Elliot has started a new Youtube Yoga Channel!

yoga with Elliot Landscape

Episode 1: Chaturanga Dandasana and the Obliques

I am so so so so so super happy to present you with my latest work of art: Yoga with Elliot, a YOUTUBE series. I have been working towards this for a long time and am stoked to see where it goes. Sometimes its hard to believe that I’ve been teaching for 7 years now.

I am looking for yogis and yoga instructors to collaborate with, so send me an email or leave a comment if you wanna do an episode with me!

Check out Episode 1 below:

Here’s a good description of Episode 1 sequence:

Beginner oriented warm-up sequence – this one is geared towards beginners, or people coming back to their yoga practice. We are going to hone in on chaturanga form.

~88 breaths – Oblique, lower back and neck tightness focus

10 minute duration, beginner’s difficulty level

(don’t forget to breath through your nose and rest)

  1. Mountain pose breathing mediation 5 breaths into standing back-bend
  2. Forward fold- Half lift 5 breath repetitions
  3. Plank pose 3 breaths
  4. Modified Chaturanga on 5 breath repetitions
  5. Cobra pose 3 breaths
  6. Child’s pose 5 breaths
  7. Downward dog 5 breaths
  8. Forward fold 3 breaths
  9. Half lift
  10. Standing back bend x2
  11. Forward fold
  12. Half lift
  13. Plank
  14. Chaturanga
  15. Upward dog
  16. Downward dog 5 breaths
  17. modified side plank 5 breaths x2
  18. Forward fold
  19. Half lift
  20. Standing back bendx2
  21. Chair pose 5 breaths
  22. Plank
  23. Chaturanga
  24. Upward dog
  25. Downward dog 5 breaths
  26. Child’s pose 5 breaths
  27. Virasana 5 breaths

*bolded poses are Oblique-centric

I hope you enjoy the sequence, please take your time to practice yoga, there is no need to rush through any of this. Subscribe to my youtube channel to get updated when I post new episodes.

What Do You Need To Get Started With Yoga?

Downward Dog Yogi in Dark Corridor
Shiva_Pashupati

Beginning yoga is not easy for most people. However, humans have been studying yoga scholastically for over 2700 years. Yoga may even be as much as 10,000 years old. We may never know the true age of the practice due to the fact that the tradition was originally transmitted orally. Many consider the Pashupati seal of the Indus Valley Civilization to be the oldest record of Shiva and indicates the practice of yoga likely existed 5,000 years ago.

With the tremendous benefits this sort of activity can provide, it is no surprise that it has been adapted for the modern world. From improving your flexibility to soothing joint and muscle pain, to assisting with mental health and disabilities, to even healing major bodily injuries and improving the quality of sleep yoga has a tremendous amount to offer modern human beings. Starting a yoga practice is much simpler than you might expect. To help you begin, this post will explore what you’ll need to start your journey inwards.

(Image Source)

Guidance

Before you even think about spending money, you will need to look for someone who can guide you to setting goals and exploring what you want from the practice of yoga. This is where yoga studios come in handy, but if you are athletic and healthy, you might just flip on a youtube video and follow an instructor like Yoga with Adrienne. There are also several services that offer online yoga like glo.com or poweryoga.com. Bryan Kest, the founder of poweryoga.com, is one of my favorite instructors and I can’t recommend him highly enough.

It is relatively difficult to start yoga without personalized advice and instruction, especially as we age and our bodies have more issues. Private instruction can be excellent for this, though it will often be more fun to go somewhere with a group of others to practice yoga. These are quite common in outdoor parks or membership gyms. However, I recommend finding a local studio and practicing with a few different teachers until you find one that you like. Everyone is different, and everyone has different goals in yoga. Create goals and find teachers to help you achieve them.

Clothing

Once you have a guide, it will be time to start thinking about the clothing you’re going to wear for yoga. Wear clothing that breathes and allows for your full range of motion, especially if you are trying hot yoga. Shorts, leggings, and obviously yoga pants are all acceptable, but ensure that the fabric isn’t transparent when wet, because you will likely sweat during a class, and if you try hot yoga, you will probably sweat through your clothes. Many students wear skin tight clothing to keep it from moving when you are upside down and in downward dog, but I always take my shirt off when I practice and wear board shorts to avoid unnecessary laundry. The biggest thing is that you need to make sure that your clothing isn’t going to restrict your movement or get in the way.

