Jun 13, 2013
If unfamiliar, mantra and meditation may seem mysterious, even overwhelming. Allow Jeanne Heileman to dissolve any mystery and anxiety. Learn about the power of mantra and experience it first-hand in the following online yoga offerings.
“The biggest thing is to experience it.” ~Jeanne Heileman
Listen to Jeanne as she discusses the importance and uses of mantra, as well as the many different kinds and options for mantra in this free online yoga video. To practice mantra, follow up this discussion up with the following online yoga videos.
This online yoga practice will explore the use of Mantra throughout the whole class. The practice focuses on aspects of the Fifth Chakra, which are connected to sound and vibration. You will join the students in the class vocalizing the mantra “So Hum” as you move through Sun Salutations and poses. At times, things will get quiet as you silently repeat the mantra, feeling the vibrational quality that the mantra provides. This well-rounded class leads to Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) and Matseyasana (Fish Pose). It seems pretty simple on the outside, but the students reported that the experience was very powerful on the inside. Give it a try! Follow up this transformative experience with try Jeanne’s Mantra for Meditation. (55 mins.)
Everything vibrates, either on a slow, dull level or a faster, lighter frequency. The vibration of our speech comes from the vibrations of our respiratory system, which are a result of the vibrations from our thoughts. If we can begin to control the vibrations in our mind, it can eventually ripple outward past our speech and into our actions and our destiny. Mantra can be that powerful! In this online meditation class, the mantra “So Hum” is offered, after some Pranayama to help establish a focused environment. “So Hum” is a simple, safe, and extremely powerful mantra that works in alignment with any spiritual/religious perspective you might already follow. It can also help fill the void if no perspective exists at this time in your life. This meditation is a really wonderful option for when your mind is racing around a lot and concentration is difficult. It is also wonderful for those times when you feel lower in self-esteem, lacking any outer support. The effects of the mantra are truly powerful, and come in time, after many, many repetitions. It’s worth doing! (24 mins.)
Mantra is an amazing tool to get your conscious out of the way – to re-pattern and re-wire negative thoughts and habits in a very subtle, yet effective way. Tap into your graciousness, goodness, and divinity, transform, and raise your vibration.
Photo Credit: Seated Meditation via www.naturealmom.com
Jun 12, 2013
Words that come to mind post-practice? Healing, humbling, challenging, relaxing, enlivening, and inspiring.
This well-balanced, 42-minute class offers a little bit of everything. Start with a brief warm-up of Kapalabhati – an energizing form of pranayama. Follow that up with some unique Sun Salutations, spiced up with lots of side plank action (Vashitasana) and lunge twists. Though this class is beginner approved, expect challenging asana. I’m a yoga teacher, yet I wasn’t able to do everything. Fortunately, there are modifications for most of the poses, making this practice fairly accessible.
Also, expect lots of Savasana goodness. This surprised me. I’m used to ending my practice in Savasana, so it was kind of hard to accept that it was coming so soon in the practice. I was wondering, “Is this it? Are we there already?” Rest assured, there’s more. After I let go of my Savasana expectations, I definitely appreciated getting into the pose more. Savasana is a lovely opportunity to connect more with the breath and achieve greater stillness.
Speaking of stillness…
I love how Dharma Mittra guides you to stillness, even in some of the more advanced poses. In Sarvangasana and Halasana, his message really resonated when he said, “Learn how to meditate during the poses.”
Sometimes we get so caught up in alignment, adjusting the pose, the elements surrounding us, and/or the activities of the mind, that we completely miss out on the benefits of the pose. Yes, alignment and awareness are important. Yet, in this practice, I found myself letting go and seizing all movements once I found my way into my full expression of the pose. I found myself resolving to stillness and receiving whatever the pose had to offer me in that moment.
If you are receptive, each pose does have something wonderful to offer you. Sarvangasana for example, “…brings good mental ability, telepathy, cleverness, the veins of your legs rest, it brings radiant health, and some mental powers,” says Dharma Mittra. When you are fidgeting around or caught up in your head, you miss out on the magic.
