Partners & Teachers

  • 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

  • Presenting Yoga Tree’s Laura Burkhart!

    warrior II pose

    We are thrilled to introduce Yoga Tree’s esteemed teacher, Laura Burkhart, to our online yoga studio.

    Laura Burkhart is the founder of Yoga Reach International, a company that specializes in yoga travel-adventures, classes and workshops with a philanthropic intent: to help the communities that it touches through both hands-on projects and donations. Yoga Reach fosters a platform that brings well-being, adventure-travel and service together to benefit both communities in need and to enrich the lives of those participating in the retreat.

    Her creatively and intelligently sequenced online yoga classes are known for being challenging, with a smooth and rhythmic flow. Extensive studies under Shiva Rea and her primary mentor Jason Crandell, have greatly influenced her intuitive, spontaneous, and eclectic instruction style. Though challenging, her beginner classes are fun for yoga newbies, helping to layout a strong foundation to cultivate a lifelong yoga practice.

    To practice with Laura, check out her freshly launched Vinyasa style yoga videos:

    • Heart, Hips + Core Flow: This all levels, well-balanced online yoga flow features deep backbends, hip openers, and core work. Focus on lengthening the hamstrings, opening the shoulders, and holding balancing postures. Filmed live at Yoga Tree, this online yoga class is designed to provide a well-rounded opening of the entire body. (65 mins.)
    • Birds of a Feather Flock Together: Filmed live at Yoga Tree Hayes in San Francisco, this challenging, yet smooth flow features eagle pose, crane pose, and flying pigeon pose. This online yoga video serves as a great practice for opening the hips, shoulders, chest, and upper back. As an all levels flow, modifications are offered for those of less and more experience. (68 mins.)

     Stay tuned as more online yoga videos with Laura are coming soon to our virtual yoga space!

  • How Much Do You Yin Your Yang? by Sigrid Matthews

    yin yoga

    If yoga is supposed to be a balancing or joining of opposites, a good question to pose (pun intended) is: How much of a strong practice do I need? How strong do I need to be? Of course, you can reverse the question: How much of a soft or surrendered practice do I need? How flexible do I need to be? It’s important to evaluate this every once in a while, especially if you’ve been feeling agitated, overwhelmed, stressed, achy, tired, or anxious.

    I recently had a mentoring meeting with a younger teacher who is really starting to take off. We spoke about how building a career (in anything) can lead us into a very masculine/yang place and we can forget the feminine aspect of our work and how we relate to others (this goes for both men and women).

    We get very good at making lists, setting appointments, and writing emails. She wondered why it might be harder to find the feminine and I said, “because it’s elusive, mysterious, and it calls for ‘being’ rather than ‘doing.’” The unconscious feminine aspect was coined by Jung as “anima” and the masculine unconscious as “animus.” Our yoga practice can help us cultivate the “being-ness” physically and we can let that carry over to our emotional and mental states.

    When we get quiet and tune into the feminine side we may get inner promptings, ideas, and encouragement to shift or change or take action. The male unconscious takes direction from the inner female and then executes those inner decisions outwardly in the world. When we only practice vigorous, active, and intense yoga, we can over-stimulate and lose sight and insight of the surrender and softer side of yoga.

    Remember Patanjali’s famous sutra 2.46: Sthira Sukam Asanam. Many teachers translate this to mean steady and sweet, steadfast and good space, balance of effort and surrender. And while we aim for this yin and yang dynamic in every pose and every practice, it may be helpful to pull back completely and devote ourselves to a completely soft, surrendered, and restorative practice.

    Above all, yoga philosophy always teaches us to release the victim and become self-reliant and recognize what might cause future suffering and make adjustments now to avoid pain later on. It’s empowering to practice in a soft, quiet way where you can navigate what’s going on in the body, mind, and heart. For example:

    • Learning simple poses that bring overall ease and better functioning of the healing and immune system.
    • Self-massage techniques to aid in detoxification and elimination.
    • Soothing breath work to encourage a meditative state and the rest and digest response of the parasympathetic nervous system.

    All of this helps us to remember that sometimes it’s okay to let go of the game plan and go with the flow, surrendering to what is right now from a place of strength and tranquility. Take some time exploring active/intentional surrender to create quiet confidence of inner knowing, and the radiance of a person who takes care and time for themselves.

    I bow to the light in you! Shanti.

    To tap into your yin-ness, try Sigrid's online yoga class: Focused Flow Yoga for Digestion, Detoxification, and Insomnia. This yin style restorative practice is wonderful after a hard work out or at the end of the day before bedtime. As a shorter, soothing online yoga sequence, this beginner yoga video combines deeper held yoga poses with some key self-acupressure points to balance the gall bladder, kidney, liver, and spleen meridians to restore harmony in the body. (25 mins.)

    yin yoga

    Image courtesy of www.offthebluemat.com

  • Yoga for Stress and Anxiety by Sigrid Matthews

    balasana

    Remember that when you are in the grips of anxiety that your mind is racing, you are usually dwelling on “what ifs?” and how to control your outer environment. Living with a pattern (both real or imagined) of stress stimulates the nervous system to operate continuously in fight or flight mode, sending messages to the body to produce more adrenaline, increase the heart rate, and decrease the breathing rate, all of which keeps you in the vicious cycle of anxiety you are hoping to break.

    When we learn to relax we turn on the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes the rest and digest response. The more we can operate out of this state of being, the physically easier it is for us to move towards a state of equanimity. It can even be helpful to rehearse scenarios that make us anxious, unsettled, and stressed-out while in deeper states of relaxation to re-wire the body’s response to those things that make us feel out of control. True empowerment comes from mastering techniques which help us to turn our stress state into something we can work with and ultimately grow from.

    Below are some yoga tips to help you fine-tune your ability to move into a deeper connection to your source of well-being and live more freely in the moment - healthy and emotionally-balanced.

    • Practice daily “checking in" and 1:2 breathing ratio. Find a comfortable place (sitting, lying down, or even legs elevated (multi-tasking with an inversion)) and begin to turn your attention on how you’re feeling at this moment. Be as impartial as possible. Witness, make notes without a lot of judgment about whether it’s good or bad. After you’ve got a sense of the state of your emotions, where your thoughts are, energy level, etc., begin to observe your breath. Count the number of beats it takes for your inhale. Gradually increase your exhalation by a few beats.  Work yourself towards an exhalation that is double the length of your inhalation. If it is leaving you breathless or anxious to double the exhale, simply stick with breathing out a few extra beats more than you inhale. Do this breathing for 3 to 5 minutes, or count out a full 10 rounds if that’s easier. When you’ve come to a completion of the breathing exercise check in again and notice changes (if any). If there has been a shift, acknowledge it and note that states of mind and emotion are temporary and that you’ve managed (at least during the breathing exercise) to shift yourself.
    • If you are having a particularly stressful event or find yourself anxiously turning something over and over in your mind, take some time out to practice the 1:2 breathing exercise. Once you’ve established a nice rhythm, bring your mind back to your current situation and see if you can witness it while keeping the 1:2 breathing ratio. What happens?
    • Spend 5 minutes a day in a restorative inversion. Try legs up the wall or legs on a chair with a slightly rolled blanket or towel supporting the neck. This is a nice time to practice the breath and check in.
    • Spend 5 to 10 minutes in a restorative yoga posture (more if you have time). This is great to do daily or anytime you feel you need a break - especially if you feel you don’t have time for a break! See if you can break the cycle of feeling that you can’t relax until everything is done. A forward fold like supported childs pose is great. If you have time, pair this with a gentle backbend like supported bridge pose, legs elevated, and another forward folding pose like supported badha konasana (bound angle/butterfly) pose, upavistha konasana (wide-legged forward fold), or paschimottanasana (seated forward fold). End with an 8 breath savasana.
    • Take a bath with 8 to 10 drops of lavender essential oil.*
    • Drink a cup of herbal tea (like chamomile, or rose).
    • Take a brisk 10 to 15 minute walk.
    • Call or visit someone who could use a friend to listen to them (especially when you feel no one is listening to you!)
    • Sitali (shee-ahh-lee) Breath (10 rounds*).

    For an online yoga practice focused on stress and anxiety relief, tune into this restorative practice. Experience a deeper sense of peace, comfort, and relaxation by tapping into your parasympathetic nervous system. This online yoga class promotes well-being, overall health, healing, and boosts immunity. With regular practice of this online yoga video, you'll find it's easier to create "calm" off the mat.

    how to deal with stress

    *Essential oils have very small molecules that can pass through your skin and through the nose via the olfactory bulb to the limbic system where they stimulate the Hypothalamus. This area of the brain is where the fight/flight response lives and the soothing/calming nature of plant oils like lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, rose, and clary sage (stress/irritation from hormonal changes) can be profound. Essential oils are really nice to add to a warm bath just before going to bed to help ease insomnia and calm “monkey” (restless) mind.

    *Sitali or “cooling breath” = inhaling either through puckered lips or a rolled tongue and exhaling through the nostrils with a slight pause at the end of the exhale. This breath is thought to remove fever, still hunger, quench thirst, and alleviate diseases of the spleen. At the least, it is thought to be one of the more langhana (restful, stress-reducing) pranayamas (breathing exercises).

    Image courtesy of www.cecilleblog.blogspot.com

  • Sigrid Matthews on Tapas

    tapas yoga

    Tapas: Creating physical heat and enthusiasm to practice and burn out any limitations that are hindering your progress forward.

    Thirty minutes to cleanse your body, mind, and soul!

    So many times we decide not to do something (like practice yoga) because we feel pressed for time. We decide that we'll wait until we have a full 90 minutes to take class and then the days may get away from us and we haven't been on the mat in weeks. One of the most important philosophical ideas in yoga is tapas. Tapas is referenced in Patanjali's yoga sutras as one of the "self" (niyama) actions that we choose to do in our quest for peace and enlightenment. Yoga always asks us to be regular, dedicated, and practicing all forms of yoga (kindness, compassion, nonviolence, service, asana, pranayama, meditation, etc.) on a daily basis.

    Somewhere along the way it was decided that a daily asana practice had to be 90 minutes long. From a fitness standpoint, this simply isn't true. In fact, more and more scientific evidence points to 20 or 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity as the optimal way to enhance strength and endurance. And, the best part, is this is infinitely more achievable. As we get into the groove of a daily practice whether it be 15 minutes or an hour and a half the more we reap the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits of this powerful practice.

    Focused Flow Yoga Cardio Boost was specifically designed to multi task so that you could skip your walk, run, or spin and raise your heart rate effectively while practicing asana and building strength. This particular online yoga class does get the large muscles of the legs moving to raise the heart rate (like you would on a bike) so the standing postures become flow postures as well as utilizing sun salutations to rev the entire system and tone the upper body and boost the core.

    The very essence of Cardio Boost, and the underlying theme is tapas and fire. We use kapalabhati (skull shining breath) and the image of fire throughout the practice to tap into the ancient wisdom of yoga. While it is so very important to keep the body fit and strong to take on what we must off of the mat, we always want to honor the focus yoga gives us on the mat to create a balance, serenity, and an attitude of gratitude off of the mat.

    I bow to the light in you. Shanti.

    ~Sigrid

    To practice Sigrid's short, yet thorough online yoga practice, click on the yoga video below!  

    cardio yoga

    Image courtesy of www.hothotyoga.net

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