Pose Breakdown: Natarajasana (Dancer Pose)

Natarajasana, translated to dancer or lord of the dance pose, is a beautiful and challenging pose. Usually incorporated towards the end of a yoga flow, this pose is a great way to stretch out the body, focus the mind, and really challenge your sense of balance. It is a fun pose to play with, attempting to bring the back leg higher or reach the front arm further. Dancer pose is also a great pose for kids. It gives them a fun, challenging pose to try out.

Steps to get into pose:

  • Start in tadasana (mountain pose)
  • Shift weight to right leg/foot
  • Bend left after at the elbow bringing it out to the left side
  • Slowly bend left leg at the knee, bringing left foot into the left hand
  • Lift right arm straight up towards the sky
  • Holding the inside of the left foot, slowly kick the leg out behind out
  • While kicking the left leg out, slowly hinge at the hips reaching right arm ahead of you
  • Repeat steps for opposite leg

 

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Benefits:

  • Stretches the shoulders and chest
  • Stretches the thighs, groins, and abdomen
  • Strengthens the legs and ankles
  • Improves balance

 

 

 

Yoga as Pain Treatment

Opioids are all over the news these days. Whether talking about them in an addiction context or as a form of pain treatment, medications are constantly being discussed and debated. Should we be using opioids for pain? What is the risk of addiction? How can we stop addiction from happening? Are there alternatives to drugs for pain?

While I’m not a medical physician, I have a great deal of personal experience with pain and know for a fact that yoga has helped me not only deal with the pain, but even alleviate it.

The first step, for me, was becoming aware of the pain and exactly where it was located. Simply taking a deep breath and focusing on where I was feeling the pain, what kind of pain it was, and determining whether I had to deal with it or if I could live with it. From there, I found yoga poses that targeted that specific spot, for me it was the lower back. After a few months, I noticed my pain steadily decrease. After a few more months, I even noticed I rarely felt the pain at all.

It takes some time and effort, but yoga does work. Recent studies and articles have shown that yoga can not only supplement a tradition pain treatment regimen which involved medications, but in some cases it can actually replace that regimen.

For specific poses, see a previous post: Yoga for Chronic Pain

*Please see a medical physician before starting any regimen for pain treatment.

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Pose Breakdown: Badha Konasana (Cobbler Pose)

Towards the end of a yoga sequence, relaxation poses are incorporated to help the body start to cool down, allowing the muscles to begin to let go of any tension caused by some of the more active poses. Badha Konasana (literally meaning “bound angle pose) is a relaxation pose often incorporated towards the end of yoga sequences. This pose is most often called cobbler pose or butterfly pose.

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Pose Breakdown:
-Begin seated with your legs straight out on the mat or ground, keeping your back straight.
-Bend your knees and slowly drop your knees out to the sides, like a book, bringing the soles of your feet to touch.
-Take both hands and wrap them around the feet.
-Sit straight and tall, focusing on the posture and breath. You can also slowing pull your upper body towards the feet, incorporating a forward fold.
Modification:
-Supta Badha Konasana is a modification where you are laying on your back with your legs/feet in the same position.
-Start laying on your back with both legs straight out in front of you.
-Follow the same directions with the legs as seated badha konasana.
-Take your feet further forward, away from your body, to ease any discomfort in your knees or hips. Using support items, such as blocks or blankets, under the knees can also assist with discomfort.
-Take one hand to the chest and one to the belly.
-Lay still, focusing on the breath.
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Benefits:
-Relieves menstrual cramps.
-Reduces symptoms of depression.
-Improve energy levels.
-Reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Enjoy this wonderfully relaxing posture!

Satya – Finding Your Truth

Satya is the Sanskrit word for truth. Truth is often seen as a binary, black and white issue. A truth is a truth and a lie is a lie…right? Well, people have different truths. Truth can be very subjective, specific to the individual. What is true for me isn’t true for everyone. Yoga philosophy teaches us that truth is when our thoughts, words, and actions are all in harmony. Gandhi equates this to true happiness. Yoga also teaches us that with truth, no harm is done.

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Using these principles in considering what is true and what is not, we can move from judging others towards acceptance. By accepting that all truths are different, one can live a more free life. Without the burden of judgment, we can detach ourselves from having to be perfect, from having to project our own truth onto others.

This is applicable to yoga as we often find ourselves judging and criticizing others on their yoga practice based on where we are in ours. Going to a studio can be daunting, as we may feel judged and compare ourselves to others. You may not be able to get into that headstand or handstand, you may have trouble with the warrior series. It’s okay…that’s your truth. Don’t judge your truth, your practice based on where others are at. Don’t feel like a failure if you use props. Props can be a great addition to an already established practice.

