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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!
  • Anjali Mudra: Simple Greeting or Divine Salute?

    Few positions are more ubiquitous in yoga practice than Anjali Mudra (Prayer Position). We often practice Anjali Mudra to begin and end a class. We begin and end Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) in Anjali Mudra. On silent meditation retreats, since verbal communication is verboten, it can mean lots of things:  “I acknowledge you,” “thank you,” “may I pass by?,” or “hello.” Anjali Mudra’s roots span Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Sikh traditions. As such, its meaning, and the meaning of its often accompanying verbalization, “namaste,” is subject to lots of interpretations. In many Western yoga asana classes, Anjali Mudra, accompanied by...

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  • New to Yoga? 4 Essential Props to Bring to Class

    Are you thinking about trying a yoga class? Or have you just started a class? In either case, the tools you use to assist your practice can make or break it for you. It’s true that many studios and health clubs provide props. But sometimes they don’t, or the community props may not be in fantastic shape. In this case, bringing your own can really make or break your practice. In addition, having your own props can inspire you to practice at home—the heart of asana practice. If you’re new to yoga practice, choosing a class that fits you can...

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  • Parvrtta Ardha Padmasana: Lotus with a Twist

    Lotus Pose (Padmasana) may be yoga asana’s most recognizable pose. This is a bit odd, since many Westerners do not have hip joints that will perform the pose safely. Lotus Pose requires a whole lot of external rotation, more than many Western hip joints can muster. Perhaps Lotus Pose became an asana icon because of the practice’s East Indian origins. My own completely anecdotal observation from time spent in India revealed that Indian hip joints appear to externally rotate much more easily and universally than those of my students in the U.S. Poses such as Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose...

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  • Retiring Pigeon Pose

    I didn’t want to do it. I’ve always enjoyed Pigeon Pose, or at least the hip-opening variation that’s a preparation for Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged King Pigeon). Many of my students like it too. For many years Pigeon Prep was a staple in my classes. When we’d practice vinyasa-style, it felt wonderful to swing forward from Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) into Pigeon—it was a smooth move that I miss. But the more I’ve begun to delve into hip health in the past few years, the more I realize that Pigeon Pose is likely problematic for many practitioners...

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  • Parvrtta Parsvakonasana: Rotated Side-Angle Pose

    If I had to pick yoga’s most complicated yoga asana—among the more commonly practiced poses—Parvrtta Parsvakonasana (Rotated Side-Angle Pose) would get my vote. Parvrtta Parsvakonasana is a Warrior Pose, a twist and a balance pose. Its benefits are many. According to Yoga Journal, practicing Rotated Side-Angle Pose: Strengthens and stretches the legs, knees, and ankles Stretches the groins, spine, chest and lungs, and shoulders Stimulates abdominal organs Increases stamina Improves digestion and aids elimination Improves balance Parvrtta Parsvakonasana is commonly practiced in many popular classes, including fast-paced vinyasa classes. Even if you prefer moving quickly through sequences, it can be...

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  • How Green is Your Yoga Practice?

    It’s St. Patrick’s Day. As I contemplated how to tie yoga practice to the holiday, I came up a bit short. There’s no Shamrock Pose or Leprechaun Pose. It’s true that we’re “lucky” to enjoy a yoga practice, but that’s a bit general. I settled on today’s color: green. There’s the “wearin’ o’ the green.” Wearing something green is easy, but certainly not specific to yoga practice. How about using a green yoga mat? That’s stretching things a bit, so to speak. I’m instead going to discuss a different meaning of “green.” Green is another word for “sustainable.” In  yoga...

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  • Save Your Wrists in Sun Salutations

    Vinyasa, based in Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations), is arguably the most popular form of yoga these days. From traditional Ashtanga—where the idea for Vinyasa came from—to newer forms such as Power, flowing from one pose to the next is the standard in many classes. Inherent in most of these flowing practices is a core sequence: Plank Pose to Chaturanga Dandasana to Urdva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog) to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog). In many classes practitioners move through this sequence 20-plus times. In all these poses, the upper body bears a big slice of the responsibility for supporting...

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  • Urdhva Dhanurasana: Wheel of Energy

    Backbends are one of yoga practice’s great gifts. Because our daily lives don’t require a lot of backbending, doing some sort of backbend every day is a way to balance our forward-folded lives. Plus they’re energizing and just plain fun. Backbends take many forms, from smaller backbends such as Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) to full-body backbends such as Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow), the subject of this post. All of them can be beneficial to our bodies. They mobilize our spines, lengthen our front bodies and strengthen our back bodies. In Yoga International, teacher Rod Stryker writes: “Urdhva Dhanurasana increases the vital...

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  • Junior Bolsters: 3 Luxurious Restoratives

    If you have an idea about what yoga bolsters should look like, think again. While the flat-topped Standard Bolster stands in for most uses, sometimes a different size and shape can make all the difference. That’s why Hugger Mugger developed Junior Bolsters. These bolsters were originally designed to create an alternative for adults with smaller bodies. But in the decade since they first came on the market, we’ve found lots of other uses for them, no matter what your body type. Junior Bolsters are the same length and firmness as Standard and Round bolsters, but they are narrower in width...

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  • Supta Virasana: Restore Your Belly

    Most of us spend the lion’s share of our days sitting in chairs, with our joints in flexion. Our hips are flexed to 90 degrees, as are our knees. Our shoulders hunch forward—unless we constantly remind ourselves not to hunch. By the time I shut down my computer in the evening, my body craves at least a few minutes of the opposite. One of my favorite poses for countering the effects of sitting, as well as preparing my body to wind down for sleep, is Supta Virasana. Supta Virasana is the lying-down version of Virasana, aka “Hero’s Pose.” Supta Virasana...

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