Practice Yoga At Home

YOGA SPACES

how to create a home yoga practice space

A beautiful open space for yoga

A few weeks back I attended a yoga retreat in the Catskills. The practice space was glorious, and faced out into the mountains. Trees were visible through the windows, there was a sense of light and air, and we all had quite a bit of space around our mats. This is, or can be, a completely different experience for us when we are at home, trying to vie for a peaceful corner of a small apartment, or in a yoga class with others where space is at a premium.

CREATING YOUR YOGA CORNER

how to create a home yoga practice space

the wall as a yoga prop

I literally keep the visual of this beautiful and spacious practice space in my mind’s eye, however, at home, I do not have that luxury. I don’t actually care; super grateful to have what I have, which is a blend of home office and space to roll out a mat. I think there are a few key ingredients to creating a yoga space at home, and however you do it, in whatever scale, this mini guide may set you up for success.

WALL SPACE

The wall is a fantastic yoga prop and has always been my top choice for my home yoga spaces.

Here is my corner. What you can do is not actually hang things in one area so that nothing falls on you when you swing up into Viparita Karani

INVEST IN PROPS

how do I create a home yoga practice

invest in good quality yoga props

I have more in the closet, including yoga straps, Iyengar chairs and other tools of the trade. Buy good quality.

Even if you have two good blocks and a 10 foot yoga belt, you can improvise with towels and sofa pillows, especially if you want to add restoratives, or pranayama

ADD PERSONAL TOUCHES

Adding a few personal and meaningful items to your corner can bring your space to life or make it into a “sacred space”. I like plants, and have a few special things as touchstones of peace. Use whatever you like, whether it is a seashell, a candle, a photo, a flower.

making a yoga space at home

some beautiful objects of calm

It really does not matter what your practice space looks like. If you are practicing pratyahara, you can pretty much just focus on your body and your breath…enjoy :-)

a simple guide to creating a sacred space

yoga prop tutorial

Yoga Prop tutorial 101: The Blanket

Blankets are a staple yoga prop, and very useful for a restorative practice. While in many forms of yoga classes blankets are used during savasana, as a warm layer, there are other uses of them. 

how to use a blanket as a yoga prop

Foundation: The single fold

One of the things blankets do is soften the hardness of the floor, which allows the muscle fibers to relax. You can use a stack of blankets or just one. The height you choose will depend on the asana, the intention of use, and how much you want to bring the floor closer to you.

Finding The Right Height

I often see students using way too much height under the head, or not enough, and the result is not an improvement of the posture. You want to be able to release tension in a restorative practice, to support you body in any number of poses from backbends, chest openers, forward bends, twists, and simple seated poses.

Two simple uses of Blankets

How you fold blankets is an important factor in using them as effective yoga props. You can roll or fold them, stack them up, or use combinations. They can be substituted for bolsters. Folding them well means having clean edges so they retain their shape. Remember that a yoga prop is there to support you and provide feedback. If they are falling apart this cannot happen.

SINGLE FOLD: FOUNDATION: Starting with the short ends of the blanket, it gets folded in half, then folded again twice. Smooth all edges. As seen in above photo

how to use the blanket as a yoga prop

Yoga Blanket folding step 1

DOUBLE FOLDED: Starting with the foundation fold one side into the middle, follow by the other side. Smooth all edges. As seen in above photo

how can I create a home yoga practicee

yoga blanket as bolster

The finished product, seen above, smooth edges can be used with another one together to make a nice bolster. Enjoy different ways to use yoga props in class today 

Or book a private!

 

asana 3 ways -perking up practice time

Asana 3 ways

In the spirit of satya (truthfullness), I sometimes shop for clothing online. This makes me the recipient of a gamut of email campaigns, which I mostly delete. A couple of them have captivated me, not because I am lured into buying what they are selling. It has more to do with how they are approaching their merchandise. For example, “this skirt, 3 ways” or “instant wardrobe update”. So, what I am proposing today, is taking the principles of creativity, versatility and gaining a fresh perspective on something we already have, into our asana practice. Hence, “asana 3 ways”. 

