Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Thread the needle (or whatever)

I'm not entirely sure what this pose is called. So I'll call it thread the needle. This is an amazing stretch for your neck and shoulders. However, as with anything with the neck you have to be careful and mindful of your body. 

So, you start out in child's pose. Slightly left your hips and take one arm, flip it palm up and stretch it under your chest towards the opposite side. Turn your head and look towards that hand and rest it on the ground. Keep your other hand stretched out in front of you. Lift your hips a little more and you should feel the stretch either in your neck and/or shoulders. If you want a more intense stretch, kick your leg out and roll onto your shoulder more. (Please see pictures cause this all just sounds super confusing.) Stay here for at least a few breaths and then come back to child's pose for a breath or two and then take it on the other side.  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Downward Facing Dog

Guys. I wrote this long, beautiful post about Downward Facing Dog. I did. It was beautiful. I pressed save probably 7 times. It disappeared. The internets swallowed it up. Its in some black hole now. Swirling off into nothingness.

I'm very irritated. Sure I'm a meditating, yoga doing, green smoothie drinking kind of gal. But I still get irritated. On the daily. Stupid internets.

Any ways, back to the point. Downward Facing Dog, or Adho Mukha Svanasana. From Upward Facing Dog exhale and using your core press your hips up and back, either rolling over the toes or just flipping your feet. Bend your knees at first to really press your hips back, feet hip distance apart, and then slowly start to straighten your legs. Try to press your heels down to the mat, but if they don't touch don't stress. "Practice and all is coming."  (I'm compulsively pressing save every 10 seconds here.)

Some alignment cues here (starting from the top!) Fingers should be spread wide, pressing fully into your entire palm. Shoulders away from the ears and pressed down the back. Ribcage knit together, pull your belly button up and back towards your spine (otherwise known as your Uddiyana bandha. We'll talk more about bandhas very soon. Pinky swear.) Pressing your hips up and back, your thighs rotate towards each other, and press y our heels down towards the mat.

The most important thing to do here is breathe! Once you've pressed back into downward facing dog, take five deep breaths. Every inhale fills the torso, breathing into the back and the toes and the fingers. Every exhale you knit the ribcage together. If you are finding it hard to focus on your breathing, come down to child's pose for a bit. The breath is the most important thing in any yoga practice. So BREATHE! And the rest will come on its own.

A few modifications: Bend the knees, a LOT. If you have wrist issues, come down to the forearms for Dolphin pose. And, of course, child's pose is always an option.

Check back tomorrow as we finish off our first sun salutation!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Upward Facing Dog

Next in the sun salutation is Upward Facing Dog, or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana. This is a posture I see done incorrectly allllll the time. It takes patience and work to do the full expression of this posture (as seen below). To start, do Cobra. Lower yourself all the way down to the floor from Chaturanga Dandasana. Place your hands next to your chest and on an inhale, barely lift the chest. You're not using your arms much here, but your back muscles. Exhale back down. Inhale lift a little higher, this time use more of your arms, keeping your legs and the top of your feet firmly pressed into the ground.

The full posture goes like this: You've exhaled half way down for Chaturanga. Inhale, roll over your toes so the top of your feet are pressed into the earth, keep your shoulders away from your ears, elbows next to your sides and reach through your sternum as you push up. Your head is the last thing to look up, careful of the neck. Your thighs and calves are lifted off the ground, core is tight.

This stretch feels soooooo good after working your core or your back muscles. It should feel good. If it doesn't feel good, drop down so your legs are pressed into your mat (keep your shoulders away from your ears!). If that doesn't feel good, come down to cobra. Don't let your ego get in the way. Listen and honor your body.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Chaturanga Dandasana

Next pose includes the transition to the pose, and the pose itself. Start out in Tadasana, exhale all of the air out, reaching down towards the ground.

Inhale, filling your ribcage and lift your arms up and overhead, look up at your finger tips. Keep your shoulders integrated, so your shoulders go down your back as you continue reaching up.

If your hands don't touch comfortably, keep them shoulder width apart. (Now the fun part is to try and remember to do this all in one, long inhale!)

Exhale, bring your arms down and out and hinge at the hips, keeping your back flat until you can't any longer. Fold forward, bending your knees as much as you need too so your hands touch the floor. Drop the head, relaxing the neck.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Inhale, come up half way to a straight back, finger tips to the floor. Keep your core strong

                                                                                                                                                                                     This next step can be the hardest for some because you are doing all of this on an exhale. But you can do it. Here is what you're going to do. Exhale slowly, step back into high plank.


