Favorite Pose Friday: Camatkarasana (Wild Thing)

wild thing yoga pose camatkarasana

I love the freedom and openness that Camatkarasana or ‘wild thing’ brings to a yoga practice.  Talk about a pose that allows you to find your edge, and build trust in yourself.

A balancing pose, back bend, strength builder, core strengthener, chest opener, and heart opening pose all one, wild thing is one of my favorite poses.

As always, begin with some sun salutations to warm up the body, and build up to Camatkarasana with poses to stretch and strengthen key muscle groups used in this pose such as: low lunge, standing forward fold (Uttanasana), extended side angle pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana), cobra pose, (Bhujangasana), bow pose (Dhanurasana), and side plank pose (Vasisthasana). Continue reading

Take your mind off the gas pedal

namaste license plate

As is often the case, today’s blog post was inspired by a conversation with a friend.  Ironically, we were discussing the topic of yesterday’s post, Refilling your patience carafe.’  We were talking about keeping our cool when despite our best efforts to maintain a peaceful attitude, life still comes at you.

He told me about a recent incident he had when he was in the car with his kids, and found himself to be the object of someone’s road rage.  At first he was able to rise above, but the other driver had long gone ’round the bend’ (pun intended), and soon he found himself feeling taken over by the same frustration. He was able to stay out of the chaos, because he was concerned most with his children’s safety, but was still seething long after he’d gotten of the road.

How often do we relinquish control of our happiness or unhappiness to someone else?  When we allow someone else to control us, we’re really just giving ourselves over to ego, to the monkey mind.  “How dare he do that to me?”  “Who does she think she is?”  “I’m never going to pass that test.” “Where am I going to find the money for that?”

When we replay conversations or situations that didn’t sit right with us over and over, it’s like we’re stepping on a thought accelerator.  And once you find yourself in this obsessive ’round about’ it’s hard to see the exit. How often are we really just mind racing ourselves?

I found myself in a sort of ‘thought loop’ the other day, and decided to take an online class with Marc Holzman targeted at grounding yourself after a hectic day.

The poses were delicious, of course, but it was a quote he kept repeating that really helped me to let go.  The saying had been passed to his teacher from the Maharashi, and then passed down to him

“Oh my mind, be kind to me.”

Sometimes something as simple as an inspiring quote can unlock a new door.  I love this quote, and will definitely incorporate it often into my practice and my teaching.

How else can we find our way out of the roundabout?  Be aware of your physical and emotional reaction without trying to change it.  Awareness is distance from attachment. And give your mind something to do like focus on your breath.

The breath tells us a lot about the mind.  If your breath is wobbly, labored or short, so goes your mental state. You can begin to let your mind off of the gas pedal and cruise by witnessing your own breath.

May your mind be kind to you, and your breath help you shift into neutral.


– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Recycledartco / Etsy)

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Tap into your yin energy with Chandra Namaskar

Most yogis and yoginis are quite familiar with the various forms of Surya Namaskar or ‘sun saluations’ that draw in the energy of the sun, and build heat.  But few have heard of moon salutations or Chandra Namaskar.  Whereas the sun represents the masculine (yang) energies within us, the moon represents our feminine (yin) energies.  They are cooling, balancing, and introspective.

Moon salutations can be done to honor various times in a lunar cycle, and they’re particularly beneficial for balancing an overabundance of energy.  If you’re feeling ‘hot tempered’, overstimulated or anxious, this gentler flow can balance and calm fiery impulses.

Like sun salutations, there are different variations of Chandra Namaskar, but they all reflect the rhythm of the moon.   In honor of today’s full moon, or anytime you want to get moving gently like in the evening, here is a gentle moon salutation.


moon salutation chandra namaskar

Here’s a short video from Eckhart Yoga to guide you through Chandra Namaskar

Connect with the cooling energies of the moon and go ‘yin-ward’.


– Your Charmed Yogi

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Yoga for a woman’s cycle

woman in savasana

Most guys freak out at the mere mention of ‘woman stuff’, but this post isn’t just for women. If you’re a male yoga instructor, you might find the sequence and modifications in this post extremely helpful. There is some controversy, among the various schools of yoga, whether or not it’s contraindicated for women to practice yoga during their monthly cycle. Some say believe it’s fine to keep up with your practice, but avoid inversions, while others say take a break all together. Is there a right answer? Here’s a comprehensive guide to yoga during menstruation.

As women, we instinctively put others before ourselves. Working mothers push through each day from nine to five only to come home and take care of families. Single mothers assume the role of both parents, and single women assume the roles of provider, maintenance man, mechanic, chef and housekeeper. We rarely take time for ourselves, especially during the one time of the month when our bodies tell us to. So if you don’t listen to your body any other time, acknowledge your need to rest for a few days each month.

If you sustained an injury, you would recognize the need to modify your practice until you healed. Menstruation is similar. The body needs time to heal so you don’t create new injuries.

Menstruation is an elimination process, and as such, most every yoga teacher understands and agrees that women who are menstruating should at the very least avoid inversions which counter the flow of energy during their cycle. Geeta Iyengar believes that women should not engage in asanas that create an obstruction to the menstrual flow, expend too much energy, or bring about hormonal disturbance.

The biology of asana (yoga poses) and menstruation

Most experts recommend that we stop strenuous exercise during the heavy days of the cycle. The body is sloughing off the lining of the uterus and it is a good time to practice gentle self-care. Rest, have a nap, enjoy a cup of tea, go for a walk or read a book. Take the time that you might practice yoga and sit in quiet meditation or simply breathe deep and full for 5-10 minutes.

Dr. Prafulla Dorle, a doctor, senior yoga teacher and yoga therapist from Yoga Vidya Gurukul, shares his expertise on why some postures should be avoided. In some cases, Dr. Dorle even advocates skipping practice during menstruation.

1. Inverted postures – If they are practiced during menstruation they can cause reflex or back flow of menstrual blood from the uterus to the fallopian tubes and then to the abdominal cavity. The blood would carry along with it some endometrial cells and tissue – this is called retrograde menstruation. It is quite possible that the endometrial cells could get implanted and grow in the pelvic peritoneum and abdominal cavity. These implanted cells would cause menstrual bleed during each cycle under the hormonal influence, a condition called endometriosis.

2. Increased pressure in the abdomen – Just before menstruation there is regression of the endometrium. The coiled arteries become buckled up and there is stasis of blood flow in them. This local stasis and the vasoconstriction of the arteries supplying the endometrium causes the necrosis of the endometrium. At this stage the arteries relax and the menstrual bleeding starts. An increase in abdominal pressure, through certain asanas, the blood flow through the arteries would increase causing more blood loss.

3. Aches and pains – Though some asanas may decrease the pain it is important to be aware that we should not practice any asanas that cause pain or strain to the body. Every woman is different and will have different effects of the asanas. So it is important that they listen to their own body.

Personally, I believe menstruation is a time for rest, so I focus on other aspects of my practice like meditation and deep relaxation. Your yoga is for your health, no one else’s.

Yoga poses for menstruation

The below sequence from Diva Cup helps to alleviate the discomforts associated with menstruation. Cramps, fluid retention, heaviness and/or bloating in the abdomen and legs, irregular digestion, ache or spasm of the lower back, up and down emotions, and fatigue in both the body and mind, are some of the characteristics associated with menses.

Contraindications for this practice include: headache, large clots/heavy bleeding, menses extended beyond ten days, or severe abdominal cramping. Above all, it’s best to listen to your body and if you DO decide to move forward with a physical practice, talk to your Yoga teacher, who can help you modify your practice.

  1. Sit comfortably for 5 minutes:Pay attention to the breath
  2. Head neck and shoulder warm up: Turn head side to side, right ear to shoulder, left ear to shoulder, circles (like drawing a circle on a chalk board with your nose)
  3. Spinal Flexion: Forward and back, side to side then circles Right/Left
  4. Badakonasana: Bound angle
  5. Supata Badakonasana: Reclined bound angle
  6. Prasarita Padottanasana: Wide legged forward bend right/left/centre
  7. Jathara Parivartanasana: Spinal rotation right/left
  8. Svasana: Relaxation

The one pose you MUST do during menstruation

No matter what your feelings are on practicing asana yoga during your cycle, there is one pose that every woman should do – savasana. Use your energy wisely, allow your body time to rest, recover and restore and you’ll preserve your energy for the whole month.

Remember, that modifying or taking a break from a vigorous physical practice doesn’t mean you’re ‘giving up yoga’ for a week. Instead meditation, omkar chanting, mantras, yoga nidra and relaxation can be practiced when a woman is more in tune with her mind and can become more easily focused.


– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Bikram Yoga Salt Lake City)

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Favorite Pose Friday: Supported Supta Baddha Konasana

supported reclined bound angle pose supta baddha konasana

One of my all-time favorite poses to soothe any number of physical or mental ills, is supported Supta Baddha Konasana or reclined bound angle pose. I incorporate this pose in every restorative class I teach, and sometimes as a treat at the end of a regular mat class. I learned the pose during teacher training, and it’s absolutely ‘delicious’ to quote one of my students.

This restorative pose is especially beneficial for people with breathing problems as it opens the chest and relaxes the intercostal muscles between the ribs. It also helps to alleviate menstrual pain, and calms the mind. New Day Yoga did a great job of explaining how to set up for this relaxing pose.

Setting Up:
  • Sit in front of short end of bolster with it touching tailbone.
  • Bend knees, place feet on floor.
  • Place soles of feet together, let knees fall to sides.
  • Place a block under each outer thigh even if you don’t “need” to. (You want to completely support weight of legs so that you experience no traction in the sacral ligaments, which are extremely vulnerable in this position.)
  • Use strap to hold feet in position.  Place strap around sacrum, between knees, and over the outsides of feet.
  • Use arms for support as you gently lie down.
    • Alt. A:  Increase height by adding a blanket .
    • Alt. B:  Decrease height by using a blanket instead of bolster.
    • Alt. C:  Position a long-rolled blanket under each arm to relieve stretch in neck and arms.
  • Place a blanket under neck and head.
  • Relax abdomen, open chest.
  • Place an eye pillow over eyes.
Practice the Centering Breath while in the pose.

Coming Back:
  • Let the outside world come slowly into your awareness.
  • Take in the sounds around you; pay attention to the sensations of your body.
  • Remove eye pillow.  Slowly open eyes.
  • Undo strap, and slide down one foot, then the other, to straighten legs.
  • Roll to one side.  Rest a few breaths.  Then sit up.
  • Helps those with high blood pressure and breathing problems
  • Helpful for women during menstruation and menopause
  • For disc disease in low back or chronic sacroiliac dysfunction, lower the height of props.
  • For pinched nerve or disc disease in neck, carefully support head and neck.
  • For knee injury, use props under thighs and don’t hold pose too long.

Sink into this pose for as long as 10-30 minutes if you’re comfortable, come out slowly, and transition into meditation for the ultimate blissful experience.


– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Yoga Poses Online)

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Rethink your limits


If you haven’t seen this TED video talk by Amy Purdy who lost her legs and went on to become a professional snowboarder, grab some tissues and get ready to rethink the limits you tell yourself you have.

Without limits.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Pinterest)

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Favorite Pose Friday: Flowing cobra pose

cobra pose bhujangasana

In honor of Chinese New Year, which takes place Sunday, February 10th, I thought I’d focus on this year’s Chinese zodiac sign — the serpent — specifically, the water snake. Bhujangasana also known as cobra, serpent or snake pose, is said to awaken Kundalini or feminine energy.  Kundalini, sanksrit for ‘coiled snake’  is believed to reside at the base of the spine. Kundalini can be “awakened” or “aroused” from its “slumber” by intense meditation, breath control and yoga practices designed to activate the flow of prana.

This is also a heart and throat opening pose, as well as a pose that stimulates the root & sacral chakras.  The physical benefits of cobra pose include strengthening the spine, soothing sciatica, opening the chest & lungs, and relieve stress.  If you have had a back injury, suffer from headaches or are pregnant, you should avoid cobra pose or check with your doctor.

A water sign, the snake embodies intuition and introspection. One of my favorite popular yoga sequences, is Shiva Rea’s moon shine flow.  A watery, fluid sequence that links breath with movement; each movement flowing into the next as one.  In minute 2:44 of this video, you’ll see Shiva’s trademark prana flow expression of cobra.

If you prefer traditional cobra pose or are new to yoga, here are steps for getting into the pose from Yoga Journal:

Lie prone on the floor. Stretch your legs back, tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Hug the elbows back into your body.

Press the tops of the feet and thighs and the pubis firmly into the floor.

On an inhalation, begin to straighten the arms to lift the chest off the floor, going only to the height at which you can maintain a connection through your pubis to your legs. Press the tailbone toward the pubis and lift the pubis toward the navel. Narrow the hip points. Firm but don’t harden the buttocks.

Firm the shoulder blades against the back, puffing the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Distribute the backbend evenly throughout the entire spine.

Hold the pose anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily. Release back to the floor with an exhalation.

Activate your intuition, relieve stress and embrace your Kundalini with Bhujangasana.


– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Browse Yoga)

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Use what you have

use what you have

Every few months I take inventory of my ‘stuff’. I peruse my closet for clothes and shoes that are better served as donations;  I take a trip down ‘expiration date’ lane and go through vitamins, prescriptions, lotions, makeup, etc.; and, I take inventory of my physicality. That is, what am I not using very much that I SHOULD, what am I afraid to let go of, and what should change?

