04 June, 2015

Yoga Review

Hey, Readers,

It's been a while since I posted anything here, and to be honest, it was almost longer! Then I realized that instead of posting this on Facebook, I could make it a blog and simply link to it there. So here we are. =) I've blogged about my Yoga practice in the past, but life got busy and I stopped attending classes (after only going to my first two ever!) and then, eventually, stopped making time to do it at home regularly. This year, I got my butt (and the rest of me) in gear and went to another class, at a different studio. I've now gone to three within a two week span, and plan to possibly attend TWO more tomorrow.

How did I suddenly find the time and money for this? It just so happened that the Yoga studio I've started attending was having a 50% off sale on their One Month Unlimited Yoga pass, so I took them up on the offer knowing that if I attend even five classes within that 30-day span of time, it'd be well worth it. Well, here we are, three classes down, maybe soon to be five, and still three weeks left on my pass. I feel great, and I'm progressing pretty well within my own practice! Tonight I learned a few adjustments that I'm trying to incorporate into my muscle memory, so when I got home, I decided to record a few poses in order to see what they look like and where I am with them now. These poses are by no means "exact," but they are different for everyone and different variations and modifications are available depending on what your body needs, so here is just a look at where I am right now with the poses I chose to look at tonight. I don't know all of their Sanskrit names, so I'll call them by their English monikers here.

Rabbit pose - cutewitch772
I started with a pose called Rabbit, which I wasn't extremely familiar with before the first class I took the Saturday before last. I had never really seen it before, so I didn't know what it looked like, and the instructor of that class wasn't demonstrating every movement. Instead, she explained in detail what we should be doing. So this is where my Rabbit was/is, and looking at it now, my hips could be higher, and after looking up pictures online, I see that my head should actually be even closer to my knees--touching, if possible! This pose flows from Child's Pose, one of my favorites, and Rabbit has become a comfortable resting place, as well. Now that I see how it looks, I can work on going deeper.

High Plank pose
Today I got an adjustment on my High Plank. None of my other teachers had adjusted this for me before, so I had no idea if there was anything to adjust, not practicing in front of a mirror to see the shape. Today my instructor had me focus on rounding my back to bring my shoulders up, NOT bringing my hips up. The goal is for a straight line running head to toe. Well, this isn't quite where I think I COULD have it, and seeing this helps.

See my silly kitty watching in my High Plank picture? Well, I have one just for her!

Cat Appreciation Pose =^.^=
I then turned the camera on its side to get some standing poses in the frame. The first one I wanted to see was my Forward Fold/Halfway Fold. Here's a composite of checking out that one:

Flat Back, Halfway Fold, Forward Fold (Palms Flat)
In the leftmost image, my head is turned to the camera because I'm looking at the screen to see if my back is flat before I move on. In the middle is my Halfway Fold--palms pressed into hip crease, knees slightly bent, elbows pressing in, shoulders back, neck elongated/pressing forward from the Crown. This is a pose I learned in this manner as of about last week. I'd done it before, but not with so many little adjustments that really helped remember to go for length and lines. Finally, in the rightmost image, my Forward Fold with palms flat. As anyone can see, it's not like the pictures of Yoga teachers all over the world demonstrating this amazing fold-in-half capability--I have further to go! This is where I am now. I have to keep my knees significantly bent in order to press my palms flat to the floor. I could use blocks to press my palms flat and be a little higher, but I don't currently own my own blocks or other props. I only get to use them in class. You can also do a Forward Fold (not sure if that's its proper name, but that's what I'm calling it!) by wrapping your arms around your legs and gently holding behind your ankles. That's how you'll see it in a lot of photos online. I don't think I've ever really tried those variations! (Also, most notably, my head should be hanging down in my Forward Fold. I always get to thinking about too much else and forget to LET IT GO!)

