We often use and abuse our shoulders a lot more than we realize. Whether it’s sitting at a computer, lifting weights, or even doing a few too many Chatarungas, it’s important to balance all of that strengthening or lack of movement with opening postures. Try these shoulder-openers when your shoulders are feeling tight or especially overworked.
Forward fold with chest expansion
Begin in a forward fold with your feet at least hip-width apart. Allow your head and neck to relax. Interlace your hands at your lower back. If your shoulders are tight, keep a soft bend in your elbows. Slowly draw your palms forward, over your head, to open through the chest and shoulders. Take the shoulder opening to your limit, and breathe here for as long as it feels good.
Begin in chair pose, or Utkatasana. On an exhale, swing your right arm under your left, and bring your right palm to meet your left in front of your face. Lift your right leg over your left leg and compress your inner thighs, finding a tight wrap. Find a bind with the right foot behind the left calf, or use your right foot as a kickstand. Breathe here with a strong core, and draw your elbows away from your chest, and your palms away from your face. Switch sides when you’re ready.
Begin on your belly with your chin facing forward. Bend your knees, drawing your heels up to your gluts, and reach back and capture your feet or ankles from the outside. Exhale, and as you inhale, kick your feet into your palms, lifting your chest away from your mat. Gaze straight forward, and try to rock your weight into your belly. Draw your knees toward one another and breathe.
Kneel and walk your knees toward the front of your mat. Lift your hips over your knees, and bring your palms to your lower back, fingertips facing down for a deeper shoulder opening. Squeeze your elbows toward one another and lift your gaze while you open through your chest. Keep your hips stacked over your knees, and arch your spine while you lift through your heart. Find five breaths in your fullest expression, and keep pressing your elbows toward one another to open through your shoulders.
Begin in a seated position. Bend both knees, and swing your left leg underneath your right. Nestle your left heel next to your right hip. Stack your right knee over your left, and let your right foot rest on the mat beside your left hip. Extend your left arm high, bend at your elbow, and reach your left palm in between your shoulder blades. Bring your right arm behind your back, bending at your elbow and reach up to grasp your left fingertips with your right. If you can’t grasp opposite fingertips, you can use a towel or a strap. This is a very intense shoulder opener – either stay here, or fold forward from your hips. Switch sides after 5 or 7 breaths.
With the increased interest people now take in yoga, it's no wonder that the market has been flooded with all sorts of products and accessories dedicated to yoga practice. Advertisements with the best yoga mat have become more than common; the so-called “best” mats often vary in price and quality. If you are buying a yoga mat for the first time, you may not know how to choose one. Yoga mats provide some cushion between the floor and your body, as well as, delineate personal space in a yoga class. Our yoga mats can also help to remind us of our commitment to practice when we see them rolled up by the door.
There are lots of options for yoga mats, and many factors to consider when choosing your mat. There are so many brands, names, sizes, colors, materials, thickness, etc., how do you know what's right for you? With the number of yoga mats on the market and it can be overwhelming making that choice of what to look for. Here are my top 6 tips to help you make a choice:
Eco friendly: Many basic yoga mats that you might find at your local retailer contain PVC and/or latex. Latex can be an issue for people with latex allergies. As for PVC, there is some evidence that links PVC exposure to certain illnesses like asthma. Considering how much of our yoga practice involves putting our faces and hands on and near our mats, it may be worth the extra money to buy a yoga mat made from materials like sustainable harvested rubber.
Good grip: A good grip is the most important function of a mat, so it’s important to test it before buying. There are many mats on the market which are designed for physical therapy or Pilates, so buy one specified for yoga practice. Some people sweat a lot from the style of yoga they practice like Ashtanga or Vinyasa flow; here it’s important that your hands and feet do not allow you to slide. Try a downward-facing dog, it’s THE grip test.
Thickness: Depending on the style of yoga you practice or if you have previous injuries (like your knees, back, elbows) you may be better suited to buy a thicker mat with proper padding. Though Table and Downward Dog positions don’t require much cushioning, other forms of yoga need some lining to maintain a proper balance. Extra thickness provides more cushioning for the joints especially when practicing on wooden floors however a thicker mat can prove more unstable in balance postures. Be warned, there are many cheap mats out there that say they are 6-7mm thick however the density of these mats are often very low meaning they offer little or no extra cushioning. A good tip is to check the weight of the mat to try to judge density.
Size: A standard size yoga mat is around 61cm wide and 180cm long. If you are tall like myself, you may want a longer mat that’s 68cm wide and 185cm long. Also be sure to look for an extra-long mat bag to carry it in.
Price: It’s up to you how much you want to spend on a yoga mat If you can, it is better to spend a reasonable amount on your yoga mat especially if you use it every day or if you plan to use it often for yoga classes, plus some more expensive mats will last longer than a few yoga practices. Less expensive mats may be made with less sturdy material or be made of PVC, which may disintegrate after a few sessions. Prices vary for different patterns, textures, thickness, antimicrobial treatments and eco-friendliness.
Understanding your style of yoga and your body's needs are the first steps to picking a mat that can best support you. Remember: it’s what takes place on the mat that matters most. For more information on finding a great yoga mat for your practice, check out this guide: https://www.reviews.com/best-yoga-mats. See you on YOUR mat!
Balasana (Child’s Pose) comes from the Sanskrit words bala meaning child and asana meaning pose. Child’s pose is practiced in almost every style of yoga and class. This pose is usually practiced as a way to rest after an intense pose or sequence. However, it has numerous benefits of its own. Balasana is a great pose that allows you to turn inward; providing the opportunity to calm the mind and restore energy. Child’s pose is a basic beginner pose that nearly anyone can do.
Child’s pose is one of the most common postures that you will see when using yoga for back pain due to the versatility that it offers. Child’s Pose relieves tension in your back and hips while increasing flexibility and circulation to the muscles and joints in your low back. When practiced in the full expression of the posture, Child’s Pose can produce immediate back pain relief. Above are more great benefits of Child’s pose.
Getting into the pose:
To come into this pose, kneel onto the floor, and sit back onto your ankles. Keep your knees and big toes touching one another as you sit back. Lean forward at the waist and place your forehead on the floor. If your hips pop up, don't worry about it. As you stay in the pose, keep inviting your hips to meet your heels.
Your arms can take several positions:
To open your body farther, begin the pose in the same manner as described above. Instead of keeping your knees together, spread them as wide apart as is comfortable for you. Still keeping your big toes together.
Caution: If you have a groin injury, back or hip problems, consult with your physician prior to doing this pose. Please, carefully check in with your body before doing this pose, and do NOT do anything in which your body feels unsafe!
Yoga practice offers us the time to truly be with our breath. As we move through asanas (poses), our breath is there, offering the balance between breathing in and breathing out. Many times during yoga practice we are focused on our breathing, spending equal time and effort on the in-breath and the out-breath.
But the real question is, how can we focus on our breath off the mat too?
Breathing in signifies the doing that we have going on in our lives from work, school, taking care of our family, running errands; it’s our never-ending to-do list. When we are always doing (something), we are likely to feel stress. We can’t always handle the adrenaline in all this doing and not enough rest can become overwhelming for our bodies.
Breathing out represents the “being” in our lives: meditation, reading, spending time with a friend, napping, resting, taking a walk along the beach and so on. Breathing out is not only a reset for our body, but also the mind and spirit. Breathing out is when we can let go, and let in. Breathing out we do out of love, allowing us to care more deeply for ourselves.
Breathing in is busy.
Breathing out is quiet.
Breathing in is depleting.
Breathing out is nourishing.
According to yoga and Ayurveda, we need a balance in our lives between breathing in and out, just like our yoga practice. In fact, it is said that if we overemphasize breathing in in our lives, that we will eventually find that we are breathing out more and more in the form of sickness and disease. If we don’t stop to take a needed break, we may find we get that break whether we consciously want it or not.
Breathing out is more powerful when it is done consciously. While binge watching on Netflix may be enjoyable, it can numb rather than nourish. Breathing out activities reminds us of who we truly are. There is a sense of inner listening that defines breathing out. Do you like to write music or sing? Do you like to design or create art? Look towards those activities that replenish you, that feed you on a deeper level, where you become inspired and more yourself.
Here are some practices to consider:
Have a daily meditation practice
Practice Yoga Nidra
Write in a journal
Do a weekly oil massage (Abhyanga)
Go for a walk outside
Read that book you’ve been putting aside
Watch the sun rise or set
Spend more time with your spouse, significant other or friend
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