Dealing with Stress

5 beginner poses: Series 2

This is the second post in my series on beginner yoga poses. to recap...Recently I’ve gotten many questions about good poses or asana’s for beginners. I’d like to first say that I don’t think there is any substitute for going to an honest to goodness beginner class. Finding a teacher who is in the same room with you, looking at what you are doing, making sure that you aren’t doing something that could cause an injury is critical. A teacher who is being present with you, listening for your breath, sensing the energy of the room is worth their weight in gold. That said I know it’s not always possible to get to a class. I’m going to do a series of posts in the next four weeks of my favorite beginner poses. Try them out. See how they feel in your skin, release self judgment, release the idea of thinking these postures need to look a certain way. I promise they don’t need to look a certain way. It only matters how they feel in your body. If you can go find a class! Go find a good teacher, just use this as a supplement.

You don’t always need an hour to practice, try starting with 10 minutes a day right when you get up or right before you go to bed. Listen to your body! If something hurts don’t do it! Yoga should never ever hurt! Find your edge and don’t push past it. You are the only one who knows how things feel in your body, honor that. Yoga is not a competition not even with yourself. These are just suggestions. Get curious about what is going on in your body and in your mind. Use this practice of yoga to start a love affair with yourself.

The next five poses I'd like to introduce are mostly standing poses.

Standing Forward Fold
Standing Forward Fold
Standing forward fold with shoulder opener
Standing forward fold with shoulder opener

1) Standing Forward Fold and Standing Forward Fold with Shoulder Opener: Stand at the top of your mat, feet directly underneath your hip sockets.  Toes of both feet point towards the top of your mat.  Let your upper body fold forward over your legs.  don't lock your knees especially if you have tight hamstrings.  This pose will help stretch your hamstrings, but sometimes you can get a deeper stretch if you put a little bend in the knees.  Let your head be heavy and hang down.  You can let your arms dangle hanging down or you can grab your elbows and hang forward or you can swing the arms back and forth.  The point is to let gravity do the work.  Let the low back relax, don't try to hold anything.  If you want to try the shoulder opener which is great if you sit at a desk all day, simply interlace the fingers together back behind you and fold forward trying to open the arms to where ever they go.  Don't push past your edge.  Hold each pose for at least 10 breaths.

Downward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog

2) Downward Facing Dog: This is one of my top three all time favorite poses.  This one is sneaky because it's also an inversion!  Surprise your head is below your heart, so not only are you getting a ton of benefits already you also get the benefit of an inversion!  You might even say it's an advanced pose, but it's a foundational pose and you should try it.  This is basically an upside down V.  You are stretching, strengthening and in some cases taking an active rest when you play in downward facing dog.  This is a pose that takes me home to my body.  This pose will also stretch your hamstrings, it will strengthen your arms, it's great for your back, arms and legs.  Try coming up to the pose from a table top position (knees under your hips hand planted on the ground under your shoulders).  Then tuck your toes, lift your hips and behind up towards the ceiling.  You are pushing back with your arms.  You are spreading your fingers wide out on the mat.  Try to evenly distribute your weight between your arms and your legs.  Let you head be very heavy don't try to lift it up, let it hang.  Let your vertebra relax, find space in the spine and the low back.  The point of this is not to make your back flat.  you want to keep the curves in the lumbar as well as the neck.  If you are new to this pose try hanging out for 5 full breaths, work up to 10 or 20.  There is so much that you can do with this pose.  You can pedal your feet.  You can be still.  IF you are new to down dog this will not feel good at first, it will be hard and that's ok.  Breath into the shape, some day it will just click and it will start to feel magical with all of the benefits it brings to your body.  Make this posture your own.

Wide Leg Straddle
Wide Leg Straddle
Wide Leg Straddle w/ right twist
Wide Leg Straddle w/ right twist
Wide Leg Straddle with Twist Left
Wide Leg Straddle with Twist Left

3) Wide Leg Straddle and Wide Leg Straddle with a Twist: This is a fun pose that will bring strength to your legs with the benefit of an inversion and if you add the twist it feels great.  Open your legs wide on the mat 3-4 feet apart with feet pointing straight out.   The sides of your feet should be parallel to the sides of your mat.  Lift arms up and then fold forward.  If your hands touch the ground place your hands directly underneath your shoulders.  Legs stay as straight as you can get them.  Your feet should be firmly planted.  If you feel grounded and strong try the twist.  Take your right arm over to the left ankle and lift the left arm to the sky.  Then repeat on the other side.  Try holding each variation for 10 breaths.  To come out, come back to the wide leg straddle without the twist.  Bring your hands to your hips and lift half way.  Pause for 5 breaths and then come all the way up.  Heal-toe the feet together into the middle of your mat and wait for your blood pressure to come back to normal.

High Runners Lunge
High Runners Lunge

4) High Runners Lung: This pose will test your balance and strengthen your legs:  From your standing forward fold plant your hands down on either side of your feet and step your right foot back.  You will be up on the toes of the right foot.  Front Knee should be directly over top of the ankle and you should be able to see the big toe on the inside of the left knee.  Eventually you will want your front thigh to be parallel to the ground.  Lift arms up over head and lift the rib cage away from the hips.  Keep the back leg as straight as you can get it.  Start with 3 breathes in this pose and work up to 10 or 20.

Squat
Squat

5) Squat: Ok, the benefits of squatting are innumerable, but as my teacher taught me I'll tell you.  The cultures that squat do not have the digestive and reproduction issues that americans have.  We need to squat more!  Squat down, plant your heels down on the mat if they will touch (mine don't as you can see, but maybe yours will!) take your elbows to your knees and hands together at heart center.  hang out for as many breaths as you can and work up to a LOT!  Don't forget your smile!

To review last week's beginner pose check out this link

Let us know how your practice is going.  Is this helpful.  Is there anything you would add after trying?  We'd love to hear from you!

5 beginner yoga poses: Series 1

Recently I've gotten many questions about good poses or asana's for beginners. I'd like to first say that I don't think there is any substitute for going to an honest to goodness beginner class. Finding a teacher who is in the same room with you, looking at what you are doing, making sure that you aren't doing something that could cause an injury is critical. A teacher who is being present with you, listening for your breath, sensing the energy of the room is worth their weight in gold. That said I know it's not always possible to get to a class. I'm going to do a series of posts in the next four weeks of my favorite beginner poses. Try them out. See how they feel in your skin, release self judgment, release the idea of thinking these postures need to look a certain way. I promise they don't need to look a certain way. It only matters how they feel in your body. If you can go find a class! Go find a good teacher, just use this as a supplement. You don't always need an hour to practice, try starting with 10 minutes a day right when you get up or right before you go to bed.  Listen to your body! If something hurts don't do it! Yoga should never ever hurt! Find your edge and don't push past it. You are the only one who knows how things feel in your body, honor that. Yoga is not a competition not even with yourself. These are just suggestions.  Get curious about what is going on in your body and in your mind.  Use this practice of yoga to start a love affair with yourself.  

Pose 1 Lotus
Pose 1 Lotus

1) Comfortable seated posture or Lotus: I could write you an entire blog post on just getting grounded in Lotus.  (you don't have to cross your feet like i did in the picture above) I spend a minimum of 5 minutes a day in a comfortable seated pose just listening to my breath.  Call it quiet time, call it reflection, call it mindfulness, call it meditation, whatever you want to call it, it's important.  In this culture of ours that demands multi-tasking and instant results it's important to get grounded, to get centered. You'll probably want to close your eyes, let go of anything that came before this moment and anything that needs to happen later. Take a moment to arrive on your mat. Set an intention for your practice, or chant an OM three times.  If it's difficult for you to sit still you need this pose more than you need the rest.  Try sitting for 5 minutes.  Try going into a bedroom or room with open space, close the door to the chores, animals, kids, turn your phone on airplane mode and set an alarm for 5 minutes.  Just focus on your breath, don't try to change it just watch what's going on.  Focus on the inhale and the exhale.  On your inhalation say to yourself I am breathing in, on your exhalation say to yourself I am breathing out.  If you lose focus and start getting caught up in other thoughts, when you notice you've gotten off track just gently bring yourself back to the breath.

Pose 2 Sweated Twist
Pose 2 Sweated Twist

2) Seated Twist:  Twisting is one of my favorite things of all time.  Nothing does your tummy as much good as twisting does.  In short you are massaging your internal organs.  It's like you are cleaning the dust and goop off of your internal organs.  Not to mention you are getting your spine moving around in all different directions.  You are using your spines full range of movement when twisting.  In this posture I suggest starting with a nice comfortable seat.  Lift your arms up over head and find a tall spine.  Twist to the right.  Take your left hand to your right knee and take your right hand behind you on the floor.  Lift up through the top of the head.  Get as long as you can then gaze over your shoulder.  Breath into this space for 5 big breaths.  (inhale and exhale is one breath).  Then repeat on the other side.  Warning! Do not over do this.  The twist is not coming from your low back or lumbar area.  The twist is more in the shoulder area of the spine.  This should only feel good it shouldn't hurt.  

Pose 3 Reclining Pigeon
Pose 3 Reclining Pigeon

3) Reclining Pigeon:  This one is a little harder than the rest to show you with a picture but I did my best.  Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.  Then take your right ankle to your left knee.  Hold behind your left knee (on the thigh) and draw your knees in until you find your edge.  Not too hard, not too easy that place that feels just right.  Breath into this shape for 10 deep breaths.  Then repeat on the other side.  

Pose 6 Cat
Pose 6 Cat
Pose 4 Cow
Pose 4 Cow

4) Cat/Cow: These to poses flow together, in and out.  Start in a table top position with your shoulders over top of your wrist and your knees underneath your hips.  If your knees are bothering you try putting a folded towel or blanket underneath your knees.  On your inhalation drop the belly let it fill with air lift the head for cow pose.  On the exhalation pull the belly button up toward the ceiling in a cat tuck and drop the head down.  Repeat as many times as feels good in your body.  Feel your way in and out.  This is an exploration of you.  Get curious about how these movements feel in your body.  

Pose 7 Corpse
Pose 7 Corpse

5) corpse pose or savasana: Lay down on your back, let your feet fall open, hands down at the sides palms face up.  It's nice to put an eye pillow over the eyes if you have one.  If you get cold cover up with a blanket.  Try not to fall asleep.  This is final relaxation.  This is where you give your body time to process everything you just did.  It's the most important pose in all of yoga.  Some people find it the most difficult because your only job is to lie there.  Some people think it's the best because your only job is to just lie there.  If you're worried you'll fall asleep or lose track of time set an alarm.  If thoughts come into your mind, imagine them as big puffy clouds blowing across a clear blue sky, coming in and floating right back out.  

These are the first 5 poses I'd start with try them for a week.  Just a few minutes each day. I'll write you another post next week building on these.  Let me know how it goes.  let me know how these feel in your body.

Weekly Wrap Up 12.13.13

WW Max Image from Leadership Greensboro Session

Weekly Wrap Up

taught 7 yoga classes taught 2 private lessons ran 20.1 miles 4 days of writing morning pages worked 35 hours at Lincoln had a leadership Greensboro Day attend an awesome baby shower attended The Next Super's underground dinner saturday night spent many hours working on GCY's first quater marketing plan ran a half marathon in 2 hours and 5 minutes took a sunday afternoon nap tiddied up my house a bit Sunday evening dinner with my sweetheart saturday afternoon finished reading "The signature of all Things" by Elizabeth Gilbert GCY teacher training planning meeting with a yoga friend Thursday night dinner and Drinks with my sweetheart

Weekend Wish List

rest Christmas shop prepare for art journaling workshop at the studio Work on studio marketing  Lead Art Journaling workshop

Little Things

Feet
Feet

When the world is spinning around me, when I want to pull my hair out with to many "To-Do's", when it feels like I'm being smashed together by the demands of my world, I try to get up 30-60 minutes earlier.  Why would I sacrifice sleep when I feel pressure from all sides of my being?  Well, it's because those tiny moments of the morning when the world is still, they are when I can best listen to myself, when I can get in touch with what I really need and want.

This morning I woke up early and got on my mat for a short personal practice in dim candle light.  Did you know that doing something small and special for your self like 10 sun salutations with a candle lit can help improve your mood?  It can immensely! After my sun salutations it was time for a hearty healthy breakfast, poached eggs on a piece of toast with provolone and a strong cup of coffee.  I took the time to finish my morning pages and not let myself feel rushed. 

This small practice, hearty breakfast and morning pages allowed me to start my day feeling centered.  It allowed me to feel like I was moving forward from a place of peace and not rush around like a crazy woman.  My morning at work was productive and lead with focus because I was grounded and able to focus on the goals of work.  It's lunch time now and I'm giving my brain a break, a rest from work instead of working through, well, I'll probably only take a half an hour but that's better than nothing.  I truly believe that (and research backs me up) giving your brain a rest makes you more productive, not less. 

How will you carve out time for yourself?  December is filled with hustle, bustle, year-end activities, goals and seasonal festivities.  Much to do, but that doesn't mean you can't be grounded, it doesn't mean you can't carve out time for yourself.  You will actually function better if you do.

Looking forward to hearing how you find time amidst the holiday and year-end bustle to take care of yourself. 

-lish

Meaningful Monday: 3 ways to deal with Anxiety 7.22.13

Trellising the garden was a #1 to-do this weekend
Trellising the garden was a #1 to-do this weekend

Welcome to Monday  My friends,

Sometimes I find the Weekends difficult.  I'm out of my normal routines and sometimes a little anxiety creeps in (or maybe a lot).   Yesterday I just felt off, all day.  It felt like there was something I was supposed to be doing, but wasn't.  This is a normal Sunday occurrence  for me blue's/anxiety whatever you want to call it.  You'd think I'd figure out how to have deal with it by now.  In some way's  I have, at least I know how to live with it constructively.  Here are three way's to deal with the Sunday Blues or anxiety in general.

1) Make a To-Do list: Make a list of things you know you need to get done and make an effort to complete at least 90% of the list.  Being able to check things off the list will give you a feeling of accomplishment.  It will also help cut down on the anxiety by giving you a place to start.  Yesterday working in my garden, making chicken stock, picking up the house all helped significantly and I knew that even though my head was not in the right place at least I was getting stuff done.

2) Sweat: This is on my list of how to deal with anything.  A good workout will cut anxiety in half if not completely.  I'd be a crack pot if I didn't work out as much as I do.  Yesterday the yoga definitely helped, this morning an early run helped get the day off on the right foot.

3) Take a little time to do something just for you:  Yesterday I read for hours.  It felt like a complete indulgence, and it was, but it's good to be gentle with yourself especially if you've done the first two items on this list.

What are your go to's for dealing with anxiety or starving off the Sunday Blue's?