Variations on a theme

In the fashion sense of using something different ways, there is usually a product – we are going to substitute asana – with how to wear it classically or low key, to work or slightly basic and out for an event, which is usually slightly snazzy. We are going to replace this with a basic variation to learn a skill, one with a little more subtlety, and one which requires a bit more work. I am going to propose we use props for this exercise. You aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, just explore something from a different angle, self-reflect, observe, and get to know yourself, your breathing patterns, your tension packages and all that other good stuff. 

What yoga props you need for this asana experiment

I used the wall, a long mat, a travel mat folded folded in 4 then accordion fold, and a yoga strap.

helpful yoga props

yoga props for asana 3 ways

Let’s look at Tadasana, which teaches the art of standing and taking your place in the world. Planting the feet firmly can create emotional and physical stability. This being said, often the feet turn in or out which shifts the hips-shoulders-neck. Let’s try a supine variation of this asana 3 ways to help correct faulty posture. The main things we will explore are:

  1. Getting the feet parallel, lifting and spreading the toes with attention in the heels so that the pelvis can align
  2. Lifting the inner ankles to bring the legs to life
  3. Opening the chest

Variation 1- Getting the feet parallel. Lie down and use the folded mat under the heels, so that you can access the heels. This actually allows the top thighs to go back and the tailbone to draw in so that the pelvis aligns

how to practice an asana 3 ways

supine tadasana variation 1

Variation 2- Lifting the inner ankles. Placing the belt across the feet to lift the inner ankles into the outer ankles will actually also help to roll the groins back, lengthening and activating the legs

how to practice tadasana

using yoga props to access the ankles

Variation 3 – Opening the chest by placing the folded mat under the breastbone/thick ribs to free the emotional center, release shoulder blades down and away from neck and be able to lengthen the crown of the head

how to open the chest in tadasana

supine tadasana with arms overhead

Supine variations of asana allow us to access a calmer mind, without fighting gravity.

They do not necessarily make things ‘easy’. Try holding each variation for 30 seconds, then increase that time. Then try taking the skills with you as you practice standing up.

Enjoy.

Defuse Anxiety

how to diffuse anxiety through yoga practice

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
to diffuse anxiety

Defuse Anxiety With Yoga Practice

Are you anxious or irritable? Do you feel emotionally vulnerable or prone to mild depression? If you are nodding here, then you may want to read on. 

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge Pose)

In this variation of setu bandha sarvangasana, the supported expansion of the chest helps to stabilize the chest and calm anxiety. It is a backbend, and because the heart is above the head, it is also considered a mild inversion.

Benefits

This is a pose that helps you rest, and quiet the brain. It can also help to relieve diarrhea, and stabilize the thyroid and parathyroid, as it engages the chin lock. The open chest helps you to access a relaxed breathing pattern. It can therefore be practiced prior to a formal pranayama practice or as a restorative pose at the end of an active session.

How to practice

Set up a bolster on the floor, not a mat, at a right angle to a wall, in such a way that when you stretch out over it, the top edge of the bolster is at your lower rib area and your feet touch the wall. Place an upright yoga block against the wall for your feet in line with the center of the bolster. Sit on the edge of the bolster, close to the wall. Secure a strap on the top thighs to help the abdomen staff soft, and compact the hips. Curve your torso back over the bolster so the shoulders and back of the head are on the floor ( you can always have a thin blanket under these areas). Allow the soles of the feet to touch the wall.

Roll the shoulders back and down and the upper arms out, palms up. Breathe smoothly. When the breathing is quick and choppy, it is a sign of alert and anxiety. When the breath is calm, mind quiet, thoughts quiet, these feelings can be diffused, and peace can set in.

To come out, bend the knees, feet to floor, beside bolster. Remove the strap, and let the lower back settle. Tip: Not a wise posture if you have a herniated disk.

