The 10 things you’ll do once you start yoga that have nothing to do with yoga. ~ Lee Anne Finfinger | elephant journal

The 10 things you’ll do once you start yoga that have nothing to do with yoga. ~ Lee Anne Finfinger | elephant journal.

Very funny… and reassuring… We all get caught up in it at the beginning, playing the new age hippy thing is so fun!!

The 10 things you’ll do once you start yoga (that have nothing to do with yoga).

By Lee Anne Finfinger

Thanks to and the 


1.              At least once, you will force yourself to try to be vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten-free (insert any over-zealous diet here)/ drink Kombucha/ buy bottled water before class and pour it into your sustainable water bottle before the teacher/students/Whole Foods cashier next to you sees.  (If you’re craving meat, just eat it!  On your deathbed, will you really be glad that you didn’t have that steak on your 30thBirthday?)

2.              Your iPod will now include a heavy serving of Kirtan music that you will listen to on your very long commute to your yoga studio (It’s cool; if you want to listen to Kirtan occasionally, go for it!  When you start listening to it while driving and falling asleep — time to go back to your old playlists. Do NOT switch over to NPR!)

3.              You will pretend not to notice that your ass now fits in a size 6 instead of an 8, but you’re secretly thrilled.  (When you get down to a 4 though, watch it.  People will talk.)

4.              You will go back to your natural hair color/ remove your hair extensions/ cut your hair short in an attempt to stop paying so much attention to your vanity.  (Try not to cut it too short — the growing out process is a bitch and then you’ll just need more hair extensions. I did.)

5.              You’ll attempt to read the Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, or the Upanishads while your stack of fashion magazines calls to you from the next room.  (Really, why can’t I like Rachel Zoe and yoga?  Now that I’m thin enough to actually wear her clothes, why should I pretend I don’t want to?) (See #3.)

6.              You will take a retreat.  Hello, Kripalu!  (It’s ok — those other people probably are weirdos.  So are you.  Eat your breakfast and shut up.  No really, shut the fuck up – it’s a silent breakfast.)

7.              You’ll start taking photos of yourself in yoga poses. Often.  And you’ll think that other people care.  It’s like the modern-day version of the vacation slideshow.  No one gives a shit, but they’ll pretend like they do so that you do the same when they whip out their own photos.

8.              You will at some point wear mala beads, which will break all over the floor of your 6:15am class.  (Basically, it’ll end about as well as when I wore my Grandmother’s rosary beads to dinner at age 6. Silver Lining: The company was kind enough to re-string them for free, and now I just wear them like a really cool wrap bracelet.  It’s very hippie chic. Thank you September Vogue.) (See #5)

9.              You will become a cheap date.  Remember, you just dropped two sizes and you continue to spend at least an hour a day sweating and twisting and breathing.  You’ll be buzzed from one drink!

10.          You’ll get over yourself.  If you teach yoga, you’ll hope that people show up because they like taking class from who you really are.  If you practice yoga, you’ll keep showing up and you’ll realize that the other shit doesn’t matter.



Appreciate the Power of your Breath

ImageYoga in its wholeness draws upon and channels prana or life force energy; prana is harnessed and purified using breathing techniques and exercises called Pranayama, among others and yoga asana (postures) strengthens and detoxifies the body allowing space for the prana to flow freely.


To start let’s take yoga out of the equation. Breathing is an essential part of life…agreed? It is proven that we can survive a few days without food or water but without breath life ceases in minutes.

Being that our breath is so essential to living, if we learn to regulate the breath we can enhance and maximise our health both physically and spiritually.

There is a strong link between the somatic (associated with the voluntary control of body movements) and autonomic (control system functioning largely below the level of consciousness-involuntary) nervous systems. Through our autonomic nervous system our brain is programmed to breathe throughout our life. We don’t have to remind ourselves to breathe every minute- thankfully! ImageHowever, the amazing thing is that we also have the ability to regulate and control our breath with our conscious mind. By doing this we create a bridge between the two nervous systems and therefore between the conscious and subconscious mind. The magic of it all is that with the regular practice of breath control we can improve our mental health and overall wellbeing.

A profound example is how effective breathing techniques are for pregnancy (specifically the delivery); by regulating the breath it calms the mind and allows the body to perform one of life’s biggest miracles.

With an inhale we invite universal energy (prana) into our system, clearing blockages and healing us on many levels. With an exhale we remove whatever toxins and impurities that are collected in us. We let go and allow the body to release and relax.

Our breath is the powerful link between body, mind, emotions and spirit.

  • IImagen order to move our bodies it is our mind that has the intention to move, and then we need to breathe to perform the physical task. By regulating the breath we can improve our movement, for example, our endurance and stamina while trekking or running.
  • Our emotions have an effect on our breathing, for example, notice the breath when you or a child cries or if angry or tired…. By controlling the breath we regulate the emotions. Calm and soothing breath = calm emotions and clear mind! Happy Body is a Happy Spirit!
  • Breathing is the most basic and simple form of meditation, unifying the spiritual and physical body, connecting with prana.


