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YogaPaws Blog for Beginner Poses and Postures

Shh: The Power of Silence in Yoga

Posted on Tue, Aug 06, 2013

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It’s a noisy world. Sometimes all that sound is welcome. What would the day be without conversation, without music, without the rush of the wind or the rippling of waves? At other times, the swirl of voices, microwave beeps and cell phone reminders gets so loud that it’s hard to tune out. No wonder more and more people are using their vacation time for 10-day meditation retreats during which students cannot talk, text, access a computer or, in some program, read.

peace and quiet, quiet yoga, peace yoga Not everyone can get away for a week-and-a-half of silent self-study, nor would everyone want it. Your yoga practice can be a portal to that experience in a way that easily works within your lifestyle. When you walk into a yoga studio, take your first step toward stillness by keeping your conversation in the changing room or welcome area. Or, when you begin a home practice, let your family, room mates and even your pets know that you need some alone time while you’re practicing. Take a cue from some hot practices and enter into Savasana (Corpse Pose) for 10 to 15 minutes before you take your first asana. If you need to stretch a little before starting your practice, do so gently.

If you’re in a class, try to let the teacher’s voice and the music pass through your mind rather than holding onto them—processing every nuance. 

peace yoga, love yoga, yoga and health, yoga for stress, yoga for stress relief

Allow your body to respond to the rhythm without over-thinking it. Invite your brain to take its own time-out while your breath and body move in unison. Try to let go of the thoughts that crowd in about whether you’re doing the pose right, whether you can reach the floor or kick up to the ceiling.

The idea of a quiet mind isn’t just for Savasana. It’s something that needs to guide the entire practice. In that calm place, it’s easier to find the discernment needed to determine whether you should be seeking your edge in Hanumanasana (Splits) or whether your ego is tempting you to stretch beyond what’s 100 percent for your hamstrings in this moment.

Don’t be surprised if you find the silence “difficult” or “empty.” Even if you are a longtime yoga student, it can take quite a bit of adjusting to. If you have had a stressful day, or are feeling like you are “stuck” in your yoga practice, sometimes you might feel like it is altogether too easy to use the quiet space to let all the inner negative voices have a shouting match inside your head. You might even wish that somebody would talk to you, just so you had to concentrate on something else. That’s a perfectly normal reaction, and also one of the reasons why silence is an important way yoga teaches you about yourself.

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The quiet of a yoga class is designed to help you filter out peripheral, sensory distractions. Not having the radio or your iPod cranked up makes it easier to listen, not to the external sounds, but to your own thoughts and instincts. Not having other peoples’ conversations in your ears might make it easier to have one with yourself.

Becoming more than tolerant of the quiet starts with trusting your mind to guide you to positive, productive places and also to have the discernment in the physical practice to tell yourself where to go. The inner dialogue you create deepens your practice mentally and physically.

Start working on using the silence to guide your intention in and out of class. At first, take a few minutes at the beginning and end of your day to practice directing your focus away from any mental clutter. Think of the quiet in the room as a curtain you can close against any chaotic thoughts or “monkey mind” moments.

yoga peace, yoga and health, yoga for stress relief, yoga for anxiety Bring your awareness into the present moment. If you find it hard to empty your mind, choose two or three concepts, images or ideas (maybe you want to devote that class to ahimsa, or maybe you want to hold an image of the goddess Kali in your mind) and hang on to those. Then, try to explore some aspect of those things more deeply.

Play with these techniques to help you learn to embrace the lack of words in class and in your life. And, remember, just because you aren’t talking doesn’t mean you aren’t communicating. You are still using your whole body to express yourself. And, when you do speak, your words will be clearer, more meaningful and more fully a reflection of the real you.

 

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Tags: yoga for stress relief

iHeartYoga: Yoga for Cardiovascular Health

Posted on Thu, May 23, 2013

yoga paws, yoga, yoga posesEvery time you put on your YogaPaws or hit the mat, you’re taking a big step toward keeping your heart healthy. Yoga’s emphasis on relaxation adds to the impressive array of benefits—increased lung capacity, better respiratory function and overall strength—that any activity offers. So, you’re already on the right track.  Tailoring your yoga practice to your heart once in a while can enhance those positive effects even more. 

Many of the risk factors of heart problems are lifestyle related, which is a big part of why cardiovascular disease in the number one cause of death worldwide. But, your risk factor isn’t just determined by physical factors like diet and exercise.The pressures in your life also have a major impact on your heart, in both the literal physical sense and the metaphysical one. According to cardiovascular health legend Dean Ornish, chronic stress can double the rate of plaque buildup in vital arteries around your heart. So, calming down is just as crucial as eating healthy and staying active.

