yoga

Release the Frenzy and Ground in Gratitude

Instead of chaos, anxiety, and missing out, connect with gratitude.

There are days when everyone wants to get your attention. Look over here, buy this, do this, jump here. It's impossible for you to be in so many places at once. What can happen is that you end up feeling at a loss. What has passed you by?

Breathe. Ground. Listen.

If it is meant to be, if it is so important and vital to your well being, it will find a way to you at just the right time.

The key is to connect to the peace that passes all understanding that is within your being. That place where the anxiety and worry fall away. The place you need to be in order to make good decisions. Decisions that you won't regret. Decisions where you weren't pressured because of time or worry.

Before you let crazy emotions push you in the wrong direction - root in love with gratitude.

Here is a quick 8 minute meditation to help you connect with love and gratitude to the people in your life. Notice how you feel before and after the meditation. 

With lots of love and so much gratitude for you.

Namaste.

Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

"Dedicate yourself

to anything that

elevates

and

embraces your heart."

from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (1.39)

 

FOR WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS,

THERE WILL YOUR HEART BE ALSO

Matthew 6:21

 

heart cave irena yoga

Have you heard the story of the two monks?

Two monks go for a walk in the woods. Now mind you, these are monks who have taken a vow of silence and celibacy.

They are enjoying the beauty of the trees, the birds singing, the rush of water, when they hear a young lady crying.

Soon they come upon her at the river's edge.

Seeing her distress, the first monk asks her, what is the matter? The second monk is aghast, how could monk number 1 break his silence?

The young lady must cross the river, yet alas, she cannot swim and it seems impossible that she will ever get to her destination. Monk number 1, picks her up and brings her safely across the river. After much thanks to the monk, she goes on her happy way.

Monk number 2, is practically having a seizure. How in the world could his buddy have broken so many rules? He is righteous in his indignation. Now he must break his vow of silence and let monk number 1 know how wrong he is in ways!

For miles and miles, monk number 2 rattles on about the horror of it all! Finally monk number 1 turns to him and says, "You must be awfully tired."

Surprised by the comment, monk number 2 says, "Excuse me?"

"Why I put that young lady down miles ago at the river's edge. Yet you continue to carry her.", replies monk number 1.

water drop vibe irena yoga

Who are you carrying? Is it worth the frustration?

Put down the unhelpful things, the thoughts, the emotions that are just dragging you down. You have the power to turn things around before it becomes a giant snowball of unhelpful emotions. Because if you hang out in the land of frustration and grumpiness, you're certain to find many more things to be upset about.

Instead of hanging out in the "bad neighborhood", become aware of those moments when you are saddened, angered, or wronged by someone. Will you let it ruin your whole day? Or will you leave it by the river's edge and enjoy your day? And high tail it back to your happy place, where more joyous moments will make their way to you. 

It's up to you.

Know that the sooner you catch yourself carrying these unhelpful things, the easier it is put them down.

Remember, to preserve openness of heart and calmness of mind, focus on those things that lift your spirit. That make your heart sing. Or find something to laugh about. Laughter is great medicine.

 

laughter irena yoga

Your Turn

Make this a game, be playful, don't take it too seriously. Whatever pushes your buttons today try this on for size:

  • Take a deep breath.
  • Place the incident in an imaginary balloon.
  • On the exhale, let the balloon float to the sun.
  • Imagine golden light washing over your whole body.
  • Focus on something that makes you smile.
balloons irena yoga

Let me know how it goes.

Lots of love to you and great big hugs!

irena miller yoga

More Travel Yoga for Road Trips

Stuck in a car for a long road trip?

To keep yourself alert for long road trips and feeling good physically, try these yoga poses!  

If you missed the first Travel Yoga post, check it out Yoga For Travel Blog Post and add even more poses to your happy traveler routine!

 

Downward Facing Dog

Tip # 1 - Tight legs? Stiff Shoulders? Try this.

  1. From table position - on all fours, hands beneath shoulders, knees as wide as hips.

  2. Root the hands firmly into the ground.

  3. Soften between the shoulder blades.

  4. Curl your toes under, lift your hips up.

  5. Stretch from the base of your heart all the way up and back through your hips.

  6. Draw the lower belly in and root from your sit bones down through your heels.

  7. Take 5 - 10 breaths.


3 Legged Dog

Tip #2 - Use this inversion and reinvirgorate fatigued legs

  1. From Downward Facing Dog, slowly lift one leg high to the sky at a time.

  2. Hold for 5 - 10 breaths and then switch sides.


Handstand

Tip #3 - Getting Sleepy? This will boost your energy and increase alertness.

  1. Practice common sense and caution when you kick up towards a handstand. It might be wise to have a wall to kick up to or a spotter.

  2. From downward facing dog, hands firmly planted, lift one leg, and keep it straight, this is considered the back leg.

  3. Looking at the ground, strong arms, soften between the shoulder blades.

  4. Bend your supporting leg (or front leg) a little, focus on the inner thigh of the back leg, and hop up to a handstand.

(Please Note:  For most of us Handstand is a pose that requires many hours of studying under the guidance of a good teacher, and lots of practice in a controlled environment. For those who do handstand as part of their regular practice, it is so amazing to do after being seated for so long.)


Upward Facing Bow

Tip #4 - The ultimate pick-me-up!

  1. Lying down on the ground, legs bent, feet hips distance wide.

  2. Plant your hands next to your ears, beneath your shoulders, fingertips pointing back towards your feet.

  3. Draw the head of the shoulders back, hollowing out your under arms, and engage your upper back muscles.

  4. Press down through your hands and feet and slowly lift away from the ground.

(Please Note:  Like Handstand, the Upward Facing Bow is a pose that requires many hours of studying under the guidance of a good teacher, and lots of practice in a controlled environment. If it is a part of regular practice, it is invigorating to do after being squished in a car for many hours.)


