Yoga blog

A Beginners’ Guide to Sun Salutations

Sun Salutations are fantastic! They move every muscle and joint, providing a perfect whole body workout, while also warming the body up for other poses (asanas) and increasing strength and flexibility. But they can be the most daunting part of a Yoga class for beginners, so as my next batch of Beginner Courses all start this week here’s my Beginners’ Guide 🙂

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Tadasana

Stand with toes together, heels slightly apart. Inhale and lift arms. If you have low back pain keep a straight back. If not you can squeeze your glutes, draw your abdominals in and lean back as far as comfortable. Then keep your knees soft and bend as much as you need to as you exhale forward into Uttanasana

 

Uttanasana (Forward Fold)

forward fold

Don’t worry if you can’t get your hands on the floor with straight legs. Bend your knees, bend them more… bend them so much that you have your hands on the floor. Putting some weight through the hands takes the pressure out of your lower back. Also in this position lead with your heart, not the crown of your head, so you keep your spine long and allow your chest to remain open so you can take full, deep breaths. From here step one foot back and lower the knee coming into a low lunge.

Aswa Sanchalanasana (Low Lunge)

Low lunge SS

Don’t let the knee come past your toes. If you have any hip injuries keep this position more boxy, if not you can sink your hips forward more coming deeper into the lunge.

There are two options for what comes next:

  1. Bharmanasana (Table)

Table

Any pain in the knees you can double fold your mat under them here. Knees under hips, wrists under shoulders. Spread your fingers. Keep a micro-bend in your elbows so they are not locked out and use your triceps to rotate your inner elbows towards one another.

 

Or

 

2. Kumbhakasana (Plank)

 

Plank

Any pain in the wrists in this position come to the forearms.

 

 

The transitions…

 

In plank lower your knees first so you are in Table. From here you have two options:

  1. Bring your right forearm down, then your left forearm down. Make sure your forearms are relatively wide apart. Then keeping your hips lifted lower your chest down in between them.

Forearms DownForearms down chest down

 

2. Keeping your elbows into your body, lower your chest and your chin. This will require more upper body strength. If this is not available to you now do not give up hope, the best way to get stronger is to practice the first option, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time you are building the upper body strength you need.

Ashtanga Namaskar SS

3. From Plank, roll a little forwards. Keep the elbows into the body and lower yourself in one straight line to the floor. If you find yourself doing a belly flop stick to one of the earlier options to protect your back and build strength.

Chaturanga

NB: I know it can feel like you just want to be able to do everything straight away, but Yoga practice remains fun and interesting because there is always a challenge to be working towards, your body is beautiful and strong just how it is, so never worry about what anybody else is doing.

Bhujangasana (Cobra)

Sphinxcobra-ss.jpg

If you’ve come down forearm by forearm, you may prefer to lift into Sphinx to keep the flow. Equally if you have low back pain Sphinx gives more support. Only lift as high as feels comfortable. Or if you want a deeper backbend, then you can bring the hands alongside the ribs and lift up a little higher.

From here you can push back into Downward Facing Dog. However, pushing back to Downward Dog can be quite strenuous, so you can come through Table pose, tuck your toes under and lift up into it to begin with.

Ardo Mukta Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

Downdog

In this pose don’t worry so much about getting the heels down to the mat. Focus on getting along spine, by pushing actively into the hands and sending your chest and belly back towards the thighs. Spread your fingers, push into the knuckles and fingers. Keep your thighs active, gently pushing your heels down.

 

More transitions…

 

  1. To begin with get used to lowering your knees down from Downward facing dog and coming into Table. When in table you can take hold of the right/left leg and bring it forward into a low lunge. Make sure you assist your ankle so it comes under your knee.
  2. If you have the flexibility you can step your foot all the way forward between your hands from Downward Dog. If it doesn’t quite make it, take hold of the ankle and bring it forward between the hands.

 

From your low lunge, you can then step together into a Forward Bend and rise up to Mountain/Tadasana, closing the sequence by bringing your hands to your heart <3

 

Happy practicing!

Namaste Hx

 

 

Yoga blog

Divine Dancer

Dancer/Natarajasana is my most-loved Yoga balance for so many reasons. It requires and builds flexibility in the hip, back, shoulder and hamstring, tones the legs and builds concentration and focus. But a lot of people feel unnecessarily intimidated by this pose. In this blog I offer modifications to make this pose more accessible while also working towards getting into a deeper variation of the posture.

Variation 1:

dancer 1

Bring your weight into one leg and lift the other up in front of you bending at the knee. Bring the bend leg back so the knees are in line. Lift the opposite arm to you lifted knee and balance here.

Variation 2:

Dancer 2

From Variation 1, reach back with the hand on the same side of the lifted leg and take hold of the inner sole of the foot.

Variation 3:

Dancer 3

From Variation 2 start to lift the back leg while keeping the hips in line. Allow the body to tilt forward a little, but focus on pushing the back leg into your hand and using this to open the hip and back.

 

Of course there are more advanced versions that this! But I’m still working towards them myself so like everyone else I stay where feels best for my body until I’m ready to deepen the practice further <3 Why not send me your most divine variation of dancer?

Namaste! Hxx

 

 

Yoga blog

Two Yoga Breathing Techniques (Pranayama) to Calm and Cool the Mind

NB: If Sukhasana (crossed legged position) is uncomfortable, you can sit on a chair, bring the legs out in front of you or make any other adjustments so that you are comfortable

 

  1. Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

How to:

Sit in Sukhasana (crossed legged position). Keep the spine long, shoulders back and down. Close the eyes or soften your gaze. To perform Nadi Shodhana bring your left hand to rest on the left knee. Form Vishnu Mudra (pictured below) with your right hand by tucking your little finger under you ring finger and then bringing your middle and first fingers down to the base of your thumb. Then bringing the right hand up to the face use the thumb to close off your right nostril and inhale through the left. Then open the right nostril and close the left. Exhale through the right. Close off the left nostril and inhale through the right. Close off the right nostril and exhale through the left. Inhale through the left, close it off and exhale through the right. Repeat this.

Benefits:

Nadi Shodhana cleanses the body, focuses the mind and energizes the body.

Vishnu Mudra:

Vishnu Mudra

 

  1. Sitkari Breathing

How to:

Sit tall in Sukhasana (crossed legs) with a long spine. Slightly part your lips and have your tongue just behind your teeth. Inhale drawing the breath along your tongue and as you do this lift your chin slightly. Close your mouth. Exhale out through your nose. Try to get the inhale to a count of four and the exhale to a count of eight.

Benefits:

Sitkari is a cooling breath which will reduce body temperature, alleviate stress and can help with insomnia.

 

Yoga blog

Choosing Yoga

camel filter

 

Are you thinking about Yoga Teacher Training? Are you wondering if you’re good enough? I know I was. This is my story of choosing yoga.

I’m not good enough…

I signed up for Yoga Teacher Training on 16 November 2017. I had planned to start a training course the previous January, and prior to that the November before. In both instances I put it off. The first time I was looking at the course I went as far as buying the recommended textbook, Yoga for Fitness Professionals. Little did I know that two years later the woman pictured in the book would be my inspiring, kind and beautiful teacher, Annie.

I know now that I should not have put off what I wanted to do with my life. I was so afraid that I wasn’t good enough and that I wouldn’t be able to teach. But I was also being driven by my ego, I did not think that my friends and family would view pursuing a career in Yoga as right for me. So instead, I moved to Ireland to take a job which I absolutely hated in an industry where people are treated as disposable. I was working for someone who was deeply unpleasant towards me and I began to feel really trapped. I don’t regret a single day of my life because mistakes are valuable and even painful experiences can be useful in knowing who you are, what matters to you and where you want to be. In the end I resigned and felt a huge weight lifted.

I came back to England and booked my training course with YMCA Fit & Yoga Professionals. I had found a new confidence, I knew I was good enough. If you’re reading this and you haven’t figured it out yet, you are too. Yoga isn’t about being able to do every asana, it’s about loving yoga and trying to live a happy, healthy, yogic lifestyle. But if you love something then it makes sense that you would want to share it. I’m not saying every yoga practitioner should sign up for teacher training tomorrow, but I do think that we should put fear aside as one of the reasons not to. Thinking about whether you are financially able to, have the time to devote to a course, and whether you want to teach yoga not just go on a retreat, should be the main things to consider.

YMCA Fit & Yoga Professionals

I had done A LOT of research into training programmes because I had been thinking about training for such a long time. The things which attracted me to the YMCA course were that it allowed you to join the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs), which is an internationally recognized body. It did not hurt that it was significantly cheaper than other providers. Additionally, as a History graduate who had not taken any Science A-Levels, I was very interested to learn more about Physiology and Anatomy – the YMCA require you to take a Level 3 P&A exam as part of the course. It was the right decision for me, but there are a lot of great training providers out there, everyone has to do their own research and make an informed choice. This blog was really helpful for me when I was looking into training providers: http://thoughtbrick.com/yoga/yoga-teacher-training-course-choose/

A few final thoughts on choosing yoga…

One good thing about delaying my teacher training was that I had so much experience going to yoga classes when I began, which really made teaching easier as I could draw on what I had found most useful from so many teachers. Moving between countries and various cities over the previous years meant I had experienced a lot of yoga styles and met many yoga teachers. I’ll never forget the moment a teacher in Southampton pushed on my back and my heels first touched the floor in downward dog – I suddenly realised how the pose was supposed to feel and it was as if something had just clicked into place. I am so grateful to all the amazing teachers who have helped me on my yoga journey.

If you are thinking about training, don’t just worry about how good you are in your practice, worry about how able you would be to teach other people. The best way to learn about teaching yoga is to go to yoga classes, I know that sounds obvious, but I think sometimes people think that just because they can do a pose it means they can teach it. Doing and teaching are different. Just wait for the first time you teach Vrksasana (Tree pose) and realise that talking about how to do the pose to ten people who are staring at you makes it harder to balance! Most training providers suggest you have a regular practice and attend classes for some years before training and I cannot stress enough how much I support this. So practice, practice, practice and when you’re ready to teach don’t let fear hold you back!