How to do Pigeon the Right Way

How to do Pigeon the Right Way

Pigeon is a yoga pose we all love to hate. Its dynamics are intense and liberating at the same time.

This pose can aid in a laundry list of issues and symptoms, but for many, pigeon is a pose that we often just flop into with no real direction or understanding of how we should position our body and why.

Pigeon is about unlocking our deepest fears, traumas, and anxieties, a pose that releases the pressures put on our lower two chakras. These lower two chakras, the root and the sacral, house our relationships with ourselves and our relationship between you and me (one-on-one). Our needs for survival, intimacy, trust, and stability reside here.

Pigeon Pose the Right Way

It’s been my observation that we’re a society in dire need of grounding, and releasing and developing trust. It will be difficult to trust others if you don’t trust yourself.

Having spent most of my life in recovery, I never really understood what that meant until I myself realized that I did not trust myself, honor myself and (to be blunt) like or love myself in any shape or form. The anxiety I’d feel in pigeon was the same anxiety I was feeling in life, in those tight uncomfortable situations. As I practiced and journeyed down the road of recovery, I began to notice a huge parallel in the two experiences.

To me, a big part of yoga is allowing yourself to feel.

I don’t just mean coming into class, flying around your mat for 75 minutes, and then laying down and calling it a day. Feeling on your mat means that you get in touch with your emotions, but also feel in your body what is actually going on, both on a physical level and an internal level. As we better understand what a pose is trying to offer us, we can then better appreciate the need for it and maybe even sustain a longer period of time in the pose.

For many people, their pigeon is lost from the nest with little awareness as to where to go. They are just mimicking the gestures of the other pigeons, hoping it is right.

I have come to understand and appreciate that not all poses are created equal. When your body can’t do something you want it to do, it will compensate with another body part. I like to make sure students are very clear about why they are moving in certain ways and what they might be feeling.

This Is What I Like To Call “Functional Pigeon”

– Begin in a tabletop position, with two blocks nearby.
– Exhale and slide your right knee forward so that the femur (thigh bone) and knee are directly in front of its hip socket.
– Comfortably align the right heel over towards the left hip without letting the knee slide to the side.
– Check the back leg and make sure you are on the top of the knee and thigh, your foot is laying flat and the leg is in line with its own hip socket as well.
– Inhale and begin to draw your torso upright, taking hold of your blocks to allow more stability to support the body.
– Draw your attention to the pelvis and notice if your ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine), AKA knobby points on the front of the pelvis are dropping forward and your lower back is crushed.
– Activate your pelvic floor to adjust the pelvis from a largely forward tilted position to a more upright position, this will take the load out of the lower back and also direct the stretch more fully across the front inner groin.

Pigeon Pose the Right Way
-Remain here for ten slow steady breaths, directing the release into the area of concern. Remember to keep the shoulders relaxed and the abdomen active and the outside of the left hip (back legs hip) moving forward, and at the same time feeling the hip of the front leg moving back.
– Now exhale, keeping the pelvic floor active walk your hands forward of your shoulders and being to come forward keeping your front femur bone in line with your hip socket. If you feel the need for more stretch draw the right foot forward of the left hip a few more inches, but still not allowing the knee to slide out.
– Flex the front foot and lengthen the back foot a bit more by rolling the toes under and drawing the leg back a few more inches, after which extending through the toes and pressing through the top of the foot.
– Work to sit your right hip back even more, and draw the left hip even more forward. Do not fall into the right hip, instead, prop up the hip with a block or blanket to stay aligned.
– Finally, extend your arms as far as you can forward, when extending the arms you better lengthen the spinal muscles. Use head support if needed not to strain the neck and to add pressure to the third eye point, sending a wonderful signal to the central nervous system to relax.

Those that suffer from lordosis will most likely find this difficult but beneficial. Those with hip replacements will have better success in this version, as well, as the femur is not turning inward into the hip not but directly back into the muscle. Those with sciatica will have more long term relief and for the rest of us, this unwinding that we are stepping into will have a de-layering effect that will last longer and see more long-term benefits.

