May I Begin Yoga Challenge (Days 1-8)

I am loving this challenge. It’s great to really focus on the foundational postures of yoga. And it has been fun to have friends join me for almost every pose. Friends who haven’t tried yoga before are getting into it – which is the best thing of all!

Day 1: Downward Facing Dog is a posture that I need to work on. I am forever dumping in to my shoulders – I need to remember to pull up. I also try to keep my index fingers parallel to one another which helps keep my arms in proper alignment. It’s easy to think of this as a nice pause in Vinyasa class, but it is an important posture. It strengthens and stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves and hands.

Day 2: Plank is a pose I dread. Not in and of itself, but when it is held for long periods of time. I need to work on keeping my body in a straight line, I tend to stick my butt up too much! And, as with Down Dog, I need to make sure I keep my shoulders down and away from my shoulders.

Day 3: Chaturanga strengthens the arms and wrists and tones the abdomen and is super hard. Doing these postures one at a time, it’s easier to get in to proper alignment. But the reality is, we are normally in class moving from one posture to the next. With Chaturanga, I try to remember to shift forward slightly, and really focus on keeping my arms at 90° – and keep the cursing to a minimum. I have also starting giving myself permission to go to knees/chest/chin as necessary and then add Chaturanga back to the sequence when I’m ready.

Day 4: Upward Facing Dog improves posture and is one of my favorites. I have come to realize that I really love any and all heart-opening postures. However, for the longest time I had no clue that my legs were supposed to be off the ground for this one. I just thought I was chilling – and again, I was dumping in to my shoulders. Learning the proper alignment for this made the posture so much more than just a time to hang out and wait to see what was coming next. If you want a challenge, try holding this posture for a full minute – it’s not easy!

Day 5: Warrior I strengthens the shoulders and arms, and the muscles of the back while strengthening and stretching the thighs, calves, and ankles. And it just makes you feel like a badass. Nothing makes me happier than classes that focus heavily on the warrior postures. I love the combination of having your feet firmly rooted in to the ground and your shooting strong up overhead.

Day 6: The transition from Warrior I to Warrior II is a favorite as well. I love the feeling of power as the arms stretch out in opposite directions. It has so many benefits that you would basically be crazy not to do the posture. The posture strengthens and stretches the legs and ankles. It opens the hips, chest and lungs, shoulders. It also relieves backaches – a big issue for anyone who sits at a desk all day typing on a computer. The next time your back hurts at work, give it a try. People may look at you funny but who cares – you’ll be too happy to notice.

Day 7: Lotus Pose is easy for me on one side and super hard/sometimes impossible on the other. Getting in to it safely is important. I need to practice on the other side – I need to work on opening my bad knee.

Day 8: Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe reminded me of how wonderful yoga really is. This is a posture that is easy for me. And yet friends who practice a lot, who can pop up into poses that I can’t yet manage had a hard time with this one. A friend who has completed a 30-day Bikram challenge looked at me like I was insane when I asked him to join me for the photo. Utthita Hasta Padangustasana is a great way to work on your balance and posture. Straightening that top leg isn’t important if the bottom knee isn’t locked out and you don’t have a straight back.

Practice and all is coming.
Namaste.

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