Friday, October 28, 2016

"Pie in the Sky" Yogini: Samskaras

In Eastern meditative traditions, there exists a word called samskara, which roughly translates to mean “impression.” From the meditative perspective, every event we have in our lives leaves an invisible, indelible impression on our psyche. As we age, more and more impressions are accumulated. These samskaras are almost like patches of crystallization where there was once free flow of energy. This is why people sometimes seem like they’re becoming hard, dry, and constricted as they age. Their impressions are catching up to them, and they are losing the suppleness and juiciness of their younger and less rigid selves.
Fortunately, meditation teaches us that this process can be reversed.
Sit silently, take a few deep breaths, and redirect your focus inside. Notice the subtleties of how you’re breathing; notice what you’re feeling. After some moments in stillness, you will likely begin to feel places of pain, holding, or stagnation. It may or may not be associated with a physical location in the body; it can be more vague and decentralized. Gently, bring your awareness into that area of restriction and then take a deep breath into it and invite your prana (or life-force associated with the breath) to break it down. And then do that over and over. Breathe into the tightness and ask it to let go.

~Om - Mary Jane

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Pie in the Sky" Yogini: Parsva Bakasana

Parsva Bakasana can be a challenging pose but if you know the mechanics of the pose it becomes like any other pose to navigate.  One of the key elements is to make certain you squeeze the thighs together. By taking this simple action you effectively adduct the hips and as a result the hips will externally rotate.

Here are the steps to Parsva Bakasana:

Bend your knees to a half-squat, thighs parallel to the floor. If your heels don’t rest comfortably on the floor, support them on a thickly folded blanket. Take your left elbow to the outside of your right thigh as you soften your belly.

Exhaling, twist your torso to the right, bringing your left lower ribs across toward your right thigh as far as you can.

Slide the back of your left arm down the outside of the right thigh, bringing your outer armpit as close to the outer thigh as you can. Keeping the arm in place, do a slight back bend and draw your right shoulder back to twist your torso more deeply.

Exhaling each time, repeat these alternating backbending and twisting movements until you reach your maximum rotation. Then slide your left upper arm several inches toward your right hip and press it firmly against your right thigh; maintaining this pressure, draw the upper arm back toward your right knee without allowing the skin to slide. This will rotate the flesh of the upper arm outward, locking it in place. Once your arm is in position on your thigh, note the point of skin-to-skin contact. Try not to change it throughout the pose.

Now squat down fully, buttocks just above your heels. Place your left palm on the floor just outside your right foot. If the hand doesn’t easily reach the floor, tip your torso to the right until you can put your palm down flat. Maintaining contact between your left upper arm and your right outer thigh, lean even more to the right until you can place your right hand on the floor. Your hands should be shoulder width apart and positioned on an imaginary line drawn diagonally away from your right foot angled in the direction of the heel. Set your fingers parallel to each other. Most of your weight will still be on your feet.

Concentrate on maintaining the point of contact between your left arm and right thigh as you slowly lift your pelvis and shift it to the right, aiming to bring the middle of your abdomen above and between your hands. This is not the precise balance point, but if you get this close you’ll probably be able to find the perfect position by feel. As you get close, the weight on your hands will increase, while that on your feet will decrease until they lift easily.

Now put the finishing touches on the pose. Keep your feet together and press out through their inner edges. Draw your heels toward your buttocks. Exhaling, soften your belly to prepare for the twist, then pull your left hip strongly down and lift both feet up. Your left arm may remain slightly bent, but straighten it as much as you can without allowing your legs to slide down.

~Om - Mary Jane -

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"Pie in the Sky" Yogini: Movement of the Trunk!

Ever wonder about movement of the trunk in poses? Here are a few asanas that move the trunk in various ways:

  • Paschimottonasana - Flexion
  • Urdhva Danurasana - Extension
  • Parivtta Trikonasan - Rotation
  • Utthita Trikonasana - Lateral Flexion
Pretty cool how the human body can move...Don't you think?

~Om - Mary Jane -

Monday, October 24, 2016

"Pie in the sky" Yogini - Combining Muscles in Lunge Pose!

Take a moment here and think about the muscles that combine and activate when moving into lunge pose.

1. Position the body n lunge pose to begin stretching the iliopsoas.

2. Contract the front leg hamstrings, drawing the body deeper into the lunge, accentuating the iliopsoas.

3. Contract the back arm biceps to flex the back knee, further accentuating the iliopsoas stretch while stretching the quadriceps.

4. Contract the front arm triceps, straightening the arm and lifting the chest. This stretches the abdominal, tilts the pelvic backwards and completes the iliopsoas stretch.

Happy lunging!

~Mary Jane -

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Pie in the Sky" Yogini: Realign!

A variety of yoga poses gives us the opportunity to realign and thus release tension in muscles that shorten the back of the neck, while strengthening muscles that lengthen it. These include virabhadrasana II, trikonasana, and the other standing poses. Backbends help us to strengthen the neck as it extends fully; twists help to refine the alignment of the neck; and forward bends stretch the muscles of the spine and neck where tension resides. How we cue ourselves in each of these postures is vital, because if done poorly, they can create more tension in the neck and communicate it to the rest of the body. We see this often in standing poses in which students habitually shorten the back of their neck, hyperextending it as they hunch their shoulders—as if they were using their neck muscles to hold up their arms.

For example, students frequently hunch their shoulders and tighten the neck in virabhadrasana II (warrior 2). We could correct the shoulder alignment by rotating the arms externally (palms up) to release the shoulder blades down the back, but this adjustment addresses a symptom, not the cause. The real “stuckness” in the pose lies at the base of the head, where the neck muscles are tense. If we draw the top of the throat (at the hyoid) back and up while gently extending upward through the crown of the head, the shoulder blades automatically release down the back and the body opens to the breath, becoming lighter and more expansive.

Happy Alignment!

~Om - Mary Jane -

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"Pie in the Sky" Yogini: Vasisthasana - Side Plank Variation!

Side plank can sometimes trigger an "oh my" thought while moving through your yoga practice. Why not think about a variation of this challenging pose. Come to plank pose, then shift your weight to your right hand and roll to the outside of your right foot, Step your left foot onto the floor in front of your hips. Lengthen through the inner right heel and lift your left arm alongside your left ear. Lift your left side hip and rib cage towards the sky. Release your right ear towards your right shoulder. Stay for 3-6 breaths. Slowly lower and repeat on the opposite side.

~ Om - Mary Jane

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"Pie in the Sky" Yogini: Positions of the body in Warrior 2!

Ever wonder about all the positions of the body in warrior 2? Well here is the short list:

  • The front knee flexes
  • The front hip flexes
  • The back hip extends
  • The back foot rotates internally
  • The torso extends
  • The arms abduct
  • The forearms rotate internally
  • The head and neck rotate
Just think; all that for one pose!

Om~ Mary Jane -

Monday, October 17, 2016

"Pie in the Sky" Yogini: Flying Split Using the Wall!

Try this fun pose using the wall - Flying Split or better known as Eka Pada Koundinyasana. First, make sure you prepare your body with hamstring and hip openers. When you are ready find a wall where two corners meet. Come to your hands and knees facing the center of the room so that one wall is behind you and the other to the side of you. Position yourself so you can fully extend one leg to the wall behind you and the other to the wall to the side of you coming to a low lunge position. Walk your front foot wider to the edge of your mat so you can come to a wide low lunge with both hands to the inside of your front foot. Next, walk your back knee back until you can touch the back wall with the ball of your back foot. Bend your elbows as you would for chaturanga - melt your heart towards the earth and lift up your front foot and press it to the wall beside you while pressing the sole of the back foot completely against the wall behind you. If you want extra support for the chest area, place a block beneath the sternum.

Om~ Mary Jane -

Thursday, October 13, 2016

"Pie in the Sky" Yogini: Glutes!

The gluteus maximus is one of the largest muscles located on the outside of the pelvis. Contraction of the gluteus extends and outwardly rotates the femur. When the gluteus are tight it limits forward bending at the hips such as in uttanasana. Like the iliopsoas muscle, the gluteus maximus works unconsciously during standing and walking. Many yoga poses awaken this large muscle including back bends, standing poses and forward bends. The first chakra is the main point of illumination for this muscle along with the sacral spinal nerves. Keeping this muscle strong is paramount in order to keep the pelvis stabilized. The next time you are in chair pose, think about this major muscle and send some loving prana to it. After all, it is responsible for so many of your yoga poses!

Mary Jane -

Monday, October 10, 2016

"Pie in the Sky" Yogini: Pyramid Pose!

Pyramid pose is a standing pose that combines the benefits of three major movements: forward bending, backward bending and balancing. Better known as intense side stretch, stretches both sides of the body at the same time. It is a pose that prepares you for seated forward fold, back bends, inversions and twists. Some good follow up poses to pyramid are: seated staff pose, shoulder stand and locust pose. The primary benefits of this pose is to open up the shoulders and hamstrings. In addition, it builds balance, stretches the spine, chest and hips while stimulating the abdominal organs to improve digestion.

~Om - Mary Jane

Friday, October 7, 2016

"Pie in the Sky" Yogini: Rhomboids!

The Rhomboids are so important when it comes to opening the chest. Contraction of these muscles draws the scapula (shoulder blades) towards the mid-line in order to express the heart. I always remind my yogis to pin their shoulder blades behind the heart and express the heart center. Postures such as Garudasana helps to stretch these muscles. It is so important to counteract the contraction aspect that as yoga teachers we always talk about.Other poses where the rhomboids play an important part are Verabhadrasana 2, Trikonasana and Marichanyasana 1.  All of these poses call for contraction of the rhomboids.

Mary Jane -

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

"Pie in the Sky" Yogini: Strong Abs = Strong Back!

The erector muscles of the back run parallel to the spine and are of great importance with poses such as standing forward fold (uttanasana) and Kurmasana. Backbends such as Urdhva Danurasana strengthen these muscles. When activated the third and fourth chakras (manipura and anahata) are illuminated. In order to keep these muscles strong it is so important the antagonist muscles (abdominal) are strong. The core is one of the most important areas to keep strong in your yoga practice as it is the main stabilizer and final touch for all poses.

~Mary Jane -

Monday, October 3, 2016

"Pie in the Sky" Yogini: Accessory Muscles of the Breath

You ever wonder what's going on with the different muscles around your chest when you are breathing? There are accessory muscles of the breath that begin with the thoracic cage. It acts like a bellows by drawing the scapulae toward the midline. When seated in easy pose you want to straighten the lower back  so the posterior ribcage moves downward. Balance this action by gently contracting the rectus abdominis (front abs). This will draw the lower anterior ribcage downward and compress the abdominal organs against the diaphragm. Continue to draw shoulder blades together by contracting the rhomboids . Complete the process by gently pressing on your knees to fully open the chest. Then, just breathe!

~Mary Jane Kasliner -

Simple Ways to Shed the Old

Letting go of the old can be hurtful. It's like claws leaving a mark on your skin. It's real easy to put those old habits on...