New Year Yoga – 50min Routine

Let’s kick of the new year right, albeit a little late. I created this practice to set goals for ourselves and see where we are in our yoga, health, and life in general. This is to reflect on what we need to work on, our limits, and where we’d like to be. Take this as a moment to think about what you’re good at too, not just what you need to work on. And don’t feel as though needing to work on something is a bad thing! We are all working toward something. Here’s to achieving our goals and taking our time.

New Year Yoga

Tadasana: We’re going to start by standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Stand with your feet about hip width apart and keep your feet parallel. Try not to lock your knees. Roll your shoulders back and stand nice and tall, but keep your chest relaxed down. If you already stand with good posture, this is likely similar to how you would normally stand. Let your hands hang loose at your sides. (Stay tuned for next week’s talk on proper alignment and Tadasana.) This is your moment to breath, smile, and reconnect with your body.

Standing Side Stretch: (This is called Half Moon in Bikram Yoga.) Bring your hands up in front of you, shoulder height, palms facing. Clasp your hands, so your fingers will be interlaced, and your palms will be touching. Keep your index fingers extending, kind of like they’re a steeple. Bring your arms up and overhead. Really ground your feet in this pose, your legs really need to support you. Lean your upper body to the right, keep your chest, head, and pelvis facing straight forward. Come out of it slowly, then lean to the left!

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!

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! Also, straining is counter productive and more likely to cause injury. It’s better to back out of a pose and get a mild stretch than put yourself at risk for injuries!

Neck Circles: Draw big circles with your nose one direction, then the other. Avoid throwing your head back very far; it may help to think about trying to keep your neck movements gentle. Return to neutral then look left and right, then up and down.

Forward Fold/Shoulder Stretch: I like to do this with a wide legged stance. I always feel like I’m going to fall over if I have my feet together, though that is an option too. Clasp your hands together behind your back. Bend forward and raise your arms up. This pose feels great, but it’s best to make sure you’ve stretched your shoulders a little first if you have tight shoulders! To come up, bend your knees and lower your arms. Raise your torso up slowly. If you’re in this pose for an extended period of time you may feel dizzy if you stand too fast. If you do feel dizzy, remain still for a moment before moving on.

Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation): I do 4 of these total. There are so many different kinds of this sequence that I encourage you to find one you like. After all this is all about doing what you want, so I’m gong to grant you a little freedom! Here’s the style I do:
Inhale arms up and over head
Exhale swan dive into Uttanasana or forward fold
Inhale into a flat back forward fold
Exhale into Uttanasana
Inhale and send your right foot back into a lunge (Left for the second round, right for third, left for the fourth)
Exhale and send your left foot back into a plank
Inhale
Exhale into a Chatturanga
Inhale into an Upward Facing Dog
Exhale into Downward Facing Dog
Breath here for a few moments
Inhale and look up between your hands
Exhale and bring your left foot forward into a lunge (Right second round, left for third, right for fourth)
Inhale and bring your right foot forward
Exhale into Uttanasana
Inhale into a flat back
Exhale forward fold
Inhale, slowly roll up, and raise your arms over head
Exhale and bring your hands down in a prayer position at your heart

Tadasana: Back to Tadasana. We’re only here for a moment to check in with ourselves and take a short break after our previous pose.

Tree: From Tadasana, slowly transfer your weight to only your right foot. Keep your hips level here. Come onto your left toes with a slightly bent left knee. Turn out your left knee. For some people, this will be their full pose. If you can, slowly lift your left foot up and place it on either your calf or inner thigh. Avoid placing your foot on your knee, this can actually damage your knee. Raise up your arms into big tree branches. You could stay there, or you can lower you arms in a prayer pose at your heart. (Thumbs at your sternum.) To come out, slowly lower your left foot to the ground. Switch!
If your tree faces a storm, don’t worry! There is no shame in shaking, wobbling, or even falling out of it. You can also always use a wall for support.

