Prenatal Yoga Dance to “How Long Will I Love You,” By Ellie Goulding

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Mother’s Day just passed two days ago, and at times I am still in disbelief that Mother’s Day is now a celebration for me too!  How much changes in 5 years… from never sleeping in anymore, to taking 1 hour to get out of the house in the mornings versus 15 minutes, to having stuff… just stuff… all over the house.   And now… to having endless kisses and snuggles, to having a helper put away dishes or laundry, to knowing a love that is so deep and so great that my heart actually hurts thinking about my kids.

Motherhood has been a wild ride, starting with being bedridden for 3 months in my first pregnancy!  Fortunately, my second pregnancy was smooth sailing and I was able to teach my fitness and yoga classes literally until the morning of my labor.

18 months ago, I shot this impromptu yoga dance video with Jamie Ginsberg at Marin Power Yoga when I was pregnant with my second child.  I am so grateful I have this footage.  My heart is full.

Some other yoga dances I’ve made:

Yoga Dance – “Make You Feel My Love”

Yoga Dance – “Amazing Grace”

 

Other pregnancy posts I wrote:

Prenatal Yoga For Experienced Yogis

I Am Going to Miss Being Pregnant!

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Best TRX Core Exercises Choreographed to Me and My Girls by Selena Gomez

trx core exercises plank to pike

TRX was absolutely foreign to me in the beginning of this year.  I had no idea what it was, not to mention what you do with it.  Well, well, well.  My studio, Marin Power Yoga, made the BEST decision about 9 months ago to invest in TRX and add this amazing workout into our class schedule.  It is a perfect complement to yoga because all the TRX exercises work on strengthening your core for poses like side planks or planks, plus strengthening your upper body and arms for chaturangas, inversions and arm balances, and of course your lower body and feet get stronger for warriors and balances.  Total body workout!!!  I completely credit my press handstand improvements to my dedicated TRX practice!

If you want to know more about TRX, here’s an old post I wrote when we first tried out Suspension Based Training using some test-run straps.

Of course with my dance and choreography background, I had to create a TRX routine set to music.  Of course.  This routine is NO JOKE.  My arms and abs were burning and I really could not go any lower on those push ups… I had this grand idea of getting all my “girls” at the studio to learn the routine and do it with me.  It worked out ok for the first half, but as you’ll see in the videos below… it is NOT EASY.  We were dropping like flies.  Haha!!!  But nothing wrong with that – it’s all about the progress, the determination, the effort!

Ready to learn it?   If you do memorize it and attempt the routine, please tag me @gracelingyu on Instagram or give credit to my website in your description.  Thank you!  Here are my choreography notes using the You Tube video times:

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Me and My Girls by Selena Gomez – TRX Core Routine

32cts, 4×8, 0:00-0:14: Intro – Feet into the straps.  GET PUMPED UP!!!

RIGHT SIDE LEADS

16cts, 2×8, 0:14-0:22: Down Down Up Up lowering to forearms and back up to hands, 4x.  On the last one, keep the L forearm down, and R hand down (funky plank).

16cts, 2×8, 0:22-0:29: Funky Knee Tucks Both knees tuck to the R elbow, 4x.

8cts, 1×8, 0:29-0:33: Set up Forearm Side Plank by moving R foot behind L foot and lift up R hand behind head.

16cts, 2×8, 0:33-0:42: Forearm Side Plank Oblique Crunch R elbow crunches down to meet bent L knee, 4x.

8cts, 1×8, 0:42-0:46: Transition to Knees to Floor, 5x Quick Claps and hit the floor for the Chorus.

32cts, 4×8, 0:46-1:01: 8x Mountain Climbers, 4x Alternating Pendulum Tucks, 2 sets

32cts, 4×8, 1:01-1:17: 4x Atomic Push Ups, 3x Atomic Pike, Hold Plank to Reset

REPEAT ALL ON LEFT SIDE 1:17-2:20

32cts, 4×8, 2:20-2:36: 4x Frog Tucks In and Out, 4x Frog Tucks Out and In

32cts, 4×8, 2:36-2:51: Locust Pose 4 Pulses Each: Arms Back, Arms Side, Arms Front, Push back to Plank

32cts, 4×8, 2:51-3:07: Spiderman Push Ups 8x Alternating

32cts, 4×8, 3:07-3:24: 4x Plank Jumping Jacks, 2x Wide Knee Tucks to Triceps, 2 sets

End in Crow Pose, releasing the straps from your feet!!!

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Below are 2 videos for you to learn the routine.  The first one is my initial attempt at testing out the routine and to see if it was difficult (YES.), and the second one is when I got together with some of my girls, Wendy, Araceli, and Laine!  #thestruggleisreal!!! Alright, leave a comment below if you try it out!!!

Lolasana (Pendant) Yoga Pose Drills Choreographed to The Chordettes “Lollipop”

Lolasana Pendant Yoga Pose

The full Lolasana (Pendant) yoga pose should have knees lifted about armpit height… HA!!!