"Triple Tree Goddess" - cutewitch772
When I took these photos of my Tree Pose, on both legs, I realized when editing that they could be put side-by-side to obtain a sort of "Triple Moon Goddess" vibe. Only this is my "Triple Tree Goddess"! I actually did the pose on the far right first: Tree Pose with hands to Heart center. I have had a good resting Tree for many years--people who see me casually standing with my legs in Tree Pose have called me a flamingo!--but I had never tried many different arm position variations. Hands to Heart is my usual, because it seems pretty straight-forward and is the one I knew. In the center, we have the second variation I did (you can see I'm still standing on my right foot). These are "Cactus arms". It opens the shoulders/chest more, and I had told the instructor today that I'd be open to working on shoulder openers, so she suggested this variation for me. Finally, on the left, I had switched to my left leg and took the arm position of hands to Ajna, Third Eye center (that one I do know; we had a cat named Ajna).

A couple of notes about Tree Pose: Firstly, yes, I use my hands to position my foot against my thigh. I cannot simply lift it into place on its own (after doing it for so many years, I can get it close, but not all the way up where I need it). Moving it with your hands is perfectly fine. =) Second, when doing this pose, always be sure to place your foot either BELOW or ABOVE your knee, NEVER directly on your knee. You could dislocate a knee that way, and no one wants that. If you can't balance with one foot actually pressed against your standing leg, the instructor today showed us a variation where you use a block. Place a yoga block (or any similar item you have--this one isn't bearing much weight) under the foot you're lifting. Put your toes up on the block, tip-toe, and let your heel rest against your standing leg. I had never seen that variation before, either, so I thought I'd share for you!

Eagle Pose
Then I did Eagle pose, just for fun! This is the thing we all did as kids on the playground, not knowing it was a Yoga pose at all! Put your arms straight out in front of you, palms facing each other. Cross your right arm over your left. Now, bending at the elbows, touch the backs of your palms together. If you can, go a little further and wrap your fingers all the way around so the fingers of one hand meet the palm of the other. Try it again with the other arm crossing on top first. One way might be easier than the other right now. To complete the full Eagle, do essentially the same thing with your legs! Stand flat on one foot. Bend the other knee, wrapping your other foot around your standing leg, ending with it behind the calf of your standing leg. You can squat down a little more than what I was doing here to really get into it.

Warrior I, top row (Left/Right)
Warrior II, bottom row (Right/Left)
Warriors! This is my Warrior I and Warrior II, facing each direction. Yikes--these are NOT my best Warriors! In the top row, Warrior I, my stance isn't as wide as it could be. Today's class was the first in which the instructor had us take Warrior I with our back foot at a forward forty-five degree angle. I'm used to letting it angle backwards, and getting a much deeper lunge. With something as simple as my back foot being turned the other way, I'm stretching all new muscles and my stance entirely changes. I need to work on this one some more! Also, in the right-facing Warrior I (top right), my hips could have been more square. I squared them off in the left-facing Warrior (top left) but didn't make that extra point to do so when I switched sides. I can see the difference. Can you?

In the bottom row, my Warrior II, I think I was limiting myself to the space of the frame because I wanted to see my feet, because these lunges could be significantly deeper for me. You can see that in the left-facing pose (bottom right), my stance wasn't wide enough, because my knee is ahead of my ankle. In the right-facing pose (bottom left) I kept my knee in line over my ankle as I should, but didn't lunge very far anyway. There are so many little things to think about and get into your muscle memory!

Mountain Pose, Hands to Heart
Ending my standing practice poses in Mountain Pose, but with Hands to Heart center as I usually end my practice. And while checking in with my meditation app (which I'll talk about in the future), I was sure to include as my final emotion that which we had used as this evening's class intention:

Intention: "Non-Judgement"
(SB&T app)

Thank you so much for reading! I'll very likely share some more progress in the future as I continue to attend classes and improve. I can already feel that my Downward Dog is much improved, but I didn't record it to review today, so we'll see!



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