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yoga blogs

06 July 2020

yoga blogs
  • Clarity
    06 July 2020
    ​“Clarity and focus doesn't always come from God or inspirational quotes. Usually, it takes your mother to slap the reality back into you.” - Shannon L. Alder

    Now that you’ve had a sorely needed laugh, let’s get serious about clarity. When we bring clarity to an issue, we see what is happening, correctly assess the situation and consciously choose to take right action.

    How do we get clear on what’s happening in America today? Our country’s lofty values of equality, democracy and opportunity for all, live side-by-side with a pre-existing condition we’ve suffered from for centuries – systemic racism, and prejudice, the main causes of social, legal and economic injustice. Some symptoms are; the decimation of indigenous peoples, enslavement of Africans and legal segregation through Jim Crow laws, internment of Japanese American citizens during world War II, and the separation and internment of South American migrant children from their families at the southern border. The latest horror of police abuse, the public killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man, that we witnessed in real time on our digital devices is one more symptom of this country’s dis-ease that needs to be healed.

    We can start the healing with vidya – clear seeing.

    Vidya, is the opposite of avidya - clouded perception. Avidya results from an inability to see the larger picture of our lives, our world and how we move through them; personally, professionally, socially, and culturally. Here is what happens when clouded perceptions influence our thinking and behavior:

    • If our perception of a situation is wrong; wrong action likely follows.
    • If our perception is correct but we doubt ourselves, we may take no action or wrong action.

    It’s most often the influence and power of our unconscious thoughts, and implicit biases that cloud our perceptions and prevent right action. However, if our perception is correct and we are clear in our understanding, right action will likely result even if the outcome is not what we expected or hoped for.

    To get clear about systemic racism, and prejudice, we start with svadhyaya – study, and self-knowledge, to learn about the onset of our country’s dis-ease, track the course of it, become aware of the symptoms, overt and subtle, before deciding what action we might be willing to take. Consider this:

    • Slavery existed in this country from 1619 to 1865
    • Legal segregation followed from 1865 – 1964
    • The Civil Rights Act banning discrimination on the basis of race was passed in 1964

    That’s a long time to be dealing with a chronic dis-ease. The diagnosis is clear but the treatment is complicated. We can view the Civil Rights Act as an attempt to manage the symptoms, but it has not and cannot cure the dis-ease.

    When we accept the fact of the diagnosis and the truth of the condition, we can start the healing within ourselves to bring clarity to our own clouded perceptions, blind spots, prejudices and implicit biases (we all have them). Then we can:

    Face it. Sometimes we need to take a step back and examine the presence of diversity and inclusion in our own lives. How diverse are our schools? Neighborhoods? Places of work? Friends? Social settings? If they are not we need to ask ourselves why.

    Trace it. Understand how and why it exists, and how and why we may be ignoring or denying this reality.

    Embrace it. Accept that it is unpleasant, and upsetting. We will need to sit with this discomfort because it is our current reality.

    Replace it. Consciously take right action in whatever form we choose.

    This process starts with each of us.

    I recently joined a peaceful protest in my town. It looked like many that we see on television – large, diverse and calling for change. When asked what actions we could take to make a difference, the speaker said, “If you see something, say something, and then do something.”

    Here are three things we can do.

    1. VOTE in November. The yoga community is doing its part to help. Find out more at: https://www.yoginsunited.com/vote

    2. Do your research. You can donate to relevant organizations, join grass roots efforts or volunteer with programs that offer direct help. Here’s an excellent resource guide prepared by my colleague and friend Laura Kupperman (https://laurakupperman.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/AntiRacismResources_LKupperman.pdf )

    3. ​To increase mental clarity and openness to transformation, Joseph LePage’s book, Mudras for Healing and Transformation recommends Shunya Mudra.

