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.


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

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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.

7 Yoga Poses For Letting Go

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In order to evolve as humans, we must be able to let things go. Whether you are dealing with stress, anger, sadness or any other kind of distress, now is the time to relieve yourself of those negative emotions that are weighing you down. Holding grudges and accumulating feelings of resentment stunts your spiritual growth and ends up being detrimental to your well-being and your practice.

A new year is coming and there is no room to dwell in the past because there is so much pure and positive energy that you can open your heart and soul to. Let’s take a moment and honor change, regrowth, and the present moment. Yoga is a wonderful way to shift your focus from anything painful that might be occupying your mind to something free and wholesome. The yoga poses below can be practiced in order to form a sequence or individually if you need a moment to recollect your thoughts and take a deep breath to release any lingering bitterness.

1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

The word “balasana” comes from the Sanskrit words “bala” which means child and “asana” which means pose. This beautiful and humbling asana is often practiced at the beginning and end of sequences. Child’s Pose is also a wonderful way to rest between challenging asanas and the benefits are numerous. Practice this asana to relax your muscles, stretch your hips, ankles and thighs, release tension in your back and shoulders as well as reduce stress and anxiety. Begin in tabletop position with your wrists stacked under your shoulders and your knees stacked under your hips. Gently shift your weight to your hips and sit back onto your heels trying to bring your big toes to touch each other. Take a deep breath and lower your torso towards the mat extending your arms in front of you or letting them rest by your sides reaching for your heels. Bring your forehead to the mat and with every deep exhale, reach even further with your finger tips if they are extended in front of you and ground yourself through your sit bones. This resting asana is a gentle and humbling act of surrender. Everything will flow in the way it’s supposed to so take a deep breath and let go.

2. Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)

This chest-opening and soothing asana is perfect for releasing built-up tension in your shoulders and neck as well as stretching your spine, back and shoulders. Begin in tabletop position yet again, with your wrists stacked under your shoulders and your knees stacked under your hips. Slowly walk your fingertips in front of you as your torso drops closer towards the mat and shift your upper weight onto your forearms releasing your forehead on the mat. With every deep exhale, visualize and feel your chest sinking closerand closer to the mat. Your back should be straight and your glutes lifted towards the sky while your upper body melts into the mat (there’s a reason why this pose is also referred to as Melting Heart Pose). Make sure that your knees are hip distance apart and your arms are extended and engaged. Spread your fingers to improve your balance in this pose and continue breathing deeply and slowly for 1 minute or as long as you feel will benefit you. This asana will genuinely calm your mind and allow you to immerse yourself in the present moment while focusing on your breathing.

3. Thread the Needle Pose (Parsva Balasana)

Before exiting Puppy Pose, let’s transition to this next asana which will stretch your shoulders, arms, chest and back while releasing tension between your shoulder blades. This asana can be a bit tricky to get into so let’s begin in Puppy Pose. Take a deep inhale and shift your weight to your left arm while gently lifting your right arm off the mat and reaching towards the sky. Exhale and “thread” or slide your right arm underneath your left arm with your palm facing up and rest your cheek on the mat while bringing your gaze to your right hand. Hold this posture for anywhere from 15-30 seconds while maintaining deep and
steady breathing. Once you are ready to switch to the other side, slowly retract your arm from underneath your torso and bring it back in front of you returning to Puppy Pose; repeat on the other side. Once you are ready to complete exit Puppy Pose, slowly walk your hands back up towards you and lift your hips into tabletop position. This is one of my favorite yoga poses to practice when I need to unwind because it releases tension and stress in my shoulders while offering a gentle twist to my spine.

4. Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana)

This asana is a perfect way to release stiffness and tension, especially in your hips. This effective hip-opener will allow your hip flexors to lengthen while preparing your body for seated poses and more advanced poses such as backbends. One common reason for tension in your hips is stress and frequent sitting along with a lack of movement and deep sstretching. Muscular tension as well as emotional tension are often trapped in this part of the body. Pigeon Pose is meant to stretch your hip rotators allowing that built-up to be released while giving you the chance to confront your upsetting emotions and finally set them free. Begin in tabletop position yet again with the correct alignment and slowly bring your right knee forward close to your right hand. Straighten your left leg allowing it to rest on the mat and shift your weight onto your right thigh bringing your forehead to the mat. Allow your arms to extend in front of you while you sink deeper and deeper into this asana with every deep exhale. When you are ready, return to tabletop position and repeat this pose on the opposite side. Embrace the feeling of release; let go of each negative emotion as it surfaces.

5. Cat-Cow Pose (Marjariasana-Bitilasana)

These two asanas go hand in hand; Cat Pose is excellent for stretching your spine and shoulders as well as strengthening your core while Cow Pose deeply stretches your shoulders, lower back, chest and spine while strengthening your spine and core. Begin in tabletop position with your wrists stacked under your shoulders and your knees stacked under your hips and as you take a deep inhale, arch your spine allowing your belly to drop towards the mat and bring your gaze forward in Cow Pose. As you exhale, round your spine pulling your belly into your spine and bring your gaze down towards the mat in Cat Pose. Alternate between the two asanas controlling your breathing, inhaling and exhaling deeply and with intention. With every inhale, think of anything that might be emotionally weighing you down or holding you back, collecting every bit of negativity into that breath. Now, exhale releasing all of that energy and allowing it to escape your being since it no longer has a purpose in your life. Allow yourself to entirely let go.

6. Easy Pose/Pranayama

Sometimes, this simple asana is all you need. Easy Pose is the perfect position to meditate in as it lengthens your spine and allows energy to flow through your body freely. It also provides various benefits such as strengthening the back and stretching the ankles, knees, and thighs and improving posture. Begin in seated position with your sit bones grounded into the mat. Visualize roots attached to your hips running deep into the earth like a tree and with every breath, sense yourself feeling more and more grounded. Try to keep your spine as straight as possible and cross your legs tucking your feet underneath your knees. Gently place your hands in your lap or on your knees and close your eyes, bringing your entire focus to your breath. Nothing else matters except this present moment, right here, right now. Let go of any doubts or reservations as everything in this beautiful cosmos has a purpose.

7. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

This deeply relaxing asana provides a multitude of benefits: it calms your nervous system with energizing your mind and soothing your body. Savasana is often practiced at the end of a yoga practice because it allows your body to rest and immerse itself in the benefits of that practice. To enter this pose, begin by laying on your mat with your legs extended in front of you and bring your arms to your sides with your palms facing up. Feel yourself surrendering and letting go of all that tension that no longer serves you. Imagine your body sinking through your mat into the ground and to the center of this beautiful planet. Re-center and feel the benefits of all the asanas that you have previously completed and with each exhalation, feel the weight of your body sinking into the mat. Roll your shoulders back and release any tension in your face, completely letting go of any lingering feelings of stress that might be occupying you. Shift your focus to your breath as you inhale deeply and exhale any remaining negative energy that you might be experiencing. Allow the feeling of gratitude to flow through your entire body like an ocean wave, in through your head and out through your fingertips and toes. Thank yourself for taking the time today to do something for your well being and sense of peace. Stay in this asana for 5-15 minutes or as long as you need in order to feel completely relaxed while receiving all of the wonderful benefits of Savasana. Surrender to the ground underneath your mat. Let go.

My name is Stella Versteeg and my travels, diverse ethnic background, and passion to teach as well as learn have allowed me to generate a creative and expressive outlet. What I love about my blog, Ride Your Wave Yoga, is the ability to share all things from yoga, nutrition, lifestyle, meditation to travel. Thanks to YogaRenew Teacher Training, I am a certified 200HR yoga instructor and a lifelong student who loves to write and inspire while creating a community through my blog. My goal is to spread honesty, love and awareness about a yogic lifestyle through my blog posts as well as create a supportive, inspired community. Living in Los Angeles can be hectic and fast-paced but there’s nothing that yoga can’t fix. Come along and let’s ride your wave, together!

4 Ways To Overcome Emotional Triggers Though Yoga

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Literally, sometimes it comes on like a wave. Completely unexpected. Uncalled for. And truly throws you into an internal and external fit of not knowing what to do. Have you ever had this feeling come on while watching the news about a particular crime? Or maybe while reading someone’s personal story about a trauma they’ve experienced? Or maybe you’ve had this unexpected feeling come on while in conversation with a colleague who holds limiting perceptions of particular groups of people, or even at lunch with your mother because she thinks you could be doing better.

And just maybe, you’ve had this feeling in a yoga class, right at the end when you’re being asked to close your eyes and take Savasana in a room of strangers.

Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s called being triggered. That wave of unexpected, unsettling, consuming rush of anxiety, panic, fight or flight is called being triggered. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US HAS FELT TRIGGERED! And it’s okay and there is no shame in feeling triggered.

Here’s the thing about being triggered – we have conscious and unconscious understandings of what triggers us. I know from my personal experience, my mother’s way of genuinely expressing interest is to ask me a lot of questions and give me new things to think about in an effort to push me to new heights.

Although I am aware of how my mother expresses interest and support, in my mind, I hear her questioning nudges as, “I am not good enough. She knows I’m not good enough and is telling me so right now. And any successes I’ve had to date are meaningless because I need to be doing more.”

My mother without knowing unearths that wave of triggering emotions and one of two things happens: I shut down and push her away, or, I lash out at her and do my diligence to try to make her upset. Neither of these are good strategies for me or her.

The thing about feeling triggered is someone or something is able to unearth a feeling we haven’t quite dealt with or have made a choice to suppress. In my case, the feeling is insecurity and a sense of low worthiness or low value ascribed to my successes.

Now, I recognize having this conversation with my mother would be beneficial for both of us (and when she reads this, naturally a conversation will ensue). But, I have to stop and take care of myself first, before I can have an effective conversation with my mother or anyone who causes me to feel triggered (or to deal with an event that caused me to feel triggered – like being in a room of strangers with my eyes closed during Savasana).

So how do I that? Yoga! All of the yoga! Sure, going to a power yoga class will make me feel better. But, feelings of being triggered can linger on after I attend a class.

These triggering emotions are necessary, as Thich Nhat Hanh, spiritual leader and Buddhist monk, teaches us. He teaches us that these emotions arise and need to be treated with the same love, care, and affection as you would treat a baby. Once we learn to accept and treat our emotions with loving kindness, their power fades and an emotional healing process can begin. Remember – there is no personal growth without discomfort.

Here are four meditation and pranyama practices I do when I notice my triggers. Next time you feel yourself being triggered emotionally, you can easily do one of these practices in your office, your car, at home, or anywhere else you choose:

1. Loving Kindness & Self Love Meditation

Begin in a comfortable seated position (in a chair, on bar stool, on a bolster, wherever), with your eyes preferable open. Fix your gaze on something and place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly. Breathe in deeply through your nose and as you exhale, audibly let the air out of your mouth. Do this about five times. As you engage in this breathing exercise say to yourself the following mantra, “I am light. I am love. I am okay.”

2. Power In The Present Moment Meditation

Begin lying on the floor face down and place a bolster or a thick pillow underneath you – right around your navel (solar plexus chakra). Next stretch your arms out overhead and take a V-position with your legs. You want to resemble a starfish on your stomach. Turn your head to one side (with eyes opened or closed), breathe in through your nose and hold for a slow count of four, and exhale out of your mouth for a slow count of four. While in this pose say to yourself the following mantra, “Today is today. Tomorrow is tomorrow. I am in control of my present.”

3. Acceptance Meditation

Take Supta Baddha Konasana or Reclining Bound Angle pose with a bolster or thick pillow right between your shoulder blades. Place your arms out to the side (If you are at work or somewhere you can take seat, take this pose by placing both hands behind you on your low back, puff your chest out, and lift your head towards the ceiling).

