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I know many of my yoga students are athletes, runners, avid walkers, soccer players, swimmers, tennis players, surfers, you name it! And others are non-athletes, but active people. All come to the yoga mat to find balance in their body and mind. This blog post is specifically about the former, balance in the body, which in my opinion, indirectly effects the balance of our mind.
 
Let’s entertain the example of a runner. You can run and run, but if you don’t cross-train, and work on your dynamic mobility, you will ‘run’ into some problems – pun intended. This piece to training is crucial. If you don’t work to maintain proper mobility, you won’t perform as well, you won’t feel as good, and ultimately you are at risk of an injury, if not already injured.
 
Adding in yoga to your weekly run workout regimen, is one way to restore balance to these muscles that have become imbalanced. The type of yoga that is particularly helpful for runners and athletes is vinyasa yoga. Vinyasa yoga is inherently dynamic, we are moving, breath-to-movement, aka breath to posture. The practice will help strengthen and lengthen muscles appropriately, in order to maintain or restore healthy range of motion (ROM).

If you’ve practiced vinyasa yoga before, you know that it can be challenging. One way we are often challenged on the mat is by holding postures (not for terribly long), but it does the job of effectively improving endurance of these muscles. Often times, the muscles that fatigue as we attempt to hold a pose, are those muscles that we need to target and improve strength and in some cases also length. Yes, a muscle can be both tight and weak.
 
The pose that comes to mind immediately for me, is half moon (ardha chandrasana) pictured at the very top. In this pose, we have to hold one leg and arm up in the air (against the force of gravity). The strength it takes to keep our leg lifted, falls to a gluteal muscle known as gluteus medius. When we contract the whole of this muscle, it will abduct the thigh (move it away from the ground, where it is being forced down by gravity).

How does this muscle impact a runner? Or even a walker for that matter?

Well when we have weakness in the gluteus medius, we can develop pelvic drop in the frontal plane, either ipsilaterally (on one side) or bilaterally (on both sides). Visualize the way a model walks down the runway. The model sasses her hips from side to side, this is what pelvic drop (pelvic tilt) in the frontal plane looks like!

One might say that models have weakness in their gluteus medius muscle. Although, I realize they do this walk intentionally, it is no good for functional movement. Particularly, if you are running, and thus adding more force to the movement. Depending on your running foot strike pattern, the vertical ground reaction forces experienced when running are roughly two to three times your body weight.

To a lesser degree, gluteus minimus (a muscle deep to gluteus medius) helps with keeping the pelvis level during movements. Often times as running duration or speed increase, any imbalances we have become more apparent. When gluteus medius and minimus are faced with the need to function under the demands of running, the runner might begin to have continual hip drop. This occurrence might be fine a few times. However, in all likelihood, they won’t be fine if this is felt for every step, over 30 minutes, five times a week, for a year - you get the point. Ultimately, this will stress the sacroiliac joint and the low back. A weak gluteus medius is oftentimes partly to blame for knee and ankle injuries too.

What I am saying is that, though these imbalances are often very subtle, they can become more pronounced and apparent with our athletic activity, and especially so with fatigue.

Yoga is a beautiful practice to maintain proper length and strength of various muscles, including gluteus medius. I have seen many a jock in class, who finds lifting their leg in half moon to be a significant challenge. What's neat about yoga, is that the practice quietly, and humbly, alerts and informs us of such imbalances. Yoga is a way of checking in with our body, like getting your oil changed. We need to check in a tune up car regularly, think of yoga as a weekly, or even daily, system tune up. 

There is one more thing. Yoga is not therapy. It is a practice of repetition. In physical therapy, for example, you might do three sets of 30 seconds of a particular stretch. You will then do this ‘exercise’ three times a day. Conversely, yoga is a neuromuscular training practice for life. So long as you show up to your mat, with dedication, these shifts are possible. It is not therapeutic. Though, mentally it feels this way, in the clinical meaning of the word, it is not. As yoga teachers, we should not be using the word therapy in a literal sense. 

As a yoga teacher, I am not prescribing, holding a stretch for 30 seconds, for three sets, three times a day. Leave that to the professionals who are targeting an imbalance for therapeutic intervention. In yoga, you are holistically, strengthening and lengthening, and neuromuscularly training the whole of your body. You need not worry about overdoing it on pose or stretch, because you are in and out rather quickly.

