May 2009 Posture Video: Spinal Twist

May’s posture of the month is half spinal twist, also known as Ardha Matsyendrasana (ARE-dah MOT-see-en-DRAHS-anna)

I believe this posture is also called Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, although I am not familiar with that name myself.

*Benefits of this posture include:

  • Stimulates the liver and kidneys
  • Stretches the shoulders, hips, and neck
  • Energizes the spine
  • Stimulates the digestive fire  in the belly
  • Relieves menstrual discomfort, fatigue, sciatica, and backache
  • Therapeutic for asthma and infertility

*Benefits courtesy of Half Lord of the Fishes Pose on Yoga Journal

Spinal twist is a pose I always look forward to near the end of class. By this time I am nice and warmed up and sweaty, and being able to twist so deeply is a really nice and relaxing feeling. I really feel that this is a detoxifying type of pose and like to imagine “squeezing out” all of the bad things and toxins from my system.

I personally bend my bottom leg in this pose (as shown in the video) however if you do not have this flexibility, it is best to have your bottom leg straight and extended.

In the next year I hope to learn to “bind” my hands in this pose, which is basically to loop your arm through your top leg so that you can clasp your fingers together. I think it also looks kind of pretzel-like!

What poses do you consider to be detoxifying? What poses do you look forward to in class?

Video courtesy of Moksha Yoga

December 31, 2009 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment

April 2009 Posture Video: Powerful Pose

April’s posture of the month is Powerful Pose, also known as Utkatasana or Chair Pose
(OOT-kah-TAHS-anna)

*Benefits of this posture include:

  • Strengthens the ankles, thighs, calves, and spine
  • Stretches shoulders and chest
  • Stimulates the abdominal organs, diaphragm, and heart
  • Reduces flat feet

*Benefits courtesy of Chair Pose on Yoga Journal

I think I still have yet to discover the benefits of powerful pose. I’m quite wobbly when I try to go up on my toes, and only recently have managed to actually bend my knees when in this pose.

I have to remind myself though that you have to learn to walk before you can run, and Powerful Pose is one of those poses for me that helps me remember that. I can’t always rush things (especially not my body when it’s not ready to go there!) and it’s often valuable to take your time and build a foundation for future success (in life and on the mat).

Taking things slowly, building foundations for the future and letting your body be where it’s at are some of the most important lessons I have gained from yoga.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned from yoga? What poses do you take slowly?

Video courtesy of Moksha Yoga

December 28, 2009 at 7:47 pm Leave a comment

Getting back to Me

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog entry. And sadly, even longer since I’ve been on the mat. Almost a month. It’s actually probably been the longest “vacation” away from my mat that I’ve taken since I’ve begun practicing over a year ago (vacation sounds much nicer than absence…which it clearly is). And while I definitely feel the effects of missing yoga on my body and my mind, I seem to be waging an internal war with myself to get back to the mat.

It’s funny how when you really seem to need something the most, it’s always the thing that you want to do the least. Like when you have a cold, the best thing you could do for yourself is fill your belly with fresh fruits and veggies and stay home and rest. However what usually ends up happening is that you get Swiss Chalet take-out on your way home from the office, pop a couple of Tylenol cold tablets, maybe a cup of Neo-Citran and pray to the get-better-gods that you’ll feel almost human again in the morning. A far cry from the nourish your body and soul kind of love you really need when you’re sick.

This lack of yoga at the moment is a form of self sabotage and I really have no idea why I do it. In general, I haven’t been treating myself very nicely lately (clearly my body has been trying to tell me this as well). I haven’t been drinking enough water, yet had you asked me four months ago what my drink of choice would have been, I would have definitely answered the beautiful free and clear beverage of water. I have not been eating properly and this is also clearly taking effect on my body and my mental clarity. Granted it’s the Holidays and there are plenty of indulgences at every turn (take these And You Thought Cookies Were Bad for You for example!), but I know that deep inside I’m torturing my body and myself for some reason. Pizza? Yup, let’s have that for breakfast. And lunch. Oh, and dinner too. With a side of fries.

It’s almost like I’m seeing how “bad” I can get before I start down my path of feeling good and treating myself well again. I’ve lost myself in this bad-ness and know that I don’t like it, I don’t feel like “me”. Little devil man on my shoulder, your voice is totally drowning out the little angel on the other shoulder at the moment!

I’ve come up with all kinds of excuses in my head why I haven’t made it to Yoga: I’m too tired. I didn’t drink enough water today. The car is happy to stay in the garage. It’s been so long since I’ve been, they won’t recognize me at the studio anymore (side note: I did manage to make it to the studios Holiday Pot-Luck however! hmmm…). My throat is sore and I don’t want to get myself sicker. I’ve got too much to do. I’ll start again tomorrow. I need to bake more Christmas cookies. It’s too cold out. The cats want me to stay home. I’m not sure where all of my gear is and that would involve finding it. The list goes on and on. 

I totally thought I was ahead of the game today when I actually checked out the studio schedule of classes online. However despite my pro-activeness, I still didn’t make it to any classes.

The worst part though is knowing that this is getting me further away from achieving my goals and dreams of becoming certified to teach yoga, and one day opening my own yoga studio. I’m getting further away from what I want to achieve. If I can’t even keep a regular practice now, how do I expect to teach others to do the same? How do I demonstrate a beautiful Triangle Pose when I can’t even touch my toes?

But through all of this I know that deep down I just need to set my intention to get back into class and do it! My body and mind will thank me.

So tomorrow I am ensuring that I am going to flick that little noisy devil man off my shoulder and go to class and spend some quality re-connecting time with my mat. Get back to being “me”.

But that’s tomorrow. Pass those Christmas cookies please!

December 28, 2009 at 7:23 pm 1 comment

And you thought cookies were bad for you…

If you are in need of any last minute Holiday gift ideas for the yogi or yogini on your list, look no further!

I just found this little gem and just had to pass this one along. Not only are these cookies made out of super yummy gingerbread, part of what makes them so freaking cute are the smiles on each ginger-yogi’s little face (I might have made that term up…). I mean, don’t you look like that in Savasana, or have that kind of smile when you’re in a spinal twist?!

Not to mention the fact that much of the alignment of the cookies postures is a little, well….wrong. Check out the Warrior I cookie! Too cute.

Who knew yoga could also be so yummy?!

Click here to buy!

December 15, 2009 at 9:33 pm 1 comment

Body, meet Mind. Now be BFF’s.

So yesterday I was home from work and in quite a bit of pain. Over the past few days I have been getting a muscle pain that has been increasing in the left upper side of my back. Stretching from the base of my ribs up to about my shoulder-ish area (clearly I am not well educated in anatomy!). While I just kept thinking it must be stress and potentially a bad nights sleep in an awkward position, the pain kept getting worse. I woke up the other day almost unable to breathe and hardly able to move.  Eek.

Clearly this seemed to be more than just a bad nights sleep.

In an effort to get some relief for my pain and maybe a little insight into why my body was reacting the way it was, I went for a massage with my massage therapist. Terri-Lee is this fantastic lady who is kind, warm and very into the body, mind, spirituality and taking care of oneself through natural means and our own devices. I absolutely adore her. She’s the kind of person you want to put in your pocket and take home with you so she can tell you all these insights and lessons she has learned and you feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

I not only get amazing massages with Terri-Lee, but also some fantastic counseling time while I confess everything that is happening in my life, my thoughts, my feelings, my insecurities, what I said, what others said, how work is going, what I have been eating, all while my face is mushed down into the massage table.

Terri-Lee reminded me how important it is to listen to your mind and allow yourself to feel the various emotions that too often many of us bottle up or push aside (guilty!). If you ignore the thoughts that you are thinking and experiencing, they will manifest themselves in your body eventually debilitating you so that you get the message and address what your mind is telling you.

I admit that I have been having some very large internal battles lately with the whole “what should I do with my life” thoughts and the internal discussions on doing what makes you happy versus making other people happy or doing what others feel you should be doing (yes…deep stuff!). This pain in my back I was experiencing really did seem like my body was giving me the big ol’ middle finger!

I realized that this was my also likely my body’s way of rebelling against me for not keeping up my regular yoga practice. While doing yoga I really do notice that my mind is clearer; I am more aware of my thoughts, my actions, my emotions. Yoga also gives me confidence in myself (likely because I am getting to know myself better!), and this confidence shifts into my life off of the mat and into the “real world” as well.

Without all of this, it’s no wonder I have been struggling with my heavy thoughts and emotions, and my body was just letting me know. Thanks body!

My body, mind and I definitely need to go for tea and a good yoga class and become friends again.