While in this position, choose a fixed point on the ceiling and see who or what it is that has triggered you. Next, speak into the silence, “I feel triggered because…Although, I feel triggered, my heart is open to my discomfort and I am okay.”

4. Inner Strength Meditation

The last and final pose, I find to be helpful when I’m feeling triggered is taking a power stance. The pose is similar to Extended Mountain pose or Upward Salute pose, but instead you look like a vertical starfish. To do this, take your arms overhead, spread wide, and stand firmly grounded with your legs hip width apart. Take a slight backbend and allow your heart to shine towards the ceiling. Bring to mind what has just triggered you – take a deep inhale and audibly exhale. Say to yourself, “I felt triggered because…but, I am taking my power back. I am love. I am power.”

Treat what triggers you with love, patience, and understanding because you are okay and you are powerful!

Valin S. Jordan Ed.D. is an Assistant Professor of Diversity Education at University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Dr. Jordan’s work focuses on teacher identity and narrative as having particular implication for classroom practice. Dr. Jordan engages in contemplative pedagogy through the practice of yoga, she has founded an organization called, Yoga4SocialJustice. The organization is committed to mind and body connection through engagements of social justice and equity principles. More information can be found on Instagram @yoga4socialjustice or on the website https://www.yoga4socialjustice.org/.

How Yoga Saved Me From Narcissistic Abuse

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How Yoga Saved Me From Narcissistic Abuse
And How It Can Help You With Anxiety/PTSD

Yoga has the power to empower and inspire people all over the world. For me, it helped save me from narcissistic abuse. When I was 14, an abuser came into my life. At that stage in life, I was a young teen. I was young and impressionable and felt like the world was against me. It was then that a 20 year old man came in like a knight in shining armor; he seemed to understand me and made me feel special.

I could write a book about the following 17 years and the hell I went through.

At a young age, he started to control and shape my very opinions. He wouldn’t allow me to make any decisions and if I tried, he’d become upset and made me feel worthless for it. As the years went on, he shaped every thought and opinion I had; including controlling relationships with my family and friends. He also kept me powerless by controlling my own money. He would guilt me into spending my money for his needs – even though he made MUCH more then I – until I didn’t have enough to make ends meet. Then he’d give me just enough to get by so that I financially relied on him. He had to know everything I did and everywhere I went. He also made it so that eventually he was all there was, all I had, and all I could trust. This man even shaped my opinion of God so that I no longer trusted in a loving higher power.

During this time in my life, I lived in a state of state of anxiety so high – wanting to please him and feel like I was enough. I struggled with agoraphobia, panic attacks, and PTSD, all the while he convinced me these things came because I was weak, not because he took away every ounce of strength I had. I survived on medications, social avoidance, and walked through life like a miserable and broken puppet on a string.

Friends, family, even therapists tried to make me see what was happening to no avail. I was brainwashed. I was held hostage in an emotional prison of his making that there was NO escape hatch from.

Many things happened at once to have finally given me the strength to break free but the one I must give the most credit to is YOGA.

I started doing Yoga through online videos. Then I made a friend at work that fueled my interest more. As I gained a sense of accomplishment through learning new physical positions – my confidence in myself began to grow. I became more involved in this gentle exercise and before I knew it, I’d began to find my own inner light. I found that for the first time in my life, I had an identity on my yoga mat that was my own. I had a self-esteem that was built from within and not dependent on this abuser’s opinion of my self-worth. I even began to rebuild my faith in a higher power.

Eventually I learned to bring what I gained on the yoga mat into my life, and I found the strength to break off my relationship with my abuser. We’d broken up many times over the years but it was always him doing the breaking up and me doing ANYTHING I could to get him back. How VERY empowering that I had the power now. He still stayed in my life as a friend, however I did my best to distance myself from him.

When I began the yoga teacher program, I didn’t tell him. I recognized his power to shape my opinion and I didn’t want to risk his influence. I wanted SO badly to prove I could do this on my own. That I could accomplish something without him. And I did!

It was shortly after I gained my yoga teacher certification that he left again. This time however, due to the inner strength I’d cultivated through my yoga practice and new found self worth nurtured from my time on my yoga mat, I was no longer dependent on him. When he disappeared from my life this time as a “punishment,” refered to as ghosting — I happily let him go and in my now open heart wished him well.

I still find insecurities and anxieties from the years of gaslighting from a narcissistic abuser — but I now know I have the space and ability to work through them and most importantly; to heal. What’s more, I have the ability to share them with you now.

How To Use Yoga To Work Through Anxiety & PTSD

Mental health struggles such as anxiety and PTSD rob us of our sense of safety and identity. By regular practice on our mats we can create a safe space to let go and just be. As cliche as “let go” and “just be” have become, they are truly the foundation I’ve built on for finding myself again.

A Meditation for Self Acceptance

Find a comfortable position on your mat in Easy pose or Savasana with your spine straight. Take some long and deep cleansing breathes in and out. Allow yourself to focus the sensation of the air going in and out of your lungs.

On your third inhale, hold the breath — and in pause between inhaling and exhaling allow yourself to fully release all false beliefs, fears, and insecurities you’re holding onto. As you exhale, feel all those negative energies leaving your body through your breath.

On your next inhale, feel how much lighter your energy feels. Repeat this, and continue using the pause on every third breath to release things that no longer serve your higher good. Do this for as long as you need. On your last exhale, smile knowing you are free from all things that are not true to your happiness.

It’s ok if this exercise makes you emotional. If you feel angry, sad, feel the need to cry, or scream – accept it and allow these emotions to be there. Acknowledge your feelings and let them go. This powerful practice allows your feelings to be validated, while reminding yourself that they do not need to be held onto.

Remind yourself that It’s OK to feel however you feel. Repeat to yourself the following mantra, “I am enough, just as I am.”

You may not always like who you are each day, but that’s OK! Accept yourself AS YOU ARE and know that where you are, is where you need to be on your journey to a better you.

