Tag Archives: Yoga Asanas

Angela’s Yoga Lab: Exploring the ‘body’

We seem to have strong desire as humans to figure out what a body is and what the role of  our bodies are – how we use  them,  place them,  hold them,  how they differ from other bodies and how they are alike.

In every culture and race there is different assigned ‘roles’ for  bodies,  whether ‘real’ or fictional.  Rarely are bodies neutral.  They grow and change shape.  They exist in memory and can reflect future hopes.  Human bodies can be naked or clothed,  spiritual,  political, sacrificial,  ceremonial,  experimental,  artistic,  sexual,  pregnant, dead or alive.

They can be represented through age, gender, status or religion.  Bodies can be imprisoned or free.  They can be loving or violent, distant or close.  Bodies can be expressive and metaphoric.  They can be diseased or healthy, active, or passive. They can be disabled and abled.

Bodies host questions of ownership and who or what has rights over physical bodies.  Bodies have needs and desires.

There is great anxiety over understanding and comprehending our bodies –  as we  constantly try to assign labels and to figure them out.

I have found through teaching yoga and in my personal life that how we relate to our bodies, has direct impact on the quality of our lives.

We all sit on a sliding scale, anywhere from a non-conscious or disconnected relationship with our own body, right through to intense body dysmorphic disorders-  and all the other levels that lie between the two extremes.

In Western society there is a big focus on the physical side to the yogic practice. The Asanas and postures in classes, the shapes we make with our bodies all labeled differently under the various branches and names of particular styles of ‘yoga’ – ie. Astanga, Vinyasa, Hatha, Forrest, Jivamukti, Kundalini, Bikram etc.

For me there is great potential for exploration of the human body on the mat through yoga and I will discuss two here in this article.

Balance within the body

The first idea discussed here is creating a  ‘Functional Body’ – dealing with Range of Motion.

Often in yoga this transaction is about how to create and sustain balance within the body by marrying strength and stability with flexibility and suppleness so that  we can live our life in a pain-free, struggle-free way.  It seems to be the reason majority of people come to a yoga class.

‘Functional’ for me is NOT defined by how thin,  fat,  good looking or muscular we are  but rather is reflected in  our ability to adapt to our environment when needed to ensure survival.  ‘Functional’ is to be strong enough to hold and carry our children,  fight intruders and heal quickly from injury,  to have access through all our joints to use tools,  to run from danger and to be able to smell,  hear,  see and palpate our surroundings for our needs.  To be able to move in all directions without any limitation or pain.

Homo Sapiens as a nomadic species in the past needed an agile body that could run barefoot at high speeds from danger or to hunt,  have balance and coordination to climb trees to escape floods,  have stamina to hunt for days to find food,  fight off wild animals or other tribes,  smell their way through the dark,  find complete stillness or leap to action in a heartbeat to stay alive.

Of course as modern humans  we have no need for all these things but our physical bodies are still designed in that way and require us  to remain physically in tune and  have full range of motion.

To  move in all ways free from discomfort,  pain and disease is to ensure quality of life.

The physical side to yoga can assist our shift from having an active lifestyle to a more passive one where we sit at computers,  drive cars,  take elevators,  eat poorly,  breathe shallowly and rely on modern medication to keep us ‘healthy’ and pain-free.

Physical yoga when practiced on a regular basis in a safe way has been shown to create and maintain able bodies even with our general lack of physical activity.

The emotion side of movement

The next idea explored here is the emotional side of movement, and is my favorite exploration journey on the mat.

Afterall, we are not just ‘functional moving beings’ but thinking, feeling and sensing beings.  We have innate body intelligence.  This is also an interesting world where I feel dance and other non-verbal body work cross over and share similarities with the yoga asana practice, and is why I sometimes choose to blend dance with yoga in classes.

There comes a moment of  pure sweetness where we discover that in our physical shapes and movement  we  can express our inner landscape in  ways words fail to.

Sometimes we are processing and dealing with emotions bigger than our vocabulary is equipped to handle. Sometimes there just are no  words, or words do not do us or the situation justice.

