LightontheMasters Yoga Challenge Recap

LightOnTheMasters was an 8-day yoga challenge on Instagram during which the hosts @twincities_yogi (Stacy) ,@lightfulyogini (Sara), @minnesotayogini (Lacey), and @yogasassygee (Cassie) took turns featuring a different master and lineage per day with information on each. Although the hosts offered options for poses, participants were free to choose any pose they felt best honored the master or lineage.

Day 1: Iyengar Yoga–BKS Iyengar

According to Lacey, Iyengar yoga, founded by BKS Iyengar, “is a form of Hatha yoga that places an emphasis on detail, precision, and alignment in the performance of asana (postures) and branayama (breath control)”. Iyengar yoga is “firmly based on the 8 traditional limbs of yoga” and “often makes use of props to aid in performing a posture in the correct alignment”. According to a BBC article, BKS Iyengar passed away last year at the age of 95. The year prior to that, he is reported to have said “When I still find some parts of my body that I have not found before, I tell myself, yes I am progressing scientifically… I don’t stretch my body as if it is an object. I do yoga from the self towards the body, not the other way around.” To honor this master and lineage I picked Urdhva Mukha Janu Sirsasana using a yoga strap.

Iyengar Yoga Urdhva Mukha Janu Sirsasana for LightOntheMasters Yoga Challenge

Day 2: Yin Yoga–Paulie Zink

Cassie said that Yin Yoga, sometimes called Taoist yoga, typically requires poses to be held for 3-5 minutes “which gives your muscles time to ‘let go'”. A full sequence of this type of yoga has the aim of stimulating meridians in the body. Improved flow in these meridians “helps organ health, immunity, and emotional wellbeing”. The goal of Yin Yoga, she says “is to get your body to feel as soft, strong, and as flowing as water”. This form of yoga was created by Paulie Zink, whom Cassie says is an internationally acclaimed marital arts grand champion and Chi Kung expert who has been entered into four martial arts halls of fame. She says that Zink learned Yin Yoga as a foundation of his martial arts and studied for 7 years before developing his own style of Yin, which is the style practiced today.

The poses in yin are named differently than in many other yoga styles. To honor this tradition I tried caterpillar using a pillow as a bolster. I had seen pictures of people doing this pose and thought it looked comfy. It wasn’t, and I didn’t hold it for 5 minutes, or even 3. I probably would have been happier trying dragonfly with a pillow. I had thought this pose might have been more comfortable with some back stretches preceding it, but Cassie said that “actually Yin is classically practiced cold…and it’s definitely not a comfortable style of yoga, but yoga is all about us just slightly pushing our comfort zones right?” In as much as this is true, I wish I had realized ahead of time this would be less comfortable. I am wondering since I had read before that Yin and Restorative are sometimes used interchangeably, if this is why I had expected it to be comfortable. I did try Restorative yoga on Day 5.

 

Yin Yoga Caterpillar for LightOntheMasters Yoga Challenge

Day 3: Jivamukti–Sharon Gannon & David Life

Jivamukti was created by David Life and Sharon Gannon. According to Stacy, the name of the style means “liberation while living”, which I love. There are 5 main tenets to this practice: Shastra (scripture), Bhakti (devotion), Ahimsa (Kindness), Nada (music) and Dhyana (meditation). Stacy mentions that Ahimsa can also be interpreted as “nonharming” and Nada as “deep inner listening”. You can learn more about the philosophy from JivamuktiYoga.comI don’t know a lot about this yoga method but am so far feeling drawn to learn more about it. 

To honor this master/lineage I picked hero pose which an article on Do You Yoga said is “effective in bringing relief to tired legs”. Since my legs were sore from doing several minutes of continuous barbell squats during Les Mills Pump’s Pump and Burn workout, this was a good choice of pose. They did feel better following a few repetitions of this pose. I also did a pose from Jivamukti for Day 7 of BecauseYogiSays.

