Category Archives: Yoga Essentials

Yoga for Lower Back Pain and Optimal Back Health


The lower back is a common area of pain and discomfort, especially as we get older. Lower back pain affects most of us at some point in our lives.  Its prevalence is increasing, due to the growing need for desk jobs, longer work days, less down time, more stress and anxiety, more travel and improper nutrition. However, if you learn how to take care of your back, you can maintain a healthy spine with a simple back care routine; one that teaches you how to strengthen your core muscles, relax your nervous system and encourage flexibility around the pelvis. A well-designed, regular program can be enough to help to heal lower back pain or even avoid it altogether!


One key to optimal lower back health is flexibility. It is important for everyone, regardless of age, to realize how essential stretching is for maintaining the body and overall wellbeing. If we don’t stretch, our muscles shorten over time. Muscle shortening gradually changes the positioning of our body, limiting movement and affecting posture. This can lead to changes in how you stand, walk, sit, move and feel in general. It can also lead to ligament damage, chronic muscle stiffness, discomfort and pain. It is important to note that most of the chronic, low-level inflammation and pain that people feel in their muscles and joints is the result of how they use their body, not how old they are.

Flexibility is particularly compromised if you sit for long periods of time. Sitting for hours over many days can lead to a wide range of problems, including digestive, heart and musculoskeletal problems. When you are sedentary, muscles that are essential for standing and moving can go completely unused for hours. When your abdominal muscles, hips and gluts remain flaccid for long periods, they become weak and sometimes even dysfunctional.  This affects your ability to stand, walk, run, jump and lift heavy objects. Because of the position you are in when sitting, other muscles, such as your hip flexors (psoas, quadriceps) and hamstrings, can become stiff and tight, since they are held in a chronically flexed position. Over time, these conditions make it easier for you to hurt your back, even while doing something simple like reaching for your jacket.


Stability is another key element to maintaining a healthy back. There is a specific group of muscles in your body that are responsible for providing stability within your entire body. Their location, action and design make them ideal for providing postural stability over long periods of time; they are built for endurance rather than power.  These muscles include the pelvic floor muscles (you’ve contracted these if you have done kegel exercises), the transverse abdominis, multifidus, psoas, trapezius and the deeper muscles around the throat.

Yoga activates most of these muscles through the bandhas – mula bandha, uddiyana bandha and jalandhara bandha. Mula bandha coincides with the pelvic floor and many believe that its contraction also initiates jalandhara bandha, or contraction of the transverse abdominis and multifidus. Together, they press energy up from the base of the spine, squeeze in around the waist and create a feeling of stability, lightness and a lifting sensation (uddiyana bandha translates into ‘upward flying’). The trapezius is a broad, triangular-shaped muscle that helps broaden the upper back and collar bone, lift the heart and maintain a healthy position for the shoulders, head and neck, in conjunction with the deeper throat muscles (jalandhara bandha). This effect can be felt in the instructions “lift the heart with the shoulder blades and lift the base of the skull at the back”.


Relaxation is the last, but certainly not the least, important factor in maintaining a pain-free lower back. The nervous system, which is responsible for the movement of our muscles and registering sensations, can also be responsible for muscle tension and resulting joint misalignment. If you are able to understand how to keep your nervous system calm, and maintain this over time, your muscles will remain relaxed over time and your joints will likely maintain a healthy range of motion.  Your mind will also remain calm, but this requires moment-to-moment mindfulness. The point is that the tension that you feel in your lower back – and the rest of your body for that matter – has a source. Yoga can help you to explore that source within yourself, through guided relaxation, yoga nidra or meditation. Do Yoga With Me has many guided meditations that you can try on our Meditations page.

Holistic Approach

Because strength, flexibility and relaxation are key elements for a healthy back, an effective approach to achieving and maintaining optimal spinal health must include them all. And because the state of your lower back depends on the health of all of the muscles around it – from your head to your feet – improving lower back health must take into account the entire body, with a stretching routine that not only includes lower back stretches, but all of the major muscle groups of the neck, shoulders, back, hips and legs, and a strengthening routine that includes all of the supporting muscle groups listed above.

Lower Back Care on DYWM

We have many videos that teach you how to work with lower back pain.  You can find instruction on how to relax deeply and how to stretch, stabilize, protect and maintain alignment in the lower back within a variety of videos on our site. In fact, we have created two Yoga for Lower Back Care programs, one 4-week program for beginners and one 1-week program for intermediate students, that will teach you the tools that you need to take good care of your back. Click on the links below to go directly to these two subscriber-only programs. If you are not a subscriber and would like access to these programs, go to our Subscribe page and choose the middle option.

