Anatomy

Upward Frog Blog

King Dancer Pose with Jennifer Elliott

Manduka Ambassador Jennifer Elliott is an ERYT-500 and Yoga Therapist who has been teaching for 15 years. In this guest blog post, she shares how to use props to get into King Dancer Pose more easily. You will need two blocks and a strap.   More…

20161120_201028

Categories: Alignment, Anatomy, Asana, dancing, sequencing, teacher training | Tags:

Have you been Challenged Lately?!

Categories: Alignment, Anatomy, Asana, instagram challenge, Inversions, Sanskrit, sequencing, teacher training, yoga challenge | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Three Block Headstand

Yes, getting into headstand can be intimidating. You’re not alone if you’re looking around your yoga class thinking, How will I ever do that? Invert your perception with this exclusive three block headstand sequence from Jennifer Elliott, designed for both beginner and seasoned yogis, to safely support your neck and back as you build your foundation for a rock star headstand:

14291778_559238964286119_92949836285840564_n

I tend to avoid headstands anymore because of neck issues I have resulting from a car accident. As a teacher, I’ve found that most people have trouble setting up the foundation of headstand properly, and put themselves at risk of injury. For those reasons I love this version with 3 blocks and the wall. Personally, I can get into headstand without aggravating my neck, and as a teacher I feel confident that I’m setting up my students for a successful inversion.

more…

Categories: Alignment, Anatomy, Asana, Inversions, teacher training | Tags: , , , , ,

Santa Fe Yoga Festival August 26-28th

10649953_1488004231451444_3012956938879640129_n

I hope you can join me for the third annual Santa Fe Yoga Festival next weekend August 26-28th, 2016. If you haven’t already bought your tickets, this is the time to do it. I’ll be teaching Saturday and Sunday, with at least one class accompanied by the amazing DJ’s Mental Physix. I hope to see you there!

Categories: Alignment, Anatomy, Asana, meditation, Philosophy, Pranayama, Sanskrit, sequencing, travel, yoga festival | Tags: , , , , ,

Book Peru by Dec. 31st and receive a $500 Amex card!

yw_tt_GRCard_2015_destination_Peru_correct4.162 (2) (1)

Categories: Alignment, Anatomy, Asana, meditation, Philosophy, Pranayama, Sanskrit, sequencing, teacher training, yogaworks | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

5 reasons everyone should take a Yoga Teacher Training and they have nothing to do with becoming a teacher

For most people when they hear about a teacher training, they think that it’s not for them.  Trainings can bring doubt about your skill level and age, whether you’d like to teach or not. But teacher training is more than that; it’s an investment in you. Here are a few reasons why.

  1. To ask questions

Have you ever been in class and had questions for the teacher? Most of the time it’s not appropriate to ask while they’re teaching and you may not always have a chance to chat with the teacher after class. This can be frustrating, and even cause injury if you’re doing something wrong.

During teacher training, students are encouraged to ask questions to further discussions about the physical postures or philosophy. Oftentimes other students will have the same questions, which can be comforting to know that you weren’t the only one who wondered that! Essentially, it’s like having several private sessions, but with other students which may give you different perspectives.

  1. To learn the proper alignment

Even advanced students can benefit from learning about alignment. Many students that end up in higher level classes may have only taken a few of the basics classes and then jumped into a 2/3. These classes are faster with fewer instructions and not always a lot of opportunities for adjustments. This is an injury waiting to happen.

In teacher training, we learn the anatomy of the body so we understand how bones should align and what muscles to consciously engage. We also look at different body types and address injuries so that we see that a “correct” pose for one person, does not work for another. These modifications can help avoid injuries, as well as teach you how to take your pose deeper when you’re ready. This can be especially gratifying for advanced students; just like when you reread a book and see something new, your practice will begin to become fine tuned with your new information and understanding.

  1. To learn the terminology

Have you ever been to a class where the teacher only used the Sanskrit name for pose? Half the time you were looking around to see what you should do. This can be very distracting and draws your attention away from the meditative aspects of your practice.

Once you understand the root meaning of the Sanskrit words, class becomes much easier. No longer do you need to crank your head around to see what pose your teacher is calling out. Being more comfortable with this new language allows you to relax and turn inward, putting your attention onto being more present.

  1. To understand the philosophy

It’s common for a yoga teacher to spout out some philosophy tid bits during class. Have you ever wanted to learn more than that? What book did that quote come from? What do the chants mean? How do you meditate? Does any of this conflict with your religious beliefs?

These are common questions that students have and a typical group class won’t be able to fully address. Through class discussions and further reading, you can begin to develop a better understanding of the history and philosophy of yoga. You will quickly learn that this will be just the beginning of your personal journey with these concepts.

  1. To build a community

Most of the time we run into class and plop our mat down and the second it’s over we run out the door. Unfortunately, this has to do with our busy lifestyles. But what is the point of practicing in a group instead of by yourself, if you’re not going to connect with those around you? With everyone in their own world anyway, you may feel intimidated trying to begin conversations or make new friends.

During the training you have the opportunity to meet your fellow students. You can get to know them better when we break into discussions, work in partners, or study groups. This is a great way to meet like minded people, and often these become lasting friendships.

Teacher trainings are really for all levels of students. Yoga is about meeting yourself where you are and moving forward from that point. It’s a lifelong journey, an investment in yourself and a stepping stone to the life you want to live!

Categories: Alignment, Anatomy, Asana, meditation, Philosophy, Pranayama, Sanskrit, sequencing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 reasons cyclists should begin a regular yoga practice

Yoga is beneficial for cyclists for a number of reasons, including flexibility, core stability, circulation, and bone density.

Flexibility 

Flexibility is incredibly important for cyclists and probably the most common reason for anyone to start a yoga practice. When the hips aren’t flexible it moves the work from the muscles of the legs and hip flexors to the lower back and spine. For example, on long or fast rides, it’s necessary to be low in the drops of the handle bars and this requires the hips to hinge forward so that the sit bones can move back. If the hips don’t have this range of motion, or the hamstrings are too tight, the pelvis will tilt posteriorly, rounding the lower back. This puts excessive strain on the disks and will cause fatigue sooner, as well as put the body at risk for herniations.

Yoga can increase overall flexibility with just a few short rounds of stretching per week. Plus, the longer a muscle is, the more force it can generate, which of course means more power output on the bike. The most effective time to stretch is immediately after a ride when the muscles are warm. This is also a great time to counter stretch your body from being in the same position for so long. Your upper back and hip flexors will thank you!

Core stability

I can’t think of anything that core stability won’t help, including cycling. It’s important to remember that core doesn’t just mean your “six pack” muscles. It also includes your other layers of core muscles, lower back muscles, hip flexors and lateral gluteus muscles. I also like to add the shoulder girdle here. The shoulder girdle is very mobile, but fairly unstable. It’s helpful to keep it connected to the ribcage to access the strength of the core, especially when you need to pull up on the handle bars when climbing out of the saddle or sprinting.

Cycling itself doesn’t offer much in the way of building upper body strength, and the lateral gluteus is generally forgotten leaving the low back and knees at risk. Yoga offers the best way to strengthen the triceps and biceps while keeping them long and lean. An example would be working plank on the forearms and the hands interlaced. This is a great core stabilizer while also mimicking the arms when using time trial bars. The coordination of assessing ALL of the “core” muscles will give the cyclist better strength and control while handling the bike.

Circulation

I’m sure that you’re thinking that cycling definitely will improve your circulation over yoga. In some ways this is true. The heart is definitely pumping the blood throughout the body when you are working hard. But even racers know the importance of warming up to get the circulation going before the race. You may not want to stretch much before a ride, but dynamic movements with the breath, can get the body warm and prepared.

Circulation can also mean respiration. Many cyclists are limiting the intake of oxygen just because of their posture. It’s common to round the upper back since the arms are reaching forward and the legs are drawing into the chest, especially if you are in the tucked position I mentioned earlier. The ability to draw oxygen into the lungs requires the ribcage to expand. This increases the volume of the lungs while lowering the pressure within, vacuuming oxygen in. Just by opening the chest and allowing for movement in the front, side and back ribs, a cyclist can increase their oxygen possibly up to 25%.

Bone Density

Last but not least is bone density. Cycling is a very rhythmic motion which can be great on say the knee joints, compared to the heavy pounding of running. But the down side is that it’s not a weight bearing exercise. Bones get stronger when there is force exerted on them which won’t happen while riding your bike. Because of that fact, cyclists have a higher risk for developing Osteoporosis, which makes the bones brittle and easy to fracture.

