Category Archives: Yoga

8 Limbs of Yoga – The Basics

The Yoga Sutra is a fundamental guide for living with a cultivated body, mind, and spiritual awareness, written in India between 200 B.C and 200 A.D. by physician, Pantajali. This ancient text outlines the eightfold path, called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb)

These eight steps act as guidelines toward living a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature.

Source: Ayuh Yoga

Eventually, I will go into more detail about what each of these limbs means. In the meantime here is the lowdown on the 8 limbs at their most basic analysis.

1. Yama – Self-restraints (how we morally interact with each other)

  • Ahimsa: Nonviolence
  • Satya: Truthfulness
  • Asteya: Nontheft
  • Brahmacharya: Nonlust
  • Aparigraha: No greed 

2. Niyama – Self-restraints (how we morally interact with ourselves)
  • Saucha: Cleanliness
  • Santosa: Contentment
  • Tapas: Sustained practice
  • Svadhyaya: Self study
  • Isvara pranidhana: Dedication
3. Asana – Practice of yoga postures and movements, control of body
4. Pranayama – Practice of breathing exercises and techniques, control of breath and life force
5. Pratyahara – Practice of bringing the awareness to reside deep within oneself, control of senses
6. Dharana – Concentration and steadying of the mind free of external (noises) or internal (useless thoughts) distractions.
7. Dhyana – Meditation
8. Samadhi – Bliss, aka: enlightenment.
These eight steps of yoga interact and intertwine with one another, like branches on a tree, and guide along the pathway to attain of physical, ethical, emotional, and psycho-spiritual health. Yoga allows the natural state of total health and integration in each of us to become a reality.

-XOXO-

9 Awesome Fitness and Nutrition Apps

I am obsessed with my iPhone. I have my phone with me at all times to check in on my Etsy shop, to keep up with my friends on social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) and to research new project ideas on Pinterest. Come to think about it… this might not be healthy… I probably need help… Well I’ll worry about that later.

I am always looking for new apps to help me with the simplest of tasks. With that said, my iPhone has become my most reliable workout buddy. Here are some of my favorite apps for gym and home workouts.

Free Fitness

  • Bit Timer is a great app for strength training intervals. You can set the work time, rest time and the number of intervals you wish to repeat. Play your get pumped music in the background and the app will alert you when it’s time to start and end.
  • Gymboss allows you to create a timer with intervals and rounds. It also has preset programs and a basic stop watch.
  • Nike Training Club comes with various workouts and workout programs at the beginner, intermediate or advanced level. Use it for cardio, strength or a combo and set goals for toning, leaning out, getting strong or targeting certain areas. You can preset the amount of time and play your own music in the background.
  • Map My Run means you no longer have to estimate how far you’ve run, this app uses GPS to actually track them. You can change your activity to bike, run, walk and even hike. You can also create pre-made routes to make sure you’re covering the proper distance to meet your goals. Plus you can post your runs to Facebook and Twitter and use the Map My Run community to keep you motivated!
  • Fitness Pro is a great app for fitness junkies and newbies alike. It’s a great guide to new exercises and proper use of gym equipment. It’s not very useful at home but great for the gym.

Paid Fitness

  • Map My Run also has an MVP paid option which gives you coaching so I’m listing it a second time.
  • 10k Pro is a couch to 10k program that has preset goals for 30 days. You begin each day and follow the instructions for a certain amount of time. These instructions are spoken to you as you go along so there’s no need to keep an eye on the time. Fitnesity also has apps with a similar formate for situps, squats, arms, pushups, abs, pullups, cardio etc.
  • Yoga Studio offers classes for all levels and in varying lengths of time. You can specify the ambient sound and leanr about 250 different poses.

Free Nutrition

  • Lose It! is a food journal app to track how many calories are going in and how many are going out.
  • Fooducate helps you out when shopping for food. Use the scanner to scan the barcode of a product and the app assigns a grade based on health.

Give these apps a try and let me know what you think in the comments below.

-XOXO-

DIY Yoga Mat Tote

I’ve been going a little yarn crazy recently. In the past month I finished two baby blankets, a full-sized blanket, a dog sweater, two hats, three ear warmers, two pairs of bunny slippers, and two yoga mat totes. I suppose the falling leaves, the cooler weather and the cinnamon scent in the air put me in a cozy, crafty mood.

This is a guide for you to make a yoga mat tote for yourself. I also sell them on Etsy if you are not familiar with crochet or don’t have the time.

I made one for myself…

…and one for my roommate, Alyssa…

We recently started going to yoga classes together so it’s only fitting that we have matching totes.

Material:

  • G-hook
  • Worsted Weight (4) Yarn
  • Yarn Needle

Stitches:

  • Double Crochet
  • Slip Stitch
  • Chain Stitch
  • Single Crochet
Note: after every round do another round of slip stitches to help the tote bag keep it’s shape and give it a bit more strength.

Pattern:

Drawstring
Slip knot, then chain 40. Fasten off. Tie on pompoms if desired

Round Base
Slip knot then chain 4, join to first chain with a slip stitch.
Round 1 – Chain 3 (counts as one double crochet), 19 dc into center of loop. ss into top of chain 3. You should have a total of 20 stitches.
Round 2 – Chain 3, *2 dc into next stitch, 1 dc into next stitch, repeat from * ss into top of chain 3. You should have 30 stitches.
Round 3 – Chain 3, *2 dc into next stitch, 1 dc into next stitch, repeat from * ss into top of chain 3. You should have 45 stitches.
Round 4 – Chain 1, 1 single crochet into each stitch, ss into top of chain 1.
Tote Body
Round 5-28 – Chain 3, 1 dc into each stitch, ss into top of chain 3.
Top
Round 29 – Chain 1, 1 sc into each stitch, ss into top of chain 1.
Round 30 – Chain 3, *dc2tog, dc into the next stitch, repeat from * ss into top of chain 3. You should have 30 stitches.
Round 31 – We want your drawstring to be on the opposite side of the bag from the seam. Hold the center of your draw string against the top of the previous rounds seam and do the following round around the drawstring (as if you are crocheting over ends). Chain 3, 1 dc into each of the next 13 stitches. When you reach the 14th stitch stop crocheting around the drawstring and dc into the next four stitches. On the 18th stitch pick up the drawstring from the opposite end and start crocheting around it again, dc into the next 12 stitches. Ss into the top of the chain 3 for a total of 30 dc around.
Round 32 and 33 – Chain 3, 1 dc into each stitch, ss into top of chain 3.
Strap
Slip knot, chain 62, *turn work, sc into 2nd chain from hook, sc into each stitch until the end* chain 1. Repeat between the *s for 4 or 5 rows, sew onto tote along the seam at about the 8th round and the 26th round.
For mine I was using up a bunch of yarn from my sc blanket. I was also figuring out the pattern. By the time I made Alyssa’s I had perfected the design (which I am sharing with you here). I recommend using one color for the rounds 1-8 and for rounds 26-33 and for the strap for a more cohesive design. Of course I always encourage taking creative liberty. That’s one of the many reasons DIY rocks, you can make it exactly fit your style and needs. Enjoy!

Meditation

I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection. For a lot of this journey since I moved to Portland everything was new. I didn’t have a usual breakfast place or a bar that never disappoints. I didn’t have a hike I knew like the back of my hand. I had but one friend. It was exciting because everything was new. Any person I met had a story I hadn’t yet heard. Every restaurant I tried was an experiment. Every place I went, even going to Target, was an adventure. But slowly all these things fell into place. Some of the people I met became regulars in the sitcom that I sometimes view my life as. I started visiting certain restaurants regularly and stopped going to some entirely. I know the routes to get to all the important places I need to visit. All of this happened naturally, I didn’t even notice I was becoming a local (can I say that yet Portland gods? Please don’t strike me down!)

Source: Yellow Wood Design

And now that the novelty of my new hometown has worn off I’ve started reflecting on what I’ve learned. I moved halfway across the country with my best friend to a place I knew no one and had no job prospects. Not only that, I was across the Oregon border before I even knew where I was going to be living! Was this half-made plan everything I dreamed it would be?

