4 Reasons to Breathe Right

In part three of this three-part series on The Science of Breathing, discover a few of the ways focusing on the breath in yoga—and in everyday life—can improve your overall well-being.

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1. Happiness + emotional stability

Manipulating the breath can alter how we feel, accounting for as much as a 40 percent variance in feelings of anger, fear, joy, and sadness, according to findings in the journal Cognition & Emotion. The breathing instructions used to evoke joy in the study? “Breathe and exhale slowly and deeply through the nose.” Sounds a lot like Ujjayi!

2. Weight Loss

Yogic breathing practices increase levels of leptin, a hormone produced by fat tissue that signals the brain to inhibit hunger, according to research from Shirley Telles, PhD, director of the Patanjali Research Foundation in Haridwar, India.

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3. Better exercise stamina

A cardiologist at the University of Pavia, Italy, compared  a group of mountaineers who practiced slow breathing an hour a day for two years before attempting to climb Mount Everest to a group who didn’t. The breathing group reached the summit without needing the supplemental oxygen the other group did, and their blood and exhalation samples showed they were using 70 percent of the surface area of their lungs, an amount that maximizes the O2 taken in.

4. Longer life

Just one session of relaxing practices like meditation, yoga, and chanting influenced the expression of genes in both short-term and long-term practitioners, according to a Harvard study. Blood samples taken before and after the breathing practices indicated a post-practice increase in genetic material involved in improving metabolism and a suppression of genetic pathways linked with inflammation. Since chronic inflammation has also been associated with such deadly diseases as Alzheimer’s, depression, cancer, and heart disease, it’s probably fair to say that better breathing may  not only change your life but may also save it.

5 Poses to Keep You Warm

Here are 5 simple yoga poses that will not only help get the blood flowing to increase immunity and keep you healthy this winter, but will also help keep you warm and feeling good!

1 Crescent Lunge (High Lunge)

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There are many different ways to enter this pose but you are basically coming into a high lunge with the front knee and ankle stacked and the back leg lifted. Keep the back leg strong and engaged and raise the arms up alongside the ears.

Add more fire: Flow this pose by taking an inhale with the arms reaching up and as you exhale fold the torso forward over the front knee and reach the arms behind you. Inhale and lift the torso back to center, reaching the arms back up alongside the ears.

2 Plank pose

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Begin on all fours with the wrists underneath the shoulders. Tuck the toes under and step the feet back until knees come up and the body is in one straight line. Keep the thighs and abdomen engaged and spread the shoulder blades.

Add more fire: Raise one set of toes up off the floor a few centimeters and hold for a few breaths. then switch sides. Or you can go over into side plank, back to center and over to the other side flowing between all three variations.

3 Goddess pose

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Stand with your feet about three feet apart, turn the toes out and the heels in and then squat down. Keep your knees back, in line with the ankles, and avoid arching the lower back by tucking your tailbone.

Add more fire: Flow this pose by straightening the legs and reaching the arms overhead with an inhale, then squatting deeply back down with an exhale. You can also place the same forearm on the knee and reach the opposite arm over the ear into a side stretch with an exhale, inhale back to center, exhale over to the opposite side.

4 Legs up the wall pose

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This isn’t necessarily an outwardly “warming yoga pose” but it will warm you from the inside out by allowing you time to deeply relax and go inward, which is especially needed at this busy time of year! Sit next to a wall with one of your hips resting next to the wall. Gently swing your legs around until they are up the wall with the backs of the thighs resting on the wall. Then slowly lower yourself down to lie on your back.

Add more fire: Invite even more warmth by adding lots of blankets and an eye pillow to help you melt more deeply into warm, comforting bliss.

5 Skull Shining Breathing

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This is one of the most warming and invigorating breath techniques, so it’s perfect for winter. It also cleanses the respiratory system and the lungs, so it can help keep the winter bugs at bay. Take a few deep breaths to begin with and when you feel ready, start to gently force out the exhalation by contracting and drawing in the abdomen; the inhale will happen naturally. Start with just a few rounds building up over time.

Let me know how these poses work for you, and whether there are any more winter warmers that you can recommend for these cold, dark days!

