Yoga for Nourishment: That which should be eliminated, is eliminated, Part 4

Finish off your practice for healthy elimination of the digestive tract with these two "super poses" for overall health of the organic body.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) is included in most of the therapeutic programs in the back of Light on Yoga. It was named "God's gift to humanity" by B.K.S. Iyengar himself. This version is on a brick which puts more of a stretch on the abdomen. I have shown the entry onto the brick which is on the tall height and thinner direction. The brick should be places on the lower sacrum near the tailbone. To come out, grip the buttocks and lift up. Keep the buttocks gripped until you reach the floor, then let go. 

Next, Viparita Karani (inverted action/lake pose) is an inversion where the abdomen goes into a natural bandha (seal) when done correctly. I have shown one version on two blocks. One block can also be used. Note that the block is now turned width-wise. I have also showed a version with a bolster and the wall. 

“Yoga can cure or lessen our physical, mental, moral and spiritual sufferings. Perfection and success are certain only if one practices with love and whole-hearted dedication.”
— B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, II.28

Yoga for Nourishment: That which should be eliminated, is eliminated, Part 3

We are still talking about constipation here! Seated forward bends are an excellent way to work on clearing the lower abdomen (this is why they are also the hallmark of the menstruation practice). However, seated forward bends can be difficult for us when we are tight in the hips, buttocks and hamstrings. 

Try starting with Adho Mukha Swastikasana (simple cross-legs, coming forward) and Adho Mukha Virasana (more commonly called child's pose). Note, that I have placed a rolled blanket in the abdomen. This can be done in all the poses and is especially helpful is you are 

Then attempt the king (or queen?) of seated forward bends, Paschimottanasana (intense stretch of the west/backside of the body). I have places a length-wise bolster all the way up into the abdominal cavity. Rolled blankets can also be used. Please use enough height so that you keep the sacrum in a healthy, neutral position to protect your lower back. 

Finish up by doing a couple of seated twists, Bharadvajasana I.  Repetition in the twists is better than holding so do 3-4 rounds. 

By regular and devoted practice, the impurities of the sadhaka’s body and mind are consumed, the causes of affliction removed and the crown of wisdom is acquired.
— B.K.S. Iyengar, Light of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, II.28

Yoga for Nourishment: That which should be eliminated, is eliminated, Part 1

That's right, I'm talking about poop. I was on a trip recently, and as usual I got constipated from the airplane and travel. Dry weather and stress exacerbated the problem and I experienced heartburn on the other end. Not fun. In Ayurveda, healthy daily elimination is considered one of the keys to vibrant health. In my practice as a yoga teacher and a nutrition coach, I have seen the effects that long-term digestive issues can have on not only people's physical health but also on their emotional well-being.

Constipation can be caused by many things, diet, lack of exercise, stress, tension in the abdomen, dehydration, etc. There are some good natural supplements that you can use to help: Triphala, Psyllium powder, aloe vera. And, here is a fairly simple sequence to facilitate your ability to discard that which should be discarded. I am going to offer it in three parts.

Elimination, Part 1

The actions in these three standing forward bends is to move the upper front thighs back, spread sit bones apart to release the groins and allow the lower abdomen to pull up and back. The action of the lower abdomen is sometimes difficult to get at. There is a pulling back of the entire abdomen but without a grip in towards the navel. The abdomen feels like the top of a drum with the skin stretched out to the sides but a feeling of space within the interior.

“By yogic practice, the sadhaka conquers his body, controls his energy, restrains the movements of the mind and develops sound judgement, from which he acts rightly and becomes luminous.”
— B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, II.27

Yoga for Your Heart....(neck and shoulders!)

This is for the benefit of the students that I recently had in a Yoga for the Neck & Shoulders workshop at Adeline Yoga Studio but I am sharing it with all as it is a gift that can help almost everyone these days! I would like to give all credit to Lois Steinberg who has fearlessly collected and transmitted the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar and Geeta Iyengar as they apply to modification and adjustments for common problems as well as more complex yoga therapeutics.  If you are a more experienced yoga practitioner and study with a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher (CIYT), I would seriously consider an investment in one or many of her books. You can purchase them here: 

This is a simplification of the poses that we did in the workshop that is meant to be a guide for home practice. 

Start with a resting pose, especially if you are experiencing any pain. 

Pavanmuktasana: Two chairs can be used instead of the bench

Pavanmuktasana: Two chairs can be used instead of the bench

Shoulder Savasana with weights on the shoulders and arms. Sandbags are used here but you can get creative!

Shoulder Savasana with weights on the shoulders and arms. Sandbags are used here but you can get creative!

Then move on to "re-patterning" the shape of your shoulders and upper girdle of the torso.

  • Lower the inner shoulder (upper trapezius)
  • Turn the outer shoulder to insert the outer shoulderblade into the body towards the spine
  • Fill the upper chest under the collar bone
  • Stretch the forearm towards the wall broadening the heel of the hand
  • You will feel strong sensations in the wrist, arm and shoulder here but should not feel shooting nerve pain. Back it up if this happens.
  • Watch a video of Lois teaching this pose!

Next, open the front of your chest and particularly the armpit area. Watch a video of Lois teaching this here.

Next for some chair twists, Bharadvajasana. If you also have lower back issues, make sure that you are executing these twists from the diaphragmatic area vs. the lumbar spine and sacrum.

Another standing twist, Utthita Marichyasana. In this one use the legs and arms to find length in the torso vs. screwing yourself down into a twist. Ascend and twist from the bottom back ribs. Use the actions from the arm exercises at the wall earlier to inform your twists.

  • Watch Lois teach this pose!

Finally, rest again in a supported version of Viparita Karani (Inverted Action or Lake pose). A chair can be used in leue of the Halasana box that is used in the photo. Be sure that your lower back and pelvis feels secure and rested on the bolster so the abdomen is placid and spreading. Open your chest by releasing the shoulders to the floor and spreading the bottom, front floating ribs (the diaphragm). Breath should be through the nose and soft, even, smooth and tranquil.

At the end of the practice, take some version of Savasana, either face up or face down. Observe the transformation from the practice you did. Allow the effects of the practice to percolate and fill all the cells of your body. 

Yoga for Your Heart: High & Low Blood Pressure

This series of standing, supported forward bends are a great start to a practice focused on either high or low blood pressure. In fact, they are a great way to decompress and de-stress before starting any yoga practice session. 

Be sure to use height and supports so you can sustain the poses for 3-5-10 minutes comfortably.

As B.K.S. Iyengar says in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the asana (posture) should feel nourishing and illuminative otherwise they're not yoga asana.

The order can also be swapped. For example, you could start with Adho Mukha Svanasana vs. Uttanasana. But, here is the basic sequence:

  • Supported Uttanasana (Intense Stretch) See previous post on Uttanasana
  • Supported Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) with head on a block
  • Prasarita Padattonasana (Expanded leg intense stretch) with head supported

Note: The first version the head is handing and shoulders are supported; the second version the head is resting and the shoulder are releasing.

Note: Second version is Lois Steinberg demonstrating a version that can be used for pregnancy. If you are not pregnant, you can join the bolsters and rest the whole torso forward.

What most people want is the same. Most people simply want physical and mental health, understanding and wisdom, and peace and freedom. Often our means of pursuing these basic human needs come apart at the seams, as we are pulled by the different and often competing demands of human life. Yoga, as it was understood by its sages, is designed to satisfy all these humans needs in a comprehensive, seamless whole. Its goal is nothing less than to attain the integrity of oneness-oneness with ourselves and as a consequence oneness with all that lies beyond ourselves. We become the harmonious microcosm in the universal macrocosm. Oneness, what I often call integration, is the foundation for wholeness, inner peace and ultimate freedom.
— B.K.S. Iyengar

Yoga for Your Heart: Rock & Roll!

Is your heart feeling heavy, depressed, anxious? Then, sometimes you just gotta' "Shake it Off"!

Yogi Zain and I are doing a rolling practice to get things moving. We start from Paschimottanasana (intense stretch of the west) which is a forward bend to Halasana (plow) which is an inverted forward bend.

Then, we mix it up with Malasana (garland pose) a standing squat, to Uttanasana (intense stretch) standing forward bend, to Urdhva Ekapadattanasana (One leg extended up) another standing forward bend, to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog). 

Finally, I support Zain in doing a freestanding handstand. You can use a wall if you are practicing on your own.  And feel free to mix up the poses you go into because....

most importantly....Have fun! 

The dull brain becomes active and the brooding mind gets refreshed. Thus, it is kind of a brainwash, where the person begins to see with new perspective and a better future.”
— Geeta Iyengar on Surya Namaskar