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Yoga Practice

When it comes down to it, yoga is all about practice—the day-to-day experience that eventually makes yoga our own. Here are tips, musings and commentary on the practice we all love!
  • Protect Your Wrists in Chaturanga

    I remember the first time I was able to hold myself up in Chaturanga Dandasana. After spending a year struggling with lifting my body off the floor, it was truly thrilling. Later on, I can remember being amazed that I could make it through 108 jump-through sun salutations without crashing and burning.

    Now, 30-some years later, I still practice it, but I’m much more focused on quality than quantity.

    The thrill of Chaturanga does not come without possible pitfalls. Chronic wrist pain has emerged as a common yoga-related injury. Chaturanga requires that our wrists support a significant percentage...

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  • Writing Yoga: Empty Mat, Empty Page

    Before I begin, the emptiness seems so vast, and my thoughts and actions seem so small, so insignificant, that they hardly seem worth pursuing.

    Where should I begin? With cat and dog tilts? Mountain pose? Forward bends?

    And what should I write? Can I describe the discomfort? The emptiness? The insignificance of these actions?

    Amazingly, though, once I step on the mat or open my journal, these fears evaporate, and the emptiness disappears, too, no longer a vast vacuum waiting to swallow me up.

    Instead, I find myself excited by the prospect of discovering something new...

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  • Yoga Practice is a Long-Term Relationship

    I began yoga practice in 1982. I was, of course, much younger then. I don’t know that it ever crossed my mind that I might someday enter my 50s or even my 60s. But once I began practicing asana, from the first class, I knew that I’d found a practice I could continue for the rest of my life.

    My picture back then was that my practice would probably look pretty much like this: I’d practice for at least an hour every day. I might change what poses I focused on, but the trajectory of my practice would always...

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  • Cool Down: Restorative Twist

    Spinal twists may be the most-often-requested type of asana in my classes. Not only do they feel good, but they also help keep your core muscles supple and your spine mobile.

    While the lumbar spine is only capable of twisting about five degrees, the thoracic spine—the section of the spine connected to the rib cage—loves to twist. The thoracic spine also happens to be an area that tends to become less mobile as we age. So twisting helps that more stable area of the spine maintain its range of motion.

    In yoga, we practice spinal twists in standing...

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  • Teaching Yoga—30 Years of Gratitude

    Friends who knew me in grade school and high school would probably never have pegged me as a person who’d end up teaching yoga. I was painfully shy. If students had been graded on participation back in my high school days, my GPA surely would have suffered. Knowing I had to give a talk in speech class kept me awake at night. I trembled uncontrollably while performing solo on piano and oboe—not a pleasant situation, especially on a wind instrument.

    And yet, when I first became enamored with yoga and was made aware of a teacher training course back...

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  • Spine-Healthy Forward Bends

    Forward bends are asana staples. In yoga practice, we bend forward while standing, sitting and even lying down. Actively lengthening back body muscles—especially the muscles of the hips and hamstrings—helps counteract the effects of sitting in chairs. Forward bending is inherently calming, as long as we approach it with an attitude of ease and curiosity, rather than an attitude of forcefulness.

    Keeping muscles of the hips and hamstrings supple can also be healthy for your back. Relaxed muscles in the hips and hamstrings help you maintain your spine’s natural “S” curves. Tight hamstrings can position the pelvis so that...

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  • Coming into Fullness

    On my pre-dawn walks each morning, I gaze up into the dark sky, mesmerized by the moon as it appears in different shapes over the course of a month.

    Earlier this week I saw the thinnest sliver of a moon hanging over the rooftops, a fingernail moon, the faintest outline of white drawn around the edge of the sphere’s shadow like a piece of iridescent twine, giving the moon a three-dimensional depth that I don’t recall seeing before.

    Its striking appearance in the sky that morning reminded me of how the moon reveals itself in stages, and that...

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  • Yoga and the Unexpected

    What is it about a yoga and meditation practice that helps us to handle situations that would put many people over the edge?

    I’ve been practicing yoga and meditation for quite some time. A couple of months ago I had an opportunity to see how well my practice supported me. I had just finished an energy session. My phone had a bunch of messages from my son and the school counselor. I called the school and she told me that they received an essay from my son explaining that he had tried to hurt himself.

    My first reaction...

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  • Alignment vs. Continuity in Yoga

    My 30-plus-year yoga practice is rooted in the Iyengar system. For decades, I studied with Iyengar teachers, almost exclusively. The non-Iyengar teachers I’ve gravitated to have mostly been people whose practice and teaching was grounded in the Iyengar system before they began moving in a different direction.

    B.K.S. Iyengar is probably best known in the yoga world for his emphasis on alignment. It makes sense. When I studied with B.K.S and his daughter, Geeta, in Pune many years ago, he stated that the purpose of asana practice was to create in the body an energized and peaceful environment to...

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  • 3 Great Yoga Poses for Road Trips

    Dog at the Window Pose

    Summer is road trip time. Visiting familiar or unfamiliar places, seeing friends old and new, helps us see ourselves and our lives with fresh eyes. Travel can be both invigorating and exhausting—sometimes both at the same time.

    As with life, the journey is the destination. The travel is part of the fun, although it doesn’t always seem like it. When we sit for hours in a car, we’re subject to the same stresses as when we sit all day at our computers, only with the added stress of vibrations...

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