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!

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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.

10 Simple Yoga Poses for Beginners

If you are a beginner, there are several yoga poses that are essential for you to learn so you can feel comfortable in a class or practicing on your own at home.

It’s not easy to short-list these poses since there are over 300 positions in the physical yoga practice (asana), but the following poses can start you off on the right path.  If you do each one of these for 5-10 breaths, it also creates a great beginner’s yoga program for you to do every day.

Here are my picks for 10 simple yoga poses for beginners. Note: You don’t have to be able to do all these poses exactly as described — ALWAYS listen to your body and modify if needed.

1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana) 

mountain (1).jpgMountain Pose is the base for all standing poses.  It might look like you’re just standing there, but Mountain Pose is an active pose that helps improve posture, balance, and  focus.  Its name comes from the Sanskrit words “tada” (meaning “mountain”) and “asana” (meaning “pose”).  Tadasana is the foundational pose for all standing yoga postures and full inversions

How to do it:

  • Start standing with your feet together and arms at your sides.  (If you have trouble balancing, stand with your feet wider apart).  Press your weight evenly across the balls and arches of your feet.  Straighten your legs, engage your quadriceps to lift your kneecaps.
  • Bring your pelvis to neutral and tuck in your tailbone slightly but don’t round your lower back.  Rotate your thighs slightly inward.  Draw your abdominals in as you open your chest and press the tops of the shoulders down.
  • As you inhale, elongate through your torso. Exhale and release your shoulder blades away from your head; keep your palms facing inwards towards the body.
  • Imagine a string drawing the crown of the head up to the ceiling and breathe deeply in to the torso.  Your neck, shoulders, hips, and ankles should all be in one line.  Softly gaze forward toward the horizon line and keep your breathing even.

2. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) 

Standing Forward Bend lengthens the spinal column and stretches the backs of the legs and the back muscles. This posture stimulates digestive, uro-genital, nervous and endocrine systems.

How to do it:

  • From Mountain pose exhale and bend forward from the hip joints (not the waist.)  Bend the knees enough to bring your head towards your knees.  Bring your palms or finger tips to the floor slightly in front of or beside your feet, or bring your palms to the backs of your ankles.  If this isn’t possible, cross your forearms and hold your elbows.
  • Relax the head and neck.  Press the heels firmly into the floor and lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling.    Work on straightening the legs to deepen the stretch in the backs of the legs.
  • Breathe and hold for several breaths, actively pressing the belly into the thighs on the inhalation.

3. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

dd (1)One of the most recognised yoga poses, DFD is a mild inversion that builds strength while stretching the whole body.  “Down Dog” is an essential component of Sun Salutations and is often done many times during a yoga class.  It can be used as a transitional pose, a resting pose, and a strength-builder.

How to do it:

  • From Table Top position (on hands and knees), tuck the toes under, press into the hands and begin to lift the hips up towards the ceiling.
  • Spread the fingers wide apart with the middle finger facing forward, and the hands shoulder width apart.
  • Using straight (but not locked) arms, press the hips up reaching the chest towards the thighs.  Lift up through the tailbone to keep the spine straight and long.
  • Have the feet hip-width apart with the toes facing forward. Press the heels into the floor feeling a stretch in the back of the legs.  Your heels might not be able to touch the floor and this is fine but remember, if you are up on the balls of your feet, it shifts the trajectory of the pose forward instead of back.  It will never be a resting position unless you take your weight back into your heels.
  • You can have a small bend at the knees to keep the back flat.
  • Let the head and neck hang freely from the shoulders and look up at the belly button.

4. Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I) 

warrior 1 bkg.jpgWarrior 1 is a standing pose that opens the hips and strengthens your legs. It also promotes good posture and spinal alignment along with core strength.  It is great for overall body strength and flexibility.
 

How to do it:

  • From a standing position or in mountain pose, step your left foot to the back of your mat and lower the inside of your foot so that your back foot is firmly on the mat at about a 45 degree angle.
  • Bend your right knee 90 degrees with toes pointing to the top of the mat.  Straighten your back leg.  Check to see if both heels are aligned.
  • Reach up strongly through your arms.  Lengthen the sides of your waist, and lift through your chest.  Keep your palms and fingers active and reaching.  You can keep your arms parallel, or press your palms together.
  • Keep your shoulders dropped away from your ears.
  • Press down through the outer edge of your back foot, keeping your back leg straight and keep your pelvis turned toward the front of your mat.
  • Relax shoulders and breathe gently in and out.  Hold 30 seconds and switch sides.

5. Tree Pose (Vrkasana)

tree.jpgTree Pose is usually the first standing balance pose that’s taught to yoga beginners.  Tree pose strengthens your legs and core while opening your hips and stretching your inner thighs and groin muscles.

How to do it:

  • Start in Mountain Pose and take a moment to feel both your feet root into the floor with your weight distributed equally on all four corners of each foot.
  • Then begin to shift your weight into your right foot, lifting your left foot off the floor. Keep your right leg straight but don’t lock the knee.  
  • Bend your left knee and bring the sole of your right foot high onto your inner right thigh.  (Be careful to avoid placing the foot directly on the side of the knee since that puts your joint in a vulnerable position.)  If you’re struggling with balance, place your foot onto your inner calve or ankle instead.  Use a wall for balance if necessary.
  • Press your foot into your thigh and your thigh back into your foot with equal pressure. This will help you keep both hips squared toward the front.  
  • Bring your hands together in prayer position or extend up over your head like a tree!
  • Focus your gaze on something stationary to help you keep your balance. 
  • Take 5 to 10 breaths, then lower your left foot to the floor and do the other side.

6. Sphinx pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)

sphinx (1)Sphinx pose is a beginner pose for back bending poses and a great substitute for Cobra pose as it’s less demanding on the spine.  Sphinx pose is also used a lot in Yin yoga where poses are held for a few minutes at a time.  It creates and maintains a healthy lower back curve – which can be adversely affected by aging and long periods of sitting.  Practicing Sphinx can also help ease lower back pain and stiffness.

If you already have back pain and problems, consult your doctor first to make sure it’s safe for you to practise this pose.

How to do it: 

  • Lie on your stomach either on a mat or a blanket. Bring your legs together and lengthen your tailbone toward your heels.   Rotate your outer thighs down towards your mat.  This will protect your back and prepare you to safely achieve a deeper back bend.
  • Extend out through your toes.  Place your forearms parallel to each other on the ground so your elbows are aligned under your shoulders.  
  • Draw the belly between the pubic bone and navel slightly away from the floor. This should produce a small, subtle dome shape in your lower back. Do not over-exaggerate this action or try to force a large gap.
  • Hold the pose for up to 10 deep breaths.  Exhale while slowly releasing down to the floor. Rest on the floor, head turned to one side, to experience energetic and mental shifts.  Repeat again if you’d like.

7. Cat pose (Marjariasana) 

cat (1)

Cat pose is a pose anyone can do to stretch the back and promote spinal flexibility. Generally, cat pose is used in conjunction with cow pose, cat pose is a wonderful way to keep the spine mobile and fluid.  When Cat Pose and other spinal flexibility poses are practiced regularly, the back has prepared itself for such quick twists or bends and is less likely to experience an injury.

How to do it:

  • Begin on your hands and knees with hands directly under shoulders and knees hip-width distance apart.
  • Start with your spine in a “neutral” or flat position, then slowly tuck your tailbone and lower the crown of your head so your back gently rounds.
  • Spread your fingers and press through the base of the fingers, fingertips, heel of the hands, and tops of the feet.
  • Exhale and draw the belly into the spine, round the back, tucking the chin into the chest.
  • Actively press the floor away and feel the stretch in the back.
  • Inhale and come back into your neutral starting position.

8. Cow pose (Bitilasana)

cow (1).jpg

Cow pose, like cat pose is wonderful for spinal flexibility.  In cow pose you will also feel a nice stretch and opening through your chest and front shoulders.  Cow pose gives you the opportunity to stretch the chest and pull the shoulders back to promote better posture.