Equipment

Yoga equipment is very simple. The vast majority of classes only require a yoga mat. My favorite brand is Manduka. You may also want to get a foam roller, a block, and a strap, as some yoga positions can be more relaxing with props.

Finding Space

Dancer's Pose with a beach sunset

Whether you’re practicing yoga with a group or by yourself, it is crucial that you have an appropriate space. Avoid any areas with bugs, rodents, or dirt/filth. The ideal space helps you to feel calm, privacy to make sure that you are comfortable. Outdoor areas can be perfect for this: gardens, parks, and even beaches all offering tranquil environments that can enhance your yoga. You will often be able to find more than one class or studio near you and you can often try discounted introductory packages to compare and find the right space for you. If you live in Roseville or Auburn, make sure you check out East Wind Yoga, where I teach!

Mental Preparation

Most people talk themselves out of practicing yoga. This is the biggest barrier to beginning for most people. Keep in mind that you DO NOT have to be flexible to start yoga. In fact, inflexibility is the reason many of us practice! You can always improve! Make sure you talk to your instructor about any injuries you may have, or health complications that could affect you during the stretching and workout routines. 

In short, yoga has never been more popular, with people across the world embracing the practice and the tremendous health benefits it can provide. Remember that you just have to show up and the rest usually takes care of itself! Try to let go 😀

East Wind is Closing for the first time in 15 Years

Hey Everybody,

Unfortunately, I have to cancel my classes at East Wind Yoga for the immediate future. As officially mandated, I am going to have to postpone my yoga classes until after quarantine. I’d love to continue to maintain my classes with appropriate social distance, unfortunately the studio is being forced to close and there is nothing I can do about it.

HOWEVER

I saw this coming, so I’m ready.

FREE YOGA CLASS DOWNLOAD

I recorded my yoga class yesterday. You can download the audio here:

File URL: https://elliottelford.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/1-Hour-Flow-with-Elliot.mp3

Here is the accompanying Spotify Playlist:

Sorry, but here’s what I got 😀

I am so sorry to not be able to offer any more classes for the time being in person. However, I am planning on starting to live stream via my FACEBOOK PAGE and will be uploading as many online resources as I can, perhaps even youtube tutorials. I’d love to hear what you want!

Continuing Work with Ashtanga

Waking up early in 2020

Krishnamacharya

The new year has brought a new wave of inspiration for my yoga practice and working on the Ashtanga Primary series early in the morning. I’ve been waking up at 5:30, 6, and sometimes even earlier to ensure that I can do most of the series before I have to leave for work.

The entire series usually takes me a couple of hours, because I mediate for 10 minutes before and do some easy yin stretches if I need to before starting the series. Often I don’t finish, but about half of the time, I do. I’ve also practiced the intermediate series a few times, but I am working on getting my flexibility back so the primary series is what my body needs right now.

Adjustments

Patthabhi Jois

With that said, I am taking a long time to get warmed back up in the series. My shoulder are requiring a good amount of patience and stretching to re-align the ligamentation underneath my shoulder-blades and there’s no point in rushing. Rushing leads to loose ligaments that need to be re-tightened and stabilized.

Things are going great in the series, but I’ve had to back off a lot. I am also landscaping full-time right now. My wrists and hands have also needed a lot of care and slow stretching and supporting the series with yin has been the theme so far.

Performance Improvements

I think that on Saturday I held a handstand for a full minute really easily. My sinuses have improved and so has my digestion. My skin is also clearing up and I’m finding that I have a ton of energy during the day, but I am still adjusting to doing yoga every day. Ashtanga requires a lot of time and energy output, focus.

The First Ashtanga Workshop of 2020!

Saturday at 1 we had an awesome practicing the series! We only got through about half because of the orientation and making sure that people had adjustments available, but we did a lot! The opening chant was fun and we got a good chance to chat before the workshop began.

What an awesome group of people! A lot were fairly advanced and a few were probably close to the finishing postures of the series. I’m super excited to see what week 2 will bring.

Growing from Surya Namaskar

I’ll conclude with my biggest takeaway of practicing so often this year and that is self compassion. Some days, its okay to not finish. Some days, finish everything you can, especially if you wake up early and have time. A little amount of yoga and stretching goes a long way with the body and mind.

The two sun salutations are special in this way. You can wake up and practice them anywhere. And they are special movements for the spine, the nervous system, and the mind. I always feel soothed and more connected, clearer of mind and more focused after moving in unison with my breathing. The discipline of waking up early to unify the mind and the body are extremely rewarding in terms of mood and my ability to stay positive and not succumb to stress.

