How to Coordinate your Breath in Yoga

In yoga class, the instructor often assigns part of a yoga exercise ‘an inhale’ and the other part ‘an exhale’. For example in the very popular sun salutation sequence, you traditionally inhale as the arms “raise up” and you always exhale as you “forward fold”. But how exactly do they know which part of the exercise to pair with an inhale or an exhale? 

Well, the breathing cues are based on the anatomical design of the respiratory system (breathing system). As you inhale the domeshaped pulls the lungs down making more room for air in the lungs. The muscles between the ribs called the intercostal muscles also work to open the ribs, helping to make even more room for air in the lungs. The chest thirdly rises up opening the top area of the lungs then as you exhale, the opposite happens: the returns to a dome shape pushing air out of the lungs, the intercostal muscles relax, and the chest sinks and pushes air out of the lungs as well. 

So by practicing yoga, which challenges those intercostal rib muscles to contract more on the large yoga inhales, you can actually increase your breathing abilities over time. Posture can affect the intercoastal muscle abilities, which many yoga poses help to correct as well. 


Hand on the stomach and on the chest while breathing

This exercise will help you achieve deep breathing, perfect for “yoga belly style breathing”. Hatha Yoga, in particular, uses this deep belly breathing style. Come to easy pose, lotus pose, or any comfortable seated position. Place one hand on the stomach and the other hand on the chest. Close the eyes and imagine your pulling the lungs open as you inhale. Feel the hand on the stomach rise as the air comes in. Continue breathing in as the chest then rest your hand on the rising chest. Reverse the process on the exhale starting with the chest sinking and then the stomach. Notice how far your hands sink down. Repeat 5 times. 

Deep breathing on the back

Place the palms on the ribs as you lay down on your back with your knees bent feet flat on the floor. Begin to breathe deep as you feel the ribs expanding as far as they can go. Then exhale and notice the ribs going inwards. See if you can exhale a little longer than normal as we often cut out exhales short. 

Inhale, Lengthen

In general when transitioning into a yoga pose and during a yoga sequence, you inhale when you would like to lengthen in a pose or when the pose naturally expands that lung area. In other words, inhale in order to expand the torso area including sitting up tall, expanding the chest, and raising the arms upward. 

Exhale, fold 

Exhales are for twisting and folding. any motion that contracts the torso area. Even though you are exhaling in a fold or a twist be careful not to fully collapse and risk pinching a back muscle, for example. Use the exhale as a moment to deepen the direction of the pose instead.

Poses are great for improving Posture and strengthening your intercoastal breathing muscles. Here are just a few: 

  • Gate Pose
  • Twisting of the Torso Pose
  • Cow Face Pose

Give these breathing exercises and poses a try next time and enjoy breath to pose coordination which will improve your health, safety, and sense of peace!

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Best 90 Degree by Reflex Products

Where you buy your yoga and workout apparel can be a challenging decision. You want quality clothing that will last, but don’t want to pay astronomical prices. If you don’t pay the prices but want your clothes to hold up, your options are limited. 90 Degree by Reflex is a great brand that offers affordable clothing that will hold up to all your activities. They are a lifestyle brand that specializes in yoga wear and some athleisure. You can find their items on Amazon and on their website. Here are a few of their products and why I think they are great!

Power Flex Racerback Tank Top 2 pack – I love this tank top because it’s so comfortable and simple. The two-pack comes in black and charcoal, so they can match with almost anything. The tops won’t ride up while you’re doing poses like downward-facing dog. At 19.99 for the pack they are definitely a steal!

6 Pack Fleece Lined Tights – As we approach winter, if you live in a cooler climate, keeping your legs warm is going to become a priority. These leggings will keep your legs warm without suffocating them. They can be dressed up with a dress or a tunic or wear around the house for relaxing. The 6 pack comes in multiple colors, so you can easily match with multiple items!

