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YogaPaws Blog for Beginner Poses and Postures

Core Curriculum: Yoga for Your Center

Posted on Thu, Jul 18, 2013

 yoga poses, yoga pose, yoga paws, travel yoga posesAs you prepare for your yoga practice, you might start to focus on your breath, stretch your hamstrings or loosen your shoulders. One area that’s probably not top of mind as you warm up is your core. But the combined strength and suppleness of the muscles that control your torso affect everything from balance work to full extension in standing poses and proper alignment in seated asanas. It’s no wonder this part of the body is called your powerhouse.

The muscles in your abs and back do a lot more than you think. This isn’t just about looking good on the beach. These are the muscles that stabilize you as you come into standing balances such as Vrksasana (Tree Pose).  

Plank Pose A strong core also makes these poses feel easier than if you rely only on your limbs to hold you up. Being able to activate your center connects your whole body, making your arms and legs work as one unit. Consider Plank Pose. Engaging the core by thinking about pulling the front body up toward the spine allows you to stiffen your body so that the hamstrings can lengthen and you can start to turn your heels under. All of that distributes your weight more evenly down the entire body rather than making your shoulders and wrists literally do all of the heavy lifting. It also makes the pose more accessible. To feel the difference, come to Plank Pose with the hands under your shoulders or just slightly ahead of them.  Purposefully allow your front body to sag toward the floor as your spine rounds down. Set your knees down into Table Top pose for a few breath cycles. Then return to Plank, this time collecting the core up toward the back and explore how integration creates a new ease in the pose. 

 

describe the imageYoga is a great way to help you cultivate that feeling. While your practice doesn’t build core strength through repetition the way other training methods (such as Pilates) do, it helps your core become much stronger functionally. For example, each time you move into Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I), think about lifting your body from your pelvic floor and using your core muscles to support your spine as you raise your arms and reach away from your legs. Concentration on your core muscles can subtly intensify most asanas. The next time you come into Balasana (Child’s Pose), walk your hands far out in front, claw the mat with your fingers and, drawing your navel to your spine, move into the pose by pushing your glutes back toward your heels. Keep your spine long and core engaged as you lengthen back. Then, breathe deeply. As you exhale, focus on emptying out the front body and drawing the core upward to the spine. Enjoy that clean, “together” feel that comes from your body and breath working efficiently in harmony.

To take your core curriculum to the next level, try these poses that target your center. Here are a few to try:

 

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)  Benefits: This pose activates your entire center.  How to do it: Start in Plank Pose. Firm your center. On an exhale, lower your body by bending your arms. The “eyes” (insides) of your elbows should face forward and your elbows should graze your sides as you lower down. Pull your heels under and keep your legs straight.  Lift your navel to your spine. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then release either by lowering your body to your mat or by stretching into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose).

 

Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose)Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose)  Benefits: This pose works your obliques, muscles on the sides of your waist that stabilize your body as you twist.  How to do it: Begin in Adho Mukha Svanasana. Put your weight into the outer edge of your left foot. Place your right foot on top of your left. Rotate your body upward. Align your body so that you are balanced on your left foot and left hand. Make sure your left hand is slightly ahead of your left shoulder. Think of lifting from your left side. Keep your right shoulder back. If you want to, you can lift your right leg and clasp it with your right fingers. Stay in the pose for 15 to 30 seconds, then release back to Adho Mukha Svanasana and repeat on the other side.

 

bridge poseSetu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)  Benefits: This pose engages your back and abs at the same time.  How to do it:  Begin lying face up on your mat. Bend your knees in and put the soles of your feet on the floor. Put your arms along your sides. Exhale and press your hips toward the ceiling, peeling one vertebra at a time off the mat. Keep your legs parallel and no more than hip width apart. (Placing a block between your knees can help keep proper alignment). You should end with your back slightly arched. Keep your throat relaxed. Think of pulling your hipbones toward your ribs. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute, then release.

 

describe the imageStand Tall. Visualize your abdominals coming together to lift your torso off your hips as you practice. Try to create length between your bottom rib and your pelvis. Draw your navel in and up.

yoga poses, yoga pose, travel yoga posesFocus your energy. Often, tension in your limbs is misplaced. As you practice, keep energy in your core. If you feel like you are falling backward or your shoulders start to get tense, see if engaging your abs helps that relax.

As you find your center in yoga class, think about how you want to take that through your life. Just as in yoga, having a strong core—muscular or emotional—keeps you stable and allows you to adapt to new demands. Next time you hit the mat, set your core as your intention. Think about the connection between your physical center and your emotional one.  You will probably find the strengthening both helps make you the strongest you can be.

  

Dig Deeper

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

New Year’s Yoga: Yoga for Your Resolutions

Posted on Thu, Jan 03, 2013

yoga resolutions If you’re like most yoga students, you’ve probably had some time off your regular practice while you enjoyed your holidays and planned for the new year. You might be anticipating feeling a little sore after the first week of “back to school” in your practice, but chances are your body and mind are looking forward to hitting the mat in your favorite classes. You’ve recharged your mind and probably formulated a list of goals in your life and in your practice for 2013. Those first few classes back, everything seems possible and you joyfully expect to end 2013 looking back on having achieved all that you wanted. But, often, in a month or so, as “real” life begins to take its stressful, time-crunched toll, you feel like you are losing sight of what made those things so important.

So, now is the time to set a foundation in your practice that will keep building and growing for the next 51 weeks, even when you don’t believe it.

 yoga pawsThe first step is to narrow down your focus to one aspect of your practice. It’s too easy to get overwhelmed thinking “I’m bad at everything.” If you don’t feel like you have a grip on where to concentrate your energy, ask your teacher. Maybe there isn’t any one specific pose that you feel you have to master, but you’d like to strengthen your arms. Maybe you want to be able to move more gracefully between poses during the class. Maybe there is that one magazine cover moment you want to recreate. Whatever you dream of being able to do, think about your year in yoga in those terms. If your goal is to open your hips, imagine releasing them consciously in each pose, from letting your knees drop open as you sit in Padmasana (Lotus Pose) for the opening meditation to rotating your raised leg outward in Vrkasana (Tree Pose).

 

The poses below are workhorses in yoga—whatever your goals, you can apply them in this practice. Sometimes, too, if your goals are more complex—maybe you want to gain both strength and flexibility—try revisiting one pose with a different focus. Here are some to play with:

 

Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose) Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)  Benefits: This reclining stretch opens your hips in preparation for deeper stretches.  How to do it: Lie on your back. Bend both knees toward your chest, then grasp the outsides of your feet with the same-side hand. Focus on bringing your knees up toward your armpits, opening them slightly. Keeping your back long and connected to the floor, use your hands—or a strap around each foot—to gently pull your knees toward the ground. Remain in the pose for 30 seconds to one minute.

 

 

 

Halasana (Plough Pose)  Halasana (Plow Pose) Benefits: This inversion works your core while stretching out your back, helping rebalance your body after the day. How to do it: Begin lying on your back. Press your palms at your sides down into the floor. Using your core, draw your legs up and over your head so that your toes reach toward the wall behind you. If you want to, you can support your low back with your hands or join your fingers on the floor. Hold for one to five minutes, then release.

 

Tolasana (Scale Pose) Benefits: This balance pose challenges you to hold your hips open while engaging your core, which stabilizes your body in a range of poses.

How to do it: Start by sitting in Padmasana (Lotus Pose). Place your hands at your sides, on the floor or on blocks. Activate your abdominal muscles and press into the floor to lift your hips up. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then release.

 

mindful yogaStay Mindful. Be focused on your chosen areas, but make sure to quickly check in with the rest of your body. If you are working on flexibility in your back, for example, take a moment to register whether your legs are in the correct alignment. This approach will help you prevent injuries.

Breathe. Your teacher probably reminds you to do this dozens of times every class, but being aware of the rhythm of your breath is a great way to stay in touch with your body. If you feel your breath getting shallow, relax and back away from the pose for a moment.

yoga breathRemember, yoga is not a race. There are no points awarded for Most Improved Student. While it’s great to have goals (including ambitious ones), don’t let yourself be discouraged if you do, once in a while, have a class where things just don’t work. Return your focus to the moment—you’ll often find that you learn an amazing amount from those times. Maybe you finally get the hang of that challenging breathing exercise, or maybe you just let go and experience a deep relaxation. Enjoy the class for what it is and be confident that you will return to your focus next time.

