Follow These 5 Yoga Poses To Reduce Stubborn Belly Fat –

Belly fat can be so stubborn and one of the hardest areas on the body to eliminate that fat. Sometimes it might even be the first thing someone notices about you so it can make you very self-conscious and it actually affects your overall health. The fat in the abdominal region is actually linked to type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, heart diseases, and some types of cancer. It is one of the most dangerous places to keep fat stored so it is one of the most important areas to get rid of it.

While there are many exercises which can eliminate the seemingly increasing belly fat bulge, yoga is actually very effective and any healthy person can practice it. However, you must know that yoga alone won’t do the trick but 70% of your success is based also on nutrition.

1.Cobra posture (Bhujang asana)

This pose is one that helps to reduce the belly fat and can strengthen the ab muscles. It also strengthens the entire upper body and back by making the spine strong yet flexible.

In order to do this pose:

2.Bow posture (Dhanurasana)

This pose strengthens the core of the abs. In order to fully reach the potential, you should rock back and forth while holding this pose in order to massage the abdominal area. This also puts the digestive system to work and fights constipation as well as giving the entire body, especially the back, a nice big stretch.

In order to do this pose:

3.Pontoon posture (Naukasana)

This is a great yoga pose to attack the body fat at the waist. It is great for the stomach and can help to strengthen the muscles in the legs and back.

In order to do this pose:

4.Board (Kumbhakasana)

This yoga pose is one of the most effortless but most effective in burning belly ft. It also tones and strengthens the shoulders, arms, back, thighs, and buttocks.

In order to do this pose:

5.Wind Easing Posture (Pavanamukthasana)

There are numerous benefits to this yoga pose besides relieving lower back pain and firming and toning the abs, thighs, and hips. It also massages the colon, balances the pH levels within the stomach, cures constipation and enhances your metabolism.

In order to do this pose:

In order to boost your body’s metabolism, it is advised to complete these yoga poses in the morning. Also, repeat these poses daily, 3-5 times, three days a week, and take a day off.

Another way of removing stubborn belly fast is  using an efficient 3 day diet plan. To learn more about this diet read on: militarydiet.co

Source – www.curejoy.com

Astrology & Asana: Partner Yoga for Libra Season

Balance is key! Just in time for Libra season and a harmonious cosmic cycle, we’re thrilled to bring you our latest installment of zodiac-themed yoga poses by Andrea Rice, a Libra and Astrostyle’s Managing Editor. For each astrological season, Andrea will share her favorite planetary poses tailored to the traits of the corresponding star sign. By embodying astrology and asana, you can move more in tune to the natural rhythms of life; enhancing your perceptions and elevating your spirit.
Namaste! –Tali & Ophi 

By Andrea Rice

Harmonizing Libra season shifts our attention toward bringing harmony to our relationships; a time for inviting balance and beauty back into our lives and our partnerships.

Much like the zodiac wheel, our bodies are always shifting, progressing and changing form. From the “birth” of Aries season to the “death” of Pisces, we too are experiencing a continuous life cycle. In other words, we cannot be born again until the outmoded parts of ourselves are released in some way. And it is only when we stop spinning our wheels incessantly to actually witness our patterns—old habits, beliefs and ways of being—that we can become aware enough to break free from them.

Picture yourself like a spiraling galaxy, where at your galactic core is your light, your source, your divinity. It is by moving into that very center of serenity that change and growth can occur. It is where yoga begins. Astrology is a wonderful complement to yoga asana, as both disciplines require self-study. And since the purpose of yoga is to stabilize the fluctuations of the mind, we can more readily look to astrological insight from a place of clearer perspective with acceptance and without any judgment. In other words: Free your mind—and the rest will follow.

By working with astrology and asana during the equalizing energy of Libra season, we can transmute the  justice-seeking qualities of the Scales, the zodiac’s only inanimate object, into tangible form. As a leadership driven cardinal sign and a innovative air sign, peaceful Libra is always distinguishing between right and wrong, good and bad, light and dark. Ruled by beautifying Venus, Libra energy can easily teeter on indecision at times, but also reminds us that life is always going to be a bit of a balancing act.

Planetary Poses for Libra Season (September 22-October 23)

Libra rules the kidneys and lumbar region, and also the endocrine system. The following partner yoga poses are inspired by Thai massage, designed to alleviate tension in the lower back and relax the glutes. And with a couple of assisted backbends, you’ll embrace your softer, more vulnerable side, and consciously connect to your partner as you open your heart chakras together. After the Sun’s methodical stint in analytical Virgo, Libra season invites us to turn our loving attention outward again to those in our lives whom we love and trust most. For musical inspiration I recommend the upbeat grooves of “Libra” by Toni Braxton; a little throwback for your low back. Fittingly enough, this pop album was released during Libra season in 2005.

Take My Hand: Seated Spinal Twists

Holy hand-eye coordination! This seated twist lubricates and lengthens the spine; an ideal warmup before moving into back-bending postures. Begin in a comfortable seat (optional: each partner takes a Half Lotus position with the feet). Partner A (right) reaches their left hand to Partner B’s waist, grabbing hold of their right hand which has been placed behind their lower back. Meanwhile, Partner A’s left hand is behind their back as Partner B reaches to the right side of their waist. Inhale to sit up tall and root down into the sitting bones; exhale to twist, looking over the shoulder. Repeat for 3-5 cycles of breath and then switch sides.
Remember: opposite limbs attract!

The Double-Down: Child’s Pose Assist & Supported Downward Dog 

Partner A (right) begins in (Mountain Pose) Tadasana, while Partner B (left) takes a Child’s Pose with the knees wide, grabbing hold of Partner A’s ankles. Partner A hinges forward at the waist and gently walks their hands down the flanks of Partner B’s back, gently massaging them toward their lumbar—careful not to press onto their spine. In this shorter Downward Dog, Partner A can bend their knees slightly and stretch their heart back, lengthening their own lumbar toward the sky. Partner B meanwhile is receiving a lumbar stretch from Partner A. Breathe together for 5-7 deep cycles of breath, and then switch roles. For Partner A: To come out, gently walk the hands up Partner B’s back and then bring hands to hips. Inhale to return to a standing position.

Double the Pleasure: Boat Pose with Assisted Heart Opener

Partner A (right) begins sitting on their heels in Hero’s Pose (Virasana). Partner B comes to Boat Pose (Navasana) by rooting into their sitting bones and pressing the balls of their feet into Partner A’s mid-back—on either side of the thoracic spine. Grabbing hold of Partner A’s wrists and pulling toward them, Partner B is assisting Partner A in a tremendous heart-opening backbend here. Bonus: Partner B can gently massage into Partner A’s mid-back—again, careful not to press directly into the spine, but on either side of it. Partner A continues sending their chest upward while gently letting their head drop back. Tip for Partner A: extend through the crown of the head to continue lengthening the neck (cervical spine). Breathe deeply for 5 cycles of breath and switch roles.

Double the Fun! Downward Dog-Supported Wheel 

Partner B comes to Downward Facing Dog and presses actively into their palms to stabilize their torso. Partner A (top) stands on the outsides of Partner B’s triceps and reaches their seat and lumbar back to connect to Partner B’s lumbar. Partner A can then gently lean back, walking their hands down Partner B’s legs toward their ankles. Communication is essential here, as is moving slowly and with intention. Breathe deeply together. To come out, Partner A will bring their chin in toward their chest and slowly walk their hands back up Partner B’s legs. Switch sides.

Better Together: Wide-Legged Seated Forward Fold

Begin seated facing one another, bringing the legs wide apart and adjusting your distance so you can actively press into each other’s feet. Grab opposite wrists or forearms and inhale to sit up nice and tall, together. On an exhale, one partner folds forward while the other leans back and extends through the crown of their head. Inhale to draw each other back up to a seat; exhale to allow the other partner to fold forward and receive this same juicy release. Tip: when folding forward, reach the tailbone back to lengthen the spine. Enjoy!

Photos by Finn Cohen
Yogi co-modeling by Mara Mayer

Andrea Rice is the Managing Editor for AstroStyle and is also a writer and yoga teacher. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, Yoga Journal, New York Yoga+Life magazine, Wanderlust Media, SONIMA, mindbodygreen and other online publications. Connect with Andrea on
FacebookInstagramTwitter and on her website.

Other articles by Andrea Rice:

Astrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Pisces Season
Astrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Aquarius SeasonAstrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Capricorn Season
Astrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Sagittarius Season
Astrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Scorpio Season
Astrology & Asana: Partner Yoga for Libra SeasonAstrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Virgo Season
Astrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Leo Season
Astrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Cancer Season
Astrology & Asana: Partner Yoga Poses for Gemini Season
Astrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Taurus Season
5 Yoga Poses to Find Calm and Balance During Mercury Retrograde

FALL SALE: 50% off all 2018 Horoscope Guides!

The post Astrology & Asana: Partner Yoga for Libra Season appeared first on Astrostyle: Astrology and Daily, Weekly, Monthly Horoscopes by The AstroTwins.

Yoga Outside the Lines: Make Art While You Make Asana

Curious for more? Experience Yoga Outside the Lines at Wanderlust Stratton, June 21–24. 


We’ve all heard of our inner child. It’s a term used to describe our youthful, perfectly careless selves—the versions of our psyche that encourage us to run barefoot, marvel at the stars, and delight in spontaneity. Our inner children represent a judgment-free version of ourselves. And yes, while bills and taxes and eating enough vegetables are totally important for living a full life, it’s arguably equally important to give that child a voice too.

Introducing Yoga Outside the Lines, a unique combination of yoga and art therapy where your mat becomes a literal canvas. Practitioners begin class with pieces of charcoal beneath their palms and then launch into an exploratory, soul-nourishing flow. The entire experience is one that simultaneously grounds and uplifts, remind us to let go of judgment and welcome courage and creativity.

We spoke to Debbie Siegel, founder of YoGoGirls.com and Yoga Outside the Lines to learn more about this innovative form of therapeutic expression.

How did you develop Yoga Outside the Lines? 

My authentic style of teaching yoga draws from a core belief in the powers of imagination. I infuse creativity into all the yoga classes and workshops I teach. Yoga Outside the Lines came to me after a friend and I witnessed a performance artist in New Orleans whose original inspiration was crafting sand angels at the beach. I got excited to see what others might create combining the mind-freeing aspects of flowing through a vinyasa with the mediums of charcoal and canvas.

How do you personally combine yoga and art therapy? What are the benefits?

I teach mindfulness to young kids through musical puppet shows. This experience, along with being a mom, keeps reminding me of the refreshing spontaneous, light-heartedness of children. Through “Mindful Marionettes” I get the honor of being in the presence of children while gifting them with the powerful tools of yoga and mindfulness. I drop my adult side and bring my inner child out during these shows. I’ve noted similarities when practicing yoga. It helps me find the same carefree approach to life that comes so easily to children. I’m not worried about the future or fretting over the past. I’m present.

Why is it important to nurture the inner child aspect of our psyche?

As a little girl, I knew I was an artist and would spend hours painting, drawing, and dreaming. Somewhere along the way, that belief got buried deep inside of me. I was able to revive this more artistic side, the inner child, of myself through my involvement with YoGoGirls, Mary Engelbreit Studios, and other creative projects. Those experience reminded me that I was still a dreamer. Creativity literally has the power to rekindle our inner child. 

Now as I approach 50, I am well aware of the effects of “growing up.” We are programmed and encouraged from a pretty early age to start acting like an adult. The adult mindset, however, is often cluttered with stress, responsibilities, worry, goals, and more. We age and set aside the carefree nature of our youth—that young human who was full of wonder and curiosity, who was playful, open to adventures and spontaneity. We set aside that person who took time to enjoy the simplest things in life, who was present in moments of creativity.

Yoga Outside the Lines changes that. In this program, you get to embrace the childhood pastime of freely drawing without worry about getting messy or how your final piece compares. You rekindle the passion and spirit of your childhood by simply creating art with your body. You drop your adult side for 90 minutes and reclaim some magic moments, ultimately discovering your authenticity by bringing out your inner child. You find the same carefree approach to life that comes so easily to children—not worrying about the future or fretting over the past. You are present. 

Debby Siegel, MSA, RYT. Debby inspires joy while crushing fear, leading yogis around the world through mindful practices with creativity woven into every class. Her yoga students discover their edges while engaging all 43 of their smileasana muscles. Self-dubbed the Yoga Evangelist, Debby connects yogis to their truest selves through yoga and yoga businesses to their people through mindful branding practices. Visit her on Instagram.

Amanda Kohr is the editor at Wanderlust. You can find her exploring new highways, drinking diner coffee, and on Instagram

Yoga Headstand: Salamba Sirsasana Asana King

 

Yoga Headstand – Salamba Sirsasana: The King of Asanas

The Yoga Headstand leads to optimize the flow of nutrients in your head and scalp.  This pose is considered as the greatest of all asanas due to its many health benefits.  It revitalizes the body and mind and relieves anxiety and other psychological disturbances.  With this pose, deep exhalation is possible due to the weight of the abdominal organs on the diaphragm, which allows for a larger amount of carbon dioxide to be removed from the lungs.  It also helps with many nervous and glandular disorders, especially those of the reproductive system.  It reverses the effect of gravity on the body, alleviating the flow of blood of the legs and visceral region-aiding regeneration.

Breathing and relaxation is important to receive the full benefits of the yoga headstand.  You may want to practice a relaxing Mudra to prepare for the Salamba Sirasana.

Yoga Headstand BenefitsYoga Headstand Salamba Sirsasana

  • Stimulates pituitary and pineal glands, which aid growth and the production of sex hormones
  • Strengthens the spine, neck, shoulders, and arms
  • Tones the legs and abdominals
  • Relieves a buildup of fluid in the legs and feet
  • Allows a healthy, pure blood flow to brain cells
  • Stimulates the nervous system
  • Aids in the treatment of headaches, anxiety, asthma, sinusitis, fever, depression, diabetes, insomnia and symptoms of menopause
  • Increase mental awareness and clarity
  • Calms and soothes the mind
  • May reverse the effect of lethargy, sleep loss, and memory loss
  • Stimulates and strengthens the lungs, facilitating healthy breathing
  • Improves posture and digestion
  • It helps overcome problems of the liver, kidneys, stomach, intestines, and reproductive organs by reversing pull of gravity

How To Do Yoga Headstandyoga headstand salamba sirsasana

  1. Starting on your knees, lean forward and place the forearms on the ground. The elbows should be in front of the knees at shoulder width distance (measure this by touching the elbows with the fingers and keeping the elbows in that spot).
  2. The fingers should be interlocked at their webs, the lower little finger tucked in front of the other little finger so that the outer bases of the hands are flat.  The thumbs can be kissing or placed one on top of the other.
  3. Place the crown of the head on the floor, between the hands. It should not push into the fingers but instead rest gently against the base of the hands.  The support should be firm and not break or roll backward when pressure is applied.
  4. Lift the knees and buttocks off the floor, straighten the legs and start to walk the toes towards the head.  The hips will gradually shift back into a vertical position.
  5. Bend the knees slightly, and press them against the abdomen and chest, transferring the body weight slowly from the toes onto the head and arms.  The majority of the weight should be on the arms not on the head.
  6. Slowly raise one foot up at a time carefully finding balance.  Extend the legs and balance on the head and arms.  The whole body should in one straight line with the feet relaxed.

Precautions

Remember to keep breathing.  The breath should become more and more subtle as the body adjusts to this pose.  Start by holding it for 10-30 seconds, gradually increasing this time as you go feeling more comfortable.  3-5 minutes is sufficient for the health benefits of this pose.

 

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Sitbone Pain from Yoga Asana | Love Yoga Anatomy

(proximal hamstring and adductor magnus tendon injuries)

by Jenni Crowther

Unfortunately enough yoga practitioners suffer from sitbone pain that it has been nicknamed ‘yoga butt’.  We may more correctly refer to this condition as ‘proximal hamstring tendon injury’.The length of time that it may take to heal and the way it will influence your physical practice make it a concern for both new and experienced practitioners.

hamstring-attachments-webI’m a Level one Anatomy and Physiology student of Stuart Girling, and not an expert in matters of the body by any stretch of the imagination.  I have myself struggled with pain from a proximal hamstring tendon injury for over a year and so I have much personal experience to go by. This article is the result of my research into what to do with my injury and how to heal it. The source articles of my research are listed at the end of the article, I have merely combined their findings and summarised them in my own words with my own experience overlaid.

What’s a hamstring?

The hamstrings are a group of three muscles on the back of the thigh that connect the pelvis to the knee and the lower leg. They are responsible for extending the hip, flexing the knee, keeping the body upright and the pelvis stable.

The individual muscles are called semimembranosus, semitendinosus (that sit on the medial side) and bicep femoris (that sits on the lateral side). Their proximal attachments are to the ischial tuberosity, or sit bone, at the base of the pelvis, and their distal attachments are to the outsides of the tibia and fibula (lower leg). The adductor magnus muscle, sometimes referred to as the fourth hamstring, also connects to the ischial tuberosity, just medial to the hamstring attatchments. Damage to its proximal tendon will cause pain to be experienced in a very similar area (although slightly more medial) especially in wide legged forward folds.

What are we calling this?
What does it feel like?

Symptoms may include pain and discomfort in the sit bone area

What’s causing the pain?
Who is most likely to be affected?

Anyone can suffer, but those at greatest risk:

Theories of causational factors
Bad technique – what might I be doing wrong?
Good technique – What could I be doing better?
Prevention is better than cure: Teacher general guidelines
To bend or not to bend?

Some teachers tell you to always bend the knee(s) of the leg with the affected hamstring(s), some tell you to keep legs straight. Which is correct?

In my personal experience, some poses worked better with bent legs, some worked better with legs straight and just not going as deep into the fold. I would often modify differently to keep a balance, for example, Padangustasana with legs straight to gently elongate the hamstrings, then Padahastasana with deeply bent legs to get a lumbar spine stretch. I agree with David Keil’s findings on the bent knee causing more tension at the site of the injury, but sometimes I just wanted to extend my spine fully.

As a teacher, if you can see the student has a bent knee then you know that the student is being mindful and modifying the pose, with legs straight it’s less obvious if they are causing themselves pain. So my advice would be to, talk to the student, explain the problem, the options and the potential injurious consequences of not modifying, and then get them to try different versions, and let them know that it’s OK to choose their own modification on each day for each pose, depending on how it’s feeling. But really emphasise patience, some days it feels fine and that’s when they’re most likely to over-stretch and go back to square one.

DON’T
DO

Stage one: Inflammation.

The first 48-72 hours

The body needs to stop the bleeding, clear away damaged tissue and prevent infection.

Supported Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

Supported Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

 Stage two: Repair

The body needs to construct a delicate cellular and molecular matrix to reconstruct capillaries and connective tissue. It will then start filling it with haphazard fibres.

We need to gently stretch and strengthen to help align those fibres.

1. Frictioning

For long term injuries where scar tissue has already built up, start a program of frictioning to break down the scar tissue. Frictioning is ‘plucking’ the scar tissue with your fingers across the fibres of the tendon. Or you can sit on a tennis ball and rock back and forth.

5-15 minutes before asana practice.

2. Warm up

Walk for ten minutes before asana to warm up the muscles

Swing the leg like a pendulum back and forth gently to get the same effect.

3. Repair asanas: detailed later
4. RICE after practice – or just Ice if not entirely practical.

To strengthen the hamstrings and glutes

Partial Shalabasana – 5 reps each leg.

partial shalabasana

Lie prone drawing in the abdomen. Engage hamstrings and glutes as if lifting right leg into Sarvagasana but don’t lift the foot. Hold for 10 breaths, Repeat left.

Dhanurasana Prep.- 5 reps.

dhanurasana prep

Both feet over a bolster, engage as if lifting legs off the bolster but don’t lift. Hold for 10 breaths.

Partial Supta Padangustasana – 5 reps each leg

partial supta padangustasana

Place right heel on a brick, press heel down, hold for 10 breaths. Repeat left.

Week 3-6, daily practice

To further strengthen the hamstrings and glutes

Partial Shalabasana – 5 reps each leg.

Weeks 3-4 Start to lift the leg an inch

Weeks 5-6 Lift the leg a few more inches, no more than 5.

Dhanurasana Prep.– 3-5 reps.

Weeks 3-4 Start to lift the feet off the bolster a little

Weeks 5-6 Remove the bolster and work on lifting the legs from the floor at a right angle

Partial Supta Padangustasana – 5 reps each leg

partial supta padangustasana 2

Weeks 3-4 Move up to a firm bolster

Weeks 5-6 Graduate to a chair, no more than a 45 degree angle

Week 1-6, daily practice

To further strengthen the glutes and then gently lengthen the hamstrings

Setu Bhanda Sarvangasana – 3 reps of 5 lifts.

setu bandha sarvangasana bridge

Very gently start working to lift into bridge, it may be that you start Week 1 just intending to lift and gradually work up a few inches at a time to full bridge.

supta padangustasana

Weeks 1-6 with a belt – 5 minutes each side

Loop a belt over the right foot and take it perpendicular to the body, on the comfortable side of the hamstring – no stretching sensation. Take the leg out to the side after 3 minutes, supporting the hip with a block. Repeat left.

Stage 3: Re-modelling

6-12 months of love

We need to help the body to strengthen the healing tendon and build long, strong hamstrings.

The number one rule is NO PAIN.

Any further damage will take you back to stage one and the whole process will have to be repeated from scratch.

Shalabasana – build up to full pose and then on to Urdhva Danurasana.

setu bandha sarvangasana bridge

Come up into bridge and isometrically pull the heels towards the shoulders – without actually moving them, hold for 30 seconds.

Eka Pada Setu Bhanda Sarvangasana

Eka Pada Setu Bhanda Sarvangasana

When comfortable with stage one, add in a leg lift to further strengthen the glutes.

Supta Padangustasana with resistance

supta padangustasana 2

Working up from the chair at 45 degrees, to a doorjamb pressing the heel away to extend the leg from the hip. Gradually work up to 90 degrees with NO PAIN.

I hope you have found this helpful or at least a starting point for further research. Please feel free to contribute your own experiences in the comment area below.
Jenni

Jenni created a little iphone video to demonstrate some of the exercises mentioned above
Sources with gratitude

jenny
Bio: Jenni Crowther has been practicing Ashtanga Primary series since 2009, after attending her first class and becoming instantly hooked. Practice was initially with Joey Miles in Leeds, where she had a corporate office life, and it gradually took over her life (early nights, no booze etc) until eventually she quit it all to go to France, then Crete, then India as a yoga student and now qualified teacher, after recently completing her 200+ YTT with Heather Elton et al in Goa. She is also pretty injury prone – hence this article

You can visit Jennie’s website here.

I really hope this article can be a springboard for a discussion on this topic. Hamstring injuries can be an upsetting problem for many yoga practitioners . If you have found something that really worked for you it’s time to share! Add you comment below and let’s see if we can help as many people as possible.

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Transitions in Yoga Asana: A Guest Blog

Transitions in Yoga Asana: A Guest Blog

Transitions in Yoga Asana: A Guest Blog

Jenn Pilotti has an M.S. in human movement from A.T. Still University and a B.S. in exercise physiology from UC Davis. She holds several certifications, and is a long time yoga practitioner. She owns a personal training studio in Carmel, and regularly lectures on topics related to health and wellness. More information about Jenn can be found at .  Be sure to subscribe to her blog!

The hip joint, a.k.a the femoralacetabular or FA joint because it’s where the femur meets the acetabulum, is a ball and socket joint, and allows for movement of the femur in all directions. Around the periphery of the acetabulum, or the ridge of the socket, is a cartilaginous structure called the labrum [1]. It is mostly avascular, meaning it doesn’t get a lot of blood. Additionally, there are pain fibers on the anterior (or front) portion of the labrum. The labrum helps stabilize the hip joint and in the case of repetitious rubbing, can be torn and cause pain [2]. The lack of vascularization means healing is often difficult.

(image by Shutterstock)

There are three major ligaments associated with hip stability. The iliofemoral ligament is a Y shaped ligament and tightens with hip extension. The pubofemoral ligament is located to the inside of the hip capsule and tightens with extension and abduction, and the ischiofemoral ligament also tightens with extension. When the hip is flexed, there is an increase in capsular laxity.

When you look at the structural anatomy of the hip joint, it becomes obvious why during asana practice it is important to maintain structural integrity and not “hang out on your ligaments,” especially when the hip is flexed. When the ligaments become overstretched and the muscles in the posterior aspect of the hip lack the strength to hold everything in place, this can become a problem for the deeper structures of the hip.

This is also what makes the transition from virabhadrasana I-virabhadrasana II (Warrior I-Warrior II) particularly tricky.

Warrior I is a closed hip asana, with the pelvis facing forward and the shoulders and hips in line with the front knee. (Interestingly, in “Light on Yoga,” Iyengar states this pose is particularly strenuous and should not be held for a long period of time. Of course, he also says it is good for reducing fat around the thigh, and we all know that doesn’t really work).

Virabadrasana II, on the other hand, is an open hip position with the shoulders and hips facing the side of the mat. These two different hip positions place different demands on the front hip joint. In the pictures below, you can see the femur rests in the socket differently in these two poses. If someone lacks good lateral hip activation on the front leg in Warrior I, when the hip opens from Warrior I to Warrior II, there is a good chance the femur position may be more forward in the joint, placing the surrounding structures of the hip joint at risk for overuse, specifically the labrum and ligaments.

Many of the people attracted to yoga asana practice, particularly at the more advanced levels of practice, are quite mobile, and some fall into the category of hypermobile. A practitioner that is hypermobile may find understanding lower limb joint position challenging [2]. If you lack proprioceptive awareness of your front leg during this transition, this could be problematic later. Researchers, in fact, suspect one of the non-traumatic causes of hip instability is repetitive external rotation with axial loading – which is what our front leg does as we move from virabhadrasana I- virabhadrasana II [3]. When you couple this with the high joint moments of force that already exist in Warrior II, performing this transition repetitiously may lead to wear and tear on the hip joint [4]. This might not be an issue if you are spending time specifically strengthening the hip, but a better option may be to limit how many times you perform this transition during class and make sure to maintain structural integrity of the hip joint by keeping a subtle sense of awareness in the lateral hip.

It is worthwhile to note that for repetitive use injuries, often the subtle warning signs are ignored. If you experience pinching in your hip during malasana (Garland Pose or deep squat), virabhadrasana I, virabhadrasana II, or versions of anjanayasana (low lunge with the back knee down), make sure you don’t ignore and push through. Get assessed by a medical professional and, if cleared to perform asana practice, make sure postures like pigeon are performed more in a strengthening way unless fully supported by bolsters.

Even if you don’t experience pinching, if you are in a class that is utilizing the Warrior I-Warrior II transition repeatedly, take the time to lift up out of Warrior I and take load out of the front hip before coming back down into Warrior II. If you teach, rather than go through Warrior I directly into Warrior II over the right leg, perform Warrior I on the right, lift up, turn, and perform Warrior II over the left leg. There is no reason to work through pain, and taking the time to create balanced strength and mobility in the body might prevent long term issues later.

Q&A with Jules:

Jules: In your blog you made this statement: “Make sure postures like pigeon are performed more in a strengthening way unless fully supported by bolsters.”  I totally agree with this, but I think the current yoga culture may not know what that looks like. We have morphed Single Pigeon Pose into a floppy, stretchy, feel good pose.  As you mentioned above, there is an increase in joint capsule laxity during flexion. In my teacher training, we spend considerable time noting that even Light on Yoga doesn’t show Pigeon Pose a floppy forward bend. It’s an active upright posture that prepares you for a split leg backbend.  Those lateral hip muscles in the front leg should be trained to develop enough strength to support the backbend in this joint position.  I have all sorts of creative ways to train those hip muscles, but I’ve seen a video of yours that I think the readers would love.  Could you post it here and comment as well?

Jenn:  Absolutely. Here is the video:

Jenn: The interesting thing about yoga is we are taught we need to open everything up to experience the fullest expression of the pose. This sense of openness or flexibility needs to be countered with a sense of strength for the neuromuscular system to effectively move into end range positions without alarm bells going off or compensations to occur. The great thing about yoga is we move in a slow, controlled manner, giving us time to focus on strength between transitions, figuring out how to slow a movement down (like stepping forward into lunge), and emphasizing the strength in an asana, rather than surrendering to the sense of stretch, which I know you have discussed in your blog before. Yoga can really be a strength based practice if the intention is shifted to make it so.

Jules: I think we both agree that in general, yoga is pretty awesome. I have my opinions, but I’d like to hear yours. What is it about our current state of yoga asana that has sparked smart conversations (like this one) about injury mitigation?

Jenn: Yoga is pretty awesome (despite the fact that I am not very good at it. I think that’s why I keep coming back to my mat). Unfortunately, the current state of advanced yoga practitioners seems to be one where there is a high incidence of little chronic aches and pains. It is my opinion that in order to perform a regular, challenging asana practice, supplemental training needs to be done. Targeted work on areas where one has instability or inefficiency (not the same thing), and addressing chains of muscles in a dynamic fashion can begin to give us the strength and mobility to perform a 3-4 day/week asana practice. In a society where even active people sit a fair amount, we need to take the time to become more embodied, not just through yoga practice, but through developing strength, understanding how our joints move on an individual basis, and building strength through a variety of ways, not just through yoga.

Jules: Cheers to that. #yogaeverythirdday Or, at least if you’re going to practice #yogaeverydamnday it should incorporate variations of postures that do exactly what you suggested.  I think I just decided on my next blog topic.

Jules: I understand you want to credit your teacher for inspiring this blog.

Jenn: Yes! A special thank you to Coral Brown for piquing my curiosity about this particular transition during teacher training.

Jules: I love it.  So, while we are at it, I will thank my teachers as well.  Thank you Leeann Carey for my training in yoga therapy and thank you Gil Hedley for holding the most profound dharma-esque talks I could ever ask for.

_________________________________

[1] Larson, C.M., Swaringer, J., & Morrison, G., (2005). A review of hip arthroscopy and its role in the management of adult hip pain. Iowa Orthopedic Journal, 25, 172-179.

[2] Smith, T.O., Jerman, E., Easton, V., Bacon, H., Armon, K., Poland, F., & MacGregor, A.J., (2013).  Do people with benign joint hypermobility syndrome have reduced joint proprioception? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Rheumatology International, 33(11), 2709-2716.

[3] Smith, M.V., Sekiya, J.V., (2010). Hip instability. Sports Medicine & Arthroscopy, 18(2), 108-112.

[4] Man-Ying, W., Sean S-Y., Y., Hashish R., Samarawickrame, S.D., Kazadi, L., Greendale, G.A., & Salem, G.A., (2013). The biomechanical demands of standing yoga poses in seniors: The Yoga empowers seniors study (YESS). 13(8).

 

  1.  
  2. Jill

    As someone who went to the brink with a hip labral tear and was brought back again by Jules, I can’t say how much I appreciate what you both do. I love the comment about how yoga can be a strength building practice if only we bring that intention to it. I have been bringing all that Jules has taught me into my yoga flow classes, going at my own pace and bringing these strengthening and awareness techniques into it, and my yoga practice is SO much more healing and fulfilling because of it. (And I get a kick ass workout that nobody else in the class is getting, I’d warrant). It’s like blinders have been removed and I can’t believe people can practice without getting hurt when they don’t know this stuff. SO IMPORTANT. THANK YOU.

  3. Jill

    Oh…and I LOVE this little hip strengthening sequence. Quick, to the point, and different enough than stuff I’ve already been doing to mix it up nicely. My hips felt very well placed afterwards. Namaste.

  4. Natalie

    Great article and thanks for the comment, Adam – I was wondering about that transition also as I read this article.

  5. Just read your entire blog and so happy to have found it. Thank you for all the research you’ve done, for putting the latest biomechanics relevant to yoga practitioners/teachers in layman’s terms..and for recognizing that this is all a work in progress. Fodder for my own teacher training in which I am very committed to presenting as evidence-based material as possible.

    I have two questions:
    1. Do you think there is a compelling reason to engage in passive, supported, stretching, resulting in creep (targeting joint capsules plus ligaments/tendons/fascia) in aging bodies (over 40? 50?) as a way of maintaining the mobility we already have with the assumption that all of our tissues are drying up and shrinking as we get older? Asked in another way: What happens to our fascia as we age, and does passive stretching become more relevant in older bodies?
    2. You have yet to present the benefits of a stretching practice…neurologically? chemically? As I see it yoga is the only modality where we are asked to take our joints through their maximum possible ROM for health and wellbeing (skirting injury). Dance, Martial Arts, Acrobatics all have other objectives… Given the risks, what are the benefits of having access to one’s full ROM in every given joint structure? Or what are the benefits of the stretching process if the end result is full ROM?

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Astrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Leo Season

Express yourself! Just in time for Leo season and a heart-opening cosmic cycle, we’re thrilled to bring you our latest installment of zodiac-themed yoga poses by Andrea Rice, a Libra with a Leo rising sign, and Astrostyle’s Managing Editor. For each astrological season, Andrea will share her favorite planetary poses tailored to the traits of the corresponding star sign. By embodying astrology and asana, you can move more in tune to the natural rhythms of life; enhancing your perceptions and elevating your spirit.
Namaste! –Tali & Ophi 

By Andrea Rice

Fiery Leo season coincides with the height of summer in the Northern Hemisphere; a time for burning away impurities and honing our authentic truth to express our most heartfelt passions.

Much like the zodiac wheel, our bodies are always shifting, progressing and changing form. From the “birth” of Aries season to the “death” of Pisces, we too are experiencing a continuous life cycle. In other words, we cannot be born again until the outmoded parts of ourselves are released in some way. And it is only when we stop spinning our wheels incessantly to actually witness our patterns—old habits, beliefs and ways of being—that we can become aware enough to actually break free from them.

Picture yourself like a spiraling galaxy, where at your galactic core is your light, your source, your divinity. It is by moving into that very center of serenity that change and growth can occur. It is where yoga begins. Astrology is a wonderful complement to yoga asana, as both disciplines require self-study. And since the purpose of yoga is to stabilize the fluctuations of the mind, we can more readily look to astrological insight from a place of clearer perspective with acceptance and without any judgement. In other words: Free your mind—and the rest will follow.

By working with astrology and asana during passionate Leo season, we can transmute the qualities of the proud and courageous Lion into tangible form. As the zodiac’s second fire sign and a stabilizing fixed sign, brave Leo knows how to really go the distance. Ruled by bold Sun, Leo energy is indeed egomaniacal at times, but also reminds us to be fearless in the pursuit of our dreams.

Planetary Poses for Leo Season (July 22-August 21)

Leo rules the heart and spine, and much like the courageous Lion will proudly wear their hearts on sleeves. The following yoga poses dare us to be vulnerable by opening our heart and lengthening our spine, helping us to boldly pursue our passions after the Sun’s introspective stint in homespun Cancer. For musical inspiration, I recommend the album, “Kill for Love” by the Chromatics to tap into your inner fierceness.

1. Power Pose: Stargazer

Stargazer-Pose-Astrology-Asana

The Sun’s stint in Leo marks an opportunity to hone our pride, but also keep our ego in check. This shape finds its foundation through the fingertips and outer edge of the back foot, as the opposite hand reaches for the stars.

Begin on hands and knees, warming up the spine with Cat and Cow. From neutral, with the crown of the head extending forward and tailbone lengthening back, step the ball of the right foot back and turn the heel down. Bring your right hand to your right hip to stack the hips and spin the chest open toward the sky. Take a look at your left big toe: can you bring it to the center edge of your back foot. Take a deep breath in, then extend your right hand toward the heavens and look up. Optional: tent the left fingertips to establish an energetic exchange with the earth below you.

Smile, and breathe deeply as you gaze toward the stars, feeling your wingspan broadening and spine lengthening. Continue lengthening through the crown of your head to open the throat. Stay for up to 5 deep cycles of breath and then switch sides.

2. Heart-Opener: Camel Pose (Ustrasana) with Gyan Mudra

Camel-Pose-Astrology-Asana

This variation of Camel Pose hones your heart’s desires, bringing focus and clarity to your intentions with Gyan mudra. This heart-opening posture will also open the throat chakra, unblocking any suppressed truths.

From hands and knees, walk your hands in to stand up on your shins, padding your knees as needed. Stack the knees directly under the hips to establish a sturdy base and bring your hands to the sacrum. Lengthen the spine and take a deep breath in, exhaling to lift up and out of the lower back. Envision a string lifting you from your heart as you lift your chest up and slightly back. Stay here, or reach the hands to your heels and squeeze the shoulder blades together. Optional: raise one hand toward the sky for Gyan mudra, bringing your index finger and thumb to gently touch. Breathe in and out deeply through your nose for 5-7 cycles of breath. To come out, bring your hands to your sacrum and lift yourself up by guiding your heart forward, rather than shoving the hips forward. Lower to your knees and close your eyes, resting your palms on your thighs and acknowledging any emotions or sensations this posture may have conjured for you.

3. Counter-Pose: Bound-Angle (Baddha Konasana)

Baddha-Konasana-Astrology-Asana-

This forward fold is a necessary counter-pose gives us spinal flexion after the spinal extension of a big heart opener, maintaining the health and integrity of our spine. Forward folds are also devotional in nature, humbling us to face ourselves head on—taming the ego and stabilizing the fluctuating mind.

Come to a seat and bring the soles of your feet together, pulling the flesh back from your sitting bones. Interlace the hands over the tops of your feet, rooting down through your seat as you breathe in and sit up tall first. Exhale to lead with your heart, hinging forward and letting your head go to release the back of your neck. You might allow the forearms to go past the shins, or use your elbows to press gently into the calves to maintain the opening of the hips.

Breathe deeply, naturally and rhythmically as you root yourself to the earth, nourishing your mind, body and soul.

Photos courtesy of the author

Andrea Rice is the Managing Editor for AstroStyle and is also a writer and yoga teacher. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, Yoga Journal, New York Yoga+Life magazine, Wanderlust Media, SONIMA, mindbodygreen and other online publications. Connect with Andrea on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter, and sign up for her monthly newsletter on her website.

Other articles by Andrea Rice:

The post Astrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Leo Season appeared first on Astrostyle: Astrology and Daily, Weekly, Monthly Horoscopes by The AstroTwins.

What is the Difference between Yoga and Yoga Therapy?

What is yoga?

Yoga has been known as a Hindu discipline, a science of life, an exercise, a self-improvement method, a gateway to God, and several more explanations.

Yoga will improve physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. As a result, Yoga learners will enhance their mental and physical well being. Yoga teaches us various things.

What is yoga therapy?

Yoga Therapy mines the complete science of Yoga as written about in the Yoga Sutras for physical practices that bringing health and healing to problems that confront us in contemporary life. The vast, antique teachings of Yoga hold responses to the small and the big problems we encounter. People undertake Yoga Therapy to feel stress free, to calm their minds, more emotional balance, rehabilitate their bodies and become reacquainted with their inner soul. no matter what you are going through, Yoga Therapy can help you achieve positive change and give you tools to expand your emotional and physical vibrancy and happiness.

There are three broad categories of Yoga Therapy, although they all correlated. The foremost type is similar to physical therapy that is performed by using basic movements known as asanas to recover injury, or reclaim vital energy.

Second aspect of Yoga Therapy is similar to psychotherapy that is performed by using emotional and mental yoga practices to deal with change, indecision, loss, and other internal struggles. This is associated with the third aspect of Yoga Therapy that is psycho-neuroimmunology. It is a branch of psychology that studies the relations between the endocrine, nervous, and immune systems, and illustrates some of the fine points of psychosomatic medicine and how the body reflects our internal state of feeling and thought.

Difference between Yoga and Yoga Therapy

Some of the major ways in which yoga therapy differs from yoga are mentioned below:

  • Yoga therapy works with your targets. Each session is personalized to your needs, whether you want to gain relief from chronic pain, improve flexibility, facilitate injury recovery reduce stress, improve well-being, get aid with depression, or basically retain your young appearance and energy.
  • Yoga therapy targets the practice to an explicit disease condition. Most disease conditions benefit from some yoga breathing or yoga asanas techniques and not others. A yoga therapy program for back pain, for instance, would be very different from a yoga therapy practice targeting depression.
  • Yoga therapy adjusts the poses to your needs of your body. A yoga therapist shows you how to modify and adjust pose to the specific needs of body, using props, alignment and modifications assists. This guarantees that you get the full benefits from each pose.
  • Yoga therapy uses attachment techniques to speed your improvement. When called for, some yoga therapists may use profound tissue massage and fascia release work while you are in the pose to release tight muscle groups and assists a deeper core awakening.
  • Yoga therapy deepens body consciousness. Yoga therapy is offered in single sessions or small classes, enabling the therapist to lead you in the fine subtleties of muscle relaxation, stretching, and strengthening. This increases body consciousness and helps you make more fast progress in reshaping your body.

Postpartum Yoga

Now that I am two and a half months postpartum, I wanted to share my personal favorite yoga poses for the postpartum recovery period. Being a momma is hard work and rewarding. For those times that it’s exhausting, we need guidance. Yoga helps guide the body back to balance. In this post, we will discuss different poses, how they benefit us, and how to do them. May your postpartum recovery be restorative and may it come with ease.

Virasana (or hero pose)

Virasana is a balm for exhausted momma legs at the end of the day. It is also an alternative to Padmasana (or lotus pose) for seated meditation. Increase flexibility in the knees and hips, tone the muscles in the arches of the feet, and increase circulation in the feet and legs with hero pose. Carrying around tiny humans, standing in front the sink, and chasing the family pet back into the yard gets repetitive and exhausting but proper self care and physical activity can help keep the mind, body, and spirit fresh.

How to Virasana:
Kneel on the floor with your thighs perpendicular to the floor, and touch your inner knees together. Slide your feet apart, slightly wider than your hips, with the tops of your feet flat on the floor. Angle your big toes slightly in toward each other and press the top of each foot evenly on the floor. Exhale and sit back about halfway, with your torso leaning slightly forward. Wedge your thumbs into the backs of your knees and draw your calf muscles toward your heels. Then sit down between your feet. Make sure your sitting bones are evenly supported. Firm your shoulder blades against the back ribs and lift the top of your sternum like the proud warrior momma you are. Widen your collarbones and release the shoulder blades away from the ears. Lengthen your tailbone into the floor to anchor the back torso. Stay in this pose from 30 seconds up to one minute. Gradually extend your stay up to five minutes.

Malasana (or garland pose)

This deep squat can be quite the challenge but if done properly can have many benefits. Malasana stretches the hips, groin, lower back, and sacrum as well as help tone the lower belly. While this can provide some relief from discomfort and prevent strain, exercise with caution. Go slowly, make sure to maintain focus on your breathing, and don’t push your body beyond its limits. Because I am a seasoned yogi, I am safe to practice with my tiny attached because sometimes that is the only way this momma is getting to practice. Garland pose is specifically useful for bringing extra energy when you feel drained.

How to Malasana:
Start in Tadasana (or mountain pose, see below), with your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart. Pivot your feet so your toes are wider than your heels. Bend your knees deeply, sinking down until your hips are lower than your knees and just a few inches off the floor. Bring your palms together over your heart and wedge your elbows one at a time, to the inside of your knees.
Push your elbows into your knees to open your hips, and gently press the inside of your knees into your elbows. Draw your heart forward and up, attempting to lengthen your lower back and spine. Stay here for 30 seconds up to one minute.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (or bridge pose)

Bridge pose offers new momma bodies a phlethora of benefits. Open your shoulders and chest, strengthen your back, glutes, and hamstrings; stretch your hip flexors and thighs; increase the flexibility of your spine and calm your mind with Setu Bandha Sarvangasana. Some of us don’t have gym memberships or even time for any sort of program. That’s why is so gentle, encouraging, and benefifical for postpartum, well any, moms. We can maintain our strength, flexibility, and spirit with a short 15 minute sesh. Being a mom-mager is hard and our systems eventually overload. Calm the 5pm rush hour junction that is your mom mind with bridge pose.

How to Setu Bandha Sarvangasana:
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat, hip-width apart with your heels directly below your knees. Leave your upper arms on the floor and bend your elbows alongside your ribs, pointing your forearms and fingers toward the ceiling. Turn your palms to face one another. Press your elbows and shoulder heads down into the floor, lift your chest, and bring your shoulder blades onto your upper back, wrapping your outer arms toward the floor. Keep your gaze straight up, paying attention to nothing nearby. Press into your feet and slowly send your knees forward, wrapping your outer hips toward the ceiling; then lift your buttocks away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone toward the backs of your knees. Straighten your elbows and interlace your fingers underneath you, drawing your shoulder blades deeper into your upper back, keeping the tops of your shoulders in line with the base of your neck. Gently press the center of the back of your head into the floor. Widen your collarbones and lift your chest, bringing your sternum toward your chin. Lightly reach your chin away from your chest, keeping space between the back of your neck and the floor. Simultaneously extend out through your knees as you lift your sternum, opening your chest. Take a few rounds of breath and calm down.

Tadasana (or mountain pose)

Mountain pose is the foundation for a strong and steady practice and momma’s are the mountains of their households. They are strong and their arms hold steady. Tadasana strengthens the thighs, knees and ankles, and tones the abdomen and glutes. Practicing Mountain pose can help to improve posture, reduce flat feet, and relieve sciatica.

How to Tadasana:
Come to stand with your big toes touching and your heels slightly apart. Lift and spread your toes wide, releasing them down to the ground, and root down through all four corners of your feet — the big toe mound, pinky toe mound, and the two outer edges of your heels. Engage your thighs to lift your kneecaps slightly (without hyperextending your knees). Gently draw your energy in toward the midline of your body. Lengthen your tailbone down toward the floor and find a neutral pelvis. Draw your low ribs in to your body and press your shoulder blades into your back, lifting your sternum. Move your shoulders away from your ears, and broaden your collarbones. Relax your arms by your sides, and turn your palms to face forward to open up through your chest. Bring your chin parallel to the floor and soften your face and jaw. Get tall from the soles of your feet up and out through the crown of your head. I like to raise my arms up sometimes, envisioning how mighty of a mountain momma I am. Stay in pose for 5 to 10 breaths.

Balasana (or child’s pose)

Child’s Pose helps to stretch the hips, thighs, and ankles while reducing stress and fatigue. During this exercise, make sure to maintain focus on your breathing. This pose also relaxes your spine, shoulders, and neck. So often our littles take breaks or get naps and we are left still going. Take a break momma. Fall into the floor and rest.

How to Balasana:
Start by kneeling on your hands and knees. Release your toes on the floor and separate your knees about hip width apart. As you exhale, slowly lower your buttocks towards your heels, feeling the tailbone lengthen away from the back of your pelvis. As your torso folds over your thighs, lengthen the back of your neck before your forehead rests on the floor. Lay your arms by the thighs with palms facing up and feel how the weight of your shoulders lightly spreads the shoulder blades. Take several slow breaths into your belly and lower your back as you rest there. Close your eyes, focus on breathing, and rest there momma. It’s okay.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (or downward-facing dog pose)

One of the most recognized poses of yoga, downward-facing dog, offers the ultimate all-over rejuvenating stretch. This pose energizes the body, calms the mind, stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands, as well as strengthens the arms and legs.

How to Adho Mukha Svanasana:
Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under. Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it lightly toward the pubis. Against this resistance, lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groins. Then with an exhalation, push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Firm the outer thighs and roll the upper thighs inward slightly. Narrow the front of the pelvis. Firm the outer arms and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor. From these two points lift along your inner arms from the wrists to the tops of the shoulders. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the head between the upper arms; don’t let it hang. Adho Mukha Svanasana is one of the poses in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. It’s also an excellent yoga asana all on its own. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Balasana (or child’s pose).

Uttana Shishosana

Extended puppy pose is like the perrrrfect combination of Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog pose) and Balasana (child’s pose), and can be used as a variation of either. Also referred to as the melting heart pose, this posture quite literally invites the heart to melt down toward the ground, stretching the spine in both directions. Extended Puppy stretches the spine, shoulders, upper back, and arms, making this pose great (or challenging, depending on how you look at it!) for those who tend to hold tension in their shoulders and upper back. Most momma’s do by the end of the day. The pose can also be therapeutic for stress and anxiety, as well as chronic tension and insomnia. Again, things we momma’s struggle with especially freshly postpartum. As a mild inversion, with the heart slightly higher than the head, Uttana Shishosana can help bring a sense of calm back into the body.

How to Uttana Shishosana:
Come to all fours (or Bharmanasana/ tabletop pose) with your shoulders stacked over your wrists, your hips stacked over your knees, and the tops of your feet relaxed down on the mat. Slowly begin to walk your hands out in front of you, lowering your chest down toward the ground. Keep your hips over your knees and your arms shoulder width apart, and gently release your forehead down to the ground. Activate your arms by pressing into the palms of your hands and lifting your elbows and forearms away from the ground. Draw your shoulder blades onto your back and reach your hips up high toward the ceiling. Invite your neck to relax and breathe into your back, lengthening your spine in both directions. Remain in the pose anywhere from 5 to 10 breaths, then gently lift your forehead and walk your palms back toward your body to press up to Bharmanasana (or tabletop pose).

Bharmanasana (or tabletop pose)

Tabletop pose stretches the front side of the body and the shoulders as well as strengthens the arms, wrists and the legs. Because of the opening it gives to the front of the body, this pose improves posture and gives you a nice boost of energy. As momma’s carrying around littles and lifting heavy store goods, tension builds, tabletop helps release. Bharmanasana helps momma’s stretch while at the same time strengthening their entire back side.

How to Bharmanasana:
Begin in a seated position with feet flat on floor in line with sits bones. Place palms open on floor behind your back with fingers facing in. Look up and as you engage your abdominals and glutes, lift your body upward while gently letting your head relax back. Breathe and hold 30 seconds. Do this 5 times.

Bhujangasana (or cobra pose)

Cobra pose is best known for stretching the spine and increasing flexibility. It stretches the chest while strengthening the spine and shoulders and it also helps to open the lungs. An energizing backbend, Bhujangasana reduces stress and fatigue. It also firms and tones the shoulders, abdomen, and buttocks, and helps to ease the pain of sciatica. All common places of discomforts for the modern mother.

How to Bhujangasana:
Lie prone on the floor. Stretch your legs back, tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Hug the elbows back into your body. Press the tops of the feet and thighs and the pubis firmly into the floor. On an inhalation, begin to straighten the arms to lift the chest off the floor, going only to the height at which you can maintain a connection through your pubis to your legs. Press the tailbone toward the pubis and lift the pubis toward the navel. Narrow the hip points. Firm but don’t harden the buttocks. Firm the shoulder blades against the back, puffing the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Distribute the back bend evenly throughout the entire spine. Hold the pose anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily. Release back to the floor with an exhalation.

Virabhadra II (or warrior II pose)

Named for a fierce warrior, an incarnation of Shiva, this version of warrior pose increases stamina, strengthens and stretches the legs, ankles,and the groin; opens the chest, lungs, and shoulders as well as encourages building of concentration. Momma’s are warriors. We endure and we push onward. This pose is the embodiment of all that we are. Be fierce.

How to Virabhadra II:
Stand in Tadasana (or mountain Pose). With an exhalation, step or lightly jump your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down. Turn your right foot slightly to the right and your left foot out to the left 90 degrees. Align the left heel with the right heel. Firm your thighs and turn your left thigh outward so that the center of the left knee cap is in line with the center of the left ankle. Exhale and bend your left knee over the left ankle, so that the shin is perpendicular to the floor. If possible, bring the left thigh parallel to the floor. Anchor this movement of the left knee by strengthening the right leg and pressing the outer right heel firmly to the floor. Stretch the arms away from the space between the shoulder blades, parallel to the floor. Don’t lean the torso over the left thigh: Keep the sides of the torso equally long and the shoulders directly over the pelvis. Press the tailbone slightly toward the pubis. Turn the head to the left and look out over the fingers. Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Inhale to come up. Reverse your feet and repeat for the same length of time to the left.

Utkata Konasana (or goddess pose)

An easy pose to perform to help you harness the forces of the Universe while stretching and toning your core. This pose helps each of us connect to our inherent inner goddess, finding a common space with this powerful feminine energy. This pose stretches your hips, groin and chest, tones and strengthens the core muscles, strengthens the quadriceps and inner thigh muscles, restores the shoulders, arms and upper back, as well as heats the body and increases circulation. Being a mother is being a goddess. We are fierce. We are powerful. We are strong. We are a force to be reckoned with.

How to Utkata Konasana:
Start in Tadasana (or mountain pose) at the front of your mat. Step your right foot a stride length towards the back of your mat. Turn your toes out and your heels in, so your feet land on a 45 degree angle. Bend your knees deeply out the sides and sink your hips down to the height of your knees. Bring your arms out at shoulder height and bend your elbows so that your fingertips point skyward. Spread your fingertips wide apart from one another and activate the muscles across your back to hold your arms here. Engage your core muscles and draw your tailbone in the direction of the floor. Do not hunch forward with your shoulders; keep your spine long and your muscles engaged. Stay here for 30 seconds up to one minute, then step forward and return to Tadasana (or mountain pose).

Each and every one of these poses are favorites of mine and have truly helped transition me for the third time postpartum. They are mild in requirements and encourage stretching, strengthening, toning, lengthening, and relaxing. All things that I know I NEED postpartum. I have to take care of me so I can take care of them.

as always, stay weird
-kail

Deets: I am wearing the Simply Sublime bra paired with postpartum recovery leggings by Kindred Bravely. I am able to practice, be modest while receiving abdominal support, and be easily accessible for my nursling. Every breastfeeding yogi’s desires in postpartum gear! *insert mad heart eyes*

###Legal Disclaimer: Before participating in any exercise program or using any fitness products or services that may be described and/or made accessible in or through the Operation: Better Human website, you should consult with a physician or other healthcare provider.###

11 Ways to Improve Your Yoga Practice • Yoga Basics

The tradition of yoga holds great depth and diversity, providing us with endless opportunities to explore and grow. While improving strength and flexibility are two obvious places to focus in order to progress in yoga, there are many other, more subtle, paths and tools that can help you become more proficient in your practice. This list of 11 ways to improve your yoga practice is not meant to be tackled all at once—working on just one or two of these areas at a time will be enough for you to see improvements.

1. Be consistent

Setting and committing to a regular practice of yoga is absolutely essential if you want to make improvements. You should practice yoga at least three times per week to start to see progress in your flexibility, strength, and focus. If you can’t attend studio classes that often, definitely adopt a home yoga practice and use yoga videos and apps to your advantage. Also know that while frequency is vital, the quality of your practice is ultimately more important than quantity. Carelessness and distractedness will not be effective, so approach every yoga session with intention.

2. Find the right teacher, tradition, and studio

Finding a teacher, yoga style, and studio that clicks for you will obviously be a huge boon in deepening your practice. Finding these may take years to achieve, so adopt an attitude of exploration and curiosity in your search. Trying out different classes and teachers has a benefit in itself; it lets you gain exposure and experience in all of the different ways to practice yoga.

3. Use yoga props

Using yoga straps, blocks, blankets, and bolsters will allow you to achieve a broader and more diverse experience of the asanas. Yoga props can be used actively to engage targeted muscle groups or in restorative yoga poses to release deeply held tensions and melt chronic stress.

4. Practice pranayama

One of the critical aspects of hatha yoga is to embody pranayama, or yogic breath. We all come to yoga with some type of dysfunctional or irregular breathing pattern, so reclaiming slow, deep, diaphragmatic breath can take about a year to establish. Once dirga pranayama becomes your regular breathing pattern, begin to practice the other types of pranayama to connect more deeply to your energy body and experience the flow of prana through the seven chakras.

5. Buy a great yoga mat

Performing yoga asanas on a crappy mat that bunches up and slips will distract you and hinder your practice. While many yoga studios do offer mats to use during classes, having your own mat will be more sanitary. Having a high-quality mat will give you a solid foundation on which to build a great practice. Plus, over time your mat will become infused with the effort, dedication, and intention of your personal practice.

6. Learn and practice meditation

While yoga can itself be a meditation-in-motion, establishing a traditional seated meditation practice will allow you to further develop and explore the mental aspect of yoga. The discipline you learn through regular meditation will help you focus and un-clutter the mind when you practice the more physical aspects of yoga: asana and pranayama.

7. Take workshops and attend yoga events

Taking a yoga class once weekly can only provide you with the fundamentals of hatha yoga, and the progression of your yoga practice will eventually reach a ceiling. To expand your knowledge and experience, you will need access to more tools, traditions, and techniques. Most yoga studios offer workshops on various topics and host traveling national teachers, or you can look into yoga festivals and yoga retreats around the world.

Workshops and events will not only help you refine your practice, but will also expose you to like-minded practitioners who can support you in deepening your practice.

8. Keep a yoga journal

Keeping a dedicated journal for your yoga practice is a great way to set and keep track of your intentions and goals. Taking a few moments before or after your yoga practice to reflect is a great ritual for developing insight into your work both on and off the yoga mat.

9. Take a private class

If you have been working with a specific teacher for a while, you may want to see if they offer private lessons. Taking one or more private lessons can help you better utilize your strengths and address weaknesses you may be unaware of. Private instruction will be particularly useful if you are in need of help with advanced poses.

10. Take yoga off the mat

As you explore and grow to understand the connections between your body, breath, heart, and mind on your yoga mat, you will naturally witness these connections in other contexts as well. Challenging yoga poses train us to approach difficult life situations with focus and strength. It may be rather easy to apply the Yamas and Niyamas while flowing through yoga poses, but applying these philosophical principles in our work lives and personal relationships is a very different experience. Learning to challenge yourself by finding opportunities to bring yoga off your mat and into your world is a fantastic way to strengthen your yoga skills.

11. Make yoga an essential part of your life

Yoga is not just another trendy exercise program—its philosophical foundations and principles were created thousands of years ago and are meant to be applied throughout your entire life. Do you regularly think about how you can bring more mindfulness, compassion, and awareness to your lifestyle, habits, relationships, diet, and work?

While you do not need to become a monk living in a cave in the Himalayas, there are many simple ways to align your life with the principles of yoga. For example, try eating less animal protein (or none!), declutter your home, be honest in all your communication, or create a daily practice of gratitude and kindness. Weaving yoga into the fabric of your life off the mat will in turn enhance your practice on the mat.