100 Days of Yoga – Day 98 – Low Lunge

98/100 ~ Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) – This pose stretches deep into the psoas muscle and hip joint, so it packs a double punch. Practice this pose and you may notice relief from back pain. You might even notice a happier, more light-hearted disposition. Give it a try with that intention, and see how you feel.

Benefits: Low lunge pose deeply stretches the psoas muscle, glutes and hips. Releasing these muscles helps to relieve back pain and sciatica. This pose stretches the torso, upper back and shoulders; aligns the spine; builds strength and stamina; and opens the chest/heart-center to release tension and anxiety.

How to: From forward fold (day 32), step your right foot back for a lunge, and then scoot the toes back a little further to create a wider stance. Lower your right knee, and allow the top of the right foot to rest on the floor as well (use a folded blanket under your knee for support). Press into the left foot and align your left knee directly over the left ankle. Inhale as you lift the hands overhead, lifting the arms and the torso upward. Exhale, sink a little deeper into the hips. Focus on your breath here – feel the body rise and expand on the inhale, relax and sink a bit on the exhale. Hold this posture for 2-8 breath cycles, using downward dog (day 37) or forward fold as a transition before stretching on the other side.

Mantra: “I am courageous and strong. I can do great things!”

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100 Days of Yoga – Day 97 – Counted Breathing Technique (Pranayama)

97/100 ~ Counted Breathing Practice (Pranayama) – Today I’m sharing a breathing practice that is simple and soothing. Try this breathing technique to calm yourself down, and also if you’re having trouble falling asleep. Counting your breath cycles is much more effective than counting those elusive sheep!

Benefits: This breathing practice helps to calm the mind and soothe the nervous system. This practice helps to slow and deepen the breath which improves oxygen levels in the body; increased circulation; stabilized blood pressure; boosted immune system; and relief from insomnia. Oh, that magical breath…

How to: Rest in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Begin by simply noticing your inhale, and noticing the exhale. As you feel ready, inhale to the count of 6. Hold the breath in for 2 seconds. Exhale to the count of 8. Hold the breath out for 2 seconds. Repeat…

You can modify the duration of the inhale and exhale depending on where you are with your yoga practice. For new yogis, sometimes the inhale is 3 or 4 seconds. Just create a rhythm in the breath cycles where your exhale is 2 seconds longer than the inhale. The longer you practice, the longer your breath cycles will become.

Mantra: “I am soothed by the rhythm of my breath.”

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100 Days of Yoga – Day 96 – Bridge Pose

96/100 ~ Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana) – Here’s a sweet little back bend that will lift and open your heart. We hold so much tension in our upper body – so when we come into a pose that opens the chest and stretches the neck and shoulders, we physically release the tension and allow for a more relaxed way of being. Bridge pose is a great way to strengthen and stretch the body, and even better for adjusting the attitude. See for yourself!

Benefits: Bridge pose helps alleviate stress and relieves symptoms of depression by opening the chest and releasing tension in the neck and spine. It is calming to the mind and nervous system; strengthens the back, hips and legs; stimulates internal organs; and improves digestion.

How to: Rest on your back with the knees bent. Place your feet hip-distance apart and close to the hips. Tuck your shoulder blades down and under, and draw the chin to your chest. The hands rest on the floor next to the hips. On an inhale, press into the feet to lift the hips off the floor. Keep pressing and lifting until your entire back lifts off the floor. There’s usually more room now to draw the shoulders down and under a bit more. Hold this pose for 3-8 breath cycles. Release the hold on an exhale, allowing the body to roll down to the floor one vertebra at a time. Draw the knees into the chest to counter the backbend, and then release.

Mantra: “So much joy flows through me that I can barely contain myself.”

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100 Days of Yoga – Day 95 – Chair Pose with a Twist

95/100 ~ Chair Pose with a Twist (Parivrtta Utkatasana) – Twisting poses invite us to see things from a different perspective. Chair pose builds strength in the legs and back, and the twist adds an element of calming the mind and releasing tension in the upper body. Let’s do this…

Benefits: This pose strengthens the mid- and low back and increases flexibility in the entire spine. Chair pose strengthens the legs, ankles, feet and glutes. The twist helps tone internal organs and improves digestion, releases tension in the chest, shoulders and neck. Twisting poses are very calming to the nervous system as well, so you’ll even get an attitude adjustment with this pose.

How to: Stand with your feet together on your yoga mat. Press into the feet and draw the legs together toward the midline. Inhale and reach the arms over head, creating length in the body. On your exhale, bend the knees and move the hips back to come into chair pose (day 85). Bring the hands together in front of the heart, and twist your torso to the right, bringing your left elbow to the outside of the right leg. Keep squeezing the legs together, pressing the elbow into the leg, and lifting your right shoulder back and down (create space between the tops of the shoulder and the bottom of your ears). Hold this posture for 3-6 breath cycles, resting in mountain pose (day 2) before taking the pose on the other side.

Mantra: “I am willing to see things differently.”

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100 Days of Yoga – Day 94 – Supported Shoulder Stand

94/100 ~ Supported Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sarvangasana) – I see it time and time again – the look of fear and uncertainty on my student’s faces when I demonstrate a pose that they assume is not accessible to them. And then, the look of joy and amusement when they pop right into it. This is one of those poses! Read about the benefits and practice it for yourself. You might be surprised!

Benefits: This inversion pose calms the nervous system and relieves symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. It improves circulation in the legs, pelvis and abdomen; reduces varicose veins; and improves digestion and insomnia. The support of the block helps to stabilize the low back and pelvis, and lifting the legs builds strength in the core.

How to: Rest on your back with the knees bent and feet on the floor. Press into the feet to lift your hips off the floor, and slide a block underneath yourself to support the low back. Pause here, resting in supported bridge pose. Tuck the shoulder blades down and under, and draw the chin to chest. As you feel ready, draw the knees up and then lift your feet upward to straighten the legs. If you need to adjust the block, bring your feet back to the floor. Lift the hips, adjust the block and try again. With legs extended, press/lift through the heels and draw the toes toward your face. Hold this pose for 3-10 breath cycles, and then lower back to supported bridge. Press into the feet, lift the hips and remove the block. Lower onto your back and rest here, taking a moment to appreciate the sensations in your body.

Mantra: “Love lifts me up where I belong.”

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