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Common Twinned Poses

complementary poses that correspond with Gemini

downward and upward facing dog, triangle and revolved triangle pose

symmetry and asymmetry within the body and mind, alignment, integration and wholeness

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I thought it might be fun to focus on twinned or complementary poses while the sun passes through Gemini, the constellation and sign of the twins. This week’s poses are two straightforward places to start.

But before getting into the poses, let’s think about our bodies and their symmetry or complements. Let’s consider duality within the body, or top and bottom, left and right, front and back, who we were when younger and where we are today. The latter embodies past, present and future: What you ate, drank and maybe smoked, how you moved, life experiences, and genetics that contribute to your present self and proportions, and likely trajectory (e.g., health or recovery from or progress of illness, weight loss or gain, stress, etc.).

Plus we often seek to resolve the mind/body split, achieving integration. We may refer to different hemispheres of the brain, conscious and unconscious, waking and dreaming selves. Perhaps we still think of the Freudian ego, superego and id. Or we refer to the side of us that is self-indulgent or playful contrasted with self-disciplined and work-oriented, imaginative versus practical, emotional versus reasonable, trusting versus suspicious, and so forth. That’s a lot of embodied dualism!

Our upper and lower bodies may have markedly different abilities, strength and flexibility, and “issues within the tissues,” meaning feelings buried within and brought to the surface with body awareness. The classic “problem areas” – although a negative label may not be helpful – are the shoulders and hips. We hold tension there, but it’s also were we can release with perhaps the greatest benefit.

There can be many differences between the left and right. Perhaps you hold one shoulder higher than the other, or one leg is more stretched or stronger than the other. Perhaps there have been accidents or other trauma, and uneven use (e.g., being right or left handed, or years of repetitive motion or stress) has led to asymmetrical changes. Or it started early in life, or you were born with physical asymmetry.

It’s common for the back body to feel somewhat numb. We see the front, and most of us are cognizant of our chests/breasts and groins. But other than the tush, the back may be ignored. What goes on back there? You have to make an effort to twist around to look or scratch at the reverse side of you. The tummy may protrude with little awareness that the corresponding continual tug on the spine is contributing to a slight hump or ache, or it’s happening from slumping forward to text and type.


Click to enlarge the photos below.  See the full June 6 Moonday, of which this Sphinx Yoga post is a section.

Continue reading “Common Twinned Poses”

Moonday Preview: June 6, 2016

Check out this week’s Moonday with a description of natives with the sun in Gemini and moon in Virgo including celebrities, and the daily forecast for the week with a focus on the moon phase.  For this week, it’s the first quarter moon that takes place on Sunday morning, June 12.  See also the Moonday newsletter for the skygazing forecast.  The below is a sneak peek.

THIS WEEK, JUNE 6-12:

This is a super Mercury week that becomes more so by the weekend. It’s also a super warm week with the sun conjunct Venus and the moon in Cancer and Leo for the first half of the week. Overall, it’s a great time to move past impasses that may have been in effect last week. Some irresolvable problems remain, partially attributed to the tight Saturn-Neptune square.

But steer around them, especially since they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. There is so much love and light to use as you choose. Plus you’re mentally sharp. Emotional-mental accord, or heart and mind, is a tough combination to beat, and who would want to? Go with the flow to take advantage of the good fortune offered by the conjunction of Jupiter and the North Node.

Stars, Stripes (or Scratches) and Savasana

Sphinx Yoga is enjoying savasana with appreciation of yoga and remembrance for the Memorial Day holiday

Stella, the cat on the mat, is shown again with her favorite yoga mat

Check out Feline Yogi for special yoga mats for cats and dogs, and the illustrated book, Yogi Cats

Like most in the U.S., Sphinx Yoga is taking the day off and enjoying a holiday savasana.  But in keeping with Memorial Day and memory, I encourage those of you who practice yoga to try to remember why you practice.  What drew you to yoga?  What did it help you do or undo – in mind, body and spirit?

Consider your appreciation for yoga, and how it’s extended to your life beyond the mat.  In other words, how has yoga changed how you relate to people and stress?  How you cope with life changes and disappointments?  How you respond to competitive situations?  How you move on after endings and through transitions?  How you deal with provocation, temptation, and situations in which you’re inclined to feel impatient or frustrated?

People talk about yoga in terms of flexibility, but I wonder if adaptability is really what It’s about.  And community — the friendships that are forged, who we practice with, getting down on all fours with.  The sharing becomes precious, but can become expected routine, which means sometimes taken for granted.

