Posts Tagged ‘Anna Bruno’

Field Trip: Washington DC

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Students walk into the Holocaust Museum. Photo Kira Tenney.


Galen Volckhausen runs Grace Under Pressure at Great Falls. Photo by Seth Dow. For more photos of Great Falls and a write up on the River, go to

Craig Kleckner on Grace Under Pressure. Photo Seth Dow.

Hunt Jennings throws a Brown Claw ontop of the Washington Monument.

Sunset jump photo, with the Capitol building in the background. Photo Hunt Jennings.

NRA in front of the Washington Monument after an epic day in DC

The weekend of May 11th-13th, New River Academy left the woods of West Virginia behind, and headed into the metropolis of Washington DC for a little culture, and of course, a little kayaking.

Earlier this year, I introduced the students in my World Literature class to the Holocaust when we read Marcus Zusak’s book The Book Thief.    The Book Thief  tells the story of a young German girl named Liesel Memminger and her foster family, and their decision to hide a Jew in their Munich basement during World War Two. It is a story in part about the power of words, and the power of friendship.

While reading the book, I was surprised to see how little the students knew about the Holocaust in general, and some of the history behind it.Hence, a field trip was born; the idea being to bring the students to the Holocaust Museum, and then let them wander around DC to absorb some culture, see some sights, etc. But what field trip at a kayaking highschool would be complete without a little kayaking to accompany the glories of our nations capital?

Fortunately for us, the Potomac river (yes, the one that Washington crossed) runs right through the heart of Washington DC, and just a bit further South of the city is the Whitewater kayaking paradise of Potomac Gorge, and the legendary Great Falls. We were lucky enough to have NRA alumni Jordan Poffenburger put us up at his home just outside of the city, and with the help of DC local Geoff Calhoun, show us down the Falls. Ned Poffenburger showed the rest of our group down the lower part of the Potomac gorge, home to several great play spots, and some beautiful scenery.

Great Falls is a maze of channels and slots on a river wider than the highways and beltways circling DC. Located in a national park, it is a coveted run for mid-Atlantic paddlers, primarily because it is imperative to know the lines and where to go on the river, to avoid getting hurt or arrested by the park service. On our way to the river, Jordan regaled us with stories of kayakers accidentally signalling rescue helicopters to save them, thanks to well meaning bystanders and tourists at the park.

In the evening light, with birds circling above the river, the Potomac felt pre-historic. It was hard to imagine that the city of DC was a mere 20 minute drive away. It seemed more likely that we would see dinosaurs around the next bend in the river, rather than seeing their skeletons in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

Saturday was an epic day of urban adventures. The day started off at the US Memorial Holocaust Museum, where students went into the permanent exhibit as well as a temporary exhibit on Propoganda- a perfect example of the power of the media in government- our most recent chapter in Government.  Then students were allowed to explore the joys of DC on their own, before meeting up to see “Dynamic Earth” at the Einstein Planetarium, a film produced by my dad about the carbon cycle- currently being studied by Kira Tenney’s Environmental Science class. Post movie, we had a sunset photoshoot in front of the Washington Monument before heading home.

Despite behind tired from our city fun, we decided to return and paddle a Great Falls and the lower gorge again on Sunday before heading home to Fayetteville and finals week.

Creative Writing: Photo Response

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Last week, Drew McEachern had to leave school a few days early in able to participate in his orientation for Algonquin College, where he will be a student next year. For one of his assignments while he has gone, he was given a series of photographs, and told to write a short story/caption for each one. I thought he did such a great job on them, I would share them below, for your enjoyment, and for a sample of an assignment. Here are my two favorites.

"Isla Mujeres" Photo for Story #1. Photo by Anna Bruno

He sits alone, in his room in his broken down house. He has been though hell and back, he thought he could change his life and live a better life but he could not, in his little hammock he thinks. He needs to find a different way out, he has tried hard work in a poor country but with no schooling it does not help him. He is now thinking of trying to get god to help him praying for a miracle but he is not 100% faithful it will work. He has no leg and his crunches are in the back and he wonders “will life ever change for the better or just keep getting worse?”



