Monthly Archives: July 2013

Swan and Sleeping Swan {Yin Series}

As we near the end of the Yin asana list, have you noticed a trend? The vast majority of Yin poses focus mostly on the lower half of the body. Before we we broach the one major shoulder opener (don’t w0rry, it’s coming next week), let’s dive a little deeper into the hips.  You might notice that this pose is very similar to pigeon pose from yang varieties of yoga.  The hips tend to be fairly problematic for most people due to our desk-sitting lifestyles and the fact that many of us store unprocessed emotions in that area.

Swan Pose

Swan Pose

This is a very simple pose to come into but can be made more advanced by coming into it from downward facing dog.  If choosing the simpler route, begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.  Starting with the right side, bring the right knee between the hands. Place some weight into the right side of the body and note how your knee feels.  If there is too much tension in the knee, bring the foot closer to the hips/body until you feel the tension alleviated.  Once you’ve reached this or if you don’t have any tension in the knee to begin with, flex the right foot and position the shin so that it is parallel to the front of your mat (your right ankle should be near your left wrist).  If tight muscles in the hips prevent the shin from being parallel, that’s okay.  Just go as far as you comfortably can.  Then tuck the toes of the left foot to lift that leg off the mat a bit.  Wiggle the leg back straight behind you as far as it will (comfortably) go, making sure that the leg is in a straight line and not veering off to one side or the other.  Be sure that your weight is evenly distributed and that you’re not leaning to the left side. This is “Swan”.  If this feels like enough (your hands/arms should be in the same position that they were in tabletop), then stay here for three to five minutes.  To come out of the pose, lean into the hands releasing the right foot.  Send the right foot back to meet the left and lie flat on your belly for a few breaths.  Roll over to lay on your back and perform a few windshield wipers before repeating on the other side.

Sleeping Swan

Sleeping Swan

To come into Sleeping Swan, begin by lowering yourself from hands to forearms.  If this still feels okay move in a little further, first by stacking the fists and resting the forehead on top and then -if you’d like to go further- remove the hands and rest the forehead on the ground with the arms extended straight out in front of you. The full expression of the pose is allowing the torso to rest on the shin.  Another option is to rest the body on a bolster. Remain here for three to five minutes and follow the same steps to come out of Sleeping Swan as Swan.  Come back up onto the hands and release the right leg back to meet the left.  Come to lie flat on your belly for a couple of breaths before rolling onto the back and performing some windshield wipers before repeating the same process on the other side.

Photo credit: http://www.yinyoga.com

Square Pose {Yin Series}

Square pose is one of those asanas that has a lot of room for adjustment.  Because of this, it’s still attainable to the “can’t quite touch my toes” yogi but is still beneficial for the yogi who regularly finds themselves in a pretzel-like shape.  Square pose is a deep hip opener which simultaneously releases any tension in the lower back through the forward fold.

Coming into this pose for the first time may take a little bit for you to find your ideal posture.

Crosslegged Square Pose

Crosslegged Square Pose

Begin just by sitting cross-legged, the legs a little further away from the body than where you normally place them.  Lean forward a bit here and take note of the sensation in your outer hips.  If your hips are really “talking” to you, then this is where you belong.  If there isn’t much sensation or if you don’t feel like you’ve reached your edge (which you can learn about here), try a different variation.

Square Pose with stacked legs

Square Pose with stacked legs

Lift one leg so it can rest on top of the other.  For example, if the left leg is on top, the left the ankle is resting on top of the right knee.

If your knee is not able to rest on the bottom ankle, go back to the original crosslegged posture.

If your knee is not able to rest on the bottom ankle, go back to the original crosslegged posture.

If tension in the hips doesn’t allow the top knee to rest on the bottom ankle, go back to the starting position and spend some time there first.  The idea is that the legs are always “square” to the front of the mat.  Wherever you decide to be, fold forward from the hips and allow the spine to round in order to release any tension from the sacral or lumbar regions.  Remain here for three to five minutes, remembering to find stillness.  You may notice that the hips begin to give and that you can stretch a bit more from the spine.  After the three to five minutes, slowly return to an upright position.  Send the legs out in front of you and do some “windshield wipers” to release the hips.  Repeat this process with the opposite leg in front/on top making sure to take note if one side is tighter than the other and making any necessary adjustments.  Enjoy another round of windshield wipers to finish.

Photo credit: http://www.yinyoga.com

Be Yourself

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“Accept everything about yourself, I mean everything. You are you and that is the beginning and the end, no apologies, no regrets.”

– Clark Moustakas

Photo: Note Card Poetry

Meatless Monday’s Zucchini Pesto Pasta

Almond Pesto Pasta with Zucchini

Walnut-Pesto-Pasta-with-ZucchiniF

We’ve had some strange weather here in Annapolis recently.  We went from constant, endless days of rain to somewhat outrageous temps in the upper 90s with heat indexes near 100*.  I thought for sure my garden wouldn’t make it, but lo and behold my counter is bursting with summer produce! What I have the most of? Zucchini! As I began to grow tired of variations on zucchini bread, this pasta swooped in and saved the day.

Zucchini and carrots are shaped into strips to match linguine in this summer veggie pasta medley. An almond basil pesto sauce perfectly counters the savory zucchini and sweet carrots.

Serves 4

For the almond pesto:

  • 1 1/2 packed cups basil, washed
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast*
  • or
  • 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 5 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

To complete the Almond Pesto Pasta with Zucchini:

  • 4 ounces linguine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 large carrot

*Found in health food stores or the health food section of most grocery stores.

To make the almond pesto:

Place the basil, nutritional yeast or cheese, almonds and garlic together in a food processor. Run the food processor until the basil almond mixture is very finely chopped, stopping the food processor and scraping down the sides with a spatula when necessary.

While the food processor runs, slowly pour the canola oil in through the top window. Process until you have a smooth sauce. Taste and season with the salt and pepper, adjusting amounts if desired.

To complete the Almond Pesto Pasta with Zucchini:

Place a large pot of salted water over medium-high heat. When the water boils, cook the pasta according to package directions, or until the linguine is al dente. Drain and transfer back to the pot.

Using a spiralizer or vegetable peeler, make the zucchini and carrots into thin strips to match the linguine.

Place the pesto in a frying pan and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the garlic and almonds become fragrant.

Add the al dente pasta, zucchini strips and carrot strips to the pan. Toss to ensure the pesto sauce is evenly distributed on the pasta and veggie “noodles”. Divide into 4 portions and enjoy!

Photo & Recipe Courtesy of http://www.veggiesforreal.blogspot.com

Breath Of Fire

17422-EX_196_01For this week’s pranayama and in light of the 3rd chakra, Manipura, we’re introducing you to Kapalbhati, also know as Breath of Fire.

This is a rapid diaphragmatic breathing, designed to clean toxins from the body, raise internal fire, and stimulate the ascending current (that which our prana runs along). Having a healthy and spirited 3rd chakra supports us in overcoming inertia, when we choose to consciously activate our core muscles with asana or pranayama we can help build our internal fire, or agni, found in the body. Having a kapalbhati practice can help stimulate not only positive states of being associated with this chakra such as joy and happiness but it can also increase our energy, giving us that extra oomph to get us through the day.

To begin sit in an upright, comfortable seat with your back straight and legs relaxed.

Using the muscles of your kapalbhati-12abdomen, snap (a sharp quick breath) in your diaphragm/belly, causing a quick exhale to escape the body through your nose. Keep your mouth closed.

When you relax your belly, an inhale will naturally occur with air moving in your nose and chest. You need not to force this inhalation.

Then snap the belly once again, followed by a relaxing inhale, causing another exhale and inhale, so with each breath there is more emphasis on your exhales.

When this process feels comfortable for you, repeat quickly, causing several quick exhales. Do in sets of 2o to begin and then you can increase to 50 once you become more accustomed to this practice. Repeat 3 sets. After a while you can place yourself according to what feels right. Increase the number and speed as your stomach muscles become acclimated.

*Note: If at any point you being to feel lightheaded stop your pranayama practice and come back to a neutral breath.

Source: Ayurveda For Everyday and Yoga Journal.

Back to Basics: Child’s Pose {Yin Series}

Back to Basics: Child’s Pose or Balasana

balasana

As a style, Yin yoga is a cooling, relaxing practice which is especially useful in this scorching Annapolis heat.  No matter where you are or hot it is, Child’s Pose gives a nice refreshing release at the beginning, middle, or end of your practice or even just on its own.  Pregnant yogis may find this pose uncomfortable, but can choose to open the knees to allow more room for the abdomen to rest.  Balasana is a nice counter pose to backbends and is especially soothing in times of anxiety and vulnerability.  Coming into this comforting pose is simple.  Begin seated on the heels while slowly folding the chest towards the thighs as you bring your forehead to the earth.  The arms can lay comfortably by your legs, allowing the shoulders to drape over you like a blanket.

Child's Pose with extended arms

Child’s Pose with extended arms

Conversely, the arms can be extended out in front for a different sensation.  Props can lend an even deeper relaxation.  A bolster under the forehead or blankets under the knees are both good options.  Enjoy this pose for as long as desired.

Supported Child's Pose

Supported Child’s Pose

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: http://www.yogajournal.com

Oh, Happy Day

“Find out where joy resides, and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss the joy is to miss all.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

wordle3Luckily our blog readers already know where this joy resides. If you’ve been following our posts this month you know that we’ve been discussing and diving into our 3rd chakra, Manipura, and that happiness and joy are associated with this chakra and that we have the ability to cultivate these states of being. Now that we know where this joy resides all we have to do is give it a voice. So while you’re out and about moving through your day be sure to express this joy. Give yourself permission to sing because we all know that joy, smiles, laughter and happiness are contagious so hit every high note and you’ll inspire others to do the same.