Schedule
Five Pillars Yoga

Posts Tagged ‘Balance’

Yoga 101: Balancing Postures to Practice Every Day

Although it seems like winter weather patterns will never end, spring is officially here. Seasonal change affects our bodies much like it affects the nature that surrounds us. Our bodies are incredibly adaptable as we transition from season to season. That said, you may discover that you experience the less than desirable effects of your body’s spring cleaning. As your body gets ready for spring and summer, you may experience uncomfortable congestion and stagnant energy.

As the weather begins to change, practicing balancing postures can support mental, emotional and physical alignment, keeping you healthy all year long!


All About Balancing Postures


Benefits:

  • Strengthens ankles, legs, thighs and abdomen
  • Stretches calves and hamstrings
  • Improves balance and coordination
  • Hones focus/attention/coordination

Contraindications:

  • Injury to low back
  • Injury to ankle or knee
  • Irregular blood pressure

Adaptations: 

  • Microbend your standing leg
  • Practice with the support of a chair or the wall
  • Use any props (blocks, straps, etc.) that support the posture

Practice these two balancing postures daily to support your body as we transition from the colder winter and early spring months to the warmer months of spring and summer.


1) Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon Pose)


Providing an incredible stretch and powerful muscle engagement, half-moon pose challenges you to focus your mind, pay attention to your breath, and stabilize and align your physical body. By steadying your breath and focusing your gaze, you will easily enter the present moment with a calm mind and a strong body.

Get Started: Begin with your right foot facing the front of the mat. Engage your standing leg. Ground your right hand down on the floor or a block. Lift the left leg parallel (or higher) with the floor, stacking your hips. Flex the left foot and reach back through your heal. The left arm can stay on your hip. Once you find balance, extend the arm up towards the sky, opening across the chest. Allow your shoulder blades to move down your back. Pause between sides to receive the benefits of the posture- then repeat on the other side.


2) Natarajasana (Lord of the Dancers Pose)


This powerful and challenging posture combines balance with backbend, expanding across the heart center and calling upon our deepest inner attention. You will receive all of the strengthening and focusing benefits of balancing while working against the compression of the spine and expanding your lung capacity.

Get Started: Begin with your right foot facing the front of the mat. Engage your standing leg. Lift the left foot towards the sitting bone and take hold of the inner foot/ankle. Encourage your knees to move together and your hips to square forward toward the top of the mat. Extend your right arm to the sky. Press you foot firmly into the hand to broaden across the chest and open your shoulders. With concentration, slowly extend your left foot and leg back and up, while simultaneously reaching your torso and right arm forward and up. Pause between sides to receive the benefits of the posture- then repeat on the other side.

If you’d like to discuss how best to attune to the season through yoga, we’re here to support you! Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns, or for an individual session.

Yoga 101: What To Eat Before Yoga Practice

Do you wonder what to eat before you practice yoga? After all, we are often twisting, strengthening, extending, and bending our bodies into many different shapes that have profound effects on our organs, including our stomach and digestive tract. This can lead us to avoid food before practice. However, we are often expending significant energy in class, which requires adequate nourishment. So what to do?


Deciding what to eat before yoga practice is highly personal. What works for someone else might not work for you. However, there are some general nutritional principles to consider.


1. Digestion 101:


Digestion time varies between individuals. To build maximum energy, consider eating healthy, balanced meal two to three hours before you practice yoga, which allows your body to be nourished and your stomach to be empty. If you are practicing first thing in the morning, try to allow at least 30 minutes to digest your food before you step onto your mat. When you are running short on time, consider eating a light snack that is easy to digest.

Although raw veggies are delicious and healthy, the fiber takes a lot of energy to break down and assimilate. To avoid gas and bloating, you may want to steer clear of high fiber foods such as cruciferous veggies and legumes (beans, lentils, peas) before you practice.

Most importantly, pay attention to your own experience so you can discover what works best for you.

Which foods nourish you and how much time do you need to enjoy your practice without bloating, gas, or a stomachache?

Short on time before class? Consider making our Favorite Green Smoothie, or enjoy a piece of fresh fruit. Have 10 minutes? Try our Summer Smoothie Bowl for complete nourishment!



2. Learn About Macronutrients:


There are six macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, fat, water, vitamins, and minerals.


1. Carbs include grains, starches, sweeteners, fruits, and veggies. They burn relatively quickly for fast energy.

2. Protein can be found in legumes, veggies, seeds, and animal products. Protein helps build and repair your muscles.

3. Fat comes from fruit, vegetables, seeds, and animal products. Fat takes the longest to digest and is essential for the functioning of your brain and heart.

4. Water is so important. After all, you are made of 60% water. Learn more about hydration: The Five Pillars of Water and Hydrate the Ayurvedic Way.

5. Vitamins are often thought of as small pills and tinctures at most grocery and drug stores, but they actually occur naturally in the food you eat. If you eat a balanced diet, your food likely contains the vitamins you need to stay healthy. The more colorful your fruits and veggies, the more vitamins they contain.

6. Minerals include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride and sulfur. Plus there are trace minerals such as iron and zinc. They are found in the foods we consume and keep the body in tip top shape. Want to make sure you are getting your minerals? Nuts, beans and lentils, and dark leafy greens are the foods containing the most minerals!


Why is this important? Digestion time varies based on the macronutrients you eat. Plus your body and energy responds differently to each macronutrient. Fat takes the longest time to digest, for example, while carbohydrates provide quick energy and easier digestion.


So what to do? Consider consuming a light, balanced meal of healthy carbohydrates and protein before you practice for optimal energy. Give yourself enough time to digest. Beyond comfort and ease in your belly, this way of eating will give you adequate energy to move through a yoga sequence. Plus nourishing your body before you practice will help tone and strengthen your muscles.

You can follow a practice with a healthy and balanced meal to help your muscles repair and your mind to focus throughout your day. A healthy post-asana practice meal includes a balance of all of the macronutrients.

As always, pay attention to your own experience. Which foods are easy to digest and give you adequate energy before you practice? And which foods make your body feel nourished after you practice?

3. Eat Real Food:


These days we can spend each meal dining from a package. However, protein shakes and energy bars are not real food. That said, they can be wonderful supplements to meals. A simple way to think about eating real food is to avoid foods that come in a package. Another simple consideration is to eat from the rainbow. See if you can eat as many colors in one meal as possible. The color in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple foods is indicative of vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting antioxidants.

4. Listen to Your Body:



Your body will lead you home, if only you slow down long enough to listen. Your body tells you when you are hungry and when you are thirsty. It may even tell you exactly what it wants to be eating. Plus your body lets you know when you are satisfied. Paying attention to the language and signals of your own body will become easier the more you practice yoga. The mind-body connection that we cultivate when we practice in yoga helps us off the mat and at the table. As we begin to tune in and listen, the signals of hunger and satisfaction coming from our bodies grow louder and clearer. Equally helpful, yoga helps to develop discernment, giving us the capacity to choose healthy foods that nourish our bodies, our minds, and our souls.


Although it is important to learn the basics of nutrition, it is equally important to develop body wisdom. Returning to the knowledge you knew when you were a child will lead you home to your healthiest self as an adult. Eat when you are hungry. And stop when you are satisfied. Then pay attention to how you feel during your practice and learn from your own, direct experience.