7 Poses to Help Open Your Heart & Deepen Your Backbend

 June 9, 2015

Many heart-opening postures also happen to be backbends.  Because the low back tends to be the most flexible part of the spine, it’s important to emphasize opening the heart by incorporating the bend into the upper and middle areas of the back.  Repeated crunching in the lumbar region of the spine can result in injury over time.   Below are some poses and pointers to help open your heart, lengthen your spine, and deepen your backbend.  As always, those with injuries and limitations should speak to their doctor before attempting any deep bends.

Open the chest:

1.  Cat/Cow Stretch – Move with the breath and try to visualize extending the spine from the top of the head all the way down to the tailbone.

2.  Bhujangasana (Cobra pose) – Emphasize rolling your shoulders down and firming the shoulder blades against the back in the pose.

3.  Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge pose) – Firm your outer arms, lengthen the tailbone, and tuck your shoulders underneath you to really open the heart here.

·Stretch the arms and shoulders:

4.  Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog pose) – Roll your shoulders back and down before fully moving into this pose.  Emphasize lifting the chest to avoid sinking in the low back.

5.  Dolphin pose – Press the forearms actively into the floor. Firm and widen the shoulder blades away from the spine and down toward the tailbone to accentuate the shoulder stretch.

Deepen the bend and strengthen the back:

6.  Salabhasana (Locust pose) – Clasp the hands behind you and press the scapulas into your back to open the chest and shoulders.  Raise your arms, legs, and upper torso off of the floor to strengthen the spine.

Open the hip flexors and quads to stretch the whole front body:

7.  Anjaneyasana (Low lunge pose) – Lift the chest and draw the tailbone down.  Focus on incorporating the backbend into your upper back and avoid crunching in the lumbar as you reach up with the arms.  


10 Reasons to get Upside Down Everyday

 March 26, 2015
handstand malibu beach

An inversion in yoga is a posture where the head is positioned below the heart.  Most of the time we think of these as advanced poses, such as handstand or shoulder stand, however there are more accessible and gentler variations you can take.  Asanas like Downward Dog and Legs up the wall are considered inversions and will give you many of the same benefits as the more advanced postures.  Those with injuries and limitations such as high blood pressure should speak to their doctor before attempting any inversions.

10 Reasons to Get Upside Down:

1.       Encourages Blood Circulation – gravity does the work by promoting fresh blood flow throughout the entire body.

2.     Improves Concentration – oxygen to the brain is increased, leaving us feeling invigorated and more alert.

3.      Strengthens the Immune System – getting upside down helps the body release toxins and bacteria which are eliminated by the lymph nodes.

4.      Alleviates Mild Back Pain – inversions help the spine to decompress, relieving pressure and easing back pain.

5.      Strengthens Your Core – the inner abdominal muscles are required to get into, out of, and to hold many unsupported inversions.

6.      Relaxing – legs ups the wall and other cooling inversions help calm the nervous system, reduce stress, and create a sense of serenity.

7.      Builds Confidence – facing our fears teaches us to overcome our reservations, and accomplishing new things is highly rewarding.

8.      Increases Body Awareness – moving into unique postures forces us to be more conscious of our body in space.

9.      Provides a New Perspective – getting upside down literally changes our viewpoint and gives us a fresh outlook in other aspects of our lives.

10.  Mood Boosting – Inversions are fun!  Once you become more comfortable with inversions you can practice them anywhere and all of the time.  Practicing a headstand on the grass or handstands on the beach adds playfulness and joy to your everyday life.


Photo Shoot at The Green Building

a Glimpse into the Space and Behind-the-Scenes

 February 25, 2015
 The Main Room

The Main Room

Working as a creative director & yoga model integrates two of my greatest passions - yoga & creativity.  Part of the preparation for each photo shoot includes scouting for unique and standout locations.  While it can be fun to explore and visit new places, sometimes finding just the right spot for a project can be challenging.  So when I came across The Green Building in Brooklyn NY, I admit I may have gotten more than a little excited at the prospect of shooting there.

From the moment I laid eyes on this picturesque space I could see just how perfectly it would highlight the beauty of the asana (yoga pose).  And indeed it was easy capturing striking photos here - each angle of this rustic-modern, industrial chic space was stunning.  Original brick walls, soaring exposed beam ceilings, and four beautiful chandeliers are just some of the features of this building that dates back to 1889.

I also got to take some fun photos with these gorgeous LOVE letters (provided by Starling on Bond.)  And when the letter 'O' went for a lunch break, I had no problem filling in for him :)

Many thanks to the folks at the The Green Building and to the wonderful photographer, John F. Cooper, for making this shoot successful and lots of fun!

More info and booking for The Green Building here:  http://www.thegreenbuildingnyc.com/

Here’s a short behind-the-scenes video from The Green Building photo shoot:


POTD: Pose of the Day

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow or Wheel Pose) with straight legs

February 6, 2015

This variation of wheel pose with straight legs is a great way to lengthen the spine.  The activation of the legs propels the chest forward, bringing the bend more into the upper back and less in the lumbar.  

backbend

1. Begin lying on your back.  Bend your knees, place your feet on the floor with the heels as close as possible to the sitting bones.  Feet should be about hip distance.

2. Bend your arms and place your hands beside your head, palms on the floor with fingertips pointing towards your shoulders.  Your forearms should be almost perpendicular to the floor.

3. Exhale, and press your feet firmly into the ground as your lift your hips and tailbone up off of the floor.   Take a breath or two and then press firmly into the hands, lifting the head up and placing the crown of your head gently onto the floor.  Keep your arms, thighs and inner feet parallel.

4. Take a breath or two, and then lift your head off of the floor as you exhale, straightening the arms.  Firm the outer thighs and turn the upper thighs inward slightly.  Lengthen the tailbone toward the back of the knees as lift the pubis toward the navel.

5. Spread the shoulder blades across the back as you lift up through your chest.  Press evenly through your hands and feet.  Your head can hang, or be lifted slightly to look down at the floor.

6. Slowly straighten the legs as you lengthen through the spine.  Keep the chest lifting and press through the inner arches of the feet.

7. Hold for 5 – 10 breaths, and slowly lower down to release.


Baby, It’s Cold Outside…

Tips to Staying Motivated through the Winter

December 18, 2014

As the cold weather comes and temperatures drop, it often feels like our motivation levels are heading south for the winter too.  Extra snuggle time in bed is more appealing, while the gym and yoga studio seem further away than they ever have.  So how do you muster up the same enthusiasm during the winter that seems to come effortlessly in the warmer months?  Here are five tips that will help raise your body temps and your incentive to get up and moving:

1.      Warm Up

Getting out of your cozy bed in the morning is hard enough, but when there’s a chill in the air and frost on the windows, it can feel downright brutal.  Heading straight into the hot shower is a great incentive to wake up and stay warm.  It’s also a useful way to get ready for your morning working out.  Muscles are normally stiff when we first wake up, and a hot shower helps get the blood flowing, relaxing and warming up the body.

2.      Drink Up

What a hot shower does for the outside of your body, a hot drink will do for the inside.  Starting your day with some hot lemon water will not only warm you up, but will also help hydrate and flush toxins out of the body.  Aiding digestion, maintaining pH levels, and improving the immune system are some additional benefits that have been linked to drinking warm lemon water first thing in the morning.  Furthermore, because the cold weather air is drier, sipping on a hot beverage throughout the day, like water or tea, will help keep you both warm and hydrated all day long.

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3.      Grab a Friend

It’s all too easy to find an excuse for skipping a workout or yoga class when you’ve got no one to answer to.  But having a regular exercise buddy encourages accountability and serves as valuable motivation.  A partner will persuade you on the days you need a little boost, and spending quality time together on a challenging activity will feel both valuable and rewarding.

4.      Set a Goal

Setting a goal - no matter how large or small - gives purpose to your actions.  Whether it’s deepening your backbend or swimming that extra lap, having a target to work toward serves as incentive.  Keeping a visual reminder of your goal around is a great way to stay on track too.  Sticking a photo of that cute Olympic swimmer on the fridge, or subscribing to your favorite yoga magazine will remind your why hard work pays off.

5.      Stay at Home

When the roads are slick and the snow is heavy, heading outdoors is not always the most tempting - or the safest - idea.  A home practice can be an invaluable tool to turn to.  Having a dedicated area somewhere in your living space – even a small corner of a room – will help keep you focused.  And guidance can be found in a multitude of places.  There are countless DVDs and online resources with knowledgeable teachers to lead you through your home practice.  With a little bit of preparation and the right mindset your motivation and practice can flourish all twelve months of the year.