How to Use Yoga for Weight Loss

Something I hear a lot of is that people are coming to yoga to lose weight. While I applaud the efforts of those individuals and am happy that they’re finding a way to move their body in a way they maybe haven’t done before, I wanted to write a blog about the real way yoga can be used for weight loss. And in order to do this, I need to break a few hearts and tell you that yoga is not the best method for weight loss and you probably wont’ see results if that’s all you’re doing to lose weight. Here’s why and what you can do about it.

Weight loss is really just about energy expenditure. Without going too far down this rabbit hole, if you want to lose weight, I’m sorry to say you’re going to have to eat less. It’s that simple, but no one wants to hear it (myself included!). It’s a matter of burning more calories than you take in. 

Again without going too far into the calorie deficit rabbit hole (if you want to learn more about that then I suggest you follow @syattfitness or @soheefit on Instagram or Facebook – that’s their thing), food gives our body energy. That’s the point of eating. If you’re not using all of that energy up, then it stays in your body and is converted to fat. So in order to lose fat you have to use more energy than you’re putting into your body. I’m a huge fan of calorie counting for this because we often underestimate what we eat, but that’s not always the right path for everyone (again, follow @syattfitness and @soheefit if you want more info on this).

So calorie counting is king. Next up is weight lifting. Long story short, the more muscle you have, the more energy your body has to expend to keep up with that muscle. So if you build muscle, you can eat more, but still be in a deficit. I’m not saying like a cheeseburger and fries every night, but the more muscle you have the higher your metabolism will be.

Next up is cardio. This is at the end of the list of the best ways to lose weight. Notice nowhere in here did I say slow stretches and body weight exercises and breathing (aka yoga). Unfortunately yoga is just not an exercise that burns a lot of calories. That being said, if you have a lot to lose, you may end up seeing more weight loss initially because your body has more it can get rid of and because often times yoga is more movement than a person has typically been doing.

NOW let’s get on to how to use yoga to lose weight, because I do think it is an important component for weight loss, but not in the way that most people expect or are hoping.

1) I think the most significant impact yoga can have on weight loss is its connection to mindfulness. Coming to yoga, and meditation as well, WILL make you develop a more mindful life. You’ll be more aware of your reactions, your emotions, your habits – whether or not that was your intention, this will happen when someone starts practicing yoga. As a result of using yoga to develop a mindfulness habit, you may start to slow down your habits, slow down your reactions, and slow down your actions.

So when you’re maybe eating because you’re bored – your mindfulness habit might kick in and you may catch yourself as you reach for the bag of chips and say, “hmm am I really hungry right now or am I just eating because I’m bored?”

Or, if you’re like me, and you struggle with just loving food so much that you want to eat everything in sight always 😂 you may find that you have more patience to pause in between bites and let your hunger signals catch up to your brain.

2) Another way that yoga can inadvertently help you with weight loss is that it helps keep you more mobile and flexible, which will allow you to exercise more comfortably. It will give you that range of motion to do an overhead press. It will give you the mind-body connection to hip hinge for a deadlift. It will help the flexibility and mobility of your hamstrings so you can go for a longer run or or walk. 

If you feel better exercising, you’re more likely to do it. So if yoga helps you feel better and move better (which it most likely will), you’re more likely to have the motivation, and more importantly excitement, to start your workout.

So that’s it. If you want to lose weight, eat in a calorie deficit. If you want to use yoga to lose weight, think of it as cultivating a mindfulness habit that allows you to eat in a calorie deficit.

If you’ve been struggling with weight loss and have been told that yoga will help you and you’re not seeing results, I hope this post was helpful for you. If you’ve been wanting to lose weight but haven’t known where to start, I hope this post gave you an idea and maybe motivated you to start a yoga practice to help be more mindful of your eating. 

I’m also a personal trainer, so if you read this and you have more questions about the personal training side of things, feel free to reach out to me. If you have questions about the yoga side of things, feel free to reach out. If you disagree with me reach out. If you agree with me reach out. I want to hear from you and help in any way I can!

Till next time,

Kate

3 Exercises to Reduce Anxiety

Being anxious sucks. I think we can all agree on that. So here’s a few exercises that you can do to help bring yourself into the present moment, ground yourself, and leave the land of anxious thoughts.

If you have the time to do these in this particular order, I would try to do it this way. If not, do whatever you have the time for, or the props for.

360 Breathing with a Resistance Band:

When we’re anxious we tend to shorten our breath, and breathe more from our chest than our diaphragm and entirety of our lung capacity. This generally doesn’t help us get out of that anxious state. A way you can calm your nervous system is by using your diaphragm for breathing and using your full lung capacity. That means breathing in your chest, but also in your stomach. It means breathing out into the sides of your ribcage, AND the BACK of your ribcage (our back body is often forgotten in yoga! Don’t forget about it!).

A really great tool for this is a resistance band. If you don’t have a resistance band you can use a strap or scarf, but the resistance band is better because it moves with your breath. Our bodies understand movement better when there’s external feedback – this why your yoga teacher might come over (at least pre-covid) and ask you to press your knee into their hands in a Warrior 2, for example. When we feel something outside of our bodies, it allows us to feel what’s going on IN our bodies. The resistance band in this case is your external prop.

Tie your resistance band around your ribcage, and then try to move it out and in with your inhales and exhales. Here’s a quick video showing you what I mean:

You should feel pretty relaxed after that, but in case you need more or don’t have a band handy, here’s your next tip:

Block Breath Lifts in Childs Pose

The block here acts as the same idea as the resistance band – an external feedback source that allows you to understand where your body is in space. Child’s pose by itself has a calming effect on the nervous system. Generally when we can bring our head to the ground or to something (like a block), this can calm us down. Add this breath technique to your child’s pose and it will be the most relaxing child’s pose you’ve ever done!

Here’s how:

Stick the block on your upper back and come into your child’s pose. Breathe into your back ribs – use your inhales to lift the block up, and your exhales to lower the block down. The idea here is the same as the resistance band – find the full breath capacity of your lungs in your ribs – but it has the added benefit of being in a child’s pose.

Here’s a quick video of the set up:

Once you’ve done both of these, give this next breathing exercise a try, trying to use the same full 360 breathing you’ve been exploring:

Alternate Nostril Breathing

This is my favorite breathing exercise to calm down nerves. It’s easy, quick, works well, and you can do it anywhere – no props needed.

I’m right handed, so I’m going to instruct this from that perspective – if you’re left handed you just do the opposite side than I’m instructing. Here’s the set up:

Take your right thumb to your right nostril, bend your index finger and touch the space between your knuckles to the space between your eyes, and then take your middle finger to your left nostril. Cross your left arm across your body. Rest your right elbow on your left arm and gently bring your chin towards your chest. Here’s a quick video to show you the set up:

Close your left nostril – inhale with your right nostril.
Close your right nostril, open your left – exhale out your left nostril.
Inhale through your left nostril.
Close your left nostril – open your right – exhale out your right nostril.
Inhale through your right nostril.
Close your right nostril – open your left – exhale out your left.
Inhale through your left nostril.

Repeat as much as you want. Find the 360 breathing we worked on with the resistance band and with the block in child’s pose. 

This should help A TON. Especially if you do these 3 exercises in a row. 

Leave a comment or shoot me an email (kateformanyoga@gmail.com) and let me know how this goes for you. If you liked this and you want to make sure you never miss a new blog post, make sure you’re on my mailing list (scroll to the bottom of this page to sign up).

Know someone who might benefit from a few anxiety-relieving techniques? Give this blog a share and help them out!

Till next time,

Kate

3 Yoga Poses for Better Posture at Work

An interesting trend I’ve noticed as a yoga instructor is that I get asked the same question in waves. Lately I’ve been asked a lot about how to improve posture. I imagine this has to do with the fact that everyone is working from home right now and the set-ups that they have might not be the best or most optimal for their posture and comfort. SO here are a few exercises you can do throughout your workday while sitting on that Zoom meeting that will help you build better posture for yourself.

Seated Cat/Cow

Most of the time we hear about cat/cow we hear about the position of our spine. While this is important, in order to have this pose affect posture I actually want you to focus more on your pelvis position. I wrote an entire blog post about how posture is really affected by the position of your pelvis and not the hunch of your upper back (if you haven’t read it yet, head over here to check it out).

