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YogaPaws Blog for Beginner Poses and Postures

How to do Bakasana Pose | Your Yoga Workshop

Posted on Wed, Mar 19, 2014

bakasana, crane pose, crow pose, yoga paws, yogaPawsArm balances are among the poses that challenge your mind as much as your body. You have to have strength and alignment throughout your body to make these poses work. They are also a place where it’s easy to let your fear take over if you don’t come to yoga with a facility for balancing on your hands. Even though it’s given in many yoga classes, Bakasana (Crane or Crow Pose) can still feel unattainable.

Of course, like so many things in yoga, you can gain the flexibility and strength required for arm balances.  If you have a regular practice, especially in a vigorous style like Ashtanga or Vinyasa, you probably already have the raw physical abilities needed to balance in Bakasana. What can be much more challenging is trying to find the balance point where your body weight needs to be to find your balance. And, this pose has a way of triggering nervousness if you tend to worry about falling. (featured pics is http://instagram.com/loveofyoga)

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It’s a great example of just how important it is to train your mind as well as your body. When you are working up to any challenge pose in yoga, you need to be able to visualize yourself completing it successfully, and approach it with confidence, before you can make that a reality. Otherwise, you will often struggle to make the pose work for you.

 

On a purely physical level, poses like Bakasana can empower you to move out of your comfort zone and redefine what you are capable of (in this case, standing on your hands). Looking at it in a more metaphysical context, it gives you the chance to fly over your own doubts and fears toward what is ahead.

When you are preparing for the pose, it can help to admit to yourself that it does feel like a leap into the unknown. Yes, you will be putting your body into a new place. Then, give yourself a moment to appreciate that that feeling can be exciting as well as scary. Think back to the last time you did something that was really important to you. You probably did feel slightly anxious when you first attempted it. But, the reward made the initial hesitation more than worth it. This pose can help you recall that blush of excitement.

 

Here are some poses and tips to help you.

happy baby pose, anada balasana, yoga poseAnanda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)  Benefits:  This pose helps open your hips in preparation for Bakasana.  How to do it: Lie on your back. Exhale and bring your knees in toward your chest.  Inhale and clasp your hands around the outsides of your feet. Let your knees open slightly wider than hip width and press them gently toward your armpits. Press up with your feet and down with your hands to carefully open your hips. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, then release.

 

garland poseMalasana (Garland Pose)--Variation  Benefits:  Yoga teacher Kathryn Budig recommends this to help you get the correct alignment for the pose without the balance aspect.   How to do it:  Squat down. The insides of your feet should be touching.  With your weight on the balls of your feet (your heels may or may not touch the floor), let your knees open wide enough to lower your torso between them and touch the floor. Bring your hands forward on your mat and round your spine. Hold for eight breaths, then release.  (featured pics is http://instagram.com/patbailey)

 

bakasana, crow pose, crane pose

 

 

 

 

 

Bakasana—Variation

 

Benefits: This propped version of the full pose helps you find the right physical actions.

 

How to do it:  Start by placing a block on your mat.  Put both feet on the block, inner sides of your feet touching.  Place your palms flat on the mat in front of your feet. Come into a squat with your knees just wider than your torso. Snug your body between your knees. Make sure your hands are shoulder width apart. Contract your abdominals. Try lifting one or both feet off the block.  After 30 seconds, step off the block and release.

(featured pic is http://instagram.com/goplantyourself)

 

bakasana, crow pose, crane poseLet go of the fear. As Budig says, the ground isn’t that far away. You are more stable than you think, but even if you do fall, you’ll be fine.  Imagine you are a bird on an air current—the air itself is helping hold you up.

 

Keep trying.  Practice really does (help) make perfect. Finding your alignment in this pose comes from trial and error. Each time you do it, try to figure out which way you are falling and correct it.

 

Remember, when you are learning any new pose, that there is a learning curve. You may not feel like you are getting anywhere, but you are. Every time you work on Bakasana, your body is learning one part of what it needs to know to fly. 

(featured pic is http://instagram.com/goplantyourself)

 

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Tags: Beginning Yoga Poses, bakasana

Clean Slate: Yoga for a Fresh Start

Posted on Tue, Feb 04, 2014

firefly, yoga pawsWhen you see the calendar show a new year, it feels like anything is possible. You vow this will be the year your finally knock “that” thing off your to-do list, whether it’s moving, changing jobs or losing weight. Looking at the year on January 1, it seems like there is plenty of time and energy to do what you want to do. But, by the end of January, cold weather and busyness make it all too easy to slip back into your comfort zone.

