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

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

Loving Where You Are: Acceptance in Yoga

Posted on Thu, Jun 20, 2013

yoga poses, yoga pose, yoga paws, travel yoga poses, yoga classWhen your teacher offers options to deepen a pose, he or she will probably say something along the lines of  “try this if it’s available to you today.”  Sometimes, it’s not that easy to look over at the next student, see them doing the “harder” variation and not want to copy that, even if you know you shouldn’t. Resisting that urge is probably the most familiar aspect of acceptance you explore in your practice. You learn how to tell yourself to close your eyes to the rest of the room and tune into what feels good for your body, right now.

yoga poses, yoga pose, travel yoga posesThe first vital thing to realize about acceptance is that you shouldn’t feel like it translates to an awareness of your limitations. Instead, it means opening your eyes, mind and heart to celebrating all the things you can do, on or off the mat. For example, if you are attempting Bakasana (Crane or Crow Pose) and you can only lift one foot off the mat, channel your energy away from worrying about whether you can ever get both feet up. Instead, feel the strength in your arms and core as you push your hands down into the floor. Or maybe you end up having to use a strap in Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend). Don’t channel your experience of the pose into an attempt to grasp your feet. Put gentle but firm pressure on the strap as you lengthen your back forward.  Realize how deeply your back and hamstrings feel released in the pose. As you move through your class, relish the way your body feels as you work respectfully.


yoga paws, yoga class,yoga for everyone

But, appreciating your current capabilities doesn’t mean that your limits are set in stone. Acceptance means not only embracing where you are now, but where you can possibly go in the future. You will fly in Bakasana someday. Your body will stretch as you continue to practice. Where are now isn’t where you will always be, it’s just one stop on your yogic journey. Make it a fun one.


yoga for everyoneTelling yourself that you are good enough is much easier said than done sometimes. If that’s the case for you, it might be helpful to use your next yoga practice or meditation session to visualize yourself practicing. Try to see yourself as you would see another student. Think about what that other perspective would look like. You’ll probably find that the outsider’s view of you is much more favorable that your usual perspective. Then, recognize two or three things you do well in your practice. The next time you come to the mat or put on your YogaPaws, try to bring that with you.


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Tags: yoga for beginners, advanced yoga poses, yoga poses, Yoga for acceptance, yoga and modifications, yoga for confidence

Go Off the Grid: Side Bends to Open Your Practice

Posted on Fri, Apr 12, 2013

yoga paws, side stretch, side angle yogaSome parts of your body have a way of telling you when they are tight. Your hamstrings, for example, feel stiff and achy when they’re in need of a relaxing stretch. But, with muscle groups that you work less often in daily life, it can be hard to even notice there’s a lot of room for expansion.  The muscles that lie on the side of your torso are especially easy to ignore. Unless you’re doing a core move that specifically targets them, you probably aren’t thinking about how those muscles (mainly your obliques) are functioning. But, like a lot of other body parts that it can be difficult to focus on, this muscle group affects far more than you might think.

Your obliques are a crucial component of both your core strength and flexibility. Whenever you move out of a rigid plane of motion, you’re calling on them to support you, whether that’s slipping and sliding on an icy sidewalk or dancing. In yoga, too, a strong side body is integral for opening up your body to fully explore twists and to lifting up from your underside to extend fully into poses such as side plank and Trikonasana (Triangle Pose).

When you are trying to balance in any standing pose, especially on with one leg raised, your obliques are responsible for much of your stability. 

Vasisthasana, Side Plank Pose

In twists, they have to have enough flexibility to allow your torso to rotate. A core that is strong throughout the front, back and side bodies is a vital complement to arm strength in poses that challenge the whole body—as in Plank Pose or Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). This encircling girdle of well-developed muscles pays dividends off the mat as well, making for an easier gait when walking, sitting up straighter and, for many, easing back pain.

On a deeper level, this sideways thinking invites students to investigate some off-the-grid thinking. Twisting, bending and balancing requires intense focus and a lot of momentary readjustment to hold these positions. It’s harder just to “phone in” the movements that place your body off-kilter. But, the more you call on your side body to knit together your core and back, the more you find yourself able to confidently tap into the fresh thinking that makes challenges into opportunities.


