yoga poses

5 Yoga Poses to Fire Up Your Sex Life

Ignite your intimacy

Yoga tones your body, reduces stress and ramps up physical energy, but did you know that yoga can also help fire up your sex life?

Sure can. Many poses increase circulation to the pelvic region, says Kate Hanley, a yoga teacher, author and founder of MsMindbody.com. That makes the whole region more “alive,” which can lead to a more satisfying time in the sack.
           
Yoga also helps you relax and be more open, both physically and emotionally, says Amy Weintraub, founder of the LifeForce Yoga Healing Institute and author of Yoga for Depression.

“Yoga releases the emotional and physical constrictions we have around life’s challenges,” Weintraub says. “And it takes you to a place where you are more receptive to all things, which also helps you become more open and receptive to intimacy.”
                                 
So, which yoga poses can help heat things up in the bedroom? Here are five that Weintraub and Hanley say can fire up your sex life.   
 
1. Sat Kriya Meditation

Sit with your heels against your buttocks. Chin facing out, hands interlaced and raised over your head and elbows near your ears, focus on lifting and lowering your pelvic floor. Repeat the mantra “Sat Nam.” When you chant “Sat,” pull your navel in and visualize energy entering your body. When you say “Nam,” imagine the energy releasing.

What it does: Balances and distributes the body’s energy. Increases vitality. Strengthens perineum and other core muscles. Generates heat. Jump-starts sexual energy.

2. Sphinx Pose

In this back-bending pose, you lie face-down with your legs, pelvis, belly and forearms against the mat. Your chest is elevated and you’re gazing straight ahead. Allow the weight of your pelvis to sink into the floor while repeating the mantra “Vam” — sounds like “vvvmmm” — with emphasis on the V, which creates a deeply felt vibration in the core of the pelvis region.

What it does: Stretches back muscles and strengthens core. Boosts libido and mood. Increases feelings of vitality.

3.  Supta Baddha Konasana or Reclining Bound Angle Pose

Sit with knees bent and the soles of the feet touching. Use rolled-up blankets or towels under each thigh for support and lie back until your upper back and head are also resting on neatly folded towels or blankets. Hands can lie flat on the belly with the thumbs and index fingers touching to form a triangle, or you can let your arms lie on the floor alongside your torso, with palms facing up. Stay in this pose for two or three minutes, allowing your body to relax and sink into the floor.

What it does: Stretches inner thigh and groin muscles. Gently increases circulation in the pelvis, opens the hips and the heart. Promotes deep relaxation. Relieves stress. In this pose, people often shed layers of anxiety and tend to feel a natural openness and sense of intimacy, Weintraub says.      

4. Upavista Konasana or Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend

Sit on the floor, legs straight and opened into a wide angle. Toes are pointing up toward the ceiling. Keep your back straight and fingers or palms pressed on floor. Or, you can rotate your pelvis to fold forward at the hips, walking your fingers forward until your hands are on the floor in front of you as far as you can comfortably reach.

What it does: Improves flexibility and blood flow to the lower half of the body.

5. Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward-Facing Dog

Begin on your hands and knees. Work to straighten your legs by lifting your hips toward the ceiling. Keep your arms straight, hands flat on the mat. Your buttocks should be pointed toward the ceiling, legs straight, and heels reaching down toward the floor (they may not reach the floor, and that's fine). Your body looks like an inverted V.

What it does: Boosts confidence and muscle tone. “It's also kind of sexy in and of itself, as your butt is in the air and you're feeling strong, long and relaxed,” Hanley says. Downward-Facing Dog will also ease muscle tension in your back and improve overall flexibility, which can only enhance your sexual creativity.

Ignite your intimacy

For both beginners and experienced practitioners, any of these poses, with regular practice, will improve flexibility and heighten body awareness, which makes for a steamy, sensual time between the sheets. And, because yoga also helps you become more comfortable in your own skin, you’re likely to feel more relaxed and confident in a sexual relationship.

“When it comes to a yoga practice, do what’s comfortable and use these poses as a portal into a deeper experience of intimacy and relaxation,” Weintraub says.

Weintraub also suggests practicing yoga with your spouse or partner. That kind of shared physical experience is a great way to build intimacy and can be a sensual turn-on for some.

