Baretoes Yoga and Belly Dance in Tamaqua, USA
These are some of my favorite warming exercises. Most anything that works the core will have you warm (or hot!) in no time. Give these a try and I can almost guarantee you will be warmed up by the end of this set!
1. Sunbird Flow
Inhale and extend through the opposite leg and arm, exhale knee to elbow. To make this less challenging keep both hands on the ground. Keep the hips level to one another (aka) keep the extending leg hip rolling down. Pull the belly button to the spine to stabilize the core! Do this for at least 5 breaths on each side.
2. Navasana flow
Inhale and lift through the heart, exhale and lower, rounding through the upper body.
You can keep the hands beneath bent knees for a more gentle version. Work up to doing 5 full breaths for 3 rounds.
3. Chatarunga practice
Inhale at top of a push up, exhale and bend at the elbows keeping them close to the ribs. The heart leads here as the hips stay UP! Release the knees to the ground to make this less challenging, but remember, hips UP! Go for at least 5 of these and keep building up to more.
4. Toleasana practice
With your hands by your sides in a cross leg seat press into straight arms, lift up out of the collar bones, and tuck your tailbone as you lift your bum off of the ground. Maybe one or both of your feet will lift up too! Curl inwards and use all your core muscles to lift, lift, lift! Try this 5+ times, inhale lifting, hold, exhale release.
With straight strong legs and a very engaged core find yourself in trikonasana! Hips forward, extend through the spine and find the arm overhead or the hand on the hip. The lower arm can be on the upper thigh or shin (not on the knee), as long as you keep the hips pressing forward! Take at least 3 deep breaths on both sides. Inhale to come up, reaching through the arm with a strong core.
I hope these poses keep you warm and strong during the remainder of the winter months. Let me know how this works for you!
With a sunny hug,
Upon returning from one month in Nepal I would like to reflect on some of the things that I learned during a one week yoga intensive up near Pokhara. I was lucky to spend this week studying with one of my favorite teachers, Anthony Scott. This week re-awoke so much knowledge within me. One thing that really stood out was the use of the 'drishti.' Our 'drishti' or 'focused and unwavering gaze' is often used during balance poses such as vrksasana (photo above.) However, the drishti can be used in so many other types of postures during our practice.
Here are a few examples:
While in standing or seated forward fold (paschimottanasana) gaze at the toes. This can be used in many other forward folds as well.
While in warrior I or crescent pose (virabhadrasana 1 or anjenayasana) gaze upward at your touching palms or thumbs.
In downward facing dog (adhomukhasvanasana) gaze towards your thighs or even the belly button.
While in warrior III (virabhadrasana 3) gaze at the front middle finger.
While twisting gaze at a space on the wall/floor behind you.
While practicing pranayama bring you attention/gaze to your third eye with the eyes closed.
Now, why use this focused gaze ?
The most obvious reason is to simply steady the eyes, the mind, and then the body so we can balance. Focus is always a foundation for balancing. With out it we simply cannot balance!
The less obvious reason is strictly to do with the mind. By focusing the eyes on a fixed point such as the toes or thumb we have yet another anchor to this moment. To NOW.
I find that when I follow my thumbs to the ground during the beginning of sun salutation (surya namaskar) I feel so much more 'in tune' and connected to how my body is moving through space and time.
In essence, I feel more purpose in my practice and I believe you will too.
Give it a try.
How to get into a daily yoga practice and stick with it.
I can't tell you how many days I rolled out my yoga mat, sat down, and just did a few forward folds.
I believe some days call for this type of restoration and relaxation but I'd venture to say that most don't!
For nearly a year now I've practiced yoga every single day. Some days I practiced for 20 minutes and some days (I admit!) I barely did more than a few forward folds. But here's the thing,... I rolled out that yoga mat every day and gave it my best.
What kicked off my daily yoga practice was structure. To sustain a daily practice we must have direction! This direction gives us a reason to practice and allows us to see our progress. It also allows no room for laziness or being indecisive. We notice if we aren't following the structure and aren't being disciplined. You can ask yourself “Do I feel okay not adhering to the yoga practice that I agreed to?” This is not a matter of being a good or bad yogi. It's a matter of self accountability and svadhyaya aka self study.
While in Bali in 2014 I met an Ashtanga inspired yoga teacher, Anthony Scott. My fiance and I took a morning class with him, every morning, for 6 days. In just these 6 days I realized how do-able it is to get up and practice yoga every morning. Perhaps it wasn't easy, but it was possible! We learned several different sequences that could be practiced together or in parts. Ah, the structure. Practice daily and here are the yoga poses to practice,...every day.
This beginning of a new chapter is best when begun with a yoga teacher who can direct you on proper alignment and give you yoga poses that you wouldn't necessarily choose to practice yourself. If you don't have a yoga teacher near you then you can search yoga sequences online, pick a few, and practice daily. However, be aware that it is easy to only chose the poses that you like! Working with a yoga teacher also lends an extra bit of accountability. When your teacher asks “How's the practice going?” what do you want to be able to say?
I'd venture to say that EVERYone has the time to commit 10 minutes in the morning to a structured yoga practice. The key is to commit. Pick or be given a sequence and practice. Every day!
It's simple, and you can do it.