The body does not just live in language, it has its own language

Sometimes resting in humble Balasana/ childs pose can be the most healing way to process what is going on internally or externally with ourselves and can say more than words could ever say about the relationship we have to ourselves and the state we are in at that moment.

You can also observe this in how we relate to ourselves and others using physical movement metaphor.  Some examples:

  • Jumping for joy
  • Shaking with fear
  • Being ‘spineless’
  • Getting something off your chest
  • Twisting someones arm
  • Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders
  • To have butterflies in the stomach
  • Jumping out of your skin
  • Being thick skinned

This journey can also work in reverse where sometimes coming into Asanas and specific shapes can invite in emotional qualities or cause shifts in emotional states. Sometimes memories are triggered through placing the body in specific alignment through Asana practice. It is as though we are transported in and through movement.

You can request a body exploration class with Angela on Muuyu here.

Alternatively, all those looking for a great yoga retreat this springtime can also join Angela and fellow yogini Tihana from the *15th – 22nd August 2015  in the beautiful scenic surroundings of Crikvenica, Croatia for a week long retreat. 

Over the week you’ll enjoy 10 yoga sessions (Ana Forrest inspired yoga, Vinyasa and Yin Yoga with Angela and Sivananda classical Indian yoga with Tihana) , fantastic coastal accommodation and delicious vegetarian/vegan meals prepared by your yoga teachers personally!

For more details contact Angela and Tihana.

* These dates have been revised as the retreat as originally scheduled to take place in March.

Croatian_Retreat  1517425_1526715984261797_5120985602636590181_n

More details & book information here.

 

Yoga Teacher; Forrest Yoga; Asanas; Vinyasa; Muuyu;

Australian-born Angela Collins is a yoga teacher based in Berlin.  RYS Certified, trained in Vinyasa Flow Yoga, and a graduate of Advanced Teacher Training in Forrest Yoga,  Angela is committed to nourishing  mind and body both off and on the mat.   She has had the privilege of teaching Yoga across the globe in Australia, Thailand, Germany, UK, France and with people of all differing ages, nationalities, and needs.  Having trained alongside Mark Stephens, Kathryn Budig, Kino McGregor and Ana. T Forrest, Angela now teaches a number of different Yoga disciplines including Pregnancy Yoga, Yoga for Addicts, Yoga for Athletes, and child Yoga.

Connect with her here on Muuyu.com or on her own website  www.endorphinyoga.eu as well as on Twitter.

5 New Year Resolutions for New Yogis & Yoginis To Make

So 2014 was the year that you began your yoga journey in earnest.  And now, with 2015 almost here and happening,  perhaps you’re wondering how you can continue to develop your life on a yoga path, possibly without too many radical changes that might have you giving up by mid-year or earlier!   Well, here are 5 New Year Resolutions to make which will lead the way to a happier and healthier yogic life!

  • Regular Practice: This may seem pretty obvious but if you want to ensure yoga remains not just a relevant but an effective part of your life it is necessary to maintain a regular practice.   Yoga has immense benefits but as many people first turn to yoga with a physical need (i.e. wishing to increase their body flexibility, weight loss, etc) it can take a while to bring postures,  pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation together to reach that true harmony of a unified body, mind and spirit, which is,  of course,  the greatest benefit of yoga.    Of course, ‘regular’ may mean anything from 10 to 60 minutes daily for some folk or twice a week for others.  You yourself will know what’s best for you.  The point is, that in developing a good ‘yoga practice’,  the second part of that phrase is equally as important as the first!
  • Live the Simple Life:  In western society there is,  unfortunately,  a constant incitement to consume.   It is great to have the things that we need, no doubt about that,  but can we say that we truly need all that we have?   One of the primary principles of living a yogic life is ‘greedlessness’ (aparigraha).   So if 2015 is your year of moving towards a more yogic lifestyle then you could begin by removing – slowly,  if you need time – all the things around you that are unnecessary to living a more modest life.   Part of this journey is also to refrain from coveting what others have and learning to see the real riches in your life, which may include the friends and family that love you regardless of whether you have loads of gadgets or the time to pursue interests that got lost in the maelstrom of making and spending money.
  • Eat Your Greens:  Adding more veggies to your daily diet (and eliminating processed foods in addition) is one very easy way to resolve to live a more yogic lifestyle.   Outside of any moral reasons to develop a more plant-based diet,  there are huge health benefits to be had by increasing your consumption of vegetables.  These not only include increased energy levels and healthier skin, but a vegetable-rich diet is known to lower the incidences of many diseases  including obesity,  hypertension, diabetes and many heart-related illnesses.   Living a healthful life and making conscious decisions as to what you put into your body are all steps on the yogic path.
  • Take New Steps on Your Healthy Path:  Oil pulling,  herb infusions, keeping a gratitude journal, doing daily mediation?  Often when you begin a yoga practice and find yourself becoming more attuned to your body, mind and spirit you naturally want to start taking better care of yourself.   There are so many healthful ways that you can increase your well-being on a daily basis from the moment you wake to the minutes before you retire to bed.  This can include starting your day with 5 or 10 minutes of mindful meditation to taking up the ancient Ayurvedic technique of oil pulling (specifically, that means rinsing your mouth with a tablespoon of oil on an empty stomach for around 20 minutes).   This former practice can establish a positive mindset for the day ahead while the latter practice of oil pulling not only promotes oral hygiene but helps cleanse the skin and increase energy levels.
  • Put Yoga into Words and Actions:  The philosophy of yoga is one that promotes peaceful living (ahimsaor), respect for natural life,  being true to yourself and living with honesty and integrity.  That doesn’t mean turning yourself into a modern day Pollyanna, but by trying to be wise with your words, kind in heart and joyful in spirit you may just find that living the yogic lifestyle is more gratifying and personally gainful than you’d ever dreamed it could be.

Happy 2015!

 Siobhan01

Siobhan is the Head of Communication and Content withMuuyu and a co-founder of the company.  Born in Ireland she has close to 20 years’ experience working in the areas of PR, communication and journalism.  She is also the editor of the Muuyu blog.  Siobhan has been practicing yoga on and off for most of her adult life.  However it was while doing a post-natal yoga class when pregnant that she really began to connect with her practice and she has been a regular practitioner ever since.

Connect with Siobhan here.

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Angela’s Yoga Lab: Reflections from the World of Yoga, Berlin

The World of Yoga three day event which ran at Postbahnhof, Berlin, last month from 7th to 9th November was open to the public to showcase what is currently happening in the yoga world and industry.  Top-class Instructors from all over the globe,  including Native German Jivamukti instructor Patrick Broome attended alongside an array of events including Ayurveda seminars and workshops, world music, yoga seminars and Acro Thai massage workshops.  Set over two levels, the Postbahnhof was filled with stalls selling books, yoga clothing and mats, yoga props, oils, CDs, raw and vegetarian food, and other health and wellness products, all in between open rooms where classes were held.

I was privileged enough to teach twice at this event this year.  On Saturday 8th November I led a two hour Forrest Yoga Class, and on Sunday the 9th November a 45 min power introduction to Forrest Yoga.

Overall, my impression was that this annual event is great for anyone but especially those experimenting with finding a style of Yoga that is right for them.  There was something for beginners through to the advanced practitioner and even classes and workshops in child yoga.

Upside-Down Workshop

For my Saturday event I developed a juicy sequence called Upside-Down Workshop, an Inversion and backbending class. (You can read about my love of backbending here).

I invited fellow Forrest Yoga Teacher, Inga Brodersen (pictured with me below) to assist in demonstrations, translating the class into German and with hands on adjustments.  Together we guided a full mixed levels class through a sequence of challenging Forrest poses, towards peak asanas of Playful Handstands, Forearm Balances and Wheel Drop backs.

Using the inner child to explore without attachments to a goal

I knew in advance that the area we were in had virtually no wall space to aid us with Inversions and so it could be challenging for those afraid to try without the security of the wall.  However these limitations encouraged me to find a fantastic theme: ‘The Art of Playfulness!  Releasing and Connecting to your Inner Child – through Yoga’.

As I often observe in my son (age 4) children are not governed by a sense of failure.  They just want to explore without an attachment to a goal.  They are truly present to the availability of their bodies and because they have yet to be taught that there is such a thing as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ when it comes to their body, their sense of freedom allows them to experiment, make mistakes and thus learn and grow.

So the aim was for participants to view the workshop and these challenging asanas through the eyes of a child, with a sense of curiosity about what part of the poses they could do, meeting themselves in the present moment and without a sense of attachment over an outcome or goal.

Everyone was encouraged to experiment and explore the poses in a safe space and not to force themselves or label what they were trying as good, bad, right, wrong.   Inga and I assisted participants to invert their body and go upside-down to see the world from a new perspective.

Working with an area of focus

My Sunday class focused on a technique I first encountered with Ana Forrest, something I now practice myself and also teach in my classes.

At the beginning of the class whilst breathing deeply in Ujjayi students were asked to navigate inside and pick an area.  This area could be either in the physical body itself or an emotional or psychological focus  (If you are practicing yourself and there is more than one area of focus, pick the most prominent one at that present moment).

I’ve highlighted some examples of how you can find this area below.  These are not rules, but rather observations from my own practice and seeing patterns emerge in classes:

  • Often a psychological focus is associated with the front or back of the skull, the forehead, stomach, shoulders, jaw and neck;
  • Emotional spots include the front or back of the chest, throat, stomach and lower belly and inside or near the sexual organs;
  • If students have fascia or scar tissue from an old or current injury or tightness or pain in the muscles or joints somewhere on the physical body, then the focus is that actual site itself.

Once located, this area or spot then became their personal focus for the class.  I invited students to place their hands on the location of this ‘spot’ within the body,  to inhale deeply and run healing energy into the area,  exhaling with any kind of Bhramari they wanted ( i.e. breath with sound) using  the sound vibrations to  ‘buzz up’, awaken the area and thus creating sensation and awareness from the inside out.

Throughout the duration of the class whenever inhalation was cued, students were told to breathe into this area and to redirect the energy of the asana they were in into their chosen area to heal it. Each asana generates a different energy for each person.  To explain further how this can work take as an example Vira (Warrior)  One or Two, wherein a student can send the grounded, stable energy that this asana generates into their area of choice.   When utilized on an ongoing basis this technique can be very powerful.

To experience this technique guided with me first hand,  or for further tips on going upside-down, contact me here at Muuyu to request a class at a date and time that suits you.

Special Thanks again to my assistant Inga Brodersen – you can find more about her and her Forrest Yoga classes in Berlin here

AngelaInga

Australian-born Angela Collins is a yoga teacher based in Berlin.  RYS Certified, trained in Vinyasa Flow Yoga, and a graduate of Advanced Teacher Training in Forrest Yoga,  Angela is committed to nourishing  mind and body both off and on the mat.   She has had the privilege of teaching yoga across the globe in Australia, Thailand, Germany, UK, France and with people of all differing ages, nationalities, and needs.  Having trained alongside Mark Stephens, Kathryn Budig, Kino McGregor and Ana. T Forrest, Angela now teaches a number of different yoga disciplines including Pregnancy Yoga, Yoga for Addicts, Yoga for Athletes, and child Yoga.

Connect with Angela here on Muuyu.com or on her own website  www.endorphinyoga.eu as well as on Twitter.

You can also read Angela’s previous blog posts here and here.

Yoga for Athletes: 3 Hamstring Openers for Lower Back Relief

When I trained for my first half-marathon last year, I put together a three-part series of yoga poses that would open tight hamstrings and their supporting muscle groups to do after every run.  Tight hamstrings are the common culprit of lower back pain and frequently contribute to back injuries in yogis, runners and office warriors alike.

Hamstrings are a finicky group of three muscles located on the backs of our thighs.  Two of the muscles (semitendinosus and semimembranosus) stem from the sitz bones and connect along the inner side of the knee. The other one (biceps femoris) also originates at the sitz bones but connects along the outer side of the knee.  When these muscles lose their elasticity they tend to lock the pelvis, removing the normal curve of the lumbar spine and flattening the lower back.  This rigidity makes your back work extra hard to accomplish simple tasks like bending down to pick something up, let alone what I and most fitness fiends ask of our bodies on a daily basis. Without proper attention to caring for tight hamstrings you are bound to end up achy, or worse, injured.

Fret not! With daily stretching you can start to proactively compensate for rigidity, mend your hamstrings and ease lower back pain.

Check out my favorite yoga poses for providing some much-needed TLC to your hamstrings below. All three poses are designed for all people of all abilities and all body types.

#1: Modified Extended Hand-to-Foot Pose

  1. Stand with one leg extended onto a chair, straight but not locked out. Your heel should rest on the chair’s seat.
  2. Take a strap (or belt) and sling it around your lifted foot, holding onto either end with your hands.
  3. Square your hips to the front edge of the chair and bend forward until you feel a gentle stretch, adjusting your strap to the appropriate length.  Hold and breathe into that initial feeling of tightness for 90 seconds to three minutes.  With each inhale try to lengthen through both sides of the body.  With each exhale slowly hinge forward millimeter by millimeter, tightening up on your strap as necessary.  Ground down through your standing leg for stability.
  4. Once you’ve completed your long hold, relax and switch legs.

#2: Supine Hand to Foot Pose

  1. Lying on your back, loop a strap (or belt) around your right foot and extend the sole of your foot toward the ceiling.  If you know you have tight hamstrings you can bend your left knee, planting the left foot firmly on the ground and enabling the right leg to straighten out.
  2. Gradually pull the strap toward you until you feel a gentle stretch, adjusting it to the appropriate length by wrapping the loose ends around your hands.
  3. Hold and breathe into that initial feeling of tightness for 90 seconds to three minutes.  Let comfort be your guide—this should feel good and if it doesn’t you’re likely pulling too hard or too fast. With each inhale try to ground down through your rest leg and length through the heel of your extended leg.  With each exhale slowly pull your leg closer to your torso, little by little, cinching up on your strap as necessary.  Make sure you stabilize both hips on the mat—perhaps even draping a heavy blanket across your belt line—to keep the stretch in your hamstrings.
  4. Once you’ve completed your long hold, relax and switch legs.

#3: Supine Bound Angle Pose

This third pose (also known as Reclining Butterfly) focuses on the supporting cast of tight hamstrings and an achy lower back: the adductor group.  Adductors, or inner thigh muscles, and groin muscles are closely linked to stiff hamstrings.  When big muscles like the hamstrings or quadriceps get overworked as they often do, adductors and abductors are left underdeveloped.  This common imbalance can lead to injury.  The muscles of your inner and outer thighs play a crucial role in stabilization and movement of the legs and pelvis.

One of the key functions of adductors for athletes is that they pull your legs in toward the mid-line so that as you run your weight stays balanced on your planted foot and your gait doesn’t bow outward, which can lead to rolled ankles and stress on outer knee ligaments. Since they help keep you upright as you stride from left to right, they’re also key to getting maximal power out of each and every step. What athlete doesn’t want a little extra oomph wherever they can get it?

  1. Lie down on your back.  Bend your knees bringing the soles of your feet together and allowing the knees to fall open to either side.
  2. Add a pillow under each knee or wrap a strap around your ankles as depicted to enable yourself to remain comfortable and feel supported in this pose as you hold for 90 seconds to three minutes.  Your arms can rest by your side, or atop your hip bones if you’re using a strap. Be sure your elbows relax to the mat and you release any tension in your shoulders, neck and jaw.
  3. When you’re ready to let go of the pose draw your knees into your chest, give them a strong hug and take Happy Baby pose to neutralize the spine and feel some nice compression on your hip-flexors.

An important reminder—the key to safe hamstring stretching is to ease in, listen to your body for signs you might be pushing too far, and hold each pose for at least 90 seconds (and ideally a full three minutes.)  Holding a pose for this amount of time allows your body’s connective tissues to open up and release.  Aim to do these stretches after your run, or any activity that warms the muscles.

Amy_Rizzotto01

Amy Rizzotto, RYT-200, is a food and fitness loving blogger, yoga instructor, nutrition coach  and studio owner based in Washington, DC. Amy’s passion is looking at the space where yoga and nutrition fuse for optimal athletic performance and overall mind/body wellness. MOAR-fit.com serves as her platform for sharing words of motivation, tasty recipes for health and workout tips. You can learn more about what she’s up to by following her on Facebook, Instagram, PInterestTwitter and Muuyu.

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