Styles of Yoga like Hatha or Vinyasa, are considered weight bearing exercise and thus helps to build bone density. Lifting of one’s own body weight plus the force of the tendons on the joints creates a need for the bone to add more layers, thickening the bones. This is especially important as we age, or if a cyclist has been riding his or her whole life without including other weight bearing exercises. Having stronger bones will help in the unfortunate event of a crash, but the best prevention is to stay calm and keep the rubber side down. In conclusion, yoga will help you ride longer and stronger!

 

Categories: Anatomy, Asana, meditation, Pranayama | Tags: , , , , , ,

Get to Know YogaWorks Instructor Jennifer Elliott

Every teacher has their “story” of how they got into yoga. Here are just a few questions to get to know mine.

safe_image

How did you get into yoga? I was attending college and my English professor suggested that I write my paper on Yoga and Meditation. I didn’t really know what that was, so she gave me about 15 books on the subject and sent me to my first yoga class. I was only 17 and had no idea what was going on! It sparked my interest though and I began taking classes. Thinking back,  I love to sequence, I was always making up dance routines for my friends since I was 5.

more…

Categories: Alignment, Anatomy, Asana, meditation, Philosophy, Sanskrit, sequencing, yogaworks | Tags: , , ,

Jump Start your Metabolism with this Detox Sequence

Have you started to lose site of your New Years Resolution to drop the weight? Jump start your metabolism with this short yoga sequence.

Kapalabhati or Cleansing breath

147

Begin by sitting in a comfortable crossed legged position on a blanket or two so that your spine is upright. Take a few relaxed breaths. Take an inhale then exhale and draw your abdomen in. Concentrate on taking 20 short, forced exhalations as your abdomen continues to draw in and up. With the last inhale pause at the top and hold for as long is as comfortable without strain. Exhale slowly and take several relaxed breaths.

In Kapalabhati, each exhale is aiding in the elimination of the metabolic wastes from the lungs. The heat created from the forced abdominal breaths will begin to stoke the digestive fire, Agni, massaging the internal organs and prompting them for elimination.

Ardha Matsyendrasana or Seated Spinal Twist

148

From your crossed legged position, draw your left foot closer to your groin and cross the right leg over placing the foot on the floor. Take an inhale and reach your right arm overhead and place it on the floor behind you. Keeping the spine straight cross your left elbow over the right knee and gently twist to the right on exhale. Inhale, lengthen the spine. Exhale, twist from the belly revolving the torso to the right. Repeat for several breaths. Unwind and repeat on the other side.

In twists, always begin with your chest opening to the right and then follow with the left side. This will stimulate the ascending colon then the descending colon, which will move the contents of the intestines in a clockwise fashion to help promote proper elimination.

Surya Namaskar A or Sun Salutation A

Come to a standing position at the top of your mat with your hands at your heart. Take an inhale and reach your arms overhead as you gaze between the hands. Exhale and hinge from the hips as you forward fold. Inhale and lengthen the spine as you come up half way with your hands on the floor or props. Exhale and step back into plank and slowly lower the body with control to the ground with the elbows drawing into the body and the legs strong. Inhale and open the chest as you straighten the arms and root through your feet for upward facing dog. Exhale as you press your hips up and back for downward facing dog. Take 5 breaths here. Inhale and come high to your toes and exhale step or jump the feet between the hands. Inhale, bring the chest up half way again and exhale forward fold. Inhale with a flat back reach the arms up to the sky and exhale the hands back down to the heart. Repeat for 5 cycles.

Sun Salutations help to build the heat in the body and get the cardiovascular system working more efficiently. Coordinating the breath and the movement will further help to eliminate metabolic wastes from the blood and lungs.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana or Bridge pose

181Lie down on your back with your arms by your sides. Bend your knees and your place your feet hip width apart and parallel. Press down into the mat through your feet, hands and shoulders as you lift your hips off the floor. Interlace your hands and walk each shoulder blade underneath you so that you’re not resting on your cervical spine.  Lengthen your tailbone to the back of your knees and spin your inner thighs down. Breathe here for 5 breaths then release the hands and slowly lower down.

Bridge pose is a great tool for stimulating the thyroid which is responsible for boosting your metabolism. With the back bends you will also tone the kidneys, aiding in further elimination of wastes from the body.

Salamba Sarvangasana or Supported Shoulderstand

Shoulderstand with 2 blankets

Shoulderstand with 2 blankets

Place 2 blankets with the folded edges on the end of your mat. Fold the end of the blanket on top of the blankets for traction. Lie down with your shoulders on the edge of the blankets and the head on the floor. Hold the edges of the mat with your hands and bend the knees drawing them into your chest rolling your hips off the floor and placing the feet behind you. Place your hands on your lower back and walk the shoulder blades underneath you. Press down firmly into your elbows and lift one leg at a time to the ceiling.  Stay here for several breaths then lower your legs to the floor and slowly roll the spine and hips back down. Inch back off the blankets until your shoulders are off and the arms have a little bend in cactus arms. Take a few breaths here and then remove your props and rest in Savasana.

Inversions assist in the venous flow from the lower limbs and internal organs to the heart and lungs. Metabolic wastes are removed from the blood via the lymph nodes and the exhalation of the lungs.  Shoulderstand in particular also will continue to stimulate the thyroid for increased metabolism, just as in bridge pose.

Categories: Alignment, Anatomy, Asana, Pranayama, Sanskrit, sequencing | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

5 reasons a regular yoga practice should be your New Year’s Resolution

For most people a New Year’s resolution is a time to start a new exercise regiment, just take a look at the gyms in January. But what tools do other fitness practices offer to keep you on track? Here are a few of the benefits that your regular yoga practice will give you.

  1. Setting an Intention

The problem with a New Year’s resolution is that it can feel overwhelming when you think about it for a whole year. Many of us are great at starting a new exercise regiment in January, but by February or March our original resolution may be forgotten. To be more successful at sticking with your goals, it’s helpful to break them down into smaller, more achievable parts.

At the beginning of each yoga class you are asked to “set an intention”. This is an opportunity each class to re-affirm your goals. You may have a goal that is just for the duration of the class time or possibly for the day or week. If you take class 2-3x a week this is a consistent way to stay on your original course.

  1. Discipline or Self-Restraint

Staying disciplined to achieve your resolution can be difficult. In the philosophy of yoga, there is an 8 limbed path to enlightenment. The second limb is called the Niyamas or Self-Restraints. Of the 5 Niyamas, Saucha (cleanliness of body and mind) and Tapas (perseverance and austerity), guide you to be more disciplined.

You can use these 2 self-restraints to create a resolution that encourages you to keep your body and mind clean from toxins while creating the vehicle to change habits through your tenacity. You may hear your yoga teacher mention these themes throughout class which will remind you to stay on course.

  1. Motivated by friends

When left to our own devices to work out we can often lose motivation. Even though yoga is an individual practice, we choose to do so within the settings of a community or group class. Friends can influence you to accomplish your goals by encouraging you to meet up with them for class which holds you more accountable.  Also, you are more likely to continue your fitness routine if its fun and doesn’t feel like work. Connecting with like minded people will make your practice more enjoyable and motivating.

  1. Eating Less

Many of our resolutions have to do with dieting in some way. A regular yoga practice makes this goal easy to accomplish. Anyone who has gone to yoga too close to eating knows what I mean. Even a light meal in the stomach can make you nauseous and miserable during practice. The best is to eat about 2 or more hours before you’re attending class. This gives you motivation to eat smaller portions with more time in between.

After a consistent practice, you will feel more connected to your body and what foods make you feel better in general. Without setting restrictions on your diet, you still may find that you won’t have as many cravings for the foods that make you feel heavy and bloated. This makes your “diet” resolution more achievable and less confining.

  1. Stress reduction

Most of us have high levels of stress in our life. Physiologically this slows down our digestion and metabolism and can weaken the immune system. Any time the body feels threatened, real or imaginary, it prepares us to “fight or flight”. Our blood is moved away from digestion and to the limbs where it is needed to act. Over time this survival mode becomes our new normal making it hard for the body to heal and recover.

Yoga is a great tool to channel that nervous energy through the physical practice. A good teacher can also create a meditation in movement which can help to eliminate mental stress. Yoga was designed to keep the body and mind fit and free from distraction so that it was possible to sit in meditation. Meditation, or even just resting (Savasana), after activity, will prompt the body to go into healing mode. This “rest and digest” will reset your body to digest and your mind will be more clear and calm.

 

 

Categories: Anatomy, Asana, Philosophy, Sanskrit | Tags: , , , , ,

Blog at WordPress.com.