Supportive Yoga Blog

Supportive Yoga Pose of the Month: October 2014

Hi everyone!  I hope you are enjoying the beginning of fall!!  I am certainly loving this weather, and, of course, the return of my beloved leg warmers sooner rather than later.  September was a difficult month – much more difficult than I was anticipating.  Much of the teaching I was doing was long term summer subbing gigs.  So when September rolled around, all those teachers came back to town and wanted their classes back (the nerve!) so I went from teaching several classes a week to maybe one or two.  I also was passed over for a job that I really wanted, so I’ve been spending a lot of time sitting with disappointment and wondering if this is one of those times when dreams don’t really come true. But, I am determined to pick myself up and move forward.  I’ve got a lot of really exciting things in the offing including a brand new basics class on Tuesdays at Mala Yoga in Brooklyn starting October 14th.  I’m also starting prenatal yoga teacher training tomorrow and I will be certified (hopefully!) but the middle of December.  In addition, I am embarking on a big project with the wonderful Amber Karnes of Body Positive Yoga (if you haven’t checked her out, you absolutely must!) and I am continuing to play with yoga challenges on instagram after successfully completing the #sizedoesntmatter challenge in September. So given the upheaval of life these days, I decided to pick a quieter pose for the October pose of the month.  So without further ado…the Supportive Yoga Pose of the Month for October 2104 is…supine figure 4...

Supportive Yoga Pose of the Month: September 2014

Happy September everyone!  I can’t believe the summer is slipping away.  The city was so empty in August but it’s pretty clear that everyone is back now!  After an incredibly amazing and busy August (I taught so many classes!!), this month will be a bit different – more quiet and contemplative as I start to make some decisions about what the next 6 months are going to look like.  I’m excited to have more time to concentrate on my own practice and I’m doing my first instagram challenge so make sure you follow me there @supportiveyoga and check out all the beautiful yogis participating in the #sizedoesntmatter challenge! Drumroll please… The Supportive Yoga pose of the month for September 2014 is…extended side angle pose (utthita parsvakonasana). There are several variations of this pose, but the one with the forearm resting on the thigh is the most accessible, in my opinion.  Come through warrior II pose into extended side angle by placing the front forearm onto the front thigh and reaching your other arm up and over your ear so that you are in a straight diagonal line from the outside of your back heel to the tips of your fingers on the extended arm. Use the leverage you create by pressing your forearm into your thigh to open your chest first to the side and then towards the ceiling. Don’t sacrifice the openness in your check to get lower down – that defeats the purpose of the pose, which is an intense side stretch all through the body. If you feel comfortable here, you can try a second variation...

A Tale of Two Arm Balances

Hi everyone! Before we get down to business here I wanted express my profound respect for and gratitude to the late BKS Iyengar, who left his body a few days ago. Without his insight and wisdom, I literally could not be doing what I am doing. Among his many contributions to modern yoga, Mr. Iyengar pioneered the use of yoga props, making this practice accessible to so many. Though I wasn’t able to study with him directly, many of my teachers did and his teachings have strongly influenced my life and work.

This practice still surprises me

I’m sitting here in a cafe in between my two public yoga classes today thinking about how my yoga practice is constantly shifting and changing. And why that’s a good thing. For the one thing, I suspect that’s at least partially why I’ve been able to stick with yoga for what seems to be forever (but really is about 12 years or so). Practicing yoga can really be a long term relationship – with ups and downs. The advantage, of course, is that no matter how much you neglect yoga, it’ll be there for you when you are ready to pick it up again.

Supportive Yoga Pose of the Month: August 2014

The Supportive Yoga pose of the month is all about balance – it’s…tree pose (vrksasana)!! This is one of the most common standing balance poses (I considered including it in my e-book, “The Supportive Yoga Guide to Finding a Yoga Class that is Right for You and Feeling Confident and Comfortable in Any Yoga Class”, which you should totally grab by signing up for my mailing list by the way, if you haven’t already) and you see it in classes a lot – especially basics classes. This is also a pose that everyone tries to force – you should really see the looks I get from people trying to hold this balance. If humans could shoot lasers out of their eyes, I’d have been dead long ago!

Supportive Yoga Pose of the Month: June 2014

As the weather starts to get warmer (I feel like we’ve changed seasons about ten times in the past few weeks), I start to crave more cooling postures and longer holds.  Forward bends fit both those bills, so I decided that the June Supportive Yoga Pose of the Month is…<drumroll please>… Janu Sirsasana (and Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana)! This pose is a twist in addition to a forward bend so we get the added benefit of twisting, but unlike a lot of closed twists, this one is really accessible because the shape of the pose allows for space for the belly and chest and we can use a yoga strap if our hamstrings are tight or not cooperating on any particular day. Janu Sirsasana Start seated on your mat (you can sit up on a blanket if you like, but I prefer to feel my butt rooting into the mat and floor.)  Bend your knee and place the foot on the inside of the opposite leg.  If your knee is far away from the floor, place a block or blanket underneath it so you are comfortable.  If your foot doesn’t make it to your thigh or wherever on your leg, that’s ok too as long as your knee feels ok. Turn to face your extended leg.  This is where the twist action of this pose comes in.  Once you are facing your extended leg, place your finger tips down on the floor on either side of you to help you grow tall in the torso.  This is a great stretch right here, so if you want to stay at this...