Here are photos of two stars for Memorial Day star pose for me in red, white and blue in front of my mother’s gorgeous rose arch, and my cat Stella, whose name means star.  Although basic, star pose often is a key transition pose, and is an important pose in moon salutations.  It feels good to stretch out that way, embodying Leonardo’s classic Vitruvian Man (1490), which partially represents the place of the human being within the geometry of the universe.


Click to enlarge the photos below.  See the full May 30 Moonday, of which this Sphinx Yoga post is a section.

Continue reading “Stars, Stripes (or Scratches) and Savasana”

Yoga Mat Reviews, Part II

my subjective peeves and preferences

Reviews of yoga mats by Gaiam, Hugger Mugger, Jade, Lululemon, Manduka, and Prana

Assisted by Stella, the cat on the mat

This post continues the introduction to the mat reviews from two weeks ago, and Stella, The Cat on the Mat, who subbed for me last week when I was indisposed.  This week, I get right into the reviews.  Or after this disclaimer. . .

I admit to mixed feelings about this entire “buyer’s guide” endeavor, since it leans consumerist and toward brand loyalty.  I feel about that as I frankly do about following any sort of guru after many years of exploring yoga and spiritual life, and in higher education (where “following your mentor” is highly encouraged with often dismaying results).

Follow your own path.  Find your own “soul mat,” if that’s what you’re looking for.  No one can do it for you.  Ultimately, the best mat is the one you’ll use.  Do yoga and the rest takes care of itself.

That said, a decent yoga mat is an investment that may be worth making.  If you’re like me, and lean toward fussiness, then that’s where you may need to go.  I can’t feel calm with a mat that’s crumbling underneath me, do a decent down dog while my hands and feet are sliding from sweat.  I’ll obsess on stuff that sticks to the mat, the wrong texture or color will bother me, etc.  I simply won’t transcend these annoyances.

For you, if may be bony joints, arthritis, body size, ease of transport, eco concerns, grime and cooties, softness/firmness, or whatever takes you out of the zone and interferes with balance and getting your yoga on.  Therefore, these reviews are based on my preferences with input from Stella and Missy.  I hope they help and aren’t too peevish if necessarily subjective.  Namaste!

Reviews of yoga mats by (in alphabetical order) Hugger Mugger, Jade, Lululemon, Manduka, and Prana, along with plastic mats by Gaiam and similar brands found in big box retailer stores.


Click to enlarge the photos below.  See the full May 23 Moonday, of which this Sphinx Yoga post is a section.

Continue reading “Yoga Mat Reviews, Part II”

Stella Yoga: The Cat on the Mat

yogini cat subs for her injured, sidelined mom for this Sphinx Yoga post

Stella, whose name means star, likes to do yoga and is contributing to the yoga mat reviews

Included are photos of Stella practicing on yoga mats

There isn’t a regular Sphinx Yoga post this week because I broke my little toe a week ago.  I wasn’t able to do yoga on some mats I intended to check out by the deadline, because my regular practice has been messed up.  (Thank goodness for modifications!)  I can’t fairly evaluate mats if I can’t easily do vinyasa flows and some standing poses, treating all mats the same.

My cat Stella has kindly offered to sub.  Below, please enjoy her photos.  This only happens once in a blue moon.  Sphinx Yoga will be back next week with the second part of the mat reviews that began last week.  Some of the mats are shown with Stella, who is a naturally talented yogini.

Stella is a “Zaby,” half-Abyssinian, half-Exotic, which is short-haired Persian.  Her mom and dad had a brief but passionate forbidden romance that resulted in Stella and her sister Sally.  Stella is silver ticked with a light fawn undercoat and amber colored eyes.  Her name, of course, means star.  She turns five late this summer.

Even for a cat, Stella is unusually flexible.  She enjoys doing yoga with and without me.  Stella takes great interest in every mat I bring home.  She immediately stretches out and claws into a mean (for the mat) down dog, which is why her opinion carries weight with the reviews.  In fact, she’s all over me while I write this, purring and raising her tail, wanting skritches on my lap.

I’ll try to take some video clips of us practicing together.  Crawling underneath or pouncing on top of me while I’m doing sun and moon salutations are among Stella’s favorite ways to assist.  She purrs and rubs against me, particularly if we practice in a comfy warm spot.  The cat on the mat is lots of good fun that is funny.


