Yoga for Back Care – Audio Class

This is the first of a series of audio downloads you can use to practice with me on days when you can’t make it to class.  This practice is approximately 20 minutes and you will want to have a blanket and either a yoga strap or some other sturdy long fabric or belt.  I’ve included plenty of clear instructions, but this audio class as well as future classes will be much easier if you attend my classes regularly and are familiar with the way I teach the poses. Videos and audio recordings should not take the place of in-person classes, but they can be a great supplement when classes aren’t possible.  This practice is not designed to relieve acute back injuries, but rather be a maintenance routine once you are out of pain.  Please make sure you have the permission of your health care provider before beginning any exercise program. Enjoy! Yoga for Back Care – 20 minutes Your browser does not support the audio...
One yoga pose to strengthen your upper body, core, legs, and well… everything

One yoga pose to strengthen your upper body, core, legs, and well… everything

Two variations of the same pose, plank (with straight arms) doesn’t have a commonly used Sanskrit equivalent and chaturanga (with elbows bent) doesn’t have an English one.  Chaturanga Dandasana means four-limbed staff pose and the implication that your body should be straight and strong applies to both variations.  Though plank and chaturanga are currently two of my favorite poses, we didn’t always get along so well.  I grew up one of those reedy slouching girls who looked as though a strong wind might knock them over (yes, I probably had a scowl to match).  My upper arms were the bane of my existence.  With zero awareness that a rather large sub-sect of the population would trade arms in a minute, I always lamented my lack of biceps and complained that my upper arms were barely larger than my forearms.  This body type is often associated with a total lack of awareness of the abdominal muscles and I was no exception. My first introduction to push ups (yes, basically these two poses together become a glorified push up) was when I started doing martial arts in college.  I couldn’t do a single one.  Not even on my knees.  Yet we did them every day in karate class, so I had to cheat by not going all the way down to the ground.  But with all that practice, I got stronger and stronger to the point that I can now do about 20 all the way down to the ground.   Over the course of the last decade and then some, I have learned to love push ups or at least their...
Yoga Question: forward folds

Yoga Question: forward folds

Q I like doing yoga, and my legs seem to be very flexible. I can touch my toes easily with minimum tension (without bending my knees of course). The only thing is, my back is very rounded in this position, not flat at all. Does this mean I have to work more on stretching the muscles in my lower back – or is it my leg muscles that need to be more flexible? A As with all physical questions, this would be best addressed by a teacher who can see your body.  However there is some information here that can help others, so I will do my best. A completely flat spine in forward bends is not actually the goal.  However, for beginners it is important to focus on staying as flat as possible in order to avoid excessive rounding while the student learns the sensitivity and awareness that are required for doing deep forward bends safely. It may be that the rounding of your back in this position is completely normal, but without seeing you I can’t tell.  As we move into deep forward bends, it is normal for the back to round.  The key is that you want the rounding to be even rather than localized in either the upper or lower back. The first thing to do is to go into the pose and just see how you feel in the pose and where exactly you feel the most sensation.  Since you say that you enjoy yoga, then probably the rounding of your back is not excessive or dangerous as long as you don’t push yourself...

Handstand: Adho Mukha Vrksasana

Handstand is one of the most frequently requested poses in my classes, and also one of the most hated. Many times when I announce handstand as the next pose, people groan and sigh. Sometimes people even leave. Handstand is hard. It requires you to take a risk. And quite often it takes you out of the flow of your practice. Most people either love it or hate it. I believe that the benefits of handstand make it more than worthwhile, even if you are in the hater camp. Handstand strengthens the core and upper body. It develops self-esteem and inner strength. Best of all, it turns your world upside down so that you can see life from a fresh perspective. Adho Mukha Vrksasana (downward facing tree, in case you are interested in the translation) is the first inversion taught in Anusara yoga. It is considered to be the safest non-restorative inversion because the neck is not involved. Headstand and shoulderstand are considered by many to be easier inversions than handstand. However, because of the risk of compromising the cervical spine (the neck), I recommend becoming comfortable with handstand first. By building awareness, comfort inverting, and strength in the upper body, handstands prepare us to safely perform other inversions. Handstand brings up a lot of fear for some people. If this is the case for you, I recommend going slowly and working with a trusted partner. The first version of handstand that I usually teach is called “L” handstand. This version actually requires more upper body strength than the full version, however since it is climbed into rather than kicked...

Asheville Asana

The lovely Clay Tison came and recorded my 12:30 class yesterday and put it on her blog Asheville Asana. It’s an all levels class with the theme of Tapas. Tapas is one of the Niyamas, the yogic self-practices that help us along the path. Tapas means discipline or fire. Unfortunately, my introductory talk at the beginning of class was lost, but hopefully you will be able to get the gist of the theme anyway. Keep in mind that although this was an all levels class, trying to follow it with audio only would be extremely difficult for a beginner. However, if you have a good knowledge of yoga or were at this specific class and are therefore able to follow, feel free to use it as a home practice during the week. I haven’t listened to it yet so I’m feeling pretty brave putting it out there for public consumption. Feedback would be appreciated, though please keep in mind that this is not a professional recording and the class was designed as an in-person experience, rather than audio only. Clay’s intention for the recordings is for people to be able to get a taste of what a specific teacher is like, rather than have people necessarily practice along with the recording. So if you find it useful and can practice with it, we want to know! If people like it, we will probably record more both for asheville asana and possibly for...

Trikonasana

I used to hate Triangle pose. Doesn’t sound very yogic does it? Well, I’m only human, and lets face it, we all have poses that for one reason or another we just don’t like. Usually it’s because we perceive that we can’t do them “right”. I can hardly even remember why I hated Triangle. I just didn’t understand it and I didn’t think I was any good at at. Then I began to learn about the alignment of the pose, and the more I learned how to work my muscles into the pose, the more I enjoyed it. Suddenly I was “good” at it and I loved it! I loved the way that rotating the thighs in the opposite direction gave me purpose. I loved how curling my tailbone under gave me the strength and power in the core to rotate my heart up towards the ceiling. And I loved how the support of my fingertips on the ground and my arms spread evenly gave me the balance to simply breathe and be present. Now, I have come full circle and I struggle with Triangle again. Pushing too hard into my front leg hurts my knee so I have to be really careful to keep a microbend in the knee and engage the quadricept. So triangle reminds me to be mindful and love myself enough to protect my knee. Triangle reminds me to balance the power of my legs with the opening of my heart. Triangle reminds me that we never “master” a pose. That’s why we call it a practice. To practice Triangle: Stand in Tadasana in the...