Category Archives: All Things Yoga

Helping you to purr through the universe

Meet February’s Yoga Teacher of the Month : Tarryn James

The Yoga Journey all began back in 2013.

Tarryn walked into a Vinyasa class at her local gym with the aim of gaining flexibility, and instead, when she walked out she had gained something else. ( Not weight, keep reading)

She left the studio with much more than a stretch – she left with a sense of discovery, a drive… a curiosity, so she continued to practice yoga through her days at the University of Pretoria, at the gym and following YouTube videos. After years of playing sports such as provincial touch rugby and university hockey, she knew her body needed a change, and Yoga gave her that sense of change.

Tarryn found comfort in the practice of yoga.
It was the only place I could turn to in difficult times, when anxiety struck and when I didn’t quite feel like myself.
It was the place where she could find herself, yet lose herself at the same time.
Tarryn completed her Yoga Teacher Training in 2016 and has not stopped learning since. As a qualified Occupational Therapist, her knowledge of injuries and anatomy has helped her to treat every student as an individual..
One of Tarryn’s many other passions lies in Musical Theatre. As a singer, dancer and actress, she is always fascinated by how yoga has helped her grow; in her physical, mental and emotional self. The holistic approach of mind, body and soul is always the focus.
She has a passion for developing the yoga community and started the initiative Yoga South Africa to build awareness within her country. Yoga South Africa has grown tremendously and she couldn’t be more proud to be involved with this community.
And I think I can speak for us in the community, we are super proud to have YOU in it! I mean damn! ( I think I need to diversify myself a bit, clearly i’m slacking! )
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Lets see what we spoke about?
Trust, you’ll be as blown away as what I was!
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1. Tell us about your practice style and how you chose your Yoga method.

My practice is mostly in the style of vinyasa. I like to keep a strong basis on alignment as well as bring a bit of playfulness through arm balances and inversions. I think my style is largely influenced by my first yoga teachers, who presented a strong yet thoughtful flow. I really focus on bringing in creative sequencing that allow my students to become completely mindful when they move through the postures. I have always liked to try different styles and have practiced ashtanga, bikram and yin yoga. I do believe there is an importance in bringing variety into your practice – mixing it up between strength and flexibility, fast and slow etc. Some days I like a very challenging power yoga class and some days I just spend it in longer yin yoga poses. Variety is key and I think it is important to allow your body to experience those different styles of yoga.

2. What is your mind-set when you step onto the mat?

It varies so much. Most of the time when I DON’T feel like stepping onto my mat, is the time I usually do. While teaching yoga and balancing the other demands of life, it becomes tricky to dedicate time to my self practice. There are days when I am super motivated to practice, to learn and to challenge myself. But on other days I need something a bit more restorative, a place to just breathe and relax. Stepping on to my mat is like coming home. I have always said that yoga is a way of finding yourself, yet losing yourself at the same time. Whenever I feel worries, or stressed, or overwhelmed; I practice. When I am happy and excited, I also practice. There is never a non-yoga moment, and that’s what I love about it.

3. What led you to become a Yoga Teacher?

I had been practicing yoga since my varsity years, while I was studying Occupational Therapy at the University of Pretoria. While completing my community service year I had the drive to keep learning, and I knew a natural progression would be to do my teacher training. I was interested in developing my own personal knowledge when it came to yoga, but I also wanted to share my passion with others. At that stage, I was practicing yoga with Eon Swiegers, who I regard to be one of the best teachers in South Africa. When I found out he was offering a teacher training it was as if the universe had just aligned 😉 I signed up immediately and I am so grateful to have done my training with someone that I have the greatest amount of respect for. I look forward to advancing my knowledge and skills and hope to complete my 500hour teacher training one day.

4. What was it like teaching your first class?

When I was completing my teacher training, Eon (my trainer) had suggested we started teaching as soon as possible. I started offering free classes in my house for some of my friends. It was such a wonderful way to learn. The environment was so supportive and welcoming – and fun being with all my friends! To see them grow in their practice was so motivating and that is when I knew that being a yoga teacher is such an honor. After I qualified, I started teaching at studios and that’s when I started becoming nervous! Although intimidated, I was confident that I could offer something new to the students. I always strive to be approachable and welcoming in my practice and have found that that has led to me connecting more to my students. I have only been teaching for 18 months and each day I learn. I still make mistakes in a class but that’s how you grow as a teacher.

