Living with Harmony ~ A Blog for your Mind & Body

Stability Ball – Upper Body

Posted in Core/Fitness,How-To,Stability Ball / Yoga Ball by Harmony on February 26, 2010

The last of the 4-part series on Exercises on a Stability Ball from Sunny.  This group of exercises shows how to improve upper body strength with an exercise ball.  To see all exercises on Stability Balls, click on the Stability Ball tag to the right.

General Instructions

  • As with any exercise product or program, consult your physician before beginning.
  • Be sure to warm up before each exercise.
  • Follow the instructions.
  • Keep your abdominal muscles contracted and maintain good posture at all times.
  • Breathe normally during the entire exercise.
  • Perform your exercise program slowly and increase the pace gradually.
  • Try to perform each exercise 8 to 12 times.
  • CAUTION: If you feel any pain, stop exercising and consult your physician.
Click to Enlarge or Print

Click to Enlarge or Print

We mentioned in prior posts that we sell Stability Exercise Balls – regular stability balls, anti-burst or burst-resistant balls, and even eco-friendly stability balls.  We hope you’ll visit our online store if you need to purchase an exercise ball.


Foam Roller and Pilates

Posted in Foam Roller,How-To,Pilates by Harmony on February 25, 2010

Add a foam roller into your Pilates routines to add some excitement and challenge.  Adding tools such as balance discs and rollers add some variety to your routine and increase the challenge in your balance.  The following article contains six exercises that can be used with a foam roller.  The model is using a 36″ high density foam roller.

Enjoy the challenge!

Foam Roller FunPosted By Kelley Ranaudo On May 28, 2008

Are you incorporating the foam roller into your Pilates exercise routine? We sell them to our clients all the time and they love using them at home. There are so many exciting and challenging options with the roller. It is a great addition to a group class, private session or home routine. Balancing can be difficult because of the small surface area, but the foam roller also helps with modifications for certain exercises, stretching and therapeutic work. Try some of my favorites to change up your routines:

Toe Taps/Knee Lifts

Bring legs to table-top and hands to the side. Alternate reaching each foot to the floor and returning to table-top, while maintaining stabilization in your torso, pelvis and lower back.

Pilates Exercise Toe Taps and Knee Lifts on the Foam Roller

Ab Prep

Lying on your back, inhale to prepare. Exhale, lift your head and chest, reaching your hands to the opposite wall, and scooping your deep abdominals as you lift. Inhale, stay and intensify the scoop and exhale to lower.

Pilates Exercise Ab Prep on the Foam Roller

Single Arm Balance

Alternate arms while both feet are table-top. Another option is to alternate reaching one or both arms off the floor while one leg is table-top and one foot is touching the floor.

Pilates Exercise Single Arm Balance on the Foam Roller


Place your forearms on the roller with feet apart and laterally rotated. Lift your head, chest and abdominals into the Swan as the roller moves toward you. Feel the energy reach out of your toes and head. Keep your abdominals engaged to support your lower back. You should not feel discomfort in your back. Stabilize your shoulder blades and keep the muscles surrounding your rib cage engaged.

Pilates Exercise Swan on the Foam Roller

Side Forearm Plank

Start on your forearm on your side with the roller under the outside of your lower leg. Hold the plank first lifting in your side closest to the floor, keeping your hips stacked. Once you feel stable, try to lift the top leg and hold. Try this position on the floor without the roller first.

Pilates Exercise Side Forearm Plank on the Foam Roller


Begin with your feet extended directly toward the ceiling. Inhale to prepare, and exhale open the legs to a scissor position, keeping the lumbo-pelvis region stable and reaching the energy out of the toes. Inhale to bring the legs together, and exhale to control the scissor motion in the opposite direction.

Pilates Exercise Scissors on the Foam Roller

This is a nice combination of balance, strength and stretch to give your clients that are ready for something new. Have fun and keep your Pilates principles in mind throughout each exercise.

Prana Breathing Exercise

Posted in Meditation,Yoga by Harmony on February 23, 2010

Take a moment to quietly practice along with this video on a breathing exercise calling on the Golden Light.

