Best Yoga Pose For Lower Back Pain

If I had a dime for every time someone asked me for a good lower back stretch…

Who cares how much money I’d have — the answer is never helpful.

“Yoga” is often considered synonymous with “stretching” and one of the first steps taken to fix back pain is, yup, stretching.

So, of course there’s a “yoga stretch” that’s for back pain, right?

Maybe.

Back pain is a really a complicated issue, but a very obvious contributor to back pain is back weakness.

Wait, can yoga help build back strength?

Definitely.

But, I never hear “do you know any good ways to strengthen my back with yoga?” and that’s really too bad, because that’s the perfect question for someone with mild back pain to ask.

By sitting when we work, eat, drive, and everything else, we tend to disengage the back muscles and, day after day, they get weaker and weaker.

Fast forward a few years, and here comes some nerve impingement, spinal discs bulging, and vertebrae crunching into one another. If only there was a yoga stretch, wait, pose that could stretch, wait, strengthen the back to help prevent this from happening in the first place…

There certainly is friends, and it’s called locust pose.

The beauty of locust is it’s not beautiful. It doesn’t look impressive and it doesn’t really feel that great when you have a weak back. Of all the back bends, it’s the least glamorous, but it might be the most necessary for our hunchy-crunchy backs.

Because no one wants to do it, teachers tend to avoid it and we all miss opportunities to build strength that we need so desperately. But, when you do do it, you’re essentially contracting your entire back body to work against gravity in the opposite direction gravity is pulling you in all day.

It’s essentially a big middle finger to gravity when you get right down to it.

So, while everyone else is taking that glorious upward facing dog, you can be the person that’s lownto the ground, looking unimpressive, and building strength that will help you avoid back pain.

In this quick video, learn how to do the best yoga pose for back pain and appreciate why you should never ask for a lower back stretch ever again!

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

How to Wheel: Hard Yoga Poses Made Easy

In the ‘Hard Yoga Poses Made Easy’ series, we focus on a particular yoga pose or skill that seems (or is) very difficult and we make it a lot easier by breaking it down into actionable, realistic, and sequential steps.

In this tutorial, we set our sights on Wheel Pose.

Wheel looks like it’s just a big ole backbend and all you really need is to just be able to bend backwards a whole lot.

But when you start to piece it together, there’s a lot more going on.

First, the spine needs to not only bend backwards (in spinal extension), but the back needs to be strong enough to support the pose. To establish this primary need for Wheel pose (and life) we start with Locust pose for step 1. Pure back strengthening might feel like a pain at first, but it’s totally worth it.

Supporting the Wheel backbend starts with the back, but it also need to be supported by the traction in the front of the body. It also needs the frontal core and chest to be mobile enough to lift into the arching position, which is why step 2 details Camel pose. It’s a key “traction” back bend and will teach you how to use the front of the body to bend in the back of the body.

This one is pretty sneaky and not many people realize this, but the hips and shoulders need to be quite mobile to come into full Wheel. With tight shoulders, it’s almost impossible to place the hands and palms securely on the mat which keep the wrists protected. With tight hip flexors, it’s very difficult to extend at the hip joint, bringing excess back ending into the low back. To square all of this away, we use low lunge with an overhead shoulder opener.

Getting closer to the actually Wheel shape, we next focus and on bridge pose and working to develop an even backbend throughout the spine, with no individual area of the spine feeling the backbend more than another.

With the alignment learned in Bridge and the skills developed in steps 1-3, you’re ready to start playing with the idea of moving into Wheel pose.

Make sure to keep as little weight in the head as possible when it’s in contact with the ground and start with your chin towards your chest. You’re not going to win any medals for looking towards the ground. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Wheel pose is super energizing and brings a sense of vitality into the body. With so much of our physical movement beginning in and connecting to the spine, this pose is a panacea for any athlete looking to stay athletic for a long time.

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

Yoga for Athletes – Most Common Mistakes

Yoga was a huge part of my life when I was playing college baseball. I found it and got hooked pretty quickly.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get my teammates to enjoy it with me. At the time, I thought it was because they didn’t want to be the only dudes in a class full of women, but looking back on it I think the reason was something completely different.

In a way, yoga asks an athlete to do everything they’ve been trained not to do. Slowing down, not pushing through physical limits, breathing, being present, and taking criticism are all foreign subjects to athletes.