Seated Spinal Twist

Of all the families of yoga poses, closed twists are some of the hardest to modify for larger bodies.  But hard doesn’t mean impossible and I really wanted to find ways to incorporate these poses into my own practice and into the practice of my students.  Closed twists are really good for the system – the compression on the abdominal organs can have a detoxifying affect, they can alleviate lower back pain and cramps and, most importantly, they can feel really good if they are set up properly! One of the reasons that seated spinal twist is so frustrating for me is that even with the common modifications, this pose seems to not work with my body.  Why?  Well most teachers demonstrate this pose with the bent leg crossed over the extended leg.  My body doesn’t particularly like leg crossing in yoga poses due to my thigh flesh abundance (I have similar issues in eagle pose or when trying to do the legs part of gomukhasana).  Two things happen – my bent leg foot doesn’t reach the floor and my butt pops up.  So what’s the good news?  There’s absolutely no need to cross the foot over!  I simply bend my knee, hug it into my chest, and pull my foot in close to my butt – as shown in the photo below.  Because of my body shape, I’m going to get plenty of organ compression anyways!  The straight leg should be active, with the foot flexed and the toes pointed up toward the ceiling. Next we need to incorporate the twist part of the pose.  Because this is...

Supportive Yoga Pose of the Month: May 2014

Hi everyone!  Sorry this post is a little late – we’re well into May right now.  Things have started to pick up here and I’m starting to get some teaching gigs, so it’s all good news!  Also, I was so happy to finally get to meet and hang out with Amber Karnes, who is the awesome yogi behind Body Positive Yoga, so it’s been a busy, but super awesome week.  Anyways, without further ado, <drum roll please>, here is the May Supportive Yoga pose of the month! Natarjasana! (dancing Siva pose) I taught my first group class in NYC the other day (intermediate/advanced at Mala Yoga) and this pose was featured in my sequence because 1. it’s fun an 2. I’ve been thinking about Siva lately, particularly about how his role as the destroyer is such an important part of the cycle of creation.  I’ve been in Brooklyn for a little over a month now and am still adjusting to my new life, which, of course, wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t totally uprooted the comfortable, good life I had in DC.  Sometimes you have to destroy things to create new things, right?  Ok – onto the pose itself! Natarajasana is a challenging balance pose and a deep asymmetrical back bend so you probably want to be warmed up before you do this one.  Stand in tadasana (mountain pose) and start to shift your weight into one leg.  Try not to lock your knee.  Lift your other leg off the floor and bend your knee like you want to kick your own butt.  Reach back and hold onto your...

Sequence Wednesdays: Lung support

Ha!  I bet you long time Supportive Readers (hi!  I love you) thought I forgot about Sequence Wednesdays!  Nope! Now that I have lots of time on my hands before I get people to hire me to teach yoga, I thought I’d see if I could bring the series back.  Also, if you’ve been following me on facebook, you know that I have been flattened by the pollen plague.  A horrible cough, sniffles and asthma have been my companions for the past week and I’m getting really sick (ahem) of it.  I’ve been doing a lot of yoga both at home and at studios, and at home, I’ve been concentrating on trying to alleviate my symptoms and to give my poor abused lungs a break. I’m calling this a sequence, but really it’s a bunch of poses that I’ve found can help with lung issues that I’ve tried over the past few days that I wanted to share with you.  You can do all of them at once if you want, in whatever order feels natural but you’ll have to see which ones make you feel better and which ones are sort of meh or that one doesn’t work for me.  There are a couple of guiding principles here though – I wanted to work on opening up the chest and the upper back, the side and back body and to stimulate the lung points (right underneath your trapezius muscles).  I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t constrict my breathing too much in my forward bend and twist. I started and ended this practice the same way.  A...

Gomukhasana arms with a yoga strap

New city = new yoga studios.  I’ve been running around checking out different studios in my pocket of Brooklyn looking for places to practice and teach – and yes, it’s still nerve-wracking for me to walk into a new studio with teachers and staff I don’t know!  So far, everything has been going well, though I don’t have anything set yet!  For whatever reason, gomukhasana (cow-face pose) has been showing up in almost every class I’ve taken!  I’m going to tackle the arms today.  The legs part of this pose is extremely challenging from a structural perspective if you have a lot of thigh flesh, so I usually skip it and just sit in “ankles to knees” pose, which you can find in my pigeon alternatives post.  You can prop it, but it’s kind of a pain in the butt – pun totally intended. Anyways, back to the matter at hand.  Gomukhasana arms are one of many yoga “binds” where you arrange your arms so that you can clasp your hands behind you in a particular way.  Binds are particularly challenging for those of us with larger or wider bodies because we simply have farther to reach!  Whether you are able to actually get your hands to meet is not even necessarily a matter of flexibility as much as a matter of the ratio of your arm length to the distance you need to cover such as your shoulder girdle in today’s pose or around your thigh in bound extended side angle for example.  I almost always need a little help in binds because my arms are relatively short...

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