Category Archives: Yoga
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.
My life has gotten a bit hectic and I haven’t kept up with my blog schedule very well. For today, I had planned to celebrate National Love a Tree Day with a beautifully written entry about the beauty and necessity of trees as well as tree pose… but that’s not coming together. Time to switch to plan B. Instead, let’s celebrate International Pickle Day with a couple of silly songs because I feel like we could all use a little laughter.
First up, Mr. Arlo Guthrie and The Motorcycle Song, sometimes referred to as The Motorcycle Song (The Significance of the Pickle).
For some reason, thinking of this song brought another one to mind. Maybe it’s because Steve Goodman wrote City of New Orleans, which Arlo recorded, as well as our next selection. Here’s David Allan Coe with You Never Even Call Me by My Name. Even if you don’t like country music, you should listen until the last verse; I still laugh every time I hear it.
And just for kicks, here’s what is probably my most loved silly song: Roger Miller’s You Can’t Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd. Good advice for us all.
May you put your mind to being happy,
National Etiquette Week is May 8 to 12 this year. I teach a quarterly Yoga Basics class and often get questions about etiquette in group yoga classes. Here are some tips based on those conversations.
What to wear. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on fancy yoga clothes. Wear something that is comfortable and that will allow you to move freely. You don’t need to wear form fitting yoga pants if you’re not comfortable in them, but you should wear something that allows the teacher to see the shape of your body in the poses to help with adjustments.
Yoga accessories. Students often ask about buying their own yoga mats and which one they should purchase. Most studios have mats available, so you don’t necessarily have to buy your own. If you do decide to buy your own mat, there are a number of inexpensive options at major retailers and there are also lots of more eco-friendly (and also more expensive) options available. When you’re ready to purchase your own mat, feel free to ask your teacher or other students for recommendations.
When & what to eat before class. The general rule of thumb is to avoid eating at least two hours before class. If you need to eat something due to scheduling conflicts or health issues, eat only something very light that won’t upset your stomach.
Don’t be stinky. It’s impossible not to sweat in most classes, especially hot ones, but it’s best to start out fresh and clean. And lest you think bad body odor is the biggest problem here, you’re wrong. Wearing perfume or other strong scents is the more common offense. Many folks have allergies or are sensitive to strong scents, so it’s best to avoid using perfumes before practicing.
Arrive early. Ten to 15 minutes before class is a reasonable time to arrive before a class. It gives you plenty of time to get your space, your props together, and get settled in. Arriving late is sometimes unavoidable but it is also very distracting — avoid it as much as possible.
Turn off your electronics. You don’t need your phone on your mat. Turn it off. A vibrating phone in a quiet yoga space is as distracting as a full-blast ringtone, so off is better than silenced or on vibrate. If there is a family or work emergency, let your teacher know, set up by the door, and step outside before answering.
Passing gas. Hey, it happens. Feel free to either laugh at yourself or keep moving right along. Everyone has (or will) do it at one time or another.
Don’t skip relaxation. Final relaxation is the most important pose in class. Some days, it’s easier than others to lie quietly, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t find it easy or don’t really like it. If you absolutely have to leave class early, let your teacher know before class and leave as quietly as possible before final relaxation begins.
Enjoy yourself. Yoga is serious but it should also be enjoyable. Allow yourself the gift of time to do something good for you. Don’t stress about not being able to do everything at first. If a class is challenging, modify poses when necessary and take breaks when you need to. If you feel a class is too gentle, allow yourself to give your body a bit of a break. To paraphrase Paul Grilley, the only incorrect way to do yoga is to feel nothing or to feel pain.
See you on the mat,
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,
National Pretzel Day is a great day to get free pretzels, but it also makes me think of the number of times that people tell me they’ve never done yoga because they “aren’t flexible enough” or they “can’t do those pretzel poses.” I usually have two responses to that: 1) saying you’re not flexible enough to do yoga is like saying you’re too dirty to take a bath, and 2) I’m not flexible either.
Yoga can be about doing incredible looking poses, if that’s what you’re into. It can also be about learning what your body and mind are capable of. It can be about whatever you want it to be. Just get on your mat and see what you find.
During this National Gardening Day, we’ve looked at poses to do before and during gardening. After a long day of bending, lifting, and working against gravity in the garden, a few poses to counteract the day’s activities are in order. Reclined poses allow gravity to work with the body rather than against, twists help tone the spine and loosen up the back, and elevating the feet helps release the stress of the day.
May all your flowers bloom,