Pose of the Week: Firefly

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Model: Lacey Grillos 

Firefly

TITTIBHASANA

“It is through the body that your realize you are a spark of divinity.”

~ B.K.S. Iyengar

Pose Benefits:

  • Strengthens arms and wrists
  • Opens and stretches groin, hips, back, and legs
  • Improves balance
  • Tones abdomen

Asana Breakdown:

Begin in a squat with your feet positioned less than shoulder width apart with your slightly arms firmly planted between your legs. Walk your hands back as far as you can, fingers pointing forward. Engage all five knuckles as you gently begin to tilt your torso forward. Carefully begin to lift yourself off of the floor and extend your legs forward. Keep your inner thighs as high on your arms as possible. Straighten your arms, hollow your chest, and widen your shoulders to get as much lift as possible, then spread your toes apart. Slowly begin to lift the head upward. Breathe — see if you can hold this pose for at least 15 seconds, then release.

 

References:

http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/firefly-pose/

Pose of the Week: Humble Warrior

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Humble Warrior

BADDHA VIRABHADRASANA

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

~Ernest Hemmingway

The humble warrior teaches us to bow down to our efforts and our strength with grace and wisdom. The warrior with in us all teaches us all when to fight for what we believe in, when to stand for peace, and how to find the balance between the two.

Benefits of the Pose:

  • Stretches lungs, chest, & shoulders
  • Opens heart
  • Releases tension in the spine & neck
  • Strengthens & stretches arms, thighs, & calves

Asana Breakdown:

Start off in Warrior II. Take your hands behind your back and interlace your fingers. Open up your chest by drawing your shoulder blades together and your hands down towards the earth. Square up your chest to the front of the room and begin to bow forward. Allow your shoulder to rest or line up with your front knee as your hands continue to reach towards the sky. Breathe here. Relax the neck and create a micro bend in your arms.

 

Pose of the Week: Sugarcane Pose

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Sugarcane Pose

ARDHA CHANDRA CHAPASANA

Benefits of the pose:

  • Improves balance
  • Strengthens and stretches abdomen and legs
  • Opens hips
  • Lengthens and stretches spine

Asana breakdown:

There are a variety of ways to get into this posture, as it is a very dynamic pose. To begin, we’ll take this approach: Start off in Trikonasana (Triangle), take your hand facing the air and bring it behind your back to the opposite hip (i.e. if your right hand is in the air you would bring it behind your left hip). Take your gaze forward, move the hand that is on the ground forward a couple of inches, and being to gracefully transition forward by bending the front leg. Next, straighten the front or standing leg and bend the other so that the hand by your hip can grab your foot. Then, begin to extend your foot up towards the sky like an archer’s bow. Find a drishti or gazing point and breathe here. ❤

Pointers:

  • Keep a micro bend in the front knee so that you don’t hyper-extend.
  • If you have ankle issues, keep the ankle on your floating leg flexed.
  • Place a block under your hand that’s reaching for the ground if it is a stretch to get there right away.
  • If you can’t reach your foot, you can use a strap.

Pose of the Week: Goddess

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Goddess

UTKATA KONASANA

Pose Benefit:

  • Strengthens thighs
  • Engages core, upper back, and arms
  • Opens shoulders and chest
  • Stretches thighs, hips, and groin

Asana Breakdown:

This pose is fairly straightforward. To begin, heel tow your feet about as wide as your mat. Exhale, bend the knees and shoulders. Engaging your core, squat down as low as you can. A full expression is around a 90 degree angle. Elbows should be in alignment with the shoulders. Hands extend upward, collar bones lift and spread as the shoulder blades draw near each other.

Contradictions:

Please refrain from the posture if you are experiencing if you have any chronic pain in your  knees, hips, or groin.

Pose of the Week: Eight Angle

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Eight Angle

ASHTAVAKRASANA

Pose Benefits:

  • Strengthens Arms, Wrists, Shoulders and Abdomen
  • Stretches Legs
  • Improves Balance
  • Tones inner Thighs

Asana Prep:

No doubt this is a more challenging asana and it is important to make sure you are fully warmed up to practice. To prep for this asana, I like to sit in staff and come into a “rock the baby” motion. Take your knee in on hand and your foot in the other and gently begin to twist your torso, rocking your leg back and forth as if it were a baby. If there’s more available, you can cradle your leg in your elbow creases. Repeat on the other side.

Asana Breakdown:

When you are fully warmed up and ready to begin, start in staff. Making sure your pelvic floor is tilted forward and your spine is erect. Begin with your left leg. Prop it behind your left shoulder. Firmly rooting your hands directly underneath your shoulders, make sure all five knuckles are connected to the floor. Move your weight  from your bottom to your wrists so that your sit bones comes off the ground. Now your right leg should be extended while your left leg sits above your left shoulder. This is a great place to begin and may be where you find yourself pushed to your edge. However, if there is more, hook your right foot to your left. Extend both legs and deeply bend your elbows so that your arms are parallel with the floor.

Food for Thought:

As you may notice, I am smiling in this photo. For me, this asana is not always an easy task, however, a teacher of mine once said that when you are in the midst of struggle, especially in an asana — but also in day to day life — try smiling and notice how the asana changes. So I encourage you to find the posture that pushes you and move into the meditative, nonattached mind, and smile. See how it changes your practice and how it changes your life from day to day. ❤

Pose of the Week: Boat

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Boat

PARIPURNA NAVASANA

Pose Benefits:

  • Strengthens Core, Hip flexors, and Spine
  • Improves Digestion
  • Stimulates Kidneys and Intestines
  • Increases internal awareness
  • Improves Balance
  • Helps with Stress

Asana Breakdown:

To get into this pose, sit on the floor with your knees bent. Keeping the knees bent, begin to raise your feet off the floor until the lower leg becomes parallel with the ground. Lock your mulabanda by engaging your pelvic floor. Keep your integrity in your back by flattening your stomach, allowing the spine to elongate in a linear fashion. Allow the collar bones to lift and spread. Slowly begin to straighten the legs, extending the arms forward.

Pose contradictions:

If you are experiencing any of the following, please refrain from this pose:

  • Headache
  • Pregnancy
  • Neck Pain or stiffness
  • Menstruation
  • Asthma
  • Diarrhea

Sources:

Granacher, Urs, Albert Gollhofer, Tibor Hortobágyi, Reto W. Kressig, and Thomas Muehlbauer. “The importance of trunk muscle strength for balance, functional performance, and fall prevention in seniors: a systematic review.” Sports medicine(2013): 1-15.

“Boat Pose – Paripurna Navasana – Yoga Pose.” Yoga Journal. Cruz Bay Publishing, 28 Aug. 2007. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.

“How to Do Boat Pose in Yoga.” YogaOutlet.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.

Awareness & Labeling Emotions

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It is hot topic in biology that the bacteria in our gut has a huge impact on our mood, personality, emotions, and even thoughts. The bacteria living there, however, are not permanent. They change in quantity and type depending on our environment, what we ingest via breathe, food, and beverage.

Over the past few years I have begun to place a large amount of awareness towards how certain foods affect me. I know that if I eat certain things my gut flora will get out of balance and change my mood and therefore how I interact with those around me. All too often I have said something that I regret and realize that I ate something recently that probably made me that way.

I know it sounds like a bunch of science fiction, but it is the truth. The bacteria in our gut neurons-582054_640has a direct link to our brain and thus to our actions and reactions. This is why eating well is of the utmost importance.

So how do I deal with it? Personally, when I realize I have an intense emotion towards someone that may not be exactly justified I think, What did I eat in the last 24-48 hours? More often than not, I can identify the exact meal or food item that upset me. In efforts to bring humor to the irritation, sadness, or anger, I have started labeling my emotion as the food I ate that made me upset.

When I check in with myself and ask, How are you feeling? The answer becomes something like carrot cake, ice cream, pizza, or corn.

Saying I feel like carrot cake, for me, is a much more accurate description of how I am really feeling because I am really feeling the chemistry of that particular food interacting with my biology. What I have noticed from my personal experience is that when the food passes through me so does that emotion. The same is true on the other end. When I eat right for my body, I am balanced, clear, happy, and light. The emotion then changes to feeling like carrots, quinoa, smoothie, or kale.

So today’s post offers a suggestion in how we approach our meals and how we approach our emotions. When eating a meal, notice how you feel before eating it and how you feel after. Generally, you will feel better, worse or the same. Ideally, you want to feel better, so if you noticed that what you ate made you feel worse, shift your next meal choice and ask yourself what are you feeling and why. Often, I find, I can identify the feeling but not why. If that’s the case, observe the emotional for it will pass once the food has been digested. In this case you will know how you’re feeling because if very well may be that you just feel like carrot cake.

Pose of the Week: Extended Side Angle

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Extended Side Angle

UTTHITA PARSVAKONASANA

Benefits of the pose:

  • Relieves shoulder & back stiffness
  • Relieves Constipation
  • Reverses Infertility
  • Strengthens legs, knees, & ankles
  • Stretches side body
  • Opens Chest
  • Relieves back pain
  • Relieves Menses pain

Asana Break Down:

To get into this pose start in Warrior II. Checking your alignment: make sure the front ankle aligns with the back arch. The back foot should be at roughly a 45 degree angle. Bending the font arm, allow it to rest gently on your from thigh, extending your other arm over head. Another variation of this pose is to place your front hand on the ground next to your front foot instead of putting your hand on your thigh. Find your strength in your core so that all of your weight doesn’t rest on your from thigh. Open the chest and take the gaze towards the sky.

 

Thoughts on Meditation For Beginners

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Meditation can be incredibly intimidating for the ruminating or monkey-mind, as I call it. For me, I often find a lot of self-judgement around meditation: “Am I doing it right? When was the last time I had a thought? Am I still thinking? Om Namah Shivaya… why can’t I stop thinking?”

And that, right there, is the ultimate fallacy. The goal of meditation is not to “stop thinking”. It is about awareness. Taking time to truly notice the breath, to feel the weight of your clothes, and the sensation of them touching your skin. To become aware, but not attached, to the mind as it wanders through the vast hallways of your life.

This is easier said than done, but that is why we call it a practice. I can guarantee that every great yogi has had to work towards gaining peace in their mind, that the constant chattering did not merely stop because they decided to sit crosslegged, in silence, for an extended period of time. It stopped because they chose to make a habit of meditation.

What is truly phenomenal is that just the action of becoming still, of listening to the mind chatter, of noticing the emotions, as well as physical distresses of the body, actually has striking effects on your overall health and wellbeing.

In fact, the University of Wisconsin, among many others have proven that meditation alters gene expression. Changing the bodies response to fight or flight by giving an additional reaction: action. The Yoga Sutras discuss this. They say that eventually the dedicated yogi will reach a point where they no longer react to situations, but rather respond situations with clarity and diligence. With consistent practice, it also begins to turn off genes related to cancer, alzheimer, and obesity as it begins to turn on genes that promote mental clarity, longevity, and overall wellbeing.

So here are some tricks you can bring into your meditation practice to get the ball rolling. Remember, you are just noticing what is happening around you. Resist the need to judge or label the mind as it being to string thoughts along throughout your practice.

Breathing — Using Uijayi breathe (the breath of victory) begin to place your awareness solely on the breath. Listen to breath as it moves in and out of the body. As the mind wavers, take it back to it’s basic.

Chanting — Often finding a chant can be very helpful. Whether it is an intention, a prayer, spoken out loud, in silence, in your native tongue, or in sanskrit; it doesn’t matter. Having a chant can be very powerful because it allows the mind to focus on a simple phrase. This can help to bring about joy in the heart and turn the volume down on the monkey-mind.

Listening to a tape — Sometimes it can be helpful to listen to a meditation tape. This way you have something to listen to when the mind starts to wander. This will also help you focus on intention and can bring new elements into awareness.

Set a timer — Another huge fallacy around meditation is that is has to be for a long period of time. Even though meditation is most beneficial when practiced on average for 27 minutes a day, that’s not realistic for some people. So you do what you can. Sitting for even 5 or 10 minutes can make a world of a difference. So set a timer, let go of the need to look at a clock, and take a moment to be still.

Find ways to bring it into daily life — The truest and most evident benefit of meditation is finding ways to take in off the mat and into daily life. As you delve into your mediation practice, notice how your tolerance or patience begins to change. Or choose to actively incorporate the meditative mind into simple tasks such as getting cut off in traffic, waiting in a long line in a grocery store, or having that uncomfortable conversation. That state of being is what will serve you the most. It can be a compass in your life to point you in the direction of where you need to be and the path of least resistance to get there.

You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should mediate for an hour.” ~ Old Zen Saying

Pose of the Week: Crow

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Crow

BAKASANA

Benefits of the pose:

  • Strengthens Upper Arms & Wrists
  • Increases Focus
  • Works Core
  • Stretches Upper Back
  • Tones Abdominal Organs

Asana Breakdown:

To get into this pose, begin in malasana firmly place your hands directly in front of you. Rooting down through your first three knuckles, begin to lift up onto the balls of your feet. As a beginner, you can begin to rock back and forth hear. Perhaps, holding the pose for only a second or two and then coming back to the ground. Allow the knees to draw in closely to the armpits as the shoulders move over the wrists, aligning with the middle finger. Draw your feet close to your glutes as you begin to work towards gradually straightening the arms. Once the arms are completely extended, you move from Crow to Crane! ❤