Fortunately, you already have your yoga in your heart-health toolkit. When you go to class or practice at home, you know the feeling of release you enjoy. It’s easier to let go of the stresses of your day as you move through each pose. What you may not be as aware of is that some poses focus on the heart and, many yoga schools believe, can offer additional benefits. Here are a few to try:

 

Ardha Matsyendrasana Variation (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose Variation)

Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)

Benefits: This gentle twist creates space in your spine and upper back, helping you relax.

How to do it: Start by sitting on a folded blanket. Bend your knees and cross your left leg under your right, letting your left knee open so that the outside of your left foot is on the floor. Bring your right leg over so that your right foot is on the ground by your left thigh. On an exhale, twist to your right and put your right hand by your right hip. You can bring your left arm to wrap around your right leg, or snug your left elbow into your right knee. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, then release and repeat on the other side.

 

Balasana, Child's Pose

Balasana (Child’s Pose)  

Benefits: This restorative pose helps you slow down your thoughts and relieve stress.  How to do it: Start by kneeling on the floor. Put your big toes together and make sure your knees are hip-width apart. Sit back on your heels and place your torso down on your thighs. You can bring your hands back by your sides, palms up, or extend them with your palms on the ground ahead of you. Stay here for anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute, depending on your needs and practice.

 

savasana

Savasana (Corpse Pose) Benefits: This ultimate relaxation pose invites stress to drip away from you.  How to do it: Lie face up on your mat. Extend your legs gently in front of you and let your hips rotate naturally (your feet will probably turn somewhat outward). Place your hands by your sides, palms up. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Let the tension leave all your muscles. Remain here for five minutes, then roll onto one side and come up.

 



yoga breath, heart opening posesBreathe.
It might sound obvious, but remembering your breath as you practice amps up the heart-health benefits. Try Ujjayi breathing (victorious breath), focusing on deep, even inhalations and exhalations.

 

Open your heart. Sometimes, The best thing for your heart is sharing it with others. Donating your time to a good cause is good for your mental and physical state. Try checking with your yoga studio to see what charitable endeavors they support and how you can help. 

 

Remember, too, that as you practice, your mind may wander. Unless it’s going in a negative direction, let it be. Sometimes, that mental break is a great stress reliever. If you want to direct your focus inward, visualize tightness and pressure leaving your body.

 

 

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Tags: yoga for beginners, yoga for stress relief, yoga for heart problems

Topsy-Turvy: Yoga Inversions for a Fresh Perspective

Posted on Fri, May 03, 2013

yoga paws, yoga glove, yoga socks, toesoxs, toesoxThere are few yoga poses that students either love or hate as much as inversions. You might be clamoring to get to that part of class or you might dread even thinking about trying to kick your legs over your head. Whatever camp you fall into, though, looking at the world from a 180-degree rotation is a great learning opportunity, not just in your practice but in your life.

The biggest fear factor many students have about inversions is worrying about falling (not surprisingly). But, just like life sometimes does, yoga asks you to conquer your fears to experience the biggest rewards. And, the benefits of inversions are huge. By reorienting yourself in relation to gravity, your body has the chance to work your cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous, and endocrine systems in ways that you normally don’t, according to Yoga Journal. That stimulates your body into becoming more efficient, research suggests.

yoga inversion, yoga pose inversion, handstand, yoga handstandSo, if flipping your head to where your feet usually belong is not comfortable for you, remember that you can benefit from inversions with or without modifications. Just lying with your feet up the wall is as much an inversion as a headstand. Every time you fold forward , your brain and circulation receive the benefits of reversing your blood flow. Yoga is not an extreme sport that demands that you leave discernment behind and forget there is a difference between your “edge” and a cliff. You need to silence your ego and look inside to see whether fear is stopping you or whether there is a realistic mental, physical or spiritual reason a variation on pose simply does not work for you at this time.

And, don’t think that using props or supports means you’re “not strong.” All of the tools that complement your yoga practice are simply extensions of your body. They work in unison with your physical body to enable you to achieve poses your body alone can’t access. Think of them as friends.  Starting into the more difficult poses with the support of a wall might help you feel more secure. Or ask if your studio has a headstand bench—a heavy stand with padding for the neck and shoulders which enables some students to rise into headstand more comfortably. Keep in mind that you don’t have to hold these poses for long. A few breath cycles when you are starting out is fine.

