Category: Wellness

Blissology Project: Day 5 – Friday, January 26th

This is Day 5 of our two weeks to Commit to Bliss. The Blissology Project will run from Monday, January 22nd until Sunday, February 4th 2018.

It is all about making happiness a habit and creating an Upward Spiral of positivity in our lives through the 6 Big Easy Bliss Commitments.

We hope you’re beginning to feel lighter and full of more vitality after the Day 4 Bliss Commitments. Lets carry this energy forward into Day 5!

Here’s a list of Blissology Teachers you can connect with or join our Global Blissology Project event on FB.

Today’s Bliss Commitments are:

Yoga poses to be included in today’s practices are:

  1. Prayer Twist Lunge (Parivrtta Anjaneyasana)
  2. Forearm Plank
  3. Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)

Bonus: Revitalize your spirit with Blissologist Donna Williams in her Commit to Bliss Day 5 practice.

Don’t forget to share any photos on social media using hashtags #blissologyproject + #blissarmy + #upwardspiral

Meditation

Enjoy a grounding Let’s Breathe Meditation with Blissologist Chloe Markham to feel awesome about your day!

Nature Appreciation

  • Look at the stars. Take a few minutes to really absorb the grand nature of the universe and the influence it has in your life. Contemplate the notion that we are all born of stardust.
  • Don’t forget to share any photos on social media using hashtag #blissologyproject + #natureappreciation 

Food Awareness

Healing Ayurvedic Dal

This is a very simple recipe, one I grew up eating almost daily in India. Do not be alarmed by the spices. There are two stages to cooking dal. In the first, you cook the lentils with a few spices until soft. Then you heat oil to make a tempering, which adds flavor to the cooked lentils.  I’ve offered some more suggestions to get creative as well.  I will add that dal should not be a gloppy mush, which is something I’ve encountered in many places in the west. It should be soupy and thin and be able to be poured easily over rice.  With the combination of grains and lentils, this is a complete, whole food and I hope you find it delicious.

½ cup split yellow mung dal, or the reddish-orange tuvar dal / lentils you find easily in most grocery stores

1 ½ cups water

½ tsp turmeric powder

8 – 10 fenugreek seeds

fresh cilantro leaves to garnish

Himalayan pink salt to taste

 

For the tempering:

1 ½ tsp ghee, or coconut oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

a pinch of asafoetida powder (this is an ingredient you can find at an Indian market or an ayurvedic market)

5 – 6 curry leaves

2 green chiles (if you don’t mind a little spice).

 

  • Rinse the lentils well, until water runs clean.  Cook in water along with turmeric and fenugreek until it reaches a soft consistency. Blend until mostly smooth. You can also use a potato masher to soften the dal more.
  • In a separate wok or frying pan, heat the ghee or oil for the tempering, which is what adds flavor to the dal.
  • Add the cumin and as it crackles, the asafoetida, curry leaves and chiles.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the cooked dal and salt.  Add some water so the dal reaches a soupy consistency. Allow it to simmer for 5 – 6 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and garnish with coriander leaves.
  • Serve fresh along some cooked basmati or brown rice and a small green salad..

 

A few other suggestions:  

You can add some sliced onion at the tempering stage, along with some thinly sliced ginger and garlic and let this mixture cook with the cumin and tempering spices for a few minutes before adding the cooked lentils.  You can also add some fresh spinach leaves to this dal. Add them when the dal is very hot, before you take it off the stove.  A lovely accompaniment to this dal is a lightly dressed green salad with fresh radishes and grated carrots etc.  

  • Don’t forget to share any photos on social media using hashtag #blissologyproject + #highpranafood

Gratitude

  • Practice saying, “Thank you!” As you go about your day offer thanks to people any chance you have. Thank your bus driver. Give thanks to your partner for folding the laundry. The possibilities to offer thanks are limitless!

Wild Card

  • Plant something today and name your plant. If the ground is too cold go out and buy a new house plant to bring some positive vibes into your life.

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Don’t forget to Share your experience with the 6 Big Easy Bliss Commitments in the Global Blissology Project event page.

“Happiness is Best when Shared.”

Have fun and enjoy the journey to awakening a deep joy within you!

Blissology Project: Day 4 – Thursday, January 25th

This is Day 4 of our two weeks to Commit to Bliss. The Blissology Project will run from Monday, January 22nd until Sunday, February 4th 2018.

It is all about making happiness a habit and creating an Upward Spiral of positivity in our lives through the 6 Big Easy Bliss Commitments.

