Sometimes, we just need to have a yoga chat. Ya know? So that's what today's Mat Matters
video is--a little chat about something yoga-related that's been on my mind.
Since I don't want to give too much away (how fun is a chat if you already know what's going to be said?), I'll just state this important background info:
Everyone's bones are shaped differently. My left humerus is a different length than your left humerus. My femur may be shorter or longer than yours. My scapula may be wider than yours.
Similarly, everyone's skeleton is put together differently. Yes, we have the same basic bones in the same basic places, but we're all different in how these bones fit together to create the magical puzzle of our bodies.
So, given these simple facts, we just can't expect our bodies to do every yoga pose as shown in the books, or by our teachers, or by the yogis next to us. WE'RE JUST TOO DIFFERENT!
Thus, today's video. You can watch here or on my YouTube Channel
Thanks for chatting ;)
This is such an exciting week!
First my new live e-course
, and now THIS
! Obviously, I am over the moon to announce that Kimberly Wilson
and I will be leading my first--her 10000th--yoga retreat to Costa Rica in May, 2014 (!).
Not only am I pumped to return to Costa Rica (I visited my brother when he was living there a few years ago, and I LOVED it), but I am also thrilled to reunite with Kimberly, reconnect with Tranquil Space
yogis, and hopefully, meet some of you who I've never met before (yay!).Registration is now open
and you can read all about this amazing retreat below:
Join Kimberly Wilson and Mary Catherine Starr May 24 - 31, 2014 for a week-long escape focused on yoga, creativity, and mindfulness during Memorial Day weekend. We will bask in tranquility among the tropical splendor at Pura Vida
, a private, gated, 8-acre mountainside estate in the Alajuela province. Here we will indulge in two daily yoga sessions (vinyasa, yin, restorative, and meditation), four art and creativity sessions (writing, art journaling, mixed media/collage, and sketching in nature), and plenty of time for naps, reading poolside, and dining on fresh, local cuisine.
The resort is enveloped in lush, tropical gardens surrounded by coffee plantations, and includes a pool, a hot tub, and luxurious spa treatments at your fingertips. This retreat is open to late beginner to advanced students. Classes will be taught at Tranquil Space Open Flow level with variations and modifications for your body. INCLUDED
: Ten yoga sessions, four creativity sessions, deluxe or tentalow accommodations, transport to and from the airport, a tranquility-filled goody bag, three delicious daily meals, and sensory surprises. All registrants will receive a detailed itinerary, packing list, and tips on making the experience divine.NOT INCLUDED
: Airfare, spa services, and excursions. Accomodations:
*Please note if you come solo and choose double but no other solo guest is available to be your roommate, you will be transitioned to the single rate. Payments:
- Tentalow single $1,950, Tentalow double* $1,650 (per person). Tentalow description: tentalows combine the adventure and feel of the outdoors with the amenities of a room. These 12 ' x 12 ' x 12 ' luxury tents have carpeted floors, very comfortable beds (the same as in our other accommodations), electricity, space for your clothes and plenty of fresh mountain air. The shared bathrooms are set in lush gardens, are very attractive, and are conveniently located nearby. 1 king or 2 twins.
- Deluxe single $2,250, deluxe double* $1,850 (per person). Deluxe description: deluxe accommodations are the A-frames and vistas. They each have a private balcony with stunning views, their own baths, balcony and coffee maker. 1 king or 2 twins.
$500 non-refundable deposit to secure your spot. Balance is due by March 15, 2014. Please refer here for our cancellation policies for international retreats.
You can view scenes from past CR yoga retreats here
, and can reserve your space here
I can't wait! Hope you'll join us ;)
Okay, I think it's time to heat things up a bit. As it gets colder outside, there's no better way to warm up the body than by doing a few sun salutations, some twisting, and maybe, just maybe, a challenging arm balance or two.
Enter Hummingbird pose. Or Dragonfly. Or whatever it is that you've heard this pose called (I can't seem to pin down one name, as it's always called something different!). Basically, it's a super fun pose that takes some serious body maneuvering, but in the end, looks much harder than it actually is (I promise!).
In Episode 21 of Mat Matters
, I walk you through this pose in a fairly straightforward way--and encourage you to try it . [If it's safe for your body, of course.] Why not challenge yourself to take flight today?
PS. I'm horrified by the clutter and the couch in the corner of this shot, but as you can tell, I'm still trying to figure out where to shoot my videos in our new place. I promise, they'll get more professional again soon. Until then, just bear with me!
Oh, and keep an eye out for the moment in the video where my foot becomes a holy relic ;)
For many yogis (myself included!), developing a home practice isn't an easy thing. It can be daunting, or a bit overwhelming--"Where would I even start?"
If you started practicing yoga in a studio, with a teacher, it can feel like that is the only
way to get in a good practice, but I'm here today to tell you that it's not--that you can also get in an amazing practice at home, on your own, with just a little floor space and your mat. Whaaaat?
I know! Who knew it could be that easy? So today, that's what we're discussing on Mat Matters
--how to begin to build a home practice.
