Downward Dog ~ Pose of the Month October 2017

As one of the most recognizable poses in Yoga, Downward Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana, is also one of the most misunderstood as far as alignment and orientation. Tightness or hyper-flexibility in the body require different approaches to this common pose, as do shoulder, wrist or low back conditions. The good news- there are modifications or adjustments for everyone in approaching this pose that allow an expression of downward dog that reveal the strengthening and flexibility for the body that is inherent in the pose. Approach your dog this month with curiosity and awareness, wiping the slate clean of what you think you know, and create from the ground up a presentation of downward dog that reflects where you are in your practice today! Even if you have been practicing for many years, you may be able to teach your old dog a few new tricks!

 

Pose of the Month~ August 2017 Hip-Openers featuring Hanumanasana

 

Using the heat of the summer toward gently easing more openness into our hips is a great way to get that spring back in our step. Just as our hero Hanuman had many misadventures before his famous leap after which this yoga split is named, often in our exploration of hip-openers we meet all sorts of obstacles along the way.  For many, a tremendous amount of patience, care and persistence is necessary when approaching even moderate hip-openers, which is a very different approach to success than what we see in the world around us. To move toward an advanced asana like Hanumanasana, a level of devotion toward the self is of paramount importance and can teach us so much. Whether we build up our props, or move into the pose unsupported, the ease and joy is in the uplifting of our spirit to meet the courage and grace in our hearts.

A reference for getting into Hanumanasana is found here: https://yogainternational.com/article/view/hanumans-pose-full-splits

Always warm up properly for any advanced hip-opener, and keep your practice within the limits of what your body can safely and happily manage.

Pose of the Month~ April 2017~ Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (pigeon) and related poses

These lovely poses bring the energy lines of the body back to life after a more dormant feel in the winter.
We will be teaching how to safely approach openness in many of the joints of the body in our monthly pose, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (pigeon), and related asanas such as  Gomukasana (cow face pose), Agnistambhasana (Double Pigeon or Fire Log Pose). These poses can be challenging on hips, knees, low back and even shoulders and ankles, so please take care to support yourself, and listen to the suggested modifications if they apply!
Also enjoy the variations in our flow classes that allow you to twist, open the heart, and even fly!
You can read more about getting safely into the Pigeon Pose series at : https://yogainternational.com/article/view/one-leg-king-pigeon-pose
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POM~ December 2016- Supported/Restorative and Extended Shavasana

“There is force in the universe, which, if we permit it, will flow through us and produce miraculous results.” Mahatma Ghandi.

In December, let’s open to the miraculous healing forces in the universe. We will use the healing poses of yoga that help restore steadiness and soundness to the body and soul. Supported and restorative poses, as well as extended savasana, allow us to touch the stillness our bodies yearn for this time of year to move forward together into the new year with a renewed sense of clarity and purpose. Remember to support yourself completely so that you are comfortable in these asanas, then relax deeply!

Pose of the Month~ November 2016: Sun Salutes A and B

SURYA NAMASKAR A and B
We’ve been learning the components of these flowing series, now let’s bring it all together for Surya Namascar A and B in our practice this month to keep the body strong and the immune system boosted as we move into fall.  Always practice with modifications as needed for Level 1/2, and even in more advanced practices as the way we align shoulders, spine, and wrists becomes very important.  And remember it’s all about the breath 🙂
Six Half Sun Salutes or three Surya Namascar A or B every morning are a great way to start your day even if you can’t make it to class!.
The best part, we can interweave the Lojong Trainings into this practice as we look at where we are predictable, critical, tuning out or pushing a bit too much with our Sun Salutes. Enjoy the energy of movement and grace. and breathe!

Pose of the Month Oct 2016~ Dog Poses

For our pose of the month in October, we are letting the dogs out….all and any of them! The 1/4 dogs, 1/2 dogs, supported dogs, up dogs, down dogs, flip dogs, twisted dogs , three legged dogs-  any or all are will be integrated into our classes with emphasis on proper alignment as usual. In addition to fine-tuning your physical practice for these asanas, use the opportunity to explore the many energetic differences in the subtle body as you move from one dog pose and another.

To maximize the experience of the subtle body in each pose, Erich Schiffman in his well-known book “Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness” relates three cues we can give ourselves to increase the energetic openness in a pose:

  1. Be as relaxed as possible –  once in a pose, check for areas where we are “over-doing”. This can be evident in a tense jaw, locked knees or elbows, over-engagement of large muscle groups and competitive or harsh thoughts. Having enough support through proper engagement of physical body strength, modifications or props so we can relax into the structure of the asana increases the capacity for opening the physical body and releasing tension. This relaxation immediately activates the subtle body.
  2. Find the desired intensity – once we have relaxed enough to realize there is a spectrum of intensity available, we can increase and decrease  levels of activation in small increments until we find a place that feels right (energetic/involved yet relaxed). Do not strain, or collapse. This desired intensity will be different for every student, every day in every pose.
  3. Alternate the current- allow the energetic flow in the body to pulsate with the breath. The most common way to feel this is to activate or enliven the energetic current on the inhale, and soften or relax it on the exhale. Another way to experiment with this is to lengthen/extend outward on the inhale, and deepen/move inward on the exhale. The idea is to not push for too much or fade into too little. Allow small shifts to fine tune the shape of the body, and once in a supported, relaxed form, allow the energetic body its full play.

This approach increases strength, flexibility, endurance and vitality. The practice of yoga is uniquely designed to open the physical and subtle body  yet we will limit the benefits if we approach it like a competition, to see how many or how far we can get as the primary goal. Moving into the stillness is the way we “win” as the wholeness of the practice here allows for true self-exploration and knowledge.

 

September 2016 – Pose- Warrior Poses

The Warrior Series as shown below depicts the classic yoga love story of Shiva and Sati. As happens in oral tradition, the telling of this tale has many versions, yet all attest to the universal and eternal force of attraction between the space of universal consciousness in Shiva, and the myriad of forms which consciousness takes in Sati. When they are together and in harmony, all is well in the universe, and when they are separated, all goes into disarray. As related in the story, fierceness is needed to stand against the prejudice and manipulation that conspire to keep the lovers apart.

Warrior poses

Explore the stories of yoga this month, and truly take the form of each asana as well in class.  Embody the rasa- the mood, energy, taste and feel of each one. The warrior poses are an in-road into exploring one famous myth of yoga,  enjoy this story and many more as we discover the relationship asana introduces between the physical and energetic body through the heroics and foibles of these mystical beings.

For one version of the Shiva and Sati story, look here: http://www.naturallyyoga.com/files/shiva_sati.htm

July 2016 – Pose of the Month – Lizard Pose (Uttan Pristhasana)

Welcome to the heat of the summer! As with all things, when it gets a bit too hot for our taste, we can meet things with resistance, or with the willingness to see how we can work with this added energy in our lives 🙂

Luckily, our yoga practice gives us lots of choices in utilizing the heat skillfully as we move deeply into hip-openers this month, featuring Lizard Pose, or uttan pristhasana. So many choices (and fortunately so much time!) for all levels of this pose which frees the hips, hip flexors, hamstrings and groin. Use props to build flexibility as you progress, explore your edges and find your capacity to soften and deepen as you liberate physical and energetic tight spots in the hips. Have fun in your favorite variation,  maybe even staying there long enough to fully appreciate how your body responds your choice!

Lizard

From Yoga International:

Position both hands to the inside of your left foot. Shift your left foot about 10 inches to the left so you can nuzzle your left shoulder to the inside of your knee. Keep your back knee lifted or slowly lower it to the floor, pressing the top of your back foot down. Let your left thigh hug your left ribs, which requires work from the left inner thigh muscles. Place your forearms on the floor or on blocks.

Can you stay steady with this giant hip opener? Try not to zone out or do the opposite and aggressively bear down. Listen to your body and watch your mind. Whatever you notice is interesting, choose to be curious!

June 2016 Pose of the Month ~ Arm Balances and Strengtheners

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Arm balances are one of those areas in yoga we can quickly convince ourselves are just not for us! Or maybe they are second nature by now, seemingly a quick way to instantaneously boost Instagram likes 🙂  As many yoga asanas, arm balances are complex positions and require that a lot of things come together correctly in order for us to achieve them! Yet the path toward arm balances is not as difficult to navigate as we may think as long as we don’t get caught up in the final goal. How we approach this- with discipline,  effort, patience, generosity and focus goes a long way in giving us that feeling of brilliance and accomplishment in our progress, whether or not we ever sustain a full crow, scale, peacock,  handstand or any arm balance.

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The benefits of arm balances and their preps are many. Enjoy the preliminaries that strengthen the arms and open the shoulders, elbows and wrists. Enjoy the core work that allows a focused lift toward your goal. Enjoy that lift itself when it comes for even a split second to somewhere you weren’t sure you would ever go. The veil of maya (see subject of the month) lifts every time we reach beyond what we think we can do, but do not push ourselves there to compare to or impress others. Use the steps toward and into arm balances this month to build the prajna, clear seeing, that allows you to move into your own brilliance each and every time you practice, and see through the doubts and delusions that limit us. It’s not how it looks to others at end of the day, it’s how it feels to you as you learn and fly!

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May 2016 Pose of the Month ~Urdhva Dhanarasana (Wheel Pose)

Our pose of the month in May, Wheel Pose, allows us to approach our practice with a sense of openness and awe. It truly requires a balance of flexibility and strength that is empowering and enticing. The physical and energetic opening of this pose makes it one of the most powerful and rewarding asanas for the whole body. Not quite ready for the full version of Wheel Pose? Not a problem at all, Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose) supported or not, as well as modified versions of Wheel Pose can safely prepare us, and provide a similar opening along the front body. Practicing dharma, each effort we make toward increasing openness and strength in our body is never wasted!

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Transitioning from Bridge Pose to Wheel Pose in 2  Steps                                https://yogainternational.com/article/view/deeper-dimensions-of-chakrasana-wheel-pose

From the bridge, release the arms and roll down through the spine. Now reach overhead and place the hands flat on the floor near the ears with the fingertips pointing toward the top of the shoulders. If you don’t have enough rotation in the shoulders to bring the palms flat on the floor, stop here. With the palms flat on the floor near the ears, press through the hands and roll up into the bridge pose as above. You’ll be on the back of the shoulders. Breathe and sense the distribution of your weight, and the connection between the hands, pelvis, and feet. Shift your weight toward the feet. Then press the feet to lift the pelvis and chest and bring the top of the head to the floor. Work to lift the pelvis further, pressing the sacrum into the front of the body, as in the bridge pose. You may find it easier to get the desired lift in the pelvis by coming up onto the toes. Press the hands into the floor to take the weight off the head.

 If you are comfortable here, shift your weight toward your feet again and move your shoulder blades into the body and toward the waist as you press both the hands and the feet into the floor to further lift the pelvis and straighten the arms, or at least move the arms toward being straight. Adjust the feet so they point straight forward and the thighs track directly out from the hips. Avoid splaying the knees out to the side, and keep your knees over your heels so the shins are vertical. Press the chest forward between the upper arms, while pressing down through the feet to draw the pelvis and chest away from each other, and decompress the lumbar spine and make your body round. Hold and breathe. Experience yourself expanding internally with the breath, and feel the breath moving equally into the hands and feet. Work toward an even, smooth breath—and ease and stability in the pose.

To release, reverse the steps above: lower until the top of the head touches the floor and then the back of the shoulders. Then roll down through the spine as in the bridge pose. Release the arms and rest a few breaths before drawing the knees over the torso to ease any strain in the back. Gently rock from side to side. Then come into the child’s pose or another gentle forward bend to soothe the back.

Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)

 Bridge Pose

The bridge pose is an excellent preparation and beginning stage of practice for wheel pose. Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor hip-width apart and parallel. Press your arms into the floor alongside the body. Push down through the balls of the big toes, roll the inner thighs inward, draw up through the pelvic floor, and lift the pelvis. Inhale and roll up through the spine, lifting the chest by pressing the shoulders and arms down and the shins forward. Press the spine toward the front of the body. Then to open the shoulders and upper chest, shift slightly to one side and roll to the outer edge of the opposite shoulder, drawing the shoulder blades toward the spine. Shift to that side and draw the other shoulder blade under and in, bringing your weight onto the outer edge of both shoulders. You may clasp the hands together on the floor and press the arms down. Lift the heart, and press the sternum toward the chin. Hold for a couple of minutes, stretching the shoulders and the front of the body.