BLOG

ASANA: DOWNWARD FACING DOG

Rarely do I not include this asana in my classes. Also known as Adho Mukha Svanasana, it is not only one of the most popular and recognisable yoga postures, it is also one of the most accessible.

My students are always surprised whenI remind them to ‘relax’ as DFD is a relaxing and rejuvenating pose. Really! It is important to remember however that not everyone will be able to reach their heels to the mat, but don’t worry if you can’t. It doesn’t mean you won’t reap the rewards of this excellent pose.

Yoga Asana, Down Facing Dog, Yoga Bellbowrie, Yoga Pullenvale, Yoga Western Suburbs, elizabetheganyoga,
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Egan Yoga

So what are the benefits of Downward Facing Dog?

  • Lengthens the spine
  • Stretches the back muscles
  • lengthens the Hamstrings and Calves
  • Strengthens the Arms and Shoulders
  • Helps to relieve pain and stiffness in the heels.
  • Helps reduce stiffness in the shoulders
  • Helps relieve fatigue

If possible try to hold the pose for at least a minute. If the pressure on the wrists becomes too strong, consciously push down on the first joint of your index finger and thumb on both hands.

So how do we come into DFD?

Start on all fours, hands under your shoulders, fingers pointed to the top of the mat, hips above the knees. Exhale and tuck your toes under, push up through the arms and lift your hips toward the ceiling, straightening through the legs. Draw your shoulders back and down and externally rotate your upper arms, then extend your heels towards the floor. Relax through the next and gaze back towards your knees.

To come out of the posture, simply lower your knees gently to the mat and come to rest in child’s pose.

This really is a great yoga posture–a simple and practical posture you can do virtually anywhere!

Please note: Avoid DFD if you suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or are in the later stages of pregnancy.

Stressed? Tired? Legs Up The Wall is the Yoga Pose for you.

This is the one posture my students agree is their absolute favourite, so I make sure I incorporate Legs Up The Wall into every class! It’s also the pose I recommend after a stressful day at the office and it’s also the perfect posture to do during the day too. I have a yoga mat at my office and in the middle of the day I slip off my shoes and slide my legs up the wall. Why? Because it helps relieve stress and anxiety and after only a few minutes you will feel calmer!

Also known as Viparita Karani, it is a restorative and relaxing posture. In Sanskrit, “Viparita” means “upside down” and Karani means “doing.”

Photo: Elizabeth Egan

Benefits

So what are the benefits of Legs Up The Wall?

  • Regulates Blood pressure
  • Lowers the heart rate
  • Relieves tension in the lower back
  • Stretches the hamstrings
  • Drains fluid from the legs
  • Calms the mind and eases anxiety
  • Eases depression

How to get into Legs Up The Wall

Start by sitting with your right or left hip against the wall. With your hands by your side, turn your torso towards the wall, while at the same time lifting up your legs, one at a time to rest on the wall while slowly lowering your torso down onto the mat.

Your sitting bones will now be against the wall–or close to the wall. If you have tight hamstrings, your sitting bones will be further away from the wall. Don’t force yourself closer. Remember, this is a relaxing posture and you want to feel comfortable. For more support under the back, press the feet against the wall and slide a bolster or blanket under the hips.

Spread your arms out to the side, or bring the hands to rest on the belly. You can also take the arms overhead to rest on the floor behind you or under the neck, to extend through the shoulders. Focus on your breathing- inhaling and exhaling through the nose. You can add some weight to your body too by placing a bolster or block on your belly. This helps you feel more grounded. To reap the full benefits of Legs Up The Wall, gradually build up to 5 to 10 minutes.

This is my go-to pose and it is accessible for almost everyone. Enjoy!

NOTE: If you suffer from Glaucoma, Hypertension, Hernia, it’s best to avoid this posture . Always consult your doctor or specialist for advice.

What’s Hot In Yoga 2019?

What’s Hot in Yoga in 2019. What’s a passing fad or a Yoga trend that’s here to stay? See my article below or catch it in the Jun-Aug issue of Australian Yoga Life Magazine.