Yoga Poses For Inner Strength

1. Warrior 1 & 2

Virabhadrasana or Warrior pose on the physical level teaches us to open ourselves up to the unknown. It also teaches us to improve our balance and to strengthen our foundation by building strength in our feet, hamstrings, glutes and core. These lessons are mirrored internally as we sink into the pose and allow the Warrior inside of us to come forth. This pose also helps us find the balance between yin and yang or strength and vulnerability. It also fuels us with an inner confidence we can lead our lives from.

2. Camel Pose

In Ustrasana or Camel pose, we allow ourselves to open up our chakra or energy centers to clear away blockages especially in the heart center and solar plexus. It is in these two chakras where we house our love and our personal power. In this pose, we are vulnerable but not unprotected. Camel pose reminds us that we can have an open and inviting heart, while still being able to function within our own power and set safe personal boundaries.

3. Tree pose

In Vrksasana or Tree pose we learn to be honest with ourselves to find our own personal balance required to hold ourselves upright in this challenging times in our lives. Tree pose gives us a chance to look within and accept our truth. It also encourages us to act from that place of truth we discover from within ourselves. When we can learn to honor ourselves in this way – no one can dishonor you.

Above all else, be patient and kind with yourself. Some days will be harder then others. Some days will be easier. You didn’t get to today by being weak or giving up, you got here because you are strong, and beautiful, and SO very worth all of your efforts.

Love and Light,

I’m Corbi Hickman, a 33 year old psychiatric RN, mother to a beautiful 7 year old daughter, Reiki practitioner and recent graduate of the 200 HR YogaRenew Teacher Training program. I’ve recently started my own freelance Yoga and Reiki Business called White Phoenix Yoga and Reiki which you can find on Facebook and will be launching my own blog soon (stay tuned!) I’ve had so many ups and down in my life and am blessed with a family and an inner strength that has helped see me through it all to brighter days. My HOPE is to show others that they too can rise from the ashes of whatever they’ve been through and come out the better for it.


4 Ways To Meditate As A Beginner

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4 Ways To Meditate As A Beginner Yoga

Close your eyes; inhale and take a deep exhale. Wonderful; now watch your endless thoughts, important and unimportant, pass before your eyes without letting them control you. Focus only on your deep breathing and stay absolutely still. Difficult, right? Naturally, your mind will become distracted and your thoughts will stray. Meditation is a practice that incorporates mindfulness and awareness of a particular focal point, such as the breath, to transition into a calm state of mind. Although it might be challenging at first, meditation becomes easier and easier with practice and there are a few ways that can make the beginning of your practice easier. Let’s get right into it!

1. Reserve A Quiet Space For Your Practice

As a beginner practicing meditation, distractions can definitely get in the way. Your goal should be to settle down somewhere with the least amount of external interference. Find a space in your house with the least amount of distractions and if you live with other people, let them know when you will be practicing to avoid other sudden interruptions. I suggest decorating your meditation area with candles, a meditation cushion, perhaps a yoga mat and whatever else you may need to feel comfortable and relaxed. It might be helpful to avoid your bedroom, office or anywhere that may trigger sleepiness or stress. Try to find a brand new space, even if it’s just a different part of a room, to set up your meditation haven.

2. Listen To Guided Audios

Sitting in complete silence at first can be… unsettling. We are always surrounded by auditory and visual stimulations which can make it difficult to accept the simplicity of silence. Think about how much you multitask; do you play games on your phone or text while watching a TV show? Do you doodle on a notepad while talking on the phone? Do you browse through your emails while listening to your favorite podcast? Our minds are conditioned to receive multiple stimulations at once which makes it very challenging to focus on just one thing at a time, thus, leading to challenges when trying to slow down and meditate. To alleviate your struggles, try exploring the wonderful world of guided audios which can be found on Spotify, YouTube and many other places online for free. Many guided meditation audios consist of a calming voice walking you through the process of slowing down your thoughts, witnessing your thoughts passing by passively, focusing entirely on your breath as well as feeling reassured. Music and nature sounds are also often used in these audios to further induce feelings of relaxation. If you have difficulty immersing yourself in silence, guided audios might be for you.

3. Use Aromatherapy

Using aromatherapy during meditation can also help to induce relaxation, stimulate the senses and create a soothing space for your practice. There are several ways that you can incorporate calming scents into your meditation practice; essential oil diffusers, direct essential oil application, scented candles and incense. Essential oil diffusers are wonderful because you can combine multiple scents at once if desired such as calming lavender oil and lemongrass. Another thing I love about diffusers is that they can be timed to consistently release a fragrant mist for as long as you wish. For an even more intense scent, you can also apply essential oils directly to your skin for more potent inhalation. Essential oils can be applied on the palms on your hands and any areas that you would apply perfume such as your wrists and your neck. Scented candles are also lovely during meditation not only due to the pleasantly aromatic nature but also due to the candle-lit, soothing ambience that they create. Incense is also more than just an accessory to meditation; incense often triggers a sense of serenity and connection with oneself. Incense has been used for hundreds of years, especially in Buddhism, and although spiritual leaders have known the benefits of it for years, science is finally catching up and actively supporting those claims. Incense can promote anti-depressive behavior, relieve stress, increase focus, boost the immune system and increase creativity.

4. Practice, Practice, Practice

Practicing is key. At the end of the day, meditation is called a practice for a reason. Consistency and patience will give you the best results so stay focused and be patient with yourself through this process. To avoid becoming overwhelmed, begin by practicing for 10 minutes daily and work your way up to 15 minutes, 20 minutes, etc. If you begin attempting an hour of meditation in the very beginning, you may become frustrated and give up so it’s important to start with baby steps . Another useful tip is scheduling your meditation sessions at specific times of day to train your body to let go and relax during those times. For instance, meditate consistently in the mornings when you wake up or in the evenings depending on your schedule and when you feel like you need to recharge because essentially, you’re recharging your batteries by meditating.