5 Poses for Strong Abs

The core is the power source within the body, so strong abs are so much more than something to strive for in the summer. Powerful abdominal muscles support your everyday movements, improve your posture, and stabilize your lower back. On the mat, strong abs create more efficient movements throughout every pose. There is power in moving from your physical center and cultivating core strength. Off the mat, this deep source of strength allows you to move through the world with more grace and ease, and puts you in touch with your personal power.

These 5 poses target the crucial core muscles, as well as engage and empower your total-body strength.

Crescent Lunge

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Crescent Lunge is a full-body pose that trains all the muscles to work as one unit. With a long stance, ground down into all four corners of your front foot. Stack your back heel over the ball of your back foot and hug skin to muscle and muscle to bone. Hug your inner thighs in toward one another, square both hips to the front of the mat, and draw in toward your centerline. From the floor to your core, lift up, and from your core to the floor, root down. Extend your arms and chest high. Hold for 5–10 deep breaths.

Half Moon Pose

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Half Moon helps to develop both stability and flexibility as you draw into your core and radiate out in all directions. Step to the top of your mat and come into a Standing Forward Bend to set up. Ground down into the four corners of your right foot, and from your core strength, lift your left leg up and in line with your hip, parallel to the floor, and flex your foot. Plant your right hand about 12 inches or more in front of your standing foot, in line with your pinkie toe, and lift onto your fingertips. Place your left hand on your left hip. Lift the front of your pelvis toward your belly button. With your core engaged, stack your hips and open them toward the left side wall. Activate your center by pulling your belly button toward your spine. You can build up from here by extending your left arm to the sky or lifting your bottom hand or both hands to heart center to cultivate even more abdominal strength. Hold for 5 breaths and transition to the other side.

Triangle Pose variation

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Triangle is an expansive pose that requires deep roots through your legs to lift up into your core and cultivate abdominal strength. Take a wide stance on your mat and align your heels and your front foot at 12 o’clock. Seal the outer edges of both feet and lift your inner arches. From your hips to your heels, root down to create a solid foundation at the earth. Lift the energy up your legs, hug your muscles to the bones, and draw your energy into your core. Straighten both legs while keeping a micro-bend at your front knee. Place your bottom hand to the outside of your leg and press into your fingertips. Catch your top hip with your top hand, engage your core, and twist your chest high. Knit your front ribs together. To strengthen your abs even more, keep your torso as it is, lift your bottom hand, and reach toward the front wall, with your bicep by your ear. Reach both arms overhead to fire up and tone your core even more. Hold for 5 balanced breaths. Bring both hands to your hips. Lifting from your core strength, stand up and switch sides.

Boat Pose

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Boat Pose creates total body integration and balance while strengthening and toning the abdominal wall and supporting the low back. Sit up straight, lift your legs off the floor, and balance on your seat. Catch behind your knees and extend your heels high. Activate your feet, press the inner arches together, and fan your toes open. Extend your hands forward and spread your fingers. To modify, bend your knees to bring your shins parallel to the ground and keep your hands behind your knees for more support. Draw your upper arm bones back and broaden across your chest. Engage your low belly and lift your chest up and open. Balance as you breathe deeply and hold for 5–10 breaths.

Plank Pose

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Plank is an igniting pose that cultivates both upper and lower body strength and connection at the core. Stack your shoulders over your wrists and extend your heels to the back of your mat. Press your outer shins in and firm your leg muscles to the bones. Extend your crown forward and reach your heels back. Lengthen your tailbone toward your heels and lift your low belly up and in, stoking your inner fire at your core as you hold for 10 breaths.

5 Tips for Doing Yoga With Kids

As yogis, when things get tough or unbalanced, we roll out our yoga mats and use our practice to rebalance the equilibrium. Giving children the tools to balance their emotions, calm nerves and develop a sense of self is THE way to ensure that our next generation does not end up being disconnected from each other and the planet. Children need yoga!! And they are never too young to begin a yoga practice.

