The Eight Limbs of Yoga by Kristen Keaney


Over the last couple of months, we looked into the Yamas (the “restraints”) to help us delve a little deeper into our yoga practice. You may have noticed that the Yamas and the Niyamas come before the Asanas (the poses) in Pantanjali’s 8-Limbs of Yoga. In the Western world we tend to focus on the physical elements of yoga. The original belief was that the mind & body must be purified together for the Asanas to deliver the most benefits. 

Here’s an example I once read that really drove this point home for me. Some of the highest pesticide counts are found on apples so, although apples are inarguably good for you, it takes a lot of extra effort for the body to digest and process these impurities before it can start to absorb the healthy components of the apple. Many people believe you should consume organic apples whenever possible. You can think of the Yamas (non-harming, non-stealing, truthfulness, restraint and non-attachment) and Niyamas (purification, contentment, asceticism, self-study, and devotion) as clearing away the impurities of modern day living so that we can approach our Asana practice from a more “organic” state.  

The first Niyama, Saucha (pronounced sow-cha), is the Sanskrit term for cleanliness or purity. On a physical level this Niyama can apply to personal hygiene. We all have been taught from a young age the importance of personal hygiene. Saucha applies to things such as wiping down your mat after each use and arriving to class in clean comfortable clothing. If you practice at home, it’s important to have a clean space that is preferably free of distractions. Awareness of cleanliness shows a certain level of self-respect that can bring a positive energy to your space and practice. 

When we look at Saucha as it applies to the mind we start to see all the Yamas come into play. Purity in our thoughts, both on and off our mat, has a profound effect on the quality of our lives. For the sake of this article let’s look at it regarding our yoga practice. If we arrive on our mats carrying the stresses and obstacles from our day, it’ll take some extra effort in our Asana practice to rid us of these “impurities” before we start moving deeper into our practice. It is recommended that for an evening practice you take time to shower beforehand and wash away some of the physical and mental toxins you’ve acquired. Briefly look at your thoughts before you practice and run through the Yamas: “Is this thought harmful? Is it true? Am I attached to it?” Sometimes pausing and acknowledging your mental state before you practice is enough to set you off on the right foot. If you take that time and you still can’t seem to let something go then it’s time to roll out your mat, tap into your Ujjayi breathing and allow the physical movements of your asana to help with the cleansing process.

“The practice of asanas tones the entire body and removes the toxins and impurities caused by overindulgence. Pranayama cleanses and aerates the lungs, oxygenates the blood and purifies the nerves” (BKS Iyengar, “Light on Yoga”).



Anatomy of a Pose - Laurel Marsh



 Laurel Marsh

Laurel Marsh

  • Strengthens the spine, abdomen, arms, and wrists
  • Builds strength and stamina for more advanced yoga poses

Key Actions

  • Start on hands and knees in table top.  Be sure that the arms are parallel to each other and the shoulders are directly over the wrists.  Look back at the legs and bring them hips width distance with the hips directly over the knees.
  • Press down into the hands, especially at the base of each index finger.
  • Press up into the space between the shoulder blades taking any hollowing out of this area.  Feel how this slightly spreads the shoulder blades apart and firms them against the back.
  • Maintaining the previous actions, broaden across the collar bones and lengthen the sternum forward as the outer arms firm in.
  • Draw the frontal hip bones of the pelvis towards the lower ribs, shortening the distance between these two areas.  This brings the pelvis into more of a posterior tilt and helps to tone the lower belly.
  • Extend the right leg straight back and then the left leg, coming onto the balls of the feet.
  • Lift the fronts of the upper leg bones away from the floor to tone the legs.
  • Maintain the actions of the arms, shoulder blades and pelvis from table top and press the heels back as the sternum lengthens forward.
  • Keep the back of the head in line with the spine while gazing down to the floor.
  • Find a steady breath and relax the muscles of the face.
  • Stay for 5-10 breathes.


  •  For wrist sensitivity, plank can be done on the forearms.  For this version interlace the hands and tuck the bottom pinky finger under.  Come onto the forearms and bring the elbows slightly narrower than shoulder width.  Stack the shoulders directly over the elbows and find the same actions as if coming into plank on the hands. 
  • Lowering the knees in plank is always an option if it gets to be too intense.  Continue to work the actions of plank in the body even if the knees are lowered.

Anatomy of a Pose - Laurel Marsh


Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2)


  • Strengthens legs, arms, spine, ankles, and feet
  • Stretches the groins, chest, and arms
  • Increases stamina and confidence
  • Therapeutic for flat feet, sciatica, osteoporosis, infertility and carpal tunnel syndrome

Key Actions

  • Start in Tadasana (see April 2017 column) at the top of the mat
  • Turn to the left side of the room and widen the distance between the feet to about four feet
  • Extend the arms out to shoulder height and look to see that the wrists line up with the outer blades of the feet.  Place the hands on the hips
  • Turn all ten toes in and the heels out to slightly pigeon toe each foot.  This sets up the placement of the back foot/leg
  • From the right hip socket, turn the right knee and foot outwards 90 degrees.  Make sure the second toe is pointing straight ahead and not angled in or out
  • Look to see that the right (front) heel lines up with the arch of the left (back) foot
  • On an exhalation, lunge into the right leg while keeping the back leg straight 
  • The front knee should be directly over the ankle and in line with the second toe.  If the knee went past the ankle, widen the distance between the feet.  If it remained behind the ankle, shorten the distance between the feet  
  • With the hands on the hips, feel if the pelvis is level.  If the left side feels higher than the right, draw the outer left hip down and hug it into the midline
  • Look to make sure the front knee did not buckle in toward the big toe.  If it did, draw the outer knee toward the baby toe
  • Press into the outer blade of the back foot and lift the inner arch while firming the thigh bone back
  • Maintaining the set up in the lower half of the body, bring the hands together at the heart.  Notice if the trunk is rotated towards the top of the mat.  If so, without disrupting the hips and legs, turn the ribcage and chest to the left/long side of the mat
  • On the inhalation extend the arms out to shoulder height, palms face down
  • On the exhalation turn the head to the right, setting the gaze on the fingertips
  • Stay for five well-rounded breaths
  • To come out, straighten the front leg, relax the arms by the sides and angle the front foot/leg in
  • Repeat on the other side


To help with stability, place the outer heel of the back foot against a wall. 


The Eight Limbs of Yoga by Kristen Keaney

The 8 Limbs of Yoga: The Yamas (Moral Restraints), Part 5



This month we’ll touch on the fifth and final Yama, Aparigraha.  In my opinion, this is one of the easiest yamas to truly digest and incorporate into your daily life.  Aparigraha can be translated as non-greed, non-possessiveness or non-attachment. Practicing Aparigraha allows us to truly acknowledge what serves us in the present moment while simultaneously allowing us to let go of what is no longer benefiting us.

This may be a very easy Yama to incorporate into your personal yoga practice without too much force and effort. Most of us come to yoga to experience its calming benefits on the mind and body, but oftentimes our minds can lead us astray. What usually starts as an internal practice can lead us towards keeping up with our neighbor, or worse, expecting more from our physical bodies than it may be ready for at that moment (Ahimsa). Social media doesn’t help the cause. Our minds are constantly being flooded with images of “the perfect pose” and we have unrealistic expectations of what our bodies should look and feel like when we practice. Personally speaking, Aparigraha is important for me to remember when it comes to individual asanas. Just because a posture looks and feels a certain way one day doesn’t mean it will feel the same the next. It’s important not to get attached to your practice and its progress and instead accept the constant ebb and flow of your practice. 



Anatomy of a Pose - Laurel Marsh


Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)


  • Stretches the chest, shoulders, abdomen, front of the hips, arms, wrists, and ankles
  • Strengthens the back, arms, and legs
  • Stimulates the abdominal organs
  • Helps relieve fatigue and stiffness in the back

