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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

Yoga Challenge Pose: Sukhasana

Yoga Challenge Pose: Sukhasana thumbnail

Sukhasana (Easy Seat)…it looks so simple and well…easy.

And it is easy for some people to get down on the ground and basically sit cross legged for a breath or two but staying in the pose and working the breath as well as the mind is where it gets tricky.

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Here’s the breakdown on the challenge…

Find a quiet spot. It can literally be anywhere. My home practice, for example, is on my back porch until the weather gets too cold. This morning was a wee bit chilly!

Grab your phone or some other sort of time keeper and set the alarm for 10 minutes.

Get quiet.

Get still.

Let go.

Just Breathe.

Give yourself 10 minutes of eyes closed, quiet, breathing and allow just your breath to be your single focus (Prana Vidya). Focus on long slow inhales and long slow exhales for a good 5-10 breaths (actively lengthening the breath and matching your inhales to your exhales – Pranayama). Then let go of all the effort of breathing. Just let your breath rise and fall naturally.

The simple act of sitting still for a length of time without worrying about what’s happened or what’s to come is difficult for so many of us in our daily lives. Our days are spent in a perpetual state of movement full of multitasking and achieving.

Yet we crave down time.

We crave peace.

We crave quiet.

This is your challenge – to simply “be.”

Be your breath. Let every single part of you relax and soften with each inhale and with each exhale, let go of  whatever is plaguing you.

Take the full 10 minutes (no cheating) and practice every day for the rest of the month.

Then tell me you don’t feel better. :)

One more thing…you can do this challenge sitting in a chair with soles of the feet on the floor.

If you want to get into your easy seat on the floor but Sukhasana isn’t an easy place for you to be for a full 10 minutes, prop up your sits bones with a blanket or block or even a bolster for comfort and ease. If the knees are lifted, you can place a folded blanket under each knee for added support. You can also sit with a wall behind you for support and to remind you to stay lifted from your tailbone up the length of your spine and out the crown of your head.

Benefits to Sukhasana (Easy Seat) are many but they are easily outweighed by the benefits of meditation (even if it’s only 10 minutes a day).

  • Calms the brain
  • Strengthens the back
  • Strengthens the core muscles
  • Stretches the knees and ankles

Chunky Guacamole Deliciousness (Costa Rican Style)

Chunky Guacamole Deliciousness (Costa Rican Style) thumbnail

Chunky guacamole deliciousness or what I like to call, “goodness in a bowl” is one of those recipes I snagged from the ladies who cook for us while on yoga retreat in Costa Rica.

When I decided to make this at home and got into researching the different ingredients I was blown away by how GOOD it is for our insides. It’s not only a fiesta in the mouth, it’s a bowl full of vitamins and minerals and nutrients we all need. Love that!

And…it’s simple to make. I’ll go ahead and say “your welcome” now because you are going to love how simple this is.

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Recipe as follows:

3 or more chopped fresh tomatoes (any variety you like…I used red and yellow because it’s what I had on hand)
2 avocados chopped
chopped fresh cilantro to taste
juice of fresh lime to taste
garlic powder (optional)
salt
pepper (garlic powder, sale & pepper…all to taste)

Now, you have to experiment a little with this to get the taste and flavors to your liking. There really isn’t any measuring that goes into it except you want an almost equal portion of tomato to avocado. For the recipe above that calls for 3 tomatoes and 2 avocados, you might want to start with the juice of half a lime then work your way up. You want a little lime tartness to compliment the cilantro.

This can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner and takes, literally, 6 minutes to make. Goes great with eggs, over fried green tomatoes or as a chunky dip!

It won’t keep long in the fridge so eat up :)

Why you want to eat this…

  1. Avocados contain glutathione, a powerful antioxidants that helps fight free radicals in the body.
  2. Being rich in antioxidants, avocado is beneficial in preventing aging symptoms. The glutathione in avocado may boosts immune systems, slows aging process, and encourages a healthy nervous system.
  3. Avocados are rich in folate, a B vitamin commonly known as folic acid. One cup of avocado provides about 23% of the recommended daily value of folate. The high amount of folate in avocado is essential in the prevention of birth defects, such as neural tube defect and spina bifida.
  4. Phytonutrient compound found in avocados, such as polyphenols and flavonoids have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties, thereby reducing the risk of inflammatory and degenerative disorders.
  5. Avocados contain in excess of 25 essential nutrients, including vitamin A, B, C, E, & K, copper, iron, phosporus, magnesium, and potassium making them one of the healthiest foods you can eat!
  6. Cilantro leaves possess good amounts of antioxidants, essential oils, vitamins, and dietary fiber, which help reduce LDL or “bad cholesterol” while rising HDL or “good cholesterol” levels.
  7. Cilantro is one of the richest herbal sources for vitamin K; provide about 258% of DRI. Vitamin-K has a potential role in bone mass building by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bones. It also has established role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in their brain
  8. Tomatoes are widely known for their outstanding antioxidant content, including, of course, their oftentimes-rich concentration of lycopene. Researchers have recently found an important connection between lycopene, its antioxidant properties, and bone health.
  9. Fresh tomatoes and tomato extracts have been shown to help lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
  10. Limes (and lemons) contain outstanding phytochemicals that are high in anti-oxidant and anti-cancer properties. They are potent detoxifiers with anti-biotic effect that is protective against bacterial poisoning.
  11. Even though lime/lemon juice are sour and taste acidic, it is actually very alkalizing in the body and is highly effective in the treatment of inflammatory disorders like rheumatism, arthritis, sciatica, etc.

Healthy AND delicious! What’s not to love???

Let me know how this turns out for you and feel free to experiment around with different ingredients!

Paripurna Navasana (Boat Pose)

Paripurna Navasana (Boat Pose) thumbnail

Navasana is a big, warming, vigorous pose that I find empowering! There is nothing small about it and it’s a reminder to be the biggest best version of ourselves. Playing small doesn’t work in Navasana.

Navasana

Here’s the how to:

  • Find a comfortable seat on your mat with legs extended. Root down into the mat with your sits bones (those two bony prominences that you sit on when seated).
    — modification: bring a folded blanket under the sits bones. This will help you stack your spine and grow taller as you root down with the sits bones. Blanket under the sites bones helps with any curvature that might present itself in the low back.
  • Bend each knee and place the sole of each foot on the mat in alignment with your sits bones. Bring your finger tips to the mat (elbows pointing back) and lean slightly back keep the rooting action with the sits bones happening along with a long spine (no curving in the low back) – lengthen tailbone out the crown of the head. It’s important to check in here and see where your body wants to grip and hold. Try to breathe into those areas.
  • Open your chest and relax your shoulders down. Lift the pelvic floor and pull navel to spine. Reach one arm forward, then the other. Keep a long spine and shoulders sliding down your back toward the sits bones.
  • Begin to lift first one leg keeping shins parallel to the floor, then the other. Keep the knees bent to start with and check to make sure you aren’t rounding in the low back or crunching the shoulders to the ears.
    — modification: keep the feet on the ground or if lifted knees bent. You can also take the back of the legs/knees with the fingers if the arms aren’t ready to reach quite yet but remember to keep the strength through the core of the body and no rounding in the low back if you are holding the backs of the knees or legs with the fingers.
  • Begin to straighten the legs. You might need to rock back just a little bit more but keep that spine long, and belly strong. Reach forward with the arms and spread those fingers wide. As you reach up with the legs and feet, try bringing the big toes together and spreading your toes wide.

Remember you are reaching forward and up into the biggest and best version of yourself!

Breathe! Find your long slow inhales and long slow exhales. Aim for at least 5 big breaths here.

If at any point and time you feel anything unwanted or unhappy in your low back (remember we don’t want a curvy low back here), bend the knees or bring the toes to the mat.

Beginners tip: Work the pose with knees bent and feet on the mat, arms reaching to start with. Once you feel super comfortable with 5 long inhales and 5 long exhales then move onward to lifting each leg but keeping the knees bent. Once this is easy, then move to the fully extended legs. Take it in small steps!

Variation tip: to switch things up with this pose a little and get into the inner thighs, practice holding a yoga block between your thighs.

This pose strengthens the deep hip flexors that attach the inner thigh bones to the front of the spine. Learn to anchor the heads of the thighs bones deep in the pelvis and lift from that anchor through the front spine. Remember that the lower front belly should never get hard.

If you liked this pose and found it useful, please share it using the links below or leave a comment letting me know how this pose worked for you!

Yoga Challenge Pose – Eka Pada Koundinyasana II

Yoga Challenge Pose – Eka Pada Koundinyasana II thumbnail

This arm balance reminds me a little of break dancing. :)

It’s a fun way to deepen our pose of the month Anjaneyasana and it’s great for arms, wrists, belly and spine. The official name of this challenge pose is Eka Pada Koundinyasana II. I shorten it in the video description to Koundinyasana.

ekapadakoundinyasanaII

Ok…if you are working this for the first time, be sure to stop where you need to! Give yourself space and time and know that with practice, it comes.

Remember to get good and warm prior to beginning to work on this. Five-ish sun salutes will get you just right or better yet, add it into your current practice. The most important thing is to have fun with it. Don’t stress!

Here’s a yoga tip (sort of a yoga cheat) – When you find your chaturanga arms, bring the back of the elbow on the same side as the back leg into/under the sidebody. It will give you a little leverage. Also, you’ll notice my cheek is pretty much on the floor. Rock forward and let the cheek rest then you can focus a little more on that leg behind lifting. Once you have the lift, straighten back out and shift your gaze forward. Hold and breathe.

If you have any wrist issues or low back problems…this pose is not a good one for you. Always, always, always….listen to your body and honor it.

Here we go now…

Did you give it a go? Leave a comment below on how it went for you!

Turmeric Tea Recipe – What You Should Be Drinking Every Day! thumbnail

I LOVE cooking and feeding people. I believe food is medicine and we are what we eat.

Ever notice how you feel sluggish after eating certain things? Think Thanksgiving dinner. Or how GOOD you feel after eating clean, unprocessed, nutritious food?

For me, I find it’s more difficult to flip upside down if I’m eating a less than healthy diet. For my body, that means excess cheese, meat and carbs. But if I’m eating what is considered a “healthy” diet these days…no meat, raw & cooked vegan…I am more apt to feel unstable and disconnected in my practice, prone to not sleep well and not as strong. The BEST diet for me and my body is basically some “happy” meat and vegan (mostly cooked, limited raw).

It’s taken me years to figure this out!

I’ve been vegetarian, vegan, meat eating, pescatarian, raw…you name it, I’ve tried it. But I love to try new things and I love the chemistry with the mixing of ingredients and how it impacts our bodies.

What I know, without question, is that everyone is different in what they need. Each of our bodies has a unique chemical makeup with specific nutritional needs – this is especially so if a person is on any type of medication.

There is no one-size-fits-all diet/healthy eating solution. Period.

So…because I love chemistry (geeky, I know!) and what know from experience what happens in the body with a regular yoga practice and know how what you eat can and does impact your state of health, I’m studying holistic nutrition and am adding it to my list of credentials. :)

If you are coming on retreat this year to Costa Rica, you’ll be enjoying a few delicious and nutritious treats that I’ll be cooking up in addition to jungle yoga and meditation!

I wanted to share with you one of my go to tea recipes. I call it Yogi Tea as it was created and handed down from the old school type yogis in India.

The recipe was passed down to me from a yoga teacher and I refined it just a little for taste.  It’s made using Turmeric which, if you don’t know, is the rock star of anti-inflammatory spices and can be added to soups, chicken, fish, veggies…anything, really that you are cooking up in the kitchen.

But this tea is my go-to remedy for anything that ails. Seriously. It’s safe to take daily as much as you like and easy to make. It knocks out any  type of inflammation in the body (from creaky joints and stuffy noses to arthritis and the full on flu…it even helps with hangovers).

The only warning is this…it’s a serious drink, not for the faint of heart. In the west, we don’t really have a palate for turmeric so it might take a little getting used to but it’s no exaggeration to say it will take care of all those little and not so little aches and pains.

Here’s the tea recipe:

  • Hot water (boil it then turn it off)
  • 1 Teaspoon ground Turmeric per cup of tea (sold in the spice aisle at your local grocery)
  • Raw Honey to taste (raw, local honey is best)
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
  • Ground black pepper

turmerictearecipe_Collage

Here’s how you make it:

  • Put a Teaspoon of Turmeric in the bottom of a mug
  • Slowly add the honey and mix it with the Turmeric until it forms a paste. You can opt to leave the honey out if you want to forgo any type of sweet but if you are new to Turmeric you might start with the honey then ditch it when you get used to the taste.
  • Add the hot water but keep stirring the mixture while pouring in the water
  • Keep stirring once the mug is full
  • Add lemon juice to taste
  • Add pepper to taste
  • Stir more and continue to stir as needed while you drink as the Turmeric loves to settle at the bottom of the mug and you want to slurp as much of that goodness in your body as possible.

About Turmeric and why this tea is so amazingly good for you…

  • Current research identified Turmeric as a powerful anti-inflammatory, comparable in effectiveness to any anti-inflammatory drug currently on the market.
  • Studies show it’s especially effective in the management of arthritis pain
  • It’s an anti-oxidant and liver detoxifyer/protector
  • Natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties (helping to keep infection at bay)
  • Soothes upset stomach
  • Facilitates protein digestion
  • Helps manage weight and aids in fat metabolism
  • Used in Chinese medicine & Auyerveda to lift mood in cases of depression
  • Natural pain killer
  • Preventative against flu viruses
  • And studies have shown that it helps reduce the side effects of the chemo drug paclitaxel

Enjoy your tea!
Sonya

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