I have been fairly obsessed with Utthita Trikonasana, or Triangle pose, over the last few weeks after reading that it was good for love handles. The waist seems so challenging to shrink! So I’m down for focusing on a standing pose that might hit the area that my regular ab exercises aren’t seeming to reach.
In addition to the toning, Yoga Journal says that Triangle pose also:
More experienced yogis can take the pose deeper by finding the big toe of their forward leg with their bottom/support arm; planting the palm of their support arm on the floor (as in the illustration above); or by engaging the core and floating the bottom arm.
What’s your favorite variation of triangle pose?
Do you see pictures in magazines and on Pinterest of lithe, thin women performing beautiful versions of yoga poses and think….that will never be me?
Well…you might be right. We come in all shapes and sizes, and in reality, few of us have the perfect measurements to achieve some of the glory poses seen in the media. But what we can achieve is glory in our own body. That one with the short arms, missing waist and tight quads.
Yoga can work it’s magic on all bodies, given time. It will grow and strengthen your muscles, help you find balance, maybe even patience. Over time, your body will find itself in poses you never imagined you’d find. It might be a variation on a pose, but I bet it will feel just as great as the fancy version in photos, because it’s the one that’s meant for you.
One of the many beautiful things about yoga is that it’s accessible to everyone. Your size and shape shouldn’t keep you from practicing yoga. There are enough variations that just about anyone can find their “sweet spot” in a pose. Don’t let appearances keep you off your mat. No one’s really watching you anyway, they are more concerned with what’s happening on their small piece of real estate.
Love your body and let it move. Look around, and you’ll find the yoga class that’s right for you. I know that no matter how I look doing yoga, as I flow through a class I feel like the goddesses in the magazines. And that's a feeling that's hard to beat!
My gut reaction to this question is "NO"! Yoga is about the journey, not the destination...and competitive yoga is all about "perfection" in a destination/pose.
The charge for competitive yoga in the U.S. led by USA Yoga, created by Rajashree Choudhury, wife of the famed Bikram Choudrey, both of whom participated in yoga competitions in India in their younger years.
The USA Yoga website describes itself as follows: “USA Yoga is a non-profit organization formed for the purpose of developing and promoting Yoga Asana (yoga postures) as a sport.
Yoga Asana competitions originated in India hundreds of years ago and are still being conducted there today. USA Yoga is now bringing this spirit of healthy competition to the United States, where, according to the most recent study by SGMA, more than 22 million people practice yoga in the US today.
USA Yoga believes that the sport of Yoga Asana will inspire many of these practitioners to improve their practices and encourage many newcomers to take up the practice of yoga and the sport of Yoga Asana.”
In a yoga competition, participants must complete a series of seven yoga poses in three minutes. There are 5 required poses – standing head-to-knee pose, standing bow-pulling pose, bow pose, rabbit pose, and stretching pose. Contestants may then choose the last two poses themselves.
The purpose, Choudhury says, is the poses show "how someone can have perfect strength, balance, flexibility in the body.”
But what about the rest of the person? It seems to me like the mind and spirit are being forgotten.
In 2012, USA Yoga petitioned to get yoga into the Olympic Games. The bid failed, but there is some growing support for the competitive aspect of the practice. Participation in regional and national competitions has increased every since they began.
From the outside, competitive yoga looks a lot like a gymnastics competition. We have so much competition in the world already. I’m not sure why we need more. Competition is all about trying to be better than your opponent. The ego is front and center. That’s the opposite of the yoga I’ve been a part of, where I’ve been encouraged to not even compete with myself!
Competitive yoga feels a little soul-less to me, but at the same time I’d like to take a step back and not be too judgmental. People find their way to yoga for different reasons, and perhaps competitive yoga will open the door to a whole new group of yogis.
What do you think?
I admit it. It’s not a secret to my yoga friends and teachers…but I have a history of really disliking backbends. They make my body feel like a log. My lower back begins to ache, my shoulders, quads and hips, neck all scream at me.
The problem is, backbends don’t just include your back, they often ask that your whole body get involved.
I’ve recently started trying to embrace this action, which shows up so frequently in classes. My wish to avoid backbends must mean that this movement is something that my body really needs!
So I am slowly and conscientiously participating more in class, practicing at home, and adding certain postures to the classes that I’m teaching. Here are a few tips that have helped me:
1. Start small. It’s important to ease into your backbends. Small movements done repeatedly will gradually grow.
2. Make sure to spend time stretching your hips and quads before rushing into any deep backbending. Anjeyanasana is one of many good options to help open this area.
3. Take time to open your shoulders. Tight shoulder muscles can keep your heart from opening. We spend too much time slumping over desks, steering wheels, smart phones.
4. Keep your legs engaged while tucking your tailbone (without gripping your glutes too tight) and pulling low belly in. This activity in my lower body has taken the pinching out of my lower back.
5. Be gentle with your neck. There’s no need to throw your head back, which can be hard on the cervical spine. It’s okay to keep neck in a neutral positon and take an upward gaze.
6. Try a full backbend using a big rubber exercise ball. You’ll have to get the inflation right so it’s not too big, but I’m enjoying backbending over my exercise ball daily.
7. Don’t covet! Yoga is not competition. Others in class will have beautiful backbends. Maybe someday you will too…or maybe not. Don’t be attached to the outcome of your practice. You may never get full upward-facing bow, but who cares? Your body will definitely benefit from incorporating even small backbends into your life.
Benefits of backbends are many. They can boost the immune system, help realign the spine, relieve back pain. They are energizing and can help open your heart space. They’ve even been recommended for those who suffer from depression.
I’ve realized that not all backbends are scary. Cobra, upward-facing dog, camel and bridge can all be done gently and without a lot of strain on the body. I find sphinx pose down-right pleasant!
I hope one day to be able to drop back into a backbend, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s okay. I will be happily working my baby back bends until my body is ready for more.
Historically, yoga was taught on an individual basis, teacher to student. This enabled the teacher to customize a yoga program to meet the specific needs of each student. However, today, group classes prevail for many reasons, including economics, student demand, and because it’s easier for students to dip in and try yoga in a group. There’s less commitment, and students can try different styles and teachers until they find their best fit.
However, a private session is an excellent way to move your yoga practice forward. You may schedule a private session if:
Whatever your goal with a private session, make sure to communicate it clearly to your teacher. Your teacher will want to know:
To find the right teacher, ask around for recommendations. Then, make sure any instructors you contact take the time to talk to you before trying to schedule an appointment. You want to make sure you find someone you feel comfortable talking to.
Then, agree on a practice space. Whether it’s in your home or in a public location, get rid of any distractions…cell phone, computer, etc., ensure against interruptions (kids, pets) and set an intention to give your practice your full attention!
If you are interested in a private session and in the Tri-Valley are, contact me here.
Lately it feels like there's been an explosion in places offering yoga. I love it, because it provides so many different audiences with the opportunity to try yoga!
This week, I'm happy to announce that a new studio has opened in Dublin, California, and I'm lucky enough to be a regular on the schedule.
Dancentric opened it's doors for its "soft launch" today, August 6, with a full schedule to get you moving. Its ecclectic array of weekly classes include Zumba, U-Jam, Kick My Abs, Bombay Jam, Boogie Box, Revivie...and of course, yoga!
Dancentric's owner, Dawn, grew frustrated with trying to find the fun gym classes she wanted to fit her busy schedule. The gyms often didn't include the yoga and pilates workouts she wanted as part of her routine. Tired with having to pay for multiple gym and studio memberships....Dancetric was born.
With two studios in a 3700 sq ft space, there's finally a place to find all the workouts you want under one roof. Come get your groove on!
Monday & Wednesdays at 8 a.m.
Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
I recently had my best savasana ever, floating over beautiful Lake Tahoe early one weekday morning in July. The rocking motion of the lake under my board, my forearms and hands floating in the water, and the sound of the waves gently slapping just next to my head truly made this savasana one that I will never forget.
It was almost being liked rocked to sleep.
I learned a lot about my yoga practice during my first SUP yoga experience. Mainly, that SUP yoga is harder than it looks!
My normal muscling through a pose didn't work so well here. I had to find a fluid softness to keep myself upright.
I also found that I focused much more intently during each pose here. I always thought that I stayed present during regular classes...but clearly not as much as I had to on the board, trying to stay dry.
My breath and gaze worked together well, in a way I hadn't experienced on land. Here on the board it was possible for everything else to drift away. Leaving just me and my breath.
I can't wait for my next chance for SUP yoga! If you get up to Lake Tahoe, check out LakeTahoeYoga.com. I had a great experience with their instructor, Jenay.
Free Hip Opening Class Saturday 7/19!
Does hearing that a scheduled yoga class will be focused on hips make you happy…or miserable?
I’ve had my share of achy hips. Too much soccer has left my hip flexors aching enough to wake me up at night. So I’ve made an effort to keep a focus on my hips...stretching them out a little bit every night. It’s gone a long way to keep my hips fairly open, and the aching-- for the most part—is a thing of the past.
I’ve read somewhere recently in a medical article, the statement “the state of your hips represent the state of your life.” Reflecting on this, there seems to be a bit of truth in that for me. What about you? Our hips are said to store strong emotions, though I haven’t found any definitive answer on why this is the case.
One theory is that the large, powerful muscles in this region are very active in the flight or fight response. Even though we're no longer running away from predators, these muscles still react to stress of all kinds by tightening and holding chronic tension. So when we release these muscles it can relate to letting go of deep-seated memories of fear, grief and anger.
Another theory is that the hips connect our upper and lower bodies - parts that are greatly disjoined in the computer age, as we spend 8+ hours a day sitting at a desk, commuting, etc. This physical shift is said to be mirrored in the stagnation of emotions. With yoga, when we begin to re-connect the upper and lower bodies, emotions begin to flow.
I don’t know if either of these theories is accurate, but they both make some sense to me. What I do know is that our hips are hard workers. They stabilize us in our daily life. Open hips provide greater range of motion, more fluidity to your movements, and lower your risk of injury. This translates into a more active life—more walking, running, dancing, playing.
When a teacher announces “we are opening our hips today”, I hope you can will approach the mat with a sense of gentleness. Hip openings should not be forced! Let this strong, hard-working part of your body open using softness, acceptance, and breath.
Free class Saturday, July 19 at 4pm at Dragonfly Yoga & Wellness.
P.S. My favorite hip-opener is pigeon. What’s yours?
Why try yoga? Well, tonight, it’s free! Visit Dragonfly Yoga + Wellness for a free level 2 class at 7:30 p.m.
There are lots of great benefits of a regular yoga practice. Here are just a few:
1) Stress relief: Yoga & pranayama (focused breath work) help relieve stress by bringing the sympathetic nervous system (which helps people deal with crisis situations) and parasympathetic nervous system (which helps slow the heart and lower the blood pressure, allowing recovery after a stressful event into balance.
2) Improved Joint functionality: yoga poses incorporate stretching with strengthening, bring greater range of motion and stability to the joints. The movements also aid in joint lubrication.
3) Relief during THAT time of the month: Studies show yoga helps lower the level of hormones in your system than give you menstrual cramps. Try Janu Sirsansa, head to knee pose, and Ustrasana, camel pose, to compress and then stretch the abdominal muscles.
4) Energy: Yoga works on unblocking “stuck” blocks of energy along the spine by bringing “prana”, or energy, into the back and throughout the body with breath and movement. Certain pose combinations, like sun salutations, are designed to make you strong, powerful, and confident, and enhance focus.
5) Better Sleep: Yoga help with sleep issues by lowering stress levels, calming the mind and relieving tension in the body. Certain resting poses like forward bends and inversion poses like supported shoulder stand are often recommended for insomnia.
Hope to see you tonight in Livermore!