Try Setting a Fun Goal for 2012

How many of your New Year’s resolutions in the past years created stress a frustration when trying to achieve them?  I personal have set some really frustrating resolutions in previous years including no shoe shopping for a year.  Not fun.

This year, why not set a goal instead of a frustrating resolution?  Goals give us the opportunity for practice and discipline while allowing much more flexibility and forgiveness than a hard a fast resolution.  Also, goals are measurable and can be usually broken down into smaller goals.

 For instance, a few months ago I set a personal goal is to achieve full king pidgeon pose, a very challenging asana requiring signficant flexibility in the legs, spine, chest and arms. Knowing this would take months, I looked forward to each new variation building up to the full posture.   On my journey, I started with Pidgeon.  In this phase, I enjoyed some intense stretching, increasing the front hip’s ability to externally rotate while lengthening the opposite side’s one joint hip flexors.  



My next phase was to begin working towards a deep forward fold, increasing the flexibility of my gluteals and hip flexors while enjoying a grounding sensation.  Eventually, this become a position of comfort and rest.




My next step towards King Pidgeon was to add a quadreceps stretch, very gently at first to my upright Pidgeon.  This step requires much patience as the quadriceps is a large muscle that must be respected.  Eventually, my quadriceps gained enough flexibility to now allow both the one and two joint hip flexors to easily stretch, turning the posture into an enjoyable posture.


This evening was the first time I was able to achieve full Queen Pigeon, pose!  I thrilled and excited to make such a break through during my last yoga practice of 2011.

Now I have yet to achieve full King Pidgeon, but I have been really enjoying myself during this process as a work towards this goal.  definitely more fun that I have had in the pas working towards resolutions that ultimately make me feel deprived instead of the growth that I have been able to experience on my journey towards King Pidgeon.  I hope you too can find something joyful to work on as 2012 begins.

Namaste and Happy New Year, Sarah


New Yoga Class Offering

Sarah will be teaching a special 4 week Introduction to Yoga class at Wellness 365 every Wednesday night in January.  All are welcome.  The class will feature a slow flow Vinyasa style with heavy use of props and modifications lead by a licensed physical therapist and registered yoga instructor.  Pranayama (yogic breathing) and meditation will be included in every class.

This is the perfect class for beginners! Pre-registration is recommended to ensure your spot, but drop-ins are welcome as space allows.  Please call Wellness 365 at 847-637-1600 for additional information and to save your spot.  Be sure to wear clothing that stretches and please arrive at least 10 minutes early.

When: Wednesdays in January 7:15-8:30pm

Where: Wellness 365: 125 S. Wilke Rd., Suite 100 Arlington Heights, IL 60005

Cost: $80 for all 4 classes or $25 for a single class


Holiday Class Schedule

Due to the Christmas and New Years Day Holidays, there will be no Friday morning classes December 23rd or 30th.  Enjoy this time with your families and please join us back on January 6th at Creative Therapy Resource’s Des Plaines location.

Happy Holidays,


Join Me to Complete Yoga Journal’s 21 Day Challenge

During the holiday season, even the most well disciplined individuals end up overindulging in rich foods and decrease their exercise frequency.  Of course, the result is low energy and extra pounds.  Many people make vow to diet or exercise more starting January 1st only to give up a few days later.

Yoga Journal’s 21 Day Challenge is a great tool to help get back on track.    You are challenged to practice yoga daily, meditate for 15 minutes and eat at least one vegetarian meal a day.  Starting January 9th, participants receive a daily email with a link to either a beginner or intermediate yoga routine, guided meditation and vegetarian recipe.  The entire program is free, so there is no excuse to not give it a try.

I completed last year’s 21 Day Challenge and really enjoyed it.  The commitment to 3 weeks of daily practice re-energized my personal practice and I strongly recommend all of my readers give it a try.  I will definitely be participating again this January.

In order to participate, click on this link to sign up for the emails.

Photo Credit:

White Crane Cools Its Wings

White Crane Cools it Wings is one of my favorite Tai Chi exercises to use in the PT clinic.  It utilizes a “T stance”  that challenges both balance and leg strength.

Follow the video for some excellent instruction on this exercises.  Try to hold the position while keeping the body relaxed and be sure to breathe.  Enjoy!



Thanksgiving is normally a time to gather with family and friends, enjoy a good meal and enjoy each other’s company.  It is also a time to reflect on what we are grateful for.  This seemingly simple act of gratitude has been shown to help boost happiness levels.   As the holiday stress goes into high gear, the practice of gratitude can be an effective tool to ensure a happy holiday season

 What is gratitude? 

The act of appreciating what you have.    Research has shown the act of gratitude to be a very effective way to increase life-satisfaction.

How to practice? 

Any time the feeling of stress begins to elevate, take a few moments to think about everything that you are thankful for.  With practice, the practice of gratitude will become easier and more natural.  Another exercise is to write a letter of gratitude to someone, and then deliver and read it to them personally.

 How does this work?

Authentic happiness is the research focus of Dr. Martin Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.  He is the founder of positive psychology, a branch of psychology that focuses on the empirical study of such things as positive emotions, strengths-based character, and healthy institutions.  He has developed the VIA survey of Character Strengths, a tool that rates 24 signature strengths in the individual taking the survey.  Gratitude is one of the signature strengths.   Dr. Seligman has determined that gratitude is one of the top 5 strengths to increase happiness.  The theory is being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen to us are a wonderful way to bring a more positive perspective into your life.

To learn more and take the VIA survey of Character Strengths for yourself, please visit:

Commentary on Yoga Research

A case for careful literature review

The physical therapy (PT) world has been in a bit of an uproar about yoga lately, with several claims that the yoga community is encroaching into PT turf.  Unfortunately, the entire ordeal started with someone misinterpreting the 2005 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine by Sherman, The study, Comparing yoga, exercise and self care book for chronic low back pain: a randomized, controlled trial, is often cited in other documents, because it is the best designed research article on this topic and provides the most statistically significant data. 

The study essentially looks at the effects of medication usage, pain and disability for 3 groups that have chronic low back pain: 1. Yoga class, 2. General exercise class including aerobic drills, strengthening and stretching and 3.  A self-help book.  By the end of the study, the data showed that the yoga class group had large reductions in disability and pain usage compared to the exercise and book groups.  The correct interpretation of this data is yoga is an effective intervention for individuals with low back pain and should be utilized in conjunction with other evidence based interventions by health professionals.    

The uproar started in June in response to a heath alert posted on the John Hopkins health alert website discussing this research article.    The anonymous author mislabeled the general exercise group as “conventional physical therapy.”  That mistake made the readers unfamiliar with the study think that a group yoga class is better than physical therapy for chronic low back pain.   Even more therapists panicked when several additional publications commented on this wrong information.  What concerns me is that highly educated health professionals did not read it for themselves.

So what are the lessons to learned here?

  1. Read research articles at least weekly and really think about the design, the data and the author’s conclusions.
  2. Physical therapists that treat low back pain should learn how to incorporate yoga into their practice.
  3. Yoga teachers and yoga therapists should work in collaboration with physical therapists to achieve excellent patient outcomes.

I realize this is quite different from any other blog post that I have written, but I truly want the yoga and physical therapy community to be on the same page and work together to create amazing patient outcomes.




  1. Sherman K, et al. (2005) Comparing yoga, exercise and self care book for chronic low back pain: a randomized, controlled trial.  Ann Intern Med. 143, 849-56.

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