Pose of the Week: Knee-Down Sun Salutation

A sun salutation is one of the most beautiful and effective yoga poses or sequences. It strengthens the whole body, improves balance, builds bone mass, stimulates the lymph system, and increases heart rate for cardiovascular health.  It is and should be the staple of most practices. However, for some cancer survivors, it can be daunting.

The yoga4cancer sun salutations modify the common practice to enable all survivors to achieve the benefits without the risk, concern or discomfort. Below details one of the many sun salutations featured in Tari’s Book  – Yoga for Cancer.

Knee Down Sun Salutation

Benefits: Strengthens the whole body, improves balance, builds bone mass, stimulates the lymph system, lymphatic drainage in arms, increases heart rate for cardiovascular health.

Props needed: Two blocks, blanket (optional)

Place two blocks shoulder width apart on the highest level at the front of your mat. Stand tall between them. Line up your toes with the front edge of the blocks.

Inhale: Reach your arms out and up like swan wings.

Exhale: Bend your knees as if you’re going into Chair pose and lower your arms, bringing your hands to the blocks. Keep your chest lifted.

Inhale: Step your right leg back into a lunge. Reach the crown of your head forward while reaching back through your right heel. Left knee should be directly above left ankle.

Exhale: Lower your right knee to the mat or a blanket, untucking your toes so the top of the foot rests on the floor.

Inhale: Lift your arms out and up, bringing your torso upright.

To complete the Sun Salutation, repeat each of these actions in reverse, following the illustrations from right to left.

Exhale: Lower hands to blocks.

Inhale: Tuck right toes under and lift your right knee.

Exhale: Step your right foot forward between the blocks, both knees bent, chest lifted.

Inhale: Straighten your legs, reaching your arms out and up like swan wings.

Exhale: Lower your arms. Return to stand tall position.

Repeat on the second side, stepping back with your left leg.

Modifications: For sensitive knees, set a folded blanket across the middle of your mat where your knees will land during the knee-down lunge. If range of motion in your arms is limited, lift your arms only to a comfortable height. If your hands do not reach the blocks as you bend your knees from a standing position, stack two blocks under each hand.

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 1.11.28 PM

Pose of the Week – The Holiday Detox

Thanksgiving Yoga

Oh boy…  we are heading into the glutinous season starting with a week full of turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, cornbread, cheese, pumpkin pie and, of course stuffing…  and if you are anything like me, I feel ‘stuffed’ even thinking about it. So I make sure to increase my detoxifying yoga poses.  Because the great thing is whether you are detoxing from chemo, getting rid of rogue cancer cells or just too much holiday food, these poses improve your bodies ability to digest, circulate and function. Also these poses can improve the relaxation response which is much needed after a house full of family and friends.  So in honor of that, the Pose of the Week is the Turkey Detox and consists of two poses: Legs Up the Wall and Knee Up Seated Twist both featured in the detox sequence in my new book – Yoga for Cancer.

Knee Up Seated Twist

Sit cross-legged with your right leg in front. Place your right foot on the floor, your right knee pointing up, thigh close to your belly. Hold your right shin firmly with both hands.

INHALE: Sit fully upright, chest broad, crown of your head lifted.

EXHALE: Twist your belly and chest to the right. Place your left hand on your right shin and right hand to the floor or a block behind you. Turn your head to look past your right shoulder.

INHALE: Sit taller and slowly turn your head to look past your left shoulder.

EXHALE: Slowly turn your head back into the twist, gazing past your right shoulder.

Repeat five times. Then repeat the sequence five times on the second side, twisting to the left.

Modifications: If your hips are tight it may be difficult to sit upright. Try sitting on a higher support and bending your lifted knee a little less deeply so the foot that is on the floor is further away from your hip. If you experience any neck pain, do not turn your head as far into the twist.

Benefits: Stimulates lymphatic system in hips and torso to aide detoxification, hip stretch, spine flexibility and releases neck tension.Knee Up Seated Twist

Legs Up the Wall

Props needed: Wall, two blankets, eye pillow (optional), bolster/cushion (optional), strap Legs up the wall(optional), additional blanket (optional)

Pull the short end of your yoga mat up to a wall. Place a folded blanket on either side of the middle of your mat.

Sit facing the long side of the mat with your left shoulder against the wall, knees bent. Using your right arm for support, lie down on your right side and as you roll onto your back, extend both legs up the wall. Keep your hips several inches away from the wall.

Rest your arms on the folded blankets in a cactus shape. Close your eyes. Rest for at least five minutes.

Modifications: If your neck feels strained, a folded blanket or low pillow under the head can offer additional support. If your hamstrings are tight, having your legs up the wall may feel like a stretch, and the back of your hips may not be flat to the floor. Move your hips further away from the wall until they rest fully on the mat. This will also release tension in the backs of the legs. Limited mobility in your shoulders or chest may require additional blankets under your cactus arms. Ensure that your hands, wrist, forearms, and elbows are all supported. As always, support both arms at the same height to maintain body symmetry. Optionally, put a bolster (with long end parallel to the wall) or cushion under your hips. A yoga strap can be belted around your thighs to hold your legs in place and allow the legs to more fully relax.

Benefits: Lymphatic drainage from legs; increases venous return from the lower body; activates the parasympathetic nervous system promoting physical relaxation, calm, and stress reduction. And feels glorious.

This is an excerpt from Tari’ book – Yoga for Cancer – now on sale at major retails.  Click here to buy your copy today. 

Yoga Pose: Warrior One

 

Excerpt from ‘Yoga for Cancer: A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors’ by Tari Prinster.  Now on Sale. 

Benefits:

  • Strengthens the whole body
  • Improves balance
  • Builds bone mass
  • Stimulates the lymphatic system – explicitly lymphatic drainage in arms
  • Increases heart rate for cardiovascular health and weight loss

Props needed: Two – Four blocks, depending on flexibility.

Standing TallPlace two blocks shoulder width apart on the highest level at the front of your mat. Stand tall between them. Line up your toes with the front edge of the blocks.

INHALE: Reach your arms out and up like swan wings.

EXHALE: Bend your knees as if going into Chair pose and bring your hands onto the blocks. Keep your chest lifted.

INHALE: Step your right leg back into a lunge. Look forward while reaching back through your right heel. Left knee should be directly above left ankle.

EXHALE: Bring your right heel down to the mat, placing your foot at an angle so your toes point toward your right hand.Supported Lunge

INHALE: Lift your torso to an upright position, placing both hands on your left thigh.

EXHALE: Draw your belly back toward your spine.

INHALE: If you feel steady and have the core support to stay balanced here, then reach your arms forward and up.

Hold Warrior One for three complete breaths.

EXHALE: Lower hands to blocks.

Supported lunge with teacherINHALE: Lift your right heel away from the floor and turn your foot so the toes face forward and heel points to the back of your mat.

EXHALE: Step your right foot forward between the blocks, both knees bent, chest lifted.

INHALE: Straighten your legs, reaching your arms out and up like swan wings.

EXHALE: Lower your arms. Return to stand tall position.

Repeat on the second side, stepping back with the left leg.

Modifications: If range of motion in your arms is limited, lift your arms only to a comfortable height. If your hands do not reach the blocks as you bend your knees from a standing position, stack two blocks under each hand.

yoga4cancer - Warrior One

 

Child’s Pose: Why we don’t do it?

 

AHHH…. Child’s Pose.  The ‘resting’ pose of yoga. The needed break from downward dog or a ‘chaturanga’. The pose of comfort and relaxation… for some of us.  But not for all.

In my yoga4cancer (y4c) classes or in my yoga teacher trainings, I don’t suggest Child’s Pose for resting because for many survivors this pose is actually not comfortable and can even be harmful. I know this might be surprising to some so let me explain:

  • First, it requires a level of flexibility in the spine, hamstrings and feet, which cancer patients and survivors lack due to inexperience and / or return to exercise.
  • Second, it puts pressure on the lower vertebrae that can be compromised due to chemotherapy & other treatments that weaken bones or osteoporosis.
  • Third, cancer survivors can have sensitivity in the abdomen due to scar tissue, surgical sites, or even existing painful tumors.
  • Finally, having the head below the heart restricts breath (to some extent) can feel claustrophobic, which is a particular point of sensitivity for cancer patients who may have often been required to hold breath and stillness in small spaces (MRI machine) for long periods of time during treatments or diagnostic tests.

For all these reasons, Child’s Pose is not necessarily relaxing or comforting, which defeats its purpose entirely. Of course, for some survivors, this pose is wonderfully relaxing and helpful. It’s just important for both yoga teachers AND the students to understand the potential challenges and modifications that can be done to make it comfortable for all.

y4c Modification to Child’s Pose:  Modify child’s pose by placing a blanket under the knees and a rolled blanket under the tops of the feet. Once that is set up, place a block between the thighs, with one or more blankets or a bolster on top of that block and across the thighs. Construct a support for the chest and the head using blocks and blankets so the bend is less extreme and the head remains at the same level as the heart. Place a clean towel on the head support.

y4c Modified Child's Pose

Yoga Pose: Cactus Clap & Dirty T-Shirt

Excerpt from ‘Yoga for Cancer: A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors’.  Pre-Order at Amazon.

Benefits:

  • Range of motion in shoulders and arms
  • Chest and upper back stretch/strengthening
  • Lymphatic drainage in arms

Cactus Clap:

Seated in a comfortable position on the ground with bolsters, blocks or blankets.  Or in a chair.

Sit upright with palms on your thighs.Veronica - Cactus Clap

INHALE: Lift your arms to shoulder height, bending your elbows to make a cactus shape, with palms facing forward.

EXHALE: Bring your palms and forearms together in front of your face.

INHALE: Reopen your arms to cactus.

Repeat the last two steps three times. Move slowly, following your breath. Then lower your arms and rest your palms on your thighs.

Modifications: Forearms and palms may not come all the way together. Bring them as close as is comfortable.

CactusClap Illustration

Dirty T-Shirt

INHALE: Lift arms to cactus.

EXHALE: Fold left arm over right, giving yourself a hug.

INHALE: Begin to lift your elbows higher. As if taking off a T-shirt, slide your fingers up your arms as you reach your arms toward the ceiling. Expand your chest.

EXHALE: Lower palms to thighs.

Repeat sequence, this time folding right arm over left to give yourself a hug. Then repeat the entire sequence six times, alternating which arm is on top.

Modifications: The action of removing the imaginary T-shirt may be difficult if you are recovering from surgery. Modify by skipping this movement and returning to cactus arms instead.

DirtyTshirt Illustration

Excerpt from ‘Yoga for Cancer: A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors’.  Pre-Order at Amazon.

 

Yoga Pose: Warrior Three at the Wall

Benefits: 

  • Strengthens the whole body including core, legs, hips, shoulders, arms and back muscles
  • Builds bone mass
  • Increases heart rate for cardiovascular health and weight maintenance
  • Stimulates the lymph system
  • Increases leg flexibility

Props needed: Wall, table or stable chair with a high back

Begin in Down Dog at the Wall (optionally, rest your hands on a chair back or table instead of the wall).

INHALE: Slightly bend your left knee. Lift your straight right leg up and back, maintaining a neutral spine.

EXHALE: Press your left foot into the floor and straighten your left leg. Engage your abdominal muscles to support your spine. Reach the crown of your head toward the wall while reaching back with your right heel, toes flexed downward. Notice if one hip is lifting higher than the other, and try to make the hips even.

Hold for three breaths.

As you INHALE lengthen from the crown of your head to your lifted heel.

As you EXHALE root down through your standing foot.

To release from the pose, bring your hands back to the wall. Lower your right foot to the floor and walk toward the wall to come up to stand. Repeat on the second side, reaching the left leg back.

Modifications: The lifted leg does not have to be at hip height. Lift it as high as you are able (never above hip height) while keeping it straight.

Warrior Three at the Wall

Feeling strong? Want a challenge? Try the below variation!

INHALE: Reach your left arm straight back alongside your left hip, palm facing hip.

EXHALE: Reach your right arm back alongside your right hip. Now you are balancing in Warrior Three without touching the wall.

Warrior 3

 

Excerpt from ‘Yoga for Cancer: A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors’.  Pre-Order at Amazon.

 

Yoga Pose: Cat and Cow

Benefits:

  • Spine and hip mobility
  • Arm strengthening
  • Detoxes by stimulating lymph system in arms and torso
  • Releases tension in lower back, upper back & neck.

Step 1: To Set Yourself Up on Hands and Knees

Place your hands directly under your shoulders, spreading your fingers and feeling your whole palm connected to the floor. Place your knees slightly apart, under your hips. If your knees are uncomfortable on the floor, put a folded blanket under both knees. Rest the tops of your feet (toe-nail side down) on the floor. Find a neutral spine position, neither sagging your belly toward the floor or mounding your back toward the ceiling, but “flat” back like a table. Your neck and head position are a continuation of your neutral spine. Reach the crown of your head forward, keeping your gaze on the floor.

Cat and Cow

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 10.03.55 AMINHALE: Arch your spine by lifting your tail toward the ceiling and dipping your belly toward the floor. Broaden your chest, reaching it forward through your upper arms. Extend the crown of your head forward and slightly up, keeping the back of your neck long. Imagine you are a sway-backed cow.

EXHALE: Press your hands and shins into the floor and round your spine by curling your tailbone down and lifting the middle of your back toward the ceiling. Drop your head toward the floor, relaxing your neck completely. Imagine you’re a hissing, Halloween cat.

REPEAT for ten breaths.

Modifications: If you feel tightness or a painful twinge in your back, make these movements even slower and more subtle, arching and rounding your spine to the degree you can, without causing discomfort. Over time your spine will become more flexible.

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Yoga Pose of the Month – Gather and Hold

Yoga Pose of the Month – Gather and Hold

Rest your hands with palms face up and fingers folded inward on any surface. Begin to inhale and open your fingers wide as if waiting to receive a gift. Hold your breath and fingers like this as you count to three. As you breathe out slowly, curling your fingers into your palm. Count to three. Repeat with simple movement and natural breath.

Gather life’s gifts with open hands and full breath. Hold and savor.

