yoga for beginners

Can You Balance Faster Than A Cat’s Meow?

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The thing with balance is it doesn’t mean things stop moving it simply means you are more able to deal with the fluctuations that come up…that’s balance. Kathyrn Budig

Life happens, so when it does are you ready to seek within? These poses will have you balancing faster than a cat’s meow.  You heard it here first! Things don’t stop or sit still simply because we need them too it takes our focus, drive, determination and commitment to create balance.

While taking pictures of these balancing yoga poses, I set up on a fairly busy running/biking trail. Why? Partly, because the scenery and the hill across the way was a perfect place for my tripod but also, I knew that to achieve balance here, it would truly require me to seek from within. With a highway on one side, a river with boats on the other, runner’s and biker’s passing by quickly, it was anything but quiet but it was the challenge I needed. Rather than focusing on the sounds and things going on around me, I had to tune it out. I couldn’t worry about what everybody else was or wasn’t doing. It didn’t matter. I was making a conscious effort to balance in the midst of life.

We don’t always get to choose everything that happens around us or to us. The only choice were given is how we respond. These poses help bring your focus within. They teach us to maintain our center no matter what is taking place around us.

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Balancing on All 4’s

Beginning on hands and knees, wrists under shoulders, knees under hips, left arm reaches out as you extend the opposite, right leg. Hold this position for 60-90 seconds and switch sides. Keep the spine long, gaze to the mat, hips even, belly button drawn to spine, shoulders back and down.

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Side Knee Plank Balance

Beginning with right hand underneath shoulder and right knee under hip, lift left leg up parallel to the mat and reach left arm up the sky. This is prep for our half moon standing balance.

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Side Plank Knee Plank Variation

Same pose as above except here you have the option to bind the left leg by bringing it in closer, allowing a stretch and a backbend.

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 Standing Splits with/without blocks

Begin in forward fold, reach one leg up behind you. It doesn’t matter how high you lift your leg. Activate both feet, the standing one by rooting down into the mat, and the lifted one by spreading the toes and lengthening the leg. Option: Use blocks to reach mat as shown in the picture above.

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Warrior 3 with/without blocks

In this pose our goal is to bring the lifted leg and arms parallel to the floor. When first attempting this pose, use a block under each hand and practice lifting the back foot, eventually you may begin to lift one or both arms to reach out in front of you.

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Half Moon Balance & Half Moon Balance Bind with block

This is one of my favorite yoga poses. Place a block out in front, a little to the side of whichever leg you’re balancing on first. You’re going to keep the balancing leg pointing forward. Take and lift the back leg up as in Warrior 3, except now we are going to rotate the hip open to the side. The chest also rotates and opens to the side reaching the top arm up. Don’t be afraid to bend the balancing leg. You have to feel your way into this pose. It will take some time and practice. Eventually you can begin to draw the extended leg in for a bind. Remember looking down helps with balance, looking up challenges it.

Find me on Instagram @outdooryogi and on twitter @bepresent100

 

 

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This Ain’t Your Mama’s Yoga Class

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Okay so maybe it is, it’s everyone’s yoga class, actually. For those of you that know her music, the title is Miranda Lambert inspired. 🙂 This is a post specifically for beginner yogi’s. Would that be you? All country tunes aside, yoga has come a long way and its rapid growth continues. It’s popular mostly for yoga pants but also for its mile long list of benefits and results. Yet, there are so many people out there that haven’t tried it! So my hope is to encourage you to give it a try. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

What to expect in your first yoga class?

We will be moving up and down and all around. There’s a chance you will sweat. Depending on the yoga class you attend. Be sure and discuss your questions or concerns with the teacher beforehand and always checkout the class description before attending. Gentle yoga & meditation, no sweat, power Yoga, much sweat! You get the idea.

What to wear when you don’t have yoga pants?

What? No yoga pants! Don’t panic that’s why I’m here. Yoga pants are comfy and they let you move so they are nice, however workout pants, sweatpants, shorts will do the trick. Anything you feel comfortable in and that allows to move.

Advice for a beginner?

Arrive early, introduce yourself to the teacher, ask any questions that you may have. Let them know you are a beginner. If you have injuries, for instance you have had knee surgery, let the teacher know and they will be able to provide modifications throughout the class.

Do we chant and meditate in yoga class?

If were being honest, I’ve never been a big fan of the chanting even in my yoga trainings. I just kind of sit there and observed. Oh, but how a few years and research can change someone. 🙂 I’ve learned to never say never when it comes to pretty much everything, chanting included. While I personally haven’t included it in my classes there are some that do. I have started chanting some in my own meditation practice. It’s very soothing and research has also shown it to be beneficial especially in preventing Alzheimer’s. I will be posting more on that soon. The bottom line is to find a class that resonates with you whether that includes chanting or no chanting. It’s all good for you. It’s kind of like church there’s a yoga class for everyone.

Poses for a Beginner

Here are some poses you will probably see in your first yoga class. I’ve included pictures and a short video.

Forward Fold

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Place your feet hip-width apart. Raise your arms overhead, bend your knees, and fold forward, leading with your chest. Hinging from the hips. Bend your knees as much as you desire here. If you find that your hands do not reach the floor, place your hands on a block for support.

Downward Facing Dog

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From all the all fours position, curl your toes and lift the knees up and send the hips up and back. Spread your fingers wide. Lift the heels if necessary but press them toward the mat. Draw the shoulders away from the ears.

Plank

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Align the shoulders over the wrists. Draw the navel in and lengthen through the spine. Create a nice long line of energy. If you hips sink, drop the knees to the mat.

Chaturanga

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From plank propel yourself forward slightly so that your elbows align over the wrists as you lower down into a push-up. Elbows hug in towards the ribs. Shoulder blades hug the back. Again if the hips sink, drop the knees. This will keep you from compromising your low back.

Cobra Pose

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Arms are straight, legs are on the mat. Imagine you have an egg beneath your low abdomen so your lifting up and opening up the chest, drawing the shoulders down.

Upward Facing Dog

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In this pose your pressing the ground away from you, shoulders still back and down, heart is open and your pressing down through the tops of the feet. The legs are hovering a few inches off the mat. Practice the cobra pose until you feel strong enough to try this one. Listen to your body you will know when your ready to advance.

Vinyasa Flow-Sun Salutation

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HOW TO PREVENT SHIN SPLINTS WITH YOGA

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Aching, throbbing and debilitating are just a few ways to describe shin splints. Once you have them, ice and rest are the best remedies. Being a runner, myself, I know all to well the pain they can inflict. In today’s post, you will find yoga pose variations that will help to prevent shin splints by both strengthening and stretching your legs and feet. First, I must say thank you to Rob! He has a blog http://weight2lose2013.wordpress.com and recently asked me if there were any yoga poses to prevent shin splints? Great question and thank you for the inspiration for this post!

STRENGTHEN

Chair Pose variation with heel lift (Utkatasana)

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Begin standing with your feet hip width apart, squat back, keeping the knees lined up. Lift one heel up off the mat. Now, see if you can lift both heels up off the mat, placing the weight onto the balls of the feet. Lift your heels up and down by alternating between them or lifting both at the same time. Try 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Chair Pose variation one leg lift (Utkatasana)

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In this variation instead of lifting the heel, stay in the squat position and lift the entire foot. Hold for 10-15 seconds and switch sides. 2 set of 10-15 reps per each side.

Standing Toe Lift

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Lift the toes and try to spread them apart. This may prove challenging in the beginning but this will strengthen your feet and the overall stability in your foot. Try 2 sets of 10-15 reps. Be consistent. Keep practicing.  🙂

STRETCHES

Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I)

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Right foot in front, knee over ankle, hips squared, turn your back foot slightly to the left and press down through both feet. Hold for 60-90 seconds and switch sides. Repeat 2-3 times per side.

Half Monkey Pose (Hanumanasana) 

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Begin on your knees, walk the right foot in front and stretch your leg out. Heel on the mat as your toes point up. Option 1: Keep the left knee under the hip. Option 2: Begin to walk the left knee back deeper into the splits. Hold for 60-90 seconds, 2-3 times per side. Be mindful and do what you can. That’s where you will reap the most benefits from your yoga poses.

Seated Flex/Point Toes

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Seated position with legs stretched out in front. Begin by pointing and flexing the feet back and forth. A simple stretch for your calves and shins.

Find out more on shin splints from the links below:

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/shin-splints

http://www.runnersworld.com/tag/shin-splints

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shin-splints/basics/definition/con-20023428

If you have questions or something that your interested in seeing in my blog posts, please ask! If you want more yoga and motivation, here’s where you can find me! @ https://www.facebook.com/pages/Be-PresentYoga/336705043142303 and on twitter:@bepresent100 

 

Runners & Desk Junkies: 4 Yoga Poses You Need In Your Life

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What do runners and desk junkies have in common? Tight hips! Use these juicy yoga stretches to open your hips and stay injury free. In order to get the most benefit from these hip openers, I suggest using a timer and holding each pose for 90 seconds. This will ensure you stay in the pose long enough to start allowing the tension and tightness to release. Let’s get started.

Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)

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Begin seated, bringing the soles of your feet together. Keep the spine long and hinge forward from the hips. Allow your hips to open and your knees to fall closer to the floor without pushing them. Just allowing them the space they need. If it’s only a thought for today, that’s perfectly okay. Work where you are.  Close your eyes and begin to breathe.

Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)

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Starting in a kneeling lunge position, (left foot in front) walk both hands to the inside of the knee/foot. Leave the arms extended or bring the forearms to the mat or block. Deepen the pose by lifting the back knee up off of the mat. Allow the knee to open up a little more to the left, lifting up through the arch of the foot to open the hips a little more.

Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

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There are a number of ways to come into pigeon pose. We will begin from the Lizard pose. One hand on each side, placing them underneath the shoulders, but not exact. You may walk your hands out in front as the photo demonstrates.  Beginning with the left foot in front, we walk the foot over as close as we can toward the right hand and the left knee will stay close to the left hand.  The back leg stretches all the way out behind us. Draw the navel in and keep the hips centered by not leaning to either side.  Imagine your tail bone curling slightly forward. You now have the option to fold forward and reach the arms out in front or stay upright. Yogi choice. 🙂

Fire Log Pose (Agnistambhasana)

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This is an intense hip opener and it may take some time for your hips to release to the full version of this pose. Be patient, do your best and listen to your body. Option 1: Start in a seated position, legs stretched out. Keep the left leg stretched out and bring the right foot in and place it on top of the left leg right above your knee. If this is enough, keep it here, allow yourself to sink into the stretch. Option 2: Deepen this pose further by bringing the left leg in. You will then be stacking your legs like fire logs demonstrated in the photo above. Shin over shin, knee over ankle on one side and ankle over knee on the other. In either option above, you may fold forward from the hips to intensify the stretch.

Hope you enjoyed these 4 hip opening yoga poses. Do them daily for the best results and try to incorporate a short warm-up before stretching which will help deepen your pose. If you have questions, send them to me!

Find more yoga and inspiration at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Be-PresentYoga/336705043142303 and on twitter:@bepresent100 

 

 

Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: How to Avoid and Prevent Injuries in Your Yoga Practice.

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As I was demonstrating proper alignment for chaturanga several months ago, I tweaked my shoulder. One wrong move is all it takes to compromise our alignment, even when were careful and even when were teacher’s :). It still frustrates me thinking about it but such is life. So here are the facts, whether you’ve been practicing yoga a week or several years, there aren’t any fool proof ways to guarantee injury will never happen to you. Injuries can happen even while walking down the stairs. Yes, that’s right I fell down the stairs a little over a year ago and broke my elbow. Yes, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that, and yes, I was completely sober. So it doesn’t really matter whether you’re doing yoga or walking there is a risk there apparently for some like me. However, I’m aware of the title of my post and I have some good news! There are ways that we can be more mindful in our practice which will help us to avoid and prevent injuries. (I count every step now) See my tips below for creating more mindfulness in your practice.

1) Stacking Your Joints. This helps to properly align your muscles, joints and bones. For example, stacking your joints while on your hands and knees consists of placing your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders. Now obviously, we are not stacking the joints in every pose, the downward facing dog is a perfect example where we are stretching and lengthening our spine as opposed to stacking.

2) Navel to Spine. Drawing the naval toward the spine helps to keep our low back protected and engages our core muscles, including our abs. So it’s a win/win. It takes some time to develop navel to spine awareness but with practice you are on your way to a safer workout and fantastic abs!

3) Use Props. Props can deepen your pose and your practice. I have been teaching yoga for several years and I use them on a regular basis. They make you stronger and allow you to go deeper. They help strengthen your muscles and help you avoid compromising your alignment and risking injury. You may not need them for every pose but use them when you do.

4) Listen to your Body. This is the key to developing body awareness and learning your own limitations in each and every pose. When we are tired it’s okay to admit this and work with our body instead of against it. This may mean coming to child’s pose more throughout your practice or dropping to your knees in chaturanga. In other words, take it day by day, practice by practice.

5) Private Yoga Sessions. This will allow you to get personal attention and instruction for your body. You can also go over any lingering questions or concerns you have.

6) Ask questions. If you have a question, please ask your teacher.That’s why we are here and why we do what we do. We want to help you stay safe and grow in your yoga practice.

Comments? Questions? Send them to me!

Find more yoga and inspiration at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Be-PresentYoga/336705043142303 and on twitter:@bepresent100