Don’t be to aggressive with the spine in this pose by pressing the belly down too hard toward the floor.  Instead,  lift through the chest and tailbone and allow the back to curve naturally.

How to do it:

  • Begin on your hands and knees with hands directly under shoulders and knees directly under hips.
  • Start with your spine in a “neutral” or flat position, then gently lift your chest and tailbone so your back gently curves downward.  Be sure to focus on the lifting – do not press your back downward.  Let the curve happen naturally.
  • Spread your fingers and press through the base of the fingers, fingertips, heel of the hands, and tops of the feet.
  • Start to inhale expanding the belly toward the floor and look slightly upward with a relaxed neck and breathe gently.

9. Child’s pose (Balasana) 

cp (1).jpg

Child’s Pose, is a gentle resting pose that stretches the hips, thighs and legs while calming the mind and relieving stress and tension, it elongates the lower back and opens up the hips.  During child’s pose ensure to maintain a focus on your breathing.

How to do it:

  • Start in table top position (on all-fours) and release your toes on the floor and separate your knees about hip-width distance apart.
  • As you exhale, slowly lower your butt towards your heels, feeling the tailbone lengthen away from the back of your pelvis
  • As your torso folds over your thighs, lengthen the back of your neck and rest your forehead on the floor
  • Extend your arms over your head and feel how the weight of your shoulders lightly spreads the shoulder blades.
  • Doing Child’s Pose with your knees close together, so that your belly is resting on your thighs, is a great way to massage the internal organs which may help move your digestion along.   However you can also come into Extended Child’s Pose where the knees are apart (while toes remain touching), allowing the rib cage to sink deeper, and the arms are extended forward to help lengthen the spine. This pose stretches the spine, hips, knees and relieves tension in the body.

10. Corpse pose (Savasana) 

sav (1).jpgSavasana allows your body and mind time to process what has happened during a yoga class.  It provides a necessary counterpoint to the effort you put forth during asana practice.  You may also practice Savasana before sleeping as a way to quiet your mind and get more restful sleep.

How to do it:

  • Lie down on your back.  Separate your legs. Let go of holding your legs straight so that your feet can fall open to either side.
  • Bring your arms alongside your body, slightly away from your torso. Turn your palms to face upwards but don’t try to keep them open.  Let the fingers gently curl in.
  • Release any tension in your body, including your face and allow yourself to melt onto the floor!
  • Let your breathing occur naturally.  If your mind wanders, you can bring your attention to your breath and the movement of your diaphragm.
  • Stay for a minimum of five minutes.  Play some music if you like!
  • To come out, first begin to the deepen your breath.  Then start to wiggle your fingers and toes, slowly reawakening your body.  Then stretch your arms overhead for a full body stretch from hands to feet.
  • If the back feels uncomfortable, you could use a blanket for more support to raise the spine away from the floor.  If your neck hurts, use a blanket or a cushion below the neck and the head for extra support.  To give better support for the back, use a bolster or blanket under your knees.

Thanks for reading.  Leave a comment and let me know how you get on.

 


“Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel.”
-Kevin Trudeau

A Relationship is like a Yoga Pose

Love is similar to yoga in that each is both a practice and the experiences that arise from the practice.  Loving is a mutual immersion into each other.

I could also say that a relationship is like a yoga posture. Getting into a relationship, everything is rosy bliss. The stars glitter in one another’s eyes. You feel like the glorious hero of an action movie who has just saved the world from a great enemy.

I see a lot of media posts of couples, which begs me to wonder if most of them come from individuals who really understand the true meaning of a soulmate or the inner workings of what a relationship is.

We’ve all made mistakes and learnt our lessons from the relationships we enter and exit.  At this point in my life, I want a partner who speaks to and lifts my soul.  I have found someone who does, but we’re still exploring each other.  Time will tell if we’re meant to be.  But this can never be forced.

Sometimes we need to give each other the space and time to delve into ourselves before we’re truly ready to commit to being side by side for a lifetime.

