July 18, 2018

Yoga Mats

Having a good quality yoga mat is no different than having good quality running shoes. Yoga mats are sold just about everywhere, but they’re not all alike. Some are squishy, others extra sticky, while others are mostly just for decoration. The type of yoga mat best suited for your practice depends on the style of yoga you’re interested in. If you’re practicing at a hot yoga studio, there will be lots of sweat! Sweaty practices require extra sticky mats or using a yoga towel on top of your mat to catch the sweat and to provide extra grip for your hands and feet. If you’re an outdoor yogi, you may not want to invest a lot of money into a mat that you’ll use for practicing on grass, sand or concrete. Using your yoga mat to practice places other than a yoga studio will mean that it will come into contact with a great many surfaces of a questionable cleanliness. If you’re a traveling yogi, a mat that folds up and fits in your suitcase is perfect for using on hotel carpeting and practicing in the privacy of your room.

Before you invest a lot of money on a yoga mat, you should try out a variety of mats. Lululemon will let you try out their yoga mats in-store; your local yoga studio may have loaner mats by Jade, Manduka, Gaiam or others. Take your shoes off, get on the mat and strike a few poses to see how the mat responds under your feet and hands. Does it stretch underfoot when you open up into warrior two? Is it difficult to come into tree pose because the mat has too much squish? Too much cushioning may seem like a good idea at first, but super squishy mats are more suited to a home Pilates practice.

Things to think about when choosing a yoga mat: does it offer enough cushioning for poses like camel, but not stretch out in all other poses? Is it a light color mat that will show dirt? Does it have a warranty against defects or wear? Do you practice every day or just at yoga events? You may find that you have a couple of different yoga mats for different purposes: traveling, outdoor yoga or yoga studios. Not all yoga mats are created equal. You may find that your yoga practice has been suffering because of the bargain bin yoga mat you’ve been using. Ask other yogis what they practice on and why? Ask to step on their mat and see how their mat feels different than yours does underfoot. You may find a renewed interest in your yoga practice if you trade out the mat you bought at the local drugstore.

Jennifer Huber 200+hr RYT

July 18, 2018

Effects of Yoga

The effects of yoga on the human body have been studied extensively and they all point to the fact that yoga has many positive benefits for its practitioners. Yoga has been found to reduce stress, lessen anxiety, promote positive life choices, prevents cartilage and joint breakdown and can also help with osteoporosis. Yoga builds a mind-body awareness by creating a state of mental well being through mindful movement and intentional breath. The linking of breath and movement influences the chemical balance of the brain by reducing cortisol levels and lowering adrenaline levels. Yoga studies also show links between lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar, benefits the immune system by reducing the production of proteins called cytokines that cause inflammation at the cellular level.

Children’s yoga studies show that yoga helps them manage stress and increase concentration levels through breathing exercises, spatial awareness, meditation and healthy movement. Post-traumatic stress sufferers show decreases in stress levels by stimulating the parasympathetic (calming) branch of the central nervous system and reduce the hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD. At risk and underserved youth have shown increased self-esteem levels, increased ability to cope with social stresses as a result of practicing yoga. First responders groups all across the nation are beginning to incorporate yoga asana into their workplace training to reduce the emotional and mental stress associated with their line of work.

A yoga practice can be slow and deliberate; yin yoga, yoga nidra or it can be a physical workout; power yoga, vinyasa yoga. Regardless of the style of yoga you choose to practice, the effects of yoga on the human body are well documented and bring about an increased overall state of mental and physical well-being. That being said, if you’re not already practicing yoga; today is a perfect place to start from where you are right now. If you are already a yoga practitioner, bring a friend with you to class next time!

May 17, 2018

Dancer Pose

Natarajasana (Sanskrit) – Dancer’s pose is a big shoulder stretch and standing balancing pose. The pose stretches the shoulder, chest, bicep, hip flexor and your balance! The pose can be done with an open shoulder rotation or a closed shoulder rotation as long as the arm rotation is completely open or closed.

  • From Tadasana, set your drishti (gaze) on a spot that is not moving. Shift your weight to your right foot and stretch your toes out on the mat. Press the four corners of your standing foot into the ground and hug in. Skin to muscle to bone.
  • Bend your left knee and clasp your left hand around the left ankle.
  • Your thumb can be pointed up or it can be pointed down. If you reach back with your thumb pointing up, this is an open shoulder pose. If your thumb is pointing down, it is a closed shoulder pose. Engage the right arm and extend it towards the ceiling.
  • Kick your foot into your hand and pull back on your foot with your hand. Lift the back of your thigh (hamstring) parallel to the mat and flex your foot.
  • The stability in this posture comes from the strength in the kick—the harder you kick, the more stable you’ll be.
  • Square the hips. Try to square the hips and keep your left knee in line with your left hip joint rather than opening out to the left side (which is what your body will want to do by default).
  • Protect the standing knee. Take care to not hyperextend the standing knee in this posture. Hyperextension occurs when the knee bends past its usual range of motion when straight. This is also known as locking the joint. To prevent this and protect that standing leg, engage the quadricep of your standing leg (“lift the kneecap”) and make a microbend in the knee of your standing leg.
  • Hold for 5 – 6 breaths, then switch sides.

Jennifer Huber 200hr RYT