Add some Yin to your Yang

My favourite type of yoga is more yang oriented, I tend to avoid the more passive, slow styles of yoga as in my mind, it’s boring! However, I’m starting to realise and welcome the holistic health benefits of yin yoga and try to merge both elements into my practice. Still probably not as much as I should!

Doing a calming yoga practice such as yin yoga with a focus on stress reduction is a good start to helping to balance the adrenal glands which can affect many other glands if they are overworked.

Be aware that not all yoga practices are stress-reducing. Yes, you read that right! Some vigorous yoga practices may cause your body to release endorphins – those “feel-good” hormones associated with “runner’s high”, but, at the same time, they may actually be stressing the body and adding to the load on the adrenal glands. Some workouts including running have shown to actually increase the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the bloodstream. And ever notice how after a power yoga class, some people walk out feeling worse than when they actually started? I’m not saying don’t push yourself because otherwise you won’t know how far you can go! But just be aware that over-exerting, even when it comes to yoga, could be compromising to your health. Like with everything, it’s all about balance!

Realisation

Lately I’m becoming more aware of this as I’ve just been pushing my body everyday with emphasis on both strength training and cardio. I admit, I love the endorphin rush post-workout, whether it’s from Yoga, HIIT or free weight workouts.

I’m pretty sure my endorphins are responsible for these post-workout highs!

As I’m not one to sit still for too long, this current lockdown situation has put pressure on myself to move and workout hard. But now might be the time to roll out some yin and find more balance in my daily activity. Deeper, gentler movements can have major health benefits and it may be a good idea to start including them into your regular practice too.

I’m still not sure if yin yoga is for me but I am sure that incorporating both yin and yang elements in whatever form, is a win, win.

Yin vs Yang yoga

Yin is more internal, passive, cooling and downward. While Yang is more external, dynamic, warming and upward. When these terms are applied to yoga, Yin Yoga is a slower practice where poses are passively held for longer, working on the deep, dense connective tissues and joints in the body. Whereas Yang Yoga relates to more active, dynamic and strengthening styles of yoga (think Vinyasa and Power yoga).

Yin yoga for hormonal balance

Both yin and yang yoga poses engage the muscles, send blood flow and oxygenated blood to organs and send the brain’s attention to these areas of the body. It is well supported that yoga can have a beneficial effect on our stress responses. Read more from the Harvard Health Publishing here.

Interestingly, it’s been said that yin yoga practices helps to pressurize and depressurize specific glands and these subtle compressions and decompressions can regulate hormone secretions to improve the functioning of our glands.

NOTE: Remember yoga’s effect isn’t limited to hormones and the endocrine system. There are studies on how it affects all of our systems – from muscle and skeletal to excretory!

Simply put, all yoga poses can technically support hormone balancing because all poses target some part of the endocrine system.  Don’t get too caught up in the yoga poses themselves, rather it’s the overall practice of yoga, and particularly, yin yoga practice can help to maintain a happy endocrine system… Adios PMS, insomnia and all the rest of you unwanted hormonal demons.

That said, here are some top yin yoga poses you can do on a regular basis that are particularly good for the endocrine system.

My Top Yin Poses

  • Supine Spinal Twist
  • Open Wing pose
  • Sphinx pose
  • Garland pose
  • Shoe lace pose (with eagle arms or cow face variations)
  • Butterfly
  • Child’s pose

How long to hold the poses?

Yin postures are generally held for at least one minute, and for some people as long as twenty minutes! (I have never done that!) It is becoming increasingly popular with athletes as this style of yoga, enables them to work deeper into the muscles to transform the way the body and mind moves.

Given that yin poses are held much longer than a yang-style yoga practice, you will notice all the physical and mental sensations from hip mobility to thoughts about past experiences, yin allows these physical and mental emotions to rise and be released through the power of passive movement.

As you practice these poses regularly, over time, you’ll learn to let go and allow your body to go deeper into each pose.  This is how yoga builds flexibility, and this is how yin yoga allows you to go deeper and restore the layers of both body and mind.

Open yourself up to the possibility of wellness, health & vitality!

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A good time to up your Yoga Game!

Communication is the key to success.  Today, a beautiful soul reminded me to keep sharing my passion for yoga and since many of us are indoors, now is a perfect opportunity to get more in touch with ourselves; feel more connected; more self-aware.

A lot of people have misconstrued views about yoga.  Yoga is for hippies; vegetarians; women, you name it!   I probably shared some of these same myths before my yoga journey started just over 6 years ago and well, there’s a reason why we should keep an open mind about things – you never know until you try!  

Yoga is for everyone; it’s not just for physical fitness, it’s also an inner exercise which can help you to understand yourself better, push boundaries, heal from within and get more clarity in your life.

Ask Google ‘what is yoga good for’ and a myriad of benefits will come up.  But let me tell you from my own experience, you need to be patient with it, you need to know why you’re doing it and you need to make it fun and most of all, you won’t regret trying it!  

I actually started yoga for the first time because I wanted to do a headstand – Great intentions, right?  It took me 4 weeks of daily practice on my own to master a headstand and while I DON’T recommend this to anyone even if I managed it without breaking my neck, knowing that my body was able to do such a pose, spurred me to look a bit deeper and I soon realised that yoga could be good for other things, like anxiety and concentration.  So after practicing yoga videos at home for a couple of years, my curiosity got the better of me.  Off I went to Goa to do a 200-hour yoga, Yoga Alliance-registered teacher training course and realised my potential to actually teach this stuff!  Although it’s not my full-time job, I still find time to learn, teach and share all things I find valuable about yoga.  Why? Because if it can help me to be calmer, fitter, more self-aware, more open-minded, more connected, more mindful, then it can definitely help you.

Did you know?

Yoga isn’t a quick-fix for anything, it takes time if you want to see results.  I gave up many times along the way as my ego took over.  Hey, I’m human.  I also don’t rely on yoga as my only tool for fitness – when it comes to fitness and maintaining a healthy, toned body, I like to mix it up (i.e HIIT, Pilates, resistance training…)  But did you know that yoga has a set of 8 ‘limbs’ and that ‘yoga poses’ is just one of them?

The ultimate goal of any yoga practice is to attain moksha, meaning liberation or freedom and according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, there is an eight-fold path leading to liberation, known as the ‘Ashtanga Yoga System’ or ‘8 Limbs of Yoga’

The Eight Limbs of Yoga in case you’re interested:

Yama (restraints & moral disciplines)

Niyama (observances or positive duties)

Asana (postures)

Pranayama (breath control)

Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses)

Dharana (concentration)

Dhyana (meditative absorption)

Samadhi (bliss or enlightenment)

Most of us are more familiar with and start with Asana and Pranayama:

Yoga Asana

This is the yoga we see everyday and what most people think yoga is limited to.

It is the physical aspect of yoga.  Traditionally, it was taught that a posture should be steady and comfortable – not allowing our bodies to be pulled too far, feel pain or restlessness due to an uncomfortable position.   Think about that next time you try an advanced pose!

More typically today in yoga, the term ‘asana’ is used for any physical posture of Hatha yoga. Practicing asanas not only offers physical benefits but can also develop emotional and energetic benefits, increase discipline and concentration, and ready the mind for meditation.

Historically, texts and teachers have described different numbers of asanas. The classic texts of Hatha yoga refer to 84 asanas as taught by Lord Shiva.

Other teachers and texts have suggested that there is one for each living creature in the universe. Sri Dharma Mittra, a yoga teacher well-respected by the contemporary schools of Iyengar, Ashtanga Vinyasa and Sivananda yoga, catalogued a list of 1,300 yoga asanas!

It is recommended that asanas are practiced with an empty stomach and without using excessive force or pressure. Asanas can be combined with pranayama (see below) to enhance the benefits of the poses. They should always be practiced with mindful awareness, uniting the body, mind and breath. Specific asanas can be practiced to help alleviate specific health problems or physical issues.

The final asana : Sirvasana/Savasana Pose

By the time you’ve completed a set or sequence of asanas, or postures, your body and mind should be tired enough to be able to relax sufficiently for Sirvasana, a.k.a ‘Final Resting Pose/Corpse Pose. Sirvasana is a practice of gradually relaxing one body part at a time, one muscle at a time, and one thought at a time.  While it might look like a nap at the end of your practice, you should be fully conscious in this pose.  Breathe naturally, and practice eliminating tension from the body. Ideally, this posture lasts for 10 to 20 minutes. However, even a few minutes of Savasana is said to have powerful benefits.

You’ll find your mind trying to resist this deep relaxation and that’s perfectly normal. Sirvasana is the ultimate act of conscious surrender.  It takes practice and patience!

Common challenges in Sirvasana pose!

Where to start?

Well don’t go trying to learn 84 asanas, even I don’t know them all! You could start by learning 12 with Surya Namaskar.  One of the means of honouring the sun is through the dynamic asana sequence called Surya Namaskar (better known as Sun Salutation).

The transition from pose to pose is facilitated by either an inhalation or an exhalation. As you move through the sequence, watch your breath closely and always breathe through your nose.

The diagram below illustrates one full cycle of the Sun Salutation exercise.  You can do as little as 3 or as many as 12 cycles. It is also a great warm-up for other physical sport or exercise.

Image: https://www.getbalance.co.nz/sun-salutations

The optimal time to perform this exercise is just prior to morning yoga asanas – ideally in the early morning, facing the rising sun. If it is performed at other times during the day, the guideline is: at least 1/2 hour prior to meals or at least 3 hours after meals.

Sun Salutations (ideal for beginners) KEEP YOUR EYE OUT FOR MY ‘INTERMEDIATE/ADVANCED VARIATIONS 😉

Yoga Pranayama

The word Prana refers to ‘energy’ or ‘life source’.  (Hello, Prana-listic!)  It can be used to describe the very essence that keeps us alive, as well as the energy in the universe around us. Prana also often describes the breath, and by working with the way we breathe, we affect the mind in a very real way.  Prana-Yama’ refers to ‘breath control’ or ‘breath restraint’, or it could be understood as ‘freedom of breath’, ‘breath expansion’ or ‘breath liberation’.

Pranayama provides various techniques for regulating and channeling one’s breath, which is said to provide a bridge between the individual self and the universal soul.

Iyengar’s take on it:

Iyengar believes that in normal breathing, the brain initiates the action of inhalation and draws energy to itself. This keeps the brain in a state of tension. When the brain is tense, the breath is constricted. But in pranayama, the brain remains passive, and the lungs, bones, and muscles of the torso initiate the inhalation. Rather than suck in air, the lungs, diaphragm, ribs, and abdomen receive the breath.  Interesting stuff, right?

By practicing pranayama and regulating the flow of prana with measured observation and distribution of the breath, the mind becomes still. When this happens, we can allow the energy we normally spend engaging with and processing the world to bend inward.

According to Iyengar, asana practice makes the body fit for pranayama, and pranayama practice makes the mind fit for meditation. You see how the 8 limbs all connect!

Iyengar also cautions that if at any time during the practice of pranayama you experience pain in the head or tension in your temples, it means that you are initiating the breath from your brain, not your lungs. If this happens, return to normal breathing and relax.

Where to start?

You can start with a very simple and effective breathing technique called Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique)​

Nadi = subtle energy channel; Shodhan = cleaning, purification.  Therefore, nadi shodhana is primarily aimed at clearing and purifying the subtle channels of the mind and body.  

See demo below. I’ve lost the original vid but I hope this sped-up version gives an idea:

What is it good for?

With regular practice, even at 5 minutes per day, Nadi Shodhana can be very beneficial:

  • Infuses the body with oxygen
  • Helps to clear and release toxins
  • Calms and rejuvenates the nervous system (kicking stress & anxiety)
  • Helps to balance hormones
  • Supports clear and balanced respiratory channels
  • Helps to alleviate respiratory allergies that cause hay fever, sneezing, or wheezing
  • Fosters mental clarity
  • Enhances the ability to concentrate
  • Brings balance to the left and right hemispheres of the brain
  • Helps with indigestion & heartburn

What style of Yoga is for you?

Mine is Vinyasa, what’s yours?

For more tips, tools and insight, I’d love for you to follow me here, on Facebook or Instagram.

Namaste (at home) and stay healthy!

Your first line of defense is to choose a healthy lifestyle

There’s nothing new to report in this post, but it does serve as a wake-up call considering the ‘current situation’. While we can’t eliminate all threats to the community, we can take preventative steps to minimize risk. You know by now that personal hygiene and avoiding close contact are two of them. But did you know that yoga practice provides a gentle, natural means of supporting the immune system on a day-to-day basis? Now is as good a time as any to take action and choose a healthy lifestyle.

Although there’s still too much we don’t know to make decisions about how COVID-19 will or won’t transmit, we can at least consider being extra cautious about boosting our immune systems. Along with this wake-up call has come fear, panic, anxiety, and stress… all commonly touted reasons to start/continue practicing yoga!

Yoga for Immunity

Regular yoga asana practice helps lower stress hormones that compromise the immune system, while also conditioning the lungs, stimulating the lymphatic system to better oust toxins from the body, and bringing oxygenated blood to the various organs to ensure their optimal function. Yoga works on everything – mental and physical!

‘Yoga for immunity’ is a thing. A consistent yoga practice along with certain poses in particular can help to support the immune system. An article from the International Journal of Yoga found that, “Yoga resists the autonomic changes and impairment of cellular immunity seen in examination stress.”

If you are in good health, why not consider strategies to optimise your immune system? Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when stress is reduced. Here are some healthy-living strategies to reduce stress and boost your immunity:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a diet high in antioxidants, vitamins & minerals
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake
  • Laugh more!
  • Do yoga!

In other words, yoga helps keep you and your cells healthy even when you’re stressed. And while yoga as a whole supports optimal wellness in our minds and bodies, there are certain yoga poses for immunity that can help if you’re feeling exhausted, sick, or simply looking for a healthy dose of prevention.

Try these yoga poses:

Spinal twists such as Half Lord of the Fishes (demo vid below) gently compress, twist, or stimulate the stomach and can help with some digestive issues. Digestive problems can cause a build up of toxins. Our gut is the major channel between the external environment and the internal systems of our body so yes, the digestive system is connected to your immune system.

Chest opening poses can help open up and relieve congestion in the lungs and reduce stress through diaphragmatic breathing. Supported Fish Pose is one of the best poses to access a deep diaphragmatic breath, and helps balance an agitated nervous system. Other great chest-opening poses include: Upward-Facing Dog, Bow Pose and Bridge or Wheel Pose.

Wheel Pose:

Inversion poses & Forward bends such as Standing Forward Bend and Downward-Facing Dog, bring blood flow to the sinuses, which can help ease congestion. Sinuses and our mucus membranes are our body’s first line of defense against infection, so keeping them healthy can boost immunity. Legs Up the Wall pose is one of the most relaxing inversions for your whole body. It allows lymph drainage, blood circulation, releases pressure from your back, and helps you feel grounded, so in turn your nervous system can completely relax and reset.

Yoga can be one of the best tools in supporting a strong immune system and keeping all our body’s systems working optimally to prevent sickness, help us recover quicker and boost our overall health.

NB: This article and all included information is not intended as medical advice and does not treat or diagnose. 

15-min, Calming, Restorative Yoga Video

Following my last post: Relax, Rest & Refresh with Restorative Yoga, click on the YouTube video below.  Be sure to subscribe to my channel

This 15-minute ‘Calming Restorative Yoga’ video is ideal for anyone. A relaxing yoga sequence to calm anxiety, release worry, relieve pain and tension and is a great way to end your day, as a lunchtime yoga session, or any time you need a little break.

All of these poses can be held for much longer but try to aim for at least 5 breath cycles in each pose. For the final relaxation pose at the end, a.k.a, Savasana, stay here for at least 5 minutes; if you need longer, stay until 25. Listen to your body!

This video is shown without the use of props, but I’d recommend you experiment with them, especially for restorative practices and find what works best for your body. If you don’t have yoga blocks, use books, a folded blanket or cushions – they can all do the job!

I’m a rookie in the home-made yoga video game, so pls be patient!

Rest, Relax & Refresh with Restorative Yoga

A lot of my posts are inspired by other people.  Your questions and feedback are highly valued, so thank you!

A recent question was related to Restorative Yoga (from a lovely lady; fellow St Helenian 🙂 ) Read on to know more about restorative yoga.  I will follow-up this post with some visuals and demos, so stay tuned and subscribe to this blog here and follow Pranalistic on social:  Instagram & Facebook

It’s a shame that many people avoid restorative yoga because they’re more interested in the ‘no pain – no gain’ kind of exercises that make you sweat and up your heart rate.  But there’s always a time to offer your body and mind a restorative yoga practice.  It offers a very peaceful, relaxed way of exercising and moving the body.  It can also provide deep relaxation, lower blood pressure, promotes better sleep and loosens hips and spine.

The key steps to restorative yoga:

  • Relax your body and muscles
  • Slow, lengthen and deepen your breath
  • Calm your mind

A restorative yoga sequence typically involves only 5/6 poses, supported by props (pillows/blankets) that allow you to completely relax and rest.  Restorative yoga poses include very gentle twists, seated forward folds, and gently supported backbends.

Key restorative poses include:

  • Child’s pose
  • Hero pose 
  • Seated Cat & Cow poses
  • Sleeping Pigeon pose
  • Supine spinal twist pose
  • Supported fish pose
  • Reclining Bound angle pose
  • Bridge pose
  • Supported forward fold pose
  • Legs up the wall pose
  • Happy baby pose
  • Savasana

Restorative Yoga tips:

What makes each yoga pose a ‘restorative pose’ is how you approach it.   

Think of it as passive stretching.   

By laying in restorative poses, you bring your attention to the areas of your body that are holding tension.  Once you realise where you hold tension, instead of trying to fix or change it, simply bring your breath to that area.   

Aim to stay in each pose for 3–10 minutes, and come out when you feel you’ve had enough.   

You may wish to use a soft bolster, folded blanket or pillows for added support and relaxation.  For example, placing a block beneath each knee (horizontally) or a rolled-up blanket on top for additional support. Placing a folded towel beneath your head for support and/or with a rolled towel/blanket cradling your neck’s natural curve.  Play with props to allow yourself to get really comfortable.   

Take several long breaths to progressively release all of your body weight and focus on your breathing.  

10 Signs That You Need Restorative Yoga in Your Life 

  1. You struggle falling asleep
  2. You suffer from aches & pains
  3. You feel tired when you wake up in the morning
  4. You’re always angry!
  5. You mind is always racing at 100mph!
  6. You’re tired of all the drama life brings you
  7. You have an injury and you just “push through it” without letting it heal
  8. You want a little less chaos in your life 
  9. You’re addicted to your smartphone! 
  10. You need to recharge

Most of us are living a high-intensity life; always juggling too many activities. This can be too much for what our bodies were made for and can account for a lot of the aches, pains, and sickness you may be experiencing in your day-to-day life.  Maybe the most beneficial exercise for you is the one that lets you experience the state of ‘not-doing’ and restore your body.

Benefits:

  • Heals emotional pain
  • Calms the nervous system
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Aids sleep
  • Prevents injury
  • Boosts your immune system
  • Provides a bridge to meditation
  • Cultivates heightened body awareness
  • Deepens self-awareness & introspection
  • Connects you with the Divine within (by awakening grace, poise, flexibility, balance, strength, and present moment awareness. This combination creates a mind and body ideally suited for seamlessly merging into the non-local field of awareness, or pure being.)

Give it a go!

TIP:  Simply lying as flat as you are comfortable and belly (diaphragmatic) breathing for a few minutes is a good place to start.

6 Yoga Poses For Footballers

Curious about how Yoga can complement your football? Read onto find out more…

Dedicated to #TeamStHelena participating in the Ynys Mon (Anglesey) Inter Games Football Tournament 2019 15-22 June. If you’re reading this guys, I hope you will be inspired by Yoga enough to give it a try. Well done on making history as the first St Helena Football Team to compete on an International level!

For those who don’t know, St Helena Island is where I grew up!

Why is Yoga Great for Footballers?

Today, yoga is a mainstay for professional athletes and teams and more and more people are discovering the countless ways that yoga can be used to improve athletic performance – from increasing mental concentration and improving flexibility and balance to preventing common injuries and honing skills.

As football involves a lot of running and strenuous action on the legs, yoga offers incredible benefits for footballers.  Footballers (or any athletes for that matter) can benefit greatly from integrating yoga into their training. Many top professionals advocate for yoga, saying it improves the longevity of an athlete’s playing career.

Did you know that Ryan Giggs often refers to yoga as his “Fountain of Youth” and a huge reason behind his ability to play into his 40s! And, have a look on the link below to see what other professional footballers swear by Yoga. (Spolier: Messi & Ronaldo included 😉

Click on link below for more…

Benefits of Yoga for Footballers

  • Preventing injuries
  • Improving flexibility (especially in the hips & hamstrings where footballers tend to experience more tightness)
  • Stretching and strengthening muscles
  • Improving concentration
  • Improving balance and coordination
  • Optimising organ function
  • Increasing energy and endurance

6 Beneficial Yoga Poses for Footballers

Here are 6 yoga poses (asanas) for all you footballers to try.  You may also find my blog on 10 Simple Yoga Poses for Beginners a great introduction to yoga.

1. Downward-Facing Dog  Pose 

Downward Facing Dog Pose

The Downward Facing Dog pose stretches the hamstrings and calves, as well as the shoulders.  It also calms the nervous system.

To start, come to your hands and knees, then spread your fingers and push firmly into the ground. Tuck your toes under and rise up through your hips into the pose.  Keep a slight bend in your knees and then aim to get your heels down on the ground (it’s ok if they won’t go all the way down). Keep your back straight and long and your tailbone pointing towards the ceiling.

Draw the shoulder blades towards the spine and actively try to lower them, rotating your upper arms outwards. Stay for at least 5 breaths (5 x inhalations and exhalalations.)  More extensive info on this pose can be found here.

2. Warrior I Pose

Warrior I Pose

Warrior 1 pose opens and stretches the groin and stomach while strengthening the ankles and legs. You can start from Mountain pose (instructions for mountain pose can be found here). Keep the feet hip-width distance apart and then step your left foot back about a legs-length or to wherever feels good and keeps you grounded. Your left foot is planted on the floor and your left toes pointing toward the upper left corner of your mat (approx. 45 degrees.)   If you feel like you’re about to topple over, adjust your stance but do keep your left toes pointing toward the upper left corner of your mat, and keep your hips levelled and facing forwards.

Then bend your front right knee.  Find a good balance and if you can, on an inhale, raise your arms above your head; palms facing each other and fingers spread open.  Hold the pose for at least 5 breaths.  More extensive info on this pose can be found here.

3. One-Legged Pigeon Pose

One-legged pigeon pose

The Pigeon pose is a deep hip opening pose, stretching the hip rotators as well as the quadriceps and hip flexors.  Activities like running, walking, and cycling build strength in your hips, but they do not flex or stretch your hips and can end making them feel tighter. Stress is also a major contributor to tight hips, as we tend to hold tension in the hip area.

Come to your hands and knees, and slide your left knee up closely behind your left wrist.  If the knee feels stressed, bring the right ankle closer to the right hip. Centre yourself so that your weight is even.

Then slide your right leg back behind you; straighten it and let the front of your thigh sit on the floor. Look behind you to make sure your back leg is extended straight and not out to one side.  Make sure your back thigh is rotating inward and press all five toe nails of your back foot onto the ground.

Now lower the outside of your left butt cheek to the floor.   Your body will want to avoid putting weight on your left hip, especially if it is tight.  Try to maintain equal weight in both hips.

You can stay upright, placing your fingertips on the ground and lengthening your torso. Or move down towards a sleeping pigeon pose (see pic below), by either supporting the upper body with your elbows, or lowering yourself completely to the floor.  Place a blanket or a block under your left hip if you need support to keep the hips even.  Stay for 6-8 long, steady breaths and repeat on the other side.

One-legged sleeping pigeon pose

4. Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend

A.k.a Wide Angle Straddle Pose, this is a great pose for creating space in the groin and inside the legs while strengthening your spine.  To do this, start by sitting in Staff Pose.

Staff Pose:

staff-pose-567x567
Staff Pose
  • Sit down on the ground with your legs together and extended straight out in front of you. Move the flesh out from underneath your sitting bones and root them firmly down into the ground.
  • Flex your feet and press your heels down. Activate your legs without hyper-extending your knees.
  • Plant your palms beside your hips with your fingertips pointing toward your toes, and press into your hands to sit up tall.
  • Gently draw your low ribs in and find a slight lift in your sternum, bringing your torso perpendicular to the floor.  Soften the tops of your shoulders and relax your shoulder blades down your back.
  • Lengthen all the way from your tailbone up and out through the crown of your head, and tuck your chin in slightly toward your chest.

Now transition into Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend by taking your legs out wide.  If you find that your lower back is curving, place a block under your hips.

You’ll want to create space and length between the pubic bone and your navel.  Take your hands behind your back, your fingers facing forward, and lift the sternum. Sitting up straight might already give you a good stretch in the groin, so you can stay upright.

Straddle (hands back)

If not, hinge from the hips and slowly walk your hands forward.  As soon as you find yourself bending from the waist, stop going further and keep your spine straight. Stay in this pose for about a minute if you can.

Straddle (hands forward
Straddle (elbows down)
Straddle (hands to toes)

5. Twisting Low Lunge

Twisting low lunge

When your knee lowers to the floor in a lunge position, it is called a ‘low lunge’. A twisting low lunge shown here, creates space in the thoracic spine; stretches back extensors, ilia-psoas & thighs.

Starting on your hands and knees, step one foot between hands. Lower back knee to floor (use padding if needed), aligning front knee with hip joint and front ankle. Inhale and use your lower abdominals to lift weight off of your front hip joint, lengthening up through the entire torso. On an exhale, twist, bringing opposite elbow to outside of front knee, drawing bottom ribs towards inner thigh. Lengthen your spine on inhalations, deepen twists on exhalations.  Take 5 breaths on each side.

6.  Crescent Lunge / High Lunge Pose

This pose looks very similar to Warrior I.  However, in Crescent pose, the heel of the back foot is lifted off the mat, toes are tucked under and pressing into the ball of the foot.

See below infographic for visual guidance on this pose:

crescent pose
Crescent yoga pose alignment

For a variation of this pose, try bending/dipping the back knee.   This activates the quadricep muscles of both legs even more.   This variation is more accessible for those with very tight hip flexor muscles as they may not be able to extended the back leg straight.  This variation actually offers more strength-building in both legs.

How often should I practice Yoga?

If you only practice for 30 minutes to one hour a week, you will start to experience the benefits of the practice quickly. If you can do more than that, you will certainly experience more benefits. Be patient with it, it might seem hard at first but you will see results if you keep it practicing it regularly.

Is breathing important during yoga practice?

YES!! Without the breath, yoga is no longer yoga. And with the wrong breath, yoga can adversely affect the body. Knowing when to inhale and when to exhale is imperative. Because breath and movement are naturally linked, they must be intelligently paired in yoga. Correct yogic breathing supports the asana (yoga poses) movement and deepens its effects. The basic rules are:

Inhale when opening the front of the body:

Inhalations expand the chest and abdomen. To intelligently link inhalations to movement, any asanas (yoga poses) that open the front body should be practiced on an inhalation. These include backbends, raising the head, and raising the arms.

Exhale when compressing the front of the body:

In the Seated Forward Bend pose, for example, the back is stretched and the front of the body contracts. You should move into all forward bends on an exhalation. Twists and side bends, which restrict expansion of the chest and abdomen, should also be practiced on an exhalation.

If you were to inhale while coming into a forward bend, twist, or side bend, you would be expanding your chest and abdomen with the breath, but compressing them with the movement. This contradiction would adversely affect the body.

Take-home message for footballers:

Strength, endurance, flexibility, and mental focus are only a few of the benefits of yoga that can help athletes perform well in their chosen sports. Aside from being a form of physical exercise, yoga is also recognised as a form of healing and therapy that helps athletes recover from their many sports-related injuries, and can generally improve mental and physical health.

Remember, yoga is not just a workout, it is a work-in! It is so much more than just a way to work out and keep in shape.  Yoga teaches you how to listen to your body. Yoga means union and it essentially means, that which unites the physical and the spirit. Through the practice of breath control, meditation and performing poses, yoga helps strengthen your body and your mind.

Wishing you many more years of success in sports and well-being!

Morning Yoga Energising Flow Video

First Pranalistic YouTube Yoga video sequence available on Pranalistic’s YouTube Channel  Please subscribe to my new channel 🙂

It has taken countless hours to edit this on limited video editing software, and although it’s not perfect, it is published for all to view on YouTube.

I hope to eventually progress to voice-overs and/or verbal video demos, but this is a sure start.  Baby steps and lots of lesson learnt!

If you like what you see, please let me know in a comment or like, and support Pranalistic by following me on social.

Enjoy this video, it is great for starting your day and you’ll only need 15 minutes!

Drop it like a Squat!


The Yoga Squat; Sanskrit name: Malasana, a.k.a Garland Pose can tell you a lot about your body…

Achieving a deep yoga squat isn’t easy for everyone.  Some make it look easy while others struggle to get into position without feeling discomfort or falling backwards… Sounds familiar?  If yes, then this this post is for you!

Assessing your deep yoga squat can offer valuable insight – from muscular dysfunctions or imbalances to soft tissue restrictions, areas of tension, areas of mobility and joint structures.  Malasana is highly beneficial – it stretches the thighs, groins, hips, ankles and torso, improves the function of the colon and improves circulation and blood flow to the pelvis, which can help regulate sexual energy.  Yet, Malansana is a complex pose that involves many joints and muscles working together.

“Differences aren’t deficits.” – Theodosius Dobzhansky.

The truth is everyone’s squat will look a little different due to anatomical variations of the hip joint and unfortunately no amount of yoga practice or hip opening can change this.  However, with consistent and safe practice, your squat may change shape as your soft tissues change.  Think how many times a day you squat, getting up out of a chair or off the floor, or going to the bathroom!  In the western culture a deep squat isn’t part of our daily life unless we make it one.  Young children often instinctively squat but the older we get, the less we do it.  For South East Asian and Eastern European adults, squatting often takes the place of sitting or standing  I know as I age, I want to be able to get down on the floor well into my old age!

Malasana challenges the mechanics of the whole body to work cohesively together – it requires mobility and stability in the ankles, knees, hips, pelvis, and spine.  

Note: Those with long torsos and/or short legs will likely find Malasana to be a little more accessible, while those with shorter torsos and/or longer legs may have to work a little smarter and longer to find a ‘comfortable seat’ in Malasana.

How to do Malasana:

  • Stand in front of a mirror in order to observe your form.  Begin with your feet a little wider than hip distance and start with the feet slightly turned out and heels to the floor (if you can.)
  • Keep grounding down through the big toes and start to bend the knees and begin to lower down, as you lower down drive your knees out wide, while keeping the big toes pressing down.  Your heels might start to lift but try to keep them down as best you can.
  • Separate your thighs slightly wider than your torso. 
  • Keep your shoulders down away from your ears.
  • Press the elbows against the inner knees or inner thighs and bring your plams together – this will help lengthen your front torso.
  • Hold the position for 30 seconds to a minute

You might feel like you’re going to fall backwards, or end up on your butt – keep reading to find out what that can mean.

Assess Your Squat – Start from the foundation up

Feet and ankles

In yoga asana (postures) we always begin from the foundation, so take a look at your feet and ankles.  Do your heels have a tendency to lift up?  If so, this might be down to restriction in the soft tissues of the calf, the Achilles tendon or the soleus muscle (back part of the calf) because the knee is bent in this position.  

Tip: These tissues can be released with trigger point massage balls, a massage therapist and can also be strengthened with isolated exercises (exercises that focus on a single muscle that lacks strength.)  Sometimes in an effort to get the heels down the medial (inner) arch collapses and/or the feet turn out excessively.  This can be an indicator of tightness in the upper hamstrings, hips and/or weakness in the gluteus medius muscle (important hip muscle that helps to keep your hips, knees and ankles in line.)  

Knees and hips

Are your knees knocking inwards?  This can indicate weak/tight abductor muscles, which are found on the outside of the hips and thighs.  To correct this, do abductor strengthening exercises I.e. side lunges or side step-ups.

Back

If your low back is arched excessively (particularly as you lowered down), you may have tight hip flexors.  If your spine rounds forward, you may have weak erector spinae muscles, a tight thoracic (middle) spine, and/or tight hamstrings.  So what is your body trying to tell you here?  You should focus on more back body strengthening exercises and less sitting down!

Asymmetry

Leaning toward one side, one knee dropping in or one hip higher than the other, can indicate stability issues.  This is common in people who’ve had injuries or impingement in the lower body.  This can be seen more clearly in video or photos as it is likely that if the body has been in this pattern for a while, you can’t feel it.

SO WHAT CAN WE DO?

The easiest way to make Malasana pose more accessible is to place support underneath the heels (such as a rolled up towel, a yoga wedge or blanket).  

If your heels are really close to the ground, try widening your feet a bit more and/or turning your toes out a little more, and see if that helps bring your heels down, but don’t collapse the arches!  

Once your heels are down, to make sure the inner arches of your feet don’t collapse, roll more weight to the outside edges of your feet as you engage your gluteus muscles.

Try sitting on a block or move to a wall for light support to prevent you falling backwards.  Aim to keep your knees in line with the feet and keep pressing your big toes firmly into the ground.  

Use the elbows to press the knees out, while simultaneously hugging the knees in to the elbow, to lift the spine upwards and draw the chest forward.  

Soften the chin and lengthen the back of the neck.

If you hold this pose for a while and start losing stability, don’t worry, come out when you need to and build up time in the pose slowly, as these muscles strengthen and the calves release, Malasana will become more of a comfortable pose.

If you are still falling backwards you can practice holding on to a strong pole, table leg or person.  Don’t give up, as we age this is a functional movement that we want to maintain.  As it gets easier with practice you may even find yourself dropping and squatting throughout the day!

Happy squatting!

Yoga Squat; Malasana Pose

Sun Salutations for Beginners

We salute the Sun to give thanks for a new day filled with life – giving light, energy and sustenance. The Sun Salutation, or Surya Namaskar, is a series of yoga poses performed in a continuous flowing sequence and can even be a complete practice as the poses lengthen and strengthen, flex and extend many of the main muscles of the body while distributing the prana flow throughout the system. You can repeat sun salutations for as many times as you like. Follow the instructions below for a traditional Sun Salutation sequence for beginners.

Curious about this super mat I’m practicing on? Check out the Manduka EkO SuperLite Yoga Mat from Amazon. It’s really cool!

SUN SALUTATIONS – STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Start in Mountain pose with feet together, back and neck aligned, shoulders relaxed. Knees slightly bent if you like.
  • Inhale and sweep the arms up overhead, look up to the sky and reach to the sun. Remain in strong mountain alignment. Engage the core to support the slight back bend.
  • Exhale and dive to the floor, leading with the chest, hinging at the hips and come into Standing Forward Bend.
  • Inhale into Halfway Lift (place your hands on your chins and maintain a flat back; look forward.)
  • Exhale back into Standing Forward Bend
  • Inhale the right foot back, come into Equestrian pose (low lunge with knee resting on floor). Make sure the front knee is over the ankle and the front heel is flat on the floor.
    Place hands on the mat or the top of the thigh. Press the pelvis slightly forward to feel a stretch in the hip flexor.
  • Exhale back into Downward Dog (feet together) Inhale for one breath in Downward Dog pose.
  • Exhale into 8-point pose (i.e. 8 points of contact with the floor: knees, chest, chin, toes, hands on mat with bum towards the ceiling)
  • Inhale into Baby cobra with arms bent and shoulders in towards your sides.
  • Exhale back up into Downward Dog pose.
  • Inhale into Equestrian pose (left side)
  • Exhale bring both feet together into Standing forward bend
  • Inhale into Halfway Lift.
  • Exhale arms up and inhale into Standing Prayer Pose

TIPS

  • Start these exercises at a slow pace so that you gradually warm up the body.
  • Ensure that have proper and rhythmic breathing in order to focus on the inhalations and exhalations into each pose.
  • Do not begin in a random order as salutations are a set series of poses – follow the sequence.
  • Do not be in a hurry about the total number of times covered in a day. As a beginner, you could start with two to four rounds and then gradually go up to as many as you can comfortably do. It is a great warm-up or start to your morning on an empty stomach!

BENEFITS

  • Increases energy and awareness, so it’s great as a morning ritual!
  • Improves digestion such as regulates your bowels and can decrease bloat
  • Promotes weight loss – the more you do, the better!
  • Improves blood circulation and heart health
  • Tones muscles and improves flexibility. You’ll notice a huge difference if you make this a regular practice.
  • Unwinds the mind and body, especially if you have the breathing down!

Have a look at my previous blog post for: 10 Simple Yoga Poses for Beginners.

Best Yoga Mat for Travel

Tried & Tested Yoga Mat for Travel

As someone who travels a lot and practices yoga on a regular basis, I need a reliable, good quality, pack-up-and-go, value-for-money, yoga mat. Are there any out there that ticks all of those boxes? Hello Manduka!

For me I need something that can fold away in my suitcase, is light weight, durable and preferably made from something biodegradable.

I did my research, read the reviews and ratings, asked for recommendations and decided to go with the Manduka SuperLite eKOⓇ 

Get your Manduka SuperLite now

Manduka, is a quality, responsible brand that makes effort to minimize environmental waste. Their eKo mats are made from biodegradable natural tree rubber, manufactured with zero waste and with no harmful plasticizers.


Why I love the Manduka eKo SuperLite Yoga Mat?

  • Firstly, because it’s only 2lbs in weight
  • Secondly, it’s perfect for travel as it folds up, rolls up and even scrunches up and can fit in my hand bag or backpack, let alone my suitcase!
  • I love purple, so I have it in ‘acai’, which looks amazing!
  • Because it’s eco-friendly (made from biodegradable natural tree rubber)
  • I’ve used so many mats that felt comfortable but offered terrible grip. The Manduka SuperLite offers perfect grip and stays in place even after a sweaty workout!
  • And, last but not least, it’s affordable at under $50
Quality material; superb colour
1.5mm thick; Eco-friendly material, sweat proof and non-slip
Durable Yoga Mat; folds easily
Durable, flexible and strong
Full length of Manuka SuperLite EKO Yoga Mat
180cm long
Cow pose on my new yoga mat
Thinness of the mat still supports my knees
Comfortable for floor poses such as Sphinx Pose
Great for floor poses as it’s non-slip, gives amazing grip and is thin enough to still feel grounded in poses



Manduka Unisex’s eKo Superlite and Pilates Yoga Travel Mat, Midnight, 71-Inch