Imagine waking up with the rising sun and experiencing the essence of this most auspicious time of day. The Sun Salutation, traditionally done in the morning, raises one’s consciousness by awakening the mind, body, and senses. The 12 postures in the series effectively stretch, strengthen, and massage all of the joints, muscles, and internal organs […]
In this edition of Ask the Expert, Kripalu Yoga teacher, Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist, and senior faculty member Janna Delgado answers your questions about the practice of yoga, exercises for the feet, and yoga-class etiquette.
When coming into Upward Facing Dog, how should I be utilizing my leg and abdominal muscles? Also, can you describe where my shoulders and arms should be in reference to my neck and head?
The leg muscles provide the power for the pose, so they should be engaged and active. The strength of the legs also supports the spine and protects the lower back. The knees are lifted and the toes are pointed, with the tops of the feet pressing firmly down into the floor. Maintain an internal rotation of the upper legs—the outer thighs should roll toward the floor in order to broaden the sacrum and prevent compression of the low back.
Core engagement is the other safeguard for the low back. You want to lift the perineum up, and draw the solar plexus in and up. The sacrum and tailbone lengthen down toward the heels, and the buttocks are soft, not clenched. This helps distribute the arc of the back bend evenly throughout the upper, middle, and lower back.
Sometimes in our yoga practice we strive so hard to “get it right”—mastering our alignment, coordinating our breath, focusing our attention—that we stifle our inner energy (prana). Meditation in motion, or, spontaneous posture flow, is a hallmark of the Kripalu Yoga approach. In this practice, the inner wisdom of prana is allowed to guide the body, as opposed to the will of the mind. By surrendering rather than striving, prana can flow freely throughout the body, allowing movement to become spontaneous and un-choreographed. Ready to try it on your own?
At the end of your next yoga practice, close your eyes for a minute. Take some long, slow, deep breaths to get in touch with prana. Then respond to what your body is asking you to do. Allow your mind to step aside so the breath can orchestrate the movement of your body. As prana begins to move, your mind can relax into witnessing and your movement may evolve into meditation in motion.
To save precious time and money, working out at home can be just the ticket. It does, however, require some motivation. Here are some tips to help you get—and keep you—all fired up to work out at home:
Anxious? Tense? Worried? Meditation is simple tool for self-care that can be done anywhere and anytime to de-stress, and with practice, you can reboot and find inner calm in just a few minutes. A main component of any meditation practice is focusing your attention. By creating a single point of focus, such as the breath, the multitude of distractions that overload your mind and cause stress can be cleared away. Meditation allows your mind to settle and your body to relax, creating a balanced state that benefits overall health and well-being.
Ready to try it? Find a quiet place to practice where you are free of distractions. Get comfortable, whether you’re sitting, lying down, or walking. Begin to breathe deeply through your nostrils, taking slow and even breaths. Focus all of your attention on the flow of your breath. Bring your awareness to the feelings, sensations, and sounds that occur as you inhale and exhale. Continue to breathe deeply and slowly. When your attention wanders, gently return your focus to your breath. Remember, meditation takes practice, so be kind to yourself. It’s natural for your attention to wander. When this happens, simply refocus your awareness on your breath.
How we stand, literally—with our feet on the ground—can have a huge impact on how we feel. When we align ourselves and ground in Mountain pose, we access the qualities of stability, balance, and strength. Reconnecting to these qualities can help us as we move through our day, meeting challenges and entering new situations. Try Mountain pose any time you need to ground yourself to find inner strength and peace.
To explore this foundational pose, stand with your feet parallel and three to five inches apart, weight evenly balanced, arms at your sides. Spread out the toes and press evenly down through the four corners of each foot. As the feet firm into the floor, the kneecaps will lift and the thighs will gently engage. Lengthen the tailbone toward the heels and lift the pubic bone toward the navel. Firm the shoulder blades onto the back and slide them down toward the waist. Gently lift the sternum and reach the fingertips toward the floor. Keeping the chin parallel to the floor, lengthen up through the crown of the head, while softening the tongue and the throat. Develop steady, smooth breaths.