Click to enlarge the photos below.  For longer captions, see below and the full May 16 Moonday, of which this Sphinx Yoga post is a section.

Continue reading “Stella Yoga: The Cat on the Mat”

Yoga Mat Reviews, Part I

Introduction: Does a “soul mat” exist?

yoga mat is your foundation and personal space

yoga mat reviews, yoga mats for different types of practice, search for a favorite mat

cats and yoga, outdoor yoga, yoga on the go, home practice

I’m switching things up for the next two weeks and periodically afterward. I’ll now and then provide reviews of yoga accessories, apps, and other related fitness things as the opportunity presents itself. This time it’s on yoga mats, which as I said last week, continues the discussion of being grounded in yoga. Your mat is your foundation, your personal space in a studio, at home, on the road.

First of all, that term “soul mat” gets bandied about, along with how a mat “can change your practice.” I’ve read many mat reviews in which those expressions are used, and I’ve heard it from sales clerks. I honestly don’t know if yogis really talk that way, or if it’s marketing that has worked its way into conversation.

But, no, I don’t think a perfect mat for all types of practice exists. It’s not possible. One mat that’s good for jumping around in Ashtanga, holding poses in yin and restorative, plus firm for balance poses? For a solid home practice and on the go? That can be used indoors and outdoors, left in a car, carried on a bike, and that will remain nicely sticky? Or do you want it to be less sticky for those times you want your feet to slide, such as for splits and dragging your feet forward from a lunge?

That’s not even addressing variables such as price, size, thickness, weight, color, texture, durability, material and eco concerns, how easy it is to clean, brand issues, etc.  So the good news, in my opinion, is don’t expect one mat to serve all purposes, to be a soul mat.  The bad news, in my opinion, is that you likely need more than one mat.  Furthermore, your mat preferences may change as your practice changes, and you take different types of classes, or move, or travel, or otherwise your life changes.


Click to enlarge the photos below.  For longer captions, see below and the full May 9 Moonday, of which this Sphinx Yoga post is a section.

Continue reading “Yoga Mat Reviews, Part I”

More Hip Opening

Earth Element, Root and Sacral Chakras, Feeling Anchored

hip-opening poses help release hips and chakra energy blockages

timed with new moon, feel grounded for mindfulness, meditation

This week winds up the show and tell about hip opening, grounded, earthbound poses.  Next week’s Sphinx Yoga considers a different type of grounding – a review of some of the leading yoga mats with help from a very special assistant, my yogini cat Stella.  Seriously, fur stickiness and surfaces that easily scratch, along with how well the mats work outdoors, weigh into the evaluations.  But that’s next week.
 
Before moving on, it would be a gross omission to leave out the root and sacral chakras that anchor us to the earth in yoga and in life, and that hip opening poses address.  The base or first chakra is Muladhara, which is located at the base of the spinal column, and is associated with red.  The second or sacral chakra is Svadhishthana, which is located near the sexual organs and below the navel, and is associated with orange.
 
These chakras correspond with our instincts, desires, sexuality, digestion, elimination, creation, and earth foundation.  There is a strong relationship between the first two chakras and what in the West is associated with Taurus and the earth signs, as well as the sign opposite from Taurus, Scorpio.


Click to enlarge the photos below.  For longer captions with tips on the poses, including of the Sphinx in fire log pose above, see below and the full May 2 Moonday, of which this Sphinx Yoga post is a section.

Continue reading “More Hip Opening”

Getting Down to Earth and Stretching with Mat-Based Asanas

feeling gravity, rooted on the mat in grounded asanas

Often taken-for-granted but fundamental yoga poses.

Work slowly, steadily, and deeply with correct alignment, easing back after an intense stretch.

Balance forward folds with backbends and lunges.

The focus is on mostly basic poses that often are taken for granted, yet are the foundation of so much more in yoga.  These poses aren’t part of most vinyasa flows, since they involve sitting and stretching and being still.  They’re closer to Iyengar and yin style yoga.

The asanas pick up where last week’s half-pigeon, Ardha Kapotasana, left off.  We move on to sleeping pigeon, Kapotasana; staff pose, Dandasana; various forward bends; and finish up with monkey pose, Hanumanasana.  I hadn’t planned to include a split, but had the photo ready for the Dharma birthday challenge.  Maybe the tree shadows help convey that it’s an earthbound pose.

Through all of these full body, mat-based poses, use the breath to help release into the stretch.  They are simple enough so that you can isolate different parts of your body to get a clear sense of gentle improvement, millimeter by millimeter.

Try to be aware of the earth.  You surely are aware in a front split, when trying to get low, if your groin and leg muscles are tight.  But it’s true in the forward folds too.  As in standing poses, feel complementary forces raising you toward the heavens, and tugging down with gravity (e.g., such as with the posture of an erect spine).  As with Warrior II arms, feel yourself pulled forward and back, left and right, finding that aligned midpoint.

Kathryn Budig brings out that a typical yoga practice moves us from cradle to grave in an hour or so.  We start out in child’s pose or maybe happy baby.  We learn to walk and hold our own in standing and balance poses, going on to face challenging situations in the warrior poses.  Eventually our worldview is turned upside down, and we find various ways of going with the flow.  Finally we give ourselves some hugs, let go and surrender into savasana, the corpse pose.  These asanas fall toward the end of the life journey experienced on the mat.


Click to enlarge the photos below.  For longer captions with tips on the poses, see the full April 25 Moonday, of which this Sphinx Yoga post is a section.  The full Moonday also has information on two FREE online yoga conferences coming up in early May.

Continue reading “Getting Down to Earth and Stretching with Mat-Based Asanas”

Low Lunges for Getting Grounded

transition from high to low lunges, Aries to Taurus, yang to yin — also fitsporation or fitspo, body shaming, age

Lunges offer many benefits and are abundant in yoga.

Yoga selfies can help deepen a yoga practice, improve alignment, and develop mindfulness.

Last week’s Sphinx Yoga post was on Crescent or High Lunge pose, “Lunging Warriors in the Garden, Part 4 of 4,” which followed three weeks of considering the warrior poses.  Lunges continue this week, getting lower as we spend another day or so in Aries.  Then the sun moves into the ultra earth sign, Taurus.  Lunges offer a perfect transition from active standing poses to the mat, to more stretchy and relaxed.  Yang to yin.

Low lunges are similar to high lunges, but the energy shifts.  The vibe changes to the centering, grounded feeling that comes with earth, which I’ll talk more about over the coming weeks.  Without need for warlike readiness, the attention and breath can shift to other mind-body areas.  We get more of the calm and stillness for which yoga is known.


Click to enlarge the photos below.  For longer descriptions, how-to tips,  and recommended yoga links, see the Recommended Links and Photo Blurbs.  Also see the full April 18 Moonday, of which this Sphinx Yoga post is a section.

Continue reading “Low Lunges for Getting Grounded”

Recommended Links and Photo Blurbs 4/18/16

return to parent post: “Low Lunges for Getting Grounded,” April 18, 2016

Kermit the Frog in runner's lunge

Sometimes it’s not easy being green or doing lunges.  Kermit shows how to do a runner’s lunge for Earth Day on Friday, April 22.

      1.  This is a modified version of Anjaneyasana that I’ve sometimes experienced in sun salutation sequences.  The intent is to have the legs at right angles (my rear leg is a bit further back), a firm core, and the arms by the ears, shoulders out of the ears.  Most people should be able to do this, feel solid, and get a sense of the correct alignment for a basic low lunge.
        .
      2. Runner’s lunge is used in many styles of exercise including yoga.  It has that name since runners are supposed to stretch their hamstrings after a run.  In yoga, it’s a low lunge and preparation for a split, as well as a transition pose in a vinyasa flow.  The front leg is planted between the hands and the knee is stacked over the ankle.  Press back firmly on the ball of the foot of the extended leg, keeping the knee straight.  The stretch is felt in both legs, the groin, and along the back body.
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      3. Lizard pose, Utthan Pristhasana, is similar to runner’s lunge, except the front knee and foot are positioned outside of the shoulder and hand.  The back knee can be raised or lowered as shown with the leg straight and foot pointed.  This pose opens the hips and steadies the heart and mind.  It takes practice to develop the hip and groin flexibility to do lizard comfortably.
        .
      4. Half pigeon, Ardha Kapotasana, isn’t a lunge, since now both legs are on the mat.  The front leg is positioned so that the shin hopefully is parallel with the front of the mat with the flexed foot by the opposite hand.  The back leg is straight and foot pointed as shown above in lizard pose.  Pigeon is also taught as seated pigeon and done on the back, as a thread-the-needle, and is common in yin yoga.  It’s a gateway to other poses that require open hips and knees that can withstand some torque.  Yogis seem to either love or loathe pigeon, which will be revisited next week when we look further at grounded poses.

Some recommended yoga links: