tuladandasana balancing staff pose

Yoga Poses and Benefits: Warrior III/Balancing Staff Pose

This posture really gets the heart pumping and the lungs opening, building a deeper connection and stronger relationships within the body and, by default, in your "off the mat" life.  This posture is especially helpful with strengthening your most important relationship – your relationship with YOU. Practice this posture to peel away the layers of fear and self doubt and reveal your true, confident, calm nature and strong self!

Warrior III/Balancing Staff Pose
Virabhadrasana/Tuladandasana

tuladandasana balancing staff pose

Instructions:

  • Start in Tadasana.  Lift your arms overhead bring the palms together and interlace your fingers.  Release the index fingers and cross your thumbs, bringing your palms flat, arms straight throughout.
  • Step forward a couple of feet with the right foot, shifting the weight into the right leg at this point.  Toes of the left foot are pointed and you can lift the left toes off the mat to check that the weight is in the right leg.
  • Hinge at the hips and bring the upper body down and left leg up keeping the entire body in a straight line until it is parallel with the floor.
  • Look down through (not over) your arms at the floor about 5 feet in front of you.  Flatten the upper body and keep the arms straight.
  • Continue to lift the leg and lower the upper body, stretching your arms and legs apart in opposite directions.
  • Avoid the temptation to flare out the lower ribs and arch the back. Draw the lower abdominals in and up and do the same with the lower ribs – in and up – creating even more length and a feeling of spaciousness in the upper body. Deep ujjayi breaths all the way up to the collarbone will also help facilitate space and strength.
  • Keep the standing leg straight and notice that you might need to bring the left hip down so that the hips and shoulders are parallel with the floor.

Benefits:

  • Improves balance and concentration.
  • Stretches and strengthens muscles of the thighs and hamstrings, as well as the back muscles, shoulders and arms.
  • Opens the chest bringing benefits to the lungs and cardio-vascular system.

For some this posture is a favorite and for others, well, not so much.   What are your experiences with Balancing Staff Pose?  I would love to hear them.  Also, please feel free to post any questions or comments below.

And here's to you!

With love,

Lindsay

Strike A Yoga Pose: Warrior II Basics and Benefits

Warrior II Pose Virabhadrasana II

By channeling your inner warrior in asana practice, this posture can bring focus, strength and courage into your life helping you to overcome the challenges of ego and pride.

Yes, shaky thighs and all …

Virabhadra Symbolism

Creation of the Hindu Lord, Shiva, images and mythology portray Virabhadra as having raging, fiery hair and three burning eyes.  He wore a garland of skulls and wielded terrible weapons in each of his one thousand arms.  However, he was not simply a murderous demon. Just as Shiva and destruction are an important part of the Hindu Trilogy (Brahma/Creator, Vishnu/Sustainer, and Shiva/Destroyer), Virabhadra, the Great Warrior, symbolizes that within ourselves which has the power to overcome the prideful ego (symbolized in stories by king Daksha) for the sake of the heart (symbolized by Sati, Daksha’s daughter and first wife of Lord Shiva).  Thus, Virabhadra destroys in order to save.

Here is the Wikipedia article where you can read more about the Origin of Virabhadra.

Warrior II Pose Instructions:

  • Start in Tadasana.  Lift your arms over head and bring your hands in prayer position.  Step 4-5 ft to the right bringing your arms parallel to the floor, palms facing down.  Heels are in line from the side and feet are parallel to each other at this point.  Scoop your tailbone under slightly, bringing your hips into a neutral position.  Arms move back, chest lifted out in front, shoulders roll down and imagine them sliding down your back.
  • Pivot on the right heel 90 degrees (heels still in the same line).  Bend the right knee until the right underside of the thigh is parallel with the floor and continue to sit down, softening in the hips until you have a 90 degree angle with the right shin and thigh.  The knee might have a tendency to move inward and if this is the case, soften your right inner thigh and you can use the right hand to externally rotate the right thigh so that the knee is centered directly over the right ankle.
  • Your weight should be evenly distributed in both feet and you want to make sure, especially, that you have the outside edge of your left foot in contact with the mat and some weight in that area as well.
  • If your upper body begins to lean forward, draw the left arm back in order to bring the upper body centered over your hips.
  • Shift your eye gaze to look out over you right arm across the right middle finger.

Benefits:

  • Increases the strength and flexibility of the legs, ankles and feet.
  • Therapeutic for flat feet, sciatica, backaches and osteoporosis.
  • Stretches the groin, hip muscles and connective tissue of the hips.
  • Opens the chest, lungs and shoulders.
  • Builds stamina.

 

 

 

Virabhadrasana II

 

Thanks for tuning in! Please, feel free to share using the buttons below and ROCK ON with your yogi self!

Lots of love,

Lindsay

Yoga Foundations: Mountain Pose Basics and Benefits

Mountain Pose
Tadasana

This is the starting position for many standing postures and is also used as a transitional position between standing postures.  It is easy to bypass this posture in your practice, however it is a posture and even on its own has many benefits. 

My tip: try to stay present and fully connect in Tadasana.  You will quickly notice how this awareness of subtleties benefits your practice as a whole.

Instructions:

  • Stand with your feet parallel to each other and maybe touching the inside of the big toes and heals together.  Lift the toes and then spread them wide including the connecting bones in the front half of the foot.  With your feet stretching and widening, return the toes to the mat and lift the arches of the feet by pulling the muscles of the inner ankle gently upward.
  • With your weight evenly distributed across both feet, engage your thigh muscles just enough to pull the knee caps up.  Inner thighs are also active and rotate inward slightly.
  • Activate the muscles of the pelvic floor and core, drawing the navel towards the spine while at the same time scooping the tailbone in a subtle movement, visualizing your tailbone rooting downward.
  • From this rooted position, visualize your vertebrae stacking one on top of the other, following the natural s-curve of the spine, all the while the muscles of the abdomen and back are supporting you.
  • Roll your shoulders down and back, opening and lifting the chest slightly.
  • Feel your head balancing lightly on top, chin parallel with the floor, and the crown of the head is centered over your hips.
  • Hands are positioned by your side, palms facing outward in a nice, open and anatomical position for the shoulders.  Alternately, you can bring your palms together in the center of your chest, a position known as anjali mudra (mudras are symbolic gestures or positions of the hands), namaskar, namaste or prayer position.

Benefits:

  • Improves posture.
  • Strengthens core muscles – pelvic floor, abdomen and back.
  • Therapeutic for flat feet, backaches and sciatica.
  • Strengthens thighs, knees and ankles.

 

“Mountain pose teaches us, literally, how to stand on our own two feet…. teaching us to root ourselves into the earth…. Our bodies become a connection between heaven and earth.”  ~Carol Krucoff

 

 

 

Rock Your Tadasana

Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed this information, please share using the buttons below.  As always, I welcome any questions or comments!

Namaste

Lindsay

Original photo courtesy of Anna Ferguson with addition design & magic by Adam Fields.

Yoga for Depression

How is a yoga practice beneficial for someone with a history of depression?

Here is what I think, or at least what I have noticed in my personal experience.

First of all, depression is defined as experiencing feelings such as worthlessness, hopelessness, lethargy or an overall feeling of sadness that lasts more than two weeks.  Most of us feel down from time to time, but clinical depression is a completely different animal and is very serious.  I am not suggesting that yoga replace medical care for clinical depression.  I am simply acknowledging how yoga has helped me personally as someone with a history of depression and that yoga can prove very helpful as a preventive measure.

When you exercise, as in a yoga class, your body releases chemicals called endorphins.  These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.  This can help ease anxiety and feelings of depression.  Regular exercise has also been proven to reduce stress, boost self esteem, improve sleep, and increase energy levels.

In addition to the physical benefits and the boost to your self esteem beginning an exercise regimen brings, there are more subtle ways in which yoga might help with depression.  The mind-body connection is something which most people agree exists.  The most immediate way of expressing emotion and communicating is through our body.  The term “body language” refers to how we react physically to our emotions.  I believe this to be at the root of yoga’s benefits for assisting in overcoming depression.  Many yoga postures (asanas) place your body in positions which open the front side of the body.  Take a backward bend like Ustrasana, Camel Pose, for example.  This position with the chest lifted and arms extended is the physical expression of joy and gratitude.  Practicing this posture will trigger an emotional response which, as you might imagine, can bring immediate hope and relief to someone experiencing a depressed state.

There is another way yoga might prove useful.  Something I also consider to be a key element in yoga’s ability to ease depression is the way in which yoga practice reveals to us how we treat ourselves.  Listening to that internal dialogue can be extremely helpful.  Are we accepting of our self?  Are we critical?  Is this thought or this way of thinking useful to me?  One of my favorite yoga quotes really sums this up:

“Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are.” -Jason Crandell

Yoga eliminates hiding from yourself by bringing forth confrontation of both physical and emotional blockages during asana practice.  While the physical blockages may seem obvious (the tight hamstrings, shoulders, etc.), the emotional experience in your yoga classes might be confusing at first.  You may find yourself feeling angry, scared, or disappointed during class, and sometimes it may seem completely out of place.  Great!  Take this as an opportunity to acknowledge, accept and feel your emotions completely.  Allow yourself to be curious and to practice not judging yourself.  Simply ask yourself, “I wonder where that came from?” and let the healing begin.  For once you ask the question, or perhaps it is simply the act of asking the question, your mind is opened and your heart is opened as well.  Yoga class can offer such wonderful and much needed emotional release.

So please, take these 60-90 minute classes and get to know yourself, accept yourself, love yourself and heal yourself.

Namaste,

Lindsay Fields

 

 

janushirsasana

Hot Yoga Benefits: The Rounded Spine Position

In postures such as Dandayamana-Janushirsasana (Standing Head-to-Knee Pose), Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Janushirsasana (Standing Separate Leg Head-to-Knee Pose), Sasangasana (Rabbit Pose), Janushirsasana (Seated Head-to-Knee Pose), we engage our perineum and belly muscles (mula and uddyana bandhas), tuck our chin to our chest (jalandhara bandha), and round and curl our spine forward as much as possible, a position unique to the Hot Yoga lineage.

I am sure you have heard many times in Hot Yoga classes something to the effect of, “It is more important to keep your forehead in contact with your knee than it is to straighten your leg,” or “Engage all three bandhas or locks as you round and curl in.” You hear these things all of the time, but for heaven’s sake why?  Well, there is a method to the madness.  There is, in fact, a reason we tuck the chin and round the spine.  It is so very good for you!  Here are a few examples as to why:

  • -Increased flexibility of the sciatic nerves, tendons, hip joints, and the last five vertebrate of the spine.  The rounded spine position of Janshirsasana helps make the lower back and hamstring quite flexible as well as provides relief from joint pain in the hips.
  • -Improves  mobility and elasticity of the spine and increases flexibility of the back, neck and shoulder muscles.  This unique position gives maximum extension and stretch to the spine allowing the nervous system to receive proper nutrition.
  • -It aids in digestion by improving and even increasing circulation to the internal organs and bowels.  Practicing these asanas regularly will prove beneficial for those who suffer from constipation and indigestion.
  • -By stretching the muscles across the internal organs, we help to resolve kidney problems, aid in the proper functioning of the pancreas, liver and spleen thus strengthening the immune system.
  • -Tucking the chin to the chest provides a massage and increased circulation to the thyroid and parathyroid glands which are responsible for our body’s ability to properly absorb calcium and other essential minerals, regulating our sleep/wake cycle and metabolism, and also aiding in weight loss.
  • -These asanas which incorporate the rounded spine, engaged pelvic floor and belly muscles are also helpful in reducing flab and toning the abdominals and hips.

So, as you can see, there are many benefits to receive by practicing these asanas with a rounded spine and your chin tucked to your chest.  This is just one of the myriad ways Hot Yoga heals and restores vital balance to the body and why I am so excited to share and teach this wonderful, curative and therapeutic system!

Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed this post, please comment or share (buttons below).

Namaste Hot Yogis,

Lindsay

photo courtesy of Hot Yogi