Chakra Meditation – 5th Chakra

Posted in Meditation by Harmony on February 22, 2010

Vishuddha/The Throat Chakra: Located at the throat. A person with a strong and balanced throat chakra will have good communication skills and creativity.   For a quick overview of the Chakras.

Enjoy the following two-minute long video on clearing the 5th Chakra, the Throat Chakra:

Strength Training with Toning Balls – for the Shoulders

Posted in Core/Fitness,How-To,Toning Balls by Harmony on February 19, 2010

Following are just three shoulder strength training exercises that you can do with Soft-Weighted Toning Balls. For an added challenge you can do the Seated Shoulder Press on a Stability Ball (as shown).

Seated Shoulder Press and Side/Front Raises

Seated Shoulder Press and Side/Front Raises

Seated Shoulder Press

Sitting upright on a Stability Ball with feet flat on the floor, hold a Soft Weighted Ball in each hand at shoulder height.  Tighten abdominals as you press the Soft Weighted Balls straight up over your head.  Slowly lower Soft Weighted Balls back to shoulder height.  Repeat.

Side Raises

Standing with feet shoulder-width apart hold a Soft Weighted Ball in each hand down to your side.  Keeping arms straight, raise Soft Weighted Balls out to your sides until your arms are just above parallel to the floor.  Lower Soft Weighted Balls slowly back to your side.  Repeat.

Front Raises

Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, hold a Soft Weighted Ball in each hand down to your sides.  Keeping arms straight, raise Soft Weighted Balls in front of your body until your arms are just above parallel to the floor.  Lower Soft Weighted Balls slowly.  Repeat.

These exercises are showing a model using Natural Fitness Products that we carry.  Natural Fitness makes environmentally friendly yoga and fitness products, such as hemp yoga straps or phthalate-free vinyl fitness/Pilates products.

A Relaxation Pose with a Yoga Bolster

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Bolster,Yoga Pose by Harmony on February 16, 2010

On a personal note, this is one of my most delicious poses.  If you’re new to yoga, you might be snickering over my choice of words.  But try it, and you will find poses that are “delicious” or “yummy” to you.  No kidding!  The ones you want to turn to to wash away your stress or worries, or ones that leave you rejuvenated.

The prop that you will want for this pose is a round bolster.  Some people might prefer a rectangular bolster, or yoga blankets.  We offer a variety of bolsters to choose from:  a variety of color choices, cotton, organic cotton, or hemp.  To see all of our bolster choices, click here.

This pose is a little awkward to get into, but well worth it.  I have a different way of getting into this pose, than how YJ describes below.  I would rest my left side hip on the left end of the bolster, with my buttocks (sit bones) flat against the wall, knees bent.  Then as you roll onto your back, extend your legs straight up the wall.  Some other people somersault into this pose, but (to me) that is too energizing to go into a relaxation pose.  No matter how you choose to enter this pose, I hope you enjoy it.

Viparita Karani

Excerpt from Yoga Journal – visit YJ to learn more about this pose, such as the benefits.


(vip-par-ee-tah car-AHN-ee)
viparita = turned around, reversed, inverted
karani = doing, making, action

Step by Step

The pose described here is a passive, supported variation of the Shoulderstand-like Viparita Karani. For your support you’ll need one or two thickly folded blankets or a firm round bolster. You’ll also need to rest your legs vertically (or nearly so) on a wall or other upright support.

Before performing the pose, determine two things about your support: its height and its distance from the wall. If you’re stiffer, the support should be lower and placed farther from the wall; if you’re more flexible, use a higher support that is closer to the wall. Your distance from the wall also depends on your height: if you’re shorter move closer to the wall, if taller move farther from the wall. Experiment with the position of your support until you find the placement that works for you.

Start with your support about 5 to 6 inches away from the wall. Sit sideways on right end of the support, with your right side against the wall (left-handers can substitute “left” for “right” in these instructions). Exhale and, with one smooth movement, swing your legs up onto the wall and your shoulders and head lightly down onto the floor. The first few times you do this, you may ignominiously slide off the support and plop down with your buttocks on the floor. Don’t get discouraged. Try lowering the support and/or moving it slightly further off the wall until you gain some facility with this movement, then move back closer to the wall.

Your sitting bones don’t need to be right against the wall, but they should be “dripping” down into the space between the support and the wall. Check that the front of your torso gently arches from the pubis to the top of the shoulders. If the front of your torso seems flat, then you’ve probably slipped a bit off the support. Bend your knees, press your feet into the wall and lift your pelvis off the support a few inches, tuck the support a little higher up under your pelvis, then lower your pelvis onto the support again.

Lift and release the base of your skull away from the back of your neck and soften your throat. Don’t push your chin against your sternum; instead let your sternum lift toward the chin. Take a small roll (made from a towel for example) under your neck if the cervical spine feels flat. Open your shoulder blades away from the spine and release your hands and arms out to your sides, palms up.

Keep your legs relatively firm, just enough to hold them vertically in place. Release the heads of the thigh bones and the weight of your belly deeply into your torso, toward the back of the pelvis. Soften your eyes and turn them down to look into your heart.

Stay in this pose anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Be sure not to twist off the support when coming out. Instead, slide off the support onto the floor before turning to the side. You can also bend your knees and push your feet against the wall to lift your pelvis off the support. Then slide the support to one side, lower your pelvis to the floor, and turn to the side. Stay on your side for a few breaths, and come up to sitting with an exhalation.

Chakra Meditation – 4th Chakra

Posted in Meditation by Harmony on February 15, 2010

Anahata/The Heart Chakra: Located at the center of the chest, a person with a healthy heart chakra will have a strong ability to love his or herself as well as others. It is also the center of hope and compassion. For a quick overview of the Chakras.

Enjoy the following two-minute long video on clearing your Heart Chakra – the 4th Chakra.

Stability Ball – Leg Exercises

Posted in Core/Fitness,How-To,Stability Ball / Yoga Ball by Harmony on February 12, 2010

Time to work the legs with your Stability Ball!

We are doing a four-part series of exercises to work your total body with a Stability Exercise Ball.  These instructions were provided by Sunny, who manufacturers one of the types of Bust-Resistant Stability Balls we sell.  As mentioned in prior posts, we sell standard Stability Balls, Burst-Resistant Stability Balls, and Eco-Friendly Burst-Resistant Stability Balls.  If you’re looking to purchase an exercise ball, please visit our Core/Balance Page to see our entire listing.

General Instructions

  • As with any exercise product or program, consult your physician before beginning.
  • Be sure to warm up before each exercise.
  • Follow the instructions.
  • Keep your abdominal muscles contracted and maintain good posture at all times.
  • Breathe normally during the entire exercise.
  • Perform your exercise program slowly and increase the pace gradually.
  • Try to perform each exercise 8 to 12 times.
  • CAUTION: If you feel any pain, stop exercising and consult your physician.
Click Image to Enlarge or Print

Click Image to Enlarge or Print

Pilates and a Mini Therapy Ball

Posted in How-To,Mini Exercise Ball,Pilates by Harmony on February 11, 2010

Following is a short video (<2min) on how to use a small PVC ball in Pilates while doing a Heel Squeeze to work the glutes.  Sometimes these small balls are called mini-balls, mini exercise balls, or therapy balls.  At RollingSands Harmony we offer three different sizes:  a 7″ Mini Therapy Ball or a 9″ Mini Therapy Ball.

We also carry a 6″ Body Rolling Ball, which could be used as well.

Yoga Props

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Blanket,Yoga Block,Yoga Pose,Yoga Strap by Harmony on February 9, 2010

This is a nice article on Yoga Props.  It also offers three poses that require the use of a yoga strap, a yoga block, and a yoga blanket.

How to Use Yoga Props

By Nicole Kwan

Props can be a major bonus for your practice.


When all you really need for yoga is yourself, props may seem extraneous but they could be a major bonus for your practice. Besides a mat, yoga props include blocks, blankets, and straps. Even the wall, floor, and chairs count as pose-boosters. It’s common to feel like you’re copping out when you use props, but our expert Sam Chase, a certified Professional Level Kripalu Yoga Teacher with a private yoga practice in New York who leads corporate programs for the United Nations and Equinox gym, will convince you that prop-using is yoga-boosting.

