Monday, February 8, 2010

Amp Up Your Yoga Practice

Brrrr…it’s cold out there! This is the time of year where we Seattleites hunker down in our jackets to avoid the crisp temperature and seasonal rain fall. No wonder many people have trouble with depression, foul moods and forgetting about the charge we get from the warmer summer months.

Wanna find something to help bring our the smiles? Amp up your Yoga Practice.

“It’s getting’ hot in here!”
Winter is the best time to take advantage of our wonderful saunas at SAC. Not only is sauna heat proven to boost the immune system, rid the body of toxins and lubricate your joints, it is a great way to pump up your metabolism, warm your muscles, and help shed your winter coat. Sit in the dry sauna for 10 minutes before class and do some gentle stretches. Hydrate well, and you will be amazed at the difference!

“Take a Seat”
Winter is a deep time of introspection and when balanced with heat producing exercise, can be a great time to develop a meditation practice. One of the main differences between Yoga and other sport is it’s designed to unite the Body and Mind through Breath. Used in tandem with yogic breathing techniques, Meditation can be used as a very powerful tool to calm the mind, focus and suggest to the sub conscious anything you would like to accomplish. Before your physical practice, sit up on a folded blanket in a comfortable seat on your mat. As you settle into your seat, begin to focus on the sound and rhythm of your breath. Begin to increase your inhale to a count of 6-8, hold the breath in at the top of the inhale, and as you exhale, open your mouth and let loose a” Lion’s Breath”. After 3-5 Lion’s Breath, return for a few minutes to your natural breath and see if your mind is more relaxed and calm. I use this technique with the elite athletes that I train to great effect. They develop their lung capacity and can keep their heads in the game with more focus and energy.

“Get Sweaty”
Vinyasa Yoga or Power Yoga is an athletic form of yoga that links powerful poses to the breath, which is offered daily by our excellent yoga instructing team at SAC. Between each pose is a series of fast moving push-ups, up dogs and down dogs. This sequence is beautifully designed to rapidly heat the large muscle groups of the body to prepare you to be flexible and strong enough for the more intricate asana’s or poses. In the winter, challenge yourself and keep moving through the sluggishness to create a bright perspective on your life.

“Get Grounded”
Since winter is a dark and heavy season, also focus on poses that will strengthen your legs and ground you to the earth. Ayurveda is the sister science to Yoga, and stresses that to stay healthy, we must stay in tune with the season. To balance your sweaty Vinyasa practice, add poses like Warrior I and II, Triangle and Tree. Ground your feet, find your focal point, and stay grounded for 10-20 breaths. The longer you hold these leg strengtheners, you are building endurance, and the large muscle groups that will aid any winter sport like Skiing or Snowshoeing. Also, remember to return again and again to your breath and deepen it the more challenging the pose.

I have created a Winter Yoga Sequence for you to try that will take about 20 min. This will not only aid in keeping you fit during the winter months for winter sports it will heat your large muscle groups and loosen your joints so you can shine bright.

• 5 minutes supported Meditation and Breath seat. 3-5 Lion’s breath
• Rolling neck and shoulders
• Abdominal crunches
• Down Dog for 10 breaths
• Surya Namaskara A (Sun Salutation A) 3x’s
• Bent knee Lunge. Stand in lunge with your back knee bent half way. Arms are raised and elbows bent like a Cactus. Straighten and bend your legs, deepening every time for 3x’s on each side.
• Side angle pose, stretching your side waist 10 breaths each side
• Chair pose with twist
• Happy baby pose
• Svasana or final relaxation pose

Written by Tonja Renee Hall
Yoga Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
LuluLemon Ambassador 2010 Pacific Place Store
Yoga Trainer for Seattle Sounders, fc.

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