Yoga tidbits: have a block party!

Today's yoga tidbit: have a yoga block party! 

This month I have been co-teaching a beginner's yoga series. Every Monday, we gather to meet, converse, and practice yoga. Part of instruction and what makes this workshop-style series a great success is the repetition of meeting with a small group of people to talk about yoga postures, bones, alignment through awareness, and what comes up in a yoga class. One of my most favorite things to do is teach yoga in this way, where the teacher-student relationship is like having one, big, loving dialogue on the practice. One of the best things we work together is understanding the poses in relationship specific to one's body. Offering modifications as the rule, not the exception. It takes seeing, feeling, and understanding what comes up physically and mentally. I've been really focusing on modifying the practice in accordance with a student's body. For example, length of your limbs and what to do when someone has really long legs and shooters arms and vice versa. One simple thing to use: blocks. Prop it up!

 

This tip is for anyone that has trouble stepping to the top of the mat from downward-facing dog. Use blocks to lift your base to create space.

1. Start with placing two block at the top of your mat, about shoulder-width distance apart. 

2. Take your palms down, press down and finger-squeeze your blocks.

3. Walk your heels towards the back of your mat, making the v-shape for downward-dog, melting the chest towards your thighs, drawing your naval in, tailbone high, and long hamstrings. Stay here for a few breaths, taking some wiggles, or bending your knees, and then steady yourself in preparation to the top of your mat. 

4. On an inhale, sweep your left leg high, flexing your foot, toes towards your chest. 

5. On the exhale, slowly, draw your knee into your chest, rounding your upper back (like cat pose), and step your foot between your palms (blocks). 

6. Dial your right heel down at about a 45 degree angle, separating your feet hip-width distance, creating space for your hips in preparation to stand tall at Warrior One.

7. Use your strong center to inhale your upper body to stand and reach your beautiful limbs high to the sky. 

 

I love to use blocks or have them close by as an option for every practice or class I teach. By bringing the earth higher (your base on blocks), you're giving yourself a boosting-lift in order to sweep and hug your leg into your body in order to step forward to the top your mat. It is also great to use blocks to practice jumping to the top of your mat in a vinyasa class. 

 

Sometimes, we need a few extra inches in our practice. Some of the greatest secrets in yoga has little to do with strength and flexibility and so much to do with anatomy (lengthy limbs, torso, etc). Having long limbs, aka genetics, is a bone structure thing! This is why looks are not everything in this practice. It is about understanding your body and feeling yourself in this practice that is truly everything. Give yourself a lift and have a block party! 

stephynow

it's only a body

It’s only a body.
This body that houses the innards of me. A body that once lived quite disconnected and abused; for purchase and gains and misuse from others. It’s this body that displays tom-boys scars and proven athleticism. This body that was - and still at times - mocked for its size and intake. This body is long and lanky and more often ungrounded and shaky. It is this body that has nourished life and birthed a child. This body on display has kept me moving and living. This is the body that longed for curves to fill out the womanly ways. This body unable to reach one point or another of standards untrainable. This is the body that is shaped from living, mothering, strengthening, and aging. This is the body I remain in and hold steadfast and high.
It is this body, I strengthen.
It is this body, I’ve reconnected.
It is this body, I love.
It is this body that is wrinkled, scarred, and resurrected. It’s taken years to learn what strength can do for the physical and the mental. I learned at the age of 19 that a 100lbs girl can save a 300lbs man 13ft underwater. I know now that strength is as much mental as it is physical.
Never stop showing up for yourself and your life.

stephynow

body movin'

You are safe because you are in your body. In this practice and in life, you are your greatest teacher. This past weekend, I taught a foundations workshop on the yoga "basics." I have write that word in quotes because they're not "basic" postures, they're really fucking hard. There's nothing "basic" about them. My daily personal practice is challenged by the same postures I've been practicing since day one.
We often listen to teachers as they fuse life metaphors on and off the mat. The thing is, life is challenging, the external world is coming at you even on days you don't feel like showing up. Some things you can control and others you cannot. In your yoga practice, meaning everything, functional movement with breath, you're challenging the internal world. You are the common denominator; not the teacher, not the cues, or postures. You. We have to come back to the greatest teacher, the self.
In a yoga class, you are co-creating this practice. The students beside you are your teammates. Your breath encourages your neighbor's breath. Your presence encourages your neighbor's presence. You are empowering each other to go deep, challenge, get to an edge, and take flight in an emotional release. This is the internal world of you. We can talk about alignment and refinement all day long, bust through myths, question others, and preach.
Mobility requires awareness, it doesn't show up and give responsibility to another. If something is feeling off or tweaked, don't do it. Simply pause, check in, breathe, and take seat of the teacher within, always. Let go of right vs wrong and feel yourself, the body is far more intelligent than we give credit. Allow the body to move energy, feel vulnerable, overcome obstacles, and calm the mind. And sometimes we have to rest the whys and just BE.
 
My teacher gave me the nudge of love when she said, "question everything, including me."
Empower yourself to know yourself, love yourself, and feel yourself. Don't give it away, call it back. You are your greatest teacher.

stephynow

I can and I will! lucy Activewear August blog post is up!

I can and I will! 

Your will power to do anything is how you do everything. Your will to overcome fear, your will to push your limits, your will to challenge yourself is closely connected with putting your heart in everything you do. Without heart, nothing gets done. 

This month's focus is - I can do anything! And...you can! Two posture that make me feel like "I can do anything" is forearm stand and handstand, and for very different reasons. 

The forearm stand was quite elusive to me, as a beginner. My brain said, "how is it possible? This does not make sense!" It became my "goal" posture as a way to work towards challenging myself through the unknown; physically and mentally. I had a daily working relationship with balancing on my forearms that left me feeling inspired every single time I fell out of the pose. With every fall, I learned something new. And falling is a part of the practice. When we are falling or failing, we are growing. Forearm stand intrigued me. It inspired me. And it awakened a drive within me to understand it. My handstand relationship was quite different, it made me feel anxious and it scared me. I would avoid handstands at all costs, if I could. Often times hiding behind other students in class in hopes that I would not be called to demo such a balance. Teachers have this innate ability of picking out students that do not want to be called upon during class. With handstands, the mechanics of balancing on the hands leaves a little less room for floor management than the forearms. I had to and still continue to work through my fear of heights and handstand is something I practice because it teaches me how to move through fear.

Today, challenge yourself to live in curiosity on your mat and push your limits to move through your fear. Whether it's learning a new posture, inviting a new lens or outlook, be moved by your attitude that you CAN do anything because you will it! Step outside, toss down your mat, and get upside-down. Fall, fly, and repeat! 

Read More

Can a yoga pose relieve period pain? My answer on elle.com

Elle.com asked me to chime in on period relief. Check out my favorite yoga pose for menstrual pain.

Article link and instructional GIFs here.

Moving around might sound like the absolute orst thing when you're sidelined with period cramps, but in this case, you'll be happy you did. "Oftentimes while I am going through mind-numbing cramps, I will lay flat out on my belly to get into Bow Pose," says Stephanie Birch, California-based yogi and photographer. "I used to curl up in a ball hoping for relief, but there is something so beneficial in lying face-down, adding weight to the cramping areas of the bod."

 

Source: http://www.elle.com/beauty/health-fitness/...