When Working With Functional Pigeon

Students get a deeper more beneficial stretch through the gluteals: medius, maximus, and minimus. The head of the femur is now directed directly back into the buttock flesh rather than inward into the sacrum.

This variation has a more positive effect on:

  • Piriformis, whose origin is the inside surface of the sacrum and sacrotuberous ligament and inserts on the tip of the greater trocanter (greater trocanter is the head of the femur that does not go into the hip socket)
  • Quadratus Femoris, whose origin is the side of the sits bone and inserts on the back surface of the greater trocanter.
  • Hamstrings engage in a more full stretch as the femur head directs itself back rather than in.
  • When upright in pigeon, the psoas and iliacus has a more complete stretch and release.

This is just the beginning of what functional pigeon can do for you. You can get the full breakdown of the foundational yoga poses in my Asana Library ($137), but it is included FOR FREE in my Premium Online Studio.

Take some time with this new version of pigeon. Many find it more difficult as we are digging deeper into the body. I find it essential to remember in yoga that it is not where we are going, but where were we are right now that is important. This reminds us to take a moment to better understand where that is exactly.

This post was originally written for MindBodyGreen.com
What is Mental Health and Why Does it Matter?

What is Mental Health and Why Does it Matter?

I didn’t want to write this blog post. Not one bit. But I felt I needed to share some insight from someone who has struggled with mental health for most of her life.

If you could only see the look on my face right now, you would wonder what gives? What’s the deal? Why is it so hard to say that?

I do not accept this as my bill of health, or that this is my end game. I have mood swings, I have highs and lows, I have anxiety. Sometimes I don’t sleep well. For most of my life, I expressed my feelings by self-harming.

Does any person ever really want to say something like that to anyone, let alone the entire world?

The truth is, writing those words makes me feel broken. Like a young lamb incapable of fending for herself. And if you have ever met me in person, you would say emphatically that I am anything but an incapable little lamb.

But that’s just it.

Mental illness (there it is again, that pit in my stomach when I refer to myself with those words) is real and it’s not verbiage I like to throw around lightly. Why? Because I do not believe I am a victim of anything, and I do believe that I can live a happy life. I know I can. Because 98% of the time I am.

Maybe the cards were kind of stacked against me.

My father is one of the most hardworking men I have EVER met in my entire life. Someone who has done and seen things in his lifetime NO ONE would EVER choose to do or see. But there he was. And in some ways, he is my hero. In other ways…well, it’s complicated. But like me, he has had his own demons to face in this lifetime. I am pretty certain if I would even whisper “mental health” to him, the hairs on his back would stand up like a dog ready to attack.

As for me, I’m pretty sure I was in the boat before I even knew it. But in 1996, (I was 12 by the way) who was talking about mental health? Unless you were a PhD attending elite conferences far away from my Wisconsin hometown, you didn’t even know that existed. People with mental health issues lived in institutions with padded walls and were drugged to the point of walking zombies, right?

And I say that with slight humor, but that is my cover for the complete discomfort I still feel when I categorize myself as someone with mental health issues.

I wish I knew then, what I know now. Things may have been different.

I wish my parents would have been more comfortable and knowledgeable with dealing with a child with addiction, depression, and anxiety. But then they would had to have been more comfortable with their own confrontations with it as well.

I wish I would have understood more about what was going on inside me when I was 12, 14, 18. All the while, feeling alone, embarrassed, and judged.

But truly, I don’t want to change any of it. It’s my life. My story.

And maybe it doesn’t bother me quite as much as it used to because I’ve survived. I decided long ago to fight. To not just mask the issues, but uncover them, and start dealing with them.

I was chemically imbalanced and a holistic nutritionist helped me with that. I was low in just about every single vital nutrient, thanks to an eating disorder, and I got help.
I ate my feelings for more than a decade, and I got help with that.
Talking about my feelings, expressing my feelings, or just feeling anything was scary to me. And I got help with that.

Mental Health Awareness

I lost a friend two years ago who she struggled with mental health as well. Something she said to me years before has always stuck with me. “Hope, I can’t go get help, because it will be in my file, and I might then lose my job”. Be that true or not. It was true to her. And as a result, she didn’t feel she could get the help she needed when she wanted… she passed from drug-use two years ago.

