Sign Your Fitness is Hurting You: Part 3

Many ambitious exercisers have been there: Launching into a new or devoted movement practice only to find ourselves injured and frustrated down the road. Injuries can be confusing, demoralizing, and well, painful. Movement-related injuries don’t tend to pop up out of nowhere, unless you’ve talking about an injury that can be pinpointed to a specific event, an acute injury. Chronic pain and injury that develops from overuse, improper alignment and posture is often more difficult to pinpoint. 

#3- You only feel good when you are working out.

When I first started teaching a Deep Stretch Yoga class, it was full of power lifters and serious fitness folks. I loved it. Motivated movers often spend so much time getting stronger, that they’re not doing routine maintenance. Making time for stretching or Yoga between working can prevent injury by preserving our range of motion, loosening fascia that is becoming bunched, and also training ourselves mentally. Sometimes “going harder” can be “going deeper” in a relaxed state like Yoga savasana, meditation or Yoga Nidra. 

Why take fitness advice from a Yoga teacher? I wasn’t always a Yoga teacher. Bull-dozing through pain and injury finally got me to seek a deeper mind-body connection, one I found through Yoga. As my skills grew, so did my realization that good Yoga form is simply good form, whether you’re bending down to tie your shoes or to pick up a 200-pound weighted bar. All movers can learn from each other: Good and bad. 

Seeking practices that build mind-body connection help us to examine blind spots in our vision and subtle cues that might be signaling troubles ahead. Mind-body practices like pilates, yoga and related tools can help build the connection to avoid injury while supporting general well-being.

Check out Part 1 and Part 2 for more tips!

Signs Your Fitness is Hurting You: Part 2

Exercise and fitness is good for a body- except when it’s not.

Over-ambitious exercisers can find themselves injured and subsequently frustrated when all their hard work results in have to rest and rehabilitate an injury. Movement-related injuries don’t tend to pop up out of nowhere: overuse, improper alignment and posture can all contribute to injury over time.

Here are a few clues that might signal that trouble is ahead and help avoid injury, even if you’re feeling good and strong now:

#2- You’re wearing equipment to keep you in business. 

Putting on a knee brace just to work out? Wearing a weight belt? Although these pieces of equipment can offer support, rehabilitation or prevent further injury, there are also potential dangers. Destabilization in the knee can have origins elsewhere, like the hips. Getting at the root of why a brace is necessary might be in order. Of course, when these items are prescribed, always listen to your doctor (not the Yoga teacher’s blog). With a weight belt, there needs to be a clear reason why it is necessary. Weight belts are often compensating for poor form* and should be used judiciously. If you’re strapping on a weight belt before your deadlifts or home improvement project, be sure to have a trained eye analyze your form for weakness and address the root of the issue.

Why take fitness advice from a Yoga teacher? I wasn’t always a Yoga teacher. Bull-dozing through pain and injury finally got me to seek a deeper mind-body connection, one I found through Yoga. As my skills grew, so did my realization that good Yoga form is simply good form, whether you’re bending down to tie your shoes or to pick up a 200-pound weighted bar. All movers can learn from each other: Good and bad. 

Seeking practices that build mind-body connection help us to examine blind spots in our vision and subtle cues that might be signaling troubles ahead. Mind-body practices like pilates, yoga and related tools can help build the connection to avoid injury while supporting general well-being.

Check out Part 1 and Part 3 for more tips!

* There are important reasons why heavy weight lifters might be wearing a belt. This is an observation based on watching many bodies move in a gym setting.

Signs Your Fitness is Hurting You: Part 1

Many ambitious exercisers have been there: Launching into a new or devoted movement practice only to find ourselves injured and frustrated down the road. Injuries can be confusing, demoralizing, and well, painful. Movement-related injuries don’t tend to pop up out of nowhere, unless you’ve talking about an injury that can be pinpointed to a specific event, an acute injury. Chronic pain and injury that develops from overuse, improper alignment and posture is often more difficult to pinpoint. 

Here are a few clues that might signal that trouble is ahead and help avoid injury, even if you’re feeling good and strong now: 

#1- You’re getting stronger but losing range of motion and mobility

After spending a few years working in a health club and fitness center, I’ve seen a lot of different bodies and a lot of different ways of exercising. Losing mobility while still “making gains” on the weight floor or in your movement routine is a major red flag. Loss of range of motion and mobility is often accompanied by muscle imbalance, where people are adapting their form and equipment to accommodate. I see this most commonly in shoulders with hand weight exercises, but also in yoga with postures like chaturanga and side-plank (vasithasana).

Simply: This is not good. Long term, the imbalance will likely result in injury and poor posture. 

Why take fitness advice from a Yoga teacher? I wasn’t always a Yoga teacher. Bull-dozing through pain and injury finally got me to seek a deeper mind-body connection, one I found through Yoga. As my skills grew, so did my realization that good Yoga form is simply good form, whether you’re bending down to tie your shoes or to pick up a 200-pound weighted bar. All movers can learn from each other: Good and bad. 

