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How To Do Chaturanga: 3 Tips To Mastering The Pose

By Yoga Poses, Yoga PracticeNo Comments

Chaturanga is an integral pose in any yoga sequence – often done several times in a class. It can also be one of the most challenging yoga poses to master. It is important to learn how to properly do this pose because doing this pose incorrectly over and over again can create serious shoulder and wrist issues. Chaturanga is a combination of arm, core, upper back, and wrist strength so building strength in these body parts are key. Building strength in these areas will help to create optimal alignment for the pose.

The best way to practice is by starting off with a modified half Chaturanga on the knees. This pose is done with the exact same alignment principles as Chaturanga – the only difference is that it is done with the knees on the ground. Everything else; the core, shoulders, arms, upper back, and hands should be fully engaged as in the full expression of the pose.

How To Do Chaturanga

1. Start in plank pose with your wrists directly under your shoulders. If this is too much for you, you can come down to the knees and do a modified half Chaturanga.
2. Engage the leg muscles and core muscles.
3. Begin to roll forward slightly on the toes – this will help to bring the arms down to a 90-degree angle.
4. Keep the elbows hugged into the body and ribs. Begin to lower the body down slowly.
5. Keep the upper shoulder and back muscles engaged to keep the chest from collapsing down towards the mat.
6. Bring the arms perpendicular to a 90-degree angle so that the elbows are pointed back towards the feet.
7. Pause and slowly come down to the mat with control.

 

3 Tips To Mastering Chaturanga

1. Engage The Upper Back Muscles

Chaturanga requires that our upper back muscles are engaged to help support the upper body from collapsing down. To work on strengthening your upper back muscles, you can do push ups or practice Dolphin pose. Dolphin pose helps to target and strengthen muscles in our shoulders and upper back.

2. Squeeze The Elbows In

Squeeze in or hug your elbows into your ribs. This will support your arms and activate different muscles in your arms, for example your triceps and biceps, for more precision and control.

3. Use The Core

Your core will help to support your spine and protect your upper body from collapsing down. Keep the core tight and engaged when doing Chaturanga. To practice strengthening your core muscles, you can hold plank for 30 seconds to a 1 minute or practice Boat pose several times.

5 Yoga Poses For Core Strength

By Yoga Poses, Yoga PracticeNo Comments

Core focused sequences are often a favorite among yoga students because of the universal desire to have a flat and toned tummy. But strengthening the core has many health benefits too. The core is a central part in our body that helps to stabilize us and keep us balanced in our yoga practice. The teaching cue, ‘activate the core’ is used in virtually every balance pose. Keeping the core strong is also a good way to improve your yoga practice because it will help with your alignment and prevent injuries to your lower back. Strengthening the core also helps us in poses such as Chatarunga because it takes pressure off our shoulders and wrists.

Read on to learn 5 core focused yoga poses you can incorporate into your practice today!

1. Balancing Table

Balancing Table is a great core and balancing pose. Repeat up to 20 times for each side to activate your core.

To begin, start in a table top position. Engage the core to keep you balanced. Extend your left leg back, flexing the toes down. At the same time, extend the right arm forward. Keep a straight line through the arm, spine, and back extended leg. Hold for a breath before switching to the opposite leg and arm.

2. Boat

Boat is another good core focused pose that also helps us to improve our balance. Try to challenge yourself by holding this pose for longer periods of time – anywhere between 20 to 40 seconds or longer depending on your strength level.

Begin in a seated position with your knees bent in front of you. Engage your core muscles and begin to tilt back slightly. Grab on to the backs of your thighs and begin to lift the legs up so that the shins become close to being parallel to the mat. For beginners, keep your hands on the back of your thighs or on the mat behind you. To advance the pose, you can try to bring your arms directly in front of you so that they are parallel to the mat.

3. Side Plank

Side Plank helps us to strengthen our side obliques, another important part of our core. Try to stay in Side Plank for 20 seconds on each side or longer.

Begin in plank pose. Lift your left arm up towards the sky. Stack the feet or place the left foot directly in front of the right foot. If this is too much for you, come down on the right knee. Stack the shoulders and keep the neck in line with your head. Engage the core muscles and pull your obliques up towards the sky. Hold and switch sides.

4. Dolphin

Dolphin helps to strengthen our core and also our upper backs. Aim to hold this pose for 30 seconds or longer. Repeat several times.

Begin in a table top position. Lower your forearms to the mat so that they become flat and parallel to each other. Option to bring palms face down on the mat or clasp them together. Engage the core and the quads. Tuck the toes and begin to peel the hips up towards the ceiling, reaching up through the tailbone. Straighten the legs and press the heels towards the ground. Keep the spine long and broaden across the shoulder blades.

