How To Do A Sun Salutation

IMG_6036

So what exactly is a Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar)?  There are several variations, but in general a sun salutation is a series of poses that flow continuously with your breath, and are often performed in the beginning of vinyasa yoga classes to warm up the body.  The most common sun salutation A consists of 8 main poses:

IMG_5873

  1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

This is your starting and ending pose.  As a stand alone pose, your feet can be hip distance apart, although in a sun salutation flow, your feet can be together.  Spread weight evenly through the four corners of your feet (outer edges of balls and heels of feet).  Engage your kneecaps, lengthen your spine and lift the crown of your head towards the sky.  At the same time, draw your shoulders back and down, and engage your ribs and naval back towards your spine.  Ignite energy from your feet to the crown of your head, and energize your fingertips towards the floor.  Take as many breaths as needed here to become grounded and still.

IMG_5875

2. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)

On your inhale, lift your arms up towards the sky and perhaps come into a gentle backbend.  Think of backbending from your upper back, lifting from your sternum versus collapsing in your lower back.

IMG_5878

3. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

On your exhale, fold forward by hinging from your hips and keeping your spine long.  As you fold, your arms can either swan dive out by your sides, or you can bring your hands together in prayer as you fold.  Soften your knees if

IMG_5879

4. Halfway Standing Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana)

On your inhale, lengthen your spine.  Your fingertips can be on the floor or on your shins, and your knees can soften as much as needed to create the extension in your spine.

IMG_5880

5. Plank (High Plank)

On your exhale, step back into plank, keeping your shoulders over your wrists and heels stacked over the balls of your feet.  Engage your core as you continue to lift your naval up towards your spine and prevent your hips from sagging.  Push down through your palms and lift your back side towards the sky.

IMG_5881

6. Low Plank (Chaturanga Dandasana or Four-Limbed Staff Pose)

On that same exhale as your plank, shift your weight forward so that your shoulders move beyond your fingertips and your heels glide forward over the balls of your feet.  Bend your elbows at a 90 degree, hugging your elbows to your ribs.  From the side profile,  your shoulders, elbows, and hips should be in a straight line, and your elbows stay stacked over your wrists.

IMG_5882

7. Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

On your inhale, press down on your palms and place the tops of your feet on the ground.  Engage your triceps as well as your quadriceps so only your hands and feet touch the floor.  Lift the crown of your head towards the ceiling and draw your shoulders down away from your ears.  Keeping the legs active will prevent “dumping” weight into your lower back.

IMG_5883

8. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

On your exhale, use your core to lift your hips away from the floor and roll back onto the soles of your feet.  Press weight evenly throughout your palms, especially your fingers.  Straighten your arms and externally rotate your upper arms and shoulders, making space around your neck.  Move your chest towards your thighs and lift your tailbone towards the ceiling, creating as much length in your spine as possible.  Continue to draw your ribs in.  Reach your heels towards the mat, but it is not important for them to touch the mat.  Sometimes softening the knees will help you feel more length in the spine.  Rest for 1-5 breaths.

To return back to the starting Mountain Pose:

9. On your exhale, walk or hop your feet together between your hands.

10. On your inhale, Halfway Standing Forward Fold.

11. On your exhale, Forward Fold.

12. On your inhale, soften your knees, keep your spine straight and reverse swan dive to your Upward Salute.

13. On your exhale, return to Mountain Pose.  Stay for 1-5 breaths and complete the whole Sun Salutation A cycle 3-5 more times.  Feel the warmth in your body that you have created.

“As the sun spirals its longest dance, cleanse us.

As nature shows bounty and fertility, bless us.

Let all things live with loving intent

And to fulfill their truest destiny.”

~ Summer Solstice Blessing

 

 

 

Advertisements

#StopDropAndDance With Grace Ling Yu

993A1986 (1).jpg

Can’t Stop the Feeling with Justin Timberlake #StopDropAndDance with Grace Ling Yu!

So you know when a catchy song comes on the radio, and your body just wants to MOVE? Well, that’s exactly how I feel, pretty much on a daily basis.  Justin Timberlake’s latest song, “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” is no joke.  When I first heard that song, it was around 10pm.  And I stayed up another 2 hours dancing.  By myself.  This was the video I ended up recording because I had to document my ridiculousness.

Of course that dance is very choreographed and if I were to teach it to you, I would have to break down all the steps and counts.

I’ve decided to start posting EASY TO PICK UP dance videos that require absolutely no breakdown of steps.  You can literally turn on the video and start dancing with me!!!  And it is such a good cardio workout, not to mention the obvious… it is SO MUCH FUN.  I even got a bunch of “backup dancers” from Marin Power Yoga to show you how much we love this!

I’m officially using the hashtag #StopDropAndDance with Grace Ling Yu.  If you like my videos, there are more videos posted on the #StopDropAndDance tab on this blog, or you can do one of the following to stay up to date:

  1. Press LIKE on my Facebook Page to receive the latest updates: www.facebook.com/PowerWithGrace
  2. SHARE my #StopDropAndDance Videos and TAG your friends to dance too!
  3. Press SUBSCRIBE on my YouTube page: www.youtube.com/gracelingyu
  4. FOLLOW me on Instagram: www.instagram.com/gracelingyu
  5. Optional: Post a video of you doing part or all of one of my dances and TAG @Power With Grace as well as the hashtag #StopDropAndDance to spread the LOVE!!!

My ultimate goal is that a particular song could come on the radio, and you would start dancing the #StopDropAndDance moves simply because you remember them and you just CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!!!

Enjoy!!!

 

 

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

993A0086BW

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!

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:

—–

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!!!

—–

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!!!

Power Yoga Playlist – “Earth”

Earth-Day-CraftOn April 22nd each year, we celebrate Earth Day.  It is a great reminder to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!  A perfect example is observing the habits of my 3 year old daughter and realizing I have plenty of teachable moments to show her how we can be much kinder to the environment!

Example #1) After school while I cook dinner, she plays on her own and sometimes draws.  This week, I noticed that she had taken literally 5 sheets of white paper and scribbled a tiny bit on each page.  What a great lesson to teach her to REDUCE the number of pages and just use 1 paper until it is all filled up!

Example #2) My daughter’s school had a special Earth Day Celebration that included a petting zoo, music performance, face painting, art projects, and of course snacks.  They provided mini paper cups of lemonade for the kids to take.  My daughter finished her first cup and then threw it away, only to return to the snack table and grab a new cup.  No no, let’s REUSE our cup and ask the teacher to refill it with some more lemonade, right?

Example #3) Everyday after school, it is part of our daily routine when we arrive home to check the mail before entering the house.  Normally, my daughter takes everything out of the mailbox and gives it to me.  I decided to let her help me sort through “junk” mail and “important” mail this week, and she helped me RECYCLE the “junk” mail into our recycling bin.  Good job!

Earth Day is everyday!  But if anything, having a special day designated for Earth Day each year forces people like myself to take extra notice on how wasteful or hurtful we may be to the environment!  Every little bit matters…

For my Power Class this week, I made an Earth playlist.  To be honest, it was pretty hard finding upbeat songs about taking care of the Earth, but I came up with a decent list.  For my sequence this week, I am adding in as many standing balancing poses as I can.  We will be using our feet, our roots, to symbolize our connection with the ground and Earth below us just like the roots of a tree.  Enjoy!

*****

Power Yoga Playlist – “Earth” (75 minutes)

Introduction / Pose Breakdown / Breathwork:

1) “Earth Song,” by Michael Jackson, 6:46

Sun Salutations A & B:

2) “We Are Here,” by Alicia Keys, 4:44

3) “One Tribe,” by The Black Eyed Peas, 4:41

Standing Work Series:

4) “Give Love,” by MC Yogi, 3:40

5) “Paradise (On Earth),” by Cris Cab, 3:46

6) “On Top Of The World,” by Imagine Dragons, 3:10

7) “Earth From Outer Space,” by Michael Franti, 3:51

8) “Hall of Fame,” by The Script, 3:23

9) “Wavin’ Flag,” by K-Naan, 3:33

10) “We Will Shine,” by MC Yogi, 4:06

11) “One Day,” by Matisyahu, 3:28

Backbending / Core Work:

