Monday, February 18, 2013

You Are Fierce!

I can honestly say that the yoga classes I teach are challenging. Students sometimes are breathing heavily, struggling with some poses, and definitely sweating during the practice. My intention is not to harm or discourage my students. On the contrary, I am teaching them to believe in themselves. I show them, through the challenging yoga classes, that they have the ability to get through very difficult circumstances. Yes, they may be a little sweaty at the end, but they got through it. They learn they are able to support themselves, live with integrity, develop and practice great strength, and feel calm throughout the entire process.

There is a particular pose that can embrace this experience: Utkatasana. The Sanskirt word literally means powerful or fierce. The nickname given to this posture is Chair Pose because the physical body looks like it's sitting in a chair. While sitting in an actual chair may not produce power and strength, practicing Chair Pose can.

Because of the balancing nature of the pose, the core engagement, the arms lifted over head, lifting your toes, and sitting deeply onto nothing at all can definitely generate confidence, power, strength, and fierceness.

Utkatasana: Chair Pose
Start by standing in Mountain Pose. Be sure to have your feet about hip distance apart with your toes pointing directly forward to form a secure foundation while standing. Inhale to extend your arms into the air. Exhale and sit back and down as if you were sitting into an actual seat. To begin with, there is no need to sit down too deeply. Just bend at the knees and hips to establish the sensation of beginning to to sit down into a chair.

Before going any further, be sure to engage your core. Tilt your pelvis so you can feel you navel draw in toward your spine. Do this action with an exhale. This will help you connect more solidly to your core. It establishes a stronger base and support of self. As you're able, with core engaged, sit back and down a little deeper. Be sure to keep your arms extended over head. (Have your arms extend past your ears.) This is your posture. To make it more demanding, shift your weight more toward your heels so you can lift your toes off the floor. The challenge here is to remain stable, balanced, and calm in the posture. You want to have a full sense of supporting yourself without actual support (like sitting in a chair.) After about 5 breaths, stand up tall to Extended Mountain Pose with an inhale. Exhale to lower your arms down by your side.

The intention behind a pose like this is to remind you that you can rely on your own strength to support yourself in many difficult and challenging situations. It may not be comfortable like a chair, but you'll have the strength, power, and fierceness that the pose declares.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Slow Down....Again

Our bodies and minds are constantly on the move and the result can be exhaustion, disorientation, confusion, etc. So, take a moment to slow down. We all deserve those few moments of stillness and quiet. It only takes a few minutes to re-group, re-connect, and re-charge.

Why not try this very simple exercise and see how you feel afterward. Try it TODAY, and if you walk away with positive results, try it again tomorrow.

Find a quiet place in your home or office. I know, sometimes this can be a challenge. Maybe just find a room, close the door, and take this moment to simply relax. It will only take a few minutes. Sit comfortably on your yoga mat or on the floor. Perhaps sit on a folded blanket or towel to feel more comfortable. If it feels ok, fold your legs in a crossed-legged position. Rest your wrists on your knees. Allow your neck, shoulders, arms, and hands to completely relax. Ideally, the room should be quiet. But if there is outside noise, do your best to not allow it to distract you. This is YOUR time. To help drown out the sound, maybe turn on some light meditative music. Close your eyes.

Once you are seated comfortably and relaxed, hold still for a few moments and focus on your breathing. After 5-10 breaths, begin a very simple movement. Inhale and extend your arms over head. Move at the pace of your in-breath. As you exhale, bring your arms slowly back down. Again, move at the pace of your out-breath. Do this simple motion 5-10 times.

This exercise keeps you totally in your body. You only need to focus on your breathing and simple arm movement.

See! This only took a few minutes! When you're done, sit still for a moment longer. Then make a slow transition back into your day. Try this same exercise again tomorrow....and the next day, too! I'd love to hear how this made you feel. Make a comment on this blog.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Inner Strength

In my last post, I mentioned gaining strength practicing Boat Pose (Navasana). Sometimes we associate being strong with external strength. For example, having big muscles or having a nice physique may be an outward sign of strength. But what about inner strength? Being able to endure tough emotional and mental challenges. This type of strength comes from within.

A pose that can remind us of that inner strength is Boat Pose. It's a yoga posture that strengthens your core. This is the trunk of your body that supports the rest of the body. When one has a strong core - strength that is developed from within - all other types of strength are exuded: inner and outer.

Boat Pose
Start by sitting on your yoga mat with your knees bent and heels on the ground. Begin to lean back so that you're able to lift your feet off the mat. Keep your knees bent and hold on to your legs.

Flex your feet to keep them engaged. This will keep your legs engaged as well. While holding onto your legs, use that as leverage to lift and extend your spine. Imagine you're sitting in a high-back chair and you want to sit up straight against the back of the chair. In Boat Pose, the body is shaped like the letter "V" except that your knees are bent.

The key to this pose is your breath. As you inhale, continue to extend your spine. As you exhale (and feel free to breathe out through your mouth to release all of your breath), draw your navel toward your spine. Focus on the lowest part of your belly as you exhale. Here, you are engaging and contracting your transverse abdominas muscles. These muscles are part of your abdominal system and are low and deep in your pelvic area. These muscles are rarely engaged, so this pose and way of breathing will help to engage them.

Hold the pose for about 5 breaths, take a break, then do it again. Repeat the pose 4 additional times. Over time, you will gain more strength. Soon, you'll be able to do the pose without holding onto your legs and you may even be able to extend your legs.

When you build strength from the inside out, you begin to feel more confident and able to face challenges of everyday life. And not only will you build inner strength, but having a strong core contributes to building outer strength, as well.