Monthly Archives: June 2013

Series: Top Five Vinyasa Sequences – #3


On our countdown of the top five vinyasa sequences, it appears there is a balance between breath and movement. And that is with purpose! Focusing on the breath while moving helps the mind become single-pointed. Yogis become aware that the body and the breath are connected. So, too, are the body and the mind. In this next sequence, breath can become a savior of sorts because these movements really create power in the core. These poses help to strengthen in preparation for vasisthasana (side plank). The core is important to the function of the body for a number of reasons and one of those is balance. Our balance begins to weaken as we age, it is very important for us, as healthy human beings, to work on our balance. There have been numerous moments where I would have taken a fall if not for the strength of my core. Having a strong core allows us to move at a slower pace as we feel each and every one of the core muscles. Here is the strengthening core vinyasa. Namaste

From downward facing dog we inhale and exhale coming into plank pose, from plank  we inhale back into downward facing dog pose raising our right leg behind us for three legged dog pose. As we exhale coming forward into plank and touching right knee to right elbow, inhaling to three legged dog, we exhale into plank touching right knee to left elbow, inhaling back into three legged dog, we exhale bring right knee to nose. Inhaling back into downward facing dog, exhaling into plank, we place our right palm in the middle of our chest and as we inhale, twist to the left coming into side plank. Holding side plank for one exhale and one inhale, we exhale pushing back into downward facing dog pose. We then repeat on the opposite side.

Vinyasa 3


Series: Top Five Vinyasa Sequences – #4


The second in the series, this vinyasa is a little similar to the first in that it incorporates standing poses – but it also incorporates a strong balance pose. Don’t get too caught up on this balance pose, a lot is going on here in ardha chandrasana (half moon pose). Allow yourself the time to grow into the pose, use a block, if needed, as shown here under the front hand. Also, in parsvottanasana (pyramid pose) the hands can be alongside the front leg, or in reverse namaste (prayer position) as shown in the drawing. Focus on movement with the breath, breath with movement. In the transitional phases of this vinyasa, there should be almost no breath. The breath comes after putting the body into position. But that can take time, so respect your body, go at your pace and flow with the breath. You may take more breaths throughout the sequence than are described here. You can try two to three vinyasas to begin, then as you build strength increase your sequence number. Here it is! Vinyasa number four. Namaste.

Starting in downward facing dog we inhale and as we exhale, moving our right foot forward to lunge. We inhale bringing arms overhead into warrior one, keeping our core tight and moving with the strength of the legs, we straighten the right knee and bend forward at the hips either placing hands in prayer behind the back or  moving them down the straight front leg into pyramid pose. From pyramid, we bend our right knee and kick off with the power of the back leg, lifting the leg only to hip height and balancing our trunk on our right hand, inhaling into half moon pose. Stepping back with our left foot and placing a hand on either side of the foot, we exhale into downward facing dog. Repeating on the other side. Inhaling and exhaling into lunge, inhaling into warrior one, straightening the front leg and hinging from the hips, exhaling into pyramid. Bending the front leg, kicking up with our right leg to hip height, balancing our body on our left hand, inhaling to half moon pose. Stepping back with our right foot and exhaling all the way back into downward facing dog.

Vinyasa 4

Series: Top Five Vinyasa Sequences – #5


The top five vinyasa sequences seems like a difficult topic to tackle, but one I love thinking about. A vinyasa, or flow, in a yoga class usually is a movement aligned with the breath that really gets your heart pumping and your body sweating! I am a vinyasa instructor, thus love the moments when I can incorporate a little “pick up the pace and elevate the heart rate” in yoga. An important aspect of the vinyasa is the awareness of the breath. Initially, practice the one movement per breath, one breath per movement technique. This will slow the movements down so that the focus can be on form. If the breathing becomes quickened, stop, move into balasana (child’s pose) and slow the breath once again.

Here is the first vinyasa sequence in the series, enjoy! Namaste

From downward facing dog we inhale and exhaling, stepping our right foot forward and inhale, coming up into warrior one. As we exhale, turning our arms and bodies into warrior two. We inhale and exhale, flipping our right palm face up – reaching forward through the arm and inhaling, moving that arm up toward the ceiling for reverse warrior, as we exhale, moving our hand back to either side of our front foot and stepping back into downward facing dog. We inhale and exhale stepping the left foot forward, inhaling into warrior one. Exhaling into warrior two, inhale here and exhale, flipping the left palm face up – reaching through the front arm and inhale moving the arm up toward the ceiling for reverse warrior. Exhaling, moving our hands back down to either side of our foot and stepping back into downward facing dog. Moving through the vinyasa as many times as we feel necessary – usually starting with two or three and moving up to five or six in a series. 

Vinyasa 5

Helping Scoliosis


Scoliosis is not that uncommon in our society. I battle it myself and have found that I am aided in that battle with yoga. Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine experiences a curvature that renders one hip higher and that same shoulder lower. This can cause a number of problems from shoulder to hip, including respiratory problems. For some, surgery is an option, for others – surgery is out of the question. Rather than searching for a medical solution to helping battle scoliosis, yoga can offer relief by stretching and contracting the muscles on either side of the spine.  This being said, here is a list of the best asanas that help to stretch the spinal muscles:

1. Kurmasana (Tortoise pose)

2. Balasana (Child’s pose)

3. Paschimottanasana (Seated forward bend)

Here is a list of the asanas that help to contract and strengthen the spinal muscles:

1. Salabhasana (Locust pose)

2. Urdhva Danurasana (Wheel pose)

3. Purvottanasana (Upward Plank pose)

Additionally, it is always important to twist the spine and the best poses for that are:

1. Marichyasana III

2. Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved triangle pose)

3. Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved angle pose)

Both Parivrtta Trikonasana and Parivrtta Parsvakonasana also stretch the hamstrings which can alleviate lower back tightness as tight hamstrings can pull the pelvic girdle posterior, creating misalignment in the body.

Practicing these poses can alleviate some of the symptoms common with scoliosis while strengthening the mind & body connection.

Here’s to your healthy spine!


This is an posterior-to-anterior X-ray of a ca...

This is an posterior-to-anterior X-ray of a case of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis – specifically, my spine. There is a thoracic curve of 30° and a lumbar curve of 53° (Cobb angle – see scoliosis). This was taken at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. The largest curve (53°) is of a magnitude typically near the lower surgery boundary, although many factors decide whether surgery is necessary on a scoliosis case. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Give Up on Vulnerability



Vulnerability is a word, a feeling, a being. It is a word that is supposed to mean: capable of being emotionally or physically wounded. The feeling associated with vulnerability is weakness and that heightened level of stress that is felt when there is a potential for the self to become wounded. Vulnerability as being is when there is no other choice, one has given up to making themselves stronger and more capable of meeting the challenges placed in front of them. Give up on vulnerability. Create a life out of perseverance.

Today in Power Yoga, a student said to me that I had “beat him up” (figuratively people!)  in this class. And he went on to say that it was a good thing. He is challenged in class, each and every time that he shows up. He goes home with a pep in his step and tells me that he feels like he could sleep all night long. This is from someone with insomnia. He is candid with himself throughout the class, he goes at his pace, sometimes skips a few poses that are a little too much at the moment; but always gets right back into his own groove.

A life of perseverance. This is a life we should lead. Being authentic with ourselves on the mat, knowing how hard or how gentle we need to be with our bodies. Meeting and rising to the challenge that is placed before us each and every day on the mat. It is we who have the opportunity to overcome those moments of vulnerability, it is we who can overcome weakness; shall we let go of vulnerability? Absolutely. Move forward with perseverance.


Modifications in Our Practice


Giving up on something we think about everyday is a sure-fire way to not get closer to our goals.

Physically, yoga is good for the body. Mentally, yoga is good for the mind. Spiritually, yoga is good for the soul. Practicing yoga daily is good for the entire being. Yoga, in this sense, is not just the physical aspects but also the mental clarity and spirituality that is provided along with the physical. Physically, when a pose is challenging, the yogi searches mentally for a way to practice acceptance in the pose and to make the pose more available to them. A good instructor will listen to the challenges presented in the physical practice and offer modifications. Modifications do not mean “make easier”, instead, modifications are the understanding that not every yogi is 5′ 7″, narrow, and flexible. Modifications help yogis deepen the pose, as when a yoga strap is introduced to enable a deeper Paschimottanasana (seated forward fold). The yoga block lengthens arms when bending sideways into Trikonasana (triangle pose).

While these modifications, the physical ones, are obvious because they can be seen and are tangible; it is the mental modifications that make the greatest changes in the yogi’s practice. The modifications start slowly at first for a new practitioner and may take the form of an inner dialogue, “Wow, this is tough. Wait, is that twisting? or bending? Oh! I feel that, I get it. Is this how I’m supposed to look?” and after a while, that inner dialogue quiets down and another arises, “Oooh yeah! We’re practicing trikonasana! My hamstrings have been so tight! I can’t wait to get into paschimottanasana tonight!” until, the thoughts quiet altogether and the mind focuses, “Moving, flowing, breathing. Moving, flowing, breathing.” Of course, the occasional, “Wait! What? Oh. Moving, flowing, breathing.” And there it is. While it may, or may not have been a conscious modification, the mind suddenly acknowledges that the time on the yoga mat is for the yogi. It isn’t the time to think about that big work project, or the grade your kid got on that report, or even about the upcoming dinner party. It is simply time for the yogi to be present, with the breath, moving, flowing, breathing in their body. I hope you make every practice of yoga, both on and off the mat, a practice of modifications.




Familiar to us is the strength and power of the word compassion; and seeing compassion can move people in strong, emotional ways. Compassion is prevalent in the animal world such as when we witness animals of different species helping one another. Tears fall freely when a deep sense of compassion is shown to others who have sustained great loss. In short, when compassion is the leading theme of an interaction between living beings, it’s as if the air has been sucked out of the room and we could hear a pin drop because of the deep level of respect we feel for the participants.
Let’s try an experiment today; it will be a tough experiment for me personally and all the more reason I want to try. A few days ago, there was a blog posted on A Cup o’ Yoga. It showcased a video of people going through some very emotional times with a theme that surrounded a hospital. In our interactions today make an internal statement before each interaction starts, “I don’t know what this person is going through personally.” And relate to a moment in that video that moved you deeply. The person you are facing, no matter the circumstance, deserves your compassion and respect. Human beings are all on the same road, all water runs downhill. We just call the journey different things, just as we call water creeks, streams and rivers. Extend a moment of compassion to the person before engaging in conversation, even with those you hold most dear! You will be amazed at what happens in both your heart and in your head.
Living a more yogic lifestyle is allowing others to be who they are, honoring them in their existence and becoming aware of our own thoughts, feelings and responses before acting. Be mindful of the story from the video that resonated deeply with you; we never know exactly what another is going through.