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YogaPaws Blog for Beginner Poses and Postures

Explaining the Yoga Transformation cliché

Posted on Fri, May 17, 2013
beautiful yoga photo
Photographer Julien Balmer of Visual Spectrum Photography

It may be cliché, I know, but yoga has changed my life.

Somebody recently asked me how and I realized that it is has been a slow and steady process, one which is vast and deep and profound. I struggled for a quick and easy description. It got me thinking....... How has yoga really changed my life...... Or more to the point changed me.

I used to be a wild party girl, chasing the next thrill, the next high, the next hit and the next buzz. One day I finally realized that it was insatiable. There was never enough, it always left you wanting more. More music, more hits, more highs, more booze, more spiffs, more cigarettes, more alcohol, more sex, more rock and more roll, more more more more more. IT was never enough. IT was not satisfying. IT was endless because IT was not IT.

I woke up one morning with a nose bleed and a hangover from hell. I crawled downstairs threw up and then looked at myself in the mirror. There must be more to life than this. There must be more to me than just this. 

I turned my back on my party ways, I packed my bags and left my life. I left myself! I jumped ship. 

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Mhari Scott | Seattle and Portland Wedding Photographer

I had found Ashtanga yoga a year before and it was the first thing I had done in ages that actually made me feel good about myself. It actually made me feel. I had been numbing myself to life for so long that I could barely feel anything anymore. 

I chose life. I didn’t want o be numb anymore…..

I immersed myself in the new world I had discovered. I started taking my practice seriously. I devoted time to myself to making myself feel good. I started to take care of myself. Lesson one - if you don't look after yourself then how can u feel good? Inside and out. 

I started to observe myself. What did I do, how did I do it. 

I beat myself up. I put myself down. I hit myself with a derogatory stick all day everyday.

Lesson two - without observation there will be no change. First we have to recognize our faults before we can start changing them. 

I started to taking note when and why I was doing this. I burnt my stick. I made a pact with myself to start being nice to me. If I am not nice to me then how can I expect anyone else to be?

I changed my ways.

Lesson three - by changing the way you do things in your daily life can allow a new person inside of you to grow. I stopped drinking. I stopped smoking. I stopped partying. I went to class. I did my practice. I changed my patterns. I'm not saying it was easy, not at first, but with persistence and continuity; then things will change (Lesson four). 

India beckoned. I could hear it calling me. It's funny because when you drink and smoke and alter your state of mind then you begin to lose touch with you intuition. You simply can't hear it as clearly as you can with a clear head. I had lived in a blurry bubble for over 12 years and quite frankly, everything was hazy. As I began to clear my head I began to hear that little voice inside of me. The little voice of the larger me. The more I listened to it, the more it spoke to me. Guiding me, telling me which way to go, which path to take, which decision to make, what was right, what I wanted.

Lesson five - always listen to that little voice for it is the voice of your soul. 

I went to India. Choosing life, expansion. Choosing to follow my path. 

I learnt how to be on my own agenda. I realized that I had always done everything for everyone else and hardly ever did what I wanted to do for me. Lesson six. Live life for you! Put yourself first. 

forward bend

I learnt how to enjoy my own company, how to be ok with myself. Yoga teaches you to begin to be ok with where u are. Make peace with wherever you are and be content with that. Don't strive after achievements that you have not yet fulfilled or feel frustrated by things that have not yet materialized. Lesson seven. Make peace with exactly where you are today. Not where you were yesterday or where you want to be tomorrow, but where and who you are today. 

My practice and experience of India was arduous. It was a hard graft. I had upped my practice from 2-3 times a week to 6 and my practice itself was almost twice as long and the level of demanding-ness had quadrupled. I learnt that once again perseverance leads to achievement. Lesson eight - Without commitment you don't get very far. 

I kept going. When things got tough, when I felt like I was never going to get to where I wanted to go. I kept going. I was enjoying the journey and knowing that the journey was the destination I stopped looking forward and began looking at now. Living in the moment. Living each day as it came. 

