Great Arm Balance Workshop at Kula Yoga!

Great Arm Balance Workshop at Kula Yoga!

A few more pics from our Arm Balance Workshop this past weekend at Kula Yoga In Port Orange!!!
These pictures are of the Firefly Pose variations and the Tortoise Pose. The first picture is of the Firefly variation with straight arms and the arms and legs perpendicular to the ground. The second picture is of the Firefly variation with bent arms, the elbows at ninety degrees like in the Low Plank pose, and the legs parallel to the ground.

These poses are similar to the Crow Pose and the Crane Pose. The major difference between them is that in the Crow Pose and the Crane Pose the knees are in flexion.
A long time ago — one of my teachers told me that the arm balance poses were just advanced warm up poses. Each of the arm balance poses is just a standing warmup pose done in either Plank Pose or the Low Plank Pose. Later, another teacher told me that it’s not strength that holds most people back in the arm balance poses, its flexibility. It’s good to note that the arm balance poses aren’t going to help you open your hips up a lot but you do have to have open hips in order to do them.
These two Firefly poses are in the same family as the Seated Forward Fold and the Standing Forward Fold. The last picture is of The Tortoise Pose, another Pose in this family and a close relative of the Firefly.
Be careful of your low back when you are working on these poses. Make sure the muscles on the back of your legs are open and you don’t feel pain in your low back.
If you want to get better at these poses work on your hamstring flexibility. The Hand to Foot Pose would help a lot, especially the lying down variation. And work on all your forward folds

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One Legged Crane (Eka Pada Bakasana) Variations.

One Legged Crane (Eka Pada Bakasana) Variations.

I am back in LA! I had a wonderful time at Kula Yoga this past week. It was the perfect end to a 3 month teaching trip. Wow! I can’t believe I was gone for a full 3 months! It’s good to be back. I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight.
Here’s a couple more demo pics from our Arm Balance Workshop yesterday. These two pics are of the One Legged Crane (Eka Pada Bakasana) variations.
Once you are balancing in the Crane Pose, to come into the first variation of the One Legged Crane, try to lift one knee off of your arm and bring it to the middle of your chest, or bring it across your body and tap the other knee. If this is successful, try to straighten the leg behind you. Reach up and back like you are in the Standing splits. It’s hard to keep the arms straight in this pose. Do the same work in the arms and the shoulders as you would in the Crane Pose.
The second variation is easier to come into from Downward Dog. Step your right foot forward. Move your foot to the right and bring both arms inside the right leg. Drop your shoulder and work your shoulder behind your knee. Place your hands down, shoulder distance apart. Now, step your back foot forward and bring your knee to the back of your arm, by your armpit. This knee is in the same position as the Crane Pose. Drop your hips and lean back. Lift the front leg and straighten the leg. The front leg will be in the same position as Koundinyasana 2. Press your arms, lean forward, and lift your back foot. Bend your knee and pull the heel closer to your buttocks

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Crane vs. Crow

Crane vs. Crow

The first two poses we explored yesterday in our Arm Balance Workshop at Kula Yoga in Port Orange were the Crow Pose and the Crane Pose.
I think we sometimes confuse these two poses, or, maybe just refer to them as the same pose sometimes — but they actually are two separate poses.
Kakasana is the Crow Pose. Bakasana is the Crane Pose. I think the confusion partially comes from the challenge of the Crane Pose. It’s hard to straighten the arms in this pose. So, a lot of us are working towards the Crane Pose but our pose might look actually more like the Crow Pose. The Crow Pose is a pretty challenging pose too.
Bring the knees farther forward and outside the arms when you are coming into the Crow Pose, and try to stay low to the ground, keeping the arms bent like in chatturanga.
Bring the knees onto the back of the arms, near the arm pits, when you are coming into the Crane Pose. Press the arms to straight like you would in your Plank Pose or in a Handstand.
Hug your elbows in and push your upper arms out. Externally rotate your arms. Slide the shoulder blades down your back and widen your shoulder blades. Engage your core and extend your spine. Hug the inner thighs in and push them back. Bend your knees and your heels to your buttocks. Point your toes.

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Building a Meditation Practice.

Building a Meditation Practice.

It took me a long time to develop a meditation practice. Building a self practice is challenging. The best way to start is with a very short practice. Try five mins everyday. Try that for one month and see how it goes. You don’t have to start with a long practice. It’s better to pick something you know you can do everyday. Think of it like brushing your teeth. After one month if you were able to do the practice consistently then try adding another five minutes. Pick one technique. It’s not helpful to do every technique you know and jump from one to the next. The yogis often compare this to digging a well. You don’t want to dig a bunch of shallow wells. You will never hit water. Dig one hole and go deep! A consistent, daily meditation practice will change your life.

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Variations in Scorpion Pose!

Variations in Scorpion Pose!

Some fun variations on the forearm’s yesterday in my Shiva Power class at Guruv Yoga Lake Mary in Orlando!!!
Work on the Dolphin and the Forearm Plank to strengthen your arms and shoulders and prepare for the Forearm Balance. Once you’ve mastered the Forearm Balance you can work on the Scorpion Pose. Or play with splitting the legs, or work on the charging scorpion hollow back variation to open the shoulders and upper back.
Backbending poses and poses that challenge my hip flexors are so challenging for me. I love practicing them, though. And I feel so good after a big backbending practice. 3 rounds of backbends is the bare minimum. 7 is better. And 10 is the best! These words are from my teacher Dharma Mittra.
It surprised me to learn when I started studying yoga therapy that it’s not backbends that are the most dangerous poses in yoga — It’s actually forward folds!
I think we are afraid of backbends because they make us feel vulnerable. They take us into the fire. They challenge us to open up and to let go. We aren’t good at being vulnerable. But the walls we put up around ourselves to protect us from the outside world don’t just keep out the bad things, they keep out everything good we could be experiencing as well.
Make sure you stabilize your low back when you backbend by engaging your core. Don’t go too far. Don’t push too hard. But don’t shy away from backbends in your yoga practice either. We are sitting in flexion most of the day. Chronically tight hip flexors! Herniated discs! Tight shoulders! A closed off heart! Backbends can help you with all these things. These poses are energizing and lift us up too! They are great for the spine! You get to flood the spinal discs with nutrients. Keep your spine flexible and strong, yogis!

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Demonstrating the Pose Koundinyasana

Demonstrating the Pose Koundinyasana

Demonstrating the pose Koundinyasana for my students today at Guruv Yoga Lake Mary in Orlando.
When you do this pose your shoulder stabilizers need to work extra hard so that your arms stay roughly in the same position as in chatturanga — the low plank pose. If your shoulders round forward, and your shoulder blades come off the rib cage, you are in danger of giving yourself a shoulder injury. If you have to look sideways in your pose then you are probably dropping one of your shoulders. Be careful. My teacher would see people doing this and say, “this is an injury waiting to happen.”
All arm balances are essentially chatturanga or plank pose + a standing warmup pose. Koundinyasana is chatturanga + triangle pose.
If you want to deepen your work in this pose you will want to work on increasing hip flexibility and strengthening your arms, shoulders, shoulder stabilizer muscles, and your core. You will want to open your hips more in flexion, abduction, and external rotation. Think of the other poses in this family that you could work on in order to deepen your work in this pose? Triangle pose, Half Moon pose, Standing Wide Legged Forward Folding pose, Standing Hand to Foot Open Hip pose, Vacistasana, Lying Down Hand to Foot Open Hip Pose, and Seated Wide Legged Forward Folding pose, would be a great start — to name a few. Practice your transition from Plank pose to Chatturanga over and over again. Don’t go all the way down. Stop halfway. This will help you build the strength you need in your arms, shoulders, shoulder stabilizers and in your core. Practice holding the Plank pose for at least a minute, or two minutes, or three minutes. And practice holding chatturanga for at least a few breaths. That’s what you are essentially going to have to be able to do in this pose. Have fun!!!
Once you’ve mastered this pose, you can try transitioning into the pose from Tripod Head Balance and Handstand.

