Hot Yoga

This morning i went to my second hot yoga class!

Preface: hot yoga is not a kind of sexy yoga! it’s yoga practice in a 40ยบ heated room… the reasons behind “should be” mainly sweating a lot thus eliminating a lot of toxins from your body. Furthermore being so hot your muscles will stretch more so you will deepen your poses… potentially attracting isn’t it?

A lot of people are fanatic about this and a lot are really condemning this style that became famous because of mr. Bikram… well, don’t talk about this, this wasn’t a Bikram class but an hot ashtanga class in a studio in Old Street.

What to say?

Being the second time, i enjoyed it more than my first, for 3 reasons!

1- i knew the obstacles! the story of stretching more “CAN” be true… but for sure you need a special mat or a special towel or special gripping feet ahahha… example: imagine prasarita padottanasana, in the image the B variation

Maybe you start with your legs nearer together but then you start sliding because of your sweat, sliding more you arrive to the situation in the image… then you slide more and little more… you will easily reach the point of no return… now your only choice will be to go for a full leg split… or call the breakdown truck to put you back on the road ahhah!
At my second hot class i knew this so i decided to take it easy!!
2- I took it easy, so the class was much less than my usual personal practice (i tend to be an ashtangi but not only!)… for me is was an “easy” class in a very hot environment (anyway India, where yoga has its origins,  is a hot environment!)… in an ocean of sweat ehheh! i’ve to say that not everybody in the room was taking it easy…!
3- I’ll say more on this, now i suppose you know something about Ayurveda. I’m a Vata person, my dosha is cold and dry, air and ether elements mixed -> my understanding is that some hot can balance my nature and make it more smooth… i always prefer hot than cold… so why not, probably even recommended sometimes? obviously if you are Pitta (this dosha is about fire!)… man, probably hot yoga is not the best for you! Kapha (earth/water elements) should enjoy it as well… fire in our body is a crucial element, our digestion is all about fire, the fire is the element that will transform the food that we ingest from its gross physical form to the more subtle form of nutrients and chemicals ready to be assimilated, most of the possible diseases come from un-perfect digestion… the fire in our body is fundamental (well, what is not fundamental in our body???!!), to keep it on and working is vital!
Another point for hot yoga is that sometimes is good to stress the body, give it an hard situation to stimulate its capacities!
On the other side we have:
1- being possible to stretch more you could go beyond your sustainable possibilities!
2- “the sweat a lot to eliminate your  toxins” is a common paradigm… but it’s not completely true!
3- being so extreme, in the case of a daily hot practice, can happen that your body will modify itself to be very efficient in the hot environment (it’s a case of the body’s tendency to homeostasis, we’ll talk on it!) losing its efficiency in other situations… your body is trained for the extreme, what about the normality!?!
4- cover yourself when you go out of the studio eheheh!!!
What about a hot class with a relaxed style? Shouldn’t it be interesting?!
After 3 hours my body feels “normal” again, i have a 10 class groupon voucher… 8 more to go!!!

Class promotion

Tomorrow, 7th August, I’ll be teaching a class different than usual!

It will be a foundation class, to explore all muscles and joints of the body, understand how they work, physically touch them to initiate a new relationship with your body… on the deepening of that relationship we’ll work on all next classes!
It won’t be focused on poses or vinyasa, we’ll really take our time to feel the body, to gently massage it, we’ll try to create a new channel to communicate with it!
We’ll start with some breathing, to learn how to breath efficiently (breath and mood and energy levels are strictly interconnected!) and finish with a long guided relaxation… yes, to learn how to relax, pure utopia for many of us!!!
It will be the best class for beginners but also for more advanced students… back to basics is always a good way to improve!
This class will be 2 hours long, there’s a full body to deal with!
It will be in Brick Lane area in Heneage Street 16-18, postcode E15LJ, 2 hours class for 12 pounds, start at 19 (so try to be there some minutes before!), if you like bring your yoga mat but we have enough on site!
You can pop in or give me a confirmation texting or calling me at 07404675553

Yoga on your joints

The benefits of yoga for your joints are various.