Here are some poses and tips for stretching and strengthening your side body:

Utthita Parsvakonasana, Extended Side Angle Pose

Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Benefits: This standing side bend encourages you to stretch your sides while keeping your center engaged. How to do it: Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Step or hop your feet three to four feet apart. Lift your arms out to the sides until they are parallel to the floor. Focus on reaching out through your fingers, palms down. Turn your left foot in slightly and turn your right foot out 90 degrees. Anchor the outside of your left foot into the mat and bend your right knee. Bring your left arm up toward the ceiling and turn your palm toward your head. Look to your left. Exhale and bend to your right, trying to put the right side of your torso on your right thigh. Place your right fingertips or hand on the floor or a block just outside of your right foot. If that stretch is too deep, place your right elbow on your right knee with the palm up. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute, then release and repeat on the other side.


Ardha Chandrasana, Half Moon Pose

Ardha Chandrasana I (Half Moon Pose)

Benefits: This pose provides a deep stretch for your sides. How to do it: Start in Tadasana. Bring your left arm up toward your ear. Turn your palm so that it faces your head. Keep your hipbones parallel. Engaging your center and bend to the right on an exhale. To deepen, inhale both arms overhead and interlace all except the index fingers. Remain there for three to five breaths, then return to center and switch sides for the same amount of time.


Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Benefits: This pose allows you to deepen the stretch along your entire side body.  How to do it: Start in Tadasana. Step or hop your feet three to four feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor, palms down. Turn your left in and your right foot out, aligning your heels. Exhale and bend to your right, letting your right hand come to a comfortable point on your shin, ankle, a block or the floor. Work toward rolling your lower shoulder forward to avoid curling back toward your leg. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, then release and repeat on the other side.


twist yoga poseStretch Both Sides. Whenever you do a side-bending pose, concentrate on keeping length in the side you are bending toward as well as the side you are stretching.

Stay Square. In a lot of side bends, it’s tempting to bring the top shoulder forward. Think of rolling it back to counteract that impulse.

As you practice side bends, remember that there is no prize for how far you can bend. Find a place where you feel a stretch, but don’t compromise your alignment to get there. And, as always, keep the focus on your breath. If it feels constrained or shallow, back out of the pose a bit. Side bending can help wring out tension and free your muscles. Take advantage of that to free your mind as well.


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Tags: arm balances, being present, advanced yoga poses, Energy Systems, Side stretch Yoga

Vital Force: Yogic Tips To Rev Up Your Inner Energy

Posted on Fri, Mar 29, 2013

yoga, yoga pose, cosmic dancerAs the world wakes up to life and color, spring offers a great opportunity to feel freer and more open in your body. It feels natural to want to put yourself in harmony with what’s around you. All the stress of hunkering down against winter winds and the tension of driving through ice and snow melts away with the first warm, sunny days. Yoga can help you take that feeling deeper. As you move into your practice, think about how each pose can help clear the energy lines within the body—coordinating your breath with movement to renew and rejuvenate from the inside out.

handstand, yogapaws, yoga handstandJust as with traditional Chinese medicine, yoga considers the energy lines (Nadis) that carry vital forces (prana in Sanskrit) through you. Stress, injury or illness can block the path of that energy.  So can environmental factors like weather and pollution as well as physical ones like poor diet and overwork. Fortunately, your yoga practice not only provides a calm place to meditate on the things that fatigue you and cause “dis-ease”, it’s also a physical way to open that energy flow again.

Prana is thought to flow through your body via the Nadis, which have a specific physical pathway. Chakras are located where Nadis meet and can also be balanced through your practice. So, yoga poses can help stimulate various points along those lines. For example, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose) opens the meridian that affects your skin and your immune system.

