Anatomy of a Pose - Laurel Marsh

Laurel Marsh

Laurel Marsh

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Benefits:      

  • 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

Modifications:

  • 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

Laurel Marsh

Laurel Marsh

Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

Benefits:

  • 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.

Modifications

  • 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.

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)

Benefits

Laurel Marsh

Laurel Marsh

  • 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.

Modifications

  • 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.

Benefits:

  • 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

Modifications:

  • 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

FIND 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.

PRACTICE GRATITUDE...

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.

GIVE LOVE...

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.

HELP OTHERS...

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.

GET TOGETHER...

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