Malasana, sometimes also called Garland Pose or Yogi Squat looks very simple but is often difficult for us to achieve. It requires the perfect balance of mobility and stability in the ankles, knees, hips, pelvis, and spine, as it works the quadricep, hamstring, glute, and calf muscles of the legs, plus, it strengthens the lower back and core.
There are also many benefits that malasana has for your body, especially in our culture of sitting. It is a very effective way to release the lower back, to ground your energy, and even to tone the entire lower body. It works the quadricep, hamstring, glute, and calf muscles of the legs, plus, it strengthens the lower back and core.
Here’s how to do it:
Start by placing your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart, and turning your toes out just a bit. Don’t worry if you don’t get it just right, you can always re-adjust your stance later. Next, drop your hips as if sitting down, as far as you can drop them. Depending on your body proportions and flexibility, your heels may lift anywhere from just a bit to a lot, and that’s okay. Try to keep them reaching for the floor, but don’t force the heels down.
Once your lower half is situated and stable, bring your elbows inside your knees, press your palms together, in prayer position. Use your elbows to further guide your knees apart, and push your chest through your knees. Focus on lengthening your spine. Depending on your torso length, you may find your elbows a little higher or lower on the inner thighs.
There can be some trouble shooting for malasana, here is what I see most often:
- Stressing over heels not touching the ground. Heels not reaching the ground can mean lots of things, from tighter hamstrings, to knee troubles, to simply unchanging body proportions. The simplest solution in class is to slide your blanket up under your heels to support your malasana base.
- Knees collapsed in. This is one you want to be cautious of, as we really want to protect our knee joints. Often times this can come from tight hip flexors or even an unstable core. Ensure the knees are tracking over the center of the ankle and the toes are pointed the same direction as the knees. Sometimes this may mean that you have to adjust the width of your feet to be slightly wider or narrower depending on your proportions.
- Aystemmetry. Often this is due to a previous lower body injury, and sometimes we are just tighter on the dominant side of our body. If your malsana is leaning or tilting unevenly—lift your hips, using a prop such as a block, blanket, or even a small chair under your hips until your hips are parallel with the floor and the compromised side is in balancedFalling backwards. Falls happen! If you find yourself falling in malasana, usually this happens when trying to get those heels to the ground, try tucking a block behind your sits bones. You want to still encourage your weight to be in your feet, but that little support can keep you from falling backwards and allow you to express the pose.
Bonus tip: Practice this at home by holding on to a countertop or door knob and sinking your hips back (to a block or not) so that you can work on the shape, alignment, and stabilizing those muscles with less risk of falling.
Practice these tips and soon you will be able to sit in malasana and use it as a go to position to counteract all of the sitting we do in our day-to-day lives.
English: Downward Facing Dog
Sanskrit: Adho Mukha Svanasana
Does taking 3 breaths in downward facing dog feel like an eternity? Don’t worry, I feel you. It used to for me too, I used to cringe when the instructor would say, “let’s meet in down dog” and then we would wait for everyone to meet there. Today we are going to breakdown this common posture and help you comfortable relax into one down dog.
Here’s how to do it:
Starting from a forward fold, place your hands shoulder-width apart on the mat. Really plug your hands into the mat. You can bend your knees as much as you need to in order to get there. Next, step your feet back on at a time, keeping them somewhere around hip-width apart, maybe a little closer. You are stepping back as if you are going into plank, but not quite that far away from your hands. Keep your feet close enough to your hands to be able to push your hips up in the air, elongating your spine. I like to think of yoga in terms of making shapes, and you are making the shape of a piece of pizza with down dog, where the crust side is your hands and feet.
Most often, I see these struggles and frustrations with down dog:
- Thinking your legs have to be straight. They sure don’t have to be. It’s much more important to push your hips up and have a straight elongated spine, this means anything from a gentle to generous bend in your knees is a-okay.
- Worrying about getting those heels flat. Your heels don’t have to be flat. This is something to aspire to but take a lot of time (and hamstring flexibility to get to). Let those heels come up off the ground, walk the dog (alternate bending and flexing the knee and ankle) to gradually build your strength and flexibility. If you need some extra support, out a rolled up blanket under your heels.
