Sunday, December 6, 2015

4 Holiday Poses 4 You!

Are you rushing around getting ready for the holiday season?  Remember give your body and mind some loving and forgiving energy too.  By taking small breaks you will rejuvenate your energy and improve your focus.  Here are 4 holiday-themed poses for you to consider.  Only try the harder ones if you feel comfortable with them or have help from an instructor.  Always listen to your body and breathe deeply.  Enjoy and Happy December!

1.  Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Technically, Uttanasana is a Forward Fold, where you keep your back straight and your chest slightly open while folding forward from the hips.  But during the holidays, why not go easy on yourself?  Simply bend forward like a big candy cane and let the back side of your body open.  Shake your head yes & no to relieve tension in your neck.  Bend your knees a little.  Maybe grab opposite elbows.   Let the heaviness of your head pull your spine long.  Rock forward on your toes a little to increase the stretch to your hamstrings.  Breathe deeply and luxuriate.

2.  Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

This classic yoga pose is a favorite for kids from 1 to 92.  Although it’s been said many times, many ways, Tree Pose is wonderful for balance, strength and focus.  It’s a great hip opener too.  Begin by standing in Mountain Pose.  Shift your weight to one foot and feel as if roots are helping you balance.  Place the bottom of your other foot on your standing leg, above or below your knee.  Bring your hands together in front of your heart or lift them wide over your head like the branches of a tree.  Focus on one spot and let your branches sway gently in the wind.

3.  Plow (Halasana)

This asana resembles more of an old-style farm plow than a modern-day snow plow, but for the holidays we can stretch our imaginations a little further.  Lay on your back.  Breathe in and lift your feet toward the sky then breathe out and bring them over your head.  If your toes don’t touch the ground behind you, put your hands on your back for support.  If you can touch, push your toes down like a plow pushing snow.  Bend your knees if it feels nice.  Breathe deeply and relax.  Finish by gently rolling to the floor, keeping your head on the ground.

4. Candlestick (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Can you say “Abs”?  Candlestick, formally known as Shoulder Stand, is a great workout for your abdominals.  From Plow Pose, bend your elbows and place your palms on your lower back for support.  Lift your feet straight up into the air like a candlestick.  Wiggle your toes like a dancing candle flame. IMPORTANT:  Do NOT turn your head in this pose!  Look straight up at your nose or toes.  Take at least 3 deep breaths.  Go back into Plow Pose before rolling slowly to the floor.

We hope these festive drawings and yoga pose ideas will lift your spirits and bring a smile to your face.  This Holiday season, may the love in your heart conquer all fear. May we all, in our own small ways and lovingly toward one another, contribute to humanity’s collective goal of Peace on Earth. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

4 Thankful Yoga Poses

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we are reminded to reflect on what we are grateful for.  Even when world events are so horrific and frightening, we can choose to focus on the beautiful things in life to help generate more love on the planet.  From family and friends, to health and modern comforts, to the air we breathe and the wonders of nature – there is so much for which we can be grateful.  What are you thankful for?  Here are 4 thankful poses from Yoga Teddy Bear to help generate love, humility and gratitude.

1.  Standing Star Pose (Utthita Tadasana)
In Sanskrit, this pose translates as “Extended Mountain Pose.” Standing Star both grounds you in the earth like a powerful mountain while it opens up the whole front side of your body.  It allows you to open up your heart to create space for forgiveness and healing.  Stand with your legs wide apart and your feet firmly planted.   Stretch your arms wide to the sides or up toward the sky.  Make yourself look like a big letter “X”.  Breathe slowly and contemplate that you are a shining star, and that you are actually made of stardust.  Tilt your head back gently to look at the sky.  Inhale deeply and reach your arms as wide as you can, then exhale completely and let your shoulders relax. 

2.  Humble Warrior. (Baddha Virabhadrasana)
Humility is a trait even the most advanced warrior must master.   In the face of the enormity of the Universe, we are smaller than a grain of sand in the vast ocean.  To do this asana, take a big step forward.  Bend your front knee so you can see your toes.  Turn your back heel down while keeping your hips facing forward.  This is the Warrior Pose stance.  Next reach behind your back and grab opposite elbows or clasp your hands together.  Breathe in and lift your hands or elbows toward the sky.  Breathe out and humbly fold forward as if you are bowing toward the earth.   Breathe deeply as you contemplate eternity, letting it bring clarity and put day-to-day problems into perspective.

3.  Sandwich Pose. (Paschimottanasana)
Food is something we frequently take for granted.  How often do you eat while driving, or gulp down a quick snack while rushing to the next appointment?  Food and water sustain us and give our body energy. The Earth is unbelievably abundant and fundamentally worthy of our gratitude.  To practice this seated forward fold, sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you.  Bend your knees until you can grab your feet and see if you can rest your body on your legs. Wiggle your tail back until your legs get as straight as they will go.  Your body is folded in half like a big sandwich.  Let your head hang gently and breathe deeply.

4.  Child’s Pose. (Balasana)
Child’s Pose is a safe and comfortable place for contemplation and relaxation. Sit on your heels. Fold your body forward and rest your belly on your legs.  Your knees can be together or apart.  Turn your head to one side or press your forehead to the floor.  Relax your arms by your side or stretch them out in front of you.  Breathe deeply and connect with the kid inside you.  Consider three things for which you are grateful.

I am grateful for my teachers, for yoga and for all the benefits it brings.  Yoga has made me more flexible in my life, not just in my body.  It has taught me to slow down and breathe.  It has helped me cope with stress.  Finally, I am thankful to be able to share yoga with the world through teaching and through my character, Yoga Teddy Bear.  Thank you for being a part of the Yoga Teddy Bear family!