Yoga Poses for When You're Sad


Do you keep practicing yoga, even on days when you are sad?

I once heard a friend say that yoga is not always a practice for feeling better, yet it is a practice used for feeling more.

I love this thought, and I love that my yoga practice supports me even on days when I am gloomy, upset, grieving a loss, or feeling depressed.

Yoga can help us feel more, so that we can release negative feelings.

On days when you are feeling sad, or ready to release sadness, try these yoga postures to help you connect with the place you're in. You may just find that after your practice, you feel a little lighter. And if after practicing you still feel some intense feelings, please still give yourself permission to be exactly as you are; sometimes we need to feel heaviness before we can feel lightness again.


Begin in seated meditation.

Find stillness in a comfortable position.

Close your eyes and tune inward.

What's going on for you in this moment? Though it may be uncomfortable or a little unsettling, see if you can invite the feeling of sadness. Notice where it is present for you in your body. Maybe your hands or feet? The center of your chest? Your hips?

Without trying to change anything, simply notice. Bring your attention to your body.


If you're craving some movement, consider seated cat/cow for a few minutes, cat/cow from hands and knees, or a few sun salutations.

Then, come into pigeon pose. From downward facing dog, draw your right knee forward toward your right wrist. Allow your hips to sink down. Feel free to slide a block or pillow under your right hip, crawl your hands forward, coming down onto your elbows or letting your forehead rest on the ground.

Stay here for 1-5 minutes on each side. Be sure to keep breathing!

Again in this pose, invite feeling. If there are tears, allow them to process. Remind yourself, you are exactly where you need to be. Let your body be heavy, and your breath deep.


From pigeon, do a few rounds of low lunges (anjaneyasana) on each side. You can have your arms up overhead, lifting through the chest, or bring your arms down by your sides. You can even take a lizard variation, both hands inside the front foot.

Move around a bit and stretch your hips in a way that feels right.

Take a few audible exhales through your mouth. Release.


Move through downward facing dog on your way into Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) pose. Take up a lot of space in this pose.

Notice the wide stance of your feet, and the expansive reach of your arms. Get tall in your spine and gaze forward over your front middle finger. Set your gaze.

Then, allow the pose to intensify a little. Breathe more. Feel the large muscles in your legs start to fire. Engage the muscles around your core, your center, and picture energy lifting up through the spine -- tailbone all the way to the crown of the head.

Tune into your power center. Perhaps today, even with the feeling of sadness, you can also feel the energy of strength. Notice the play between these two energies, and offer what you can in the pose. Surrender your expectations.

If you can, stay for 8-10 breaths on each side in Warrior II. 


Next, have a seat on your mat. Take your legs wide to a straddle and take wide legged (seated) forward fold. You can walk your chest forward down toward the mat, tucking your chin into your chest. Or maybe you try an upright version of the stretch, with your fingertips placed on the ground behind your hips, and you lift up through the chest, finding a little backbend.

Deep breaths here, sending energy into the back body and the backs of the legs.


End with legs up the wall pose. Scoot your booty as close to the wall as you can, lay back, and then bring your legs up the wall. Allow your whole body to soften and rest. Let the breath slow down.

Come back to the feeling of when you started your practice. Notice your emotions, and where you may feel them in the body.

You can begin counting the breath for a few minutes, inhaling to a count of 4, and exhaling to a count of 5 or 6. Or, try inviting the mantra, I am that I am. On the inhale, I am. On the exhale, that I am.


Stay for as long as you like, taking your time to finish your practice and return to your day. Always the option here to spend a few minutes journaling about what came up for you. 

Here's a summary of the YOGA FOR SADNESS practice:
  • Seated meditation. Notice where in your body you may feel your emotions.
  • Cat/cow to warm up
  • Pigeon pose (1-5 minutes on each side)
  • Low lunge or lizard on each side (breathe into the hips)
  • Downdog
  • Warrior II
  • Seated wide legged forward fold (Upavistha Konasana)
  • Legs up the wall (deep rest)
  • Optional journaling :) 

May your yoga practice be an act of kindness toward your body, and a key to finding healing and peace. Namaste.

Photos in this post by Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography (1-4, 6), and Felipe Silva of The Uprise Collective (5). Graphic illustration created using Canva.

The 2015 Alive in the Fire Yogi Holiday Gift Guide, Part 2

Photo by Felipe Silva of @the_lost_portraits.

We all know asana, or yoga postures, are only one part of the yogic path... and for those who are immersed in their physical practice and want to kick it up a notch, tools and resources can be helpful.

Calling all handstand-ers, scorpion lovers, and super bendy yogis! Part 2 of the Alive in the Fire 2015 Yogi Holiday Gift Guide is for you :)

Alive in the Fire Holiday Gift Guide: Part 2
Gift Ideas for Hardcore Asana Yogis

Photos via Dharma Yoga Wheel.


The World's First Yoga/Fitness Wheel designed to help stretch and release tension and muscular tightness in the back, chest, shoulders, abdomen and hip flexors. ®

This yoga prop will change your life! I've gained so much flexibility in my spine using my Dharma Yoga Wheel. Plus, being a part of their worldwide community brings so much love and inspiration. Follow @dharmayogawheel for ideas about how to use the wheel (you might just find a photo of yours truly if you look closely!!) and be sure to connect with the Dharma Yoga Wheel founders, Dov Vargas (@yogivaruna) and Raquel Vamos (@leela_om). They are some of the most incredible yogis with so much love and light to share.

Also check out my review of the wheel for more info.

Photo via @yogivaruna on Instagram.

Yoga Tune Up is an incredible resource for pain relief, body awareness and anatomy. They make all sorts of roller balls that you can use to massage areas of tightness in the body. I have a set and I use them allllll the time! I also highly recommend Jill Miller's book, The Roll Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility, and Live Better in Your Body. Life changing. Read my review of the book for more info.

 

 Photos via Liforme.
I've heard this one called the 'Rolls Royce of yoga mats.' :) It features a super grippy, non-slip surface, an AlignforMe system with markers that show you great alignment, and extra cushioning. Sounds divine! I have yet to try one and can't wait for the day when I get to :) Definitely a luxury yoga item.



Epsom Salts or a Massage Gift Certificate
Because, let's be honest, if you're doing a lot of yoga, you're really sore. ;)

Photo by Felipe Silva of @the_lost_portraits.

Did you miss part 1 of the holiday gift guide? Check out ideas for 'the yogi who has everything!'

And stay tuned for part 3... gift ideas for hungry yogis!

A Tip for Vinyasa Yogis


Calling all Vinyasa yogis! How many downward facing dogs, planks, low planks, and updogs do you think you've done?

Chances are, if you've been in a lot of Vinyasa classes, your shoulders will start to feel it. It's important that you use proper alignment to avoid stressing the shoulder joint.

Next time you're doing your yoga practice, try this: place your hands a little wider on your mat. Take up a little more space than you have before. We're talking maybe an inch difference... separate the hands a little bit, and really spread the fingers wide.

Photos by Jobi Otso. 

Notice the freedom that is created in the shoulder joint as you move through a vinyasa sequence with your palms placed a little wider.

Also concentrate on activating the upper back; firm the shoulder blades and draw them down toward the tailbone.

Before starting class you can even do a few shoulder rolls to notice sensation in the upper back. Lift the shoulders up toward the ears, and then roll them back and down. Hold them there, trying not to let them creep up towards the ears at all. Think, lower ribs in. Shoulders away from the ears.

Photo by Lucid Reflections.

As always, check in with your teacher and ask questions if anything feels uncomfortable. Trust your body and be willing to try mixing it up a little bit every now and then... even seasoned yogis can fall into some bad habits! Namaste.

The Toes in Yoga

Photo by Jobi Otso.

The more you practice asana (yoga poses), the more you realize that small things are actually big things. 

Alignment of the limbs... the quality and speed of the breath... engagement of specific muscles...even the difference between looking up or down can make a big difference in how a pose feels, and how much benefit you receive from it.

Photo by Lily Michael Photography. Model is Allie Rae.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the toes in yoga. By engaging and spreading the toes, you can create a stronger base for standing / balancing poses. You draw more muscular support from the rest of the lower leg, which extends a longer line of energy through the body.

In every pose, we seek to draw as much Prana as possible into the body-- more life force, light, healing, and circulation. This extends from the crown of the head all the way down through the toes.

Throughout your practice, your toes should be alive and engaged, not just hanging out! This make a big difference in a lot of poses.

Photo by Cait Loper.

