November 7, 2011
Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) is a hip opener common to most beginning yoga classes. This pose can present difficulties at first, but through practice and a better understanding of the fundamentals, it becomes easier. It’s important to master the basic standing poses so the body and mind can be ready for more advanced work. Vira II can strengthen and tone the leg muscles, relieve leg cramps, and also strengthen the back and abdominal organs. So here’s how we do it:
- From Tadasana, step your feet 4 to 4 1/2 feet apart. Turn your right foot 90 degrees, so the toes point to the short end of your mat. This is your front foot. Turn your left (back) foot in, so the toes are pointed in slightly. Make sure your front heel is intersecting the arch of your back foot.
- On an inhale, raise your arms up to a “T” position. Stretch out through your fingertips and engage your back muscles instead of your shoulders to keep your arms lifted.
- As you exhale, bend into your front knee so it’s over the ankle. Keep that knee rolling towards the pinky toe. Don’t allow it to drift in, or you may injure your knee. Ultimately, the thigh is parallel to the floor, but this takes time.
- Gaze out over your front fingertips and breathe.
- After 8-10 breaths, switch sides, resting the arms if needed.
The biggest problem students have with this pose is when the front quadriceps burn out. There are two suggestions that may solve this. One is to take a wider stance. Most people stand with their feet too close together. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, a wider stance can make this pose easier, because then you can “sit down” into the front hip and let your bone structure support you.
The second tip is to redirect your energy. When you bend into the front knee check to make sure your shoulders stay over your hips. You shouldn’t be leaning into your front hand and leg. That’s just more weight for the front quads to deal with! Instead, think about pulling back on your back hand. Also, push into your front heel and use that pressure to roll weight to the outer edge of your back foot. This should help balance you so now, instead of all your energy spilling forward, it is centered over your hips.
October 17, 2011
At the beginning of September all the restaurants and coffee houses brought out their fall recipes, so we will too! Here is a yummy recipe for vegan pumpkin pie. With the tofu, the texture of this pie is slightly different than traditional pumpkin pie, but it tastes almost exactly the same! You’ll need:
- 1 prepared pie crust
- 16 ounces silken tofu
- 1 (30-ounce) can pumpkin puree
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp salt
Preheat over to 425 degrees. Press pie crust into 8-inch pie pan. Place the remaining ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Pour the mixture into the pie crust and bake for 15 minutes. Turn down the over to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the filling it set in the center. Remove pie from oven and let cool completely. Enjoy!
October 10, 2011
You may not know what or where your psoas muscles are, but I can assure you you’ll feel them stretching when you do a lunging pose or any full back bend. The psoas are part of the hip flexor group which can either lift your leg towards your torso (when the torso is fixed) or pull the torso toward the leg (when the leg is fixed). The psoas major actually starts from the lower back, goes through the abdomen and over the brim of the pelvis to the inner part of the upper thigh. It’s because of this attachment to the low spine that tight hips can cause low back pain.
Most of our day to day activities, such as sitting, shorten these muscles. That’s one of the reasons why back bending and lunging can be so intense, but it’s still very important to do so the sake of your lower back and hips. Trust me — nothing feels better after a long day of sitting in front a computer than sinking into a deep lunge.
Since the psoas is also a major postural muscle, it’s equally important to strengthen it. So with all that in mind here are a few great poses to stretch and strengthen the psoas muscles:
Strengthen (Bonus! These poses will also work your abs!):
October 5, 2011
Most of us think of yoga as a purely physical practice. However, the asana (postures) we perform are only a single part of a much larger system. When you start to incorporate your mental state into your yoga practice, you can begin to realize how powerful it is and how it can change your life.
Everyone has some kind of physical complaint. Whether you suffer from insomnia, migraines, high blood pressure or just a lot of stress, our modern world takes quite a toll on us. Yoga can be used to cure and prevent many ailments, but the physical practice alone cannot accomplish this. If your mind is tired or stressed, the body will follow the same attitude. So you state of mind becomes an extremely important part of the practice. From A Matter of Health by Dr. Krishna Raman:
There is no magic method to remove stress. It is our attitude that matters….The person who exercises regularly also should have a calm mind. Exercise should calm the body and mind and not tire it…Keeping the mind calm when one exercises, a healthy chemical surge occurs which prolongs the life of our body cells.
This is why yoga is such a boon to overall health. It helps not only the body, as running or aerobics or swimming does, but also gives the mind a respite. During practice, our attitude (i.e. state of mind) changes, becoming calmer, clearer and less busy. We focus on the present moment only. Eventually, we begin to take this off the mat as well and as a result, stress levels drop and more harmony is achieved.
A well rounded practice is the best activity you can do for your health and well being. This might include study of the Yamas and Niyamas, asana, pranayama and meditation. This global approach to yoga can correct many disorders and prevents them from reoccuring. To be truly successful you must no longer take a purely physical approach — you must involve the mind.
October 3, 2011
Is it really October already? Time is flying by! Palm Yoga has some fun events going on this month, so be sure to drop in:
Headstand- First Friday Series
ay, October 7th, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Join us for this workshop to learn the ins and outs of headstand! Workshop will include appropriate preparatory work, variations and more! Must have at least 6 months of yoga experience.
Pre-registration required. May be purchased here
$30 for one, $50 for two.
Yoga for Beginners Seminar – FREE
Friday, October 14, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Have you wanted to begin a yoga practice but didn’t know where to begin? This class is for you! Join Palm Yoga teacher, Anna Weeks, as she answers all of your questions about yoga and its health benefits. After the Q&A session, she will lead you through a safe, full-body 50-minute yoga practice to introduce you to the movements and breathing. During your practice, she will offer personal assistance and guidance to make your practice comfortable and appropriate for your body. Please call 784-1662 to register.
Also, Palm Yoga was recently featured in the Tampa Tribune (again!). You can check out the article about our new DVD pack here
and purchase the DVDs from our store
September 28, 2011
Soccer is popular all over the world, and a range of people play it. Yoga is, of course, a wonderful compliment to soccer players of any level. In addition to the exercises for runners, the main area of concern is the knee joint (more here). While kicking, which can be a sudden, jerky movement, the knee is rotated outward while also bearing weight. This can cause tears in the meniscus (the two pads of cartilage which disperse friction in the knee joint between the lower leg and the thigh). A torn meniscus can cause great pain and limited range of motion.
Strengthening the knee joint is paramount to preventing injury. All standing poses help accomplish this. Depending on the pose, different parts of the joint are toned, realigned or massaged. Proper alignment is extremely important, otherwise, more strain could occur. This is why practicing under the guidance of a good yoga instructor is so invaluable!
Inversions can be used to teach proper alignment of the knees and also strengthen the muscles. Viparita Karani followed by Supta Virasana can be very restful for the legs. Poses such as Virasana and Padmasana tone
Supta Virasana with a bolster
the cartilage and make the knees supple.
It’s also a good practice to use both legs evenly. This applies to yoga practice, sports and day to day life. It can be difficult, but the first step is becoming aware of how you use your body, then changing from there.
September 26, 2011
The diaphragm is one of the most important muscles in yoga asana and pranayama practice because it drives respiration. It divides the thoracic and abdominal cavities and just like the heart, it’s always working but never gets tired. It’s only one of the many muscles we use to breathe, but it’s the most important.
So what can do we do to for this tireless and critical muscle? Active and supported backbending opens the joints that the diaphragm is attached to, so poses such as Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, Ustrasana and Urdhva Dhanurasana all improve the depth and quality of breathing.
One of the most vital (yet easiest) exercises you can do for your diaphragm isn’t an exercise at all. It’s simply relaxing. Nowadays, so many people hold their stomachs in, trying to maintain a flat belly, and that restricts breathing.
Quick anatomy lesson! We you inhale, the diaphragm contracts and descends, flattens out and therefore expands the lungs, drawing in air. In order to make room for this movement, the belly must expand outwards. When you exhale, the muscles between your ribs contract and the diaphragm relaxes, which allows it to return to its resting position. The air is then expelled from the lungs.
So, if you hold your belly in, anatomically the diaphragm can’t descend as much, the lungs aren’t filled completely and you take shallower breaths. It may seem like a simple idea, but it can be difficult to not hold your belly in throughout the day. Try paying attention for a few hours, and you may catch yourself with a rigid stomach. Allow yourself the privilege of being relaxed and see how your breathing improves! It has the power to change your asana practice and other things as well.