Now that you have the tools to begin your meditation practice, you ultimately have the freedom to decide what kind of practice you are going to build regarding consistency, times of day, duration, presence or absence of props and scents, the use of aromatherapy, etc. It’s important to remember that this is for you. Through your practice, you are able to finally escape the chaos of your routine, your responsibilities and other factors causing your stress. This is your time to grant yourself permission to set time aside to recollect your thoughts, focus on your breath, feel rejuvenated and reconnect with your spirituality. Once meditation becomes second nature, and I promise you it will, you will be able to transition into a calming, meditative state whenever you feel overwhelmed or stressed, for instance, before an exam or an important meeting. Try to be understanding of your progress in your meditation practice, as fast or slow as it may be, and enjoy every moment of it.

My name is Stella Versteeg and my travels, diverse ethnic background, and passion to teach as well as learn have allowed me to generate a creative and expressive outlet. What I love about my blog, Ride Your Wave Yoga, is the ability to share all things from yoga, nutrition, lifestyle, meditation to travel. Thanks to YogaRenew Teacher Training, I am a certified 200HR yoga instructor and a lifelong student who loves to write and inspire while creating a community through my blog. My goal is to spread honesty, love and awareness about a yogic lifestyle through my blog posts as well as create a supportive, inspired community. Living in Los Angeles can be hectic and fast-paced but there’s nothing that yoga can’t fix. Come along and let’s ride your wave, together!

5 Ways To Cultivate Self Love Through Yoga

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“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” – Buddha

With the celebration of Valentine’s Day this week, we often correlate Valentine’s Day with love for others. While our relationships with others is an important aspect of love – the most essential type of love is often overlooked — self love. I’ve created this guide to help you get in touch with and cultivate the most important relationship you will ever have – with yourself.

Yoga practice is an excellent way to reconnect with ourselves and boost our self worth. Yoga allows us the time to just be ourselves and be fully present in our bodies with no judgments. It gives us the time to be still and care for ourselves deeply – in mind, body, and soul.

Self love is about taking the time to celebrate and love yourself fully. It’s about removing negative self talk and reminding yourself just how truly awesome you are. Self love is about taking time to care for yourself and recharging when you need it. It’s also about reminding yourself that when you do love you more fully – you not only fill yourself up with more love — but that love begins to spill over and radiate out into the world.

Here are 5 simple ways that you can start cultivating self love today.

1. Take Time To Celebrate Yourself

Cultivating self love allows us to let go of our negative self talk. It gives us the opportunity to reframe and see ourselves in a more positive light. We tend to focus on the things we do wrong or our regrets instead of focusing on our accomplishments and successes.

Practice acknowledging all the amazing things you do or wonderful things that you love about yourself. You could do this by writing down a list of things you love about you in a journal. These things could be physical things, accomplishments, or traits you love about yourself. Look at your list often and take time to meditate on it frequently.

Here’s a great ‘celebrating you’ meditation you can do easily anywhere:

Celebrate Yourself Meditation: Begin lying down or sitting in a comfortable position. Bring your attention to your natural breathing cycle for about a minute; just simply observing it – not trying to change it in any way. Next, bring to mind 15-20 things you love about yourself. As you bring these things to mind, imagine feeling that love and appreciation in your heart for yourself radiating outwards into the world. Stay in this meditation for as long as you’d like.

2. Give Yourself ‘Me Time’

Many of us live busy lives in which we have numerous responsibilities to others; this includes our relationships to our loved ones, children, or our jobs. We sometimes focus so much on giving to others that we forget to give to ourselves – making us feel drained. Remind yourself the more you fill up your own cup with self love, the more love you’ll have to give to others.

Here are some ideas for your next ‘me time’:

• Meditate daily

• Practice pranayama or deep breathing exercises

• Cook and eat a lovely meal for yourself

• Take yourself out on a date

• Go for a relaxing walk

• Listen to soothing music

• Exercise

• Buy yourself flowers

• Book a massage or spa appointment

• Enjoy a nice warm cup of tea or coffee

• Read a book

• Write in a journal

• Take a long relaxing bath

• Enjoy a glass of nice wine

3. Practice Self Love Affirmations

Practice saying positive things about yourself through daily affirmations. Affirmations are a powerful practice that can change your belief systems on a deep subconscious level. Write down a few of your favorite affirmations on a sticky note and put them in places where you’ll be reminded daily. You can even make a reminder on your phone and affirm these to yourself several times a day. You could also set aside 5-15 minutes to sit in stillness and repeat the affirmations in meditation.

Here are some affirmations you can use to boost your self love:

• “I am more than enough”
• “I love myself fully and completely”
• “I accept myself as I am”
• “I love myself unconditionally”
• “I love my body and all that it does for me”
• “I am worthy of all the love, joy, and abundance in the world”
• “The only approval I need for myself is my own”
• “I release any negative judgments I have about myself”
• “I love the woman or man that I am”
• “I am strong, powerful, and full of radiant energy”

4. Set Healthy Boundaries For Yourself

Self love means setting healthy boundaries for your and knowing what your core values are. Remind yourself that you don’t need anyone else’s approval but your own to live your best true life.

Setting boundaries sometimes means letting go of negative situations or people in our lives. Meditation helps us to be more aware of our emotions and things in our lives. Take time to sit in stillness and allow your inner wisdom to guide you. If something is draining you or taking away your joy, have the courage to remove it from your life.

5. Yoga Sequence For Self Love

Practicing self love is a very soothing practice that requires surrender and peace. It’s also an empowering act that gives us strength and courage. To sequence yoga poses for self love, consider calming yoga poses combined with power poses.

Here we’ve created a mini self love sequence you can do at home easily:


Delve into self acceptance and self love through the surrender of Child pose. As you hold this pose for up to a minute or longer, repeat the following mantra to yourself; “I am enough.”

To do this pose, begin on your hands and knees. Sink your hips back towards your heels and reach your arms forward. Relax your belly onto your thighs and rest your head towards the mat. Keep length in your spine and relax your neck. Hold and breathe, feeling yourself sink deeper towards the earth with every exhale.


