Living with Harmony ~ A Blog for your Mind & Body

Yoga Poses to Relieve Back Pain

Posted in How-To,Mats - Yoga / Pilates / Exercise,Yoga,Yoga Blanket,Yoga Pose,Yoga Strap by Harmony on December 14, 2010

Many people suffer from chronic back pain. This video will teach us how to do three yoga poses that will help relieve our pain. The poses are: Reclining Big Toe, Standing Twist, and Legs Up the Wall. If practiced daily, you are sure to see some results.

Before following along with this video, gather your yoga mat, two yoga blankets, a yoga strap, and finally a folding chair (or straight-back chair).
Back Pain:
Yoga – Postures To Help Relieve Back Pain


Importance of Proper Yoga Poses

Posted in Yoga,Yoga Pose by Harmony on December 7, 2010

If you’re just beginning to practice yoga it is important to start out by learning how to properly get in and out of the postures.  Following is an article from the LA Times that explains this well.  A second article follows that discusses common mistakes in several popular poses.  Even if you have been practicing, you may wish to consider reading this entire post.  If you experience any soreness or pain during your practice, it could be that your alignment is not correct.  Some yoga practices – such as the faster-moving Power or Flow yogas – do not always allow the time to evaluate your alignment in a pose, but it is still very important to know how to perform these poses correctly.

Correct form is crucial for yoga poses

Three yoga teachers address potentially harmful mistakes and offer easy ways to correct them.

By Jeannine Stein –  Los Angeles Times  –  April 19, 2010

Yoga is more than just striking a pose. But how you strike that pose is nonetheless critical.

Maintaining correct form is essential not only for building a solid yoga practice but also because improperly doing the same yoga poses repeatedly — even the most basic ones — can lead to strains, sprains and chronic aches.

Yet it’s easy to go awry. Many popular classes are overcrowded, making it difficult for teachers to correct every swayed back and hunched shoulder. Even in smaller groups, a misaligned leg can easily go unnoticed. And then there’s the fact that less experienced students sometimes try to emulate more practiced ones, over-stretching muscles or getting joints out of alignment in the process.

As for doing yoga only at home with no supervision? That can be a recipe for disaster.

“Yoga is really about getting to know your body,” says Christine Burke, co-owner and director of Liberation Yoga in Los Angeles. “A lot of us don’t have that awareness of what something is supposed to feel like when it’s right.”

That can make going from bad form to good form sometimes feel uncomfortable, she says. Occasionally the body must get used to the new position before the resulting aches and pains go away.

We talked to three yoga teachers about the most common mistakes students make while doing basic poses. They explain the potential harm and offer easy ways to correct improper form.

Yoga advice from Christine Burke, Candace Morano and Anthony Benenati

Do’s and don’ts for some popular yoga positions.

By Jeannine Stein –  Los Angeles Times Staff Writer  –  April 19, 2010

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A few simple techniques can make the difference between a sore back (or other body part) and a strong, healthy one.


Co-owner and director of Liberation Yoga, Los Angeles

Downward-facing dog: The body bends at the hips in an upside-down “V,” with arms straight, hands on the floor and heels pressing toward the floor. The head is aligned with the spine.

• Don’t: Drop or hang into the shoulders. People do this in an attempt to truly stretch, but it prevents the joints from stacking properly and puts stress on the shoulders, elbows and wrists.

• Do: Lift the shoulders and slide the arms forward a little, taking some of the pressure off the shoulders. Also, open the hands and press them into the floor. (Curling the fingers up will put the pressure right back into the wrist.)

Warrior I: The body is in a modified lunge position, with the front leg bent and the back leg straight. Arms are straight and parallel, reaching upward, palms together.

Playing with your Warrior : Props to Deepen your Pose

Posted in How-To,SandBags,Yoga,Yoga Pose,Yoga Strap by Harmony on November 16, 2010

Sometimes to perfect your pose, you need to play with it.  Try listening to different instructors offering different cues to get in or out of the pose.  Or try using props that will help bring awareness to different areas of your body; or allow you to stay in a pose for a longer period of time so you can focus and perfect even just one part of the pose at a time.

The following article from Yoga Journal allows you to play with your Warrior II so you can become powerful enough to hold this pose for minutes at a time.  The props used are:  a yoga mat; a basic straight-back chair; a yoga strap; and a yoga sandbag.  If you have a partner, that would be helpful, too!  In his one example, Richard mentions an “imaginary friend” to help focus on an action of the back leg – using a “real friend” is even better if you’re a beginner.  Then during future practices you can draw from that experience to get the same sensation – and result.

Stand Strong – from Yoga Journal

Come into your power as you connect with the warrior Virabhadra.

By Richard Rosen


The standing pose Virabhadrasana II is standard practice in most yoga classes. But few yogis know the tale of its genesis. In Hindu lore, the powerful priest Daksha threw a huge sacrifice and invited everyone—except his youngest daughter Sati and her good-for-nothing yogi husband Shiva, whom Daksha despised (even if Shiva was supreme ruler of the universe). Sati was livid. In one version of the story, she stormed over to the sacrificial fire and threw herself in to teach her father a lesson; in another, her ire was so intense that she spontaneously combusted. Shiva was devastated by his beloved’s immolation and went berserk. When he yanked out a tuft of his hair and beat it into the ground, up popped a nightmarish creature with “a thousand heads, a thousand feet, a thousand eyes, a thousand hands, with fangs terrible to behold.” It was armed to the teeth and invincible. Meet Virabhadra, whose name means “blessed hero,” though typically it’s rendered into English simply as “warrior.” Shiva dispatched Virabhadra and an army of demons to pay Daksha a visit. Happily, Shiva’s wife gets brought back to life, and Daksha’s whupping teaches him humility (he loses his head and winds up with a goat’s as a replacement).

We recreate the image of Virabhadra in three incarnations of Virabhadrasana, designated by Roman numerals (I, II, III), in which we stand like mighty warriors. Our focus will be on II. Virabhadrasana II is an excellent way to stretch your groins and, even though both feet stay on the floor, improve your balance. You can also, to a lesser extent, strengthen your arms and open your chest. Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar points out in his book Light on Yoga that Vira II “tones the abdominals.” It’s also a nice way to strengthen your legs and make them shapely.


It’s important in Vira II to bring awareness to the head of the femur of the front leg; it’s the little ball on the end of the bone that plugs into the hip socket and swivels like a joystick. You also need to pay attention to the outer heel of the back foot, just under the outer ankle bone.

To work on proper front leg alignment, try a simple chair-supported exercise. If you’re tall, you might need a blanket; if you’re short, grab a block. Set the chair on your sticky mat, near the front edge, with the back of the chair facing the right edge. Face the front edge of your mat and sit on the chair with your knees over your heels, shins perpendicular to the floor. Ideally your thighs will be parallel to the floor. If you are tall and your knees are higher than your hips, use a blanket to raise your buttocks until your thighs are parallel to the floor. If your feet don’t reach the floor (typical for shorter students), put the lift beneath your right foot.

Swing your left leg around the seat, straighten the left knee as much as possible, and step the ball of your left foot onto the floor near the back edge of the mat into a lunge. Rotate your torso away from the chair toward the left, pivot on the ball of your left foot, and press your left heel to the floor so your foot is angled slightly toward the front edge of the mat. Align the middle of the right heel with the middle of the left foot’s inner arch and adjust your inner right thigh more or less perpendicular to the front edge of your mat.


In Vira II, you take the stance of a strong warrior. You balance your weight between both legs, and your torso rises up evenly from your hips. On the chair, avoid leaning forward or back. Burrow the base of your right palm into the hip crease between your front thigh and pelvis and push down against the head of your thighbone. Push into the crease, not farther down the thigh. Ideally you’ll feel the back of your thigh press firmly against the seat and, in response, your spine effortlessly lengthen upward. Draw your right hip point away from your thigh, lengthen your tailbone down, and shift your shoulders so they line up over your hips. After a minute or so, release your hand yet stay here, sitting heavily on your thigh. Bend your left knee, swing the leg back to where it started, turn the chair 180 degrees, and repeat on the other side.

In the full pose, many beginners depend on their muscles to sustain the position and quiver uncontrollably after a few seconds. Then things go downhill. Try to recreate your chair-supported experience, so that some of the support is shifted to your bones, and your muscles can release. Then you can sustain the posture almost indefinitely, needing to come out only for meals and to attend yoga class.

Like other split-leg standing poses, Virabhadrasana II is anchored and stabilized by rooting the outer back heel into the ground. Many beginners have tight groins, so bending the front knee buckles the back knee, which pulls the outer back heel off the floor. Think: What would happen to a tree deprived of its roots? Before you bend your front knee, “dig” your outer back heel into the floor. As you bend your front (right) knee, have an imaginary friend resist that movement by pulling on a strap on your left groin. Your left leg will move physically through space closer to the floor; but energetically it opposes the movement and keeps your outer back heel rooted.


Stand sideways in the middle of your sticky mat, facing a long edge, and step your feet apart. Ideally, your feet are wide enough apart so that when you bend the front knee and position it over the heel, the front thigh is parallel to the floor. With your hands on your hips, turn your back (left) foot to the right 30 degrees, your right foot to the right 90 degrees. Align your front heel and your back arch.

