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Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Five Koshas

   I am still not used to all these Sanskrit words, and the fact that "kosha" rhymes with "dosha" isn't simplifying things.  I am making an effort to learn and retain the meaning of everything yoga, and it's been interesting to me. The Five Koshas speak to the various layers of a person from outermost to innermost. They reflect the holistic nature of yoga.

  The Five Koshas provide a model in which humans have five "sheaths": Physical, Energetic, Psycho-emotional, Wisdom, and Bliss. Although each asana (pose) has a variety of benefits; is believed   each family of asanas focuses on a specific kosha.

*Annamayakosha: The Physical Sheath-The Physical Body-The  Five Elements.

Annamayakosha is our physical body the part that is nourished by food and toned by exercise. Standing postures are particularly helpful to the physical kosha which mostly coincides with the root chakra.


*Pranamayakosha: The Energetic Sheath-The Chakras.

  The energetic sheath or pranamayakosha  contains the energy or life force that moves through us connecting our  bodies to our minds. It also involves the energies that feed our thoughts and emotions.To develop the pranamaya kosha, breath awareness must be cultivated. Pranayama and meditation can help here as well as hip openers, and asanas that stabilize the core.The Pranamayakosha is connected to the sacral chakra.


*Manomayakosha:  The Psycho-Emotional Sheath-Thoughts and Emotions.

Manomayakosha encompasses the processing of thoughts and emotions. As we learn to connect to our psycho-emotional being without judging or rejecting our thoughts and feelings we're better able to relax and meet our emotions with compassion and curiosity. Asanas that coincide with Manomayakosha are twists, back bends, and lateral bends. There are two chakras connected to our psycho-emotional kosha, the solar and heart. Manomaya lays the groundwork for  our next kosha, vijnanamaya.

*Vijnanamayakosha: The Wisdom Sheath-Insight Supporting Transformation.

  The Vijnanamayakosha holds the piece of our consciousness that enables us to bear witness, gain understanding, and in time release limiting beliefs and the emotions that accompany them. This is accomplished though self awareness exercises, talking things out, meditation,insight, and intuition;naturally our wisdom sheath is connected to the hearth, throat, and third eye  chakras. Asanas that benefit Vijnanamayakosha are forward bends and balances.



*Anandamayakosha: The Bliss Sheath-Awakening our inherent positive qualities.

   The bliss sheath holds our contentment, joy, and inner peace. Feelings of bliss that accompany meditation are expressions of the Anandamayakosha. Actions pertaining to the  crown chakra enable us to become blissful.  Asanas connected to Anandamayakosha are inversions. 


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Yoga Melt

    I want to preface this by saying that  I've always been a massage person. Not only was I trained as a massage therapist before licensure was a thing, I have tried a vast array of massage modalities.

    Swedish? Of course.  Deep Tissue? Please, dig your elbows right into my tight spots. Lomi Lomi? Sure, I will lay nearly naked before a perfect stranger while she kneads me and performs Hawaiian chants I can only hope aren't summoning any dark goddesses.  Thai Massage? Is there anything better? I digress.

    I usually find myself needing bodywork every 6 weeks or so. This has been a thing ever since my first massage  as a teenager, that is,  until I started my yoga teacher training. After getting into personal practice and taking classes often to fulfill my hours, I found myself feeling that post-massage softness in my muscles.

    Upon completion of my hours,  it had been six months since I'd had a massage but my body had never felt more open and relaxed.

    I love all different styles of yoga, but the style that has played the most profound role in replacing my bodywork is restorative. Settling into stretches in a supported manner and holding each one  for five minutes or so relaxes my  muscles in a way I didn't know was possible.

  I still hold bodywork in high regard, but there is a depth of release that has only happened while on my yoga mat, and it extends beyond the physical. 

   The next time you're feeling tense and out of sorts, try a restorative class. Allow yourself to fully surrender, melting into each stretch with no regard for time until your teacher guides you into the next pose. Who else has experienced the magic of restorative yoga?







Friday, April 19, 2019

Awesome Asanas!

   It's hard to choose only a few asanas because I love so many of them. For this, the final blog entry of my yoga teacher training I've chosen to highlight the poses I believe are most beneficial. I've included a variety here.

   I'd like to begin with planks. Funny story, the first time I did a plank was while vacationing in San Francisco with my husband. The hotel offered daily yoga classes. The teacher was very sweet, but as soon as she got me into plank I decided I didn't like her anymore!

Yes, my head should be a bit higher but my photographer was taking too long and my strength began to fade!
   I guess you could say I have a love/hate relationship with this particular asana; it's challenging but also makes me feel strong and focused as it really works the muscles of my arms, my core, and even my legs. Something great about plank is the variety of modifications that make it accessible for many students. I prefer planking on my elbows, a bare beginner may choose to lower one or both knees, and a particularly strong student may lift one leg.

 One benefit of having a strong core is better balance. Yoga offers a variety of standing and balancing poses. I'm really into the temple dancer balance. It's somewhat of a triple action asana figure four is a balancing pose, a forward fold, and a great hip stretch all in one! Plus, I think it looks cool!

           Cats dig yoga. Who knew?

   One of my favorite asanas is reclined bound angle. In this asana the hips are stretched passively, and if you place a rolled up blanket along your spine it really helps to open your chest.

This feels like yoga heaven!

Inversions are awesome! I love bridge pose because it's both strengthening and relaxing. In bridge I can really feel my glutes and hamstrings engaging. Bridge is also helpful for strengthening the abdominals and the pelvic floor as you are supposed to engage those in this asana (don't neglect the PC muscles; you want a good sex life, don't you?).

This is how yoga-freaks tone their bottom for bikini season. 

    It's said that backbends are anti-aging; this gives me a deeper appreciation for them. Backbends open your heart and counteract slouched shoulders (a bad habit of mine!). My favorite backbend is camel pose. It helps me to maintain the flexibility I enjoyed as a dancer.

I feel like I rocked camel pose here.

Another standing posture I love is crescent lunge. Crescent lunge helps with balance, strengthens the back of the body, and stretches the front. The hip flexor of the back leg receives a  deep stretch while the back muscles are engaged in a back bend, which strengthens them. Energetically, the crescent lunge is said to benefit all chakras. This asana should be practiced on each leg!

Me, our kitties, and our old dining set no one seems to want!

  This next one is a universal favorite. Child pose, also known as "Balasana", calms the mind and stretches the low back. It's also good for our root and third eye energy centers.

Extended, Supported Child Pose.......

    No list of favorite yoga poses would be complete without a twist! Twists, also known as revolved poses, are excellent after forward folds and back bends. Twists help to lengthen the spine and release back muscles; plus, they're good for your kidneys and other internal organs. So, what is the best twist on earth? Supported Twist.

Supported twist, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Which are your favorite asanas and why?

Rise and Shine: Awakening with Yoga.

     I've loved yoga for a long time, but it wasn't until last year I actually began to weave it more thoroughly into my existence.  A friend of mine who was trained as a yoga teacher gave me a simple  series of asanas to practice before I even left bed in the morning. Prior to that, I'd sometimes do morning meditation, but adding in the asanas has given some life to my mornings. That says alot, as I've always been more of a night owl. 

   Unless I want to be in a bad mood, I need to take my time when transitioning to a state of wakefulness. Yoga provides me do this in a way that I know benefits my body and mind. I feel it's important to have morning ritual, even if that ritual is flexible and intuitive. For example, part of my morning ritual involves meditation, yoga, and a bit of reading. I know my needs well though, and some mornings I may concentrate more on one of those more than another, but usually none are excluded.

     Unless you're taking class everyday, I believe in order to receive the benefits of yoga, you need to bring your practice home. Making yoga part of your morning routine is the perfect way to do this.

   I encourage my readers to create a list of asanas that would best prepare them for the day, and follow those with other helpful practices.  You can tailor this list to your personal needs.

Below are some guidelines for waking up with yoga:

*Diffuse an energizing essential oil.

*Open with a few minutes of meditation; you'll want to be focused before going into your practice.

* Begin your movement with a few minutes  of continuous flowing movement to warm your muscles before getting into asana practice. For example, this may include rolling into a bedside seated wide angle forward fold on your exhale into a seated back bend on the inhale and repeating for a few breath cycles.

*Ask your yoga teacher to help you choose asanas that meet your needs.

*Finish with a few minutes of seated meditation.

   Do you ever awaken with yoga? What are your favorite AM asanas?

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Progress Not Perfection.......Yet!

Me in camel pose.......
  We all have those asanas we dread or avoid because they seem too tricky, or overly challenging. In my case, these asanas weren't anything particularly advanced; more poses that felt bothersome to me!  Before yoga teacher training I avoided a few poses like the plague, but know that I've acquired the knowledge of how to prepare for and modify I've found myself at least working towards a few poses  from which I formerly hid: Plank, Camel, and Side Plank.

  When people say female dancers have famously weak arms they aren't kidding. Before the practice required by my teacher training I could only do a plank for about 10 very shaky seconds.

  Once I began challenging myself I was able to transition from planking on my elbows to a full plank. At present I've been holding plank  with a feeling of strength for at least three breath cycles!

  Strength has generally been an issue, but flexibility is my thing, yet back bends would give me issues.   I  find back bends to be visually appealing, and since learning of their anti-aging properties my affection for back bends has only increased. The problem was each time I tried a back bend I'd become light headed or get a headache.

  In my training, I learned to breathe into my sides in backbends, and that's helped me to feel less discomfort in poses like camel.

    Prior to YTT, I felt intimidated by the sight of side plank.  Once I learned how to transition and where to concentrate my energy  into side balance I realized it's actually an attainable pose. To be fair, I usually practice a modified version of side balance, and it's not my favorite. I still feel excited at any yoga progress I attain.  With my improvement comes the ability to help my students reach their own potential.

   What are your favorite yoga poses? Which ones do you prefer to avoid?

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Yoga Web Live.......

  Previously, I'd never really considered teaching online classes. I love having students come here where I can offer personalized aromatherapy and hands-on adjustments; however, as a yoga teacher training student I've needed to employ the internet for a fair amount of my practice teaching sessions. I've come to realize that while  nothing replaces an in person class, there are some benefits to teaching live online.

Chatting after an online yoga class.......

Class Across the Country.......
   It broadens your reach! My cousin in North Carolina, my parents in the northeast, my dear classmate in Utah,  and my friend in Delaware would never be able to take class with me if not for the internet.

Do as I say.......
    Online practice teaching has enhanced my ability to describe various asanas, breathing techniques, and transitions clearly and accurately. It also helps the students  tune into what their bodies are doing and focus on visual and verbal cues  instead of becoming dependent on a teacher physically fixing their alignment.

Time and Again.......

   Online practice teaching sessions are generally easy to set up and execute as neither student or teacher needs to leave the house. Sometimes, online yoga class is as simple as," Hey, do you feel like yoga this morning?" "Yes, what style are you in the mood for?" "Asana Practice." "Alright, see you in 15; I hope you don't mind I'll be in my pajamas." Also, if your child is napping, or there's a monsoon  going on outside online class saves you from having to venture out into the storm, but it's still personal and tailored to your needs as a student.

All Eyes Onscreen.......
   How many people want to try yoga, but feel intimidated? I'm willing to bet there are many people in this boat. Perhaps they're worried about people looking at them (most people are not!),or they don't want to attend a yoga studio until they've lost weight; maybe they're self-conscious about their lack of  experience with yoga, flexibily, or strength. Online yoga is the perfect segue into taking an in- person class.

   Once my yoga teacher training hours are complete, I'd like to mostly teach in person. However, the fondness I've developed for teaching yoga online wil likely remain. I hope to continue offering online sessions and helping other aspiring yoga teachers to complete their practice teaching hours.

   Would you consider teaching or taking a live online yoga class? Why/Why not?

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Thursday, April 4, 2019

Yes to Safe Yoga: Five Tips for a Beneficial Practice

    While yoga is safe when done correctly, as with any form of exercise, it is not free from risk of injury. Today, I'm sharing a few tips, complete with silly puns, to help you have a safe and happy practice.

1. Sure, you should strive, but leave the competitive attitude at home! Everyone's best is a little different. There's no need to force anything. Yoga is about working with and sometimes through personal limitations. While many stretches cause mild discomfort,  ultimately practitioners should feel an opening and release rather than pain.

2. Flow before you go....... into deep stretches!  It's important to warm the body up with a repetitive flow like sun salutation before going into a deep stretch like crescent lunge.

3.Speaking of lunges.......
 Keep the knee in line with the ankle in lunges and form an approximate 90 degree angle. Square your hips, and engage your abdominals to help protect your back.

4. Give yourself a hand, and don't treat your gliding  wrist joint like a hinge joint!  Wrists don't have the same strength as larger hinge joints. Many wrist issues seem to occur when on all fours. When the weight is over the hands the wrist joint should be lined up with the very front of the shoulder. The entire shoulder doesn't sit over top of the wrist. Also, cup the hand a bit to protect the wrist in such poses.

5. Back it up! We already discussed the importance of engaging the abdominal muscles to help protect the back, but before I go there are a few other tips for back safety. Remember to lengthen the spine into any stretch be it flexion, extension, or rotation.  In forward folds, be sure to tilt the pelvis forward rather than rounding the lumbar spine, and also never shove or force a stretch.

   Hopefully, these tips will help you to have a long and healthy yoga-filled life.

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