Vrschikasana – Scorpion Pose
Vrschkiasana, or scorpion pose, is SUCH a fun pose to practice, but it is very demanding. In full scorpion pose, you’re not only doing pretty much the deepest back bend, but you’re in an inversion! The full pose is done either in handstand or pincha mayurasana, Once your legs are in the air you begin to bend your knees and bring your heart through your hands. Eventually you draw the back of your head toward the sky and bring your toes or even the soles of your feet to touch the back of your head. This is not a pose that should be busted out at parties just for fun, you need to warm up thoroughly to keep your body safe. The quads needs to be thoroughly stretched in order to allow such a big bend to occur. The hip flexors must also be thoroughly stretched so that you’re not initiating the back bend from the power of your glutes. This is not the type of pose that you want to muscle your way through. Moving along, you must warm your back up so that you’re feeling super open. Surprisingly, this includes warming up your core first, then moving along from mild back bends to more advanced. Finally you should do some shoulder opening so that when you’re in the pose, you can easily bring your heart through. A really safe way to practice this pose when you’re first learning is with a chair. So with the chair against the wall (the back of the chair is against the wall, seat facing out), bring your hands firmly planted on the ground with the pinky edges of your hands gently resting against the insides of the legs of the chair. Kick up into your pincha mayurasana pose, bring your feet to the wall. Begin to pull your heart forward and gently walk your toes down the wall until you touch the top of the chair back. If this is enough, stop here, if you can go further bring your toes to the seat of the chair and draw the back of your head toward the underside of the seat of the chair. This is your scorpion pose with a prop! When you come out of the pose, rest in child’s pose for a few breaths to re-centre yourself. Because this pose is a HUGE back bend and an inversion, you’ll likely feel extremely energized or even “buzzy” after. The energy this pose provides, the fun in practicing it and the over all difficulty it presents are all reasons why I find this pose SO challenging, yet SO fun!
Ardha Chandrasana – Half Moon Pose
Ardha Chandrasana, or half moon pose, is probably my favourite balancing poses. It’s such a beautiful, visually appealing pose. But aside from that it’s a pose where I can easily find a perfect balance of sthira and sukham. In the yoga sutras, Patanjuli wrote that practicing yoga with strength AND ease brings harmony to the body. In half moon pose, you’re balancing on one foot, the hand from the same side of your body is resting on the floor. Your other hand is reaching for the sky and your other leg is floating behind you in line with or higher than your hip (think stacking your hips here, even though it may be not be accessible). When there is only sthira (or strength) in this pose, you will experience more of a clenching sensation throughout your body rather than that beautiful expression I spoke of earlier. If you practice with only sukham (or sweetness) you’re likely not engaging any muscles, you’re placing your standing leg hamstring in danger, your back leg is hanging limply in the air. This version may feel easier, but the energy in your body is not able to flow anywhere, you’re literally just hanging out in the pose. When you find the perfect balance, your standing leg hamstring is getting a nice stretch, but is protected because the quad is fully engaged. Your lifted leg is so strong that if there was a wall on that foot you could easily lift the hand that is resting on the floor, all-the-while it is lengthening and also getting a sweet stretch. Your core is strong to stabilize the entire pose, yet the crown of your head is working forward so that your entire spine lengthens and decompresses. Your lifted arm is reaching freely toward the sky, while your shoulder blade stays firmly rooted onto your back. When you find the strength of this pose, you look graceful, at ease, and spacious, yet you feel strong, stable, and steady. The oppositions, the visual aspect, and the overall feeling of this pose is why I LOVE ardha chandrasana!!
Watching My Students Progress
One of THE BEST THINGS about teaching yoga is watching your students as they progress. It is maybe the most rewarding thing about teaching people yoga. When a new student walks into your class or looks you up for private lessons and they’ve maybe never done yoga before, they are coming from a place of vulnerability, they are looking to you as a teacher to support them. If they choose to stay with you, they either consciously or sub-consciously find value in what you’re teaching. When what you’re saying really lands with them and they put the effort in, you begin to see their progression. I have to say, when a student reaches a goal that I know they’ve been working on, it brings me so much joy for them and makes me so proud of them! Even when I just see that a student is beginning to ease into a pose that was very challenging for them, I get this same feeling. I always make sure to tell them after class how amazing they are, or how far they have come over the amount of time we’ve spent together. The sense you get from realizing that what you’re saying is actually landing AND making a difference for people is an amazing feeling as well. It means that all the hard work you as a teacher have put into learning and practicing was actually all worth it. All of these reasons and many more are exactly why I LOVE seeing my students progress!
Poses That Come Naturally
As much as a good challenge helps you to push and expand your boundaries, poses that come naturally to you are such a delight. Everyone has that one pose or that set of similar poses that, if given the chance, they would tend to gravitate towards. For me, it’s back bends. For a long time in my home practice, I chose (subconsciously) to place a major focus on my back bends. Naturally, without any practice, I was able to go into deep back bends. So the more I practiced it, with integrity, the deeper I was able to go. Now my back bends are extremely advanced. The good thing about practicing it in my personal practice was that I experimented with different ways to do the back bends, different transitions, and most importantly, different ways to teach the back bends. The downside now is that I don’t really know what sensations come up for the average practitioner, so I have to be very mindful what expressions I teach. This sometimes has caused me to perhaps be a little too gentle. However, practicing poses that come naturally to you are like a sense of relief or comfort in a yoga class. Have you ever had that joyful feeling when the teacher tells you that you’re about to go into your favourite pose? Of course you have (even if that pose is savasana)! Has the teacher ever picked you to demonstrate a pose because he or she knows that you are a master of that pose? If so, the feeling is wonderful. These poses are like the best dessert you could imagine, or a vacation away from the tough stuff. These poses quite literally bring a sense of calm over you because you know this is your pose. Just like anything, practicing poses that come naturally to you have their benefits and their perils. But the sense of ease, comfort, and joy that these poses bring are the main reason why I LOVE poses that come naturally to you!
Drink Warm Lemon Water
Did you know that the key to health is through your digestive system? Essentially if your digestive system isn’t working to it’s full capacity, then there is food that is stuck inside of you, spoiling. Ever hear of “gut rot”, that’s what it means. Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’ve been dieting and exercising, how come I still have a belly?” or, “I’ve been dieting and exercising, how come I’m not seeing results?”
First of all, it’s my firm belief that we should all stop using the word “dieting” because your diet is what you eat everyday, good or bad. When people say they are on a diet, it’s associated with calorie counting, minimizing food intake, numerous fad diets, etc. etc. etc. Our diet can be changed to be more optimal for your health, but being “on a diet” assumes there is an end date.
Back to the lemon water, if you have said those tings to yourself before it is highly likely that you’re experiencing some form of gut rot. This is where the lemon water comes in. If you drink warm lemon water at least every morning before breakfast, this will stimulate your digestive track. The warm water will open the channels of your body (think hot yoga principles here, the room is warm so your muscles relax more easily, same hing with warm water). The citrus of the lemon will basically chisel away the stuck food and get everything flowing better. Some describe the feeling of drinking warm lemon water in the morning as drinking a glass of sunshine or having a warm hug on the inside. This can be explained by the fact that lemon is high in potassium which gets your electrical transmissions in the body stimulated. It sends a message to your brain and nervous system which clears away the fog. The nervous system needs these messages to keep the heart functioning well, so lemon water also helps with your heart health, that’s right it can even lower blood pressure! It can also reduce uric acid, lower the phlegm in the body, and alkalize your body, helping to stave off infection and disease.
So when should yo have lemon water? Every morning after you brush your teeth, but before breakfast.
Can you have lemonade instead? The results would be less optimal. The best way to take lemon water is to have the water at least be lukewarm (but warmer preferably) with a generous squeeze of a fresh lemon (and skip out on the sugar)
Can you have it more often than just before breakfast? Of course! You could have it before every meal, or if you really love it, try replacing all water you drink with a lemon water for awhile.
Try it out and see how quickly you notice a difference!
