yvi: (Sports - elegance)
[personal profile] yvi
So, I have been reading here a bit and have the sudden desire to supplement my cardio (running) and strength (free weights) exercise with yoga about two mornings a week. I love the flexibility and body awareness and muscle control aspects it has and would like to start with learning some positions etc.

But, where do I start? Do I have to join classes or is self-teaching (which I am doing for the weight training, with my boyfriend watching me so I don't develop bad habits with my poses) fine? I am not a fan of courses, so I'd rather avoid them. From looking casually around http://www.yogajournal.com/ at least a few of the basic poses are things that I already do, like planks / dolphin planks. Is there some kind of basic program that you can recommend to me?

I am reading through [personal profile] muck_a_luck's posts now, and these seem great already! My one problem is that I currently can't listen to the audio of videos, so those leave me a little lost. (Video on my computer is fine , audio or video with audio is fine as long as I can transfer it to my iPod)

I hope this doesn't come across as ignorant in any way. I am not big on the meditation and spiritual aspects of yoga, I am more interested in the physical aspects.

(Edites to add: I am not in the US/UK/Australia/Canada (specifically, I am in Germany), so many of the English-speaking DVDs and books are only available as expensive imports or through paying a lot of shipping charges to me.)
muck_a_luck: Exercise without the bellydance part (Yoga Animated)
[personal profile] muck_a_luck
Check this out on YouTube:

Lunar Movement Meditation from Shiva Rea, Yoga Shakti.

A lovely way to open a more relaxed practice, to warm up for or cool down from an abs workout, or just to release strain in your back during a tiring day at the office.
muck_a_luck: (Sun Salutation)
[personal profile] muck_a_luck
Practice Ideas: Using Reps to Develop the Core: Rocking; Reaching Back in Camel; Alternating Side Plank; Dolphin Pushups

Crossposted at [dreamwidth.org profile] sun_salutation.

Disclaimer: I am not a yoga instructor. I don't know anything about exercise safety or fitness instruction. I'm not even an advanced practitioner of yoga. But I have come to love yoga and am completely self taught.

You know your own body best, so please respect your known health conditions and use the variations offered by instructors that are best for you. Remember to balance where you are now with where you could be in the future. There is no perfect pose.


Using Reps to Develop the Core

Yoga as an exercise regime is body weight resistance training. By developing the strength to move your own body through the postures, you gain lean muscle.

As a vinyasa yoga girl (oh, you didn't notice?), I like power yoga and vinyasa instructors who can bring a little cardio to my yoga practice.

Here are a couple of moves I like that are also good for core.

Rocking on your back

From Rodney Yee – Power Yoga Total Body, we get rocking on your back. Mr. Yee does this after backbending as part of the supine counterpose sequence.

Lie on your back. Bring your knees in to your chest. Cross your right ankle over the left and grip your feet, one in each hand. Relax into the earth. Then, after several breaths, begin rocking – a little back towards Plow Pose (Halasana), then a little forward toward Easy Pose (Sukhasana). Make the rocking bigger, until you are coming all the way up to sit, and rocking all the way back on your shoulders. Then slowly decrease the rocking, making it very small until you stop again. Switch sides, crossing the left ankle over the right. Grip the feet. Begin rocking again.

When you return to resting, release the feet and begin rocking with a longer lever, extending your legs straight, and rocking forward into a full Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana), then back into a full Plow Pose. Repeat several times, finally coming forward into your favorite seated posture.

Reaching Back in Camel

I just got Jillian Michaels – Yoga Meltdown this weekend, and I am now going to suggest a couple of her moves, starting with doing "reps" in Camel (Ustrasana).

Come to your knees, arms extended directly out in front of you like a zombie reaching for brains.* On an exhale, reach your right arm back for your right heel. Feet can be in the position you usually use for Camel. Inhale, come up with strong legs and engaged core, reaching your right arm forward again. On an exhale, reach your left arm back for your left heel. Inhale, come up with strong legs and engaged core, reaching your left arm forward again. Repeat five or so times, then reach both arms back and hold Camel for your usual three to five breaths.

Concentrate on engaging your quads, using their power to lift and lower your upper body. Keep your abdominals active, allowing your shoulders to fall back with ease, lifting your heart toward the sky.

Alternating Side Plank

From Plank, flow to Side Plank (Vasisthasana) on your left. Hold a beat. Return to Plank. Flow to Vasisthasana on your right. Hold a beat. Return to Plank. And so on. I suggest five to eight reps, then hold the left side. You can flow through a vinyasa and immediately return to the alternating Vasisthasana, this time holding the right side, or you can proceed through some standing postures to give your arms a rest and return to the right side later in your practice. Just be sure to get both sides.

Concentrate not falling in the middle. Keep your hips pressing toward the sky, engaging your core, and keeping good from, though you are in an almost constant flow.

Dolphin Pushups

Finally, come into Plank, then drop to your elbows for Dolphin Plank. Clasp your hands together for stability. Exhale, pushing back into Dolphin. (If you are familiar with Dolphin already, you will notice that by alternating from Dolphin Plank to Dolphin, you will not get the usual angle in Dolphin. Your feet will be too far back to get the full hamstring stretch usually achieved.). Inhale, drop back into Dolphin Plank. Exhale, push back into Dolphin. After five to eight repetitions, hold Dolphin for about five to eight breaths. I suggest at this point walking the feet in to achieve the hamstring and shoulder opening that is usual for Dolphin.

Remember to keep your abdominals engaged, as you pull back into Dolphin using the power in your belly, then return to Dolphin Plank with the back straight, quads and abs active, keeping the strength, length and integrity in the spine.

Namaste.

* Sorry. Feeling a little punchy after doing yoga with Jillian Michaels. It's not a bad workout, but it's not very zen…
muck_a_luck: (Sun Salutation)
[personal profile] muck_a_luck
Practice Ideas: More Inversions; Vinyasa on One Leg with Crescent Lunge, Standing Split and Side Plank

Disclaimer: I am not a yoga instructor. I don't know anything about exercise safety or fitness instruction. I'm not even an advanced practitioner of yoga. But I have come to love yoga and am completely self taught.

You know your own body best, so please respect your known health conditions and use the variations offered by instructors that are best for you. Remember to balance where you are now with where you could be in the future. There is no perfect pose.


More Inversions

For everybody who is working on Plow and Shoulderstand, I stumbled upon Shiva Rea's Inversions from Yoga Shakti on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBffP8trBs8. Did I mention this before?

Vinyasa on One Leg with Crescent Lunge, Standing Split and Side Plank )
muck_a_luck: Exercise without the bellydance part (Yoga Animated)
[personal profile] muck_a_luck
Gentle Readers of Getting Started:

I think that the starting has been got, as it were. I'm thinking of switching gears and doing shorter posts suggesting practice ideas, sometimes a new posture or sometimes a new way of incorporating postures Getting Started already discussed.

But I'd like to provide a venue for people to suggest new Getting Started topics.

So, feel free to comment if there is something you would like to see, and I can prod Ye Olde Internet and see what falls out!

With kindest regards and best wishes, I remain

Very truly yours,
CK
muck_a_luck: Exercise without the bellydance part (Yoga Animated)
[personal profile] muck_a_luck
Disclaimer: I am not a yoga instructor. I don't know anything about exercise safety or fitness instruction. I'm not even an advanced practitioner of yoga. But I have come to love yoga and am completely self taught.

You know your own body best, so please respect your known health conditions and use the variations offered by instructors that are best for you. Remember to balance where you are now with where you could be in the future. There is no perfect pose.



Inversions

Time to get your feet over your head.

Inversions are, unsurprisingly, very energizing! It is great if you can find space in your practice to include them, and I think at least four inverted postures are well within the reach of a beginner.

Please bear with me, as I first suggest two rather daring options, because the inversion you will probably try first I'm going to put at the end.

But you gotta try one of the daring options. Really!

First, a Word about Inversions and Menstruation

You will regularly hear the warning that menstruating women should not practice inversions.

Rather than have my own, profanity-ridden personal rant about fear and subjugation of the impure, weak, corrupt bleeding woman who is actually just a normal, healthy adult human female going through the normal human cycle of fertility that allows all these chauvinistic, male-controlled societies to come into existence in the first place… Because you know, I could have that rant. But this is really neither the place nor the moment for it. Because instead there is this excellent and well-balanced article at YogaJournal!

Barbara Benagh's reply to the question "Why are women not supposed to do inverted poses during their menstrual cycle?"

Have a look, and decide what you think is best for you and your body.

Inversions and High Blood Pressure

The other inversion warning is for high blood pressure. I'm more concerned about that one. If you have high blood pressure, pick up the phone, call your doctor's nurse, and find out if there is any reason you should not practice inversions.

Headstand and Handstand Preparation – Yes, click the cut! )

Halasana and Shoulder Stand

At this point you are thinking, "Is she for real?"

However, this next set of postures is actually something I suspect you can do today.
Halasana and Shoulder Stand )

A Final Illustration

As I was looking for video, I found the following.

I know it says Advanced Shoulderstand, but this is an excellent illustration of how the three poses Plow, Shoulderstand, and Matsyasna fit together.

Narayani demonstrates, but does not instruct You will obviously probably be leaving out all that crazy backbending stuff in the middle, and doing more simple variations on the shoulder stand.

Everybody in the community should look at this video and be inspired. I realize that Narayani is a world-renowned yoga instructor, but look at her. She's doing that at age 59. *I* want to be able to do that at age 59!

Namaste.
rydra_wong: a woman wearing a bird mask balances on her arms in bakasana (yoga -- crow pose)
[personal profile] rydra_wong
(Thanks to [personal profile] green for giving me the nudge I needed to finish compiling this!)

Actually, this post isn't just for n00bs at all; it's also for more experienced practitioners who might feel like a gentler practice, want to take things down a notch because of injury or illness, or want to revisit a simpler routine with a deeper level of insight.

But for people who are completely new to yoga, a quick disclaimer: I am not a yoga teacher (nor do I play one on the internet). Neither is YouTube. A good teacher isn't just going to show you the poses; they're going to guide you through the details, correct your alignment, and offer modifications suited to your body and needs.

However, videos (and books and DVDs and podcasts) can give you a great deal. At the very least, they can familiarize you with the most common poses that you're likely to run into in classes (or podcasts), and give you a sense of how your body responds. If you choose to go to a class later, they can enable you to focus more on what the teacher actually has to offer than on worrying about whether you're keeping up or whether you're embarrassing yourself (though, really? Everyone is worrying about that).

Cut for lots and lots of links )
muck_a_luck: Exercise without the bellydance part (Yoga Animated)
[personal profile] muck_a_luck
Disclaimer: I am not a yoga instructor. I don't know anything about exercise safety or fitness instruction. I'm not even an advanced practitioner of yoga. But I have come to love yoga and am completely self taught.

You know your own body best, so please respect your known health conditions and use the variations offered by instructors that are best for you. Remember to balance where you are now with where you could be in the future. There is no perfect pose.



Backbending

What should be in every (vinyasa) yoga session, ideally? Standing poses and sequences with a lot of movement, such as sun salutations, to generate heat. Twisting. Extensions to the side, as with Triangle (OMG we have not done Triangle!) and Reverse Warrior. Movements in opposite directions, as with any lunge. Building strength. Practicing and enjoying relaxtion while developing flexibility, in seated postures.

What's left? What's left will get your heart pounding and you doing things you haven't considered in years.

Backbending and inversions are what's left! Yup. We still need to really max out moving backwards in space, and we need to get our feet over our heads.

I've been stuck on this backbending post, because I know that while once you are warmed up and have developed some arm strength and confidence, it's not that hard just to pop up into Urdhva Dhanurasana, but the best, most rewarding deep backbending comes after thorough preparation of the knees, quads, abs and back, and I wanted to give you good advice about how to approach that.

Postures of Increasing Depth )

Some sequences to get you started )


Adding Deeper Backbends to Your Practice )

So! Now frighten impress your spouses, friends and children by doing a full backbend, just like you used to do when you were eight! :D


Namaste.
muck_a_luck: (Sun Salutation)
[personal profile] muck_a_luck
Crossposted at [dreamwidth.org profile] sun_salutation.

Disclaimer: I am not a yoga instructor. I don't know anything about exercise safety or fitness instruction. I'm not even an advanced practitioner of yoga. But I have come to love yoga and am completely self taught.

You know your own body best, so please respect your known health conditions and use the variations offered by instructors that are best for you. Remember to balance where you are now with where you could be in the future. There is no perfect pose.



Mandala Namaskar I

I am being very slow getting anything out for anyone who was waiting for another installment of this Getting Started thing.

But! I have been enjoying some new vinyasa stuff from a DVD I've been trying out, and stumbled on a sequence I *really* like.

I was doing the Hip Opening pre-set from Shiva Rea's Fluid Power, and she has a sequence she calls Mandala Namaskar. It's challenging, but not too advanced for anyone who can already do Suyra Namaskar B. (Surya is Sun. I’m pretty sure Mandala is Circle.)

Well, it appears that Shiva did not make this critter up (to be fair, she never said she did), but rather, I think there may be four Mandala Namaskars, just like we have Surya Namaskar A and B, plus a Great Surya Namaskar.

Kristi Bowman instructs Mandala Namaskar I.

I hope you like it!

I'll be back soon with Backbends, followed by Inversions. FEAR ME! :D

Ahem.

Namaste.
muck_a_luck: Exercise without the bellydance part (Yoga Animated)
[personal profile] muck_a_luck
I was cruising You Tube looking for a something else and found this!

I wanted this for you folks getting started but couldn't find it before.

It is Shiva Rea's Shoulder Opening Manadala from Yoga Shakti. It is absolutely wonderful, and even people not that interested in yoga should click this link and see what she does. This makes a GREAT five minute break at the office when you are feeling low energy or tired in your back.

Shoulder Opening Mandala from Yoga Shakti.

Plan to have a belt or something available to help with one of the movements that won't work without something to grip between your hands. I have often just used my sweatshirt. A belt would be great, though.
muck_a_luck: For yoga mods. (Yoga Mods)
[personal profile] muck_a_luck
Disclaimer: I am not a yoga instructor. I don't know anything about exercise safety or fitness instruction. I'm not even an advanced practitioner of yoga. But I have come to love yoga and am completely self taught.

You know your own body best, so please respect your known health conditions and use the variations offered by instructors that are best for you. Remember to balance where you are now with where you could be in the future. There is no perfect pose.



Seated Postures

Sorry! I fell victim to Snomageddon, but I'm feeling much better now, thanks!

So. At this point, you're probably thinking, "Isn't yoga supposed to be relaxing?!" And not I-must-find-inner-calm-so-I-don't-fall-down relaxing or where-the-heck-did-all-this-sweat-come-from-fall-down-exhausted-in-sivasana relaxing. More like that-was-almost-as-good-as-a-massage relaxing?

Well, it's time for some relaxing, peaceful, lunar forward bending.

Be sure to do a good warm up and some standing postures first. At least a few rounds of Surya Namaskar A and B, with maybe the Dancing Warrior sequence from Getting Started 7 on each side. The important thing is to be sure your hips are warm and stretched before you sit down. A lot of the seated postures are forceful and intense "hip openers" and getting some lunges behind you first will help you to get deeper into the postures and prevent injury.

Remember that as you are watching the instruction for these poses, the instructors are going to fold very deeply forward, and they are going to make it look very, very easy. Well, it is not easy to fold in some of these postures, especially at the beginning. Respect your own flexibility and challenge yourself without pushing too far. In my own experience of doing yoga three or four times a week, it took me a year to get my forehead to touch the floor in Wide-Angle Forward Bend, and I have done it a grand total of ONE time. You grow into these poses, so do what you can today. I think I've mentioned Brian Kest's comment before: The only difference between a more flexible person and a less flexible person is that the more flexible person has to go farther to feel something.

In the following list of poses, I suggest a sequence, where you perform all the postures for one side, then switch legs and perform all the postures for the other side.

Pigeon Pose )


Ardha Matsyendrasana )

Then shift your knees again, bringing one knee over the other for the next pose in the sequence, Gomukhasana.

Gomukhasana )

Now, transition to the next posture by slowly unwinding your legs, opening your knees out, keeping the top leg on top. You are proceeding to the next posture stretching the same hip.

Double Pigeon )

Now go back to the beginning, and repeat this sequence, bringing the other leg forward into Pigeon.

After completing the second leg, move on to three symmetrical poses to finish, starting with Baddha Konasana.

Baddha Konasana and Upavistha Konasana )

Seated Forward Bend )

The entire sequence )
muck_a_luck: Exercise without the bellydance part (Yoga Animated)
[personal profile] muck_a_luck
Disclaimer: I am not a yoga instructor. I don't know anything about exercise safety or fitness instruction. I'm not even an advanced practitioner of yoga. But I have come to love yoga and am completely self taught.

You know your own body best, so please respect your known health conditions and use the variations offered by instructors that are best for you. Remember to balance where you are now with where you could be in the future. There is no perfect pose.



Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)

Let's add three important standing postures, then do something fun with them.

Virabhadrasana II )

Shoulders Down )

Comments for Lunges )

Reverse Warrior )

Extended Side Angle )

Dancing Warrior

Now, for something fun!

Watch this on YouTube: Shiva Rea, practicing one of her Dancing Warriors.

This is a beautiful sequence. It will be challenging, but doable, for a beginner, build a lot of heat, and probably be a little yoga cardio for you.

She does the Surya Namaskar B Vinyasa, but from Warrior I, extends her arms to the sides, opening out into Warrior II. Then she flows back into Reverse Warrior, pauses, flows forward again into Extended Side Angle with the elbow on the knee, then rises back into Warrior II before dropping into the lunge and drawing back into Downward Dog to complete the vinyasa.

As you can see, this sequence holds you in the lunge for the entire flow, as you shift your torso and arms for the various postures. You'll feel the burn. :D


Building Your Routine

So your hitting the mat tomorrow morning. Wanna do a big practice?

Start with three rounds of Surya Namaskar A, to get warmed up. Start with the lower backbends and simplier variations and build up to full Chaturanga and Upward Facing Dog.

Then do three rounds of Surya Namaskar B.

Then do Chair Twist.

Then do the vinyasa, rise into Warrior I, pause, and expand into Warrior II. Hold Warrior II for five breaths. Do both sides.

Vinyasa, rise into Warrior I, pause, expand into Warrior II, pause, reach back for Reverse Warrior. Hold Reverse Warrior for five breaths.

Vinyasa, rise into Warrior II, pause, reach forward into Extended Side Angle. Five breaths.

Vinyasa. From Downward Dog, raise the right leg to stroke the sky. Right leg forward to Warrior I, expand to Warrior II, reach back gracefully to Reverse Warrior, extend forward to Extended Side Angle, rise up for Warrior II, and vinyasa. Try to do these in time with long ujayii breaths: Rise up to Warrior I on an inhale, exhale to Warrior II, inhale to Reverse Warrior, exhale to Extended Side Angle, inhale back to Warrior II, and exhale to Chaturanga. You may find this breath placement very challenging. I say, breathe through your mouth if you need to and don't worry too much about breath placement at the beginning. Brian Kest, on the other hand, says if you can't do the breath placement, you are pushing too hard, back off. I push anyway. *defies Mr. Kest*

Watch Shiva do it a couple of times, then do the best you can. Do the other side, stroking the sky with the left leg. Try a few more rounds, as you feel able, but try to be even on both sides.

Return to Mountain Pose. Finish with the relaxation you prefer.

That's a good morning's yoga!

Namaste.
muck_a_luck: (Sun Salutation)
[personal profile] muck_a_luck
Disclaimer: I am not a yoga instructor. I don't know anything about exercise safety or fitness instruction. I'm not even an advanced practitioner of yoga. But I have come to love yoga and am completely self taught.

You know your own body best, so please respect your known health conditions and use the variations offered by instructors that are best for you. Remember to balance where you are now with where you could be in the future. There is no perfect pose.



Balance: For Real, This Time!

So blah, blah, balance blah blah, there are actually postures in yoga devoted to balance. It's not just a metaphor or a psychological state!

Chair has elements of balance in it, especially when you are new to the posture and if you are twisting it.

Warrior I also has balance elements, and in fact illustrates one of the most important things you should know about balance.

Balance is not, strictly, about coordination. It helps to be coordinated, but there are at least three things you can do, or learn to do, that will make you more coordinated today: learn and use correct foot positions, engage your core, and find good focus points for your eyes.

Have you felt unsteady in Warrior I at all? If so, check your foot placement. Balance poses change the structure of your base. In standing postures where both feet are on the ground, you can often improve your balance right away by making certain that your feet are placed correctly. If your Warrior I is wobbly, check that your heels are aligned with the heel of your front foot directly in front of the heel of the back foot. In Warrior II, the heel of the front foot should be in alignment with the arch of the back foot. When you are doing a high lunge with a prayer twist, it helps to move your front foot out some, so you are not "on such a tightrope" as Brian Kest puts it. Correct foot placement can give you instant, surprising improvement in balance.

Second, balance often depends on stability in the core. If you are standing on one leg, your thighs and glutes are obviously doing a lot of work, holding you up, stabilizing your pelvis. Your abs are supporting your lower back and lifting your chest. Be aware when you are balancing of what is happening in your core. Engage your abs and your thighs. Of course, you will find that as you simply get stronger in these areas, balancing should become easier, but being deliberately attentive to your muscle engagement can help even from the beginning.

Finally, a very large component of balance has to do with your eyes. Believe it or not, if you can find a point of focus, your balance will instantly improve. I learned this when I was transitioning from Eagle to Dancing Shiva. When I find a point in front of me and focus my eyes on that point, I can shift from one posture to the other with hardly a wobble. The importance of your visual field to balance is probably one of the reasons why balance poses such as Tree, or even Warrior I, become more difficult when you shift your focus from a point in front of you upward towards your raised hands. Moving your eyes disturbs your equilibrium.

Roger Cole has an excellent article at www.yogajournal.com titled "Plumb Perfect" that addresses these practical issues, as well as the larger issue of focus in balance poses. He also argues that balance poses bring calm despite their difficulty because they require total attention to the action.

Yoga and Mindfulness: Movement Meditation

Yoga is often called "movement meditation." Even if you approach yoga without any intent to seek a "spiritual" component, yoga's very nature requires careful attentiveness to the details of your body's movement. You are constantly monitoring your breathing and it's placement with the movements. The movements themselves are difficult and often uncomfortable. Your mind is in the moment, focused on the action of your legs, your core, your heart center, your arm placement, the focus of your eyes. This attentiveness is a beginners way to the "mindfulness" that people achieve when the meditate. You concentrate so much on the small details, that you are no longer distracted by the noise of the larger world around you, or the thoughts inside your own head. Yoga helps to bring you into this state of mindfulness, and balance poses are an important tool to bring your mind into the moment.

Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III)

I was tickled when [dreamwidth.org profile] rydra_wong complained that Warrior III doesn't get enough love, because I knew from the beginning that this would be the first balance pose I suggested for a beginner.

It is not a complicated pose to understand, as you will see when you review the link to Yoga Journal.

Links to YouTube:

Virabhadrasana III demonstrated by Yoga Poses with Sonja

Demonstration with Core Power: with still photos only, but excellent instruction.

Sadie Nardini gives instruction on all three Warrior postures

Here's how to work Warrior III into your Surya Namaskar B sequence. Perform the usual vinyasa. Settle into Warrior I. Then shift your weight onto your front leg, bending your torso forward over the front knee and feel like you are "stepping" forward, lifting your back leg and extending your arms in front of you. Hold the posture for three to five long steady breaths, then drop your back leg, "stepping" back into Vira I, then to Downward Dog.

I have found that for me the critical element of Vira III is to remember the power of the lifted leg. More than one instructor comments that you should imagine "shooting energy" though the back heel. When I think about that, I engage the glutes on the lifted leg, and possibly engage the thigh more firmly as well. This brings lift to the back leg and more stability to the pelvis, which makes my balance more firm. Also, I learned to do this posture with my hands palms together, stretching away. Eye focus should be the thumbs. If that doesn't bring enough stability, then focus on a still point beyond your thumbs.

Remember to keep your grounded leg fluid. Do not lock the knee. Imagine that leg is buoyant, and engage the muscles in your thigh, as if you were lifting up the kneecap. You are going to have wobble in this posture, especially at the beginning. Handle the wobble calmly. If you fall, no big deal. Reset and try again.

Other resources

Another resource you might want to review is Julie Gudmestad's article "Yoga Anatomy – Help for Standing Balances".

And in case you, like me, really want to see what the "core muscles" are: Wikipedia entry on core muscles.

Namaste.
muck_a_luck: Exercise without the bellydance part (Yoga Animated)
[personal profile] muck_a_luck
Disclaimer: I am not a yoga instructor. I don't know anything about exercise safety or fitness instruction. I'm not even an advanced practitioner of yoga. But I have come to love yoga and am completely self taught.

You know your own body best, so please respect your known health conditions and use the variations offered by instructors that are best for you. Remember to balance where you are now with where you could be in the future. There is no perfect pose.


Yoga As a Total Body Fitness Program

I keep repeating that yoga is supposed to be about balance.

This pursuit of balance is part of what makes yoga a great way to get a total body workout.

You target all the body areas – arms, core, back, shoulders, hips, legs – while you work for balance, flexibility and strength. You think, wow, how to fit that all in? But many postures combine many components. Upward Facing Dog, for instance, is a backbend, strengthening the core and releasing the lower back, and an arm balance. Warrior 1 is a gentle backbend, that opens the hips and develops strength in the legs.

Twisting

A complete yoga routine should include twisting.

Instructors will say that twisting is "cleansing" and "detoxifying." I have also heard it stated that twisting improves digestion. I can't speak to those issues, though they may well be true. But what twisting clearly does is strengthen the core. I would say through development of the internal and external oblique abdominal muscles. Anyone wanna back me up on that?

Twisting poses are also excellent counterposes to backbending.

Adding twisting to your Sun Salutations: Chair, with a Prayer Twist

One thing you are not getting yet from your sun salutations is twisting. However, if you have started doing Surya Namaskar B, then there is a simple variation on Chair that will allow you to add a twisted posture to your routine. Let's call this Chair, with a Prayer Twist.

When you are in Chair, draw your hands down into the "prayer" or "Namaste" position. Take a deep inhale, and on the exhale, twist your torso only, so that your right elbow rests on the outside of your left knee. Take another deep inhale, extending your spine through the crown of your head (grow with the inhale), then exhale and use the lever of your arm against your knee to help you gently twist your upper body, as if you were trying to open your chest to the sky.

You should think about twisting as actually being initiated not by the assisting lever of your elbow, but instead by the movement of your core – as if your right kidney were trying to move across your center line to the left.

Be sure to respect your spine. Don't "jam" the spine, as Rodney Yee says. And use the breath to help you deepen the pose while keeping fluidity in your spine. Grow taller when you inhale, then twist a tiny bit deeper on the exhale. Maybe wind back a bit when you inhale and grow taller, then twist deeper again on the exhale.

Try holding the twist for three breaths or so. Then return to center, the neutral Chair posture. If your legs are feeling tired, at this point rise into Mountain Pose, then take a Standing Forward Bend. Then resettle into Chair pose and this time on an exhale, twist your left elbow to your right knee. If you prefer, you can skip the transition in the middle and move directly from twist, to neutral Chair posture, to twist, without passing through Mountain Pose and Standing Forward Bend.

When you have completed the second side, proceed through a sun salutation as normal.

Now you have added twisting to your sun salutation!

Examples

Demonstration by Charity on YouTube. She offers a lot of explanation.

Demonstration with no instruction from iyogalife. This shows the bound variation, for advanced practitioners.

Written instructions for Chair Twist at yoawiz.com. (No video.)

Safety Tips

While looking for illustrations of Chair with twist today, I found this instructor talking about protecting your lower back in Chair.
muck_a_luck: (Sun Salutation)
[personal profile] muck_a_luck
Disclaimer: I am not a yoga instructor. I don't know anything about exercise safety or fitness instruction. I'm not even an advanced practitioner of yoga. But I have come to love yoga and am completely self taught.

You know your own body best, so please respect your known health conditions and use the variations offered by instructors that are best for you. Remember to balance where you are now with where you could be in the future. There is no perfect pose.


Surya Namaskar B

After you have decided you are ready to move on to something new from Surya Namaskar A, and excellent progression is to go ahead and learn Surya Namaskar B.

Sun Salutation B is very much like Sun Salutation A, except it incorporates two new standing postures.

First, you begin in Utkatasana, also called Chair, or Awkward Chair. This is an excellent pose to strengthen the thighs, back and core. (Remember that if you scroll down the Yoga Journal page, there is a video illustration of the pose.)

Then, you flow through the vinyasa, but after you step back in to Downward Dog, you step one foot forward again into a lunge and rise up into Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I). Warrior I is a lunge with a gentle backbend.

Here is Luke Jordan, demonstrating Surya Namaskar B.

Here is Maria Villella, doing a *beautiful* example, without much guidance, just naming the postures as she moves through them.

