Today I am sooo exited to announce my very first guest blog on Yuppie Farm Girl! The guest post is written by my oldest friend Lauren (no she is not old, look at this hot mama!). Lauren and I have been friends for almost 15 years. We have led parallel lives, seriously, in almost everything, we have taken similar paths. We met in high school showing animals together at our county fairs, she showed sheep, I showed pigs. If you know anything about fairs... pig people and sheep people do.not.get.along. We broke the rules and have been close ever since. She is passionate about health and wellness and can teach all of us a thing or two about Yoga! I asked Lauren to do this post because I wanted to start doing more yoga, but was having trouble finding the time to go to a studio, I needed to learn how to do a simple flow at home! Lauren and I have been by each others sides through many life changing events and I cannot imaging a better person to have on my blog as the first guest blogger.
Meet Lauren, beautiful wife, mother, and yoga instructor. She pretty much rocks!
Go to her blog right now and follower her, you can thank me later!
This blog post is part B of her Yoga Is Just A Study Hall (Plus, Stay Tuned for Building Strength and Flexibility at Home) post that she did early this week, check it out, it is a great post about why EVERYONE can do yoga and to not compare your self to anyone.
OK, let's get onto the good stuff here!
Hi there Yuppie Farm Girl fans, my name is Lauren and I would love to teach you more about how to build strength and flexibility with a simple yoga sequence (pictures included!!) you can do at home...
So many people say, "I would do yoga, but I am not flexible!" Well, you are in luck because being flexible is not a prerequisite to do yoga. However, being WILLING is.
But, if you want to try a simple flow at home that you will often find in a vinyasa flow class, start out with this sequence. The Sanskrit name for this sequence is Surya Namaskar A.
Surya means sun and Namaskar means salulation. Hence, Sun Saluation A, or shorter, Sun A. See, already easy! When you put these poses together, moving into each pose with the inhale or exhale of your breath, and repeat the sequence over and over, it creates a circle, or in Sanskrit, a mandala.
(Nod your head, yes...)
Ok, here we go!
|Don't mind me. I was just laughing at something my lovely photographer said to me. Thanks, Ang!! :)|
1. Start out in Tadasana/Mountain Pose. Bring your ankles together and feel the four corners of your feet root down into your mat. Lift your knee caps up to engages your quadriceps and thighs, bring your palms by your side facing forward, roll your shoulders down your back, and reach the crown of your head up towards the sky. As you stand here, breath deeply in and out through your nose, long inhales and long exhales (Ujjayi Pranyama if you have this in your practice). Feel the muscles in your body start to activate.
2. As you INHALE, circle your arms up toward the sky and get long through your whole body, soften your shoulders down your back and root your feet down into your mat. Urdva Hastasana/Upward Hand Pose.
3. EXHALE out all of your breath as your fold in half. Wrap your hands behind your calves or place them on the earth to encourage your nose closer to your knees. Uttanasana/Standing Forward Fold). Suggestions: It is OK if your nose does not touch your knees, as long as this is an active pose. Try to resist the urge to simply fold in half and hang your arms down. That is bending over at your waist. That is passive, not active. If you want to try to work deeper into Uttanasana, imagine that you are ringing out a sponge, so every time you INHALE, you create a little bit of space between your chest and your thighs and length through your spine, then as you EXHALE, gently hug your nose to your knees as you empty out your breath. As your belly empties with air, you are able to go a little deeper into this pose. This is where increased FLEXIBILITY comes in. :)
4. INHALE, bend your knees slightly, bring your hands to your shins or tent your fingertips on your mat, and come to a flat back by squeezing your shoulder blades together behind you. Actively draw your shoulders away from your ears to take any roundness out of your back. Bring your gaze about 6-8 inches in front of your big toes and reach the crown of your head forward. Pull your low belly up and in. Feel the muscles in your body activate. Ardha Uttanasana/Half Way Lift.
Suggestions: Notice the difference between the above picture and the one before. If you feel like your shoulders are sliding closer to your ears than they are sliding down your back, you may actually have a round back. This will feel much more passive than the correct pose. Try creating more length through your spine by imagining that the crown of your head is an extension of your spine.
5. EXHALE, place your hands down on your mat slightly in front of your feet, then step one leg back, then the other to come into High Plank Pose (high push up position). Bring your hands about shoulder width apart directly under your shoulders, and your feet about hip distance apart. Reach the crown of your head forward as if your spine was one long line from the crown of your head to the heels of your feet. Broaden your shoulders across your back, pull your navel up and in, and press your heels back as if you were pressing a wall away with your heels. Your entire body is active. Nothing about this pose is passive. Suggestions: Plank is a great place to build strength! If this pose feels relatively comfortable to you, stay here and breathe in and out through your nose. If you need a little less and are working on building strength, place your knees down to give yourself some support.
6. EXHALE, rock forward on your tip tip tippy toes so that your shoulders move past your wrists, lower half way down (That's right! HALF WAY!). Squeeze your elbows into your rib cage. You can even look back at your shoulders to see that they are in line with your elbows. If this pose feels OK to you, move onto picture B below. Suggestions: If you are kissing your mat, you are more than half way down. :) Notice that I said ROCK FORWARD THEN LOWER DOWN. I feel that this is SUPER IMPORTANT because this will help save your wrists, especially after lots of Chaturangas! You will know that you rocked forward far enough if your wrists are directly under your elbows when you lower half way down. IF you don't feel that you can hold this pose, either place your knees down on the mat, OR lower your entire body to your mat, so your chest, belly, hips, thighs, and shins touch the floor at the same time. If you do this, move onto picture A below.
7A. Lying on your belly, flip the tops of your feet over and press the toe-nail side of your feet down into your mat. Walk your fingertips towards your hips so that your hands are underneath your elbows. As you INHALE, squeeze your shoulder blades and elbows together behind you. Tent your fingertips on your mat and draw your heart through. Reach the crown of your head forward, gaze down and slightly forward. Press the tops of your feet into the mat and lift your knees and shins off the mat. Bhujangasana/Cobra (or Low Cobra). Every muscle is active. (move onto number 8 below) Suggestions: Work on building strength in your upper back, imagine holding a pencil with your shoulder blades. That is how much you are squeezing them together. Instead of pressing your hands DOWN into the mat to lift your chest up, press your fingertips slightly down but then back, so if your belly and feet were not on the mat, you would shoot forward, like you were belly down on a skateboard using your hands to propel you forward (yep, that is the best I could come up with on that one). Press your pubic bone down into the mat to find a little more height. If you want a little extra for your upper back, try lifting your hands up off the mat about an inch.
7B. INHALE, flip the tops of your feet over and straighten your arms to pull your heart through and up. Draw your shoulders down your back away from your ears. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. The only points of contact with the earth are the tops of your feet and the palms of your hands. Knees and thighs are lifted. Everything is active and engaged. Urdva Mukha Svanasana/Upward Facing Dog. Suggestions: Instead of locking your arms, ever so slightly bend your elbows, with the point of your elbows pointed back behind you. This will draw your heart forward and through your arms.
8. EXHALE, lift your hips up from your navel (imagine a string attached to your navel lifting your hips up), roll over your toes or simply turn your feet back over, push up and back, Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downward Facing Dog. Spread your fingers out really wide to create a firm hand lock with the earth. Lift your sit bones up towards the sky, then encourage your chest towards the tops of your thighs. Let your heels soften towards the earth. Suggestions: To find where a comfortable Downward Facing Dog is for you, simply come to a High Plank, then lift your hips up and press your chest towards your thighs. You really shouldn't have to adjust your feet or hands too much. Some adjusting is OK, but try not to walk your feet up too close to your chest just to get your heels to touch the ground, or walk your feet back so that you have something in between High Plank and Downward Facing Dog.
9. Next step is not pictured. INHALE, look forward at your hands, slightly bend your knees, then EXHALE. HOLD OUT ALL OF YOUR AIR, then step one foot forward to meet your hands at the top of your mat, then the other foot. By emptying out the air from your lungs and belly and holding it out, you now have room to be able to step forward. If you try to step forward with a ton of air inside of you, you will not have room to bring your knees forward to step up. It may sound awkward, but try it both ways. You will notice a difference.
10. INHALE, to a flat back. Create length through your spine. Ardha Uttanasana/Half Way Lift. (Guess what! You already did this one!)
11. EXHALE, forward fold. Hug your nose to your knees. (You did this one, too!)
NOW, repeat from the beginning, and keep repeating as many times as you want! Each time you will start to notice that you will be able to go a little deeper into your Forward Fold, or that you might be able to lower half way down in Chaturanga without setting your knees down. And see what I mean!? The sequence is just a circle! And that is how you build strength and flexibility at home with this simple sequence.
Wait! What?! That didn't seem very simple to you?! Well, I get that. There was a lot of cues and do this and do that, yadda yadda. Yeah, it would have been a lot easier for me to just write, ENGAGE EVERYTHING, ACTIVATE ALL OF YOUR MUSCLES, THIS IS AN ACTIVE POSE, and so on and so forth. But, what does that really mean? If I simply just said that, you wouldn't know what muscles to even start with! I know that for a fact because I have been there and had that blank look on my face! Maybe all of those cues seem like too much right now, but if you focus on one different cue each time you repeat the sequence, eventually you will have activated your entire body and you can put it all together!! WOOHOO! Pretty cool, right!
Sure, you could move through this entire sequence without much muscular engagement going on, but you wouldn't be working on building strength or flexibility. This sequence really is the foundation for all the other stuff, even handstand!
Oh, and let's not forget some of the other important physical health benefits of SUN A's! It helps all of the body systems such as circulation and heart, lungs, nervous system, digestive system, and endocrine organs. It can't get much better than that, right!
Ok, now, off you go! Maybe set a goal to do a few Sun A's per day, and increase a few each time. Let me know how many Sun Salutation A's you did!
Thank you Lauren - we love you and now our bodies love you too!!
Thank you Lauren - we love you and now our bodies love you too!!
Go to her blog right now and follower her, seriously I told you once, ok ok I will tell you again!