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Is Yoga Simply Stretching?

What usually comes with this myth is the implied notion that “that really can’t be much of a workout…” or “why would I pay money to do what I can do on the floor of my living room?” I get it. It can be hard to understand the difference between yoga and the stretching you do before practice or after a run.

Because, often, when you think about stretching, that’s exactly what you think of: hanging over your legs after a bike ride or touching your toes while watching TV. The truth is, there’s a whole lot more that goes into yoga than just lengthening your muscles. Yoga truly is an active process. It helps you practice mindfulness, live in the present, and increase your self-confidence—among many other benefits!

But for those of you asked to defend yoga to uninformed outsiders, it can be tricky to nail down the differences between yoga and stretching.

So, here are a few key differences between stretching and yoga:

  • Stretching is solely focused on flexibility. Yoga is a complete body, soul, and mind practice.
  • Stretching usually feels like something to rush through before getting to the next activity. Yoga brings relief, connection, and a sense of peace
  • Stretching simply lets you feel productive. Congrats, you checked that box. Yoga allows you to feel connected—to your mind, to life, and to others.
  • Stretching lets you stop before you become uncomfortable. Yoga asks that you stick with the uncomfortable sensations, pushing deeper and creating growth.

That being said, there certainly is a stretching component to yoga. The difference is that, while stretching certain muscles, you simultaneously engage others to maintain joint stability.

I’d also love to share a few tips to increase your stretching experience:

Pay close attention to what your body needs, not what you want. Rather than thinking “I need to touch my toes NOW,” explore what it feels like to ease slowly into different postures.

  • Keep small bends in your knees to avoid hyperextension.
  • Focus on your breathing to help you move deeper into your muscles.

But don’t just take my word for it. Come try out a class or two and start to see the benefits yoga offers beyond “just stretching.”

photo courtesy of Shannon Austin

Am I too old to start a yoga practice?

When we picture yoga, we often make the mistake of calling to mind images of the thin, flexible, young women plastered on magazine covers and social media feeds. This leads many people to believe the myth that you must be young to practice yoga; that yoga is somehow for some people but not for others.

This is a misleading representation of the true image and intent of yoga. Yoga is for all. In fact, the word yoga literally means ‘union.’

The truth is: yoga is a very accessible practice that nearly anyone – at any age or condition- can practice. It’s a matter of taking what you need, finding the right class and instructor fit, and using your props liberally.

Take the risk and step out of your comfort zone, knowing that this is not a competitive space. It’s okay to move at your own pace.

Because, how could anyone be too old or too young to better their life? Common benefits of yoga, and those that may be especially appealing to older yogis, include:

  • Improved posture
  • Improved circulation
  • Better detoxification of lymph fluid & waste
  • Increased joint lubrication
  • Better balance
  • Increased concentration
  • Greater flexibility
  • More sound sleep

So, for those of you who consider your age a barrier to trying yoga, it’s time to change your mind!

3 reasons to give yoga a try, despite your age

Yoga includes much more than physical movement: Yoga is about making a connection between your breath and the way your body works. It encourages playfulness. It builds community and connection to an ancient lineage, and so much more!

You can modify your practice: You can easily vary your style of practice to adapt for conditions in your body – including practicing with a chair or other form of support. You might also become more interested in the meditation and breathing practices of yoga. Find a teacher with an inviting language, rather than a competitive one.

It might make you feel younger: The benefits of a regular yoga practice strengthen not only the body but also the mind. Yoga can help you recover from injury and boost balance so you avoid falling. But it also helps you learn to breathe through stress, leading to less wear and tear on your body and mind.

Yoga can truly be a fountain of youth. As you become more connected to life, you’ll realize youthfulness has more to do with the spirit than the body. Though your practice may appear slower to others’ eyes, you’ll experience plenty of change inside. You’ll become more tolerant, mentally-flexible, focused, and respectful of your body.

Some of the greatest lessons learned through yoga are to listen to your body, progress at your own pace, and let go of judgment and criticism.

I’ll end with this: you are only as old as your thoughts.

*Any physical elements of yoga depend on your physical status. If you’re recovering from an injury or suffer from any specific conditions, you’ll want to first check in with your doctor for approval and possibly schedule a one on one private yoga session versus a group class.

4 Tips for an Easier Holiday Season

Oh, the holidays. The most wonderful time of the year! That, somehow, also becomes a time of stress and chaos for most of us. What should be a relaxing time with family often becomes a mess of getting everything done, trying to eat right once in a while, and making sure everyone is enjoying themselves – yourself included. Fewer hours of daylight, unpredictable weather, poor travel experiences, and social events filled with insane amounts of food and drinks can leave us feeling way off balance.

However, this is an excellent time to slow down and put into practice the lessons you’ve learned through yoga this year. If this seems impossible, check out our four tips for surviving (and thriving!) the holiday season and beyond.

4 Tips for an Easier Holiday Season

Set an intention to care for yourself. For many people, “the most wonderful time of the year” becomes “the most stressful time of the year.” Our regularly busy lives become aggravated due to additional expectations like hosting parties, baking cookies, and shopping for gifts. Just as we set intentions before yoga practice, I suggest you set an intention for self-care and self-love this holiday season. An intention is not just a thought – it’s a powerful commitment that begins the process of change. The commitment may be small – like five minutes each day of deep breathing – or it may be something longer like a daily yoga class. Whatever you choose, keep it doable.

Notice – and let go of – your expectations. We all fill our minds with expectations about how our lives should operate. For example, some of us strongly appreciate order and punctuality. Obstacles like traffic jams and long lines at the grocery store drive us crazy. Life – especially around the holidays – simply does not go according to schedule. At any moment, a canceled flight, out-of-stock gift, or any number of things can ruin our expectations. Part of overcoming stress around the holidays is simply learning to accept what comes before us. Yoga does a great deal of teaching along these lines. Each time you step on your mat, you challenge yourself to accept where your body and mind are that day and give yourself what you need – whether that’s a challenge or restoration.

Take a purposeful pause to focus on breathing. When we feel threatened or overwhelmed, our nervous system dumps stress hormones into our bloodstream. One of the quickest ways to diffuse this stress is through intentional breathing. While this certainly won’t feel easy at first, as you slow down your exhalations, you’ll begin to relax and recalibrate your body. I suggest taking a purposeful pause occasionally throughout your day. It’s important to let this come naturally so that taking a break is not yet one more thing on your hamster wheel of tasks and commitments. Perhaps it’s a few extra minutes of deep breathing in the shower or a deep breath before you walk in your house. The important point is to create small spaces in your day where you can hit the reset button.

Practice gratitude. While it may seem difficult to feel grateful in the midst of stress, it is possible. Consider starting a gratitude journal, where you write down small things that bring you joy each day. Maybe you notice the sunshine peeking out just once during a stretch of gray, Michigan days – or maybe you notice that for one small moment you’ve stopped obsessing over your overly long to-do list. What seems like a silly exercise can do wonders in helping you recognize the beauty around you.

Most importantly, practice compassion and kindness with yourself this season. Don’t push yourself too hard. Spend some quiet time alone when you need to unwind – and make time for friends when you’re feeling social. Reflect on the good things and let go of the rest. Realize that everyone is really doing the best they can. Make time to breathe. And visit us at the studio whenever you need an escape!

We do have some limited hours near the holidays, so please check out our online schedule before showing up for your favorite yoga classes!

The Power of Yogic Breath to Reduce Anxiety

Think back to the first time you stepped into a hot yoga studio. Likely, there were a lot of new experiences and sensations, but perhaps what you noticed the most was the military-like regimented breathing style of your neighbors. You probably heard loud, even breaths throughout the practice and your teacher likely aligned each movement with an inhale or an exhale.

And, maybe, you wondered “Do I have to do this too?” “Is it truly important that I listen to my teacher?” “I’m sure I can practice just as well if I breathe normally.”

If this was you, you’re certainly not alone!

But, yes, it is absolutely crucial that you practice a strong yogic breath throughout your practice. Not only does it help cool your body throughout a heated class, but it also instills a valuable habit that you can rely upon both on and off your mat.

In fact, many studies now confirm what we yoga practitioners have always found: regardless of the type of stress we’re dealing with, yoga is a powerful tool to calm our nervous systems and relieve anxiety. And the most basic component of yoga – breath control – can be practiced anywhere, by anyone.

The quickest way to a panic attack is taking short, sharp, shallow breaths with no focus on your exhale. Our breath is the gateway to our practice and the factor that most powerfully shapes our experiences – on or off the mat. It is intimately connected to our nervous system, so rapid breaths can increase our symptoms of anxiety. However, yoga increases our awareness of the need to slow and deepen our breathing.

Here are four simple ways in which you can ease your anxiety and enhance your mood by managing your breath.

1. Take inventory of how you feel. We often begin with this concept in yoga class. Teachers will ask students to rest either on their backs, seated, or in child’s pose as they take note of how their bodies, minds, and emotions feel that day. However, you can check in with yourself this way anywhere and anytime. Place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly. Inhale deep into your belly for five seconds before exhaling slowly for another five. Gradually increase the count to seven or even ten, taking special note of how feel afterward.

2. Practice sun salutations. Whether you prefer seated or standing, practice a few mini sun salutations. While you’re resting between rounds, be sure to soften your shoulders down your back and slow your breathing down. In these active poses, it’s easy to lose track of our breath – but quite simple to regain when you focus on calming and restoring it.

3. Rest in legs up the wall pose. When your anxiety manifests itself as jitters or restlessness, try taking legs up the wall pose. Since it can be done anywhere, it can be especially helpful after long stints of sitting at a desk or traveling.

4. Be mindful of what you consume. Too much caffeine, sugar, screen time, loud music, or work can contribute to an extra-anxious mind. The concept of self-care is real and valid. It’s not simply a luxury; it’s essential. Incorporate calm activities and healthy habits into your life, like a relaxing bath, a silent meditation, an outdoor walk, and a nutritious diet.

Yoga and Running Go Hand-in-Hand 

I commonly hear runners praising the addition of yoga to their practice. However, many yogis often shudder when thinking about running. Maybe this is because we often hear about the dangers of running: it will ruin your joints and compromise your yoga practice. But I always wonder, why can’t yogis embrace running, as well?
I’m here to tell you that many of the skills and physical and mental strength you have built up through yoga will highly benefit your running practice too.

4 Reasons Yogis Are Prepared to Be Runners

  1. You Already Have a Strong Core- Despite what some running novices may think, the sport is not all about leg strength. It’s a full-body effort, meaning that core strength is a huge factor. Additionally, upper body strength is essential to keeping your back and shoulders from tensing up as the mileage increases.
  2. You’re Already Tuned into Your Breath- The breath awareness we yogis practice on our mats is immeasurably valuable when it comes to endurance training. The longer you run, the more important it is for your body and mind to connect, preventing you from getting distracted or quitting. If this body-mind connection sounds like the effortless calm you feel during yoga practice, that’s because it is!
  3. You’re Prepared for the Meditative Side of Running- Speaking of this body-mind connection, running is essentially a meditation. When we run, we aim to immerse ourselves in the present, eliminating unnecessary movements to find ease in the midst of a strenuous physical effort. I like to think yogis have a huge step up in this department because we’re used to adjusting our bodies to balance our muscles and limbs.
  4. You Already Know How to Rehabilitate Tight Muscles- I saved the most obvious for last. One of the most common factors that brings runners into the yoga studio is a desire to learn to stretch, twist, and rehabilitate tight muscles. For yogis making the leap into running, or for those already combining the two practices, it may be hard to give up the excitement of vinyasa and fun arm balances in favor of slower movements, but this is exactly what your body will need. Try exploring tight nooks and take your practice down a notch as you discover the ways each practice complements the other. I recommend giving Yin yoga a try!

Importance of combining two different physical/mental practices

Yoga Gives Your Competitive Side a Rest: The beauty of yoga is that it’s not a competitive sport. Sure, you may motivate yourself daily to improve and show up on the mat, but at the end of the day no one comes in first or last. Sometimes it’s nice to rest the competitive side of your brain, but other times it’s fun to enter a 5k and see how your body has improved over the course of the last few weeks or months. Yoga and running don’t live in different universes; they’re two sides of the same coin, complementing each other and filling in the gaps.
Yoga Moves Your Body on a Different Plane: Runners continually move one direction in space, whereas one of the greatest benefits of yoga is that you get to move your body along an entirely different plane. On our mats, we twist, we turn, and we invert our bodies. As anyone who has ever stepped into a yoga studio knows, you’ll discover muscles you never knew existed. While runners are some of fittest people around, many experience strength and flexibility issues, which isn’t surprising when you consider how many times they pound the ground each mile. Another reason to incorporate both practices into your weekly routine!

So, whether you’ve been combining running and yoga for years, or you’re convinced now might be the time to give it a shot, I’d love to invite you to our first Yoga Flow + Trail Run event taking place Saturday, July 14 from 9:30-11:00am at Robinette’s – Oh and PS, don’t worry about the weather, we always have a rain date scheduled!!

The movements inherent in yoga and trail running may seem tremendously different, but they share one key trait: both put you in the present moment. If you lose focus for just one moment, you could wind up face down on your mat or in the dirt. We’ll start with a 40 minute yoga flow, building the muscle strength and range of motion needed to help you dance over rocks and roots on the 2 mile trail run.

Mastering Chaturanga

Ever heard your yoga teacher call out “chaturanga” and wonder if you’re doing it correctly? We feel you. Chaturanga Dandasana – or four-limbed staff pose – is the one yoga pose yogis love to hate. Most of us do it incorrectly or half-heartedly for years before finding the light!

Because this is such a physically and emotionally challenging pose, there’s a tendency to rush through it to get it over with. But a lack of attention is perhaps the biggest problem. While chaturanga can be a great way to tone your arms and core, your alignment needs to be spot on. Otherwise, you’ll risk shoulder or back injury.

The Benefits of Chaturanga:

Why do we put ourselves through this tough pose? There are several reasons why yoga instructors sprinkle chaturanga dandasana throughout their classes. Here are some of my favorite reasons for using chaturanga to transition between your yoga sequences.

  1. It makes your wrists stronger and more flexible.
  2. It builds muscles in your back, shoulders, and arms.
  3. It tones and stretches your core muscles.
  4. Add all of this together and it’s a great preparatory pose for arm balances and inversions

The upper-body and lower-belly strength you acquire by practicing chaturanga translates wonderfully into the power and core consciousness you need for arm balances like crow pose and side plank.

Where Most of Us Go Wrong:

It’s challenging to know when you are doing your chaturanga correctly. And since it’s a pose of repetition, it can lead to injury when performed incorrectly over and over again. Here are a couple ways even the best of us mess up our chaturangas sometimes.

  • Our hands are too close to our shoulders, causing our elbows to bend further than 90 degrees.
  • Our bodies either collapse to the ground with a saggy back or we stick our butt out toward the ceiling putting too much pressure on our shoulders.
  • Our elbows fall outward instead of hugging our core.
  • We lazily move through chaturanga, barely bending at the elbow before quickly rushing into upward dog.

How to Make Chaturanga More Accessible:

One option is to practice the pose with your knees on the floor – there’s no shame in this, friends! Closely monitor your elbow alignment. Next, recognize how deep you go as you lower yourself toward the floor, catching yourself before you begin to sag. Finally, share the strength of the pose between your upper and lower body so that your legs can ease the burden.

Still Confused?

Whether you are a seasoned yogi or a novice, each of us can benefit from stripping this pose down to its basics once in a while. So, whether you know you’re doing chaturanga wrong or you’re so darn comfortable in it that you’re starting to think you could use an extra challenge, we’ve got you! Join us at Yoga Fever for our next Chaturanga Clinic on March 18th from 1-2:15pm to learn the proper alignment, explore preparatory poses, and even how to take it to the next level by hopping or floating back into it! Sign up now – your shoulders will thank you!

4 Key Steps to Building an Arm Balance Practice

Arm balances are everywhere these days. They pop up on Instagram and yoga studio posters as the epitome of yoga accomplishment. Yet, they’re often among the most frightening poses for students to try. The concept of flying fearlessly into wild, inverted poses plagues many yogis.

I’m here to tell you: this collection of poses is not reserved for advanced yoga practitioners. With a few tips and tricks (plus practice, practice, practice), you’ll find yourself in Crow, Hurdler, and Headstand in no time!

Benefits of Arm Balances

First off, why bother practicing arm balances in the first place? Balancing poses help us connect with the present moment. And when you add in the challenge of balancing on your arms, the amount of mental focus required increases. You’re never going to get up into a headstand if you’re thinking about the day’s to-do list. Practice arm balances if you’re in need of a strengthened mental focus.

