• How to Build a Safe L Pose by Sigrid Matthews

    yoga poses

    Alignment, alignment, alignment!

    Sometimes, don’t you just wish your teacher would shut up and let you go with the flow, literally? There is nothing like moving on the breath, flowing gracefully from one pose to the next, not staying too long anywhere - almost like dancing to great rock and roll in your bedroom.

    Yes, I’ve been there too and taught many a fun, sweaty, flow yoga class where everyone was grooving to tunes and meditating on their higher self. There is nothing wrong with this, but over the years of repetition and moving your body around unconsciously, you are at a higher risk for injuries, particularly in the shoulders.

    One of the most common complaints and recurring site of injuries in yoga these days is the tearing of the rotator cuff. It’s giving yoga a bad reputation and some are going so far as to say that yoga can wreck your body! Luckily, many of us know how many stories of healing the body are attributed to yoga. However you may want to consider fine tuning your practice to lessen the risk of injury in yoga poses like chaturanga dandasana, plank, vashistasana, handstand, and even, upward facing dog.

    L pose is a fantastic way to get the strengthening benefits of the above poses with a lot less risk.

    One of the main reasons people get hurt flowing from chaturanga to cobra or up dog is that they allow the head of the upper arm bone (humerus) to protract or “drop” forward in the shoulder socket. This protraction can also be accompanied with scapular protraction, but many students simply “pull” their shoulder blades back (retraction) without addressing the real issue of the forward upper arm bone. In fact, the shoulder blades can be somewhat neutral in plank. When you cleanly bend your arms, stopping just before the chest is lower than the elbows and keeping the front of the chest open, the shoulder blades will move towards one another as much as needed (you don’t need to do more). Keep the front of the shoulders open as you transition into upward facing dog.

    Okay, so problem solved. Well, as people do cycle after cycle of vinyasa they tend to get tired and sloppy and that’s when you see the pose beginning to break down. Rather than doing 100s of chaturangas to develop strength and tone, challenge yourself by working L pose for up to a minute at a time.


    To start working your L pose, tune into Sigrid's Focused Flow yoga video. Build confidence and self-esteem and receive all of the benefits of a full handstand as you practice this safe inversion utilizing the wall. This online yoga class is taught progressively for safety with all of the prep poses creating spinal alignment, posture, and deep core integrity. (15 mins.)

    yoga online

  • Yoga for Handstand Prep

    Still on the arduous quest for realizing Handstand?

    I empathize.

    I’ve been hanging out with Handstand for awhile now (pretty much daily), and it still hasn’t allowed me to fully decode its ways. Hmmmph.

    But rather than give up on my oftentimes frustrating hang out sessions with this asana frenemy, I’ll keep on hacking away at it until it decides to give. One day, my friends. One day.

    I will say, that along the way, these hang out sessions have inspired some mini Aha! moments.


    Oh man, the bandhas really do need to be engaged! Like whoa.


    Oh crap, I really do need to square off my hips to avoid flapping around like a wet noodle.

    And so on.

    There was one pose, in particular, that really Aha’d! me and revealed the level of bandha engagement required to tackle Handstand. That pose is a close relative of Handstand. Its named? L Stand or L Pose.

    Lucky for you, we now have a 15 minute online yoga video dedicated entirely to the L. As the name of the pose suggests, it merely requires the bodily representation of the letter, L. Easy.

    All you need to rock an L is your lovely self, a sturdy wall, and a good, go-getter attitude!

    Note: The L Pose is not to be confused or mistaken for as prep for Miley Cyrus twerking shenanigans. Handstand prep only, people. Kidding. But no, really.

    say no to twerking So not this...

    L Pose But this.

    Yoga Video Deets: This online yoga class, led by Sigrid Matthews of Black Dog Yoga, is a practice that encourages confidence and self-esteem. The cool thing about L Pose is that it is 100% hazard-free and gives you all of the benefits of a full handstand. This online yoga practice is taught progressively for safety and introduces a series of prep poses to promote spinal alignment, better posture, and deep core integrity. Enjoy!

    how to handstand

  • 4 Yoga Videos to Prep for Handstand

    Handstand on the Beach

    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.

    1. 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!
    2. 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.
    3. Opening the Hamstrings to Access Handstand with Jessica Bellofatto Practice Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose) as a prep for Handstand.
    4. 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.

    Journey on,


    Photo Credit: Handstand via www.yogadudes.tumblr.com



  • Can't Get It Up?

    Not everyone is comfortable talking about it, yet it’s such a common obstacle floating around. Oh, come on. I didn't mean that! Where’s your head? This is a yoga blog last I checked. I’m talking about an obstacle no pill can reverse – an obstacle I've appropriately coined Inversion Dysfunction, ID.

    First off, rest assured, ID is 100% surmountable. This stumbling block will require more than a pill, but have faith. You got this.

    I suffered from an extreme case of ID for nearly a year into my yoga practice. Every time the teacher ushered the class into an inversion my brain ferociously spewed stress hormones. I’d command my body to just tackle it, but my body stubbornly remained put in Downward Facing Dog or Dolphin or surrendered, embarrassingly, to Child’s Pose. I beat myself up over it, especially because I was, after all, a yoga teacher! I thought I had to master tripod, headstand, and handstand before I was legit and able to intelligently instruct my students.

    My thoughts were discolored. It’s true that mastering a pose helps your teaching; however, you don’t need mastery over a pose to teach it with intelligence. Also, no yoga pose will render you more legit. After all, these poses are mere shapes your body is making. The real yoga experience happens internally. It’s invisible to the eye. Integral to curing my ID was letting go of this notion that I was a wussy, amateur yogi. Instead, I celebrated my yoga practice and placed more emphasis on my internal experience. Inversion or not, I’m a legit yogi. So are you!

    After letting go, things gradually transformed. My ID improved. From tripod, to headstand, to almost handstand, I’ve learned to outsmart ID.

    1. Trust your body. Trust its resilience. Yes, falling is part of the game. We can’t keep it up all the time, especially at first! It’s all good. Keep in mind, your body is way more intelligent than you give it credit for. The body knows how to fall with grace if you don’t resist the fall.
    2. Focus. Inversions require unyielding focus. When this is achieved, mind chatter shuts up. Ah, sweet silence!
    3. Practice obsessively. Practice your yoga at home so you don’t fret over falling in front of a crowd, attracting unwanted attention. Practice at the wall shamelessly. Practice with a friend or teacher – a person you wholeheartedly trust will catch you when you waver. Practice at a park, the beach, a friend’s house, etc. Let your guard down and have fun with it!
    4. Jack up your core. And by core, I don’t mean the superficial muscles we imaginatively grate cheese on - the washboard, six-pack abs. I’m talking the deep muscles that provide stability and balance – the transversus abdominis and the external/internal obliques. To invigorate your tired core routine, explore these YogaVibes free online yoga videos.
    5. Front your fears. The reason we experience resistance to inversions is, fundamentally, fear. We transcend fear gradually, through small wins. So, make small, achievable goals in your inversion practice. Remember, Downward Facing Dog is a mild inversion, so get super strong in it. Watch this free online yoga video demoing Downward Facing Dog. To up the ante, practice holding Down Dog for 5 minutes.

    Keep it up, my friends and, in time, ID will be an obstacle of the past.


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