IMG_4704

What’s Hot and What’s Not in Yoga?

Trends for this year and beyond.

For many yoga devotees, the mere notion of sharing their practice with a flock of sheep or holding Lord of the Dance Pose (Natarajasana) with a beer in hand is, well—it’s just not yoga! Is ‘novelty yoga’ which burst onto the scene in 2018, a true trend or just a fad? Elizabeth Egan set out to explore the Yoga landscape and find out what’s hot and what’s not, this year and beyond.

Yoga has evolved from an ancient practice into a modern-day movement. It may have taken thousands of years to reach this point, but the general consensus among industry leaders is, yoga is now ‘mainstream.’ It has made its way out of Ashrams and into corporate boardrooms, school classrooms, aged care homes and public galleries. The days of Yoga being practiced only by ‘hardcore’ yogis are long gone. There’s now a generation of Australians that have grown up with yoga.

In a worldwide survey of the top 10 Fitness Trends for 2019, published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM’s) Health and Fitness Journal, Yoga came in at number seven. In 2012, Yoga didn’t even make the top 10. Australian research company Roy Morgan estimates one in 10 adult Australians practice yoga.

Last year was to yoga what shoulder pads were to the 1980s. It was the year ‘novelty yoga,’ also known as ‘combination classes’ began attracting a lot of attention, particularly on social media. Yoga with animals, Stand-Up Paddleboard Yoga and Aerial yoga are among them. Beer yoga (BYO mat), which began in Germany, has also infiltrated Australian shores. Here, yogis take sips of their favourite ale while they practice yoga postures. Considering Australia’s drinking culture, it’s not surprising Beer Yoga is taking off!

But whether or not these non-conventional styles are a trend or a just a fad, the yoga industry is not turning it’s back on them. Instead, bodies like Yoga Australia have laid out the welcome mat. CEO Shyamala Benakovic says novelty yoga introduces yoga to people who might otherwise not try it.

“ Someone might be passionate about Stand-Up Paddleboard Yoga, and it might help their health and fitness. But by including the mindfulness of yoga or the balance aspect of yoga, that starts to teach people what yoga is about,” Shyamala says.

But Yoga Australia, as a peak body, draws the line at mixing alcohol and yoga.

” Obviously beer and wine yoga goes against the philosophy of yoga itself, and so we try and communicate that, but a lot of these things are trends that pop up and will go away,” she says.

The worldwide body for yoga teachers, the International Yoga Teachers Association (IYTA) also believes there’s room for all types and styles of yoga. Spokesperson Katie Brown sees novelty yoga as a ‘bit of fun’, and it can attract people that may find general yoga classes challenging.

“As long as it doesn’t detract from the core essence of what yoga really is, then it’s great,” Katie says.

” Yoga is non-judgmental, and its important people find their own path and yoga is there to support them on that path. It might inspire them to do another yoga class, and then they might decide they want to do teacher training and even become a teacher.

“That’s the wonderful thing about yoga. It’s about acceptance and moving with the flow.

“It is just a wonderful thing to do, and it is non-judgmental and embraces so many different styles, and it’s just a case of finding your path and practicing ahimsa, which is kindness and compassion and having a bit of fun too. It doesn’t have to be too serious,” Katie says.

Working on the adage ‘any publicity is good publicity’ there’s no doubt these passing fads are raising the profile of yoga in people’s consciousness and while the fads may have dominated the public spotlight, other more serious trends such as ‘mindful working’ have been quietly gaining traction in the community.

‘Mindful working’ is the buzzword of the corporate sector and relates to productivity. It involves employees being not just physically present, but mentally present too. Employees are being encouraged to swap their keyboards for meditation cushions.

Shyamala Benakovic says the corporate world has embraced yoga as part of its wellbeing strategy for employees. While the trend started slowly a few years ago, she says it’s now really taking off.

“They employ yoga teachers, but staff also have access to psychology and counselling services. In that growth space, Yoga is starting to become quite important.”

Katie Brown agrees meditation is undergoing a resurgence. Popular five years ago, she says it’s a reflection of the busy lives people are leading.

“We are all craving a little bit of peace, that time out for ourselves and just trying to simplify our lives, and meditation is the perfect way to do that.

“There has been a big shift from looking at yoga as purely a physical activity to realising there’s far more to it and that it’s so good for our mental health and our whole wellbeing,” she says.

Also predicted to take off this year is yoga for Senior Australians, particularly Chair Yoga, which has been developed predominantly with the older age bracket in mind. Chair Yoga opens up the practice to a group in society that may otherwise find it physically inaccessible. While more senior teacher training courses and classes for senior are now available, there’s also a growth area in terms of taking yoga into aged-care communities and aged-care homes.

According to Yoga Australia, the Artistic community is also embracing the practice. Shyamala says all aspects of yoga are being incorporated, not just the breathing (Pranayama) and the postures (Asanas), but the importance of meditation and switching off before and after a performance.

“There’s movement in the sports areas too,” she says.

“ Athletics, football, even at school level where children are starting to engage in competitive sport. Yoga is now part of that curriculum,” she says.

Back in the yoga studio’s springing up in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, the trend is to lean towards Power Flow Yoga, also known as Power Yoga, Hot Yoga or Power Vinyasa Yoga. Practiced under ultraviolet lights, classes are fast-paced, and there’s an emphasis on standing postures. Shyamala insists these are not just fitness classes.

“If you actually attend these classes, the teachers are well trained and educated and do bring quite a bit of yogic philosophy into the class.

“They do weave that in, in terms of explaining what the posture does. They do a lot of breathing exercises. There’s a meditative and relaxation element that will follow the class or start the class,” Shyamala says.

While Power Yoga suits a particular demographic, there’s another group of yogis that’s embracing the ‘slow movement’, and they’re driving the increase in the number of Yin Yoga and Restorative classes now on offer.

Katie Brown says these slower styles of yoga are becoming increasingly popular.

“It balances out our crazy, frenetic, chaotic lives we end up living. So, it’s the perfect balance. People are experimenting with different styles now,” she says.

And while there’s a lack of hard data, Katie says the IYTA has noticed a significant increase in the number of Yoga teachers now specialising in Yin and Restorative training.

“Not all those enrolling will teach classes, a proportion that enrol do the training simply because they want to learn more about yoga.

“There’s a lot of people who attend the classes and find something that really resonates with them, and they just want to delve deeper into it,” Katie says.

While there are now many styles of yoga out there, the long-standing yoga disciplines like Iyengar, Dru and Kundalini Yoga remain strong and are comfortably riding the wave of Yoga’s increased popularity. For these traditional yoga forms, staying true to the traditions and lineage of their particular practices is important.

IYENGAR YOGA

Iyengar has been practiced in Australia for more than 40 years, with the first school–The Australian School of Yoga opening in Sydney in 1977. Developed by the late BKS Iyengar in Pune, India it is a form of Hatha Yoga, with an emphasis on alignment and precision in the postures. A popular style of yoga, particularly amongst adults, its estimated 180-thousand people practice regularly in Australia.

Senior Yoga Teacher Pixie Lillas says Iyengar yoga in 2019, is undergoing a resurgence.

“We’re not on trend, we’re not a fad, we’re more like the Mediterranean diet-good for you and everyone keeps coming to it,” Pixie says.

The aim of the association- Iyengar Yoga Australia this year, is to attract a younger demographic and get more young people walking through the door.

“We’re in the conversation now. Younger teachers are coming up all the time and we’re more aware of social media- the need to have a website presence.

“The younger teachers using social media has helped us maintain a presence in the changing landscape,” Pixie says.

Novelty yoga, Pixie believes appeals to people who are constantly seeking new experiences.

“It’s like fashion or going for a float tank- going for an experience and getting your hair done at the same time.

“It’s a trend or a fad. It’s an indication of a modern trend towards new experiences, rather than asking you to do too much,” she says.

Pixie is adamant people need the practice of yoga more now, than ever before.

“These days our attention is scattered-there are so many demands on our attention. Yoga gives us a chance to listen to our own bodies, so we can listen to other people,” Pixie says.

 DRU YOGA

Originally from India, via Africa, Dru Yoga’s foundations are set firmly in the ancient yogic tradition. It has been practiced in Australia for the past 30 years. Dru is both a potent and flowing style of yoga designed for people of all abilities.

Dru Yoga Director Nolene Francis believes Dru is not just surviving, it’s thriving, and despite the plethora of choice when it comes to the various yoga styles, there is a yoga for everyone.

“When I was in my 20’s, I did Iyengar Yoga for 15 years, and I loved it. It was great, and it was just what I needed at the time, and now that I am a little bit older, my body is happier doing things that are not quite as strong and forceful, but that doesn’t mean the two types of yoga are competing with each other,” she says

Nolene estimates up to four hundred people have gone through their teacher training courses in the last 20 years and more recently she is noticing an increase in people wanting to take up meditation.

“If you take meditation as a separate discipline, it is becoming more popular.”

“But meditation is one of the stages of Yoga. I think people are ready for that at a particular time in their lives and they’re not really ready to slow down before that.

“Sometimes it takes some sort of crisis for people to realise their mind is overactive and they’re finding things hard to deal with because they can’t stop thinking and those people are the ones who are going more for meditation, just to counteract the day-to-day busyness and stress out there.”

Nolene started practicing 30 years ago and says Yoga in Australia has come a long way.

“Looking at where it came from and where it is now, it’s great to see,” she says.

“But for yoga to continue to be strong and relevant, it will be up to all the yoga schools to uphold standards.”

KUNDALINI YOGA

Kundalini is an ancient Sanskrit word, which means ‘coiled snake’ or ‘coiled one.’

Kundalini is known as the ‘Yoga of Awareness’, where the senses become heightened and the mind stills.

Kundalini energy is often described as a coiled up serpent, which rests in the Root Chakra (Muladhara) until its energy is awakened. Once awakened, the energy is said to travel upward (Sushumna) to the Crown Shakra (Sahasrara), bringing about an energetic shift, leading to a deeper level of awareness.

In Australia, there are approximately two hundred Kundalini teachers, and it’s estimated at least two thousand people regularly practice this style of yoga.

Secretary of the Kundalini Yoga Teachers Association of Australia and New Zealand, (KYTANZ) Rae Garvie, says the state of the industry in Australia is the strongest it’s ever been.

“We think more people are looking to change the way they are living due to the increased pressures of life,” Rae says.

She also agrees there’s a clear trend of more people turning to meditation as a coping mechanism.

“My personal view is that the psyche of the world is slowly changing and more people are becoming aware of a ‘consciousness.’

“That is where yoga and meditation can give an entrance into that understanding. It’s an experience, an awareness that I think people have a yearning for,” she says.

Yoga Australia’s Shyamala Benakovic says more evidence-based research supporting the therapeutic application of yoga is what is driving the industry forward.

“There is more and more evidence showing the benefits of yoga as a preventable health system and also how you can work with other modalities, be it natural or western medicine,” she says.

The IYTA’s Katie Brown also believes the industry is in a remarkably healthy state.

“It has become very mainstream and so many people are embracing yoga.”

“Many who attend the classes find something that really resonates with them and they just want to delve deeper into it,” Katie says.

But for the industry’s integrity to remain strong, all agree yoga schools around the country must continue to maintain and uphold high teaching standards. Only then will ancient yoga traditions continue to live on, long after the passing fads have had their day in the sun.

References

 

https://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Fulltext/2018/11000/WORLDWIDE_SURVEY_OF_FITNESS_TRENDS_FOR_2019.6.aspx

www.yogaaustralia.org.au

www.iyta.com.au