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Five Pillars Yoga

Posts Tagged ‘Right Movement’

The Five Pillars of Water

 

Beyond the practice of sipping water throughout the day lies a realm of hydration that encompasses the entire body. Soak in water, nix the plastic single use bottles, and practice ancient yogic pranayama techniques that will leave you in tip top shape.


1. RIGHT NUTRITION: Sip Room Temperature Water And Warm Herbal Tea Throughout The Day


To stay hydrated, focus on assimilation rather than quantity. Drink water when you are thirsty and sip instead of chug. If you are drinking too much water at one time, you may find yourself dehydrated despite your efforts. Several trips to the restroom per hour suggest that you need to slow down. After all, our bodies can only assimilate about 2-3 cups of water per hour, or 200 ml (a little less than 1 cup) every 15 minutes.


Consuming too much water at one time causes the kidneys to overwork, placing unwanted stress on the body.


Help your body absorb water by adding chia seeds, fresh ginger, and/or a small pinch of sea salt to your water. Although too much salt in the diet is dehydrating, salt is actually essential to your body’s water absorption process. Learn more here: The Skinny on Salt


Once you are sipping instead of chugging, you can go deeper by considering our top Ayurvedic recommendations. Ayurvedic science recommends consuming only room temperature or warm beverages, which means that ice water can become an occasional indulgence rather than a regular practice. Ayurvedic practitioners also suggest consuming little or no water at mealtime. Drinking ice water and taking in too much liquid during mealtimes cools or dilutes our digestive fire (or Agni). Since so much of our health depends on healthy digestion, this is sage advice. That said, we know that leaving ice out of your beverage is not always possible… or desirable. To begin, consider applying the 70-30 rule. If 70% of the time, you are drinking room temperature water or warm tea, you are doing superb!


Last but not least, watch out for sugar and caffeine in your bevies!


If you are drinking coffee regularly, you may need to sip even more water throughout the day to make up for the dehydrating effects of caffeine. Sugar is another beast to contend with. The body converts sugar to stored fat and wreaks havoc on your insulin levels. If you find water difficult to drink, consider adding some fruit or sprigs of mint to your water to add flavor.


Here’s the summary: Drink room temperature water or tea throughout the day when you are thirsty. Pay attention to your current habits, especially around caffeine and sugar, and begin to replace old habits that no longer serve you in your life with new, healthier habits.


2. Right Movement: Flush Out The Toxins


Hydration is about balance in the body. If you are practicing yoga asanas and exercising regularly, you will help your body flush out toxins and prevent water retention.


Hydrating after yoga practice and exercise will help you to receive the full benefits of the practice. Yoga asana and exercise require adequate nutrition, including additional water post workout. Replenish your body with healthy foods and water post-movement and your body will thank you.


3. Right Relaxation: Sip and Soak Away Your Stress


As the days get longer and the weather warms up, we tend to spring into action, sometimes overextending ourselves. Taking time away from chaos and turning inwards to meditate and relax can help our bodies to absorb and assimilate the water and food we consume. Pay particular attention to relaxation during hot days and plan for sipping water or herbal tea all day long.


Consider booking some bodywork, soak in water, get some gentle exercise by taking a swim in cooling water, and head to bed early. The result? Increased energy and ojas, the Ayurvedic term for the vital essence that supports our immune systems, vitality, libido, and strength.


4. Right Breathing: Practice Sitali


Deep in the Himalayas, ancient sages observed and imitated the world around them in the noble attempt to master body, breath, and mind. They noticed the curve of a bird’s lower beak, a new green leaf uncurling, and the hiss of a cobra—and emulated those shapes and sounds in a practice called sitali (the cooling breath). In this pranayama, the inhalation is moistened as it passes through the curl of the tongue (alternately described as a bird’s beak and an uncurling leaf), so that you are “drinking” water-saturated air.


Sitali cools the body, adds moisture to the system, and soothes a pitta imbalance.


Besides building breath awareness, this practice is said to calm hunger and thirst and cultivate a love for solitude. Sitali also cools the body, adds moisture to the system, and, in the parlance of ayurveda, soothes a pitta imbalance, which is common in the summer months. In addition, this practice reduces fatigue, bad breath, fevers, and high blood pressure. Learn how to practice Sitali: Click Here

*Content taken from YogaInternational.com


5. Right Intention: Drink Filtered Tap Water


Did you know that the Pacific Garbage Patch and the Eastern Garbage Patch have doubled in size in the past decade? We have plastic islands out in the ocean twice the size of Texas that are made up of tiny pieces of plastic that look just like fish food (opposed to a solid mass of plastic). Animals mistake the plastic for food. Plus this toxic soup disturbs marine food webs and ecosystems. Here’s one simple thing you can do to make a difference: Nix the single-use plastic water bottles and replace these with an eco-friendly reusable water bottle. Fill the bottle with tap water and sip throughout the day to stay hydrated.


Our Fav Water Bottles:

 

There’s core strength… and then there’s Core Strength

One of the incredible things about yoga practice, is that it has benefits on so many levels: physical, spiritual and emotional. Knowing not just the biological impact of the poses, but also their symbolic influence, can really aid in getting ALL the benefits.

Building core strength will completely transform your yoga practice — and your life! One of my favorite yoga teachers always said that core-strengthening improves self-esteem and confidence…. that by strengthening our core, we are cultivating the strength to stand up for ourselves or take a stand for what we believe in, rather than “bending over backward” in our lives, or being a “pushover.”

Developing abdominal strength isn’t only relegated to crunches and ab work on the floor. So when you wake up feeling low, or just want to boost the confidence you already have, try the following standing core exercises. Setting aside five minutes to practice these three asanas throughout your day may leave you with more than just a toned midsection.

 

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Chair Pose: Utkatasana

utkata = fierce

 

True to its name, this pose is fierce! Particularly when you hold the posture for several minutes. The action of engaging the abs by drawing the navel to the spine and lifting up on the pelvic floor strengthens the posture and tones your body! For a detailed description, check out this article at Yoga Journal, or this explanation at YogaSimple.

We recommend holding the posture for 5 deep breaths. Repeat the posture three times, each time sinking a little bit deeper into your chair! The mantra “I’m stronger than I think I am” can be a wonderful support for this asana.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 10.44.35 AMStanding Crescent Moon

This posture looks easy, but with several deep breaths, the abdominal obliques will be firing!