Its the little things that add up to something great. I’m excited for the second workshop this week. If you are going, practice a little every day and see how your body feels during the sequence!

Ashtanga Workshop #2: Intermediate Series

ashtanga yoga workshop #2 with Elliot

What a great day for yoga on Saturday afternoon, it

was so much fun to share the Ashtanga yoga workshop on the Primary Series, or Mysore style of yoga practice with my friends in the East Wind community a little over two weeks ago. The Ashtanga yoga series workshop was difficult and taxing, but the participants were all warriors! Everyone who showed up got a great series of postures in which to practice their breath control and challenge their bodies and we got to have some fun chanting and challenging our minds and bodies.

The Second Workshop is on 3/3 in Auburn

In this Second Ashtanga Workshop, we will be practicing the first 11 postures of the Ashtanga Intermediate Series:

  1. Pasana
  2. Krounchasana
  3. Salabhasana A&B
  4. Bhekasana
  5. Danurasana
  6. Parsva Danurasana
  7. Ustrasana
  8. Laguvajrasana
  9. Kapotanasana A & B

Ashtanga Yoga Workshop #2 will also focus on advanced seated postures and modifications to help the body to find the stretch that the asana implies.

The Ashtanga Yoga Workshop will last 2 hours, but we will start to practice for longer if we all want to. Drop-backs might happen in this workshop, so get ready for some hands on backbends and handstands!

In the Second Ashtanga Yoga Workshop, we get to have some fun practicing advanced postures! Please ensure that you check your ego at the door to avoid any injuries and to optimally enjoy the difficulty of this practice 😉

Nadi Shodana or the Intermediate Series of Ashtanga has a total of about 40 postures

Second Series: by Dr. Ron Steiner

I have included some links to the postures so you can reference them before the workshop begins. We will be doing the same chaturanga basics and flow basics at the beginning of the workshop because working on alignment is a constant in the yoga practice to maintain the integrity of the postures. Get ready for some fun!

Yoga Practice: How to Start Now

Free 1 Hour Flow Yoga Class

You’re Starting a Yoga Practice

But first, what the heck is Yoga?

Yoga is simple. It is paying attention to your breath and posture for set periods of time.

Unfortunately, our world has over-complicated it with sexuality, superficiality, and our schedules for our selves. Yoga studios are some of the most interesting phenomenon in the past thirty years, in my opinion. The people who do yoga are not yoga. We are called yogis for a reason. We grasp for yoga with our yoga practice. Even the supposed gurus are not yoga. They too must practice yoga to understand. Yoga is too simple for anyone to claim. Practicing yoga is about your BODY right now, your BREATH, and your MIND, right now. It’s about how your life-force energy is flowing through your body. It’s about the essence of life.

You can start yoga right now. You don’t need a teacher. You don’t need me. You don’t need a yoga studio. You don’t need fancy pants or a fancy yoga mat. You only need your self.

Now, you might ask yourself; ‘well, if it is so simple, then why have I never done it before?’ The only answer that I have to that questions is that you don’t know what you know. Again, it’s simple.

Your First Breaths

Yoga is about awareness of your breath. To start, you have to put your body into a comfortable position. Understand that the idea is to allow the body to stay in positions (they call them asanas in yoga, which translates directly to posture) for certain periods of time, so keep it reasonable. If it feels like too much, it probably is too much. The real guide is your breath; if you lose your connection with your breath, lower the intensity of the posture for your body until your breath is flowing strongly through your nose again.

That’s right, you are going to breathe through your nose for an entire 1:30 minutes eventually. If you practice and put some time into it. Simplicity is beautiful, isn’t it?

See, what you probably don’t realize is that your breath flows more efficiently through your nose, at least in terms of oxygenating your blood. When you sprint and run, you are mostly trying to expel carbon dioxide which is why exhaling through your mouth feels so good. We can do this sometimes in yoga as well. But it is important to understand how powerful the force of your breath is to bring life back into your body. This is what we are doing in yoga, breathing life and energy back into worn joints so that they can regenerate. We are simultaneously lengthening and strengthening our muscles with our breath, going back and forth like steel being smelted on an anvil to strengthen ourselves for the world around us. Our bones, ligaments, and joints become powerful machinations of efficiency when a yoga practice has been well-honed. Everything flows easier, especially in your circulatory and digestive system.

