Category Archives: inversions

Day 30: Switching it up

Well, I don’t know about you guys, but Day 30 really snuck up on me.  I guess that’s what happens during this time of year!  But the yoga has been a great reminder to slow down and be in the moment, even if only for a few minutes each day.

Last night I was trying to decide what I should do for my last day of the challenge.  I knew I wanted to go to a class and not just do a Yoga Today class here at the apartment, so I checked the schedule at The Yoga Room.  The Astoria location listed a hot flow and an Iyengar class.  My first reaction was, “Darn, why isn’t there just a regular Vinyasa flow?”  But then I thought about it and realized that this is, after all, a challenge.  I should go outside of the box.  I decided to go to the Iyengar class.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Iyengar is a form of yoga developed by, you guessed it, B.K.S. Iyengar.  It is extremely precise and alignment-based and often utilizes props in order to help the body maintain proper alignment in each asana (pose).  My older sister Rebecca practices Iyengar almost exclusively; I have taken a few classes with her over the years and have discovered that, to put it mildly, it’s just not my cup of tea.  I find it to be too slow and choppy; I prefer more movement and flow (which, conversely, my sister absolutely dreads…but I’ll get her to a Vinyasa class one day :)).  However, you do end up learning a ton about your body in these classes, which is why I’ve said in the past that I couldn’t practice Iyengar exclusively, but it’s good to go occasionally for a tune-up.

"Seriously, Rebecca, vinyasa flow is awesome, you'll love it!"  :)

“Seriously, Rebecca, vinyasa flow is awesome, you’ll love it!” 🙂

It had been a while, which is why, upon rethinking my game plan for today, Tzahi’s Iyengar class sounded like a good idea.  Of course, within the first five minutes, I was quickly reminded why this is not my typical practice.  The focus for today was the movement of wrapping the inner thighs to the back of the body, of which we were constantly reminded as we stood in tadasana, urdhva hastasana, and parsvottanasana.  Times like these are when I just want to yell back to the teacher, “I AM wrapping my thigh!” or “I have NO idea how I’m supposed to do that!”  But then, it was as if the universe winked at me when he directed us to the wall to practice our full arm balances (a.k.a. handstands).  Sweet!  I went up a few times and felt pretty good, although my arms are definitely tired from all of the practicing.  Not to worry, however, because next thing I knew, the universe was giving me a huge hug when we were cued into Sirsasana (headstand) and Tzahi hooked up some straps to the rope wall and showed me how to hang…upside down.

You can pretend one of these people is me. :)

You can pretend one of these people is me. 🙂

Yes friends, the one thing that Iyengar has that vinyasa classes do not is a rope wall.  There are many ways it can be utilized, but up until today I had never used it for any inversions (though I had watched in awe in previous classes when fellow students easily strapped themselves in and let it all go).  Since I had told the teacher in the beginning of class that I wouldn’t be practicing headstand, he seamlessly set up the straps for me while I was resting after handstand.  It was a little nervewracking at first, but he guided me into it and before I knew it I was hanging upside down with zero pressure on my neck…total bliss!

I reluctantly came out of the pose and finished the class–which included more mind chatter about how much longer we’d have to hold a pose, but also a lovely supported savasana in supta boddakonasana (reclined bound angle pose).  All in all, I left class feeling more open and definitely more aware of my inner thighs.  Plus I’ve gotten a dose of Iyengar that should last a few months at least…

And that completes my 30-Day Challenge!  Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop yoga (or blogging).  I’m formulating a new challenge for myself already, probably for the beginning of the year.  Until then, I’ll continue to share insights into my yoga practice, delicious treats and whatever else strikes my fancy.  Let me know if you have any great recipes to share or thoughts for my next challenge!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Goals, inversions, Non-Judgement, Practice, Yoga, Yoga Snax

Days 26 & 27: Turning Upside Down Part Deux

Hello Friends!

I had every intention of posting last night, but I ended up being preoccupied with decorating this new addition to the apartment:

I downsized this year, but he's a cute little guy.

I downsized this year, but he’s a cute little guy.

Nevertheless, I am really excited to tell you about the Inversion workshop yesterday at The Yoga Room.  It was taught by one of their teachers, Marko, and I think he did a fantastic job.  He began with a dharma talk that was all about the importance of process over final product; that, as much as we want to be able to do a handstand right now, the journey is the most important part.  Lessons like this are what yoga is all about.  What we learn on the mat is completely applicable to our lives off of the mat.  Breaking down a handstand into steps and practicing each step slowly and purposefully teaches us the value of hard work and persistence.  And when you finally reach your goal, it makes it all that much sweeter since you worked so hard to achieve it.

That is how Marko designed the workshop.  We worked on several variations of headstands and handstands over the two-hour class, and he broke down each pose into different steps, giving us the option to stop where we felt comfortable, or move on if we wanted to challenge ourselves.  My headstand practice is still on hiatus, which gave me the opportunity to really work on headstand prep, which is basically a downward dog with forearms and head on the ground.  If you’ve never done this prep before, it is challenging!  It really works your shoulders and core.  I also practiced bringing one leg in to my chest, which really got my ab muscles fired up.

By the time we got to handstand practice, my core was nice and warm, which, as I’ve mentioned previously, is really important for inversions.  We did several preps for handstand including L-shape against the wall and extending one leg up, which really helped me to get a feel for handstand away from the wall.  There was also more core work that included hopping over a block with our hands on the floor, arms straight.  This probably sounds easy, but it’s definitely work.  When he finally cued us to go up into handstand against the wall, it felt like my legs floated up, as opposed to my usual method of flinging my legs as hard as I can until I reach the wall.  I even managed to come off the wall for a few seconds.  If The Yoga Room offers this workshop again, I highly recommend it!

Today I found a Yoga Today class that was dedicated to handstands and forearm stands.  It was great to get in more practice, although I have to say my arms were tired from yesterday!  So I did what I could and either took a childs pose or just watched the yogis on the screen when I needed a break.  Marko made sure to let us know that consistent practice is the way to achieve our goal and I would have to agree; this 30-day challenge has definitely helped me to become more comfortable with turning upside down!

Leave a comment

Filed under Dharma, Goals, inversions, Non-Judgement, Practice, Uncategorized, Yoga, Yoga Snax

Days 22-24: Almost there!

Hey yogis!

As you could tell in my last post, my time in Harrisburg was full of cooking and Christmas decorations–but I did manage to get my yoga in there thanks to Just Plain Yoga over in Camp Hill. I also taught a quick class of Sun Salutations to the man friend who had a sore lower back. **Quick Tip: Sore lower back is often a sign of tight hamstrings, so gentle forward folds, seated folds, or supine (on your back) hamstring stretches with a strap can do wonders!**

After running around the last few days, I woke up this morning with a cold…not so fun, but it’s also my body’s way of telling me to slow down. I’m glad it is happening now so I can have the chance to take better care of myself this holiday season (my mother can probably tell you the number of Christmases I woke up sick as a kid). So today’s practice will be something gentle and restorative–my bolster will definitely be involved.

An extra motivation for kicking this cold is the workshop I am going to on Saturday! Since handstand has been one of my goal poses, I signed up for another inversion workshop, this time at The Yoga Room (thanks to my wonderful roommate who alerted me it was filling up fast, I snagged one of the last spots!). Rumor is he has some crazy core work in store for us–I can’t wait! Until then, time to load up on Vitamin C.

20121206-091158.jpg

20121206-091239.jpg

Leave a comment

Filed under Goals, inversions, Non-Judgement, Practice, Yoga

Day 18: Turning Upside Down

Last night I decided to check out the Inversion Workshop with Corey Loftus at Yoga Agora , which was a lot of fun! Corey makes going upside down look super easy, but he did a great job of breaking down the practice into a warm-up, strength training and partner practice in order to help everyone achieve their own level of success.

We began with sun salutations: first a round of traditional sun A’s, and then we moved into rolling sun salutations in which you have to squat down and roll on your back then roll up into each pose (chair and high lunge on each side). They were pretty challenging at first, but then I found myself getting into a rhythm and had a lot of fun with it. Really great for balance and engaging core muscles. Then we moved into some strengthening poses with partners in order to activate our core muscles, which is crucial for going upside down (and staying there!). My favorite was what I might call a hanging vinyasa, in which you begin in plank with your partner holding your ankles. Then you proceed to flow from chaturanga into upward dog, and on your way to downward dog your partner lifts your legs up so you end up in an “L” shaped handstand. I’ve practiced these before on a wall, but not having anything to press into except your hands really forces you to rely on your core muscles to maintain balance.

This is a fantastic shoulder strengthener and preparation for handstand.

This is a fantastic shoulder strengthener and preparation for handstand.

Another variation we practiced--the person on the bottom barely feels a thing!

Another variation we practiced–the person on the bottom barely feels a thing!

After we were warmed up, it was time to fly! Corey had us work on headstand and handstand, and then showed us a great partner pose to relax the neck and spine. We worked in groups of three, as one person was needed to be a spotter and the third person would lend a hand (or rather, a shoulder) if the “flier” or person going upside down needed help getting there. It was actually a really great excercise in team work and trust; many of us there last night had come alone and did not know people there. It’s a lot to ask of someone to entrust a stranger with their safety. However, since everyone was in the same boat and Corey and Francesca were really wonderful teachers and demonstrated everything really clearly, the trust was there and everyone was willing to try whatever they put in front of us. The hour and a half flew by and I left with a lot of great tips to improve my handstand practice. Thanks Corey and Francesca!

Leave a comment

Filed under Goals, inversions, Practice, Uncategorized, Yoga