Here is the catch, one chaturanga with poor form won’t hurt you, but 1,000 may. You know your body best, so long as you are aligned well in your postures, and you can breathe fully, and there is no pain, you can trust in your practice.

The next time you show up to your mat, be an observer. What feels tight or restricted? What feels weak? Notice if one side of the body is significantly stronger and or tighter. If you have a mirror to practice in front of, pay attention to the subtleties of your postural alignment.

Here are some of my fave exercises to strengthen gluteus medius and minimus. You can work these into your yoga practice. 

1) Lie on one side, and abduct the top thigh, bringing your ankle up to about hip height, slowly lower it back down (Repeats x5-10)
2) Side Plank (vashistasana) with the option to abduct the top leg (3-5 breaths)
3) Half Moon (3-5 breaths)
4) Bridge Pose (3-5 breaths)
5) Personal fave add-in to yoga practice – lateral band walks. Place the stretch band just above your ankles or just above your knees. Come into a squat with feet hips width distance apart, maintain the distance between your feet, and laterally side step in your squat (down the length of your mat), then return to back to the top of the mat (Repeats x5-10).

Love and Gratitude,

Aloha yogis,

I wanted to drop you a quick hello, share some positive news, and say mahalo!

I hope you find that week x (I have lost count) of quarantine is going well for you! I am so happy to share with you that with the donations from my Sunday morning zoom yoga class, I was able to donate $500 to Aloha United Way.

Aloha United Way is a nonprofit organization that has launched a COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund. The donation will help assist in the overwhelming requests for rent and utility assistance, housing, food, healthcare, and more. It will also help answer calls for help and provide referrals to resources, ensuring that our community is taken care of in terms of support for critical human services during these challenging times.

It is incredible that we can come together during a crisis and help raise money. I don't take my position as a yoga instructor for granted. I know that with the help of my students and community, we hold a lot of power to improve the world around us. We hold this potential for good on a daily, moment to moment basis, where smiling to a stranger might radically improve their day, or expressing gratitude to a bank teller, might remind them of the value they to bring to the community. My thinking is that when we feel better, we do better. And yoga makes us feel better! 

And right now, we are doing better! In this case, with COVID-19 and the emergent need for help, worldwide, we galvanized around one specific cause. I have seen this ability of the yoga community to rally around a cause many times; I have taught fundraising classes for breast cancer before and "Downdogs for Diabetes" and many others, and each time I am left amazed and inspired.

Where simply by downdog-ing and chaturanga-ing, we made a tangible difference. It is not the ethereal ripple effect of your yoga practice. No, trust that, we can see the impact here.

Mahalo, to each of you who took the time to show up on your yoga mat. Thank you for practicing and sharing your energy with me and everyone else in class - virtually! Teaching online, has been a really special experience so far. I have seen so many of my students, many of you have moved off island, others have never lived on island, and we even have international yogis joining class! Some of you I haven't seen in 11 years! And yet, here you all are, practicing online with me! It warms my heart. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I am committed to continuing to donate 50% of all proceeds from my Sunday yoga class to COVID-19 community needs. 

Join me for the Sunday Yoga Flow, every week, from 8-9:15am via the same link as every other week. If you haven't joined yet, email me at info@lauramarylinsley.com for the link and password if you plan to attend class this Sunday. Let's keep this going!!

I hope to see you Sunday on the mat!

Big love,

Aloha yogis,

I wanted to give you three quick updates and ask you a few questions about my upcoming Anatomy of Movement Training Series.

1) Join me tomorrow morning for a Sunday Yoga Flow at 8am via the same link as every other week, if you haven't joined yet, here is the link. Please respond to this email to let me know you are joining and I will give you the password and the details!

2) I filmed a foundations yoga class today for you! I feel the integrity of these asanas can sometimes get lost, when we are always striving to achieve that next pose. It is hugely beneficial to every now and then (or often), hit pause and go back to the basics. Always practice with a beginners mind, be a sponge! I have some editing to do on the video, but it will be available soon. Email me here if you are interested in practicing the foundations yoga practice.

3) With all of the new yogis checking in to the online yoga class, I feel compelled more than ever, to add a foundations yoga class to my schedule. Historically speaking, I taught more advanced yoga classes, but as I get older and my own need for yoga shifts, so too does my teaching. Honestly, while I practice "advanced" asanas such as handstand and forearm-stand, the bulk of my own practice is foundations. This involves a lot of breath work, a good balance between balancing/strengthening/dynamic movements, and a whole lot of slow easy stretching towards the end of practice. I am also very intentional about the way I 'train' my nervous system on the mat in this mind-body practice. If you are interested in joining a live Foundations Yoga Flow, please email me here and let me know what days/times work for you!

