Easing Beginners into the yogi’s squat Malasana (Garland pose) 

Malasana (Garland pose) is one of my all-time favourite poses because of its simplicity in improving back posture, strengthening the ankles, stimulate digestive organs to eliminate wastes, and the nice stretch felt when one presses the elbows against the inner thigh as the pose tones the lower body. 

 

I have incorporated it into my Beginner yoga lesson plan and included asanas that open the hips, stretch the hamstrings and strengthen the inner thigh muscles. The sequence after warming up and Sun Salutation A (Surya Namaskar A) includes: Chair pose (Utkatasana), Warrior I & II (Vribadhasana I & II), Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana), Lizard pose (Utthan Pristhasana) before transiting into Garland pose (Malasana).  The only comment from my YTT classmates that trialed my teaching is the challenge to stay longer in Lizard pose.

 

So happily after making minor adjustments to my lesson plan, I started to teach at home to accumulate practicum hours.

 

Over the two classes I conducted, 4 out of 5 students could not get into my favourite yogi squat without falling all over! I was caught off guard when the students were having such a challenging time.  However, I didn’t want to just skip a pose and move on. The graceful Plié Squat came to my mind. 

 

Plié Squat is an exercise that originated from the ballet position to keep the back straight while also bending the knees. Standing with the feet wider than hip distance apart, keep the feet turned and pointing in the same direction as the knee (45 degrees or wider). Because of the feet placements, the pose place deeper emphasis in the inner thigh adductors, while working on the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors and calves as intended in the earlier asanas of my original lesson plan.

 

After holding in Plié Squat for 30-45 seconds, I got the students to narrow the standing stance, by shifting the foot towards each other (approx 2-3 steps inwards). The feet are still pointed towards the direction of the knee cap. And the magic happens! Keeping their back straight, all of them can now ease and lower more comfortably into Malasana and stay for 5 breaths… (before wobbling around while trying to keep the heels grounded!) 

 

Try this preparatory technique if you’d like to teach beginner students Malasana (Garland pose).

 

Cheers!

Ying.

Easing Beginners into the yogi's squat Malasana (Garland pose) 

Malasana (Garland pose) is one of my all-time favourite poses because of its simplicity in improving back posture, strengthening the ankles, stimulate digestive organs to eliminate wastes, and the nice stretch felt when one presses the elbows against the inner thigh as the pose tones the lower body. 

 

I have incorporated it into my Beginner yoga lesson plan and included asanas that open the hips, stretch the hamstrings and strengthen the inner thigh muscles. The sequence after warming up and Sun Salutation A (Surya Namaskar A) includes: Chair pose (Utkatasana), Warrior I & II (Vribadhasana I & II), Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana), Lizard pose (Utthan Pristhasana) before transiting into Garland pose (Malasana).  The only comment from my YTT classmates that trialed my teaching is the challenge to stay longer in Lizard pose.

 

So happily after making minor adjustments to my lesson plan, I started to teach at home to accumulate practicum hours.

 

Over the two classes I conducted, 4 out of 5 students could not get into my favourite yogi squat without falling all over! I was caught off guard when the students were having such a challenging time.  However, I didn’t want to just skip a pose and move on. The graceful Plié Squat came to my mind. 

 

Plié Squat is an exercise that originated from the ballet position to keep the back straight while also bending the knees. Standing with the feet wider than hip distance apart, keep the feet turned and pointing in the same direction as the knee (45 degrees or wider). Because of the feet placements, the pose place deeper emphasis in the inner thigh adductors, while working on the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors and calves as intended in the earlier asanas of my original lesson plan.

 

After holding in Plié Squat for 30-45 seconds, I got the students to narrow the standing stance, by shifting the foot towards each other (approx 2-3 steps inwards). The feet are still pointed towards the direction of the knee cap. And the magic happens! Keeping their back straight, all of them can now ease and lower more comfortably into Malasana and stay for 5 breaths… (before wobbling around while trying to keep the heels grounded!) 

 

Try this preparatory technique if you’d like to teach beginner students Malasana (Garland pose).

 

Cheers!

Ying.

Hello, from the Upside!

Inversions. I have been doing pole dancing for a couple of years now but I can’t say I am used to being upside down.

When I joined YTT, I knew we would eventually face the inevitable, Sirsasana. But little did I know, it would actually come too soon — on the first weekend of our training. Needless to say, I wasn’t prepared for it.

Learning new poses excites me, but at the same time, it frustrates me. I practice until I exhaust myself too much that I no longer have the strength to do the pose.

It was only when we had our private workshops with our masters Paalu and Weiling that I had my lightbulb moments. I led myself to frustration because I was mindlessly doing the pose! I was not focused at all. I did not pay attention to the most important things. I forgot about my breathing. My shoulders were collapsed, core was not engaged and not even a minute into the pose, my legs were already wobbly because my mind had started to wander around. I could not get into that straight alignment because I’ve always let this fear of falling backwards to overtake.

So one day back home, I decided to practice this pose again, this time trying to keep in mind what we have learnt during the workshops. Mind must be connected with the body. And though I still seek the comforts of a wall to catch me in case I fall, there was absolutely progression. I eventually got there.

Practicing this pose did not only teach me about patience, but most importantly, it taught me to always do the asanas smartly.

Now, that is me, saying hello from the upside! 😀

Kaye Carreos, March 2018 YTT weekend warrior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

The first arm balance introduced to me as a beginner is Crow pose. My initial thoughts? How can a beginner do this? It looks so hard! But I guess, we all have to start somewhere right? I wouldn’t say it’s easy but it is definitely doable.

For those who have been practicing this pose, we know that Crow pose in itself is already a full body workout. Apart from it works your arm and core muscles, it strengthens your wrists, back, and legs. And as much as it challenges you physically, I believe it challenges more your mind, especially the focus. Has it ever crossed your mind that you may end up faceplanting on the floor as your yoga teacher tells you to lean forward everytime? I bet everyone had the same fear. This asana definitely teaches us the importance of mind-body connection, and so as the other yoga poses. If we condition our mind to stay calm and focused, for sure we’ll fly in the pose.

As I’ve been trying to master this asana for a couple of weeks now, here’s what I think are the key things to be remembered for you to finally nail this beautiful pose!

  • Take your time. No one’s rushing you.
  • It isn’t just about arm strength. It’s engaging your core, at all times. I’m 56 kilograms heavy but I’ve never felt lighter ever before than in this pose!
  • Don’t forget to breathe. You are alive, you are supposed to be breathing.
  • Keep the gaze forward. This will help you focus.
  • Lean forward. Do not overthink. Just do it! You may put a block in front of you if that helps you to be more at ease, or feel safer.
  • Most importantly, if you do fall, it’s never the end of it. Remember, practice makes perfect!

Kaye Carreos, March 2018 YTT weekend warrior

Kurmasana & Anatomy

I rarely practiced Kurmasana till it was introduced during the course; this pose enables the practitioner to embrace stillness and overcome resistance when settled into the pose comfortably. However, it requires considerable flexibility in the hip flexors, shoulders and hamstrings while regulating the breath.

Consequently, it’s critical to warm up the body before executing the pose. To prepare for Kurmasana pose, these other poses (while not exhaustive) can help build flexibility in the key areas and therefore be considered as part of the warm up……

  1. Flexibility in hip flexors…….Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, Supta Purna Titli
  2. Flexibility in shoulders……..Closed arm stretches, wall angel poses
  3. Flexibility in hamstrings……Supta Padangustansana, Uttanasana, Upavistha Konasana

I certainly hope to execute this pose well, after a better appreciation of the key areas involved. Definitely looking forward to improve the practice of this pose.  

 

Margaret GHIN

March 2018 200 Hr Weekend YTT 

Awareness of the Hip Flexors

My appreciation of the hip flexors while practicing the downward facing dog pose was enhanced during the first weekend class. In the past, there was somewhat “unconscious ignorance” of the hip flexors (inner hip muscles or ilipsoas) “activation” while executing the pose. Consequently, I felt significant body weight on my hands which could sometimes be uncomfortable. Learning the “trick”  to “activate” the hip flexors, I was able to effectively transfer some body weight from my hands to my feet and felt “lighter and more comfortable holding this pose considerably longer.

So, why does it matter to stay (reasonable time) in this pose ? In my opinion, there are several benefits and these include (not limited to)…

a) It enables the practitioner to enjoy the pose and to regulate the breathing (one could practice Ujjayi breath to enhance the benefits)

b) It is a milder inversion pose for practitioner who may not have head/hand stands in their practice and where the heart is above the head, it encourages blood circulation and serves to both energize and calm the body.  

One easy tip to “wake up/activate” the hip flexors while practicing the pose is to firmly press a towel between the hip flexors and abdomen. This is definitely a great way to “hi-grade” the practice for the pose.

 

Margaret GHIN

March 2018 200 Hr Weekend YTT

“Uttanasana” – more than only “Forward bend”

This Asana is one of the first ones which a Yoga beginner will practice as it has a high importance in the sun salutations.

When you translate the word “Uttanasana” to English, it can be translated with “standing forward bend”. In my opinion, it’s more than only a forward bend, it’s a powerful stretch as well.

Before you start with this Asana, you need to warm up. The warming up includes almost all parts of your body. Shoulder, spine, hip, knee, pelvis, hamstring and calves are included. You can’t do this Asana with a full stomach, be sure that your stomach and bowels are empty before you start. Uttanasana has some interesting benefits as it heals and rejuvenates your body. The reason is that the head is below your heart and therefore, this pose improves the blood circulation in your head. As a result, more oxygen reaches your cells.

At the beginning, you have to be in a standing position. During the inhale, you raise your arms up to the ceiling. Actually, you don’t have to raise up your arms but I think it helps to get a fluent and good bending. During the exhale, you have to bend forward – folding from your hips. Bring your belly as close as possible to your tights, your chest to your knees and your head to your lower legs. Look between your lower legs. You can bring your arms down on the floor, next to your feet.

Till now, you can already make a lot of mistakes. First, it’s really important that you bend your hips as much as possible and that you tilt your pelvis forward and avoid rounding of the lower back. Your buttocks have to point up to the ceiling by moving your hips by tensing your hip flexor. If the stretch in your hamstring is too much, you should bend your knees slightly more. Generally, the knees aren’t locked but gently bended. The stretching of your hamstring will be one of the most influencing parameters. Don’t forget your calves – you will feel a stretch as well.

If you have done all these elements of this Asana well, the next challenge will be to find the balance. If your weight is too much backward, you won’t bend your upper body as much as possible. If your weight is too much forward, you will get imbalanced. Therefore, bend your toes and press them into the ground. You have to shift weight on the balls of your feet and not on your heels. You will see how much more bending is possible, if you will consider this.

Contraindications or take care if you have a lower back injury, a tear in the hamstrings, a sciatica or problems with your eyes like glaucoma.

If this Asana is too difficult, you can adapt it in some ways. Bend your knees when your hamstring-stretch is too intensive or put your hands on the wall (instead of on the floor) and bring them parallel to the floor when someone has a back injury.

This Asana can help to stretch your back, hips, calves and hamstrings, reduce headache, massage the digestive organs, improve the digestion and strengthen the thighs and knees.  

This Asana seems to be easy but it’s a big job for your body.

 

Sylvana F., YTT Jan. 2018

Half moon pose – Ardha Chandrasana

Today, is the 31st of January, and the world will get to witness a rare astronomical event, where the lunar eclipse, blue moon, and supermoon, will occur simultaneously. This has inspired me to find out more about the half moon pose, Ardha Chandrasana.

 

How to perform the Ardha Chandrasana

  1. Transition from Utthita Trikonasana (right). Shift your weight to your right leg, and slowly slide your left leg closer.
  2. Ground your right heel firmly onto the ground, and straighten your right leg. Place your right hand on the ground, simultaneouslylifting the left leg parallel to the floor. Actively engage your core, glutes, and legs.
  3. Rotate upper torso to the left, and bring the left arm up, fingers pointing to the ceiling. Gaze on your left thumb.

 

Preparatory poses

– Warrior 1

– Side angle stretch

– Utthita trikonasana

 

Options/ modifications:

– Use a block under downward arm

– Gaze forward and kept the head in a neutral position

– Practice the pose against the wall

 

Common mistakes

– Bottom hand too close to leg

– Locking the knee of the standing leg

– Not engaging the top leg

– Collapsing the chest, causing the spine to round

 

Benefits

– Strengthens: ankles, legs, glutes, spine, core

– Stretches: calves, hamstrings, chest, groin, spine

– Improve balance and coordination

– relieves stress, indigestion, fatigue, and menstrual cramps

 

Contraindications and Cautions

– Neck problems (keep head in neutral position)

– Headaches

– Low blood pressure

– Diarrhea

 

Cassandra Mai  YTTC200 – January 2018

My love and hate relationship with Kakasana / Bakasana

My love and hate relationship with Kakasana / Bakasana

If the title of my article caught your attention, you must be wondering why I have such strong feelings for this pose: Kakasana – Crow pose, Bakasana – Crane pose. It took me a long…long…time to lift both my feet off the ground without face crashing down.  It’s really a love and hate relationship – Fail and reset and repeat….until I learned that failure is an excellent motivator and, what’s more, it means that you put yourself out there and you tried—that’s more than most people can say.

During a yoga practice, this is often one of the first introductory pose for students new to arm balancing asana. To some students this maybe an easy pose, to the rest who had face crashed before (like me) this is a pose that had seem impossible to achieve. Not everything is going to come easily to everyone and, the things we work hard for, tend to be the most rewarding in the end. This is true not just for yoga but for everyday as well.

The following weeks…months…after several face crashed and bruises along my triceps…I managed to lift both legs up and take flight (oh short flight). To me, it felt better than something coming easily to me. This was real progress and I knew that I had worked hard to achieve it. So now, let me break down my “painful” and “torturing” experiences with Kakasana.

Kakasana – Crow pose / Bakasana – Crane pose

HOW-TO

 

 

DOS and DON’T

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I have listed down all my tips for this pose. Remember not to give up, continue practicing and try not to let yourself get frustrated. Crow Pose might be difficult at first, but with dedication, your confidence will grow and you’ll fly!

Louine Liew
(Weekend warrior /YTT200 – Sep 17)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sirsasana

Sirsasana, or Headstand is typically performed near the end of a practice session when the entire body has warmed up and helps refocusing, clears congestion, improves circulation and resets the nervous system.

I felt very intimidated when i saw the demonstration of Headstand in the first week of class. I never tried doing any inversions before joining YTT and honestly thought this was not available to me. The three main components of Headstand are strength, balance, elimination of fear. I am lucky that my body is naturally strong. I managed to work on the other two, balance and elimination of fear, by slowly introducing more and more preparatory poses to my daily routine, going into the final pose step by step.

Try the following routine to increase strength in the arms and shoulders, train muscle memory and improve the body’s ability to being inverted. If you are regular with your practice, after just a few days or weeks, miracles will happen.

1. Strengthen your arms/core:
– Practice Downward Facing Dog, High Plank, Low Plank (Chaturanga Dandasana), Dolphin pose, Dolphin Plank. Hold: 30 sec to a minute in each pose.
– Practice transitions: Downward Facing Dog –> High Plank (10 times), High plank –> Low plank (10 times), High plank –> Forearm plank (10 times), Forearm Plank –> Dolphin (10 times). Focusing on core, hip, and leg stability, engage your abdomen and hip flexors to fold, arms do not move.

2. Stretch your glutes, hamstrings, psoas muscles, this will help stabilize the Headstand later.
– Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), fold at the hips so that your torso comes to rest on your thighs. Work on firming your quads and engaging your hip flexors and abdomen to lengthen your hamstrings.
– Prasarita Padottanasana (wide-legged forward bend), hold for a while, and twist.
– Turning upside down : 3 legged downward dog,
– Activate your psoas muscles, leg up to 90° angle, 50 times.

3. Open your shoulders:
– Tadasana Gomukhasana (Standing Cow Face Pose):  extend and externaly rotate the upper arm and engage your legs.
– Garudasana arms: prepare your shoulder blades for the protraction that is required in Headstand.
– Vakrasana (Twisted Pose): helps opening the upper body to support you in Sirsasana

4. Headstand Preparation:
– L-shape handstand feet against the wall: all 3 benefits above, strengthens the arms, the core and opens the shoulders.
– Sit with the legs crossed, place the palms of the hands on top of the head. Gently press onto the region of the fontanel, directly in the center of the skull. At the same time, press upward into the hands with the head. Initiate this effort from the pelvis and up through the aligned column.
– From a kneeling position, interlace the fingers and place elbows down shoulder width apart. Place the crown of the head down on the floor, between the interlocked hands, with no pressure on the crown itself. Keeping length and strength in the neck, engage the forearms and shoulders and walk your feet as close as possible to your elbows. At this point, most of your body weight is centered over your shoulders.

5. One-legged headstand:
– From the previous pose, lift one foot off the mat without shifting too much more weight into the shoulders. Lift one foot up as far as you can, testing out what kind of core strength will be required to lift both feet up off the ground. Switch legs back and forth until you are comfortable lifting one leg off the mat while not compromising your head and neck safety.

6. Sirsasana*:
– From a kneeling position interlace the fingers and place elbows down shoulder width apart.
– Place the crown of the head down on the floor, lift the knees and walk the legs closer, shift the weight onto the shoulders. Do not crush the neck, depress the shoulder blades to keep them stable.
– Once you feel the legs become weightless, raise the legs up to form a straight vertical line, stay for a few breaths.
– Still in Sirsasana, fold at the hips, bring both legs parallel to the floor, stay for a few breaths.
– Come down to Balasana (Child’s pose) to rest. It’s important to follow Headstand with Child’s Pose in order to help decompress the neck, relieve muscular tension and re-acclimate the cardiovascular system, and provide you with a few moments of stillness to savor the effects of the inversion.

Inversions are challenging and take time, so allow the body time to build the strength and eliminate fear by adding the poses above into your regular practice with increasing frequency and duration. After a few weeks, your shoulders and core will be ready, with the strength and movement necessary for headstand. Eventually, you’ll feel secure and confident and not need the wall. Be grateful of where you are each day, don’t rush the process and remember, it is the journey that matters not the destination.

Marie, YTT200 (Sep’17-Weekend)

*Note: this pose may be hazardous, especially if you have any pathology in the cervical spine region.There are other effective alternatives that allow you to obtain many of the benefits of inversions while avoiding the dangers, example supported Setu Bandha.