Reflections for this Memorial Weekend

As we move into the unofficial start of Summer, let us take time to remember the those men and women who sacrificed their lives for this country. Let’s think about the families who are remembering and reflecting on memories shared with those they have lost. Now, hold on close to those near you, love your people and be safe. Namaste.

New to Yoga? Questions Asked and Answered

What IS Yoga? -The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as “union” or a method of discipline. The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra an estimated 2,000 years ago. The Sutra is a collection of 195 statements that serves as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today. It also outlines eight limbs of yoga: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). As we explore these eight limbs, we begin by refining our behavior in the outer world, and then we focus inwardly until we reach samadhi (liberation, enlightenment).  Most people practicing yoga are engaged in the third limb, asana, which is a program of physical postures designed to provide the physical strength and stamina required for long periods of meditation.

What Does Om Mean? – Om is a mantra, or vibration, that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of yoga sessions. It is said to be the sound of the universe. What does that mean? ancient yogis knew what scientists today are telling us—that the entire universe is moving. Nothing is ever solid or still. Everything that exists pulsates, creating a rhythmic vibration that the ancient yogis acknowledged with the sound of Om. Chanting Om allows us to recognize our experience as a reflection of how the whole universe moves—the setting sun, the rising moon, the ebb and flow of the tides, the beating of our hearts.

How Many Times A Week Should One Practice Yoga? – Even if you only practice for one hour a week, you will experience the benefits of the practice. If you can do more than that, you will certainly experience more benefits. I suggest starting with two or three times a week, for an hour or an hour and a half each time.

How Is Yoga Different From Stretching or Other Kinds of Fitness? – Unlike stretching or fitness, yoga is more than just physical postures. It is unique because we connect the movement of the body and the fluctuations of the mind to the rhythm of our breath. Connecting the mind, body, and breath helps us to direct our attention inward. We become more aware of our experiences from moment to moment. The awareness that we cultivate is what makes yoga a practice, rather than a task or a goal to be completed. Your body will most likely become much more flexible by doing yoga, and so will your mind.

Is Yoga a Religion? – Yoga is not a religion. It sometimes interweaves other philosophies such as Hinduism or Buddhism, but it is not necessary to study those paths in order to practice or study yoga. It is also not necessary to surrender your own religious beliefs to practice yoga.

I’m Not Flexible—Can I Do Yoga? – Yes! You are a perfect candidate for yoga. Many people think that they need to be flexible to begin yoga, but that’s a little bit like thinking that you need to be able to play tennis in order to take tennis lessons. Come as you are and you will find that yoga practice will help you become more flexible. This newfound agility will be balanced by strength, coordination, and enhanced cardiovascular health, as well as a sense of physical confidence and overall well-being.

Yoga Poses to Strengthen Knees

Let’s look at Yoga poses to strengthen those knees! First, it is wise to evenly distribute weight on them. Stand tall!

Half Squat Against a Wall: This pose strengthens the quadriceps, hamstrings and hips.  When doing this pose, please stand on a yoga mat.  As you move into the squat where your back is against the wall, make sure that your knees track over the center of your feet and do not extend beyond your ankles.  Also, keep your hips higher than your knees.

Bridge, gently squeezing a block between the knees: This pose also strengthens quadriceps and hamstrings, along with other muscles.   As with the squat, do not let your knees go behind your toes.  Squeezing the block engages the inner thigh muscles and promotes correct positioning of the feet.  Always keep both edges of the feet and all ten toes on the ground.

Cobra, bending the knees: This back strengthener also promotes mobility in the knee join and builds strength in the hamstrings.  You can either bend one knee at a time or both.  Flexing the foot as you bend the knee and imagining that you are wearing an ankle weight deepens the work.

The poses above can be modified based on your needs. Talk with your instructor for guidance. Namaste.

Sunrise Yoga Teacher Highlight – featuring Kim Crawford

Sunrise Yoga has amazing, caring and gifted instructors. Attention is given to each student as they give instruction. This post will highlight Kim Crawford who came to yoga hoping to improve range of motion after breast cancer treatments. She found that yoga brought her so much more than physical flexibility and strength. The awareness and peacefulness that came along with the physical benefits encouraged Kim to deepen her practice. Kim completed a 330-hour teacher training program at Triad Yoga Institute and began teaching in 2008. Kim graduated from the Sunrise Yoga Teacher Training program as a 500-hour Certified Yoga Teacher and is now a 500-hour Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) with Yoga Alliance. Kim believes that anybody in any body can benefit from yoga and she enjoys sharing the yoga experience.

Come experience classes with Kim on Monday and Wednesday evenings at 6:00 pm. She teaches Gentle Yoga and Level 1 Yoga respectively. Kim also teaches Thursday mornings at 10:00am and 11:30 am. Those classes are Chair Yoga and Back Care Yoga respectively. Friday mornings, she teaches a Level 1 Yoga class at 10:00 am. One Friday of each month, Kim will feature dulcimer player, DJ Stine, who plays during Savasana. What’s more cool than having your own personal DJ?! 😉 You will not want to miss it.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Sunrise Yoga Family!

 

Please Enjoy the following Reading

Peace

Peace flows into me
As the tide to the pool by the shore;
It is mine forevermore,
It ebbs not back like the sea.

I am the pool of blue
That worships the vivid sky;
My hopes were heaven-high,
They are all fulfilled in you.

I am the pool of gold
When sunset burns and dies—
You are my deepening skies,
Give me your stars to hold.

By Sara Teasdale from Love Songs (1917)

Namaste

Our Surroundings need Detoxing, too.

Now that Spring has sprung many are looking to or have begun what we know as “Spring Cleaning.” the task is daunting as we begin, however, as we get closer to the finish line, then look at our clean space, there is a sense of accomplish and calm. A book that Cate Stillman of yogahealer.com recommends is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

Why You Shouldn’t Strain Yourself To Padmasana (Lotus Pose)

Yoga is a practice that helps to strengthen your body using slow, controlled movements, in and out of poses. When practiced properly, one of the benefits is to alleviate pain. So why would you want strain to get into a pose? That hurts! Plus it won’t be short term!

The Lotus Pose (Padmasana) is forced by many during meditation. Pushing yourself in this way can lead to a sickening “pop” in the knee, followed by years of pain and limited mobility.

The safest way to practice Padmasana and related poses is to strongly rotate your thigh outward at the hip and not go deeper into the pose when you reach the limit of your outward rotation. This means that you’ll have to stop lifting your foot when your thigh stops rotating, so you may not get your foot on the opposite thigh. (Remember the upside: happy, functional, pain-free knees.) You can use your hands or a strap to help rotate your thighbone outward. Whether using your hands, a strap, or a cloth, if your knee ends up dangling in midair, support it with a folded blanket so you do not inadvertently force it downward as you turn the thigh outward.

If you have the misfortune of hurting your inner knee in Padmasana or a related pose, the first thing to do is leave it alone. You need to rest, ice, elevate, and compress it for a few days to reduce swelling and inflammation. If the injury seems serious, seek medical attention. It’s a good idea to reintroduce knee range of motion as early as you can by gently flexing and extending the knee to the extent possible. A yoga program for recovery needs to be individualized to your needs and supervised by a qualified instructor. Promoting alignment and strength with basic standing poses is ideal. You may try Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) and Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II). If necessary, support your body with a chair to take weight off the knee. In addition, increase range of motion by doing Virasana (Hero Pose) with the pelvis supported on a prop, and eventually reintroduce outward rotating movements like Baddha Konasana (and perhaps Padmasana) using a rolled cloth behind the inner knee.

Your yoga practice should be pleasurable and healing. Be mindful and pay attention to your body so as to avoid long term injury. Namaste.

 

 

Sun Salutation Poses

Spring is Coming and we are feeling warmer temperatures and seeing more of the sun! Let’s take a look at Sun Salutation, 12 poses that help improve strength and flexibility of the muscles and spinal column. This pose also warms up the body and tones the abdominal muscles.

STEP 1: Stand on your yoga mat and start with the Yoga Mountain Pose. Bring your palms together in prayer position. Exhale.

STEP 2: As you inhale, raise your arms overhead, keeping your palms together.

 

STEP 3: Exhale and then bend forward until your hands touch your feet.

 

STEP 4: As you inhale, step the right leg back, arch back and lift your chin.

 

STEP 5: Exhaling, step the left leg back into plank position. Keep your spine and legs in a straight line and support your weight on hands and feet.

 

STEP 6: Retaining the breath, lower your knees, your chest and then your forehead, keeping your hips up and toes curled under.

 

STEP 7: Inhaling, stretch forward and bend back. Keep your arms straight.

 

STEP 8: Exhaling, curl your toes under, press down into your heels, and lift your hips.

 

STEP 9: As you inhale, bring your right leg forward, with the top of the foot stretched out flat on the floor, and lift your chin.

 

STEP 10: Exhale and then bend forward until your hands touch your feet.

 

STEP 11: Inhaling, stretch your arms forward and over your head. Slowly bend backward from the waist.

 

STEP 12: Exhaling, gently come back to Tadasana.

 

 

Five Ways Using Props Will Deepen Your Yoga Practice

B. K. S. Iyengar and yoga teachers strongly emphasize the use of props, such as blocks, blankets and eggs. Here are five ways these props and more will help to deepen your yoga practice.

1. More openness and freedom. Got short hamstrings? In many asanas, hamstrings hold some back like reins, tempting them to fight back by rounding the spine and collapsing the front body, which in turn shortens the breath. But add a folded blanket underneath the hips in seated forward bends, and the spine—and breath—can stay lengthened while entering the pose. Do this, and over time one can reduce the height of the blanket, stretching the hamstrings gradually, thus preventing injury. Too slow, you say? Not compared to healing a hamstring tear or a strained back.

2. Greater stability and strength. Daily activities—sitting, walking, reaching forward—tend to overemphasize certain muscles while neglecting others. When the muscles needed to anchor an asana aren’t strong enough, there’s a tendency to compensate by straining or struggling. For example, if the hip muscles aren’t able to stabilize the pelvis in Vrksasana (Tree Pose), we might torque the base of the spine or hyperextend the knee of the standing leg, triggering an anatomical “train wreck” as other muscles and joints follow the misalignment. Rather than reinforcing bad alignment habits in order to balance, touch a wall or hold the back of a chair, then focus on developing the muscle memory (proprioception) and strength needed for stable alignment.

3. The Best rejuvenation, ever. If you’ve ever been injured, ill, or just plain tired, you know how tempting it can be to skip daily asana practice because it “takes too much energy.” With blankets and bolsters to support poses, Restorative Yoga can give (not deplete) energy. Even something as effortless as lying back on a rolled towel or a bolster during pranayama can recharge your inner batteries.

4. Keener self-awareness. “One size fits all” is a lie when it comes to yoga pants, and it’s not true for asana, either. Proportion, bone structure, strength, flexibility, and other factors vary from person to person, but all too often, we try to match our asanas to the teacher’s because that’s the “right way.” Except that it’s not. How an asana feels, not how it looks, is a better guide. Experimenting with props can help you learn to recognize the inner cues that tell you when something doesn’t fit and why. Wonky hips in Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon Pose)? Try a folded blanket under the low hip. Struggling to breathe deeply in Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)? Place the hand on a chair instead of the floor so that you can open both sides of the ribcage.

5. Sharper concentration. When a prop can free us from the distracting struggle to overcome short hamstrings or other challenges, then the mind can become fully focused. This is essential during seated meditation poses, and lifting the pelvis by sitting on a folded blanket that the back muscles won’t have to overwork to support the pose. Props can help us reach a state of awareness in many other asanas as well.

Four Yoga Poses for Back Health

This series of four poses is designed to support spinal health and relieve back pain through yoga.

Pelvic Tilts

1. Come to lie in your back with the knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor.

2. Do 5-10 Pelvic Tilts to warm up the spine.

 

Supported Bridge Pose

1. Have a yoga block nearby.

2. Press into the soles of the feet to lift the hips. Slide a yoga block under your sacrum, coming into Supported Bridge.

3. This should be a comfortable resting position that you may want to hold for several minutes.

4. To come out, press into the feet the lift the sacrum off the block, slide the block out, and slowly lower your back on to the floor.

 

Reclined Big-Toe Pose – Supta Padangusthasana

1. Have a yoga strap nearby.

2. Release your left leg flat on the floor (you may keep it bent with the sole on the floor if this is more comfortable) as you draw the right knee in to your chest.

3. Loop the strap over your right foot and straighten the leg coming in to Reclined Big Toe Pose – Supta Padangusthasana.

4. Repeat on the other leg.

 

Supine Spinal Twist – Supta Matsyendrasana

1. Lift your hips slightly off the floor and shift them about an inch to your right.

2. Bring your right knee into your chest and extend the left leg on the floor.

3. Drop your right knee over to the left side of your body, coming in to Supine Spinal Twist – Supta Matsyendrasana.

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