Lets pause there for a moment…..living in the now is a hard practice. It takes years of trying to even get close. But you have to start somewhere, you have to be happy where you are and you have to preserver. I realized how much I cling to the past and how much I try to mentally paint a picture of the future. Again it is extremely heard to let go of these things but you have to just keep on trying. Keep acknowledging what you are doing and keep recognizing that you are doing them. Lesson 9 to live in the now is really hard! Only severe determination and constant effort will get you there.

yoga class, yoga shop

Lesson 10 - you are enough. Don't listen to other people's opinions of what you are capable of. If you want to do something. Just do it. Don't ask others people's advice. Listen to that voice inside of you. Don't listen to your fears of inadequacy. Don't let other people stop you from pursuing your dreams. 

A 'friend' told me that I was not ready for my teacher training, he had not been with me in India. He had not seen what I had out into my practice. He had no right to tell me what he thought I was capable of. I ignored his advice and I did it anyway. I was good enough. I started to believe in myself.

Lesson 11 - don't give up!

 On returning from my travels things went down hill.  My world fell apart. My vision of how life was going to be was so very far from how it actually was. I was lonely. I was in a new place. My creature comforts where stripped away. I fell. I got very close to giving up, for the first time in my life I danced with death. I fought depression. I struggled through. I took on all my weaknesses. I cleared out all my dirty corners. I did a big spring clean of me. 

When things got really bad I asked for help. (Lesson 12 always ask for help when you need it). I'm not very good at asking for help. I don't like to be a burden. Ironically I help other people endlessly, yet I can not ask for the anything in return. 

I asked for help. I got out of my hole. I reconnected.

Lesson 13. Everything you need is within you. Don't ever forget that. 

Lesson 14 - dream big.

Life is about following our dreams. About making them happen. Nothing is outside of our grasp. You really can do anything if you set your mind to it. Follow the things that excite you. Make decisions based on what feels right. If you can't find an answer then you are probably just messing with the wrong question! I was stuck between two options that I could not decide between until I realized that neither of them were what I wanted to do. I did a workshop with Nancy Gilgoff and she said to me 'come to Maui'. As she said it something inside of me lit up. I could go to Maui. I could go and spend a few months practicing second series with Nancy Gilgoff!! I could do that. Suddenly I got hit with the ' I can't afford it / what about my job / what would I do when I got back' thoughts. I decided to bin those and live in the moment. Right now it was the only thing that really excited me. It got my chi flowing. It made me sparkle. It made me feel alive! I was going to make it happen. I was going to live the dream.

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Lesson 15 - choose life. Every day you will be more. Every moment you are getting closer to your dreams. Every second you are changing and growing. Every day you can be a new you. Every thought can be the birth of a new dream. 

Who knows where you will be in six months, six weeks, six days or even six minutes from now. 

 

So that is how yoga has changed my life. It has taught me so very much about myself, about how I live and how I can live. Yoga is not about the physical stuff. It is a tool to help you begin to see yourself. Imagine you have a mirror to see yourself in, well practicing yoga helps you to clean that mirror…. For the purpose of seeing yourself more clearly.

When you can see yourself, you can change yourself.

This is how yoga helped me to transform.

 

Laura Grace  www.ashtangayogadeva.com

Tags: 4th Chakra, advanced yoga, 1st Chakra, being present, 2nd Chakra, 7 Chakra, 5th Chakra, 6th chakra, 3rd Chakra, 8 limbs of yoga, benefits of yoga, yoga chakras

Five Yoga Poses to Get You Grounded

Posted on Tue, Mar 13, 2012

yoga, groundingIn the Western world, spring is viewed as a time of hope, possibility and greenness. While all those expansive vistas are appealing, sometimes you might feel overwhelmed. It’s a little like walking into a maze. You’re wondering where you need to go first, second, third and fourth. The radically changing weather is partly to blame—one day snow, the next sunny and coats-off toasty—because it forces you out of the cozy, comfort zone you’ve developed over the winter. But there’s also the urge to refresh and rejuvenate that comes from deep inside.

 

centering, yogaFinding your center isn’t always easy. The Internet, the TV, even family and friends are telling you how should dress, look, live. You may be telling yourself that change is hard. Okay, impossible. To counteract that, start by focusing on the Yama (Hindu ethical guide), Kshama. It means releasing time (or time pressure for modern clock-aholics), being patient and living in the present. It also means learning to embrace the uncertainty of life.

