Tag Archives: yoga inspiration

Pose of the Month: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

July brings us a new pose of the month- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, or, Bridge Pose (setu = dam, dike or bridge, bandha = lock). This is a great pose for yogis in all stages of practice, and the benefits are extensive. Anatomically, Bridge focuses on the neck and shoulders and in women, the uterus. The chest, neck and spine are stretched, while the abdominal organs, lungs and thyroid are stimulated. The pose can also alleviate stress, improve digestion and rejuvenate tired legs. Here are some tips to help you get into Bridge:

  • Lie on your back, and if necessary, use a blanket under your shoulders to support the neck. Bend your knees with your feet on the floor, keeping the heels close to the sitting bones
  • As you exhale, actively press your inner feet and arms into the floor, pull the tailbone up toward the pubic bone, and lift the buttocks until the things are about parallel to the floor. Engage your thighs and inner feet to keep them parallel
  • Keep the knees over the heels and press them forward away from the head, lengthening the tailbone
  • Keep your arms on the floor or clasp the hands below your pelvis and extend, allowing you to rest on the top of the shoulders
  • Lift your chin slightly away from the sternum and firm and broaden the shoulder blades against your back. You should feel the space between them lift up into the torso
  • Stay in the pose anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Release with an exhalation, rolling the spine slowly down onto the floor.

For an added challenge, try lifting a leg until perpendicular to the torso and repeat on the opposite side. Sliding a block under the sacrum can provided added support and increase the restorative properties of the pose. Use caution if you have a neck injury and if you have any questions, be sure to ask an instructor.

Photo Source: http://yogajournal.com


Happy Independence Day

Happy 4th of July weekend fellow Yogis! Do you have plans to BBQ, enjoy the sunshine or watch the fireworks? In case you’re still wondering what to do with all this nice weather, here are some holiday happenings in the Portland area:

• Waterfront Blues Festival: Take a blanket, pack a picnic and groove to some live tunes at this year’s Waterfront Blues Festival! Shows will be happening on the grass all weekend, so check out http://www.waterfrontbluesfest.com/
for details on who’s playing and when. Channel your yoga spirit and show the City of Roses your moves! This is also a great spot to watch fireworks- starting at 10:00 pm, this display at Tom McCall 
Waterfront Park is the largest fireworks show in Oregon

• Independence Day at Fort Vancouver: An all-day extravaganza, this festival has something for everyone. Bring the whole family and enjoy food, drinks, games and entertainment. Finish the night off watching an amazing fireworks show synchronized to music. Check out http://www.fortvan.org/pages/fourth-home
 for the full scoop

• Oaks Park Fireworks Spectacular: Music, fireworks and everyone’s favorite- carnival rides! Let the kids play while you enjoy the sunshine and friends. Check http://oakspark.com/upcoming3.html for prices and details

If the crowds are to much for you, why not have your favorite people over and grill in your yard? Here’s a great link with 4th of July themed snacks and drinks http://allrecipes.com/Info/holidays-events-and-occasions/july-4th/main.asp

Can’t see any fireworks from your yard? Try theses spots to chill out and watch the shows:

  • Hawthorne Bridge
  • Mount Tabor
  • Rose Test Gardens
  • Pittock Mansion
  • Top of PSU parking garage on 6th and Harrison
  • Portland City Grill
  • Sellwood Park (you can see both Oaks Park and downtown from here!)
  • West Hills: Terwilliger near OHSU has many spots.

Be safe, be happy, have fun!

Picture from: http://www.pdxpipeline.com/2011/06/30/where-to-watch-fireworks-on-july-fourth/

Nataraj, the Cosmic Dancer

Have you had a chance to check out the statue, or “Murti”, in the front of the bamboo room at Yoga Union?  Perhaps you’re like me and you’ve used it as your focal point during a difficult balance sequence but don’t know much about it. In order to appreciate more than just the beauty of the murti itself, I asked Todd to answer a few questions about the dancing deity he chose for his studio.
Q: Who and what is being depicted?
A: The statue or “Murti” depicts Shiva in his form as Nataraj, the cosmic dancer. Shiva is divine consciousness and his dance, called the Ananda Tandava or “blissful dance”, creates the entire universe. The symbolism reveals to us that the universe is a divinely blissful dance of consciousness in which no individual is separate. We are both engaged in the dance, as Shiva is, and we are also the dance itself.
Q: What made you choose this particular statue?
A: The sheer beauty of it is honestly what first drew me to the Nataraja.
Q: What significance does it hold for you and the studio as a whole?
A: This particular depiction of Shiva is probably the most relative to yogis who practice “asana” or physical yoga poses. The statue has movement and life in it. In fact, it is actually placed in a yoga pose, so it’s a good fit for the yoga studio. The symbolism it presents also has a lot to teach us about being graceful in our practice. Shiva’s standing on one foot atop a dwarf who symbolizes our ego. It is this ego that keeps us small by insisting we aren’t worthy, don’t have enough, aren’t ready yet, or haven’t earned the right to be all that we can be. Here we learn here what’s required is to squash that limiting voice in our head and to transform the ego from a problem, as Shiva did the dwarf, into the actual stage we dance all over. The other foot is the graceful upturned foot which symbolizes revelation- that through yoga we embody the power of grace and our true nature is revealed; joy, goodness, delight, fun. We are never more ourselves than in that enrapturing moment of blissful dance; when we’re in the zone so to speak.
Q: What do you want your students to gain from it?
A: Primarily that life is a dance and that like all dance, it’s primary purpose is to delight in life.
Q: Any other fun facts in regards to Nataraj?
A: One of our teachers, John Friend (Anusara Yoga founder), has called his tour this year “Dancing with the divine.”

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If you’re interested in learning more about Shiva, the link below has some great information:

http://www.religionfacts.com/hinduism/deities/shiva.htm

Sun Salute!

 

Summer in Portland is… unbeatable. When the sun comes out, the streets fill with smiles, exposed flesh and the smell of backyard BBQs. An open patio seat is hard to find and bodies lay strewn about in parks- victims of the Vitamin D assault. We even seem to forget the 8 months of incessant rain that only just stopped yesterday. It’s on these glorious days that it can sometimes be a challenge to take our bodies out of the sun and into the studio. So instead of compromising one for the other, why not take your practice outside? Yoga is, after all, about unity. When it’s practiced in nature, your connection to the universe may feel more readily available and your sense of awareness will have room to grow and evolve.

Outdoor yoga exposes the senses to external stimuli that otherwise may be missed while indoors. Rather then letting the elements become a distraction, try using them to enhance your experience- a light wind can bring you back to your breath, the feel of the sun on your face may inspire you to open the heart just that much more, and a newly opened flower can provide the perfect focal spot while you invite stillness in.

One especially difficult aspect of practicing outside is uneven terrain. But instead of getting frustrated or disengaging, is it possible to use the challenge to cultivate patience and acceptance? Experiment with grass, sand and soil, mat or no mat, and feel the different muscles engage with each. Enjoy the elements between your toes.

Being outside can also help you connect with your poses on a deeper level. “By putting your body into the shape of a tree or a stretching cat, by exploring the graceful wingspan of a bird or the fluidity of the Sun Salute, by breathing with the same cyclical sense as the tides or with an ocean sound, you evoke a sense of harmony, timelessness, and connection to the universe,” says Jane Jarecki, a Kripalu Yoga teacher at Evolution Physical Therapy and Yoga in Vermont.

There are several options for taking your practice outside. Perhaps you start alone, doing a few simple poses in Laurelhurst park while taking your dog for a walk. Maybe that evolves into a group of you and your friends meeting at Mt. Tabor for a sunrise session and picnic breakfast.  Or maybe you go for the ultimate outdoor yoga experience and sign up to join Yoga Union on their epic adventure to Wanderlust this July (http://squaw.wanderlustfestival.com/home)!

Speaking of Mt. Tabor, we plan to meet on the top of the hill for a rejuvenating hour of yoga in the park. Bike, drive, walk or roller skate yourself and your mat to the top of of Mt Tabor at 3:00pm on Sunday, June 26th. We will be up on the hill with light refreshments (with $5-$10 donation) and open hearts, as we bring yoga out into the community for the first time this summer.

Whatever way you choose, enjoy the experience and revel in the beauty nature provides us. And don’t forget your sunscreen!

Happy yoga-ing!

Information from:
http://www.yogajournal.com

Be Human, Stay Human

Are you tired of schlepping your yoga clothes all over town in your purse? Does your mat fall out of your backback while you’re cruising down Burnside on your bike? Do you wear the same t-shirt to class, regardless of if it made it in the wash or not? Have you neglected to treat yourself to something nice, even though you definitely deserve it? And do you dig using products that are organic, sustainable and recycled?
If you answered yes! to any or all of the above questions, we recommend checking out the awesome bags, clothing and accessories created by Stay Human, a company by Michael Franti and Carla Swanson.

According to the founders, the product line was inspired by yoga and a desire to cultivate a “stay human lifestyle”. They guarantee that throughout each stage of construction, ethical, humanitarian and environmental practices are utilized and 10% of all proceeds are donated to the Bumi Sehat Natural Birthing Clinic in Indonesia and the Hunter’s Point Family in San Francisco. Check out these sites for more information on the causes:
http://www.stayhumanstore.com/
http://bumisehatbali.org 
http://hunterspointfamily.com 

Yoga Union is happy to offer several of the Stay Human products in our own studio, ranging from tanks with built in bras, to bags made for the yogi-on-the-go.

 Our favorite bag, made from organic hemp, doubles as both a carry-all for your daily life (including a change of clothes!), and as a stylish yet functional way to carry your mat.

