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Yoga Lab: Bird of Paradise

Over the past several weeks we’ve been building up to a peak pose, Svarga Dvijasana, or Bird of Paradise.

First we broke down Extended Side Angle, a challenging pose in its own right that opens the hips and inner groins — a must for what’s to come. After that we tackled binds, exploring deep shoulder opening and spinal flexibility. In addition to being a bound inner-groin opener, Bird of Paradise is a standing balancing posture. It really doesn’t get much more dynamic than this.

Our lovely Five Pillars teacher Erika Mehiel got in front of the camera to demo the transition from Bound Extended Side Angle, with both feet on the ground, to one-footed Svarga Dvijasana. Here’s how she does it:

A centered self, a steady gaze, a clear shifting of weight, and plenty of breath. These, as Erika points out, are totally key elements to rising up and staying steady.

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Also crucial? Retaining an open heart. Because we rise into this posture with a rounded back there’s a tendency to keep the lumbar spine puffed out and the shoulders hunched forward. More challenging in this shape than straightening the lifted leg is broadening the collarbones, supporting the low back with a strong belly and shining the heart up toward the ceiling.

Once upright, kiss the shoulder blades together around the spine and roll the shoulders back and down.

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Keep thinking about streaming the hipbone of the standing leg forward while working the outward rotation of the lifted leg. To increase your likelihood of effortlessly pointing the toes of that leg toward the ceiling,  dive into hamstring openers when you’re on the ground. Forward folds — seated or standing — and half or full Hanumanasana (a.k.a. The Splits) will all help you get there.

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Svarga Dvijasana is one of those poses that looks super impressive, but the final Ta-da! moment is the result of small steps, intentional preparation and steady practice.

 

Photos: Bound forward fold @laviebohemeyoga; bent leg variation from lifeesbella.tumblr; extended leg variation from yoga-life.com.au.

Moving with the Moon

The full moon in Aries this week rose on Saturday night and will stay big and bright in the sky through this evening. Known as a Perigee or Super Moon because of its proximity to earth — closer than most full moons — it’s also a Hunter’s Moon; rising 30 minutes earlier than usual, it keeps the sky lighter longer, a traditional boon for hunters.

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If you’re sensitive to the moon’s energy at all, this time of the month may bring on insomnia or unexpected feistiness. While new moon energy is about initiation and contemplation, the full moon is party time. Everything we’ve been cultivating or growing is illuminated; energetically speaking, it’s about looking outward and sharing your insights and gifts. If the new moon is palms face down — a sign of introspection and contained energy — the full moon is palms face up, a gesture of offering and receptivity both.

Surya Namaskar A is a sequence that gives love to the sun. It is dynamic, heat-building and balanced. Chandra Namaskar is the Moon Salute. It is watery, leisurely and works the body one side at a time through a series of lunges. A gentle hip-opener, Chandra Namaskar brings us into our second chakra, the energetic locus in the body at the base of the sacrum associated with fertility, creativity, sexuality, the color orange and the element of water. In other words, moon stuff.

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Chandra Namaskar

The moon takes roughly 30 days to complete a full cycle, from one new moon to the next. In a nod to the lunar calendar, this flow is fifteen poses long, one step for each tithi (lunar day) in the moon’s transformation from new to full.

  1. Tadasana, Mountain Pose

  2. Utthita Tadasana, Extended Mountain

  3. Uttanasana, Standing Forward Fold

  4. Low Lunge

  5. Adho Mukkha Svanasana, Downward Facing Dog

  6. Table

  7. Balasana, Child’s Pose

  8. Rise to kneel

  9. Devotional Balasana, arms overheard with palms together

  10. Urdhva Mukkha Svanasana, Upward Facing Dog

  11. Adho Mukkha Svanasana, Downward Facing Dog

  12. Low Lunge, second side

  13. Uttanasana

  14. Utthita Tadasana

  15. Tadasana

This sequence can be taken as many times as you like. Move slowly, breathe deeply and enjoy the moonlight, you party animals.

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Photos: Crescent lunge; full moon; Venus; Child’s Pose 

Yoga Lab: Twists + Binds

One of my favorite teachers calls the process of working up to certain poses “putting deposits in the bank of your practice.” A couple tentative hops here, a few ungraceful falls there, some solo time working with a spotter or the wall and suddenly, without even really trying, you find your hips over your shoulders, hovering for a moment in handstand.

I love this analogy. One because I have found it to be completely true in my own practice, and two because of the reminder that we do not step on the mat and — ta-da! — land in camera-ready yoga asanas (even yogi supe Christy Turlington, below, has a regular practice). Another favorite teacher posits that we should do what we need to on the mat to increase consciousness; in other words, modify poses as needed to stay fully present and engaged. How boring would yoga be if we did every pose perfectly, without effort or concentration, every time?

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This brings us to Bird of Paradise, a pose we are slowly working toward. A few weeks ago we broke down Utthita Parsvakonasana, a foundational pose for its upright sister, and today we take on twists and binds in preparation of going full Svarga Dvijasana.

Spinal Mobility

Healthy spine = healthy body. The spine moves in six directions and needs to explore all six of them to stay strong and supple. Twists are key for decompressing the vertebrae and keeping the discs between them hydrated. The more space and cushion between the vertebrae the less likely they are to harden or fuse.

Binds take twists to the next level. Think of Bound Seated Spinal Twist: The linking of the arms creates an organic container for the torso to move within; as the shoulders open the yogi can use herself like a pulley system, guiding her top arm down with the fingers of the opposite hand to deepen the twist even more.

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Binds are major shoulder openers. To prepare for Bird of Paradise or other bound poses, try a forward fold with your hands behind you and interlaced. Draw your wrists together for a deeper opening along the shoulder girdle and draw your hands over your head toward the floor in front of you.

Another great prep for binds? Gomukhasana arms. The shoulders are rotating in opposite directions, with the bottom shoulder in an inward rotation and the upper arm moving outward. Try it first with a strap then work toward joining the fingers together without sacrificing the heart opener.

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Energy Boost

It’s basically impossible to take a twist or a bind when slumping or slouching. In order to fully rotate, the spine needs to be super long; this lengthening action creates space between the vertebrae, creating a clear channel through which energy can flow and unblocking anything that might be stuck. As the spine elongates, the Central Nervous System perks up and the mind clears.

In a twisted bind, the shoulders rotate, the wrists revolve and the collarbones widen, creating a sky-facing heart opener. It just feels nice.

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Good Digestion

Twists and binds are widely touted as improving digestion and massaging our internal organs. While the internal organ massage piece is a bit controversial, the action of a twist — when properly executed from the base of the abdomen and spine and not from the shoulders and the neck — absolutely fires up and brings heat to the belly, a boon for toxin elimination and regularity.

New Perspective

In a twist you are facing in one direction but looking in another. There are many ways to unpack this, but the key lesson for me here is about polarity: To move forward you must know what it is to move backward. To reach up you must be able to ground down.

And if you can put your leg behind your back and grab on to it from behind while folding forward, then that’s great, too.

Photos: One-armed balance bind; Christy Turlington; bound seated spinal twist; Gomukhasnabound eagle; bound forward fold

Deep Sleep

Ever since the Autumnal Equinox two weeks ago the days have been getting shorter and the nights longer. Before the equinox we wrote about preparing for Vata season, a time associated with the untethered elements of Air and Space and the mutable energy of the wind; these outside shifts can easily cause anxiety can rise: We have as much to do, but seemingly less time to do it in.

Any change in the seasons is naturally disruptive to our sleep cycles, and this shift from summer to fall — from Pitta to Vata — really requires a conscious tuning in and slowing down on our parts. If you have trouble sleeping you’re not alone: the sound loop of a box fan has been streamed more than 5 million times on Spotify, one of many wildly popular white noise sounds you can put yourself sleep to.

Need more than a fan on a loop to help you sleep? Yoga’s got your back. These six poses are ideal for winding down and combatting insomnia. You can put them together in a simple posture flow before bed or pick one or two to spend more time in. Either way, give yourself at least two minutes in each shape, inviting your internal metronome to slow and your mind to stop chit-chatting.

It goes without saying that the more serene and relaxed an environment you can do these poses in the better, but just focusing on your breath in these shapes — despite what may be going on around you — will improve your chances for deeper sleep.

More sleep tips: No screens before bed; no screens in the bed; and keep the lights low. Try a simple, seated meditation to tune inward before getting under the covers or lead yourself through a guided relaxation once you’re already there.

Child’s Pose

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Use a bolster or a blanket or a pillow from your bed to give your chest maximum support.

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Giving the head and neck a chance to relax in a Standing Forward Bend sends a subtle message to the brain to chill out. If need be, bend the knees.

Prasarita Padottanasana

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Same deal in Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend. Forward folds are great for reducing anxiety and insomnia and relieving headaches. Put the crown of your head on a block for super comfortable support.

Paschimottanasana

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Literally turn the gaze inward in a Seated Forward Bend. A successful night’s sleep means disengaging from the activities of the outside world. This is a great shape to practice Pratyahara in.

Supta Baddha Konasana

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As with all of these pre-bedtime poses, props of all sorts are encouraged. A serene and supported Reclining Bound Angle Pose stretches major muscle groups and gives the spine, a.k.a command center for the Central Nervous System, a chance to relax.

 Viparita Karani

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Legs-up-the-Wall takes all of the benefits of an inversion and delivers them to you while you lie on the floor doing absolutely nothing. Heaven.

Sweet dreams, yogis.

Photos: Namasty in Bed; the wonderful Elena Brower in Child’s pose; Prasarita PadottanasanaPaschimottanasanaSupta Baddha KonasanaViparita Karani

Yoga on the Autumnal Equinox

Today marks the Autumnal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, the true start of fall and a day split evenly between darkness and light. Since the Summer Solstice we’ve been slowly losing daylight; now we hit equilibrium, a balancing pose between sun and earth that, as the days pass, will gradually tilt toward darkness. The process will reverse itself on the Winter Solstice in December, the shortest day of the year, when our days will grow longer again.

To honor the seasonal shift and this fine moment of cosmic balance, we’re practicing a simple sequence designed to bring our dual aspects into alignment.

Autumnal Equinox Flow

  • Start in Mountain Pose, Tadasana. Close your eyes and draw energy up through the soles of your feet. Follow it up the spine and out the crown of your head. Bring your awareness to your breath and trace it up and down the midline for several inhales and exhales. If you work with an intention, set one now.
  • Open your eyes and step your left foot back about three feet. Turn all ten toes to face the long edge of the mat, outer edges of your feet parallel. Square your hips and then set up for Trikonasana, Triangle Pose. Turn your right toes to the top edge of the mat and align your right heel with your left arch.

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  • Lengthen the arms, shift your hips back and hinge forward. Place your top hand on your leg, a block, the floor or peace-wrap your big toe.
  • Stay in Triangle for several breaths.
  • Rise up from Triangle and lengthen your stance. Bend the front knee deeply over the ankle and press firmly through the outer edge of your back foot. Extend through your fingers and sink into Warrior Two.

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  • From Warrior Two, tip forward and place your fingertips on the floor outside your right foot. Shift your weight and gaze forward, get light on your back toes and float the left leg up. Stack the left hip on top of the right, lift the top arm and turn your gaze to the ceiling. You’re in Ardha Chandrasana, Half Moon Pose.

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  • Imagine yourself balanced between two planes of glass, or picture yourself at the intersection of day and night, not leaning more into one than the other.
  • Come out of Half Moon by lowering your top hand to the floor and squaring your hips to the mat. Keep your back leg lifted.
  • Dome your back by drawing your belly into your spine. Bend the lifted knee toward your nose and draw it into your chest. Wrap your hands around the shin below your knee, firm through your standing foot and rise up to stand on one leg.
  • Place the sole of your left foot on the inseam of your right leg. Take Tree.

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  • Stay in Vrksasana for at least ten breaths. When you’re complete, lower the leg and find Tadasana. Restate your intention and prepare for the second side.
  • Move through the poses on the left side. After tree, take rest in Child’s Pose and then relax into Shavasana.
 Photos: Autumn mandala from kosmosjournal.org; Triangle from yogadudes.tumblr.com; Warrior Two from puryoga.eu; Half Moon from www.yogatrail.com; Brooklyn Bridge Tree Pose from relaxandrelease.co.uk

Yoga Lab: Extended Side Angle, Three Ways

Utthita Parsvakonasana is one of those foundational yoga asanas that, much like Adho Mukka Svanasana, requires a solid understanding of body geometry in order to reap its full benefits. Plenty challenging on its own, Extended Side Angle is also a vital stepping stone for showier poses like Baddha Parsvakonasana (the bound variation), Visvamitrasana and Bird of Paradise.

We’ll cover the last of those, Bird of Paradise, in a few weeks; until then, consider this a review of the not-so-basic basics.

Option One: Elbow to Knee 

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Utthita Parsvakonasana has three clear stopping points on the path to full extension. In all variations the legs are rock steady. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Legs are in…
  • A Warrior Two stance with the heel of the front foot in line with the arch of the back foot.
  • The outer edge of the back foot is yearning for the floor.
  • The front knee is at ninety degrees (look down and see your big toe).
  • Energy is being pulled up from the base of the pelvic floor; engage Mula bandha, or your root lock, to keep the pose from energetically sinking into the ground.
  • Lift the front toes to avoid gripping with the front foot and sinking too much of your weight over the bent knee.

The extended part of this pose is the side body lengthening that occurs from the pinkie toe side of the back foot through the fingers of the top arm. Imagine a clear line of energy moving up and out. But don’t let the underside of the rib cage get squished. Pick your side waist up and off the top of the bent thigh and draw your hip point up and back.

Now this is where the elbow comes in. To keep all that length, place your bent elbow on your front knee and push down, using it as leverage. Roll your shoulder blade down the back — think of the two shoulder blades kissing around the spine — and use the downward thrust of the elbow to open the heart toward the ceiling.

Sweep the front arm across the chest, past the face and up and over the top ear. Turn your gaze to your top thumb.

Option Two: Hand to Block

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Place a block at any height outside your front foot. Keep everything the same in the lower body as described above but lower your bottom hand to the block. Without the press of the elbow against the knee you’ll need to breath even more length into the lower side ribs. Make sure the front knee is tracking over the ankle.

Option Three: Hand to Floor 

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Feeling good? Okay, remove the block and bring your finger pads or the palm of your hand to the floor. Keep opening the heart up to the ceiling.

Bonus Option: Bound Variation 

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A little visual inspiration for taking it to the next level. Here the opening of the heart is crucial to bringing the top arm back and down.

No rush. Enjoy variations one through three for as long as you desire. As we work up to Bird of Paradise we’ll spend more time breaking down the shape pictured above.

Photos: Top photo from wellbeyondmars.tumblr.com; elbow on knee variation from theberry.com; yogi Leslie Howard with the block variation from Yoga Journal; hand down variation from yogaorkney.com; twisted side angle from yogamen.tumblr.com

Adho Mukha Svanasana

There may not be a pose more associated with yoga in the West than downward facing dog. It’s the peak of Surya Namaskar A, the Salute to the Sun, and serves as a resting pose or home base for many vinyasa sequences.

Incredibly common, it’s also sneakily hard. Adho (downward) Mukha (face) Svan (dog) asana (pose) positions the head below the heart, making it an inversion. Like any inversion, this posture requires simultaneous rooting down and lifting up. In this case the peak of the posture is the tailbone, with the heels and the palms providing a deepening foundation into the ground.