With each inhalation, find length in the spine. With each exhalation, extend a little bit deeper into the form. Practice this posture on both sides for 5 deep inhalations and exhalations through the nose. Repeat three times.

For detailed instructions, check out this article at YogaBasics:

 

 

Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose: Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana

The name is a mouthful, but the posture can be incredibly rewarding, as it requires you to engage your lower abdominal muscles and the bandhas (particularly mula bandha and uddiyana bandha… more on these helpful little tricks in a forthcoming article!).

Try this posture with your hands on your hips and your leg extended in front of you with your foot flexed, directing energy through the standing foot and the foot that is lifted. Practice this posture on each side for five deep breaths, three reps on both sides. Your leg can remain bent if straightening the leg is not possible. Over time you can explore more advanced options such as clasping the big toe and extending the leg straight out in front, out to the side, and even twisting.

Here’s a great video on the whole standing sequence, from moderate to advanced versions.

 

 

Yoga 101: Twist Into Spring

The cold winter months so often leave us feeling stagnant indoors, longing for the warm weather that is just around the corner. As the seasons change, twisting yoga postures can support a graceful transition from winter into spring by opening stuck energy channels. As we twist, we wring out the old and allow space for the new, cleansing and detoxing our bodies and minds. Plus twisting postures aid digestion and help to relieve lower back pain, while improving the health of the spine.

Twist yoga postures have incredible cleansing effects on the body and mind:

  • ~ Strengthen core, stimulate abdominal organs, and help to aid digestion
  • ~ Relieve stress and anxiety while improving mental clarity
  • ~ Stretch and strengthen muscles, ligaments, and joins in the back, chest, core, hips, and thighs
  • ~Hydrate the intervertebral discs, preventing compression that can occur as we age

#GoDeeper with Yoga Journal’s instructional video that will help you cleanse, detox and purify the body with twists. This sequence begins with a simple seated twisting posture and then quickly moves onto the feet, culminating with some standing postures that will challenge you to balance and then twist. If you do only one section of the video, make sure to practice your twists on both sides of your body.

Common challenges:

  • ~ Many people twist before finding extension in the spine, which causes the top shoulder to climb up toward the ear, closing off the heart and limiting the range of motion in the twisting position. Practice rooting into the ground, finding extension in the spine, lifting the chest, and then twisting from your center.
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  • ~ People also experience some neck strain when looking over the opposite shoulder during twisting postures. A delicious modification is to tuck the chin toward the chest, elongating the back of the neck. With the chin slightly tucked, allow the movement of the neck and head to follow the twist coming from your center. This subtle shift takes pressure off the neck and refocuses attention inward, allowing ease and grace to exist during the challenge of twisting postures.
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  • ~ Does your opposite sitz bone lift when you are twisting in seated positions? No problem! Use a blanket or cushion under your one or both of your sitz bones to bring the floor to you. This will help you to feel grounded so you can find extension through your spine as your twist.


As you explore twisting yoga posturestake your time to feel grounded and deepen your breath. Then find extension in the spine before twisting from your center. Firmly rooted feet or sitz bones support the extension and then the rotation of the spine. With your heart lifted and shoulders relaxed, follow the guidance of your own breath, finding extension in the spine on the inhalation and twisting deeper on the exhalation. Imagine letting go of any stuck feelings, thoughts, or energy each time you twist, connecting your body with your mind, moving into spring with clarity and balance.


 

 

Contraindications Worth Noting:
~ If you have a recent or chronic back injury or inflammation in any part of your body affected by twisting, these postures may do more harm than good.

~ These postures are not recommended if you have herniated disc.

 

Warm Up With Our Winter Yoga Sequence

Winter is in full swing and it has been absolutely frigid. If you are feeling stagnant and finding your Right Movement practice challenging, you are not alone. After weeks of freezing weather, you may be feeling a bit lethargic, blue or just not quite yourself. Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Although we obviously did not create the frosty weather, we are often able to choose how we respond to our circumstances. Yoga is the perfect practice for shifting mindset, re-energizing the body and the mind.

So when when the doldrums set in- or better yet, before the blues take hold- take 10 minutes to practice our short soothing sequence to build warmth from the inside-out. You will find yourself renewed and ready to take on your Winter plans with presence and zeal.

This sequence is designed to slowly warm up with breath and continuous movement; and then go deeper into energizing postures that will leave you feeling ready to head out into the brisk air.


Sun salutation variations plus some standing
core-strengthening postures build heat.

This helps to warm the muscles up and prevent injury.

It also begins the process of moving in meditation. 
Once the heat and breath flows, deeper twists, folding and backbending
postures open up stuck energy channels and generate much-needed life force.
Take your time flowing from posture to posture, breathing deeply and moving joyfully.
Hold postures for 3-5 deep breaths.


 


Sequencing is about balance — exploring a posture and then offering the body a soothing counter posture. Winter is a time to balance the natural tendency to turn inwards with postures that open the heart and generate a sense of openness to the world. Rather than push through the stagnant energy that so easily builds during Winter, there is the opportunity to breathe deeply and move into yoga postures slowly and deliberately, paying attention to the subtle shifts that emerge.

Holiday Survival Sequence

The frosty chill in the air marks a transition from Fall to Winter, as well as the holiday season, which can be a time for slowing down and enjoying the company of loved ones.

Perhaps more than any other time of year, the holidays are a time to celebrate giving as well as receiving. They are a time of cherished exchange.

For many of us, however, holidays can bring up mixed emotions. More often than not, we find ourselves overstretched providing for others, accommodating the crowd, and filled to the brim with rich holiday food, not to mention the challenges many people face reuniting with relatives absent from our lives until this special time of year. We tend to hold this tension in our bodies.

A regular yoga practice can provide tremendous relief amongst the cheer and chaos of the holiday season. Remembering the core values of holiday spirit and slowing down enough to enjoy the experience is easier said than done. The following short sequence can support digestive and emotional balance in the upcoming weeks, helping you to ride the waves of the season.

~ Begin with a short warm-up. You can practice 3-5 sun salutations, take a brisk walk or jog, and/or practice 3 rounds of kapalabhati breathing to prepare the body for the postures.

~ When you feel warm, move into the following sequence, holding each posture for five deep breaths, or until your body tells you to move onto the next side or into the next posture. Be gentle with yourself.


