Tag Archives: yoga pose

Yoga Break 4 Writers: Give Your Neck a Break

Leaning towards the computer screen, consistently looking down as we type on a laptop, and tensing up as we type can all cause neck pain. Here are some poses we can do right at our desk, frequently during the hour to keep our necks limber and reduce neck strain.

Deep, Calming Breathing

Still your mind and think only about your breathing. You want to stretch, awaken, and alleviate stress and the pain. Breathe in and out through your nose (not your mouth). Take a deep breath in: slowly fill the chest with air, imagining that you are pulling in joy, love, peace, and light. Deeply and completely exhale the breath: you will actually use your abdominal muscles to push the breath out, imagining that you are expelling all toxins, stress, and tension. Keep taking those breaths until you feel yourself relax.

Neck Rolls

After about three to five minutes, add head movements to your breathing:

When you inhale, lift your face to the ceiling, and when you are ready to exhale, slowly put your chin to chest. Do this movement 3 times each way for a total of 6. Don’t rush.

 

On your last exhale, with your chin to your chest,  roll your head around until your right ear is above your red shoulders (make sure your shoulders are down and not hunched up near your ear). You will feel a stretch in your neck and as your neck is stretching, extend your left hand out to your side with your fingers tinted on the mat. Take a couple of deep breaths, and then roll your head to the left side, so that your left ear is over your left shoulder. Note: As you roll your head from side to side, roll it in the front of your body with your chin to your chest. This movement is an exhale. You can alternate back and forth from each side.

When you are ready, do an entire slow neck roll, matching your breathing to your movement. Inhale when your face and head are up and exhale when your face and head are down.

Yoga Pose Series: Triangle Pose

100_2755by Trina Love Abram

My favorite Yoga pose is Triangle or Trikonasana. The root word trikona, means “three angle or triangle” and asana means posture in Sanskrit.

Benefits of Triangle Pose

Triangle Pose simultaneously energizes and relaxes you, alleviating stress. It is an elegantly powerful pose that works the abdominal external oblique muscles, effectively lengthening and shaving them. Triangle also strengthens your back, opens your chest and your hip joints, strengthens and lengthens your inner thigh muscles, strengthens your calves, helps to reduce love handles, and engages the abdominal muscles to aid in digestion. The twisting and extending that is involved also massages the spinal nerves. In Triangle, you feel balanced, energized, and focused. You are stable, secure, and powerful.

Prevent Injuries

For Triangle Pose to be effective, you MUST do the pose correctly. You must concern yourself with proper alignment and placement of your limbs. The line of the torso from the side of your waist to the armpit must be flat, and not rounded, toward the ceiling. It is the contraction of the abdominal external oblique muscles that work to strengthen and tone your sides.

Do not stand with your legs too close or too far apart:

The foundation of this pose is your stance. Your legs are the base and must be properly positioned and far enough apart to support you. Stand in the middle of your mat, and extend your arms to the side. Step your legs apart so that your stance is as wide as or wider than the length of your arms from your shoulders to the tips of your fingers. If one or both of your knees want to bend, then your stance is too wide.

Do not lean forward:

Do not lean forward. The objective of the pose is not that you reach the mat with your hand or fingers. Open your chest towards the ceiling. The arm that is extended towards the ceiling should be in line with your ear. Stick your pelvis and hips forward. I repeat, do not lean forward in this pose.

Getting Into Triangle

*I advise you to first practice Triangle up against the wall. Leave your top hand on your hip, your lower hand on your shin. Bend at the hips instead of at the waist. This gives you the proper alignment of your hips pressed forward, your shoulder rotated up, and your chest open and lifted to the ceiling along with your head and your gaze. The wall acts as a buffer.

  1. Lift your arms to shoulder height into a T position.100_2757
  2. Lift your chest and torso up, keeping your shoulders down and back.
  3. Step your feet straight out to each side so that your toes are parallel with the tips of your fingers. It is essential that your stance is far enough apart to support you. This is your base.
  4. Turn both of your feet forward, so that they are parallel to one another and pointed directly to the front, as your torso should be.
  5. Lift and spread your toes wide, and then place them back on the mat.
  6. Leaving the left foot pointed straight ahead, turn your your right foot out to the right 90 degrees.
  7. Extend your torso to the right, and then continue to bend to the right from your hip until your right arm is comfortable100_2758 either above your knee, on your shin, on your ankle, or on the mat. Simultaneously, lift your left arm straight to the ceiling. Imagine that your arms are making a vertical T (in line with the tops of your shoulders). Listen to your body. If as far as your body says it can do down is you placing your hand on your thigh, then don’t go further than that. As you practice the pose, your hamstrings will loosen up, and you will be able to go down farther.
  8. Press your hips forward, tuck your tailbone under, and rotate your left shoulder towards the ceiling. Do not stick your butt or tailbone out to achieve the position. You are defeating the purpose.
  9. Turn your chest up towards the ceiling, effectively opening the chest and providing more flexibility in the oblique muscles.
  10. Keep your gaze straight ahead or gaze softly towards your left thumb.
  11. Inhale and exhale, and feel your rib cage expand and contract. As the weight of the rib cage shifts during breathing, you are100_2756 challenged to maintain the pose in its proper form. Triangle also benefits your posture because the dynamics of the position challenge your balance and your coordination.
  12. Stay in this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Inhale to come up, strongly pressing the back (left) heel into the floor and pulling the right arm downward. Reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time on the left side.

Counter Poses

wide legged forward bendI emphasize balance in your Yoga practice, which means that when you bend in one direction, you mustwlfb02 follow with a pose that bends in the opposite direction. If you work your right side, you must balance by also working your left side. In Triangle pose, you are bending from side to side. I suggest Wide Leg Forward Bend followed by a Wide Legged Backbend.

 

What You Will Feel

 You will feel:

  • Your oblique (side) muscles lengthen as you extend
  • Your thighs and calf muscles working to keep you steady
  • Your hamstring muscles stretch, if your stance is wide enough
  • The shoulder of your arm that is extended rotate in the socket allowing you to open your chest towards the ceiling
  • Your glute muscles working as you press your hips forward

*Disclaimer: As with any exercise regimen, consult your doctor or physician before you start. Make sure that you have adequate instructions about how to accurately perform these poses before you try them. The Leisure Living Blog, its contributors, or listed resources are not responsible for any injuries.

Namaste,
Trina

 www.leisurelivingblog.com

*Disclaimer: As with any exercise regimen, consult your doctor or physician before you start. The Leisure Living Blog, its contributors, or listed resources are not responsible for any injuries.

© 2009 KaTrina Love Abram

Yoga Basics Part 3: Focus, Intent, Attitude

FocusAttitudeIntentYogaIn this Yoga Basics series, we discussed how important it is to breath and listen to your body when you practice Yoga. In this article, we discuss the third most important aspect of Yoga: Focus, Intentions, & Attitude.

If you are concerned with what other people in your class are doing, you lack Focus. If you are unhappy with your current Yoga practice, then you must assess your intentions. If you are not getting the mental benefits of Yoga, check your attitude.

Focus

For most people, the Yoga Balancing Poses are their least favorite. Why? Because balancing poses require total Focus, as well as balance, control, and concentration. You must be totally in the moment, in the current pose, and Focused, to be successful. Yoga teaches us to Focus and concentrate, which is the only way that you can remember all of the correct placements of each part of your body in a specific Pose. You must Focus on you. Forget that there are other people in the class. Exorcise the images on DVDs of perfect bodies in perfect poses. To totally be who you are, where you are, in each specific pose, you must Focus. Concentrate on the instructions that your teacher gives you, how your body feels in each Pose, and on the specifics of the Pose that you’ve learned.

Intentions

What are your intentions with your Yoga practice? Is it to lose weight, to become more flexible, to exercise, to become more aware of yourself, to gain peace and calm, to eradicate depression, to treat an injury, or to become stronger? There is no wrong intention; however, you must identify your intentions. When you know what your intentions are, then you can choose the type of Yoga practice that aligns with your intentions. If you want to lose weight, then Gentle Yoga is probably not what you need to take. Bikram (Hot) and Ashtanga Yoga are faster moving, more intense Yoga practices, which are better for weight loss. If you want to stretch and relieve stress, you probably want more Gentle Yoga. Checking different Yoga Studios and classes and talking to the teachers and discussing your intentions and goals will help you to get the most out of your Yoga practice and to get started in the Yoga practice that is more beneficial to you. Visit the Studios. Research the different types of Yoga, so that your practice mirrors your intentions.

 Attitude

A positive Attitude is imperative. A negative Attitude works against you and obstructs the healing principles of Yoga. Yoga connects your mind and body, soothing your conscious, and increasing the positive functions of your body. Your mind is one of the most important organs of your body. There is a process for everything…Yoga is no different. Stay positive that you will reach your goals and reap the benefits of your Yoga practice. Every time you practice Yoga, notice the strides that you make. And you do make positive, productive, forward strides every time you practice Yoga. Your Attitude affects the mental benefits of your Yoga practice. A positive Attitude helps you to Focus and Concentrate better. It also helps you to stay mindful of the intricacies of each Pose that you are tasked with remembering and putting to practice. During every warm up session, establish your intentions and have a positive attitude.

Conclusion

Maximize the benefits of your Yoga practice by focusing inward, establishing your intentions, and having a positive attitude. Yoga is what you make it. You cannot approach Yoga with a competitive mindset, skewed intentions, and a negative attitude. If you do, you are counteracting the positive benefits of your Yoga practice. Your Yoga practice is about you. Focus on you!

Yoga Basics: Part 1
Yoga Basics: Part 2

*Disclaimer: As with any exercise regimen, consult your doctor or physician before you start. The Leisure Living Blog, its contributors, or listed resources are not responsible for any injuries.

© 2009 KaTrina Love Abram
http://www.leisurelivingblog.com

Yoga Basics Part 2: Listen to Your Body

Listen2URBodyWhen I have a conversation with someone who has yet to experience Yoga, their first words are about the Yoga poses. They explain that they are not flexible enough to do Yoga. Then I have to explain that (1) you practice Yoga in order to develop flexibility and (2) there is more to Yoga than just the poses. That last statement garners a puzzled look from the person. “What could be more important than the poses?” they ask.

In Part 1, we learned that Pranayama (Breathing) is the most important aspect of Yoga, and the first thing you should learn.  In this post, we discuss the second most important aspect of Yoga.

The Second Most Important Aspect of Yoga

In Yoga classes, the teachers are there to lead and teach you; however, it is up to you how far, deep, and long you go. The second most important thing to remember about Yoga is that you LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! Yoga is not a competitive sport. There are so many different body types that everything doesn’t work for everyone. That is why, Yoga is solitary and you are not competing with anyone else. You cannot base what you can and cannot do on the other participants of the class, your teacher, or who you see on television.

Your body tells you what you can and cannot do. Your duty is to listen to your body, and stop when your body says STOP. Yoga teaches you to be patient with yourself and your body, to be aware of where you and your body, and to accept you and your body at this moment. Consistent Yoga practice makes your more flexible, more aware, and it soon gets easier to get into poses that were harder for you.

Respect Your Body

Don’t be rude and crude with your body. Be patient and listen. Your limbs should not be shaking. You should not be in excruciating pain. You must develop a healthy balance between knowing when to stop and knowing when you can delicately push yourself further. Your body needs more than just to mimic the poses that you see. The benefits of Yoga are working internally even when your external doesn’t look how you want it to look or do what you want it to do. What you see on the outside is the end result. Inside your organs are getting massaged, your immune system is getting stronger, your respiratory system is more robust, your heart is heartier, your spine is more durable, and you are gaining more energy.

Conclusion

Listen to, be in tune to, and respect your body. Know your limitations. Be patient with your body. Give yourself time to become comfortable. Celebrate every change, internal and external. Don’t focus on what you cannot do; instead, encourage yourself.  Be consistent in your practice and keep learning. Always let your teacher know before class if you have any injuries or ailments. Adhere to your body…it’s the only one that you have.

Yoga Basics: Part 1  
Yoga Basics: Part 3

© 2009 KaTrina Love Abram

Yoga Pose Series: Downward Facing Dog Pose

NewYogaPose

 

Downward Facing Dog is one of the most popular Yoga inversion poses. An inversion is a reversal of the usual or natural order of things. Total body strength, improved circulation and digestion, and stimulated memory are just a few of the benefits of Yoga inversion poses.

The frequency in which Downward Facing Dog is used  in most Yoga classes might annoy you in the beginning, but after you reach your level of comfort, you will love this pose. And it gets easier and more satisfying the more you practice it. This pose stimulates you and warms your body, while simultaneously lengthening and stretching it. Downward Facing Dog requires your total thoughts and concentration as you find a comfortable weight distribution between your legs, arms, and torso. You develop balance and strength as you stretch, lengthen,  and align your spine.