Here are some poses to turn your world upside down:

Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward-Facing Dog

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Benefits: This simple inversion helps you get comfortable with having some of your weight on your hands and your head below your heart.  How to do it: Begin on your hands and knees. Make sure your knees are hip-width apart and that your hands are under your shoulders. Spread your fingers and press them into the mat. On an exhale, turn your toes under and lift your knees. Don’t lock your knees straight. Instead, keep your heels slightly lifted for now. On another exhale, straighten your knees gently and stretch your heels to or toward the floor. Keep your head between your arms. Stay in the pose for one to three minutes.

 

inversion, shoulder stand, modified shoulder stand Salamba Sarvagasana (Supported Shoulderstand)

Benefits: This pose helps you find a balance point on your upper back so it’s easier to feel the alignment through your spine.  How to do it: Take a couple of blankets and fold them firmly into rectangles that are about one by two feet. Lay down with your back on the blankets and your shoulders resting at one of the long edges. Bend your knees and put your heels on the floor near your hips. Exhale and press your feet into the ground to push your legs up and toward your chest. Spread your arms by your shoulders and bring them in toward each other with bent elbows. Pressing your upper arms into the mat, place your hands on your lower back, supporting it. Then, inhale and stretch your legs up to the ceiling. Remain in this pose for 30 seconds if you are new to it, gradually adding on five to 10 seconds until you can stay comfortably for up to three minutes.

 

Halasana (Plough Pose)

Halasana (Plow Pose)

Benefits: Bringing your legs up over your head in this pose helps you engage your core and stretch your hamstrings, which both help you feel more confident in inversions.  How to do it: Begin in Salamba Sarvangasana. Keeping your core engaged, lower your legs to or toward the floor behind your head. Try to keep your torso at a right angle to the floor. Keep your throat long and lengthen your chin away from your shoulders. You can keep your hands on your back, or you can clasp them on the floor. Remain in the pose anywhere from one to five minutes, then release. This pose may be contra-indicated for those with chronic neck, back or shoulder problems, those with unmedicated high pressure and pregnant women (past the first trimester).

 

describe the image Adho Mukha Vrkasana (Handstand)

Benefits: Using the wall as a support in this pose allows you to experience the feeling of being fully inverted without worrying about falling backward.  How to do it: Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana with your finger a few inches away from the wall. Firm your shoulder blades and pull them down toward your pelvis. Then, bend your right leg and bring it closer to the wall. Continue to lengthen your left leg. Then, push your right foot off the floor while sweeping your left leg up. If this is as far as you can go, that’s fine. If you feel like trying for the full pose, kick up and bring your heels to the wall. Stay there for 10 to 15 seconds, slowly working your way up to one minute, then release.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salamba Sirsasana,  Supported Headstand

Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand)

Benefits: Using your arms to support your head in this pose helps you feel more secure.  How to do it: Fold blankets or a sticky mat firmly. Kneel on the floor. Place your elbows shoulder width on the mat or blanket and clasp your fingers together. Push your inner wrists toward the floor. Place the crown of your head on the floor and press the back of your head into your hands. Inhale and straighten your knees so that you are in a V shape. On an exhale, push both feet off the floor (you can bend or stretch your knees). As they come up, your knees and feet should align over your hips. Stretch your legs if they are bent. Remain in the pose for 10 seconds if you are new to it, adding on five to 10 seconds every time you practice until you can stay for three minutes.

yoga, yoga travel, yoga inversion, yoga shoulder standAs you practice, listen to your body. Some of these poses are challenging and if you feel a sense of unusual pressure in your head or your eyes are bloodshot, come out of the pose and scale back your inversion practice. Even if you have a regular home practice, try to get a teacher’s guidance when you start practicing more advanced inversions to ensure that you are working correctly and safely. Don’t feel pressured about trying the most advanced inversions. Listen to your inner wisdom. You don’t have to do a perfect handstand to have a beautiful practice that serves you best. In fact, that kind of striving for something that doesn’t feel good or authentic to you is the opposite of the liberation yoga makes possible. So go and have fun in your body and seek out some new points of view.

 

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Tags: yoga for stress relief, how to do arm balances, arm balances, advanced yoga, inversions

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.

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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

Play with Your Yoga Body’s Tool Kit

Posted on Mon, Feb 11, 2013

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When you’ve been holding Plank for 45 seconds or making your first attempt to fly in Bakasana (Crow or Crane Pose), you might be thinking, “This is taking everything I have.” In that crane pose, crow posemoment, that’s true. But, as your practice continues and you keep trying to master new poses, the definition of what’s possible changes. You discover how to hold balances, where your body needs to go in arm balances and how to relax into deep stretches. Every time you come to the mat, you have the opportunity to play. Think of your body as a tool kit. Explore it. Take out each layer and look around for the tools to bring to each asana. Build the confidence to let you body fill the poses as only you can.