 

The sequence

  1. Eagle for stability 

  2. Squat for strength 

  3. Seated Spinal Twist for digestion 

  4. Reclined Spinal Twist for relaxation


 

Eagle pose    Squat TwistReclining Twist



Simple? Yes.

Powerful? Absolutely.

Each of these asanas will give your body and mind a different gift that we are certain you deserve this season! And for those who think they don’t have time, here’s a gentle but firm reminder to chuck out any excuses, slow down and practice some self care.


Go Deep @ YogaJournal.com!

If you’re more drawn to a restorative practice, check out their restorative sequence for holiday survival! 

And if belly health is your top priority, they’ve got a more active sequence to support digestion. 

Your Bones On Yoga

It’s easy to forget that bones are living tissue, constantly being dissolved and rebuilt in a natural cycle. So, while statistics around bone health are quite staggering, the good news is that we can have an impact on maintenance and repair at any age.

Our bones are comprised of both minerals (like the obvious calcium) and a “gelatin matrix” of water and collagen. They appear solid, but, like bamboo, are healthiest when they are strong and but flexible, pliant and moist.

Surprise surprise: Yoga is one of the most effective practices for bone health.

There have been many studies published over the last few years that show yoga can not only slow bone density loss, but can in-fact increase bone mineral density.

In short, the three yogic practices below can help maintain bone health starting from a young age, slow or prevent density loss, and even boost bone density, restoring strength and elasticity.

Research has recently shown that 72-seconds is an ideal time to hold a yoga posture for maximum benefit. But no worries if this is too long, yoga is a practice so work at your capabilities and gradually over time you might find your endurance increasing.
As you practice these asanas, listen to your body’s signals and work to your edge but not past it. Uncomfortable strain on joints should signal you to back off.

 

1. Take the Path of Most Resistance

Weight-bearing yoga postures put the right kind of “stress” on the bones: enough to stimulate cellular production, but not too much that the bones break or fracture. Resisting gravity’s pull and supporting our body weight stimulates our bones isometrically, signaling the bones to build up their mass in answer to the challenge.

Warrior 2

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Warrior I & II
These powerful standing postures activate the largest bones of the legs and arms, plus the ankle, knee and shoulder joints.

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Low Cobra

Bhujangasana is an active back bend that supports spine health, lengthening vertebrae and keeping them supple and limber.

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Bhujangasana

Bhujangasana

Plank
Resisting gravity in this shape strengthens wrists and builds core strength to support the spine.

 

 

2. Strike a Good Balance

The WHO estimates one in three women over 50 — and one in five men — will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture. Many bone injuries are caused by falling, and we’re not just talking about a serious fall. Even a little roll of the ankle off the curb (or from teetering on a pair of stillettos) can cause a fracture. Maintaining our balance as we age is a huge piece of preventing injury.

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Bhuj

Bhujangasanana

Vrkshasana
Tree pose is one of the simplest standing balancing postures to practice, yet has a powerful effect on developing balance and equilibrium. Best of all, it offers many different modifications suitable for all ages and levels.

 

Check out our Yoga Lab on Tree Pose to explore what variation is right for you

 

3. Make an Impact, Safely

There has been so much research done about various exercises that support bone health, and one that remains ahead of the pack is high-impact movements. The New York Times goes so far as to suggest simply jumping up and down!
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Shaking Qi Gong
This simple Eastern exercise delivers many of the same benefits of jumping or running, and many more. Best of all, it decreases the intensity of contact, making it safer for those with fragile knees or limited capacity for cardio-vascular workouts.
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Check out the video below that explains and demonstrates this easy movement. We recommend doing this for five minutes a day, several times a week. 

 

 

Additional Food & Lifestyle Tips for Bone Health

  • *Boost your intake of calcium-rich plants like Kale & Spinach
  • *Reduce or eliminate processed sugars from your diet – these sugars leach calcium from the bones and contribute to loss in bone density
  • * Stay moist – incorporate Abhyanga into your routine
  • *If you suffer from severe symptoms of Osteoperosis, check out this great yoga sequence created just for you – with modifications for all levels.
  • * When beginning any new type of exercise, always consult your primary care doctor, especially if dealing with acute physical problems.

 

Go Deep @ YogaJournal.com

How To Start A Daily Yoga Practice

Do you want to start a daily yoga or meditation practice but feel overwhelmed with a full schedule? Or, do you wonder how to get started and stay focused without the guidance of a teacher?

Like anything else, the experience of yoga and meditation deepens with practice. The subtle effects of the postures are revealed over time. As we sit in the practice of yoga and meditation, we strengthen our capacity to be with ourselves as we experience the ups and downs of life.

The beauty of practice is this: The more we practice, the easier it becomes. In fact, over time, we cannot help but show up to our yoga practice, because yoga slowly becomes a part of everything we do. Plus yoga works! Once we know how calm and peaceful we can feel all day long as a result of our yoga, we will have a hard time giving up on our daily practice. The asana practice or seated meditation practice becomes a way to continue to stay engaged with the essence of our beings, every beautiful day.


Ready to get started?

Here are our top four tips to start a daily yoga practice:


1. Easy Does It

Life design coach, Martha Beck, recommends that we establish “ridiculously easy” goals to make BIG changes. After all, if we aim too high and make our goals too difficult, we will not do them. To begin your daily practice, start with something ridiculously easy that you will do every single day. Try one sun salutation or one minute of sitting. Just 30 seconds of breathing deeply can be your ridiculously easy daily practice. Once you reach your goal and you have a simple routine established, add just a little bit more. Continue to build your practice with baby steps until you discover a routine that works well for you.

2. Develop A Yoga Habit

Commit to practicing a couple of postures every day for a full month until it becomes a routine. Or invest in yourself and get a monthly unlimited package at the studio, so you can build your daily habit with the guidance of your favorite teachers! Developing a routine around yoga makes continuing a daily practice easy. If you miss a day, be kind to yourself and simply start again the following day. Allow your practice to be nourishing and fun… not one more thing you have to do in your day. The simple act of showing up to your personal yoga practice will have a profound effect on your life, guaranteed.

3. Find A Sequence That Works Well For You

Depending on where you are at in life, different asana practices can support your body and soul. Having a series of postures or flow that you can practice every day can help you to see how certain postures affect your well-being. Some people enjoy the Ashtanga yoga practice because there is a series that they show up to every day. Others prefer restorative postures, or seated meditation without any postures at all. Want support in designing a sequence that is perfect for your body? I highly recommend working with a private instructor who can teach you a sequence that will support you wherever you are at. Check out these sequences to get started today: A 12 Minute Yoga Sequence For Bone Health, Moving With The Moon, and The Best Yoga Postures For Men.