5. What insight have you gained whilst teaching yoga?

Wow – so much! Each day I am learning. I consistently try to attend classes in new styles, with new teachers. The best way I learn is from experiencing. Cape Town has some of the most amazing teachers and by simply attending one class, there is so much you can take from it. I also do a lot of YouTube yoga videos with international teachers and it is interesting to note how they teach differently or what they offer. When I am doing self-practice, I try to be more mindful about what my body is doing – and I use that to instruct and cue when in a yoga class. On more than a physical level, I have learned the importance of meditation and mindfulness. As someone who gets easily overwhelmed, I look forward to those moments of stillness where I can just turn inwards. Meditation is something I really only became comfortable with once becoming a yoga teacher. It is a skill I am still working on but it is so rewarding.

6. Has Yoga changed the way that you connect with your body?

Yes. Yoga has taught me a lot of self love. It has taught me to appreciate the space I am in, without any judgement. I am in aware of all the amazing things my body can do, that I try not to waste time on thinking about the negatives. Yoga teaches you to honor your body, your breath and your mind. For many of us that is a challenge. I struggle with it too and that is why it is such a long journey. I am constantly working on self-awareness and acceptance and yoga is a big part of that.

7. What is the most rewarding aspect of teaching Yoga?

The release. My favorite part about teaching a yoga class is seeing everyone come out of savasana with those look of complete rest on their face. Every now and then you might catch a little smile. That look of complete joy, ease… release. I live for that moment at the end of the class. I also enjoy the little moments of progress in the students. I love watching how each person grows in their progress- whether its achieving a new pose they never thought they would be able to do. Or even just the belief that they start to develop in themselves. People arrive on their mat each time to honor their journey. Whether its something physical, emotional or spiritual – there is always something that they are learning and I am so grateful to be a part of their journey,

8. Has Yoga changed your day to day lifestyle?

Definitely. Since becoming a yoga teacher, I practice a lot more. Sometimes I teach 3 classes a day and will still try to include a self practice. The feeling that I get from spending time on my mat completely changes my attitude for the rest of the day. Some days I get to start the day with a 15 minute meditation, other days I only squeeze in a practice in the afternoon. For those moments in between I try to bring yoga into every day moments; deep breaths, practicing patience, being mindful… I try to live yoga on and off the mat.

9. What advice do you have for students who are intimidated by difficult Yoga poses?

Patience. These days it is so easy to get caught up in the idea of “what yoga is supposed to look like”. We are constantly seeing instagram photos and yoga videos of amazing bodies doing all kinds of weird and wonderful things with their body. It is important to note that that is not all what yoga is about. Yoga is about doing what YOUR body is able to do. It is about challenging yourself within same parameters, in an environment that you feel comfortable in. It is important to find a studio or a teacher  that you really resonate with. By starting off with a beginners class, you will learn the basics and start feeling comfortable with Sanskrit (yoga terminology), your body, as well as a class environment. I started yoga on YouTube and found that was great for me. Some people need more guidance and that is also OK. It is important to highlight that yoga is not a spring, its not even a marathon, it is a way of life. Postures will happen when your body is ready for it. So while you get there, breathe and enjoy it.

10. One piece of advice do you have for aspiring Yoga Teachers?

Self Practice & Give your all. In each class I strive to give my very best to those students. Even when I am tired, or frustrated, those students have taken time out of their day to practice. In respect of them, I try to give them the best teaching I can. Focus on each student as an individual and guide them through. That is why they are coming to your class – to learn, to be guided, to experience your teaching. I try my very best to meet each person on whatever level they are at and work through their journey with them, at their pace. Self practice is so beneficial to you. Once you start understanding your body in yoga and build up your observational skills in a class, then you will be able to incorporate this into your teaching. Self practice facilitates learning, and continuous development and stimulation is important for a teacher.

11. What is your favorite food?

Peanut butter for sure!! Since becoming vegan about 2 years ago I live off of this. Peanut butter on toast, in smoothies, by the tablespoon… everywhere. I cant get enough <3

12. What is your favorite Quote?

“You will get there when you are meant to get there, and not a moment sooner. So trust your path, breathe, and be patient”

“Happy teachers will change the world” – Thicht Nhat Hanh

“Always be a work in progress”

“Everything you need, your courage, your strength , compassion and love, everything you need is already within you.”.

AM I RIGHT OR AM I RIGHT?

This woman is bloody amazing!

Oh and Tarryn has the cutest Doggo ever!

 

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Meet February’s Yogi of the Month : Carmen van Reenen

 

Accountant by day.  Yogi, photographer, wife and cat mom by night.

She loves movement. Yoga, dance and even running.  She loves challenging herself.

Best of all, Yoga and dance have always been a part of her life and her journey will continue on.  Carmen has  completed a 250hour vinyasa teacher training in 2012 to deepen her yoga knowledge.

Besides that she even has a passion for anatomy and is looking to further her studies in this field, as she is fascinated by the human body and its capabilities. Needless to say Carmen has definitely caught our attention!

Being a photographer , Carmen loves outdoor scenery, the beach and the ocean. And as a photographer, she is fond of capturing the beauty of others and to show them a side of themselves they hadn’t seen.

“The asana of yoga is so beautiful to me as a photographer.”

Given this small amount of information, we were already falling in love with this woman, and were at the edge of our seats to find out more! ( I’m sure you are too! ). So we conducted a interview with Carmen:

 

1.Tell us about your practice style and how you chose your Yoga method.

I started out with straight up Hatha.  That’s going back to my teens.  I eventually found Vinyasa yoga which I was drawn to because of my dance background, I love the flow.  I couple of years ago I stated practicing Ashtanga as well.  I enjoy the “discipline” of this style and I also feel like it helps develop your practice no matter which is your “main style”.

2. What is your mind-set when you step onto the mat?

Honestly just taking a time out for myself.  I have a busy lifestyle and even if I can only get a twenty or thirty minute practice in, I have to have it.  Wanna see me in a bad mood?  Mess with my yoga time!

3.Besides Yoga, what other forms of exercise do you enjoy participating in regularly?

I regularly attend Zumba classes to get my dance on.  It’s nice to just shake it out once a week and maybe even have a laugh at yourself.  I did a lot of running at a stage.  I pulled back from it a lot because of how it tightens your hips and hamstrings (a no no for yoga), but I do want to get back into trail running again just with shorter distances and maybe take it more leisurely.

4.Has Yoga changed the way you connect with your body? If so please elaborate.

Oh definitely!   For one thing I’m definitely more accepting of my body.  If I feel good and strong on my mat then I feel good about my body.

5.How has this practice helped you overcome fear?

 Lol, it’s helped me overcome the fear of face planting!  Some of more advanced stuff you can’t do without falling a few times first.  Or at least I can’t.  So I always say you need to learn to fall first.  We can translate that into everyday day life right?  Every day we learn new things and when we fall, we have pick ourselves back up and try again.  I may have gone a bit off topic J

6.Has Yoga changed your day to day lifestyle?

Most definitely!  I always say yoga is a lifestyle!  You just become so much more aware of everything from what you eat to how you treat your environment.   You also start to gain a better perspective of what’s important in life.

7.How and why did you start Yoga?

Going back again to my dance background, there is a bit of a cross over.  And at the same time my grandparent and mom used to do yoga.  My Gran had this book, a 28 day yoga exercise plan that we all used to do yoga from.

8.Are you self-taught? Or who was your greatest mentor/teacher?

Building on how I started yoga, yes I am self taught.  Back when I started practicing yoga there weren’t yoga teachers around.  At least not in the small dorpie I come from.  I’m going back about 20 odd years ago, so you can just imagine.  I used the books I could get hold of and videos to teach myself, but again my dance background helped as there was already body awareness and a bit of alignment and just a certain way of moving built into me.  I had an amazing Dance Teacher growing up.

9.What advice would you give to a beginner Yogi?

Keep showing up every day.  Get on your yoga mat every day, even if you don’t feel like it.  Do as little as ten minutes.  Chances are ten minutes will quickly turn into twenty or thirty minutes, and if you still aren’t feeling it after ten minutes, that’s OK because you showed up!

10.What time of the day and where do you feel most relaxed?

I think at the end of day.  I mentioned I have a busy schedule so it’s all go, go, go from the moment I wake up, so at the end of day I can relax.  Although I have a regular home practice, my weekly Ashtanga class is also a place to relax and escape from everyday life and technology.

11.What is your favorite food?

Um, pizza J  I love a good wood-fire pizza.

12.What is your favorite Quote?

Something my Ashtanga teacher Jen says in class which originates from her time with Guruji “Slowly, slowly,  all is coming”.  Life is so fast paced nowadays and we live in the age of instant gratification, so it’s so important to have this reminder both on the mat and in daily life.

Oh and did I mention that shes a CAT LOVER?

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Yoga to beat down insomnia.

Struggling to sleep? Finding yourself up at 3 a.m. almost every morning? Thoughts trailing on for hours? I might have the perfect cure so that you can finally have the good night’s sleep you’ve been dreaming about. (See what I did there?)

Let me first explain to you what insomnia is.

Insomnia is merely (short to say to the average Joe) a lack of sleep caused by various factors.

This condition can be caused by psychiatric/medical conditions, unhealthy sleep habits, substance abuse, and/or biological factors. In the past few years, researchers have begun to think about insomnia as brain problem being that it is unable to stop being awake (your brain has a sleep cycle and a wake cycle—when one is turned on the other is turned off—insomnia can be a problem with either part of this cycle: too much wake drive or too little sleep drive). Before we get into how Yoga can fix this problem, lets first figure out why you may have insomnia.

Food:

Not only do we LOVE food, but little do we know this can have an effect on your sleeping patterns and ability to fall asleep.

  • So if you’re a drinker, this could be the reason why you can’t sleep. Reason being that alcohol is a sedative (so you’d think that this would help you sleep?), this can’t make you tired, but will disrupt your sleep later on in the night. This may not be the case as some people tend to sleep like a rock after an odd knock. But if you’re a trained drinker (on the daily) this might be something to look into.
  • Caffeine should 100%, definitely be a no before bed.  Caffeine is a stimulant (in other words gives you energy to stay awake. If you drink A LOT of coffee a day (like more than 4 cups), here’s your problem.
  • Nicotine is also a stimulant and can cause insomnia. Smoking close to bedtime can cause insomnia, or contribute to an interrupted sleep.
  • Heavy meals close to bedtime can and will disrupt your sleep. Rule of thumb is that you should eat lighter meals at night and no carbs after 4 in the evening. When you eat too much in the evening makes it hard for your body to settle. Spicy foods can also cause heartburn and interfere with your sleep.

Lifestyle:

Insomnia can be triggered by your behaviours and sleep patterns. Unhealthy lifestyles and sleep habits can create insomnia on their own (without any other underlying psychiatric or medical problem), or they can make insomnia caused by another problem worse.

Examples of how specific lifestyles and sleep habits can lead to insomnia are:

  • Working from home at night. When your home should be your relaxing place after a long day at work, you’re creating an environment which is telling your brain to stay active and alert; you’ll also go to bed thinking about work, which will cause an interrupted sleep.
  • You sometimes sleep in later to make up for lost sleep. This can confuse your body’s clock and make it difficult to fall asleep again the following night.
  • If you work irregular hours. Non-traditional hours can confuse your mind and body’s clock, especially if you are trying to sleep during the day, or if your schedule changes periodically.
  • Once this happens, worry and thoughts such as, “I’ll never sleep,” become associated with bedtime, and every time the person can’t sleep, it reinforces the pattern.

This is why it’s important to address insomnia instead of letting it become normal part of your life. If your insomnia is caused by an unhealthy lifestyle and bad sleeping habits and if you have tried to change your sleep behaviours and it hasn’t worked, it’s important to take this seriously and talk to a doctor.

Depression and anxiety:

Psychological struggles can make it hard to sleep, as insomnia can bring on changes in mood, and shifts in hormones and physiology can lead to both psychiatric issues and insomnia at the same time.

  • Sleep problems may be indicated as a symptom of depression. Studies show that insomnia can also trigger or worsen depression.
  • Most adults have trouble sleeping, due to nervousness, but for some it’s a pattern that interferes with sleep on a regular basis.
  • Anxiety patterns such as: Tension, overthinking, excessive worrying, and feeling overwhelmed, are huge contributors to insomnia.

 

Finally! Let’s talk about my Yoga secret.

Now that you understand what could be causing your insomnia, you may have a slight idea on how to better your sleeps at night, along with my Yoga routine.

Implement these poses into your pre-bedtime routine to beat your sleepless nights, so that you can finally have well-rested, productive days.

  1. Standing forward bend

As explained by the name itself, all this pose entails is for you bend forward from a standing position.

  • You can have your legs together or shoulder width apart, but make sure you bend forward from the hips with a straight back.

This pose stretches out those hammies, which tend to tighten as the day progresses. This pose is also effective when it comes to calming and soothing your mind.

  1. Head to knee forward bend
  • Start by sitting upright with your legs straight out in front of you.
  • Bend your right leg in so that your right foot touches the inside of your left leg.
  • Bend forward from your hips as far as you can go, grabbing around your left foot if possible.
  • Drop your head to touch your knee if you’re flexible enough, otherwise just go down as far as possible.
  • If you can’t reach your toes, place your hands on the floor on either side of your left leg.
  • Hold for a few second and then switch legs.

This will release tension and stretch out each of your legs, ultimately allowing you to relax.

  1. Downward facing dog

One of the most practiced poses; downward dog is not only calming, but its rejuvenating as well.

  • Start on your hands and knees, with your toes curled under.
  • Straighten your arms whilst relaxing your back, and lift your knees off the floor.
  • Your legs can be straight or have a bend slightly, sinking your heels towards the floor.
  • Press into the ground with your fingers spread, and lift your pelvis, bringing your shoulder blades into your upper back.
  • Draw your chest towards your thighs, lift your sit bone high, and relax your head without letting it go loose.
  1. Bridge pose
  • For bridge pose, begin lying on your back with your knees bent hip-width apart, and arms out beside your body.
  • Raise your hips and pelvis whilst engaging your legs, and roll your spine off the floor.
  • Lift up your chest by pushing your arms and shoulders into the floor.
  • Bring your hands together and clasp them underneath your body.

This restorative pose will help you relax while strengthening your legs and core at the same time.

  1. Cat pose

The Cat pose is so simple, yet provides such great, soothing results.

  • Begin on your hands and knees. You can curl your toes or keep the tops of your feet flat on the ground.
  • Round your spine and engage your abs, pulling your belly button in towards your spine.
  • Press down into the floor with your hands and relax your head.

This pose feels so good and aims to alleviate stress and anxiety. It also massages the spine and belly organs.

 

I hope this is enough to get your eyes shut and your energy levels up the next day!

Yours Truly

C.

 

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Self Love on Valentines Day!

Let’s practice self-love this valentine’s day!

Like every Valentine’s Day, we hope to be praised and adored, be showered with gifts and food, but are you ready to love yourself this Valentine’s Day?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing to be loved by friends, family, a significant other, but let’s get real with all of that love flowing in, why do we still feel oddly unsatisfied? Answer is: You need to love yourself first!

The feeling of something missing springs from the fact that if you don’t give yourself love and compassion, don’t you think it’s hard to believe that it can be deservingly received from someone else?

It’s not often done on purpose, actually it’s usually unnoticed, most of the time people forget to practice self-love because they are too busy loving others.

It’s not vain it’s beautiful.

So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day and the 4 letter word, we’ve come up with 4 ways to love yourself more!

1.Wake up the right way.

Set your alarm (with a peaceful tone: wind chimes for example)  10 minutes earlier than usual and start your day off with a 5 minute lie in bed (not 5 minutes of extra sleep)  followed by 5 minutes of stretching.

2.Morning Meditation

Just taking five minutes in morning is enough for the whole day, yes it is beneficial. Meditation brings you to a place of love, strength and power.

Obviously it’s a very good trait to have and being honest with people around you is a must! But being honest with yourself should be vital in your day to day. Accept responsibility for your own decisions. Being honest with yourself will also improve your relationships with those around you

3. Eat mood boosting foods!

Diets rich with Omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon, flaxseeds, and hemp) reduce inflammation in our brain and help improve our moods. “Similarly, spinach, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts are bursting with folate, a nutrient linked to lower depression rates.”

Of course, the wrong foods can wreak havoc on our self-image. Processed, packaged foods crammed with sugars and trans fats increase inflammation in our brain, our mood and stress levels take a hit.