Speaking of magic…
The deep, guided relaxation element of this class is so beautiful and healing. Expect to feel normalized and recharged!
And last, but so not least, enjoy a simple, brief visualization meditation – the cherry on top of this delicious online yoga experience.
In this meditation you will construct the symbol Om, visualizing it emerging on the space behind the forehead between the eyebrows. Simply create mental patterns of Om. This space, says Dharma Mittra is, “The seed of your mind – the location of your 6th sense.” By practicing this meditation, you are stimulating your Pituitary gland and tapping into your 6th sense.
Yogis, it doesn’t get much better than this. Dharma Mittra truly does deliver the best of the best.
May 14, 2013
How do you prepare for a deep meditation? How do you meditate comfortably? How do you release the thinking mind during your meditation practice? Let’s turn these questions over to Gigi Yogini…
Sometimes one of the biggest distractions for our meditation practice is how uncomfortable it is to sit. Even if you want to start with only 5 minutes of conscious breathing, it’s often a good idea to prepare yourself with some yin yoga to deeply stretch the hips. Otherwise, discomfort can become a distraction and meditation will seem unattainable.
In addition to feeling uncomfortable, the other problem I had when starting meditation with the business of my mind. I thought I was supposed to immediately be able to erase all thinking from my mind, but it doesn’t always work like that.
I started to use simple breathing techniques, such as counting, in order to keep my attention on the my breath. In my online yoga video, Yin Yoga to Begin Meditation, help yourself find a comfortable seat and concentrate on the breath. Use props if you need them. If 5 minutes feels easy, perhaps try another 5.
Happy and comfy meditating, yogis!
Photo Credit: Meditation via www.weheartit.com
May 2, 2013
Join mind-body psychotherapist and yoga teacher, Ashley Turner, in this online yoga class designed to relieve the symptoms of depression. Ashley is passionate about sharing the power of yoga, science, and meditation to help us in Western world (and all around the globe) deal with common afflictions, such as depression.
At some point, we all suffer from some form of depression. Some of the key components of depression are lack of motivation, low energy, and apathy. To overcome these symptoms, the system requires “charging.” Yoga provides a way to up level and resuscitate the system – to get the body and mind up and running again.
In this online yoga practice you will work with a “charging”, activating breath. You will work to stabilize your body’s biochemistry through twisting, backbends, and fiery sun salutations. You will focus on the middle back – the bra-strap region where the kidneys and adrenals live. It is here where we tend to hold the stress hormones of cortisol and adrenalin. The intention of this yoga practice is to flush out these stress hormones and activate the endorphins.
Oxytocin and serotonin – the “happy” hormones” – help us to feel better and create a shift in our brain and blood chemistry, which dramatically influences our mood.
This is where the power of yoga comes into play. Yoga creates a shift. Yoga activates. Yoga uplifts. The activating movements wipe out the stress hormones and get those “happy” hormones surging. That’s why it is so important to get the body moving when you are experiencing a depressive episode (even if it is all you can manage that day).
Now, get ready for some serious re-charging. Start this online yoga practice with breath of fire – a very activating breath that fires up the lymphatic system.
And remember throughout your practice and your day….
“You are supported, you are loved, and you are upheld by this life-affirming flow of Prana.” ~Ashley Turner
Elevate your mood in this space of compassion and acceptance.
Apr 19, 2013
I was asked the other day: “What makes yoga so different from other types of exercise.” I paused. I meditated on it for a moment. Then, I muttered some lazy reply about the spiritual component or something along those lines. Truth is, I didn’t really have a solid answer in that moment. Perhaps a part of me didn’t really want to reflect on it. I already know and feel yoga to be different than any other physical practice I have experienced. It’s super experiential. Knowing and feeling it is enough for me. Sometimes understanding it all doesn’t really matter.
