ANDREA - a full time Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi instructor.

I fell in love with yoga over seven years ago, when I got a Nintendo DS and bought a game called Let's Yoga. From then, I began 'playing' yoga everyday, sometimes twice a day. At first, the practice was more physical for me, but after few months I started to really count on yoga to bring me a sense of calm during especially chaotic days. Soon after, I began recognizing the benefits of a regular asana and meditation practice and continued to incorporate yoga daily - not just during times of chaos. I found myself feeling more energized, more compassionate, happier, and with more awareness. Now, I teach full-time and couldn't be happier to do what I love. What began as a physical practice for strength and flexibility quickly became a lifestyle. I teach my students to take their yoga off the mat and apply the principles learned in the class to their lives outside of the studio. I do not only teach my philosophy, I live it.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Why 108 Sun Salutations?

Have you ever wondered about the Significance of the number 108? Why do we do 108 Backbend Dropbacks or 108 Sun Salutations in Yoga…?
japa mala or mala is an eastern rosary with 108 beads. The mala is used both in Hinduism and Buddhism for counting mantras, chants or prayers. 108 has been a sacred number for a long time, and this number is explained in many different ways.
Traditionally, Buddhist have 108 beads, representing the 108 human passions that Avalokiteshvara assumed when telling the beads. This number ensures a repetition of a sacred mantra at least 100 times, the extra beads allowing for any omissions made through absentmindness in counting or for loss or breakage of beads.
Sometimes smaller divisions can be used: 108 is divided in half, third, quarter, or twelfth, so some malas have 54, 36, 27, or 9 beads.
Regardless of the meaning of 108, it is important that if a mala is used to count mantras, the mantra be given sincerity, devotion, feeling, and full attention.
108 may be the product of a precise mathematical operation (e.g. 1 power 1 x 2 power 2 x 3 power 3 = 108) which was thought to have special numerological significance.
POWERS of 1, 2 & 3 IN MATH: 1 to 1st power=1; 2 to 2nd power=4 (2×2); 3 to 3rd power=27 (3x3x3). 1x4x27=108

SANSKRIT ALPHABET: There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet.
Each has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti. 54 times 2 is 108.

HARSHAD NUMBER: 108 is a Harshad number, which is an integer divisible by the sum of its digits (Harshad is from Sanskrit, and means “great joy”)
DESIRES: There are said to be 108 earthly desires in mortals.
LIES: There are said to be 108 lies that humans tell.
DELUSIONS: There are said to be 108 human delusions or forms of ignorance.
9 x 12: Both of these numbers have been said to have spiritual significance in many traditions. 9 times 12 is 108. Also, 1 plus 8 equals 9. That 9 times 12 equals 108.
TIME: Some say there are 108 feelings, with 36 related to past, 36 related to present, and 36 related to future.

ASTROLOGY: There are 12 constellations, and 9 arc segments called namshas or chandrakalas.
9 times 12 equals 108. Chandra is moon, and kalas are the divisions within a whole.

PLANETS AND HOUSES: In astrology, there are 12 houses and 9 planets. 12 times 9 equals 108.
Gopis of Krishna: In the Krishna tradition, there were said to be 108 gopis or maid servants of Krishna.

SUN AND EARTH: The diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth.
NUMERICAL SCALE: The 1 of 108, and the 8 of 108, when added together equals 9, which is the number of the numerical scale, i.e. 1, 2, 3 … 10, etc., where 0 is not a number.
DANCE: There are 108 forms of dance in the Indian traditions.
PYTHAGOREAN: The nine is the limit of all numbers, all others existing and coming from the same. ie: 0 to 9 is all one needs to make up an infinite amount of numbers.
STAGES OF THE SOUL: Atman, the human soul or center goes through 108 stages on the journey.
SRI YANTRA: On the Sri Yantra there are marmas where three lines intersect, and there are 54 such intersections. Each intersections has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti qualities. 54 x 2 equals 108. Thus, there are 108 points that define the Sri Yantra as well as the human body.
ANAHATA (HEART) CHAKRA: The chakras are the intersections of energy lines, and there are said to be a total of 108 energy lines converging to form the heart chakra. One of them, sushumna leads to the crown chakra, and is said to be the path to Self-realization.
MARMAS: Marmas or marmastanas are like energy intersections called chakras, except have fewer energy lines converging to form them. There are said to be 108 marmas in the subtle body.
MERU: This is a larger bead, not part of the 108. It is not tied in the sequence of the other beads. It is the quiding bead, the one that marks the beginning and end of the mala.

