Yoga My World

15 Minute Yoga Sequence For Runners

The Lucas Sequence.

My brother asked me to put together a yoga sequence he could do in 15 minutes that focused on hips, quads, calfs, hamstrings and glutes. He’s never done yoga before so I’ve made sure each pose should is accessible for beginner yogi’s. I unfortunately don’t have a mic to talk through the poses, so instead, I’ve made sure the focus of the pose pops up where necessary, and I need you to feel it in your body. You’ll also see the reason why yoga is such a great stretch, by going over the same muscles again and again, we get deeper each time.

Have a towel handy, we’ll use it as a strap!

I’m going to give you some things to remember before you begin.

1. Connect to your breath. Elongate your inhale’s and exhale’s to about 3 in, 4 out throughout the whole sequence, and notice if/when your breath changes. Try not to let the poses take you out of your breath.

2. Do not overstretch, use your breath to take you deeper. In most sports we’re taught to push, push, push – go hard or go home. In yoga it’s different. You go to your edge in a pose, the place that feels just bearably comfortable, and then once you’re there, you use your breath to take you deeper. The point is to surrender to every pose, and to learn to trust your breath and your body. Your breath will never take you further than your body can handle.

3. Yoga pain should feel like good, stretch pain. If you ever feel crunch pain or ‘tweak’ pain, either reduce your intensity level or come out of the pose. Pain is a messenger for both good and bad in the body, and its up to you to learn which is which!

4. Any time you practice a backbend (even the low intensity types) focus on engaging ALL your core muscles to take it out of your lower back. If you feel it in your lower back, reduce the intensity and focus on building strength instead of deepening your back bend.

A standard yoga class in at least 75 minutes, so we’re trying to get a lot done here in 15. If you have longer, simply hold the poses longer and allow your breath to take you deeper. If you want to practice the poses individually, a good measurement for how long you should hold it for a deep stretch is 10 elongated breaths. Start at your edge and let your breath do the work from there.

I hope you enjoy the playlist, it’s all his favourite songs!

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5 Lessons Freediving Taught Me About Mind and Breath

“It is impossible to express the experiences you have below the surface with words, when water gently caresses your face and body, the pulse decreases and your brain relaxes… There is nothing connecting you to the surface but the same withheld breath that connects you to life. There is only you and a growing pressure on your chest that feels like a loving hug and the vibrations from the deep quiet tone of the sea. It is quite possible that this deep quiet tone is none other than the mantra Om, the sound of the universe, trickling life into every cell of your body.” – Stig Åvall Severinsen

Let’s get this straight: I am not a diver. I grew up in a small beach town with a huge surf culture in Australia, which sounds legitimate, except I was as the only person out of everyone I knew too scared to get in the water above my knees. So why would I want to try Freediving?

I’d developed an interest in Freediving after learning there was a strong relationship to yoga, but without really knowing what that relationship was. I knew the basic premise was to dive as deep as I could with one breath, and I knew that to do so required a kind of underwater meditation, using as little energy as possible and being in a state of flow. I also knew that Freediving had a particularly high rate of fatalities. But at such an introductory level, your risk is relatively small, so I decided to try it anyway.

Day One: The Respiratory System for Dummies

Day one of training we were taught about the respiratory system in relation to Freediving. When you hold your breath, your urge to breathe will eventually manifest in what they call ‘contractions’. These feel like your body is trying to gasp for air, but actually it’s an attempt to get rid of built up C02 in your system. At the point of contractions, you are actually only around half way into using up your oxygen. Obviously, the danger comes from blacking out under water as a result of lack of oxygen.

Day 2: From Freaking Out to Being “Like Water”

On day two, we hit the water. Out in the ocean, our instructor descended a line around 15 meters deep. It was extremely choppy conditions and we spent a lot of time at the top of the line doing breathe up exercise (4 seconds in, 6 seconds out) before each dive. It was hard to relax and I didn’t like being in the open water. My first few dives I got to around five meters, and as soon as I felt pressure on my chest I freaked out and came up. “Become like water,” our French instructor Marc tells me after noticing my complete resistance to everything that was going on. Something clicked in my head and I started to feel relaxed being thrown back and forth by the swells.

After my next breath up, I dove to 13 meters, and it was incredible. I felt the pressure on my chest build up but instead of letting it take me out, I simply noticed it rise and then float away. Under water, I experienced serenity. I moved with ease down the line, gracefully flowing with the water. I felt trust in my body and the oxygen in my system. I detached from the growing pressure in my chest and resisted the temptation to scoot quickly up the line and utilize unnecessary energy. I surfaced, took a breath, felt a rush exhilaration and then slipped immediately back to normal breathing – a sure sign I had more than enough oxygen left. From there, my Freediving world completely opened up and the real learning began.

