• How to do Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

    Uttanasana, or standing forward bend, is a fundamental yoga pose that is often repeated in your yoga practice. Even though the pose might seem simple at first, there are a few things to remember when you attempt it. In this post, we’ll give you step-by-step instructions for doing the pose.

    Before we look at how to do uttanasana, let’s look at the benefits and contraindications.

    Benefits of uttanasana

    The benefits of standing forward bend include:

    • Stretching the hamstrings, calves, and hips
    • Strengthening the thighs
    • Improving circulation in the legs
    • Calming the nervous system

    Contraindications for uttanasana

    There are a few contraindications to consider before doing this pose. If you have any of the following conditions, please consult your doctor before practicing standing forward bend:

    • Low blood pressure
    • Headache
    • Insomnia
    • Migraine

    How to do standing forward bend

    Start in mountain pose (tadasana) at the front of your yoga mat.

    Engage the quadriceps to gently pull the kneecaps up. Don’t let your knees be hyperextended.

    Lengthen through the spine.

    Inhale and raise your arms overhead, keeping your shoulders down away from your ears.

    Exhale and hinge forward at your hips, keeping a flat back. You can place your hands on the ground, on blocks, or on your shins. Let your arms hang down and grab opposite elbows if you can’t reach the ground.

    Stay in the pose for 5-10 breaths. To release the pose, inhale and lift your torso back up to standing.

    Now that you know how to do uttanasana, give it a try!

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  • How to Start a Yoga Practice

    Your practice might begin on a yoga mat but undoubtedly will ripple into every other aspect of your life and every single interaction you come across.

    I was introduced to group yoga classes by a friend around 2003. The class was held at a local gym. I walked into the studio with the excitement of learning something new that I knew was supposed to be good for my body and mind. I still remember setting up my mat and being curious about how we were supposed to use it. Part of me felt like a kid with a new toy.

    Many thousands of teaching hours later, I feel reminiscent about those days. I didn’t know how important and meaningful the decision to take that yoga class and many others would be for my future, growth, and peace of mind. In fact, my whole life these days revolved around yoga.

    I would like to share with you what has helped me in the past to build a consistent yoga practice, and it is my hope you find this helpful.

    Which yoga style is best for me?

    You can be sure that there is a style of yoga that suits your needs. So it is important to ask yourself what is your first motivation for starting a yoga practice.

    Each of us is different, and there are many different styles of yoga. You can be sure that there is a style of yoga that will be the best one for you.

    You might not find the style of yoga that is best for you right away. You might have to do some exploring, whether in person or online.

    Some styles of yoga are slower and more nurturing and restorative. Other types of yoga are more active and endurance-building yet bring a sense of integration as well. Be patient, and the right style of yoga, and teacher will appear.

    How important is consistency in my practice?

    After your initial exploration of what your options are, I suggest you, at least for the first little while, stick with a particular style. See it unfold on your mat. There is beauty in repetition. There is beauty in consistency.

    You can see the changes in your mind and body when the movements and the pace of the practice are familiar. You will not only learn sequences, postures, and breathing exercises, but you will learn from the time spent with yourself. Our practice of yoga can be profoundly meditative.

    What should I expect from my yoga practice?

    We all are, in some ways, eternal perfectionists. There will be moments of great satisfaction from discovering the potential of the body in certain postures or the hidden secrets of the breath in certain exercises, but remember, this practice is a practice of coming back to ourselves for connection. It’s this connection that helps us to see the world through a different set of eyes.

    Be okay with the days you are full of energy and welcome the days where simply being on the mat and doing a less demanding practice can provide comfort and nurture your soul. Be okay when the practice feels flat. Be okay when the practice feels sparkly and full of life.

    The role of moderation in my yoga practice

    You probably heard before about doing everything in moderation. And yoga is not an exception. Be attentive to how your body feels after your practice, including the day after. Tune in to the wisdom of the body to know when a practice has been demanding, and you might need to balance it out with something more soothing.

    Yoga is not only the beautiful postures but also meditation, breathing, and self-study. Yoga can permeate every aspect of our lives, bringing a new sense of appreciation to the human experience.

    How do I find freedom in my yoga practice?

    It is important when you take the first steps, and you had made a connection with a particular approach of yoga and a knowledgeable teacher that you trust in that bond and connection. At the same time, give yourself the freedom to embody the movements, the postures, the breath in your own unique way.

    This is a practice of exploration, and it might look different for each one of us. As long as we enter this world with sincere intentions, the rewards are always sweet.

    Yoga is love

    One of the most important realizations in my years of practicing and teaching yoga is that yoga is an act of love. We feel this first hand in ourselves. Our relationship to our bodies improves by acceptance, understanding, and the time we spend with ourselves. Our understanding of our ups and downs becomes less of a roller coaster ride because we have a set of skills to help us ride the emotional waves.

    Your practice might begin on a yoga mat but undoubtedly will ripple into every other aspect of your life and every single interaction you come across. Yoga has the potential to make the world a better place by reminding us that our essence is love. When we are next to each other, whether online or in person, that recognition that we are both made of the same universal love speaks for itself.

    Enjoy your journey into yoga. For me, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I hope it is for you as well.

    By Adrian Molina

    Adrian Molina is the founder of Warrior Flow. With over 15,000 hours of classroom teaching experience, Adrian is renowned for the sophistication and depth of his teaching style and the degree of mindfulness, compassion and precision he brings to asana practice. He is also a writer, massage therapist, Thai Yoga Bodywork practitioner, Reiki master, and a Kriya Yoga meditation practitioner in the lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda.

    Image by NatureFriend from Pixabay 

  • Yoga Pose Tutorial: Parsvakonasana or Extended Side Angle

    As we continue the journey of Ashtanga yoga, we find that the practice helps us to build strength and flexibility. Using the breath and the drishti (concentration) we create a balance in the body that settles the mind with long slow breathing with the inhales and exhales in coordination with the movement. Vinyasa actually means “the marriage of breath and movement”. We continue to work the asana pose with effort and ease, never forcing the movement and always working with mindful intention.

    Today we look at Parsvakonasana “A”, also known as Extended Side Angle Pose.

    You stand with a relatively WIDE pose, about the distance of one leg with the front heel aligned with your left arch for stability.

    BEND the front knee until it is over the right ankle making the front thigh PARALLEL with the floor. Don’t worry, it takes time to get there.

    Sink deep into the front hip joint and release your torso down and externally rotate your thighs.

    Reach your upper arm overhead and draw your shoulder blades down the back while gazing at the upper fingertips.

    Eventually, you build a straight line from the knife-edge of the back foot to the tips of your fingertips.

    Please do check out the excellent YouTube Video from my teacher Kino as she walks us through the asana step by step. It’s only 3.17 minutes and really makes the asana come to life.

    Patience may one of the greatest tools in our yoga journey as we TRY to practice more and more difficult poses. JUST TRY! Some days we can catch the pose and some days we don’t. It’s all good, just continue to focus on the breath and the movement to reap the benefits. PRACTICE!!!

    By Dr. Bruce E. Barkus

    Dr. Bruce E. Barkus came to yoga, like most people, to become more flexible, get stronger and reduce stress. Low and behold he fell in love with all the other benefits yoga provides. He has been very consistent with a daily practice for the last eleven years and has come to look at it as part of his daily routine. Bruce’s certifications are Yoga Alliance RYT 500 through Asheville Yoga Center and 500 hours of Ashtanga Training for teachers with Miami Life Center. He teaches Ashtanga at Level Yoga in Vero Beach Florida and at Asheville Yoga Center. Over time, his students started asking for more details on poses and the benefits of a daily practice, so he started doing the pose of the week. There have been many that have guided his yoga practice, including Kino MacGregor, Tim Feldmann, Doug Keller, David Keil, Manju Jois, Stephanie Keach, and Lewis Rothlein. The poses he shares are primarily from the Ashtanga Primary Series as he finds the basic postures build a solid foundation for all the advanced poses.

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  • Chair Yoga For Happiness

    If you’re participating in our 30 Day Yoga Living Challenge, then you had the wonderful opportunity to practice Chair Yoga with Kristin McGee! If you’re not participating in our challenge, you now have the opportunity to learn a few Chair Yoga tips from Kristin herself, right here on the OmStars blog. Take a look at what Kristin has to say about adding Chair Yoga into your everyday life, and explore a few poses that she breaks down right here on the blog! So find a chair, sit up tall, and start adding a little more happiness to your life with these simple moves.

    Chair Yoga for Happiness

    Where is your happy place? Probably not when you’re stuck in your seat in one position for too long. Our bodies are designed to move. Modern day culture and technology has caused many of us to sit for most of the day.

    Sitting for too long causes us to slouch, compresses our lower back, cuts off our breathing and puts strain on our neck and shoulders. It’s hard to be happy when our neck or back is achy, or we aren’t taking in enough oxygen.

    Chair yoga is our happiness antidote. The second you move, stretch and breathe, you feel one hundred times better. When you feel good, you’re happy, it’s as simple as that. Practicing yoga in our seat makes so much sense. You’ll suddenly become more aware of how your posture and breathing affect your attitude and outlook.

    Anyone can do chair yoga at anytime. It doesn’t matter what kind of chair you’re in, just sit towards the front of your seat and ground your feet (make sure wheels are locked if it’s that type).  You may do these at the start of your day or when you hit that mid day slump.  Maybe you want to do them on your commute or right when you get home instead of getting back online or watching television.

    4 moves to boost your happiness and lift your spirits:

    High Altar Pose: Lift your arms up overhead interlace the fingers invert the palms and lift the corners of your mouth in to a smile. You’ll feel your lungs inflate as you lift out of your lower back. Get an immediate rush of energy in to your body and notice how much better your body and brain feel. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.

    Hands Clasped Behind the Back Arch: Backbends are the antidepressants of yoga. When we slouch forward we get depressed. Our posture determines our mood. Use this pose to open your heart and lift yourself up mentally. Sit towards the edge of your seat clasp your hands behind your back and lift your chest upwards toward the ceiling. Stay and breathe for 5-8 breaths.

    Assisted Neck stretch: We carry a ton of tension and stress in our neck and shoulders. Use this stretch release the issues in your tissues. Place one hand over your head on the opposite ear. Gently let the head fall to the side as you stretch the neck and top of shoulder. Hold for 5 breaths and then switch sides.

    Forward Fold: Finally end with a forward fold to bring oxygen to the brain and stretch the entire back body. When you fold forward you let the spine release and relax. Stay for 5 to 8 breaths before coming back up to sit and notice how much happier and refreshed you feel.

    You can incorporate these and other chair yoga moves on a daily basis. Hopefully you can encourage your friends, family and co-workers to join in too! The more the merrier, or should I say happier?!


    By Kristin McGee

    Kristin McGee is a celebrity yoga and Pilates Instructor, trusted wellness expert, author, speaker, and mompreneur.

    Try Kristin’s Chair Yoga Class On OmStars