 

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Apana vayu, the downward flow of prana through the body, is at play, drawing energy down the backs of the legs and out the heels; meanwhile prana vayu, upward flow, keeps the heart from collapsing and supports the low back by lifting the belly in and up, creating a platform for the tailbone to lift up and off of.

All of that energy play is good for the soul. Here’s how:

  • Downward dog calms the brain and energizes the body
  • Helps relieve stress and acts as a balm for mild depression
  • Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings and calves
  • Brings energy and awareness to the arches of the feet and the hands
  • Strengthens the arms and legs
  • Alleviates the symptoms of menopause and, when done with the head supported, can ease menstrual cramps
  • Improves digestion
  • Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
  • Is beneficial for anyone with high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica or sinusitis

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Before coming into it, try a couple plank poses to feel into the press of the palms and the balls of the feet. Roughly speaking, the length of your plank is the same as your down dog, meaning your hands and feet should stay in the same place as you move from one shape to another.

  • To get into Adho Mukha, start in table on your hands and knees. Stack your shoulders, elbows, and wrists; make sure your spine is long and your hips are over your knees.
  • Tuck your toes, hover your knees off the floor and slowly lift your sitting bones toward the ceiling.
  • Lengthen your tailbone away from your low back. If you had a tail, think of sending it straight up instead of tucking it between your legs.
  • On an exhale, push your thighs back and your heels down as you slowly straighten the knees. Bent knees are fine, too — whatever avoids congestion in the low back.
  • Firm the outer arms and press through the palms, especially the webbing between the index finger and the thumb.
  • Draw your forearms energetically inward, toward each other, and your upper arms out and away from each other.
  • Pick your shoulder blades up and draw them down toward your tailbone.
  • Draw your chest into your spine (no dumping in the ribs) and draw the ears in line with the upper arms.
  • Stay for as long as you like, breathing evenly and adjusting as you lift up and settle down.
  • Finish with a long child’s pose.
Photos: Top dog from lovelyyogi; partner picture found here

Sacred Space

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” This quote by Annie Dillard from her book The Writing Life functions like a great big exhale. It’s a reminder to step back, see our priorities, and reflect on where we expend energy. Dillard’s insight about time is also true of space: How we treat our spaces is how we treat ourselves. By watching how we spend our time and how we use our space we can begin to see how we value ourselves.

A simple way to carve out meaningful and profound time and space is to create an area in your home dedicated to meditation or quiet reflection. Most yoga studios have an altar as a way to anchor the room and honor the intentions of the space and the teachers. If it appeals to you, creating an altar in your own home is as important as unrolling your yoga mat when it comes to cultivating a home practice, either of asana or simple mindfulness.


How to do it:

First, there are no rules around creating your altar: It is a reflection of you. If you’re looking for direction, think about incorporating the elements into your space and bringing them into balance.

Water: A simple glass or a vase with fresh flowers is a wonderful way to call in the water element. Make a ritual of picking or buying flowers for your altar every week — consider it a gift to your spiritual practice.

Earth: Flowers, again, ground back into the earth. For something evergreen, consider using dried stems or petals or another gift from the outside world: a beautiful stone, shell, a crystal or piece of wood.

Fire: A candle, incense, a smudge stick — like sage, palo santo, or sweet grass — immediately adds a sense of ritual and heightens the senses.

Air: The air element is about mutability, flexibility and change. Allow your altar to be dynamic by adding and subtracting elements that newly inspire you or no longer serve you.

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Make it personal.

Photographs, gifts and meaningful mementos are perfectly at home in sacred space. Who are your guides or role models? It might be someone universal, like the Hindu goddess Durga or the Buddha, or it could be someone from your daily life — your parents, child or someone you want to honor.

Where?

You don’t need to have a dedicated yoga or meditation room in your home for your altar, but if you do, start decorating! For the rest of us, work with what you have. Clear off a shelf, a side table, a corner of your dresser, or even an empty corner. Being able to sit in front of your altar is great, but just having a spot that you’ve steeped with meaning to pause by or look at will remind you to stop and center.

Once you’ve chosen your elements and a serene space to put them in, spend some time arranging and organizing. Harmony and balance in your physical space can promote the same internally.

Finally, once your space is created, use it. The more regularly you come into your sacred space the more sacred it will become.

Yoga 101: The 6 Directions of the Spine

 

“A healthy spine is a healthy body!” So has said a teacher of mine, and I doubt we’d find any medical expert or average Joe who would argue this simple logic.

In your very first yoga class you were likely introduced to the Cat/Cow spinal warm-up. And since then, it’s probably made an appearance in 99% of classes — so much so that you might have even found yourself getting bored (“not Cat/Cow again!”). It’s critical to warm up the spine as we go into a practice. In fact, it’s critical to the health of the spine (and thus the body) to warm it up every day, even a couple times a day, and especially at the start of the day. Cat Cow moves the spine in two primary directions, and there are four more directions that make up the complete spinal spectrum. These six movements elongate the spine, encourage elasticity of the spinal column, wake up the cranio-sacral “highway,” and provide a host of other benefits.

Beginning your day by easing your body into each of these six directions will ensure you’re loosened, lengthened and lubricated – ready to take on the world with a supple, strong spine.


“Warm up When you Wake Up” and Move the Spine All Six Ways Every Day

Direction 1 – Spinal Extension

aka arching the spine as in Cow Pose

This shape lengthens the spine, expands the chest, strengthens the lungs and facilitates deeper breathing.
From an emotional standpoint, this shape helps us “open our heart.” Best of all, this shape is the exact opposite of how most of us spend our days – hunched over a computer or slouched looking down at a phone.

The simplest version of Spinal Extension is just a seated arching stretch, and cow pose is also a gentle option for the morning. Poses such as cobra, upward-facing dog, bow pose, and wheel are more dynamic versions of this shape, typically called “backbends” but perhaps wisely reframed as “front extensions” going for length over bend.

 

Direction Two – Spinal Flexion

aka rounding the spine as in Cat Pose

This shape expands the backbody, stretching the back of the lungs increasing breath capacity, and tones the abdomen with an engaged core. On an emotional level, these shapes help us turn inward for reflection and calm. This shape can be done via the usual cat shape, or seated by rounding the spine forward. Deeper versions of this shape are seated forward bending like in pachimotanasana, standing forward bending in utanasana, or even balancing shapes like devotional warrior.

 

Directions 3 & 4 – Lateral Side bending

as seen in crescent arches

By bending up and over to the left and right, we lengthen our side bodies, improving rib cage mobility and again, create even more space for the lungs. These shapes lengthen the muscles between the ribs and pelvis, plus parts of the lower back. They also support the health of the lymph system. It’s easy for things to get “stuck” in life, and side body stretches clear out often-neglected nooks and crannies. These gentle C-shaped curves can be created from a seated position, or from table top by reaching “cheek to cheek” – reacing the cheek on your face towards the hips and the hips towards your face. Standing crescents poses are also a gentle lateral side bend, and more active variations include peaceful warrior and extended side angle pose.

 

Directions 5 & 6 – Twists

as experienced in seated or reclining twists to both sides

Twisting to the right and left completes the set of six directions, mitigating against fusing and limited-mobility of vertebrae. Twisting also hydrates the intervertebral disks and massages the organs within the abdomen supporting digestion. It also asks us to “look forward and look backward” which can help us find the middle ground of the present moment. You can be seated in a cross-legged position, or atop bend knees to twist side to side, thinking about lengthening on the inhale and gently twisting deeper on the exhale. Or opt for a reclining twist and let gravity do most of the work! From table top, threading the needle is a good option, and revolved triangle pose is a powerful standing variation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stress got you down? Legs up!

