by Katie Hoerner
Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or getting ready to roll out your mat for the first time, here you’ll find a variety of useful tips from local yoga instructor, Katie Hoener.
Over the summer I twisted my knee and have been struggling to find a way into Child’s Pose in my go-to class. This is such a stress-reliever, and a place of rest! Is there anything that I can do?
Balasana, or Child’s Pose, is one of those asanas that makes a practice complete for many of us. At times it is the alpha and omega of the practice, the beginning and the end, so struggling to find that space can feel off. I feel very fortunate that my yoga training was all about looking for how to make yoga accessible to everyone, and to find ways to find the essence of what you are looking for in a pose, and figure out the way to get to it.
That said, there are MANY ways to modify Balasana to make it easier on the knees, depending on your particular injury, or tenderness. As always, check in with a doctor if you are experiencing pain, to make sure the range of motion experienced in yoga is okay for your knee. If given a “thumbs up” from your doctor, one way to change the sensation in Balasana is to experiment with the placement of the knees, to take them out wider than the body, toward the edge of the mat. This eliminates the weight of the body on the knees.
Two other options for assistance in Balasana is to use a bolster under the body, sliding it between the legs, and resting the torso, and a side of the face on the bolster. This reduces the amount of bend in the knee, and supports the body. This variation also takes the knees out slightly from the body, so note if that causes issues. Lastly, there is flipping Balasana on its head, and lying on your back, and drawing the knees in toward the chest. By holding onto the knees behind the knee (on the hamstring side) we eliminate any pull or tugging on the knee joint and are able to get many of the benefits of our traditional Child’s Pose. Enjoy!
I have read SO MUCH about meditation, and been advised to participate in the practice by friends. I have read journal articles, books, blogs, I’ve tried podcasts and videos, and for some reason, I just can’t seem to make it work. How do I get started? How do I get that feeling that everyone describes?
Chloe, Ann Arbor
To begin, way to do your research! Everyone who comes to meditation, comes into their practice in their own way, and in a way that makes sense to them. If understanding the mechanisms of meditation helps you (a feeling that I completely relate to) there are books with varied approaches to the study of meditation. Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius’ Buddha’s Brain breaks down the neuroscience of meditation and the benefits, and books like Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness, move through techniques in a slightly more yogic and less scientific way. Get the knowledge that you want, and in the meantime, start practicing.
A quote from Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart feels applicable here in relation to practicing meditation, “…meditate every single day and continue to make friends with [y]our hopes and fears again and again.” Sometimes that fear is of meditation itself. This is when we remind ourselves that there are many forms of meditation, such as drinking tea in a mindful way (discussed in Real Happiness), practicing a Yoga Nidra, or taking five minutes to meditate in our own way.
Sometimes we get concerned about getting things right, and a large part of mindfulness and meditation is releasing that judgment. People are well intentioned when they describe the positives of meditation, and I for one, love when people share! That said, for many of us, meditation is not easy. We live full, busy lives, and quieting the mind takes practice. I remember reading Outliers, and the discussion around using talent with the investment of 10,000 hours of practice for the success of Bill Gates, Larry Bird, and others. Can you imagine if we invested 10,000 hours into our meditation? How you would feel? Perhaps that’s your next research project! Good luck on this journey.
Recently I attended a class where the teacher kept repeating, “one breath, one movement.” I do not know what that means! I found myself holding my breath. Can you clarify?
Absolutely! And never be fearful of asking the teacher in the class you are taking, as there are many schools of yoga, and new things to learn. Hatha Yoga, which is an umbrella term for many styles and practices of yoga, is generally translated to mean yoga that combines both physical movement, asana, and breath control, pranayama. This is often thought of in its most basic iteration, as a practice of “one breath, one movement” where one half of the movement is led by the inhale, and the other half of the movement is competed on the exhale.
A nice posture to visualize and practice this concept is out Cat-Cow posture. In Cat-Cow we are on hands and knees, and on the inhale, we allow the heart to shine through the shoulders, while the tailbone reaches towards the sky. On the exhale, in Cat, we arch the spine, engaging the abdominals, pushing the back toward the sky as the head hangs heavy. We ask that the breath dictate the length of the parts of the asana rather than letting the Cat and the Cow determine the length of the breath.
Each posture has a part that is linked primarily with the inhale or the exhale, though sometimes the exhale is more a sinking in than a counter movement. This is what we mean by aligning the postures and the movements with the breath. See if the next time you are practicing you can keep breathing and make this connection.