Fall week 2/6: Core

We focused on the core this week, although almost every asana and vinyasa between asanas involves using one’s core. May you move in your core power with a little help from the following practice! ūüôā

Bird-dog curl (Tuesday) or Downward facing dog to plank curl (Thursday)

Breathe out with the curl, and move slowly and deliberately. “Cinch” your waist as though tightening a belt around it.
Move into 3-legged plank pose first, then curl knee either to nose, or one or other elbow. Press ground away with hands and arch back during curl. Exhale on the curl.

Vasisthasana | Side plank on elbow (Tuesday) or on hand (Thursday)

Keep body in straight line – hips have a tendency to fall back in this pose. Be sure to keep elbow below shoulder, and press well into edge of forearm. Use lower oblique to lift lower hip and ankle.
This variation is the classic side plank, but only practice it if your wrist is not unhappy here. Holding the toe o the upper leg is a more advanced option. Be sure to not let the hips swing back.

Upward facing tabletop (Tuesday) or Purvottanasana | Upward facing plank (Thursday)

Placing a block between legs helps one avoid over-using glutes. Keeping chin in chest prevents neck issues from being exacerbated.
Keep thighs rolling towards one another, and place soles of feet on floor.

Lolasana 

Curl into C-shape, with bellybutton lifting up into spine. If possible, pull feet off floor.

Block under sacrum, extended leg(s): A great counterpose to all the abdominal work is to place the block under the sacrum. Adding the leg lifts shifts the pose into another core working asana.

Raise one leg to hip height, then raise it higher. If you can balance on block without using shoulders, raise one leg and place foot of other leg on thigh, sliding foot down extended leg.

~namaste,

Sylvia

Simple practices for breath and movement

(Follow the links in this post for additional information on each topic. Happy learning!)

How many times have you found yourself holding your breath while trying to learn something new, such a half-pass or gymnastics combination? Yes? Most of us have ūüôā

One of the gifts offered by yoga is learning how to breathe well, move, and perform at the same time. Importantly, we inhale and exhale with the mouth closed in yoga. Unlike exercise, such as running or pilates, yoga teaches practitioners how to meet stress with calm by activating the parasympathetic nervous system through breath.

In the first classes of our Tuesday and Thursday Yoga for Equestrians courses, we are focusing on the importance of connecting breath (prana, the life force) with movement. We also learn how to practice Ujjayi Breathing, Victorious Breath, a form of pranayama, or breath control, most used in the Ashtanga Yoga tradition, the form of yoga with which I began my journey over 20 years ago. Here are three simple and safe ways that one can practice breathing and moving:

Wave Breathing is safe for everyone, and can be practiced by cupping the knees or holding the backs of the thighs if that is a challenge. Exhale Рknees in. Inhale Рknees out. 

Cat/Cow¬†(or, for us: Cat/Sway Backed Horse!) is another good warm up for the spine and practice of connecting breath and movement. Really push the ground away and create a “Halloween Cat” with your back, including tucking the tailbone under (often, riders’ lower backs are tight and can benefit greatly from this movement). Keep elbows straight in Cow pose and draw the shoulders back.¬†Exhale –¬†round to Cat. Inhale – extend to Cow.¬†

Swan Dive to Rag Doll Rollup allows the back to stretch nicely and for the prana to really wake up (I’m embedding the link to the FB post of it, as the video is too large to upload to this blog). Engage your abdominal muscles well in all the movements. If your back bothers you, keep your knees bent even on the “dive” forward and down, and/or support yourself by putting your hands on your thighs, as is shown later in the video. Inhale – reach up.¬†Exhale – swan dive. Inhale and exhale as you slowly¬†stack each vertebra on¬†the¬†now under it and round up to standing.

Feel free to comment or ask questions below!

Happy practicing ~namaste, Sylvia