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5 Restorative Holiday Yoga Poses For Stress

By Yoga Poses, Yoga PracticeNo Comments

The holidays are meant to be time of slowing down and for spending time with loved ones. But sometimes the holidays can be a time of great stress for us. We find ourselves constantly rushing from task to task, multi-tasking, and checking off our endless shopping lists. What we fail to realize is that life is short and if we keep going in a stressed fashion – this season of connecting with ourselves and others will pass us by. We may find ourselves regretting not taking the time to just slow down and enjoy the moment. To help you get into the spirit of the holidays with no stress, we’ve created a restorative holiday sequence that you can do easily at home anytime.

By intentionally releasing the burden of stress and tension, it allows us to come to our natural state of being; of relaxation and joy. It also helps us to connect more deeply with the present moment and others around us. By taking this time for inner peace and stillness, we can find ourselves becoming more patient, calm, as well as loving towards ourselves and our loved ones.

To Begin

Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Be sure to clear your space so its clutter free to relax your mind. Set some quiet music and maybe even some candles to further set the mood for peace.

To start your restorative holiday flow, come into a simple seated Easy Pose on your mat. Begin with a counting breath pranayama practice. To do this, take a big inhale in slowly for a count of 3, hold the breath briefly for a second or two, and then exhale out slowly for a count of 3. You can slowly work up to inhaling and exhaling for a count of 4 seconds or even 5 seconds depending on your preference. Elongating your inhalations and exhalations in this way helps to induce relaxation and slow down your central nervous system.

Restorative Holiday Mini Yoga Flow

1. Child Pose

Allow yourself to let go and release tension in your body in Child pose. As you sink towards the mat and rest here, breath here for several minutes. With every exhale, feel any stress leaving your body. With every inhale, feel yourself filling up with peace.

To do this pose, begin on your hands and knees. Sink your hips back towards your heels as you reach your arms forward. Relax your belly onto your thighs and rest your head towards the mat. Take several long deep breaths here and stay here for up to a minute if needed.

2. Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog, is an inversion pose, where we allow blood to flow to our head elevating our mood. Inversions also energetically brings ourselves into a different perspective; as we are looking at the world from an upside down perspective. This analogy can relate to stressful situations in our lives. By taking time to see a situation from a new perspective, we can start to focus on the more positive things about that situation. For example, during the holidays, we can re-frame our perspective to a more positive one, by focusing on spending time with loved ones, giving to others, beautiful family traditions, and peace.

To do this pose, begin on your hands and knees. Spread your fingers wide and press your palms into the mat as you begin to lift and reach your tailbone up towards the sky. Broaden through your collarbones and look down towards your ankles or the mat in between your palms. You can keep your knees bent here or work on extending them straight to stretch your calves, hamstrings, and ankles. Stay here for several breaths, for up to a minute.

3. Bound Angle


The hips are an area where we tend to store alot of tension in our bodies. Allow yourself to melt into this pose by releasing into this stretch and holding for up to a minute.

To do this pose, begin in an Easy pose. Bring the soles of your feet together as you allow your knees to gently fall open onto the mat. Keep length in your spine as you hinge forward at the hips and lean in towards your feet. Keep your neck soft here and breath into your hips. You can use a blanket or blocks under your knees to elevate them for support if your hips are tight. You can also sit on blanket or bolster to relieve tension from your knees and hips.

4. Supine Twist

Relax your body and mind with this deep twist and hip opener. As you release into Supine Twist pose, close your eyes and stay here for up to a minute on each side. Allow your mind to be quiet and revel in this moment of peace you have created for yourself.

To do this pose, begin by lying down on your back and draw your knees into your chest. Allow your knees to softly fall over to your left side and extend your arms out to a ‘T’. Option to bring your head to gaze in the opposite direction of your knees. Hold for several breaths and switch sides.

5. Savasana

One of the most important poses in yoga, Savasana is a great way to just let go and release. Use props such as a blanket, eye pillow, or aromatherapy, to enhance your Savasana experience. Stay here for as long as you need – you could do Savasana for just 5 minutes or even up to 30 minutes if you feel you really need the release and quiet. It’s your practice so always feel free to tweak however you prefer.

To do Savasana, come down onto your back and relax your arms and legs out comfortably. Allow the palms to gently open up towards the sky. Close your eyes and relax the muscles in your face. Let your breath be soft and natural as you just allow yourself to release and enjoy the moment.

Ending Your Restorative Holiday Practice

End your practice in Easy Pose with your hands over your heart. Ground down through your sitbones and elongate the spine up towards the sky. Relax the muscles in your body and face. As in you inhale, breath in ‘Peace’ and as you exhale imagine breathing out the word ‘Love’. Feel that peace and love radiating out into the world. Repeat for several minutes.

A Beginner’s Guide To Yoga Props: 4 Essential Yoga Props

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When I first started yoga, I viewed props as “crutches” to help me as a beginner and then leave behind as I developed my yoga skills. This idea was wrong in at least two ways. First, props aren’t crutches, but rather tools to help you deepen the pose and achieve proper alignment. Second, props can be used by any yogi, no matter the level of experience. This blog will outline four basic props and how to easily incorporate them into your practice. The good news is, these props can often be exchanged for common household items, allowing you to try them out in poses before spending money on the real deal.

1. Blocks

Yoga Blocks

Yoga blocks can be used for balance and support in many poses. You can use books instead of blocks if you don’t have blocks at home. Make sure to play around with different heights to find the best one for you, it may vary depending on the pose.

When To Use Blocks

Any pose that makes you wish the floor would come to meet you halfway is a good pose to use a block. For example, in Triangle pose, place a block on the outside of your front leg and rest your bottom hand on the block. Try starting with the block at its tallest, then in time work on getting it to the middle, or lowest height before being able to reach the floor with your bottom hand. You can also use blocks to help with balance, such as placing a block under one or both hands for support in Warrior III if you are unable to balance with your arms outstretched in front of you.

Finally, you can use blocks as support under the back or legs. For example, under the sacrum in Bridge Pose, or under each leg in Cobbler’s Pose. Adding extra support allows the muscles to relax into the pose more easily. A few more of the many options for using blocks include: place under both hands in Camel Pose or Wide-Angle Forward Fold, use the lowest height under both hands in Upward Facing Dog to take strain off the wrists, use as a foot stand for balance in Eagle Pose, or place under your seat in Pigeon Pose. In my opinion, the block is the most versatile prop and is a great one to try for your first prop.

2. Pillows and Bolsters 

Yoga Props Essentials Beginners Blanket Bolster

Pillows And Bolsters

From small pillows to large bolsters, the extra cushioning is great for restorative poses, which are typically held for several minutes. As with blocks, you may need to try different sizes to find the best support in each pose.

When To Use Pillows and Bolsters

Pillows can provide extra cushion or space that can make many poses more accessible or more comfortable. In some poses, you may find you need more support from a bolster if your pillows are too flat or small. Place pillows or bolsters under each leg in Reclined Goddess Pose or Cobbler’s Pose. Place under your seat in Hero Pose or Pigeon Pose. Rest your legs on pillows in Reclined Supine Twist. Finally, using a pillow for its main purpose, as a pillow under your head in Legs up the Wall or Savasana.

3. Straps

Yoga Essentials Props Strap

Straps

Straps come in a wide variety of lengths and styles for purchase. At-home solutions include ties, scarves, or belts. Straps will help you deepen stretches without compromising the position of your back and can be used in many poses.

When To Use Straps

I love using straps for my tight hamstrings. In Seated Forward Fold, wrap a strap around the balls of your feet and hold one side of the strap in each hand; gently pull yourself toward your feet with the straps, keeping a straight back rather than hunching over to force the pose.

In Cow Face Pose, if you are unable to bind your arms behind your back, hold one end of the strap in each hand and slowly wrap the strap around your wrist to bring the hands closer together with time. Use a strap to modify King Pigeon or Dancer Pose by looping it around the front of your foot, just below the toes and holding the other end with your hands to slowly bring your bent leg closer.

4. Blankets

Yoga Props Essentials Beginners Guide Blanket

Blanket

A folded blanket is an easy prop to have on hand and can be used in more ways than you might think.

When To Use A Blanket

Use a folded blanket as support under the knees in any pose with the knee on the mat such as Low Lunge, Cat/Cow, or Gate Pose. A folded blanket under the wrists, with the wrists being higher than the fingertips, can reduce wrist pain. Use a folded blanket under the wrists in Upward Facing Dog, Downward Dog, Cat/Cow, or any pose where you put weight into the hands with your wrists at a 90-degree angle. A folded towel under your seat in Hero Pose or Child’s Pose will work if a pillow is unavailable or too large. Finally, use a blanket to be warm and cozy during savasana.

Find Other Props To Expand Your Practice

These are only four types of the many yoga props available. A quick search of the web will reveal that there are lots of other options you can use as needed. For example, sand bags, eye pillows, wheels, wedges, gripping gloves or socks, the list goes on. Whatever props you use, use them with confidence, and know that they are great tools to further your yoga practice rather than a sign of weakness.

 

 


Carly Williams, YogaRenew 200 HR Graduate

I am a full-time working mother and wife. I have been practicing yoga at home for many years. I started yoga because it can be done at home on my own schedule. I stuck with yoga because it benefits the mind as well as the body. I recently finished the 200-hr YTT program offered by YogaRenew. I am enrolled in a kids certification program as well, because my favorite person to practice yoga with is my four-year-old daughter. I’m eager to share yoga with anyone and everyone because it has had such a positive impact on my life, which is why I started my website. Visit muddywater.yoga if you’re interested in more articles.

 

 

 

A Yoga Sequence For Inspiring Gratitude

By Yoga Poses, Yoga PracticeNo Comments

Thanksgiving is a time of appreciating things in our lives and for cultivating more gratitude. To help you get into the spirit of gratitude and giving this season, we’ve created a gratitude mini yoga flow that you can do at home.

It can be easy to forget all the blessings we have in our lives when we face challenges or obstacles. Gratitude is a simple and easy practice that anyone can start today to begin leading a more positive life. The simplest way to cultivate more gratitude is to take a few minutes each day or sit in meditation while you think of things you are grateful for each day. Cultivating the daily practice of gratitude in our lives can improve our relationships, make us more compassionate, and ultimately more happy. It creates a space for our lives where we can allow positive and transformative growth to occur. Gratitude can also improve our health by boosting our immunity, improve our sleep, and lower blood pressure.

To sequence a home gratitude yoga flow, focus on calming and grounding poses that help you get in touch with the energy of gratitude. Some poses you could consider are poses where your arms are stretched outwards – to symbolize the outreaching of giving to someone else. Poses you could include are Mountain with arms reaching upwards, Chair, Warrior 1, Balancing Table, or Warrior 3. Some grounding poses you could include in your mini sequence are Child, Plow, Standing Forward Fold, Happy Baby, and Supine Twist.

To Begin

Start your gratitude flow by coming into a simple seated Easy Pose. Begin to take in deep slow breaths in and out; focusing on elongating your exhalations and your inhalations. Next bring your hands to your heart center and bring your awareness to the movement of breath around your heart center or heart chakra area. Continue to breath deeply here. Bring to mind 5 – 10 things or people you are grateful for. Allow that energy of love and appreciation to fill your body, heart, and soul. Stay here for several moments and allow yourself to bask in this beautiful feeling of gratitude in your heart.

 

Gratitude Mini Sequence

1. Child Pose

Gratitude Thanksgiving Yoga Flow Sequence Child Pose

Allow yourself to release and let go in Child pose. As you ground down and surrender towards the mat, imagine as though your hands are outreaching out to receive more things to be grateful for in your life.

To do this pose, begin on your hands and knees. Sink your hips back towards your heels as you reach your arms forward. Relax your belly onto your thighs and rest your head towards the mat. Take several long deep breaths here.

2. Seated Forward Fold

Gratitude Thanksgiving Yoga Flow Sequence Seated Forward Fold Pose

Seated Forward Fold helps us to relax our mind and bodies. As you do this pose, focus on surrendering into gratitude for the things in your life that you appreciate. Feel the grounding of the earth beneath your sitbones as you root them into the ground and feel appreciation for the earth supporting you.

To do Seated Forward Fold, begin in Staff pose. Root down evenly through your sitbones. Begin to slowly hinge forward at the your hips, working to keep your spine lengthened. Reach your hands towards your ankles, shins, feet, or toes. Allow your neck to be relaxed here and feel yourself melt into this stretch.

3. Warrior 1

Gratitude Thanksgiving Yoga Flow Sequence Warrior 1

As you come into Warrior 1 pose, allow your arms to reach up towards the sky as if you are receiving more things to be grateful for in your life. You can also imagine as if your arms are outreaching to give to someone else

To do this pose, begin in Mountain pose. Step your feet apart several feet and pivot your back foot in about 45 degrees and bend your front knee to 90 degrees with your toes pointing forward. Keep your front knee stacked over your front ankle. Lengthen up through your ribs and point your tailbone down towards the mat as your lengthen your arms up towards the sky. Hold for several breaths and switch sides.

4. Warrior 3

Gratitude Thanksgiving Yoga Flow Sequence Warrior 3

Warrior 3 is a grounding and energizing pose. When in this pose, again imagine the outreaching of your arms forward are reaching to give to another person. Allow the feeling of giving to fill your heart. Feel the earth beneath your grounded foot supporting you.

To do this pose, begin in Mountain pose. Root down into one foot and leg as you reach the opposite leg behind you. Engage your core and reach your arms out in front of you. Imagine as if you are creating a straight line with your extended leg, torso, and arms. Relax your head as you gaze down or towards your fingers. Hold for several breaths and switch sides.

5. Tree Pose 

Gratitude Yoga Flow Thanksgiving Tree Pose 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ground down through your standing foot and reach your arms upwards. Imagine the opening of your arms as if they are tree branches opening up to the sky and earth around you, ready to receive all the good and blessings in your life.

To do this pose, ground down through one foot and engage your standing leg. Lift the opposite foot and allow it to rest on your ankle, shin, or upper thigh. Engage your core and keep your gaze soft and focused in front of you. Option to bring your hands to heart center in prayer here or come into a full Tree expression with your arms reaching up towards the sky.

6. Supine Twist

Gratitude Yoga Flow Sequence Supine Twist

Stretch and detoxify your body and mind with this deep twist. As you melt into Supine Twist pose, allow yourself to linger here for a few breaths longer than usual. Allow your mind to relax and your heart area to fully open as you express your gratitude for your life.

To do this pose, begin by lying down on your back and draw your knees into your chest. Allow your knees to softly fall over to your left side and extend your arms out to a ‘T’. Option to bring your head to gaze in the opposite direction of your knees. Hold for several breaths and switch sides.

 

Ending Your Gratitude Flow Practice

End your practice in Easy Pose with your hands over your heart. Ground down through your sitbones and elongate the spine up towards the sky. Relax the muscles in your body and face. As in you inhale, breath in ‘Thank You’ and as you exhale imagine breathing out the word ‘Joy’. Feel that joy radiating out into the world. Repeat for several minutes.

9 Great Health Benefits of Yoga

By Yoga, Yoga PracticeNo Comments

As yoga’s popularity rises, the health benefits of yoga have become widely understood and accepted throughout medical communities on a global scale. Doctors and scientists have found that yoga is a great cure all for everything from heart health to mind health and even sinus relief.

The more you understand about how yoga can help your students in different ways, the better you can create value for yourself as a yoga instructor. Understanding the health benefits of yoga is an important part of providing a fulfilling and rewarding service to your students. Below we help to break down 9 different health benefits of yoga.

1. Heart

The American Heart Association actually has a fairly thorough recommendation surrounding yoga and its health benefits on the heart. On their site, here they say that “yoga can help lower blood pressure, increase lung capacity, improve respiratory function & heart rate, and boost circulation and muscle tone.” Yoga is a unique exercise because it combines deep breathing, physical exercise, and meditation. All of the these combined, help to reduce our stress levels ultimately helping our heart health to improve. The physical aspect of yoga helps also helps to strengthen our hearts.

2. Sleep

There’s a few different ways that yoga can have a positive impact on sleep. Physical exertion from a healthy yoga practice can help your body seek out rest. When we practice yoga and meditation, it lowers cortisol levels from stress in the body. This in turn, helps our sleep improve. Yoga and meditation helps to quiet the mind’s chatter, also helping us to sleep better. Another way yoga can help you get to sleep better is through breath practice. Breath is an important part of yoga, and as many experts have noted; slow breathing patterns can help to relax the body and help you get to sleep faster.

3. Relieve Back Pain

The “Annals of Internal Medicine” published results from a 3 year study that found a weekly yoga class helped to increase mobility more than traditional treatment for chronic or recurring back pain. There are many other studies with similar results published online – its fair to say that yoga can certainly be an effective method of relief for people suffering from back pain. Yoga helps to strengthen key muscle groups in the back and also stretch them at the same time. It also helps us to maintain proper posture to protect and strengthen our spines.

4. Muscle Tone

As you are putting yourself into different yoga poses, you are using your muscles to support the weight of your body. This is essentially doing body weight training to help tone and tighten our muscles. Power yoga or cardio type yoga classes that focus on high energy yoga poses really help to strengthen and target key muscle groups for toning up.

5. Flexibility

As your body becomes more flexible through yoga practice, that flexibility is actually leads to a list of other health benefits. More flexible muscles can help to prevent injuries and leads to better back health. As our muscles stretch, also help to provide better blood flow and more effective delivery of different nutrients to our tissues.

6. Respiratory

Before famous middle distance runner, Roger Bannister ran a mile in under 4 minutes, it was thought humanly impossible to accomplish it. After Roger Bannister did it, several other people shortly after were able to accomplish this incredible feat. How did Roger pave the way? With his breathing. Breath is an important part of exercise, and even more important part of yoga practice. Yoga promotes a heavy focus on breathing as a way to control the body and body. By enhancing our respiratory system, we begin to improve the the overall health of our bodies, including the brain, heart, and digestive systems.

7. Mind

More than ever we are learning how mental health and physical health are inseparably linked to one another. There is a compelling article here on newsweek that discusses how yoga can help several different mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD, and psychiatric disorders. Ultimately, yoga provides a multi prong approach to quieting the mind through meditation and breathing.

8. Sinus Relief

There’s a great breakdown in the Huffington Post that addresses how yoga can cure sinus pain. In the article, the author breaks down the many different contributing factors to their sinus pain relief such as how inverted poses can help to clear sinus blockage, deep breathing contributes to an increased flow of oxygen. It also explains how our sweat can help to reduce different toxins within the body and how the endorphins from exercise can help to alleviate pressure in our sinuses.

9. Immune System

One of the best health benefits of yoga is an over all boost to your immune system. As we discussed earlier, yoga can help to strengthen your respiratory system. Our white blood cells are critical in helping to fight off colds and other infections. When we work to improve our respiratory function, our blood flow also improves. The improved blood flow becomes a delivery mechanism for this important internal defense. Also, yoga can reduce mental stress which is widely known to reduce the effectiveness of our immune systems.

How To Sequence A Yoga Class For The Theme Ananda

By Yoga Practice, Yoga TeachersNo Comments

What Does Ananda Mean?

Ananda is a Sanskrit word that means ‘joy’ or ‘pure bliss’. Joy and bliss are two emotions that are our natural states of being. As children, we are born into this state; light, free, and blissfully joyful.

This yoga class theme helps us all to remember that natural state of being – of pure joy. When we align with this powerful feelings, we find more joyful things in our lives to celebrate. As we ignite ourselves with pure bliss, we are also naturally inclined to want to share that joy with others – by spreading our light and joy into the world through our interactions and choices.

As humans, we naturally experience a wide spectrum of emotions, including some that are the complete opposite of joy, like sadness. But in life, in order to truly appreciate pure joy; experiencing those contrasting emotions actually help us to appreciate the joy in our lives.

The joy that we create in our lives on a daily basis works as a guide to help bring us back to this way of being during times of darkness. And we choose to let it, that light of joy can overpower any sadness we may be feeling.

Through meditation and yoga practice, we can also choose to make joy a choice in our lives. As we experience different emotions, we can learn to become observers of our emotions and learn to be aware of them.

As our emotional awareness increases, we can find that we have the power within us to always choose our emotions, no matter the situation. All it takes is just a little bit of awareness of our choice and a shift in perception.

Class Theme Intro – Mantra Meditation

Begin the class by introducing the theme with a quote, related reading passage, or simply speaking a few sentences on the topic. Ask students to sit in Easy Pose and close their eyes. Instruct them to take a big inhale in, and imagine they are breathing in the word ‘Joy’. As they inhale, also ask them to bring a gentle smile to their faces. As they take a long exhale out, ask them to imagine that they are breathing out the word ‘Bliss’. Repeat for 1-2 minutes.

You could also choose to end the class with this mantra meditation practice or choose a related reading, or quote, to help seal your student’s practice in joy. You could also ask students to bring to mind 5-10 things that they feel joyful for in their lives. This could be experiences, loved ones, goals, past accomplishments, etc.

How To Sequence Poses For This Theme

When sequencing a class for this theme think of poses that inspire joy, bliss, and lightness. Playful poses, and power poses are great to sequence for this weekly theme. Poses such as the Warrior poses, Bow, or Dolphin are good examples of poses that help students to reignite their inner joy and playfulness.

Heart opening poses such as Camel, Cobra, or Upward Facing Dog are also good to include in this sequence. Heart opening poses help us to activate our heart centers so that we can reconnect with our joy.

 

How To Do Chaturanga: 3 Tips To Mastering The Pose

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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.

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.

 

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.

 

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.