1ollie_jessica_let_s_start_yoga.pdf

September 8, 2017 | Author: Zoltay Tamás | Category: Foot, Shoulder, Flexibility (Anatomy), Yoga, Musculoskeletal System
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#Letsstartyoga by Jessica Olie

@jessicaolie www.jessicaolie.com

Introduction

Copyright & Distribution I strongly recommend that you consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program. You should be in good physical condition and be able to participate in the exercise. You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this program you agree that you do so at your own risk, of voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release and discharge Jessica Olie from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown arising out of my negligence. This e-book is not individually tailored, rather a guideline to help you begin your yoga journey. This material is copyright of Jessica Olie. No part of this e-book may in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or any other means be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or be broadcast, sold or transmitted without the prior permission of the publisher, Jessica Olie.

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Introduction

#Letsstartyoga Throughout this guide you will come across some of my favourite poses, some are more advanced than others, but what I can guarantee is that this guide will give you access to poses designed to strengthen and lengthen your muscles and deepen your practice no matter where you are in your yoga journey. What I love about yoga is that it uses your own bodyweight to sculpt and shape your body, it will make you strong and flexible. I started my Instagram as a way to monitor my progress, and what’s also so great about the platform is that it connects likeminded people from around the world. That’s why this e-book comes with its own hashtag #letsstartyoga – I encourage you to share your yoga journey with others, to inspire and to be inspired.

TIP: I love to photograph or video my practice not only to share

with all of you, but to also see my technique, to see where I could improve or where I am going wrong. So take pictures, use the hashtag, film your flows, get to know your body inside and out. When the mind and the body become one, amazing things can happen.

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #letsstartyoga in your posts so I can see your progress.

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Introduction

About Me I started my yoga journey in February 2014 as a way of coping with a stressful time in my life. Slowly but surely I fell in love with it. As I started improving people began to ask me “how did you do it” or “how do I start?” Coming from a background in competitive swimming, I built up a lot of strength from years of hard training but I had zero flexibility. It wasn’t until I started yoga that I realized just how much I needed it but also I realized that it was so different from what I thought yoga was. The beauty of yoga is that you can take from it what you need and it will mean something different for everyone. I started off with ten minutes a day and slowly but surely I realized that the more I did, the better I felt. Now I practice around six days a week. My hope is that this e-book will answer your questions and give you the foundations and information you need to kick-start your selftaught yoga journey safely and effectively. While I will be providing tips and guidance through certain poses, please listen to your body and only do what feels good.

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Introduction

What’s Inside... Intro: Your Yoga

6

Section 1: Equipment Essentials Section 2: Just Joints

10

Section 3: Flexibility Fundamentals

20

Section 4: Push to Progress

36

Section 5: Find Your Flow

50

Section 6: Special Thanks to...

61

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Your Yoga

Your Yoga

The beauty of yoga is that it not only works your muscles it also allows you to get to know you better. This journey is about you and your practice and as time goes on you will learn more about yourself and the way your own body moves. We call this ‘body awareness’. It is so important to start listening to your body. If a yoga pose doesn’t feel like it’s doing you any good, it probably isn’t helping you. This is where the technique cues I will give become even more important. A lot of people will tell me that they are not ‘good’ at yoga or they are too inflexible to start yoga. If you think like that, you will never start yoga. I believe that there is no perfect pose, we all have different body types and shapes so we will all look different in them and be at different stages. As long as you are safe and you can feel the stretch, I am happy. I was inflexible too. I couldn’t touch my toes in February 2014. It is possible and it can be done as long as you are safe, consistent and smart about your practice.

F.A.Q How often should I practice? The more often the better, it is important to vary your yoga sessions in terms of intensity and duration. The minimum I would say you should practice is 3 times a week for 30-60 minutes per session (even up to 90 minutes) to see progress. The beauty of yoga is that it can be done every day, so don’t worry!

How long should I hold the poses for? Typically books will say between 15-30 seconds (about 5 deep inhales and exhales). I don’t believe in a one-size fits all approach, I want you to hold the stretch until you feel like it eases off or releases. Try to reach that ‘comfortable edge’ in your poses. Repetition is key in opening up the body, you should aim to repeat the poses at least 3 times throughout your session, if not more.

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Your Yoga

Can I hurt myself? Getting injured is always a possibility in any form of exercise, this is why it’s so important to start listening to your body so that you know when to push yourself in a pose and when to hold back. It is normal to feel discomfort during poses because you are putting your body in positions it’s never been in before! A little discomfort is good to make sure you are making the most of the pose, but too much and you could get hurt.

What happens if I hurt myself? Rest! Don’t do anything that aggravates the injury. If it persists, be sure to consult a doctor or physiotherapist.

