February Yoga Challenge : Take it One Pose and One Breath at a Time

February 1 | The Practice |

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Yoga challenges, like cleanses can seem really intimidating when you think about the entirety of 16 or 28 days. The key is to commit fully, and then take it one day at a time. The practice of yoga, is just that, it’s a practice. So you need to approach it that way. Each day is going to be different because our bodies and minds are in different states each day, especially as you begin to add the physical challenge that comes with a daily commitment over time.

You must listen to your body each day and honor what you are feeling and the feedback that your body is giving you each day you get on the mat. There will be days that you feel completely energized and ready to tackle all that the teacher may give you, and then there will be days that you just want to lay on the floor and rest. Whatever you encounter, notice it, and then begin your practice from that place, pace yourself and breath. Yoga is about being completely present and breathing- that is your goal on your mat for these  28 days of February. Accept, commit and let what arises be your guide!

There are realities and limitations that come with ramping up your practice- sore shoulders and hamstrings and more. The beauty of yoga is that there is a variation to all that is offered in class. The postures should be about what they feel like in your body, not what they look like. Pay attention to what the essence of the pose is, and modify from there so that you can bring your body into place where you can get the maximum benefit of the asana – asana is the Sanskrit word for yoga posture.

Props in all forms are your friend in these next 28 days.  If the body gets sore and tight- use blocks and straps to help your body throughout your practice. These tips are not just for the next 28 days, they are super useful tips to apply each and every time you unroll your yoga mat!

Ways To Scale Back Your Practice – One Pose and One Breath at a Time

The Vinyasa Is Optional

This mantra is the best thing for you to remember and not let your ego get in the way. Doing many chaturanga dandasana’s and jump backs are invigorating and heat building postures, but they are also a lot on the body on the daily if you are not accustomed to the repetitive nature of the flow. So if your arms, shoulders and back are sore and you are feeling depleted, skip them and opt for these variations:

  • Skip the Vinyasa and Take a Break
    • Child’s Pose or Cow and Cat instead of pausing in downward facing dog or moving through the vinyasa.
  • Modified Vinyasa
    • Hold Plank
    • Lower all the way down to the floor to Baby Cobra

Modify Standing Poses

Standing Poses can be taxing not only of the legs but on the arms, here are some modifications in standard poses that can bring some relief to the arms and shoulders.

  • Warrior I and  Warrior II and All Hands Overhead Standing Postures
    • Separate Your Hands- If you keep them overhead, this will allow some space in the shoulders and give them a break while still keeping your arms overhead.
    • Let It Go- Let your arms come down to your sides/waist vs out to the sides or overhead.
    • Standing Lunges-  Drop back knee down or bend the knee slightly. This will not only tone down the intensity of the pose, but also bring some relief to your psoas.

Use Props During Practice

Props are a yogi’s best friend! Remember the poses are all about what they feel like inside, so make the outside work for you with support. Keep two blocks and a strap handy at the top of your mat throughout the standing sequences in case you need them so you don’t have to fumble for them.

Rest Rest Rest

If you find yourself ¾ of the way through class and you have run out of gas- ask yourself to answer that truthfully, there is a fine line between effort and pushing too far. If the answer is that you are done- then get down on the ground and chill out. You can do child’s pose, a few twists or forward folds to ramp down your practice and then get yourself set up for savasana early. There is nothing more nourishing and fulfilling then an extra long savasana. Rest and let your hard work soak in and get the most out of your time on the floor.  Get out the props, make it worth it.

No matter what comes up during the month, on or off the mat, remember to breath and use your judgment on what is best for you.

Images Courtesy of Noelle Huerta: @noelliebellies