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Make History

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Women History Ulrich

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Subtle Sun

12221268 - concentric  decorative hibernal sun

Happy Winter Solstice!

It’s the shortest day of the year, the official start to Winter, and you just might be looking for a way to celebrate.

A common tradition for yogis on the occasion of the solstices (winter and summer) and sometimes the equinoxes (spring & fall) is to practice 108 sun salutations or a fraction of that number like 9, 27, 36 or 54.  108 is an auspicious or favorable number which is connected to the roots of the ancient practice.  (To learn more about the significance of 108, check out “Why 108 Sun Salutations” by Cora Wen.)

Sun salutations are the foundation of Viṅyāsa Yoga for Flow Yoga.  Variations “A” and “B” are included at the start of the of the Aṣṭaṅga Primary series (and others).  They are concrete examples of linking the breath to movement, with each pose tied to an inhale or exhale.  In both series you jump back into yoga push-up and jump forward from down dog, so the practice of traditional sun salutations can become very challenging very quickly.

The graphics below show the series of poses for each salutation.  (“Samasthitih” means same standing or the starting position.  The subsequent words are the counts in sanskrit; ekam = one, dve = two, etc.)

surya a graphic

Photo Credit:  Mariia Semenova/123RF

surya b graphic

Photo Credit:  Mariia Semenova/123RF

There is also a variation that I am fond of that I refer to as Sūrya Namaskār C or Sun Salutation C.  This is a kinder, gentler variation that I often use as the base for my home practice and for some classes.  It follows a familiar pattern, but instead of jumping back, you step into a low lunge.  Instead of yoga push-up you can practice knees, chest, chin or if you are looking for more challenge add a traditional viṅyāsa with the push-up, upward facing dog and down dog, but stepping back replaces jumping. Overall, it ends up be a gentler, more subtle practice that I enjoy.

Here’s the pattern based on one breath per movement, but feel free to hold each pose for several breaths and move through the sequences a little more slowly.

Surya C

Finally, any of these variations can be the catalyst for a home practice.  If you have been tempted to unroll you mat at home, I encourage you to try it.  Take one of these salutations and practice it as is, or use them it a template to add in a few extra poses.  Let your creativity and what your body is asking for offer direction for where the practice takes you.

Enjoy!

 

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Giving

“For it is in giving that we receive.”

-St. Francis of Assisi

Giving Francis

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Hope

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
-Desmond Tutu

Hope Tutu

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Yoga for Pregger Mamas

59702698 - set of 9 yoga poses for pregnant women. prenatal exercise.Sometimes I’m one of the first to know.  A student pulls me aside to share the happy news of their pregnancy.  It’s often in the early stages, less than ten weeks.  I’m so grateful they feel comfortable confiding in me.  It’s an honor to share their joy and be their secret keeper.  It also gives me the opportunity to guide them through a safe and modified practice.

Yoga can be a great activity for pregger mamas. But, not all types of yoga or all poses are a good fit.  If you are pregnant and practicing yoga, I highly recommend the following:

  1. Check with your doctor or midwife and make yoga or any other physical activity is okay for you and your baby.  As your body and pregnancy evolves, be sure to check in again with your health care provider if you notice any concerns or discomforts that develop.
  2. Consult the ACOG’s (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) information on Exercise During Pregnancy.  ACOG recommends modified yoga, but to avoid hot yoga.
  3. Find a teacher with prenatal yoga experience and training. (Not all teachers are trained or feel comfortable modifying for pregnancy, be sure to ask about their experience and comfort level.)  You can visit Yoga Alliance and search for a teacher with the RPYT – Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher designation.  This indicates they have completed prenatal yoga specialty training and have at least 30 hours of prenatal yoga teaching experience.
  4. Attend a prenatal specific class taught by an experienced teacher.  These classes are generally a more gentle and included modified poses.  Some of the poses, breathing techniques, meditation practices can be helpful with childbirth.  You can also get great ideas for modifying the practice on your own at home or in a general population class.
  5. Make sure your instructor knows that you are pregnant.  It’s not always obvious!

Here are a few general guidelines for practicing yoga while pregnant:

  • Entire Pregnancy
    • Reduce intensity and soften practice.
    • Open twists or isolate twists to the upper torso.
    • Avoid overheating.
    • Be cautious when balancing.
    • Lie on the left side, supporting the head and top leg for savasana/resting pose.
  • First Trimester
    • Eliminate inversion (hips over heart).  This includes down dog, headstand, and handstand.
    • Eliminate cross body twists.
  • Second Trimester
    • Gentle inversions can be reintroduced.
    • Eliminate belly prone poses.
    • Avoid lying prone on your back.
    • Minimize depth/compacting of forward folds.
    • Minimize depth of backbends.
  • Third Trimester
    • At about 35 weeks, especially if baby is head down, minimize time spent in inversions to about 5 breaths.  This includes downward facing dog and wide leg forward fold.

Pregnant yogis have a special place in my heart.  When I was pregnant with my first baby, I really began to appreciate the practice of yoga.  For me, it was the one activity that I could do that felt good on my body.  Yoga always seem to fit and change with how I was feeling.  It became a staple through all three of my pregnancies.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy pregnancy.  Namaste!

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Connection

Sometimes it’s freaky, but most times it’s comforting.  It’s happened to me a lot and it’s probably happened to you too.

Recently, I was teaching a class, the flow lead us to Urdhva Dhanurasana or Upward Bow Pose.  After class, a student came up and share a story.   He had just been talking about that very pose with his sister just a day or two before.  He’s been practicing yoga for a little while and she was the person encouraged him to try it.  They discussed the pose, but he told her that he hadn’t worked on that pose in a class before.  He was surprised that in the very next class after that conversation that we worked on that very pose.

Hands - Nov 2005A connection.  A shared experience.  A shared energy.

Things like this happen all of the time when I teach.  Someone specifically connects to a theme, a song, or pose, so much so that they wonder how you knew what they were thinking.  It probably happens in your life too.

Have you ever been thinking of someone and a few moments later a text pops up from them?  Have you ever craved a meal only to get home and find out that’s exactly what’s on the menu?  Have you ever met someone for the first time, but felt like you’ve known them your entire life.  Connection.

It can seem that we are alone and disparate, just going about our daily business, but in fact we are part of a complex tapestry of energy.  We share DNA, we share the air we breathe, we share the frustrations of traffic delaying us from our destination.  There are lots of ways to look at it, but there is no denying that we are connected.

So, as you find your way to the mat or throughout the day.  Take a moment to acknowledge connection.  Appreciate the magic of that complex tapestry.  Imagine the thread that links you to the people you know personally and those who may pass briefly through your life.  By acknowledging and honoring these connections the tapestry becomes even more beautiful.

Namaste.

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Revolutionary

“Being yourself can be a revolutionary act.”

-Luvvie Ajayi

Revolutionary Act Ajayi.jpg

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