Yoga Class Update

Due to the September continuing education schedule, there will be no Friday morning yoga class on the following days this month:

September 7th

September 14th

September 21st

Class will resume weekly on September 28th.  Sorry for any inconvenience as we wrap up our Physical and Occupational Therapy continuing education classes for the year.


Safe Forward Folds

Forward folding asanas can be very beneficial and relaxing if performed correctly.  However, they have the potential to injure the spine and or the hamstrings if not properly performed.  The focus of this blog post will be to examine what muscles to contract and where the movement should come from in order to safely enjoy forward folds.

The safest way to perform forward fold asanas is with a hip hinge and maintaining a straight spine.  Additionally, standing sitting forward fold can be modified by bending the knees to accommodate for tight hamstrings.  Even long time yoga practitioners can continue to have tight hamstrings due to sitting for much of the day.

First, let us examine standing forward fold or Uttanasana:

In this image the spine is flat caused by co-contraction of the spinal extensors and  abdominal muscles.  Additionally, the knees are slightly bent to decrease the pressure on the hamstrings.  If additional stretch is desired, lift the tailbone up towards the ceiling instead of pushing the knees back.

Compare the above version of standing forward fold to the image below.  Note how the spine is rounded and the knees are fully extended.  This version produces maximal lumbar flexion and is completely passive, placing the lumbar spine at risk for injury.    Be sure to avoid moving your spine this way while performing Uttanasana.

The same principles apply to sitting forward bends.  Looking at the image of wide-angled seated forward bend or Upavistha Konasana, again we can notice the long upright spine and slightly bent knees.  This position allows for a safe and deep stretch of the hamstrings and hip adductor muscles.

In contrast, the spine in the picture below is very rounded.  This is not an effective or safe way to perform wide-leg forward fold.  Be sure to hinge at the hips and to keep the spine long by co-contracting the spinal extensors and abdominal muscles.

By taking care of your body’s position with asana practice, you will be able to enjoy your yoga practice without pain for many years to come.

2012 Continuing Education Schedule

My 2012 continuing education schedule has now been finalized.  All PT’s, PTA’s, OT’s and COTA’s are welcome to attend:

  • Yoga for Low Back Pain, 14 contact hours  includes lumbar classification, yoga asanas broken down by spinal movement,modifications of the asanas, pranayama (breath control), mediation, literature review and a sample yoga class.

Des Plaines, IL: June 23, 2012 and September 29, 2012

  • Yoga Therapy, 4 contact hours  includes gentle asanas to increase strength, balance, flexibility, decrease pain, improve posture and relax as well as meditation and breathing exercises.  Physiology of yoga and current research will also be discussed.

Des Plaines, IL: August 4, 2012 One Day Only!

  •   Tai Chi for Therapists, 7 contact hours includes modified exercises, sitting exercises and a modified version of the  Beijing 24 as well as a literature review and discussion of modifications.

Des Plaines, IL:  July 21, 2012 and September 21, 2012


Please visit the continuing education page for more details and how to register.  I have also written 5 home study courses new for this year.  Information on them can be also found in the continuing education page.  All are welcome to purchase the home studies, but CEU credit can only be provided for physical and occupational therapists and assistants at this time.  Thank you!

Yoga Breathing for Pain Reduction

It has been over a month since my last blog post because I have been extra busy authoring five new home study courses on evidenced based mind-body practices.  Writing these home studies provided me with an opportunity to read many recent research articles on the topics of yoga and tai chi, giving me many new ideas for my blog.

Today, we are going to examine a pranayama technique that has been shown by medical researchers to be an effective pain reliever, double length breathing

A 2010 study conducted by Zatra and colleges showed that controlled breathing at a reduced rate can significantly reduce feelings of pain for both health individuals as well as those suffering from fibromyalgia (a chronic pain disorder).¹  This study compared a yogic breathing technique that reduces the normal respiratory rate by one-half to breathing at the normal respiratory rate. Compared to normal breathing, slow breathing reduced ratings of pain intensity and unpleasantness in all test subjects.

Please try this technique yourself whenever you are experiencing pain for 5-15 minutes.  After performing double length breath for that, you should feel significantly less pain.  Please note this breathing technique should be utilized with any other treatments your physician and/or physical therapist recommend.  It is not intended to replace usual care practices, but to enhance them.


  1. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position and begin to breathe in and out through your nose.
  2. Without changing your breathing pattern in anyway, count how many seconds you normally take to breathe in and out.
  3. Slowly lengthen your breath until it is taking twice as long to perform each inhalation and exhalation.  Try to have both parts of the breath take the same amount of time.
  4. Continue for 5-15 minutes breathing slowly and evenly.



  1.  Zatra, A.J., et al (2010) The effects of slow breathing on affective responses to pain stimuli: An experimental study.  Pain, 149; 12-18.

Photo Credit

Chair Yoga Part Two

This post is the continuation of Chair Yoga Part One.  In this post, we will explore more great ways to utilize a chair to modify yoga asanas.  Enjoy!

Sitting Spinal Twist

  1. —  Sit at the edge of your chair
  2. —  Inhale and lengthen your spine
  3. —  Exhale and rotate to the R, starting at the  base of the spine first
  4. —  When you have reached maximum stretch, reach for the back or side of the chair
  5. —  Hold for 5-10 breaths
  6. —  As you inhale, lift the spine up
  7. —  As you exhale, try to rotate  more
  8. —  Repeat to the other side



Sitting Backbend

  1. —  Sit on the edge of the chair
  2. —  Reach back for either the seat of the chair or the back of the chair
  3. —  Breathe in, lengthening the spine
  4. —  Exhale and arch the spine backwards
  5. —  Hold for 5-10 breaths

Sitting Side Bend

  1. —  Sit at front edge of chair with the spine lifted
  2. —  Inhale and reach the L arm upward, rest the R hand on R leg
  3. —  Exhale and lean body to the right, making sure not to rotate the body
  4. —  Hold for 5-10 breaths
  5. —  Focus breath into the L side of the body
  6.       Repeat on the other side




Chair Corpse Pose

  1. —Lay on your back with your knees bent directly in front of a chair
  2. —Lift your legs up to allow your heels to rest on the chair
  3. —Scoot your body forward until your lower legs rest comfortably on the chair
  4. —Rest arms comfortably at your sides with palms up
  5. —Relax every part of your body and breathe deeply
  6. —Hold for 2-10 minutes


Yoga Class at Wellness 365 Permanently Cancelled

This post to announce the unfortunate decision by the owners of Wellness 365 to cancel my Wednesday night yoga class at their facility.    I hope to announce a new offering in the upcoming weeks, so please stay tuned.  As always, all are welcome to drop in my Friday morning class at Creative Therapy Resource, Ltd.



Chair Yoga Part One

As a yoga teacher that is also a Physical Therapist, I have gravitated towards teaching gentle yoga classes featuring many modifications and options to allow individuals with all levels of flexibility and strength participate.  One of my favorite props is a chair.  It acts as an extension of either the arms or the legs and allows participants to experience asanas they would otherwise be unable to enjoy.  This post and my next will feature some of my most utilized chair postures.  Enjoy

Sitting Mountain Pose

  1. Sit on the edge of your chair with your hands in prayer position (chest height)
  2. Lift the spine up and pull the shoulder blades down and in
  3. Actively press your feet into the ground
  4. Keep your abdominal muscles strong as you perform yoga breathing
  5. Hold this position and focus on your breathing for at least 30 seconds





Chair Balance the Cat

  1. Stand 2-3 feet away from the back of your chair
  2. Bend down and hold onto the back of the chair
  3. Engage the abdominals
  4. Exhale and lift the R leg up
  5. Hold for 5-10 breaths
  6. Lower the leg down and repeat for the other side

Variation: hold onto front of the chair for a deeper bend (as pictured)


Chair Upward Facing Dog

  1. Rest a sturdy chair against a wall or on a mat
  2. Stand 2’ away from the front of the chair
  3. Rest your hands on the front edge of the seat
  4. Inhale and step the feet back an additional 1-2’, resting the balls of the feet on the floor
  5. Exhale, shift your weight forward and drop your hips
  6. Keep the legs, trunk and arms active as you hold this position for 5-10 breaths




Chair Downward Facing Dog

  1. Rest a sturdy chair against a wall or on a mat
  2. Stand 2’ away from the front of the chair
  3. Rest your hands on the front edge of the seat
  4. Inhale and step the feet back an additional 1-2’, resting the feet comfortably on the floor
  5. Exhale and shift your weight back and bend from the hips to create an inverted “V”
  6. Hold for 5-10 breaths


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