Get in touch with your inner Goddess or God with Goddess Pose. This power pose helps to elicits a feeling of strength and confidence. As you hold this pose using your breath, repeat the following mantra’ “I am strong and worthy”.

To come into Goddess, from Mountain pose, step your feet wide a few feet apart, turning the toes out slightly towards the outer edges of the mat to about 45 degrees. Bend your knees and come into a wide squat, working to get the your thighs parallel to the mat. Keep your knees pointed in the same direction as your toes. Hold for several breaths.

Warrior 2

Discover strength and inner peace with Warrior 2. As you hold this pose, repeat the following mantra to yourself; “I am worthy of all the love and joy in the world”.

To come into Warrior 2 from Mountain pose, step your feet apart 3 and a half to 5 feet apart. Point your front toes 90-degrees toward the front short edge of your mat and your back foot slightly in about 45-degrees. Lift your arms up bringing them parallel to your mat and bend your front knee stacking it over your ankle or slightly behind it. Hold for several breaths and switch sides.


Pigeon pose is a deep hip opener that creates a deep sense of surrender in the body. It also helps calm the mind and soothe the soul. As you hold this pose for up to a minute or longer on each side, say to yourself with every exhale, “I accept myself fully as I am”.

To do Pigeon pose, from a tabletop position, bring your right foot in and place it down on your mat behind your right wrist. Adjust your shin so that it’s comfortable for you. Extend your left leg back on the mat. Come up onto your fingertips and walk your torso slightly up with the chest lifting and broadening. Stay here or to deepen the pose, begin to fold towards the mat keeping your spine lengthened. You can choose to come onto your forearms or rest your head on top of a block. To further deepen, you can bring your forehead down towards the mat and extend your arms out in front of you – with your palms facing down.


Savasana is the ultimate relaxation pose in yoga. Use this time to cultivate self care and love for yourself; staying here for up to 20 minutes or longer. You could enhance your Savasana practice by dimming the lights, lighting candles, and playing soft ambient music. You can even use aromatherapy to further induce inner peace; Rose, Jasmine, Bergamot, and Sandalwood are great essential oils to use for self love care.

To do Savasana, come down onto your back and relax your arms and legs out comfortably. Allow your 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. Remind yourself that by giving yourself this time to reset, you’ll be able to give more of yourself to others. Stay here for as long as you’d like.

Nadia Azam Yoga Teacher YogaRenew

Nadia Goudy is a yoga teacher, yogi, and owner of Recharg Corporate Yoga – a company dedicated to bringing yoga and mindfulness to the workplace and also the founder of YogaRenew Teacher Training. Nadia received her training in yoga teaching in the U.S. over 12 years ago, and has since dedicated years of teaching yoga to individuals who have not been regularly exposed to it; including non-profits, workplaces, senior centers, and healthcare organizations. She currently resides in Washington D.C. with her husband Nick. Her focus and mission has always been to inspire others through her yoga teachings, especially in situations and areas where individuals might not be regularly exposed to or have access to it. She created YogaRenew Teacher Training as a way to spread the knowledge and wisdom of yoga teaching around the world.

Yoga Poses For Better Sleep

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Ah, to get a restful nights sleep! For many of us, a full 8 hours of sleep is something we only dream about during whatever REM sleep we are able to get.

A good night’s sleep is incredibly important for your health. In fact, it’s just as important as eating healthy and exercising. Unfortunately, many of our daily stresses are interfering with natural sleep patterns and causing our sleep to be interrupted and shortened.

If you are looking for a holistic and natural approach to bettering the quality of your sleep, yoga postures and breathing exercises might be the solution. Also, make sure to consult your doctor if you have questions or concerns about a yoga pose or a breathing exercise. Always enter a pose slowly to ensure there is no pain or tension. If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your intuition and back out of it.

1. Cat and Cow Pose

A great set of complementary poses that will release your spine and incorporate your breath. Start on your hands and knees. Inhale into Cow pose by bringing the crown of your head and tailbone up toward the ceiling, hollowing out your lower back. For cat pose, exhale as you tilt the crown of the head and tailbone down to the ground, arching your spine into a C-curve and pulling the shoulder blades apart. Flow between these two poses as long as you’d like, moving with the pattern of your inhales and exhales and feeling like you’re putting space between every vertebrae and loosening up your spine. To slow down and control your breath, try to match the length of each inhale and exhale with the length of each pose, with a momentary pause between cycles.

2. Child’s Pose

From hands and knees, sink your hips back to your heels and settle your chest between your thighs. Your big toes should touch one another and your knees are as far apart as they need to be in order to help you settle comfortably and be able to breathe deeply. With your forehead resting on the ground or a blanket, walk your fingertips out in front of you and stretch through the arms. You can also roll your forehead from side to side on the ground to give yourself a mini face massage.

This is a great time to slow down your breathing and allow the exhales to soften your body down, releasing any tension in the shoulders and back.

3. Legs Up the Wall

Transitioning onto your back, position yourself so your tailbone (lowest part of your back) is leaning against the base of a wall, or another flat, tall surface. The headboard of your bed might even work!

Extend your legs straight up the wall. If you can, bring your tailbone closer to the base of the wall, perhaps even to the point where your glutes and upper hamstrings are touching it. This pose can be a great gentle hamstring stretch if you can keep the legs straight.

This pose helps drain lymph and lactic acid from the legs, which helps prevent injury and decrease the symptoms of fatigue and soreness if you spend a lot of time on your feet. Allow the looseness that you brought into your back with the previous postures help you feel more comfortable in this pose. Place a pillow under your head for additional support and feel free to either place your hands on your chest and belly, or stretch them out to a ‘T’ shape.

