Finding Fakes – Avoiding online Health Hoaxes

I’m going to present this as a series of questions. Asking questions about the article/video/post (we’ll just say article for the sake of simplicity, but these rules apply to anything) you are reading is how you’ll be able to figure out if it should be trusted or not. Here, I present to you, a list of questions to ask before you believe what you read!

You can pick and choose questions depending on your willingness to trust this person. A lot of that may be based simply on the website you find the information. If you already trust them, chances are you don’t need to research every article.

What are you looking at? Who is an authority on that?
The only way to start figuring out what to even ask, is to know what you’re reading. We need to figure out what you’re looking at and who is an authority on that topic. For example, if you’re reading an article about dealing with tendonitis, that is a medical issue. The article should probably be written by a doctor or physical therapist. Fitness instructors can also help, and people who have dealt with tendonitis can as well. Someone who has little to no medical or fitness background, and little to no experience with tendonitis, probably shouldn’t be acting as an authority. Of course, if that person did their research properly, they may be of great help, but check out other articles or their references before trusting them.
These rules apply to articles about dieting, fitness, health, and even skin care. Just about any topic has experts, and those experts are who you should listen to.

What does the title even mean?
Does the title even make sense? They may better define what they’re talking about in the article, but a confusing title can be a red flag. Plus, if you don’t understand what the title is for, do you really need it? There’s nothing wrong with curiosity and wanting to check these things out, though! Even if they explain what they mean in the article, look it up on your own. (This is a reoccurring theme throughout this post. Do your own research!)

Check their certificate/degree.
Okay, I didn’t phrase this as a question. There are a few parts to this one though.

  • Do they even have a certificate or degree?
  • Is it from a place you can trust?
  • Is it approved by the correct place?

Enthusiasts can be great and have a wealth of information, but they aren’t always good to trust. I generally don’t trust an enthusiast only because they don’t have the training a fitness trainer or physician would have. If they’re my friend, I might trust them more, because they’re more likely to understand me and my body, but a stranger? Usually not.
People can also claim to be fitness instructors, when they really aren’t. It isn’t required by law to have a Yoga certification to teach Yoga. Most studios require it, but who is this person on the internet?

Next, now that we know they have a certificate, we should probably know where it’s from. People who are involved in medical fields, like doctors and physical therapists, go through a lot to get their certificates and they usually have them clearly presented. Because of this, we’re going to focus on fitness instructors more.
Fitness instructors can be certified from anywhere. Some even hold degrees in physical therapy, anatomy, or kinesiology. These instructors are fantastic resources, especially if you are dealing with injuries or illness. Other fitness instructors are also often well equipped to deal with the same things, but not all of them are. Some programs are notorious for being insanely easy to be certified in AND for being bad for your body.

For Yoga, we have the Yoga Alliance. It isn’t a government body, but they look over curriculum of Yoga schools, and approve it. Tons of organizations have been approved, so there’s no excuse to not being properly certified. There’s no excuse when someone else’s well-being is on the line. I got my certificate from Aura Wellness Center. They’re approved by Yoga Alliance. Because of this, I can also become a Register Yoga Teacher. If you see someone with “RYT-200”, “RYT-500” or something like either of those. That means they’ve registered as a Yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance. Of course, that’s not required. It’s just more proof that your program was super real.
That also being said, programs not approved aren’t necessarily bad. I would just question why it isn’t approved.

 

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Yoga for a Bad Day – 15min Practice

Today we’re keeping it fun and easy. I came up with this routine on the spot one day when I was feeling really bad. That general bummed out feel can really stick with you, and it’s hard to shake off, so I created this to help us relax, smile, and maybe laugh a little.

I encourage you to insert your own poses into this practice, especially poses which you love doing. This practice isn’t about perfecting your downward facing dog, it is 100% about feeling better. So do what you need to do to feel better.

I’ll purposefully keep instructions to a minimum today so that you can find your own practice within this one. I also encourage doing this practice in a bed for that extra level of comfort.

Yoga for a Bad Day 

Seated Breathing: Sit however you’d like. This is your moment to focus in and relax. Take some really deep breaths, maybe even sigh if it feels good. Smile a little and move around. There is no need to sit completely motionless and still. If it helps, imagine blowing your stresses away. You can also picture them rolling off of your body. Close your eyes in this pose and take your time.

Neck circles: Draw smooth and slow circles with your nose. Try to do the same amount in both directions. Keep them small and sweet. We’re just working out the kinks, you don’t need to push your limits.

Seated Cat variation: If you know how to do Cat pose on all-fours, this is the same thing, only seated. Hollow out your stomach, round your back let your chin drop to your chest. Hang out here for a moment before leading with your nose and drawing an arc for your spine to follow. Now your back is arched and you can look up slightly. Go back and forth between these two. You can do them with your breath, or hold each side for a moment.

Shoulder stretch: Drop your right hand and arm. let them dangle very loose. To discourage myself from putting weight on my right palm, I keep the back of my right hand on my mat behind me. Weave your left hand and forearm behind you and hold onto the inside of your right elbow. Now drop your left ear to your left shoulder. Your left hand here can act as a weight and intensify the stretch. If you don’t like it, you can relax your hands in your lap or wherever you’d like. Move your head around. Turn to look up slightly and down. This can help you target tight spots. Switch sides!

Cobbler’s Pose: Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall out to the sides. Have fun here and rock side to side, or make small pulses forward. We’re trying to loosen any tension in the hips and inner thighs, but this pose is an opportunity to have fun as well.

Seated Knees to Chest: Still seated on the floor, bring your knees into your chest. Now give your legs a big hug. You’re hugging yourself here. Rock side-to-side, front-to-back, or simply remain still. It can honestly feel good to give yourself a little bit of love. That’s all this pose is about. When you are ready, slowly roll onto your back, perhaps you’d like to back out of this pose a little bit before doing so.

Knees to Chest Pose: Once again draw your knees in toward your chest. Rock on your back and give yourself a nice little back massage. Place your hands on the tops of your knees and draw big circles with them. Have fun, move, breath, and smile.

Ankle rolls: If you’d like to remain in the position above, that’s absolutely an option. I like to do this as if I’m sitting in a chair that has fallen on it’s back. So my thighs are straight up and my shins are parallel to the floor. Make circles with your toes. You can also point and flex your toes.

Modified forward fold: You’ll need to sit back up for this one, if you’re feeling playful, bring your legs up as if you were about to enter Plow Pose, Your lets should be fairly straight, and your knees will be near your nose. Then swing your legs down and sit up! You can rock back and forth like this too, though I find doing it too fast on a hard floor can be uncomfortable.
From your seated position we will come into a forward fold, however, unless it is easy for you to relax with your legs completely straight, keep a bend in your knees. Keep your knees bent enough that your upper body can rest on your thighs. As your legs feel looser, you can scoot your heels farther away and straighten your legs more, but until then, enjoy this sweet modified forward fold. (Perhaps still try even if you can do a complete forward fold.)

Happy Baby: Lay back once more. This is my absolute favorite pose to do to cheer myself up. It’s the goofiest pose out there too, and it’s great for you! Bring your knees to your chest again, but this time draw your knees toward your armpits. Use your hands to hold the outside of your feet, or your index and middle fingers to your big toes. Draw your feet up so your knees are at about a 90 degree angle. From here you can rock side to side, alternate bending your legs. And remember, you’re a happy baby! You can smile and laugh!

Savasana: Let go and lay back. Now is the perfect chance to add in any other poses you would like to. If you’re ready to settle down though, let your feet relax. Maybe grab a pillow for under your head. Feel comfortable! I would normally say you should relax your face in Savasana, but today, you can enjoy a little smile.

Taking steps to feel better is so important. Even if we still feel a little stress after a practice like these, you have still done something to help yourself feel better. That is amazing! Even if you only started the practice or did 1 or 2 poses, you still did it.

You are wonderful.

Namaste

The Internet’s Yoga Culture

Since we’re on a bit of a slowdown with the videos, I’ve decided to throw in an extra blog post. Hopefully this will help hold everyone over and pick at your brain a little. I never really planned on turning this into a video, but if people would like me to, I can! For now, we’re going to settle with this being a blog post on its own.

Let’s talk about the problems surrounding Pinterest and Instagram (and a lot of websites in general), and their yoga culture. I’m going to preface this by saying that I am not telling anyone there’s something wrong with sharing your yoga practice. It’s fine if you want to take a picture in a bikini on the beach of a pose you’ve mastered. Heck, you probably even deserve it! I’m not saying anyone isn’t a “real” yogi. It’s just a little bit of an exclusive club that’s been created, which we need to talk about. I love all of you and I think it’s great you want to share your practice/pose/pictures/progress!

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From Take Back Your Health Conference – Yoga on Flickr

 

Before I started saying anything, I needed to do research. So I scrolled through Instagram on a little mission to see where different groups of people were represented (such as men, curvy people people, and non-white people). I looked at the top 9 pictures that Instagram had under the tag “Yoga”. I didn’t bother with their recent posts with the same tag, since it was approximately 75% quotes, 10% selfies, and 15% random unrelated exercises.

One of the pictures I found on Instagram wasn’t even yoga, it looked like CrossFit, another was a picture of two men just standing there and all you saw was their butts, and yet another was just 4 women talking holding yoga mats. That picture with the 4 women, which is clearly an advertisement, was the only picture with a non-white person in it out of the 9 top pictures. So ignoring those 3 posts, which have almost nothing to do with yoga, I was left with 6. It did make me pretty happy to see that 2 picture were of men doing yoga. And the other 4 had a pretty diverse looking group of women, even if they all appeared to be white. (I’ll give you a D+, you’re almost passing, but you’re still leaving out a lot, Instagram.)

Pinterest is ever changing, but we might as well look at the first 9 posts on there too when you search “Yoga”. Okay, so I looked at more than 9 posts. I was really disappointed. If I had seen more than 9 posts on Instagram, I’m almost positive I would have seen more diversity. Pinterest was really just thin white women.
I scrolled for a while and I only saw a few posts with people who weren’t white or women. And yes, there was someone doing yoga on the beach in front of a sunset. To cut Pinterest a little slack, if you want to even begin to find things you like, you need to be specific. If you look up things like “curvy yoga”, you can find posts and boards which center around not being thin! I love it! It also isn’t just a bunch of weight-loss routines, there genuinely were mostly pictures of women if all sorts of body types getting their Yoga on. Some tags, like “fat yoga” produce mostly weight-loss posts, though. So be careful in your search. However, curvy Yoga is still Yoga. So in reality, it should exist under the tag “Yoga”.

Long story short, we have a problem. A lot of people do yoga, and not all of them are thin, not all of them are white, and not all of them are women.

We have a tendency to exclude people who are not white, thin, or female. We also sometimes ignore people who can’t always afford to do all this fancy stuff and take expensive classes. They don’t have the time and/or money to spend on yoga and a yoga “lifestyle”. People who are interested in something, often get scared to try when they don’t see people like them participating.

It also creates a sort of superficial culture around Yoga. We begin to believe that we can’t do a pose right, or look right, because our bodies don’t look the same as someone else. At the end of the day, you should be doing Yoga for your own reasons and you shouldn’t feel like you need to compare yourself. In reality, Yoga is really possible for anyone! And you can rock a Dancer’s Pose if you’re thin or curvy or somewhere in between.

In addition to all sorts of ethnicities, genders, and body types practicing yoga, people of varying ages, with disabilities, and illnesses can also all practice yoga. There are wonderful programs out there for Yoga in wheelchairs or for people missing limbs. Yoga is also beginning to be considered a very real treatment for PTSD. Children are being taught yoga to help with ADD, ADHD, and Autism. We have cultivated a very diverse and wonderful community in which we are able to share all our experiences and struggles together. We have different goals, but are using the same method to get to them. This diverse community is what helps make people comfortable to experience Yoga for the first time. Rather than saying, “I’m not flexible, it’s not for me”, people understand that there is much more to Yoga.
One of my favorite things about Yoga is the amazing community we have, and I think it’s important that we encourage it to grow and make as many people as possible feel comfortable.

There are fantastic communities online, and you can find really good inspiration and routines on these sites as well. Don’t stop enjoying the posts on Instagram or Pinterest, but help the community grow! There’s nothing wrong with enjoying these pictures, but when you run into a curvy non-white lady practicing yoga, maybe show her a little love. Encourage diversity in a community! After all, even if we all looked the same, our joints and muscles would still work differently. So we might as well promote people who look a little different on the outside too. Anyone can do Yoga, or partake in some aspect of Yoga, so let’s show the world how vibrant and amazing our community really is!

 

Interested in finding more inclusive people to follow? Check out:

Biggalyoga on Instagram. She’s amazingly talented and so strong. She’s also extremely honest with herself and her community. That’s an Instagram that’s all about self love. She also has her own website.

For a body positive blog look at, Body Positive Yoga. This website also talks about modification for bigger bodies. Modifications like these can be so important, and thin instructors may not understand them! So check them out and spread the word of modifications!

Mic posted this article about the sweaty side of Yoga. Any yogi knows it isn’t always graceful, and now there’s a book about it! (Or at least the Kickstarter hit its goal.)

Check out this article about Queer and Trans Yoga! The whole website is wonderful and about all sorts of things, but I want to include my LGBTQIA+ friends!

My Yoga board on Pintrest! I try super hard to be inclusive of all sorts of people. It isn’t always easy though. Send me a picture of you doing yoga atyogicamnesiac@gmail.com and I might put it up! Tell me if there’s anything you’d like me to add in the description.
There are so many Yogi’s out there who are inclusive of all sorts of different people, These are just a few examples, but if you look around, you’ll find WAY more!

Namaste

 

Yoga on a Budget

We’re talking about whether you have no money or very little money to spend on doing Yoga. Doing Yoga on a tight budget is 100% possible. It isn’t just for those who have a lot of disposable income!

No, you don’t need to worry about all these brand names. I know we have a lot associated with Yoga, but most of them aren’t necessary at all. And often times, they aren’t actually better! So let’s get started

First things first, mats. If you can afford to go to a class, they usually have extra mats for people who forget or don’t have one. They’re there for you to use. While many studios ask that you clean off the mats after you use them, it’s not so bad if you don’t have to invest in your own.
I find that it’s pretty important to invest in a good mat. Cheap mats can start falling apart, slide, or be super flat. Instead of buying a cheap mat you’ll have to replace there are a few options you can use at home.

  • A towel: A lot of the well practiced Yogis in India use something simple like a towel, in fact. It offers a barrier between you and the floor. Keep in mind they can slide, since they don’t have grip like a mat would. Be careful if you’re using it on wood floors, a towel is probably best on carpet or grass! (Bonus, a towel is much easier to wash than a mat too, so why not use it instead of a mat on grass or surfaces like that?)
  • A blanket: This is pretty similar to a towel, just larger. You’ll have more room to work with too! I suggest the same precautions as a towel and similar uses.
  • An area rug: If you have an area rug already, this can be a pretty great substitute. Most area rugs are made so they don’t slip, but they also sell rug pads to help your rug from slipping. (I highly suggest one of these if you have a rug that doesn’t stick to the floor for everyday life.) An area rug is also nice if you only have tile or a floor that you really don’t want to be walking or sitting on. You can still roll out a mat on top of it as well.
  • Nothing: You can also do Yoga on the floor. If it’s safe and comfortable for you, there’s not reason you can’t do this. Just whip our the vacuum or broom first to be safe.