All of these physical balances combine to have a tremendous effect on your mental state. When your energy is flowing, you will feel more aligned mentally and physically. Here are some poses to try:


Salabhasana, Locust Pose

Salabhasana (Locust Pose)

Benefits: This gentle backbend detoxifies and calms by strengthening your back body and stretching your shoulders, chest and thighs.  How to do it: As Yoga Journal suggests, you may want to use extra padding beneath your pelvis and ribs before beginning this pose. Lie down on your stomach, with your forehead on the mat and arms along your sides. Bring your toe mounds together and rotate your inner thighs toward each other. On an exhale, lift your head, shoulders, arms and legs off the floor. Keep the arms parallel to the floor and palms up toward the ceiling. Gaze straight ahead or slightly upward (without compressing the neck). Hold for 30 seconds to one minute. As a variation, move your hands and arms underneath your front body. Place your hands palms down inside your hip cradle with pinky fingers touching or place your fists underneath you. With toes touching and thighs internally rotated, exhale and lift your head, shoulders and legs. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.


Supta Padangushtasana, Reclining Big Toe PoseSupta Padangushtasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose)

Benefits: By activating the hips, thighs, hamstrings, groins and calves, this stretch opens the energy flow of the lower body and may help to address high blood pressure. How to do it: Lie on your back with your head resting comfortably on the mat (or supported on a blanket) and legs extended straight. Exhale, bend your left leg and draw your knee down toward your torso. Hug it tightly to your body as you push into the floor with the back of your right leg. On an inhale, loop a strap around your left instep (or encircle your left big toe with your first two fingers and thumb). If using a strap, walk your hands up the strap as you extend your left leg. Starting with your foot parallel to the ceiling, move your hands down the strap slightly (or lightly pull your foot with fingers) and draw your leg closer to your body. Your leg should align with your left shoulder. Hold 30 seconds. Repeat with your right leg.


Eka Pada Adho Mukha SvanasanaEka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana (One Foot Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Benefits: This accessible, full-body stretch can energize and rejuvenate your nervous system and boost circulation. How to do it: From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), fold forward into Uttanasana (Forward-Bending Pose). Step your right foot to the back of the mat, then the left foot into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). Feet should be hip-width apart, arms straight and head between the upper arms. On an inhale, step your left leg toward the mid-line and raise your right leg toward the ceiling, keeping your foot flexed and reaching back through your heel. Rotate your right thigh inward so that your hips stay aligned. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute. Repeat with your left leg.


Seated Flow  (video is a different version)

Benefits: This dance-like motion inspired by Shiva Rea works with the spiraling energy within the body to improve circulation and release tension. How to it: Come to a comfortable seated position. Rest your cupped  hands on your knees. Lower your torso over your legs. Drop your left should under as you take your torso to the left, then circle it back up. Stay low as move through center. Drop your right shoulder as you move back to the right, allowing your upper body to “draw” a figure eight as your torso flows from side to side. Continue for five to 10 breath cycles. Stop. Focus your eyes on a gazing point or close your eyes for three to five breath cycles. Repeat starting to the right.


yoga food, yoga balance, yoga and mindEnergize from the Inside

Benefits: Keeping your body’s ph in balance may help fend off fatigue and illness. How to do it: Eat more alkaline foods such as: figs and raisins; root vegetables, including radishes and horseradish; leafy greens; soybeans; garlic, lemons and cayenne peppers. A number of websites offer rankings of alkaline and acidic foods to help—or just take a trip to your favorite smoothie bar and order up a “green’ shake!


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Tags: Eating before yoga, food and yoga, being present, yoga for relaxation, advanced yoga poses, benifits of yoga, inversions, Energy Systems

Off The Grid: Yoga For a New Direction

Posted on Wed, Feb 20, 2013
yoga pose, Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana(extended hand-to-big-toe pose)-Variation

Your body spends most of the time “on the grid.”  And, it’s good at doing that. Walking, moving forward and back or side to side all seem pretty effortless.  So, when you first attempt to find your balance in yoga whether flying along in arm balances or anchored on one leg, it can come as a surprise to all of the muscles and ligaments that are used to gliding along. It’s a big challenge to re-orient yourself around a different axis. From bending into your knee in a standing pose to mastering off-kilter inversions, yoga is constantly inviting you to redefine how your body connects to the mat—and how your mind and spirit create balance in your life. It’s an invitation you’ll want to accept.

