#CalmTip: Try Rag Doll Pose

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

It’s a new month, and that means it’s time for a new yoga pose. This month, it’s rag doll pose. This is one of my favorites, especially after I’ve been to the gym and my hamstrings are super tight. The pose loosens your hamstrings, provides a gentle stretch for your lower spine, and can even help with menstrual cramps.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet planted firmly, a little wider than hip-distance.
  2. Bend forward, and grab opposite elbows, keeping a small bend in your knees.
  3. Keep your neck long, and gently shake your head to release any tension.
  4. If it feels good, sway back and forth or from side to side.
  5. Stay in the pose for 5-10 breaths.
  6. To come out, let go of your elbows, and slowly come up, from your lower, middle then upper back, with your head coming up last.

Tips

  • If you have a lot of back pain, bend your knees deeply in this pose.
  • Rest your elbows against a chair, table, or on your thighs if your back feels strained.

“Make time for your yoga (it’s important).”

Yoga Pose of the Month: Tree Pose

Black Girl's Guide to CalmHow is it April already?! This year is really flying by! Anyhoo, this month’s yoga pose is tree pose. This pose stretches your inner thighs, groin, and shoulders; strengthens your posture and thighs, calves, core, and foot muscles. It also helps you develop balance, calms and relaxes your mind and central nervous system, and increases your mind/body awareness.

How to do it
  1. Stand tall and straight with your arms by your sides.
  2. Bend your right knee and place your right foot high up on your left thigh or down on your calf (just make sure it’s not on your knee). The sole of your foot should be flat and placed firmly wherever it is.
  3. Keep your left leg straight, and find a non-moving eye-level point to gaze at. This will help you maintain your balance.
  4. Once you’re well balanced, inhale, and raise your arms overhead and bring your hands together in the prayer position; you also have the option of keeping your hands chest-level.
  5. Keep your eyes focused on the same object.
  6. Make sure your spine is straight, and take 5-10 full, deep breaths.
  7. To release, bring your hands down to your sides, then gently release your right leg.
  8. Repeat on the other side.
Tips
  • If you come into the pose too quickly, you’re more likely to lose your balance, so come into the pose slowly with awareness; take your time.
  • To help with your balance, become aware of the center line of your body — the line that runs from the center of your head, neck, and torso.
Modification

If you find that you’re very unsteady, try the pose with your back against the wall, or place a chair next to the standing-leg of your body and place your hand on the back of the chair for extra support.

“Like a tree, you have to find your roots and then you can bend in the wind.” – Angela Farmer

Need more help starting your yoga practice? Take the 5-Day Beginner Yoga Challenge; sign up below! 


Black Girl's Guide to Calm

#CalmTip: Try the Yoga Pose of the Month

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

 

Happy March 1! This month’s yoga pose is reverse table top, and it stretches the front body while strengthening the core and arm muscles. This pose is also good for those who sit during work, and drive/travel a lot.

Reverse table top deeply stretches your upper body and opens your front body, including your shoulders, chest, abdomen, and spine, while improving your balance and posture. Opening your front body invigorates and energizes you, providing relief from stress and fatigue. The pose also strengthens your wrists, arms, butt, legs, and back.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your arms resting by your sides in staff pose.
  2. Bend your knees and plant your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Place your hands about six to eight inches behind you, keeping your hips shoulder width-apart. Your fingers should be pointed toward your toes.
  4. On an inhale, press firmly into your hands and feet. Straighten your elbows, and lift your hips toward the ceiling. Draw your shoulder blades toward one another and lift your chest. Try to bring your chest, stomach, and knees into one straight line, parallel to the floor.
  5. Your legs should be active and firm, and your butt should be relaxed and lifted. Press down through your toes.
  6. If it feels okay, gently let your head go back so the crown faces the floor. You can gaze gently at the wall behind your or close your eyes. Continue breathing deeply.
  7. Hold for 5-10 breaths. To come out of the pose, slowly lower your hips, then extend your legs back into staff pose.

Tips

  • Keep your shoulder blades moving toward one another, which will help to lift your chest.
  • Your thighs should be engaged the entire time.
  • Press your feet evenly into the floor.
  • Make sure your shoulders are directly over your wrists.