Moving Beyond Breath

Now you are ready to start. Close your eyes and begin to breathe exclusively through your nose. It might be useful to take a few exaggerated exhales through your mouth to start, then shift all of the respiratory flow into the nose. If this is difficult, then spend some time during your day trying to breath through your nose; the more time you spent trying, the easier it will get.

Your body should be comfortable, so you can focus. The idea behind a yoga practice is regeneration, healing, and awareness, so bring your mind into a peaceful place where you can focus completely on your breath. Your breath is a healing force; your breath is also linked to your consciousness in ways that we do not fully understand.

By focusing on your breath, you can give your entire attention to your body. Inner space is vast, but don’t be overwhelmed; you will have as much time to explore this space as you choose to create for yourself. A yoga practice can last a lifetime if practiced responsibly.

The Ujjayi Pranayama Technique

You are already breathing through your nose, so the first and hardest part of this technique is already accomplished. Start to pay attention to the way air is flowing in the back of your throat. Can you restrict your throat muscles slightly to slow down the flow of air? It should start to sound more and more like a wave, or the raspy sound of the ocean. Once you have spent a significant amount of time with the Ujjayi breathing technique, you will be able to variate and change the intensity of the breath with your postures in the yoga practice. With more intense poses will come more intense breath, necessarily to keep your body sustained in the position.

Equal inhales and exhales that are unceasing and complete will rejuvenate your body over 90 minutes, even if you are lying still on the floor. The breath is your yoga practice. The Ujjayi breath is powerful; there is also no reason to limit its use to the yoga room. In stressful life situations, breathing techniques can help to keep you connected with your body and grounded in your thoughts.

The Breath will Guide your Yoga Practice

Your connection with your breath and the Ujjayi technique is the most vital aspect of the yoga practice. It is what allows the subconscious mind to integrate your thoughts and conscious feelings, soothes your bodily systems, and relaxes the central nervous system. If the pose gets too intense for the breath, lower the intensity of the posture in your body.

When you are finished practicing, you lie down to rest with your back on the floor and your head on the floor. The idea is to let your body sit completely still on the floor for about 5-15 minutes, depending on how long your practice was. This is time where you let your breathing return to its normal state in a natural and easy way.

That’s all you need to start practicing yoga, or to start an official “yoga practice”. Don’t listen to anyone that says you need anything because all of the props that exist are made to make the practice more comfortable. You are set and ready to go.

The ONLY Rule: Enjoy Yourself!

If it’s not fun, then what’s the point of a yoga practice?

You are ready to start your home yoga practice now. Remember to do what you love!

Closing your eyes always feels great. The magic starts to happen when you really start to let go of everything outside of your body and focus your attention completely inwards.

 

Here are a few more articles, in case you want to look at some additional information or more great resources:

References:

The Ultimate Reference: BKS Iyengar’s: Light on Yoga

  1. Yoga International
  2. Yoga Basics
  3. Gaiam
  4. MindBody Green
  5. Yoganonymous
  6. About Health

 

 

5 Reasons I Don’t Practice Ashtanga Everyday

http://ashtangayogaathens.com/2014/08/healing-injuries-with-ashtanga-yoga/

I still practice Ashtanga.

Just not every day. I practiced every day while I was in India up until 3 months ago and when I began to travel. However, I stopped practicing every day and have gone back to a more diverse practice of general Hatha poses. But there are some major reasons why I stopped practicing Ashtanga every day and starting practicing it more like twice a week. You should know them

  1. Muscle mechanics – Muscles are designed to handle unforeseen obstacles, in fact they perform extremely well in a diverse landscape and require different types of movements than only the poses of the primary series to functioning optimally. We are not meant to walk on treadmills, we are meant to climb hills and rocks, ice and mountains. There are fundamental movements that are missing from Pattabhi Jois‘ method, originally prescribed by Krishnamacharya. Low lunges, certain types of sitting, abdominal exercises, and back lengthening are all missing from Krishnamacharya’s sequences, likely because they were as necessary in the lifestyles of young Indians at the time. With modern science, especially in the fields of anatomy and physiology, we can structure other exercises to compliment the poses of the primary series to make our practice of the old method more efficient.
  2. Injuries – It’s easy to get injured while practicing Ashtanga, especially while practicing every day. Some studies have posted numbers as high as 60% of people who practice Ashtanga get injured and I would be willing to bet a lot of the injuries are knees, ankles, and toes. When you practice the same routine every single day it is easy to become somewhat mindless in the practice and to allow things to move on autopilot. This is not necessarily very good for your muscles either because they get used to the same movements and over time try to create shortcuts. Muscle confusion is a good remedy for this.
  3. Sense of Progress – Ashtanga give the practitioner a false sense of progress every day. You become efficient and masterful at certain asanas while forgetting others and focusing on a non-existent path in Ashtanga. The path is the same whether you practice Ashtanga or not and being able to perform yoga poses should only lead to a sense of internal triumph, rather than comparative progress. Where is yoga taking you anyways?
  4. Time – Yoga is a huge time commitment. Ashtanga is oftentimes an even bigger one, with full sequencing and the need to warm up and prepare mentally. I like to take 2 hours to practice Ashtanga, it gives me plenty of time for headstand and the closing sequences and I don’t feel rushed. Did I mentioned I spent 10 breaths in a lot of poses?
  5. Variation is beautiful – Why practice only one style of yoga? We are born into an age with seemingly limitless traditions and styles to draw from, we should take advantage of this. Incredibly skilled teachers also seem to be popping out like daisies so take advantage while you can!