Additionally, arm balances increase flexibility, core and shoulder strength, as well as feelings of self-confidence and courage. Plus, they offer a playful and curious way to approach our bodies!

What’s not to love? If you’re eager to give these a try, but maybe a bit scared about how to begin, read on for four tips to help you build your arm balance practice.

4 Key Steps to Building an Arm Balance Practice

Confidence- Honestly, guys building confidence is key to arm balancing. We are all a bit nervous about face planting. It happens every now and then. So what?! It’s totally okay to fall out of the pose and laugh your ass off. We all do it. The more we practice balancing on our hands, the more confidence and strength we will gain. It just takes time, practice and patience.

Strategic Weight Placement– How many times have you heard your instructor remind you not to put your weight into the heel of your hand? This is because when your weight is in the palm of your hands, there’s nothing to stop you from falling backward. Instead, strategically place your body weight between your thumb and pointer finger – pushing more into your knuckles than the heel of your hand. By moving the balance point forward like this, you instantly gain more control.

Shoulder Strength – Your shoulder blades are a critical, and often neglected, body part when moving into arm balances. You need them to support your arms, especially when you’re in a straight-arm balance. We often help students increase scapular strength by holding an engaged Plank pose, asking them to puff up between the shoulder blades – almost like a Cat Pose.

Core strength- All balance poses rely heavily on a strong core, and arm balances are no exception. To build an arm balance practice, you must learn to lock off one part of your body (example: core) so you can use that stability to launch into more complicated poses. We often encourage students to focus on their core by asking them to flex their belly during every single yoga pose of the class. Eventually, engaging the core will become second nature.

Ready to Try Arm Balances?

Are you ready to put these tips into practice? Join us at Yoga Fever for a special arm balance workshop ‘Learn to Fly with E’, hosted by our favorite flyer: Elizabeth Sanders! On January 21, from 1:00pm-2:30pm, Elizabeth will guide you from stretching and strength-building poses into full arm balances for just $18. There’s no experience required and this is not a heated event. We’ll start from where you are and work on the four tips above – prepare to amaze yourself!

Remember: so much of the fear of arm balances comes from physical limitations in our heads. Think of how easily little kids throw themselves into headstands. They don’t necessarily have the strongest core or the best technique; rather, they’re simply not scared to try something new – and maybe fall once in a while. Trust us, you owe it to yourself to try something new this month – we’ll always be there to catch you!

How to Express Gratitude Every Single Day

Thanksgiving is almost here! The time of the year where we gather with family, make plates full of delicious food, and count our blessings. Yet, this practice of gratitude is often saved solely for certain times of the year: the holidays. We think about how lucky we are to have our families, friends, good food, and everything else that brings us joy. 

But how can we cultivate gratitude every single day? 

The practice of gratitude improves health and happiness, builds a positive outlook, and doesn’t cost a thing. Even in the stressful, unclear times of our lives, we all have something to be thankful for. And if we choose to live as if everything is a gift, we live with deep appreciation and gratitude. 

So as I prepare for Thanksgiving this year, I’m reflecting on 9 simply ways we can cultivate gratitude in our daily lives – on or off the mat. Will you join me?

On the Mat:

Set Grateful Intentions– I’ve written before about the importance of setting intentions for your yoga practice. And while these can vary tremendously, why not try setting one related to gratefulness for a few weeks? Make your goal throughout your practice be to appreciate every moment – every drop of sweat dripping down your body, every muscle stretching, and every deep breath that moves through you. 

Meditate Daily– The practice of meditation can take many forms, but the goal is always the same: to quiet our busy minds and help us find some internal peace. While it can be tough to settle into a time of stillness, this is where you’ll find the ability to reflect on the people, places, and things in your life that serve you. If you’re religious, prayerful meditation is a great way to honor the aspects of your life that bring you joy.

Count Your Blessings, Not Your Breaths– This one is nearly impossible to do throughout an entire yoga session, but why not try it during one long pose – half pigeon, anyone? Instead of spending your time wishing you could leave the pose, try thinking of one thing you’re grateful for with each round of breath.

Never Skip Savasana– I don’t know about you, but I find it quite easy to be grateful when I move into savasana at the end of class. The intensity and heat are finally over and my tired muscles can melt into corpse pose. Whether in the studio or in your personal practice, always ensure you make time to spend 5-10 minutes in this final, resting pose. 

Off the Mat:

Move Your Body– Yeah, yeah. You know this one, right? But there’s a difference between exercising just to lose weight and exercising because you love and want to honor your body. Find whatever method you enjoy and do it! Whether that’s yoga, long walks, biking, swimming, kayaking, running, or lifting weights, take time to appreciate and respect your body’s need for movement.

Read– Ditch your screens, crack open a physical book, and get lost in it. Allow yourself to absorb new ideas, learn about different cultures, or discover inspirational quotes and poetry. I promise you’ll experience gratefulness for a world outside your own.

Write It Down– This tip is simple, yet extremely effective. Find the time of day that suits you and jot down three things each day that bring you joy. Sometimes your entries will be short and sweet, while others may include great detail. See if you notice a pattern of the people or things that you’re thankful for, and find ways to incorporate them into your daily life.

Self-Care– Show your whole being – body, mind, and soul- some gratitude by starting some self-care habits. Create a skin-care routine or fuel your body with wholesome nutrients. Get a massage or take daily walks to clear your mind.

Give Back– Once you have begun this journey toward thankfulness, it’s time to give back. Maybe you choose to donate to a favorite charity or volunteer with a cause near to your heart. Or perhaps it’s simply by teaching a loved one how to live gratefully every single day.

Join us for a gratitude Thanksgiving Flow at Yoga Fever 9am – 10am. This is an $8 Community Hot Flow suitable for all levels. This Thanksgiving let’s bring our breath and bodies together as one. Sign up soon. It’s almost a full class. XO – S
 

4 Reasons Why Yoga Reduces Stress

You’re in the middle of a big project at work, your child needs to be picked up from school, and your cell phone is ringing. Not to mention the fact that you need to make dinner, clean the house, and maybe just maybe find a minute for yourself. Seriously, when can we get a darn break from this total catastrophe of life?

Stress and anxiety exist in each of our lives. It’s unavoidable and part of the human experience. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to manage or reduce the impact that stressful situations have on us. Our daily responsibilities and worries don’t need to overwhelm us. And that, friends, is where yoga comes in. 

Let’s talk about four ways that yoga reduces stress and anxiety in our lives. 

4 Reasons Why Yoga Reduces Stress

Yoga balances our body – The practice of yoga actually counteracts the influence of stress, which often drains our energy and leaves us tense, tight, and tired. Instead, yoga does wonders in reducing tension – almost like a massage does. Child’s pose is, perhaps, the quintessential example of the way yoga helps us decompress. It’s often used as a resting pose or counter-pose to backbends and inversions, allowing our spinal column to relax and inducing a sense of both physical and spiritual surrender. Each time our forehead rests on the earth, it signals the body it’s time for rest, peace, and quiet.

Yoga balances our mind – In addition to treating our body with care, yoga teaches us to befriend and quiet the dancing/monkey mind. As we cultivate presence and compassion, we’re able to hone in on the actions we can take right now, in this moment. Yoga allows us to ease our frantic mind, and forget about our long to-do lists for the duration of the class. Whether we’re holding a pose or flowing through a sequence, yoga teaches us to focus.  We become as some athletes call in ‘the zone’. In other words, everything else fades away and we become one with the task at hand — i.e. yoga.

Yoga balances our nervous system – Whenever we experience stress, our nervous system begins to act up, stimulating high adrenaline and blood pressure levels. While necessary in some dangerous scenarios, this reaction can be chronic when triggered repeatedly. We use the breath as our guide in yoga. Instructors constantly remind their students (and themselves) to steady and deepen their breath, through controlled, and sometimes numbered, breath patterns. The process of learning to steady and deepen our breath allows our whole nervous system to calm down and feel peace. As yogis, we know the quickest way to the present moment is through the breath. This is a great lesson we can apply outside the studio when tough situations arise; focus on awareness of breath. Use the breath to calm yourself down and find the present moment. Even when we are facing the eye of the storm. 

Yoga helps us understand how our mind works – In my opinion, this is the most important point when it comes to long-term stress management. Most of our anxiety results from the way our minds operate to various challenges. The mind can help heal us or it can help cripple us. Yoga practice forces us into mindful awareness of the way in which we react to difficult situations. For example, when you find yourself in a tough place on your mat, do you immediately pull out of the pose? Do you push yourself harder? Do you get angry at the teacher? None of these responses are wrong or right. The point, rather, is that once you identify the way you respond to stress, you’ll be able to consciously choose a different response in the future – preparing yourself to fight back against stress and anxiety. 

As you see, yoga allows us to slow down and really tune in to our bodies, our mind, and our breath. By simply focusing on one thing, we’re able to decompress and relax. 

If you’re eager to reap these stress preventative benefits, why not try one of our gentle flow classes, which are our restorative and therapeutic classes – often meditation-based. But don’t think that you can’t learn to balance your body, mind, and nervous system in a hot flow class – because you absolutely can! 

If you’re new to the world of yoga, you could even try our NEW Wednesday night (9pm) community class for $5 to see what this whole stress-reducing practice is all about. Come on in and try a couple different classes – you totally flipping deserve it!
 

Simplify Your Sleeping Pigeon

Pigeon pose was actually designed to be a back bend with a ton of variations to chose from. The west decided to add the sleeping variation which can be a bit of a love/hate relationship. It’s amazing for runners, cyclists, or anyone with tight hips. But the problem is that many of us don’t understand the proper alignment of the pose, which can really compromise the safety of our knees and SI joint. 

We’ll walk you through a few ways to modify this pose to make it the restorative wonder it’s meant to be – rather than the pose you endure with clenched teeth toward the end of your practice.

First, what is Sleeping Pigeon pose and why is it so beneficial?

Yoga treats stiff hips in many ways, but the most common is through a collection of poses known as hip openers. Sleeping Pigeon pose is an extremely effective hip opener that works your front leg into an external rotation, while stretching your psoas muscle (it connects your groin to your lumbar spine) in your back leg. 

English please? It’s really, really, good for those of us who sit at a desk all day. And when you practice it consistently, you’ll notice significantly more ease in your lower body as you sit, walk, run and stand.

The problem is that many of us tend to thoughtlessly fold into Sleeping Pigeon, which dumps tons of stress onto our knees and sacrum. If you’re eager to improve upon this pose, read on yogis.

4 Tips for a More Pleasant Pigeon

Ease into the pose- Begin in Downward Facing Dog. Extend your right leg behind you, then bring the knee up to replace the right hand. You want a 45 degree angle from right hip to knee. More than likely, your shin is not parallel to the front of the mat (yet). With time and patience, you may get there. The heel will be close to the body and that’s A-OK. The top of your left foot is resting on the earth behind you with the toes reaching straight back to avoid sickling of the ankle. Gently melt your hips down to the ground. You want to avoid dumping all of your weight into the right side of the body. 

You can choose to stay here or, for a more intense stretch, extend your arms and chest to the ground in front of you. To fully experience the pose, keep the spine long versus rounding.

Use core muscles to square your torso- Once you’re in the pose, be sure to keep your hips squared to the front of your mat. This isn’t a twisty pose, so do your best to keep both hips facing the front. How do you do this? Engage and activate your core muscle to shift your front hip back toward your extended leg.

Take up space- At this point, you may be able to descend a little deeper into the pose. With your hands planted firmly in front of you, try scooching your back leg further toward the back of your mat. With every inhale, back out of the fold a bit, seeing if you can gather just a smidge more length through your spine. Then you can take up even more space as you fold forward on your exhale.

Modify when needed- It’s always okay to utilize the props found in the studio! Slide a yoga block or rolled up towel under your hip (the bent one) for extra support. There’s nothing to be ashamed about – even the most flexible yogis have days where they need some added cushion to protect their bodies. 

Finally, keep in mind that Sleeping Pigeon may not be your thing. No matter how many alignment refinements you make, this just may not be the pose for you. That’s totally fine, you guys. Ask your Yoga Fever yoga instructor for some alternatives, such as sucirandhasana (thread the needle) or lying pigeon (where you’re on your back and pull your thigh toward you). It’s always okay to skip or modify a pose.

Now let’s do this.