Transition to floor: I suggest coming into a gentle forward fold then sitting on down, nothing fancy since we’ve done a bunch of Downward Facing Dogs already!

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.

Wide Legged Forward Fold: Sit with your legs in a V. This is very similar to a seated forward fold. Begin with a straight back and lean forward. Once you’ve reached your limit stay there a moment, then relax into the pose.  If you’re flexible enough, you can rest your head on a block or book! Roll up slowly.
Face your right leg and do the same thing. Straight back, lean forward, then relax. When I come up from this pose, I like to stay facing my right leg, and do a quick side stretch by reaching my right up up and over head and leaning sideways over my left leg. Switch sides!

Seated Side Stretch: I find it is easiest to do this pose sitting in a cross-legged position. If that’s totally not for you, you can also kneel. You may need to place your hand on a block if you kneel. Start by firmly planting your right hand off your right hip (this is the hand you would place on a block if you are kneeling). Your fingers should point out to the right. Bring your left hand, palm up, up and over head so you create a night long straight line from your left hip all the way up to your left finger tips. Lean to the right, and maybe even slide your right hand out! If you can, rest on your right elbow. Remember to switch sides!

Seated Twist: With your legs bent in front of you, take your right foot, and bring the heel to the outside of your left hip. Your leg will be bent and completely on the ground, sort of like you’re sitting cross legged. Keeping the left knee bent, bring the left foot to the outside of the right thigh. Hook your right arm around your left knee, or bring the top of your right arm to the top of your left thigh. Use this arm to help twist your body to the left. Lead with the torso, then turn your head to look over your left shoulder last. To come out, start at the top of your spine and turn your head to neutral then your torso. Don’t forget to switch!

Thread The Needle: From your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, left your right foot off the ground and cross your right ankle over the top of your left thigh. This is a pretty common position for some people to sit. You may feel a stretch here on the outside of your right hip. If it is available to you, send your right hand in the gap created by your right leg, between your legs, and your left hand on the outside. Clasp them behind your left thigh. I recommend keeping your feet flexed in this pose to protect your knees. And switch side!

Wind-Relieving Pose: Lift your right foot off the ground, and bring it into your right chest. You can wrap your arms around your right shin, back of your right thigh, or use a strap in either place. People who are stiff or curvier may prefer to use a strap, but maybe not! Send your left leg out straight on the ground. This is a nice relaxing pose. You can turn this into a twist by sending that bent right knee over to rest on the ground to your left. I love twists, especially this one! Don’t forget to (you guessed it) switch sides!

Savasana: 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.
I hope this was wonderful and gave you the change to be a little introspective. Perhaps you even came out feeling like you have some goals!

Namaste

Finding Happy – 24hr Complain Free Challenge

I’m looking into making series out of “Finding Happy”. Since so much of yoga is finding peace, relaxation, and happiness, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about what you can do to feel better. Obviously, I’m not qualified to diagnose or treat depression, anxiety, or any other emotional or mental health concerns, but I can offer help. 

It seems only right to start by telling you my experiences with going complaint free and what that even means. I’ve done it twice, actually. The first time was no complaining for 24 hours, and I felt so good that I kept going for 48 hours. The second time, I was complaint and comparison free. The first time I just wanted to try it and see how it made me feel, the second time I was going through serious depression and knew I needed to do something. I encourage you to try it too! In this pose, I’ll explain what it did for me, and why I think everyone should try it and how to go about doing it.

We might as well talk about both of the times I did it, so let’s start with the first. The first time I tried to go complaint free was over a year ago. I was learning to fly helicopters at the time, I had a great boyfriend, and I was taking classes at the local community college. I was pretty happy. I figured, why not try, I wanted to see what it does to me. I was really inspired to try this by Facebook posts I would see. They would be people complaining about silly things that seemed super small. 

Here are the rules:


    1) If I can fix it, I need to fix it
    2) If I can’t fix it, I need to accept it
    3) Stating a problem is not the same as complaining

There was a reason for each rule I established. I found it odd that people would decide to complain over fixing the problem, which is why I came up with rule #1. That rule was the easiest to follow.

#2 was a challenge. It is hard to accept that something just must be as it is, especially if it is a BIG something. That didn’t mean ignoring that something happened, but rather acknowledging that it happened and accepting I have no power over it.

Rule #3 was the tricky part. Stating, “I need to do the dishes.” is fine, there is a problem and I already had the solution, but if I sighed and said, “I need to do the dishes.” That’s definitely complaining. Not just a statement. I found it hard to find the fine line dividing the two. It was easy to get lost in justifications too. This rule was also important to me, in that it meant I had to face problems, I had no excuse to ignore them, even if it couldn’t be fixed. Brushing a problem under the rug can be just as bad  complaining about it nonstop.

If you’ve never tried doing something like this, there may be a chance that you say, “but I never complain! It can’t be so hard.” I’m sure many of you don’t, but you should try to analyze what you say before thinking that. I believed I complained very little, I thought this should be easy. In reality, the first few hours was insanely hard. (Let me just take a moment to COMPLAIN about those hours…grumble…)

So I quickly learned that, complaining seems to be something that we love to do. I was, in fact, addicted to complaining. There was some weird pleasure I got out of complaining, which seems strange since my nickname was “The Happy Rainbow”. There is a seemingly infinite amount of things to complain about. A stain on the carpet, dishes, being bored. Anything!

I quickly adopted what I like to call the “Oh Well” strategy. The “Oh Well” strategy is exactly what it seems like. The dog threw up on the carpet? Oh well. Your friend isn’t texting you back? Oh well. You really want to complain about not complaining? Oh well!!! I tried to say “oh well” out loud too, I found that saying it out loud made a bigger difference to me than simply thinking it. Now, this wasn’t an excuse to leave it, it was sort of a “shit happens” mantra. 

So I had managed to stop saying my complaints, but I was still thinking them, but by telling myself “Oh well” I was telling myself it mattered less. Eventually I could just look at a problem and shrug, I didn’t need to tell myself that it was fine. By the end of the day, I had stopped complaining almost entirely. I was refusing the complaints and replacing them with how to fix it, or accepting that it was okay to have imperfections in the world.

24 hours later, I felt great. I was looking at things that I didn’t want to happen and laughing about it. I would drop something and think, “oops!” smile and pick it up. I realized I felt so fantastic, and I challenged myself to go 24 more hours. Those were the easiest 24 hours of this whole thing. I stopped keeping track and making the extremely active effort after that, and the change carried on into the rest of my life. It even made me more productive.

For a while.

This is when my second attempt came, which was in July. I was married by then. There were a lot of things going wrong at the time. As I sunk deeper and deeper into a depression and felt myself disappearing, I remembered that I don’t suffer from chronic depression or anything like that, so I could do something. I NEEDED to do something. 

So I did the one thing I knew, but I made it bigger:

4) Do not compare people to other people, including myself.

I had found myself comparing two famous belly dancers, which I realized is unfair. They know each other, they’re friends, they’re good in their own ways. I had even compared my depression to that of someone who had written an article pretty much saying that I wasn’t depressed because it wasn’t what she was going through. (You can imagine how that made me feel.)

So I did it, and these were the hardest 48 hours. I started with 24 hours again, but I had done so poorly, I decided to go on for another 24 hours. I did better the second day. The “Oh Well” strategy helped, and I had tremendous support from my family and friends. I complained a lot, but I tried to take note of it, tell myself that it was okay, and let it go. Despite it all, it wasn’t enough, so I adopted a new strategy. “Let Go.” “Let Go” was much more active than “Oh Well”. It always involved stopping what I was doing, closing my eyes, taking at least one deep controlled breath, and telling myself to just “Let Go”.

By pushing myself to fix things and allowing myself to accept that feeling bad was okay, I came out feeling a bit better. It helped that I was able to control myself a little bit by just letting the problems go.

So out of all of this what did I learn? Why should you do it?


1) Complaining is addicting
Complaining seems cathartic. You just want to let it all out, but by doing that, you may end up letting it envelope you. You may let those negative thoughts and emotions tell you how you are feeling or thinking, when you can have some influence on that. I immediately knew that from the first time I tried this.

I was also forced to look at things from other perspectives. If I didn’t like how someone said something, I forced myself to think, “what should they have said?” Usually there was not much of a difference, and if there was, I thought about why they didn’t say it that way. This is something I’ve carried over to the rest of my life successfully. Sometimes you will find someone just being rude, but most of the time I was letting myself get hurt over nothing.

2) It is okay to complain sometimes
Sometimes it is okay to complain, though. It isn’t good to just keep it all inside. If there is something bothering you, don’t act like you can just let it go, because maybe you can’t. I learned that the first time around, but it was heavily reinforced the second time. I needed to talk to someone about what was happening, not just say “oh well”. If you need to talk about a problem. Do it. It’s okay to need a friend, family member, or anyone who will listen and help you through a problem.

3) Analyzing what you are about to say
If you think before you speak, it affects how you feel. Is that really worth complaining about it? Is it worth it to stress yourself further by yelling at the TV? Or should you just sigh and shrug it off? Picking what you say makes a difference.

It also makes a difference to the people around you. Teaching yourself to think analytically about everything you say will help you understand and pick the best words to express yourself clearly and reduce the risk of hurting someone else.

4) Think about what you just said
Should you have said that? It’s okay if you shouldn’t have. It’s an easy mistake to let something slip you didn’t mean to. So don’t beat yourself up, but recognize it was a mistake. It may also necessary to tell whoever you’re talking, “That’s not the best way to put it.” or “I’m sorry, that was a rude way to say that.”  Many people will let you try to say what you mean again, but try not to rely on this as an excuse to say anything.

5) You believe what you say
If you tell yourself something, you will believe it. Whether it’s about an object, another person, or yourself. There’s a practice some people do where every morning they tell themselves a list of things such as, “You are beautiful, you are kind, you are loved.” or something like that. It can be very effective. Doing this to everything in your life isn’t such a bad idea. The bump in the middle of the carpet isn’t “stupid”, it’s a funny harmless quirk. (If it’s not harmless, it should be called “Something that I need to fix”!)

6) What you say influences what you think and feel
On top of believing what you’re saying, you will also feel that way. If you describe everything in a negative way, it will all look negative, so you’ll feel bad. If something is just silly, there’s no reason to feel bad about it.

7) Take care of yourself
Above all else, if you don’t take the time to find what makes you happier, improves your thoughts, and how you understand how they work, you won’t be able to function. I’ve had friends tell me they just want to help someone else, but in all of that, they forget about themselves, and in turn, they can’t help the others. So whether you only want to help yourself, or are looking at a larger picture, you come first. There is no shame in self-love.

8) Look at yourself critically
By doing this, I was forced to look at myself critically. I was forced to understand everything I thought and felt. I made myself realize what I actually was thinking about people and things when I would complain. It made me realize I was putting myself in a situation where I felt worse than I needed to.

9) When all else fails, “Let Go”
Finally, When it all gets to be too much. Just let it go. Close your eyes, breath, and focus on yourself. Focus on telling yourself to just let it drift away. It isn’t worth it to analyze everything, control everything, and feel bad. This is kind of like counting to ten before reacting, but instead, you don’t have to react at all. You’re “pleading the fifth” to yourself and anyone else. No, it’s not easy, but sometimes it needs to be done. Take your time.

This could also be used for something you simply can’t handle right now. If it involves someone else, tell them you understand their concerns and you will address them, but right now you can’t.

Even if this isn’t for you, it is important to make positive changes in your life if you need to. Make sure you are taking care of yourself, whether that’s simply eating better, or taking 5 minutes to yourself this morning, or larger changes, like removing complaints from your life, or developing new habits. Some feel that indulgences and self-love are selfish, but it’s not. It’s wonderful. And as I always say,

Taking care of yourself is an act of yoga.
Namaste!