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Ultimately your practice is your own, your truth is your own. By trying to focus on that and not what others are doing, you will be happier and more free in life.

Happy practicing!

Pose Breakdown: Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)

A pose that is great for strengthening the muscles that support the knee is anjaneyasana or low lunge/crescent lunge. This pose is often incorporated into the sun salutation series or is done before a warrior series.

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Adjustments and modification are available. For example, the back knee can be raised or lowered to the mat, depending on the strength in your knee and leg. The hands can be raised, reaching towards the back (as shown in the picture) or they can be pressed together at the heart. Twists are also available in this pose to add some deeper stretches for the back.

This pose is great is you want to release tension in your hips. It is also good for stretching the hamstrings, quads and groin. This pose can also help build mental focus. Holding this pose helps focus not on thoughts but on the physical nature of the pose.

When going into this pose, be sure to align your knees and ankles, keeping them stacked. Your heart should be open, reaching forward and your arms can be raised, reaching back. Breath deeply in and out, embracing the pose and all that comes with it.

Wanderlust 108 Festival

It’s that time of year again, festivals of all kinds are popping up on our social media news feeds. From music festivals, yoga festivals, and everything in between, the spring and summer months are full of activity!

I recently got to participate in one of the Wanderlust 108 festivals in San Francisco. It was my first experience with a single day festival, yoga or otherwise. I had heard many things about these Wanderlust 108 festivals…good and bad. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, to be honest…but I figured I’d give it a chance! Being open to possibility, that’s one of the best lessons yoga taught me.

The first part of this “mindfulness triathlon” was a 5K run/walk. Now I won’t lie, I planned on walking the whole thing. I’m not a runner, I never really was. I’ve done 5K runs before, but I quickly found out running is not for me. I never really enjoyed it, I never hit that point in my runs where I felt the glory of the run. I’m okay with that. Considering it had been over six years since my last 5K, I am very proud to say I ran just about 1/3 of the 5K! Big Day!!! I completely attribute it to herd mentality…people were running so I did too.

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The second portion of the triathlon was the yoga session. I was most excited about this. Little did I know, it would be the longest yoga class ever…or at least it felt that way. Overall, it was a great class. It worked out my muscles and helped me become aware of certain weaknesses I didn’t know I had, specifically in my thigh muscles. In the end, we really earned that savasana!

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Finally, we got to the meditation. It was a beautifully led mindfulness meditation, really embracing the idea of being here now. I really enjoyed it, even though I dozed off a bit throughout. That’s okay, I accept myself for who I am!

In the end, I really enjoyed the Wanderlust 108 event. I will definitely attend future events, maybe even one of their multi-day festivals!

Fall dates and tickets were just dropped. For more info and to buy tickets, check out their website: Wanderlust

May the Fourth Be With You!

Music for Your Yoga Practice

When I’m planning a yoga class or private session, one of the biggest and often most overlooked pieces to consider is the music. Do I play music? What kind of music should I play? Should it be soothing, calming? Should it be groovy, danceable? These are all questions that run through my head when I’m planning to teach yoga. It can often be just as important as the sequence being taught. Music can set the tone for a yoga session, creating an upbeat environment or creating a quiet, calm space.

So, what’s the answer?

Well…it depends.

There are so many factors at play when it comes to planning the type of music, if any, to add to a yoga session. What kind of yoga are you teaching? What’s the make up of the class? What’s your mood or the mood of the student/students?

Ultimately, my plan is always to have a couple options at hand. Usually, I ask the student or group of students if they would be okay with music being played during the class. Then, before playing the music, I do a check in. This helps me determine if more upbeat, active music is appropriate or if calming music is better fit.

No matter what type of music I start with, I always always always end the class with a calming song. I believe its always best to have a calming, soothing song during savasana (corpse pose). This will definitely help with the release, the whole point of the pose.

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A great, though pricey, option is to have headphones for the students. You can have a couple different playlists available so the student can choose what they want to listen to. Be sure to connect a microphone to the headphones via Bluetooth so that the students can still hear your instructions.

I’ve been to many different classes with many types of music playing and it all works. Go with your gut when picking out music for your class. You will set the tone for the class and the class will follow your lead.

Pose Breakdown: Vajrasana (Thunderbolt) vs. Virasana (Hero)

Two poses that often get confused or interchanged are vajrasana (thunderbolt pose) and virasana (hero pose).

Both poses are seated postures, often used during meditation before or after a yoga asana practice. These postures are also good to use during pranayama practice.

The picture on the left is vajrasana and the picture on the right is virasana.

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As you can see, the two poses look very alike. Generally, your body is in a similar position. The main difference, however, is where the feet are. In vajrasana, you are sitting on the heels of your feet. In virasana, you are sitting between your feet. The subtle difference changes the elevation of your hips.

The benefits of the two poses are pretty much the same, the elevation of the hips however may cause more or less comfort. Similarly, sitting on the heels or between the heels may depend on the comfort level of the yogi.

Ultimately, whichever posture you chose, you will benefit. Whether you use this posture for meditation, pranayama, or simply as a break between yoga asana, you will find it to be a great posture for your feet and thighs. It also helps create awareness of posture.

Finding Your Yoga

One of the questions I am asked most often is “which yoga is the best?”

I always respond the same way, it depends.

The type of yoga that is “best” depends on so many factors. It depends on the person practicing, it depends on the mood of the person, it can even depend on the time of day the person is practicing.

Here are a few things to ask yourself when looking for a “type*” of yoga to best suit you.

  1. What do I want to focus on with this yoga practice?
  2. What do I want to feel after this yoga practice?
  3. What is my primary reason for participating in this yoga practice?

These questions will give you a sense of what you’re looking for out of a yoga class and help guide you to specific types of yoga classes.

Here are a few popular types of classes available in most areas:

Hatha Yoga

This is basically the source of all yoga. It generally encompasses all practices of yoga. It is were most yoga practices stem from, from the asana (pose) sequence as well as pranayama (breath) practice.

Vinyasa Flow Yoga

This type of yoga is very much the typical yoga people think of. It’s very fluid, moving from one pose to another in line with the breath. You breathe in with one pose and out with another. This can fluctuate in intensity, from power yoga which is usually very active, fast paced, and builds strength, to Ashtanga, which holds a bit longer in each pose.

Yin Yoga

This type of yoga is slow paced, holding poses for long period of time (can be anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes).

Kundalini Yoga

This type of yoga blends together spiritual practice with asana. This practice incorporates movement with breath as well as chanting specific mantras. The goal is to increase consciousness as well as improving vitality.

Bikram Yoga

This type of yoga uses the same 26 poses in the same sequence. It stemmed from hatha yoga practice, joining movement with breath. Generally, Bikram Yoga is practiced in a hot room for 90 minutes.

There are many other types of yoga out there. I always recommend new yogis try different types of classes as well as different teachers. You may find you like the style, but a different teacher can really change the outcome of the class. Ultimately, like I said, the style of yoga depends on a lot of factors. The best thing one can do as a new yoga student is to be a YES, be open to the possibility of the class. You never know what you’ll find.

 

*(Note: I do not subscribe to types of yoga, for me its all about the sequence that is put together, not the name given to a sequence or flow)

A Yoga Sequence for the Feminine

In honor of International Women’s Day, I wanted to share a sequence that is often used to specifically honor the feminine within. Now, this doesn’t mean that men can’t do this sequence. On the contrary, I believe this sequence can and will help anyone, whether its to honor the feminine or just as an alternative sequence.

Traditionally, it is called the Moon Salutation. One can consider it the sequence to honor the moon, like the Sun Salutations are used to honor the sun and fire within.

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Here is are the poses (pictured above) that make up the Moon Salutation Sequence. (Note, this is one variation of Moon Salutation. Many more variations can be found online.)

Standing Mountain Pose — Tadasana

Upward Salute Side Bend/Half Moon — Urdhva Hastasana

Goddess Squat — Utkata Konasana

Star Pose

Extended Triangle Pose — Utthita Trikonasana

Pyramid Pose — Parsvottanasana

Low Crescent Lunge — Anjaneyasana

Low Side Lunge

Garland Pose — Malasana

Low Side Lunge

Low Crescent Lunge — Anjaneyasana

Pyramid Pose — Parsvottanasana

Extended Triangle Pose — Utthita Trikonasana

Star Pose

Goddess Squat — Utkata Konasana

Upward Salute Side Bend/Half Moon — Urdhva Hastasana

Standing Mountain Pose — Tadasana

This sequence can be done any time of day. Morning or evening, when the sun in shining or the moon is beaming, the Moon Salutation sequence can be incorporated in any yoga sequence.

Go forth! Honor the feminine within!

Happy International Women’s Day!