Celebrate the Solar Eclipse with This Moon Salutation


Celebrate the Solar Eclipse with This Moon Salutation

Monday, August 21, 2017 marks the day the first total solar eclipse will grace North America in more than 25 years and a powerful day for yoga.
AUG 18, 2017
Solar Eclipse with This Moon Salutation

Igor Zh

Mark your calendars now for August 21, the day the first total solar eclipse will grace North America in more than 25 years, and a powerful day for yoga. A few moments of complete darkness during the day reminds us of our place in the cosmos—that we’re part of something much bigger than ourselves—one of the primary lessons of mindfulness practices, explains Kate Russo, a clinical psychologist, eclipse chaser, and phenomenological researcher based in Belfast, Ireland.

“An eclipse strips away all your worries, and you suddenly have clarity about what you want to do with your life,” Russo says. “You feel connected to other people—regardless of where they are from or their political views. It transforms you.”

To celebrate the eclipse, Blakesley Burkhart, a trained yoga teacher and astronomy postdoctoral researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, recommends a soothing and well-aligned Moon Salutation to coincide with the sun, moon, and Earth being in perfect alignment.

Celebrate with a Moon Salutation

Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), then inhale and bring your palms together over your head. Exhale and crescent to your right; inhale back to center. Exhale and crescent to your left; inhale back to center. Exhale to Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose), taking a wide stance and lowering into a squat while keeping your knees in line with your ankles. Inhale and straighten your legs as you transition to Extended Utthita Trikonasana(Extended Triangle Pose).

On your next exhale, move your hands to the floor or blocks on either side of your front leg for Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch). From here, bend into your front knee and find a High Lunge. Inhale, turn your back toes out, and shift your hips down and over your front ankle, coming into Skandasana (Side Lunge). Inhale back to Goddess Pose and repeat the same poses on the other side, but in reverse order.

See also Watch Shiva Rea’s Moon Salutation


Back to Basics: Three-Legged Down Dog Dissected


Back to Basics: Three-Legged Down Dog Dissected

More than a transition, when practiced mindfully this pose prepares the body for Warrior III, Standing Splits, and Handstand. Get more out of it every time.
JAN 15, 2016

Even if you could sail through Surya Namaskar in your sleep, we invite you to join us in revisiting the keystones of asana. Unlearn what you know, break your bad habits, and see if you can’t makeover your entire flow by re-focusing on a few foundational poses. Try an advanced approach to basic asana with SmartFLOW teacher trainer Tiffany Russo. Get #backtobasics with us all month on Facebook and Instagram.

This asana can come up a lot in a single vinyasa class. It often occupies the inhale between each Downward-Facing Dog and subsequent standing pose. You may spend a full cycle of breath here during Surya Namaskar. And your teacher may use longer holds in this pose as preparation for more challenging ones. But do you pay attention to how lifting that leg affects the rest of your body?

To get more out of this pose, the goal is to keep everything neutral when you lift your leg. If you keep your foundation exactly the same as in Adho Mukha Svanasana, this variation of it looks nearly identical from the front of the room. Even experienced students, however, tend to collapse into the standing leg side of the body, open their hip, shorten their side waist, and arch their back as soon as they lift a leg. But when practiced mindfully, integrating the actions below, this pose will make Warrior IIIStanding Splits, and even hopping into Handstands much easier.


拉麵、排隊、孕婦 | Han Hung

拉麵、排隊、孕婦 | Han Hung


人氣指數: 1022





認為店家的規矩就是完全照辦管你是病人還是孕婦的朋友,可能也忽略了一店之規矩不能凌駕法律之上的問題。即便是法律,如同美國南北戰爭後南方各州一系列的吉姆・克勞法(Jim Crow laws),也是著名帶有種族歧視的「隔離但平等」原則,最後也在時代的推進下以違憲遭到廢止收場。













關鍵字: 孕婦排隊蔦拉麵


Why Do I Get Dizzy During Yoga?


Why Do I Get Dizzy During Yoga?

Senior teacher and scientist Roger Cole explains why you might get dizzy during yoga practice and how to prevent it.
AUG 29, 2007

My yoga teacher has us take long deep breaths and hold before an exhale. I often get dizzy during this practice. I always get dizzy if I do a backbend with this deep breath. Am I doing something wrong?

—Mindy, Ohio

Roger Cole’s reply:

The dizziness that comes with deep breathing is usually caused by breathing out carbon dioxide faster than the body produces it. This makes the blood less acidic, which apparently causes a chemical alteration in nerve function that makes you feel light-headed. The cure is to breathe more slowly and/or less deeply.

Holding the breath during asana practice is not a good idea. Asanas require free circulation of the blood and plenty of oxygen to the muscles and organs. Holding the breath lowers oxygen levels. Although it raises carbon dioxide levels, it can increase pressure in the chest so much that it is difficult for blood to return from the body to the heart. Too little blood goes in, so the heart pumps too little blood out. Dizziness may result when blood pressure sensors in the heart, upper chest, and neck detect too little blood volume within the heart, or too little pressure being pumped up toward the head.

Also see The Science of Breathing 

Similarly, standing up suddenly from Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) can cause so much blood to flow downhill into the legs and abdomen that too little blood fills the heart. Normally, reflexes quickly compensate for this by raising the heart rate and constricting blood vessels to raise pressure. However, if the reflexes are too sluggish, pressure will fall in the heart, chest, neck, and head, and you will feel dizzy.

To prevent this, do three things when coming out of Uttanasana. (1) Contract the calf and thigh muscles strongly to squeeze blood from leg veins toward the heart. Start this action before you start to come up and continue it while coming up and after you are upright. (2) Come up slowly to give reflexes time to respond. (3) Inhale while coming up. This lowers pressure in the chest, thereby helping blood flow into the heart.

The breathing pattern you describe probably contributes to your dizziness in backbends, but excess back bending of the neck might also cause this. Blood flows to your brain by four arteries: two carotid arteries in your frontal neck and two vertebral arteries that are threaded through holes in the vertebrae of the neck. Extreme back bending of the neck might theoretically constrict the vertebral arteries. If this occurred, and the carotid arteries were unable to compensate for any reason (for example, if they suffered from narrowing, or stenosis), you would experience reduced blood flow to your head. You can often avoid excess bending of the neck in backbends by learning to lift your chest more, so you bend more from the uppermost part of your back instead of your neck.

Also seeDizzy Spells


Roger Cole, Ph.D., is a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher and a research scientist specializing in the physiology of relaxation, sleep, and biological rhythms. He trains yoga teachers and students in the anatomy, physiology, and practice of asana and Pranayama. He teaches workshops worldwide. For more information, visit http://rogercoleyoga.com.

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藏身曼谷的孤軍後裔 93師咖啡館和其創辦人沈培詩 | Jack Huang

藏身曼谷的孤軍後裔 93師咖啡館和其創辦人沈培詩 | Jack Huang

藏身曼谷的孤軍後裔 93師咖啡館和其創辦人沈培詩

人氣指數: 359













「另外,我累積兩年多的經驗也是可以商業化的部分,無論是我們自己烘焙的豆子,特製的咖啡飲品,還有摸索出來符合顧客喜好的菜單等,都可以做franchise,擔任其他店的顧問,以及說服對方跟我們進口所有原物料…我們在匯狂(Huai Khwang)和阿索克(Asok)都有合作的店家,他們有些直接用我們的logo,有些只是跟我們進原物料和菜單秘方…」



關鍵字: 93師咖啡咖啡


Why Restorative Yoga Is the ‘Most Advanced Practice’ Plus, 4 of Its Biggest Benefits


Why Restorative Yoga Is the ‘Most Advanced Practice’ Plus, 4 of Its Biggest Benefits

AUG 8, 2017

In YJ’s newest course, Restorative Yoga 101, Jillian Pransky, director of Restorative Therapeutic Yoga teacher training for YogaWorks and author of Deep Listening, will have you rethinking rest one deep breath at a time. This four-week program offers students an in-depth look at eight essential poses that will help you elicit the relaxation response, simple prop setups that will help encourage deep mind-body release and healing, guided meditative sequences and breathing exercises, mind-body alignment lectures, and personal inquiry. Eager to learn more? Sign up now.

Think restorative yoga is an easy, “recovery” practice akin to a candlelit massage? On the contrary, it’s actually an advanced practice, says Jillian Pransky, director of Restorative Therapeutic Yoga teacher training for YogaWorks who leads Yoga Journal’s upcoming online course, Restorative Yoga 101: Journey Into Stillness With the Tools and Practice to Heal, Restore, and Rejuvenate.

“While restorative yoga is a healing practice, it’s not just a physical ‘recovery’ practice,” Pransky says. “People think, ‘I did my five vigorous yoga classes, now I deserve a treat.’ They think of it as a massage or a pampering. Or if you’re sick or injured and you can’t get to regular vinyasa class, people think restorative yoga is ‘all’ you can do. On the contrary, I think it’s the most advanced practice.”