As someone who has experienced a rough road on the relationship path, I’ve come out learning (or at least think that) a healthy, stable and loving relationship requires a number of things:

  • The both of you remaining forever curious about each other
  • Never truly stop listening to each other
  • Rejoicing in how you complement each other
  • Embracing all the ways in which you are not just similar but also different
  • Effortlessly supporting, encouraging and inspiring one another to achieve their personal and professional goals
  • Being compassionate, patient and present and not expecting anything in return from this
  • Never ceasing to surprise each other
  • Never stop seeing the reasons which made you choose each other in the first place
  • Never taking one another for granted
  • Always finding your way back to each other amidst the conflict, obstacles or disagreements
  • Forever being playful and spontaneous with each other
  • Laughing at and with each other

In yoga as in love, the point is allowing the process to happen.  Love is after all a process.  The balance needed to create a haven of communication, a space to rest in the relationship.  Saying “Yes” to each other means, “yes” to giving each other space, and “yes” to just being together in silence.  It means saying “yes” to each other’s mistakes, unforeseen expectations and weaknesses.  This spiritual wisdom can bring the strength not to fall out of the yoga pose.

Witnessing the process of a relationship, of a yoga pose, needs faith, commitment and strength.  Sometimes I have to make extra space between my shoulders in a pose.  That means slightly adjusting one here and maybe lowering the other there.  Watching my breath.  There is discomfort, but these are my shoulders, and they are not going anywhere.

Whether it is a yoga pose, or a relationship, doubts may come up when something unexpected or disappointing happens.  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says even doubt can be positive.

A couple can take the time to nourish their smiles both together and individually. Practicing yoga together, is a way to stay spiritually connected. And that giving of oneself in love will flow back into the relationship.  It is a law of the universe.

Becoming intimate with yourself is a necessary prerequisite for intimacy with a partner. Simply put, you need to be comfortable with yourself before you can be comfortable with anyone else.  Intimacy is connection.  Connection with your partner is not unlike connection with your own body.  There are restrictions, limitations, and discomforts.  There are tight spots in our relationships.  We need to know when to push into those spots in an effort to open them up, and when to give our partner some space.

How many relationships have ended after a prolonged dispute in which both partners are aware of the issues but cannot or do not act to address them?  How often have you spoken with someone whose relationship ended without them knowing why?

Yoga provides us with opportunities to practice intimacy and presence with ourselves in a way that helps us to extend those gifts to our partners.  Practicing solo is just so much easier.  On our yoga mats the stakes are relatively low.  If you incline toward overthinking and obsessing about details, you can use yoga practice to experiment with letting go of that tendency to mentally scrutinize.  If you tend to be emotionally unavailable, you can use the time on your mat to experiment with intimate attention to detail.

Ultimately, intimacy and presence comprise a complementary union that feels like fullness.   Simply allowing your partner to express him or herself, and remaining wide awake and present to all that is expressed, in itself is a powerful practice.

Allowing things to simply be, without any intervention or critique, will yield the greater intimacy and presence necessary for you to dance your relationship into deeper and more profound levels of immersion.

Allowing for time off to be alone individually is as important as the relationship. “For love to blossom, there needs to be longing… and longing needs a little space,” says Sri Sri. “Though it is a little painful, longing is inevitable.  If you don’t allow longing, then love does not grow.  So, give them some space…and take some space yourself.”

As time passes in a relationship, a couple witnesses that expectations and attitudes change.  The relationship can become better with more yoga and meditation practice.  We can learn how to communicate better in a relationship, to be more patient and forgiving.  Again and again, the cycle rotates from rosy and glorious bliss to momentary shakiness.  There may be confusion when little earthquakes shake.  Commitment is what holds the yoga pose together, when you decide not to fall.  Spirituality is what gives the strength to see it through.

Namaste!

References:  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

7 reasons why I do weights and how it complements my yoga routine…

I’ve been loving the feel-good factor of weight training.  I also notice a pre-workout adrenaline that comes beforehand, which motivates me even more.  I’ve been doing weight training at home for nearly 2 months now (yes, still relatively new.)  Here are 7 reasons why I’m hooked.  These are based on my own personal experience and a bit of research: Continue reading “7 reasons why I do weights and how it complements my yoga routine…”