Stack your wrists under your shoulders and spread your fingers as wide as they go.          

Roll forward on your toes, lower down keeping your elbows by your side. Lower down half way, keep you body as aligned as possible (because I have that nice little bubble butt, it doesn't look like I have my hips in line with my shoulders. But I really do. Pinky promise.)

If you need too, come down to your knees. It is better to keep your alignment than keep your ego puffed. Coming down to your knees will build strength. Eventually you will be able to stay on your toes. Its all good. Celebrate where you are now.

As I worked on this posture, sometimes I would just do a set of chaturangas. Its what helped me build strength, and chaturanga is the basis for a lot of other fun postures (like inversions!)

Some modifications: If you have wrist problems, curl your hands into fists. If you have shoulder issues, don't go down as far. Like I said, coming down to your knees is always an option.

Let me know if you have any questions! I'll answer all that I can.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Meditation Monday, Tadasana and how this is all going to work!

So I have a new little thing planned for you. I have a bunch of yoga poses and a sequence that I will break down for you. It won't be perfect because I am not perfect and I am still learning a lot. To see the new pose each day you can visit my Instagram page. I'll have a more complete breakdown and pose instructions on the blog every day as well. Every Monday will be a guided meditationas well.

To start everything up I will be breaking down sun salutations, or surya namaskar. Sun salutations serve to warm up the body and calm the mind to get your yoga practice started. They are the foundation that the rest of the practice is built on. The very most basic and most important of the poses is Tadasana or mountain pose. 

It looks like this: 

Seems simple enough, right? Toes together, heels slightly apart. Spread your toes and distribute the weight evenly throughout your feet. Ground through your feet. Which is a fancy yoga way of saying take a moment and feel the earth under your toes. Feel tall because you are growing roots. I know it sounds funny, but give it a try. Activate all the muscles in your legs. Pull your knee caps up and rotate your thighs away from each other. Tap into your core, take a deep breath and feel taller. Feel your shoulders relax down your back and the crown of your head reaching towards the sky. Spread your fingers wide and reach a little down. Imagine energy running down your arms and feet. Breathe in and feel your rib cage expand. Breathe out and knit your rib cage together. Take five deep breathes. 

You should feel grounded and energized and maybe you feel like moving some more! Check back tomorrow for the next pose.

And now for some Meditation Monday. Every Monday will be a new meditation. Just 5 minutes of meditation every day can make a huge difference in your life. It helps decrease stress, anxiety and tense muscles. It allows you to have that quiet moment that we all need to recharge.

Meditation can be whatever you need it to be. I know some who like to sit at the kitchen table, hot tea in hand, and meditate in a comfortable chair. Others enjoy sitting on a couch or against a wall. I prefer to sit on my mat. I dedicated my yoga mat to be a place of safety and calm and no judgement. I've worked hard to leave everything else behind the moment I step on to that mat. So it is my favorite place to meditate.

However you want, sit comfortable. Feel tall, crown of the head pulling towards the ceiling, Shoulders down your back. I like to start each meditation by taking a deep breath in and holding it for a second, gathering all the busyness in my mind. And then on the exhale I let it all go. Let my mind be wiped clean, if only for a second. Breathing like this can be meditation enough.

Today's meditation is focusing on Acceptance. You can focus on this concept however you like. I listened to Deepak Chopra's guided meditation on Acceptance. (I highly recommend downloading his Soul of Healing Affirmations cd. You can get it on iTunes and it is everything.) The guided meditation was just over 2 minutes long. Here is one similar that is wonderful.

Another option is to focus on your breathing for a few moments, and then imagine a small circle around you. With each inhale accept everything in that circle, just as it is. Your body, mind, soul. Everything about you. Focus on that acceptance. Exhale acceptance and love, inhale acceptance. As you start to feel at peace with everything in that circle, start to feel the circle expand. Maybe it expands to the room you are in, maybe it is your house, maybe you start to include people. Perhaps you place your job, health or a relationship in the circle. Focus on accepting it, just as it is. No change necessary. It is what it is, and that is ok. Spend five, ten, twenty minutes just breathing and feeling accepted and loved by yourself.

Don't expect much or get frustrated if you can't quiet your mind. This is a practice. No meditation is a bad meditation. Simply taking the time to try is wonderful. Appreciate the effort you put in to showing up for yourself today. And accept yourself, just as you are.