Tag Archives: postures

Have You Been Backbending in your Practice?

Back bends seem to be really polarizing in class.  Some people love them and drop back with ease while others feel scared, rigid, and closed in when attempting back bends.  I think there is an element of working through fear in our back bends. It requires an openness in the front of the body that we often avoid in daily life.  We have to work through feelings of fear as we fully expose the front of the body or take the head back.

When I haven’t been practicing deeper back bends for a while I forget how amazing it can feel afterwards.  I can feel a brightness in my mood and length through my whole spine. I did some deeper back bends this week, with a lot of focus on lengthening the spine, and am reminded just how integral a part of the practice they are.

I found this video as well which has some inspiring poses in it. The ever-underwear clad and terrific  Briohny Smyth shows us how it’s done.  She reminds us to create length in the lumbar spine, use core engagement, and find space for our back bend in the middle/upper back. If you are afraid of back bends, maybe try them at home in your smalls 😉

Yoga Gizmos, Gadgets, and Gear

YoFoMat

I got an email the other day for a product called the YoFoMat.  And I have to say I am rather intrigued!!  I am tempted to order one of these origami, travel anywhere, eco mats.  It folds away to the size of a book (or ipad box apparently) so you can carry it in your purse or bag.

Does anyone have one of these things? It’s being sold by a company called Khataland. I can’t tell if it is clever and functional or if it is a home shopping network disaster.  Needless to say, I must have one.  It appeals to me because I cycle everywhere and find that it is too cumbersome to travel with my yoga mat and my usually crammed full Osprey flapjill messenger bag. But then again I just can’t tell if it is a good mat with all gimmicks aside.

Moving on into the realm of the techy.  A rather interesting iPhone/iPad app was brought to my attention.  Michael Gannon, the self branded ‘Yoga Dealer’ has come out with the first ever Ashtanga app.  Now this I have tried and tested, and I do approve! There are beginner and advanced options with useful pictures, info, and direction.

Michael Gannon Ashtanga App

Lastly, I am a sucker for anything made by Yogitoes.  I am obsessed with the uStrap.  It looks like they are coming out with a new Skidless towel. The brand is called Prism with Brock Cahill as the poster yogi. It is made from recycled polyester and represents the glow of the chakras!  I think it looks great.  And I love the Walle esque ad campaign.

Brock Cahill for Yogitoes Prism Skidless

Is it Ok to Dip Toe in Different Yoga Pools?

Photo courtesy Salim Fadhley via Flickr

One of the first things people ask you when they find out you do yoga is what style you practice or teach.  I have always found this question to have a long answer.  In reality, there are few styles of yoga I haven’t practiced.  And over the course of time I have shifted in and out of certain styles/methods/and practices.  Can a style or a method be effective if it is only dabbled in?  Or does each style require that you practice it and only it every day for the method to work?

I started with Bikram.  I gained flexibility, focus, and health from this yoga. It is a very specific discipline and after a couple of years I wanted to branch out.  So I tried most everything, or at least what Yogaworks in LA had to offer.  I found vinyasa flow, Iyengar, yin, restorative, and anusara. And since then, Jivamukti, ashtanga, and hot yoga.  And to some of these disciplines I have committed a fair amount of time, mainly vinyasa flow.  And now, more and more, I find myself wanting to blend the styles.  I want to take from all these forms and make a kind of yoga fusion.  Perhaps that is what is so attractive about vinyasa flow.  It is a living style that is being influenced by teachers today. And in fact yin/yang yoga is growing more popular, a blend of vinyasa and yin, deep stretches.

Methods work.  They especially work when followed with discipline.  But since freeing myself of yoga discipleship, it’s hard to go back.   I would like to believe there is room to explore yoga in a broad sense and learn from many different kinds of teachers.  The intensity of what a teacher has to offer is correlative to the integrity they have for their discipline.  Perhaps a fusion of styles can be its own niche, and the blend becomes its own new thing. Or maybe instead of blending the styles together you practice different styles simultaneously.

I say, for the sake of self-expression and personal growth, yoga is to be embraced.  If the style feels right, if it builds you up and softens your edges, then its a good thing.  Branch out, build up, and be blissful.

Yoga Home Practice Makes Progress

Thanks to my Yogi Toes “uStrap”, I managed to get from crow to handstand.  I had tried this transition previously and found it hard…nay, impossible.  But some self practice paid off today.  I am wondering what other things I can use this little strap for.  I think the gentle support it offers helps the shoulder girdle stay stable. I think this transition will help me with my aforementioned home practice goal of pressing from forward bend to pike handstand.  Right now, when I press into the floor not much happens, just like the first time I tried the crow to handstand transition..

Cool Tool

Needless to say, I am really enjoying my home practice, self practice, and time to play!  Setting challenges and goals has been a roller coaster of expectation meeting reality.  And I am taking the ride…

Yoga Home Practice: Have it Your Way

Tools in my yoga corner

Developing a home practice can be challenging.  Usually, I have to feel the stars aligning in order to find the space (mental and physical) to practice at home.  But I know it’s important so lately I have been doubling down my efforts to acknowledge my resistance and work through it.

One of my issues was the space, so I designated a yoga corner in the living room. This way, I don’t have to move furniture in order to practice.  The corner is free and clear of clutter with a mat or two rolled up in the corner, an eye pillow, strap, and usually a few yoga books for reference.

ipillow?

Then I decided there was an overhead hanging lamp in the way of my sun salutations so my fiance removed it.