Uttanasana, Standing Forward BendThe first step to understanding your body’s full array of tools is to try to shift your understanding from “what” to “why.” For example, you might look forward to the stretch in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). Next time you are in that pose, let your attention wander from your head to your feet, feeling where you hold tension that the position releases. Why does it feel good? Is the weight of your torso allowing gravity to elongate your hamstrings? Is your neck softening after a day at the computer?

As you practice, think about how to engage the whole body and breath into every movement. When you reach your arms up, follow them with your eyes. Feel your fingers spread. Notice the involvement of your shoulders and the lifting of your rib cage as you take a full breath. In stretches, experience the security of grounding your whole foot, especially the sides and toes, and breath up and down spine. Allow the neck to stretch fully anytime the spine extends and let that length continue all the way to the crown of the head. Integrating the body and breath brings now only a deepening of asanas but an intense new understanding of how to release into the movement.

yoga paws, toesoxsOnce you’re done that, you might want to look at the metaphysical levels of the poses. Does it help you feel grounded? Or does letting your head sink below your heart feel like releasing the weight of responsibility? At first, try the examination in poses that you don’t feel are challenging, so that when you enter the more advanced asana, you can return your awareness to the purely physical plane. As you become more comfortable with this self-examination, you can gradually apply it to more of your practice.

yoga paws, travel yoga mat, yoga underwater, travel yogaThat process should help you get to the root of the “why.” Now you can look at the “how.” The complex interaction of every piece of your body—bones, muscles, nerves, organs—is set in motion with every pose. You don’t have to limit this awareness to your practice.  Meditation can be an ideal time to let your focus hone in on the ways in which each part of your body impacts another. And, that realization can also help you past the frustration of being “stuck” in your practice. Looking at all the tools your body offers can lead to you to see that you are much more able than you thought.

 

 

 

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Tags: yoga for stress relief, yoga for strength, yoga to prevent injury, yoga for transformation

Meditation: To Go Please :)

Posted on Mon, Dec 10, 2012

zen officeIdeally, your time to look inside would come on a yoga mat, surrounded by scents and your favorite soothing sounds. If you’re like most people, though, you might find that your need for peace doesn’t always come when you have access to your yoga home. That’s especially true this time of year, when you probably feel like the mall, rather than your yoga studio, is your second home. In the rush of “to-do’s” it’s even easier than usual to feel pulled off your mental axis by the pressure and stress of the season, not to mention ads screaming at you from the TV, radio and even your mobile phone telling you all the things you have to buy to keep up with the Joneses.

Obviously, if you can get to a yoga class and lose yourself in the peaceful atmosphere of letting the day go and focusing only on the moment and your breath, that’s a shortcut to calm and putting your mind where it needs to be. If you can’t do that, though, you can find calm in your mind in the midst of all the rushing.

yoga pawsSometimes, having a mantra is the simplest way to make your introspection portable. At the beginning of the day, set an intention that will help bring you back to the present moment. You might try something like “ I will strive to fully experience every minute of today without worrying about what I have to do next.” Then, no matter how stressed out you feel, take a moment to think about what you are doing—whether it’s checking out at the mall, hanging garlands or baking—and contemplate how each sense is affected. How are you seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling or tasting it? As you work through your perception, let yourself feel the rushing slowing back down to a controllable level. Repeat that throughout the day, letting your surroundings wash over you, even if they are mundane. Resist the temptation to “think ahead.” Being prepared is one thing, but try not to let yourself get overwhelmed by that feeling of “I’m already late.” 

However you find contemplation in your daily life, the important thing to remember is that you don’t have to go on a retreat to find serenity during the holidays. Remind yourself of the central message of the season—the love and generosity we all share. Forget the iPhone 5 or the mountain of cookie baking!

 

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Tags: meditation, yoga for stress relief

Beauty and the Beast of Yoga

Posted on Fri, Aug 31, 2012

emotional yoga poseThe beauty and the beast of yoga appears to be showing itself to me in my Ashtanga practice. Don’t get me wrong, I love my practice (in a detached not bothered kinda way) but recently it has been tearing me apart. Quite literally, I have been fighting the tears during my regular class, slumping on my mat at home and dissolving into a mass of whimpers and splutters.

I thought yoga was supposed to make you strong?

yoga for emotional releaseI started the second series at the start of the year and it appears that those intense backbends may have been releasing all kinds of emotions that had been hidden away down there for several years. My hip sockets are opening up and from deep down in the dark corners, more emotional ‘stuff’ that I had hidden is emerging.

My goodness, I didn’t know that I had so much ‘stuff’! Well I kinda guess I did but was really super good at suppressing it and pretending like it was all ok.