The Moose – 1 Hour Routine

A friend of mine asked me if I would do yoga with him recently, so I created a 1 hour routine (approximately) for him! I even let him name it.

Moose_(PSF)
Image Source: Wikipedia

What he wanted: A core work out. He told me he was hoping to strengthen his abs a bit, and being a yoga instructor, I’m a firm believer in focusing on the entire core, not just abs. Lo and behold, he later told me he found his back is too weak! So this was the perfect routine to spice up his core workout a little.

Limitations: None. Though he has had a knee injury, it healed. Overall stiffness in random areas was our biggest obstacle, but man you should see this guy rock a Downward Facing Dog.

Day of issues: He had done some serious calf presses a few days earlier and was super sore. Luckily he could finally walk again. It turned out not to be much of an issue though.

I recommend taking breaks as need be, and lots of child’s poses in between to help your body rest. There’s no reason to strain yourself!

Here I present to you:

The Moose

Seated side stretch: I find it is easiest to do this pose sitting in a cross-legged position. If that’s totally not for you, you can also kneel. You may need to place your hand on a block if you kneel. Start by firmly planting your right hand off your right hip (this is the hand you would place on a block if you are kneeling). Your fingers should point out to the right. Bring your left hand, palm up, up and over head so you create a night long straight line from your left hip all the way up to your left finger tips. Lean to the right, and maybe even slide your right hand out! If you can, rest on your right elbow. Remember to switch sides!

Seated twist: With your legs bent in front of you, take your right foot, and bring the heel to the outside of your left hip. Your leg will be bent and completely on the ground, sort of like you’re sitting cross legged. Keeping the left knee bent, bring the left foot to the outside of the right thigh. Hook your right arm around your left knee, or bring the top of your right arm to the top of your left thigh. Use this arm to help twist your body to the left. Lead with the torso, then turn your head to look over your left shoulder last. To come out, start at the top of your spine and turn your head to neutral then your torso. Don’t forget to switch!

Cat Pose: This pose is done from all fours, let the tops of your feet rest on the ground, and your palms should be firmly planted shoulder width apart on your mat. Inhale as you engage your abs, tuck your pelvis, round your back, and look down, like a cat arching it’s back. As you exhale, release your pelvis and let it tilt the opposite way, arch your back, and look straight-ish forward. Alternate these a few times. If you’d like, return to neutral flat back, then “wag your tail” back and forth. Pretty much, lean your butt from one side to the other. This can feel really nice! If your wrists don’t like being bent in this pose, you can also do this on your fists!

Forward fold: We did two seated forward folds. The first, sit on your mat with your legs straight in front of you. If you struggle to keep up right, you can sit on the edge of a blanket. First bend forward maintaining a flat back, then relax forward. Notice you only relax forward, avoid pushing and straining your back into a highly arched position.
The second version we did was almost exactly the same, except with our knees bent. This pose is great for those of us who can’t rest our torso on our thighs in a forward fold.

Wide legged forward fold: Sit with your legs in a V. This is very similar to a seated forward fold. Begin with a straight back and lean forward. Once you’ve reached your limit stay there a moment, then relax into the pose.  If you’re flexible enough, you can rest your head on a block or book! Roll up slowly.
Face your right leg and do the same thing. Straight back, lean forward, then relax. When I come up from this pose, I like to stay facing my right leg, and do a quick side stretch by reaching my right up up and over head and leaning sideways over my left leg. Switch sides!

