• Who needs Yoga?

    The imagery of modern yoga has an ethereal edge.  Wherever we look, we see lissome bodies bending into improbable forms, and balancing elegantly on the precipice of medical disaster.  This imagery can lend the impression that yoga is for people who live an ethereal existence, people who may be missing bones, who drift through the atmosphere, and rarely touch ground with their feet.  But these images are incidental.  They do not reflect the profile of the ordinary yoga practitioner.  On the contrary, they do something more interesting.  They reflect our fascination with the contortive potential of the human body, and in doing so, they symbolize, however imperfectly, our inherent admiration for resilience.

    Yogic imagery is remarkably old.  It provides the earliest evidence we have for yoga in the ancient world.  One of the earliest pieces is the Pashupati seal from the Mohenjo-Daro excavation site in present day Pakistan.  It features a humanlike figure with long horns seated in what appears to be Mulabandhasana.  The seal predates the current era by more than two millennia, and represents a civilization about which we understand very little.  The meaning of the seal is veiled in obscurity, and this is usual for artifacts that pertain to the ancient origins of yoga.  Sometimes we can decode their symbology enough to tell a coherent story about what they might mean, but we can only imagine the consciousness in which they were composed.

    Throughout its long and complicated history, yoga has formed countless alliances with  diverse alchemical and soteriological traditions.  In light of the diversity, many scholars now argue that there is no single thing called “yoga” whose tradition we can trace.  And so that may be.  But if we look at examples of yogic imagery throughout the ages—from the ancient seals of the Indus River Valley, to the medieval temple carvings of Tamil Nadu, to the Kalighat paintings of colonial Bengal, and to the crystalline images that stream through our social media channels today—there is always that ethereal edge.  There is always that evident longing to elevate consciousness above our limitations, and so to enrich and expand the human experience.

    This ethereal edge is the common thread to what we recognize as yogic imagery.  And if we can follow that thread through the ages, weaving through countless social and ritual contexts, this is arguably because of the way that what we recognize as yoga practice answers an archetypal human need—the need to be resilient, to be malleable, and to meet the persistent pressures to adapt to the ever changing circumstance of life.  That need has been understood in diverse and often opposing ways, as demonstrated by the Vedic, Tantric, and Advaitic approaches to the problem.  Arguably no single one of these is definitive, but neither can any one of them be discounted.  What is pertinent is the way that each of them answers our felt need to break up our inveterate patterns of conditioning, open our minds and evolve.

    Modern yoga does not cohere around any particular philosophy.  It exists more simply as an open set of practices and techniques for helping us overcome our psychological limitations.  Whatever the promises of yoga practice might be, the most pertinent and most compelling is that yoga allows us to relate more openly to otherness.  The practice teaches us to hold an open space of compassionate awareness for our own thoughts, emotions and memories to unfold, no matter how excessive or threatening they might seem.  Through this practice, we give ourselves space, and we allow our minds to breath, so that otherness can appear within our consciousness, and we can relate to it more openly, without being impeded by our fears and anxieties.  That is, we can receive otherness, and be impacted by otherness, adapting to its reality without having to reinforce any particular idea or image of ourselves in the process.

    The reception of otherness within ourselves helps break up our self images.  And in this sense, the practices of yoga are vehicles for psychical release.  They help us release ourselves from the tangles of thought, emotion and memory to which we so ardently cling.  They help us to let go of things, so that we do not congeal into the imprint of our experiences, but we can continue to change and adapt to our circumstances.  To put it simply, the techniques of yoga help us break ourselves up.  They help us break up the congestion of our delusions and conceits, piercing the armor by which we conceal and protect ourselves from the otherness of the world.  And in doing so, they help us liberate ourselves from the stagnation of our conditioning, so we can open ourselves to new relationships, and new possibilities of experience.

