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Monday, March 30, 2015

Tip of the Week: Keep Two Hips in One Line

Last week we talked about the importance of alignment. The following information from Sterling Hot Yoga Works Mobile at provides some insight and helpful visuals on how to keep your hips in one line.

When we teach this wonderful healing yoga, you will often hear us tell you to put “two hips in one line.” You may wonder what that means.
Two hips in one line translates to alignment on a variety of planes. For example, in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, we encourage you to turn your hips, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 times to get two hips in one line.

That one line is the saggital plane, assuming, of course, your hips are already on the transverse and coronal planes.
Hold on, let me back up a bit. There are three planes that we refer to (but never mention directly) when we teach yoga—the saggital, coronal and transverse planes. Alignment on these planes, to the best of your ability, is what will help you to stretch muscles and develop strength equally and appropriately.
The coronal plane is your body’s ability to maintain alignment from right to left. So as you bend to the right in half moon pose, you are working to stay in the coronal plane.
Another way to look at it is to think of your body between two plates of glass—as you come into half moon, no part of your body is pushing against the glass plates, you are gliding smoothly between them. That’s staying in the coronal plane.

Two hips in one line, in this example, mean that your hips
should be square to the mirror to stay on the coronal plane. Look at the photo of Taka (on the left) and Laura (on the right)—see how Laura’s hips are twisted out of alignment?

From the side you can see how her two hips are not in one line. You cannot see Taka’s right hip at all; she is in coronal alignment.

The saggital plane is your body’s ability to maintain alignment from the center line of your body. In your mind, take those two plates of glass and shift them to your right and left side.

In tree pose, for example, when you pick up your right foot, make sure that you don’t shift your hips to the left, thus leaning into one plate of glass. Shifting weight is easy to do, and it helps you to counterbalance, but it brings your body out of the saggital plane.
Just like in the half moon example above, the goal is to avoid pushing or leaning into the glass. Keep two hips in one line by continually stretching upward, engaging your core abdominal muscles and contracting the quads.

In the example on the right, you can see how my hips are not
in one line. In fact my whole body is tilted to the left side—see how my left leg crosses into the white line?
The goal is to create alignment closer to the image on the left so there is a mirror image on either side of the center line of the body.

The transverse plane is your body’s ability to stay level. The plate of glass just moved to the floor.

In spine twist, for example, it’s important to keep your both hips on the floor to maintain integrity in the transverse plane.
When one hip comes off the floor, your transverse plane is compromised and that compromise extends up through the entire spinal column!

When we refer to the transverse plane, we are usually using the term “level” to keep you in alignment.

In the photo example here, Laura on the right has her right
hip off the transverse plane—and look how it affects her whole alignment structure.
She’s also out of alignment from the saggital plane—see how her spine is crooked? 
Because Taka’s hips are both on the floor, the rest of her body is better aligned.

Who would have thought that two hips in one line could have such important meaning?

As you practice for the next few weeks, focus on your alignment in the coronal, saggital and transverse planes.
Work to get your hips square and level during the setup, the full expression of the pose and the dismount. And two hips in one line will bring a whole new awareness to your practice!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Tip of the Week: Focus on Your Alignment

Without proper alignment, depth of the posture is irrelevant. First focus on getting the correct alignment of the posture and when you have achieved this, the depth will come naturally. Try not to be concerned by where anyone else is in the class, simply focus on your own ability. Honor your body and acknowledge its strengths and limitations. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment. Even those of us who aren’t particularly competitive may feel like we have to go as deep as the person next to us. But we don’t and we shouldn’t if it isn’t right for our particular body.

In Half Moon Pose, for example, even if you can only stretch a few inches, respect your degree of flexibility and resist any temptation to force or strain. Trust your judgement and allow mind and body to work together. It will always be easier to stretch one side of the body than the other so you must accept that and work with it. Apply extra effort to the stiffer side without straining or compromising alignment or weight distribution. For best results, stay in line with the planes when you stretch.

Pay close attention to the dialogue of the teacher. It so important to really listen to the alignment cues that a teacher is giving you. Not only do such cues protect from injury and physical stress, but they will also help to train your muscle memory to do the postures correctly. With practice, eventually you will be able to feel it in your body when you are misaligned. There is a keen sense of postural awareness that is eventually attained, which some may consider an added bonus or peripheral benefit to the practice.

In an effort to take your asana practice into your daily life, try to be more conscious of your posture when you are off the mat. The next time you happen to notice yourself slumping over on the couch, take a forward roll with the shoulders, draw them up by the ears, and then roll them back down behind you, opening your chest. Perhaps even relax your face and try to take a few breaths with focus. As you practice asana, listen to the cues the teacher is offering you, and really try to understand them in a postural way.  Stack the knee over the ankle when setting up Triangle Pose. Keep your shoulders away from your ears, chest lifted, crown of the head reaching upwards in Tree Pose.

Listen to your body. When you feel a sensation in your knee, back out of the posture. When you feel your breath shorten, come out of your twist a little. These little tricks in your practice will start out as enlightening moments of what it feels like to be good and aligned, but eventually they will become second nature, and you will adjust yourself instinctively.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Tip of the Week: How to Improve at Bikram Postures

The following article by Brynn Bellamy of gives us some helpful ways in which we can improve at our postures.
Students of Bikram yoga perform the same 26-posture series in every 90-minute class. According to Bikram theory, the repetition enables practitioners to focus on each pose in ever-finer detail and learn to pace themselves in the 105-degree heat. Despite its intensity, the standard Bikram series is considered beginner yoga. There also is a little-publicized advanced Bikram series available to certified Bikram instructors and, by invitation only, to students who achieve a degree of mastery over the beginning poses. Small changes to your Bikram practice can help you take it to the next level.

In Standing Bow Pose, settle for less depth if it means you can keep your hips level. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Step 1

Increase the frequency of your practice. Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram yoga, advises students to attend at least 10 classes per month to achieve its baseline benefits. Yogis who continue to deepen their practice, however, usually attend far more frequently, never missing more than a day or two between classes. Frequent practice enables your body's fascia -- the tense membrane that surrounds your musculature -- to stretch slowly over time, deepening your flexibility.

Step 2

Strive for endurance and intensity in the standing series and focus more on depth in the floor series. The standing series, roughly the first half of class, is intended to generate the internal heat required for you to get deep into your body's organs and muscles in the second half. Don't be surprised if you hear your Bikram instructor say that the hard work you do up front will reward you later in class.

Step 3

Listen closely to instructions and pay strict attention to form. Every Bikram pose contains elements that must be mastered in sequence. In Standing Bow Pulling Pose, for example, many yogis have a tendency to flare out the hip of the non-standing leg, dancer style, in order to pull that leg higher overhead. This may get you more depth in the short run but compromises the integrity of the pose and creates a literal imbalance in that you're more likely to fall over sideways. Keeping your hips level, as directed, enables you to develop a solid, balanced posture over time.


Step 4

Hydrate yourself well before class, but don't eat or drink anything less than two hours before class. It's nearly impossible to deepen your Bikram practice if your only goal is to survive the class. Dehydration, hunger or a sloshing stomach inhibit your ability to maintain stillness, absorb verbal instructions and find your edge in a given pose.


Step 5

Check your diet. Bikram studio owner and 2005 International Yoga Asana Championship winner Esak Garcia advises eliminating sugar and refined flour from your diet to reduce inflammation that can inhibit joint mobility. Although researchers haven't looked at sugar consumption and yoga specifically, the University of Maryland Medical Center does advise osteoarthritis patients -- who suffer painful joint inflammation -- to "avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pastas and sugars." Excessive consumption of alcohol, caffeine, junk foods and fat also may compromise the quality of your practice.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Tip of the Week: Be Brave

Complete this statement:

"The bravest thing I ever did was..."

The reason I ask you to do this exercise is because sometimes it's important to remember that you have already successfully faced down some very terrifying things in your life.

If you are still alive, then it's a fact that you already survived the worst day of your life, so far.

If you survived THAT, surely you can endure THIS...right?
Whatever is looming above you now, just try to remember that history has proven that you are more than equipped to handle it.
So ponder the question: what have you done already that was outrageously brave?
What will it take for you to realize the deep reserves of courage that you already possess?

The above was written by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love". Realizing that you are more brave than you even know can help tremendously with facing your fears, whether they be something you're facing in your personal life, not being afraid of falling in a backbend, or getting through a 30 day Bikram challenge. Don't be afraid of what you can do. You are stronger and braver than you know. You can do it.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Tip of the Week: Bikram for Athletic Training

Bikram Yoga SLC student Andrew Love is a 2 time Olympic trials competitor, holds 2 masters speedskating world records, won 2 Utah state championships last year on the bike (one road, one cyclocross), and uses Bikram yoga as part of his athletic training.

Photo from a race that qualified Andrew for the 2014 Olympic trials. "There are elements of about 4 Bikram postures involved here in the body position I am in (150 meters into a 1000m race).  Fixed firm + Rabbit created the lower back flexibility for proper "cat back" skating (It's very hard to hold that position at speed), and the whole "Awkward" series."

"Thanks to Bikram!! Bikram is a hugely powerful tool in my training. Its pretty much replaced gym work for me. The way that modern elite training plans are being written these days, there is always room for "foundational" work, especially in early season phases. This is where Bikram has just been hugely positive. Also, the absolutely regular style of the class is really important. I pretty much always know the training stress I will be inflicting on myself when I step into a Bikram class. This matters a lot. Other yoga styles, you never know if it will be creampuff easy or so hard no student can finish. Also, bike racing in Utah has heat as a significant fatigue factor. (Heat & Wind will often break even very strong athletes) Heat never bothers me anymore! It's an advantage.

 Andrew during one of his training days.

As a speedskater and cyclist I am a specifically imbalanced athlete, and this is one reason I find Bikram crucial. My imbalance could be best described as a dragster being an imbalanced car. If a dragster's motor is too powerful for what the frame and engine mounts can handle, it blows to pieces or flexes too much so you can't drive it in a straight line. What use are powerful legs if your torso and hips are not strong enough to resist and guide the power they can generate? Just like a dragster, you will get hurt, or crash, or when you get tired, move with sloppy technique.

Final thought worth adding, I do find that Bikram's intensity is a fatigue factor before your A+ category events. I tend to shy away from class from 10 days out. Whereas during building training cycles, I make it as regular of a 2nd workout as I possibly can... Classes AFTER racing skates in the morning are always an adventure in determination.
 Andrew doing Standing Bow Pose in his skates on natural ice.