Yoga

5 Insider's Tips to Handstand

With consistency, practice, and perseverance we can accomplish a great deal of things.  So in the spirit of building strength and flexibility here are 5 more tips that you can use in your practice to build up to handstand.

If you missed tips 1 - 5 check out this blog post.  

Handstand Tip #6


Refining our ability to get into handstand. In the beginning we focus on the basic shape and alignment principles of a pose. The more we practice, the more we refine our skills. To get into handstand with more ease, it's important that the shoulders are open.

1. Face a wall and place your right hand on the wall at shoulder height. (Make sure the crease of the wrist is parallel to the ceiling.)

2. Press through the four corners of your hand. Especially press the mound of the index finger.

3. Stand tall, keeping the space from the hips to underarms (side bodies) long.

4. Maintaining that length, keep the head of the right shoulder back and slowly turn towards your left.

5. * Bending your elbow slightly will make it easier to keep the head of your right shoulder rooted back.

6. Now try this on your left side.

 

 

Handstand Tip #7

We need to be courageous of heart and strong in our confidence! We've been practicing, we can do this! In addition to open shoulders you need to stay strong in your core. There's a tendency to let our ribs pop forward when our arms go overhead. Watch out for this!

1. Stand with your back against a wall.

2. Using a yoga block or full tissue box works too 😉, place the block between your hands and gently press into the block.

3. Bring your arms parallel to the floor, drawing the arms in socket (the backs of the shoulders are touching the wall), hands still gently squeezing the block.

4. Slowly reach your arms overhead.

5. Keep the sides of your waist moving back towards the wall and tailbone lengthening towards the floor. Engage your belly.

6. If your ribs pop forward and you over arch the back, don't reach up all the way yet.

 

 

Handstand Tip #8

Being able to adapt to the moment is a wonderful gift. When we become more flexible physically, we find our thoughts and attitudes are also more flexible. We start to see things from another's perspective with greater ease. If one way doesn't work, we pause, breathe, and become open to another solution.

This movement will help us to open up our side bodies and build a greater range of movement through the shoulders.

1. Stand with your back against the wall.

2. Arms alongside the body, palms forward.

3. Keep the backs of the hands on the wall and slowly make a snow angel - reaching your arms over head.

4. If your hands come off the wall, don't go any higher. Keep the sides of the waistline moving back and your tummy engaged 😉

5. Slowly return back the same way you came up.

 

 

Handstand Tip #9

We've spent some time increasing our flexibility and ability to adapt in the previous tips. But without strength, we'll come across as wishy-washy. We must be strong in knowing who we are and feel confident in the choices we make. In order to hold your handstand you need a strong core. Let's get to playing!!

1. Lying on your back, arms alongside you, palms face down.

2. Start with both legs at a 90 degree angle to the body.

3. Knit the ribs back towards the floor and keep the lower belly engaged.

4. Lower your right leg to a 30 degree angle.

5. Check in, is your rib cage popping up and back over arching? If so lift your leg a little higher.

6. If you can keep the ribs from popping up and the back in neutral (belly is engaged) continue to lower your leg until it is 2 inches above the floor.

7. Bring the right leg back up and now do the left leg.

8. For a greater challenge, extend your arms overhead, backs of the hands on the floor.

9. An even greater challenge is to do both legs at once.

 

Handstand Tip #10

Building a strong core (practicing Tip #9 will help or even Tip #3 from my previous blog post) will help you to build the courage you need to go back into upside down box (see Tip #5 here for more details on Upside Down Box).  After you have consistently practiced Tips 1 - 9, this is the next step.  I highly recommend you have a friend spot you in this pose.  

  1.  In Upside Down Box, look at the floor between your hands.

  2.  Carefully lift your right leg away from the wall. 

  3.  Keep your right legs, shoulder, and wrist all in a relatively straight line.

  4.  Avoid moving your right leg too far back, this will over arch the back, and you will lose the power from your core.

  5.  This pose is best done with a friend to spot you.  

 

Those are some of my insider tips to building a strong handstand practice.  Stay tuned for our 21 Day Challenge starting April 1 - 29 Challenge (challenges will be posted on Instagram, Facebook, and via the newsletter) where we will use these tips to build core strength, boost our energy, and lift our spirits!  I hope you will join me in this special journey, you are sure to see a difference in the way you feel and look at life!

Keep playing!

with love,

Burn Out or Chill Out

Avoid Burn Out

Do you ever have that moment where you walk into a room and wonder why you’re there?  What is it that you were looking for?  How about that moment where making a choice seems to be impossible and you just want to sit down and cry?  Or my favorite - everything you try just seems to fall apart at the seams.

Our plate is more than full and yet we feel that there is no choice but to keep going.  As we keep going and dropping things along the way, we keep our fingers crossed that nothing will break, but it usually does.  We can only juggle so much at a time.  Pushing so hard makes us more susceptible to breaking down ourselves - maybe through illness, great fatigue, or lack of inspiration.

This is a signal that we have pushed beyond our limits and are moving into distress.  We become so stretched, it’s impossible to do anything well.

At this point I question, how can I keep moving forward in a graceful manner?  

Taking a break to prioritize what’s most important can be helpful.  One of the best things we can do, to avoid breaking down and getting sick, is to listen to that deep cry coming from within.  That cry that tells us to rest, pause, and heal.  

What can we do?  Or better yet, how can we “be”?

Chill Out with Restorative Yoga

There is a practice called Restorative Yoga.  It is designed to help us when we are feeling exhausted, overworked, distressed, and uninspired.  These are yoga poses that help us rest and relax deeply.  We are supported by props, there is no effort, no movement, and we have an opportunity to calm the mind.  We can even do these poses when we are recovering from an illness or a great sadness.

So this restorative yoga, what’s it all about?  

It’s a practice of deliberate stillness.  We lie down over a set of props (blankets, pillows, yoga blocks, or belts), and we allow the physical body to settle.  Tension and stress in the muscles start to melt away.  We tune in to the rhythm of our breath and allow the sound of the breath to bring us more inward.  We become more aware of our thoughts. And using the breath we can release the thoughts that no longer serve us, allowing them to float to the sun.  And then visualize the beautiful golden light of the sun washing over us and filling us with that wonderful feeling of warmth and love.

I would love to share with you one of my favorite restorative poses.  It’s great to do on those days where long hours were spent sitting or standing.    

 

Legs Up The Wall

This a gentle inversion pose where the legs are higher than the heart.  Listed below are 5 different ways you can try this pose at home.  From a very simple form with only the wall as a prop to using many yoga props.

I have videos for getting into and out of this pose at the bottom of the post!  Check it out :)

 

Getting Into the Pose

  1. Sit sideways, with your right hip and shoulder, next to a wall.  Lean back on your elbows and slowly swing your legs up the wall as you maneuver your torso onto the floor.

  2. Your hips can be very close to the wall if the backs of your legs feel nice and open.  If you feel tension in the back of your legs, scooch away from the wall a few inches until you feel completely comfortable.

  3. Rest here anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.  Listen to your body and come out of the pose when you’re ready.  If you’re new to this, 5 minutes will be more than enough.

  4. Come down the same way you went up into the pose.  Bend your legs, roll to your side.  Pause on your side for a few breaths.  Then slowly come up to seated.


Alternative Versions

  1. Fold a blanket or two and place them a few inches in front of the wall.
  2. Sit on the blanket with your right hip and shoulder next to the wall. 
  3. Lean back and swing your legs up the wall.
  4. Your sit bones can hang over the edge of the blanket slightly.
  5. You should feel completely comfortable and at rest.
  1. Get into legs up the wall, as described above.
  2. Bend your legs into a simple cross legged position.
  1. Have blocks or books handy and prop one on either side of your hips.
  2. Widen your legs and allow them to rest on the blocks.
  1. I have a video below to show you how to wrap the belt around your legs.
  2. The benefit of the belt is that you can relax your legs even more and allow the belt to hold them in place.
  1. Start by lying down flat on the floor with bent legs.
  2. Lift your hips and slide a block underneath your sacrum.
  3. Your sit bones will hang slightly over the edge of the block.
  4. This pose is a little more work than legs up the wall.
  5. Remember you should feel completely comfortable.  If you don't, come down carefully out of the pose.

