Actually, when times are tough, the strength of yoga really proves itself beautifully. It’s not so much what I do, It’s more that I arrive on my mat and practise. I commit to a certain practice and stay with it, without attachment to the result. I practise to practise, whether that day my energy allows me a tough pose or not, I try and give everything. Practising purely for the sake of practising keeps my inner strength up and keeps me open to life. If I work on my physical strength, I do Sun Salutations to increase my fitness levels, holding certain poses for 10 breaths or longer for strength building and stamina. Poses like the Warriors and variations, but also inversions like Handstand and Forearm balance.
My go to poses when I want to feel stronger and more grounded are the Warriors (Virabhadrasana). I usually start holding Warrior II for about 10 breaths, on both sides. I take Downward Facing Dog and I move to Warrior I, also holding it for about 10 breaths. I usually repeat that little simple sequence about 3 or 4 times before I go to the wall to practise Warrior III. I like to practise Warrior III with the foot of the elevated leg at the wall, it gives me a sense of direction and stability. I usually start with the hands on the floor, shoulder width apart. After that I will add the arms alongside the ears.
I love inversions and they are very present in my home practice. I use Handstands to work on the upper body strength. Sometimes I just go in and out of a Handstand, changing the leg with which I kick up. But other times I just like to hold the Handstand for a minute or so.
To keep my strength up, I usually do a more physically intense practice several times a week. I love to do arm balances and backbends, so they help me to stay strong and open as well. I like to mix things up a bit, so I try to practise new and challenging poses in these practices. I have recently picked up running and that helps me to keep up my cardio.
For upper body, Chaturanga Dandasana it is! Also, Handstands at the wall for 1 minute each and arm balances. To keep my centre strong, Plank, Navasana, Warrior III and a variety of core exercises. Lunges for the legs with squats and full backbends for the erector spinae. Inner strength for me comes from applying the yamas and niyamas to the best of my ability.
To build and maintain strength I like to hold poses for longer. For example Downward Facing Dog I start holding it for 15 seconds lengthening up to 2 minutes. That really builds up strength for the arm balances. Also I create a practice of standing poses where you hold the poses for a minute or two minutes. It gives strength and also awareness in the hip area and that helps explore forward bends, which will in turn leads to backbends. For mental strength I concentrate on the sensations on the nostrils during the in breath and the out breath. Starting simply with one minute and then building up, 5 minutes, 30 minutes and hour and more.
For my physical strength I practise my coreflow class in the morning and then teach it in the evening. Mentally: staying in touch with my core strength and finding truth and expression from there.
I regularly practise Vinyasas..so Chaturanga, Up Dog, Down Dog. I think Down Dog is the ultimate Asana. I always feel better and refreshed after doing it. I also do Handstands, different variations a few times a week. I practise Pigeon pose most days and other hip opening postures. I try and do a few backbends each time I practise and at least one inversion. Shoulder openers I need regularly and I always feel the benefits afterwards. As well as yoga I now do Body Rolling everyday as I find it the perfect complement pre- or post-practice, or for those days when my energy is low.
I love strong sun salutations to keep my fire burning, but lately I’ve been practising more restorative poses as well. They give me both deep rest as well as inner strength.
Handstand! I am one of those long-limbed people who find very difficult to balance on my hands or forearms, but I go through phases where I practise either Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) or Pincha Mayurasana (forearm balance) every day, gaining strength and balance. Also a few rounds of strong Sun Salutations help me staying strong. Besides this I find that practices like daily Nauli (abdominal work) and certain strong pranayamas like the Breath of Fire help cultivate the strength in the energy centre located in the abdominal area.
What works for me to keep my strength up:
I do that three times a week and I really enjoy it (especially now it’s spring!) I notice it offers many strength-reminders:
- “Just do it” (whatever my mood is)
- Don’t go too fast, but maintain a steady, natural rhythm in order not to get out of breath.
(that reminds me of just carrying on with what I set out to do, and not be too impressed when things don’t go my way ;-))
Somehow the simple movement of running seems to put things in perspective for me. It clears my head of unnecessary details or worries so my energy can flow again.
2. Practise self love
Whenever I love myself, all is fine and there is no need to keep up anything really…
So that, to me, is the best practice I know.
3. Remember my inner lion
When I need to support myself I call on my inner lion. He (yes, I know, it should be a she but he just isn’t…) is strong, bold, healthy, playful and merciless. He helps me to remind me of my capability to stand up for myself.
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