• Yoga For Beginners ~ 10 Great Yoga Poses For Anyone New To Yoga

    Yoga For Beginners ~ 10 Great Yoga Poses For Anyone New To Yoga

    If you have been thinking about beginning a yoga practice but feel uncomfortable going to a group class or don’t know where to start with a home practice, this yoga for beginners blog is for you!

    It is always good to find a teacher to help convey the nuances of this very profound and meaningful practice.  Having a home practice is also important in starting and deepening your practice. Familiarizing yourself with these key poses can get you on your way and deepen your practice.

    With hundreds of different postures in an asana practice, even an experienced yogi can become overwhelmed with all the possibilities.  Below we will cover ten basic yoga poses to get you started.

    Practice these poses daily until you familiarize yourself with them and you will have an excellent start in your home practice and feel more comfortable attending a group class.

    Yoga For Beginners

    Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

    This pose is the base for all standing poses providing a sense of how to ground into your feet and feel the earth below you.  It may seem that you are “simply standing”,  but there is so much more going on.

    Start by standing with your feet together and arms by your side. Become aware of the soles of you feel and find equanimity – that place where you are not leaning in any direction and feel centered in your stance. Spread all ten toes as you gently press them down. Engage the muscles in your thighs lifting your kneecaps. Gently draw your abdominals in and up as you lift your chest and soften the tops of the shoulders downward.

    Feel your shoulder blades gently coming towards each other as your chest opens. Keep your palms facing inward. Breathing deeply into the belly imagine a string drawing the crown of the head upward. Hold for 5-8 breaths.

    Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

    Downward Dog is a great pose, and often one of the first learned in yoga class. An excellent way to start the day to awaken and feel into the body.  Usually intertwined within a full practice, it can be used at the beginning, end, as a transition pose, or for a rest. The benefits include stretching, strengthening, stimulating, opening and releasing.

    To practice Downward Facing Dog come to hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Your fingers (especially the middle one) point straight ahead. Tuck your toes and lift your hips elongating your spine and pressing back through your heels to your edge. Toes are slightly pointing inward as the thighs internally rotate. Think of moving your torso back and up, toward your legs, as if you are trying to stand up.

    For tight hamstrings slightly bend your knees and widen your stance taking your feet mat-width apart. Firm the arms, pressing into the pads of the fingers, index finger and thumb creating a slight internal rotation in the forearms. Hollow out the abdominals and keep engaging your legs to keep the torso moving towards the thighs. Keep your breath moving slowly. Hold for 5-8 breaths before releasing to hands and knees.

    Plank Pose (Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana)

    A balanced practice included poses not only for flexibility, but that also challenge students to gain strength. Both are necessary for a well-rounded practice and life. Plank pose strengthens the muscles of the upper body and torso. Plank pose can also provide a boost of energy and confidence.

    Come to hands and knees and on an exhale stretch one leg back and then on the next exhale stretch the other leg back to meet the first.   Keep your wrists under your shoulders and your body in a straight line. Activate the arms creating a slight internal rotation of the elbow creases. Plug the shoulders into the sockets and opening the space in the back of the heart (between the shoulder blades).

    If this is too intense for you, in the beginning, drop your knees. Keep your breath fluid and hold the pose for three to five full breaths. Think of your body like a stick with four limbs. Lower to the floor to rest before repeating.

    Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)

    Warrior Poses are ideal for building strength and stamina. While stretching the hips and thighs, Warrior One also builds strength in the entire lower body and core.  This pose is also a gentle back bend and is great for opening the front body (quads, hip flexors, and psoas).

    Stand at the front of your mat and take a giant step back with your left foot and ground it at an angle. Keep your right knee over your right ankle, your hips facing forward, and your left leg internally rotating as your left foot grounds into the mat. Sweep your arms overhead with palms together lifting your chest and dropping your shoulder blades down the back as you statically draw your arms back gazing forward or up.

    Root down through your feet as you extend upward through the upper body. Take 5-7 breaths before stepping forward and moving to the other side.

    Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

    Warrior II is an external hip opener but also opens the inner thighs and groin while building strength in the body and core.

    Stand at the front of your mat placing your right foot in the center with toes pointing forward and take a giant step back with your left foot grounding it at a 45-degree angle. Align the feet so that you have a front heel to back arch alignment. Draw your front knee just over (not past) your ankle as you square your front leg.

    Find your center and then draw your arms up to shoulder height extending them in front and behind you.  Take your gaze over your right fingertips. Soften your shoulders and your gaze and take 5-7 breaths before moving to the other side.

    Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)

    For beginners the joys of Triangle Pose are experienced through the opening of the hip joints and chest, and as the legs stretch and strengthen! Over time this pose helps to remind you of the heart of yoga philosophy – the balance between opposites.   Explore the strength and power of the legs in contrast with the lifting of the back and arms.

    Start with a wide stance. The distance of the feet and legs for this poses will vary based on the length of your legs and your suppleness and balance. Find a position that is comfortable.

    Open and stretch your arms to the sides at shoulder height. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and your left toes in about 45 degrees. Find a heal-to-arch alignment with your feet.

    Engage your quadriceps and abdominals as you shift your hips back and extend your right arm forward, Then allow your right hand to float down organically to your ankle, shin, or knee (or a block if available) and sweep your left arm up to toward the sky.

    When placing your right hand try to keep your front leg straight and your heart open as you extend your left hand upward. Turn your gaze upward and hold for 5-8 breaths. Imagine you are aligning the whole backside of your body with a flat wall. In the beginning, you might even practice at a wall to help with alignment. Lift up to standing and repeat on the opposite side.

    Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

    Tree pose is a great standing balance for beginners for gaining focus and clarity while also breathing and balancing on one foot! As adults, we sometimes lose the acuity of balance from lack of practicing this skill. Tree pose is a great way to challenge and improve your balance.

    Start standing in mountain pose. Shift your weight to your right foot and place your heel on your ankle, your foot on you inner shin, or on your upper inner thigh. Use the variation that challenges you.

    Place your hands in prayer right over the heart or raise them above you with palms together. Take your gaze softly forward and find a point (yoga calls it a Drishti) on which to gaze. Root down through your grounded foot as you extend through your crown and take 5-7 breaths keeping your abdomen engaged and your shoulders relaxed.

    Release your lifted leg to the floor and move to the other side.  Try this pose with your back against a smooth wall if you are finding it hard to balance.

    Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

    Seated forward bend is a perfect pose for everyone to begin to open up the body and learn to keep breathing through what may be an uncomfortable pose.

    Start seated with legs extended in front and together while gently flexing your feet. On an inhale lift up through your chest with hands beside your hips.   As you exhale, begin to hinge forward extending from your waist through the heart (instead of rounding forward) and walking your hands forward.  Find your edge and release your head, shoulders, neck, and arms and take 5-7 breaths.

    Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

    A counter pose to seated forward bend. This pose is a great gentle backbend for beginners; stretching the front body and strengthening the back body.

    Lie on your back with your feet hip distance apart, parallel to each other and close to the sit-bones. Ground down through your feet and lift your hips off the mat. To go a little further you can interlace your fingers underneath you and tuck your shoulders blades underneath your back. Gently press your hands into the mat as you open up through your chest. Hold for 5-7 breaths.

    Child’s Pose (Adho Mukha Virasana)

    Child’s Pose is the traditional “go to” resting pose in yoga. When you need a break during practice, move into Child’s Pose.  Unwind at night before bed or anytime you need to release and let go of the stress of the day by coming to Child’s Pose.

    Come to all fours in tabletop position. On an exhale lengthen your sit bones back toward your heels and then extend your arms out in front of you, melting through your heart.  Allow your forehead to lower to the mat (or a block or blanket) and allow your whole body to release.

    Some modifications would be to draw your arms by your sides with your palms up and fingertips pointing back and take your knees wide and your big toes together before reaching your sit bones back. Hold as long as desired and enjoy.

    As you begin or reignite your journey on the mat you may also find  An Open Letter To A New Yoga Student helpful.  Thank you for reading Yoga for Beginners and congratulations on starting your yoga practice.  May your journey be transformative!

    Hope’s Outfit by Lucy Activewear.

     

  • Deepen Your Yoga Practice With These 4 Yoga Basics

    Deepen Your Yoga Practice With These 4 Yoga Basics

    Yoga can be overwhelming for beginners.  There is so much to remember and put together that confusion can set in.  It’s easy to get discouraged and quit. Over the years I have seen it happen more than a few times.

    Finding a good teacher that you connect with can be very helpful in navigating through your beginning journey and beyond. Understanding some underlying principles can help as well.  Here are a four yoga basics that will help guide you on your yoga journey.

    In yoga just as in life we need an anchor, a stable place from which to move.

    Yoga Basics #1: Inhaling and Exhaling

    Yoga is about connecting the breath with movement.  This allows you to move deeper into awareness by catching that flow of grace that comes when we can connect the two. Breathe in and out through the nose unless otherwise specified; that way, the breath is filtered and warm. This type of breathing helps to settle the body and mind.

    The hardest thing for me to remember when I began was when to inhale and when to exhale. I tried to “memorize” the movements and the breath; inhale to plank, exhale to downward facing dog, inhale cobra, exhale forward fold. I didn’t realize there was a underlying principle.

    Basically: inhale when opening, rising, lengthening, or twisting the upper back. Exhale when releasing, closing the body, moving downward, twisting the lower back. Once I learned this, I was able to let go of the need to memorize and more easily go with the flow.

    Yoga Basics #2: Anchoring and Radiating

    In yoga just as in life, we need an anchor, a stable place from which to move. When we are stable and grounded, we can then focus on rising into the pose.

    Always start with grounding in any pose. Consider your anchor in each pose. For standing poses, the feet and legs are the anchor. For sitting poses, ground down through the sit bones. When lying prone for a backbend, press downward through the pubic bone and radiate out through the abdomen. When twisting right, anchor the left buttock down.

    Our center of gravity lies about 2 inches below the navel. Learning to move from this center can make the body feel more integrated in the pose. Energy flows from the center outward to the extremities. Practice extending out from your center and linking the breath with the extension. Inhale, extend outward, and, exhaling gently, flow back inward.

    Yoga Basics #3: It’s About Your Edge

    The edge is that place where you feel the pose without stressing, holding, and having pain. Your edge is unique to you. As you move into and out of your edge, you are opening with each asana.

    When we go past the edge and force ourselves to a point where we are gripping and holding our breath, the body begins to do the opposite of yoga. It begins to tighten and withdraw. This is the place where injury often occurs. Each pose has many edges, each one an opportunity to open and to grow.  Move into your edge with awareness and keep breathing.  As you exhale, mindfully release and soften.

    As you breathe into your edges in a pose, wait for your body to cue you to go further. You may feel a release and then an opening. If this occurs, respectfully move further into the pose with attention, finding a new edge.

    Yoga Basics #4: Doing and Undoing

    When we fully engage a muscle, the mind comes to that area. Engaging the mind in all over awareness is a great practice for being in the now. This is how an asana practice can be transformative in mind, body and spirit.

    According to the Yoga-Sutra, an asana practice should be steady and comfortable. The stretching done during practice is meant to expand, not strain. Strain blocks our ability to listen and to hear what the body is telling us at a deeper level. Go to the deepest level that you can without strain (your edge) and hold the posture there.

    In the beginning it may feel that it requires everything you have to be in the pose. As you practice, the effort slowly reduces. Over time the proportion of doing and undoing will shift. The asana begins to feel more comfortable and freedom comes into the pose.

    As your practice progresses, counter the effort of doing with undoing. Once in the pose, scan the body. Find where you can begin to relax and soften while still maintaining the pose. Let tension move out of your body.

    A committed yoga practice can be immensely rewarding. When we can grasp these basic principles, we open the possibility of moving more into the moment and to deepening our practice. We can fully experience the many and varied benefits of yoga.  You can start with these 10 great yoga poses for beginners.

  • Yoga For Travel: 13 Poses You Can Do Anywhere

    Yoga For Travel: 13 Poses You Can Do Anywhere

    One of the greatest joys in life is the adventure of traveling. However, travel can present challenges when it becomes stressful. TSA lines and Coach class, anyone?

    Practicing a few gentle yoga poses can help lengthen tight muscles and release tension while you travel. Remember, staying present with your feelings and looking for opportunities to stretch will allow you to incorporate yoga for travel into your itinerary.

    Comfort is Key.

    Wear comfortable clothes that you can move around in easily. Being the yoga and comfort enthusiast that I am I wear my yoga pants everywhere. I might layer on a skirt, long shirt, or sweater, but I am always ready to stop, drop, and do yoga!

    Travel Yoga Mats Are Great.

    I have a few travel mats, and I can name many surprising places that they have fit into during my travels: the outside pocket of my already crammed full suitcase, my purse, and in my laptop case. I know that if I have my travel mat, I can make any place work.

    Remember that anything is better than nothing!

    Stay present with how you are feeling and look for opportunities to stretch. This will allow you to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. As you might do in your regular practice, work on those areas that call for your attention.

    Own Your Practice.

    It is normal to feel weird when practicing in public. Remember, you’re doing this to benefit your health and keep your body moving. Maybe you will end up inspiring others to get up and move when they see you taking care of yourself!

    Choose the poses you need.

    There are so many options for opening up the areas that tend to get tight during travel, especially the lower back, hips, legs, shoulders, and neck. Choose the ones that correspond to your body’s needs, or if you have time, practice all of them as a sequence. 

    Yoga Poses To Release Travel Tension

    Wrists and Hands / Feet and AnklesYoga For Travel - Yoga Studio Johns Creek Inhale and extend arms out from your shoulders and parallel with the floor, with hands closed into fists. Exhale as you move your wrists up and down, and then rotate in a circular motion one way and then another.

    Inhale as you point one foot and exhale as you flex the same foot. Next, rotate your foot one direction and then the other. Move to the other leg and repeat.

    Yoga For Travel - Johns Creek Yoga StudioShoulder Shrug   Inhale and raise your shoulders upward as if you were trying to touch your ears. As you exhale, roll shoulders backward and down. Shrug your shoulders as high as possible and try to keep your elbows fully extended, only moving from the shoulders.

    Yoga For Travel - Johns Creek Yoga Studio

    Side Stretch  Begin by siting tall with arms relaxed. As you inhale, raise your arms overhead with palms facing. Lean your torso to the right and open your chest toward the ceiling, and then take your gaze upward. Repeat the stretch on the other side.

    Yoga For Travel - Johns Creek Yoga Studio

     

    Eagle Arms  Extend your arms straight in front of your body. Drop your right arm under your left. Bend your elbows, and then raise your forearms perpendicular to the floor. Wrap your arms and hands, and then press your palms together (or as close as you can get them.) If your palms don’t touch, press the backs of your hands together.

    Lift your elbows and reach your fingertips toward the ceiling. Keep your shoulder blades pressed down your back toward your waist. If your palms don’t touch, press the backs of your hands together.

    Seated Cat-Cow  Sit near the front of the chair or bench, with your feet hip-distance apart and planted firmly under your knees. Place your hands on your knees and sit tall. As you inhale, rock your hips forward tilting your pelvis. Lift your heart forward and up and at the same time, roll your shoulder blades down your back.

    Allow your head and neck to lengthen out and back, coming into a gentle backbend.  As you exhale rock your pelvis in the opposite direction onto the back part of your sitting bones. Round the spine and drop the chin toward the chest. Repeat both poses, flowing with your breath the entire time.

    Seated Twist  Sit toward the front of your seat, with your feet hip-distance apart and directly under your knees. Ground through your feet and sitting bones. Inhale as you extend your spine upward, sitting tall.

    Place your left palm on top of your right knee. Place your right hand on the seat behind your right hip to prop yourself up. As you inhale, extend your spine upward. As you exhale, twist your torso and head to the right. Once complete, move to the other side.

    Seated Forward Fold  Sit toward the front of your seat. Separate your feet so that your knees are more than hip distance apart directly over your ankles. Place your hands on your knees.

    As you inhale, sit tall. As you exhale, begin to extend your heart forward as you come into the forward fold with a straight back. When you reach your maximum extension, allow your spine to round forward and bring your arms between your legs.

    If you have tight hips or lower back issues place your elbows on your knees and come forward to your edge. To come out, place your hands on your knees and come up on an inhalation, keeping your back relaxed.

    Seated Forward Fold With Leg Crossed  Start by sitting toward the front of the chair seat, with your feet hip-distance apart and directly under your knees. Ground through your feet and sitting bones. Extend your spine upward, sitting tall.

