The hips are the center of the body, connecting the upper body and the legs. Ancient yogis name this location in our bodies as the resting place of kundalini-shakti energy. When our hips are strong, balanced and flexible, they are the foundation for a yoga practice and a life that hold those same qualities.
Lizard Pose or Utthan Pristhasana in Sanskrit, comes from the words Utthan meaning “stretching out” and Pristha meaning “back of the body.” An alternate translation of Pristha is “page of a book,” an appropriate description as we hold many of our emotions in our hips. Lizard pose opens the hips and hamstrings while strengthening the inner thigh muscles of the front leg. The hips store an abundance of emotions so this stretch not only helps the muscles but also helps to release that stored energy allowing for healing and strength. Tight hamstrings are an indication of feeling stuck in our lives so this pose also helps us take on new strides and abound to new wonderful moments in our yoga journey.
How to do Lizard Pose
Begin in Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana), step your right foot forward between your hands. Heel-toe your foot towards the edge of your mat, so that your foot is slightly wider than your shoulders.
Let your hips grow heavy, so that they settle forward and down. Begin to walk your hands forwards until you are able to come down on to your forearms (You may place your forearms on the ground, or on a block). Either rest your hands palms facing down on the mat (as seen in the picture), or bring your hands together in prayer position.
Extend your heart forward, lengthening the spine. Try to soften the heart and draw the shoulder blades together, taking heed not to round your back.
Keep your right knee hugging towards your midline to get into the inner hip and thigh area of your right leg. You can keep your left knee lifted with your leg active, or for a more restorative version, you can lower your left knee (as seen in the picture).
Don’t worry if the forearms can’t come down onto the mat just yet. Work on softening into the hips as much as possible, and try placing a block underneath the elbows as you begin to find more openness in your hips. For those with sensitive knees, place some padding underneath the knee such as a rolled up yoga towel or fold your yoga mat over for extra cushion for the knee. Repeat other side (if needed).
There’s a tendency to drop the head and collapse through the chest in Lizard Pose. Keeping the head and neck aligned with the spine by lifting the chin slightly and sending the gaze forward allows for more extension along the body (rather than contraction).
Caution: Those suffering from hip, groin or knee injuries should avoid this pose. Also, those who have had any recent surgery of the abdomen, thorax, hips or legs should not attempt this pose.
Acroyoga has become one of the fastest fitness and acrobatic trends for many reasons. From a fitness perspective, it changes your workout by using your muscles in ways you don’t use in everyday activities or in a regular yoga class. As a “base”, you will get a great workout for your quads, calves and toes when working with beginner poses and movements by learning how to push through your toes and legs to support another person. As a “flyer”, you will learn how to stay lifted and tight by engaging muscles while holding various poses. As your skills progress, they become more challenging, it is a full-body workout from head to toe.
Here are some common questions and concerns:
Is AcroYoga, yoga?
AcroYoga is not typical yoga. It is a whole new world of connection, awareness and possibility. The definition as described from AcroYoga.org is “AcroYoga blends the wisdom of yoga, the dynamic power of acrobatics and the loving kindness of healing arts. These three lineages form the foundation of a practice that cultivates trust, playfulness and community.” For many people it’s a chance to explore movements in a new way.
Will I get hurt?
In Acro you are taught to practice new skills with a spotter. This person is an extra set of eyes and hands. Their responsibility is to watch the movements, be prepared to catch the flyer and help bring the pose down safely should a fall occur. In a class setting teachers will often teach the safest way to fall out of a pose. Learning an exit strategy gives confidence to practice poses when there is no spotter around. When you first start practicing you may have some soreness or even some bruises. Just like any activity where you have to move your body in a new way your body will take some time to adapt. This is where a beginner class or workshop helps.
I’m not strong enough to lift someone.
In AcroYoga, you stack our bones rather than using muscle energy to lift up the flyers. When you are stacked the poses are grounded and the flyers can feel secure to move around. It may take a few tries to find this pace but it’s always best to practice with what feels good and what doesn’t. Your spotter also gives cues as to where you are in space, helping you find your sweet spot.
What’s the point of this?
If you are looking for a new way to gain strength, flexibility and meet some new people this is the place for you. Students go from zero body awareness to moving through poses with ease. AcroYoga is also a great way to meet new people, deepen your connection with partners, and cultivate trust.
How can I get involved?
The best way is to look online for workshops and classes in your area. It is best to get started learning from someone who can teach you proper technique, both for safety and ease of practice. AcroYoga is gaining popularity fast and there are many teachers willing to share their knowledge with you.
As much as AcroYoga may look intimidating and challenging, ANYONE and EVERYONE has the ability to learn it with ease. AcroYoga is a bright and exciting practice that integrates one’s individual yoga practice, partnership through dynamic acrobatics and healing through therapeutic bodywork.
Caution: If you are pregnant or have any kind of medical problem or injuries, or have had any injuries or problems in the past, or any other condition that may be adversely affected by exercise, such as neck or back problems, high blood pressure, etc., please consult your doctor before practicing acroyoga to determine whether and how you can practice safely.
The word meditation refers to a range of techniques which control your thoughts, in order to strengthen your mind and improve your physical health. In order understand the misconceptions about meditation, and its numerous benefits, one has to understand how it works. There are different types of meditation techniques, each of which differ slightly from each other,, and have certain benefits of their own. Even though the techniques work on the mind of the person, the beneficial effects can be seen in the mind as well as the body.
How Meditation Works
A self-directed practice of relaxing the mind and body, meditation has been in practice for a long time. It works on a single principle that the mind is the key to overall health, therefore keeping the mind in control can ensure your overall well-being. While some forms of meditation involve focusing on a particular subject, others involve simple relaxation and allow the mind to do whatever it wants, without conscious efforts. While meditating, it’s important to have some degree of controlled breathing. Meditation teachers well versed with the concept suggest that meditation is not about finding solutions to a particular problem, but about changing our attitude towards them. The effects of meditation tend to differ from one individual to another. Below the effects оf meditation on our mind and body.
Effects on the Brain
Due to the changes in the breathing pattern, the supply of oxygen to the brain is reduced by 20 percent. The state of resting is something which we don’t attain when we sleep, as our brain continues to work when we are sleeping. Scientific studies have also revealed that meditating regularly can alter the way your brain is wired, and these alterations in turn helps to deal with a wide array of health problems, including stress and insomnia.
Effects on the Body
Meditation tends to decrease the activity of the nervous system, as the supply of oxygen is reduced. Many people want to know how how meditation reduces stress symptoms or how it helps with depression. These health problems are caused primarily by underlying factors associated with our mind. When we successfully treat these factors with the help of the meditation techniques for stress or depression, it indirectly helps in getting rid of the symptoms of these ailments. Regular meditation helps in curing a range of ailments, including insomnia, anxiety, etc. In fact, some recent studies even claim that this relaxation technique can help in keeping various ailments, including certain types of cancers, at bay.
These scientific explanations on the effects of meditation on our mind and body have helped in changing the popular belief that meditation is only associated with religion and spirituality. The scientifically backed health benefits of the practice have even prompted several medical practitioners to advise their patients to practice various techniques of meditation to maintain overall health. With all these benefits, meditation is undoubtedly one of the most effective tool of well-being - a necessity for us all in this fast paced world.
Note: The above article is for educational purposes only and should not take the place of your healthcare provider. If you or someone you know suffers from depression, insomnia, or any other ailments, seek the advice of a physician.
There are some days when we all seem to “pop” out of bed and are ready for our morning yoga; that moment when we have a little time to ourselves, flowing and breathing, ready for the day. And then there those days when we’d rather toss the alarm and go back to sleep or sit on the couch and binge watch Netflix all day. We all deserve a break; but the benefits of stepping onto your yoga mat may be more beneficial than you think.
There’s something to be said about having a daily yoga routine. The more we take the time for ourselves, the more likely we are to continue doing what make us feel good. These are good habits to have and keep. If you like the early morning yoga class at your local studio, then make it a habit to get there a few times a week, or if your preference is getting on your mat at home before everyone wakes up, set your alarm and rise early. Set a goal for yourself; once you get a rhythm going, you’ll find it harder and harder to skip class or your home practice, even if you really want to sleep for an extra few minutes or indulge in your morning coffee first.
Improved Physical Health
The physical practice of yoga, or asana as it’s known in Sanskrit, has a lot of physical benefits. Asana practice helps to build strength, flexibility, agility and cardiovascular strength. The mindfulness gained from a regular yoga practice can also help to maintain weight loss and improve the way we view our bodies. Yoga is also a great way to recover from injuries. In addition to repairing injuries, the strengthening and stretching components to a physical practice help us work out the muscles we don’t often use, get into deep tissue, and counteract poor posture, like slumping and hunching. If you’re going to class or if you practice at home, and have an injury, make sure to inform your doctor first to make sure you’re clear to practice yoga. It’s also a good idea to inform your yoga instructor before class so that they can offer any modifications if you need them.
The practice of yoga first began as a form of meditation to help clear the mind and find inner peace. Yogis would sit for long periods of time but all that sitting brought about physical ailments. Over time, poses were added to the practice to improve the health of the seated yogis – poses that would act as a moving meditation, so their mindfulness practice wasn’t disturbed. The focus on the breath during modern practice helps to bring us into the present moment and take us out of our heads. This is why we hear so many teachers speak about stillness, meditation and breathwork, or pranayama, during practice. A lot of poses, especially those in restorative classes, are designed to relax the body and the mind.
Taking Yoga Off the Mat
The more we practice yoga on the mat, the easier it becomes to what we learn out into the world. The principles of yoga, including non-harming, non-stealing, and proper use of energies become ways to live our “regular” lives whether we’re at home, work or school. These practices teach us how to be more patient, kind, and compassionate to others as well as, ourselves. They help us to see the world from a different perspective. With a regular yoga practice the easier it will be to take these lessons and that sense of calm you feel while on your mat into the rest of your life.
Dealing and Coping
A regular yoga practice also helps us to deal with our past problems or issues, things that we have pushed deep down inside of us and have been unwilling to let go of. This is arguably one of the toughest (yet beneficial) parts of a yoga practice. Styles like Yin yoga that offer a deep stretch, helping to release the issues in our tissues; just being in a safe space and loving community, can help some people open up. For others, yoga is a form of recovery, self-exploration and healing. While some people come to their mat for the physical benefits, others arrive to discover their true selves through movement and meditation.
You don’t have to practice yoga every day to reap the amazing benefits of the practice. Start slow, adding another practice during your week or practice a 5 minute meditation while you wait for your tea to cool. Over time, you will develop a routine, a healthy habit, and you’ll notice an overall calm and more peaceful you!
Feathered Peacock Pose or Pincha Mayurasana as its named in Sanskrit, represents the beautiful feathers of the peacock that lift its tail upright. This represents the peacock in all its grandeur. The fierceness that is described in the peacock should be imbibed in our day to day lives.
You can also call it as the elbow stand or the forearm stand pose too. As the entire weight falls on your shoulders, it has tremendous strength to withhold that balance for a specific period of time. As the shoulders are not joined together but kept at a distance distributing your weight on both the shoulders.
Similar to Downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) and Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana) this pose also tests our fear of falling. It is different from Tree pose(Vrksasana) as the arms are not bent and in this asana it is the bending giving you the extra support. Feathered Peacock is NOT an easy pose to do on your own. You can however use the wall as a support (as seen in the picture) when first trying this pose. The help of an experienced yoga teacher may also provide extra support when first learning/practicing this pose. Even though it may look like a simple asana, doing it can be a different ball game all together.
It is a stress buster that aids you to relax due to the position of the asana. The tension that would be in the shoulder area is easily removed.
It opens your chest, the pose also helps the shoulders including your upper arms and upper back. As your rib area and stomach area keeps the body straight they get toned too.
The legs and buttocks are also strengthened because of the need, to keep your body in a straight line. This position lets you strengthen your thighs as it has to be kept straight without bending over. Thigh muscles benefit greatly by doing this inverted pose.
In this pose too the blood from the legs rushes down to the head, supplying it with fresh blood, which rejuvenates you as well as refreshes your mind and body to the highest proximity.
Note: Be careful while doing this pose if you have high blood pressure, spinal injuries, shoulder, elbow or neck injuries. Consult a doctor before beginning an exercise regime.
Marjaryasana/Bitilasana (Cat/Cow pose) is a combination of two yoga poses that gently stretch and warm up your spine. The Sankrit name for cat cow pose is Marjaiasana. Marjay meaning cat and Bitil meaning cow (asana meaning pose). Cat/Cow pose consists of moving the spine from a rounded position to an arched position. Hence Cat/Cow pose is good for the spine. It’s a basic motions but it is enormously beneficial in preventing back pain and maintaining a healthy spine. Bringing movement and flexibility to your spine helps your body to become more coordinated. Try a few slow rounds of Cat-Cow when you wake in the morning, before bed, or after sitting for a long period. You may notice yourself walking taller throughout the day! 😊
How To Perform Cat-Cow Pose:
1. Start on the ground with a neutral spine in table-top position with your knees and hands on the floor. Your knees should be hip distance apart in line with your hips and your arms should be straightened and in line with your shoulders. Keep your head in line with your body and either close your eyes or gaze towards the ground.
2. Take an inhale while in this neutral spine position and then slowly exhale your breath while rounding your spine towards the sky, keeping your hands and knees where they are.
3. As you round your spine you will gently release your head towards the ground while making sure not to tense your neck. Engage your lower core muscles and really try to bring your tailbone towards the center of your body while rounding your back as high as you can.
4. Once you have released your entire breath in Cat Pose start to inhale deeply while dropping your belly towards the ground.
5. Begin to arch your back and lift your chest towards the sky keeping your neck in line with your spine. Release your lower belly to the ground while actively lifting your tailbone to the sky.
6. After a full inhale while in Cow Pose, start to slowly exhale your breath and move through to Cat Pose once again. Continue through the Cat-Cow sequence as many times as you need, maintaining a slow and steady breath the entire time.
Sun Salutation is the most famous yoga sequence and can be a way for us to connect with our light within and our self-illumination. According to yogapedia.com, "Sun Salutation is one of the most important yoga practices. It is the set of 12 yoga poses which can be performed while chanting 12 different mantras. Mantras add a reflective spiritual element to the practice. The practice of Sun Salutation awakens the body intelligence to create energy directly from the sun. In the Vedic tradition, the sun is symbolic of consciousness and, therefore, has been worshiped daily in the Indian culture. Sun Salutation may also be referred to as Surya Namaskara in Sanskrit."
The original Surya Namaskar wasn't a sequence of postures, but rather a sequence of sacred words - mantras to honor the sun. The Vedic tradition, which predates classical yoga by several thousands of years, honored the sun as a symbol of the Divine. The full practice includes 132 passages and takes more than an hour to recite. The sun salutations were traditionally chanted at sunrise, repeating the sequence in each of the four cardinal directions.
If you want to “flow” through your Sun Salutation with more grace and peace, here are some simple and practical tips that can help make your Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) experience complete and blissful.
Meditate before you start Surya Namaskar
So why meditate before practicing the Sun Salutes? Meditation helps remove restlessness in the mind and prepares your body for Surya Namaskar yoga postures.
Practice Sun Salutation early in the mornings
Although Sun Salutations can be practiced at any time of the day, the early-morning hours are considered especially auspicious for yoga and meditation practice. For most of us, early morning is the time of the day we can be alone, without any interruptions or distractions.
Try moving slowly and deliberately
When you feel how the sequence becomes a sort of moving meditation as you practice, your center of awareness in your body (such as your third eye or your heart) challenges you to keep focusing there for the duration of your practice. Even when you pick up pace, don’t do the poses with jerky movements or with force. Allow the postures to flow gently and gracefully one into the other.
Have the Attitude of Gratitude
When you step on your mat, give thanks for the day, your body, your yoga practice and anything else that has meaning to you personally. This makes a big difference! You will be able to enjoy your stretches much more and to keep the positive energy flowing through the duration of your yoga practice.
Do your Surya Namaskars with awareness
This is a very essential element in the entire practice. Surya Namaskar could be very energizing when it’s practiced at a slower pace and with awareness on the breath. If done with proper awareness, one can feel the flow of energy starting from the Navel chakra through the entire body.
Use the breath to calm the mind (and steady the body)
Whatever happens in the mind influences the breath. Stress and tension cause the breath to increase, peace and calm slow the breath. The opposite is also true, slowing the breath will bring peace and calm to the mind. As the mind calms, the body will follow, tight muscles will soften and supporting muscles will become more steady.
Practice Sun Salutation as a warm-up or stand-alone practice
If you are new to yoga or don’t have time for an hour practice. For busy yogis, practice Sun Salutation for 10-15 minutes then relax in Savasana. If you have more time, practice Sun Salutation as a daily routine before starting your regular yoga practice. It is worth noting, if you are practicing Surya Namaskars as part of your warm-up, you can do them at a somewhat faster speed. When you practice them as part of the yoga posture practice, you can practice them slow to medium speed. After a few rounds, your body will feel light and flexible and the stretches in the active yoga postures become deeper. If you have backache, avoid practicing Sun Salutations at a fast pace.
Relax After Sun Salutation
As you finish your last round of Surya Namaskar, lie down and relax your entire body. For best results, it is advisable to lie down in Yoga Nidra or Savasana, giving your body and mind enough time to assimilate the effects of your practice.
Surya Namaskar is the perfect practice to awaken the body, focus the mind, and connect to a sense of gratitude for each new day. Remember that you have the sun inside your heart.
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!
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