Tag Archive for: Asana

Podcast Ep 55: Get Into the Details in Warrior I

Mouse invites you into deeper and subtler scrutiny of your physical body as you explore the details of Warrior I in your yoga practice. Following the guidance from Kim Krans’ The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit deck and Yasmin Boland’s Moonology, we’re taking a look at pragmatism and attention to details in this New Moon in Aquarius episode.

I’ve been putting some of that same energy into other areas of my life and stepping into my role as a teacher and a leader. You are ready to step up, too. Join me on Monday, January 27, 2020 at 7:30pm EST / 4:30pm PST for a free webinar. I’ll share the shifts I made to take impactful aligned action in both my business and wildlife advocacy, and how I choose an extraordinary life every day. Register here to get the webinar link and access to the replay.

If you would like to chat about this episode or learn more about yoga, Shamanic Reiki, wildlife conservation, or other ways we can bring healing to all of the beings on our beautiful planet Earth, join us in the Shamanic Flow Circle group on Facebook and sign up for the newsletter. Please consider becoming a Patreon sponsor and help me purchase needed equipment and supplies for Dancing Turtle Rescue and Rehab, my wild turtle rehabilitation clinic.

Much love and gratitude to Blair Sutherland for the beautiful intro and background music. Blair is also an outstanding webmaster and makes sure I can share these episodes with you. Thank you, Blair!

While the yoga and other practices presented are intended to be accessible to most, please be open to practicing in an appropriate and safe way for you. It is recommended that you consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program and that at any time during a practice you feel nausea, dizziness, or pain you stop and seek medical advice. I accept no liability whatsoever for any damages arising from the use of my podcasts and, while I make all reasonable efforts to share accurate instruction, the podcast may contain unintended errors. Before all else, listen to your body and trust your inner knowing.

Yoga for Hikers: Poses for Coming Down after Hiking Down

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
~Kahlil Gibran

Shoulder stretch yoga at the trailheadYou did some asanas at the trailhead to warm up for your hike, you had a great view from the summit, and made your way down. Now pull off your boots and wind down after by gently stretching your hiking muscles. You’ll get the most benefit from these poses if your muscles are still warm, so, if your hike ends at an Adirondack favorite – a table in the Noonmark Diner in Keene Valley, New York – take a walk or do some gentle sun salutations before you start the poses.

Hero with Neck Stretch

Sit on or between your heels withe your knees parted slightly.  Rest your hands on your thighs and extend your spine.  Take two to three deep breaths.  Keeping your spine extended, drop your head forward and lower your chin to your chest.  Draw your shoulder blades down and release your neck muscles.  Take another two to three breaths.

Cat Rolls

Come onto your hands and knees.  Inhale, tip your tailbone up and lift your head.  Move your heart forward and drop your lower back towards the ground.  Exhale and round your back, lifting the middle of your spine while tucking your tailbone under and dropping your head.  Repeat as many times as you desire.

Child Pose with Foot Stretch

From hands and knees, tuck your toes under and press the balls of your feet toward the ground.  Drop your hips onto your heels, resting weight on the heels to stretch the soles of your feet.  Drop your forehead to ground and reach your arms forward.  Hold, breathing, for as long as desired.

Downward-Facing Dog

downward facing dog yoga on rocksFrom hands and knees, move your hands forward and lift your hips. Straighten your legs and drop your heels toward the ground.  Keep your tailbone lifted while you stretch up out of your wrists, elbows and shoulders, and drop your chest towards the ground.  Relax your neck and gaze at your knees.  Hold for two to five breaths as your spine lengthens.

Upward-Facing Dog

Lay on the ground face-down. Curl your toes under and place your hands under your shoulders.  With an inhale, straighten your arms and lift your torso and thighs. Round your shoulders back, draw your heart through your arms, and drop your pelvis towards the ground.  Keep your low back long and reach up through the crown of your head and back through your heels.

Half Forward Folds

Sit with your right leg extended and your left knee bent out to side with the left foot against the right thigh.  Lengthen your spine, tilt the upper pelvis forward and reach your belly towards your knee. Holding right leg for support, lower your chest towards your leg by pulling the thigh bone deep into your pelvis.  Hold for two to five breaths, then repeat on other side.

