Gentle Flow Yoga – Take it Easy

“Take it easy, take it easy – don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy”. Who would have thought The Eagles could sum up…

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“Take it easy, take it easy – don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy”. Who would have thought The Eagles could sum up what gentle flow yoga is all about?

Not all yoga classes have to be preparation for the Olympics. In fact, gentle yoga is just that, “gentle”, while also being invigorating and helping keep your body toned and in shape. This video from Pilgrimage Yoga, “Gentle Flow with Jamie”, shows how you can benefit from “taking it easy”. And, as it turns out, taking it easy or gentle yoga actually helps to not let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy!

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What is Gentle Yoga?

Gentle yoga is not as strenuous or difficult as “regular” yoga. Movements in gentle yoga are slower and not as difficult to get in and out of. Some of the postures, or asanas, are the same as you would normally do. However, this is not a flow where you go from down dog to plank to upward dog and back to down dog in one breath. This is gentle, slow…..easy! That doesn’t mean you’re not getting anything out of it. As we will see, it’s quite the opposite.

Like a lot of yoga sessions, this one starts with setting an intention and a proper seat position. This forms a good base from which to do other postures. Jamie walks us through a seated stretch for the side body, a seated twist and finally a seated forward fold.

After sitting, we move to tabletop pose where we are led through a series that includes Cat/Cow, modified Warrior II on one knee and Child’s pose (balasana).

Also included in this session is some instruction on Pranayama breathing – specifically alternate nostril breathing.

Benefits of Gentle Yoga and Breath

By it’s nature, gentle yoga connects movement to breath – and that’s a great thing! Since each movement is linked with the breath, we enter the posture gradually. This preparation nurtures the joints, muscles and connective tissue. In addition, some other benefits of gentle yoga include:

• Increased flexibility
• A calmed mind
• Stress relief
• Enhanced range of motion
• Balanced digestion
• Improved sleep patterns

Pranayama, or alternate breathing techniques, further assists with feeling more calm and centered, reduces anxiety and has been known to improve sleep patterns.

The video demonstrates the proper way to hold your fingers and walks you through the process of inhaling and exhaling through one nostril by blocking off the other and then doing the same with the other nostril. Surprisingly, this technique, which has been around for a long time, has students reporting they feel more calm and centered and that it helps mitigate intense emotional feelings and helps them sleep better.

Gentle Yoga and Pranayama in Daily Life

Gentle yoga and pranayama can be practiced most anywhere at any time. Sitting at your desk at work is a perfect time for a break of alternate nostril breathing. Likewise chair yoga, which can also be performed at your desk, is a form of gentle yoga. You can also practice gentle yoga at home, even from your bed. Practically speaking, gentle yoga and pranayama are available to the yogi to practice anytime, anywhere.

The overall approach to gentle yoga, however, can be summed up by our friends The Eagles:

Lighten up while you still can
Don’t even try to understand (well, maybe try)
Just find a place to make your stand
And take it easy.

Who said yoga had to be difficult?

Namaste

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Bliss Flow Yoga – Online video review

Throughout my practice of yoga I focused on understanding and improving the various poses (or asanas) of yoga. I have strived for…

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Throughout my practice of yoga I focused on understanding and improving the various poses (or asanas) of yoga. I have strived for the correct alignment and maximum stretch each pose can provide.

In short, I have attempted to break down every pose I’ve learned and improve upon it during my practice.

Breaking down each pose and getting more in depth is definitely worth the effort, however, another level of challenge in yoga is putting several poses together in a series or what is called “flow”.

What is Flowing Yoga?

Flowing yoga is when a few or several poses are “put together” in a series where you “flow” or go from one pose to the other while utilizing your breath to guide you from pose to pose. An example of this is Sun Salutation A or B where one “flows” from a standing mountain pose, through a forward bend and then on to a warrior pose, plank and down dog/up dog or cobra.

In this particular video with Lena Schmidt, the flow pattern she has created provides a good workout with great variety and excellent instruction. The session starts off seated and gentle with the intensity increasing as the flow gathers steam, but it’s not strenuous. Lena walks you through poses such as pigeon, down dog variations, twists and reverse table top. There is an excellent blend of seated and standing poses along with twists.

Benefits and Application

One benefit of flowing yoga is that all muscle groups receive equal attention, creating balanced strength throughout the body. The continual flowing movements help stretch and elongate your muscles while they are being strengthened, allowing you greater mobility and range of motion.

Focusing on the inhale and exhale of your breath results in a positive, calming effect on the central nervous system. Physically, sweat expels toxins and re-energizes your body. Mentally, the synchronized breathing relaxes your mind and helps to release any blockage of energy flow throughout your body.

Knowing and practicing the individual asanas of yoga is extremely important in that they are the base for a flow sequence. You can’t do a good flow unless each pose has good form. That said, if you’re feeling confident about your individual poses, you might want to give a flow session a shot. It will take your practice to another level and offers enormous benefits. Should you decide to flow, I would highly recommend this video. Go…and flow!

Namaste

Watch this video now:

Lena Flow 30

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Open Heart, Open Mind

In this blog I’d like to review a video on Pilgrimage’s online studio called “Heart Opening Sequence” with Nikole Fortier. I have…

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In this blog I’d like to review a video on Pilgrimage’s online studio called “Heart Opening Sequence” with Nikole Fortier. I have taken classes with Nikole. She is a powerhouse of talent and an amazing teacher. In this video, Nikole shows us the restorative side of her teaching by walking us through a gentle heart opening sequence. In addition, there is a student in the video that really helps demonstrate the sequence and proper positioning more clearly.

This session is a series of passive and active backbends, which by their nature opens your chest and heart. The sequence is best done at home as it requires the use of props. You will need 2 or 3 blankets, a folding chair, a bolster and a brick/block. The props are used for support, comfort and to assist with proper alignment. Even with restorative postures it is very important to have the right alignment.

How to Open your Heart

In order to open your heart you first have to open your chest. The process starts by lying on your back on a partially rolled up blanket. As the student in the video demonstrates, the rolled portion of the blanket serves to arch the back while the flat part is for your head to rest on. As Nikole states, this simple posture will begin to open your heart and at the same time expand your chest and prepare the student for deeper breathing.

Next is lying on your back on a bolster with a blanket under your head for support. This prop lifts you higher up than the blanket and of course helps to open your chest and heart even more.

The last “phase” of this sequence is called “supported west side stretch”. For this phase you will need the folding chair, block and 2 blankets. This is where you can really open your heart because you are seated on the floor but your head, shoulders and chest are on the seat of the chair. Being in this position allows for a full extension and opening of the heart. It also opens the abdominal/digestive organs.

Benefits of an Open Heart

Everyone can benefit from a more open heart, both spiritually and physically. This video shows you how to do just that in a relaxed, restorative manner. Aside from feeling really good and relaxing, this sequence of opening your chest will help expand your lungs, which in turn leads to improved breathing. Pathways for air entering your lungs are expanded, which in turn allows for more oxygen flow throughout your body and ultimately to your brain. And that, my friends, is a good thing, no matter who you are.

Namaste

 

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Hips Don’t Lie

There’s a song by the pop singer Shakira that says, “hips don’t lie” – boy, did she get that right. I like to jog, (or should I say used…

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There’s a song by the pop singer Shakira that says, “hips don’t lie” – boy, did she get that right. I like to jog, (or should I say used to like to jog), but I haven’t done it in awhile. So, I thought it might be time to get into running shape. Since I had success with other videos, I thought I’d check out another one on Pilgrimage’s online studio called Hip Opening Flow – 20 minutes with Yesica. From sitting all day at my job and not exercising that much recently, I thought it would be good to get my hips more open, which in turn would help my running. I wasn’t disappointed.

Who needs open hips?

The short answer to that question is: everybody! If our hips are open, it creates more space in which we can use our legs and body to improve our range of motion. Whether you’re a dancer/performer like Shakira or a regular jogger like me, the more range of motion you have, the better you’re able to do more things. And, it feels good!

The video starts off peaceful and slow and doesn’t really increase in intensity, yet the hips are given a good opening from all angles – side-to-side and front-to-back. The teacher in the video, Yesica, had a calm yet knowledgeable approach as she clearly demonstrated all the various poses designed to open your hips.

She even showed a pose called “runner’s lunge” which I wasn’t familiar with, but it really worked well for expanding the hip flexors. Yesica also demonstrated a seated “head-to-knee” pose that worked the hamstring muscles. It felt tough, but good.

Benefits

I watched this video twice. The first time I just wanted to check it out and see if I could do all the poses. I could and felt so much better afterwards. The second time I tried it I decided to take my legs for a trial jog after and observe if I felt any differences. Big difference! It really felt like my legs could move better and faster. More specifically, it felt like my legs were lubricated so they could move easier. I am sure the hip exercises helped as I feel more mobile and flexible.

The thought did cross my mind that I could be making it all up, just because I wanted it to be so. My response – first, so what? Like the beer commercial says, “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work”. My second thought was I’m listening to Shakira – hips don’t lie! I highly recommend this video and will use it anytime I need to open my hips.

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Savasana – A pose for everyone!

Today was one of those days when nothing seemed to go right (Savasana save me!). My new puppy chewed the leg of an antique…

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Today was one of those days when nothing seemed to go right (Savasana save me!). My new puppy chewed the leg of an antique chair I got from my grandmother, the apartment I was looking to rent got taken and then my car wouldn’t start. Late for work again!

I decided after work to make a healthy choice instead of going to the local pub, so I checked out another Pilgrimage online yoga class since it was so helpful before. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really feel like “working out”. Then I saw Heather Fenwick 10 minute Savasana pose and thought – now there’s something I can handle!

What is Savasana?

Savasana, or corpse pose, is a conscious letting go and allowing the body to melt into the ground. It is the final pose in most yoga classes and is a restorative pose, which means you just lay there and your body restores itself – That’s for me! I sometimes see people leaving a yoga class when it’s time for Savasana, but from what I’ve heard, it’s really important to finish your practice with Savasana so your body has a chance to restore itself.

Benefits

Heather’s video was like a guided relaxation. She “talked” to all her body parts and told them, (in a nice way), to relax. I found this very helpful because you can find out if there are any leftover tension spots and let them know to “chill out.”

After a while, I just listened to Heather’s voice as I released the tension from the day and let my mind and body rest. I thought, now this is a yoga pose I could get good at – then I didn’t have any more thoughts –just peace.

Savasana in everyday life

A lot of yoga poses can be done in a variety of settings, like the workplace. Savasana is a bit more tricky, since you should be lying down. I don’t know about your workplace, but there’s nowhere to lie down where I work. However, it’s a great pose to do at home or outside in a park or at the beach.

As I continue to do yoga, I realize the benefits of Savasana. For me, it is especially soothing after a class or after having done other poses. However, after watching this video I learned Savasana can be an important, relaxing pose unto itself.

Namaste.

(To watch Heather’s Savasana video, CLICK HERE).

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Turn Your Work Seat Into a Yoga Chair

Got chair? – Chair yoga refers to the use of a chair to sit in or hold onto in order to do yoga poses. A yoga teacher of mine once told me…

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Got chair?

Chair yoga refers to the use of a chair to sit in or hold onto in order to do yoga poses. A yoga teacher of mine once told me he could do almost every yoga pose from a chair. That’s good news for me, because my job requires me to be in a chair working at a computer almost all day. Plus, my doctor said I’m showing early signs of arthritis in my wrists and hands and I’m only in my early 30’s! Rather than starting to take medication for the discomfort, my doctor recommended “some type of movement to keep the joints lubricated and or physical therapy.”

So, how am I supposed to do “some type of movement” when I am stuck in a chair all day? I found at least part of the solution actually in my chair after watching and practicing the techniques in this video (Chair Yoga – 10 Minutes with Lena Schmidt) from Pilgrimage Yoga.

My doctor said that most people, when they find out they have arthritis, tend to minimize movement of the joints when in fact proper movement can actually help the situation. This video was perfect for me because I learned various techniques I can do while at work on my break or even while working. The video focuses on breathing and coordinating the breath with movement, stretches for the shoulders and neck and techniques for lubricating the wrist and ankle joints. Plus, the instructor also demonstrates a gentle spinal twist and a technique for stretching the arms and fingers. All of which I need and I can do it from my chair in 10 minutes!

Benefits of Chair Yoga

The video instructor is very gentle in her approach and clearly the first benefit I found from watching this video was to focus on my breath and posture. Many times I find myself hunched over my computer, which is obviously bad for my posture as well as restricting for my breath. Since watching the video, I have been practicing sitting up straight and reminding myself to breathe and I do believe I feel more energetic because of this practice.

I also benefited greatly from the wrist and ankle rotations and the gentle spinal twists from side to side. Sometimes I feel a bit stiff before I practice, but in the end I always feel more “loose” and not as much discomfort.

Application: Chair Yoga in everyday life

The techniques taught in this video don’t require a mat or props. All you need is a chair – it can be a chair at home or work or in the park. You just have to be seated comfortably and you can begin. I often practice the techniques I’ve learned at my work during my break or at lunchtime. I’m sitting anyway. I just have to turn my chair around from under my desk and get started! I’ve used these techniques before starting work, during work and before going home. I also do them at home on the weekends or during the evening. That’s the beauty of chair yoga – it can be done anytime or anywhere – Got chair? Get started!

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Pranayama – Energize your Life Force through Breathing

Prana what? – My boyfriend thought I was talking about some new motorcycle when I tried explaining what Pranayama is and what…

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Prana what?

My boyfriend thought I was talking about some new motorcycle when I tried explaining what Pranayama is and what it can do for you – or more precisely what your breath can do for you. I had just watched one of Pilgrimage of the Heart’s Yoga videos on their online studio called “Pranayama energizing flow – 10 minutes with Lauren McLaren” and I couldn’t believe the different ways someone could breathe and even more importantly the enormous benefits that could be attained in just a few minutes. According to my boyfriend, “a breath is a breath” and he couldn’t understand how I could be so excited about something you don’t have to do anything about. But that’s the whole point. You CAN do something about your breath and it will improve your health!

Pranayama is a Sanskrit word meaning “extension of the life force”. The word is comprised of two Sanskrit words, Prana or life force (breath) and ayama meaning to extend or draw out. In the video the instructor focuses on two breathing techniques designed to expand the life forces we already possess. It also highlights the importance of doing these exercises properly and with a split screen gives the viewer a great means of how to do just that. The first technique is called Kapalabhati breath – Kapal means skull and bhati means polishing or shining. Kapalabhati, as the name suggests, is a method to make the head “sparkling clean” and devoid of toxins. On first glance, it sort of looks like you’re panting like a dog on a hot day, but you quickly build up an energy that moves through your limbs and your whole system. The other technique is called Nadi Shodan Pranayama or alternate nostril breathing. This is where you block one nostril at a time while breathing in and out. The video lays out very clearly how to hold your fingers and how to properly breathe using this technique.

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Benefits of Pranayama

While the ultimate goal of Pranayama is to enter higher states of consciousness, there are many immediate benefits. When we can control our breath we can keep our physical body healthy through the intake of oxygen and we can help affect our emotional and spiritual state through the meditative practice of breathing. These breathing exercises also help in calming and centering the mind, which brings the mind back to the present moment. Through this practice we can also release accumulated stress toxins and that in turn brings clarity to our mind and energy into our body. And all of these benefits come with just a few minutes of practice! The other underlying benefit of Pranayama (and this video) is that it brings attention to your breath, which a lot of us (including my boyfriend) don’t even think about. As an athlete, I’ve always sort of noticed that there are times in intense situations when I stop breathing and now I will not only be more aware of my breath, but also have options for improving my breath and my health.

Application: Pranayama in everyday life

Pranayama can easily be applied in everyday life because you don’t need a yoga mat or props to do it. Everything you need you already carry with you – your nose, your lungs and your fingers. Once you learn the techniques you can practice anywhere, anytime – waiting in a long line, on a break from work or even riding on the back of a motorcycle where the driver can’t see you 😉 My boyfriend is cool, but I disagree with his assessment that “a breath is a breath”. I mean really, are all motorcycles the same? Pranayama shows us that not only can you breathe in different ways, but there are enormous benefits in doing so.

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A Stressful Day at Work

Most of my workday is spent in a seated position staring at a screen. It is NOT lotus position, but rather some distortion of what…

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Most of my workday is spent in a seated position staring at a screen. It is NOT lotus position, but rather some distortion of what a good posture should be. I try reminding myself to sit up straight as I look deep into the screen, but I don’t always catch myself. My back muscles are constantly sore and my eyes are blurry. Lately, I’ve also been noticing minor aches and pains in my joints, especially in the morning when I first wake up. Am I a complainer? Maybe, but I’m determined not to end up looking like a twisted tree trunk so I decided to look at some healthy alternatives.

Great timing, because I happened on this video from Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga’s online studio called: Gentle Yoga – 30 minutes with Danielle. I was drawn to the peaceful, relaxing nature of the video – from the soft background music to the soothing voice of the instructor, Danielle. There was also a “student” in the video demonstrating everything the instructor said that was very helpful in understanding what to do and how to do it correctly.

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Gentle Yoga in Practice

The video starts with a great example of proper sitting posture, which was timely for me. Next, they cover some simple but effective loosening of the hands, fingers, wrists and arms. This flows very nicely into other areas of the body – first with neck and shoulder stretches, followed by ankles, toes, legs, hips and spine. No part of the body is ignored!

Gentle Yoga in Everyday Life

The session ends with a gentle supportive spine twist, using 2 blankets as a “pillow”. This video was extremely helpful for my situation, not only because of the actual class, but also because I could use some of these stretches/movements at home and work and most don’t require a yoga mat. Since watching the video I find myself much more aware of my posture and practice moving my joints throughout the day. Now when I wake up, instead of complaining about my little aches and pains I have something positive to turn to. I would highly recommend this video for a gentle yet effective yoga class.

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