 

centering, outside yoga, outdoors yogaPracticing yoga poses that emphasize your connection to the Earth can help you feel this acceptance and clarify your focus. Choose asanas that require you to find balance in off-balance positions or comfort in uncomfortable places. Make sure you exhale fully, making the out-breath two to four counts longer than the inhale to free yourself of toxic substances and thoughts. Learning to thrive within a changing environment is part of life, and the transition in the seasons is a great time to test out what gets you centered.

 

Here are some poses to try: 

Janu SirasanaJanu Sirasana (Head-to-Knee Pose)

Benefits: Stretching your hamstrings releases your body from the feeling of preparing to run away, a classic element of being ungrounded

How to do it: Begin by sitting with your legs stretched out in front of you and your buttocks supported on a folded blanket. Bend your right knee in and rotate your right leg outward, so that the sole of your right foot presses lightly into your left thigh. If your knee doesn’t open to the ground, support it with a folded blanket. Press your right hand into your right hip crease and open your body slightly to the left while grounding your right leg. You can also loop a strap around your left foot, holding the position to get a sense of grounding in your hips and length in your back. When you’re ready, release the strap if possible and clasp your left leg with your right hand. Hinge forward from the groin and use your left hand to keep your body from opening to the right. Focus on lengthening your torso as you bend forward. Remain in the pose for one to three minutes, then release and repeat on the other side.

 

DandasanaDandasana (Staff pose)

Benefits: Feeling your connection to the earth in his pose increases the sense of centeredness.

How to do it: Sit on the floor. Straighten your legs in front of you. You may want to check your alignment by practicing this pose against a wall, allowing your upper back to touch the wall, but not your lower back or head.  If you feel your torso leaning back, place a folded blanket under your buttocks to release the tension in your hamstrings. Flex your feet and firm your thighs and rotate your legs slightly inward. Visualize your torso lengthening up from the ground. Hold this pose for at least one minute.

 

PurvottanasanaPurvottanasana (Upward Plank Pose)

Benefits: The combination of pushing your hands and feet into the ground and arching your front body upward helps you feel stable and balanced.

How to do it: Begin in Dandasana (Staff Pose).  Place your hands on the floor behind your shoulders, fingers pointing toward your heels. Consider using Yoga-Paws if your hands and feet tend to slip on your mat. Bend your knees and place the soles of your feet on the ground, at least a foot in front of your buttocks.  Lift your body into a reverse tabletop.  Without lowering your hips, straighten your knees one at a time. Gently arch your head back. Remain in the pose for 30 seconds, then release to Dandasana.

 

Malasana (Photo of yoga teacher Jewels Ziff Sint )

Malasana (Garland Pose)

Benefits: This pose forces you to engage and strengthen your hips, a key part of the body to activate when you need to feel secure.

How to do it: Begin by squatting with your feet as close together as possible. If your heels don’t reach the ground, support them on a folded blanket. Open your knees slightly wider than your hips and gently press your body between your thighs. Use your elbows to open your knees and bring your hands to Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal). Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute and release.

 


Utthita TrikonasanaUtthita Trikonasana
(Extended Triangle Pose)

Benefits: The balance of your body reaching in two directions stabilizes you in space.

How to do it: Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Step or lightly jump your feet three to four feet apart. Reach your arms straight out to the side, palms down. Rotate your left foot in slightly and turn your right foot out. Exhale and extend your torso over your right leg. Grasp your shin or ankle if you can’t reach the floor. Turn your gaze toward your left arm. If that makes your neck uncomfortable, gaze at your foot. Hold for 30 seconds.

 

To maximize the benefits of these grounding yoga poses, coordinate them with your breath. As soon as you come to your mat, connect to a breath that starts at your pelvic floor and rises through your body. Exhale in a reverse pattern, allowing the chest to fall back to the spine, then the mid-body and finally the first chakra. Working from this strong, centered place makes you feel safe, secure and able to embrace the changes to come.

 

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Tags: root chakra, 1st Chakra, yoga for grounding

Chakra Series: Five Grounding Yoga Poses to Balance the Root Chakra

Posted on Tue, Oct 18, 2011


amazing tree, root chakra, ground root chakraImagine a great ancient tree with a wide trunk, whose root base digs deep into the Earth and spreads wide, holding the tree in place and physically connecting it to the Earth. From the Earth, the tree receives everything it needs to sustain itself. The tree is secure in this knowledge and day after day, reaches its branches toward the sky to happily drink in the sunshine. Now imagine yourself as the tree, with a deep woody root base that connects you to the physical world. Just as the tree drinks in the sunshine, you drink in the nourishing air around you, each breath a taste of sunshine that gives you a sense of well-being. This is the essence of a balanced muladhara, or base chakra 

 

root chakra, grounding chakra, Located at the base of your spine, below the sacrum, the muladhara is symbolized by the color red. This energy center is the seat of your survival instincts. When muladhara is balanced, you’re grounded in the world, both emotionally and physically. It shows in your posture, in the way you walk and in the way you feel about yourself. Everything around you is connected to you and you feel a sense of security and stability that drives a healthy sense of self in the physical world.

 

Now imagine that tree in a hurricane. The roots slowly become drenched with excessive water from the storm. They begin to pull out of the mud while the some of the tree’s branches break and fall to the ground. Wind whips at the leaves, carrying some of them off into the air. The tree remains after the storm but is no longer stable in the Earth. This is the essence of unbalanced muladhara. Fear is the basis for an unbalanced muladhara. Your general sense of well-being is replaced by lack of sleep, restlessness and anxiety. You no longer have trust in the world, and have a hard time relaxing. You may become sick or have chronic lower back pain. Eating disorders are also related to an unbalanced muladhara.

 

Healing an unbalanced muladhara begins with grounding poses, or asanas:

 

 

tadasana, mountain pose

 

 

 

 

Tadasana, or mountain pose, is one of the most balancing poses in yoga. Tada means mountain, and in the pose, your feet are firmly rooted to the ground while the crown of your head acknowledges the sky. While in tadasana, imagine your feet sprouting roots that draw deeply down into the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parsvakonasana pose, root chakra pose, grounding pose

Parsvakonasana, or side angle pose, increases your stamina parsvakonasana gives you a sense of stability. Remember to always anchor your back heel to the floor, which will power the asana and help you maintain stability.while strengthening the legs, knees and ankles. Following a grounding pose like tadasana with

 

 

 

 

 

Virabhadrasana, warrior pose, root chakra

 

 

 

Virabhadrasana II is derived from virabhadra, meaning fierce warrior, hence the name Warrior II. Mastering this pose requires concentration and core strength. With an unbalanced muladhara, your fight or flight instinct is activated. Virabhadrasana gives you the strength to face your fears.

 

YogaPaws are great for keeping you locked in place for challanging poses like this.  YogaPaws are the yoga mat you wear for yoga anytime, anywhere. Buy YogaPaws

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uttanasana, forward bend, yoga paws

 

 

 

Uttanasana, or standing forward bend, helps soothe the mind from “monkey mind,” or anxious thoughts. Stress and anxiety are hallmarks of unbalanced muladhara. Coupling uttanasana with deep breathing stabilizes and centers the mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, bridge pose, yoga paws, root chakra, chakra

 

 

 

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana is bridge pose, another grounding pose that stabilizes the core and deepens as the feet become more firmly rooted in the floor. Setu bandha sarvangasana lifts the spirit with the heart, establishing a bond between our physical, emotional and spiritual being.

 

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Tags: Chakra Points, root chakra, 1st Chakra

Chakras and Yoga Poses

Posted on Tue, Apr 19, 2011

 

There are seven chakras, or energy centers, in the body that become blocked by longheld tension and low self-esteem. But practicing poses that correspond to each chakra can release these blocks and clear the path to higher consciousness.

chakras, yoga, yoga paws, yogapaws, chakra systemThe chakra system provides a theoretical base for fine-tuning our yoga practice to suit our unique personality and circumstances. Traditionally, Indians saw the body as containing seven main chakras, arranged vertically from the base of the spine to the top of the head. Chakra is the Sanskrit word for wheel, and these "wheels" were thought of as spinning vortexes of energy.

Each chakra is associated with particular functions within the body and with specific life issues and the way we handle them, both inside ourselves and in our interactions with the world. chakra chart, yoga, yoga paws, chakras

There are many yoga poses that can correct chakra imbalances, bringing us back to our body and the earth and helping us experience safety, security, and stillness.  

