Increase Your Mobility Through Stability with Yoga

Happy to be back writing Yoga Posts! While I was gone, among other things, I took a Continuing Education class based on the Iyengar style of yoga. It felt good to revisit the principles of alignment. I was reminded how important it is to study the core elements from time to time; especially when your practice is more advanced. In moving back to the essence of Iyengar, I have refreshed my way of practicing yoga.

So this week, I would like to share what I have been learning. The first concept I focused on was how to generate mobility through stability. While I know that grounding is important to keep a pose steady, through this training, I’ve discovered that establishing an effective base can actually improve your pose.

I created the following sequence for my personal practice and class sessions by choosing a group of poses for the upper body – specifically the neck, shoulders and main torso.

Centering and Warming Postures:

  • Seated Melting Meditation is a great way to bring awareness to the upper back body. Sit comfortably and visualize yourself melting from the base of your skull to your hips.
  • Experiment with this Myofascial Neck Release to relax the deep tissues of the neck. Briefly stretch your right ear towards your shoulder then return your head to center. Massage your left ear cartilage and the area around the ear. Then, repeat the stretch to feel the effects of the massage.
  • Try this mini vinyasa flow that moves from a Kneeling Urdhva Hastasana to Anahatasana to build stability for the upper body. You can also add a kneeling open twist with your arms extending forward and backward.

Focus Poses:

  • Practice Standing Marichyasana and Revolved Side Angle by using a chair facing the wall. This is the heart of the Iyengar workshop I took with Carrie Owerko. It is an awesome method for focusing on what needs to be grounded or stabilized for the openings to occur. We placed our hands on the wall to activate the shoulders and used a yoga strap to anchor the hips (by connecting a large loop from the back foot to the front hip).

It is amazing how effective this was for myself and for my students. We could truly create space to move more deeply into these poses.


  • Then, I chose to isolate the upper body with Warrior I variations. First, flowing from a cactus arm position to a shoulder hug and then by pushing and pulling the arms away from and into the body. In the end, the traditional pose felt easier and more stable.

Poses to Wind Down:

  • The sequence winds down and resolves with Constructive Rest Pose. Simply lie on your back, bend the knees and place your feet mat width apart. Allow your knees to rest together to neutralize the pelvis.
  • End with a version of Supported Savasana. In the example below, the spine is lifted with a bolster to open the shoulders and a blanket wrap anchors the ankles and feet in Buddha Konasana.

This is a practice I will revisit often. Its lesson is invaluable as it affects us both physically, mentally and spiritually. It is particularly important to keep in mind when we are transitioning or facing new challenges in life.

Through preparation, we can provide ourselves with a stable base so that we are better equipped to move into action. A pretty important concept for those of us who like to step out onto the ledge from time to time.

Photos by Yoga Journal & YogaU

Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Expand Your Vessel & Truly Breathe

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“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.” ― Rumi, The Essential Rumi

As students of yoga, we eventually learn how to connect with our breathing. We come to understand that the simple act of inhalation and exhalation can be enhanced when our posture is aligned. As we physically straighten, we open ourselves up to experience a fuller range of movement in the upper chest/back, ribcage and abdominal areas.

In an attempt to expand our vessels for the breath, here are three key strategies:

#1 Counteract “Techno – Hump” 

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Using computers and cell phones can adversely affect our breathing function. The head forward position can lead to a spinal curvature disorder called kyphosis which compresses the movement of air by collapsing the chest.

Here is a short posture sequence for reducing upper back tension and straightening the body:

Continue reading “Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Expand Your Vessel & Truly Breathe”

Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Discover Your Breath

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As we continue to explore the poses and our breathing practices, we are expanding our level of awareness. We are learning to pay attention. We are discovering what it is to be in the present moment. And, it is in the present moment that we experience our true “state of yoga.” It is where we see our connection and remember who we are. 

The fourth limb of the yogic system is pranayama or breath control. It is made up of a range of techniques that begin with simple awareness and continue on with more intensive control approaches.

Although pranayama is an integral part of yoga, the practice is not generally taught until a student is comfortable resting with their breath in either a supine or seated position. In this way, a student learns to relax completely in order to receive the breath.

Breathing practices give your mind focus – you virtually tune in when you pay attention to your breath.  This can occur whether you are in a resting pose or actively performing the asanas. As many teachers will tell you, “if it is not with the breath, it is not yoga.”

A good way to begin the practice of pranayama is to focus on your belly breath: Continue reading “Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Discover Your Breath”

Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Combine Effort & Ease

“Focus your attention on your breath. When your mind wanders, simply return your awareness to the inhalation and exhalation. You don’t need to empty your mind or have perfect attention. It is the act of noticing mental distractions and bringing the attention back to the breath that lends the mind steadiness (sthira) and ease (sukha).”

How do we keep ourselves physically challenged yet safe? Continue reading “Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Combine Effort & Ease”

Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Lead With Your Heart

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“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.” – Rumi

A set of heart-opening poses may be the very most important piece of the yoga asana puzzle. Here are three reasons to lead with your heart:

#1: Emotional and Physical Revival – Psychologically, backbends can teach you receptivity, acceptance, compassion, and determination. Physically, backbends correct our tendency to hunch. Especially in this era of increased computer and cell phone usage, our “tech necks” and upper backs are in dire need of lengthening.

#2: Beat Bone Loss – The act of spinal extension or back bending can help to prevent or slow down the effects of osteoporosis or bone loss. Gentle back bends such as Salabasana (locust pose) or supported Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose) were included in a long-term study of osteoporosis reversal (click here for details).

#3: Energizing – Back bends bring energy into our subtle heart centers. The heart or anahata chakra stimulates our love for self and others and permits our brilliance to shine. Often times in class following a back bend, I can feel my students’ positive energy level come alive.

Here are some heart-warming poses to ignite your flame. Try to incorporate one of these essential back bending postures into your yoga practice each day:
Continue reading “Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Lead With Your Heart”

Establish A Steady Yoga Practice – Dedicate Today

Dedicate this time to your well-being, for the opportunity to build strength and lightness, flexibility and balance.

“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” – B.K.S. Iyengar

“What is the purpose of yoga practice? To open the heart. Measure your success in your postures not by how far you go but by how aware you are in each moment. What makes you feel most alive? Most present? Most whole?” -unknown source

Prior to the start of your practice, read a quote that is meaningful to you. The above passages have complemented my practice over time. Or, you may want to dedicate your session to a person that will benefit from your healthy and positive energy. 
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Providing yourself with gentle reminders of why you are taking time to practice will keep you motivated and devoted. Dedication is a profound way to start your day and can set the tone for the activities ahead. 

May You Be A Blessing Unto Others!

Establish A Steady Yoga Practice – Go With the Flow

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“Yield to the flow. It is the most intelligent, fulfilling thing to do. Surrender your best sense of what to do or not to do and trust in the flow of Being.” – E. Schiffmann

Your challenge this week is to take 5 minutes each day to go with the flow by practicing what speaks to you.

You can simply sit and breathe, do one or two yoga poses that are familiar to you, or, if it’s a “down day”, enjoy a relaxation pose like Savasana (corpse pose). The important thing is to go to your dedicated space and set your timer for 5 minutes. Just 5 minutes – no more. 

If you are a teacher, try this in class. Allow a few minutes for self-practice prior to the start of class.

Creating a home practice begins with honoring yourself. Continue reading “Establish A Steady Yoga Practice – Go With the Flow”