Props can be super pricey too, and most of the time, people don’t use them at home to do Yoga. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love using them when I can, but it’s not always necessary.

  • Blocks: Blocks are great, they have all sorts of uses, but they’re not always cheap. Plus there are so many kinds, it’s best to try out as many as you can before buying one. In the mean time, I recommend a book. You can use them to sit on or place your hand on for support. Please don’t use a library book though!
  • Blankets: There’s really no alternative here, and I hope you already have one of these lying around! The most common style I see in people’s houses specifically for Yoga is a Traditional Mexican Blanket, but you by no means need a specific type of blanket. If none of your blankets work, you can also use a towel, especially if you just need to fold it a few times to sit on the edge, or to cover that book you’re sitting on.
  • Bolsters: I don’t even own one of these. I just use pillows and blankets instead. I found a whole list of uses for body pillows too! Many pillows or cushions can work, you just have to find what works for you. It’s also nice because pillows give you more wiggle room and option to change. Sometimes I stack them and use them.
  • Straps: Straps tend not to be too expensive, so if you really want one and you have a couple extra bucks you can order one! Like everything else though, it’s probably not necessary. If you have a normal belt for keeping your pants up, you can use that, I’d suggest a cloth one. They’re often even made out the same material. Keep in mind you want it to be comfortable when you hold it. Anything works really though, a shirt that doesn’t stretch too much, and pair of jeans… a towel (what a multi-tool!)

Once you have the tools, we need to find a place to practice! All you really need is enough space to move around, and we don’t move too far in Yoga. This could be at the foot of your bed, or maybe you’ll need to move a table out of the way so you can practice. Here are some suggestions to spruce up the place a little so you get that “Yoga feel”.

  • Lighting: Adjust the lights as you see fit. This may mean leaving the light off in one room and turning it off in the neighboring room. It would be great if we all had dimmers in our house, but that’s often not the case. Play around with it, but try not to let it get too dark, it’s probably best you can still see.
  • Candles: If you’re struggling with lighting, or just like candles, they can really set a calm mood. If you can spend a few dollars, they can be super cheap in so many places. Plus they come in all sorts of sizes, scents, and colors! A candle can also give you a point to look at if you choose to meditate.  (Fun Fact: The point you look at is often called a Drishti. The act of gazing at a point is called Trataka.)
  • Plants: If you have one, move it into the room you’ll be practicing in! Plants can also be super cheap too, and you can buy them at your local drug store sometimes.

So all this is great, but what if you want to take a class? Yoga alone can be nice, but it’s also pretty nice to have an instructor.

  • Videos/Blogs: YouTube is your friend. Not only are these classes free, but by watching the ads, liking the videos, commenting and subscribing, you’re still helping out the teacher! I’m totally happy to interact in the comments section as well. There are tons of blogs out there dedicated to yoga too, and the communities online can be so fantastic. Just because it’s not in person, doesn’t mean there isn’t the chance of creating a relationship between different people!
  • Colleges/Universities: If you’re a student, then check out your classes and see if a yoga class is offered. (Keep in mind it can effect your grades, not that they’ll fail you.) If you’re not in school, you can still enroll in your local community college! This also gives you freedom not to worry about your grades, just let your instructor know what’s up if you don’t plan on being there consistently. Plus, some teachers are willing to fail students who won’t be effected so that they can re-enroll in the course. (Or they allow for students to continue coming even if you aren’t enrolled.)
  • Drop-ins: Find a studio you like with a reasonable drop-in rate. Obviously this isn’t smart to do all the time, and some studios may have higher drop in fees, but some places are only $5, and if you only plan on going once in a blue moon, it’s not a bad idea! (Especially  compared to buying 200 classes for $150, but they all expire next month…)
  • Free in person classes: No, I’m not kidding. They do exist! I’ve seen Yoga in a library before as part of a summer program, but a lot of places like museums and or parks may offer free classes. Just because they’re free doesn’t mean they’re lower quality either!
  • Practice with friends: If you and your friends enjoy Yoga, you can do it together. Perhaps you can also come up with a routine together, which you all enjoy.
  • Instructor friends: This is kind of hit or miss. Just because your friend is an instructor, doesn’t mean they can give you free classes, they need to make a living. If they do offer, it’s still a good idea to offer to buy them dinner or something too. They may be willing to offer you a discounted price though, or let you and a friend split the cost. That being said, private instruction can be pretty pricey.
    • If an instructor friend is trying to create a new routine they’ve never taught to students, it’s not a bad idea to offer your services as a test run too! They might be really happy to have someone to practice on. I know I would be.