Jivamukti Hero Pose for LightOnTheMasters Yoga Challenge

Day 4: Ashtanga–Shri K Pattabhi Jois

Ashtanga, which was created by Pattabhi Jois means “eight limbs”, referring to the eight limbs of Pantajali’s yoga sutras, which Sara explains as: Yamas (moral codes), Niyama (self-purification), Asana (pose), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (sense control), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (total peace). According to Sara, the three main things that distinguish Ashtanga from other methods are Pranayama (the breath), the Bandhas (energetic locks), and Drishti (fixed gaze), which “work together to steady the mind and contain energy”. Another distinguishing factor is that Ashtanga is a set series of postures which increase in difficulty and are meant to be practiced on one’s own. Even in Mysore style, in which an Ashtanga practitioner is with other practitioners, each person practices his or her own sequence of postures, gradually being given more by a teacher when the teacher feels the student is ready. I’ve had the most exposure to the principles of this form of yoga since it is the form practiced by many of the hosts of the yoga challenges I’ve been doing.

The pose I chose to honor this master/lineage was Samasthiti or Equal Standing Pose, which other yoga methods may refer to as Tadasana or Mountain Pose. I chose this posture because it is a foundational pose and begins Surya Namaskara, or the Sun Salutation, which is performed at the beginning of Ashtanga yoga practice. I had been up for almost 24 hours at this point, trying to reset my sleep schedule, so I didn’t do the actual Sun Salutation.

Ashtanga Samasthiti or Equal Standing Pose or Tadasana or Mountain Pose for LightOnTheMasters Yoga Challenge

Day 5: Restorative Yoga–Judith Lasater

This form of yoga is more what I was expecting when I had tried Yin Yoga. I had read that people often use the two yoga terms interchangeably, and while there are similarities, I have found that the two approaches are different. While Yin Yoga looks like it might be comfortable, it’s not, while Restorative Yoga is meant to be comfortable and utilizes props to help the muscles relax. According to Lacey, Restorative Yoga can help one achieve deep relaxation and calm the mind. This form of yoga was popularized by Judith Lasater, whom Lacey says was a student of BKS Iyengar. Lacey said that Judith became interested in this form of yoga after her twin brother died and she needed to sit and rest. Judith found that lying on the floor for 20 minutes a day and letting go is life changing.

To honor this master/lineage, I chose child’s pose or balasana. This has long been a favorite relaxing pose of mine, so I was excited to try it with a pillow under me as I had seen done in pictures of restorative poses. It was blissful. Since I had been up so long, it was hard not to fall asleep on my mat. Sometimes we all need to recharge and give our bodies and minds a break. While I don’t know that I would do this type of yoga daily, I can definitely see incorporating more of it into my life and recommending it to others.Restorative Yoga Child's Pose With a Pillow for LightOntheMastersYoga Challenge

Day 6: Kundalini–Yogi Bhajan

According to Cassie, Yogi Bhajan created Kundalini (the name of which means “primal energy”) by combining Brahmachari’s teachings with Tantric theories and Virsa Singh’s mantras. Thus, “Kundalini combines meditation, mantra, physical postures, and breathing techniques”. Cassie says, “We awaken kundalini to be able to call on the full potential of the nervous and glandular systems and to balance the subtle system of chakras and meridians in the body.” The six major parts of a Kundalini Yoga class are tuning in with the Adi Mantra, Pranayam (warmup), Kriya (postures), Relaxation, Meditation, and closing with the Blessing Song.

Kundalini is traditionally practiced wearing white. Apparently this is part of auric color therapy and is said to extend the aura. Yogi Bhajan is quoted as saying, “We ask you to wear white so that you will reflect what is outside and go within yourself–that’s what white clothes can do for you”. If you want a more complicated expansion on white clothes as related to auras, follow the preceding link. The kriya I chose for this lineage was Life Nerve Stretch, which starts with spreading the legs and grabbing the toes, then stretching toward each leg before stretching toward the middle. In other yoga styles this pose may be called Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend or Upavistha Konasana.

Kundalini Life Nerve Stretch or Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend or Upavistha Konasana for LightOnTheMasters

Day 7: Para Yoga–Rod Stryker

This form of yoga was created by Rod Stryker, whom Stacy said earned the title of Yogiraj or “master of yoga” after studying under Kavi Yogiraj Mani Finger and his son Yogiraj Alan Finger. According to Stacy, this yoga style, the name of which means “supreme, highest, ancient”, has the cultural values of: self mastery, empowerment, guardianship, compassion, and love of life. In a Para Yoga class, all aspects of yoga are combined in one class (Asana, Breath, Bandha, Mudra, Visualization, Chanting, Kriya, and Kundalini). According to the About page of ParaYoga.com, in this approach the asana “is used as a technique to balance the main forces that sustain the mind and body”. The pose I chose for this master and lineage was Navasana or Boat Pose, which GaiamTV says improves balance, develops focus and concentration, and improves digestion while strengthening the hips, thighs, and abdominal muscles.

Para Yoga Navasana or Boat Pose for LightOnTheMasters Yoga Challenge

Day 8: Baptiste–Baron Baptiste

This form of yoga was founded by Walt Baptiste and further developed by his son, Baron Baptiste. According to Sara, Baron produced “his own challenging heat-based vinyasa flow” by combining the styles of Raja, Ashtanga, Iyengar, and Bikram and has said “my style is 20 percent mechanics and 80 percent spiritual psychology. My style is based on being safe and opening the body from a place that is protecting the joint system. I do a lot of creative sequencing, and I teach people my philosophy, ‘to thine own self be true’. You know intuitively what is right for your body.” Sara got the opportunity to practice with Baron Baptiste. You can read a little about there experience at the preceding link. The pose I chose for this master and lineage was Salabhasana or Locust Pose. I got photobombed by my dogs. If you want to, you can see more of them on @phoenixxphyre.

As I had mentioned in my post on choosing a yoga method, I only recently learned there were many different yoga methods, so I appreciated the opportunity this challenge provided to learn more about some of the ones I’d heard of before as well as a few more. Although there are parts of all of them that seem interesting, the ones I am feeling most drawn to learning more about at the moment are Jivamukti, Ashtanga, and Restorative.

Do you have a favorite of these yoga methods? Let me know in the comments below! 

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YogaGivesBackChallenge Poses 21-30

YogaGivesBackChallenge

Click to enlarge

Last time, I shared the second third of the poses from the YogaGivesBackChallenge, which was a 30-day yoga challenge and charity challenge on Instagram. Today I’ll be sharing the final third of the poses. During this yoga challenge, the number of posts determined the donation amount that sponsor @aloyoga and possibly the hosts  @beachyogagirl (Kerri Verna) and @kinoyoga (Kino MacGregor), would make to @yogagivesback, a nonprofit focused on raising awareness and funds to alleviate poverty in India

At the end of the challenge, Kino reported that there were over 91,000, which was enough for Alo Yoga to donate $1000 to Yoga Gives Back. Although it was originally planned that Alo Yoga would donate $2500 for 100,000 posts and the hosts would donate $2500 at 150,000, Kino said “since it was so close and we are so touched by your poses and participation” she and Kerri would match the donation for a total of $2000 which “will fund micro-loans to women entrepreneurs and keep children in school in India”.

Pose 21: Baddha Hasta Sirsasana B or Bound Hands Headstand B

According to Kerri, “if you have a solid handstand practice” this pose “isn’t as hard as it looks”. I’m not to the point of being able to do a headstand yet, and Salamba Sirsasana or Supported Headstand was the pose for that day’s JuneOYourChakras (which I’ll be telling you about soon), I considered this my attempt for both. I didn’t get a full headstand, but did get a little lift.

Pose 21: Baddha Hasta Sirsasana B or Bound Hands Headstand B for YogaGivesBackChallenge

Pose 22: Mayurasana or Peacock Pose 

Kino said, “This was one of the hardest poses for me to even begin to make sense of in my practice”. Even with her instructions that followed this statement, I found it difficult as well. I couldn’t balance my whole body weight. I was able to lift one foot, but not both.

Pose 22: Mayurasana or Peacock Pose for YogaGivesBackChallengePose 23: Bharadvajasana or Bharadvaja’s Twist

I was able to get this pose pretty easily following Kino’s example, although I think it would have been a little easier if I had worn different pants. For those who might wonder, the shirt is a Firefly shirt that says Keep Calm and Stay Shiny.

Pose 23: Bharadvajasana or Bharadvaja's Twist for YogaGivesBackChallenge

Pose 24: Kurmasana or Tortoise Pose

Kerri said to feel free to bend the legs for this pose, which I found I had to do. I think my minpin was a little concerned about me being in this position, which I found a little difficult to comfortably get back out of. You can see more of my minpin on @phoenixxphyre and he makes an occasional appearance on Embracing Adventure.

Pose 24: Kurmasana or Tortoise Pose for YogaGivesBackChallenge

Pose 25: Baddha Hasta Sirsasana D Bound Hand Headstand D

According to Kino, this headstand variation is in the Ashtanga Yoga Second Series. I am still working on being able to do a headstand, so I certainly wouldn’t be able to do it with my hands behind my back. So, here’s another prep pose for a bound hands headstand. I didn’t get a full headstand, but I did get a little lift again.

Pose 25: Baddha Hasta Sirsasana Bound Hand Headstand for YogaGivesBackChallenge

Pose 26: Urdhva Mukha Paschimattanasana or Upward Facing Intense West Stretch

I’m definitely not able to fold my legs up as high as Kino or reach my feet, but I was able to straighten my legs and grab my ankles.

Pose 27: Eka Pada Sirsasana or One Foot Behind Head Pose

Years ago, I was able to get a leg behind my head. Apparently I am nowhere near that flexible anymore, so I did the pose that Kino did right before putting her leg behind her head. I’m not sure if there is a separate name for that or not.

Pose 27: Prep pose for Eka Pada Sirsasana or One Foot Behind Head Pose

Pose 28: Vrschikasana or Scorpion Handstand

Kino suggested that if unable to do a scorpion headstand to try it from a forearm balance. I can’t do a forearm balance either, so I decided to do a prep pose closer to Dolphin Pose, which was suggested in a YouTube video by Ekhart Yoga on how to get into a forearm balance.

Pose 28: Prep pose for Forearm Balance for Vrschikasana or Scorpion Handstand

Pose 29: Pincha Mayurasana or Feathered Peacock Pose

I’m not able to do regular peacock pose, much less the feathered one, so instead for this pose I kept going with the forearm balance prep with a lifted leg. According to Kino, “It never matters whether or not you do a pose. What matters is the journey that the experience of the practice takes you on.”

Pose 29: Forearm Balance Prep for Pincha Mayurasana or Feathered Peacock Pose

Pose 30: Mukta Hasta Sirsasana C or Free Hands Headstand C

Since I’m unable to do a regular headstand, I was not able to do a free hands one, so I kept going with the forearm balance prep, this time getting the second foot in the air. I’m sure you can tell by the blurriness that it was not for long.

Pose 30: Forearm Balance Prep for Mukta Hasta Sirsasana C or Free Hands Headstand C

Although I was not able to do the full expressions of any of the final third of the poses, and in some cases could not come anywhere close, I did make the attempt. Kino acknowledged in her final post of the challenge, “this month has presented some challenging asanas that take a lifetime to really practice”. There is always time to keep improving, but at least I know what my starting point is. I’m currently participating in the BacktoBackBends Challenge with the same hosts. You can follow my progress with that on @investinginfitness.

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