Let’s face it, when you hit 40, your body changes.  The exercises that used to come easy, may be the ones that could now cause injury.  And the workouts we shy away from, might just be what cures an ache or pain.

Not too long ago, I was a die-hard Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) junkie.  My mornings consisted of an asana practice that featured a lot of sun salutations with standing, balancing, twisting and inversion poses mixed in, but I noticed that injuries were creeping in.  “Is yoga bad for me?” I wondered?  No, my practice had become, in itself, a samskara — a pattern that wasn’t serving me anymore.

After some assessment, I found that I was gravitating to poses that were easy much to the demise of other parts of my body.  I also noticed that I was avoiding poses that caused pain — and rightly so. But, I decided to investigate the root cause rather than give up altogether.  I’ve since made adjustments to my practice that are specific to my body’s needs, and try to mix it up regularly.

While yoga IS very beneficial for everyone, it’s not once size fits all.  We all can’t be Kathryn Budig (God love her), but like she says, we can “aim true.”

Take stock of your life — physcially, spiritually, emotionally, and posessions-ally. Get rid of what no longer serves you, and use what you have to your fullest (safest) potential.


– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: A Lifetime of Wisdom)

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Yoga when you can’t do yoga

sick teddy bear yoga when you're sick

Time and time again, a yoga practice of asana and meditation have proven to help people get healthier in mind and body. But having and keeping a healthy body sometimes means recognizing when it’s time to modify our yoga practice. If you’ve ever had a migraine, the flu, an injury or something else, you know that it can be hard to keep up with a yoga practice and that’s an important message to receive from your body.

As the song goes, you gotta know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.  When we get a nice momentum or groove going it can be frustrating to take a step back for rest, but rest is important — especially when you’re sick. And then comes the dreaded ego sneaking in with messages like, “You can do it, it’s all in your head” or “If you take a break now, you’ll never get back into it” or even “If I want to look like Jennifer Aniston, I have to push myself.” None of which are factual or helpful.

I like this post from Mary Catherine Starr, yoga instructor &  studio director in Arlington, VA.  She writes about her own struggle with maintaining a yoga practice during a sinus infection, and has some great tips on how to practice when you can’t practice.

This inability to do exactly what I love when it comes to asana and the abundance of sick or sniffly people around me got me thinking, how do you still “practice” yoga when your’re under the weather? I have a few ideas, pulling from what I’ve actually done over the past week, and thought I would share them with you today. But let me also say that these tips are for people who are struggling with seasonal allergies or sinus infections–for people who, like me, can still go about their day, albiet uncomfortably, but are just under the weather enough to be unable to practice–not those who are so weak that they’re stuck in bed or unable to do much of anything.

Read the full post ‘Yoga for when you can’t do yoga‘ on her blog, Starr Struck.  And, here are some great yoga poses for when you have a cold from Yoga Journal. When all else fails, approach your practice like a beginner.  Once your’e feeling better, take it back to square one. Allow your body to re-experience the newness of yoga and get reacquainted with the poses.

The most important thing to remember is that yoga ISN’T just about physical poses.  When you’re sick or rundown, expand your meditation and pranayama practice (if it’s accessible).  Perhaps it’s the universe’s way of reminding you that there’s more to your practice than asana. Try some guided meditations or transcendental meditation in place of asana (or shorten your asana practice and opt for a longer meditation.)

It is better to perform one’s own duties imperfectly than to master the duties of another. By fulfilling the obligations he is born with, a person never comes to grief. ~ Krishna from The Bhagavad Gita


– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Suddenly Susan)

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Punxsutawney Phil says 6 more weeks of yoga

groundhog day yoga

I don’t know about you, but thanks to Bill Murray, every Groundhog Day I take a look at my routines and assess whether they are healthy or I’m headed for a rut.  Is my yoga practice too comfortable or rote? Am I following the same patterns day in and day out? While routines are comforting; can save us time; help us stay organized & efficient; and are essential to establishing good habits, they can also stymie creativity.

We can also fall into negative behavior patterns and deepen samskaras leaving us feel drained of energy, depressed or anxious.  Now, while it’s great to shake up certain routines, I’m not suggesting you turn your life upside down, but maybe just evaluate yourself for a few days.  See where you may have developed some unhealthy habits and what uplifting activities you can put in its place.

Shaking up your routine a little can also help you stay on your toes, so when life does throw a curve ball your way, you’re awake.

BONUS: Enjoy this video of the best scenes from the movie Groundhog Day


– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Flickr)

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