Here are some examples:
  • The toes stabilize during any balancing pose, like Tree. By spreading the toes, you draw more grounded energy up from the earth beneath you. You activate more muscles in your feet, and stabilize the arch more.
  • In the transition from Plank to Chaturanga, rolling over the toes with a unilateral movement helps you maintain correct alignment of the hips and creates the smoothest possible transition in the vinyasa sequence. If you're in the habit of flipping over one foot at a time, check in with your teacher for help re-learning this transition and talking about why the feet should move in unison.
Above photo by Jobi Otso.
  • For balancing poses like Crow and Eight-Limbed pose, activating the feet and toes actually helps draw energy into the core, helping to increase the sense of lift and lightness as you 'fly.' The same goes for headstand and handstand; by activating and flaring the toes, you are creating a longer line of energy from the ground all the way into the part of your body that's extended farthest.

Photo by Justin Kral of Kral Studios.
  • In Prasarita Padottanasana, engagement of the two big toes helps align the pelvis correctly. Engaging the big toe flexors has the added benefit of strengthening the longitudinal arch of the foot, too; in addition to being toe flexors, these muscles are also dynamic stabilizers of the arch. (You can read more about this on The Daily Bandha).
Photo by Brynna Bryant.

It's so important to be aware of your feet and toes during your yoga practice. Wake them up! Spread the toes. Notice the way this draws more energy into your body. Enjoy the added benefits of every pose when your feet are active.


Illustration by Laura Taylor Mark.

Here are some other great articles about how the importance of the feet during yoga:
  • why toes matter, from Yoga Journal; includes information about how healthy feet and toes help prevent inflammatory conditions like bunions and tendinitis 
  • Ever tried Toe Squat? This is a wonderful (and sometimes intense) pose for increasing flexibility in the toes and feet.
  • 5 poses to build balance and stability in Toestand
Cheers to your happy yoga toes!

Yoga for Weight Loss

 
Photos via Pinterestand A Cup of Jo.

Do you have a goal to lose weight this year?

I encourage you to include yoga in your wellness routine!

Here are some ideas for how to utilize yoga and healthy habits if you’re looking to shed a few pounds.


Practice three to five times a week, with the goal of taking classes at a studio at least three times per week. The other two classes can be using a DVD at home. I know personally I’m pushed to work harder when I’m surrounded by other yogis, and under the direction of an empowering teacher!  

Choose heated classes, and practice a vigorous style of yoga. I suggest trying vinyasa, Bikram, Ashtanga, or anything with ‘power’ or ‘power flow’ in the description. If you do go to hot classes, be sure to hydrate before and after class! Also try to incorporate at least one restorative (calming) practice like a yin class into your weekly routine, as a way to balance out the heat. Keep in mind that the harder classes will yield the most results in terms of burning calories in order to lose weight, and the restorative class will help you release toxins, calm your mind, and become aware of your body.


Photo via A Cup of Jo.

Improve your diet with a few simple, easy changes. I recommend these: Eat more greens. Drink water or tea in place of sugary drinks. Trade unhealthy snack foods for fresh fruit, nuts, or an avocado with salt and pepper sprinkled on top. (Note: here are more healthy snack ideas from Joanna at A Cup of Jo.) If changing your diet feels overwhelming, think in terms of what you can add that’s healthy, rather than what you have to eliminate. Start by adding a few glasses of water throughout the day, and more veggies at each meal. As you gain some momentum in making healthy choices, you’ll feel empowered and be able to tackle more challenging changes.
  
Start a 10-minute meditation habit. Mindfulness will help you notice what’s causing you stress, and discover how to release tension. For more information about the benefits of mindfulness, read hereIf sitting still sounds overwhelming or uncomfortable, start by doing legs up the wall pose for a few minutes, either when you first wake up or before bedtime. Let your whole body relax, and close your eyes. Notice your breath. There’s nothing you need to do or change, so if thoughts come up, simply acknowledge them and then let them go. Continue to place your attention on your breath. 


Sleep seven to eight hours a night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try yoga nidra, a meditation for full-body relaxation.


Track your success, and focus on the positive! Try a mantra like, "Practice makes perfect." Thank yourself for being dedicated to your health.


What habits are you incorporating into your weight-loss plan? I’d love to hear!

PS As always, if you have any questions or would like support, please feel free to email me at aliveinthefire at gmail dot com. Namaste, lovely yogis! 

This post was inspired by an article on Yoga Journal about yoga for weight loss.

5 Tips for Vinyasa Yogis

Photos via Pinterest.

