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Utkatasana A.K.A. Chair Pose / Powerful Fierce Pose
Strengthens back, thighs, spine, ankles. Reduces flat feet. Stretches shoulders Boost immune system.
1. Begin in Tadasana (mountain pose) with arms lifted and fingers sparked. Engage all of your bandhas and bring length to spine lifting up and out of the pelvis
2. On the inhale lift your toes and activate the legs
3. Exhale and lower your hips as if you are getting ready to sit in a chair.
4. Look down and see all 10 of your toes. If you do not see your toes work to send your knees closer to the back wall
5. Continue to lengthen your sacrum downward sending your belly button toward your spine to prevent over arching.
6. Reach out through the fingertips and draw your shoulders away from your ears.
7. Send your gaze forward keeping your chin parallel to your mat.
8. Allow your inhales to bring length and your exhales to sink you deeper into your hips.
Those with hip or knee problems use caution and try entering the pose with the back agains the wall or a block between the thighs.
~ Namaste, Sihnnu
You can find Sihnuu on Instagram @yogasihnuu
For me the phrase “take flight” in the context of yoga, breath, and daily life has to do with being so fully in the moment that you transcend all the mind chatter, the worries, the emotions, and frustrations. It’s important for our health and vitality that every single day we find a way to “take flight” and release into the flow that life is presenting to us. Nothing ever has to be the way it has always been. Even if the moment just before was horrible, we always have a choice, here and now to make a new decision and allow ourselves imagine a new reality that exceeds our wildest imaginations. We also daily have the opportunity to trust that the flow of life is going to take us to our destination without strain, stress, or struggle. Stop yourself today in any area you feel stuck. Take a breath and envision your dream outcome for that situation or relationship. Breathe it in, release it with love, and allow it to manifest effortlessly. ~ XoXo Raw Girl
On my mat I inhale and I am present. I exhale and I am empty. Here on my mat I am light. I am open to what comes up for me in flow. I explore spaces within my being that need healing and I send love there. I am not my past. I don’t concern myself with the future. I am here and now. I am synchronicity in breath and movement I surrender and take flight. ~ Namaste, Sihnuu
You can find Sihnuu on Instagram @YogaSihnuu.
Anjaneyasana (Crescent Lunge)
Opens the hips, cultivates balance, strengthens knees, stretches hamstrings, quads, and groin. (Great for yogis prepping for hanumanasana (the splits)
1. Begin in low lunge with your right foot forward and drop your back knee to the mat. (Feel free to use a blanket for cushion if you need more support.) The top of your left foot should be resting on the back of the mat
2. Place your hand on your right knee and your right knee directly over you ankle.
3. On your next inhale lift your arms to frame your ears and draw your shoulders away from your ears. Take steeple grip with your hands
4. As you exhale sink deeper in your hips bring length to your back leg and keep your back foot straight.
5. Once you are ready, take a gentle backbend, tracing your gaze from the ceiling to the back wall as you shine your heart forward.
If you feel pain in the front knee lift the hips a bit more.
Lower hands to either side of the mat for more support or for more of a shoulder opening.
