Gung Hey Fat Choi!

Happy Chinese New Year!

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I started the new year off right- with a 20 minute meditation. My intention is to live today fully with happiness, kindness and gratitude. I hope to bring this with me for the year to come.

This is the year of the horse: the year I was born. I have a feeling this is going to be my year.

Happy New Year to everyone! May the horse be wonderful and prosperous for you. 🙂

Namaste.

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12 Days of Yoga: Downward Facing Dog Pose

Downward Facing Dog: the most famous yoga pose, in my opinion! It is also one of the most important, but it doesn’t matter how flexible you are. One of the most common reasons people shy away from yoga is because of their inflexibility, but that’s the beauty of yoga- anyone can practice no matter their age, fitness level or flexibility and it will only increase both your flexibility and fitness level if you maintain a regular practice. If you practice at home, be sure to listen to your body (stretches should not cause pain, ever! As you practice, you will learn the differences in feeling between a deep stretch and pain), and if a move is too deep, go into it lighter or look up alternative poses.

And so that brings us to…

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(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

A general conditioning pose, this asana prepares you for standing poses, arm balances and full inversions; for example, DFD prepares you for more advanced poses like Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Downward Facing Tree Pose or Handstand) and other more basic poses like Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose).

To perform Downward Facing Dog Pose, begin a Sun Salutation as normal. After coming back to Plank Pose, come down to your knees or exhale directly back into DFD. Bend your knees, especially if it is your first DFD of the day, stretch your arms out in front of you and press your palms fully into the mat. Don’t lose your neck and keep your torso neutral. Bend one knee deeper and straighten your other leg. Tilt your hips towards the ceiling. If your knees don’t straighten, don’t worry about it! Keep alternating your legs (one bent, one straight and switch) and if you want to try an alternative to get your heels closer to the floor, roll up a blanket for under your heels and slowly straighten your legs, making sure to keep your hips tilted towards the ceiling.

This pose has many health benefits: the obvious muscle strengthening, especially in the arms and chest; the inversion allows blood and lymph to flow in a different direction, stimulating the circulation; and emotional benefits from turning upside down and looking at things from a different perspective.

Good counterposes include Balasana (Child’s Pose) and Savasana (Corpse Pose).

Always mind your alignment, be present, breathe and namaste!

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

“The Health Benefits of Adho Mukha Svanasana”. Retrieved from http://www.cnyhealingarts.com/2010/10/27/the-health-benefits-of-adho-mukha-svanasana-downward-facing-dog-pose/

12 Days of Yoga: Warrior I

In honor of Christmas and inspired by my recent resolutions to be more active with my yoga practice, this is the first of twelve post in the series: 12 Days of Yoga where I will break down a different pose, the benefits and more information that will hopefully be useful to you!

Without further ado,

Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I Pose)

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(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

A move of moderate intensity, Warrior I is usually found in beginner-intermediate sequences, and is often very necessary in advanced courses in preparation for more strenuous poses, including Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III Pose).

To practice Warrior I, begin a Sun Salutation as normal. When you exhale your right foot back into Runner’s Stretch, gain your balance by flexing your muscles into the midline and inhale arms up overhead and lightly arch back, looking up to the sky. Hold for one breath and on the exhale, lower your hands slowly back to either side of your front foot. Continue your Sun Salutation and be sure to repeat on the opposite side to maintain balance.

Before practicing, be sure to warm up with other asanas to prepare your muscles, particularly your hips, abdominals, chest and shoulders for this specific pose. Good asanas to start with are Tadasana (Mountain Pose), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose), Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge Pose), and Virasana (Hero Pose).

It is also important to perform counterposes throughout your sequence in order to undo any strain that may occur from certain poses. Good counterposes include Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose), Balasana (Child’s Pose), and Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose).

Some other important notes: maintain your alignment! This pose can definitely be dangerous if you are unaware of the proper alignment of your skeleton. In particular, pay attention to your knees and ankles- it does take muscular energy to keep your knee tracking over your ankle, in line with your foot. If your knee is farther forward, this can cause injury.

This pose has many benefits: strengthens your legs, ankles, feet and core; it also opens the hips, chest and abdominals.

Be present and aware of your body, have fun, and namaste!

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

“The Health Benefits of Virabhadrasana I”. Retrieved from http://www.cnyhealingarts.com/2011/05/20/the-health-benefits-of-virabhadrasana-i-warrior-i-pose/