Muladhara or Root Chakra is our foundation and connection to the Earth. It connects to our basic human instinct for survival, security and stability.
Signs of imbalance: Anxiety, fear, scattered energy - feeling disorganised, lacking in focus or discipline.
Located at the base of the spine, the pelvic floor, and the first three vertebrae, the muladhara chakra is the energy centre for grounding, finding stability, and being able to trust yourself and others. The muladhara chakra is also responsible for taking care of your basic physical and emotional needs, feeling grounded and supporting healthy bones and nerves.
An imbalance here can be the result of excess stress, life changes, or difficulty establishing trusting relationships. If you’re feeling stressed, or unable to accept things out of your control, you may have a blockage in your muladhara chakra. (See our earlier post introducing chakras to find out what that means).
Questions to ask yourself: What do I need? What keeps me grounded?
Mantra: I am strong; I am safe, I am secure
To balance: Reconnect with nature, join groups that foster a sense of belonging.
Asana: Supta Baddha Konasana | Reclining bound angle pose
Start laying down, supine. Release your lower back by tucking your tailbone under. Bend your knees and rotate your inner thighs externally, allowing your legs to fall outwards toward the floor. Allow the soles of your feet to touch. Keep arms by your side with palms facing up or rest one hand on your stomach and one on your heart. Stay here for a minimum of one minute and focus on deep quiet breathing (remember a deep breath is not a ‘big’ breath - see our earlier posts). To support your legs you may use yoga blocks or rolled up blankets or towels under your outer thighs.
Chakras are symbols of the body-mind connection. Originally cited thousands of years ago in sacred Hindu texts, known as the Upanishads, chakras run along your spine and link directly to your endocrine system. Particular thoughts and emotions can affect energy flow to a specific chakra, which can then create an imbalance of prana (energy) flow to the corresponding nerve-bundle, major gland/organ.
An example of this that many people can relate to is experiencing ‘butterflies in your stomach’ when you are about to do something that challenges your confidence and self esteem – such as public speaking. Thoughts around how you will be perceived by others and a disruption to your confidence can have a very real affect on the body – particularly the solar plexus area (below the ribcage and above the navel - manipura chakra). This creates what is referred to as a chakra blockage. It should be noted that not all emotions create such an obvious visceral reaction in the body, and most people in modern society are disconnected from their bodily sensations, and it is not always obvious. Yoga helps to develop this internal awareness (interoception).
So basically, each of your main chakras harbours bundles of nerves and major organs as well as your psychological and emotional states of being. A blockage in any one of your seven chakras can lead to illness, so it’s important to understand exactly where each chakra is located and its role in your body.
It’s important to regularly check in with yourself and look for any signs of suboptimal prana flow. Under or overactive chakras can have a ripple effect.
The good news is that equilibrium can be restored with simple targeted yoga practices. We will share more on this in future posts.
Yoga is the art of removing what distracts us from our true self. By connecting to ourselves more deeply, we become our own refuge. Our own home.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but the absolute most effective way to short-circuit the panic button is to voluntarily stop breathing for short durations. Short breath holds rebalance your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, which then increases oxygen to the brain and body tissues. This calms the nervous system and helps you to feel more in control.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Take a normal breath in and out through the nose (light, slow abdominal breath)
2. After the exhale, pinch your nose with your fingers and count gently up to 5 seconds. It is important to always start the breath hold after an exhale.
3. Release your fingers and take another gentle and light breath in and out through the nose.
4. Either continue steps 1-3 or take recovery breaths between the breath-hold cycles as needed. Be sure to also keep these recovery breaths light and slow – avoiding any BIG breaths ( big breaths increase the stress response and negate the benefits).
5. Repeat the short breath hold process until you feel a return to calm.
How to find an appropriate breath hold time for you:
- Most people are comfortable starting with 5-second breath holds. However, if you felt like gasping or needed to take a BIG recovery breath afterwards, try reducing the breath hold next time to a comfortable count for you.
- If it felt easy, you might like to increase it to 6 seconds next time and go up to 15 seconds as you become more comfortable with holding your breath.
For those wanting to teach this technique to children, I highly recommend this video instruction from Patrick McKeown.
The benefits of nose breathing:
Chronic mouth breathing can lead to a dysfunction where we tend to over breathe. Here are some great reasons to switch to nose breathing...
How can you increase the amount of nose breathing you do?
Great places to start are during exercise (even if this means temporarily cutting back your intensity for a while, it can actually give you greater fitness gains in the long run!), during yoga, while chewing food, when you sleep...
Try it out, it is more challenging than you might think!
How to tell if you’re over-breathing...
⭐ Do you sometimes breathe through your mouth during daily activities?
⭐ Do you breathe through your mouth during sleep? (If you are unsure, do you wake with a dry mouth in the morning?)
⭐ Do you snore or hold your breath during sleep?
⭐ Can you visibly notice your breathing at rest? The more movement you see, the heavier the breath.
⭐ When you observe your breathing, do you see more movements from the chest than the abdomen?
⭐ Do you regularly yawn or sigh throughout the day?
⭐ Do you sometimes hear your breathing at rest?
⭐ Do you experience symptoms of over-breathing such as nasal congestion, tightening of the airways, fatigue, dizziness, or light-headedness, neck and shoulder pain?
These are all signs of over-breathing (hyperventilation). It is a myth that breathing more increases oxygen in the body. When we increase our breathing rate and volume, carbon dioxide within the body begins to drop. When this happens it reduces the bodies ability to transfer oxygen into the cells. Even if you take bigger and deeper breaths, the end result is the same. The body becomes deprived of oxygen.
The goal is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide lost with breathing, which then increases oxygen availability to the cells. On some level ancient yogis knew this. This is why slooooow, quiet, rhythmic, nasal and diaphragmatic breathing is recommended.
As mentioned in our previous post, 'take a deep breath' is often misinterpreted to mean BIG breathing. Deep breathing is not the same as BIG breathing.
BIG breathing is taking in bigger than necessary breaths. Controlled and deliberate deep breathing is different.
Here's why we want to avoid BIG breathing...
Big breathing leads to over-breathing, which can mess with the delicate balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange taking place inside every cell of your body.
Over breathing can cause you to release too much carbon dioxide which impairs blood flow to the brain.
This image shows what happens to your brain after just 1-2 minutes of over breathing. Notice the substantial drop in oxygen.
Breathing exercises that focus on SLOW, quiet, rhythmic, nasal and diaphragmatic breathing are key to restoring calm.
Follow our page to learn more as we post about optimal breathing - in bite sized chunks.
'What's the first thing you hear when someone is trying to help you to relax? 'Take a deep breath'... Right? And that probably made you think 'big breath'. That's not what the vedic (ancient yogic) texts talk about, and it's not consistent with what we know about physiology now.
Ancient yoga teachings counsel us to make the breath subtle and still, in order to restore pranic balance.
Deep breathing is not the same as big breathing. Something seems to have been lost in translation when people think of them as the same.
Follow our newly created Instagram account to learn more as we post about optimal breathing - in 'bite sized chunks'.
Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and wellbeing through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga. Yoga is a scientific system of self-investigation, self-transformation, and self-realisation that originated in India. The teachings of yoga are rooted in the Vedas and grounded in classical texts and a rich oral tradition. This tradition recognises that the human being’s essential nature is unchanging awareness that exists in relationship to and identification with the changing phenomena of the empirical world.
The yoga tradition views humans as a multidimensional system that includes all aspects of body; breath; and mind, intellect, and emotions and their mutual interaction. Yoga is founded on the basic principle that intelligent practice can positively influence the direction of change within these human dimensions, which are distinct from an individual’s unchanging nature or spirit. The practices of yoga traditionally include, but are not limited to, asana, pranayama, meditation, mantra, chanting, mudra, ritual, and a disciplined lifestyle.
Yoga therapy is the appropriate application of these teachings and practices in a therapeutic context in order to support a consistent yoga practice that will increase self-awareness and engage the client/student’s energy in the direction of desired goals. The goals of yoga therapy include eliminating, reducing, or managing symptoms that cause suffering; improving function; helping to prevent the occurrence or reoccurrence of underlying causes of illness; and moving toward improved health and wellbeing. Yoga therapy also helps clients/students change their relationship to and identification with their condition.