    The orphanage of modern yoga practices from the historical traditions from which they descend is often regarded as corrosive to their potency, but arguably the reverse is true.  However rich and compelling those traditions might be, it remains essential that we translate our experiences with yoga into our own living language, into words that bring those experiences home to us, and engage us as we are.  The elision of antiquated concepts from the language of yoga is therefore an essential and not entirely regrettable aspect of its adaptation to modern life.  Without imposing upon ourselves the arcane limitations of historically distant ideas, we can have a more authentic experience of ourselves through the practice.  The removal of those ideas means that we can give ourselves more room to breathe, more room to settle into ourselves, and more room to follow the currents of awakening that are already flowing through us.

    This is part of the intelligence of modern yoga.  As a global phenomenon, yoga is not bound too tightly to any particular philosophy, nor to any particular conception of the relationship between the human and the divine.  And for just that, it can focus on what is more compelling, namely, the process of breaking up the self, and creating more space for the natural processes of creativity to unfold.  There are, of course, people today who would argue endlessly about the relative credentials of dualism, non-dualism, monism and the like, but the modern yoga movement is largely agnostic on these speculative questions, and understandably so.  In these late modern times, we have no need for the kind of thinking that hangs so breathlessly on these delicate distinctions, and evidence abounds of the problems that arise when we allow that kind of thinking to congeal into certainty.  Moreover, the speculative questions that underlie these distinctions tend to lose their force under the softening influence of the yogic experience, and that experience is really the center of the attraction.

    What holds the attention of most modern yoga practitioners is not any particular view of reality that may or not be encouraged by the practice, but the immediate experience of psychical release that is so warmly invited by each and every breath.  The most intriguing thing about yoga practice is that it works—when we undertake the practice assiduously, without pause, for a reasonable amount of time, we find that we can break into ourselves, creating space within our minds to relate to otherness in a more open and authentic way.  And here is the point—it is only by relating openly and authentically to otherness that we can evolve, for it is precisely in relation to otherness that we express creativity, awareness, compassion, and resilience.

    So the process of breaking into ourselves, and creating space for otherness, is crucial for our psychological development.  And we all could use some kind of internal practice to help make that process unfold, for we all tend to stagnate into our own psychological patterns.  This is perhaps the fundamental problem that yoga practice has always been called upon to solve, the problem of pulling us from the mire of our own conditioning.  This problem is arguably more pressing now then ever.  Modern life, after all, draws us into extremes of isolation, where we shun our collective problems with dangerous apathy.  It is perhaps no coincidence, then, that an unprecedented collective effort is the only chance that we have to reverse our destructive patterns today and resolve the colossal problems of our time.  At this pivotal moment in history, when we have nuclear weapons pointed all over the globe, and our patterns of extraction and consumption are quickly destroying the conditions of human life on our planet, our survival depends on our ability to break our conditioned patterns of thinking and acting, to come out of ourselves, to recognize the stark reality of our crises, and then to join together, with the rest of humanity, to take radical and immediate measures to cope intelligently with our nearly apocalyptic problems.

    Today, we can no longer afford to limit yoga to spiritual purposes.  Yoga is perhaps the most powerful instrument that we have for breaking out of ourselves and overcoming the paralyzing effects of our psychological conditioning.  On the same account, we can no long afford to restrict access to yoga, or create divisions within yoga that reinforce that archaic and destructive “us-versus-them” mentality.  What we think of as “real” yoga might not be for everyone (or anyone living now for that matter) but everyone today needs the kind of provocation to openness and change that even the more popular forms of yoga can inspire.  The real yoga is not the one that comes down to us through this or that authority, but the one that rattles us out of our delusions, draws us out ourselves, and exposes us to the fact that we are not isolated from one another, but bound together inextricably, and tasked to find ways of living together that express our basic resilience, kindness and generosity.

    The popularization of yoga, whatever its drawbacks might be, can help to inspire this kind of realization, by giving us simple and compelling methods for breaking up our mental congestions and our practical stagnations, and dissolving the individual and collective delusions that obscure our deeper and more loving nature.  This is something that we can all support without reservation, if we can only set ourselves aside, and look at the bigger picture.  Instead of creating more divisive hierarchies, more elitist obscurations, or more structures of restricted access and protected privilege, we should work together to churn the collective mind, uncover the potent essence of yoga, and then allow it to flow, so we can share it with absolutely everyone.

