Advancing Your Yoga Practice

Often we come to yoga wanting to master a particular pose (asana). Usually it’s an arm balance or inversion. While the challenge of eventually achieving these asanas can be liberating, it’s often not from the point of mastery. Often a glimpse at holding Crow/Crane Pose (Bakasana) for a couple of seconds causes a humbling feeling of knowing that there is more to these advanced asanas than first thought.

To understand what’s happening in the body, let’s break down Crow Pose.

Advanced asanas aren’t achieved through a single action. Rather, it’s a combination of simultaneous activation of different muscles and engagement of energy locks. This comes from practice, and training the body and mind to activate and engage simultaneously.

Crow Pose requires balance; open hips; wrist, elbow and shoulder strength; engaged bandhas; core activation; and leg and ankle activation. When all these elements come together, we form a stable base and gain lightness to lift.

While you might not be ready to lift off into Crow Pose just yet, here are some elements that you can work on individually.


Strengthen your core

The core consists of four pairs of abdominal muscles. Three of these encircle the abdomen (external and internal obliques, plus transversus abdominus). The fourth pair (rectus abdominus) runs vertically on either side of the midline between the pubic bone and the sternum. [1]

Often we activate the larger core muscles (external obliques and rectus abdominus) causing weakness in the deeper layers of muscle (transversus abdominus / lower abdominals). Once you learn to switch on the lower abdominals you’ll create pelvic stability, support for your lower back and a stronger core.

Core strength can be practiced in Plank Pose (Phalakasana), Boat Pose (Navasana) and Scales Pose (Tolasana) to name a few. Supine Leg Lifts can also train lower abdominal activation.

Core strength can also come from using props. Rather than wobbling in a balance pose, find support from a wall or set of blocks, and focus your attention on engaging your core.


Activate your legs

Aside from using leg strength to physically hold our body in standing poses we don’t tend to give much attention to this area of the body.

Yet the souls of our feet create the foundation to support our body in standing poses and balance poses. Pay attention to grounding all four corners of the feet, lifting the inner arches and grounding the outside edge (blade) of the foot. This activates the legs and also ensures alignment (particularly knees) in poses.

Correct alignment prevents injury and opens meridian lines (energy channels) in the body, creating a clear pathway to draw energy up through the feet and into the upper body.

Imagine you are drawing energy up from the Earth and returning it back down through the feet, into the Earth. This visualisation helps to create a strong foundation and body awareness.

Dorsiflexing the toes in a standing leg lift can also increase leg activation and give you more leg elevation.


Engage the bandhas

Bandhas are locks that send energy upwards from the base chakra to the crown chakra.

The two main bandhas activated in Crow Pose are Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha. Both create lightness and fluidity of movement.

Mula Bandha (also known as the Root Lock) helps to hold energy within the body and can be engaged by contracting your anus, engaging your pelvic floor muscles and drawing your belly button towards your spine.

Uddiyana Bandha (also known as flying upward energy lock) moves energy upwards from the earth, water and fire centres, into the the air region of the heart. Uddiyana Bandha is created when a vacuum is formed as the lower abdomen is sucked in. [2]

Begin by practicing these bandhas in isolation. Then practice in poses and notice the subtle lift in the body that occurs when the bandhas are engaged. Uddiyana Bandha is essential for gaining lift in Crow Pose.


Find lightness in body and mind

With all the muscle activation going on and the mind busy trying to remember what to activate, it’s easy to feel heavy in your poses. So now that you have all these elements working for you, it’s time to introduce lightness.

A lift in the bandhas can help to create this. Beyond that, when you practice enough, your body knows what it needs to activate in each pose. Trust that your body (when it is ready) will know what to do. Find the balance between effort and ease. “Walk the middle line” is a common term used in yoga. Even within a fire (yang) practice we can find a water (yin) element – softness.

Practice sun salutations with your eyes closed and feel into your body. Focus on the space between your inhalation and exhalation of breath. And in meditation, focus on the space between your thoughts. This is where lightness can be found.

And never forget the breath. A long four count inhale and four count exhale will help to relax the body, ease tension in the muscles and mind, and remove the need to strive.


Find joy in your practice

We are all at different levels in our practice and if the thought of launching into Crow Pose seems daunting, then focus on each element one at a time. Whether it’s strengthening your core, activating your legs, engaging your bandhas or finding lightness in body and mind. The more you practice, the more you are working towards creating building blocks to advance your practice.

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Restorative Yoga: How to Do, Steps and Benefits

Restorative Yoga: How to Do, Steps and Benefits

Restorative Yoga: How to Do, Steps and Benefits
You may agree, in this fast paced life, we all need to slow down a little and spare some time to relieve the constant pressure and stress of winning the rat race and calm our mind, body and soul. This is when Restorative Yoga comes into play and provides a sense of physical and mental balance. For centuries, yoga has been a practice of choice by millions worldwide for regaining mental and physical strength. According to a survey in the year 2016, conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) – there has been a spurt in the number of Indians taking yoga by up to 30 percent, most of whom have been inspired by various celebrities and the media attention that it has garnered. Similarly, according to the release 2016 Yoga in America Study Conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance,the number of US yoga practitioners has increased to more than 36 million, up from 20.4 million in 2012.

Looking at the whopping increase of yoga practitioners in India and the US, we now know how people are preferring yoga over gym or any other activity. Considering the sedentary and pressured lifestyles today, restorative yoga is your savior and how.

What is Restorative Yoga?