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Hot and sweaty Shiva Power class this morning!!!

Hot and sweaty Shiva Power class this morning!!!

Hot and sweaty Shiva Power class this morning!!! Great work, everyone!!!
If you are constantly seeking happiness through the senses, you will be on a roller coaster, going up and down, and up and down. The mind is never satisfied. And their will always be more going down on the roller coaster than going up. Even when you get what you want — after a brief moment of happiness, the mind is asking, “what’s next? What’s next? What’s next?”
The yogis understood the mind was constantly falling down and never satisfied. The only way to experience lasting happiness was to turn inward and experience the true nature of the Self.
It’s time to get off the roller coaster!!!

Get on your yoga mat. Concentrate. Stay present. Look at your mind. And let go of the thoughts. Let go of your distractions. Concentrate. Stop getting caught up in the movements of the fluctuating mind. Turn inward. Experience the true nature of the Self.

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Men do yoga too!!!

Men do yoga too!!!

Men do yoga too!!! Hanging with Luke after class today at Guruv Yoga. I sometimes wonder how different our world would be if more men did yoga? The practice is so healing and so beneficial. I hope in the future more men awaken to the idea that yoga is for them too. I can’t believe how much yoga has helped me grow and transform as a person, AND it’s really challenging physically and mentally. You want to be a better athlete? Do yoga! Train your mind to concentrate so you can accomplish more and work more efficiently? Do yoga! Reduce stress and prevent injuries and disease? Do yoga! Hang out with a room full of hot and sweaty beautiful women who are impressed that you are the one guy who “gets it”? Do yoga! What are you waiting for guys? It’s time to get on your mat.

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Back bending!

Back bending!

Back bending! These poses have been one of my greatest teachers over the years. It’s not easy to be vulnerable. Backbends help us to open up, surrender, and let go. Being vulnerable is hard. But it also feels amazing! The more I practice yoga — the more I feel that this is the really advanced work. It’s hard but it’s worth it. How comfortable are you at being uncomfortable? How much can you let go? How open can you be? What’s your relationship to being vulnerable? I think this is directly related to growth. How much growth do you want to experience? On the mat and off the mat. How much discomfort are you ready to handle? Skill in action. Move with grace into the fire. Breathe. This is your life. Right here. Right now.

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Backbending Workshop at Space Academy yesterday!!!

Backbending Workshop at Space Academy yesterday!!!

Backbending Workshop at Space Academy yesterday!!! My last workshop. Coming to the end of my 2 weeks in Shanghai. It’s been a wonderful collaboration with Space Academy. Thank you to everyone who came to practice with me these last 2 weeks. I’ll miss you. And I will look forward to seeing you again soon.
This was a big workshop yesterday. We packed a lot of information into 2.5hrs. We discussed yoga theory, philosophy, anatomy review, Asana Breakdown, the spine, the tug of war actions, why we backbend in yoga, and we looked at a number of backbends in greater detail. When we backbend we are primarily looking at movement in the saggital plane, and poses that take the hips into extension, the spine into extension, and the shoulders into either flexion or extension.
Some simple things to remember:
1. We want to stabilize areas that are vulnerable and open up areas that do not have a lot of flexibility.
2. Finding the Tug of War actions in the body means in every backbend there will be a little forward fold. One side wins but the other side doesn’t just give up.
3. We want to depress and abduct (protract) the shoulder blades.
4. We want to externally rotate the shoulders.
5. When the hips move into extension they also want to abduct and externally rotate. Don’t let them!
6. Backbends are good for the spinal discs. Backbends are energizing and uplifting. They take us into the fire. They help us to concentrate but they also teach us to be vulnerable and let go. Backbends stretch out the muscles on the front of the body and they strengthen the muscles on the back of the body.
See you on your mat!!!

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A hot and sweaty Shiva Power class at Float Yoga!

A hot and sweaty Shiva Power class at Float Yoga!

A hot and sweaty Shiva Power class at Float Yoga! Thank you, Stella for inviting me to teach at your studio. It was a really humid day and, WOW, did we go into the fire!!! Strong students!!! Great job, everyone. It was fun practicing with all of you. I’m looking forward to seeing you all again soon.


Sit in the fire and let it cleanse you. Let your stuff come to the surface and let it go. There’s no spiritual by-pass. You have to go through it all to get to the other side. It’s messy. It’s intense. It’s uncomfortable. Sometimes you leave it all on your mat. Sweat, tears, frustration, anger, sadness? What are you working through? What’s coming to the surface for you? Are you looking at your stuff? Are you ready to look in the mirror and see the truth? This is the practice. This is yoga. Fire is the catalyst. You are sharpening your sword. You are cleaning your pot. Transformation isn’t easy. Change isn’t easy. Undoing patterns and working through old stuck energy isn’t easy. But it’s worth it to take the journey! It’s SO worth it. Just get on your mat. Start walking down the path. One step at a time. Namaste.

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Shoulder Opening Workshop today at Haipoo Yoga!

Shoulder Opening Workshop today at Haipoo Yoga!

Shoulder Opening Workshop today at Haipoo Yoga!!! We mostly work in our yoga practice on opening the shoulders in Flexion and in Extension. Having a full range of motion at the shoulder joint helps to prevent injuries to the cervical spine and helps release tension in the muscles of the upper back and around the neck. Most of our shoulder opening poses in yoga are backbends. Usually the more advanced backbends take the shoulders into flexion but not always. It’s important to also remember that yoga is not just about flexibility. We are always looking for balance. Too much flexibility can lead to injuries at the joints. Not enough flexibility can lead to injuries in the muscles. This picture is of one of my favorite shoulder opening partner exercises. In this position, you can help your partner take their shoulders deeper into flexion, you can use your hands to help them externally rotate their shoulders, and you can encourage them to find more core and pull their front ribs in making more space and lengthening their spine. When you engage your core while Backbending you lengthen your spine and you actually deepen the pose

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Keep your mind open. Listen. There’s so much to learn.

 Keep your mind open. Listen. There’s so much to learn.

Sometimes the students inspire me so much! This student came to my class on Sunday afternoon in Fuzhou. She worked so hard! She listened to everything I was saying and paid such close attention to my cues. And she tried so many advanced poses and variations, even though many of them were out of reach. I was so proud of her. And the whole time she smiled and even laughed a few times when she fell out of some of the more challenging poses. I love teaching students like this. They are so easy to teach. No ego. So much light. The irony is that these students are already practicing so much of what we are teaching in yoga. They don’t need the practice as much as some of the students who are the hardest to teach. Sometimes students are rude and disrespectful and don’t pay attention and don’t listen. It’s hard to teach these students. Their mind is closed off. But really they need the practice most of all. Master teacher, Krishnamacharya has a famous quote about only wanting to teach the beginners and the really advanced students because they both know that they don’t know anything. He said the ones in the middle, the students with a little bit of knowledge who think they know everything are the hardest to teach. Keep your mind open. Listen. There’s so much to learn. Be a good student. Learn as much as you can from the teacher. Are you done learning? Is there no more room for growth? Really? You’ve got it all figured out? There is so much more to learn. You just have to stay open.

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Really fun class in Fuzhou yesterday!

Really fun class in Fuzhou yesterday!

Really fun class in Fuzhou yesterday! Great group of students. We did a lot of hip opening and focused on going deep into the fire and staying calm. I talked a lot about getting out of your comfort zone in this class. It’s always so hard when you are a beginner. You don’t have the strength and the ability to focus and the minute things get uncomfortable you are trying to make yourself comfortable, fidgeting your body, and getting distracted. It’s a practice! You will get really good at the things you practice. If you keep practicing concentration, you get really good at concentrating. If you practice letting yourself become distracted, you get really good at distracting yourself. Feed what you want to grow!

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Demonstrating Flying Pigeon.

Demonstrating Flying Pigeon.

Demonstrating the Flying Pigeon (ekapadagalavasana) for my students, during one of our Shiva Power classes, in my Shiva Yoga Intensive program, at Dream Space Yoga, in Shenzhen!
It took me forever to be able to do this pose! I thought I was never going to be strong enough. I didn’t realize that the arm balance poses in yoga are simply standing warmup poses done on the arms. I wasn’t lacking the strength to do the pose. My hips weren’t open enough. If you want this pose to become easier, you have to open up the piriformis muscle. Lots of Single Pigeon Forward Fold and Double Pigeon Forward Fold.
Once you increase the range of motion at the hip joint and are able to externally rotate your hips fully, this pose, Lotus Pose, and Leg Behind the Head variations open up for you. And you protect your knees, which will suffer if you are not able to fully externally rote the hips

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Shoulder Opening Workshop at Dream Space Yoga.

Shoulder Opening Workshop at Dream Space Yoga.

Learning about the shoulders in my shoulder opening workshop at Dream Space Yoga this past week. Shiva Yoga Intensive. Backbends are the primary poses in our yoga practice that we use to open the shoulders. We are usually focused on opening the shoulders in extension or flexion, in order to increase our range of motion. If we have full range of motion at the shoulder join we can prevent injuries to the neck and upper back. If you want to be able to do more advanced backbends in your yoga practice it is essential that you open your shoulders.

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4 Main reasons for doing Sun Salutations.

4 Main reasons for doing Sun Salutations.

I taught a big Sun Salutation practice this morning at the Zhejiang Yoga Cultural Festival. Good attendance! It was very early in the morning and a little cold. But we persevered.
Sun Salutations have been practiced by yogis for thousands of years. When we practice them we are walking in the footsteps of our teachers and their teachers.
We practice sun salutations for four main reasons in yoga.
1. They help to quickly warm the body up.
2. They help to balance the nervous system and are a great preparation for meditation, or can be used as a meditation themselves.
3. They help us connect the idea of the brightest thing in our world with the brightest and lightest part of ourselves.
4. They are a gratitude practice. Each day, try to start the day practicing gratitude. Shift your perspective. Try to be grateful for the day, for this moment right here and right now. Practicing gratitude helps you open your mind and open your heart.
Enjoy this beautiful day!!! Namaste! Thank you, everyone for practicing with me this morning!

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Copy the teacher! Copy the teacher! Copy the teacher!

Copy the teacher! Copy the teacher! Copy the teacher!

Copy the teacher! Copy the teacher! Copy the teacher! My teacher, Dharma is a master at the Head Balance pose or Headstand. You might have seen him in pictures balancing with no hands? Dharma tells this great story about practicing with his Guru and doing his best to copy his teacher during one of the practices.
We are following in the footsteps of the master teachers who have come before us. Think of how incredible it is that we don’t have to search in the darkness alone for the light. There’s others who have come before us who are a little farther down the path. All we have to do is follow in their footsteps. So grateful for Dharma and all my wonderful teachers. I am doing my best to follow in your footsteps. Copy the teacher! Copy the teacher! Copy the teacher!

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Working with my student on Upward Bow variations.

Working with my student on Upward Bow variations.

Working with my student on Upward Bow variations in our Shiva Yoga 40hr Intensive this past week!
The Upward Bow is a really nice backbend to help you open your shoulders in flexion. I’ve been working on this pose a lot in my own practice the past year. The work is really the same work as in the Downward Dog.
Hug the elbows in and push the biceps out. Keep trying to make space around your neck and keep the shoulders wide, as you move the arms deeper into flexion. Slide the shoulder blades down the back. Try to externally rotate the arms, as you push your chest through the arms.

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Hip Opening Workshop in Shenzhen!

Hip Opening Workshop in Shenzhen!

Hip Opening Workshop! Why do we open the hips in yoga? Some of the reasons you might want to have a full range of motion at your hip joint:
1. To protect the low back and the knees and prevent injuries.
2. To find balance.
3. To prepare the body to sit for pranayama and meditation.
4. To cleanse and release tension from the body and sub-conscious layer of the mind.
What a fun workshop — exploring a little deeper with this wonderful group of curious practitioners. Grateful to be here and grateful to be able to share these teachings and honor my teachers

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