Day 3: Conquering The Mind (Finally)

In three ‘Free Immersion’ half-day training sessions, I was able to increase my dive from 5 meters to 17 meters. There were times where I dived to 15 meters with ease and there were times when I dove to 10 and it felt hard. Every dive we did the exact same breath up exercises, so technically we had the same amount of oxygen. The only variable: my mind.

Applying Freediving to Yoga

We observe the mind a lot in yoga. We notice our thoughts, try to detach from our ego and use our intellect to synthesize and rationalize knowledge when necessary. But I have never felt my mind’s capacity to sabotage with such clarity. In Freediving there are so few variables and such high consequences, you learn, and you learn fast. Here are five things I learnt about mind and breath from three half-days of Freediving;

  1. Get Control Over Your Thoughts: In Freediving, it’s immediately noticeable when you’re ‘letting your mind take you out’ as we might say in yoga. You do a breath up, descend, and if you only dive to 10 meters when you know you can dive to 17m, you know that’s solely because of your mental state. This increases your ability, dive after dive, to get better control over your thoughts.
  1. Thoughts Impact Your Breath and Body. One dive to the next, it’s just your mind and one breath. You get to know the relationship between your thoughts and your breath on a deeper level. You’ll notice how different thoughts impact your breath and body in different ways, and you learn fast to think the good one’s only.
  1. Visualization’s Work. When I visualized positive, relaxing things, my dives were a breeze, every time. I honestly couldn’t believe how simple it was.
  1. Your Perception’s Hold You Back: Perception plays a significant role in breath. The fact is, I had the near-same amount of oxygen with every dive. But with every dive, I also had a ‘perception’ of how much I had, and that often held me back. It would stop me from diving deeper, or force me to come up quicker. But all along the reality was exactly the same.
  1. There’s Infinity in Every Breath: Freediving reduces the parameters of breathing to one breath. To me, connecting to breath in yoga, felt different than connecting to a breath in Freediving. I realized there is a spectacular world in a single breath that I had never experienced through yoga and know I’m hooked on getting to know it more.

For the next few months of yoga, I’ll be focusing on using visualizations in harder poses; exploring the perceptions I have that are holding me back; deepening my connection to the world of each breath; noticing how my thoughts are impacting my breath, and best of all, not letting my mind take me out. This was one of the most incredible learning experiences I’ve ever had.

My 5 Favourite Morning Poses

Yoganonmous recently published an article titled 5 Yoga Poses That Should Be Part of Your Morning Routine and it got me thinking about my own morning practice. While I do practice a couple of the poses the article advised, my body, at this point, seems to crave others which weren’t included. I thought I’d share with you my own.

Because my morning practice is still in its infancy, I tend not to have a regimented routine, and instead allow my body to move in whatever way it feels. This makes the whole idea of practicing as soon as you roll out of bed a little less daunting. I commend myself instead on my discipline to ‘show up’ onto my mat, in an act of love and respect for my relationship with myself, rather than what postures I do, or how ‘hard’ I work when I get there.

Here are my 5 favorite yoga poses to wake up to:

  1. Supine Twists

I literally roll out of my bed and onto my mat and start with deep supine twists. In supine twists I like to roll so far over my knee touches the ground, and allow my shoulder to slowly descend towards the earth with each breath. This gives me a spinal twist, lumber spine and hip cracks, and an upper chest and arm stretch. Hold each side for 1-2 minutes; it’s a juicy way to awaken after your slumber.

  1. Downward Dog

This is the first stretch my dog does every morning after the wakes up, and I think he’s onto something. Your first downward dog for the day will feel stiff, if you allow your body some movement in the posture, it’ll loosen up, the blood will start flowing, and you begin to experience how delicious this pose can be.

  1. Sun or Moon Salutations, with long hold uttanasana’s and backbend variations

Depending on how you are feeling, do three to five sun or moon salutations and in each of them add in a few backbends variations and longer hold forward folds. Sun salutations create heat and will awaken and enliven you. Moon salutations are known to be more cooling, but depending on how you execute them, they might create a little heat. I love the hip opening of moon salutations, and sometimes I crave the heated awakening of sun salutations. It all depends on how you feel in your body and heart at that moment.

  1. Camel

Here is where things start to get a little deeper. For me, nothing beats camel in the morning; the rush I get from this chest opener is almost addictive. I practice camel with my hands on my ankles, so it opens my chest and my shoulders. If camel doesn’t do it for you, I would instead do something like supported fish. The point is to get a deep chest-opener in.

  1. Pigeon/Double Pigeon

Yes! I can’t help it, I love pigeon poses in the morning. They’re deep hip openers which tend to create resistance I must surrender to, and that’s a lesson I need to be reminded about every day. This is your chance also to connect with your breath and trust it to create space in your hips.

Those are my five favourite morning poses. I’d love to know what your body likes to wake up to! Share your favourite morning poses in the comments!