We admire your commitment to transform from a Ho-Hum, Poor Me, or Selfish way of living to being a Blissologist where your heart is open, radiant and full of joy!

Here’s a list of Blissology Teachers you can connect with or join our Global Blissology Project event on FB.

Today’s Bliss Commitments are:

Yoga poses to be included in today’s practices are:

  1. Crow (Bakasana)
  2. Side Plank (Vasisthasana)
  3. Humble Warrior (Baddha Virabhadrasana)

*Note: We realize these are some challenging poses! Do your best with where your practice is today. If you can’t do Crow then insert a pose of your choice that feels good in your body.

Don’t forget to share any photos on social media using hashtags #blissologyproject + #blissarmy + #upwardspiral

P.S. – If you haven’t had a chance check out Eoin’s Winter Flow practice from Day 2 of the Blissology Project.

Meditation

Enjoy this calming Sunrise Meditation with Blissologist Shelly Prosko to enliven your day!

Nature Appreciation

  • Go for a run, ride your bike, surf some waves or do anything out in the natural world where you get your sweat on and feel more connected to the environment all around you.
  • Don’t forget to share any photos on social media using hashtag #blissologyproject + #natureappreciation 

Food Awareness

Eggs + Kale + Avo:

This is a filling, hearty breakfast with good fats and greens when you have a little more time and are craving something savory.

Ingredients:

1/2 bunch kale, stemmed and leaves torn into shreds

2 organic eggs

½ avocado

lemon juice

cold pressed extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

sesame seeds

sea salt or Himalayan pink salt

  • Prepare the Avocado. Peel and slice. Sprinkle with lemon juice and a bit of salt.
  • Boil water in a large pot. Add kale shreds into the boiling water and let simmer for approx. 3 – 5 minutes. Kale should look bright green but wilted. Drain and let sit in the warm pot while you prepare the eggs.
  • This recipe tastes great with either poached or scrambled eggs.  To poach, boil water in another small saucepan. Bring to boil. Add a ½ tsp of vinegar like apple cider vinegar. Swirl the water quickly to make a whirlpool effect and add in the egg to poach.  Watch it carefully. You may poach the eggs for 5 – 7 minutes or until done.  To remove, use a slotted spoon.
  • For scrambled eggs: beat the eggs lightly in a bowl. Add milk if you would like and perhaps a pinch of thyme or rosemary.  Pour into a pan on medium heat.  Gently stir the eggs from the edges of the pan to the center a few times to create large, soft egg curds 5 minutes or so.  Watch carefully as you don’t want to overcook the eggs.
  • To serve. Place cooked greens on your plate, top with the eggs and avocado and garnish with sesame seeds, salt to taste and black pepper. You can also add a light drizzle of olive oil.
  • If you are craving toast with this meal, use a whole grain sourdough bread, one without added yeast, or added gluten.  
  • Don’t forget to share any photos on social media using hashtag #blissologyproject + #highpranafood

Gratitude

  • While outside during your nature appreciation time notice three things in the natural world you’re grateful for that enhance your experience in that moment.

Wild Card

  • Forgive someone. Is there someone in your life who you have unresolved energy with? Give them a call or visit them to confront what has come between you. Notice how much more lighter you will feel afterwards.

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Don’t forget to Share your experience with the 6 Big Easy Bliss Commitments in the Global Blissology Projectevent page.

“Happiness is Best when Shared.”

Have fun and enjoy the journey to awakening a deep joy within you!

Blissology Project: Day 3 – Wednesday, January 24th

This is Day 3 of our two weeks to Commit to Bliss. The Blissology Project will run from Monday, January 22nd until Sunday, February 4th 2018.

It is all about making happiness a habit and creating an Upward Spiral of positivity in our lives through the 6 Big Easy Bliss Commitments.

Let’s keep riding the wave of gratitude we shared with a loved one forward to empower us to live the life we’re meant to!

Here’s a list of Blissology Teachers you can connect with or join our Global Blissology Project event on FB.

Today’s Bliss Commitments are:

Yoga poses to be included in today’s practices are:

  1. Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)
  2. Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
  3. Front Splits (Hanumanasana)

*Note: We realize these are some challenging poses! Do your best with where your practice is today. If you can’t do a Handstand then insert an inversion of your choice that feels good in your body.

Don’t forget to share any photos on social media using hashtags #blissologyproject + #blissarmy + #upwardspiral

Meditation

Nature Appreciation 

  • Go for a morning walk. Be intentional with every step you take and every breath you inhale and exhale. Savour the beginning of the day.  
  • Don’t forget to share any photos on social media using hashtag #blissologyproject + #natureappreciation 

Food Awareness

Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup:

This creamy and rich tasting soup has no dairy but is full of vitamins and anti-inflammatory benefits. Make extra and freeze it for a lunch later on in the week.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 head of a small cauliflower

2 leeks

2 – 3 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil (or ghee) or extra virgin olive oil

pinch of turmeric

fresh ground black pepper + himalayan pink salt or celtic sea salt

2 cups organic chicken or veggie broth

Sesame Seeds

Filtered water as needed.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F

Prep:

  • Gently wash, drain and rinse the cauliflower, then break it into medium sized florets using clean hands or a knife. Discard hard bits of the white stalks, but keep the tender ones, chopping them into 1/4 inch pieces.
  • Use the white portion of the leeks. Save the green stalk ends in a freezer bag or box for making stock in the future.  Slice the leeks lengthwise first into half, then chop into half-moons.  Wash leeks well in a bowl of water.   
  • Peel and slice the garlic into halves.

Bake:

  • Line a rimmed baking tray with parchment paper. Scatter vegetables in a single layer,drizzle with oil, add some salt, pepper and that pinch of turmeric, as well as any other herbs you might like to use.
  • Place the tray onto the middle rack of the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Check vegetables for softness and if needed roast for approx. 10 minutes longer.
  • Remove tray from the oven, let the vegetables cool slightly.

Blend:

  • To make the soup, pour the veggies and chicken broth into a high-speed blender and blend until smooth in two stages, so the blender does not overfill.  You can also use an immersion blender in a soup pot. Add more water if needed to liquefy the soup to a consistency you like, 1 cup should do it.  

Enjoy:

  • Taste the soup and serve in a bowl, topped with toasted black or white sesame seeds for extra minerals and a toasty crunch.
  • Don’t forget to share any photos on social media using hashtag #blissologyproject + #highpranafood

Gratitude

  • Take three things in your life you’re not excited about and reprogram your thoughts to be grateful. Example: If you’re not excited to work full time this week say to yourself, “I am grateful I have a job to go to that creates abundance in my life for myself and my family.”

Wild Card

  • Pay for someone’s coffee. Brighten someone’s day with your generosity and see how it comes back to you in other ways!

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Don’t forget to Share your experience with the 6 Big Easy Bliss Commitments in the Global Blissology Project event page.

“Happiness is Best when Shared.”

Have fun and enjoy the journey to awakening a deep joy within you!

 

 

 

Blissology Project: Day 2 – Tuesday, January 23rd

This is Day 2 of our two weeks to Commit to Bliss. The Blissology Project will run from Monday, January 22nd until Sunday, February 4th 2018.

It is all about making happiness a habit and creating an Upward Spiral of positivity in our lives through the 6 Big Easy Bliss Commitments.

Let’s carry the high vibin’ energy from the Wave Rider Smoothie and nature time in Day 1 forward!

Here’s a list of Blissology Teachers you can connect with or join our Global Blissology Project event on FB.

Today’s Bliss Commitments are:

Yoga poses to be included in today’s practices are:

  1. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
  2. Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)
  3. Revolved Triangle (Parivrtta Trikonasana)

Don’t forget to share any photos on social media using hashtags #blissologyproject + #blissarmy + #upwardspiral

Meditation

Nature Appreciation 

  • Sit on a rock in the forest or on a beach and get quiet. Allow your gaze to be soft while you become aware of how your senses interact with the natural world.
  • Don’t forget to share any photos on social media using hashtag #blissologyproject + #natureappreciation 

Food Awareness 

Spiced fruit bowl:

Eating fruit seasonally is an incredible way of aligning our body’s ecosystem with our larger environment as seasonal fruits provide us the vitamins and enzymes we need to boost our wellbeing in a particular season.   

Serves 1 – 2

2 cups fresh, seasonal fruit.  For a spring bowl use berries, for a summer bowl: stone fruit, tropical fruits such as papaya, mango, pineapple and bananas, for a fall bowl: pears, apples, persimmons and maybe even jicama; and for a winter bowl: stewed fruits, or citrus fruits.  

