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 for Flying

As the holidays approach, many of us will be taking trips to see family and friends. Whether long or short, flying can be rough on the body. Sitting for long spans of time can put strain on certain joints and muscles.

Here are some poses that can be done fairly easily during that long flight to see grandma (or whoever it may be).

  1. Seated cat/cow with eagle arms
    • Sit with your feet grounded and your back slightly away from the back of the chair
    • Cross your left arm under your right, clasping hands
    • Inhale, reach the elbows up, opening the chest
    • Exhale, bring the elbows down, folding forward
    • Repeat with right arm under left
  2. Forward fold
    • Bring your hands to your knees
    • Inhale lift your chest up
    • Exhale slowing fold your chest towards your lap
    • Repeat
  3. Seated spinal twists
    • Sit with your feet flat on your ground
    • Take one hand to arm rest
    • Slow pivot upper body towards that side, twisting at the hips
    • Repeat on opposite side
  4. Leg lifts
    • Slowly raise one leg at a time, holding in raised position for a 2 breath count
    • Inhale lift leg
    • Exhale release leg
  5. Ankle rolls
    • Slowly lift the foot off the ground and roll in one direct, repeat in opposite
    • Repeat for opposite foot
  6. Neck rolls
    • Sit with your back straight
    • Slowly roll neck in one direction
    • Repeat in opposite direction
  7. Mountain pose
    • Find a space to stand
    • Engage abs, legs, and arms
    • Feel the strength in your stance, closing the eyes
    • Inhale, exhale for 2-3 breath count
  8. Lunges
    • Using the aisles, do small lunges up and down the aisle
  9. Seated meditation
    • Sit with your feet flat on the ground
    • Close your eyes
    • Notice your breath
    • Inhale/Exhale deeply

 

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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!

Meditation Made Easy

Meditation has been proven to reduce physical manifestations of stress. The act of deep breathing assists in invoking calm and reducing anxiety. However, committing to a meditation practice can be a daunting idea. How do you even start? In our fast paced society, sitting still for a few minutes a day, trying not to let our thoughts distract us…this can be hard.

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Often, we rely on resources, like YouTube videos or applications on our smart phones, to assist us. Here are a few user friendly meditation apps that can be downloaded on any smart phone.

  • Headspace – Free
    • App requires membership after free trial ($7.92), beginner friendly, easy to use. Offers instructions on how to meditate.
  • Meditation Studio – $3.99
    • Powered by Gaiam, offers many different types of meditation, offer guided meditations
  • Calm – Free
    • App requires membership ($4.99), offers different types of meditations,
  • Stop, Breath, & Think – Free
    • App requires membership ($4.92), offers tutorials on types of breathing as well as guided meditations
  • Oprah & Deepak 21 Day Meditation – Free
    • App offers free 21 day meditations series, guided meditations with theme, offers mantras as well as journaling prompts

There are many more apps that can be used. Going to a meditation workshop is also an option. Anyway you do it, meditation is only going to be a benefit to your life.

Meditation can be done anytime, anywhere. Whether you’re just starting your day, in the middle of some work, or even driving home (though you don’t want to close your eyes during this meditation!), you can take a few minutes to meditate. Even going for a walking meditation can combine the calming benefits of meditation with the physical benefits of walking.

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So go, download an app, and let’s meditate!

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.

Yoga for Traveling

Are you an avid traveler who is trying to maintain a consistent yoga practice at home? Traveling can throw a wrench in attempting to build your practice, but it doesn’t have to.

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Here are some simple and easy ways to maintain your home practice on the go!

  • Take your practice with you!
    • Pack a travel mat or bring along a towel to practice some yoga while you’re away. Many companies make thin, easily foldable mats that are perfect for the seasoned traveler.
  • Make your practice part of your adventure.
    • Plan to wake up early or save some time at the end of the day for some yoga. For me, waking up a little earlier and giving myself a few minutes for my practice is usually best, but some people prefer yoga in the evenings or before heading to bed. Better yet, stop drop and yoga while you’re site seeing! There’s no time like the present, right?
  • Find studios or events where you’re traveling to.
    • Yoga is an international affair. There are probably many options as far as yoga studios in the place you’re visiting. There may even be an event taking place while you’re there. Most yoga studios have drop in rates.
  • Choose pranayama or meditation as opposed to asana.
    • Yoga isn’t just about the asana (physical practice). Yoga is about the breath and mind too. Practice your pranayama and meditation while waiting in line or practice a walking meditation. Sit by the water and focus on your breath.
  • Any yoga is better than no yoga.
    • Even just 10-15 minutes of yoga a day can make a world of difference. If you can take the time to check your e-mails, you can take the time for some yoga!

Happy travels, yogis!

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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!

Yoga & Self-Love

Putting yourself first is often seen a negative, selfish. Altruism, or selflessly putting others before yourself is often rewarded and praised.

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So how do we take care of ourselves while still taking care of others? Those of us who have careers in public service or non-profit can understand the risk of burnout. Constantly giving ourselves to others can be quite exhausting and often takes a toll on our wellbeing. So what do we do?

Spoiler alert…yoga can help!

One of the key principles of yoga is the increase self-awareness, to promote self-realization. Once we are more aware of ourselves in terms of our feelings, our thoughts, etc, we can understand how external events or situations affect us. We can then cultivate better means to deal with situations which may later lead to burn out.

This is self-care. By engaging in regular self-care, we can allow ourselves to become the best possible versions of ourselves. This will allow us to continue serving others without as high as risk of burnout. By engaging in self-care, you aren’t saying that you matter more than anyone else…in fact its quite the opposite. Self-care suggests you simply want to make yourself better to help others more effectively.

Consider this: You wake up Monday morning after a mere four hours of sleep because you were up all night helping your child who was sick. You make breakfast and lunches for the family, then get ready for work. At work, you are helping people too, whether it is fellow staff or customers your company serves. During your lunch hour, you help a co-worker work through a personal problem. After work, you pick up your kids and head home to start dinner.

In this scenario, where is there any time for you to simply be? We are constantly doing, but when are we just being? I assert that if we took just a few moments each day to practice self-awareness, we would be less stressed and overwhelmed throughout the day. Even if its a simple five minute break, where we acknowledge our feelings and just allow them to be. There doesn’t need to be a solution at the end of this time, but awareness of the self promotes peace and tranquility, ultimately the ability to accept things as they are. This is key in self-care. By accepting yourself as you are, by admitting what you can do and what you can’t and accepting that…you can then truly serve others to the best of your abilities, whether it is family, friends, or in your career.

So…let’s get out there and practice some self-love!

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