Yoga tidbits: handstand prep

Today’s yoga tidbits and on this afternoon’s menu for my 4:30pm at Solfire: handstand prep, the no kick-up zone. It is about taking it slow, steady, and calling on consistency to balance on those palms.
Take it to the wall, but not by way of kicking up. This is about strengthening, engaging, and steadying yourself facing the wall. I used to practice and teach kicking up to the wall for handstand prep and I’ve taken a firm stance to not do so, for several reasons (not to say it’s not right for you, but for me, it’s just a no-go). My kick-up to the wall, heck, even away from a wall, provided me with quite the banana-back habit. Often bowing out into a backbend. Which works beautifully for many. For me, it became impossible for me to feel my balance and it’s been a hard habit to break. I’ve lessened my deepening back bend practice, in order to strengthen my front and back body. It can start simple, with a fiercely strong plank, I love taking a cat-back plank, for example. One of my favorites, perhaps most challenging and testing of patience to balancing on your palms, is facing the wall, like pictured. Doing so, helps build strength in your front and back body, shoulders, legs, etc. See if you can feel your booty weight and hips up over your head. Palms planted firm. Draw your ribs in and down towards your hips. It’ll feel tricky at first, maybe for some time, since inversions require us to wire our brains from a much different perspective, the world is upside-down, give your body, brain, and the mechanics time. Lots of time and practice.
You can try a variety of phases:
Down-dog facing wall, one leg presses, top left photo.
Bent-knee taps at the wall.
L-stand at the wall.
One-legged L-stand at the wall.
Shift into balance by kissing your ankles together.
As with learning anything new, give yourself a healthy dose of rest at night, yes, SLEEP! You will literally recharge and re-wire your brain to remember the tools for your next application. Whether it’s this yoga thang or studying or savoring memories from a beautiful day with loved ones. Ya’ll need to rest your bones and your brains.
And play every damn day! #yogathang #yogatidbits

stephynow

Today's yoga tidbits: in lieu of shoulder stand, try this

Yoga tidbits: In lieu of shoulder stand, stay here. Stay here if you are someone that spends the day at a desk, hunched over, or if you spend much of your time cranking your neck looking down at a phone screen. The invitation is not always to take yourself to the textbook fullest expression of a posture. I believe it’s important to evolve the practice, if it calls.
In today’s world, we tend to hunch over our laptops, bend to pick up children, and look down at our phone screens, etc. Sometimes we need to back up and off traditions. Not necessarily to question the practice or the benefits. There are many wonderful benefits to shoulder stand. However, if you spend most of your day looking down, please stay here propped up on a block or lean your legs up onto a wall. In the Western world, many of us have a lot of tension built up around the neck, shoulders, and down the back. The inversion benefits are here with a neutral spine. Lean into your body cues, how you live your life, and you’ll be syncing your intuition within the practice. I promise you this. It is all loving. Science and evolving, if we choose to be open to such findings and nuances. #howtoyoga #trustyourself

stephynow

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