After doing yoga for a while, sometimes we want a little more than a downward dog or triangle. Sometimes we want to push ourselves a bit further, sometimes not. I did yoga regularly for years and didn't push myself, which is fine, too.
When I started regular yoga in 2001, I dreaded the class where the yoga teacher, Trevor, would say "Next, we are going to try some headstands. You can bring your mat up against the wall..." Ugh. I didn't want to stand on my head, so I just would remain in childs pose or watch the people pop up on their mat or wall.
The best alternative and preparation is Dolphin pose, which is Downward Dog on your forearms. So, every time headstand would come up, I'd remain in Dolphin pose. This built my upper body strength and forearm placement for the time I was ready.
I wasn't ready to push myself into handstand for years to come. When you, as the reader, are ready, follow these steps:
There are other ways people can try headstands. It is always taught that the best way to learn headstands is by coming up in a controlled manner.
However, sometimes, people would like to try to kick upwards to the wall, being supported by their teacher.
Tips for a gentle kick up headstand:
Here is my class this morning, giving it a try:
Tight hamstrings is a common complaint for most people I speak to. The lower back, hips and glutes have to overcompensate and can become strained.
Why do we have tight hamstrings? Most people get tight hamstrings from sitting all day... over an accumulation of years (studying or working at computer). Hamstrings can also become tight from running and/or cycling.
There is an easy set of sequences that can be done on a daily basis to stretch out the hamstrings, lower back, hips and glutes. It can be done anywhere and chances are that your children, flatmates or dogs will want to get stuck in with you as well.
All you knee is your body and a belt or anything you can wrap over foot and hold with one hand (e.g. dog leash).
In yoga terms, it is called Supta Hasta Padangusthasana, reclined hand-to-toe pose. These poses are meant to be done using some effort, drawing the belt tighter as time goes on - make it a strong pose.
Instructions below are for 1 leg doing 4 poses. Please walk through the sequence on the other side. This sequence will take 10 minutes or less, depending on how long you'd like to hold each pose.
Pose 1: Start with leg up
Pose 2: Drop leg out to right side, opening right hip
Pose 3: Leg crosses over to opposite side
Pose 4: The final stretch
Switch legs: Place belt on left ball of foot and repeat the 4 poses, using opposite side
This set of stretches, if done every day, will improve your hamstring flexibility. It will alleviate lower back issues.
And if you are still sitting all day at work, remember to get up every hour and walk around. Take laptop to a counter and stand a bit. If you are cycling/running, try to stretch afterwards (ha, ya right).
And remember to mindfully stretch, breathe into it and observe how the muscles are feeling! They will undoubtedly be whispering "thanks" to you.
In Vinyasa Flow yoga, the Sun Salutation is frequently used for many reasons:
For those who would like to remember this sequence quickly, here it is a quick version:
I can give more explanation but many of my students would like a quick way to remember this sequence.
Thanks to my lovely model, Tim, doing the salutations in Cornwall in the misty sunlight.
Posture tip: Lengthen spine
When sitting at your desk or standing, try to lengthen your spine by lifting the crown of the head towards the ceiling (like we do in mountain pose, tadasana). This will improve your posture immediately.
Mindfulness tip: Focus on 1 thing at a time
Put all your concentration into the task you are doing in that exact moment. If you are washing the dishes, focus all your attention on it, even for 30 seconds. It will calm the mind (admittedly, it does feel a bit strange staring at the dishes).
Nutrition tip: Beetroot's similarities with yoga
Beetroot is delicious cooked or raw. Benefits: Cleans the liver, makes you happy, and helps muscle recovery after exercise. How? Vits, antioxidants and serotonin. Yoga has similar benefits as well.
For the first 3 weeks post cycling accident, my tibial fracture required me to have a straight leg splint. This restricted me to sitting in a chair with leg elevated or a wheelchair. This put a tremendous amount of pressure on my back. I completely lost my yoga mojo but out of necessity, I found creative ways of doing yoga.
This can apply to anyone who has been injured or has limited mobility.
Great chair yoga sequence
With all these poses, sit comfortably in a chair to start. In yoga, it's important to connect the breath to movement. These poses warm up back and shoulders, creates space between the vertebrae.
1. Sitting side bends
2. Sitting cat/cow
3. Sitting spinal twists
4. Sitting neck stretches
Tim & Shannon: Part time yoga teachers from Cookham, Berkshire. We thought it would be fun to share our learning experiences with like minded people.