 

 Muladhara Chakra (Root Chakra),  Centered at the perineum and the base of the spine, this energy vortex is involved in tending to our survival needs, establishing a healthy sense of groundedness, taking good basic care of the body, and purging the body of wastes. The associated body parts include the base of the spine, the legs, feet, and the large intestine.

supta buddha konasana, bound angel pose, yoga, yoga paws, meditation chakra yoga

Yoga Posture:Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)

Benefits: Release and the root chakra to balance, frees energy flow in pelvic area, increases vitality in digestive organs, quiets the mind, stretches inner thighs and opens groins


The second chakra is called Svadisthana, which translates as "one's own place or base."  This chakra helps allow for emotional and sensual movement in our life, opening to pleasure, and learning how to "go with the flow." Associated with the hips, sacrum, lower back, genitals, womb, bladder, and kidneys, this chakra is involved with sensuality, sexuality, emotions, intimacy, and desire.

yoga paws, yoga pose, gomukhasana, cow face pose, chakras

Yoga Posture: Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

Benefits: Stretches the ankles, hips and thighs, shoulders, armpits and triceps, and chest.  Balances second chakra.


 Located in the area of the solar plexus, navel, and the digestive system, the fiery third chakra is called Manipura, the “lustrous gem.” Associated with the color yellow, this chakra is involved in self-esteem, warrior energy, and the power of transformation; it also governs digestion and metabolism. This chakra is also the place of our deep belly laughter, warmth, ease, and the vitality we receive from performing selfless service.

bow pose, dhanaurasana, yoga, yoga paws

Yoga Posture: DHANAURASANA or THE BOW

Benefits: Increases strength and flexibility along the entire length of the spine. Balances thrid chakra.


The fourth chakra, the heart chakra(Anahata Chakra),rests in the center of the chakra system, at the core of our spirit. Its physical location is the heart, upper chest, and upper back. The fourth is the balance point, integrating the world of matter (the lower three chakras) with the world of spirit (the upper three chakras). Through the heart chakra, we open to and connect with harmony and peace. 

Cobra Pose Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana), yoga, chakras, yoga paws, yogapaws

Yoga Posture: Cobra Pose Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Benefits: Opens the chest, allowing deeper breathing.  Helps to balance the heart chakra.


The throat chakra, Visuddha, is associated with the color turquoise blue and with the elements sound and ether, the field of subtle vibrations ancient Indians believed pervaded the universe. Located in the neck, throat, jaw, and mouth, the Visuddha chakra resonates with our inner truth and helps us find a personal way to convey our voice to the outside world. 

camel pose, yoga pose, yogapaws, charka

Yoga Posture: Camel Pose - Ustrasana

Benefits: Stretches the front of the body including the chest, abdomen, and quadriceps. Improves spinal flexibility.


Imaginative abilities—visualizing the past, creating positive pictures of the future, and fantasizing—are all aspects of Ajna ChakraAjna Chakra (3rd eye Chakra), whose Sanskrit name means both "the perception center" and "the command center." Associated with the element light and the color indigo blue, the sixth chakra is located between and just above the physical eyes, creating the spiritual third eye. While our two eyes see the material world, our sixth chakra sees beyond the physical. This vision includes clairvoyance, telepathy, intuition, dreaming, imagination, and visualization.

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Meditation:  Sit upright, holding the neck and head like a solider at attention. Take 5 deep breaths. This sends oxygen into your bloodstream and relaxes you. Look at the third eye area, in the middle of your forehead and just above your eyebrows. You will rest your hands in a comfortable position such as upon your knees. Remain as still as you possibly can. Inhale deeply while beginning to chant in a steady, slow soft voice the OM manta, pronounced AUM. For an entire exhalation the one single chant of OM (AUM) is sounded

Benefits: Guidance and inspiration, enhancement of awareness, improvement of health and well being


The seventh chakra is located at the crown of the head and serves as the crown of the chakra system, symbolizing the highest state of enlightenment and facilitating our spiritual development. The seventh chakra is like a halo atop the head. In art, Christ is often depicted with a golden light surrounding his head, and the Buddha shown with a lofty projection on the top of his head. In both cases, these images represent the awakened spirituality of the Sahasrara Chakra.

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Special Thanks to  Barbara Kaplan Herring for their consise chakra information. 

Tags: 4th Chakra, Chakra Points, 1st Chakra, 2nd Chakra, 7 Chakra, 5th Chakra, 6th chakra, 3rd Chakra

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