Remembering the Feet

This article discusses the importance of building a strong and supple foundation in our lower body. Let’s begin by by bringing awareness to the fluidity and support of our feet.
Begin in Tadasana.

Bring your awareness into the bottom of your feet. Feel your feet touching the floor or your yoga mat. Feel where the metatarsals join with the phalanges (the toes). Become aware of the calcaneus (the heel bone). Notice how the talus interacts with the tibia to form your ankle joint. How balanced does it feel? Now move into Vrksana (Tree Pose). Notice how each foot is feeling, and how they are contributing to your practice – are you holding your feet with hardness, or is the lift through the arches of the feet happening with effortless effort, with a sense of nourishing ease?

Sustaining the arches with effortless effort and nourishing ease comes from the interaction of muscles and fascia. When the interaction of the muscles and fascia is functional, we are more able to feel the 2-way energy exchange between us and the earth. From us into to the earth, our energy can seep into and spread like roots in soil. From the earth to us, we can feel the return of energy back into our feet and through our body.The Key Players: Muscular Support from Below

Sitting on the floor or on a chair, take one foot onto your knee. Turn the bottom or sole of your foot over so that you can look at it. Take one finger and place it on your calcaneus, in the center of the heel. Draw a diagonal line toward your big toe. That is the medial longitudinal arch. Now take your finger back to the center of your heel. Draw a diagonal line toward your pinky toe. That is the lateral longitudinal arch.

The key muscles that support these arches are the Flexor Hallucis Longus and the Abductor Hallucis on the medial arch and the Abductor Digiti Minimi on the lateral arch. The Flexor Digitorum Brevis and the Quadratus Plantae support both longitudinal arches.

Still in sitting, place your foot on the floor, sole touching the floor. About 1/3 of the way between your ankle and toes is the transverse arch, which connects the two longitudinal arches. The primary muscle that supports the transverse arch is the Adductor Hallucis.

The Key Players: Muscular Support from Above

There are 2 primary muscles that support the arches from above, the Peroneus Longus and the Tibialis Posterior. Together, they are commonly called the “stirrup muscles because they powerfully pull upward. Each originate on the lower leg, with their tendons entering the bottom of the foot from 2 sides – the peroneus longus on the pinky toe side, the tibialis posterior from the big toe side. They both attach at multiple locations on the bottom of the foot, which enables them to give primary support to the transverse arch and secondary support to the longitudinal arches.

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Surynamaskara B

This yoga pose has a beautiful rhythm and movement of opening and closing the body. In particular, it begins to open the hips with the addition of lunges. Suryanamaskara “B” in its full expression has a few more moves that “A”, and will really get you moving and the blood flowing.I have chosen to offer you a very modified version of the traditional asana at this time, as a way of giving you something that prepares your body and also develops your strength and stamina. The full version of this yoga asana, with upward dog, if done properly is very challenging and often there are so many that are not able to do it with any integrity that I prefer to teach modifications until the strength and ability are developed. Keep in mind that the modifications are not for the faint of heart and offer plenty of challenge.

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Surynamaskara A

Surya means the sun and namaskara is a greeting of honor and respect to the divinity within each of us. The practice of the sun salutations is a dynamic flow of breath and movement that has many benefits.It is said that this yoga asana will awaken and tone every area of your body. Generally the sun salutations are the warm up component of a yoga practice – generating heat, rhythm and blood flow, as well as allowing the attention of the practitioner to draw inward and still on the flow of the breath. I will be modifying the sequences of Surynamaskara A & B in these video clips in order to give you the alignment and foundation so that when we advance to the full expression of Surynamaskara A & B you will be well grounded in the biomechanics of the movements in order to fully reap the benefits of these age old salutations.

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Core Body Awareness

Certainly one of the gifts of yoga is an amazing awareness of our physical being that may be developed, and the resulting benefits. I have been practicing yoga for nearly twenty years and believed myself to have a fairly good understanding of my body and how it works. Having said that, it was not really until I started practicing Asthanga Vinyasa Yoga that I had any idea what a bandha was or how that related to my core body, and the consequent implications of that awareness.Augmenting that revelation, I had the opportunity to work with Ana Forrest a couple of years ago and had a huge awakening as to what core strength really could be, and what it wasn’t, in my body, at that time even though I had a dedicated asana practice. Whew, did she ever wake me up!! Needless to say, it was an amazing wake up call because, up to that time I had really only been skirting around deep core awareness with my understanding of bandhas – as limited as it was.