 

Legs Up the Wall - no props, just wall

 

Legs Up the Wall with belt

Benefits of Legs Up The Wall

Revives Tired Legs        

Simply taking the pressure off of your feet and legs and propping them up the wall will bring a relief.  Notice how the tension in the muscles slowly releases when you are no longer using them to hold you upright.

Reduces Water Retention and Swelling Around Ankles

The effects of gravity are reversed as you go into this gentle inversion.  Any fluids that have been collecting around the ankles and legs are released.  Your legs feel energized and lighter when you come out of the pose.    

Calms the Nervous System

You have an opportunity to move into a deep state of rest and rhythmic breathing.  Your body will move from being on edge and over stimulated to a place of deep rest.  You’ll feel the all tension and distress melting away.  

Quiets the Mind and Reduces Anxiety

Being held in a safe position and moving into a deep rest enables us to take a look at the thoughts moving across the landscape of our mind.  We are in the moment and paying attention.  We now have the ability to let go of the thoughts that are not serving our highest.  Release them in a balloon and let them float to the sun.

Greater Clarity

After staying in the pose for an extended time, 5-20 minutes, you will notice your breath has become more even in nature.  The extra thoughts that had cluttered your mind have dissolved.  And you have more energy from this deep rest.  The mental fog will have cleared and solutions become more visible.  


I invite you to try this pose and in one word describe what it felt like.  You can comment below on this post or over on my facebook site www.facebook.com/irenakmiller.  I look forward to hearing from you!  

 

Have a wonderful practice!


with love,


Where'd Your Spark Go?

Where'd Your Spark Go?

There are some days when we just don’t feel like ourselves.  Or maybe we wake up one day and realize that years have gone by and we still haven’t discovered that spark within.  Could it be that there are layers of marble covering our spark?  Maybe it’s just tight muscles and stiff joints.  Or maybe it thoughts weighing us down.  What can we do to find our spark?

 

Cultivating a Thanksgiving Heart

As practitioners of life, many of us have discovered that there are ways to bring about change.  Sometimes we change a physicality.  We need a lift, we get a new haircut, a new outfit.  We want to inspire ourselves to go to our mat and practice, maybe we put on our favorite yoga pants, play the music that gets us into our groove.  These are some of the external changes that can inspire us to move into the place we wish to be.

Then there are those times, where we know we need to shift our heart and mind.  We can’t control the external forces.  It may be raining outside, but we remember that the rain gives us permission to slow down.  Maybe it’s the garden’s blessing and it gets that much deserved watering and nourishment.  This is a heart and mind shift.  We train ourselves to see the good in the moment.  We look with our heart for the blessings.  These are the internal changes at work.

We have these tools and teachings we hold sacred.  We practice them on our sticky mats in class and in little day to day actions.  Then those big, heavy days come.  Those immense moments where we feel lost and battered.  And those lists of gratitude we write feel hollow.

What happens then?  

Let go.  

Step into the river and align with the Divine.  Feel the water rush over you.  Washing away the thoughts, ideas, feelings that no longer serve your highest.  Receive the support and help of the river currents.

Trust the process.  

Honor the currents in the river.  Realize that there is something bigger going on, bigger than we can possibly understand.  Trust that the river knows what it’s doing, where it’s going.  There is no need to fight the current and swim upstream.   Although, we always have that choice.

Become curious.

Look around you.  What are the river banks like?  Is there debris?  Sticks?  Logs?  Rocks in your path?  Is the current strong?  Gentle?  Is the water warm?

Ask questions and Follow the breadcrumbs.  

