30 days of yoga with hipS-sister – DAY 30

DAY 30. Read to the end for your challenge/question of the day

Meditation

Meditation is the active process of encouraging stillness in the mind. When practicing meditation we temporarily withdraw the mind from the onslaught of daily pressures and tune into an inner oasis of calm. Even a few minutes of meditation each day can drastically improve our ability to cope with everyday life and help us develop an awareness of our inner self.

medi1
Studies have shown that anxiety and stress levels can be reduced effectively through meditation, which also has a remarkable healing effect on the physical body. Requiring no athletic skill at all, meditation can be an ideal practice for those suffering illness or recovering from an injury.

People have been practicing meditation for centuries. We may experience something akin to meditation when we focus intensely on a game of chess, a piece of music or a math problem. The difference between this state of mind and meditation is one of depth. Meditation is absolute – during meditation the mind and the subject of concentration become one. For many people, meditation marks the beginning of their spiritual path in yoga.

Meditation involves a subtle act of “letting go” and it is not something that you can learn through sheer hard work. Moving from ordinary consciousness into meditation is analogous to the transition between walking and sleeping – by nature it is not an action that can be willed. Also like sleep, meditation is not something that you are aware of when you are “in it” – you usually recognize a meditative state only after you have left it.

medi spaceTo being meditation practice, find a quiet place where you will be warm, comfortable and undisturbed – the point of minimizing distractions is simply to make meditation easier. Try to make a habit of meditating in this place so that you learn to associate it with a state of focused concentration. If your meditation space is not a quiet or private as you would like it to be, just do the best with what you have. In theory, it is quite possible to meditate successfully in a street full of busy traffic!

Find a comfortable sitting position and begin your chosen meditation exercise. If you lose concentration, gently and uncritically guide your mind back to the focus of your meditation, whether it is your breath, the flame of a candle or a mantra. Don’t rush at meditation – it comes in its own time – be patient and practice often.

Beginners should aim to meditate for 10 – 15 minutes at a time, if possible. Once you feel able to do this, try gradually to increase the length of each session until you are meditating for 30 minutes (longer if you wish) once or twice a day. That said, if you find yourself sitting for 30 minutes fretting that you cannot focus your mind, you are probably trying to do too much too soon. As you become more experienced at meditation, you will gain a feel for how long you should practice.

*Whenever you have the opportunity, it can be wonderful to do your meditation practice outside in a beautiful and tranquil environment.

medi2How you sit when you are meditating is crucial for the simple reason that if you are uncomfortable it will be difficult for you to concentrate. You must be able to stay in your chosen posture for a prolonged period without pain or discomfort. On the other hand, you shouldn’t be so comfortable that you fall asleep!

One of the most important considerations when sitting down to meditate is the position of your spine, which should be long, upright and balanced to allow energy to flow freely and to ease awakening of the higher energy centers in the body.

5 popular postures used are:
- Full lotus
- Half lotus
- Half-adepts
- Tailor
- Hero

The biggest challenge in meditation is training the mind to achieve a single point of focus. Many people find that a “tool”, such as the breath, a mantra, a mandala or even something as simple as the flame of a candle, can help to concentrate the mind for successful meditation. At first you may find that you are simply concentrating on your chosen object, but with practice, concentration turns into contemplation and, eventually, you and your object become indistinguishable and you experience the goal of meditation – perfect, unified stillness.

medi candleRead more about different meditation techniques
Breath Counting Meditation: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/24/easy-meditation-technique_n_3313047.html
Mantra Meditation: http://www.finerminds.com/spirituality/mantras-for-meditation/
Trataka: http://www.healthandyoga.com/html/news/meditation/trataka.aspx
Candle Meditation: http://www.the-guided-meditation-site.com/candle-meditation.html
Yantra and Mandala Meditation: http://www.thompsondunn.com/newsletter2/page9.html

This concludes our September – 30 days of yoga with hipS-sister! We hope you have enjoyed it and perhaps even learned a few things about yoga and its many benefits.

Day 30 challenge:
Have you ever meditated? Is it something you are willing to try? How do you think it could help you?
Share with us in the comment box below.
All participants’ names will be entered in our 30 days of yoga with hipS-sister draw Oct. 1st.
Namaste

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 days of yoga with hipS-sister – DAY 29

DAY 29. Read to the end for your challenge/question of the day

The Vital Breath

The gentle rhythm of our breathing is our constant companion from the day we are born until the day we die. By learning to first observe and then to control our breathing, we can influence our emotional state, our ability to concentrate and the way energy moves in our bodies. Pranayama (breath control) exercises form a practical link between the mind, the physical body and the subtle body, and are a fundamental part of yoga practice.

According to the 17th-century text Gheranda Samhita, there are four requisites for pranayama practice. The first is sthana (“right place”) – somewhere cool, quiet and, ideally, away from any distractions. The second is kala (“right time”) – choose a time when you will be undisturbed; if possible, practice before dawn (although any time is better than not at all). The third is mita-ahara (“right diet”), you should be neither hungry nor too full, having eaten in moderation. The fourth is nadi-suddhi which refers to the purity of the energy channels (nadis) through which prana flows. These principles still apply today as they did 400 years ago.

According to one yogic tradition, we are born with a certain number of breaths for a lifetime. By slowing down our breathing – extending each breath to gain from it the maximum benefit to our body, mind and spirit – we are able to prolong our life. Perhaps this is farfetched, however, slowing down our breath DOES reduce stress levels enabling us to relax and enjoy each moment of life more fully.

Pranayama is divided into three phases: inhalation (putaka), breath retention (kumbhaka), and exhalation (rechaka). The inhalation is a nourishing breath that brings energy, warmth, strength and vitality to the mind and body. Retaining, or holding the breath creates a clear pathway around our body that allows prana to move freely in all areas, filling us with energy. The exhalation is cleansing, cooling, restorative, calming and balancing. A single, complete breath, taken fully, is both nourishing and energizing.

Most people do not breathe in a way that fully utilizes all the space in their lungs. We are rarely encouraged to think about our breathing and the effect that it has on our mental and physical states. The first step in pranayama is the non-judgmental observations of your natural breathing. If you try the exercise we will give you here (observing the breath) you may be surprised in two ways: first, the pattern of your breath may be erratic (short breaths, long breaths, with uneven gaps between them); second, you may find that it is difficult to concentrate on your breathing, even for a few seconds without becoming distracted.

pranayama2First exercise: Observing the Breath
Before you attempt any of the other pranayama exercises, work on this simple breath observation. You will be using a combination of concentration and breathing work.
Lie in corpse pose or sit cross legged, in half lotus or in hero pose. Make sure that your spine is straight. Close your eyes and, if you like, place your hands on your chest and upper abdomen to help feel the movement of your breath. Listen to the flow of air into and out of your body. Visualize its path through your nostrils, down your throat, into your lungs, and from your lungs into your blood. As you breath out, visualize this pathway in reverse. Notice how your in-breath feels cool at the upper part of your nostrils, and how your out-breath feels warm at the lower edge.
What is the texture of your breathing? Is it rough or smooth, fast or slow, even or uneven? Don’t worry if your breathing is rough, fast or uneven – the act of observation is the important thing and controlling the quality of your breath will come next. If your attention wanders, gently bring your focus back to the moment of each breath.
Observe your breath in this way for as long as you feel comfortable, then gradually allow your breathing to become smooth, slow and even. Your out-breath becomes the same length as your in-breath with brief, consistent pauses in between. It may help to count how long each in- and out-breath takes. Try to breathe steadily in this way for a few minutes. Extend the time you spend on this exercise until it becomes easy.

Don’t quit your breathing exercises once you’ve mastered the above. Here are a few breathing exercises you can try at your own pace: http://www.wikihow.com/Do-Pranayam

Day 29 challenge:
Your challenge today is to try the “observing the breath” exercise. Let us know what you observed and how you felt after foscusing on regulating your breath.
Share with us in the comment box below.
All participants’ names will be entered in our 30 days of yoga with hipS-sister draw Oct. 1st.
Namaste

30 days of yoga with hipS-sister – DAY 28

DAY 28. Read to the end for your challenge/question of the day

Postures continued…

BAKASANA (crow)
This posture is said to resembles a crow. Practicing it strengthens your upper body, arms and wrists by taking your whole body weight onto your hands. Many people are afraid of falling forward in the pose, but if you can stay in down-facing dog for 10-15 breaths, then you are probably strong enough to hold this posture. You may even find the crow easier than it looks!

crow1. Start in a squatting position with your knees, ankles and hips slightly turned out. Press your elbows gently into your inner knees and bring your palms together in the middle of your chest. Extend your spine and lift your chest. Take a few breaths.

2. Place your hands flat on the floor in front of you. They should be slightly turned in toward each other. Keep your hands flat and lift your knees up so that they are level with your shoulders. You will need to be on tiptoes to do this. Let your arms bend slightly and your elbows point outward.

3. Place your inner knees on to the upper part of your arms and gently rock your weight forward. Gaze ahead rather than down at your hands. Transfer your weight smoothly from your feet onto your hands. Balance. Breathe. Come down slowly, with control.

* Don’t jump into this posture; move slowly to transfer the weight from your feet to your hands. Trust yourself to find your balance.

Day 28 challenge:
Today marks our last posture together. We have two days left on this journey where we will look at meditation and the vital breath. We hope you’ve enjoyed being on this journey with us and have hopefully learned a few things about Yoga and perhaps about your relationship with your body. We chose the crow as our last posture since it tends to look daunting to most and offers a wonderful sense of accomplishment once you are able to get into pose. Try it, you may be surprised at what your body can do! Will you continue to learning and practice yoga? Can you commit to a few hours a week set aside for yourself?
Share with us in the comment box below.
All participants’ names will be entered in our 30 days of yoga with hipS-sister draw Oct. 1st.

Namaste

30 days of yoga with hipS-sister – DAY 27

DAY 27. Read to the end for your challenge/question of the day

Postures continued…

PADMASANA (half-lotus)
The half-lotus and lotus are traditional meditation postures, and ones that many people readily associate with yoga. Half-lotus requires flexibility in your hips but, with practice, it should be attainable for most people. Enhance your experience of the posture by letting your head “rise” and your spine “grow”. Visualize a lotus flower floating on water.

lotus21. To prepare for half-lotus, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Put your left foot on your right knee and clasp your hands behind your right thigh. Breathe out and gently pull your right knee to your body. Swap legs.

lotus82. Sit up and bend your left leg so that your outer thigh and calf rest on the floor with your heel close to your groin. Place you right foot on your left thigh, as close as possible to your hip socket. If your right knee is off the ground, place some folded blankets or blocks underneath it for support – use as many as you need. Don’t force or twist your knee.

* If you are comfortable in half-lotus, try the full posture. From step two lift your left foot up onto your right thigh as close as possible to the right hip socket. Use blocks forA woman practising yoga, isolated on white background support if you need to and never try to force your knees. Rest your hands on your knees, let your spine lengthen. Close your eyes if you like. Breathe steadily.

Day 27 challenge:
Don’t force your knees in this pose. Do what is comfortable for you. Over time, you will notice your body becoming more flexible and allowing you to move deeper into this pose and the other poses you have been practicing this month. Take this moment to thank yourself for taking this journey. Now, let us know which lotus you did today and how it felt.
Share with us in the comment box below.
All participants’ names will be entered in our 30 days of yoga with hipS-sister draw Oct. 1st.

Namaste

 

30 days of yoga with hipS-sister – DAY 26

DAY 26. Read to the end for your challenge/question of the day

Postures continued…

BADDHA KONASANA (tailor pose)
The Sanskrit name for this pose is translated as bound (baddha) angle (kona) posture (asana). The angle referred to is that between the legs and torso. The body folds gently forward at the hips, which helps to develop hip flexibility and spinal extension. Tailor pose strengthens the lower abdomen and helps to relieve menstrual and bladder problems, including period pain.

1.Sit with the soles of your feet together and your back straight. Pull up your lower abdominal muscles to give support to your spine. Place your hands on your feet, ankles or shins, wherever they will comfortably reach. Allow your inner thighs to relax and let your knees drop to the sides. Breathe in and broaden and lift your chest.

* Although this may seem a simple posture, many people find it difficult. If you find that you cannot comfortably sit straight, try sitting on the edge of a block or pillow. This will support you in an upraight position, making posture easier.

baddha-konasana2.As you breathe out, keep your chest broad and fold softly forward at your hips. Keep your back flat. When you can go no further, allow your head to drop gently and your spine to curve. Don’t hunch your shoulders or pull on your feet. Relax. Breathe out to release your thighs and breathe in to lengthen your spine. Come up slowly.

* Remember that the main aims of tailor pose are to lengthen the spine, fold forward at the hips (rather than the waist) and relax the thighs – not to push your head towards the floor.

Day 26 challenge:
We are nearing the end of our challenge. We only have 2 more postures we are looking at. Have you enjoyed your journey so far? How does the tailor pose feel for you?
Share with us in the comment box below.
All participants’ names will be entered in our 30 days of yoga with hipS-sister draw Oct. 1st.

Namaste

30 days of yoga with hipS-sister – DAY 25

DAY 25. Read to the end for your challenge/question of the day

Postures continued…

BHUJANGASANA (cobra)
The shape of this posture resembles a snake that is ready to strike. It helps to develop strength and flexibility in the upper spine, tones the digestive, eliminative, nervous and respiratory systems, and like all backbends, stimulates the brain and is generally refreshing and invigorating. Child pose is an excellent resting position after cobra.

Bhujangasana-Steps
1. Lie face down, relax your heels and gently lift your abdominal muscles. Place your hands on the ground beneath your shoulders. On an in-breath raise your chest, head and hands from the ground using the strength of your abdomen and back.
* This posture should be full of potential energy. Visualize a cobra drawing back its head to strike.

2. On your next out-breath, place your hands firmly on the floor, draw your shoulder blades back and down and press the centre of your chest up and forward. Lengthen your neck and keep your abdominal muscles strongly lifted to support the pose. Don’t collapse your shoulders around your ears. Take a few breaths in this position.

* If you find this difficult, don’t lift too high. Alternatively, try putting a rolled-up blanket just under your hips. This will give them support and allow you to lift higher into the posture, keeping your sholders relaxed.

Day 25 challenge:
We love the cobra. It’s easy to learn and feels great on the back. We can’t forget the fact that is helps build those abdominal muscles that are so important for a strong core. Try the cobra at home and rest in child pose for a few breaths after. Be in the moment as you breathe into the posture. How does it feel for you?
Share with us in the comment box below.
All participants’ names will be entered in our 30 days of yoga with hipS-sister draw Oct. 1st.

Namaste

30 days of yoga with hipS-sister – DAY 24

DAY 24. Read to the end for your challenge/question of the day.

A big THANK YOU to Katia who has blessed us with a 3rd guest blog post. We are so happy you love your hipS-sister and use it in your practice.

Ardha Chandrasana (Halfmoon Pose)
Guest blog by Katia Grodecki, yoga teacher and creative director, Dharma Wanderlust

Ardha Chandrasana is a fun but challenging balance pose that allows helps to tone the lower body and open the heart. It helps to use a block to lift the floor a bit closer to you, especially if your hamstrings are feeling a bit tight. Practising the pose against a wall can also allow you to feel great freedom as you expand and open the heart. Smile, and maybe even giggle if you wobble in the pose. Remember to have fun!

1. Start in Tadasana, mountain pose. Inhale and step the right foot back into Warrior II pose. Exhale; open the arms out to the sides, softening the shoulders. Take a full breath here.

half moon12. Inhale and with your left hand on the block and your right hand on the right hip, start the shift your weight into your left foot, bringing the left hand to a block a few inches in front of your left foot. Exhale, flex the right foot and allow your glutes and obliques to do the work as you lift the right leg higher toward the ceiling. Inhale and extend the right arm up toward the ceiling, spinning the chest up and opening the heart.

half moon33. Stay here and take full breaths, keeping your gaze on the floor, a few inches in front of your block. Continue to lift the leg higher and externally rotating the left hip at the same time as internally rotating the right leg.

half moon24. To challenge your balance, feel free to lift your gaze toward the ceiling.

5. Stay here for 5-8 breaths. Keep your focus strong and stay present.

6. To come out, inhale to prepare. As you exhale, slowly and with control turn both hips to the front of your mat, release the arms down and take a few breaths in Uttanasana, standing forward fold. Repeat on the other side.

Feel free to try this pose by pressing your upper back, top arm and lifted foot into a wall behind you. This variation allows us to expand into the pose without worrying above falling over. If your hamstrings are feeling happy and you wish to try the full pose without a block, feel free to tent out the fingers of your supporting hand and press them down into the floor, a few inches in front of the standing foot.

Remember to smile and breathe.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBtBKyDd434

Day 24 challenge:
This poses is likely to challenge your balance. Trying it with the wall to help hold you is a huge help. Watch the video for step by step tutorial. To date, of the postures we’ve explored together. Which one is your favorite and why. Share with us in the comment box below.
All participants’ names will be entered in our 30 days of yoga with hipS-sister draw Oct. 1st.
Namaste

30 days of yoga with hipS-sister – DAY 23

DAY 23. Read to the end for your challenge/question of the day

Postures continued….

GOMUKASANA (cow face pose)
This curiously named posture is said to look like the shape of a cow’s head (the feet are the cow’s  horns). Although the posture appears very knotted, it is a wonderful way to release upper back and shoulder tension and free the area around the sacrum, buttocks and thighs. Try to focus on expanding your body within the posture.

cow face front1. Sit with your legs out in front of you. Bend your left leg under your right and place your left ankle beside your right hip.  Then bend your right leg over your left so that your knees rest one above the other, ankles relaxed (this is called steer pose). Raise your left arm over your head and bend your right arm behind your back, palm facing out. Now bend your left arm so you’re your palm faces your shoulder blades. Clasp your hands together. Check that your lower back is not arching and your abdominals are gently pulled in. Keep your head centered. Repeat the pose with the left leg and right arm uppermost.

strap

 

*If your hands don’t meet behind your back, dangle a belt or strap from the upper hand and catch it with the lower hand.

*If this posture hurts your knees or you find it difficult to get both knees into position, start by practicing with one leg only. Sit with your left leg stretched out in front, bend your right knee and bring your right calf over your left leg. Try to align your two knees. Swap legs.

*If you find it difficult to achieve the leg position, just concentrate on doing the arm part of the posture while kneeling, or sitting on a low stool or chair.

Day 23 challenge:
Whether you need to go with a modified version or the full cow-face pose, try it, stay in it for a few breaths and focus on what your body tells you. How you feel. How your breathing affects your muscles. Breathe into the spaces that are stretching. Focus on this breath. Do you notice anything when you focus?  Share with us in the comment box below.
All participants’ names will be entered in our 30 days of yoga with hipS-sister draw Oct. 1st.

Namaste

 

 

30 days of yoga with hipS-sister – DAY 22

DAY 22. Read to the end for your challenge/question of the day

Postures continued….

BALASANA (child pose)
This lovely nurturing posture resembles the curled up position of a baby in the womb. Child pose is soothing for the back and restful for the head, face and eyes; it also develops softness and flexibility in the ankles, knees and hips. As you breath in and out in child, pose try to become aware of your head and pelvis as two heave weights releasing toward the floor gently stretching the spine between them. Child pose can flow smoothly into camel pose (included next).

1. Kneel with your knees and ankles close together (don’t sit back on your heels yet). On an in-breath, lift your arms gently above your head and feel you whole back lengthen. Keep your neck and low back long and loose. Breathe steadily.

yoga-childs-pose-400x4002. On an out-breath, sit back on your heels and gently fold forward. Lower your forehead to the floor and rest your hands alongside your feet, palms facing upward. Breathe softly and steadily. Relax the muscles in your neck, shoulders and chest.

*If you find kneeling uncomfortable, try placing a rolled up mat or blanket under your ankles to take the pressure off the tops of your feet. You can place a block between your hips and heels if your knees feel tight, or rest your forehead on a block if your head does not easily reach the floor.
Observe your breathing through the movement of your diaphragm pressed against your thighs.

USTRASANA (camel pose)
This is a strong but secure backbend that tones the muscles in the thighs, abdomen, neck and back and stimulates the thyroid gland. It promotes deep breathing and releases tightness in the chest and throat. Avoid it if you have a neck or back injury, are pregnant, have had a recent abdominal surgery, or if the pose causes nausea or dizziness.

1. Kneel with your knees hip-width apart. On an in-breath, stretch your arms over your head. Let the fronts of your thighs lengthen and your lower back release. Pull up your lower abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. On an out-breath, drop your right hand to your right heel.

2. With your right hand on your right heel, lift upward through the fronts of your thighs and your abdomen and left arm. Look down towards your right heel. Your buttock muscles will automatically contract. Return to kneeling upright and repeat steps 1 and 2 with your left arm.

camel3. Kneel upright and this time take both hands back to grasp your heels. Press forward through your thighs, open your chest, lift the front of your body, elongate your spine and let your head drop gently back toward the earth.

*If you cannot reach your heels in camel pose, tuck your toes underneath to raise your heels slightly.
Try to visualize yourself forming an arc, like a rainbow.

Day 22 challenge:
Today we learn two poses that truly complement one another. The child and camel pose. Try these two postures as a sequence. See how different one feels from the other, but how wonderful they feel together. What are the main differences you feel when you breathe through each posture?  Share with us in the comment box below.
All participants’ names will be entered in our 30 days of yoga with hipS-sister draw Oct. 1st.

Namaste

 

 

 

30 days of yoga with hipS-sister – DAY 21

DAY 21 – read to the end for your challenge/question of the day.

We are blessed with another guest post from Katia on this beautiful Sunday!

Garudasana (Eagle Pose)
Guest blog by Katia Grodecki, yoga teacher and creative director, Dharma Wanderlust

Garudasana is a challenging grounding balance pose that requires our full attention to be here and now, in the present moment. I recommend using a block and standing next to a wall when you first practice this pose. As you gain confidence, move away from the wall and perhaps you will find you do not need to use a block at all. This pose is also great for toning the lower body and the shoulders, allowing you to release tension across the upper back and shoulders.

1. Begin by standing in Tadasana, mountain pose, with both feet firmly rooting down into the mat. Lift the toes, spread them and press your feet down. Allow yourself to stand tall, lifting the pelvic floor and the belly, lifting the heart and softening the shoulders as you take a few full breaths.

2. Inhale to prepare. Exhale as you start to squat into the pose, taking the sit bones back and lifting the toes to ensure that your weight is evenly distributed between your feet, finding your centre of gravity.

3. Inhale, firmly root the left foot down into the mat as you start to pick up the right leg with control. Keep both hands on your hips. Either place your right foot on the block on the outside of your left leg (standing leg), or, if available, wrap the leg around and hook the toes of your right foot around your standing leg.

eagle 1

4. Inhale and extend both arms out the side. Then, wrap the right arm under the left arm, either placing the backs of the hands together in front of your face or, if available, allowing the arms to intertwine and bringing the palms of the hands together in front of the face.

eagle 2

5. Exhale and lift the elbows up, lift the hands away from your face, and draw the heads of the arm bones back gently. This should feel like a great stretch for the upper back.

6. Inhale and find one steady point at which to gaze.

7. As you exhale, stay in the pose or practise sitting back deeper, maybe bringing the elbows lower toward the belly, coiling in with control, continuing to lift the bandhas.

eagle 3 8. Stay in the pose for 5-8 breaths. To come out, inhale and unravel the arms. Exhale, unravel the legs. Stand evenly on both feet and move the hips gently from side to side to release any holding in the muscles. Take a full breath and repeat on the other side.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ae1bOaOoaw4

Day 21 challenge:
The eagle symbolizes the triumph of the spirit over the intellect. When we find our balance in this posture we can gaze through the third eye (ajna chakra) and bring our true nature into sharp focus. How did you feel in this posture? Was your balance challenged? Did you feel one side was more challenging that the other?  Share with us in the comment box below.
All participants’ names will be entered in our 30 days of yoga with hipS-sister draw Oct. 1st.
Namaste