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Exploring celebration through yoga

Alwz Greene has studied yoga for over a decade. Through yoga, she balances joy and grief. (Courtesy of Alex Greene)
Alwz Greene has studied yoga for over a decade. Through yoga, she balances joy and grief. (Courtesy of Alex Greene)

This month I have been spending a lot of time on my mat thinking about celebration. While my own life is filled with many celebratory events (birthdays, Halloween, anniversaries), I am also in the process of grieving the loss of a loved one, finding my way through finals and freaking out about life after Mills. It would speak to reason that I am not alone in this situation.

Being on the mat has gifted me the space to find balance between the two: honoring my heartaches and also shifting my perspectives. There are moments when I feel like I cannot face another moment, feel so wound up that I cannot sit still, do not have the energy to stand up or when I am so elated that I cannot seem to keep my spirit on the ground. All of these, as it turns out, relate to celebration. Honor what is going on in your life, in your head, in your body and work with it. Celebrate you as you are right now. Here are some yoga poses for a little help:

Dolphin: Inversions are an amazing way to shake off the negative energy and immerse yourself in elation. They also help us to face our fears, and literally turn your point of view upside down! I love Dolphin because it is a strong pose. It is a pose that takes time to build up to, but is also accessible to all.

Come to all fours, knees under hips, forearms on the ground with elbows under shoulders. Wrap your hands around your biceps – this measures the proper distance for your arms. Plant your hands and forearms firmly on the ground. Inhale into your upper back and glue your shoulder blades down to your back. Exhale, tuck your toes and push up into dolphin. Stay here for 4-6 breaths. 

Modifications: For a tight neck and shoulders, do this with clasped hands. If it is too difficult to keep your legs up, try this with knees on the ground and focus on pressing your forearms to turn in on the pecs.

Pigeon forward fold: The ultimate luxury, or as I like to call it the ‘Treat Yo-Self’ pose for hips and the IT band.  This forward fold does wonders for the nervous system when you are a little ball of jitters. 

From downward dog, inhale and point your left leg up to the sky. Exhale, and swing your leg through the front, and bend your leg between your hands on the floor with your foot by the hip. Your thigh, knee, and foot should lay on the ground. KEEP YOUR FOOT FLEXED TO PROTECT THE KNEE. Use your hands to pull your chest forward and lengthen the lower back. Stay here for at least 6 breaths per side (or longer if you’d like!)

Modifications: If you have knee pain, keep your leg bent at a 90 degree angle and bend the back leg. If your hips are tight, fold up a blanket and slip it between your legs. 

Pranayama: Take a deep breath in, exhale “oh.” Inhale, expand the chest, exhale “ah.” Inhale, expand your lower back, exhale and say “ha.” Inhale while expanding the belly, exhale and say again “ha ha.” Continue, adding an additional “ha” on each exhale.