4. Take Your Yoga Off the Mat

You can start a daily practice by integrating yoga into your day wherever you are. Maybe you don’t have time to roll out your mat every day, but can you breathe deeply for 30 seconds on your commute? Or find time to practice tree pose for five deep breaths on each side after you go to the bathroom? Sometimes the simple yet profound act of listening deeply, with full attention, to another human being can be your yoga practice. Pay attention to how you practice yoga off the mat. Perhaps you will find you already have a daily practice!

Yoga 101: Humble Warrior

“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”

Saint Augustine 



One of the fascinating parts of yoga asana is the hidden meaning that lies beneath the form. Unpacking each pose or posture can deepen awareness of the subtle effects of the practice. Whether we are opening our hearts or folding forward, each posture contains a symbolic meaning that is supported by the physical form. 


Humble warrior is a posture where the yogi bows forward in a Warrior I stance with their hands clasped behind their back. Bowing forward, tucking and rounding the torso, the yogi allows their hands to move toward the floor in front of their head staying mindful to release the shoulders away from the ears. 



 

The adjective “humble” comes from latin roots humilis, which can be translated as “from the earth” or “grounded.” Defined as “a modest or low view of one’s importance,” humility or “being humble” can easily be associated with the emotions of submission or passivity. However, the asana, Humble Warrior, invites forth a new, more expansive definition of being humble.


If you have ever attempted the posture, you already know that Humble Warrior requires an incredible amount of strength and balance alongside an element of surrender.



Each stage of entering the posture teaches us something about embodied humility. We first find stability and presence with solid footing and a rooted foundation. Then we balance our hips as we send our front knee out directly over the ankle. Our hips are strong emotional centers in our bodies and, by balancing and opening our hips in this posture, we are also releasing stuck emotional energy. Lifting and opening the heart, we clasp our hands behind us, melting our shoulder blades down our backs and interlacing the fingers. The next action is to draw the navel toward the spine, tucking and rounding, engaging the core.


At the core resides an energy center called the Manipura Chakra, which is associated with self-esteem and confidence. A strong sense of self helps this energy center stay vital and healthy. Likewise, a healthy sense of self precedes humility.


After we lift the heart and engage the core, we bow the head toward the inside of the front foot, releasing the head and the neck, while keeping our hips and shoulders aligned. 


Humble Warrior teaches us that humility is much more than submission, or even letting go of pride.


Here’s one way to look at the subtleties of the posture. Finding stability and strength, we can stand in the present moment on our own two feet. By aligning and opening our hips, we balance and let go of stuck emotional energy, generating inner peace. By releasing our shoulders (or “should-ers”) down our back with our clasp, we open and lift the heart. Engaging our strong core, we express a healthy sense of self. And, finally, surrendering to higher power with a deep bow toward the floor, we let go of pride.


With each step, we discover our own sense of humility. Far from passive or submissive, we are strong, balanced, open, and bowing to a power higher than ourselves in this posture… and in life. Humble Warrior helps us to develop the body wisdom and state of mind that expresses humility.



“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

-C.S. Lewis



Enjoy this article? #GoDeeper and learn the ins and outs of the form with Five Pillar’s article: The Other Warriors: Reverse and Humble.


*Article Image taken from http://blog.robertrandall.com

May Mantra Playlist

Spring has sprung and, as the wind blows in warmer weather and the sun begins to shine, we literally begin to spring into action. Despite the days being longer, so many of us still feel like we are short on time. 


Taking time to practice yoga becomes even more important as our calendars begin to overflow with activity and plans. This is, of course, a perfect time to prioritize regular yoga classes. On the days when yoga class just won’t fit into your schedule, set aside a couple minutes to listen to our May playlist and move through your favorite yoga asanas. 


During yoga class, the teacher’s voice and their playlist can help you to go deep into your practice. This May Mantra Playlist offers a gentle rhythm to support you in your personal practice.


So when you need a little extra calm in your life, slow down and turn on these tunes, featuring three of our fav yoga artists. Listen on your commute to work, play these mantras as you practice at home, or allow these healing sounds to help you let down as you drift off to sleep at the end of the day.



You’ll find this playlist helps you to breathe deeply, with a steady, gentle rhythm designed to invoke a sense of inner peace… so allow your breath to be deep and rhythmic… and just follow the guidance of your own body.


Go ahead…. #GoDeep and create some calm!


 



ॐ See you on the mat ॐ



 

 

*Photo Cred: Johncaleb Sarsfield

Yoga Lab: Garudasana

For a pose named after something that flies, Garudasana, Eagle Pose, is all about staying still. It has potential energy, like that of an attentive bird about to swoop, and is a pose in which steadiness and concentration are key to not falling off your perch.

Benefits

  • Strengthens and stretches the ankles and calves
  • Stretches the thighs, hips, shoulders, and upper back
  • Improves concentration
  • Improves balance

Before You Begin

Spend time in Utkatansa, Chair Pose, to prep the hamstrings and quads, and try coming into Eagle Arms while seated, either in Sukhasana or Gomukhasana before attempting the bind while balanced one on leg.

How To Do It

Step 1: The Legs

Stand in Tadasana. Bend your knees slightly, come on to the tips of your left toes and pour weight into your right foot. Lift your left foot off the floor. Balance evenly through all four corners of your right foot and cross your left thigh over the right. Point your left toes toward the floor and draw them back behind you. Hook the top of your foot behind your right calf.

Modification: Place the tops of the left toes on the floor if you cant hook the foot behind the right calf. 

Step 2: The Arms

Extend your arms straight forward, parallel to the floor. Palms face in and thumbs point up. Reach forward to spread your shoulder blades wide. Cross your right arm over the left and bend at the elbows. Slide your right elbow just past the crook of the left and raise your forearms so they’re perpendicular to the floor. The backs of your hands should be facing each other.

Modification: If wrapping the arms until the palms touch is not happening, hold on to a strap as you extend your arms forward. Keep pulling the strap ends away from each other as you cross the arms and energetically move the backs of the hands toward each other.  

Step 3: Refine the Arms 

Move your left hand to the left and your right hand to the right so you can press the fingers of the left hand into the right palm. Lift your elbows up, drop your shoulders, draw your shoulder blades together, knit your ribs in and extend your crossed elbows out away from you.

Stay for several breaths. Square the hips forward—left hip back, right hip forward—and be mindful of droopy elbows.

To come out, straighten the standing leg, unwind and return to Tadasana. Repeat on the second side.

Photos: Top image; eagle arms

Finding Your Edge in Yoga Class

Do you want to find your edge in yoga class without injuring yourself? Finding your edge is not always easy. The edge is the place you go in a posture where you are able to stay present, breathe deeply and receive the benefits of the pose while also cultivating relaxation in your body and your mind. 


Pushing yourself can take you beyond your edge, while holding back can prevent you from ever meeting your edge. If you tend to push yourself in the rest of your life, you may also find yourself pushing yourself in yoga practice. Or, on the contrary, if you tend to hold back in the rest of your life, you may back off before fully expressing a posture.


The problem with pushing ourselves is that we can cause injury and miss out on the movement inquiry process. If we try to attain or perfect a certain form, we may not be able to hear the information coming to us from our own bodies. Yet if we do not challenge ourselves, our practice can become stagnant. We miss out on the incredible benefits of going deeper into a posture.


Many yoga educators invite students to explore their bodies for sensation. They encourage students to move through practice with a sense of interest and curiosity about their own experience. Plus teachers often encourage yogis to explore postures until they reach a depth that creates sensation without causing pain. After all, pain is a messenger letting us know that we need to back off and pay attention to a specific area of our bodies.


Discovering our edge without injuring ourselves requires self-awareness and a willingness to trust our own experience. Easier said than done, I know. To #GoDeep, check out these five tips to advance your practice and discover your edge.



5 Ways to Find Your Edge Without Causing Injury



1. Work With A Private Yoga Instructor

Hiring your favorite yoga teacher for a couple of sessions may be a worthwhile investment. I was amazed to discover the depth I was able to explore in my postures when I was assisted by an experienced yoga teacher who first helped me to discover my alignment and then helped me find my edge with hands-on assists. Working in one-on-one sessions can open up new realms of practice, on and off the mat.

2. Pay Attention To Sequencing

Your edge may vary every time you step onto a mat. Many teachers design classes to progressively open up specific parts of the body. This is called sequencing. Your edge at the beginning of a hip sequence, for example, may be different when you are entering your first hip opening postures than the postures that come at the end of the sequence.

3. Allow The Two Sides Of Your Body To Be Different

Regardless of sequencing, your left and right sides of your body are different. Allowing the two sides of your body to be as different as they actually are can help you discover your edge on each side, without causing injury by forcing the less flexible side to match the other side.

4. Begin The Inquiry

If you tend to push yourself during yoga practice, explore the following questions: What are you trying to achieve? If you were to discover your edge without pushing, what would you do? What would you say to yourself? How would you breathe? What would happen if each time you feel like pushing yourself, you relax instead?

If you tend to back off or give up on yourself too soon, explore the following questions: What gets in the way of going deeper into your postures? What causes you to hold back? What would you need to do to support yourself to feel safe enough to discover your edge? What happens in yoga and life when you discover your edge instead of holding back? How do you feel?

5. Choose An Inward Focus

We live in a competitive society. And sometimes comparisons and competition enter the yoga studio unconsciously. Focusing the mind on the sensations occurring in our own bodies can help to discover an edge without pushing ourselves into postures or flows that could injure our bodies. We each have our own anatomical makeup and postures may look and feel very different from person to person. There is no perfect posture we must attain to practice yoga.



What else can you do to advance your yoga practice today?


Although there are advanced physical postures that require tremendous strength, balance and focus, the most advanced yoga practices are not necessarily physically strenuous. Advanced yoga practices may not look difficult from the outside, yet they require the practitioner to focus the mind and explore the body for sensations. Practices like holding a posture for an extended period of time in a restorative flow or discovering the pulsing, streaming and tingling sensations during a vinyasa flow or paying attention to variations from the right side of the body to the left side of the body during Self-Awakening Yoga Therapeutics are advanced because they require that we pay attention to our more subtle bodies and develop the ability to concentrate.


So if you are ready to advance your yoga practice, you may want to explore the following questions: What type of practice do I resist? What would happen if I face my resistance by doing the opposite of what I usually do? Do I tend to move quickly or hold postures for extended periods of time? What happens when I change the pace of my practice or attend a class that challenges me to speed up or slow down? These are just a few starting points to help you step out of your comfort zone and into a learning zone, deepening and advancing your yoga practice.



Attending an upcoming workshop can help you to advance your practice and discover new edges in yoga and life. 


Katonah Yoga @ Five Pillars
w/Nevine Michaan

Sunday April 23rd 1 – 3:00pm

Experience Nevine Michaan’s innovative approach to Hatha Yoga. #GoDeep her signature blend of Taoist Chinese theory and Yogic thought this April!

Learn More… 

 

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The Complete Yoga Experience
w/Corey De Rosa


    
Sunday April 30th 1 – 3:30pm

Be prepared to #GoDeep into the eight limbs of yoga in this experiential workshop designed to celebrate the multidimensional self.

Read More… 

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Men’s Health Retreat
w/Jai Sugrim

Saturday May 6th 1-3:30pm
Sunday May 7th 12:30-3:30pm

Take some time out of your busy schedule to practice yoga and set a clear, balanced direction in your life this Spring. Designed with the modern-man in mind, this experiential retreat will enable you to hit pause amid the busy pace of city living, and shine a light on your own life and goals.

Learn More…

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Right Nutrition- The Yoga of Meal Planning
w/Stacey Leung, R.D.

Wednesday May 10th 6:30-8:00pm

Are you ready to discover a guilt-free way of eating that will help you live with energy and vitality… without compromising your waistline? Would you like to dispel false nutrition facts and clarify confusion around what is actually healthy? Look no further. Stacy is leading a FREE healthy meal planning discussion to support your 360˚ yoga lifestyle.

Read more…

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The Future is Female
w/Stefanie Eris

Saturday May 13th 1-3:00pm

Celebrate the sacred feminine just in time for Mother’s Day! Known for dynamic and intelligent teaching style, Stefanie will invite you to to tap into the power and vulnerability of the divine feminine through a slow-burning flow, long held yin/restorative poses, and pranayama techniques. Stefanie’s passion and skillfulness as a teacher will help you to discover new realms of your practice and your life. Sign up in advance to reserve your spot.