While out taking some yoga pics in Georgetown saw this quote on the wall and loved it. “Create More Than You Consume.” I really feel like that is the inner mantra for my life. When you spend more time tapping into your inner essence and tuning into plant energy via your diet, it really can enhance your creativity and joie de vivre! We are all meant to blossom and live out our true passion and purpose. Part of what clean eating does is free our bodies of toxicity so that we have more vitality, and become a clearer channel for brilliant creative ideas. When you are freed up from sickness, disease, and bodily concerns you have the luxury of channeling your energy towards something greater. In addition, practicing meditation and mindfulness helps us weed through and release our programmed emotional reactions, and work towards our purpose with more clarity, peace, and non-attachment. The more we release our attachments and desperation for something outside of ourselves, the more we come into vibrational alignment with our desires and attract opportunities, people, and things to help us along our journey. Take a moment today and ask yourself: “Do I create more than I consume?” If not, how can you tap deeper into your creativity? What dreams, aspirations, or skills have you neglected lately? It’s a new day, and if you have the honor of being alive there’s still time to create what your heart truly desires. ~Namaste, Raw Girl
Need a boost in your meditation practice? Or perhaps you have never meditated and would like to experiment with how it can improve your quality of life? Today is Day 2 of Deepak Chopra’s online meditation challenge called “Miraculous Relationships.” I have completed the past three 21 day challenges he has done in partnership with Oprah online and can attest to the fact that they are fantastic. Not only do the meditations delivered daily to your inbox keep you grounded, they also keep you accountable to your practice and can help you get back on the meditation bandwagon if you’ve fallen off. Late last year, I did one of Deepak’s first challenges, and ever since then I have managed to keep my resolution for 2013 and be very consistent with my daily meditation. If you missed Day 1 no worries, they archive all of the past posts. All you have to do is sign up online via https://chopracentermeditation.com/ ! Who’s in? -XoXo Raw Girl
As you all know I’m a yoga and meditation junkie…can’t get enough of it. In addition to the regular Raw Girl posts I’ve enlisted a dear friend and talented yoga teacher, Sihnuu, to contribute some poses and brief meditations on the blog. I may jump right on in and add some of my own thoughts. More to come. Please show your love by clicking the like button.
When practicing the healing art of yoga, it is through the art of “yoking”, or uniting, that we reach that state of eternal bliss we so desire. When developing a union between the mind, body, and spirit we are able to reap the full benefits of life itself. We learn to become masters of our mind creating a calm and tranquil space so that we are able to successfully utilize the body as a tool in order to explore our inner essence: the source of true self. ~Namaste, Sihnuu
Exploring this inner essence can then in turn feed us in our daily lives, where we learn to breathe through our emotions and stressful situations. Remember that cultivating your bliss isn’t just for those moments on your mat, you can always reach for your inner essence throughout your day by simply remembering to BREATHE. -XoXo Raw Girl
You can find Sihnuu on Instagram @YogaSihnuu
Last Wednesday I left DC early with yogi friends and a giant duffel bag full to the brim with vegan snacks to-go for the 2013 edition of Wanderlust Vermont at Stratton Mountain. I had no idea exactly what to expect, but came prepared to sweat a lot, meditate, and go with the flow. It ended up being a truly a soul shifting experience full of aha! moments, dancing, laughter, silence, chanting, and almost too many downward dogs for me to handle. Healthy food was also in abundance and I seriously thought I had landed in healthy living heaven because raw live coconut water, juices, superfoods, kombucha, and gluten-free vegan pizzas were in abundance. On the way to Wanderlust we stopped at a food co-op in Brattelboro Vermont and found Kombucha on tap! While in Brattelboro, I also met a world exercise champion name Bill Kathan who holds the record for the most jumping jacks in an hour and also did over 2 million jumping jacks in one year! Some of my favorite healthy living goodies available at the festival included the cacao lip balm from Navitas Naturals, Coco Libre coconut water, and the kombucha bar from Kombucha Brooklyn. The kombucha saved my life not only because it was amazing, but also because there was no time to eat between classes and it kept me full until dinner time.
Although I have been practicing regularly for a couple years now, I’m not one of those bendy, I can do-it-all yogis. Parts of my body are still very tight, but with time I’m sure things will continue to loosen up. So part of me had imagined all of these super intense yogis doing headstands, scorpions, and everything in between while I opted to lay in shavasana or take child’s pose. When I got there it was so refreshing to see such a wide range of yogis from beginner to masters each getting on the mat wherever they were and doing the best they could. The real mission of practice was driven home for me on the first day, in my final class called “Unleashing Your Potential” which was taught by Dave Romanelli, who goes by yeahdave. Early on in his class he mentioned that yoga these days can seem to be about who has the best outfit, the latest gear, or who can bend the farthest, but at the end of the day if you cannot apply your practice in real life, it means nothing. In short, some of the bendiest people can still be some of the biggest a&$holes in real life. It was important for me to remember and hear that and acknowledge myself. Even if I can’t bend the farthest, I do know that yoga has helped to dramatically change how I am in crisis situations or under any kind of pressure, especially over the last five years.