Manifest Your Dreams

SANKALPA MUDRA

Use this Yoga Mudra to set your resolve, take courage in your heart's dreams, and bring your dreams to life.  

Mudra means seal.  

And not the mammal, who swims in the ocean.  Think of the seal as either the instrument you use to make an impression or the impression that is left behind.  

You can align your body in such a way, that you become like a seal (again not the cute little whiskered faced seal that loves to sun on the rocks).   But like the instrument, with all it's grooves.  Creating pathways for the wax to pour into and take shape.  Then see yourself like the wax impression left behind - a result of the way you shaped your body, heart and mind.   Instead of wax though, Grace was able to pour in, and it take the shape of your heart's resolve.  

Why we would do that?

The idea is to align your body, thoughts, and mind in such a way that you focus on your dream.  Not the naysayers or the doubts that like to creep into your mind.  

Instead, you realize dreams take courage.  If courage is not involved, it's merely a wish.  Something that is hoped for.  A dream is a passion hidden in your heart.  Unseen by the world and maybe on occasion spoken about.  

To bring this dream to the surface, takes courage, tenacity, and action.  

Not everyone will believe in it - that's not what counts.  

 

What does count is that YOU BELIEVE & take action

 

How do we do this?

The left arm crosses your body, giving you the strength and courage to turn into your heart. Left palm faces up, ready to receive the blessings that come when you take action on your heart's desire.  Recognizing that the road ahead is paved with challenges, we set our resolve.  The right hand, palm facing down, roots down on the left.  

Anchor yourself in this moment.  Make a commitment, a resolve to continue forward on this adventure.  When times get tough, come back to the Sankalpa Mudra.  It will guide you back to your courage, remind you of your heart's passion, and ultimately connect you with your resolve.

Watch the video to see it in action:

Happy Shoulders

Connecting to our Heart Song.  

With shoulder opening naturally comes heart opening.  The yogis knew that the physical state of our body will affect our mindset/emotions and vice versa our thoughts will affect our physical well being.  

Think of the grumpiest person you know.  Do they stand tall with their shoulders drawn back and chest wide open?  Do the corners of their mouth naturally turn up?  If they did stand like that, how grumpy do you think they would be?

Think of the happiest person you know.  Is there a bounce in their step?  Do they light up in smiles when they see you?  Is their a twinkle in their eye?  

The way we carry ourselves will shape our experience of the world.

Scientific studies have now been done to prove that simply standing like Superman (hands on hips, elbows out, feet wide, cape blowing - ok maybe not the cape) will do wonders for our confidence.  They suggest you do this before giving important presentations.

 

So, hows about we just try a few simple yoga poses (with cape or not)  :) to lift our spirits!

Make sure to check out the next in this series of Knot Free Shoulders.

Pin these Happy Heart tips to your favorite Pinterest Board as a reminder!

 

happy heart tips

 

It's amazing, but a simple smile will do wonders for your spirit!  Charlie Chaplin knew what he was talking about when he said, "Smile though your heart is breaking."

I double dog dare you to try it!  Smile!  :)

 

navasana boat pose garden yoga

yoga routine for shoulders

before you move on!

Grab this free Happy Shoulders Yoga Video

All the Happy Shoulder Tips listed in the blog are interwoven into a quick 14 minute practice!  It's epic!  And we're playing yoga outside!  Listen for the woodpecker at the very end.  He wanted to add ambiance to savasana!  Ha ha!


Happy Shoulders 😄

TIP #1 - Happy Talk

shoulder release

"Happy talk, keep talking happy talk,
Talk about things you'd like to do,
You gotta have a dream, if you don't have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?" - Rodgers and Hammerstein, South Pacific

 

  1. Clasp your hands behind you.

  2. Bring your hands towards your right waist.

  3. Lower your right ear towards your right shoulder.

  4. Gently draw the shoulder blades and elbows towards each other.

  5. Breathe and switch sides!

 


Happy Shoulders 😄

Tip #2 - Pause and Reflect

windmill shoulder opener

At certain points on a journey, we get stuck. Pause, ask for guidance, reflect. What will happen is that we'll naturally soften and listen. When we make space for this, things start to flow once again.

 

  1. Grab a belt, rope, or tie.

  2. Hold the belt with your hands by your hips, about shoulder distance wide.

  3. Stand with your feet hips distance wide.

  4. Start raising your arms and pause when you get overhead. You'll probably be stuck. Breathe!

  5. Widen your hands farther apart until you can safely continue bringing your arms behind you and the belt to your bottom.

  6. Come back up the same way you came down.

  7. Try this at least 2 more times!


Happy Shoulders 😄

TIP 3 - eyes like an eagle

eagle arms garudasana

Eagle Arms/Garudasana

With eagle eye vision, colors would be more vivid, long distance vision superior, and we'd have the ability to almost see entirely around ourselves.

What do you need to keep an eagle eye on?

 

  1. Extend the arms into a T.

  2. Cross them in front of you.

  3. Place right elbow on top of left.

  4. Bend your arms and bring palms together.

  5. Take a few breaths and switch sides.

 


Happy Shoulders 😄

TIP 4 - Shift your Perspective 🙃

prasarita shoulder opener

Sometimes you just have to look at things from another perspective. 🙃

 

  1. Grab a belt or tie.

  2. Stand with your feet wide apart.

  3. Hold the belt behind you so that your palms face away from you.

  4. Lift up the through the chest, draw the shoulder blades towards each other and down the back.

  5. Fold forward and bring your arms over your head.

  6. Very important: continue to draw your shoulder blades towards each other and the sky, so that your neck is long.

  7. Pull your hands away from each other on the belt.

  8. Breathe! 😀

 


Happy Shoulders 😄

TIP 5 - Time to wake up

 

shoulder opener tennis ball

 

  1. Grab a tennis ball.

  2. Lie down and place the tennis ball beneath you.  Start on the left side, specifically in the space between your shoulder blade and spine (the rhomboid).  Begin with the tennis ball more towards the bottom of your shoulder blades.

