Monday, July 11, 2011

YITP Peep's Goals for the Summer- Help Pls!

Last year, as a fluke, our Coffee and Yoga crew created a yoga goal: Bakasana by the end of the summer. Each yoga practice involved asanas that helped prepare and strengthen for crow and we problem solved together different ways to get in and out of the posture. It was surprisingly fun and the crew decided to give it another try this summer.

A slight glitch is that our Yoga in the Park group is pretty varied when it comes to experience... so we decided to each choose our own personal goals.There are a few challenges with this decision, the biggest one being that we can't all work together through common prep asana's and sequences. So I'll have to think of sequences that include some prep for (hopefully) the majority of my peeps goals.
Although it looks chilly, it was warm in the mist at the beach that morning...

Weirdly enough, I'm kinda excited for the challenge.

As I'm blessed with many yoga teacher readers, I was wondering if there'd be some tips, thoughts, suggestions to help us on our yoga journey this summer. :) Following are the goals, my ideas and what I've read. I'd love to hear any feedback or thoughts from you. Also, if you haven't tried creating a Yoga Goal, give it some thought- summer and outdoor yoga is the perfect setting to try something a bit adventurous.

Yoga in the Park Personal Adventure 2011:

Lisa's Goal: Halfmoon (Ardha Chandrasana). 
Oh I have been working on this one for YEARS. What I need to work on is forward folds, triangles (side stretching) and hips hips hips. My challenge is opening my hip and getting enough lift from my leg.

Jen's Goal: Lowering from plank-chaturanga
She's almost there, I've seen her! I'm thinking core to take some of the edge off the arms and shoulders and as her legs are uber strong, some arm and shoulder strengthening (such as Dolphin plank, side plank and downdogs). 
Tips on correct placement:
From plank, keeping the elbows in, slowly lower until a few feet from the floor. Keep neck extended, shoulders open and tailbone tucked in (no dipping the belly or butt popping up).

Andrew's Goal: Wheel
He's succeeded in lifting up twice (maybe he says, when he was going to the gym every day...). I'm excited that with regular practice it'll be something fun to witness. Lots of Bridges, cobras and upward facing dogs. I'm also thinking Cow Face Pose (sans hips) and lots of chest openings (like forward folds with arms interlaced behind his back, fish pose) would be good to open up his chest-arms.

Chris's Goal: Handstand
Chris has fabulous upper body strength and has always loved the more adventurous postures. If anyone can do this he can! All descriptions that I've heard of learning handstand has involved a lot of up against the wall ideas and partner work. Now partnering can happen at YITP, but as there aren't any walls in the great outdoors, Chris may need to practice this one at home as well. 

Tips involve regular hop ups, strengthening poses like planks, down dogs and crow and I'm also thinking core core core. I've heard the trick is to lift from your core and not from your arms.

Heather's Goal: Practice without shoulder pain
This one's tricky. Heather has a beautiful, strong frame but her shoulders have taken a lot from playing ball hockey and ice hockey (she rocks). Postures like downward dog and plank hurt her shoulders, but I'm also wondering if concurrently she could focus intensely on her core. Strengthening her may lessen the weight on her shoulders... She may also want to slowly build up her tolerance, taking a slightly opposite route from Jen and step back to using her knees for chaturanga dandasana. 

Kevin's Goal: Reconnecting with Yoga
A few years ago Kevin and Heather were practicing with us regularly once and sometimes twice a week. Life has gotten in the way and now they're super busy with hockey, soft ball and ball hockey. Yoga can be challenging for tight hamstrings and hips and a busy mind (I have all these too, so I can  totally relate). Kevin will work on finding just enough push instead of giving up the posture without hurting himself. That in of itself is a challenge.

Lori's Goal: Crow Pose
She can totally pull this one off. She's definitely a ridiculous yogini ready to take off. I never hear a peep or a complaint from her, which is more than I can say for myself. This one is another shoulder strengthener and we'll be working on core (and more core) for the lift needed, arm strengthening and malasana. I've always tried it by positioning, lifting up my core, sucking in my navel and leaning forward. Jen, last year, was successful by widening her stance and placing her knees on the outside of her arms. As each body is different we'll sure be trying a bunch of options (and a pillow in the park will be a must!).

Carla's Goal: Jumping to the front from downdog
One of the most open, honest and fierce yoginis in our group, Carla definitely will achieve this one. Of course, it's yet another core posture (geez, is there a theme here?). Jumping to the front generally involves a bunch of practice, sucking in your navel, looking forward, bending your knees and making that leap. A pillow can help and I think the soft grass will also help her confidence (although I've found it trickier to actually make a jump). We'll be practicing during apartment yoga too!

