Yoga @ Home


I’ve started back to running again now that it’s spring.  Or here in Halifax, now that it’s monsoon season.  I don’t mind running in the rain, as long as i’ts not torrential.  I put on a ballcap to keep the rain off my face, something water resistant and i’m good to go.  I find that by the time I’m feeling damp, i’m also warmed up, so it’s all good. 

There’s never any danger of overheating and you feel so virtuous by the time you’re home.  It’s like you’re warrior woman, you’ve been out in the wilderness, survived the elements and oh yeah, got a great workout in too.

Being back running reminds me how much I love Pigeon Pose, both after running as well as the morning after running.  But in the a.m. you can’t just jump into Pigeon.  It’s really uncomfortable and you’re tight you don’t get all the benefit.  You know, if the fronts of your legs aren’t stretched out, you won’t be able to get your back leg very far back, and then your hips are way up in the air, you get the idea.

So *of course* we all spend lots of time doing yoga in between runs, but for those odd times when you’re rushed, here’s the fastest way I’ve found to get to Pigeon.

Tip: start with holding for three deep breaths but if you’re getting a ‘WHOA now *that’s* a good stretch!’, hold for another couple so you get the full benefit, clearly your body needs it.

Warrior 1 with Yoga Mudra arms – clasp your hands behind your hips, squeeze your shoulder blades together as you work on straightening your arms and moving them back, away from your hips.  I like to do this chest opening stretch to help my posture during running, and anytime.

Warrior 2 – after holding the pose for at least 3 breaths, i lower my arms and twist to the front leg side with a tall straight back.  This is a good stretch for all those supporting muscles through your spine.

High Lunge – bring your hands to your front knee or overhead to deepen the stretch. Really lift the back of the back leg to stretch the muscles in the front.

Triangle and/or Wide Leg Forward Bend – if your hips and inner thighs feel tight, make time for Triangle and Wide Leg Forward Bend.  A good way to stretch the inner thighs in WLFB is to twist by putting one hand on the floor underneath your face and stretch the other hand up to to the ceiling. 

Low Lunge – Place both hands on the inside side of the front foot and lower your body to the floor, coming down on your elbows if you can.  Stay here for a few breaths or change sides a couple times if you need it, transitioning through Downward Facing Dog.

Now your body should be ready for Pigeon. 

Pigeon – Stay here for a few breaths.  I also like to rock from side to side after holding to make sure i get a thorough stretch.

Come back to standing and do Standing Forward Bend, I like to interlace my arms and rock gently from side to side, getting some movement through my spine.  Also do a IT Band and quad stretch, the other godsend stretches for runners.

I find I  can do this series of poses in 15-20 minutes and address all my post-running tight bits so that i’m ready for some cross-training – or another run!  Happy running…..

I love Chair pose (Ardha Utkatasana) and have been playing around with Half Chair.  Chair is challenging enough, but in Half Chair, you let your upper body sink down until your chest is against your legs, arms in Warrior 1 position.   So it’s a good strengthener for your legs, butt and upper back.  Here’s a flow to try:

Warrior 1 – right foot forward.  Hold all poses for 3-5 good breaths.  Then bring your weight onto your right foot, arms stay in the same position for,

Warrior 3 – Then bring your back foot down and take a couple breaths in,

Forward Bend – after holding this one, stay in the pose and bring your feet to hip width distance, insides of your feet should be parallel and let your hips sink down for,

Chair – after holding, let your torso sink forward until your chest rests on your legs for,

Half Chair – After holding let your hips sink down for a squat, knees forward.  Wrap your left arm around your knees, place your right on the floor twisting your right shoulder back for, 

Twisted Squat – Then come into,

Downdog for a couple breaths and repeat on the other side.

Although there are some good strengtheners in this one, I find the Forward Bend, Twisted Squat and Downdog breaks keep it from feeling too intense.  Let me know what you think!

What is it about strong abs, everyone wants them.  I get requests in my classes for ab strengtheners all the time.  Here are some recent ones I’ve been playing around with:

– Come into a Goddess Legs, or a plie position.  Holding the blocks between your hands again, arms parallel to the floor, twist slowly from side to side.  Keep it controlled by doing it with your breath – exhale into the twist and inhale back.  Fold over into Wide Leg Forward Bend for a rest, and then do another set.

– In plank position, or Dolphin (on your elbows and forearms) let one hipbone drop a few inches toward the ground and then the other.  Do the hippy hippy shake a few times until you feel it.

–  Lie on your back with knees bent, feet on the mat.  Clasp your hands and steeple your fingers.  Twist, dropping your hands to one side, letting your opposite shoulder come off the mat.  Your hands may drop to the mat if your spine comfortably twists that far.  And then twist to the other side, going back and forth slowly.  2) If you want to do more, hold a block between your hands and do the twists with your feet a few inches off the floor.  Now you won’t be able to twist as far, but it will take much more control to do the twist.

– And a good one to alternate with the previous is this one I saw in a recend Self magazine.  Lie on your back with your elbows under you.  Your elbows should be at right angles, under your shoulders.  Then lift your hips up off the ground so that your body is in a line.  You can hold here and breath or alternate lifting one foot of the ground and then the other. 

Enjoy!

I went crazy this week with the workouts.  Tuesday I did some challenging stuff at the gym preparing to teach Power Yoga and then did it again that evening with the class.  And if that wasn’t enough I ran hills yesterday.  So this a.m. I got up feeling *so* stiff.  I poured a hot bath with Epson salts and did some bathtub yoga.  I’ll tell you about my routine.

Everyone’s bathtub is a different size, so these are just guidelines intended for the yogi with some experience.  The point isn’t to go for the gusto with the poses, keep it easy and enjoy the watery element that the bathtub environment adds to your practice, it’s very calming.  Here’s Cor’s Bathtub Yoga routine:

Fish in the Water – interlace your fingers behind your head with your elbows out the side.  Feet are in the lower corners of your tub and knees are bent.  Arch your back lifting your belly and chest toward the ceiling.  Press into your elbows, squeezing your shoulder blades together.  Hold for a couple breaths or come in and out of the pose with your breath.

Bridge over Bubbles – with your feet in the corners of your tub and arms by your side slowly lift your hips one vertibrae at a time until you come into an easy bridge.  Lower again the same way.  Come in and out with long breaths, close your eyes and try to feel each bone moving individually.

Knees to Chest – squeeze and hold for two breaths.  Then cross one knee over the other and press them into your chest.  Change sides. 

Bath Twist – Depending on the size of your tub it may be tricky to get a good twist in the water, but try this.  Scoot over to the right side of your tub, knees bent.  Then drop both knees to the left, let them rest on the side of the tub or in the water.  Press your right shoulder toward the right side of the tub to deepen the stretch.  Hold and enjoy.  Change sides.

Hara H2O – if it’s morning and you need help waking up, add some Hara-action.  Bend knees and keep feet on the floor of the tub.  Interlace fingers behind your head again.  Take a deep inhale as you exhale squeeze your core muscles and lift your shoulders up.  Exhale as you release down and repeat.  The key is to not go all the way back down or you’ll drown in a Tsunami, just lower back to water level and repeat.  Relax and rest for a couple breaths and then do a few more.

Hamstrings 2 Ways – On your back, lift one leg and find a hamstring stretch.  Drop your toes toward your face.  Change sides.  Alternatively, come to sitting and stretch your hamstrings with your legs in the water.

Hot Water Cobra – roll over to your front.  Bend your knees, plant your hands ahead of you for support and come into an easy Cobra pose.  Hold for 2-3 breaths and then come down and rest your chin on your arms while you relax.  Repeat again if you like.  

Half Child in the City - slide your hips back onto your ankles but keep your hands or lower arms on the floor to support your upper body.  Your chest is not resting on your thighs unless your water level is low enough.  Rock your hips slowly side to side.  

Soaking Savasana – Sink into the water on your back.  Let your head sink into the water so that your ears are under and take a few long Ujayai breaths.  Relax as many muscles as you possibly can and just allow yourself to float.  Set a “for your highest good” intention before coming back to terra firma.

Yoga baths are great because you’ve gotten clean, gotten a good soak and stretched out a bit too.  Although it’s not a major yoga session I find the warm water really helps me get more out of it both mentally and physically.  So grab your rubber ducky – we’ll see you in the bath!

 

Here are 3 more nice sweeteners for your yoga session to build heat, and your strength. 

  1. In Plank or upper push-up position, lift your right leg up 3 or 4 inches squeezing your butt, then bend the knee and press it into your chest.  Contract your abs as you do this, so you feel like you’re curling your lower torso, tucking in your tailbone.  Repeat 5 times with your breath, then change sides.  Go slow and focus on the extension with a full inhale and tuck in your knee tight with an exhale.
  2. Lunge your right foot forward.  Start with both arms up overhead to your left, then let them sweep down in front to the outside of your right leg turning your torso as you twist.  Hold for 3-5 breaths and change sides.  A variation with more balance challenge –  start with straight legs and arms up and then drop slowly into the lunge as you twist.  Repeat 3-5 times with your breath and then change sides. 
  3. Get into Goddess pose but make it active by straightening your legs as your straighten your arms up overhead and then sink back down into the posture.  Let your hips sink low with your exhales, keeping your knees pressed out over your ankles.  Do 5 of these, then bring the insides of your feet parallel and fold forward into Wide Leg Forward Bend to rest and stretch the muscles you were using.  Repeat the process if you want doing variations on Wide Leg Forward Bend (adding yoga mudra arms, holding your big toes with your elbows out etc.)

Make sure that your new year’s resolutions or whatever is motivating you to work harder on the mat is not just about abusing yourself or beating yourself up for indulging over the holidays.  Ahimsa starts with ourselves right?  I like to think it’s more about finding balance – rediscovering and using those muscles that I sat on during vacation :-)

 

I’m all about stretching my hips and have gotten even more fervent about it.  I read somewhere it’s a good focus for winter.  I say it’s a good focus anytime we’re stupidly busy and stressed and sitting instead of playing beach volleyball.  Hey like now, in December!

Try this routine on the mat after a good warm-up that includes lunges, forward bends and pigeon pose.  Hold each of these for a few breaths.  Try to relax your lower body as much as you can in each position to get maximum benefit from the stretch.

 – Lying on your back squeeze both knees into your chest.

– Then cross your right knee over your left and squeeze both legs into your chest

– Straighten your left leg, let it rest on the mat and squeeze your right knee into your chest.  Anytime you feel you need more stretch with the first three, press your tailbone down toward the mat.

– Grab the inside of your right foot.  Bend your knee and flex your foot so that both joints are at right angles.  Then press your knee toward the floor just outside your torso, like it’s tucking into your armpit.  I think of this as Half Happy Baby/Dead Bug pose.  You’ll feel this one primarily where your leg and butt connect.

– Let go of that foot, but keeping your right leg in the same position, let it cross over your body into a twist.  Grab the outside of your right foot this time with your left hand.  Let your right arm stretch along the floor at shoulder level to ground you.  Hold your right leg in position to maintain a stretch.  I find that the key here is the right angles in knee/ankle and then deepening the twist, your right leg might rest on the floor here, or close to it.  You’ll feel this one in your right butt and vicinity.  It’s yummy.

And start the routine again for the left side.

I’m always trolling for yoga downloads and recently found www.yogadownload.com.  They let you  choose your class by time (from 8 minute abs to 90 minute classes), style or focus.  Once you pay you get a link right away, you don’t have to keep checking your email which inevitably comes in when you’re out of time. 

Check out their free 20 minute Power class – it’s a great way to trial it.  I also grabbed a 30 minute class while I was there for all of 3 bucks.  So you wonder about quality right?  No worries there.  It was taught by Dawnelle who provided just the right amount of technical detail and instruction.  She offered a few important points without telling me everything she knows about the pose.  And, some of the flows were really inventive – Airplane with Eagle Arms?  Whoa, my arms are too wrapped up to break my fall.  How fun is that?

I’m going back to fill my shopping cart – see ya’ there :-)

 

 

Of course our yoga practice *is* precious, how would I survive without it! But sometimes our home practice can be *too* precious.

Sometimes we get really particular about where, when, how long, what we need to be wearing, what music needs to be playing, what we need to have (not) eaten or drunk beforehand, where the towel needs to lay, what we do with our hair. You know what I’m talking about.

Sometimes things need to be Just So. And when we need them to be Just So it can limit our ability to be open to new experiences.

Sometimes all this structure just gives us an excuse to not practice at all. Or to spend less time on the mat than our bodies would like. Or to allow ourselves to be bothered by details that aren’t Just So, when we need to breath through it and let it go, just like anything else.

Here’s something to try – practice after eating cold pizza from the night before. Practice jumping on the mat and doing a couple poses in whatever you’re wearing and wherever your mat happens to be. Practice doing some poses, with breathing, on the floor while you watch a movie. Or see what happens to your Sun Salutations when you listen to electronica instead the usual new age music.

Your practice will be fine. In fact you might find out new things about yourself. Let the rules go.

I got up this a.m. and it was rainy AGAIN and really, enough already. My yard is green *and* it’s floating away. The weather dude didn’t ask my opinion before he posted the ‘heavy rainfall warning’ today and I was pretty choked about it. I was also tired and had slept on my front too long so my lower back felt like it was in a metal brace – not in a gentle supportive way but more in a hold-the-bones-so-they-can knit-together sorta way.

I got in the shower thinking “Cor. Girlfriend. Get it together or you might as well toss in the towel”. And I don’t mean a start-the-car-with-the-garage-door-closed kinda towel toss, but more like a head-back-to-bed-and-throw-the-covers-over-my-head kinda towel toss. But I’m a responsible adult. Cranky and stiff, but responsible. So I got in the shower, turned up the hot and went through a ‘grateful’ list because it’s the only way I know how to avoid thinking about what I’m *ungrateful* for. Saying to myself “STOP OBSESSING ABOUT ALL THE THINGS THAT ARE BUMMING YOU OUT” doesn’t work half as well. And I did these moves to loosen up my spine:

1. Roll-ups – start in an easy Ragdoll Forward Bend. Feet hip width apart, knees soft, back and neck loose, finger tips on the floor for support. Ideally shower water is pumelling your lower back. Try to breath without drowning and stay as long as required. Then slowly roll up one vertebra at a time so your chin comes untucked last. Press chest forward, clasp hands behind back and squeeze shoulder blades together to find a stretch across the chest and fronts of shoulders. Then release hands, drop chin to chest and roll back down one vertibrae at a time to the starting position. Repeat as often as required.

2. Round backs – with feet tub width apart and toes pointed out a little, bend knees and place palms on thighs, fingertips on inner thighs. Press chest forward, keep shoulders low but pull them back gently and slide your gaze up. Hold for a moment and then round your spine out. Your navel presses back into your spine, chin drops down. Hold and repeat. Go slow so you don’t fall over. If, or when, you have the energy you can do these with your breath, exhaling as you round back, inhaling as you press your chest forward.

I’m not saying I leapt out of the shower ready to earn a Nobel prize by Saturday, but I did at least feel like the day was worth checking into. I’ll take it.

If you like Vinyasa-style yoga, check out the 20 minute video on Yoga Peeps. The production is great (more than one camera angle! stop!) although if you’re familiar with Sun Salutation As & B you won’t spend much time looking at the video. The majority of time is spend doing Sun Salutes and a few standing postures, so I found I was good and warm by the end.

I was warmed up and energized enough to go outside for a run in the rain (that’s big). On other days I would do more yoga or at the very least head off to something else feeling good that I’d done *something* positive for myself.

Check it out.

Next Page »