With the influx of so many yoga styles, each conveying their own blend of postures, meditation, relaxation and philosophy, restorative yoga is one such yogic exercise that leads its practitioner towards a more healing experience that can help usher them into the world of peace and quiet. Restorative yoga generally relies on the use of props including pillows, blocks and straps to support your body in a full, comfortable and long stretch. According to renowned yoga expert, Priyanka Devi Gupta, this age old practice is especially beneficial in today’s day and age.  “Restorative yoga is extremely beneficial for people having a hectic life and helps in slowing down the process. It helps you connect with your mind and body and also lets you focus on your breath.”

This sequence consists of typically five to six poses that allow you to take rest and relax on the given prop. Held for five minutes or more, restorative yoga comprises light twists, gentle backbends and seated forward folds.

How to Practice Restorative Yoga?

Here are five poses of restorative yoga and the steps involved in attaining these poses:

1. Legs-up-the-wall Pose (Viparita Karani)

This pose is a passive and supported variation of the shoulder stand. You will be required to rest your legs vertically on a wall as you lie on the floor. You would also require a thick blanket for support. This is a comfortable pose that will help you relax deeper. It aids mild depression and anxiety as it calms you down, further curing insomnia and other sleeping disorders.

restorative yoga

2. Corpse Pose (Savasana or Mrtasana)

Savasana or Corpse pose is synonymous to its name, which means to essentially place the body in a neutral position. This pose lets you lie flat on your back, preferably without any prop, with your eyes closed. You are required to release all the energy down and loosen the body to relax, while moving your attention to different parts of the body. If done well, this posture can help bring you to a meditative state of rest that helps in repairing tissues and cells and in relieving stress. It also helps reduce blood pressure, anxiety and sleeping disorders.


3. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Balasana or Child’s pose derives its name from two Sanskrit phrases, ‘child’ and ‘comfortable seat’. This pose involves kneeling on the floor by touching the toes and sitting on your heels, about as wide as your hips. Balasana is a deep forward bend, where the torso rests on the thighs. This pose helps in stretching the hips, thighs and ankles. It calms the brain and reduces stress and fatigue.


4. Reclining Hero Pose (Supta Virasana)

Reclining hero pose or supta virasana is a reclining pose. To begin with, kneel on the floor, with your thighs perpendicular to the floor, and touch the inner thighs together by bringing knees close to each other. Slide your feet apart, slightly wider than your hips. Once you get the position right, start lowering your torso towards the floor. Start by reclining back slowly. Your body is supported by your arms as you start going closer to the floor. Ensure that you are not in any way overstraining your muscles. This pose is excellent for aiding constipationand builds stamina. It also helps in eliminating anger and aggression.


5. Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

Reclining Bound Angle pose or Supta Baddha Konasana aka Reclined Cobbler’s Pose is deep relaxing position that requires you to lie down comfortable on your back with legs extended. Bend the knees to bring soles of your feet together to touch. Let the legs fall open on both sides. The natural tendency of the pose is to push the knees towards the floor. This pose stimulates abdominal organs like the ovaries and prostate gland, bladder and kidneys. It improves blood circulation and helps relieve the symptoms of stress, menstruation and menopause.

yoga 620x350

Photo Credit: pranamayayogamedia/instagram

Priyanka explains, “Although all the poses are super beneficial, the corpse pose, child’s pose and reclining bound angle pose are super relaxing in their own way. Initially, it will be difficult to focus on your breath as random thoughts keep distracting the mind, however, with practice you will know the difference.”

What are the Benefits of Restorative Yoga?

Here are some of the benefits that restorative yoga has to offer to all the yoga practitioners:

1. Helps you calm down

Restorative yoga offers an excellent opportunity to cut chords and disconnect with the outside world and let you travel to the world of nothingness and helps in calming you down. As you move along, it helps you to get in to deepened awareness and meditation. Moving through the poses slowly, you will start exploring your mind and body at a very steady tempo.

2. It lets you learn the art of acceptance

Restorative yoga does not have a forced pose; hence, it lets your body release itself according to ease. It lets you accept the kind of body you have and throw away all the preconceived notions about it.


3. It enhances flexibility

Although all the yoga poses make you a lot more flexible, however, practicing the restorative yoga makes the job easier. You generally explore what happens when your body releases all the tension.

4. It helps shed weight

Restorative yoga helps ion reducing cortisol levels that are also responsible for increased abdominal fat among other negative effects on our body.

5. It boosts your immune system

A regular restorative yoga practice actually helps improving the immune system. It is because the asanas (poses) nurture the body and induce relaxation response, while reducing the stress response, which further help in building a better immune system.

child pose

6. It heals sickness and soothes your nervous system

Restorative yoga does not include any active asana, rather it lets you and your body relax. The body, while in such pose, heals itself and cures the sickness. It also provides benefits including promotion of smooth blood circulation and tissue renewal.

Restorative yoga takes your body into a state that allows rejuvenation and relaxation. Go ahead and try these relaxing poses and say hello to a quieter mind.

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Study Finds Yoga Injuries Are on the Rise (Plus, 4 Ways to Avoid Them)


If you’ve gotten hurt during a yoga class, you’re not alone. A new study found that yoga injuries are on the rise, especially among older adults. Here are 4 ways to avoid getting hurt.

Above: Coral Brown leads a yoga class.

If you’ve gotten hurt during a yoga class, you’re not alone. A new study published last November in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine found that yoga injuries are on the rise, especially among older adults.

The study, titled Yoga-Related Injuries in the United States From 2001 to 2014, found that there were 29,590 yoga-related injuries seen in hospital emergency departments from 2001 to 2014. Overall, yoga injuries became almost twice as common in 2014 as in 2001. But among seniors especially, yoga injuries truly skyrocketed. During the same time period, the rate of yoga injuries among adults 65 and older increased more than eightfold.

“We know that injury rates are higher among older adults for a number of reasons, one of which is they tend to be more fragile,” study co-author Gerald McGwin, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Injury Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, tells Yoga Journal. But McGwin doesn’t think the problem is strictly limited to age—nor is it limited to the rise in yoga’s popularity and more older people taking up yoga, which was accounted for in the study.

“It’s certainly possible that older folks that do yoga have started to gravitate to more advanced types of yoga, or there has been a shift in the types of classes being offered at yoga studios,” he hypothesizes. “More people perhaps are gravitating toward yoga who are not more prepared, or teachers or the studios that are opening perhaps aren’t at the level they should be,” he adds.

Coral Brown, teacher trainer, holistic psychotherapist, and one of Yoga Journal’s Art of Teaching Yoga instructors, believes there is likely a combination of factors behind the rise in yoga injuries. “There has been a significant increase in yoga teacher trainings, which makes it very difficult to ensure that the quality of teacher trainings is being upheld,” she says. “The process of getting the credentials to be a teacher trainer should be more stringent and more closely supervised.”

Brown also feels that 200 hours, which is the minimum amount of training required by the nonprofit association Yoga Alliance to become a registered yoga teacher (RYT), is not nearly enough. “Yoga is far too vast a subject to be digested in a mere 200 hours, only 20 of which are required to be dedicated to anatomy. Since yoga asana is such a physical practice, I believe that there should be more attention paid to the anatomical functioning of the body,” she contends. (Andrew Tanner, chief ambassador for Yoga Alliance, responds that depending on the style of yoga you teach, anatomy is more or less important, and that Yoga Alliance standards were designed to allow for the flexibility of different styles and the diversity of different lineages to be represented in one place. He also adds that 200 hours is a minimum standard, and after that, you can start practicing to become a teacher.)

As for older participants, Brown says they may be at a physiological disadvantage due to the natural decline in flexibility that comes not only with age but with lack of mobility, and doctors or therapists may be recommending the wrong types of classes for this age group. “Often times people are referred to yoga by their doctors or therapists who may not understand that there are many different styles of yoga asana, and that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all system,” she says. Below, Brown suggests four ways to avoid injuring yourself in a yoga class, whether you’re new to the mat or a more seasoned practitioner.

4 Ways to Avoid Yoga Injuries

1. Do your research.

Students need to do their research, not only on whether or not the teacher is properly qualified, but whether the style of yoga they are pursuing is a good match for them. Students should ask the teacher about their background. Ask questions about the teacher’s continuing education, about their most recent trainings, how long have they been teaching. If students don’t feel comfortable asking directly, then ask around, even check out the teacher’s social media feed to see if they post yoga-related content that is compatible with their needs.

2. Choose smaller vinyasa classes.

Vinyasa, which is perhaps the most popular style of yoga, is a repetitive, efficient, and skillful practice. This practice is best studied in a small group so that the teacher can monitor students and educate them to help prevent the many common misalignments from causing injury. The repetitive flexion and extension of the spine in the vinyasa system can easily lead to injury if done incorrectly and repetitively.

3. Start where you are…every time.

Following the guidelines of vinyasa krama, one should start with the simple and move toward the complex. If you’re a beginner, begin at the introductory level.

4. Practice with respect for your body and the practice itself.

Remember that yoga increases strength and flexibility in the body but more importantly, in the mind.

The study concludes that while yoga is a safe form of exercise with positive impacts on various aspects of a person’s health, participants should confer with a physician prior to engaging in physical activity. Moreover, those wishing to practice yoga—particularly individuals 65 years and older—must also take personal responsibility for their own safety precautions. “Participants must know their own limitations and not treat it as a CrossFit mentality and get themselves injured,” McGwin says.

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30 Day Yoga Challenge for Beginners

Whether you want to lose weight, be more active or just need to  relax, yoga is a fantastic workout everyone can try. This 30 day yoga challenge for beginners is where I began my yoga journey when I had zero experience and could barely stand up straight without falling over. Now…well, I wouldn’t call myself a yogi, but I’m a lot better than I was on day 1. Long story short – if I can do this 30 day yoga challenge for beginners, so can you!

Stop for just one sec. I want to point out right now that this isn’t a sponsored post or anything. I genuinely love this 30 day yoga challenge for beginners video class and want to share it with you.

You’ll this free 30 day yoga challenge for beginners by searching on YouTube. Or you can just scroll down to the bottom of this post where I’ve embedded all the videos. Don’t forget to add this page to your favorites or pin it so you can check back for each lesson!

These classes are run by a super-friendly woman named Jess Rose from Do You Yoga who clearly explains each of the postures and does them at the same time as you. This way you can watch and copy her so you know you’re doing them right.

There’s one video to correspond to each day. All you have to do is complete one of the videos each day in the comfort of your own home when you’ve got a few minutes to yourself. That’s so much quicker and easier than going to the gym and paying to join a yoga class that you’ll never actually have the time to attend, right?

Each video is 10-20 minutes long, so you’ll always be able to squeeze in a quick video. No matter how busy your day is! If you do miss a class or two, just catch up the following day by doing two videos back-to-back. I won’t tell – promise!

To give you a quick overview, here’s what’s covered in the 30 day yoga challenge for beginners:

Day 1: intro to yoga (great beginning) Day 2: stretching hamstrings Day 3: core strengthening (ouch!)
Day 4: for great posture Day 5: flexibility in the spine (great if you’re sat at a desk all day) Day 6: sun salutations (my favorite!)
Day 7: ease lower back pain Day 8: seated flexibility Day 9: balance (I so needed this)
Day 10: standing poses for hips Day 11: shoulder opening Day 12: side body stretch
Day 13: emotional release (a bit weird at first, but stick with it) Day 14: twists Day 15: hamstrings and inner thighs
Day 16: lunging yoga poses Day 17: beginner back bends Day 18: pigeon pose variations (so helpful if your legs just won’t bend properly like mine)
Day 19: energizing yoga flow (exhausting, but fun!) Day 20: twisting yoga flow Day 21: on your back
Day 22: flexibility in the hamstrings Day 23: standing eagle yoga flow Day 24: half moon yoga flow
Day 25: restorative yoga (so relaxing you’ll fall asleep!) Day 26: feel good flow Day 27: for the shoulders
Day 28: calming meditation Day 29: beginner inversions Day 30: challenge flow

There’s absolutely loads going on! So if you’re totally yoga newbie, you can easily find what you love and what you don’t. You can see from the comments in brackets which ones I love the most.

There’s a background story with me and this 30 day yoga challenge for beginners. It’s the reason I’m so determined to complete it this month. This will be the 4th time I’ve attempted this challenge. The first 2 times I quit because I skipped too many days to catch up. But the 3rd time? It nearly drove me insane!

One thing I love to do is start a 30 day fitness challenge 30 days before I go on holiday. It’s like a countdown I do to up the anticipation of going on vacation even more. One month before we went to India in spring 2015, I began this yoga challenge.

I stuck with it and did one video every single day. The day before we were due to fly, the internet went down in our whole village. I figured it would come back on again in a few hours, so no big deal.

I didn’t have 3G on my phone. So I planned to wait until the internet came back on, finish up the work I needed to do  and then complete that one final yoga class. But the internet never came back on!

Seriously, it felt like the yoga gods were against me. There was nothing I could do. 29/30 yoga videos is the best I’ve ever done, but this time I am 100% adamant that I am going to see it through. Even if the internet cuts off and I do the final video in front of strangers at my local cafe, I am going to finish this challenge this month!

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8 Benefits of Hot Yoga

Whether you are an experienced yogi looking to deepen your yoga practice, or a new yogi who wants to experience all of what yoga has to offer, hot yoga is guaranteed to be a completely unique yoga experience.

Hot yoga is a yoga style that is practiced in hot and humid conditions, typically heated to around 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40% humidity. Each 60- or 90-minute class will offer a series of postures that aim to contract and strengthen your muscles and raise your heart rate to create an amazing yoga experience with cardiovascular benefits.

While Bikram yoga is one of the more popular, mainstream forms of hot yoga, it’s important to note that it’s not the only form. Many disciplines of yoga can be practiced – and are practiced – in varying degrees of heat and humidity. With all these varieties of hot yoga, you’ll have even more incentive and motivation to try it after you explore the amazing benefits of any hot yoga practice.

Here are 8 benefits of hot yoga:

1. Improve Your Awareness

During hot yoga, you will be engulfed in new sensations, but you will learn to focus and calm your mind, without letting that stray hair or drip of sweat steal your attention. During your first few sun salutations, your body will begin to build heat and produce sweat. You will be keenly aware of every muscle that you are working and how it feels to be holding a particular pose. This is where the meditative element of hot yoga kicks in. There will be distraction; the goal is to focus your awareness beyond the distraction of the heat, your sweat, and the typical challenges of a yoga practice. Over time, this undivided concentration will cultivate a deeper level of awareness on and off the mat.

2. Improve Your Ujjayi Breath

The temperature and humidity of the room will make the air more dense, which will require you to use more energy to breathe throughout the class. This is the perfect opportunity to apply your increased level of awareness (see #1) and focus it on your Ujjayi breathing! Ujjayi, commonly referred to as “ocean breath,” involves constricting the back of your throat as you inhale and exhale. This form of Pranayama breathing is used to calm and focus the mind and body, making it the perfect partner for your hot yoga practice.

3. Improve Your Skin

Hot yoga will make you sweat – a lot. That sweat pulls the toxins out of your pores, leaving your skin looking and feeling refreshed. Ditch the face masks and pore strips – hot yoga is an all-natural way to cleanse and detoxify your pores, leaving you with a radiant, hydrated complexion for a fresh and youthful appearance. From head to toe, your skin will feel hydrated and moisturized long after you step off the mat.

4. Increase your Flexibility

The heat gently increases your flexibility by relaxing the moving components of the body, from the joints to the tendons and muscles, allowing them to give way to a deeper stretch. The heat will gently loosen the fascia, a saran wrap-like tissue that encases your muscles, helping you achieve a deeper stretch safely. With a consistent hot yoga practice, you will notice that your pigeon will deepen, your splits will widen, and a variety of other poses will evolve in the new space you have created in your body. As the sweat leaves your pores, with it goes some of the tightness in your body.

5. Indicates Your Diet

Your sweat is telling you something. Just by the smell or thickness of your sweat, you have an indication of your body’s nutritional state. A sweet smell indicates a high level of sugar in the body, whereas sour-smelling sweat means you may be consuming too much dairy. Salty sweat means that you eat a lot of carbs, and if your sweat is thicker than normal in consistency, you may be eating too many foods with gluten. Ever smell that yogi next to you on a Saturday morning who reeks like beer or vodka? Odds are they indulged – or over-indulged – the night before. Who would’ve thought sweat could tell us so much?

6. Compliments Other Physical Activities

Hot yoga can help you improve your overall physical prowess on and off the mat. It increases your range of motion, stretches tight muscles and tendons, and strengthens your body overall. Hot yoga is a great complement to your strength training regimen. You can alternate hot yoga with strength training days to ensure balance in your body’s strength and flexibility. If you are a runner or a swimmer, hot yoga can help gain tremendous control and capacity of your breath and help you remain focused on the finish line. Golfing yogis experience an increased range of motion in their swing and overall performance. No matter your sport of choice, hot yoga will support and enrich your athletic lifestyle.

7. Energizes Your Body and Mind

As you progress through your heated practice, you will feel a deep surge of energy throughout your entire body. That energy will follow you out of the studio and into your daily activities. Compared to the thick, humid air in the studio, the outside world is cool and light. You will feel a sense of ease and grace in your body, but also in your mind, from the way you walk to the way you think. You will go through your day knowing that you have accomplished something spectacular, and that positivity and awakened energy will radiate out of every one of your pores.

8. Relaxes Your Body and Mind

While hot yoga supplies you with lasting energy throughout your day, it simultaneously calms, de-stresses, and relaxes your mind and body, leaving you feeling balanced and in control. No matter what else the world throws at you that day, if you can make it through a challenging hot yoga practice, you know you can confidently accomplish anything you set your mind to.

If you have not tried hot yoga yet, what are you waiting for? When you are ready to tackle your first class, remember to stay hydrated before, during, and after your hot yoga practice. Wear comfortable clothes and wear a headband and/or keep a towel handy to catch the sweat that will drip down your face. Also, bring a towel for your yoga mat to catch your sweat, increase your grip, and prevent slipping. Once you have these basics covered, get ready to experience yoga unlike you ever have before!

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Yoga for Scoliosis: 10 Yoga Poses To Correct Spinal Curvature

The human spine is made up of several vertebrae whose function is to protect and support the spine. These bones also help to stand upright. Scoliosis is name given to a condition which is related to spine in which a person’s spine is not perfectly straight but has a curve to it. If this curvature is more than 10 degrees either on right or left, or even front or back, he or she can be called as suffering from scoliosis. It is believed that females suffer from Scoliosis more than males.

Yoga for Scoliosis

Scoliosis hampers movement of a person and sometimes is acutely painful. Although surgery is the first line of treatment for scoliosis, physicians also advise to look at alternative measures. Amongst numerous options available these days, yoga is the most ancient and effective form of treatment for correction of scoliosis or spinal curvature which not only helps physically but also mentally to cope up with this painful condition.

How Yoga Can Help Correct Scoliosis or Spinal Curvature?

The spine carries most of the weight of body and therefore is constantly under stress. In scoliosis, this undue stress exacerbates the pain more. Yoga promotes strengthening of muscles of legs resulting in taking some stress off the spine. Yoga teaches breathing technique and use of various poses to correct the shape of spine. It may be a bit painful in the initial stages but yoga goes a long way in helping a person suffering from Scoliosis or Spinal Curvature.

Yoga for Scoliosis: 10 Yoga Poses To Correct Spinal Curvature

1.”Virabhadrasana” or Warrior Pose to Correct Scoliosis or Spinal Curvature

Virabhadrasana or the Warrior pose is said to bring courage, grace, and peace to body. It also helps in strengthening lower back, improves body balance, and improves stamina. If the back is strong, then scoliosis in itself starts getting corrected.


2. “Trikonasana” or Triangle Pose for Scoliosis or Spinal Curvature

Trikonasana or the Triangle Pose for Scoliosis is a standing pose as shown in the figure which gets the spine stretched and helps in mental and physical balance. Trikonasana also helps in reducing stress and back pain and can be helpful in correcting scoliosis or spinal curvature.

3. “Marjariasana” or the Cat Pose for Scoliosis or Spinal Curvature


Marjariasana or the Cat Pose or Cat Stretch is done by going down on all fours. It gives more flexibility to spine, improves circulation of blood and helps in relaxing the mind and is said to be extremely beneficial for people with scoliosis.

4. “Shishuasana” or Child Pose for Scoliosis or Spinal Curvature


Shishuasana is another sitting pose that is Child Pose. This calms down the nervous system and also relaxes the spine. This particular yoga pose is ideal for people with scoliosis or spinal curvature due to some form of neuromuscular disorder.

5. “Paschimottanasana” or Seated Forward Bend Yoga Pose for Scoliosis


This yoga pose again stretches the lower portion of back and reduces stress on it. Paschimottanasana is not only effective in correcting scoliosis or spinal curvature but it also is effective for anxiety and fatigue and relaxes the mind.

6. “Shalabhasana” or Locust Pose for Scoliosis or Spinal Curvature


This yoga pose gives flexibility and strengthens the entire back. It also relieves stress from the body, gets rid of fatigue, and helps lower back pain. Regular practice of Shalabhasana or Locust pose is very beneficial in correcting scoliosis or spinal curvature.

7. “Setu Bandh-Asana” or Bridge Pose to Correct Scoliosis or Spinal Curvature


This yoga pose stretches and strengthens spine and back muscle. It is not only effective in correcting scoliosis but it also helps decreases anxiety and stress and calms the mind.

8. “Adho Mukha Svan-Asana” or Downward Facing Dog Pose for Scoliosis or Spinal Curvature


This yoga posture lengthens spine and brings strength to the body, especially arms, shoulders, legs. With this yoga pose, the weight of body is distributed equally to legs thus taking stress off spine. Regular practice of this yoga pose can be help correct Scoliosis.

9. “Sarvangasana” or Shoulder Stand for Scoliosis or Spinal Curvature


Yoga pose of Sarvangasana or Shoulder stand makes the spine flexible, stretches and strengthens the upper back as well as strengthens the hands. It also relaxes the brain.

10. “Shavasana” or Corpse Pose for Scoliosis or Spinal Curvature


This pose is used at the end of yoga session. This pose relaxes the body and helps in rejuvenating.

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Breathing Into Stillness

In today’s modern world we are constantly moving, digitally connected and “busy”.

If you were to stop and inhale right now, where would the breath travel to in your body? Would it constrict in your throat or chest? Or would it flow with ease deep into your belly?

The simple act of taking the time to stop and breathe can completely reset our nervous system, leading to a feeling of peace.

“Breathing slowly and mindfully activates the hypothalamus, connected to the pituitary gland in the brain, to send out neurohormones that inhibit stress-producing hormones and trigger a relaxation response in the body.” [1]

In yoga philosophy, our breath (prana) is our life force energy and in Chinese philosophy it’s referred to as Qi. A healthy mind, body and soul is filled with prana/Qi, so it’s no surprise that breath forms the foundation of yoga, Qigong and other similar practices. Pranayama (breath control) is one of Pantanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga; given equal importance (along with 6 other limbs) to the physical postures (asanas).

There are many breath techniques used in yoga, all with different benefits. In this blog I’ll look at ways we can breathe and observe to find stillness.


Breath in Yin Yoga

Yin yoga is the perfect opportunity to practice stillness of breath. Yin by nature is about letting go; and this includes releasing control on the breath. In deep held yin postures, allow your breath to find it’s natural rhythm.

When you wait for your lungs to inhale (trusting that they will, as and when needed) you discover length to the breath. In this length there is space and stillness. Relax deeply and trust the intelligence of your body.

Which parts of your body does your breath reach? ~ Where does it become stuck?

Can you deepen your breath to invite opening into these places?


Breath in Yang Yoga

Awareness of breath can also deepen your “yang” practice.

Nothing is ever completely yin or yang (see my blog – Balancing Yin and Yang Energy). Breathing fully into your body can help balance the strength and intensity of a yang practice, inviting more internal awareness, presence and depth.

When your muscles receive oxygen, tension releases, helping you to soften into postures. Focus on inhaling as you find alignment in your posture and exhaling as you soften and relax into the posture. Stay in posture for 5 full rounds of breath (inhale and exhale = 1 round), finding a little more depth with each exhale. It need not be a lot of depth each exhale. The focus is on connecting internally and unifying breath with movement to create harmony and ease.

When you connect breath with movement in yoga you bring mindfulness to your practice. A general guide is to inhale as you open your body (i.e. expand, extend or lengthen your body or limbs) and exhale as you close your body (i.e. fold, twist).

Flowing with your natural breath and maintaining a consistent rhythm to your breath provides a balance between effort and ease (yang and yin) in your practice.

Can you mindfully bring your feet together when you exit a posture?

Can you find lightness on your mat as you gently step your feet into a posture?

Inhale as you move slowly and mindfully. Exhale as you ground your feet – simultaneously rooting energy down and drawing energy up.

“Walk as if you were kissing the Earth with your feet.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh


Meditating on the Breath

There are many calming breath techniques used in yoga, one being: Anapana – meditation on the flow of breath in and out of the nostrils. Anapana provides a single point of focus (Dharana), helping to calm the mind and attain stillness.

In my personal meditation practice I like to begin by becoming aware of the breath in my body; observing where it travels to. Some days my breath is expansive and full, reaching all the way to the tips of my toes. Other days it stops short – tight in my chest or heart centre. Observation on the breath is an invitation to objectively explore what’s going on internally. Even (and especially) if my breath falls short I gradually deepening my breath so I can feel it expand in my body.

Yoga teaches us to constantly remain open. At times when the body closes, it’s an invitation to breathe deeper. Eventually your breath will settle, becoming subtle and still. At this point there is no control on the breath and the stillness between each breath expands. In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali this easy, unintentional retention of breath is referred to as “kevala kumbhaka” and usually occurs in deep meditation [2].


Lessons in Nature

Nature too provides lessons on stillness.

Have you ever noticed that even on windy days there is stillness?

The wind is never constant. At times it howls through wind channels and rustles through the leaves of trees. Then it eases.

If you sit observing the wind you’ll notice that there are spaces of stillness. Like the ocean, the wind has it’s own natural rhythm.

When you can observe the space (the yin between the yang) calm descends on your body. When you can breathe into this stillness, you can begin to transform your yoga practice, on and off the mat.

Observe the spaces of stillness in your own life and in your yoga practice. Breathe into them. Experience them fully and draw out their length. Then observe how this simple action transforms you.


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It’s winter, which means it’s cold and flu season. I came down with a cold not too long ago, bad enough that I had to take time off of work to rest and regenerate and spent the majority of my time in bed. Somewhere between being sick and spending a lot of time lying down, my body felt sore and stiff. I knew I wasn’t well enough for a full yoga practice, but I found myself really craving some nice stretches to help my body feel better. Voila, Sick Day Yoga was born!

I don’t know about you, but when I’m not feeling well and I’m laying around a lot, my neck and shoulders get really stiff. To loosen up, I’ll gently flow between cat and cow pose, listening to my body and following my breath. Cow pose is traditionally done on an inhale, with cat pose on the exhale. I love this gentle, easy flow because it helps you limber up a bit without being too vigorous, making it perfect for sick day yoga.

After I felt warmed up with cat and cow, I moved on to a gentle side bend to help loosen up my side body and my shoulders. A nice addition to this is a gentle neck press, just gently resting your right hand on top of your head as your right ear falls toward your right shoulder, then doing the same stretch on the other side.

I also wanted to get in a nice stretch through my back, which had also become pretty tight from laying in bed all day, so I added in a supine twist. When I did this in bed, I placed a pillow under my top knee to make this pose more restorative so I could just relax.

To restore a sense of calm and peace, I did a little supported child’s pose. When I was sick in bed I used my pillow, but if you have a yoga bolster that would work great, too. Having the support of a pillow, bolster, or blanket under your chest really allows you to reap the restorative effects of this pose.

And, I ended my sick day yoga with some supported Savasana to open my heart and shoulders a bit more. Again, I had my pillow handy when I did this in bed, but a yoga bolster or a folded blanket would work nicely here and may even allow more of an opening through the heart than my pillow did.

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Mantra Meditation: 40 Day Challenge

Let’s cut to the chase yogis, we all know meditation is good for us.

Actually, we know it’s better than good – it’s pure magic. Magic that is accessible to anybody, anywhere, anytime.

Simply find a seat, plop your booty down, sit up tall, close the eyes, breathe, and let all distractions wash away. 

Simple as that.

Said no one ever.

Here’s the real scenario – we sit down, close our eyes, begin to breathe, and suddenly a flood of thoughts and emotions come barreling towards us.

We breathe a little heavier, readjust our seats, and try our hardest to do this thing called meditation. I mean honestly, how hard can it be to sit still.

The answer is – hard.

Like really hard.

We – as in me and you – are conditioned to constantly think and feel. And I’m the first to admit, meditation is not my strong suit. I’ve tried before and I’ve tried again, but the practice has never stuck with me.

Even after countless discussions, yoga teacher training, conversations with fellow yoga teachers, books, and you name it – meditation just hasn’t struck a chord with me.

It’s time for a change.

I’m starting a 40 day mantra meditation challenge with YOU.

Yes – me and you.

First thoughts:

  • 40 is an intimidating number.
  • I don’t have time to meditate everyday for 40 days.
  • Where do I find a mala?
  • How do I choose a mantra?
  • And then – how the hell do I chant, meditate, and use the mala beads?

I’ll cover all of those thoughts down below.

Sit back, relax, find a seat, and get ready to drop everything. It’s time to ground down, reconnect, and meditate.

Why 40 Days & 108 Repetitions:

Why 108 Repetitions:

  • The number 108 breaks down to:
    • 1 = God or a Higher Truth
    • 0 = Emptiness or Completeness
    • 8 = Infinity or Eternity
  • There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet, each one has a masculine and feminine quality – Shiva & Shakti. 54 letters x 2 qualities = 108.
  • The Chakras are energy lines in our body that start at the root of our body and travel up to the crown of our head. It is said there are 108 energy lines that  converge to form the heart chakra, Anahata.
  • A mala necklace is an Eastern rosary used for mantras, chanting, and prayer – it has 108 beads.
  • There are 108 Upanishads – an ancient text that is highly revered in both Hinduism and Buddhism.

Why 40 Days:

In a world filled with temptations, shortcuts, and comforts – it’s incredibly easy to fall into bad habits. Just like the saying goes, you are what you eat, it’s also true of your habits.

Our habits define the everyday routine, whether we like to admit that or not. And more often than not, some not so great ones sneak into our lives.

It’s normal and human, no need to fret over it.

Instead, commit to breaking a habit. Let it no longer control the everyday. Train the mind, body, and soul to act differently. We achieve this “breaking of the habit” by repeating a positive habit for a consecutive period of time.

And that’s why 40 days is the chosen number!

I’m sure there’s a more mystical reasoning behind all of this but let’s just keep it simple.

Here’s the one catch:

Mantra meditation must be completed for 40 days CONSECUTIVELY. If you miss a day, the 40 days start over.

Don’t cheat yourself in this situation. Be honest. If you miss a day and need to start over, then do it.

The days will come and go regardless, why not do something beneficial for yourself as they pass?

How To Do the Damn Thing:

Now that we know the why behind this, let’s talk about the how.

1. Choose a place to meditate

….preferably one that is quiet and relaxing.

I try to meditate in my outdoor Zen Den but sometimes life throws a curve ball or two.  Like mosquitoes and 100 degree weather – yay!

Have a backup plan if the first option is not working out. Also, be prepared to find a quiet space if traveling or your day takes a wild turn from the norm. Don’t make excuses friends!

2. Prepare the body

This might seem silly but trust me, it’s so helpful.

Suggestions are below:

  • Take 10 deep breaths before starting the mantra chanting.
  • Complete 5 – 10 sun salutations.
  • Do a short yoga practice that involves relaxing, nurturing postures.
  • Go for a walk outdoors to breathe in fresh air.

3. Find a seat on the ground.

And do all of the below:

  • Sit up tall, lengthen from your tailbone through the crown of the head, roll the shoulders up, back, and down.
  • Hold the mala beads in the right hand between thumb and pointer finger.
  • Start at the head bead.
  • Gently close the eyes and begin.
  • Repeat the mantra 108 times while moving the beads through the fingertips. 108 repetitions will bring you back to the beginning of the mala necklace.
  • Take a moment to feel the effects of meditation and chanting.
  • Open the eyes and smile!

Helpful Tips:

The mantra can be chanted out loud, in your head, or half and half. Do whatever feels natural to you. I like to start by chanting out loud and then slowly repeat it silently to myself.

No rules yogis – you should know that!

To make the sitting process more comfortable, use a yoga prop – blanket, bolster, or block.

How to Find Time:

The time issue. We either have too much or too little of it.

I’d love to say that I manage my time incredibly well and can always achieve my goals – day in and day out. But I’m human so that would be a serious lie.

I think you are human too, so this will always be a challenge.

Below are a few suggestions to help make time:

  • Choose two times that works best with your personal schedule. If you work full-time (like moi), upon waking and before heading to bed are two great times. If you’re a stay at home mommy or a full-time yoga teacher, choose the times that best fit with your schedule. But stick to them!
  • Write it down in a planner. Literally schedule a date with yourself.
  • Hang up an inspirational photo, quote, or anything that serves as a reminder.

Where to Buy a Mala:

Malas are legit everywhere. If you’re an avid yogi then these beautiful jewels shouldn’t be hard to find.

But if all of this spiritual yogi ish is new to you, below are my suggestions:

  • Check out your local yoga studio’s shop. A lot of studios will sell local designs / support yoga teachers who make their own.
  • Stop by two of my favorite yoga jewelry shops to browse through their amazing mala collections – My Bohemia Jewelry & I Heart Naturals Company. Both of these shops are the real deal – beautiful pieces, passion for their craft, and awesome people in general!
  • Browse through Etsy – the options are literally endless. This is the Etsy shop I ordered from and am super happy with the quality and customer service.

How to Choose a Mantra:

This final step is a very personal one.

The idea behind 108 mantra repetitions x 40 days is that whatever you choose, it will be ingrained into the mala beads, your body, your mind, and your soul.

The mantra and the mala beads will symbolize a lifelong affirmation.

An affirmation that goes something like this:

  • You are supported.
  • You are limitless.
  • You are strong.
  • You are beautiful.
  • You can achieve greatness.
  • You are loved.
  • And you are whole – mind, body, and soul.

I urge you to do some soul searching before deciding on the mantra.

Write in a planner. Talk out loud. Move through a yoga sequence. Take a long walk. Do something to understand better what it is that YOU need!

Here’s a list to get the creative juices flowing – 5 Ancient Mantras, please keep in mind that this list provides Sanskrit options. While Sanskrit is the traditional language of yoga, it’s not required to use it for this meditation challenge.

You are always encouraged to create your own mantra that suits your needs.

If nothing on the list resonates, do more research, make up your own, or ask your favorite yoga teacher if they have one. The mantra options are endless!

Are you ready to sit, breathe, and repeat for 40 days?

Let’s do this one together – one journey, one movement, one meditation.

When you’re contemplating not doing it for a day or not starting this challenge, just remember that yogis all over the world are right alongside us.

We are a community of like-minded people who are creating a movement of intention, positivity, and growth. Join me and be part of this movement – you won’t regret it!

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Pet yoga tipped to be the next big thing for 2017

ANYONE who’s ever studied a cat for a couple of minutes knows they are experts at relaxation.

A bit of a stretch, a yawn, and then reclining again to lazily watch the world go by.Dogs, too, are usually quite happy to stretch a bit, roll over, and chill out again.So our furry friends should be naturals for the yoga world — and it turns out they really are.

What started out as a fad — doing yoga alongside your pets, that is — is now tipped to be the next big thing for the year 2017.

Yoga classes in the USA, where humans do the exercises alongside goats, have proved so popular that they now have a huge waiting list.

People and animals often get along great, but we never realised they could also do so while enjoying the ancient physical and mental disciplines of yoga.

A farm in Oregon has seen countless folk of all ages turn up to stretch and do gentle push-ups, while goats mimic them or even clamber onto their backs to enjoy the fun. If the animals love it, the humans seem to get a real kick out of it, too, and doing yoga with animals is said to be even better for a feeling of wellbeing than doing yoga with just humans. It all began when a local child had a birthday party at a farm, and a mother who taught yoga suggested they have a yoga class there, but with one interesting addition. Instead of having the goats stuck in their usual pen out the way, why not let them mingle with the delighted kids? Turns out both children and goats loved it, and the idea has grown ever since.

People who have depression, anxiety, even folk recovering from serious illness, report that a spot of yoga alongside a cute animal has lifted their spirits and set them on the road to happiness again. Funnily enough, many of us learned our first yoga positions with help from animals. One mother online spoke about her memories of her four-year-old daughter doing elephant, giraffe and lion poses, and the Indian yogis who invented classic poses thousands of years ago also mimicked animals, among other things.

The original idea was to form different shapes to mimic the landscape around them, and that included trying to make animal shapes. Any dog owner who enjoys a spot of yoga at home will be aware of how much dogs love yoga mats, with cats not far behind. You can even buy mats for dogs now, as the cheeky canines will often stake their claim, get onto your mat and refuse to let you join them. They will often strike similar poses to their yoga-loving owners, too.

Cats are more likely to enjoy mats simply for sinking their claws into, but that’s just their way of enjoying it.

You may also be interested to know that the boffins reckon there’s a good reason why dogs seem to love those spongy yoga mats. Their paws are the only things they sweat through, and a spot of yoga will leave little sweaty paw marks on their mat. This is another way in which the dogs leave notice that this is their territory, something they treat with great importance.

Just don’t try pinching your dog’s mat, then!