    Cross your left foot and ankle over top of your right leg just behind the knee. As you inhale, lengthen the spine up away from the hip. As you exhale, extend your heart forward until you reach your edge. Let the head and neck release. When complete, inhale as you rise and as you exhale, release the crossed leg and move to the other side.

    Standing Forward FoldYoga For Travel - Yoga Studio Johns Creek  Stand tall with feet hip distance apart and arms by your side. Inhale your arms out and up, bringing palms together. As you exhale, extend your heart forward, hinging at the hips. Bend the knees enough to find your edge with the backs of your legs.

    Let your arms reach to the floor or feet, dangle them in front of you, or place them on your thighs for lower back support. To release, bend the knees, keeping the back straight. Inhale and sweep your arms out and up, coming back to standing.

    More Yoga For Travel to Energize Body and Mind

    You will need more standing space and your travel mat (or an acceptably clean space.) Practice these poses as many times as you need to feel energized.

     Yoga For Travel - Yoga Studio Johns CreekDownward Dog Twist  Come to all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Spread your fingers wide and curl your toes. Straighten your legs as you lift up through the hips. Reach your left hand to the outer edge of your right leg. Spiral your ribcage to your right, Hold your arm straight. Gaze under your right arm. Repeat on the other side.

    Yoga For Travel - Yoga Studio Johns Creek

    Triangle  Find a comfortable heel-to-arch alignment. Turn your left foot to face forward. Shift your hips in the opposite direction. Lift your arms to shoulder height, extend through your fingertips, and then reach the left arm forward to your edge. Float your hand down to your shin or ankle. Raise your right arm toward the sky, stack your shoulders, and lean your torso back. Repeat the stretch on the other side.

    Yoga For Travel - Johns Creek Yoga Studio

    Dolphin  Start on all fours. Lower your forearms onto the floor shoulder-width apart. Curl your toes and straighten your legs any amount. Keep your shoulders over your elbows as you walk your feet forward to deepen the stretch.

    Yoga for Travel - Johns Creek Yoga Studio

     

    Camel Kneel with shins hip-width apart and hips stacked over knees. Place your hands on your lower back. Lift your belly and curl your chest open. Roll your shoulders back and gently release your head back while pressing your chest toward the sky. If possible, reach your hands to your heels.

     

    Yoga for travel is fun!

    Moving and letting go of tension and tightness that builds up on long trips in tight places is essential. Yoga for travel helps you keep your energy up and stay healthy during your trip. Incorporating yoga into long travel days can make a real difference in how well you travel, which can make you open to more travel opportunities!

  • 10 Ways to Cultivate Hope in Your Life

    10 Ways to Cultivate Hope in Your Life

    We are entering a space between stories. Something hurts in there. Can you feel it?   We are one earth, one tribe, one people, and we are all in this together. We all go through times in life that challenge us and that require a deeper strength to get us through like those times when we can’t clearly see how or even if the path ahead will unfold. Sometimes the darkness is a personal situation and sometimes it is a global one.

    There have been many times in my personal life situations when hope became a cornerstone for survival from growing up with a mother who was clinically depressed, having a miscarriage after seeing my child’s heartbeat, my daughter’s open-heart surgery, to being diagnosed with breast cancer. It was during these darkest times in my life that hope whispered, “This too shall pass.  Something better is ahead.”

    There have been times during my life when world situations gave rise to the need for a strong foundation of hope.  I remember the day that President Reagan was shot, where I was, what I was doing, and the fear and feelings of uncertainty that it brought to my then teenage mind.  I remember everything about 911.  The sheer terror and uncertainly that I and we all felt.

    We are as individuals, a nation, and a world entering into what feels like a time of great uncertainty. Normal is coming unhinged.  Things are changing and we are not sure how they will. It is in these times that we must hold onto hope.

    Hope is a foundation in all that we do and all that we are. Our degree of hope, or lack of hope, defines us. It influences everything we do, how we face our lives, and the decisions we make. Hope gives us what we need to take action, to take the next step toward the light.

    How can we cultivate hope, deepen hope, and hang on to hope, especially when times get rough? There are things we can do to help ourselves.  Here are ten ways that you can cultivate hope in your life:

    Cultivate Hope - Johns Creek Yoga Studio

    Cultivate Hope In Your Life 10 Ways:

    1. Believe in something bigger than yourself.
    2. Develop a mindfulness practice that includes a form of prayer or meditation.
    3. Become mindful and aware of your thoughts. When negative thoughts arise, retrain your mind to think positive thoughts.
    4. Read inspirational writings, quotes, poetry or from your chosen spiritual path.
    5. Spend time doing what you love to do – what makes you smile.
    6. Spend time with people who make you smile.
    7. Expect positive things to happen.
    8. Look at how other positive people and role models in your life handle the situations of their life.
    9. Keep a gratitude journal. Every day, write down at least one thing that you are thankful for. On darker days, get it out and read.
    10. Know this too shall pass.

    Without hope the light that eventually comes to erase the darkness of the latest trial from our lives can’t make its way to us. Without hope there is no opening for it to come forward. No crack for it to seep in. It has been said that the most profound expressions of the human spirit are derived from hope. Hope, it has been said, is faith holding out its hand in the dark.

    The capacity to hold on to hope may indeed be one of the most important abilities we can poses.

  • Taking Yoga Into Life – Why I Love Mountain Pose!

    Taking Yoga Into Life – Why I Love Mountain Pose!

    My sister-in-law and I share a love of yoga. I recently took a road trip to Fairhope, Alabama  (one of the prettiest small towns in the south) to visit her for a “yoga weekend”.  We had a great weekend practicing together with Augusta Kantra and Roth Gates.   I had been hearing how great Augusta’s classes were for quite some time and after participating in a few I agree.  Augusta’s classes are full of energy, insight and inspiration!  It was a pleasure to meet Roth Gates, author of Meditations From The Mat and have the opportunity to practice with him.  I was struck by his authenticity, the truth he spoke and his vulnerability in doing so.    Other highlights of the weekend included shopping at The Happy Olive where I purchased my now favorite preservative free balsamic vinaigrette (I have already ordered more since returning home) and having some great taco’s at the Dragonfly Foodbar.  We also embarked on a paddle-boarding adventure.  I had never attempted to paddleboard before, and can safely say I would never have attempted this sport before yoga changed my life.  Before I regularly practiced yoga I had struggled with my balance on dry land, so I had a hard time imagining myself balancing upright on a board on a rolling body of water. However, yoga has changed that for me, as it has so many other things in my life. With a confidence I didn’t have pre-yoga, I was all in!

    As we were making our way to the place of entry, my sister-in-law began to explain how to stand up on the board.  I listened intently to her instructions.  All of a sudden a light bulb went off in my head as my mind translated her instructions into corresponding yoga poses.  “Let’s see if I got that.”  I said,  “I should paddle out in Kneeling Pose and once out in the water come to Table Top, then Downward Dog, and then walk my hands back to my feet and slowly roll up to standing, grounding through my feet as I engage my body in Mountain Pose?”  She paused for a moment and then with a broad smile said “Yes!  That is exactly what I was trying to say!”

    It may look as if you are just standing there, but Mountain Pose also called Tadasana (tah-DAHS-uh-nuh), is an active pose helping improve balance, posture, awareness and calm focus.  It is said that every pose in yoga is mountain pose.  What does that mean?  Mountain Pose is the foundation pose for all other standing and balancing poses.  In Mountain Pose we become present and aware, connecting all parts of the body using every muscle, grounding the lower body while engaging the core and finding alignment, equanimity and balance. Learning how to center ourselves in Mountain Pose is one way to integrate yoga into our everyday life.  Mountain Pose teaches us how to stand firmly on our own two feet, finding the natural strength and alignment in the body. From this place we can extend outward to other poses with a confidence that makes more challenging poses possible.

    Through a committed practice we can begin to take the principles of Mountain Pose into our life, grounding down, becoming present, and clearing the path for expansion.  From this place of awareness we can begin to step out into a new adventure or tackle a challenging situation with a greater sense of confidence. Practicing Mountain Pose can allow one to move from the place of informal observation of the mind and body to a more formal place of observation, and can be done at any time in the flow of a yoga practice or on its own throughout the day, steadying the mind and body and bringing a calm focus to the one practicing.

