• Co-activate Your Psoas and Quads in Trikonasana

    Sometimes doing just one pose can set you up for the whole day. Let’s look at Trikonasana, or Triangle Pose, and a powerful cue for stabilizing your pelvis and lumbar.

    Understanding tips like this one also sharpens your knowledge of anatomical and bio-mechanical principles. The principle at work here is that of muscle co-contraction. This cue co-contracts or activates two separate muscles, namely, the psoas and quadriceps of the forward leg. As a consequence, you will feel a deep stability in your hip joint and a connection from your leg to your lumbar spine.

    Extend your forward leg knee by contracting the quadriceps. At the same time, press down with your torso through the arm into the hand, and onto your shin. This activates your psoas (and iliacus), tilting the pelvis over the forward leg and, by lumbopelvic rhythm, drawing the lumbar out of hyperflexion. Feel how this connection stabilizes your pelvis and lumbar and awakens the forward leg in the pose.

    Figure 1

    In the beginning, it may be difficult to get the hang of activating your psoas. Get a feel for this by bending the knee and pressing down on the thigh through your elbow as shown here. Click here for an entire series of poses you can use to awaken your psoas.

    Figure 2

    I hope you enjoy this cue. Think about what’s happening bio-mechanically while you work with this. Thanks as well to everyone for your support of the folks in Panama City who were affected by Hurricane Michael. Check back next week to see how to integrate the back leg into this cue for Trikonasana

    By Ray & Chris of The Daily Bandha

    Ray Long MD FRCSC is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga.

    Chris Macivor is a 3D Graphic Dessigner and illustrator who has been involved in the field of digital content creation for well over ten years.

    This article was originally posted on www.dailybandha.com. If you would like more practice with Trikonasana, check out the tutorial below on Omstars.com.

    Patricia Amado’s Trikonasana Tutorial on Omstars

  • Yoga for Menstruation

    As someone who has had to seek medical intervention in the past, I can tell you that the most consistent relief I’ve had has happened since I have had a consistent yoga practice.

    Menstruation can be hard. Whereas it’s normal and expected once girls hit puberty, those 5-8 days can be dreadfully, frighteningly painful for many women. From anxiety to mood swings, lower back pain to crippling abdominal cramps, nausea and diarrhea to constipation. As someone who has had to seek medical intervention in the past, I can tell you that the most consistent relief I’ve had has happened since I have had a consistent yoga practice. Try adding yoga to your daily routine and see how it helps. You can also try these yoga poses for menstruation. They will help to relieve symptoms of bloating, heavy bleeding, PMS and lower back pain.

    Supta Baddha Khonasana

    This is a reclined variation of Butterfly Pose. You can also place a cushion, bolster or blanket under your back, the entire length of the spine. Hands can be flat on the ground, palms up. Or, you can place one hand on the heart, the other on the lower pelvic belly. Breathe. This pose opens up the hips and groin area and helps to relieve traditional lower abdominal cramps. Stay here for 5 minutes.

    Legs Up The Wall

    This pose is especially helpful for those of us who struggle with lower back pain associated with our period. It supports the lower back and the relaxed position, with the spine flat on the ground, eases compression in the lower back area. If a wall is not available, feel free to choose a similar variation but with the knees bent and feet drawn close to the glutes. Stay in this position for 5-10 minutes.

    Bound Angle/Cobbler/Butterfly Pose

        

     

    Bound Angle Pose works by opening and massaging the pelvic area of the body. This pose can also help with heavy bleeding. You can sit with the spine straight, grabbing the feet. Or, place several blankets, a bolster or a cushion underneath the torso and come into a folded variation. Hold for 5-10 minutes.

    Sideways Cat Stretch

    From all fours: inhale center, exhale, try to bring the head to the glutes. Alternate, left and right sides.
    The aim here is to help the pelvic muscles to relax and ease the discomfort that results in cramping pain when those muscles contract. Repeat 5 times on each side.

    Supine Twist:

    Supine twists are great for relieving the symptoms associated with menstrual cramps. They aid by easing the discomfort in the lower pelvic region and also stimulating blood flow and circulation. The stretch on the lower back and hips is also quite soothing. Add a bolster, cushion or folded blankets under the bent leg to make yourself more comfortable. Then stay in this pose, on each side, for 3-5 minutes.

    Savasana

    Menstruation often comes with a roller coaster of emotions. Savasana relaxes and calms the nervous system and helps to balance the emotions. Hold Savasana for 5 minutes.

    Happy period.

    By Sasha Daley

     

    I started practicing yoga in 2015. I had a pain in my knee and, after searching Google, figured I had nothing to lose by trying. I watched my life and relationships become transformed by my practice. So much so that I pursued my 200 HR certification with Bodhi Yoga Academy in 2018. I advocate yoga and it’s transformative, healing properties for all peoples and all bodies. I see yoga as a safe space, a place where we forget who we think we are, who we’re expected to be; it is where we allow the body, the mind, the breath to be so perfectly intertwined that we can just be. Being a teacher is great. Being a student of the practice is, by far, my greatest accomplishment.

  • Dolphin Pose: Ardha Pincha Mayurasana

    Dolphin pose is a pose which I think is often overlooked, but it packs so many great benefits that I think it’s more than worth taking a closer look at. Dolphin Pose, or Ardha Pincha Mayurasana, strengthens, and stretches the shoulders, upper back and legs.  It’s also a pretty awesome core strengthener. The combination of strength and flexibility that Dolphin pose builds can help with so many areas of your practice. Particularly when working towards Pincha Mayurasana or Forearm Stand, and other inversions.

    Check out more pose tutorials on Omstars

    Here are some things to focus on when practicing Dolphin Pose:

    Set up with the forearms parallel to each other, with the elbows shoulder width apart, and the palms flat on the mat. Those elbows are going to want to splay out to the side, so keep hugging them in towards the mid-line to prevent that from happening. Think about wrapping the shoulder blades outwards, away from the spine and broaden through the collar bones.

    As you walk your feet in towards your torso aim to stack the shoulders over the elbows. Focus on reaching your hips towards the ceiling and keeping the spine long. If your hamstrings are tight, feel free to come up on your tiptoes, or if you have the flexibility then press your heels down into the mat. Keep your legs engaged by pulling your kneecaps and strongly engage your core to stabilize and support the whole pose. Relax your neck and gaze towards your shins or toes.

    By Laura Large

    I am an Ashtanga Yoga Practitioner and Teacher based near Marlborough, Wiltshire with a real love and passion for the practice. I also own and manage a Wellbeing Centre where I work as a licensed Acupuncturist, which really helps me to understand the energetics of the asanas and how they affect the physical, mental and emotional bodies. My classes are strong, energetic and fun.  Ashtanga Yoga is an amazing practice for developing some serious strength and flexibility in body and mind. Outside of my daily Ashtanga Vinyasa practice I love playing creatively with poses and exploring hybrid postures and different variations – Arm balances are a real favorite of mine! You can find me on Instagram where I host yoga challenges and share tips and tutorials at @omniyogagirl

    Plank Pose Breakdown with Laura Large

  • A Simple Sequence for Gentle Yoga with Kaitlyn

    Set your day up for success with simple stretches in the morning. This simple gentle yoga sequence will guide you through the steps and help set your intention for the rest of the day.

    You’ll need your mat, a quiet space, and blocks or books for this sequence. Start by finding a comfortable seat. Bring your hands palm face down on your knees if you’d like to ground down your energy, or face up if you’d like to receive energy for the day, or one of each if you can’t decide.

    Take a moment to notice your sit bones grounding into the space beneath you, the length of your spine, and the crown of your head reaching toward the sky. Allow your shoulders to relax away from the ears, soften the facial muscles, and relax the space between the eyebrows. Start to bring your awareness to your breath, taking deep inhales, and slowly releasing the breath on an exhalation.

    Focus on your breath, and set an intention for the day.

    Bringing your palms face down on your knees, inhale to press the heart center forward, begin to lift the chin and the gaze, and roll the shoulders away from the ears.

    As you exhale, begin to round the spine as you tuck the chin toward the chest and fall back on your seat. Repeat three times.

    Next, bring your chin to your chest, roll the chin along the collar bone rolling right ear to right shoulder, lower the left hand toward the earth or a block, and gently rest your right hand on the side of your head without putting any pressure on it, just allowing the weight of your hand to give you a deeper stretch. Repeat on both sides.

    Inhale and bring your arms overhead, palms can press at the top, or your arms can be separated, and exhale to bring hands through to heart center. Repeat three times.

      

     

    Inhale to reach the arms overhead, and exhale to lower the right hand toward the earth, walk or slide the fingertips away from you, and reach the left arm overhead for a side stretch. Repeat three times on both sides.

    Next, inhale to reach the arms overhead, and exhale to twist towards the right, bringing your right arm behind you like a kickstand, and the left arm in front, bringing your hand either onto the floor or your right thigh. Use the breath as a tool to soften into your twist. Repeat three times on both sides.

    Slowly make your way onto hands and knees into a table top position, allowing your shoulders to stack over the wrists, and your hips to stack over the knees. You can bring a blanket under your knees, or fold your mat for more support for your knees. Inhale as you press the heart center forward lifting the chin and lifting the gaze. Exhale as you round the spine, pressing the ground away from you, tucking the chin towards the chest. Repeat Cat/Cow three times.

         

    Walk the hands slightly forward and begin to lift the sit bones up and back for downward facing dog, keeping the feet hip distance apart. Take a shorter down dog than you usually would, and invite a bend into the knees. Alternate from side to side to bend into the knees, and maybe move the hips from side to side. Do what feels good in your body today. Pause here for a few deep breaths, and bring your focus back to your intention.

    Moving into your Anjaneyasana, or low lunge pose, step your right foot to the top of the mat between the hands. Lower your back knee towards the earth, and square the hips toward the front of the mat. You can place blocks or books under your hands to bring the ground up toward you. Pressing the heart center forward, start to breathe into this space for a moment.

    Start to walk blocks/books back toward your body. Straighten into the front leg, bringing the toes to point up towards the sky. If you’re feeling tight, stay right here, or gently fold over the front leg.

    Now working with the breath, inhale to bend into the knee to walk the blocks/books forward opening through the heart center, and exhale as you walk the hands/blocks back in toward the body and gently fold. Use the breath as a tool and move back and forth three times. Repeat this on the second side.

    Note: if one side feels tighter then the other, don’t judge yourself. Just breathe into wherever you are on each side. If it feels better to pause in either variation, feel free to pause. Do what feels right in your body, today.

      

    Come back into your downward facing dog for a few deep breaths. Slowly bring your knees toward the earth, separating them as wide as you’d like. Bring your big toes to touch, and begin to melt into your child’s pose, bringing your sit bones toward your heels. Bring your forehead to touch the ground, or you can create fists with your hands, and stack your fists and bring your forehead to your fists. Always do what feels comfortable for you in your body.

    Pause here for a few breaths, bringing your awareness back to your breath. Are you breathing deeply? Is your mind wandering? Take a few deep grounding breaths here.

    Slowly make your way back into a comfortable seat. Bring your hands to heart center, bow the chin towards your chest, and take a moment to reflect on the intention that you set at the beginning of your practice. Thank yourself for finding time to come to your mat and practice today, and take this grounding feeling with you throughout the rest of your day.

    Namaste.

    By Kaitlyn Kreitzman

    Kaitlyn started practicing yoga in high school to combat the high demands of school work, sports, and life in New York. It was an on and off practice until college where she really became dedicated to making time on her mat daily. After realizing the amazing benefits of a yoga practice, and watching them become a reality in her life, Kaitlyn wanted to share this practice with others. She received her 200-hour RYT in 2015 from Urban Bliss Yoga In North Carolina. She taught on her college campus and in studios around the area of Fairfield Connecticut. After she graduated with a B.A. in Graphic Design and Illustration, she wanted to expand her knowledge of teaching and received her 500-hour RYT at Simplicity Yoga Studio in Long Island, New York. Kaitlyn now teaches and lives in Northwestern Colorado. She draws her inspiration for her classes from her everyday life. Kaitlyn’s classes focus on alignment, breath work, meditation, and yoga philosophy. She loves to help others take what they learn on the mat and incorporate it into their everyday lives. Kaitlyn works as the Social Media Manager, and Graphic Designer for Omstars. When she’s not teaching or practicing yoga, she enjoys camping, hiking, rock climbing, reading, and painting.

  • Plank Pose: Where the Body Goes the Mind Will Follow

    If you’re looking for a quick strengthening, full body workout then these two poses give a lot of bang for their buck. Although Plank Pose and Upward Plank are two obvious core strengthening poses, when practiced with the correct alignment they work pretty much every muscle in your body. Apart from the physical benefits, I like to think that both of these poses also help to bring stability and strength on an emotional and spiritual level. Where the body goes the mind will follow.  Plank Pose and Upward Plank will help to increase focus, stamina, and endurance. I also feel that these poses help to develop the understanding that the muscles of the body or, different aspects of yourself, need to work together in unison in order to create that strength and stability.

     

    Plank Pose:

     

    Have the feet hip width apart, and the hands shoulder width apart, with the wrists aligned directly under the shoulders. Your focus is on keeping the body in one straight line. Draw the lower belly back towards the spine, pull the kneecaps up to keep the legs engaged, and plug the arms into the shoulder joint by rotating the eyes of the elbows forward. Imagine pushing the mat away with your hands as you keep the shoulders broad, and draw the shoulder blades down the back. Gaze forward, and think about keeping the shoulders, hips and heels in line with each other.

     

     

    Upward Plank Pose:

     

    Have the feet together, with the base of the big toes touching, and the hands shoulder width apart, with the fingers pointing towards the toes. Again, imagine pressing the mat away firmly with the hands and feet. Aim to keep the wrists under the shoulders. Focus on lifting the hips, and imagine the whole of the back of the body extending and engaging to create a slight backbend. Open and lift the chest, as you internally rotate the thighs by pressing into the base of the big toes. Engage the core by pulling the belly button back towards the spine, and gaze toward the space between the eyebrows.

    By Laura Large

    I am an Ashtanga Yoga Practitioner and Teacher based near Marlborough, Wiltshire with a real love and passion for the practice. I also own and manage a Wellbeing Centre where I work as a licensed Acupuncturist, which really helps me to understand the energetics of the asanas and how they affect the physical, mental and emotional bodies. My classes are strong, energetic and fun.  Ashtanga Yoga is an amazing practice for developing some serious strength and flexibility in body and mind. Outside of my daily Ashtanga Vinyasa practice I love playing creatively with poses and exploring hybrid postures and different variations – Arm balances are a real favourite of mine! You can find me on Instagram where I host yoga challenges and share tips and tutorials at @omniyogagirl

    Check out more pose tutorials on Omstars

  • Tiriang Mukha Ekapada Paschimotanasana Pose Breakdown

    This seated position of Ashtanga Primary Series works with the internal rotation of the hip and knee as well as deep plantar flexion of the foot. Many sensitivities can arise here as we rarely put ourselves into this type of alignment in daily life, but it is important as a counter to the many positions of external rotation we do in our yoga practice.

    To identify your body’s particular resistances, access one movement at a time. You will feel it most intensely wherever you are tightest. From a seated position, begin by flexing the knee in the parallel, closing the joint as much as possible, heel to sit bone. Then rock yourself towards your extended leg, lifting the pelvis on the bent knee side to allow space to drop the thigh across the midline of the body, finding adduction and internal rotation, and tuck the foot back along side the hip, toes pointed behind you.

    You may feel strain in the ankle here if you have reached the limit of your plantar flexion. If this is the case, you an put a rolled towel under the ankle to lessen the pressure and stretch. Draw the bent, internally rotated leg in to touch the extended leg, knees together. There is a tendency here to have scooted the lifted side of the pelvis back in space, so check to see that the pelvis is squared off, knees aligned with each other. If you are already feeling resistance in the hip or knee, you may want to stay here, keeping the hand to the floor for support. If not, begin to send the lifted sit bone back down into the floor to ground. This will deepen the rotation at the hip and the knee so go slowly and honor your limit. If you are able to anchor through both sit bones, fold forward.

    Tippyness is the point here! The tipsiness of the posture directs your awareness to where you need to work. Internally rotate the extended leg to help send energy towards the center. Hug the inner thighs together, draw the femur bones into the hip sockets. In the fold, draw the bent leg and the same side ribcage towards each other. The urge might be to push the knee into the floor, but play with this lifting energy allowing the thigh and torso to hug together. Then, finally, let go of what you don’t need (shoulders tense up, anyone?) and relax as much as possible, without falling over!

    If you struggle with this posture, be patient. For some, it can take many years to find ease and comfort in Tiriang Mukha Ekapada Paschimotanasana. The key to to identify your resistances as they arise and address them mindfully and thoroughly. This is an iceberg posture – most of the effort and exploration is happening below the surface, with subtle changes. Stay present, do the work.

    By Angelique Sandas

    Try it Now on Omstars

     

  • Cultivating Strength in Warrior I

    Warrior I, otherwise known as Virabhadrasana A, is one of the most basic poses in the practice. It is also, however, deceptively simple. When performed correctly, Warrior I should cause the thighs to burn, the heart rate to accelerate, and the breath to become heavy. You should feel a sense of heat rising throughout the entire body as you cultivate both mental and physical strength. When practiced mindfully with proper alignment and adequate effort, the whole lesson of the journey of yoga can be found right there in Warrior I.