Now, a few years later, I have been practicing with my newfound awareness and developing some techniques of my own and I can honestly say this is some of the most important and profound work you will do, within the context of developing personal strength, core stability, and balanced asanas.

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Parivritta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle) | Trinity Yoga

Parivritta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle)

The revolved triangle takes all of the aspects of trikonasana and spins them around, challenging ones balance; poise and ability to remain centered and focused. Imagine taking a structure and turning it on its side, or upside down. In a sense the triangle would look the same no matter what side you laid it on.

That is the challenge and the benefit of revolved triangle, to maintain that sense of the trinity well balanced, properly focused and integrated. Because in effect it is also a twist you have the added benefits of twists, which are excellent for lower back pain, for healthy digestion and function of the lower abdomen as well as the effects of turning oneself upside down, which strengthens the central nervous system.

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Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle) | Trinity Yoga

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle)

Utthita means, “extended” and Tri means “three” and Kona is “an angle”. This asana represents the trinity of body, mind and spirit, and explores the interplay of these forces: dependency, interdependency, and interaction.Triangle pose is an active pose, which benefits and tones the legs, hips and abdomen. We see triangles many places in life as supporting and strong structures.

The essence of this asana is the realization of ones strength and the ability to resist pressure and support weight.It is an invigorating pose and due to the need to support weight, has certain alignment components that need to be observed. I like to begin with the foundation always, and for this pose you will begin with your feet approximately one legs distance apart and to begin with parallel.

Then going to the right first, lift the toes on your left foot and rotate the foot 45 degrees to the right, in the same manner rotate your right foot out a full 90 degrees. Ideally the heel of your front foot will draw a straight line to your back foot’s inner arch.

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Upside Down Dog | Trinity Yoga

Upside Down Dog

updside down dog
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Turning yourself “upside down dog” is a good thing. Too often, we live our lives from the neck up, and by thinking too much we lose the moment and our connection to our bodies.Many of our physical problems actually arise simply because we live too much in our heads.

When you turn your world upside down, symbolically & metaphorically, you change that. This yoga asana is excellent medicine for anxiety, obsessiveness and an ego that’s stuck or unyielding.

Inversions (a type of asana in which the feet are lifted higher than the heart) have many other health benefits. The inversion of the circulatory system and the flushing out of venous blood brings an increase in blood flow to the brain and a general feeling of well being. The endrocrine glands, the digestive system and the lymphatic system are also cleansed and re-vitalized.

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Arms at the Wall Downward Facing Dog | Trinity Yoga

Arms at the Wall Downward Facing Dog

downward facing dog
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Arms-at-the-wall is a modification for the Downward Dog asana if you have a lot of wrist issues. This asana modification is also an excellent way to relieve stress in the shoulders and spine at your office, in the grocery line up, or at home in the kitchen between peeling and chopping.

Notice that the same action occurs in the arms – active hands – all knuckles pressed in, heel of the hand firmly connecting with the surface, and upper shoulders rolled out via the drawing down and broadening of the shoulder blades. Again you are getting all of the benefits of Downward Dog, as your head is lower than your heart.Continue to breathe and allow that hollow feeling in your lower belly.

You will need to pay attention to keeping the thighs active by continually lifting the kneecaps to emphasize the forward rotation of the pelvic floor. This is an asana you can do at the office, in the kitchen or at the park without any difficulty. Simply find the surface where you will place your hands at hip height. Then walk yourself back until your arms are straight.

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Childs Pose (Dartihasana) | Trinity Yoga

Childs Pose (Dartihasana)

childs pose
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This asana replicates how we all began, in a fetal position – curled into oneself. This is a simple asana if we still have the flexibility of a child; but if not, it is a wonderful pose to begin to surrender into that flexibility.You will see a picture of the asana opposite with my arms outstretched, this is to encourage the shoulder opening that is possible here and also prepares you to enter into the more challenging asana, Downward Dog.

With the top of your feet lying flat on the ground, sit back toward your heels, arms outstretched, and release.You may also use this asana to completely relax. Use props such as a pillow under your belly and between your legs and a bolster or blocks under your head if it doesn’t quite reach the floor yet.

In addition if your ankles are stiff place a small towel under them. In this case you will want to passively rest your arms by your sides and totally LET GO.

Allow yourself to rest here and notice with each successive breath that you slip into yourself gently and ever so peacefully.

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