find your seat

find your seat

Find Your Seat

3 Ways to Sit without Knee, Hip or Back Pain!

Find Your Seat

While the deep benefits of seated meditation are known to and have been experienced by many, there are people the world over who find the practice to be inaccessible for the simple reason that they can’t find and maintain a comfortable seat. This is true for me, even to this day, no matter how open my hips are, or how strong my core and back are. If I try and sit on the ground for an extended period of time one of my legs will fall asleep, or I will at the least just be uncomfortable. If you have the same experience you will find these particular postures to be very supportive!

THE CHALLENGES

Why is it challenging to sit? There is a host of reasons why we might find it difficult to sit on the ground – perhaps primarily because we just don’t do it. Sitting in a chair does not allow our hips to go through their full range of motion each day, and as a result our back and hip flexors don’t develop the strength needed to keep us upright. Yoga can serve as an amazing practice to redevelop the capacity to sit more efficiently, although it won’t happen over night – which is why its necessary to check out the 3 postures in the video and photos below, so you can sit comfortably on the ground while you are working on the long term hip opening journey.

Trying to re-pattern our body takes repetitive practice. As with any other skill, you can only learn from doing it. That is why I created Hips: Rock and Unlock Em  – I wanted to support you in feeling good in your body (low back in particular)  on a daily basis. 

Is meditation Calming?

When Most people begin a meditation practice they expect it to have the results that everyone preaches; calm mind, relaxing, stress reducing. While some people do experience these results right away, others may experience the opposite. In weight lifting you must build a foundation of strength before you can move on to heavy compound movements, and establishing this foundation can at times be challenging and discouraging. Meditation is very much the same, the practice of it might feel like you are lifting heavy weights for your mind and as a result you might initially only experience the challenge of it. With repetition your mind will get stronger, you will be able to focus longer and the results will come faster!

Is meditation Calming?

When Most people begin a meditation practice they expect it to have the results that everyone preaches; calm mind, relaxing, stress reducing. While some people do experience these results right away, others may experience the opposite. In weight lifting you must build a foundation of strength before you can move on to heavy compound movements, and establishing this foundation can at times be challenging and discouraging. Meditation is very much the same, the practice of it might feel like you are lifting heavy weights for your mind and as a result you might initially only experience the challenge of it. With repetition your mind will get stronger, you will be able to focus longer and the results will come faster!

Assess your hips

Each of us has our own movement patterns which cause some muscles to be stronger, some weaker, some are tight, some are not, etc. We also have different bone structures that will make some positions easier than others. Finding a comfortable seat is one of the most important aspects of a seated meditation posture. If you are uncomfortable it is very hard to move the mind beyond the discomfort of the body. This is why I have provided three options for seated meditation postures. Go through each and ask yourself which one is most sustainable. Keep in mind there is no perfect seated posture for meditation, there is only the best one for you and that is the one you feel most comfortable in, and that also allows you to stay awake and present.

Assess your hips

Each of us has our own movement patterns which cause some muscles to be stronger, some weaker, some are tight, some are not, etc. We also have different bone structures that will make some positions easier than others. Finding a comfortable seat is one of the most important aspects of a seated meditation posture. If you are uncomfortable it is very hard to move the mind beyond the discomfort of the body. This is why I have provided three options for seated meditation postures. Go through each and ask yourself which one is most sustainable. Keep in mind there is no perfect seated posture for meditation, there is only the best one for you and that is the one you feel most comfortable in, and that also allows you to stay awake and present.

Option 1 - Bhadrasana (Hero's Pose)

My personal favorite seated posture for those who have tighter outer hips and inner thighs as it requires little flexibility in these areas. It presents a challenges for those with tight quads, and shin muscles. Using blankets and blocks can help alleviate these challenges. I would suggest warming up and stretching the thighs and ankles prior to working on this posture. In the above video I go over a twisted thigh stretch and a seated posture on heels. If these postures prove to be too challenging after a warm up, then this posture is likely to cause discomfort during a seated meditation.

Option 2: Cross Legged

The so called “easy seat” – an ironic title, as it can be incredibly misleading. For those with open inner thighs, hip flexors and outer hips this can be an easy posture indeed, but if that is not the case for you then you’ll definitely want to use props. Using the right amount of blankets and block support can make this posture easier and more accessible.

Option 3: On Chair with Blocks

In the video I show a seated option call sidasana, however I wanted to offer one other one here – Sitting in a chair can seem like cheating, as it can be incredibly easy to get too relaxed in. Here you will notice how I prepare the chair with blocks and a blanket and I sit on the edge of the seat so that I still used my back and hip flexors to keep me upright. Some level of muscle engagement is important to stay awake and present when meditating.

How to Start Meditation

The best way to practice meditation, like anything else, is to have guidance. When I was younger I struggled for years to meditate without the support of a teacher, and mostly I became frustrated and lost in my thoughts. This is why I created the Elements of Mastery online program – to provide a way for you to begin practicing yoga and meditation together. The second workshop “Earth and Water” is the perfect Daily practice for both hip openers and meditation! Can’t afford EOM? Dont have access to a teacher? meditation is still possible but you have to start easy. I suggest a 1 minute meditation practice daily for 2 weeks. Set a timer for yourself and narrow your attention to your breath. Try to feel as it enters your body and feel as it leaves your body. After 2 weeks,  do this same thing for 5 minutes daily , with a timer set. Work your way up to 17 minutes a day, but don’t try and do this all at once as you you will likely become discouraged. Focus is like a muscle that needs strengthening and it takes time to develop.

How to Start Meditation

The best way to practice meditation, like anything else, is to have guidance. When I was younger I struggled for years to meditate without the support of a teacher, and mostly I became frustrated and lost in my thoughts. This is why I created the Elements of Mastery online program – to provide a way for you to begin practicing yoga and meditation together. The second workshop “Earth and Water” is the perfect Daily practice for both hip openers and meditation! Can’t afford EOM? Dont have access to a teacher? meditation is still possible but you have to start easy. I suggest a 1 minute meditation practice daily for 2 weeks. Set a timer for yourself and narrow your attention to your breath. Try to feel as it enters your body and feel as it leaves your body. After 2 weeks,  do this same thing for 5 minutes daily , with a timer set. Work your way up to 17 minutes a day, but don’t try and do this all at once as you you will likely become discouraged. Focus is like a muscle that needs strengthening and it takes time to develop.

From Body to Mind

One thing I noticed early on in my meditation practice was the discomfort of my body. I couldn’t focus my mind on anything when I was seated because I was distracted by my back, my knee, my neck, and so on. This realization led me to the physical practice of yoga. Through the yoga practice I gained a heightened sense of awareness of my body. At first this was almost a curse, because I could feel everything – including my discomfort! Over time and practice I gained a bit of mastery in my body, in that I could feel the discomfort and choose postures to better accommodate myself and release it. The seated meditation practice became so much more enjoyable when I could extend my attention beyond the physical, knowing that I wasn’t causing damage by forcing myself to sit through knee, or back pain. While I do believe that some pain in the body can be a result of mental projection, I also know first hand that placing love and attention on the body can support the health of the mind.  There really isn’t a divide between brain and body – the mind is a collective of all our physical and emotional experiences. For sound mental health to be our primary state of being we must get to know ourselves on all levels and develop our awareness. 

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Get 2 full hours with Matt Giordano focusing on the techniques that increase the range of motion in your hips and provide long lasting freedom. You will have immediate, unlimited access, and can enjoy the benefits today!

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#1 Tip To Advance Your Practice

#1 Tip To Advance Your Practice

Dharana: The Mastery Approach

#1 Tip to Advance Your Yoga Practice

dharana Leads to Mastery 

 

There are multiple reasons why we practice asana (the physical practice of yoga), but most of us would agree that the primary one is that we feel better afterwords. Asana offers us an opportunity to get to know our body deeper level because it demands the full attention of our mind. You can’t mentally check out while holding a balance posture, you must stay present. Its that type of absolute focus that allows us to advance in anything we do. In the yoga sutras the harnessing of our minds attention to focus on one thing is referred to as Dharana. We can get to the state of Dharana on and off the mat, it’s a skill that can permeate every aspect of our life. To become masterful at anything we do we must practice this single pointed focus, so how do we do it in our asana practice?