Here are 5 easy pointers to consider when planning on teaching your children, nieces, nephews, friend’s children or any other young adult lucky enough to share a yoga practice with you:

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1. Make the yoga age appropriate

There is a vast difference between a lively, excitable 3 year-old, a mischievous 8 year-old testing boundaries, and a serious, under pressure 16 year-old. Hence, the yoga you practice with your kids must be appropriate to their age group. Pre-schoolers love stories and imagination. The general pace of this yoga practice is very quick, swiftly moving from one aspect to the next. 5-8 year-olds will still enjoy the imaginative and storytelling aspect, but they have developed the ability and strength to hold poses for longer. At this age, they can begin to immerse themselves a little deeper in the physical yoga poses.

9-12 year-olds are inquisitive and love to learn new things. They are fascinated by how their bodies are changing and different topics such as chakras, the elements, or environmental issues are all great themes to encourage them to learn a deeper sense of self and community. Teenagers need lots of strength, stretches and flexibility work to alleviate the stiffness that has a tendency to restrict the joints during adolescence. Teenage years are when the yoga practice becomes more like an adult practice – teens are ready to begin learning the more advanced aspects of yoga such as pranayama breathing and meditation techniques.

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2. Consider the time of day you practice

Young children are especially sensitive to the changing energies of the day, so be particular on WHEN you think would be the best time to do yoga with them. Yoga must always be a positive experience, so practicing early afternoon when they are tired and their attention span is very short will result in upset, both for you and them. Late morning is perfect – energy levels are high, so children can manage the posture work and high-energy stuff, which in turn helps them slip into an enjoyable, if short, relaxation.

For other ages, consider the time of day and year when you are deciding what kind of yoga practice would be most beneficial for the child you are with. For example, a slow, grounding and relaxing practice on an autumn day, or an uplifting and energizing practice in early spring.

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3. Make your yoga practice fun and lively

Music and props can be used to enhance a children’s yoga practice. Use fun age-appropriate music with ‘yogic’ lyrics to help the children connect with their practice. MC Yogi is a popular choice. Music can uplift and relax depending on the type and volume.

Props like feathers and scarves can be used to show breath and movement. Have the children lay a feather on their flat palm and try to blow it off – this is a fun challenge for small children as they begin to master the art of directing and controlling their breath.

Another good practice is to have the children hold a small hand bell and walk around the circle mindfully in an attempt to keep the bell silent. Mandalas are a wonderful tool to aid in meditation and concentration. You can print them from the internet and have the children color in the beautiful patterns, a great way to focus the mind and calm the little yogi. Remember that yoga is not always based on physical asana. Discussion and creating a safe space for opening up is also vital to children in today’s world.

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4. Relaxation and meditation

This is an essential component in any child’s yoga practice. For very small children, just lying still for 1 minute while you tell them a story about a magic carpet floating them through the sky is enough! After, be sure to praise their efforts. Small children are worried that they are meant to go to sleep so reassure them that this is not expected. Lying down and staying still is very difficult for little ones, so lots of encouragement is key.

Meditation may simply be 10 seconds of concentrated silence with eyes closed. This is all fantastic.

Older children need a longer relaxation. It is hard for them to let go and unwind, so a more in-depth relaxation is key. Yoga Nidra is perfect to guide them to “let go.” Guide them through the body, tensing and relaxing each part in turn, which not only encourages body awareness but also allows them to feel their muscles relax. Below is a set of instructions for leading children through a guided relaxation:

· Invite them to lay in Savasana (or any comfy position, but encourage Savasana – final resting pose – as a much as possible).

· Remind them that this is relaxation and not sleep.

· Encourage some deep breathing to begin the gentle process of relaxing.

· Notice any tense legs and pointed toes (I assure you there will be) and if they don’t mind, you can hold the ankles and shake the legs for them, wiggle them side to side and pull slightly on the feet to encourage relaxation.

· Depending on age, or energy level, you can either begin to bring them out of their Savasana at this point, or if you feel it appropriate, tell them a story that brings them on a magical journey – to a special place / fly through the sky to a rainbow / journey on their own cloud – get creative!

· When you’re ready, slowly ease them out of their resting state by instructing them to wiggle fingers and toes, stretch, hug knees into chest, etc.