Vinyasa Yoga for Lower Back Care (Fiji McAlpine, 1 week)

Beginner Yoga for Optimal Lower Back Health (various DYWM teachers, 4 weeks)


If you are looking to start out with one or two classes, here are a few that address specific needs within a yoga for lower back care routine – classes for core stability, lower back flexibility, relaxation and guided meditations for relaxation:

Beginner Core Stability Yoga Classes

The 3-Part Breath and Ujjayi Breathing with David Procyshyn (19:42)

Integrating the Breath and the Bandhas with David Procyshyn (14:17)

Finding Stability In All Poses with David Procyshyn (24:40)

Establishing Core Strength I with David Procyshyn (33:35) (subscriber-only)

Strengthen Your Core and Back with Anastasia Hangemanole (42:29)

Beginner Yoga Classes for Lower Back Flexibility

Gentle Hatha Yoga for Lower Back Pain with David Procyshyn (21:52)

Hatha Yoga to Release the Lower Back with David Procyshyn (50:38) (subscriber-only)

Yin Yoga for the Hamstrings with Sarah-Jane Steele (27:44) (subscriber-only)

Hatha Yoga for Beginners: A Healthy Spine with Melissa Krieger (22:44)

Yin Yoga for the Lower Back with Anastasia Hangemanole (33:28)

Beginner Yoga Classes for Relaxation

Calming Restorative Yoga with Satiya Channer (63:44)

Relaxing Deeply with David Procyshyn (38:04)

Restorative Yoga for the Lower Back with Satiya Channer (45:50)

Guided Meditations for Relaxation

Yoga Nidra with Jennifer Piercy (4 tracks)

Letting Go: Guided Meditations and Relaxations (5 tracks)

We wish you the best as you find ways to prevent or work with lower back pain. If you have any questions, feel free to connect with us on our forum.

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David Procyshyn

I’m a yoga instructor and DoYogaWithMe’s founder. I did my first yoga class in my early twenties, after successive injuries as an athlete and the yearning to go deeper into my spiritual practice. Since then, I have explored many different styles of yoga, delved deep into the world of meditation and experimented with yoga breathing techniques. I’ve never felt better. Yoga has absolutely changed my life, in so many ways. I hope this site can help you as much as yoga has helped me.

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Yin Yoga: A Yoga Practice Every Athlete Should Adopt

Sore muscles, injuries, over-extension of the body…if you’re an athlete then you’re no stranger to these. From running track to weight lifting, chances are you’ve experienced some type of injury or strain throughout your life. Injuries may be inevitable at one point or another, but what if I told you there is a practice even the most trained of athletes could adopt to prolong and minimize injury?

Enter Yin Yoga. A gentle, yet challenging, yoga practice that allows you to drop into your own body, listen, and be present with anything and everything that comes up, both physically and mentally. Yin is a seated, grounding practice, within which poses are held for 3-5 minutes in order to bring mobility to the joints and ligaments. By practicing this style of yoga, athletes are able to work deeper into the muscles to transform the way the body moves.

In most classes you see in Western yoga, students are working with their yang muscles, or power muscles, which can be similar to an athlete’s normal routine. When practicing yin yoga, students are asked to relax into postures, taking on a more passive approach to working through deep connective tissue and fascia in the body. Fascia, oh, juicy fascia, connects every part of our body together and by caring for your fascia, you are maximizing athletic performance and muscle flexibility.

Yin Yoga offers athletes a chance to find stillness in the mind and body. Given that poses are being held much longer than a yang-style yoga class, a student will notice everything under the sun come up in their mind and body. From sensation in the hips to thoughts about past experiences, yin allows these physical and mental emotions to rise and be released through the power of passive movement. When intimately working with the body by breaking through connective tissue, students will find themselves breaking through old emotional patterns and coming out of class stronger. Not only in the body, but in the mind as well.

Yin can be practiced at home or in a formal class setting, although it is recommended to start in a class where a teacher can hold space for your body and all that arises. If practicing at home, use these five postures to start transforming your body and athletic performance:

1)  Reclining Twist

Also known as Supine Twist, this posture is incredibly restorative for the back muscles, spine, and abdominal muscles. It’s important to note that both shoulders should be firmly against the ground so you are twisting from your mid-spine rather than your lower back.

 2) Square

Square, or fire log, is a juicy seated pose targeted at deeply opening and stretching your outer hips. With shins stacked upon each other, you can deepen the stretch by folding forward. If you are unable to stack the shins, a yoga block is helpful for easing your way into this hip opener.

  3) Saddle

Saddle pose is an excellent stretch for getting into the hip space as well as the quadriceps. By deepening into the furthest expression of this pose, you are opening your sacrum-lumbar arch which is beneficial for athletes and those that do a lot of standing or walking.

4) Toe Squat

Toe squat can be an intense stretch for those that are on their feet often, but the results are outstanding. When practicing toe squat, you are opening your feet, strengthening the muscles, and stretching all six lines of the lower body meridians.

  5)  Melting Heart

After a long day of weight training or working out, this posture will stretch and relieve tightness in the shoulders while strengthening the spine. This mild backbend also works to bring more flexibility to the upper and mid-back.

Work these yin movements into your daily routine and enjoy the boost to your body and mind.

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4 Ways to Practice and Teach Half Moon Pose

What we think a yoga pose is “supposed” to look like can often cause discomfort, frustration, and/or injury because it’s not what our body needs to reach the intention of the pose in question.

Half Moon or Ardha Chandrasana is one of my favorite poses, but for some, it’s a frustrating b*tch of a pose. When you do this pose, do you feel super duper wobbly, or crunched up? Or do you experience freedom and expansion?

This pose definitely is an experience of finding release within super charged activity. The trick with this pose is the more muscles you activate, the easier it will be to balance. We often fling ourselves into the pose without checking into which muscles to engage, while stacking your joints.

For Half Moon, the intention is to have open rotation in your shoulders, hips, and full extension of your spine and hamstring— all while your balancing leg points to the top of the mat, and the rest of your body faces the side of your mat. We often see one hand propped on the floor, however, this not the intention behind the anatomy of the pose.

When we think that our hand has to touch the ground because that’s what it “should” look like, it can get our body into trouble. You’ll feel your hamstring tremble from trying too hard to extend, your chest and shoulders round and collapse towards the floor, an overstretched sensation in your low back as your back leg flails back behind you—these will leave you wobbling all over the place.

When you let go of the “should” response with this pose, you can then discover how to be free in this pose. Learn how to customize the pose for your practice for your physical needs. Here are four ways to approach Half Moon pose.

1. Free Standing

This is a great variation to challenge your balance. To practice free standing Half Moon from Extended Side Angle:

  1. Gaze at the top of your mat and shift your weight into your front foot. Plant your bottom hand about 18in away from your front pinkie toe – this gives your torso space to fully extend out.
  2. Lift your back leg off the mat up towards the sky and  flex your back toes to your kneecap powerfully.
  3. Reach your back arm up towards the sky.
  4. Straighten your front leg, push down through your big toe mound for balance.
  5. Ignite your obliques (your side bodies) so you can begin to lift your bottom hand off the floor. Perhaps start with your finger tips.
  6. Fix your gaze at one point the entire time to help your balance.

Double check that your bottom foot points straight to the top of your mat, versus sickling your foot inward. (Note: This is super common, but jacks up your bottom knee over time and misaligns your joints stacking.)  Over time, work towards lifting your hand fully off the floor so you can fully extend both sides of your ribcage. This will help you to prevent slumping into your low back, and over stretching your lumbar spine which does NOT feel good.

If you feel like you’re falling backwards, draw your floated foot forward an inch or two. If you’re falling forward, draw your floated heel back an inch or two.

2. Grab Some Blocks

This variation is great to gain more hamstring and side body extension, and add a challenging balance to the pose.

  1. Grab one or two blocks. Set the block(s) 18in or so from your pinkie toe. Like in the “Free Standing” variation, plant your bottom hand on the blocks to the height that gives you the most opening and extension for your front hamstring AND side body.
  2. Follow the rest of the steps from above, in the Free Standing variation.

3. Lean Against a Wall

This variation is great for more stability, especially if you feel super wobbly in the pose.

  1. Place your blocks and body next to a wall.
  2. Follow same steps as above in the “Grab blocks” variation, with the exception that your back is against the wall. THIS will help you not fall over and you can fine tune where to engage, flex, and extend.

4. Kick Against a Wall

This variation is great for more stability, and how to engage your back leg for better balance and extension. If you find that your back leg likes to droop, try this one.

  1. Place your blocks and body NEAR a wall.
  2. Plant your legs into a Warrior II position with the knife edge of your back foot to where the floor and wall meet.
  3. Shift your weight forward, plant your hand with block(s) 18in in front of your pinkie-toe edge.
  4. Lift your back leg up and place your back foot onto the wall. Inch your back foot up the wall to be in line with your hip’s height.
  5. Push, push, PUSH your back foot into the wall. This will help you not to fall, AND engage your back leg properly for stability. With the stability, you can fine tune to engage, flex, and extend, or even perhaps practice lifting your bottom hand off the floor into the “Free Standing” shape.

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The Significance of Pain in Yoga Training

Article by: Colette Barry


When teaching in my yoga or reformer classes I make it an utmost priority, especially for new students, to experience a sense of empowerment. Empowerment, not only in their mental state but also physically – during workouts.

When I’m teaching my student a new asana, my greatest concern is to help them maintain a state of excitement – to maintain an ambition to learn and master their workout session.


Because muscles work this way. Muscles are ’emotional’. As a teacher, I know I have a very small window of ‘winning’ a muscle over and achieve success.

The Story of Rob

Let’s take a student I taught at the LeCharles Football Academy. ‘Rob’ is an offensive lineman. He’s over 6 feet tall. He weighs around 250lbs.

Rob cannot carry his weight. He is huge. Pretty much all he does on the football field is stand his ground to block a play. He’s good but could be much better. In our session my main focus is to keep his mind and muscles in a state of ‘I can’.

Rob’s Asanas

First, I only teach specific asanas to Rob that I know he is capable of handling. When Rob practices the poses I use all my accessories. I use the wall, blocks or floor to allow him to go into the most accurate alignment he is capable of obtaining.

I then tell Rob to hold the asana for 1/2 second. Just enough time for his muscle and mind to communicate. To imprint the image.

My main focus for Rob is to always, always, always maintain a mentality of empowerment It’s to approach every asana with a positive emotion – never with fear and anxiety.

If I were to put Rob in an asana where he was forced to maintain a pose beyond what his body is capable of doing, the muscle would become ‘traumatized’. Once this happens, we’ve lost the battle. And each time Rob approached that asana his muscles would begin to shut down. We’ve lost.

Happy Muscles

I want Rob to maintain a clear mental focus. He needs to be aware of what his muscles and mind are capable of imprinting.

Once Rob is in alignment he holds the asana for 30 sec or less. That’s it. That sends the message of the alignment to the brain.

Then Rob’s muscles become satisfied. After we wait 30 seconds and the blood returns to the muscles, we approach the asana again. We do this two to three times. We repeat it the next day and the next.

By the second day, Rob’s muscles have the picture.


When I challenge Rob to go into the asana, he approaches it with confidence because it’s always been a positive experience. Familiar with the image Rob’s muscles and mind can easily apply the pose accurately for 30 seconds.

If we were to have Rob, before he is able, hold the pose longer, fear would set in. That would defeat the whole process.

This concept is not only mental but chemical. When muscles are traumatized they release a chemical that is toxic to the muscles. Therefore , every time we approach the pose, the muscle ‘remembers’ the trauma. And the toxic chemicals wait – ready to be released.

If we continue this cycle (which is the majority of how people work out) we set ourselves up for constant failure, which leads to pain and injuries.

No Pain

This concept is applied to my Muscular Dystrophy patient, MS and people with injuries and post surgeries conditions.

My goal, no pain. Never allow my client to have pain, if they have pain, we’ve lost the battle. The muscles become traumatized.

We approach each session gently and with a sense of eagerness. I encourage my clients to have an “I Can” state of mind.

I know muscles. They are smart and deserve to be treated that way.

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Trending: Airport Yoga


Waiting for a connecting flight or for you plane to start boarding can be stressful. Wandering around duty-free shops and drinking coffee in overcrowded airport cafes can hardly help you get into your zen state. That is why airports have started offering one more activity for passengers – yoga.


Spending 15 invigorating minutes (or more if the time permits) in a quiet room while doing a short yoga sequence – what a great idea! No wonder airport yoga is catching on. Here are some airports that have already embraced the trend.

Frankfurt airport

About a year ago Frankfurt Airport opened two free yoga rooms for transferring passengers. They are fully equipped with mats and yoga props and are open 24 hours a day.

Santiago International Airport

South America is also keeping up with the trend with first free yoga class organized this summer in Santiago International Airport in Chile. The complementary classes are organized during peak times and you can follow the schedule here.

San Franciso International Airport

In fact, this is the first airport to offer a yoga room to their passengers. They came up with this idea back in 2012. They now offer 2 yoga rooms available for domestic flight passengers free of charge.

Heathrow Airport

In order to practice yoga in Heathrow Airport, you need to have access to SkyTeam Lounge which is available if you are, for example, a SkyTeam Elite Plus member, fly business or first class on particular airlines or pay a fee. When more and more passengers started travelling with their iPads and TV lounge was becoming less popular, people at SkyTeam decided to convert a it into an elegant and relaxing yoga lounge by adding mats and instructional videos.

Chicago O’Hare International Airport

If one day you’ll find yourself in a yoga room in Chicago O’Hare, you’ll be able to quickly recharge your batteries by following exercise techniques on a special monitor and listening to the sounds of nature. The warm colors of the room and the calming atmosphere will make you forget about the hustle and bustle of the airport. You can use the room free of charge.

These are only a few examples of airports providing yoga lounges for their passengers. Feel free to add the ones that you attended!

As you can see most yoga rooms are free, so if you are in for a long layover at the airport, check whether it offers a yoga room. And even if your airport hasn’t yet caught up with the trend, you can always do a few yoga breathing exercises and have a more enjoyable and less stressful flight.

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A Brief History Of Yoga: From Ancient Hindu Scriptures To The Modern, Westernized Practice


history of yoga

Yoga comes in many shapes and sizes; it has thousands of interpretations and pathways that lead to spiritual awareness, expanded consciousness, transcendence, or simply physical fitness. Reuters

Yoga: the trendy practice that your hippie, hipster, or fitness friends rave about. Garbed in yoga pants and carrying colorful mats bought off Amazon, the modern-day “yogi” attends one-hour classes that focus on physical stretching, movement, and detoxing from their busy modern lives. We hear a lot about the benefits of yoga, from its ability to decrease stress, chronic pain, as well as the risk for chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

What we don’t hear about as often, however, is the history of yoga. Most people are aware of its Indian spiritual and religious roots, but those tend to get washed out by the manufactured, commodified versions of yoga we see today. Perhaps that’s because research on yoga’s origins is hard to find, and its history is a complicated, lengthy narrative. In fact, yoga is incredibly complex — even the word “yoga” has taken on hundreds of different meanings and practices throughout the years. What you and I might assume is “yoga” is probably not even closely related to what yoga was thousands of years ago.

“Nearly all of our popular assumptions about yoga theory date from the past 150 years, and very few modern-day practices date from before the 12th century,” David Gordon White, a professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, writes in his paperYoga, Brief History of an Idea. “This is not the first time that people have ‘reinvented’ yoga in their own image.”

We can try to delineate the history of yoga — at least a brief one. But a practice so rich in religious, spiritual, and physical meaning would take years or even a lifetime to fully understand, grasp, and manifest.


3300-1500 BCE. Historians aren’t entirely sure when the notion or practice of yoga first appeared, and it’s often left to debate. The term “yoga,” however, is found in ancient India’s earliest known scripts — the Vedas. They date from the Vedic period, which began in 1500 BCE. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the Vedas are the oldest writings of Hinduism and Sanskrit literature.

White notes in his paper that the term “yoga” in the Vedas actually refers to a yoke, as in the yoke over animals — and at times a chariot in the midst of battle. Interestingly, in some of these very early writings, yoga was used to describe a warrior dying and transcending into heaven, being carried by his chariot to reach the gods and higher powers of being.

During the Vedic period, Vedic priests who were ascetic — severely self-disciplined and avoidant of any forms of indulgence — conducted sacrifices, or yajna, in poses that some researchers believe are precursors to the yoga poses, or asanas, we experience now.

3rd century, BCE. In the 3rd century BCE, references to the term “yoga” became more common in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist writings. In Mahāyāna Buddhism, the notion of yoga as a spiritual or meditative practice as we know now was referred to as Yogachara (Yogācāra). Yogachara involved eight steps of meditation that was known as “calmness” or “insight.”

5th century, AD. For a while, yoga was a loose notion, its meaning difficult to pin down. It was more of a notion of meditation and a religious practice than it was exercise as we know today. But around the 5th century, it became more of an established core idea among Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. First and foremost, these ancient versions of yoga were mostly spiritual practices, revolving around several core values.

The first value involved analyzing one’s own perception and cognitive state, understanding the root of suffering and using meditation to solve it. The mind was to “transcend” bodily pain or suffering in order to reach a higher level of being. The second aimed to uplift or broaden consciousness, and the third involved using yoga as a path to transcendence. The fourth was using yoga to enter other bodies and act supernaturally — perhaps the strangest and most mystical one.

This is also where the difference between “yogi practice” and “yoga practice” is differentiated. Yoga practice, as described by White, “essentially denotes a program of mind-training and meditation issuing in the realization of enlightenment, liberation, or isolation from the world of suffering existence,” at least in ancient terms. Yogi practice, meanwhile, lies more in the supernatural — i.e., when yogis are able to enter other bodies to expand their consciousness.

yogiA yogi seated in a garden, North Indian or Deccani miniature painting, c.1620-40 Wikimedia


500-1500 AD. During the medieval era, different schools of yoga emerged. Bhakti yoga is a spiritual pathway within Hinduism that appeared during this time, a type of yoga that focused on living through love and devotion toward God.

Tantra was also a genre that arrived around the 5th century, exhibited in medieval Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu traditions. White notes that the Tantras, the medieval scriptures that discussed a new yoga ideology, outlined new goals for those practicing yoga: “No longer is the practitioner’s ultimate goal liberation from suffering existence, but rather self-deification: one becomes the deity that has ben one’s object of meditation.”

Interestingly, Westerners today have often associated “tantra” with a sexual form of yoga, but it turns out they weren’t too far off. Some Tantric beliefs involved yogis having sexual relations with low-caste women whom they believed were yoginis, or women who embodied Tantric goddesses. Having sex with them could lead these yogis to a transcendent level of consciousness. Today, gurus who go about doing such things in their yoga or bikram classes aren’t exactly known for their moral or spiritual prowess.

Hatha yoga appeared in Buddhist texts around the 8th century, and it emerged from tantra. It’s known as the common “psychophysical yoga,” a combination of bodily postures, breathing, and meditation — possibly the closest to what we today associate with yoga. The postures in hatha yoga are called asanas. We know some of them now in their English terms — such as cat pose, camel pose, child’s pose, and warrior I pose.

Shiva BangaloreStatue of Shiva in Bangalore, Karnataka, India, performing yogic meditation in the Padmasana posture, or the lotus position. CC BY-SA 2.0


1890s. So when did yoga became the regiment of health freaks? For thousands of years, the term “yoga” encompassed many things, most of them religious and/or spiritual. But in the mid-19th century, yoga came to the attention of Westerners, who at the time seemed intrigued by Indian culture. We can perhaps attribute yoga’s popularity in the West to Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk who toured Europe and the U.S. in the 1890s to spread knowledge about Hinduism among intellectuals.

Vivekananda was responsible for bringing the Yoga Sutras more into the light, as well. These were writings of Patanjali, comprised sometime around 400 AD to describe what he believed were the main yoga traditions of his time. The Yoga Sutras focused mainly on removing all excess thought from the mind and focusing on a singular thing; but they were later incorporated more heavily than any other ancient yoga writings in modern, “corporate” yoga.

Patanjali StatuePatanjali: At times referred to as the “father of yoga,” Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras. CC BY-SA 3.0

20th century. Hatha yoga as a practice (what we’re most familiar with now) didn’t become a commonplace exercise in the U.S. until the 1930s and 40s, and finally reached a peak in the 60s, when Hindu spirituality became far more popular among young Americans. Numerous Indian teachers of yoga taught classes in the U.S., and in the 1980s it became even more popular due to the first health benefits being reported. This was the first time that yoga was seen as a practice with purely physical benefits, something that can improve your heart health and fitness, rather than bring you to a place of transcendence.

21st century. The popularity of yoga in the U.S. has increased throughout the decades, rising from 4 million in 2001 to 20 million in 2011. Since then, plenty of scientific studies have found that yoga comes with a flurry of health benefits: It reduces high blood pressure, depression, chronic pain, and anxiety. It also improves cardiac function, muscle strength, and circulation.

Today, at least in the Western world, yoga is seen as another exercise class to take at the gym, something that will make your muscles sore for days afterward or at least de-stress you. But perhaps knowing at least a little bit about yoga’s ancient spiritual origins — something that has outlasted thousands of years — will help you glean something even more from it.

YogaYoga is now an international trend, seen as both a ways to reach spiritual enlightenment and a form of exercise. Reuters

December 2014. The United Nations General Assembly marked June 21 International Yoga Day, an annual celebration to incorporate yoga and meditation more into humanity all over the world. As the Dalai Lama notes: “If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”

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That’s Why Yoga Is Changing Your Eating Habits …

Some people hardly change their diet once they start practicing yoga, others suddenly find themselves craving healthy vegetable-based foods. There is no denying that eating habits reflect your way of life. So just the way yoga affects your lifestyle, it may change your eating habits. Here are the 3 ways in which yoga can affect how and what you eat.

Yoga makes you more mindful about your body

As you try to get the poses right and your breath right, you exercise not just your body, but also your mind and attention. This way you become more aware of what is good for you and what’s not, what foods make you feel light and energetic, and what products make you feel crummy.

When you read an article that says eating processed is not good, it’s not convincing enough for you. But when you fully realize how awful you feel after eating a bag of chips, it inspires you to make healthier choices.  No one knows better than you what diet is best for you. And yoga helps you to hear that voice.

Yoga promotes healthy habits

As you get into yoga, you start communicating with a lot of new people: you hear other students and your yoga instructor discussing their diet, you start reading about yoga and Ayurveda, about how you should favor particular foods depending on your dosha type and what spices can make you feel better and stay healthier. All this new knowledge is slowly but surely changes your eating habits for the better.

Yoga helps to fight addictions and bad habits

Addictions are not just about alcohol and cigarettes. People can be addicted to drinking soda, for example, or to indulging themselves in eating lots of chocolate whenever they feel stressed.

Each time you perform a certain action, new connections are shaped in your brain making you more likely to repeat that action in the future. And that’s how habits appear.

As you start doing yoga more regularly, a whole new pattern in your brain is shaped. Ultimately it becomes stronger than patterns responsible for your bad habits and that’s how you get over them.

Doing yoga regularly is a habit that doesn’t come alone. It brings along a range of other healthy habits that make your life so much better.

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Sally Kempton explains that in yoga, our consciousness can free itself from concepts, beliefs and limiting ideas. How do we do this? By learning how to let ourselves be, with conscious awareness of our own inner Awareness.

This week’s featured classes will help deepen our practice through the cultivation of strong awareness of the body in all of the asanas, and strong focus on the breath.

  • Cultivate Deep Awareness to be Present with Kathryn Budig: Use your asana to cultivate deep awareness of the present. Long, thoughtful holds in Sun Salutation B induce focus and the realization that it’s all good! Solid flow with focus on pranayama.
  • Access Your Inner Awareness with Sally Kempton: In deep meditation, our consciousness can free itself from concepts, beliefs and limiting ideas. How do we do this? By learning how to let ourselves be, with conscious awareness of our own inner Awareness. This powerful meditation accesses the natural state.
  • Conscious Awareness with Steven Espinosa: This energetic class begins with a steady opening warm up leading into a vigorous Standing Pose series focusing on moving with conscious awareness. Followed by Arm/Hand Balances, Hip/Thigh Openers, Back Bends and Spinal Twists. Also includes a brief tutorial for the wrists in Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Facing Bow).
  • Enhance Awareness of Your Heart with Elena Brower: A really nourishing Hatha sequence with a few meditative movements to enhance awareness of how your heart is reflected in your hands, your thoughts and your expression. Hold spacious attention in your hands, heart and mind through a some hip opening, standing poses, forearm stand, backbends and meditation.
  • Deepen Your Practice Through Awareness with Jodi Blumstein: This class moves through most of the primary series, skipping select postures. The emphasis here is on deepening your practice through the cultivation of strong awareness of the body in all of the asanas, and strong focus on the breath and bandhas. Advancing your Ashtanga Yoga practice is not a function of doing more advanced asanas. Here we explore how to deepen our practice through greater awareness.
  • Yoga for Core Strength and Awareness with Tara Judelle: Strong class to activate the core as the centralizing magnet of movement. Strong focus on the bandhas, using standing poses, working into arm balances, eka pada koundinyasana II (extended leg arm balance dedicated to sage koundinya, parsva bakasana (side crane) eka pada koundiyasana I. Class focus is on utilizing the core as the center of digesting awareness in order to cultivate center in challenging experiences.
  • Calm Your Overactive Mind, Develop Deep Awareness with Jo Tastula: Tune out from the overactive mind and simply be in deep awareness of the movement of breath and energy as it needs to happen today. Honoring any tension and tightness we start slowly with seated forward bends and supported backbends. Then embrace core work to build the heat to fuel this transformative practice! Lots of hamstring and quad stretches and of course… my beloved side plank (vasistasana). Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose (utthita hasta padangusthasana) warrior 3 (virabhadrasana) and side crow (parsva bakasana) provide some balance challenge. Freeform backbends (self sequencing is wonderful to strengthen anyones home practice) and pigeon for desert.
  • Infinite Awareness with Noah Maze: Shoulder stretches and upper back openers will prepare you for a progression of forearm balance (pincha mayurasana–peacock feather) stages. Expand your infinite awareness, as the eyes of the peacock feathers.
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What are the best yoga poses to do if I could only do 3 poses every morning?

When you don’t have all the time in the world but still want to include a bit of beneficiaal yoga into your day, here’s the answer to this question:

Practising Yoga in the morning is amazing! There are countless asanas and amazing yoga poses that all have awesome benefits. You can try these :

1. Surya Namaskar.

2. Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)

3. Natarajasana (Dancer Pose)

Have A Great Day..!!

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Instructing from the Ground Up

In describing the qualities of asana with the adjectives “sthira” and “sukha,” Patanjali uses language very skillfully. Sthira means steady and alert–to embody sthira, the pose must be strong and active. Sukha means comfortable and light–to express sukha, the pose must be joyful and soft. These complimentary poles–or Yin and Yang co-essentials–teach us the wisdom of balance. By finding balance, we find inner harmony, both in our practice and in our lives.

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As teachers, we need to help our students find that balance in their practice. Our instruction should assist them in an exploration of both sthira and sukha. In practical terms, we should begin by teaching sthira as a form of connection to the ground, and then move to sukha as a form of lighthearted exploration and expansion. In this way, we can teach from the ground up.

Manifesting steadiness (sthira) requires connecting to the ground beneath us, which is our earth, our support. Whether our base is comprised of ten toes, one foot, or one or both hands, we must cultivate energy through that base. Staying attentive to our roots requires a special form of alertness. Our instruction should begin there by helping students cultivate this alertness at the base of a pose. I will demonstrate this form of instruction for Tadasana, the blue print for all the other standing poses. The principles of Tadasana can be easily adapted to any standing pose you wish to teach.

In all the standing poses, steadiness comes from rooting all sides of the feet like the stakes of a tent. We need to teach students with high arches to pay particular attention to grounding their inner feet, and show students with fallen arches to move their ankles away from each other.

After rooting the feet, we move up, reminding students to draw the kneecaps up, the upper inner thighs in and back, and the outer sides of the knees back. This allows students to notice whether their weight feels evenly distributed between the right and left leg, the front and back of the foot, and the inner and outer thighs.

Next we should remind our students to adjust the pelvis, allowing the weight of the hips to be above the knees and ankles. This often requires them to draw their weight slightly back in order to allow the point of the coccyx to face down. In this alignment, the tailbone is not tucked nor lifted, but merely directed down between the fronts of the heels. Those with flat lumbar spines will need to allow the tailbone to move slightly back, moving away from tucking, while those with over-arched backs will need to encourage the tailbone to draw slightly in.

We should then instruct our students to lengthen the side waist, lift the top of the sternum and relax the shoulders down the back, aligning them over the hips and ankles. They should bring their heads above their shoulders, aligning the chin in the same plane as the forehead. Finally, they should relax the jaw, allowing the tongue to float freely in the mouth and the eyes to soften.

Once our students have attended to steadiness, the other qualities of alertness and comfort become accessible. They are now ready to bring their hands into Namaste position and reflect on their motivation before beginning their practice.

Encourage your students to view this grounded base as their home base, the foundation from which they can create, explore, and at times expand. From there, they can navigate to a place of ease or sukha. Just as steadiness requires and develops alertness, comfort entails remaining light, unburdened, and interested in discovery. By teaching this quality, we encourage a balanced equilibrium rather than impose rigid rules for alignment. This helps students develop a natural respect toward their bodies and themselves, while encouraging them to fully inhabit their bodies. They can then learn to move away from commanding their bodies to perform poses, and instead breathe life into them from the inside.

With sthira and sukha as the points on our compass, we can organize our teaching and help our students enjoy exploring their places of limitation and liberation in every pose. As a result, regardless of your students’ individual abilities, their practice can focus on celebration and refreshment.

At a deeper level, the way we practice and teach yoga poses mirrors the way we live the rest of our lives. As we reflect on our practice and our teaching, we can use yoga as a tool for developing greater insight into ourselves and the world around us. Sthira and sukha can then become not only tools for teaching or understanding yoga, but also principals that help guide the way we live.

Sarah Powers blends the insights of yoga and Buddhism in her practice and teaching. She lives in Marin, California where she home schools her daughter and teaches classes. For more information go to

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