 

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Tags: yoga for strength, Yoga for weight loss, yoga for flexibility, new year yoga

Support Mindful Eating with These Five Yoga Poses

Posted on Tue, Feb 07, 2012

Fresh Fruits And VegetablesYou’re a lot more than what you eat. But what you eat can have a lot of bearing on how free you are to explore all the aspects of “you.” You know you need more fruits and vegetables. You know that moderation and variety make your body feel strong, energized and ready for anything. So why it is so hard to spend some time on the weekend to make a big batch of the soup you’ll be craving at lunchtime on Monday? Why doesn’t the second cookie satisfy? Or, why is every day a battle to eat less and less? No diet can help answer that question, but yoga can.

 

listen to your bodyWith each pose, you’ll hear your teacher remind you, “Listen to your body.” Yoga is all about discernment. You get a compelling reminder of that message every time you see an image of Shiva dancing in the fire and crushing the dwarf/demon that symbolizes ignorance. By turning your eyes inward, you can start to get in touch with what your body really needs for optimal health. Ayurvedic philosophy suggests that, at each meal, your body be half filled with food, one-quarter filled with liquid and one-quarter left empty to give the food and fluid room to digest. Try that. About 20 minutes after eating, go inside and check out how you’re feeling.yoga grass Was that enough food? Too little? Too much? How do you feel as a result of the types of food you ate? Energized? Sleepy? Content? Do that little exercise for a week and log the results.

 

Then, try poses like this that help teach discernment and the benefits of honoring your body’s wisdom.

 

 

 

 

hero's poseVirasana (Hero Pose). This pose requires you to be thoughtful about your knees and back.

How to do it: Kneel on the floor with your knees perpendicular to the floor. (This is sometimes called “standing on the knees.”) You may want a folded blanket or block under your buttocks. Slide your knees as close together as possible and move your feet wider about a thumb’s width wider than your hips. Lean your torso slightly forward and slowly sit back between your feet. Place your hands on your thighs with your palms down or in you lap with your palms up. Hold for 30 seconds or longer. After releasing, extend your legs straight in front of you and bounce your legs lightly.

 

 

crane joseBakasana (Crane Pose). This pose requires an intense focus and a strong core. You need to ask your body whether it’s ready to lift either foot, one foot or both feet—and be willing to accept its direction.

How do it: Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and squat down so that your feet are a few inches apart. You may want to have a block slightly behind you if you are new to this pose and need support. Separate your knees wider than your hips. Stretch your arms in front of you, bend your elbows and place your palms on the floor. Your upper arms should be against your shins. Yoga Journal advises: “Snuggle your inner thighs against the sides of your torso, and your shins into your armpits, and slide the upper arms down as low onto the shins as possible. Lift up onto the balls of your feet and lean forward even more, taking the weight of your torso onto the backs of the upper arms. Lean forward even more on the backs of your arms until your feet leave the floor.”  Or, just balance your toes on the block. Try lifting one foot before your lift off with both feet. Hold for 20 seconds to one minute.

 

 

Upavistha KonansanaUpavistha Konansana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend). This pose requires that you check your ego at the door and respect where your edge is in terms of stretching—not over-stretching—your inner thighs.

How to do it:  Sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose). Open your legs to about 90 degrees. Place your hands the floor in front of you, slide your buttocks forward and try to spread the legs wider. Point your knee caps toward the ceiling. Lean your torso forward and begin walking your hands out in front of you until you at the edge of your stretch. Hold 30 seconds to one minute.

 

 

Salamba SirsasanaSalamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand) This pose requires you to get in touch with the alignment of your body in a different plane.

 How to do it: Kneel on the floor. You may want a folded blank to place under your head and arms. Clasp your hand and lower them to the floor. Press into the ground with your wrists. If you are just beginning to experiment with this pose, place your head snugly against the back of your hands. If you are comfortable with headstand, open your hands slightly and place your head against your open palms. Inhale and lift your knees, walking on the balls of your feet until your body form a V. Firm your shoulder blades to keep your body from collapsing into your head and neck. Exhale and lift your feet off the floor. Even if you have to bend your knees, focus on getting both feet off the floor at the same time. As your legs rise, firm the tailbone against the pelvis. Once your legs are perpendicular to the ground, straighten your knees if you bent them and align the arches of your feet over the crown of your head. Make sure to stay focused on engaging your shoulder blades and firming your tailbone. Stay in the pose for five to 10 seconds if you are new to headstand, gradually increasing the duration of the pose by a few seconds a day  until you can hold it for three minutes. Come out of the pose on an exhale, touching both feet to the ground at the same time. Move into Balasana (Child’s Pose).

 

 

monkey poseHanumanasana (Monkey Pose) The deep stretch of this pose calls on you to tune into your body’s flexibility and balance.

How to do it: Begin kneeling on the floor. Step your right foot about a foot in front of your left. Lean forward and begin to stretch the left leg out behind you. Allow your knee to relax as you reach your edge. Then, start to stretch your right leg forward. As your right knee straightens, begin to extend your back leg and sink toward the floor, making sure your right knee is pointing straight at the ceiling. If you can descend all the way to the floor, reach your arms up to the ceiling. Stay in the pose 30 seconds to one minute and release by turning your front knee out slightly and bending both legs in to your starting position. Switch legs and repeat on your other side.

 

A regular yoga practice not only invites but demands introspection. You begin to understand the difference between the discomfort that often comes before a breakthrough and the pain of pushing your body to a place it is not prepared to go to yet. It’s an easy leap to apply that same thinking to eating. You can start to feel the dynamic benefits of eating fresh, beautifully colored food filled with nutrients. That energy becomes part of you. You can also feel how over-eating, under-eating and empty-calorie eating depletes you and leaves you slowed down, fuzzy and maybe even depressed. Feeling good is an easy habit to maintain. It allows you to enjoy your food, enjoy your body and grow toward your full potential. That’s something no diet, pills or surgery can ever do. So strike a pose and celebrate a healthier you!

 

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Tags: Yoga for weight loss, Mindful eating, yoga to promote healthy eating habits

Yoga Poses to trim Belly Fat

Posted on Fri, Aug 05, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cat Cow Pose - Marjarasana

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

Technique:

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

Benefits:

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

Cobra Pose - Bhujangasana 

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

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

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

Boat Pose (Navasana)

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

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

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

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose 

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

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

 

The Stomach Lift, Abdominal Lift (Uddyiana Bandha)

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

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

Benefits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

  7. It develops spiritual force.

Uddyiana Bandha, intestional lift, yoga pose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

yoga and weight loss

Posted on Tue, Mar 22, 2011

Guess What!   Sunday finally marked Spring equinox, the first day of Spring.  The days are getting longer, its getting warmer outside, and flowers are blooming everywhere. 

Time to lose the infamous fall and winter fluff, and whip that butt into summer shape. Yoga can help.

When you regularly do yoga your body benefits by becoming stronger, flexible, toned, and cleansed.  Your mind benefits from the stress reduction, healthy happy endorphins, and an overall sense of well being. 

None of you were born yesterday and know that you must eat a healthy, balanced diet in conjunction with any exercise plan that gets the heart pumping to lose weight.  Studies have shown individuals who practice yoga regularly are more inclined to have a healthy diet and lifestyle. 

Your goals, minus your doubts, equal your reality.  Ralph Marston
yoga, beach, wight loss, health

If you would like to see results fast, we recommend adding cardiovascular activities such as walking, jogging, swimming, surfing, cart wheels in an open field... ect.  In addition to practicing three 90 min yoga class a week.

Vinyasa or flow yoga is awesome to get the heart pumping.  This style has a series of sun salutations with different modifications throughout the class.  The more the heart pumps, the hotter the body gets, the more you sweat.  YogaPaws are the perfect solution to keep you locked in place as the body heats up.

Power Yoga has become extremely popular by leaving its practicitioners panting, drenched in sweat, and begging for more. This style offers a vigorous cardiovascular workout best suited with YogaPaws. You can push through your limits and move deeper into each pose without the worry of slipping. 

Hot Yoga is basically vinyasa yoga done in a hot room usually maintained at a temperature of 95-100 degrees. Once the class is complete all the practitioner look like they just jumped out of a pool with their yoga gear on. The high heat, profuse sweating, and increased body heat allows the body to be more flexible and purge toxins from the buckets of sweat you are sure to release. YogaPaws are the perfect accessory for hot yoga.  The reason is when we sweat all the lotions, soaps, oils, dirt, ect come up and out of the pores from within your hands and feet.  This can make the yoga mat or towel a slippery place in conjunction with copious amounts of sweat.  YogaPaws keep you solid and avoid the worry of slipping all together.

"Living a healthy lifestyle will only deprive you of poor health, lethargy, and fat." -Jill Johnson

 

To the best feeling spring and summer yet.  You are capable, worthy, and supported.

 

Love and Light

YogaPaws

JG

Tags: Yoga for weight loss, vinyasa yoga, hot yoga, power yoga

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