A regular yoga practice is scientifically proven to balance our modern-day lifestyle by reducing stress, slowing the aging process, and calming the fluctuations of the mind. The stress and chaos of modern-day life may be the very thing that led us to seek out our first yoga class. And, once we find an inviting studio and skillful teachers (like our incredible, knowledgeable teachers here at Five Pillars), we experience the benefits of a yoga practice. We know in our minds, bodies, and spirits that yoga works.

But when chaos ensues in our everyday life — our nerves get frayed, our patience gets short, our exhaustion runs high — and we find ourselves desperate for a yoga practice… well, this is also usually the precise moment when we all of a sudden can’t find the time to head to the studio! Which of course can lead to even more stress and anxiety!

When you feel like you’re struggling to keep your head above water, throw yourself a life preserver!

If you have five minutes, practice this one posture for just five minutes… as if your life depends on it. Keep it simple and restorative. And breathe deep!
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Viparita Karani – The Five Minute “Legs Up the Wall” Practice
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According to Dr. Andrew Weil: The Legs Up the Wall Pose is an inversion pose in which you lie on the floor next to a wall and place your legs together vertically against the wall. The Sanskrit name, Viparita Karani, comes from viparita meaning reversed or inverted and karani meaning action. The pose is a restorative and relaxing pose as it inverts the typical actions that happen in our bodies as we sit and stand.

* It provides stress and anxiety relief
* as well as reducing menstrual symptoms and back pain
* It is also good for leg swelling for
varicose veins.

The pose is simple and can be performed for extended periods of time

Step One: Choose and/or setup your environment

Find a peaceful place where there is a wall at work or home where you can listen to soothing music, sounds of nature, and lie down.You can even do it in bed! Rub a drop or two of a calming Legs up theWallessential oil such as lavender, ylang ylang, or frankincense (the King of Oils) between your hands and take in the relaxing smell. Gather any props (a yoga mat, blanket, bolster, sandbag, eye pillow) that support your practice. Please note that you do not need any props for this pose, but they can add benefits to the experience.

Step Two: Notice the layers of your being (the koshas) as you begin your practice

  • ~ Pay attention to your physical body, including your muscles, ligaments, joints, and bones.
  • ~ Notice your energy. Are you high or low or somewhere in between?
  • ~ Sense your emotional body. How do you feel?
  • ~ Sitting in the seat of your witness self, begin to observe the fluctuations of your mind, as thoughts rise and fall like ocean waves.

Step Three: Send your legs up the wall for 3-5 minutes

yoga_legs_up_the_wall_ARTLegs up the wall asana is exactly as it sounds. Make sure you edge up close to the wall, so your sitz bones are pressing against it. Your legs and torso are perpendicular. Feel free to bend your knees to relieve tight hamstrings. If you experience strain in your low back, try supporting yourself with a blanket or bolster. Bring your hands by your side, or opened into a capital “T” shape, palms face up. Allow your eyes to close and simply focus on breathing into your belly.

*You can time yourself with by playing a 3-5 minute song (here’s one of our favorites) or setting a timer with a soothing alarm.

* This pose can be modified to be even more gentle – lying on your back with your legs on a chair, or simply propping your legs in a slanted position with pillows on your bed.

* This pose can be practiced for 3-5 minutes or longer… if it feels good, stay! Some yogis restore in this pose for up to 20 minutes!

Step Four: Take a moment in savasana and notice the effects of your practice

Bend your knees and gently roll onto one side. Make your way onto your back and set yourself up for savasana.

  • ~ Tune into your physical body, including your muscles, ligaments, joints, and bones.
  • ~ Notice any pulsing, streaming, or tingling sensations in your body. Paying attention to your energy, check in with yourself and sense if you high or low or somewhere in between.
  • ~ Notice how you feel.
  • ~ Continuing to sit in the seat of your witness self, observe the fluctuations of your mind, as thoughts rise and fall like ocean waves. Notice if your mind is racing or if your yoga practice worked to calm the fluctuations of the mind.
  • ~ Thank yourself for grabbing onto the life preserver! Though this practice consists of only one pose, for just a few minutes, be assured the benefits run deep.