Saturday, March 11, 2017

Vparita Karani - Legs Up the Wall

I truly believe yoga can be for everyone and every body so I want to start a series of blog posts that can help you activate each yoga asana (poses) in a way that's accessible and meaningful for you. My favorite part of my Yoga Teacher Training was learning modifications for each pose and gaining a deeper understanding of what each pose can bring to your life.

I am hopeful this series will help when you attend a class or practice along with a video at home so you can understand what each pose does for your body and make the proper adjustments that still allow you to get the most out of each pose. I will also share easy ways to modify your poses with what you have at home so you don't have to go out and buy expensive yoga props until you're ready to make that investment (or at all).

The first pose I want to help you understand is a favorite of mine. It's easy and one that most people will be able to safely and easily practice. Even if you think you're too busy to practice yoga you can always start with just this pose at the end of your day and work up to a full practice.

Sanskrit Name: Vparita Karani
AKA: Legs Up the Wall

Why you should practice Legs Up the Wall:
  • Calms the mind
  • Tones and strengthens abdominal organs, lungs, upper body, and core
  • Improves concentration, focus, balance, spinal alignment, and digestion
Who should NOT practice Legs Up the Wall:
  • Those with back or neck injury, headache/migraine issues, high blood pressure, heart conditions, menstruating or pregnant women, detached retina, or those with a history of or at risk of stroke
  • Women who are menstruating or pregnant should not practice inverted postures, back bends, or vigorous standing postures. Pregnant women should not practice twists or abdominal compressing postures. Other special cautions may apply to individuals with specific health conditions.
  • This does not mean people with these conditions can never practice Legs Up the Wall. If you want to try this pose you should speak with your physician or mental health provider to ensure being in this pose won't aggravate any existing conditions. You may be able to practice it with modifications or for shorter lengths of time. If you feel discomfort or are unsure, consult your physician first.

Activating asana tips:
  • Practice Legs Up the Wall at the end of your practice when you are preparing to cool down
  • If you don't have time for a full practice spend a few minutes before going to bed relaxing in this pose
  • You can listen to a meditation or take time to focus on your breath while you let your body have a few minutes of restorative peace
  • You can let your arms extend out beside you with your palms facing up or if that feels too open and exposed you can place your hands over your stomach or chest and feel the movement of your breath
What other tips or information would you like to see out of these posts? Are there certain poses you'd like to see me break down or show modifications for? What else is confusing about yoga or prevents you from practicing? Share your tips or what you love about Legs Up the Wall after you try it!

Not all exercises are suitable for everyone. Consult your doctor/mental health provider prior to participating in this or any other form of exercise. To reduce the risk of injury never force or strain during practice. If you experience pain or discomfort during exercises, stop, and immediately consult your doctor.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Developing My Personal Practice

As I work through the requirements for my Yoga Teacher Training I have the opportunity to dive into my own practice. I have tried some free flow practicing where I just do whatever feels right at the time and sometimes that is all I can fit into my day with kids and work. Other days I can squeeze in a Bodhi Yoga online class where I can practice what I have been studying. I have access to free yoga videos on TV so I've been trying a few of those out in the early mornings when only Russell and I are up. The nice thing about those is I can try other styles of yoga and different teachers so I can experience what else is out there.

Through the last few weeks of practicing I have learned that if you've tried yoga and didn't like it it's totally possible you either tried a style, class, studio, or a teacher that wasn't a good fit for you. When I'm in shape I can keep up with pretty much any yoga class but that doesn't mean I want to. I have found I prefer a slower practice with time within poses so I can settle in and know I'm not going to move too quickly, potentially injuring myself. I'm currently not in the best shape so having time between poses makes it possible for me to practice without worrying I'll throw out my back.

My recommendation is if you haven't loved yoga in the past, give it another shot! Try a different style, find a new studio, check out a different class, or find a different teacher because yoga can be for every body and everybody. You just have to find what works for you.