Lunge/calf stretch: This one has a lot of ways to get into it, so experiment and find what works for you! I like to raise my right leg super high (three legged dog), then swing it down and forward to my right hand, and place my foot on the ground there. For some people it’s easier to drop your knees and scoot your foot forward. Drop your left knee on the ground, and release your left toes and rest on the top of that foot. Your right knee should not be in front of your right ankle. Your ankle should be at about a 90 degree angle, maybe a wider angle if you have ankle issues or discomfort. You should be getting a nice stretch in the front of your left hip. Walk your hands back, straighten that right leg, and rock onto your right heel to get a nice hamstring stretch. I recommend placing your hands on blocks or something to help be a bit more comfortable if you have tight hamstrings like I do. Switch sides! You can do this by going back to a lunge, lifting your back knee and sending your right foot back and repeating the entrance from downward facing dog, or if that is not available to you, you can scoot that right foot back and come into a table top position and then scoot that left foot forward.

Leg/Arm balance (Leg/Arm lifts): From a flat back table top position like we used in Cat, engage your abs and lift your right leg and left arm. Switch and lift your left leg and right arm. You can also do this one leg and one arm at a time, or, if you’d really like a challenge, lift the leg and arm of the same side, so right arm and right leg.

Plank/Chatturanga (opt. Side plank): 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.
The side plank can be done from the first two options. 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!

Leg lifts/Circles: You get to lie flat on your back. I would keep your hands in toward your body, some even say put your hands palms down under your bottom. Squeeze your legs together and lift them straight up, so that they come up about 90 degrees from your body (if you don’t have that range of motion, this can be SUPER hard, but still worth it so long as you don’t feel pain.) While your legs are at that 90 degree angle, keep your feet flexed, once you start moving them around, you can point your toes, but always keep your feet active. No floppy feet. Lower your legs half way and hold it. If you can, draw large and small circles both directions with your toes. Drop your legs all the way down with 1 or 2 inches between your legs and the ground. More circles! Bring them up most of the way, but not completely. Circles!! And back to 90 degrees with your feet flexed, bend your knees and bring them into your chest. Give your legs a big hug. You can repeat this sequence as you see fit.

Reclined twist: Lie on your back with your knees bend and feet flat on the ground about hip width apart. Relax here a moment. When you’re ready, let your knees relax over to your right side. You can place a blanket, block, books, etc. under your knees for support if they don’t come all the way to the ground. I like to place my right hand on top of my legs to help coax them down. Send your left arm straight out to the side, as if you were making a T with your arms (you can make a T with your arms too if you want.) When you bring your knees back up, your core should be doing a little work. Switch to the left side!

Boat: Sit up with your knees bent and your feet in front of you. Focus on trying to keep your back straight, before you start this pose, you may want to place your hands on your shins and pull yourself forward a bit to really help encourage that straight back. Not arching, just straight.  Release your hands. bring your arms up straight forward out of your shoulders, with your hands shoulder width apart. Rock back slightly so that your feet come off the ground. Then lift up your shins and feel so they’re parallel with the floor. Keep those toes pointed.
From here you have a few options. You can bring your fingertips together and rotate your upper body to the left and right so that your elbows alternately rock toward the floor, or you can straighten your legs, and try to create a 90 degree angle between your torso and legs. If you have tight hamstrings, like me, you’ll find that even if you have the ab strength, this full extension can be hard, but you can still try it out! To come out, bend your knees generously, and rock forward so that your toes, then entire foot, rests on the ground.

Bicycle: From a boat pose, you can alternately extend and bend your legs. It may help to place your hands behind your head, but keep your neck long, and avoid letting your chin touch your chest. The lower you get your extended leg, the better the work out. I’ve found with hip injuries, it’s hard to do that though, you still get a pretty good work out if your extended leg creates a V with your upper body.

Downward Facing Dog: From a table top position, tuck your toes, push into your hands, and lift your knees, then send your sit bones on up! (For those who may not know, your sit bones are those two pointy bones in your bottom. There’s one in each cheek!)

Forward fold (Uttanasana) From Downward facing dog, step/hop/scoot your back feet up to your hands so that you’re in a nice forward fold. You can even keep your knees bent if you’d like to just dangle relaxed. Straighten up your legs and raise into a flat back bend. I find it helps to come up farther than you think you need too, then lower back down trying to keep your back flat. Relax forward into the forward fold again, then inhale as you slowly roll up. You can take your time here.

Warrior III: This one is a little hard to explain. So here’s a picture to help. I’ll still explain it though.

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Image Source: Flickr

You’ll want to get into a lunge of sorts with your right foot facing the short edge of your mat. This is often done starting from Warrior I, so getting into that pose should help. Keep that right knee bent and lean your body forward. Pick up your left foot and keep it straight and long. Notice in the image, they have their foot and entire leg facing the ground. Avoid letting your toes turn in or out. you can either point or flex your toes in this pose. Getting out is the same as getting into the pose. With all poses, especially balance poses, always enter and leave poses slowly and as controlled as possible. This lessens your risk of injury.
This is also a good moment to point out that the arch of the person picture’s foot is lifted. They aren’t letting that part of their foot touch the ground, or collapsing. (Obviously if you have very flat feet there is little you can do, but keep that thought in mind.)

Cow face
: 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! Also, straining is counter productive and more likely to cause injury. It’s better to back out of a pose and get a mild stretch than put yourself at risk for injuries!

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!

Forward fold/Shoulder stretch: I like to do this with a wide legged stance. I always feel like I’m going to fall over if I have my feet together, though that is an option too. Clasp your hands together behind your back. Bend forward and raise your arms up. This pose feels great, but it’s best to make sure you’ve stretched your shoulders a little first if you have tight shoulders! To come up, bend your knees and lower your arms. Raise your torso up slowly. If you’re in this pose for an extended period of time you may feel dizzy if you stand too fast. If you do feel dizzy, remain still for a moment before moving on.

Downward facing dog: Come through a forward fold, and walk either your hands or feet out to come into Downward Facing Dog.

Cobra: You get to lie on your belly now! Nothing fancy, just lie down on your belly first. Don’t tuck your toes. Now place your hands on either side of your chest palms down. Your elbows will stick up in the air. I like to start with “baby” cobras. It’s a muscular version, as opposed to pushing into your hands to lift your chest. Really press the top of your feet into the ground, engage your quads, glutes, and core. Lift your head and chest up from the ground. To check if you’re doing your baby cobra right, try lifting your hands off the ground! Relax back down. You can do another of those, or, with the same muscles in mind, lift up nice and high by pushing into your hands into the ground.

Child’s Pose: Set your bottom down on your heals, lean your body forward and relax your head on the ground. If you can’t reach the ground, you can place pillow or block under your forehead. Send your hands out straight forward with your hands planted on the mat. You can keep your hands straight, or relax them on either side of your body.

Savasana: Send your feet out, lay flat on your back, let your feet flop to the side, your hands relax and fingers naturally curl. Let your body feel heavy. You earned this!

Chair Yoga – 15 minutes

Whether you’re unable to sit on the floor, or just don’t want to get on the floor, here’s some easy chair Yoga! This routine is perfect for total novices with limitations, or an office worker who needs a quick break! (Or anyone, want to try chair Yoga? You can!)

Requirements: A chair or couch.

Rather than over and over saying that each pose is a “modified X pose”, I’m telling you now. All the poses are based on other yoga poses, which are typically done standing or on the ground. So put away your mat and sit down!

Chair Yoga

Seated relaxation: Of course we need to start with a little seated breathing. This is a good moment to check in with yourself, especially if you’re unfamiliar with chair Yoga. I sit pretty far forward on the chair, this forces me to use my core to sit up straight. If you can’t do that, or ever get tired during the practice, feel free to scoot back and use the back rest as support. Try to maintain straight, upright posture if you do use the backrest.
Your feet should be about hip width apart, and you want your hips, knees, and ankles all at 90 degree angles. If you have any hip or knee injuries, it may be more comfortable to put your feet farther away and let your knees create a larger angle.

Point and flex feet: Straighten your right leg and either keep your heel on the ground, or raise your foot off the floor. If you’re looking to work on strength, lifting your foot off the ground will be more work. Point and flex your right foot then switch legs. Point and flex the same amount on each side.