What if she had felt comfortable enough to get help?
What if she had felt safe enough to share her struggles?
What if she would have felt mental health was as easy to care for as a broken bone? Or as accepted as seeking cancer treatment?

I will never know that answer.

But I do know help is available. And it is VITAL. Let me say that again. It is VITAL that you reach out. Those uncomfortable feelings you feel just thinking about reaching out won’t last.

See your mental health as a priority. Not as a silly stigma.

Talk to your partner about your struggles. Let them in. Do not be embarrassed about seeking out a therapist. Everyone can benefit from an outside perspective and sound advice.

Support others on their journey. They may not be ready to talk about their struggles or concerns with you. And they may never be, but support them by simply holding a space of safety for them by learning what the warning signs are that they may be struggling. By giving them room to breathe and letting them know you are there with a card, a text, or a call.

And if you are feeling like you need the care yourself, then do not hesitate. The world needs you. You have something amazing to offer and this one moment is a part of that amazing journey unfolding.

We all have to take care of our health: physically, emotionally and mentally. And let this be a gentle reminder that there is help out there. I’m living proof it works.

 

For More Information about Mental Health, check out these articles:

Mental Health and Parenting: What No One is Talking About

6 Simple Self-Help & Recovery Tips for an Eating Disorder

Mindful Ways to Reduce Stress

Ground Yourself by Coming Into Your Root Chakra

 

 

This was originally published for Thrive Global on May 28, 2019.

Getting to the Core of Things

Getting to the Core of Things

“Now, activate your core,” is a phrase you’re likely to hear in any fitness class, yoga included.
But I wonder, what does that mean? And does the instructor even know what that means? 
It’s been my experience teaching both students and teachers from all over the country that most people assume they’re using the core, assume they know where the core is and assume the cues they are using are helping more than hurting.

To be able to cue the core, one needs to understand why it’s so important. 

Everything is an extension of the core, and every muscle above and below eventually feeds into the core (or more specifically the pelvic floor). Muscles in the body are not separate but connected, one turning into the next.
Our body consists of layers, and our core is no different. These layers help us better understand the concept of the core being the Motherboard for all movement. And if one does not know where the Motherboard of any device is, then how will you ever be able to tweak it to operate better?
Every person needs to begin at what I know as the Local Layer. This is the permission layer. The layer of the core in which we stabilize before we mobilize.
Sadly, even in core-focused classes, this is often ignored because it’s difficult to locate, awaken and continually keep awake. It can take many sessions before someone feels confident they are using the proper muscles.
It’s important to remember that the body is an amazing piece of machinery unlike any other. If one body part can’t do what you are asking it, and then another body part will step up and try to do it for us. The problem with this is that it gives us a false idea that we are properly performing the movement.
So this local layer consists of the transversus abdominus (which is a hoop-like muscle), multifidus, diaphragm and the pelvic floor, consisting of the perineum, anal sphincter, and area surrounding the urethra (to simplify things). This is our permission layer, our layer of stability, and I like to focus here.
I created Core Functional Fitness as a way to teach people how to find and use their true core. It’s better for you and your health. You can find many other core-specific works in my Mindful Movement Premium Online Studio.
Mindful Movement Premium Online Studio

Ground Yourself by Coming Into Your Root Chakra

Ground Yourself by Coming Into Your Root Chakra

Chakras are our body’s wheels of light and energy centers. Our root chakra is our first chakra and it resides at the base of the spine. It is also known as the Muladhara, which literally means foundation or root. Mul means base and Adhara means support.

The Muladhara correlates with the adrenals. The release of adrenaline prepares us to react or act in any situation. This activation of fight-or-flight is brought on by real or imagined danger. The adrenals are the body’s call to battle. The need to be grounded and secure goes hand-in-hand with our ability to soundly react to what is going on in front of us.

When balanced, our root chakra holds a foundation of security, safety, order, and routine. Muladhara offers us nurturance, a sense of organization, and honesty. We become flexible and responsible with our own being and those around us.