The beast of Ashtanga yoga is the fact that you have to go through this period where quite simply your life falls apart. You are stripped bare of your old defence mechanisms, old walls are knocked down and bridges to our ‘safe’ hiding places are burnt.The beauty of Ashtanga Yoga is that fact that it purifies you from the inside out. It clears away all those stored toxins, it flushes out your nervous system and your lymph glands, ‘just like flushing a toilet’ (an old teacher of mine once said – not the nicest description but it gives a good clear image of the effect.

It leaves you with nowhere to hide.

emotional yoga release

You are forced to deal with the emotions that you have been storing up in various parts of your body and trying to avoid dealing with. By accessing parts of your lower spine or getting right down into your hip sockets you literally force out anything that has been hiding in there.

They say it is why we get stiff in certain areas of the body, because we have hidden emotional ‘stuff’ there. Things we don’t want to look at or address. Negative experiences leave a trace on the physical body, causing not only a mental scar but also a physical one. Yoga access these areas and gets things flowing once more, but in order to do so, you have to empty out the blockages.

I described my recent experience to a non-yogi friend and it went something like this…

transformation through yoga“I feel like a saw a drain that had a few leaves blocking the entrance, so I started to clear the leaves and then noticed some mud under the grate, I dug a little deeper and cleared that, only to discover some nasty slime blocking it a little deeper still. Before I knew it I was on my hands and knees covered in muck, shoulder deep in smelly slimey stuff wishing I had never started this job in the first place! I feel like I have got right down to the darkest, deepest, smelliest part of the drain and it’s the worst part so far. I know that if I keep going then it will be worth it and that the drain will be completely unblocked and the water will run freely and smoothly and it will operate at its optimum – but right now; I am wishing I had just left those leaves where they were!”

That is what my yoga practice has done to me!

tears10I have been dragging up all sorts of dark memories, events that I wish had never happened, things that I never really dealt with or even knew how to deal with. I have cried in Shavasana, I have wept through the Surya Namaskara’s and from start to finish. I have had to fight back tears that I could not control. I have curled up in Kurmasana rolled around like a turtle stuck on her back in yoganidrasana. I have fallen head over heels backwards in Kapotasana and face planted in Pincha Mayurasana.

I had memories of leaving yoga feeling blissed out and being in love with life, and now I struggle to find the courage to smile at myself.

I know that it will pass and that I will be happier than I have ever been before once all the clearing has been done. Cleaning is like that, it is never nice at the start but by the end it is oh so satisfying and rewarding and then you can enjoy the new sparkle that your life has.

I am trying to look at my current situation and find the positives – so here goes….

inspiring yoga, yoga for letting go of the past

In amongst my sorrow, I have found how to deal with feeling vulnerable instead of being overly defensive and harsh. I have found a new softness that I can treat myself with and other people too. That’s not a bad thing. My mantra for this was ‘bring the softness back’.

I have learnt how to send enemies good feelings and noticed how much nicer that feels inside of me. By sending difficult or challenging people loving kindness can change the emotions that you are clinging onto about certain people or situations.

yoga for forgiveness I have taken a bad situation and made it into a positive one. I have battled with rejection and found that the root of the rejection was love and learnt that sometimes people think they are doing the ‘right’ thing but to someone else it comes across as completely the wrong thing: but if you can begin to see things from a different perspective then you can see the good intentions behind wrong doings.

I have finally accepted that we all make mistakes and that doesn’t make us better or worse than someone else’s mistake, it just means that we all make mistakes.

Real forgiveness is hard. Really hard.

Forgiving yourself for acting in certain ways or making specific decisions is not an easy task, but it is the only way to let go of emotional baggage that will fester inside of you and eventually make you physically unwell.

yoga to forgive yourself

To forgive another for hurting you is extremely healing for both parties involved. To acknowledge pain that you have caused and to admit to that suffering is also something worth taking your hat off to. Not many people have the strength to do that and many people hide behind excuses and false justifications all their life. Sometimes just to say “I know I hurt you and I am sorry” is so much more powerful.

finding peace through yogaAcknowledging pain is also extremely hard, to admit to exactly what it is that hurt is admitting to our own vulnerabilities – which we as humans don’t like to do. But by acknowledging your own pain gives you great insight into how to prevent yourself from making the same mistakes over and over again.

Also sometime asking for acknowledgment of your own pain is totally and utterly acceptable. I have found that I ‘punish’ people for hurting me. I hit them with a ‘you hurt me’ stick that I never seem to let go off. I found that by asking for acknowledgment of the pain that they had caused me, not making them feel guilty for it or dumping the load on them, just asking up front for plain and simple acknowledgement meant that I could finally put the stick down.

peace through yogaWow! Has my clearing been worth it? Oh my! Yes indeedy. Sometimes when we are lost on a path, struggling through the darkness it is hard to see just how much ground you have covered. It is not until the sun comes up and as the light shines down on the path that you have walked, are you able to recognise just how far you have come.

