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Why Do We Do Sun Salutations?

Sun salutations are the main part of many of our yoga classes. They are a way of expressing thanks to the sun for giving life to the planet and are best practiced when the sun is rising. You will often hear them referred to as Surya Namaskar, as this is their Sanskrit name. A sun salutation is a series of poses that are performed together using one breath per movement. Before practicing sun salutations, you should make sure that you have an empty stomach. There are three variations of Surya Namaskar. 

Many of us begin our journey in yoga by attending a hatha yoga class. While hatha yoga concentrates on the physical side of yoga, it can be quite a gentle class that is great for beginners. Hatha yoga aims to bring breath and movement together to create a healthy body and clear mind. The sun salutation learned during this class is often the first variation people learn. In this version, instead of going into a full Chaturanga, students are told to lower their knees, chest, and chin to the floor and push up into a baby cobra pose from here. It also consists of crescent lunges with the back knee lowered. To do one cycle of this, you must practice all the poses leading with the right leg and then the left. 

The other two variations are used in Ashtanga yoga. Ashtanga yoga is a specific sequence of poses that are put together using one breath to one movement. It is considered a stricter type of yoga class by some. 

  1. The first sun salutation is Surya Namaskar A. It consists of 11 poses using one breath to one movement. Unlike the Hatha version, they use Chaturanga and push up into upward dog. There are also no crescent lunges in this version.
  2. The second variation is Surya Namaskar B. It consists of 19 poses that are put together again using one breath to one movement. 

Surya Namaskar B is similar to Surya Namaskar A but requires students to take warrior 1 pose after the Downward dog on both sides. Ashtanga yoga focuses a lot on engaging Bandhas and Drishti’s. Advanced yoga practitioners will jump or float through from Uttanasana (standing forward bend) to Adho Mukha Savasana (downward facing dog).

Sun salutations (either version) are beneficial to us in so many ways. Practiced slowly they will improve flexibility and strength. If they are practiced quickly, they will improve stamina and can help with weight loss. Overall sun salutations will help to improve both blood flow and circulation. They also focus on the whole body, so are great for warming up prior to more yoga or other exercises. Calming the mind and improving concentration is also a major benefit of practicing Surya Namaskar. They are therefore amazing to do before a big day at work or school. You should always keep in mind that you are your own yoga master, so make sure that you listen to your body and don’t overstretch.

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The Best Way to Pull Off a Tropical-Themed Yoga Outfit

Warmer weather is on its way and with it comes the desire for the beach and all things tropical. Floral prints are popping up everywhere in modern fashion trends for the upcoming season. However, there’s a new twist on this favorite fashion trend with the addition of tropical floral prints.

Yogis love the idea of a seaside retreat where they can practice their yoga all day long. Dreams of fruity beverages, sunny afternoons, and sandy feet fill their minds. Even the thought of it can make you feel instantly more relaxed. Why not introduce those daydreams into your daily reality with a little dose of tropical yoga apparel?

If you’ve been struggling to figure out how to pull off this new major trend, here are a few ways to make the most of it.

 

Opt For a Long Tunic in Neon Hues

Steer clear of the subdued color palette of Hawaiian shirts from the past. Start to mix the old and new trends together by wearing a tropical shirt in the season’s hottest colors. Neon shades and fluorescent hues are the colors that you’ll find everywhere in stores this spring. A tropical tunic with bold turquoise, blinding yellow, and popping pink is the perfect way to tie the trends together.

If your tunic has all of these bright colors in it, you will need to keep your leggings fairly neutral. Black is a great option, as always. You could also try lightening up your basic yoga leggings with a medium gray instead.

Look for patterned yoga leggings.

Do you prefer to introduce new patterns on your yoga pants instead of a tunic top? You can keep your top neutral and look for a pair of hibiscus-patterned yoga leggings instead. These fun leggings add a bold twist on the button-down shirts that have typically been associated with tropical prints.

Yogis have a lot of options if they choose to wear tropical-themed yoga leggings. The most subdued way to introduce this pattern into your wardrobe is to wear a solid color for your top. Darker neutral shades or bright whites are excellent options to keep things simple.

