5 Yoga Hacks

by one of our all-time favourite yogis, Rosie McCaughey
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It won’t come as a surprise to you that team Matcha Maiden LOVES yoga – we actually just returned from an incredible yoga retreat (separate post to come). It may, however, come as a surprise to you that we only recently learnt we were doing a fundamental pose completely incorrectly, which led us to re-evaluate our whole practice. We realised that we, like many of you, have been bending and stretching for years but never actually had most of the basics explained to us. We just turn up for classes and do what we think is the right thing but never stop to ask what we could to do enhance our experience. So we thought we’d hunt around for someone in our yoga community to dish up a few yoga hacks.. 
Enter, the beautiful Rosie McCaughey

Rosie is the Director of Rise Yoga in Richmond – at least, that is how we initially met Rosie, but “yogi” doesn’t really quite cover her expansive skills and wisdom! Although she is indeed a long time yogi, she is also a passionate wellness expert – she is a qualified sports Physiotherapist, Yoga teacher, Clinical pilates teacher, Personal trainer AND massage therapist, and recently proud mum to her gorgeous boy, Lenny! She is passionate about empowering others to take charge of their health, as well as feel good in their own skin, being an avid positive body image advocate. Rosie has whipped up her TOP 5 YOGA HACKS to help anyone enhance their practice (and is also popping up some of the most commonly mis-done yoga poses on the Rise blog too, which you might find useful). Find out more at riseyoga.com.au or follow @riseyogarichmond / @la.vie.en.rosie !

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So you have been practicing yoga for 12 months or more, and LOVE the way it makes you feel physically and mentally… BUT if you’re the type that goes all in with whatever you do, chances are you will have felt various niggles in your body over the course of your practice. Not only will these 5 tips help supercharge your practice, but they’ll keep you safe and happily practicing your yoga for longer!

1. BE in the pose

Sounds silly… but how often do you hang in a forward fold, and notice your toenails need painting, legs need a wax, or that the person next to you has straighter legs than you??? The key to benefiting from your practice as much as possible is to notice when your mind is wandering elsewhere, and gently coax it back. There’s no berating yourself, just the noticing that you are elsewhere, and to bring your mind back to your body- the breath or the area that the pose is working are the two easiest ways to be in the pose, in your body, and to get the stress relieving and calming benefits – as well as getting to know your body better so you push to just the right level…

2. Engage your Mula Bhanda (aka pelvic floor!)

Mula means, “root” in Sanskrit, and literally is the keystone to a strong practice – again both physically and mentally. The Mula Bhanda is engaged by using the exhale breath to draw inwards and upwards through the perineum – (think busting for a pee!). The muscles of the perineum are connected to the deep muscles of the core (abdomen) and pelvis (glutes) and so can help you to supercharge the strength around your mid section, which is especially important for standing poses, core work and inversions. This will also be especially important if you have any niggles in your lower back. Try it sitting first, then standing, and then once you have the hang of it, incorporating into all poses! Try NOT to hold your breath – the bhandas and the breath should be independent of each other…

3. BREATHE!

Focusing on the breath can help you to take your practice to the next level. I LOVE to start practice with a “gentle breath meditation” – where you focus on the inhale breath being gentle, then the passage of the breath through the body, and then the exhale breath being equally gentle, feeling the air change from cool on the inhale, to warm on the exhale. Our minds are ever wandering, like a “wild pony” – and bringing your attention this acutely to the breath will slow your thoughts down and give you that deep Zen that you seek!

4. Spread those fingers!

Spread your fingers on the mat, aiming to distribute the weight evenly across the hands, particularly paying attention to the knuckles / fore part of the hand bearing weight, taking the weight away from the wrist creases – this will protect the wrists both by reducing stress, but also by strengthening the forearm muscles which support the wrist and elbow. (We didn’t know about this one – I’ve always kept the weight the heels of my palms!)

5. Engage the muscles of the mid back

In our primarily sedentary society, many of us spend most of our days hunched over computer screens with our shoulders up around our ears and shoulders rounded. So it can feel foreign to engage the muscles between the shoulders – but this area will not only help to support the shoulders which take a lot of load in our practice, but also help to reduce niggles and overuse of the neck. To get s feel for this – sit (or stand) upright, and gently pinch the shoulder blades together at the back – (not DOWN, just together) – creating openness in the chest and collarbones. Then over time start to incorporate this into your weight bearing poses – down dog, up dog, chaturanga… !

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