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 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

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.


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

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).


  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?



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


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


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)


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.

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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

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.

When there’s doubt whether in the yoga asana practice or in life

When there’s doubt whether in the yoga asana practice or in life, especially in relationships, we learn to take responsibility to make decision for ourselves, either we go beyond the doubt and endure whatever difficulty or challenge that we think we are dealing with, and make some adjustments to adapt and accommodate whatever difficulty or discomfort, proceed with what we want to venture, or, if we think we can’t go beyond the doubt, we can let go what we would like to do or have, without regret or guilt towards the decision that we made, no matter what is the outcome or consequences of our decision made.

When we attempt to perform certain yoga asana poses that we are not familiar with and there’s doubt towards our physical ability or fear of the risk of injury, we learn to take the responsibility to make decision for ourselves, either we go beyond that doubt and proceed with the attempt to perform the yoga poses without tension or fear or struggle or pushing the body beyond its limitation, especially when the body is capable and is ready to do the poses, but the mind has doubt and fear, and it doesn’t matter if we still can’t do the yoga poses after we have tried our best, or if we think we can’t go beyond that doubt, we think and believe that our body is not capable or is not ready to do the poses, we can let go of trying to perform those yoga poses in this practice session. There’s no regret afterwards towards the decision that we made for ourselves.

It’s really not important whether we can perform all the yoga poses, or not. It’s about learning how to deal with fear and doubt while we perform the yoga asana poses. It’s okay if we can’t go beyond the fear or doubt in this present, but we can try again in the next practice, or the next next practice, it doesn’t matter if one day finally we can perform the yoga poses without fear or doubt, or we still can’t do them even after many attempts for many years. It’s really not important and it has nothing to do with the realization of unconditional love and peace.

It’s the same as in life situations, especially in relationships. When there’s doubt in a relationship and we are not sure whether we want to continue to be in the relationship, or not, we can either go beyond the doubt and do our best to develop unconditional love, patience, tolerance, acceptance, adjustment, adaptation and accommodation to over-come whatever difficulties that we think we are encountering in a relationship, or if we think we can’t go beyond the doubt, if we think we can’t have the unconditional love, patience, tolerance, acceptance, adjustment, adaptation and accommodation to continue the relationship that is challenging for one or both parties, we can just let go of the relationship, even though we think we love the person in the relationship with us, as loving someone doesn’t mean that we have to be in a relationship with that person, to ‘keep’ the love, the person and the relationship to be mine and ours.

Sometimes we have to let go a relationship out of love, real love. As loving each other doesn’t necessarily mean that two people are suitable to be sharing a life together in a relationship or living together under the same roof.

It’s okay if we are aware that we are not as loving or kind as what we would like us to be. We don’t have to love anyone, because most of the time, we don’t even love ourselves, we only love what we like and what we want. And it’s okay if we don’t love anyone or ourselves, as long as we are aware of it. It’s okay if we realize we don’t really love the person in the existing relationship with us. And it would be better to be aware of “I don’t love you” than to think or believe that “I love you”, but at the same time “I’ll do and say things that would hurt you and our relationship, because I don’t really love you, but I only love what I like and what I want. And I am unhappy or feel disappointed, angry and hurt when I don’t get what I like and what I want in this relationship with you.”

There’s neither regret nor guilt, once we made a decision and we take the responsibility for the consequences of our decision made.

Some people do not want to make decision for themselves and ask other people to give them advice and make the decision for them, so that, if the consequences of the decision made turn out to be good, everyone will be happy, and if the consequences of the decision made turn out to be bad, they can blame other people for it.

Be free.

Sirsasana – A Reflective Asana

I have always been in awe of the ease with which people get into various asana poses and simply be. But the pose that always caught my eye and curiosity was the Sirsasana or headstand. It was my goal to get up in a headstand from the day I started my asana practice. But as I learnt more and more about the King of Asana, its preparation and benefits; it went from being something ‘cool and worth showing off’ to acting as a mirror for self-reflection. Though preparing my body to get into a headstand was very smooth and clear. But, as I approached getting into the headstand pose each time, it was nothing but an enactment of my truths. Here is how:

1] The easiest way to get up on a headstand is with the help of a wall. While a lot of people are happy to take support of the wall and be inverted, for me this comfort was a source of discomfort. The supported headstand did not bring me any santosham or sense of ‘I did it, woohoo!’. The more the safe zone the more I was bored and unhappy. Much like the time I decided to take a plunge into entrepreneurship leaving behind my plush corporate job. If you keep having a cushion and not let go, how does one expect to fulfill one’s dreams? It was only when Draupadi let go of her Saree completely that Krishna came to her aid. Till the time you take support of the wall, the headstand would only be a mere physical pose achieved and not a means to connect deeper with yourself.

2] As I tried to leave the wall behind and be inverted, there was a gush of fear that engulfed my body; my legs tightened, and my shoulders were shaky. Even though my teacher was beside me assuring me that she would catch me if I falter, I paid no heed to her. The fear tightened me up so much that it made sure I could not get my feet up in the air. What was the fear I asked myself? The fear of falling. The fear of falling and more so falling in my own eyes had sprouted when my first start-up did not work, since then the fear props up each time I even think of my next idea.  I realised there is no guarantee that the wound will ever be completely healed, and the fears would come up every now and then. That is perfectly OK!

3] I used to approach the headstand with my mind, saying ‘I have got to get into a headstand come what may’; which essentially also meant I must battle my fear. I fought it like a bull locking horns, and sure enough it did not work because the mind is a terrible master. Then what? Did I wait in a corner wishing for the fear to go away? No, instead I went up to my fears, looked her in the eyes with a quiet mind and acknowledged it. I decided to cut off her lifeline and redirect the energy. In this case, I was redirecting it to my apana region (the lower abdomen) and let the breath and ONLY the breath, not my mind, guide me up in a headstand. Believe it or not, I calmly got up in a headstand in the middle of the room without any support. And voila it worked!

P.S. I won’t deny that after I came down, I had to pause to understand what had happened.

The turning point for me was to acknowledge the asuric tendency within me (the dark side) and not fighting it to make it go away because it never will. The Daivic and and Asuric or the light and dark sides exist side by side in all of us. The key is to focus the energies on the Daivic and let it dominate. So simple, yet so powerful, no?

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Yoga For Anxiety: Try These 2 Simple Yoga Postures

Anxiety and depression have become the major health epidemics of the 21st century. Our too-much-information era overloads our systems and pushes our boundaries until there is no such thing as “down-time.” We compare ourselves to others based on social media updates (real or fake) and then judge ourselves accordingly. No wonder people are looking to yoga for anxiety relief. But, does yoga help with anxiety?

Yoga for Anxiety

Rather than being constantly interrupted by instant messaging, we could set aside time for ourselves to unplug and relax. By learning to rest and quiet the mind, you have choices about how and where to focus your awareness. 

When you practice yoga, the body and breath become the focal points of your awareness. Breath combined with movement automatically shifts the energies in the body. If you’ve ever taken a brisk walk to go “cool down” after an argument, you know what I mean. In this sense, yoga is the perfect anxiety remedy: it provides an opportunity to shift your focus from anxious thinking to embodied awareness.

When you shift your mindset to the present, you start to recognize new perspectives in the grand scheme of things. You can learn to ally with the spaciousness of the present moment instead of getting caught up in the stream of busy-ness. Yoga can help this process. To keep your stress levels from rising, take time out for these yoga postures to help with anxiety. Done daily, you’ll notice ongoing, cumulative results.

Here is a step by step guide:

1. Plan and schedule a time you can unplug daily.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the communications technology that is available these days so that we never actually take a break from being “on.” When you schedule time to get on your yoga mat, you give your mind –and eyes–a rest from the screen. This one reason is enough to see how yoga can help calm your mind.

2. Create a calming and peaceful environment

This may sound obvious, but a healing environment can contributing enormously to reducing anxiety. Find a space that is out of the flow of busy-ness, ideally with a view of nature. If you can’t find a quiet place, put on headphones and some soothing music. Dim lights, especially if they are fluorescent. Sitting still or lying quietly in shavasana can be a huge relief when we are overwhelmed.