5. Plank

Plank isn’t known as a yoga pose but it is the beginning of the common Chaturanga pose. It is a great way to strengthen not only the core, but also our legs, upper back, and shoulders. Challenge yourself to stay in Plank for 30 seconds to a full minute at a time.

Start in a table top position with shoulders directly over the wrists. Extend your legs out straight so that you come up on the balls of your feet. Engage the quads and core muscles. Option to come down onto your forearms, if this is too much for your wrists. Keep the neck soft and the spine elongated.

 

7 Yoga Poses For Stress Relief

By Yoga Poses, Yoga PracticeNo Comments

Stress is something we all deal with on a daily basis especially in today’s fast paced world. Fortunately, there are a number of tools we can use to combat stress including yoga. Yoga relieves stress by improving the quality of our breath, calming our central nervous system, improving our mood, and also releasing tension in our muscles.

All yoga poses overall can reduce stress but certain specific poses have an amazing ability to significantly relieve stress almost instantly. Stress causes low energy in the body so it’s important to take it easy. Avoid high energy poses and focus more on grounding and restorative poses.

For even added stress relief, you can hold yoga poses for longer periods of time.

Here are 7 poses to help reduce your stress levels – please feel free to incorporate these poses into your lesson plans where it may help others.

1. Child

This restorative pose relieves sore and achy back muscles. It also helps to stretch the lower and upper back muscles.

Begin in a table top position, with your arms reaching out straight in front of you or by your sides. Sink your hips back towards your heels. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, and repeat as many times as needed to fully relax and stretch the lower back.

2. Easy

Easy pose helps to ground us and relax the body. Adding meditation or mantras are another great way to enhance this pose for relaxation. Breathing exercises or pranayama can also be practiced in Easy for stress relief.

To begin, sit upright and cross the legs comfortably. Root down into the sit bones evenly and lengthen up through the crown of the head. Keep the eyes open or closed and simply focus on your breathing. Stay in Easy for several breaths or for a few minutes.

3. Supine Twist

Twists are a great way to detox the body and relieve tension in our muscles. Because we are lying down on our backs in this particular twists, it creates an even deeper sense of relaxation in the body.

To begin, lie down on your back. Draw the knees into your chest and allow them to gently fall over the right side. Keep your shoulders pressed to the mat as you allow your head to gaze in the opposite direction as your knees. Stay here for several breaths before releasing. Switch sides.

4. Standing Forward Fold

Fold poses in yoga naturally help us to relax because it creates a sense of surrendering and peace in the body. Standing Forward Fold allows helps us relax by bringing more blood flow to our brains and stretching out tight muscles in the legs.

To begin, stand in Mountain. Begin to hinge forward at the hips and allow the fingers to reach towards the ground. Keep the knees slightly bent or straighten them. Let the head and neck be soft and keep length in the spine. Hold for several breaths before slowly releasing back up.

5. Wide Legged Forward Fold

Wide Legged Forward Fold is another great fold that helps to create a sense of peace and surrender in the body. It also helps to stretch the hips and legs, releasing tension in those muscles.

To begin, step the feet out wide about 3 to 5 feet apart. Bring your hands to your hips and begin to hinge forward at the hips. Allow the hands to reach for the ground, a block, your shins, ankles, or toes. Stay here for several breaths before slowly releasing back up.

6. Pigeon

Pigeon is an amazing pose for stress relief because it helps to ground ourselves and also deeply stretches tight hips.

To begin, start in Downward Facing Dog or a table-top position. Bring the right foot in and place it down on the mat behind the right wrist. Extend the left leg back on the mat with the top of the left foot resting on the mat. Stay here or to deepen the pose, begin to fold towards the mat keeping the spine lengthened. Hold for several deep breaths before slowly releasing back up. Switch sides.

7. Savasana

Savasana is the ultimate relaxation pose. Adding pillows, blankets, and aromatherapy are some great ways you can enhance Savasana for added stress relief benefits. You can also do Savasana for longer periods of time, for example up to 20-30 minutes to really relax your mind and body.

To begin, lie down on your back with your arms comfortably by your sides. Let the feet relax comfortably and close the eyes. Focus on your breathing and enjoy the stillness.

 

How To Do Dancer Pose: 7 Alignment Tips

By Yoga Poses, Yoga PracticeNo Comments

Dancer pose is a fun yet challenging balance and back bending pose that requires the combination of strength, flexibility, and stability. Dancer pose enables us to be more focused, calm, and can promote better balance in our lives. It also grounds us and keeps us rooted. With the opening of the chest and back bend, it is also invigorating and opens us up to new possibilities in our lives. It stretches our chest, shoulders, hamstrings, quads, spine, and hips. At the same time, it strengthens our ankles, shoulders, core, and larger leg muscles.

Due to so many working elements in this pose, it can be a very intimidating pose to attempt especially for newer students. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself in this pose. It is okay to fall from time to time when practicing Dancer pose. Be playful with the pose and get comfortable with getting outside of your comfort zone. Dancer pose will always look different from person to person so try to focus on how the pose feels in your body instead of how it looks. Your balance and flexibility with this pose will develop with patience and practice over time.

How To Do Dancer Pose

1. Begin in Mountain.
2. Begin to shift your weight onto your right foot.
3. Bend the left knee back behind you, allowing the left heel to come towards your left side glutes.
4. Reach your left hand back and grab your left foot inner ankle. If this is too difficult to reach, you can use a strap by bringing it around the top of your left foot and grabbing hold of it with your left hand.
5. Bring your opposite hand, right hand, up towards the ceiling.
6. Find a focus point to keep your gaze and balance.
7. Press into your grounded foot and activate your core to keep you balanced.
8. Begin to tilt your torso forward and at the same time begin to lift the right foot away from the body. Keep the chest open.
9. Bring the back foot up as high as is comfortable for you, working to get your back thigh parallel to the ground.
10. Hold for several breaths. To release, come out of the pose slowly. Lower your back foot down and come back to your Mountain pose.

Alignment Tips For Dancer Pose

1. Firm Your Foundation
Ground down and firm your standing leg without locking it. Engage the larger muscles in your legs – the quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles to protect the knee and also increase your balance. To do this, imagine feeling the kneecap of your standing leg lifting upwards; this automatically activates your upper leg muscles. You can also prep for this by strengthening the muscles in your legs. By increasing our strength we also increase our balance. Try prep poses that tone the legs such as Chair, Goddess, High Lunge, Warrior 2, Warrior 3, or Warrior 1.

2. Root Down In Your Foot
Firm down through all four corners of your standing foot. Aim to feel the ‘lift’ of the natural arch in your foot. By doing so, it will keep you more balanced in this pose. This works because the weight distribution of our bodies will even out through our feet, ankles, and surrounding leg muscles.

3. Square The Hips
In this pose, there is a tendency to want to want to rotate the body towards the side of our lifted back leg. This can take us off balance and can injury our lower back, knees, and hips. Work to get your pelvic and hip area squared to the front short edge of your mat. This will give you a better foundation and allow you to balance better on your standing leg.

4. Open The Chest
As you lean forward and come into the back bend of Dancer pose, one way we can avoid compressing the spine is by broadening out through the chest. Keep the chest lifted upwards and draw your shoulders down and away from the ears.

5. Draw The Lower Belly & Ribs In
As you lean forwards in this pose, draw lower belly in and also knit the ribs in. This will keep your torso from falling too far forward and also increase your balance.

6. Focus On A ‘U’ Shape In Your Back Bend
You want to think of creating a soft ‘U’ shape with your back bend instead of a sharp ‘V’ shape. This will help you to avoid compression of your spine. If you ever feel any sort of pain or pinching, ease out of the pose gently. All parts of our bodies are connected so a way we can deepen our back bend is working on stretching the surrounding areas; the abdominal and pelvic area. Some good prep poses you could practice to increase your flexibility in these areas are Camel, Bridge, Upward Salute with a slight back bend, and Wheel.

7. Be Patient & Ease Into It
Keep in mind, try to not focus on how the pose looks and avoid comparing how your Dancer pose looks to others. Be mindful and always work within the limits of your own body. With time and patience, you will be able to achieve whatever expression of the pose you wish. If you move too quickly in and out of the pose, you could run the risk of injuring your knees, hips, and spine.

More Tips For Beginners
If you find you have trouble balancing on one leg, you can try using a wall or chair for support. Work on just lifting your back leg up and grabbing the foot without leaning forward or coming into a back bend (think of just a simple standing quad stretch). As you work to gain flexibility in your quads and balance in your foundation, you can ease into the pose slowly.

If you find you have have difficult grabbing your back foot with your hand, you can also try using a strap for assistance. To do this, loop one end of a strap around the top of the back foot and the other end in your same side hand. Increase your shoulder and arm flexibility will also aid you in being able to grab your back foot with your hand. Try prep poses that stretch the shoulders and arms such as Downward Facing Dog, Camel, Eagle, Child, Cat, and Cow pose.

Advancing The Pose
To advance the pose, you could try bringing both hands overhead and grabbing hold of the lifted foot with your hands. When grabbing hold with both hands, be mindful to keep both arms knitted into the body, with elbows close to the ears. Be mindful to keep your shoulders drawn down your back.

 

6 Creative Places To Teach Yoga

By Yoga, Yoga TeachersNo Comments

As yoga has become more mainstream, cities across the world have been flooded with yoga studios of all sorts. However there are certainly still people today who have limited access to yoga studios and still have a desire to continue expanding on their existing practice. Maybe you’re looking to start teaching, but don’t have the resources to open your own studio? Or perhaps you live in a rural area without a nearby yoga studio? Or you might live in a smaller town without any openings at your local studio for new teachers. Today we’ll look at some alternative creative ways you can build a classroom outside of a yoga studio.

1. Clubs or Community Centers

Humans are social by nature, and it’s no surprise that every city has tons of clubs and community centers to choose from. Schools, churches, social clubs, sports clubs, event based groups – all of these are potential resources for you to offer your yoga classes to. You could reach out to the person who manages the club or organization and pitch them the idea of setting up weekly yoga classes with their members.

2. Outdoor Yoga

Outdoors is a great place to practice! People love being outside, especially when the weather is nice so this is another great way to attract people to yoga. You could find a local park, beach, or any other open outdoor area to use as your outdoor yoga classroom. Invite friends or advertise online through social media, blogs, or outdoor flyers to attract students to your outdoor yoga session! This is a great opportunity to spend some time outdoors in nature.

3. Fitness Centers

If there isn’t a yoga studio nearby, or you can’t find open teaching opportunities – another option is a fitness center or gym. There are lots of fitness centers that build classes around specific time frames including early morning, afternoon, late afternoon, and evening. Fitness studios and gyms are great opportunities to teach to a bigger audience because you’ll often get people who are completely brand new to yoga. This is another great way for you to help spread your knowledge about yoga and expand your student base.

4. School Gymnasiums

One consistent you’ll be able to find within any community is a school! Contact your local schools to see if they would be interested in having a yoga instructor come teach during gym sessions or even during class. You can market it as something great for the community and to also help improve their students’ overall well-being.

5. Online

It is a different dynamic dealing with people online than it is in person of course, but the internet has provided a great tool for people all over the world to connect with one another! It can be a great place for you to teach and connect with new students. By providing an outlet to reach a bigger audience, you could even expand your teachings to students around the globe.

6. Corporate

You can help people relieve work stress through workplace yoga! Workplace yoga is a growing trend around the world as companies are becoming more mindful about corporate wellness for their employees. You could offer lunchtime or afternoon classes or even a workshop about yoga and meditation at the workplace. The office can be a fantastic place for you to share your gift of yoga knowledge to others.

 

6 Pro Tips: Overcoming The Fear of Yoga Teaching

By Yoga TeachersNo Comments

Dread the idea of getting in front of a group and leading a yoga class? Afraid of speaking in front of others? Yoga is a passion for many people but sometimes the transition from student to teacher can be a terrifying one! Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered with 6 ways you can cope with the fear of teaching yoga.

1. Preparation

The amount of time and effort you put into rehearsing and practicing your yoga sequences and your classes will help to build confidence in your ultimate delivery. You may not want to jump into a retreat with 50 yogis your first time teaching – it can be quite intimidating. Preparing in front of smaller class sizes when you first start off can help build your confidence. Its important to be yourself in front of the classroom, and in order to truly accomplish this, you’ll need to find some comfort in your own skin – starting small can help you do this.

If you aren’t able to get in front of a classroom for whatever reason, you shouldn’t feel bashful about asking some other yogis or friends if they’d like to let you lead a small class for them. Ask them for their honest feedback about your teaching style and be open to any constructive criticism they give you.

You also want to make sure you plan out your lesson plans ahead of time and keep them to refer back to. Having detailed class sequences that you’re familiar with will go a long way in building confidence in your delivery.

2. Connect With Your Students

One way to help alleviate your pre-class jitters is to connect with your class. Getting to class early, and talking with the students beforehand can go a long way in helping to familiarize yourself with the class and remove some of your fears. Ask your students for feedback about what they liked about your class and what they would like to see more of. Again, be open to any constructive feedback they give you. Its important to be comfortable in your surroundings so connecting with your students will help you.