- Stiffening or scrunching up your neck. Be sure and let your neck be loose and fluid. Moving your shoulders away from your ears and flattening out your armpits by pushing up your hips really helps with this. Keep your head in between your upper arms and gaze towards your belly button.
- Painful wrists. Usually this is caused by gripping with the fingertips instead of suction cupping the palms and really plugging them into the floor or pouring weight too far forward into the wrists. If your wrists hurt, play with the angle, push the hips up further, bend the knees to flatten the back. You can use blocks under your hands to change the angle and take some weight out of the wrists. Alternatively, put your forearms on the ground and avoid the wrist action all together.
Practice these tips and in no time you will be comfortable “hanging out in down dog” for as many breaths as you need to. If you need some hands on help with making down dog feel right for you, join us for the free Beginner Yoga Basics Workshop on Sunday, October 7th.
Which is better…CBD Oil or Essential Oils?
Let’s cut right to the chase, they are both amazing in their own ways, but one certainly stands out as a more holistic approach to what ails you.
Occasionally we get asked some form of this comparison question, “which is better… X Essential Oil or CBD Oil?” or “is copaiba oil really better than CBD?” As with most topics in wellness, it can be difficult to separate the science from the marketing hype, so let’s break it down for you here by starting with a little pertinent scientific information on the endocannabinoid system, essential oils, and CBD oil.
The Endocannabinoid System
Have you ever heard of it? It’s totally fine if you haven’t, because it was actually only discovered a few decades ago. In science, a discovery that is only a few decades old is often not fully developed, and true to this pattern, science is still discovering new tidbits about the endocannabinoid system all the time, especially as we decriminalize cannabis.
The Endocannabinoid system’s primary focus is to create a perfect balance within the body, sometimes also called homeostasis. It releases and regulates different internal cannabinoids in reaction to anything, external or internal, that threatens to throw the body off balance. Sometimes this reaction is in response to a physical health threat, but much of what the endocannabinoid system deals with is the mental/neurological/energetic side of the threat.
A good example is stress, whether it is related to a internal stress like a health issue or an external stress, the endocannabinoid system regulates the internal chemical release around that stress. This is why the endocannabinoid system is often considered a type of subconscious emotional regulatory system.
There are 4 internal endocannabinoids that are the most well understood currently:
- Oxytocin. Oxytocin in an internal endocannabinoid molecule that is often associated with being strictly a female hormone. It’s actually produced and used by both males and females. Oxytocin is generated during labor, orgasms, and sexual activity, but it’s also produced during other affectionate expressions, like during hugs and moments of bonding. It’s also associated with empathy, trust, and generosity.
- Serotonin. Serotonin is another well-known molecule, although it is uncommon to know it as an internal endocannabinoid. Interestingly, serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is primarily made and regulated by the gut, bringing truth to the old saying that “the way to a person’s heart is through their tummy.” Many happy feelings, such as the feeling of safety, positivity, and calmness mostly come from within your stomach and intestines.
- Anandamide. This cannabinoid is a big influencer in your mental health. It is often called the ‘bliss molecule’ as it promotes relaxation and feelings of happiness. Anandamide is produced within human cell membranes and is a neurotransmitter which interacts with both CB1 and the CB2 receptors.
- Acetylcholine. This is a neurotransmitter responsible for attention, memory, creativity, and neuroplasticity. The cool thing about this cannabinoid is that depending on where it is in the body, it can have opposing effects. Acetylcholine interacts primarily with the CB1 receptor.
CB1 and CB2 Receptors
In telling you about the Endocannabinoid system I mentioned the neurochemicals above as well as the receptors where the body uses the neurochemicals. There are two primary receptors in the Endocannabinoid system for both internal and external cannabinoids, CB1 and CB2. These are important when comparing Copaiba and CBD oil because it will help you see the difference in the two substances and how they work on the body, and perhaps more importantly, in their therapeutic uses.
CB1 receptors are found in the central nervous system and both CB1 and CB2 receptors in certain peripheral tissues. CB1 receptors are neuromodulators as well as immunomodulators meaning the play a big role in both your mental health as well as your immune system health, they are specifically involved in the pituitary gland, immune cells, and reproductive tissues.
CB2 receptors are found primarily in peripheral tissues. Both CB1 and CB2 receptors CB1
activation appears to relieve inflammatory and neuropathic pain.
So now we know what the system is that both CBD and Copaiba essential oil act on and the receptors that are involved, let’s take a look at each CBD and Copaiba a little closer.
First, let’s look at Copaiba. Essential oils are wonderful wellness tools and can be used for a myriad of ailments. The essential oil most often compared to CBD oil is Copaiba oil, although a few other oils, like Rosemary, share very similar terpene profile to the Copaiba, and that drives the comparison of CBD and Copaiba.
Copaiba essential oil comes from the Copaifera tree, which like another popular essential oil, Frankincense, can be found throughout South America. The Copaifera tree produces a resin, that is steam-distilled, and the end product is copaiba essential oil.
Copaiba oil has recently been subject to some fairly intense scientific exploration. Early studies show evidence of Copaiba’s legitimate healing capabilities in antibacterial wound-healing and anti-inflammation. Once these studies were released, many oil-lovers started shouting from the rooftops that Copaiba is the new “legal” CBD oil.
Copaiba’s medicinal properties are largely related to the terpene content, specifically beta-caryophyllene, which is also an ingredient/property in CBD oil, thus compounding the oil-markets excitement and lots of confusion.
Copaiba is touted as a powerful anti-inflammatory, and it is, but it is different from CBD in how it reacts in the body, or how the body can put it to use. Copaiba has a single pathway, through terpene beta-caryophyllene, to act on inflammation and pain through the endocannabinoid system on only the CB2 receptor.
One of the drawbacks of Copaiba over CBD oil is that it is still an essential oil, and although it is a unique essential oil because it is safe to use internally in low doses. Unless you are under the care of a qualified Clinical Aromatherapist, I would discourage this at home because dosing is difficult to calculate and measure. The side effect of ingesting too much Copaiba oil will cause general tummy distress, such as pain, nausea, and vomiting. Prolonged ingestion can lead to damaged stomach and intestinal lining.
In comparison, CBD oil is a lot like an essential oil in that it is derived from plants and is natural and has been used for many years in healing and wellness. Cannabidiol oil (CBD) is a cannabinoid sourced from the cannabis sativa genus of plants, usually from industrial hemp plants (not marijuana). CBD is often confused with THC (from marijuana), but even though the are both cannabinoids, CBD is legal in all 50 states and is non-psychoactive. This means that despite what some essential oil purveyors may try to lead you to believe, CBD oil does not trigger a ‘high,’ anxiety, or euphoria. It triggers a mild sense of relaxation, if any physical sensation is noted at all.
The medicinal properties of CBD oil are attributed to two ingredients/properties, both terpenes (like you find in Copaiba oil) and cannabinoids (found only in the CBD oil). CBD oil is pretty unique in that especially when using whole-plant extracts, CBD oil can contain many different compounds, each with its own unique effects on the endocannabinoid system. Through this interaction and with the benefit of a broad range of healing compounds, CBD has demonstrated huge potential as a treatment option for lots of health issues, including mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, autoimmune disorders, pain issues, cancer, inflammatory diseases and so much more.
As mentioned, CBD oil does contain beta-caryophyllene which acts on the CB2 receptors, and yes, this is the same terpene as Copaiba. CBD’s benefit over Copaiba is really in its influence over the entire endocannabinoid system, both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD targets pain and inflammation in multiple ways, even beyond the beta-caryophyllene terpenes.
Currently, there is no recommended maximum dosage for CBD oil, and there are some documented acute treatments using upwards of 1,000 mg of CBD oil a day. While that isn’t a dose I would recommend without consulting your Wellness Practitioner, over-the-counter dosages are regarded as safe and perfect for oral consumption.
So which is better?
Copaiba, while a good essential oil with many healing properties, simply does not stack up to the healing ability of CBD oil. As mentioned, Copaiba’s health benefits come only from its beta-caryophyllene contents that act on a single receptor, CB2. Whole-plant CBD (not CBD isolate) oil benefits from a synergistic effect between all the complex compounds, like the cannabinoids and terpenes. Multiple studies have confirmed the various compounds in CBD are stronger when working together, instead of isolating their parts. Copaiba would be considering isolating only one of CBD’s beneficial parts.
CBD oil is THC free and is legal in all 50 states. If you are wondering if CBD oil would be helpful for you, get in contact with me here. http://puresynergydfw.com/audreychristie/