Issues of the Root Chakra

When our root chakra is unbalanced, we may see physical, emotional, mental or spiritual symptoms calling us back to our bodies three-dimensionally, to seek balance and grounding. The chakra is asking us if we are able to stand on our own two feet.

Constipation is often a symptom of a blocked root.

Others include struggles with weight to the point of obesity.

It could also be expressed as ailments related to the legs or knees.

Those who struggle or suffer skeletal or sacral issues are often energetically asked to seek balance in the root chakra. Other issues of imbalance can manifest as feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, phobias or disconnection.

When we are financially troubled, materialistic, greedy or resistant to change, it is time to look at our root.

Do This: Take a moment and self reflect. We can often feel defensive when we are confronted with the reality of what is really holding us back. Make note of the above, and meditate on where that is all coming from.

How Can I Balance my Root Chakra?

  • Crystals and stones like jasper, clear quartz, tiger’s eye, hematite, smoky quartz or bloodstone
  • Aromatherapy using scents that create security, stability, and grounding like cedar, sandalwood, and cinnamon
  • Food like root plants, whole grains, dairy, minerals, calcium and nuts
  • Commune with nature: When is the last time you walked barefoot or laid in the grass? Take time with nature to help grow your roots back where they belong.

In balancing this chakra, it is important to focus on the relationship with the individual self. Who are you? When is the last time you did something for you, or something to nourish your entire being?

Mantras for Balancing Your Root Chakra

The vowel sound “oh” correlates with our root chakra a sense of letting go and coming into the self. We often use this sound to create a sense of release.

Do This: Try verbally releasing the sound “oh” whenever you need a moment to just drop baggage and come back to yourself again.

Consider chanting “lam” (long a) 108 times to help gain a greater sense of grounding and balance in your root chakra. Use this chant in your meditation or yoga practice. This can enhance your experience and ability to sink into your root chakra.

The verb “I have” directly correlates with Muladhara; when is the last time you used this phrase? When is the last time you allowed yourself to have strength, have health, have security? Many of us feel the need to live in lack (often trained from early on to live this way). This martyr syndrome often stems from the root chakra. Tap into your own unique honesty and see what needs to surface. Then use it pared with the phrase “I have” and see what manifests. You deserve to have all that you need and more.

Postures for Balancing Your Root Chakra

Yoga can help balance your root chakra. Practice grounding postures like bridge, tree, goddess, runners lunge, seated pigeon (foot cradle), and bound angle. You can also practice pranayama by breathing into the pelvic floor with pelvic tilts. You can find all of these root chakra-focused poses in my Mindful Movement Online Studio.

Do not rush these asanas – practice with more love, acceptance and honesty rather than force, fear or anger. Yoga is about finding the best version of our self. Does your practice have that?

So slip your shoes off and step into the unknown. You have all you need, and you are grounded and connected to something greater than yourself.

 

This post was originally published in the July 2013 edition of Nature’s Pathway Magazine.

6 Simple Self-Help & Recovery Tips for an Eating Disorder

6 Simple Self-Help & Recovery Tips for an Eating Disorder

Recovery from an eating disorder or any addiction can feel like an uphill battle. Admitting you need help is the first step. However, what comes after that is usually everyone around you telling you what you should do.

How you should act.

What you should or shouldn’t eat.

What you should stay away from.

What therapist you shouldn’t see.

What book you should read. 

And for anyone who has been struggling with addiction, directives like that can surely trigger a relapse. 

I struggled for years trying to step into recovery, only to find myself drowning in a sea of failure. The harder I tried, the more I felt like I was failing. Not meeting everyone’s expectations of what they think recovery should be like. 

So I hid. I hid my progress, or should I say lack thereof. I felt like the fear of failure on top of being an addict was just too big to uncover. So I lied. I lied to everyone around me on and off for years that I was in-fact “better.” 

I want to let you know that there is hope. You can do this. And it all starts with you deciding that you have had enough.

Coming to a place where the fear of judgment is outweighed by the fear of living with an eating disorder. A life cut short because this could eventually kill you. 

