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August 27, 2023-Modifications and Healing-Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), Modified – Acceptance

So, I have a toe injury. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Reality is that the activity that causes me the most pain is yoga. Because we practice barefoot, without a stiff sole under my foot, the flexion in the joint aggravates what is called capsulitis. Bummer. I had to have a chat with myself this week about self-care, listening to my body and setting realistic guard rails around activity and what I should do to cure this. I have been a person who has heard “this is not a negotiation” from doctors as they have explained what I should and shouldn’t do to heal. I explained to the foot doctor that for me it is a balance between physical and mental health. Exercise and yoga keep me balanced, without it I could negatively spiral. My thoughts on this are complex as I fear increased injury that could more broadly curtail activity while simultaneously needing to move and breathe. While I cannot not practice yoga (don’t tell the doctor), I have taken some days off, focused on wearing my hiking shoes every day (great fashion statement at the bank with a dress), committed to anti-inflammatories, ice, and somewhat shorter walks. Oh, and a taping method I found on a YouTube video (please don’t tell the doctor that one either).

This whole situation has gotten me thinking about yoga accessibility and modifications. As instructors, we talk regularly about how yoga can be modified for anyone. It can. I It dawned on me that I need to embrace what I teach. I could practice wearing some shoes, especially outside. I could do more seated postures, hands and knees and less “pedaling” and sitting back on my heels! So, this week I am dedicating our practice to the spirit of modifications, finding ways to enjoy yoga while not exacerbating injuries and remaining true to why we practice, to feel better!!

Our Practice – Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) – A Modified Approach

I have always loved triangle pose. For years I practiced it as many of us were taught, bumping the hip out and “reaching” out long over the imaginary counter before side bending over. As one who has suffered with lower back, S-I joint issues my whole life, I learned a new way to approach this pose that does not stress the SI joint or result in promulgating its being “out of whack”. I also like having a block around as an additional modification to place my left lowered hand on as I am still recovering from my new hip on that side!

The benefits of triangle include strengthening the legs and back, stretching inner thighs, hamstrings, calves, spine, shoulders, chest and opens hips. The pose can feel energizing and helps with balance. It possibly stimulates the abdominal organs aiding with digestion.

How To:

  • Face the long side of the mat with your feet apart about the length of a leg. Right foot points to the top of the mat and left toes turn out approximately 45 degrees (maybe 10 oclock). Find what feels good in your lower back and allows you to feel stable.

  • Check in that the right thigh rolls out to bring the right knee in line with the second and third toe.

  • Engage the core, bring both arms up parallel to the floor and lengthen through the waist.

  • Inhale and imagine you are tipping over (like the teapot game some of us remember as kids), lengthening through the left side of the waist. Note: this approach is different from the way many of us were taught to shift or bump our hips out to the left and reaching out long to the right. This can result in the pelvis being uneven and potentially causing discomfort in the SI joint and lower back. Try it both ways and see how you feel.

  • Exhale and bring your right arm down, placing hand either on the leg or floor or a block. Rotate your chest and ribs toward the ceiling.

  • The left arm reaches toward the ceiling with one long line from left fingers down to right fingers, hand in line with shoulder.

  • Lengthen through the sides of neck and out through crown keeping neck in line with spine. You can look up towards your left hand or, if it feels better on your neck, down toward your right big toe. Breathe smoothly and find what feels good in your body and make appropriate adjustments. Only going as low as you can while keeping the back of the head, shoulders, buttocks leaning against the imaginary wall behind you. (Channeling Gumby)

  • To come out of the pose lift the left arm to the size coming to standing. Turn the toes to the other side of the mat and repeat on the other side.

Meditating on Modification

I reach back yet again with reference to Patanjali’s sutra 1.2, the meaning of yoga. The translation of the Sanskrit “Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah” is “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga”. Simply put, if we learn to control our mind (through meditation, breath, asanas, contemplation) we will achieve the goal of yoga. This approach helps us learn to accept life’s challenges, and through modifications – we can live our lives as Patanjali guided with a strong body, mind and moral compass.

Wild Geese – Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting— over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

Nurturing with Food - Tomato Basil Bruschetta - New Summer Recipe!!

What to do with a million tomatoes in August? Make bruschetta of course. Our go to appetizer to eat and share from late July until the last of the tomatoes are harvested in September. Keep it simple, less ingredients, we have found, is more. I eat it without cheese and when the tomatoes are fresh, there is nothing like it! (pair it with a plate of the pesto pasta, perfect summer meal).

See you on the mat,


Julia Anne

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