12) “Where Is The Love?” by The Black Eyed Peas, 4:33

13) “Everything Is Everything,” by Lauryn Hill, 4:53

14) “If You’re Out There,” by John Legend, 4:20

Hips / Deep Stretching:

15) “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, 5:08

16) “Gone,” by Jack Johnson, 2:08

17) “Imagine,” by John Lennon, 3:04

18) “What a Wonderful World,” by Celine Dion, 3:47

Savasana:

19) “So Much Magnificence,” by Deva Premal

*****

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares drop off like autumn leaves.”

~ John Muir

Prenatal Yoga For Experienced Yogis

Prenatal Yoga Modifications Anjali Mudra

If you had a regular yoga practice for at least one year before getting pregnant, than this post is for you.  Maintaining your yoga practice throughout your pregnancy will help you feel better physically by stretching out areas that are achy, keeping your body strong and limber, and allowing you to sleep better at night.  More importantly, yoga will help you let go of stress, worry, anxiety, and will help you learn how to use your breath to stay calm, whether it is during a pose where your legs are shaking, or during your actual labor!

Pregnancy is not really the time to be trying to push new limits and explore new advanced poses.  There are many classes specifically designed as “Prenatal Yoga” and will ensure that every pose is appropriate for all level students.  This is a perfect option for any pregnant woman, especially beginning yogis.  However for experienced yogis who may want a slightly more vigorous practice, you can easily continue practicing yoga in your regularly scheduled classes using the modifications below:

#1) Widen Your Stance

Since pregnancy can throw off your balance and center of gravity, create a more stable base by standing with feet almost mat-width apart versus together, such as in Mountain PosePrenatal Yoga Modifications Anjali Mudra Mountain

This will also help during the transition into sun salutations, creating space for your belly during your Standing Forward Bend.  Prenatal Yoga Modifications Forward Bend

Even Chair Pose may feel better with the legs wide.  Prenatal Yoga Modifications Chair

On the floor in Child’s Pose, separate the knees extra wide to allow the belly and chest to sink towards the floor.  Prenatal Yoga Modifications Child's Pose

And in seated poses, such as Seated Forward Bend, I often take a Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend since that just feels so good.Prenatal Yoga Modifications Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend

#2) Stay Off The Belly

Most classes will have students move through a Baby Cobra or Sphinx Pose, especially as part of a sun salutation.  Obviously after the first half of pregnancy, it just doesn’t feel right “smooshing” the baby, so great modifications include doing Cat and Cow Pose, or if your spine and core feel strong, doing Upward Facing Dog.Prenatal Yoga Modifications Cat

Prenatal Yoga Modifications CowAnother example of a common pose in class that lies on the belly is Locust or Bow Pose.  Cat and Cow Pose can again be an alternative, or some yogis who may feel comfortable in deeper backbends can do Camel Pose.Prenatal Yoga Modifications Camel

#3) Open Your Twists

As the baby gets bigger, the belly can get in the way during some twists.  The general rule is to prevent the belly from compressing into another body part, i.e. usually your front or top leg.  An example is in Twisting Chair, we normally bring our hands together and twist the opposite elbow to thigh.  However, the belly will eventually have no room to twist, so a modification is to keep the torso upright and stay in an Open Arm Twisting ChairPrenatal Yoga Modifications Twisting Chair

A similar example is in Revolved Crescent Lunge.  Simply keep the torso upright and stay in an Open Arm Crescent Lunge Twist. Prenatal Yoga Modifications Twisting Crescent Lunge

Some yogis may prefer not even twisting towards your midline, and will change the pose completely.  For example, if in class the instructor says to do a Revolved Triangle, just perform a regular Triangle Pose, which opens the belly away from the rest of the body.  Prenatal Yoga Modifications Triangle

Similarly in any kind of Seated Twist, twist outwards to give the belly plenty of breathing room.Prenatal Yoga Modifications Seated Twist

#4) Is Supine Right For You?