That was my greatest push. I didn’t want to live this way. I didn’t want a family, to be married with kids, living in secret, Living a lie. I didn’t realize it but I had observed addiction in my household growing up. I had observed co-dependency not knowing it. I took it on as “normal behavior.” 

For a big part of my life, I didn’t think it was fair that I didn’t get a choice in the matter. But I wanted a choice for my kids, and the biggest truth… I didn’t want to die. 

I believe that conventional wisdom may have your best interests at heart. But unless you have actually struggled with this kind of hell, seeking help itself, and then receiving it can be overwhelming. It’s a struggle all it’s own. 

The following tips are my suggestions to consider as you work fully into recovery. What I did, what worked for me, and what I hope for you to consider so you can live the life you have always dreamed of. 

1. Say It Out Loud

For years I couldn’t even get myself to say it out loud. That I had a problem and that I needed help. What I recognized is if I couldn’t even say it to myself, how was I going to say it to someone else? Today, look at yourself in the mirror. Look in your eyes and compassionately tell yourself “you can’t do this alone anymore, you need help. I have an addiction, and I deserve a future without this addiction”.  

The first time I said this, I could barely get the words out. I was so ashamed. So afraid. But also so relieved. For several years I kept talking to myself in the mirror. So I could hear and see me. Eventually, those conversations turned into forgiveness, and conversations on how to move forward. Working to stay positive is essential. Try using affirmation exercises or mantras to help curb the negative inner voices. 

 

2. Make A List 

Addiction can make you short-sighted. It can, in the moment, leave you unable to see the future. It can also fog the past.

You weren’t always like this. You have also done a lot of great things. You are a good person, despite what your addiction mind says to you. 

So today make a list of all the things you are good at. All your talents, gifts, and reasons why people love you. I had so many talents I wasn’t giving myself credit for. I was a great writer, amazing with kids, super creative, and later on, a pretty kick-ass yoga teacher. I had many gifts, but my addictive mind made seeing those things (especially in the heat of the moment) very challenging. 

So make a list. Do not hold back. Everything you can think of. Even if in your head, mid-sentence your addictive mind says “that’s not true”. Don’t believe it. 

Call this journaling. Or simply and officially putting out to the universe how you are an amazing person. Hang this list on your mirror and read it every day.

 

3. Allow Yourself to Feel Whatever You Feel

I was overwhelmed, and to be honest, I felt a lot of guilt. Part of addiction is guilt. Guilt for what you did or didn’t do. How you may have felt that things went a certain way because of you. And the overwhelming feeling of not being able to control them. 

I had a lot of anger, frustration, and grief when I began to step into recovery. I was very angry with family members. And yes, very angry at myself. It appeared that everyone kept telling me to forgive this person, don’t blame that person. It’s not their fault.

But here’s the thing. I was not at a place in my recovery to be able to do that. I had spent 10 years perfecting the art of not feeling. Now I was beginning to feel all this stuff, and here are outsiders telling me that those feelings aren’t fair to others.

So I’m telling you as someone who has been there and made it successfully to the other side: Feel what you need to feel. Don’t attach to it. But give yourself permission to be pissed off. Mad. Happy. Sad. Angry. Whatever. Those are your feelings and you are entitled to them.

There will come a time when you are at a place where you can now do something with them. You have felt them enough. And now you don’t feel the need to have them. That will be the time to look at forgiveness, or releasing, or allowing yourself to see your situation with family or friends in a new light. But please know, it is okay to feel what you feel. 

4. No One Expects That You Can Do This Alone

I had in my head for years that I needed to do this all by myself. And I was wrong. Not only does no one expects you to do this alone, but it is 100,000 times more difficult to do it all by yourself. I thought I had something to prove to myself, or my parents, or my husband. But the truth is, the only proving I needed to do was that I would do anything to get my life back. 

So I am going to ask you what I asked myself, “How bad do you want it?” Once you decide that, everything becomes an option. I realized I could not do it anymore on my own. And that pushed me to a place where I finally opened up to my mom that I was not better, and needed help. 

