YogaPaws Blog for Beginner Poses and Postures

Be the Change: Yoga for Inspiration

Posted on Fri, Sep 27, 2013

inspirational yoga, yoga You don’t have to attend many yoga classes before you hear the word samskara. Yoga Journal defines it as a blend of two Sanskrit terms: sam (complete or joined together) and kara (action, cause, or doing). A samskara can be a repeated pattern of thinking or acting. The more you repeat those thoughts and deeds, the more ingrained they become. The end result? You find yourself in a rut. 

It’s probably a lot easier to understand how you got into these patterns than how to break them. That’s where inspiration comes in. And, inspiration starts with clarity. Before you can look up and over the rut to find a better path, you have to clear away the circular thinking that got you into these negative routines. 

yoga poses, yoga pose, travel yoga posesAs you ready yourself for practice, set an intention of practicing with a clear, focused mind. Turn your eyes inward and concentrate on seeing new possibilities for each aspect of your breath work and for each asana. Rather than directing your breath or your body, allow your physical form to “fill out” each pose—using your breath to stretch on the inhale, strengthen on the exhale. Take advantage of your teacher’s suggestions for ways to vary poses you know well and let that inspire you to try different approaches to reaching your goals.

Being creative doesn’t require a set of paints or a pen. Asking your body to do things that are unexpected, from standing on your hands to balancing sideways in Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose), changes your physical perspective. This can be a great way to break out of the “I can’t” mentality that comes with the frustration of feeling stuck or not finding an immediate solution to a problem.

yoga poses, yoga pose, yoga paws, travel yoga posesMany yoga poses require you to challenge your ideas of what you can and can’t do and find out just how much more capable you are than you think. When you were starting out, every pose was exciting because it was new. With each class, you built on that foundation, using the sequences as inspiration to try more, to expand and to grow. All those poses you looked at once and thought were impossible are becoming (or are) now part of your practice. Who says you can’t balance upside down? Can’t twist into Garudasana (Eagle Pose)? At some point, either within yourself or based on a suggestion from someone else, you were inspired to attempt to fly or flip your heels over your head. Recognizing and acting on that inspiration probably flipped a lot more than heels. It flipped a switch that ignited the engine of change in your thoughts and actions.

So, when you’re looking for a way to get creative or to be the change you’d like to see in the world, try these poses to help you find inspiration:


Camatkarasana, Wild Thing Pose

Camatkarasana (Wild Thing Pose)

Benefits: The unusual axis your body finds in this pose helps you adapt to new possibilities.  How to do it: Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). Shift your weight into your right hand and the outside of your right foot. Open up into a side plank. Lift your left hip toward the ceiling. On an exhale, bend your left leg and place the ball of your left foot on the mat behind you. This will pull you into a backbend. Continue reaching with your left arm toward the ground. Stay there for five to 10 breaths, then return to Adho Mukha Svanasana and repeat on the other side.


Dhanurasana, Bow Pose

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Benefits: This pose opens your chest, helping you open your heart.  How to do it: Begin lying on your stomach on your mat. Bend your knees in toward your hips, keeping them hip-width apart. Bring your hands back to grasp your ankles (you can grab them one at a time if you need to or use a strap).  On an inhale, lift your feet toward the ceiling to bring your thighs and upper body off the floor. Keep your breath even. Stay for 20 to 30 seconds, then release. You can do up to three repetitions of this pose. As a variation, you can pull lightly on your ankles to start a rocking motion synchronized with your breath.


Parighasana, Gate Pose

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Benefits: This pose places your whole body off a linear grid, which can help your mind to do the same. How to do it: Start on your knees. Stretch your right leg out to the side and turn your leg out. Place your foot on the floor. Keep your left shoulder back. Bring your arms out to the side. Slide your right hand down to a comfortable place on your right leg. Inhale and bring your left arm over your head in a wide arc. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then release and repeat on the other side.

describe the imagePlay Around. In your home practice, shake up the sequence of poses or try a different pose. Think about how that makes you feel. Take your Yoga Paws and find a group of like-minded yogis who’d like to practice in the park or along the river. Go deep into the woods and inhale the sweet earthy smells as you practice. On your next walk, look around as if you had never seen or smelled anything on that before.  Observe the shapes of the leaves, the contrast of the foliage with the blue sky, the fragrances around you.

Use a mantra. As you practice yoga, remind yourself that there are more options than you think. A mantra like “I can see choices” or “I am inspired” might be good ones.

As with so much in yoga, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how you can get insired. But, taking a different approach, even to a familiar practice, can help you find your muse. You are the artist of your own life and your canvas is yours to paint as you will.


