Tag Archives: yoga practice

5 Ways to add shoulder opening to your hip opening poses

Two birds, one stone. Stretching both muscle groups at the same time will give you twice the benefits!

Also, it’s a good way to break any patterns or habits you may have developed in your practice. If you are a yogi that practices 3+ times a week, please don’t be afraid to break out your own remixes of the poses presented. Trust me, the teacher wants you to do what feels good and benefits you, even if it doesn’t look like what your neighbor is doing. It’s easy to go on auto pilot, especially in forward folds. I am frankly OVER yanking my hamstrings into folds 20x a class! Switch it up and give your shoulders some love in these hip openers!

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Bound high lunge. It’s not all about bound side angle pose all the time! You can do this variation with your heal up or down in a bound ‘Warrior VI’ or ‘Flying Warrior’ as some call it pose.

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Prasarita Padotanasana Cherry Picker. I love this variation, instead of just hanging down or yanking on your feet to stretch your hamstrings, this stretches your shoulders and gives you a new way to open the back body. The resistance you get when you walk your hands back behind you will make your traps and deltoids sing.

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Twisted Janu Sirsasana. I must thank my teacher Silvia Mordini for teaching me this unique variation of one legged forward fold. It’s hard to see in the photo, but this is actually a twist that you will immediately in the outer muscles of your back. Use the hand and arm not touching your foot as leverage to twist further. Further the stretch by softly bending the outstretched leg and twisting further.

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Starfish fold. This variation of Badha konasana is mostly practiced in Jivamukti classes, but this is my new favorite fold! This is a super passive fold that feels great at the end of practice, especially one heavy in back bends and heart opening.

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Bowing Balasana. This variation of child’s pose feels great in the muscles of your upper back and shoulders. To intensify, walk the elbows forward as much as possible.

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Mounting created Bloggif

Graceful Yogi

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Practicing Jump Backs

I recently attended an Ashtanga class at Salt Room Yoga in Pioneer Square. The teacher, Rhonda, provided a great way to practice jump backs from sukasana/criss cross apple sauce to chaturanga dandasana. I’d always just assumed I’d build core strength in other ways to achieve a jump back, but this is really using different core muscles than you get from bicycle crunches!

  • From sukasana, easy pose, scoot your feet close to your body and squeeze your knees into your chest.
  • Place your hands a few inches in front of your hips.
  • Press into the floor, doing your best to transfer all of your weight into your hands while simultaneously using your core to squeeze your knees and ankles into your chest. Flex your feet!
  • If you’re like me, you’re not quite there yet. So a good way to build strength is to start shuffling your feet under your body as best you can and then jump back to chaturanga dandasana. When you do this, squeeze your knees together so they fit between your arms. OR if you are a little past shuffling, start by taking 2-4 hops on your feet.

When you do this little shimmy, you really feel your core working. I love when a teacher presents a way to practice something that makes something difficult seem much more accessible! Try it out and let me know about your progress!

Kitty-in-a-rolled-up-yoga-mat.

Yoga kitty says ‘have a great weekend!’ Meow!

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Alexander the Great Meets a Yogi

The Yogi

The Yogi

“When Alexander the Great was busy conquering the world far and wide, he came at last to India.

When he was about to return to his country, he remembered that his
people had asked him to bring to them an Indian yogi. They had heard
a lot about yogis and were very desirous of seeing one, meeting him,
hearing him speak and receiving his blessings. Alexander was told
that the yogis dwelt in the forest.

In quest of a yogi he went to a forest. Sure enough, he found one
sitting underneath a tree, in deep meditation. He waited patiently
until the yogi opened his eyes. They shone with a strange, mystic
light.

Reverently, Alexander requested the yogi to accompany him to Greece,
saying.

“I will give you everything you need or ask for. But, pray, do come
with me. My people would love to meet you!”

The yogi quietly answered, “I need nothing, I am happy where I am.”

This was the first time that anyone had turned down Alexander’s
request. He could not control himself. He flew into a rage.

And unsheathing his sword, he thundered, “Do you know who is
speaking to you? I am the great king Alexander. If you will not listen to me. I shall
kill you- cut you into pieces!”

Unperturbed, the yogi answered. “You cannot kill me. You can only
kill my body. And the body is but a garment I have worn. I am not
the body. I am that which dwells within the body.”

The yogi continued, “You say you are a king. May I tell you, who you
are? You are a slave of my slave!”

Stunned. Alexander asked. “How am I a slave of your slave?”

In a voice tender with compassion, the yogi explained. “I have
mastered anger. Anger is my slave. See, how easily you gave way to anger. You are a
slave of anger, and, therefore, a slave of my slave!”

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This delightful story reminds me to never become a slave to my negative emotions, and most of all my temper. Pain and difficulty will always try to spark a reaction from you, but it’s up to you to respond as an ‘Alexander,’ or a ‘Yogi.’ The more we stoke the fires of anger, sadness, and struggle in our lives the more power we give them. In this case, Alexander may not have seen his anger as a weakness, but the yogi shed light on the strong influence that it had over Alexander’s life. As yogis, our practice is a bulletproof armor to stop the external forces that persuade us to define ourselves by these negative emotions. And that is truly powerful.

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Defy Gravity

Yesterday I tried aerial conditioning at Lab5 Fitness in Capitol Hill. I was excited, this is a new thing not many places offer. Basically you perform core strengthening moves supported by long, non-stretchy straps suspended from the ceiling. This intensifies a lot of regular exercises. For instance, doing a crunch with the strap on your sacrum leaning back forces you to lift about 60% of your body weight as opposed to a normal crunch’s 30%.

It’s a difficult learning curve, so I think the second class would feel much more like a typical workout as opposed to experimentation. In yoga, we learn to trust our limbs. Our arms holding us up in handstand, our leg balancing us in warrior III. Trusting the extra appendage was difficult for me. Even though the teacher insisted it could hold up to 3,000 lbs, it was hard to fight my natural instincts and put trust in this accessory.

My favorite part of class was being upside down, shown here, you lean back with the strap around your sacrum and wind your legs above you. In this position, even the smallest movements are challenging because you are supporting the weight of your entire upper body. It was amazing to do wheel and bow pose with the strap holding you, you could really see the range of motion in your spine without having to hold yourself up.

In the end, we ‘cocooned’ ourselves for a five minute savasana. It was amazing, your own little microcosm, rocking you gently back and forth. It was fun and different, if it’s available in your city give it a try. Be fearless!

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Click either picture to download

I wanted to share with you a recent addition I’ve made to my home practice. If you have an Iphone, Android, or other smartphone, you should check this out. You may recognize Pocket Yoga Builder from Starbuck’s Pick of the Week, which is where I picked up my promotional code for this cool App. Unlike other yoga apps, you can easily create sequences as it suggests appropriate poses when you are building your practice. It has a huge range of poses, from the simplest to the most advanced. I like that it’s intuitive and can be taken anywhere.

You can email your practice to friends who have the app and they can open it right from their phone. You can also email a PDF of your practice and send it to itunes. After this app came out, friends and family started requesting I build them sequences…here are my favorites:

Power Flow I – 25 min fast paced vinyasa flow

Flexibility I – 23 min restorative cocktail of hatha and vinyasa

If you have the app, feel free to email me at littlewindmillyoga@gmail.com and I can send you the iphone/ipad version of these flows!

Home practice: Pocket Yoga Builder

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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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we pray you would speak the names of your neighbors with love still wet on your lips

Sending many positive thoughts to the people of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Louisiana, Miami, and all others affected by Tropical Storm Isaac. Set your intention for practice today on sending positive energy to some of the people who need it most right now. Namaste.

All photos from NPR

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good words

Some words to start your week:

“The bird was so used to being in its cage, that even when the door was open, he did not fly out. Embrace your freedom.”

Namaste and enjoy your week.

Be sure to check out friday’s asana of the week for a heart opener.

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