Today’s inspirational quote is about yoga and how it can be a fountain of youth. Yoga helps to make you more limber while strengthening you. Yoga actually makes your bones stronger by placing good stress on your bones which forces your bones into laying down new growth. Since bone density can be such a problem the older you get, doing yoga can really help you to maintain your optimal bone density for your age, essentially keeping your bones young. Yoga is an amazing activity to destress, helping with your heart health and so much more. Furthermore, many of the movements performed in yoga are detoxifying making it a great boost for your digestion and unblocking gunk from your system. So, therefore, you can definitely find time out of the day to do some yoga, the nicest thing you can do for your body!
Today’s photo is a photo of hanumanasana – splits pose. It was taken on a warm sunny day in a beautiful little park. As we’re in the middle of a cold snap of weather, thinking about warmer times helps to keep me warm!
Pincha Mayurasana – Feather of the Peacock Pose
Pincha mayurasana is a forearm stand, basically handstand but on your forearms. It’s much more stable than handstand since you have a wider base, but still requires a huge amount of strength and stability. Stability is where my work lies, when going into an inversion it requires core strength and focus. Keeping your forearms parallel can be quite a challenge when going upside down, but this is the most stable position to keep your shoulders integrated. Since this presents such a challenge to many people, strapping your arms above the elbows and keeping a yoga block between your hands can be extremely helpful. Once upside down, the challenge is to stack your hips over your shoulders, engage your core and stack your knees over your hips and ankles over knees. This requires a great deal of strength, stability, and focus. The best place for your gaze is to look between your hands, looking down is a good way to find some focus. The two biggest misalignments are the elbows coming apart and back bending once you get upside down. When your elbows come apart, it greatly increases your chance for collapse. When you come into a major back bend, guess what? You’re collapsing in your low back. Therefore, collapse is the number one issue in this pose. Being a super bendy yogi, collapse is very common for me. Thinking about all these things to do while upside down can be surprisingly challenging. For this reason and all the actions, pincha mayurasana is such a challenge for me, but that’s why I LOVE practicing it!
Urdhva Dhanurasana – Upward Facing Bow
Upward facing bow (sometimes more commonly referred to as wheel in the yoga world, or bridge in the gymnastics world) is possibly my absolute favourite pose. To perform urdhva dhanurasana with good alignment, not only do you have to have a very warmed up back, but your thighs should be internally rotating so as to keep the femurs rooted. You want your glutes to be toned, but not clenched, and furthermore your shoulder must be open and warm. In the full expression when you’re able to stack your shoulders over your wrists, if you think about it then you will see that your arms are in the same alignment as in handstand. So that is a lot of work to think about when you’re upside down and in a super deep back bend. All that work is important though, so many people try to muscle their way into it when they’re not ready and it can actually cause your back to spasm. When you do get into it with good alignment though, it is such a joyful pose to be in. It opens your chest and core, when your shoulders are stacked it’s less work in your upper arms, and it’s just an all around energizing pose. Not to mention that is such a beautiful pose when you’re not struggling, the joy practically radiates off of you! Not to mention, I just really love all the back bends and naturally gravitate toward them. For all of these reasons and more I LOVE urdhva dhanurasana!
Learning From My Students
One of the biggest eye openers as a teacher was to see just how different everyone’s body is. I have found that things I could really feel in my body just didn’t take in others. At the same time, I tend to be much more flexible than the average person, so when students experience things in poses that I literally can’t feel, it’s a real learning opportunity. I have learned to work with multi-leveled classes because of all the different levels that my students tend to be. I have also learned not to underestimate someone because of their age. I have also learned not to over estimate someone because of their age. It’s a really beautiful thing to be able to be open minded about someone’s abilities and not judge based on perceived knowledge of the “average” person in a certain age range, weight, gender, etc. I continually look forward to things I can learn from my students and the different ways they can continue to open my eyes! When I’ve been teaching a student for a particular amount of time, I can see their potential and can give them a little push in that direction. In this way I also learn their willingness to move forward out of their comfort zone. This can be such a brave step depending on this person, and I learn so much from that too! For these reasons and countless others I love learning from my students and it’s one of the many reasons that I LOVE teaching yoga!