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4 Propped Poses to Build Your Hanumanasana

Monkey Pose - Hanumanasana | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method

Hanumanasana, also known as Monkey Pose, feels different each time I do it. There are days when I can get my pelvis to the floor with my hips square. But these days I focus more on getting the benefits of the pose instead of going all the way into the pose.

There’s a distinct difference between these two approaches. If I’m going for the full pose, I’m more likely to push myself aggressively. I might ignore my quirky left hamstring that sometimes spasms from a decade old injury. I might overarch my lower back because I’m bypassing the tightness in my back hip. Doing those things (and getting my pelvis to the floor) doesn’t make me adept. It just means I’m grasping for something that ultimately causes suffering – in the form of back or hamstring pain the next day!

This isn’t really the attitude I want to bring to mat – I’d rather use my time there to let go of pressure, to experiment, and to be grateful for what I have. This is where the real work is for me.

So. Instead of pushing, I try to focus more on asking my body what’s going to work on that particular day. Is it going to work better if I hold Half Hanuman for a long 10 breaths as I work up into the pose? Or is it going to feel amazing if I just let myself hang out on top of a bolster and work on stretching my back hip?

The truth is, it’s natural to want to take a “final” form of a posture. But, if you can check your ego a bit and ask your body what it needs, you will learn so much more about yourself. You’ll learn to respond to your own needs with honesty and resourcefulness. And when you’re true to yourself and your needs on the mat, you’re building a foundation for being true to yourself and your needs in your life.

These are a few of our favorite poses leading to Hanumanasana. You can use the first four poses as warm-ups for Hanumanasana, or you can substitute Hanumanasana with any of these variations when you take a class. If you’re going to take the former route, I recommend doing poses 1-15 of Jason’s Hanumanasana sequence and then moving into these variations. Let us know how it goes!

1. Half Hanumanasana

half hanumancrop Half Monkey Pose | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method
To come into Half Hanumanasana, start in Down Dog and step your left foot between your hands. Come into a Low Lunge with your back knee on the floor. (If you have sensitive knees you put a blanket or pillow underneath your back knee.)

Draw your hips back as you straighten your front leg. Flex through the front foot and come forward as far as is appropriate for you. Stay for several breaths, feeling into your hamstrings and IT bands.

To come out, bend your front knee and come back into the lunge. Then step back to Down Dog and do the other side.

2. Hanumanasana with a bolster

Monkey Pose with Bolster Prop  | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method
This one is sooooo good. Grab your bolster and place it next to your mat. If you’re on the tighter side, grab two blocks as well.

Come back into the Low Lunge and place the bolster under the top of your back thigh. Put your blocks under your hands for support if you need them.

From there, lower your left sitting bone onto the bolster and begin to straighten your front leg. Don’t worry about getting it completely straight. What’s more important is to work on two actions: The first is to square your hips, so that both hip points are facing forward. The second is to resist a forward tilt (anterior tilt) in your pelvis, which leads to compressing and overarching your lower back.

You have to really engage your leg muscles to get these actions — no sinking into the bolster! Press down into your front heel and draw your front hip back. At the same time, tuck your back toes under, press down into the floor, draw the back hip forward. Hug your inner thighs in toward the midline and notice how this creates room for you to draw your tailbone down (resisting the anterior tilt) and lift your spine up!

To come out, bend your front knee and come back into the lunge. Then step back to Down Dog and do the other side.

See also Essential Sequence: Open into Hanumanasana

3. Hanumanasana with a block

Monkey Pose with Block | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method
Start in the Low Lunge once again. This time, you place a block just underneath your front sitting bone.

Repeat the actions that you did above: Engage your leg muscles. Press your feet into the earth and hug your legs in toward the midline to make space for your pelvis to come into a neutral position. Breathe into the spaces that need it. Then release, and do the second side.

4. Hanumanasana at the wall

Monkey Pose at the Wall Hanumanasana | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method
** Please note that I switched legs in this photograph so that you could see the pose better! I am going to instruct it according to the way it looks in the photo.

This one is tricky to get into and requires some experimenting. Start in a shortened Down Dog — hands and feet closer to each other than normal — with your feet about a foot away from the wall. Place your left leg up on the wall, toes tucked under.

Now, check in with yourself — do you need more of a stretch? If so, walk your hands toward your foot and hop your standing foot closer to the wall. Continue to check in and figure out if your body wants to go deeper, all the while keeping up the actions of the pelvis and legs that you did in the earlier postures.

Once you feel like you’ve found a good place to stay, you can come to the top of the back foot. Come out of the pose slowly by walking your hands forward and hopping away from the wall.

5. Hanumanasana (Monkey Pose)

hanumancrop

Before I instruct this pose, a quick disclaimer: I have been doing this pose since I was a gymnast at age 6. It’s always been basically within my reach, even in the years when I was chained to my desk and didn’t do as much yoga. I’m saying this because we rarely openly acknowledge in yoga that some poses come easily to some people — and some poses might never feel great in our bodies. I don’t think I will ever feel great in a deep backbend. I’m OK with that now. And I can still work the preparatory poses to take me through my range of motion and keep me agile in my daily life. That’s the goal isn’t it? To feel our best?

OK, my lecture is done. If the previous poses felt GREAT, then come into Half Hanumanasana (Half Monkey Pose) and slide your left leg forward. With your back toes tucked under, draw your back hip forward. Hug your inner legs together. When you keep your legs engaged, your pelvis might not touch the floor (notice mine doesn’t here). That’s perfectly OK.

On particular day I was not feeling open enough to lift my arms skyward into that crazy-beautiful-deep expression of Hanumanasana. That’s the truth! If you are feeling gloriously open and you want to reach your arms up, go for it. It feels amazing and playful.

To come out of the pose, place your hands on the floor and lift your pelvis so that you come back to Half Hanuman and Downward Dog.

Try the other side. Notice the differences. Thank yourself for practicing and being present today.

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8 Mindful Ways to Curb Sugar Cravings

Black Cherry Cacao Hemp Seed Smoothie
I was recently hanging out with some old friends and mentioned that I’m living a nearly refined-sugar free life. (I say nearly because I believe in balance and, on occasion, sharing a chocolate croissant with my family is worth it.) They gasped. While I’ve always attempted a clean diet, it was shocking for them to imagine their former fro-yo lovin’ friend off of sugar. I chalk it up to one of the things that a breast cancer diagnosis did for me – scared me straight off the sugar crack.

You may have heard somewhere that sugar “feeds” cancer cells. According to reputable cancer centers like MD Anderson, that doesn’t appear to be altogether true. But, there are other reasons to reassess your refined sugar intake. For starters, excess sugar increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Refined sugar is also nutritionally vapid – it’s a big zilcheroo. According to USDA, people who consume the most sugar have lowest intake of essential nutrients, like vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, calcium, and magnesium.

Beyond that, sugar affects your physiology and has an addictive quality to it. When you eat sugar, it quickly converts into glucose in your bloodstream, leading to a blood sugar spike. You feel a rush of energy – woohoo! But quickly thereafter, your energy crashes leaving you tired and unconsciously jonesing for another sugar high. There you are in your cubicle at 3pm and, man oh man, does just one more candy from the candy bowl sound tempting right now.

In yoga, we talk a lot about training the mind to observe and stay neutral so that we’re not pulled by the vicissitudes of our thoughts and emotions. From a neutral place, we can make better decisions, be more productive, and have better relationships. When I applied the things I’ve honed in yoga – like self-observation and open-minded curiosity—to my diet, I learned that I was being pulled this way and that, several times per day, by the vicissitudes of my blood sugar. As nice as it was to have an occasional treat, it’s much more satisfying to feel grounded and stable. That’s what I think about when I’m tempted by something these days – I think, “Is this going to be worth it?” Usually the answer is no.

Even if you don’t have the desire to cut out added sugar altogether, it’s worth staying within the American Heart Association’s recommended daily range: For women that’s 25 grams daily—about 6 teaspoons. For men it’s 37 grams daily—about 9 teaspoons.

If you want to start curbing your sugar habit, read on:

1. Basic Formula is TBD – Time. Balanced Meal. Dehydration.

According to Karyn Duggan, a nutritionist at One Medical Group in San Francisco, the acronym “TBD” can help you remember the three most essential ways to set yourself up for nutritional success. To break it down, you need to:

Time Your Meals — Eat at regular intervals. When you wait too long to eat, your blood sugar drops and you start to crave simple, sugar-loaded carbohydrates to give you an energy boost. As One Medical Group nutritionist Karyn Duggan says, “At that point, there’s no chance of making a healthy choice.” Duggan suggests eating within one hour of waking and not going longer than 4-5 hours between meals.

But, test it for yourself. When I first gave up sugar, I needed to eat small, protein-packed meals every 2-3 hours.

Balance — Eat balanced meals and snacks. A balanced meal, says Duggan, has a combination of protein, healthy fat, and complex carbohydrates. This combo will keep your blood sugar steady, helping you to feel satiated. (To learn more about how to create this healthy balance, you can read my post, Best Tip for Healthy Snacking.)

Don’t Get Dehydrated — “People often confuse thirst with hunger,” says Duggan. Her recommended intake? About 1/2 ounce per pound of body weight. So, for a 150 person, that’s 75 ounces per day.

2. Taper Off Slowly

Once you’ve got your basic strategy in place, you can get tactical about your sugar intake. I’m of the belief that it’s better to wean yourself slowly. For example, you can cut down on one sugary habit per week, like putting sugar in your coffee or starting your day with a sugary yogurt. Like yoga, going slowly helps you get to know yourself better: You can really feel what a small change does to your energy and mood. You can start recognize your habits, your challenges, and from there you can keep strategizing.

3. Learn to Read Labels

When you pay attention to labels, you may be shocked by which foods have hidden sources of sugar – ketchup, breads, soups, tomato sauce, granola, and salad dressings are just a few offenders.

Any item that lists any form of sugar in the first few ingredients or has more than 4 grams of sugar is a no-go. (These are all ingredients to look for: high fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, glucose, malt syrup, molasses, lactose, sucrose, dextrose.)

4. Eat Whole Foods

It’s easier to avoid added sugars if you stick with the basics: fruits, veggies, and complex carbs that are loaded with fiber and will keep you full; proteins that will help keep your blood sugar steady.

5. Trade Bitter for Sweet

Bitter foods have compounds in them that make them healthy (flavonoids, carotenoids, or polyphenols). Americans tends to be stuck on the salty to sweet pendulum. But bitter foods can expand your palate and help you appreciate different foods. Anytime I have a sugar craving I take heed: I have olives, some almond milk with turmeric and cinnamon, or I make a dinner with some delicious bitter greens. I try to keep my food interesting and adventurous.

6. Have Healthy “Treats” On Hand

The last thing you want is for food to be a bummer and to feel deprived. Having some healthy treats on hand can be helpful as you’re weaning or if you know you’re going party hopping and you want to avoid mindless sweets.

This past year I have become very creative in the kitchen with some major fails but successes, too. I’ve learned to make killer almond flour muffins, beet brownies, sugar cookies without sugar, and I’m working on a chai pound cake. I use grade B maple syrup in moderation in these instances because it’s rich in minerals. But there is some evidence that even sugar substitutes create more sugar cravings, so I try to be modest.

7. Don’t Try to Be Perfect. Find Your Perfect Balance.

Is pumpkin pie your favorite dessert that you look forward to all year long? Then have some pumpkin pie! Did your kid’s ice cream cone nearly fall to the ground and you just had to give it a few licks? Look, you were just doing your job. What I’m trying to say is that it’s important to maintain a sense of humor about all of this. Do the best you can and don’t beat yourself up over the small – or even the large — missteps. Food is fuel, but it’s also social. It’s a way for people to commune and share time together. If you want to indulge from time to time, my philosophy is that’s OK.

What’s important to me is that I make conscious choices about what I’m eating – that I’m not sucked into a daily abyss by my cravings. If you feel like you’ve gone over the edge for a day or a week, reel it back in and ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” (Answer: To feel great!) “What do I have to do to find my perfect balance?” (Answer: Keep watching, keep breathing, keep tweaking along the way.)

8. Eat More Fat

I’m adding a tip that I’ve experimented with since I first published this post over on drishtiyoga.com. It’s simple: Make sure you’re getting adequate healthy fats in your diet. Healthy fats are satiating and they keep you full. I notice that I feel better physically and mentally when I have them — instead of feeling deprived from eating sugar, I feel like I get to indulge a bit in a way that’s healthy for me. To learn more about healthy fats, read the interview I did with nutritionist and chef Rebecca Katz, where we talked about “ancient oils,” feeding your brain, and why full-fat is better than low-fat milk.

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Don’t Fear the Fat! Why It’s Time to Add Healthy Fats to Your Diet

Healthy Fats

My most memorable and doable resolution for 2016 has been to eat more fat. Yes, you read that right: Eat. More. Fat. Decades ago, fat became the villain of the America diet and carbs were king. Now the low-fat approach to eating is being blamed for the rise of processed carbohydrates and high-sugar foods — think sweetened low-fat yogurts and splenda-sweetened Starbucks bevvies.

For years I tried and consistently failed at a low-fat diet, unconsciously filling up my healthy-fats void with sugary frozen yogurt or microwave popcorn (which still sends shivers up my spine). These days I find that adding just a bit more fat to my diet is making me feel better all around.

But, as we start to embrace healthy fats, I’m also noticing the pendulum swinging the other way. Think bacon-laced muffins, cookies, scones or the Bulletproof Diet. I’ve even noticed myself getting a little bit too excited about the crème fraiche that’s now in my fridge!

The new 2016 dietary guidelines released by the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments reflect the confusion that still surrounds how much fat we need: Jane Brody reported in The New York Times that, for the first time, the guidelines do not suggest restricting total fat in order to maintain body weight. But they do suggest limiting saturated fats to less than 10% of daily calories – which means limiting most animal fats that you find in meat, cheese, yogurt, and eggs. However, doctors like Mark Hyman, the director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional medicine debate that saturated fat only poses a health risk when you’re eating a diet that is high in sugar and processed carbs.

Confused yet? Me too. That’s why I sat down with Rebecca Katz, chef, nutritionist and author of The Healthy Mind Cookbook to help me figure out a sane way to navigate healthy fats. Rebecca also calls herself the queen of “everything in moderation, including moderation,” which I love.

A Q&A with Rebecca Katz

 

Q

Why is fat a vital part of our diet?

A

Fat plays a really important role in our ability to feel satiated. If you take fat out of your diet, you then have to increase something else, usually the sugar content. And when you increase the sugar content and you take out the fat, the brain gets the signal ‘I need more, I need more, I need more!’ because it’s not satisfied.

 

Q

So, on a macro level – what is a healthy approach to fat?

A

When I talk about fat I really like to stick with what I call “ancient oils.” So, I include extra virgin olive oil, a little bit of grass-fed butter, avocado, nuts and seeds, coconut oil, and ghee, which, as you know, has been around since the beginning. The fats that I don’t particularly gravitate to are the fats found in processed foods.

 

Q

Do you mean transfats? Why are transfats so bad for us?

A

Trans fats are created when you add hydrogen to liquid oil — like soy bean oil or corn oil — which turns the oil into a solid. Think of Crisco and Margarine. These are the fats found in many processed foods – anything that says “partially hydrogenated,” on the label is a dead give away. These fats are nasty since the increase the levels of LDL, or what I call lousy cholesterol, and inhibit HDL, the good cholesterol that slows the build up of dangerous plaques in our arteries.

