100 Days of Yoga – Day 50 – How to Draw a Mandala

50/100 ~ Yoga off the Mat: How to Draw a Mandala – I discovered the joy of drawing mandalas during my 200-hour yoga teacher training when tasked to demonstrate a way that I practice yoga “off the mat.” I’ve been drawing (and teaching others how to draw) them ever since. The word Mandala means “circle” in Sanskrit, and is a sacred symbol used for meditation, prayer, healing and art therapy. I hope you’ll give it a try!

Benefits: Considered a mindfulness practice, creating mandalas is such a soothing activity. Clinical studies reveal that drawing/coloring mandalas has the same effect on the body and mind as meditation. It boosts the immune system, reduces pain and stress, lowers blood pressure, eases depression, and alleviates insomnia. This practice focuses on the soothing rhythm of drawing and coloring, not the finished mandala as a work of art. Artistic talent is *not* required for this practice!

How to: Create a circle template by tracing a round object, cutting it out and folding it into equal sections. * Trace the circle on a piece of paper and make a little dot at each fold line all around the edge of the circle. * Use a ruler to connect the dots. I’ve measured out about an inch past the edge of the circle in my photo example. * Start drawing shapes and designs to fill in the circle. * Add some color if you’d like. * Enjoy the process!

Mantra: “I allow the rhythm of my mandala to soothe and heal me.”

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100 Days of Yoga – Day 49 – Supported Warrior 1

49/100 ~ Supported Warrior 1 – Here’s a great stretch to energize you during a workday slump! You know, if you’re prone to that sort of thing. This stretch is done with one hip supported on a chair, and it’s a great release for tension in the hips and low back.

Benefits: This pose stretches the chest, lungs and shoulders, releasing tension in the upper body. It stretches and strengthens the legs, knees and ankles. The support of the chair allows for ease in balance and a deeper stretch in the psoas muscle. The psoas muscle contracts as part of our fight-or-flight response, and over time a lot of tension can be held there. Let that stuff go with every exhale!

How to: Sit with your right hip on a chair with your right knee bent, ankle directly under the knee and toes pointing forward. Stretch the left leg behind you and come onto all five toes equally. Here’s where the psoas muscle is stretched, so you may notice it at the front of your left hip when you stretch that leg back. Press down into the right foot, and back through the left heel. Inhale and raise your hands upward. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and put a smile on your face. Have your gaze be straight ahead or slightly upward. Breathe deeply, 3-8 breath cycles. Rest at center before stretching your right side.

Mantra: “I’m an expert at letting go.”

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100 Days of Yoga – Day 48 – Supported Twist

48/100 ~ Supported Supine Twist – Yoga twists are a great way to relieve stress and tension in the body, resulting in a sense of peace and calm when combined with slow, deep breathing. Try this supported yoga twist and enjoy your own results!

Benefits: Twisting poses open the chest, shoulders and upper back where stress and tension are held. Twists help relieve back pain; keep the spine flexible; stimulate digestion and circulation; tone core muscles; detoxify internal organs; and reduce stress and anxiety.

How to: Rest on your back and hug the knees in toward the body. Keep the knees drawn in as you release your arms and hands out to the side. Take a deep breath in, and on your exhale allow your legs to fall to the right onto a bolster or stack of blankets. You can use your right hand to hold the top knee if you’d like, or leave both arms extended. Turn your head to look to the left, close your eyes and breathe deeply for 1-3 minutes. Avoid staying in a twist too long if you are new to the practice. Draw your belly in to stabilize your core, then lift the knees back to center and rest for a couple of breath cycles before twisting to the other side.

Mantra: “I slow down, calm down, and relax completely.”

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100 Days of Yoga – Day 47 – Reclined Pigeon Pose

47/100 ~ Reclined Pigeon Pose (Supta Kapotasana) also known as Eye-of-the-Needle and Figure-4 pose – I love this hip opening stretch that’s not only a basic yoga posture, but also commonly used by athletes. I wonder if they realize they’re practicing yoga?

Benefits: This pose stretches the hips, glutes and IT band, and releases tension in the low back. In yin yoga, Eye-of-the-Needle balances the liver and gall bladder meridian, releasing anger and frustration, and inviting a sense of adaptability and ease.

How to: I’m showing two versions of this pose and inviting you to choose the one that feels best for your body. Recline on your back, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Cross your left ankle on top of your right thigh and flex your foot (flexing the foot helps to protect your knee). Use your left hand to gently press your left knee away from you. Relax your shoulders and breathe deeply. You should feel a nice stretch in your left hip. If you’d like a little more sensation, reach your left hand through the opening in the legs and clasp your fingers behind your right thigh, drawing the legs closer to your body. You should be able to keep your shoulders on the mat and your chin drawn gently toward your chest. If the shoulders lift and the chin juts up, allow your legs to come back to the first version of this pose. Relax and breathe for several breath cycles or for 3-5 minutes. Rest with legs unbound and extended for a few breaths before stretching the other side.

Mantra: “I create space for new possibilities with grace and ease.”

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100 Days of Yoga – Day 46 – Upward Salute

46/100 ~ Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana) – Or, Palm Tree Pose (Talasana). I had never known this alternate “palm tree” name until I read up on this pose. I like it. Anyway, today’s pose looks simple and packs a lot of benefits for strengthening and stretching the body. If you have shoulder or neck injuries, you’ll want to modify the arm position of this pose, or possibly avoid it altogether. (Sorry!) Just be mindful as you move into the posture.

Benefits: This basic yoga pose stretches and strengthens the entire body! This pose creates space in the chest and lungs which is therapeutic for congestion and asthma. With arms stretched overhead, we create extra space in our rib cage – allowing for deeper breaths, and also balancing the lung meridian (where grief and sadness can be held). This pose fosters a sense of grounding and stability, relieving symptoms of anxiety and nervousness.

How to: Stand in Mountain Pose (Day 2) with your feet parallel and toes pointing forward. Press into the feet and lift through the crown of your head to stand tall. Inhale as you reach your arms out to the sides and then upward. From here, pick yourself up! This isn’t just raising your arms up in the air – it’s you picking yourself up. Keep pressing through the feet and lifting your entire self upward. Relax the tops of your shoulders away from your ears and draw the shoulder blades gently downward. This might mean that you bend your elbows and that’s fine! Breathe deeply for 2-5 breath cycles, releasing the arms down on an exhale.

Mantra: “I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.” ~ Dorothy Fields

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