Key Actions

  • Come onto the belly and extend the legs straight back
  • Place the hands by the lower ribs, palms down and fingers pointing forward
  • Look to make sure the elbows are directly over the wrists.  If they aren't then slide the hands forward or back as needed
  • Firm the elbows in toward the sides of the torso so they are directly behind the shoulders
  • Bring the feet hips-width distance apart
  • Relax the legs and notice how the inner thighs naturally roll up and out and the outer ankles sickle outward.  Accentuate the rolling upwards of the inner thighs, firm the outer ankles in
  • Press down onto the tops of the feet from the big toes to the pinky toes, feel the legs turn on and slightly lift
  • On the inhalation press down into the hands until the arms straighten and draw the chest forward and up
  • Vigorously press into the tops of the feet to lift the knees, thighs, and hips off the ground.  Be sure that only the hands and feet are on the ground
  • Engage the quadriceps to keep the legs lifted as the inner thighs continue to roll up and the outer ankles firm in
  • Make sure the shoulders are directly over the wrists, if they are not adjust them by moving the legs forward or back
  • Slightly draw the pubic bone up towards the sternum and continue to lift the chest forward and up
  • Draw the outer upper arms back and press down into the hands, especially at the base of each index finger
  • To release, either roll over the toes into Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) or firm the arms in towards the trunk as the elbows bend and the body lowers to the mat


  • If the upper arms and shoulders roll forward and it is difficult to draw the outer upper arms back, try slightly turning the hands out
  • If having the hands flat on the ground is very bothersome to the wrists, try using hexagon shaped barbells to keep the wrists straight
  • If Upward Facing Dog is too vigorous, take Baby Cobra.  Instead of straightening the arms, keep them bent and lift the shoulders to elbow height.  Practice the actions of Upward Facing Dog in the legs, shoulders, and chest while building strength in the back


The Eight Limbs of Yoga by Kristen Keaney

The 8 Limbs of Yoga: The Yamas (Moral Restraints), Part 4


We’ve discussed Ahimsa (Non-harming), Satya (Truthfulness) and Asteya (non-stealing). The fourth Yama, Brahmacharya, is traditionally understood as ‘Celibacy’ or simply restraining from temptations so that our energy can instead be directed towards furthering our Yogic studies. It may be the hardest element to transfer into this modern way of living.

I hope I didn’t lose everyone with the use of the word celibacy, because Brahmacharya can still be practiced without necessarily adhering to its traditional definition. Brahmacharya in its truest form means to direct our energies away from external pleasures so that we can focus more on finding happiness and contentment from the inside out.

Think of Brahmacharya as the awareness of where you expend your “vital” energies. For a moment just close your eyes and think about where you think you direct most of your energy.  I’m sure to some extent we all direct a lot of our energy toward outward stresses that in the end don’t affect us as much as we feel. Energy is sometimes put into trying to make ourselves appear different than our true selves. Trying to appear more successful, more organized, more positive, just more than we really are. Excess energy directed towards outward “improvements” leaves us with very little to direct inwards. 

Try incorporating Brahmacharya into your daily lifestyle by slowing down periodically and observing your daily patterns. Take time to notice if any of your habits seem to drain you of energy.  I don’t necessarily mean the bodily fatigue that sets in after a vinyasa class. I invite you to look more deeply, who you surround yourself with, what you choose to consume to “fuel” the body, in both your foods and your conversation. 

Brahmacharya is traditionally taught as restraint from sexual desires in order to better focus on one’s Yogic path.  A modern interpretation can be understood as observing where our largest energy outputs are and acknowledging whether they are truly benefiting our personal growth or if they’re draining our precious energies.




Anatomy of a Pose - Laurel Marsh

Chair Pose — Utkatasana (OOT-kuh-TAHS-uh-nuh)


  • Strengthens the ankles, thighs, spine, and arms
  • Opens the chest and shoulders
  • Builds heat in the body
  • Stimulates the heart, diaphragm, and abdominal organs

Key Actions

  • Start in Mountain pose (see April 2017 column) with the big toes touching, heels slightly parted, and palms facing the outer hips  
  • On the inhalation reach the arms forward and up.  Feel the upward rotation of the shoulder blades
  • On the exhalation sit the hips back and down
  • Press into the three corners of each foot while adding a little more weight into the centers of the heels
  • Be sure the knees are in line with the second and third toe of each foot
  • Hug the outer hips and legs in towards the midline and drop the tailbone to avoid overarching the lower back.  If the lower back flattens, instead of dropping the tailbone, spin the inner thighs in and down
  • Lift the sides of the waist and firm the outer arms in
  • Spread the fingers, soften the face and turn the attention to the breath
  • Play with sitting the hips a little further back and down while maintaining these key actions in the body
  • Take five rounds of breath and on the last exhalation press down into the feet to straighten the legs and rest the arms by the sides in Tadasana


