Monday, January 21, 2019

Happy Winter – with Yoga on Skis!

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These days, we see yoga being paired with all kinds of things. Not only are there traditional styles of yoga such as Ashtanga and Vinyasa, but here in the west people combine yoga with everything from weightlifting to wine to goats. Even though these yoga combinations sometimes seem silly, they still have the power to make you laugh, make you sweat or loosen you up – all of which are good things.

Since winter is upon us and some of us may be suffering from cabin fever, this week’s blog looks at combining yoga with a popular outdoor sport: skiing. Here is just one short sequence that can be practiced on skis, but there are many more you might dream up using skis, snowboards, snowshoes, sleds or moon boots.

Begin by standing on a flat surface with your skis on. Bring your hands behind you to support your lower back with your fingers pointing upward in a standing Camel Pose (Ustrasana). Lift your chest skyward and inhale deeply. Bend forward on your exhale, running your hands down the backs of your legs and bending your knees slightly in a Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana). Breathe in as you walk your hands forward to your ski tips, then breath out in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Inhale deeply. Exhale and walk your hands back to your feet lifting your hands into Chair Pose (Utkatasana). Chair pose on skis is great because you can shift your weight to your heels without feeling like you’ll fall backwards. From here you can twist your chair pose into a Revolved Chair Pose (Parivttra Utkatasana). 

Whatever you do to incorporate yoga into your daily life, by keeping your practice light and playful you'll naturally be encouraged to practice more. Stay warm and see you on the slopes!

Video of K. Mae Copham by Robert Oakley, shot in Vail, CO December 2018. Image of Yoga Teddy Bear Upward Facing Dog from Yoga Teddy Bear’s Big Little Coloring Book of 108 Poses, colored by VYSHU.N.N, 4 years old, India. Enter our coloring contest to win prizes!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

A Short Routine for Self-Care this Holiday Season

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The holidays mean many things for each of us. It can be a time of both togetherness and reflection. It can be stressful, it might be joyful, or maybe it’s both. The days are short and dark, yet decorations and holiday cheer can be seen everywhere. Some of us may be mourning the loss of a loved one while others rejoice with a new baby’s first Christmas. Wherever you are, it is ever important to take care of yourself and spend time nurturing your body, mind and soul. 

Take a few minutes in the morning just for yourself. Try stringing together two yoga poses which fit together nicely: Legs up the Wall (Viparita Karani) and Candlestick / Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sarvaganasana). Viparita Karani is a restorative pose that gives you time for quiet reflection, while Shoulder Stand activates your brain and jump starts your digestion for the day. Begin on the floor next to a wall. Roll onto your back, then spin on the floor so your legs are up in the air resting on the wall. Stretch your arms out wide at your sides or place them on your tummy to feel yourself breathing deeply. Close your eyes and follow your breath for at least 10 long, deep cycles.

When you are ready to wake up and start moving, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the wall. Press through your feet to lift your hips off the ground. Bend your elbows and place your palms on your lower back for support. Breathe in and lift one foot at a time into the air. Look directly up at your toes while you engage your core to make your body as vertical as possible, like a candlestick. For safety, never turn your head from side to side due to the pressure on your neck vertebra. Take at least 3 deep breaths before pressing your feet on the wall and lowering back into Viparita Karani. 

Happy Holidays and may 2019 be a year of happiness, health, peace and prosperity for you and your loved ones.

Images: Happy Holidays Candlestick Pose by K. Mae Copham. Video of K. Mae Copham demonstrating Legs Up The Wall to Shoulder Stand by Robert Oakley. Turks & Caicos, December 2018.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Boo! Use Yoga to Manage Fear

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On Halloween, lots of kids and some grown-ups get pretty excited to dress up in costume. For the kids, the impetus is not only the sugar fix but the thrill of pretending to be a princess, a superhero, a creature. For adults, donning a costume may have many layers of meaning. Beyond pretending to be someone else, we might create a metaphorical costume, a funny joke or a play on words. Or we may subtly face deep-seated fears and grapple with concepts of pain or death through more frightening costumes like monsters, ghosts, mummies, vampires and zombies. 

Yoga can also be approached as a way of role-playing or embodying other creatures, objects and ideas, and especially of facing fears through the use of our bodies, minds and breath. Some of the best yoga teachers use vivid imagery to lead a class, and may invite practitioners to wag their tail like a dog, root their foot like a tree, or curl up in their shell like a turtle. There are a few creepy crawly yoga poses you could play with this Halloween week: Cobra, Lizard, Scorpion and Frog pose come to mind.  

Most of us can agree that a great yoga class must always end in death – that is, with Savasana or Corpse Pose. Is it possible that just as Savasana helps us integrate and intuitively understand a yoga class in our bodies, breath work and self awareness will help us integrate and understand the more painful aspects of life? Practice Savasana with that thought in mind. Lay comfortably on your back. Let your arms and legs lie wherever they happen to land. Separate your teeth. Release your jaw. Let your eyes feel heavy in your eye sockets. Relax your forehead. Focus on your slow, deep breath. If pain or fear arise, return to the consistency of your breath, the rise and fall of your belly.

Costumes are just play. But life is real. Use your breath to be present for it, and use yoga to help train for the scary parts of it. When spooky thoughts invade the mind, the practice of yoga can help calm it. Happy Halloween!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Fall Down, Get Back Up

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We’ve all heard the old adage: if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. This is as true in life as in yoga. Practice when we aren’t perfect is the key to success. But even more important than success is to have fun while we practice. When we smile and giggle a little at ourselves, we can be less serious and simply experience the joy of moving our bodies.

