yoga

Half Moon Pro Tips with Zefea Samson

Half Moon Pose

Ardha Chandrasana, also known as Half Moon Pose, provides a unique challenge right at the start of the Hot 26 practice. Each time we begin our practice, we literally have the opportunity to grow into this challenging posture, lengthening our spine as we bend laterally. The space for growth and change in this posture is always expanding, and I have found that a small adjustment or shift in thinking can take Half Moon to a new level of depth and understanding, even for experienced practitioners.

Over the last month, I’ve chosen to share a new Pro Tip each week on the evolation yoga social media channels to help you improve and deepen your Half Moon side bend practice. Each tip speaks to a common issue I have seen students experience in Half Moon Side Bend, and offers a way to improve alignment to address that issue.

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Tip 1: Keep it lateral!

“Chest up, chin up, arms back, upper body back”: these are all instructions that you hear in class to provide corrections and adjustments while in Half Moon pose. However, you must be careful in this posture to not over correct or exaggerate, turning this posture into a backbend. Half Moon side bend is a lateral flexion of the spine. Which means your spine is bending side to side, not backward or forward. While you are working on opening the front side of your body, think about keeping the back of your body tall and long. Everything should be equal distance to the mirror you are smiling in.

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Tip 2: Use your hands!

If you find it hard to get your arms straight and extended, work really hard on pressing your palms together. The different parts of your palms are connected to different strains of muscles in your arms. The more you work your hands, the more you activate and fire up all the different muscles of your arms, even while your arms are bent. Over time, this will help you to make your arms more straight.

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Tip 3: Neck Alignment is Key!

You hear the words “chin up, see your whole throat in the mirror” a lot in class. Many times, student will over correct based on this direction, and the head will start going back. To avoid crunching in your neck, keep your neck long by bringing your chin slightly back in to your throat. You can also try thinking of lengthening the crown of your head up to the ceiling.

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Tip 4: It’s all in the feet!

You are probably used to hearing: ‘bring your feet together, toes and heels touching each other’. Many people wonder why this often seems impossible or painful. The answer has to do with body mechanics and proportions. Our feet are not rectangles, rather triangle shaped, with the front of our feet being wider than the heels. The only way most people can make both toes and heels touch is by sickling at the ankles; jamming ankle bones into each other; bowing knees out; or externally rotating the hips. Allowing a slight space (distance depends per person) between the heels solves this issue for many.

Yoga Education with Evolation Yoga

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Consider training with evolation yoga to enhance your understanding of each asana, while you become certified to teach and share the healing benefits with others!


By Zefea Samson

 

Gratitude for my Yoga Journey by Larissa Santoro

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It was Thanksgiving eve. I watch Instagram stories and posts of my family and friends getting ready for the holiday. My mom sends me a text that she just finished baking her apple pie. I think I can almost smell it when I close my eyes…and my heart aches, just a little bit, that I am not home.

But, I am happy. I am grateful.

 

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It has been 8 months since I became a certified yoga instructor with Evolation Yoga. Completing my training in beautiful Hawaii, which I didn’t fully realize at the time, was a complete life changing experience for me. I didn’t know what my year would look like. Would I go home and move back to NYC and get another 9-5 agency job? Which let’s be real is more like a 9-7 agency job… would I stay in CT and take a different path? I had no idea what to expect and somehow, here I am…

Back in the yoga bubble, this time at a training in sunny Santa Barbara. I can hear the trainees in teaching clinic in the other room and it’s a surreal feeling to be here, as a teacher.

Eight months lived and I am wiser. I am happier. I am more myself than I’ve ever felt, and sure, there are hard days where I think ‘what am I doing??’ and self-doubt knocks on my door, but I am so grateful to be a part of this community and on this journey.

When you train with Evolation Yoga, you join a family.

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We train together. We stay connected. Continuously grow and learn together. We go through the good, the bad, the uncertainties of life together and it is a bond that cannot be shaken.

Eight months post training and I am back in the yoga bubble.

In one week I have made new friends, that I know in my heart will turn into old friends.

I received heart-warming hugs from souls I just met.

I have been welcomed into a fellow Evolation yogi’s home for the holidays. No questions asked.

Evolation Graduates Thanksgiving

I have taught abroad at an Evolation graduate’s studio.  

I have friends and connections all over the world.

I am part of the Evolation family.

I am grateful.

 

See our upcoming yoga teacher training programs ➝

Crying in Camel Pose?

Camel Pose, Ustrasana. Sometimes just hearing the name can make me feel lightheaded. When I started practicing, my friend and I used to give each other a knowing look of fear whenever the instructor would announce this dreaded posture. I can vividly remember one class, a few months into my yoga practice, where I was finally starting to feel much stronger as I set up for camel pose. It wasn't until I layed down in savasana immediately afterwards, I started crying. I laid there, shocked, confused and overwhelmed with emotion. Any possible causes of stress or sadness in my life flipped through my mind, but nothing stood out. I wiped my eyes and carried on with my practice, and the feelings faded away with my breath. 

Perhaps you've had a similar experience. It's common to feel dizzy, nauseous, or emotional in this deep backbend. But why? 

In our society, we're often found slouched over our laptops, phones, and desks... This posture is opening our body up to the complete opposite range of motion, an opportunity that is rarely found outside of a yoga studio. Although this expression is tremendously healing for our spines, it can feel anything but. We hold a lot of tension in our chest, physically and emotionally, while Camel Pose stretches and opens up the whole front side of the body. 

If you think about it, our body's natural reaction to danger is to curl inward; rounding our shoulders and upper spine, tucking our chin to our chest... similar to fetal position. This is done to protect our neck and chest, the most vulnerable areas of our body. When we bend backwards and expose these spaces we normally protect, it's forces us into a very vulnerable position. Personally, I feel more mind-body connection in this pose than any other. 

Camel pose is a heart-opener. The Heart Chakra (Anahata) is said to be tied to your sense of compassion, love, acceptance and forgiveness. This posture encourages us to open up in those areas of our life. To find new space, get comfortable with our emotions, and live life with an open heart. So next time you're in camel pose, don't shy away. Take a moment to breathe deeply, and enjoy whatever arises. 

 

Stop the words now.

Open the window in the centre of your chest,

and let the spirits fly in and out.

- Rumi

How a Yoga Practice Changes Over Time

Evolation co-founder Zefea Samson has had quite the dynamic yoga journey. She had her first experience with yoga at age 4, when her parents practiced with renowned teacher Angela Farmer in the Iyengar tradition. In her twenties, Zefea started practicing Bikram yoga in her hometown Amsterdam, and graduated from Bikram's Teacher Training in 2005. Following her teacher training, the next chapter in her life focused on competing. She represented the Netherlands as the Dutch gold medalist three times in the International Yoga Championships, finishing in the world's top 10 not once, but three times! 

Later, Zefea and Mark founded Evolation Yoga in a desire to evolve the way the Primary Hot series is passed on and to focus on a collective and community approach. Almost ten years, 2 children, and 100 trainings later, it's safe to say Zefea's practice has changed over the years. Change is inevitable, in life and on that mat. What we have more control over is how we choose to perceive those changes; whether good, bad, or simply something to embrace.

Zefea is currently in Berlin training our yogis in their 250-hour certification. Saturdays during trainings are reserved for something we call "expand class"; a chance to explore the full 84-posture series, from which the regular 26-posture class was born. These classes are a way to have fun and expand on the basic practice with other sequences and routines. Zefea shared her thoughts on this week's expand class, and in particular, her experience with full-cobra pose...

International Championships, LA 2008

International Championships, LA 2008

New York Regional Championships 2009

New York Regional Championships 2009

Leading Berlin Yoga Teacher Training, 2018

Leading Berlin Yoga Teacher Training, 2018

'Some postures were once a given. Now, ten years and two children later, sometimes my legs feel like rocks and my hips often cry. And on other days my spine sings and my heart smiles and I am pleasantly surprised this is still accessible to me. I'm grateful for every posture and take nothing for granted. 

"With yoga you are practicing your wholeness. Your wholeness includes your scars, your weakness, your mood swings, the days of your life you'd rather pull the covers up over your head and stay in bed. Yoga is the practice of peeling away labels of good and bad an embracing whatever form of beauty you bring to the mat each day." -Liz Huntly'