If, like many people, you blame lack of willpower for not being able to achieve what you want to achieve, you might need to change your perspective slightly. No matter how much you want something and how hard your work for it, lasting change (or even drastic change) can only come if you are able to rewrite your attitude toward that thing. The baggage most people carry around about a certain issue makes it hard not to drag the negativity of any past unsuccessful attempts into the current one.

These kinds of thought patterns are referred to in Hindu thinking as samskaras. Every decision you’ve made or action you’ve taking creates a samskara in your mind. While they can be either positive or negative, you might be prone to noticing the negative ones, especially if you are trying something that you have struggled with in the past. Freeing yourself from negative samskaras means detaching your current situation from any past ones.

Side Plank Pose, VasisthasanaThe yogic idea of “living in the present” is a good starting point for doing just that. While it’s great to have a plan for the future and to learn from the past, you live in today only. So, as you try to change, you first need to learn how to focus on the present moment.

 Whatever happened the last time you tried for this or a similar goal, is a closed chapter. It may have been relevant to the person you were at the time. Maybe, you needed to learn perseverance rather than “acing” the task the first time. Or, perhaps, the thing you wanted at that time really wouldn’t have served you in the long term. Your inner wisdom may have been telling you that you were exerting a lot of energy trying to accomplish something that didn’t resonate with your true self. If you tend to carry that negative forward, make a conscious effort to release that mental baggage. Remind yourself that you have learned that lesson, and are ready and able to move forward with new skills and determination.

So, as you set your intention and create a plan to reach it, take some time in meditation to examine why you want to reach this goal. Is it really something you want or something someone told you to want? And, if you get there, what will be the benefit? How will your life change? How will you change? If, after reflection, you feel that tingle of excitement about starting down this path, then go for it. You are not the same person you were yesterday or 10 years ago. The “you” that is starting this journey clearly has every chance to succeed.

Yoga reinforces that perspective. Most yoga practices include a core range of poses. So, you’ve probably done Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose), Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and Plank Pose more times than you can remember. But, your experience of those poses is different every time you come to your mat. Maybe you used to struggle to hold Plank Pose, but now you can focus on lengthening through your feet. Maybe your heels now reach the floor in Adho Mukha Svanasana, so your awareness moves toward your breath. These things demonstrate your ability to grow and change, so they’re good reference points for trying to manifest change in your life.

Whether you’ve just taken your first yoga class and or are  checking out advance pose videos on Yoga Journal’s site or any of the various yoga offerings on You Tube, you’ve experienced yoga’s unique ability to instill a “yes, you can” belief in your mind, body and spirit. It’s a rare practice that doesn’t reveal something to you—something that empowers you and liberates you from the idea that you’re bound to fail. Your practice gives you tangible proof that you can accomplish anything you choose to do. Sure, you’ll wobble or even fall a few times. You’ll take steps backward and sideways. But you’ll also learn, and that knowledge will not only bring you goal closer but suggest new avenues to explore. The only real failure is not trying at all.

 

Here are some poses to help you wipe your personal slate:

Upavistha Konasana, Wide-Angle Seated Forward BendUpavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend)

Benefits: This pose allows you to see and feel your body evolve as you practice it.  How to do it: Start in Dandasana (Staff Pose).  Leaning slightly back with your hands behind you, open your legs to a right angle. Then, press your hips forward to widen your legs somewhat further.  Keep your kneecaps and toes pointing upward. Slowly move your hands forward as you stretch from your hips. Keep your back long. You should think of your belly touching the floor before your chest to keep from rounding your back. Hold for at least one minute.

 

boat pose, core posture, yoga core posture, yoga core pose 

Paripurna Navasana (Full Boat Pose)

Benefits: This pose helps you to feel centered, making it easier to focus on the present.  How to do it: Start in Dandasana. Place your hands behind you. Engage your core to lift your legs until your shins are parallel to the ground. Exhale and bring your arms off the floor so that they point forward. If you can, stretch your legs. If you’re new to this pose, you can support your thighs with your hands. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds.

 

 


Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana, Standing SplitUrdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana (Standing Split)

Benefits: As you deepen your practice of this pose, you will be reminded of your body’s ability to change. How to do it: Start in Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II Pose). Place your right leg will be in front.  Sweep your left arm around to end over your head. Then, turn your body so that your torso lays down over your right thigh (you will need to pivot your left heel as you do this). Your hands should be on the ground on either side of your right foot or on blocks. Move them slightly forward and shift your weight into your right foot. As you do that, raise your left leg until it is parallel to the floor. Keep both feet parallel. If you can, clasp your right ankle with your hands. Think of sending energy down into the floor to lift your left leg. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, then release and repeat on the other side.

