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YogaPaws Blog for Beginner Poses and Postures

Core Curriculum: Yoga for Your Center

Posted on Thu, Jul 18, 2013

 yoga poses, yoga pose, yoga paws, travel yoga posesAs you prepare for your yoga practice, you might start to focus on your breath, stretch your hamstrings or loosen your shoulders. One area that’s probably not top of mind as you warm up is your core. But the combined strength and suppleness of the muscles that control your torso affect everything from balance work to full extension in standing poses and proper alignment in seated asanas. It’s no wonder this part of the body is called your powerhouse.

The muscles in your abs and back do a lot more than you think. This isn’t just about looking good on the beach. These are the muscles that stabilize you as you come into standing balances such as Vrksasana (Tree Pose).  

Plank Pose A strong core also makes these poses feel easier than if you rely only on your limbs to hold you up. Being able to activate your center connects your whole body, making your arms and legs work as one unit. Consider Plank Pose. Engaging the core by thinking about pulling the front body up toward the spine allows you to stiffen your body so that the hamstrings can lengthen and you can start to turn your heels under. All of that distributes your weight more evenly down the entire body rather than making your shoulders and wrists literally do all of the heavy lifting. It also makes the pose more accessible. To feel the difference, come to Plank Pose with the hands under your shoulders or just slightly ahead of them.  Purposefully allow your front body to sag toward the floor as your spine rounds down. Set your knees down into Table Top pose for a few breath cycles. Then return to Plank, this time collecting the core up toward the back and explore how integration creates a new ease in the pose. 

 

describe the imageYoga is a great way to help you cultivate that feeling. While your practice doesn’t build core strength through repetition the way other training methods (such as Pilates) do, it helps your core become much stronger functionally. For example, each time you move into Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I), think about lifting your body from your pelvic floor and using your core muscles to support your spine as you raise your arms and reach away from your legs. Concentration on your core muscles can subtly intensify most asanas. The next time you come into Balasana (Child’s Pose), walk your hands far out in front, claw the mat with your fingers and, drawing your navel to your spine, move into the pose by pushing your glutes back toward your heels. Keep your spine long and core engaged as you lengthen back. Then, breathe deeply. As you exhale, focus on emptying out the front body and drawing the core upward to the spine. Enjoy that clean, “together” feel that comes from your body and breath working efficiently in harmony.

To take your core curriculum to the next level, try these poses that target your center. Here are a few to try:

 

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)  Benefits: This pose activates your entire center.  How to do it: Start in Plank Pose. Firm your center. On an exhale, lower your body by bending your arms. The “eyes” (insides) of your elbows should face forward and your elbows should graze your sides as you lower down. Pull your heels under and keep your legs straight.  Lift your navel to your spine. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then release either by lowering your body to your mat or by stretching into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose).

 

Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose)Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose)  Benefits: This pose works your obliques, muscles on the sides of your waist that stabilize your body as you twist.  How to do it: Begin in Adho Mukha Svanasana. Put your weight into the outer edge of your left foot. Place your right foot on top of your left. Rotate your body upward. Align your body so that you are balanced on your left foot and left hand. Make sure your left hand is slightly ahead of your left shoulder. Think of lifting from your left side. Keep your right shoulder back. If you want to, you can lift your right leg and clasp it with your right fingers. Stay in the pose for 15 to 30 seconds, then release back to Adho Mukha Svanasana and repeat on the other side.

 

bridge poseSetu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)  Benefits: This pose engages your back and abs at the same time.  How to do it:  Begin lying face up on your mat. Bend your knees in and put the soles of your feet on the floor. Put your arms along your sides. Exhale and press your hips toward the ceiling, peeling one vertebra at a time off the mat. Keep your legs parallel and no more than hip width apart. (Placing a block between your knees can help keep proper alignment). You should end with your back slightly arched. Keep your throat relaxed. Think of pulling your hipbones toward your ribs. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute, then release.

 

describe the imageStand Tall. Visualize your abdominals coming together to lift your torso off your hips as you practice. Try to create length between your bottom rib and your pelvis. Draw your navel in and up.

yoga poses, yoga pose, travel yoga posesFocus your energy. Often, tension in your limbs is misplaced. As you practice, keep energy in your core. If you feel like you are falling backward or your shoulders start to get tense, see if engaging your abs helps that relax.

As you find your center in yoga class, think about how you want to take that through your life. Just as in yoga, having a strong core—muscular or emotional—keeps you stable and allows you to adapt to new demands. Next time you hit the mat, set your core as your intention. Think about the connection between your physical center and your emotional one.  You will probably find the strengthening both helps make you the strongest you can be.

  

Dig Deeper

 Yoga workshop for your coreYoga workshop for your core

 Yoga for your back

Tags: Beginning Yoga Poses, Yoga for weight loss, advanced yoga poses, 2nd Chakra

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

Three Yoga Asanas to Create Energy and Calm in Your Second Chakra

Posted on Tue, Jan 24, 2012

Given the pace and stress of modern living, it might stress management yogabe hard to recognize when the Svadisthana (sacral) chakra is out of balance. Some of the signals, like the tendencies to be a workaholic, to cry easily, to suffer from sluggish circulation, are so common that they’re hardly noticeable. These physical, mental and spiritual issues are easy to chalk up to just another day where you need that 25th hour. It’s only when the imbalances move to extremes, when the blocks in this creative center lead to infertility, dangerous forms of over-indulgence and life-limiting confusion, that many people understand fully the importance of keeping this focal point of life-force free and unhindered.

chakara


Balance starts with knowledge. The Svadisthana chakra is often translated as “one’s own
place or base.” [details on all seven chakras.] It is located at the tailbone, roughly two fingers above the Muladhara (root) chakra. The pubic bone is the corresponding
point in the front body. The second chakra has broader associations with the hips, sacrum, lower back, genitals, womb, bladder and kidneys. Svadisthana’s element is water, and it influences all the watery flows of the body: circulation, urination, menstruation, orgasm and tears. Its functions include procreation and the digestion of food. This is the center of your physical and emotional vitality and your sexuality. It also connected with the unconscious and with emotion. Its color is orange and its sensory aspect is taste. Its gemstones are: Carnelian, coral, gold calcite, amber, citrine, gold topaz and peach aventurine. Not surprisingly, its foods are liquids and orange fruits and vegetables. In the bindi above its seed mantra, Vishnu and Rakini (or Chakini) reign.


Yoga and pranayama, along with second chakaraFreeing this chakra is essential on every level. Water moves, ebbing and flowing, as it finds it own course around all of the obstacles in its way. Keeping balance in the second chakra will bring that flexibility, ease of mind, body and spirit and creativity into everyday life. 

But it will also bring the kind of discipline that keeps this steady flow from becoming
an uncontrolled torrent. Overeating is as dangerous as under-eating, while healthful eating, open the door to bringing your chakras— and, with them your life-force--into balance. Although each chakra can be eating to meet your body’s needs will give you both health and vitality. The same holds true for your sexuality, your need to relax and your need to pursue non-work related activities. In their proper place, these pursuits give meaning and pleasure to life. Done to excess, they lead to jealousy, confusion and hopelessness. Addressed through a variety of yoga poses, it’s important to remember that “harder” or “more advanced” doesn’t mean better. Performing asanas isn’t a competition, even with yourself.

The aim of a chakra-based practice second chakra
is to liberate all facets of self from unnecessary stress,unhealthy habits or ideas and anything else that no longer serves. Turning your eyes inside,it’s easy to imagine the possibilities of becoming truly “enlightened” as the chakras whirlunhindered, sending their rainbow of light and life into every cell.

 

 

yoga chakraMany of the poses used to bring your second chakra into balance focus opening the hips, making the body adaptable and increasing flexibility. Take a few minutes to transition away from your day. Assume Balasana (child’s pose) or sit in Sukhasana (easy pose), placing the backs of your hands on your knees. Draw the breath up from the pelvic floor, then through the lower abdomen, mid-body, chest, throat and crown. Exhale in the opposite order, allowing the front body to release toward the back body. Continue this rhythmic breath for one to five minutes. Then try these poses:

 

 

cat cow1.) Marjaryasana (cat pose). Begin on your hands and knees. Make sure your knees are directly below your hips and that your shoulders, elbows and wrists form a straight line perpendicular to the floor. On an exhale, round your back and let head grow heavy and hang toward the floor. Feel your vertebrae separate and open. On an inhale, return to a neutral spine.

 

 

 

 

downward facing dog2.) Adho Mukha Svasana (downward-facing dog pose). Start on your hands and knees. Extend your hands slightly in front of your shoulders and spread yourfingers. Turn your toes under. Exhale and lift your knees, keeping them slightly bent. Inhale and lengthen your tailbone toward the ceiling. Exhale and stretch heels toward or down to the floor. Keep your head between your arms. The arms should be aligned with your ears. Make sure weight is shifted into your legs and the body is drawing up from your hands. Hold for 1-3 minutes. 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

 

cobra pose3.) Bhujangasana (cobra pose). Lie face-down on the floor. Stretch your legs back with the tops of your feet on the floor. Place your hands under shoulders. On an inhale,
begin to straighten your arms, stopping at a point where you can feel a connection between your legs and your pelvis (don’t strain or compress your lower back). Lift your navel toward your spine. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and release on an exhale.

 

ENJOY!!

Tags: Chakra Points, yoga and meditation, yoga to remove obstacles, 2nd 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.

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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.

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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. 

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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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