Hopefully those tips helped, but remember, when all else fails, being nude in the middle of a forest is totally fine. For Yoga at least, perhaps not with the law…

Namaste

It’s Not Just for Beginners – Tadasana and Alignment

Note: I’m really sorry this is coming out late. Due to the holidays (my favorite excuse) I’m slowing down a little bit. Come January we’ll be back to a normal schedule!

You say, “But Nisha, I am an experienced Yogi and have a perfect understanding of Tadasana and alignment. Why should I read this?” To that I say, the best way to ensure you have your practice down and are doing things safely, is to revisit the basics. Practicing doing things which you already know, only reinforces those good habits. It makes it second nature. If you stop and forget to check yourself, you may find yourself getting loosing a little bit that greatness you had created as a beginner. This also can go on to effect how you stand and carry yourself outside of your practice. Having proper alignment during practice is great, but it can’t undo the harm of poor posture in everyday life!

For my beginner friends, the basic poses really are the building blocks. Once you figure out basic alignment, and poses like Tadasana, you will find that other poses seem to make sense. If you know how to stand in Tadasana, you can figure out how to do Tree! The basics are you friend, so while you wan to have fun when you practice yoga, don’t forget to try and perfect even the simplest pose.

This post is perfect for me, I’ve been finding myself letting my feet turn out and slouching more lately. I needed this reminder to check myself, so I decided to share it with all of you! There’s a lot of writing in this too, but don’t be afraid! While I attempt to explain as much of this pose as I can, 90% of this should come naturally. If you stand regularly, and aren’t falling over, then you’re most of the way to Tadasana!

Let’s start down at our feet and work our way up. One thing to notice is, as we go through this pose and work our way up, your body will magically stack your next body part properly most of the time. So your knees and hips will be mostly correct, if your feet are correct.

You want your feet to be hip width apart. There’s a common misconception that this means your feet will be super wide apart if you have wide hips. This has to do with your bones, not the outer curves of your body. Think of the placement of your femur, that large bone that runs straight down the middle of your upper leg. That bone should be more or less vertical.
Some instructors say keep your feet together, I don’t understand this. While this should not cause any harm to your body, it seems odd. I also tend to feel pretty unstable with my feet together. If I’m ever in a class and an instructor says to do this, I usually keep a little bit of space between my feet. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with keeping your feet together. I just don’t do it.

We also talk a lot about the 4 corners of your feet. This is to help figure out where you want your weight to be. The 4 areas are:

  1. The large pad just below your big toe
  2. The pad below your little toe
  3. The outer edge of your heel
  4. The inner edge of your heel

You’ll notice that the 1 and 2 are connected, and 3 and 4 are connected. Really what you’re trying to avoid with this is letting the natural arch of your foot take your weight. Rolling in on the arches of your feet can cause some damage to your joints. The converse is true as well if you always roll your feet outward. (Perhaps I’ll write about this another day.)
Note: You can check if you have a natural tendency to roll your feet in or out by checking out the soles of your shoe. If one side is more word down than the other, you may have the habit of pushing too much weight on the inside or outside of your feet.

Before we move up, check your toes. I recommend doing this periodically anyway. Lift them off the mat. Relax them. Avoid gripping the mat with your toes or curling them! Now keep your feet parallel, as if on railroad tracks!

Let’s briefly discuss our ankles. If your weight is all properly distributed on your feet, then your ankles should actually be fine. If you’re not sure if your feet are right, take a look at your ankles. It should look like your ankles are coming straight out of your feet. You don’t want your ankles bending in or out. (This may be hard to see on yourself, but it doesn’t hurt to know!)

On to the knees! This is hard to explain without just showing you in person what I mean, but darn it, I will do my best. Try not to lock your knees. This means pushing your knees back straight where they just stop bending any farther. For some people, this also involves hyper-extending your knees. If your knees are curving backward, you’ve gone too far! This will take some playing around with, but it may also help to think about staying soft in your knees. You’re not bending them, but they’re not completely locked either. Play around with this on your own. (It may also help to talk to me or any other instructor about this to help you find out where that is.)
Note: If you stand with your knees locked for too long, you can over-stretch ligaments, and even pass out eventually. Sounds like a good habit to break now, doesn’t it?

Next stop: the pelvis. This is another one of those moments where you’ll have to do a little self discovery and find what works for you. I also know that tucking and tilting can be really confusing for some people, so I promise to make a video about those terms, what they mean, and how to do them. Tilting your pelvis forward and arching your lower back can put a lot of strain on your back. While I’ve never seen someone do this, tucking your pelvis too far and dropping your tailbone to completely straighten the natural curve of your low back isn’t so good either. If you’re totally confused, just think about what you would normally do when you stand up straight. Think about what your lower back is doing. Is it too curved? Is it too straight? Chances are, you’re fine. unless your low back is hurting or you’ve been told before that your alignment is whack, don’t worry!

For your upper back and shoulders, I had a teacher once who taught me this neat little trick. He would say that you do your cactus arms, where you bring them straight out like a T, then bend your elbows to 90 degree angles and keep your palms facing forward. Now bring your arms black slight and draw your hands down so they’re near your sides. Almost like you would have your arms if you were just standing with your hands relaxed at your sides. One key difference is that your upper arms may feel as though they’re turning out or forward a little, while your lower arms and palms can relax and face in toward your body. I find that my hands naturally hover a couple inches away from my sides when I do this properly. This is also a good way to stand up straight.

Keep in mind, you don’t need to thrust your chest forward. You sternum can be in a relaxed neutral position. (I know, that’s super cryptic.) Again, you have to play with it and find what works best for you. In my video I demonstrate what I mean.

Your neck! This is going to be hard to describe without showing you. I highly recommend checking out the video for this tip. Another teacher liked to say, imagine holding a big juicy grapefruit between your chin and chest. You’ll have space there, but you’ll need to hold it a little bit right? So you’ll tuck your chin ever so slightly in this pose. It may help to think of the vertebrae in the back of your neck as being straight.

Finally, we’re at your head. Just relax your face here. There’s nothing you need to do with your face, so concentrate on letting everything relax. Let your jaw relax, your scalp, your cheeks. Literally everything.

You are now in Tadasana! Like I said at the beginning, poses build on more basic poses, so once you’ve got the alignment down for one, they rest will come much easier!

Namaste

The Upper Body Routine – 20min Practice

Wheph, if there was ever a practice I need, it’s this! I am seriously lacking in the upper body department, but we all need to start somewhere, right? This practice was inspired by a friend who does rock climbing! She’s been looking for ways to strengthen and loosen her shoulders.

A forewarning: This will work more than your upper body, you may feel it in your abs, glutes, and even legs on occasion! And I’ve got one different pose for you today! You can replace a Downward Facing Dog with a Dolphin! Great for the shoulders!

20 minute Upper Body Practice

Virasana: We’re starting kneeling today. You are welcome to sit a different way, but this seems to work the best for me. Ideally, your big toes would touch, and your butt would be in between your heels in a nice little seat created by your feet. (Some people even teach that your bottom should be on the floor between your feet! Go there if you’d like.) If this is hard for you, there are loads of modifications to this pose.

  • Place a block between your feet and sit on that. You can use books too, anything that fits comfortably between your feet, really. You can also place a blanket on top of your block/books to give yourself a little throne.
  • Roll up a towel or small blanket between your ankles and the floor. Most people think this pose is all in the knees, but if your ankles are tight, it can still be a nightmare. This is a good way to relax and slowly stretch out your ankles.

If all else fails, it is absolutely fine to sit cross-legged, or even stand for these next few poses.

Shoulder stretch: Bring your right arm up straight in front of you about shoulder height. Keep your palm facing in, toward the left. Bring your left arm under your right and hook it around your right arm. Your right arm should sit in your left elbow. Use your left arm and pull your right arm like a lever to the left. your arm will start to lay against your body. Sit up nice and tall, and try to avoid letting your shoulder’s hunch. I find moving back and forth in this pose to feel sort of nice. Switch sides!

Side stretch: We’ve done this before. Hands straight in front of you, palms facing toward each other. Interlace your fingers, turn your palms out, and raise your arms up and over head. Now lean to the right. Try not to let one of your sit bones (Buttcheeks, point butt bones, whatever you call them) lift up. You want your legs and bottom to stay firmly planted. Inhale as you sit up straight, then leave to the left.

Cowface: Bring your right arm straight out to the side, palm facing forward. Raise your arm straight up then bend your elbow, you’ll end up patting yourself on the back. Now straighten your left arm out to the side, but with your palm facing back. Lower your arm down and bend your elbow so the back of your hand can rest against your back. If it’s available to you, try to hook your fingers together, if not, hold a strap in your right hand has you get into this pose, then grab it with your left when it comes up your back. Being able to clasp your hands behind your back is not for everyone, and some people may never be able to do it simply because of our bodies! So never fear, straps are here!

Planks/Chatturanga: For the basic plank position, you have 3 options with your arms and 2 with your legs here: You can keep your knees bend and on the mat, I recommend then keeping your feet off the mat if you can, or you can stay on your toes with your knees straight. Each of these arm positions also has slightly different benefits too, so maybe you want to try our each one!
Option 1: Straight arms. Your arms would be extended straight in front of you, like you are in a table to position.
Option 2: Rest on your elbows, with your forearms flat on the mat going straight out in front of you!
Option 3: Chatturanga arms! Start like in the first option, but you will lower yourself down so that your elbows are bending back. You want your elbows at about a 90 degree angle. This can be a very hard pose though, so don’t be afraid to back out, or do it on your knees. This one you can’t really do on your fists though. I suppose you could, so if you really like doing it like that go for it, but if you can, try doing it with your palms open and flat on the ground.

(Optional) Child’s Pose: For those of us who just need a break, take a Child’s Pose.

Side Planks: The side plank can be done from the first two options of plank position. You can always push up from Chatturanga into option 1 though, so don’t think you’ve committed to not trying out side planks. You really just move all your weight and roll over to your side and support your body using your right hand and foot. Don’t for get to do it on both sides! And if you can, try to go from a plank to a side plank, then roll back through a plank to the other side.

Down Dog/Dolphin: From a table top position, tuck your toes, push into your hands, and lift your knees, then send your sit bones on up!

Alternate Leg Grabs: If you struggle with grabbing your legs in this pose check out the Core Yoga routine from last week to see another version of this pose.
This pose is done from a table top position, like the previous pose. Really think about your abs with this pose. They should be doing a lot of work. Your glutes, arms, back, sides, shoulders, everything! This is a very active pose for your whole body, so keep that structural integrity in your body as you do this. In this pose we lift one arm and the opposite leg usually. As you lift your right left, raise your right arm back and grab onto your ankle. Push your ankle into your hand and you’ll find your back may arch a little! (This is a bit like Bow Pose.) Switch!

Child’s Pose: Finally, relax in an Extended Child’s Pose, with those arms out straight to stretch out your shoulders a little.

Savasana: Flip onto your back, let your feet flop to the sides and your arms relax along side your body. You deserve this!

Namaste!