Seeking practices that build mind-body connection help us to examine blind spots in our vision and subtle cues that might be signaling troubles ahead. Mind-body practices like pilates, yoga and related tools can help build the connection to avoid injury while supporting general well-being.

Check out Part 2 and Part 3 for more signs!

I can’t believe..

..It’s been a year since i taught a group class! 


Starting Monday, May 18, Precision Pilates & Yoga in Great Falls will have group classes, workshops and more. Leslie Steensrud is the owner, and we have a great group. I feel very fortunate to be able to teach out of this beautiful space, and have since summer of 2020.(Check out class deal going on through Sunday!)

I am so excited to get back into the swing of things! Plus, check out the Yoga Festival happening in Choteau in June. There are still a few tickets!


I hope you are well, and I hope to being seeing you soon!*
Best, Audra

The Journey out of Carpel Tunnel Pain

Whether you have struggled with carpel tunnel syndrome or neck/shoulder tension, you know: It can be a major barrier to day-to-day life.

From lack of quality sleep to pain, numbness and plain ol’ misery, the effects of imbalance in the neck, shoulders and arms can be frustrating at best and debilitating at worst.

Child’s pose can be great for entire arms (and minds), and there are many modifications.

Right now, some pain and minor debilitation is creeping back into my life. I want to share my process for relieving my carpool tunnel symptoms through yoga and what I’ve come to call movement restoration.

Hopefully, at the least, my story will give you some tools for managing your own symptoms and maybe help you on your path of long term management.

As always, make sure to listen to your body and the advice or recommendations of your Physical Therapist or other specialist.

So, here we go!

1. Stop the bleeding. Not literally of course, I mean stop doing the activity that is causing a flare up. If it’s your job that’s causing, seek options. Take a couple of long weekends in a row to have a longer rest time, or take more stretching/movement breaks at work. If symptoms are brought on by repetitive tasks, then we need to break the cycle.

In my case, it’s a combination of job and play. I will plan to back off of play activities and practice better self-care at work.

2. Open up. Stretching the palm, lower arm and front of the shoulder start “opens up” constricted fascia and promotes better blood flow and prana.

Postures I like for this are: Cat-cow, child’s pose (with open palms, pictured), star (try working your way to “spider man” wrists), and restorative bound angle.

Important: weight-bearing on the hands should feel good. If you are experiencing loss of sensation or pain in the wrists with palms on the floor, the issue may be with your alignment. Try performing at a wall until you can seek guidance on correct alignment.

Some pre-COVID touch to help one student arrange her shoulder into a more open, passive position.

3. Breathe. Practices that focus attention, activate the parasympathetic nervous system and open up construction have been key to my recoveries time and time again. Living with Carpel tunnel is not a one-and-done thing; it’s a lifetime of management and learning. To start, sit in a quiet place and begin to count your in-breath and out-breath. See if you can gradually get them equal to the count of four. Gradually, try to lengthen the short pause between those breaths, and maybe also make the pauses equal to that count of four. This is called the 4-Square breath, or in yoga: Sama vritti. Do this for a few minutes, and don’t struggle. There is no wrong way, so don’t worry about whether you’re “doing it right.”

As you breath, create an image in your mind of untangling a complex web or smoothing a sheet. Each breath untangles or smoothes the rough areas in your body.

4. Just move. I’m pretty sure the saying comes from physical therapy, but it’s oh so true: Motion is lotion for our joints. Move around, especially if you tend to be locked into a certain position most of the day. (I’m looking at you fellow desk jockeys.) Dance, do tai chi or some really ‘flowy’ yoga, swim, or find some other gentle, body weight fluid movement that works for you. Move each joint in all its natural directions, from the tips of your fingers to your toes. The body is connected by amazing, interconnected webs of facia. Loosening one thread may well relax the whole web.

Mobility: Use it or lose it.

Somatic exercises and somatic yoga are my go-to for this. I’ve had amazing results, and so have my clients. I also like tai chi for this! I went to a few classes a while back, but now I just make up my own stuff. It’s probably not really Tai chi, but it feels great!

Drop a comment and tell me what works for you!

Cheers,

Audra

Big Changes

If you’ve known me for a while, you may have suspected that I thrive on change. In the last 18 months, I have said goodbye to a marriage and a best fur-friend, moved twice, and started 2 new jobs. In the past, I’ve been a farmer, a caterer, and a bookkeeper. I’ve milked cows, packed horses, raised all manner of livestock, driven semi-trucks, and I know how to make mozzarella from fresh milk.

This past year, I’ve welcomed new love, new clients, gone back to school TWICE (for 2 different studies), and started new ventures with Dropstone Outfitting and Sun River Yoga. I have begun spending regular time in wild places again, a practice that I’m calling my rewilding.

Well friends, there’s more.