Forward Fold

Sit with both legs extended in front.  Extend your torso up and over your legs, lengthening your spine, and tilt the upper pelvis forward.  Hold your legs or feet for support and stay for two to five breaths.

Happy Baby

Lay on your back, pull your knees up towards your shoulders and hold the inside of your feet.  Keep your feet directly over your knees and pull your feet and knees downward while lengthening your lower spine.

Supine Pigeon

Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ground.  Lift your right foot and place the right ankle on the left thigh, just below the left kneecap, and open the right knee to right side. Keep your right foot flexed.  Hold the back of your left thigh with both hands and draw the left knee towards your chest. Keep your right knee angled away from your body.  Hold for two to five breaths.  Repeat on the other side.

yoga supine twist on rocks in river

Supine Twist

Lay on your back with your left leg extended, and your right knee bent and drawn into your chest.  Hold the right knee with your left hand and extend your right arm out to the side.  Guide your right knee to your left, and lift your right hip off ground while keeping your right shoulder down.  Look towards your right hand.  Hold for two to five breaths.  Repeat on the other side.

Relax and Reflect

Lie flat on your back with your arm and leg muscles completely released.  Close your eyes and rest as long as you desire, enjoying the energy flowing through your body and the memories of the day.



Watch out for creeping shoulders in these 7 yoga poses

Keep space under the ears in Paripurna Matsyendrasana (Seated Spinal Twist).

Keep space under the ears in Paripurna Matsyendrasana (Seated Spinal Twist).

If you’re an alignment junkie like me, you need to check out Katy Bowman’s blog “Alignment Matters!” In one particularly good post she reminded me why I need to be so careful in my yoga practice not to let my shoulders creep up my neck towards my ears. Yoga asanas provide an opportunity to correct some of the muscular imbalances I’ve created as I go through my activities of daily living, but only if I don’t bring those same movement patterns onto my mat. Stop reading this post for a moment and notice where your shoulders are. Have they crept up your neck? If you have creeping shoulders, here’s seven asanas where you’ll need to stay aware of them:


  1. Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) Bring your arms over your head, shoulder width apart, palms facing each other. Could you get your arms up there without your shoulders climbing towards your ears? Drop the tops of your shoulders down so your shoulder blades move onto the back of your ribcage and feel the tension melt out of your neck and jaw.
  2. Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) I see shoulder creep in Vira II all the time in my classes, as well as in my own practice. Float your arms out to the sides until they are shoulder height and hold them there. Notice where you start to feel the “burn” of the isometric contraction that’s keeping your arms in place. Is it in the tops of your shoulders and the sides of your neck? That’s the result of shoulder creep. Drop those babies down and feel the muscles in the tops of the arms take over.
  3. Paripurna Matsyendrasana (Seated Spinal Twist) You’ve got one hand on your knee, the other on the floor behind your back and you’ve just twisted to the side. Before you even think about turning your head to look over your shoulder, check out where that shoulder is. Are you trying to keep your spine long by lifting up with your shoulders? Untwist, drop the shoulders down and, instead, lift the bottom of your ribcage away from your hips. Now make the twist with your shoulders relaxed and lots of length in your lumbar spine.
  4. Bhugangasana (Cobra) You want your heart to move forward through your arms in Cobra, but if you’ve got a bad case of shoulder creep you may find yourself dragging your heart up by your shoulders then squeezing your shoulder blades together to push the heart through. Not only is that building tension in your neck, but you’re limiting the ability of the thoracic spine to lengthen into a beautiful backbend. As you lift into your next Cobra, slide your heart forward as you lift, keep your elbows hugging your sides and let your shoulder blades slide down without moving them towards the spine. Lift your ears away from your shoulders and lift the top of your sternum towards your throat and feel your heart open.
  5. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold) What? My shoulders just have to hang there. How can they be creeping up my neck? Watch somebody new to yoga, especially someone who is tight in the hamstrings or in the low back, try to get deeper into a forward fold. The knees lock, the low back rounds and the shoulders pull the upper back towards the legs, tightening around the neck with every breath. Yes, it happens. I’ve seen it. Worse, I’ve done it. (Hey, I was a yoga newbie once too.)
  6. Trikonasana (Triangle) Sitting right where you are, lift your shoulders up and in towards your ears. Now turn your head to one side. Feel that pinch where your neck meets the top of your shoulder? Bring your head back to center, drop your shoulders back into the relaxed position they were in before I told you to lift them and try the head turn again. Better? Next time you try to look up at your hand in Triangle, remember that.
  7. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge) If you can’t get your hips very high in Bridge, it might be that shoulder creep again, only this time it’s the neck crunching down into the shoulders that’s causing the problem. Before you lift your hips, relax your shoulders and drop your chin towards your throat so the bottom of the back of your skull is resting on the floor. You’ll feel the back of your neck lengthen out of your shoulders. Once you’ve lifted, keep your chin tucked and move your shoulders towards your hips as you draw them behind your back. Now the heart can lift too, allowing the hips to lift higher.


Katy’s post shows what shoulder creep does to Downward-facing Dog. Next time you’re on your mat, notice where else your shoulders start climbing your neck. In which poses do you need to correct shoulder creep?

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Yoga is good for your bones


Yoga is good for your bones. (Photo credit: Theen …)

My favorite yoga students are those who are “aging with gusto,” because most of them truly appreciate what their bodies can still do. Many have overcome serious illnesses or injuries and are happy to be going strong. They know how much of a difference yoga makes in their lives. It is a joy to watch their practices.

I have fond memories of one of my first yoga students. She was 68 years old at the time and had osteopenia, or low bone density, a precursor to osteoporosis.

Because I was teaching an all-level class, I would try to do some challenging asanas each week to keep the practice interesting for the younger people. I also liked to throw in some core work; a strong core helps all the asanas. My 68-year-old with her thin bones tried every asana, and said “yes” when I asked if they wanted one more round of core-strengthing exercises. She’d told me she knew how important it was to stay strong, and that’s why she gave it her all each week. If she didn’t, her bones would get weaker and she wouldn’t be able to run around with her grandchildren.

For most people, bone mineral density is highest when they turn 30. From then on, existing bone cells are reabsorbed by the body faster than new bone cells are made, and the bones lose mass. Exercise helps to build bone mass, so people who were active in their youths will have a higher bone density when they hit the 30 year mark, and will therefore have more to spare as they age. For those of us who weren’t high school jocks, we can still stimulate bone growth with exercise to prevent or slow osteopenia. Exercises which cause muscle to pull on bone, such as walking, running, cycling and yoga, help the bones to retain, or even rebuild, bone mass.

Many of yoga’s asanas are weight bearing and oppose one muscle group against another, which can help reinforce the bones. Yoga also offers some additional benefits as we age. Yoga promotes balance and coordination, which helps prevent the falls which can lead to broken bones. The deep, relaxed breathing reduces tension and toxicity, slowing the overall aging process. Since yoga is accessible to everyone, regardless of current fitness level, it’s never to late to start.

If you are suffering from osteopenia or osteoporosis, it is important to tell your yoga teacher. Brittle bones can break if forced into very deep twists or folds. Your teacher can help you adjust poses to avoid injury.

No matter how old you are, it’s important to stay active. So get out there and walk or run, ride your bike, and, of course, do some yoga. It’s for your bones.

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Yoga to Walk on the Earth

Yoga teaches me how to walk mindfully in the outdoors.

Yoga teaches me how to walk mindfully in the outdoors.

June got lost in a whirlwind of activity. Actually, I just lied to you. June got lost, but the whirlwind was in my mind so there was no visible activity to speak of. I spent four days at the beginning of June with Laura Cornell at her Overflowing Workshops retreat in northern New Jersey. It was fantastic and I enjoyed both the learning and the connections.

But it started the whirlwind.

At the retreat and at other times, I’ve been asked why someone would want to take yoga with me, and I never know the answer. People do take my classes, so there must be reasons, but I couldn’t say what those reasons are. What I can say for certain is people do not come to me to learn how to do the pretty poses of the uber-flexible. I want people to learn how to walk on the earth with awareness, to fully breathe the air, to experience the fire of transformation and to move like a river, flowing through life with ease and wellness.

Yoga to walk on the earth. If you hike, at some point you are going to meet a snake. We’re lucky here in the Adirondacks because we only have one kind of venomous snake, the shy eastern timber rattler. I’ve never encountered a rattlesnake, but I’ve come across a number of his benign cousins sunning themselves on the trail. Every time it goes like this: I don’t see them until I startle them into movement, and then the movement startles me and I jump out of my hiking boots. I used to blame the snakes for laying in wait for me, but I’ve realized that each time it happens I have failed to walk mindfully, failed to be fully present to the act of hiking. When I’m on my yoga mat I practice being aware of where my feet are, and where they are going, and I share that practice with my yoga students, so they can walk mindfully on the earth, whether on a hiking trail or a city sidewalk.

Yoga to breathe the air. After practicing yoga for eighteen years, I automatically check in with my breath many times a day. As soon as that last sentence formed in my mind I deepened my breath. Breathing fully into my lungs has become so natural that I often have to remind myself that this is not the case for everyone. Pranayama, the practice of breathing exercises, is as important as the asanas as far as I’m concerned. Deep breathing exercises the diaphragm, moderates the stress response and improves focus. Deep breathing also makes me aware of the air itself, and how important it is that we have clean air to breathe. Did you know planting trees was a yoga practice?

Yoga to experience the fire of transformation. Yoga has created profound change in my life. If you practice yoga, sooner or later you will experience a transformation. You may give up all your possessions and take up residence in an ashram, or, more likely, one day you will notice that you are standing a bit straighter or that the old ache in your hip is gone. I’d like each of my students to experience their own transformation, no matter how subtle, so I make sure each class fuels that fire.

Yoga to move like a river. For a society that seems to be all about getting somewhere, we don’t move much. When we go places we go sitting in cars or on airplanes. We send emails to the coworker in the next office and see a good deal of the world on a television screen. When my clients complain that it gets harder to move as they get older, I point out that they are moving much better than many of their peers, because they make a deliberate effort to keep moving. An aspect of the yoga practice I find fascinating is how, by relieving stiffness in the body, other parts of life that were stagnating start moving too.

In some of my yoga classes we work on challenging asanas. Most focus on minutely refining the basic poses until you are aware that your feet are firmly rooted to the floor, you can direct your breath, you notice a small change and, when it’s time to move on, whether to the next pose or back into your life, you can flow with ease.

If you really think about it, why do you practice yoga? Please, share in the comments.

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Put Me in Down Dog

Downward-facing Dog on the rocks at Split Rock in New Russia, NY

Downward-facing Dog on the rocks at Split Rock in New Russia, NY

A day without Adho Mukha Svanasana is like a day without sunshine. I’m a down dog addict. I could hang out in downward-facing dog all day, or for five minutes, whichever comes first.

While teaching yoga I’ve noticed some people would happily hang out in down dog with me, but others look like they’re counting the breaths until I tell them to move on. Some bodies look natural and relaxed, with their backs extended, shoulders neutral, heels dropping and necks loose. But some bodies don’t get it. Their backs round, their shoulder blades end up somewhere near their ears and their legs will never be straight. Some others never stop moving, unable to find a comfortable stillness even for one breath.

Adho Mukha Svanasana is a tricky pose to practice and to teach, requiring strength from the arms, legs and shoulders as well as flexibility throughout the back body. Ray Long wrote an excellent article on the mechanics of downward-facing dog for My Yoga Online, well worth a read if you hope to hang out in down dog all day or even if you’d just like a relaxed moment in the pose.

Every time I get on my mat (or anywhere I can practice), barring injury or a nasty sinus infection, I find myself in down dog. I often end up there even if I intended to keep my practice gentle. It feels good to be there. Besides, they say if you can hold downward-facing dog for five minutes, you can do a handstand. It hasn’t worked yet, so I have to keep trying.

What’s your “I could hang out here all day” asana?

Note: Ray Long’s The Key Muscles of Yoga is the anatomy book I chose for the True North Yoga teacher training program. I recommend it for anyone interested in learning more about anatomy and yoga.

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