Feach-a Teach-a: Joanne Lloyd

Where are you from and how long have you been in Boston?FullSizeRender-3_mediumthumb
I went to undergraduate and graduate school in Boston and haven’t left! I’ve been in the Boston area for over 25 years!

What was your first yoga class like?
I think I went to my first yoga class at Kripalu in the 90’s. It was the whole experience of meditation, yoga, and breath work that I loved learning.

What’s your favorite pose to teach?
I teach kids and they are such natural yoginis! I love watching their little brains work as they watch me, and figure out how to get their body to look like mine. Teaching crab pose? Sometimes it looks like table pose to them! At this age it is all about body awareness and body control. I love teaching them how to climb the wall in down dog at the wall. Their confidence soars when they figured out how to master this pose!

As a practitioner, what pose makes you cringe?
Hmmm, well, I never like seeing necks turned if they are in a plow pose. Also a simple frog jump can get tricky if they forget to lift their hands up and instead they kick their feet too high.

Where can we find you when you’re off your mat?
I am a psychotherapist in Brookline, I teach therapeutic yoga to traumatized kids in Boston, and I have two school aged yoginis of my own!

What’s your favorite or the most random song on your class playlist right now?
My most popular rest time song is a version of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" by Chantal Kreviazuk & Raine Maida. I also love "Where You Belong" by Kari Kimmel.

Catch Joanne teaching Toddler Yoga on Wednesday mornings!

The Physiology of Yoga

The Psoas: Exerting Influence Beyond the Bones

Articles about the psoas seem to be popping up everywhere right now. The psoas is a multi-stranded muscle with attachments that begin at the last thoracic vertebra and continue along the entire lumbar spine. In a seated, computer-driven lifestyle, the psoas muscle takes a big hit, becoming weaker and shorter.

iliopsoasWhile the psoas is an important player in anatomy, influencing our pelvic alignment, posture, and lower back curvature, it has other profound impacts on our physiology. Due to its deep interwoven nature in the visceral cavity (the area of the body which houses our stomach and other organs), the psoas interacts with several of our body’s systems, including the nervous, adrenal, digestive, and lymphatic systems. These interactions set the psoas in an influential position, with the ability to  introduce changes that affect our entire body. 

The fibers of the psoas muscle dive underneath the visceral cavity and attach to the top of the inner thigh. During development, the psoas develops concurrently with the copious neural tracts (visualized in the photo to the left) of the lower thoracic and lumbar branches of the nervous system, resulting in a deep knitting together of the muscle fibers and nerve bundles that branch into the visceral cavity and down the leg. Due to Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 2.09.23 PMthis co-development, problems in the psoas can result in pain that radiates anywhere from the back, abdominal region, or down the entire  leg.  Due to the sensitive and excitable nature of the nervous system, both a shortening and an overstretching of the psoas can result in sensations of pain, as the nerves become either compressed or overstretched. This duality makes diagnosis (and, thus, treatment) of the problem tricky. People often attribute any sensation of pain to tightness in the psoas and can make the mistake of stretching an already over-extended psoas. While an overstretched psoas is definitely less common, activities such as yoga (which places a determined focus on stretching the psoas) can introduce cloudiness in diagnosing the cause of pain. Luckily, simple tests, such as the Thomas test (check it out, HERE) or the modified Thomas test, can be performed to determine the root of the problem and point the way toward appropriate, corrective measures.

The psoas also affects the adrenal glands because the fascia surrounding the psoas is also connected to theadrenal glands and psoas kidneys. The adrenal glands, responsible for the release of norepinephrine and epinephrine (the chemicals that give you adrenaline and energy), sit right on top of the kidneys. Thus, any compression or overstretching of the psoas’ muscle fibers will pull on the surrounding fascia and have the ability to affect the kidneys and adrenal glands. Mechanical stimuli around the kidneys creates a change in the biochemistry of the local environment and can change the release patterns of adrenaline into the body. Changes in biochemistry can lead to adrenal fatigue and feelings of exhaustion, or overactivity in the adrenal glands, which results in the sensation of anxiety.

The digestive system can also be affected by the psoas. Anatomically, the psoas dives behind and then under the digestive system, creating a psoasandorganshammock that can act as a masseuse to the organs. With this in mind, an overly stretched psoas loses some of the connection to these organs when it becomes slackened and lengthened. Imagine the rubber band on a sling shot. When the band becomes overly stretched, it loses its ability to generate and exert much force on an object. While your organs are not experiencing the drastic forces generated by a sling shot, an overly-lengthened psoas loses the ability to provide a strong, massaging force to the organs inside the abdomen. On the flip side, a psoas that is shortened and tight can generate too much pull on the organs of the abdomen. An overly active psoas will increase stimulation and neural activity inside the visceral cavity, igniting patterns that lead to tension in the organs. For this reason, the psoas is often referred to as the “fight or flight” muscle. When it is chronically tight and activated, it ignites the sympathetic nervous system, which shuts down digestion, increases adrenal activity, and prepares the body for action. While this was a useful action throughout evolution and when we need to prepare the body for quick action, chronic activation of these sympathetic resphoto-3ponses can lead to indigestion, anxiety, and fatigue.

So how do we balance our psoas and avoid setting off a cascade of negative physiological events? While it may seem daunting to find the correct balance of strength and length in the psoas, many actions can help bring the psoas and its surrounding photo-5organs into equilibrium. The first step is to bring awareness to the muscle. Using the tests discussed above, determine if your psoas is compressed or overstretched. Depending on the verdict, asana can be incorporated to either stretch (anjaneyasana, virabhadrasana 1, virabhadrasana 2, and any type of backbending) or strengthen (navasana, utthita hasta padangusthasana, dandasana, and parsvottanasana) the psoas. Incorporating a few of these postures into your morning and evening routine can quickly help restore the psoas and bring balance back to the inner ebb and flow of your other physiological systems.

For more information about the author, Jessica Pate, or to access her other articles, visit her website physiologyofyoga.com, or like the Facebook page here

5 Healthy Activities to Do with Your Kids this Fall {In & Around Brookline}

I don’t know about you, but with the new season just around the corner, our staff over at CCY has got fall on our mind! While autumn brings crisp fresh air, boots-and-sweater weather, warm and spicy chai, hayrides and seasonal shifts, it’s also the perfect time to think outside the box, and have fun with your kids. Here are 5 creative & healthy activities – in and around Brookline – you can do with your kids this fall!

1. Hit Up the Allendale Farm Stand:
allendaleFarmWhat better way to celebrate the season than by heading to a local farm stand? We love hitting up Allendale Farm, right in Brookline! Stop by after your kids get home from school to stock up on fresh fall favorites like squash, pumpkin, potatoes, pears, apples and  brussels sprouts. The kids will have a blast browsing what’s in season, and learning about new fruits and veggies to try at home (and your fridge will be jam-packed with wholesome food.) Win, Win!

We love that Allendale features their own freshly-picked produce, as well as some other specialty goods from local partners. Some of our favorites include their pasta & sauces from Valicenti Organico and freshly-baked bread from Clear Flour Bakery!

2. Cook a Nourishing Meal Together:

spaghettisquashOnce you’re stocked up on fresh, local produce, it’s time to prepare a meal together! Cooking is a great way to bond with your children, and help take some of the stress out of dinner prep. Change up the boring, ol’ Spaghetti night with this easy Spaghetti Squash with Tomato-Basil Sauce, which your kids will have a blast helping you prepare! (Hint: skip the cheese to make it vegan!)

Craving something a little sweet? These delicious Healthy Bites are easy enough for toddlers to help with. (Try making them with local apple sauce for a flavor boost!) 

If all else fails, pizza night is sure to be a hit for the entire family. Stock up on fresh, local veggies and let the creating begin. Each member of the family can have a role like rolling the dough, pouring the sauce, or placing your favorite toppings on the pie! 

3. Take a Scenic Hike:

Northing screams New England quite like fall foliage. With Blue Hills Reservation less than 10 miles away from Brookline (right in Milton), you can enjoy family hiking without having to take a far-away weekend getaway. With breathtaking views, 125 miles of trails and varied terrain, Blue Hills is a perfect fall hiking destination for all age groups.  Pack some healthy snacks and reusable water bottles, and have a blast exploring nature with your kids!

4. Go on an Apple Picking Adventure:  
A family trip to the orchard is in order, as late-August through September honey3is the height of pick-your-own apple season! Luckily for us Bostonians, there are dozens of family-friendly farms just a drive away with apple picking, hay rides, corn mazes and more! Some of our favorites include Belkin Lookout Farm, Doe Orchards, Honeypot Hill, and Shelburne Farm. The freshly picked apples will make for a delicious lunchbox snack, pie filling or accompaniment to a salad!

5. Get Your Downward Dog On (and Bring the Kids)! 

While it’s common for parents to want to escape the hustle-bustle to get on their mat, believe it or not kids need yoga too! Recently, child development experts are realizing just how beneficial yoga is for youngsters, helping to decrease stress, improve cognitive function, not to mention it’s a blast!

kidsyogasingingbowlLuckily for you, here at CCY we offer a variety of Kids Yoga classes, paired up with our adult schedule, so you can get your solo yoga time while your kiddies do too! Starting mid-September, we’ll be offering a series of classes ranging from Toddler Yoga (for ages 1.5 – 3.5) to Teen Yoga for Girls (ages 11–16). Take a peek at the full schedule, with costs and registration details here.

Rachel Kaczynski is a Certified Health Coach and freelance writer living in Boston, MA. She is the founder of Healthy Chicks, a wellness blog empowering women to live happier, healthier, more meaningful lives. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook here.

Yogi of the Month: Carolyn Lovit


Name: Carolyn Lovitcarolyn



Fun fact about you: I want to go cross country on a Harley.

Favorite yoga pose: Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose, or "Low Plank") because I finally can do it, some of the time. 

When not on your mat, where can you be found?: Painting in my studio a.k.a. dining room or roaming around Coolidge Corner. 

How long have you been practicing and what's your latest yoga breakthrough? 2008. Every practice and every day is different...

How has yoga impacted your life? Keeps me sane...

The Physiology of Yoga

The Overlooked Practice: Yin Yoga and the Biological Domino Effect 
(Part 3 of 3)

To this point, we have discussed the importance of exercising our connective tissue, as well as how the body can sense the changes that occur during yin postures and stretching. But once the external, biomechanical signal is converted into an internal, biochemical or electrical signal, how does this signal begin to change the fascia? 

domino-effectBiochemistry can initiate changes in the local environment in two primary ways. The first method in which modifications are introduced is through the direct alteration of the expression of genes involved in the composition of the fascia. When internal  biochemical signals are initiated, a chain of dominos (in the form of proteins) begins to fall. As with dominoes, each protein’s behavior is determined by the actions of the previous protein in the chain. Eventually, when the last domino is reached, a final protein specific to the message being delivered will move to the central command station of the cell (the nucleus). This protein messenger initiates changes inside the nucleus by modifying the manufacturing blueprint for every protein component in the body, known as the DNA.  

While every cell of the body contains a complete set of DNA (or coded manufacturing instructions), certain cells only produce certain proteins at specific times. This is why our stomach cells are not the same as the cells of the heart and why our skin cells behave differently when we need to repair a wound. The factors that determine which proteins are produced are these final dominos or messenger proteins (also known as transcription factors). The immediate needs of the cell determine which messengers are sent to the command station to bind to the DNA. This is an important step, as most messengers can only bind to specific portions of the DNA. In the case of yin postures, the cell will send forth messenger protranscriptionteins that have the ability to bind to DNA segments that encode instructions for the fascial proteins, such as collagen or elastin. Once these messengers reach the blueprint, they will bind to the appropriate segment of DNA and initiate either an increase or decrease in the production of the target protein. During a yin stretch, production of proteins (such as elastin or tenacin C) associated with the more mobile, elastic components of the fascia are increased. These newly formed elastic proteins are then exported to the outside of the cell where they can be integrated into the fascial protein web.

A second way biochemical signals can induce changes in the fascia is through a process known as paracrine signalling. Think about how a smell expands and travels in all directions away from its source, affecting the behavior of nearby individuals—paracrine signaling works in much the same way. Once a paracrine-signalcentral cell (the source) receives information that biomechanical changes are occurring in its surroundings, that cell will release biochemical factors that alter the behavior of neighboring cells. In the case of fascia, the cells most affected are known as fibroblasts, whose primary purpose is production of the fascial proteins. When fibroblasts receive a paracrine signal they alter their production priorities, upregulating production of some proteins, while down-regulating others. This altered production translates to changes in the external, mechanical environment in which the cells are suspended. During yin postures, the fibroblasts will increase production of elastic components and decrease production of tension generating components to create positive changes in the fascia.

Yin yoga also requires practitioners to hold postures for long durations of time in order to counterbalance the extended holds we place on fascia in our sedentary lifestyles. When a posture is held for several minutes, we allow the necessary time for biomechanical feedback to continually ignite biochemical signaling pathways that can Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 4.58.47 PMalter the connective tissue. If we only hold yin postures for short durations, we do not allow time for all the dominos to fall and significant changes in cell signaling and protein production cannot be achieved. So while it may not be pleasant to hold dragon pose for four or more minutes, just take a deep breath and allow the body to do its work!

We need to begin to move out of the mindset that we are only “doing” something when we can see immediate, external changes. Active, muscular yang practices are important to combat our sedentary lifestyles. However, our sedentary lifestyles are hurting more than just our biceps—our facia and other connective tissues are also suffering. Therefore, just like we incorporate yang to exercise our muscular system, we also must incorporate yin to exercise our connective tissue. By exercising our fascia, we begin to untangle unseen, internal nets, allowing for more harmonious flow, movement, and well being.

For more information about the author, Jessica Pate, or to access her other blog posts, visit her site HERE. 

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