I also do other forms of exercises, like running, and climbing, hiking, and generally spend a lot of time outside. You should switch it up every once in a while, your body will love you for it!

 

See a few more articles about Ashtanga here:

  1. Is Ashtanga Dangerous?
  2. Injury Rates in 2008 (fishy…)
  3. Elephant Journal Drama
  4. Daily Ashtangi
  5. Ashtanga Injuries

The True Meaning of Yoga

yoga_dancer's_pose

Yoga provides exercises and experiences that allow you to experience life more fully and vitally. This means that the breathing exercises, stretches, calisthenics, abdominals, standing poses, back-bend, inversion, spinal twists, and hip-openers that you do during a yoga class are pretty useless by themselves. The idea is that they free you up inside to be present to everyday life and can therefore appreciate everything a little bit more and make you healthier to enjoy them. I think this is why looking at pictures of people doing yoga can feel so hollow, there is so much going on in that simple picture and you can’t really see the after effects of what the yoga is doing.

A human being performing an asana, or a positive postural alignment of their body is an incredible thing, if simply because the human being is alive and functioning in the compromised position, especially if they are doing ujjayi breathing. When you start to combine muscular stretches and skeletal alignments to focused the consciousness of that human in asana, postures can assist their body in realigning, strengthening, increasing flexibility and endurance. Yoga does this by innervating muscles that may not normally be flexed or contracted and distributing weight evenly among muscle groups while inversions provide your circulatory system with some much-needed filtration and release from gravity’s constant pressure. Yoga can help your body to recover from intense exercise and to stay young by keeping the fluid systems functioning properly.

Yoga is much more than an ancient Indian philosophy because it has evolved alongside American culture in today’s world, even if it is very romanticized in much of the western world’s culture of yoga studios, classes, teachers, etc. It is a part of the West’s culture now in a way that people really do appreciate and take advantage of in a good way. It is also a part of Hinduism and may be very old in India.

From science we have learned that the biggest benefits of yoga are usually the stress releases. Yoga is a powerful tool for mental and physical sensitivity, meaning that it gives you a good idea of how functional parts of your body are and how much endurance you have. It is especially useful in aligning nerves, which is why lots of people with sciatica find relief in yoga. We are just beginning to explore the effects of exercises such as headstand, shoulderstand, back-bends like camel pose, reclined hero pose, wheel pose, bow pose are all extremely powerful postures that science still has a lot to learn about. But it seems to have huge effects on nearly every system in the body because of the controlled levels of stress input and release and overall stimulation and fitness of the body’s muscular systems.

Yoga becomes an aspect of appreciating life. Sometimes yoga may come and go and I really think everyone experiences a little of this from time to time and that it isn’t a big deal. Sometimes life is just good and we are very happy and yoga can be in the background for a while, especially if everything is really good. But yoga is something that doesn’t really leave you. When you stand up straight, when you stretch your back while standing in line, the yoga is still a part of how you do things if you internalize it. The #yogaeverydamnday hashtag is kind of funny because I don’t think anyone does yoga 365 times a year. Even Ashtangis are supposed take the full moon of every month off.

Yoga doesn’t have to be something very formal, we don’t even really know much about the origins of what we practice now. Its not super religious, or ultra sacred, or anything more than what you want to make of it. You can practice in small quantities by yourself at home to really get things moving for your body in terms of flexibility and mobility. Teachers are good for more advanced things like inversions, breathing exercises, or advanced arm balances and advising you on how to advance in your practice. But its also something you can learn on your own and that can provide stability or whatever you may need it to be.