4. As cliché as it sounds. Tell yourself you are an amazing human being every single day.

The more you say it, the more you’ll start to believe it. Practice kindness as being kind to others will also make you feel good about yourself, it’s an amazing self-esteem booster!

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Yoga Poses for Teens

From stress, to emotional and physical downfalls, and not knowing how to deal with them. Teenage years are commonly experienced and recognized as the most challenging period in one’s life.

Yoga, however has proven to restore peace, reduce impulsivity, increase patience, promote self-discipline, reduce stress and help build up one’s confidence physically as well as emotionally, thus proving to be very beneficial to teens and young adults during their “hormonal” years.

From doing as little as 15 minutes to as much as an hour of Yoga a day, can help teenagers improve their overall well-being.

These following yogasansas will help teens to unify the mind, body and soul.

The Warrior Pose

Also known as Virabhadrasana, increases flexibility in the hips, this pose also strengthens and tones the legs, ankles and feet. Working on the Warrior will help you kill all standing poses as well as hip openers. In this pose we get a twist for the spine, while the opening up the shoulders and the side body prepares us for back bends.

The Warrior Pose symbolizes our inner ability to overcome ego and ignorance. The warriors bring us strength, focus, confidence and courage.

Stand with both feet together then take your right foot one step back, in 90 degree angle, slowly stretch your hands up over your head and deepen the stretch slightly with each exhalation.

Remember to keep the length in the lower back. Many have the tendency for the pelvis to tilt forward in this pose making a stronger arch, or crunch, in the lower back. Please avoid this, rather than tucking the tailbone under, look to keep length in the lower back by ‘lifting the pit of the abdomen’ instead.

The Triangle Pose

Trikonasana. To make this pose easier to practice, one should use a block or chair. Practising this pose, helps shape a teens body as well as provide improvement on posture (well needed in today’s day and age.)

The triangle pose helps in stretching your thigh muscles, hipsas well as groin. Along with relieving stress, the Trikonasana provides relief from back pain and constipation while strengthening the back, hips, and thighs.

To do this pose, stand straight on your right leg and bend at the hip in such a way that your right hand reaches your shin or the floor. Rotate your shoulders slowly and repeat the process again on the other side. This posture will make you stronger and train you to do more difficult asanas.

 

Standing Forward Fold

Uttanasana. This pose places your head near your heart, which stimulates the body. It also relieves insomnia and headaches, not only that, but also improves your digestion and gets those kidneys activated!

This pose is fantastic with stretching the hammies and calves as well as increasing strength in your knees and thighs, it stretches your spine and helps develop those beautiful abs that we’re all wanting. This pose is also a pre-exam stress and anxiety reliever.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart then hinge forward from the hips and bend down slowly. When you pull your head down and push the hips up, you should feel your spine and hammies stretch. Bend your knees enough to allow your palms to touch the floor. Stay in this position for three to four breaths. Remember to use your belly to inhale and exhale. Release the position slowly – keeping the back straight, bend your knees slightly, and slowly pull pack into a standing position as you exhale.

When practising this pose, deter from locking your knees or rolling your shoulders and back when getting into formation.

 

The Downward Dog.

Energize that body!

As simple as the explanation comes.

This pose works the best when you’re all bright and breezy before breakfast time. If you have mild depression, this pose is for you! And if you experience fatigue, this pose is for you too!

To execute this pose, place your hands under your shoulders and knees hip-width apart on the floor (like a dog), spread those palms and slowly move your hands forward while pressing your fingers onto the mat to increase your grip. Curl your toes under and slowly push your hips upwards, to make an inverted V with your body. Your knees should not be touching the ground now, keep those knees slightly bent.

Stay in the position for three breaths, then release back into your original position.

 

Tree Pose

This pose proves to be excellent in releasing frustration and in building your mental power.

Place your feet together and make sure that you keep them fixed to the surface of the floor. Then slowly move your one leg in upward direction and hands in prayer position, above your shoulders. AND repeat with the other leg.

 

 

 

 

As you’ve probably realized from reading this post, Yoga provides many benefits for a growing teen, not just for the improvement of the body, but for the improvement of many other aspects that are crucial in their lives today.

So get cracking!

Thats all from me.

C

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