Friday, January 27, 2012

Your Entire Power (Part 2)

In the last blog entry, I introduced to you Downward Facing Dog. It is a great pose that allows you to experience your fullest potential and power. You are able to experience physical power as well as emotional and mental power from practicing this pose.

This week, let's step it up a bit. We are going to take Downward Facing Dog to a new level to really test your power and strength physically, emotionally, and mentally. The pose this week is called "Turbo Dog." It is a term and pose borrowed from Forrest Yoga.

"Ana Forrest has been changing people’s lives for nearly 40 years. An internationally recognized pioneer in yoga and emotional healing, Ana created Forrest Yoga while working through her own healing from her life’s trauma and experience. With thousands of licensed practitioners around the world, Forrest Yoga is renowned as an intensely physical, internally focused practice that emphasizes how to carry a transformative experience off the mat and into daily life." (Taken from

The pose really embodies what Forrest Yoga is all about. We have the power and strength within us to sustain what life hands us. When life is demanding, we must remember that we DO have the resources within us to make it through the toughest moments.

Turbo Dog
Start on your hands and knees on your yoga mat. Set your intention here. Perhaps think of situations that are more challenging than your typical situations. In these moments, we are often needing relief or strength to get us through. The circumstance can sometimes feel so overwhelming that it feels like it will never end. Can you possibly endure this? YES you can. You DO have the strength and power to survive even the most challenging of life's moments.

Move your hands forward a bit on your mat, come up onto your toes, then move your hips up and back toward the wall behind you until you have come to Downward Facing Dog. We already know that this posture helps us to tap into our entire power and strength. Now, let's take it further.

Begin to bend your elbows as if you're going to place them on the floor. But don't place them on the mat! Bend them enough so you are just hovering over your mat. To bring more stability to the pose, imagine you are holding onto a block between your elbows that you cannot drop. Or even imagine you're holding onto a beach ball between your arms. This moving in toward your center creates great strength and stability in the posture. Whenever we move toward the midline - the spine - we experience greater control, self-assurance, confidence, balance, and strength.

Be sure that your breath is also strong and allow it to help you maintain the posture. Focus on the exhale: as you release the breath, engage your Abdominal Lock (Uddiyana Bandha - oo-dee-YAH-nah BAHN-dah
uddiyana = upward (ud = "up, upwards")
bandha = binding, tying a bond, fetter; putting together, uniting, contracting, combining; mundane bondage, attachment to this world.) This connection further taps you into your inner resources needed to hold in stillness in this pose. As you are able, hold the pose for 5-10 breaths. Finish by lightly resting your elbows on the floor then come to Child's Pose.

Coming to this resting posture is a reminder, also, of the necessary rest after something very strenuous. It is the time to take care of yourself after enduring strain and stress on the body. Yes, you have the strength to endure, but you also have the strength to nurture. That is the balance we all want to achieve.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Your Entire Power (Part 1)

Downward Facing Dog is a very popular yoga pose. It is seen and performed while flowing through the Sun Salutations. It is a great pose because it physically stimulates the entire body. I would add that it provides strength to the entire body.

The posture, as said, is typically done while moving through a yoga sequence, but the pose itself can be done as an entire practice.

So what intention can we bring to this pose? Since "Down Dog" works and brings power to the entire body, how about set your intention as experiencing the fullness of your own power and strength.

Sometimes when we workout at the gym, for example, we work specific parts of the body: the arms, the legs, the chest, etc. How about doing ONE pose that works EVERY part of your body. Step into this pose acknowledging ALL of your power and strength. Remind yourself that this energetic power flows through your entire body. It doesn't necessarily have to settle in one place. Why not be strong in your entirety. As you come to Downward Facing Dog, remember that energy.

Because it is an inversion pose (your hands are on the floor and your head is pointing down toward the floor) we build strength in the hands, arms, shoulders, and back. You build core strength, flexibility in your legs, feet, and toes.

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Start on your hands and knees. Here, set your intention of finding and feeling the fullness of your entire strength. Move the hands forward a bit on your mat. Be sure to make a full and strong connection to the mat with your hands. Spread out your fingers, grip the mat with your fingertips, and press more toward your inner palms so that not too much pressure moves to the outer wrists (potentially causing harm.)

Come up on your toes, and while keeping the knees bent, lift your hips up and back toward the wall behind you. As you make this transition, you will be lengthening through your spine (one of the physical intentions of this pose.) Feel free to keep the knees slightly bent. That will allow you to have mobility in your hips and push them farther back toward the wall behind you further extending your spine. At the same time, press your hands into the floor as if you're trying to push the floor away from you. This will provide more length as well as bring opening to the shoulders and chest.

While in the pose, feel the inner arms move toward one another. This draws your strength and stability inward. If you start to feel you elbows bend and move AWAY from you, or even feel yourself roll to your outer wrists, you may experience a loss of that powerful connection. I often say in class "hug in toward your midline." Your spine is the middle of your body - your midline. If you continue to move energy toward this midline, you develop and maintain your strength.
As mentioned, it is ok to keep you knees slightly bent, but you can also begin to press your heels down toward the floor. You may experience a nice stretch and lengthening feeling in your calves. Yes, the legs can be absolutely straight in this pose, but just be careful that lengthening the legs does not compromise the extended spine you've created in the pose.

Hold the pose for at least 10 breaths. Feel your power. Feel your strength. Yes! It takes EFFORT to hold this pose. But as you stay in sensation - stay in the pose - you DO BUILD POWER!

Once you are done, slowly return your knees to the floor and sit back into Child's Pose. Here, reflect on the fullness of your Self - the Fullness of your Being.

Next time, we'll focus on a variation of Downward Facing Dog: "Turbo Dog."


Friday, January 13, 2012


Do you by chance have a Manduka Yoga Mat? Did you know that Manduka means Frog? And there's even a yoga posture called Manukasana! This will be the focus of my blog entry this week.

So why Frog Posture? Well, in my classes this past week, we've been working on hip openers and lengthening tight hamstrings. Lots of my students complain about being inflexible particularly in their hips and hamstrings. Mandukasana is a great pose to work the inner thighs and it really opens up the hips. It's intense, but quite effective if you are wanting to create a deeper release in this part of the body. It is a great compliment to other hip openers like Warrior II, Side Angle Pose, and Bound Angle Pose (Cobbler's Pose). Try Frog Posture to bring depth to your practice.

Here's an intention that you might want to explore while performing this pose. As mentioned, this is a deep and intense posture. If you're wanting to advance in your own yoga practice or even in your everyday life, this is the type of pose to practice. If you're feeling complacent or even a bit stagnant in your life journey, again, this pose can be a wonderful way to take that next step. It's a way to see that you DO have the strength, tenacity, and ability to move forward to reach your personal goals.

Mandukasana (Frog Posture)
Start by coming to your hands and knees on your (Manduka) mat. Here is where you might want to set your personal intention. Because this is an intense pose (and adds great sensation to the knees and inner thighs) you may want to turn sideways on your mat and fold in the ends toward the center so that you have extra padding for your knees.

From here, begin to slowly walk your knees away from your center. Allow your ankles to follow directly behind your knees. You will keep moving the knees and ankles outward until you begin to experience the deep stretch in the inner thighs. Also, your knees will be in directly alignment with your hips. Be sure that your hips are not too far forward, past your knees or too far back, behind the knees. Your bent legs (that will now resemble frogs' legs) will maintain a right angle throughout the posture. (Refer to the picture.)

Your pelvis may not touch the floor, nor does it have to. You will feel the intensity of the posture even before getting close to the ground! Move to a place where you feel the depth of your pose. Hold here and breathe. Take mindful intentional breaths. Allow the breath to guide you deeper into the posture if you desire or to simple hold you in the pose. There is no need to push or force yourself into the pose for risk of injury. As you hold the posture and experience the sensation, just remind yourself that you are safe, secure, strong, solid, and able to be here in this new place. It can be difficult at times when we are off the mat to step into the things that might seem challenging or scary. Remember your resources: You ARE strong. You ARE tenacious. You ARE able to pursue AND achieve the goals you desire.

Hold Frog Posture for at least 15 breaths. Stay in the intensity. When you are ready to move out of the posture, move slowly. Start by bringing your feet together behind you. Push your hands into the floor to help relieve the pressure in your inner thighs. Slowly walk your knees back together. Sit back on your heels (Hero Pose), sit up tall, and take a few more breaths as the body continues to find relief from this intense inner thigh stretch. Not only will you gain more flexibility in your inner thighs with this pose, but you'll find that you can withstand new challenges that come your way.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Practice Having A Good Day on the Mat

I had a pretty full schedule this week. Many classes, meetings, and other obligations seemed to occupy my time most days, But, you know what? I have no complaints because everything ran smoothly. I never felt overwhelmed or exhausted. Things just seemed to get done with an evenness and a sense of calm. It made for a very productive week. Definitely a positive in my book. So, how did I do it?

I thought of my busy week like a full and challenging yoga class sequence. The body is in constant motion, but every pose was achieved with the support and flow of the breath. Breath is the key to make the yoga poses strong, stable, and endured throughout the entire practice, no matter how difficult the sequencing may be. I then can take that achievement off the yoga mat and apply to my real life. Weekly schedules can be demanding and overwhelming at times, but if you pace yourself - perhaps with the support of the breath - things just seem to move more fluidly. Try it.

Take the Sun Salutation to practice fluid movement. With it, you can find your steady, even flow. Below is the complete A Series of the Sun Salutation. But try going through it like you would a busy day: appointment after appointment; more things tagged onto the tail-end of an already busy day.

Do one pose. Hold it for 5-10 breaths. Repeat the entire sequence from the beginning, flowing from pose to pose, until you come to the new pose that you would hold for 5-10 breaths. Then start over again from the beginning and just keep adding on the new posture. Allow the breath to be your support as you fluidly flow through your practice.

Mountain Pose
Extended Mountain Pose
Swan Dive to Forward Fold
Spinal Extension or Monkey Pose
Jump or step back to Plank Pose
Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose)
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Jump or step back up to Forward Fold
Chair Pose or Powerful Pose
Extended Mountain Pose
Mountain Pose

The yoga practice is just that....a practice. It allows us to practice what we do in our everyday lives. If you need to "practice" having a smooth, productive day, do yoga. If you need to "practice" moving more slowly and being more patient, do yoga.

Give us your feedback after you've tried this and the other yoga practices from this blog.