Two pigeon alternatives

Two pigeon alternatives

“What do you mean you don’t like pigeon pose??” I asked my class, horrified.  Not too long into my teaching career, I learned this rather object lesson – not everyone loves the poses you love.  In fact, not everyone loves the poses you think everyone loves (and, I suspect, there are no poses that everyone loves.  I don’t love child’s pose.  There, I said it.) I remember when I first started teacher training, my mother said, “Just do pigeon pose a lot and everyone will love you…” Phew – that was easy.  But here I was, facing mutiny from my class if I didn’t come up with some alternatives fast.  I did some research and came up with a few ideas, and I think my students no longer want to mutiny – at least not for pigeon-related reasons. 1. Firelog pose (or ankles-to-knees, double-pigeon…etc…) This is one of those poses that everyone calls different things.  When I learned it, it was “ankles-to-knees”, which is great because it describes what you are doing in the pose.  You want to stack your ankles on top of your knees with one leg on top of the other.  Depending on how open your hips are, your knee on your top leg might be very far away from the ankle of your bottom leg – if that’s the case, find a blanket or pillow to fill in the space.  You can see in the photo below that I have a little bit of space, but it wasn’t bothering me so I didn’t prop it.   Sitting upright might be sensational enough for you, but...
Yoga for travelers

Yoga for travelers

The happiest of New Year’s to all of you reading out there.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you sticking with me over the last few months.  Lots of exciting things in store for 2013, but since I’m still on London time, I’ll start by sharing a quick post on yoga for travelers – specifically poses you (and anyone really) can do to alleviate some of the exhaustion and stiffness from sitting on a plane, train or car for hours on end. I just got back from 11 or so days tromping all over the UK and Paris (hard life, I know).  When we got off our red-eye to London, neither of us had slept at all.  This was going to be a challenge since we had plans that evening and I didn’t want to totally throw off our internal clocks by sleeping all day.  So, the first thing I did when I got to the hotel was legs up the wall pose.  Note my super-stylin’ travel outfit! This gentle inversion can give you energy and also drain any fluid that might have collected in your legs and/or feet from being in one position for too long.  Also – hotels are a great place to do the pose because you can generally lie on the bed instead of the floor!  Bonus – it feels really good. I don’t set out with a specific idea of yoga poses to practice while en route to my destination, but my instincts always tell me to twist!  The gentle twist below can be accomplished on a car, train or airplane seat....
Paschimottanasana

Paschimottanasana

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Hope you had a good time with friends, family, pets or away from all of that! 😉 Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) is one of my favorite poses to demonstrate in class because it shows that different bodies do poses in different ways (without any value judgement or ability level assigned.)  Because of the shape of my body, I need to do it differently than it is usually taught.  And that’s totally fine/awesome.  The benefits and stretch are basically the same, and a pose that would be, if not impossible, extremely uncomfortable, is accessible. Traditionally, paschimottanasana is taught with the legs together.   However, as I love pointing out when I’m teaching, my legs simply will not do this when I’m seated with them extended because my thighs are significantly wider than my calves.  Therefore, when I do paschimottanasana, I always sit with my legs extended and separated by about 18 inches.  The separation you need will depend on your structure, but I find almost all students can find a comfortable seat in this pose. Notice that I’m not on a mat – mats are awesome, but I don’t really need one for forward bends and I just woke up and felt inspired to do some yoga.  No need to add barriers to your practice where there don’t need to be any. Find your seat – make sure you can feel both sits-bones grounding into the floor. Extend your legs out in front of you.  If having your legs straight is uncomfortable, you can grab a blanket or a pillow and place it under your knees.  You might also...
Warrior I with a belt

Warrior I with a belt

Warrior I – looks easy, but it’s not.  This is one of those poses that really could use a lot more breaking down/attention in classes. Is it a back bend? Where do my arms go? Where am I supposed to look? What do square hips actually look like?? Before we get to the prop magic, let’s discuss squaring our hips.  We tell students to square their hips forward, but traditional alignment can make doing so very difficult depending on your structure. In other warrior poses, we emphasize a front heel to back arch alignment, but if your hips look anything like mine, that simply isn’t going to work here.  Instead, I suggest offsetting your back foot out the the side so that you have a solid base.  I probably offset about 6 inches out to the side but it will depend on your structure.  You know your back foot is placed correctly when you can comfortably face both hip points forward without feeling like you are torquing your pelvis to get there. The profile shot isn’t the best at illustrating this, but if you look closely at the shadow, you can see how much closer my back foot is to the edge of the mat than my front foot. Now that we’ve gotten squaring the hips out of the way, let’s talk about the rest of this pose.  We want to be able to lift the torso away from the pelvis so we can work on the upper/middle back bend without crunching the low back.  We also want to drive the pose from the back foot.  If the back...
Supported Fish

Supported Fish

Ack – it’s been more than a week since I’ve posted. Sorry!!  It’s been a rough few days.  Finally after intense urging from my mother and a friend, I decided to get myself tested for allergies.  I knew I had them and that they were making me really sick, but mom and friend insisted that knowledge was power and knowing what I was allergic to was a good thing.  30 shots later (in my arms and shoulder), I had a verdict…weeds, molds, dust mites, roaches and CATS??!!! What??? I’m a little confused as to how I can be allergic to cats when I’ve been super exposed to them my whole life – I’ve never lived with less than two and my parents have 5!! Anyhoo – my cats (or, as I will now refer to them, the cute fuzzy allergens) are not going anywhere, so I am going to learn to get used to allergy shots and pumping myself full of antihistamines. I have asthma too – though it hasn’t been bothering me as much lately. All of this venting is actually the lead-up to today’s pose.  When I was in Santa Fe for teacher training, there was a huge forest fire not too far from us and therefore there was a huge amount of ash and other particulates in the air.  I started to practice one morning and immediately had an asthma attack.  After a frantic phone call to my doctor in DC, I told my teacher what happened and he immediately put me into supported fish pose.  Ah relief!  Now, I turn to this pose whenever I...
Standing Split at the Wall

Standing Split at the Wall

So I’m back from vacation, and none too happy about it.  As soon as I got back to DC, my sinuses immediately revolted and my eyes started to itch like crazy.  My stomach has been bothering me since yesterday and then I couldn’t sleep.  Meh.  So, right now, all I’d like to do is go back to bed. However, once my body stops yelling at me for having the audacity to come back from vacation (kind of like how the cats knocked over an entire bag of dry food in protest), I know I’ll want some serious opening poses.  My hips, hamstrings and back are all bunched up from traveling.  Therefore, I present to you: Standing Split at the Wall. I can promise you that I will be busting this out later as soon as I stop feeling sorry for myself. You’ll want to start a comfortable distance from the wall in a short-ish downward dog shape.  What this means is that you should be able to comfortably touch the wall with your foot in three-legged dog (downward dog with one leg raised and your hips square).  You want to ease into this.  I have pretty long hamstrings so I can start quite close to the wall.  However, busted hamstrings take forever to heal, so you want to err on the side of caution. Make sure your hands are planted firmly on the mat or the floor in front of you.  You can bend your knees if you need to.   Then raise one leg up and place the ball of your foot on the wall. You may need to adjust...