Summer Practice Survival

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 Being true to my school.

Being true to my school.

Summer means tons and tons of opportunities for outdoor classes and events, but presents some challenges too. This summer I'm working on being more compassionate to my body and listening to its signals. I've been going hard lately on hot vinyasa classes, and between the artificial heat and the very real heat wave Baltimore's experiencing, I started to feel pretty sick at the end of last week. Nothing a little extra rest, water, and magnesium couldn't fix, but who wants to be feeling gross during the summer? Here are my healthy habits I am committing to for the rest of my summer practices. And it's all about protection.

Protect Yourself:

  • from the sun. Get in the shade if possible and please please never go without sun protection for an outside practice! Even if you're only out for a few minutes, there's a potential for sunburn and skin damage. That said, I definitely recommend using a spray-on sunscreen rather than the lotion style, since I don't like feeling greasy or slimy when I'm trying to get my bakasana on! I tend to use these varieties from Neutrogena and Banana Boat since they feel nice and cool going on, soak in quickly, and have a scent I actually like. 
  • from bugs. While I'm all for treating the citizens of nature with all the respect and ahimsa they deserve, I also don't want to sign myself up for mosquito and fly bites. Be careful and do your research if you live in an area with a lot of ticks. Fortunately for me, we don't have much of an issue with that in city parks. However, bug spray is a blessing, and there are a lot of natural and environment-friendly options available. I stumbled upon this eco-armour outdoor spray at a farmers' market a couple summers ago and cannot recommend it enough!
  • from dehydration. The summer heat and sun exposure can dehydrate you faster than you think. I make it a rule to pack at least twice as much water for an outdoor practice as I would for a studio session. Also, hydrating before your practice is just as important (if not more) - when I know I've got a hot class scheduled or am planning on some outdoor time, I start pounding water the night before!
  • from your ego. Ah, this is the tough one! Try to let go of expectations of how "hard" you want to go in your outdoor workouts and yoga practice. The elements are taxing and many of us are conditioned to the indoor environment. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are nothing to mess with, so be kind to yourself and listen to your body's signals, especially if your'e in this mid-Atlantic heat wave/humidity party with me!

What are your tips for taking good care of yourself during the hot summer months? I'd love to hear from you.

Namaste,

Liz

Malasana Block Party

The summer heat is here and it's time for another Block Party. This time, I want to work on one of my favorite hip-opening poses: malasana, a.k.a. garland pose, a.k.a. the yogic squat. While it can be uncomfortable for many people of the tight-hip persuasion, there are plenty of modifications to bring ease, alignment and challenge to this pose! 

Malasana is a prep pose for many other hip openers and arm balances, and I often go straight from malasana into bakasana (which, as I'm certain you'll recall, was the theme of the inaugural Block Party.)

Proceed with caution if you are working with any knee injuries. As always, remain conscious of your body's signals, and explore with compassion!

Nailing the Pose

Get a feel for malasana by placing a block under your butt, stepping your feet mat's-width distance apart, and bringing your feet flat to the ground. Using a block in this way alleviates strain on the ankles.

Optimizing Alignment

It's sometimes challenging to maintain openness across the chest and back while squatting and pressing the palms together. Try squeezing a block on the medium setting between your palms and extending your arms forward, parallel to the ground:

Next, slide your shoulder blades toward each other and pull the heads of your humerus bones backwards into the shoulder socket. 

 Had some great cloud cover for the first 30 seconds. All good things come to an end.

Had some great cloud cover for the first 30 seconds. All good things come to an end.

This motion opens the front of the chest and puts your shoulders in correct alignment for long, full breaths. Squeeze the block between your palms to turn on the muscles of the shoulders and arms.

Creating Challenge

I've often heard the cue to push the palms together and press the elbows and upper arms into my thighs to open my hips further. This is a great start but my arms are only so long. Fortunately, yoga blocks do a great job as arm-lengtheners.

Start with the block between your palms at the narrow setting. Keeping your shoulders back as above, press into the block while using your elbows to guide open your inner thighs, deepening the stretch in the inner legs and hips.

 Here is where the sun starts to get in my eyes. Well, one of them.

Here is where the sun starts to get in my eyes. Well, one of them.

If this takes you to the edge, stay here and keep pressing into the block, drawing the shoulder blades together, and pointing your tailbone straight down at the ground.

If you have room for an even deeper stretch in the inner thighs and hips, turn the block to the next setting(s).

 Look at my Phantom of the Opera mask sunlight shard! Once in a lifetime!

Look at my Phantom of the Opera mask sunlight shard! Once in a lifetime!

 Squeeze the block and open the thighs, and when the sun shines in your eyes, squint and smile.

Squeeze the block and open the thighs, and when the sun shines in your eyes, squint and smile.

And now your hip adductors are ready for the next great adventure!

I'm off to celebrate my boyfriend's birthday(!) with a fabulous dinner followed by two extremely exciting excursions in Baltimore tomorrow. 'Til next time, here are a few upcoming Baltimore yoga events to check out:

Namaste!

 

 

Last time: Bakasana Block Party