Three Wellness Tips for Travel

PHOTO CREDIT: The Yoga Blog

Tips to stay healthy and vibrant on the plane, in the car, and in between. 

This is the season for travel! In fact, as I write this, I am at LaGuardia airport, awaiting a flight. Many of us will take to the roads, rails, or skies this summer to visit loved ones or vacation destinations, but will self-care take backseat in the process? Travel can put your body through the wringer, but it doesn't have to. I wanted to share a few of my personal favorite travel-sized health and wellness practices with you, so that you can be your most vibrant, and more fully enjoy whichever destination you are heading to!

1. Drink Water!

This is my biggest wellness tip in general, but especially when it comes to travel! Most people are unknowingly dehydrated as it is, and become much more so when they travel. You may have heard that airplanes in particular are incredibly dehydrating, due to the high altitude and lack of humidity in the recycled air, but to contextualize it for you: the standard "comfortable" indoor environment has a humidity of 40-65%, while airplanes have a humidity of 10-20%. When there is less humidity in the air, our body lets off water at a higher rate, just as we retain more water if the air contains a high level of humidity. So, drink water before, during, and after your flight to ensure that your body has enough water to complete the processes it needs to complete. I always bring a reusable water bottle (I have a Vapur foldable water bottle which is amazing for travel, as it rolls up and I have it in my pocket right now) that I fill up at the airport before and after I land. 

The only drawback of drinking lots of water is that, yes, you'll have to use the restroom more. But compare that with the alternative (dehydration headaches, constipation, dry and itchy skin, fatigue, and more compromised immune system) and it's an easy choice to make. The same goes for cars. They are less dehydrating than planes, but it is still important to stay hydrated and be willing to take those rest stops. 

As for the skin which is affected by the dry air in planes, I travel with a small jar of coconut oil, my favorite moisturizer, which I apply to my face, hands, and neck while I travel, or just before traveling. 

2. Boost Your Immune System

Any space that contains many people has a heightened risk of sicknesses floating around, not to mention that drier air makes you more susceptible to infection. Take care to stock up on vitamin C before traveling, and even after. I like a nice orange or grapefruit, or I carry packets of Emergen-C. After flying, the body has been exposed to radiation, bacteria, and dry air and will feel out of sorts, no doubt. Personally, I try to spend the rest of the day (after traveling) to detoxify. I make a big smoothie containing orange juice for vitamin C and coconut water for electrolytes, and eat as many nutrient rich fruits and veggies as I can. 

The more you help your body, the more it will help you transition more seamlessly from transit into your destination!

3. Yoga!

Stiffness and poor circulation become issues on long flights and drives, and what better way to address them than yoga?! Check back through any of my former posts regarding yoga for the desk, and any of these poses are doable in a car, bus, train, or plane. Doing simple spinal twists and seated cat/cow can keep the back loose. Seated figure four stretch opens the hips and back. Simple neck stretches and prevents spasm and irritation. Ankle and/or hip circles improve circulation. 

After you land and arrive at your destination, take 15 minutes to practice a few sun salutations and hip openers like low lunges or lizard pose to increase your comfort and circulation. I always travel with my mini massage ball that I can use in my feet or neck in my seat to increase circulation. 

Happy travels, and remember that any moment you spend taking care of yourself is time well spent. 

Namaste!

Yoga for Runners: Three Ways It Can Enhance Training & Performance

Developing a consistent yoga practice is one of the best things you can do for your running practice! Cross training with yoga is a very effective way to tone and lengthen your muscles, help to protect you from injury, and develop a sense of bodily awareness. Running coaches often tell runners to, "listen to your body," to prevent injury or keep an injury from worsening, and practicing yoga will help you to do just that. 

Yoga provides a full package of tools to round out your wellness routine as a runner. Here are three key ways that it can do so, if practiced regularly!

1. Developing Physical/Mental Awareness

As I mentioned above, the practice of yoga is one that engages the body, mind, and spirit, just like running. In practicing yoga, you teach yourself discipline, the ability to follow fine alignment, and to breathe through things that may be uncomfortable or challenging, all of which are necessary skills for a runner. 

In learning what the body feels like when it is all sorts of different poses, your body will be more equipped to alert you when something feels "off" when you are running, allowing you to address it in the moment, reducing the risk of developing an injury over time. 

Furthermore, the more you practice mindfulness on your yoga mat, the more you will practice it in your life off of the mat, which will affect (for the better) decisions you make about self-care, workouts, and your diet. I have never been more aware of what I was putting on or in my body that after I started practicing yoga. Now, I only eat, wear, or do things that I know will make me feel good. When your body is not over/under-worked, well-rested, and filled with nutritious foods, you will no doubt be performing and training at your best level. 

2. Foot Care

The feet are what makes a runner run, so they must be taken care of. You have probably put a lot of thought and care into which shoes to buy, so be sure you’re out that same amount of care into your actual feet! 

Yoga offers incredible benefits for foot care, not the least of which is balance. Yoga practitioners know how important groundedness and supple feet are in balancing postures, because without, you are sure to fall. Balancing on one leg strengthens the stabilizing muscles of the feet, legs, ankles, and joints. (Tree pose, eagle pose, extended hand to foot pose, warrior three, etc.)

Warriors 1 & 2 engage the entire foot and outer leg, stretching the elusive outer ankle and calf, and Achilles. Downward Facing Dog and Thai Goddess pose open the soles of the feet and prevent plantar fascistic. Performing self-massage (abeyanga) on the feet is another way to keep the feet open and supple. 

3. Keeping Open Hips & Hamstrings

The most common area of complaint in my experience with runners is the hip flexors (fronts of hips) and hamstrings (backs of thighs). It is so important to keep these areas open through a balance of both active and passive (sustained) stretching. In a typical yoga class, you will move through transitional poses which are held for a very short time (ex: a half lift on your way from forward fold to down dog in a sun salutation, or even standing postures like a high lunge or warrior) which is a way of actively stretching as you engage the surrounding muscle groups. Then, as you settle into deeper, longer stretches at the end of class like half pigeon or a seated forward fold, the muscles have a chance to reaaaaaally let go thanks to prior active stretching. 

For runners, half split and low or high lunge should be part of your daily stretch routine even in addition to in class, to keep these areas nourished and healthy. 

Namaste and happy running!

Three Yoga Poses For Better Sleep

Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years because of its innumerable health benefits, but the one that perhaps is most responsible for yoga's widespread popularity in Western culture is... stress relief. Stress is among the factors of a bevy of health concerns, potentially including insomnia. (And when you aren't receiving proper sleep, your productivity, focus, and happiness decrease, which creates more stress, and on and on into a vicious, hazy, sleep-deprived cycle. I'd recommend checking out Arianna Huffington's new book, 'The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time' for lots more information on the topic of sleep deprivation, and what will happen when you emerge from it.) 

If at night you have reached your bed and still feel ridden by the events, stresses, and responsibilities of the day, it's not too late to practice a few yoga poses which can ease your transition from a busy day into a good night's sleep. These poses help to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (which regulates the body's systems and de-activates stress responses), soothe areas of habitual physical tension, and let the so-called "monkey-mind" surrender. 

Here are three poses which are part of my personal practice that I actually do while in my bed before sleeping. (Best if done in this particular sequence.)

PHOTO CREDIT: Yoga Outlet

1. Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)

Sit up tall so that you feel balanced atop your sitting bones. Extend your legs out in front of you.  Bend your knees generously - especially since you are preparing to sleep, you don't want to overstretch or push too hard.  Lengthen your spine by drawing in and up with your abdominals, and lean forward over your bent legs. Let your arms relax, as well as your head and neck, and focus on breathing slowly into your back ribs. This pose slows the mind and opens the hamstrings and back. Slowly roll up after 1-2 minutes. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Yoga Outlet

2. Spinal Twist (Sputa Matsyendrasana) 

Lie down on your back and extend your right leg onto the bed. Hug your left knee into your chest, then cross it over your body and onto your right side. Your left knee will be reaching toward the bed, and your right shoulder will be reaching toward the bed, and your spine is suspended in a twist. Breathe deep, detoxifying breaths here for 1 minute (or about 10 breaths) then switch legs. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Yoga Outlet

3. Reclined Cobbler's Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

From your twist, you are now ready to ease into sleep-mode, and this is one final easy hip opener before you do. Bend your knees so that you can place the soles of your feet together, knees open to the sides. Option to place pillows beneath your knees for more hip support. Allow your knees to give into gravity, and this takes time, so stay in this restorative pose for at least 2-3 minutes. I find it is very easy to sleep right from this pose. As you breathe, notice any thoughts that linger, and make a point to set them aside. 

Sweet dreams, and Namaste. 

Three Healthy Dinner Inspiration

PHOTO CREDIT: Restore353

1. Stuffed Grape Leaves

Sure, you can buy them in tins or at the deli, but they are DELECTABLE homemade. I first tried this recipe three years ago to bring them to a themed dinner party, and I have been making them ever since. They are a fun dish to prepare-- very hands-on, and it almost feels like you're making a craft! I like the recipe from Food Network (included below). I normally eat mine with a dollop of Greek Yogurt and paprika. Mmmm. 

Ingredients:

Two large onions, finely chopped

1/2 c. olive oil

1 bulb garlic

1 large, ripe tomato, chopped

1 c. lemon juice

1 tbsp. tomato paste

Sea salt

Black pepper

1 c. Rice (I like using wild rice, but suit yourself)

1/4 c. chopped dill

1 16 oz. jar prepared grape leaves (this saves time)

Directions:

Put the onions and oil in a skillet and cook over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. While the onions cook, peel the garlic cloves and mash them to a paste in a mortar and pestle. Add this to the pan along with the tomato, lemon juice, tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in the rice. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the dill. Set aside to cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate.

While this is cooling, drain the grape leaves and carefully pull them apart. Put them into a bowl and cover them with cold water. Let them soak until you are ready to roll.


Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place a grape leaf on your work surface, shiny side down. Add 1 tablespoon of the rice mixture to the middle of the grape leaf. Fold the sides over the rice and roll the leaf into a small log shape, about the size of George's thumb. Repeat with the remaining rice, placing the stuffed leaves into a 9 by 9-inch baking dish. When the dish is full, cover the stuffed leaves with several layers of flat grape leaves and pour in 1 cup of water. Cover and bake for 1 hour. Let cool to room temperature and refrigerate. Serve cool.

PHOTO CREDIT: Restore353

2. Summer Spinach & Apple Salad

I am a big fan of salads in the summer, because they are easy to make, transportable, refreshing, and you can combine many of your favorite disparate things into one yummy dish. This salad is a good balance of sweet, salty, fruity, and savory. 

Ingredients:

Fresh spinach, rinsed (always rinse your greens! You don't know what happened to them before you bought them!)

1 Granny Smith apple or tangy apple of your choice

Black olives

Quinoa or other protein (optional)

Dried cranberries

Tahini dill dressing or dressing of your choice

Directions:

DRESSING:

Blend the following in a blender or food processor:

1/2 c. fresh tahini

1/2 c. water (and more at your discretion, if too pasty)

1-2 cloves garlic

1/4 c. lemon juice

1/2 T. apple cider vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste (I use pink salt and a few cranks of fresh pepper)

1 c. fresh dill

SALAD:

Place spinach on a plate or in a bowl. Place the rest of the ingredients in the bowl, and douse with dressing. (This dressing is healthy so use as much as you'd like!) If you are not a vegan, this salad is also delicious with a little crumble of blue cheese and an extra sprinkle of sea salt. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Restore353

3. Summer Veggie & Chickpea Bowl

As you can see, there is more than one way to use that delicious tahini dill dressing!! I love it on a nice hearty bowl of veggies and beans, for a filling dinner that is also detox friendly (minus the cheese). Make two servings. For lunch tomorrow, double the recipe and pack a bowl for lunch! Give yourself something healthy to look forward to. 

Ingredients:

1 can chickpeas, or 1.5 c. boiled chickpeas

Two steamed sweet potatoes

1 c. steamed broccoli (I steam both simultaneously)

1 c. quinoa, prepared

Tahini dill dressing (recipe above)

Feta cheese

Nutritional yeast

Directions:

Place the quinoa as the bottom layer on your plate/bowl, and then layer chickpeas on top. Place steamed veggies alongside, and then sprinkle with cheese and nutritional yeast. Pour dressing on top, and let it soak in all the way to the bottom layer. You can mix it all up or eat each part separately. You can eat it hot or refrigerate it for a refreshing cold dish. Any way you do it, it is delicious. 

Namaste!

Three Simple, Healthful Breakfast Recipes

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I'd have to agree! It kick starts your metabolism, provides you with necessary calories (energy) to get through the morning and afternoon, and... Breakfast is delicious. I'm passing along three of my favorite healthy breakfast recipes that are so easy there is no excuse for grabbing a donut or bagel on your way to work. 

If you start your day with lots of sugar and/or carbs, you will be craving it for the rest of the day, and you'll be fighting an uphill battle to regain your focus after your mid-morning sugar crash. So, do your prep work ahead of time and make sure you have the healthy ingredients in the following recipes, and see if maybe you can create some healthy breakfasts of your own!

Note: you'll notice that there are two liquid breakfasts on this list. The reason for this is that, from a yogic/Ayurvedic standpoint, spring is the time to cleanse and lighten up, paring away the dense comfort food that we eat in winter. By consuming more liquid meals (ex: juice cleanses, etc.) we are assisting in re-setting the body's metabolism and digestive system. You will be receiving the nutrients in a more direct manner, rather than your body having to sort through/digest solid food. There is no pressure by any means to start a juice cleanse, but you may find that you feel more energized if you start your day with something light and nutritious!

PHOTO CREDIT: Restore353

1. Turmeric & Ginger Latte

This delicious pick-me-up is great for any time of day, but I enjoy mine on my subway ride and it helps keep me calm and centered. 

Directions:

- 1 cup almond milk (unsweetened)

- 1 teaspoon fresh turmeric, chopped

- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, chopped

- pinch sea salt

- pinch cinnamon

- 2 teaspoons coconut/turbinado sugar

- 2 tablespoons coconut oil

Heat the coconut milk on the stove on low heat until it almost begins to bubble. Remove from heat. Blend all other ingredients in a blender or food processor. Place milk and blended mixture into your blender, and pulse until frothy. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Restore353

2. Elvis (Revamped)

This is a healthier take on Elvis's favorite sandwich, with pumped up nutritional value and a few extra layers of flavor!

Directions:

- Sprouted grain bread or other seedy bread (I use Ezekiel bread) 

- 1 small banana

- Chia seeds

- Unsweetened flake coconut

- Honey or agave

- Almond butter

Toast your bread to make it crunchy. Spread the bread with almond butter, and sprinkle with desired amounts of chia seeds and coconut. Chop your banana and add to toast, then drizzle generously with honey to keep toast from being too dry. Serve open faced. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Restore353

3. Green Smoothie

Don't spend $10 on your morning green juice. Make this simple, delicious one at home-- no juicer required! This smoothie is great for detoxing the skin and internal organs, and boosts hydration! (Organic produce preferred) 

Directions:

- 1 handful spinach

- 1/2 frozen banana

- 2 tablespoons coconut oil

- 1/2 cup frozen pineapple

- 2 tablespoons hemp seeds

- 1/2 - 1 cup coconut water

- Water, as needed

Blend all ingredients. If your smoothie is too thick, add water or coconut water as desired. 

Never skip breakfast again! 

Namaste!

Spring Is Here ... Time For Core Work!

PHOTO CREDIT: Restore353

Summer is just around the corner, and the weather is not the only thing that is heating up! Yes, we all want to look our best at the beach, but this is also the prime time to practice heat-building core-centric yoga poses in order to harness spring's powerful transformative powers. 

When we practice core work, we are stimulating the Vagus Nerve. The Vagus Nerve (housed partially in the solar plexus) regulates the body's parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for healthfully operating all of your body's systems. We are also cultivating Agni (heat) in your third chakra (Manipura Chakra), also housed in your solar plexus, which promotes healthy digestive function, and stimulates transition in your life. 

So, grab your mat, set an intention, and practice this Agni mini-sequence to tone up your core and get out of that rut. 

POSES (L to R):

Top Row: Cat Pose, Cow Pose, Downward Facing Dog (Adho mukha svanasana)

Middle Row: Downward Dog Split (Eka pada Adho mukha svanasana), Boat Pose (navasana), Revolved Boat Pose

Bottom Row: Rolling Like A Ball, Crow Pose (bakasana), Child's Pose (balasana)

Namaste!

Two Reasons Why Expecting Mothers Should Be Drinking More Water than Ever

PHOTO CREDIT: New Kids Center


It makes me happy that most of the prenatal clients I work with answer "yes" to my question "Are you drinking enough water?" But when I ask how much water, the answers vary greatly, and some of you expecting mothers out there are probably mildly dehydrated without realizing it! (Just like the rest of the population) Pregnant women need to be drinking more water than the rest of us; in fact, the Mayo Clinic reports that pregnant women should drink at least 10 cups of water per day, and that nursing mothers should drink at least 13 cups. This is the minimum! If you exercise, even light exercise like walking, you should be consuming more water than that. 

Why does proper water intake matter so much when you're pregnant? Here are two reasons to consider:

1. It Can Help Prevent Constipation and Urinary Tract Infections

Constipation is very common among pregnant women, because you are now housing a small person who must receive nutrients and liquids via your body, and also get rid of waste via your body. There is more waste being created, and so you require more water in order to break it down. Often, simply drinking more water can greatly alleviate constipation and help move the waste through your system more regularly. 

Similarly with UTIs, the greater amount of waste to process can cause waste to gather in the kidneys or urine to dwell in the bladder. This becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, which is the cause of UTI's. Water keeps it moving and flushes the bladder and kidneys clear. 

2. It Can Help Prevent Overheating and Headaches

Did you know that your internal body temperature rises when you are pregnant? (This is another reason to move away from your intense spinning classes and running and toward toning, breath oriented exercise like yoga... And NO hot yoga!) 

If you don't have enough fluids in your body, your body cannot regulate its temperature through the form of sweat. In turn, you will develop dehydration headaches, which are no fun to deal with, and are totally preventable. Just consistently drink water throughout the day, and opt for small drinks here and there rather than huge gulps, which can cause bloating and discomfort. 

Think of this as the most productive time to start a new habit: proper hydration! Your baby and you will thrive because of it. And, as I mentioned earlier, this is a habit you'll need to sustain if you are nursing. Get a fun reusable water bottle to bring into your day, and start drinking that H2O!

Namaste!

 

Using Yoga to Help Flip a Breech Baby

Yoga is an effective, safe way to tone and open the body in preparation for birth, but did you know that yoga can also aid in the re-positioning of a breech baby? A breech baby is a baby who is not yet in birth position ("birth position" means that the baby is presenting head down, facing the mother's cervix.). There are a few different types of breech positions: baby's bottom facing mother's cervix (frank breech), baby's feet facing mother's cervix (footling breech), lying transverse, etc. When the baby is in birth position and his/her head is presenting down towards the mother's cervix, it allows for the head to exit first which creates enough opening so that the rest of the baby's body can follow.

Your health care professional or midwife will inform you if your baby is in breech position. Below, I have outlined a few poses and yoga practices which can help expecting mothers with breech babies at weeks 34-37 coax the baby into birth position. You will notice that some of these poses are inversions (upside-down/ heart above head shapes) which are normally avoided at a point after the third trimester, to prevent the baby from becoming breech if it has already taken birth positioning. However, if the baby is breech, gravity can be used in inversions to help bring the baby's head lower, into the mother’s pelvis. We want to use gravity to our advantage here. 

Do not practice inversions if you have any known heart conditions or high blood pressure, as being upside down can place greater strain on the heart, especially when pregnant. A healthy heart should have no issue with inversions, but if you're still apprehensive, you can practice the inverted poses (marked with a *) in increments of 30 seconds, taking a 1-2 minute rest in between. 

Remember: don't stress. Breathe. Trust yourself and trust your baby to find the proper position. If you have developed a mantra in your yoga or birth prep classes, this is a great time to put it into practice! If your baby is in breech position, it is more important than ever that you work to prevent stress and tension from creeping into your life and body. Do your part by practicing these poses (and any other yoga poses that help you to relax) with consistency. When you find a balanced, open body, the baby will be more likely to spontaneously turn into birth position. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Yoga Outlet

1. Downward Facing Dog*

Perfect for those of you who already have a yoga practice. Practice this familiar pose with a spotter. If you worry about your heels slipping, place your feet against a wall. You are angling your uterus and bringing yourself into the position which you wish the baby to be in. Breathe here for as long as you feel comfortable, or do 3-5 sets of 30 second increments. 

VIDEO CREDIT: Restore353

2. Supported Bridge Pose*

This pose can be practiced a couple of different ways. If you have access to yoga props such as blocks and bolsters, those are helpful. Otherwise, a stack of blankets or cushions will work. Alternatively, access to a wall will do. Position yourself in a bridge pose. You can even do a few rolling bridges to warm up the spine and pelvis. Bring a stack of two blocks or any amount of padding adding up to roughly a foot in height beneath your pelvis to support you. 

If you have no props or padding, lie down with knees bent and your feet against a wall, so that your legs are a a right angle. Press your feet into the wall and slowly roll your spine off of the floor until your hips are in the air. Keep the weight in your feet, and hamstrings engaged. Breathe here for as long as you feel comfortable, or do 3-5 sets of 30 second increments. 

PHOTO CREDIT: RESTORE353

3. Modified Cat/Cow Pose

Sometimes known as knee-chest pose, I simply think of this as another form of cat/cow pose. Come, as with a normal cat/cow, to your hands and knees, and then lower to your forearms so that your hips are the highest part of your body. Then, simply move intuitively through some cat/cow spines, cat/neutral spine, circle out your hips, whatever feels good here. You want to make space in your pelvis and abdomen, and feel good doing it. 

Do these poses whenever you have a free moment in your day. The more times, the better!! Make it a habit!

Stay active. In addition to practicing these poses, Take at least one 20 minute walk per day to keep your body loose and active. Talk to your baby, and express what you want to happen. Relax, and breathe.

Namaste!

Two Spinal Twists to Open Up Your Stuck Upper Back

 

If you're like me, the winter's cold has left its mark on your body in the form of tense shoulders and a tight upper back. It may feel as though your breath is stuck in your chest and it is difficult to stretch the collarbones apart from one another, or even turn from side to side. Spinal twists are yoga's solution to these issues, and a good spinal twist can leave your spine feeling rejuvenated, (they help replenish the fluid in your spinal discs) and kick start your spring detox! (they help to wring the vital organs of toxins and aid digestion)

The following are two intermediate level spinal twists. I classify them as "intermediate" because they are standing poses, rather than supine (lying down) or seated, so prior experience with yoga is suggested. To get your spine warmed up, do 3-5 sun salutations if you know how, or take a Child's Pose (balasana), Downward Facing Dog (adho muka svanasana), and/or a Forward Fold (uttanasana) to help lengthen the spine. 

Note: do not practice these twists if you are pregnant. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Yoga Outlet

1. Revolved Chair/Fierce Pose (Parivrtta Utkatasana)

Start by taking a standard Chair/Fierce Pose (Utkatasana), and make sure that your knees and feet are touching. You will engage your core by drawing navel to spine, and sit your hips back and down, in the same direction you would sit if you were actually about to sit into a chair. Breathe deeply and shift the weight into your heels. 

Place your palms together in front of your heart, thumbs touching your sternum, and on an inhalation, lift your chest. On your exhalation, twist your body to the right and hook the outside of your left elbow around your outer right thigh. 

Keep your lower back protected by continuing to draw your navel to your spine. Look down at your knees and make sure that they are in one line, side by side. Keep pressing your thumbs to your chest to widen your collarbones and deepen the twist. Continue to sit your hips low. 

Stay for 3-5 long breaths. Repeat on left side. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Yoga Outlet

2. Twisted Wide Legged Forward Fold (Parivrtta Prasarita Paddotanasana)

Begin in a wide legged forward fold then take a half lift through your spine. If you have a block, place it at the tallest height just beneath your face when your spine is half lifted, and place your right hand on the block. Keep two strong legs and an even lower back as your begin to peel your chest open to the left. If you allow your hips to veer off to one side, you will not revive as deep a twist. 

Press down onto the block, and reach up into your top hand so your chest widens. Keep a firm belly to deepen you future into the twist. 

Stay 3-5 long breaths, and then switch sides. 

Namaste!

Two Yoga Poses for Knee Pain

 

(Hint: Props are Your Best Friends)

You may think that you have to sit out your yoga classes if you are experiencing a knee injury or pain, but it isn't so; the key word is MODIFICATIONS. Some yoga purists don't believe in the use of props, but in the world of yoga therapy and/or yoga practitioners with injuries, they are essential in order to help the body into the alignment it needs in order to heal and to prevent future injury. I believe strongly, as someone who works with yogis of all experience levels and physical conditions, that props are an incredible tool that makes proper alignment accessible and gives the yogi using them a deeper sense of his or her body. If you have knee pain (or any other kind of pain) it means that you need to put your body's needs first. 

That being said, the following three poses are meant to be practiced with blocks. If you don't have yoga blocks at home, they are very affordable at sporting goods stores or online. I bought a set of two online for $10. If you do have knee pain and have an interest in healing you or body through home practice (which I recommend), invest in a set of blocks. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Yoga Outlet

1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Mountain pose may appear to be "just standing," but it is so much more than that. Tadasana, mountain pose, is really the measuring stick of alignment for all other poses (asanas). It puts into practice the subtle alignment keys that can protect your knees (and all of your other joints!) 

To practice:

Stand tall on your mat. Feel the soles of your feet anchoring you to the earth, and feel the crown of your head simultaneously lifting skywards. This doesn't mean to look up- it means to lift up! Engage your center by pulling your belly button towards your spine and lifting your lowest ribs away from your hips.

Relax your shoulders away from your ears. Take your block and insert it on the narrowest setting in between your thighs, just above your knees. Hug your inner legs around the block, like your trying to spin your legs slightly inward around the block. Then, soften the backs of your knees and lift your kneecaps up, a very subtle engagement which will ensure that your knees are not locking (which puts a great deal of pressure on the joint) and that the powerhouse muscles that surround your knees are working to protect them. 

While doing this, think about lifting up through the arches of your feet as you distribute your weight evenly throughout your feet. These are all very subtle adjustments, but as you know, yoga is also a workout for your brain and awareness! 

Stand here in Tadasana for 5-10 breaths, focusing on the engagement and relaxation that this pose asks you to join together, and listen for what your knees feel. It may not feel like a lot is happening, but you are strengthening your body's sense of proper alignment. Also, the even distribution between sides can be helpful for healing, especially since the body normally overcompensates on one side when it is injured. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Yoga Outlet

2. Setu Bandhasana (Supported Bridge Pose)

Supported bridge pose is a modified version of bridge pose which can provide a gentle, supported way to stretch the area around the joint, including the hamstrings (a large muscle group in the back of your thighs which connect in the knee joint) and, again, reinforce proper alignment for your knees. 

To practice:

Lie on your back on the mat. Bring your feet to the floor and bend your knees so that they point straight up. Bring one block to the narrowest setting in between your inner thighs again, and focus on wrapping your thighs inwards against the block. 

Press down into your feet, draw belly button to spine, and lift your tailbone away from the mat so that your hips begin to lift, and let the rest of your spine follow, until your hips are in the air as high as they can go. 

Check your knees. Are they stacked directly above your ankles? They should be. Adjust if necessary. 

Press your shins forward, rather than gripping your booty. Then, slide the other block at the lowest setting underneath your sacrum (between booty and low back). Allow the whole weight of your pelvis to rest on the block while still wrapping thighs against the block. Stay here for a minute, or as long as needed. 

Remember-- listen to your body.

Namaste!

Two Yoga Exercises That Can Soothe Tendonitis

 

If you are suffering from Tendonitis, chances are that you developed it from overuse or misuse of a joint (normally the hands, wrists, or elbows - also known as "tennis elbow.") Tendonitis is the inflammation of tendons, which are very strong tissues that have the tendency to tear slightly if stress is repeatedly placed on a joint. Don't worry- these little tissue rips that cause the pain and discomfort you feel heal with time, provided you don't repeat the action that gave you the Tendonitis in the first place. 

Below I have outlined two yoga exercises which are known to alleviate the pain that Tendonitis brings , and to prompt recovery. First, it is important to note that weight bearing exercise is not a great idea when your tendons are inflamed because it can place further stress on the aggravated joints and extenuate your Tendonitis. That being said, if you choose to attend a standard group yoga class while you have Tendonitis, make sure you know the proper modifications to do to keep you off of your hands. Yes, that means no downward facing dog, (alternative: child's pose) no upward facing dog, (alternative: baby cobra with no weight in your palms) and no plank (alternative: forearm plank). And of course... NO ARM BALANCES! However, light exercise and stretching can promote healing. 

1. Outstretched Arms

Start in a seated position. Bend your elbows against your sides so that your elbows are next to your waist and flex your palms outwards so they face away from you. Make sure your hands are engaged; think "jazz hands." Take an inhale here, then as you exhale, begin pressing your hands away from your body and extend your arms out to the sides, palms still flexed as though you have each hand pressed against a wall which you're pushing away from you (Fingertips will be facing the ceiling). Inhale. As you exhale, keep arms very active, then keeping your arms engaged, begin to pull your elbows back to your sides. 

This is a stretch and a light strengthener. Move very slowly, and repeat 5-8 times. 

PHOTO CREDIT: PINTEREST

2. Overhead Stretch

Start in a comfortable seated position, or standing. Weave your fingers together, inhale, then exhale as you press your palms away from you. On your inhale, lift your arms above your head so that your woven palms face straight up. 

Engage your core by drawing belly button to spine to grow taller through your torso and gain a deeper stretch. You're looking to open the hands, wrists and forearms. Stay here with palms lifted for 3-5 inhales and exhales. 

To release, un-weave your palms and float your arms down on an exhalation. 

Namaste!

 

Finding Relief for Your Neck Through Gomukhasana

PHOTO CREDIT: PINTEREST

Yoga offers many, many options for those who suffer from neck stiffness and/or pain. The word "yoga" means "to yoke," or "to join together," and indeed in the practice, of yoga, breath, awareness, and physical stretching/strengthening join together to address the root of the issue. Neck tension and stiffness is often a result of habitually tensing the area around the neck, namely the upper back and shoulders. Becoming aware of these places of tension, and learning to use breath in tandem with the stretch/strengthening exercise is the key for not only finding momentary relief, but for replacing patterns of tension with patterns of breathe and ease. 

NOTE: A harmful neck pattern that most of us have in 2016 is dropping our heads forward and craning our necks to read the tiny print on our smartphones. Use your yogi superpower of super awareness to sense when this begins to happen!! The simple repeated action of dropping the head forward places a huge amount of strain on the muscles of your upper back, pulls on your neck, and is responsible for many cases of neck tension. 

So what can you do about it, apart from being aware? (which is no small task, by the way) Gomukasana (translating to "cow face pose") is an incredible stretch for opening up the areas all around the neck and is very effective for providing relief for stiff necks and upper backs. 

TO PRACTICE:

If you have especially tight shoulders, you should begin this pose by doing some light shoulder opening such as a downward facing dog or a forward fold with your hands woven together behind your back and reaching forward above your head. 

Come into a comfortable seated position and center your breathing. Draw your navel in and up to engage your core and to ensure that you are not slouching. Take a few shoulder rolls, by moving both shoulders forward, up, back, and down. 

On an inhalation, reach your right hand above your head, extending energy through your fingertips, and then bend your elbow from where it is, and reach your hand behind your upper back. Your elbow will be pointing straight into the air, and your hand will be crawling as far down your back as it can go. Situate your head so that it is laying back on your right forearm, helping to deepen the stretch. 

Then, place your left hand atop your right elbow and give a gentle press. Stop pressing once you feel the stretch grow slightly deeper. Stay here and breathe into where you feel the sensation, continually lifting your belly button towards your spine to prevent your lower back from arching. 

Maintain the pose, breathing deeply for 6-8 rounds of breath. Keep easing yourself into the pose, rather than muscling your way there. 

MODIFICATION FOR INTERMEDIATE/ADVANCED YOGIS:

If you'd like to deepen the stretch even more, wrap your left arm behind your back, then reach both sets of fingertips toward one another until you can clasp them together. (See photo) If you can't quite reach, stick with the first option. With time and practice, you'll reach a full clasp! 

Release this side and repeat on your left side. Take a moment or two after releasing the pose to observe how your neck feels. Chances are, it will feel like your head is floating upwards and your shoulders are free and easy. 

Namaste!

Three Stretches You Can Do At Your Desk to Relieve Lower Back Pain

 

Are you reading this article as you are sitting in front of a computer? (The answer is very likely "yes.") Are you experiencing any lower back pain? Hopefully the answer is "no," but if it is "yes," you can stretch the pain away right where you are, without ever leaving your desk. Yoga in your desk chair? Yes!

1. Climbing the Ladder

Lower back pain can be caused from a variety of factors, one of which may be tight QL muscles (quadratus lumborums). The QL muscles are located in the lower back, one on your right and one on your left, and connect from the iliac crest of your pelvis and onto your lumbar vertebrae. If you sit at a desk for long periods of time with poor posture and curving in your lower back, you will exhaust these muscles. If your pelvis tucks under, it causes the QL muscles to overextend, which can pull on your lumbar spine and cause pain and stiffness. 

To practice:

Seat yourself with both feet grounded on the floor. Reach both arms up above your head, lifting towards the ceiling. Then, reach higher through your left fingertips as you simultaneously press down through your left sitting bone, feeling a stretch through your whole left side. Then, switch to your right side, lifting higher through your right fingertips, as you press your right sitting bone into the chair. Repeat this, lifting through one side and then the other, as though you were climbing a ladder in the air above your head. 

PHOTO CREDIT:Online Yoga Guide

2. Seated Forward Fold

Just as tucking you pelvis under as you sit is not ideal, neither is flaring it back. Anatomically, these phenomena would be called an "anterior pelvic tilt," meaning that you tilt the front of your pelvis forward and down, causing your booty to stick out and a "U" shape to come into your lumbar. If this sounds familiar to you, do you ever experience pinching or pain in your low back? If so, forward folding can help to re-lengthen those vertebrae which crunch together all day as you sit in your anterior pelvic tilt. 

To practice:

Seat yourself with both feet grounded on the floor. Spread your knees a bit wider, so that you have some distance in between your legs. Begin with your hands on your knees, and a long spine. Draw your belly button in and up toward your spine, so you feel your abdominals contract slightly, and relax your shoulders away from your ears. Maintain the tall spine you have as you begin tipping your torso forward, hinging from your hip joint and NOT your back! You should not feel your back rounding as you lean forward. You can use your hands for support as you do this. When you feel as far forward as you can go without rounding your spine, then let your head drop between your knees and your arms hang toward the floor. Your upper body should feel completely relaxed, not tensing any muscles. Breathe into your back and feel that lovely counter stretch in your low back. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Golden 8 Yoga

3. Seated Spinal Twist

Have you ever heard the person next to you cracking their back? Although the sound of pop! pop! sometimes sounds a bit alarming, there is a reason why people do this- they enjoy the feeling of release they experience after cracking their joints. A spinal twist is also a way to achieve release without even getting an adjustment from your chiropractor! 

To practice:

Seat yourself with both feet grounded on the floor. On your inhale, sweep your hands up above your head and lift your bottom most ribs away from your hip bones. Scoop in your belly to engage your core, and then twist your torso to the right using your abdominal strength. Place your left hand on your right knee to assist you into the twist. From here, inhale to lengthen your spine, and exhale to release into the twist. Stay here from 5-10 breaths, and then slowly unwind to the center as you lift your hands above your head, and twist to the other side, using your core strength. Repeat on this side for 5-10 breaths. 

Pranayama for Prenatal Yoginis

 

How to Breathe Your Way Through Pregnancy, Birth, and Beyond


Whether you are an experienced yogini or are new to yoga, you almost certainly know that breath is central to a yoga practice. And, whether this is your first pregnancy or you are a veteran to all of the changes that pregnancy can bring, you know that breath will become a crucial part of your birth preparations! Maybe you have already begun some birth prep classes with your partner, and have started learning some of the many different breath techniques that are taught to expecting moms. 

In this time of incredible rapid change in your body and mind, the breath can serve as a powerful anchor to yourself: a sense of familiarity, comfort, and steadiness amidst a sea of change. From a yogic standpoint, breath work is a way to harness your inner power and strength and channel it towards a specific objective, and that objective will soon be to bring a baby into this world! Pregnancy is a prime time to enrich your relationship with yourself and cultivate a pranayama (breath work) practice. Yes, you may experience some aches and pains. Yes, you may gain a little weight. Yes, you may feel off-balance physically and emotionally, so what better time is there than now to deepen your self-care practice? 

Below, you will find an guide to two pranayama techniques which are effective during pregnancy, during labor, and after you give birth. These techniques are safe for beginner and advanced level practitioners alike, and can be practiced whenever you want to soothe your nerves, slow your breath, and calm your body- there is really no such thing as doing them too often. In fact, I would advocate dedicating as much time as you can to these breath practices, as they can also be effective meditation tools to help you connect to your baby. Babies can absolutely feel energy, and when you are calm and happy, they are calm and happy. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

1. Alternate Nostril Breath (Nadi Shodhana)

Traditionally, alternate nostril breath is used to clear the mind, reduce stress, and promote a sense of balance in the body/mind. For prenatal yoginis, it can help to ease the pangs of sadness and anxiety that can be a part of being an expectant mother, and it can also soothe tension headaches. 

To practice:

Bring yourself into a comfortable seated position either atop a stack of blankets or cushions, or on a chair. You will be seated for a while, so situate yourself so that you can remain relaxed and not fidget. Close your eyes, and begin to focus on your breath. Watch the breath with your mind's eye, as though you could see it traveling through your body. You do not have to try and manipulate the breath or even make it deeper, but simply observe it. This is an important part of the technique, especially when you are in labor. 

Feel your spine lengthening by envisioning the crown of your head reaching skyward. Next, flip your left palm upwards atop your left knee, and connect your thumb and your first finger (pointer finger) so that they form a loop. This is called Gian Mudra. Then, place the first and second fingers of your right hand (pointer and middle fingers) onto your forehead or third eye point. Then, hover your third finger (ring finger) above your left nostril, and your thumb above your right nostril, but do not touch your nose quite yet. 

Take an exhalation. Then, place your thumb down on your right nostril, and take a long inhale through your left nostril. Cover both nostrils, then lift your thumb and exhale through your right nostril. Then, inhale through your right nostril (your ring finger is still covering your left nostril). Cover both nostrils, then keeping your thumb down, lift your ring finger and exhale through your left nostril. Next, inhale through your left nostril, and repeat this pattern. 

Continue for at least three minutes, or as long as you wish. 

Note: In non-prenatal yoga, we would hold the breath for a few seconds while covering both nostrils, but in prenatal yoga it is important that you do not hold the breath. Simply move seamlessly from one side to the other with the covering of both nostrils simply serving as a transition in between sides, not as a moment to contain the breath. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

2. Yogic Breath (Three Part Breath)

This technique serves to calm the nerves and sustain your energy level throughout the day. This technique also increases the amount of oxygen that your body takes in, and therefore it increases the amount of oxygen that your baby receives! Practicing yogic breath over time will increase your lung capacity, which is helpful during this time when you may feel constantly short of breath. 

To practice: 

As with Nadi Shodana, begin by finding a comfortable seat either on blankets/cushions, or on a chair. Place one hand on your heart and one hand on your baby. First, take an exhalation to clear your lungs, and then INHALE into

1) The bottommost part of your abdomen, then

2) Into your middle ribs, then

3) Into your chest. 

Then, EXHALE from

1) The bottommost part of your abdomen, then

2) Into your middle ribs, then

3) Into your chest. 

Essentially, you are filling up with breath in three parts from the bottom to the top, like tea being poured into a cup, then releasing the breath from the bottom to the top. Continue this way, looking to find a sense of expansion in your body when you breathe in, and release when you breathe out. By separating the inhales and exhales into three parts, you are discovering the limits of your breath capacity, and expanding them. 

Continue for at least three minutes, or as long as you wish. 

Above all, use the breath as a tool to open your body and your awareness so that you experience this incredible time in the fullest possible way.

Namaste!

 

How to Keep Neck & Shoulder Tension Out Of Your Yoga Practice

 

4 Commonly Practiced Yoga Poses and How to Prevent Your "Desk Posture" From Creeping In

In today's world of eight-plus hour days in front of a computer and increasing pressure for workplace perfection, many people flock to yoga studios in the hopes that they will find inner peace... and relief for overworked minds and desk-bound bodies. Yoga seeks to open up the body through a series of stretching and strengthening postures, many of which are repeated multiple times over the course of a standard yoga class. In turn, the more times you attend class and repeat these same standard poses (think downward dog, cobra/upward facing dog, half lift, plank: the components of Sun Salute A.) your body becomes accustomed to the shapes, and they become a part of your muscle memory, a learned muscle behavior. However, these shapes your body is accustomed to assuming at your desk (rounded shoulders, neck jutting forward, etc.) can begin to manifest on your yoga mat, which is the last place that workplace tension belongs!

In a group yoga class at your gym or yoga studio, the instructor is not always able to address these habits in as in-depth of a way as we would in a private session, especially in crowded classes, so it is important to have an awareness of your personal areas of habitual tension. Once you become aware, you can use your after-work yoga class to undo these habits, rather than extenuate them. In other words, don't "practice" your shoulder tension in downward dog. 

To help you keep habitual tension out of the poses that are most commonly practiced in a standard (vinyasa style) yoga class, I have assembled a cheat-sheet containing ways to not only move through the tension with awareness, but to also train and strengthen your body to help improve your posture at work and ultimately prevent pain! 

PHOTO CREDIT: Yoga Outlet

1. Downward Facing Dog

Chances are, you will be returning to downward dog 10-20 (or more!) times over the course of class. Start by pressing your hands wide onto the mat to engage and activate your entire arms. You should never feel lazy arms in downward dog. Then, notice how close your shoulders are to your ears. If you hunch your shoulders at your desk, chances are that you are holding some tension in your shoulders here, so begin to spin your biceps (the inner part of your upper arms) towards one another to broaden your shoulders. Then, release your neck. Many people do not know what a "released neck" feels like, since we often tense and bend it all day long as we strain to look down at phones or up at computer screens. 

In the upside down V-shape of downward dog, you have the incredible benefit of taking the weight off of your neck's sensitive cervical spine. Let your head hang off of the end of your spine, and gravity will help to lengthen out your neck, which should feel like a relief. Picture a nice ripe apple hanging off of a stem; your head is the apple, and the stem is your neck. No tension-- just hanging. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Yoga Outlet

2. Upward Facing Dog/Baby Cobra

I find that this is a pose where shoulder and neck tension often manifest. Firstly, ensure that your fingertips line up with the tops of your shoulders when you place them on the floor. Usually, people place their hands either too far forward or too far back, which can create strain in the body. With your palms pressing down into the floor, rotate your shoulders up, back, and down (roll them in a circle backwards) finishing with your shoulders placed back and down. Then, maintaining this openness across your chest, lift your chest off of the floor for baby cobra/upward facing dog. 

Check in with your neck to ensure that you are not craning your neck back in space, or that you are not dropping your head forward. The neck is part of the spine, so it should be a continuation of the shape the rest of your spine is making. Try tucking your chin very slightly to ensure that the back of your neck stays long. The whole while you are in the pose, continue to slide your shoulder blades toward one another as well as down your back. Along with the muscles you engage in the back bend, this will strengthen the upper back muscles needed to keep an open chest at your desk. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Yoga Outlet

3. Half Lift (Ardha Uttanasana)

Half Lift is practiced as a transitional pose that connects other poses, so it is one that is often glazed over. However, if practiced correctly, it can train the upper back and core to work together to keep a long spine, which will translate to your posture while seated. From a forward fold, take a slight bend in your knees and press your palms against your shins. Let the arms straighten so that the activity in the arms is vigorous, and they are helping you to bolster and find even more length in your spine, which is parallel to the floor. Bring your shoulder blades toward one another behind you back, wrapping those muscles toward your center line, which in turn will cause your collarbone to broaden. 

Just as with upward facing dog/baby cobra, keep the back of your neck long by slightly tucking your chin. Another key component of half lift is to draw your belly button toward your spine to engage your core. This pose is so much more than a transition from forward fold into plank in your sun salutation-- it is a multi-faceted strengthening pose which conditions you for correct seating. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Yoga Outlet

4. Plank Pose

This pose is practiced by gym rats and yogis alike because of how effective of a core strengthener it is. However, because it is a challenging position to hold, it is one of the poses where I most frequently observe neck and shoulder tension. The moment things get difficult in plank, the breath cuts out, the shoulders cave, and the head drops. I will say this first: good alignment will strengthen and tone your body much quicker and more completely than bad alignment will, not to mention it will prevent injury. Know your body. If your entire body is shaking in plank and you experience the sensation that you could fall on your face at any moment, lower your knees! Keeping your knees on the mat is a perfect choice of modification, so long as your body is still on a diagonal slant. 

Just as in half lift, wrap your shoulder blades toward one another behind your back to open your chest. Press the floor away from you with your hands, so that your chest is not sinking down. Check your neck. Is it craning up or hanging down? Keep your eyes looking about a foot in front of your fingertips, which will ensure that your neck is in alignment and you are not putting pressure on your cervical spine. 

At first, it can feel like these checklists of physical alignment are too much to keep track of, but consider it an investment in yourself. If you do the footwork of making sure your body is in good alignment in your yoga classes, your body will develop a new, more well-aligned norm both on and off of your mat.

Namaste!

Yoga on the Beach

What could be better than a relaxing day at the beach?  Easy!  A relaxing day on the beach with yoga!  When I am lucky enough to have the sand between my toes,  I know exactly what poses I am going to practice.  I’m going to take advantage of the soft ground beneath me and practice my forearm and handstands!  Kicking into an arm balance in class or in my apartment is sometimes scary.  The proximity of other students or furniture can certainly hold me back from really going for it, but with a wide open, pillowy beach as my yoga mat,  there’s no fear!

My tip for pinchamayurasana or forearm stand is to press down through your fingertips and take your gaze forward.  Allow your spine to backbend slightly, and support your lower back by drawing in your abdominals.

When practicing handstand, begin in down dog, lift one leg, bend the other leg and take some kicks.  Keep the lifted leg super straight, and don’t over think it.  Imagine you are weightless and play!

I also find warm sand to be an absolutely lovely place to practice some of my favorite reclined and seated postures.  Just lay out a beach towel or yoga mat so you don’t burn your hiney!

Nothing feels quite as good to me as a reclined twist.  It feels so nice for the spine and is wonderful to regulate digestion.  

How about a hip opening forward fold like baddha konasana?  Bring the soles of your feet together and hinge forward with a long spine.  When you cannot fold forward anymore, allow your spine to round gently and your head to soften toward your toes. 

Don’t forget to take a nice long savasana while listening to the waves.  Heaven.

Pranayama and Pregnancy

pranayama

In the yoga tradition, Pranayama refers to breath exercises.  Learning to control our breath brings us that much closer to controlling the mind.  When feeling stressed or overwhelmed,  bringing your attention to your breath and consciously slowing it down can ease your thoughts considerably.  Expecting a baby and feeling overwhelmed go pretty much hand in hand.  Here are three breath techniques to bring a little stillness and coolness to that busy mommy-to-be brain:

Ujjayi means victorious breath.  This is the pranayama that we practice with all of the poses, but it is just as powerful practiced on its own while seated comfortably or reclined.  To practice this pranayama, breathe through your nose keeping your mouth gently closed.  Slightly constrict the back of your throat so that your breath takes on an audible, ocean like quality.  Allow your mind to rest on the sound of the breath.

Ancient yogis believed that most people breathe predominantly through one nostril.  Alternate Nostril Breath or Nadi Shodhana opens both nasal passages resulting in an even flow of breath and an equilibrium of the right and left hemispheres of the brain.  

A clear, peaceful feeling comes when both sides of the brain are in harmony.  Place the pointer finger and middle finger of your right hand on the point between your eyebrows (the third eye).  Plug the left nostril with your ring finger and inhale through the right; plug the right nostril with the thumb and exhale through the left. Continue like this for a few minutes, and then spend a few more minutes breathing freely through the nose noticing the effects of this pranayama.

Sometimes it’s not just our minds that need to chill, but our bodies as well.  When I was pregnant with my son, I was hot, hot, hot!   When feeling overheated, Sitali Breath can cool you down.

Inhale through a curled tongue and exhale through your nose.  Some people cannot curl their tongues.  If this is you, touch your top teeth to your bottom teeth, and inhale through the teeth.  

Pranayamas to avoid during pregnancy: anything involving breath retention or holding the breath and kapalabhati.  

Your growing belly doesn’t leave a lot of space for your lungs, especially in the third trimester.  When you feel like you can’t take a deep breath, focus on breathing into the sides of your torso, your rib cage, and back.  

Breathe well and Be well Mamas! 

Pregnancy and Lower Back Pain

It’s no secret that a growing belly can put an enormous strain on the lower back, but with a little postural awareness and some healing yoga poses, you can get some sweet relief.  I tell my pregnant clients all the time to lengthen their tailbones!  This simple action helps us avoid further arching of the lower back which will spare you a lot of pain, believe me!   Keep this in mind when practicing standing postures like warrior II and vrksasana or tree pose. 

And there’s nothing like a nice long child’s pose to ease the back on the painful days.  

Legs up the wall pose or vipareeti karani is very healing for the lower back. Remember to have your hips resting on the floor or folded blanket, and if you are 20 weeks or further along, place pillows under your back so you are not laying flat.  

Although pregnancy can come with its fair share of pain, remember ladies that we are designed to do this!  And the pay off is so great!



Prenatal Yoga: Triangle Pose How-to & Its Benefits

triangle pose

During pregnancy, the body changes in both subtle and dramatic ways, all of which are so beautiful and exciting! I encourage you to use yoga as a means to look inward and take note of every physical, mental, and emotional experience you have, big or small. This awareness will help strengthen the bond between you and your baby, and enrich your experience of your own self during this incredible time.

TRIANGLE POSE - Trikonasana

To Find Triangle Pose:

Start facing forward at the top of your mat. (tadasana) Step one foot about halfway down your mat, and align the outer edge of your foot with the back edge of your mat. Your front toes will be facing forward, and your back foot will be perpendicular to your front foot. In prenatal yoga, we keep the feet a bit closer than we normally would, so that the base is narrower.

Distribute the weight evenly through your feet and lift up with the quadricep muscles in your thighs so that your base is strong and grounded, and your knees are not locking.

Open your arms into a wide “T” shape, and slide your shoulders away from your ears so that your chest can open and your back can strengthen. Find energy flowing from fingertip to fingertip so your arms remain active throughout the pose. Inhale deeply.

Maintaining this “T” shape with your arms, look down towards your front toes and you shift your pelvis toward the back of your mat, allowing your torso to elongate out over your front leg. The tilting forward occurs from the hip joint, not the back or the waist. Your front hand will rest either on your shin or on a block on the inside of your front foot. Fix your gaze ahead of you. Exhale as you tilt forward. 

Lift your pelvic floor (which I refer to as activating the “I have to pee” muscles) to tone them, and to give yourself grounding and balance in the pose.

Breathe deeply for 3-5 breaths, and experience the sensations of the pose.

To come out of the pose:

Softly bend your front knee, ground through your legs, and lift your torso upright into a Warrior II position, arms in a wide “T.” (If you’d like more leg strengthening, stay here for another 3-5 breaths) Simply step your back foot forward, and repeat on the other side.

For a modified Triangle Pose:

As you continue into your pregnancy, you may experience difficulty balancing in Triangle Pose, because of your ever-shifting center of gravity. You may also experience tenderness in the joints or low back that make holding triangle pose difficult. In this case, practice a modified Triangle Pose.

Place a chair in front of your mat, seat facing you. Line up your toes with the legs of the chair. Practice the pose as described above, only instead of bringing your front hand onto your shin or a block, place it onto the seat of the chair.

Benefits of Triangle Pose for pregnant women:

Strengthens the back and spine

  • Your spine is working to remain long, even with your arm propping you up. Your shoulder blades are yearning towards one another, which will engage the muscles of the back. It is important that your back and spine are healthy during your pregnancy to prevent back strain and pain as you adapt to bearing additional weight.

Opens the chest/shoulders

  • As the shoulder blades drawn together behind your back, your arms firm up and your chest and shoulders will open. You may find during pregnancy that your shoulders will begin to round forward as the weight increases (especially if you work at a desk for long periods of time), so practice opening your chest and shoulders at every chance you get!

Stretches the hips/hamstrings/pelvic area

  • These areas of the body can become overworked or tense from bearing weight, and if they become too tight, the chances of low back pain increase.

 Improves digestion/prevents constipation

  • The sidelong angle of your torso paired with the deep cleansing breaths provide an internal massage for your digestive organs which keeps your digestive system functioning efficiently.

Tones pelvic floor/encourages deep breathing

  • Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles will aid you during delivery. Practice engaging these muscles while breathing full, fluid breaths which will be useful in between contractions.

 

Yoga and the Breastfeeding Mom

Believe what you’ve heard; breastfeeding is a full time gig.  In the first few weeks of my son’s life, I wanted to give up.  He was always hungry, and I was permanently hunched over nursing him.  To all you new mamas out there, don’t give up; it gets so much better!  My son is two and a half months old; he doesn’t cluster feed anymore, and breast feeding no longer hurts.  I do however have to take care of my body to correct the hours spent in a poor posture while breastfeeding.  Thank goodness for yoga!

To open my chest and stretch my upper back,  I practice this restorative heart opener with a block under my shoulder blades and another one under my head.

postnatal yoga and breastfeeding

And when my body is warm, I practice urdhva dhanurasana or wheel pose to fully open the front side of my body and relieve the strain on my back and shoulders.

postnatal yoga