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Trikonasana A (Utthita Trikonasana)

Trikonasana A, the Triangle Pose

Typically you get into this posture from the front of your mat and inhale as you step out to the right. The distance of your feet should be about three feet apart or a bit shorter (about one leg’s length). This means that if you are taller you are going to have a longer distance and if you are smaller you are going to have a shorter distance between your legs. Don’t try to emulate someone with a different shape that you are. If you are tall and try to copy a short person, you will end up with a stance that is too narrow.

Then allow the external rotation of the hip-joint, the belly draws in and find the access point into the empty space of the pelvis. Find the right hip-joint and external rotate it, then pick up the right heel and spin the ball of the right foot to external rotate the hip-joint. Draw the belly in as deeply as  you can and begin to pivot into the empty space of the pelvis, moving into an external rotation. Avoid pivoting from the ribcage and avoid arching the back, but keep the navel drawn in. Keeping your hips stacked as much as possible, avoid turning your hip too much forward and instead find that line between the hips.

Then dangle your right arm. If you feel that your arm is too far away from the ground you have two options: the easiest option (number 1) is to reach the hand down to the shin. If when you press down on your shin you feel a pain at the back of your knee, maybe you are pressing down too much, so reach down and grab a block and press your hand down on the block as your foundation (option 2). Depending on how far down you go to the ground you can put the block either up or sideways. However, don’t go down too far too soon and let yourself get comfortable pivoting into the hips. If you can reach the floor easily, hold the right big toe with two fingers (option 3).  Take the left arm up and spread the shoulder blades away from each other.  The full expression of the Trikonasana pose is when you hold the big toe and gaze to the left thumb. Press down on the base of the big toe, base of little toe and heel, and keep the belly drawing in. Take five breaths and then look down, inhale to come up and do the left side, spreading the arms, turning the right foot in and then pull in the left hip-joint as you spin the left foot. The alignment is between your left heel and the arch of your right foot. Exhale reach down to the big toe (option 3),  the block (option 2) or the shin (option 1). If you hold the big toe, avoid rolling your body forward or resting too much on your thumb; instead,  keep the wrist active and align yourself up so that you can press down through the base of the big toe; belly sucked in. Take five breaths and then inhale to come up,  spread the arms to the side and exhale back to the front of the mat (Samasthitihi).

In the video you will first see the full expression of the pose and then option 2 using the block. Remember to let yourself go in stages and never jump the game. If you need to use the block, fine but treat the block like a training wheel, just like you use to learn how to ride a bike, not like something you would use forever. Those of you that come to my classes know that I tend not to encourage the students to use the block for too long, and  that is because progress happens faster without using props, but using modifications with the own the body (in this case grabbing the shin). Also, some people tend to get addicted to the block, and can get stagnated in a modification for a long time. So, although students are advised not to rush too soon, they are encouraged to work with modifications using their own body.

 

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Padangusthasana and Padahastasana

Padangusthasana and Padahastasana – Deep Forward Fold
First standing poses of the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series
How to come into the postures:
Padangusthasana:
Move the feet hip width appart and enter this pose in the same way you enter the second position of Surya Namascar A, by pivoting from the hips, sucking the belly and finding the inner space of the pelvic floor. Lift the knee caps up and find the basis of the big toes, the little toes and the heels. Pressing down to the ground and with the arches of the feet lifting. Then, hollowing out the pelvis, slowly bringing the hips back and pivot down as you exhale. Wrap your fingers around your big toes. If you cannot grab your toes, you can bend the knees and then straighten the legs. Pause for a moment and suck the belly in, then inhale and straighten the arms and then as you exhale fold forward sucking the belly in. Dangling the arms to the sides and bringing the crown of the head to the matt. Gaze at the tip of the nose. Only if you are proficient at the forward bend, slowly pull the rib cage in and fold in a little bit more.
Padahastasana
These two postures are linked together. Inhale straighten the arms and place the hands under the feet, and then again inhale, lengthen, belly sucks in, and exhale fold. You can also bend the knees if you need.
Don't pull on the hands and don't pull on the feet, instead focus on strengthening the legs, bringing the belly in and relaxing the back. The key in the forward bend is relaxing the back. Once the back is relaxed you can engage the ribs and pull the ribs in to fold forward.
Then if you want to take the posture to another level, bring the sacrum forward. It will feel that you are falling, so suck the belly as deep as you can to balance.
Then inhale look up, exhale release the hands and inhale come all the way back up and bring the feet together into Samasthihi.
These are the foundational forward bends of the practice. If you need to bend your knees a litle to reach the feet, no problem, just put your effort into straightening the legs as much as possible.

 


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Surya Namascar B

Sun Salutation B
Surya Namascar A is the easier sun salutation in Ashtanga Yoga. Surya Namascar B is harder as we integrate two extra movements:
Utkatasana, the chair pose and Virabhadrasana, the warrior pose.
Start nice and slow and then as you become more familiar with the movements bring it up to its full pace.
Tune into the inner body and feel the heat and fire 🔥 created in your body. If you’re sweating, great! Feel the sweat, don’t resist it and breath deeply!
Traditionally, the Ashtanga practice includes five Surya Namascar A and three Surya Namascar B.
As you begin to move into a consistent practice of sun salutations you will become familiar and will start to memorise these movements: nine movements in Surya Namascar A and seventeen in Surya Namascar B. Once you do, you will find a sense of peace and tranquility and the practice will begin to be yours! 

 


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Surya Namascar A

Sun Salutation A

As we move through the sun salutation the body heats up, the mind sharpens and the inner fire  of purification starts to cultivate in the inner body. As you begin to practice the sun salutation you will notice that it is like an old friend, in which you will get to know these motions really well, but at the same time there is always room to dive deeper and explore new options, new perspectives and new awareness. The sun salutations are the foundation of a complete practice. You can just do the sun salutations if you don’t have time or feeling sick or with low energy. As little as 5 minutes a day will build the foundation and the elements of a complete practice.


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Ashtanga Yoga Foundations Workshop

YMCA_Yoga_worshopThis workshop will introduce the fundamental foundations and openings of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga and look at the various elements of which the practice is comprised. It will introduce the ujjayi breath, bandha (internal energy ‘locks’), Dristi (focus points) and the importance of foundation.

It will explore the sun salutations ‘Surya Namaskara A & B’ and the first few basic standing postures, as well as a short finishing sequence so that you will have a simple, balanced sequence to work with which can be continued at home as self practice.

This workshop is suitable for complete beginners or those who have practiced yoga but are new to Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.

Bring pen & paper.
Book early, limited spaces!

 

Location: YMCA

Queen Anne House

Gonville Pl

Cambridge

CB1 1ND

 

 


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The importance of breath in Yoga

breath

The first thing I always tell my students when they first start doing Yoga is about the importance of the breath, which is done through the nose, in and out. This is opposite to what we do if we are at the gym or doing other physical training (in through the nose, out through the mouth). And then I teach the Ujjayi breath, which not only involves breathing in and out through the nose, but also involves adjusting it, so that it’s like a whisper on the way in and out. This is achieved by creating a constriction at the back of the throat, enabling the breath to be more controlled and effective. This also creates heat in the body which helps to release toxins.

The big challenge is to maintain the breath throughout the practice

Of course the challenge is to maintain the Ujjayi on the inhale and exhale throughout the entire class. To achieve this you need to maintain the calm, controlled and even breath whether you are doing a challenging pose or just seated on a cross-legged position. It is very important to always be focused on the breath and this is the basic foundation of Yoga.

However, this simple basic foundation is often lost since most of us is focused  on keeping up with the class, on the postures and on which part of the body goes where. 

It gets even easier to lose the awareness of the breath, if the class has music. I personally like to include music in the classes as it helps to relax and get into the spirit but it also becomes easier to lose the ability to hear or even feel our breath. This is why it is important that the teacher constantly reminds the student about the breath. But even when we don’t breathe properly, we still leave the the class soaked in sweat and completely wiped from the experience but happy that we survived the experience. And yet it feels good and this is why we go back for more!

Yoga should give energy, not take

The thing is, the Yoga practice was developed to help us become in harmony with ourselves through mind, body and breath, but if we are leaving a class absolutely drained, then we are not in harmony. We may feel better because of the sweat and the raised endorphins, but the truth is that we are more fragmented than before starting the class.

And when our energy is drained after a strong class we wash out the Life Force (Prana)  within us. With an exhausted body all we want to do is sit on the sofa to recover. And that way, we can sometimes create the opposite effect of the one intended. Yoga should be giving us life, not taking it away!

“We should be doing our Yoga (Asana) to live our lives better,

not living our lives to do our Yoga (Asana) better.”

Leslie Bogart, Yoga instructor

And yet this a mistake we see very often! It is easy to lose the focus and purpose of Yoga and get lost in the postures (Asanas), competing against others in the class. That is not the point of a Yoga class. As Patanjali reminds in The Yoga Sutras, Yoga is non-competitive and the goal is to release the ego in order to ultimately achieve Samadhi or enlightenment.

Notice the quality of your breath

Not all breathing is the same. Life Force is translated as Prana in Yoga. Not all breathing is Prana, or Life Force. When you sit in a car driving in the traffic, you are breathing, but are you full of life? When you sit at a desk the whole day inside an office, are you full of life? But you have been breathing, otherwise you would be dead.

Most of us are exhausted after a day of work because we haven’t noticed our breathing nor put attention to the quality of the breath. The way we breathe determines whether our breath is just breath or if it turns into Prana (Life Force). And what happens is that when we take a strong Yoga class that requires a lot of physical effort, we focus on the exhaling and grunting to keep up with the class and without focusing on long inhales. It is not surprising that we get tired and all we want after the class is eat and go to bed, or top up on caffeine to get through the rest of the day.

In Yoga, breathing does matter! It should be smooth, steady, and balanced on the inhale and on the exhale.


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International Day of Yoga – 21/06/2015

On December 11, 2014 the United Nations declared June 21 as the International Day of Yoga.

To celebrate this day, the next Yoga Strength class will be free and welcome to everyone!

This will be a class for people who have never tried yoga and for those who love yoga and want to celebrate this day with like minded! When we are passionate about something, we want the other people to love it too. This will be an opportunity for practicing  and sharing our love for yoga! If you haven’t tried it, come and give it a go and you will see what I am talking about! Let’s celebrate Yoga!

yoga_day