1 tbsp orange blossom water  (this is my secret ingredient that adds so much flavor. Find it at a middle eastern market)

pinch of cinnamon

½ tsp lemon or lime juice

bit of raw, runny honey if needed

pinch of sea salt + black pepper (the seasonings help us to digest the fruit better)

  • Add all ingredients except fruit in a bowl, mix well.
  • Now add the fruit and toss lightly until well coated with the spice mixture.  
  • Eat slowly and savor the flavours.  
  • This is delicious with a cashew or coconut cream as well. 
  • Don’t forget to share any photos on social media using hashtag #blissologyproject + #highpranafood

Gratitude

  • Tell someone you love why you’re grateful for them. Be totally present while you do this. Look into their eyes and speak from your heart.

Wild Card

  • Sing in the shower. Whether it’s a favourite song or your own made up tune don’t hold back and really let it out!

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Don’t forget to Share your experience with the 6 Big Easy Bliss Commitments in the Global Blissology Project event page.

“Happiness is Best when Shared.”

Have fun and enjoy the journey to awakening a deep joy within you!

Blissology Project: Day 1 – Monday, January 22nd

The Blissology Project has finally launched!

This is Day 1 of our two weeks to Commit to Bliss. The Blissology Project will run from Monday, January 22nd until Sunday, February 4th 2018.

It is all about making happiness a habit and creating an Upward Spiral of positivity in our lives through the 6 Big Easy Bliss Commitments.

Here is the video explaining today’s commitments! 

Here’s a list of Blissology Teachers you can connect with or join our Global Blissology Project event on FB.

Today’s Bliss Commitments are:

Yoga Poses to be included in today’s practices are:

  1. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
  2. Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
  3. Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)
  • Don’t forget to share any photos on social media using hashtags #blissologyproject + #blissarmy + #upwardspiral

Meditation

Nature Appreciation

  • 20 minute Park Walk – Stroll off the path and go on a journey. Take off your shoes and feel the earth below you. Maybe even hug a tree or two.
  • Don’t forget to share any photos on social media using hashtag #blissologyproject + #natureappreciation 

Food Awareness 

Wave Rider: An Ayurvedic Green Smoothie

Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 organic pear (or green apple, or a peach: sliced or diced
Juice from a freshly squeezed lemon
1/2 organic avocado: sliced or diced
6 – 8 organic spinach leaves or 4 – 5 kale leaves
1 to 2 tsp spirulina
1 heaping tsp extra virgin cold pressed coconut oil, or flax oil, or udos oil
1 cup filtered water
1/4″ chunk of organic ginger (if you need a little more heat, add a bit more to taste)
Optional: a pinch of cardamom powder and some bee pollen to sprinkle on top before drinking.

  • Blend all ingredients together in a high-speed blender.  
  • Add some more water if it is a bit too thick.  
  • Taste for sweetness, if needed, add some raw honey, garnish with bee pollen.
  • Enjoy this deliciousness a little later in the morning, when the sun is high.
  • Don’t forget to share any photos on social media using hashtag #blissologyproject + #highpranafood

Gratitude

  • Begin a Gratitude Journal. Write down 3 things you are grateful for in your life.

Wild Card

  • Compliment a stranger. Tell them something nice to brighten their day!

We’ll start by telling you how awesome you are! You rock!

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Don’t forget to Share your experience with the 6 Big Easy Bliss Commitments in the Global Blissology Project event page.

“Happiness is Best when Shared.”

Have fun and enjoy the journey to awakening a deep joy within you!

 

Yoga Poses to Balance your Doshas for Health & Happiness.

Ayurveda—India’s ancient wisdom science of longevity—categorizes us as unique individuals, each stepping into life with our own physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual blueprint.

This blueprint, or prakriti in Sanskrit, arises from Ayurveda’s universal life-creating elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. These elements combine to form specific bio-energies called doshas, existing within us as well as in the world at large. Earth and water create the heavy Kapha dosha, from fire and water emerges fiery Pitta, and from air and space we get light and excitable Vata.

It is our unique ratio of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha that gives us recognizable characteristics, traits, and quirks. For example, earthy Kapha people have bigger bones and tend toward calm solidity, athletic Pitta people exhibit competitiveness and passion, while Vata people tend toward thinner frames, as well as a quick, creative, scattered mind.

Our work in life, according to Ayurveda, is to understand our doshic blueprint so that we can choose activities, food, and a lifestyle that balance, rather than amplify, our doshas.

Understanding our doshas is also key to getting the most benefits from our yoga practice. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class and emerged feeling a little out of it—you may have felt irritable and over-heated; or perhaps too scattered and spacey, or too mellow and melancholy—it is possible that your yoga practice is not supporting your doshas.

Here is a short guide to poses that will help to balance your doshas for maximum health and happiness…

Read the rest of the article on elephant journal.

Blissology Project: January 22nd – February 4th, 2018

Aloha everyone!

This January 22nd – February 4th 2018 we’re launching the Blissology Project. This is a program we created years ago to create an Upward Spiral of positivity and health in ones life. We’ve refreshed the content while keeping what works the same and we’re stoked to change lives!

Watch the video below for more information. More detailed information will be released in the coming weeks. Stay tuned and keep your Bliss Vibes strong in the meantime!

Beyond Fight or Flight.

Often in yoga we refer to something called “fight or flight” to account for the mundane worries of the world that may steal our presence during practice.

Fight or flight refers to our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which are the “autonomic” nerves to our organs that are believed to be out of our control. It is generally understood that the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) revs us up or excites us, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) revs us down or relaxes us, but there is so much more to it than that.

I would like to talk about the entire nervous system, including the peripheral or “somatic” part that we do control and how it also ties in. My ultimate goal is to (1) explain how yoga and asana integrate with all parts of the nervous system, (2) help you understand why some poses stimulate certain pathways either consciously or subconsciously, and (3) show how to pair the PNS an SNS into a yoga class for those perfect sensations whether you’re shooting for peak asana or something more subtle.

Part 1: Nervous System Integration

The PNS (parasympathetic nervous system) does not inhibit the SNS (sympathetic nervous system), they are both excitatory systems. Ideally, these systems are in balance with each other, one waxing while the other one wanes. The SNS excites us when it is time to fight or flee (heart races, eyes widen and dilate to look out, lungs open up, sphincters close, digestion stops, adrenals release epinephrin, liver calls for energy stores to become sugar) while the PNS excites us to rest and digest (eyes constrict, heart slows, sphincters relax, digestion begins, liver calls to make energy stores). Notice that with each, the organs are being stimulated for a purpose but not two purposes at once. IBS is a problem where a confused gut becomes dually excited, so stress causes a painfully mixed reaction of both PNS and SNS activity.

We can say energetically the SNS is a plus and the PNS is a minus however the minuses don’t turn off pluses and the key to sustainability is balance without extremes. This way we can experience healthful levels of excitation to lift us up while also providing our body with energizing rest that restores us. Unbalanced SNS may drive anxiety or anger and too much PNS may make one lazy or depressed. The demands of the modern world frequently drive us into too much SNS and subsequently we get adrenal fatigue.

There is also the “somatic” nervous system which controls our skeletal muscles and sensations like pain or comfort. It is a bottom up model where our somatics work in concert with our emotions and intelligence to change and modulate the outputs of the autonomics. When properly aligned, or at least comfortable in asana, we lose the over-excitation that comes from the protective need of the PNS or SNS, and this is when we feel yoga relax us into a state of presence where our thoughts and control of wellbeing is not influenced by our external altercations or stimuli. Here we may hypothesize why yoga “miraculously” healed Iyengar and Paramahansa Yogananda. It is also part of the scientific basis for osteopathy whereas other forms of modern medicine try to only adjust outputs to organs and therefore cannot create true natural healing from within.

Part 2: Stimulatory Effects of Poses

Nerves pass up and down through ganglia or “switchboards”. SNS switchboards are located along the thoracic and lumbar spines and is why dancer pose is so exhilarating. PNS switchboards are located at the neck and sacrum and is why child’s pose is so relaxing.

That perfect experience in poses like camel balances both PNS and SNS switchboards by evenly distributing the curve to make us feel proud, strong and energized through the mid-spine while at the same time making us feel relaxed but poised and protected through the neck and pelvic regions. When poses are properly embodied, somatics to the brain speak comfort and we perceive a safe place, the SNS or PNS are balanced and naturally go back and forth between excitatory states without extremes. Extremes overly heighten the system and drive one towards the opposite excitatory state, ie. crunching of the lumbar spine in camel that suddenly drives us into child’s pose, or a pigeon pose that just doesn’t feel accomplished without having to be a mermaid.

Part 3: Pairing of Asana and Flow

As yoga teachers, we must be experts in neuroplasticity and ask ourselves what we want to achieve, and then strategize a practice that uses somatics to balance the body and mind without extremes or drastic autonomic cycling. Yoga thus provides a way for teachers and students to actively remodel how the body handles stress and disease.

