Category Archives: stretches

Asana of the Week: Flip Your Dog!

Flippin’ the dog

I couldn’t find a specific Sanskrit name for this, but I believe it’s a variation of Camatkarasana or ‘wild thing’ pose. A beautiful heart opener and upside-down-dog. I fully intend to bring this into a full wheel some day…

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Yoga for Cyclists

On Sunday my father and I went to a “yoga for cyclists” seminar hosted by teacher Kelli Refer from The Grinning Yogi in Seattle. I do not cycle, but my retired father rides every day, about 100 miles a week, sometimes more.

One thing I know for sure- whatever you do, yoga makes you do it better. So, I dragged him to the seminar, thinking something catered to cyclists would be a better time for a somewhat inexperienced yogi.

It was a great seminar, it was obvious the girl leading it had spent much time and energy writing and illustrating a book of yoga poses and breathing techniques for a cyclist.

Everything was very appropriate for the typical cyclist- there were sequences for 2 minutes and 5 minutes. Modified half sun salutations, quads, heart openers, and hips were emphasized.

At the end I asked what two stretches would be the best to do. I couldn’t imagine my father in our garage busting out sun salutations. She decided on a modified ‘wing pose’ and a modified dancer’s pose. My very favorite stretch was a super intense quad stretch we did by placing our shin flush to the wall and bending the opposite knee.

We all left with a poster and information sheet to refer to.

Kelli’s official Yoga for Bikers blog is here.

Buy a copy of Pedal, Stretch, Breathe here.

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Asana of the week: plow

Hala Asana! Working on getting my back straighter

Hala-Asana

Since the past few weeks have been dominated by discussion of power moves and invigorating flows, I decided to select an asana that just feels damn good.

I love plow. I love how it’s normally towards the end of a class so you can tell you’ve crossed the desert and are almost to the promised land of savasana.

There are so many good things going on here:

Jalandhara bandha. Also known as the chin lock, which stimulates your thyroid and metabolism as you press your chin to your chest.

Spine therapy. An amazing, elongating stretch through your back and spine as gravity opens you up.

Inversion. The benefits of inversions are amazing from increased circulation to feeling sharper mentally. A post about them here!

I like to bring my hands to my toes at first, breathe and relax into it. Then I bring my arms to my sides and bind my hands behind my body; compressing my neck to my chest like crazy. A step by step guide to plow pose here.

Watch it. Women on their mentrual cycles should not do plow pose. I don’t know why, I’ve just been told this by many teachers. Anyone know why?

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Let’s get physical: Bar Method

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Yoga feet pretending to be bar method feet for the day.

Yesterday a friend took a fellow yogi and I to a bar method class. I was curious about it because it is based off of dance/ballet and is said to kick your ass.

First off, it’s a strict practice. I did not get the feeling that this was specific to this studio. They are strict about all participants wearing long pants and socks. During class, many people including myself were called out to change their alignment, straighten, lengthen, push further, etc. it reminded me of taking ballet classes when I was a girl. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, a little self discipline can’t hurt.

It was a challenging class. You can really feel every muscle in the targeted area engaged, and everyone’s legs are shaking, a good sign the instructor assured us. It’s fast paced, you go from one thing to the next without getting bored.

The most challenging part for me was when we draped our bodies with a straight spine resting our forehead on the bar. Then, lifting your leg far behind you, you do a series of pulses and lifts, and your glutes BURN.

It’s strange working your muscles hard like that and not breaking a sweat, but I felt great afterwards.

My only complaint is that the small amount of stretching we did after strength moves lasted less than five seconds per side. I could have easily stayed a minute per side.

I could never love anything more than my yoga practice, but my friend finds it to be a nice compliment to her usual running routine. I love the intention and blissful high I get from yoga, but I’m always open to things that will bring me more in tune with my body.

I read an article about doing something ever day that’s out of your comfort zone, and that foot picture is mine. I hate my feet, so it’s a vulnerable thing for me to put them in the spotlight like that!

I’d love to hear about your experience, let me know!

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asana of the week- wheel

my wheel… more of an ellipse.

Chakrasana

Oh yes, we’re back-bending on this fine Friday. I recently did a yogathon at Urban Yoga Spa– two hours of hot power vinyasa, two hours of hot hatha, and two hours of yin/yang yoga. Sometimes I think I’m a special brand of insane. During the first two hours of power vinyasa, we did 5 wheel poses.

The teacher, Odessa, quoted Baron Baptiste saying: “Wheels are like pancakes. The first two are never any good” So we did two more. And when called up for the fifth, she invigorated us with another Baptiste quote. “This last wheel…is the difference between walking out of this room, and FLYING out of this room.”

I can’t say no to that, I want to fly.

  • Begin setting up for bridge pose, heels drawn close enough to the sit bones that you can brush your heels with your fingers.
  • Bring your hands mat-width next to your ears with your fingers pointing towards your feet.
  • Press into the four corners of your feet, inhale and on your exhale life your tailbone to the sky.
  • Push firmly into your hands and forearms to lift yourself up. I like to take a little pit-stop with the crown of my head on the floor, so I can go up with strength rather than momentum.
  • Draw the shoulder blades down the back, straighten the arms as much as possible.

More articulate instructions here.

Troubleshooting. If you think you’re going to die, stick with bridge for a while strengthening your back by NOT clenching your glutes. If your low back is yelling at you, make sure your feet are parallel in a number 11 and experiment walking them closer or further from you.

More. Come to your tippy toes, bring one leg into your chest and straighten it to the sky. Repeat on the other side. If this still hasn’t got you sweating, try some wheel pushups by simultaneously bending arms and legs…as if you’re doing an upside down pushup on the ceiling?

I’m still perfecting this one, any tips?

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openings

My half-lotus with reverse namaskar. a work in progress.

Openings- on your mat and in life, take practice and patience. My shoulders prefer to stay tight and my hips rigid, so I practice and attempt to ignore any frustration I have with either. Always reminding myself that yoga is a life-long practice.

So many times I’m struggling with a pose like a perfect bound side angle or one of the koundinyasana arm balances and I just think, well I’ll just have to practice this over and over at home.  I forget that I can also target specific areas and work on opening them to help me in these poses and more. For me and for many north americans it’s shoulders and hips that need the most work. While you could sit in pigeon or bridge pose for hours, I wanted to suggest a few things that might be easier to motivate yourself to do.

Lapasana. This stretch feels wonderful, especially after a lot of chaturanga-ing. The variation I like to do is to extend your bottom leg and tap the tops of your top leg behind you. Make sure you are very warmed up for this intense stretch, try it at the end of your practice.

Ardha Bakra Chandrasana. Salute the moon! This is more of a power move that gets into your hips, shoulders, and even your back. Be sure to keep your abs firm and lumbar spine long to protect your back. To add some strength work, lift up onto the shoelace part of your back leg into full expression.

Half lotus with reverse namaskar. Just for funsies, try this one out with me. This opens your shoulders and hips, also it looks really cool. I always take the standing half lotus modification during tree pose in class because I desperately need hip openers anywhere I can get them. Again, be warmed up for this one or it will not feel good.

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