The other thing I have learned is to make time for yoga. I have stressed about finding blocks of time to practice but I found that I can squeeze some yoga in first thing in the morning. Russell has a crazy habit of getting up between 5-5:30 most days while Kira tends to sleep until about 6-6:30. This gives me a good hour of time where I can fit in a practice while Russell plays games or watches videos on his tablet. The fun thing is Russell often will see what I'm doing and come over to do the poses with me. Sometimes he gets in the way and tries to down dog right under my down dog but honestly I've realized I'd rather he dabble in some yoga with me instead of having a completely serene uninterrupted practice. My hope is that as he gets older and sees me doing more yoga he can practice with me and hopefully learn to regulate his emotions and his health for the long term. Plus it's CUTE when he tries to figure out how to do stacked log or cobbler pose. I'll try to snap a pic one of these mornings if he'll let me. It's adorable!

How do you fit a yoga practice into your day? I know for some people it's as easy as prioritizing it and going but when you start adding things like work, a partner, kids, other life commitments it can get crazy. Oh to be back in the days when I thought I was busy! HA HA HA! Share your secrets for fitting in yoga or exercise in your life. 

Sunday, December 04, 2016

BodhiYin, Ahh-mazing

BodhiYin! How do I love thee, let me count the ways...

If you caught my recent post about the BodhiFlow, this is another type of yoga we learned at the Bodhi Yoga Yoga Teacher Training. BodhiYin allows the body, mind, and spirit to recharge with supportive restorative postures using stillness, breath, and subtle intrinsic movements. This practices uses bolsters, blankets, and other props to help the body and mind let go and relax. The poses are held for longer periods of time allowing the body to fully relax into the poses.

I love BodhiYin because it helps me to slow down and decompress. This practice is great if you're dealing with anxiety, burnout, stress, chronic pain, and so much more.

I also love BodhiYin because it moves slowly enough to allow you to really feel your body and get comfortable with your range of motion and how things feel in YOUR body. Sometimes yoga can move so fast and you can feel the pressure to keep up with others in a class but with BodhiYin you can make the subtle changes and shifts you need to make to really relax into each posture. I feel it's a lovely beginners practice.

BodhiYin can also allow your yoga teacher to provide hands on adjustments (if they are trained in them) which can help you with alignment, activate acupressure points, or help you go deeper into each pose. This can make your experience almost like a full body massage except you can learn the poses and take them home with you.

Have you ever experienced a restorative yoga practice? If so, what was your favorite part about it? Do you enjoy the slow movement and long holds or does moving that slowly drive your mind crazy? I'd love to hear about what you like and don't like about classes you've taken.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Doshas

If you like taking personality quizzes to find out something about you, then read on! We're going to skim the surface of what Doshas are but I'd love to do a one-on-one or small group session to teach you more about your Dosha and what that can mean for you.

Ayurveda is a Sanskirt word which means "science of life". In Ayurveda, the universal elements of air, fire, and water/earth combine to create the three governing forces known as Doshas: Vata (air/space), Pitta (fire), and Kapha (earth/water). The intention of Ayurveda is to bring the Dosha compositions into balance.

Dosha means "that which darkens, spoils, or causes things to decay". Don't worry, it's not a bad thing. What that means is when the Doshas are not in equilibrium then disease manifests within the body. This also means if you know more about your Dosha and can recognize when it's going out of balance you can do things to bring your Dosha back into balance.

Everyone has elements of each Dosha but typically one emerges as your primary Dosha. For me I am primarily Pitta but I have seen bits of Vata and Kapha manifest in my life and in my physical body. You can manage your Dosha and help keep balance in your life through yoga, Pranayama (breath) practices, and through eating the right foods.

Below is a quick overview of each dosha but if you want to learn more you can subscribe to the online Bodhi Yoga classes where you can learn more about the Doshas, find great yoga practices, and even learn a few Ayurveda recipes. You can join me in person for a free Dosha workshop during December 2016 to help me complete my Yoga Teacher Training certification hours. The workshop would include completing the Dosha quiz to identify your primary Dosha, learning about your primary Dosha, and looking for areas where your Dosha may be imbalanced and how you can supporting bringing balance back into your life.

Vata Dosha is the first Dosha to go out of balance but it often can rebalance pretty easily. Vatas tend to be really tall or really short and are often very thin with a narrow frame and small bones. Vatas are often fast speaking/thinking/moving. Vatas tend towards being cold regardless of the weather so you tend to see them with things that help ground them such as a blanket, scarf, or hot foods/drinks. Vatas tend to have very active upper chakras often making for a creative personality. The time of year that is ruled by Vata is fall into the dry winter months.