If you have a bold personality and want your yoga outfit to reflect that, look for a neon-hued shirt. The color will have to exactly match one of the shades in your yoga leggings, so be sure to shop carefully. This tactic will definitely give you an outfit that stands out in the middle of a crowd. You will have to have an outgoing personality to pull off an outfit that garners this much attention.

Bring the beach into your everyday life with these fun tropical prints. While they could look great in any shade, look for flowers that pop in this season’s best colors. You could wear an outfit that reminds you of a sunny seaside yoga retreat to inspire you to relax and feel more grounded in your regular practice. Look forward to the warmer weather with one of these simple patterns.

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Four Ways To Take Better Care Of Your Skin Before And After Yoga This Fall

Your skin is one of the largest and most important organs of the body, but it’s frequently neglected. Yogis carefully consider what pair of yoga pants they cover their skin with while forgetting about the importance of proper care for the skin itself. As fall and winter approach, the skin needs a little extra care to maintain its health both before and after your regular yoga practice. 

What can you do to help keep the skin healthy in the upcoming cold seasons? 


1. Hydrate Yourself

Drinking water is essential not just for the function of your body but for the health of your skin. It helps to continue flushing out dead skin cells and promote healthy skin cells on the surface. During these cold months when the skin can become flaky and dry quickly, being well hydrated is undoubtedly helpful to maintain a glowing complexion. 

2. Wash Your Face Right After A Practice 

If you tend to take yoga classes and then drive home before washing your face, consider changing up your routine. It’s better for the skin to be cleaned immediately after the workout than to wait 20 or 30 minutes until your next shower. A quick wash will rid your face of any of the toxins sweated out by the body during your practice. It also reduces the amount of salt on your skin, a harsh byproduct of sweat that can cause drying of the skin over time. 

Keep in mind that heat tends to open up your pores. It means that your pores are bound to be ready to absorb whatever is on your skin — cleansing the skin quickly after your workout helps to keep it clear through the winter. 

3. Moisturize Your Skin

Even if you don’t regularly use lotions or moisturizers, the cold seasons are a great time to make use of those items. Yogis tend to prefer very basic moisturizers as opposed to lotions filled with harsh fragrances and ingredients. Consider mixing your personal moisturizer using a carrier oil such as almond oil or fractionated coconut oil. If you prefer a light scent to your lotions, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. 

4. Try Not To Style Your Hair With Heat

Placing a hot blow dryer near your face can have a significant drying effect on your skin’s health. During the fall and winter months, experiment with what you can do to the hair to allow its natural tendencies to shine. You may also be able to find more creative updo solutions that mean you can skip the drying effects of heated styling tools. This one tip can help to increase the health of both your skin and your hair at the same time. 

Taking care of your skin is just as essential as selecting the right workout clothing for your practice. Invest the time and energy into caring for your skin well now so that it can glow for the remainder of the season.

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The Yamas of Yoga

In the Yoga Sutra by the sage Patanjali, there is a path laid forth which leads the seeker to union with the divine. This union is to Patanjali the true goal of yoga. This path is called the 8-limbed path and it begins with the limb called the Yamas. These are the basic ethical tenets of the philosophy of yoga. The sage saw the Yamas as a vow made by the yogi toward the world and its inhabitants and towards oneself.

The first Yama is the practice of Ahimsa which is acting, thinking, and being in a state of non-violence toward the world and oneself. Our natural state is to react to the world and ourselves with violence in physical ways but also in our mental ways through irritation, judgment, and anger. In the practice of non-violence, we seek to control and separate from these urges. It requires discipline and perseverance to not only keep yourself from violence but to then become active and pursue compassion and love. This practice must extend not only to those around us, but also to ourselves which is where the journey begins.

By practicing compassion toward ourselves, we acknowledge our faults but then give ourselves grace and acceptance. We are then able to offer compassion and even forgiveness to those who have offended us in small and large ways.

The second Yama is Satya which is the practice of truthfulness. This means being truthful with and to yourself, embracing what is true to you and living in integrity rather than trying to please others by pretending to be something that you are not. It means being truthful about your weaknesses and struggles. It is about acting with honesty toward yourself and toward others.

The third Yama is Brahmacharya which is restrain of our physical impulses or base instincts. By controlling these urges, which include our sex drive, we enable ourselves to become more focused mentally. It is the practice of moderation that allows us to break away from addictive behaviors and the physical impulses which if indulged in too often, allow them to rule over us.

The fourth Yama is Asteya or to not covet. In order to live a peaceful life, we must train our minds and hearts to be content with what we have rather than always seeking to satisfy our unending need for more. By seeking more and more, we actually create an unhappiness within ourselves which no amount of acquisition will satisfy. It is only by letting go of our desire for what others have that will we be able to truly be happy and at peace.

The fifth Yama is Aparigraha which is interpreted by some as not stealing or as not grasping. It is being able to let go of what we tend to cling to. This can be possessions or the way our lives are. When we lose what we possess, or our lives change, we often resist and this creates unhappiness. We must learn to let go in order to be peaceful and accept what we do have or what we have been given, even if that means accepting what has been taken away as well. By letting go, we are better able to see what is truly important, which is our true self.

The practice of the Yamas of yoga opens a doorway to living a more balanced and healthy life. It allows us to see what is holding us captive, whether that is our urges and desires or what we have been clinging to which may be in the form of lies, possessions, relationships or the status quo. It also opens our hearts to give freely to others without expecting anything in return because we know that we already have what we need.

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3 Laughably Easy Ways To Go Green

Earth Day, the day when the environmentally astute nag us about the future of the planet, is nigh upon us. While most of us don’t mind being kind to the earth in theory, it requires a great deal of effort and we are lazy. Buying local produce is fine when we make it to the farmer’s market. Sustainable food, yes, sure – but we’re not so enthusiastic if we have to give up our cars. Before packing your bags for a tree-planting stay on a kibbutz, here are some lower-energy ideas to get in on the healthier earth movement.

Go Native

I’m referring to plant choices (otherwise, this would be an offensive subheading). To hear some tell it, potted plants are miracle workers, credited with boosting our immunity, increasing productivity, and reducing overall stress. Even if you think the New Age healing power of plants stuff is a bunch of claptrap, most people agree that a nice garden adds something to curb appeal.

Adapting your horticulture to the local ecosystem is politically astute because native plants are suited to local weather conditions (relative heat or cold, humidity, and rainfall), and requires little ecological (and economical) maintenance. In fact, growing native plants might reduce your overall carbon footprint by sucking up some of the excess sludge you’ve left behind in other areas of your life.

Get a Faucet Aerator

I know what you’re thinking – what in Sam Hill is a faucet aerator? A faucet aerator injects air bubbles into a water stream to reduce the amount of water coming out of a faucet. This is useful when: washing hands, brushing teeth, heating water. Not so useful when: filling a bucket or a pot, because you need X amount of water to fill a container, regardless of how long it takes to flow out of a faucet. Still, a faucet aerator is a small thing, and it doesn’t matter so much how strong the flow of a faucet is.
Please note that I’m not advocating a low-flow showerhead, which is a big thing. You should only get a low-flow showerhead if you are certain it won’t bother you. If a low-flow showerhead won’t bother you, you are amazing.

Use the AC and Heater Sparingly

Easier said than done! In California, we rarely need the heat (an extra sweater and blankets at night for a few months per year), but the summer without the AC seems impossible if you live more than ten miles away from the coast. Still, allowing your body five to ten minutes to adjust to the house temperature before turning on climate control helps your body learn to adjust to its environment naturally. Our bodies are adaptable to temperature changes (within reason) if we allow them time. Provided you are not in immediate danger of succumbing to weather-related illness, give yourself a few minutes and then when you do turn on your AC or heater, keep the thermostat set a few degrees higher or lower than usual. Small changes make significant differences on both your carbon footprint and the bill you receive from the energy company.

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