12 Days of Yoga: Tree

Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

Merry Christmas! I thought it was appropriate for the day of Christmas and the last 12 Days of Yoga posts to write about my favorite balancing pose, Vrksasana: Tree pose!

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(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

Vrksasana is great for strengthening your legs, as well as your alignment- working your balance muscles independently gives you greater balance in your everyday movements.

To prepare for Tree Pose, be sure to include Uttanasana and Downward Facing Dog in your Sun Salutations, and practice a few before coming to Tadasana at the front of your mat. Be sure to pick an immobile point on the wall or floor in front of you to focus on. Lift and spread your toes, then bring your right foot up to your lower leg or the inside of your thigh. For me, it is easier to place my foot high on the inside of my thigh and squeeze into the midline, because that makes it easier to balance. Inhale your arms overhead, hands either together or spread out like branches. Breathe here. If you are having trouble balancing, feel free to make your lifted foot a “kickstand” at your ankle.

Release the pose after a few breaths and repeat on the other side.

This concludes my 12 Days of Yoga Series. I hope you enjoyed reading!
Enjoy, be safe and namaste!

Reference:
Stephens, M. “Yoga Sequencing”. North Atlantic Books; Berkeley, 2012.

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12 Days of Yoga: Bow Pose

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

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(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

Bow Pose is one of the more challenging poses that I’ve included in this series. Dhanurasana stretches out the shoulders, chest, back, abdominals and quads- it is truly all encompassing, but it definitely takes warming up to. To begin, be sure to include plenty of cobra and upward facing dog poses in your sun salutations. These poses will open up your chest gradually.

When you’re warmed up, come to lay on your mat, on your stomach. Bring your arms out to your sides and your feet back towards your hands. Grasp your ankles firmly and, keeping your knees in, inhale and arch your back up, chest out and look up. Hold for five breaths and release. Repeat one to three times, and assume Child’s Pose when finished.

Enjoy, be safe and namaste!

Reference:
Stephens, M. “Yoga Sequencing”. North Atlantic Books; Berkeley, 2012.

12 Days of Yoga: Dolphin

Shishulasana (Dolphin Pose)

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(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

Dolphin Pose is an important part of a vigorous practice, especially in vinyasas and to prepare for shoulder, arm and headstands.

To come into Dolphin Pose, prepare your muscles as usual, including plenty of Downward Facing Dog Poses, as that is the basic posture you will take for dolphin. Then, when you are ready, starting from Downward Facing Dog, begin to lower your forearms to the mat. Bring your hands to a triangle position at the front, keeping your arms flat. Bend your knees if you need to; keep your back straight and your shoulder blades down the back to keep from losing your neck. Tilt your hips up and back towards the ceiling, then if you can, straighten your legs by lowering your heels down and back towards the mat. Stay here and breathe for as long as you feel comfortable.

This pose is a great preparation for a Dolphin Style Armstand or Dolphin Push Ups- to do, you bring your body weight forward into plank and then exhale back into Dolphin, keeping your arms and feet in the same position.

Maintain your alignment, enjoy and namaste!

Reference:
Stephens, M. “Yoga Sequencing”. North Atlantic Books; Berkeley, 2012.

12 Days of Yoga: Boat Pose

Navasana (Boat Pose)

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(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

Boat Pose is a great addition to a more vigorous, aerobic practice. This pose in particular targets the abdominals mostly, as well as increasing flexibility in the legs.

To come into Boat Pose, first begin your practice with Sun Salutations (including Uttanasana, as well as some more vigorous standing poses, like Warrior I, II and Triangle) and other poses to warm up your muscles. Then, when you are warmed up, come to a seat at the top of your mat. Bring your knees up and place your heels in front of you where it’s comfortable. Inhale and exhale; begin to balance back on your sitbones, keeping your back straight. Inhale here; then bring your legs up and out in front of you, getting them as straight as you can without arching your back. It is important to keep your alignment here, and not slumping your shoulders. Also, bring your arms up and out straight in front of you, engaging your abdominals and being sure to breathe deeply and even.

Enjoy, be safe and namaste!

Reference:
Stephens, M. “Yoga Sequencing”. North Atlantic Books; Berkeley, 2012.

12 Days of Yoga: Happy Baby

Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)

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(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

This pose always makes me feel like a baby. 🙂
A great, restorative pose: Happy Baby is a very easy hip opener.

At the beginning or end of your practice, come into Ananda Balasana by lying on your back. Bring your knees into your chest and allow their weight to press into your chest. Bring your knees out slightly to the side and reach forward grabbing your toes, your heels or your ankles. Let your elbows relax back towards the ground, allowing the weight of your arms to open your hips further. If your legs and hips are higher, that’s okay- be aware of your own flexibility.

Stay here for as long as you like, breathing deeply. You can rock from side to side, giving your lower back a massage. To come out of this pose, roll to one side, using your arms to raise yourself to sitting to protect your back.

Enjoy, be safe and namaste!

Reference:
Stephens, M. “Yoga Sequencing”. North Atlantic Books; Berkeley, 2012.

12 Days of Yoga: Upward Facing Dog

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)

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(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

Upward facing dog is a great opening pose, if you are flexible enough. Warming up with standing forward bends, and especially Cobra Pose and Chaturanga to gradually open the chest and back before going into the deeper backbend that Urdhva Mukha Svanasana offers.

Begin with a few sun salutations, focusing on Chaturanga and Cobra pose at first, and adding in downward facing dog. When you are ready, come to a plank pose (phalakasana) at the top of your mat. Keeping your weight in your arms and abominals, place the tops of your feet, toes back, into your mat and push your legs and hips down to the mat, without resting all the way down. Arch your back back, with your shoulders relaxed and blades down, lean your head back slightly keeping the neck relaxed. Breathe. When you’re ready to come out of the pose, step your toes down or jump up to balance on your toes and press your hands into the mat for downward dog, pushing your hips back and your heels down.

Be safe, have fun and namaste!

Reference:
Stephens, M. “Yoga Sequencing”. North Atlantic Books; Berkeley, 2012.

12 Days of Yoga: Warrior II

Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II Pose)

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(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

Warrior II is such an empowering pose! When I come up into it, I actually feel like a warrior. 🙂

You have to be properly warmed up for this pose- it usually comes after a few sun salutations which include standing forward bends and runners’ stretch. So prepare and begin your practice as usual. Before you come into Warrior II, exhale your right foot back into Runner’s Stretch, turn and place your back foot down, exhale completely and then inhale and spiral your arms out parallel with your body, left arm back. Be sure to track your alignment, keeping your knee in line with or behind your toes.

This pose is opening and strengthening- particularly for the hips and quads. It is also a balancing exercise as well.

Have fun, be safe and namaste!

Reference:
Stephens, M. “Yoga Sequencing”. North Atlantic Books; Berkeley, 2012.

21 Sun Salutations in Honor of the Winter Solstice

All winter holidays are actually based on Celtic traditions and even Ancient Egyptian worship of Horus: the sun god. Even Jesus Christ is based upon this god and ultimately, a symbol of the sun. Around the winter solstice, which falls on December 21st this year, we have the shortest day of the year. The sun dies, is resurrected and returns. After the solstice, the days become longer- which, as a lover of sunshine, is certainly something I deem worthy of worship.

Beginning this year, with my return to yoga and my general enjoyment of cleansing and releasing, I’ve decided to worship in my own way, since I don’t belong in any particular religion. The best way I could think to do this is with a significant number of Sun Salutations to welcome the sun back into our lives.

I thought it was appropriate to start at sunset and celebrate the passing of the shortest day of the year and bring on the lengthening of the days. I began with a regular practice in order to loosen my muscles and get ready for more strenuous poses. My first ten Sun Salutations included easier poses, like runner’s stretches and Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge Pose), my next ten Sun Salutations included more Ardho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) as well as Upward Facing Dog Pose and Chaturanga. I saved the last Sun Salutation to include Warrior I and II- to bring strength with this new season.

I’m also attempting to follow this winter detox from Fit Sugar – but it may accidentally include a Christmas cookie or two. 🙂

Happy Winter Solstice and Namaste!

12 Days of Yoga: Pigeon Pose

Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)

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(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

One of my favorite hip opening poses- and when I come into this I feel so bendy! 🙂 (I’m not flexible, so it feels like an accomplisment!)

To come into Pigeon Pose, first begin with other opening poses, like Uttkatasana (Forward Fold) and Ardho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose). When you feel sufficiently warmed up, come up into DFD and inhale your right leg up into Tail of the Dog. Exhale here and stretch out, on the next inhale, bring your right foot forward and lay your shin parallel to the front of the mat. Be sure of alignment first (along the midline and careful about your knee); if your shin doesn’t come completely parallel, don’t worry about it. Also, if your hip is too tight to come down to the floor while maintaining your alignment, place a bolster and rest on that. When you’re set, inhale your spine upwards and hinging from the hips, fold forward and come to rest on your arms or hands folded. Breathe here for a few moments. When you’re ready, come up on an inhale.

If you’re advanced enough (which I am not quite yet) you can come up into Eka Pada Raj Kapotasana (One-Leg King Pigeon Pose) by arching back slightly and bringing your back foot and grabbing hold with both hands.

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(Image Source: Yoga Life Journey)

Have fun, be safe and namaste!

Reference:

Stephens, M. “Yoga Sequencing”. North Atlantic Books; Berkeley, 2012.

12 Days of Yoga: Triangle Pose

Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)

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(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

This pose requires flexibility in the legs and hips as well as strength and balance in the core. The benefits include opening of the hips and strengthening of the legs.

To come into triangle pose, you need to begin your practice with a few other opening poses- a sun salutation which includes downward facing dog, upward facing dog, uttkatasana (forward bend), as well as warrior I and II should prepare your muscles adequately. From the top of your mat, step your right foot back almost to runner’s stretch and place your heel down and turned so that your front foot and leg makes a perpendicular line into the middle of your back foot. Be sure you are properly aligned and inhale your arms out similar to warrior II, then hinging from the hips, keeping your torso parallel and lifted and your front and back legs straight, exhale over and down to the left, placing your hand on a block, on your shin or on the floor. Keep your neck neutral and look straight forward or up, depending on what’s comfortable.

Personally, it’s more comfortable to have my hand on a block and to look straight ahead. I sometimes have problems with my neck, so I have to remind myself to bring my shoulder blades down and not lose my neck.

Have fun, be safe and namaste!

Reference:

Stephens, M. “Yoga Sequencing”. North Atlantic Books; Berkeley, 2012.