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Costa Rica Retreat & Early Morning Practice

Costa Rica Retreat & Early Morning Practice thumbnail

Here’s a little 45-ish minute yoga practice for you filmed on the fly in Costa Rica at Manu Villas & Spa. costaricayogasequence1_2015

Just fyi, this was filmed with my phone so it’s not perfectly scripted or edited!

My hope is that you’ll find it useful and fun! This particular sequence is great for any time of day you need a little boost of energy but it’s especially good for travel days when you have to spend copious amounts of time on a plane or in a car

The word that arrived and stuck with me on this particular retreat is,  “enlivened.” I felt enlivened by the lush green jungle, the soaking in the salt water pools, play in the ocean and of course our time practicing yoga.

How is it we forget to take time for ourselves to just be restored and rejuvenated and ENLIVENED by the depth and breadth of our practice?

Each and every retreat, we stop and take the time to really look deeply at what we hope to manifest and change in our lives. We use the positive power of meditation combined with the practice of Hatha Yoga to get clear then make a plan with actionable steps to create new healthy patterns in our lives.

What happens every year is flat out amazing!

I come back enlivened, inspired and ready. There is always new ease, receptivity and an excitement….the feeling of “being ready for whatever comes….”

If you haven’t been on a yoga retreat and are thinking about it, I have two words for you. Do. It.

Go get your name on the Retreat List so you’ll get updates first about the next retreat with 4 The Love of Yoga.

Costa_Rica_Retreat

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Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Leg Forward Bend)

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Leg Forward Bend) thumbnail

Accessible to almost anyone, Prasarita Padottanasana, is a favorite for lengthening the legs, working the abdominal muscles and engaging the bandhas.

While it’s contraindicated for anyone with chronic back issues, if you have sore back muscles from overexertion, it’s a wonderfully opening and relaxing pose. It’s also great for migraines and headaches!

Ok, let’s get to it!

There are NUMEROUS variations and modifications to this pose.

Prasarita Padottanasana

One of the main things to remember is to hinge forward from the hips (where the femur inserts into the hip socket) not the low back and keep the spine long.

Most likely, if you are practicing this pose for the first time or haven’t practiced much, the crown of the head won’t come to the floor. That’s perfectly normal and fine! You can get all the same wonderful benefits from using one of  the modification listed below.

To get into the pose:

  • From the front of your mat, step one of your feet back and turn toes slightly inward facing the side of your mat. If you have long legs, take a wide stance.
  • Press into the outer edges of the feet and lift the inner arches of the feet but remember to stay anchored into all four corners of your feet, especially the ball mound.
  • Bring hands to hips and draw the shoulder blades back and downward. I like to tell people to “puff up your chest,” and begin to fold forward sending sits bones back and keeping the spine long. You can bend the knees if needed! In fact, soft knees may be very helpful in getting into and accessing the deep core line of the body which you need in order to deepen into the pose organically.
  • Only fold forward as far as your body says to go. So…if that only brings your torso parallel to the floor or even higher, that’s your place to be.
  • Place your hands on the seat of a chair, on two blocks, on the mat or even reach through the legs as shown above if crown of the head comes to the mat.
  • Make sure the weight is located more in the ball mound of the foot and less in the heal but not so far forward you’ll end up in a forward roll.
  • Now, wherever the hands are, keep them there but push away and lengthen your spine (from the tailbone out the crown of the head). Lift the pelvic floor muscles and pull navel toward spine to engage mula bandha and uddiyana bandha. Then fold forward as much as is good for your body.
  • From the forward folded position, keep sliding the shoulder blades toward the sits bones to keep a long neck.
  • Breathe here 5 long inhales and 5 long exhales.

To release the pose safely:

  • Inhale your hands back to your hips and drop the tailbone downward while bending the knees slightly if legs are straight.
  • Keeping knees bent, roll up slowly pulling navel to spine and eventually stacking the vertebrae and bringing shoulders back over the hips.
  • Turn toes toward the front of the mat and step the back foot forward so both feet are parallel to one another at the front of the mat.

Now…for those modifications…

You can place hands on blocks (stacked if needed), on the seat of a chair, the back of a chair for support if the crown of the head doesn’t come to the mat.

You can also just keep hands and hips and work a long spine and belly muscles. If you take this variation, be sure to keep shoulder blades moving in toward one another and sliding down your back toward sits bones.

Take bent knees! This is important for keeping the stretch in the belly of the muscles in the back of the legs (hamstrings) rather than jeopardizing those muscle connectors (tendons & ligaments).

If the crown of the head comes to the floor…

  • you can walk the hands back to allow for a stretch in the upper back
  • bring hands to big toes taking yogi toe grip (first two fingers wrapped around the big toe from inside out)
  • place the palms down and walk them back in line with legs with fingers forward (in this position, you’d be making a triangle with palms being the bottom two corners of the triangle and the crown of the head being the top of the triangle)
  • you can even drop the forearms down and see how that changes things in your body

There are literally variations within the variations/modifications of this pose. So, have fun with it!

This is not a pose for you if you have chronic back issues/conditions. Or if you have any back issues, be sure you are practicing this pose with someone who knows your issues and the pose well enough to help you move safely.

As always, I want to hear how your practice is going! Leave a comment below and share!

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Doggy photobomb…don’t forget, yoga is fun! Remember to smile and enjoy your practice.

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From Stress to Stillness – 3 Easy Ways to Integrate Peace Into Your Life This Holiday Season thumbnail

Are you feeling it yet? The down slope into holiday madness strikes, generally, the day after Thanksgiving and we get to be the recipient of a most unwelcome gift: stress.

It really is the gift that keeps on giving and is a tremendous problem in our culture that pulls double duty during the yuletide season. Stress is, unequivocally, the MOST detrimental thing to our overall health and wellness. It’s been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, lower immune function and a plethora of lesser and more well-known diseases and ailments.

Lucky for us, there’s yoga. Or as I like to call it….yogaaaaaaah. :)  There are specific yoga techniques you can employ to fight stress.

1. Breathe

It’s one of the most basic and effect tools you can use. When we get into stressful situations, we very often hold our breath. It’s a natural physiological response. So…remember to breathe! Practice a breathing technique from yoga like the three-part breathe or my favorite Kriya Yoga Breath Meditation (listed below). Allow your breath to be your single focus for a couple of minutes. Even just focusing on your breath for this short amount of time will slow your heart rate and leave you feeling refreshed and clear. Best of all, you can practice this literally anywhere!

Pranayama (deep yogic breathing): Kriya Yoga Breathing Technique

  • Feel yourself connect through the soles of your feet if you are standing or sitting in a chair.
  • Find a long spine stacking shoulders over the hips allowing the chin to be parallel to the floor.
  • Imagine your breath is a pool at the base of your spine. As you inhale, pull the breath in a cool stream up the back of the body, between the shoulder blades, the back of the neck and end at the space just above a between your eyebrows.
  • Pause briefly.
  • Exhale out warm breath like a waterfall down the front of the throat, the heart, the belly back into the base of the spine.
  • Pause briefly.
  • Begin again pulling the breath up the back of the body as if it was a cool stream, pausing, exhaling warm air down the front of the body, pausing, etc, etc, etc….repeat 4 more times for a total of 5.

This quick pranayama will pull you back into your body, back into a little peace and leave you feeling very balanced and refreshed.

2. Move Your Body

In yoga there is a saying about the “issues in the tissues,” meaning we hold tension, stress and anxiety in our bodies. Notice how you might clench your jaw when you are angry or after a particularly stressful shopping experience your neck and shoulders are grippy and tight. Take time to move all that out by lengthening and strengthening the body. Yoga (and pilates and massage) are super effective at targeting those places where we grip so we can let go of all that stress.

Here are 5 Yoga Poses You Can Use To De Stress and Decompress

  • Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal) – Practicing Anjali Mudra in easy sitting pose (Sukhasana) is an excellent way to tap into a meditative state of awareness.
namaste!

Anjali Mudra in Sukhasana

  • Bitilasana (Cow Pose) – Easy, gentle warming of the spine
  • Marjaryasana (Cat Pose) – Massages the spine and organs in the belly region
Neutral Spine, Cow Pose, Cat Pose

Neutral Spine, Cow Pose, Cat Pose

  • Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) – Relieves anxiety helps you feel grounded
Triangle Pose

Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)

  • Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose) – Restorative to the whole body, promotes restful sleep, relieves tired, cramped legs and calm the mind.
Legs Up the Wall Pose

Legs Up the Wall Pose

Practicing yoga helps us find the ease, or sukha, in the present moment so that we can truly (and happily) kiss stress goodbye and enjoy each and every second we get to spend with our family and friends.

3. Be Mindful

In yoga theory, we talk about mindfulness…a lot. But really when we break it down and use it to deal with holiday stress, it’s not only effective but simple to implement.

  • Be mindful and aware of what your triggers are for stress during the holidays. We all tend to be on overdrive.
  • Don’t purposefully put yourself in situations that you know wreak havoc on you and your body. Think about what you are putting into your body as much as the situations and events you attend.
  • Take time to notice the true meaning of the season, the part that is meaningful and important to you and your family, and stick with that.

As always, if you found these tips helpful, please share! And don’t forget to connect up down below in the comment section and let me know how you used these tips or if you have your own tools that work for you during the holidays.

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Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) thumbnail

This basic pose Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) is a great one for the hips, inner thighs, outer thighs & low back.

I love to teach & practice this pose toward the end of the practice. It’s a little easier to sit when the body is warm and you can allow yourself to just drop into the hips as you fold forward to take it a little deeper and let gravity pull your upper body over your lower body. There are two (well, actually three) versions to practice here.

How to Practice Baddha Konasana

Version 1:

First, just sit with your feet together, knees wide. If you have any rounding in the low back bring blankets under your sits bones to allow the spine to lengthen  up. You want a long spine in this version and heels close to the groin area. If the knees aren’t low to the ground, bring a folded blanket under each leg/knee. This will give you the support needed to allow the legs to begin to open. If you have sandbags available (sometimes yoga studios have these) bring one to each inner thigh keeping the blankets under the leg. Open the feet like the are a book. Work the outer edges of your feet together while opening the inner arches with your hands. Lengthen from your tailbone all the way up your spine and out the crown of your head. Stay here for 1-3 minutes and breathe.

baddha_konasana

Version 2 Baddha Konasana – Taking it a little deeper!

Version 2:

To deepen Version 1, keeping the spine long and all that delicious alignment intact, begin to fold forward. Do not round the back! This is super important. You want to keep a long spine so if you find yourself rounding, back off and lengthen back up and out the crown of the head. The stretch will be situation in the inner thigh area. If the elbows come to the knees, you can use them to press the knees a little wider. Stay here 1-3 minutes and breathe.

Baddha Konasana

Baddha Konasana Version 3 – Going deeper still!

Version 3:

Taking it a little deeper still…from Version 2, if you are still there, lift back up to Version 1 (long spine, sits bones rooting into the mat, outer edges of the feet together, knees wide). You can bring the heels away from the groin area some in this version if it feels better but not so far away that you can’t still work the feet open like a book.

This time, round the spine forward. Pull the navel in deep to the spine and round your back as you fold forward working the crown of the head into the book you are making with your feet. You’ll most likely find the stretch on the outer thighs and maybe even some in the low back. As you fold forward, you may find yourself pulling forward by using your upper body. This is ok as long as you keep sliding those shoulder blades toward the sits bones ad down the back keeping a nice long neck. Breathe here for 1-3 minutes.

Benefits of Baddha Konasana:

  • Helps open up the lower back and relieves sciatica
  • Improves flexibility in the inner thighs, outer thighs, groin area and the knees
  • Prepares the body for meditative seated poses, which require more flexibility in the hips & knees
  • Helps to sooth menstrual discomfort (what’s not to love about that???)
  • Stimulates the abdominal organs  – the ovaries, prostate gland, kidneys and bladder
  • Alleviates fatigue

This pose is NOT for you if you have recent or chronic knee issues/injury , hip issues/injury or inflammation in the joins of the hips or knees.

Practice this pose for the month of November! Since it’s a seated pose, I find it more grounding and especially good for this time of the year. Typically, the air is drier in the Autumn of the year and things begin to cool down. Auyervedically speaking, this pose keeps the warmth in the body while simultaneously anchoring us to the earth (so to speak) so we won’t feel too dry (airy, fairy) or cold.

As always, let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below!

 

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Thai Coleslaw (Vegan & Raw)

Thai Coleslaw (Vegan & Raw) thumbnail

WARNING! This is addictive.

Seriously.

I could eat my weight in this stuff.

It’s amazingly good for you raw & vegan and the sauce actually tastes like bacon even though there is nothing remotely bacon-ish in this dish. It is a meal all on it’s own so you could eat it by itself, with a yummy soup or some greens and be good to go.

I can’t take credit for this recipe. It is a part of a detox/cleanse I did back in Jan of this year and I just added my own twist (mainly because I didn’t have all the ingredients in the fridge).

thaicoleslaw

Thai Coleslaw (Vegan & Raw)

In a large mixing bowl, combine:

3 cups finely shredded green or nappa cabbage ( I didn’t have nappa cabbage so I used a combo of romain, collards and kale….any cabbage though or green would be an awesome addition)
1 cup shredded zucchini
1 cup shredded carrot
1 bunch fresh basil leaves chopped
1 bunch fresh mint leaves chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves chopped
1 bunch fresh chives, chopped
1/2 cup raw, sunflower seeds or pumpkin

The Saucy stuff that makes it addictive and yummy…

In a blender, combine:

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup Bragg’s soy sauce or tamari
2 Tbsp agave nectar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic peeled
one inch piece of ginger peeled
1 1/2 Tbsp curry powder

Pour over salad and toss to coat. That’s it! So very tasty, easy to prepare and so very, very good for you.

If you liked this recipe, please share it!

The original recipe came from lovely Canadian, Sarah Heipel, Personal Trainer and Owner of Good Energy. Let me know h0w you like it!

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The Strength & Balance of Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)

The Strength & Balance of Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III) thumbnail

This month has me thinking about strength & balance and one of my favorite poses that truly reflects this is one of the Warrior Series Poses – Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III).

We need strength to keep our balance when things go awry in life. And doesn’t it seem like JUST when things are swimming along perfectly that something comes along that trows us off balance?

Yoga not only gives us the strength to hold the pose but it also gives us the strength to show up and protect our kids, our crew, our tribe. Strength can be the capacity to accept where we are wholeheartedly and be happy or make the commitment to change what needs to be changed in order to move forward. It can mean speaking your mind, sticking up for what you know is right for yourself or for someone else.

Being strong takes gusto, guts and fortitude.

It takes practice.

And that brings us to the secret of perfect balance – strength.

It is strength that keeps us upright, standing tall, fully balanced – both figuratively and literally. It is mental fortitude and focus as much as it is muscle, fiber and bone.

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Cue Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III)…

This is the perfect blend of strength and balance and good medicine for what life throws our way.

To get into Warrior III:

Always start with some sun salutes to warm up.

From Tadasana (standing tall at the front of your mat) bring your hands to heart center.

Find Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha (lift the pelvic floor – bathroom muscles/mula bandha & scoop your belly – navel to spine/uddiyana bandha).

Keep your spine long and the core of your body strong using those bandhas.

Hinging from your left hip just play around with what it feels like to start to lift the right leg out behind you (keeping it long) while allowing your torso to balance the weight of the lifted leg by moving forward (with long spine).

Your leg and torso will work like a lever while you pivot at the hip of the standing leg. Keeping the two balanced is really helpful – as the leg lifts higher, your torso moves the equal distance forward.

All the muscles of the standing leg will have to work to get into the pose this way. You might feel it all the way into the glute and hip.

Once you’ve gone as far as is comfortable for your body (remember, everyone is different so if your leg is only barely lifted and torso barely moving forward, it still counts!), begin to reach the arms wide or even long bringing your arms in alignment with your ears as you gaze down as your torso becomes parallel to the floor.

Keep a long spine and check to make sure that pelvic floor is still lifted and navel is moving in toward spine.

If your leg is fully lifted, square your hips (it requires a good deal of core strength to do this).

Keep the knee of the standing leg soft so you don’t lock out that knee and hyper extend it.

Allow your weight to be equal in the whole bottom of the foot that is on the ground (not just the inner or outer foot).

Try not to grip with the toes.

Stay there for 5 long inhales and exhales.

Notice what throws you off balance and what makes you wobble. See if you can hang with whatever that is and STILL keep your balance.

It can be tricky. Don’t give up. Keep practicing. Love yourself right where you are and be proud!

Be sure to work both sides of your body (left leg lifted then right leg lifted) using the cue points listed above. If you normally get into your Warrior III from another pose like high lunge or standing splits (which is how I like to teach it) give yourself the challenge of working the pose from the front of your mat as listed above. You might find you get access to new muscles and can deepen the pose that way.

To modify the pose:

  • Use a block or stack of books behind the leg that is lifting…you can touch your toes to the block for stability. You can also use a wall for this but you’ll need to be far enough away that the wall doesn’t inhibit movement.
  • Grab a partner! Start facing your partner with your hands on their shoulders and their hands on your shoulders. Walk back bending from the hips until your arms and torso create a “table top” then lift your left leg using the cue points listed above. Be sure to do both legs!
  • Use a chair for support. Place palms in the seat of the chair or on the back of the chair as you lift the leg. Just remember if you do this to keep your spine long, pelvic floor lifted and navel moving to spine.

The benefits of this pose in particular are outstanding:

  • Invigorates and energizes
  • Strengthens the legs, ankles, shoulders and back
  • Tones the entire body, but especially your core area (abdomen)
  • Improves memory and concentration
  • Encourages better posture

So…as always, let me know how it goes! What did you love about Warrior III and what part did you find challenging? Leave a comment below!

All well wishes!
Sonya

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