Obstruction no more

With the yoga corner decluttered and happy it was time to practice.  But where to start?  Sun Salutations seemed like the obvious answer.  And then I realized I could do anything I wanted in this new liberated space.  My personal class can be any length of time and take any sequence I choose.  How fun.

I have decided to make it my yoga work zone.  I am working on poses or transitions that I don’t really take the time to focus on in class because I am “flowing”.  Right now, my focus is lifting from a standing forward bend into handstand (handstand pike press).  I don’t have it yet, but will be sure to let you know when I do!

With the freedom to do anything we want, what do we do?  I am trying to break free of the “what should I do” thinking and just do what I want. Who knew unleashing ourselves could be so challenging?

With a home practice, I think the key is just to get started.  It doesn’t have to be right, or rigorous, or anything really.  It could be a seated meditation.  Decluttering helps to make the space ‘sacred’ and allow for mental and physical freedom.

Namaste!

Yoga for S.A.D.

Kansas City Sunflower from my Parent's Garden

Here in England, the weather can be a bit grey.  As winter sets in, I am gaining an understanding for why the term “Seasonal Affective Disorder” arose.  The oppressive weather can darken even the cheeriest of spirits.

Perhaps there are some ways we can add a bit of sunshine into our souls, come rain or shine.  I would like to propose that a yoga practice might lift the winter blues.

Inversions

Postures that bring the head below the heart or the legs above the heart are known as inversions.  These poses bring fresh blood to the brain which is energizing.  They also boost the immune system and help regulate hormones.

Heart Opening

Yoga involves opening the heart by lifting the chest.  Expanding the chest open and drawing the shoulders back helps lift mood by bolstering confidence and creating feelings of optimism.  Feel the love.  Share the love.

Gratitude

I have never walked out of a yoga class where I didn’t feel at least some heightened feelings of gratitude.  When the weight of the world has a chance to lift off our shoulders, we mainly see what we are thankful for.

Yoga and Hamstrings

Yoga helps you gain flexibility in your hamstrings which can aide sports performance, limit injury, and allow for healthy posture.  Because so much of yoga has to do with the orientation of the pelvis, the hamstrings are a key to going deeper in your asana practice.  They will give you access to the pelvic positioning required in most postures.  Your overall comfort and joy in yoga expands as these muscles loosen.  And for those who have never tried yoga, it is a great reason to get started.

Sports Performance

Your tight hamstrings not only keep you from touching your toes but could also be hurting your sports performance by limiting your range of motion and making you more prone to injuries such as tears, sprains, and strains.  Most sports will benefit from flexible and strong hamstrings because they require short powerful bursts of running and movement.

To stretch the hamstrings try Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog) aiming your heels back down onto the floor.

Posture

Hamstrings are related to the inability to have good posture while in a seated position, otherwise known as slouching.   Flexible hamstrings allow the bowl of your pelvis to sit upright, rather than tip backwards. The tightness of your hamstrings can tip your pelvis posteriorly.    This causes the natural curves in your spine to be compromised as flexion occurs.  So not only does it look bad, but it could be causing you damage and discomfort as well.

If you have tight hamstrings try Sukhasana (easy pose) with enough blankets under you to get your hips above your knees.  This will allow your spine to be erect and your head to sit comfortably above your shoulders.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of postures in yoga that will help you gain hamstring flexibility.  The ease developed from this flexibility will permeate through other areas of your life and inform day to day movements as well.

Deep Stretch

My yoga class today promised me a deep stretch.  Why on earth does anyone need a deep stretch?  For some reason I am completely drawn to treating my body like saltwater taffy, working it into longer and longer pieces.  Is this compulsion normal?  You can relax into a stretch or you can pull yourself into a stretch with your arms pulling and your scapula wrapping the outside of your back.  You can guess of which I have done more.
I have a certain relationship with my hip flexors and my hamstrings.  Some days the relationship is: I hate them and they must be beaten into submission.  Well, that’s most days.  I long to do splits and to sit in king-pigeon pose with my head resting on my foot, a big yogic smile stretching across my face as God showers sun beams down upon me.  If I could just stretch more, if I could just stretch harder, I could…
I could what?
Unlock the hidden mysteries of my hips?  I think actually Shakira is right, hips don’t lie.  Well hers definitely don’t.  They can “not lie” to you in just about any language too.  But mine don’t lie in other ways.  Mine seem to be holding 28 years of unclaimed emotions.  Spending a yoga class “opening” my hips is just about the biggest tension reliever I can think of.  But doing yoga certainly isn’t the only way to accomplish that.  There are other obvious ways like…riding a horse?  As my Psoas gets worked so does my stress and my emotional sensitivity.  In fact all sorts of emotions can bubble up to the surface.
The result is: I am forced to deal.  Deal with what exactly?  The discomfort.  I have to quite literally sit on my discomfort.  I have to just sit there and be ok with it.  Sit there and struggle with it.  Sit there and sweat over it.  Sit there and be pissed off about it.  Sit there and forget about it.  Asana is the physical practice.  It is to “sit in the seat of the self”.  And that seat isn’t always comfortable but I sit there.  And at the very least I am being with myself, in an honest way.
I can stretch by pulling and I can stretch by just sitting.  The activity of sitting into an uncomfortable pose is actually more intense than the activity of pulling and straining into a pose.  The rest of my life seems to be a tender balance of being able to sit with the uncomfortable bits and being able to pull myself out of them.
So when do you sit and when do you pull?  Sometimes we are ebbing and sometimes we are flowing.  And other times we just want to grab a branch and pull ourselves out of the river for while, have a siesta on the shore, and get swept up a bit later.