BUDDHISM: 108 beads on the Hindu maalaa {rosary} 108 Arhats or Holy Ones
HINDUISM: 108 Gopis {consorts} of Lord Krishna 108 Holy places for Vaishnavas 108 beads on the Japa maalaa {rosary} 108 Upanishads 108 Divyadeshes – Divine or Sacred Tirtha throughout India and Nepal 108 sacred water taps in Muktinath – Nepal
ISLAM: The number 108 is used in Islam to refer to God.

JAIN: In the Jain religion, 108 are the combined virtues of five categories of holy ones, including 12, 8, 36, 25, and 27 virtues respectively.
SIKH: The Sikh tradition has a mala of 108 knots tied in a string of wool, rather than beads.
Chinese: The Chinese Buddhists and Taoists use a 108 bead mala, which is called su-chu, and has three dividing beads, so the mala is divided into three parts of 36 each.

SHOSHU BUDDHIST: 108 beads in their malas.
They implement the formula: 6 x 3 x 2 x3 = 108 
6 senses [sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought]
3 aspects of time [past, present, future]
2 condition of heart [pure or impure]
3 possibilties of sentiment [like, dislike, indifference]

108-form Wu family Tai Chi Chuan
The different slow motion solo sequences of T’ai Chi Ch’uan are the best known manifestation of T’ai Chi for public. In English, called the hand form or just the form; in Mandarin it is called ch’uan: 拳 They are performed slowly by beginners and are said to promote concentration, condition the body and acquaint students with the inventory of motion techniques for more advanced styles of martial arts training.

TANTRA SHASTRA: 108 Pitha {Sacred Places} The story goes that Lord Shiva was in deep and incessant meditation. His asceticism was creating great heat in the universe. All existence was in peril and Lord Brahma was deeply concerned.

Lord Brahma asked the Mother of the Universe, Maa Shakti, to use Her strength and wile to seduce Lord Shiva. Maa Shakti agreed and was born as Sati, daughter of Shri Daksha. Lord Shiva was so entranced by Sati’s asceticism and extraordinary beauty that he took human form and they were married. Years later, at a feast, Sati’s father insulted Lord Shiva. Sati was so humiliated that she began a deep meditation which led to her immolation.
Lord Shiva was completely heart broken. He reached into the sacrificial fire and pulled out as much of His beloved’s body as he could grab. As He ascended to heaven, bits of Sati’s body fell to earth. 108 bits to be precise! In time, these places were acknowledged and worshipped.
SANATANA DHARMA: In a book by Khurana, the explanation mirrors original Vedic justifications: A circle has 360 degrees, which when multiplied by 60 gives 21,600 minutes in a circle. 60 comes from the 60 ‘ghatis’ which Sanatana Dharmiks believe in. One ghati is equal to 24 minutes and 60 ghatis come to 24 hours.
One ghati is divided into 60 parts or ‘palas’. So the 60 ghatis multiplied by 60 palasa comes to 3,600. This is further multiplied by 60 (becase a pala contains 60 vipalas) which gives us 21,600. Half of this is for the day, and the other half for the night. So, 21,600 divided by 2 gives us 10,800. For practical purposes, we use 108.
Using the number 108 helps us coordinate the rhythm of time and space & we remain in harmony with the spiritual powers of nature.

108 UPANISHADS FROM MUKTIKOPANISHAD: Rigveda(10): Aitareya , Atmabodha, Kaushitaki, Mudgala, Nirvana, Nadabindu, Akshamaya, Tripura, Bahvruka, Saubhagyalakshmi.
Yajurveda(50): Katha, Taittiriya , Isavasya , Brihadaranyaka, Akshi, Ekakshara, Garbha, Prnagnihotra, Svetasvatara, Sariraka, Sukarahasya, Skanda, Sarvasara, Adhyatma, Niralamba, Paingala, Mantrika, Muktika, Subala, Avadhuta, Katharudra, Brahma, Jabala, Turiyatita, Paramahamsa, Bhikshuka, Yajnavalkya, Satyayani, Amrtanada, Amrtabindu, Kshurika, Tejobindu, Dhyanabindu, Brahmavidya, YogakundalinI, Yogatattva, Yogasikha, Varaha, Advayataraka, Trisikhibrahmana, mandalabrahmana, Hamsa, Kalisantaraaa, Narayana, Tarasara, Kalagnirudra, Dakshinamurti, Pancabrahma, Rudrahrdaya, SarasvatIrahasya.
SamaVeda(16): Kena, Chandogya, Mahat, Maitrayani, Vajrasuci, Savitri, Aruneya, Kundika, Maitreyi, Samnyasa, Jabaladarsana, Yogacudaman, Avyakta, Vasudevai, Jabali, Rudrakshajabala.
Atharvaveda(32): Prasna , Mandukya, Mundaka, Atma, Surya, Narada-Parivrajakas, Parabrahma, Paramahamsa-Parivrajakas, Pasupatha-Brahma, Mahavakya, Sandilya, Krishna, Garuda, Gopalatapani, Tripadavibhuti-mahnarayana, Dattatreya, Kaivalya, NrsimhatapanI, Ramatapani, Ramarahasya, HayagrIva, Atharvasikha, Atharvasira, Ganapati, Brhajjabala, Bhasmajabala, Sarabha, Annapurna, TripuratapanI, Devi, Bhavana, SIta.
Joseph Campbell says it’s 1+0+8 = 9, the number of the goddess.
Or one can look at 1, 0, and 8 as:
1 = God or higher Truth
0 = emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice,
8 = infinity or eternity