The practice of yoga therapy requires specialised training and skill development to support the relationship between the client/student and therapist and to effect positive change for the individual.
Yoga therapy is informed by its sister science, Ayurveda. As part of a living tradition, yoga therapy continues to evolve and adapt to the cultural context in which it is practiced, and today, it is also informed by contemporary health sciences. Its efficacy is supported by an increasing body of research evidence, which contributes to the growing understanding and acceptance of its value as a therapeutic discipline.
Source: International Association of Yoga Therapists, 2012
We had a wonderful time presenting at the 5th Annual International Yoga Festival & Conference this weekend. Dr Christian Thoma's fantastic workshop on protecting the spine in yoga was jam packed! Unfortunately some people missed out. Bigger room next time we thinks!.
Thanks to everyone who came along!!.
Videos of the spinal mobilisation techniques are available on the website: www.builtformotion.co.nz
Chances are that you’re familiar with yoga classes and yoga teachers, but you may not be familiar with yoga therapists and yoga therapy. Neither yoga teacher nor yoga therapist is a protected name; anyone could probably get away with using them. There are however formal recognised qualifications in each. Although qualifications don’t guarantee proficiency, they at least give you something to look out for, so let’s start there.
Many organisations offer yoga related qualifications, mostly certificates and diplomas, in yoga teaching. Common and popular ones include the 200 and 500 hour registered yoga teacher (RYT) offered by the Yoga Alliance. Other qualifications relate to specific lineages and even brands of yoga such as Iyengar and Astanga, as well as many others.
These qualifications can require specific courses and periods of experience. All of the yoga teacher qualifications are aimed at teaching basic yoga classes to essentially healthy people. Some qualifications go beyond this, or even specialise in yoga for a specific group like pregnant women, or children. Always check your teacher's credentials.
Yoga therapy is different again. To become a registered yoga therapist with the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) requires graduating from an accredited course. In November 2014, there were 17 courses around the World that met the Educational Standards for the Training of Yoga Therapists.
These standards require that prior to undertaking further training, yoga therapy students already have a recognised yoga teacher qualification, and that they then be taught yoga therapy over a minimum of 2 years involving a minimum of 800 hours of instruction and supervision. Realistically though, the requirements of what needs to be learned mean that twice this many hours is a more reasonable estimate.
There is also a distinction between someone who may have extensive training in some other discipline, e.g. pilates, physiotherapy, or manual therapies, and has done some yoga training. These people might have an excellent command of anatomy, and perhaps medical knowledge that make them qualified to work with groups many yoga teachers aren't, but they aren't automatically yoga therapists. That's because central to yoga therapy is the 5000 year-old philosophy that underpins yoga. It is the same philosophy that underpins yoga therapy's sister science – Ayurveda.
Yoga therapists learn to look at health and disease, not just through the modern biomedical model, but also more holistically based on a yogic understanding of life that has come from hundreds of generations of careful observation. Yoga therapists then apply this knowledge to understand clients as whole person, rather than simply in the context of specific injuries or illness that needs a specific standard treatment.
Although some yoga classes have a more therapeutic bent, most genuine yoga therapy is one-on-one because only this allows for the sessions to be truly customised. Also, much of yoga therapy happens off the mat, often involving the prescription of a regular personal practice that may involve cleansing techniques, specific meditations, and other practices that go beyond the asana (postures), pranayama (breathing and energy moving/expanding techniques), and guided meditations common to many yoga classes.
If you're interested in knowing more about what yoga therapists learn to become formally recognised, here is a list of competencies covered by recognised yoga therapy training:
To learn more about Yoga Wellness Clinic and our yoga therapy service click here.
This info-graphic nicely illustrates the reason why we always instruct you to 'bend your legs' during most forward bends in yoga. Bending your legs reduces the risk of lower back strain, hamstring pull and shear stress on the sacrum:
“I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need.
I feel your feelings. My wisdom flows from the Highest Source. I salute that Source in you.
Let us work together for unity and love.” - Mahatma Gandhi