So when you’re doing your cat/cow, don’t think of moving your spine. Think of moving your pelvis/hips, and letting your spine FOLLOW the action of your pelvis. In other words, initiate your movements from your pelvis and let your spine be moved because of your pelvis is the thing moving first. It will feel more like your spine is moving in a wave. It probably won’t look much different, but when you shift the focus of cat cow to your pelvis it will most likely feel different. Here’s a visual if you want one:

Land yourself somewhere where you can feel the natural backbending curve of your low back. Again let your spine follow and you’ll feel like you’re sitting with better posture and able to sit more upright and over your hips.

Shoulder Blade Pinches

A lot of our ability to sit up straight without that achy feeling in our back has to do with the strength of the muscles of your back. While I would suggest lifting weights to really strengthen this area, there are a few bodyweight, seated exercises you can do to kind of wake that area of your body up more. These shoulder blade pinches are a great exercise to do throughout your workday so you can bring more attention to the muscles of your back.

Keep your arms in a 90 degree angle. Keep your elbows in towards your ribcage and your palms facing straight up like you’re about to serve something to someone. From here you’ll start to move your hands and forearms away from the center of your body, but I want you to do this very intentionally. Here’s how:

Move your shoulder blades together like you could hold a pencil in between them. This will start to rotate your arms outward. As you move your arms back in towards the center of your body, think of letting that pencil between your shoulder blades go, so that you feel your shoulder blades spread away from each other.

So it’s actually the shoulder blade starting the movement, not your arms. Just like the seated cat/cows, we’re trying to affect the movement of the arms by initiating it from the shoulder blades. It looks like this:

Seated Spine Circles

This is something that seems like it’s going to feel very easy but once you start to do it you’ll feel your core – both the front around your stomach and your back muscles – start to engage. Cross your arms over your chest and think of rotating your ribcage around your spine, making a circle. You’ll pass through a rounded spine like a crunch, and a backbend. Try to engage your core here (think of bracing as if you were about to take a punch in the gut) and move slow enough that you’re controlling the movement and feel your muscles working to bring you through these circles.

Just like in a car, the faster you go the less control you have. You can do this super fast and you’ll feel nothing – that’s not the point. Move slow and you will feel muscles beginning to engage. It looks like this:

And then think of those muscles holding you up as you sit at your desk. I’m not suggesting you brace your core while you’re seated, but a gentle, almost non-existent, activation of your back and stomach muscles helps to hold your spine upright. This exercise will basically teach you the extreme so you can find more of a middle ground for yourself.

Give these exercises a try throughout your workday – feel free to do them as frequently as you want as long as there’s no pain. And then let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at kateformanyoga@gmail.com and let me know how it affected your posture by the end of the day. 

Till next time,

Kate

How to Get Better at Side Plank

Ok let’s talk about how to fix your side plank and make it super strong and stable! If you’ve ever felt like you’re going to fall over in side plank, or like the weight of your body is enormously heavy in your arm – you’re definitely not alone. Believe it or not, this is actually a pretty easy fix for most people, and I’m going to share with you here how you can feel excited about side planks and not dread them.

If you’ve been taking class with me, you’ve probably heard me talk about the 3 zones of stability we have in our bodies. If not, no worries I’m about to explain it here.

Our bodies crave stability. It makes them feel safe, and when they feel safe, they move better. If you’re on my email list or read through my blogs, you’ve probably heard me talk about this before, and if not or if you want a refresher, you should check out this blog post here because I go more into detail about this and how it relates to flexibility.

So, what parts of our body do we draw stability from? Our shoulders, our core, and our hips are the main places that we use to stabilize us. This is true for if you’re balancing on 1 leg, or if you’re playing tennis, or if you’re skiing, walking, swimming, running…pretty much everything.​

But here’s the deal. If 0 or only 1 of these 3 places is stable, our body is going to have a much harder time performing activities well, especially with things like balance. In general, you want at least 2 of these 3 zones working to stabilize you when you’re doing pretty much anything, but in this case let’s talk about it as it relates to yoga. When you understand this concept, you’ll understand literally every challenging yoga pose ever – backbends, arm balances, aaaaand of course, side planks.​

Side planks actually require all 3 zones of stability to be working simultaneously, which is part of why they are so hard. If one zone’s stability breaks, then the whole thing often falls apart. So, let’s break down side plank by each zone of stability, and what you can do to find strength and stability in each zone:

SHOULDERS

Just like in a regular plank pose, if you let your shoulders collapse, it probably won’t feel very good in your shoulder joint first of all, but second of all, everything will feel super heavy becauase your arms start acting like poles that could snap holding your body up, rather than strong limbs that have muscles attached to them 😂🥴

So the same thing goes for your side plank. How do you get your arms and shoulders to engage? It’s pretty simple – just press the floor away from you, and you’ll feel your arms start to engage, as well as your the muscles on your back around your shoulder blades. Give this a try on hands and knees to feel it in an easier position first with both hands on the ground, then take it to your side planks and plank poses.

Shoulder Stability Zone 

CORE

Again, just like in a regular plank pose, if your hips drop, your core can’t engage to its fullest extent. In a regular plank this would land you in a backbend, but in a side plank it lands you in a side bend, which again, will be hard to find the muscles of your core.

There are a few ways to make sure you’re engaging your core. The first is to control where your rib cage is. Go ahead and take a big backbend (yes, right now as you’re reading this). Touch the bottom part of your rib cage with your hands. Do you feel how your ribs are sticking out and kind of flaring? This is what you want to AVOID in your side plank (and regular plank too). Now take your ribs a little bit in, keep your hands there so you can feel what’s going on. Basically you’re just taking the backbend out of the shape by changing the position of your rib cage 👍

So after you’ve gotten the rib cage placement, we should talk about your hips. Like I said in the beginning – if your hips drop, your core can’t engage to its best extent because you’re in a backbend. So you want to make sure your hips are lifting up towards the sky. This is usually what most people don’t do, and is the easiest and most effective fix for your side plank. How do you fix this? PRESS INTO YOUR FEET.

When you press into your feet your hips will lift and the side plank kind of clicks into place. Here’s a visual:

Once your hips are up and your rib cage isn’t flaring out, you can access your core muscles waaayyy easier.

Core Zone Stability ✅

HIPS

Really the place you’re drawing stability from here is your glutes, aka your butt. This muscle is KEY for balancing in any pose. Want to stand on one leg? Make sure your glutes are working. Want to balance in a handstand? Make sure your glutes are engaging. Want to do a high lunge without falling over? GLUTES. That’s why, if you’ve taken my class before, you know that I’m super focused on bringing awareness to your hips and your glutes in the majority of my classes.

SO how do you do this in a side plank? Guess what? YOU ALREADY DID IT! When you press down into your feet you actually kill 2 birds with 1 stone – your core will land in a more optimal position, and your glutes will automatically fire to lift your hips up. Whatever leg is on the bottom part of your side plank is the glute that is working hardest to stabilize you.

Here’s a bonus tip:

Want to learn to lift your leg in your side plank? Flex your top foot and once you have these other 3 zones steady and nailed down, your top glute has to engage in order to lift your leg up. Don’t believe me? Stand up. No seriously – stand up – this is super easy, I promise.

Keep your right leg straight and your foot flexed and toes facing forwards. Hold onto something for balance, and make sure you don’t lean to the left side for this next part. Now reach your right leg out to the side. Do you feel your butt? You should. So that’s exactly what is happening when you’re in your side plank, but it’s harder because you’re adding movement to a pose that already is a struggle to find stability in, even when there aren’t moving parts like lifting a leg.

There’s one more super important component to finding the hip stability in a side plank:

A common thing I see in people’s side planks is they’ll lean forwards with their upper body and their butts will stick out behind them – basically bending at the waist. This is because they’re trying to offset the lack of stability in at least 1 of these 3 zones, and distribute their weight differently to make up for it, aka they’re compensating. When you try to lift your top leg, you’re more likely to fall if this is the position of your side plank because…you guessed it – it’s a less stable position for your 3 zones.

SO in addition to pressing down into your feet you also need to be pushing your tailbone in. This will help your glutes go into a better position to engage, just like we did with your rib cage in the core zone.​

Hip Stability Zone ✅

So there you have it. That’s how you nail your next side plank!

Got questions? I want to hear ’em – leave me a comment or send me an email (kateformanyoga@gmail.com) and let me know. Give these tips a try and also keep me posted about if you’ve found any more ease in this super challenging pose! I bet you nail it once you get these 3 zones down 💪

Till next time,​

Kate

How To Get Better at Plank Pose

If plank pose feels heavy AF. If you feel like your upper body just couldn’t be strong enough to hold a plank longer than 1 second. If you’re not sure if you’re lowering to the ground from plank pose correctly…then THIS IS THE BLOG POST FOR YOU! I guarantee that if you follow these steps, your plank will not only feel stronger, but it’s going to also feel EASIER.

Continue reading “How To Get Better at Plank Pose”

Let’s Talk About Why You’re Tight…

SO let’s talk about tightness…What it means…Why it happens…What you can do about it…Hint? It doesn’t always mean you need to stretch!

Tightness can sometimes mean your body is trying to protect that area where you feel tight. So what it does, is it tries to protect that part of your body by creating a tight sensation so you don’t move it as much. Bodies like to feel safe and strong, so sometimes your body is asking you to get stronger in that part of the body that is feeling tight. When it lacks strength it perceives movement as potentially dangerous because there’s an instability or weakness there, so that’s where the tightness comes in.

So next time you’re tight in your hips, your legs, or your shoulders…try strengthening that area rather than stretching it and see what happens.

Here’s a quick story about an experiment I did last week with tightness. It’s a great example of how tightness isn’t always fixed by stretching:

My hip has a labral tear (you have labrums in your shoulders and your hips – the labrum basically holds your bone in the socket). I’ve rehabbed it and it’s pretty much fine, but like any old injury it can act up every once in a while. Something happened the other day (if I’m being honest, I’m not actually quite sure what) where every muscle around that hip tightened up and almost felt like it was spasming on and off for 2 days. In the past I may have totally freaked out I had somehow done more damage to my hip, or I would have done a thousand pigeon poses to try to get those muscles to relax. Since learning from physical therapists for the last 4 years, I knew that none of those reactions were actually going to help. SO instead of freaking out that I had hurt it further, I went back to what I know:

💪There is tissue damage in that hip
💪My body’s joints (note: this does not apply to everyone) are generally unstable and really need extra feedback from weightlifting for strength and stability, which I haven’t been doing
💪When there is something wrong your body tightens its muscles to protect the area

What does all this mean? Instead of doing stretches because my hip is tight, I decided to lift weights instead. “But Kate!” you might say…”Lifting weights TIGHTENS muscles! 😱” NOT ALWAYS. For my particular body, it craves that strength and stability around its joints.

I’m more naturally flexible and because of my labral tear in that hip, the joint is even more unstable (remember: your labrum kind of holds your leg bone in the hip). Which actually means my muscles are going to TIGHTEN in an attempt to PROTECT that area and give it a sense of stability and security through tightness, rather than true stability. SO if I can give my body REAL, STRONG, stability, it will send a signal to my brain that that area is protected, and that tightness actually lessens up! I actually may become MORE flexible because my body now feels like it’s safe to move into that particular shape.

So instead of doing a thousand pigeon poses like I might have done 5 years ago, I picked up a barbell and deadlifted. And guess what…it worked! Pain almost immediately subsided. No pain at night. Pain was gone in the morning, and has been totally fine since.

So…how does this apply to you and your yoga practice? This is why it’s important to learn HOW to engage your muscles, and not just assume that just because your knee is bent, all the right muscles are working and engaging around a joint. As your yoga instructor, if my cues can get you to turn on the muscles around your hip, you might actually be able to move further into a pose, that pose might start to feel better, and you may even find your body relaxes and you get calmer.

Make sense? Awesome. No? PLEASE reach out with questions. This is such a cool topic and one I’m super passionate about helping you understand! Leave me a comment or shoot me an email at kateformanyoga@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Till next time,

Kate

P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post and want more yoga tips to help you build a stronger, more flexible and dependable body, join my mailing list where I send out weekly tips like this. You can sign up here. Please also feel free to share this with anyone who you think might benefit from these tips!

Stretches and Releases for a Tight Psoas

So the other day someone on Instagram mentioned having a tight psoas, so I offered to make a post about a release you can do for that. It did really well on Instagram, so I thought I’d turn this into a blog post so I can help more people.​

So, if you’ve never heard of the psoas before, we’ll start with that. It’s this muscle right here:

Continue reading “Stretches and Releases for a Tight Psoas”

People Are Capable of a Hell of a Lot More Than They Think

I get asked this question a lot – why don’t you distinguish your classes by level? Why don’t you teach a class specifically labeled advanced class? Why don’t you teach a beginner’s class? The short answer? People are capable of a whole hell of a lot more than they think.

When I first started my online studio I did in fact level classes, but what I found was unless it was breaking down the basics, I really had no idea how to level the class. The reason for this is because when I teach in person, I don’t teach any leveled classes. Before COVID I taught open level classes in places where, if you had some kind of association with the location, you could take the class (for example, I taught in colleges, apartment buildings, hotels, and banks – if you worked, lived, or attended any of these you were allowed to drop in on my class).

After years of teaching this way I learned something – people are capable of a whole hell of a lot more than they think. I remember the first time I really truly realized this was my very first year of teaching. I was teaching a class at Hunter College, and at the time had also been teaching leveled classes at a studio and beginner’s classes at Saint Joseph’s College in Brooklyn. I went to teach crow pose – an arm balance – that day with the intention of it being more of an introduction to the pose than thinking people might stick and nail it because at the time the students who attended my class at Hunter were still very new to yoga.

I had a brand new student that day who’s name was Mary (Mary if you’re reading this – HI!!). She had never done yoga before but had a good spirit about her and to my surprise followed the class like she had been doing yoga for years. Not only that, but this girl who had never stepped foot into a yoga class was one of the few who nailed her crow pose at the end of the class. The excitement and accomplishment she felt that day was overwhelming. That was the day I decided I would start teaching challenging poses to brand new yoga students.

I realized that day that just because someone was brand new to something, doesn’t mean that I, as their teacher, should ever rob them of the experience of trying something hard, and potentially succeeding at that challenging thing. Who am I to assume they can’t do it just because they’re brand new to yoga? I’ve taught people yoga who have been practicing for decades and they can’t do certain “advanced” poses, while I had just seen this total newbie nail an arm balance. It’s not my job to strip people of their chance to accomplish something amazing with their bodies, and after witnessing that I truly believe anyone can do these stronger more challenging poses if they’re set up well to do them.

Sure, sometimes flexibility is going to stop you in your tracks. Sure, sometimes you need to build more strength before you get the pose. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try something. I feel like if I were to level my classes, people who are new to yoga might feel like they can’t do the advanced class, and I don’t want any of my students to ever feel like they can’t do something in yoga. Especially if they haven’t even tried.

I say this all the time with side plank when I’m teaching people to try to lift their top leg. They nail the side plank and then I say “ok so don’t even think about it – just lift your top leg up!” Sometimes people fall right over, but sometimes people get to experience nailing a pose they never thought they’d get. Our minds and fear can play such a huge role in how we approach a challenging pose, and if you just try to do it without thinking, then sometimes you’ll get it. We can often be our own worst enemies in that way. 

So, if you ever take one of my classes, in person, online, or on Zoom, you can expect a challenge because I really believe you can handle it. I truly think that even if you don’t get it that day, the fact that you tried it is going to create building blocks for you and your body and practice so that in the future you will nail the pose. I have no doubt in my mind about that because I’ve seen so many people who are new to yoga accomplish amazing things they didn’t think they’d be able to do. As I said at the beginning of this blog post, people are a whole hell of a lot stronger and more capable than they often think – they just need to stop overthinking, get over fears, and actually try the hard thing and they’ll realize their strength 💪

Till next time,

Kate

P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post and want more yoga tips to help you build a stronger, more flexible and dependable body, join my mailing list where I send out weekly tips like this. You can sign up here. Please also feel free to share this with anyone who you think might benefit from these tips!

Sometimes Shit Sucks, and That’s OK

Real Talk? I really didn’t want to post on Instagram yesterday. More real talk? This pandemic has been both a gift and a struggle. Yesterday was a really weird mix of both.⠀​
​⠀​
​For the last 5 years I often worked 12-16 hour days, 5-6 days a week. The 6 months before COVID I had finally started to narrow down my work day and was getting things to line up exactly how I wanted. It took 4 1/2 years to get there in my business. And then COVID happened and it literally all fell apart into nothing. The bright side has been that it’s given me a chance to focus on my online business that I had already started well before COVID. But if I’m being totally honest, it really sucks to have put in so much work into building a business and not have any idea if any of it will be there when COVID ends. Yesterday was one of those days where I was oscillating between these 2 thoughts.⠀​
​⠀​
​I’m not telling you this for any kind of sympathy. I’m telling you this because I think some people can identify with it and get help from what I’m about to say. A lot of people are struggling right now, and I think of myself as being a pretty real and open yoga instructor. None of that woo-woo green juice bullshit. So this is a blog to tell you that sometimes shit sucks and it’s ok to feel that way.⠀

Continue reading “Sometimes Shit Sucks, and That’s OK”

What Exactly is a Vinyasa, Anyway?

The other day someone asked me to explain the difference between the various poses of a vinyasa sequence. I actually get this question quite often, so I figured I’d answer it here in a blog post. I also often see people who are learning the different poses of a vinyasa often combine 2 poses into one into some kind of morphed chaturanga/updog shape, so I thought I’d clear a few things like that up here as well.

First let’s start with what the heck does vinyasa refer to anyway? Vinyasa is a style of yoga that basically just refers to the fact that you’re linking poses together, moving one pose to the next without really stopping much, and you’re linking it with your breath. But what does it mean when a teacher says “take your vinyasa” or “move through a vinyasa”? That refers to a specific order of poses in a row:

  • Downward Facing Dog
  • Plank Pose
  • EITHER lowering down OR chaturanga (we’ll explore the difference in a second)
  • EITHER cobra pose OR upward facing dog (again we’ll go over the difference in a bit)
  • Back to Downward Facing Dog

I assume you know what downward facing dog looks like so I’m not going to go over that here. If you’re not sure what a downdog is, or if you’re looking for downdog alternatives, I wrote a blog post here about that. I do briefly want to go over a plank pose, however, because if you don’t do that well and with strength the rest of the vinyasa sequence is going to fall apart and feel like crap.

The biggest mistake I see in a plank pose is when people let their hips drop below the height of their shoulders. When you do this, all of your body’s weight goes into your arms. If you keep your hips up, you’re able to engage your core easier, which then helps distribute the weight of your torso throughout your body rather than it hanging into your shoulders. This is a KEY element for lowering down or doing a chaturanga. Here’s what it looks like to put your hips into the right place in a plank:

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So, once you’ve nailed your plank pose alignment, you’ll either be asked to lower down to the ground or come into chaturanga. What the hell even is a chaturanga anyway? Glad you asked 😃 Long story short it’s basically a pause during a push-up. It’s hard as hell, but there are things you can do to build strength in your chaturanga. If you want to learn how to build strength for chaturanga and conquer that shape make sure you check out my free chaturanga tutorial.

If you’re not sure what the difference between lowering down and chaturanga is, here’s a visual for ya:

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From there, you’ll either come into cobra pose or updog. The main difference between these poses is that in cobra pose your legs are on the ground, whereas in upward facing dog you’re pressing your feet into the ground in order to lift your legs up. In cobra pose your legs stay rooted – in upward facing dog the only things touching the ground are your hands and your feet. In general, you would come into cobra from lowering all the way down, and you’d come into updog from chaturanga. You could come into updog from lowering all the way down too if you’re still working on your chaturanga strength. Here’s a visual of the difference:

In both poses, the key here is to slide your shoulder blades down your back. How? Before pressing up into either pose, imagine you could drag your hands backwards. That will set your shoulder blade into the right position to use your optimal strength of your back-body. Once you feel that engagement of the upper back, THEN start to push yourself up into either backbend. So the order is actually pull first, push second.

Once you’re up you could still imagine you could drag your hands backward and that will help you continue to find the strength in your back-body that helps with backbends. If you’re not quite sure if you’re doing it right, here’s a kind of crazy exercise for you to try: Literally drag/pull yourself across a hardwood floor 😂 It’s hard but it will teach you the pulling action you need to find the strength in updog and cobra. Here’s a video showing you what I mean:

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Using your back muscles in this way will help you get out of that lower back crunchy feeling people sometimes experience when backbending. The other key element for cobra and upward facing dog is your butt. Make sure it is engaged. Take your tailbone down towards the ground and squeeze your glute muscles. This will create stability and strength in the pelvis that will help support you as you move into your backbend. Again, this helps with that lower back crunchy feeling.

From your cobra pose or upward facing dog you’d come back into downward dog and then you’re done!

Make sense? Have questions? Let me know in the comments below or feel free to shoot me an email.

Till next time,

Kate

P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post and want more yoga tips to help you build a stronger, more flexible and dependable body, join my mailing list where I send out weekly tips like this. You can sign up here. Please also feel free to share this with anyone who you think might benefit from these tips!