If you want something smaller, traditional tube-style yoga bags are available in eye-catching prints, assuring you’ll never forget your bag in the locker room again (or at least not as often ).

There are several pant and top styles for both men and women, and if you can’t find your size or favorite color in the studio, the website makes online ordering a breeze.
For women, we are loving the simple, comfortable feel of the Womens Eco Heather Cropped Pant, which can just as easily be worn to the grocery store as to the studio.

For the men, check out the Downward Dog t-shirt, made from 100% organic cotton. The illustration is beautiful and may even help you mindfully get into the pose.

Or maybe you’re searching for the perfect gift for someone you love? This beautiful bracelet would look great on anyone, and since the eco-silver is reclaimed from
film, cellphones and computers, you can feel good knowing you’ve done your part to support a company focused on reducing their environmental impact.

Everyone Yoga!

How old were you when you began your yoga practice? Do you ever wish you had found yoga at an earlier age? Many parents in cities across the country are encouraging their children to explore yoga and its teachings earlier, and classes taught for kids are becoming increasingly more popular. Yoga can be a wonderful way for children to learn how to calm the mind, exercise the body and appreciate the inner strengths and resources of every individual.

While some research has been done on the effects of yoga on children, definitive results are limited. However, there are several speculated benefits and many of them include the same advantages adults receive from a regular practice. Here’s just a few of the ways getting your child involved in yoga could help them later in life-

*Improved attention, concentration and promotion of emotional and self-control. Mindfulness is one of the greatest teachings of yoga. Exploring and developing mindfulness within yoga can be especially helpful for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with one study reporting a reduction in mood swings, temper outbursts and crying fits.
*Improved ability to plan and carry-out complex brain functions. Research suggests that yoga increases blood flow to the frontal lobe of the brain, which results in a faster realization and correction of errors. This can be especially helpful during standardized tests given in schools.
*Improved strength and flexibility of muscles. Besides the obvious benefits of being strong and flexible, strengthening the muscles allows for an increase in circulation which results in an uptake of oxygen and hormones. This allows the parasympathetic nervous system (the “Rest and Digest” component of our brain) to take over. What does that mean? Reduced stress! And also an increased resistance to its effects later on.
*Decreased depression and anxiety. Research shows that people who practice yoga regularly have increased levels (sometimes as much as 27%!) of neurotransmitter y-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which is known to elevate mood. Starting yoga early can help young children develop and maintain positive outlooks on life.

If you’re considering yoga for your child,  it’s important to find the right learning environment for the development of foundations that will be used throughout a lifetime. The focus should be more on the cultivation of compassion and acceptance, as well as the connection between breath and postures, than on competition or perfection of poses (this is true for adults as well! But sometimes easy to forget ). Do your research before enrolling your child, and develop a relationship with the instructor.  Communicate with your child and make sure yoga classes are fun and that they are enjoying the experience. Some studios offer joint parent/child classes where you can practice together. This can be a great way to introduce them to yoga with you there to guide, support and offer encouragement.

Information received from:

http://74.125.155.132/scholar?q=cache:saHeUCq-eKoJ:scholar.google.com/+yoga+for+children&hl=en&as_sdt=0,38

Below are some resources for additional information on yoga for children.
Namaste!

http://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/210
http://moveyogastudio.com/ 

Pose of the Month: Ardha Chandrasana, Half Moon

The pose of the month for May happens to be one of our very favorites, Ardha Chandrasana, commonly known as Half Moon. As many of you know, the moon often plays a significant role in the various practices of yoga and commonly represents one of the two polar energies of the body. Try channeling your inner lunar spirit as you practice the pose!
Below is a step-by-step to help you get started:

1) Start in Trikonasana to the right side, with your left hand on the left hip. Inhale, bend your right knee, and move slightly forward while also reaching your right hand in front of the little-toe side of the right foot<

2) As you exhale, press your right hand and right heel strongly into the floor (this should provide you with some balance). At the same time lift the left leg parallel to the floor. Extend through the left heel and keep your foot engaged to keep the raised leg strong. Be conscious not to lock or hyperextend the standing knee

3) Raise your left arm straight up as you rotate your upper torso, keeping the left hip moving slightly forward. Most of your weight should be in the standing leg while you use the hand on the floor for balance. Keep the head in a neutral position or allow the gaze to follow the left arm upward

4) Remain in the position for 30 seconds to 1 minute. When finished, lower the raised leg to Trikonasana. Then perform the pose to the left for the same length of time.

This particular stretch can be therapeutical in relieving stress and anxiety, backaches, osteoporosis, sciatica and even gastritis. It can also lessen feelings of fatigue, constipation or indigestion and even menstrual pain.
As you continue to practice, the abdomen, ankles, thighs, buttocks and spine will strengthen, while the groin, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, chest and spine will stretch. Balance will also improve.

If you are a beginner, it can be helpful to use a block under your hand for stability- practice with the block at different heights until you find the fit that’s best for you.
Happy yoga-ing!