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Michelle Ryan

Reggie Wilson Shares Inspirational Yoga Story

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Reggie inspirational yoga storyThis is Reginald Wilson. Reggie started practicing with us in August of 2014. In his introductory month, he practiced 22 times. Since then, he practiced, on average, about three times a week.

This Superbowl Sunday, February 1, Reggie felt a tightening of his chest. His wife insisted he go to the hospital and after several tests, the doctors determined that Reggie had 100% blockage in one of his arteries and he needed a triple bypass.

After the surgery, the doctor asked him what he had been doing and Reggie told him, “Sterling Hot Yoga.”

The doctor said that there’s a good chance the yoga saved his life! His heart had actually developed alternate routes around the blockage and the strength of his systems got him through the surgery with relative ease!

Reggie returned to his practice this week and he is taking it slow and following our one rule. We are thrilled that he is Sterling!

Do you have a friend or family member who needs inspiration to come to class? Share this story!

What’s your story? I bet you have one!

Core Strength, Iron Hour and Standing Head to Knee

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Core Strength Iron Hour Sterling Hot Yoga

Iron Hour helps build core strength, which helps improve your postures in the Sterling 60 and Gold 90 hot yoga classes!

In many of the standing poses in our yoga series, we talk about the locked knee.

The locked knee, in good alignment with the ankle and the hip, is absolutely important, and it takes a great deal of strength to maintain it for more than a few moments.

In Standing Head to Knee, locking both knees is especially challenging.

In this wonderful photo example, Jason Winn is executing the full expression of the pose where his arms are extended, no longer holding on to the foot.

Yes, absolutely, Jason has a tremendous amount of strength in his legs, but it’s core strength that’s holding it all together!

Strong abs, strong legs and strong arms (and a lot of determination) are what allows Jason to pull off this beautifully executed pose.

It’s strength that supports flexibility and flexibility that supports strength. And now, Sterling Hot Yoga Works can help you to attain both.

Adding Iron Hour to your practice is a great way to improve your Standing Head to Knee and many other poses! But remember, taking the Sterling 60 and the Gold 90 also helps you to maintain good overall health! It all works together!

Sterling Hot Yoga Featured on Studio 10!

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Did you see some familiar faces on TV recently? Sterling Hot Yoga Mobile was featured on Studio 10, our local FOX affiliate’s morning show.

Lucille was on set to discuss the basics of hot yoga—such as the need for the heat and most importantly the breathing!

Then those familiar faces—some of our very own Sterling Hot Yoga Mobile yogis—demonstrated various postures, making this a wonderful opportunity to promote our studio.

Whether you want to learn more about Sterling Hot Yoga or you want to see some of your favorite yogis, check out this video!

Iron Hour Yoga: Learning the Proper Weight Hand Grips

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During Iron Hour Yoga, holding your weights in the proper manner will help you to get the most out of your exertion and ensure a safe and effective practice.

There are three positions in which to hold your weights: pronate, supinate and hammer grip. A pronated grip is when the back of your hands are facing the ceiling and your hands are wrapped around the weights with palms facing down.

In the standing series, during the lat pulls in Warrior II, you start the posture with a pronated grip. On the floor series with weights, the dumbbell chest presses require a pronated grip.

The second way to hold your weights is the supinated grip. A great way to remember supinate is to think of “soup.” Remember the movie, “Oliver” when little Oliver Twist with upturned hands asked for more soup? “Please sir, I want some more!”

Just like Oliver, whenever you supinate your grip, make sure your palms are turned upwards! The first biceps curls we do in the standing series is done with a supinated grip.

The third hold is the hammer grip. This is an easy one—imagine you are holding a hammer! Instead of holding the weights so that they are parallel to the floor
(pronate or supinate) in the hammer grip, the weights are perpendicular to the floor!

The second biceps curls in the standing series is done with a hammer grip. This will work a different part of the biceps muscles than the supinated grip.

For each of the three grips, make sure the back of your hand is in the same plane as the back of your forearm. Don’t bend your wrist too far forward or too far backward—imagine you have a ruler taped to the back of your arm and hand so that you can be sure to keep the carpel tunnel open as much as possible!

During Iron Hour, make sure you get the proper grip!

New 2015 Schedule Includes New ‘Iron Hour’ Class

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Sterling Hot Yoga Class GoalsSterling Hot Yoga is pleased to offer new yoga class that is designed to build strength, tone and give you the power you need to excel in the hot room and beyond!

I have been doing the Iron Hour in bits and pieces in order to learn how to teach it, and I have to tell you, I really like this class, and I truly believe you will too.

Here is a description of all the class offerings we will have in 2015:

Gold 90: Your traditional Hot Yoga class, featuring two sets of 26 postures and two breathing exercises in 90 minutes. Everyone is welcome to sweat, stretch and heal in this foundational class.

Sterling 60: A shorter version of Gold 90. With a faster pace and fewer sets of some poses, Sterling 60 combines flexibility and cardio for those who want a 60-minute hot yoga experience.

Iron Hour: A perfect complement to a hot yoga practice, Iron Hour combines yoga with light weight training. Men and women of all fitness levels are welcome to tone and sculpt, build lean muscle, improve metabolism and see results! Iron Hour is a heated class, but it won’t be as hot as Gold 90 or Sterling 60.

With these three classes, you will have the opportunity for a full health experience. You will heal your body and mind; you will strengthen and stretch; you will feel better and stronger inside and out!

The graphic at the top right shows the relationship between your goals and the classes.

When you choose your practice regimen, consider your goals! Use this handy matrix below as a guide to your Sterling practice. And of course, come as often as you can and experience improved well-being with a regular practice!

How to Choose Your Sterling Schedule

The new schedule will begin on January 11. The number 1 in any combination, reminds me of my mom and will always bring me luck. It brought me to Mobilehave you ever noticed all the ones on Highway 10 leading to our fair city? So on 1/11 Shoshana will lead us in our first Iron Hour class. I like that.

We have worked so hard to consider all of your needs, and after creating dozens of variations, we finally came to a decision that really resonates with us, and hopefully with you.

So here it is:

SHYWM 2015 Class ScheduleWe will have new schedules printed before the end of the week and new brochures soon. I think you will like them both. Make sure you download the Mind Body Connect app to secure your place in Iron Hour! We have a feeling it’s going to be VERY popular!

Is Your Smartphone a Pain in the Neck?

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How Hot Yoga Can Prevent Text Neck

Pressure caused by the angle of the neck and the weight of the head from looking down at mobile devices for long periods of time can lead to “text neck.”

A few days ago, I sat in the back seat of the car for a trip to New Orleans, and for the length of the two-hour drive, I was on my phone texting and responding to emails.

By the time we reached the Big Easy, my neck was sore and felt overstretched. Turns out that “text neck” is a growing health condition caused by having your head hung forward and down to look at your mobile device.

Text neck causes an increase in pressure on the musculature over the head and shoulders because of the downward angle and weight of the head while texting.

The more the head shifts forward, the greater the pressure around the neck area, which can cause changes in the cervical spine, the curve of the neck, and the structures that support the neck.

These changes can lead to symptoms including: tightness across the shoulders; headache; neck soreness; pain the back, arms, fingers and hands; and tingling in the upper extremities. Left untreated, text neck can lead to permanent damage of the cervical spine!

But the good news? According to Health Xchange and our wonderful chiropractor Jessica Jones, one of the best remedies for text neck is to engage in posture-focused exercises like yoga!

In Sterling Yoga, here are some specific things you do that will help your neck health:

  • Neutral Position: Starting class with your whole body in alignment is wonderful practice for keeping your head balanced on your shoulders. Stretching your spine and head up to the ceiling while stretching your tailbone toward the floor will help to align your entire spine. Bring your ears over your shoulders.
  • Pranayama Deep Breathing: Keep your hands on your chin and create a little bit of pressure throughout both the inhale and the exhale. The resistance you create with this pressure will help to build strength in the sternocleomastoid, the trapezius and other muscles of the neck. Stronger neck muscles will help to hold up your head.
  • Back Bending: When you bend backward (lots of standing and floor poses have back bending), you counteract the forward movement common to text neck. Make sure, though, that you extend your spine, including the neck, to give your vertebrae room before bending backward. Also, make sure you move to your full range of motiondon’t push itjust go where you can and over time you will be able to go further.
  • Forward Bending: Although it might seem that forward bends would exacerbate text neck, it can actually help! By mindfully compressing the front of the neck for short periods of time, you can increase the blood flow to that area. And increased blood flow means improved overall systems!
  • Active and Passive Twisting: The passive lateral twist that you do when you turn your head to the right and left in face-down Savasana will help to increase the range of motion in your neck, and help to decrease the negative effects of text neck; in active twisting in poses, like triangle and spine twist, it will help even more! Take it easy, and go where you can. Don’t push it. Always move with precision and purpose.

So if you text a lot or look at your phone for long periods of time, and especially if you notice neck pain from mobile device use, take lots of breaks and make sure you practice your yoga and focus on the poses above. Happy texting!

Yoga Anatomy: Agonist & Antagonist Muscle Groups

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Agonist Antagonist Muscles How They Work

When you bring the hand toward the shoulder, the biceps is the agonist muscle and the triceps is the antagonist muscle.

In the last newsletter, we discussed the elements of alignment. I hope that you have had the opportunity to focus on your alignment both in and out of the hot room. Alignment is such an important part of you practice and of your life!

This time, we’ll talk about agonist and antagonist muscle groups. For almost every major movement in the body, there is an agonist and antagonist muscle involved.

The agonist muscle is the primary mover involved. Usually this means a contraction or shortening of the agonist muscle in order to create movement.

The antagonist muscle has several functions. It can relax (lengthen) in order to allow the agonist muscle to function to its fullest. It can also slow down the movement of the agonist muscle to prevent tearing or overuse.

An example is the biceps and triceps muscle group. When you do a biceps curl (see image above), the agonist muscle is the biceps, and the antagonist muscle is the triceps.

Now this is where it can get tricky. When you create the opposite movementwhen you bring your hand AWAY from your shoulder (see image below)the agonist muscle is the triceps and the antagonist muscle is the biceps.

Agonist Antagonist Muscle Groups Illustration

When you bring the hand away from the shoulder, the agonist is the triceps and the antagonist is the biceps.

This is because in order to create the movement of bringing the hand away, the triceps has to contract or shorten and the biceps has to lengthen or relax.

Why is this important in yoga? Because if you understand the relationships between muscle groups, you can work smarter to get the most out of your practice!

When you contract (or shorten) your quads (agonist), you will help your hamstrings (antagonist) lengthen more effectively and more safely.

When you suck your stomach in, thus contracting your abs during a forward bend (agonist), you will help to more efficiently stretch the muscles in your back (antagonist).

Think about all the muscle pairs that work together in the movement of the body. Different movements will engage different muscle groups in the wrist, arm, shoulder, spine, hips, knees and ankles. Think about what muscles you contract in order to get other muscles to relax.

Here’s another element to consider: as mentioned above, another job of the antagonist muscle is to slow down the movement to ensure a safe bend. In our muscles, there are these things called “stretch receptors.” They are there to prevent you from overstretching and tearing muscle.

When you first start to stretch, you might find resistance in the muscle. But if you hold the stretch, in a few moments, you might find some relaxation and give in the muscle, thus allowing you to stretch deeper. That’s the stretch receptor saying to the muscle, “Okay, I can see this is a safe stretch, you’re not going to tear anythinggo ahead.”

This is why, for example, in Standing Separate Leg Stretching, it’s so important to both contract the quads (agonist) to release the hamstrings (antagonist) and also hold the pose for probably longer than you’d like to get the best stretch possible. Bouncing is not so good; a long, slow, firm and constant pull will get best results.

So in November, think about your agonist and antagonist muscles!

Keeping Your Two Hips in One Line

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Planes of the Body Hip Alignment Bikram YogaWhen we teach this wonderful healing yoga, you will often hear us tell you to put “two hips in one line.” You may wonder what that means.

Two hips in one line translates to alignment on a variety of planes. For example, in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, we encourage you to turn your hips, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 times to get two hips in one line.

That one line is the saggital plane, assuming, of course, your hips are already on the transverse and coronal planes.

Hold on, let me back up a bit. There are three planes that we refer to (but never mention directly) when we teach yoga—the saggital, coronal and transverse planes.

Alignment on these planes, to the best of your ability, is what will help you to stretch muscles and develop strength equally and appropriately.

The coronal plane is your body’s ability to maintain alignment from right to left. So as you bend to the right in half moon pose, you are working to stay in the coronal plane.

Another way to look at it is to think of your body between two plates of glass—as you come into half moon, no part of your body is pushing against the glass plates, you are gliding smoothly between them. That’s staying in the coronal plane.

Coronal Plane Body Hip Alignment Bikram Yoga

Taka, on the left, is in the coronal plane; Laura, on the right, is not.

Two hips in one line, in this example, mean that your hips should be square to the mirror to stay on the coronal plane. Look at the photo of Taka and Laura—see how Laura’s hips are twisted out of alignment?

From the side you can see how her two hips are not in one line. You cannot see Taka’s right hip at all; she is in coronal alignment.

The saggital plane is your body’s ability to maintain alignment from the center line of your body. In your mind, take those two plates of glass and shift them to your right and left side.

In tree pose, for example, when you pick up your right foot, make sure that you don’t shift your hips to the left, thus leaning into one plate of glass.

Shifting weight is easy to do, and it helps you to counterbalance, but it brings your body out of the saggital plane.

Just like in the half moon example above, the goal is to avoid pushing or leaning into the glass. Keep two hips in one line by continually stretching upward, engaging your core abdominal muscles and contracting the quads.

Saggital Plane Body Hip Alignment Bikram Yoga

Left photo shows hips correctly in the saggital plane; right side demonstrates hips out of alignment.

In the example on the right, you can see how my hips are not in one line. In fact my whole body is tilted to the left side—see how my left leg crosses into the white line?

The goal is to create alignment closer to the image on the left so there is a mirror image on either side of the center line of the body.

The transverse plane is your body’s ability to stay level. The plate of glass just moved to the floor.

In spine twist, for example, it’s important to keep your both hips on the floor to maintain integrity in the transverse plane.

When one hip comes off the floor, your transverse plane is compromised and that compromise extends up through the entire spinal column!

When we refer to the transverse plane, we are usually using the term “level” to keep you in alignment.

Transverse Plane Body Hip Alignment Bikram Yoga Hot Yoga

Taka’s hips (left) are in the transverse plane; Laura’s (right) are not.

In the photo example here, Laura on the right has her right hip off the transverse plane—and look how it affects her whole alignment structure.

She’s also out of alignment from the saggital plane—see how her spine is crooked? Because Taka’s hips are both on the floor, the rest of her body is better aligned.

Who would have thought that two hips in one line could have such important meaning?

As you practice for the next few weeks, focus on your alignment in the coronal, saggital and transverse planes.

Work to get your hips square and level during the setup, the full expression of the pose and the dismount. And two hips in one line will bring a whole new awareness to your practice!

Questions about two hips in one line? Questions about alignment? Come to the Yoga Lab on Saturdays! Alignment is only one thing we’ll discuss! We’ll see you there!

How to Lock the Knee in Proper Alignment

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Proper Locked Knee Alignment Bikram Yoga

Engage your abs in the balancing series poses. Your core strength helps with both balance and alignment.

When people first start to practice and hear teachers tell yogis to lock their knee, a variety of thoughts pop into their head:

“No way! My coach told me to always keep the knees bent!”

“No way! My drill sergeant (or choral teacher or minister) told me I’d pass out if I locked my knees!”

“No way! That will hurt!”

“Okay”

Every one of these answers is a legitimate response. The key to locking your knee is knowing HOW to lock your knees and how to NOT lock your knees. There’s a big difference.

Locking the Knee Proper Alignment Bikram Yoga

A properly locked knee maintains the natural alignment of the leg (right).

When you hyperextend your knee, the weight of your body is on the heel of the foot and the knee joint is pushed beyond the natural alignment of the leg (see image to the left).

Obviously, the leg on the left is positioned beyond where it should be; the leg on the right is in better alignment.

Let’s further examine each of the poses in the balancing series to discuss the best way to achieve proper knee alignment in each. (Hint: There’s one pose in the balancing series that’s easier than the rest to maintain a locked knee!)

Lock Knee Alignment Bikram Yoga

A hyperextended knee puts more weight on the heel and takes the knee out of proper alignment.

Compare these two Standing Bow images:

Initially the image to the right looks like a fairly impressive standing bow. But upon closer inspection, you can see that this yogi’s standing leg is hyperextendedshe is out of alignment.

Over time, this leads to over stretching, tearing of ligaments and tendons, and grinding of bone. In fact, this person, after years of holding the pose like this, suffered a torn meniscus in one of her knees!

Take a look at the image on the bottom right. Can you see the difference?

Can you see how this yogi’s standing leg is strong and her quadriceps and inner thigh are engaged?

Can you see how the weight on her foot is equally distributed and she is not leaning too far back into the heel or to the outside of the foot? This is the locked knee you are striving for!

It’s easiest to hyperextend the knee in Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow because it takes strength to create the counterbalance necessary to stay in alignment.

Proper Lock Knee Alignment Standing Bow Bikram Yoga

A properly locked knee in Standing Bow depends on even weight distribution in the foot and a strong kick up.

In Standing Head to Knee, be mindful of the weight on your heel. When you grab your foot and start the pose, think UP and immediately contract your quads and engage your inner thighs to keep your leg in alignment. This will take practice.

Then when you kick out, be mindful of the weight on your heel and in the back of your knee. If you feel your weight dropping back, kick forward more! The action of kicking forward in combination with a strong standing leg will keep you in alignment.

And keep your stomach sucked in! See how the abdominal muscles are engaged in the photo at the top of the page? Your core strength will help with balance and alignment!

In Standing Bow, again it’s all about the strength of the standing leg, but it’s also about kicking and stretchingthey are equal and simultaneous, 50-50ever hear that before?

By really reaching forward with the extending arm and kicking with your lifted leg, you will keep the weight in your standing leg more evenly distributed. It all works together!

The Balancing Stick posture is the easiest of the three balancing poses to keep your leg in alignmentwhy? Because your standing leg is like the fulcrum of a teeter totterthe weight is, more or less, more equally distributed across the plane of your body.

But that doesn’t mean you can relax in this posturekeep your leg engaged and keep stretching forward and backwardstretch, stretch stretch!

None of this is easy. It takes a lot of practice and just when it seems you’ve got it down, your leg will relax, you’ll lose your hard-earned balance, or something will happen and you’ll fall out. Not to worry, just keep trying.

And if you want to see what your balancing legs look likelet our teachers knowthey are happy to take some time before or after class get your photo while you’re in the postures!

Remember the key is to Lock the Knee AND Stay in Alignment!

Half Tortoise: Did You Know?

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Half Tortoise Pose Benefits Bikram Yoga

Touching your forehead to the floor is an important step in Half Tortoise pose.

There’s a reason we tell you to touch your forehead to your knee, or to the floor!

The pineal gland, also known as “the third eye,” is a small endocrine gland in the brain. It produces melatonin, which affects both sleep patterns and circadian rhythms.

As we age, the pineal starts to develop calcium deposits, which isn’t necessarily a good thing!

Touching your forehead to your knee or the floor can help to stimulate the pineal gland.

Now I’m not sure that doing Half Tortoise is the equivalent of eight hours of sleep, but it just might help balance your sleep/wake cycles and stimulate the release of melatonin!

So do your yoga—touch your forehead!