    Stand with the feet hip-width apart and take in a few deep, complete breaths.  Keep your arms down with your fingers extended and triceps firm.  Check to make sure your feet are facing straight ahead. Search for equanimity in your balance.  Gently draw the muscles of the thighs closer to the bones of the thighs and bring the weight of your pelvis back, feeling your spine lift.   Slightly engage the lower belly while lifting the heart and the crown of the head.  Draw your shoulder blades down slightly toward your waist and just slightly draw them together. Hold your head in such a way that your line of vision is parallel with the floor.  For most this will call for a slight drop in the chin toward the chest.  Let your attention rest on your breathing.  When standing in a balanced, open mountain pose, the breath will feel free and easy. Take 7-10 steady and smooth breaths.   To work on balance, practice with the eyes closed. To come out of mountain pose, simply move into the next pose you are practicing or into your daily activities.  Practice mountain pose throughout the day whenever you feel a need for centering.

    So how did my first attempt at getting up on a paddle board go?  I am happy to say it was successful.  I stood up on my first try and maintained my balance as I paddled out into the water and back in again.    It was a powerful moment both physically and mentally and great reminder of how yoga can enhance one’s life in so many ways!

    About Hope Knosher, E-RYT500  Hope is a passionate yoga teacher, writer, breast cancer survivor, and healthy living coach who found her voice and her strength through her practice. Overcoming breast cancer 7 years ago, Hope turned to yoga to help her heal. After her practice lifted her mentally, physically and emotionally she experienced a heartfelt calling to share the healing qualities of yoga with others. She founded Hope’s Yoga and began sharing her experiences and her passion for yoga and healthy living through teaching, writing and speaking. Hope loves inspiring and empowering others to live a more joyful and connected life and to be more of who they truly are. Through sharing the practices of yoga, mindfulness, and healthy living she helps others reduce chronic stress, increase awareness, compassion, and mindfulness; while strengthening body and mind. Hope’s writing is featured by MindBodyGreen, Lucy Activewear, Mantra Magazine, Natural Awakenings, The Wellness Universe, as well as her own blog. Hope’s Yoga has been named Best Of Atlanta by Atlanta Magazine and Hope has been named one of Atlanta’s Over 40 and Fabulous by Best Self Magazine. Connect with Hope at www.hopesyoga.com for more information including her full schedule, retreat calendar; or to schedule corporate or private classes and speaking engagements.

  • Warming Up with Sun Salutation C (Surya Namaskara C)

    Warming Up with Sun Salutation C (Surya Namaskara C)

    The Sun Salutation, or Surya Namaskara (SOOR-yuh nah-muh-SKAR-uh), is a sequence of extension and flexion postures practiced in a particular order that enhance strength and flexibility of every major muscle group while also building heat in the body.  A Sun Salutation Series lubricates the joints, massages the internal organs and stimulates blood flow. It can also improve mental and emotional balance and stability. Sun Salutations are often used as warm-up sequences for a deeper yoga practice or other activity.

    Each movement is coordinated with your breath. As you breathe through the nose, inhale as you extend, and exhale as you bend. Nostril breathing filters and warms air for optimal oxygen exchange. Breathing through the nose also accesses the lower lobes of the lungs. This is where maximum oxygen exchange happens. Deep nostril breathing also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which moderates the heart rate, calms the body, and establishes an experience of comfort, even while being engaged in dynamic activity. When we inhale through the mouth, we access the upper portion of the lungs which activates the sympathetic nervous system, (which is “fight or flight” survival response,) increases the heart rate, and stimulates the adrenals. The body becomes agitated and overstimulated, leading to depletion. This is why we breathe deeply through the nose during standing postures, accumulating balanced energy and efficiency in action.

    The poses included in a Sun Salutation make up a “vinyasa,” which is a sequence of movements. Sun Salutations vary between traditions, but include many of the same basic components. The sequence presented below is often referred to as Sun Salutation C (Surya Namaskara C). Make sure you are breathing through your nose when you practice, as it helps to warm the air entering your body. Breathing through your nose also helps to calm your mind, making your practice meditative. If you’re having trouble breathing, slow down and be gentler with your movements. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities.

    1. Standing Mountain Pose — Tadasana

    Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Press your palms together in prayer position. Rest your thumbs on your sternum and take several breaths.

    2. Upward Salute — Urdhva Hastasana

    Inhale as you sweep your arms out to the side and overhead. Gently arch your back and gaze toward the sky.

    3. Standing Forward Fold — Uttanasana

        Half Standing Forward Fold — Ardha Uttanasana

    Exhale as you fold forward from the hips leading with the heart. Bend your knees if necessary. Rest your hands beside your feet or grab your elbows with the opposite hands.

    Inhale as you lift your torso halfway, lengthening your spine forward so your back is flat. Your torso should be parallel to the floor. Keep your fingertips on the floor, or bring them to your shins. Reach forward through the crown of the head and draw the shoulders away from the ears.

    4. Lunge, Right Leg Back

    Exhale as you step your right foot back. Keep your fingertips and left heel on the ground. Reach back through your right heel. Beginners can place the right knee on the ground.

    5. Plank Pose — Kumbhakasana

    Inhale as you step your left foot back, coming into Plank Pose (also known as High Push-Up Pose). Spread your fingers and align your wrists directly under your shoulders. Your feet should be hip-distance apart. Draw back through your heels and lengthen your spine.

    6. Knees, Chest, and Chin Pose — Ashtanga Pranam

    Exhale as you lower your knees to the floor, keeping your elbows tucked in toward your sides. Keeping your hips lifted off the floor and palms flat, bring your chest and chin to the floor. Place your chest between your hands.

    7. Cobra Pose — Bhujangasana

    Inhale as you draw your chest forward, keeping your hands underneath your shoulders. Extend your legs along the floor and un-tuck your toes. Draw your shoulders back and lift your chest slightly. Keep your lower ribs on the floor.

     8. Downward-Facing Dog Pose — Adho Mukha Svanasana

    Exhale as you lift your hips and roll over your toes placing the soles of your feet on the floor. Your heels do not need to touch the ground. Ground down through your hands and soles of your feet as you lengthen your spine. Lift your belly and sit bones to the sky. Stay here for five breaths. On your last exhalation, bend your knees and look between your hands.

    9. Lunge, Right Leg Forward

    Inhale as you step your right foot between your hands, coming into a lunge on the opposite side. Keep your fingertips and right heel on the ground. Reach back through your left heel. Beginners can place the left knee on the ground.

    10. Standing Forward Fold — Uttanasana

    Exhale as you step your left foot forward, coming back into the Forward Fold. Bend your knees if necessary. Rest your hands beside your feet and bring your nose to your knees.

    11. Upward Salute — Urdhva Hastasana

    Inhale as you sweep your arms out to the side and extend up once again. Gently arch your back and gaze toward the sky.

    12. Mountain Pose — Tadasana

    Exhale as you come back into Mountain Pose. Bring your hands into prayer position. Rest your thumbs on your sternum. Repeat the sequence, stepping back with your left foot first this time.

    Warm It Up

    Use several rounds of Sun Salutations to warm up the body. Sun Salutations can be used in the beginning of a home practice before delving deeper.

    You can also take a break in your day and do some Sun Salutations for a quick energy boost!

    As you gain strength and flexibility, your practice will continually progress over time.

    Sun Salutation Series C

     

    Sun Salutation Series C

    _MG_7601About Hope Knosher, E-RYT500  Hope is a passionate yoga teacher, writer, breast cancer survivor, and healthy living coach who found her voice and her strength through her practice. Overcoming breast cancer 7 years ago, Hope turned to yoga to help her heal. After her practice lifted her mentally, physically and emotionally she experienced a heartfelt calling to share the healing qualities of yoga with others. She founded Hope’s Yoga and began sharing her experiences and her passion for yoga and healthy living through teaching, writing and speaking. Hope loves inspiring and empowering others to live a more joyful and connected life and to be more of who they truly are. Through sharing the practices of yoga, mindfulness, and healthy living she helps others reduce chronic stress, increase awareness, compassion, and mindfulness; while strengthening body and mind. Hope’s writing is featured by MindBodyGreen, Lucy Activewear, Mantra Magazine, Natural Awakenings, The Wellness Universe, as well as her own blog. Hope’s Yoga has been named Best Of Atlanta by Atlanta Magazine and Hope has been named one of Atlanta’s Over 40 and Fabulous by Best Self Magazine. Connect with Hope at www.hopesyoga.com for more information including her full schedule, retreat calendar; or to schedule corporate or private classes and speaking engagements.