May I Begin Yoga Challenge (Days 17-24)

I continue to love this challenge because people can join me. I love sharing yoga with other people – especially people who have never practiced before. This is such a great way to begin a practice or just tip your toe in the water and see that while it can be hard, it isn’t impossible. With that said, let’s look at another week of the challenge.

Day 17: Extended Side Angle Pose is a favorite although you wouldn’t know it by looking at that picture. My alignment is totally off – but you will forgive me as I was a little nervous, posing in the middle of NYC in my sports bra. The posture is great for lengthening the side body and I love the energy you feel pulling up from your outstretched leg through your extended arm. Strengthens and stretches the legs, knees, and ankles. The posture stretches the spine, waist, chest and shoulders while stimulating the abdominal organs. Holding it for longer periods will help increase stamina. It’s harder than it looks.

Day 18: Head to Knee Forward Bend is a great way to practice for Standing Head to Knee Pose. Without the need to balance on one leg, it gives you a good sense of what it will (eventually) be like to achieve the full expression of the posture. Beyond prepping you for more advanced postures, it has benefits too numerous to list here. Add it to your daily practice.

Day 19: Bow Pose is such a hard posture for me. This weekend I decided to give Soldier Pose a shot and today I was able to take my hand off the floor and salute. Not as well as Laura Sykora but I will keep practicing. However, Bow Pose continues to allude me. I need to keep trying, though as it stretches the ankles, thighs and groins, abdomen and chest while strengthening the back muscles which, in turn, improves posture. Ugh! Bow Pose. You are my nemesis.

Day 20: Marichasana A is a posture that looks easy until you try to do it. If I attempt the posture cold, it isn’t possible. I need to be really stretched out – and I am quite flexible. The posture stretches the spine and shoulders and improves digestion by stimulating the liver and kidneys. It is meant to be calming, but I haven’t quite gotten there yet. The full expression asks for my forehead to touch my knee. Will keep trying!

Day 21: Side Plank is hard as is but my friend decided to make it even tougher. Today, in class, we were given the option of bending our top leg, like in tree. That was a nice modification. Done correctly, this is a great posture to help with core muscles. It also strengthens the arms and legs while improving sense of balance – if you can hold it for more than a second!

Day 22: I was able to do Warrior III (or Balancing Stick Pose) with my daughter, as you can see above. I don’t think it’s a posture they do in school but she was willing to give it a try with me and I love that. It’s funny because this is a posture I love in Vinyasa classes but dread in Bikram. The pose strengthens the ankles and legs as well as the shoulders and muscles of the back. Practicing it consistently will improve both your balance and posture.

Day 23: Ardha Matsyendrasana or Half Lord of the Fishes Pose is actually meant to twist in the other way – I suppose you could say I am taking the counter pose in the picture I posted to Instagram. Although that would be giving me more credit than I deserve. The posture has many benefits but for me, the best part of it is the reminder that I should sit straighter and taller – in everyday life, not just in seated spinal twists.

Day 24: Camel Pose is such a great heart opener. It’s one of those postures that I find much easier in the full expression than I do in the so called beginners version. If you haven’t been going all the way back, take a deep breath and give it a try. By no means am I suggesting you hurt yourself. But you may find that the counterbalance of holding on to your heels while pushing your hips forward is actually easier than holding your body at a 45° angle. Besides being a heart opener, Camel stretches the entire front of the body, the ankles and the thighs.

If you’re still with me, and I doubt many are – that was a long post, namaste.

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