6-gatherandhold

Yoga Pose of the Month – Bend’n with the Wind

 

Root your feet downward like tree growing into deep rich soil. At the same time, imagine your spine reaching up to sunlight like a tree branch. Your arms drape lightly from your SideBendshoulders, palms facing your body.

Breathe in, grow taller. Breathe out, bend right, keeping both feet equally rooted. With each inhale, center the spine like a tall tree. With each exhale, bend with the wind. Alternate sides. If space allows, lift and sway your arms like bending tree branches.

Be like a tree, always growing deep and always reaching up.

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Yoga Pose of the Month – Tap Therapy

Tap Therapy: A relaxing & protecting massage.

  • Use the fingertips of one or both hand.
  • Gently tap your chest three inches below your collarbone (location of your Thymus Gland) 20 times.
  • Massage your temples in 20 slow circles.
  • Now, gently tap the forehead above your eyebrows 20 times.
  • Softly tap the crown of your head with fingertips of one hand while resting the other palm down anywhere on your body that feels good.
  • Repeat as often as it feels calming and natural.

Beyond relaxation, this simple action stimulates the immune system functions of the Thymus Gland helps to produce and maintain immune cells or lymphocytes that defend against cancer and other threats.

The purest comfort & strength can be found in smallest of gestures.

Yoga Pose of the Month – Go For Gold

Go For Gold

Place your hands firmly on your hips. Point your elbows back. Take a breath in, gently arch your chest forward as you lift your head, chin and heart. Hands stay fixed, as you begin to release your breath, fanning your elbows out to the side like wings. Your head curls forward as your back rounds and spreads open. With each inhale, arch forward again like a racer ready to run. With each exhale, bow forward as if draped in victory. A slow ten counts to each “arch and bow.”

Yoga is training for Warriors seeking awareness, strength and hope.

Yoga Pose of the Month – One Footed

One Footed

Place a book under your right foot or stand on a step. Focus your eyes forward. Begin to straighten your right leg. Stand tall using your left big toe to stay balanced on one leg. Eyes always fixed on that spot. Count ten long smooth breathe cycles in and out. Then repeat with the left foot. Experiment swinging the free foot back and forth. Time yourself and try standing on each foot for 40 seconds or counts!

Finding balance is a life’s work.

Yoga Pose of the Month – Moving Meditation

Yoga Pose of the Month – Moving Meditation

The idea is not to walk to “get somewhere,” rather to feel the muscles move and to enjoy having no place to go. Place your feet hip distance apart. Breathe in and slowly lift one heel. Breathe out, and gently replace the heel. Switch to the other foot. While on your stroll to nowhere, count your nonsteps, or match words to your movement and your breathing. For example, as you breathe in, say “Walking in place this way.” As you breathe out, say, “I am grateful for today.”

Walking to nowhere is like walking into NOW. The best place to be.

Yoga Pose of the Month – Empty the Tank

Empty the Tank

Count to five as you take a deep breath in. Breathe out as you count to five again. Add one count each breath out until you are at 10. This will empty your lungs completely.

Don’t hold your breath! Keep a continuous steady flow to your count.

Fill yourself with peace and ease.
Let go what is not useful, what you do not need.

Yoga Pose of the Month – Shoulder Spiral

Shoulder Spiral

Sit tall looking forward at eye level. Bend your left elbow wrapping the arm around your back with your hand resting on your right hip. Place your right arm across your chest, fingertips on your left shoulder. As you breathe in, gently press the shoulder back, looking forward. As you breathe out, slowly spiral your head right. Repeat several times, and then switch arms. Right arm back, left fingers to right shoulder. Look center as you inhale. Twist as you exhale.

Yoga teaches us to see the world from both sides.

Yoga Pose of the Month – Yoga Necking

Yoga Necking

Take a comfortable posture sitting or standing. Center your head atop your spine with the chin lifted. Breathe in and grow taller. As you breath out, slowly let your left ear lean in the direction of your left shoulder and relax the muscles in your neck. Breathing in, reach your right hand towards the ground. Breath out, leaning deeper to the left.  Center on an inhale and lean on the exhale for 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side, leaning right, reaching left for 5 breaths.

Yoga Neck 3 or 4 more times.

Who you are is always changing.  Always opening.  Always breathing.

Yoga Pose of the Month – Smiling Buddha Eyes

Yoga Pose of the Month
Smiling Buddha Eyes
Pocket Yoga©

Relax your face muscles. Rest your eyes on a single spot.
Breathe in, as you gaze wide into the corners of your eyes. Breathe out, as you slowly focus again on the spot. See more with each inhale and narrow your focus on each exhale. Make every breath long and smooth.

The Buddha does not close her eyes while meditating.
She keeps them open to softly gaze at all life has to offer while staying focused on her spot.