    In Indian mythology, Virabhadra is a spiritual warrior created from a lock of Shivas hair. Shiva sends Virabhadra down to Earth to act as a warrior of peace in the world. When Shiva releases this lock of hair, dropping our warrior down to Earth, Virabhadra lands, at the ready in Warrior I. This posture and the story behind it represents the brave heart of the Yogi. As you begin to practice, you gain access to the energy of Virabhadra, and as such, gain the spiritual strength to go out into the world as a force of healing energy and strength.

    To practice your strongest Warrior I, begin in mountain pose – Samasthiti. Hug the belly in toward the spine and begin to lift your energy up along the midline. Cultivate strength in your mountain pose and then step back with the left foot. You want about the distance of one of your own legs between your feet.

    Place the heal of your back foot down onto the mat so that the toes come out to a 45-degree angle. Check to be sure that the heal of your front foot is in line with the arch of your back foot, then press down with the back leg to seal the outside edge of the foot against the mat.

    Be sure to keep your pelvis in a neutral position, oriented forward toward the top of your mat. From here, pull femur-head of your front leg into your hip socket as you bend the front knee. Be sure that you keep the belly hugging in toward the spine, and then reach the fingertips up toward the ceiling, palms touching. At the same time, lift your gaze. The whole body strong, every muscle working. Hold here for several rounds of deep, continuous breath, then step back to Samasthiti. When you’re ready, mode to the other side.

    By Alex Wilson

    Note: The alignment cues and expertise offered in this blog post come straight from Kino’s breakdown of this pose on OMstars series, The Encyclopedia of Yoga.

    Check Out More Pose Breakdowns on OMstars

    Alex Wilson is a writer, yoga teacher, and the content manager at OMstars – The Yoga Network.

     

  • Ustrasana: the subtlety of heart-opening

    Not every yoga pose needs to bring you to edge of limits. Some poses lay the technical and anatomical foundation for deeper practice. It’s crucial that you apply healthy alignment principles in the foundational poses if you seek to maintain your practice over the course of your lifetime. If you jump in with all heart and zeal but forget to use wisdom and intelligence, chances are you’ll push too hard and miss out on the subtlety of your yoga practice.

    Backbending is a both challenging emotionally and physically. As such, it truly demands that you learn optimal technique from the beginning. If you try and force your backbends not only will you prevent your spine from opening but you may experience an entirely preventable injury. The beauty of backbends is that they energize the small micro-muscles of the back and stimulate the nervous system. Not to mention that in a healthy backend every single muscle of the entire body is involved.

    The process of backbending can be thought of as bending over backwards with the entire body. As the muscles of around your spine lift and create space around the vertebrae, the front body lengthen, the legs engage, the pelvic floor firms, and the shoulders and chest open. On a more internal level, the digestive system is cleansed, the cardio-vascular is stimulated and the nervous system is enervated. Finally on an energetic level, the vital life essence known as Prana is pushed upwards along the central channel, often bringing heat, emotions and rarefied states of consciousness to the surface. You will only progress to the deepest levels of realization within the inner body once the basics of alignment are set up well. Ustrasana, translated into English as the Camel Pose, is the perfect backbend to establish your awareness of anatomical and alignment.

    Starting off in Downward Facing Dog, step or jump your feet forward to a kneeling position. Place the knees hips’ width apart. If your backbend is relatively open leave the toes pointed, but if your backbend is relatively tighter then curl the toes under and use the strength of the feet for more foundation. Internally rotate the hip joints and gently activate the inner thigh muscles to adduct the femurs. A gentle internal rotation allows the sacrum to be free and helps keep the glutes soft. Activate the pelvic floor and send the hips forward, opening the fronts of the hip joints and releasing the psoas and hip flexors. Inhale as you draw the lower abdomen in and lift the rib cage away from the hips to maximize the space between the joints of the spine. Exhale bend each each of the joints of the spine in to extension and facilitate a soft arched back. Nutate the sacrum and distribute the bend equally throughout the entire spine. Place the heels of the hands on the heels of the feet, roll the shoulders forward to internally rotate the humerus and send the sternum up and forward. Allow the trapezius muscles to come up and support the neck pillow as you comfortably drop your head back and gaze towards the nose. Stay for five breaths. With each inhalation create space both physically and emotionally. With each exhalation surrender into that space in every way possible. Come out of the pose in the same methodical way that you entered, reversing the instructions and maintaining space and support for every joint of the body. Move with symmetry and awareness. Never force.

    By Kino MacGregor

    Watch Omstars Yoga Encyclopedia episode on Ustrasana

  • 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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