Do advanced yoga poses matter?

Does it really matter if you can put your legs behind your head or grab your ankles in a backbend? Will your life be enhanced? Will you be a better person? Why do you do yoga? People practice yoga for all sorts of reasons and you may find your reasons changing with time, I do.  So keep asking.

Sometimes you may get frustrated with your lack of flexibility. This may happen whether you are already flexible or not. When you are practicing yoga asana you are working with your tight edges, playing with them, exploring them. You may do yoga to become more flexible.  That’s fair enough, you’re in the right place. As you learn to accept your body as it is, you will feel so much better about it.

If you are tight you might find that tightness causes discomfort in your body.  As you work gently and repeatedly on this area you may find that you can feel better than you have ever imagined. There is a certain amount of flexibility that is functional, that helps you move about, that helps work against all those hours sat in front of your computer. Yoga is great for your body, it can do so much more.

Helen doing yoga pose supta kurmasana

Supta Kurmasana – sleeping tortoise a challenging yoga pose which became possible after years of practice

I taught my beginners a very challenging pose on Monday.  I showed them how to get into it gently and they had a go, they are great like that, very willing explorers.  We talked about it, they wanted to see me doing the full version of the pose, supta kurmasana. I don’t demonstrate that much, I don’t want to overwhelm people but they were very keen so I showed them.  Here is a photo for those of you who weren’t there.

And then one of my students asked what the benefit of that pose was?  Such a great question! One of my favourite things about being a teacher is the questions. I said that to me it was a very quietening pose, the pose name means sleeping tortoise and it’s like going into a tortoise shell, some people don’t like it because of that.  I am sure I could look in a yoga book and find a list of benefits but I always like to teach from my own experience so I did. I’m not sure if that is exactly what she meant, I could be wrong.. but I think that she wanted to know the benefit for the body.

The truth is I don’t think that it’s necessary to be that flexible. I shared with my students that it took me many years of daily practice to be able to do that pose.  It wasn’t easy.  It is now but thats because I put my legs behind my head every day . Was it worth it?  Absolutely!  What were the benefits to me?  I am glad you asked!

  • There will always be things that seem impossible in life, it’s great to learn to work at them regardless in an safe environment where it doesn’t ultimately matter if I fail.
  • Attempting seemingly impossible things keeps my ego in check
  • It took years but I did it and it made me feel like I could do anything if I persevered
  • Doing something challenging forces me to become aware of my body, bringing me more into the present moment
  • It makes me accept where I am not where I want to be

The truth is you could apply these lessons to any yoga pose, it doesn’t matter what is challenging to you, it doesn’t have to be an advanced yoga pose. Whatever challenges you, here is a place you can learn. What can be problematic is if you don’t stop to enjoy the journey, if you forget that you were really practicing yoga to relax and that instead it has become another way to compete with yourself.  Those of us who find time to practice on our yoga mats are privileged I think.  It is a wonderful opportunity to connect and accept yourself.  To get away from the hustle and bustle of life and just see how you feel today.  So yes work on something impossible, go for it, I love a good challenge but don’t lose perspective.  Being more flexible doesn’t make you better at yoga, being more accepting does.

What yoga pose seems impossible for you right now? Do you enjoy working at it or do you find it frustrating?  Why do you practice yoga and have your reasons changed?

How to manage your email and remain focused in your life

Using texts, email, Facebook, twitter and other social media platforms we can now be in constant contact. This is great but it can be overwhelming. The smartphone made all this communication even more accessible. You can now read this blog post on your mobile, email someone and use social media, wherever you are. I love technology and I love all these different ways I can communicate and share with people all over the world. As a yogi I also don’t want to let the technology overwhelm and distract my mind. As a busy, self employed yoga teacher I don’t want it to undo my productivity. As a human being I don’t want it to take over my life.

I still remember being taught how to write an email. It wasn’t that long ago. I was 18 and it was 1998 and yet now 15 years later it is rare to find someone who doesn’t use email at all.  Many of us receive hundreds of emails a day. The invention and growing popularity of the smart phone makes email even more accessible throughout the day.