But then, it hit me…
I was, per usual, striking up an asana chat with a fellow yogi. On and on we went about arm balances, hip openers, twists, physical limitations, and asanas we considered (or would soon consider) walks in the park. All very riveting stuff, I know. And then…this escaped my mouth:
“The thing about yoga is even when you feel you have mastered a pose…there is still room to go deeper or learn something new.”
I called the poses microcosms of infinite potential.
Then, I realized (as I have in many different ways at many different stages) that the yoga practice is totally a metaphor for life.
That’s what makes yoga so different. That’s what makes it stand out from the crowd of physical practices. Yoga is a metaphor for life.
Then, hours later, the conversation picked up again with the same yogi. We briefly touched on romantic relationships and the potential “tests” that arise in relationships. Me and my idealist of a brain said something along the lines of, “Well, there should be no tests…not with your partner.” Then, this was handed to me:
“The thing about relationships is even when you feel you have mastered one…there is still room to go deeper or learn something new.”
Well played, my friend. Well played and so true. You can apply this yoga-inspired lesson to just about anything.
Because, really, there is no mastery. There is only the journey – a journey of unfolding possibilities and infinite potential. That’s yoga. That’s life. The mat is a powerful place because it continuously teaches us that there is infinitesimal ways to go even deeper and raise our vibration (and the vibration of others around us) even higher. As long as we are living and breathing, there is no stopping point. There is no end goal. There is, instead, constant evolution.
So, don’t get caught up in this illusion of an end goal in yoga or in life. Your practice teaches you that there is no such thing. Heck, I’m still discovering and rediscovering Warrior I and I started my relationship with it about 10 years ago. That’s a good thing! We want our practices, relationships, and lives to keep us on our toes. We want to keep evolving and elevating. So, if you think you’ve mastered something, think again, yogis. There is still room to go deeper or learn something new.
Try out these advanced online yoga practices. Then, get back to me.
- Inherent Potential: A Shakti Class (Anusara) with Sara Strother
- Master Sadhana Practice with Sri Dharma Mittra
- Guided Full Primary Series with Kino MacGregor
Embrace the journey,
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
Apr 18, 2013
This week’s Strike a Pose yoga video is brought to you by Wade Mortenson – an avid Ashtanga practitioner teaching yoga at the Maya Yoga studio in Kansas City, Missouri. In this free online yoga video, Wade will share steps for approaching Eka Pada Bakasana or One-Legged Crow Pose – a challenging, oftentimes fear evoking, arm-balancing asana.
In the 3rd series of the Ashtanga practice, as Wade mentions, you transition to this pose from Headstand. OK, don’t run away just yet. We don’t expect that transition out of you (just yet). To make Eka Pada Bakasana less intimidating, Wade will build the pose from the ground up. He will show you a somewhat simple (keep in mind that this pose is freakin’ tough!) way to work toward striking this pose.
Try out Wade’s strategy in this free online yoga video, keeping in mind some Wade words of wisdom:
“Squeeze your bandhas with everything you got!”
“Make sure you point your toes so it looks pretty.”
Now, get the hips high, bundle up those bandhas, and prepare to fly (with pointed toes, of course).
Don’t be disheartened if this pose isn’t going smoothly for you. Maybe it’s not even going anywhere just yet. No worries. It’s just a yoga pose. There’s nothing to lose sleep over here. Plus, as I expressed, Eka Pada Bakansana is a beast of a pose. The only way to conquer the beast is through lots and lots of practice, confidence, fierceness, and fearlessness. All in time, yogis. Be patient, practice non-attachment, and keep regularly inviting this beast of an arm balance back onto your mat until you, one day, strike a friendship with it.
Photo Credit: The Tattooed Yogi in a Funky Eka Pada Bakasana via Web.Stagram.com
Apr 17, 2013
I pretty much have an obsession with all things Handstand at this point. Now, I don’t like to pick favorites, but it’s real high up there on my list of choice asana. I practice Handstand so much that I forget that it’s not always appropriate to practice it in certain locations or situations (or is it?). I practice it so much that I walk around this city (Philadelphia) in search of the perfect spot to snap a Handstand photo. I can’t stop. I can’t stop practicing it. I can’t stop talking about it. I can’t stop taking video of myself practicing it and critiquing the video. I can’t stop until I land it in the middle of the room for 10 breaths (or more!) with a witness (and hopefully that witness is my teacher!).
I didn’t always love Handstand so much. In fact, I had a complete aversion to all inversions in the beginning of my practice. At that point, imprisoned in fear, Handstand seemed like a long shot. The fear was difficult to get over. Many small breakthroughs had to occur for me to even attempt Handstand against the wall! Yes, it’s true. But it’s okay. It’s all about the journey and I have learned a lot about myself (emotionally and physically) along my Handstand-ing journey.
I’ve learned that – cliche alert! – anything is possible. I’ve learned patience. I’ve learned detachment to outcome. I’ve learned not to take myself so seriously. I’ve learned playfulness. I’ve learned that we create our own limitations – our own prisons. I’ve learned to fall and get back up. I’ve learned to put more trust in others and myself. All awesome lessons, right? I think so.
But there’s no doubt about it: Handstand is not easy. At least my relationship with it has not been easy. It’s taken lots of devotion – devotion that now borders on obsession, but I’m okay with that. It’s required work. Lots of it. That work has delivered small wins. And those wins feel good! It’s also required doses of fearlessness. Fear has been my main deterrent and getting over that has been my biggest feat.
If you don’t have Handstand in your practice but want to, you can! Sure, it’s not going to happen overnight. It could take you days, months, or even years before you fully work into this pose. But it’s not the result that matters. It never is. It’s all about the journey. You will learn so much about yourself and your practice. Trust me. Plus, you will build more strength, body intelligence, flexibility, and focus along the way. And finally, that sweet moment will come where you effortlessly float into the pose. I’m on the brink of this. Any day now. Any day.
To begin your Handstand-ing journey, turn to these free online yoga videos, demoing different variations and methods to approach and prepare for Handstand.
- Happy Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana) with Sadie Nardini
Avoid the tendency to compress the lower back in handstand and learn an intermediate shift into core power and more lightness in the pose, no matter what your level!
- Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana) with Isaac Peña
In this free online yoga video, you will learn some various Handstand preps against the wall to achieve correct alignment.
- Opening the Hamstrings to Access Handstand with Jessica Bellofatto
Practice Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose) as a prep for Handstand.
- L Stands (Preparing for Inversions and Arm Balances) with Jennifer Beyt Coffin
Learn L Stands against the wall in this free online yoga video. L Stands offer a simple, accessible way to prep for Handstand and other inversions.
You got this, yogis.
Photo Credit: Handstand via www.yogadudes.tumblr.com
Apr 16, 2013
Today, I count my blessings. Today, I send love to Boston.
The horror that went down yesterday at the Boston Marathon is shocking, overwhelming, frightening, and heart-wrenching. It serves as a reminder that life is fragile. Count your blessings, today. Wrap your practice in gratitude.
Gratitude & Giving Practice with Shiva Rea
Enjoy this special online yoga class with Shiva Rea. Take time to cleanse your body, feel gratitude for all of your blessings, and send healing vibes to those in need:
Gratitude Flow with Hala Khouri
Focus on gratitude and keeping the heart open and receptive in this beautiful online yoga offering:
Even amidst all of the darkness and devastation of yesterday, there still persisted light and love. In this footage of the bombings, you see people running toward the explosions to help those in struggle. That’s humanity. That’s strength. That’s love. Yes, there is a lot of evil in this world, but there is also a lot of love.
Today – every day – is an opportunity to practice love. Today, devote your practice to Boston. Send loving prayers and vibrations in that direction.
Manduka shared some soothing, hopeful words via Twitter in the wake of this tragedy that I want to end with:
“Today we practice being love – the world is a complicated place. Full of treasures and confusions, things that hurt and souls who help. When we feel broken, love is our glue. Yoga is our process. And how we choose to show up for each other, that’s our practice.”
