Tag Archives: yoga pose

Yoga | Pose Of The Week | Cat-Cow Pose

When I’m first starting to move on my mat, one of my favorite moves is cat/cow pose. It feels SO yummy! It’s one of those poses that was never difficult and always came naturally to me (many people feel that way). It’s always felt good in my body, and helps to stretch out those kinks first thing in the morning.

The cat/cow movements have many benefits. First and foremost, they are awesome for preventing back pain and keeping your spine healthy (that said, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you have back issues, just to be sure it’s safe for you to move this way). The moves also require you to engage your abs, which can be a gentle way to improve abdominal strength. And let’s not forget the focused breathing benefits. I find this pose one of the absolute easiest for me to move my body with my breath. You know how you’ll be in the middle of a pose that’s really difficult and your instructor says something like, “Don’t forget to breathe! Keep your breath attuned to the movement,” and all you can think is, “Are you effing kidding me? I can’t even expand my rib cage enough to get a good breath!” Yeah. I know that feeling too. But this pose? I find it to be the best pose for really listening to my breath and flowing with it. Maybe you’ll experience that too!

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Steps to Master Cat/Cow Pose:

  1. Start on your hands and knees in table top position. Ensure your wrists are under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips.
  2. Check to ensure your spine is in a neutral position, and keep your neck long (if you simply stare straight down, your neck should be long).
  3. On an inhale, reach your tailbone up toward the ceiling. Allow your spine to arch and your belly to drop down.
  4. Look up toward the ceiling.
  5. Ensure your shoulders are engaged and away from your ears (we have a tendency to let our shoulders creep up).
  6. On an exhale, begin to tilt your pelvis under, and allow your spine to round.
  7. Drop your head, and take your gaze to your belly button.
  8. Press your hands firmly into your mat while keeping your shoulders engaged.
  9. On each inhale, move back into cow pose.
  10. On each exhale, move back into cat pose.
  11. Repeat for 5-10 breaths, following the natural rhythm of your own breathing.
  12. After your final exhale, return to a neutral spine.
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Creativity Sparks | Mt. Charleston Phot Walk | The Camera You Have

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We’ve all heard the cliche: the best camera is the one you have with you. And there’s usually a reason something becomes cliche — because, at least to some extent, it’s true.

In this case? Totally 100% TRUE.

Here’s the perfect example. That photo above? Taken with an iPhone 5c. I went on a photo walk yesterday. I thought I’d drive myself up to Mt. Charleston and take a hike I hadn’t been on — Mary Jane Falls. I wanted to capture a few nice shots. Maybe do a few yoga poses. Have a nice afternoon strolling about the mountain.

I got about  a quarter mile into my hike and saw a tree stump that I thought would be great to sit on for a creative self-portrait. I walked over and scoped out the scene. I found the perfect angle to set up my tripod. I checked for the best light and best background. I started setting up my camera equipment — put the camera on the tripod, adjusted the angle and height of the tripod, checked the ISO of my camera. And then. Yeah…then. Then I noticed an error code reading on my camera screen. Well, crap. I left my memory cards at home!!

At that precise moment, I looked up and saw how perfectly the light was hitting my tree stump. I slumped over a bit. I was thoroughly disappointed. What a great picture that would have been!

After a momentary moping session I decided I wasn’t going to skip my photo. I had a back up camera. Sort of. I had my iPhone!

I literally repeated that mantra in my head: the best camera is the one you have with you.

So the iPhone is my best camera. So what? Take your picture. Capture your moment. Don’t let the memory pass simply because you don’t have the fanciest camera to work with.

I still wasn’t sure how to take this picture. I didn’t have my phone tripod with me. How would I even prop the phone up? I almost gave up and settled for a handheld selfie. But then I noticed a spot on my regular tripod in which I might be able to wedge my phone. I didn’t know if it would hold or if that spot was even the right size/width. But I stuck the phone in there, and the darn thing stayed (honestly, I think it was quite a brilliant idea — I may just use that ridiculously large tripod to hold my little phone in the future for things like this).

I’m sure a person or two noticed my little turquoise-cased phone being held by a rather large tripod. But so what? Let them think it looks silly. It does.

But I captured my moment, a moment that would be otherwise gone.

So if you’re just getting into photography, and you’re feeling intimidated by all the professional photographers with big, expensive, fancy cameras — don’t be. If the only camera you have is a point and shoot, use it. If the only camera you have is on your phone, use it. If you have an old, clunky, first-generation DSLR, use it. It doesn’t matter what you have. Use the camera you have. Get to know it. Get to know light and shadow and the settings you can change. Find out what makes for the best pictures on your camera and what makes for the worst.

I’ve seen people with state-of-the-art cameras take poor pictures. And I’ve seen people with mediocre cameras take stellar pictures.

Do what you can with what you have, and forget the rest. Enjoy the creative process, and don’t look back!

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Yoga | Pose Of The Week | Chaturanga Dandasana

For years, I thought I was doing chaturanga the right way (often thought of as the yoga push-up or the tricep push-up). I thought my form was awesome! I also thought it didn’t really matter how good my form was in this particular pose. I had no idea that it was the foundation for so many arm balances!

Then I started practicing yoga every day, and I started studying chaturanga in detail. And I realized, all those years I had been doing it wrong! Thus, over the past several months, I have worked toward perfecting my chaturanga.

There are lots of benefits linked to perfecting your yoga push-up. For starters, it’s a great strengthener, strengthening your core, arms, back, and wrists (strong wrists are super important for those arm balances). And, as I mentioned earlier, all of this strengthening is supa good for developing the strength required to eventually get into those infamous arm balances in the first place.

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Steps to Mastering Your Chaturanga Dandasana:

  1. Start in plank pose. Your shoulders should be above your wrists.
  2. On an inhale, roll forward on your toes, bringing your shoulders forward of your wrists and your heels above the balls of your feet. (This, for me, has been the key to correcting my form in this pose. I wasn’t rolling forward enough, and the next step ended up out of alignment.)
  3. On an exhale, begin to lower down, keeping your elbows drawn in to your sides. Your elbows should be at a 90 degree angle, with your elbows directly above your wrists. If you didn’t roll forward on those toes enough in the last step, this is where you’ll see some misalignment.
  4. Your goal is to keep your body as straight as possible. Don’t sag your center or stick your butt in the air (as you can see, I’m still struggling with this a bit, as I tend to pop my butt up just a little).
  5. Hold the pose for as long as possible. Start with 5 seconds, and build your way up to 10, 15, or even 30 seconds.
  6. To come out of the pose, you have two choices. Either lower down all the way to the floor (nice release!) or challenge yourself even more and see if you can push back up into plank pose (wow — that’s a challenge!).

 

 

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Yoga | Pose Of The Week | Downward Facing Dog

When I first started yoga, I strongly disliked downward facing dog pose. I mean, like, for reals! I found it difficult to sustain for long periods (which equated to a few breaths), and I certainly did not find it restful. A coworker once told me that she used to feel the same way, but over the years, she grew to love it and found it relaxing.

I swore I would never love downward facing dog!

But I’ve gotta tell ya. She was right. All these years later, I do love downward facing dog. I find it simultaneously invigorating and relaxing. And I think it’s one of the best poses to build and sustain shoulder strength (because you’ve gotta have some shoulder strength to maintain this pose for any length of time). It’s also one of the best poses to return to when you’re needing a moment to breathe.

Aside from the awesome upper body strengthening, downward dog has lots of stretching benefits. These include stretching the back, the chest, the shoulders, the hamstrings, the calves, and the Achilles tendons!

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Steps to Master Downward Facing Dog Pose:

  1. Get on your hands and knees on the floor. Check to see that your hips are directly over your knees and your knees are hip width apart. Your palms should be slightly forward of your shoulders, shoulders width apart.
  2. Tuck your toes under.
  3. Spread your fingers wide.
  4. On an exhale, push into your hands and feet. Lift your knees away from the floor, and lift your sitting bones toward the ceiling. At first, keep your knees bent and the heels of your feet away from the floor.
  5. Continue pushing into your hands to maintain the evenness of the pose.
  6. After a few breathes, slowly start to straighten your knees (careful not to lock them) and lower your heels toward the floor. Your knees may not straighten completely, and your heels may not reach the floor. This is all okay! Don’t push yourself too hard. With practice, you’ll get there one day.
  7. Hold this pose for a minimum of 30 seconds.
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Yoga | Pose Of The Week | Standing Forward Bend

I’ve been working a lot lately on increasing flexibility in my hamstrings. There are lots of reasons for this, but I’ll be honest — the biggest reason is because I want to be able to press up into handstand one day!

Granted, there are many things that need to happen in addition to flexible hammies before I’ll be able to press up to a handstand. I am SO not there yet! But once I develop the strength I need, I don’t want inflexible hamstrings to stop me. So I work on hamstring flexibility daily.

Standing forward bend seems so simple. But I really do find it to be the best stretch for a little relaxing and a lot of lengthening.

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Steps to Master Your Standing Forward Bend:

  1. Stand up straight, feet together, arms at your side.
  2. Inhale, and bring your arms above your head.
  3. Exhale, bend your knees slightly, and bend at your hips, reaching your torso toward your legs. If your torso doesn’t reach your legs like mine does, don’t worry! Go as far as your body can comfortably go – you don’t want to push yourself too hard and cause an injury. (I’ve got to tell you, the injuries I’ve sustained have usually been from pushing my stretches too far when my body wasn’t ready. Learn from my mistakes, and don’t go there!)
  4. Place your hands on your shins or perhaps place them on the ground in front of you. I personally enjoy wrapping my arms around my legs like the picture above. (It’s kind of like giving yourself a big hug. And I dig that.)
  5. Use your inhales to lengthen.
  6. Use your exhales to fold a little deeper and work toward straightening your legs (but be careful not to hyperextend your knees).
  7. Hold this pose for at least 30 seconds. If you do this every day, you’ll start to notice improved flexibility in no time!

If you choose to place your hands on the floor in this pose, the photos below should help with your form. Notice that in the first photo, my back is straight and my gaze is forward (corresponding with an inhale). In the second photo, I am exhaling and folding deeper.

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