“If your feel-good hormones are raging after a yoga class and the first person you see is your beloved, you’re raising the intimacy level right there,” she explains.
 

Perfect your yoga practice with yoga videos on GaiamTV.com.

 

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Is your yoga practice on autopilot? Try this free four-minute yoga video from Patricia Moreno to bring new energy to a common yoga sequence: Sun Salutation

Practice with Patricia Moreno at home: Patricia Moreno DVDs

Yoga: A Holiday Hangover Cure

How yoga can be a remedy for holiday hangovers

This time of year even the most fit and health-minded of us can find ourselves with a raging, throbbing, post-celebration hangover.

Though most yogis are loathe to admit it (heavy drinking is not exactly part of Patanjali’s eight-fold path to enlightenment) some say a round of asanas that gets the body moving, breathing, and sweating can release poisons created by the alcohol and help cure your hangover. This may ease the head and calm the tummy like nothing else –– especially once you’ve found that water, sleep, food and other natural hangover remedies aren’t getting the job done.  

One yoga studio (in Las Vegas, of course) isn’t shy about this discovery: It offers Hangover Yoga, a vigorous-sounding hatha/Ashtanga class that promises to “bring you back into balance, release toxins, and re-energize your spirit.” Others may want to start more gently, else they end up like this blogger: “I was SO hungover today. Lisa, my yoga guru, insisted that yoga would cure my hangover. Well, let’s just say yoga kicked my hungover butt.”

Living Your Light, a website for “Promoting Creative, Conscious Living,” offers sensible “yoga tips for surviving the holidays.” Below, I quote and paraphrase its advice:

  • Avoid or minimize inversions, especially if you are experiencing nausea, heartburn or indigestion.
  • Spinal twists have a calming effect on the digestive system as they allow excess toxins, known as ama, which are produced and stored in the abdominal organs, to be released.
  • Abdominal strengthening poses can be great poses to help alleviate excess cramping, bloating and gas in the colon. Try these: Pavanamuktasana (Wind Releasing pose) or Navasana (Boat pose).

The icing here may be some calming, brain-balancing breathwork. Try anuloma viloma a.k.a. alternate nostril breathing. And, if that all fails, you can always take one doctor’s advice on WebMD: “Two aspirin, a glass of water, sleep, and a multivitamin in the morning — if you can stomach it — are probably the best things to do.”

 

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9 Yoga Moves to Blast Holiday Calories

 

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Yoga for Fertility

6 yoga poses for pregnancy

I can remember so clearly the moment I first realized I was pregnant. I was driving, heading back to Brooklyn after visiting a friend in Philadelphia, when I felt that telltale pang (called mittleschmertz) of ovulation. My husband and I had just started trying, and I thought to myself, “Here we go!”

My boobs were sore within 36 hours. I knew in my bones that I was pregnant.

About a week later, a home pregnancy test confirmed my intuition. In yoga class, I didn’t mention anything to my teachers, but I did subtly start adjusting my practice — standing with feet hips’ distance in Mountain Pose, for instance, and avoiding twists. And then, about 10 days later, I miscarried.

It was very early, and our first time out. Still, it stung.

There were a lot of Corpse Poses where tears leaked out of my eyes in the weeks that followed. Sticking with my yoga practice during that time gave me an outlet for my emotions, and it helped me stay in a friendly relationship with my body when I could have easily felt betrayed. It also gave me tools to send extra love (in the form of freshly oxygenated blood and energy) to my reproductive organs. A few months later, I was pregnant again, with our now-almost-six-year-old daughter.

How yoga helps when you’re trying to get pregnant

Yoga tones and nourishes your reproductive organs by systematically squeezing and then releasing them, which encourages them to function optimally. And it gives you a way to stay connected to your body at a time when it can feel like you’re not on the same page. 

But the most important thing yoga can do for you when you’re trying to have a baby is help you calm the stress response. Cooling your chronic flight-or-fight helps balance your hormones and makes your body a more inviting environment for a baby and makes it that much easier to conceive.

I’m not talking power yoga, hot yoga, or even vinyasa yoga. If fertility is truly your main priority for your yoga practice (and whether you’ve been practicing yoga for years or are brand new to it), focus on some easy-does-it yoga. If you’re looking for a class, some of the styles to look for on a studio schedule are:

  • Restorative
  • Yin
  • Gentle
  • Hatha
  • Mellow
  • Stretch and Breathe
If you’re looking for a routine to do at home, here are the six fertility yoga poses I suggest. Use as many props (blankets, bolsters, pillows) as you like. In fact, I dare you to drag all this stuff out! It’s really all about promoting the deep, I’m-so-relaxed-I-feel-like-a-noodle feeling. You will be so happy you did!

1. Reclined Bound Angle Pose

This is the mother of all fertility-promoting yoga poses. Resting your torso on the bolster creates plenty of breathing room — literally — in your abdomen for the uterus and ovaries. Splaying your thighs out to the side opens the pelvis and invites more blood and breath to flow through the area.

To do it, put your bolster or a couch cushion on the floor. Sit down so the cushion is a few inches away from your lower back — you want your ribcage to rest on the bolster, but not your waist. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together, then let your knees open to the side. Have two rolled-up towels or yoga blocks nearby to tuck under your thighs. Then lie back so your spine, neck, and head are resting on the cushion. Place your hands on your belly, palms down, or on the floor, palms up. Stay at least 5 minutes, letting your body sink down into your props. No effort allowed! Just be.

2. Wide-Legged Seated Pose

This pose really opens the hips and gets the blood flowing through your pelvis.

Sitting up tall, open your legs wide. Keep your knees and toes pointing straight up at the ceiling. Stay sitting up tall, your fingertips on the floor just behind your thighs to help you reach your spine away from your hips, for five breaths. Then fold forward as far as you can comfortably go. Rest your head on a bolster, coffee table, or hard chair and stay here 1-2 minutes.

3. Head on Knee Pose

The slight twist in this seated version of Tree Pose is like a massage for your uterus and ovaries.

Sit on the floor with both legs straight. Bend your right knee and bring the sole of your right foot up high on the left inner thigh. Place your hands on the floor on either side of your left knee, and use the leverage of your hands pressing in to the floor to spin your belly button so it’s in line with your left knee. Then walk your hands toward your left foot, keeping the spine long. When you’ve gone as far as you can, use a bolster, rolled-up blanket, or even a chair to rest your forehead on. Stay a minute or two, then switch legs.

4. Simple Seated Twist

Yet another massage for the ole uterus. (Speaking of, have you booked a massage for your whole body lately? 

Sitting cross-legged with a tall spine, rotate your torso to the left. Bring your left hand to the floor just behind your left buttock and your right hand to your left knee. Take 10 breaths here, lifting your spine a titch taller with each inhale, and twisting a hair further to the left with each exhale. Then repeat to the right.

5. Bridge Pose on Blocks

This pose stretches the psoas — the muscle that connects the upper body to the lower body — which creates more space in the low abdomen for your organs to do their thing. It also gently compresses the thyroid gland, which then gets doused in fresh blood (which delivers oxygen and nutrients), helping this hormone-producer function better.

To do it, you need two yoga blocks, or two short stacks of books or magazines. Place one block against a wall. Lie on your back and put your feet on the block so your soles are flat against the wall. Then press in to the wall and lift your hips up, sliding the other block under your sacrum — the triangular bone at the base of your spine. Roll on to the outside edges of your upper arms and drop your chin down toward your chest and back toward the floor slightly. Stay one or two minutes.

6. Corpse Pose

This is where the relaxation really kicks in.

To up the comfort level, rest your torso on a bolster or couch cushion, or roll up a blanket to put under your knees, or rest just your calves on a coffee table. Really give it up to gravity and imagine the floor rising up to support you, so that all that’s left for you to do is sink and release into the floor.

 

Related Articles: 

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Pregnancy Diet: Eating to Conceive

 

Pregnancy Solutions: 

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Kate Hanley is a writer, coach, and yoga teacher for people who don’t do yoga. Her book, The 28 Days Lighter Diet, is coming out in January 2014, and guides you to sync your diet, fitness, and wellness pursuits to your menstrual cycle. Visit her at msmindbody.com.