Modifcations

  • If you’re dealing with neck pain, or it feels compressed, don’t drop your head back. Instead, tuck your chin a little, bringing it to your chest.
  • Keep your arms active and straight.
  • If you have trouble keeping your hips up, use a yoga block, bolster, or stack of blankets under your hips to support your pelvis, allowing your weight to rest.
  • If you have less strength and/or flexibility, you can practice reverse table top pose with your hands on the edge of a chair that’s secure against the wall. Hold on the edges of the seat of the chair, then lift into the pose.

 

“Those who practice yoga have joy within, delight within, and radiance within.” – Bhagavad Gita

Stress Relieving Yoga Sequence

As I’ve mentioned many times on this site, yoga is an awesome way to relieve stress. It can also enhance your mood, bringing you joy and happiness, and well-being.

With that being said, here’s a yoga sequence you can do when you need to relieve stress. And if you’re interested, you can get the printable here (or just right-click to save).

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

 

Enjoy! xoxo

 

Yoga Pose of the Month: Downward Facing Dog

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

It’s a new month, and that means it’s time for a new yoga pose: Downward Facing Dog. This pose energizes and rejuventates your entire body; it’s also great for bringing more joy into your life. Practicing downward facing dog might also help you regain some of the lightness and enthusiasm that’s been missing in your life.

Additional benefits include relief from headaches, fatigue, insomnia, and mild depression. The blood flow to the brain also calms the nervous system, improves concentration and memory, and relieves stress. Downward facing dog can be used to transition to other poses or as a full-body stretch by itself.

How to do it:

  1. Start on your hands and knees. Spread your fingers (they should be pointed at the wall in front of you) and make sure your wrists are under your shoulders.
  2. On an inhale, curl your toes, then lift your knees up and your tailbone to the sky. Reach your heels to the ground, but it’s no big deal if they don’t get there. Keep your feet hip distance.
  3. Make sure your fingers are still spread wide, and press into the roots of your fingers and fingertips. Most of your weight should be there, so you avoid any wrist pain/issues.
  4. Continue pushing the mat away so your armpits are long, and rotate your elbows away from you. Allow your head to relax so there’s no tension in your neck.
  5. Without moving your feet, rotate your thighs slightly inward and keep reaching your tailbone to the sky.
  6. Hold for five to 10 breaths.

Modifications + Tips

You can warm up and stretch your hips by bending one knee while the other is straight, then switching sides. Repeat a few times to

If the pose is too much with straightened legs or if your hamstrings are super tight, bend your knees in downward facing dog, coming onto the balls of your feet.

“Let your joy rise to the surface.” – Unknown

#CalmTip: Take the 5-Day Yoga Challenge

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

If you haven’t seen on social media, I’m hosting a five day yoga challenge for beginners. I decided to do this challenge for a couple of reasons: 1. I get a lot of questions about starting a yoga practice and people asking me to help them begin; and 2. I love yoga (and I’m currently doing a training in core strength vinyasa).

Here’s how it will work:

  1. Sign up here.
  2. From February 1st – 5th, you’ll receive an email with a video of the day’s pose and instructions.
  3. You’ll get a free copy of my forthcoming ebook, The Black Girl’s Guide to Yoga (when it comes out in the next few weeks).
  4. That’s it!

Go here to sign up. And if you have any questions, feel free to reach out.

P.S. Click to tweet, and get your followers to join in, too!

3 Types of Yoga to Try

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

If you’re new to yoga and start doing research online to learn more, you might become overwhelmed with all the info out there and the different types to choose from. So, to get you started, here are a few types of yoga you can try:

1. Hatha

In its most basic usage, ‘hatha’ simply means yoga. The word describes any kind of yoga in which poses are done. (There are eight limbs of yoga, and asana is the only one dealing with poses).

Hatha can be translated in a couple of ways: 1. “Willful” or “forceful” as in the yoga of activity; and 2. “sun” (ha) and “moon” (tha), the yoga of balance. Hatha practices are designed to align and calm your mind, body, and spirit to prepare for meditation. Nowadays, hatha is most often used to describe gentle, basic yoga classes that have no flow between poses. These classes are a good place to start to learn beginners’ poses, relaxation methods, and to become comfortable with yoga.