As a busy professional who moves around teaching yoga this is great.  My iPhone and more recently my ipad allows me to interact with my students wherever I am.

The first few years I had my iPhone I had it set to automatically update my inbox. So every time I got an email it would go bing. Bing…..bing…bing, all day long. After a while I  became conditioned to the bing. Actually when you’re in the middle of some work it can be a welcome distraction to check your email but utterly unproductive. If your inbox is busy you could spend your entire day checking email. Believe me I have been there.

Sometimes your brain needs a break from all this bombardment. Some tasks require you to focus your mind in an uninterrupted way. Your job may require you to keep up to date with emails.  Mine does. I love getting emails from my students, it’s a great way to communicate with them outside of class. So what’s the answer? Here is some tips that have helped me.
Check emails 1 -5 times per day. I check mine around 3 times but what works for you will depend on your job.

image

  • If an email is urgent or can be responded in less than 3 minutes, reply straight away.
  • Have a folder for emails that you don’t want to respond to or read straight away. Check this folder daily – read, respond, delete or file.
  • Delete unwanted email.
  • Clear your inbox daily, your mind will get clearer too.
  • If you need to really focus on something place your phone on silent

It’s good to be flexible, rather than rigid. When on holiday I check my email once daily. If I am having an important email conversation I might check it more often. If it gets out of hand I go back to my rules. What is important is to fully engage with whatever you are doing.  When checking email, check email, when writing write, when thinking, think – focus your mind, be here, you can not be everywhere – here is where it is at.Do you find emails distracting? How often do you check your email in day? Do you have any emailing tips?

 

Tempeh Courgettes – A new healthy recipe that tastes as good as it looks

Are you looking for great tasting healthy food recipes?  It’s easy to get stuck in a routine of eating the same meals. It makes sense, life gets busy and after a busy day you just have to eat.  Every once in a while though it’s nice to try something different isn’t it?

I posted a picture of this  delicious meal, which Marc made for our lunch last week, my Facebook page.  Many of you liked and commented on the picture and there was a request for the recipe, here it is:

Tempeh Courgette’s (created by my partner Marc)

Ingredients

Courgettes stuffed with tempeh

Every bit as delicious as it looks

2 large courgettes (or zucchini if you want to sound exotic)
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion chopped very finely
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. paprika
A pinch of seaweed, dulse, or nori (use instead of salt)
1/2 (8-ounce) pack of tempeh, crumbled
1/2 cup frozen sweetcorn
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced (grown by Ashtanga Yoga Liverpool student Helen)
1 large tomato, diced (or a few small ones)
1/4 cup vegan stock
Yeast flakes

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400ºF or Gas mark 6
Slice each courgettes in half lengthwise, then scoop out the insides. Discard the insides, use them for something else or compost them.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and spices (chili powder through paprika). Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring often. Stir in onion and garlic, cook for 1 minute. Stir in the tempeh, corn, and jalapeños and cook until they’re beginning to brown, 3-5 minutes, continuing to stir often. Add the tomatoes and stock to the saucepan and cook until the liquid has absorbed, about 2 minutes more. Stir in yeast flakes here if using them and season to taste with seaweed flakes.
Fill each courgette half with the tempeh mixture, then top with some more yeast flakes. Transfer courgettes to a baking dish or sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are browned.
top with a sprinkling of coriander and serve.

Wonderful complementary salad

Dressing ingredients

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp organic balsamic vinegar
1 large satsuma (or 2 small ones) – juiced
2 tsp agave nectar

Mix some organic wild rocket, baby spinach and baby red chard together in a salad bowl
add organic mushrooms, tomatoes and onion.
Mix dressing together and add enough for salad mixture.
Serve and enjoy!

What is tempeh and where can I buy it in Liverpool

It was our first time buying Tempeh.  We bought ours from the frozen section at Mattas on Bold Street.  You can buy yeast flakes and nori flakes at Mattas as well. Tempeh is less processed than tofu and contains more protein and fibre.  It is an excellent source of protein for vegetarians, vegans and the curious meat eater looking for healthy options.  I am not a nutritionist, I just love food and the great energy living a healthy lifestyle gives me.

Have you ever tried tempeh?  What did you do with it? What interesting recipes have you cooked recently, share with our community.

 

 

Visiting Rosie and practicing yoga in London

One of my long term students Rosie has recently moved to London. Rosie has studied yoga with me for at least 5 years? She was a regular part of my classes and a big part of the Ashtanga yoga community. I am sure she will be missed by many and we hope she will visit us from time to time.

In the meantime I was fortunate enough to be able visit her and attend some yoga classes with her in London. As many of you know I come to London once a month to study with my own teacher Hamish Hendry. These trips are very important to both my practice and my teaching. It allows me to focus in my own development in yoga! leaves me recharged and reminds me of what is like to be a student and to surrender to a teacher’s guidance.

I travelled up on the first train on Saturday morning 5:47 am, an early start but I slept some more in the train. I arrived in Euston at 8:00am in time for a Mysore class at Primrose Hill Triyoga with Ryan Speilman. I met Rosey there and we went to class together.  Great class, lovely relaxed atmosphere and a lovely kapotasana assist for me.  I then took Rosey to my favourite vegan cafe in London for brunch – Inspiral Lounge.  That gave us time to catch up and I can confirm that she is doing great in her new life down South.  Most importantly she has been a bit of a yoga tour and has been to 6 different ashtanga yoga teachers, since her arrival which shows real determination in finding her new regular teacher in London.

We then went to yin yoga class at the life centre which was really relaxing. In yin yoga, you hold the poses for 3-5 minutes. It was a lovely compliment to the morning ashtanga yoga practice. We felt so relaxed and mellow afterwards we went to a cafe before getting back to the hustle and bustle of the tube. Such a lovely way to spend a day.

On Sunday we went to another Mysore style class with Louise Newton.  Lovely to see her again, it had been a while and a lovely atmosphere of focus in the room.  We went back for brunch in Camden, I love that place!

This morning (Monday) I got to practice with my teacher, Hamish. Always so nice to practice with him in the room.  My practice felt relaxed and focused and was a bit quicker than when I practice by myself.  Must focus on removing any faffing!  I will be back again in just 3 weeks and am looking forward to it already.

Did you do any yoga over the weekend? Do you practice at home and with a teacher? What do you like about going to a yoga class?

A poem about Yoga – Surrendering to Yoga by Helen Aldred

Helen's creative journalWhen I was younger I used to write a lot. As soon as I learnt to write I would love to write creative stories then later as a teenager, poetry.  It was something spontaneous and necessary that was very much a part of me. As a teenager I used to have a book where I would collect quotes and write poetry. I would carry it with me everywhere so that I could always write should the urge hit me. It was by my bed as I slept, it was in my bag at the beach. In recent years I have written creatively less, not due to any conscious decision – I love writing – but it rarely grabs hold of me the way it did when I was younger. I am grateful to blogging for reigniting the writer in me. Recently I decided I would like to write more and I started by buying a beautiful notebook, a special place to journal and share my thoughts.  It is in this book that one morning before my yoga practice I felt moved to write this poem.

Surrendering to Yoga

Helen dropping back into a yoga backbendOh yoga sometimes you ask so much,

There is no place to hide.

Every part of me is invited, here I am,

I offer complete surrender.

Open, open, open body, mind, heart,

Expose all the hidden parts

Here, here, here, everything is bare.

In this moment, I open it all,

Here it is, all these treasures

The love ,the hurt , the vulnerability,

The anger, the pride, the invincibility

I clung to them but I need not.

They are not mine, they are not me.

Thank you yoga for asking for it all,

For not letting me hide, for allowing me to soar.

 

Kino MacGregor’s recent yoga workshops in Manchester and London

Kino MacGreggor and Helen Aldred

Kino and me in Manchester

This week I have managed to do four workshops with the ever inspiring with Kino MacGregor in Manchester and in London. I have studied with Kino a number of times and always learn something new. It is great to have a senior teacher who is female and and a similar age to myself, she has a unique way of helping you find your edge and encouraging you to explore it.

On Tuesday Kino came to Manchester to teach for the first time, as ashtanga yoga continues to grow in the North West it’s great to see more teachers coming this way.  The daytime workshop on Tuesday was an adjustment workshop for teacher or experienced students wanting to deepen their practice.  As a teacher it’s always great to practice adjustments and have a chance to discuss them and all the different body types that come to the practice.  I learnt a lot from this workshop and continue to learn from it as I integrate it into my own teaching and understanding.

In the evening Kino’s workshop was called Ashtanga Yoga Power elements. A number of my students came up from Liverpool for this and it was great to see everyone.  For some reason I didn’t think this workshop was going to be that hard…. Like I said Kino has a unique way of helping you find your edge! This workshop was a challenging exploration through shoulder and core stability with lots of great tips.  When I talk about the challenging nature of Kino’s workshops, people often think they are not ready but this workshop was for everyone, options were given and you were just encouraged to find ‘your’ edge.  So the next question might be why….

I think my favourite part of the workshops was when Kino said that we needed to be strong so that we would have the strength to be the change that we want to see in the world.

“You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi

How strong do we have to be? Really strong…The practice offers us an ideal way to develop this inner strength and discipline so that we can then bring it into the world.  It’s not about what you can do or what you can’t do, it’s about what you learn on the journey.

On Sunday I did a Mysore practice with Kino, in London, which essentially means I got to do my own self practice and get help and advise from Kino. This is the traditional method of teaching ashtanga yoga as taught in Mysore India.  I learnt a lot today even when Kino wasn’t teaching me, her presence woke my practice up and made me work.  She stopped a couple of times to talk me through some of the areas I need to work on next, such as kapotasana from the air, she says I should work on, to open my shoulders. At the moment I walk my hands into my heels from the floor, she thinks I can do it and her belief is contagious so I am inspired to challenge myself in this yoga position which strips me to the core more than any other yoga position has. Thanks for the homework Kino… I will work at it and will challenge my mind to be strong and surrender each and every practice.  I feel so fortunate to have this tool to use and explore myself with…

Sunday afternoons twisting workshop was also great, lots to share in my teaching…..and this morning I went to practice at my teachers Shala. Now I am Liverpool bound on the train, inspired and ready to share what I have learnt.

Did you go to any of Kino’s workshops. Share your experiences.

How has your yoga practice helped you to be stronger in your life?

Yoga is not a Competition – How to Embrace it

One of the great things about yoga, often said by yoga teachers is that yoga is non competitive. That sounds lovely doesn’t it.  Yoga is a place where you can just be and be accepted for what you are and accept yourself where you are.

We live in a competitive world, we are taught we need to compete to survive and to thrive, from school grades to getting that perfect job. Without some competitiveness would we even get out of bed? Often we don’t compete with others but have our own standards and desires which we work hard to reach.

“When I get this toy, job, car, man, woman, money, you name it….. then I will be happy,”  is often a mantra that keeps us moving in a direction until we get there, and then we find we want something else. It would be great if we could set this aside and go to yoga class and enjoy being where we are here and now. To be here and now is to accept things as they are right now. The conditioning of the mind can be strong though and the mind loves to make simple things complicated.

Yoga teaches us to be more present. Many people love yoga for it’s non-competiveness and yet many people, myself included struggle with their competitive nature. I have found this is actually the hardest thing I have ever had to teach anyone. I think ultimately it can’t be learnt it has to be discovered.

I can tell you that

  • yoga is not a competition
  • the girl next to you has been practicing for 10 years and is a teacher
  • we all have different bodies, that everyone has different strengths and weakness
  • your body is a result of everything you have done with it up until this moment, and is unique and beautiful
  • when you can do this or that asana you won’t suddenly become enlightened
  • a person who is more flexible or more strong isn’t necessarily the better yogi
  •  yoga isn’t about the asana (yoga position), the asana is just a tool to bring you into the present moment.

