This week, yoga and meditation is the magic phrase. The space you create for yourself is often the most simple and fruitful way to explore who you really are. Think of your time on the mat as a time to reflect, allow peace and relaxation into your life and consider what you are grateful for. Yoga is a personal growth practice. There is no wrong way to learn, it is far more important that whatever you learn is made useful. For example, I would like to invite you to utilize your mat as a sacred space. Have you been cut off in traffic or in line at the store recently? Has someone on the plane repeatedly kicked the bottom backside of your seat? Maybe a friend or colleague did something super inconsiderate. These are fertile opportunities to take a step back, feel into the discomfort, ask yourself important questions about how you would like to contribute to the collective energy in the room, community or world. This is one form of meditation. Where you sit and breathe and allow.
Like last time, let’s take a moment to inhale deeply filling the lungs to full capacity and pause for the count of three before exhaling slowly. Push the last bit of air from your lungs, lifting your diaphragm before relaxing completely. Find a comfortable sitting position and take a few minutes to clear your mind. Be with whatever comes. Thoughts come and go, emotions come and go. Only your choice about them remains.
So, this time I added an extra challenge just for fun. Yoga is supposed to be fun, remember?! Don’t fret if you can’t seem to get the pose just right. Let it be a goal that inspires you to reach forward.
Four Limbed Staff Pose / Chaturanga Dandasana
Like a push up, but slower, this arm strengthening pose engages the core, low back and prepares the body for more intense practice. Remember plank pose? Let’s start there and slowly lower your body by bending your elbows. There are two 90 degree angles; one from heel to toes and the other elbow to wrist. Stack your joints so that your toes and hands support your weight. Slightly shift weight forward keeping your elbows against the side body. Ideally, your elbows are also level with your back.
*Modification: Drop your knees to support your lower back and prevent it from dipping.
This next one is also an arm strengthener and will improve balance and coordination as well. It is best practiced when you are already warmed up. Like staff pose, this pose will push your limits a bit. Be patient and listen to your body.
Crow Pose (also called Crane) / Bakasana
This arm balancing pose is a tricky one to master and will build significant arm strength. I recommend beginning in a squat pose. Your knees should be wider than your hips. You may place palms on the floor in front of you and tuck your knees as close to your armpits as possible with your shins resting on your triceps. Slowly, by tucking your tailbone, engaging your abdominals and leaning forward lift your feet and round your back. This is a pose that requires focused breathing, balance and strength. It is also a foundational arm balance pose that makes more difficult ones possible. Have fun with it and maybe track your progress with pictures so you can visualize the goal.
*Modification: Use blocks under your feet to help you lift into the pose.
*Contraindications: Do not use this pose if you experience chronic wrist pain/carpal tunnel syndrome
It is worth mentioning that alignment is another one of the most important key elements to asana. While holding poses, alignment is crucial to maintaining the integrity of a pose and to avoid injury. Please be mindful of your positioning, but do not push yourself to the point of pain. Breathe slowly, move fluidly between poses and rest in between when needed. This is an act of self-kindness, self-care and perhaps, a practice in patience. Take the time you need to build up to these poses, but also challenge yourself to be better, go deeper, reflect more.
Until next time, Namaste!