A Mudra for Trust: Vajrapradama Mudra

hand mudra for trust

Vajrapradama mudra has been resonating with me deeply. Each time I practice vajrapradama a whole bunch of emotions well up from within. I’m currently in a bit of a life and business transition and there are many unknowns. It’s sometimes hard for me to admit that I don’t know what the next step is or that I don’t know if I’m doing things right. I’m not going to lie… I’ve been experiencing a lot of fear recently and my self-confidence has been lagging. I don’t consider myself to be that fearful when it comes to big leaps of faith or pushing up to my edges, but unfortunately I’ve also built a wall around my heart; a wall that I’ve been mindfully dismantling piece by piece. And it’s not always pretty!

I practice the mudra for unshakeable trust in my heart meditations, in my asana classes and even when I have something important and/or heartfelt to say. Sometimes vajrapradama feels like the only thing tethering my mind to my heart and right now I need it. Vajrapradama mudra builds unshakeable trust, courage, and self confidence… we can always use more of these three qualities.

In Sanskrit vajra means diamond and thunderbolt. The diamond represents indestructibility and the thunderbolt represents unstoppable force. When you have unshakeable trust in your True Self (the one that is aligned with the divine) you become a force to be reckoned with and obstacles are overcome with ease.

I’ve also found Ganesha mudra helpful lately. Ganesha mudra is the hand mudra for confidence, courage, compassion and openness. Are you noticing a theme here?

How to Practice Vajrapradama Mudra

Practicing vajrapradama, the mudra for trust, is very simple: interlace your fingers, keep your palms open and rest your hands on your heart. Close your eyes and feel your breath and your heartbeat beneath your hands. You can use this mudra as often as you would like. Like I said, I’m currently using it all the time.

Positive Affirmations for Vajrapradama Mudra

I recommend using a positive affirmation that resonates with you. Here are some examples:

  • I am open to receiving divine guidance. I trust that I am exactly where I need to be right now.
  • “I open my heart to the Universe.  I trust the wisdom of a power greater than my own and accept its healing.” From SpiritVoyage.com
  • “I am a creation of the greatest omnipotence, whose strength and power lovingly support me at all times.” From Gertrud Hirschi’s Mudras Yoga in Your Hands.
  • “I am confident because I trust in myself. I am fully supported.” From Anita Goa.

Top Five Things To Do in Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Are you planning a trip to Nicaragua’s mountainous north? Awesome! You will be rewarded with cooler temps, green jungle, brilliant coffee and friendly locals. I’ve visited Matagalpa twice now, each time for about a week and both visits have been great. Make your time in the north memorable with our top five favorite things to do in and around Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

things to do in matagalpa nicaragua hiking

Here is the view of Matagalpa from Cerro Apante.

1. Finca Esperanza Verde

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The view from the lounge at Finca Esperanza Verde.

If you’ve done any research about Matagalpa you’ve probably heard of Finca Esperanza Verde. Finca Esperanza Verde is a beautiful organic coffee farm set high on a hill with some of Nicaragua’s most breathtaking sunsets. Vivianne and her team of local staff are gracious hosts and will happily guide you on one of the many well-maintained hiking trails that criss-cross the property. The guides are excellent and will help you spot parrots, birds, monkeys, sloths, etc that you would miss on your own. It’s possible to enjoy the property  for the day or better yet stay a couple of days to take full advantage of the miles of trails, delicious organic food, and the cool crisp morning air (you’ll crave it after a week or two on the coast.) Book one of the Colibri Cabins for the best views.

You may be lucky enough to join a workshop or yoga retreat at Finca Esperanza Verde. The yoga experience at Finca Esperanza Verde is absolutely unique. During practice you may see toucans fly by or spot a sloth up high in the treetops.

The Finca offers guided hikes, organic coffee and meals, coffee tours, birdwatching tours, yoga and more.

2. Castillo del Cacao in Matagalpa, Nicaragua

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My heaven!!!