    Shunya Mudra

    Instructions
    1. Find a comfortable seat.
    2. Bend the middle fingers down to touch the mounds at the base of the thumbs.
    3. Use the thumbs to hold the middle fingers in place.
    4. Rest the backs of the hands onto the knees or thighs.
    5. Relax the shoulders back and down, with the spine comfortably aligned.
    6. Hold for two – five minutes or longer if comfortable
    Cautions: none.
    “Clarity affords focus.”  â€” Thomas Leonard
  • Sitting in the Fire
    06 July 2020
    Photo: krystle mikaere on unsplash
    “What is to give light must endure burning”. - Viktor Frankl

    Dear friends, especially those of us who believe ourselves to be white:

    Now is the time to sit in the fire. To do less talking and more listening. To seek out books and films and articles that raise up Black voices and their lived experiences of others. To lean into uncomfortable conversations. To give up the enterprise of being a good person by virtue of being nice and kind. To feel in our bones the weight and the trauma of collective and ancestral grief.

    We can choose love over safety. We can train ourselves to sit with discomfort. We can sit in the fire so our ignorance and complacency and privilege are illuminated and transformed.

    What would it mean to commit to being an antiracist? What if we acted to:

    actively promote policies that create a society where all groups are treated equally?
    exercise radical imagination about systems of public safety, public health, and public education?
    show up vulnerable and willing to learn from the mistakes we will absolutely make? (Do we want to be right or learn how to do it right?)

    There’s a new world busy being born. It’s around me and coming through me. Birth is hard and messy and there is no going back, no controlling the contractions, no guarantee of a healthy delivery. With power and love, we have to do our own work and participate in collective action.

    In many ways, this is a moment I have longed for, a reckoning long overdue. An animating principle of my work has been the notion that when we make our most important issues discussable, we can figure them out together. We need to face our history of slavery and anti-Blackness if we are to become a fair and inclusive society.

    Let’s stop asking Black people to explain things to us. Let’s commit to our own ongoing self-study and self-reflection. What new frameworks can change the lens through which we see? What history do we need to learn and unlearn? Whose stories will break open our hearts and minds and expand our sense of beloved community?

    I offer some resources below. If you have others, send them on.


    Steady and Ready
    In May, I wrote about warrior training during the quarantine restrictions and the loss and suffering around us. That grief and uncertainty continue and compound. Add to that: protests around the world with young people out in front demanding change, a hard-hit economy, and the 2020 election with voting rights and democracy under siege.

    We are called to stay vigilant, resilient, and engaged. We have to be disciplined in embodied practices that allow us to keep moving forward from a centered presence and to recover when we lose our balance.


    On the Mat
    Pranayama, the art and science of working with the breath, conscious prolongation of inhalation, retention and exhalation, is one of the 8 limbs of Yoga. In Light on Pranayama, Mr. Iyengar writes that "the practice of pranayama develops a steady mind, strong will power and sound judgment." Working with the breath is a powerful and simple way to calm the mind, train the attention, and strengthen our immune system. Bonus Feature: No gear or travel required!


    Calming Breath/4-4-8 Practice
    Sit comfortably with your spine erect and your knees over your ankles. Inhale gently to a count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for a count of 8. Do five rounds and return to normal breathing. Working with the breath trains our attention, and an exhalation longer than the inhalation activates our parasympathetic nervous system, triggering the rest and relax response.


    Take a minute/12 breath Practice
    Before you start a meeting or conversation, invite a moment (literally 60 seconds!) to come to stillness. Sit quietly with a vertical spine and breathe, gently following the breath as your chest expands on the inhalation and your belly receives the out-breath. Notice how interactions become more spacious.


    RESOURCES
    LP Picks: These resources have been valuable as I educate myself on how to be an antiracist.


    Podcasts
    The Ezra Klein Show - Why Ta-Nehisi Coates is hopeful (on Vox, or listen on Apple Podcasts here)
    Unlocking Us - Brené Brown in conversation with Austin Channing Brown on I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
    On Being - Krista Tippett writes movingly here about the journey of coming to terms with white privilege and interviews Eula May Bliss. She also sits down with therapist and trauma specialist Resmaa Menekem.
    Fresh Air - Terry Gross in conversation with James Nestor, author of Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
    Books
    Ibram X. Kendi - How to Be an Antiracist (the board book version, Antiracist Baby, dropped yesterday)
    Robin DiAngelo, PhD - White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism
    Film
    I Am Not Your Negro about the wise and beautiful James Baldwin
    Song
    Ella's Song - Lyrics and music by Bernice Johnson Reagon, sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock
    Link to this article on Laura’s website:

    Let us stay strong and woke with love and rage. Let me know what you're reading and noticing at laurapeck.co
    Laura is a leadership coach, facilitator, and midwife with over 30 years of experience working with leaders committed to embodied leadership and social justice.  She operates from a belief that that when we make our most important issues discussable, we can figure them out together.
  • Behind the Scenes to Side Crow (Parsva Bakasana)
    06 July 2020
     

    Note: This uses affiliate links to share great products and brands with you. These products are personal favorites and brands I love.  By clicking on these links, the site makes a small percentage in commission to help me continue inspiring you on your path to health and wellness! Thanks for your support! 

    Side crow pose-Parsva Bakasana, it’s one of those majestic yoga poses, right?

    Sure. It’s beautiful and impressive but it also has a purpose. Like crow pose, side crow takes strength and focus. Strength in order to hold yourself up. Focus in order to keep yourself from falling flat on your face!

    Side crow works the whole core, which is great for your midsection. It also improves strength in the arms and twists your abdomen which creates a detoxing effect in the body. It may seem a little intimidating but with some warming up, strength work and a little practice you’ll start flying in no time.

       Yoga & Strength:

    Yoga is a great way to start building whole body strength with little or no equipment. It’s as simple as using your bodyweight to build strength. It’s not as fast as pumping iron (weight training) but it can build muscle and strength slowly, espeically when you’re just starting out or coming back after a long break.

    Plus increasing core strength alone will reduce back pain, combat the effects of sitting for long periods (hello, desk workers) and might even improve your body image. Improving abdominal strength is important for movement as well as balance.

    Beginners Tips:

    Don’t be afraid to use props. A block or two and a pillow may come in handy. Props are tools that can be used to make a pose easier or more difficult depending on how you use them. In this case, blocks can be used to make your feet higher or used to support the feet (see pictures below). A pillow can be placed in front of the hands for a softer landing in the event of falling. Don’t worry, you will only be a few inches from the floor but sometimes it’s nice to land on something padded.

     

    Core strength takes time. If you’re just building up strength in your arms and core, it will take a little time to work toward arm balances but stick with it and it will get easier.

    Warm up and keep practicing! Warming up the body with prep poses is important. It helps prepare the body for more movement. Remember everyday is different. Honor where you are in the moment and know that it will change.

    Behind the Scenes to Side Crow:

    Below you will find some great ways to start building more core and arm strength for side crow or other arm balances. If you’re interested in a 50 minute class that works toward side crow click on the audio below.

       

    Supine ab work:

       

    TVA & Inner thigh activation: Lay on your back with a block or pillow placed in between your upper thighs. Squeeze the block (pillow) to engage the inner thighs. Press your low back against the floor to activate the TVA (transverse abdominis). Hold a few seconds or breaths. Repeat a 2-5 times.

       

    Reclining twist: Continue to squeeze the block (pillow) and lift the feet up so the shins are parallel to the sky. Keep the TVA engaged, exhale releasing the knees to the right. Inhale bringing the knees to the center and release the the left. Repeat 3 -5 times.

       

    Reclined side crow crunches: Remove the block (pillow) and bring knees up with shins parallel to the sky. Reach the arms up toward the sky and either keep the back of the head resting on the earth or lift the head up (Note: if you find that the abs are doming when the head is lifted, release the head to the earth). Exhale and reach both arms to the outside of the right leg (as far right as you can-try to get the left elbow to the outside of the right knee). Inhale back to the center and reach arms to the left. Repeat each side 3-5 times.

    Twists to prep the torso:

       

    Revolved chair pose (Parivrtta Utkatasana): Stand with feet inner hip distance or big toes touching. Inhale reaching the arms over head while bending the knees and sitting the hips back (utkatasana-chair pose). Hold a breath to get comfortable. Inhale bringing the hands to heart center. On an exhale twist the torso to the right, hold a breath. Hook the left elbow to the outside of the right knee. Be sure to use the abs & spine to twist not the arms. Maybe try opening the arms and working the right knee up the left arm. Switch sides after a few breaths.

       

    Revolved side angle (Parivrtta Parsvakonasana): From downward dog, step the right foot forward, inhale reaching the arms up overhead, Anjaneyasana-crescent lunge. Exhale twist the torso to the right. Lean the left hand forward placing it to the outside (or inside or on a block) of the right foot, reaching the right arm up. Hold a breath and release. Repeat side two.

       

    Core & arm strengtheners:

       

    Plank pose variations: From downward dog roll your torso forward into plank pose with shoulders over the wrists. (Option to bring the knees down to modify) Squeeze the bum, press the mat away with the arms and pull the bellybutton in. Lift the right toes off the earth, maybe bring the right knee to the right tricep. Hold for 3-5 breaths. Come back to plank and repeat on the second side.

      Video Block Double-click here to add a video by URL or embed code. Learn more  

    Downward facing dog to plank: Come into downward facing dog pose. Press the hands into the mat while pulling the bellybutton in. Exhale rolling into plank pose. Inhale and hold. Exhale press back to downward facing dog. Continue here for 5-10 rounds and pause in downward facing dog.

       

    Crow pose (Bakasana): From downward facing dog pose, step the feet behind the hands. Lean into the hands and grip the earth with the palms and fingers. Keep leaning into the hands as you place the right knee on the right upper arm (an inch to a few inches above the elbow). Do the same with the left knee.  Hug the inner thighs toward each other and bellybutton in and up. Start to lean even more into the hands as you lift one or both feet. Hold as long as you can. Gently release feet to the floor and fold forward or take child’s pose.

    Finally Fly your Side Crow-Parsva Bakasana

    Once you’ve worked the poses above and you feel warm and ready, start to work into side crow. I like to come into it from revolved chair but you can also squat to come into side crow.

       

    Chair pose to side crow: Start in chair pose with hands at heart center. Inhale extending out through the crown of the head. Exhale and twist to the right, hooking the left elbow to the outside of the right knee. Inhale opening the arms, exhale twisting a little deeper. Place the hands to the right side and lean into the hands as you lift your feet. Play with this and try the other side.

       

    Low squat to side crow: With feet inner hip distance, squat low (maybe even with feet on blocks to help facilitate), twist the torso to the right. Bring the left arm to the outside of the right knee, continuing to twist to the right. Place the hands on the floor, leaning into the hands and lifting one foot and then the other.

    Give it a go. Let me know how it goes and please share this post with others!

       

    Disclaimer: The information on this website is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for medical treatment or hands on instruction.  If you are experiencing any severe pain or symptoms, please consult a healthcare practitioner.

    Sources:

    https://www.livestrong.com/article/239124-does-yoga-count-as-strength-training/

    https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/core-exercises/art-20044751

     

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  • Chair Yoga: July 14,
    05 July 2020
    Chair Yoga

    Discover how yoga postures can be adapted to a practice in a chair and experience how to renew fully- body and mind. This is open to all people of all skill levels.

    Chair Yoga
    Tue, July 7, at 9a
    Weekly Pass // $10 Walk-In
    JOIN THE CLASS

    Chair Yoga is very appropriate for anyone who:
    (a) sits in a chair or at a desk for portions of the day,
    (b) has tight hips or back,
    (c) wants to learn new adaptations or modifications of poses,
    (d) has limited mobility.

    That’s right – you get the idea – essentially it is for everyone.

    Hope you will join us!!

  • Phenomenal Incredible Yoga Program Physical Therapy + Strong Yoga 2
    05 July 2020
    This content is for Studio AK Monthly Membership and Studio AK Yearly Membership members only. Visit the site and log in/register to read.
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    05 July 2020
    Let's tend to our skin today, shall we?
  • Headstand
    05 July 2020

    Sirsasana July 2020

    As I do this handstand training on omstars.com, headstand becomes interesting again.

    To hold this pose at least up to five minutes will surely better the ability to balance.

    During the closing sequence of Ashtanga Yoga, after the second series, headstand is done a bit differently than on the picture. One shall lift the head. The chin moves to the chest. I found very very few videos on that movement. Kino had produced one. In order to lift the head, the arms must lift the body. this creates room for the head. This tiny movement requires a lot of strength. To bring the chin to the chest is not a huge movement, yet it’s a challenge.

    1. Every asana gets more difficult when held longer.

    2. For most asanas variations can be exercised that are more challenging.

    3. How to get into an asana can be easy or difficult. To get into headstand with straight legs is surely more challenging than getting into the pose with bent legs.

    Headstand can be rather relaxing.

    How to balance:

    1. The finger hold the head.

    2. The arm position must be correct. It’s often said that the elbows shall form a triangle. Very often yogis have the elbows too far away from each other. My arms are rather parallel.

    3. An even breath helps to balance.

    4. Calm eyes help to balance.

    5. The bandhas (abdomen and pelvis floor) shall be engaged. This gives a certain lightness.

    6. Pressing the wrists against the floor stabilizes the pose as well.

    Last year I went to Sivananda yoga. They always do handstand in the beginning of the asana series. They hold sirsasana rather long and do variations. Sirsasana is such a classic asana it’s worth to get to know this pose a bit better.

    I knew a person who did only headstand, no other asana. He has found his asana, for sure.

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    05 July 2020
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  • The strength of an open heart
    05 July 2020
    The strength of an open heart
    You cannot be open to fully feel love⠀ And all its beauty ⠀ Until you can be open to fully feel pain⠀ In all its sorrow⠀ In the strength of my heart⠀ I saw the fragility of yours⠀ ⠀ — Christine Evangelou

     

    It’s a full moon today and guess what? Integration of the polarities remains the theme. This full moon is inviting us to speak openly and honestly about our feelings, to express ourselves daring to be vulnerable. We are all way more strong than we can imagine, and so much of this strength lies in our ability to be vulnerable and to show our emotions.

      Speak about your feelings

    One of the things we all need to come to terms with is that we can never force anyone to see things the way we do, and we can’t blame them for seeing things differently either. If we stay stuck on that level, we just keep on fighting. But what we can do is speak about our feelings, share what is living inside of us with those who are close to us, sharing our needs, fears, joy and sorrow.

      Good ground to resolve issues

    This full moon is giving you a good ground to resolve issues in your relationships, you’re encouraged to share your heart. But please bear in mind that when you express your feelings to try and not blame your partner, friend, son or daughter, whoever you feel the need to share with, for your feelings. Sure, you can share how something someone has said or done has upset you, you can draw the line, but see if you can take a step closer to your own feelings instead of making them responsible for how you feel.

      Checking in

    For example, let’s say your partner made a downgrading remark about the way you look and this made you feel very insecure. Before you start the conversation check in with yourself, why does it make you feel so insecure?  Can you trace back this insecurity to earlier events in your life? How does this insecurity make you feel, what kind of thoughts do they trigger, how do these thoughts amplify your sense of insecurity and your resentment towards your partner, or your sadness or anger.

      Meet in the middle

    Can you see what kind of behaviour these feelings trigger in you? Passive aggressive remarks, silent treatment, internal retreat, slamming doors, leaving, yelling, etc. If you are willing to share about this honestly, today is a great day to do so. Remember, not to blame your partner, or to convince them that you are right and they are wrong, but to meet each other in the middle, in the heart.

      Ask permission

    First of all, ask the person you wish to talk to if they have the time and the willingness to have a conversation, you need to ask permission to enter their space, that is the best ground to start an open sharing.

    To avoid your partner from feeling attacked you can tell them: Your remark triggered a lot of insecurity in me and that was pretty tough. Feelings of shame, anger, sadness, inferiority, etc. arose and this made me feel such and such. These kinds of feelings make me behave in such and such way. You can also share how you see these feelings are related to something from the past.

      In love

    When you formulate it in this way, you do share about your feelings but you are not making them responsible anymore, you are taking back your power and through your honest sharing, exposing the mechanism inside of you, you liberate a lot of energy that you would normally invest in this pattern. This energy is now released and flowing back to you and this can be very cathartic. It can make you feel in love with yourself and once you love yourself there is endless love to share.

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