    By Ty Landrum

    Have you tried Ty’s Ashtanga course on Omstars? He explores techniques and tips for jumping through and jumping back, the energies of prana and apana in practice and also teaches a full primary series practice as well! Stay tuned for more articles and courses from Ty on omstars, but in the meantime you can read more of Ty’s brilliant articles on his website tylandrum.com!

    Practice Ashtanga with Ty Landrum today on Omstars

  • Femininity, perseverance & gentleness- Magnolias- Omstars new print by Liquido

    Everyone is going Magnolias with Omstars! Check out our NEW Limited edition print: Gold Magnolias yoga clothing line! Omstars have partnered up with Liquido and have our first beautiful print ready for you to wear. The new Magnolias print is available in Om leggings, Shine shorts and our Twisted bra

    With so many different Yoga clothing lines out there sometimes it can be challenging to wade through them all to find what works best for you. Well look no further! Kino has helped to design our new Magnolias line which features extra long leggings with a high waist band, shine shorts, which are perfect for those hot practices and summer days, and our ever popular twisted bra top. All of these items have been created using Liquido’s Freedom fit fabric technology, which is a super soft material with lots of stretch capability for even the most pretzel like of postures! This lightweight, breathable material has been created for yogis of all shapes and to fit as uniquely as the human being that wears them. Whether you wear these items for Yoga, running or any activity for that matter, you’ll feel comfortable, confident and capable of fluid movement in all directions.

    Magnolias have long been regarded as a symbol of femininity, perseverance, and gentleness. Often found in nature to be subtle in colour but strong in appearance, these flowers capture the essence of practice and truly living the yogi life.

    Twist Bra Top:

    The Omstars twist bra top has been a winning item in our online shop and now you can go bold with this strappy bra featuring a keyhole design in our new Magnolia print! Perfect under a loose tank, or worn by itself, this bra makes a statement, and is anything but boring! It’s great for yoga, pilates, dancing, just about any activity, with its moisture-wicking lycra based fabric and open back.

    Shine Shorts:

    The Omstars shine shorts in Magnolia by Liquido are the perfect alternative to our leggings for the summer months, heated class and basically any activity where you’ll be sweating. These gorgeous shorts feature a super short fit, sit below the navel and feature side ties. Made from Liquido’s classic stretchy and soft Freedom fabric, you won’t want to wear anything else! Every Liquido short is unique so your pair may vary from the picture you see on the Omstars shop page.

    Om Legging:

    These super comfortable, extra long leggings have been constructed with a custom Poly-Lycra blend fabric that combines exceptional performance with a flattering and softened fit. Sitting snugly above the hips, the elastic-free higher sitting waistband is sinfully comfortable for all fits, athletic to curvy.

    Each of our new Omstars Magnolia pieces are constructed of 90% Polyamide and 10% Spandex, silky soft fabric and with a stretch that will never let you down, allowing you full freedom of movement for your yoga practice and beyond! If you’re practicing outdoors your skin will be protected by 50+UVA/UVB built into the fabric. Even in the sweatiest of practices, your new yoga gear is quick-drying and durable and you’ll be happy to know that each item has been made with love in Brazil, sweatshop free.

    What are you waiting for? Log on to shop our new print — Start shopping now Omstars Shop. You can then post your pics in our new print for a chance to be featured on our Instagram page!. Use #OSMagnolia.

    By Anna Wechsel

    Learn more about Liquido

    Visit our Omstars Shop for new leggings, shorts, tops and so much more

  • 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

  • Epic stuffed ravioli lasagna with stretchy cashew mozzarella

    You guys, we did it. We had a dream, and we made that dream come true. Introducing our epic ravioli stuffed lasagna, that’s right, a lasagna stuffed with ravioli + a bunch of other goodies, and topped with a stretchy cashew mozzarella. This will not disappoint, we promise! This is one of those “vegan recipes to impress non-vegans”, and if those have a proper name please correct me haha.