So, I’ve spent a lot of my free time thinking. I’d go on walks and think, I’d listen to music and think, I’d drive around and think. And after a little bit of hard thinking my brain would slip into a sort of nothingness. I realized I had been meditating without intending to. After making this realization I decided to do some research.

Source: Karma Jello

The goal of meditation is to focus and quiet your mind, eventually reaching a higher level of awareness and inner calm. You can meditate anywhere and at any time. No matter what’s going on around you, you can access a sense of tranquility and peace.

I’ve constructed a table outlining some various forms of mediation. I’ve found that, as a beginner, mantra meditation works best for me. Of course yoga has always been one of my favorite activities as well.

Information from Mayo Clinic

Here’s a list of ways I practice meditation day to day. Maybe you will be able to utilize some of these tips.

  • Breathe deeply: Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. What are you feeling?
  • Scan your body: Close your eyes and become aware of the sensations in your body. Can you locate the source of your discomfort?
  • Repeat a mantra: Check out Deepak Chopra Soul of Healing affirmation (free on Spotify and All Music) for an A-Z list of mantras you can try.
  • Exercise: Combine your exercise routine with meditation, focus on each movement. How are you changing?
  • Prayer: Write your own prayers and one written by someone else. What are you thankful for?
  • Read and reflect: Read sacred or texts and poems. What does it mean to you?
  • Focus your love and gratitude: Treat those you interact with throughout your day with kindness. How can you help?
  
The most important thing I’ve found through practicing meditation the last of this list. I have realized that I am quick to judge and when offended I jump to conclusions about the other persons motive. By remembering that every person has the right to be happy I realize that they’re actions were probably not directed toward me or meant to hurt me, there is something else going on in that persons life that is affecting their actions. 
I am also prone to move quickly and overlook some of the beautiful things in life. Meditation helps me remember to slow down and appreciate what I have and what is right in front of me instead of mourning the things I have lost and yearning for things I don’t possess. How has meditation influenced your life? New to meditation? Do you think you’d like to give it a try?

Om Alone

Such a punny title. There are many reasons to practice yoga at home, not least of which is the cost of attending classes at a studio. Studios can be over-full, and you’ll struggle to find an inch to lay out your mat. Parking can be a nightmare, especially if your studio is in a busy city center. You may encounter expressionless holier-than-thou clones who can practically balance on their noses, causing you to feel inadequate. Who can achieve nirvana under these circumstances? I’m not anti-studios but I am pro home and at home you can avoid these distractions and you don’t have to share your space. Need further convincing?

At home:

  • You can’t miss a class because you schedule them.
  • You determine the amount of time you spend yoga-ing.
  • You can practice whatever pose you want, however many time you want and for whatever amount of time you want.
  • You develop a deeper awareness of yourself and your mental and physical state without a teacher’s guiding voice.
  • You may KNOW that yoga is not competitive but you will feel more comfortable exploring challenging poses when you are alone.
  • You will become more capable of suiting your practice to meet your needs.
  • Are you sensing a theme? YOU.
So stay home to get a toned and limber body and a stress-free mind. Be sure to get in a least a Sun Salutations in each day and a full 45 minutes routine two to three times each week. Attend classes to have a trained teacher check your alignment two to four times each month. At these supplemental classes, pick up a few new poses to add to your home routine.

Create Your Yoga Space

Pick a quiet space, where noises from the street, your neighbors, or living mates won’t reach you. Bring in decorative elements like a buddha statue and candles and incense. Play meditative music to set the mood. Make sure there is plenty of space around your mat and the area is clutter free.

Make a Date with Your Mat

Classes are generally 90 minutes long but it’s okay to practice in shorter increments. Most yoga teachers agree that practicing for 20 minutes each day is more beneficial that practicing for 90 minutes once or twice each week. Making yoga a habit gives you feedback about your body and mind, which can help improve your practice. So schedule time for yoga each day just like you schedule time for work and spending time with your family.

Have a Plan

Before you lay out the mat it can be helpful to decide which poses you’d like to explore further and which parts of your body you’d like to focus on. Pay close attention when you do go to class and think about how you can use what you learn at home. Notice the sequence your teacher introduces poses in, how long you hold each pose, when inhales and exhales are used. Talk to your teacher for suggestions and advice about how to get the most out of your home practice. Write down notes to help you remember. Find resources on the Yoga Journal website or my personal favorite, Yoga Downloads. Learn the basics for creating a pose sequence and how each pose is set up. Then you’ll have a good foundation when you actually get on your mat.

Create a Sequence

Building a sequence from scratch can be daunting so focus on parts of your body, which would benefit from some attention. Make sure you have a quiet beginning and end. Sun Salutation are another great place to start to get the body warmed up before moving into more focused poses.Yoga Journal has a yoga sequence builder, so use that to help you get some ideas. The more you practice at home the more you will gravitate toward a certain group of poses. Keep this sequence as a backup for days you are too tired or too busy to come up with an original sequence.

Just Do It

Incorporate yoga into your daily life. It’s okay to watch TV or do a crossword while flowing into poses. It’s okay to do a Sun Salutations while you wait for the laundry to finish. Do what you can, when you can, where you can. Become more responsive to your own needs and let yourself fall in love with practicing at home.

Sun Salutations

It’s Workout Wednesday and about time for another post about yoga…

All around the world, many cultures have long viewed light as a symbol of consciousness and self-illumination. In The Origins and Historyof Consciousness, Erich Neumann wrote, “The world begins with the coming of light, opposition between light and darkness has informed the spiritual world of all peoples and molded it into shape.”

The only source of light for most of human history was, of course the sun, and today it remains our primary source of light. The Hindus called the sun Surya and they revered it as both the physical and spiritual heart of our world and the creator of life itself. They called the sun the “eye of the world” (loka chakshus), which was regarded as a pathway to the divine.

One important way many Hindus honored the sun was and is through the asana sequence known as Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutations. Namaskais a Sanskrit word, which can be derived from namas, meaning “to bow to” or “to adore.” The placement of joined-hands touching the heart at the beginning and end of each sequence shows that only the heart can know truth.

Ancient Yogis believed that each person replicates the world around, including “rivers, seas, mountains, fields… stars and planets… the sun and moon” (Shiva Samitha, II. 1-3). Therefore the practice of Sun Salutations allows each person to share their inner sun with the sun which shines down upon them.

There are many variations of Sun Salutations but generally it consists of eight basic postures in a similar order as follows, with alternating inhales and exhales as transitions between poses (Photos courtesy of Yoga Journal dot com):

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose)
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

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Runner’s Stretches

I’ve been learning so much in my running journey over the last three-months. Did you know that if you stretch your range of motion in your hip joint you can actually become a better runner? If your hips are too tight your leg won’t extend behind your body very far before swinging forward, which reduces the propulsion your body has the potential to exhibit. These stretches are meant to open your hip joint in order to improve your running.

The Happy Runner [dot] blogspot [dot] com

Kneeling Hip-Flexor Stretch
Step into a lunge position, and lower you back knee to the ground. Keep your upper body straight while you tilt your pelvis forward. Hold for one minute, release, and repeat twice more. Then switch to the other leg.

Knee-to-Chest Bridge
Pull in your right knee, holding it against your chest. Keeping your head and shoulder blades on the floor, push up with your left leg into a bridge position while keeping your right leg against you. Push up, keeping the pelvis level, then lower yourself down. Do 12 to 15, then switch legs. Do three sets on each side.

I Heart Inspiration [dot] com

Marching Bridge
With your head, shoulders, and both feet on the floor, push up into a bridge position. While up, begin “marching”—alternate lifting each foot about an inch off the ground, while keeping your pelvis steady and facing straight up. Do three sets of 20 marches (10 on each leg), with a short break between each set.