Spiritual growth is like that. Growth hurts. And sometimes it is long and extremely painful.

The yoga beast is wild and untamed but my oh my he holds and creates such beauty.

 

~Laura Grace Ford

Ashtanga Yoga Devon

Tags: yoga for stress relief, yoga for relaxation, yoga for anxiety

Don’t Worry; Be Yogi

Posted on Wed, Aug 22, 2012

yoga for worrying As you get you get your child ready for the first day of school or help prepare your friend for the first day at a new job, at some point you’ll probably find yourself channeling your own mother as you hear yourself say, “Don’t worry. You’ll do great.” This is a message worthy of sharing with yourself.

Worrying has no upside. Allowing your thoughts to focus on an uncertain scenario in the future won’t change anything. "I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened."~Mark Twain


Change starts in the present moment. Where you are right now is “life.” Learning to really, fully live means you have to stop multi-tasking. You can’t worry about the future or dwell on the past. You’ve already learned what your past has to teach you. Your future is up to you.  "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength." ~Corrie Ten Boom
 Every second, thousands of “doors” open and close in your mind. Will you stand up? Sit down? Answer one more email? Smile? Frown? Sign up for a class? The decisions you make in the present will be the script of your future.

Yoga and meditation are powerful tools for training your mind and spirit to be in the present. yoga inversionWhen you’re balancing on one leg or working toward an inversion, it’s almost impossible to allow your mind to wander. Mind, body and spirit need to come together to enable your physical form to accomplish poses that stretch its possibilities to a new level. Meditation and breath work complement that. As you learn to release your “monkey mind,” you find that each second seems longer, calmer and fully realized. It’s easier to work toward Santosha or contentment (the second of Patanjali’s Niyamas.)

Contentment is more than tranquility or acceptance. It means that you are happy with your situation and with yourself. Although it infers that you trust that the Divine or the Universe will provide for you, it also invites you to take action. In order to be happy, you need to explore the possibilities of the present. When you’re cooking, you can think about the beautiful colors and aromas of the food you’re preparing as you chop. When you eat, you can visualize the nutrients of that food feeding your cells with vitality. And, when you’re ready for a walk or yoga class afterward, you can celebrate the meal of breath that animates your muscles and joints, bringing health, reducing stress and invigorating your physical being.

present moment, yoga presentSantosha also doesn’t mean you don’t have to stop dreaming or just sit back and wait for good things to fall into your lap. If you start to work toward your goals in this present moment, you will feel content. It’s hard not to be happy when you allow yourself to begin trying to achieve something or experience something. "Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present."~Jim Rohn
If you want to paint, being present when you’re looking at the bold lines of a modern building could be the inspiration you need to express something in a meaningful way. Really listening to colleagues during a meeting can give you that “eureka” moment that enables you to make a fuller contribution to your company.

The more attentive you become to your present, the more opportunities you see. Your senses become heightened and your awareness expands. Walking your dog moves from being a chore to an IMAX experience of color, sound, smells and touch. It becomes easier to discern what it is important, what makes your mind smile and what’s just a time-waster.

yoga here and nowDeveloping your “present” focus takes the same discipline as developing your yoga practice.  "Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment."~Buddha            Maybe you’ll start with just being in the moment on your mat or turning off your car radio or iPod during your commute. Or, perhaps, you’ll set the table for dinner rather than crashing in front of your computer or TV or focus on what your friend is really saying the next time you meet for coffee. Set aside just five minutes during your day to meditate, whether seated or in movement. When you walk, use an open focus, allowing your eyes to activate your peripheral vision. present moment, yogaLet the world come to you rather than tightly focusing on a point straight ahead. When you leave for lunch, concentrate on “feeling” the sounds of the city or the country striking your body—then enjoy their resonance after they cease. At least once a day, think about concentrating on one task in order to see it in a new way.

By taking care of the present, the future will take care of itself. No worries. :)

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Tags: yoga for stress relief, yoga to release worry, yoga for present

Anti-Aging Yoga: Tips for a Vital Practice

Posted on Tue, Jul 03, 2012

ageless yoga, anti aging yoga, youth yoga
Whether it’s Madonna and her chiseled arms, Patricia Walden and her beautiful alignment or Ana Forrest and her awesome flexibility, people who practice yoga seem to defy time. Think about your fellow students and your teachers. How often have you done a double-take when anti age yogaone of them told you her or his age? It’s not just the rich and famous who are finding their personal fountain of youth on the mat. The optimism and energy of a youthful mind, body and spirit are available to everyone who comes to the mat—or takes their Yoga-Paws to the park.