You might agree with me or you might think, it’s okay for you, you can touch your toes, do lotus or whatever your pose of frustration happens to be.

And yes let’s say you are right and I can do blah blah, I have come to realise that there will always be someone more flexible than me. It doesn’t matter if I spend the rest of my life doing yoga and I hope I will, there will always be something I can’t do. Indeed as I age I might not be able to do some of the things I do now. This is true for almost anything by the way, there can only be one world best at anything.  Is this never ending escalator annoying then, you get to the top and find your at the bottom again.  Actually I think it’s a relief to know there is nowhere to go but here, it helps me to surrender.

Having said all this. I love to work on asanas.  When I first stared my journey with ashtanga yoga there was so much I could not do. My mind loves a challenge and I love to work on something that I can’t do.  I know that with dedication, eventually it will become possible and sometimes it helps motivate me to complete my daily practice.  Is this competitive? Maybe, but yoga also teaches me to be where I am, to surrender to it, to unravel it each day and notice it as it is.  It forces me to work with this body in this moment no matter what I think it should be, it shows me what it is, right now.

When a bird sings it doesn't sing for the advancement of music.In fact if you find yourself noticing your competitive nature in yoga don’t be too hard on yourself. Yoga is a safe place to notice these things about ourselves and it is perfectly natural that you should feel some level of ambition within yourself.  Notice it, don’t feed it, that’s the trick.  Don’t judge it as good or bad.  Accept it as it is, just a passing thought.

Those of us who practice yoga are so lucky.  We are fortunate to have the time and health, to move our bodies to breathe and be part of a wider community that embraces these things as much as we do.  It is such a privilege each and every time we step on our mats regardless of whether you can touch your toes, I hope you enjoy the journey because the only destination is right here.

Do you feel competitive with yourself or others in yoga?  Does yoga offer you a rare opportunity to not compete? What has this journey taught you?

Yoga Workshop with Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Tim Miller

Tim Miller has been studying ashtanga yoga for over thirty years. He began his studies before I was born in 1978.  He teaches ashtanga yoga at his studio in California. He has an excellent reputation internationally as one of ashtanga yoga’s most senior teachers and yet this year was the first time he had taught in the UK. I feel privileged to have been able to have attended his recent workshop hosted by Yoga Manchester.

As a teacher and practitioner, I know that the more I practice and the more I teach, the more I experience and learn about this wonderful practice. To be able to learn and meet someone who has so much practical experience to draw from and share is a unique opportunity.

I think it important to keep learning. There is always more to learn about any topic and learning helps me keep my passion and enthusiasm for teaching as well as informing my teaching and making me a better teacher. Yoga is such a vast subject, understanding the physical and philosophical aspects of the practice is a never ending journey.

There is no beating the consistent relationship you can develop with your own regular teacher, who can learn to react to both your body and your temperament.  Workshops offer an opportunity to discuss the practice in more depth, I always learn something I can apply to both my own practice and my teaching.

Tim Miller’s workshop covered a nice balance between practice and philosophy. It was really interesting to listen to him talk about the yoga sutras. Listening to him share both his understanding of the text and his experience of it was inspiring and insightful. Each time I read or learn about this text, I learn something new. Here is a video of Tim teaching about the yoga practice….

His workshop on Saturday afternoon was about injury or areas of the body or practice which seem resistant to change. This was such a great idea as it enabled Tim to share the depth of his experience in a very individualised way.  He had a mat in front of him and people came up to work with him. People often struggle with the same things so I learnt a lot that I can apply to both my students and my own practice. I even got on the mat myself and Tim helped me release my hip flexor and quads in backbends, which is what I am currently working on in my own practice.

He told me that my shoulders and upper back were really open and I needed to work on my hips now. I resisted the urge to laugh at the irony.  In the early days of my practice I was told the flexibility would come and I should work on my strength. I am very diligent when it comes to my yoga practice so I worked on my strength and very gradually over many years I became strong. I was then told that because of my strength my upper back and shoulders were tight in backbends and so I worked on this with the same diligence. After years of practice this has apparently opened my back up and I find it ironic that if people comment on my practice they usually say something about how open my back is or how strong I am. I have in effect made my weaknesses my strengths. So when Tim commented that my back was really open I commented that I had just been practicing a while.  It’s only a short time compared to Tim miller but I have been doing yoga now for 16 years and ashtanga yoga for about 8.  Most of the transformation I have experienced both physically and otherwise has come from ashtanga yoga which seems the best fit for my mind and body.

Next month Kino is coming to Manchester, she is teaching a workshop for teachers during the day and a workshop for everyone in the evening.  I am attending both Manchester workshops and I know some ashtanga yoga Liverpool students are also coming which should be a fun outing.  I am also going to two of her workshops in London, again one of my students will be there too. This will also give a chance to practice with my regular teacher Hamish. I am looking forward to learning and then sharing that learning through my own teaching.

How has your practice changed since you began? Have you ever attended a yoga workshop? What was your experience?

Habits – how to build great habits of your own choosing

A habit is a practiced and repeated action which may or may not be done unconsciously. When we think of habits we often think of bad habits that people may  struggle to give up, such as smoking. However in reality we all have many habits which literally shape our lives. Realising this, and learning to change the habits that no longer serve you, and building new ones which do serve you is transformational. As many who have stepped onto this path will realise it is not always easy.

In yoga philosophy the word samskara refers to the imprints on the subconcious mind from previous actions. Scientists have found that when we repeat a behaviour we strengthen the neural pathway in our brains. This is great news if we are building good habits such as eating healthily, getting enough sleep and practicing yoga ;-). As we repeat the behaviour the neural pathways become stronger and in time we reach for a piece of fruit without thinking.

Yoga can be great at making us more aware of our habits. Awareness is a great tool and will help you understand why you do something. For example, I had a bad habit of reading for too long in the morning before practice.  My schedule is sometimes flexible in that I can do that, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do and it wasn’t helping me get the most out of my day. It had become a habit though, so there must be something I was getting out of it. I realised I needed some free time to do as I pleased. So now I give myself this time to read but it has a cut off time at 8 am when my yoga practice begins.

For me that’s one of the keys to changing habits, as I think you have to work out what the old habit is serving. Do you watch TV instead of being active because you’re tired? Do you need more sleep? Do you smoke because you like to take a break from work, socialise with friends or relax? Can you find new ways to get the same benefits that are more in line with the person you want to be.

We become good at what we practice. The trick is to choose what you want to practice and shape your life into your own groove. We all have good and bad habits. We can learn and gain strength from the good ones and use them as a model to work from. You can literally rewire your brain that way, building new pathways and a new you.

As a side note I hope those of you in the UK are enjoying this amazing weather.

Do you have any habits you have changed? How did you do it?

A Morning Yin Yoga Routine to Open Your Hips for Padmasana Lotus and Life!

Most of us have tight hips, mostly because we spend so much of our time sitting in chairs. At my recent hip opening workshop we discussed how the benefits of opening your hips expand beyond your ability to do lotus pose. Having freedom of movement in your hips is so important for posture, especially as it is so close to the centre of your body. Lotus often features in images of the yogi and as such this posture has become a goal for many. That’s fine but remember to accept and enjoy where you are right now too. You also need to respect your body whilst attempting lotus and follow the guidelines of Patanjali ahimsa (non-violence). Be particularly careful about your knees, if your hips are not open enough then your knees may try and help out, this is not their job. If you ever feel even a little bit of discomfort in your knees doing lotus, come out of it, even if you can usually do it. Seriously, you only get one set of knees look after them. Regular  practice of the primary series of  ashtanga yoga will do wonders for your hip mobility.

My journey to lotus

About six or seven years ago, I was struggling with many of the lotus based poses in ashtanga yoga. I was practicing ashtanga yoga daily and it was coming slowly but I decided to do some additional yin yoga. As I was going to a lot of yoga classes most evenings at the time and working as a school teacher, I decided to do this practice in the morning before work. It was a lovely way to start the day. It gave me some space which I am sure made me a better teacher and I walked to the bus stop with much freer hips and a smile on my face.

What is Yin yoga

In yin yoga, you hold the positions for a longer period of time about 5-10 minutes. It’s almost the opposite of ashtanga yoga, which is much more fluid coming in and out of the poses. The idea behind yin is that it helps to release the fascia. Fascia is the interconnecting tissue between your muscles. I found yin yoga worked particularly well in opening my hips.

The morning hip opening yin yoga sequence

The great thing about this sequence is that it is highly adaptable. Each position is help for 5-10 minutes so if you have 15 minutes, you know you can do 3 poses for 5 minutes each. You can do this as an asana practice or you can do it when your doing other things, like reading. If you already have a yoga practice, then I think that’s fair enough. Obviously there will be more benefit to doing a focused practice but do what works for you.

Badhakonasa yoga pose against the wall

My student Rosey demonstrating Baddha Konasana against the wall Baddha Konasana – bound angle pose

 

Baddha Konasana – bound angle pose

You can hold this pose for 5 to 10 minutes but start with five and build up. Place your back up against the wall. I used to have my breakfast like this in the morning. If one side is tighter than the other then prop the more flexible side up, otherwise the tight side doesn’t get as much of a stretch. A pair of socks works well for this but use whatever you have handy and put under the more flexible hip.

Gabor practicing hip opener

Gabor practicing hip opener, made upasana

 

 

Made upasana (lol)

This is a variation that I teach for Marichyasana B, for people who can’t do half lotus. It is great for opening your hips. It releases the piriformis, which if tight can be one of the causes of sciatic pain. As this muscle connects the upper and lower body, it is important to keep it relaxed. Sitting on chairs tightens it and if you want open your lotus, this will really help you. Place your right foot over your left just above the knee, then place your back against the wall, gradually bend your left leg until you feel a stretch in your right hip. If you are very tight or are having problems with your back, I recommend you do this instead  for 30 seconds to a minute.  You can hold this yin variation for 5 minutes, repeat on the other side.

So there’s a 15- 20 minute sequence….

Agnistambhasana - fire log pose

Agnistambhasana – fire log pose (my legs) -fold forward

Agnistambhasana – fire log pose or double pigeon

Want more?  Try fire log pose also known as double pigeon and or half lotus with the other leg in pigeon. In the first variation stack your shins on top of each other and lean forward gently.

half lotus pigeon

Half lotus pigeon (my legs) -fold forward in lotus withthe other foot under your knee.

 

 

For half lotus pigeon place one leg carefully place one leg in half lotus and place the other foot under your knee. Hold each pose for 5 minutes and be sure to do both sides.

 Upavashta Konasana – seated angle pose

Matylda practicing yoga pose upavishta konasana

Matylda demonstrates upavishta konasana, bend forward gradually from your hips

If you have more time, then upavishta konasana is a key pose which works great as a yin pose.  This is a great pose for opening your adductors (inner thigh) and will help free your hips.  Find a way of being comfortable here, don’t overstretch.  If you feel pain in any of these positions back off and talk to your yoga teacher.  This post can’t replace the advice of an actual teacher who can see and adapt these poses to suit your needs. If I am that teacher, hopefully you already know I welcome questions.

At the end of your practice, gently see if you can do lotus, listen to your body and ignore your ego, repeat….

Would like to thank my students Matylda, Rosey and Gabor for allowing me to use their photos and Joana for her photography help :-).  This post was requested at my recent hip opening workshop if you have something you would like me to write about, please contact me.

My next workshop in September will be more about hip openers and yin yoga. Details will be on my website in July. If you want to keep updated  subscribe to my newsletter.

Do you do any extra poses, outside of your ashtanga practice?  I won’t tell the Ashtanga police honest ;-).