Lying on your back when pregnant is comfortable for some, and absolutely unbearable for others.  Abdominal and Core Work on the back may feel fine for a few individuals, while other yogis may choose to hold a Supported Boat Pose in order to stay more upright.  If either of those options are not appealing, skip abdominal work completely.Prenatal Yoga Modifications Boat Pose

In Savasana, I prefer rolling to my left side for the last few minutes of class, but I have friends that have no issues lying on their back for 5-10 minutes.  If you want to get really comfortable, take a Side-Lying Savasana.  Those with access to props can try lying on your left side with a blanket underneath your head and a bolster between your legs, maybe even a blanket over your whole body and something to cover your eyes… Ahhh…Prenatal Yoga Modifications Side Lying Savasana

#5) Use Extra Support When Needed

At any point in your pregnancy, don’t be shy to use whatever extra support you may need.  Blocks are commonly used in Prenatal Yoga classes such as during Sun Salutations when stepping back and forth from a Standing Forward Bend to Lunge.  Prenatal Yoga Modifications Halfway Lift Forward Fold

During balance poses, it’s ok to move to a wall and allow yourself to have a little more assistance and stability.  As the baby grows, our core also gets weaker.  So if you are straining to keep good form in a Plank Pose, come to a Kneeling Plank and you will still work your core.  In fact, the knees can always lower to the mat such as doing a Low Lunge versus a High Lunge, or during Chaturanga.Prenatal Yoga Modifications  Low Lunge With Blocks

#6, 7, 8, 9, and 10) Listen To Your Body!!!

There are all sorts of recommendations for prenatal yoga “do’s and don’ts.”  I am not an expert besides what I have experienced in my first pregnancy 3 years ago and what I am currently experiencing 8 months into my second pregnancy.  But I do know that everyone is different and only you know what feels right and what doesn’t.  All of the modifications above are safe and generally agreed upon by most prenatal yoga teachers.

However, traditionally, these would be off limits: Backbends, Jumping, and Inversions.  As a yoga teacher, I would recommend avoiding all three to be on the safe side.

As a pregnant yogi currently… I admit to doing all three of these in my own practice, simply because I always move slowly, consciously, and am 100% sure of what I am doing before I do it.  For the most part, if you were able to do Backbends like Wheel Pose before you became pregnant, then it is still fine to continue doing them.  I personally love doing Extended Puppy Pose to stretch out my back.Prenatal Yoga Modifications Extended Puppy

Of course, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!  Plow Pose is an example of something that I could do before, but as my abdominal muscles and core have been disappearing these past few months, I am more and more carefully moving into Plow Pose without using any momentum, ie. swinging the legs.  What we want to do is be careful not to force our bodies into a position because then we stop practicing with mindfulness and intention, and that’s where injuries could happen.

As for Jumping such as from a Standing Forward Bend into Chaturanga, continuously ask yourself how you are feeling and if it feels light and smooth, or not.  That will be your answer to when you should stop jumping.  And finally, Inversions… just be 100% confident that you know how to move in and out of the pose safely.  OK, be 150% confident, or else use the wall, or skip them entirely.

One note about heat: Make sure the class you take is heated to a temperature you are comfortable in.  Avoid becoming overheated, as this could cause additional dangers such as dizziness or even pre-term labor.  Always stay hydrated before, during, and after class!

Listen. To. Your. Body.

I cannot emphasize this enough.  No matter what you read or what anyone tells you, pregnancy is unique to each individual and you have to use your own intuition during your yoga practice.  If it feels good, keep going!  If it doesn’t feel good, stop!  Let go of all ego, habits, and expectations, especially if you had a strong practice before pregnancy.  Respect the changes your body is going through and approach each yoga practice with the simple intention of feeling better and staying healthy, and then let your body guide you.

Wishing you a happy, safe, and yoga-filled pregnancy!!!

Prenatal Yoga Modifications Lotus Pose

All photo credits in this blog are given to Marin Power Yoga. Thank you Jamie Ginsberg for taking the time to help me not only capture this miraculous phase of my life, but also share my love of yoga with other pregnant women!