To begin we improve the range of movement of the joints (this is part of the flexibility that yoga will gift you, we’ll talk more on it) and the new extended range of movement permits to the synovial fluid (see previous post) to access a bigger surface of the joint thus increasing its lubricating effect and bringing more nutrients and oxygen as well as removing more carbon dioxide and waste material from the areas around the cartilage.
This is very easy to comprehend… if the range of movement of the joint expands, the area benefiting the effects of synovial fluid will expand… do you think that your cartilage will be happy to have more “oil” around to help her when you move?!?

Then we have the benefits on ligaments and tendons… for sure the joint will open a bit and they will be a bit longer and efficient but we don’t want to work directly on this aspect, the sustainable stretch for a ligament/tendon is very little, maybe 1% to 4%, some more in some cases, consider that ligaments are there to hold your bones together, they’re not supposed to be too elastic so always remember: we want to stretch mainly muscles, not ligaments and tendons! What we get from their use in an extended variety of movements and conditions will be to strengthen our ligaments and tendons, they will become as the steel in reinforced concrete… per example in an efficient knee joint your body weight will be distributed between ligaments/tendons and muscles and bones… in case of weakness this doesn’t happen, the weight maybe could be all on your cartilage and maybe, because of your posture, can be all on a small surface of the cartilage… cartilages are strong but not made of steel, can you imagine the effect of this unbalance after some weeks or months or years, considering that by definition you are constantly acting and moving this articulating joint?

Here we come to the best/worst part!

It is worst because all these parts, ligaments, tendons, cartilages are little vascularized, few blood vessels are present or dealing with them… in few words if you damage them the healing process will be from hard to impossible (yes, it’s the blood that brings “life” to all the parts of your body!)… that’s why degenerative diseases are common in joints, typically from a weakness originates an unbalanced posture, from this more stress on some parts of your body, from this excessive work of some joint and from this in a due time you can have a cartilage beginning to tear… now the degeneration can start!
Opposite to vascularization, these areas are well served by nervous system… this is very important for the movement and your proprioception capacity (we’ll talk on this) but… yes, this will contribute to make you more sensible to pain in these areas!

Now the best part!!! You know this stuff so you can work on it, in this case we really have to work on the prevention of future diseases, specially if you spend your days as typically we spend days in this society, this is the real cause of many problems… if you live moving in the open air you’re safe but… now we sit for hours in front of computers, facebooking or working or facebooking at work (!!), we dive in smartphones whenever we can, we stand for hours in a shop waiting for next customer, television on the couch and blablabla!!! Virtually everything we do in this modern life can damage our body if we’re not aware of our movements and position!

And the very best… you are totally responsible for your health, act consequently!!!

How do we obtain the benefits from yoga? Almost every pose will bring some action in some joint, this action will be mindful and aware… you will feel the parts of the body you’re working on and you will be present in them with your mind (this is yoga, being present in your body with your mind, don’t expect it at the first class eheheh!)… this will bring your movements under your conscious control, you will learn how to move and sit and stand in a way that your body will appreciate… we’ll expand more this concepts later!

Furthermore for joints health there are specific sequences (example: pawanmuktasana series part I)… anyway let’s talk later!

A little link, 10 ways to protect joint… nothing special but everything aimed at increasing the awareness of your body and its possible vulnerabilities!
http://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/systems/musculoskeletal/10-ways-to-protect-joints.htm

Synovial joints

We understood what a joint is and its importance in our daily movements… now i want to focus your attention to a kind of joint very common in your body, the synovial joint.

This his the case of your knee joint, hip joint, shoulder joint, elbow joint, wrist joint and more.
Its particularity is to be enveloped in a synovial capsule, on the inside there is a synovial membrane that produces synovial fluid. The synovial capsule envelopes as well the ending part of the bones coming together at the joint and, of course, these bone endings are usually covered by a smooth surface called cartilage.

