Yoga Video: How to Improve Your Standing Posture

For several years I have been working on improving my observation skills in order to better help students who come to my classes. Whenever I have a chance I try to observe people as they stand or walk in order to notice individual as well as general tendencies. During class and when I am working with individual students I make suggestions based on what I observe to try and help students continue life-affirming and clarifying patterns. Other times my suggestions try to facilitate a process of awareness that will help students explore different options towards feeling vibrant and free from pain.

Since our standing posture is the foundation for the way we walk and stand, it makes a lot of sense to pay attention to our standing posture. This posture, because we practice it often, is a key posture to get right. In addition, it is an excellent point of departure for anybody interested in starting a yoga practice as well as for people who want to fine-tune their yoga practice. Moreover, becoming aware of our posture is instrumental in counteracting spinal compression and imbalance that often contribute to create discomfort and pain in the lower back and the neck. In preparing for the upcoming Freedom from Neck and Back Pain workshop I thought it would be helpful to share this simple and effective standing posture that can have many benefits.

In this video you will find an easy-to-follow approach to improving your standing posture. Since yoga is not only about the physical body, the video offers a complete and integrated approach to the practice that will make the posture meaningful and enjoyable. This integrated approach to practicing a simple yet fundamental posture can contribute to:

  • releasing pain
  • improving breathing capacity
  • creating balance
  • cultivating mindfulness

I really hope you find this video useful.

As I suggest in the video, practicing just this posture can be the perfect way to start practicing yoga at home. Do not hesitate to contact me with questions or to post comments to the video.

Peace, Health & Joy for you.
Namaste,

 

Being Effective: How to stay focused on the present

park/parque

Very often we go into a thought pattern that goes something like this:

  • “I am not where I want to be” or
  • “I am not where I think I should be” or
  • “I am not where I need to be” or
  • “I am not where I would like to be” or
  • “I am not where I was to be”.

This is not unusual. On the contrary is something many of us deal with on a regular basis. Actually, if we observe our mind we will most likely notice a tendency to give our attention to other times and places by going into planning mode, into expectation, speculation and other future-oriented ideas. Another common distraction is giving our attention to remembering or regretting and other past-oriented ideas.

I am not saying that it cannot be helpful, useful or productive at mental, psychological and emotional levels to engage with past or future. However, the only place where we can be effective is in the only place where we can act. That moment is here and now. If we are constantly thinking about other times and places, it is difficult for us to give our complete attention to our current experience. As a result, we may miss some of the details and feedback that help us fine tune our actions.

If you find yourself distracted, you can use this simple and easy technique to help you be effective by focusing on the present. This exercise can be done in a sitting, standing, walking or lying down position:

  • Lengthen your spine
  • Ask yourself, “Where am I? Am I here?”
  • Observe your natural breath and on the inhalation mentally say, “I”
  • On the exhalation mentally say, “am”
  • On the next inhalation mentally say, “here”
  • On the next exhalation mentally say, “now”
  • Repeat for 3 to 5 rounds.

Notice how you feel. Immerse fully in your present moment, circumstances and situation and see if there is more clarity as to what deserves your full attention right here right now.

Yoga is only useful if it helps us show up fully for our lives.

I hope you enjoy this technique and that you find it useful.
Namaste

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

Take a Deep Breath : Calming & Relaxing Breath

Take a deep breath yoga/Respira profundamente

A simple exercise that can be used to start practicing yoga at home

I think many people, if not everybody, have heard this simple and valuable piece of advice: “if something is bothering you or you are feeling anxious, take a deep breath.” It seems quite simple and helpful. As a result of observing my breath during my daily yoga practice for several years I have come to realize how the breath is the foundation of most, if not all, yoga techniques and how it could be argued that all of the postures and movements are basically a way to expand and deepen our breath. However, as I observe how students in my individual and group classes breathe I notice a remarkable yet not surprising trend, very often taking a deep breath does not look like a relaxing and invigorating experience. In fact, for a high number of people taking a deep breath seems to create more tension and even anxiety. What I notice is that the intention is correct, to deepen the breath; but when the actions include lifting up the shoulders and tensing up the jaw the effect is not calming and relaxing at all.

From a simple anatomical perspective a slouching posture tends to limit our breathing capacity by limiting the expansion of the ribcage. Try this: Take a moment, sit in a chair and let your chest collapse onto the abdominal area, round your shoulders forward and lower your chin slightly toward your chest. Then try to take 3 deep breaths. Notice the overall effects in body, mind and general state of being. Now let’s try a different posture to notice any difference(s): Slide your sitting bones to the front end of your chair. Separate your feet hip-width distance apart or slightly wider. See if it feels comfortable to align the knees above the ankles. Spread your toes, press your feet down, and activate the muscles in your legs to create a solid foundation. Then tuck the tailbone in to make the pelvis level and press down your sitting bones against the seat. With this solid foundation lengthen your spine and lift your breastbone up rather than forward. Let your arms fall to the sides and open comfortably while rolling your shoulders back and shoulder blades down. Now try 3 rounds of breath starting with soft belly expanding then allow the expansion to continue in your ribcage and finally in the upper chest without any tension in shoulders or jaw. Once again, notice the overall effects in your body, mind and general state of being. Most likely you will notice a difference in the length of the breath and its effects. You can even try to breathe the second way again and compare it with breathing while lifting your shoulders and bringing the chest forward. Through your own experience you will notice which way of breathing is deeper and most importantly which way of breathing feels more calming and relaxing. Please remember that no yoga technique creates new pain or strain. If you find yourself straining or forcing you are trying too hard. So, please make sure that your breath is never strained, ever.

In yoga we are trying to integrate all aspects of our being. This simple exercise is an excellent example of how our posture can influence our way of breathing as well as the way we feel overall. My suggestion is that the next time we need to take a deep breath we start by creating a solid foundation through our posture. Also, if you don’t have much time to practice yoga at home, this simple breathing exercise would be the best way to start practicing yoga at home, especially since it does not take more than a few minutes and the effects will be beneficial. If you practice regularly you will notice that in addition to feeling more calm and relaxed you might also feel more energized. Over time you may even notice that your breath may start expanding gradually. Moreover, by paying close attention to your breath you will also be immersing in the present moment which will help you notice more clearly your immediate circumstances and how you feel. This is the foundation for mindfulness.

Please let me know if you find this breathing exercise helpful. Thank you for reading and savor your breath!
Namaste,
rubén

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

FREE Video: Yoga postures for Lower Back Pain, Hip Flexibility and Thigh Flexibility Breath

 

Yoga Postures to Release Lower Back Pain

This is a brief 12 minute video to help release tightness and tension from the lower back and to help increase mobility and flexibility in the hip joints and thighs. This session can be practiced in the morning, after exercising, at the end of the day or in preparation for sleeping. Patient persistence is the way of yoga, and it is IMPORTANT to remember that creating pain, forcing, numbness and tingling are not part of Yoga.

If you have chronic pain please consult a health professional before starting any exercise program.

After the practice you can check if you feel better than you felt before the practice, this is an indication that the practice is working and that you are practicing correctly.
I hope you enjoy the practice and its benefits

Namaste.

 

More Yoga resources in English and Spanish coming soon

Namaste,

It has been a few months since I posted something on the blog. As I continue working with students individually, in group classes, in workshops, retreats, teacher training and mentoring I continue finding areas where students and practitioners have relevant and useful questions that can help us grow in our understanding and in making our yoga authentic. Most importantly these questions always suggest the need to bring authentic yoga into our lives. Over the last few months I have been exploring options to contribute through my new website: www.rubenvasquez.com and a new YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/RubenVasquezYoga

I am currently developing new content also for the blog so that I can provide more resources both in English and Spanish. Please stay tuned and if you wish to stay informed of new developments join my FREE mailing list.

Thank you to all my teachers and from my heart love, joy, health & prosperity to you,

rubén

 

Yoga: Retreat into Presence

Just returned from another heartwarming yoga retreat in Costa Rica. I do know that every practice is a retreat,yet there is nothing like physically removing ourselves from our everyday lives to notice more clearly our own habitual ways of thinking, being, feeling, moving and breathing. Just as we do in most, if not all yoga practices, reducing distractions is a sound first step.

During the retreat we used a simple approach.
Our intention was to move towards greater Presence, that is towards our full participation in the present moment by:

Presence : Pause Listen Clarify Trust - yoga is being present

Pausing
Taking a brief moment in order to let go of all other moments, times and spaces
Listening
Tuning into our senses and noticing the unfolding of life, one moment at a time
Clarifying
Distinguishing what is from our preconceived ideas and automatic-habitual reactions
Trusting
Aligning with the silent whisper of our heart with confidence that its guidance is appropriate, applicable and relevant

These simple steps inspired us to act with heartfelt intention, to breath with integrity and to engage our bodies mindfully towards participating wholeheartedly and harmoniously in our every moment. Since we had minimized distractions we used our infinite time mindset to inform our playful exploration of a wide range of yogic tools. Every day we applied mindful breathing (pranayama), chanting (japa), postures and movement (asana & vinyasa), yogic relaxation (yoga nidra), mindful use of our senses (pratyahara) as well as reflection, discussion (satsanga), concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana) to deepen our practice, to uncover and remove restrictions, old patterns and pain.

Throughout the retreat we engaged in the study, reflection and application (svadhyaya) of the first four sutras in chapter 1 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra:

  • 1.1 Yoga happens only now, its study and practice requires our preparation and full participation here and now.
  • 1.2 Yoga is the reduction of agitation and noise in our mind, breath, body and heart.
  • 1.3 Stability in our mind, breath, body and heart lets our inner witness be established in pure awareness.
  • 1.4 Otherwise, we misidentify ourselves with the temporary labels we have been acquiring over the years.

In our inward journey we had the inspiration of the breathtaking Costa Rican tropical rainforest surrounding us. Inspired by the abundance of life and the exuberant foliage, we noticed how each leaf, each insect and every single animal contributes its uniqueness to their environment without trying, just by being. Nature provided powerful inspiration guiding us to sleep as the day light dimmed into profound darkness, enveloping us in the sound of falling rain. The guttural growls of the howler monkeys lulled us into sleep and woke us up every morning. At every turn we were captivated by the magnificent hues of blue of the morpho butterflies,the unusual colors of bright red and dark blue poison dart frogs, , the precise and purposeful movements of hummingbirds, colorful toucans and countless other birds , the deep colors of innumerable flowers like red ginger, bright orange heliconias, dazzling, birds of paradise, vivid hibiscus, and myriad intricate bromeliad blooms. The unbelievable beauty around us made it easy to disconnect from our contemporary communication technologies and to savor the joy of quiet.

Besides, the warmth of our hosts at Samasati Nature retreat, the delightful and plentiful vegetarian meals and the rustic comfort of our accommodations made our retreat the best way to deepen our yoga practice and to help us align with awareness to begin the New Year.

With grateful heart I am enjoying my return to the place I call home while I am already taking tiny steps to guide another retreat later this year.

May your year be filled with love, joy and awareness.
Namaste.

 

Talleres de Yoga en Bogotá con Rubén Vásquez Noviembre 19 al 24

¡Estoy feliz de poder regresar a Bogotá a compartir el Yoga con los yoguis y yoguinis Colombianos del 19 al 24 de Noviembre!

EL ARTE DE LA RELAJACIÓN
¡Una sesión de yoga completa para relajarte, revitalizarte y despertar tu consciencia plenamente!
Sábado 19 de Noviembre, 9:30am – 12:30pm
Costo: $70.000
NATURAL YOGA
Calle 85 No.19A-24 Segundo Piso
Tel. 2364648 Cel. 315 661 55 75
yoga@naturalyogacolombia.com

YOGA TERAPÉUTICO PARA LA ESPALDA
¡Una sesión de yoga para aliviar los dolores en la espalda!
Sábado 19 de Noviembre, 2:00pm a 5:00pm
Costo: $70.000
NATURAL YOGA
Calle 85 No.19A-24 Segundo Piso
Tel. 2364648 Cel. 315 661 55 75
yoga@naturalyogacolombia.com

INTRODUCCIÓN A PRANAYAMA & MEDITACIÓN
¡Establece una base sólida para tu práctica de pranayama y meditación!
Domingo 20 de Noviembre, 9:30am – 12:30pm
Costo: $70.000
NATURAL YOGA
Calle 85 No.19A-24 Segundo Piso
Tel. 2364648 Cel. 315 661 55 75
yoga@naturalyogacolombia.com

EL ARTE DE LA RELAJACIÓN
¡Una sesión de yoga completa para relajarte, revitalizarte y despertar tu consciencia plenamente!
Lunes 21 de Noviembre, 6:00 a 9:00pm
Costo: $70.000
Centro de Salud Dr. Perilla
Calle 106 # 22-05
Teléfonos 2137851 y 6376903

YOGA TERAPÉUTICO PARA LA ESPALDA
¡Una sesión de yoga para aliviar los dolores en la espalda!
Martes 22 de Noviembre, 6:00 a 9:00pm
Costo: $70.000
Centro de Salud Dr. Perilla
Calle 106 # 22-05
Teléfonos 2137851 y 6376903

January 2012 Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica

January 2012 Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica - Enero 2012 Retiro Yoga en Costa Rica

As suggested in every practice is a retreat , when we remove distractions our practice helps us notice our habitual ways of moving, breathing, thinking and feeling. These habitual ways of being tend to limit our level of awareness and clarity. Certainly making each practice into a retreat is a valuable tool for all of us. Obviously, the power of actually withdrawing away from our usual surroundings is unsurpassed because our awareness heightens in response to a new environment and circumstances. In January this year I felt very honored and grateful to guide a yoga retreat to Costa Rica. Our group soon came together with a heartfelt sense of camaraderie and friendship clearly inspired by the beauty of the pristine rainforest, the welcoming people and atmosphere, the inviting practice spaces as well as the delicious food prepared and served with much love. I am happy to announce that we will return to our yoga haven in Costa Rica in January 2012. If you are interested in letting go of the stress and tension of the year and to start 2012 feeling refreshed, balanced and invigorated this retreat is for you:

  • 5 nights/6 days retrea
  • Arrive: Sunday January 1st
  • Begin: Monday, January 2nd
  • Return: Sunday, January 8th
  • Cost: US$1299

This is a retreat that is tailored to participants at all levels, so that each person’s level of practice benefits from a gradual natural unfolding. You are welcome to read some of the reactions to this year’s retreat.

For more information, visit http://stpeteyoga.com/retreats/CostaRicaSamasati2012.html or call 727-894-9642 / 727-458-8664.

Enjoy the day!
Namaste,