 

Q

When you say a little bit of grass-fed butter or coconut oil, what does that mean?

A

Like everything else you don’t want to overdo. When I say a little, I mean a small percentage of what you’re cooking, so a couple of tablespoons of olive oil with whatever dish you are cooking. In a day you could have a ¼ cup of walnuts, a half of an avocado, and some olive oil. We are not talking about old school French cooking, we are talking about a new way of looking at fat so that it’s complementary and it’s incorporated into the diet. I look at the Mediterranean diet because I think it makes the most sense. Fat is integrated without being extremist.

 

Q

And why is grass-fed butter better than, say, regular organic butter?

A

Grass-fed butter is high in omega-3 fatty acids because the cows are grazing on grass. It’s also higher in Vitamin K2. If you can’t find grass-fed butter in your market, then go for organic so you can skip the added hormones and pesticides.

 

Q

What are the benefits of including healthy fats in your diet?

A

Our brains are made of 60% fat. You need to feed your brain good, healthy fats if you want to have optimal brain function.

Fat also plays a really big important role in the way we absorb nutrients. So, remember in the 1980s, when we were eating what I like to call ‘hippie gruel’ and eating plain, steamed broccoli? Healthy foods were like a punishment. But, what science is telling us is that nature knows best. So, that plain steamed broccoli that we are eating – well, guess what? If we sautéed it in some olive oil and garlic, we would be able to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins of that broccoli. And not only that, it would’ve tasted great and we would’ve been satiated!

That’s the snapshot: If you want your food to taste good, if you want to feel satiated, if you want your joints to feel good, and you want your brain to function optimally, then adding good fats to your diet gives you that.

 

Q

When my daughter was born and I was breastfeeding, I learned about how fat helps with brain development and it was liberating for me. And since I’ve started giving her grass-fed butter, she has become the best eater. She was born a very tough eater and wouldn’t gain weight. She eats a lot of butter now and it seems to be very helpful.

A

What’s really important about that story is that that kids can have sensitive taste buds. As we get older, our sense of taste numbs a bit. But kids taste things so profoundly. It’s why they tend to stray away from bitter, like spinach and broccoli. What good fats do is they calm down those taste buds, so your daughter feels like, “Oh! Somebody just wrapped a blankie around my tongue so now I can eat!”

 

Q

My daughter would probably eat a half a stick of butter a day if I let her. How much should we follow our kids’ lead versus being aware of how much she is having?

A

I would look at how she is responding. If your child doesn’t have a sensitivity to dairy, then trust your instincts about how she is doing. It sounds like she’s eating better, she’s eating more, and her body is capable of absorbing it.

 

Q

That’s what I’m feeling; just observe her and observed how she responds.

A

Absolutely. And one size does not fit all. If you have a kid who’s lactose intolerant, maybe grass-fed butter is not her thing, maybe it’s olive oil or coconut oil.

 

Q

For those of us who tolerate dairy, do you recommend whole milk and yogurt or low-fat?

A

If you’re eating dairy, I recommend full-fat, organic dairy that has no added hormones. Low-fat dairy is a processed food. Whenever you take the fat out of the dairy product, the natural sugars go up, so now you’ve got something that is much higher in sugar.

 

Q

Is that because the fiber is stripped out?

A

No, it’s because the fat helps slow down the absorption of sugars. The things that slow down our production of insulin are good healthy fats and fiber.

 

Q

I understand that we want to get oils from fish because they provide us with omega-3 fatty acids, but I feel very concerned about toxins in our fish because our oceans are so polluted. I’ve been told to eat the smaller fish like anchovies, sardines but I don’t really like them.

A

I have two ways for you to do sardines in my cookbooks and I think you might like them. But here’s the deal if you don’t eat fish: There are a lot of the fish oils like the Nordic Naturals that are very safe. As we age, the omega-3s are really important to quell inflammation, help with brain health, heart health, mood. If fish is not a part of your world, then you really need to supplement with a good quality fish oil. If you’re vegan, there are really good oils made out of kelp.

 

Q

And if you do eat fish, you want to choose wild fish because eating farmed fish doesn’t give you the same health benefits – is that correct?

A

Correct. With farmed fish, you’re not getting those omega-3s. They are higher with omega -6’s which is a little more pro-inflammatory. So you are looking for that omega-3 triad and that comes from a wild fish, scallops, mussels, crabs, shrimp, sardines, anchovies, those types of fish.

 
Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us! The takeaway for me is to stop being afraid of healthy fats and to be conscious about adding it for its health benefits and for how satisfied it makes me feel – without going too crazy.

For those of you who eat fish, Rebecca has been kind enough to share one of her recipes — check out Shrimp-Stuffed Avocados here. And, to learn more about Rebecca, visit her website: www.rebeccakatz.com

Stay tuned, because Rebecca and I also talked about sugar and I really love and appreciate her approach. Sign up for our newsletter if you want to be notified when we post that one!

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5 Propped Poses to Help You Fall in Love With Backbends

Yoga Props for Backbends | Yoga Props for Backbends | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method
Think you can’t love backbends? You can. I promise, promise, promise. Backbends have always been — and still are — challenging for me. Even as a child, when I’d do an arabesque or a port de bras – both backbends in their own way – in ballet class, my back just looked flat and felt crunchy.

Early on in my practice, my desire to do deep backbends meant that I’d push myself too far and wind up feeling really awful the next day. Two things eventually happened that changed this pattern: First, I got curious about what was obstructing my backbends – was it really just my spine? Because that’s where all of my focus had been. When I started doing this self-inquiry, it became clear that it wasn’t. In some poses, it was that I hadn’t yet focused on the actions of the shoulder blades, while in other poses my tight hip flexors and quadriceps were limiting my range of motion. When I started to asking questions and investigating, things got infinitely more interesting and fun.

The second thing that happened was that I attended enough different yoga classes that I learned to use props. This was a complete game-changer for me. In this day and age of the fast-flow yoga obsession, props get a bad rap: They’re considered cumbersome or people feel embarrassed to use them. But I can attest that using just two blocks or a bolster can give you just the lift you need to go from crunchy and painful backbends to that heart-open, soaring feeling you crave.

So, without further ado, here are my favorite ways to make my backbends feel more open, spacious, and supported. Once you learn them, you can incorporate them into your regular practice without interrupting the flow and I promise you will notice a difference.

See also The Mother of All Backbends: Urdhva Dhanurasana

An alignment note: Jason often teaches how important it is to initiate backbends from the pelvis, and I agree. Initiate your forward bends by tilting the pelvis forward and initiate your backbends by tilting the pelvis – you guessed it – back.

To feel what that means, stand in Tadasana with your hands touching the bony protrusions on the front of your hips. Now, draw the hip points up (they won’t actually move very far in space) and gently drawing your abdomen back. Instead of letting your tailbone point back, think of drawing it down as though you were going to dig a hole in the ground with it. Aim for this position in all of your backbends.

5 Ways to Use Yoga Props for Backbends

1. Upward-Facing Dog

Upward-Facing Dog | Yoga Props for Backbends | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method
Placing your hands on blocks in Updog gives you more space to get your pelvis into position and pull your chest through your arms. Once you get the sensation of broadness in your chest, you can start to draw your shoulder heads back and lift your breastbone up.

How to
Place your blocks on your mat, shoulder distance apart. Place your hands on the blocks and prepare for the pose: With your elbows bent, draw your shoulder heads back and feel your shoulder blades moving toward your spine. Gently draw your abdomen back and lengthen your low back.

Now, lift up into the pose and work your legs. Work your legs! They are the supporting players in your body’s ensemble – draw your quads up, squeeze your inner thighs toward each other and hug your outer ankles in. Do you feel brighter, lighter, more lifted in your Updog now?

2. Dhanurasana

Dhanurasana on a bolster | Bow Pose Bolster | Yoga Props for Backbends | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method
If given the choice, I would always do Dhanurasana on a bolster. My experience of this propped variation is that the bolster gives me the boost I need to really lift my chest and it presses into my abdomen and helps me keep my lower back long.

How to
It may take some time for you to find just the right place for the bolster. If it’s too far back, you’ll do a faceplant. If it’s too far forward you’ll compress your bottom ribs. Ideally, it will be underneath the front of your pelvis – so across the pubic bone.

Once you feel like it’s in the right place, place your fingertips on the floor in front of you, bend your knees and lift your chest. Reach back and grab your outer ankles. Then strongly kick your shins back into your hands and straight up toward the ceiling. Allow your shoulder blades to squeeze together and lift your breastbone. Keep your lower back long.

3. Camel

Camel Pose Ustrasana | Yoga Props for Backbends | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method
Using blocks Camel Pose can help you remain aligned and stable in your lower body. When your pelvis and lower body are stable in backbends, you’re less likely to “sit in” (i.e. compress) your lower back.

How to
Stand on your shins with a block on either side of your outer ankles. Look down and see that your knees are directly beneath your hips. Squeeze your inner legs together so that you feel supported. Bring your hands to your lower back, fingertips pointing down – let this serve as a tactile cue to keep your low back long. From there, inhale as you lift, lift, lift your breastbone and arch back. Bring your hands to the blocks and press down into them. Allow your heart to rebound up toward the ceiling. Keep your lower back long.

4. King Arthur’s Pose — The Road to Eka Pada Rajakapotasana II

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana II - King Arthur's Pose | Yoga Props for Backbends | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method
There’s no variation that helps me more with the Pigeon series than King Arthur’s Pose. It’s incredibly efficient at opening the hip flexors and quadriceps while your knee is flexed (which is the same position your legs are in for full Pigeon). It also gives you the opportunity to practice keeping your pelvis and lower body stable while you lift your chest and start to backbend toward the wall.

How To
If you have sensitive knees, fold a blanket or grab a pillow and place it against the wall. Set up two blocks so that they’re near your mat. To get into the pose, come into a standing forward bend with very bent knees and your fingertips on the floor. Bend your left knee and place your shin against the wall. Slide it down until your knee is on the floor and against the wall. Then step your right foot forward between your hands.

Press your shin against the wall and tilt your pelvis back. Place your hands on the blocks and stay. Breathe. Stay. Curse the gods. And stay a little longer.

If you feel stable here, lift your chest, and draw your arms up by your ears. If you want to go deeper, keep lifting your chest and reach your hands back toward the wall. You are almost in Eka Pada Rajakapotasana II! This is your version of the pose, so own it.

5. Urdhva Dhanurasana (aka Upward Bow or Wheel Pose)

Urdhva Dhanurasana | Yoga Props for Backbends | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method

I like placing the blocks under my feet in this pose, because I have extremely tight hip flexors and quads. If your shoulders are tight, you might prefer the blocks under your hands. Better yet, try both and feel the difference.

How to
Do this pose only after a good, thorough backbending sequence! You can find a full sequence to Urdhva Dhanurasana here. The set up for both of these is the same: Place your blocks on your mat against a wall. Lie back and place your hands on the edge of the blocks. For this version of the pose, I suggest coming up in one breath (not resting on the head). Take a big breath in, then exhale and use your arms and legs to press up into the pose. Draw your tailbone toward your knees and lift your breastbone straight up toward the ceiling. Stay for a few breaths and then slowly lower down. Rest for a few breaths, then try placing your feet on the blocks and repeat the instructions above.

If you need more details about how to get into Urdhva Dhanurasana, you can check out the full pose breakdown here.

Let me know how it goes and if you have any favorites to add in the comments!

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10 Tips for Teaching Workplace Yoga (Like a Boss)

Before we get to the post, a quick, shameless plug for my upcoming trainings. You can join me live at my 500-Hour Yoga Teacher Training in San Francisco, London, or Hong Kong. I also have three separate online teacher trainings, focusing on arm balances & inversions, sequencing, or anatomy.

How to Teach Corporate Yoga | Parsvakonasana Side Angle Pose | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method

Back when I was teaching yoga (more than a decade ago!), there were not nearly as many venues in which a person could teach. But these days, if you want to make a living teaching yoga full-time, it’s important to be flexible (oy, no pun intended) and take lucrative gigs where you can find them. Teaching corporate yoga or yoga in the workplace can be a stable source of income, but it’s a different beast than teaching in a studio environment. This week, Kim Sin—one of Jason’s long-time students and vinyasa yoga teacher in her own right—is sharing her tips on how to navigate teaching corporate yoga.
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Six years ago, after completing Jason’s 200-hour training, I committed to teaching yoga full time. A few years later, out of nowhere, I was asked to sub a corporate class full of scientists.

I recall nervously walking into the conference room where class was to be held and seeing carpeted floors, minimal props, and office furniture against the walls. The whole vibe of this “classroom” was completely different from a yoga studio. I quickly realized I’d have to shift my teaching style to meet the needs of the students.

That day—and each day since—my goal has been to create a space where my students can leave their deadlines at the door, clear their minds, and inhabit their bodies. The opportunity to help my students thoroughly shift their state during a real-world, less-than-ideal moment is immensely challenging and rewarding.

I wrote the tips below to help you create a bridge between studio teaching and workplace teaching so that you can offer more accessible, effective, and beneficial classes.

Tips for Teaching Corporate Yoga

1. Be On Time

Your students are at work and will often have to eat a quick lunch or join a meeting after your class. Respect their time and need for punctuality.

2. Make them Feel at Home

Remember that part of your job is to help them feel invited and at ease. Share some of your personality or humor to break the ice. You may have beginners who are freaked out!

3. Make it Accessible

Use clear, everyday language. Aim to make the practice as accessible and unintimidating as possible. There’s no need to alter your voice as this may weird people out. Instead, speak to students in your typical conversational style. In most workplaces, it’s a good idea to hold off on chanting (at least in the beginning). I also pare down my use of Sanskrit so that people feel like they can immediately connect to what I’m saying.

See also Verbal Cues for Yoga Poses: Immediately Improve Your Communication

4. Speak Succinctly

Limit your number of instructions to 2-3 per pose. Think of how much information people are bombarded with in their workday: In a yoga class, they can only digest so much and don’t need extreme details.

5. Offer Landmarks

You’ll likely have new students who are nervous and feel disoriented. When you instruct, use landmarks as cues, such as ‘Reach your arms up toward the ceiling.’ They won’t have to remember their right from their left while they’re in a new shape — and neither will you!

6. Hold the Space

Provide space for students to feel peace and experience quiet. There is no need to talk the whole time.

Vajrasana

7. Emphasize Letting Go

Let them know that it’s OK – even optimal – to use this time to let go of tension. Teach them how to balance effort with ease by encouraging them to take rest and back off of intensity when they need to. Teach stress-relieving techniques like breathing through tightness or difficulty or breathing out tension as they exhale.

8. Avoid Partner Poses

They’re typically inappropriate in a work setting. Would you want to adjust your boss’s hips in Down Dog or hold your co-worker’s gaze during a partner squat? Didn’t think so.

9. Go for the Tight Spots

Stretches for the neck, shoulders, wrists, and hips are winners. Your students are probably engaging in repetitive activities (sitting, typing, etc.) that make these areas tight. Additionally, be sure to teach to what you see, especially those with injuries or conditions.

10. Explain Savasana

At first, your students may find Savasana strange. Offer an analogy they can appreciate (like adult nap time while awake or horizontal meditation with your eyes closed).

Do you teach corporate yoga? Do you agree with these? Any tips to add? Thanks so much, Kim! You can learn more about Kim at kimsinyoga.com.

{photos by: Fino Balanza}

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