Even though it may seem like it’s mostly about flexibility and not feeling comfortable in a room full of yoga pants, it’s actually about learned behavior and culture.

When athletes finally break through and make their way into a yoga class, or do a random yoga class on YouTube, they bring their competitor athletic mindset to the yoga mat and, inevitably, they don’t have much fun. I’ve heard every excuse — it’s boring, it’s confusing, it’s too hard, it’s too easy — and it all comes down to discomfort and not being open to a new approach towards physicality.

If I can do anything with my yoga teaching, it would be to help athletes get more enjoyment and benefit from yoga. The beauty of this is it’s actually pretty simply if you know some key things to avoid.

In this discussion, I touch on the three most common mistakes I see athletes make in yoga:

  1. Impatience
  2. Distractedness
  3. Stubbornness

I hope this short video reaches as many athletes as possible so they can shift their perspective and approach when it comes to yoga.

There’s more potential in yoga than you think, you just have to look beyond the yoga pants.

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

The Best Yoga Warm-up for Athletes

Sun Salutation C is the best yoga warm-up for athletes (in my opinion)

As a contemporary yoga teacher, there’s always tension between sticking with tradition and updating the practice to accommodate advances in science.

For traditional yoga poses and sequences, there’s usually something not quite tangible about why I like or do them, but it just seems to feel right (even if it may be way off from an physiological standpoint). And, to be honest, sometimes the most “scientifically accurate” way of doing yoga is painfully boring.

Just the other day I saw a social media post from an anatomically-driven yoga teacher and they were doing pushups with their knees on the ground and hands on a stability ball. Wow, this was very boring to watch. Sure, this is a good move for people with tight wrists, or shoulders, or some other condition, but some of us just want to use our bodies and not worry so much about putting bubble wrap on every part of our body during the process.

This is especially endemic in the world of yoga for athletes. For some reason, yoga teachers think that athletes use their bodies so much in their sport that they can’t be challenged at all on the yoga mat. Sure, a purely traditional (say “ashtanga”) yoga practice is probably not the best call for most athletes. But, there has to be a middle ground where athletes can face some adversity on the yoga mat and, yes, maybe tweak something here and there.

Following that comment, let me reassure you, I have no interest in hurting people

Which is why I’m interested in helping athletes find the most beneficial edge for their bodies in yoga. With an intelligent and patient approach, we can use traditional yoga technique while minimizing risk (and actually have fun the process!).

If you’ve ever seen or read “War of the Worlds” you know that no matter how powerful you are, you need to expose yourself to some adversity (in the case of the Aliens in the movie/book, bacteria) to stay alive. And this is the thinking I applied in developing my opinion for the best yoga warm-up for athletes.

Why I chose Sun Salutation C as the best yoga warm-up for athletes

I chose Sun Salutation C because it’s “traditional” (i.e. every yoga teacher knows what it is) and also physiologically sound (i.e. it’s helps warm up the body with minimal physical risk), but not overly so on either side of the spectrum.

I also like this sequence because most teachers know it but, for some reason, don’t teach it very much. We see a lot of Sun A and Sun B in the yoga world, but Sun C gets kicked to the curb even though it warms up the most important body parts used by athletes: the hip flexors, spine, back, hamstrings, and core.

In this tutorial, I provide a full overview of the sequence of Sun C and its benefits as well as a “real-time” demonstration and review of how to do the sequence in a continuous flow (feel free to repeat this part to get a nice warm-up out of the deal).

There’s probably someone out there that is going to disagree with my stance on how we should treat athletes in yoga, and yoga in general. That ok and I invite the discussion.

Enjoy the warm-up and, more importantly, the approach to it that beings tradition and science into balance.

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

What is Yin Yoga? Yoga for Every Athlete

The most important missing piece from most training plans: patience.

And it’s not only missing from our training, but also most aspect of our lives. We hate to wait, and that’s why this video is under two minutes.

For those wondering what “yin yoga” is and why it might be important, this brief video will give you a small beginning to your questions.

In my opinion, yin yoga is the ultimate off day training option for athletes, whether in-season or out of season. It makes perfect sense as a complement to vigorous, high intensity training because it approaches the body with complementary gentleness and patience.

