What’s your yoga style?

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Favorite Pose Friday: Sukhasana

sukhasana easy seated pose

Sometimes the best pose for us is no yoga pose — or more accurately an easeful, passive existence.  Sukhasana (easy seated pose), allows us to ground and center ourselves at any time.  There’s no wrong time, place or circumstance to sit and settle into stillness.

Come to a comfortable cross-legged position on a folded blanked or two to allow your pelvis to be slightly higher than your knees. Play around until you find  a pose that you can comfortably sit in for 10 minutes.

Bring your hands to your lap, or palms face up on your knees or thighs to receive energy (palms face down to send energy).

Close your eyes.

Unfurl your brow.

Unclench your jaw.

Notice your breath, without control, without judgement. Just witness yourself being.

Allow yourself to blend in with the space around you for 10 minutes, and come out gradually by blinking your eyes open and pausing before you begin to move.

Sometimes sitting with our ‘self’ is the hardest thing to do. Understand that, allow it, and find freedom in accepting it.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Smiling Dog Blog)

Related posts:

Bathroom-Break Yoga?

Awesome infographic from Greatist.   Don’t forgo your practice just because you don’t have an hour and half to dedicate to your session.  Here are 10 postures you can do anywhere.

 

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Related posts:

Find Your Edge & Hover

Have you ever walked right up to the edge of a cliff and looked over?  There’s a sense of exhilaration (maybe some anxiety) but ultimately a freedom that you went there, and looked beyond while staying firmly grounded.

During teacher training, my mentors talked a lot about finding “your edge” that I’ve since passed onto my students.   In your yoga practice, the edge is that place that you go to and just release.  Any farther would be too much, and any less would not be enough.   You would think that getting to your edge is the difficult part, but for many western practitioners — who have been bred to be the best, go the farthest, jump the highest — resisting the temptation to push ourselves is the hardest thing to do.

Think about the pose in which your ego steps in and says, “let’s do it, let’s push through and be the best.”    In my early days as a student, that pose was Dancer’s Pose (Natarajasana).  I would see beautiful pictures of women on the covers of magazines and websites effortlessly holding the standing, one-legged backbend with a smile.  I remember being so frustrated that my body wouldn’t do what likely took years of cultivating.  Then I heard the words, “find your edge.”

I began to back off and find a grounded ease in simply holding my left foot in my hand behind my back, while balanced on my right leg.  At first, that was my edge.   As I allowed my body to progress at it’s own pace — stretching, opening, relaxing — I found that I was able to gradually find a deep, steadiness in the pose and it happened without “trying.”  I got there without plummeting off of the cliff.

Now, think again about the pose that challenges your ego.   The next time you step on the mat, see if you can go to your edge in the pose, let go of resistance and hover.  I’ve borrowed  this phrase from Sean Tebor and use it quite liberally in my teachings, “You’ll get there faster, if you go slower.”

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Is Aerial Yoga Cirque Du Soleil?

aerial-pigeon-pose-yoga

When I tell someone new to yoga or someone who doesn’t know me that I’m on my way to take or teach an aerial yoga class, the conversation inevitably goes something like this…

“Where are you going?”

“I’m on my way to teach an aerial yoga class?”

“What’s aerial yoga?”

“Well, I teach many of the same poses that I teach on the mat, but students are either partially or fully suspended in a silk fabric hammock or sling.”

“Really? Like Cirque Du Soleil ‘n shit?”

“Not exactly.  We aren’t flying around the room tossing and catching each other from a high flying trapeze under the big top.”

“Is it better than regular yoga?”

“Not really, just different.  Students often find that they can sink more easily or deeply into a pose than they can on the floor.  Plus, it’s fun.”

“Oh my god, I could never do that.”

Continue reading

Yoga in India – it’s not what you think

Shruti Pandey

Shruti Pandey

I recently spoke to a friend who teaches yoga in India. She said when people call to inquire about her classes, it all follows a surprisingly similar pattern:

“Hi. I read you teach yoga. Can you tell me what exactly you teach?”

“Sure – I teach asanas, followed by a relaxation at the end.”

“Oh – I assumed it would be meditation and pranayama. Do you teach that?”

“Well, not really. I teach mostly the postures and deep relaxation.”

“Sorry, that doesn’t really sound like the right thing for me.”

You have to digest that: People calling up for yoga classes in India simply assume that it’s meditation and pranayama that will be taught. They don’t care that much about the asanas. To them, yoga means something else. Yoga, that’s a way of living. Not a way of stretching yourself, sweating until you’re able to mold your body into pretzel postures, and then for days relishing that feeling of success. I guess many of them would just shake their head (no, not the head wiggle that means YES) when being told what became of yoga in the Western World. Continue reading

What Type of Tree (Pose) Are You?

Woman-in-Tree-Yoga

Photo courtesy of Mama & Baby Love

Exhale.  Bring your hands to your heart in mountain pose (tadasana), engage your core and find your strength; feel grounded.    Shift your weight to your right leg, and feel roots growing from the bottom of your right foot deep into the earth, firming you to the ground.

Feel the roots grow and establish a stable trunk into that right leg.  Lift the weight off of your left leg, and come to the ball of your foot.  Rotate your left hip open and place your left foot at your right ankle in a kickstand.  If you feel stable, move your foot to the inside of your right calf, or even further up into the inside of your right thigh.  Press the left foot into the right leg and right leg into the left foot equally to help you maintain your balance, and feel.

Extend your tree limbs toward the sky, and notice what kind of tree you become.   Are you a strong, sturdy oak?  Maybe you’re a flowing weeping willow. Or, do you quiver before you find your stability like the adaptable Cypress? Continue reading

Namasafe: 10 More Reasons to Practice Slow-Ga

chinese-pond-turtleThanks to the much blogged about NY Times article by WJ Broad on the risks and rewards of yoga, we’ve all had to do a bit of introspection when it comes to our teaching and personal yoga practices.  I know that as a beginning yoga student in 2001, I was extremely concerned about “how good I was doing.”  Having originally discovered yoga as a way to improve my tennis game, I was in a competitive mindset from the get go.

I would constantly crank my neck to get a peak at the students beside me without regard to how long they’d been practicing, and I’d force myself much deeper into poses than my body was ready for.  I know this now having injured myself in the past not listening to teachers and not listening to my body.  It wasn’t yoga’s fault.  It was mine.  I don’t know why I thought I didn’t have to pay attention as acutely as I did during tennis coaching, but alas and a lack.   When you begin training for a marathon, you develop a slow and achievable schedule to build up endurance and strength.  Yoga is no different.  But more importantly, yoga isn’t about “achieving” anything.   In our uber competitive society, we don’t know how to just sit still; to slow down and let the practice unfold for us.

I’m sure my students get sick of my incessant reminders about going slow, easing off of a pose and the ever present reminder that I’ve liberated from a number of mentors, “Remember the 11th commandment, thou shalt not covet thy neighbors pose.” Continue reading

What Your Favorite Yoga Pose Says About You (4 of 4): Triangle Pose

As we come to a close with the series, “What Your Favorite Yoga Pose Says About You,” I’ll ring in Trikonasana or Triangle Pose.  In Sanskrit, tri means three and kona means corner, which is the woman-standing-trikonasanashape of the body (primarily the legs) when expressing this fundamental yoga pose.

Another one of my favorite poses (notice the theme of the selection process here), Trikonasana strengthens the core, particularly the obliques.  Control your descent and ascent into the pose with your core to protect your back and hips.  We often strengthen our rectus abdominus muscles (upper), but neglect our transverse abdominals (lower), and obliques.  And when our core muscles atrophy, our back weakens.   When done correctly, triangle stretches the muscles of the groin, ankles, hamstrings, calves, hips, spine and chest.  Tight hips often manifest in back pain, so this opening pose can actually relieve back pain.

From Tadasana (mountain pose), step your left foot back three and a half feet or more, and ground your left foot so it’s parallel with the back edge of your mat.  A good way to determine if your stance is wide enough is to spread your arms and see if your ankles are below your wrists.  From this standing pose, shift your hips back toward the back of your mat and extend your right arm far out over your right ankle before lowering your right hand to the floor to ensure length in the side body and spine.  Be careful not to lock your knees and ground your right big toe into the mat so you aren’t rolling to the outside of your foot.  This subtle adjustment facilitates strengthening the arch of your foot.

Let go of ego when sinking into Triangle.  If you can’t bring your hands all the way to the floor without collapsing into your side, bring your hands up to your shin or a block.  Open your hips, open your chest, extend your left arm and gaze to the ceiling and protect your neck by keeping your head parallel to the floor and maintain length in both sides of the neck. Continue reading

What Your Favorite Yoga Pose Says About You (3 of 4): Fish Pose

matsyasanaIf you have read any of my other posts, or know me at all, you know that Matsyasana (Fish) is my favorite asana.    For me, fish heals a multitude of ills.  In fact, many ancient texts refer to Matsyasana as “destroyer of all diseases.”  Whether active or supported, this pose relieves stiffness and tension in your neck and back.

This backbend pose also stretches the muscles in your groin (psoas), abdominals, and chest (intercostals),  provides an opening at the heart and throat chakras, and stimulates the thyroid.

For those of us who spend most of our day hunched over a desk at work, or round our shoulders over a mobile device while engaged in a battle of wits playing “Words with Friends,”  matsyasana helps correct our oft horrendous posture.

In my favorite variation of the active pose, I instruct my students to lie on their backs with their arms tucked closely by their sides, and roll their shoulders back and chest open.  Then I have them place their wrists directly under their sit bones.  This little adjustment can bring tremendous relief for carpal tunnel sufferers.   On an inhale, press into the hands and forearms, draw the shoulder blades (scapula) together and down the back, and bring the torso and head off of the floor.  Then, gently, place the head down on the mat leaving a nice arch in the back and open chest. To protect the neck, there’s very little weigh on the head. Continue reading