I hope to see you tomorrow on the mat!

Big love,
LML

Aloha yogis,

What a week. I hope you are all hanging in there. I have progressed through the many phases of quarantine life. The first week went something like this, “wow, I am actually going to be able to sit down and write my dissertation, which means I will graduate!” The second week went like this, “gosh, my back is stiff from all of these zoom meetings, and three hour long lectures via zoom; I no longer stand up to move from A to B.” The third week, was a mad rush to submit to an academic conference, and I was bizarrely productive. And this week, the fourth week, well, it was hard, in some ways.

I wasn’t prolific with my academic work, but I did cook, bake, clean, and workout. Goodness, my daily workouts turned into three hour affairs. Regularly, I run and then I practice yoga. This is standard for me. Now, I run, and then complete what I have dubbed my ‘parking lot workout’ – yes, it takes place in an empty elementary school parking lot behind my condo building.

I have this intense urge to be outside and feel the sunshine on my face, and I think this is why I became motivated to extend my run into this parking lot charade. To be clear, no one is outside, anywhere near me. It feels glorious, to be both working hard physically, and to breathe fresh air, all while outside the confines of my 500 square foot condo. And of course, the sun-drenched dose of Vitamin D helps as well. The parking lot workout consists of squats, forward and side lunges, slides, high knees, kick butt, high skipping, heel lifts, duck walks, but also lots of jumping and dynamic stretching.

After I feel satisfactorily worked, the workout continues, but the locale changes. I walk home and lift weights. And finally, I cap the night off with a juicy yoga practice. It is basically my whole evening, or so it feels. But surprise, it’s only 7pm! This week, my workouts started to creep to earlier and earlier start times. Can you relate?

Alas, the evening continues, I begin cooking up some kind of creative dinner with the groceries I bought a week prior. Who knew that all of these life modifications that we made due to a quarantine would yield so much more free time for us? I did not. I love it, in some respects, hate it, in others. I hate the unknown, the fear, the wondering – did I already had COVID-19 this January when I had the flu? Do I have it now? Does my husband have it? He just coughed…

In sum, this week, I have been a workout machine and a prolific chef/baker. I was actually feeling somewhat upset about my shortcomings in the normal sense of productivity, but I decided to cut myself some slack. As I am sure you have all been reading in every outlet, these are not normal times; of course we don’t need to read that to know that to be the truth. What does this mean for us, then?

My interpretation: it is okay to not be productive, it is okay to be sad, to be frustrated, to be scared, or even to feel grateful for the precious time you now have for other things – family, hobbies, connection with loved ones, or simply cleaning. Honestly, it’s okay to sleep more, nap, rest, or relax. All of these thoughts and feelings are valid.

As I mentioned previously, I have progressed through all of the phases of quarantine life. Initially, I thought, quarantine living fit my needs, as a self-proclaimed academic-introverted-homebody, fairly well. Now, I can safely say, I miss moving all over town, I miss walking from my office to a meeting down the hall, I miss Jacque from the local grocery store, who I used to see almost every day. I miss seeing friends’ faces, in person. The biggest adjustment, however, is feeling at peace in the present.

Once I got over my own productivity debacle, I had to put in some serious work to calm my nerves when it came to thinking about my family and loved ones, but also, global concerns. There are so many unknowns, health and financial, and it’s a little bit much to wrap your head around at one time. So give yourself the time, cut yourself some slack, ease up on your own expectations. After all, you are trying to figure out humanities issues alongside your own, that is a lot for one person to handle!

My mind oscillates from feeling this sense of impending doom to ‘wow, it’s really great to have my husband in the adjacent room – I am grateful.’ What in the heck? It is a confusing time. And it is okay, to feel joy and fear, to feel productivity in your work, or to up your sloth game for a bit and sleep more. Strange times, take some adjusting, and maybe some strange measures.

I am not prescribing sloth-ing around, I am simply saying, be more gentle with yourself. I am saying, amen, to equal part sloth-ing and producing. It is a wonderful time to learn more about yourself – your tendencies. Observe how you are dealing with the events of today. In fact, my own personal greatest insights into my handling of the COVID-19 quarantine, have revealed themselves in my journal. I shared some of the thoughts in last week’s yoga class, the theme was gratitude. This is  a big cliché, in the yoga world, but hear me out.

I was looking at my to-do list with a lot of heaviness, thinking I have all of these things to do. I took a lunch break to eat and read the New York Times. I read about the outbreak in NYC and the toll this virus truly takes on you, mentally and physically. I thought, rather morbidly, I better appreciate what I have right now, while I have it. Others cannot, simply enjoy an evening run, it’s not a chore, but a gift. Others cannot, roll out of bed, get ready to lecture and pop on the computer to give a lecture to 30 eager undergraduates via Zoom, they’ve lost their jobs. My job is a gift.

I started to look differently at the opportunities I had in front me, because they were just that, opportunities. From this new perspective, they looked a whole lot more like gifts, now. And I was grateful, I am grateful.

I am grateful to the quarantine period, thus far, because in addition to doing my part and feeling as though I am a contributor to the greater good (albeit in the smallest way), it has shifted another perspective for me. It has given me a no BS attitude when it comes to many things. Any excuse that you are about to give as to why you can’t complete this work, go for that run, enjoy that yoga practice, bake that bread, walk your beloved dog, or even veg out with your husband and watch that show, LM – yeah, well I don’t want to hear it.

It’s as though, we can’t fool ourselves, and we are able to get to the heart of the matter. The juxtaposition of quarantine living lessons has me confused too, on the one hand it has taught me acceptance (of productivity, laziness, sadness, happiness, worry, fear, joy, love, and hope), but on the other, it has taught me to get-er-done, no excuses.

I haven’t fully made sense of it yet, which is why my thesis to you is, to just let it be, and learn from yourself. Be honest with your why. You don’t need to provide an excuse. It’s just you - and your - work, workout, hobbies, cooking, home, life. Everyone is struggling through this funky time, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could emerge much more self-aware?

Finally, my initial hope with writing you, was oddly enough to simply drop you a note to let you know, I have a new and improved yoga shala (see the photo). My intention was simply to invite you to join me tomorrow morning, Sunday 8-9:15am (HST), for a live vinyasa yoga class via Zoom (but of course). You will be able to see me flow in full camera view, my head will make the frame now, thanks to my husband and his technical skills.

During this quarantine period, I will be donating 50% of the proceeds of each class to COVID-19 community needs. Furthermore, as we continue the fight against COVID-19, I want to support those serving on the front lines. Class is free for all first responders on the front lines, nurses, doctors, paramedics, fire fighters, and police officers. I want to thank you all, for everything you are doing, all we have to do is stay home.

I have always taught donation yoga, and it fits now more than ever. For everyone else, I know times are tough. If you cannot make a donation, please take class anyways. For anyone making a class donation my Venmo username: @LauraMary-Flynn 

Please email me if you would like to join class!

Sending you all love,

Aloha Yogis,

It has been some time since my last email to you! To be specific, you haven’t heard from me since July 2018! Wow. A lot has happened since that time, and I mean a lot. There simply is not enough paper space to give you that type of update here.

I wanted to reach out to you though! I usually reach out over my school recess periods, but the year 2019 proved to be a no-break-type-of-year. Truly, I had every intention of reaching out to you this March over Spring Break (which ended yesterday), with a very different type of update. But then COVID-19 struck.

In a COVID-19-free world, my update would have been thoroughly optimistic. I would have told you all about how my promising research study began on Saturday, and how I was nearly done with my PhD, or at least in the “final chapter” – but alas, times have changed. I am in shock by how quickly the direction and flow of life can be altered, and oddly, it’s simultaneously a reminder of life’s preciousness. For now, here I sit (writing like an old English novelist), to bring you a very different type of update. To be clear, everything from the hypothetical update is true, less the research study beginning.

The study is currently on hold, as non-emergent orthopedic surgeries are not currently happening right now, nor would I want to violate social distancing protocols and expose the elderly to me! For these reasons – along with a myriad of others – my study will take a backseat.

I now have “free” time to actually sit and write up my research. I am working on a number of papers, analyses, and a little yoga project! Let me explain. For the last year, I have been teaching one group yoga class per week (Sundays 8am at Kaimuki Studio) and otherwise my teaching has been 100% private and corporate yoga.

Due to COVID-19, my yoga private sessions have been moved to the Zoom platform! Likewise, I have also moved my Sunday morning yoga class online. Yesterday was the first group Zoom class. After class, I shared a photo of our practice to my Instagram account, and I was moved by the enthusiastic response.

Over the years of teaching yoga in Hawaii, I have seen many of my students come and go. Some lived here and practiced with me for a few years before moving back home; others are from Hawaii, but moved off island for their medical residencies in NYC, Phoenix, San Diego, and Boston, to name a few, surely I’ve missed many more of you docs (you know who you are). Other yoga students now live outside of the US, and I was lucky enough to meet them while they were on island studying. I’ll get to the point, I promise.

After I shared the photo of my Zoom class and disclosed that next week and indefinitely, until we ride out this pandemic, I will be hosting my class online, you all began to sign up. I now have sign-ups from Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, Boston, New York City, Connecticut, Everett (WA), Ålesund (Norway), Strasbourg (France), Japan and beyond.

Point is, this was a huge burst of light in my day. Not simply just hearing from all of my past students, but knowing that you are all there and listening. I felt the pull to offer something more.

A yoga practice with online instruction, isn’t the same as practicing in person, but it gives me hope that I can stay connected to so many of you, even after you move off island. I’ve never felt the desire to platform myself online via YouTube or other streaming services (translation: I was too nervous to make the leap). Now, however, I want to. I want to share yoga with you all, in our time of need. The world needs yoga right now.

I have also been feeling the need to do something, for the world, for my community, for a cause. Earlier this week, I sent this meme out to my brother and sister-in-law...

At the time I sent the meme, I really hadn't yet done much to help. I played my part and practiced social distancing. I bought my food - not too much, not too little - but otherwise, I felt I was contributing to the general state of panic, and not much else. To be honest, I didn’t feel there was much I could do to help. I can’t simply open up the checkbook and make it happen. After all, I am a pro-student and a small (super small) business owner.

I promise, my story here will all tie together. During my run last night, I waved a dramatic hello to the bus driver. I realized, in that moment, that he was a modern day hero. I ran some more, and thought about my recent transactions at Whole Foods, because who doesn't think about food while they are running?

Kidding aside, I thought about how I had praised the cashiers and employees, for also being heroes - now I was running and smiling. I truly believe they deserve thanks for being so brave. They go to work so that we can all continue to be fed, and in doing so put themselves at risk. My small contributions of praise hopefully help a little, but I want to do more.

So finally, as I was hitting the sweet spot of my run (about 20 minutes in), I had the idea of using this online platform for my Sunday yoga class as an opportunity to give back. My Sunday class will hopefully help replace my lost income from my regularly scheduled yoga classes, which are now canceled, while also contributing to the community. Because of you, my students, near and far, we can come together on this platform and make a difference.

During the quarantine period of COVID-19, here is my commitment to you all: I will teach a weekly donation-based Sunday morning yoga class (8-9:15am HST) and I will be donating 50% of the proceeds to a local business or community need. It might be my yoga student's bar that needs to close, or my favorite vegan restaurant in town (Juicy Brew), or a community need such as PPE for our local medical doctors and nurses.

This isn’t just a health crisis, it’s an economic crisis as well. I know more people that work in the retail, restaurant, and tourism industries than don’t. If you can’t make a donation, please take class, and I hope it brightens your day and eases the stress of our current situation.

Now, if you are still reading this, first of all, respect. Second of all, if you can’t make class, here are some other ideas for you.

More thoughts from my evening run:

1) Practice gratitude: Thank you lungs, for allowing me to breathe fully, for extracting oxygen from the atmosphere and passing it off to my bloodstream, and releasing CO2 from my bloodstream and back into the atmosphere. I appreciate you so much right now. I’ve been hearing stories of COVID-19 patients finding gratitude for their lungs, and I want you to know right now (still talking to the lungs), that I love this moment of feeling your full power and health.

2) Appreciate those around you: the bus drivers, the cashiers, the husbands, your parents, your family, your friends. I know I am not alone, when I say that we have all upped our contact-game this week. On Saturday I ‘zoomed’ with my 13 best friends from home (all at once). I know you have all called your friends and family, keep it up. It matters. Your actions matter. Reach out to people, they want to hear from you.

3) Thank you, food: holy bake-athon, we have been cooking and baking and are on par to become Michelin Starred Chefs by the end of this quarantine. Let’s appreciate the simple joy of cooking and breaking bread with the ones we love.

4) Clean: yes, clean your house; if you are stuck inside your home, make sure it is clean and an enjoyable space to be in almost 24/7. If not, you will go bananas. Also, it is a fun and rewarding activity, I’ve found. Thank you to my sister-in-law for reminding me about this particularly fun and energy balancing activity.

5) And lastly, tell people you love them, because you do. <3

Thank you all for reading. Please reach out! I would love to hear from you. Also, for those of you who don’t know what I do now or what I study, the answer is biomechanics. While I am sure that answer doesn't clear anything up for you, because most folks don't know what it is, this is now a reminder to myself to update you on all that I study, in due time. I promise it won’ t be another 2 years from now, but much sooner.

With love and gratitude,

Aloha Yogis,

“Allow yourself to be a torch, and allow the flame of your torch to be transmitted to other torches. Practicing like that, you can help peace and joy grow in the entire world.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

Very simply put, I think this is what life is about, finding what lights us up inside and sharing that light. I love the energy of a big class, it is uniquely different than an at home practice or a small studio class. Did you know that at some point in a vinyasa class, the breath, heartbeats, and movements rhythmically syncopate? It’s in this space, this feeling of oneness and connection via our physiological rhythms, that we support each others growth in a practice. It might lead to successfully making it through the core workout or to a restful savasana, but the point is the energy of your yogi neighbor's truly helps and it heals.

It’s almost as though our individual light becomes more tangible, whether it's through thermodynamics, mindfulness, physical activity or some combination of all of it. With every drop of sweat, every exhale, or each chaturanga, we feel it surface more. The heaviness of the day becomes more distant and our to-do lists fade. We are present with that light. Our light. Suddenly our light becomes much more accessible and recognizable. With each successive practice, the process of digging up that light and connecting becomes more efficient.

The sum of the parts is that with a mindfulness based yoga practice we connect more deeply to ourselves and to others. We form real connections and sometimes without words. We know ‘Tom the lawyer in the second row,’ even if we’ve only practiced yoga together a few times. I love watching my students become friends and connect in their shared passion for yoga. We all leave class feeling a little bit lighter and more connected. We can sprinkle that light everywhere we go. Start with yourself, be the light, be the torch.

Love and Light,
laura mary

Aloha Yogis,

Last night, we returned from our honeymoon trip to Ireland. I have many stories from the trip and the wonderful time that we had, and if you come to class, you will hear! Essentially, the Irish folks are incredibly kind. I was in total admiration of their friendliness to all.

I couldn't wait to get right back into teaching. I was working out some details on this update over my honeymoon, but I can finally share the news!

Over the Summer, I will be teaching three yoga classes per week at a beautiful new space in Kaimuki.

My Summer yoga home is located at 3454 Waialae Ave., Unit 1 (above Mud Hen Water). It is a beautiful space, I can't wait to get started. In fact, my first class is tonight from 6:30-8PM! Can you make it?

I hope to see you tonight, but if not, here is my full schedule!

As always, I teach Thursday 5:30PM at Magic Island. All classes are donation based.

Deep breaths and Sun Salutations,

laura mary

Photography by Derek Linsley, Connemara National Park, Ireland.

Aloha Yogis,

It turns out, it’s quite difficult to send periodic newsletters as a full time PhD student. Who knew? While I had every intention and hope to keep you all up to date on yoga classes, events and also monthly yoga themes, it simply didn’t happen! In fact, I can’t even imagine a scenario in which it could have happened! I spent nearly every free moment studying, I learned a whole lot, and now I am coming up for air to say hello!

Only those of you who I see regularly in yoga classes heard and practiced the weekly intentions with me. Not much has changed for me on the yoga front. Meaning, I am still teaching events, classes, and running trainings; however, advertising this all has become truly a word of mouth process. If you weren’t aware, I am a student again, not just of life and yoga, but at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Here is my last update.

To be honest, there are some differences on the yoga front. In terms of my overall view of the practice, I see it through a new lens. Before going back to school to study biomechanics for my doctorate, yoga for me was an immensely spiritual practice. The postures and alignment cues were truly rooted in the ancient practice and teachings. I thought, if B.K.S. Iyengar teaches Warrior I this way, he surely knows best and I followed suit. Of course, I always offered modifications for students and believed everyone should listen to their body, but I stayed very true to the yogic root origins.

This year, after studying in a cadaver lab for 10-15 hours per week, digging into biomechanics research, and learning all about exercise physiology, it’s not surprising, the big change for me is knowledge. They say, knowledge is power, and I am here to say – it’s true.

I love the practice of yoga and even more so now believe in its healing powers for the mind, body, and soul. No longer is it the same spiritual practice where I trust in the healing powers, in the same way, I trusted in Iyengar’s alignment cues. Now, I know there are healing powers, and I know how to cue specifically to each student.

Most of my teaching this year has been on a private basis. I teach privates with many students, most of whom I’ve taught for many years. There is a reason the ancient practice began on a private basis, everyone is different! My private teaching along with my growing knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics (statistics doesn’t really help here) has been the perfect way to enhance and reinforce my studies.

One area I am really keen to study is balance. Many research studies use a one-legged balance test, and I hope to as well in upcoming pilot studies. Generally with age our bone mineral density declines and so too does our balance ability. This is a disaster combination, because it places us at high risk for falls and injurious falls. Our ability to balance is a skill we can build with practice, one that requires our central nervous system and musculoskeletal system to work in harmony. I will be digging into more research in this area over the summer, but for now, I wanted to leave you with some positive and exciting thoughts.

Just as when you exercise new capillaries sprout as an important adaptation to exercise training (to ensure adequate diffusion for oxygen and nutrients), a similar process takes place in your mind. It is a heck of a lot harder to study, but essentially, our brain ‘hears’ our thoughts  and responds to our work (for example, running or yoga) and shunts or spurs growth accordingly. Meaning, if we think positive thoughts certain adaptations happen, likewise, if we practice half-moon pose, certain adaptations occur. Both occurring in the brain, in different capacities.

My life completely changed after really studying the brain and seeing the cranial nerves and having a-ha moments, as I connected my learning to the practice of yoga. For example, as I connected what I learned about the vestibulocochlear nerve (cranial nerve VIII) to the practice of yoga, I realized it’s one reason why our drishti, our gaze, is crucial to our ability to both balance and focus throughout our yoga practice. In this way, our muscles, our brain, and our focus are yoked. Yoga’s root, yuj, means ‘to yoke’ – meditation becomes the ultimate form of this practice. I could write an entire piece on the brain and mediation. To be brief, meditation has been associated with differences in gray matter brain cortical thickness. Sara Lazar of Harvard University demonstrated this in her study, other researchers has similar findings. Excited yet? Me too.

I’m not going to get into the discussion of stress and cortisol, but as you can imagine when we let this get the best of us there can be deleterious effects on the brain. One of the best antidotes? Exercise. Through neuroplasticity our brain has the ability to change throughout our life. Whether you are learning new facts or kinesthetic movements – your brain is ready to adapt. Aerobic exercise in particular promotes adult neurogenesis, and consistent aerobic exercise over a period of months creates clinically significant improvements in executive function as well as increased gray matter. In other words, our brains are not plastic in the literal sense, but rather, just as our muscles grow and capillaries sprout, so can our brains. Aerobic exercise enhances cognitive function and attenuates age-related deterioration of the brain. Here are a few articles to get you started (1234, enjoy!).

Can we all just agree to get moving? For these reasons, I made sure to sweat nearly every day this year, even on my busy days. The night before finals, I hit the track. I walk to and from school, every day. I am in the practice. I hope to see you on the mat soon!

Deep breaths and Sun Salutations,

laura mary

Photography by Lululemon.

may 5th email
Hello Yogis,

I don't even know where to begin this newsletter, because there is so much to cover! Happily, 2017 has been a very full year. After kicking off January with my Goal Chaser workshop series, it inspired me to re-focus my own goals. This turned into a lot of reading and self-study (svadhyaya). I enrolled in an anatomy and physiology course at Kapiolani Community College. We did several dissections and learned all about the way our bodies align and function. For those of you who attend my classes, you know I am very interested in the anatomy of yoga, alignment, and just simply being. This experience and more sparked within me an even deeper desire to learn.

A year and a half ago I had reconstructive ankle surgery on an injury that I have had since 5th grade (I broke my tibia and fibula). As a full-time yoga instructor the experience was both humbling and informative, and it shifted my entire mindset on kinesiology. After months of physical therapy with minimal improvement, my surgeon recommended that I find a sports exercise trainer in Honolulu who specialized in biomechanics of the ankle. Aside from enrolling in more physical therapy, I was at a loss as to how to find somebody with such specific qualifications. In fact, many people come to me to improve function through yoga after an injury or to enhance athletic performance, but I have nowhere near the knowledge to guide a person, even myself, back to their full capability. I knew I wanted and needed to learn more.

My own rehabilitation has precipitated a complete change in the way I instruct yoga and the way I lead my yoga teacher training program. What began as a lot of self-investigatory work has become an even more narrowly focused passion or a purpose. I am on a quest to learn more about biomechanics, exercise physiology, and anatomy. With a background in both psychology and public health, and of course yoga, I know that improved physical function translates to happier people and improved public health. Aside from my recent ankle surgery, over the years of my research career, I became more and more interested in the physical aspects of function as opposed to the psychological aspects. I have seen how the former can improve the latter. If you are interested in this topic, respond to my email. I have always had the intention of earning my doctoral degree but then life happened - in a beautiful way, my plans changed.

I truly believe in listening to the pull of life. Whether you feel the pull of your interests or what makes your heart leap, we have to practice getting quiet and connected enough to hear and feel it. Between yoga and some consistent vision and goals work, I make a practice of trying to feel these pulls. I have been an athlete all my life. I’ve always been intrigued by the way our bodies move and function. I was a psychology major, and I’ve always been interested in how our thoughts impact our reality. In college, I nerded it up big time and hit the books really hard. I did well and entered the world of research and had aspirations to become a doctor.

I became a yoga instructor after college because it was the natural next step in my yoga practice. I worked in psychiatric research for three years following college before studying public health in graduate school (which was a stepping stone to earning my doctorate). Through graduate school I continued my teaching of yoga. I stepped into it as a full time teacher after graduate school, it was intended to be a temporary gig. But all I wanted to do was teach, I absolutely loved it and I still do. I allowed myself to continue to be pulled. I learned so much. I developed programs, taught 200-hour teacher trainings, hosted retreats, large events, corporate yoga, and more than one thousand private classes. I was also lucky enough to work with many amazing companies as an ambassador. Shout out Lululemon, Manduka Yoga, Banan, Jugo Life Juice, UltraMana Coffee, Peace Cafe, Moana Surfrider, and most recently Susan G Komen.

As I mentioned, things started to shift for me after having an ankle surgery 2015. I poured over physical rehabilitation literature, enrolled in an online nutrition program, and the anatomy and physiology course. I worked with many physical therapists and I practiced yoga. All in an effort to bring my little ankle and everything it affected back to “normal”. In many ways, the healing I sought was similar to the healing my students were seeking. This “pull” of interest became so strong, that I connected to a University of Hawaii professor who is at the forefront of biomechanics research. I began sitting in on a few of his lectures. In just a few hours time, I felt information overload (in the best way possible). I loved every minute of it all. Before I knew it, I was applying for a PhD in exercise science.

Because my yoga business took off, and life pulled me into my yoga career, I always said that the only circumstance under which I would ever go back to school for my PhD was if I had a burning desire to learn everything on a topic and if I had a personal interest in it. I’ve decided to become an expert in this area. I am still going to be teaching yoga, so don't worry there!

I am so excited to tell you that I am going back to school to study exercise science. Trust me, I never saw this day coming. I will be doing research in biomechanics. I already integrate a lot of science into my classes. Earning a doctorate in this field will definitely help take my knowledge to the next level. I am so excited for this step in my career. I am especially excited to integrate this knowledge into my yoga teachings. YOU will all benefit from this next step.

Now that I have been accepted, it is hitting me, just how much work lies ahead. Right off the bat, I begin with teaching an 80 person lecture. Let's just say, there will be a lot of studying and yoga happening this summer before school begins in August.

Deep breaths and Sun Salutations,

laura mary

Photography by Lululemon and Chelsea Abril.

There are 23,040 breaths in each day. How many are you aware of? That is equivalent to 16 breaths/minute. Make an effort this week to go outside into #theairoutthere. Lululemon's winter slogan has really resinated with me. I lead a meditation on behalf of Lululemon on the benefits of presence, nature, and breathing in the air out there atop Kuliouou Ridge Trail for a group of local influencers in the community. Step outside, forget the fluorescent lights, wifi, concrete, and enjoy a few deep breaths in the air out there.

XOXO,

laura mary