Policia, Isla Mujeres. Photo Inspiration, Story 2. Photo by Anna Bruno.

This man sits doing his job. In his white lawn chair and his blue uniform, thinking that he should get respect from all who see him because he is a police officer. What he does not admit is how corrupted his force is. He is in a small area with lots of crime and he knows he could die in the area he sits. He thinks about the white tile floor and he imagines his blood spilling all over the floor and he starts to wonder if anyone else in his force would come help him or would they just leave him there to die. It’s a hard life for this man.  He can’t just wait anymore. He wants to leave the force but he needs the money to feed himself and his family, so he sits and waits.



Shouldering It | Yoga for Kayaking: Shoulders

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

The mark of a kayaker, more than the beat up hands or a twice broken nose, or even a vocabulary diminished to the adjectives of “brown” and “stout”, would have to be the shoulders. The broad, muscular, possibly even overdeveloped, yet with a history of subluxation or dislocation, shoulders.

You know what I am talking about, the shoulders that make it annoying to squeeze three or four in the back seat on a shuttle run, because there is no room for your shoulders, despite the fact that you could fit one more person into the hip space. Kayakers rely on their shoulders. They help drive and power our paddling, allow us flexibility in our rolls, and give us something to rest our boats on when we carry them to and from the river.

Besides the physical strain on your shoulders during a day paddling, there are the  long hours sitting in a car to get to and from the river, as well as the stress from our daily lives.

It is only logical that our shoulders bear the brunt of our stress, and can often be stiff and sore coming off the water. I have seen many a kayaker or raft guide melt when a fellow paddler comes up and places their hands on that magic spot on your back, right next to your shoulder blades. You know the one I’m talking about. And yes, I wish there was someone there right now too.

Below is one of my favorite shoulder stretches- It is an easy stretch that even beginners to yoga to do. It doesn’t require crazy flexibility, and will help to relieve some of the knots and tension in your neck and shoulders.

Inhale, and allow your left hand to reach up towards the sky. Allow for a few breaths here. Extend your stretch with each inhale.

Allow yourself to rest here, with your shoulder and ear on the mat, before lifting your right hand to the sky.

Come into a bind by placing your right hand on your left hip. Gaze looks up to the sky.

Bind from the reverse angle.

Start on all fours, in a table top position. Your hands should be under your shoulders, with your knees under your hips.

Inhale, allow your left hand to lift up off the mat, and rotate up toward the sky, opening your chest to the left. Your gaze follows your hand, looking up towards your fingers.

Exhale, allow your left hand to cross under your body, feeding through the gap between your right arm and right knee. This will bring your left shoulder, arm and ear to rest on the mat.

Inhale, allow your right arm to lift up off the mat, reaching toward the sky. Take a few deep breaths while holding this position. With each exhale, allow your body to relax, and feel the ground support your shoulder.

For a deeper stretch, you may take your right hand, and bring it to your left hip, coming into a bind.

To release the stretch, place your right hand back on the mat. Lift your left arm and shoulder off the mat, and once more, stretch your left hand up to the sky, opening your chest to the left.

Place your left hand back on the mat, returning to tabletop position, and repeat on the opposite side.


Anna Bruno AKA Blog Nazi

Friday, April 20th, 2012


Anna, AKA our "Blog Nazi" Photo by Miles Clark.

Once a week our blog deadline roles around and we find our selves scrambling to get our blogs finish in time just to go boating. This is because Anna won’t let us boat unless we get our weekly blog done for that day. Today is not my lucky day because just as I was about to put on the water, (not having posted my blog) Anna swoops in and tells me that I have to go finish a blog before boating today.

The sad part is there really is no arguing with her because she tells you a week in advance when your blog needs to be up. We all have different days we need to have our blogs up and mine is Friday. Every friday and she never forgets. I am scrabbling right now to finish this blog before lunch so I can get a quick play session in on the New NOC wave that was put in just two days ago, and get in more training for tomorrows competition!

