Is yoga for everybody?

 

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Back in the day, way way back in the day, yoga was only for a few, and only for men. It was a sacred practice and mostly practiced in complete solitude & isolation.

Times have changed. Yoga is now a common good and belongs to everyone and anyone. Yoga nowadays comes in so many forms and styles that almost everyone will be able to find a style that suits their personal needs.

And even though not every yogi will agree with me that it’s OK to adapt this ‘sacred practice’, I believe that it is amazing that we can bring yoga to everyone. We are in it together! In one way or another.

One of the main reasons why I love to teach BoxingYoga is because I am able to bring yoga into a group for whom stretching is far from the list of priorities, even though all fighters know they have to. Coming to a yoga school is intimidating, because they feel they are too bulky, not flexible enough or are turned off by the ‘wishy washy’ music / talk.

The great thing with all these different styles is that eventually we all work towards the same goals. Ultimate bliss, a connection with the Self and less suffering in our lives. So does it really matter how you get there? Does it matter if you are able to connect with the Self via a sweaty class or one where you are chanting? Does it matter if you start with philosophy or if that might become part of your practice later? As long as we are able to create a steady and stable breath, a calm heartbeat and a quiet mind, we are working towards our own liberation.

Some days I love a strong intense work-out, other days my body is craving something slower, something to restore. Some days I want a straightforward physical class, on other days I’m looking for deeper meaning and philosophy. Our bodies and needs are not the same, every day is different, every time when we step onto the mat is different. As long as we can understand that, all that we need to do, and all that is asked, is to show up, do the work and be honest to yourself about what you can and cannot do.

Enjoy your practice! Because YES, yoga is for you and for everyone!

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9 poses for yoga and horse polo: a perfect combination

Yoga for horse polo

As I am writing this blog, I am sitting in a comfortable chair overlooking a polo field, next to me in the stables Argentinian music is blasting out of the radio, while the groomers get the horses ready to play polo. I got the amazing opportunity to teach yoga for one week to a group of horse polo players, at Palo Alto polo club close to Buenos Aires. I did not know that much about the horse sport beforehand, so before I went on my trip I did quite a bit of research: where do the players tend to get sore? Where/ what do they need to stretch? What do they need to improve their riding and game? I found some useful information online, however, not much on the about the combination of yoga and polo, something which goes together perfectly, if you ask me!

So what do you need to work on, and why is doing yoga in combination with horse polo a perfect match?

Horse polo players and horse riders in general have very sore and tight inner thighs, they have sore shoulders and a tight neck and their wrist & lower arms tend to be tight or sore. Besides that they need to work on their core strength to be stable and balanced on the horse. They need to strengthen their quadriceps to be able to stand up while the horse is running and they need to twist the core region of their body and become flexible in this part, to be able to twist and turn to hit the ball and have a better reach.

Yoga can help with all these challenges for polo players. There is a wide variety of poses that help players to get ready for a game or stretch out right after it. Below nine basic poses, that I noticed are the best to do when riding a horse and in particular playing polo.

Twist
Photo 1: Reclining twist
Reclining twist pose. Lay on your back. Arms are out in a cross. Bring your knees towards your chest. Make a 90-degree angle with your hips and your knees and knees and ankle. Move your legs to the right, look to the left; keep both shoulders on the mat. If you want you can place your right hand on your knees, to add extra pressure.

Loosing up the lower and upper back
Photo 2: Marjaryasana
Catpose. Come to your hands and knees. Knees in a 90 degrees angle with your hips, shoulders with the wrists. Inhale, look up and arch your spine. Exhale, look down and round your spine. Do this with a minimum of 5 times.

Strething of the legs and inner thighs
Photo 3: Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downward facing dog: Come onto the mat on your hands and knees. Knees are 90 degrees with your hips, hands straight under your shoulders. Tuck your toes under and on an exhale lift your knees away from the floor. Keep them slightly bent. Stretch one knee, bend the other. Switch several times. Bend both needs slightly and push your sitbones up in the air, while you push yourself away from your hands. On an exhale push your heels towards the mat. Stay for a minimum of three breaths.

Building core muscles
Photo 4: Plank pose
Plank pose. Make it look like you are a straight plank. Have your hips aligned with your body, so not high in the air or close to the ground. Shoulders are 90 degrees over your wrists. Contract your abdominal muscles. Try to stay here for 5 cycles of breath.

Working the upper back & opening shoulders
Photo 5: Salabhasana
Locust pose. Start by having your whole body on the mat. Bring your arms back. On the inhale take both your arms and legs up. If this is too much to begin with, then start with only taking your chest off the mat. Second time only the legs. And third time both the chest (arms) and the legs.

Creating balance & strengthening the leg
Photo 6: Vrksasana
Tree pose. Put all the weight on one leg. Place the other one in your thigh or on your lower leg. Never on the knee!! Focus on a point in front of you and don’t let it go. Stand up tall. Hands in prayer in front of your chest. Minimum of 5 cycles of breath.

Stretching the legs and inner thighs
Photo 7: Utthita Trikonasana
Extended triangle pose. Straighten your front leg. Have your torso similar to the Warrior 2 pose. Bring your body weight forward. Bring your arm down towards your leg. Either grab your thigh, lower part of the leg or ankle. Make sure your torso is parallel with your front leg. Stay for at least 3 cycles of breath.

Stretching the back of the leg
Photo 8: Paschimottanasana
Seated forward bend pose. Sit on the mat. Bring both legs forward. Pull your toes towards you. Inhale bring your arms up and straighten your spine, push your chest forward. Exhale come to a 45 degree angle. Grab where you can, knee, calf muscles, ankles, toes. Inhale straighten your spine again and exhale come forward as far as you can with your back straight. Look towards your knee.

Twist
Photo 9: Marichyasana 3
Sage Pose. Sit on the mat, both legs forward and back straight. Bend your right knee and place your heel close to your hips. Have a fist distance between your leg and your heel. Inhale take both your arms up. Twist from your belly button towards the right. Left hand goes on your right knee, bring your right hand behind your back. Twist your head as last, to look over your shoulders. Stay for a minimum of three cycles of breath. Change side.

5 steps to find your yoga style

Yoga has become more commonly accepted, but some misconceptions still cause some people to reject it. In this blog I will try to clear up these misconceptions!

People often cite these two reasons for why yoga isn’t their thing:

  1. I am too stiff
  2. I am not the type of person that likes to sit around and do ‘zen things’. I don’t know how to find the peace in my body.

Both of them are misconceptions about yoga. The first one I already thoroughly discussed. The second one is linked to a very important choice in yoga: your teacher and the style of yoga.

Yoga is a collector name for many different approaches to how to connect your mind, body and spirit. In the past decades many different styles have been developed. Some became more popular and others are more low key and unknown. Finding the style that fits you is essential to your enjoyment of yoga.

The common ones you will come across often are Hatha Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Iyengar yoga, Asthanga Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Kundalini Yoga and Yin Yoga. If you want to know more about the different styles, there is a perfect description of them on this website.

So how to pick your style, school and teacher? I see 5 steps to find your style:

  1. First think why you want to do yoga, or why you are doing yoga. What is it you want to achieve with it? This will help you to eliminate a few styles.
  2. How do you want to practice? Big group? Smaller group? Private? This will help you find a school and / or teacher.
  3. Ask your friends who practice what style they do, which school and teacher they go to. Let them explain why they like it.
  4. Make a selection of 5 schools and teachers and go there to try out different styles, teacher and schools. Where do you feel most comfortable? Where can you find what you want to reach in yoga?
  5. Start your practice as many times per week or month as you want. Find the right pace to ensure you enjoy your yoga and get the most out of it.

It sounds like a logical process but often people get stuck with one teacher and style because it is taught at your gym or work. I know many people that quit their classes, because they weren’t sure it was what they wanted. My belief is that you just haven’t found your style or teacher yet! Keep on looking, because you will feel it when you have found it.