  • If bringing the big toes to touch and heels slightly parted does not feet stable, place the feet hips width distance.  Be sure the second and third toes point forward, maintaining neutrality in the feet and legs
  • To help access the actions of the outer hips and legs hugging in toward the midline, place a block the narrowest way in between the thighs
  • If reaching the arms overhead and shoulder width distance is a challenge, play with widening the arms.  Continue to practice the actions of firming the outer arms in
chair pose.jpg

The Eight Limbs of Yoga by Kristen Keaney

The 8 Limbs of Yoga: The Yamas (Moral Restraints), Part 3

We have discussed the first two yamas: Ahimsa (non-harming) and Satya (truthfulness). We have looked at their meanings and how we can incorporate them into our yoga practice as well as our daily lives. 

The third yama is Asteya, or non-stealing. On a very physical level this is an easy one. Don’t steal that which does not belong to you. Whether it be items, ideas, emotions, time or energy. If they’re not given to you freely then leave them be.

Asteya can be applied to your yoga practice in a similar way as Ahimsa. Coming to a class and expecting your body to do advanced postures without “earning” them through diligent daily practice is essentially trying to take something that isn’t meant for you. Moving your body in a way that doesn’t suit your current physical and mental state is robbing yourself of the peace that would be attained through an honest practice. 

Asteya can also be looked at in relationship to our current environment. Do we take from the Earth more than she is offering? Can simple tweaks in our daily lives reverse our harmful actions? Absolutely. Shortening our showers by a few minutes. Trying to remember to bring reusable bags to the grocery store. It could even relate to how much “stuff” we buy and how quickly we get rid of it to replace it with the same thing only newer. This doesn’t mean renouncing the world and all your possessions, it just encourages you to take from this life only what is needed. It is a reminder that these things typically don’t bring us long-lasting happiness and if we look to material things to fill that space we will never see an end to that cycle.

Lastly, Asteya can relate to our emotions and actions. How we act, react and express ourselves around others can have more of an impact than we sometimes realize. Are we stealing someones peace by loudly complaining about minute obstacles from our day? Are we stealing someones happiness by constantly changing the subject to circle back to our losses? 

Asteya is an easy Yama to incorporate into your life and practice. So as we begin a new year I invite you to slow down and make sure there is ease to your practice. Daily, committed practice brings about the best changes in the body; changes that can be long lasting if we remain honest and open.


The Eight Limbs of Yoga by Kristen Keaney

The 8 Limbs of Yoga: The Yamas, Part 2

Last month we discussed the first Yama in yoga, Ahimsa, or non-violence. Hopefully you’ve found a way to introduce elements of it into your daily habits. This month we’ll discuss Satya, or truthfulness. 

Satya means so much more than simply not telling lies. The Yamas are meant to help us build better relationships with the people and the world around us. Yet, more importantly, they’re meant to help us build better relationships with ourselves. I would say the most difficult part of implementing Satya into our own lives is actually looking closely enough to realize if we are letting our constantly changing thoughts and emotions determine how we identify with ourselves. 

“I am not good for this position because of….” or “I don’t think I can succeed because of….”

It’s very easy to not see the truth or reality in life’s situations when we are either observing them from different emotional states or worse, if we’re choosing not to truly see the truth of a situation because it’s not the outcome we were hoping for. 

It’s important to slow down long enough for our minds to react to a situation from a more pragmatic state and not a purely emotional state. It’s tricky at first, and harder some days than others, but you eventually begin to realize that “you are not your thoughts” and that realization can be liberating. 

The best way to slow down your thoughts is to practice Yoga! When we focus our attention on our breathing we create an opportunity to slow down the fluctuations of the mind and approach our practice from a place of truth. You can implement Satya in your own practice by being truthful with your body’s limitations and your breath will be your best teacher. When your breath gets rushed or shallow, it’s an opportunity for you to see your limits and to work with them. 

Introducing and improving Satya to your personal relationships can help you build stronger foundations. Whether it be a romantic relationship, relationships with friends or family, or even co-workers and acquaintances it’s important to not only be truthful but also compassionate. A big element of Satya is also discernment; understanding what aspect of truth should be expressed and when to express it. Sometimes honesty calls for us to remain silent. It’s important to slow down and observe our motives before we speak. 

A very good question to ask yourself before you speak is “will this truth serve this person? Or am I saying this to prove my point or to gain something from it? Is my ego getting in front of the situation?”

Yoga teaches us to slow down our erratic thought processes and gives us the space to approach situations in our lives from a more honest and rational state of mind. Life is always going to be full of challenges and setbacks, it’s how we choose to react to these circumstances that determines the outcomes.  

Adding elements of Ahimsa (non-harming) and Satya (truthfulness) to your everyday life is great foundation to your journey through Yoga. 

Next month we’ll discuss Asteya (non-stealing), the 3rd moral restraint of the Yamas.


Anatomy of a Pose - Laurel Marsh


Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)


  • Restorative to the nervous system
  • Soothes tired /swollen feet and legs
  • Helps with anxiety, insomnia, mild depression, high blood pressure, circulation, digestion, headaches, varicose veins and menstrual cramps
  • A great way to receive the benefits of an inversion in a gentle way

Key Actions:

  • Be sure to have a block, folded blanket or bolster
  • Start in bridge pose (see September 2017 Column)
  • Press down into the feet to lift the hips high enough so the prop can be placed under the sacrum.  If using a block turn it to the lowest or medium height.  Be sure the prop is not directly under the arch of the low back (lumbar spine); it should be placed below this area (the sacrum
  • Draw the knees in towards the chest, lifting the feet off the floor, and then extend the legs up towards the ceiling
  • It may be useful to wiggle around on the prop to find that sweet spot where the legs feel as though they are floating in mid air
  • Relax the arms on either side of the torso, palms facing up
  • Do very little work to keep the legs lifted and stay for 1-3 minutes
  • To come out bend the knees in towards the chest and then plant the feet to the floor.  Lift the hips high enough so the prop can be removed and then lower the hips to the ground


  • To invert the arms and help with leg support - when the knees hug into the chest place a strap/yoga belt around the sole of each foot and then extend the legs towards the ceiling.  Keep the arms straight as each hand lightly holds a tail of the strap.
  • For leg support, move to a wall.  Place a neatly folded blanket 2-3 inches away from the wall.  Sit on top of the blanket with the outer right hip facing the wall.  Mindfully swing the legs up so that the backs of the legs rest against the support of the wall.  If the backs of the legs feel tight, slide further away from the wall to decrease the angle of the legs.

Anatomy of a Pose - Laurel Marsh

Child’s Pose (Balasana)



  • Helps relieve stress
  • Gently stretches the back, hips, thighs and ankles
  • Calms the central nervous system & mind
  • A great way to move inward, reset, and connect to your breath

Key Actions:

  • Start on hands and knees in table top; wrists under the shoulders and knees under the hips
  • Bring the tips of the big toes to touch and separate the knees a little wider than hips width
  • Lower the sit bones back onto the heels and hinge at the hips to rest the torso onto the thighs
  • Walk the arms forward and rest the forehead onto the ground
  • Once the arms are straight bring a soft bend to the elbows and rest the forearms onto the ground
  • On the inhalation feel the breath move into the back of the torso. On the exhalation feel a softening of the body


  • Place a blanket under the knees for additional padding
  • If the head does not touch the floor comfortably place a block or blanket under the forehead
  • If it is challenging to lower the sit bones to the heels place a folded blanket or two in between the back of the calves and thighs

The Eight Limbs of Yoga by Kristen Keaney

The 8 Limbs of Yoga: The Yamas, Part 1

Yoga is believed to be over 5,000 years old yet has only recently gained popularity within Western cultures. Usually when we hear the word “yoga” we think in terms of Asana, or simply put: yoga poses.  Yoga is an 8-limbed path for life that was designed to help strip us of our egos and lead us to self-realization.

The “8 Limbs of Yoga” was created so we could all live from a place of authenticity, looking inward for most answers.  This system was first documented by Patanjali in the 2nd century B.C. 

Human beings are emotional creatures, and how we choose to react to these emotions says a lot about who we are as a person. I grew up in an Irish-Catholic family, so most of the time emotions were things you simply replaced with sarcasm.  Yoga teaches us not only to acknowledge our emotions, but also to own up to them, meaning not looking for outside reasons or people to blame for the things we might be feeling. It also teaches us to slow things down a bit, so we can truly feel these emotions, good or bad.

To look inward we must do so with a very honest and open mind, which brings us to the first limb of yoga: Yamas, or restraints. Yamas encourage us to get to know ourselves better, not based on our possessions, accomplishments or our stature in life but based on what we feel at a very deep and personal level.  

The best part of these “restraints” is that they don’t require us to be perfect. They’re meant to be guidelines that help us better connect to the things we do, say, and believe. They encourage us to explore our behaviors and choices at a deeper level so we can realize how our actions affect not only ourselves but those around us. Simply put, the

Yamas are meant to awaken us to the fact that we are all part of something that is greater than ourselves, and that our actions are our contributions to the world.

The 5 Yamas are not commandments or strict rules requiring mastery to achieve enlightenment. They are guidelines to help us live our lives with more satisfaction with ourselves and those that we are lucky enough to have around us. Understanding that Yamas are an integral part of your yoga practice and gradually introducing them is a great first step in your personal journey towards finding and expressing the truest form of yourself.

The first Yama is Ahimsa, or nonviolence.  Ahimsa applies to all sentient beings.  I believe that diet is a very personal matter, therefore I will choose to focus on the element of Ahimsa as it applies to our emotions and social actions.  Ahimsa is a fundamental tool that allows you to see your thoughts and actions from a place of non-judgment. Here are some helpful ways to introduce ahimsa into your daily life:  

  • Before you speak make sure your words are truthful and have good intentions (no gossiping);

  • If you feel “hatred” or “dislike” towards someone or something allow yourself the space to genuinely understand the root of the situation and think of positive ways to address it;

  • Slow down and notice your thought patterns, and try to shift to more positivity. Ahimsa applies to the way we think and speak about ourselves as well;

  • Let go of expectations of the way a pose should look in your Asana practice like and give yourself the positive space to truly feel the posture. Forcing your body into a position it's not ready for is a prime example of overlooking Ahimsa.



Anatomy of a Pose - Laurel Marsh


Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)


  • Opens the chest, hip flexors and stretches the spine
  • Strengthens the back body
  • Stimulates the lungs and abdominal organs
  • Helps to alleviate mild depression, fatigue, menstrual discomfort and anxiety

Key Actions:

  • Begin reclined on the back
  • Bend the knees and place the heels directly under the knees
  • Make sure the feet, thighs, and knees are hips width distance apart, forming parallel lines.  The second and third toes of each foot point forward
  • On the exhale press down into the three corners of each foot to lift the hips and torso off the floor without disrupting the alignment of the feet, thighs and knees
  • Lengthen the tailbone towards the knees as the inner thighs spiral down
  • With the arms by the sides of the torso, turn the palms upwards, bringing the arms into external rotation
  • Without sliding the shoulder blades down or disrupting the back of the neck, tuck one shoulder blade in at a time, creating more lift in the chest and protecting C7
  • Option to interlace the hands
  • Stay for several breathes and then release


  • If the feet and/or knees V open, loosing the parallel lines, place a block in between the feet and/or thighs.  Hug inwards to the block to maintain alignment
  • For a more restorative version or if the fronts of the hips are tight, place a block underneath the sacrum


Anatomy of a Pose - Laurel Marsh

Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)


  • Stretches the hip flexors
  • Strengthens the quadriceps and arms
  • Improves balance and concentration
  • Great preparatory asana (posture) for back bends