Don’t push the left hip back, away from the long edge of your mat. Many teachers have you square your pelvis toward the wall your chest is facing; I teach the pose slightly differently to create more width and ease in the lower back. As you bend your front knee, roll the back hip forward a fair amount and rotate the front knee out, toward the pinky-toe side. Once the knee is thus aligned, you can take the back hip back a bit, but be sure your front knee doesn’t buckle in toward the big-toe side of your foot.

Inhale, consciously grounding your back heel; on an exhalation, bend your front knee over your heel. Aim the inner knee toward the pinky-toe side of the foot to avoid swiveling your knee inward as you bend it. Now sit your right femur head on the imaginary chair. Then lift your right hip point away from your thigh, tuck your tailbone, and position your shoulders over your pelvis. Align the inner right thigh with the long edge of the mat.

To get your thigh parallel to the floor in the full pose, hang a sandbag on a yoga strap from your front hip crease. Want to go further? Inhale and raise your arms out to the sides, palms down. Press into the back heel and reach actively through the back arm, as if your left arm is trying to pull your front knee straight. You can gaze over the front arm, but if you have neck issues, simply look straight forward. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute, inhale and straighten your front knee, release your arms, and turn your feet forward. Never come out of this posture by shifting your weight forward onto the front leg. After a few breaths, repeat on the left.

This pose looks like the mighty warrior Virabhadra emerging fearlessly from the earth and should be a big part of your practice. It increases flexibility and builds strength, physical endurance, and willpower—which will serve you well throughout your practice and your life.

Richard Rosen lives and teaches in California.

Perfecting the Yoga Push-Up : Chaturanga Dandasana

Posted in How-To,Mats - Yoga / Pilates / Exercise,Yoga,Yoga Pose by Harmony on November 9, 2010

Chaturanga Dandasana, or the Yoga Push-Up, is a pose frequently found in the Sun Salutations. Learning to do it properly will protect your wrists and your back. The following video will primarily discuss practicing from the knees. The article from Yoga Journal following the video will review the full pose, which is with straight legs. It is best to practice from the knees first to build up arm and shoulder strength before moving into the full pose to be able to perform this pose with proper alignment.

A yoga mat is essential to protect yourself from slipping in this pose. We offer a large variety of non-slip yoga mats. If you notice that during this video, the male model has his hands properly below his shoulders, but this has forced his hands partly off of his mat. Wider yoga mats are now available on the market. Currently we sell the Urban Tapas Mat (26″ wide) and the XW XL Mat (84″ Long x 36″ Wide) that can help our growing population of male yogis with wider shoulders.  We also sell a wide  non-slip yoga towel, the  eQua Yoga Towel which is 26.5″ wide.  Is there a wide mat that you would like to see us offer?  Please let us know!  We’re always adding new products to satisfy our customers.

Chaturanga Dandasana – from Yoga Journal

chaturanga :  (chaht-tour-ANG-ah don-DAHS-anna)

  • chaturanga = four limbs (chatur = four        anga = limb)
  • danda = staff (refers to the spine, the central “staff” or support of the body)

Step by Step – doing the Full Pose with Straight Legs

Perform Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog), then Plank Pose. Firm your shoulder blades against your back ribs and press your tailbone toward your pubis.

With an exhalation slowly lower your torso and legs to a few inches above and parallel to the floor. There’s a tendency in this pose for the lower back to sway toward the floor and the tailbone to poke up toward the ceiling. Throughout your stay in this position, keep the tailbone firmly in place and the legs very active and turned slightly inward. Draw the pubis toward the navel.

Keep the space between the shoulder blades broad. Don’t let the elbows splay out to the sides; hold them in by the sides of the torso and push them back toward the heels. Press the bases of the index fingers firmly to the floor. Lift the top of the sternum and your head to look forward.

Chaturanga Dandasana is one of the positions in the Sun Salutation sequence. You can also practice this pose individually for anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds. Release with an exhalation. Either lay yourself lightly down onto the floor or push strongly back to Adho Mukha Svanasana, lifting through the top thighs and the tailbone.

Restorative Yoga : Child's Pose

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Blanket,Yoga Bolster,Yoga Pose by Harmony on October 26, 2010

Turn Child’s Pose (Balasana) into a true restorative pose that you can hold for 10 minutes or so. By adding props – such as yoga blankets and yoga bolsters – to a pose, we can extend our time in these poses to really maximize on the poses ability to release stress and deepen the stretch slowly.

