Yoga

Cue Crazy Alphabet!  B is for BALANCE.

Hello, fellow yogis!  We are continuing to move through our alphabet of yoga cues with week.  Our next letter is B – for Balance.  Read on 🙂

There are many yoga poses that help us improve our balance.  Sometimes we balance on our feet, hands, or even our head!  Balance offers us physical benefits such as strengthening & elongating our muscles, getting to know our center of gravity and how to align ourselves, along with learning the important yoga principle of rooting down.  Mentally, balance helps us to keep our attention focused, how to stay steady in one spot for a while, and how to find an inner center that helps us both on and off the mat.

Here are a few tips to help you balance throughout your practice.  Think about how these ideas can apply off your mat as well.

  • Starting with either the feet or the hands depending on the pose, widen the fingers or toes and ground or root down into the mat.  Ground all 4 corners of the feet into the mat.  Lift all the toes at once, feeling the inner and outer edges of the ball of the foot and the heel come in contact with the mat.  Release the toes and remain focused on feeling all 4 points of contact throughout all of your standing poses.
  • Keep your gaze soft, a few feet in front of you on an object that is not moving.
  • Find your balance in poses slowly & consciously. Keep the breath calm, even, and gentle.  Try counting to 4 as you breathe into and out of the nose in every pose.  Try this breath pattern as you work or drive to remain calm too!
  • When needed, use a wall or your hands to gain stability.
  • Keep your feet drawing towards each other in poses like Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) or High Crescent Lunge to help with stability. For poses such as cat extensions, spread the fingers wide, press the pads of the fingers & the arm of the palm into the mat.  Press the hands away from the body while clawing the fingertips into the mat slightly.  Learn more about wrist engagement here: https://buddhababyyoga.wordpress.com/2017/10/03/all-about-our-wrists/

We’d love to hear what helped (or didn’t help!) or even tips we didn’t cover that you always find useful.

Until next time, yogis.  Namaste.

xo.

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Yoga

Cue Crazy!

With so many types of yoga, there are many more variations on the cues that we hear over & over in all of our classes.   Enjoy this guide that will take you through the yoga alphabet to keep your practice balanced & safe.  See which cues resonate with you and feel free to incorporate any (or all!) of them into your daily practice.

To kick us off, we will start at the beginning with the letter ‘A’ – ARMS and ALLOWING new experiences to happen.

Our arms are what help us bear weight on our hands.  Just one example would be when we move from High Plank to Chaturanga as we flow through our Vinyasa.  Press into all 10 fingers evenly, keeping all of the fingers wide on the mat.  Become aware of the upper arms – the shoulders externally rotate, along with the biceps, so that the elbows can stay hugged in towards the chest to lower down in Chaturanga Dandasana (TIP:  Make sure you can see the elbow creases (external rotation) before lowering down; this will help you hug the elbows in and create 90 degree angles with the arms).

Another cue is to ALLOW.  We must begin to open our minds and listen to our bodies throughout all of our practices (off the mat, too!).  Allow yourself to remain curious through every pose.  Step out of your comfort zone and see what your body is capable of.  If you find that you’re holding tension in an area of your body, allow yourself to soften that spot by breathing into it to create space instead and then exhaling the tension.  With each exhale, sink deeper into the pose & allow the body to surrender a little more.   Giving yourself permission to release on the mat helps us begin to let go off of our mats too.  Try it – I’d love to hear about your experiences!

 

Stay tuned for our next blog post, flowing through the yoga cue alphabet with the letter B:BALANCE.  Share your comments below if you enjoy these cues and would like me to feature a specific cue that you love or continuously try to focus on during your practice!

 

Namaste,

xo

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POSE OF THE WEEK: Learning Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)

Learning Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)

Also known as Fierce Warrior, this pose increases stamina

If I am being honest, Warrior II is not one of my favorite poses.  I have trouble holding my hips straight while tracking my knee over my pinky toe.  All the more reason that I need to work on this pose!!  I am sure to incorporate Warrior II in every one of my classes so that my students build the stamina and strength that they need to build upon this standing pose in the future.

Let’s begin!  Start in Downward Dog.  Lift your right leg to the sky.  Bend the right knee and hug the knee into your chest, then drop your right foot down between your hands.  Pivot on the back foot 90 degrees and ground down through the pink toe edge of the back foot.  While slightly bending in the front leg, inhale and cartwheel the arms open into a T (one arm in front of you, one arm behind you).  Your hips will be turned towards the long edge of your mat as you shift your gaze over the front middle finger.  To engage your shoulders, flip the palms up and draw the shoulder blades together.  Keep that engagement and flip the palms back down towards your mat.  Don’t lean the torso over the front thigh: Keep the sides of the torso equally long and the shoulders directly over the hips. Tuck the tailbone slightly and bring the belly button to the spine.  Glance down at your front knee and make sure you’re not sickling inward.  You want to see your big toe and make sure your knee is pointing towards the pinky toe edge of the front foot.  Inhale the gaze back up to center and breathe in this pose for at least 10 breaths.  To switch sides, cartwheel the hands over the front foot, planting the hands and stepping back to downward dog. Lift the left leg to the sky and begin setting up for Virabhadrasana II on the left side.

yoga and wine 9-29 019

Contraindications and Cautions

  • Diarrhea
  • High blood pressure
  • Neck problems: Don’t turn your head to look over the front hand; continue to look straight ahead with both sides of the neck lengthened evenly.

Modifications and Props

If you have difficulty supporting yourself in this pose, position a metal folding chair outside your left leg, with the front edge of the chair seat facing you. As you bend the left knee to come into the pose, slide the front edge of the seat under your left thigh (taller students may need to build up the height of the chair seat with a thickly folded blanket). Repeat with the right leg bent.

Benefits

  • Strengthens and stretches the legs and ankles
  • Stretches the groins, chest and lungs, shoulders
  • Stimulates abdominal organs
  • Increases stamina
  • Relieves backaches, especially through second trimester of pregnancy
  • Therapeutic for carpal tunnel syndrome, flat feet, infertility, osteoporosis, and sciatica

 

I’d love to see and hear about your journey in Warrior II!

Namaste,

xo

Yoga

All about our wrists!

How to prevent injury and flow with ease

 

Beginners are often surprised at how much weight their wrists must bear in a yoga practice – especially throughout each downward facing dog and chaturanga.  As a teacher, I spend a lot of time emphasizing the positioning of the feet in standing poses.  Just like the feet, the hands affect our balance and allow us to extend our roots into the mat and earth.  Our wrists are just as important as a strong core and grounded feet.  Hand positioning is key in order to avoid injury and gain upper-body strength.

 

Let’s bring our awareness to the feet and think about they keep up grounded.  They connect our bodies to the earth and support us while standing.  Now let’s think about our wrists.  Just as our feet are the foundation of all poses, our hands keep us balanced and allow us to group our roots into our mats.  Before we begin a practice, let’s start by rolling the wrists in one direction, 10 times.  Pause after 10 reps and roll them in the opposite direction, 10 times.  Then move on to flexion and extension, which is shown in the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb3_oSAGoXs.  Next, come into table top pose (hands + knees pose).  Make sure the shoulder is over the top of the heel of the hand.  Begin to engage all 10 fingertips as you spread each finger apart equally.  Focus on pressing the pads + knuckles of the fingers down into the mat.  Bring awareness into the base of the fingertips and feel where the mat connects from the bottom of the pinky finger to the bottom of the thumb, creating an arc along the top of the palm.  The center of your palm should feel weightless and light, maybe slightly lifted.  Keep the hands on the mat and begin to lift the forearms, elbows, and shoulders out of the wrist and come up onto the fingers.  Your fingers should be flat on the mat as the palm completely lifts.  Do 10 rounds of these lifts.  Come back to table pose.  Engage the hand and fingertips as we discussed above.  Now tuck the toes and lift the hips towards the sky, coming into downward facing dog.  Check in with the hands – did you lose the engagement as you came into down dog?  Become aware of the wrists as you flow through your next practice.

For today, let’s focus on our wrists and alignment in downward facing dog!  Downward dog teaches you to appreciate alignment, and thus prepares you for doing inversions, backbends, and forward bends.

Pose Benefits:

  • Opens and strengthens the shoulders and upper body
  • Stretches the hamstrings and calves
  • Tones the legs

Contraindications:

  • High or low blood pressure
  • Acid reflux
  • Hiatal hernia
  • History of stroke
  • Serious shoulder injury

While you’re in downward dog, align the wrists:

  • Spread all 10 fingers wide, keeping the space even between each finger.
  • Gently claw into the mat with each of the fingertips. Your fingertips will turn white!
  • Engage the “arc” along the top of the palm/bottom of the fingertips.
  • Feel the center and base of the palm become light; maybe lift slightly.
  • Use the hands to press away from the body in order to keep the engagement.

Now keep this wrist alignment while you correct your form in downward dog:

  • Your hands are placed shoulder distance apart
  • Breathe into the space between your shoulder blades – think of how the spine rounds in Cat Pose. Don’t collapse into your shoulders/armpits.
  • Engage your quads and press them back
  • Lengthen the legs and reach the heels down towards the floor
  • Think about bringing the belly button to the spine, creating a natural curve in your low back
  • Lower the head so that your ears are between your biceps, without collapsing into the shoulders/armpits.

Bring your attention back to the wrists now.  Did you lose the engagement or remain stable?  Use downward dog as your peak pose throughout the week to strengthen those tiny wrist muscles!

 

Namaste,

xo

Yoga

My Favorite Yoga Playlist! 

If you’re anything like me, music touches my soul and makes me move.  I listen to every lyric and belt out all of the words.  Is it any surprise that music would also play an integral part of all of my yoga classes?  Enjoy this rhythmical treat for your ears and soul!

You can also find my playlist on Spotify! Here: https://open.spotify.com/user/shariiibaaby/playlist/5Uz93uxtwounHXZiQnR4qs

1901 ~ Birdy

Basique ~ Little People

Midnight ~ Coldplay

American ~Lana Del Rey

Only Love ~ Ben Howard

Back in the World ~ David Gray

Resolution ~ Matt Corby

Nirvana ~ Sam Smith

Bloodflood ~ alt – J

Slow and Steady ~ Of Monsters and Men

Moon ~ Little People

Teardrop -~ Massive Attack

Babylon ~ David Gray

Under the Same Sun ~ Ben Howard

Breathe ~ Angels & Airwaves

Into the Wild ~ LP

Gracious ~Ben Howard

Latch – Acoustic ~Sam Smith

Clarity ~ John Mayer

Crash into Me ~ Dave Matthews Band

A World Alone ~ Lorde

Up In Flames ~ Coldplay

Let Go ~ Frou Frou

Wheel ~ John Mayer

Oh God ~ Citizens & Saints

Everything ~ Lifehouse

Au Revoir ~ OneRepublic

Passenger Seat ~ Death Cab for Cutie

 

 

 

Yoga

How Do We Start “Letting it all go?”

How do we start “letting it all go?”  We hear it all the time in our classes.  “Breathe in and exhale everything that no longer serves you.  “Begin to clear your mind.”  What exactly isn’t serving me?  How do I know what to let go of?  How am I supposed to think about all of these things while focusing on letting go?  Whoa.  I thought I was supposed to feel relaxed right now?!

Our life is a series of peaks and valleys.  The ups and downs are felt daily and can sometimes zap our energy.  If this is the case, it could be time for a change!  Start by shifting your way of thinking – focus less on dwelling on the feeling of the ups and downs, and more on staying connected to ourselves.  This may feel like a challenge at first, especially if we tend to shy away from change.  Change can be fascinating – we begin to grow when we step outside our comfort zone.  Maybe we don’t take a full step out of that zone…yet!  Maybe we inch our toes out of the box that contains all the normalcy.  Inch your way towards feeling free.

Ahh.  Freedom.  Makes you feel like you can breathe freely!  Take a deep inhale through your nose, counting to 4.  Exhale out the mouth, counting to 6.

Breath.  Something we can control.  We can control what goes on inside our bodies.  During times of change, what remains constant?  Our breath.  During our yoga practice, our body ebbs and flows.  Throughout our time practicing on the mat, we embrace the flowing movements, breathing through each change.  Some of the asanas are more challenging, but we keep breathing through them.  Some of our obstacles in life are difficult and demanding, but we can keep one thing constant – our breath – and flow through them too.  When we are stable and strong, like our breath, we begin to notice that tough times become more bearable.  We start letting go of our fear of change, letting go of the feelings that hold us back and letting go of any thoughts that have a negative impact on our well-being.

Trust in yourself to know that you can ride the waves of life with a feeling of contentment, just like the waves of a flowing asana practice.  You have everything you need within you to overcome new challenges with grace.

 

Namaste,

xo.

Yoga

Celebrate the Summer Solstice!

Happy Summer, Yoga Fam!  Summer solstice and International Yoga Day fell on the same day this year – super exciting and magical!  Leap into summer by meditating on how we throve off of the energy radiated by the sun.  Try the following sequence along with 5 rounds of each Surya Namaskar A & B (Half-sun salutation and full-sun salutation) to feel the warmth envelope your body & soul.  Maybe give meditation a try in combination with a sequence to deepen your connection with the sun, too!  If you are meditating, stand in Tadasana (Mountain) while facing the sun, or stay in ajaneyasana (low lunge) or Malasana (Garland; yogi squat).  Meditate for as little as 1 minute of as long as 30 minutes.  Bring your hands to heart center for several breaths to close meditation.

By the time you’ve finished, you’ll feel the energy of your inner sun radiating from your heart space.  Salute the sun (& yourself!)

Namaste,

xo