Read more…

 

Yoga Lab: The Other Warriors

Warrior I and II get a lot of air time in most asana classes, so we launched this mini series, The Other Warriors, to spread love to the rest of the fighters. We covered Humble and Reverse Warriors in our first post; today we’re tackling Warrior III. For Warrior I and II recaps, click here.

Benefits of Warrior III

  • Strengthens the legs
  • Works the core
  • Heart opener
  • Opens the sides of the rib cage for easier breathing
  • Strengthens the gluteal muscles
  • Stabilizes the low back by stretching the quadratus lumborum (QL) muscles on either side of the lumbar spine

Prep poses

  • Virasana, Hero’s Pose, to open the quads
  • Vrksasana, Tree Pose, to work on balance
  • Core work or Navasana, Boat Pose, to strengthen the abdominals
  • Salabhasana, Locust Pose, to open the heart
  • Warrior I to feel the squareness of the hips

Alignment Refinement

  • Find Tadasana, Mountain Pose, in the standing leg: Place the heel of your standing leg under the sitting bone, toes pointing forward and outer edges of the standing foot parallel to the long edges of the mat.
  • The hip point of the lifted leg will want to open. Bring your hands to your hip creases to manually lower the lifted hip point, rolling it in and down until the sacrum is level.
  • Lift the inner thigh up in an outward rotation.
  • Firm through the thighs and the glutes.
  • Imagine a pair of hands on either side of your hips, pressing the outer edges firmly toward the midline.

Use Props

  • Warrior III is an excellent pose to refine with props: Rest your hands on blocks directly under the shoulders to facilitate the lift of the torso up and away from your thighs. Your chest should be parallel to the floor.
  • With your hands on block, press into your palms to roll the shoulders down the back and away from the ears.
  • Extend your sternum forward, as you would in Locust Pose.
  • To come into the full expression, lift your arms in line with your ears. Make sure the back of your neck is long.
  • Keep rooting evenly through the standing foot and press through the sole of the lifted one.

Energetically, Warrior III builds power and grounding in the legs—as a standing balancing posture it asks us to find our roots—while promoting lightness and outward extension through the torso and outstretched arms. Yin and Yang, rooting and growing. Enjoy and explore the dualities.

Photos: Top Warrior III; boat pose; beach warrior

Yoga 101: The Other Warriors

Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 get a lot of love—in fact, we go into depth about them here—but let’s not forget some of the other, lesser-known Warriors: Reverse and Humble.

Before we get to those, a mini Sanskrit etymology and history lesson:

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All of the warrior poses are named for a great fighter of Hindu mythology, Virabhadra (vira = hero; bhadra = friend). As the story goes, Virabhadra arose from the ground out of a broken heart and a family quarrel. Sati, the wife of the powerful god Shiva, threw herself into a fire after a fight with her father, Daksha. Upon hearing this news, Shiva tore out a piece of his hair and pounded into it the earth, out from which sprang Virabhadra, whom Shiva ordered to kill Daksha.

The three original warrior asanas come from this creation myth:

Virabhadra I is how the warrior appeared when he emerged from the earth, sword clasped in both hands over his head as he broke ground.

Virabhadra II is the pose the warrior struck when he laid eyes on his opponent and prepared to fight.

Virabhadra III is when he springs into action and decapitates Daksha with his sword.

If this all sounds particularly bloody, take heart in knowing that Shiva later brought Daksha back to life and gave him the head of a goat.

Onto today’s warriors, Reverse and Humble, which are newer shapes that don’t factor into the myth; still, they have clear antecedents and unique benefits.

Reverse Warrior

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Oftentimes referred to as Peaceful, and sometimes Dancing, Warrior, Viparita Virabhadrasana grows directly out of Warrior II. If that pose is where Virabhadra prepared to attack, then this variation is where he backs off and softens. The foot patterning is the same—back heel to front arch alignment—and is usually part of a vinyasa sequence that moves in and out of Warrior II as a starting point.

Why do it:

  • Major intercostal muscle side stretch.

Things to keep in mind:

  • The front knee has a tendency to fall out of alignment in this pose. Since you can’t see it, practice proprioception and make sure it’s still above the ankle, not caving in toward the midline or jutting out.
  • As the upper body arcs back, it’s easy to put more weight on the back foot and lose the deep, 90° bend of the front leg established in Vira II. Keep the weight evenly distributed and know you’ll need to rebend the knee after finding the pose.
  • Don’t crush the back ribs. Lift the bottom ribs up and off the back hip point, creating as much space as possible between the two and avoiding the proclivity to collapse onto the back thigh. Think up with your extended arm instead of back.

Humble Warrior

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Just as Reverse Warrior grows out of Warrior II, Humble—or Bound (Baddha) or Devotional Warrior—is a variation on Warrior I. The hips are square, the feet are wider apart than in Vira II, and the shoulder points are still orientated toward the top of the mat. It also signifies an energetic shift from the proud, chest-baring asana of its forebear; as the name suggests, Humble Warrior is about giving energy back to the earth and bowing down instead of rising up.

Why do it:

  • Benefits of an inversion without taking your feet off the floor.
  • Deep shoulder opener.
  • Keeps working the squaring off the hips.

Things to keep in mind:

  • In order to get the right shoulder firmly inside the right front knee you need to move the torso slightly to the left as you come down.
  • This will most likely swing the hips out of alignment.
  • Once the shoulders are in place and the crown of the head is pointing toward the front of the mat, readjust the hips, dragging the right hip point back and the left hip point forward.
  • When the shoulders and hips are square, lower the crown of the head toward the floor. Perhaps it will touch.
  • Keep the inner tips of the shoulder blades drawing toward each other. As much as the crown of the head yearns for the floor, extend your interlaced fist up toward the sky.

Enjoy your warriors, whatever shape they take. We’ll explore Warrior III next.

Photos: Top photo by David Martinez from Yoga Journal; warrior illustration found hereFaith Hunter in Reverse Warrior; Claire Fountain in Humble Warrior 

Yoga 101: Inversions

While most inversions can be built up to slowly over time, upside down shapes can really click after spending an entire class, workshop, or series of classes focusing on floating your feet over your head.

Dedicating extra time to inversions makes sense for a number of reasons. On a physical level, pressing up into handstand in the middle of a regular vinyasa class be challenging because of all the energy you’ve put into the other asanas; on a safety level, establishing a solid foundational practice is really important before attempting to freestyle without guidance.

Inversions are also in their own category energetically. Going upside down affects the body in the same way vigorous aerobic exercise does, by circulating blood down to the feet and up the back. That’s not to say inversions are a stand-in for something that gets your heart rate up, but they are another way to stimulate venous return, the flow of blood back to the heart (a good thing).

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 Why It’s Good to Go Upside Down

Inversions positively impact four major body systems: the cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous and endocrine.

Cardiovascular

  • Inversions give the heart a break. When blood floods the carotid arteries in the neck, the body senses the increase of blood and subsequently slows the flow of blood to the brain, giving the heart a much needed respite.
  • They fortify lung tissue and create an efficient oxygen-to-blood exchange by bringing blood to the oxygen rich upper chamber of our chest.

Lymphatic

  • Lymph, a fluid containing white blood cells, is our first line of defence against illness. When we flip over, lymph can flow to places it might otherwise have a hard time reaching and strengthen the immune system.
  • Head below heart postures reverse the effects of gravity and promote glowing skin by flooding the face with fresh oxygen and flushing toxins.

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Nervous

  • The brain uses 25% of the body’s oxygen; increasing blood flow to the brain means more oxygen, which translates to improved concentration, memory and awareness.
  • Going upside down may help you sleep and calm down the parasympathetic nervous system. Check out the benefits of Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall) in our Deep Sleep post.

Endocrine

  • The endocrine glands run from the base of the spine up to the brain and release hormones like testosterone, estrogen, adrenaline, insulin and dopamine into the blood.
  • Flooding these glands with blood from the lower half of the body makes it easier for the glands to absorb nutrients from the blood and release built-up waste. The result is a possible improvement in gland function, hormone secretion, and the circulation of hormones to the rest of the body.
  • Inversions are natural mood boosters. Turning the adrenal glands on their head gives them a chance to flush and release endorphins that can leave you feeling uplifted.

 

All things considered, inversions are worth floating heels-over-head in love with! Best of all, there are countless variations, from moderate to advanced that allow practitioners of all levels to reap the benefits. 

 

 

 

Photos: Top handstand from Whole Living; forearm stand with eagle legs

Liftoff

Earlier this month we sat deep into Utkatasana, Chair Pose, and promised we’d use it as a launching pad pose for something a little fancier: Eka Pada Galavasana, often called Flying Pigeon.

Utkatasana is that pose’s literal foundation, but there’s another important pose at play here, too, Eka (one) Pada (leg) Rajakapotasana (raja: king; kapot: pigeon), a.k.a. Pigeon. The Sanskrit changes in the flying variation and takes the name of an ancient Hindu sage, Galva, but the in-the-air shape is very clearly related to the prone one.

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Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

All of that to say: Hips, hips, hips. Eka Pada Galavasana is a hip-opening arm balance that requires the thigh-muscle strength cultivated in Chair Pose and the inner groin opening that comes from releasing the hips in Pigeon. To maintain steadiness in the shape, the knee of the lifted leg needs to parallel to the bent, standing knee. In addition to spending time in Chair, you can prep for this shape in pigeon on your belly or on your back.

Lift Off Into Flying Pigeon

  • Sweep your arms alongside your ears and bend your knees to come into Utkatasana.
  • Come onto the toes of your left foot, float the foot off the floor, and cross the ankle over the outside of your right thigh, just above the knee.
  • Flex your lifted foot to protect the knee and turn your toes toward your face.
  • On an exhale, shift your torso forward and place your hands on the floor about six inches in front of you, shoulder-length distance apart, elbows slightly bent.
  • With your weight spread evenly across your palms, lift on to your right tiptoes.
  • Continue shifting your weight forward, enough so that you can place your bent left knee high on your left tricep.
  • Hook your left toes around your right upper arm and grip. Keep your left shin parallel to your collarbones and perch on your arms like a branch.
  • Now, think Crow, just on one leg.
  • Bend your right knee, pull your chest through your arms, and lift the heel of your right foot to your right seat.

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  • Push the floor away to broaden across your upper back. Engage your lower abdominals to support your lower back.
  • Slowly extend your right leg behind you, inner thigh lifting toward the ceiling and thigh bone drawing straight out from the hip socket.
  • Hold for a few breaths of flying time.
  • To come out of the pose, step your left leg back into and step the right leg back into Plank or Chaturanga.
  • Move through a vinyasa or push back to Downward Dog for a few breaths before repeating on the the other side.

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Eka Pada Galavasana is a wonderful hybrid of many shapes that has its own unique energy. The more time you spend with it the clearer you’ll become on which pieces you can work on individually.

Photos: Bird in flight; pigeon pose from Thoughtfully Magazine; bent leg variation from Yoga by Candace; full posture

Sit With It

Chair Pose, Fierce Pose, Lightning Bolt Pose, Awkward Pose—Utkatasana has many names.

And it has a reputation for being kind of awful. It’s challenging, often uncomfortable, and a true test of grit. If the pose could talk it might ask: How do you deal with discomfort?

That said, there is much power in our perception. If you always come into Chair Pose thinking I hate this pose! then you will most likely never learn to love it or soften into it enough to learn from it. So while the gym maxim No Pain No Gain may apply to this posture, consider approaching it from a different angle. When muscles are firing and sweat is dripping, try to find a moment of gratitude for the incredible machine that is your body and the fact that you get to play with it in this way. Really, that’s very cool.

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Physical Benefits

  • Strengthens thigh and foot muscles
  • Increases mobility in the ankle joints
  • Tones the core
  • Works the triceps and biceps
  • Opens the heart
  • Increases awareness in the pelvic floor and movement of the tailbone
  • Presents an opportunity to practice Mula Bandha

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How to Do It

  1. Stand with your feet together, big toes touching, and find Tadasana through the soles of the feet. Shift your weight until you feel it distributed evenly between the bases of the big and little toe and the center of the heel.

  2. With your hands on your hips, exhale deeply as you bend your knees and lower your seat toward the floor. Use the image of descending into an imaginary chair.

  3. Stop the descent when your base becomes unstable and you shift your weight to the inner or outer edges of the feet instead of balancing on your triangle of support.

  4. Look down at your knees. If you can’t see your big toes peeking out from underneath them draw your hips back until they come into view. You may have to straighten the legs a little to do so.