What is my current least favorite yoga pose?  HANDS DOWN: Lolasana, or Pendant pose.  It’s just one of those poses that “looks” like something I should be able to do, but then when I go to try it, I press down on my hands and oh, it is SO heavy… why do my legs NOT lift off the floor???  FAIL.  I only recently discovered this pose on Instagram 7 weeks ago, and after several attempts, I was able to lift up probably a milimeter off the floor for just about a second.  It was tough!!!  So after that Instagram post, I went back to pretending Lolasana pose did not exist.

Well, if you have been working on Press Handstands like me, then at one point or another, you will need to face Lolasana pose because it is completely related to learning how to control floating up and down in presses.  ARGH.  So here I am now… ready to commit to working on Lolasana everyday.  What better way to practice then to create a silly choreographed routine that works on Lolasana drills???  Lolasana, Lollipop…yeah, sounds similar enough.

Some tips before you get started:

  1. Invest in some good sturdy blocks (NOT the cheap, flimsy, thin, terrible 2.5 inch width foamy ones I’m using – as you’ll soon see why!!!).  I literally just purchased these Clever Yoga Blocks on Amazon after I made the video because they were the highest rated!  I’ll let you know how they are!
  2. If you’re just starting out, place the blocks on the highest height, and then work to the middle height, lowest height, and eventually hands on the floor the whole time!
  3. Don’t forget to stretch out your wrists before and after.
  4. Yes, the toes are supposed to be pointed back and you are on the tops of your feet.  This automatically forces you to focus on putting LESS weight on the feet (ouch ankles!) and MORE weight into your arms and deep CORE!  Oh yeah!
  5. Enjoy!  This routine BURNS.  Do you feel it???

Handstand Challenge June 2015

Handstands During Power Yoga Class at Marin Power Yoga

June Goal: Work on holding a handstand longer.

For the month of June, I set a personal challenge to try and hold a handstand as long as I could using a wall for support.  I timed myself on Day 1, June 1st, and got 1:44.  I will try doing a handstand everyday (rest days allowed!) and see if my time improves by June 30th.  We’ll see!!!

Here is some inspiration – In just 6 days, look at some of the improvements in time held:

Karisa – 0:16 to 0:24

Erika – 0:57 to 1:11

Jamie – 1:05 to 1:16

Danuta – 0:40 to 1:30

Lizzy – 1:26 to 1:39

Andrea – 2:00 to 2:14

Jill – 1:53 to 2:17

SO proud of these individuals!!!  If any of you want to join us, it’s not too late!!!  Still plenty of days left in June to work on your handstand!  You can do this challenge by yourself and keep track of your time, or if you need a little accountability, join my Handstand Challenge June 2015 Group in Facebook or follow me on Instagram @gracelingyu!

Happy Handstanding!!!

*****

UPDATE 7/1/15:

Well, got to be honest and say that it was TOUGH getting through the month trying to beat my times!!!  It is such a mental game and by the end of the month, I had all these little “tricks” to help me.  For example, I learned:

* what time of the day was the best for me (usually mid-afternoon a few hours after lunch).

* Also, I made sure to warm up before each handstand and stretch out my wrists because that would make a big difference.

* Finally, I learned I could not look at my stopwatch until the end or else I would get discouraged… imagine reading “30 seconds” and then thinking, “Oh, great, I need to hold it for 2 more minutes?!?!”  So instead, I actually closed my eyes and counted in my head.  At first it was to 100, then 200, then 300, eventually I would speed count to 400 before I “allowed” myself to look at the stopwatch, and then I could mentally try to hold the handstand for the remaining 30 seconds or whatever.

In any case, the Handstand Challenge worked for those of us that truly stuck with it…

I improved from Day 1: 1 minute 44 seconds to Day 30: 2 minutes 50 seconds!!!  The most improvement was by one of my students, Danuta, who improved from Day 1: 40 seconds to Day 30: 3 minutes!!!  Pretty incredible!  Until next time!!!

My First Press Handstand!!! You Can Do It Too!!!

Handstand

My master yoga teacher, Sherry Han, always says, “Yoga makes the impossible possible.”  Well, let me tell you, I always thought that it would be impossible for me to do a press handstand.  Im. Pos. Sib. Ble.  After 12 years of practicing yoga, I have FINALLY crossed that line and I did my first press handstand (to my disbelief as I was lifting my legs to the sky) two days ago.  It is an unbelievable feeling to actually prove yourself wrong.  I have made the impossible possible, and so can you!!!

So what is a press handstand?  Well, here’s a video to show you my very first successful press handstand (and the failed attempts leading up to it):

As you can see, a press handstand just means that you press your hands into the floor and lift your legs into a handstand without jumping or any momentum.

Ready to learn???

Part of my frustration failing at the press handstand was because I thought my shoulders were just not strong enough.  I didn’t realize that the key to doing a press handstand lies in the deep core level.  No amount of sit ups and crunches will help you with press handstands.  You have to learn HOW to access this deep abdominal muscle and strengthen it.

Here are some drills that helped me begin to connect with this deeper core sensation, and in my opinion, are essential for working up to press handstands:

Drill #1: Plank Pike Ups (Or Plank Tucks)

Begin in a plank position and place your toes on something that can slide on the floor, for example a towel on a wood floor.

Variation 1: Plank Tucks

On your exhale, press your hands into the floor, lean your shoulders over your fingertips, and slide your knees in towards your chest.  Inhale and slide the toes back out into a plank.  Work to 10 repetitions.

Variation 2: Plank Pike Ups

After you have mastered the plank tucks, then work on keeping the legs straight and sliding your toes towards your wrist, piking at the hips, then sliding back.  Work to 10 repetitions.

*****

Drill #2: Leg Raise to Plow

Begin lying down on your back.

Variation 1: Leg Raises

Keep your hands by your sides, palms facing down.  Bring the legs up to the sky and on the inhale lower your legs 2 inches off the floor without lifting your spine off the mat.  Exhale and bring the legs back up to the sky.  Work to 10 repetitions.

Variation 2: Leg Raise to Plow Arms Down

Keep your hands by your sides, palms facing down.  Start with a regular leg raise, lowering 2 inches off the floor on the inhale, and then lifting the legs to the sky on the exhale.  This time continue to reach the legs over your head keeping the legs straight, eventually bringing the hips over the shoulders and coming into plow pose.  On the next inhale, slowly lower the spine down onto the mat as controlled as possible until the legs are 2 inches off the floor again.   Repeat and work up to 10 repetitions.

Variation 3: Leg Raise to Plow Arms Up

If you have mastered the leg raise to plow 10x with your arms by your sides, then now you can move on to the next step: do the same movement except your arms are extended to the ceiling.  Now you cannot rely on your arms to lift your legs and hips off the floor to get to plow.  It requires that deep abdominal strength, as well as a conscious “rolling” of the hips in order to move into plow.  Try to complete the movement with absolutely no momentum and as slow as you can.  Try to work up to 10 repetitions.

*****

Drill #3: Wall Press

Basically, this gives you the sensation of a press with the assistance of a wall behind you.  Begin in a wide straddle facing the wall.  Place your hands down on the floor and lean your shoulders and the back of your head completely onto the wall.  Imagine you are doing the leg raise to plow drill, and lean into the shoulders as you roll your hips up and back towards the wall, lifting the legs in a V up to the sky.  Work to 10 repetitions.

Variation 1: Feet can stand on blocks.  This gives you an advantage because your hips are already higher and it is easier to lift the legs up.

Variation 2: The further your hands are from the wall, the easier it is, so start as far as you can.  But find the distance where the back of your shoulders and head are resting on the wall behind you.

Variation 3: If need be, you can always add a little hop to help your feet initially lift off the floor.  Make sure to hop into a controlled wide straddle, keeping both legs straight and legs out wide.  However, it is more effective to practice smoothly lifting your feet even an inch off the floor, then jumping and getting the legs to the sky.  Try not to hop as much as possible, unless your purpose is to practice holding a handstand for as long as you can, not to practice pressing to a handstand.

Variation 4: If you have mastered 10 repetitions of the wide wall press, then the next place to go would be starting with your feet together and lifting the legs up into a handstand.  This is much harder than beginning in a wide straddle in my opinion.

*****

Drill #4: Crow to Pike

OK, this next drill is a tough one, but it really allows you to feel your deep belly muscles working hard!

Variation 1: Master your crow and be able to hold it for at least 10 breaths.

Variation 2: Work on straightening the arms as much as possible into crane and holding for at least 10 breaths.

Variation 3: From crane, flex the feet and bring your big toe and second toe to your wrists.  Hover as high off the floor as you can.  Press your toes as strong as you can against your wrist and when you do so you can begin to straighten the legs and lift your hips up to the sky.  I’m still working on holding the pike position up to 10 seconds!

*****

Drill #5: Using Blocks

If you have worked on drills #1-4 over and over and over and have mastered the 10 repetitions each, now you are ready to try your press handstand variation with blocks.  Begin in a wide straddle, feet on two blocks and hands on the floor.  Press into your hands, lean into your shoulders as if the wall was behind you, lift your heels as high as you can, and engage those deep abdominal muscles to lift your feet off the blocks.  Even just lifting a millimeter off the blocks and floating for that split second is progress!  Keep trying and that millimeter will become a centimeter, and then an inch, and on and on!

*****

What I love about yoga is that there is never an end to it.  We keep working, we keep trying, we keep growing, and once you master one thing, there is always somewhere else to go.  For example, I just did my first press handstand two days ago, but it is not consistent yet.  Now I am working on finding that consistency, and after I do, then I will be trying to do a press handstand with my feet together versus apart.  I am also working on “floating” down from the handstand, such as floating down into crow as I attempted in my first video above.  So much to learn, so much to grow.

Some people may find this discouraging or frustrating, but I think that’s what makes yoga exciting, humbling, and beautiful.  Our bodies are continually changing, strengthening, and opening with yoga, and through it, we see that yoga is a realistic reflection of our lives.  Yoga teaches us to face our challenges, work through them, and eventually overcome them.

I really hope these drills are helpful for you.  Please share your experiences and any other tips you have!  Happy pressing!

“Yoga makes the impossible possible.”

~ Sherry Han