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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!
  • Urdva Hastasana: Upward Salute

    When your first leave the comfort of your bed each morning, what’s the first thing you want to do? Like other animals—think about your cat or dog—our instinct is to stretch out. While we sleep, our bodies immobile, the fascia that surrounds our muscles tightens. In order to wake up our muscles, we need to loosen this outer sheath. So we stretch. So our first actual asana of the day might be a simple standing stretch. In asana practice, this stretch is called Urdva Hastasana (Upward Salute Pose). In the context of a vinyasa class it’s often the pose that initiates the whole sequence. From Urdva...

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  • 3 Yoga Bolsters, 3 Poses to Restore Your Energy

    Last week, we passed Autumn Equinox. Days are definitely shortening. I gauge this by whether—or when—I have to turn the lights on in my yoga classes. It’s just dark enough in my early morning class that natural light doesn’t suffice. We can still make it through the evening classes with just the sun, but it won’t be long. As the days shorten, we naturally draw inward. After a summer of outdoor fun, fall gives us a chance to burrow in and restore our energies. And of course, Restorative Yoga practice is a healthy way to renew ourselves. In my opinion...

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  • Got a Texting Habit? 5 Yoga Poses for Sore Shoulders

    I’ve resisted getting into the texting habit for years. It’s not that I don’t understand or appreciate the convenience. It’s that I don’t want to have yet another device I have to check many times a day. I also don’t want to get into unhealthy postural habits that often accompany texting. A while back I wrote an article about “text neck,” a relatively new postural malady that affects texters from their teenage years onward. Here’s a quote from the article: “When your spine is in a neutral position with your head resting atop your neck, your head weighs 10-12 pounds. Our...

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  • Parvrtta Anjaneyasana: Revolved High Lunge Pose

    In almost every class I teach, when I ask what people in class would like to focus on, twists are high on the list. Whether we twist while standing, sitting or lying down, spinal rotation often feels like a remedy for whatever ails us. Why do people love twists so much? I speculate that one reason is that we just don’t have that many opportunities to rotate our spines in daily life. Sure, we turn to look behind us while we’re driving sometimes, but for the most part, we keep our bodies in the sagittal plane. So twisting feels like...

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  • Back to Yoga: How to Return to Practice

    After more than 30 years of teaching yoga asana, I’ve come to recognize a pattern. Many of us, at least in the West, seem to think of fall as “back to school” season. Even though most of us adults don’t have jobs that give us summers off, we still think of autumn as the time to get back to business. As yoga practitioners, this translates to “time to get back to yoga.” Some people keep their yoga practice consistent all summer long, even on vacation. Some might do a few poses here and there, but nothing consistent. For others, missing...

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  • Parsva Balasana: Bird Dog Pose

    Chances are Parsva Balasana (Bird Dog Pose) does not have a 2,000-year history in the yoga tradition. More likely, the concept of a bird dog—symbol of one of their favorite pastimes—may have come from the British who colonized India, as did so many of yoga’s more gymnastic poses. This doesn’t diminish its value, however. Parsva Balasana confers many benefits. Practicing Bird Dog Pose: strengthens and stabilizes the core. strengthens the low back. challenges, and therefore increases, your ability to balance. may promote balance between the right and left lobes of your brain through the contralateral relationships between the arms and legs. As a core...

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  • Slip-Sliding Away On Your Yoga Mat? 3 Tips to Save Your Practice

    Back in the old days, up until the late 1980s, there was no such thing as a nonskid yoga mat. We practiced on an unpredictable variety of floors—wood, linoleum and carpet. We used outdated carpet samples instead of yoga blankets and neckties from a secondhand store for straps. Pretty primitive. The lack of a nonskid surface made for a sometimes-frustrating practice. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) and standing poses such as Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) were especially dicey. The effort to keep hands and feet from sliding out from under us and causing a crash landing kept us from fully extending...

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  • Yoga of Patience: Learning to Spread My Toes

    It’s taken years for me to learn how to spread my toes. What looks like a simple act for most people in my yoga class isn’t simple for me. It has required patience and faith and a kind of stubborn determination that I hadn’t known I possessed to finally push apart the bones, flesh, and nails on the ends of my feet so that my toes could spread. When I first began practicing yoga, my teacher would ask us to stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and spread our toes as a way of setting a firm foundation. On either side...

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  • Parvrtta Utkatasana: Revolved Fierce Pose

    Utkatasana is popularly known as “Chair Pose.” But I can’t imagine that ancient yogis—who had never seen, let alone sat in a chair—would have invented a word for “chair” just in case. Truth is, they didn’t. Instead, the root word—utkata—means “fierce.” Utkatasana, a pose that strengthens the legs, feet and abdominals, is a staple in my healthy hips regimen. It strengthens muscles that can help stabilize hypermobile hips. In addition, it strengthens the core. The revolved version, Parvrtta Utkatasana, adds a thoracic spine rotation that can help soften shoulder tension. One of the keys to releasing upper body tension is...

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  • Dekasana: Airplane Pose

    Right off, I’ll say that the chances that Dekasana (Airplane Pose) is one of yoga’s ancient staple poses are slim. Unless an ancient yogi sage predicted the invention of airplanes thousands of years ago, this pose, or at least its name, has to have arrived recently. That’s no problem, however, as many of yoga’s most popular asanas actually derive from British gymnastics. When the British occupied India, they introduced many of the more acrobatic asanas to yoga’s existing collection of poses. While not traditional in the strictest sense, these poses—such as backbends and standing poses—confer benefits that can help us...

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