• 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 do Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana (Seated Bound Half Lotus)

    Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana, or Half Bound Lotus Forward Bend, is one of the seated poses in the Ashtanga primary series. It stretches the hamstrings and hips. It also opens the chest and shoulders.

    Benefits of Seated Bound Half Lotus

    There are many benefits to this pose.

    • stretches hamstrings and hips
    • opens chest and shoulders
    • eases lower back pain
    • stimulates internal organs
    • relieves constipation
    • improves posture

    Contraindications for Seated Bound Half Lotus

    If you have knee, hip, or shoulder injuries you shouldn’t do this pose. This pose is not recommended during pregnancy.

    Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana Step by Step

    Start in Dandasana, or Staff Pose. From there, bend your right knee and bring the sole of your right foot to the inside of your left thigh.

    Externally rotate your hip letting your knee drop to the floor.

    Lift your leg and place the top of your right foot on your left hip crease.

    Now bring your right hand around your back and grab your right foot for the bind.

    Exhale and lift the ribcage before folding forward.

    Stay here for five breaths. Then exit the posture in the same way you entered it.

    Watch Kino’s video about how to do Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana.

  • How to do Surya Namaskar A (Sun Salutation A)

    The Sun Salutations build the foundation for your yoga practice. Even when you are pressed for time you can spend just 5 minutes doing Surya Namaskar A to feel rejuvenated and renewed.

    Surya Namaskar A is the beginning sequence of poses in the Ashtanga method. Surya is the Sanskrit word for sun. Namaskar means greeting. In English, this sequence of poses is often referred to as Sun Salutations.

    Practicing Surya Namaskar A ignites your internal fire, building heat in your body to prepare you for your practice. The combination of deep resonant breath and movement used while moving through this sequence is a key element to the Ashtanga method.

    There are 3 variations of the Sun Salutation, A, B, and C. Today we’ll take a close look at A. We’ll break down each individual posture in the sequence and how to breathe when moving from one posture to the next.

    Before you begin take a moment to ground yourself. Take a few deep breaths and set the intention for your practice.

    Samasthiti

    Start in standing in a neutral position. This is called Samasthiti. Stand with your big toes touching so your feet are parallel to each other. Your hands are at your sides.

    Urdhva Hastasana

    From Samasthiti inhale and raise your hands above your head. Bring your palms together over your head. Your arms are straight. Look up at your thumbs.

    Uttanasana A

    Exhale and fold over your legs, reaching your arms toward the floor. This is a forward bend.

    Uttanasana B

    Inhale head up and flatten your back. Find the length in your spine.

    Chaturanga Dandasana

    Exhale step or jump back into a push-up position. Find the strength in your shoulder and core. Bend your arms, keeping your elbows close to the body, and lower yourself to the floor.

    Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

    Inhale upward facing dog. Your toes are pointed. The tops of your feet press into the ground. Your legs are active so your knees and thighs are up off the floor.

    Adho Mukha Svanasana

    Exhale and lift your middle. Roll your toes over and come to downward facing dog. Make sure your feet are hip-width apart. Keep your hands shoulder-width apart. Straighten your knees and bring your heels down to the ground. Lift your tailbone toward the ceiling. Bring your shoulder blades down your back. Keep your arms straight with your elbows relaxed. Relax your neck. Gaze toward your navel. Stay here for five deep, controlled breaths.

    Uttanasana B

    Inhale and step or jump toward your hands, half lift. Flatten your back, finding length in the spine.

    Uttanasana A

    Exhale forward fold.

    Urdhva Hastasana

    Inhale stand bring your hands over your head. Press your palms together above your head. Look up at the thumbs.

    Samasthiti

    Exhale return to your neutral standing position, Samasthiti.

    Now, if you are new to yoga, repeat that two more times, but If you feel like you have the energy repeat it 4 more times, making a total of 5 times.

    Here’s an example of what the full practice looks like when strung together.

    The Sun Salutations build the foundation for your yoga practice. Even when you are pressed for time, you can spend just 5 minutes doing Surya Namaskar A to feel rejuvenated and renewed. As you do these motions again and again, they will become second nature to you.

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  • the Hidden Value of Transitions: Upavistha Konasana

    If you have hit that part on your yoga journey in which you feel like you have reached an endless plateau, then get cracking! This is a fertile phase in your practice for revisiting some of the transitions that perhaps might need some polishing. If you do the ground work to revamp the soil, you’ll learn that in this seemingly tedious mind-focused internal work, you can build sturdy steps that will help you get out of the funky rod.

    Transitions have the power to level up your practice to a new understanding of the making of your mindset, grow internal strength, deepen your inner awareness, as it demands deep gross and subtle attention.

    In the transition for Upavistha Konasana from A to B with straight legs, it serves to take extra breaths and break down the transition, so that later you can connect it all into one smooth vinyasa transition. I couldn’t do this transition with straight legs, until I dissected its component elements and focused on connecting the dots each time I practiced. Giving yourself little projects, such as this, throughout your practice will most definitely keep you focused, if you seem to have lost motivation and have hit a monotonous state.

    Transition breakdown:

    Step 1

    From Upavistha Konasana A, inhale and lift the head. Maintain arms straight, feet flexed, and active legs. Exhale completely.

    Step 2

    Release the hands from the heels, and with the next inhalation lift the chest, stretch the arms out to the sides.

    Step 3

    As you exhale, lightly rolled on to your sacrum and point the toes.

    Step 4

    Inhale lift the legs and catch your heels and immediately pop the chest. Keep the toes pointing to maintain that activation of the legs and keep you from bailing out by wanting to bend the needs. Keep focused, remember!

    Step 5

    Draw the lower navel in all throughout. Keeping the inner core engaged helps you from bouncing back and maintain the structure of the pose.

    Step 6

    Tilt the head back, face towards the ceiling, as you keep sinking the heels down plugging the legs into the hip sockets.

    You might get it in one shot, maybe not. Check your mindset! Are you bailing out? Or are you giving it all you got on trying not to cheat yourself out of the transition?

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    By Patricia Amado

    Patricia Amado embarked on her yoga journey in 2010 leading her to find the Ashtanga Yoga system in 2011, a practice she has remained devoted ever since. In 2013, she completed Miami Life Center’s very first training under the guidance of Kino MacGregor initiating her passionate path of teaching and sharing the Ashtanga Yoga method. She traveled to Mysore, India in 2015, 2016, and 2019 to study with R. Sharath Jois. Most recently, she completed a two year apprenticeship program at MLC under the guidance of her mentor and MLC Director Tim Feldman.  She is also a student of Yoga philosophy and Sanskrit recitation of the old scriptures with Professor Rao, Dr. M.A. Jayashree and Professor Sri. M.A. Narasimhan.  Patricia aims for her students to experience the stress-relieving and transformative benefits that a committed Ashtanga Yoga practice can bring into their life. She is dedicated to teaching in the authentic tradition of Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois.