12 years ago, I started teaching yoga at Western Racquet. Over the years, I've truly enjoyed teaching and getting to know all of our members. From teaching gentle yoga, yin yoga, TRX yoga, Rage yoga, Britney-themed and of course my favorite, vinyasa yoga. I love hearing how yoga has transformed lives and how China gel really completes the practice.

Yoga is a popular exercise routine for good reason - it incorporates strengthening and stretching exercises into one, helping you to improve your overall fitness. If you're new to yoga, though, it can be tough to know where to start. That's why I've put together this list of 9 beginner-friendly yoga poses that will help you to strengthen and stretch your muscles. Give them a try next time you're at the gym or at home. Continue reading to get a step by step for each pose and take a look at the beginner friendly picture below.

1. Triangle: Triangle is a great pose for stretches the sides of your waist and legs while also strengthens your hips, thighs, and core. To get into position, start by standing with your feet about 3-4 feet apart. Then, reach your right hand down to touch the floor near your right ankle as you extend your left arm up toward the ceiling. Gaze up at your left hand as you hold the pose for 30-60 seconds before repeating on the other side.

2. Seated Half Forward Fold: Seated Half Forward Fold is a restorative pose that helps to stretch the hamstrings and lower back. To get into position, start by sitting on the floor with one leg extended straight in front of you and the other folded in. Then, slowly fold forward from the hips, reaching your hands toward your feet. Hold the pose for 30-60 seconds before releasing.

3. Wide Legged Fold: Wide legged fold is similar to seated half forward fold, but with a wider stance. This pose helps to stretch the inner thighs and groin while also lengthening the spine. To get into position, start by standing with your feet about 4 feet apart. Then, fold forward from the hips, reaching your hands toward the floor. Hold for 30-60 seconds before slowly release back up to standing.

4. Seated Side Bend: Seated side bend is a gentle way to open up the sides of your body while also stretching the shoulders and lengthening the spine. To get into position, start by sitting on the floor with both legs out wide. Raise your right arm up toward the ceiling as you lean over to the left side, placing your left hand on the floor behind you for support if needed. Hold for 30-60 seconds before repeating on the other side.

5. Pigeon: Pigeon is an excellent hip opener that also stretches out the glutes and thighs. To get into position, start in a low lunge with your right foot forward and left foot back. Slowly lower your left knee down to the ground as you extend your right leg straight behind you so that both legs are in line with each other parallel to the mat (if this hurts your knees or hips, place a blanket under your hip). Hold for 30-60 seconds before repeating on the other side.

6. Lying Hamstring Stretch: The lying hamstring stretch is a great way to release tension in the back of the legs after a long run or workout session. To get into position, lie flat on your back with both legs extended straight in front of you (if this hurts your back, place a blanket underneath). Place a strap or towel around your right foot and slowly begin to straighten your leg up toward they ceiling as much as possible without pain (if this is too much pressure on your back, keep a slight bend in your knee). Hold for tension before release and repeat 3-5 times on each leg..

7. Supine Spinal Stretch: The supine spinal stretch helps to lengthen and decompress the spine after sitting or standing for long periods of time throughout the day.. To get into position,. Lie flat on your back with both legs extended straight in front of you and place both arms at your sides. Slowly begin to turn your head to look over your right shoulder as you reach to the touch the elbow to the floor behind you. You may need to place a pillow under your head if you are unable to reach the floor without straining or pain. Hold for several breaths before returning to the center and repeating on the other side..

8. Figure 4 stretch: The figure 4 stretch is a great way to stretch the hips and glutes, which can be helpful for runners who often experience tightness in these areas. The figure 4 stretch can also help improve your range of motion, making it easier to run with proper form.
Start by lying on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
Cross your right ankle over your left knee so that your right shin is perpendicular to your left thigh.
Reach through with your left hand and grab hold of your right thigh, then pull your right leg toward you until you feel a stretch in the hip and glute area.
Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.

9. Corpse: Corpse pose is a great way to release tension from the whole body and relax mind fully at end of a yoga practice or moderate session to gentle Introduction to relaxation methods ..To get into position,. Lie flat on your back with both arms at your sides and both legs outstretched on your mat(or you can have one or both knees bent if you prefer) ..Allow yourself a sink into the ground wherever possible and your belly to puff out just a little bit so that you can breathe easily.. close your eyes and rest here for 5 to 10 minutes, allowing all of the tension in your body to melt away with each exhalation of breath .....

I'd love to see you in my class Tuesdays at 11am and on an occasional Saturday!

In the craziness of life, I often forget to be joyful and to find or be reminded of what brings me the most joy.

The past year has caused worry, anxiousness, stress and so many other emotions. We’ve had to navigate the unknown even more than normal.

It always leaves me feeling somewhat numb and just going through the motions of daily life. I have to remind myself to only control what I can, and that is myself and taking care of my family.

That’s where we need to come back and be present.

 

Present with our family, in our work, and in our daily life. We can’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow, but be in the present moment.

 

Think about what brings you joy.

 

Is it a hobby?

Traveling?

Sunsets?

Beaches?

Laughter?

Food? (I love food

Family?

Friends?

 

What truly brings you joy?

 

It’s the simple things in life for me. I have a very energetic 3-year-old. He reminds me to keep things simple. He’s silly and makes me laugh.

 

Quiet time by myself brings me joy. When I can simply enjoy 5 minutes to myself daily, that can often bring me the greatest joy, which shows how even the simplest of moments can produce moments of profound peace and happiness in our lives.

 

Here are a few ways to find simple joy in life:

 

1). Make a list of what you are thankful for.

2). Sing. Very loud!

3). Go for a walk outside.

4). Indulge yourself.

5). Watch a sunrise or sunset.

6). Try something new.

7). Laugh. A LOT.

8). Meditate.

9). Dance!

10). Start working towards a new goal.

 

Another thing that always brings me joy is being on my yoga mat. Flowing, breathing, moving, slowing down, just being.

 

Take some time to follow along with me in the video below and enjoy this joyful yoga practice.

 

Namaste.

 

Have you ever thought about trying yoga but aren't sure if it's for you? We all have excuses of why we shouldn't try it or how inflexible we are. There are so many benefits as to why you should practice yoga.
1). Practicing yoga helps to create flexibility.
     Yoga can help release tightness, which would help bring a greater range of motion.
2). Yoga can help to build strength in your body as all poses are your own body weight.
3). Yoga helps you to improve balance. Standing on one leg or practicing a headstand - helps to build core strength and stability.
4). Yoga teaches you how to breathe.
5). Yoga helps to build self-confidence.
6). Teaches you to be present.
7). Yoga helps to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
8). Protects our body from injury.
9). Helps to recognize self-acceptance.
10). Overall, helps to relax your whole body. Connecting mind, body and spirit.
I encourage you to start where you are and you'll be surprised where your yoga journey leads you.
Namaste.
Take some time today to follow Western yogi Amy Xiong in the video below! And remember, start where you are. Yoga is for EVERYONE at every stage of your journey!

by Billie Augustian, PA-C, RYT 200, NETA Certified Group Exercise Instructor

 

September is National Yoga Month, the perfect time to explore yoga basics and the benefits of a regular practice. The popularity of yoga has increased dramatically in recent years to over 36 million people. What is special about yoga that has so many people taking off their shoes and rolling out a mat? According to the 2016 Yoga in America Study, conducted by Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal, the top five reasons people reported for starting yoga were flexibility, stress relief, general fitness, and improved overall health (https://www.yogaalliance.org/2016YogaInAmericaStudy).

One practical definition of modern yoga is a system of mind-body techniques which improve wellbeing. While yoga has a rich and ancient history, the most familiar aspects of yoga include a combination of physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation which work together to develop mental and physical stability. A wide variety of yoga styles have developed to meet the varied needs and preferences of today’s practitioners. We offer several types of practice at Western including vinyasa (a flowing style linking breath and movement), yin (a slower-paced style incorporating fewer postures and stretches with longer holds to stimulate deep connective tissues), and chair yoga (a combination of seated and standing poses utilizing a chair for support to accommodate variations in physical ability).

While the #1 reason many people start practicing yoga is to improve flexibility, this is only one of yoga’s many potential benefits. Research suggests improvements across multiple dimensions of physical and psychological wellness including stress management, healthy body image, quality of life among cancer survivors, menopausal symptoms, sleep quality, balance, mobility, back pain, and overall quality of life. If you are interested in reading more about the science behind yoga’s benefits, both Yoga Alliance and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Health have compiled extensive lists of yoga-related research (https://www.yogaalliance.org/About_Yoga/Research_on_the_Benefits_of_Yoga and https://nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm#hed2). While many of the studies are limited due to small study size, the results are promising and further research is ongoing. Another benefit I have observed among class participants is a greater sense of awareness, which inevitably has a positive impact on their lives off the mat. Yoga also provides a complementary balance to more active forms of physical fitness.

If you are curious about exploring the benefits of yoga for yourself, here are a few pointers to get you started.

Tips for success

  1. Commit to trying at least 5 classes with different teachers. Ask anyone who practices regularly, it takes time to learn the basic poses and terminology, and each teacher has a unique style.
  2. Be patient and gentle with yourself. There is no need to force your body into a pose. Yoga is a time when you can slow down and pay attention to the subtle connection between your mind and body.
  3.  You may hear poses called by their Sanskrit names, you are not expected to know them all. Sanskrit is the historical language of yoga. Over time, these terms will become more familiar.
  4. Arrive 5 minutes early to allow yourself time to get set up before class starts. Try to stay until the end of class to allow time to fully let go and enjoy final relaxation pose (savasana in Sanskrit). This is considered by many teachers to be the most important pose in yoga.
  5. If you have any physical limitations or injuries that may affect your practice, talk to your teacher before class. They can offer you options to make poses safe and beneficial. Yoga can be adapted to nearly all physical abilities.

What do you need?

  1. Comfortable clothing that requires minimal adjustment while moving from one pose to another
  2. Yoga is traditionally practiced with bare feet.
  3. Water bottle
  4. A smile and an open mind
  5. Mats, towels, blocks, and straps are provided in the Mind Body Studio.

My top 5 favorite poses

  1. Mountain pose (Tadasana): the basic principles of this standing pose apply to all other standing poses
  2. Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana B): builds strength, flexibility, and core stability
  3. Tree (Vrksasana): promotes balance and leg strength
  4. Pyramid (Parsvottanasana): improves flexibility in the legs, hips, spine, and upper body
  5. Final relaxation (Savasana): allows both body and mind to rest and relax at the end of class

Here at Western, we have a great team of certified yoga teachers, always working hard to bring our members safe, beneficial, and enjoyable yoga practices. Whatever your style, experience level, or degree of physical fitness, we are here to help guide you. If you would like to see for yourself how you can benefit from yoga, this is the perfect time to get started. Let’s practice!

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