Tag: blissology

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!

Karma Yoga, Blissology & the Value of having Reverence for Nature

Eoin is super stoked to be featured on this week’s podcast by the lovely Magda Freedom Rod (aka Visionary Lifestyle):

Our guest today is Eoin Finn. Eoin Finn is a yogi, surfer and blissologist from Vancouver, BC. A philosophy graduate, he has been deepening his understanding of Meditation, Yoga and Eastern Philosophy since 1989. In the mid-nineties he moved to Maui and learned Ashtanga and Power Yoga and later Vinjana Yoga. He’s been teaching yoga for 18 years. Eoin is a karma yogi with a deep passion for the oceans, and a connection and reverence for nature, that is truly inspiring. His yoga teacher trainings generally include a lot of education about the environment, as well as hands on projects to help clean and protect it. His Ecokarma program is replacing endangered coral in Key Largo Florida and beyond. Eion says “Karma is the offering of unselfish service – our offering to the world. I want us to connect our love for ecology with both the physical yoga practice and selfless service of Karma yoga. “ I caught up with Eion at the Bali Spirit Festival and we dropped in about the state of the oceans, the effects of overfishing and carbon on the oceans, and what it means to be a karma yogi. He shares his love for nature, explains his main goal in life and guides us on his path of Blissology. If you go back to my first episode and listen to the “7 steps of activating your highest potential” show , you’ll see that Eion really speaks to one of my points, which is seva, or being in service, sometimes known as karma yoga. I’m really impressed with Eion’s dedication to educating and inspiring people to pay attention to what’s happening to the oceans, and empowering them to find their own inner power and voice to be the change we want to see in the world.

Listen to the interview below:

 

My Favourite Morning Yoga Routine

Twenty-nine years ago I started dabbling in tai chi, meditation and yoga.

I didn’t know a lot about any of these at the time but I would go to empty beaches where I could feel the transformative power of the Great Spirit. I would move organically and let its energy flow through me, sand in my toes and peace in my heart.

Today, a mix of these tai chi, yoga and surfing movements is called a Superflow and it is my favourite routine every morning when I wake up (I highly recommend checking out the instructional video first to understand the movements before putting them together in a flow, practice starts at 5:20 mins):

If you’re inspired by these movements, join me for a 50-hr Superflow advanced module in Tofino this September/October. Or practice with me online, on Cody.

Join the EcoKarma Challenges!

Let’s keep plastic out of the ocean.

Challenge #1: Stop Sucking!

Our EcoKarma Challenge number 1 of 4 is to stop sucking.

Literally, every day there are 500 millions straws used per day in the USA alone. How can we reduce that number?  It’s easy—I carry a glass straw in my backpack.

Let’s commit to stop sucking this month!

Challenge #2: Go Topless!

Please share with eco-minded yogis you know and check out our EcoKarma Challenge to see how you can participate, make a change and even win some swag!

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.  

Luke Graeber

Fire only burns as bright as there are flames to continue keeping it alive. Our Blissology Yoga Teacher’s Collective is burning bright and we are so excited to share the first of our Bliss Blogs on some of the amazing spirits and shining lights who are continuing to speak, connect and inspire their Bliss.

 

Name:
Luke Graeber

Where in the world you can find me:
Shanghai, China at Pure Yoga.

What originally drew me to yoga:
I worked as an accountant at that time and Yoga was a way for me to get out of my head and more into my heart. I was instantly drawn to the physical practice and it is what I use still today to keep my body, mind are heart feeling alive.

Blissology to me is…
a supportive community of people that not only share the benefits of Yoga with the world but protect the world they live in.

My life mission is…
to inspire with my practice and empower with my teaching.

The most important thing yoga has taught me is…
the only person that can transform you, is yourself.

When I’m not on the yoga mat, I’m…
taking photos, drinking coffee, reading Iyengar books or playing Acro Yoga.

The cause/project I am most passionate about is…
spreading the benefits of Yoga that has been passed to me through my teachers.

I am learning to…
take Yoga photos. I love capturing people in their full state of awareness.