Friday, 21 April 2017

Eka Pada Koundinyasana II (“Flying Splits”) Step by Step

Eka pada koundinyasana II (pose dedicated to the sage Koundinya II) is a split-legged arm balance that is sometimes dubbed "flying splits" as it resembles a front split hovering away from the floor.

This challenging asana has become a staple in many vinyasa classes:
"From downward facing dog, inhale, lift the right leg up; exhale, knee to chest; inhale, back to three-legged dog; exhale, bring your right knee to your upper right arm, and—if you want—you can take it into eka pada koundinyasana II."
Sounds familiar? 

Like with many arm balances, maintaining a chaturanga - like arm position is essential for a safe, sustainable eka pada koundinyasana II. As you practice chaturanga, pay special attention to keeping the fronts of your shoulders lifted away from the floor (they should remain as high as, or higher than, your elbows as you lower), and staying broad through your collarbones and chest. 

The initial flying splits setup described below starts with a lizard variation and moves into a "leg over arm lunge" (sometimes called "airplane lunge" if you extend both of your arms out to the side like "wings"), making poses like these especially useful preps.

Poses like these are great for learning to work your leg up over your arm too, and will also help to prepare your hips for eka pada koundinyasana II.

And other poses that stretch the hamstrings, like utthita hasta padangusthasanasupta padangushthasana, and hanumanasana

This variation provides you with another great way to stretch your hamstrings, and gives you a chance to practice walking your front foot forward at a diagonal (like you will in your peak pose) from a more stable position, making a shape that's likely more similar to the shape you'll make when you're airborne than a traditional split is. 

If you (or your students) are facing similar frustrations with eka pada koundinyasana II, or if you're just looking to more deeply explore and refine your "flying splits," you might find the following step-by-step breakdown to be useful. And while there are certainly those who will prefer the three-legged dog transition, or find it to be easier initially, you may even (like me) discover that after playing with coming into the pose via lunge for a while, incorporating it into your vinyasas (via the three-legged-dog transition) seems a lot more accessible!

How to to it

  • Come into a lunge with your right foot forward, and bring both of your hands to the inside of your front foot. 
  • Lift your back thigh (especially your back inner thigh) up toward the sky and sink your front thigh down and forward. Stretch your legs apart from each other like you're stretching your mat in two as you reach your chest (not your chin!) forward, leading with the sternum like you would in warrior III, so that the weight of the upper body begins to balance out the weight of the hips.
  • This is where you work your right shoulder under your leg (just like you would for the deep lunge or "airplane lunge" variation mentioned earlier). Some people find it helpful to walk the right foot a little more to the right for this, but personally, I find that walking the foot a little more toward the left (so it's more toward the center of my mat) helps me to feel more stable coming into the pose, and to work my arm under my leg more easily. Experiment with both and see what works best for you. 
  • Then, to work your leg under: Lift your right heel up off of the floor (like you're wearing a shoe with a high heel); bring your right hand to the back of your calf, and lift the flesh of your calf up. Then move your right thigh back (out toward the right) to make space to work your shoulder under. Continue to work these actions: calf up, thigh back, shoulder under, until you get to the point where your shoulder is as "under" as it's going to get! 
  • Once you've worked your arm under your leg, lower your right heel back down, and plant your hands on the floor (on either side of your front leg; think chaturanga arms here). Broaden through your collarbones and lift the fronts of your shoulders up away from the floor. 
  • Start to walk your right foot forward at a diagonal, toward the upper right corner of your mat. Then, lift your right heel up off of the floor, and see if you can inch your right foot forward (at that same diagonal) a little more. Then, see if you can spread your toes and lift your entire foot up off of the floor! Keep your elbows bent, your collarbones broad, and your gaze slightly forward.
  • With your right foot lifted and your right leg extended, start to shift your weight a little more forward to come high up onto your left toes (keep your collarbones broad and maintain chaturanga arms), and, using your toes like a lever or a seesaw, shift your shoulders and chest forward, and see if you can lift your back foot off of the floor too. You'll have to "negotiate" your weight as you shift forward and back a bit, perhaps eventually finding the "sweet spot" where both feet can hover away from the floor. Until then, hopping up and down on your back foot is totally fine! Keep the fronts of your shoulders lifted, level, and not dipping below your elbows. Spread your toes and stretch out through both legs with your gaze slightly forward. 
  • Return your back foot to the floor, then step back to downward facing dog. Take a few resting breaths, then repeat on the other side. 
Don't be surprised if one side differs wildly from the other! Once I learned to hover both legs off the floor on the right side, it took me some time before I could do the same thing on the left side! If you too discover that one side is considerably more challenging than the other, try starting with your "harder" side the next time that you practice this pose. This can help to ensure that you spend just as much time (if not a little more) on the side that could use a little more attention. 

Balance out your practice with a few favorite backbends, like shalabhasana (locust) variations, dhanurasana (bow pose), setu bandha (bridge pose), or urdhva dhanurasna (upward facing bow/wheel). From there choose one or two grounding finishing poses, like a simple forward bend variation of pigeon, or a figure four stretch before settling into a blissful shavasana!


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Eka Pada Koundinyasana I - One-Footed Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya I

Find length and stay centered to lift step-by-step into the One-Footed Pose dedicated to the Sage Koundinya I

Eka Pada Koundinyasana Ieka = one · pada = foot · Koundinya = a sage · asana = poseOne-Footed Pose Dedicated to Sage Koundinya I
BenefitsA challenging arm balance that helps you build a strong core, shoulders, and legs
1. Begin in Tadasana, facing the right side of your mat. Keeping your knees together, come into a squat, lifting your heels and rooting down with your big-toe mounds, hands in Anjali Mudra.
2. On an exhalation, take your right upper arm to the outside of your left thigh, twisting to the left. Gaze forward, chin in line with your sternum.
3. Place your hands on the mat pointing forward, shoulder- distance apart, with wrist creases parallel to the front of the mat. Now you’re ready for takeoff into Parsva Bakasana (Side Crane Pose): Lift your hips and extend your sternum away from your navel. As you reach your breastbone toward the front of your mat, shift your weight forward until your feet become light and you can draw them toward your buttocks. Continue pressing into your big-toe mounds to keep your legs active. Keep your elbows pinned into the midline and stacked over your wrists. Bring your knees as close to your right armpit as possible and try to keep your weight off the left arm.
4. Exhale and start to straighten your legs. Engage your quadriceps and vigorously push your right femur toward the wall behind you as you press into the right big-toe mound. Simultaneously press forward with your left big-toe mound to re-create the legs of Revolved Triangle Pose.
5. Now that you’ve found the basic shape of the pose, refine it. Come back to the shoulder work from Chaturanga Dandasana, lifting the heads of the shoulders away from the floor so that your upper and lower arms create a 90-degree angle. Recall the idea of a taut rope being pulled in two directions. Anchor the pose by pressing into your right big-toe mound and then set sail with your sternum and the crown of your head. Use the breathing pattern from the twists to deepen the pose: Inhale to find more length along your lengthen your front body. central axis; exhale to rotate by taking your left leg farther to the right and your right leg farther to the left. Take 4–5 breaths. Then, to come out, exhale and sweep your left leg back and into Chaturanga. There’s no secret strategy to this exit, just a continuation of the themes you’ve explored throughout the sequence. Maintain the integrity of your shoulders and the intention of staying long, head to toe.
Stay Safe
If you try to lean on both arms as you move into Parsva Bakasana and then Eka Pada Koundinyasana I, your chest and shoulders will collapse and you will lose the vitality of your central axis. When this happens, the potency of the pose is dissipated; gravity wins and the shoulders become compromised as they roll forward and down. Keep the heads of your upper arms lifted, and actively lengthen your front body.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Easter Sunday

Ready for the new day?  
You'll only see me in Bannatyne's today...
9am bootcamp
10am pilates
11am yoga
Namaste 
And of course - happy Easter! 