3. Develop awareness of the breath

Your breath is with you always, no matter what country you find yourself in. Make a habit of checking in with it. Notice your breath when you are on the computer, in the middle of a misunderstanding, or sitting in traffic. Get to know what it is that stresses you out, and then bring mindfulness-and conscious breathing– to that activity.

4. Settle the mind and learn to dis-identify with thoughts

From a yogic perspective, anxiety is a disturbance of the “winds,” the subtle energy channels in the body. Think of a jar filled with sediment when it is shaken: the sediment swirls around clouding the water. A calm and grounded state of mind is characterized by clarity. The practice of sitting meditation is the most direct way to achieve this settled state of mind. When you ally with the spaciousness of the mind instead of the contents of the mind (thoughts) you automatically shift your perspective.

** Note: Even if you already practice yoga or meditation, working with a therapist helps address issues from a practical perspective so that you can let them go. Practitioners often believe mindfulness will sort out their emotional issues, but in fact the opposite is sometimes the case. Deep practice may stir up old issues, and unless there is a container for these unruly emotions, it can be tempting to “let go” of old issues before they are resolved, which creates a muddy stew in the mind. Anxiety can be a sign there is something trying to come to the surface to be worked with.

Practice these 2 yoga postures to help with anxiety:

When the going gets rough, the tough take viparita karani. This is my all-time favorite yoga posture, and my quick-fix remedy for just about everything from jet-lag to overwhelm, from exhaustion to anxiety. It’s the best way I know how to relax quickly and deeply. Follow it with child’s pose for a nurturing restart to your afternoon or evening. (I usually recommend a more vigorous practice in the morning to get the body warmed up for the day.)

Viparita Karani – Yoga for Anxiety

Child’s pose – Yoga for Anxiety

Yoga for Mental Health

Panic and anxiety are not purely mental events–they are physiological events, so they can’t be treated with the thinking mind only. You need to learn to BREATHE deeply, and train yourself to come back to the breath on a regular basis. Mind and breath are intimately connected. If you can calm your breath, your mind will follow.

The verdict on yoga for anxiety is that with practice you learn to settle the winds through breathing consciously, and this allows you to relax deeply. It’s pretty hard to stay anxious when you are relaxed. So while it is also good to talk with a therapist about underlying issues, yes, yoga can help with anxiety.

The post Yoga For Anxiety: Try These 2 Simple Yoga Postures appeared first on New Life Foundation.

Yoga for Eye Health Yoga for Eye Health

Our eyes are some of our most used organs. In fact, over half of the brain’s tissues are related to vision. So much of the information our brains get about the world is visual. That means our eyes are critical to how we interpret our surroundings, make decisions, and build perspectives. Our eyes are under a lot of pressure! For this reason and many more, yogis discovered the positive results of doing yoga for our vision. Practicing yoga can improve your eye muscles’ agility, reduce eye strain and tension, and improve conditions that affect your vision.

8 Eye Asanas for Your Yoga Practice

1. Blinking

To start off your practice, begin in a comfortable standing or seated position. Your body’s muscles should be relaxed but still engaged. Start with a gentle gaze ahead of you; allow your eyes to focus on something a few meters away for 30 seconds. Then, open your eyes as wide as you can and blink 10 distinct times. You’ll notice a sensation of relief and stretch in your lid muscles. Close your eyes for 30 seconds and follow up be repeating this routine four more times. This asana increases blood flow to your eyes, encourages eye lubrication, and stretches the muscles.

2. Palming

In the same relaxed position, rub your palms together. Warm them up with friction and then gently place them over your closed eyes. Feel the warmth of your palms warm up your eyes. This will feel very soothing and calming. Focus on breathing evenly as you palm. Our eyes are always working when they’re open, that’s why we need to sleep every night and close them. By incorporating palming into your daily practice, you give your eyes a bonus break they desperately need.

3. Nose Gazing

Many of us use a computer for work or spend way too much time staring at our cellphone screens. Both of those activities are using your close-up, or near, vision. Our eye muscles contract for us to be able to focus on objects up close; they can easily get tired and strained. To relieve this tension, it’s important to practice looking at objects at different distances away.

In your yoga practice, try nose gazing. Start by placing a thumb on the tip of your nose. Stare at your thumb with both eyes for a couple seconds. Then, slowly stretch out your arm pulling your thumb away from your nose. Follow your thumb with your eyes. When your arm is fully stretched out, look into the distance and rest your eyes there for 20 seconds. Move your arm slowly from one side to the other, following your thumb with your eyes. Ensure you keep your neck still so that your eyes must use their muscles to turn.

4. Shoulder Stand

This pose is excellent for increasing blood flow to the optic nerve and the brain. Start by lying flat on your back on your yoga mat. With your palms face down on either side of your body, lift your legs straight above your hips. Push into the mat with your hands and lift your hips up as well. Then, use your hands to stabilize your hips and buttocks. Tuck your chin and neck in to prevent strain. Hold this position for at least one minute, allowing blood to flow down towards your head. When you release, slowly lower your back and legs so they don’t slam onto the floor abruptly.

5. Anuloma

When we’re stressed or busy, sometimes we forget to breathe deeply. Understandably, we get so consumed by our lives that we don’t even notice when our muscles or organs are lacking oxygen. This asana is perfect for improving our breathing, blood circulation, and relaxation of our muscles. Start by sitting in a comfortable position and closing your eyes. Place the thumb of your right hand on your right nostril. As you inhale, the air can only go in your left nostril. Before exhaling, remove your thumb and close your left nostril by placing your right pinky finger on it. This whole inhale-exhale movement should take 10 seconds. Four seconds to inhale, two seconds to hold the air, then four seconds to exhale. Repeat anuloma for 30 seconds.

6. Bhramari Pranayama

This asana is excellent for settling your mind, relaxing your body, and soothing your eyes. In a comfortable seated position, close your eyes. Place your index fingers across your eyelids horizontally. Now, as you inhale, make a buzzing sound. Some call this “bee breathing” because of the sound you make. When you buzz, put slight pressure on your eyes. Then release the pressure when you exhale. Repeat this asana for one minute.

7. Kapalbhati Pranayama

One benefit of breathing exercises in yoga is that they cleanse your lungs and improve blood circulation. This asana is exceptional for that reason. Start by sitting comfortably against a wall. Rest your hands on your legs and gently close your eyes. After a deep exhale, begin inhaling in sharp, staccato breaths. You should focus on your abdomen and notice the quick jolts as you inhale. When your lungs are full, hold the air for a couple seconds, the begin exhaling the same way you inhaled. Short, jolting breaths. Repeat this breathing asana for 30 seconds.

8. Shavasana

The best way to end your practice is with shavasana. The various stretches and poses you’ve done likely held your body in positions it’s not used to. You may feel some tenderness or soreness. Or, you could feel exhilarated. Either way, it’s important to close your practice with a moment of relaxation and re-centering. Shavasana is comprised of laying flat on your back and closing your eyes. Focus on keeping your breathing slow and even. Meditate on each body part, scanning your body from toes to head. How does everything feel? When you get to your eyes, assess how they feel. Use this time with your eyes closed to give them one final rest before you get on with the rest of your day.

These are just a few ways you can use yoga to improve vision. As with any muscles in the body, exercise is important. These simple yoga exercises can offer a nice break from your busy daily routine, reduce stress and relieve eye strain, and they only take a few minutes. Using yoga alongside a healthy diet filled with vision-healthy vitamins, mineral and herbs, and other forms of moderate exercise is a great way to naturally improve and sharpen your eyesight.

The Difference Between Athletic Yoga and Yoga for Athletes

Many of us (myself included) head to a yoga class for a workout as challenging physically as it is mentally. Programs like Power Sculpt, HIIT Vinyasa, and Cardio Flows are rapidly populating yoga studio schedules everywhere. In a world that celebrates productivity and “killing two birds with one stone”, the possibility of getting a mental check-in as a well torching some calories seems like a pretty sweet deal.

And so it’s not surprising that yoga has shifted from being a form of physical therapy to being straight-up exercise. But let’s not neglect to explore the therapeutic benefits of yoga—especially in regarding to assisting body pain or helping to move along injuries.

Yoga for Athletes

According to Yoga Medicine founder Tiffany Cruikshank, Yoga for Athletes is “for athletes, who are already extremely active and need more balance to their already strenuous schedules.”

“This could be more of an active recovery class (think slow, accessible flow), passive recovery class (think more yin style), nervous system reboot (restorative, pranayama, meditation) for energy management, or cross training (a little of everything but generally a more challenging class), or something else based on the needs of the athlete,” Tiffany says.

You don’t need to have “pain to gain.” Even if your preferred workout style isn’t a sweaty session on the mat, yoga can help benefit your regular workout routine, and prevent future injuries. Teachers working with athletes, or those unfamiliar with the practice, need to be especially mindful.

“Athletes need that constant reminder that they aren’t there to be the best at yoga but to use yoga as a tool to help them be better at their sport and their health to support that,” Tiffany adds. “I find the simple mindfulness it instills is often a huge asset as it helps them gauge when to push harder and when to back off their training to support their ability to push their body to the brink and still be healthy enough to bounce back each time.”

If you’ve got buds who love to move but have never tried yoga, consider sharing these benefits:

  • Endurance. By regularly practicing yoga, we learn to move intentionally over long periods of time. Yoga forces us to develop mental and physical stamina, which can really come in handy when working on other workouts.
  • Body Awareness and Focus. Yoga is different than other workouts in that it demands total focus on the body and the breath. In these moments, we need extreme amounts of focus. This level of body awareness can come in hand when you’re pushing yourself on the treadmill and need to hone in on some positive self-talk.
  • Full-Body Strength. Yoga is a full-body workout—take a class a you quickly realize that you are working all parts of your being, from your abs to your calves to your arms. This is fabulous if your workout routines tend to focus on solely one area of your body. Power, strength, and speed are all directly connected to the overall alignment of our body. Work the entire thing, and watch athletic performance completely transform.

The Benefits of a One-on-One Session

A great place to witness the one-on-one benefits of a solo yoga session is in a private yoga class. You rid yourself of the potential “yogi comparison” that occurs from practicing beside another person and focus solely on your body. Perhaps you’ve been hyper-extending, or been straining your shoulders when moving in chatarunga. Private sessions help to remedy that.

“High level competitive athletes are basically training their bodies to go as far as they possibly can, to go to the brink without falling over the cliff,” Tiffany adds.  “So a yoga practice needs to support that process and keep them healthy along the way because good health means good recovery which means good performance.”

Other benefits include:

  • Ability to try new poses. Half of the fun in yoga is getting to try new things. And while a handstand may seem intimidating, working with a private instructor allows you the space to try these things in a safe, judgement-free zone. You never know what you’re capable of—especially with thoughtful hands to help guide the way!
  • Attention on health concerns.  If you’re coming to yoga for therapy, you can work directly with the instructor and communicate any physical ailments. And since that instructor won’t be in a space where they need to split attention, you can make sure your concerns are totally addressed.

We understand the appeal of trying a variety of yoga classes and programs. Explore. Find what’s best for you and lean into that. You might be surprised at what you discover.

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

How is trauma sensitive yoga different than traditional yoga?

Trauma sensitive yoga is a term that’s quickly making it’s way into mainstream yoga.  More and more you see classes and trainings that focus on this – as there is an obvious need for teachers who are aware and trained to share this with those in need.  But what exactly does trauma sensitive mean?  Who is it for?  Why do we need it? Kate Rice, Chicago-based trauma-sensitive yoga teacher, shares some insight.

This is a big question, and one that can’t be answered fully in the short span of a blog post. There are books written on this topic and entire trainings devoted to it.

Similarly, just as most of us realize there really isn’t one standard “traditional yoga” taught in studios to compare trauma-sensitive yoga to, there is also lots of diversity within trauma-informed yoga. And plenty of teachers who perhaps have not had training in trauma-sensitive yoga are in fact sensitive and empathetic in their teaching.

Consider this post a basic introductory outline – and, of course, my own opinion. Do you have other points to add? Let me know in the comment section below.

Here’s some basic differences that apply to trauma-sensitive yoga:
  • Fewer or no physical assists. Touch is powerful and could be triggering for those who have experienced trauma. If you plan to offer physical assists, ask in advance!
  • Invitational language/more options given. Offering options can serve to return the sense of control over one’s own body that is often lost in trauma. “In your own time…”, “Fold/twist any amount.” “Stay here 5 more breaths or finish when you feel done.”, “…or…”, option to close eyes or lower gaze/let eyelids be heavy if people don’t want to close eyes; options for savasana.
  • Trauma-informed environment. Different use of music, props, lighting, set up of room. Use of strap optional as it could be triggering for students who were bound or in recovery from drug use; teacher tries to be where students can see them to avoid the feeling of being snuck up on; set up room/mats so people can see the door…though once this is done generally allow people to choose where they set up rather than directing them to move; avoid turning lights out all the way or tell students before you dim them or turn them off.
  • Often less vigorous than public yoga studio classes. Often students in trauma-specific classes are newer to yoga or in some settings (e.g. a drop-in homeless shelter where people may actually be sleeping outdoors/on the ground; people wearing non-yoga clothes such as jeans because that is all they have) may have physical constraints greater than those typically facing regulars at yoga studios.
  • Often less focus on spiritual aspects of yoga and/or themes than in a public setting.  My view: sometimes themes can come across as advice-giving much like a therapist would do. I don’t think this sort of  theming is bad, and it’s pretty well-established and expected in some public yoga class settings. Since my expertise is limited to yoga, I’m very cautious about bringing in themes or quotes that appear to give therapy-like advice in settings outside of yoga studios.

Of course I also think people should teach what is authentic to them! Students and trauma survivors are resilient. It makes sense to think carefully about any theme you bring in, but it doesn’t mean you have to censor yourself.

The post How is trauma sensitive yoga different than traditional yoga? appeared first on My Area Yoga.

Bringing yoga to the world, one asana at a time

“The dress for yoga practice should be:

b) Costly and sophisticated dresses

c) Protective covering from head to toe

d) Loose fitting and comfortable”

— Sample question from a Level 2 model paper for the ‘Scheme for Voluntary Certification of Yoga Professionals’

“I love exams. People are usually afraid of them, but I love exams,” says HR Nagendra, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal yoga consultant. And as a result of his efforts, along with other yoga exponents like Jaggi Vasudev, Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a module has been designed so that yoga teachers across India can take exams to receive government certification.

Everything in Nagendra’s résumé indicates that he really loves exams. In 1968, he completed a PhD in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), and later served in its faculty. Soon after, he pursued post-doc research at the University of British Columbia and NASA, and worked at Harvard University and Imperial College. Since his move back to India in the mid-1970s, Nagendra has been putting yoga through the Western scientific framework he was trained in.

Seventy-four-year-old Nagendra has spent decades trying to gather quantifiable and scientifically valid evidence to understand and substantiate yoga’s benefits. He is now chancellor of the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (S-VYASA) on the outskirts of Bangalore, a yoga university started by his family with state-of-the-art technology and faculty from India and abroad. And, in recent years, there’s been the added quest of helping standardise yoga and develop a curriculum, so it can be adopted on a mass scale. Although the scheme for this programme was announced in 2015, it will soon be a year since the actual module was launched in April 2016. According to Nagendra, around 1,000 teachers have been accredited so far.

If the idea of standardising yoga seems new and strange, perhaps that’s because it is so much at odds with how yoga is traditionally practiced: Under the tutelage of a guru, who deems you ready to teach after years of practice, which can vary among students and across teachers. Many who practice yoga will also tell you that it is not simply a series of exercises, but a philosophical approach that has as much to do with the mind as it does with the body. “Yoga, quintessentially, is about the very experience of learning, and retains the experience of being taught,” says Polly Hazarika, a Mumbai-based academic and Sanskrit scholar, who has been practicing yoga since 2004.

Jaya Chakravarty, who runs an Iyengar yoga studio in Bangalore, has been teaching yoga for seven years. She reiterates that the process of learning, even as a teacher, isn’t as cut-and-dried as being able to pass tests. “My teacher (Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh at the Iyengar Yogabhyasa in Mumbai, who trained under BKS Iyengar) still has the right to advise me not just on techniques of teaching, but on my conduct as a teacher of the subject,” she says.

For Eliane Luthi, who obtained a Sivananda Yoga Teacher’s Training Certificate (TTC) after a one-month course in India in 2014, yoga is “a lifelong learning process”. Working for UNICEF as a communications director, she first discovered yoga in 2008 through classes in Switzerland – her country of origin. The TTC, which she saw as rigorous and demanding, was a way of formalising her knowledge. But she had already begun teaching yoga by then, offering free classes in the discipline to humanitarian workers for “providing a sort of calmness and centredness”.

Apart from the novel idea of standardising, it also seems like an incredibly ambitious exercise: How do you standardise across multiple schools of yoga, including several prominent gurus who have taught in their own traditions with disciples continuing their work and others evolving new ways of practicing yoga, and teachers of different abilities and motivations, from those with years of experience committed to living the life of a yogi to those looking for a quick course to cash in on a trend? And how do you build it as a model for export?

Nagendra, a small, soft-spoken man who wears a shirt and veshti of white cotton, sits in his large office on the S-VYASA campus. One wall of his office is covered by a large cabinet crammed with trophies, medals and mementos from events ranging from yoga demonstrations to laughter club conventions, and large portraits of people associated with the university. The other wall is covered by a large print of a photo of the university’s gold-coloured Vivekananda statue. In 2016, Nagendra headed an HRD ministry-appointed panel that recommended the setting up of courses from certificate to Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD in “yogic sciences”.

Nagendra talks about the move to standardise, which began ahead of the first International Day of Yoga organised by the Indian government in 2015, “A committee was formed; I was the chairman. Yoga masters from about 18 different groups, including the Ministry of Ayush and the QCI (Quality Council of India), sat together and evolved a protocol of 30 minutes to be practiced, which should give a holistic vision of yoga. Not merely asana but pranayama, meditation, bhajan, prarthana, sankalpa, and so on,” he says.

According to Nagendra, the first time International Day of Yoga was held, about 28 crore people participated in India. “Last year, the second time, 32 crore people practiced yoga. This year, our target is 50 crore – so almost 50% of people in the country practice yoga,” he says.

“This is how we have been spreading a holistic vision of yoga. And almost 200-220 countries practiced this last year. This time the Minister of External Affairs wants to (take) it all over the world,” says Nagendra. “But one has to bring the real, authentic yoga.”

The move to standardise also evolved out of a desire to ensure quality control.

The day I arrive at S-VYASA, a group of students are writing their theory exam for the certification course in a large hall — young men and women sitting silent on the floor huddled over their answer scripts, while a stray dog naps in their midst.

The course that the Ministry of Ayush set in place for certification was designed by QCI, presented to a Steering Committee, and modified by an Expert Group chaired by Nagendra. Level 1 includes a 90-minute theory exam. Those who pass it with at least 70% can take the practical exam and appear before a panel of three examiners for the “demonstration and viva voce”. Level 2 is more advanced and slightly more subjective. Those who pass will receive certificates from the Ministry of Ayush and the Indian Yoga Association. Nagendra says examiners can even be dispatched to test small groups in remote areas.

According to Nagendra, only people who are stamped by the Ministry will get jobs in the government, and the QCI has said, “Successful candidates who wish to travel overseas for yoga promotion will get a boost from the Ministry of External Affairs as their visa fee will be exempted and their applications fast-tracked.”

However, the ministry isn’t, by any means, the first to attempt to squeeze yoga into the structure of modern education. The Bihar School of Yoga, for example, offers a four-month residential course in Yogic Studies that requires candidates to have a minimum educational qualification of Standard 10 and a minimum age of 21, with a caveat that the “completion of the course does not entitle one to teach yoga”. Sivananda Yoga centres (the first of which was founded by an Indian teacher in Canada in the 1950s) offer a 200-hour Teacher’s Training Course (TTC) in multiple countries and languages that incorporates “four intense weeks” of ashram training and a regimented curriculum that ends with written and practical exams.

Even without a system of exams and certificates, yoga has, for years, undergone a process of codification as it has spread across India, and particularly, as it migrated, to the West. Take for instance Jois Yoga, a recent and controversial at-tempt by Sonia Jones, an American student of the late Pattabhi Jois, to codify his teachings and partner with his family to set up a chain of yoga studios. Or the growth of Iyengar Yoga as taught by the late BKS Iyengar, which as one newspaper puts it, “evolved as a brand, in a non-brand way”.

Perhaps any attempt to propagate teaching yoga on a mass scale today necessitates moulding to the desires of Western knowledge as well as those of capitalism, which Nagendra appears to aim for.

“BKS Iyengar, he had his own disciples,” he says. “He was very, very strict about naming you as a teacher. ‘Can you do tadasana correctly? Are you standing straight?’ Even after 10 years he would ask this. ‘Still you are not perfect, I won’t pass you.’ Developing a teacher meant they would have to be perfect, up to his level. Different teachers have their own way of assessment. If we want to spread all over the world in a very big way, we cannot maintain that level like Iyengar, or (Portugal-based yoga guru) Amrt Suryananda and train for 15 years.”

S-VYASA is now a deemed university that also offers yoga as therapy and has a 350-bed treatment facility, including outpatient treatment for ailments from obesity to psychiatric illness. It also has a research facility equipped with sophisticated machines that can measure brain activity and sequence genes, and a convenience store near the entrance selling everything from yoga books to Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali detergent. “People from all over the world come here. People who come on stretchers, they go walking. They come on wheelchairs, they go running up. People who thought it was impossible — they get so well. (…) Such miracles occur here,” says Nagendra. Hazarika calls this approach “hardselling a yoga tablet”.

Trying to have yoga “ratified” in a university is “ingrained in a colonial mindset”, Hazarika says, coming as it does with the idea that our traditions aren’t good enough, needing validation from Western science instead.

Nagendra himself sounds almost Orientalist in frequently using the term “combining the best of the East with the best of the West”. It’s difficult not to be sceptical of attempts to use Western science to validate Indian beliefs, particularly as it is something the right wing is fond of — consider Rajasthan BJP minister Vasudev Devnani, who hit the headlines last month for reportedly claiming that the cow was the only animal to inhale and exhale oxygen and that vitamin B in cow dung could soak up radioactivity.

But Nagendra’s attempts to put yoga through the motions of Western science seem more the genuine efforts of an inquisitive mind than a reliance on pseudo-science to prove one’s superiority — Nagendra himself was part of a truth-seeking informal inter-departmental group at IISc that in the 1970s investigated the Vaimanika Shastra (a document about the mythological ‘vimana’ or flying vehicle, often touted as supposed evidence of India’s ancient aviation technology, and hence technological superiority) to see if they could replicate it. Among its very precise instructions on what materials to use or how to go about it were Sanskrit terms they were unable to decipher, and components they simply laughed at, such as horse urine and animal stools, says Nagendra. After over a year, they concluded it was a “decided impossibility”.

“Science has to be taken further,” says Nagendra. “It has to go beyond the physical world. Mechanical engineering was too mechanical, so I moved into human engineering.”

Hazarika would probably find his approach to yoga too mechanical for her taste. She believes any attempt to standardise it is “completely alien to the interests of yoga and its ethos”.

On the other hand, though Chakravarty is wary of the attempt to standardise and replicate yoga on a large scale, she believes the ministry should stick only to the physical and scientific aspects, as its philosophical concepts are “too complex to grasp through quick learning, and very likely to be distorted in the hands of curriculum makers, teachers and students with personal prejudices and belief systems.” And if “someone has the training, the time, the technology, the funding” to back up claims about yoga’s health benefits with scientific proof —“that’s great”, she says.

However, yoga teachers and practitioners agree that no standardised short-term course can certify or prepare you for the actual demands of being a yoga teacher.

Yamini Muthanna, a Bharatanatyam dancer and yoga teacher, who began learning yoga as a teenager in Mysore in 1986, studied under BNS Iyengar, one of T Krishnamacharya’s more famous students (alongside BKS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois). The Bangalore-based teacher of Hatha Yoga Vinyasa is also the author of the book The Power of Yoga, published in 2015. She began to teach after 15 years of practice and study, and says she “does not fully appreciate” the kind of standardised system that has begun to proliferate. However, she says she is not against the government’s attempt to certify teachers. “When I was studying yoga in Mysore in the 80s, there were only two or three good teachers. Now there are a hundred or so. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. At least with this certification, there’s some kind of structure, some kind of training involved,” she says.

Panna Paranjpe, a yoga and pilates exponent, works in Chengdu, China, in a large “beautiful” studio — the biggest one she has ever seen in any country. She completed the Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training Course in Kerala over a decade ago. “The Sivananda school is a good initiation into yoga and how to teach. But I eventually realised that what I’d learned there was nothing. I had to branch out and study further on my own.”

Paranjpe, who formerly ran a pilates studio in Delhi, says that in China, where she has worked for close to a year, people are “craaazy” about yoga, and take it very seriously as a form of exercise. There, they don’t know much about Sivananda yoga, she observes, but Ashtanga yoga is extremely popular for the rigorous workout it provides. The version of yoga she sees being taught in China emphasises the physical aspect, like a workout in a gym, rather than the philosophical aspect, though she sees growing interest in it.

Paranjpe’s work in China, nevertheless, is exactly in line with the kind of global ambitions that Modi and Nagendra have for yoga. She sees the effort to standardise yoga (if done with renowned international faculty across different schools of yoga with an emphasis on more than just the physical aspects, she believes) as “a great move”.

Had the Ministry’s certification course existed when she was beginning to consider teaching yoga, Paranjpe thinks she would definitely have signed up for it.

(In arrangement with Grist Media)


The yoga body myth: Yoga is for all bodies

Yoga is good for every body, but unfortunately body image stops many people from practicing yoga or attending classes. I had a private yoga therapy client who came to me exactly for this reason, as she felt she could not attend class until she lost 20 pounds.  She recognized the benefits of yoga for her weight management and thyroid health, as well as self-acceptance.

As a yoga teacher, my training did touch on how to work with all different body shapes; however, in the classes I attend, rarely do see obese or largely overweight people. If they do, I sense that teachers not sure how to help them and support these individuals without offending or drawing attention to their physique.

The truth is there is no yoga body!

From magazine covers and famous yogis and yoginis, the public has an image of what the yoga body looks like. It is slender but strong.  It is toned with excellent posture.  The truth is our genetic make up has a lot to do with the yoga body we develop. Yoga won’t make you taller, shorter, have narrower bones, etc.  What yoga will do is help you body reach its optimal blueprint, a term used in Anusara yoga to express your perfect alignment for your body and mind, not the magazine cover.

Body Divine Yoga explains:

Modern Hatha yoga came from Non-Dual Tantra (although many credit Patanjali), in which everything is divine. The large yoga body is just as divine as the muscular, toned yoga body.  There is no difference in the benefit of yoga to both body and soul of the individuals.  It is radical, global acceptance and tolerance. It is what yoga has to teach us.

As Christopher Wallis, author of [amazon_link id=”0989761304″ target=”_blank” ]Tantra Illuminated[/amazon_link], explains:

If your goal is to obtain the mythical yoga body, that is not to be judged. But what about those who are kept away from yoga because of this mythical body?

We were sent a book designed to give access to yoga for those with larger bodies. As a teacher, I was especially interested in the suggestions for modifications, as I want to support every student that comes to my class.

[amazon_link id=”1936303485″ target=”_blank” ]Yoga XXL: A Journey to Health For Larger Bodies[/amazon_link].  I am not sure how I feel about the title (the XXL part), but I love the book and photographs of real bodies practicing yoga. This a great book for someone to start a home practice and gain the  confidence to come to class.

The modifications for larger bodies are very similar to the modifications for tighter bodies. Using straps and blankets where range of motion is limited or weak provides great support for all bodies.  I did find poses with different names than I have been taught, like Hero for Warrior 3, but that is not really uncommon with yoga to find some asanas called different names, even dating back to the [amazon_link id=”8185787387″ target=”_blank” ]Hatha Yoga Pradikipa[/amazon_link].

I like how the book states, “Healthy yogis come in all sizes.”  Flexibility is not limited to the thin.  Neither is strength.

The benefits of yoga go beyond attainment of the “perfect body”. When practiced authentically, it teaches us to accept the body we have and lead us to holistic health, both body and mind.

Many people come to yoga wishing to lose weight or improve their bodies. What they discover along the journey is so much more!

[amazon_enhanced asin=”1936303485″ /][amazon_enhanced asin=”0989761304″ /]

Dianne Bondy on Yoga and Diversity • Yoga Basics

Dianne Bondy is a celebrated yoga teacher and social justice activist and a leading voice of the Yoga For All movement. She is a spokesperson for diversity in yoga and yoga for larger bodies and seeks to empower people to try yoga regardless of their shape, size, ethnicity, or level of ability.

How did you find yoga?

My mother introduced me to yoga in 1973. We used a book called Stay Young with Yoga to learn the practice together

What inspired you to dive deep into the practice and become a yoga teacher?

I learned to love the practice from a young age. When I got older I wanted to share what I loved with more people. Fat people, people of colour, people with disabilities, and women of colour are underrepresented in this practice. I wanted the opportunity to share it with them and anyone who felt marginalized by this practice.

How has your personal yoga practice evolved since you started?

It started out as a connection with my mother and grew into a way to make peace with my body, build community, and make a change in the world. Yoga helped me to feel and be more powerful through self-study and helping me create an appreciation for my body. Yoga helps me see how society divided us and gave me the tools to help unite us.

What has been your greatest influence?

In developing my asana practice my greatest influence was Anusara Yoga. I learned so much about anatomy. It has had a huge fall from grace because of the bad behaviour of its creator.

Other influences are Doug Keller and Dr. Gail Parker. Doug Keller who is a brilliant teacher and socially conscious. He doesn’t hide behind yoga to continue to oppress people. Dr. Gail Parker showed me the power of restorative yoga to help heal racial and social trauma.

Who are your yoga heroes? Who are your yoga villains?

Heroes: Anna Guest-Jelley, Amber Karnes, Rhonda Wishart, Jasmine Hines, Kelley Carboni-Woods

Villains: Capitalism in yoga, yoga and wealth privilege, white supremacy in yoga, people who steal others’ work and pass it off as their own, organizations that hold wealth and don’t share it, and people who use their privilege to oppress others.

What sources of inspiration do you draw upon to fuel your personal practice and teaching?

So many, but mostly my students or social media family who reach out to me tell me how our community has changed their lives or how they are in the world. I get confirmation and validation almost every day.

How do you approach difficulty and challenge? What gives you strength to persevere?

I remember my ancestry and where I come from. My ancestors have survived so much. I have their strength and their resolve. I know in my heart I am the dream of the oppressed. They died so I may live in my truth and continue to the pass the torch as we work towards equity, equality, and justice for all.

What do you hope to offer your yoga students, teachers, and greater community with your work?

How to teach and live from a place of peace and love for ourselves and others. I hope to inspire others to stand tall, speak truth to power and create a just existence for all of us. I want to bridge the divide between us so we can evolve our humanity.

Timothy Burgin is a Kripalu & Pranakriya trained yoga instructor living and teaching in Asheville, NC. Timothy has studied and taught many styles of yoga and has completed a 500-hour Advanced Pranakriya Yoga training. Timothy has been serving as the Executive Director of since 2000. He has authored two yoga books and has written over 500 articles on the practice and philosophy of yoga. Timothy is also the creator of Japa Mala Beads and has been designing and importing mala beads since 2004.

How to do Yoga in an Airport Yoga Room

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Airport yoga rooms are popping up around the world—and getting better by the day. Here’s how to namaste while in transit.

Maybe it’s due to stressful, ever-changing TSA regulations or cramp-inducing airplane seats, but a growing number of airports worldwide have begun to offer dedicated practice spaces for traveling yogis. It’s far better than trying to find a quiet corner on the concourse for your downward dog.

Most dedicated spaces are very basic, but because of the increase in interest, airports are testing other options to get a sense of customer need. Recently, Yoga on the Fly—the first guided, private airport yoga and meditation experience—launched in Denver. While the offering was popular with travelers, a temporary lease means that the space will close at the end of March. Cofounders Elizabeth Feinstone and Avery Westlund already have future locations in the works.

There’s never been a better time to enhance your air travel experience with a little yoga between flights. We’ve put together the ultimate guide to airport yoga, which lets you know how to navigate communal expectations, how to share the space, and what’s available where.

Yoga rooms provide an escape from the frenzied pace of airports.

How to use an airport yoga room

The vast majority of airport yoga spaces are communal rooms, so consider your fellow passengers and follow a few simple steps to help keep everyone feeling peaceful, just as you would at a yoga studio at home:

• Remove your shoes upon entering the room
• Don’t bring food and drinks into the space
• Silence your phone and other electronic devices
• Respect other yogis and keep your practice quiet
• Use disinfecting wipes (often provided but it’s a good idea to bring your own) to clean mats available to the public

Most yoga rooms can double as meditation spaces, if that’s the zen you’re looking for, provided that you’re not easily distracted by others practicing yoga in the same room. Just in case, travel with earplugs, or consider downloading a guided meditation app or one that plays relaxing sounds that will help you in your meditation without derailing your focus. A few airports have dedicated meditation rooms, but unlike yoga rooms, they often have benches as small chapels do.

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Travel in active wear or pack a change in your carry-on bag, so that you can be comfortable when you practice. Few yoga spaces offer changing areas, so use a nearby restroom instead. Don’t forget to consider the items you’ll need to bring along to freshen up for your onward travels.

Many airport yoga spaces aren’t open 24 hours, so check in advance of your trip to make sure you won’t be disappointed when you show up. At Yoga on the Fly in Denver, you can reserve your private mini-studio in advance, so there’s no reason to leave things to chance.

Airports are naturally noisy places, even in the serene spots created to give passengers respite. Consider bringing wireless earbuds to play relaxing sounds while you practice, or pack earplugs to keep the airport roar at a reasonable level. 

Yoga on the Fly wants to make sure this is not your only option.

Where to get your om on

Burlington International Airport (BTV)
Yoga Room (second floor)
This practice room designed by a local yoga and physical therapy studio includes mats, cushions, and blocks. Showers in the family bathroom across the hall are a welcome extra.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
Yoga Studio (Terminal B, Terminal E)
Expect complimentary practice mats, exercise balls, and stretch mats, as well as instructional videos in these two rooms.

Denver International Airport (DEN)
Yoga on the Fly (New location TBD)
These fully outfitted, private mini-studios can be booked for guided yoga, meditation, or breathing experiences (lasting from 8 to 20 minutes), which is far better than going it alone in a communal yoga room.

Frankfurt Airport (FRA)
Yoga Room (Terminal 1, Terminal 2)
Mats are provided in these two rooms that help you relax and recharge between flights.

Heathrow Airport (LHR)
FlyFit (Terminal 2)
Scheduled to open in summer 2018, FlyFit is a wellness and fitness studio with both instructor-led and interactive strength, restorative yoga, and cardio classes.

Miami International Airport (MIA)
Yoga Room (Terminal H, pre-security)
This serene space for yoga includes mats for those who don’t travel with their personal yoga mat.

Midway International Airport (MDW)
Yoga Room (Concourse C)
Frosted glass windows on one side of this room let in natural light while you practice on complimentary mats.

O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
Yoga Room (Terminal 3)
This practice space has exercise mats and a video monitor that displays yoga exercise techniques and images of nature.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Yoga Room (Terminal 2, Terminal 3)
The world’s first airport yoga studio opened in 2012, and then the airport added a second. Mats are available for those who don’t travel with their own.


Astrology & Asana: Detoxifying Yoga Poses for Virgo Season

Go clean and green! Just in time for Virgo season and a grounded cosmic cycle, we’re thrilled to bring you our latest installment of zodiac-themed yoga poses by Andrea Rice, a lovely 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

Purifying Virgo season shifts our attention toward living clean and optimizing well-being; a time for boosting productivity and prioritizing self-improvement.

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 efficiency of Virgo season, we can transmute the analytical qualities of the Virgin, the zodiac’s methodical perfectionist, into tangible form. As an adaptable mutable sign and a stabilizing earth sign, analytical Virgo knows how to streamline and systematize to run like a well-oiled machine. Ruled by meticulous Mercury, Virgo energy can teeter on obsession at times, but also reminds us that practice does indeed make perfect.

Planetary Poses for Virgo Season (August 23-September 22)

Virgo rules the digestive system, gallbladder and pancreas, as well as the nervous system. The following yoga poses are designed to stimulate and even improve digestion by wringing out impurities while cultivating clarity to help thwart anxiety and nervousness. After the bold Sun’s live-out-loud stint in expressive, passionate Leo, Virgo season invites us to turn inward and sweep away the unnecessary mental clutter. For musical inspiration, I recommend the album, “Anxiety” by Ladyhawke to remind you that at the end of the day, we are all perfectly imperfect.

Ready, Set, Digest: Cat & Cow

Cat and Cow postures stoke digestive fire and lubricate the spine. Begin on hands and knees, fingers spread wide and hands placed just wide of the elbows. Moving with the breath, inhale to let the belly drop and gaze lift, opening through the chest, then exhale to lift from the back of the heart space to round the spine and tuck the chin, drawing the navel in toward the spine. Repeat for several rounds of breath, as rhythmically and organically as you like.

Let’s Twist Again: High Lunge Variations

From Downward Dog, step the right foot forward in between the hands and inhale to sweep the arms overhead to a high crescent lunge, staying low in the front thigh and tracking the knee over the ankle. On an exhale, draw the navel in toward the spine and twist the torso to the right, opening out the arms like wings and turning the chin over your right shoulder. Take a deep breath here, then exhale to tip back and reverse, sending the left hand skyward and right hand to support the low back or slide down the back of the right thigh. Breathe deeply, then use an inhale to draw yourself back into a revolved high lunge, repeating a few times as you like. Switch sides.

Power Purge: Modified Side Plank (Vasithasana)

Returning to Downward Dog, step the right foot halfway up toward your hands and shift weight into your left hand as you pivot all ten toes to the right and find the outside edge of the back foot, reaching the right hand toward the sky. Let your attention drift toward the heavens, drawing the navel in toward the spine to facilitate the twist. Press actively into the left hand while lifting the right hip. Breathe for a few deep cycles of breath and then step back to Downward Dog, repeating on the other side.

Relax & Surrender: Seated Forward Fold w/Half Lift

Forward folds help to activate the body’s parasympathetic nervous system; the rest and digest response. Come to a seat with the legs extended long and pull the flesh back from the sit bones. Inhale to sweep both arms overhead, exhaling to hinge forward at the waist and lead with the heart, letting the hands naturally reach for the shins, ankles, feet or two big toes. Inhale for a half lift, leading with the heart, exhaling to bend the elbows in at the sides to draw yourself forward and in. Move slowly with the breath, surrendering deeper into the posture with each forward bend.

Unwind Your Mind: Seated Spinal Twist (Marichyasana III)

From the same seated position, cross your right foot over your left thigh and plant the sole of the foot down. Hug the right knee into your chest to square the torso first, then crawl the right fingertips behind you. Inhale the left arm overhead, then exhale to hook the left elbow on the outside of the right thigh. Inhale to sit up tall, and exhale to turn the chin over the right shoulder to deepen the twist. Continue lengthening your spine by extending through the crown of your head. Send the breath all the way down into the belly as you breathe in, exhaling to draw the navel into the spine to help facilitate the twist. Keep the gaze soft and steady, and allow yourself to smile as you receive the healing and detoxifying properties of this twist.

Photos courtesy of Beth Kessler Photography 

andrea_riceAndrea 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.

Andrea Rice is the Managing Editor for AstroStyle and is also a writer and yoga teacher. Her work has 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:
Astrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Cancer Season
Astrology & Asana: Partner Yoga Poses for Gemini Season
Astrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Taurus Season
Astrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Aries Season
Astrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Pisces Season
Astrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Aquarius Season
Astrology & 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 Season
Astrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Virgo Season
Astrology & Asana: Yoga Poses for Leo Season
5 Yoga Poses to Find Calm and Balance During Mercury Retrograde

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

Beyond Asana: Yoga is So Much More than the Perfect Pose

I’m guessing it’s got something to do with the physical practice, or asana as it’s called in Sanskrit. You might imagine a long and lean-looking woman in a downward facing dog. Or the well-defined physique of a man standing on his hands. These images, and what the vast majority of people—including yoga practitioners—would conjure up in response to this question, is actually just a miniscule part of the practice of yoga.

Yoga is a practice of integrating mind, body, intellect and spirit. It is a path of spiritual and personal growth. It is a process whereby we learn to connect to our deepest, most authentic selves and all the selves that walk this earth with us.

That might sound pretty lofty and esoteric. But the practice of yoga, as broken down and defined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali—one of the quintessential texts of all of yoga history and philosophy—is actually an accessible path of living that even the most skeptical among us can use to great benefit.

The Sutras provide an eight-limbed path of yoga, and asana is only one of the eight limbs. Thus, if we consider the state of modern yoga, most practitioners are only engaging with one-eighth of the practice.

The eight-limbed path begins with the yamas, or external restraints. These are five guidelines focused on how we relate to the world around us. There is ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (non-excess), and aparigraha (non-possessiveness). The second limb is the niyamas, or internal restraints. These are five guidelines focused on how we relate to our own selves. There is saucha (purity), santosha (contentment), tapas (self-discipline), svadhyaya (self-study), and ishvara pranidhana (surrender).

By learning and then incorporating the yamas and niyamas into our lives, we start to live more in alignment with our highest values. And when we do so, life feels a little more peaceful, regardless of the vicissitudes of daily life.

The third limb of yoga is asana, the physical postures. This is the part of the practice we typically see glorified on Instagram and other social media. Particularly when it is practiced in concert with the other limbs, though, asana is an amazing way to keep the body supple, strong and full of vitality.

The fourth is pranayama, breath control. The breath is an incredibly powerful force in regulating our physical and emotional selves. If you’ve ever stopped to notice your breath when you’re feeling anxious or angry, it’s inevitably been shallow. By deepening the breath, you literally send a signal to your brain to slow down, to move from the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”) to the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”). When we learn to shift ourselves to the parasympathetic nervous system, we are poised to move through the world with more self-awareness and grace.

Next along the yogic path is pratyhara, sensory withdrawal. While in ancient times this limb was practiced by retreating into the nearest cave for days on end, modern yogis can find refuge from the incessant stimuli that continually confronts us by finding pockets of stillness and quiet in our lives. It is only when we get still and quiet that we can truly get in touch with our deepest selves, the part of us that knows who we are apart from the trappings of our professional and personal lives.

The final three limbs of yoga pertain to the practice of meditation.

For the ancient yogis, meditation was yoga, plain and simple. The asana practice was simply a means to this important end: Make the body flexible and supple enough so that it could sit comfortably for prolonged periods of meditation.

The sixth limb of yoga is dharana, or concentration. Here the practitioner finds the power of a focused mind by repeatedly drawing the attention back to the point of focus (perhaps a mantra, the breath, or even a physical sensation).

The seventh limb of yoga is dhayana, translated as meditation itself. Here the process of interiorization—going inward to our truest selves—deepens. There are countless meditation methods to achieve a deepening of our spiritual practice. What the various meditation practices have in common is that they bring the practitioner more fully into both her individual and her universal self.

Thus, the practitioner starts to feel into the truth of the idea that we are all connected, simply by virtue of the fact that we walk this earth simultaneously.

Moving from the transcendental to the mundane, meditation has the added practical benefit of helping the practitioner develop space between stimulus and response. When the yogi cultivates the ability to reflect and respond rather than simply to unthinkingly react to that which arises in her life, she will know more peace and spread more peace.

The final limb of yoga laid out in the Sutras is Samadhi, or enlightenment. It can be said that most of the time, we are like waves who have forgotten that we are part of the ocean. In Samadhi, though, we realize that we are the ocean. We feel in our bones that what we once perceived as separation between us is illusory.

Much of the eight-limbed path may sound aspirational rather than attainable. That’s perfectly okay, so long as we recognize that even the smallest of steps along the path can create tremendous movement in our quests to live our best lives, to become our best selves.

If we can start to dip our toes into the practice of yoga—whether by cultivating compassion for another, gratitude for the gifts in our own lives, or simply finding some time to sit in stillness and appreciate the sensation of our breath—we are practicing yoga.

Photo: Pixabay

Editor: Dana Gornall

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Surya Namaskar For Weight Loss and Yoga Asana Health Benefits


Surya Namaskar For Weight Loss and Yoga Asana Health Benefits

Surya Namaskar: a sequence of 12 yoga postures

 The Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar)

In Hindu mythology, the sun god is worshipped as a symbol of health and immortal life. The Rig Veda declares that “Surya is the Soul, both of the moving and unmoving beings”. The Sun Salutation originated as a series of prostrations to the sun. 

The logical conclusion is that the sun is the life or energy source for this planet and is an element in everything we eat, drink or breathe. 


The Sun Salutation, or Surya Namaskara, is a Yoga practice comprises a sequence of 12 yoga postures, best done at sunrise. If done fast, it provides a good cardiovascular workout. If done at a slower pace, these postures help tone the muscles and can relax the system and meditative.  Each pose coordinates with your breathing: Inhale to extend, and exhale to bend. 

Regular practice of Sun Salutation improves the functions of the heart, liver, intestine, stomach, chest, throat, and legs – basically, the whole body. The process purifies the blood and improves blood circulation throughout the system and ensures proper functioning of the stomach, bowel, and nerve centers. Practicing Sun Salutation daily helps balance the three constitutions – Vata, Pitta and Kapha – that the body is made up of, according to Ayurvedic science. Sun Salutation is also known to enhance the physical strength of a person.

What is Asana?
An asana is a body posture and “Yoga” means that which takes you on to a higher dimension or higher perception of life.

So, a posture which leads you to a higher possibility is called a “yogasana.” Among the yoga asanas, there are 84 basic asanas through which one can elevate his consciousness or awareness. These do not mean just 84 physical postures. They are 84 systems or in other words, 84 ways of attaining to mukti or enlightenment. Out of this, if you have mastery over even a single yogasana, everything that one is seeking can be known.

Yogis say that doing 12 sets of Sun Salutation means doing 12 powerful yoga asanas within 12 to 15 minutes.


12 Powerful Yoga Asanas

Surya Namaskar is the Perfect Workout for Weight Loss and it has Incredible Health Benefits: 

Surya Namaskar a sequence of 12 yoga postures, if done fast, it provides a good cardiovascular workout.

Some of the common reasons why we gain excess weight are:

  • Weak Digestive System
  • Slow Metabolism
  • Wrong Food Habits
  • No Exercise Routine
  • Accumulation of Toxins
  • Water Retention
  • Weak Body Strength
  • Insomnia/Depression
  • Lifestyle Diseases like Thyroid, PCOD, Diabetes

Surya Namaskar addresses to all these common lifestyle issues which leads to weight gain. These 12 steps of Surya Namaskar are very powerful asanas which:

  1. Strengthens the entire digestive system (including stomach, pancreas, intestines, liver, etc.) and cures, and prevents constipation.
  2. Complete Workout for the Muscles, it benefits joints, ligaments and the skeletal system by improving posture and balance. The limbs become symmetrical while the internal vital organs become more functional. 
  3. Fires up our Metabolism and helps in fat loss.
  4. Reduces redundant fat, especially the fat about the abdomen, hips, thighs, neck and chin.
  5. Regular Practice helps in Weight Loss & Belly Fat Reduction. It helps to stay thin. Practicing Surya Namaskar is the easiest way to be in shape. It stretches the abdominal muscles. 
  6. Some of the asanas stimulate sluggish glands to increase their hormonal secretions. The thyroid gland, especially, has a big effect on our weight because it affects body metabolism. 
  7. Improves the quality and circulation of the blood. Active circulation of the blood is the first law of health.
  8. Enables to eradicate toxic impurities through profuse perspiration and to absorb vital energy from the atmosphere. 
  9. Strengthens the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, fingers, back, stomach, waist, abdomen, intestines, thighs, knees, calves and ankles. Strengthening the back is known to be a simple but efficient remedy for kidney troubles.
  10. Improves and develops the chest, i. e. keeps it hard, firm and elastic; restores it to normal loveliness.
  11. Forward bends increase the space in the abdomen and facilitate the release of entrapped gases. These poses heat the front of the body and cool the back body. For vatas, it is important to stay warm. 
  12. Ideal Exercise to cope with Insomnia and related Disorders. Surya Namaskar practice calms the mind, thus helps to get sound sleep. 


Other Health Benefits

  • Regulates Irregular Menstrual Cycles. Practicing Surya Namaskar ensures the easy childbirth. It helps to decrease the fear of pregnancy and childbirth. 
  • Boosts Blood Circulation thus helps to prevent hair graying, hair fall, and dandruff. It also improves in the growth of hair. 
  • Reverse Signs of Aging and Improves Skin Tone and Complexion. It is the natural solution to prevent onset of wrinkles. Overall, yoga is excellent for the skin and it can also provide good benefits for people with blemishes and even acne. 
  • Boosts Endurance Power. It gives vitality and strength. It also reduces the feeling of restlessness and anxiety. 
  • Enhances Body Flexibility. It improves flexibility in spine and in limbs. 
  • Improves Concentration. Regular practice makes the mind strong and calm. 

How to do Surya Namaskar for Weight Loss

How many Surya Namaskar for Weight Loss

One round of Sun Salutation consists of 12 yoga poses.One set consists of two rounds of Sun Salutation:first stretching the right side of your body and then the left side. So, when you do 12 sets of Sun Salutation, you are completing 12 sets x 2 rounds in each set x 12 yoga poses in each = 288 yoga poses in 12 to 15 minutes.

One round of Surya Namaskar burns upto 13.90 calories for an average weighing person. You can now set the target for yourself. Slowly you can increase the number of rounds of surya namaskar to 108. By the time you reach this number, you will find a leaner you.

30-minutes workout calorie meter

Bicycling (14 – 15.9 mph) = 331 calories
Weight lifting = 199 calories
Running (7.5mph) = 414 calories
Surya Namaskar = 417 calories

Surya Pranam Mantra

Besides offering physical benefits, the Sun Salutation practice also helps calm the mind. Doing a few rounds of Surya Namaskar at an easy pace can be very relaxing and meditative. And adding a touch of gratitude to the Sun, chanting mantras while doing Sun Salutation, adds a whole spiritual dimension to the practice, making it more sacred. 

The physical and spiritual benefits of Sun Salutation are not just for adults to enjoy. Surya Namaskar is equally a lot of fun for children. 

Note: Persons suffering from slip-disk, arthritis, heart attack etc including pregnant women are suggested to take medical opinion before they start the practice of Surya Namaskar. 


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Practice Asana and Life

Asana practice is an opportunity to look at obstacles in practice and life and discover how we can cope with them. We become stronger and more capable through the practice. Not just physically but mentally. Most of the timeWhenever I feel discomfort in a posture, I zone in and direct my breath towards that area.

I don’t think “Ahhh, I’ve got to hold this for ten. Come on! Hurry up!”

I concentrate on the one inhale and exhale I need to get to the next. I take it one breath at a time. You’ll be surprised how long you can hold a posture for when you approach it from this perspective.

What is the quality of my breath?

Am I trying to catch up to it? Am I ahead of it? Is it rhythmic and spacious?

I’ve noticed a big shift recently in my own practice with regards to the breath. Its gone deeper within. I try to create stillness and focus on steady breathing rather than let the breath meander off on its own. Of course it doesn’t always work like this. This is why we practice.

Each time we step into the mat we are given one more opportunity to travel from the outer sheaths of our being inwards and towards our center, our core. The 8 limbs of yoga are constantly shifting and evolving as we practice each one.

The breath empowers us and allows us to use less effort to move into, hold, and move out of postures. Most injuries occur not when moving into postures but instead when moving out of postures. Usually without control or not enough. The breath should initiate the movement. The physical body should follow the breath and not the other way around.

Yoga is working within and on the edge of your comfort zone. Extending and expanding a little bit each and every day. Making sure to use our breath as a guide as to how far to take our practice today.

Keep Practicing

Over time as we empty our minds during class and let it all go for a while exploring our mats, the practice can truly become a moving meditation.

The post-yoga feeling leaves us with a renewed sense of being and a stillness that is so refreshing, as if we’ve cleared the cache.

Let me know if that makes sense but I feel it does. Ever find your phone or computer running out of space?



Recycle the unnecessary and the temporary.

What do you find yourself thinking about during your practice or during a class?

The post Practice Asana and Life appeared first on Yoga 5:50.

Yin Yoga: A Yoga Practice Every Athlete Should Adopt


Sore muscles, injuries, over-extension of the body…if you’re an athlete then you’re no stranger to these. From running track to weight lifting, chances are you’ve experienced some type of injury or strain throughout your life. Injuries may be inevitable at one point or another, but what if I told you there is a practice even the most trained of athletes could adopt to prolong and minimize injury?

Enter Yin Yoga. A gentle, yet challenging, yoga practice that allows you to drop into your own body, listen, and be present with anything and everything that comes up, both physically and mentally. Yin is a seated, grounding practice, within which poses are held for 3-5 minutes in order to bring mobility to the joints and ligaments. By practicing this style of yoga, athletes are able to work deeper into the muscles to transform the way the body moves.

In most classes you see in Western yoga, students are working with their yang muscles, or power muscles, which can be similar to an athlete’s normal routine. When practicing yin yoga, students are asked to relax into postures, taking on a more passive approach to working through deep connective tissue and fascia in the body. Fascia, oh, juicy fascia, connects every part of our body together and by caring for your fascia, you are maximizing athletic performance and muscle flexibility.

Yin Yoga offers athletes a chance to find stillness in the mind and body. Given that poses are being held much longer than a yang-style yoga class, a student will notice everything under the sun come up in their mind and body. From sensation in the hips to thoughts about past experiences, yin allows these physical and mental emotions to rise and be released through the power of passive movement. When intimately working with the body by breaking through connective tissue, students will find themselves breaking through old emotional patterns and coming out of class stronger. Not only in the body, but in the mind as well.

Yin can be practiced at home or in a formal class setting, although it is recommended to start in a class where a teacher can hold space for your body and all that arises. If practicing at home, use these five postures to start transforming your body and athletic performance:

1)  Reclining Twist 

Also known as Supine Twist, this posture is incredibly restorative for the back muscles, spine, and abdominal muscles. It’s important to note that both shoulders should be firmly against the ground so you are twisting from your mid-spine rather than your lower back.

    2) Square

Square, or fire log, is a juicy seated pose targeted at deeply opening and stretching your outer hips. With shins stacked upon each other, you can deepen the stretch by folding forward. If you are unable to stack the shins, a yoga block is helpful for easing your way into this hip opener.

    3) Saddle

Saddle pose is an excellent stretch for getting into the hip space as well as the quadriceps. By deepening into the furthest expression of this pose, you are opening your sacrum-lumbar arch which is beneficial for athletes and those that do a lot of standing or walking.

     4) Toe Squat

Toe squat can be an intense stretch for those that are on their feet often, but the results are outstanding. When practicing toe squat, you are opening your feet, strengthening the muscles, and stretching all six lines of the lower body meridians.

     5)  Melting Heart

After a long day of weight training or working out, this posture will stretch and relieve tightness in the shoulders while strengthening the spine. This mild backbend also works to bring more flexibility to the upper and mid-back.

Work these yin movements into your daily routine and enjoy the boost to your body and mind.


Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Ava Pendl, a freelance writer and digital marketing guru based out of San Diego. She’s passionate about self-health, yoga, and beauty. As an avid yogi beginning the journey as a Registered Yoga Teacher, she spends her time in between downward dog blogging for her local yoga studio, designing websites and social media campaigns, and managing her own blog.

Ava currently spends the majority of her free time planning her move to South America where she’ll be traveling, blogging, and yoga-ing around the continent. Follow her journey on Facebook.

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