How to Use the Yogacise Yoga Lift for Headstands

Learn how to master this challenging yoga inversion

Learn how to use the Yogacise yoga lift to safely do a perfect Headstand, one of the most challenging and beneficial yoga inversion poses, in this two-minute how-to video.

The health benefits of regularly inverting your body include relieving fatigue and headaches; improving balance, memory, focus and digestion; and helping to detoxify the body. A yoga lift can also be used for meditation and weight training.

Learn more about Gaiam's Yogacise yoga lift.

Asanas for Acne: 8 Yoga Poses for Vibrant Skin

Pose your way to perfect skin

We all know that yoga can help with a host of ailments, from promoting weight loss to alleviating depression. But what about acne? Can you stretch your way to smooth, blemish-free skin?

Like most health conditions, acne has more than one cause. Gary Kraftsow, founder of the American Viniyoga Institute and author of Yoga for Wellness, says that while yoga can’t address all of acne’s causes, such as a genetic predisposition to breakouts, a targeted yoga practice can help with others by combating stress and promoting circulation to the face.

Stressed-out skin

One of the main causes of acne is stress, says Kraftsow. Or, more specifically, an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system (the system that controls breathing, heart rate, digestion and sexual arousal). Stress — whether physical, emotional or even dietary — creates this imbalance by stimulating the sympathetic subsystem, often referred to as the “fight or flight” response. The sympathetic response makes your heart beat faster, floods the body with hormones (including adrenalin) and diverts blood away from the digestive system and the skin. This can trigger acne outbreaks.

But what if “stressed out” is your status quo? That’s where yoga comes in.

“There are many calming postures that encourage the parasympathetic or ‘rest and repose’ response instead,” says Liz Lark, a yoga teacher and co-author of Healing Yoga. Some poses Lark suggests include:

  • Uttanasana (standing forward bend): Stand up straight with your hands on your hips. Exhale and bend forward from your hips, lengthening your torso as you move toward the floor. With your knees straight, bring your palms or fingertips to the floor, or cross your forearms and hold your elbows. Lengthen your torso with each inhalation and deepen the bend with each exhalation. Relax your head and neck. Hold for up to one minute, then bring your hands back onto your hips. Come up on an inhalation, keeping your torso long and straight.  
  • Janu Sirsasana (head-to-knee forward bend): Sit on the floor on a folded blanket with legs extended. Inhale, bending your right knee and drawing your heel back toward your groin. Rest your right foot against the inside of your left thigh. Lay your outer right leg on the floor, with your shin at a right angle to your left leg. Press your right hand against your inner right thigh and your left hand on the floor beside your hip. Exhale and turn your torso to the left, reaching to grasp your left foot in your right hand. Inhale and lengthen through the top of your head, twisting further to the left. Reach your left hand to the outside of your left foot, exhaling as you bend forward to touch your nose to your knee. Hold for up to one minute, then release on an exhalation. Repeat on the other side.
  • Supta Padangusthasana (reclining big toe pose): Lie on the floor, legs extended. Exhale, bending your left knee and hugging your thigh to your stomach. Loop a strap around the arch of your left foot, holding the strap with both hands. Inhale and straighten your left knee, pressing your heel toward the ceiling. Move your hands up the strap until your elbows are fully extended, pressing your shoulder blades into the floor. Once your left leg is fully lengthened, extend through your big toe. Turn your left leg outward to the left from the hip joint, then exhale and swing it out to the left, holding it a few inches off the floor. Continue rotating your left leg, then inhale, bringing it back to vertical. Hold for up to one minute, then release on an exhalation. Repeat on the other side.
  • Salamba Sarvangasana (supported shoulder stand): Lark also recommends the supported shoulder stand, which she calls the “mother of all postures” because it balances all the systems of the body. However, she cautions that you should learn this pose from an experienced yoga instructor to ensure that you don’t injure your neck or back.

In addition to using specific poses, you should also have a general yoga conditioning program that helps bring the body’s systems into balance,” says Larry Payne, Ph.D., co-author of Yoga for Dummies and Yoga RX.

Which yoga program you choose depends on your age. Payne recommends that people 45 and under try the Sun Salutation sequence, while he encourages those in midlife and beyond to use the Rejuvenation sequence. “These are great for creating balance, and when you have balance it reduces stress and improves conditions like acne,” Payne explains.

Lark also recommends making breathing exercises, meditation and relaxation part of your regular routine. “These are deeply important for inducing calm,” she says.

Go with the flow

If you’re feeling serene but your skin’s still a mess, poor circulation could be to blame.

“Skin vibrancy is related to circulation, so poor postural habits that inhibit blood flow to the skin can lead to acne,” says Kraftsow.

Moving into and out of yoga poses increases circulation throughout the body, but you can target the face with specific poses that promote blood flow to that area.

Kraftsow says that twists are especially good for increasing circulation to the face because they turn the head, neck and shoulders in relation to the upper back. Three that he recommends for a glowing complexion are:

  • Bharadvajasana (Bharadvaja's twist): Sit on the floor with legs extended. Shift your weight to the right, then bend your knees and swing your legs to the left, placing your feet on the floor outside your left hip. Inhale and lift through the top of your head, then exhale, twisting your torso to the right. Tuck your left hand under your right knee, bringing your right hand to the floor behind you. Twist your head to look right, or counter-twist it to look left. Hold for up to one minute, lifting with each inhalation and deepening the twist with each exhalation. Release with an exhalation. Repeat on the other side.
  • Ardha Matsyendrasana (half spinal twist): Sit on the floor with legs extended. Bend your knees, sliding your left foot under your right and laying the outside of the left leg on the floor. Step your right foot over your left leg, standing it on the floor outside your left hip, right knee pointed up at the ceiling. Inhale and lift through the top of your head, then exhale, twisting to the right. Press the right hand against the floor behind you, then position your left elbow on the outside of your right thigh near the knee, upper arm lifted in a wave. Twist your head to look right, or counter-twist it to look left. Hold for up to one minute, lifting with each inhalation and deepening the twist with each exhalation. Release with an exhalation. Repeat on the other side.
  • Trikonasana (triangle pose): From a standing position, exhale and step your feet 3-4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them out to the sides with your palms down. Turn your left foot in slightly and your right foot out to 90 degrees. Align your heel and turn your right thigh outward, centering the right knee with the right ankle. Exhale and extend your torso over your right leg, bending from the hip. Exhale and rotate your torso to the left, resting your right hand on the floor outside your right foot. Reach your left arm toward the ceiling, keeping your head in a neutral position or turning it to the left, to look at your left hand. Hold for up to one minute, then inhale and come back up to a standing position. Repeat on the other side.

"You can adapt most poses to benefit the skin by adding more movement in this area,” Kraftsow says, or simply ask your yoga instructor to include pose variations that twist the upper body.

Inversions are another way to increase blood flow to the face, says Payne. He recommends trying a gentle inversion, such as Viparita Karani, to start:

  • Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose): Place two thickly folded blankets or a bolster 5 to 6 inches away from a wall. Sit sideways on the right end of the support, with your right side against the wall. Exhale, swinging your legs up onto the wall and your shoulders and head onto the floor. Lift and release the base of your skull away from the back of your neck and soften your throat. Spread your arms out to your sides, elbows at 90-degree angles and palms up. Relax your stomach and face muscles. Hold for five to 15 minutes, then slide off the support and onto the floor. Move to a seated position on an exhalation.

Sneaky skin saboteurs

But what if you start a yoga practice and your acne gets worse?

“Then you’re doing the wrong practice,” says Payne. “When your symptoms get worse, that probably means it’s too vigorous.”

Kraftsow agrees, explaining that having too much heat in the body can impact digestion and irritate the skin. This can occur when your yoga practice is too challenging or if you’re going through your sequences too quickly.

“Your breath should be your gauge,” says Lark. “It should remain constant and smooth.” If it isn’t, try slowing down and focusing on relaxation rather than on getting in a cardio-worthy workout.

One last acne culprit? Your yoga mat! Even if your practice is perfect, laying your face on a dirty, sweaty mat is going to wreak havoc on your skin. Avoid pressing your face directly on your mat, always wash your hands and face after your workout (if you don't have time to shower) and disinfect your mat often.

Yoga in Schools: Pre-Quiz Stretches and Breathing

Yoga programs in schools, how helpful are they?

Stretching before tests? Breathing exercises after recess? For happy evidence of yoga’s increasing mainstream influence, consider that yogic techniques are beginning to pop up in after-school programs, gym classes and K-12 classrooms around the country.

Yoga’s popularity among the grade school set is getting a boost from programs like NYC’s Bent on Learning, which provides yoga and meditation to students in New York City public schools and youth centers from Brooklyn to Manhattan and the Bronx, and LA-based Yoga Ed, which provides a detailed educational curriculum for teaching yoga to kids (K-12), and offers ways for teachers to use movement as an integrative method for learning. More than 100 schools in 26 states have adopted the Yoga Ed program and more than 300 physical education instructors have completed the training.

After completing a Yoga Ed training in 2006, Katherine Priore, a yoga instructor and former inner-city schoolteacher, started Headstand, a Bay Area nonprofit dedicated to helping schools implement yoga programs. “Yoga can help children learn how to focus their energy and concentrate better,” says Priore. Headstand recently partnered with KIPP Summit Academy, a middle school in San Lorenzo, CA. For the 2008/09 school year, KIPP Summit students and teachers will practice asana (yoga poses) and pranayama (breathing exercises) to help students improve concentration and to aid teachers in managing classrooms and on-the-job stress.

To substantiate the benefits of the new program and give doubters something to chew on, Priore is joining forces with Stanford researcher Nick Haisman, who will gauge the effects of the yearlong program on learning, discipline and overall school culture. If Headstand is deemed a success, Priore hopes to expand it to other schools in the Bay Area and beyond.

Priore says that the Yoga Ed curriculum and teaching tools enable students and teachers to be more present in the classroom. For example, Breath of Fire (short inhalations through the nose and a long exhale through the mouth, which Yoga Ed renamed the more kid-friendly “bunny breath”) can help energize sleepy students in the morning.

Trish Vance, an LA-based Yoga Ed instructor was a math teacher in an urban middle school for 10 years. She has led trainings in LA, Baltimore, Connecticut, Denver and Nashville. “The Yoga Ed curriculum is great for a diverse population because it’s realistic in terms of time and space restraints,” says Vance. “It’s also clear about promoting the health and wellness benefits without bringing spirituality into the picture.”

In 2003, researchers at California State University Los Angeles studied test scores at the Accelerated School, a charter school where students practice yoga almost every day. Researchers found a correlation between yoga and better behavior and grades, and they said young yogis were more fit than the district average from the California Physical Fitness Test.


The Chakra Guide: Root Chakra

3 yoga poses to open up your root chakra

The root chakra is the first chakra and is located at the base of the spine. It is the root of your being and establishes the deepest connections with your physical body, your environment and the Earth. Muladhara is the most instinctual of all chakras — it is your survival center. Your fight-or-flight response is initiated from this chakra. This is your primal, animal nature. 

The energy of Muladhara allows us to harness courage, resourcefulness and the will to live during trying times. It connects us with the spiritual energies of our ancestors, their challenges and their triumphs.

Root chakra blocks

Since the base chakra carries our ancestral memories, most of us experience challenges or blockages within Muladhara. War, famine, natural disasters and any events that threaten our basic survival are all recorded within the energies of the first chakra.
 
These memories are imprinted in the subtle body and are passed down from generation to generation, creating unconscious generational patterns. It is our work to take responsibility for our own lives and bring to light that which is unconscious by working to open up our first chakra.
 
All of the seven chakras are important and interconnected with each other. Usually, balancing one chakra will create change in another chakra, but it is important to balance the root chakra first, or we will lack the stability and rootedness necessary for true transformation and personal growth. We cannot grow and change unless we feel safe and secure.

Root chakra yoga

Since yoga is both a physical and spiritual practice, yoga poses are not only exercises for your body, but also for your mind, emotions and spirit, making it the perfect practice for balancing your chakras. The best root chakra yoga poses are those that enhance your connection with the Earth — poses that keep you rooted and grounded.

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

The most basic of all poses in yoga is Mountain Pose. Almost every yoga practice begins with this simple pose. Mountain Pose encourages your connection with Earth, connects you with your own body and grounds you in the present moment.
 
I love this pose. It is very relaxing and affirming. When I feel scattered during the day, I go into this pose, even if it is just for a minute or two. Afterwards, I feel much calmer and collected. Here is how to do it:
  1. Stand barefoot on your yoga mat. Shoulders, neck and upper body are relaxed, yet straight. Your arms are at your sides.
  2. Bring your focus to your breath. Inhale slowly into your belly, then exhale. Continue taking deep, slow breaths.
  3. Feel the ground beneath your feet. Spread your toes and lift them off the ground, then relax and let them fall back on the mat.
  4. Imagine roots spreading from your feet deep down into the Earth. Feel the connection and the stability that these roots offer you.
  5. Continue breathing slowly and evenly. You are now standing strong as a mountain.

Warrior One Pose (Virabhadrasana 1)

This is a strong asana that creates a firm connection between the Earth and your body. This root chakra yoga pose allows your prana to move through your body, rooting you through the first chakra.
 
As you breathe in this posture, visualize the color red flowing through your body and flowing into your base chakra.
 
Warrior One Pose physically strengthens your legs, opens your hips and can help with knee and lower back strength.
  1. Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Take a deep breath and, on an exhale, step your left foot back about 3.5 feet.
  2. Turn your left foot to about a 45-degree angle. Make sure your left foot is firmly planted and touching the ground.
  3. On an exhale, bend your right knee over the right ankle, so that your shin is perpendicular to the floor. If you can, bring your right thigh parallel with the floor.
  4. Raise your arms above your head and touch the palms together (as in prayer position).
  5. Breathe deeply and hold the position for one minute.
  6. Bend your knees and step your feet back together. Repeat on the other side.

Bridge Pose (Setu Bhandasana)

This is a dynamic root chakra yoga pose that allows your feet to be firmly rooted into the Earth and your spine engaged in the release of excess root chakra energy.
 
Bridge Pose also stimulates the throat chakra, opens the heart and solar plexus chakras, and balances the sacral chakra.
  1. Begin by laying on your back with your arms straight by your side, palms facing down.
  2. Bend your knees and keep your feet parallel to each other, about hip-width apart.
  3. Bring your heels close to your body so that you can feel the tips of your fingers.
  4. While maintaining full contact with the ground, press your feet into the mat. Engage your leg muscles, but do not lift yourself up. Feel the energy flowing through your legs. Breathe deeply.
  5. Press your feet even more and lift your buttocks and your lower back off the ground. Press the chest upward.
  6. You can support yourself in this position with your hands by placing them on your lower back.
  7. Breathe slowly and evenly and hold the pose for one minute.

 

Read the first post in our Chakra Guide series:

The Chakra Guide: Harness the Power of Your Chakras

The Chakra Guide: Harness the Power of Your Chakras

Get to know your energy centers

There are seven energy centers in the body called “chakras.” The seven chakras parallel the spine, and each one has certain qualities and associations. However, it is important not to let any one or two chakras overpower the rest. Luckily, there are yoga poses that can help us balance this internal energy.

For the next seven weeks, I will be outlining how to balance each chakra with three specific yoga poses. But first, we need to understand each chakra and the emotions and characteristics it rules.

The first chakra

Chakra one, Muladhara, means “root” and “support.” This chakra is located at the base of the spine. The verb associated with the first chakra is “I am.” The first chakra is usually about survival.

When the first chakra is malfunctioning, one of the manifestations of that malfunction is obesity. Through the first chakra, we work to understand and heal our bodies. The challenge to us is to accept our body, feel it, validate it, love it. Eating is a first chakra activity. When we eat, we are nourished, and our physical body is supported. Eating grounds us. Meats and proteins are first chakra foods.

A well-functioning first chakra opens us to our power and stability and allows us to grow. We are grounded, and this grounding brings us rest and solidity and stillness.

The second chakra

The Second Chakra is called Svadhisthana, which means “sweetness.”

Its element is water. The inner state is tears. Some of the malfunctions include bladder or kidney trouble. The food associated with this is liquids. And the location of this chakra is in the area of the genitals and womb.

Some of the functions and qualities associated with the second chakra are emotions, sexuality, desire, pleasure, creation and procreation. Socialization is also a function of the second chakra. The verb that best fits this chakra is “I feel.” This energy is both emotional and sensual.

The second chakra is one of feminine energies. Not only are both sexuality and pleasure associated with this chakra, but also nurturing. Here is our desire for nurturing, nourishment, warmth and touch. Denying these desires causes serious imbalances in life. Overindulgences also will cause imbalances.

The third chakra

The third chakra is the Manipura chakra, which means “lusterous gem.” It is located in the area of the navel to the solar plexus. Its function is willpower. The verb associated with the third chakra is “I do.”

The glands and body systems it affects are the pancreas, adrenals, digestive system and muscles. When it malfunctions, the resulting problems can include ulcers, diabetes and/or hypoglycemia.

The solar plexus chakra has to do with “belonging.” If it is open, the individual will feel that he/she belongs to everything, firmly grounded to his/her place within the universe. It’s a mental chakra but directly related to the emotions, sinceMental understanding regulates one’s emotional life. If the chakra is open, one will be more likely to have a deeply fulfilling emotional life that does not overwhelm. However, that person might also be more susceptible to psychic “attack” or getting lost in the stars. Physical pain in the chakra stems from overuse.

If the chakra is closed, feelings will be blocked. A person might not feel anything and would not understand the deeper meanings of emotions and might not be connected to his/her greater life purpose.

The fourth chakra

The fourth chakra, called Anahata, is located at the heart. Its function is love. Its element is air. The inner state is compassion and love. The verb for this chakra is “I love.”

The gland associated with the heart chakra is the thymus, and the other body parts are the lungs, heart, arms and hands. When there is a malfunction of the fourth chakra, physical problems such as asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease and lung disease can result.

The love we feel at the fourth chakra is felt toward everything we encounter, because it is felt within as a state of being. At the heart chakra, our love is no longer one of need or desire. Love at the heart chakra is one of joyous acceptance of our place among all things, of a deep peace that comes from lack of need and of a radiating quality that comes from harmony within the self.

The fifth chakra

The fifth chakra is called Visuddha, which means “purification.” It is located at the area of the throat. Its function is related to communication and creativity. The glands that it affects are the thyroid and parathyroid. The other body parts related to the fifth chakra are the neck, shoulders, arms and hands.

The sense associated with it is hearing, and the verb associated with the fifth chakra is “I speak.” When this chakra malfunctions, you can encounter physical problems such as sore throat, stiff neck, colds, thyroid problems and hearing problems.

The sixth chakra

Ajna, the sanskrit word for the sixth chakra, means “to know,” “to perceive,” “to command.” It is located in the head, at or just above the third eye level. The element associated with Ajna is light. Its function is seeing and intuiting. The verb that corresponds with this chakra is “I see.”

The body parts affected by the sixth chakra are the pineal gland and the eyes. Malfunction of the sixth chakra can manifest in blindness, headaches, nightmares, eyestrain and blurred vision.

This chakra is actually in the brain, so its nature is very mental. One finds inner vision as part of this chakra, as well as actual seeing and outer vision. That is why mystic and clairvoyant abilities are also associated with the sixth chakra.

The seventh chakra

The seventh chakra — the crown chakra — is called Sahasrara, which means “thousandfold.” It is located just above the top of the head. The seventh chakra represents thought, and its manifestation is information. Its function is understanding, and the psychological state that it creates is bliss.

The verb that corresponds to this chakra is “I understand.”

The gland affected by this chakra is the pituitary. Other body parts affected by the seventh chakra include the cerebral cortex and the central nervous system. When this chakra malfunctions it can result in depression, alienation, confusion, boredom, apathy and the inability to learn or comprehend.

With the discovery and the opening of the seventh chakra, we transcend from the physical to something beyond — perhaps even a greater consciousness. After all, we are not our bodies, but our minds and souls. We are part of the collective consciousness. We are part of the Great Spirit.

Chakras Illustration


Bee Bosnak is a Turkish-born, British-bred, fiery Aries. After spending half a decade in the mecca of yoga, Los Angeles, she decided to take a leap of faith and moved to Portland, OR, where she currently lives and teaches. Bee is a creator, a risk taker and a purveyor of laughter. Off the mat, she's a visual fashion stylist and writer for various online and editorial yoga magazines. She documents her yogic path on her blog beeyondyoga.com.

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