Monday, February 20, 2017

Presidents Day Pose: Warrior 2

Happy President's Day!  Today we honor George Washington, Abe Lincoln and all past presidents of our great nation.  From the mountains to the prairies, from sea to shining sea, we celebrate the fact that we are able to speak our opinions and beliefs freely and hold our leaders accountable for their actions.  Let us never take for granted the wisdom of our democracy which allows us the opportunity to elect a new POTUS every four years.  

The Pose:
Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana B).  It is fitting today to emulate the stance of the Warrior.  By reflecting in our bodies what we feel in our minds, we reinforce our intentions.  My intention this year is to stand firm in my beliefs and be willing to fight for what is right.  The best weapon of all?  Love!

To practice Warrior 2, take a big step forward.  Bend your front knee so you can see your toes.  Turn your back heel down and turn your hips and shoulders to the side.  This is the stance of the warrior who is ready to react.  Stretch your front arm forward over your bent knee and pull the back arm behind you slowly as if drawing an arrow of love.  Your arms find a straight line with your palms facing down to draw energy from the earth.  Look over your front hand with eyes of focused determination.  Pull your belly button in and lengthen your spine to make yourself taller. Breathe deeply and surf the waves of change with the ease of a powerful warrior.  

Stay in Virabhadrasana B for 5-10 long deep breaths, then step out for one full breath before repeating the steps on the other side for the same amount of time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day: Open Your Heart with Camel Pose (Ustrasana)

It’s so easy to close our hearts, both emotionally and physically. (Are they really that separate?)  Every day we are bombarded with negative messages.  Intolerance and greed seem to permeate the political and psychic landscape.  Most days it seems like all the news is bad news and sad news. 

Yet amid it all, love prevails.  The sun still shines, the birds still sing, and people are often kind to one another.  There are many yoga poses that help us tune into what’s beautiful by physically opening the heart area.  One of the classics is Camel Pose. This pose feels so good because it counters the tendency to hunch forward.   By opening the intercostal muscles of the chest – in other words stretching apart the bones in the upper front rib cage – you can positively affect your perception.  Add an affirmation, such as “I love and approve of myself” or “I am open to love” to create a love feedback loop in your mind.

To practice Camel Pose (Ustrasana), begin in one of three ways: kneeling, standing or even sitting in a chair, which is a great way to take a micro-break at work.  Align your feet, hips and ankles.  If seated, keep your feet flat on the ground under your knees.  If kneeling, your toes can be tucked or untucked.

Support your lower back with your hands.  Place your palms on the small of your back with your fingers facing downward or upward.  If seated you can grab the sides of your chair for leverage.  Inhale and lift your chest upward.  Tuck your chin or tilt your head back.  Press your hands on your lower back for support.  If you’re standing up, flex the thighs toward the back.  Keep your hips over your knees.  

If you’re kneeling, release your hands and reach toward your feet.  Grab your heels if available, but keep lifting your chest skyward.  Lift your chest with each inhale as you breathe slowly in and out.  Speak your affirmation and allow your heart to open to all the beautiful things in the world. 

After 5-10 deliberate breaths, tuck your chin and come out of the pose the same way you came in.  Press your palms into your lower back for support and come back up slowly. 

P.S. If you like teddy bears, you won't want to miss today's special.  VALENTINE'S DAY ONLY!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Magical Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar A)

SuryaNamaskar A, the classic Sun Salutation yoga sequence, is the perfect way to start your day, warm up for your yoga practice, or take a break to gather your focus.  By pairing each movement with a breath, you’ll get your heart pumping and your blood flowing while you gently warm up your joints – and your mind. 

Here’s the classic sequence:

1.  Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana).  Stand with your feet rooted in the earth like a mountain.  Tuck your tail a little and pull in your belly button.  Flex your arms downward and spread your fingers.  Take a deep breath to start then exhale completely.

2.  Upward Hands (Urdhva Hastasana). Breathe in while you lift your arms up and over your head.  Reach toward the sun like you are making your body taller. Relax your shoulders. 

3.  Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana). Breathe out and swan dive to the floor. Let your head hang and lengthen your spine.  Place your hands on the floor if you can.  It’s OK to bend your knees if it feels good!

4.  Tabletop / Horizon / Half Standing Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana).  Breathe in and make your back flat like a tabletop. Look out over the horizon.  Reach your heart forward as you gently squeeze your shoulder blades together.  Let your arms hang or put your hands on your shins or thighs.

5. Push Down (Chattaranga Dandasana). Place your hands flat on the floor.  Breathe out, step back to plank and lower to the floor.  Or you can jump both feet back at once to lower to the ground with your exhale in one fluid movement. Keep your hands under your shoulders and your elbows close to your sides.

6.  Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Svanasana). Breathe in and push into your hands to lift your chin, chest, and knees off the ground.  Only your hands and feet touch the floor.  Your body should be curved like a ski jump.

7.  Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).  Tuck your toes under, then breathe out and push your tail back and upward.  Move your heels toward the ground and push the floor away with your hands.  You should look like a big upside down letter “V”.  Let your head hang. 

8.  Tabletop / Horizon / Half Standing Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana).  Look between your hands, then jump or step your feet there.  Breathe in and make your back flat like a tabletop.  Look out over the horizon. 

9.  Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana). Breathe out and lengthen your spine.  Let your hands hang or place them on the floor.

10.  Upward Hands (Urdhva Hastasana). Breathe in fully as you swan dive your arms back up and over your head.  Make your body taller or add a gentle backbend.

Exhale back to Mountain Pose (1) to finish, or keep going.  Do a single salutation or 10 slow salutations.  Explore pausing in Downward Facing Dog taking two extra deep breaths or pedaling your feet.  Try 20 or 50 rapid salutations to vary your routine. Count to 10 to monitor your breathing and keep your mind focused, or repeat your favorite Sanskrit mantra or English affirmation.  Use the Yoga Teddy Bear Sun Salutation Infographic to help you remember this creative and invigorating sequence.

This video of me doing the Sun Salutation in gorgeous Vail, CO to the voice of Yoga Teddy Bear can help you with the Sanskrit names of these popular poses as well as assist you with the breathing rhythm of the flow.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Pose of the Week: Crab Pose/ Reverse Table (Catuspadapitham / Ardha Purvottanasana)

I love to practice Ardha Purvottanasana in wintertime because it gently stretches open the chest and shoulders.  When it’s cold we tend to hunch forward, protecting our core heat against the bitter elements.  Try this gentle pose as a counter-movement to working online, and also as a basic abdominal strengthening exercise.

Start seated with your knees bent and your hands on the floor at your sides with your fingers pointed toward your feet.  Press your hips up high so that you don’t see your knees any more.  Drop your head back, look up at the stars or look forward.  Discover which option feels best for your neck as a way to more deeply connect with your own body.

Breathe deeply.  If you feel strong and confident, you can extend your legs (straighten your knees) for a “Reverse Plank” challenge.  If you’re feeling playful or practicing this fun yoga pose with a child, try walking sideways like a crab!  As you breathe, add this self-strengthening mantra: “I love and approve of myself.”  All is well.