Clear the air.  If you’ve had difficulty with a particular issue in the past, it can help to sit down and make a physical list of your previous attempts. Then, destroy it—you can burn it, bury it, shred it or whatever else helps you feel like you have made a break with that samskara.

Be accountable. Vocalizing your goals, especially to a friend or family member who will keep you on track, is a great way to prevent backsliding. Share them with anyone you can trust to help you out. Write out a contract with yourself and sign it. Be as specific as possible. The clearer the goals are in your mind, the easier they will be to reach. 

Remember that while samskaras can be hard to break, you can do it. Just as your body stretches and becomes more malleable and stronger as you work on physical yoga poses, your mind also becomes more responsive as you work to reshape your thought patterns. Happy New Year!

 

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Tags: advanced yoga, Beginning Yoga Poses

New Moves: Enter into the Dance of Yoga

Posted on Mon, Aug 12, 2013

yoga and dance, yoga and movement, yoga trace dance, yoga movesFinding stillness is a major draw for many people who practice yoga. While practicing, holding a pose, it’s not just the monkey mind that stops. The world seems to slow down. Ask anyone who’s held a Plank pose for 90 seconds. That kind of downshift away from life at light speed is a big reason why 20.4 million Americans (that’s 8.7% of the adult population) study yoga (according to the 2012 “Yoga in America” survey by Yoga Journal).

But, as with all things relating to yoga, there is also another side to consider. The classically linear approach to asana practice is just one tool for finding balance and unity. Even the most loyal Hatha practioner can benefit from the occasional class that jumps off the grid and starts everyone moving. After all, you started your life rocking and rolling inside your mother. Think back to your childhood. Were you ever still? And, when you were, didn’t you long to get up and get outside, play a sport or walk to your favorite “secret place”? You didn’t have to work at bringing together mind/body/spirit; you didn’t know any other way of life.  (below photo credit http://bmacstudio.com/   Dan Schmidt)

yoga dance, yoga love, love yoga, beautiful yoga imagesYoga that moves can help you get reconnected with that physical joy.  More and more studios are offering dance-infused yoga classes that invite students to let go of their expectations about perfect form and get in touch with their bodies. You can’t compare yourself to anyone else because every student hears the music a little differently and responds in his or her unique way. To get some inspiration, watch any of Shiva Rea’s trance dance sequences. No one cares whether the person next to him or her is swaying faster or has arms that are more extended. Each student has gone deeply within and let that inner dancer take over.

crow pose, Bakasana, Crow PoseAdding an element of dance into your practice can be a fun way to explore the carefree side of yoga. The poses build on what you’ve put so much time into mastering, but there’s a twist. Where you might be used to just holding a pose in yoga, the dance element means you are constantly moving through many of those positions, creating a fluid flow with your body. Your body instinctively starts to move with the music. And, as you relax into that rhythm, your muscles warm up, loosen up and may open up poses you couldn’t access from a more contracted foundation. Since you don’t know what to expect, you’ll go into the class without the usual metrics in your mind of how close your head is to the floor or whether today is the day you’ll fly in Bakasana (Crow Pose).

This practice is also a great release for your mind. You might find yourself feeling awkward or self-conscious as you circle your body and isolate your rib cage in a side-to-side slide. As you practice, consciously let go of that negativity. Learn from your body’s wisdom. In most of these poses, you will feel balanced and secure if you are using correct alignment. Let that guide you.

Here are some poses to try as you start to enter into the dance:

 

Plank Pose

 

Plank Pose—Variation

Benefits: This sinuous version of the staple pose lets you experiment with controlling and releasing your body at the same time. How to do it: Come to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). On an inhale, bring your body forward so that your hands are under your shoulders and your body forms a straight line from your head to your feet. Keeping your core engaged, slowly make a circle with your hips, starting by bringing your hips to the right and down. Complete one circle, then reverse. Repeat three times in each direction.

 

 Vrksasana, Tree PoseVrksasana (Tree pose)--Variation

Benefits: Moving your arms in this balance pose helps you learn to stabilize one part of your body while freeing another. How to do it: Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Shift your weight onto your left foot, making sure all four corners of your left foot are equally engaged. Lift your right leg and turn it out from the hip. Place your right foot on your inner left thigh (you can reach down to clasp it and pull it up if needed). Raise your arms above your head. On an exhale, start to sway your hands from side to side. After a few breaths, gradually involve your arms and shoulders. Continue this for 30 seconds to one minute, then release and repeat on the other side.