    All of your dreams will come true with this ravioli stuffed lasagna!

    • Author: Sweet Simple Vegan

    • Prep Time: 25 minutes

    • Cook Time: 45 minutes

    • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

    • Yield: 9

    • Category: Entree

    • Cuisine: Italian

    INGREDIENTS

    VEGAN RAVIOLI LASAGNA

    • 18-24 vegan raviolis (We used Rising Moon Organic Garlic & Roasted Veggie Ravioli), cooked

    • 6 no-boil uncooked lasagna noodles

    • 1/2 package vegan ricotta (we used Kite Hill)

    • 1 jar oil-free marina (we used Engine 2)

    • 1 large zucchini (for about 32 1/4″ thick rounds)

    • 1 recipe vegan mozzarella* (below)

    • 3-4 leaves fresh basil, chopped small

    • Casserole baking dish (ours was 8 x 8 x 2.75″)

    STRETCHY VEGAN CASHEW MOZZARELLA

    • 1 cup water

    • ½ cup raw cashews

    • 3 1/2 tablespoons tapioca starch (also known as tapioca flour)

    • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

    • 1 teaspoon lemon or apple cider vinegar

    • ½ teaspoon salt

    • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder

    • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

    • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

    INSTRUCTIONS

    VEGAN RAVIOLI LASAGNA

    1. Cook raviolis according to package directions, then preheat oven to 350 F and grab your casserole dish.

    2. Add sauce to the bottom of the pan, then top with 2 lasagna noodles, ricotta, about 9 raviolis, about 16 zucchini rounds, and repeat until you have formed 2 layers, or as fits in your pan. Top with the vegan mozzarella, followed by more ricotta (if any remains) and fresh basil.

    3. Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil, and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until top is slightly browned and noodles are cooked through.

    4. Remove from oven and cool for 10-15 minutes, then slice into 4 and serve!

    STRETCHY VEGAN CASHEW MOZZARELLA

    1. Soak cashews overnight, or about 8 hours, then drain and rinse.

    2. Add the cashews plus the remaining ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

    3. Pour into a medium pan over medium-high heat, and continually stir for about 5 minutes until gooey. Cook and stir for another minute to make sure it’s at the right consistency, then add atop the uncooked lasagna while warm.

    Want to make this delicious recipe alongside Jasmine and Chris? Check out their Youtube channel for more! Sweet Simple Vegan

    NOTES

    Mozzarella inspired by Vedged Out and itdoesnttastelikechicken.

    • If you don’t want to make your own mozzarella, we recommend Miyoko’s!

    By Jasmine & Chris founders of Sweet Simple Vegan

    Follow these vegan recipe creating legends on instagram @sweetsimplevegan, and get over to their website www.sweetsimplevegan.com to check out  loads of articles about veganism, recipes, nutrition and more! We couldn’t be happier to have Jasmine joining us here at Omstars, we’ll be releasing a much anticipated course with her in the new year!

    Check out our Wellness channel for more plant-based recipes

  • Omstars New Yoga Challenge Course! Pssst…it’s free!

    The Omstars #30dayyogaliving challenge course has been created to inspire, empower, and get you started on your yoga journey. After the holiday season busyness, returning to work, and family life can be challenging enough, let along to think about movement, practice or anything other than napping. That’s where we come in!

    Start your new year, not with a resolution that may or may not stick around, but by joining the Omstars yoga challenge community this January 2018 and you will kickstart the beginning of a yoga lifestyle. Throughout the #30dayyogaliving course you will be supported by your peers and your teachers, challenged to trust and know your inner strength and be motivated by each new day, each new class and each new experience.

    What you need to know:

    1.) For the entire month of January Omstars will be releasing a new video everyday featuring a variety of teachers, styles and approaches to the practice, which have all been curated by world-renown teacher Kino MacGregor. This course is designed for EVERYONE- there is no right body type, yoga pose, or style of practice, all you need to get started on this journey is the desire to do so.