Here, Pransky explains four of the main benefits of restorative yoga, and why it’s an essential antidote for our fast-paced, stressed-out lives.

4 Big Benefits of Restorative Yoga

1. Restorative yoga helps us cultivate the skill of conscious relaxation.

A restorative practice is more of a yin style of yoga, as opposed to more yang styles that involve more movement and more muscular effort, Pransky says. Restorative yoga uses long-held, supported resting poses to create the conditions for us to cultivate the skill of conscious relaxation and most importantly to release unnecessary habitual tension in the body and mind. It’s a little bit closer to a meditation practice than a movement practice—it’s a way of practicing “meditation” as a somatic, embodied experience. For many of us, hatha yoga practices can easily become another opportunity to over-effort or get caught up in accomplishing or striving to get better at a pose. Restorative yoga is about, “How can I let my body and mind unwind? How can I do less?”

2. Restorative yoga helps us discover where we are holding tension.

The actual effort involved in restorative yoga is the willingness to look at how and where we are holding tension, and to relax our body on the ground, allowing the breath to come in more, so the tension that we find can be softened or less gripping. Discovering where and how we hold tension helps us find room for change, so that tension won’t limit our physical, emotional, and mental wellness and our comfort in our body.

We tend to favor activities that ask us to use our muscular body, but we are already doing that all day. In restorative yoga, we let go of all muscular effort, trust the earth to hold us completely, then if we find we are still holding ourselves up somewhere, we let go again in the next breath. This creates deep release and ease in the body and teaches us how we keep working and doing even when it’s not necessary, so we go back into our regular activities in more articulate and wise ways.

3. Restorative yoga creates the conditions for the relaxation response to kick in.

The grounding; complete, full breathing; and quietness of restorative yoga help us elicit the relaxation response, a neurological response that tells us we are safe, pulls us out of “flight or fight” mode, and initiates the body’s self-healing process. We switch over from worrying about staying “safe” to fostering the longevity systems of longterm health, including digestion, elimination, reproduction, growth and repair, and immunity.

4. Restorative yoga helps us face what we are avoiding about ourselves.

Most of us are programmed to “do” a lot—it keeps us engaged and makes us feel productive and in control. But our habit of running around, conquering our to-do lists, and fueling ourselves with coffee and ambition can often be a way we avoid deep discomforts and unwelcome feelings in the body and mind. Restorative yoga asks us to stop engaging in all the doing and face what we really need to look at about ourselves. To learn about, befriend, and care for the whole of ourselves in a way we are not used to. This is an essential step for health and healing, for true renewal. A lot of people think relaxing is about letting go, but rather than throwing out, we are trying to make space for what’s uncomfortable and to allow more space for the full experience of who we are.

Ready to learn more? Sign up for Restorative Yoga 101: Journey Into Stillness With the Tools and Practice to Heal, Restore, and Rejuvenate.


Big Gal Yoga’s Heart-Opening Sequence That Will Make You Love Yourself Again


Big Gal Yoga’s Heart-Opening Sequence That Will Make You Love Yourself Again

Need a boost? Expect this sequence from Valerie Sagun (aka Big Gal Yoga) to open your heart, silence negative thoughts, ease stress—and show you everything there is to love about your body.
JUL 26, 2017

Yoga has taught me that every body is meant to be loved and respected as it is now. You are already worthy of love. You are enough. We’re all enough. I started sharing my yoga practice on Instagram and then wrote my book, Big Gal Yoga, because I want everyone, no matter their size or shape, to be able to feel that way too.

The following sequence is all about fostering self-love. I’ve brought these asanas together because they open the heart, increase blood flow to the brain, and invite you to tap into your core strength, increasing confidence, silencing negative thoughts, and alleviating stress.

A Heart-Opening Sequence for Self-Love

Find detailed instructions on how to access each pose, including props and modifications, in Big Gal Yoga: Poses and Practices to Celebrate Your Body and Empower Your Life. The book is organized as a 30-day challenge, with a new pose introduced each day. That structure is very intentional, so that each of us can start where we are, and develop a yoga practice over time. You don’t need to be a certain weight or have any specific thing happen in order to be ready to start doing yoga. You just need to take the first breath.

Adapted from Big Gal Yoga: Poses and Practices to Celebrate Your Body and Empower Your Life by Valerie Sagun. Published July 25, 2017 by Seal Press.

About the Author
Valerie Sagun, aka Big Gal Yoga, is a yoga practitioner, installation artist, ceramicist, radical self-love enthusiast, and body-positive encourager based in the SF Bay Area. Big Gal Yoga: Poses and Practices to Celebrate Your Body and Empower Your Life is her first book. Look for her on tour (dates, times, and places TBA).


5 Ayurvedic Tricks to Brighten Your Mood


5 Ayurvedic Tricks to Brighten Your Mood

Feeling heavy and unmotivated? Sometimes the best thing you can do is make a momentary shift in what you’re doing, do something special for yourself, and that can change your mood. Here are some ideas.
AUG 18, 2017
Tarah smiles as the wind swiftly blows through her hair on her first visit to the Grand Canyon.

There are many things in life that can contribute to making you feel down. Everyone’s life is full of waves: times when the ride feels smooth and times when the ride feels choppy. One of the best things you can do for your overall health is to learn ways to support yourself so that you can feel a sense of calm and contentment more often, even in the midst of many waves of energy. Of course, seek guidance from your doctors and Ayurvedic specialists so they can help you deal with your specific needs, especially if you are noticing your mood is often low and it’s hard to feel content or at ease.

Ayurveda Made Easy

Adapted from Ayurveda Made Easy: 50 Exercises for Finding Health, Mindfulness, and Balance by Heidi E. Spear. Copyright © 2017 Adams Media, a division of Simon and Schuster. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.


Your Friday Night Yoga Playlist to Flow into Weekend Mode


Your Friday Night Yoga Playlist to Flow into Weekend Mode

Get ready for your jump start your Friday night out with this vinyasa flow playlist. You’ll come back to this Friday night yoga playlist time and again!
MAR 24, 2017
night handstand

Start your Friday night out with Yoga Journal on Spotify. Download the free software to listen to our playlists. And check back weekly for more of our fave tunes to flow to.

Get ready to your jump start your Friday night out with this vinyasa flow playlist. These dance remixes will get you off your mat feeling energized and ready to dance all night long. You’ll come back to this Friday night yoga playlist time and time again!

See also Wake Up and Flow: A 60-Minute Yoga Playlist to Slay the Day

1. “The Drop In,” DJ Taz Rashid, Srikalogy
2. “Dub Warriors,” DJ Taz Rashid, Srikalogy
3. “All We Need (feat. Shy Girls),” ODESZA, Shy Girls
4. “Like That,” Rytmeklubben
5. “Shape Of You (Major Lazer Remix, feat. Nyla & Kranium),” Ed Sheeran
6. “Needed Me (R3hab Remix),” Rihanna
7. “Gotta Love It,” Ruelle
8. “Rockabye (feat. Sean Paul & Anne-Marie),” Clean Bandit, Sean Paul, Anne-Marie
9. “Cheap Thrills (RAC Remix),” Sia
10. “Dare You,” Miny, Joeyyy
11. ” I Wanna Know,” Conro
12. “Ohio (filous Remix),” Damien Jurado, filous
13. “For What It’s Worth (India Dub),” DJ Drez, Joey Lugassy

See also DJ Drez’s 5 Tips for Creating the Ultimate Yoga Playlist


Two Fit Moms’ Energizing Back-to-School Sun Salutation


Two Fit Moms’ Energizing Back-to-School Sun Salutation

Sniff sniff … the last weekend of summer is almost here. Tackle back-to-school stress with Two Fit Moms’ amped-up Sun Salutation, which will give you the energy you need to get the kids out the door on time.

Sniff sniff … the last weekend of summer is almost here, which means it’s back to morning routines and attempting to hustle the kids out the door on time. Anyone else a little bit stressed?

One thing that relaxes us at Two Fit Moms is getting up on our hands and inverting in our morning practice. Here is a basic Sun Salutation amped up to make you feel energized to start your day, and ready to tackle the new school year.


10 Things Only Vatas Will Understand


10 Things Only Vatas Will Understand

Does Ayurveda make your head spin? Here, Sahara Rose Ketabi, Ayurvedic practitioner and author of the forthcoming Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda, breaks the vata dosha down into terms we can understand.
JUN 9, 2017
meditation lake

Prime your body for summer by discovering its natural, seasonal needs. Learn how to eat, cook, cleanse, and heal to balance your body and mind. In our online course Ayurveda 101, Larissa Hall Carlson, former dean of Kripalu’s School of Ayurveda, and Dr. John Douillard, founder of LifeSpa.com and best-selling author, demystify yoga’s elemental sister science. Sign up for the summer session now!

The Vata dosha comprised of air and ether energy. It’s light, free-flowing, spacey, and sometimes forgetful. Vatas are known to be multi-passionate, frequently starting more projects than they can finish. They’re flexible and dynamic, which others can sometimes see as flakey and unpredictable. They are the most creative of the doshas and the true visionaries of society. The hardest part for them is knowing which vision to stick to.

When Vatas are in balance, they are creative, idealistic, and artistic. When Vatas fall out of balance, they become anxious, fearful, and unable to sleep. If you’re a Vata, you will likely relate to some of the following situations. I know all too well, as a Vata myself. (Take our Dosha Quiz now to discover your own mind-body type.)

About Our Expert
Sahara Rose Ketabi is an expert in the mind-body connection. She is the author of the Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda, as well as a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, Sports Nutritionist and Holistic Health Coach. She internationally known for her unique blend of ancient Eastern healing methods and modern western nutritional science with plant-based recipes and has spoken at events such as Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign at Harvard Medical School. Discover your mind-body type on her quiz at eatfeelfresh.com and follow her on Instagram @EatFeelFresh for colorfully delicious recipe inspiration and sacred self-care rituals.


Being a Yogi Makes You a Political Activist (Like It or Not)


Being a Yogi Makes You a Political Activist (Like It or Not)

If you haven’t been getting more involved in politics lately, AcroYoga teacher Deven Sisler says it’s time and explains how the yogic principles of satya and ahimsa compel yogis to engage.
APR 18, 2017
upward salute

If you haven’t been getting more involved in politics lately, AcroYoga teacher Deven Sisler says it’s time, in accordance with the yogic principles of satya and ahimsa.

“The world feels really divisive right now, and yoga is the opposite of that,” she says. “[Politics is] everywhere at this moment—including our schools and homes—and yoga can’t be an escape. It should be a foundation from which we can say, ‘How do I talk to my family and friends [who] have opposite views from [mine]?’ ‘How do I listen without becoming reactive?’ That’s where yoga has been huge for me.”

Here, Sisler explains why every yogi should get involved in politics, according to the first two yamasahimsa and satya, and offers a pose and meditation to illustrate how these key yogic “rules” behoove us to get involved in politics.

See also The Pros and Cons of Delving into Politics as a Yoga Teacher


In The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras, author Nischala Joy Devi offers the following translation of the first yama, ahimsa (nonviolence): “Embracing reverence and love for all, we experience oneness.” This love must begin with ourselves, and it takes an amazing amount of courage. I practice ahimsa in the lovingkindness and acceptance I evoke for myself on my mat. For example, I can’t get into full splits right now, and that’s OK. Instead of focusing on an external goal, I focus my practice on the support I need to practice my version of the pose comfortably.

Similarly, if I hear an opinion that I disagree with, I practice ahimsa by engaging in respectful conversation, active listening, and asking questions, rather than forcing someone else to have the opinion that I think they should have. Yelling at someone or getting into a Facebook rant is unlikely to change anyone else’s mind on a hot topic, but discovering what is beneath their beliefs, could.

See also 8 Steps Yogis Can Take to Turn Political Anxiety Into Mindful Activism

humble warrior

Pose: Humble Warrior

In Humble Warrior, we must hold strong in the shape and fortitude of our legs, while discovering how open the upper body is. The pose cannot be forced and may reveal unexpected tightness or holding that only compassionate patience can unlock.


Take the feet into a Warrior I stance, with the front knee bent over your ankle, while the back leg is straight. Lift your arms behind you to interlace fingers. Draw the heels of the hands toward each other. Bow your head to the inside of your front knee, as your upper arms squeeze together and your hands lift toward the sky. Alternatively, if the interlace is unavailable, hold a strap between the hands.


“I bow to my heart and lovingkindness in my life.”

See also Find Your Lovingkindness On The Mat With Metta In Motion


Satya, the second yama, refers to truthfulness. As Deborah Adele, author of The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice Paperback, writes: “[It] demands integrity to life and to our own true self that is more than not telling a simple lie. When we are real rather than nice… when we choose growth over needing to belong, when we choose fluidity over rigidity, we begin to understand the deeper dynamics of truthfulness.” Satya sits in the seat of ahimsa, because it can be sharp and dangerous otherwise.

I practice satya through my study of Nonviolent Communication, a field developed by the late Marshall Rosenberg, where I learned that my job is not to say what I think someone wants to hear, but my simple truth with as much compassion as needed. And if I say something that somebody else might not like, I’m not responsible for their reaction.

To speak your truth, go to your local town hall meetings to meet your representatives on the local, state, and federal levels, call or write to your representatives, and tell them what you think. Listen to the issues and contribute your voice.

See also 5 Ways To Practice Compassion—and Get Better at It

warrior ii

Pose: Warrior II

Warrior II demands strength in the whole body and constantly reveals potential for more depth and more precision, just as our study of satya does. It can be difficult to stay, breathe, and hold, but each time we return to the pose, we cultivate more clarity, endurance, and equanimity in the face of discomfort. We can take these qualities out into the rest of the world. Learn how to do Warrior II.


“I stand tall for those I love.”

See also Why Every Yoga Teacher and Practitioner Needs Diversity Training

About Our Expert
Deven Sisler will empower your practice on and off your mat. She is a senior certified AcroYoga teacher, known for her joyful, playful approach to partnership and collaboration. An E-RYT 200 and CRYT yoga teacher, she will be at Wanderlust, Telluride & Beloved Festivals this summer. Learn more at DevenSislerYoga.com


Why Inflexibility May Not Be What’s Stopping You From Doing That Pose


Why Inflexibility May Not Be What’s Stopping You From Doing That Pose

When an asana is out of reach, yogis frequently blame their flexibility. But Bernie Clark explains that one pose simply doesn’t fit all. So he’s laid out a road map for getting to know your own unique anatomy and determining what actually is stopping you from doing a given pose.
AUG 17, 2017
king dancer yjlive

In the era of compulsive selfies, celebrating our individuality has entered an unnatural and distorted dimension. Technology constantly provides us with new widgets to cheat on our appearance and to hide our true self behind a filter of pixels. So when you throw yourself into the most sublime Dancer Pose and your toe doesn’t touch the crown of your head, reality hits you in the shape of your tissues and bones. Your body just can’t do this.

This doesn’t make you unfit or unyogic, it makes you human. It is the sobering reminder that we are all different. “You are unique, and that uniqueness is what makes the difference between what ‘everyone’ seems to be able to do and what you can do. There is no pose in yoga that everybody can do, and no one can do every pose,” explains Bernie Clark in Your Body, Your YogaWhen it comes to yoga practice, one pose simply doesn’t fit all.

See also “Why I Don’t ‘Stretch’ Anymore”

Your Anatomy Is Unique—Study It

Integrating difference and uniqueness, represents a complexity that not all societies are ready to accommodate. In a yoga class of five students, it is easy for the teacher to cater to everyone’s needs but that proves more challenging as the number increases. Thus the generalizations that leads them to make are potentially damaging if not taken with a pinch of salt. Insecurities can kick in in a yoga class, though. You may find yourself longing for a more compliant body and fearing that if you don’t perform the “real pose,” you will stand out and be deemed deficient.

“Differences aren’t deficits,” Clark writes quoting geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky encouraging us to embrace uniqueness and to be less harsh toward our quirks. “Why think that because someone else can’t do something, you will fail? There are things you can do right now, there are things that you will be able to do in time, and there things that you will never be able to do.”

If you are curious enough, you can gradually become the best equipped person to understand the unique mechanics of your body. Most teachers don’t actually know you, and they will never understand you as well as you will be able to.

The odd overzealous teacher may even make erroneous assumptions that can harm you. It is essential to take charge of your own practice both on your mat at home and in classes. This involves taking the time to investigate your strengths, weaknesses, limitations, and skills.

See also Not ALL Hips Need Opening: 3 Moves for Hip Stability

Bernie Clark tension and compression

What Stops You?

Clark suggests an efficient way of mapping your own physical limitations comes by systematically registering your sensations in various yoga poses. He leads this exploration with the interrogation: “What Stops You?’ In other words: what limits your mobility?

Two things can stop you, he explains. One is tension, which is resistance of the tissues to being stretched (muscles, ligaments, fascia), and the other is compression, which is created by contact: bone to bone (hard compression), flesh to flesh (soft compression), bone to flesh (medium compression).

So by paying heed to sensations of tension or compression in your yoga practice you can explore your body’s unique anatomy and limitations. That in turn enables you to work with your body, rather than against it in a given pose. To assist this process Clark searched the nooks and crannies of anatomy to observe where tension or compression surge and described the sensations that correspond to each type of resistance in his book. In this excerpt from Your Body, Your Yoga, Clark explores three poses yogis commonly get “stopped” in and why.

See also 8 Keys to Take Your Yoga Teaching Beyond Standardized Alignment Cues

Adapted from Your Body, Your Yoga by Bernie Clark. Published by Wild Strawberry Publications, April 2016.