Cartilage and synovial fluid are here to make the movement between your bones smooth, easy, soft and sustainable… can you imagine a joint where 2 bones come in direct contact and rasp each other every time you bend your elbow? Well, it can happen… it’s the case of degenerative joint diseases as arthritis or osteoarthritis, enough common in modern days over a certain age but not only.

Beside being a lubricant for the joint the synovial fluid has other functions: it’s a shock absorber and a nutrient/waste transporter inside the joint helping cartilage and bone to stay healthy.

I give you a couple of links:
http://www.med.umich.edu/lrc/coursepages/m1/anatomy2010/html/modules/joints_module/joints_01.html
http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Osteoarthritis/Pages/Introduction.aspx
In the first you can go a little deeper in your anatomical knowledge of joints, the second is about one of the typical and potentially common joint disease we mentioned before.

Now let’s go straight to the next post, it will be about the effects of yoga on your joints!

Joints – Introduction

It’s time to start talking of your body… before we can discuss the effects of yoga on your body!

I don’t want to write an encyclopedia, well, not all in one post!! To make everything clear every time i will focus on something, omitting other information… so keep in mind that what i’m saying is just a part of the whole, don’t expect all the whole coming out all together, follow all the stories and we’ll make the puzzle piece by piece!
Probably i could organize all this stuff in a better way… but you know, it’s my first blog!!!

Anyway let’s go to the point… i want to introduce the joints!

Stand up and look at your body! Do you know what is holding you in position -any position- and moving you through the different positions??!

Let’s look at these 2 images…

Yes, you got the answer, you have to thank your skeletal and muscular system, often considered together as the musculoskeletal system.

They have various functions, we are now interested in the skeletal function of giving to you a basic shape and to support all your other systems, in a few words your bones constitute your framework.
How is this framework activated? Easy answer, your bones move through the action of your muscles.
How does the movement happen?

– The muscle is connected to the bones
– The muscle contracts
– The contraction causes the shortening of the muscle
– The shortening of the muscle causes the bones to move

The movement between bones happens in articulating sites called joints.

In joints you’ll find some more actors… usually there are ligaments and tendons.
Ligaments are “ropes” of strong and thick and sturdy fibrous connective tissue that hold the bones together.
Look at the ligaments between the bones of your right ankle:

and at your left shoulder joint

A tendon is similar to a ligament, it’s again strong and hard connective tissue that connects muscles to bones. In the next image you can see your left biceps (the muscles on the front of your upper arm) in red attached through the tendons (in white) to the bones of shoulder and forearm, near the joints…

In this image you can easily understand the process through which the contraction and shortening of the muscle will move the bones of your arm flexing it!

Is it clear? All the movements of your body happen at your joints through muscular effort and the leverage of your bones! This instantly make your joints a very important part of your body, a possibly vulnerable part, imagine your knee joint, constantly holding your weight and moving in many directions at the same time, every day for all your life (well, maybe not the lazy days you spend in bed!!!)

For today we stop here, before let’s make a short recapitulation:

– Remember i’m simplifying, considering only one function per time, don’t think this is all eheheh!!
– Your bones constitute the framework that gives you a basic shape and support to all your other systems
– Bones (usually 206 in adults) are held together by strong connective tissue called ligaments
– Bones are moved by muscular effort
– Muscles are connected to bones through strong connective tissue called tendons
– Tendons usually attach muscles to bones near joints
– Joints are the junctions between bones, usually the joints are articulating
– The contraction and consequent shortening of muscles moves bones at their joint
– A joint is where the movement of the body happens

Hope everything is clear, if you have questions or you find some explanation inaccurate please contact me!

Union

Let’s try to understand more the concept of yoga as union…

I would say that to have a union you need some parts that together form a whole, isn’t it? The union of the parts makes the whole, ok?

Let’s imagine 2 wheels, 2 brakes, 1 handlebar, 1 frame, 1 saddle, 1 chain, 1 crank, 2 pedals and something else… all this stuff can be very nice to see, maybe all new and shining… maybe you can use some of them to prevent a pile of paper sheets from flying away in the wind and maybe those paper sheets are vital your job, you can imagine a lot of situations about these parts, some are silly, some are useful, some are boring and some are really pointless…
…the magic happens when you join all these parts, you make them operate together in a new organized whole -> now you have a bicycle, a nice whole made by many parts united together.

Now imagine some bees, some flowers, some plants, some animals, some humans… sure now you got the concept, they’re some of the (many many) parts that make the whole we call planet Earth. How do they interact together? The bees are the main actors for plant pollination, plants are main actors for oxygen production (through photosynthesis) and at the same time are a good source of food, some animals live eating plants while some other animals eat animals, humans… well, humans have different roles in all this!
Think of the situation in which there are no more bees around -> no more pollination -> in some time less and less vegetation around, maybe even no more vegetation -> big problems for animals eating plants -> even more problems for animals eating animals -> let’s again omit humans for the moment!
Do you understand now? Union is where the different parts of the whole work together for the efficient and sustainable development and growth of the whole, every part of the whole has a function in serving the whole (directly or indirectly!) and often even the smallest part of the whole has a big or even vital role in the maintenance of the whole.

Now let’s look at your body… can you see the same concept of union between all the parts of it? I mean… can you see the union of your muscular system, skeletal system, circulatory system, nervous system, pulmonary system, digestive system, lymphatic system (and so on!) as a whole, a fully integrated living organism?
Now can you imagine the absolute necessity of every of these parts  to cooperate together in a really efficient union to have an enjoyable daily life?
Easy example (we’ll go in details on this in some next post!): you are in a state of agitation for your job/family/politics/football team/traffic jam/blablabla… this means that a part of your nervous system, the sympathetic nervous system is in arousal mode, it will redirect the energy of your body to the systems necessary for a “fight or flight” reaction to external events, obviously this will interfere with your digestive power, your immunitary system and your ability to rest… imagine now to be in a constant state of agitation, it’s very easy to be in this condition in modern society, isn’t it?
How enjoyable could be your life in constant agitation, always constipated, catching a cold at every opportunity, waking up after an unsatisfying sleep and beginning a new day with old worries starting from breakfast… if not from eyes opening!? Yes, i know, maybe it’s extreme… but it’s common to be at least sometimes in this situation, isn’t it?

Let’s go back to the point… at a strictly physical level, through yoga you will bring your body to a state of efficient and cooperative union between all your cells, tissues, organs and systems under the intelligent control and supervision of your mind… yes, this makes implicit that your mind will be part of this nice union as well ehehehe!

How? We’ll talk about this but before… can you imagine now your life with a good sleep every night, never sick, no pain in your body, good digestion and high energy levels, ability to focus and to complete your tasks, in control of your actions&reactions, consistency in achieving results? Can you put yourself in this new idea of life, at least at an imaginary level? Can you imagine how you will feel in your new life? Well, even if it can seem a bit optimistic… see you there, my friend eheheheh!!!

Well, just a couple of links if you want to deepen the bees and plants argument!
http://www.botanical-online.com/theimportanceofplants.htm
http://www.mnn.com/local-reports/pennsylvania/local-blog/the-importance-of-honeybees
I’m not for discussions on human behaviors, examine and decide by yourself if the attitude of the man on this planet is compatible with the intelligent union we just talked about!
Most important… don’t talk about the change… be the change!

What is Yoga?

Ok guys, you are on a yoga blog… probably the first necessary thing is to say is what is yoga!

It comes from the Sanskrit verb Yuj meaning ‘to unite’, ‘to join’, this is the classic explanation for a series of techniques and methods aiming to unite the individual self to the universal self.