3. Stay With Your Breath

Breathing is an important part of yoga, but also an important part of presenting. As you slow down and connect with your breath, it’ll help you pace yourself, slow your heart rate, and ultimately relax. Focus on your breath – get lost in its motion and let its power release you from the anxiety of your task at hand. Fear by its nature lives in the present but is rooted in our perception of the future. Focus on controlling your breath and your thoughts will shift from the future to the present, where they should be. In addition to alleviating fear, breathing will help you keep pace in the delivery of your lesson plan. Allow your breath to absorb the silence when it comes, and drown out the sound of your fear consciousness.

4. Transform Fear To Excitement

I know someone who once used to say “it is not fear that gives me the jitters, it is excitement!” It is interesting how we as humans, with awareness, can channel our jitters into excitement rather than fear. To help you, focus on the positives of sharing your gift of yoga to others. Think of teaching yoga as a positive challenge that will help you grow and evolve to reach your highest potential. It also helps to think back on your past accomplishments and how far you’ve come as a yoga teacher.

5. Use Failure As A Learning Experience

Despite what happens, continue moving forward in a positive direction. As a yoga teacher it is completely normal to make mistakes in your classes. Don’t be embarrassed and use them as learning experiences. After you a teach a class, take time to reflect on your class and see if there are any areas you could improve on. Also, take the time to reflect on the things that you liked about your class to help you clarify what you want to expand on in your teachings.

6. Be Persistent

Continue to push through your fear and keep teaching classes. The more you teach, the more confident you will become as a teacher through your experience. Remember, your gift to the world and your students is offering your knowledge of yoga – the world needs your gift! Be persistent and with time, you will find teaching classes a breeze and a less fearful experience.

 

6 Tips For Picking Your Yoga Class Playlist

By Yoga TeachersNo Comments

There’s a lot of debate about the use of music in yoga classes today. Most traditional classes use music that fits the tone of their class, while some teachers argue against the use of music all together. While there be alot of different opinions on what is best – we believe that there is really no right answer.

Most information today related to music in yoga is meant to support a specific objective, or the opinion of one person – but yoga is universal and also a very personal practice. What one teacher prefers may be different from the next.

With all these differing opinions, we’ve created a simple guide for you on how to build your next yoga class playlist.

1. Choose Ambient Music

For many people, yoga is a way to access to their own personal sanctuary. A place where the rest of the world stops and an internal peace calmly rises from within. A ton of studies have been conducted into the power of sound as a way to help provide focus and inner peace. Ambient music can help to quiet the conscious mind, providing an avenue for the deeper parts of a yoga practice to arise. If you’re looking to provide a calming and meditative experience to your class, ambient sounds can be a valuable tool.

2. Use Themes

Themes can be a powerful way to inspire your students in their personal practice. Choosing music that relates to your class theme is a great way to create an empowering class experience. If you have a class theme that focuses on balance, you could choose calming ambient music to help balance the mind, or you could even use songs with lyrics related to balance. Another example would be if your class theme was inner power or confidence, you could use more uplifting and energetic music with your sequence. Planning your music with your class themes is a great way to create a better class experience for your students.

3. Choose Appropriate Music

As a teacher, using your creativity and personal preference when picking your list is great. However, it is important to keep in mind the style of yoga you are teaching when curating your music list. A high cardio power yoga class might be better suited with upbeat and lively music. At the same time, a restorative yoga class might need a more calm and quiet play list. A vinyasa flow class could have a mix of calming music for the warm up and cool down and more upbeat music during the peak poses.

4. Use Music With Lyrics

Often time yoga teachers will avoid music with lyrics for a number of reasons. But sometimes lyrics can actually pull the listener into the song and away from their internal self. Voice is a powerful entity. As teachers, we strive to find a voice that caters to our students. If you do choose to use music with words, make sure it’s appropriate to the theme of the class. Another option is to choose music with light lyrics but mostly instrumental music.

5. Time Your Playlist

Another consideration when picking your class playlist is the structure of the soundtrack itself. As a yoga teacher, you’re leading your class on a journey, and you want to provide a soundtrack which will complement this experience. Think of the different sections of a well sequenced yoga class – the intro, the warm up, peak poses, cool down, and Savasana. In each of these sections, your students will experience something different. For example, the intro and warm up is most likely going to be calm and slow. In contrast, the peak pose section may be more upbeat and lively.

6. Volume Is Important

The volume of your music is also important when planning playlists. You want to make sure the music is not too loud where it drowns out your instructions or distracts the class. Use a good quality speaker for your classes and make sure the volume is timed for each of the different sections of the class. For example, you may have the volume turned down a bit for the intro and warm up section of the class and then turn it up a slight notch for the peak poses. Once you get to the cool down and Savasana, you’ll want to turn down the volume again.