When setting up the props, evaluate your personal comfort level. If you’re feeling too much tension in an area, add another blanket, pillow, block, or whatever you are using. As you relax deeper and deeper into the pose, you can always remove some of those props as your muscles and joints give in to this lovely gentle stretch.
Balasana Child Pose in Stress Relief Yoga — powered by

Advancing Your Backbends with a Yoga Strap

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Pose,Yoga Strap by Harmony on October 19, 2010

This video is showing some intermediate/advanced backbend poses and how to use a Yoga Strap to get deeper into these backbends. Most people tend to think props are only necessary as a beginner or to help overcome inflexibility. This video takes us to the next level and shows us how to advance deeper into some more challenging poses.

Yoga Straps come in several different lengths, from 6′ to 10′ long. Consider your arm length, leg length, the poses you’ll be using a strap for, and if you are going to be using a strap doubled over in a long loop for your poses. Your answers will help you in your purchasing decision.

Head to Knee Pose with a Yoga Strap

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Pose,Yoga Strap by Harmony on September 28, 2010

Just a quick video on how to properly get into Janu Sirsasana with a Yoga Strap. This is a wonderful hamstring stretch.  Great for runners, bikers, desk jockeys, and others!

There are a variety of Yoga Straps to choose from.

  • You can choose cotton or hemp material.
  • Buckles are either a plastic cinch buckle or a metal d-ring style.
  • And you can choose from lengths of 6 feet to 10 feet.

These are all personal choice decisions.  The longer lengths may be preferred by taller people, or by those who prefer bound poses, or Iyengar practitioners using lots of props.  Both types of buckles are easy to use, but some people may find the d-ring a little easier but the plastic buckles are a little quieter when allowing the strap to be used without looping.  When deciding between the cotton or hemp straps, you may want to read about the environmental benefits of hemp before making a decision.

Yoga Ball Beginner Poses

Posted in How-To,Stability Ball / Yoga Ball,Yoga,Yoga Pose by Harmony on June 22, 2010

My Yoga Online has yoga videos that you can download if you are a member (monthly membership fee).  Thought we could share this with you since some people might like having the variety of videos available.

Here is a sample video of one that they have for beginners using a Yoga Ball.

Beginner Yoga on Ball

Beginner Yoga on Ball

Supported Bridge Pose

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Blanket,Yoga Block,Yoga Pose by Harmony on May 11, 2010

Adding props to your yoga poses will help you to stay in poses for a longer period of time to achieve their benefits. In this example, you’ll be shown how to practice Bridge Pose supported by either a yoga block or a yoga blanket(s). When setting up the block, play with the different heights to see which is most comfortable for you. Sometimes you’ll find you can raise the height after being at a lower level for a few breaths.  Same with the blankets – some days you might want two, other days one blanket may be right for you.

Yoga Poses Using Sandbags

Posted in How-To,SandBags,Yoga,Yoga Pose by Harmony on May 4, 2010

Yoga Sandbags can be used for a variety of reasons:  to assist you in deepening your stretch; to help bring awareness to a particular part of your body or your breath; or as weights to improve your strength.

We offer Yoga Sandbags that are shipped empty to save on shipping costs and to allow you to fill to any weight desired (up to 10 pounds).  They can be filled with any dry item such as sand, grains, beans, corn or rice.  Our sandbags offer convenient handles and a zipper to keep those dry goods secured.   Several colors to choose from.  Studios may wish to buy different colors to use to fill to different weights that are then easily identified by their colors.

What can you do with a sandbag?  Here are just a few ways to add a sandbag to your yoga practice:

  • In seated poses, such as Easy Pose or Baddha Konasana:  place a sandbag on each knee to help press the knee firmly to the ground and stretches the inner thighs
  • In kneeling poses, such as Hero Pose or Half Hero Pose: lay a sandbag on the bent leg(s) to help press the thigh closer to the ground
  • In supine poses, such as Savasana: lay the sandbag across your belly to become more aware of your breath
  • In reclining poses, such as Supta Baddh Konasana:  place a sandbag on your feet to keep them firmly on the ground
  • When standing in Tall Mountain:  hold the handle of the sandbag(s) and slowly bend your arms at the elbows, lowering the sandbag behind your back for a great arm & shoulder stretch and strengthener.
  • In Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall):  drape a sandbag across the soles of your feet.  The weight grounds your legs and reduces any tension in your lower back.
  • In Savasana – to deepen the pose: take a block and a 10-pound sand bag. After reclining on the floor, position the block on the floor above your head. The block should sit on one of its sides (the height of the block should be about 5 inches), with one of its ends lightly touching your crown. Then lay the sand bag half on the block and half on your forehead. Scrub the forehead skin down, toward your eyebrows. Then let the brain sink away from this weight.
  • In Staff Pose:  lay a sandbag at the top of each thigh near the hip crease to help ground upper legs
  • In Warrior II:  hold a sandbag in each hand and challenge yourself
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