Yoga for Flexibility Challenge Week 3: Dynamic Stretches (aka Flow)


Yoga for Flexibility Challenge Week 3: Dynamic Stretches (aka Flow)

Flow lubricates the body’s gliding layers of fascia, helps to separate light adhesions between tissue planes. Your challenge this week is to try a couple of dynamic stretches at least 3–5 times. Join us and share your progress on social media with #YJflexichallenge for a chance to be featured on our @YogaJournal Instagram page!
JUL 28, 2017

What Is Flexibility?

The dictionary definition of flexibility is “the quality of bending easily without breaking,” implying resilience or pliability rather than sheer depth of range. So while some yoga students aim for contortionist feats, most of us would simply like to move through our lives easily and without pain: rolling smoothly out of bed, bending over to pick something up off the floor, and twisting to reach the backseat of the car. Each body has a different potential range of motion, due to its unique bone and joint structure and proportions, so let’s define flexibility here as:
The ability to move freely, without pain or restriction, through the body’s natural range of motion.

See also “Why I Don’t ‘Stretch’ Anymore”

What Gets in the Way of Flexibility?

For most of us, our physical condition is, in many ways, an expression of our habits, lifestyle, and posture. Our bodies tend to “shrink-wrap” around any shape we hold for a long period of time in order to reduce the muscular effort required to stay there. We’ve all felt this resistance getting out of the car after a road trip or standing up after a day stuck behind a desk. Muscles that are asked to contract repeatedly also retain more tension at rest, which explains, for example, why runners tend to have tight hamstrings. In these ways, and more, the body adapts to the demands you place on it. So in simple terms the more you move, the more you are able to move; the less you move, the less you are able to move.

These soft tissue adaptations to your specific lifestyle take time and repetition to occur, so it follows that they don’t always respond to a quick stretch in front of the TV. Fortunately, there are other ways to ease these restrictions. Let’s explore them.

See also How “Fit” Is Your Fascia?

Yoga for Flexibility Challenge

If stretching alone hasn’t created lasting change in your body, it’s worth exploring other techniques for restoring your natural elasticity. We’re challenging you to do just that over the next 5 weeks.

Here’s how: Choose one or two areas of your body from the list below that are habitually tight and restricted, and commit to give them some loving attention 3–5 times a week for the next 5 weeks. Each Monday, we will offer you a different technique to use that week on your chosen tight spots. By the end of the month, you should have a good idea of which methods are most effective for your areas of tension—and hopefully a new kind of freedom in your body!

Common Areas of Tension

Each week we will give you options to target these commonly tight regions. Choose one or two to focus on all month.

  • Neck The scalene muscles on the sides of the neck and the upper trapezius lining the back of the neck and the upper shoulders are classic areas of tension.
  • Chest & shoulders Our arms and hands are almost always held in front of the body, and especially when we spend hours on the computer our chest (namely the pectorals) and front of the shoulder (anterior deltoid) can feel restricted.
  • Side body We rarely move sideways in our daily life, so our lateral body (including the latissimus dorsiquadratus lumborum, the oblique abdominals, and gluteus medius) runs the risk of losing full and free range of motion.
  • Hip flexors & quadriceps Sedentary modern life means that our hip flexors (the iliopsoas and rectus femoris) are almost constantly in the same position, potentially sacrificing their natural elasticity.
  • Posterior hip & hamstrings Hours of sitting also impact on the back of the pelvis. The gluteus maximus and piriformis don’t necessarily shorten, but can become inhibited from firing, leaving the Hamstrings to bear the brunt of their inactivity.

See also A Healing Yoga Sequence to Ease Neck + Shoulder Pain


Week 1: Active Stretches

Let’s start with the technique most commonly used in yoga: the active stretch. It capitalizes on a reflex that exercise scientists call “reciprocal inhibition,” where muscle contraction on one side of a joint inhibits contraction on the opposite side of the joint, encouraging a deeper stretch. In Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold), for example, the hip flexors and quadriceps on the front of the thighs contract to create more length for the hamstrings on the back of the thighs.

Less traditional, but sometimes used in modern yoga classes, is a kind of active stretch called an isometric stretch or PNF, which stands for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation. In PNF, we lengthen the targeted muscle, briefly contract it in its elongated position, then relax into a slower, deeper stretch. It makes use of another of the body’s reflex actions, Autogenic Inhibition, which encourages a muscle to relax after strong contraction to reduce the likelihood of damage.

How to Use Active Stretches in Your Practice

In my experience, active stretches are the most potent when our muscles are warm and well lubricated. In fact, if there are one or two areas in which you feel very restricted, incorporate active stretches every time you are warm (like after yoga practice or other exercise). Active stretches are commonly held for around 5–10 breaths, long enough to move us past the initial resistance in the lengthening muscle but not so long that the contracting muscles tire. Practitioners of ashtanga, Bikram, hatha, Iyengar, and vinyasa yoga can all testify to the effectiveness of active stretches, when used consistently.

Active Stretches Challenge

Your challenge this week is to try a couple of these active stretches 3–5 times. Choose a time when your muscles are warm. Make sure that any sensation you feel is in the belly of the targeted muscle (rather than at either end) and move away from sharp sensations or pain.

See also 12 Poses to Bring Flexibility Home


Week 2: Passive Stretches

Active stretches are the most commonly employed in yoga, but they aren’t the only way to increase our pliability. Passive stretches use little or no muscular contraction. Instead, we find a position the body can relax into, often on or close to the floor, and stay there until tension dissolves.

You may have experienced passive stretches used, very subtly, in restorative yoga. In this style of yoga, the body is fully supported by props and the stretch may even be imperceptible. While flexibility is not the primary focus of restorative yoga, its understated benefits are sometimes overlooked in the busy modern world. Restorative yoga triggers the relaxation response, a function of the parasympathetic nervous system that slows the heart rate, enhances digestion, supports natural healing processes, and releases muscle tension. Sometimes common areas of strain, like the chest, neck, and shoulders, are simply symptoms of your stress levels rather than overuse. Tension of this kind often responds better to a more subtle and soothing approach than to a heavy hand.

Passive stretches can also be used more acutely, as in yin yoga, to slowly lengthen muscles and, perhaps more importantly, their surrounding fascia. Again, suppleness is not necessarily the intention of yin yoga, but many students experience increased range of motion in their soft tissue from its sustained holds. Fascia is much slower than muscle tissue to respond to a stretch, and the Yin practice encourages you to stay long enough to move past muscle stretching into a place where the fascia is able to slowly release.

See also Free Your Back Body Like Never Before: A Flow for Your Fascia

How to Use Passive Stretches in Your Practice

The key to passive stretching is patience, finding a position that is comfortable enough that you can rest there, without strain, for up to 10 minutes. You may maintain the same position as in restorative yoga, or you may allow a profound stretch to slowly develop as in yin yoga. Either way, the focus is on cultivating a relaxed and meditative state and allowing tension to dissolve gradually.

Passive Stretches Challenge

Your challenge this week is to try one or two of these passive stretches 3–5 times. Use props if needed to ensure you’re comfortable enough to relax for at least 3 minutes without strain. Because you have so much time in the pose, allow the stretch to unfold slowly and subtly rather than trying to push to your maximum. Take a few breaths between sides to notice the differences you have created.

See also Solar-Powered Yin Practice


Week 3: Dynamic Stretches (aka Flow)

Every vinyasa class includes flow: smooth, fluid movements in multiple directions. In my opinion, the flexibility benefits of this kind of work are often underestimated. Flow lubricates the body’s gliding layers of fascia, helps to separate light adhesions between tissue planes (more on this next week), and stimulates warmth and circulation. Imagine taking a dry sponge, immersing it in water, then bending and squeezing it until it becomes soft and supple again.

It’s the perfect practice first thing in the morning, after a long day of work, or early in a yoga sequence to prepare for more powerful stretches. Flow offers an approachable opportunity to move in ways outside our habitual patterns. It also encourages proprioception (feeling connected to our bodies) and breath awareness, both of which can help reduce pain and anxiety and the muscle tension that often accompanies them.

You’ve heard the “move it or lose it” principle. While they might not be the first things you think of to increase your range of motion, simple practices like Cat and Cow, flowing twists and side bends, joint rotation and Sun Salutations maintain healthy mobility in all directions. The key: Move smoothly with your breath rather than trying to force depth.

Week 3 Challenge

Your challenge this week is to try a couple of these dynamic stretches at least 3–5 times. Remember that flow is all about creating lubrication and tissue elasticity rather than depth.

About Our Expert
Rachel Land teaches internationally as a Yoga Medicine teacher trainer, and for the rest of the year teaches vinyasa, yin, and one-on-one yoga sessions in Queenstown, New Zealand. Rachel’s interest in anatomy lead her to a 500-hour teacher training with Tiffany Cruikshank and Yoga Medicine. She is currently working on her 1000-hour certification.


Let Go and Flow: A 60-Minute Yoga Playlist to Shed What No Longer Serves You


Let Go and Flow: A 60-Minute Yoga Playlist to Shed What No Longer Serves You

Create more space in your life by letting go of what does not serve you. Use these steady tunes to inspire transformational movement throughout your body.
AUG 11, 2017
hands above head sunset

Let go and flow with Yoga Journal on Spotify. Download the free software to listen to our playlists.

Create more space in your life by letting go of what does not serve you. Use these steady tunes to inspire movement throughout your body.

See also You Don’t Have To: A Sequence to Let Go of Societal Pressure

60-Minute Playlist to Let Go and Flow

1. “Nothing It Can,” Helios
2. “Losing You to You,” Hammock
3. “Retrograde,” James Blake
4. “Friends (feat. Bon Iver),” Francis and the Lights
5. “Bloodstain,” Wrabel
6. “Wildest Dream,” Aaricia
7. “Whisky,” Marian Hill
8. “Don’t Kill My Vibe – Gryffin Remix,” Sigrid, Gryffin
9. “LOVE. FEAT. ZACARI.” Kendrick Lamar
10. “Can’t Help Myself,” Jake Miller
11. “Falling Autumn,” alayna, Astronomyy
12. “Every Kind Of Way,” H.E.R.
12. “Forever,” Ben Harper
12. “Earned It,” Kurt Hugo Schneider, Kina Grannis, MAX
13. “Awakening,” Random Forest

See also A 60-Minute Restorative Yoga Playlist to Help You Slow Down and Surrender


Quiz: Discover Your Dosha


Quiz: Discover Your Dosha

Take our dosha quiz to discover your individual mind-body type, which can help point you toward remedies for whatever ails you.
OCT 20, 2014
Dancer, tree, forest, path, tropical place

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Prime your body for summer by discovering its natural, seasonal needs. Learn how how to eat, cook, cleanse, and heal to balance your body and mind. In our online course Ayurveda 101, Larissa Hall Carlson, former dean of Kripalu’s School of Ayurveda, and Dr. John Douillard, founder of LifeSpa.com and best-selling author, demystify yoga’s elemental sister science. Sign up for the summer session now!


Path to Happiness: 9 Interpretations of the Yamas + Niyamas


Path to Happiness: 9 Interpretations of the Yamas + Niyamas

The 10 pillars of wisdom from the Yoga Sutra lead the way to true freedom.
APR 8, 2009
Trail Running Lunge Pose

Chances are, you ponder who you are and where you are in life, accept the current realities as best you can, and yet still plan a path toward your ideal. Your yoga practice undoubtedly helps you on this journey. And the yoga tradition suggests more than just postures to aid your transformation. Centuries ago, the great sage Patanjali laid out a kind of map—one that suggests not just asana and meditation but also attitudes and behaviors—to help you chart your own course to contentment.

At first glance, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, written in Sanskrit and interpreted in many ways, may seem esoteric and impenetrable. But the ancient manual is worth a closer look, because it contains essential advice for daily living. “Patanjali has offered us guidelines that will allow us to have enhanced emotional and mental well-being and a more fulfilling and meaningful life,” says Joan Shivarpita Harrigan, a practicing psychologist and the director of Patanjali Kundalini Yoga Care. “The Yoga Sutra is specifically designed to lead to greater happiness and spiritual fulfillment for you and everyone around you.”

Much is contained within this ultimate guide to virtuous transformation, including the eightfold path of classical yoga (or ashtanga yoga), which suggests a program of ethical restraints or abstentions (yamas), lifestyle observances (niyamas), postures (asanas), breath control (pranayama), withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and absorption into the Divine (samadhi). They are designed to lead you, step-by-step, toward everlasting contentment.

If you’ve been practicing yoga for a while, you’re familiar with asana, pranayama, and meditation. But you might not know much about the first two steps of the path: the five yamas and five niyamas. These are the ethical precepts, or core values, of yoga as well as its starting place—meant to be practiced before you do your very first Sun Salutation. They provide a recipe for living in the world with ease.

“The yamas are really about restraining behaviors that are motivated by grasping, aversion, hatred, and delusion; the niyamas are designed to create well-being for ourselves and others,” says Stephen Cope, a senior Kripalu teacher and the author of The Wisdom of Yoga. People sometimes think of them as yoga’s Ten Commandments, but they aren’t concerned with right or wrong in an absolute sense. “There’s no thought of heaven or hell. It’s about avoiding behaviors that produce suffering and difficulty, and embracing those that lead to states of happiness.”

You Can Transform Your Life

Rather than thinking of the yamas and niyamas as a mandatory “to-do list,” view them as invitations to act in ways that promote inner and outer peace and bliss. “They create harmony within you, and in relationship to your environment and to others. Where there is harmony, consciousness can expand,” says John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga. “They lead us to a natural revelation of insight into the nature of being, and joy naturally arises.”

They also provide a mirror in which to study your practice and your Self. Viniyoga teacher and Yoga Sutra scholar Gary Kraftsow says they represent the qualities of an integrated human being. You get there through practice, contemplation, meditation, and working to transform yourself. “The path of practice begins with understanding and refining the different dimensions of who you are, and it unfolds progressively, not all at once,” says Kraftsow. “The whole goal of yoga is Self-realization, which can also be called freedom.” The yamas and niyamas give you infinite opportunities to truly transform your life.

Patanjali doesn’t tell you how specifically to “do” the yamas and niyamas—that’s up to you. But if you align your life with them, they’ll lead you to your highest aspirations: peace, truth, abundance, harmonious relationships, contentment, purity, self-acceptance, love, and meaningful connection to the Divine—the essence of happiness. Here, we’ve asked prominent yoga teachers and philosophers to share their interpretations of the yamas and niyamas to help you make them a part of your path.

Ahimsa: Nonharming

In yoga philosophy, ahimsa—often translated as “non-violence” or “nonharming”—is the opportunity to relinquish hostility and irritability, and instead make space within your consciousness for peace. “In that space, all the anger, separation, and aggression resolve themselves,” says Kraftsow. This allows you to let others be who they are, and to relate to the world in a whole new way.

To incorporate ahimsa into your life, look at all the attitudes you have that might be keeping you from feeling at peace. “I encourage students to notice how many times they have an enemy image of something—a neighbor, a co-worker, even the government,” says Judith Hanson Lasater, a renowned yoga teacher and the author of six books, including A Year of Living Your Yoga. “Write down your five most negative thoughts,” she says. “These thoughts themselves are a form of violence.” Lasater recommends that you hold your negativity in your consciousness and step back from it a bit. Just noticing the negativity will help you stop feeding the thoughts and will lead you toward peace.

“My favorite description of ahimsa is of a dynamic peacefulness prepared to meet all needs with loving openness,” says Charlotte Bell, a longtime Iyengar Yoga teacher and the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life. “There’s a suggestion of a state of balance that can evolve, that meets each situation in an open and accepting way.”

This openness can extend to others. “You may mistakenly think that to refrain from harming another brings benefit to that other, and not to yourself,” says Sharon Gannon, the co-creator of Jivamukti Yoga. “But when you start to understand how karma works, you realize that how you treat others determines how much suffering you experience.” Gannon believes that if you truly become “other centered” (putting the happiness and well-being of others first), then not only do you experience less suffering, but the other yamas also unfold effortlessly.

See also 10-Minute Ahimsa Yoga Sequence

Satya: Truthfulness

The Yoga Sutra holds truth among the highest of ideals. Many interpretations promise that once you’re fully vested in satya, everything you say will come to be realized.

But be careful not to confuse your point of view with the truth. “You have to have integrity and humility to realize that the truth may be bigger than you,” says Nischala Joy Devi, the author of her own translation of the Yoga Sutra, The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras. “In each moment, you must ask yourself: Am I speaking the truth? Am I just giving my opinion, filtered through my mind and all my prejudices?”

Satya requires that you consider both the spoken and unspoken aspects of your words. You don’t want to mislead through omission; neither do you have to say everything that’s on your mind—especially if it’s hurtful. “Don’t gossip, even if the information you’re giving is true,” says Kraftsow. “Instead, speak only of the highest. Use your words to elevate the listener.” When you do so, you elevate yourself in the process.

Many spiritual seekers find that spending time in silence helps them notice the distinction between opinions and reality. Slowing down your internal chatter can help ground you in satya. “Silence is discriminative restraint,” says Cope. “You are able to examine the roots of speech on an inner level, which enables you to better control your gross outward communication.” You then establish a way of interacting with the world that includes both ahimsa and satya, both peacefulness and truthfulness.

See also 10-Minute Satya Yoga Sequence

Asteya: Nonstealing

Don’t steal, the Yoga Sutra says, and all good things will come to you. Because asteya is commonly translated to mean refraining from taking anything that is not freely offered, the first things most people think of are money, clothes, food, and other tangible stuff. But there’s more to asteya than what is found on the material plane.

“There are lots of things you can steal,” says Devi. “You can steal someone’s time if you are late. You can steal someone’s energy. You can steal someone’s happiness. You can steal someone else’s ideas if you represent them as your own.”

Asteya also calls for a focus on how and what you consume. “If you are taking something, you need to consider how to give back the appropriate energy or amount,” says Friend. “Because everything is interconnected, whatever you receive is taken from somewhere else. Most people don’t stop to consider all the different levels of energy involved in all they are consuming. Energetically and karmically, you create a major imbalance if you take and don’t pay back.” Or, to borrow a line from the Beatles: “The love you take is equal to the love you make.”

To invite asteya into your life, consider what you truly need and refrain from letting your desires persuade you to take more. Have fair trade be your mantra—not only in your shopping habits but also in all of your day-to-day interactions. Respect the time and energy of others, give credit where credit is due, and see if you can help build up the world’s kindness reserves by giving more than you take.

See also 10-Minute Asteya Yoga Sequence

Brahmacharya: Energy Moderation

The most talked about interpretation of brahmacharya is celibacy. But you needn’t become a monk to be a good yogi. You can just accept a broader interpretation of this yama. “It literally means ‘walking in the way of God,'” says Harrigan. “It’s about preventing the dissipation of one’s energy through the misuse of the senses. It’s a personal energy-conservation program—when you practice brahmacharya, you are not letting the senses rule your behavior; you are not urge driven.”

Anything that causes turbulence in the mind and stirs the emotions might be seen as a violation of brahmacharya: overstimulating foods, loud music, violent movies, and yes, inappropriate sexual behavior. “Whatever disturbs the mind and body disturbs the spiritual life—it’s all one energy,” says Devi. “Brahmacharya asks you to consider how you spend it. Look at energy like money in the bank: If you have $100, you don’t want to spend it all right away so that you have nothing left. Become a good energy manager.”

Brahmacharya has real applications in the physical practice, says Bell. “When you’re working with asana, you need to learn to regulate your effort so that you’re not pushing and forcing, which drains the life force,” she explains. “I’ll put my students in a pose and have them consider what they would have to do—or stop doing—to stay in it for an hour. Almost universally, their faces will relax and their shoulders will drop down, and they’ll find that they put energy into things they didn’t need to. Asana should be replenishing your energy, not draining it.”

Experiment with this practice on your mat, then take it into the rest of your life. No matter what’s going on—whether it’s being delayed for your next appointment by a long line at the supermarket, or nervously kissing a new love interest—ask yourself: Can I let go of my tension and relax into this moment?

Notice how the situation doesn’t need your stress to resolve itself. And by not giving so much energy to intense moments—by not squandering your life force—you are more at ease and happier in all moments.

See also 10-Minute Brahmacharya Yoga Sequence

Aparigraha: Nongrasping

Aparigraha means “nongrasping,” and it can be a tough sell in this consumer culture of ours. But freedom from wanting more and more is just that: freedom.

“Aparigraha is the decision to not hoard or accumulate goods through greed but rather to develop an attitude of stewardship toward the material world,” Harrigan says. “Before you bring anything into your home, ask yourself: Do I need this for my role in life? As a parent? As a spiritual seeker? Or am I just accumulating stuff out of my own fear and greed?” If you don’t consider these questions, your possessions can take over. “Once you get so much stuff, you have to take care of and defend it,” Harrigan says. “You start to get attached to it and identify with it. It’s easy to start thinking you are your stuff, but the truth is that stuff comes and goes.”

The idea is: Just let it go. “If our homes are filled with old junk that doesn’t apply to us anymore, there’s no room for new energy to come in,” says Bell. That holds true for the nonmaterial ideas and attitudes you cling to as well. “If you are hanging on to old beliefs about yourself or your relationships, or clinging to a career that no longer feeds you, there’s no latitude to move in a different direction.”

To invite aparigraha, try a simple practice. “Acknowledge abundance and practice gratitude,” says Devi. “You don’t need more and more if you are grateful and feeling fulfilled with what you have in the moment.”

See also 10-Minute Aparigraha Yoga Sequence

Saucha: Purity

Saucha’s the first of the niyamas, the active observances. It involves keeping things clean, inside and out. “For me, [the concept of] saucha means both physical and mental hygiene,” says Cope. “You want to keep your thoughts uncluttered so you can feel free from afflictive emotions; you keep your body and environment in order, to create a sense of calm.” A mind trained by meditation has more complexity and orderliness. Physical orderliness can also affect the mind. So get rid of clutter, scrub floors, simplify your life—all these are expressions of saucha.

But don’t get too hung up on the idea of literal purity. “When you work at purifying the body, you begin to understand that it will never be perfectly clean,” Kraftsow says. Patanjali says, “look more deeply at what the body is: The more you clean it, the more you realize that it is an impermanent, decaying thing. Saucha helps break up excessive fixation with your body, or the bodies of others.”

When you learn to disidentify with the body, the Yoga Sutra suggests, you can get in touch with your essence—the part of you that’s pure and free from aging, disease, and decay. When you understand your true undying nature, it’s easier to stop striving for physical perfection and instead rest in joyful awareness.

See also 10-Minute Saucha Yoga Sequence

Santosha: Contentment

In nearly every translation of Yoga Sutra II.42, santosha is interpreted as the greatest happiness, the underlying joy that cannot be shaken by life’s tough moments, by injustice, hardship, bad luck. “Contentment is really about accepting life as it is,” says Bell. “It’s not about creating perfection. Life will throw whatever it wants at you, and you ultimately have little control. Be welcoming of what you get.”

You can practice this on the mat quite easily, by acknowledging your tendency to strive to do a perfect pose and accepting the one you’ve got. “There’s no guarantee that you’ll get enlightened when you do a backbend with straight arms, or touch your hands to the floor in Uttanasana,” says Bell. “The process of santosha is relaxing into where you are in your pose right now and realizing that it is perfect.” Lasater compares santosha to the deep relaxation possible in Savasana (Corpse Pose). “You can’t run after contentment,” Lasater says. “It has to find you. All you can do is try to create the space for it.”

If you release your mind from constantly wanting your situation to be different, you’ll find more ease. “It’s not fatalism; it’s not to say you can’t change your reality,” says Cope. “But just for the moment, can you let go of the war with reality? If you do, you’ll be able to think more clearly and be more effective in making a difference.”

During those times when you don’t feel content, just act for one moment as if you were. You might kick-start a positive feedback loop, which can generate real contentment. It might feel absurd when your inner landscape isn’t shiny and bright, but the simple physical act of turning up the corners of your mouth can have amazing effects. “Smile,” suggests Devi. “It changes everything. Practicing smiling is like planting the seed of a mighty redwood. The body receives the smile, and contentment grows. Before you know it, you’re smiling all the time.” Whether you’re practicing asana or living life, remember to find joy in the experience.

See also 10-Minute Santosha Yoga Sequence

Tapas: Right Effort

Tapas is translated as “self-discipline,” “effort,” or “internal fire,” and the Yoga Sutra suggests that when tapas is in action, the heat it generates will both burn away impurities and kindle the sparks of divinity within.

“Tapas is the willingness to do the work, which means developing discipline, enthusiasm, and a burning desire to learn,” says Bell. “You can apply tapas to anything you want to see happen in your life: playing an instrument, changing your diet, cultivating an attitude of loving kindness, contentment, or non-judgment. In yoga, it’s often seen as a commitment to the practice. You figure out what you can do, and do it every day. If it’s only 10 minutes, fine—but make that time sacrosanct.”

Connect to your own determination and will. “Holding a posture is tapas,” says Cope. “You are restraining yourself from moving and are watching what happens. In this way, you build the capacity to tolerate being with strong sensation, and you get to answer the question: What is my real limit? And you develop the skill of witnessing, which is one of the most important skills of classical yoga.”

The effort you use when you engage tapas is directed toward cultivating healthful habits and breaking unhealthful ones. “Asana is tapas, but if you become an asana junkie, then your tapas is to stop practicing asana,” says Kraftsow. “One goal of tapas is to stop anything you do mindlessly because you’ve become habituated.” When you use your will to overcome your conditioning, you free yourself from the many unconscious actions that cause suffering. Yes, discipline is actually a path to happiness.

See also 10-Minute Tapas Yoga Sequence

Svadhyaya: Self-Study

Happiness is our nature, and it is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside. To tap into the wellspring of happiness that lies within each of us, try dedicating yourself to svadhyaya, the art of self-study, of looking within and asking the eternal question: Who am I?

The Yoga Sutra suggests that the study of the Self leads you toward communion with the Divine. It’s a lofty aim, but you can develop svadhyaya as you move through everyday life. “Some traditions see study as a contemplation of the ultimate. Others see it as study of how you are: your functions, habits, and the ways your karma is playing out,” explains Cope. “For most of us, the most fruitful practice will be looking at the Self. Are you on time and orderly? Or are you sloppy and late? What makes you mad or happy? How do you feel about that person on the next mat who’s invading your space?”

Develop the capacity to find the answers without chastising or lauding yourself in the process. Swami Kripalu, the founder of Kripalu Yoga, said the highest spiritual practice is self-observation without judgment. “Svadhyaya is a skillful and systematic investigation of how things are,” says Cope. “When you practice self-observation, you begin to uncover and address the unconscious patterns governing your life.” When you can notice, but not judge, what you are doing and how you are feeling in every moment, you open a window to empathy for yourself and gain the stability you need to extend it to others.

Bell recommends another aspect of svadhyaya: the study of sacred texts, such as the Yoga Sutra, the Bhagavad Gita, Buddhism’s Heart Sutra, or the Bible. “That’s where the wisdom side develops,” she says. “If you are only looking at the Self, it is easy to lose perspective. When you read the texts in service of svadhyaya, you’ll read something that really resonates, and you’ll begin to understand that…all beings experience these things.” Study helps you understand the universality of life experiences and thereby increases your compassion for yourself and others.

See also 10-Minute Svadhyaya Yoga Sequence

Ishvara Pranidhana: Dedication to the Highest

Few dispute that the last of the niyamas, Ishvara pranidhana, is the pinnacle of spiritual practice. Yoga Sutra II.45 says that liberation—the highest happiness—comes only from a love of, communion with, and surrender to, God.

To embrace Ishvara pranidhana, it helps to understand what “God” is. “You don’t have to believe in an anthropomorphic representation of God to accept that there is a divine design, a benevolent essence in the universe,” says Harrigan. “It’s about offering oneself to the divine matrix. It’s letting our own holy essence guide our actions and catching the sacred power of life. This higher power is there for all of us, Patanjali says. That is the promise of the Yoga Sutra.”

You can capture Ishvara pranidhana in any moment, Harrigan says. “You can always pause to look for the higher essence in any situation,” she explains. “You can ask yourself, ‘What is the best goodness here?’ You can imagine that you have your own wise inner adviser, and ask, ‘If I were to set aside my own desires and aversions and concerns for comfort, what would you advise for me?'”

Ishvara pranidhana is a cornerstone of Anusara Yoga. “We emphasize devotion, and service, making an artistic offering to the greater good, and bringing more beauty and love into the world,” John Friend says. “If you do that, you won’t need to think about not hurting anyone or not lying or stealing. If you dedicate your heart to loving and serving God, all other things fall into place.”

See also 10-Minute Ishvara Pranidhana Yoga Sequence

EXPLORE Yoga Sutra

Note: Sutra interpretations that appear throughout this story are taken from Bernard Bouanchaud’s book The Essence of Yoga.


Gray Hair, Don’t Care: How to Embrace Your Natural Color


Gray Hair, Don’t Care: How to Embrace Your Natural Color

Dayna Macy, Yoga Journal’s director of corporate communications, shares what drove her to do away with dye and her unexpected discovery when she did.
AUG 4, 2017

I was buying plants at my local nursery—dressed in sweaty yoga clothes and eager to get my latest haul into the ground—when I caught the man in line behind me staring at my hair. My messy, silver hair.

“Your hair is beautiful,” he said. I turned crimson, then thanked him.

I am seriously vain about my hair. Twenty years ago, I found the hairdresser of my dreams, who kept my medium-length shag just rocker-edgy enough for me to avoid sliding into middle-age frump. (My personal nightmare: The image of a 50-something me with a neat bob and wearing elastic pants.)

See also Age Better With Yoga: Part I

Ten years ago, when my gray starting coming in unapologetically, my stylist began dyeing my hair a lovely, dark chestnut with coppery highlights that showed off my layers. At first, I dyed my hair every four months. Then every two months. Then every month. Then every two weeks: That became the deal breaker.

My scalp itched. I popped antihistamines and kept my personal pain private, continuing to color my hair until one day I literally could not drag myself to the hairdresser even one more time. My inner rebel roared to life and made an executive decision. I was done with dye.

See also 15 Anti-Aging Health Benefits of Yoga That Will Make You Want to Start Practicing Now

I started to let my hair grow out, pulling it down into bangs. I rediscovered my love for hats. I artfully hid my gray for three months, until there was no denying it anymore.

So, I didn’t.

A few months in, I realized my hair wasn’t just gray. It was silver-white in the front with silver-and-dark streaks in the back. And it looked, well, awesome. I had expected to simply make peace with my gray hair. But the more my hair grew out, the more I fell in love with it. I felt a little subversive and downright sexy—whether men at the plant shop were checking me out or not.

As I’ve fully embraced my gray, I now feel the kind of freedom I’ve long felt on my yoga mat. Freedom not only in my body, but also in my mind and spirit. Freedom to be who I am, with complete faith that that’s enough.

See also Better With Age


15 Anti-Aging Health Benefits of Yoga That Will Make You Want to Start Practicing Now


15 Anti-Aging Health Benefits of Yoga That Will Make You Want to Start Practicing Now

While age does affect you in various ways, there’s a lot you can do to limit its impact on your body. Yoga is an excellent anti-aging tool, capable of relieving symptoms and in some cases improving medical outcomes. It doesn’t matter where you’re starting from or how old you are—movement and yoga can help.
AUG 1, 2017

Along with the smile lines and gray hair, aging brings changes that are harder to see but very easy to feel, especially during movement. As you age, you’ll encounter general physiological changes in elasticity, stability, speed, strength, and endurance, as well as a different perspective on physical goals. Specific health problems emerge as we age, and these age-related illnesses might affect your yoga practice. Here, we offer our thoughts on how to modify your practice for these common ailments, and we detail the ways that (in some cases) yoga can actually relieve symptoms or has been proven to improve medical outcomes. From heart issues to less lung capacity, decreased bone density to hormonal changes, and bad backs to artificial knees, physical changes will affect and dictate the needs of a yoga asana practice, but in all cases, doing yoga will make you feel better.

General Physiological Changes

Here’s the bad news: as you age, your body becomes less flexible, less stable, slower, weaker, and less competitive in endurance. With age you lose elasticity in muscle, fascia, and (as you can see in a mirror) skin. This results in generally less flexibility, which can translate to instability and stiffness. Sarcopenia (muscle loss) and osteopenia (bone loss) are common aspects of aging. Both can contribute to less strength, speed, and endurance. While it does get harder to build muscle with age, it’s not impossible, and it’s never too late. Exercise and yoga help you maintain the muscle mass you have and continue to add more. Whether you suffer from osteopenia may have as much to do with genetics and gender as it does with your physical activity level, but movement and weight-bearing exercises keep bones healthier for longer.

This information probably doesn’t come as a surprise, though; we tend to be well versed in the changes that come with aging, especially as we get older. The good news is that you also have all the attendant wisdom, confidence, and life experience of your years on earth. And let’s be honest: while it might be nice to still have the body of a twenty-one-year-old, we know few people who actually want to be twenty-one again (we certainly don’t!). Besides, the news gets even better: while age does affect you in various ways, much of it is in your hands, and there’s a lot you can do to limit the effect of age-related changes. Yoga is an excellent anti-aging tool. And it doesn’t matter where you’re starting from or at what age you begin—movement and yoga can help.

See also 7 Kundalini Yoga Tricks to Reverse Aging from the Inside Out

Things That Get Better with Age

There’s plenty of reason to celebrate every passing year: self-confidence, body image, empathy, and decision-making all get better with age.And as we age, our stress levels tend to get lower. People report greater happiness in the later years of their lives—the older we are, the happier we are. In short, things may change, but a lot changes for the better!

15 Health Benefits of Yoga for Aging Adults

1. Osteoporosis/Osteopenia

Problem: As you age, your bone density decreases. For some people, this decrease is so great, it results in osteopenia or osteoporosis, which means their bones are more susceptible to fractures.
How yoga can help: Weight-bearing exercises can marginally increase bone density, although the gains are small. Still, yoga is valuable not only because of its potential effect on your physical skeleton but because it helps you build muscle, body awareness, and better balance. 
Tips for your yoga practice: Weight-bearing lunge poses, like Warrior I, Warrior II, and Side Angle Pose, help build hip and leg strength; balancing poses like crane, tree, and Warrior III help protect against falls that can cause fractures in already-brittle bones. Because bone density loss makes your spine more fragile, be sure to talk to your medical team to create a plan of safe movements. Depending on the degree of your osteopenia, it might be wise to limit poses that require folding forward or minimize the degree to which you fold. The same is true of poses that require twisting—be gentle in approaching movements that cause your spine to rotate, or skip twisting poses all together.

2. Arthritis

Problem: Arthritis can cause daily pain in joints like hands, knees, wrists, or elbows. It can make you feel stiff and creaky, limiting comfortable range of motion.
How yoga can help: Recent research shows that a regular yoga practice can aid in reducing joint pain and help in improving joint flexibility. A regular yoga practice might also reduce inflammation. 
Tips for your yoga practice: Avoid weight bearing in your hands and wrists, a common location of arthritis pain.

3. Spinal Stenosis

Problem: Spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal canal or vertebral openings, can squeeze your spinal cord and cause radiating pain and numbness that affects your hips, legs, and even your shoulders.
How yoga can help: A yoga practice that cautiously approaches forward folds and side bending and avoids extension (backbending) poses can help significantly reduce pain. 
Tips for your yoga practice: If you have stenosis and osteoporosis, you might avoid forward folds altogether. In general, avoid big, deep movements of the spine. Less is better. Safe yoga, though, can help you build strength and create better postural habits, which can help alleviate chronic pain. An experienced teacher with knowledge of your condition will be a powerful ally.

4. Disc issues

Problem: Herniated, bulging, or slipped discs can press on your spinal cord or nearby nerves, causing spasms, limited movement, and radiating pain. Disc issues and back pain are more common in the lower lumbar region but may occur anywhere along the spine.
How yoga can help: Yoga can help you build core strength and flexibility in your spine, and these two things can go a long way toward remedying back pain. 
Tips for your yoga practice: If you experience pain from disc issues, often it is best to avoid forward folds or any pose that causes your spine to round, as this can exacerbate the issue by squeezing the disc more. Instead, focus on backbending poses and poses that challenge your abdominal muscles and strengthen your hips.

5. Core Strength and Back Pain

If you’ve ever experienced back pain, you’ve probably been given the advice to strengthen your core. That wisdom is logical—building up the muscles in your trunk, back, abdomen, hips, and legs means that your spine is better supported. 
How yoga can help: Any new movement or exercise that you add to your daily life will likely result in a stronger core; as you move your body in new ways, your major stabilizing muscles have to adapt. Yoga offers specific poses for core strength, too.

6. Nerve Issues: Pain, Neuropathy

Problem: When nerves are injured, pain, weakness, numbness, cramping, or tingling can occur as a result. In peripheral neuropathy, this often occurs in limbs, hands, feet, fingers, and toes. Nerve issues can result from a myriad of illnesses. Often caused by circulatory system issues, neuropathy also can be a side effect of other diseases or injuries.
How yoga can help: Yoga poses improve circulation; movement alone can help! Body awareness is also key. 
Tips for your yoga practice: The more you are aware of what exacerbates or helps with pain or numbness, the better you are at making wise choices with your movement practices. Yoga allows you to explore your body in slow, safe movements. It gives you the opportunity to get to know what works for your nerves. Be sure to move slowly and pay careful attention to your body’s response in each pose.

See also Why More Western Doctors Are Now Prescribing Yoga Therapy

7. Ligament Tears

Problem: Ligament tears are common in aging, stressed, and over-used joints, especially knees, shoulders, hips, and ankles. As we age, we put increasing stress on these joints, which can result in abrasions and tears. If the ligaments give out, or if the joint is degraded, you may find yourself with a replacement.
How yoga can help: Yoga is useful for ligament issues in several ways: First, yoga helps you strengthen the muscles around your joints. Your knees, for instance, will be better protected if your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps are strong. Many common yoga lunge poses help keep your legs strong. Yoga is also useful if you are recovering from a ligament tear injury, as it allows you to continue moving even amidst injury. 
Tips for your yoga practice: You should choose a gentler practice as you heal, and omit any poses that exacerbate your injury. Finally, yoga is adaptable enough to continue even if you experience a hip or knee replacement. You’ll be able to come back to a yoga practice, and doing yoga after a replacement (with your medical team’s approval) may even speed up the healing process.


8. Tendonitis/Tendonopathy

Problem: Although it’s often a temporary condition, tendon inflammation can cause joint pain and stiffness, and it can also create instability in weight-bearing movements. And as tendons age they can degrade, a condition called tendonopathy.
How yoga can help: Acute tendonitis generally requires some days of rest. But after allowing time to heal, yoga can be useful in helping establish new movement patterns. Because tendonitis is often caused by repetitive movements, practicing a variety of yoga poses offers you a chance to continue movement but in new and various ways—shoring up the muscles around the tendon and giving inflamed areas a chance to heal. 
Tips for your yoga practice: If your health-care team diagnoses tendonopathy, ask which movements are safe and which you should avoid, then follow their directions in your home practice and convey them to your yoga teacher in class. Because of yoga’s adaptability, you will be able to find poses and sequences that continue to work for you.

9. Myofascial tightening, stiffness due to decreased collagen

Problem: As we age, we lose flexibility in our muscles and connective tissue, which results in stiffness, imbalance, and less confidence while balancing.
How yoga can help: If you don’t use it, you lose it! A regular yoga practice can help reverse some of that acquired stiffness. Gentle, regular stretching can help keep your body fluid and flexible. We’re often as amazed as our yoga students when we see the changes that habitual stretching and movement can confer. You don’t have to touch your toes, but yoga might get you a little closer to them.

See also Yoga for Flexibility Challenge: 5 Ways to Target Tight Spots on the Mat

10. Hormonal Changes/Hot Flashes

Problem: In women, menopause can bring temperature changes and hot flashes.
How yoga can help: Some studies have shown that a restorative yoga practice can help decrease the hot flashes that can come with hormonal changes. 
Tips for your yoga practice: During a yoga class, it can also be helpful to lighten the amount of clothing you’re wearing or dress in layers so that when you feel warm, you can peel off a longer-sleeved shirt. Some yoga classes are warmer than other others. If you plan to attend a class, ask in advance about the temperature of the room.

11. Blood pressure

Problem: High blood pressure is one of the most common ailments that affect adults as they age. One in three American adults has high blood pressure. Rapidly transitioning from standing upright to folding forward can exacerbate dizziness, a common symptom of low blood pressure and a side effect of common medications for high blood pressure.
How yoga can help: Some studies show that regular yoga can lower blood pressure, so a routine yoga practice will help. 
Tips for your yoga practice: As you move, avoid transitions that put your head below your heart, and opt out of sequences that require you to move quickly from standing to forward folding.

12. Asthma

Problem: Age-related lung changes can aggravate asthma, so as you age, bouts of asthma may increase.
How yoga can help: If your asthma is provoked by exercise, yoga is a good fit, since with yoga your heart rate stays relatively low. 
Tips for your yoga practice: Keep in mind that in some classes yoga teachers use essential oils or incense to enhance the students’ experience. While this is a lovely intention, if you are asthmatic, strong scents can be triggering. It’s appropriate to ask in advance if these types of scents will be used in class and to request that they be omitted. Calling ahead to verify this may be the wisest choice.

13. COPD, Chronic Bronchitis, and Emphysema

Problem: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, and emphysema make breathing very challenging and limit your ability to do cardiovascular activities.
How yoga can help: Yoga is low impact. For this reason, it is a useful movement practice if you have COPD or similar respiratory problems. Additionally, a yoga practice often has pranayama, or breath practices. Focusing on inhaling and exhaling can be useful if you have a chronic breathing problem, since breathing exercises can potentially help strengthen muscles used in respiration. Time spent in mindful breathing can also help you have more awareness of your breath; noticing when you get breathless or when you feel short of breath can help you seek treatment quickly.

14. Insomnia and Sleep Issues

Problem: Night wakefulness or restlessness may disrupt sleep.
How yoga can help: Intentional, slow breathing can foster a sense of relaxation and calm. A slow yoga and stretching routine before bed can help encourage drowsiness and tranquility. In fact, studies show that yoga can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Exercise of any type helps tire us out and promotes exhaustion, which can lead to better quality sleep.

15. Chronic Illness

Problem: Chronic illness can cause pain and hopelessness and may create limitations to practicing yoga.
How yoga can help: Yoga can be effective as a pain-management tool for painful diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Since yoga is so adaptable, it can be practiced in a chair or hospital bed. It may also be a helpful meditative tool for those diagnosed with a terminal illness.

The Only Yoga Rule You Need to Follow

The Yoga Sutras contain bits of wisdom and yoga philosophy. This text is one of the earliest yoga books. Regarding yoga poses, the sutras don’t say much. Yoga sutra 2.46 tells us simply that yoga poses should be steady and comfortable. Knowing that this is the only prescription for the poses frees us from feeling like our yoga practice has to look a certain way. A yoga student can do a handstand, or not; a lunge, or not; a balance pose, or not. Your practice is your practice. Find strength and ease, and do what works for you.

See also Feel Better As You Age With Yoga

From Lifelong Yoga by Sage Rountree and Alexandra Desiato, published by North Atlantic Books. Copyright © 2017 by Sage Rountree and Alexandra Desiato. Reprinted with permission of publisher.     


Speed Up Your Metabolism: 16 Energizing Poses


Speed Up Your Metabolism: 16 Energizing Poses

Fire up your 
metabolism so it runs more efficiently with 
this rejuvenating sequence.
AUG 16, 2014

Fire up your metabolism so it runs more efficiently with this rejuvenating sequence.


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