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Yoga Poses

​A Home Yoga Flow for Balance and Soothing

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There are countless yoga videos available to download or stream, and unsurprisingly many of them are focused on stress relief. These challenging, unprecedented times have yogis scrambling for a “quick fix” or a way to infuse their practice with more stress-busting approaches. However, there’s no getting around the fact that screen time alone can sometimes increase anxiety and stress. Since so many of us are working from home and staring at screens more than ever before, it’s worthwhile to dedicate at least one yoga flow a week to zero screens.

If you’ve been practicing for a while, have been thinking about pursuing your yoga teacher training certification, or are even in the middle of training, it’s especially important to learn how to create and adapt various flows of your own. For those who haven’t taught before, here’s a secret: there are a lot of yoga teachers out there (very good ones, too!) that don’t memorize and map out every single asana before every class. Intuition is a big part of being a good teacher—even when you’re your only student.

My home practice evolves around a daily flow that I create the day before. These are asanas that I especially want to focus on the next day, but they are by no means written in stone. It’s also a way to ensure that I don’t overlook some particular asanas for too long of a stretch. Left to our own devices, it’s very common to seek out the path of least resistance. Most of us like poses that we’re good at (as if there is such a thing) or that feel the best. We might not seek out the poses we find more challenging or uncomfortable if we don’t write down key asanas in advance. (Bear in mind, there’s a big difference between pain and discomfort.)

Creating Your Unique Flow

There is no perfect flow for balance and soothing. However, incorporating some restorative asanas into your usual flow and carving out time strictly for meditation post-savasana is a good start. Restorative yoga is often known for having ample props, but there’s no need to head straight to your favorite online yoga retailer to stock up. Props like bolsters and straps can easily be created through makeshift items in your home.

When soothing balance is the kind of flow you want to focus on, slow down. If you’re used to the uber-popular Vinyasa-style in the west, it might be time to incorporate more Iyengar-style yoga into your practice and hold poses longer.

Here’s a sample flow that I’ve practiced myself. When lockdown came into place, I transitioned to holding poses for one minute each (which means this flow will probably look a lot shorter than you imagine):

• Child: Transition from resting forearms to hands extended with fingers spread wide. Roll the forehead along the mat as you finger-walk from the left to the right, holding each side for one minute. As you stay in Child, take time to explore with your breath. You deepen your inhales and exhales as you surrender further into this pose.

• Table Top To Cat/Cow Flow: This is a great flow to warm up your spine. Feel free to explore barrel rolls, move side to side, or anything else that feels good in these two poses.

• Thread The Needle: Be sure to do both sides for this pose. You have the option to keep your free arm on the mat for support or in a half-bind behind the back. Stay in this pose for as long as you feel you need to.

• Downward Facing Dog: When doing this pose, try to pedal your heels towards the ground slowly to stretch your hamstrings. You can experiment with this pose further by bending your knees or perhaps bending one knee at a time. Find what works best for you in your own body as you explore this pose.

• Extended Leg To Big Toe: We already don’t extend our toes in our regular lives or really pay much attention to them. Our toes take a huge burden every day by helping to carry our body weight and balance us as we walk.  I incorporate this pose into every practice every day.

• Downward Facing Dog: If you’ve taken up running as a means to get outside (while still keeping your six-feet distance), experiment with extending one sole flat to the mat with the opposite knee bent as much as necessary for one minute, then switch. Tight muscles in the legs are notorious for runners and yoga can help counteract that.

• Forward Fold To Mountain: Any modifications in this transition are welcome, such as ragdoll.

• Warrior 1 to Warrior 2: Option of elevating arms or not (depending on energy levels). The first couplet in the warrior series has become synonymous with yoga for many westerners, and incorporating it into your practice can be a welcome familiarity for those new to a home practice.

• Tree: Modifications are welcome, including slow blinks or prayer hands behind the back.

• Chaturanga Dandasana: Similar to the warrior series, this vinyasa flow can help provide comfort if you’re missing your usual studio practice. Take it slower for now, and practice one long breath per movement. Opt for full belly resting on the floor instead of hovering in a tricep pushup. Cobra breaths (rise with an inhale, lower with an exhale) can take the place of up-dog to downward facing dog.

• Legs Up The Wall: You can do this pose for a minimum of two minutes or longer depending on how you need it.

• Meditation: Follow with ten minutes of meditation of your choice. You could choose a simple breathing meditation, mindfulness meditation, gratitude meditation, or guided meditation! There’s no right or wrong way to meditate to feel free to modify, tweak, or expand as you like. Remember to always listen to your body during the flow as well. Even if you’re the one who writes the flow, that doesn’t mean you have to follow it to the letter—or at all. Some days you might find you have less energy than others and that’s totally fine. Just be sure to tune into your body and listen to what’s it is saying to you.

 

Jessica Mehta is an E-RYT500® and RCYT® certified yoga instructor. She received her initial 200-hour training at Peak Beings Yoga while she was living in Costa Rica followed by her 300-hour training at The Bhakti shop in Portland, Oregon and her children’s yoga teacher training at The Lotus Seed also in Portland. Jessica is the founder of Get it Ohm!, a karmic, mobile yoga series that offer complimentary classes to individuals and groups who don’t have access to traditional yoga studios and/or don’t feel comfortable in such environments.

 

 

 

​Relaxation in One Yoga Pose: A Step-by-Step Guide

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A few summers ago, I suffered from terrible anxiety. To cope, I’d often sit outside under the trees noticing the light pouring through the branches and listening to the sound of my breath mingling with the tune of fluttering leaves. It would bring me tranquility and it was time just for me. I had faith in this practice to restore me, if I gave the trees my full attention. Yoga requires a similar faith. If we practice with sincere effort, equanimity and trust, over time the process of yoga will bring us back to ourselves. And like the shelter of the trees, one pose can also be a place of refuge. The āsanas are not simply things we do. They are places we go.

The current global health crisis is a moment of emotional, physical, and spiritual depletion. We may not have the time or energy for lengthy āsana practices or extended meditations right now. But if we’re tired and anxious there are simple, time-efficient ways to restore with yoga.

Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Koṇāsana), accompanied by breath-work and focused awareness, can be a complete practice for deep relaxation. Do the best you can to find a quiet space to do this exercise. If it feels impossible to calm down, don’t be dissuaded. Regardless of how long you have available to rest in this posture, it will benefit your mind and body. Proceed without attachment to the outcomes, but with willingness and curiosity.

Step 1: Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Koṇāsana)

Start in Corpse Pose (Śavāsana) and take a few breaths there. With each exhale loosen the muscles of your back, melting into the support of the floor. Bring the soles of your feet together at a comfortable distance from your pelvis, opening your knees wide. Place a block, cushion or rolled up towel under each knee. Allow these supports to bear the full weight of your legs, facilitating a release in your hips. Draw your tailbone down the mat, rolling your pelvis up towards your navel, creating space in your lower back. Tuck the chin slightly to lengthen the back of your neck and adjust as needed to ensure your spine is not compressed. Lay your head on a pillow and drape a blanket over your body. Close your eyes or soften your gaze, relax the muscles of your face, and position the hands in any way that feels best to you. Breathe naturally for several minutes. Remain in this posture for the duration of the practice, or for as long as it feels comfortable.

Step 2: Three Part Breath (Dīrgha Pranāyāma)

Place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your heart. Prop up your elbows with rolled towels if desired. Inhale from the space below your navel and send the breath seamlessly through your rib cage, extending the sides of your body, and then up into your chest until your lungs are full. Draw your shoulders towards the mat as your heart space opens. Exhale completely and with control. Allow your chest to fall, your ribs to reform and your navel to gently drop back towards the spine. With each breath cycle use the placement of your hands to feel the breath dance in your body.

Step 3: Withdraw the Senses (Pratyāhāra)

Disengage your senses from the world beyond your mat. Focus on your inward experience, rather than ambient noise, anxious thoughts, or unrelenting laundry lists. When your mind starts to wander, refocus on your breathing. If the thoughts persist, don’t be discouraged. Use your breath awareness as a shield from material distractions, as well as a guide for exploring the stillness and stability of your inner self. Pay attention to your breathing, but abandon all effort in your body. Be at ease in the unknown, the mystery of the self, an uncharted holy place.

May this practice bring you solace and peace, quell worry and fear, and serve as a place of refuge protected by the unassuming presence of your own breath. May it reveal the subtle complexities of your body, the transformative power of the āsanas, and the grace of praṇa. Above all, may it revitalize your spirit in times of great uncertainty.

 

 

Claire Papell is a writer and yoga teacher (RYT-500) committed to revealing and honoring the hard truths of being human. Her yoga education included extensive study of the rich tradition of bhakti-yoga – the yoga of devotional service. Through the reading of sacred texts, yogic philosophy and kirtan, she developed a deep and persistent wonderment about Spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

​Re-Visiting the “Basics” of Vinyasa: Chaturanga and Breath

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Re-Visiting the “Basics” of Vinyasa: Chaturanga and Breath

Chaturanga Dandasana is a staple of Vinyasa and many other types of yoga, but a lot of practitioners make little mistakes. And once you start doing something in a not so great way, that tends to stick. Hopefully, you’ve had teachers that stop and break down Chaturanga. It’s not something that’s easy to “get” just like that. Many people who have been practicing for years can benefit from a little tune up from time to time.

Chaturanga begins in plank pose. However, you can train your body and mind to shift into Chaturanga from plank simply by moving forward about one inch. Your wrists should be directly under your shoulders while in plank, but prep for Chaturanga requires you to be slightly forward.

It’s probably been drilled into your head that your elbows need to be in when you lower halfway. Make sure you can feel your elbows brush against your ribs.

The biggest issue many people have is their definition of “half-way.” This is where a mirror can come in very handy. Some people don’t go far enough, and others are making things harder on themselves (and their joints) by just barely hovering above their mat. Many people droop in the middle at this point, which gives your back zero support.

It’s often helpful to exaggerate your hips when learning (or re-learning) Chaturanga. It might feel like your hips are way up in the air, but if you check int he mirror, they’re actually right where they should be. And yes, this will require more work from your muscles. Simply holding at the half-way point, properly, is enough for many people.

Even after practicing for several years, I prefer to start out my Chaturangas with a baby cobra. It stretches in a different way than the full Upward Facing Dog. It also helps my body get into the Chaturanga rhythm.

I encourage my students to mix and match baby cobra with Cobra and Upward Facing Dog. Listen to your body. Feel what these different poses can give you. Remember that yoga isn’t about getting to the next crazy looking asana, but about exploring your body and getting the full benefits from every breath and pose.

Yoga Breathing for Pain Management

Any woman who’s given birth can tell you that breath makes a huge difference in pain management. What you might not realize is that the breathing you learn in yoga can help you in many facets of your life. Some people faithfully go to their class of choice and wait impatiently to “get into things.” They’re there for the strengthening and flexibility that the asanas offer, and that’s fine for them. However, these types of practitioners are missing out on a very important half of yoga.

Linking breath with movement is one definition of yoga. It’s not just “movement.” If you’re not practicing the breathing half of things, you’re only doing half of yoga.

Yogic breathing has helped me in every complementary facet of my life from my years as an amateur boxer to marathon running and my HIIT training. It’s a critical training aspect of every sport, whether you’re in an intramural league or a professional. However, it’s also a crucial part of other, less active parts of my life. Recently, I had a fairly large cover up tattoo done on my spine. Notoriously a painful part of the body for ink work, I was 12 years overdue to cover up two tattoos that I got on a whim.

Even as a practicing yogi, I was surprised by how quickly I naturally went to my breathing to manage the pain. It gave me something to focus on. Breathing out the pain helped move me from dealing with the pain, to managing the pain, to finally accepting the pain so much that I managed to drift in and out of sleep during the last two hours in the chair.

This is just one example of how your practice might positively influence other aspects of your life. It’s often said the biggest challenge is just getting to the mat. But what are you going to use with what you’ve learned there?

 

 

 

 

Yoga For Anxiety And Depression: 4 Yoga Poses To Uplift You

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It’s not unusual for someone who suffers from anxiety to also suffer from depression, and vice versa. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the United States for ages 15 to 44, affecting 6.7% of American adults 18 and older. On the other hand, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects 3.1% of the US population and often co-occurs with major depression.

Yoga has been widely recognized as a way to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression, reportedly helping some practitioners adopt a more positive attitude toward life. Practicing yoga and moving the body has many physical benefits and there are also various benefits that yoga can have when it comes to mental health.

According to a Harvard University publication, yoga has been proven helpful in reducing anxiety and depression by helping regulate a person’s stress response system. With the ability to lower blood pressure and improve the quality of the breath, certain yoga poses in particular may help provide you with the means to cope with and alleviate anxiety and depression.

Here are some fundamental poses that help regulate the stress response system:

1. Child Pose

 


This basic posture helps relieve tension in the hips and lower back. By resting the forehead down on the ground or on a prop, the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated, producing a relaxation response.

Find a child’s pose by starting in a table top position, on all fours. Bring your big toes together and your knees apart. Sit the hips back on the heels and rest the torso in between the knees and thighs. Reach your arms out in front of you and take 5-10 deep breaths. With each breath, try to expand the ribcage in every direction, sending the breath to your sides and to your back as well as the belly and the chest.

2. Downward Facing Dog

 


This is another foundational pose that lengthens the spine, strengthens the arms and shoulders and stretches the hamstrings. This pose is considered an inversion, helping blood circulate to the brain. This inversion of your blood flow is instantly energizing, and counters symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Start on the hands and knees. Tuck your toes under and lift the hips back and up, so your body is making an upside down ‘V’ shape. The feet should be hips-width distance apart but don’t worry if your heels don’t touch the floor. You can even bend your knees if you have tight hamstrings. Suck the belly in, firmly press the floor away and relax the neck and shoulders away from the ears. To warm up, peddle out the feet and bend one knee at a time. Then hold steady for 5 deep breaths.

3. Bridge Pose


This backbend and chest opener help open the front line of the body. In bridge pose, the back of the neck, where we naturally hold a lot of tension, is stretched. Holding this pose can relieve that tension and ease symptoms of depression.

Start laying on your back. Bend the knees and place the feet flat on the ground hips-width apart. Reach your hands toward your heels. On an inhale, press into your feet and lift the hips up off the ground. Strengthen the thighs and tuck your shoulders underneath to help you press up higher. The hands can interlace behind your back, reach for the heels, or press into the ground. Hold for five breaths.

4. Standing Forward Fold


Dropping the head below the heart has a calming effect on the mind and body. In a standing forward fold, the body can quickly relax and get a stretch of the entire back line: from the hamstrings all the way up to the back of the neck. The pose may also help ease headaches and chronic fatigue.

Start standing with your feet hips-width apart and your hands on your hips. Bend your knees, hinge at the hips, and fold forward. Drop your hands onto the floor or grab opposite elbows and let your head and neck hang heavy. You can sway the torso from side to side, and try to stay inverted for about one minute.

In summary…

Research suggests that the practice of yoga modulates the body’s stress response and can be helpful for both anxiety and depression. The scientific study of yoga indicates that mental and physical health are not only closely related, but are essentially two sides of the same coin. In addition, the holistic approach and low-risk involved in practicing yoga makes it an appealing option to manage anxiety and depression.

 

 


 

Michelle Kirel aspires to share with as many people as possible the necessary tools to maintain a healthy, strong and resilient lifestyle. Michelle has a lifelong passion for yoga. She was exposed to yoga at an early age by her mother who is a certified Iyengar yoga instructor. It was during college when she started practicing daily and falling in love with the feeling that comes after a yoga class. Following graduation, Michelle completed her 200 hr certification training in Vinyasa Yoga to dive deeper into the ancient tradition. She currently combines her understanding of yoga with Neurokinetic Therapy to help people treat chronic pain, injuries and postural imbalances.

 

 

 

 

 

​Savasana: The Crown Jewel of Yoga Asana

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Though we follow different traditions of yoga asana, most all lead us to the final destination of relaxation, savasana. The practice of asana prepares our students’ minds and bodies for deeper awareness, by which savasana is the gateway. Savasana is subtle, a practice that builds the foundation for meditation and pratyahara. As yoga teachers, we can prepare our students for a deep savasana practice once we comprehend why we do it, and how.

Savasana integrates asana and ujjayi breathing on a deep level. It also serves as a transition from the formal practice of yoga into the outside world. Many students fall asleep during savasana, which is normal, but not the intent of the practice. The body becomes fatigued from the work of a balanced asana practice, while the mind becomes focused and calm through concentrated breathing. In savasana, the needs of the body and mind are transcended, and true relaxation and release can take place.

In savasana, some yogis may experience a dreamlike state, not quite like sleep, but unconscious nonetheless. Others may simply lose themselves, remembering nothing but the lingering stillness after the practice is complete. And some may have experiences beyond the mind and body that defy explanation. Because of the subtle nature of savasana, it is best to let whatever comes come, and to speak little of the inward nature of the practice. To articulate into words what cannot be perceived by the intellect bypasses the mysterious nature of our connection to the unknown. Just like yoga asana, some sessions are difficult, and some come with gentle ease, but in the end, savasana is a practice– a process to apply again and again.

From the outset, savasana appears to be simple and defined. Lie down, close your eyes, do nothing. However, for yoga teachers to hold space for our students to enter this deep state of relaxation, we require technical know-how, practice, and attentiveness. If your students are restless in savasana– fidgeting, coughing, or are lying with their eyes open, implementing the following techniques will help you to prepare them for deeper restoration. First, a balanced asana practice, with both rigor and cool down, is essential. The body must be worked in order to access the mind, and that work must be released in order to fully relax. Offering a cooling sequence about 10 minutes long is effective, especially if the final poses are done on the back, such as jathara parivattanasana, Revolved Belly Pose. Next, allow for 5 minutes of deep ujjayi breathing, either lying down or sitting up. Smoothly transitioning your students from the dynamic practice of asana into meditative breathing will prepare them to relax and will support the integrative process of savasana.
Creating a calming environment during the cool down portion of your class will subconsciously prepare your students for savasana. Dim the lights if possible, or turn them off completely. Slowly lower the volume of your regular music until it is mute prior to beginning your breath exercises. Similarly, begin to soften your instructional voice and slow your cadence as you bring your students into their final postures. I find that using the same words to guide my students to the floor, class after class, signals a state of relaxation, with each instruction slower and quieter than the last. Encourage your students to lie down quietly with minimal movement. Instruct them, practice after practice, to relax, to be still, and to let go. Finally, play a rhythmic selection of music especially reserved for savasana, ideally, without words that the mind can grab ahold of.

While your students are journeying inward, it is important for you, as the teacher, to reinforce the subtle work of their practice. Savasana is not a time for a teacher to check their phone, to leave the room and socialize in the reception area of the studio, or any number of things that might pull attention away from the students. Savasana is a time for you to go inward, as well. During savasana, you can sit in silent introspection, chant mantra in your mind, or lie down quietly. Be present in the subtly of the practice, for this space is our forum of learning, as much as it is for our teaching.
Allow your students to remain in savasana for at least 5 minutes, and then slowly, softly, and quietly draw them out of their inner space by bringing awareness back to the breath. Take several breaths yourself and give ample silence between your cueing in allowance for the deep state your students are coming out of. Encourage gentle movements before the greater motion of turning to a side. Patiently guide them to a seated position, and end your class as appropriate. In this way, the effects of the entire practice of asana, ujjayi, and savasana will stay with your students long after they leave the studio space. In the end, savasana is the crowning jewel of an asana practice, one that can touch the heart and souls of all who practice it.

Holly Beck is an experienced, advanced yoga instructor with nearly twenty years of teaching and mentoring experience. Classically trained in the tradition of the Sri Vidya lineage, Holly’s class promises an authentic yoga experience for practitioners of all levels with steady pacing, a continuous meditation on breath, and masterful sequencing. While she enjoys all levels of yoga, Holly’s true gift is working with pregnant women. Holly’s specialized prenatal yoga practice, The Yoga Of Birth, has prepared hundreds of women for empowered birthing experiences. Holly holds degrees in English and the Science of Health and Wellness from the University of California, Berkeley. Her work has been featured in the journal of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, and she is recognized by the Doula Association of Southern California as a leader in prenatal education. Holly is currently developing a sustainable, rural retreat center for conscientious living in Costa Rica. For more information, please visit www.seedsofloveproject.org. Holly also regularly writes content for YogaRenew Teacher Training.

How to Do Headstand (Sirsasana): 6 Tips to Master the Pose

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How to Do Headstand (Sirsasana): 6 Tips to Master the Pose

In case you haven’t noticed, headstands have been plastered all over social media lately, along with many other beautiful and intricate inversions. Being upside-down provides many benefits apart from looking graceful; the positioning of your heart above your head relieves stress, strengthens the core, increases blood circulation, gives a boost of energy, and helps to decrease leg swelling. If you are a beginner and new to inversions, attempting a headstand is the way to get started because there is more surface to balance on. From my experience and advice that I have received, here are some tips to help you navigate headstand and master this asana in no time!


1. Practice against a wall

As a beginner, with any inversion, the wall is a great place to start. Going upside down for the first time can be intimidating and since the most common concern is falling, using a wall can eliminate most of that fear. By practicing against a wall, you can slowly learn where your center of balance is which eventually will come naturally. Although the wall is a great form of assistance, try not to rely on it and slowly move away from it as you progress in your practice. For instance, begin in a tabletop position on the mat and lower yourself onto your forearms keeping them shoulder-distance apart. Interlace your fingers and create a cushion to support the crown of your head. Next, with your hands touching the wall, place your head onto your hands and start walking your toes closer to your torso while allowing your weight to be supported by your arms. Once your hips are above your head, try lifting one foot at a time off the mat and hugging it into your chest. When you feel comfortable and stable enough, try hugging both feet into your chest and with control, extending them up towards the sky. Practicing this while facing the wall will make you feel safer since you know it will catch you if you lose your balance.


2. Don’t kick up

If you’ve noticed in my previous instructions on how to get into a headstand, there is no kicking involved. Many beginners kick up to get into this inversion but I recommended trying to achieve this asana with control and slower movement. As you might imagine, kicking up can also increase your chances of falling. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you rely too much on kicking up into this pose against the wall, once the wall is taken away, you will continue practicing with too much momentum and might end up hurting yourself. By slowly tucking your feet into your chest, your body is still relatively close to the mat so that falling wouldn’t be as harmful. Slowly pushing up into headstand also strengthens your core and engages your entire body which provides a full-body workout. The bottom line is, you try kicking up a few times, in the beginning, to see how it feels being upside down, but try not to make it a habit and learn how to lift your body with control and intention.


3. Push your shoulders away from your ears

The way that your shoulders and arms wrap around your head in this asana is intended to protect and head and neck while balancing upside down. The important thing to remember is to always push firmly into the mat with your forearms and hands so that your upper body doesn’t sink into your shoulders which can lead to injury. Many beginners tend to do this and bring their shoulders close to their ears but this does not provide a safe and solid foundation for headstand. Instead, remember to push your shoulders away from your ears and press into the mat with your forearms because your entire body is relying on this base. If you’re still not sure if your alignment is correct, ask a yoga instructor to correct you during a class or film yourself and use the footage to correct yourself.


4. Engage your core

Generally speaking, most yoga poses require and help to develop a strong core as well as prevent injury. It’s needless to say that in headstand, your core plays a very important role. If I were to practice a headstand right now, with my core engaged versus relaxed, there would be a significant difference in the duration and alignment of the pose. That said, headstands are a major core workout and you’ll have to rely on a strong core to maintain a straight and stable headstand. Practicing core strengthening workouts before even attempting this inversion will help you significantly. Try practicing Boat Pose, plank, and side plank regularly to tighten and strengthen your abdominal muscles.


5. Keep your arms shoulder-width apart

Coming back to establishing a strong foundation, your arms are a very important aspect of headstand. Before placing your arms onto the mat, make sure that they are shoulder-width apart. One way to ensure correct alignment is by extended your arms in front of you and grabbing opposite elbows with each hand. This is exactly the distance that your arms should be from each other when placed on the mat.


6. Exit the pose safely

Before even getting up into headstand, a key thing to remember is how to exit the asana safely and with control. Usually the best way to get out of a yoga pose is the same way you got into it; in this case, slowly bend your knees and bring them into your chest with your toes pointed and your core engaged. Allow one foot to touch the mat at a time until both feet are firmly planted on the mat. Next, gently walk your toes away from your torso and rest in Child’s Pose. Try to avoid kicking down from headstand and making any harsh movements which could lead to injury.

Headstands take time and lots of practice to master but hopefully, the tips above will prevent injury, help to avoid unwanted errors, and assist with your progress. Remember to prioritize safety and practice with intention.


Stella Versteeg was exposed to yoga early in life from her father – traveling to India to practice yoga with her family. Living in ashrams and being surrounded by the beautiful and intricate Indian culture, from a young age, Stella was able appreciate and learn about the origin of yoga as well as meditation. Stella received her 200 HR yoga training from YogaRenew in 2018. She currently runs a blog, Ride Your Wave Yoga, which shares yoga tips, poses, nutrition, travel and mindfulness. Her goal is to spread honesty, love and awareness about a yogic lifestyle through her blog posts as well as create a supportive, inspired community. She aspires to share as much information as possible about the wonderful lifestyle that yoga has to offer and continuously evolve in her personal own practice.

Developing The Foundation Of Your Yoga Practice With Tadasana

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There are how-to instructions written on every yoga pose conceivable, whether in books, on the Internet, or in magazines. On social media, yogis of all body types and capabilities are making a name for themselves by offering yoga instruction in bite size segments with pictorial or video demonstration. Because information on nearly every pose in existence can be found online, I ask myself, what unique insight can I offer my readers that will positively benefit their practice? In submission, I humbly offer you the practice of Tadasana, the most basic, fundamental, and primary yoga pose. Tadasana is the one pose that I come back to everyday, every practice, and in every class I teach. While there are many poses that seem more dynamic, intense, and challenging, it is Tadasana that offers the most engagement and opportunity for introspection.

My daily practice begins with classical Surya Namaskar, which is repetitive cycle of twelve poses that both begins and ends in Tadasana. Because the engagement of Tadasana sets the foundational tone of the practice, its importance cannot be overstated. The form and focus of Tadasana is energetically mirrored within the varying poses of Surya Namaskar, from Downward Facing Dog to Plank Pose, and parallels positions like Hasta Tadasana, Extended Mountain Pose, and Bhujangasana, Cobra Pose. Beyond Surya Namaskar, Tadasana creates the base for all standing poses, particularly ones involving balance, like Vrikshasana, Tree Pose, and Svarga Dvijasana, Bird of Paradise Pose. Further, Tadasana’s stable form gives rise to backbends such as Ustrasana, Camel Pose, and Shalabhasana, Locust Pose. Seated, the energy of Tadasana informs Dandasana, Staff Pose, Paschimotonasana, Seated Forward Fold, Purvottanasana, East Pose, and inversions such as Sarvangasana, Shoulder Stand, and Shirshasana, Headstand.

Though there are multitudes of ways to set up Mountain Pose, such as standing with the feet hip’s distance apart with the palms facing forward, or with the hands together in Namaste’, my preferred way to align Mountain Pose is austere: feet together, big toes touching, arms at the side, palms facing inward. To begin, stand at the front of the mat and bring big toes together until they are firmly touching. To many, this first point of connection seems minor. However, pressing the big toes together is akin to connecting two live electrical wires—when they touch, energy flows. With the big toes pressing together, spread the remaining toes apart, and ground them back down to the floor. Making slight movements, balance the body’s weight evenly between the toes to the heels, and from the inside arches to the outside edges of the feet. Stand with balanced weight on both the right and left foot, weight distributed squarely across the front, back, inside, and outside of each.

Once the feet are in place, engage Tadasana by moving upwards in the body. Activate the calf muscles, straighten the knee joints, and contract the quadriceps firmly. Tighten the hamstring muscles, squeeze the inner thighs together, tuck the tailbone inwards, and engage the gluts. Lift the sternum upwards, roll the shoulders back and down, and straighten the elbows. With the palms facing the thighs, firmly reach the fingertips downwards as if they could touch the floor. Squeeze the armpits closed, and make the arms rigid, tight, and tense. Deeply engage the abdominal muscles, and activate the erector muscles of the spine. Draw the shoulder blades together and down towards the mid-back, and activate the muscles across the chest. Engage the whole body from the feet to the head.

Now, close your eyes. Keeping the whole body engaged, breathe. Take full ujjayi breaths and scan the body once more, beginning at the big toes, and all the way up again, engaging the whole body with awareness and breath. Keeping the body engaged, relax the neck, jaw, face, brow, and scalp. Sense the duality of the engaged, firm, tight, tense, activated body, paired with breath awareness and a purposeful softening of the face. The practice of Tadasana provides an introspective experience aligned with the true purpose of yoga. Physically, the yogi is activated and engaged in the manifest world. Internally, the yogi is calm, focused, and relaxed. In this way, Tadasana embodies the essence of a yogi.

Another term used for Tadasana is Samasthiti, a conjunction of two Sanskrit words: sama, meaning unmovable, stable, and sthiti, meaning standing still, steady. Therefore, Tadasana is a pose wherein the body is firm and unyielding, steadfast as a mountain. This is the energetic attitude of yogic lifestyle, one that is unwavering in practice, focus, and inner stillness. On a physical level, the entire pantheon of yoga asana is incepted from Tadasana. Aided with awareness and breath, Tadasana not only translates into all the shapes and forms made on the mat, but also into day-to-day living in terms of posture, gait, and body awareness. This lifestyle application goes further in terms of consistency, motivation, ambition, will power, and personal fulfillment. Both on the mat and off, Tadasana deepens self-awareness, highlights the capability of the body, fine tunes mental concentration, and promotes purposeful relaxation. In this way, the daily practice of Tadasana sets the foundation for spiritual awareness within a material world.




5 Yoga Poses To Boost Your Productivity

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It’s no secret that yoga has so many benefits from building strength and flexibility to finding calm and stillness of the mind – but did you know it can also help to boost productivity? Although most associate yoga with relaxation, the practice is also nourishing for the central nervous system and can help boost energy and motivation.

The next time you are needing an increase in productivity, take a moment to pause and try one of these five poses instead of going for that second (or third) cup of coffee. You’ll be glad you did!

1. Easy pose (Sukhasana)



Sometimes with a lack of productivity all you need is to reduce distraction and get still by centering yourself. Easy pose is the perfect way to accomplish this.

To get into the pose you simply come to a seated cross legged position. You can allow your hands to rest wherever feels most comfortable for your shoulders. There is also the option to take a mudra, which is a hand gesture used to facilitate the flow of energy in the subtle body. Gyan mudra, known to promote concentration, is taken by bringing your thumb and index finger to touch.

Once you arrive in your easy pose take about 5 to 10 slow even breaths to help you center and realign. Afterwards you will notice a sense grounding, more ease, and, hopefully, increased concentration for productivity.

2. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)


One of the benefits of mild inversions, like Downward Facing Dog, is its energizing qualities. Whenever your heart is placed over your head the brain is supplied with more oxygen as blood flows which increases concentration and mental function.

To get into the pose, start in a table top position on your hands and knees. Tuck your toes and lift your hips creating a shape of an upside down “V”. Feet are about hip distance apart or wider and you will press firmly into all points of your hands especially between your middle finger and thumb. Lengthen your spine by lifting your tailbone towards the sky and gently press your belly towards your thighs taking the gaze between the feet.

Find about 5 breaths in this posture and experiencing the benefits of “resetting” the nervous system.

3. Tree pose (Vrksasana)

Challenging your balance is one sure way to boost productivity. Whenever your center of gravity is confronted you are forced to tune your drishti, or focal point, in order to be successful.

Find Tree pose by balancing on one leg, opening the hip of the opposite leg and either placing the foot at your ankle as a kickstand, at the shin, or above the knee.

Make this pose more difficult by reaching the arms towards the sky overhead or closing the eyes. By shifting your balance you are forced to check in and make adjustments through your body in order to stay lifted. Regular practice of this pose can improve concentration, balance, and coordination.

4. Camel pose (Ustrasana)


Heart opening or back-bending postures like Camel pose help to quiet all of the chatter in the mind. Some consider this pose to be quite challenging as you are vulnerably opening a part of your body that is often shielded and protected, your heart.

Beginning in a kneeling position on your knees, bring your hands to your low back with fingers pointed down as if you were going to slide them into your back pockets. Slowly shift the hips forward as you draw the elbows and shoulder blades towards one another creating an opening through your thoracic spine. Slowly work towards the fullest variation by bringing your hands to the back of the heels as you continue to shift your hips forwards.

Camel requires a great deal of concentration and focus on the breath which is sure to increase productivity as well as help with your posture if you are sitting at a desk all day.

5. Mountain pose (Tadasana)


As a pose that seems pretty simple and straight forward, Mountain pose offers great benefits of improving concentration and focus in order to be more productive.

Beginning in a standing position with your arms at your side, roll your shoulder blades down the spine and bring your hands to face forward. Notice the grounding through all points of your feet, perhaps lifting up the toes and rooting them back down. Activate your quadricep muscles in your thighs by slightly lifting the knee caps, and hug your belly button up and in towards your spine.

For an extra boost, bring your hands to your hips in order to bring yourself into a power position and take a few grounding breaths to build confidence.

Standing proudly and with intention can surely ignite your focus in order to be more productive.


Vanessa was first introduced to yoga in July 2013. Beginning as an outlet during a stressful time in her life, yoga ultimately turned into a consistent practice for her on the quest for total wellness. She started self-teaching
in the comfort of her own home for 3 years before deciding to participate in group classes at a local studio. Falling in love with the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of yoga,
Vanessa decided to enroll in yoga teacher training in spring of 2017 in order
to share the art with those around her.


Currently residing in the DMV, she is a Yoga Alliance 200-hr registered yoga teacher and a certified Usui
Reiki Practictioner. She believes in order to live a life with intention we must take priority in caring for our mind, body, and spirit first.

8 Beach Yoga Poses

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8 Yoga Poses for the Beach

Needless to say, the restorative and relaxing effects of yoga compliment the scenic and serene atmosphere of the beach. Working in Catalina Island during the summer inspired me to embark on my yoga practice while expanding my knowledge about the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of yoga. You can always use a towel or yoga mat to support your postures or simply embrace the imperfect, sandy foundation beneath you. Sand can be especially beneficial for practicing challenging and balancing poses because it provides a soft cushion for your body if you happen to fall out of a pose. The beauty of sand is that it conforms to your body; you can create small mounds to support your knees or flatten it out entirely to support your forearms during inversions. Let’s not forget the fresh, salty breeze and the sound of ocean waves complimenting your beautiful flow. I’m eager to share some excellent asanas for your next seaside practice which will make you fall in love with yoga all over again.

1. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)


This pose is very popular in yoga sequences, especially in vinyasa yoga. The benefits of Downward Facing Dog include stretching the hamstrings, calves, shoulders and hands while strengthening the legs and arms. It also makes your feel energized and helps calm the brain which makes it an ideal pose to relieve stress. This classic yoga pose can be practiced pretty much anywhere however, practicing it on the sand can allow your body to sink even deeper into it. Begin in tabletop position with your knees stacked directly under your hips and your wrists stacked under your shoulders. Exhale while tucking your toes and lifting your knees off the sand. Spread your fingers and press your hands down in front of you while straightening your back as much as possible. Gently bend your knees, one at a time, working your way into your own version of Downward Facing Dog. Bring your gaze towards your feet while aligning your hand with your spine creating a straight line. Take a few deep breaths and when you’re ready to exit the pose, gently lower your knees back onto the sand into tabletop position and release into Child’s Pose.

2. Tree Pose (Vrksasana)


I don’t know about you but something about being by the ocean provides peacefulness and balance to my body and soul; why not practice a pose that embodies that? Benefits of this pose include stretching the thighs, core and shoulders while strengthening the spine, thighs and calves. Tree Pose is a great way to ground yourself and focus on your breathing while improving your balance. Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana); inhale while lifting your arms towards the sky and exhale, bringing your hands by your heart. Choose a focal point to provide balance and slowly lift your right foot off the sand and place it on your left ankle. Taking your time, lift your right foot further until it reaches the side of your left knee. Take a few deep breaths here and whenever you’re ready. return to Mountain Pose; repeat this pose on the opposite side.

3. Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana)


This might seem like an odd pose to practice on the beach but the combination of an inverted posture and a serene, ocean atmosphere will undoubtedly relax you to the core. Be cautious when practicing a shoulder stand because it is definitely e a more advanced pose. The benefits of this pose include relieving stress and depression, strengthening the glutes, arms, core, legs and arms as well as improving digestion. To get into this pose, start by laying down on your mat (or the sand) and bring your knees towards your face. Bring your hands to your hips to support your lower body and lift your hips and legs towards the sky while trying to keep them straight. Take a few deep breaths; to exit the pose, slowly lower your hips and legs to the ground. You can also choose to stay in a shoulder stand in order to transition to the next posture. The best part? Even if you happen to lose your balance during this asana, the sand provides a soft cushion to avoid injuries.

4. Plow Pose (Halasana)


This pose is excellent at reducing back pain and stress, calming the mind and stretching the spine and shoulders. To get into this pose, simply begin in a shoulder stand and slowly bring your extended legs back towards your head until your toes touch the mat behind your head. Remember to bring your chin away from your sternum and keep your hands on your lower back for additional support or release them onto the mat and stretch them behind you. This pose can be held for a few minutes; when you feel ready to exit, bring your hands to your lower back again and exhale while slowly lowering your legs down towards. This a a great pose for the beach because it encourages deep relaxation and stress relief.

5. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)


Take a deep breath and say goodbye to any tension. Being by laying on your stomach with your arms extend by your sides with your palms up. Take a deep exhale and reach for your heels with your hands while bending your knees. Hold onto your feet while trying to lift your thighs slightly off the mat and gaze forward. Keep i mind that it might be harder to breathe in this posture but make sure to keep breathing steadily. Stay in this pose for about 30 seconds and release your legs and arms towards the mat while taking a deep exhale. The benefits of this pose include improving your posture, strengthening the back muscles and stretching your thighs, core, chest, throat and hips.

6. Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana)


This pose is wonderful at lengthening the hip flexors, preparing the body for backbend poses as well as opening the hip joint and reducing stress and anxiety. Begin in seated position with your feet tucked under your glutes. Extend your right leg back on the mat while keeping your left leg bent in front of you. Take a deep inhale and as you exhale, release your body onto your front leg and extend your arms on the mat in front of you. Try to bring your forehand to touch the mat and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths, allowing your body to sink even deeper into the pose with every exhale. To exit the asana, slowly walk your hands back up towards your torso and return to seated position.

7. Easy Pose (Sukhasana)


Now, let’s take a moment to sit still and breathe. Sit comfortably with your legs crossed, your spine straight and your hands in your lap. Close your eyes and take several deep breaths, trying to hold your inhale for a few seconds before exhaling. Try to eliminate any stressful or negative thoughts while bringing your entire focus o your breath. While continuing to breathe deeply, bring your attention to the sound of the ocean waves crashing endlessly against the shore, one by one. Inhale the fresh, salty breeze and feel your body sinking heavily into the sand.Let go of any fear or stress about what will happen tomorrow or the day after because all that is guaranteed is this moment, sitting cross legged on the sand in front of the vast ocean that covers our beautiful planet. In this moment, you are blessed and all you can do is immerse yourself in gratitude. You can attempt the Ujjayi breath which is often referred to as the “oceanic breath” and it is used to synchronize your breathing with the asana. This wonderful technique will enhance your yoga practice as well as increase the oxygen in your blood, relieve tension, detoxify your body and mind as well as help to increase your mind-body awareness. The Ujjayi breath consists of breathing through your nose, inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly through your nose. To practice, open your mouth and exhale making a “ha” sound. Noe, try this with your mouth closed but maintain the intensity of your exhalations. Every time your exhale, it should sound like ocean waves and this technique is ideal to practice while you’re in easy pose, during hatha yoga or simply when you’re stressed or frustrated.

8. Corpse Pose (Savansana)


This posture will help you relax even more after getting out of Easy pose. Lay down on your mat or the sand with your legs extended in front of you and your arms by your sides with your palms facing up towards the sky. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath once again but this time, don’t force deep inhalations or exhalations; instead, breathe naturally and simply bring your attention to your breathe. Allow the soothing sounds around you to increase your sense of mindfulness and purpose. The benefits of this asana are endless, a few of which are body awareness, stress reduction, better sleep quality and deep mind relaxation. This asana can be held for anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour and it might just end up in a wonderful nap in the sun.

What are you waiting for? Head to the beach and take some time to indulge in these asanas; you deserve that time to gain perspective and awareness. Take the time to leave any stress that you might be experiencing behind and relax yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. The past has already happened and the future is uncertain so all that really matters is this present moment, right here, right now. Submerge yourself in an abundance of spiritual awareness, gratitude and bliss.

Let’s ride your wave, together.

Namaste.



Stella Versteeg was exposed to yoga early in life from her father – traveling to India to practice yoga with her family. Living in ashrams and being surrounded by the beautiful and intricate Indian culture, from a young age, Stella was able appreciate and learn about the origin of yoga as well as meditation. Stella received her 200 HR yoga training from YogaRenew in 2018. She currently runs a blog, Ride Your Wave Yoga, which shares yoga tips, poses, nutrition, travel and mindfulness. Her goal is to spread honesty, love and awareness about a yogic lifestyle through her blog posts as well as create a supportive, inspired community. She aspires to share as much information as possible about the wonderful lifestyle that yoga has to offer and continuously evolve in her personal own practice.

5 Yoga Poses For Inner Strength

By Yoga Poses, Yoga PracticeNo Comments



Confidence and inner strength are such powerful tools in achieving productivity, success, and happiness. Yoga is a wonderful way to develop and nurture your sense of inner strength. because it is not just a physically strengthening and revitalizing practice but it’s also a sign of positivity, love, and self-care towards yourself. Taking the time from your busy routine to still your mind and breath as well as focus on your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being builds your sense of self-worth. As you progress in your practice, you will learn that yoga is physically challenging and the stronger you get on the outside, the stronger you will feel on the inside. Being able to persist in your practice with patience, understanding and forgiveness will nurture your sense of inner strength over time. Take time to practice this yoga sequence to eliminate feelings of self-doubt and reveal your inner peace and strength!


1. Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)

The image of a warrior is illustrated by strength, courage, persistence, and confidence which is exactly what the Warrior asanas exude. The rich symbolism of the Warrior asanas refers to the underlying story of the Hindu warrior, Virabhadra. Warrior I is a beautiful posture that will empower you and activate your inner warrior by improving your strength and flexibility. Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and gently step your feet a few feet apart from each other. Reach both of your arms up towards the sky with your palms touching while bringing your gaze up towards your hands. Next, slightly turn your left foot to the right so that your toes are pointing to the left of your body. Gently rotate your torso to the right and bend your right knee while making sure that your knee does not pass your toes. Hold this asana for 30 seconds-1 minute while focusing on your breath and channeling feelings of confidence and strength. Slowly release back to Tadasana and repeat this posture on the other side.

2. Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Transitioning into Warrior II will combine balance with core strength as well as ultimate focus. After Warrior I, return to Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and bring your left foot a few feet back on the mat while bending your right knee into a lunge without your knees passing your toes. Extend both of your arms by your sides so that they are parallel to the mat aligning straight with your legs and bring your gaze forward. Make sure that your torso is twisted to your left and draw your shoulder blades down your back. Take several deep breaths here while pressing down with your feet and engaging your core. This asana is beneficial for your entire body because it strengthens your shoulders, arms, and legs as well as improves your balance and stability. Warrior II will improve your ability to concentrate and focus with more clarity while building your physical and spiritual strength.

3. Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)


Return once again to Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and take a moment to bring your focus back to your breath. Warrior III requires significant balance and focus which are best achieved when your mind is not wandering. The benefits of this empowering asana include improved coordination, stability, and balance, strengthening of the legs and core as well as a deep stretch of the upper body. Take a deep inhale, reach your arms up towards the sky and on your exhale, slowly lift your left leg off the mat while lowering your torso forward. Allow your arms to lead your torso until it is parallel with the mat and so that your body creates a “T” shape. Flex your left foot and press firmly with your right foot, spreading your toes if that helps to maintain your balance. Hold this asana for several breaths while focusing on finding your center of gravity. To ease out of this asana, slowly return to Mountain Pose and bring your hands to your heart in prayer position.

4. Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

The grounding essence of standing asanas foster feelings of confidence and strength. This particular asana relies on balance, stability, and firmness while encouraging a confident demeanor. Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), another simple yet empowering asana and as you inhale, reach your arms above your head with your palms touching each other. At the same time, ground your left foot and slowly lift your right foot so that it is hugging your left ankle. As you find your center of gravity, steadily slide your right foot up your left leg until it reaches your shin or the side of your knee. As you exhale, focus on your balance and imagine your body grounded into the mat like a tree deeply rooted in the soil. Stand tall and proud in this asana as you embrace your inner and outer strength. Hold this asana for several breaths and return to Mountain Pose.


5. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)


This asana is often called the “seat of power”, “fierce pose” or “lightning bolt pose” which all embody the asana’s empowering and strengthening properties. Chair Pose involves strength and perseverance because your body will immediately feel challenged when entering this asana. Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with your feet hip-width apart. As you inhale, reach your arms up towards the sky while slowly bending your knees and squatting down as if you are sitting in a chair. Press firmly through your heels and try to bring your focus to how your body is feeling; if your thighs are aching, try to meditate on this sensation. Find your balance here and remember not to resist this asana even if your body wants to ease out of it right away. After several breaths, return to Mountain Pose and bring your focus back to your breath. If you wish, reach your toes with your arms and twist from side to side in a Forward Fold to relax your arms and stretch your hamstrings. Persisting through Chair Pose provides all of the physical benefits of this asana such as strengthening the legs and back, stretching the chest and shoulders as well as a stronger sense of self and confidence.

These empowering asanas incorporate strength, balance, and confidence to eliminate feelings of self-doubt and promote a sense of self-worth. Everyone experiences moments of uncertainty however, your yoga practice can be a powerful tool in changing the way you see yourself and accumulating inner strength. Next time you feel overwhelmed, grant yourself permission to take time out of your day and find your inner strength on the mat.

Stella Versteeg was exposed to yoga early in life from her father – traveling to India to practice yoga with her family. Living in ashrams and being surrounded by the beautiful and intricate Indian culture, from a young age, Stella was able appreciate and learn about the origin of yoga as well as meditation. Stella received her 200 HR yoga training from YogaRenew in 2018. She currently runs a blog, Ride Your Wave Yoga, which shares yoga tips, poses, nutrition, travel and mindfulness. Her goal is to spread honesty, love and awareness about a yogic lifestyle through her blog posts as well as create a supportive, inspired community. She aspires to share as much information as possible about the wonderful lifestyle that yoga has to offer and continuously evolve in her personal own practice.