Natarajasana(Lord of the Dance Pose)In everyday life, you might not use many rotational movements, particularly ones that require you to hold your balance as you do them. So, when you are called on to find that ability in yoga, it can seem like your body is learning a foreign language. Many yoga poses take you out of that comfort zone by not only shaping your body into angles, but adding curves, like the beautiful arc of the back leg makes in Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose).

As you approach the poses in your practice, the key is not to be apprehensive. Trust your body to understand or come to understand the axis on which you are balancing.  Think about the movement as allowing your body to fill the pose. Also, don’t stiffen or tighten your body, which is a common temptation when you feel off balance. Instead, think about engaging your muscles and being aware what each part of your body is doing. Engaging
Pinned Imagethe core body by thinking about bringing it back toward the spine gives you a centered place from which to flow into balances. Drawing in the side waist further strengthens that

Don’t be afraid to build your confidence and your balancing ability by working at the wall. The wall isn’t a crutch; it’s a guide. Often, even experienced students incorporate the wall into balancing asanas to check their alignment and make sure their shoulders and hips are rolling forward or back. More than support, balancing against a wall helps to ensure that your back is straight and your pelvis is tucked under—giving the proper foundation for moving that asana onto the mat. For twisted poses, working at the wall can help you understand how to stretch your arms and torso rather than curling your upper body toward your leg. It can also take away the fear that prevents you from fully exploring new asanas. integration. Even subtle movements such as relaxing the shoulders away from the ears or drawing the heels toward the floor can help knit the body parts into a more stable whole.


Here are some new ways to play in your body:


vasisthasana, side plank poseVasisthasana (Side Plank Pose)

Benefits: This variation challenges you to find equilibrium in a complex side and back bend.  How to do it: Begin in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). Shift your weight onto your left hand and the outside of your left foot. Open your right arm to the ceiling. Bring your right foot behind your left, placing the ball of your foot on the floor. Raise your right arm over your head. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then return to Adho Mukha Svanasana and repeat on the other side.





parighasanaParighasana (Gate Pose)

Benefits: This pose allows you to explore balance off-center with the security of your legs on the floor.  How to do it: Kneel on the floor. Stretch your right leg out to the side. Turn your right knee to face the ceiling, allowing your right hip to come forward slightly. Bring your arms out away from you, palms down. Reach your right arm to your right leg or the floor. On an inhale, bring your left arm up by your left ear. Remain in the pose for 30 seconds to one minute, then release and repeat on the other side. (photo credit Ranjani Powers & Leon Lim)




Salamba Sarvangasana, Supported ShoulderstandSalamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand)

Benefits: This inversion allows you to find your balance with the support of your shoulders rather than your head.  How to do it: Fold two or more blankets into rectangles. Lie down with your head on the floor and your shoulders on the edge of the blankets. Place your arms by your sides. On an exhale, curl your pelvis toward your head and lift your feet off the floor. Bring your knees toward your face. Turn your hands palm up and walk them up your back to support your body. Inhale and lift your legs to the ceiling. With your torso relatively straight up and down, extend your legs.  Remain in the pose for 30 seconds.




Find Your Fulcrum. As you practice, think about what part of your body the movement comes from. Focus on stabilizing that in these poses.



dristi, gazing pointDon’t forget to look. Unless your teacher has asked you to close your eyes, they are a powerful tool for helping you find your balance. Find your drishti (gazing point) about two to three feet away in standing poses. Keep your gaze on that spot as you do the pose.

Another key to this practice is, as always, your breath. You can think of it as the thread that links you to the poses. Keep your breathing deep and even as you practice. Think of breathing into whatever part of your body feels strained or tight. 

Relax. Just like balance doesn’t come into your life all at once, it takes time to come into your practice. Fortunately, there are a lot of moments of discovery along the way, and each opens an exciting door to new variations and new successes.


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Tags: yoga for balance, arm balances, advanced yoga poses, inversions, home yoga

Five Yoga Poses to Take Outside

Posted on Tue, May 08, 2012

yoga spring, yoga paws, yoga posture, outdoors yogaIt’s spring and the sun is shining in through your window. It’s time for your yoga practice, but you really aren’t feeling like being shut up in another building—even your favorite yoga studio or home practice space. But, rather than giving up your practice today (not that there is anything wrong with a walk in the sunshine), change the setting. Grab your sunblock and your Yoga Paws and head out the door.

yoga spring, yoga paws, yoga posture, outdoors yogaYou don’t have to be in a national park or a flower garden to use the outdoors to enrich your practice. Just being outside of the place you usually practice in gives you a new perspective on asana. The feeling of grass or pavement under your feet or the sounds of animals or people adds a new dimension to your experience of a pose.

It’s also good for you sometimes to be out of your regular setting because it shakes up your view of your limitations. Poses that seem impossible in a class setting might lose some of their fear when you are practicing on your own and enjoying your surroundings.

The challenge of practicing in this environment is distraction. Your senses are stimulated more when you are in an unfamiliar environment, so use this as an opportunity to focus on the inner feelings of your practice. Think about your body’s alignment if you are on an uneven surface. Feel the sensation of warmth on your head or back. Be conscious of the breeze as you control your body against its force.


Here are some poses to try anywhere. Be creative!


Ardha Adho Mukha SvanasanaArdha Adho Mukha Svanasana (Half Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Benefits: This a great pose to do outside with a support, such as a tree or wall, since you’re connected with your whole body to the world around you.

 How to do it: Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) about three feet away from your support. Hinge forward from your hips to form a 90-degree angle with your body, firming the abdominals to keep your torso straight. Hold for 30 seconds, then release.


Virabhadrasana IIIVirabhadrasana III (Warrior III Pose)

Benefits: Because this is a balancing pose, it’s a great opportunity to focus on aligning your body on an uneven surface.

How to do it: Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Bend into Uttanasana (Forward Bend). Step your left leg back into a high lunge. Lay your torso on your right thigh. Bring your arms forward, parallel to the ground and to each other. Lengthen your left leg through your heel and lift it off the ground until your leg is at a 90-degree angle. Feel your hands and feet stretching in opposite directions. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to a minute, then release back to a lunge. Bring your left foot forward to meet your right, then repeat on the other side.




Eka Pada Koundiyanasana II

Eka Pada Koundiyanasana II (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya II)

Benefits: This is a “challenge pose” for many yoga students. Trying it out on the sand or in the grass can help you feel more stable.

How to do it: Begin in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose).Bring your left foot far out ahead of your left arm. Bend your left elbow, bringing your left arm as far under your thigh as possible. Walk your left foot forward, allowing more weight to come onto your left arm until you have to straighten and lift your leg off the ground. Then push your body forward over your hands to lift your right leg. Bring your gaze forward. Hold the pose for 20 seconds, then release and repeat on the other side.


Eka Pada Koundiyanasana II (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya II)Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)

Benefits: Trying this pose on a soft surface eases the fear that many students experience about falling out of it.

How to do it: Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) with your hands about two inches from a tree, wall or other smooth, stable vertical surface. Bend your left leg in, leaving your right leg extended. Kick up with your left leg. This might be as far into this pose as you can go right now. If you can, bring your right leg along with your left as you kick up. If it’s available to you, engage your core muscles and kick your legs up against your support. Remain in the pose 10 to 15 seconds. As you progress, you can lengthen your stay to one minute, then release.








(Photo of yoga teacher Jewels Ziff Sint )

Malasana (Garland Pose)

Benefits: Doing this pose outside let you feel the strength of the earth reenergizing your body.

How to do it: Squat down with your feet as close together as possible. Place your arms next to your sides and press your upper arms and thighs against each other. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, then release and come into Uttanasana (Forward Bend).


Being outside will make some of the more challenging poses easier. Having a soft surface under your hands adds to your comfort level in arm balances and inversions. Focus on the sense of strength and security you feel coming up from the ground. Enjoy the freedom you feel.


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Tags: office yoga, arm balances, advanced yoga poses, inversions, yoga outside, balancing poses

Five Yoga Poses to Open Your Horizons

Posted on Tue, Apr 24, 2012
inspirational yoga, inspiration, yoga inspirationIt’s a common feeling on the mat—the teacher tells you to lengthen your back and soften deeper in Uttanasana (Forward Bend) or loosen your hamstrings in Hanumanasana (splits). But, your body feels like it’s already been pushed to its limits and demands that you stop looking for a deeper pose. It’s a sense of physical deadlock that can go on for what seems like forever, until you’ve labeled yourself the student who can’t touch her nose to her knees or will never get into a split. Then, one day, you’re a little more warmed up, a little less stressed, or a little more courageous in your practice. Suddenly, your “challenge” poses seem doable. Your hips slide down that pesky last bit until you feel like you’re straddling two continents or your head gently yoga paws, inspirational yoga, yoga inspirationmakes contact with your knees. You realize that you can do the thing you thought you couldn’t. Sometimes you also need to stop and apply the same thinking to your life.


Westerners live in an impatient society that might reward achievement of a long-sought goal, but often doesn’t encourage taking the time needed to meet that challenge. So, if you don’t succeed the first time, you often end up thinking you’re not good enough. You want
inspirational yoga
to grow and change, whether the goal is a starting a business, changing your body, making time for meditation, learning a language or mastering an advanced pose. But, you’re afraid you can’t succeed, so you stop trying. It’s a natural response—like most people, you want to be goodat everything, after all. But that thinking isn’t going to get you to your goals. The process of learning and growing is an organic one that you can’t always force to happen when you want to accomplish something.


So, try these poses and visualize yourself as you want to be. Feel your body entering into the fully realized shape you want it to take.  Don’t wait until the final result to cheer yourself on—each step is a celebration of the process of mastering them:






Upavistha KonasanaUpavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend)

 Benefits: This pose releases your hamstrings and allows you to gently stretch your legs farther outward as you progress.

 How to do it: Begin in Dandasana (Staff Pose). Place your hands under your hips and lean back slightly to open your legs into a right angle. Put your hands in front of you and open your legs slightly wider if you can. Focus on rotating your legs outward and begin to walk your hands forward, keeping your torso long and moving from your hips. Deepen the stretch until you feel a comfortable stretch in your hamstrings. Hold the pose for one minute, then come up on an inhale.



Chaturanga DandasanaChaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)

Benefits: This asana can be challenging, especially if upper-body strength is an issue. But you can feel your body strengthening and going deeper each time you practice. 

How to do it: Begin in Plank  Pose. Keeping your elbows tucked into your sides, bend your arms until they are in line with your torso. Engage and lift your front body. Remain in the pose for 10 to 30 seconds, then push back into Adho Muka Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose).



NatarajasanaNatarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose)

Benefits: This standing backbend demands both strength and flexibility, so you’ll improve each time you practice it.

How to do it: Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Shift your weight onto your right leg. Lift your left leg to the back and reach back to grasp it with your left hand. If you can’t reach, use a strap. Raise your left hand and foot, lifting your navel toward your ribs to lengthen the lower back. Stay in the pose for 20 to 30 seconds, then release and repeat on the other side.







lotus posePadmasana (Lotus Pose)

Benefits: The pose is a challenge for a lot of students, but your hips will open as you work on it.

How to do it: Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your right knee into your arms, moving it back and forth a few times to explore movement in your hip joint. Then place your right foot on your left thigh.









SalabhasanaSalabhasana (Locust Pose)

Benefits: This pose is only bounded by your sense of its limits, so as you increase your strength and flexibility you will feel the rewards.

How to do it: Begin lying face down on your mat. Lift your head, upper back and legs off the mat. Bring your arms back parallel toward your body. Focus on your head and feet lifting toward the ceiling. Remain in the pose for one to two minutes, then release. You can repeat this pose once or twice more if you want.


Once you learn to feel the joy in the process of mastery, you’ll start to experience your practice as a journey. Next time you hit the mat, think about how you’re going to challenge yourself and visualize that success.


Dig Deeper


Yoga Poses to Open Your Mind, Body and Spirit

Hip Openers

Yoga Pose Library

Tags: advanced yoga poses, home yoga, yoga poses, how to do yoga

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