    2.) To join, click here. No payment details are required, signing up allows you access to the Omstars January #30dayyogaliving challenge course. You’ll also receive a daily email letting you know about the latest video release!

    3.) Then, to win some awesome prizes share you journey on Instagram! Re-post the #30dayyogaliving collage on your instagram, tag @Omstarsofficial along with all of the sponsors and the hashtag #30dayyogaliving. Everyday there will be one new yoga posture that will be posted on Instagram taken from the corresponding day of the video challenge course. To help keep you on track participants will be required to post their own photo of that day’s posture to qualify for prizes. But you can also still do the challenge without sharing your journey on IG—just practice every day for the month of January with us!

    5.) Post for the whole month and you’ll have the chance to win one of 10 prize packs which include;  Liforme yoga mats, a variety of different gift cards and apparel from Sankalpa, Jala, Run & Relax, Liquido, Ohmme, a signed copy of Kino’s book “Yogi Assignment”, one of 50 limited edition Omstars January Challenge Tanks and much more!

    The #30dayyogaliving one month challenge course with Omstars is an opportunity to kickstart the new year by inspiring you to get on your mat and practice! You will create more peace, get established in healthy living, increase mindfulness, and embark on living the yogi life. Starting something new can be a time to let go of unhelpful habits, thought patterns and cycles. It doesn’t mean that the month will be easy, or that it won’t be challenging to continue on after January, but by committing to #30dayyogaliving  and joining Omstars you will firmly establish yourself in a routine of healthy, positive and transformative practices. You will become a part of not only a community but of a movement, inviting Yoga into your everyday life, bringing peace into your body, into your mind and into your spirit. 

    Get excited, get involved and join us for our January Challenge!

    By Anna Wechsel

    Join the Omstars January Yoga Challenge Today!

  • Yoga for Parents

    We are a product of our environments.  We are a product of our parents.  Monkey see, monkey do.  What are your little monkeys observing in the day to day?  Posture is no little thing on the list of providing our children with happy, healthy and safe lives.  But, if we are constantly revolving around a sedentary life, how can we lead by example and show them how to move through this life with healthy posture?

    Since the internet and cell phones became a household and even an individual norm things have shifted, quite literally.  We sit too much, in cars, on the couch, at school and at work.  We are sitters. For the sake of our children, we need to become movers and shakers again.  For the sake of ourselves, we need to change this idea of “back breaking” work and do things with posture and muscular support that allows us to work hard without “breaking your back.”

    Two quick steps in the right direction:  

    1 Sit more. Wait, what?! Let me explain: Not on a chair, not on a couch, not with a screen and not with a slouch.  Dr. Suess rhymes aside, we need to squat.  We need to squat and work the posterior chain that gets neglected.  The backside of the body needs more attention and the spine needs that support. Six packs are pretty and all, but you know all the sayings: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Beauty is only skin deep.  Bark with no bite.  

    2 Posture, posture, posture.  This is where having a Yoga practice gives you an upper hand.  Practice at home and practice in front of your kids.  Their incredible human brain will process and digest what they are seeing.  I’ve always said it is no wonder every mother and father thinks that their child is a genius…humans are amazing!  Lead by example and show them correct posture.  Telling them to sit up straight means very little if they have never seen it before.

     If the above is a rant about the asana of Yoga then below is my little rant about the awareness of Yoga.  

     Processing information is hard, especially when you are learning rapidly, growing rapidly and experiencing heightened emotions that are relatively new.  You might think I’m talking about you at this point, but I’m actually referring to children.  When you stare at them in disbelief because they are reacting with such intensity, remember that it is all very real to them and they are experiencing those emotions inside no matter how irrational it seems to an adult.  It is very overwhelming and takes age and time to process in a more socially acceptable manner.  I know this from personal experience.  I too was once a child.  Seriously though,  often times reflection can be the easiest path to compassion.  You don’t just get off the hook as an adult either, this is a life long battle of thinking before you act or even thinking about how you act.  Yoga teaches us patience and that life itself is a practice.  One more time:  Life itself is a practice.  Practice makes progress.  Practice what you preach.  Lead by example.  Awareness.  I guess I was talking about you after all.