Swing Drill
Bend and lift your left leg in front of you, then swing it back behind you as far as it will reach without moving your pelvis or lower back. This is the running motion you want to have—hip extending back, pelvis and lower back neutral (not arched). Do two sets of 20 swings with each leg, alternating legs with each set.

Community [dot] Saucony [dot] com

Half-pidgeon

Starting in a v-shape position with hands and feet flat against the floor, pull your right leg through, placing your right foot next to your left hand and your right knee next to your right hand. Bring your butt as close to the floor as you can as you place the top of your left foot on the ground with your leg stretching behind you. Sit up tall and then bending forward at the waist, touch your forehead to the floor. Hold, release and repeat on the left side.
Runner’s Lunge
Get into a lunge position with the right knee at a 90-degree angle, knee not passing the toes, and the left leg straight.  Put your hands flat to the floor on either side of your right foot. Then move your right foot to the outside of your right hand, toes at a 45 degree angle. Move around in this stretch, roll to the outside edge of your right foot opening your right knee to the floor, or lower your left knee to the floor. When you feel adequately stretched, switch legs.
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Challenging Yoga Pose Helper

Yoga is full of challenges and difficulties to overcome, which is why I consider it a journey. Through gradual changes I have seen my body evolve from being tense and tight to being capable of awesome poses. The best thing is that these changes are noticeable: every practice I experience a deeper stretch and can push myself just a little bit further. This post includes some challenging poses and methods to achieve them from Women’s Health Magazine.

The Pose: King Dancer (Natarajasana) 

At any stage of practicing this move you feel a stretch in your shoulders, quads, and hip flexors and you will see improvement in balance. To stay steady, focus on a spot on the ground in front of you (Drishti).

The Buildup

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/the-pose-king-dancer-natarajasana?workout=27589

Stage 1
Loop a strap around the top of your left foot and holding the strap in left hand, lift left elbow toward the ceiling. Hold, then release and switch legs.

Stage 2
Start in stage 1, then grab the strap with your right hand as well. Push your left foot into the strap, without leaning forward too much. Hold, then release and switch legs.

Stage 3
From phase 2, move your hands down the strap closer to your foot. Elevate the thigh by pressing into your shin. Keep your chest lifted. Hold, then release and repeat with the other leg.

The Finale

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/the-pose-king-dancer-natarajasana?workout=27589 

From phase 3, move your hands down the strap and grab your foot with both hands. Draw your knee toward the center of your body so it’s in line with your butt. Press your foot into your hand until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep your chest up, hips square, and upper arms close to your ears. Hold, then release and switch sides.

The Pose: Handstand (Adho-Mukha Vrksasana)

This pose strengthens your shoulders, arms, core, and legs. As you work toward it, keep four things in mind: Move slowly and carefully, rotate your triceps toward your body, keep your neck relaxed, and gaze just slightly past your fingertips.

The Buildup

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/the-pose-handstand-adho-mukha-vrksasana?workout=27589

Stage 1
Start in downward-facing dog (an inverted V) with your heels against a wall. Place your right foot flat on the wall, then place your left foot next to your right. You should be in an upside-down L shape with your wrist directly below your shoulder, your back straight and perpendicular to the floor, and you legs straight and parallel to the floor. Hold, then bend your knees and lower one foot to the floor at a time.

Stage 2
Start in Stage 1, then lift your right leg off the wall, straight up toward the ceiling. Your left leg is still parallel to the floor, with your foot flat on the wall. Hold, keeping your core tight, arms straight, and neck relaxed, then bring your right foot back to the wall and switch legs. To release, bring both feet back to the wall, bend your knees, and lower one foot at a time.

Stage 3
Face the wall and place your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor about 10 inches away from it. Get into downward-facing dog, then walk your feet in a few inches, stacking your shoulders over your wrists. Brace your core and slowly raise your left heel toward the ceiling, leg straight. Keep your hips square, arms straight, and neck relaxed. Hold, gazing toward your fingertips, then lower your leg and switch sides.

The Finale

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/the-pose-handstand-adho-mukha-vrksasana?workout=27589

Start in downward-facing dog with your hands shoulder-width apart and legs straight. Walk your feet forward, shifting your weight onto your hands and stacking your shoulders over your wrists. With your arms straight and core tight, lift your right leg toward the ceiling, keeping your hips square. Bend your left knee and gently raise your left leg toward the ceiling, bringing your hips over your shoulders. Hold, then slowly come down one leg at a time.

To view Crow (Bakasana) and Side Plank B (Vashistasana B), and a more detailed description of King Dancer (Natarajasana) and Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana), please visit the Women’s Health Website. If you would like a printable pose guide, click here.

How to Yoga: and Other Life Lessons

I have been practicing yoga routinely since I started college, four years ago. Before that it was an occasional activity that I enjoyed but was never too attached too. Now, I find it hard to sleep, and my muscles feel stiff if I miss even a day. I feel that every person has a different experience when practicing yoga, and I don’t claim to be an expert, or even that good at it, but I do think that I have learned a few thing in my four years.

Stay Present
My life is full of distractions: what are we having for dinner, I need to check my email, how much homework do I have, etc. Yoga is my escape from all of that.  The only problem is letting myself escape.  Most of the time my mind wanders away from quality breathing and properly setting-up poses to these other thoughts that seem so urgent. When I DO get my thoughts focused in, not only does this helps with my yoga practice, but also helps de-clutter my life.

Wear Yoga Pants


‘nough said

Breathe
If there is one thing I know, it’s that breathing is the best medicine, both inside and outside the yoga practice. Breathing is something that’s taken years of practice for me to learn especially with tough poses. The same way a sigh can relieve tension during a stressful argument, the proper exhale or inhale of breathe can relieve tension in muscles.

Don’t Give Up
There are hundreds of poses that are too difficult for me to even fathom at this point in my yoga practice. I know it will take time and practice to get there, but I won’t get there if I give up.

Laugh at Yourself
Every sport and activity on the planet has a few nuts who take it too seriously. I always take time to laugh at the nut I see in myself. I wrote this song to Tik-Tok by Ke$ha once.

Wake up in the morning feeling like Siddhartha, grab my mat it’s on the floor this isn’t Sparta, start chlid’s pose, downward dog, sun salutations holmes, ‘Cause when I do lotus pose, I can be like “om.” 😉

Also, Yoga: the complete and balanced parts of breakfast.

(***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

How to Yoga: and Other Life Lessons

I have been practicing yoga routinely since I started college, four years ago. Before that it was an occasional activity that I enjoyed but was never too attached too. Now, I find it hard to sleep, and my muscles feel stiff if I miss even a day. I feel that every person has a different experience when practicing yoga, and I don’t claim to be an expert, or even that good at it, but I do think that I have learned a few thing in my four years.


Stay Present
My life is full of distractions: what are we having for dinner, I need to check my email, how much homework do I have, etc. Yoga is my escape from all of that.  The only problem is letting myself escape.  Most of the time my mind wanders away from quality breathing and properly setting-up poses to these other thoughts that seem so urgent. When I DO get my thoughts focused in, not only does this helps with my yoga practice, but also helps de-clutter my life.



Wear Yoga Pants


‘nough said

Breathe
If there is one thing I know, it’s that breathing is the best medicine, both inside and outside the yoga practice. Breathing is something that’s taken years of practice for me to learn especially with tough poses. The same way a sigh can relieve tension during a stressful argument, the proper exhale or inhale of breathe can relieve tension in muscles.



Don’t Give Up
There are hundreds of poses that are too difficult for me to even fathom at this point in my yoga practice. I know it will take time and practice to get there, but I won’t get there if I give up.


Laugh at Yourself
Every sport and activity on the planet has a few nuts who take it too seriously. I always take time to laugh at the nut I see in myself. I wrote this song to Tik-Tok by Ke$ha once.

Wake up in the morning feeling like Siddhartha, grab my mat it’s on the floor this isn’t Sparta, start chlid’s pose, downward dog, sun salutations holmes, ‘Cause when I do lotus pose, I can be like “om.” 😉

Also, Yoga: the complete and balanced parts of breakfast.