Pose Of The Month

April Pose of the Month

Up we go, down we fall. Up again, down again. Up again, down again. Up again, down again. Some people might find this frustrating, or pointless altogether. The journey to Handstand is long and tedious, and often an on-again-off-again one due to the up and down nature. I guess it’s just like glass half full versus glass half empty people. You can get on your hands every single day, fall down every single day, and become impatient at a lack of progress, OR you can get on your hands every single day, fall down every single day, and call yourself a handstanding hero. And here’s the thing…you are. This month, we’re bringing you pike handstand at the wall, and reiterating that when you’re on your hands every single day…it doesn’t even matter if you’re up again, down again. It’s the every single day part that matters, and your journey to Handstand *will* be fruitful.

The key to finding your Handstand lies in building a strong core, body awareness to stack your joints, and finding your line. I’ve been leading Handstand workshops (one more coming up on 4/30!) and we go through drills on drills on drills to get there. One of the first Handstands we practice is pike at the wall, and I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s a foundational Handstand for beginners and advanced inverters in that it: 1) fosters proper body alignment with hips over shoulders, 2) helps familiarize bodies with any disorientation that occurs from being inverted, and, 3) the use of the wall as a prop makes it so that we can focus more on engaged muscles, active bandhas, and teeny anatomical refinements instead of solely the balance challenge. Collectively, attention on these prep items as a prerequisite to just kicking up willy nilly is going to set a foundation that you’re less likely to abandon. There are three little piggies, but you’re the one that chooses brick, ya feel me?

image1 (7)

 

Accessing Pike Handstand at the Wall:

  • Sit with your back against the wall and legs straight out in front to measure out where you’ll place your hands
  • Place your palms exactly where your heels rested on the floor (you can use a partner as a marker, so you don’t accidentally eye out the wrong distance)
  • With hands shoulder-width distance apart, use your feet to walk up the wall until your legs are parallel to the floor
  • Push the earth away from you with your palms
  • Knit your ribs inward and fire up your abdominals
  • Draw your armpits in and shoulder blades together
  • Note your lines
  • Don’t forget to breathe!

*Note: It’s great to practice with a partner to get to this shape, mostly because being upside down can be disorienting and walking “up” the wall can feel a whole lot like giving directions in a room of funhouse mirrors.

Pre- and Post-Handstand Reminders:

  • Always Handstand with a warm body & worked abdominals
  • Take time to warm up your wrists and forearms with proper stretching and massage, and give them the same amount of love when you’re done practicing
  • Strengthen and open up your shoulders to protect your joints

Remember that it’s just a basic law of gravity that whatever goes up, must come down. So just keep going…up, and back down!

*Next Handstand Workshop*

4/30 from 1:30-3:30 at our Downers Grove Yoga By Degrees // $40 for nonmembers and $20 for members // Sign up in advance, online or at any of our locations

Mindful Monday: Do you believe in Abundance?

To receive abundance, I open my heart and let it pour in. I practice staying balanced and grounded, even on one leg with my body turned toward the horizon. I trust in abundance even with my hand bound to my foot. I relinquish the need to control. And I open to receive.

Happy Monday, dear yogis! I don’t know about you, but I had one of the best weekends of my entire life this past weekend! The weather on Saturday lit my soul on fire! And I filled my weekend hours very mindfully and purposefully.

One of my favorite topics these days is ABUNDANCE. I love preaching and teaching and manifesting ABUNDANCE.  I was literally having a deep discussion with my good friend Stanley about abundance early Saturday morning,  as I  was on my way to Chicago where I was meeting an old friend for a yoga class. We talked about how abundance is a mindset – either you are open to abundance or you live in fear of never having enough. It’s pretty simple. But deeply challenging. Most of my life I’ve believed in abundance. I genuinely believe good things will happen, and they generally do.  And I have found that when I try to tackle some of these higher level ideas, the universe always reinforces my philosophical attempts with empirical and experiential evidence.

As I pulled into the parking garage, it slowly dawned on me that I had left my wallet at home. By the way this isn’t the first time I’ve done this.  🙄 So here I am almost 30 miles from home with no cash no cards and no Apple Pay.  I didn’t panic. My wheels immediately started turning. I may have to borrow money from Ken. Would they let me take class without paying? I knew I was somehow going to take that yoga class. That somehow I would get my parking paid. The possibility of anything other than that happening never entered my mind. It was not a matter of ‘if’ it was a matter of ‘how.’

Now mind you I had about 10 minutes to make the long trek to the studio, fill out the new student paperwork and pay for class. (No free week at this spot!!!!)  Life as a yoga teacher means we’re on the road a lot and we probably have two or three bags going on at any given moment. I had a busy weekend planned and that was the case for me.

I began to frantically rifle through all of my bags, and I came upon a little gold envelope that a dear, generous student had given to me a couple of months previous that was accompanied by a beautifully written and heartfelt message and a ridiculously generous cash gift.  And there was a $50 bill remaining in that envelope.

How. Crazy. Is. That. How LUCKY was that? How could the timing in this situation have  been any more perfect? How powerful was the synchronicity of this moment?

And I have found that the key to sustaining an abundance mindset is GRATITUDE. Gratitude is such an interesting concept. It’s really kind of hard to feel grateful for the things you’ve always had. Often times, and definitely in my experience, my sense of gratitude has been cultivated and conditioned specifically during those down times when I’ve lost something and realized it’s value too late. Or when I’ve had to go without someone or something that I had previously taken for granted.

Are you aware of all of the abundance surrounding you? Or are you stuck on the lower vibrational level of a scarcity mindset?


To cultivate consciousness of abundance ….

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;

watch your words, they become actions;

watch your actions, they become habits;

watch your habits, they become character;

watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Have the greatest Monday ever! Expect nothing but abundance and success!

March Pose of the Month

On we March. Into the month. Into the season. Into the storm. Into the thick of it. We keep marching. Whether we’re ready or not, we’re sometimes thrown into circumstances that aren’t necessarily exactly as we’d choose. So we get up, and we move.

In honor of standing tall, feeling powerful, and readying our bodies for whatever comes next, we’re going through Standing Half Moon this month. Not only is this a juicy side body stretch, and the starting posture in our YBD HOT sequence, but it opens and releases the shoulders, which helps to balance perceptions of inner and outer self: how you see the world, and how the world sees you. This balanced notion will help us to march on no matter what’s going on outside of us and around us.

image1-17

Accessing the Posture:

  • From Urdhva Hastasana, come to a steeple grip by interlacing your fingers overhead with index fingers pointing up.
  • Keeping your arms at your ears, bump your hips to the left and stretch to the right
  • Open through the chest, and look up to the left with a lifted chin to expose the throat chakra
  • Energetically pull your face through your arms to keep the chest open
  • Focus on using and stretching the hips rather than bending from the torso
  • Repeat on both sides

Benefits of the Posture:

  • Increases flexibility of the spine
  • Corrects poor posture
  • Improves and strengthens every muscle in the central body, especially in the back and abdomen
  • Helps to build will power and strong self-esteem

February Pose of the Month: Seated Meditation

This month we’re cultivating a deeper self-love, the kind that transcends giving yourself compliments, nourishing your body with healthy whole foods, and providing your body with energy and movement. While all of these things are so important, and it’s nice to wake up and have a good hair day or see a number on the scale that’s pleasing and to really feel beautiful, we’re talking about a kind of self-love where none of that really matters after all. This month we’re acknowledging that while feeling beautiful is wonderful, knowing you are on a soul level is forever warming.

Seated Meditation with Various Mudras

image1 (16).JPG

  1. Thymus Tapping – We call these “heart” taps and you might have practiced this in a restorative class. Your thymus gland is located right at the center of your chest. The word thymus comes from the Greek work “thymos” which translates to “life energy” and this gland is in charge of keeping your own energy vibrating at high frequency. These thymus taps stimulate the gland and activate a happy hormone that’ll leave you feeling warmer, more energetic, and a little less obsessed with every day stress.
  • Find a comfortable seat
  • Allow one hand to rest on a knee, either with the palm down for grounding, or the palm up to receive energy
  • With the opposite hand, find your chest bone and tap firmly with your hand open or in a fist for two minutes
  • Repeat

 

  1. Anjali Mudra – We use this often in vinyasa classes to draw energy to the heart, but you can also use Anjali mudra to transfer energy up and away as an offering. Anjali mudra is a seal of composure and reminds us to come back to the heart where we gather all of our resources. Lifting the arms up overhead acts as a prayer of sorts, so that we might lead with the heart in every day interactions
  • From standing or seated, bring your palms together to touch
  • Press energy into your palms, and allow your chest to widen so you can feel some space under your armpits

 

  1. Vajrapradama Mudra – Use this for building inner trust and tackling insecurities when it comes to your self-dialogue. This mudra acts as a shield to the heart, and forms the base for healthy self-confidence when you feel like you just cannot deal with an issue at hand.
  • From seated, interlace your fingers and draw your thumbs wide
  • Lift your interlocked fingers right in front of your heart space
  • Begin to find some resistance by pulling outward and creating a long line of energy from elbow to elbow

 

  1. Lotus Mudra – This one purifies and opens the heart chakra. The lotus flower is a symbol of light and beauty emerging from muddy roots, so practicing this mudra in meditation can be helpful in rising from any personal darkness.
  • Spread your fingers wide and bring the base of your palms together to touch
  • Touch your thumbs and pinky fingers together to create a bowl-like shape with your hands
  • Try inhaling and moving the mudra up to your third eye, and then letting your breath go as you draw the mudra back to your heart

 

Some Benefits of Seated Meditation (There Are So Many):

  • Supports emotional well-being
  • Helps to ignore distractions
  • Quiets Ego
  • Improves immune system and energy level
  • Fosters a deep self-love

JANUARY POSE OF THE MONTH: SIDE PLANK

Side Plank, Vasisthasana

Have you set an intention for the new year? If you’re like many of us, you may set resolutions in January but by the following December realize they haven’t come to fruition. Often times that happens because we have big, audacious dreams but forget to put into place the mechanisms to achieve these goals. Big dreams start small. So today, think about your final goal and then dial it all the way back to the daily or weekly things you’ll need to accomplish in order to get there.

Perhaps this year you work towards a strong vasisthasana (vah-sish-TAHS-anna), side plank! This is a terrific posture to focus on because it’s accessible at all levels of practice; it’s modifications and variations are nearly endless! You can start with your bottom knee grounded for more support, as you feel more comfortable you may choose to stack your legs, and ultimately you may decide to float your top leg up to challenge your balance. Just like goals outside of the studio, there’s little steps you can take along the way to reach your final destination. Give it a try today!

To find your side plank:

  • Press your left palm into your mat
  • Shift weight to the knife edge of your left foot
  • Stack your right shoulder over the left and reach your right hand to the sky
  • Engage your bottom tricep
  • Draw your low belly in and up
  • Strengthen into your thighs and keep your legs active and engaged

Playful modifications and variations:

  • For a grounded modification, drop your left knee to your mat and stack it directly below your left hip for support
  • As you feel more stable, firm into your right leg and hover it parallel to your mat
  • If you’re feeling playful, then this can be taken all the way to your Wild Thing by dropping the ball of your right foot behind you and spiraling the barrel of your chest towards the ceiling

Benefits of vasisthasana:

  • Strengthens your arms, core and legs
  • A great posture for your wrists as it both strengthens and stretches them
  • Improves your focus as your balance is tested

“Nothing happens without focus. Don’t try to do everything at once. Take it one step at a time.” – Dave Ramsey

DECEMBER POSE OF THE MONTH: FIVE POINTED STAR POSE

It’s easy in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to forget to give yourself the gift of self care. Take 3 minutes out of your busy day to practice Five Pointed Star, and afterwards you’ll find yourself feeling more energized, confident and ready to greet your day with a smile!

Five Pointed Star Pose:

  • Spread your arms wide and hover them at shoulder height
  • Step your legs apart so that your feet are in line with your wrists
  • Turn your toes out and keep your heels in
  • Make yourself strong and rooted by pressing into the outside edges of your feet, engage your thighs and feel your kneecaps lift
  • Gently tuck your tailbone
  • Soften your shoulders down your back away from your ears

To find even more joy in this posture, you might take it a step further:

  • Lift your gaze
  • Raise your arms high
  • Turn your palms to shine towards the sky
  • Fan your fingers wide

Benefits of Five Pointed Star Pose:

  • Lengthens and realigns the spinal column
  • Opens and energizes the entire body
  • Improves circulation and respiration

“You are responsible of your own space. Your own well being. Your own light. Take care of yourself first! Heal your own heart and cherish your own body and celebrate your own soul. Then go out there and live. Love. Make a difference! Use the magnificence you’ve created by celebrating who you are, bring it out into the world and make it a better place. It all begins with you.” – Rachel Brathen

NOVEMBER POSE OF THE MONTH: CHILD’S POSE

Child’s Pose, Balasana

Do you keep a Gratitude Journal? For many of us adding another thing to our ever growing to do list may seem like a hassle, but journaling with joy and appreciation in our hearts reminds us to pay attention to all of the abundance that surrounds us and to appreciate the little things we may take for granted.

This November, we challenge you to create a list of 5 things for which you’re thankful. Those who keep a Gratitude Journal are said to experience many benefits including better sleep, decreased instances of illness and greater levels of happiness.

To commence your practice of thanks, begin with Child’s Pose to still your body, heart and mind:

  • Start in a tabletop position
  • Bring your big toes to touch and your knees mat-width distance apart
  • Melt your heart towards the floor as you drop your torso between your thighs
  • Lay your palms on the earth and extend your arms forward
  • Rest your forehead on your mat or a block

To add Anjali Mudra to your practice, bring your palms to touch, bend your elbows and kiss your thumbs to the back of your neck. Anjali Mudra further develops a meditative state and heightened awareness. Allow this openness to spread within you as your reflect on your practice of gratitude and thanks.

Benefits of Child’s Pose include:

  • Reduction of stress, anxiety and fatigue
  • Opening of the heart
  • Provides a soft stretch for hips, knees and ankles

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” – William Arthur Ward

OCTOBER POSE OF THE MONTH: CORPSE POSE

Corpse Pose, Savasana

October is here and with it a crispness to the air and the beginning of the holiday season! As the days get shorter and our schedules busier, it’s important to remember to take time for self-care. Which leads us to The Pose of the Month! Corpse pose is the culmination of your practice, and represents an opportunity to start fresh after each and every practice.

Here’s how to enjoy your Savasana:

  • Lie flat on your back with your arms and legs relaxed by your sides
  • As you unwind, allow your feet and hands to softly fall open
  • Soften around your eyes and relax your jaw
  • Allow your breath to become natural
  • Rest in the warm embrace of your practice

Benefits include:

  • Relieves stress and mild depression
  • Allows your body to relax
  • Helps alleviate migraines, fatigue and insomnia

“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” – Hermann Hesse

September Pose of the Month: Bridge

Bridge Pose, Setu Bandhasana

September is a great time to open up and prepare the body for seasonal changes. Bridge pose is an amazing place to open the heart and throat chakras. Here’s how you do it:

  • Lie on your back
  • Plant the soles of your feet at hips distance
  • Reach your hands toward your feet and raise your hips
  • Clasp your hands under your hips and press them into the earth
  • Lengthen your neck
  • Option to raise your leg!

Benefits include:

  • Extends your thoracic spine
  • Lengthens your hip flexors
  • Opens your shoulders and chest
  • Calms your mind and reduces anxiety

 

July Pose of the Month

Since we just passed the summer solstice, which is the gateway to all things sunny and bright, we’re appropriately bringing you Gate Pose for July. Gate Pose is a yummy side body stretch that also works the hamstrings, and it’s a sure favorite!

  • From kneeling, activate your core to extend one leg out to your side
  • Ground the sole of your foot into the earth so your big toes are forward facing
  • Spread your fingertips wide and inhale your arms up overhead
  • On the exhale, bend over your extended leg and lightly rest your same-side fingertips on your knee or shin.
  • Keep your hip stacked on top of your grounded knee as your rotate your lifted arm and shoulder back to keep your heart up and open instead of dropping your front torso

Benefits of Gate Pose:

  • Opens shoulders
  • Stretches the side body and spine
  • Stretches hamstrings

Happy July, yogis. Breathe, sweat, and smile! ❤

image1(1)