransmitters are released: endorphins (“runners high”), dopamine and glutamate (smooth, co-ordinated movements), GABA (slow), seratonin (mood). Exercise facilitates brain cell growth in hypocampus (memory, learning),

Muscles use glucose and ATP for the energy required to contract and create movement. When there isn’t enough oxygen to create ATP, lactic acid is formed. Tiny tears form from exercise that encourages muscle growth and strength as they heal.

Lungs need up to 15x more oxygen when you exercise. Your breathing rate will increase until the muscles surrounding the lungs just can’t move any faster (named “maximum VO2 capacity”).

The diaphragm (a muscle!) can fatigue (side stitch!). Practice deep breathing (pranayama!) and stretching (yoga!) to  alleviate the discomfort.

Heart rate increases to quickly circulate more oxygen. This becomes more efficient with exercise experience, so you can work out harder and longer (lowers resting heart rate). Exercise increases new blood vessel growth (decreases blood pressure).

Movement and absorption in stomach and intestines is paused during exercise because oxygen is diverted to the muscles.

After exercise, the kidneys allow more protein into the urine and trigger water reabsorption… keeping you as hydrated as possible. Cortisol is released to help energy stores turn into fuel for the body. Adrenaline increases heart rate to deliver blood to muscles.

The blood vessels in the skin dilate, increasing blood flow to the skin. The heat then dissipates through the skin into the air. Sweat glands produce perspiration (water+s alt+electrolytes and/or odor-causing) onto the skin’s surface. When this sweat evaporates into the air, your body temp drops.

Capillaries in the face dilate to release heat = red face!

Joints take 5-6 six times more than your bodyweight during exercise. This can cause wear and tear on the cushioning tissue (cartilage), soft tissue and lubricating fluid.

… 10+ more reasons to “do your body good” and get moving! much love.

other resources:

Sarah Klein, Sept 4/13 Huffinton Post Healthy Living

 

building brain muscles -or- practice makes perfect

When you practice learning something new, you’re building new neural pathways in your brain. The more intense the practice, the stronger and more functional those neural pathways, and the better you can play the piano or the more likely you are to make a three-pointer with your non-dominant hand.

Fortunately, old dogs CAN learn new tricks, and as you get older your brain can continue to build new pathways and get stronger, even if it’s at a slower pace than when you were younger. To make sure your brain stays toned and ready to fire you need EXERCISE! You can protect prefrontal and temporal gray matter volume and forge new neural pathways with daily physical activity!

Happily, this brain-building technique also can help folks who develop a neurodegenerative disease like Parkinson’s, in which old pathways are lost and new ones are hard to develop. At Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, intense exercise improves symptoms for more than 30 percent of people with Parkinson’s.

Learning-based memory exercises can also help keep our memory sharp… umm have you tried LUMOSITY? I love their games, it’s a great break during the day!

… and remember that change is possible at any time. Not only is our brain plastic (able to be “remapped” toward greater health, calm, memory, and reduction of pain) but also our thoughts and feelings can be reshaped on a daily basis. We can begin to experience positive transformation within days—a transformation that can be sustained over a lifetime.

so, try a new hobby, activity or brain game today! What are you waiting for? much love.

(adapted from NGNEWS)