Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year from Yoga Teddy Bear!

"There is a fountain inside you. Don't walk around with an empty bucket."-Rumi

Happy New Year! Every year, we make resolutions. We "resolve" to do something differently. To set our resolve is to keep trying over and over, to never give up even when we fail. This year, boost your resolve by reconnecting with your internal fountain. Avoid the temptation to believe your bucket is empty. 

When your resolve wavers and your energy flails, use Lion's Breath (Simhasana) to generate heat and excitement. This playful pose is also very powerful. In it you take the shape of a gargoyle, a protector - often depicted with a fountain flowing from her mouth. Sit on the floor with your legs folded underneath you or sit in a chair if you prefer. Place your hands on your thighs. Look up at the sky or at the tip of your nose. Lift the top of your head, extend your elbows and spread your fingers wide like a lion’s paw. Breathe in through your nose to the bottom of your lungs. Open your mouth and stick out your tongue, exhaling powerfully with a soft roar. Practice Simhasana 3-5 times, inhaling deeply and exhaling completely. 

Resolutions can be like to-do lists. We focus on what's left to be done, what's being done incorrectly, our shortcomings, our lack. We focus on our empty bucket. If you're a resolution maker, try something different this year. Focus instead on your fountain and on everything that is flowing in your life. Let your fountain flow in 2018!

Yoga Teddy Bear's "Lion's Breath", from the orange coloring book Yoga Teddy Bear and Friends Too (this one has matching stickers too!), colored by an Anonymous Yoga Teddy Bear fan. K. Mae Copham practices Simhasana in front of the fireplace in New Paltz, NY. Photo by Robert Oakley.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas!

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Yoga Teddy Bear dressed up in Christmas clothes from Sara in New York. She says: "Yoga Teddy Bear is my son's favorite stuffed animal. He sleeps with him every night! We dressed him up for Christmas so I had to send you a picture."

Merry Christmas! In the story of Christmas, the arrival of baby Jesus was heralded by a star in the sky. The wise men used the star to navigate their way to the new king. Likewise sailors have been navigating by the stars for years. Without a compass, stars can orient us.

We ourselves are made of stardust, so it's no surprise that we each have our own internal navigation system. It's called intuition. But it's not always easy to listen to it. It takes guts (and a quiet mind) to follow your guts. The yoga pose Standing Star (Utthita Tadasana) offers a wonderful way to embody the shining star within and open your heart to the process of life.

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Photo of K. Mae Copham in Vail, CO by Robert Oakley. 

“En-courage yourself today…” - Stephanie Bennett Vogt, A Year to Clear What is Holding You Back!

To practice Standing Star begin with your legs wide apart and your feet firmly grounded. Stretch your arms and fingers wide. Lift your chin and squeeze your shoulder blades together to open your heart region even more. Close your eyes and imagine you are a glimmering star in the sky. Breathe deeply and let it all in. Surrender, allow, listen.

The word courage comes from the French word "coeur" which means heart. En-courage yourself this Christmas. Give yourself the gift of following your own heart, your internal fire, the light that shines within you. Namaste.

The 5 Yoga Poses You Can Do On Skis (From A Champion Skier)

SHOP: Yoga Teddy Bear 12” Limited Edition Plush in Standing Star Pose

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Why Tree Pose is the Most Popular Pose

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Kids love it.  It’s the first pose most people strike when they hear the word “yoga”.  It even enjoys its own special day of the week complete with hashtag (#TreePoseTuesday.)  Tree Pose strengthens your legs, flexes your angles, and lengthens your spine.  Most importantly, Tree Pose maintains and improves your balance. And the best thing about Tree Pose is almost anyone can do it.

B. K. S. Iyengar’s legendary “Light on Yoga” progression features Tree Pose as #2 in a series of 200 progressively difficult poses.  It’s second only to Mountain Pose, or active standing.  So if you can stand up, can probably do Tree Pose. This is why it’s difficult for little kids. They haven’t been standing that long.

As we age, standing and balancing can become increasingly difficult. But by standing on one foot for just one minute (30 seconds per day per foot), most adults will maintain a sense of balance throughout their life. It sounds like a preposterous claim, but try it for 30 seconds – if you’re younger than 7 and older than 70, it may not be so easy to balance on one foot for a whole 30 seconds. And because people are different, it may not be easy for you whatever your age is.

But like any goal worth pursuing, it might take a little effort to attain. Here is a simple progression for mastering The Most Popular Pose.

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1. Keep your feet on the ground. If balancing is a challenge for you, begin with your one foot firmly planted on the ground. Imagine you are a tree, with roots that reach down from the bottom of your foot into the earth. Tune into the sensation of your foot making contact with the ground. Lift the heel of your other foot so you are balancing on tiptoe.  Lift your arms up and spread them like the branches of a tree. Feel your sense of balance. 

