Category Archives: Asana
July 16 is World Snake Day. While snakes may seem a bit scary, they play a vital role in our ecosystem. Indiana, where I live, has 33 native species of snakes, four of which are venomous. If you’re afraid of snakes, learning about them can help dispel your fears or at least teach you how to avoid them. If you love snakes, celebrate them by doing a little cobra pose.
Getting into it
- Lying on your stomach, bring your hands under elbows (or under your shoulders for less intensity) and hug your elbows in to your sides.
- Engage the legs so that all toes are gently pressed into the floor; the feet will stay on the floor in this pose. Engage the abdomen. Lengthen the spine and, on an inhale, begin to lift the head, neck, and shoulders as one unit.
- Press into the hands without straightening the arms all the way and keep your neck in neutral.
- Helps reestablish the natural curve of the lumbar region
- Helps relieve lower back pain and stiffness
- Tones the spine
June 28 is Paul Bunyan Day, a day to celebrate American folklore and the legendary giant lumberjack in particular. You can celebrate a number of ways including:
- Familiarizing yourself with the legend of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Big Blue Ox,
- Wearing flannel,
- Visiting one of the many states that lay claim to Paul Bunyan,
- Planning a trip to Paul Bunyan Days or Paul Bunyan Land, or
- In honor of his lumberjack heritage — practicing tree pose.
Whatever you do, have a little fun with your day!
National Canoe Day is June 26th. Sounds like a perfect day to work on boat pose, or navasana! Boat is a great way to work on both your abs and back muscles. To do boat, you sit on your mat and tilt back until you can pick your feet up of the floor. Most traditionally, boat is done with the legs extended, arms parallel to the floor, and back long. There are number of ways to modify the pose to make it a bit more accessible as well as amp it up a bit.
- To make it a bit easier, keep the shins parallel to the floor and either hold behind the knees or extend the arms along the floor.
- For a bit more challenge, take the shoulders and feet closer to the floor, either holding or raising and lowering the shoulders with the breath.
- For variation, reach the arms forward and practice twisting from side to side
- You can really do almost any variation that comes to mind as long as you keep the back long and your breath moving.
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,