Does yoga make you sore? Contrary to popular belief, yoga does actually make you sore. Don’t freak out, these poses are working your muscles just like you do when you workout. It’s normal to feel sore the next day. As long as you don’t have any shooting pains or numbness, you aren’t doing any damage.

What if I am pregnant? This e-book is not designed for prenatal yoga. If you are pregnant and want to start yoga please consult with your doctor first to ensure the safety of you and your baby.

What if my wrists hurt? If you have never done yoga before, when you start it is normal to experience wrist pain or discomfort. This is because you are not used to bearing much weight on this part of your body. In the “just joints” section you will find exercises to warm up the wrists. The most important thing is that you don’t rush into any pose without warming up.

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Your Yoga

What if I fall? This is probably the most common question people ask me when I start teaching them. Falling is something that is a part of life, not just in yoga. When you learn how to fall out of a pose, there is nothing holding you back from trying to get into it. Of course it’s a little scary, I’ve been where you are and I promise falling will do so much more for your practice than anything else will. You will learn when to push and when to hold back; you will learn what not to do and what to do in a pose to keep you there. And if all of the above doesn’t ease your mind, don’t worry, I have a few tricks up my sleeve so keep a look out!

Should I use a wall? A lot of people have mixed opinions about using a wall to facilitate their practice. The way I teach people, I do not believe in using the wall and that’s why learning to fall is even more important. You want to headstand in the middle of the room? Then that’s where we will start. By moving away from the wall your body learns very early on what it needs to do to keep you upside down. All the stabilizing muscles are engaged to support the movement, and you don’t get that when you use the wall - your muscles get complacent and lazy. More importantly, you then become dependent on the wall rather than your own confidence and strength.

If you have any questions please email me at [email protected]

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Equipment Essentials

Equipment Essentials

Yoga mat Having a decent yoga mat will help your practice a lot. It’s important that you find one that doesn’t slide around or feel slippery when you practice! I have found that the best mats are those made from rubber.

Yoga blocks When starting yoga, there will be some postures that you may struggle to get into so yoga blocks will help you get the most out of your practice without over stretching and pushing your body too far when it’s not ready.

Yoga straps When I first started I went and got myself a yoga strap, it was the most amazing thing I ever did for my practice. It really helped my body and my muscles figure out the correct alignment even if I couldn’t get into the full pose by myself just yet. I really recommend a strap if you want to build into poses such as dancers, bow, king pigeon and tiger pose!

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Just Joints

Just Joints

No matter where I am in my practice I always take the time to warm up my joints. The reason for this is to stimulate the synovial fluid in the joints, reducing the chances of injury. Oh and don’t be too concerned if anything clicks, it’s completely normal. Here are a few suggested movements, which I include in my practice and which you can do before you start yours.

Neck

Flow between these neck stretches to warm into the joints. Avoid applying too much pressure with the hands. Allow gravity to do most of the work.

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Just Joints

Shoulders / Wrists This stretch looks awkward because it is. Aside from that, it’s my favourite. You can do it in your yogi squat or seated.. Either way, bring the back of your hands to your waist and feed your arms in between your legs. From here, push your legs towards each other. You will feel an intense stretch along the back of the shoulder.

The arrows indicate where you need to move or direct your body. First, start with warming up the shoulders by rotating your arms clockwise and anticlockwise at least 5 times. Then do the same rotations for the wrists as well as moving them from left to right as many times as you feel you need.

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Just Joints

Cat / Cow

Cow Pose Inhale as you lift your chest, keep your tailbone tucked in pushing your stomach towards the floor.

Cat Pose Exhale into this. Tuck the chin and round the spine. Pull your navel up and in towards your spine.

Flow between Cat and Cow Pose to warm into your spine. It’s important that you do not rush this mini flow. Do 4 of each pose at least. If you do any backbends during your practice, these two poses will be very useful as preparation.

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Just Joints

Scorpion Stretch

Scorpion Stretch is one of my favourite twists to decompress the spine. Try doing the stretch 3 times each side. Make sure that you are facing the opposite direction to where your foot is going.

Let your dreams be bigger than your fears and your actions louder than your words.

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Just Joints

Plough Pose & Forward Fold

Plough Pose

Forward Fold

Flow between Plough Pose and Forward Fold at least 5 or 6 times to open up your hamstrings, back and neck. This will also activate your abdominal muscles which you will be needing for your practice.

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Just Joints

Hips You are going to have a love/hate relationship with this yogi squat but I promise you it is so good for working into the hips. If your heels don’t touch the floor make sure you are wide enough and if that doesn’t work place a towel under your heels. Lift your chest and push your knees away from the body using your elbows.

Butterfly Pose You can rock from side to side or stay still in this pose. Don’t focus too much on getting your legs flat on the floor, rather concentrate on opening up and feeling a stretch in the inner thighs. Tip: For a deeper stretch, try lowering your head towards your feet or open up your feet like a book and lower your chest towards your feet while you look in front.

Rock the baby Sitting up straight, cradle your leg and gently rock from left to right bringing your leg close to your chest. Flex the foot here to protect the knee.

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Just Joints

Ankles

This may not seem like much, try staying in this position for 2 minutes. A great way to stretch out the feet and ankles.It also can be used as a detoxing method; releasing toxins stored in your feet.

A counter pose after the last one. Make sure not to put too much weight on your ankles during this pose. You want to feel a stretch in the front of the ankles.

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Flexibility Fundamentals

Flexibility Fundamentals

There are over 900 yoga poses that exist. For the purpose of this e-book I wanted to share the poses I include in my daily practice and which have helped me get to where I am today. Don’t worry about how deep you can or can’t go into the pose, rather, concentrate on how the pose feels. Pay close attention to where you are feeling the stretch and how well aligned you are. I always say if something doesn’t feel good, it’s probably not doing you any good.

Forward Fold You can do this posture standing or seated. Inhale to extend the spine and exhale as you bend forwards. Don’t worry too much about whether your hands touch the floor or your feet, try to focus on getting your chest as close to your body as you can. Tip: Push the balls of your feet away from you. Make sure there is no pain behind the knee.

Downward Dog

Push your fingers into the mat to take the pressure off of your wrists

Tuck your tailbone in, pull your shoulders away from your ears and push your hamstrings towards the back of the room. The aim of this pose is not to get your heels flat on the floor, the aim is to feel the stretch either in the backs of the legs, your shoulders or your lower back. Tip: Use your fingers, walk your feet further away from your hands to get more of a shoulder stretch, bring your feet slightly closer to your hands for a deeper hamstring stretch.

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Flexibility Fundamentals

Downward Dog Variations

Here are two variations to spruce up your downward dog, make sure your armpits continue to face the floor looking towards your belly button.

Don’t worry if you can’t quite grab your ankles yet. As long as you’re feeling the stretch in the back of your legs it’s okay!

It’s not about how deep you go into the pose, it’s about who you are when you get there.

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Flexibility Fundamentals

Dolphin Pose This pose is great for increasing the hamstring stretch and strengthening your shoulders at the same time. Keep your elbows in line with your shoulders looking towards your belly button. P.S This will help build scapula strength for a forearmstand and crow!

Triangle Pose • Step one foot out in front, be sure to step wide enough to feel the stretch but not too wide that your back heel comes off your mat. • Turn your back foot out to the side so that your arch is in line with the heel of your front foot. • Ensure that your front leg and your knee are tracking in the same direction as your ankle. • You can place your hand on a yoga block, on your leg or either infront or behind the leg on the floor depending on which feels better. • To see if you are getting the right alignment, try to imagine that your body is in between two panes of glass.

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Flexibility Fundamentals

Side Angle • Step one foot in front of the other, as if you wanted to lunge. Make sure that your back foot is firmly placed on the floor, your back arch is lined up with your front heel. Your front leg should be at 90 degrees, making sure your knee is in line with your ankle. • Pay attention to avoid your thigh rolling inwards. • Place your arm on the inside of the front leg, either on the leg, foot or floor depending on your level of flexibility. • Lift the other arm up as you open your chest looking at your fingertips as you bring your arm over the body. • You are trying to create a straight line from heel to finger tips.

Make sure all 4 corners of your foot are on your mat.

Warrior 1

Standing poses are known for their ability to make a person feel grounded and stable. They provide a well rounded foundation for your practice. Warrior 1 is one of my favourites. Make sure your hips are facing forwards, your knee in line with your ankle and your back foot rooted firmly into your mat. Your back leg should be straight and your knee cap pulled up to activate your thigh.

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Flexibility Fundamentals

Warrior 2

Just like Warrior 1, make sure all four corners of your foot are placed firmly on your mat to avoid placing any strain on your knee. This time you can open your hips but still keeping your knee in line with your ankle, making sure that it doesn’t roll towards the body.

Warrior 3 Warrior 3 is going to challenge your balance, flexibility and your strength. Make sure your standing leg is straight and strong pushing into the floor to get the lift. Lift one leg up and push your heel away from you. Focus your attention on something that is not moving. This pose will help you get used to balancing on one leg which will help you build the strength and balance for more advanced postures like dancers pose. Tip: If you’re struggling to balance on one foot you can place your hands on the floor or on your yoga mat.

It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life. It’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power.

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Flexibility Fundamentals

Lunge Step one leg in front of the other, keeping the back leg straight and active. It’s important that you step it far enough in front so that you feel the stretch in your hip and potentially your hamstring while making sure that your front knee doesn’t go over your toes and your back leg stays straight. Tip: You can lift the arms for a little challenge.

Lizard Let’s take the lunge to the next level with lizard, you can keep the knee off the floor or put it down. You want to get your elbows as close to the floor as you can and use blocks if you need to. You want to feel a deep stretch in the hip and the hamstring.

Don’t worry too much if your elbows don’t go all the way down to the floor yet, as long as the stretch is intense it’s helping you.

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Tip: This pose is really great for working towards your splits as it works deeper into the three different hamstring muscles. IF you feel any pain just below your glutes, do not push the stretch any further.

Flexibility Fundamentals

Crescent Moon Get into your lunge and lower your knee, pushing your hip down to the floor. Keep your front knee in line with your ankle. Tuck your tailbone in and avoid arching your back as you lift your chest. Tip: If your knee hurts during this pose, place a rolled up towel under the knee for more support.

Crescent Moon Variation This pose is one of my favourites for split practice. Instead of lifting your arms, bring the back leg up to intensify the stretch in the hip, still pushing towards the floor. Tip: Make sure to roll off of the knee joint, fold your mat or place a towel under the knee for more support.

We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something. #Letsstartyoga 27

Flexibility Fundamentals

Upward Facing Dog Vs. Cobra Upward Facing Dog Keep your hands in line with your shoulders, pushing your fingers into your mat to take the pressure off your wrists. Lift your chest, pull your shoulders away from your ears and keep your head in line with your spine. Notice my thighs are off the floor, activate your inner thighs to get the lift.

Cobra Unlike upward dog, cobra gives us a deeper back stretch. Keep your thighs on the floor, making sure they are still actively engaged. You want your hands to be by your ribcage keeping your arms slightly bent to allow the spine to open. Keep your head in line with the spine.

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Flexibility Fundamentals

Pigeon Keep your knee in line with your hip, make sure that the foot is close to the body as you push the back leg as far as possible. Don’t worry if your butt doesn’t touch the floor – make sure that there is no pain in your knee. If there is, adjust your angle. Roll onto the muscle to feel the stretch. P.S This will help prepare you for king pigeon.

King Pigeon Stay in Pigeon, lift your back leg up as much as you can. It is important that you don’t roll too much to one side or you will ‘lose’ the stretch. You may be feeling this in either you hip, back or glutes. If you want to learn how to rotate your shoulder or ‘flip your grip’ head over to the “Push to Progress” section to find out how!

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Flexibility Fundamentals

Reverse Plank

Reverse Plank is something that will build strength and flexibility in your shoulders, core and hips. Lift your chest and hips to get your feet flat on the floor but don’t worry too much if you’re not quite there yet!

Plank Unlike in any other form of exercise, in yoga, you should be able to talk while you’re in Plank. Instead of ‘bracing’ your abs, think about pulling your navel up keeping everything active but allowing you to breathe comfortably. Not quite there yet? You can put your knees down and build up to full plank. If your wrists hurt, place yoga blocks under your hands and grip them OR push your fingers into the floor.

Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.

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Flexibility Fundamentals

Locust Pose Zip up your inner thighs, keeping them together. Place your hands by your ribcage and tuck your tailbone in to avoid arching the back. Inhale and lift your chest to take the pressure off your lower back. Keep your hands and thighs off the floor. This pose is great for strengthening the spine in preparation for deeper backbends.

Bridge Pose If you are wanting to progress into backbends, bridge is a great place to start. Lying down on your back, bring your heels as close to your butt as you can and keep your legs hip width apart. You can place a yoga block in between your thighs to make sure you don’t go too wide – doing this will automatically force you to keep you inner thighs active. Tuck your tailbone, rolling each vertebra off the floor while you roll your shoulder blades as close together as you can. You can grab your ankles for support and to deepen the backbend.

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Flexibility Fundamentals

Hip Vinyasa

Vinyasa means to flow using the breath. My favourite two poses to flow in and out of for the splits. As you go forwards inhale, sink into your hip, as you push back, exhale and bring your chest as close to your leg as you can. Alternate between these two poses to open up your hips and hamstrings at your chosen pace.

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Flexibility Fundamentals

Wide Legged Forward Bend Step your feet as wide apart as you can, all four corners of your foot on your mat, avoid arching your back rather think about lifting your hips as you bend forwards and exhale pushing your hamstrings back. If you feel pain behind the knee, don’t push it further. For a deeper stretch you can move both hands to one leg and hold, repeating on both sides.

Bow Pose In preparation for full bow pose with rotated shoulders, here is bow without a rotated shoulder grip. Tuck your tailbone in and imagine someone has tied a piece of string to your feet and shoulders lifting you up towards the sky. Keep lifting your chest while your head stays in line with the direction of your spine. If you feel any crunching in your lower back make sure you are properly warmed up and aligned. Don’t forget to stretch out your spine the other way using poses like plough, child’s pose or downward dog.

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Flexibility Fundamentals

Boat Pose & Variation Yoga is all about the core, core is everything. Aside from plank, boat pose is one of my favourites. Try to keep the back as straight as you can, placing your hands on the floor behind you for support if needed. Lift your chest and squeeze your inner thighs together as you pull your navel up.

For the variation, which is half lotus pose – bring the foot into the other leg wrapping your toes around your thigh. If you have any pain in your knee please don’t push yourself in this posture.

You are not the same person you were a year ago, last month or a week ago. You’re always growing. Experiences don’t stop. Embrace who you are today. #Letsstartyoga 34

Flexibility Fundamentals

Childs Pose

A cooling pose that can give you time to relax after a tough practice. One of my favourite counter poses for any backbends. When we stretch the spine out one way, we stretch the spine out the other way. This is so important for balancing the body.

The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It’s not about the circumstance but rather, what you’re made of.

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Push to Progress

Push to Progress

Progress lets us know that what we are doing is working. Now that you have the foundations, we can now start preparing your body for more advanced postures. These next few poses will challenge not only your flexibility but also your strength and because of this, they will take time. As with anything, consistency is key. The more you practice, the more your body will understand what you are trying to get it to do.

Crow & Crane Pose

Start off in your yogi squat, making sure your arms are pressing against your knees. Imagine someone has glued them there. Place your hands in front of you with your arms slightly bent. Now, lift your heels off the floor as you lift your butt and drop your head. Lean forwards, squeezing your knees into your arms, NOT directly onto the tricep. Push your arms into your knees to counteract the forces. Try to lift one foot off your mat and alternate to get the feeling keeping your arms bent and looking in between your hands. Build up to lifting both feet off your mat.

It is completely normal to fall out of this pose, wobble and even face plant. Just keep practicing and it will get there. You may experience some wrist discomfort so make sure you have warmed them up well before your practice and continue to stretch them out in between attempts. To go from Crow pose to Crane pose, you want to lift up and straighten your arms. This will challenge your scapula strength. #Letsstartyoga 37

Push to Progress

Remember: Try to avoid using the wall. If you are going to fall, allow it. You can exit the headstand by doing a forwards roll, into a backbend or out to the side. Whatever you do, do not let your hands leave your mat!

Headstand Step 1 • For headstands, your preparation is key. Imagine 3 points on a triangle. • Start by placing your hands around your opposite elbow like you see in the picture. • This will be the base of your triangle. Interlock your fingers in front of you. You now should have all 3 points.

Step 2 • Place your head into your hands and push your hands against the back of your head. • You should have NO pain in your neck, make sure that you are in a comfortable position. • You may experience a little bit of pressure on the top of your head, which is normal. • You then want to lift your hips to the point where they are stacked on top of your body, you get this angle by walking your feet closer to your body. This is important when you want to shift your center of gravity into your headstand.

What if I fall? Oh, but my darling... What if you fly? #Letsstartyoga 38

Push to Progress

Step 3 • By this point, your legs should be as close to your body as possible, your hips still nice and high. • Tuck one leg towards your chest, as if you wanted to tuck into a little ball. • Note: If your hips are not high enough you will not be able to lift the other leg up without coming back down to the ground. • You want make sure that your center of gravity is shifting forwards to the point where you feel the other leg can float up into the tucked position too.

Step 4 • Once you are comfortable lifting one leg off the floor, try to lift the other. • Don’t rush it, there is a temptation to rush the pose. If you rush, you will fall. • The more controlled you are in this tucked position, the more likely you are to hold a straight headstand. Tip: Don’t forget to breathe, holding your breath will make everything harder.

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Push to Progress

Step 5 • As you start to raise your legs up at the same time, think about pushing your heels towards the sky. • You want to imagine you are trying to stand on the ceiling. • Try to keep within your bodyline, if your feet push too far back you will go over. If your legs go the other way you will come back down the way you came up. • The challenge is finding where you are upside down.

My TIPs When you go upside down, everything you know when you’re standing on your feet, you don’t know anymore. You have to re-learn everything from a new perspective so here are a few tips I find helpful in my own practice... • It can be a little scary going upside down for the first time, take it slow and be patient with your body. The more frustrated you get, the more likely you are to hurt yourself. • Breathe. Breathe. Oh and breathe! • Don’t come back up too quickly after doing a headstand. The increased blood flow to your head may make you feel a little dizzy if you stand up fast. • To make sure there is no tightness in your neck, in between headstands try doing plough pose.

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Push to Progress

A little note from me: When I started practicing yoga, there was one pose that you could call my dream pose and it was the splits. Ever since I was a kid it was something I always wanted to do but people told me it wouldn’t happen. That’s the thing though; anything is possible and what I’ve learnt is that you’re never too old or too inflexible and most importantly it’s never too late. So, here are some of the key stretches you will need to get your splits! But don’t worry; I have a little surprise in the “find your flow” section to help you along the way.

Splits

Pigeon

King Pigeon

Once your hips begin to open, you can bring the back leg up to deepen the stretch in the hip. Make sure not to roll off your muscle or you will lose the stretch and its benefits.

Tip: A lot of people think that the splits are all about the hamstring flexibility. Of course your hamstrings need to release but splits require your hips and lower back to open. This allows your pelvis to tilt and lets you sit comfortably in this pose. So... My number 1 rule is “HIP FLEXOR BEFORE HAMSTRING”.

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Push to Progress

• I usually do this pose after the hip Vinyasa, it’s a great way to work into your hips and hamstrings. • Make sure your knee stays in line with your ankle!

Lunge with the back leg up

• You may be noticing that these stretches are progressive, I never go straight into the splits. There is always a need to prepare the body. • Lizard pose will help work into and release the deeper hamstring muscles.

Lizard Pose

• Using yoga blocks will help you get the right alignment and distribution of bodyweight. • It’s important that you do not rush this pose, work into it using your breath. TIP: When you are stretching for your splits its important that you do not have any pain behind the knee or close to your glutes. If you ignore this you could injure yourself.

Splits with blocks

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Push to Progress

Splits

My TIPs • A lot of people will ask me how long it will take to get the splits. Believe me, I tried the whole “get your splits in 4 weeks” thing. It didn’t work for me at all. I ended up hurting myself. Your time frame will be anything from 2 months to 5 months depending on how frequently you stretch for your splits. • If you are just a few inches away, they say that this is the hardest. I disagree, it’s probably just the most frustrating because you feel like you are so close yet so far. Trust me, you are closer than you think. These last few inches are where you begin to micro adjust, trying to square off at the hips as much as you can. • I recommend working on some form of flexibility related to the splits everyday. Don’t worry about trying to see how close you are to the floor, focus on opening the correct muscles and try for a full split 2-3 times a week. • If you rush this pose, you will injure yourself. Practice and it WILL come. • If you do other forms of working out i.e. lifting weights, you will have to work harder to maintain this kind of flexibility, especially in your hamstrings.

Don’t compare your progress with that of others. We all need our own time to travel our own distance.

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Push to Progress

This was one of the first yoga poses I ever learnt. It was also one of the poses I felt most uncomfortable with, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, that my back was going to break... It will pass I promise. This discomfort is completely normal.

Heart Openers or Backbends

Camel Pose Lift your chest, tuck your tailbone in, push your hips forward, relax your neck and find the bony bits on your lower back. This is your ilium and will help take the pressure off your lower back.

Camel hands on ilium What to be aware of: • If you have any back problems, please consult your doctor before doing these kinds of poses. This includes any pose where the spine is extending. • Shooting pains are indicators of trapped nerves, if this happens come out of the pose. • Numbness is an indication of either muscle fatigue or poor alignment, closely observe the way you are moving your body

Hands on blocks

Hands on lower level of the blocks

Using your yoga blocks will help your spine warm into the movement. The alignment cues still apply. If your hips drop, you will lose the stretch. Lifting your chest is so important whenever you are doing a backbend, it helps protect and take the pressure off of your lower back. #Letsstartyoga 44

Push to Progress

Hands on heels with your toes on the mat

Hands on heels, feet flat

Sometimes we face difficulties, not because you’re doing something wrong, but because you are doing something right.

Camel Variation

After bending the spine in one direction, its important to bend it in the other direction. This will balance the body and decompress your spine releasing pressure. Any pose that does the opposite to a backbend is considered to be a counter pose... Here is child’s pose as an example. Other favourites: • Downward Dog • Plough Pose • Forward Fold

Counter Pose: Childs Pose

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Push to Progress

King Pigeon • Start off in pigeon; hold the pose until the stretch eases off. You can repeat this stretch as many times as you feel you need to. • Lift the back leg up as you sink into your hip pushing it down towards the floor. • Lift your chest and place your foot into the bend of your arm. • Once you feel stable, lift the other hand off of your mat as you lift your chest. • Bring the arm over your body to interlock your fingers

King Pigeon • Using a strap will really help you get a feel for the pose even if you can’t quite get into it yet. It will teach your muscles where you want them to go but also giving them a nice stretch at the same time. • This is what you’ll need to do to ‘flip your grip’ or rotate your shoulder up and over. • Place the strap on your foot and reach for it with the same arm making sure your bicep is facing towards the sky. • Pull your foot towards you so that your arm becomes bent, bringing your arm away from you and up. • Notice how my elbow is NOW facing the sky in the picture? This is important. • You will probably feel this stretch in your shoulders and back. • Keep edging your hand closer and closer to your foot BUT don’t forget to lift your chest!

King Pigeon with a strap

#Letsstartyoga 46

Push to Progress

• Work on both sides equally, trying to get your balance. • The other arm can rest on the floor for support.

One-arm King Pigeon • Once you feel stable you can lift the other arm off of your mat and wiggle it onto your foot. • Try to hold this pose for around 3-5 breaths. TIP: Sometimes the foot gets a little slippery, put a pair of trainers on to help with your grip! P.S If you are unsure of how to grab your foot to flip it, have a look at “Bow Pose” in this section.

Full King Pigeon

A bird sitting in a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because her trust is not in the branch, but in her own wings. Believe in yourself.

#Letsstartyoga 47

Push to Progress

Upward Bow/ Wheel Pose This backbend is where your flexibility and strength will be tested. Like most other backbends, this pose will require you to open up your hips, shoulders and back. Don’t worry if you are nowhere near, this pose comes easy for some but not for others. The only thing you can be sure of is that if you practice it will happen.

My TIPs • Warm up your spine with all the previous backbend poses, start with cat, cow and scorpion building into more advanced poses like king pigeon and camel. • You can place yoga blocks between your thighs and shoulders to help with your alignment. • Try turning your fingertips slightly towards you in the backbend. Sometimes in a pose you can feel trapped. This isn’t lack of flexibility, it’s your anatomy; the way your bones are made. Turning your fingers towards each other may allow you to open up your shoulders a little more to get the lift into the pose. • If you have any shooting pain or a crunching sensation, make sure you are aligned correctly... Not sure how? Take a picture and observe it. • Push your fingers into your mat to help distribute the weight in your hands.

TIP: Don’t forget to counter pose!

Bridge Pose • From bridge pose, place your hands behind you, fingertips facing towards your shoulders. • Inhale lift and push, imagine someone has tied a piece of string around your stomach and is lifting you. • Keep your head in line with the direction of your spine and activate your inner thighs. TIP: You can go up onto your tip toes if it feels more comfortable

Full Wheel

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Push to Progress

Full Bow Pose • This is a pose that eluded me for a long time and today it’s still a pose that really challenges me in my practice. • Here is how you can take your baby bow to full bow...

• Just like in King Pigeon, this pose will require you to use a strap in the beginning. • In this picture you can see I am using a strap, once this becomes a little easier, try doing the same but without the strap. • This will indicate to you that you are now ready to try full bow pose with rotated shoudlers.

Half Bow with a strap

How to grab your foot

Full Bow

TIPs: • Tuck your tailbone in by pushing your hips into the floor. • Activate your inner thighs & push the balls of your feet towards the sky. • Lift your chest & keep your head in line with the direction of your spine.

#Letsstartyoga 49

Find Your Flow

Find Your Flow

Sun Salutations After you have warmed up your joints you are now ready to flow. Here are three of my favourite sun salutations. The purpose of these flows is to prepare your body for your practice, just as you would warm up before a run or a gym session; except in yoga, we combine the use of our breath with different movements to open up the body. You can choose to stay in each pose for as long as you like or you can choose to stick to one breath per move. Any pose which requires energy or heats the body i.e. plank or lunge will be a pose that you inhale into. Any pose which is restorative or cooling uses an exhalation to enter the pose i.e. downward dog or forward fold. Another way of knowing which pose uses what breath is; any pose that lifts you away from the floor and against gravity will indicate that you need to inhale i.e. upward dog and extended mountain pose. Any pose, which lowers you towards the floor or works with gravity means you will exhale into it, i.e. knees, chest, chin and plough pose. Note: See Sun Salutation A to help you understand the above.

How to flow • We always start with your right leg. Each time you complete the sequence on one side that is 1⁄2 of a full round. Only once you have done the right and left side will it be 1 full round. • Complete anywhere between 5 and 10 full rounds of the sun salutations. • Try not to rush the flows, this is a time for you to listen to your body and feel what is tight and what feels good in your body.

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Find Your Flow

Sun Salutation A

Mountain Pose (E)

Plank/ Chatturange (I)

Lunge (I)

Extended Mountain Pose (I)

Forward Fold (E)

Knees, Chest, Chin (E)

Forward Fold (E)

Lunge (I)

Downward Dog (E)

Upward Dog (I)

Downward Dog (E)

Extended Mountain Pose (I)

#Letsstartyoga 52

Mountain Pose (E)

Find Your Flow

Sun Salutation B

Mountain Pose (E)

Plank/ Chatturange (I)

Jump Forwards (I)

Extended Mountain Pose (I)

Forward Fold (E)

Lower Down to the Floor (E)

Forward Fold (E)

Jump Back to Plank/ Chatturanga (I)

Upward Dog (I)

Extended Mountain Pose (I)

#Letsstartyoga 53

Downward Dog (E)

Mountain Pose (E)

Find Your Flow

Sun Salutation C

Mountain Pose (E)

Extended Mountain Pose (I)

Lower Down to the Floor (E)

Lunge (I)

Forward Fold (E)

Lunge (I)

Upward Dog (I)

Downward Dog (E)

Forward Fold (E)

Extended Mountain Pose (I)

#Letsstartyoga 54

Plank/ Chatturange (I)

3 Legged Downward Dog (I)

Mountain Pose (E)

Find Your Flow

Find Your Flow: Bonus Flows Here are two flows that I use to help me get into the splits and backbends. You can take your time with these flows and make sure to hold each pose for as long as you feel you need to. For poses with an “*” next to them it will indicate that you should repeat this pose between 3-5 times for maximum effect. While these stretches should feel intense, you should also be feeling that as you progress through the flow you are slowly opening up. It is so important for you to listen to your body, know when to push and when to hold back. Everyday will be different.

#Letsstartyoga 55

Find Your Flow

Splits Flow ... “hip before hamstring!” TIPS • In between your splits attempts I find it really helpful to pick a stretch that you feel will release the area that still feels tight. • Remember to concentrate on getting your hip as close to the floor before your hamstring. • If you feel any pain behind the knee or very close to your butt at the top of your leg do not push it any further. This is the bad kind of pain and could result in injury if ignored. • Ensure that your front knee does not roll inwards. • Try to keep most of your weight directly on your hip, avoid leaning forwards. • Refer back to the splits section in the “push to progress” chapter.

Mountain Pose (E)

Downward Dog (E)

Extended Mountain Pose (I)

Forward Fold (E)

Plank/ Chatturange (I)

Hip Vinyasa*

Knees, Chest, Chin (E)

#Letsstartyoga 56

Upward Dog (I)

Find Your Flow

Downward Dog (E)

3 Legged Downward Dog (I)

Downward Dog (E)

Downward Dog (E)

Hip Vinyasa*

Lunge with the Back Leg Up (I)

Hip Vinyasa*

Plank / Chatturanga (I)

Forward Fold (E)

King Pigeon* (I)

Pigeon (E)

Lizard* (I)

Crescent Moon (I)

Downward Dog (E)

Hip Vinyasa*

#Letsstartyoga 57

Hip Vinyasa*

Splits* (E)

Childs Pose (E)

Find Your Flow

Backbend Flow TIPS • Always make sure your tailbone is tucked in to avoid injuring your lower back. The way you do this is by placing your hands on the bony bits of your lower back and tilting it down towards the floor. You should feel your abs activating as you do this. • Lift your chest. This is so important. Your lower spine is very mobile, your middle and upper back is not as mobile. To get the action of opening up the upper back, you need to lift your chest up and back. • Push your hips forward. • Activate your inner thighs; these muscles should be working all the time in your backbends. • Always counter pose after every backbend.

Mountain Pose (E)

Extended Mountain Pose (I)

Forward Fold (E)

Plank/ Chatturange (I)

Knees, Chest, Chin (E)

Cow* (I)

Cat* (E)

Upward Dog (I)

#Letsstartyoga 58

Jump Back (I)

Downward Dog (E)

Find Your Flow

Downward Dog (E)

Locust* (I)

Upward Dog (I)

Downward Dog (E)

Camel (I)

Crescent Moon (I)

Plank/ Chatturange (I)

Downward Dog (E)

Crescent Moon (I)

Downward Dog (E)

Pigeon Right (E)

Pigeon Left (E)

King Pigeon Left* (I)

Childs Pose* (E)

Upward Dog (I) #Letsstartyoga 59

Knees, Chest, Chin (E)

Plank / Chatturanga (I)

King Pigeon Right* (I)

Downward Dog (E)

Downward Dog (E)

Find Your Flow

Plank/ Chatturange (I)

Upward Dog (I)

Upward Bow* (I)

Extended Mountain Pose (I)

Knees, Chest, Chin (E)

Bow Pose* (I)

Downward Dog (E)

Jump Forwards (I)

Downward Dog (E)

Jump Forwards (I)

Mountain Pose (E)

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Childs Pose* (E)

Plough Pose (E)

Forward Fold (E)

A Special Thanks to...

A Special Thanks to...

Paul Aiken Photography Thank you Paul for shooting the pictures for me, being so supportive and helping turn my dream of doing my own ebook into a reality. I am so happy with how the pictures turned out. www.paulaikenphotography.com

Dina Ghandour For far too long I held off starting my ebook, purely because I was afraid and I had no idea where to start. Thank you for giving me the courage and the push I needed to go ahead with my this project and for supporting me the whole way through. www.yapparel.com

My Family Thank you for everything you did to help make this possible. Your support means the world.

And... Thank you for buying my guide, I hope that it gives you the foundations you need to kick start your yoga practice. I hope it helps you work towards a stronger, more flexible and happier you!

#Letsstartyoga 62

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