Ankle circles: This is the same set up as the previous pose. Straight leg, lifted or heel on the ground. If you want more of a work out, lift both legs and draw circles with both of your feet simultaneously instead of one at a time.

Cat/Cow: Keep your feet flat on the ground with your knees bent. 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.

Forward fold: Straighten you legs in front of you, keep your heels on the ground here. Flex both your feet, then fold forward. This is a great hamstring stretch. If you have super tight hamstrings, this version can be nice too, so you can focus more on relaxing and stretching, than using your muscles and struggling through a standing or seated version.

Side stretch: Plant your right hand on the right side of your seat. If you can grasp the side of your seat with your fingers, avoid griping it super tightly. With your left palmed turned out at your side, bring it up and over head from the side and lean to the right. Push into your right hand to come out, then switch sides!

Seated twist: Plant your right hand on the left side of your seat. If you can grasp the side of your seat with your fingers, avoid griping it super tightly. Now hold the back of your chair with your left hand, or push into the back. Use these two hands to help your body twist to the left. Turn your head to look over your left shoulder. Once in this pose, you may find you can place your left hand on the right side of the back of your chair. (If you’re on a could, just place your hand flat on the back and use it to support and push into your twist.) When you’re ready to release, start with our head and come back to a neutral position. Switch sides!

Arms straight up: Bring your arms and hands up straight in front of your shoulders with your palms facing. Interlace your fingers, and turn your palms out. Raise your hands up and overhead. If this is a strain on your shoulders, you can add a slight bend to your elbows, or come out of this slightly. You can create a slight back bend in this pose as well by tilting back slightly and looking up. When you’re ready, release your fingers and let them float down your sides. If you’d like, interlace your fingers the opposite way and doing it again! For most people, interlacing your fingers the opposite way will feel very strange.

Knee to chest (Wind relieving pose): Lift your right foot off the ground, and bring it into your right chest. You can wrap your arms around your right shin, back of your right thigh, or use a strap in either place. People who are stiff or curvier may prefer to use a strap, but maybe not!

Thread the needle: Lift your right foot off the ground and cross your right ankle over the top of your left thigh/knee. This is a pretty common position for some people to sit in. You may feel a stretch here on the outside of your right hip. If you feel like it, lean forward, first with a flight back, then relax forward. Your arms can be nice and relaxed in this pose. I recommend keeping your feet flexed in this pose to protect your knees. And switch side!

Child’s pose (W/ pillow): This is pretty simple. With your feet flat on the ground, a la our starting position, lean forward and let your body rest on your thighs. If you don’t feel comfortable like that, place a pillow or two (or three?) on your thighs an lean on those! In fact, do that even if you’re super bendy and can lay your torso on your thighs. It’s wonderful.

Seated Savasana: Remove that pillow and place it behind you, lean back, and let your feet move father away from you. Relax your feet and let them flop to the sides. Try to avoid slouching your back in our seated savasana. If you have a bed, clean floor, or couch, why not lie down completely?

Yum! I loved this routine. It’s so short, simple, sweet, and lazy. Kind of like me…minus short, simple, and sweet.

Namaste!

January Updates!

There’s not too much to say in this post, so it’ll be a short one!

For starters, the holiday’s are over and we’re done moving! We’re in a new place now, and it’s full of good vibes. Maybe the “good vibes” are just the view of the ocean though. Not complaining either way. Being done will all of this means that I have more time to work on the things I love, such as this!

From here on out you can expect two posts a week, unless something happens. This is going to count as my first one, even though it’s not much (sorry!), then there will be a routine going up on Thursday.

This week’s routine is a chair routine. I’ve gotten a lot of requests for that actually. I originally wanted to do a New Year routine to help everyone jump start their practices and figure out goals and intentions. That should be going up next Thursday instead though. It may even be two parts to tackle different aspects of Yoga and to help people discover different things they may want to work on.

That’s about it!

Namaste