One day I will appreciate all the work Anna does to make our blogs happen!

Eric Bartl Jackson kayak Team Member

Yoga for Kayaking: Remembering to Breathe | The Dirga Breath

Sunday, April 1st, 2012


"You want me to BREATHE?"

You can bet that this guy isn't focused on his breath right now!



The way it works. Inhaling doesn't mean Breathe IN. Rather, as you inhale, imagine your body filling with air and Expanding.

Your intercostal muscles: The muscles that hold your ribcage together.

Did you ever hear the one about the blonde who went to the hairdresser? She had on a pair of headphones, and she refused to take them off. When they went to wash her hair, the hairdresser took off her headphones, and then the blonde died. When they were trying to figure out what happened, someone put on the headphones and listened to them. “Inhale, Exhale, Inhale, Exhale…”

Stupid joke, right? I mean, who needs to be told to breathe? Its as natural as… breathing.

Yet, how many of us actually stop and pay attention to our breath, and to its effects on our bodies, our minds, our everyday lives?

Pranayama, or breath control through breathing exercises, is one of the fundamental principles of yoga, right alongside with Asana (or postures.)  At one of its most basic levels, Yoga can be thought of as a means for creating space in the body through asana and meditation, to allow more oxygen (breath, pranayama) to circulate into the body, bringing more red blood cells to your vital organs, allowing your brain to think more clearly, and your muscles to function more effectively.

“Remember to breathe“… I often chastise my yoga students as I lead them into a posture and let them work through it. One of the most common “mistakes” people make in yoga is that once they get into a posture, especially one that is more challenging for them. Forgetting to breathe cuts off the flow of oxygen, and consequently, the flow of oxygenized red blood cells, limiting the benefits of the posture.  Without the breath, doing a posture isn’t necessarily yoga, rather, it is just holding a slightly silly looking position while wearing tight pants. (Or Jeans and Tims, if you are a NRA student).

In kayaking, we wear drytops with gaskets that press on our throats, we wear PFD’s that we cinch around our waists, constricting our chests,  we sit in funny, odd cramped positions, we wear nose plugs, closing off our nostrils. Did I forget anything? Oh, right. We spend copious amounts of time underwater. And yes, I agree. It is difficult to breathe underwater. Which makes breathing properly, or taking the time to breathe while on dry land that much more important.

“An old yogi wandered into a lodge in the middle of winter, asking for lodging. Sitting besides the fire, he blew on his hands. “why did you do that?” the lodge owner asked. “To warm them up”, the yogi responded. After recieving his soup, the yogi blew gently on the spoon before putting it in his mouth. “Why did you do that?” The logde owner demanded. “To cool it down,” responded the yogi.  The lodge owner seized a fire-iron and shouted, “Get out! Get out of my house! I’ll have no sorcerer who can blow both hot and cold under my roof!”

A silly children’s story to be sure, yet breath can have a calming, or invigorating effect on the brain and body. It can cool, it can heat, depending on what you do, and how you use it. Often on the river, when confronted with a challenging rapid, I take the time to refocus my mind, and concentrate on my breath. Inhale, Exhale, repeat. Emphasizing my breath allows me to focus, and to calm myself, to better prepare for the rapid ahead. Through the rapids, I am constantly reminding myself to breathe, timing the inhale and exhale to the rhythm of my paddle, providing more power. The first thing I do at the end of the rapid? Catch and eddy, let out a sigh, and take a breath.

The Dirga Breath: Or Three Part Yogic Breath

I start every yoga class with breath work. Normally I allow students to find a comfortable seated position that allows them to create space in their torso. It is important to imagine creating space between your vertebre, your ribs, as you feel yourself straighten.

Close your eyes, take a deep inhale in through your nose, and exhale out through your mouth, letting go of any tensions, any distractions, and allow yourself to focus on where you are at this moment. (I call this a “letting go breath”. Also very useful when confronting intimidating rapids) Repeat 2-3 times.

