"Practicing yoga does not eliminate life’s challenges, and neither does it provide us with a convenient trap-door to escape from life’s distractions. Instead, Yoga gives us the skills to meet life head-on with dignity and poise." — Donna Farhi
The ancient practice of Yoga was never meant to be the answer to all of life’s challenges. Rather, it is a philosophy and a system of practice for living. Asanas [poses] do not eliminate challenges and problems we encounter day-to-day, but rather teaches the practitioner how to maintain equanimity and live peacefully through life’s inevitable challenges.
Being in a pose, flowing through a practice and the challenging components of the exercises of Yoga teaches strength, perseverance, and contentment within difficult times, and to release attachment from goals or outcomes. It is an element of practice for the yogi to face these challenges rather than to avoid them.
Ultimately, finding your true self on the mat and meeting yourself at your best and worst daily will build perseverance. The journey is never an easy one, filled with challenges as we discover ourselves. Challenges shouldn’t be viewed as negatives, but rather as integral stepping stones on the path of yoga.
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Thanks to the peeps at The Yoga Room for featuring me this past Tuesday in their weekly teacher feature interview. Topics included music selection for classes, favorite pose at this moment and how I would describe my classes?
Catch the full interview here:
You can catch me at TYR for hot vinyasa on Friday morning and Sundays.
Check out my schedule here:
Peace & Love,
It is while practicing yoga asanas that you learn the art of adjustment.
When do I use a Yoga block?
First of all… I pick-up a block or two before the start of every class and sit them next to my mat. That's just protocol with me. I've always felt that the use of a block or any other prop only enhances your asana practice. The use of props have nothing to do with how much experience you have, nor does it minimize your asana practice. On the contrary, it shows mindfulness and a willingness to cultivate awareness.
For newer students, a block or two can make what appears a daunting pose an accessible one. It provides comfort, enhances alignment and support, while giving you a sense of adaptability in your own life.
Some poses I love using blocks in:
What are some other ways you use a yoga block?
I'll post more ways to use props during your asana practice in upcoming posts.
Until then, see you on the mat.
Hope is not a prediction of the future, it's a declaration of what is possible.
Arm balancing… YIKES. The dreaded point in the class where many of us just sit around and watch and get down on ourselves, or don't stay within our own practice for whatever the reason.
Listen, sometimes… bakasana (crow pose) just isn't for me. And that's part of our daily practice. So you know what? Just stay in malasana and enjoy the benefits of that asana. We are not in class to show-off, nor to get down on ourselves for not being able to do whatever our neighbor is doing.
I truly feel that the fear of getting into an arm-balance or the perception that you "can't do it" is the biggest hindrance to someone actually working their way to a particular pose.
Here are some tips that will hopefully help you in your journey:
I invite you to post any prior experiences and approaches in hopes of empowering others. We are all students and one way we attain knowledge is via other people's journeys.
See you soon…
We're talking hands today and the importance of our palm, fingers and wrist in many asanas (postures).
Very similar to our feet, both of our hands provide the stability needed for many of our poses. But unlike our feet, the muscles and bones that comprise both of our hands are not necessarily built for the same rigors of weight bearing, as we do on our footsies.
Without getting too technical; the bones that exist in our feet are thicker, stronger and don't have the similar dynamic range of movements as those in our hands. They can withstand impact a lot more and sustain our body for most of the day during ambulation.
We are used to writing, typing and being crafty with our hands, actions that do need a specific skill-set and different levels of dexterity, but how often are we really balancing on our hands and trying to weight bear, unless we're in a yoga class practicing arm-balances?
Which is important to recognize how we can use our hands during these poses and come into an understanding of how to practice safely and confidently without worries of injuring our phalanges and wrist.
Awareness about hand-placement on our mats should begin in downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana). Are we bearing too much at the heel section of our hands? Maybe use a wedge or place a towel at the heel to help increase the range and lessen the severity of the angle.
Are we leaning towards the thumb or pinky side more? Spreading your fingers apart, palms flat onto the mat and pressing evenly from the thumb all the way across the pinky side of your hand will take the weight off your wrist and transfer it up your arms and into your upper back where you have muscles better equipped to handle the load. Not having a steady flat surface with your upper extremities in down-dog could lead to tightness in the neck-area, a site of tension for many of us.
Placing your hands wider than shoulder width distance apart, closer to the edge of your mat, could also alleviate the uneven-bearing on your hands while providing more area up the arm and into the shoulder for lessened tightness and more space to find stability into your hands.
Beginning in table-top, shoulders above the wrist and hips over knees is a good initial position to find all your starting points mentioned above before tucking your toes under and lifting your hips into down-dog.
In other poses, such hand-stand, how we use our hands, fingers and their engagement are imperative in building a steady foundation.
You want the top part of your palms and your first set of knuckles to engage, which will help you activate the muscles of your forearm and upper arm. Your finger pads planted onto the mat will illicit a "tenting" action on the middle joints of your fingers. Good… because that will mean that your hands will work, instead of just collapsing onto your wrist when you go upside-down onto your handstand. Those finger-pads pressing down into the mat will help get those muscles in your hands that are used to mobility, get stronger for stability.
This is a good starting for alleviating pressure from the wrist and finding awareness in our fingers during arm balances. Maybe try some of the tips mentioned and we'll continue to explore arm balances such as crow (bakasana), and maybe figure out together what things have served your body, or haven't.
Any questions, comments, suggestions, complaints or observations are welcomed. I'll continue with a series of posts to follow-up and to expand on some of the things I've mentioned today based on your feedback and my own exploration.
No one is wise by birth, for wisdom results from one own’s efforts.
At 90-years young, B.K.S. Iyengar still practices asana and pranayama for hours daily.
Swami Yogananda Maharaj Ji is 105 and not only engaging in daily practice, but teaching as well. Tao Porchon-Lynch is still instructing too!
Others well into their 80s and 90s have a regular regimen of asana. Makes me wonder, where I will be 40-years from now.
I'll take my chances and practice some sort of asana, pranayama and meditation daily and hope to be as functional as some of these inspirations.
Join the club -- it's open to everyone!
A morning practice…
That's something that I truly need to develop more of. Many of us avoid it like the plague. Just when we made plans to wake-up early and meditate or practice asana, the alarm goes off … and we hit the snooze button.
Maybe we stay up late and that will be our excuse the next morning. Here's another one… we wash our mat, so it's too wet or put it somewhere we can't find to avoid going to a studio for practice. Excuses, excuses.
So what do you?
Makes your morning more efficient and you'll be primed to get going.
LOL… seriously, give yourself time to marinate. Yeah… marinate. To enjoy your morning, savor your departure from bed and allow your body to get acclimated to a new day instead of rushing out.
Yes… they'll get you up really early whether you want to or not.
You don't have to go to your local studio to get your meditation or asana practice in. Roll out a mat in the living room or any available space in your home and a few sun salutations later, you got yourself an effective morning routine.
Energizing poses; cat-cow to warm up the spine, sun salutations to build heat, back-bends to invigorate and finish with savasana to collect yourself and cultivate awareness for the day.
Adho much vrksasana (handstand) on a busy New York City sidewalk…
Bakasana (crow) on an edge of a cliff…
Forget that! How about savasana (corpse pose) anywhere and everywhere?
Now that's the prime photo-op for every aspiring yogi and asana junkie! Arguably the most vital of poses, savasana, is the final gateway to bliss and complete absorption. After a rigorous practice, many times the benefits aren't truly realized because the practitioner deprives themselves of a enriching pause. Even during a hectic day, finding time to just lay down and feel your inhalations and exhalations in this pose can be valuable.
Besides all the impactful benefits; decreasing of the heart-rate, relaxation of the skeletal and visceral muscles, lowering of tension and anxiety along with increasing energy levels and stimulating the ability to concentrate… why wouldn't anyone want to deepen their awareness with a corpse pose anytime or anywhere?
At work. At home. Getting to your yoga class early and easing into it and ending your asana practice with a prolonged savasana. Alright… lets do it.
Anytime… anywhere. Get your savasana on!
"On your next inhale, glide forward to plank."
Dreaded words to many. Oh noooo… a plank. A high push-up. Ughh!
Is your lower back feeling sore? Are your wrist aching? Is your pelvis dragging you down? All things we've felt at one point or another during this posture - which is why many of us dread it. I for one one have felt that way in the past, collapsing into my wrist and not evenly distributing my weight or activating my "core" [we'll get to that] enough, which added to my unease when approaching plank.
So how can we feel lighter and embrace this asana with new found awareness?
First and foremost, it's not solely about your arms bearing weight or any of the rest of your major muscles in your upper body.
Yes, the shoulder joint - which is built for mobility - is engaged in stability. But I truly feel that because there is such a spotlight in bringing your "shoulders over your wrist," that many of us forget to engage the "core," which begins at your heels, spirals up the pelvis, into your abdominals and trunk before reaching your scapula and ultimately, shooting energy out of the crown of your head. That is your core.
Are your quadriceps (thigh muscles) engaged? Straight legs, active with your heels lifted, energetically, moving towards the back of your mat.
Integrating the mid-section, your pelvis, is imperative to keep you afloat and light. Especially to prevent a collapsing of the lower back, lift your pelvic girdle in line with your shoulders and look for a sensation of elongating your tailbone towards your feet to engage through your lower extremities and avoid that scooping in your lumbar-sacral region.
Rolling the inner upper thighs towards your back body helps create that energy.
So far… we've talked about the "core" & not once have I talked about isolating our abdominals nor finding a sensation at our heart region, which sometimes gets misinterpreted as such when the word "core" gets thrown around.
Yes, you want your shoulders away from your ears, neck long and shoulder blades to draw towards one another across your back so your collarbones broaden. Tip: a good way to get this feeling is to lower your knees onto the mat, with your hips aligned over your knees, and work to find that opening in your front-body and engagement in your back body. After finding your alignment there, you can find some burn and work towards a full plank by starting on your knees then pressing into hands and toes to hover the knees a few inches off the ground [hold for 5-10 breaths] to begin a journey into plank.
I didn't want to write a full dissertation on Phalakasana, but just touch on some points that are important when coming into this pose. Hopefully, you can come into this asana with less apprehension and a increased sense of direction, making your plank more powerful and more importantly, lighter.
Questions, comments and/or feedback are encouraged… shoot me a response and lets talk some plank.
If I'm doing it, I'll be talking about it. Yoga chatter & more.