I cried when I told her this. I felt both humiliation and relief. I was free. Free from this life. Finally, I could really get better.

Sending myself to an out-patient treatment was the best decision in my recovery. I needed to be with others who were struggling like I was. But also I needed accountability, ideas, and a place to be honest. When you enter into specialized eating disorder treatment programs, the entire game can change for you. It did for me. 

5. Buddy Up

I didn’t realize this until I entered into out-patient treatment, but having someone there that “gets you” and understands your situation without judgment was pivotal in my recovery success. I would come home from treatment and go back into my life. Although my family knew I was in treatment, it wasn’t like I could or even felt ready to open up about how I was feeling or when I was struggling. 

Through outpatient treatment, I connected with a woman named April. At the time, we lived an hour apart, but that didn’t matter. She got me. And we made a pact to call each other when we were struggling. When it was hard. When we felt alone. When we just wanted to use food, or our additives to punish or run away. Calling her helped me step over hurdles that I struggled with for years. 

Letting April into my life changed everything. It helped me feel safe. It reminded me that I wasn’t alone. I felt no judgment with her. I believe everyone needs a buddy, a sponsor, someone in their corner. Someone that is just there for you. That gets you. That has been in your EXACT shoes. I want to encourage you to find that. 

6. Try Yoga

Yes, I am serious. I would not be here if it wasn’t for yoga. I found yoga before I found treatment for my eating disorder. And Yoga taught me how to feel. Yoga taught me how to be still. Yoga taught me how to be patient. Yoga taught me how to feel, and not be afraid of what I felt. 

When I came to the out-patient treatment, I realized right away that I was further along than many of the women there. Not because I thought I was better than them. But because I had a different perspective. I had done quite a bit of work that I didn’t even realize prior to treatment. 

I don’t suggest choosing yoga over treatment. But I do whole-heartedly believe that yoga can be the difference between making deep changes to truly live addiction-free and the lesser.

If you don’t choose yoga, choose something that asks you to be quiet. That challenges you to get uncomfortable in a safe place. Something that allows you to come as you are. That may mean shopping around for the right style or teacher. Now almost twenty years after embarking on my yoga journey, it still serves me. It still uncovers aspects of my addiction and recovery. I am so grateful to dig in because I have a lifelong toolbox I call yoga to help me. 

Never Lose Hope

Despite all the obstacles and unfortunate circumstances that I was handed at an early age, I overcame them. Every time I was beaten down, I kept getting back up. I never lost hope. I never gave up. Deep down I always knew I could get through this. 

Sometimes that voice was faint. That spark small. But even at my lowest of lows, I never lost hope. I believe that if you are alive and breathing on this earth, there is still a purpose for you. Your life still has value to contribute. 

Today, it is because of trudging through addiction into recovery, overcoming the loss of my daughter, and facing adversity in my personal and professional life that I get to stand here and offer gratitude for my life. And at the same time help others find their light and develop tools to help them shine. 

It’s the “how” and “why” I created the HOPE Process: Helping Others Purposefully Excel. How I built a toolbox of tools that actually work. I want that for you. I believe in you. 

An eating disorder is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. But they are treatable, and there is hope. With the right tools, support and perspective on life you can do this. Everything I have created in my professional life is because of what I have been through. I am actually grateful for it.

Yes. You heard me.

The thousands of classes taught, trainings led, book and blogs written, and my newest program coupled with online coaching is all because of my journey. 

Practices for a Positive and Productive Life Masterclass – All of these things are for people just like you. Because I know what it’s like to struggle. To feel like no one gets you. To feel like you just want to give up. Don’t give up. Never give up. Never lose hope. 

Why? Because I am living proof that believing you are worth it, is worth it.  

A Message From Hope

An eating disorder is a real and complex mental illness. It is something that no one should ever have to face alone. I 100% believe in every suggestion above. However receiving proper treatment from a qualified professional is above everything essential and necessary for your health, safety, and future. If you do not know where to reach out, orr if you cannot afford treatment, connect with National Eating Disorders Association Hotline for help. 

Pin It on Pinterest