 

 

 


 

 

Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward-Facing Dog

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)—Variation 

Benefits: This flowing version of the pose lets you stretch muscles around your hip cradle that often get tense during daily life and practice. How to do it: Start on your hands and knees. On an exhale, stretch your knees away from the floor and shift your weight back slightly. Inhale here. On the next exhale, stretch your heels onto or toward the floor. Inhale and on your next exhale, circle your hips to the right and then to the left. Make sure you articulate the side part of the circle. Repeat three times on each side, then release.

yoga for abs, core yoga, yoga for your core, yoga absEngage your core. Even when you are moving your hips, holding your center and back engaged will help you stay on balance. Staying strong in your center allows you move your limbs more freely as well. But, don’t confuse engagement with holding yourself rigid. Still let your body move. For fun, the next time you’re sitting on your mat or on the floor, just start lightly twisting your torso from side to side, slowly raising your arms with each twist until they meet above your head with your palms sealed.

Coordinate Your Movement and Breath. In this kind of practice, your breath provides the metronome for the flows in each pose.  Keep your breath calm and steady.  Try to visualize that the beginning of each movement starts with your breath and flows outward from the center of your body. 

And, remember, there is no exact “right” way to do any of the poses listed here. Let your body move and find out how you feel best. Maybe you tend to move in smaller, more controlled ways. Maybe you like to let yourself flow through big, bold shapes. It’s all good. And, yes, do try this at home!

 

 

 

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Tags: advanced yoga, Beginning Yoga Poses

Best yoga resources for new yoga practitioners

Posted on Fri, Jul 26, 2013

We've collected some of our favorite resources in the following categories: blogs, forums, apps, and equipment.  Wheather you're a yoga veteran or just beginning, here's some great information to expand your horizons, fun apps, and awesome equipment..  ENJOY!

Best yoga resources for new yoga practitioners

Tags: yoga for beginners, Beginning Yoga Poses

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.

  

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

Yoga Buffet: Develop a Taste for Different Approaches

Posted on Fri, Mar 22, 2013

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Everyone gets stuck in a rut from time to time, whether in your job, your life, your style of dressing or even your yoga practice. Routine isn’t a bad thing when it’s helping you to be organized so that your days are more peaceful. It’s also nice to know that you can count on a good experience in a class or that Thursday night out with family and/or friends as something to look forward to.

yoga paws, hot yoga, hatha yoga, vinyasa yogaHere’s where discernment comes into play. There’s a difference between the thought patterns that hold you back and the comfortable life patterns that help your days feel anchored and settled. Maybe, you can’t remember the last time you missed your favorite Thursday yoga class. Or, you consider yourself “addicted” to your preferred style. Your home practice never varies. Sound familiar? First of all, good on you for finding a practice that inspires you. Consistency on your mat is a great thing and is a wonderful tool for advancing your mental and physical practice. There’s no need to leave that routine, but sometimes trying a different style can be a fun complement to your weekly practice. Because yoga is so complex, it’s easy to forget how much variety there is beyond the classes you regularly take.

yoga food, yogi, yoga for change, yoga for depressionJust like with food, experimenting with your yoga can add flavor to your regular practice. Sometimes seeing poses through the lens of a different style or teach can help you toward that “aha!” moment. Sometimes, a different class can teach you something about yourself as a yoga student—you tend to respond to visual cues more than verbal corrections to adjust your alignment, for example—that helps you learn. Often, it takes a blend of styles to help you open all of the opportunities for expanding your physical capabilities on the mat as well as your mental and spiritual muscles.

yoga class, yoga paws, hatha yoga, vinyasa yogaIf you are looking to try a different kind of class, the first thing to consider is how far you feel like going outside the box. Maybe you are just looking for a different shade of the same color. If you’re a regular hatha yoga student, giving yin a go might offer you the chance to slow down further and explore each pose more deeply. Learning to stay in a position for five minutes, feeling your body warm and soften and passing the point of reactivity as you release enables you find new meaning to the idea of being in the moment.

If you usually seek out vinyasa or power yoga, you might want to find a hot class to intensify the experience. The challenge of creating heat inside the body as you move through a slow but steady series of asanas while accepting the 105-plus-degree heat in the room can bring a sort of laser focus to your movements and your breath. Working in the heat can help you get in touch with the idea of softening and lengthening your muscles and tendons—a perfect complement to the muscular expansion/compress that typifies flow classes.

yoga fun, yoga paws, crow pose, crane pose

 

Maybe, you’d like to take a leap outside of your comfort zone. If that’s the case, think about what kind of different class you want. If you are a Bikram devotee, just trying a class without the heat will offer a new experience of yoga. If you’ve done Ashtanga for most of your time as a student, you might want to try a hatha or vinyasa class to see what it’s like when you can’t predict the next asana. 

And, sometimes experimenting is just plain fun. Walking into class with no expectations is a great tool to give yourself a clean slate. The poses that send up red flags in your regular class may not even be part of the sequence in a different style. And, the class is bound to be unfamiliar, so you walk in with a fresh attitude and enjoy a new way of moving and thinking.

 

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Tags: yoga for beginners, advanced yoga, Beginning Yoga Poses, Mindful eating, vinyasa yoga, hatha yoga, ashtanga yoga

Being Present: Exorcising Your Yoga Ghosts

Posted on Thu, Mar 07, 2013

yoga pawsOne of the keys to growing in your yoga practice—and your life—is to learn to leave the past in the past.  Just because you wobbled out of Garudasana (Eagle Pose) or didn’t reach your leg in Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose) at one point in your yoga journey doesn’t mean you have “bad balance” or that you’re super-tight.  It simply means that at that point in your practice, or even on that day, there was a disconnect between how your mind wanted to experience that asana and what was available in your body. But, bodies change. The floor comes closer to your fingertips. You find that point where you’re suspended on your arms. You shift to one side and balance seems effortless.  To make the most of that change, you need to embrace it. 

Celebrate the “new you” that you’re building each time you come to your mat. Close your eyes and relax into the warmth of stretching muscles. You may have to consciously remind yourself that you’re no longer “not bendy.”  You’ve left that aspect behind in a very real sense, but you won’t be able to move forward physically until you really accept that you’ve accessed new abilities that open up further opportunities.

yoga paws

Like someone who has lost weight or had a makeover, you can enjoying living and playing in a body that is not limited by the past. Think about what you’re able to do at each moment as you take class. Maybe your hip flexors have opened up enough that your hand and foot now connect in Natarajasana. Maybe your core has gotten strong enough that “hovering” in Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) seems like flying. Or, it could be a mental breakthrough like understanding how to square your hips to the edge of your mat that makes Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III Pose) accessible. 

 lord of the danceSometimes, though, the hardest part is standing back and acknowledging that you’ve moved past some things you used to think you were “bad at” or that didn’t come naturally. So many students bring preconceptions to the mat about being tight, weak or unable to balance. It’s all too easy to carry that baggage around even after you have physically become able to access those skills in your practice. And, it’s not just that you deserve to feel proud of what you’ve accomplished. So often, that negative self-talk hampers you in class, too. Thinking of yourself as limited stops you from “going for it” when the teacher gives more advanced poses, but it also stops you from being able to fully release into the depth of what you can do. Self-confidence is the best antidote to any lingering fear of failure. 

yoga pawsSo, the next time you practice, visualize that this is the first time you’ve ever hit the mat. Don’t think about what you did last class or last week. Just let the practice flow as you move.  During Savasana (Corpse Pose) think about how that informed your practice.  What was it like to move without your yoga ghosts?

 Yoga is a wonderful way to learn to understand and enjoy your own capacity for growth and change. With each class, you gather more valuable information about your mind, your body and how they work together. No matter how long you’ve been practicing or what style you prefer, every time you come to your mat (in class or at home) is a step on a journey toward deeper understanding of your body and a wider range of abilities.

 

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Tags: yoga for stress relief, advanced yoga, being present, Beginning Yoga Poses

Five Hatha Yoga Poses to Open Your Mind, Body and Spirit

Posted on Tue, Apr 03, 2012

yoga pawsEvery time you step onto your mat, you link into a tradition that reaches back more than 5,000 years. You share the same intention as the rishis who were exploring the nature of reality and human beings’ inner worlds through meditation and the physical practice of yoga. Their goal, to find unity through these studies, has not changed as yoga has grown to connect people over five millennia and around the world. But, not surprisingly, the physical practice has.

 

yoga pawsSince each individual has a unique yoga practice, it’s only natural that styles would evolve to meet the needs of students who prefer to hold poses to reach deeply within as well as to others who benefit from the current of swift, intense motion. It seems like the menu of yoga classes gets longer every year. So, which one is right for you? Hatha? Ashtanga? Kundalini? All of the above?  This new monthly blog series on leading yoga styles can help get you on the right path(s). Since Hatha is the most popular approach to yoga in the West, it’s great place to start this series—and a yoga practice.

 

What You Need to Know

The basics: Hatha yoga is said to have been introduced by Yogi Swatmarama, a Hindu sage of 15th century India and compiler of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika  (a classical Sanskrit manual on Hatha yoga). The term Hatha comes from two Sanskrit words: ha meaning sun and tha meaning moon. Technically it is not an individual type of yoga but any practice of yoga postures. But, the term has come to be associated with a slower-paced practice which combines poses to enhance strength, balance and flexibility. Hatha combines the third and fourth of the eight limbs of yoga: Asanas and pranayama (breath work).

The focus: To create balance and unify the opposing aspects of mind, body and spirit. The sequences of asanas (postures or poses) used in Hatha yoga work to align skin, muscles and bones in order to open the body and allow energy to flow freely.

The class: Generally Hatha classes have three components: Pranayama, asanas and meditation. After seated meditation and breath work, students will move through the asana sequence. Students are directed to connect with their breath as they move into each pose. Poses are often held for 30 seconds to one minute in the standing sequences; longer in some of the seated stretching poses.

The benefits: On a physical level, a Hatha practice can help to improve muscular strength and flexibility, relax the body and brain, massage and tone vital organs, relax your body and create open channels for energy and breath. The emphasis on bringing the body into balance may aid in controlling diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. On a deeper level, Hatha invites you to find calm in stressful situations, to be present in the moment and to break through the barriers that stand between you and your full potential.

The lowdown: Hatha yoga classes are both accessible to nearly every student and widely available. Most beginning classes are Hatha. However, if you enjoy a fast practice that flows from one asana to the next, you may prefer a vinyasa class.

Try Before You Buy

Hatha may be billed as “gentle,” but the wide range of poses and the length of time these yoga poses are held can make it as intense as any Asthanga or Power class. Here are some asanas to introduce you to or rejuvenate your passion for Hatha yoga.

PadmasanaPadmasana (lotus pose). Sit on your mat with your legs straight in front of you. Warm up by bending your left leg and place the sole of your foot into the crook of your right elbow. Clasp your hands over your shin and rock your leg gently side to side. Bend your right leg and bring your foot as close to the left groin as possible. With your hands on the underside of your left shin, bend your left leg and slide it gently on top the right. Bring the right knee as close the left as possible and keep the soles of the feet perpendicular to the floor. Reverse and repeat with the right leg on top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virabhadrasana IVirabhadrasana I (warrior I). Stand in Tadasana (mountain pose). Step your right foot to the back of the mat—about 3 or 4 ft. behind you. Raise your arms, bend your left knee so that your knee is directly over your toes. Straighten your left leg and press all four sides of your left foot into the mat. Raise your arms overhead. If your back permits, arch  back. Return to Tadasana and repeat by stepping back with your left leg and bending into your right knee.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (extended hand-to-big-toe pose) Note: You may need a strap for this pose if your hamstrings are tight. Begin in Tadasana (mountain pose). Bring your left knee up in front of you. Hold the outside of your left foot with your left hand if that is available to you, interlace your fingers and place them under your foot or loop a strap around your foot. On an inhale, extend your left knee forward and straighten your left leg as much as possible. Focus on your breath and the stability of your supporting leg. If you feel steady, bring your left leg out to the side. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

 

 

 

SalabhasanaSalabhasana (locust pose). Lie face down on your mat. You may want extra padding under your pelvic bones and ribs. Rest your forehead on your mat and place your arms alongside your torso with your palms up. Take a few breaths to get the feeling of pushing off the mat as you inhale and hollowing out as you exhale. Inhale and raise both feet and your arms off the floor. At the same time, raise your head. Keep your gaze down or slightly forward.

 

 

HalasanaHalasana (plow pose). Lie on your back. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet close to your buttocks. With your arms by your sides, extend your heels toward the ceiling. Press your palms against your back and begin to lower your legs over your head, releasing one vertebra at a time. Eventually, your toes will touch the floor in back of your head.

The beauty of Hatha is that even the simplest poses remain challenging and interesting as you learn to deepen, relax and explore the edge of the particular movement. The discipline makes it easier to be present fully and benefitting from the life-enhancing possibilities of a yoga practice that stretches, strengthens and balances mind, body and spirit.

 

 

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Dig deeper:

Yoga-Paws Pose Library

How to Begin a Yoga Practice

Yoga and Meditation

Tags: Beginning Yoga Poses, benifits of yoga, hatha yoga

Practicing Yoga at Home

Posted on Tue, Oct 04, 2011

Sometimes it’s just not possible to get to a yoga class, between the demands of school, work and family. Setting up a yoga studio at home is easier than you think, with just a few small preparations, whether you’re man, woman or child.

 

yoga at home, yoga paws, yoga mat, yoga meditationFind a quiet space – Sure, everyone would like to have a quiet room dedicated exclusively to yoga, complete with dim lights and meditative atmosphere. The reality is, in this modern day world of hustle and bustle, it’s tough enough finding the time to practice, let alone the space in your house. Think outside the room. A place for yoga at home is more about the space in your mind than a room in your house. Pick a time to practice when you can be alone. For some, that means getting up early in the morning before everyone else is awake. For others, it could mean closing the door to the bathroom and setting up mat beside the tub. Find a place and time that’s right for you.

 

Get some gear – Gear can mean many things to many different people. Ask yourself what you need:

 

  • Blocks – Everyone’s body is different. No matter your skill level, there will always be poses that are challenging for you. Yoga blocks can help support you in many ways, such as supporting your hip during pigeon pose (kapotasana) or simply stabilizing you during half moon pose (ardha chandrasana). Yoga blocks come in many different materials, such as cork or foam. Choose one that’s best for your comfort.
  • Straps – Also called yoga belts, straps are typically made of cotton or nylon. Held in place by your hands and the ball of your foot, a yoga strap can help guide or deepen a hip opener. Buckled and placed around the shoulders and arms, a strap can improve your technique on chest openers.
  • Bolsters – Often used in restorative yoga, a bolster is a cushion that can be used under the back or abdomen for support.
  • Blankets – A blanket can be folded in many different ways. Fold it and sit on it to raise your hips during easy sitting pose (sukasana), lie flat on the blanket during corpse pose (shavasana) or cover yourself with it during restorative poses to keep warm and centered.
  • YogaPaws – YogaPaws provide traction for your hands and feet. They cushion your joints and bones. Just like yogis and yoginis, they come in all shapes and sizes. Yoga-Paws are an example of a mat made just for your hands and feet.
  • Videos – Yoga videos are found everywhere these days. You can buy them in DVD format at your local store or search for them on YouTube. There are also yoga apps available through smart phones and other mobile devices. Just be sure the videos are developed by certified yoga instructors and remember to honor your body when you practice. Only you know how far to push yourself.

 

Set a Schedule – A regular yoga practice is medicine for your body and soul. Set a schedule to practice, whether it’s once a day, once a week or more. Give yourself room to grow as your practice deepens, and don’t be afraid to back off if you take on too much at first. A hallmark of a good yoga practice is to honor your inner teacher. If your inner teacher is telling you to be gentle with yourself, listen!

 

 

yoga at home, yoga paws home, Commit to your practice – Sometimes all it takes is the intention. If you commit to a regular practice, even just once a week, you just might find the hustle and bustle of your life doesn’t really bother you that much after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dig Deeper:

Yoga for Men: 10 Yoga Poses for Strength and Flexibility

No Yoga Mat for Travel Needed: Practice Anywhere, Anytime

Yoga Poses for Beginners 

Tags: Beginning Yoga Poses, Yoga At Home

Yoga Poses to trim Belly Fat

Posted on Fri, Aug 05, 2011

Yoga exercises can help greatly in the reduction of belly fat and fat deposits in the body. There are several positions in the asanas which help in reduction of the belly fat with the twists and the elongations exercises in yoga.

A few asanas like Cat Cow Pose, Cobra Pose, and Boat Pose help in the reduction of the belly fat greatly. It enhances the ability to breathe of the individual and the surya namaskar ( Sun Salutation ) helps to provide exercise for the whole of the body and helps the stomach to be free of the fat while toning the body on the other hand. Surya namaskar helps to provide exercise to the spine and makes the limbs more flexible. It helps to provide the desired toning of the body and burns extra cholesterol deposited near the belly region of the humans.

Deep breath exercises help to burn the extra fats which are deposited in various organs of the body. It helps in reduction of the belly fat and also provides the lost zeal to the body. Stomach lifts up and down along with continuous breathing exercises show guaranteed results in short span of time.

Another asana of yoga called dhanurasana (bow pose) also helps in reduction of the fat deposits near the stomach region and it should be taken up on daily basis. One should be regular for yoga as it shows beneficial results when taken constantly over a period of time.

Control over the diet is very important while one undertakes yoga and meditation exercises. Yoga exercises on one end and food rich in cholesterol on the other won't give the expected results. Hence, take care of your dietary intake and you are guarantee to see better results. Exercise along with diet control helps to reduce the belly and belly fat!  But you knew that. :)

Keeping up with your yoga practice while traveling can be exceptionally difficult.  Just making the decision to continue to take of your body while traveling feels good.  Then once the trip starts:  be flexible with your time, stick to your commitment, and let go any judgment or "I should have's" in your self talk.  Be creative on the time and place to do some yoga.  Take your YogaPaws so you can practice anywhere!  Park, beach, kitchen, deck...  If only for 5 minutes.  The attention and care to your body is like water to your spirit. 

cat cow pose, yoga paws

 

 

 

 

Cat Cow Pose - Marjarasana

Cat cow pose is sometimes referred to as simply the Cat pose. It’s another of the most effective yoga stomach exercises. It’s easily performed by beginners and leaves you feeling open and stretched. This is one of the few yoga stomach exercises that is safe for pregnant women. Move your body with your breath while performing this exercise for the best results.

Technique:

  1. Begin on hands and knees, with wrists underneath the shoulders and knees underneath the hips. Keep the spine straight and the neck a natural extension of the spine.
  2. Inhale, curl the toes under, drop the belly, and lift your gaze to the ceiling. The movement in the spine should start from the tailbone, so the neck is the last part to move.
  3. Exhale, rest the tops of the feet on the floor, round the spine, drop the head, and drop the gaze to your navel.
  4. Repeat the cat/cow stretch on each inhale and exhale, moving the body with the breath. Continue for five breaths, moving the whole spine. After the final breath, return the starting position.

Benefits:

Cat cow pose is one of the best yoga stomach exercises for conditioning the abdominal muscles and increasing flexibility of the spine. It tones the abdominal wall and massages the internal organs. The exercise also helps clear out emotional baggage.

Cobra Pose - Bhujangasana 

Method: Lie on your stomach, forehead on the ground, hands under shoulders. Raise your upper body by the strength of the back muscles, head up. Don't take help of the hands, they may remain on the ground or held on the back over the hips.

Benefits: Helps in keeping the dorsal spine elastic and strong. Backache due to overstrain can be thus relieved. Helps considerably in reducing abdominal fat.

cobra pose, yoga pose
 boat pose, yoga paws, yoga pose  

Boat Pose (Navasana)

You may perform the boat pose with or without the assistance of yoga props. While in a seated position, lift your legs and upper body until they form a v-shape. You may bend the knees in the beginning if need be. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat twice. If your back feels strained in this pose, use two stools or chairs to support your legs and upper body.

 Sun Salutation ( surya namaskar)- As you go with this sequence of poses, you’ll feel your heart pumping and lungs open. Sun Sal's generally serve as your warm up exercise or routing before getting into Yoga sessions or classes.

 sun salutation, surya namaskar, yoga pose
 bow pose, yoga pose

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose 

Method: Lie on your stomach. Bend knees, hold the ankles. Pull your hands and push with your legs, knees together, till the trunk forms an arch with only the stomach on the ground. Look up. After releasing the posture lie for a while in Shavasan.

Benefits: Reduces abdominal fat. The compressing of the spinal column, pressing the nerves with the scapulae minimizes blood circulation while in the asana. But when the pose is released a greater supply of blood is endured to those very regions increasing spinal flexibility and definitely raising the vitality.

 

The Stomach Lift, Abdominal Lift (Uddyiana Bandha)

Method: The stomach lift really consists of two separate exercises.
First exercise. While standing with your feet about a foot apart and your knees slightly bent, lean forwards a little from the waist and place your hands just above your knees. Inhale deeply by pushing your abdomen forwards, and then exhale by pushing your stomach in. Don't take another breath; instead, push in your stomach even more, so that it becomes hollow, and hold your breath for about ten seconds.

Second exercise: Do the same as above but, instead of holding your Stomach in after exhaling, rapidly push your stomach in and out ten times without taking another breath. Stand up straight and resume normal breathing.

Benefits:

  1. This asana massages and tones up the internal organs in the abdominal area.

  2. It also massages the heart, making it a stronger, more effective pump. Your circulation will improve and you will have less chance of having a heart attack.

  3. It relieves constipation, gas, indigestion and liver trouble.

  4. It tones up the nerves in the solar plexus region.

  5. It reduces abdominal fat and strengthens the abdominal muscles.

  6. It helps the correct functioning of the adrenal glands and sex glands.

  7. It develops spiritual force.

Uddyiana Bandha, intestional lift, yoga pose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tags: Beginning Yoga Poses, trim belly fat, Yoga for weight loss

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