Props are not cheating
“It’s easy to get hooked on the idea that a pose is better, and perhaps that we ourselves are better, if we don’t need a prop to help,” says Chase.  When you watch an expert yogi, they usually don’t use props to get into a Forearm Balance or stay stable in Half Moon. Don’t feel inferior-they’ve got years of practice (or circus training) so their bodies are primed for peak performance. You, on the other hand, might need a little boost. In fact, Chase says it’s better to think about a yoga pose as an action in time rather than a picture-perfect shape. So use what you see your teacher do as a base–watch where her legs are positioned and how she opens up her chest, but make the pose work for you.

Props make you a better yogi and a better person
“A good use of props allows ANY body to create the sensations associated with almost ANY pose,” says Chase. “However you modify a pose, that is the pose, and what ever shape it takes and whatever tools you use should be whatever supports you.” Think about it, would you rather use a block in Side Angle, get a deep opening, and feel revitalized, or cram your body into a bind and hobble away in agony? Having a strong yoga practice isn’t about doing the poses perfectly by the book; it’s about making the poses perfect for your body. It’s easy to have the same perfection-driven mentality in life. We think we have to cram into size 4 jeans and make six figures, when the reality is that our weight is healthy and we aren’t bound to an office 24/7. The key in both yoga and life is to find that balance and accept your abilities and limitations.

Props will expand your practice
Instead of avoiding Cow Face pose because you can’t reach your fingers, grab a strap in each hand and open those shoulders up. “If your practice is about exploring the range of possibilities in your body, then expect that range to change frequently. You’ll need props in some poses, but not in others,” says Chase. He sees students who use blocks and straps achieve poses they would’ve never tried (see below), and feel self-adjustments they can’t get enough of (like using a strap to keep your elbows aligned in Shoulderstand).

Prop-only poses:

Strap: The Sling
This pose works with gravity so all you have to do is hang out. The weight of your legs allows you to release the tension in your neck (and upper back) while the weight of your head opens your hamstrings.

Create a large loop with your strap (about 3 feet). Sitting with your legs in front of you, place the strap so it’s around the arch of your right foot. The buckle should be on the right side of the strap, halfway between your foot and the opposite end. Loop the opposite end of the strap around the back of your head. It should be in the same position as where you’d wear a baseball hat- above the ears around the back of the head, not at the neck. Slowly lean back so that your body makes a “V.” You can use your arms to support you in any way that’s comfortable.  Stay there for at least 2 minutes, for as long as you are comfortable. Repeat for the left leg.

Look for an 8-ft-long strap with a good buckle that does and undoes itself easily.

Block: The Pendulum
This pose feels like no work at all, but you’re opening your hips to help you stand a little taller!

Standing next to a wall, place the block on the floor about a foot from the wall. The block can be positioned at any height. Stand on the block with your right foot and rest your left hand on the wall for support. Slowly and gently swing your left leg back and forth. After a while, you’ll notice your foot begin to brush closer to the floor. If you want, bring the block to the next highest height and continue swinging your leg. Continue for at least 1-2 minutes, for as long as you are comfortable. Repeat for the right foot.

Find a block with a little heft to it that won’t squish under your hand.

Blanket: Mountain Brook
This chest opener will help you relax and improve your breathing. Plus, it’s so comfortable you could even do a Savasana! It requires 3 blankets (or thick towels), but it’s well worth the set up.

Preparing to lay down on your back, roll a blanket into a thick tube and place it under your knees. The second blanket also rolls into a tube placed across the middle of the thoracic spine, above the lower back but below the shoulders. The last blanket is used as a pillow, with a few folds rolled into a very small tube to support the back of the neck.  There should be “valleys” between the blankets where your hips and shoulders rest. Stay at least 5 minutes..and enjoy.

Look for a thick, foldable blanket made of wool.

If you practice at a local studio, there’s no need to buy your own, but consider the basics for your home practice. Our recommendations are only suggestions, in a pinch you can use a towel, belt, and phonebook.

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