So when you bring it back to yoga you see how the vinyasa is teaching us to harness prana. Vinyasa is the linking of the body movement with controlled breath.

Try it now – take a moment to sit, close the eyes and take a really nice, big deep breath in and then slowly, smoothly exhale – sit with this feeling. Appreciate the power of your breath!

Strike a Pose! Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog

Adho Mukha Svanasana

(AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna)

Adho = downward
Mukha = face
Svana = dog

Asana = pose

One of the most popular yoga poses today, mainly for its name –down dog. Even if you’ve never attended a yoga class, you most likely have heard of this one. This is a very important pose, used throughout the sequence, mainly in the Sun Salutation but also as a transitional pose. This is also a great pose done by its self then followed by resting in Child’s Pose.

How to do Downward Facing Dog:

The pose resembles that of an upside down letter V.

  • Let’s start with the hands: they should be shoulder width apart and your wrist line (joint) should be parallel to the front edge of your mat. There should be equal space between each of your fingers and in general, your middle finger will point straight ahead. It is very important that you ground your entire hand fully (especially knuckles of your index finger and thumb) into the ground at all times to avoid excess strain on your wrist joint.
  • Your feet are hip width apart and they are to remain parallel to each other. Find the range for placement of the feet, not too close but not too far apart, well supported from both legs and arms. Grounding with hands and feet.
  • Shoulder blades working down along the spine, space between the shoulders and ears – no tension in the neck. Lengthen the back, soften the front
  • Raise the heels to find extension of the spine, the sit bones pointed to the ceiling, gradually lower heels to mat. Not essential to have heels on the mat – main point of pose is to straighten the back – no rounding or arching in the back, supported equally by your upper and lower body, elongating the neck and spine.
  • Beginners and those with tight hamstrings will start with bent knees.



Benefits of Downward Facing Dog:

  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Energizes the body, Increases full-body circulation – feel the flow of energy running in around the body
  • Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches and hands
  • Strengthens the arms and legs
  • Improves digestion
  • Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain and fatigue
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis


  • Downward facing dog elongates and lengthens the back. For the office worker who spends their day hunched over a computer or desk this pose would have great benefit by stretching out the body.
  • Additionally, downward facing dog is a mild inversion since the head is lower than the hips, and inversions are great for increasing blood flow to the brain and eyes. And because it stimulates the nervous system, it also helps with memory and concentration.

There are a few instances where you should avoid this pose entirely: If you have a history of carpal tunnel syndrome, if you are in the late stages of pregnancy and if you experience sharp pains while performing the pose.


Reminder: Yoga is a moving meditation, not a fitness class!

In today’s fast pace world everyone is looking for a quick fix. Why not put in a bit of time to learn a practice that will over time give great benefit. Yoga claims to have many benefits and from each school of yoga there are many great things that come from a regular practice, such as mental and physical steadiness, strength, flexibility and it can detoxify the muscles and organs. The underlying message is that Yoga brings balance to your system, eliminating restlessness in the body so you can find a comfortable place within you!

Yoga is a moving meditation; pushing or forcing yourself into a pose will be of no benefit. Holding yourself in tension is not the meaning of yoga either but using the practice to learn skills to help you in all personal avenues off the mat will be of great benefit!

Use the breath to guide you: Inhale – gain space, Exhale – allows you to relax, or go deeper. Steady and even inhale and exhale through the nose. Listen to the sound and rhythm of the breath. Try to stay in tune with your breathing – vinyasa is the linking of movement and breath. Cultivate an inner awareness, know your limits, listen to your body, and work on your breath not your ego!

Over time, with a regular practice, your body will open up. Be patient; enjoy all stages of the practice. There should be no ego in yoga, this competitive attitude will cause injury and prevent the real benefit coming to you. Everyone has a different body type so trying to be like your neighbour is preventing you from seeing the beauty of your own body and posture.

A moving meditation allows you to check in with the physical body, the emotions, the mind and the spiritual body. Becoming aware of the breath on the mat allows you to take these skills off the mat. Regulating the breath will become easier and, at difficult or stressful times, it will bring a sense of calmness. The first time you find yourself using the skills from your yoga class in an everyday situation you will then understand the reasons and benefit of yoga.


Such a Poser: Warrior 1

Warrior I

Virabhadrasana I

Virabhadra is the name of a powerful mythological warrior. There are three main variations of Warrior. It may seem strange to name a yoga pose after a warrior; after all, aren’t yogis known for their non-violent ways and promoting peace and unity? But remember that one of the most revered of all the yoga texts, the Bhagavad-Gita, is the dialog between two famous and feared warriors, Krishna and Arjuna, set on a battlefield between two great armies spoiling for a fight. What’s really being commemorated in this pose’s name and held up as an ideal for all practitioners, is the “spiritual warrior,” who bravely does battle with the universal enemy, self-ignorance (avidya), the ultimate source of all our suffering.

How to do Warrior 1:

  • From Downward Facing Dog
  • Pivot on the ball of the left foot and drop the left heel on to the floor with the toes turned out about 45 degrees from the heel
  • Bring the right foot forward next to the right hand
  • Bend the right knee directly over the right ankle, so that your thigh is parallel to the floor
  • Draw the right hip back and the left hip forward, so that the hips are squared to the front
  • Bring the arms out to the side and up
  • Bring your palms to touch and gaze up toward the thumbs, lift the chest
  • Slide the shoulder blades down the back
  • Stretch your tailbone towards the floor while at the same time lifting your torso
  • As you exhale, sink your hips. As you inhale, lift the chest a little higher.
  • Repeat on the left side
  • Beginners: Step the left foot out toward the left side of the mat a bit to allow more room for the hips to square. Place your hands on your hip bones, so you can feel whether they are squared forward. Draw the right hip back and the left hip forward. When you bring your arms up, keep them shoulder distance apart if that is more comfortable
  • Advanced: Make sure the right knee stays directly over the right ankle. Line up the right heel with the center of the left arch. Ground down the outer edge of the left foot while lifting the inner arch of that foot. Really engage the quadriceps. Hold the pose for 5 breaths (inhale & exhale through nose =1 breath)


Benefits of Warrior 1:

  • Strengthens the legs
  • Opens the chest and shoulders
  • Strengthens the shoulders and arms and the muscles of the back
  • Strengthens and stretches the thighs, calves and ankles



  • Students with shoulder problems should keep their raised arms parallel (or slightly wider than parallel) to each other.
  • Students with neck problems should keep their head in a neutral position and not look up at the hands.


What is Ashtanga Yoga?


“Ashtanga Yoga is a system of yoga transmitted to the modern world by Sri K.Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009) he is the father of Ashtanga Yoga- This method of yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures—a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind.” (

When translated from the Sanskrit in to English, Ashtanga means “Eight Limbs”.
Ashta (Astau) = Eight Anga = Limb.
Hence, we find it composed of eight elements.
These are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.

When we analyse these eight principals we find the key to harmonious living encased within. Explaining these in a nutshell they are –

1. YAMA : external codes/ value system towards outside world – how to live in this world
2. NIYAMA : internal codes/ how to maintain pure on internal personal level
3. ASANA : Posture/ How I hold my body
4. PRANAYAMA : breath control/regulation of breath
5. PRATYAHARA : withdrawal of senses / not being their slave
6. DHARANA : fixing the mind on an object/directing attention /concentration
7. DHYANA : Meditation
8. SAMADHI: Ultimate enlightenment/one with the universe/union with higher self

1. AHIMSA : non-violence/not causing harm
2. SATYA : truthfulness/honesty
3. ASTEYA :non-stealing/taking only what you earn
4. BRAHMACARYA : preserving of vital energy/ harnessing of self-energy
5. APARIGRAHA : Not taking anything without approval/not taking anything that is not needed/ no overindulgence.
1. SAUCA : cleanliness/purity (kriyas)
2. SANTOSA : contentment/internal passive attitude
3. TAPAH : Austerities/discipline/sacrifice
4. SVADHYAYA : study/reflect on self/take mental energy in a particular direction
5. ISVARA PRANIDHANANI : the feeling of divine presence/a force within you gives joy

So what is YOGA?
Yoga in Sanskrit translates into UNION – literally to ‘yoke’ – so to unite these elements, to unite with your higher self through meditation reaching ultimate ‘bliss’.
This union or yoga is achieved by the controlling or channelization of the behaviour of our mind. – In a way simple mind control…. Don’t we all do this?! Eh…? No, this is a very difficult task to shut off the constant stream of chatter. That is why these elements are here to guide us, to give us a set of boundaries to live by.

It is easiest to start the asana (posture) practice, as over time with a dedicated routine the asana practice become habitual, therefore allowing your breath (Pranayama) to deepen and the mind to slowly quieten: you begin to tame your senses. With a routine practice the body opens up allowing you to sit in Padmasana (or a cross legged seated pose) for longer, the breath – Ujjayi Breath, becomes stronger and your Pranayama practice can deepen., this in turn leads to a comfortable seated pose where you can start to focus your attention – concentration. It is all a process so the main thing to do is enjoy every step, observe your self – cultivate a conscious awareness – this is a great tool to have.

The Asana practice is a beautiful moving meditation, when you get into the flow of it it becomes like a dance, moving to the count of the breath.
MYSORE STYLE (self guided practice) – the traditional way Ashtanga Yoga is taught in the city of Mysore, India (Mysore, home of Ashtanga Yoga – of the late Sri K.Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009) and currently his grandson R. Sharath Jois). The same set sequence of asana (postures) that is memorised by the student and each student moves through the sequence at their own pace. Individual instruction is given by the teacher as and when needed. Both beginner and advanced practitioner practise in the same class, the length of your practice depends on you – on the pace and number of poses you are given.

I have found that Ashtanga Yoga has allowed me to be aware of my body, my emotions and my mind. It doesn’t miraculously make you levitate and clear all problems but the eight limbs are a nice set of principals to follow and these are all tools to assist you in creating a more positive life. It takes time and commitment, for sure but I don’t know how I could go on with out it! Everyday there is always something new to learn, I love being a student of Yoga!

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