Let's dive right in! These are the top five ways I believe you can receive even more out of your Original Hot Yoga Class. If you can start to incorporate just one of these tips this week you will receive even greater benefits and start to go deeper into your practice. And, remember, when you go deeper into your practice, you get to know YOU even better – that’s my favorite part!
Check Out Your Grips
The grips are everything in the Original Hot Yoga Class! They help you develop flexibility through the shoulders and improve strength, not only in the hands, but in the forearms, as well. Do not cheat the grips, they are there to give you power.
Listen always for instruction on the grips. This is not picky stuff. This is the big stuff that will help you take your practice further.
“What in the heck are these?” you might be asking. Simply put they are “body locks” that help energy move through your body. The three largest bandhas and where they are located are:
- Mula Bandha – The pelvic floor muscles, or contraction of the perineum
- Uddiyana Bandha – The abdominal wall up to the diaphragm, or contraction of the lower abdominal wall
- Jalandhara Bandha – The throat, or tucking the chin in towards the chest.
Where to use the Bandhas? Mula Bandha & Uddiyana Bandha are used frequently in the 26&2 original hot yoga class. Pranayama Breathing, Half Moon Pose, and Half Tortoise Pose are great ones to start with. Go to this super informative, clear cut article to learn more about the Bandhas.
Contract your quadricep muscles
Often, long-time practitioners of this series become more and more flexible. As their flexibility increases, they forget about building strength within the postures. As an instructor, I often witness relaxed quadricep muscles in the thigh when the work is to keep them contracted. If you are working in a forward bend, it’s best to contract the quadricep muscles to allow the hamstrings a chance to stretch. If the quadricep muscles in the thigh go soft, you are pulling on a tight hamstring. There are other poses in the series that require contracted quadricep muscles other than forward bends. Where to tune into the quadricep contraction? Double check your engagement in: Standing Head to Knee Pose, Standing Bow Pulling Pose, Balancing Stick, Standing Separate Leg Stretching, the straight leg in Triangle Pose, Tree Pose, and Final Stretching. Remember, starting a yoga practice is like receiving the user manual for your body for the first time. Be patient and work the right way, to the best of your knowledge, every single time.
Back bend the right way
Good God, I can’t say this enough. When you start off on your yoga journey you usually aren’t very flexible in the spine unless you were a dancer, or a gymnast, or there was some reason you kept your flexibility as you aged. So, the fact that you can go back into a back bend at all, is huge. BUT, as you continue to practice and gain more and more flexibility it is important to start honing in on back bending technique. Instead of ratcheting right into your low back – which most people do, as it is the most flexible part of the spine and also has the largest vertebrae to support the bend – start at the top of the spine column and work your way down. Drop the head back first, move the shoulders back and when you cannot go any further without using it, go into the low back. All back bends heal the spine. But know that as you begin to develop a deeper and deeper practice, you will have to refine your techniques to continue to receive the therapeutic benefits a yoga practice provides.
So confusing when you first start out aren’t they? Two things to remember here: 1. It’s a rounded spine sit-up. Read that again. 2. Your arms stay touching your ears the entire time.
Hope this helps yogis! Keep me posted on how these tips start to affect your practice. I always love to hear from you.
Yoga on, Friends...
Tori Hicks-Glogowski is a yoga instructor and yoga business coach and mentor for yoga teachers. She is the author of the book, "Views from the Podium: The Life & Times of a Hot Yogi," and has been writing and sharing her yoga experience for the past seven years. Find out more about Tori now.