Do you practice a lot of vinyasa flow yoga? Here are some great tips for great alignment, and for deepening your practice!


Tip #1: In Downward Dog, try moving the hands a little wider apart on your mat. This will allow your shoulders to move more freely between downdog, high plank, Chaturanga, updog, and the transition back to downward dog. These poses should not make your shoulders hurt, so if you’re feeling pain, check in with your alignment! I made this adjustment to my posture recently, and have noticed a huge difference when transition between the poses! 


Tip #2: Spread your feet a little wider on your mat than you normally do in high lunge, Warrior I and Warrior II. Stability comes from taking up a lot of space on your mat. Picture your feet drawing in toward each other, so you engage the inner thighs.


Tip #3: In Triangle, soften the palm of your hand that’s reaching up. You do want to stretch and awaken the fingers, but you don’t have to grip. Instead of flexing so hard that your fingers are stiff, picture someone pressing on the center of your palm so that it gently relaxes. Notice how this allows energy to flow through your hand and whole arm, into the shoulder, extending downward. This way, prana does not get blocked anywhere in the pose; instead, the energy flows through you. Notice where you can do this in other poses: back off a little, instead of gripping, and notice the energetic difference it makes.



Tip #4: Remember mula bandha. Mula bandha helps you contain all of the powerful energy you create in the body during each pose, and it protects your spine.


Tip #5: Offer the poses. When you become tired or frustrated, give the pose away. Instead of clinging to your progress or telling yourself you’re ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at a certain posture, let it go. Surrender your attachment to the practice.

What tips do you have for vinyasa yogis?

Hip Openers

Photo by Justin Kral of Kral Studios.

Last night I worked on hip openers: frog, pigeon, low lunge, Hanumanasana.

I hold so much tension in my hips. A lot of the time I avoid going to these places of tension… it’s been so long, I think. It’s going to hurt.

Photo by Cait Loper of Cait Loper Photography.

Instead, I turn toward what’s comfortable, what’s easy. Sometimes it is easier to grip than to release—to draw the muscle toward the bone in Crescent Warrior, rather than place a block under the hip and settle in for Half Pigeon.

But when I go the easy route, there is some part lingering beneath the surface that says, You’re cheating yourself.

Photo by Cait Loper of Cait Loper Photography.

 Beneath the fear and hesitation and uncertainty lies your inner knowing.

I was proud of myself for being willing to move toward sensation in the poses last night.

A big part of yoga is allowing—allowing what is. Letting whatever comes up to come up. Not running from it.

Photo by Justin Kral of Kral Studios. 

Be willing to go there.

Reconnecting with the Self

 Photos via Old Brand New.

We all go through periods of time when we fall away from our practice.

The yoga mat collects dust. Perhaps the body becomes stiff or fatigued, the mind busy. Perhaps we are suffering, and we don’t know how to make time for ourselves, for healing.

Today I am sharing a post from my sponsored yogi Ty about the wonder of becoming present. Even if it’s been a while, yoga is always waiting for us. Today is a good day to practice, whether we are doing asana or simply noticing the breath.



Not that it needs to be said, but life is funny. Sometimes it plays out just the way you hope. Sometimes it throws you a curveball, but you adjust and make the best of it. And sometimes it just consumes you in a manner that—try as you may—takes you away from the things that bring you joy and provides you with a sense of purpose.


I recently found myself navigating one of these moments of consumption. While I felt like it just snuck up on me and stayed for the better part of the summer, hindsight suggests I should have seen it coming. My job had been straining me in many ways for quite some time. Mentally, emotionally, physically . . . it was slowly getting the best of me and turning me into a person that I did not like very much.

I was crabby and yoga-less.

Not knowing the best way to rid myself of the crabbiness, I knew how to address the absence of yoga in my life. So a few weeks ago I grabbed my mat, a towel, and a full bottle of water and headed to a hot yoga class. I was stiff and unable to move with the fluidity I had developed heading into the start of the summer, but something far more important happened on my mat that day. 

As the sweat poured out of me and I did my best to focus on nothing more than my breath, my mind became clear. I embraced the moments that followed and left the studio with a sense of joy.


While the state of euphoria faded later that afternoon, I found myself consumed with my hour of clarity on the mat. It was the first time in months that I felt like myself and I wanted more. A few days later I returned to have a similar experience, rekindling my love of yoga but in a slightly different way. After months off of the mat, the asanas weren’t exactly coming naturally to me. Since my initial foray into yoga was fueled by the physical practice this should have frustrated me, but it didn’t. 

Instead, I became more focused on rooting myself to my mat and getting lost in the cadence of my breath. 

It was a revelation of sorts, one that made me feel like I had the potential to control that funny thing we call life. While some yoga teachers talk and write about yoga’s ability to provide you with the skill set to maintain control of the self, it isn’t something you can wrap your head around until you experience it on your own.


As I have worked to immerse myself in a more regular practice during these last few weeks, I have continued to regain control and have allowed myself to delve into the moments of clarity. If I can offer one piece of advice to anyone reading this, allow yourself to do the same. I am going to continue to do so. Let’s hold each other accountable through communication and community engagement. We will all be better for it. Our community will be better for it. And in time our positive energy will reach far beyond ourselves and make the world a better place.

Thank you, Ty, for this inspiration! I know I can relate fully to your reflections here, and I’m grateful for your courage in sharing so honestly.

Awakening

Photo by Christine Hewitt of Yogic Photos.

During my practice, I imagine my body glowing with light.

Every cell awakened. Every breath a cleansing, an opening. Each asana creates space in my body. I can choose to then carry this new space into my life.

After the asana, I sit in meditation, still, silent, awakening my potential. Feeling my awareness expand in all directions.

Photo via Pinterest.

I take mula bandha, root lock, bringing prana to sushumna, the center channel. I ask that every awakening in my vibration – every bit of health and happiness in my mind, body and spirit – I ask that it be for the good of others. I give away the practice.

What have I made space for? What have I allowed others to make space for?

Photo by Christine Hewitt of Yogic Photos.

Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu

May all beings be liberated. May your practice take you deeper than ever today. Namaste.

The Breath as Prayer


This morning I offered my practice as a prayer. Let every movement, every moment, come from devotion. This was my intention at the start of class.

 

I closed my eyes so as not to seek answers from the mirror before me.

Listening. Drawing inward. Stilling the mind.


I did not look for perfection.

If there was any to be found, I stumbled into it with my eyes closed and my heart open.


The teacher reminded us about Thanksgiving week. "I'm sure you've been doing a lot of classes centered around gratitude," he said. "But why not let gratitude be an every day, all day kind of thing?"

When I sat beside him with my djembe for the chanting, I closed down my eyes. I let my heartbeat be an offering. I let my hand on the drum be an offering, a drawing out of sound.

In yoga, my purpose is to draw out more love from my heart, my core, my very being. Today I was reminded of the power of prayer, of letting the body be a moving, singing prayer on the mat.

Om bolo shri sat guru bhagavan ki... jai! To my teacher within, the only teacher of truth... victory.

Teaching Yoga

Photo via Pinterest.

Yogis, I'm so excited! This week I start my 200 hour vinyasa teacher training.

It's hard to believe my yoga journey started over four and a half years ago, and pretty soon I'll be leading class. Getting certified to teach has been a long time coming: as you may remember, I originally thought I wanted to go the Bikram route and I also had plans to attend a training with Sri Dharma Mittra in NYC earlier this year.

I feel so blessed that the timing has finally worked out and that I am in the right mindset and space to dive in for this vinyasa training. 

I'm also stoked to be a part of such a loving, generous community over at Leap. I truly feel the love every time I walk into that studio, and I know training with Cathy and Corey will be incredible and incredibly transformative.

My heart feels so grateful and full every time I think about standing in front of a room of yogis and leading class.

Thanks for sharing in the journey with me, readers! You guys are the best.

If you're so inspired, I'd love if you could:

  • send me some love and light this week as I begin to train
  • reach out if you're a teacher, fellow teacher-in-training, or studio owner with ideas on how to get the most out of training and how to transition into teaching
  • donate to my yoga teacher training fund

 

Stay tuned for updates!


Wishing you love and light.

Namaste.

Wanderlust Weekend in Lake Tahoe, California


I am still on a yoga high from last weekend at Wanderlust California. The fest was amazing!

It was such a blissful experience being in the mountain air and sunshine for yoga classes, hula hooping, paddleboarding, live music, eating free samples from all the healthy vendors, people watching, and connecting with other yogis.



On Friday, my friend Lindsay and I took a Dharma II/III class with Dharma Mittra in the morning, and attended his Pranayama and Meditation workshop in the afternoon. There were so many heartfelt moments and insightful pieces of wisdom shared, and I kept finding myself laughing at Dharma's hilarious jokes.

At one point we were doing positive breathing, a technique that requires you to breathe through the right nostril only by closing the left nostril with vishnu mudra. He looked out at the big group of yogis and said, "Now, make sure you breathe through the right nostril, not the left! If you breathe through the left, you'll go kooky!" 

He also proceeded to explain how after a round of positive breathing, anyone will be ready to face a firing squad with a smile on their face. :)

In only the short time I spent with him, it became very clear that Dharma Mittra is an incredible human being with a beautiful soul and a practice worth modeling after. Thanks to him, I'm inspired as ever in my practice, and I'm back to a vegetarian diet!



Post-yoga, we took an awesome hooping class with Shakti Sunfire of One Hoop 1 Love. She covered a lot of hooping basics, and we spent a good portion of the time practicing lifting the hoop from the waist to the sky and bringing it back down.

We also learned a few tricks-- one where you transition from "walking the dog" to rolling the hoop up your body and onto one arm. 

This was definitely a highlight of the fest, and so fun to play, dance and feel lighthearted and free.



In between our scheduled activities, we had a blast wandering around the festival grounds and trying out new adventures in balancing. I even did some aerial yoga and some slackline yoga!


It was so inspiring to watch talented performers with a real passion for their practice. One couple did the most insane and amazing acro-yoga/ hooping I've ever seen...


At night, the yogis of Wanderlust rocked out. I loved seeing Gramatik the first night, and Quixotic and Moby on Saturday. We all went crazy dancing and having a great time :)


On Sunday morning, we got up early to do a free class with MC Yogi and his wife Amanda Giocomini. They theme was "Yogi Revolution, Love is the Solution," and it was seriously the most fun, dynamic flow I've done in a long time.

Both of them are such thoughtful, sweet people with a lighthearted style that keeps you smiling through the poses. We did some playful partner yoga and ended with a big, joyful session of jumping around and dancing to one of his newest songs.

If you want to watch, the whole class was live-streamed online by Lululemon and the video is still available.



I feel so blessed to have been able to attend Wanderlust and I hope to go again next year. 

To all of the beautiful people who taught and practiced and and shared in the conscious community, you rock! Thank you for truly embodying the meaning of namaste.

Yoga in the Park


Today I practiced a beautiful yoga flow in the park with my sister. We rolled out our mats in the shade and sat in meditation for a few minutes, centering our concentration on the breath.

I set my intention for the practice: I will be present; I will give freely of this yoga. I will open my heart and practice letting go.


We warmed up with a few rounds of cat/cow and then launched into sun salutations. I loved the chance to teach in such a comfortable and intimate setting: just me and my twin.

She's done yoga before and practiced martial arts for years (she has her 2nd degree black belt-- way impressive!), so she has a deep understanding of integrating the body's movements with the breath. 


Today's yoga in the park was a great refresher for both of us: for my sister to dive back into vinyasa, and for me to again experience the joy of teaching, of slowly breaking down each pose. It is very eye-opening to talk a yoga newbie through each posture, explaining how the breath connects everything, and showing them little tips and tricks on alignment.

I always find it a joy to make hands-on adjustments, too, and today was no exception. I helped push my sister's hips up and back in downward facing dog, and helped her stretch a little further in child's pose, which she said felt amazing.


My favorite moments from today:
  • Witnessing strength and perseverance. There were a few times when my sister looked over at me like I was crazy when I asked her to move into a posture, or to hold for a few more seconds. We were doing reps of downdog extensions into plank with the knee at the elbow (like in Sadie Nardini's supersets), and I glanced over to see just how focused and determined she was, arms shaking, powering through the struggle. So inspiring to see her keep going even when the yoga proved challenging.
  • Laughing about yoga farts. It's the best when you can just be honest and down-to-earth in yoga. Yes, it is a serious practice, but it can also lead to extremely hilarious, heartfelt and just generally human experiences. (Cough cough *wind removing pose* cough cough!)
  • Feeling energized after practicing together. "I feel kind of woozy," my sister said as we were walking out of the park. "Like something crazy just happened." I laughed and explained to her how yoga can clear stagnant energy in the body, and that she was likely experiencing the result of opening her spine. I was also totally stoked to hear that she felt immediate relief from chronic back pain and can't wait to practice again soon. Success!


Yoga is amazing.

Yoga changes us, brings us closer together.

The practice is powerful.


I am so grateful to be a yogi, a teacher-in-the-making, and a sister.


Namaste.

Insanely Cool Yoga Video


I watched this yoga video and immediately wanted to watch it again. And again.

Not only is Phillip Askew's control of asana downright impressive, but the sense that comes through in watching his flow is that he has a sincere dedication to his practice.

He is a devoted yogi.

How many hours has he spent holding a headstand? How long before he could do Hanumanasana? The point is that he's lost track of the time it took, but he knows the patience required to reach that place in the journey.

I love the humble moments in the film, too: at eighteen seconds, when he sits quietly on the bridge, and at four minutes, when he thoughtfully places each ankle behind his head before a well-deserved savasana.

At no moment in watching his practice do I get the sense that Phillip is trying to impress others by practicing yoga in public places. He is simply exhibiting his truest self: the one that moves effortlessly between the poses, the one that honors his own body and spirit on a regular basis.

Thank you, Phillip and the filmmakers, for sharing this beautiful example of what yoga really is. Namaste.

Working on Headstand and Forearm Balance

Photo via Yogurt Yoga. Note: none of the pictures in this post are of me :)

It's been a while since I regularly practiced headstand and forearm balance. I have to say, I greatly miss Dharma Yoga Evanston, where those two postures were a constant part of class!

Fortunately, though, I have the learned the foundational information needed to get in and out of the postures safely on my own, and I am adding them back into my routine. 


Photo via Pinterest.

Today I wanted to share a little advice for those of you practicing these postures, or thinking about learning them.

Tip #1: In the beginning, practice with a teacher. It's very important to learn the right way when it comes to inversions, so that you're safe and so you set up good habits. You want to be sure to avoid shoulder and neck strain. Listen carefully and watch your teacher, thinking to yourself, "That is me." Envision yourself in the pose before you are even in it.

Photo via Yogurt Yoga

Tip #2: Learn how to fall. The scariest part about inversions is the thought of falling on your head, right? Well, you take that fear away if you practice what it feels like to fall. Remember to tuck your head (chin to chest) and you will protect your neck and spine. Again, this is a great thing to do early on with an instructor present. Once you've pushed through the point of balancing in the pose several times, forcing yourself to fall, you begin to learn where your edge is.

Photo via Pinterest.

Tip #3: Use the wall conscientiously. When I first learned headstand, I practiced it a lot at home in front of the wall. Then, when I tried it in class, I immediately felt myself tipping forward, to that place where the wall used to be. For a brief moment I had no idea how to stop myself from falling -- so I did. I hadn't yet learned the way you must fire up all of your back muscles and glutes in order to prevent yourself from tipping forward.

While I think utilizing a wall to learn headstand and forearm balance early on is great, it's also important not to let it become a crutch. As soon as you feel remotely comfortable with the pose, move away from the wall. Challenge yourself to trust your body. And if you're in a class with a bunch of other yogis, allow the energy in the room to inspire you.


Photo via Yogurt Yoga

Tip #4: Practice awareness of your mind as you try these poses. Inversions tend to ignite fear in us. Eventually you will need to use your own resolve to face the fear, and to ignore the flight-or-fight response your nervous system may produce. 

As long as you take the right steps to learn the right way into and out of the posture, know that you are safe. Trust in what your teacher has shown you, and trust that your body is capable of incredible things. Learn to let go of your resistance to the postures themselves.

You know you are moving in the right direction when you don't feel your heart drop at the mention of the pose in class. Instead of slowly making your way into the pose, you set a positive example for your fellow yogis, and you launch happily into trying. As long as you are trying, you are achieving what the pose is meant to do.


Photo via Yogurt Yoga

Tip #5: Learn to play. These two postures -- Sirsasana and Pinchamayurasana -- are poses that can take months, even years, to realize. Instead of focusing on a specific outcome of your efforts, embrace where you are in that process right here, today. 

Are you simply building strength in your shoulders? Are you experimenting with how much effort it takes to kick your legs up the wall? Are you observing the other yogis in class, noting something new about the pose that you've never seen before?

Wherever you are, you are perfect. You are right where you're meant to be.

Namaste.

PS: Tips on starting out in headstand and the stopping points you reach on your way to the pose. And a beautiful post on Elephant Journal about why sometimes you need to fall.