• 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

  • 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