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YogaPaws Blog for Beginner Poses and Postures

Spring Forward: Freshening up Your Yoga Lifestyle

Posted on Fri, Apr 05, 2013

yoga and spring, spring yoga, The concept of “spring cleaning” is a centuries-old way of recognizing the primal shift in the world as you move through the seasons. In Ayurveda, each season has a dominant dosha-- from the Vata dryness of winter to the Kapha calm of early spring.  As the time of year changes, you respond to these shifts by changing your habits and environment. That’s especially true in spring. As you open your windows and literally let the sunshine in, you feel freer, lighter. It’s only natural to want to bring that lightness to all aspects of your practice and your lifestyle.  Getting rid of things you don’t need is a wonderful tool for balancing the Kaphic energy that’s abundant at this time of year.

The other tendency of a Kaphic time is the lack of motivation to try new things. Kapha’s nature is habitual and when it’s in excess, you might find you tend to stay in less-than-optimal situations longer than you need to. That applies to major life issues like jobs, relationships or houses, but it also can creep into your practice, diet and home. That makes this a great time to throw caution to the wind and introduce some fresh ideas. They don’t have to be huge changes, but shaking up the routine on and off the mat can help you take full advantage of the opportunities that the season affords.

crane pose, crow pose, Before you take class or start your personal practice, house-clean your mind. Toss out the stories about  what you’re “bad” at and open the way for new opportunities. This is the perfect time to take advantage of the warmer days and the comfort they bring to your body to try one new pose. Maybe Bakasana (Crow or Crane Pose) has a fear factor for you. Grab some blankets, put them in front of you, and give it a go the next time you’re in class. Whether you make it or not, you’ll gain so much from not letting the pose intimidate you. Try reaching for that bind you’ve never seen before when the teacher gives it, or pick a pose you’ve always wanted to learn and ask your teacher to help you work on it. Think about connecting with other students and taking the yogic lifestyle into life off the mat.

yoga and food, yoga for weight loss, yoga to trim belly fatSpring is also a great time to experiment with what you eat. Finding lighter foods to balance Kapha is a good reason to look at other shelves in the grocery store. Even though a lot of locally grown produce isn’t in season yet, there’s plenty of variety to add spice and color to your plate. If, for example, you always eat quinoa, check out some other grains. Whole grains like barley and buckwheat might be fun to try. Adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet is also good this time of year and offers a chance to experiment. It’s a great way to make you sure you maintain your electrolyte balance—especially if you like hot yoga or a fast flow that makes you perspire freely. If you don’t have a body brush, check out the offerings at your local health food store. Exfolitation is a great way to slough off dry skin and bring a glow to the outer you that reflects the you within.

spring cleaning, yoga springFinally, literal spring cleaning is a vital tool to help open your mind. Think about what physical stuff makes you feel “stuck” or “trapped.” Is that lamp from your college days still “you”? Could someone else use the piano that’s collecting dust or serving as storage? Decide to take on one or two of those places now.

Maybe finally getting the clutter out of your garage will make you feel like you breathe more easily, or maybe it’s the pantry shelf of expired spices that isn’t leaving room for you to move forward. Whatever that area is, use freeing that space as a meditation. Think about what thoughts feel like that physical clutter. As you remove the physical things, visualize yourself throwing away those ideas, cues or litanies in your mind.

yoga pawsAnd, definitely, add some “green” to your spring. Get your Yoga-Paws and take your practice outside, looking for areas without the emissions from cars or the toxins of city streets. Bring some houseplants and some potted herbs into your spring-cleaned home. Replace you pillow with organic ones or use organic towels and face cloths.

Enjoy the space you’re creating in your body, your practice and your life.

 

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Tags: arm balances, advanced yoga, food and yoga, being present

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

Feed Your Yoga: What to Eat (and Not Eat) Before You Practice

Posted on Wed, Aug 01, 2012

yoga balanceAs a yoga student, you are always striving to be more in tune with your body. In each class, you work to become more aware of the way each part of you sings in harmony with your whole mental and physical being. You learn where you are tight or loose, strong or weak and try to balance your muscles and tendons, not just for a rewarding practice but for a healthy, injury free life.

Chances are you’re also looking at how to nourish your body around your classes. You’ve read the widespread wisdom that says you should practice on an empty stomach, no matter what yoga and worktime your class is or what type of yoga you enjoy. Maybe that works for you before a morning class but not a night class or vice versa. Your schedule may make that difficult, depending on your work hours, your family commitments or the distance to you class. Whatever your body clock, figuring out how to fuel your practice comes down to knowing what works for your body and your classes.

yoga balance, meditationOne of the first things you need to think about is when you practice. If your class crosses a breakfast or dinner hour, you’ll probably want to have at least a small snack one or two hours beforehand, just so you don’t “crash” during the class or feel groggy. Or, you can eat a heavier meal three hours before.  You might consider keeping a diary for a few weeks to help you understand how your digestion works. Students who burn with pitta fire may feel under-energized if they go several hours without eating, while vata or kapha types may enjoy the emptiness allowed by more distance between eating and practicing.

yoga and foodThe next factor is what kind of class you’ll be attending. Lighter snacks like yogurt or fruit, vegetables or nuts would be the perfect preparation for a slow, meditative class or gentle flow.  If it’s late in the day, you may want add some hummus or tofu. A more vigorous practice might call for a balanced mini-meal several hours in advance or an easily digestible snack that combines protein and carbohydrates (fats can take longer to digest and make you feel sluggish when you start). Whatever class you are going to, avoiding extremely sweet or salty flavors, as well as fried foods and heavy carbs will help your body feel more comfortable in the practice.

It also helps to ease into your class. Here are a few pre-class poses to try and some tips for eating around class. If possible, get to class at least 15 minutes early and create your own warm-up to help you transition mentally and physically into the freedom that’s yoga.

 

Tadasana, Mountain PoseTadasana (Mountain Pose)  Benefits: This stable standing pose engages your core and lower body, and it’s a relief after sitting for a long time. How to do it: Stand with your big toes touching. With your hands at your sides, turn your palms forward. Gaze straight ahead. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plank PosePlank Pose  Benefits: This pose works your entire body, and can be a great way to start your class preparation since it doesn’t overstretch any joint.  How to do it: Begin in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). Walk your hands out until they are under your shoulders and your body forms a straight line. Remain in the pose for 30 seconds to one minute.   Raise one leg and hold while activating the abs and gluts for a more advanced posture.  YogaPaws are great for wrist suppord during this pose!

 

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle)  Benefits: This gentle hip opener prepares your body to move freely.   How to do it: Sit on your mat with your legs out in front of you. Bend your knees and allow them to fall open to the side with the soles of your feet touching. Remain in the pose for 30 seconds to one minute.

 

Stay Hydrated. No matter what the temperature in a class, making sure you’ve had enough water beforehand helps food digest and prevents muscle cramping and fatigue. It’s especially important since most yoga teachers and studio owners (other than Bikram studios, which caution against drinking water during class. A Yoga Journal article quotes Swami Ramananda of Integral Yoga in New York City as saying, "Drinking water interferes with the prana flow." 

Eat something a half hour after class. A protein-rich snack afterward helps replenish your body if you’re not planning to eat a meal within an hour.

yoga foodEAT MINDFULLY. Whether you’re snacking or just having some fresh juice, don’t multitask. It’s not about eating a handful of nuts in your car. Find a quiet time, relax and let the food flow into your body—much like your breath. Feel it refreshing, nourishing and energizing every cell. Savor the flavors on your tongue. Enjoy the colors of your food. Over the long term, consider keeping a food diary to help you determine what makes you feel best—not only around class but throughout your days.

How, when and what you eat is as much part of your yoga as what you do on the mat. It’s one more way that you honor the vessel that holds your mind and spirit. And, it’s an important reminder that “wholeness” requires that you pay close attention to everything you feed our body, the thoughts you feed your mind and the energy you feed your spirit.

 

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Tags: yoga for beginners, Eating before yoga, food and yoga

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