All yoga poses have their perfection, but we want to teach to the needs of the students. Compliment sustained flow of poses affect both SNS and PNS equally in turn, but don’t push one system too hard. This creates an enjoyable and sustainable practice.  From an anatomical model, movement and engagement in the thoracic and lumbar spines stimulate the SNS more. The PNS is stimulated more through the neck and pelvic regions. Asanas that intensify awareness in these parts of the spine or add rapid cyclic motion to them will heighten the effect, as do focused assists and touch.

Thoughtfully creating your yoga class can involve more than just warming up and stretching the muscles and joints and also include fully balancing the needs of the automatics. Classes that build to those climactic poses do so best though the gradual crescendo of SNS excitation of the thoracic and lumbars without overstimulating a premature collapse into the PNS. Restorative flows can calm us down greatly by stimulating areas of the neck and pelvis. Asanas that go back and forth without pushing one too far gives us something enjoyably and sustainably in between.

In a standard yoga teacher training, you learn how to build heat or create cooling in various intensities, and think ahead as to where and why this is important for the rest of the class. A deeper art is understanding why some poses stimulate certain autonomic pathways either consciously or subconsciously, and how to build flow to pair the pathway for those perfect sensations whether you’re shooting for peak asana or something more subtle. Embodiment that allows the somatics to deliver sensations of safety and wellbeing avoids triggering the protective need of the SNS or PNS. Doing so balances the the SNS and PNS into naturally healthy oscillations of excitation without extremes and is fundamental to helping students truly feel yoga liberated from the instinct of fight or flight.

By Dr. Jonathan Bloch, Blissology 300-hr YTT graduate
Check out Jonathan’s teacher profile to learn more.  

5 Surf-Inspired Yoga Moves

A superflow is a joyous movement practice that pulls from yoga, tai chi, and surfing.

This powerful yet calming trinity intentionally mimics the rhythm of nature and flow of the oceans, opening you to a higher state of bliss in both body and mind.

Here are five beneficial surf-inspired movements:

  • Tai Chi for centering
  • Lay back flow
  • Surf burpees
  • Surf burpees with slash
  • Round house

On a physical level, these practices increase agility, coordination, and strength; mentally they evoke positive energy and clarity. Yogis will find these flows more circular and less confined to a grid than a traditional yoga practice. Fitness enthusiasts will love the physical challenge and creativity within each sequence. Expect a whole new level of mind-body harmony.

And if you want to dive deeper into the superflow practice, join me in Tofino in September/October for a Superflow: the Fluid Body advanced module course!

What does Core Stability really mean?

Whether you are preparing to hit the ski hills this season, play golf next season, perform fall yard work, or simply are wanting to continue to walk and perform all your household chores with ease and efficiency, it might be helpful to be knowledgeable about the term ‘core’ and how timing of our core contributes to quality of movement whether we are participating in sports or activities of daily living.

The ‘core’ can be interpreted in many ways, depending on who is explaining it. Some leading spine researchers debate that a true ‘core’ even exists (O’Sullivan 2012 interview here). Scientific reviews of high level (level 1) evidence conclude that there is not any one superior exercise for chronic low back pain. The popular belief that core stability exercises are essential to prevent and address back pain is not supported by research (don’t shoot the messenger) (Smith et al 2014). Sure, these exercises may help some people; but not for the reasons we may think. This debate is for another post. That said, we all likely have heard of the ‘inner core’ described as a group of muscles surrounding the trunk and described as a cylinder. The main function of these muscles is said to create spinal stability and control the intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) when the rest of the body is in motion. There are 4 main muscle groups that make up the inner core: Transversus Abdominus (TA), Multifidus (MF), Pelvic Floor muscles (PFM), and the respiratory diaphragm. TA is the deepest abdominal muscle that wraps around your abdomen like a corset, and is connected to tissue surrounding the spine. When TA engages, it assists in increasing the pressure inside the abdomen, which
can be one of many factors that contribute to trunk stability. MF is a deep spinal muscle which makes up the back part of the core. It is a postural muscle that helps keep the spine erect. The PFM’s are the bottom part of the ‘cylinder’ or core. More information about the role of the pelvic floor and the factors that influence its function is here.

The respiratory diaphragm makes up the top part of the cylinder. When all of these muscles engage in a coordinated manner, they help to maintain the pressure in the abdomen which then provides the stability to the spine and pelvis. It is important to note that the timing of these muscle engagements is needed for efficiency of movement and function, which is why I often like to refer to this phenomenon as “core timing” instead of “core stability.” For optimal core function, these muscles will activate in a sophisticated and coordinated during movement and are ideally engaging at a variety of intensities, automatically, throughout all movement, all day! Julie Wiebe, PT, describes the core strategy system as ‘piston science.’ Antony Lo, PT, discusses the refined recruitment that continually changes in response to each task as “tension to task.”

