Massage & Yoga

Improving overall health, vitality, and lifestyle through the integration of Massage Therapy and the practice of Yoga

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What is Yoga? More than media hype.


As a yoga teacher, I am often asked, “What kind of yoga do you teach?”  This question always makes me chuckle because yoga is more about how you practice than a kind, a style, or a program defined by someone’s name.  It’s not an Iyengar, Bikram, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Hatha, or Vinyasa class.  It’s about exploring the process on your own terms and accepting where you are in that process rather than reaching a goal.  Marketing and the media are at the root of many common misconceptions about what yoga really is.  For example, you may have heard that the word itself means “union” or “to yoke together” but that definition does nothing to explain how yoga applies to you, the yoga practitioner.  More than likely most of what you think you know about yoga has come from someone marketing their program through the media.  Perhaps the best way to explain what yoga is then, is to first tell you what it is not.

Yoga is not a religion, although its practice can lead to a connection of the mind, body and spirit.  Yoga is not an exercise routine; therefore most yoga taught in gyms is misnamed given that the classes are designed with that goal in mind.  The point of yoga is not to bend your body in contorted ways in an attempt to mimic someone in a picture, video or classroom.  In fact, one should dispense with all goal-oriented thinking in order to achieve true yoga. Yoga is not competitive, it does not involve grunting and it is not a means of weight-loss.  However, it is physically intense at times and you may sweat, so losing weight could be an added benefit.  Yoga is not just for women.  In fact, until the early 20th century yoga was predominantly practiced by men because of strong sexist attitudes in India.  Most importantly, yoga does not have any prerequisites such as flexibility, balance or strength.  It is for everyone with a sincere interest and intention to try. 

So then, what is YOGA?  My personal definition of yoga is “stillness in motion.”  It is a moving meditation which links the mind to the body through an internal exploration of self, brought forth by systematic external movements coordinated with breath.  Yoga is created when one attains balance and finds freedom of movement through focused attention to breath and surrender of postural habits.  It is about what you feel, not what you look like.

All human bodies are capable of moving in roughly the same way, barring any structural abnormalities.  It’s true that some people are naturally more flexible than others, but that doesn’t mean that they are “better at yoga”.  In fact, I have met plenty of people who are capable of reaching very difficult poses but struggle with what it feels like to actually experience yoga; the union of mind and body, the “yoking’ of the physical to the spiritual.  They may be able to mimic challenging poses but they are not practicing yoga, rather, they are doing gymnastics.  Without an intention of selfless surrender, there is no yoga. 

In truth, there is no “yoga perfect”, only yoga practice.  Just as there is no perfect life; only living.  We are all in practice.  The only difference is the individual experience, how you receive the yoga within yourself.  While it is common to want to “push” yourself farther to reach a new or difficult pose, such an achievement-oriented focus often leads to injury.  Yoga is not a physical pursuit to be mastered but an experience to be nurtured and savored.  We are all students, separated only by our place along the road to self-awareness.  So let it take time…breathe…relax.  It’s not about the goal; it’s about the journey!  I often give my students this analogy to ponder:  “How many breaths does it take to melt an ice cube?  That depends on the size of the cube and the intention of the breath.  Whether your body feels like an ice cube or an iceberg, both melt at the same pace; one breath at a time.” 

Namaste,
Matthew Corrigan, CMT, RYT
Oct. 30, 2013

Monday, October 22, 2012

Testimonials September 2012


Matthew,

I intended to email you sooner to thank you profusely for your brilliance last Friday.  You helped to relieve another bout of discomfort in my pelvic floor (which I didn't mention as it feels too "personal' an issue to discuss).  In addition, I think you discovered the genesis of this very uncomfortable (and stressful) condition that reared its ugly head last summer.  I put in a call to the pelvic floor therapist I saw for several months and she confirmed the possibility that the hip could be causing and/or certainly exacerbating the pelvic floor issues.  She recommended … an osteopath with whom she has worked... 

I know you have faith in your competence but I hope you enjoy hearing words that celebrate your skill and intuition.  (We) feel grateful for your presence in our lives and greatly benefit from the relationship we have with you both on the table and in the yoga studio.

With Great Appreciation,

S


Matthew,

Has anyone ever told you how gifted you are when it comes to the body
and movement, okay well just let me say...you are gifted, in your
calling, in your element.

I should have put it together when you said something about my left
foot pushing off and twisting, because earlier I went over some
running pictures with (my trainer) and he said something about my left leg
kicking out in some of the pictures. I had them with me yesterday and
if I would have put 2 and 2 together I would have shown them to you.

So this is what happens … when I am warming up and running a X:XX pace or slower, everything seems to be fine. When I pick up the pace to a X:XX and faster the hamstring and hip get tight, and you are right, my left foot flares out behind me because it lands out at an angle, so there is a twisting motion it seems like in my hip joint, which is why it is sometimes uncomfortable to sit…

Thank you Matthew,

G

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Viva Tysons July - August 2012 article online

Be sure to check out my July August 2012 Viva Tysons article on Connecting Back to Nature With Sun Salutations.  You can find me on page 34-35.

Namaste,

Matthew

Monday, May 14, 2012

Connecting Back to Nature with Sun Salutations!


Our day-to-day lives can be hectic.  The deadlines and agendas driving our activities often leave us little or no down time.  Creating a few moments of peace and reflection each morning as I practice my Sun Salutations brings my life into balance leaving me ready to face the challenges of a chaotic world.  I learned long ago that in order to maintain a life in balance, I needed a regular movement routine that combined the benefits of both cardiovascular and weight bearing exercise.  In yoga, the 12 pose Sun Salutation sequence is the perfect blend of each.  When combined with focused breathing, the result is a simple 10-15 minute workout that invigorates the body and calms the mind.

Strictly speaking, Sun Salutations are not exercise but were originally performed as a morning adoration to the life giving sun.  Surya Namaskar as it is known in Sanskrit literally means “to bow or adore oneself to the sun”.  On a physical level, Sun Salutations assist the body’s natural functions by activating the circulatory, digestive, nervous and endocrine systems.  Intended to be performed outside facing the morning sun, the Surya Namaskar sequence when combined with nasal breathing becomes more than a simple exercise routine.  Instead, it increases our spiritual connection to nature and resembles a meditative practice similar to Tai Chi or Qigong.

I invite you to try the following Sun Salutation sequence in its truest form.  If you are unable to practice outdoors, at least perform the sequence in the spirit it was intended by facing to the east.  To learn more about the Sun Salutation sequence and other yoga poses, please visit me on the web at www.pranahealthworks.com.

Matthew Corrigan, CMT, RYT – Certified Massage Therapist & Registered Yoga Teacher

To me, if life boils down to one thing, it's movement. To live is to keep moving.

The Sun Salutation Sequence

Begin in a standing posture with your big toes touching and your heels slightly apart in Mountain Pose.
1.                     Breathe in through the nose as you sweep your arms out to the sides and up overhead.  Look up at your hands as you bring the palms together on the end of the inhalation.
2.                     As you begin your exhale, dive into a forward bend keeping the back straight, bending the body at the hip joints.  The arms come down in the same sweeping arc and reach toward the floor in front of you. (Note:  If your hands don’t reach the floor, focus on keeping your back straight and put a slight bend in the knees).
3.                     Inhale as you lift the straight back parallel to the floor sliding your hands to your shins and looking forward with the eyes.  (Note:  If you bent the knees in the forward bend, straighten them).
4.                     Release back into the forward bend on the exhale being conscious of keeping your back straight as you let the gaze fall to the floor with the arms.
5.                     Bend the knees deeply as you inhale and step the right foot back into a lunge followed by the left foot so that you end in a plank position (high push up) at the end of the inhalation.
6.                     Exhale as you lower the body all the way to the floor in a controlled release.  Keep the elbows tucked in close to the body and resist the force of gravity until you reach the floor.
7.                     Point your toes back and inhale as you lift the head and chest into a Cobra pose looking up toward the sky.  Elbows remain slightly bent and pulled into the body.
8.                     On the exhale, release back down to the floor keeping the hands under the chest.  Curl the toes under.
9.                     Inhale as you lift the body up onto the knees, continue by lifting the knees and pressing the shoulder back toward the feet into Downward Facing Dog.  Down Dog should looks like a 90 degree arc at the hip joints with the arms and legs straight, hands and feet on the floor.  Use the hand to push the shoulders back toward the feet as you try to work the heels to the ground.  Remain in Downward Facing Dog for 5 breaths through the nose.
10.                  Inhale as you step the right foot forward between the hands into a lunge followed by the left foot ending in the same position as Step 3 above.
11.                  Exhale and release into a forward bend.  Step 2 above.
12.                  Inhale as you sweep the arms out to the side and bring the body upright into the same position as Step 1 above.  Pay close attention to keeping the back straight as you raise the arms overhead and look at your hand touching.
13.                  Exhale and return to the standing pose you started with (Mountain Pose).

Monday, November 14, 2011

What About Unity?


I hesitate to post on this subject since it does not directly pertain to the work I do through Prana Healthworks but with the Holiday season approaching, I thought I might share some of my thoughts on how we as individuals can use the spirit of giving to help our country and its citizens through this difficult financial time.  Before I put forth my idea, I want to first draw attention to what I see as a major disconnect between all the inhabitants of this great nation of ours.  It seems everywhere I look these days there are signs and symbols of patriotism and nationalism.  “Support Our Troops”, “God Bless America”, and other similar themes echo from the bumpers and tailgates of our cars from coast to coast.  “Old Glory”, the stars and stripes is proudly displayed on buildings and houses nationwide as well as being tattooed to nearly every Harley Davidson I see, both man and machine.  Nationalism is everywhere but something equally important is missing from message.  Unity! What about unity?

My father was a veteran of World War II.  He fought in the Philippine Islands and in Korea.  The freedoms he fought for are a great source of pride in my family.  Like many of his fellow soldiers, he came home with a desire to apply those freedoms to his country thus they created a great sense of national pride.  Along with that pride was a common bond that was forged on the battlefields of Europe and Asia as well as in towns large and small back here in America.  That bond was their unity in a common cause and everyone from my parent’s generation fought the same war for that cause.  To them, rationing the staples we take for granted was a way of life and each family supported the next in order to ensure that the men fighting abroad had what they needed to succeed in defeating their enemies.  After the war, our country flourished like no other time in history because every man, woman, and child was unified behind that cause.  The goal was to make every product the best and provide impeccable service to all patrons because that what America stood for.  UNITED States of America!

On September 11, 2001, our country was attacked in a horrific way.  Many of us watched mesmerized as thousands of our countrymen perished in the collapsing buildings and plane wreckage.  That day was a turning point.  Our national hearts were stirred once again.  Unfortunately, soon after, the 9/11 spectacle was replaced on our televisions and computer screens with more current affairs.  We all detached ourselves from the most devastating event in our countries’ history in the last 50 years because it didn’t directly impact our complacent lives.  There was no rationing needed.  Prices remained relatively stable.  No one except the families of the victims had to sacrifice their day to day lives, thus what should have unified our country actually further segregated us.  Our economy took a nose dive, greed and corruption were exposed in our financial institutions and apathy for the war Iraq and Afghanistan divided our nation politically.  Today, the rich continue to get richer, the poor remain poor, and what was once a stable middle class family, now has to rely on savings and frugality in order to maintain a modest living.  Despite the fact that we all witnessed how quickly the world can change in a matter of minutes, none of us seem willing to commit ourselves to solving the problems exposed by that cataclysmic event. 

What we need is to believe in each other again and support each other as Americans from the greatest nation on the Earth.  The nation our fathers and mother, grandfathers and grandmothers sacrificed so much to protect and rebuild.  We need to be diligent about choosing locally made goods and services and stop relying on foreign imports of oil, goods, and services.  Our nation is being sold lock, stock and barrel to the highest bidder and we are all standing by watching, mesmerized.  This attack is not coming from hijacked planes though, but from corporate greed and foreign outsourcing.  We have the resources, the ingenuity, and the man power to regain our strength as a nation but to do so, we have to put aside our selfish, capitalistic, corporate dictated mentality and become a nation who is not only proud of its heritage but one that is willing to sacrifice the allure cheaper goods and labor in favor of domestically made products and services produced by small businesses.

What I am proposing this holiday season is simple.  Instead of purchasing mountains of Chinese made electronics and plastics, or boxes full of sweatshop produced clothing that support corporate excess; buy into local small businesses and domestic entrepreneurs.  Purchase your friends and family members gifts made by hand in this country.  Give gift certificates that support service industries like hair stylists, personal trainers, and massage therapists!  With near double-digit unemployment in this country, it is time for Americans to unite behind one another and make a stand in favor of quality not quantity.  Share the wealth at home this holiday season and keep it out of the pockets of foreign millionaires.  You’ll be putting food in the mouths of your neighbors.  You’ll be buying clothes for the children in “your” child’s classes.  You’ll be making a difference in the lives of people in your home town who really need it most.  Your hard earned dollars become their hard earned dollars.  It our turn to be the heroes and protect the freedoms that our ancestors fought and died for.  Keep your dollars in America this year! 
God Bless You and God Bless America!

Matthew Corrigan, CMT, RYT
Prana Healthworks 2011