So, through all of that, I have definitely learned the valuable (although painful) lesson and importance of listening to yourself, whether it be body, mind, heart or spirit.  I have also had the realization that I need to stay focused, centered and committed to my practice, my awareness and ultimately myself so that I can continue to be healthy in body, mind and spirit. Isn’t that the true definition of healthy anyhow?

I need to get continue on this path of getting to know myself better and ensure everyone is playing nicely together in the same sandbox.

Body, meet Mind. Mind, meet Body. Now you need to become BFF’s.

December 10, 2009 at 4:42 pm 5 comments

Giada Loves Yoga!

I’m pleased to present the first “Yoga & Celebrities” post!

This month’s issue of SHAPE magazine (December 2009) features the lovely celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis!

Readers may be familiar with Giada from her popular Food Network show The Everyday Italian in which Giada brings variations on traditional home style Italian favourites to viewers. Not to mention her four incredible cookbooks I love to drool over while I’m at the bookstore!

This celebrity chef, cookbook author and busy mom (to 21 month old daughter Jade), has turned to yoga to give her energy for her busy schedule and help her to stay centered.

The following is an excerpt from this month’s  interview in which Giada explains how she fits her practice into her busy schedule yoga is a very important ingredient for a Recipe for a Happy Life! 

 

Stretch, knead, then let rest


Before Giada got pregnant, she worked out at the gym all the time. But when her obstetrician warned her to take it a bit slower, she switched to yoga. “I thought, ‘Oh, this will be a good way to stretch,’ but it turned out to be so much more!” she says. “It taught me to breathe, it strengthened my muscles, and it helped me relax.” Giada was so thrilled with the results, she continued to practice after Jade was born. Now, five days a week, a private instructor comes to her house at 4:45 a.m. for an hour-long session before Giada heads to the studio. “If I don’t do it first thing, I simply won’t do it,” she says. “With my crazy schedule, that often means cutting into my sleep. But yoga gives me the energy and focus I need to get through my day. I’m not saying I don’t need a cup of coffee in the afternoon sometimes, but it’s the yoga that definitely keeps me centered.”

Check out the rest of the article from SHAPE and get some great strategies that help keep the celebrity chef balanced and some amazing recipes for the Holiday season!

Yum!

What helps you stay balanced and centered arount the Holiday Season? Is Yoga a part of your Holiday routine?

December 3, 2009 at 11:59 am Leave a comment

March 2009 Posture Video: Camel

March’s posture of the month is Camel, also known as Ustrasana
(oosh-TRAHS-anna)

Interesting fact: ustra = camel

*Benefits of this posture include:

  • Stretches the entire front of the body, the ankles, thighs and groins, abdomen and chest, and throat
  • Stretches the deep hip flexors (psoas)
  • Strengthens back muscles
  • Improves posture
  • Stimulates the organs of the abdomen and neck
  • *Benefits courtesy of Camel Pose on Yoga Journal

    Now, I personally love camel pose. It has never been a challenge for me to bend backwards and touch my toes (not in some freaky waiting at the photocopier in the office way, but definitely while on the yoga mat in class). I love giving in to this posture and allowing myself to feel open and free while getting a great stretch and opening my lungs, however I have also had my fair share of feeling dizzy, nautious and overwhelmed in this pose.

    While reading more about camel pose, I came to realize that this is one of the postures that can most often be dreaded by beginners. Literally bending backwards into the unknown, opening one’s heart when we generally are quite protective and guarded of our heart and our emotions can bring about a lot of fear and anxiety for new yogis. Camel is known for releasing strong emotions and can sometimes leave yogis angry or in tears.

    By taking a leap of faith (literally backwards), trusting your body and yourself, and opening yourself up to giving and receiving love, I hope that you will come to realize all of the amazing benefits of this pose and all that it has to offer. Just like life’s challenges, yoga poses that seem challenging or unattainable at first only make us stronger.

    Beginners are encouraged to curl your toes under and come to the balls of your feet to make your heels more accessible.

    One needs to be cautioned that this pose should be practiced later in your routine after most of the muscles are warmed up, limber and you have worked on the back and shoulders.

    Yoga Pose Tip: Singing always helps! Why not sing “Alice the camel has 4 humps” song when in this pose…in your head of course as not to disturb fellow yogi’s in practice!

    Video courtesy of Moksha Yoga

    Happy yoga-ing!

    November 12, 2009 at 12:01 pm Leave a comment

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