  3. Lie on the ball and do your best to breathe.

  4. Maybe roll side to side, forward and back a little, or just stay put and breathe.

  5. After a few breaths move your body forward an inch.  This way the ball moves 'up' your back.  Repeat step 4.

  6. As soon as you get to about two thirds of the way up your shoulder blade, make things a little more interesting by placing some height beneath your hips.  You can use a yoga block or a little stool.

  7. Move the left arm around now.  Across the body, to the sky, overhead, out to the side.  Notice all the interesting sensations.  P.S.  This might be a little uncomfortable as you work into all those tight knots in the upper back.

  8. Move the body forward again, moving the block forward too.  So now the ball is at the top of your shoulders.  Repeat step 7.

  9. Remove all props, rest on your back for 3 breaths.  Feel the difference between sides!  Wowsers!  This is the best part!  Your back should feel more open and free on that left side now.

  10. Switch sides and have fun!  Those shoulders will be ready for swimming in no time!


If you liked these tips for Happy Shoulders, here are even more yummy yoga ways to create happy, stress free, no more knots poses.  Just click here for the More Happy Shoulder tips.

Yoga for Runners

Run for your spirit!

Anyone who has trained for a race or simply a big adventure can attest to the work involved in preparing for the big day.  The ups and downs of training, those moments when you question if it really is worth it.  Do you have what it takes?  Did you prepare well enough?  Are you ready?And then the day comes when we must step out.  

Pulling up our courage, music pumping, we stand in the crowd surrounded.  Just like sardines we pack in.  Excitement building and anticipation moving through like waves.  When can we go?  Then the noise sounds and we're off.   Feet shuffling, bodies knocking, we strive to find a rhythm.  Yet, the first few moments are spent walking - way back in my 10 minute a mile group.  Where will my opening be?  When will the crowd thin out?  And it happens naturally.  

There we are, all struggling for a foothold and just a few moments later we fall into our own rhythm.  You see the people who run for one another.  Carrying a friend, encouraging them with the struggle.  The bright faces of strangers who cheer you on.  The ones who show up on cold, early mornings to hold silly signs of inspiration.   I LOVE these people.  What an amazing display of coming together and cheering one another on.

I run races for the thrill of being with people who are going for big goals and the LOVE that is shared by cheering one another on.  Because when we all make it to that finish line, there's no sweeter feeling.  Whether we run across it on our own two legs, hands and knees, or friends carrying us.  We did this together.  We ran OUR race and we shared it with OTHERS.

If you ever find yourself shying away from certain adventures because the work seems daunting, surround yourself with uplifting spirits!  We are the company we keep.  So keep great company! :)

Thanks for being my uplifting company!  Here's me cheering you on with Don (my awesome hubby) photobombing.  In the words of Hans and Franz, "We're here to PUMP YOU UP!"

yoga for runners Irena Miller

You got this!

 

Have a blessed week!

These tips are wonderful for walkers, hikers, and gardeners too!

Chace, Lexi, myself, and Don's thumb :)     Flying Pig 2012

Chace, Lexi, myself, and Don's thumb :) 

Flying Pig 2012

Tip #1 - "Nothing will work, unless you do." Maya Angelou

parsvakonasana irena miller

We're getting ready for the Flying Pig here in Cincinnati! It's a wonderful adventure! So here's to all the runners out there! Keep going!

 

1. Find a tree, curb, or post.

2. Place the edge of your outer left foot against it.

3. Step your right foot out and line up right heel to left arch.

4. Bend the right knee over the ankle. Place your right forearm on your thigh.

5. Stretch your left arm along side your ear.

6. Keep pressing the outer edge of the left foot against the tree so you can lengthen even more through the left arm.

7. Switch sides!


Tip #2 - Make space for possibility. 

trikonasana irena miller

See it and believe it!! You've got this!

 

1. Find a tree, wall, or post.

2. Place your right toes near the tree and step your left foot back about 3.5 - 4 feet.

3. Line up right heel to left arch.

4. Now we play!

5. Right hand can reach for shin or ankle. Left arm the sky!

6. Or reach left arm towards tree.

7. Or reach right hand to tree and left arm to sky!

8. Have fun and be playful!

9. Switch sides!


Tip #3 - Spread your wings and fly!

reclining warrior irena miller

With open side bodies your breath will come with greater ease. More oxygen = more energy. 

1. Find a tree, wall, or post.

2. Place the edge of your left foot against the tree and step your right foot out about 3.5 - 4 feet.

3. Line up right heel to left arch.

4. Bend your right leg, knee over the ankle.

5. Lean back and place your left hand on your thigh or shin. Reach your right arm for the sky!

6. Switch sides!


Tip #4 - Meet Yourself in the Moment

garudasana irena miller

Eagle Pose is great for the IT band! And upper back - helping with deep breathing!

Meet yourself where you are in that moment. By meeting yourself at your edge, your maximum, you will grow. That edge will continuously move. There is no need to bust through our boundaries to make transformations happen. Give your 100% in that moment and the rest will come. 👍

  1. Bend your left leg and move your inner thighs back.

  2. Cross your right leg over and here are the options:

    • place the ball of your right foot on the ground - just to the left of your foot (so legs are crossed).

