YogaPaws Blog for Beginner Poses and Postures

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.

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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


Posted on Thu, May 10, 2012

downward facing dog“What on earth are you doing?” My yoga teacher asked me in class last week as he caught me trying to peer round and look at my own shoulders
in downward dog. “Nothing” I said as I tried to wriggle out of it. He bought me down to my knees and asked me kindly to explain myself. The truth is I was paranoid that I was doing it wrong. During a weekend workshop in Paris with Chuck Miller, we had explored the shoulders in downward dog. We had looked at them in micro detail and worked towards straightening the arms so that you spread the load of the weight. We were learning to lift the forearms up and away from the floor, lifting the inner arm up and firming out, and get the outer arm moving down and firming in. It was pretty complex work, but I tried my darn hardest to grasp the concept and then to apply it to my practice.

yoga artDuring an exercise with a partner, it was pointed out to me that I had
large dimples in my shoulders. I instantly took this that I was doing
it wrong. I then set about trying to correct it, in every downward

When I learn lots of new information about ashtanga yoga, I take it
away, digest it and then try to apply it to my own practice. The
problem is that I will try to over do it. I have a perfectionist
streak which is amplified by an inner fear of 'doing it wrong'. This
leads to me mentally trying too hard. Putting too much emphasis on
doing it right. Trying to hard to be perfect.
This is what my teacher really caught me doing.

yoga classIn yoga we try to burn away our samskara’s, our bad habits or
behavioural patterns; which no longer serve us. But in order to burn
them away, first we must see them clearly. We can’t change something
that we can’t even see. Yoga can be seen as a mirror, in which we
start to see our own reflection. It enables us to see how we do
things. Why we do them a certain way. Only then can we try to change
them for the better.

So one of my samskara’s is seeking perfection. Born out of a fear of
doing it wrong, desperate for others not to look down on me. I not
only do this in my every day life, but I bring it to the mat with me.
Often the behaviour that we display on the mat is exactly the same as
the behaviour we display elsewhere (we just may not be aware of it
“Same person, same body, same behaviour” As Chuck Miller puts it.

Wendy 7 LAfter class my teacher had a little word in my ear. He very gently
pointed out to me what it was that I was doing. “Seeking perfection in your practice is only really re enforcing your samskara’s. It is maintaining those patterns that you apply to your life. Yoga is supposed to be diminishing that very process, but you have to recognise that and you have to let it go. It doesn’t matter if your right – in fact there is no right or wrong. Its good to try to apply what you have learnt, but the only thing you will gain by trying to look over your shoulder in downward dog is a crooked neck and a dodgy shoulder. Not what you are trying to achieve!”
He was so right.

Sometimes we need someone else to point out these things to us!
In the post that week I received a printed out article from my
teacher. It was explaining how when you open the shoulders and create
space, these dimples appear. So in fact the very thing that I thought
was a sign of doing it wrong, was actually an effect of doing it
“The man in Paris was obviously paying you a compliment” The note read.
Unnecessary worrying on my part.

So busy worrying about perfection that I missed the point.
So the moral of this story is that you have to learn to look at what
behaviours you have towards yourself. Do you beat yourself up for
being wrong? Do you compare yourself to others? Are you better than
them or worse than them?

yoga prayThis behaviour will indicate to you your own samskara’s and will then
hopefully give you something to work on.

Whatever it is that you notice in your practice you need to increase
the opposite of it.
Do you need to be kinder to yourself? Do you need to relax more? Do
you need to learn humility? Do you need more self confidence? Do you
need to be less uptight? Do you need to not fear being wrong and be
happy where you are?

Yoga is balance. It works at creating balance not only in your body
but also in your mind to get you back to being who you really are.
So for me right now – perfect doesn’t make practice!

Happy practicing.

Laura Grace

Ashtanga Yoga Devon - UK Distributor for Yoga Paws

Tags: hatha yoga, ashtanga yoga, forgiveness, laura grace ford, self discovery, yoga for transformation, Chuck Miller

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

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