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.

supta

Yoga Class Etiquette

Here are some basic yoga dos and don’ts to help you feel comfortable attending a class if you are new to yoga, or perhaps as a refresher for more seasoned practitioners. These simple tips can help create an enjoyable, productive experience for everyone. Be on time. Try to arrive 10-15 minutes early for class. This will allow time for registration and payment and help the teacher to start class on time for everyone. Also, arriving early will help you prepare for class by finding your spot in the room and beginning to get centered and relaxed. If you do arrive a little late, that’s okay. Most teachers are very understanding. Just try to enter the yoga room as respectfully as possible as others have already begun to relax and prepare for class. Try to scope out an open spot first then move carefully through the room and unroll your mat quietly. Turn your cell phone off. A phone ringing can be very distracting to both teacher and students. If you are on call, you can let the teacher know before class begins and set your phone or pager to vibrate. Also, if you have a watch or an iPod that beeps, leave it outside the yoga room or set to silent. Take your shoes off. Most studios have a place outside the yoga room to keep your shoes. You will spend a lot of time on the floor and practice in bare feet. Removing your shoes helps to keep the floor clean for everyone. Refrain from wearing perfume or scented lotions. This is out of consideration for others. Some people have sensitivities to fragrances. Even natural essential oils can be too much for some people, especially when breathing deeply as we do in a yoga class. Keep talking to a minimum. Comments and loud conversations can distract others from their experience in class. If you have a specific question about something as it occurs in class, you can feel free to ask the teacher (not another student) at the time. It is likely that another student has the same question. Just keep it to a minimum and not too chatty or lengthy. Also, try to refrain or to at least speak quietly just before and after class as people are relaxing or meditating. You can have your conversations outside of the yoga room. Final relaxation is part of class too! This is so important. This is the part of class, arguably the most important part, where we integrate the benefits of the body work, the breath work and focus of the yoga class. If you absolutely have to leave early, let the teacher know before class, position yourself near the exit and leave as quietly as possible. Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed this post (we could all use a reminder now and again), please share using the buttons below. Namaste, Lindsay Photo courtesy of Anna Ferguson.

warriors

What is Hot Yoga and How Is It Different from Other Yoga Styles?

I am simply amazed at the popularity of yoga these days.

With so many styles and talented teachers out there, it is relatively easy to find a style that is right for you, but what is "Hot Yoga" exactly?  A common misconception is that Hot Yoga is synonymous with Bikram Yoga.  While Bikram Yoga is a type of Hot Yoga, there is so much more to this wonderful lineage from Calcutta.  Here is  a brief description of Hot Yoga, its origin and evolution.

I like to think of Hot Yoga as a noun, not simply an adjective describing any style of yoga practiced in a heated room.  It has a very distinct lineage which incorporates alignment principles and subtle variations to the ancient practice of yoga asanas (yoga postures) that differ from other styles of yoga.  These innovations help increase a posture’s efficiency to be more rehabilitative and fitness oriented.

Hot Yoga is a branch of Hatha Yoga (the physical form of yoga).  The goal of Hatha Yoga, or “Forceful Yoga,” is to purify and remove blockages in the body and the mind in order to free oneself from limitations and live a fuller, richer life.

Two basic branches of Hatha Yoga today:

Yoga of Krishnamacharya – Tirumalai Krishnamacharya is referred to as "the father of modern yoga”  and credited as the yogi who brought yoga into the mainstream.  This is probably the most common branch of yoga with offshoots such as Iyengar Yoga, developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, and the Ashtanga Yoga discipline of Pattabhi Jois.

Hot Yoga of Bishnu Ghosh – Bishnu Ghosh was introduced to the healing benefits of Hatha Yoga by his brother Paramahansa Yogananda (author of Autobiography of a Yogi).  He is credited with then bringing what he learned to the common people, that is, people other than sages and holy men like Yogananda.  A Pioneer in the study of yoga asana, Bishnu Ghosh founded Ghosh's Yoga College in 1923 and helped numerous people heal their various ailments.  His student,  Bikram Choudhury, founder of Bikram Yoga, then brought this wonderful healing modality to the United States.

Styles of Hot Yoga

Here are four popular styles from the Hot Yoga lineage:

Bikram Yoga

Bikram Choudhury, as I mentioned, is a direct student of Bishnu Gosh and responsible for bringing Hot Yoga to the United States.  Bikram shattered his knee in an accident and with the aid of his teacher, he embarked on a vigorous yoga rehabilitation that led him to design his own style of yoga known as Bikram Yoga.  Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class is a series of twenty-six postures and two pranayama breathing exercises performed in a specific order, two sets of each, and in a roomed heated to 105 degrees or greater.  It is designed to be rehabilitative, restoring all systems of the body to healthy working order.

Barkan Method Hot Yoga

Created by Jimmy Barkan, The Barkan Method is built on the teachings and principles of Bikram Choudhury and Bishnu Ghosh, but also incorporates postures from other styles of yoga.  Jimmy, who was once given the title of Bikram’s Senior Most Teacher, found that “even though consistency is important to measure results, daily variations are necessary to challenge, excite and help students become unlimited in their practice.”  Jimmy has also developed a Hot Vinyasa (series of postures and movement coordinated with the breath) sequence based on Hot Yoga postures and philosophies.  The Barkan Method has a large network of teachers and studios all over the world.

Moksha Yoga

Founded by Ted Grand and Jessica Robertson, Moksha Yoga is based in Toronto with locations and affiliated studios worldwide.  It is a fundamental sequence of postures practiced in a heated room.  While it incorporates principles of Hot Yoga, Moksha Yoga also integrates the opinions of a wide range of experts and peers in the yoga community.  True to Hatha Yoga tradition, the series works to stretch and strengthen muscles while detoxifying the body and calming the mind.

 

CorePower Yoga

Based in Denver with locations throughout the United States, CorePower Yoga is built on the premise that yoga should be accessible to everyone.  CorePwer studios offer classes at varying levels and varying temperatures ranging from 80-100 degrees.  Classes they offer such as Hot Yoga, Hot Power Fusion and CorePower Yoga, combine a heated environment with the flowing style of Vinyasa and a focus on core strengthening.  They also offer Yoga-Pilates and Yoga Sculpt allowing students to find a practice that is truly right for them.

Related reading:

What to Expect at Your First Hot Yoga Class

Hot Yoga: So, Why the Heat Anyway?

Thanks for reading! I'd love to here from you. Please leave a comment below with any thoughts or questions.

Namaste,

Lindsay

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

Sun Salute

Hot Yoga: So, Why the Heat Anyway?

This is probably the question I am asked most often as a Hot Yoga teacher.

Yes, the room is intentionally heated to about 90-95 degrees and in some studios, even hotter (Bikram studios will be around 105).  While it is true that the heat is not necessary to practice yoga, it is absolutely safe and, in fact, has many benefits.*

Sun Salute

Here are a few examples:

  • The heat warms your muscles which allows for extra flexibility and a deeper release in your body with less chance of injury and improved resolution of injury.
  • Capillaries dilate in the heat. This in conjunction with the specially designed asanas (yoga postures) helps to oxygenate the tissues, muscles, glands and organs more effectively.
  • Improved circulation. The body, as it is trying to regulate a safe body temperature, increases heart rate and volume of blood ejected from the heart with each beat in order to transport heat from the body’s core to the skin surface.  The benefit of this is improved circulation to your extremities.
  • It is great for endurance and willpower. A challenging environment strengthens self control, concentration and determination (if you can do this, you can do anything).
  • Sweating flushes toxins through the skin which, after all, is the body's largest organ of elimination.

All that said, the heat will effect people in varying ways and caution should always be exercised.  The heated room is a tool and not something you should have to survive against.  Always listen to your body and take care of yourself.  Proper hydration is essential before, during, and after class.  As the sweat rate increases in a hot yoga class, body water loss increases, and without adequate fluid replacement, the body’s ability to dissipate heat is compromised.  Electrolyte supplements like Ultima Replenisher are also helpful, especially when beginning a hot yoga practice and acclimatization process.

One final note, I have found that reminding myself of the benefits that the heated room brings during a difficult part of class completely shifts my energy and I am able to push though those layers of self doubt.  It is my hope that this information also helps you in your personal practice.

Here are some related Hot Yoga articles:

What to Expect at Your First Hot Yoga Class

What is Hot Yoga and How is it Different From Other Yoga Styles

Hot Yoga Hydration Tips

Thanks for reading!

Lindsay

 

 

 

 

*Practicing yoga in a heated environment is contraindicated for people with Multiple Sclerosis. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.

(ref. "Physiological Concerns while Exercising in the Heat " by Leslie S. Funk www.wellness-design.com )