    • or press the outer edge of your foot against your shin.

    • or wrap your right foot behind your left calf.Now for the arms 😄 

  3. Reach our arms out like wings, palms up.

  4. Bring your arms towards your chest and cross left elbow on top of right. See if you can bring your palms to touch.

  5. Switch sides - legs and arms!

Don't take yourself too seriously. Remember eagles soar and move with the wind! It might be very windy where you are 😉

 


Tip #5 - Let's get this fire started!

fire log irena miller

Standing fire log pose!  This is a great one to keep those hips happy for running!

  1.  Bend your left leg and move the inner thighs back

  2. Place your right ankle on your left thigh and squeeze the inner thighs towards one another to stabilize the hips.

  3.  You can bring the hands to prayer position.

  4. Maybe you try to reach the hands for the ground.

  5. Enjoy and take 5 deep breaths 

  6. Switch sides!


Want more fabulous tips on how to keep in top running condition with yoga?  

Check out More Yoga For Runners here!  


with light and love,

More Happy Lower Backs!

Life is like a rollercoaster.  We have ups and downs, twists and turns, and every now and then we're thrown for a loop!  Our ability to adapt to the moment and respond instead of react will determine how fun the ride can be. 

We start to ask ourselves how graceful can I be as I go up and over that first hill when, woosh, it seems like the ground drops away.  When a snapshot it taken of me, will I be cringing with eyes closed (often this is my picture from the rollercoaster ride!), will my arms be high in the sky with mouth open in joy, or better yet will we be posing for our candid camera moment?  

When we look back over time and remember snapshots of our life, where are the moments you threw your arms up in the air and just enjoyed the ride?  How did it feel?  

We can't control what's going on around us, but we can choose how we respond to it.  I invite you to become more flexible and strong in your back with these tips below.  Something amazing happens when we work with our bodies, the effects spill over into our mindset.  Watch how a flexible and strong spine changes your view of the world.

Quick Question

Are you an arms up rollercoaster rider?  Or hold on for dear life kinda person?

I hold on to the bar and to Lexi (my little girl, who is a throw your arms in the air kinda gal!).  I am working on being more of a throw your arms up kinda gal.  Maybe I'll start with one arm this rollercoaster season.

Fill me in on your rollercoaster style in the comments below or over on my facebook page!

lots of love to you!

If you didn't see Tips #1-5, check them out on the Happy Lower Back blog post.  

 

Tip #6 - Windshield Wipers!

  1. Lie down with your legs bent, feet mat distant wide.

  2. Lower your knees to the right.

  3. Lengthen from your tailbone out to the right knee.

  4. If you're not feeling much of a thigh opening, bring your right foot closer to your right hip.

  5. To release the back even more, stretch your right arm alongside the ear.

  6. Take 5-10 breaths and switch sides.

  7. Smile! 😉


Tip #7 - Hero's Pose - Virasana

 

"I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people." Maya Angelou

  1. Begin with your knees very close and your feet a little wider than your hips.

  2. Carefully sit down between your heels.

  3. Make sure your feet are pointing directly back (imagine a line from the center of your heel to the second toe and point that line back.)

  4. Ok - the first 3 steps often are easier said than done. Take these modifications so you can smile here:

  5. If the tops of your feet or ankles are super uncomfortable place a rolled up blanket beneath them.

  6. If your bottom is not touching the floor or there is pain in the knees, place height (like a yoga block) beneath your bottom.

Practice and modify according to what your body needs.


Tip #8 - Malasana

This pose was so much easier when I was 3!  These days the squatting pose, malasana, has been a challenging one for me.  It's important to keep your heels rooting down into something rather than lifting your heels.  This is so much easier to do if your are wearing a pretty pair of heels!  If you don't have great high heeled shoes nearby, use a blanket.

Please note: you can do this pose with your feet wide or close together, just make sure your heels are resting on something and your knees and toes are facing the same direction.

  1. For fun grab a blanket, fold it in half and stand with your feet a little wider than your hips.

  2. Place your heels on the blanket , with feet wider than your hips, turn your feet out slightly, and slowly bend the knees lowering your hips.

*you can always place a little stool beneath your bottom. Or hold a weight in your hands, or even the edge of the coffee table to help counterbalance.

Have fun! Keep those heels down! 😀


Tip #9 - Pigeon Variation

It's so important to laugh!  Don't take yourself so seriously!  This pose is called "pigeon prep", but for the longest time one of my students thought I was calling this pose "pigeon crap"!  Agh!  Needless to say they don't smile so much when we do this pose.  :)  But in their graceful way, they take it in stride and find something to be lighthearted about.  Like giving the pose an endearing nickname.  So here's to the parts of life that aren't always comfortable but help us to grow!  Keep smiling, it gets better.

  1. From downward facing dog swing your right leg forward.

  2. Bring your right knee to be a little wider than your right hip.  

  3. Square your hips to the front and work those right toes - pressing the tops of them towards the floor.  Keep the left toes curled under.

  4. For this variation, keep your chest upright, heads of the shoulders drawing back.

  5. Very slowly, as if a string were on your right inner thigh - one inch above the knee, lift the knee away from the floor.

  6. Lengthen from the belly back through the right heel.

  7. Switch sides!

 


Tip #10 - Pigeon with Thigh Stretch

Ok, this pose will make your eyes sparkle.  And it shouldn't be tears!  It should be the light of mischief that goes on inside your noggin.  You might think, as a pigeon, who would I bless?  Oh, it's all in silliness!

  1. From downward facing dog swing your right leg forward.

  2. Bring your right knee to be a little wider than your right hip.  

  3. Square your hips to the front and work those right toes - pressing the tops of them towards the floor. 

  4. Bend your left leg and reach back for the outer edge of the foot.  You can look over your shoulder initially and even turn your chest towards the left foot to help you find the foot.  If you can't reach the foot either use a belt around the foot or simply leave the foot on the floor for now.

  5. As soon as you have your foot - square your chest to the front of your mat once again.

  6. Press the foot into the hand (to engage the muscles of the leg) and then slowly draw the heel towards the outer left hip.  Here come's the sparkle!

  7. If finding your foot is easy.  Hold onto the inside edge of the foot.  Lift your elbow so it is pointing to the sky and then slowly rotate your hand in a clockwise direction over the top of your foot.

  8. Breathe.

  9. Switch sides.

 

with light and love,

Happy Lower Backs!

 The secret ingredient to an everyday happy lower back is open thighs - quadriceps, psoas (hip flexors), hamstrings.  If you are a runner, gardener, every day life liver then your legs are getting worked!  Muscles get tight and we lose range of motion if we don't balance out with a little lengthening and strengthening.

Any of the poses listed below are great to help relieve everyday back tension.  Give them a try after a long hike, gardening session, or just general spring cleaning.  

In the comments below, let me know which one worked best for you.  Which one do you like the best?  Which one is most effective for you?  Remember, listen to your gut instincts and modify according to your needs.  

Keep Yoga-ing!

 

Tip#1 - Hips and Thighs Don't Lie

High Lunge with Blocks

  1. Grab 3 yoga blocks (or you can hold onto the seat of a chair and grab one block).

  2. From a forward bend, your hands each on a block, step the right leg back.

  3. Slide the front two blocks back to be in line with your left ankle.

  4. Wedge the third block under your right thigh (an inch or two above the knee on the base of the thigh).

  5. It's nice to bring your left arm and block to the inside of the left leg - you made need to widen your left foot a few inches to the left to accommodate this action.

  6. Spread the back toes, soften between the shoulder blades, and lengthen from the core of your belly to the crown of your head, and from belly back through right arch.

  7. Now for the advanced part - turn the corners of your mouth up! 😊

  8. Switch legs!

 


Tip #2 - The Calf Smasher!

It really will help - once you get past the initial shock.  Breathe at least 10-20 breaths and you'll notice things get better. 

1. Roll up a sticky may (or firm blanket)

2. Wedge the jelly roll towards the back of the knees (top of the calves).

3. Sit back towards your heels (like you would for vajrasana/thunderbolt)

4. It might be a 'little' uncomfortable.

5. Breathe 10-20 breaths.

6. Slide the rolled up mat back towards the little space at the back of calves, above your heels.

7. This should feel much better!

 


Tip #3 - Ribbit

The half frog - Ardha Bhekasana. Sometimes we just can't take ourselves too seriously!  Laugh a little, live a lot,  love a ton!  and open up those thighs!

1. On your belly, bend your right leg.

2. Keep your thighs parallel and hips distance wide.

3. Right hand reaches back to hold onto the outer edge of right foot.

4. Press the foot into the hand and then draw the foot towards the outer edge of the right hip.

5. Lengthen from the belly to the crown of the head and from belly back through right knee.

6. Breathe.

7. Advanced option: turn up the corners of your mouth 😉

 


Tip #4 - Shoot for the Moon

"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." Norman Vincent Peale

Modified Warrior 1

1. From a high lunge, place the heel of your back foot against a wall.

2. Keep the front leg bent to a 90 degree angle.

3. Square your hips and reach your arms for the stars!

4. Actively extend from your belly through the back leg and press that heel into the wall.

5. Lengthen from the belly up through the finger tips and breathe!

 


Tip #5 - It's Not Over Until the Pigeon Sings!

Variations on Pigeon II (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana II)

Now some people like to call this the screaming pigeon.  I find that name just scares all of us!  :)  Why not sing instead of scream.  Although I have been to some very interesting concerts where you could question singing versus screaming.  

  1. It's nice to have two blocks for this one and blanket or towel for your back knee.

  2. Starting from table, your hands on the blocks, slide your left knee back, about an inch from the wall.

  3. Place the top of the left foot on the wall (make sure your toes are pointing right up to the sky).

  4. Swing your right foot forward and plant the foot flat on the floor.

  5. Walk your hands and blocks a little to the left diagonally and see if you can lower down to your elbows or blocks.  (This is going for right inner thigh and hamstring, maybe the front of the left thigh too.)

  6. Your hips will move away from the wall.

  7. Come back up to your hands and slowly walk them back, moving your hips towards the wall.

  8. Maybe you keep your hands on the blocks, maybe you bring them up to rest on your right thigh.  Or maybe if you need more stretch, reach them all the way up to the sky.

  9. For even more opening, keep the hips square, muscles engaged, and move the hips forward away from the wall moving towards a backbend.

  10. Switch sides. (Hold each side 5 - 10 breaths.)

Sing your heart out!

 

If you're back is feeling happy, then you won't want to miss these extra Happy Lower Back Yoga tips.  Just click here to see more!

with light and love,

5 More Tips to Forearm Balance/Pincha Mayurasana

5 More Tips to Forearm Balance

Part of the joy to practicing yoga and life is learning.  There is always something new to learn.  Life never needs to be dull, we simply chart a course, prepare, practice, and play!  The 3 p's!  

If there is a dream you have in life it is important to take the time to sit with it.  Let it stew for a little while, not too long, and then start asking questions.  Look for answers.  Test that information and see what works for you and what doesn't.  Take note and watch how you get closer and closer to manifesting your dream!

In the spirit of always learning and going on adventures, here are 5 more tips to the Forearm Balance pose.  Try them on for size and remember, it comes down to showing up.  There is no fast path, no shortcut.  What fun would that be?  Where's your sense of adventure?  So I invite you to give it a go!

Tip #6 - Discipline = Freedom

It can be difficult at times to go to our mat and practice.  Maybe we create excuses, maybe we have legitimate reasons that keep us away.  This is when it becomes beneficial to make an appointment for yourself on the mat.  Everyday whether it's a few minutes or an hour, go to your mat.

Many times this creates the structure we need for a strong practice.  It fosters discipline and we find freedom. Our bodies are more energized and open, our minds calm and clear.

We will use the belt to create discipline and strength in the arms.

  1. Take a belt and make a loop. Make it as wide as your shoulders.

  2. Wiggle the belt up your arms - above your elbows.

  3. Plant your forearms on the floor.  Elbows beneath shoulders.  Hands, palms down, in line with your elbows.

  4. Soften between your shoulder blades, curl your toes under.

  5. Root through the forearms and lift the hips up and back.

  6. Your forehead will most likely rest against the belt.

  7. Take a few deep breaths and then rest in child's pose.

 


Tip #7 - Stay strong, stay bright, and share the love!

It's best to develop a strong inner core and sense of self.  We cultivate a relationship with ourselves and become strong in who we are and the gifts we have to share with others.  Then it is easier to be welcoming to others and celebrate their gifts.  We say yes to life!  And as life comes rushing in we practice viveka - discernment.  The things that enhance life we continue to welcome in.  Those things that diminish our light we say no to.

Forearm Plank with Block

  1. Starting like we did in tip #2 (click here for a refresher).

  2. From table, place your elbows on the floor beneath your shoulders, palms gently squeezing block.

  3. Root through the forearms, especially the underside of the wrists.

  4. Soften between the shoulder blades.

  5. Walk your knees back about 10 inches.

  6. With toes curled under, draw the belly in, move sides of the waistline towards the sky, and carefully lift your knees away from the floor.

  7. If you're breathing steadily and your back feels safe, lower one knee at a time towards the floor.

  8. Stay strong and lifted through your core.

  9. With good form hold just the forearm plank for 5-10 breaths. Or tap the knees to floor 5 times each side.


Tip #8 - Integrity in Action

The goals we have set in our lives can be great motivators.  But what happens when you want to achieve a goal so desperately that your are tempted to cut corners?  We lose integrity, stability, and trust.  This upside down forearm balance requires patience in our practice and realizing that to rush the process robs us of the true treasure - trust and confidence in ourselves.

  1. Stand with feet hips distance wide and parallel.

  2. Using a yoga block (or full tissue box). Stand with arms bent, elbows close to ribs, forearms parallel to the floor. Place the block between your hands.

  3. Slowly maintaining the bent armed position, rotate the arms (hands gently squeezing block) so the elbows point more to the sky.

  4. Maintain integrity, by keeping the sides of the waistline back (avoid popping the rib cage forward and overarching the back.)

  5. If you lose your core and arch the back, don't go so far.


Tip #9 - "What's in the way IS the way." Mary O'Malley

From Mary O'Malley's book, What's In the Way IS the Way"titled above:

"To open to the way things actually are, rather than always trying to make Life be what you think it should be, is the most courageous and healing thing you can do."

Upside down pigeon box will give you an opportunity to face your strengths and weaknesses along with fears and hopes. Which will you follow?

  1. After practicing tips 1-8, this will be a little friendlier. It's always nice to have a friend nearby to spot too!

  2. By a wall, come down to baby dolphin with the block between the palms. The ball of your foot touches the baseboard.

  3. Root through your forearms, look at the floor between your forearms, and soften between your shoulder blades.

  4. Lift your hips up, then slowly reach a leg up the wall. You can start higher than your hips and then walk your feet down to hip height.

  5. Again root through your forearms, upper arms resist as you press the center of your chest towards the wall.

  6. Press the tops of thighs up towards the ceiling to create a lift and lightness in the upper body.

  7. If you feel steady and a little saucy try lifting one leg away from the wall. Keep pressing the forearms down and reach up through your heel to get your core working!

  8. Breathe and smile!  This too shall pass. 


Tip #10 - Rise and Shine!

The time has finally come to put our practice into play.  I have a teacher who says, "Show up and Grow Up!"  Now is the time!  All the preparation from the previous poses has brought us to this place. 

This is one of my favorite variations for getting into forearm balance.  You'll notice that the head is down and your gaze point is towards your toes.  

  1. Facing the wall, come into baby dolphin (Tip #1 - click here to see it in action).  Knees beneath hips, shoulders over elbows, soften between shoulder blades, and palms around block.

  2. Palms gently squeeze block as you lower the crown of your head towards the floor (it may touch).  Soften between the shoulder blades.  

  3. Root through the forearms, curl the toes under, and lift your hips.

  4. Press the back of your head against the block, look at your toes.  Step your favorite leg in and just like the handstand tips (click here for a refresher), using the strong bent leg push off and swing your straight leg to the wall. 

  5. Once both feet are on the wall, press down through your forearms, slide your heels up the wall and to the sky.  You might find that your head has lifted a few inches above the ground.  If this is the case look between your forearms to the floor.

  6. Breathe!

  7. Come down the same way that you came up.  Lower one straight leg to the floor and then the other.


Feathered Peacock Pose - Pincha Mayurasana

Here's one of my favorite variations - palms squeezing the block.  Traditionally the palms are flat on the floor.

Strike a pose!

Our 21 Day Challenge starts today, April 1!  It will run from April 1 - 29.  (Challenges will be posted on InstagramFacebook, and via the 21 day challenge 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!

Sign up here for the FREE 21 Day Yoga Challenge!

with light and love,

 

 

 

5 Tips to Forearm Balance/Pincha Mayurasana (Feathered Peacock Pose)

5 Tips to Forearm Balance

 

 

"Being colorful", boy that phrase can pack a wallop!  It’s not always meant as a compliment.  Yet, when I think about some of the colorful characters I’ve encountered in my life - they are the ones that seem to be most alive.  They are the people with the sparkle in their eye.  Mischief in their grins.  And adventures in their back pockets.  You know you’ll be living when you are around them.

So why is it that we avoid being colorful ourselves?  Or maybe it’s just me :)   I love colorful characters and am always drawn towards them.  They are like the peacock waving those brilliant feathers that seem to hypnotize you and draw you into their orbit.  They have developed a comfort being in their own skin - bien dans sa peau.

They know that they will not please everyone and at times might even offend by sharing their true colors and thoughts.  But the colorful characters I'm drawn to are the ones who act from the heart. The words they share come only if they are necessary and the timing is right.  They cut right to the heart of the matter - no wasting of time.  They act from the place of LOVE.

These are the wise ones who know how to step in and offer healing words and salves.  Why?  Because they know their true hearts and they can see that place of love and goodness in others.  They are the helpers in the crisis and chaos.  There is no hesitation to jump in and offer service.  Remember dear ones,  it isn’t all bravado.  There are big feelings these colorful characters must work through too.  Thing is, these bright beautiful souls are the willing ones.  Willing to show up and do the work.  They know they will fall at some point.  Then with a smile, they pick themselves back up and start again.  

I invite you.  Join me in this playful journey of learning and practicing the feathered peacock pose.  Let’s find our colorful selves my possums!  :)  (Bonus points if you know the colorful character that term of endearment comes from!)  

 

Tip #1 - Find Out What it Takes

The path to Forearm Balance (Pincha Mayurasana) is one of patience and tenacity.  We have to know that we're going to fall down on this path.  It's part of learning.  The question is, can we fall with Grace?  And with what heart feeling will we rise back up and try again?  Fall down 7, get up 8 with a smile :).  

We start at the beginning with baby dolphin pose.

  1. Using a yoga block or full tissue box is a wonderful addition.

  2. Start on your knees and lower your forearms to the floor. Elbows beneath shoulders. Hands shoulder distance wide.

  3. Place a yoga block between the hands. Thumbs up, palms gently squeeze the block, outer edge of hand roots into the floor (especially the underside of the wrists).

  4. Looking between your forearms, soften between your shoulder blades.

  5. Move your hips back a few inches and lower your head, so your ears are inline with your arms.

  6. Take a few deep breaths.


Tip #2 - Anything precious is worth the effort and the wait.

Patience and perseverance.  

This pose continues to be a challenge for me. Oddly enough I did experience a breakthrough when I was 7 months pregnant.  Big bellied, center of gravity completely shifted. I was waiting for my precious little one to arrive.  Journeys need time.  Be patient with yourself.

  1. Starting from where we ended in Tip #1.

  2. On your knees (that are hips distance wide), place your forearms on the floor (elbows beneath shoulders, palms gently squeezing a yoga block).

  3. Soften between the shoulder blades.

  4. Look between your forearms.

  5. Maintain the upper body's actions, curl the toes under, and lift your hips up and back.

  6. Root through the forearms, lengthen from the base of your heart all the way up to your sit bones.

  7. Anchor the outer hip creases back.

  8. Relax your head and neck - ears in line with upper arms.

  9. Breathe. Turn the corners of your mouth up 😉


Tip #3 - What's Wrong with Being Confident?

Pincha Mayurasana is also known as the feathered peacock pose.  And peacocks are known for strutting their stuff!  This pose requires that you tap into your confidence and self-esteem and share your beauty.  This can be unnerving for many of us to be so bold and bright.  Without the confidence we'll be too timid to try.  With too much confidence we will lack the strength to go the distance and find balance.

So with a playful heart we try to find the path of the middle.

  1. Take a belt and make a loop that is about as wide as your shoulders (or a little wider for tight shoulders) when it is folded in half.

  2. Slide one arm into the loop.

  3. With your arms behind you, slide the other arm into the loop and wiggle it up above your elbows.  

  4. Stand tall - lengthen from hips to underarms.

  5. With elbows slightly bent, draw the shoulder blades towards each other and down the back.

  6. Maintaining those actions of step 4 and 5 press the upper arms out into the belt.

  7. Keep the sides of your waistline drawing back - tummy engaged. Lengthen the tailbone towards the floor.

  8. If you can maintain all those actions, straighten your arms and lift them a little higher!

Shine bright like a diamond!


 Tip #4 - Soften and Ask For Help

A peacock feather can represent the eye of God and remind us that we are not alone in our journey. Because we have free will, it is up to us to soften, surrender, and ask for help when we need it. Remember you can always call on your angels.

  1. Set up 2 yoga blocks, shoulder distance wide. (No blocks? Try the coffee table.)

  2. Place the back of the upper arms on a block.

  3. Bring palms together as you walk your knees back.

  4. With torso parallel to the floor, gently press the upper arms down into the blocks as you soften between the shoulder blades.

  5. Lengthen from the base of the heart back to the sit bones.

  6. If your breathing is steady, fold your forearms toward your upper back and bring your hands towards the base of your skull.


Tip #5 - Rise from the Chaos

We practice and prepare ourselves for those moments off our yoga mat.  Those moments when our world is thrown into chaos and we still need to figure out how to function. What do we do when our world is turned upside down? Do we have the strength to go on? Which way is up? How do we rise from the ashes? This is where the beautiful feathered peacock pose comes in to help. Use the Dolphin push-ups to gain strength in your arms, upper back, and legs. And figure out which way is up as you are in this unusual upside down position. Discover that strength, hope, and faith that you possess deep down inside.

 

  1. Like Tip #2, start on all fours, place the elbows beneath the shoulders, this time gently interlace the fingers.

  2. Root down through the forearms (especially the under side of the wrists) and lift the hips up and back, allow your neck and head to relax.  Take 3 deep breaths.

  3. Look towards your hands and slowly lower your chin towards your hands.

  4. Lower as far as is breathable and keep the tummy engaged.  If you sag in your back or there is pain, you've gone too low. Only go to the point where you can maintain integrity in the pose.

  5. Root through the forearms and lift the hips back up .

  6. Your spine like a sewing needle goes up and down, while the shoulder blades engage - drawing towards each other and towards the hips.

 

 

Keep playing, keep trying, fall down 7, get up 8 with a smile.   

Stay tuned for our 21 Day Challenge starting April 1 - 29 Challenge (challenges will be posted on InstagramFacebook, 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!

Sign up here for the FREE 21 Day Yoga Challenge!

 

with love,

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,

Top 5 Tips for Handstand

Top 5 Tips for Handstand

I was completely uncoordinated and inflexible as a kid.  I was the one in the ballet class who couldn’t reach past my knees.  I had this huge sway back and there was no way I could ever tuck my tushie enough to please my teachers.  I remember eyeing my tall, flexible, and lithe classmates.  Erg!  It felt hopeless!

Over time, with practice and perseverance I found myself balancing upside down on my hands!  I want to share with you my Top 5 Tips for Handstands!

What's Irena Up To?

What's Irena Up To?

You may have noticed that I’ve been sending out more e-mails and posting more online lately.  It might have peaked your curiosity.  I know when my teachers change things up, I have a deep desire to know why.

Was something not working for them?  Did they find a better solution?  How are they approaching every day adventures?  What are they up to?

I am so grateful when these teachers share their daily path with me because it helps me on my journey.  It reminds me that we’re all learning and trying our best.  And how wonderful it is when someone finds something fabulous and shares it with us too!

So I wanted to let you into my world and give you the scoop.  ;)

Recognizing the Light Within

Visualize a beautiful flame that burns brightly and steadily within the center of your chest.  Imagine its colors, the reds, oranges, yellows, and bright blue at its center.  It creates a glow that illuminates the corners of your being.  This flame is unwavering and steady no matter how the winds blow and emotions roll.  To anchor and ground ourselves, we look within and connect to this light.
 

At this time of year it’s easy to get frazzled.  Time seems to be short, there is always something yelling for our attention, trying to get us to act, and to act quickly.  There can be a frenetic energy in the air that all seem to tune in to and rebroadcast.  Simply driving can undo a person.  Next thing we know, we’re tuned into the frenetic broadcast ourselves.  

Here’s the thing.  If you can take just the briefest of moments to pause, to breathe, and to visualize that flame in your heart center, you will be able to switch the dial.  You will tune into a new frequency of steadiness, hope, and love.  A frequency that comes from that light within, that peace that passes all understanding.  

It is possible to make our choices from our heart center and follow through with loved based actions.  Remember that moment when you were rushing and someone around you acted from their heart.  Maybe it was as small as holding the door open for someone or as large as the peacefulness in choice.  Calmly moving through the busy aisles and lanes, realizing that it will all work out.  

 

I had the most amazing experience with such a moment after a large yoga conference.  The conference had ended and we were all exhausted.  This was the first time this conference had been offered and there were the expected moments of extra confusion.  One was the shuttle to the airport.  A group of us were waiting for this shuttle, and waiting, and waiting.  Nervously checking our watches as time ticked by and no shuttle arrived.  Finally we flagged one down and climbed on board.  In the shuttle there were quite a few of us who were anxious, including myself.  What would happen if I missed my flight?  Please note, this was 15 years ago and I had only flown a handful of times at this point.  I figured if I missed my flight I’d be walking home!

Now the interesting thing was that even as the nervous, anxious energy was building in the shuttle I became aware of the one calm and smiling young lady.  Her light was bright enough to cause me to pause.  She chose not to jump into our worry.  What makes this fascinating is that her flight was the earliest out of the group.  Yet, she was OK.  She knew it would take a miracle to get her there in time to make the flight, but she wasn’t going to waste her energy worrying.  She sat with grace and lit up the shuttle.  Her peacefulness rubbed off on me and I realized that I needed to let go of the story I was building in my mind.  This story of worry.  Everything would unfold as it needed to and I could go on in grace or in chaos.  What would my heart choose?  What would my mind choose?  She became my beacon of light in this moment, a reminder of how the choices we make affect our lives and the lives of those around us.

 

When we connect to our own light, we can see others’ light more clearly and shine it back to them.  Know this, when people are truly seen, not just rushed by, but acknowledged and validated, they shift for the better.

You can be this bright light by offering a kind, uplifting word to the busy cashier, a cart to the shopper behind you, or sharing the beauty that you see in others.  You can become a mirror for the light within your friends and loved ones, reflecting their inner flame.  Remind them that peace is possible.  It is one of the greatest gifts we can give.  

 

Thoughts to ponder...

What is the source of your light?  How did your flame begin?  What fuels and inspires you?  What motivates you to share your kindness?  What is it like to make choices based on love instead of fear?

 

May your light shine brightly and bring hope and love to all those you meet.

May you encounter bright lights that remind you of the light you have within yourself.

 

I honor the place in you

which the entire universe dwells.

I honor the place in you

which is of love,

of truth,

of light,

and of peace.

When you are in that place in you

and

I am in that place in me,

we are one.

Namaste