Exploring the yoga of life.
Monthly tips to take your yoga off the mat and into your real world – stress busters to keep you on track!
Summer sun is around the corner and I love practicing this heart opening, joyful pose. This picture was taken at my friends’ Will and Jen’s Aerial Arts of Rochester studio. It tones our chest, abdomen, butt, thighs, calves, feet and ankles. It stretches our hips and groins It brightens your energy and reduces fatigue. Ignite your internal sunshine!
(Fit2bWell tip: Feel free to modify with a low lunge version by placing your back knee and thigh bone down onto a padded blanket. Uncertain about balance? Try with a high back chair in front of you as a guide. For a challenge, kick it up a notch by doing a variation with aerial yoga like I demonstrate here, with back foot on an aerial hammock.)
1.) Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog). Exhale and step your right foot forward between your hands, aligning your knee over the heel. Keep your left leg strong and firm. If you are would like to do a low lunge variation, feel free to start kneeling both knees on a padded blanket. Keep your left knee grounded, as you take your right food forward. Your feet should be approximately hips width distance apart. Similar to above, you should start by aligning your knee over the heel. Keep the ball of the left rooted, similar to the energy of the left knee and top of thigh. Pretend in both versions the back foot is stepping on to the back wall.
2.) Inhale and raise your torso to upright. At the same time, sweep your arms wide to the sides and raise them overhead, palms facing. Feel free to explore other variations, such as Namaste (prayer position) or cactus variation, where palms face the front, upper arms are parallel to the floor at shoulder height and elbows at 90 deg. These would work your shoulder girdle in various degrees and engage your shoulder blades with various degrees of difficulty.
3.) Be careful not to overarch the lower back. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor and tuck your pelvis softly forward. This will bring the shoulder blades deeper into the back and help support your chest and integrate the core into the strength of this pose. Allow your gaze to lift the heart upwards.
4.) Be sure not to press the front ribs forward. Draw them down and into the torso. Hold for 6-10 breaths.
5.) Transition back to Down Dog or knee kneeling pose after completion. Hold for a few breaths and repeat with the left foot forward for the same length of time.
- Kneel on the floor with your knees hip width and thighs perpendicular to the floor. Rotate your thighs inward slightly, narrow your hip points, and firm but don’t harden your buttocks. Imagine that you’re drawing your sitting bones up, into your torso. Keep your outer hips as soft as possible. Press your shins and the tops of your feet firmly into floor.
- Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis, bases of the palms on the tops of the buttocks, fingers pointing down. Use your hands to spread the back pelvis and lengthen it down through your tail bone. Lightly firm the tail forward, toward the pubis. Make sure though that your front groins don’t “puff” forward. To prevent this, press your front thighs back, countering the forward action of your tail. Inhale and lift your heart by pressing the shoulder blades against your back ribs.
- Lean back against the firmness of the tail bone and shoulder blades. Keep your head up, chin near the sternum, and your hands on the pelvis. Beginners probably won’t be able to drop straight back into this pose, touching the hands to the feet simultaneously while keeping the thighs perpendicular to the floor. If you need to, tilt the thighs back a little from the perpendicular and minimally twist to one side to get one hand on the same-side foot. Then press your thighs back to perpendicular, turn your torso back to neutral, and touch the second hand to its foot. If you’re not able to touch your feet without compressing your lower back, turn your toes under and elevate your heels
- Lift the lower back ribs away from the pelvis to keep the lower spine as long as possible. Press your palms firmly against your soles (or heels), with the bases of the palms on the heels and the fingers pointing toward the toes. Turn your arms outwardly so the elbow creases face forward, without squeezing the shoulder blades together. You can keep your neck in a relatively neutral position, neither flexed nor extended, or drop your head back. But be careful not to strain your neck and harden your throat.
- Stay in this pose anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. To exit, bring your hands onto the front of your pelvis, at the hip points. Inhale and lift the head and torso up by pushing the hip points down, toward the floor. Smile to finish!
Shakes are a great way to fill up with fast nutrition. Spring is around the corner, and this is one of my favorite recipes. It’s gluten free, and tasty morning breakfast after a heated yoga class or a satisfying weeknight dessert. Drink up, shake up and slim down!
Fit2bWell Tip: Review the nutrition facts of almond milk and soy milk as below. Feel free to substitute one for the other to experiment. I also like to experiment with other healthy organic butters like almond and soynut, and even indulge in a bit of nutella once in a while.
2 cups Silk Dark Chocolate Almond Milk
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 large banana, frozen
- Break banana into 1-inch chunks.
- Place banana and remaining ingredients in blender or food processor. Cover; blend on high speed about 30 seconds or until smooth.
- Pour into 2 glasses. Serve immediately.
Fit2bWell Tip: For thicker, sweeter shakes, try substituting for 3 small frozen mini/lady finger bananas