Category Archives: Asana
Introduce your inner geek to your inner yogi with this fun Star Wars-inspired yoga as drawn by Rob Ozborne.
- Side plank
- Extend side angle
- Lord of the dance
- Bird of paradise
- Half moon
- Downward facing dog
- Feathered peacock
Celebrate the light and May the Fourth be with you,
As National Gardening Month continues and gardeners get outside more and more, it’s important to remember to honor the body. Moving the body before going to work is important. So, too, is taking breaks to stretch out the spine and legs. Occasional breaks will, in the long run, allow for more time to be spent gardening.
Here are some suggestions for some simple yoga poses that can be done in the garden.
Enjoy your time outside!
Hope everyone had a fun and safe St. Patrick’s Day yesterday. Whether you partied and need to recover or would just like to add a gentle supportive pose to your yoga repertoire, a supported twist may be just what you need.
Supported Spinal Twist
Getting into the Pose:
- Build a support with bolsters/blankets with or without blocks underneath
- Use blankets under shoulders/legs and/or between legs
- Sit next to a bolster with hips on the floor, one hip next to the bolster, and legs relaxed away from the bolster
- Turn the torso so you face the bolster and let hands come to a rest on either side
- Lengthen through the spine and drape your torso over the bolster
- Knees closer to chest, intensifies the stretch in the lower back
- Arms extended stretches armpits and shoulders
- Turning the head away from the knees intensifies the stretch in the neck; turning the head toward the knees can be more gentle
- Relax space between shoulder blades
- Exhale, release into twist
- Inhale, create space
- Feel the body lengthen over supports
- Breathe quietly
- Hold for 3 to 5 minutes per side
- Relieves stress in backs, sides
- Stretches muscles between ribs
- Enhances breathing
- Bring hands under shoulders
- Inhale come up
March 14 is Save a Spider Day. I’ll admit, spiders freak me out. But… I also know they are beneficial. For the past several years, I’ve had an orb spider build a web near my back door and the number of bugs that have made it into my house has definitely gone down. So if you want to keep bugs at bay, leave spiders alone and #thinkbeforeyousquish. Plus, it will give you a chance to practice the principle of ahimsa, or non-harming.
If you want to further honor our spider friends, add spider pose to your practice. I can’t find much info about the background of this pose, so feel free to enlighten me if you know more about it.
The Monday after the switch to Daylight Savings Time in the Spring is National Napping Day. It’s natural to feel a little sleep-deprived when we “lose” an hour of sleep. Taking time to rest can help us recover.
While technically one should not nap in yoga, savasana or final relaxation pose can give you the benefits of a nice long nap. The goal is to let the physical body relax as if you’re asleep while the mind stays alert.
Seems simple enough, right? Not so for everyone. Whether it’s a challenge to quiet the mind or to stay awake, many people struggle. If you’re someone who struggles with final relaxation, ere are a few tips that might be helpful.
- If you tend to fall asleep: Come into your version of the pose but lie with your forearm raised. If you fall asleep, your arm will waiver or fall and wake you up. (If you plan to try this, you should let your teacher know prior to class so they won’t think you’re trying to get their attention.) You may also want to put some padding under your arm so that it won’t thud or hurt.
- If you are physically uncomfortable, use some props:
- A folded blanket or bolster under the knees can alleviate low back pain;
- A blanket or block under the head and neck can help if lying flat creates indigestion or dizziness; or
- If being on your back is not comfortable or safe for you, you can do a side lying version of the pose.
- If you can’t quiet the mind, this may sound strange, but don’t stress about it. We all have days where it’s a challenge and our mind replays events from the day or we run through our to-do list. Be compassionate with yourself and come back to the present moment whenever you think about it. If you need something to focus on, there are a number of different methods that may work.
- Focus on the breath. Follow the breath as you feel it move into the nostrils, along the throat, and into the lungs. Notice the quality of the breath. Is it smooth and even? Do you pause at the top or bottom of the breath? When does it feel warm or cool?
- If there is an activity that makes you calm, imagine that you are doing it. Maybe it’s a long run, coloring, cooking, or something else where you are totally in the moment. It might even be your asana practice.
- Another visualization technique is to imagine you are sitting next to your favorite body of water or in a garden and try to imagine that location — not just the sights but also the sounds, smells, quality of the air or water, or whatever else helps you be there fully.
- Mantras can also help focus and calm the mind. If you have a favorite short, positive statement, feel free to repeat it silently to yourself. I like to use a couple from Biff Mithoefer: “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out,” or “Breathing in, I know this is the perfect moment. Breathing out, I know this is the only moment.”
May you find a little relaxation today.
In peace and stillness,
National Worship of Tools Day is March 11. While it’s a day meant to celebrate tools like screwdrivers, wrenches, and hammers, I’m going to take a moment talk a bit about some of the tools we use in yoga – specifically yoga props.
I’ll never forget the time as a fairly new teacher, I had planned what I thought was a fun sequence where we would use chairs and blocks to practice and transition from half moon pose (ardha chandrasana) to warrior III (virbhadrasana III) to reverse half moon (parivrtta ardha chandrasana). I wanted to take everyone through the poses first with the chairs and then the blocks before going through the sequence without props. The intent was to build confidence and awareness of alignment with the props before letting students play with the full poses and transitions without them.
But there was this one student. “I don’t use props,” he said, and closed his eyes. End of discussion. I was totally thrown (did I mention I was fairly new to teaching?). I threw my plan out the window and the class was not what I hoped it would be. I was disappointed and felt like I didn’t give my students their best experience.
As a more experienced and confident teacher, I would now suggest that the student try using the props to see what insights he would gain; then I would teach the class I intended, whether he chose to use the props or not. The Ms. Sassy Pants in me might also say this: Get over yourself. Seriously. Your mat is a prop, so if you “don’t use props“, you best roll that bad boy up.
Clearly in the debate of whether to prop or not, I’m in the prop usage camp. Props are not just for the inflexible, but they can also be used as learning tools for more experienced and/or flexible practitioners. I’ve been practicing yoga for 20 years this year (yay!) and I still have a-ha moments when I try things new ways.
So check your ego, explore some new ways to get into poses, and let yourself have a little fun along the way!
Happy International Women’s Day!
In yoga, we frequently practice sun salutations. Sun salutes are great to warm up the body and build strength through lots of forward folds, back bends, and core work.
Today, I invite you to practice moon salutations which are a great complement to sun salutes with side stretching and squats. Plus, they tap into the feminine energy of the moon.
The chart below shows doing these with one breath and one movement, but you can hold each pose for several breaths until the flow comes more naturally.
1. Mountain Pose: Start at one end of your mat facing the long edge. Stand with feet parallel, knees soft, thighs active, spine long, and chin parallel to the floor.
2. & 4. Upward Salute: From mountain, raise the arms overhead on an inhale, keeping the spine long and lower rib cage pulled back to avoid a sway in the back. Fingers can be interlaced or hands can be shoulder-width or wider apart.
3. & 5. Crescent Moon: Exhale as you side bend.
6. 5-Pointed Star: Step the feet wide and turn the feet out. Reach the arms straight out at shoulder height with the palms forward.
7. Goddess: From 5-pointed star, exhale as you bend the elbows and bend the arms to 90 degrees. Knees should be opening toward the outside edges of the feet.
8. Triangle: For these instructions, let’s say we’re starting to the right but you’ll want to make sure to do both sides. Turn the feet to set up for triangle, with the right foot turn at 90 degrees from your hips and your left foot turned in slightly. Let the hips tilt as you reach the right arm as far to the right as you can go; pivot from that point so the right hand comes down to your leg/ankle/the floor and your left hand reaches up toward the ceiling. Both legs should remain straight.
9. Pyramid: From triangle, bring the left arm down to the floor/a block/your shin, letting the chest turn toward the floor and your hips and feet turn toward the short edge of your mat. Your legs should stay straight and your heals should be down (you may have to step the back foot forward for this).
10. High Lunge: Bend the right knee as you step the left foot back for high lunge. The front knee should be at 90 degrees with the knee directly over the ankle. Hands are framing the foot.
11. Extended Leg Squat: Bring the right hand inside the right foot and begin to walk the hands toward your midline. Your right leg will be deeply bent and your left leg will be extended out.
12. Yogi Squat or Wide-Legged Forward Fold. Traditionally, I have been taught to transition to a full yogi squat with both knees deeply bent and hands at the heart center. Heels may be on or off the floor and the toes turned out in the same direction as the knees. But if your knees don’t like doing a full squat, you can come into a wide-legged forward fold. Here feet are parallel to each other with the weight moving toward the pinky toe side of the foot, hands on the floor or blocks.
Then you do the whole sequence in reverse order to the other side.
Just like with sun salutations, there are many different variations of moon salutations. I hope you’ll give this one a try and see if you like it.
It’s National Umbrella Day! You can celebrate by watching Singing in the Rain or you can do the yoga pose that one of my first teachers called umbrella pose. The pose is a variation of standing forward bend with a shoulder opener.
Getting into the Pose
- Start in mountain pose and clasp the hands behind the back, interlacing fingers
- Inhale and lengthen the spine
- Exhale and fold from the hip crease, leading with the chest so that the back stays long
- As you fold forward, let the hands rise off the hips as much as comfortable
- Keep the back straight but relax the neck; arms and legs are also straight
- Come up with and inhale, keeping the back long as you come up
- If it’s difficult to clasp the hands behind the back, use a strap or belt to create more space between the hands
- If the lower back feels tight, soften the knees
- Stretches hamstrings, hips, calves, chest, biceps, forearms and front of shoulders
- Strengthens thighs, knees, and shoulders
- Aids digestion
- Eases headaches
It’s National Hugging Day! The World needs more love, so seize the day and your friends, family, pets, or strangers (with their permission, of course) and hug it out!
Got no one to hug? Don’t be sad. You can hug yourself. Hugging yourself has been shown to reduce physical pain. I often include a gentle hug/spine freeing sequence when I teach chair yoga and yoga for cancer patients and survivors as part of the warm up. Check out the video below.