Once you are focused, we can begin to work on the Dirga Breath, or three part yogic breath, so called because you are actively breathing into three different parts of your body. I find it easiest to think of the three parts of your body as your lower abdomen (the area around your belly button, the soft tissue of your stomach), your ribcage, and your chest/collarbones.

We are going to build the breath in three parts, starting first by inhaling, and feeling your belly expand. If you place your hands on your belly, fingers pointed towards your navel, you should feel your fingers widen away from each other as you inhale.  Exhale, allow your belly to contract, drawing your belly button back towards your spine.

Repeat this a few times, Inhaling as your belly expands, and softens. Exhale, belly contracts, belly button drawing back to your spine.

Once you are comfortable with this, we are going to build your breath, drawing the inhale up into your ribcage to widen your ribs, and stretch the intercostal muscles. As you inhale, you should feel your ribs flare out, and widen away from each other. This forces your intercostal muscles, your breathing muscles to work a little harder than normal. By consciously working to expand them, we are strengthening them, just as a push up strengthens the muscles in your shoulders.

Inhale, allow your belly to fill, and soften. Continue the inhale, drawing your breath up into your ribcage, widening your ribs apart. Exhale, Ribs knit back together, belly contracts. 

Repeat a few times, and once you feel comfortable, we are going to keep building on your breath, drawing it up into the very tops of your lungs, to lift the collarbones.

Inhale, belly fills, ribs widen out away from eachother, and then continue to inhale, drawing the breath up into the very tops of your lungs, lifting your collarbones, exhale, collarbones release, ribs knit back together, belly contracts.  Repeat for 10 breaths. 

Pause after, as you return to your normal breathing pattern. You may feel a little light headed, from all the extra oxygen making its way to your brain. See if you notice any visible effects, maybe you feel calmer, lighter, more focused. This is the breath I turn to most often on the river when I need to calm myself, and focus more on what is ahead of me. Practice on dry land, and then give it a try!

Tohickon Release Weekend

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Philadelphia Canoe Club Tailgate at Tohickon Fest, March 17th 2012

My parents joke that everytime I come home to Philadelphia, the Tohickon, their local creek, runs. When I flew home in January, my mom picked me up at the airport, took me out to lunch, and then we threw boats on the car, and hit up the river. This year was no exception, as I made it home just in time for the semi-annual Tohickon release- probably the biggest boating event this side of the Delaware.

The “toh” as it is affectionatley called by PA, New Jersey and Delaware locals, is a short (approximately 4 mile), grade 2-3 creek run, located in Ralph Stover State Park, in eastern Pennsylvania. The Toh comes up quickly with a bit of rain, and is often the first run for local boaters to get their fix on.  I’ve run the Toh at a multitude of levels, from below zero, to 7 feet, and have had fun at every turn. Every year, there are two releases, one in November, and one in March. A typical release is 1.5-2 feet.

After years of boating in PA, and hearing about the Tohickan release weekend as a sort of “season starter” or “season ender” for most boaters, Saturday, March 17th,  was the first offical release weekend I have made it to! I was blown away by the quantity of boaters, of all ages that made it out to enjoy the day. The majority of people paddle in playboats, and it can be a maze to make it through the mess of boaters surfing every wave they can find.  I wasn’t the only creekboat river seeking out and enjoying a few good boofs ! There were even a few dancers out on the water- accompanied by older Lehigh River Raft guides, whose retro gear stood out from the crowd.

The weather gods smiled, and granted beautiful, 70 degree weather. I had the joy of paddling with people from the Philadelphia Canoe Club that taught me how to kayak, people that I haven’t been able to get out on the water with in years.  It was pretty entertaining, after having paddled with kids almost exclusively the past few months, to get to be on a river where the average age was 55! Our group was called the “youngins” as 4 out of our 7 paddlers were under 35! It was a great reminder that kayaking is a sport to be enjoyed for your entire life, and that it is great to get out on the water at any age.

After the river run, there was some serious tailgaiting going on, with Yuengling, micro-brews, and a multitude of snacks. Beers were free, or donation only, to raise money for PCC members Ron Samlin and Janet Merovitz-Samlin, whose son Michael died unexpectedly, leaving behind a wife and two young children with no life insurance. The PCC raised over $400 dollars for the Samlin family,  resulting in a successful day all around.

For more information on the Toh- check Tohickan Creek Whitewater and


Yoga for Kayaking: Torso Rotation and Upward Boat Pose

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012


Its Easy to Apply to New River Academy

Using Torso Rotation to Pan Am on Nile Special

New River Academy is back in Chile to kick off our spring semester. We are excited to welcome Jackson Team member Stephen Wright to the team as our Head coach for our time in Chile. Our first day out, we took advantage of our location on the banks of the Trancura river to do a flat water workout. It was great to get everyone back on the water, and to start off the semester by re-emphasizing some of the foundational skills inherent to improving as a kayaker. The following day we had a team paddle on the upper Trancura, where we worked on increasing power in our forward strokes.

Both days, whether river running or playboating, one of the main points that we kept coming back to was the importance of torso rotation for kayaking, and how few paddlers use torso rotation properly. But what exactly is torso rotation? What can we do to improve upon it off the water?

Uppavista Navasana: Feet planted on the floor, belly button drawn up and in.

Lift your torso up out of your hip sockets, rotate to the right, leading from the belly button.

Lean back slightly as you open your arms. Focus on rotating from the belly button, opening your chest and shoulders.

Torso Rotation refers to the action of rotating your torso, or upper body area to gain power for paddle strokes and other motions. Through rotation, the large muscles in your core “wind up”, rather like a spring. When you unwind, these muscles release, allowing for a short burst of power.

This rotation and release is where majority of your power comes from for the kayaker. It  helps to load and power even the most basic forward and sweep strokes, and it is torso rotation that allows for the majority of freestyle kayaking moves- from the simple cartwheel or bowstall, to blunts and other more advanced moves.

One of the main reasons torso rotation is done improperly is that many kayakers rotate from the shoulder girdle, rather than from the lower part of the torso. This is a common mistake in many yoga poses as well. This means that even though your shoulders move from side to side, your ribcage, lower torso and the majority of your abdominal muscles remain still.

I find one of the best visuals for proper rotation is to imagine as though your belly button had a flashlight in it. To rotate properly, you want the beam of the flashlight to move. This means lifting the torso up out of the hip sockets, and leading the rotation from the navel.This twists the lower part of the core, leaving the shoulder girdle quiet and the spine in a single, straight line from hip to crown.

Upavista Navasana : Variation with rotation. 

One great exercise to build core strength and aid in proper rotation is this variation on upavista navasana- or upward boat pose. Core strength is essential for any kayaker- and any yogi! Having a strong core helps protect your spine, support your posture and power your paddling/poses


Start seated, knees bent up towards the sky, feet planted firmly on the ground in front of you. Crown of the head is lifted, belly button is drawn in towards the spine. Palms are together in prayer, in front of your heart, elbows out to the side.

Inhale, lift your torso up out of your hip sockets, exhale, rotate to the right, leading from the belly button. Inhale lift, and rotate back to center. Exhale, repeat to the opposite side.

For added variation, as you exhale and rotate, open your arms and lean back slightly. Inhale, hands return to prayer as you lift and rotate back to neutral.

For those who like an additional abdominal workout, try lifting your feet off the floor. This  balancing forces your core muscles to work harder to stabilize your torso as you rotate. I find it is easiest to start by lifting one leg at a time, finding your balance before you begin your rotation.

Its Easy to Apply to New River Academy

Yoga for Kayaking : Focus Lower Back

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

Yoga and Waterfalls. Does life get better? Photo by Hunt Jennings.

Boofing on the Autoboof on the Nevados: Try not to land too flat, and stay forwards!

Jake Greenbaum leads Alex Muck and Kincaid Wurl down the Entres section of the Claro. Waterfalls Abound!

It is waterfall season here in Chile! Pucon, like much of Chile is a mecca for clean waterfall runs,  with the Nevados and the Upper Palguin in close proximity. This equals a lot of fun for kayakers, but can result in a lot of stress on your spine.

I have been meaning to write this post for a while now. New River Academy spent our last week of school up at the Claro river, where we made the most of the three waterfall runs with in a few miles of river. Upstream of our campsite was the 22 Saltos run, (Salto being Spanish for waterfall). Just below the campsite was the Entre Saltos run, leading into Garganta canyon, and a short drive below that is the Siete Tazas, or 7 teacups. 7 clean lipped waterfalls ranging from 5-20 feet.  It is a truly amazing stretch of whitewater, and should be classed as a Chilean national treasure.

With the school, we shunned our regular morning workouts in favor of yoga, yoga, and more yoga, to help stretch out and relieve some of the pressure caused by the compression on landing. The Claro river is gorged in, which made it necessary to hike boats in and out, putting even more stress on our bodies. Carrying boats for long distances, whether you put it on your shoulder, or your head creates high amount of stress on muscles in your back, neck and shoulders.

On my recent trip south to the Cochamo region of Chile, some members of our group hiked their boats in 12 kilometers to run the Cochamo river. After our trip to the Cochamo, we moved south to the Negro, where one of our group suffered from a severe back spasm. It put him out for 6 hours or more- and made me even more motivated to maintain a daily yoga practice- even if only for 20 minutes. New Years Resolution for 2012: A happy spine!

Here is a short and sweet series I do to warm up and or cool down before paddling. It usually takes me around 20 minutes, and hits all six movements of the spine- Flexion, Extension, Lateral (Side to Side) and Rotation (Left and Right). Moving your spine in every direction will help keep it happy and healthy.

Happy Yoga and kayaking!

Short and Sweet Yoga series

Lay down on your back. Inhale, reaching your arms up over your head. Extend your arms and legs away from each other, lengthening in opposite directions. Inhale and extend. Exhale, lengthen your left foot away from you as you arc your arms slightly to the right.  Inhale, back to center, Exhale, repeat on the opposite side: lengthen your right foot towards the end of your mat, reach your arms up and over to the left, maintaining your hips and pelvis in contact with the mat.

Return your arms to your side. Inhale, Exhale as you draw your knees up to your chest. Reach your arms up around your legs, clasping your hands. Again, try to maintain as much contact as possible between your lowerback and the mat. I tend to spread my knees wide, so that they fall into the crook of my elbows. Rock gently back and forth, massaging your lowerback into the mat. Return to center, inhale, and as you exhale, gently press your knees further in to your chest. Imagine your lower back widening out onto the mat.

Inhale, exhale, drop both of your knees down to the right, coming into a gentle spinal twist. Allow your left arm to extend out to the left, and look back at the fingers on your left  hand. Your right hand can apply gentle pressure on the top of your knees. Take several breaths here before inhaling your knees back to center. Repeat on the opposite side.

Return your feet to the mat,  so that you are lying with a flat back, knees bent, feet firmly planted about hip width apart. From this position, we are going to play with a small little micro-movement of the spine to warm it up.  Inhale, and allow your lower back to arch up off the mat, pressing your hip bones towards your thighs. Exhale, and roll your pelvis back towards your shoulders, pressing your lower back flat on the mat. This is a really tricky motion! Give a fake cough, and notice what happens as your stomach contracts. Your hips and back should press firmly into the ground. I often have people place a few fingers in the hollow created by arching your lower back, and then attempt to flatten your fingers as you bring your hip flat. Repeat several times. If you like, you can press into a bridge from here. Bring your arms flat by your sides, inhale, exhale, press into your feet as you  lift your hips, driving your belly button to the sky.

Come to a seated position. (Sukhasana or cross-leg) Inhale, arms lift over your head, gaze looks up. Exhale, Chin and arms lower. Repeat 3-6 times.

Inhale, Arms lift. Exhale, allow your belly button to rotate over your right knee. Right arm drops down behind you, Left hand drops and resists against the outsides of your left leg. Gaze looks over your right shoulder. Hold for 2-4 breaths. Inhale back to center. Exhale repeat opposite on the opposite side.

Inhale, arms lift. Exhale, allow your hands to clasp together behind your head. Thumbs are pointed down your neck, fingers interlaced, elbows are bent. Imagine your elbows like a pair of wings. Inhale, allow your head to drop back into your hands, opening your throat and chest,  opening your wings as your elbows move further away from each other.  Exhale, tuck your chin to your chest, and allow your upper back to round, as you try and close your wings by touching your elbows together in front of your face. Repeat 4-6 times.

Come onto all fours in a table position. Start with a gentle cat/cow stretch. Inhale as your belly fills with air, and your belly drops  to the ground, as if it was a cow with heavy udders. As you exhale, draw your bellybutton up into your spine, and feel your spine arch like an angry cat. Start the motion from the base of your spine, tucking your tailbone under you as you arch, drop your chin to your chest, gaze looks back between your legs. Hold this pose, imagine your shoulderblades widening out away from eachother, sliding down each arm. Move back and forth between the two postures, inhale as your belly fills and drops, exhale as you draw your bellybutton to your spine and arch.

Return to a neutral table, Exhale, look over your right shoulder for your right hip, curving your spine into a c-shape. Inhale back to center, exhale repeat on the opposite side. I do 2-3 each side.

Allow your tailbone to drop back onto your heels, bringing your chest to your knees for childs pose. Relax here.

Press into your palms to return to all fours. Tuck your toes under, straighten your legs, leaving your arms on the ground infront of you as you come into a forward fold. Allow yourself to hang here. Head is down, back is relaxed, relax your jaw. You can grab opposite elbows, and allow your self to dangle. Shake your head yes, shake your head no, and slowly roll up, moving one vertebra at a time to come into a standing position.

Swing your arms gently from side to side as if you were were wearing a coat with empty sleeves. Smile, and have a great day !

Yoga for Paddling | Focus: Hips and IT Band

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

Its Easy to Apply to New River Academy

Before coming to work at New River Academy, I had a long history of traveling and kayaking, as well as a history of aggravating my ilio-tibial band. This is not always the best combination. To help combat the large amount of time I spend cramped in my kayak, I have turned to yoga. I have been around yoga for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I started paddling daily that I really found its benefits on my body and my paddling.

Not only does yoga let me sit in my far more comfortably for longer intervals, but it has given a better sense of spatial awareness, and body control. I edge my boat better when I practice yoga regularly, I am calmer on the river, and generally just feel better in my boat.

Sitting in a kayak, at a computer, or in a car all day can be hard on our bodies,  and these activities, like anything we do, create habitual patterns in our movements. This means that we are constantly working to strengthen certain muscles, yet rarely use others. Think about how often you forward paddle in a kayak, and how rarely you take the time to work on back paddling. The problem is that this only works one set of muscles in a certain way. Take a look at most of the kayakers you see. Our shoulders round forwards, partly due to overdeveloped muscles in our backs, yet our chest and shoulder stabilizers stay weak.

Yoga can help reverse the effects of such repetitive motions, strengthening the muscles we do and don’t use daily to help prevent injury. When I teach yoga to the students at New River Academy, I try and focus on kayaking specific muscles: Strengthening what we don’t use, and stretching what we do. This means a lot of chest openers, trying to open the chest, putting it into the opposite position from when we paddle, core strengthening exercises, and a lot of hip stretches.

the Ilio-Tibial Band, connecting your hips and your knees


If you have ever sat in a kayak, I am sure that you were surprised by how much is going on beneath the surface of your spray skirt. Your legs are working hard to help stabilize and control your boat (Edging tip 101: Use your lower body, not your upper body!), not to mention that kayaks aren’t quite as comfortable to sit in as your lay-Z-boy chair.

When I’m not boating with the students, I am sitting in class, or at my computer writing for the blog, or traveling with the kids to our various locations. Long hours sitting in and out of my boat can wreak havoc on my IT bands and my hip flexors.  I get up out of my boat, and my legs are stiff and sore, and I find the outside of my knees to be tender or painful. Our latest activity of climbing the  volcano in Pucon certainly doesn’t help !

But what is your IT band? Your Ilio-Tibial Band (ITB) connects your hips, knees and ankles- starting on the Illiac crest, wrapping around to the head of your tibia  and down the front of your shin. One of the key points to understand about the ITB is that it is not a muscle; it is a band of tissue. Almost like a thick sheet of plastic. However, it is influenced by muscles that work with it, under it, against it and opposite it.

Two of the muscles involved with your IT Band. Weakness and imbalance in these muscles can aggravate your IT Band, and cause Knee pain.

The primary functions of the Iliotibial Band are to:

  • Provide static stability to the outer part of the knee.
  • Control adduction and rotation (inward motion) and deceleration of the quad

ITB syndrome can result from any activity that causes the leg to turn inward repeatedly, as well as weakness in your hip and core muscles. Sitting in a boat can put stress on your IT band, as well as lead to weak hip abductor muscles- a muscular imbalance that can contribute to ITB problems. What kind of problems? – hows about some knee pain!  ITB syndrome is one of the more common causes of knee pain in runners, and is a remnant I carry from a collegiate career in Track and Field.

Here is one of my favorite stretches that helps to keep me comfortable and healthy, whether I am in my boat or running alongside the river.


Called the FIGURE 4 stretch due to the shape you make with your legs when engaged in the stretch.

I like to do this one after some warm-up- either ending my practice with it, or after some easy spinal twists, or just getting off the water.

Figure 4 stretch.

Starting from a supine position, Bend your right knee so that your right foot is planted flat on the ground.

Draw your left knee into your chest. Bring the outside of your left ankle across your right knee.

Leaving back flat on the floor, reach hands through the gap in your legs to grab hold of your right thigh.

Draw leg up towards your chest, lifting foot off the floor.

Reverse Sides.

For additional stretch, try using the wall by placing your (right) foot against a wall or a friends leg to increase resistance.



Its Easy to Apply to New River Academy

Photos from Pucon

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Its Easy to Apply to New River Academy

Its been a wonderful few weeks here in Pucon. As excited as I am to move on to the Claro river and get to paddle at the Siete Tazas- the infamous waterfall paradise- It is always sad to leave our home base at the Pucon Kayak Hostel.

I’ve gotten friendly with the folks at Ecole, my favorite Internet, tea and cookie/vegetarian cafe, and have loved the rivers and the scenery in this area. I’m excited to come back here to start off our next semester.

While it has been challenging to find the time to take pictures with all we do, here are a few of my favorites from the past three weeks.


Eric Bartl loads boats under a Huge sky

Sunset over Hot Springs

From Pucon to Nepal.. already getting excited for next fall.

Hayley Stuart modeling a "Cuello" Local chilean knitwear

Villarica Lake: Put in for a spectacular SUP trip

Running the Turbio Twenty Footer

Hunt Jennings models one of the local Chilean "cuellos" or knit scarves

Kira Tenney walks the Trancura Bridge

View from the Nevados Take Out

Hunt waves our School Flag. Thanks Steve Muck!

Rio Turbio

Coca-Cola: global phenomenon

Pucon Lake

Hiking the Turbio Twenty Footer


Its Easy to Apply to New River Academy

New River Academy
Rt. 2 Box 245
Fayetteville, WV 25484
(304)- 574-0403
Fax: (304) 513-2247
New River Academy

Huge Kayaking