Yoga Belt Video Tutorial

Yoga Belt Video Tutorial

Yoga Belt: How to Use Without Getting Tied Up In Knots

Yoga Belt – A Versatile Yoga Prop

I have noticed when it comes to using a yoga belt in class that many students get flustered. I have even encountered students who are so confused that they actually tie a knot in their strap, which is a pet peeve of mine. Here’s why: in the first instance, this is not as secure, in the second, it doesn’t allow for any movement, so if it is either too tight or too loose, you can then not improve that situation, and third, come on! just plain lazy! :-)

The yoga belt itself comes in different lengths. This one is my favorite D-ring. I prefer the long 10 feet ones because I am tall and they also adapt to different uses. I prefer the D-ring because it locks well so I do not worry it will slip open.

A yoga belt can be used to stabilize your joints, and they can either encourage flexibility or help to create both traction and ‘space’ if you are inflexible (which is not a bad thing, it just is what it is). I find I use a strap both to warm up and prepare for postures, as well as for any number of postures – both active and restorative. They really do help de-compress and give a pretty immediate sense of length and relief. Check through some of my other yogatherapy blogs for other insight

Yoga Belt Video Tutorial

Learning to tie a yoga belt in this video tutorial should set you up for ease and success for your home or group yoga class practice  

Tips For the Visual Learner

Simple video on the ‘anatomy of the yoga belt’ and a visual explanation so you don’t get tied up in knots! 

Group yoga classes

Group Yoga Classes in September:

group restorative yoga classes

group restorative yoga classes

This season I’m kicking the restorative yoga classes up a notch, through the use of weekly themes and focuses on different categories of asanas. 

This is primarily because I notice a prevalence of folks who either come expecting to just lay out on a bolster and sleep, or are already burnt out and tired that they should really be coming more often (preventative measures) rather than 1&1/2 hours of “curative”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all good, but discipline (tapas) pays off, especially with restorative yoga, since we do not always cultivate the softer forms of practice (meditation, relaxation, pranayama). 

Also, holding any pose for any length of time is either not helpful (if you do not have the alignment or trajectory of the pose in the first instance), or helpful if you are really in tune with proper prop placement and so on. Comfort is really learned too!

Many of you come to group yoga classes when you are already tired; have lower back pain, stiff shoulders, and tight hips. We will address all these issues in weekly themes during our yoga classes where you can learn sequences and alignment skills to complement your busy life and your active yoga practices. The sequences will progress as you learn them…right?! so come to class – or just book me privately.

The first week of the month will be devoted to supine standing poses, which are great to alleviate tension in the whole body. The second will be devoted to backbends and twists, to improve posture, circulation, the third to forward bends and light inversions, which have great benefits for immunity and overall calmness, and the fourth to peaceful practices and pranayama.

Look forward to seeing you in class, 

Rana

Breathing and the Art of Relaxation

Rana Waxman yoga

The Modern Yogini in Savasana

Breathing and the Art of Relaxation: The photo itself is full of life and energy. There is a vibrant stillness and you can almost hear the sound of the babbling brook. Your breathing is naturally going to reflect the slower pace that your eyes are taking in. If you live a stressful, city life, the concrete and hustle and bustle, sirens, cars and general noise probably affect your breath tempo and quality in quite the opposite way.

It doesn’t have to be this way if you learn how to consciously relax, how to consciously monitor and pace your breathing. That is what the art of pranayama is about. Using techniques that can effect changes to heart rate, digestion, cellular function. To disengage the mind through your breath can induce a more calm feeling throughout. You certainly will have a harder time clenching your jaw or stiffening your shoulders when you are using relaxed, and conscious breathing. This will signal the nervous system that you are safe, in ‘control’, calm and prepared.

In the restorative yoga class I often teach passive chest openers to soften the restrictions in this area, in the shoulders, and upper back. Tight muscles often reflect in a tight and short breath. There are certainly some easy and fulfilling set ups with props that can do the trick, so if you want to learn, book a private or come to class

breathing for relaxation

breathing for relaxation

 

 

Yoga For Fatigue

Yoga for Fatigue

yoga for fatigue

yoga for fatigue

Do you suffer from being tired, not getting enough rest, or just having low energy?  Here are a few reasons to do yoga for fatigue and improved energy so that you can deal with the challenges of being tired mentally, physically, emotionally.