Yin yoga puts the body in a pose and, instead of going as deep into that pose as possible for a short period of time, yin asks you to find the place where you just start to feel the pose and then hold it for a long time (at least 3 minutes).

This shallow and long stretch addresses the muscles to a degree and, more importantly, gives the more dense, plasticky, connective tissues in the body (in particular the fascia) time to slowly stretch and become more dynamic and adaptive.

Though often overlooked, the fascia is critically important to a high-functioning body because it encases every muscle in the body and ties the various systems of the body together in fabric-like network.

This raises the topic of “tensegrity” (a contraction of tension and integrity) which refers to the concept of individual areas of the body that connect to other areas of the body. Without going into too much detail, the principle of tensegrity in the human body supports the idea that movements, tightness, inflammation, and any other physical condition felt in one part of the body has a chain reaction and a direct connection to all other parts of the body in some way.

Put simply, when we’re tight in one area (say, the hamstrings) this tightness can lead to tightness and pain in other parts of the body (like the lower back).

Of course, some of the connection can be attributed to the muscles of the body, but the fascia also contribute greatly to the quality of tensegrity we experience (or miss out on) in the body.

This brief piece of writing only begins to scratch the surface of the body of information that can be shared about yin yoga, and that’s exactly what it’s intended to be.

For the athletes out there: yin yoga is most likely the biggest missing piece from your training. The physical benefits are the first changes you’ll notice and, while these are taking place, you’ll also find a deep well of relaxation and meditation that’s simultaneously physical and mental. Yin yoga will help you recover in so many ways and I hope you decide to make the time for it.

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

How Often Should You Practice Yoga?

Two 30-minute yoga sessions per week is the sweet spot.

In my experience, this is the best yoga is consistent yoga. If your main physical practice is yoga or yoga-based, finding time to do some form of yoga every day probably isn’t a problem.

For athletes, goals are pretty specific and they probably have very little to do with advancing a yoga practice. In their case, yoga is a tool to advance in their sport or non-yoga training, making yoga relevant but not a top priority.

My goal is to help athletes develop the most realistic and beneficial yoga program for their training, and that means being as efficient as possible and making every second of yoga count.

Realistically, an athlete has time commitments to direct training in their sport, which will suck up a lot, if not all, of their free time.

Going to a yoga studio is probably not an option because it adds a commute, parking, interacting with other people (not a bad thing, but it takes time) and the studio class will spend a lot of time addressing things that aren’t immediately beneficial to the athlete.

So, an at-home option is going to be best, but there needs to be enough time spent on the mat to get significant benefit. In my experience, 30 minutes is the perfect amount of time for an athlete’s single yoga session. A lot of teachers will tell you that you need to practice for at least an hour, but they’re also probably not athletes…

By doing two 30-minute sessions per week, you can realistically fit the sessions into your schedule either before or after a training session, on the weekend, at lunch, or in any small pocket of time that makes sense.

Also, doing two sessions per week gives you a chance to work two sides of the yoga spectrum: restorative and active. While one 30-minute session cools your down, stretches you out, and gives you space to relax and find new openings in the body, the other session pushes you and adds a dynamic, full-body workout into your routine.

In my experience, this approach has the most potential for helping you both maintain longevity and become more dynamic as an athlete.

As an athlete myself, I can say that this works for me and for a lot of people I work with.

Ultimately, as with everything in yoga, it comes back to finding balance. Between productivity/unproductivity, training/competing, relaxation/activity, striving/non-striving, and making things happen vs. letting them come to you.

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

How to Breathe in Yoga

When you know how to breathe, you know how to work on yourself.

I’m a big fan of a yoga teacher named Jason Crandell. If you haven’t heard of him, definitely Google him and get to know him a little better.

I mention that because I want to give him credit for an incredibly powerful perspective he shared on the importance of the breath in yoga.

It goes something like this:

“The movement of the body set a cadence for the breath. The movement of the breath sets a cadence for the mind. The movement of the mind sets a cadence for the nervous system.”

I love this because it highlights the breath as the link between the body and mind that allows yoga’s influence on the nervous system to take place.

Put another way, if we’re not breathing with intention in yoga, we’re missing the opportunity to influence one of the most critical drivers of who we are, what we do, and how we do it: the nervous system.

Put yet another way, if we’re not breathing with intention in yoga, we’re not doing yoga.

I understand why the breath isn’t the most popular focal point in a yoga class. Most people (including myself) original came to yoga for its physical benefits. We want a yoga body and to feel good and, in my opinion, there’s really nothing wrong with that.

But, as you keep coming back to yoga, there comes a point where working on just the physical aspects of our being becomes painful, boring, or both. When we start to appreciate the breath and its applications, we uncover our first experiences in the deeper, meaningful, and transformational aspects of yoga.

The first step on this path is learning how to do victorious breathing, also known as “ujjayi”.

In this video tutorial, I review the primary benefits of this breathing technique (breath regulation and warming, and bringing our mind to a single pointed focus) and also detail simple technical aspects to help you figure it out very quickly.

To be honest, figuring out the technique is pretty easy and straightforward for most people. What’s difficult is applying it and learning to listen to it as you practice yoga.

With that, I’ll leave you with two challenges:

  1. Next time you do a yoga class, can you maintain ujjayi breath the whole time?
  2. When you inevitably start to lose control of your ujjayi breath, due to physical intensity or distraction, can you listen to it and adjust your approach accordingly?

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

10-Minute Yoga Warm-Up for Athletes and Beginners

We don’t normally give away full classes for free but…

…we’re feeling extra generous this week!

As a companion class to the “Best Yoga Warm-Up for Athletes” video, we thought it would be cool to actually use Sun Salutation C in a real class setting and demonstrate how valuable it is to warm up for anything you’re about to do.

(Don’t be afraid to use it as a cool down either.)

The beauty of this warm-up is it’s patient. By taking your time and focusing on the breath first while warming up, you might notice a different state of mind as you begin your training session.

In just 10-minutes, you will have warmed-up your hamstrings, hips, back, spine, shoulders, chest, and neck. Feel free to use this as a regular part of your warm-up routine and make it a regular part of your program. Enjoy.

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

Best Yoga Pose for Runners

Low lunge is the best yoga pose for runners, and here’s why:

Runners use their legs to move forward. That’s obvious.

The muscles they use to move forward are the mainly the hip flexors (to pull the knee up) and the hamstrings (to pull the legs back), and quads (to stabilize the knee and strike the ground).

Of course, running activates all sorts of other muscles and, also of course, there’s no one yoga pose that can address every part of the body. For my body, when I run, low lunge (also known as anjaneyasana) gives me the shape I need to touch the most crucial parts of my body that tighten up from running.

My hip flexors get torched when I run. Maybe it’s something to do with my form or cadence, but they always seem to be the most worked body part after I run.

With low lunge, this area is addressed directly. Starting with one knee on the ground and the other lunging forward, the hips can draw forward to create a massive stretch up the psoas and adding a slight backbend lifts the stretch into the core (which feels pretty great).

So we have the hip flexors covered and I’m not going to be selfish and leave it there just because that’s what I need most. From this same position, you can do two things:

  1. Massive quad stretch: Drops the hands to the floor (or a block) and twist toward your front leg, maybe grabbing the back foot with your hand or a strap.
  2. Massive hamstring stretch: Shift the hips back and straighten the front leg, folding forward over that leg to any degree.

These two positions are, technically, not a low lunge, but the low lunge shape gives you easy access to move from pose to pose, even flowing a little bit, to get a smart warm-up or cool down for the major running muscles.

Yoga and running go very well together because each complements what the other lacks. In a way, running is the push and yoga is the pull.

To all the runners out there, is low lunge your favorite pose? If not, what other poses do you like to stay moving?

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

Top 5 Yoga Poses to Improve Strength

Yoga isn’t just a bunch of stretching.

I have a lot of conversations about yoga with all kinds of people. It’s fun and interesting to hear people’s perceptions about what yoga is and what it does for the body.

The more I learn about yoga, the more I realize how broad the actual term is and how vastly representative it can be. On the physical side of yoga (yes, there are other sides) there are countless styles, approaches, and techniques. Of the classical and time-honored traditions of yoga, I can’t say that any of them has a specific focus on “stretching”.

So, when I’m discussing the topic of yoga with someone and they say something along the lines of “yeah, I could really use more stretching”, I mostly feel disappointed in the way yoga is portrayed in the media because of how misleading it is.

Yoga isn’t about stretching, it’s about balance.

Many bodies are imbalanced when it comes to range of motion, so a lot of the yoga out there adapts and becomes more stretching oriented. But, that doesn’t mean that yoga can’t be an impressively strengthening practice.

If you allow it to be, your yoga experience can be a source of complete and balanced full body strength, especially if you have a basic understanding of technique, so you don’t hurt yourself in the process.

This video and post serves as an introduction to the top 5 strengthening poses in yoga, the proper technique to do them correctly and for the maximum benefit, and a few extra tricks to make the poses dynamic and expansive.

Here are the poses we’ll cover:

  1. Plank: Learn to engage the whole body equally and safely in this static, isometric hold.
  2. Chaturanga: Not a pushup, but a pose. Alignment in this pose is absolutely essential to avoid wear and tear on the shoulders.
  3. Chair: Moving into the legs, set up your basic alignment and practice a relatively advanced concept to make it more of a strengthening pose for the pelvic floor.
  4. Horse: A major leg strengthening pose that can optional include dynamic movement in the legs and upper body.
  5. Locust: My favorite yoga pose. Not glamorous, but the best pose to complement our sitting-intensive lifestyles.

My hope is that this video will give you a starting point for establishing strength with your yoga practice and also begin to appreciate the strengthening aspects of the practice.

Yoga is a lot of things. Stretching is certainly one of them. Strengthening is also one of them. Can you find balance between the two on your journey to discover what lies beyond them?

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

How to Eagle: Hard Yoga Poses Made Easy

In the ‘Hard Yoga Poses Made Easy’ series, we focus on a particular yoga pose or skill that seems (or is) very difficult and we make it a lot easier by breaking it down into actionable, realistic, and sequential steps.

In this tutorial, we build up to full eagle pose in five steps, piecing the pose together as we go.

Full Eagle Pose has a lot of things happening at once, mainly a bind in the upper body, and bind in the lower body, and one-legged balancing.

To start out, the goal is to minimize variable and give you a pose that a) allows you to set a foundation of strength and body awareness for the pose while also getting some of the primary benefits of it. Enter step 1) Chair pose with a Bearhug (when’s the last time you have yourself a bear hug? I bet you’re due!)

The next steps add complexity, bit by bit.

Step 2 brings the arms into a half-bind and introduces a one legged balance without a bind.

Step 3, the arms stay as in step 2 and the legs move into a half bind.

Step 4, legs the same, arms into a full bind.

Final step, arms in full bind, legs in full bind (aka the full pose).

If you followed the steps closely, you’ll notice that the progression alternates between skills and range of motion development in the upper body and lower body.

When we add complexity to the upper body, the lower body stays the same as the previous step, and vice versa.

This approach is how to truly ingrain yoga poses and, honestly, any other acquired skill. Bite size pieces that progress upon the previous step won’t be as gratifying in the short run, but you’ll ultimately get to your goal a lot quicker and maybe learn something along the way.

The bonus here is you’re giving yourself bear hugs all the way through, which isn’t a bad step to add every now and then.

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

How to Headstand: Hard Yoga Poses Made Easy

Learn how to be effortlessly upside down.

In the ‘Hard Yoga Poses Made Easy’ series, we focus on a particular yoga pose or skill that seems (or is) very difficult and we make it a lot easier by breaking it down into actionable, realistic, and sequential steps.

In this tutorial, headstand is broken down into 5 simple steps with an introduction that establishes the most important aspect of the pose: the foundation.

Without a strong understanding of the proper alignment of the headstand foundation, you’re essentially putting all of your body weight on your neck (very bad) and risk crashing out of the pose.

With the foundation established, we move into a carefully planned, step-by-step sequence of poses leading up to the full pose, which is the 5th and final step.

Here are the steps that will be covered, in order:

  1. Align: Stay low to the ground and apply the fundamental principles of the headstand foundation
  2. Lift: Use your understanding of the headstand foundation to bear weight in the arms (and not the neck) in a familiar shape.
  3. Wall: Next, we go upside-down for the first time, but in a low-to-the-ground little package with the support of the wall, if needed.
  4. Extend: Still at the wall, we take our low-to-the-ground package and extend the legs to the ceiling, creating the classic headstand shape, with the wall there, just in case.
  5. Full Pose: With technique and practice established, we’re ready to take headstand to the middle of the room. No walls this time, because we don’t need them. Our foundation and body awareness is all that’s necessary.

There are so many headstand tutorials out there that teach the pose in a risky way. I put this step-by-step guide together to provide better information than what’s currently available.

There’s no need to fear headstand if you have the proper training. So, watch the video, ask any questions you have, and fear no more.

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

Top 5 Yoga Poses to Improve Balance

Certain yoga poses have a way of representing more than just our physical state.

When you start to develop a regular yoga practice, certain types of poses start to become simpler, and others just stay hard.

Once you pass the beginner phase of yoga and you have a good grasp of basic yoga technique, the next layer that you’ll face is how your psychological state translates into your yoga practice.

In the busy and sometimes frenetic culture most of us operate in, it’s had to lead a balanced life. Every moment brings more things grabbing for our attention, places to go, things to do, and people to see all pulling us in multiple directions at once.

No matter how physically able your body is, balancing poses tend to be tougher when you’re carrying mental imbalance from life’s busyness onto the yoga mat.

In my experience, my ability to sustain a balancing pose is directly related to how balanced or imbalanced my life is at any given time. If I’ve maintained a healthy work-rest balance, my trees and half moons tend to be sturdy. When I’m super busy and under-rested, I fall out over and over again.

So here’s a little exploration in the challenge of balance. This video covers 5 different ways of practicing balance — 4 poses on the feet (or, better put, foot) and 1 focused on the upper body.

Here are the poses and the way they’ll challenge your balance:

  1. Tree: Can you balance on one leg while in contact with the other leg?
  2. Knee Lift: Can you balance on one leg without contact with the other leg?
  3. Warrior 3: Can you balance with one leg behind you?
  4. Half Moon: Can you balance when your body is sideways?
  5. Side Plank: Can you balance on one arm and one leg?

As always, I offer tips and options for you to explore each of these poses in a way that makes sense for your body.

As you come back to these poses over the course of your yoga practice, notice how their quality tends to fluctuate with your state of mind. This is one of the first clear signals of the mind-body connection brought to the surface by a yoga practice.

Enjoy it, learn from it, and stay curious.

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

Top 5 Stretches for the Inflexible!

You don’t have to be “flexible” to do yoga.

One of the most popular excuses I hear when people tell me why they don’t do yoga is that they’re not flexible. Without exaggerating at all, this is pretty much the same thing as saying “I don’t exercise because I’m not in shape”. It just doesn’t make sense.

The issue is yoga often gets misinterpreted as a flexibility competition, where naturally flexible people have a stage to show off how rubber-band-like their hamstrings are. From this perspective, I can see how yoga might not be the first option for people with relatively less range of motion.

Thankfully, no one is taking score in a yoga class and, honestly, nobody cares how flexible you are. Sure, that person in the corner might have a deeper forward fold than you, but that doesn’t mean they’re doing yoga any more than you are.

When we look at yoga as a place to explore our range of motion, we can’t use flexibility as an excuse for not doing yoga anymore. No matter what you’re flexibility, there’s always an edge to explore and use to learn more about yourself.

Most poses can be done by anybody, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll look the same. Back to that person in the corner, they might not need a strap or block to do a pose, and they might be folded in half three times over, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t also do the pose in your own way.

And that’s what this video and post is all about — giving you the tools and knowledge to do five major categories of yoga poses even if you live in a relatively stiffer muscular system.

Here are the categories we’ll cover:

  1. Forward Folds: Learn how to use a block and a strap to get a huge hamstring stretch without compromising your low back
  2. Shoulder Flossing: Just like flossing your teeth, shoulder flossing is something everyone should be doing. Also like flossing, anyone can do it.
  3. Low Lunge: One of the best yoga poses out there for counteracting the effects of sitting. Take this one slow and do your best to not allow your hips to pitch forward (which brings excess pressure into the low back).
  4. Figure Four: We tend to store a lot of stress and psychological baggage in physical locations — the hips are a major repository for this type of storage. Figure four is a perfect introductory outer hip stretch to give you a chance to stretch out stuff that’s not just physical.
  5. Cat and Cow: More of a transition between poses than a “stretch”, but an absolutely crucial movement for the spine, which often gets ignored in common stretching routines.

If you consider yourself “inflexible”, I would strongly recommend that you bring some yoga into your life and use this tutorial as a jumping off point to do yoga in a way that’s productive for your body and not competitive with others.

Educating yourself with videos like this isn’t a bad place to start!

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

Top 3 Beginner Yoga Mistakes

The biggest mistakes beginners make can’t be seen.

Coming into yoga from the world of sports and/or fitness, it’s easy to shun some of the details mentioned in class. Some people never learn to appreciate these finer details and I feel sorry for them — their yoga will most likely never enjoy the finer aspects of a true yoga practice.

I totally understand how a newer yoga student might struggle with all the newness that comes with yoga. There’s so much to figure out on the external side of yoga that it becomes almost impossible to pay attention to the internal practice.

We all want to look like we belong and nobody wants to look like they have no idea what they’re doing no matter what they’re doing.

That’s why I’m here to tell you that, in yoga, what you look like on the outside matters far less than what you feel like on the inside. Not to sound like a kids T.V. show, but you’re truly missing the point if you ignore how you feel in a yoga class.

Of course, you don’t want to injure yourself, so some external alignment is necessary, but the biggest mistakes I see new yoga students make relate more to the mind. Most yoga students (and teachers) tend to not notice these things, which is why you can look like an expert yoga student but actually have no idea what you’re doing.

What you can’t see is how much someone is competing with themselves or others, how much listening they’re doing to the teacher or their body, or how focused they are on their breathing.

These are the three biggest mistakes beginner students make: 1) competing, 2) not listening, and 3) not focusing on breathing as the priority.

We tend to take habits from other fitness modalities and plunge into yoga with no intention of changing our approach. For athletes, it’s nearly impossible to not compete with others and, if they can do that, it’s even harder not to bring some form of self-competition onto the yoga mat. When we compete in yoga, we get injured. As athletes, the sport already brings enough risk for injury, so the competitive attitude in yoga is only putting your body at an unnecessary additional risk.

When you’re not listening to your body or teacher, you miss important warnings that signal potential harm and you ignore the possibility to expand your understanding of the practice.

When you put the breath anywhere other than the top priority, you break the link between body and mind and, essentially, reduce the practice to exercise instead of something truly life-changing.

If you can improve in these three areas, even though most people won’t notice, you will be doing yoga while everyone else is just exercising.

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

How to Handstand (Before You Can Handstand)

Handstand Before You Can Handstand

I promise, this makes sense.

“Handstand” technically refers to balancing the body weight on the hands with the legs overhead.

Now that we have that definition in place, can you see the loophole?

Before I tell you, let’s compare our definition of handstand to the most common definition of handstand.

For most, “handstand” means something very specific: balancing a completely vertical body, legs together and pointing straight and vertical, body completely motionless.

This rigid definition of handstand is what makes us think we can’t handstand. But, our new definition is broader and allows for a lot of customization.

Have you figured out the loophole yet?

It’s the legs. Your legs don’t have to be completely vertical and pressed together for you to be doing a “handstand”. All you need to do is balance your weight on your hands with your legs overhead.

So, what can you do with your legs to handstand (our definition) before you can handstand (old definition)?

That’s what this video is all about. In it, you’ll learn how to use your legs to 1) lower your center of gravity, 2) widen your center of gravity, and 3) use a support system.

By doing these three things, your chances of balancing your weight on your hands is going to be much more realistic and you can start intelligently working towards that old definition of handstand (which is really only one version of the pose).

Working smarter, in this way, will make your handstand journey much more fun and exciting. Enjoy.

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

How to Koundie 2: Hard Yoga Poses Made Easy

In the ‘Hard Yoga Poses Made Easy’ series, we focus on a particular yoga pose or skill that seems (or is) very difficult and we make it a lot easier by breaking it down into actionable, realistic, and sequential steps.

In this tutorial, we piece together Hurdler pose (also known as Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2) and, just like a hurdler, you’re going to need a lot of range of motion in your hips to be stable in this pose. So that’s where we start.

Step 1 is all about adductor (inner thigh) stretching and mobility work. You need this area to be functionally mobile in general, but it also helps to have this range of motion for Hurdler.

Step 2 is about building strength in a flowing movement that approach the entry to the pull arm balance. You might be familiar with the “knee-to-elbow” movement if you’ve ever take a flow or vinyasa yoga class before. Unlike most classes, our approach is for you to slow this movement down as much as possible so you can own the strength you develop and notice the changes in your hip mobility over time. No momentum here, friends!

In step 3, we make one small change to step 2 — holding the knee to the elbow instead of touching and releasing. If your looking core core, arm, and shoulder strength, this step is going to be money for you.

Step 4 respects the fact that you probably haven’t developed quite enough hip mobility to take the full pose yet, and also respects that you’ve earned at least an attempt at the arm balance. So, here you’ll keep your front knee bent and work towards the body awareness needed to lift the back leg off the ground and counter balance by drawing the chest forward. (Ain’t easy).

Finally, after potentially months of work, you’re ready for the full pose, drawing the front knee to straight and, having earned arm balance body awareness in step 4, hovering and flying over the mat with ease.

This is a great first or second arm balance for newer students to play with. It’s generally pretty safe as long as you respect your hip mobility and aren’t afraid of falling on your face a few times.

As a side note, avoiding face planting is a really good motivator for figuring out how to arm balance.

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

How to Koundie 1: Hard Yoga Poses Made Easy

In the ‘Hard Yoga Poses Made Easy’ series, we focus on a particular yoga pose or skill that seems (or is) very difficult and we make it a lot easier by breaking it down into actionable, realistic, and sequential steps.

In this tutorial, we build up to Eka Pada Koundinyasana 1 or EPK1 (sorry, there’s really no great English name for it).

This arm balance requires a lot of familiarity and range of motion with twisting on top of a lot of upper body strength and body awareness

The goal of this 5-step progression is to nail one skill first before moving to the next and, ultimately, doing multiple skills at the same time.

Start with a simple twist to build strength and functional mobility in the spine, then build core and upper body strength, then do the simplest twisting arm balance. These first three steps isolate the three most important skills separately, then step 4 and 5 bring them all together.

Step 4 is essentially the arm balance in a slightly simpler leg variation, and step 5 is the full arm balance, legs split, floating above your mat.

Be careful and patient — this one takes time and skipping steps isn’t going to get you there any quicker.

If you can control your instinct to rush through the steps and be patient enough to let this pose develop over weeks and months, you’re core and abs and shoulders and spine will all be better for it.

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

The One Thing Nobody Realizes About Handstand

We only see one thing when it comes to handstand: the handstand.

Like an upside-down statue, not a single body part is moving and it looks like they can just hold it forever.

What we don’t realize about handstand is your ability to do it has more to do with what happens before handstand than what’s happening while your handstanding.

Most attempts to handstand pay very little (if any) attention to the entry into handstand, but it’s secretly the most important part of handstanding and is the main determining factor in whether or not you’ll have a successful handstand.

I don’t want you to be that person who just jumps and hopes (and probably crashes), so I made this video explaining how to enter into handstand with a plan.

The main focus here is how you use your body, especially your legs, to enter into handstand with poise and control so you can hold your handstand with poise and control.

More specifically, this video review the follow seven options for entering into handstand:

  1. Tick Tock
  2. Single-Leg Press
  3. One-Knee Bend
  4. Tuck Up
  5. Pike
  6. Straddle
  7. Press

Some are more advanced than others, but any of them will give you a strong entry into handstand.

Having a plan and a purpose is so important when it comes to any challenge we face. Here we learn the skill of planning with a purpose so we can bring it into our everyday lives (not just handstand!).

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

Why You Can’t Handstand | 3 Biggest Mistakes

Most people can’t handstand.

Are you willing to accept the three main reason why you’re a non-handstander?

It’s easy to make excuses for yourself and tell yourself it’s just too hard, but the reality is you’ve probably been misinformed about how to do handstand and this is leading to the three biggest mistakes I see in handstand (and in sports, in general):

  1. You’re overworking
  2. You’re rushing
  3. You’re afraid

These three things, especially when combined, make it almost impossible to take on any challenge with poise and grace.

My theory is that by improving on each of these mistakes in your handstand practice, you will be able to start eliminating them from other aspects of your life. I believe this will make you a better athlete, competitor, and person.

So, this isn’t just about handstand, it’s about being efficient (not overworking), having a plan (not rushing), and building experience and confidence (not afraid) in everything you do.

For now, let’s start with three things you can do to improve your handstand, today.

Start using yoga to live athletically: https://www.IcewaterYoga.com

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide