• Parsvakonasana B Pose Guide

    This standing twist of the Ashtanga standing sequence is rather complex with many moving parts. You may find that different teachers approach this pose differently, but each are aiming for the same eventual end. I work this pose by prioritizing three different pieces: the the twist, the foundation, and the hips.

    If you are brand new to this pose, I suggest starting with the back knee down, both knees aligned with about a 90 degree angle. This is a good starting place to end up with the right distance once the legs and feet are in full expression mode. If you feel confident, you can begin with the back leg lifted, but keep it in the parallel position, heel up…. for now. Connect to the front foot as your primary foundation point, and work your opposite arm across the leg, aiming to hook the elbow beyond the knee. Once you get that hook, you can leverage the leg and arm against each other. This establishes a bit of foundational energy and balance control, it also allows you to ratchet your ribcage deeper into the twist. See if you can, reach the floor with the hand, even if it is only fingertips. Press into that connection. More foundational energy. keep the arm across the leg, keep the leg resisting the arm. Remember, the push/pull of that connection is stabilizing energy. As you press deeply into the hand, energy rebounds across the ribcage owning and freeing your twist, reach the upper arm up and over the ear at a diagonal. finally, if you feel stable and if you have accessed your freest twist, bring attention to the back leg. If your knee is down, lift it by reaching the heel back, keeping the hips low, the front knee forward. If that position is stable, find the rotation of the back leg by releasing any tension in the hip joint, roll the thigh externally without dragging the pelvis along. As he hip opens, the heel reaches the floor.

    Piece by piece, bit by bit. Prioritize one element at a time, giving full attention to each without sacrificing the previous. If you loose something along the way, back up, re-establish the previous moment and work there. If this approach doesn’t work for you, try something else! The is rarely an exactly right way to enter a pose. If you understand what the posture is asking of you, and you honor its intention, you will get there!

     

    By Angelique Sandas

  • So Many Tips for Dealing with Body Image Angst Over the Holidays!

    The holiday’s may be over, but that doesn’t mean we get to stop talking about them. Anyone else out there struggle with anxiety over body image over this holiday season? If you did, check out what Erica Mather has to say about our feelings towards our own body image, especially related to the holiday season, and what you can do to avoid that icky body image angst in the future.

    There are a few times of the year when our body image anxieties reach a high pitch, and the holidays is one of them.

    Why? A few weighty reasons.

    1. You’re gonna see people you haven’t seen in a while, and they are gonna see you. People may have changed! (Gasp!) How will everyone react?!
    2. Food, food, so much food. And, booze. And dessert. So much: TOO MUCH!
    3. People talking about how other people look, behind their backs, usually not in a very nice way.

    Let’s take a look at each of these in succession.

    How we look. It’s beyond natural to want to really make a good impression on friends and family that you’ve not seen in a long time. Perhaps you’ve gained some weight (not that I personally think that it a problem, but other people seem to still think it is). Perhaps you’ve been sick, and it shows (again–cause for compassion, not for judgement). You know you’re not at your physical best. And you worry, because, not only does that dent your self esteem when you’re already feeling down, but now on top of that, you’ve forced into a situation where you’re worried about what other people will think, and what they will say–to your face–and what they will say behind your back. It sucks.

    Here are some suggestions.

    IN PREPARATION:

    • Dress your best. Take the time to find something to wear that you feel really good about, shopping, borrowing. Make it fun. In-character. Fashionable. Get a sympathetic friend to help you out, if you HATE figuring out what to wear alone. Be relentless in your determination to make the holidays feel good to you, so you emerge victorious, at least knowing that you took the best care of yourself.
    • Wear a smile. You ALWAYS are well-dressed when you do.
    • Rehearse gracious, de-escalating responses to incendiary remarks, like the following:
      • “It looks like you’ve gained weight!”Haha! Maybe!–My body does what it does. By the way: You look wonderful! I love you so much, and I’m so happy to see you. What is something really terrific that has happened to you recently? 
      • “You look so great! Have you lost weight?” I’m not sure! I don’t weigh myself. I really try to not get caught up in that: it makes me crazy and ends up taking up so much of my mental space, space that I want to spend thinking about truly important things. Speaking of really important things, how is your (fill in the blank, choose something you know is really important to that person in their life) going? 

    AT THE EVENT:

    • Take deep breaths, and feel free to spend some time alone in the bathroom to regroup.
    • Bring your compassion for yourself along. If someone says something less than kind, breathe, smile, say something that shows your own self-compassion, and encourages that in them, even complimenting them as a retort. Use your rehearsed responses. Trust yourself to be your own advocate, and to do so in a way that is gracious, and instructive, even if the people you are talking to don’t or can’t understand.

    How other people look. Basic rule: it is none of your business. If you don’t have something kind or gracious to say, then you best not say it! There is no real reason to comment on another’s appearance. You can focus on their person. After all, the body is just an aspect of the person. Say something honest, about them. Say: I love you, and I’m so happy to see you! Or if that isn’t honest: It’s been so long! We have so much to catch up on. Tell me, what has been the highlight of the last year for you? 

    FOOD, FOOD, FOOD. SO MUCH FOOD! 

    If part of your body image anxieties revolve around food (how could they not??!) make an honest assessment of where you are with this issue, and then make a plan.

    THE PLAN. Here’s my general plan. It might not work for you, we are different people with different histories and growth trajectories, but I offer mine as a sort of guidepost. Eat “normally.” Meaning: don’t NOT eat because there’s going to me SO MUCH FOOD at dinner. No, no. That suggests a restrict/binge cycle. Have breakfast. Have lunch. Then: eat “normal” portions at dinner. Not bird portions. Not THREE helpings. Like, one plate. There will be leftovers. Plan on enjoying those in the days ahead. Or not. There will be another scrumptious meal in your near future.

    THE ENERGETICS. Here’s something interesting I learned from my yoga teacher, Ana Forrest. Our energetic anatomy and our physical anatomy overlap. So, if the part of you that is busy taking in conversation, or energy from another person, the corresponding physical apparatus will be partially or fully offline. At these parties, there are often many people, and the energetic input is like a flood. Because of that, it makes it even harder for us to connect to the feelings of our actual stomach. When I can’t detect my stomach, I make the decision not to eat too much, because I can’t feel what’s happening. This is the ONLY reason I will personally accept for not eating much at such events. Often people bombard their stomachs with too much food, in order to ground, or in order to get pulled back into the reality of the situation, or to try to feel something. Pay close attention. Take a break, in the bathroom to regroup, if you loose the capability to pay attention.

    THE SOCIAL ANXIETY. Recently, I’ve noticed that I eat too fast when I’m experiencing an energetic situation that I feel uncomfortable with. It’s like, somewhere deep inside I’m thinking “when the meal is over, I can leave!” because that’s the way it worked as a kid. When the plate was clean, then I might be excused from the table. I don’t like the conversation: I eat fast. I’m tired: I eat fast. I JUST WANT TO GET AWAY! GAH! Oh, my. This is very disconnected patterning.

    This past Thanksgiving I commented on the “speed eating” phenomenon to my cousin, and she laughed saying at a friend’s dinner, they clocked it at fifteen minutes. FIFTEEN MINUTES! Ya spent all day cooking, and sit down to eat for FIFTEEN MINUTES?! Did anyone even CHEW?!

    Tips to slow down:

    • Take one bite.
    • Put down your cutlery.
    • Chew.
    • Taste.
    • Swallow.
    • Taste
    • Breath.
    • Taste your food.
    • Consider how fast you want to take the next bite. Or if you even want to. Sometimes the food is not as tasty as you anticipated. You don’t have to finish it if you’re not actually enjoying it! But, if you’re not paying attention, you won’t actually KNOW if you’re enjoying it or not…
    • How much of your attention is on enjoying your food? How much of it is one the conversation? Can you pay attention to both? I have a hard time with that, actually…

    Recognizing your anxieties and handling them head-on is an advanced, ADULT skill. Mostly we’ve been taught to ignore/deflect/numb, and at the holidays, we are confronted uncomfortably with so many of our boogeymen. Uncomfortable, fraught relationships with people who are unkind or judgmental. Our own unkind thoughts about other people. People’s assessments of us, and ours of them. Good grief. Of course I just want to eat fast and go home! It’s fucking exhausting! Adulting is hard. But, we can do it!

    Before I got better at really noticing that large groups of people–not even necessarily family, just PEOPLE!–make me uncomfortable, I would just position myself by the cheese plate, and eat the whole thing. The only people I ended up talking to were other people who loved cheese. So, they were already pre-approved. Haha.

    Before I got good at noticing that I was eating away my loneliness and my desire for other, safe, human contact, I would eat entire cheesecakes in solitude, by myself. So huge was my appetite and its need to be filled. The problem seemed so intractable, it was easier just to solve with food. At least cheesecake is reliable. And safe.

    The trouble with holidays, is the seem to be referendums on our entire life for the past year. And, often, when we’re not working on ourselves, they catch us by surprise. Even if we ARE working on ourselves, and somehow feel like we’ve fallen short of our goals (always a setup for disappointment…try “setting intents” instead), they will catch us by surprise as we administer a hearty dose of flagellation.

    The holidays don’t have to be a referendum. It’s just a yearly blip on the calendar. We can choose to cruise through them as such.

    Or–and I’m not necessarily advocating this approach–you can use them as a yearly check-in on how you’re growing, changing, becoming more resilient. I started to know that I was getting better at it all when I could sit quietly with a glass of water and talk to people and “sort of” enjoy myself. No more cheese plate stakeouts. Huzzah!

    But that progress relied on a steady, year-in-year-out self-study and examination using the tools of yoga and therapy. If you don’t have some tools, or support in place, the holidays will surely be as painful as they were last year. I think that’s a shame, and wouldn’t want that for you!

    Which is why I put together a worksheet for you, to help you get started making a better relationship with your body. I call it The 5 Adoring Core Competencies. CLICK HERE to get your free copy! 

    NEXT POINT.

    The Gossip. UGH. We’ve all experienced it. You go into the kitchen, innocently looking for a glass of water, and there are your (fill in the blank relatives) talking about another relative. WHAT A DRAG.

    “Did you see what she was wearing…?”

    “Did you see how much she ate…?”

    Sometimes, sometimes, people are talking about another out of true concern. But–does the talk really help them? Probably not.

    When I hear these sorts of conversations, or am involved personally in these conversations, what I’m feeling for is the place of HELP for the person. If it isn’t there, then I start to wonder what purpose this conversation is actually serving. Is it making the participants feel better about themselves by comparison? Is it creating a point of bonding for the people in the conversation, like they have something to concern themselves about together? Both of these are not good reasons to gossip, but they also show a deficit in social skills, specifically how to connect without doing it on the back of, or at the expense of others. This moment can be a teaching opportunity. A chance to elevate the awareness and basic decency in the world.

    If the people try to drag me into the conversation, the only way I will get involved is if they can answer these questions: Is our conversation actually helping the situation? Does the person in question desire help in this regard? If the answer is NO to both, then the conversation is a waste of time, and I would say as much. 

    Gossip does nothing but harm. 

    HERE ARE SOME BASIC TIPS:

    • Pull your energy back into the present moment, with the people present
    • Insist on talking about only the people present in the room: their lives, their concerns 
    • If you are talking about another person, make sure it is used to help you have insights into your own life and experiences
    • Make it part of your ethics to only speak well of people when they are not around, particularly if they have done nothing to harm you personally
    • Combat gossip by countering with kind, generous, compassionate statements. Insist that you do not know they entire story as to why a person speaks or behaves the way they do. Never rob another person of their autonomy. Make space for them to speak for themselves.

    Ok. Good luck, soldiers of love! Go forth, and spread good cheer! And, remember, it’s O.K. to make holidays that YOU love, and feel good about. You don’t have to spend them with people who make you uncomfortable about yourself. In fact, that might be the healthiest thing you could choose for yourself, and your sweet, tender body.

    By Erica Mather

    This article was originally posted on stuffilearnedatyoga.com. Check out Erica’s free class as part of our 30 Day Yoga Living challenge. Plus, stay tuned for more from Erica, coming soon to OmStars!

     

  • Your body is not a car, it’s a living vehicle

    The key to unlocking flexibility is not just practice, it’s about understanding how to speak the language of the inner body. If you practice the wrong technique over and over, chances are that you will not get the desired result. Practicing a flawed method is like driving in the wrong direction. Hitting it faster and harder will only take you that much further away from the goal. Slowing down and checking the roadmap gives you time to recalibrate your course for the right target. In yoga it’s important to remember that the target is always about the inner state. The yoga of yoga is never the pose itself. The pose is the method of experience, but it’s not meant to be your final destination.

    Every pose requires you to embark on a journey to the innermost regions of your body, mind and soul. There are subtle cues to encourage you along the right path and warning signs to discourage you from making a wrong turn. Yoga is more about learning the language that your body’s own navigation provides than it is about forcing your body into a shape. The first step in yoga is more about listening than it is about telling. You have to “meet” your body and bring your full awareness into the quite space of user the surface of the skin. Only then will be able to really hear the messages that your body sends you. There is a natural intelligence in the body and yoga has the ability to tune you into that ancient and powerful wisdom. I like to think of the body like a car that has been designed by a master engineer. Your body has its own GPS and it comes equipped with everything it needs to accomplish its mission. It has been perfectly formed, but it requires care and the right type of sustenance. Flexibility is evidence of a well-oiled and cared-for machine. At the same time, the body is so much more than just a car. The vehicle of the body is alive itself, so it’s more like a partner on the journey than a static piece of machinery. In order to truly find freedom in the practice you and your body have to walk together in unity as friends and learn to speak the same language.

    So often we treat the body as an adversary and blame it for all our problems. We think our vehicle is flawed because of its size, shape or age. And truly, yoga poses can frustrating, sometimes painful and even lead to injury if performed wrong. The deeper work of the yoga practice is about finding a way to practice while avoiding all the damaging pitfalls of unnecessary pain and traumatic injury. But despite our best efforts it’s not always possible to travel the inner roads with absolute ease and flow. Sometimes you hit a traffic jam. Tightness and stiffness in the body feel like congestion. Everything is blocked and there’s no way forward. Sometimes you can find an alternate route, but most often you just have to sit there and be patient. Honking your horn is a fruitless endeavor only certain to annoy everyone around you, just like getting mad at your body for it’s lack of flexibility is a dead-end. Ramming your car into the car ahead of you is criminal and injurious, just like jamming your body into a pose that your body isn’t ready for is also a kind of assault that leads to pain and suffering. So, what can do you? Sit there. Observe. Practice patience, kindness and tolerance. Focus on the breath. Remain equanimous. Breathe. Surrender. Have faith. When the traffic jam is over it will be over. When body is ready to open it will. Sometimes there are good reasons for traffic just like sometimes there are good reasons that the body isn’t full released. All you can really do is make friends with your body and accept where you are on the journey today.

    By Kino MacGregor

    Join Kino for Heart centered meditations on Omstars

     

  • Cooking With Naomi: Dairy-Free Chai Latte

    Having lived in a yoga ashram in Canada and traveled extensively throughout India, chai tea holds a special place in Naomi’s heart. Today, we’re sharing her go-to chai recipe.

    “This recipe is really near and dear to my heart because I spent a lot of time in India about 7 years ago and really fell in love with the culture of chai – it’s so warming, comforting, and tastes delicious. But often times, it’s made with some ingredients that aren’t necessarily ideal for people who are on a healing diet.”

    Traditionally, this recipe is made with normal whole milk and I wanted an opportunity to make it with a great milk substitute that has the same kind of texture and body as milk but is going to be a little easier on the stomach. Another swap we made is using maple syrup rather than traditional jaggery or cane sugar. Maple syrup is amazing because of it’s great trace mineral content and rich flavor.

     I’m really excited to walk you through this process!”

    Ingredients:

    • 6 cinnamon sticks

    • 6 whole star anise

    • 1/8 cup black peppercorn

    • 1/4 cup green cardamom pods

    • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk

    • 1 large head of ginger (1 cup grated)

    • 1/2 cup maple syrup (or sweeten to taste)

    • 4 black tea bags

    • 1 quart water

     Supplies:

    • Cheese grater

    • Cheese cloth or nutmilk bag

    • Large stock pot (that fits at least a quart of water)

    • Spice grinder

    • Optional: pliers

     Directions:

    1. Insert cheesecloth (or nutmilk bag) in stock pot laying the edges over the side of the pot.

    2. Use pliers to break up cinnamon sticks and place in cheese cloth.

    3. Grate entire head of ginger into the stock pot.

    4. Grind the rest of the spices in the spice grinder (rough grind) then add to stock pot.

    5. Tie cheesecloth or seal nutmilk bag so spices stay inside the cloth.

    6. Add 1 quart of water and bring to a boil on the stovetop for 15 minutes (your timer begins when the pot goes on the stove).

    7. After 15 minutes is up, bring liquid to a low simmer for 15 more minutes.

    8. Remove cheesecloth with spices.

    9. Add tea bags and let steep on low simmer for 5 minutes.

    10. Remove tea bags and add coconut milk and maple syrup.

    11. Bring to medium-high boil until chai is warm to serve.

    12. Enjoy your delicious chai!

    *Option to use an emulsion blender when the chai is ready for a creamy mouthfeel.

    Want to make recipe along with Naomi?

    By Naomi Seifter

    Naomi is the Ceo and Founder of Picnik Austin, their aim is to provide people with healthy and delicious foods using ingredients that help to feel your best! Follow Naomi on Instagram @picnikaustin, and you can learn more about their products and story on their website picnikaustin.com.

    We’re super excited to have Naomi joining Omstars next year offering you some amazing vegan and vegan paleo recipes for you to serve up to your family and friends, stay tuned!

     

    Watch Omstars the Wellness channel for more great recipes

  • Navasana: it’s all about balance

    Navasana gets me every time in a Led Ashtanga Yoga class. No matter how much I practice or how many extra breaths I take on my own, I always suffer when I get to this point in the practice. Since Navasana is traditionally repeated five times it gets increasingly more intense. The first round usually ignites a mild burning sensation in the core. The last round culminates in shaking, burning and emotional anguish. Each time I jump back I feel like a survivor.

    But, you probably wouldn’t see that from watching me practice. The hidden secret of the practice is that often times what looks equanimous and peaceful from the outside corresponds with a great deal of effort and grit on the inside. Knowing how to distribute your effort most efficiently means that you will be able to maintain a balanced state of mind regardless of the challenge. Finding that sweet spot in Navasana begins by changing your focus from lifting the legs to the inner work of the pelvic floor.

    The key to finding good balance in Navasana is to orient both your effort and attention to the pelvic floor. Not only do you need a strong core but you need to distribute your weight between your sitting bones in order to feel comfortable in this asana. Translated into English as the Boat Pose, in Navasana you have to focus on building a firm hull so that your ship won’t sink.

    Start off in a seated position, then bend your knees, place the soles of the feet on the floor and keep the legs together. Root the heads of your femurs into their sockets and begin activating the pelvic floor. Allow a gentle roundedness in the base of the pelvis, in the space between the sitting bones and the tailbone. Contract the anus and the pelvic muscles and draw the lower abdomen inwards. Avoid trying to balance on the tips of your sitting bones. Use a subtle rounding of the base of the pelvis to be your connection into the ground. Especially if you have a bony protrusion around your tailbone, you will find t useful to soften into a more rounded root. Next, lengthen the torso, relax the next and straighten the arms. Then, to enter Navasana, shift your chest back  just to counterbalance the weight of your legs, come up onto the tips of your toes and inhale as your lift and straight the legs. Gaze towards the toes and stay for five breaths.

    By Kino MacGregor

    Practice with Kino and watch the Navasana episode of Yoga Encyclopedia

    Watch Yoga Encyclopedia for more asana tips & breakdowns

     

  • Rotate Your Pelvis: Yuval’s Secret Handstand Tip

    I love being a student. There is something magical about learning from a true master. While I make time to study with my yoga teacher every chance I also love to study with hand-balancing masters every chance I get. In the world of handstands there are few people who have devoted themselves to the mastery of hand-balancing than Yuval Avalon.

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