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Tags: yoga for change, yoga for transformation, yoga for inspiration, yoga for motivation, yoga for creativity, yoga poses for inspiration, yoga for creative people, yoga to change your life

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

Declare Your Independence: Five Yoga Poses to Free Your Practice

Posted on Tue, Jul 10, 2012

funny yoga picSummer is all about freedom. The long days mean you can play outside after work. You don’t have to apologize for indulging your inner child with a ride down the waterslide, a second scoop of ice cream or an afternoon nap in a shaded hammock. Everything seems possible—from cartwheeling in the soft sand of the beach to stretching out into Hanumanasana (Monkey Pose or splits).

Yoga can help you take that summertime thinking into your practice and your life. What happens on your mat can be a powerful tool for freeing yourself up to grow and explore your full capabilities. The flow of inversions and stretches encourages you to think outside the box of your perceived limitations. You may go into a class moaning about how tight you are or how weak your arms are, but you rarely leave with the same feeling.

yoga paws,yoga paws swedenAs you enter into the sequences, you find yourself carried along on the confidence the teacher expresses in her/his students and the support of the people around you. Your breath and body help to get you out of your own way. And then, suddenly, you realize you’ve just picked up your second foot and you’re flying in Bakasana (Crow or Crane Pose). Your fears may whisper that you can’t do something or shouldn’t even try, but your mind, body and spirit know better. Yoga clears the static of the fearful, angry thoughts that limit you, enabling you to jettison all that baggage and leap ahead.

quiet,sunrise,yoga,freedom,sunset d9c71126845a6a72b5da806e271a8402 h largeChange doesn’t happen overnight. Start small, but start. When you’re preparing for your practice, zero in on one overarching goal or need in your life. With each asana, visualize yourself shedding the obstacles to that goal. If, for example, you really want a big promotion, release feelings of inadequacy or “beating yourself up” about trivial on-the-job mistakes. If you feel “weak” or out of control over the circumstances in your life, create a practice of balancing poses and feel your inner strength through the outward expression of freedom yogayour body. Maybe you feel trapped—then now’s the time for stretching your body outside its “box.” 

Try to use your time on the mat to put the roadblocks away and visualize the steps to success, however you define it. It might help you to envision your roadblocks as physical objects. Imagine each one is stone in a bucket you are carrying. Feel how light your bucket gets as you drop them.


Here are some poses to try to capture those feelings of release:

Urdhva HastasanaUrdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)  Benefits: The opposition of reaching to the sky and grounding your feet forces you to stretch and helps you feel less overwhelmed.  How to do it: Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Bring your arms up by your ears, putting your palms together if your shoulder flexibility allows it. Look up toward your thumbs. Hold for a few breaths, then release.










HanumasanaHanumasana (Monkey Pose)  Benefits: The legend of Hanuman’s giant leap between two lands is an empowering metaphor for moving outside your comfort zone.   How to do it: Begin in a kneeling position. Move your right foot to the front of your left knee. Bend forward as you slide your left leg back and toward the floor. At the same time, start to move your right leg forward and stretch your right knee gently. Lower as far into the pose as is comfortable. Remain in this pose for 30 seconds to one minute, then release and repeat on the other side. If you’re new to this pose, kneel behind a large, cylindrical bolster. Extend your right leg over the bolster so that the support is directly beneath your pelvic floor. Straighten your right leg in front of you, placing your hands on the bolster to help support you. Then decide how much to straighten the left leg. Hold for five breaths. If you want to take this deeper, bring your hands to Namaste and hold for another five breaths.


VrkasanaVrkasana (Tree Pose)  Benefits: This balancing pose invites you to find your emotional “center.”  How to do it: Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Shift your weight to your left leg and foot. Lift your right leg and place the sole of your right foot on your inner left thigh, using your hands if needed. Place your hands in Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal). Focus on a point four to five feet ahead of you. Remain in this pose for 30 seconds to one minute, then release and repeat on the other side.















TolasanaTolasana (Scale Pose)  Benefits: Arm balances can help you feel like you are flying above the things that hold you back.   How to do it: Begin in Padmanasana (Lotus Pose). Place your hands on blocks or on the floor next to your hips. On an exhale, engage your core and press into your hands to lift your body off the ground. Remain in this pose for 10 to 15 seconds, then release, place the other leg on top and repeat.





Salamba SirasanaSalamba Sirasana (Supported Headstand)  Benefits: The physically topsy-turvy nature of this pose shows you a literal new perspective on challenges.  How to do it: Place a blanket or folded sticky mat in front of you. Kneel on the floor. Weave your fingers together and place your outer forearms on the mat. Put your head against your palms. Walk your body into a V shape. Lightly release both feet from the ground to come into the pose. Feel most of your weight supported in your arms and shoulders. Remain in the pose for 10 to 15 seconds, then release. Move into Balasana (Child’s Pose) until you feel ready to stand.


As you practice these poses, focus on your breath. Envision expelling one negative thought with each exhale. Inhale one step closer to your goals.



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Tags: yoga for beginners, yoga for strength, yoga for flexibility, yoga for transformation


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

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