A common misconception is that “strong abdominals protect the spine”. In fact, as described above, the abdominal muscles make up only one part of the core. Furthermore, coordinated ‘timing’ of the engagement of the TA is important and not just the mere ‘strength’. The famous “6-pack” or Rectus Abdominus muscle that many fitness fanatics train is not the muscle we are trying to target here. Instead of engaging TA adequately, you may be using or over-recruiting the Rectus Abdominus (as evident by the abdominals popping out and up) to compensate for the TA that may not be recruiting appropriately.

Core timing or core training can play an important role in any rehabilitation program.  A healthy core means a healthy foundation from which our limbs can move with more power and efficiency. However, can we actually volitionally ‘train’ each muscle to engage in a perfectly timed and refined way? It’s quite a sophisticated and automated system: there is debate on whether or not we can actually cue the timing of the core adequately.  That is also for another post!

For now, I will say that in my clinical experience, cueing breath and ease of movement seems to improve core timing (therefore movement efficiency and performance) more than actually cueing TA, PFM’s or MF to voluntarily ‘engage.’

Brent Anderson, PT, PhD, explains a similar approach, and uses two real-time ultrasounds to illustrate this concept here.

Core timing can be an essential part of any regular workout routine. Whether you enjoy recreational sports, competitive sports, pilates, yoga, or enjoy working out at the gym, addressing your core (through breath) can improve your abilities and enhance your overall performance.

If you experience low back pain, then a visit to your physiotherapist or other trained health care professional would be a good idea. See “Truth About Back Pain” for more info on myths vs truths about back pain and the myth of core stability here.

**This article is not intended to act as medical advice, nor to diagnose or replace your current treatment. Please seek clearance and guidance from your licensed healthcare professional prior to participating in any of the tips, advice, practices or movements mentioned in this article.

By Shelly Prosko, PT, PYT, CPI, Blissology 200-hr YTT graduate
Check out Shelly’s teacher profile to learn more.  

YTT Day 3: Relaxation is the Final Preparation

Day three, the Saturday before the YTT begins is all about the final preparations. Teacher’s Training courses are like sailing: You’ve got to have all your knots tied, supplies and courses charted before you leave port.  I’ll be runnings sessions all day, everyday for the 13 days straight until our break. There is no chance to create new course materials now, especially in my case where 100 percent of the contact hours are with me.

I remember a decade ago when I was up at night creating manuals after long days of teaching and I reached new levels of exhaustion. Now, we’ve got a 300 page manual and it keeps growing.  I am also supported hugely. In fact, my last big preparation was meeting our epic assistants this year, Leanne, Gina and Gillian. Of course Ellie is always around and Christine Edwards, our Anatomy Geek, is arriving in a few days.

We met in yet another stellar Bali veggie eating establishment taking in some serious bowls of prana and kale-coconut smoothies.  We spent hours setting intentions and making game plans for transformational experiences.

After that meeting, my whole attitude shifted into relaxation mode.  It wasn’t that there wasn’t still plenty to do. The preparation could never end for this course, but instead of feeling like a student pulling an all-nighter cramming for an exam, I went the other way and chilled out as much as possible.

It’s been a hard lesson for me to learn. When I was younger I tended to rely on passion to carry me through. Because I had a mountain of passion inside me, I could do this. The tagline for Blissology is “Love is the Ultimate Renewable Resource.” This partly means that love doesn’t exhaust itself. Like the wisdom parables suggest, you can light a thousand candles from your candle and it doesn’t diminish your flame.

This is very true to a point. But, I’ve learned that sometimes the biggest gift you can give to others comes from self-care. This is really what a yoga practice is all about. It’s really me-time, not time to take care of others. But because we take this time to restore our energy, our candles burn brighter. The me-time serves the we-time.

I watched the sunset, more kites with their invisible lines. Then I took advantage of the plethora of $20 massages in Bali. It launched my own little silent retreat that still continues to this moment.

George Washington once said if “I had ten hours to cut down a tree, I’d take the first six and sharpen my axe.” I love this. But I wish he was a yogi and then we would have added that he would have taken 10 minutes to relax, meditate and practice pranayama!

