RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: February 2011

Yoga Toes and Yoga Apps

Your teacher walks by you as you lay on your stomach ready to come up into Salabhasana, what are those little blue things wedged in her toes?  And why don’t I have a pair?  And how do I know the Sanskrit name for Locust Pose?

The first answer is YOGA TOES or the proper name is Joy a Toes.  Pat says if there is one thing everyone should own, this is it.

Just like OG expanded their foundation with their new digs, yoga enthusiasts should expand their foundations.

Our toes are kept in tight shoes for many hours a day, they need some room to spread out.  A good foundation starts with the ability to spread your toes out like your hands, it is natural.  Joy a Toes work by wedging your toes apart, start for a couple of hours a day.  Wear them to class or wear them around the house.  I like to wear them in the shower, the warm water will helps your toes relax.  Kate Leinweber, OG’s Registered Holistic Nutrionists, also gave me the tip to pop them in when you get up first thing in the morning with  your socks on. Your toes may ache a little but that is normal, your toes have been cramped for their whole life.  It will be the best $40 you spend this year.

Ok, so how did I know the Sanskrit name for the locust pose? Yoga Deck is an app for my Iphone that has come in handy to memorize the names of yoga postures in a fun way.  The diagrams are great and if you tap on the names it pronounces the names for you.  Go to Itunes and download it (the price is $2.99)

It will be the best $42.99 you’ve spent.

-David Good

Relax and Renew-Restorative Yoga

Relax and Renew By Judith Lasater, Ph.D., P.T.

Judith Lasater: The antidote to stress is relaxation. To relax is to rest deeply. This rest is different from sleep. Deep states of sleep include periods of dreaming which increase muscular tension, as well as other physiological signs of tension. Relaxation is a state in which there is no movement, no effort, and the brain is quiet.

Common to all stress reduction techniques is putting the body in a comfortable position, with gentle attention directed toward the breath to cultivate the relaxation response – “a physiological state characterized by a slower heart rate, metabolism, rate of breathing, lower blood pressure, and slower brain wave patterns.”

Relatively new in medicine is the specialty called psychoneuroimmunology, another way of saying that body and mind-or psyche, nervous system, and immune system-are connected. This specialty understands that the health of the psyche is reflected in, and partly created by, the health of the body, and vice versa.

By supporting the body with props, we alternately stimulate and relax the body to move toward balance. Some poses have an overall benefit. Others target an individual part, such as the lungs or heart. All create specific physiological responses which are beneficial to health and can reduce the effects of stress-related disease.

In general, restorative poses are for those times when you feel weak, fatigued, or stressed from your daily activities. They are especially beneficial for the times before, during, and after major life events: death of a loved one, change of job or residence, marriage, divorce, major holidays, and vacations. In addition, you can practice the poses when ill, or recovering from illness or injury.

How Restorative Yoga Works

Restorative poses help relieve the effects of chronic stress in several ways:

  • The use of props provides a completely supportive environment for total relaxation.
  • Each restorative sequence is designed to move the spine in all directions. These movements illustrate the age-old wisdom of yoga that teaches well-being is enhanced by a healthy spine. Some of the restorative poses are backbends, while others are forward bends. Additional poses gently twist the column both left and right.
  • A well-sequenced restorative practice also includes an inverted pose, which reverses the effects of gravity. This can be as simple as putting the legs on a bolster or pillow, but the effects are quite dramatic. Because we stand or sit most of the day, blood and lymph fluid accumulate in the lower extremities. By changing the relationship of the legs to gravity, fluids are returned to the upper body and heart function is enhanced.
  • Restorative yoga alternately stimulates and soothes the organs. For example, by closing the abdomen with a forward bend and then opening it with a backbend, the abdominal organs are squeezed, forcing the blood out, and then opened, so that fresh blood returns to soak the organs. With this movement of blood comes the enhanced exchange of oxygen and waste products across the cell membrane.

To experience Restorative yoga come to one of Octopus Garden’s Weekly Restorative Classes.

Tuesday 730pm to 9pm with Elizabeth

Thursday 730pm to 9pm with Scott

Saturday 430pm to 545pm with Morgan (Relax and Restore- The rejuvenating class offers a gentler, active practice followed by deeply nourishing restorative postures.)

Sunday 430- 6pm with Marshal

Thank you Josh Cohen for sharing excerpts from:  Relax and Renew By Judith Lasater, Ph.D., P.T.

Ask the OG Team…

Posted on

You asked: I have been plagued by lower back pain most of my life. How can yoga help? We asked Jesse Enright, instructor and “Smart Yoga” therapeutic practitioner at Octopus Garden. Jesse: Yoga is an amazing technology and strong medicine and, when used effectively, it is capable of healing and correcting many physical ailments and dysfunctions thought by western medicine to be mysterious or ‘incurable’.
 For over a decade, as both an instructor and therapeutic practitioner, I have been using the incredible tool of yoga combined with anatomical explanation to educate and empower my students and myself.
 In my years of practice I have found that true healing depends on two important factors: education and empowerment.

Shifting our Perspective…..

If we are to truly take responsibility for our bodies and our health we must first shift our perspective from that of outside observer to one of inside participant. Although most of the pain and symptoms associated to ‘low back’ disorders seem to be oriented in and around the ‘back’ body, in truth these definitions of back, side or front are arbitrary at best and for our purposes of shifting perspective no longer useful.
 Our real work lies inside and our ultimate goal is integration, therefore we will no longer focus on ‘low back’ issues, but instead focus on what we will call the core cylinder of the body.

What is the Core Cylinder?

For our purposes we will define the core cylinder as the region from the floor of the pelvis to the bottom half of the ribcage.
It is an area combining both the abdominal and pelvic cavities. The cylinder, tube or tunnel analogy could quite accurately be applied to virtually every system and structure in the body. Veins, arteries, nerves, even the energetic pathways conform to this model.
 The health of these “cylinders” much like a water hose could be defined as their ability to be adaptive, mobile, and sturdy while still channeling whatever form of energy they are designed for. Of the larger ‘cylinders’ of the body it is no wonder that the ‘core cylinder’ is the most prone to dysfunction.
 Unlike the arms, legs, thoracic cage and pelvis, whose structures are determined mostly by bone, the core cylinder relies heavily on the cooperative tone of its musculature for shape and support.
 When these muscles are out of balance our core cylinder distorts or collapses in some way, losing its ability to properly channel energy and compressing its contents.
 As a simple analogy, visualize an aluminum can that has caved inwards on one side forcing a bulging on the opposing side. Or, as is often the case in the core cylinder, a torsion of the can which pressurizes the contents while forcing the two ends toward each other. 
Note: I want to make it clear that rounding, arching, side bending and rotation are all necessary as part of the healthy range of motion for the core cylinder in much the same way that a water hose must twist and bend.
 What I am describing here is a collapse and distortion which deprives the core of its shock absorbing ability and much like a kink in a hose, prevents the optimal flow of energy, this is what causes low back pain.

So what is the solution?

A new model! What we need is a mobile core capable of flexion, extension, side bending, and rotation while remaining strong and here is the key….KEEP it LONG!
 Why long? Almost all “lower back” dysfunctions are caused by unwanted pressure. The core cylinder could be compared to the shocks of a car. It needs to be able to compress and then decompress. Without the ability to elongate; the core cylinder is placed under constant pressure possibly causing: disc herniation, loss of circulation, nerve impingement, strain to the abdominal organs, restricted breathing and postural compensation.
 By balancing the tone and length of the musculature of the core cylinder we restore the ‘springy’ recovery ability to lengthen our core. 
A long mobile core cylinder is a healthy one! For our new model we will use an analogy first introduced to me by my teacher Gioia Irwin…The Snake Body. 
The snake body describes a core cylinder that is flexible and highly adaptable while remaining incredibly strong and, as discussed above, LONG. 
The snake body analogy brings to mind a core that is even and symmetrical with a toned belly, a long waist and a full, strong lower back. It also suggests a core that is intelligent and alive!

So how do we do it?

We do it by strengthening and balancing the musculature of the core and by reversing dysfunctional patterns in the neighboring regions, which for us will mean primarily the hips, shoulders and the rest of the spine. Dysfunctional patterns of tightness and or weakness in the rest of the body will place undo strain on our core, forcing it to compensate therefore focusing just on our core is not enough. The body is a community and must also work cooperatively for health to be restored and maintained. It is not enough, in my experience, to simply performan exercise or technique. To truly heal we have to understand the reason the problem occurred in the first place, how to heal it and how to prevent the problem from reappearing in the future.

To book an appointment with Jesse, call 416-515-8885 or on line. Questions and
requests can also be emailed to Jesse at

Thanks Jesse.