When used in Ashtanga Sun Salutations or Yoga Flow classes, Downward Facing Dog is a pose that you continually repeat and return to. It is also a resting pose, rejuvenating, and realigning pose that slows down the asana flow, allowing you to catch your breath.

Getting into the Downward Facing Dog Pose

Be patient with yourself and your body as you practice this pose. Don’t be tense, aggravated, or pushy. Listen to your body and stop when your body tells you to stop. Remember to breath conciously and deeply.

Prevent Injuries

Don’t:

  • Round your back
  • Hunch your shoulders
  • Look up because this can cause neck strain
  • Bend your elbows
  • Put all of your weight on your wrists

Talk to your doctor before attempting this pose if you have spinal or wrist injuries. If you are on your monthly menstrual cycle, do not remain in this position for more than two breaths.

Getting Down

Distribute most of your weight towards your heels and away from your wrists.down dog Make sure that you lengthen as much as you can. Use all of the mat.

  1. Start on your hands and knees. Your arms should be as far apart as your shoulders and your knees should be hip distance apart. Situate your hands slightly above your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips.
  2. Spread your fingers out wide, pressing firmly into the mat. Your weight should be more towards your palms, thumbs, and your first fingers.
  3. Inhale, and lift your hips toward the ceiling and push back as you straighten your legs, lengthening and elongating your spine.
  4. Press your chest towards your thighs, which should make you push back on your heels.
  5. Push your heels toward the floor, stretching your calf and hamstring muscles. 
  6. Push your tailbone towards the ceiling. Keep your knees straight, but don’t lock them.
  7. Let your head hang between two straight, strong arms, and gaze between your knees. 

cowCounter posesChilds pose

To come out, inhale and return to your hands and knees, and either release into Cow pose or into Child’s pose.

 

Variations for Beginners

Your hamstrings might be too tight, which will prevent you from fully unfurling. If this is the case, you can bend your knees.

What you will feel

You will feel your hamstrings and calves lengthening, your upper back and shoulders extend, and your arms stretch. Your chest and armpits open. Your lower back arching.

*Disclaimer: As with any exercise regimen, consult your doctor or physician before you start. The Leisure Living Blog, its contributors, or listed resources are not responsible for any injuries.

© 2009 KaTrina Love Abram

Writing and Yoga

author03Writing and Yoga

It takes courage, discipline, and perseverance to write. As I write, there is a duplicitous, imaginary critic peering over my shoulder chastising me for using the wrong grammar, not rewriting immediately, and any number of other things. We are encouraged to block out that inner critic, but to no avail. That inner critic hates that I stifle it and summon it whimsically.

Yesterday, I read an article by  Jen Grisanti entitled Writing and Yoga. When I first read this article I was floored because I am a Yoga fanatic. After I thought about it, since I’ve been practicing and teaching Yoga, I haven’t fought with my inner critic. I don’t beat the critic away with a stick to concentrate. That critic is tucked away until I summon it. And I cannot pinpoint the day that I took control over my inner critic instead of my inner critic controlling me, but I know that Yoga was an accomplice.

Tree Pose

Yoga helps me in so many ways that I cannot list them all. Yoga and writing go hand-in-hand. When I practice Yoga, I focus, concentrate, and center. Yoga is a mental exercise in self and body awareness and balance. Through breathing (prayana), the body and mind connect, and this state-of-mind does not go away after my practice is complete. Sun Salutations stimulate and warm the body (among other things) and balancing poses, such as Eagle, Warrior III, and Tree Poses, help you to balance, focus, and be in the moment. Balance is very important in Yoga. For every pose (asana) there is a counter pose. If you do something on the right, you must do it on the left too. Focusing and balancing help me to grab one thought at a time, deal with it, and move on to the next thought. I reach inside of myself and literally pull my creativity out, mentally, as I am meditating after Yoga.

So when I sit down to write, my creativity is stimulated, alive, and vibrant,100_2534 (2) coaxing confidence. I can focus on one thought at a time, I’m peaceful and calm, and my mind is lucid. I accept where I am at the moment and embrace my limitations. I am patient with myself. This focusing, balance, acceptance, and patience blankets me as I sit at my keyboard and escape into my plot, allowing my characters to live and breath through my fingers.

If you are a writer, embracing Yoga can enhance your  creativity and writing as well as your mental, physical, and emotional dexterity. I would love a Yoga/Writer retreat.

Namaste & Happy Writing,
Trina

© 2009 KaTrina Love Abram