Fall-ing for Yoga, 4 Poses To Help Balance Your Autumn Practice

The leaves have started to change color, the days have grown shorter and cooler, and pumpkin spice lattes are now back on the menu... fall is officially here.  My personal favorite way to welcome autumn includes cozy sweaters and a new pair of booties (not to mention a little extra Netflix time).  But there is one additional thing I've added to this year's list, and that is to balance out my yoga practice with a few key poses for fall. The ones I've listed below really help my body transition through the season more gracefully.  Oh, and there is one more thing I forgot to mention - a cute new yoga outfit always makes coming to the mat a lot more exciting.  The one I'm wearing in all of the photos here is by Sam Edelman, and it couldn't be more perfect for this fall!

1. Get Grounded

It turns out that along with the change in weather, it's also quite common to experience some extra nervous energy during this transitional season.  Practicing grounding poses, including this Chair Pose Variation can help the body feel stronger and more centered. 

 

Chair Pose Variation

Chair Pose Variation

  • Separate your feet about the width of your mat, with your toes turned outward.

  • Ground your feet firmly into the floor as squat down, lowering your torso onto your thighs and keeping your hips in line with your knees.

  • Extend your arms forward. Reach them all the way toward the front of the room as you reach your hips all the way back.

  • Keep your core engaged and your belly lifting up.

  • Squeeze your triceps inward toward your ears and press your palms away.

  • Hold for five breaths, then release and repeat 3 more times.

2. Build Heat & Feel Energized

Though its tempting to just stay in and hibernate as the weather cools down, it's important to get the body warmed up to combat the stiffness that often accompanies the cold.  Incorporating energizing poses, such as Bridge Pose (or any heart-opening pose) is a great way to build heat in the body.

Bridge Pose

Bridge Pose

  • Begin lying on your back, with the knees bent, with your feet flat on the floor and arms by your sides.

  • Raise the hips up toward the ceiling and either interlace the hands together or leave the arms down by the sides of the body.

  • Keep the neck in neutral as you continue to life the hips higher.

  • Hold for five breaths, then lower and repeat 2 more times.

 

3. Cleanse & Detox

Fall time is, unfortunately, often accompanied by cold & flu season. Spending extra time indoors only helps germs to spread faster.  Yoga twists, such as Revolved Triangle Pose are a great way to boost the body’s natural detoxification process by helping to flush the toxins from the body and promote cleansing on a cellular level.

Revolved Triangle Pose

Revolved Triangle Pose

  • Begin with your feet about 2-3 feet apart, and align the right heel with the left heel. Pivot your right foot out 90 degrees and turn your left foot slightly inward.

  • Reach your left arm up toward the ceiling, Hinge forward from your hips, keeping length in the spine and open your torso to the right as you place your left hand to the outside of your right foot. Use your right hand, if necessary, to draw your left hip back so it stays in line with your right hip.

  • Lengthen your spine and roll your right shoulder back as you extend your right arm upward. Reach the left fingertips toward the ceiling. If possible, turn your head to gaze at your right thumb.

  • Hold for five breaths, then slowly release and repeat on the opposite side for the same length of time

4. Rest & Restore

Restorative yoga poses help us disconnect from the frenzied pace of daily life.  The slow pace and deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system which has a calming effect on our minds and bodies.  Studies have shown that this type of relaxation, including poses like Legs Up the Wall, can help fend off depression, provide higher quality sleep, and improve mental health.

Legs Up the Wall pose

Legs Up the Wall pose

  • Begin by sitting with the right side of your body against the wall. Using your hands to balance, gently swivel your body to the right as you lower your torso to the floor and bring your legs up onto the wall.

  • Rest your shoulders and head on the floor. Wiggle your body from side-to-side to scoot your sitting bones closer to the wall. Let your arms gently rest at your sides, or place your left hand on your heart center, and your right hand on your belly.

  • Close your eyes and stay here for 5-10 minutes. Notice your breath as you lie here.

  • Slowly release by pushing yourself gently away from the wall as you slide your legs down and return to a seated position.

* Outfit worn throughout is by Sam Edelman

Mykonos and Santorini, a Magical Summer Getaway

Although it had been on my bucket list for a few years, this summer was the first time I had the opportunity to visit the gorgeous Greek Islands of Mykonos and Santorini.  My excitement to finally travel to this picturesque part of the world was high.  Of course I'd seen photos of these stunning locations online, and while I was a bit skeptical about whether they'd be as beautiful in person, they in fact, did not dissapoint. 

San Marco Luxury Hotel & Villas in Mykonos

San Marco Luxury Hotel & Villas in Mykonos

Our trip began in Mykonos, where we stayed at the photogenic San Marco Hotel.  Our room - a Junior Suite with a sea view - was open, light, airy, and very comfortable.  We even had a small balcony with a seating area facing the beautiful blue Aegean waters.  The hotel also had a relaxing seawater pool, two restaurants, and a complimentary shuttle service to and from town numerous times a day.

We took one of these shuttles to town, where we walked around the charming cobbled streets with its pretty shops, watched the sunset with the famous Chora Windmills, and enjoyed drinks and a delicious dinner by the water. 

Sunset by the Chora Windmills

Sunset by the Chora Windmills

Moonrise in Mykonos

Moonrise in Mykonos

After an incredible time in Mykonos, we headed to Santorini, just a short stop away by high-speed ferry.  With almost 2 million visitors annually, Santorini is Greece's most popular island, and for good reason.  Its beautiful beaches, spectacular scenery, stunning sunsets, and delicious food, make it one of the top vacation spots in the world. 

The Red Beach, Santorini

The Red Beach, Santorini

One of our favorite places in Santorini was The Red Beach, located in Akrotiri village.  It is truly an eye-catching sight, with its red volcanic rocks overlooking the blue sea, and shores made of colorful sand and pebbles.  Another favorite (though very crowded) area was the picturesque village of Oia.  Situated at the top of an impressive cliff, it offers a spectacular view of the island, with it's charming pastel-colored houses and famous blue-domes.  There are plenty of shops and restaurants there, though if you're looking for a more lively crowd, head to Fira where you can find the island nightlife.

From their sapphire waters and whitewashed houses to their colorful sunsets and charming neighborhoods, the Greek Islands of Mykonos and Santorini are two of the most beautiful locations in the world.  A visit to either of these islands is sure to be an incredible, memorable, and very rewarding experience.

Sunset over Oia, Santorini

Sunset over Oia, Santorini

Santorini's magical sunset (photography by Kimonas Ptiniotis)

Santorini's magical sunset (photography by Kimonas Ptiniotis)

5 Poses to Help Prepare for Ardha Chandra Chapasana

Ardha Chandra Chapasana, or 'Sugar Cane' pose, is a standing balancing with an asymmetrical backbend.  This variation of Half Moon Pose opens the psoas and hips, and lengthens the spine with a gentle twist.  The key to finding more ease in this challenging posture lies in properly warming up the body, and of course having a consistent practice.  After flowing through a few rounds of Sun Salutations, I like to deepen my warm-up with the following poses before moving into Chapasana.

 

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1. Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog

1. Come onto all fours, with your shoulders directly over your wrists and your hips over your knees.  Tuck your toes and straighten your legs, coming into Downward Facing Dog.

2. Step both feet together so that your big toes are touching.  Shift your weight into your hands and your left foot, and with an inhale raise your right leg up to the ceiling. Try to keep your hips squared, and your shoulders parallel with the ground.  Your ears should be in line with your arms, as you reach the crown of  your head toward the ground.

3. Hold for five breaths, then lower your right leg down, and repeat on the opposite side.

2. Uttanasana

1. Begin in Tadasana, with your hands on your hips.  Exhale and lengthen the front of your torso as you bend forward at the hips.

2. Press your heels down toward the floor as you reach your sit bones upward. Spin the tops of your thighs slightly inward. Don't lock your knees.  

3.  Keep your hips aligned over our ankles as you shift the weight of your body to the balls of your feet.  With each inhale lift and lengthen your torso.

4.  Hold the pose for 10 breaths.  To exit, place your hands on your hips and return to Tadasana with a straight spine.

3Extended Side Angle Pose

1. Begin in Warrior II pose, with left knee bent.  Lower the left elbow down to the left knee. Inhale the right arm up towards the ceiling and then exhale the arm over the right ear, creating a straight line with the right side of your body.

2.  Make sure the left knee stays bent directly over the left ankle.  Slowly sink the hips down towards the floor, and actively reach the right hand in the opposite direction of the right foot.

3. Hold for five breaths. To release, inhale reach the right fingers up and back into Warrior II. Repeat on the opposite side for the same length of time.

4. Runner's Stretch (Ardha Hanumanasana )

1. From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot forward between your hands. Lower your left knee down onto your the ground, and un-tuck the top of the left foot.

2. Align your left hip over your left knee. Flex your right foot, pushing you heel away from you and reaching your toes back toward you.  Straighten your right leg as much as you comfortably can.

3.  Inhale and lengthen your spine.  Keeping your hips square, slowly begin to fold over your right leg while reaching your chest forward.

4.  Hold for 6 breaths.  To exit, tuck the left toes under, place the palms on the floor, and step back into Downward-Facing Dog.  Repeat on the opposite side for the same length of time.

5. Ardha Chandra Chapasana

1. From Warrior II pose, exhale and bring the left hand down in front of your left foot.  If you can't comfortably reach the floor, place a block under the hand.

2. Bring your right hand to your right hip, and begin to open your chest.  Slowly shift your weight into your left foot as you keep the toes spread wide.

3. With an inhale, lift the right leg up so that the inner thigh and inner arch of the foot are parallel with the floor. Find your stability here.

4. Open your right hip so it's stacked on top of your left, and open your torso toward your right.  Bend your right knee, and take a hold of your right foot with your right hand.  

5.  Ground down through your left leg.  Feel your ribcage expand as it lifts toward the sky.  Kick your foot into your hand so that your heel moves away from your seat while lifting your chest forward and up.  Once you find balance here, turn your gaze toward the sky. 

6.  Hold  for 3-5 deep breaths.  Slowly release and repeat on the other side.

Rediscovering the Beauty of Montreal

The Streets of Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal)

The Streets of Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal)

I'll never forget my first visit to Montreal years ago, and how enchanted I was with it's perfect mix of old world charm and modern day luxury. Any opportunity I have to go back is always welcomed, and I was excited to have the chance to visit again for a weekend in March. Admittedly, one takes their chances when travelling to Canada in the winter months - we almost had to reschedule due to a large snowstorm that took place days before - but luckily all roads were cleared by the time we were scheduled to arrive.

Hotel William Gray

Hotel William Gray

Our hotel, William Gray, was located in the heart of my favorite neighborhood, Old Montreal (or Vieux-Montréalas as called by the French speaking locals).  The cobblestone roads and old romantic architecture has you feeling as if you are taking a peak at Montreal centuries ago.  It's narrow streets are filled with cafés and restaurants, museums and art galleries, as well as the Old Port, which is packed with history.  

If you prefer a more modern vibe, you don't have to look too far. Downtown Montreal is just a short drive away, and there you will find shopping malls and art galleries nestled in between its modern skyscrapers.  Montreal also has its own Chinatown, as well as a Latin Quarter, Entertainment District, and trendy neighborhood, Plateau Mont-Royal.

Between it's beautiful parks and gardens, historic streets, modern city, and numerous neighborhoods, Montreal is truly an incredible city with something special to offer everyone.  

Bath with a view at Hotel William Gray

Bath with a view at Hotel William Gray

View of Old Montreal at Sunset

View of Old Montreal at Sunset

Live Herb Wall at Maggie Oakes Restaraunt

Live Herb Wall at Maggie Oakes Restaraunt

Yoga in the lobby of William Gray Hotel

Yoga in the lobby of William Gray Hotel

Spring into Yoga: 4 Cleansing Poses for the Blossoming Season

Spring time is finally here and that means warmer weather, longer days, and a chance to get rid all of the clutter we've accumulated over the winter.  This season provides the perfect opportunity for us to make space and cleanse - not only our cabinets and closets, but more importantly, within our bodies.

Here are a few of my favorite cleansing yoga poses for spring. They help flush the toxins that have accumulated in our bodies over winter, by stimulating the lymphatic, circulatory, and digestive systems.

1. Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog

This Downward Facing Dog variation encourages blood circulation and lymphatic system drainage by having the head below the heart and the leg raised.

1. Come onto all fours, with your shoulders directly over your wrists and your hips over your knees.  Tuck your toes and straighten your legs, coming into Downward Facing Dog.  

2. Step both feet together so that your big toes are touching.  Shift your weight into your hands and your left foot, and with an inhale raise your right leg up to the ceiling. Try to keep your hips squared, and your shoulders parallel with the ground.  Your ears should be in line with your arms, as you reach the crown of  your head toward the ground.

3. Hold for five breaths, then lower your right leg down, and repeat on the opposite side.

2. Extended Side Angle Pose

This side stretch stimulates the abdominal organs which helps aid digestion.

1. Begin in Warrior II pose, with left knee bent.  Lower the left elbow down to the left knee. Inhale the right arm up towards the ceiling and then exhale the arm over the right ear, creating a straight line with the right side of your body.

2.  Make sure the left knee stays bent directly over the left ankle.  Slowly sink the hips down towards the floor, and actively reach the right hand in the opposite direction of the right foot.

3. Hold for five breaths. To release, inhale reach the right fingers up and back into Warrior II. Repeat on the opposite side for the same length of time.

3. Lizard Pose

This stretch helps creates space in the areas that tend to get tighter over the winter as it opens the hips, hamstrings, groins, hip-flexors, as well as the chest, shoulders and neck.

1. From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot up to the outside of you right hand, so that both of your hands are inside of your right thigh. Your right foot should be slightly wider than your shoulders.

2. Begin to sink your hips down toward the ground. Slowly walk your hands forwards, and if you are able to comfortably do so, lower down on to your forearms. (Place your forearms on a block or stay up on the palms if this is too deep).

3. Reach your heart forward, creating length in the spine.  Try not to round the back, as you draw the should blades together.

4. Keep your right knee hugging inward, toward your right shoulder.  Your left knee can stay lifted (with your leg active), or you can lower it down to the ground for a more restorative version.

5. Hold for five breaths.  Slowly release and come back to Downward Facing Dog, and repeat on the opposite side.

4. Revolved Head to Knee Pose

This detoxifying twist stimulates the abdominal organs, including the liver and kidneys, and improves digestion.

1. Begin seated comfotably with your legs straddled wide.  Bend your right knee and place the bottom of your right foot to the inside of your left thigh.  Keep your left foot flexed.

2. Inhale and reach both arms upward. Exhale and hinge at the left hip, reaching your body toward the left side.  Bring your left arm down to the inside of your left thigh, and lower the arm toward the ground.  

3. Inhale and extend your right arm up and over your head, toward your left toes.  (Use a strap if you can't yet reach the toes).  Make sure to keep your seat grounded and that your right hip does not lift up. Twist your torso, opening the heart upward toward the sky.  

4. Hold for five breaths.  To release, untwist your torso and come back to seated position.  Repeat on the opposite side.