Stop now, don’t fill your head with hypothesis on the meaning, there is much more to say on this and many ways to deepen these introductive words…  in addition somebody could question that once this union is reached the whole point of yoga will be to move forward to something else… yes man, there are a lot of philosophical concepts behind the science of yoga… nowadays in this society we like to know everything and more, we have access to a global intelligence telling us all the answers (google it!!)… starting a yogic path filling own’s mind with these concepts is very western, it’s like reading a book starting from the end… maybe you don’t like the end (possibly because it was apparently so abstract that you couldn’t grasp it) and abandon the book… and that would be really a shame!

Traditionally yoga was taught step by step, when the student (well, at those times he was called disciple and his teacher was the guru!!) was firm in his actual step, then he was ready to get new information for his next step… information was blended with practice -> information+practice=knowledge!
This is a very important point… yoga isn’t a theoretical path but it’s 99% practical/experiential. For sure you will read about the benefits coming from a posture or type of breathing… it will be real yoga when you’ll practice that posture or breathing and experience the benefits coming from it!

Now let’s try to figure out what could be yoga in year 2013, Europe!
You already understand that you have a body (powered by a physical energy), probably you understand that you have a mind (powered by a mental energy, of course!) and probably you noticed that sometimes you feel centered and sometimes far from them… i mean a lot of people is constantly moving in space at a minimum of their physical possibilities (little example, stand and then bend forward with straight legs and knees and see if you can touch the floor with your hands!), with recurrent or chronic pains (back and neck/shoulders are the most typical), a lot of people is even proud to say “my mind is a mess” and go on in their daily lives with a constant mental chattering without even the idea that they can stop that internal voice! Somebody is anxious, somebody is depressed, somebody is both together, others are frightened and there is people always angry and ready to fight… should i go on? got the concept? yes, there are extreme situations but most of us can find themselves in these words, at least sometimes!

Yoga means union, through yoga you will (easily!!!) reach the union between you and your body, between you and your mind, you will feel more comfortable in all your movements, you will drop on your path all the chronic pains that you have now (can you imagine this?), your mind will be under your control, letting you to decide how to react to external events (you’ll forget the 5 minutes explosions!!!), you will be more able to concentrate (on your job, study, hobby, …), you will sleep better and wake up more rested, your digestion will improve, your energy levels will improve and so on…

…and the best of the best is that all these changes don’t happen to 1 over 1.000.000 people, they happen to everybody practicing yoga… this is why we define yoga a scienceeverybody practicing this method gets the same results, this is fully verifiable by yourself in your daily life, try, experiment, get it!

If you are more scientifically oriented (i am!!) i tell you the secret of all these changes… through yoga you deeply work on your nervous system, i could even say that yoga is all about the nervous system… we’ll talk more on this in some next post!

For the moment understand this concept: through yoga you will get the union between your body, your mind and your self, you will feel better, your mind will be friendly to you and most important…
these are only informations…  -> information+practice=knowledge  -> knowledge is direct experience of information, yoga is not about the theory but it’s a practice!

Here we go!

I have to start this blog right now otherwise i will postpone it more and more and again, eternally perhaps… but i suppose you already know this stories!!

I am Alex, i’m italian, i’m a yoga teacher… already 3 labels on me, more to come!
This blog is about yoga or, in a simple street language, it’s about feeling good with your body, with your mind, with yourself.
When i say feeling good i mean feeling GOOD… that’s “slightly” different from the “goodness” you get lying on your couch watching your TV after eating a big yummy plate of roasted pork with goose fat roasted chips and beer/coke! Yes, that is good, at least sometimes… but is it a sustainable goodness!??

I live in London, so this blog will be in english, probably i will add an italian version… main reason is that my italian is much better than my english ahahah. Obviously this blog is meant as well to support my job!!!

As beginning step i need to honour and thank all the flow of events and people that brought me now here, all my teachers (my students are in this group!), my lineage and myself!

Enjoy!