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.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

May Flowers - Four Poses

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May is a time of abundance and new birth, a time to appreciate and commemorate mothers and motherhood, a time to stop and smell the flowers and buds blooming all around us. In honor of the month of May, we present four yoga poses named for flowers.

1. Lotus (Padmasana)
Sit on the floor and cross your legs. Breathe in. Breathe out. When your hips begin to relax, switch legs for an equal amount of time. When you’re warmed up, try to place your feet on your thighs by your hips. Sit up tall so the top of your head reaches toward the sky. Bring your hands together in front of your heart or rest them on your legs with your palms up or down. Relax here, then spend an equal amount of time with the other leg on top.

2. Flowering Lotus (Vikasitakamalasana)
Unwind from Lotus Pose. Bend your knees and hold the backs of your thighs. Sit up super tall and try to lift your feet up but don’t rock the boat backwards in Boat Pose (Navasana.) 
Gently bring the soles of your feet together. Thread your arms under your knees. Open your palms to the sky like a flower opening to the sun. Your body looks like a lotus flower floating on the water. Breathe deeply, focus on one point, and see how long you can balance.

3. Garland Pose (Malasana)
Stand up and take a few deep breaths. Slowly and with control squat down. See if you can keep your heels on the floor and your back straight. It’s also OK to let your heels lift if necessary for balance. Place your palms together in front of you and press your elbows and knees together. If you feel balanced, try bringing your palms together behind your back. Other arm variations are to stretch your arms out in front, to the sides or over your head.  Breathe deeply, and on an exhale, stand up.

4. Bird of Paradise Pose (Svarga Dvidasana) L/R
Bird of Paradise is a challenging pose, but if your balance is good, it’s easier than it looks. After you’ve rested your legs, take a big step forward into a lunge. Bend your front knee so you can see your toes. Stretch your back leg straight behind you. Reach inside and under your bent leg with the same side 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.  Once you’re balanced, straighten your bound leg slowly like an opening flower. Balance & breathe before trying the other side.

May you enjoy the abundance of spring and appreciate all the mothers in your life, including Mother Earth. Breathe deeply… and smell the flowers! Namaste.

Images: Photos of K. Mae Copham by Robert Oakley.Coloring page from Yoga Teddy Bear’s Big Little Coloring Book of 108 Yoga Poses colored by Miss Michele Palumbo, Bay Shore, NY. Enter our coloring contest to win prizes. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Happy Earth Day!

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April 22 is Earth Day. It’s a day to take a little time to breathe deeply and notice everything around you in the physical world. The surprising beauty of nature, the wonder of the sun and the stars, the songs of birds and the buds on the trees awakening in spring. It’s easy to forget that even the man-made world originates completely in nature. Yes, even our skyscrapers and cell phones come from Earth.

Honor Earth this week by finding a place to connect to the ground beneath you. If possible, put your bare feet on grass or dirt. Then sit down with your legs stretched out in front of you. Inhale and make yourself taller by lifting the top of your head toward the sky. Feel as if the energy from your spine continues to move down through the dirt to the center of the planet. Focus on a point in the distance and soften your eyes. 

Move into Seated Wide Angle Pose (Samakonasana or “the splits.”) Spread your legs as wide as you can. Flex your toes toward the sky. Use your hands to push yourself up tall. Keep your spine long as you slide your hands along the ground and lean forward. Stretch your arms out in front or reach out to hold your ankles. Let your back curl to rest your forehead or cradle your head in your hands if it feels nice. Breathe slowly and deeply, taking in all the smells and sounds around you.

To finish, lay on your back and look at the sky. Allow everything you see and feel to fill you as you are cradled by this incredibly abundant planet.

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Solid Foundations: Pyramid Pose

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Spring offers a happy reminder of impermanence. It’s a time to reflect that change is constant and the dark days of winter will pass. But even though nothing lasts forever, humans have managed to create structures that have lasted for four thousand years. These are the pyramids. Why do they stand so long? Because they are balanced. A structure that is widest at the bottom provides a sound foundation for stability. 

So too Intense Side Stretch (Parsvottanasana) also known as Pyramid Pose. By starting with a wide, solid stance for a foundation, the pose sets up a study base from which to open the back of our body. To practice Pyramid Pose, begin in Mountain Pose with your feet shoulder width apart. Step one foot forward so your stance is wide like a pyramid. Put your arms behind your back and grab opposite elbows, then breathe in and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Breathe out and fold forward with your back long and straight. 

Experiment with arm variations like reverse prayer (hands behind you with palms together) or simply keep your arms strong by your side. For more intensity release your hands and press your fingertips down on either side of your front foot, moving your forehead toward your knee. Flex your leg muscles and breathe. Hint: To help balance, press into the big toe of your front foot and the pinky toe side of your back foot. 

From Pyramid Pose you can step forward into a forward fold, launch into Warrior 3, or back out of the pose the same way you went into it. Don’t forget to switch sides by spending an equal amount of time with your other foot in front. Namaste!

Images:Photos of K. Mae Copham by Robert Oakley, Vail, CO.Coloring page from Yoga Teddy Bear’s Big Little Coloring Book of 108 Yoga Poses colored by Miss Michele Palumbo, Bay Shore, NY. Enter our coloring contest to win prizes. Miss Michele needs some competition!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Let the Wind Blow!

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The winds of March whisk in the month of spring. Wind is the essence of movement, and movement is the key to our health. Not just the movement of our breath and muscles, or even the movement of our emotional and spiritual growth. On an even more primitive level our physical health depends upon the daily movement inside our intestines that removes toxins from our body. Whether due to diet, hurriedness, inconvenience, cultural taboos or some other reason, this movement can often be challenging for many of us.

Yoga offers many poses that can “activate our wind” and facilitate our daily bowel movements. That’s why it’s not uncommon to hear the wind blow during a yoga class! Twists are a great way to get our intestines moving. So is getting upside down in a shoulder stand or headstand. But there’s an even easier pose that anyone can do to get things moving and even to soothe a tummy ache. It’s called “Apanasana” or Knees to Chest Pose. It’s such an effective pose that it has earned the nickname “Windy Pose.”

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To practice Windy Pose, lay on your back on the floor or in your bed. Lift one leg and hug your knee to your chest while keeping your other leg extended. Breathe deeply, then switch sides. Once your body and legs start waking up, hug both knees into your chest at the same time. If you are quiet enough, you too might hear the wind blow. If you relax deeply, you’ll eventually feel the happy relief of movement as well. What a great way to start your day, fresh and new like the beginning of spring. 

Images: Photos of K. Mae Copham by Robert Oakley. Coloring page from Yoga Teddy Bear’s Big Little Coloring Book of 108 Yoga Poses colored by Miss Michele Palumbo, Bay Shore, NY. Enter our coloring contest to win prizes!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Spring Forward

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As we turn the clock forward, we might ask ourselves how we too want to move forward in our lives. How do we begin to shift and create internal change? How do we spring forward with energy, vigor and a sense of the new? How do we transform ourselves into the person we dream of being, each moment, one thought at a time?

One way is to feel change in your body through visualizing a universal symbol of transformation. How does a crawling bug suddenly one day wrap itself in a dark shell and eventually emerge as a mystical flying fairy? If a bug can change, I can change too! Butterfly / Bound Angle Pose / Cobbler's Pose (Baddha Konasana) is a yoga pose for spring. It gently opens your hips – a place where most of us hold fearful emotions that can block our ability to transform.
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To practice Butterfly Pose, sit on the floor and clasp the soles of your feet together with your hands. Sit up tall and breathe in deeply. Breathe out and press your heels together. Notice how your knees naturally relax down. Now play with it. Incorporate movement. Softly flutter your legs like butterfly wings. This action will generate energy and blood flow in your knees and hips. Move your spine and body in time with your breath. Arch and curl your back, lift and tuck your chin, or bend and straighten your elbows. Breathe, breathe and breathe some more. Finish by bringing to mind one change you have already made for which you are grateful today. Remember, you get more of what you focus on! Namaste.