  5. Squeeze an imaginary (or real*) block between the upper thighs and energetically draw your outer hip points in.

  6. Lenghten your arms out in front of you and raise them overhead, palms facing each other and pinkies rotating toward the midline.

  7. Think Cat Pose in the tailbone and draw it underneath you, as if tucking your tail between your legs. Be mindful of overarching through the low back. Knit your ribs in to stay stable through the torso.

  8. Engage the muscles of the upper arms and soften the shoulder blades down the back, creating a subtle heart opening.

  9. Stay.

  10. Practice gratitude.

  11. To come out, anchor firmly through the soles of your feet to lengthen your legs, and then release your arms down by your sides.

*If you’re working with a block, start the pose with the feet hips-width distance.

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Prep pose: Use a block and the wall to strengthen your hamstrings and quadriceps.

The more comfrortable you get in chair pose the more you can use it as a base for other postures, like Twisted Chair, Figure-Four Pose, Side Crow, or, the pose we’ll explore next, Eka Pada Galavasana. Until then, sit deeply.

Photos: @nikksnow in Chair Pose; exercise class; chair prep against the wall

The Tipping Point

* An etymological note: Crow Pose (Kakasana) and Crane Pose (Bakasana) have become so intertwined that most teachers (including this one) teach Kakasana but call it Bakasana and many students do Crane and think it’s Crow. The poses are quite similar, the main difference being that in Crow the arms are bent and in Crane the arms are straight. For the purposes of this post we are treating them as one pose and calling it Crow. 

Somewhere between downdog and forearm stand lives Crow Pose, a low-to-the-ground arm balance that requires trust, fearlessness, strongly grounded hands and an Uddiyana Bandha practice. 

How to Come Into Crow

  • Start in a squat, feet beneath your hips, outer edges parallel.
  • Place your hands on the floor about a foot out in front of you. They should be shoulder-width distance apart, wrists in line with your toes.
  • Fingers spread wide, press evenly through your palms and lift your heels away from the floor.
  • Pour more weight into your palms and shift your shoulders over your wrists.
  • Gaze is forward, not down.
  • Press your knees into the backs of your triceps. Bend the elbows for balance and support as needed, keeping your knees hugging toward the midline and pressed firmly into the backs of the arms. Pro Tip: This pose is really hard to do if you’re sweaty!
  • Engage Uddiyana Bandha, drawing the navel to the spine.
  • Keep the ball of one foot down. Come onto the toes of the other foot.
  • Switch feet.
  • Keep the ball of one foot down and hover the other foot off the floor.
  • Switch feet.
  • Now, with one foot up, hover the other to meet it.
  • Keep looking forward!
  • Uddiyana is engaged but you are still breathing; just maintain an awareness of your hollow belly and your bellybutton pulling your low back up toward the sky.
  • Lower your heels back down to return to earth.

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Try it With Blocks

If you don’t want to fall on your face, place a block infront of your palms. Shift your weight forward and rest your forehead on the block as you draw your heels up.

If floating your feet feels impossible, start the pose by standing on one block, long edges facing the short edges of your mat. When you come into the pose, your feet will be much closer to your seat, making it much easier to lift off and experience that flying sensation.

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Forearm Variations

Still afraid of falling? Totally normal. Try coming into the pose on your forearms to start.

  • With your forearms on the floor, bring your thumbs to touch and rest your forehead on them.
  • Walk your knees onto your triceps.
  • Lift your heels toward your seat.
  • When you feel comfortable, pick your head up and gaze forward.

 

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Over time and with practice it will become easier to straighten the arms and balance for several long breaths. The options for getting out of crow in a vinyasa practice are all challenging and fun: jumping straight into chatarunga, pushing up into handstand, lowering the forehead to the floor and coming into Sirsasana…or just finding both feet back down on the ground.

Photos: Top crow; crow with crow; forearm crow; David Martinez (straight arm variation). 

Yoga For An Open Heart

At the end of a deeply divided election, it’s fair to say that all of could use an injection of happiness, hope and optimism. Before spreading that message to our communities and reaching a hand out to those on the other side of the aisle, we need to first embody those qualities ourselves.

The first step in cultivating an open heart is to literally feel an open heart. Yoga is full of heart openers, postures in which the collarbones widen, the shoulder blades draw together around the spine, the abdomen protects the low back and the heart center lifts and fills.

Heart openers are stress-relieving and uplifting. A balm to the body and mind, they are also vulnerable and exposed. To offer up your heart is to offer yourself up without armor or explanation, a harder task than the most challenging asana. See our earlier post for more benefits and tips on front extensions.

The postures below can be done in sequence or on their own. Explore Yin or Restorative versions, with lots of props and plenty of time, to really open up.

Puppy Dog Pose, Anahatasana

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A combination of Child’s Pose and Downward Facing Dog, Puppy Pose is a deep heart opener that offers the support of the floor to sink the chest into. If the floor feels impossibly far away, support your upper arms with blocks and bend at the elbows, meeting your hands in prayer overhead.

Upward Facing Bow Pose, Dhanurasana

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In the traditional shape, both knees are bent and the outer edges of both feet are grasped. Try a one-sided variation and go for extra lift through the extended front arm.

Camel Pose, Ustrasana

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A strong heart opener needs a clear support system. In Camel, roll the inner thighs toward the midline, keep your hip points stacked over your knees and imagine your legs pressed firmly against a wall (or, better yet, press your legs firmly against a wall!). Start with your toes tucked under, tops of feet lifted, and work your way to feet flat against the floor.

Wheel Pose, Dhanurasana

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Probably the biggest and best known heart opener of all, full Wheel Pose is energizing and demanding. Keep the outer edges of your feet parallel and hips-width distance apart. Rest on the crown of your head before pushing into the full posture and be sure to release any tension or straining in the neck. Play with narrowing the distance between your feet and hands as you breath your heart up and out.

Reclined Bound Angle Pose, Supta Baddha Konasana

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For a chill solo pose or the integrating shape at the end of a sequence, Supta Baddha Konasana cannot be beat. We explored a Restorative version in our Deep Sleep post, and offer a few more supported heart-melters here. If you can, treat yourself to props and extra support. Here, with the floor or a bolster beneath the spine you can feel into the breath filling the length of the torso, from the belly up into the chamber of the heart. Take the opportunity to breathe deeply and offer something, perhaps yourself, up fully.

Photos: Top image; Taryn Toomy in Puppy Pose; Bow; Camel; Wheel; Supta Baddha Konasana