Sunday, September 25, 2011

Finding Your Flow

There is a style of practicing yoga that is called Vinyasa. One way of interpreting Vinyasa is "to flow." When yoga poses are sequenced together in a fluid way and is guided by breath, it is often referred to as Vinyasa. With this style of yoga, one can experience a flow with their breath and body. Personally, when I teach yoga, it is usually in the style of Vinyasa. It reminds me of being a choreographer as I guide my yoga dancers through a series of poses and breath. It is a wonderful way to find your own personal rhythm. Have you been feeling a little disjointed, disconnected, or even clumsy recently? Does it feel like things are not flowing the way that you'd like at work, home, or school? Perhaps some yoga breath and Vinyasa flow will bring you back to a rhythmic pattern that is more balanced. A classic Vinyasa yoga flow is the Sun Salutation, so why not move through several series of the Sun Salutation to regain a sense of fluidity and balance. Start in Mountain Pose. Bring your hands to heart center. Begin your yoga breath and set your intention: to bring rhythm back into your life. Inhale: extend your arms overhead Exhale: fold forward, touch your toes Inhale: lift up half way to a flat back, extend your spine Exhale: plant your hands on the floor and jump back (or step back) into a high plank pose Inhale: hold plank and feel the strength in your entire body Exhale: remain straight and strong bend your elbows, and lower your heart to the floor Inhale: lengthen your arms to lift the upper portion of your body forming a back bend (Upward Facing Dog) Exhale: lift your hips toward the sky until your body forms an inverted "V" shape (Downward Facing Dog) Inhale: hold the former pose Exhale: jump (or step) both feet back up to the top of your mat Inhale: extend the spine to a flat back Exhale: fold forward Inhale: stand up all the way with your arms extending over head Exhale: bring your hands back to heart center Repeat this as many times as you like. And although this is a classic sun salute, you don't have to feel confined to this particular flow. Why not create your own rhythm and do your own yoga flow. Do what ever feels right for your body. In fact, do not think too much. Just allow the body to move freely. Need some inspiration? Turn on some music and play your favorite song. Allow the music to inspire you. The idea and intention here is to be yourself. Express yourself authentically. We can be inspired by our favorite things or guided by structure. Either way, allow your body to flow. I don't normally do this, but I wanted to let you know of a yoga retreat that is coming up that I am co-facilitating with a colleague. It is called A Rhythm Yoga Winter Retreat held at Alta Lodge in Utah December 9-11, 2011. The intention of the retreat is to discover and experience your own personal rhythm. We will do that on the yoga mat as well as on the ski slopes! For more information, go to Namaste

Friday, September 16, 2011

Yes! You Can! (Part 2)

Last week's blog entry introduced you to an intense pose: Handstand. Continuing on that theme, this week's yoga pose is another intense pose: Chair Pose. Now, I know that Chair Pose doesn't sound as intense as standing on your hands, but the way that you perform this pose will certainly bring a little more excitement to your practice. Chair Pose is a standard pose that is seen and performed while flowing through the Sun Salutation Series B. But there are some things you need to know about Chair Pose. Yoga instructors call this posture Chair simply because it LOOKS like you're sitting in a chair. (It also resembles the shape of a Thunder Bolt which is another nickname for this posture.) Being IN Chair Pose, however, does not mimic actually sitting in a chair. The Sanskrit for this posture is Utkatasana which translates to intensely fierce or powerful pose. While holding this pose, you will certainly experience the intensity. Let's start with your intention while standing in Mountain Pose. With your hands at your heart center, bring to mind some challenging circumstances you may have had to manage in recent times. Maybe you were faced with situations that seemed nearly impossible to get through. While in the middle of the situation, you may have even thought to yourself, "how will I ever get through this?" No matter how challenging an event may be, remember that you have the power and strength to make it through. You WILL see the other side of the situation. After you set your intention of KNOWING your inner strength, power, and endurance, inhale to extend your arms toward the sky. Exhale and sit back into "chair pose." While you bend your knees, you will hinge your hips and sit back as if you were sitting into a chair. Keep your arms extended upward past your ears. Now....hold this posture for at least TWO MINUTES. Yes, that is a long time, but do your very best. Resist the urge to move or drop out of the pose. Remember your strength and ability to get through challenging situations, Here are some things you can do to help maintain Utkatasana. Recall the resource of the breath. Allow yourself to take deeper (and perhaps audible) breaths here. Inhale to maintain a full length through the arms and spine. Exhale to engage your core - draw your navel in toward your spine. Be aware of your foundation: secure your feet firmly into the floor. (You may want to shift some weight back into your heels so that you do not force too much pressure into your knee joints.) Imagine you have a block between your thighs and squeeze it. This will give you more strength in your hips to stay solid in the pose. Your arms and shoulders may get tired, but keep the breath strong and remember you CAN do this. It's ONLY 2 minutes! I can guess you have been in worse situations for longer periods of time, right? Complete your 2 minute intense pose by standing tall with an inhale - arms still extending toward the sky. Exhale to bring your arms down by your side. You're done. Stand here for another minute or so to allow the body to relax after this powerful pose. Smile! You did it! It may not have been easy, but you got through it. Remember that you can do the same thing off the mat. Use your inner strength and resources to get through those moments in life that seem nearly impossible to get through. Trust yourself. You CAN do it. Namaste.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Yes! You Can!

An amazing and dynamic pose to add to your yoga practice is Handstand! Yes...Handstand! Don't think you can do it? Afraid that you might fall? These are common statements when a pose like Handstand is before them. This posture can be a great way to face your fears and accomplish something you thought to be impossible. In Sanskrit, the word for Handstand is Adho Mukha Vrksasana. This translates to Downward Facing Tree. As you attempt this pose, you might want to create the image of an upside down tree in your mind to help guide yourself into the posture. A tree that is right side up has its roots planted securely into the earth. The strong trunk of the tree is sturdy enough to withstand many challenges (i.e. wind, rain, and even the occasional squirrel or woodpecker!) The branches of the tree, although strong, are flexible, as they rise high into the sky. The only direction a tree wants to move is upward. We can take this image of the tree, turn it upside down, and still have the same structure. While in Handstand, the hands become the roots, so you'll want to create a strong foundation with straight arms while in the pose. The torso resembles the trunk of the tree. While engaging a strong core, your body will remain firm and sturdy like the tree trunk. The legs, feet, and toes, will reach high toward the ceiling acting as branches ever wanting to move upward. To begin the pose, start in Downward Facing Dog near a wall. (Use the wall to help hold your balance once you are in the pose.) Perhaps it is here that you set your intention. Maybe you're wanting to move forward with something that feels completely new or foreign to you and you're a little afraid of the unknown. You're not sure how things are going to turn out. Sometimes we have to act with a little blind faith. Trust that everything is going to be okay. Know that you have a secure foundation, that you are a strong individual, and you are flexible when the unexpected twists and turns come your way. The ultimate outcome is that you have done your very best to move upward. While in Downward Facing Dog, keep one foot on the floor while lifting the other. The foot on the ground will be used as your "launching pad" to help lift yourself up into the air with a kick. The other leg will be used as a "rudder" to help guide your body upward into an extended structure from top to bottom. The rudder will also stop you from falling over because it will land on the wall. When you're ready, using a powerful exhale, kick yourself up into the posture. You may want to start with a few light hops just to get the feeling of lifting up into the air and balancing on your hands. When you have gained trust in your body, perform a stronger kick to bring yourself all the way to the wall. Once you have both feet against the wall, root down in the floor with your hands so your arms are straight. (You may also want to hug the arms toward each other to feel even stronger in this Handstand position.) Engage your core so that your torso is also extended. Finally, since your heels may be against the wall, keep your feet flexed to feel the lengthening sensation of your legs along the wall toward the ceiling. Hold the pose for at least 10 breaths. Complete the pose by bringing one leg down, then the other, and come to Child's Pose. Stay here for as along as you need to re-orient the body, mind, and breath. Remind yourself that you ARE able to accomplish feats that may seem daunting to you at first. But with patience and practice, you WILL reach your goals. Namaste

Friday, September 2, 2011


"Open yourself up to your greatest potential." That could certainly be a person's mantra or motivational quote that they have taped to their bathroom mirror! It could also be the intention behind any yoga practice. But what does it really mean? I have often defined yoga to my new yoga students as the practice of finding greater awareness of self by focusing on breath and movement. When you focus on these areas, you find and feel a clarity about yourself that seems to open many doors. You find that you have greater strength, ability, focus, balance, integrity, peace of mind, and the list goes on. Yoga can be the practice that opens the doors to many possibilities. One can start simply and easily to find those inner openings; to discover your own greatest potential.

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
Also called Cobbler's Pose, named for the Indian cobbler as he sits and builds shoes, this yoga posture is essentially a hip opener, but can also demonstrate that inner potential one seeks to discover. Start by sitting on the floor and bring the bottoms of your feet together. Draw your heels closer to your pelvis. Your knees will naturally drop down to the side. Don't worry if your knees do not touch the floor. They don't need to. If your hips are little tight, this is great pose to begin that release. Hold onto your toes, ankles or shins so that you are able to sit up tall with an extended spine. (Feel free to practice this pose sitting against a wall. You can also do Supta Baddha Konasana, or Reclining Bound Angle Pose which is done lying on your back.)

Once you have established the pose, set your intention. Perhaps you want to be more extroverted or be able to speak your mind more freely and with confidence. Maybe you feel stuck in a rut and want to find a way to move forward; created a change in the old routine. When our minds and bodies are opened, we can see the possibilities; the doors begin to open. Cobbler's Pose can guide you toward feeling more alive, free, and open.

Hold here for 10-15 breaths. Allow the natural release and the opening to occur. If you focus on the exhale, this can assist the release of any tightness in the inner thighs and hips. Further, if your intention is to open yourself up more, then this, too, will happen with the practice of this pose. Remember your initial intention and experience the revealing of your natural potential.