Choose to show up. Choose to help. Choose to love.
lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
Photo Credit: Yoga in the sacred place (Padmasana Prayer Anahatha)
Apr 15, 2013
We are now in the midst of spring. While spring’s fresh blossoms and blooms are easy on the eyes, they may not be as easy on the nasal passages.
The following free online yoga videos feature pranayama techniques and asana that may alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms. If you are suffering from allergies, you definitely want to give these breathing exercises and poses a whirl. It definitely can’t hurt. Plus, yoga may allow you to find some relief without turning to side effect laden physician-proscribed and over-the-counter medications.
- Breath of Fire (Kapalabahti Pranayama)
Force out the allergens with this very powerful, heating breath technique. Note: Pranayama is a controversial practice when dealing with allergies or any breathing limitations. Personally, I find this breath to be very cleansing when I’m congested. Yet, if you are experiencing any serious discomfort, please refrain. Listen to your body. Be mindful.
- Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)
Shoulderstand and other inversions are believed to clear out the nasal passages by promoting nasal drainage of the sinuses. Caution: Don’t hold inversions for too long, as this may put extra pressure on the nasal passages.
- Plow Pose (Halasana)
Plow pose, like shoulderstand and other inversions, promotes nasal drainage of the sinuses. Also, this pose loosens up tightness and tension of the muscles in the back of the head and neck. These muscles, when tight, constrict nasal drainage.
- Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)
Bridge pose, a gentle backbend, enhances chest and lung expansion, increasing breath capacity (as do all backbends).
- Restorative Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
Free the breath! Fish pose is another sweet way to open the chest, lungs, and throat. Plus, it stimulates the thymus gland – the gland that regulates the lymphatic system and helps to establish immunities (especially in children).
When the seasonal sniffles and sneezes invade, turn to yoga. Sure, it probably won’t be a cure-all, but it might help. Any relief is totally worth it.
Apr 10, 2013
This week’s Strike a Pose yoga video is brought to you by Sarah Ezrin, a Los Angeles, CA based yoga teacher. In this free online yoga video, Sarah will demo how to safely practice supported Headstand (Sirsasana I) – an incredible inversion requiring tremendous core strength and body intelligence.
Headstand is called the “the king” of all asanas for a reason. The benefits of this pose are numerous, including stimulation of the lymphatic system (blood system), reversal of the aging process (and those maddening grey hairs), and strength enhancement (especially of the core). You can’t go wrong with this pose.
Though the benefits are plentiful, this pose, when practiced incorrectly, can be pretty dangerous. If you have a super tight upper back or blood pressure issues (high or low), stick to earlier variations and pass up on the full expression of the pose. You can still receive ALL of the benefits of Headstand in these earlier variations, so don’t think you’re being cheated!
In Sarah’s Headstand rundown, you will start with the establishment of a strong, even foundation. You will learn to create length and freedom in the neck and head, to correctly locate the crown of the head, to take any rounding out of the upper back to set up a long, aligned spine, and to bring the weight into the forearms rather than the head.
You will digest all of these alignment tips and tricks in one of three Headstand variations.
First, you’ll work in Dolphin – a great, accessible prep pose for Headstand. Next, you’ll explore a 3-step process to enter the pose. If you’re on a roll, you will perhaps practice piking into the pose, creating a floating-like quality in the body. Test out this trio of Headstand goodness here:
Each variation will be countered with Child’s Pose – an essential asana to relax and reset the body post-Headstand play.
“Treat your head balance practice with reverence. Take your time. Be patient. It will all come.” ~Sarah Ezrin
If you can’t get it today, yogis, there’s always tomorrow.
P.S. For more Headstand practice, check out Sarah’s full-length online Vinyasa yoga class exploring Headstand and its variations: Heels Over Head.
Photo Credit: Headstand & Variations via www.rachelbrathen.com