Did you think I'd left town for a Caribbean vacation? I can see why that thought might cross your mind... it's been a while since my last blog entry!
Actually, I have not been photographing palm trees on some exotic island or wearing a goofy hat while watching the sun set on the Caribbean Sea. But I have been doing a lot of yoga and...guess what? Sometimes that's just as great as a swanky vacation!
|"This is fun, but I'd rather be doing Spinx Pose instead!"|
It turns out that practicing yoga has a lot in common with going on vacation: yoga allows us to put our responsibilities and concerns aside for a while so that we can quiet our brains and refresh and refuel our bodies...just like we do on vacation! It is important to know that there are all kinds of ways to practice yoga, so a pose that feels good on Monday may not be the one you feel like doing on Friday.
|"You've really gotta be in the right mood to do a pose like this...!"|
How do we decide what poses to practice on any given day?...that's the question!
|"I'd like to practice yoga...but I don't know where to start!"|
Many different factors can determine the style of yoga we choose to do throughout the week: if Great Uncle Louie was playing the accordion 'til two in the morning at your house last night, it probably means you're short on sleep and it may not be the best time to try new and difficult poses like the arm balance you saw above.
|Seriously?...this can not be Uncle Louie!|
On the other hand, if you've just traveled to Uncle Louie's house and it's a four hour car ride home and your little sister has spilled caramel corn all over the back seat of the car and you really feel like you're gonna scream your head off if you can't get out and move around a little...
...you might be up for a more challenging practice!
|Believe me, any of these poses will feel good after a four hour car ride!|
You get the picture: there is a time and a place for every kind of yoga pose, and one way to choose the pose that feels right is through something known as Svadhyaya...try saying that word ten times fast!
Svadhyaya is a Sanskrit word and it really feels good in your mouth! Svadhyaya is often defined as self observation or self reflection and it is an important part of any yoga practice. One way to experience Svadhyaya is to close your eyes and to focus on your breath; this will relax your body, quiet your mind, and allow you to observe how you are feeling. As an example, if Uncle Louie's accordion playing has left you tired and shaky, it's good to reflect upon that before you attempt to stand on our head or do the splits!
|"Do I look like I'm in the mood for a headstand?...I don't think so!"|
Similarly, if we have been dodging caramel corn while watching "Finding Nemo" re-runs in the back seat of the car for four hours, it's helpful to notice that our bodies need to move and stretch in a more active way.
|"I think I need to roll out my yoga mat...now!"|
Once you get familiar with the practice of Svadhyaya, it will become a natural way to begin every yoga session. In fact, Svadhyaya is wonderful at any time of day; it helps us to become more aware of ourselves, of our surroundings and of others...and that's a good thing!
Now, let's get down to business...here are some poses you might like to try. I have divided the postures into 3 different categories: remember to take a few minutes for self reflection before you try each pose, so you can decide which ones feel right for your body today. Have fun!
Group #1: Poses for strengthening the body and building self-confidence
|Half Moon can also be done with a block, or against a wall, for support|
|Scorpion Pose...make sure you get a teacher to help you with this one!|
|Yikes! I guess we know why they call it Scorpion Pose!|
Group # 2: Salutation to the Sun: a sequence of poses that are done one right after another, in a fluid fashion.
A Sun Salute is actually a sequence of eight yoga poses, practiced with care. You can do a few rounds of Sun Salutes to begin your day on a positive and sunny note, or you can wind down later in the day with the same combination of poses. Remember to stay focused, notice your breath, and observe what each of the eight postures is telling you about your body!
Group # 3: resting poses, for when we need to refresh mentally and physically after an active day or a busy week.
|Reclined Bound Angle Pose...yum!|
|Bound Angle Pose with props...super yum!|
|Legs up the Wall|
|Legs up the Wall with a yoga block|
|Child's Pose...ya gotta love it!|
I hope you'll have fun trying out a few of these yoga poses, Youthful Yogis. And remember...Svadhyaya is not the name of that new vegetarian goulash your mom cooked for dinner last night...
Svadhyaya is the practice of cultivating self-awareness: checking in, tuning in, and living life mindfully both on and off of our yoga mats!
Have a great day Youthful Yogis...and be sure to find time for your very own yoga vacation!