Any tips that may work for my peeps? 

Got any personal adventures planned for this summer?

article and photograph copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. Hey peeps. I'm happy to leave a few "pearls of wisdom". Firstly, every pose stems from Tadasana (Mountain Pose). If you see your goal posture as just an extension of Mountain Pose, you're set. For those that don't have a specific asana goal, Mountain Pose can also be a metaphor to find/reconnect with your roots (know where you were then give yourself permission to explore). Last but not least, remember your breathe (victorious breath) and bandhas (lift those pelvic floors and bellies on your exhale). Your breath can get you almost anywhere. Let your breath guide you into strength and ease. Namaste! :)

  2. Bakasana--that one's been a curse to me for a couple years now--every time I think I've got it down (meaning, I can stay up for more than a token second or two), I seem to lose it again, and can't seem to get up there at all. Nonetheless, the key's definitely in the core, not the arms.

    As for wheel, that one was tough for me for a long time, and then, once I finally started getting up there, I found I'd come crashing painfully down. Finally, a perceptive teacher watched me and pointed out that I was simply staying up too long--until my strength was exhausted. It's important to remember with wheel that it takes at least as much strength to come down as to go up

  3. For Heather, has she had a teacher check out her form when doing down-dog and plank? I only ask because I was overextending my shoulders and caused some damage, which made some asanas impossible.

    When I have a flare, I focused on gently stretching the shoulders, moving to strength building once it seemed safe. Maybe Heather could add some stretches to loosen up the shoulders as well as doing the core work?

    My fave posture for a gentle but intense stretch: lie on back with knees bent, hip distance apart, arms out at shoulder height (palms up or down; see what feels best). Lift the hips and place one forearm under your back, above the scarum, so that your fingers are visible. Carefully lower your hips and start to breathe into your shoulder; don't try to move it, just feel how the breath effects the joint. Then very gently try to lower the shoulder as you breathe out, releasing on the breath in. Repeat until you can gently press the shoulder into the mat comfortably. Release, stretch out arm, repeat on other side. It's sometimes more comfortable to put a blanket under your back before trying this.

  4. Well, now that I know everyone's name, let's hope the weather is good on the 23rd so I can join in when I'm in the city!

    Like Heather, I have should pain from an old overuse injury. When I had to learn how to work with it I discovered that my alignment in downward dogs and chaturanga dandasana was wrong. I can't describe how I'm doing it differently, but it's made a huge difference. Although fast-paced vinyasas are in general not a great idea for me b/c it's too fast to get the proper alignment.

    Can't wait to meet everybody:)

  5. Hi Eco Yogini
    Andrew's goal reminded me of the Yogaglo class I did yesterday: Jason Crandell yesterday (May 3rd - Unwind Back Tension) that was really cool because he used a lot of twists as alternative preparation for wheel.

    I'm sure you already know this, but just in case, there are several tutorials on yogaglo for specific poses like jumping through and handstands. Watching them might give you all some inspiration. Speaking of handstands - has Chris tried tripod headstand? That is the only one I can do w/o a wall so it seems like the easiest to start with and perhaps will build confidence.

    Lastly, for half-moon, I have found some success by practicing it all the I'm just standing around talking to my husband/watching him cook dinner or when I'm bored of sitting in front of the computer. My hips aren't very open during those times, but I think practicing balancing as well as getting in and out has been useful. I have also found that it is easier for me to focus balancing on one leg rather than distributing weight between hand and foot (especially since I can't reach the floor anyway).

    Good luck!

  6. I am working on firefly (tittibhasana. I have it 1/2 way but I want to be able to straighten my legs completely.

    Recommendation for Carla: A yoga teacher once had us just jump up two feet up int he air like donkey kicks, she said the feeling of jumping to the front should feel like you are jumping into a handstand but you bring your feet to the ground after they have been in the air. Its hard to type without showing but hopefully you get the gist. :)

  7. For Lori: I absolutely love this crow/bakasana tutorial from Yoga Gypsy:

    For Chris: Handstand happened for me once I learned how to gracefully fall out into a kartwheel instead of flipping over into wheel AND after I realized that yes, it's mostly core core core. So, if you warm up your core by doing a lot of navasana and such, and you make sure to not bend at the elbows (arms straight and strong- no sprinboard affect!), you should pop right up to it. Also, a teacher once recommended that we pick a certain wall in our house and every time we walk by that spot to kick up into handstand- so it'll help you build the muscles and the confidence (that's a little homework)!

    Brainstorming some more for the rest of you... :)


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