As I mention in the video, I think it can be helpful to see an outline of a "class" that you could develop for yourself. So, here are a few different examples of how you could structure an asana-based home practice: Basic Elements of a Full Yoga Class:
Home Practice Sequence Examples:
- Sun salutes (step back variations or Surya Namaskar A)
- Standing Flow
- Balancing Poses (standing or arm balances)
- Hip Openers/seated Poses
- Backbends & inversions
- Finishing poses (optional)
| | Sample 25-Minute Home Practice
- Center in child's pose
- Cat/cow & thread the needle
- Down dog with some movement, walk feet forward, ragdoll
- Standing side bends, step back sun salutations (1x each side)
- Surya Namaskar A (jump or step back) x2
- Standing flow: warrior 1, warrior 2, reverse warrior, extended side angle
- Tree pose
- Pigeon pose
- Seated forward fold
- Shoulderstand or headstand
| | Sample 45-Minute Home Practice
- Center in sukhasana (seated)
- Warm-up from seated: twist each side, side bends, gentle backbend, fold over legs (repeat 2x)
- Down dog with some movement, low crescent lunge with twist and/or half-splits on each side (vinyasa in between sides)
- Walk feet forward, ragdoll
- Surya Namaskar A (step back first few times, then play with adding jump) x5
- Standing flow: warrior 1, warrior 2, reverse warrior, extended side angle, triangle pose, half-moon
- Pigeon pose (or double pigeon)
- Come onto belly: locust and/or bow pose
- Seated forward fold, baddha konasana
- Shoulderstand or headstand
Not so hard when you see it written out, right? So go practice at home! Do it! I promise, you'll enjoy it once you get into it ;)
You can watch today's video here or on my YouTube Channel
PS. I've gotten a lot of requests for podcasts (or audio files) and/or videos of my classes, and am looking into producing one of these in the near future, so that you can take my classes anywhere and everywhere (yay!).
I'm currently trying to decide which would be a better fit. What do you think--audio (iTunes) vs. video (YouTube)? If you have a preference on how you would like to take my classes from afar, post your thoughts to comments!
Oh you guys, I just want people to stop forcing forward folds so badly
. Well, really, I want people to stop forcing all poses (it's so painful for me to watch!), but especially
I'm sure you don't do it, right? I know, you would never (!). But many people do, so today, we're talking about how to fold forward properly--without compromising the lower back or pulling on the muscles or yanking the shoulder out of socket.
Is this one of my soapboxes as a teacher? Yes. Do I have many more? Yes, yes I do. And I know that a forward fold isn't as glamorous or as sexy as moving from crow to tripod headstand or coming into astravakrasana, but I think that this pose is more important than the sexier poses because it's about taking care of your body, and that's something that most of us have a much harder time doing [than pushing ourselves].
So, lets stop forcing it--in yoga and in life--and instead, lets just breathe and let things unfold. Deal?
You can watch today's video here or on my YouTube Channel
(where you can also subscribe so that you never miss an episode!).
Thanks for listening ;)
[I convinced Ben to be on Mat Matters again! And he's much less nervous this time around!
This week on Mat Matters
, my husband, Ben, and I discuss the proper alignment for push-ups--both the yogic version of push-ups, chaturanga, and the more fitness-oriented version of push-ups that we're all familiar with (and for the most part, hate--or is that just me?).
If there's one thing that I think *almost* everyone does wrong in their first few yoga classes, it's chaturanga. I spend half of my classes just reminding people to pull their elbows in towards their ribcage, and I still see it happen non-stop. I believe that one of the reasons for this is what we discuss today--the fact that no one knows how to do a regular push-up correct, either! And that most of us have been doing them wrong since we first learned them back in gym class...
So, I decided to bring in my resident fitness expert, Ben, to teach us about push-ups. Although he claims he's not an "expert," I would argue that he is, as he's been CrossFitting for 4 years now, and has probably spent many more hours watching coaching videos than most coaches have (trust me, I know! I've bitched about it for years!). I'm so glad that Ben decided to join us again, and watch out--I think he really enjoyed doing it this time, so he may become a much more regular guest in this video series ;)
PS. For a more in-depth discussion of chaturanga and the mechanics of a chaturanga vinyasa, check out this post
Legs-Up-the-Wall = my little version of heaven. I do it every day, and I can't believe that there was once a time when this pose wasn't in my life. Yikes.
Since I love this pose so much, and since it's a rainy, cold, dark day outside here, I wanted to make sure that all of you, my readers, are familiar with this pose of amazingness. You simply must make it a part of your daily routine!
To all of my furloughed federal government workers, stressed-out Type-A-ers, and those undergoing big life changes this fall (like yours truly), this one of for you. Take a load off!
Oh, and I'm doing a restorative yoga workshop at Tranquil Space Arlington this weekend (on Saturday from 5-7), so if you'd like to enjoy more with this came from, join me! There are just a few spots left ;) Have a restful, relaxing day.
Lets chat about tripod headstand. We've already discussed bound headstand
--one of the most-struggled-with and often-forced poses in yoga (or, at least in my classes)--so, I think it's time we discussed the other most commonly taught version of headstand.
When I first learned how to come into tripod headstand, I did it all over the world. I especially liked doing it in fields, because the soft ground felt great under my head and I knew it would be okay to fall. There's just something about this pose that feels magical--you get to a point while lifting your legs where you feel weightless, where your legs just pop up as if your body knows nothing but
how to come into a headstand, and it's exhilarating.
I also like teaching tripod because there is a mini, beginners version of this pose. I won't go into it here, since I talk about it in the video, but it's nice that there is a balancing pose that people can come into if they're not quite ready for the full pose. That's always fun ;)
Oh, and two more things that I want to tell you today:
- In this video, I get wobbly in my tripod headstand and have to steady myself. I almost re-taped it so that I could show only a beautiful, non-wobbly headstand, and then I thought, No! People need to see that we all get wobbly in poses, that we all have moments where we're unsteady, and that's okay! So I left it in. [I'm trying to be okay with the imperfection.]
- Totally random, but I thought you would appreciate the fact that I was awoken in the middle of the night last night because I was literally trying to get into pigeon pose IN MY SLEEP. My leg was tucked under my body and I was trying to square my hips to fold over my legs. I know!!!!
Okay, so that's it for this week. I hope you have fun playing with tripod headstand! If you're looking for more headstand glory, check out my past videos Crow to Tripod Headstand
and Bound Headstand
Yay for turning your world upside down!
Today, I'm thrilled to share a personal essay written by a fellow yogi, Tranquil Space teacher
, and all around amazing woman, Stacey Detwiler
. When I read her essay submission, I was immediately captured by her subject matter--change. [It's a doozy!]
I always have a hard time with change, and have recently been struggling with some impending changes that may take place in my life in the coming months (more to come in another post...), so her essay really spoke to me.
I hope that it speaks to you, too, and that it helps you to find a little sense of stillness within our constantly-changing world...
I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately. Over the past year, several of my closest friends here in DC have packed their bags and headed off to different adventures--from Law School in Vermont, to a new job in Colorado, to a Fulbright fellowship in Germany. I love hearing about the challenges and new experiences they’re having; But it also makes me question whether I could use some similar changes myself. It seems that every summer I take one step towards leaving DC, and then two steps towards putting down more roots here. The push and pull of making a big change vs. trying to keep things the same is a constant challenge.
A former dance teacher of mine used to have us stand in parallel and close our eyes. Even though you think you are in stillness, you start to notice all of the muscles in your feet slowly engaging and releasing, your weight shifting slightly, and how the breath changes your body.
Even when we think we’re in stillness, we’re constantly changing and shifting. While change is scary, it can be helpful to remember that nothing stays the same, no matter what. I can passively wait for things to shift, or I can take charge of my life and actively make decisions. Or, as my mom simply puts it, “things change.”
This is a helpful approach to cultivate both on and off of the yoga mat--learning not to become too attached to any one way to get into a pose, or any particular attitude or way of thinking. Do you have poses that you look at and just think, there is no way I am ever going to be able to do that
? I definitely do. Yet, I’ve found that working with those poses (or stages of those poses!) can provide the biggest learning experience and opportunity for growth in my personal practice. Even taking a new perspective on a fundamental pose, such as chaturanga or downward facing dog, can deepen and strengthen my practice.
In Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are
, he describes a meditation technique that involves visualizing a mountain. He asks the readers to imagine sunny days, wind, storms, and clouds swirling around that mountain. No matter what happens, he writes, the mountain “remains still as the seasons flow into one another and as the weather changes moment by moment, day by day. Calmness abiding all change.”
In the midst of both big life decisions and small, everyday decisions, when it feels like there’s never enough time to stop and think about where you are or what you’re doing, take a moment to think of yourself as a mountain. I’ll certainly be doing so, and trying to find some calmness in the midst of change.
You can follow Stacey on her newly-launched blog and yoga website, Edge of a Petal Yoga.
Do you have a personal essay that you want to share with my readers? If so, all of the details re: how to submit your personal essay for review are here
PS. Oh-em-gee, it's October! Whaaaaaatttt? Talk about change. Happy new month!
PPS. Life is cray-cray, y'all.
We do a lot of squatting in our household. Ben loves squatting; I love squatting. We love it in different ways (he likes weighted squats, I like body-weight squats), but overall, we're basically a squatting couple. Sexy, I know.
[But hey, wait, it can be fun! Remember Malasana & Merlot?
So anyways, because of this love for/obsession with squatting, it felt only natural to use the last episode of my recent yoga video miniseries,"Four Poses," to address squatting--or more specifically, to discuss four yoga poses that can help you to improve your squat.
My goal? To improve the U.S. of A one squat at a time. I think that if we could all squat with ease, our nation would be a much happier, healthier place ;)
As always, you can watch this week's Mat Matters video here on the blog
, or by subscribing to my YouTube channel
Hope to see you squatting soon!