May I Begin Yoga Challenge (Days 9-16)

Halfway through and I really am loving this challenge. I love that it makes me practice some basic postures and I love that people want to practice them with me.

Day 9 asked for Tree Pose (which I am doing with my daughter in the picture above). I love Tree in all it’s variations. Above we are doing it with hands together at heart center, but it can also be done with your arms stretched over your head – separated or together in prayer. And to make things even harder, the posture can be done with the eyes opened or closed. The benefits are many. Tree strengthens you thighs, calves, ankles and spine. It also stretches the inner thighs, chest and shoulders. Naturally, the posture improves balance.

For day 10, we have Triangle Pose or Trikonasana. For a posture that looks so simple, it has myriad benefits. The posture stretches and strengthens the legs, ankle joints, hips, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, chest and spine. It stimulates function of abdominal organs helping with digestion and making it a great detoxing posture. It relieves stress and as such can be used therapeutically for anxiety. When in the posture I always try to remember to keep my shoulders out of my ears, slowly extending my arms, pulling up and out of my waist and turning my head to look at my top hand. Yum.

As much as I love triangle pose, I dislike Chair Pose – day 11. I’m sure I’m doing it wrong, I don’t 100% feel what I am supposed to feel. So my plan is to watch this video and try to work on my alignment. It’s worth practicing as the posture strengthens the ankles, thighs, calves and spine while stretching the shoulders and chest. All good things.

Happily enough, day 12 asked for one of my favorites: wide leg forward bend. Considering how tight I am as I write this, I should be in this very posture. It strengthens and stretches the inner and back legs and the spine and in doing so, relieves mild backaches. It is the posture I wait for in the standing series in Bikram. I know if I can make it that far, I’ll be OK.

For a challenge that is supposed to be for beginners, I must say – I was surprised to see that day 13 asked for Crow Pose. Or maybe that’s just because the posture is so hard for me. I don’t have the abdominal strength needed to get my knees up high enough on my arms. I CAN get them up high enough if I start in tripod and go from there. But then I roll out. Either way, I will keep trying. The pose helps with abdominal strength, naturally it is good for your arms. But I think that what I need the most, where it will help me the most is with concentration. I need to focus, calm my mind and accept that it will happen when it is supposed to. I am confident that the moment I let it go, it will happen.

Day 14 brought another posture that asks for a lot of abdominal strength. Paripurna Navasana or boat pose strengthens the abdomen, hip flexors and spine. In the posture, the spine is meant to be straight – if you have to curve your back to straighten your legs, then you should keep them bent. The posture is supposed to help relieve stress, but it honestly stresses me out – I suppose that will get better with practice. On days when I am feeling strong, I can keep my back straight and straighten out my legs but I am in a very narrow “V.” But such is life – such is my body after two babies. But I’m trying.

After two days of postures I can’t do – it was a nice ego boost to have day 15 ask for a standing forward bend, or Uttanasana. I have a supple spine and this is a posture I can do well. It has so many benefits, I won’t even begin to list them here.

Day 16 asked for Bound Angle pose or Baddha Konasana is challenging on a good day and next to impossible when my back is acting up. I have been blaming my back on the posture clinic I attended but I’m thinking it’s stress more than anything. Again, the benefits are many and this is one of those postures that looks super simple but is actually really hard. Inching your feet closer to your body is harder with each move. Rounding your back to get your head closer to your feet will only lead to pain. Taking a deep breath and bending forward with a flat back may not get you as deep into the posture but it will keep you in the proper alignment and save you from future pain.

And that is the point of moving back through all of these basic postures for me. Remembering alignment, remembering how to get deeper into a pose without hurting myself. And reminding my friends and colleagues that yoga really is for everyone. If you are looking for a nice way to remind yourself of why you started practicing – or start a yoga practice, this is the challenge for you. No reason why you can’t start today!

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