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How to Use a Yoga Wheel

I love yoga, but sometimes, no matter how much I know it’s good for me, it can become a bit tedious, especially if you feel you can’t possibly take a pose any further than you already have. Yoga has been around for centuries and continues to provide a healthy lifestyle to all who choose to follow its path, yet that doesn’t mean that we cannot reshape it a bit or allow it to evolve into more challenging ways.

Yoga accessories allow us to reach new heights. Blocks, straps, yoga socks, and other helpful equipment help us push ourselves further than we’ve ever believed. The yoga wheel is a newer prop that may seem puzzling to those at first but which can help those wanting to push their asanas into the next realm of flexibility, strength, and balance.

What is a Yoga Wheel?

This prop is exactly as the name suggests. It is a wheel, but it offers the yogi possibilities that wouldn’t otherwise be conceivable. Spine rolls, opening up the front torso, deep stretching of the shoulders, abdomen and poses that involve deep backbends all become more attainable with this handy device. Furthermore, it offers a unique massaging technique to your spine that no other yoga accessory can do.

Ease into the Wheel

Before you dive into using the wheel with each and every pose, first, you should familiarize yourself with the wheel. It does take a bit of getting used to. Make sure to wear comfortable yoga pants and place the wheel on the ground, and lay the middle of your back on top of it. Slowly slide your body back and forth across the wheel, keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground and your arms outstretched above you.

This back massage is a great way to introduce you to this heavenly feature of the wheel but also helps you to understand how it rolls. By doing this a few times, you will help ease tension in your back and open up your front torso, which in turn helps with increasing your back’s flexibility. For those of you who spend hours sitting at a desk, this is a must-try use of the wheel.

Deeper Asanas

Once you have become a little more familiar with the prop, now is the time to use it for more than just a chest opener and a back massager. Back-bend poses that once seemed impossible are more attainable, such as the camel pose, but with a deeper backbend.

  1. Begin as you would in a regular camel pose in a kneeling position.
  2. Bring the wheel to your lower back, and hold it tightly with both of your hands.
  3. Inhale deeply to create length within your torso; then, exhale as you slowly lower your back onto the wheel.
  4. Each time you practice this variation, you can go a little bit deeper.
  5. Eventually, you can bring your hands overhead and bend your arms to hold onto the bottom of the wheel while your head is touching the ground.
  6. You can also try and bring your forearms to the earth and allow them to rest.
  7. Breathe in this pose for a few moments; then, carefully breathe out of the movements to return to a seated position.

Always counter a backbend with a backstretch. In this case, the child’s pose is a great way to release the deepness of the previous pose.

Balancing Poses

Balancing on the ground can be tricky at first, but once you have that down, perhaps you are ready to push your limits even more. A yoga wheel is ideal for advancing this part of your practice. The plank is an all-body encompassing pose that requires the proper alignment as much as a good balance to complete it. Try this variation.

  1. Begin in a downward dog and breathe out shifting back into a plank pose.
  2. Keeping the wheel nearby, shift your body so that while your arms are holding up your upper torso, the front of your feet can be placed on the wheel.
  3. Hold this balanced pose for a few moments and then return back to a regular plank.
  4. Repeat as much as you can, and return back to a downward dog to take the tension off your lower back.
  5. Finally, end in a child’s pose.

Finding new ways to challenge yourself within your yoga practice can be exciting and make you feel accomplished in your yoga passion. Finding different ways to increase the benefits you receive from yoga can also re-energize your practice and make you even stronger than before.

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The Anatomy of Arm Support Poses: Side Plank Pose

Arm support poses are generally ambitious due to the fact that unlike feet, hands are not anatomically constructed for bearing weight. It is recommended that newcomers first practice and master a series of standing poses before attempting arm support positions. Make sure to wear apparel such as leggings, yoga or compression pants, and workout clothes that will allow you to move your body without obstructions freely. 

Vasisthasana (vah-sis-tahs-anna) is often considered a basic level one-arm balance yoga pose. This position makes one’s arms, torso, legs, and spine work together while lengthening muscles like the latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major and minor, and coracobrachialis.

A perfect side plank pose should create a straight, yet diagonally positioned line from the heels to the neck. One’s supporting hand should be spread out widely with a line falling from the shoulder towards the wrists. While one’s supporting foot must be positioned comfortably over the surface. The buttocks, pelvis, and abdominal muscles should be lightly engaged. The upper arm must remain actively stretching upwards, and the gaze can be directed towards the upper hand. 

Some tips to keep into account are the following:

To keep your neck straight without dropping your ear towards your lower shoulder

To keep your supporting shoulder active without collapsing it

To keep your pelvis tucked in

To keep your legs active, but without moving them from the correct position

It is essential to keep these tips in mind when going into a side plank pose, as they make up the basis of this position and will help avoid any possible injuries. 

In order to gain the strength needed to carry out this pose, you can initially carry out preparatory positions. Downward-facing dog position or Adho Muka Svanasana, low lunge or Anjaneyasana, and plank pose or Phalakasana are three poses that will allow you to gather arm, leg, and core strength. 

Once you have prepared your body and gained more flexibility you can go ahead into a full side plank pose after doing preceding poses like downward-facing dog position or Adho Muka Svanasana, half-moon pose or Ardha Chandrasana, wide-legged forward bend pose or Prasarita Padottanasana I, and reclining hero pose or Supta Virasana. Follow-up poses usually include the handstand or Adho Mukka Vrksasana and four-limbed stick pose or Chaturanga Dandasana. 

Benefits linked to this yoga pose are related to the realignment of the third, Manipura chakra. This energy center holds our personal and transformational powers, self-esteem, and warrior energy. Amongst its benefits, one can find that this pose helps to correct one’s posture and enhance physical stability. A yoga position closely connected to the Manipura chakra should help to promote self-confidence, to find one’s sense of purpose, and to improve motivation. 

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All you Need to Know about Uddiyana Bandha

The word Bandha is commonly translated as a lock, literally meaning “to connect.“ When activated Bandhas engage specific muscle tissues and as a result stabilize asanas, regardless of the position of the body. They also contain the Prana in the central region of the body, more specifically, in three main energy channels. The three Bandhas connected with these channels are 

  1. Mula Bandha
  2. Uddiyana Bandha
  3. Jalandra Bandha.

Uddiyana means to raise up or to fly. In Uddiyana Bandha the diaphragm raises to the chest, and abdominal organs get close to the spine. It is often put out as the most essential Bandha. There are many reasons for this. For example, it is believed that the regular practitioners of Uddiyana Bandha get young again as a result of the practice. That is because it engages and strengthens the muscles in the abdomen, and it is one of the best passive yoga exercises for a stronger core. People new to Bandhas will most likely feel sore in the abdominal region after practicing. That is good, as it is one of the signs that it has been practiced correctly.

The starting position for practicing Uddiyana Bandha alone should be the meditation pose or a standing position. If done in standing position, legs should be slightly bent, and the hands should be placed on the thighs, moving the torso forwards. It creates the best movement for abdominal organs. 

The practitioner should exhale completely and perform the Uddiyana Bandha during Bahya Kumbhaka. This term describes the period when a person holds a breath after exhalation. It should not be done during Antara Kumbhaka, or the period of breath holding between inhalation and exhalation. It would create pressure on the heart and diaphragm and would result in swelling of the eyes. After the complete exhalation, the practitioner should raise their chest as they would during the inhalation, only they don’t actually let the air in. The abdominal muscles will automatically come in and up as a result, like they usually do during the correct inhalation. The position should be held for as long as comfortable. After this period, the posture should be released leaving space for deep inhalation. Before the next round, it is recommended to breathe normally for a few moments.

It is of great importance to practice Uddiyana Bandha on an empty stomach. Thus, the best time of the day to practice would be the first thing in the morning. People with high blood pressure and women during pregnancy and menstruation should avoid Uddiyana Bandha. 

Besides being a great exercise for core strength, Uddiyana Bandha has many other benefits as well. It can help in the healing of all digestive and abdominal issues such as constipation, bad digestion, diabetes, etc. It stimulates the digestive fire which cures all the abdominal organs. Liver, pancreas, kidneys, spleen and the heart muscle are massaged. It also activates the Manipura chakra, the third chakra in the body, which represents personal power and energy and is connected with the digestive system. 

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Why Do Yogis Take Off Their Socks?

Yogis are well-known for their tendency to practice barefoot wherever they go, whether they find themselves in the yoga studio or the local park. This inclination toward abandoning socks and footwear is a part of the footloose and fancy-free image that many associate with the modern-day yogi. Many people don’t even realize the real reason why yogis remove their socks before they begin their practice. 

Traditional yoga outfits are comprised of any combination of elements: Yoga pants or leggings, high-waisted Capri leggings, tunic tank tops, or light sweaters. Socks and shoes are always conspicuously absent from any of these pairings for a number of reasons. 

  • Socks prevent yogis from being connected to the earth. 

Even the thinnest pair of socks can dull the nerve endings of the feet to the feeling of the earth beneath them. While the yogi can still feel the support that the earth has to offer, it isn’t quite the same as grounding down through the feet. The extra tactile sensations that yogis experience when there are no socks between their skin and the yoga mat or the earth helps to ground them further in their practice and the moment. 


  • Socks prevent an excellent grip on the yoga mat. 

Security in standing poses is a significant concern for yogis. Having a firm grip between your feet and the mat can lead to a reduced risk of slipping and falling. Most yoga mats are designed to offer a better grip for bare skin on the rubber-type mats. A sock, particularly one that isn’t designed for yoga, can loosen the foot’s grip on the mat. In some poses, this can lead to stretching a stance further than intended or falling out of a pose altogether. You can instead use yoga socks that are designed only for yoga.

Even a slight injury or a muscle pull can prohibit a yogi from practicing for days or weeks at a time. These accidental injuries rob yogis of the daily nourishment they receive from their time on the mat. 

  • Removing shoes keeps your space hygienic. 

Shoes carry all kinds of germs and bacteria, which could be transferred to your mat if you practice in socks and shoes. Imagine spreading that bacteria all over your mat only to lay down on it later on. Removing these items allows you to rest peacefully during all portions of your practice, including resting poses and seated poses. You can practice better health overall by practicing this one simple act of preparing before your yoga class. It also helps to protect and prolong the life of your yoga mat. 

  • Yoga is a sacred practice. 

Removing the shoes (and socks) is meant to symbolize the fact that yoga is a sacred practice. It honors the space in which a yogi practices, protecting everyone around them from insult. Many cultures feel that exposing the sole of the shoe to someone or to an area considered to be holy is an insult. Removing the shoes from the practice space keeps the potential for this perceived slight at bay. 

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How to Improve Your Flexibility

Your flexibility impacts how tight your muscles are, your range of motion, and positions that you find comfortable. Being flexible is going to help you avoid injuries, and let your physical abilities grow. Many different sports require being flexible, such as dancing, yoga, and swimming; they all require a level of flexibility to be effective in. While yoga can definitely help improve your flexibility, you may find that it takes some flexibility to get into it in any meaningful way. However, there are many techniques for improving flexibility that can take your stiff and sore self into a pliable material, and require less work and time than you thought.

Why Do You Want to be Flexible

The first step is to find out why you want to increase your flexibility. If you are just doing it because people say you should be flexible to be healthy, you can probably just stop. Unless you have a specific reason, pain during activities or sports goals, you probably do not really need to work on it. However, if you are looking to get a specific benefit from flexibility, identifying it can make it easier to focus on achieving your goals.

Find Out What You Need to Improve

To make the most of your time, you will want to focus on what is really limiting to you. If you are having trouble bending to tie your shoes, you will want to focus on your back and hamstrings to improve your range of motion. Other goals will have different focuses. Swimmers will want to improve their range of motion in their shoulders. So if you are a swimmer, stretches that focus on your main muscles around your shoulder will give you the best results. This lets you spend time and effort stretching that will actually give back to your goals.

Set Goals and Stick With It

Consistency is the key when it comes to all types of training, and flexibility is no exception. Setting goals is a great way to keep you motivated, and they help you stay engaged. Goal setting for flexibility can be based on a range of motions, your own feelings during activities, or you can be more specific. Yogis will find that setting goals related to previously unachievable poses are a great way to get you to work on flexibility. Some advanced poses require flexibility in specific spots, letting you find your focus.

You should also try to find ways to make flexibility training fun, in any way. The large success reported with yoga increasing flexibility is due to it being fun and engaging. When things are fun, relaxing, and provide other benefits it is much easier to find the will to stay consistent.

Your improvement in flexibility needs to have solid motivation because it does take work and dedication. Once you have your motivation pinpointed, you will want to look at what you would like to improve. This focus leads you to set goals with regard to your flexibility, which focuses your intentions. With a good focus, solid goals, and some dedication to the process, you can find the improvement in your flexibility in short order.

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Yoga in the Studio, Yoga at Home

As newbie yogis, many of us have wondered about the best way to break into the world of yoga. Classes in the studio can be intimidating for beginners, but how much can a book or a youtube video really teach?

As is the case with many debates, the answer isn’t one or the other, but both. Both studio and in-home practices have unique advantages, and a combination is often most beneficial. Here’s a compilation of each method’s best features to help you decide how you want to start out.


Studio

Depending on the studio you go to, studio classes can be an awesome experience because of the community and instruction they provide. Studio classes are often tailored to create the most relaxing and yoga-friendly environment possible, utilizing the best music, spaces, and scents for a peaceful practice.

The community aspect of a studio class is the key: being able to learn from and connect with like-minded people is invaluable when it comes to both yoga and our lives in general. These classes are a great way to meet people and to learn how others choose to embody the yoga lifestyle.

It is also helpful to have an instructor present in-person to guide you through a session. The best instructors will walk around the studio space and offer individual suggestions about posture, breathing, and technique. This can be incredibly helpful, as its often hard to see where we can improve on our own.

However, for the beginner yogi, these classes can be intimidating. Depending on what you want to get out of yoga, practicing with others may not be the most comfortable option – and that’s okay!

At Home

The most popular ways to learn and practice yoga at home are by reading books, watching youtube videos, and DVDs. While these methods can’t provide the one-on-one feedback of a yoga instructor, they’re a great way to get familiar with the basic poses and ideas behind yoga.

At home, the practice can be freeing because it gives you the time and space to really be with yourself, and not worry about impressing other yogis or an instructor. It’s an incredible experience of self-care to give yourself time to just restore and refresh on the mat.

Practicing by yourself is also convenient because books and computers are portable, you can take them anywhere along with your mat to stretch out and relax. Many enjoy the experience of practicing outdoors, or in a place that has special significance. In this way, a solitary practice can be a powerful exercise in spirituality as well as physicality and mindfulness.


There’s no need to choose just one of these options—there’s so much to learn from practicing both alone and among others. Try them both and find out what truly feeds your body and mind the most!

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Doga

Yoga has been around for centuries but has become increasingly popular throughout Western culture in recent years. With its increase in popularity, it’s not a surprise that some new and unusual styles of yoga have begun to arise. One new style of yoga that has started to gain popularity, or “pup-ularity” if you will, is known as Doga.

Doga is yoga for both you and your dog. The name Doga obviously comes from the combination of the words dog and yoga. Dogs naturally do yoga on their own multiple times a day. Dog owners constantly see their pets performing perfect poses when they wake up from a nap or simply when they need a stretch. Some poses actually come from these little stretches that dogs do. Downward and Upward facing dog are traditional yoga poses that are inspired by our furry friends.

There are a few things that should be brought to a Doga class to have a successful practice with your pup.

There are two different types of Doga class. One style involves both the pet owner and dog practicing yoga, while the other only involves the pet owner practicing yoga while the dogs run around together and socialize. If both you and your dog are practicing then you should bring a mat not only for yourself, but for your dog as well. You should bring water for both you and your dog to make sure neither of you get dehydrated during practice. It’s also important to bring treats for your dog to make sure they concentrate on the practice. If just you are practicing while your dog socializes, then you only need to bring a mat for yourself and water for both you and your pup.

Doga classes that involve both the pet owner and his dog involve poses that are pretty basic but create a bonding experience between pet and owner. Some examples of these poses are Chuturanga, Forward Bend, and Savasana.

To get into Chuturanga, lie your dog flat on their stomach while you pet their back.

To get into Forward Bend, stand with your feet hips distance apart with your dog in front of you. Bend forward with your hands and head low. You can pick up your dog to add weight and to deepen the stretch.

To get into Savasana, lie your dog flat on their back and rub their belly. Practicing yoga with your dog builds bonds and trust, aids in relaxation and stress relief, improves circulation and range of motion, and helps to mellow hyperactive dogs. Doga classes that involve just the pet owner are not just beneficial for the pet owners, but they are also fun for the dogs.

Yoga on its own is an amazing experience, but adding your dog into the mix creates a whole new level of fun and creativity. Dogs add to the yoga experience because they constantly live in the present. Humans have a hard time trying to live in the now so they constantly look forward instead. Dogs teach us to appreciate the present moment and thrive in it.