90 Degree By Reflex Yoga Lounge Pants – These pants make a lazy day at home even better. The material is soft and stretchy. The fit is relaxed and ankle length but not quite a jogger. They do measure one size small and when you wash them, make sure to air dry. While these are primarily a lounge pant, they stretch enough that they would work for a low impact yoga or other workout class!

90 Degree By Reflex Women’s Power Flex Yoga Pants – These pants are fantastic for lounging and exercise. The fabric helps to wick moisture from your body while doing a high-intensity workout, and it contours to your body, so you won’t have to worry about pulling them up constantly. They are comfortable to wear while running around and doing errands as well. The leggings come in multiple colors, so you can easily match them with whatever top and shoes you’d like! They look great with running shoes and even a pair of converse.

90 Degree By Reflex High Fashion Yoga Leggings – If you’re looking to add a little flair to your workout and loungewear clothing, these are your answer. My favorite pattern is black with mesh panels. The leggings have a high shine finish giving the leggings a slightly leather look which is great for a night out or going to a concert but can also be worn when you want to feel a little fancier lounging around the house. The material contours to your body so you don’t have to worry about them falling down.

90 Degree By Reflex has some great products and caters itself to a variety of styles and sizes. They truly have found the sweet spot between cost and quality. These are just a few of my favorite items but they have plenty more to choose from! Their products are great for lounging and working out, so whatever your activity of the day is you’ll find exactly what you need.

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What You Need In A Yoga Workshop

We all love being surrounded by people who we have something in common. As yoga enthusiasts, we mostly derive this joy of being surrounded by other like-minded people in the gym. We love the training, the lessons, and everything about yoga, but that is not always enough. We are continuously looking for a new experience to improve our yoga practice. Most of the time, we find ourselves stacked in our rooms with a laptop researching how we can improve what we already know. We are looking for new knowledge and experience and trying out different things, but that comes with a price. Yoga, being a physical exercise, goes without saying that there are risks involved with trying to do these kinds of stuff alone. A good example is while trying to do a complex asana without a tutor; we may end up hurting ourselves and causing irreparable damage to ourselves. For this reason, we need workshops which are branded with specific themes and run through a short period of time.

Yoga tutors nowadays can organize these events that are run for a couple of days where yoga enthusiasts can learn as much as they can about the theme of the workshop. The workshops also provide a platform where people can share ideas and learn from one another. Besides that, people are able to interact with people of a different culture, and this contributes to widening one’s view. There are some things that one need to have while attending these workshops. Here is a list of the most common things you need:

  1. Yoga Attire – This is mostly based on a person’s interests. For example, for ladies, they may decide to wear a bra or even a t-shirt. Whichever outfit one chooses, it should allow him/her to be flexible, comfortable, and should also be able to maintain the body temperature during training.
  2. Yoga Mat – One should have a yoga mat, which is very important when it comes to training different yoga types. 
  3. Bottle Of Water – During vigorous training, it is usual for one to become thirsty; therefore, it is recommended that one should have a water bottle.
  4. Yoga Towel – This is very important. Since yoga is a physical exercise, one must have his/her own personal towels to wipe the sweat after a given session.
  5. Extra Clothes – Since most yoga workshops last for a couple of days, it is recommended that trainees should carry extra clothing and also their own workout gear. It is also important for hygiene.

Besides the above five essential must-have items in a yoga workshop, one must also come prepared with his/her own meals in case it is not catered for by the organizers. Workshops are a great way to learn about yoga and to interact with others.

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How To Practice For Acro Yoga Without A Partner?

How To Practice For Acro Yoga Without A Partner?

Acro yoga is a beautiful partner-based practice which is fun and available to everyone, beginners and advanced practitioners alike. All you need is a partner who is as enthusiastic as you are to try this fun and exciting practice.

If you want to exercise for acro yoga even when solo, there are a few main focus points you should try to hit with your practice. Regardless of your usual role, whether you are a flyer (the person who is held in air) or the base (the person on the ground, holding the flyer in the air), you will have to develop both strength and balance. 

Strength

Both the base and flyer have to develop their strength and endurance. The most important part of the body practitioners should aim to establish is the core – since it is our center and key to correct alignment in all postures. In many acro poses, the core must be tightened to allow for the postures to be done correctly and safely. A loose and weak core can open up the doors to poor alignment and possible injury. The base needs a strong core to be able to endure holding the partner for more extended periods, and it is inevitable to be able to pull the flyer back in position if they begin to fall. The flyer needs a strong core to ease the base’s job and to stay in correct form during both static parts of the exercise and movements. The core is also the critical element for many inversions included in the practice. 

Plank, boat pose and v-ups are some of the best strengthening exercises you could include in your practice, since they hit many different muscles in your abdomen, and develop muscle endurance. Try to include some back exercises such as back extensions. Leg strength is also important for both partners, but absolutely a must for the base. It is most visible in the standing poses where the base must be firmly grounded to make the flyer safely balance on them. The base should master horse stance and squats for peak strength and performance. Arm strength is necessary for both partners, the base needs to use it to hold a lot of flyer’s weight during some postures, and flyer should have the essential knowledge and strength for arm balances. The good exercises for arm and shoulder strength are arm balances themselves, but also planks and push-ups. If you want to prepare with another Yoga style, Ashtanga would be the best choice since it is the style which focuses on strength and endurance of the whole body the most. 

Balance 

Although this is most obvious in flyers role, both practitioners should be experienced in balance workouts to have an insight of what is happening during the practice, in other words, to have the full awareness of their body. Firstly, they must improve their leg balance, which can be done by standing on one leg in various positions and for example standing/walking on rails and narrow walls. The other type of balance they should try are: 

  • Arm Balances
  • Practicing next to the wall is a great beginner’s option for handstands
  • And some easier poses like crow pose can help in this process too. 

Awareness

Besides training their bodies, practitioners should also aim to train their minds to be able to maintain focus, stay calm during practice and most importantly, to have trust in one another. No tricks or acrobatics can be done with an upset or anxious mind. Regular yoga practice and meditation will surely help in this goal, the more we train, the more we are aware of our body. It results in us trusting ourselves first which consequently helps our partner to trust us as well.

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3 Key Reminders for Alignment in Home Yoga Practices

Alignment is key to keeping your joints and body healthy during any yoga practice, no matter how rigorous you intend it to be. Our bodies need to remain safe throughout each of the asanas or poses in order to make the practice a long-term part of our lives. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned yogi who practices with the masters, it never hurts to take a small step back to remind yourself about proper alignment through some of the basic poses.

What should you keep in mind during your next yoga session? Keep these top reminders at the forefront of your mind as you move with the breath.


Keep your spine long.

Your back is a necessary part of moving through most of your practice, whether you’re focused on standing or seated poses. Our natural tendency is to reach as deeply as possible into a position to demonstrate our flexibility. Even as we do other day-to-day activities like reading, working at a desk, or driving, we tend to hunch our shoulders and round our spine in a way that compromises its integrity.

This reminder tells us to do just the opposite. In your next practice, focus on coming up out of a pose just enough that you can keep your spine long and straight. It may feel like your practice isn’t going as deep, but it will be more beneficial for your back in the long-run.

Pay attention to your feet in standing poses.

For most of us, it’s obvious that our feet do a great deal for us in our standing poses. However, we don’t often take much time to consider how they’re doing the work. We know we are practicing proper alignment when we are equally grounded through all parts of the feet.

Weight should be distributed not just towards the toes or towards the heels but equally throughout the entire sole of the foot. You also need to ensure that the weight isn’t located in just one side of the foot, whether inside or outside, due to the stress it can cause to your ankles and knees.

Don’t put unnecessary stress on your knees.

Knees are a critical element in our daily movement and functioning, so we need to treat them with respect. It can be easy to overextend the ligaments and muscles in our knees in any number of poses. For example, your front knee shouldn’t extend over the toes of your foot as you sink deep into a warrior II pose. It also shouldn’t be folded in toward the big-toe side of your foot.

When you’re in a standing position, remember to keep your knees soft also. This can help the blood to better flow throughout your legs and prepares your body for future movements.

Both of these common mistakes can jeopardize the health of your knees, making continued movement painful far into the future. Be very considerate of how much work your knees are doing and attempt to minimize any potential injuries in this way.

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Running For Yoga

I see a lot of articles and videos titled “Yoga for Runners” but I don’t see many articles articulating the opposite “Running for Yoga.” In fact, I just did a search for that very title and I still saw a number of articles, videos, and blogs talking about “Yoga for Runners.” Yoga for Runners makes yoga sound subservient to running but this year, because of the amazing benefits I get from yoga that seem to trump the benefits I get from running, I am declaring my allegiance to yoga over running thereby making yoga the dominate exercise in my relationship between yoga and running.

It is yoga that keeps runners flexible and loose, strengthens the runner’s core, including the tiny core muscles, the psoas, and the obliques. It also stretches the muscles, helps create muscle memory for amazing running form and, importantly, provides relief from pain caused by running that only yoga seems to provide. What’s more, running can make yoga even more enjoyable by building strength and stability, as well as help to increase stamina.

I have a favorite yoga sequence, adapted and taught by Rebecca Pacheco that I use to enable me to run for yoga:

First, start in Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I), modified with your arms stretched out behind you, parallel to the floor as much as you are able.

  1. In this pose, and in every Warrior 1 pose, it’s important to keep your hips square.
  2. To square your hips, after you’ve set your left foot behind you for Warrior 1, put your hands on your hip.
  3. Using your hands, guide your left hip forward and your right hip back so that your hips are even or square.
  4. Try to do this every time you are in a position with one leg extended behind you.

I’ve found it makes all the difference in terms of pain relief and hip strengthening.

  1. From modified Warrior 1, sweep your arms forward and up with a deep breath in to move into Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I).
  2. Swing your arms back down and behind you for modified Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I) and then once more up into Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I).
  3. Slowly lower your arms and bring your hands to your heart (Anjali Mudra) as you move into a Low Pushup (Chaturanga Dandasana) to an Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svansana) and then to a Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svansana).
  4. This sequence, from the Low Pushup to the Downward-Facing Dog should be done in relatively quick succession, moving smoothly from Low Pushup (Chaturanga Dandasana), pausing slight in the low plank position, to Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svansasa), making sure to press the tops of your feet into your mat and flex your thighs so that your knees are off the mat.
  5. From Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Much Svansana), lift your buttocks up, supporting the movement with your abs, into Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svansana) and pause there for a few deep breaths.
  6. From Downward-Facing Dog swing your right leg forward to move into a Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) with your palms flat on your mat and your left leg extended out behind you, knee resting on your mat to provide a nice stretch in your hips. Moving on to the Lizard

Lunge (Utthan Pristhasana)

This exercise really opens up your hips up.

  1. From the Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) position, take your right hand and move it inside your right foot so that your left hand and right hand are next to each other on your yoga mat.
  2. Take your right foot, roll it onto its right edge, and then pretend that your right foot is a hand on a clock with your toes the tip of the clock hand.
  3. Move your toes down to 2 or 3 on the clock face, keeping your heel in the same place, and let your knee swing open even more.
  4. For a deeper stretch, put your forearms on the yoga mat instead of your palms and just breathe deeply for a few breaths.
  5. Rise out of Lizard Lunge (Utthan Pristhasana) by straightening out your foot and placing the sole of your foot back on the mat, coming up onto your palms and back into Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana).
  6. From there, move back to modified Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I) and start the sequence on the left side.

This sequence will do amazing things for you yoga-wise and will also allow you to run with ease to build up strength, stability, and stamina for your yoga practice. Running for yoga indeed!

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Knowing Your Seven Chakras

Some days we feel great, our minds and spirits seem perfectly aligned, when suddenly, as if we turned a corner, something seems off. Energy flows through our bodies, when this energy is disrupted it can affect us in many forms. Physically, we may develop an upset stomach, a headache, or we might feel altered mentally, we are depressed, or uneasy, and we aren’t sure why. Knowing what your seven chakras are can help you identify why you may be feeling unbalanced and show you how to fix it.

The word chakra translates from the ancient Sanskrit word to mean ‘Wheel of Light.’ Each one is a center of energy that resides in our bodies. In these centers, nerve points connect with the flow of energy (prana) that moves throughout the different points in our body; when the energy is disrupted our bodies are affected.

Root Chakra

The first of the seven is located in the tail bone of your body and regulates your sense of survival, instinct, and security. When this chakra is out of balance, you may feel insecure, anxious, ungrounded, despair, or alone. Since this chakra is associated with the color red, you can reinvigorate yourself by wearing or associating yourself with something red, such as these yoga pants in red, a garnet stone, or eating food that is red, such as berries, beets, or red cabbage.

Sacral Chakra

This chakra is located in the pelvis, where the urogenital system lies, that which is responsible for the reproductive organs and the urinary system. This chakra regulates your sexual needs and emotions, as well as your confidence and creativity. When it is out of balance we feel lonely and dependent on others. The Sacral Chakra is associated with the color orange, to fix an unbalance, try a carnelian stone, wearing some orange, or eating some orange vegetables or fruit.

Solar Plexus Chakra

When unbalanced with this chakra you will feel anxious, a loss of control, and for some, they can develop an eating disorder. This chakra is connected to the digestive system and the adrenal glands and is located under your ribs and in the diaphragm. The associated color is yellow, and you can help return balance with a citrine crystal, some yellow clothing, or some yellow food in your diet.

Heart Chakra

With this unbalance, you will feel disconnected, hopeless, and excluded and when balanced you will feel love, compassion, strong bonds, and protection. It is related to the heart, the thymus, and the endocrine system. To renew strength with this chakra, try wearing some green jade, surround yourself with greenery or consume some leafy salads.

Throat Chakra

Like the name suggests, this chakra is located in the throat and is connected with the thyroid gland. It controls communication, expression, and a sense of security. Unbalanced, we feel insecure and unable to express ourselves. To rebalance yourself, connect with blue water, blueberries, or wear a Lapis Lazuli stone.

Third-Eye Chakra

This one is located on the lower forehead, between your eyebrows and is your connection to the spirit world through the pineal gland, thusly affecting your intuition, inner thoughts, and dreams. When this chakra is disturbed we lose trust, we judge more, and our sleep can be affected. Associated with the color indigo, surround yourself with purple plants, wear an azurite stone, or eat some purple vegetables.

Crown Chakra

The final chakra is located at the top of the head and is related to the pituitary gland and the central nervous system. It identifies with our imagination, spirituality, and consciousness, and when the energy is disrupted to this part of the body, we feel confused, disheartened, and disconnected from others. Connected to the color violet, fix any disruption with an amethyst rock, some violet flowers or some violet-colored figs.

In time, you will better understand when a particular chakra seems out of alignment more than the rest of your body. Listen to your body, pay attention to your senses, mediate, and energize your chakras by living in a world full of color.

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Lessons from Yogic Breath

 

There are many lessons to learn from our body’s natural rhythms and actions. One of our most basic rhythms that we seem to forget about is simply our breath. The inhalation and the exhalation are both so essential and metaphorical in regards to almost every aspect of our lives. Today we’re going to take things a step deeper and look at the lessons from yogic breath in particular. Yogic breath teaches us the same things that regular breathing does but it magnifies it for the better.

Lessons from Yogic Inhalation

Let’s start off with the lessons you can learn from your yogic inhalation. The “in” breath in yoga as well as in everyday life is the section of the breath involved with action. If you are ever frightened or surprised you take a deep breath in. When you add on the yogic take on it, the inhalation becomes a very beautiful and meaningful second or two. In yoga the inhalation is associated with ingesting and consuming energy; it’s not just about breathing it in, it’s about really letting it sink in. It is a time where you are open to changes in your energy and possibilities.

This applies to your daily life in a couple ways. First, you may want to consider if you are taking enough metaphoric inhalations in your life. Are you experiencing enough moments in your day that are invigorating and wholesome? There are a lot of people who are living life seemingly on a constant exhale. Secondly, you may wish to consider what things in life allow you to inhale naturally. Set a little trigger in your mind to pay attention every time you take a deep inhalation in your daily life. You can learn a lot about your interests and passions by simply looking at what makes you inhale.

 

Lessons from Yogic Exhalation

The exhalation is about letting go of what you no longer need. It’s about detoxifying your body, mind, and soul. It’s also about relaxation and putting your feet up. At the end of the exhalation there should also be a slight moment of preparation for the coming inhalation.

The lessons of the exhalation in everyday life are the complete opposite of the lessons from the inhalation. Are you taking enough exhales in your life? Are you allowing the time to rest and let go of the old or are you in a constant “up” that is going to wear you down? The exhalation teaches you to let go of what is no longer serving you in every aspect of your life.

Lessons from the Whole Yogic Breath

Yoga and yogic breathing are all about rhythm; it’s all about balancing out between the ups and the downs. Make time to inhale new and productive energy and make the time to let go of what is no longer needed. Inhalations and exhalations are equally as important so make sure you are not favoring one over the other. Bring balance into your day and honor your life as the rollercoaster that it is!

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Poses to Effectively Increase Mobility

Mobility is just as important as strength is. But most of us neglect to take into consideration how mobile or immobile the body can be. Our range of motion can be restricted depending on how stiff our body is. One of Yoga’s incredible gifts is how it can effectively increase mobility. But just as your body is different from others, so is the time needed for it to develop mobility.

With regular practice, increasing your range of motion is possible. Increase your mobility through these series of Yoga poses that suit any fitness level:

Child’s Pose. This pose allows the neck, shoulders and spine to relax promoting better flow of blood in the head, releasing tension especially on the shoulders.

How: Sit on your heels and bring your body forward. Let your torso rest between your knees and your forehead on the ground. Stretch your arms forward with your palms on the mat. This is a good resting pose you can do whenever you feel you needed.

Forward Fold. Gravity aids in better blood circulation to the head. Allowing the head to hang freely relaxes the neck, opening more space for more movement.

How: Stand tall. Tune in to your pelvic floor. Inhale as you lift your hands, palms together. Exhale as you slowly lower your body forward. Reach for the ground. If you can’t touch the ground, just reach as far as you can or hold your elbows. Do not force the body into anything that is painful.

Cat-Cow Stretch. This stretch helps improve strength of the abdominal muscles and is a good warm up for the spine.

How: Plant your palms and knees on the floor. Your palms should be vertically aligned to your shoulders and your knees aligned to your hips. Start with cow. Inhale as you arch the back, bring your shoulder blades more closely, curl your toes under and stare at the sky. Cat pose is exhaling while you release your toes and round your upper back, focusing on your belly. Close your eyes as you perform this transition to really feel the internal stretch.

Downward Facing Dog. A good stretch to release the calves. This pose is a gentle inversion promoting better flow of blood throughout the body.

How: Start with your hands and feet planted on ground. Make sure your hands are shoulder width apart and your feet are hip width apart. Lift your hips upward to make an inverted V position with your body and spread all your fingers for more stability.

Seated Twist. This twisting pose is great for loosening tense muscles in the back and mobilizing the spine.

How: Start off by sitting with crossed legs. Inhale as you lift your right arm up to the air and exhale as you reach it down to your left outer thigh and look to your left, twisting the body gently. Do the same technique using your left arm to your right outer thigh.

Cobra. This pose awakens the energy source from within while opening the shoulders, chest and back.

How: Lie down on your belly and plant your hands on the floor near the ribcage. Elbows are bent and feet are hip width apart. Glide your upper ribs and chest forward to lift them off the floor.

To be able to move around and do things easily requires mobility. Develop your range of motion safely through these easy poses. You won’t develop just the mobility you desire but also enjoy the other benefits Yoga extends to those who practice with good intentions and an open heart.

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