The challenge most of us face is that our only measure of progress in the asana practice is attainment of postures. I say asana specifically because the yoga practice includes far more than the study of the physical body, and for this discussion I want to target the development of our physical awareness. If the postures are our only measurement than we subconsciously will strive for the ability to achieve more of them so long as we feel safe enough. On the other hand if we dont feel safe than we will likely hold ourselves back from our potential. I’d like to invite you to focus your attention on something more specific in your physical practice: targeted, intentional muscle activation and the sensations you experience while doing so. Instead of practicing many postures, focus on fewer postures with several muscle activations. The body has a tremendous amount of muscles so limit your options by focusing on one area of your body i.e. the hips, shoulders, spine, ankles, core, etc. This is how I structure my Elements of Mastery immersion, I take you through simple postures while targeting each area of the body throughout the weekend, or online course. In the video below I give the example of how to activate 3 different muscle groups in the “hips” category for one single posture, lunge pose.

What Does it mean to be advanced?

The practice of yoga is always about developing some form of awareness through intentional actions. Advanced in the physical practice of asana means heightened proprioception of the body, or “Body Awareness”. Understanding how to activate the various muscles of the body in order to move your bones/joints and be able to feel the sensations of these action is what qualifies an advanced practitioner. For some that may result in complex postures that require flexibility and strength, and for others it might be living a more pain free life. In any case “advanced” is not aesthetic its functional which may or may not be visually pleasing to someone watching. The recent interest in fascia, connective tissue of the body, has revealed many findings in modern research. While researchers are just a few years into the study of connective tissue, studies are showing the correlation between proprioception and chronic pain – those that are less aware of and capable of moving or activating certain areas of their body also experience chronic pain in these areas. What that means for us practicing yoga is to use the practice to develop greater body awareness if we want to decrease chronic pain. Watch the Video below to see how I explore different muscle groups within a simple lunge posture

4 KEY MOVEMENTS

To simplify your adventure lets look at one way of breaking down potential engagement into 4 directional movements.

  1. Squeeze in: This can be any movement where the extremities are moving or trying to move toward each other, or more specifically toward the midline of the body. It can also mean the front body contracting inward toward the center of our core – a full tuck position or balasana childs pose. In anatomy terms I am referring to Adduction, and Flexion of the body.
  2. Push Out: This is the opposite engagements or movements- away from the midline or when the front body expands like you are stretching out after a good nights sleep. Anatomically speaking this is Abduction and Extension of the body.
  3. Turn in: When the Extremities Rotate toward the midline of the body
  4. Turn out: When the Extremities rotate outward away from the midline.

In addition you have side bending and twisting. Side Bending is a push out on one side and a squeeze in on the opposite, while twisting the spine is a rotation along the central axis. My suggestion is to start with the four key movements as they will provide a strong platform to work with

ELEMENTS

Another approach toward simplification of the complexity of the body is using the elements of nature (Earth, Water, Fire, Air). This is the basis that I use for the Elements of Mastery both the online version and live immersions. With the elements you can still refer back to the 4 Key Movements.

Earth: The way I structure the earth practice in EOM is we look at the foundations of our postures – the two main connectors to the earth are the feet and the Hands. There are 4 main directions of the ankles and if you practice these joint articulations throughout your standing postures you will gain a mastery over the feet and ankles – same is true for the hands.

Water: The Element of Motion and Emotion appropriately relates to the hips which are the main area of our body that initiates movement from one place to another. The video above is a great example of hip activation in one posture. To really dive deep into developing awareness of the hips check out Hips: Rock Em and Unlock Em

Fire: Relates to the Core, the four directions of core activation are Flexion, Extension, Rotation, and Lateral flexion. Of these, Flexion and Rotation are most accurate to the element of Fire. To get to know these best you will want to practice Part 3 and 4 of Elements of Mastery.

Air: Air relates to Latteral flexion and extension of the spine along with thoracic diaphragmatic breathing. Part 4 and 5 of Elements of Mastery.

4 KEY MOVEMENTS

By exploring the multiple options within just a few postures, you will gain tremendous insight to your body.  When you focus your attention in this way, more advanced postures will likely become accessible simply because of your increased ability to activate muscles and move your joints. This masterful approach done over the course of time will increase the health of your muscle tissue leading to increased range of motion and greater strength.

Dharana is the practice of focusing your attention, or harnessing the full power of your mind. Now you know how to apply it to your body, but you can also apply this skill to anything you do.

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