I can’t exactly say one particular class was my favorite, but there were a few standouts. Ayurveda 101 was completely intriguing to me. I am of the mind that every person is unique and that one diet cannot suit everyone, including being raw vegan. Ayurveda is the old school science that really helps to break down the different energy types and also how we can each fall off balance due to environmental, emotional, or dietary stresses. On my second day, the morning began super early with a very challenging class led by Seane Corn which led to a serious emotional breakthrough. After that every class I took on Day 2 was related to kundalini yoga, which was brought to the West by Yogi Bhajan. Although I was not expecting this immersion, I was thoroughly inspired and pleasantly surprised by the day and learned some of the basic chants and meditations involved in Kundalini. By Day 3, I couldn’t move my arms. I decided to go all out in Gabrielle Berstein’s kundalini class in the AM and then skip any additional challenging asana classes. When I cut class I opted for hiking with friends and climbed up to the top of Stratton Mountain. In the evening we got to dance the night away to one of my favorite musicians, Femi Kuti.
So did I find my true north at wanderlust? I would say, yes, emphatically. The entire experience allowed me to focus and dig deep inwardly, introduced me to new disciplines that I am now yearning to study, and also gave me time to ruminate on whether or not my personal dreams and goals are aligned with my inner compass. “Finding Your True North,” to me is about reassessing your values, and being willing to get on a new path or readjust your angle if you’ve gone off course. The best thing about the process is that whatever happens you can trust you are being led in every moment to the people and experiences that will take you further along your life path. -XoXo Raw Girl
To see more photos from my trip find me on Instagram @ TheRawGirl !
Since late March, I’ve been getting a weekly dose of yoga at Core Power Yoga Georgetown. Core Power Yoga has studios all of the country and offers power yoga classes in a variety of styles from beginner to more advanced levels. What makes the classes so special? I love that besides the fact that there are a range of styles to choose from including: Hot Power Fusion, Yoga Sculpt, C1, and C2 classes, all of the classes include core work so you won’t have to worry about neglecting your six-pack in favor of yoga arms. Hot Power Fusion has more standing sequences, is reminiscent of Bikram (with slightly less heat), and incorporates more flow into the practice. Yoga Sculpt is an awesome challenging class that mixes yoga with free weights and cardio and can save strength training junkies from having to leave the yoga studio to get their fix. C1 and C2 are the vinyasa flow style classes that are for beginners and intermediate yogis. All Core Power classes are in a heated room, and are also set to music, with the playlists varying depending on the instructor. Unlike many yoga studios where you can get stuck in a rut, the variety of classes at Core Power allow you to challenge yourself each week, break a sweat, and change up your routine.
Yesterday I got an insanely awesome and intense workout with back to back Hot Power Fusion and Yoga Sculpt taught by Sihnuu, one of my favorite teachers at Core Power Yoga Georgetown. Her classes are simply a revelation. If you need a challenge and have already practiced yoga for some time, her C2 and Yoga Sculpt classes will push you to your limits to a really great soundtrack. Also look on the Georgetown schedule for another favorite teacher of mine, Adeoye, he teaches a really wonderful and energizing Hot Power Fusion and a Yoga Sculpt class that’ll whip you into shape.
For more info on Core Power, or to check if there is a studio near you visit www.corepoweryoga.com. If you are in the DC area Core Power Yoga has the studio in Georgetown and also one in Bethesda. Check them out for free for the first week and when you do tell them Esosa E. A.K.A. Raw Girl sent you! You can also email me at email@example.com if you would like to take class together. Come prepared to sweat. Namaste. -XoXo Raw Girl
Read this past post for more on The Benefits of Hot Yoga.
Meditation is sometimes seen as a woo-wooey practice reserved for new age hippies, actors who are “spritual”, self-help gurus, and hardcore yogis, but the truth is meditation is for everyone. Just like yoga, which brings the body in alignment with the mind and helps to quite that incessant babbling of thoughts we have going daily that frequently get in the way of our true happiness, meditation cleans house. It’s like setting the reset button for a few minutes daily, that allows you to truly go with the flow, promotes inner peace, feelings of oneness with others, empathy, service, and even boosts creativity. I have experienced firsthand regular daily meditation can be a catalyst for amazing things happening in your life. As you practice and get deeper in the flow of life, synchronicity or seeming miracles became normal every day occurrences.
Going back to daily practice has re-awakened my love and appreciation for meditation as a scientific tool. Every single time you to sit to practice, you are literally rewiring your brain, and tapping further into THE SOURCE of all. As a result of this you may find yourself extremely calm in usually stressful situations, generally happier, optimistic, and attracting people and things that help you achieve your dreams, effortlessly. There are a bunch of meditation naysayers out there who feel like it’s quackery, or object to meditation because they are afraid it contradicts with their religion. This is not the case. Meditation and mindfulness practices have been practiced and incorporated by every major religion. In the Bible it says, “Be still and know that I am God.” My favorite Deepak Chopra quote is: “Prayer is talking to God. Meditation is listening.” Indeed the silence speaks volumes. Creativity can increase and intuition begins to guide daily decisions more strongly. It sounds like a gimmick until you try it. The only way for you to feel the shift in yourself is to sit down and meditate and stick with it consistently. It does not take weeks to start to feel a shift. Each day, you will begin to notice little things. Oh meditation, mediation, how I love thee! Let me count the ways. Below are seven of many reasons (backed by scientific research) why sitting down in silence daily is good for you. Don’t take my word for it, try it yourself. Namaste. -XoXo Raw Girl
- Stay in the Stress-Free Zone. The journal of health psychology published research that not only does meditation make you feel less stressed, it actually reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
- Rewire Bad Habits. One of the first thing I noticed was that when I kept up with regular meditation it started to shift my emotional responses to situations that were previously aggravating. Going within helps us require bad habits as well as observe our actions and reactions in a way we may have never done before and make conscious adjustments.
- Boosts Your Mental Performance. Research conducted at the University of California, Santa Barbara found that college students trained in mindfulness performed better on verbal reasoning sections on the GRE and also had improvements in retention of material. The outcome of the study suggested that mindfulness improves overall cognitive function.
- Can Keep You From Going Cray-Cray. Mental illness and emotional wellness are two issues that are usually highly medicated when you visit a doctor to address them. Well, according to researchers from the University of Oregon, mediation techniques in the form of integrative body and mind training can result in brain changes which protect against mental illness. Due to meditation practice protective tissue increases as well as signaling connections in the brain.
- Sleep Like a Baby. A University of Utah study found that mindfulness training helps people sleep better at night. You know how sometimes you can’t sleep because of the “monkey mind” that can’t stop making to-do lists and generally stressing about whatever happened that day? Well meditation shuts the monkey up long enough for you to get adequate rest and wake up feeling refreshed.
- Gives You a Major Dose of Happy. In general meditation helps to balance out emotions and moods, and has been shown in numerous studies to reduce the risk of depression. It’s great for pregnant women struggling with post-pardom, teens, and really anyone of any age.
- Boosts Your Immunity. By now you should know that optimal health has to do with emotional, physical, and mental wellness. Just paying attention to your diet alone may still leave you at risk for major terminal diseases if you do not manage your emotions and stress in a healthy way. Meditation and mindfulness practices calm you the heck down, so that you can avoid toxic emotions that may cause disease later on.
In this technological maelstrom of fast food and even quicker fixes, the growing practice of yoga continues to offer shelter from the constant barrage of hustle and bustle. Even those who don’t practice yoga, have at least heard that it may be good for them; whether or not they have the energy or believe enough to commit to laying on a mat once a week is a whole seperate matter. Our Western medicine, has yet to fully incorporate yoga and other alternative therapies for that matter including pilates, acupuncture, aromatherapy etc. and the beliefs in treating the symptom rather than the human being and popping pills as a cure-all continues to prevail. Despite this there have been studies conducted that have affirmed the viability of yoga as a healing mechanism that can assist with terminal diseases, psychological issues, depression, anxiety, reducing blood pressure, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, fatigue, cholesterol, maintaining blood sugar levels, insomnia, increasing muscle strength and respiratory endurance, and the list goes on.
Some of these studies were chronicled in a Time Magazine article I stumbled upon “The Power of Yoga”:
- 2009 a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health studied a group of adolescent girls, some with bulimia and others with anorexia; one group had regular treatment, and the other treatment and regular yoga. The findings showed that the girls not in the yoga group were more likely to have symptoms return at the end of the treatment period.
- 1998 Dr. Ralph Schumacher at UPENN School of Medicine along with yoga instructor Marian Garfield published their findings on the study of patients with carpal tunnel syndrome in the Journal of American Medical Association basically summing up that ” a yoga regimen is more effective than wrist splinting or no treatment in relieving signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.”
- 1990 patients with heart disease were prescribed a vegetarian low fat diet and yoga regimen. At the completion of the study it was found that their cholesterol levels were about the same as if they had taken cholesterol lowering drugs. A follow up report was published in 1998 in the American Journal of Cardiology showing that 80% of the patients were able to avoid bypass by maintaining their prescribed lifestyle changes.
As much as the Western medical world tends to avoid prescription of yoga, for now the testimonies of regular practitioners continue to point to yoga as a viable option. Tonya Zavasta, one of my Anti-aging Sheroes has two titanium hips and through the regular practice of hot yoga and consumption of raw foods, she not only healed herself, she’s also more flexible than the average person with hip bones in tact.
Hot yoga has a long list of benefits, many of which perfectly compliment a raw or vegan lifestyle, because of course all true “yogis” are vegetarians and observe nonviolence and incorporate all five principles of yoga into their lifestyle including proper diet. Some of these benefits include:
- Release of built up bodily toxins. Yoga practice stimulates and promotes the drainage of our lymphatic system which carries the waste from cellular activities.
- Improvement of flexibility and range of motion.
- Increased weight loss and muscle toning. (One of the only workouts that makes me believe attaining Michelle Obama arms is possible.)
- Builds up the immune system and reduces the symptoms of chronic illness.
- Improves blood circulation.
- Promotes healing through relaxing and centering of the mind or mental chatter. As our heart beat slows, and we breathe at a slower rate, our blood pressure also drops, and the body literally goes into healing mode. Not to mention it’s also easier to be warriors in our daily lives when our minds aren’t going helter-skelter.
So why isn’t the use of yoga as a healing modality studied more or prescribed for that matter? There’s no money in it. At least not for the insurance companies or the pharmaceutical industry that usually profits from studies that confirm viable use of a range of medications. These days, it is up to us, the consumers, to take ownership of our health before we become a part of the machine that continues to feed the greed of capitalists who have no concern for America’s well being.
Last year I took on the regular practice of hot yoga in a big way, and then unfortunately I was in a car accident that led me to go through physical therapy pretty much the last half of the year. To my dismay, part of my prescription was absolutely no yoga, because it could aggravate the healing of my neck and back. With the help of ongoing pilates classes and physical therapy sessions, raindrop therapy sessions, and advice from holistic practitioners for natural alternatives to taking my prescribed blood thinning medications (ew), I am ecstatic to say that my back is finally healed! During that time I did visit my doctor, but when I mentioned some of the alternative therapies to him, I remember him actually chuckling to himself and saying some version of “Yea, whatever…” and then handing me a prescription for a high dose of pain killers. Thank heavens, I stuck to my guns and followed my instincts.
To celebrate, on New Years Day, I got down and got sweaty with two hours of Hot Yoga, and seriously felt like new money afterwards. For all of you that cringe at the thought of stretching in a sauna-like room, I feel you. I tried Bikram at one point and I used to want to run out of the room screaming. Bikram is however, an entirely different practice. It was founded in 1974 by Bikram Choudhury and classes incorporate specialized breath exercises. Hot yoga is practiced in a heated room, with the temperature set anywhere from 80-105 degrees. Some versions of hot yoga are practiced in the hatha style of yoga, my studio teaches the vinyasa flow style of yoga (my favorite) in a heated room. When I started to practice Hot Yoga, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the room was a little cooler and more manageable for me than Bikram. The temperature was hot enough to get a deeper stretch, but not so hot that you might hurl. Whether you choose to get down with the down dog in a hot room, in your bedroom, or in a quiet studio, the time is now. Everyone can benefit from a little asana in their lives and I hope you will find what works with you and get moving. Namaste. -XoXo Raw Girl
For more on the 5 Principles of Yoga, check out this previous post: