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yoga stuff

You suddenly find yourself doing yoga at home and you miss the props (and everything else) at your studio?

If you tend to hover on the wiry, over~thinky, anxious side of life, a weighted blanket can help ground you.

If you want a cheap mat, try this one. If you want a great mat that’s guaranteed for life, this is the only one I recommend (not the eKo version. It disintegrates rapidly). The regular pro version is brilliant and even better but weighs about 10lbs. 

If you tend to slip on mats and are not an ashtangi or doing jump-throughs, you might prefer the jade yoga mat, which is extremely grippy (so much so you can get caught on it and hurt yourself if you are just learning to jump through). These mats wear through fairly quickly, down to a mesh, but are good while they last.

If you want yoga blocks for class, these are good (I use them).

Less necessary is a strap. You can use a scarf or dog leash instead. But if you want a yoga strap, they aren’t pricey.

Also not as necessary are blankets. You can use a pillow or another blanket instead. Studio style:
100% cotton Mexican yoga blanket
Mixed Mexican yoga blanket

Be safe and well ~ Anastasia

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favorites practice at home yoga habits yoga practice

yoga at home for the holidays

Last week I was commiserating with a student who’d missed class about how difficult it is to establish a home practice. It took me about two years of consistent classes to really get into practice on my own. Establishing a daily home practice took not only dedication, but concentration. It’s much easier to make yourself go to a class than to maintain focus amidst the endless distractions of your home. But once you’ve got it going, it’s really harder just to do yoga once in awhile when you can’t make class because it’s not habit and you have so many (pitiful) reasons not to do it.

It took a little trickery to get me started. If I thought of the whole 1.5 hour series, I wouldn’t do it. I was too hungry or tired or pressed for time. So I told myself I’d do one pose (which was usually the lazyman’s legs up the wall. It’s the best pose ever. We need, most of us, to be lazier), then I could relax. After the one pose, I was relaxed, and liking it, so I did one more. This went on through the whole series, often ending in seated mediation two hours later. No way? Believe me, it will happen.

Whether you are looking to keep the hamstrings happy until you get back to class next week, or you’re trying to establish or motivate a personal practice, a few minutes of yoga a day are enough to shift things into habit. As Ethan likes to say about meditation, “You wouldn’t skip brushing your teeth for a few days, then brush for an hour on the weekend, would you?” And so it is with yoga.

So here’s a 10-minute home practice that my Iyengar teacher Genny Kapuler gave me as a daily minimum of sorts years ago. Tomorrow or Friday I’ll post another that is more Ashtanga influenced.

So go get your mat (though you don’t really need one) and do some yoga.

Don’t even think of skipping savasana.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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favorites practice at home yoga practice

yoga for insomnia

Over a year ago I designed a class for insomnia, because a number of students asked what could help them sleep. I did a bit of research, but for the most part I offered what had helped me the most. Sometimes a pose just shifts me out of monkey mind toward slumber. There are all sorts of recommendations in the interwebs, including some sequences with poses (especially backbends) I would never do at night, much less before sleep. But we’re all different. Below is a series of what has worked for me.

These poses are all take or leave. You don’t have to do them all, in fact, you could just choose one or two and hold them for a few minutes. If you know you hold in a certain area, choose a pose that will help you release there. If you aren’t sure, ask. Choose poses you enjoy so that you aren’t fighting with yourself before bed.

If insomnia is a problem for you, your habits around bedtime are important. First, you should have a bedtime. Seriously. If you drop in bed when you can’t hold your head up in front of the computer anymore, but your mind is still reeling, you won’t sleep. You need to set a reasonable time to retire and commit to it. I try to be ready for bed an hour before that time, and get in bed with a book. You don’t have that time? Log out of facebook. You have time. Electronic devices, news, stimulating TV and movies, even stimulating music can keep us from settling down. So, an hour or two before bed, unplug. Then try this series.

  • Start with a few optional sun salutation As. Don’t jump though. Step forward and back. Do no more than three.
  • Lie on your belly for salabhasana (locust pose), but in this variation, don’t lift your chest. Only your legs. Lower and repeat once, holding until you feel a bit tired.
  • Relax for 10 to 30 breaths, feeling your front body move against the floor as you breathe.
  • Press back to balasana (child’s pose). Stay here as long as you like.
  • Roll up and take a few long forward bends. Forward bends calm the mind and start moving your awareness inward. If you feel fidgety or anxious, just keep drawing your awareness back to your breath, and deepen it. Don’t engage the muscles as much as you would in an active class. Try to relax and let go. The longer you stay in the pose, the quieter you will become.
        1. Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) with a few pillows or blankets on your lap or under your knees to make it restorative
        2. Janu sirsasana (head-to-knee(ish) forward bend), also with lots of pillows, and/or
        3. Tarasana (diamond pose)
  • If, and only if, you have a strong sirsasana (headstand) practice, do it. If you aren’t totally there, skip it for now.
  • Sarvangasana (shoulderstand): As Geeta Iyengar notes in Yoga: A Gem for Women, “Sarvangasana and its variations are useful for developing a healthy mind. The nervous system is calmed and one is freed from hypertension, irritability, nervous breakdown, and insomnia. They are a boon for combating the stresses and strains of our daily life. They give vitality and self-confidence.” So this is your moment. Hold for 25 breaths to 5 minutes. Then lower the legs for halasana.
  • Halasana (plow). This pose is a miracle for insomnia. It’s one of the two poses that just shift something for me and in comes the Sandman. If your feet do not reach the floor, rest them on a bed or chair. Do not let your legs dangle. It is not restful. And you deserve better.
  • Roll out of plow as gracefully as possible and if you are not ready for sleep, try a restorative pose or two. Supta Baddha Konasana (supine bound angle pose) is nice and can be done in bed. Use blankets or pillows under your knees.
  • Supta Virasana (supine hero pose) is the other miracle pose for me (keep in mind, I might hold differently than you, but for me, it works). I think it’s the quad stretch, but this pose helps me sleep. Be VERY VERY careful with your knees. Use a bolster or pillows under your back and a block under your butt. DO NOT do the pose if you feel any knee strain. Just don’t. Hold 25 breaths to 5 minutes. Then take a slow, quiet down dog to iron you out.
  • Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine spinal twist) — our classic closing twist, any leg variation you like.
  • Savasana (corpse pose) is our final pose. Take your index and middle fingers together, and hold your ring and pinky fingers down with your thumb for some chandra bhedana pranayam (moon piercing breath).  In class we do a similar breath through each nostril with a different hand position. Here, use each hand (index and middle fingers) to close off the respective nostril. To help sleep, you will inhale left, exhale right, over and over. Don’t switch the inhalations. Instead, keep repeating inhalation through the left nostril and exhalation through the right for 3 to 5 minutes. Then relax your arms, palms up. If you aren’t in bed, get there and relax flat in corpse.

This should help you sleep. If you have questions, want a video, or more pics, drop me a line or comment. If you have sleep problems and want me to design a sequence just for you, drop me a line. I use a sliding scale, and you can always bring an insomniac friend and split the cost.

Sweet dreams,
Anastasia

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favorites practice at home yoga habits yoga practice

the daily minimum, at home

Tuesday I shared a basic ten (ok, fifteen) minute class to practice at home. Today we have a slightly more vigorous ashtanga-based option. We’ll call it “the daily minimum +.”

If you are just beginning to practice at home, make sure to the same things you’d do in a class. Turn off your phone. Take a minute to ground into your body, using some pranayama or mantra. Commit to spending the next 10 minutes (or hour, or two) on your yoga. If you don’t think you have the discipline to do this, you can pay me a handsome fee to come teach you some.

This sequence takes about 25 minutes, unless you want to dally. If you have less time, simply do the sun salutations, shoulder- and/or headstand, and savanasana.

Some good suggestions for abbreviated ashtanga practices can be found at the top of this FAQ. I especially appreciate these lines at the end, “While it is important to be sensitive to the needs of the body and mind, it is also important to look critically at these needs. Frequently, these needs are actually subtle avoidance mechanisms. If you are sore, tired, or don’t feel like practicing. Acknowledge those feelings and sensations, drop the expectations about what practice should be like and practice anyway.” Yup.

Savasana the movie (above, viaYogaDawg) is short (1 minute) and pretty funny.