While you may not be planning on doing 88 drop-backs as a birthday celebration (like Sri. K. Pattahbi Jois), yoga makes it more likely you’ll have the choice when that birthday comes. A regular practice keeps your body strong and supple—obviously. But it does the same for your mind and spirit. As you move through challenging asanas, you begin to gain confidence. You become more open to trying new poses, even the ones that look impossible. Like a young child, all you see are the possibilities.  That’s not just feel-good conjecture. There’s science to support yoga’s role in keeping you young. That glow you leave class with isn’t just sweat! As with any form of exercise, yoga raises your metabolism and helps keep your brain engaged. Every deep inhale sends a fresh flow of oxygen to your cells, while every long exhale rids your body of toxins. Author Danna Demetre writes in her book, Change Your Habits, Change Your Life: A Proven Plan for Healthy Living, that deep-breathing increases your immunity and helps remove toxins from your body by stimulating your lymphatic system. Inversions boost blood flow to your face. Lilias Folan 

anti age yogareminds students that every forward bend is a mini-facelift—and her youthful appearance offers more than adequate proof. Arm balances strengthen your core—and help define your abs. Twists engage the often-overlooked stabilizer muscles in the body, giving you better posture and a supple spine.

But, what makes your practice even more beneficial is the emphasis on mental serenity. Nothing ages you faster—inside or out—than stress. So what you can let go of on the mat might very well translate to fewer lines across your forehead, better hair or lower blood pressure. Yogi Sadie Nardini backs up that contention, citing a recent report that found regular yoga practitioners are biologically nine years younger than their non-exercising counterparts.

Whether you’re 20 and looking forward to 100 drop-backs at your own century mark or 99 and ready to do your first down dog, yoga can help keep you going and growing. Here are some starting points:

 

 

 

cat cow yoga, cat cow, cat cow yoga pose Cat/Cow   Benefits: Renowned yoga teacher Sadie Nardini likes to use this pose to regulate reproductive and stress hormones.  How to do it: Begin in Sukhasana (Easy Pose). Come up to your hands and knnes, with a flat back. With each inhale, arch your spine, drawing your shoulder blades. On an exhale, round your back, allowing your chin to drop toward your chest. Repeat for one minute or more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lunge, yoga lunge

Lunge (variation) Benefits: Nardini uses this twist version for its metabolic boost.  How to do it: Begin in a lunge with your right leg front. Lift your left arm to your right knee. Slowly spin your right side up to clasp your hands in Namaste (Prayer Position).  Gaze up to the ceiling. Lower your left knee if needed. Remain in the pose for five to 10 breaths and switch side.

 

Halasana, plow poseHalasana (Plough Pose)  Benefits: This inversion brings added circulation to your head and face.  How to do it: Begin on your back with your legs stretched out. Press your palms into the mat, arms at your side. On an inhale, bring your legs up using your center and roll them to or toward the floor behind your head. Focusing on keeping your core engaged and lengthening your neck. Remain in the pose for 15 to 30 seconds, then release.

 

Adho Mukha VrkasanaAdho Mukha Vrkasana (Handstand) Benefits: This inversion stimulates blood flow to your head and strengthens your arms.  How to do it: Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose), with your fingertips an inch or two away from a wall.  Firm your shoulder blades. Bend your right leg in, keeping your left leg straight. Push through your left heel to kick up toward the wall. That may be as deep as you can go into the pose right now. If you can move into the full pose, engage your core and exhale as you kick up to the wall. Stay in the pose for 10 to 15 seconds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sukhasana Sukhasana (Easy Pose)--Variation  Benefits: This gentle twist massages your internal organs, stimulating digestion and the release of toxins.  How to do it: Begin in Dandasana (Staff Pose). Bend your knees and drop them outward, cross both ankles under the opposite knee. Lengthen your back. Place your left hand on your right knee and your right hand on the floor behind you. Exhale and twist your spine. Hold for five to ten breaths, then release and repeat on the other side.

 

As you practice these poses, let your mind become empty of stressful thoughts—while you are on the mat, you can’t also be getting groceries or answering your phone. Focus on the internal sensations of the poses. Feel your strength and flexibility.

 

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Tags: yoga for stress relief, anti-aging yoga

Detoxify with Anywhere, Anytime Yoga Poses

Posted on Tue, Mar 20, 2012

yoga detox, yoga clensingIf you have a regular yoga practice, you know how good you feel after even a few poses. That’s not just a feeling. Every time you put on your YogaPaws step onto your mat, you’re helping your body’s natural systems detoxify. For example, yogic breathing delivers more oxygen to your cells and carries away carbon dioxide. Asanas that work your core stimulate your abdominal muscles and adrenals to make your metabolism and digestion more efficient. The expansion and compression of many yoga sequences aid in pumping intercellular fluids containing contaminants into your lymph nodes so that they can be filtered out of your body.yoga detox, yoga cleanse, cleansing yoga poses And, if you practice Bikram yoga or hot yoga, you can intensify that cleansing activity as the heated room increases perspiration. After some breath work to reset your heart rate and a refreshing drink of water, your body lightens, brightens and makes room for new thoughts and possibilities.

 

Daily classes may still be on your wish list. But you can still make yoga’s detoxifying benefits part of your day. Start with poses like that these that can be integrated into your routine at home, at work and at play.

 

Marichyasana IIITo start your day: Marichyasana III  (Marichi’s Pose)

Benefits: This pose stimulates digestion by squeezing the abdominal organs.

How to do it: Sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose). Bend your right knee in as close to the right sitting bone as possible, keeping the sole of your right foot on the floor. Ground your right foot and left leg into the floor. On an exhale, twist your torso to the right and wrap your left arm around your right thigh. Ground your right fingertips into the floor just behind your pelvis. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute and release on an exhale. Repeat on the other side.

 

Ardha Matsyendrasana VariationTo de-stress at your desk: Ardha Matsyendrasana Variation (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose Variation)

Benefits: This pose massages the internal organs to aid in detoxification.

How to do it: Sitting on your chair with both feet on the floor, inhale and lengthen your spin, neck and head toward the ceiling. Exhale and twist to the right. Bring your left hand to the outside of your right leg. Place your right hand on the back of your chair. Starting in your hips, twist your body to the right. Look over your right shoulder. Extend through the crown of your head as you inhale, twist deeper as you exhale. Hold here for five to ten breaths. Inhale, return to center and repeat on the other side.

 

 

Parivrtta TrikonasanaTo detox mid-day: Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Benefits: This pose stimulates the abdominal organs and opens the chest to improve breathing. This is best done before you eat lunch.

How to do it: Consider taking your Yoga-Paws to work and moving your practice into the fresh air. Begin by stepping your feet three-and-a-half to four feet apart. Inhale your arms up to shoulder height, parallel to the ground. Turn your right foot to the right so that our toes point to the front of the mat. Angle your left foot in to about 45 degrees. Turn your torso to the right. Inhale and continue turning your torso to the right, leaning over your right leg. Place your left hand on the inside or outside of your right foot or along the outside of your right leg (avoiding the knee). Extend the right arm up and straight out of the shoulder. Look up at your raised hand or, if that is uncomfortable for your neck, look down at your left hand. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute. Come to Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Take a few deep breaths. Then reverse.

 

 

Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward-Facing Dog PoseTo release after the work day: Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Benefits:  Putting your head below your heart reverses gravity and helps blood and lymph circulate.

How to do it: Begin on your hands and knees. Make sure your hands are aligned under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. On an exhale, turn your toes under and stretch your knees. Reach your heels toward or onto the floor. Keep your head between your arms. Remain in the pose for one to three minutes.

 

 

 

Viparita KaraniTo cleanse before bed: Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose)

Benefits: Calms the mind and refreshes the brain

How to do it: Place folded blankets or a bolster about six inches from the wall. If you tend to be tight, choose a lower support. If you tend to be flexible, try a higher support. Sit sideways with your right side again the wall, legs extended straight out in front of you. Exhale and swing your legs up the wall. At the same time, lower your shoulders and head to the floor. Your bolster or blankets should be supporting your low back and pelvis, but feel free to experiment to find a placement that’s comfortable for you. You may also a towel or thin, folded blanket under your neck to keep your spine straight. Hold for five to 15 minutes.

 

yoga cleansing, yoga detoxLike showering or brushing your teeth, yoga can be part of everyday. With each asana, you have the opportunity to put something into the fire and allow it to burn away and release on your next exhale. Will Brashear, founder of Cincinnati Yoga School and the Austin Wright and Prem Lata Memorial which teaches impoverished children in Chandigarh, India, often reminds his teacher trainees that their interior landscapes are like mirrors. At the outset or their journeys in this life, there are many impurities and mar that surface. By, by moving through the fire and cleansing, the mirrors of their true selves become more and more perfectly polished—until, eventually, they brilliantly reflect the Divine. So, find day-long ways to let yourself shine brightly.

 

 

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