Effective today, I am no longer teaching Yoga at The Peak. While I’m sad that it will mean more good byes, I am excited for the opportunity to welcome in new and wonderful things. I don’t know the exactly what’s in store, but I hope you’ll stay in touch.

There are a lot of unknowns going forward, but here’s what I KNOW:

  • I will continue to take Private Yoga clients in Great Falls. I rented out my Choteau house and moved to Great Falls!
  • I am actively looking for a space in which to continue a small, part-time clientele in Great Falls.
  • I will continue monthly Sunday Yoga classes in Choteau (once I can that is), and will probably add in a potluck after- just to stay in touch 🙂
  • I will of course continue offering/make good on any session purchases through Sun River Yoga.

Here’s what I’m HOPING/PLANNING for:

  • 2021 Wilderness and Yoga with Dropstone Outfitting (https://dropstoneoutfitting.com)
  • Monthly “Big Practice” 1 1/2 hour class/mini-workshop in Great Falls?
  • International Yoga Retreats? Iceland 2022? (This might be a stretch at this point!)

When people ask me, “How did you learn all this?” I usually say that I came by these life lessons honestly: Through pain and struggle. Yoga has given me the tools to be resilient in the midst of pain and change, to embrace it, and to grow. I want to keep sharing this magic that is Yoga.

Thanks for including me on your life adventure. I can’t wait to see when/where we come together again…

Love to all, Audra

Yoga- Unlimited

Everyone experiences times when they don’t have much to give: Time, money, or maybe attention. Some of the most profound experiences of my life have been at the very moments when I thought I had nothing left.

The-Rise-Of-The-Experience-Economy-Q

Whether it’s pushing through physical challenge, or a digging out of a deep emotional well, we humans have capabilities that surpasses even our own belief at times.

For many, yoga is a way to access that place. Of course, we tend to focus on the postures- even me. As a teacher, my brain sees bodies and their complex spirals and nuances, and I’ve chosen a role that helps bring awareness to that. I gravitate toward the physical postures and breath, asana and pranayama, with students, but it’s the internal work that holds the power of my attention in my personal practice.

Yoga helps us see the relationship between and among our various layers, and to navigate their complexity with awareness, if not ease.

To address this challenge, or any other, with a sense that our deepest abilities are limitless, is to begin trust our own innate power. We are infinite. We only need to believe.

Hard Choices

Last week, several of us met at the Community Center to discuss how to keep yoga classes going here in Fort Shaw, while still make the necessary changes in light of my working full-time in GFalls. However, after more time to consider, I feel that to truly be fair to my family life, I must CONCLUDE CLASSES IN FORT SHAW FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE.

Changing the ‘program’ is necessary for me to prioritize work-life balance. During my short time teaching, I have been fortunate enough to witness people make real, meaningful shift in their bodies and personal lives. I feel deep gratification in seeing realization spread over someone’s face, hearing phrases like “yoga is the best part of my week”, or seeing injuries healed and confidence lifted.

As much as I hate to end classes at the Community Center, I hope that people will continue to seek out opportunities. This has been a VERY difficult choice for me. My classes at The Peak will continue, as will periodic yoga workshops.

Truly, I have learned as much from teaching as any of my class participants may have during the past year, and look forward to contributing to the wellbeing of our community.
Namaste. Audra

You’re late- for YOGA?!

There is a plethora of advice on yoga etiquette available: “Never come in to yoga class late.” “Don’t fidget during savasana.”  “Don’t leave early.” And on, and on.

late for yoga

First let me say: I get it. Coming to yoga 5 minutes late can be somewhat disruptive, both to students and the instructor. Fidgeting during savasana might disturb your mat-neighbor, and leaving class early sends the signal that you’re only there for the ‘exercise’ (asana) portion. (Yoga is SO much more than exercise by the way.)

Frankly though: I’ve been there. I’ve been the person who is so wound up from my life, that I can’t lie still and awake for 5 minutes in savasana. (“There is so much I could be DOING right now!”)

I’ve been the person who has an appointment at 11am, but need the 10am yoga class so badly, that I’m willing to suffer the embarrassment of being the one who leaves early. (It IS courteous to let your instructor now if you’ll be leaving early though.)

I’ve also been the person who is rushing, shouting, and running to get a child in daycare and drive across town to drop in on a much-needed yoga class- only to arrive 5 minutes late, sneaking into yoga like I stole something. (This is not acceptable for your very first class, however…)

Isn’t part of ‘living our yoga’ being compassionate toward both ourselves and others? In a group class, being around other people is simply part of the package. People who, with all their faults, odd noises and smells, are simply doing the best they can to cultivate a more satisfying existence. So, the next time someone is shuffling on their mat, packing it in early, or clambering for a mat space because they came in late, imagine they are someone that you love. Imagine your father, daughter, sister, or brother, and trust they are doing the best that they can. Tell yourself to just be glad that they were able to make it, because they most likely are. (: