Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose) is named after the great yogi Matsyendranath. The name, Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, comes from the Sanskrit words ardha meaning half, matsya meaning fish and, indra meaning ruler and asana meaning pose. Ardha Matsyendrasana is a pretty deep spinal twist in its full expression, but it’s how we approach and prepare for the posture that really makes the difference in how we feel in it.
This yoga pose usually appears as a seated spinal twist with many variations, and is one of the twelve basic yoga poses (asanas) in many systems of Hatha Yoga and part of the Ashtanga Yoga Primary series. When we mindfully twist our bodies we restore circulation, begin to correct posture, and rejuvenate the spinal column. Practicing twists in yoga also compress the internal organs and glands of the torso, forcing out toxic waste. When pressure is released, fresh blood rich with oxygen flows back to the organs which aids in digestion.
Half Lord of the Fishes Modifications:
Caution: People suffering from severe back or neck pain should practice with caution, and with close supervision. Those with slip disc problems should avoid this pose completely. Those with internal organ issues may find this pose difficult and painful. Should be avoided by pregnant women as it can press the fetus.
While yoga has been around for centuries, it has surged in popularity over the last two decades. There are currently 37 million people in the United States who practice yoga; and I’m sure that the number of people who practice worldwide is even higher! People practice yoga for a variety of reasons such as gaining physical strength and flexibility, recovering from an injury, or to relieve stress and have more inner peace. Yoga is a practice that’s intended to meet you where you are physically and spiritually; to create balance, harmony, and a sense of connection in your life.
What you see on social media can be misleading and can cause many people to think that yoga is primarily about creating a “perfect” picturesque pose (like on a beach), or contorting the body into extreme ranges of motion. While there are some that do place an emphasis on the aesthetics, it’s more important to find yoga classes that will focus on developing body intelligence and guiding students to cultivate a safe and sustainable practice to enhance your overall well-being and bring a lasting benefit to your life.
Below are some common questions and misconceptions to help prepare you for the practice of yoga.
Are there classes for beginners?
There are definitely yoga classes that are open to all levels and abilities, including those that have never set foot on a yoga mat. It’s always best to do your own research to see what’s available in your area. Ideally you want a yoga teacher that is skilled at instructing those in the room, giving good cues as you move between poses. As a beginner, you shouldn’t have to buy yoga flashcards, memorize names of poses or understand Sanskrit before you go. A good yoga teacher and class should offer plenty of options to make the physical practice appropriate for you.
I’m not flexible!
This is the most common remark a yoga teacher hears. If you happen to be someone who believes this, consider that maybe your “tightness” has nothing to do with not being able to get your hands to the ground or bend your body like you’ve seen other people do. A functional yoga practice can guide on you how to work with your body type. Your mat becomes not only the place to practice asanas (poses) but also a tool where you can acquire knowledge and make discoveries about YOUR body. A good yoga teacher will guide you toward a deeper understanding of your body thus allowing you greater understanding and joy for the practice.
How do I know what class is right for me?
How should I prepare before class?
Hopefully this guide has helped to answer any questions or concerns you may have and sets you up for an optimal experience for your journey into yoga. See you on the mat! 😊
Many people today have tight hips and inner thighs due to prolong sitting at work and/or school, cars, and sitting at home. For many adults we have lost that easy flexibility in our hips and feel tight and restricted when attempting this pose. Regularly practicing hip-openers, such as Baddha Konasana, will counteract this stiffness, reduce pain, and bring more ease and grace to your overall movements.
Baddha Konasana comes from three Sanskrit words: Baddha meaning “bound” Kona meaning “angle” and Asana meaning “pose. Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana) has many names; Cobbler’s Pose, Butterfly and Diamond. Bound Angle, Butterfly and Diamond describe the shape of your legs while in the pose. Cobbler is derived from the way that Indian cobbler’s traditionally sat with shoes held between their feet as they worked. Whatever name you choose to call it, it is a great pose with many benefits.
Begin in a sitting position.
Press the soles of the feet together, and pull feet towards pelvis
Open the tops of the feet like a book. The bottoms and pinky toes should continue to touch, like the binding on a book.
Sit straight - don't round the back. Slowly begin to fold forward at the waist .
Added move: fold over feet with heart open, eyes looking up to the sky
Added move: fold over feet, arms extended to the floor and forward, gaze to the front of you
To come out of the pose, place your hands beside you on the floor. Press firmly through your arms and as you lift up, extend through the chest and bring yourself back to a seated position.
If you have issues with your knees, use blocks or cushions under your thighs to support your legs.
If feel that your spine is rounding as you fold forward or if you have any discomfort in your lower back, elevate your hips slightly by sitting on a small cushion or folded towel.
If your hips are tight, increase the angle at your knees by moving your feet further away from your body.
Caution: Never press on your knees in this pose! Doing so can cause injury to your groin and knees. Avoid jerking, pulling, pushing, or forcing any movement in this pose. Let your movements be slow and smooth.
Do you feel overwhelmed by endless to do lists? Are you stressed from work, university or a busy family life? For many people, busy has become the new “norm” due to more stimulation than we have ever seen before. We have transformed the way we live so it's not surprising that increased levels of anxiety, stress and stimulation are keeping us on edge all day and insomnia at night. That’s where yin yoga can be of benefit. Beginning with some mindfulness, a lot of stillness and self-love, you can start the journey to yin yoga to experience a powerful practice to help you relax, rejuvenate and reconnect to your true self.
What is Yin Yoga?
Yin Yoga, is a quiet yoga practice with long held poses structured to access your connective tissues, while healing both your physical and energetic body. The tissues accessed by yin yoga are responsible for 47% of your body's limited range of motion. By holding specific yoga asanas (poses) for 3-20 minutes, can create ample space to allow rest and relaxation into our lives; while offering fascinating new depths of flexibility and quiet peaceful thoughts into our busy minds.
In addition to the physical benefits of yin yoga, there are a myriad of psycho-emotional advantages to this practice. Drawn from the lineage of traditional Chinese medicine, yin yoga stimulates the movement of chi through twelve distinct meridian lines where we store many of our deepest emotions. Through extended holds, we create ample space for our bodies to energetically release these emotions and create a sense of clarity, calm and truth.
Benefits of Yin Yoga
How Yin Yoga is Unique
Finding Stillness: Your yin tissues are accessed in times of stillness - by relaxing your muscles and sinking into a space of non-rigid stillness. If you feel pain or sharpness allow moments of gentle movement and readjustment to uncover a place of stillness.
Find your edge: Your edge is your sweet spot, where sensation meets intensity, meets deep feeling. This is not a place of strain or pain. We go to our edge in yin yoga in order to encourage energetic flow and healing.
Holding Time: Yin poses are held anywhere from 3-20 minutes. Yin tissues are more plastic than elastic and require time to expand.
Many yoga practitioners relish the quiet space in yin yoga. From resolving the pains of arthritis, mobility, and flexibility, yin yoga is a powerful tool to add to your repertoire of healing modalities.
Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) is the third or the warrior poses named after the mythical warrior, Virabhadra. Warrior III is an intermediate balancing pose in yoga. This pose is the most challenging of the Warrior poses, taking into account strength, flexibility and balance. In this pose you are balancing on one leg and reaching the arms and leg in opposite directions parallel to the floor.
With all balancing asanas you must find your drishti (focal point) about two to three feet in front of you. This keeps your mind clear and aware throughout the balance. As well, with all standing postures you must work from the ground up, create stability in your ankles, knees, legs, and hips. By taking your time and setting up for poses, especially balancing poses, you must keep the body calm and focused. This pose can be frustrating at first, but don’t give up. You have to ease your way into it. Yoga is all about going at your own pace. Use modifications until you feel completely comfortable. 😊
Getting into the pose:
Modifications & Variations
Caution: Do not practice this pose if you have high blood pressure or heart problems. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be flexible, vegan, or young to practice yoga; it’s truly for everyone! Yogis come in all shapes and sizes and is accessible to people at all levels no matter the age. You can go to a class, just being you, and slowly but surely achieve your best self. Usually, yoga studios have many different level classes and the instructors can help you to modify poses if you are a beginner or want more of a challenge.
Here are just a few reasons to include yoga in your routine:
As a society, we are overloaded with stress, so it’s no surprise that people are attracted to yoga. Yoga is a wonderful way to relax at the end of a day, ground yourself, find center, and decrease anxiety to bring your body back into balance. Try a Yin yoga class or Restorative yoga class.
Do you want long, lean muscles? Many yoga poses increase muscle tone by activating your core, large and small muscles groups all at once. Over time, you’ll be able to flex those toned yoga arms 💪 with confidence and get yourself ready for arm balances you’ve seen on Instagram!
Yoga is a wonderful compliment to other forms of exercise. Where other activities like running or HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) can make your muscles tight, yoga can support you to lengthen and create dimension in your body. Using your muscles in different ways will also help to prevent injury.
Flowing through a sun salutation is the perfect way to energize your body and mind while articulating the curves of your spine in order to keep it healthy. Sun salutations are typically done in the morning, but can be practiced any time you need a pick-me-up. So, skip the morning cup of coffee ☕ and practice these seven yoga poses for more energy!
Due to sedentary lifestyles and desk jobs, many people are dealing with back pain and poor posture as a result of lost articulation of the curves of the spine. Yoga, when practiced regularly, can help reverse the damage that sitting and slouching cause by bringing out these natural curves. Poses that lengthen the sides of the waist, broaden your chest or back, and help you learn pelvic orientation can be very beneficial for you. Good yoga posture teaches every part of your body to bear its own weight as an alternative of relying on other muscles to carry the load.
If you’re injured, yoga can aid you in rebuilding and learning your body on a deeper level to prevent future ailments. Many athletes work the same muscle groups over and over causing the muscles and joints to wear out over time. Yoga helps joints stay healthy and mobile, while working the entire body to make sure you’re strong enough to support the body parts that get the most wear and tear. Start slow and when possible work with a yoga teacher who can show you how to modify poses based on any injuries you may have as well as, learn poses to avoid.
Caution: Not all yoga poses are suitable for everyone. Always consult your health care provider before practicing yoga or any other exercise program. The information provided in this blog is strictly for reference only and is not in any manner a substitute for medical advice. Modify poses with yoga props like blocks and blankets. Always practice yoga poses within your own range.
Baby Cradle pose or Leg Cradle pose, is a seated hip-opener that also stretches the hamstrings and calf muscles. It is a slight variation of pigeon pose and is sometimes also known as rock the baby pose. Although this pose is considered a beginner level yoga asana, its benefits can be profound. This asana is a wonderful yet gentle preparation for meditation and for more challenging asanas, such as full lotus and pigeon pose.
How to do Hindolasana
1. Begin in Dandasana / Staff Pose.
2. Inhale and lift your right leg up.
3. Place your right foot on your left forearm, and your right knee on your right forearm.
4. Clasp for fingers and bring your right shin close to your chest.
5. Twist your upper body to right side and then to your left side.
To come out of this pose, release your foot and sit in Dandasana / Staff Pose.
Repeat the sequence on your left side for the same length of time.
If this pose causes your lower back to round, or doesn’t feel good for your knee, try a seated figure four stretch instead, planting your feet on the floor and your palms or fingertips on the floor behind you. Lean back (keeping a long spine); cross your right ankle over your left thigh, keeping your right foot flexed; and walk your hands back until you find a position where you’re able to maintain a gentle curve in your lower back.
Caution: Do not attempt this pose if you have knee or hip injury.
Yin Yoga, is a quiet yoga practice with long held poses structured to access your connective tissues, while healing both your physical and energetic body. The tissues accessed by yin yoga are responsible for 47% of your body's limited range of motion. By holding specific yoga asanas (poses) for 3-20 minutes, we can create ample space to allow rest and relaxation into our lives; while offering new depths of flexibility and quiet peaceful thoughts into our overthinking minds.
Practice these postures sequentially as listed above, allowing for 3-6 minutes in each pose. The postures that are suggested here can be held for less time if needed. Be certain to honor your practice, and release sooner or change the angle of the pose if you begin to feel pain or sharp sensation arises. Get creative with how you navigate your experience, and be sure to give yourself at least 1-2 minutes between postures, especially when first practicing Yin. Static, muscular holds and even some slow, controlled dynamic movement are also appropriate ways to transition. It is normal to feel some fragility as you exit a posture, and that sensation may stay present for a minute or two. Finish your practice with Savasana for at least 5-10 minutes.
Caution: Not all yoga poses are suitable for everyone. Always consult your health care provider before practicing yoga or any other exercise program. The information provided in this blog is strictly for reference only and is not in any manner a substitute for medical advice.
As summer kicks in to high gear, more people begin to travel; but that doesn’t mean that you can’t practice yoga while travel. When we travel some of the first things to go are our daily routines, our eating habits and of course our yoga practice. We become so wrapped up in the excitement of adventure and the experiences that we often forget or don’t make the time to let it all sink in. Bringing your mat on your trip, making time connect to your breath and inner thoughts will allow you to go beyond your edge; to see your true self, where fear and judgement don’t exist, and balance is restored to your mind, body and soul.
Traveling allows you the space to learn more about yourself and the world around you, while yoga gives you the awareness to choose what to take and what to leave behind that which no longer serves your highest good.
We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us. ~ Anonymous
Here are 5 reasons to bring your yoga mat along with you when you travel:
Traveling is one of the many things people do for fun, excitement and the joy found in experiencing new things. Traveling encourages us to see the world from different points of view and helps us grow as individuals.
However, traveling can also be stressful. The planning, the long haul flights or not knowing what to expect upon arrival can leave us feeling tired and stressed before we reach our destination. Practicing yoga while you travel will not only relieve stress in these types of circumstances through mindful breathing and stretching, it will also boost immunity, relieve tension, balance internal systems such as the lymphatic system and regulate hormones. All of which will lead to a much more enjoyable trip.
If you are traveling with your significant other, family, or a group, yoga is the perfect opportunity to take a moment out for yourself and connect back to your body. This doesn’t mean you have to take hours out of the day to do this; a quick asana practice followed by a few minutes of meditation can have you feeling energized and ready to recommit with renewed optimism and enthusiasm.
Connect with Nature
There is something to be said for taking your shoes off and feeling the earth beneath your feet, or sitting at the ocean listening to the waves. One of the best things about traveling abroad with your yoga mat is the ability to choose an outdoor setting for your practice. Remote areas can offer cool soil, the ocean and beaches with soft sand and amazing views; where you can see the sun touch the edge of world. What a wonderful way to practice in places like these where you can feel one with The Divine.
Be Present and Grateful
Sometimes it’s hard to be present while traveling. The new environment can have you on a natural high with so many places to visit and things to see and do; it’s easy to get swept away.
Yoga teaches us to appreciate the moments that shape our lives. It teaches us to take nothing for granted, to see beyond what our eyes are seeing, to actually feel what our hearts are needing. If we use our yoga in this way, we can breathe new life into our surroundings, we can find pleasure in things we take for granted and accept everyone for the value they bring to our lives.
Sometimes traveling can be scary; traveling off to unknown places, we don’t know what to expect. Yoga offers the ability to calm our mind through breathing and become truly aware of new surroundings like never before. Taking time out to step on our yoga mat during these times can allow us to see the path more clearly and take the road with less bumps along the way.
Practicing yoga and meditation while you travel can offer different experiences and alternative perspectives. Practicing yoga when you travel can encourage growth, celebrate our uniqueness and allow that positive energy to flow around the world.
Bon Voyage! Have a Great Trip! And don't forget your yoga mat! 😉
Mantras and chanting have been an integral part of the practice of yoga since the tradition began thousands of years ago. This practice is a key component of Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion. Chants or mantras are inspiring and evocative for those they resonate with, but they may exclude some yogis of different religions or non-religion. In the spirit of inclusion, here are some traditional chants that don’t necessarily refer to specific deities:
Om shanti shanti shanti
This Sanskrit mantra means “peace,” a uniting idea that aligns with most philosophies, ideologies, and religious beliefs. It may be used as a personal or global intention at the beginning, middle, or end of yoga practice.
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
This translates to “may all beings be happy and free.” It is a powerful mantra/chant to perform at the end of practice when we may want clarity, a balanced mind/spirit, and peace upon other beings. One can follow up by setting a concrete intention to go out into the world and share the energy that’s been cultivated our yoga practice.
Om mani padme hum
One of the many interpretations of this chant is “the jewel is in the lotus,” which represents a yogi’s path to enlightenment. Much as one could peel back the hundreds of petals of a lotus flower to reach its center, as we peel away the layers of our identity (job titles, gender, wife, daughter, sister, husband, son, etc.), we discover the jewel within: our true self that has no identity.
Lam vam ram yam ham om
These sounds represent the 7 chakras. There are 7 major energy centers (aka chakras) in the human body. They run from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. In Sanskrit, chakra translates into “wheel”. These “wheels” can be thought of as vortexes that both receive & radiate energy. Emotions, physical health, & mental clarity affect how well each chakra can filter energy. This in turn dictates how pure the energy is that’s emitted from different parts of the body.
Lam: Survival (root chakra)
Vam: Pleasure (sacral chakra)
Ram: Self-Esteem (solar plexus chakra)
Yam: Love (heart chakra)
Ham: Communication (throat chakra)
Om: Wisdom and intuition (third eye chakra)
Silence: Enlightenment (crown chakra)
All six seed sounds may be chanted in sequence, or may be chanted repeatedly alone.
The Opening Ashtanga Mantra (which I use in my Ashtanga practice) is a blessing of gratitude offered to the lineage of teachers and their students who have enabled this ancient practice to survive through thousands of years so that we can experience its benefits today. The recitation of this mantra is believed to cleanse the energy of the space we have chosen to practice yoga, as well as preparing the mind, body and emotions for the forthcoming Ashtanga sequence.
Vande Gurunam Charanaravinde
Sandarshita Svatma Sukava Bodhe
Nih Sreyase Jangalikayamane
Samsara Halahala Mohashantyai
Sahasra Sirasam Svetam
I bow to the lotus feet of the Supreme Guru
which awaken insight into the happiness of pure Being,
which are the refuge, the jungle physician,
which eliminate the delusion caused by the poisonous herb of Samsara (conditioned existence).
I prostrate before the sage Patanjali
who has thousands of radiant, white heads (as the divine serpent, Ananta)
and who has, as far as his arms, assumed the form of a man
holding a conch shell (divine sound), a wheel (discus of light or infinite time) and a sword (discrimination).
There is no real implied deity here, but unlike many other chants, this one can be directed to a yogi’s deity of choice. Non-religious yogis may direct this chant to The Universe or even to their own intuition.
Try some of these chants in your next yoga practice. They can serve as a powerful way to bring clarity, focus and attention to the present moment.
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