Key Actions

  • Begin in Tadasana, Mountain pose (See April 2017 column).
  • Shift weight into the right leg and take a large step back with the left leg.  Make sure the left heel is lifted, pointing directly back, and root down into the ball of the foot.  If the stride feels too narrow, walk the right foot out to the right 1-2 inches.
  • Track the right knee over the right ankle and press down through the three corners of the front foot.
  • To bring more space into the lower back and increase the opening of the hip flexors, bring a soft bend to the back knee and lengthen the tailbone downward.  This will cause the frontal hips bones to lift and the lower ribs to soften as the pelvis moves into more of a posterior tilt.
  • Feel the back of the rib cage lift as the arms raise overhead; palms face each other.  Firm the outer arms in and soften at the base of the neck.
  • Maintaining all these actions, see if there is space to take some of the bend out of the back leg. 
  • Stay for 5-10 breathes then repeat on the other side.


  • Lower the back knee to the floor if balance is a challenge.
  • Take goalpost arms or hands to the hips if raising the arms overhead is too much for the shoulders.
laurel cl.JPG

Finding Time For You

Do you ever find yourself longing for some time for yourself? Many of us are so busy with work, school, and home life that often there is no time left over to do something that you enjoy. Try some of these ways to carve out that essential time you need to slow down, enjoy life, and rejuvenate yourself.

Scheduling that Time

1. An Evening Just For You. Try to save certain weeknights just for you. Use the time for gardening, reading, exercise, meditating, or the ultimate luxury of doing nothing!

2. A Regular Treat. Schedule a treat for yourself. It could be on your lunch break, a weekend, or it could be leaving work early. Maybe you get a spa treatment, go see a movie, a haircut, play golf, a healing reiki session, yoga, reflexology, or anything you’ve been thinking about but may not have the time to do.

3. Go to an Event. Sports, theater, concerts, or any other event you would enjoy.   While you're there, put the phone away and be in the moment!

4. Leave Work on Time. Yes, many of us stay at work late on a regular basis. If this is you, make it a point to leave work exactly on time at least once a week, if not more. And then enjoy that time and leave work at work.

5. Join a Group. Singing group, gardening group, astronomy society, book club, quilting (or any other craft) circle, biking/walking/running/etc clubs, ski club, etc.  Look up a club in your area today and join! If you can’t find a club, consider starting one yourself.

6. Take a Class. Take a fun class. Learn a foreign language, photography, art, creative writing, or sports (kayaking, archery, golf, yoga).

7. Exercise. For busy people it can be difficult to make time for this. All you have to do is decide today and then make it a reality tomorrow. A new habit is started with just one step. Take that first step tomorrow. Walk for 15 minutes in the morning and build on that daily.


Anatomy of a Pose - Laurel Marsh

Tree Pose (Vrksasana)


  • Strengthens legs, ankles, feet and core
  • Opens inner thighs, shoulders and chest
  • Improves balance, concentration and posture
  • Therapeutic for stress and sciatica

Key Actions

  • Begin in Tadasana, Mountain pose (see May 2017 column)
  • Set your gaze (drishti) to help with balance and concentration. Soften the eyes but have a clear focus and intention.
  • Shift weight into the left foot while maintaining an even rooting through the ball and heel of the left foot. Bend the right knee and place the sole of the right foot to the inner left thigh. Right toes point downward.
  • Press the right foot into the left thigh and press the left thigh into the right foot.
  • Maintain a level and neutral pelvis by lengthening the tailbone down while hugging the outer left hip in toward the midline. Draw the right knee out to the right to line up with the torso. Right sits bone reaches toward the left heel, without losing the hugging in of the outer left hip.
  • Bring the hands together at heart center (Anjali Mudra) and lift the center of the chest away from the naval. Keep the hands here or extend both arms overhead, palms face each other. Use the lift of the arms to grow taller.
  • Repeat other side.


  • If placing the right foot to the left inner thigh is a challenge, try placing the foot to the inner shin or ankle. Avoid placing the lifted foot on the knee joint.
  • If balance is a challenge, place a chair to the side of you or move to the wall.
  • Place one or both hands to the chair or wall to help with balance and development of key actions.

Anatomy of a Pose - Laurel Marsh

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Though Tadasana may not look like the most exciting asana (posture), it is a key one to practice and understand.  The alignment and structure of Tadasana is echoed throughout most other asanas as it sets the foundation for all other postures.


  • Strengthens entire body
  • Improves posture & balance
  • Teaches proper alignment
  • Increases focus & confidence

Key Actions:

  • Bring the big toes to touch and separate the heels slightly.  Root down through the balls of the feet and heels evenly as the inner arches lift
  • Activate and lift the fronts of the thighs (quadriceps) upward without locking the knees.  Inner thighs rotate in towards each other to create space in the sacrum
  • Lightly draw the tailbone downward and lift the back ribs to help soften the front ribs
  • Lift the center of the chest away from the naval and broaden across the shoulders as the palms face forward
  • Keep the chin parallel to the ground and lengthen up through the neck and crown of the head


  • Stand with the heels, sacrum, and shoulder blades against a wall to help with balance and alignment
  •  Place a block the narrow way in between the thighs to help activate the legs and feel the inner thighs rotate in towards each other


laurel side view.jpg

Some Misconceptions of Chair Yoga

Certain yoga class names carry a stigma. For example, some people think gentle yoga isn’t challenging. To the contrary, being gentle with your body and mind is challenging! I’m here to debunk the myth that chair yoga can’t be challenging!

#1:  You’re always sitting

I’m sure there may be a chair yoga class somewhere in the world that has you seated the entire class. But not the large majority, and certainly not this class. The warmup and cooldown are seated, but other 30-45 minutes utilize the chair and wall as support, and for proprioception (your body knowing where it is in space). An example of proprioception using the wall is pressing the hand against the wall to find greater stability in the shoulder.

#2: Chair yoga doesn’t include traditional asana, or poses

Yes it does! Have you ever worked warrior III using a chair for arm support? What about chair pose at the wall, working to press your feet down and lengthen the spine for 5 rounds of deep, slow, inhales and exhales? 

#3: Chair yoga is for older Yogis

Chair yoga provides us a new way to look at moving the body mindfully.  This class provides various ways to challenge the body and explore movements that you might not explore in a traditional yoga class.  For example, chair yoga can give students the opportunity to explore wrist and shoulder stability, or hip mobility.

#4: Moving slowly isn’t advanced

Moving slowly is harder than moving quickly, period.  We live in a face paced world.  What might happen if you slowed down to explore how your ankle feels when making slow circles with the foot?  Perhaps the more we slow down, the more awareness we can cultivate.



Yoga Nidra

Also known as yogic sleep or sleep with awareness, Yoga Nidra is an ancient practice that is rapidly gaining popularity in the West. It is intended to induce full-body relaxation and a deep meditative state of consciousness. "We live in a chronically exhausted, overstimulated world," says Rod Stryker. "Yoga Nidra is a systematic method of complete relaxation, holistically addressing our physiological, neurological, and subconscious needs."

During a typical class, teachers use a variety of techniques--including guided imagery and body scanning--to aid relaxation. And unlike a quick Savasana at the end of asana practice, Yoga Nidra allows enough time for practitioners to physiologically and psychologically sink into it.

Yoga Nidra brings an incredible calmness, quietness and clarity. Yoga Nidra is one of the deepest of all meditations, leading awareness through many levels of mental process to a state of supreme stillness and insight. Most important of all, it is the persistent practice that brings the real joy of the practice of Yoga Nidra, as with all useful practices in life and Yoga.

Inner Peace


People with inner peace are able to forgive, accept and tolerate. Those who practice these values are happier and more content with their life. Keep in mind that contentment is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.


Human nature can lead us to focus on all that we don't have, but keeping a daily gratitude journal is just one way to remind us to be grateful for all the wonderful things we already have in our lives.


When practiced, the famous golden rule teaches us that what we give, will come back to us. Whenever we send out love and compassion, through our thoughts and actions, we will receive it in return, helping us to feel happier.


Doing altruistic things, such as volunteering or helping others in need, brings happiness to us. It makes us feel that we are needed, we are contributing and we are making the world a better place.


Those who are alone in life tend to be less happy overall. For this reason, it is important to get together with those that share or at the very least support your intents, beliefs, preferences and needs. Communities provide identity and cohesiveness. Getting together will create a sense of belonging and help you feel happier, so come practice with us, really get to know yourself and us here, at Easton Yoga Center