Preparation is key and it has been done. Relaxation is Power. These are today’s lessons.

YTT Day 2: Life Mission Super Powers

My Friday started early here as I plan ever day to do. I’ve committed to these 4am wake-ups during the next month to get my lesson plans sorted, to keep one eye on my business projects, to write these blogs and even work on a book. It’s my favorite time of day in Bali. The peace and clarity is extreme as I type under the stars.

I’ve been amazed this trip at how easy the jetlag is to deal with. My friend once told me, “when you travel on an airplane your body moves at the speed of a plane but your soul moves at the speed of a donkey. It takes that long to catch up.”

My soul must be Pegasus because this has been a breeze.

Part of it, I realize is that I’ve cut out wine and beer from my diet recently. I am not a big drinker but I did start drinking one of those incredible craft beer IPA’s in California a day.

My friend asked me “what’s it like living in the U.S.?” thinking it must be radically different than Canada.  I told him, “Oh, it’s just like Canada except the Whole Foods has incredible craft beers!” (grocery stores in Canada can’t sell booze, for those who have never been)

The point is, I’ve consciously cut out this habit. Partly because I want to get rid of my love handles and mostly because even though I love the taste of beer and wine, I always regret it later when I sleep. After even one drink, I sleep better for the first two hours and shitty in the middle of the night.

I know people use alcohol as a traveller’s crutch and I watch people downing free drinks on the airlines pretty much from the moment they get on the plane but I really advise against it.  I’ve learned this trip.

My Bliss
It’s not just the clean, booze-free system that has given me my super jet lag avoiding powers.  I’ll be the first to admit that getting in the ocean surfing and doing yoga in the tropical heat help. But there is more; it is pure passion and stoke.

This is really the theme of yesterday. What life is like following your bliss.

I’m a professional “bliss-follower.”  I make my living from my bliss which is not just yoga; my ultimate interest is in creating deep, authentic human connection to Nature and Community (my working definition of Blissology.)

I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t work my ass off yesterday. I am sure I spent 8-9 hours in front of a laptop. Sure a lot of what I work on I am passionate about like lesson plans and creating new course materials but mostly I do a lot of menial tasks. I am continuously buried under emails and a trillion small details that keep the filing cabinet of my brain over stuffed.

I know people think I am just doing yoga on the beach like my instagram feed suggests but the reality is “Bliss” and “Bills” are almost the same letters just rearranged to form some kind of cosmic joke.

I work a ton. But I am so inspired!

A large part of the upcoming Blissology YTT course is finding what we call our “Life Mission.” Mine is to be a Conduit for Love.

It’s just such an amazing feeling even when you are going cross-eyed behind a computer like Ellie and I did yesterday (Ellie is our awesome program manager for Blissology trainings who lives in Bali) to know that all of those spreadsheets and schedules will light a fire in the hearts of many; to know that what you do is a contribution to the flow of positivity.

It is incredible medicine for the combination of jetlag and computer drudgery.

Luckily Bali, especially Canggu (pronounced Chah-n-goo) has an incredible amount of tasty cafes and hip, organic restaurants. I can’t even begin to describe how it blows anywhere else in the world away for the number of hipster eating establishments per square meter. The closest I’ve seen is Abbot-Kinney in Venice Beach, L.A. but this is a whole other scale over here.

If you are an entrepreneur working behind an Apple laptop on a creative business, the café culture of Bali (and the more commonly known Ubud) is your Shangri-La.

Laptop Culture in Bali
There is a shadow side to this cushy, hipster ex-pat Bali life and that is the rampant disappearance of the rice patties. Like a mushroom out of control, L.A. hipness is transplanted where rice used to grow.

Ellie and I made the circuit of a few of those cafes.  I’m definitely going into this training feeling insanely prepared.  Stoke is one thing but preparation is the key for the A-Game.

As I scootered home during sunset, as often happens here, I stopped checked out the Bali sky.  I am saying that wrong: I didn’t stop.  I was stopped in my tracks and could not avoid taking in the stunning light.

They fly kites here in Bali in the April breezes.  I sat for a few minutes and stared up at a kite in the Bali sky. It was one of those moments where you are lost in time and don’t even realize you are doing what you are doing.

When I left Ananda and Insiya at home, we always tell each other about the “invisible line” that connects our hearts to each other.  I look at the kite at the end of the string and think how lovely that we have people in our lives that make our heart fly like this.

In this spontaneous moment of gratitude overwhelm, I sent them a silent prayer and toasted the strings that bind us all.