2. Kemetic

Kemetic yoga is the ancient Egyptian system of yoga enlightenment based on the practices of physical movements combined with controlled breathing and meditation. It’s a healing and regenerative yoga system defined by a series of geometrically progressive postures that aligns the spinal column and corrects defects in the skeletal muscular system to relieve stress; increase blood circulation, nutrient, and oxygen supply to vital body systems; and allows internal life force energy and cerebral spinal fluid to flow more effectively and abundantly through the body.

Kemetic yoga is both a philosophy and a practice based on the Kemetic (ancient Egyptian) systems of self-development that fueled the creation of Kemetic civilization that brought forth western science, philosophy and religion.

3. Vinyasa

Vinyasa is a yoga practice in which movement is synchronized to the breath. The breath is like an anchor to the movement as you flow from one pose to the next with each inhale or exhale.

The literal translation of vinyasa from Sanskrit is “connection”; this can be described as a connection between movement and breath. Vinyasa classes include a lot of variety and will almost always include sun salutations.

“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” – The Bhagavad Gita

Sources: yoga.about.com, kemeticyoga.com, yogajournal.com

Photo Credit 123rf.com/Gino Santa Maria

Yoga Pose of the Month: Easy Pose

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

(Welcome to a new series on the blog: Yoga pose of the month! Every month, I’ll share a yoga pose you can practice daily or a few times a week).

This month’s pose is easy pose (sukhasana), a basic seated yoga posture. It’s a very common pose for practicing meditation and breathing exercises (called pranayama).

Easy pose strengthens your back, stretches your knees and ankles and also opens your hips, groin, and outer thigh muscles. And when you sit upright with your spine aligned, it reduces stress and anxiety. The pose calms the mind and can be therapeutic for stress.

How to do it

  1. Sit on the edge of a firm blanket or your yoga mat. Extend your legs in front of you and sit up straight. Then, cross your legs in front of you at your shins
  2. With wide knees, place each foot under the opposite knee. Fold your legs in toward your torso.
  3. Place your hands on your knees with your palms facing down.
  4. Balance your weight evenly across your sit bones. Make sure your head, neck, and spine are in one line. Lengthen your spine, soften your neck. Relax your feet and thighs.
  5. Gaze ahead at eye-level with soft eyes, or close your eyes.
  6. Hold for up to a minute or for the length of your meditation or pranayama practice.
  7. Try to practice on both sides, placing the other leg in front.

You should be comfortable in this position (hence the name, easy pose). Here are some modifications if you need them:

  • If your hips are tight, use a prop like a blanket or two, a bolster, block, or a meditation pillow.
  • You can try various heights of support to find the one most appropriate for you.
  • If you have extremely tight hips, practice easy pose seated in a chair. Leave one foot flat on the floor, cross the opposite ankle over the knee of the grounded foot. Hold it for up to a minute, then repeat on the other side.
  • Need more back support? Sit with your back against a wall. Or, place a yoga block between the wall and your shoulder blades.

“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Source

Yoga for Stress Relief: 2 Poses to Try

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

 

It’s National Yoga Month! In addition to improving your flexibility and strength, you can also use yoga for stress relief. It:

Helps you improve your breathing. Yoga includes breathing practices known as pranayama, which can be useful for reducing your stress response, improving lung function, and it encourages relaxation.

Connects you with the present moment. The more you practice yoga, the more aware you become of the world around you.

Cultivates inner peace and calm.

Relieves stress. Yoga reduces the physical effects of stress on the body and has been known to reduce cortisol levels.

There are several yoga asanas (poses) you can do to relieve stress, but here are two basic ones:

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

This pose:

  • Gently stretches your lower back, hips, thighs, knees, and ankles
  • Relaxes your spine, shoulders, and neck
  • Increases the blood circulation to your head, which reduces headaches
  • Massages your internal organs
  • Calms your mind, helping relieve stress and tension

How to do it

  1. Start on your hands and knees.
  2. Keep your knees hip-distance apart and your big toes touching. You can spread your knees a little wider for wide-legged child’s pose variation if that’s more comfortable.
  3. Bring your hips back toward your heels (don’t worry if your butt doesn’t reach your heels). Your heart and chest should rest on top of or between your thighs; rest your forehead on the mat or floor.
  4. Keep your arms long and extended with your palms down on the ground. (You also have the option to place your hands down by your sides).
  5. On your exhalations, allow any tension in your neck, shoulders, and arms to melt away.

Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

This pose:

  • Stretches your inner thighs, groin, and shoulders
  • Strengthens your posture and your thighs, calves, core, and foot muscles
  • Helps you develop balance
  • Calms and relaxes your mind and central nervous system
  • Increases your mind/body awareness

How to do it:

  1. Stand tall and straight with your arms by your sides.
  2. Bend your right knee and place your right foot high up on your left thigh or down on your calf (just make sure it’s not on your knee). The sole of your foot should be flat and placed firmly wherever it is.
  3. Keep your left leg straight, and find a non-moving eye-level point to gaze at. This will help you maintain your balance.
  4. Once you’re well-balanced, inhale, and raise your arms overhead and bring your hands together in the ‘prayer’ position (you also have the option of keeping your hands chest-level).
  5. Keep your eyes focused on the same object.
  6. Make sure your spine is straight, and take full, deep breaths.
  7. When you’re ready to release, bring your hands down to your sides, then gently release your right leg.
  8. Repeat on the other side.

“Yoga takes us to the present moment, the only place where life exists.” – Ellen Brenneman

This is an excerpt from my book The Black Girl’s Guide to Calm, which will be released Tuesday, September 15th! Get two preview chapters here.

My First Experience With Hot Yoga

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

I’d been wanting to try a hot yoga class for a while, and I finally got up enough nerve to actually go on Monday. This was my first time going to any type of yoga class, but overall, it was a great experience.

I was super nervous about going for a few reasons:

1) I figured I’d be the only Black person there (I was), and I thought the other attendees would look at me like I was crazy. They didn’t. During class, we were all focused on the movement and not passing out (at least I was), and afterward, I actually talked with some of the ladies, and they were cool.

2) It’s hot yoga. I go to the gym, so I’m used to getting sweaty from working out. But moving around in 90 degrees is a whooole different ball game. The first maybe 10-15 minutes were okay, but by the end of the class, I was literally covered in sweat — head to toe. It was pretty intense, but it felt good.

3) I was trying something new, something out of my comfort zone. I’m an introvert, and I’m not very fond of crowds. I can also be self-conscious and a perfectionist, so the thought of practicing yoga in front of others made me feel really uncomfortable. But once the class began, and I focused on myself and my breath, I forgot about everyone else in the room for the most part. And that’s what yoga is about: “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” (The Bhagavad Gita)

Like I mentioned, the class was an amazing experience, and I definitely recommend it. Here are a few tips if you’re about to head to hot yoga for the first time:

Drink at least one bottle of water before you go. (And bring one to class). I already have migraines, and dehydration triggers it. I made the mistake of drinking very little water beforehand, and I could feel a headache coming on in the middle of the session. Also, there were a few times I got a little lightheaded. So make sure you drink up before and after.

Wear a sweatband or headband. You will get super sweaty in hot yoga, and the sweat will get in your eyes; wear something to prevent that from happening.

Wear suitable clothing. 90 degrees is hot, and it feels even hotter when you’re holding poses. Make sure you wear clothing that doesn’t restrict you or that are uncomfortable. I wore yoga shorts and a white, cotton tank top.

Bring a towel (or two). You’ll want to cover your mat with a towel (either a towel you bring from home or a yoga towel) so it doesn’t get slippery from the sweat. You might want to bring another towel to wipe your face and hands as well.

Try to remain focused on your breath — and keep breathing. The first time doing hot yoga (and probably the next couple of times after that), your mind will wander, thinking about how hot it is and wondering how much longer you’ll have to endure. Instead, try to let go of your thoughts, keep breathing fully, and focus on your breath.

Have you tried hot yoga? What tips do you have for newbies?

P.S. — I’m now offering one-on-one calm sessions! If you could use some assistance with finding more calm in your life, I’d love to work with you. Get more info below.

Black Girl's Guide to Calm