Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hi Youthful Yogis!
It was lots of fun looking at yoga poses with you last week...and everyone did great on the Pop Quiz, too!

Most Youthful Yogis enjoy exploring a wide variety of yoga poses: back bends, balancing poses, strengthening poses and postures that allow us to rest...just to mention a few. But how can we remember the names of all these wonderful poses? That's today's big question.

Here are a few ways to learn the names of different yoga poses:
1) write each pose down on the back of your hand (kind of weird)
2) email the names of your favorite poses to your Great Aunt Izzy, for safe keeping (even weirder)

"I haven't checked my emails in years...!"

3)  tell your next door neighbor the names of all the poses you like, and hope he or she will keep them straight for you (good luck with that!)
4) repeat the name of every pose you've ever heard of one hundred times...


OK, Youthful Yogis, you get the picture...we want to find a way that is easy and fun to remember the names of yoga poses that we love. Here's an idea: let's investigate the animals, objects and people that poses are named after. Are you wondering where to start?

 ...let's go first to Egypt!

If you are ever lucky enough to travel to Egypt, you may get to see the Great Sphinx of Giza. The Sphinx is made out of limestone; it's thousands of years old and has the body of a lion and the head of a human...pretty cool! Throughout history, the Sphinx has been a symbol of strength and wisdom to many groups of people. So it's no surprise that the yoga pose of the same name strengthens the spine and buttocks; it also relieves fatigue and reduces stress. Oh, and it's good for the internal organs, chest, shoulders and belly too...check it out!
Sphinx Pose...also awesome!

The Great Spinx of Giza...awesome!

Next, we'll take a look at one of the best inventions ever...the wheel, of course!  Without it we'd really feel stuck!

You definitely can not be stuck if you're planning on practicing the yoga pose known as wheel: it's a super deep back bend and it strengthens the wrists, arms, legs and belly as well. Wheel pose is not for everyone...please warm up well before you try this pose, and skip it all together if your body is telling you that it's too much.

"I'm a wheely important invention...get it?!"

Wheel Pose

Now it's time to rest! If you really want to know how to toss your cares aside and relax like there's no tomorrow...just take a look at babies. Awwww, they're so cute! And they really know how to take it easy when they need to.

"Don't mind me...I'm just getting ready to relax!"

I wouldn't exactly recommend wearing blue PJs to yoga class, but you can make yourself as comfy as the little guy below by practicing child's pose;  it's relaxing because it quiets the mind while stretching the back,  hips,  thighs and can't get much better than that!

"I'm cute and I'm cuddly and I sure have this relaxation thing figured out!"

Pose of the Child

We've covered a lot today but there's one more thing we need to do...get out in nature! There are lots of cool plants in the world, but trees are especially amazing: no two are exactly the same and they change with every season. Also, even when the wind is blowing, most trees stay tall and steady...that's a great quality! You can learn to feel tall and steady too by practicing Tree Pose. It's pretty tricky because you stand on one leg; but, over time, tree pose will improve your balance, strengthen your thighs, calves, ankles and spine. It might even help you to get taller!

Tree Pose...balance at it's best!
nature at it's best!

That's all the time we have for now, Youthful Yogis. I hope you've enjoyed looking at some new yoga poses...and from now on, you won't have to write notes on your hand to remember what each pose is called! Speaking of writing...I'm a little worried about Great Aunt Izzy. If you've been sending her emails, we now know she hasn't checked them in years! It might be time to pick up a pen, find some paper and ask your mom for an old fashioned postage stamp.

I know it sounds crazy, but trust me, most older relatives LOVE getting mail. Why not give letter writing a whirl? It'll probably be fun...and it might even put a smile on your Great Aunt Izzy's face!

"Why am I smiling?'s because I just got mail, of course!"

See you again soon, Youthful Yogis. Stay safe, have fun, and don't forget to write!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hey Youthful Yogis!     
I hope everyone is relaxed and happy after practicing the Pranayama techniques we looked at last week. One of my Youthful Yogis friends told me she even used belly breathing to help get back to sleep the other night... it was 4 in the morning and her body was tired but her brain was going loopy. She said belly breathing was even better than counting sheep...can you believe it?!

"All these sheep are driving me nuts...I think I'll try belly breathing instead!"

But let's shift we'll take a look at some yoga poses that many Youthful Yogis know and love. It just so happens that theses asanas (poses) are named after animals, which is pretty cool!  I'll show you a picture of each pose next to a picture of the animal it's named after. When we're done....I'll give you a pop quiz! Remember that everyone always gets an A+ on Youthful Yogis pop quizzes, just for showing up and having fun!

                                                                 Yoga Poses:       

Downward Facing Dog Pose

Eagle Pose

Tortoise Pose

Firefly Pose

....have you been paying attention?! I hope so because now it's time for a Youthful Yogis "Pop Quiz"!!  Have fun answering the following questions and, when you are done, check your responses with the answer key at the bottom of the page. Good Luck!!!


1) Cobra Pose is:  A) a balancing pose  B) a back bend  C) a good pose to do right after dinner

2)  Tortoise Pose: A) quiets the mind and stills the senses  B) is the very first pose you should do when you get out of bed in the morning   C) takes a lot of practice and may not be for everyone  D) A and C  E) none of the above

3) True or False:  very few people like Downward Facing Dog Pose

4) Firefly Pose is:   A) the easiest pose ever and good for beginners  B) one of a number of poses known as "arm balances"  C) a pose you have to wear a snazzy outfit and a headband in order to do

5)  True or False: the dude in the blue pants doing Eagle Pose needs a haircut


1) B  Cobra Pose is a back bend: it energizes the spine, opens the heart and lungs, stretches the chest and massages the belly. Please do not do this pose right after a meal, Youthful Yogis! You may end up feeling like this...

"I knew I shoulda eaten that pizza after I did Cobra Pose!"

2)  D Tortoise Pose can help us to feel as cozy and peaceful as a tortoise in her shell! In yoga we describe this as "quieting the mind and stilling the senses".

"My favorite yoga pose? Tortoise Pose, of course. It's the only one I ever do!"
 Tortoise pose is not exactly easy; it's a super deep stretch for the backs of your upper legs (known as the hamstrings), as well as for your hips and shoulders. It's true, that it may not be for everyone. Please do not do tortoise pose right when you get out of bed in the morning! Stretch, warm up, and do a few other gentle yoga poses first!

"Does it look like I'm ready for Tortoise Pose? I don't think so...!"

3) Are you kidding me? False, of course! People love, love, and I mean love, Downward Facing Dog Pose!      

best pose, ever!

4) B  Firefly Pose is in the category of poses known as arm balances. But guess what? It's also a really tricky pose and definitely not for beginners. Oh, and you do not have to wear pink, poofy pantaloons in order to do this pose. And the headband is optional also!

not necessary

not necessary

totally ridiculous

5) This question might actually cause some controversy in Youthful Yogis Blogland. I'm gonna go with False...the dude in the blue pants does not need a haircut. Some of you might think otherwise, but my feeling is that his hair looks OK. More importantly, I'm pretty sure the dude can see from behind those red locks. Youthful Yogis know that in order to stay balanced, a person needs to keep their eyes open; in fact, focusing the gaze on a point that's not moving is an important part of any balancing exercise.

"My eyes are open...and that's a good thing!"

But getting back to the dude's hair...Bottom line? The Youthful Yogis Blog does not specialize in hairstyling advice or fashion tips of any kind. So question # 5 should probably be deleted from this quiz!

"Everything we know about hair styling, we learned on the Youthful Yogis Blog!"

That's all the time we have for now, Youthful Yogis. I hope you've had fun taking the Youthful Yogis Pop Quiz!  How'd you do?

We'll look at more yoga poses soon...until then, stay relaxed, have fun, and try making up some yoga poses of your own if you feel inspired...!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Hi Youthful Yogis!
The other day I had all kinds of thoughts in my head...which is not exactly a bad thing, except that my body was tense and it was hard to stay focused. It's what some people call going bonkers!

Can you guess what I did to relax and feel better?  I focused on my breath, of course!

Youthful Yogis know that the way we breathe affects the way we feel. That's why an important part of any yoga practice includes attention on the breath. The name for this aspect of our practice is Pranayama, and it is sometimes defined as controlled or regulated breathing.

"This is a super hard pose but, just so you know, I'm still focused on my breath!"

Pranayama, or regulated breathing, can be practiced while you are doing yoga poses on your mat, or at any other time when you want to quiet the mind and relax the body. Ultimately, Pranayama techniques prepare us for meditation...and that's a good thing!

"It's true...I practiced Pranayama and now I'm in my happy place."

Let's take a look at some basic Pranayama techniques. You'll be amazed to learn that certain methods of  breathing can calm us down, while others really wake us up. And get this...our breath can make us feel warm or cool. It's like adjusting a thermostat without having to worry about your parents freaking out over the electric bill!

"Thanks to Pranayama, I am super cool...and I didn't even have to turn down the AC!"

Here are three Pranayama techniques to try:

1) Belly Breathing: sit,or lie on your back, so that your spine is long and you are completely relaxed. Take some nice deep breaths and begin to notice how your body moves with each inhalation and each exhalation. Gently allow your belly to expand like a balloon as you breathe in; gently allow your belly to contract as you breathe out.

Belly Breathing sounds pretty simple, but the effects are huge! The smooth, deep quality of this breath relaxes the body and quiets the mind. Belly Breathing can release both mental and physical tension and it's also a great practice to do if you ever need help falling asleep at night.

I wanted this guy to talk to you about Pranayama, but the Belly Breathing put him to sleep!

2) Ujjayi Breath: It's easier to learn this technique from a real person, rather than from instructions in an uber fantastic blog. But let's give Ujjayi a whirl....sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor: make sure your spine is long and your shoulders are relaxed. Open your mouth and yawn, then close your mouth and finish the yawn by exhaling out of your nose.

Did you hear something? With Ujjayi Breath, we are slightly constricting the back of the throat as we exhale and this creates a soft hissing sound. Ujjayi breath warms us up and helps us to stay focused. You can practice Ujjayi breathing before doing yoga poses, during most yoga poses, or anytime you want to quiet the mind and relax the body. Pretty great...right?!

3) Sitali Breath: There are a lot of reasons why I love this Pranayama technique...#1 is because we get to do something called "taco tongue!"

I just want to say...YUM!

Sit in a chair or on the floor; as always, make sure you are comfortable and that you are sitting up pretty tall. Open your mouth a little and try curling the outer edges of your tongue in, like the shape of a taco (not everyone has a tongue that will make a taco shape...if you can't do "taco tongue", simply open your mouth slightly, bring your teeth together, and allow your tongue to rest behind the front teeth.) Next, inhale slowly through your mouth, you can lift your chin slightly when you breathe in, if you like. Feel the breath being cooled as it slowly moves over the surface of your tongue.

Sitali Breath with "taco tongue"

When you are ready to release the breath, exhale slowly out of your nose and bring your chin down, if it was lifted. You can do Sitali Breath for as long as you like, often 5 rounds (1 round is an inhalation and an exhalation) is a good way to begin. Sitali Breath cools you down and helps you to relax. You can practice Sitali at any time of day...and it's a fun technique to share with family and friends.

"We know you don't believe we actually practice yoga...but trust us, Sitali Breath is awesome!"

I hope you'll have fun trying these Pranayama techniques, Youthful Yogis. Once you get comfortable working with the breath, you can gradually lengthen your inhalation and your exhalation. In fact, making the exhalation longer than your inhalation might help you to go from this.....


to this....
The opposite of bonkers!

Stay healthy and I'll see you again soon!