What I want to teach others (through yoga) is to…
live more in alignment with our true self. Many distractions pull us away from living from this place; Yoga is a way to not only fully understand our true self but to reconnect with our true self through practice.

Most inspiring yoga related experience:
2015 Vancouver Blissology Teacher Training, at that time I just left the corporate world and was looking for my calling. The training was inspiring on many levels but the most inspiring part for me was seeing how Eoin created an environment where people felt safe to deal with any issues they had.

Favorite yoga pose:
Scorpion, I love inverted backbends because they show balance in a practice. The combination of strength, flexibility and balance.

Best way to fuel up after yoga:
Meditate.

Yoga and music are…
a way to realise our true self and also a way to express our true self.

I create community with Blissology by…
creating a connection between people. Each class I do partner work to create this connection. Also share a little bit of my Blissology experience before I teach each class.

I am most grateful for…
the chance to share the benefits that I have received through Yoga with others.

My advice for aspiring yoga teachers:
Don’t wait, when you finish your training teach straight away.

You will feel you will not be ready but that feeling gets stronger the longer you wait, go and share the love!!!

~

Connect with Luke:
Instagram: @lukegraeber
Facebook: Luke Graeber

Linda Cruse

Fire only burns as bright as there are flames to continue keeping it alive. Our Blissology Yoga Teacher’s Collective is burning bright and we are so excited to share the first of our Bliss Blogs on some of the amazing spirits and shining lights who are continuing to speak, connect and inspire their Bliss.

 

Name:
Linda Cruse

Where in the world can we find you? 
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia with a boot full of yoga mats I have been heading out to teach at community halls since my YTT in 2014, it has been a great way to grow as a teacher.  This Spring I will be starting practices at Fit Hot Yoga and Yoga North Hobart to join a collaboration of teachers for different backgrounds, with different styles. I feel very passionate about sharing the Blissology philosophy, what I have learnt from Eoin and my journey, in a space where I have the freedom to share in my own way.

What originally drew me to yoga?
This Canadian guy….and Power Yoga for Happiness

Blissology to me is…
Everything that keeps my energy centres balanced… Love, Yoga, Meditation, Nature, High Prana foods and my Blissology family

My life mission is…
To share the gift of yoga

The most important thing yoga has taught me is…
Yoga has taught me many things… the most important thing is love, being open to give, receive and the freedom to be 100% Linda without fear of judgement.

When I’m not on the yoga mat, I’m…
In the water or my garden and thinking about where my practice will take me next, physically and spiritually

The cause/project I am most passionate about is…
Changing someone’s life through yoga.  The transformation it brings has a ripple effect that I believe is changing the world.

I am learning to…
Accept, forgive, love and live in the present moment.

What I want to teach others (through yoga) is to…
Be patient, accept who you are, your limitations, honor the feedback you receive from your body and love yourself, the rest will come.

Most inspiring yoga related experience?
A student in my practice sharing that yoga has changed her life…

Favorite yoga pose?
At the moment Upha Vishta Konasana. Because it has been one of my best teachers, there have been times when I pushed to find the pose and I hurt myself. There is no rush, we should slow down and listen to our bodies when moving into a pose and be patient, everything comes in time.  When you let go of the fight and be in the pose regardless of the depth, it brings freedom and the acceptance that this is me and that’s ok.

Best way to fuel up after yoga?
Can I say beer?? But seriously, just water and uncomplicated food, anything green.

Yoga and music are…
An opportunity to let go, find freedom and yourself…

I create community with Blissology by…
Sharing a practice that opens the door to yoga on and off your mat, encouraging a connection with nature, kindness to yourself and others and keeping things simple.

I am most grateful for…
Every single breath and recognising how important it is to stay open to love and spiritual growth.

What advice do you have for aspiring yoga teachers?
Be you! Lighten up and have fun…Get out of your head, come into your heart and it’s always ok to fart

~

You can contact Linda at:
veayoga@gmail.com
facebook.com/lindacruse
facebook.com/veayoga