Everyone is challenged by different poses in yoga. One person’s easy Pigeon Pose is another person’s albatross. The point is to find your edge, and go there with curiosity and playfulness. When you practice, you stretch and grow. Making it a chore or approaching it with too much seriousness can not only negatively affect your desire to practice, it could derail you and thwart your growth. Fall down, laugh, get back up. Savor the process.

In this video I practice Bird of Paradise Pose (Svarga Dvidasana) on the beach. I fall down and get back up more than a few times. To try this usually elegant balancing pose, begin in Warrior 2.  Reach inside and under your bent leg with your front arm, then reach the other arm behind you and clasp hands. Step your back foot forward into a squat and shift your weight to it. Breathe in and focus on one point. Breathe out and slowly stand up.  Straighten your bound leg slowly like an opening flower. Balance & breathe.  See if you can come out of the pose the same way you came in. Be sure to practice on both sides.

Happy Practicing! Namaste.

Video of Yoga Teddy Bear creator K. Mae Copham at Fire Island Pines by Robin Rice 2018. Bird of Paradise Pose coloring page from Yoga Teddy Bear & Friends Coloring Book. Get your coloring books, Yoga Teddy Bear swag and special offers here!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Turn your world upside down

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4 steps to mastering a headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)

There are many ways of changing your perspective, most of which occur inside our own heads. An actual headstand is one of the more fun ways to physically get upside down, momentarily change our view of the world and get the blood flowing to our brains. Doing a headstand isn’t as daunting as it seems. For the best results, break it down into these four steps. 

1. Practice summersaults. Summersaults themselves are a great way to tap into playfulness and get your energy flowing. It’s something most kids do naturally, but something we may be intimidated by later if we don’t practice it. Pick a soft spot to practice summersaults.

2. Headstand pike with one leg up at a time. Create a tripod by placing both hands and your head on the floor. Find your balance as you inhale to lift one leg into the air, exhale to place it back on the floor. Repeat with the other leg. Rather than kick, feel your weight shifting to the top of your head.

3. Get your back against the wall. Create a tripod with the back of your head against a wall. From here you can try a teddy bear headstand by climbing up onto your bent elbows. Lift one foot off the ground, then the other. Breathe and balance. 

4. Try your headstand on a soft surface. Practice on a sandy beach, in the grass, or in front of a thick gym mat. Be prepared to tuck into your summersault if you feel yourself begin to tip backwards.

If you’ve never tried a headstand at all, ask a trusted yoga teacher for help first. If you already practice headstand, strengthen your core by going into and out of it with control from Prasarita Padotanasana (Wide Angle Forward Fold) See this video as an example. Enjoy changing your perspective. Namaste!

Image: K. Mae Copham in headstand in Vail, CO. Photo by Robert Oakley. Headstand video by K. Mae Copham, shot by Robert Oakley at Bridgehampton, NY. Get your Yoga Teddy Bear swag today! Makes great gifts for kids ages 2-92. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

How to Do the Ultimate Twist

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There are many yoga twists that help detoxify your internal organs and keep your spine supple and flexible. There is one twist in particular that fully rotates your spine from top to bottom. Best yet, this pose uses gravity to accomplish this feat.  Parivrtta Virabhadrasana (Revolved Warrior, otherwise known as Fallen Warrior) is a unique pose to incorporate into your flow, or a cool way to wind down your practice before Sivasana.

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Yoga Teddy Bear creator K. Mae Copham shows the steps to get into and out of Fallen Warrior in a video on the Yoga Teddy Bear YouTube channel. To try it, begin in Downward Dog. Lift one leg up, then bring your knee toward your opposite elbow and kick your leg out to the side. Slide your feet apart in an “L” shape and lower to your hip. Bend your elbows and bring your belly and chin to the ground with your arms stretched out to your sides. Your leg is under your body. Keep your chest flat on the floor and turn your head to look away from your outstretched leg. Relax for a while before you press up to your arms and reverse the steps to come out of the pose. 

Special thanks to Robert Oakley for shooting our short how-to video. Happy 4thof July, U.S.A.! Namaste.

Images: Fallen Warrior Coloring Page by coloring superstar Miss Michele Palumbo of Bay Shore, NY, from Yoga Teddy Bear's Big Little Coloring Book of 108 Poses. On sale now with free shipping! Add a cuddly Plush Teddy Bear for only $12. Photo by Robert Oakley of a young Yoga Teddy Bear practitioner in Fallen Warrior. Video of K. Mae Copham demonstrating Fallen Warrior by Robert Oakley. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Let's Try Scorpion Pose!

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I did my first Scorpion Pose (Pincha Mayurasana) at age 49. Technically, it's an arm stand because I don't incorporate the big backbend and my feet definitely don't even come close to touching my head! But the point is, arm stands can be learned by anyone at any age! Getting upside down has so many benefits: blood flow to the brain, strengthening arms and core, and my personal favorite, changing your perspective.

How did I overcome my fear and conquer arm stands? I tell the whole story here at Sivana East. Spoiler alert: no that is not me on the header image!

And for all those who follow this blog or the Yoga Teddy Bear YouTube channel, I made a little video showing my learning process, from a short warm up to summersaulting out of an arm stand attempt. Here is the link to the new post. (Or keep scrolling to the bottom of this post.)

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Since we're required to mention this in our communications, just let me say that Yoga Teddy Bear does not share your information with anyone, and you are free to unsubscribe at any time. Thanks for your interest in the Yoga Teddy Bear project!

Images: Scorpion Coloring Page by coloring superstar Miss Michele Palumbo of Bay Shore, NY. Photo by Robert Oakley of K. Mae Copham in an arm stand next to a pond in New Paltz, NY.