Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Movement is life.

Big aside: I am in the process of typing and printing my Yoga notes from previous workshops over the years. While attending various workshops, I would overhear other teachers discussing the fact that they never looked at their notes afterwards. I secretly knew I was different. 

And while I do look through my notes periodically, right now they are next to me in a big pile and not well organized. I am in the process of organizing them, which takes time.

(So to procrastinate even further, I am writing this blog post.)

Let the procrastination begin:

I really enjoy teaching. I have been a teacher for a long time. When I was 15 years old, I was lucky enough to be given a job as a camp counselor at the West Branch YMCA in Omaha. It wasn't my first opportunity to teach, but it was a big step for me. 

Fast forward to today. I have been teaching Yoga for almost 18 years. Wow! And if you would have told me back then that I would be doing something that I love for this long....I wouldn't have believed it. Life really can surprise and amaze, if we are paying attention. 

And while on the topic of teaching and teachers, I am currently in the middle of a wonderful little book by Katy Bowman entitled, Movement Matters. For those that think you have a short attention span, this might be your book. Katy has put together many very thoughtful, well researched short essays that encapsulate the decades of research towards healthy movement and healthy lifestyles. Katy cares and you can read it in her essays, in her many books, her podcasts, and videos that she has put together over the years. If you want to learn how to move well and be a better person by making informed choices in this world, she is a living example. Yay, Katy!

I am a firm believer in the idea that we are all teachers and students simultaneously. Like when I am teaching a new asana (Yoga posture) in class, I must observe and adapt so that the student receives the info at their level. If the instruction isn't translating safely in the student's body, I need to approach the asana differently so that the student is successful within their own body. Learning is a life-long pursuit and I am so thankful for all my teachers and the knowledge that they have passed on over the years.

Sometimes learning for me takes on more of a contemplate and observe level. I love to take a concept or word and carry it with me for a year or so.....observing how it shows up in my life. Some of my past words were: community, God, forgiveness, and empowerment. Right now I am focusing on the statement,

Movement is life.

It isn't an original concept, and I don't need it to be. It is just an idea that I carry with me throughout the day. I watch how its truth manifests when I observe the world around me. Of course, there is always a balance that we need to address when someone is discussing movement and health. Too much in one direction or the other is just that...too much.

When someone is sick with the flu, we can agree that bed rest is essential. If a person isn't healthy, their body needs time to recuperate. The problem seems to be these days when we are healthy and have the ability to move but we choose to move less. Moving less could represent wealth in our minds because we don't need to move to collect our food and carry our water. Our society has been conditioned to think that all we need to do is pop something in the microwave and sit down (after sitting down all day at work) to watch t.v. A sedentary lifestyle is becoming not only the norm but something that is desired. When we do choose to move we exercise, not realizing that we are outsourcing our natural movements with each convenience we perceive as necessary (and desired) in our lives. Because we are no longer are hunter/gatherers, we need to schedule in some form of exercise to replace the loss of daily natural movement. 

Now I don't want to delve into the pros and cons of various exercises vs. the natural movements that were the basis of daily existence in the not-so-distant past. What I want us to just ponder for a moment is just the word "movement." And while you are carrying that word around with you throughout your day, maybe think about your movements.

When I teach my Yoga classes these days, I think more along the lines of incorporating lots of healthy movements and easy stretches that can be performed anywhere by anyone. I also make an effort to get my students seated on the floor (with blankets or a bolster so their lumbar spine keeps its natural curve). Even before I was introduced to Katy Bowman's work, I knew most people had a hard time getting up and down off the floor as they got older. Why is that? Well, in our culture we sit in chairs which are at a certain height, and go from one seated position to another seated position (of that same aforementioned height). Do you see where I am going with this?

All I want to do is plant a seed, an idea. The idea is how do we incorporate more varied movements throughout our busy days? I have some suggestions but for now, I just want you to observe yourself and your environment. Observe what movements you make and the variety of shapes (seated on the floor or chair, standing, squatting, etc.) you make with your body. That is all.

In about a week, I will check in with you. I will probably give a suggestion or two. But for now just observe. Of course, once you start to pay attention you will change your habits. Good luck and feel free to email me with any results or questions.

Now that I have finished my entry for this blog, I am going to get off of my bolster (yes, I type seated on the floor with my computer on a low coffee table) and go outside. It is time for a my walk. 





Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Shoe choices do matter!

Recently I purchased a pair of minimalist shoes (see photo above) for working in my garden, since my older pair of slip on garden clogs (see photo below) were hurting my feet. My new moccasins have a very flexible sole that essentially protects my feet from nails and rough terrain while allowing a variety of articulations that weren't available with a rigid sole. (Also, if your shoe or flip-flop isn't attached to your foot, your toes will curl in to attempt to hold onto your shoe....which could result in bunions over time.)

Of course, the caveat is now when I wear my old shoes with a rigid sole, I can feel the way my ankles are forced to receive the brunt of impact while I am walking.  Your feet really do need a diversity of movements with each step, and that does not happen when they are constrained all the time by our footwear choices.

The 26 bones and 33 joints in the foot really do work well to receive and distribute the impact of the ground with each step. When our shoes have a rigid sole (which now feels like someone strapped a block of wood to each of my feet) then the outcome is your ankle works structurally in a way that potentially may hurt it due to the fact that your foot's natural movements have been removed from the equation. If your feet cannot articulate properly then your ankles will receive more force with each step which may cause undue and unnatural stress. Overuse syndromes do not need to be the norm if we consider and practice more the natural movements of the body. 

Think of all the movements that your hand can perform. Now imagine you have strapped your hand to a block of wood. You have limited the movement in your hand, which then translates to loss of muscle over time. Since your body economizes energy efficiently, it will decide that those muscles in your hand (and, in reality, your foot in constraining footwear) aren't as important since they aren't being used. 

Shoe choices DO matter!

Does this info spark your interest? If so, I teach a class called "Healthy Feet for a Healthier You" that gives the student tools and exercises that improve overall foot health. 

Please email with any questions: yoginiofoz@gmail.com

Since the feet are our foundation, I think this is a great start to a healthier lifestyle and a healthier YOU!!


Monday, February 29, 2016

BOLD statement alert!!!

I just taught my "Healthy Feet for a Healthier You" class at the Rossville Community Library this last Saturday. It was a wonderful class with 2 students who had lots of great questions and a serious desire to learn. Time did go by quickly and I felt like everything that I wanted to cover I did, so bonus!

The "bold" statement that want to make comes in the form of a reflection after a conversation I had last week with a student. I was asked after class about the embarrassing issue with regards to the inability to hold the bladder when sneezing. (Hint: #1: Kegels are a BAD idea, the pelvic floor might already be tight so tightening those muscles more only makes the problem worse.)

Since I needed to get home quickly to lock up my chickens for the evening, I did not have time to address this student's concerns immediately but I told her I would talk with her about it the following week. As I was driving home, I realized that I USED to have that same problem but that I do NOT have it anymore. So what changed? Well, rolling my feet over little Yoga Therapy balls, of course!

Disclaimer: I did take a weekend workshop with Leslie Howard on the "pelvic floor" last year. The reason why I mention this is because she did go over in detail issues that are showing up in the older population (men and women) and the fact that many health issues might stem from the fact that our pelvises are misaligned (think: chronic tucked pelvis). Although that class has given me much to think about and I am okay with being wrong, I don't think it was the tipping point for my body.

At the pelvic health workshop, Leslie Howard stated that 
"if you fix one dome you fix them all." 

For the sake of simplicity let us at least consider this opinion: Your feet are a dome, your pelvic floor is a dome (a cadaver has a bowl shaped pelvic floor ~ but scientists have discovered recently that the pelvic floor really is the shape of a dome when you are alive), your diaphragm is a dome, and your skull has a dome. What happens if you stack those domes correctly when you are standing? I would guess that the body is in alignment (and thus bodily functions work naturally). What happens if the domes tip one way or the other, again, when standing? Another guess would be that the body would be out of alignment (which then could translate to compression in the body and over extension in other areas). Of course, the domes move when you do...and our body needs a diversity of movement throughout the day, every day. 

Tadasana, or Mountain Pose, in Yoga is the foundation of all standing poses. I find that it is the hardest pose to teach because standing on two feet is something that we do every day without really thinking deeply about it.  

Interesting fact: If you don't know where to put the weight of the body while you are standing then it is REALLY hard to correct the rest of the imbalances in the body above the feet (like the hips, ribs, shoulder, and head alignment). What is really fun for me is to teach the student to stack their bones in such a way that there is very little effort in holding the body upright. Sometimes they even get a little euphoric feeling when they stay in this position for a few minutes.

What I like about Leslie's "fix one dome you fix them all" idea is that we can work with the foot dome and see what benefits arise in the body over time. If anything, your feet will spread which improves circulation and gives space for the nerves. When you incorporate a 2 - 3 mile walk into your daily ball rolling routine, not only will your foot muscles strengthen (think: stronger muscles, better support, a more defined arch) but you will improve your overall well-being and health. As with any new exercise, patience and a little work several times a day will give the best results. 

What I am teaching in the foot health class and what I have been practicing for 8 months are exercises that stretch and strengthen the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the feet. At first, I was surprised at how tender my feet were after just one session. Now this work is something that I really enjoy practicing at least once a day. My feet feel much more grounded and I am stronger in my legs. These days I wiggle my toes and feet without really thinking about it (and it feels like a very simple stretch). My feet inherently WANT to move more!!

So while this topic is very important for my current Yoga students, I also learned that I also need to practice these stretches on a daily basis. And after my brief talk after last week's class and long drive home after class, I realized that stretching my feet has a ripple effect all the way up the body. What a wonderful discovery!

As always, I hope to see you on the mat!


~ Cat

Questions about "Healthy Feet for a Healthier You"
please email me


Friday, February 12, 2016

This bio-mechanist rocks my worldview!

To some people, alignment solutions seem too simple to actually work. The reality is that fixing your alignment addresses your foot ailments at the root of the problem, and that’s why converts are seeing real, positive changes in their bodies, despite years of seeking expensive treatments.
~ Katy Bowman