For the Love of Yoga

In honor of National Yoga Day on Sunday, I thought I would share a little about my newfound hobby!

A few months ago my Mom sent me a yoga book, Richard Hittleman’s Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Plan, and ever since I’ve been hooked! Richard Hittleman specialized in introducing yoga in a way that’s easy-to-follow for beginners and so this was perfect for me! I know it’s not always easy to find a yoga class that you enjoy, that you have enough time for, or that’s smart (not too pricey) and I wanted to try yoga on my own before I got more serious, so I started by doing some of the poses from this book for about 15-20 minutes/day.  The book is a great way to get you going because you start out very basic and simple but it gets progressively harder.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago…We met the nicest couple and the wife had just finished a yoga instructor course up in San Francisco.  Because it was something we both had in common and something that I’ve really gotten into, yoga was all we could talk about!  Having just finished her instructor course, she’s offered to give me classes and it’s been so fun to build off of what I’ve learned in the book! She’s so patient with me and she gives great details on the different poses. There are some great yoga instructors out there, but the fact that my instructor is so motivating and helpful makes it that much more enjoyable and worth while.

One thing that has kept me from really getting into yoga is that I’ve always seen the cute yoga girls who always seem so athletic or naturally flexible, and I’ve never felt that I fit that stereotype.  Since I’ve gotten into yoga and since I’ve gotten over that stereotype though, I’ve realized that there’s a lot more to yoga than just being athletic or flexible.

Because I’ve recently started working full-time, yoga has been a great stress reliever for me and it’s really helped to relax and rejuvenate my mind and body.  I’ve felt much more at peace with myself and my body; I’ve felt a greater appreciation for the body I’ve been given and I’m grateful that some of the issues that I feel weigh me down aren’t worse than they could be; I’ve also felt like yoga has helped me to have more control over my body by working out and stretching those muscles that I didn’t even know I had; and most of all, I feel that yoga has really helped me to be able to better handle stressful situations.

Below are some of the basic poses that I really like and a few tips I’ve picked up from my instructor who’s fresh off of her licensing course and from Richard Hittleman’s Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Plan.  If you are looking for a quick way to take a break from your hectic lives, these are simple and relaxing and I hope you’ll take a peek!

“Yoga does not remove us from the reality or responsibilities of everyday life but rather places our feet firmly and resolutely in the practical ground of experience. We don’t transcend our lives; we return to the life we left behind in the hopes of something better.” ~ Donna Farhi ⌘

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Mountain Pose

For the Mountain Pose, start with your feet together and your arms down and relaxed to your side. Also, stand with your feet shoulder width apart, flat on the ground. Take a deep breath in and slowly raise your arms in a semi-circular motion towards the sky; in the same motion, stretch your calf and shin muscles by lifting yourself on your toes (like I’m doing in the picture) and stretching your body as high as you can.  Hold that pose for a few counts and exhale as you follow the same semi-circular motion as you bring your arms down and reach for your toes.  Again, hold this for a few counts and repeat the steps above.

I usually repeat this about 3-5 times, but do this for as long as you’d like.  If there’s anything that I’ve learned so far, and if there’s anything that I hope you get from reading this, it’s how important your breathing pattern is!  As you push your diaphragm and your torso out, control how you are inhaling and inhale to a point that’s comfortable.  As you exhale, focus on slowly letting the air out and also on contracting your torso. Try to really focus on controlling every movement, even if it’s as simple as breathing! Also, for this particular pose, don’t use your momentum to swing your arms up or to let them fall after holding the pose – this will really help you to feel the full effect!

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Downward Dog

This is probably one of the most well known yoga poses. Begin on all fours with your hands under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips. Walk your hands forward and then spread your fingers, pressing all four corners of your palm on the mat. Make sure to curl your toes under and push your hips as high as you can without it being uncomfortable. Keep your feet hip width apart and bend your knees just a little. Once you’re in this pose, focus on breathing like I explained above.  I will usually try to hold this for three or four counts of inhaling and exhaling, and I will usually do this almost as a rest pose in between some of the poses that are harder to hold.

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Cobra

Lay with your face down on the mat, with your hands underneath your shoulders and your legs extended straight back with the tops of your feet on the mat. Push your hips downward towards the mat and tighten your glutes. Slowly Press on your hands and lift yourself up, stretching your torso, and slightly tilting your head back (I didn’t do this in the picture below, but it can really add to the pose).  Hold this position for about 15-20 seconds. Again, focus on your breathing – breathe in as you push your diaphragm out, and pull your diaphragm in as you exhale. Lower your body back to a resting position, relax for a few breaths, and repeat as many times as you’d like. This one really seems to help me after doing an ab workout.

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Child’s pose

Start by sitting on your heels with your knees less than shoulder width apart. Stretch your arms above you and slowly lay your body forward bringing your forehead towards the mat. Let your chest and stomach sit on your quads your knees.  Hold this for 15-20 seconds and use your core (torso) to slowly lift your body back to the starting position. This is my favorite pose because of how relaxing it is!  This is another resting pose that you can strategically place in between some of the poses that are harder to hold.

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Easy Pose

Sit on your mat with your legs crossed, your knees wide apart and your feet beneath one another. Draw your torso in and push your shoulders back slightly to straighten out your spine and again focus on the breathing pattern I mentioned above.  Hold this for as long as you’d like.  For me, this seems to be the pose where I am able to ease my mind, focus on my body and and let go of everything else.

As relaxing as this is, don’t forget to have fun and push your body to see what it can do! I was so surprised to see and feel how much stronger and how much more flexible I have become and I hope you’ll give it a try if you haven’t already.  Also, if you have any poses that you really like, don’t be afraid to share!  Tell a little about it (how you do it, how it’s helped you, etc.) and I’ll definitely give it a try!      

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When I go to Yoga class, I don’t like wearing my workout shoes because I have to take them off right when I get there.  My cute friend Sierra actually gave them to me when she found out I was into yoga and I’ve loved wearing them!  I thought they were a little funky at first, and I hadn’t ever heard of Gurus, but they really are so comfortable and they’re super easy to slip on and off. The best part about it is that for every pair that is bought they plant a tree. They come with this super cute bag you can put your shoes in as well. Take a look!

Shoes// Gurus

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Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check back for more post!

Michaela Knight

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