When we choose to swim with the current, ask for signs of inspiration or guidance.  Then open your eyes and heart to receive those signs.  Maybe it’s the bumper sticker on the car you’re following that gives you the message.  Maybe it’s in the book you randomly pick up or the song that pops on the radio.  Or the feather on your sleeve that lets you know your guardian angel is nearby.

By creating a day to day relationship with our practice, it becomes easier to rely on the practice when the big, heavy moments come.  We have been cultivating the garden of our heart and creating a relationship with our inner self, our helpers (angels, guides, saints), and ultimately God.   

Those of you who have been in my class will know my silliness and strong belief that we have helpers all around us, seen and unseen.  No task is too small for me to call on my helpers because I am developing a relationship with them.  So when I need help whether big or small, I will have a comfort level in asking.  I will know what to listen for and where to look.  And I’ll have the understanding of how they answer and help me.  I have a full heart in knowing that my prayers are always answered.

These small things might be lost keys and I will ask for St. Anthony’s help in locating them.  Or maybe large things.  My brother left his wallet on top of his car upon leaving the grocery store and drove away.  I asked for St. Anthony’s help and Tommy received his wallet in the mail!!  Only the cash was missing!  Hey, let’s just chalk that up as a finder’s reward.  The credit cards were untouched.  Identity intact!!

There are so many amazing stories and encounters that I’ve had!  Maybe I’m running late and I ask the runner guides to clear a safe path so I arrive safely at just the right time.  Traffic might be crazy and I ask for Archangel Michael’s protection as I drive.  If a sadness has settled over a friend, I’ll ask the joy guides to bring them an uplifting and happy surprise.  If there is tension or anger, I’ll imagine a golden light over my head and watch the peace settle over the conversation.  

So in these moments before Thanksgiving.  Where my heart feels heavy and my joy is hiding, I wonder what the Thanksgiving Grinch would be called?  Curious…..

This will be a Thanksgiving without my mom and little brother Tommy.  They will be feasting in heaven and sure to be visiting us in spirit form.  I know if I want to have a playful experience and connect with them I can.

Not long after Tommy had transitioned, I was driving home from teaching an evening class and thinking of him.  A song popped on the radio.  I thought, this is a sign, a breadcrumb, that Tommy is trying to ‘talk’ with me.  No, it’s me being silly.  Next thing I know, my eye is drawn to a beautiful black car.  I look on the back for bumper stickers. Ha!  No bumper stickers.  But as I doubt that I am really connecting to Tommy, I notice the license plates are West Virginia plates.  Wow!  Another sign! That is where Tommy died!  Nah, I tell myself, it’s just happenstance that this car is in front of me and has these plates.  Last minute, this car decided to make a turn.  It just happened they were heading in the direction of the cemetery where Tommy is to be buried.  Third time’s the charm.  I do believe we can connect to our loved ones on the other side and this was Tommy’s way of saying hello!

So when I slip into the swamp of sadness and feel like giving up, I’ll rely on my practice, my relationships.  My swamp will turn into a river and I will let go, not give up.  I will let the water wash away what isn’t serving me in that moment.  I will join in with the current and swim with the river.  I will be okay with the unknown and trust that something bigger is at play.  I will become curious.  I will ask for help and guidance and I will joyfully receive those messages and follow.

And my list of thanksgivings will come from the depths of my heart, infused with all the love and gratitude I have for how it all has blessed me.

With full heart I am:

Grateful for God and the peace that passes all understanding.
Grateful for my teachers and their teachings.
Grateful for my students and their beautiful spirits!
Grateful for the friendships.
Grateful for my patient, steady, and loving husband.
Grateful for my funny, intelligent, and creative son.
Grateful for my intuitive, curious, and brilliant daughter.
Grateful for my doggie, Gracie, whether she’s pouting, smiling, or resting on my lap as I write this.
Grateful for my family.
Grateful for life.

 

Divine Love moving in and through me,
Blesses and multiplies
All that I have,
All that I give,
and All that I receive.
And so it is.