    By Holly Fiske

    Join Holly and Omstars for her #upsidedowniscomingtotown Instagram Challenge starting December 3rd, follow her on instagram @upsidedownmama and check out her website www.upsidedownmama.com to learn more about Holly and her beautiful clothing line!

    Watch this space for the release of Holly’s course Upside Down Yoga

  • #upsidedowniscomingtotown with Holly Fiske

    December is an exciting month for many reasons; spending time with family, enjoying the holiday season, the arrival of cooler weather and the ending of the year. Sometimes these can be challenging times when we have lots of obligations, events and plans, which can make getting on our mats or cushions a struggle. Here at Omstars, we’re always thinking of ways to inspire, motivate and bring you new courses, content and challenges!

    Enter Holly Fiske, aka upsidedownmama, mama of 2, yoga teacher, inversion master extraordinaire and eco-yoga clothes designer! Join Holly and Omstars starting December 3rd for her Instagram challenge #upsidedowniscomingtotown. She’ll be counting you down to the holidays, sharing practices to help you stay focused, challenging you to find your inner strength, as well as offering you insight into her upcoming course that releases Dec 4th, Upside Down Yoga, exclusively on Omstars.

    Meet Holly…

    What were your ideas and intention around hosting your upcoming challenge #upsidedowniscomingtotown?

    Challenges via social media reach people in an outstanding way.  People who are seeking inspiration, guidance and community.  I know, because I was one of them.  Finding fitness and yoga challenges on instagram created a physical, mental and social outlet I was struggling to find when my children were babies. Here I found camaraderie, support, knowledge and inspiration that helped me get to where I’m at today.  When I host a challenge, I know that I’m speaking to many people just like me and I want to make them find health and happiness and know that they can be and do whatever they set their mind to.  A lot of times we can look at what others are doing, their abilities and how they look and wish we were more like them.  I want people to get motivated and look at themselves, believing in themselves and conquering their wishes, happy in their own skin. Let that be the cycle. 

    What would you like participants to know about it that are thinking of joining?

    All of the poses in this challenge are designed to compliment, build or further explore an inversion practice.  Not every pose is upside down, but every pose will be supportive towards that endeavor.  This challenge is equal parts strength and flexibility, equal parts building blocks and exploring capabilities and equal parts serious and fun.  Upside down people or those seeking to explore this world…this challenge is for you!

    What can participants expect and what outcomes are you hoping to offer?

    I hope to provide a quality challenge where intentions are pure and hosts, sponsors and participants are present, challenging ourselves and supporting one another.  I expect people to be inspired, pleasantly surprised, eager to try more and be a little sore.  At the end of the day, I hope that everyone walks away taking something with them and preferably joining me some more via my online classes with Omstars!

    How does the challenge connect with or relate to your upcoming course release?

    My upcoming course series is all about being upside down but not limited to handstands.  I truly believe in my building block series and think that those who are already capable of standing on their hands could benefit from it as much as complete beginners.  I believe the winning recipe is the balance of strength, flexibility, alignment, muscle memory, perseverance and release.  The result is breaking barriers and preventing injuries.  Technicalities aside, my creative and fun side is very excited to also offer the Upside Down Yoga series.  Each vinyasa is centered around a specific inversion, incorporating progression, strength, flexibility, counter balance and of course a lot of creative good times.  You’ll find a couple poses in the challenge that represent the mini workshops I’m offering in my online class series on upside down backhanding and also my personal inversion favorite, the hollow back.  Well rounded, all levels, vinyasas and workshops!

    Well, are you ready to join or what? Download the collage above or follow Holly and Omstars on instagram @upsidedownmama @omstarsoffical. Join for 15 days of upside down inspiration and a chance to win an eco and ethical outfit from Um Stuff, Holly’s personally designed eco-yoga clothing line, as well as a 6 month membership to Omstars !!!

    To learn more about Holly, her clothing line and more visit her website www.upsidedownmama.com

    By Anna Wechsel

    Check out Omstars Feature courses for all of our newest releases

  • Yoga for Kids with Lexi Hidalgo

    Welcome Lexi Hidalgo to the Omstars family as she releases her 11 episode course, Yoga for Kids. At 16-years-old, Lexi is Florida’s youngest certified yoga teacher, who found her passion for sharing yoga with kids at a young age. Through her course Lexi shares her excitement for teaching, practicing and getting your whole family involved in the practice of Yoga. Yoga has so many benefits to offer kids of all ages and through Lexi’s course she shares her own personal insight and experience through a variety of different classes. From introductory yoga flow, to motivating meditation practices, yoga flows for young athletes and so much more. Lexi draws on her own experiences as a teacher and truly understands the physical and emotional benefits that yoga offers to young people as they transition through different stages of life. Lexi’s course shares this knowledge and makes sure everyone is having fun at the same time! 

    Meet Lexi…

    What impact has Yoga had on your life?

    Yoga has changed my life. I found yoga 3 1/2 years ago and I didn’t know it would lead me where I am now! Before Yoga came into my life I spent years involved in competitive cheerleading, and I needed change- I just didn’t know what that change might be. All through my middle school years I felt lost and had zero self confidence because I believed everything people told me. After practicing yoga consistently during the end of middle school, I finally felt a connection and love for myself that didn’t exist before.

    How did you feel after your first Yoga class?

    The first time I did yoga, I was completely in love with everything about it. Not just physically but mentally. It inspired me to become my own person and at that moment I felt that I wanted other people to have the same opportunity to experience this powerful practice, one that I knew could help people discover themselves. It was then that I decided I wanted to become a yoga teacher, at only thirteen it wasn’t something my family, friends, or anyone expected to hear from me. I was okay with it, okay with doing something different, something unexpected. After 8 years I left all star cheerleading and continued on with 7 months of yoga teacher training. The experience of teacher training was incredibly transformative for me and in those 7 months, this experience created a new and a better me.

    What was it like being on a teacher training at 13?

    Yoga teacher training not only taught me about yoga it taught me to see the perfection in people, the perfection in myself and completely disregard anything else. Being 16 I feel like I’ve discovered who I am and I know that as the years go by I will only discover and learn more about myself. Since my certification I’ve continued to have accomplishments and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. Overall, my point in this story is that you can never be to too young or too old to chase your dreams, to reach your maximum potential. We can all change this world and I know we’re going to do it. 

    We’re so excited to have Lexi as one of our newest hosts on Omstars offering classes for your whole family. Not only is Lexi teaching young people about yoga and the physical benefits, she also invites a deeper purpose of taking the lessons they learn in class off the mat and into the rest of their day.

    To learn more about Lexi you can follow her on Instagram @lexxyoga and check out her website for upcoming events and classes at www.lexxyoga.com.

    By Anna Wechsel

    Watch Yoga for Kids with Lexi on Omstars

     

  • 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

     

  • Asana as inner dialogue

    Many of us who practice yoga have heard the quote from the ancient text Bhagavad Gita that “Yoga is a journey of the self, through the self, to the self”. Yoga is a means of self discovery that is all. Simple, right? Maybe not at first.

    In another ancient text, The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali presents an eight-limbed path of yogic practices to guide us on that journey. The eight limbs include: how we interact with our world, how we treat ourselves, the physical practice of asana, breathing practices, sense withdrawal, concentration, meditation and finally, liberation. When we learn about the multi-faceted method of yoga from Patanjali we often come to a question: why is there so much attention on the body contorting, shape taking, third limb, asana?

    In this reality, we happen to exist in a physical form, the human body. This form dictates certain rules of our experience, based on our five senses. Through the senses we receive information about our world, our environment, and other humans. But how do we receive information about ourselves? We begin with our senses and then cultivate a way to turn further and further inward. The body is gross rather than subtle, easy to detect and observe. As we move it around, take shapes, hold positions, challenge it’s mobility, we are able to receive information, and then interpret it.

    As we turn our senses on ourselves, we begin to refine this method of communication, developing the vocabulary, establishing context for greater understanding. In attempting to create the shape of a posture, we look at our feet placement, use references of the room to adjust our alignment, refer to the parallel lines of our mats, and eventually depend only on our own bodies as visual reference. We use the focus of the gaze to align our attention and energy to the intention of the posture. Tuning in to the sounds of our breath helps to avoid distractions in our environment. Suddenly we no longer hear the breathing of another student, a door closing, or traffic on the street outside. Our breath becomes the only thing we hear. Like the act of an inhalation moves air from the space around us to the space inside of our lungs, so also do we move our attention from the spaces outside to the spaces within.

    In the beginning, we identify most physical sensation as pain. But over time and with experience, we begin to refine our understanding of the feedback coming from our bodies. We learn the difference between the feeling of stretch in the muscles and the burning of strength exertion. We begin to categorize our sensations as tolerable and beyond our limits, as safe and risky. As we take ourselves deeper into our bodies, we notice sensation in the joints and develop understanding of what they mean. A sensation that is new is often frightening, so we pause and pay attention.

    There is communication along the nervous system, linking the awareness of the mind with the sensations of the body. Each of us connect to ourselves in different ways. Like speaking different languages, down to the unique dialects, accents, slang. As we learn a new language, we often need to ask someone to speak slowly so that we can identify the subtleties of articulation, enunciation, and delivery. The same is true of the communication in our bodies. By moving slowly into the sensations we experience – by focusing our attention – we can gather more nuanced information. Over time we develop context from our previous experiences and we increase our vocabulary. We learn to not only identify the shouting sensations from deep stretches and long holds, but we learn to acknowledge the whispering sensations of the smallest movements in our deepest bodies. Where at first all we notice is our screaming hamstring, eventually we become aware of the sensation of the thigh bone rotating in the hip socket, or the gentle pull of the psoas drawing the inner thigh and low back towards each other, even the squeeze of our internal organs as we compress with a twist or a carefully placed foot.

    So what is doing the learning? We often think of the mind as the preferred mode of understanding. But the mind itself is a tricky beast. How do you know what you know? This is a topic for another ten pages of contemplation! With regards to the inner communications of the body, the mind can often get in the way. As we try to think our way into postures – into our body – we close ourselves off to any information that doesn’t fit the mind’s current understanding of things. The mind cannot lead the way. It too has to sit in observation, as witness. At most it is an interpreter in the conversation, gathering data, providing reference, mapping experiences, giving background, building bridges, and filling in gaps. If it remains a supportive player in the conversation, it limits influence, and understanding is allowed to be fluid – to alter, adjust, and develop according to experience rather than pre-established beliefs. There is a deeper aspect of self that is learning.

    If our internal communication system can be so refined as to receive the information coming from the body, it can also learn the subtler language of the mind, and emotions. As witness, we can observe the tendencies of our thinking mind and our emoting heart-space. As we struggle with the physical body, our mind also sends us feedback. It tells us we are not strong enough. It tells us our arms are too short. It tells us we will never be as good as that other practitioner over there. We turn judgment on ourselves, become angry or sad or frustrated. If we are using the same skills we developed with our physical self, we receive the information slowly, identify its source, its nature. Without surrendering to its shouting, we can soothe it to a whisper. Context develops around the communication: the sources of judgmental thoughts, the truth or untruth of our beliefs, whether or not the thoughts and emotional responses serve us, benefit us. Within the space of intentional, directed inner dialogue, we can make choices. We can identify who we really are and choose how we present that to the world.

    The body is a tool to develop our communication skills. Those skills are directed ever deeper and deeper into ourselves. We journey through the body, the mind, the emotions to the true nature of ourselves. The self that is beyond the fluctuations of our environment, beyond the fluctuations of our bodies, the tendencies of our minds, and our emotional reactions. We become intentionally responsive rather than impulsively reactive. We trust ourselves because we know ourselves. From that space we can learn to eventually exist in our truest, purest self, the self that yoga calls Atman.

    By Angelique Sandas

     

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