First of all, it helps to identify whether you are mentally, physically, emotionally tired, but have energy, or, either of these with no energy. This should help you somewhat with a basic idea of how to use your yoga practice for fatigue.

Yoga can be a good way to tone and invigorate your adrenals, but if your adrenals are shot due to being overly tired or stressed, you should think of pacifying your nervous system. You can do this with forward bends, or downward dog, and use some head support if you are mentally tired.

A balanced practice can massage and stimulate your adrenal glands; backbends tend to squeeze them and rid them of stale blood, twists will rinse them with freshly oxygenated blood.

What I enjoy about restorative yoga is that it can certainly open your body but without the brain having to do so much work. Navigating alignment is work, its still you doing something. Apart from legs up the wall, which is a go-to pose, I like Matseyasana when I have been working at my desk and my neck and shoulders are congested. It can be a little stimulating, because the heart and chest open, but this affords a nice opportunity to breathe too.

create the life of your dreams

Come to class or book a private yoga lesson for more tips

yoga for fatigue

yoga for fatigue

Supported Pranayama Practice

Supported Pranayama Practice

Supported Pranayama Practice can be used as an alternative to classical Savasana, and has many benefits, especially when the right props are used

Using props to support the torso in Savasana has many benefits:

  1. Especially with beginner students who tend to fall asleep during relaxation, this variation keeps students more alert than in classical Savasana
  2. Due to the elevation of the torso, it reduces nasal congestion
  3. The props help to support the shoulders and neck as well as open the chest
  4. The strategic placement of yoga props will aid students in feeling the alignment of their back ribs and the different components of breathing
  5. The support will help to roll the tops of the shoulder blades back, whereas many people suffer from the postural imbalances of rounding shoulders and forward head
  6. Improves breath awareness and helps to teach proper breathing patterns
  7. Is a lovely alternative to seated mindfulness, as the student can relax the lower body.

 How to use props in supported pranayama practice

supported reclining pose for pranayama

supported reclining pose for pranayama

In the photo above, please note that we used what we had at hand. In lieu of an eye bag, we used the student’s soft sweatshirt. We also had one yoga mat, 4 of the 3 Minute Eggs and one standard bolster. For my favorite yoga props, click here. You can make substitutions or additions as needed. I will give you the directions for what is pictured.

  1. Position your bolster parallel to the mat with 2 eggs underneath the top end.
  2. Recline over the bolster, keeping the small of your back against the bottom end of your bolster.
  3. Allow your arms to rest, here we used the eggs to alleviate the pull and meet the students needs.
  4. Allow your legs to stretch out , and separate, and relax.
  5. Breathe

Finding Your Yoga Practice

Finding your yoga practice

Finding your yoga practice is an organic process that should take into consideration different factors. To me, there are three major ones.
First, who are you ? What body structure you are working with is important. A qualified yoga therapist can help you determine what your overall posture is and whether there are any imbalances.

yoga practice

 

 

 

The goal is not perfection, but rather, symmetry and balance. You can use yoga postures to strengthen dormant muscles, or areas of awareness, as well as to relax the ones that are highly over worked.

yoga practice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second, what kind of time do you have? The time you can commit to may change, but usually we have enough of a tight schedule, that we can determine a bottom line clearly. When you know, then you can format things accordingly. Some poses require a lot of warm-ups so if you are not able to devote a lot of time, just keep things simple. Chose something that will be refreshing. If you have time to center, warm-up, do a few static poses, a few restorative poses, a savasana, then you can get a bit more complex. Don’t forget, that relaxation is a practice in and of itself, as is a restorative like viparita karani. Breathing practices that are simple enough can also form a nice simple practice. Check out my Yoga Mind Cd

start where you are

Third, what are you going through right now? Postures are neither one size fits all, nor are they all necessary or recommended for every one at every stage. I find several postures way too heating and agitating for menopause, but they work really well for someone who needs to ‘get’ energized and moving. Use what you have and again, strive to use your yoga practice, not for perfection, but for symmetry, harmony, balance…to the best of your ability. Get some qualified help too
yoga practice