Find a point straight ahead of you on which to focus your gaze. Perhaps use a clock with a second hand so you can time yourself. Lift your right toes off the floor so you are standing on one foot. Congratulations, you’re in Tree Pose! After 30 seconds, set your foot down and follow the same progression on you’re the other side.

2. Move your foot to your calf. Once you feel confident standing on one foot, you can progress up the Tree Pose ladder. The next rung is putting the bottom of your foot on the inside of your leg at the calf. It is very important not to place your foot on your knee, as you risk the possibility of joint dislocation. Also important is to keep your toes pointing down or even slightly toward the back, not forward. This action will gently open your hips.

3. Move your foot to your thigh. If the first two levels were easy for you, reach down and grab your foot. Place your right heel at the root of your left thigh. See if you can hold your leg in place using your muscles and not your hands. It helps to wear shorts or non-slippery pants.  

Once you’ve freed your hands, place your palms together in front of your chest. Gently press them together to further engage your lateral balance. Or you can opt to keep your palms together and raise them overhead with your arms straight in a slightly more challenging version of Tree Pose.

4.  Set yourself free. Now play with it! Go in and out of a full Tree Pose without using your hands at all. Can you get your foot to your calf or your inner thigh without grabbing your foot? Can you move from another balancing pose, such as Half Moon or Eagle Pose to Tree Pose and back? These are all fun ways to improve your balance and your mastery of The Most Popular Pose. To stay balanced remember to spend equal amount of time on each side.

Tree Pose is a natural and foundational way to balance. I love to find my Tree Pose in unique settings like on rocks or logs. Just like anything, practice will result in improvement. Most importantly, whatever you do with your body should be fun. And as most kids will tell you, Tree Pose definitely makes the cut!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Find Your Balance

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There are more temptations than cookies and candy during the holiday season. Holiday stress and busyness can overwhelm us and knock us off balance. It’s tempting to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle and forget to return to center. During busy times it is more important than ever to find and maintain our sense of balance.

A fun pose to test your balance is Standing Hand to Extended Foot Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana) To practice this pose, warm up with a few Sun Salutations. Begin standing solidly in Mountain Pose. Firmly ground one foot and put that hand on your hip. Bend your other knee and raise your leg. Slide your hand down the inside of your bending leg to grab your big toe or foot. Lift your leg up and out first, then slowly bring it to the side. Focus on one point to stay grounded and steady. Most importantly, keep breathing! Be sure to practice on both sides.

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If you need a little help, simply reach for it. Try this pose with support by holding a chair or standing by a wall. It’s OK to fall out of balance as long as you stay safe. (Of course these ideas apply to life as well!) Peace, Love and Light to you and yours this Holiday Season.

Coloring Page by Miss Michele Palumbo, Bay Shore, NY. Enter our coloring contest today to win prizes! Photo by Robert Oakley: K. Mae Copham practices Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana in Vail, CO, September 2017. 

Need a reminder for how to practice Sun Salutation? See the flow here:

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Friday, December 1, 2017

We Are All Connected

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The Rig Veda is an ancient book of hymns to Lord Indra, the king of the gods in Indian mythology. In lesson 127 of the Daily Om online course “A Year to Clear What is Holding You Back!Stephanie Bennett Vogt notes that “’Indra's Net’ references the web of life that has at every juncture a jewel that reflects all other jewels – a useful metaphor for the interconnection of all life in the universe.”

The yoga pose Malasana comes from the word “mala,” which is a string of beads such as a rosary that is used in meditation. Also called “Garland Pose,” Malasana is a fearless hip-opening pose that improves your balance and re-connects you to the Earth – and to others. To practice Malasana, squat down keeping your heels on the ground and your back straight. Place your palms together in front of you in a gesture of gratitude. Press your elbows and inner legs against each other if it feels nice. Breathe deeply. To help balance, play with widening your stance, turning your toes out or lifting your heels. Find what feels right for you.

The holiday season is like a mala, a string of popcorn or a necklace of lights. We get an emotional lift when we connect and re-connect with other glittering lights in our circle: family, neighbors and friends both old and new. Vogt says it best in her summary of Indra’s Net: “Shine your light brightly today. When you bring up your vibration, you bring up everyone else's vibration with you.”

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Images: Malasana Pose from the blue coloring book “Yoga TeddyBear: Moons, Stars and Earthly Delights” colored by Alison Senior, Age 6. Photo of K. Mae Copham in Malsana by Robert Oakley, New Paltz, NY, summer 2015.