Balasana is a posture in Yoga with many benefits. The most profound benefit of the posture is the physiological calming down of the central nervous system. This is beneficial for calming down, refocusing, and relaxing. Anatomically, this asana gently and passively stretches the back of the body, thighs, and hips while it softens the front body. Physiologically, it also aids in digestion while deep breathing is maintained in the posture or asana.
To perform Balasana simply come to all fours with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Next, engage your big toes together setting yourself up to sit back into your heels with your ankles and knees aligned safely. With your toes touching gently sit back into your heels while softening the arms and outstretching them in front of you. Keeping the toes together provides safety for the knee and ankle joints. As long as the toes are touching you can widen your knees as much as you would like although, it is beneficial to keep part or your rib cage resting on your inner legs as this provides maximum stability. Gently rest the center of your forehead into the earth. If the center of your forehead does not naturally meet the earth then simply make a bridge for your head with your hands and rest your head in your hands. You can make fists and stack them one on top of the other to create a taller bridge if you need.
While you are released in the asana begin to breath deeply into your nose focusing the breath all the way down into your lower abdomen on the inhale and fully out on the exhale either through the nose or mouth. Deep breathing will maximize the physiological benefits of the asana. Breath in… breathe out… inhale…exhale.
Moving from our center is essential for a supported spine and disc support. When we don’t move, sit, or stand from our center, unnecessary tension is placed on our vertabrael discs. This can cause chronic back pain and limited motion ability. Some students may have pre-existing disc challenges which make performing classic sit-ups impossible. Plank pose or, Vasisthasana is a great way to build your core. This asana can be done while supported by the bottom leg.
If this modification is necessary then simply come from a table top position with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. From table top you will lean into your right arm with it being strong. You will keep your right knee on the ground and lift your left hip on top of your right hip and then extend your left leg lengthening out through the heel while also reaching your left arm to the sky squaring your shoulders so that your left shoulder is stacked on top of your right shoulder, and your right shoulder is stacked above your right wrist. If your wrist is not able to support you, you are able to do this asana on your forearm with your forearm along the ground and your elbow positioned under your shoulder.
For the classic pose simply come from a table top position and slide your right leg under your left while strengthening and lengthening both legs. At the same time reach your left arm up and stack your left shoulder on top of your right shoulder. Be sure to keep the hips lifted and level in this full variation. You want to keep one long line through the body. Breathe into the asana of Vasisthasana and begin to feel your center and core fire! You want to keep the heels extended and the legs strong to support the joints of the knee, hip, and ankle. You want to keep the collar bones lengthening and the chest open. Hug the navel back to the spine and build your core!
Some key points to focus on as you move from plank pose, Kumbhakasana to downward facing dog pose, Adho Muhka Svanasana are to tighten the quadriceps, pull the navel back and up, lift and articulate from the vertebrae one at a time like a wave moving to the shore, and keep the breath steady and full. There should be an inhalation into Adho Muhka Svanasana and an exhalation into Kumbhakasana. Feel each vertebrae as you move slowly from one asana to the next. Really juice it up!
Mobility of the spine is one of the surest ways to feel good within your body. The spine acts as the main channel for messages to be brought from your brain to the rest of the body. Keeping your spine mobile and fluid allows for a better connection. Flexibility in the spine also allows your body to be a more comfortable vessel. When you are able to move your head around with ease life is easier. One of my favorite ways of warming up my spine gently is by moving from a plank pose, known as Kumbhakasana, to a downward facing dog pose, known as Adho Muhka Svanasana and then back again several times. This also creates a toning and strengthening of the abdominal region and upper body. The release into Adho Muhka Svanasana creates a stretch in the back of the legs and back.
Remember to keep the shoulders stacked over the wrists in Kumbhakasana and to keep the ears in line with the upper arms in Adho Muhka Svanasana with the feet hip to shoulder width apart and the hands shoulder width apart. Enjoy each movement and dive into the suppleness of your spine!
Virabhadrasana Eka, also knows as Warrior One is an asana that anatomically brings strength to the legs and core, a lengthening to the spine and and an openness to the hips and chest. Along with the physical attributes of the posture you will also see a development in concentration and rootedness. Practicing this asana will also improve circulation of the blood and lymph. The physiological benefits of Virabhadrasana Eka are profound. This asana enhances the parasympathetic nervous system creating a feeling of peacefulness. The openness of the upper chest helps to build self confidence. When holding the asana stamina is built.
Begin with your feet hips width apart. Step back with your left leg and place the outer edge of your left foot at a 30-45 degree angle. Be sure to sharpen into the outer edge of the foot as this ensures that you are using the muscles of the foot instead of collapsing into the ankle joint. Keep the back leg strong and long by lifting the back quadricep up as the hamstrings extend. Step back 1 – 3 feet dependent upon your flexibility and balance. Bend the right, front leg at a 90 degree angle or less. Please do not bed the knee past 90 degrees otherwise, the joint of the knee may become compromised. Energize the front foot from the heel to the ball of the foot forward. Lift the front five toes to ensure that you are energizing from the musculature of the foot. Now press through both feet energetically as you strengthen both quadriceps.
Lengthen the tailbone down without tucking it as you extend through the top of your head, creating a nice, long spine. Be sure to pull the chin in slightly to avoid collapsing into the cervical spine. Roll the shoulders down the back and away from the ears. Continue to draw the navel back and up so that you are initiating the balance of the asana from your core. Lengthen the arms and reach out from the underneath of the wrists.
Keep your breath steady. Soften the face. Enjoy the asana.
‘To be a warrior is to learn to be genuine in every moment of your life.’ ~ Chogyam Trungpa
There can be moments in time when we feel we need to be a bit more grounded. There can also be moments in time when we feel we need to be a little more light. Vrksasana, or Tree Pose, is a wonderful way to find the physical balance of both while manifesting the energetic balance of groundedness and lightness. The asana, or posture, requires us to be grounded through our standing leg and foot while maintaining lightness through the rest of the body.
With all of the standing asanas we need to ensure that we begin with the widest base of our foot that we can. When setting up for this asana widen your foot through the toes from left to right and lengthen from ball to heel. You want to energize down through underneath of the big toe joint, little toe joint, and the base of the heel. Visualize roots extending into the earth from your standing foot as you hug the upper thigh muscles to the upper thigh bone, lifting the knee cap up to avoid injury. A slight bend of the knee is always an option here if you have extremely tight hamstrings or gastrocnemius muscles.
You also want to ensure and maintain a level pelvis. The pelvis should be even from top to bottom, side to side, and front to back. Lengthen down through the tailbone while engaging the pelvic floor up by drawing the frontal hip parts in and up to engage the pelvic floor.
Lengthen through the spine one vertebrae at a time by extending through the crown of the head. Draw the frontal ribs in and up while lifting the back of the ribs up. Extend the arms above the shoulders and engage the shoulders down the back through the rhomboid muscles or keep the hands at heart center. Soften the face, jaw, and neck.
Inhale deeply visualizing the breath moving up the spine. Exhale even more deeply while maintaining the length of the spine, groundedness of the supporting foot and leg, and lightness of the torso and arms. Smile and enjoy the process 🤗.
This is a very busy time of year for most people. As you find yourself bouncing from place to place, event to event, party to party, work, and travel make sure you take some time to bring it back to the center. Meditation is a fabulous way to do this. Some people become overwhelmed when they think about Meditating. Typically, the first response is ‘I don’t have enough time’. The beauty about Mediation is that you really only need 5-10 minutes and even if you only have 2 minutes to spare, you will still help yourself. The longer the practice the more profound the practice becomes but any little bit helps. I find that Meditating in the morning is the best time for me. This is the time before I get involved in my day and it sets my day up nicely. I am able to think more clearly and deliberately when I Meditate in the morning.
Simple Meditation Techniques
Meditation does not have to be highly involved. You can simply take a few moments, sit comfortably, and focus on your breathing. A typical Mediation stance is one that allows the spine to be erect without leaning against something. You can sit on a blanket or a towel and ensure that the sitting bones are rooting down firmly and evenly. Next, you extend from the crown of the head and try to create space between the vertebrae. I visualize my vertebrae as a strand of pearls, one pearl extended gently above the other, or one vertebra extended gently above the next. You then either close your eyes fully or gently release your gaze toward the ground or a flickering candle. If you are in a loud environment I recommend closing your eyes and visualizing your happy place. For me this is under water. With your sitting bones grounding, your spine elongating, the heart and head lifting, and your gaze set or eyes closed, you then simply breath. Focus on the breath. Take an inhale for three counts, a gentle pause, and an exhale for four counts. Making your exhales slightly longer than your inhales will allow the residual oxygen to be pushed from your lungs. Do this for as long as you have and enjoy the calm, clear effects of Meditation.
Core strength is one of the most important things that we can focus on. With a strong core we protect the abdominal organs, support the back, improve breathing, and prevent injuries. Core strength protects the abdominal organs because as the muscles are strengthened they become harder forming a shield around the abdominal organs. Core strength supports the back because when the core is strengthened, the body does not have to rely solely on the back to hold the trunk upright and elongated. The core takes the burden off of the back. Breathing is improved with a stronger core as well because our diaphragm, or breathing muscle, sits atop the abdominal organs. When we build the accessory voluntary muscles of the core the involuntary muscle of the diaphragm can move more easily and deeply. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is essential to calming the central nervous system and bringing fresh blood and oxygen to the tissues of the body. Injuries are prevented with a strong core in much the same fashion as the abdominal organs are protected. A strong core enables you to move from a central place avoiding injuries of the extremities.
Vasisthasana ~ Side Plank Pose ~ Anatomical Alignment
There are many Yoga postures that can improve core strength. Vasisthasana, or Side Plank is one of the best ways to work the entire core including front, back and side body. There are two basic variations that you can practice. The first variation, or simplest, is done by bringing the right hand directly under the shoulder and the right knee directly under the hip, extending the left leg and energizing through the left heel. The right toes will point in the same direction that the left heel is energizing to. Energize through the right arm and left leg while gently energizing through the top of the right foot. Extend the left arm over the left shoulder and focus on breathing fully and deeply through the entire torso. The second variation is pictured and is done with the right arm under the right shoulder and both legs extended from the hips, flexed at the heels with the entire body facing front. Energize the grounded hand as you reach through the left hand, and energize through both legs from the heels while lifting the quadriceps in and up. Breath into the pose and recognize what is taking place within the body. The nice thing about practicing Vasisthasana, or Side Plank Pose, is that you don’t even realize you are building the core as you would in traditional sit-ups. Happy Side Planking!!
We are quickly approaching the Holiday season! And typically with the Holiday season comes more social scenes, parties and lounging time. We may find ourselves eating foods that are rich, sugary and outside of our typical diet. We may also find ourselves sitting and relaxing a lot with family and friends. When the body becomes stagnant things like digestion, circulation and stiffness set in. We can enhance our detoxing, digestion, circulation and muscle elasticity with a little bit of Yoga twists this Holiday season! A Yoga twist is very beneficial for the entire being. First, a Yoga twist targets digestion. When we twist we compress the digestive organs and limit the flow of circulation. The juiciness of the Yoga twist comes when we release the twist. A full, fresh supply floods the digestive organs bringing with it more nutrients and more oxygen while the old supply is squeezed out. Twisting is also extremely beneficial for the suppleness of the spine. We keep the muscles and surrounding connective tissue open and stretched when we twist. Anatomically, Yoga twisting is also very good for opening the chest which eases anxiety and depression enabling us to step into the world with more ease and confidence.
Why We Always Twist to the Right First
Always start a twist by compressing the right side of the body first. Anatomically our colon, or digestive system, ascends on the right, transverses across the top, and descends on the left. Therefore, we always want to twist right first and then left as to go with the flow of digestion.
In the photograph is the Yoga posture, Matsyendrasana, or Seated Spinal Twist. Begin by sitting on both Sitting Bones evenly. Extend your left leg long from the hip, flex from the heel of the left foot and engage mindfully through the left quadricep. Pull the right knee into your chest. In variation one, you will leave the right foot to the inside of the left thigh with the right toes pointing toward the front of your space or the same direction that your left leg is extended to. To work a little bit more challengingly, pull your right leg in toward your chest and lift it over the left leg placing it on the outside of the left thigh or calf (never at the knee joint) with the toes facing forward. Then, lift up and out of the waist and twist toward the bent leg ensuring that you are twisting from the bottom of the spine to the top. Place your right hand behind your hips and gently push down to lift up. You can place your left upper arm on the outside of the right upper thigh with the fingers pointing toward the sky. Keep the Collarbones nice and open and continue lengthening from the Sitting Bones to the top of the head. Breath gently and deeply while acknowledging how the twist feels in your body. Gently release from the top of the spine to the bottom of the spine and twist in the opposite direction creating a de-rotation before coming into the opposite side. When you are finished both sides pull the knees into the chest and give yourself a gentle hug. Happy Twisting!
My Maui Yoga invites you to flow into a sequence designed to open the hips, strengthen the core, arms, and legs. While we move about our day sometimes life creeps up on us and we get lost in what we are doing. Take 20 minutes to freshen the whole being while targeting those areas that get tense throughout the day such as the hips, legs and core. This sequence was designed with all levels in mind however, it can be modified if you are new to the practice. You are welcome to take any of the Yoga postures in the video and practice them a little longer. When we practice Yoga at least once a day, even if it is just one pose, we enhance our entire being. We move the lymphatic fluid and blood around increasing our circulation which also brings more oxygen to all of our tissues. Yoga calms down the central nervous system allowing us to think more clearly. Developing and strengthening our muscles enables us to protect our organs better and to also prevent injuries and brittle bones. Remaining active is key to feeling better in our bodies. Please follow the cues carefully. The right side is always activated or compressed first as to follow the motion of digestion. For example, you start the standing poses with your right leg forward first and you start the twisting poses by compressing the right side first. This is because the colon ascends on the right, transverses across the top, and descends on the left. We always want to follow this pattern as to not disrupt the flow of digestion. This video was filmed on the West side of Maui in Kapalua. Please make sure that when you practice, you are comfortable. Most people prefer a mat and/or a towel. You may also use a folded towel as a prop to create more cushion where you need it. Enjoy your practice! Enliven from within.