Pitta Dosha tends to be rock steady and often "what you see is what you get". Pitta tends to be equally proportioned with reasonably steady weight and a medium frame. Pitta often has strong musculature and strong stamina. (The workaholics of the world are likely in a Pitta imbalance. Yep, been there, done that.) Pittas tend to be focused, energetic, and intense. Pitta tends to be hot and do best in cooler environments. Pittas tend to have very active solar and sacral chakras. The time of year ruled by Pitta is late spring into summer.

Kapha Dosha is the last to go out of balance but also takes the longest to get back into balance. Kapha tends to be stocky with the potential for excess weight. Kapha is often slow speaking and moving but is consistent, loyal, and dedicated. Kapha needs warmth and dryness to remain in balance. Kaphas tend to have very active lower chakras. The time of year ruled by Kapha is the wet winter into early spring.

We have just scratched the surface of Dosha's are and how they manifest in your life. What Dosha do you think you are? Would you be interested in attending a class to identify which Dosha is yours and how that applies to your life?

Friday, December 02, 2016

Knowledge, Understanding, and Wisdom

As I've made my Yoga Teacher Training a priority in the last weeks of 2016 I've been able to remember many of the reasons I chose to participate in a teacher training over just continuing to practice on my own. I can't say it any better than this piece I revisited in Session Two.
The more understanding that the yogi has of various modalities of practice the more useful yoga will be as a tool for integrated wholeness. Yoga practice is as varied as individual body types, ages, as well as mental and physical ability. The structures of your practice will change to meet the context of your life. Knowledge is power, if it can be transformed into understanding. If understanding can be given freedom to evolve it will become wisdom. Yoga helps to cultivate this wisdom in a way that can help you realize yourself in the most authentic way possible. In turn, this wisdom can offer you the gift to be present in your specific life situations, regardless of how they may vary.
I seriously love all of this. I completely relate to yoga changing to meet my needs at different points in my life. Learning is so important to me and the reason why I stick with anything in general. Once I master something I'm likely to get bored and want to do something else. I love being challenged and having to learn. I appreciate yoga for it's ability to help me better understand who I am so I can live an authentic life.

I actually went into my YTT assuming that I'd knock out the requirements up front and finish my certification requirements as soon as we finished the in person classes. Boy was I wrong. I did get slowed down when I found out I was pregnant with our second child and since then I've just got back to the point of feeling like I have enough of a handle on life that I can work on things that are outside of work and taking care of the kids.
YTT Certification Requirements - (c) Bodhi Yoga
As I have revisited the things I learned in person I realized that yoga therapy is something that fits the passion I have for understanding the human body and helping others. I have always loved medicine and growing up wanted to be a Physical Therapist. Obviously medical school didn't work out for me but I realized that yoga therapy could be similar enough to working in medicine without having to go back to school for years and incurring massive amounts of debt. I could definitely see a future for myself as a yoga therapist.

The anatomy study is where I know I'll be a lifelong student.
I've got more studying to do and my practice teaching to take on but overall I feel like YTT is the type of experience that I would have loved regardless of the outcomes. It's an amazing opportunity to learn more and to integrate that knowledge into my life and the lives of others.

What do you love most about yoga? Is there another hobby you have that fulfils you on a deeply personal level? What energizes you to stick with something and keep going? For me it's the pursuit of knowledge and new experiences that keeps me going.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Four Ways Yoga is Not Just About Flexibility

Sometimes you hear that yoga is only for the really flexible or for people who are already in great shape. Of course this isn't true but the media and advertisements do a great job of mostly showing people in really great shape bending themselves into poses that the average person may never achieve. That can lead you to feel that yoga is not for normal people and certainly not for you. I am here to tell you that yoga can be for anyone.

Most people probably hear yoga and think of a fast moving vinyasa or a sweaty hot yoga class filled with Sanskrit words and bendy bodies. The beautiful thing about yoga, that I love, is the fact you can modify a class and participate seated in a chair, lying down in bed, or even slow it down to a pace that is manageable for you. Here are some other types of practice that could be used in creating a balanced practice or practiced on their own.

Restorative Practice: If you're like me and work, have kids, and are stressed all the time you might hear the words restorative and think, sign me up! I love a restorative practice because it can help relieve the effects of chronic stress, fill your energy reservoirs, and it can be practiced by most people very easily. A restorative practice uses props to help make the poses easier and help align your body without being stressful. The practice is very slow allowing for 5-10 minutes per pose so that your body can truly relax into each pose and receive the full benefits.

Vinyasa/Asana Practice: Vinyasa means "putting together or connecting". I can be considered a moving meditation that connects the poses through the breath. Ideally your vinyasa practice wouldn't be striking individual poses but would be laced together through transitions that make sense and work with your body. A balanced asana practice could include seated breath postures, vinyasa to warm the body, an asana practice (including standing postures, forward folds, twists, and backbends), and Savasana. The practice can flow at a slower rate or move at a fast pace. If you're interested in a full practice that integrates these different pieces I recommend looking into different studios and teachers to find options that match your personality and needs.

Pranayama Practice: Prana means "life force" and Yama means "to control". Pranayama is one of the most ancient and authentic forms of yoga and works to control the breath. A regular Pranayama practice can help oxygenate the tissues of the body and balance hormonal levels and brain chemistry. A daily breath practice can help energize or calm the body and mind. It would be advised to try a breath practice in a safe space where you can experience its effects on your body and mind. If adverse reactions are experienced you would want to back off and re-approach at a later date. Adverse reactions could include things like headaches, increased stress or irritability, (sometimes triggered by the surfacing of suppressed emotions), or other physical discomfort. Most side effects will likely not last long but if they do you would want to consult with your physician and work with a yoga teacher that has a strong knowledge of Pranayama.

Meditation Practice: Meditation means "to focus one's thoughts on, reflect on, or ponder over as to deepen understanding. The aim of most meditation is to come to a clearer truth of self. Meditation can be done in a seated position, by using words/phrases that are repeated to focus the mind, or through chanting. Some people better relax through guided imagery or through a prayer practice. Even as a busy person I have made a minimum five minutes of practice a part of my evening routine and I would recommend anyone give that a try. There are great apps but my favorite is Calm because it's an app but also available online if you don't have a smartphone.

Have you participated in any of these types of practice? Do the classes you participate in include some of these elements? What is your favorite part of your yoga practice? Is it the movement, meditation, or Savasana?

Think Yoga Teacher Training might be for you? There are so many different trainings available but the one I chose is at Bodhi Yoga in Provo, UT. Check out the details and let me know if you have any questions. I'm happy to discuss my experience and why I chose Bodhi over other trainings that were much closer to home.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Bodhi Flow

As I've been going through Yoga Teacher Training I have gone back and forth between wanting to practice either following along in a class or video or wanting to just free flow and do whatever felt right for my body at the time. As a parent and full time professional, I can say that some days if I didn't just free flow a few poses before dropping into my evening meditation, I would go days or weeks without practicing yoga. So, for me at this point in my life I do find some value in having the knowledge to tackle the things I need most at that time.

When I have the time and space to participate in a full practice I can tell you it's night and day different. A full practice can provide you with the structure you need to find balance. A well structured practice often has seated poses, standing poses, backbends, and maybe even some inversions. It will ensure you're working both the left and right sides of your body equally and will provide you the adequate time to process your practice in Savasana.

One of the practices we learned during our training is called the Bodhi Flow. It's a series of poses that flow together with the focus of opening and strengthening the entire body from the inside out. The movements are slow and steady and work with the breath unlike some practices force you to shorten your breath because they move so quickly. The Bodhi Flow is appropriate for most people who are in good health whether they are beginners to yoga or more advanced students. There are four tiers (or series of poses) to the Bodhi Flow which means as a beginner you could just go through tier one and end your practice or if you were an advanced student you could go through all four tiers. You can also modify the individual poses to support your specific needs and abilities.

Tier one is used to warm the body, tier two increases flexibility, tier three increases strength and vigor, and tier four allows you to release tension and relax the mind. When put together the Bodhi Flow creates a well balanced practice that can be a great foundation for any student.

Do you prefer to follow a structured practice or do you tend to do a few poses to address specific needs? Do you have any favorite videos or instructors you practice with regularly? Do you have a favorite yoga style?