4. Supine Spinal Twist

Transitioning away from the wall, bring both knees into your chest and rock side to side or take big circles with your knees. When you’re ready, bring your arms out into a ‘T’ with your hands in line with your shoulders and let your knees fall over to one side. You can keep both knees bent, straighten the top leg, or choose to straighten both legs. If you’re not feeling as much of the twist as you’d like, try to adjust your hips further over to the middle of your space so that your back is in one straight line —this may intensify the stretch in the lower back. If you’d like a neck stretch as well, turn your head to the side opposite your knees. After a few breaths, switch sides.

When you’re ready to get in bed for the night, the right breathing exercises could be beneficial to relax your body, mind, and even help you doze off.

Pranayama For Sleep

Pranayama or breathwork is another great way to promote better z’s. Here are three simple breathwork practices you can try to help you sleep before bed.

1. Meditative Breath

For a short meditation, sit up in bed with your back straight and your head tucked slightly forward. Progressively begin to lengthen your breaths. For the first exhale, count to one. Then count to two, then three, all the way up to five. After your fifth exhale, held for a count of five, start over again at one. By keeping this pattern you allow your mind to remain focused on your breath instead of anything swirling through your mind in the evening.

2. Diaphragmatic Breath

With one hand on your lower belly and the other on your chest, take five deep breaths, inhaling for a count of three, then exhaling for a count of three. Clear your mind by focusing on the way your hands rise and fall according to your inhales and exhales.

3. Visualizing Breath

As you inhale, envision the air traveling into your nose, through your entire body, and back out again. Imagine it traveling through all your muscles, all the way to your toes and fingers, before it comes back out again during your exhale.

Focusing on your breathing activates your parasympathetic system, (also known as the rest and digest system) encouraging it to calm down, relax, and lower your heart rate in preparation for sleep.

Morgan Gertler received her 200HR RYT certification in 2014 from highly esteemed Kripalu teachers and then continued her learning in 2017 by completing her 300HR RYT certification with teachers from Yogamaya and the Iyengar Institute in NYC. Morgan also completed her Yin Level 1 & 2 trainings and loves being able to teach both sides, the yin & yang, of the yoga practice. Morgan views yoga as a vehicle to get back to yourself – through movement and breath-work, we learn how to live a more authentically happy & content life and meet all situations with confidence. When not teaching or practicing yoga, Morgan can be found writing, walking around town with her two dogs, Jagger and Bowie or browsing Sephora for more make up she doesn’t need.

5 Yoga Poses For A Strong Core

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Abs; we all have them. We are all born with abdominal muscles in order to hold our organs in place and keep our body balanced. So, where exactly are they hiding? The truth is, most people can’t see their abs because they are covered by a layer of fat. The yoga poses below will strengthen your core and slim down your waistline while improving your posture. A strong core is important for a confident, upright posture as well as overall balance and stability. Also, remember: 20% of abs are made through exercise and 80% through diet. It’s always good to exercise your core and it will definitely help you gain definition in your abs and you’ll see the best results if you drink lots of water, eat clean natural foods, lower your sugar intake and stay stress-free! Incorporate the following asanas in your daily practice in order to improve your posture and strengthen your core.

1. Plank Pose – Phalakasana

(Hold for 30 seconds – 1 minute)

You’re not the only one if you have a love-hate relationship with this pose. Planks are often used as a warm-up exercise for various types of exercise but it is also an important part of yoga. This is an amazing posture to strengthen the arms, core, spine and wrists. Start out with 20-30 seconds daily and ultimately aim to hold your plank for 1 minute or more. The stronger you get, the longer you’ll be able to hold the pose and slowly but surely, your core will tighten and gain definition.

Begin in Downward Facing Dog and allow your torso to move forward until it is parallel to the mat and your shoulders are positioned over your wrists. Press evenly into the mat through your fingers and spread your shoulders blades away from your spine while engaging your core. Important tip: don’t forget to breathe! This might seem obvious but when our body is under strain, we tend to hold our breath or take short breaths. Deep inhale, deep exhale; so you can receive the full benefits of phalakasana!

2. Dolphin Plank Pose – Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana

(Hold for 1 minute)

Another plank pose? That’s right. This pose is excellent because it takes pressure off of your wrists due to the fact that your forearms are supporting you instead of your hands. This pose is also ideal if you are preparing to attempt a forearm stand; it will strengthen your forearms and shoulders while conditioning your body to support its weight on your forearms. This asana increases bone density, it strengthens the core, arms and chest and it improves posture. However, consider avoiding this pose if you have a shoulder, arm, back or neck injury. Begin in table top position with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Slowly bring your forearms down with your hands pressing into the mat and make sure your forearms are still shoulder width apart. Consider using a yoga strap in order to keep your arms the correct width apart from each other. Step your feet back and make sure that your torso is positioned parallel to the mat. Important: make sure your backside isn’t sticking up into the air and your back isn’t arched. Try to keep your back straight and parallel to the mat. Engage your core and push your shoulders away from your neck to avoid hunching. Hold this pose for as long as you can, aiming for 1 minute. You can do this!

3. Side Plank Pose – Vasisthasana

(Hold for 30 seconds each side)

Yes, yes… another plank pose. However this one is great for your obliques which are your side abdominal muscles. Practice this pose daily to get those defined lines on the sides of your abdomen, you know you want ‘em! All jokes aside, the benefits of this pose are multiple; it strengthens the core, arms and legs, it improves balance and it stretches the back of the legs. To enter this pose, begin in Downward Facing Dog; slowly twist your body and stack your right foot onto your left foot so that you are balancing your weight on your left foot and your left hand. Lift your right arm towards the sky or as a modification, rest it on your hip. Engage your core and make sure to press into the mat with the fingers of your left hand as it is supporting your entire upper body and torso. Try to hold this pose for around 30 seconds and switch sides.