Developing your practice

So, now you have both sun salutations to play with! You can now start putting together a real practice!

Here's my suggestion for a mini practice. Do Surya Namaskar A three times, starting with the easier variations and moving through until on the third time you are doing the more advanced version with Upward Facing Dog and a full Chaturanga, if you can manage it. Then do three rounds of Surya Namaskar B. If you start to get tired, drop back to half Chaturanga and Cobra, or even just scoop through to low Cobra.

Ending your Practice

Yoga is about balance. One of the things you should do when you finish a yoga practice is give your body a chance to recuperate from the practice and "absorb the shanti, the peace, of yoga," as Shiva Rea admonishes.

There are many ways to finish a practice.

One is to adopt a seated posture, either a simple crosslegged pose, Sukhasana (Easy Pose), Half Lotus, or Full Lotus. Place your hands in the prayer position and use Ujayii, breathing deeply and evenly in and out, and feeling how your breath moves your body, like the tides move the ocean. Remain seated for five minutes or more, just enjoying the richness and ease of your breath. Some instructors advocate using the seated relaxation to end a practice when you want to maintain the energy of your practice at the beginning of the day.

A second strategy is to relax into Child's Pose (Balasana). I prefer the variation of this with the knees open wide to the edges of the mat (feet remain together), and the arms stretched forward in prostration. Rest your forehead or cheek on the floor and relax for five minutes or so. Be a little careful about staying in this comfortable, relaxing posture too long, as it might be hard on your knees. I find Balasana is a particularly tempting way to finish a practice where I have just exhausted myself and would rather collapse right there on the floor than move one more step!

A third strategy is Savasana, also known as Corpse Pose or Deep Relaxation Pose. In Savasana, you lie on your back, with your knees and feet dropped open, arms relaxed out to the side. Close your eyes and concentrate on scanning your body from head to toe, recognizing areas of tension and relaxing them. After two or three scans of your body, stop thinking about anything at all. Let go of the Ujjayi breathing and just breathe normally. Feel your body dropping into the earth. In Savasana, consider having a light blanket nearby and as you lie down, drape the blanket over your cooling body, so that you won't be cold lying on the floor, especially in winter.

Namaste.
muck_a_luck: Exercise without the bellydance part (Yoga Animated)
[personal profile] muck_a_luck
Disclaimer: I am not a yoga instructor. I don't know anything about exercise safety or fitness instruction. I'm not even an advanced practitioner of yoga. But I have come to love yoga and am completely self taught.

You know your own body best, so please respect your known health conditions and use the variations offered by instructors that are best for you. Remember to balance where you are now with where you could be in the future. There is no perfect pose.


Yoga and Upper Body Strength

If you are a woman just starting to think about improving your fitness, I expect the chance that upper body strength is your biggest fitness "deficiency" is about 99.999%. When was the last time you did a single pushup, much less ten in a row?

Yoga is about to change all that.

You've been watching the different variations of Surya Namaskar A, and I'm sure you noticed that Luke Jordan demonstrates Surya Namaskar A using a posture called Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose/Push-up Position). Almost all instructors will actually call this one by it's shortened Sanskrit name, Chaturanga.

I strongly encourage you to start attempting Chaturanga, either in the full version, or at least in the bent knee version, as soon as you can. If you think it is too much for you, save it for your last sun salutation of the day. One of the great things I have found about getting into shape again is the feeling of strength and accomplishment that comes from being able to do (or at least attempt and approximate) the arm balances.

A few comments about Chaturanga )

Exercising to Exercise

Here is one place where I strongly encourage you to exercise to exercise, as my mom says.

I got a book on strength training with the awesome subtitle Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess, by Alwyn Cosgrove. This book gives an excellent system for building the strength to do pushups. I cannot recommend this strategy enough. And it is so quick to do, that anyone should be able to work it into their day.

Doing pushups on an angle )

Illustrations of Chaturanga from YouTube

Here is the demonstration from myyogaonline.com.

Sadie Nardini showing secrets of moving from Chaturanga to Upward Dog. This is a beautiful illustration of how Chaturanga should be done.

Here is the CorePower illustration. (Good explanation, but with still photos, instead of video).

Other

For anybody who might have missed it, [dreamwidth.org profile] rydra_wong did a fantastic post about yoga on the internet yesterday in [dreamwidth.org profile] sun_salutation. Lots of great resources there for people trying to learn yoga on the cheap (as in free!).
muck_a_luck: (Sun Salutation)
[personal profile] muck_a_luck
Crossposted at [dreamwidth.org profile] sun_salutation.


Disclaimer: I am not a yoga instructor. I don't know anything about exercise safety or fitness instruction. I'm not even an advanced practitioner of yoga. But I have come to love yoga and am completely self taught.

You know your own body best, so please respect your known health conditions and use the variations offered by instructors that are best for you. Remember to balance where you are now with where you could be in the future. There is no perfect pose.

Yoga Attitude

And as Mr. Kest reminds us, the important thing in yoga is "to feel something." The difference between a flexible person and a less flexible person is that the flexible person just has to go farther to feel something.

Disclaimers and reminders all done!

Surya Namaskar A has a lot of components. I would like to take the component postures and discuss them, starting with Uttanasana.

Some thoughts about getting the most out of Uttanasana

The second posture in the sequence is Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend).

This may seem like a very simple posture at first - touching your toes, basically.

It has two basic components. Getting length in your spine, and developing openness in the hamstrings.

More thoughts )

Examples )
Real Life Applications for Uttanasana

As you do more yoga, you may find that you discover poses that you bring into your daily life. For instance, I know Zats, when forced to sleep on terrible mattresses while traveling, will do a few rounds of Suyra Namaskar B with some extra standing postures thrown in to work out the mattress-induced aches and pains. And [personal profile] uisgich has been known to sneak off at work to a special hidey hole to do a couple of interations of Wheel, or sun salutations.

My all time favorite posture for real life is Uttanasana.

1. Sometimes it's just fun to spontaneously reach down and put my hands on the floor.

2. If my back is tired, doing a hanging version of Uttanasana, as in the Yoga Therapy example above, really releases tension and rejuvenates.

3. If I'm feeling run down, there's nothing like getting upside down to get some blood and oxygen to my brain.

4. If my head is congested, particularly if my sinuses are really stubbornly plugged up, several rounds of Uttanasana in a row will really get the nasty fluids moving again and loosen things up.


So! I think that's all I have to say about Uttanasana.

On other, practical yoga topics for people just getting started:

Or consider an evening practice )

Do I need special clothes for practicing yoga? )

And lastly, a few more examples of Surya Namaskar A, provided by [dreamwidth.org profile] rydra_wong:

Ceci Lester does a "softer" "more modified" Sun Salutation A.

Example with Rise Yoga.
muck_a_luck: (Sun Salutation)
[personal profile] muck_a_luck
A friend of mine was asking her friends page for ideas for getting back into shape after 20 years or so of not worrying too much about fitness.

She is interested in increasing stamina, flexibility and knee strength. All of these, of course, are prime areas to be improved by practice of yoga.

In addition, she has very limited funds at the moment and wasn't ready to invest in DVDs or other exercise stuff.

I suggested she take a look at Sun Salutations as a way of getting started, adding variations to Surya Namaskar B when she was ready for variety.

This made me think about what I would want to do to help someone just beginning yoga. I am not a yoga instructor. I don't know anything about exercise safety or fitness instruction. I'm not even an advanced practitioner of yoga.

But I have come to love yoga and am completely self-taught. Well, DVD taught.

With those disclaimers, I thought I might do a series of posts for the very beginner, that might be helpful.

You know your own body best, so please respect your known health conditions and use the variations offered by instructors that are best for you. I am going to include links to Yoga Journal's site in my discussion below. Follow the links for pictures and descriptions of the poses, as well as video for some of them. (Scroll down toward the bottom of the linked Yoga Journal pages.)

So. I think the best place to start is Sun Salutation A, also called Surya Namaskar A. I'll try to include both the English names for things and the Sanskrit names. The Sun Salutations are like yoga warm-ups. A lot of practices start with sun salutations and then build up from there. Practiced on their own, however, you still get a lot of benefit. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) helps to open your hamstrings. You will find that a lot of yoga is directed at bringing flexibility into this tendon. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) is good for opening the shoulders and also targets the hamstrings. It also helps to release the lower back. Depending on the variation you follow, Four-Limbed Staff Pose/Push-up Position (Chaturanga Dandasana) builds arm and core strength. Cobra (Bhujangasana) or Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) are backbends, freeing for the lower back and the shoulders, strengthening for the thighs.

That sounds like a lot, but it all goes together into an amazing flow called a vinyasa. In vinyasa movement, you place your breath with the movement. So on one movement, the breath flows in, on the next movement, the breath flows out. The whole thing is linked together with a physical logic, and to me it feels like a dance.

The Ocean Sound )


Surya Namaskar A )

A few practical comments for beginners.

Do you need a mat? )

Practice on an empty stomach )

Consider a morning practice )

Exercise to exercise? )

Learning balance

As a final thought for this post, remember that yoga is about balance. Balance between building strength and relaxing. Learning to remain calm while in a physically challenging or uncomfortable position.

And balance between understanding where you are now and where you can develop to in the future.

Don't let yourself be discouraged by new vocabulary or things that look complicated. Jump in. Try it out. Enjoy it now. Use beginner modifications, shifting into the more difficult variations when you are ready. Don't compare yourself to others. This is not a competition and there is no such thing as a "perfect" pose. But also don't go too easy on yourself. You want to challenge yourself to grow into postures, to get more from them over time. You will be amazed at how much you can learn about a simple, basic pose like Down Dog or Standing Forward Bend as you work on it for weeks and months.

So! I hope you found this helpful! Over the next few days, I'll try to track down links to the various component postures of Surya Namaskar A, and next week, I'll get something up about Surya Namaskar B!

Namaste.

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