Meditation can be joyfully explored as the kids begin to allow themselves to find that mindful peace. Chants are excellent for giving children an initial focus and help them find their voices. The Kundalini yoga meditation of repeating the mantra Sa Ta Na Ma while touching each finger to the thumb on each word is a little yogi favorite.
And finally . . .

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5. It’s all yoga

Remember – no matter what the child gets out of their fun yoga practice with you, it is all yoga and will benefit them. To allow children to experience yoga from a young age is an incredible gift and will always be a positive aspect to their day, their wellbeing, and their lives overall.

Trust your instincts, enjoy their company, and empower these precious little yogis to be the perfect person they already are. Namaste.

Chair Yoga

Chair Yoga is a simple path of yoga practice. It is suitable for beginners. With Chair Yoga, you can quickly relax at home or at work and recharge with good energy.

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1. Stretch the arms upward. You can fold your hands and turn them to the sky. Stretch as it does you good. Relax.

2. Massage your body from head to toe. Visualize a sun in the sky above you. Think while massaging the mantra “light”.

3. Bow down with your upper body, stretch your hands to the ground and visualize the earth beneath you. Think the word “earth”. The head shows to the earth. Then shift up with your upper body, stretch out your hands to the sky and visualize the sky above you. Think “heaven.” Move now dynamically several times from top to bottom and think “sky” or “earth.” Thus, the tensions dissolve in your stomach.

4. Move your head several times forward (nod) and back (neck). Concentrate on your body and send light to the front over the sternum and to the back over the spine to the feet. Think the mantra “light”.

5. Move your shoulders in your own way. Release the tensions in the shoulders and neck. Circle with your shoulders forward and backward.

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6. Turn yourself in your spine several times gently as far as possible to the left and to the right. Focus on the spine and think several times the mantra “spine“.

7. Breathe deeply into your belly and fill you with breath energy (prana). You can also breathe in the pelvic floor or the soles of the feet. Find out what brings you best to rest.

8. Move your feet in your own way. Release the tensions in the feet. Think in the feet the numbers 1 to 20.

9. Move a hand in blessing and think: “I send light to (name). May all people be happy. May the world be happy.”

10. Meditate and bring your thoughts to rest. The back is straight and the stomach is relaxed. What is the best hand position for your meditation? Relax. Come back.

Restorative Bedtime Yoga Sequence For Better Sleep

Stop Counting Sheep! Ease yourself into a restful night with a few simple yoga poses to help slow down your sympathetic nervous system.

Every day, we are faced with new challenges, past worries and future anxieties that can sometimes make it very hard to fall asleep and to stay asleep. Follow this simple yoga sequence to slow down the body, the mind, and help get a better night’s sleep.

Try to meditate while doing the poses and let your mind stop working for just 15 minutes before bed. You will notice a positive shift in not only your sleep, but with your outlook on life as well.

1 Lizard Pose

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This posture is a great hip flexor opener. If you are a runner, or sit behind a desk all day, this pose is perfect for you (but will feel wonderful for everyone). To get into this posture: start in down dog, or on all fours. Step your right leg forward, drop your back knee down to the mat, and bring both arms inside of your front leg. To get the full restorative benefit, I recommend using a block to rest your forearms on, or if that is too much of a stretch, just keep your palms flat on the floor.

Stay for three minutes on each side. Let your head hang heavy and try to relax in this posture by continuing to breathe deeply and focusing on the breath.

2 Standing Wide Legged Forward Fold

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This posture is not only a great way to stretch your hamstrings before bed; it can also be very calming with your head resting on a block. Step your feet as wide as feels comfortable. A good rule is to bring your arms out to a “T” and then bring your ankles under your wrists. Grab a block (if you have one) and rest it on the tallest side. Bring your forehead to the block and rest your third eye directly on top of the block. Hands can either be on the floor, dangling, or resting on your lower back (as shown above).

If you do not own a block: allow your arms to hang freely and grab opposite elbows. This posture is very beneficial before bed because your head is below your heart so the blood is rushing to your brain, helping to clear out your negative thought patterns and any worries you may have. Try to hold this posture for five minutes, continuing to breathe deeply and fully.

3 Supported Seated Forward Fold

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Seated forward fold is also known as “western forward fold” because it stretches the entire backside of your body. This restorative approach gets into your sympathetic nervous system by opening up your backbody as well as your heart. By letting your upper back round over the block, you will feel tension release from inside your shoulder blades.

To get into this posture: sit up straight with your legs straight in front of you. Begin to hinge at your hips as you fold over your legs. Don’t worry about keeping your legs straight or your spine flat. Just allow your entire back to round, and place a block on your shins to rest your forehead on. Notice the opening you feel in the upper back and continue sending your breath there. Please hold this posture for 3 to 5 minutes, and don’t forget that deep breathing!

4 Reclining Hero

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This posture can be a little intense if you have tight hip flexors and if you have any knee or ankle injuries or cartilage built up in your knees and ankle joints. I highly recommend doing this posture with a block if you have one available. If you do not have a block: use a bolster or a folded blanket. Without props: sit on your feet with your knees mat distance and be gentle with your body as you begin to lean back. If you do have a block or a cushion to sit on, bring it between your feet the long way, sit your bum right on top of the block/cushion, keep your knees on the mat, and start to lean back as far as you can go.

Reaching your back to the floor is not the goal – you can stay propped up on your forearms (or rest on your palms to make this even gentler) until you feel a little stretch (remember these postures are restorative), and allow your head to hang heavy for ten deep breaths. This posture is good for opening the front side of your body, letting love pour into your soul right before a good night’s sleep.

5 Supported Bridge Pose

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Bridge pose is an excellent posture to relieve lower back issues. To set up this posture, lie on your back, bend your knees and bring your feet close enough to your seat that you can touch your ankles. Arms stay by your side as you begin to lift your hips skyward as high as possible, and slide your block (on the lowest setting) directly beneath your tailbone. Your feet can walk out a little bit if that is more comfortable for you. Rest your hands either next to you, above your head or on your stomach – whatever feels natural for your body.

You should feel supported in this posture, not using any strength at all. This is a great posture to compliment all the previous postures.

6 Reclined Twist

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With all the forward folds and backbends thus far, a simple twist will feel so good on your lower back. Start by lying on your back with both legs straight in front of you, arms by your side. Bring your right knee into your chest, and keep your left leg straight. Take your left hand and pull your right knee across your body toward the left side of your mat. Once your knee hits the floor, bring your gaze to the right side of the room (in the opposite direction of your bent knee.) Cactus your arms and simply breathe and relax, allowing your low back to release.

This is a beneficial posture before bed because it detoxifies and rehydrates your spinal column. Do each side for 3 to 5 minutes, continuing to breathe deeply.

7 Child’s Pose Variation with Fists in Hip Crease

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This variation of child’s pose is great to do if you ever have a large meal for dinner or have any digestive issues before bed. Set-up: come to kneeling with your seat resting on your ankles. Make fists with both hands and place them in your hip crease where your thigh connects with your upper body.

Snuggle your fists inside that crease and start to bend forward. Your fists will insert near your ascending and descending colons, sparking your digestive system. This might feel a little uncomfortable if you are very full, but this posture will help relieve gas, tension and worry that we hold in our guts. Hold this posture for five minutes, focusing on relaxing your entire body.

8 Child’s Pose

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This is a nice posture to follow the previous child’s pose variation. Sit up on your ankles, spread your knees so they are mat distance and simply fold your upper body forward, coming to rest between your knees. Your bum might lift up from your feet, which is fine. Bring your forehead to the mat and walk your arms as far forward as you can to really lengthen your spine and stretch your upper back.

This posture might feel tense on your hips, and if that is the case, just hold it for ten deep breaths (longer if your body tells you to stay). Let your belly hang heavy – no abdominal engagement – and focus on clearing out your mind and thoughts during this restorative resting pose.

9 Hanging Legs or Legs Up the Wall

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A final posture to do before going to sleep is hanging legs because the blood rushes down to your major joints and helps settle the mind before bed. Many people like to do this version against a wall, which is called legs up the wall, resting the back of your legs against it.

Notice how still the mind gets in this posture and how at ease you actually feel. It looks like I am holding my legs up, but when you find the perfect spot, your legs effortlessly float above your body, leaving you feeling very light and supported by the mat and the earth beneath you – a great feeling before bed! Please do this posture for at least five minutes or ten very deep breaths.

10 Easy Seated Pose for Meditation

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Try to practice meditation on a block or pillow because it helps elevate your hips over your knees, leaving a clear line of energy to travel up the main energy channel along your spine. Meditating before bed not only relaxes you, but it also clears out unnecessary worrying and list making that we may habitually do before bed.

When meditating after the previous poses, try to focus on how light your body feels and visualize the breath coming in and out of your nose. If you would like, you can play soft music in the background or light candles to help calm your mind even more. Staying here, whether it’s for ten breaths or ten minutes, will be a great way to solidify the relaxing, calming, and healing benefits of this bedtime yoga sequence.

This yoga sequence is designed to calm your mind, body and soul. Each yoga posture is meant to deepen your relationship with yourself and help you naturally and simply find a deeper sense of relaxation in your mind and body. There are no set rules: if you don’t like the way a few of these postures feels in your body, simply skip them and do the poses that you can. Only you can feel what your body is telling you, so listen to it. Remember: these poses are not meant for strength building. Instead, this restorative approach is meant to get into your sympathetic nervous system and release tension and anxiety from our minds.

6 Yoga Exercises to Do at Your Desk

Many of us sit behind our desks and stare at computer screens for far too much of the day. Although concentrated work can be beneficial to our jobs, it can be taxing on our bodies. The following yoga exercises will help you relieve any tension you might feel after too many hours of poring over spreadsheets. The poses also provide long-term benefits with regular practice. Each pose takes fewer than two minutes to complete, and you can do the whole series in just 10 minutes—but I promise you’ll feel the effects long after.

Breathe deeply throughout the poses because sending oxygen to your muscles allows them to relax.

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Shoulder Rolls (2 minutes)

· Sitting upright, lift your right shoulder to your ear. Slowly roll your shoulder around and back, dropping it away from your ear.

· Lift your left shoulder to your ear. Slowly roll your shoulder around and back, dropping it away from your ear.

· Continue these rolls three more times, alternating right and left.

· Lift both shoulders up to your ears and hold for a breath. Release them, slowly rolling your shoulders around and back, dropping them away from your ear. Repeat five times and then relax your shoulders.

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Open Chest Stretch (1 minute)

· Sit near the edge of your chair and interlace your fingers behind you, palms together and facing your back.

· Lean forward slightly, lifting your arms so that you feel the stretch in your chest.

· Inhale slowly, lifting your chest.

· Exhale and relax your shoulders away from your ears.

· Hold for 10 to 15 breaths.

· Slowly release your hands and return them to your sides.

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Neck Stretch (1 minute)

· Sit upright without letting your back touch the back of the chair.

· Hold your head directly over your spine, as if there is a string lifting the crown of your head up.

· Drop your right ear toward your right shoulder without lifting your right shoulder or turning your head.

· Take several breaths in and out, feeling the stretch on the left side of your neck.

· To create a deeper stretch, reach your right hand over your head and place it on the left side of your face. Hold the pose for at least five more breaths and then release your hand and straighten your neck, gently massaging your neck and shoulders with your left hand.

· Repeat on your left side.

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Chair Twist (2 minutes)

· Sit near the edge of the chair, but turn your thighs toward the right side of the chair so that you are sitting diagonally. If you have an armrest on the side of your chair, bring your thighs as close to it as possible.

· Move your arm to the back of the chair on the opposite side, taking hold of the chair back with your right hand. With your left hand, take hold of your right knee or armrest.

· Breathe deeply, focusing on lengthening your spine.

· Twist to the right, pressing your right hand against the back of the chair to deepen the stretch. Focus on drawing your shoulder blades down.

· Breathe deeply, completely filling and emptying your lungs. Hold the pose for 10 to 15 breaths.

· Return to the center.

· Repeat on your left side.

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Reverse Prayer Pose (2 minutes)

· Sit near the edge of your chair. Reach your arms around behind you and bring your palms together, fingertips pointing down.

· Rotate your wrists and turn your fingertips in toward your spine until your fingertips are pointing up.

· Slide your palms back together in prayer position.

· Use one hand to help pull the other hand up further on your back, to a comfortable spot. Be sure your shoulders are straight, not rounded.

· Press the outside edges of your palms lightly into your back. Press your palms together gently.

· Press your feet into the floor.

· Breathe deeply, completely filling and emptying your lungs. Hold the pose for 10 to 15 breaths.

· Exhale and release your arms.

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Twisted Arms (2 minutes)

· Sit upright without letting your back touch the back of the chair.

· Reach your arms out in front of you at shoulder level.

· Tuck your right elbow into the crook of your left arm, and curl your forearms up into a 90-degree angle. The backs of your hands will be against each other.

· If you can, place your left fingers on your right palm, keeping palms straight in a single line with your nose.

· Breathe deeply, completely filling and emptying your lungs. Hold the pose for 10–15 breaths.

· Return to the center.

· Tuck your left elbow into the crook of your right arm, and curl your forearms up into a 90-degree angle. The backs of your hands will be against each other.

· If you can, place your right fingers on your left palm, keeping palms straight in a single line with your nose.

· Breathe deeply, completely filling and emptying your lungs. Hold the pose for 10 to 15 breaths.

· Exhale and return to the center.

6 Most Embarrassing Yoga Questions

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1. What if I have to pass gas?

Farts happen. And if you’re bending, twisting, or stretching, it can be that much harder to hold them in. If you pass gas in class, don’t make a big deal about it. If the class is lively or if people notice, laugh about it. Otherwise, I-G-N-O-R-E! Just don’t force them out, and consider skipping any foods that you know give you gas on days you have yoga!

2. Am I supposed to fall asleep in savasana (corpse pose, the final relaxation)?

Savasana is not nap time, though it can feel that way. It is a time to allow the energy to return to the body, a chance to rejuvenate yourself after a yoga practice. You hover between waking and sleeping, in a state of relaxation. For new practitioners, or on days when you’re super tired, you might fall asleep. Most yogis certainly have.

Drooling and snoring sometimes happen in savasana. No big deal! As you progress in your practice, you’ll notice the difference between napping and relaxation, and you’ll be able to hold yourself in savasana without nodding off!

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3. What do I do if I fall over?

If you fall in a pose and you’re not injured, just keep going. In a crowded class, you likely aren’t the first or the last. Focus your gaze and return to the pose. Keep working on the pose and consider taking a step back–not taking a bind or not going fully into the pose–until you’ve mastered control of the beginning steps. If you’re falling out of more advanced poses, modify them or use a wall for support. Don’t let falling shake your confidence. Commit to breathing and set your gaze, and you’ll feel stronger in the pose.

4. What if I have to go to the bathroom?

While teachers discourage students from leaving class unnecessarily, when nature calls, answer it. If you can “hold it” comfortably until the end of class, please try to do so; if it’s uncomfortable or an emergency, just leave the class. Everyone has those kind of moments.

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5. I’m so sweaty! Is that normal?

Sweat is normal, and it’s not gross! Don’t be embarrassed if you sweat. It actually makes some poses easier, especially if you’re trying to twist. If you’re slipping around on your mat, place a beach towel or microfiber yoga towel on top.

The microfiber towels are great because the more you sweat, the stickier they are. You can also keep a hand towel close by to wipe your face and arms and legs.

Though it seems counter-intuitive, if you sweat a lot, wear more clothes. Ever try to do crow pose in shorts when your legs are sweaty? You slide right off! Pants will absorb more sweat than shorts, and especially in warm or hot classes, you’ll appreciate that the extra fabric is preventing you from slipping.

6. What if I’m not flexible? What if I can’t touch my toes? Will people laugh at me?

This is the most common misconception about yoga. People avoid the practice because they’re embarrassed about not being flexible.  You do not have to be naturally flexible to practice yoga, nor do you need to be able to touch your toes. Plenty of yogis who’ve been practicing for years who still have to bend their knees to touch their toes. Bring yourself to the practice, and the practice will come to you. That is, just show up. Everything else can be modified. And how will you ever touch your toes if you don’t try?

How to Avoid Wrist Pain in Yoga

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Wrist pain is easily the most common complaint in the yoga class, and it’s understandable. The hands have so many tiny, underdeveloped muscles that tire easily, making us want to collapse into the base of the hands (the orange circle areas) to give the little muscles a rest. The problem with collapsing into this area is that it can really hurt the wrists.

To be clear, the entire hand should be on the mat, but you want to press especially hard into the dark green areas. Doing that will cause a subtle suction in the center of the palm which will engage and build strength in all the little muscles in the forearms.

TIP: If the red circle area is beginning to lift, this means the body weight is collapsing into the orange area or side of the hand which you don’t want. If it’s too much on the hands to bring the focus back into the dark green and light green areas, then either modify the pose or come into child’s pose for a rest.

Whatever you do, try not to get discouraged. The muscles in the hands will build up over time with consistent practice, and hopefully the wrist pain will be a thing of the past.

P.S. Focusing on developing the hands in other poses like this may also help.

7 Poses For Yoga Newbie

Are you a yogi-wannabe but too intimidated to enter a group yoga class with no yoga experience? Well, it’s time to zen out and fret no more. After you practice these seven basic yoga poses, you’ll have a perfect foundation for performing yoga that will be having you scream (or whisper) “Namaste” from the hill tops…or your yoga mat.

1

Downward Facing Dog: One of the foundation poses for yoga is the downward dog. Many Yoga “Flow” classes will start in downward dog and slowly build a sequence adding other yoga poses building from this beginning stance. From standing position, bend over, placing your hands to the floor. Walk your hands out until both your hands and your feet are completely touching the mat. You should resemble a downward “v.” Take your legs out to shoulder width apart and spread your fingers apart. Press through your palms and keep your hips pushed back. Keep your neck relaxed and hold this position.

2

Downward Dog Split Pose: A natural transition to downward dog is moving into a downward dog split pose, also known as three-legged dog. From downward dog position, you will slowly lift one foot in the air, creating a smooth line from hip to ankle. Focus on keeping your standing leg strong and planted.

3

Warrior Pose: There are many variations of the warrior pose, but the basic foundational warrior pose consists of separating your feet in a parallel split stance (about 4-5 feet away). Turn your back foot out pointing away from your body. Keep your hips and torso rotated forward towards your front foot. Take a deep breath and on your exhale, bend your front knee into a 90 degree angle. Raise your arms forming a straight line at shoulder height and keep your gaze at your fingertips in front of you.

4

Plank Pose:  Plank pose in yoga is traditionally used when coming into or out of downward dog in a sequence and consists of holding yourself up on hands and toes, while carefully ensuring that your body is a straight line, and shoulders, hips, and ankles remain in the same plane by holding your core tight and not allowing your hips to rise or dip. This can be modified by resting on your knees, rather than toes.

5

Cow Pose: Cow is a great stretching pose that stretches your back muscles. Begin on all fours on your mat ensuring that your hands are just under your shoulders and feet are under hips. Spread your fingers and tuck your toes to stretch your feet. Begin with a flat back and slowly lift and round your spine by tucking your tailbone and pushing your butt out. Take your gaze to the ceiling. Take a deep breath, and on your exhale, return to starting position.

6

Cat Pose: Similar to the cow pose, start on all fours and begin with a straight spine, head facing floor. On your exhale, create a curve in your back by rounding your spine up and taking your gaze to your belly button. Slowly inhale and on your next exhale return to starting position.

7

Child’s Pose: This stretching pose is frequently used throughout yoga classes in between more difficult poses to provide a time to recover before moving forward.  Child’s pose stretches your back, ankle, hips, thighs, and knees. Start by kneeling on your hands and knees and separate your knees about hip-width apart. Slowly sink your hips down towards your ankles, lengthening your back as you rest your forehead on the mat. Breathe deep and focus on relaxing your muscles so that your stretch is lengthened with each breath.