4. Boat Pose – Navasana

(Hold for 1 minute)

This pose is fantastic for balance, enhancing digestion, relieving stress and of course, strengthening your core, spine and hip flexors. Plus, it’s fun! Begin in a seated position on the mat with your legs extended in front of you. Using your core, bend your knees and slightly lift your legs off of the mat keeping your thighs at about a 45 degree angle to the mat. Lean back slightly trying to keep your spine as straight as possible. The more you lean back, the more you will feel your core strengthening. Extend both of your arms by your legs making sure they are parallel to the mat. Hold this pose for 1 minute if possible or to add movement to the pose and a more intense workout, you can “row your boat”! To add this Russian Twist modification, simply bring your hands in prayer position by your heart and tap them by your side on the mat alternating sides, while twisting your torso. Hold this pose for 1 minute or if you choose to add the Russian Twist modification, try to complete 15 reps on each side.

5. Balancing Table Crunches Variation – Dandayamana Bharmanasana

(Hold for 30 seconds on each side)

Last but surely not least, this pose is great for improving coordination and focus, balance and core strength. Begin in tabletop position with your wrists stacked under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Inhale while extending your right arm straight in front of you and simultaneously, extending your left leg. The idea is to make sure your arm and leg are aligned with your spine and create a straight line. You can hold this pose for 30 seconds on each side or for the optional crunches variation, simply bring your right elbow into your chest while bringing your left knee into your chest and then extend them both at the same time; that’s one crunch. Repeat this motion for 30 seconds and move onto the other side. To exit the pose, return your leg and arm back towards your body and from tabletop position, exhale and rest in Child’s Pose.

These 5 asanas are excellent for strengthening your core, correcting posture and improving balance. Try to incorporate them in your daily yoga practice, preferably at the beginning as a warm-up; over time, you will notice that your abs will gain definition and your strong core will allow you to progress in yoga and attempt more advanced poses. These poses have helped me get stronger in order to master a headstand and forearm stand. Be patient and listen to your body; if you feel as if you are putting too much strain on yourself, don’t hesitate to rest in Child’s pose and breathe. In yoga, it’s all about taking pleasure in the journey itself instead of the destination. Immerse yourself in your own unique, beautiful flow.

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.

4 Physical and Psychological Health Benefits of Yoga

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Ever notice how you feel after practicing yoga? You are probably feeling pretty emotionally centered and energized. Yoga helps us work with how emotions live in our bodies, how they affect our thoughts, our feelings, and our behaviors. Most of us are not fully aware of how our emotions are living in our bodies. We know we feel anxious, sad, frustrated, but we sometimes fail to understand where the feelings are coming from. Yoga and its practices – the asanas (postures), breathing, deep relaxation, and meditation all help to connect the link between body and mind. Yoga has been shown to enhance overall well-being through a sense of belonging and connection to self and others, as well as, to improve the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Yoga has also been shown to have physical effects on the body, on a biological level, helping to increase the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a chemical in the brain that helps to regulate and calm the nervous system.

There’s a ton of research and articles on the internet for you to find on Yoga and its therapeutic benefits, which overwhelmingly conclude that Yoga and its practice yield beneficial effects on four key physical and psychological areas. These four key areas are supported and detailed by ongoing research conducted at Harvard University and Boston Medical school by Sat Bir Singh Khalsa and his colleagues. Sat Bir Singh Khalsa is a researcher in the field of body-mind medicine, specializing in yoga therapy.

1. Fitness

Yoga as a physical exercise can improve overall fitness, strengthening muscles, improve posture, breathing, flexibility, and coordination. When practiced regularly there’s an improved sense of self-efficacy in body movement and physical activity.

2. Self-Regulation

Yoga helps in teaching how to regulate emotions, regulate stress, and over time, and consistent practice helps to build resilience leading to equanimity in the face of strong emotions. This leads to an overall sense of psychological self-efficacy, mental stability and mood stability.

3. Awareness

Yoga teaches us how to focus our attention through its mediation and breathing components. This practice helps us to gain awareness of our body and our feelings as they live within our body. This leads to an understanding of mindfulness, being present and connected to the here and now, which increases concentration and productivity. With dedicated practice, there’s the development of meta-cognition, the ability to separate from oneself and step back from your thoughts. To see that you are not your thoughts, and that you have control over your thoughts, and that you can control your reactions to your thoughts.

4. Spirituality

Yoga has been shown to lead to transcendence, life-changing transformations over long-term practice due to arriving at unitive states of flow. Flow is being one with the Self, engaging with the world in a way that is aligned with who we are so that we experience positive emotions most of the time. This results in psychological change that includes new perspective and perception of life, meaning, and one’s purpose, for the better. This is what is meant by “Living my best life.”

One of my favorite mantras to meditate on, especially when dealing with anxious thoughts: “Thoughts are just visitors, let them come and go.”

These four areas are essential to one’s physical and psychological well-being; ideally, we want to be content in these areas. The more content and fufilled we are in these areas the happier we’ll feel with ourselves and in our lives. Yoga is a multi-component practice that includes – asanas (postures), breath work, deep relaxation, and meditation making it an ideal practice for improving overall well-being. Yoga practice works on both cognitive (mental) and somatic (body) components, making it beneficial to all four areas. Next time you are on the mat take notice, how do you feel?

Maribel Allaria is a psychotherapist who currently has her own private practice as a life coach, where she also offers restorative private yoga sessions. “I help people overcome challenges, improve their mindset and create a thriving winning psychology. My approach to healing is behavioral and I like to incorporate positive psychology techniques. I truly belief that mediation, mindfulness and yoga are fundamental in learning how to heal while living in today’s ever changing fast paced world. I started my own yoga journey 9 years ago, after the birth of my son left me with anxiety. After seeing a therapist I chose to use meditation, mindfulness and yoga as a path to heal myself. That path I chose has healed my anxiety, but most importantly it has become a way of life for me, one that keeps me living in the here and now, present to my current experiences and in touch with my authentic self. Mindfulness is about learning how to live in the space between the stimuli and the reaction, realizing that you can pause, observe and choose how to react, so that it is with intent and authentic of self. Yoga practice and teachings has been the mother of it all, incorporating meditation, mindfulness and the body and mind connection.”

Instagram: @maribelvallaria