If you’re a chocolate lover then a visit to Castillo del Cacao is a must (when I checked last they were closed on Saturdays). It’s possible to tour the facilities before stocking up on the best chocolate in Nicaragua. Their coffee chocolate bar with whole roasted espresso beans is seriously divine and is nothing like anything Hershey’s makes.

Castillo del Cacao is located just outside of Matagalpa on the way to Finca Esperanza Verde.

3. Mujeres del Plomo in San Ramon

nicaragua yoga retreats april 2018

Happy group after our jewelry making workshop with the women of Artesanias Mujeres del Plomo.

Looking for a fun workshop to do with kids or your girlfriends (my husband actually loved the jewelry making workshop too)? Mujeres del Plomo is a local women’s jewelry cooperative in San Ramon, Nicaragua. The group consists of about 4 women and their children. The ladies create jewelry out of seeds collected in the local countryside. You can stop in and buy a piece of jewelry or for $5-10 join for a short jewelry making workshop. Gain inspiration from the pieces they’ve already created and then create your own. The ladies are excellent teachers and will guide you along the way. Check out the pieces our group made!

4. Hike to Las Cruces and Cerro Apante

things to do in Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Virgin Mary statue.

If you’re like me, it’s hard to be still for too long. I recommend hiking up the trail to Las Cruces. The loop trail was moderately challenging and well maintained. You can park your car in Matagalpa and then begin up the hill. You will come to a “ranger station” of sorts. Pay your entrance fee here and continue up the path. You will come to an awesome viewpoint overlooking the city of Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Shortly after the viewpoint you will climb the stairs up to the statue overlooking the city for another view. There may be a couple of musicians playing up top and there will most certainly be couples and families enjoying this popular outing. Here is a funny little blog post about a couple that went the “wrong way” up to Las Cruces… don’t do what they did.

5. Visit Cascada Santa Emilia just outside of Matagalpa, Nicaragua

what to do in matagalpa nicaragua

Steve happily checking out the waterfall… and perhaps debating a swim.

If you have a car take the gorgeous drive out to Cascada Santa Emilia, also known as Cascada Blanca. Pay the small fee and begin the hike down the paved path. There is a large cave behind the waterfall. I recommend following the path behind the thundering waterfall and looking out at the river below. I believe you can grab lunch here as well. We ate in town and we weren’t hungry, so I can’t say if the food is good or not.

Enjoy your time in Matagalpa! And as always feel free to reach out if you have specific questions. I’m happy to lend a hand… and if I don’t know the answer I can link you up with someone who does.

Love and Light,

Autumn

Alignment Tips For Parsva Bakasana

alignment tips side crow

Side Crow Pose (Parsva Bakasana)

Side crow pose was my first arm balance pose. I first learned the “easy” version and honestly didn’t know there was another version for many years. I was pretty content with the version of side crow I had already learned and wasn’t much interested in learning another version. But I began seeing other yogis linking arm balances together using parsva bakasana and eka pada koundinyasa I as transition poses and my curiosity eventually piqued. I now teach side crow pose with two options depending on the students in class.

Alignment Tips For Teaching Side Crow or Parsva Bakasana

  1. From revolved chair pose, sit hips onto heels and bring hands to side of the mat
  2. Place hands shoulder width distance and spread the fingers wide
  3. Engage hasta bandha– fingertips press down into the mat, index finger and thumb press down into mat and lift through the arch of the hand
  4. Think “chaturanga arms” as the elbows bend and bring the outside of the thigh closest to the arms on to the tricep of the front arm.
  5. If possible, keep the hips lifted off of the back arm. This option will be more challenging, but it’s the correct posture. If side crow pose is new to you try the posture with the back hip on the back arm.
  6. Gaze forward and lift your feet up off the ground
  7. Find your balance here and breathe
  8. If the posture feels steady play with leg variations like transitioning into eka pada koundinyasana I.

Remember there are two options for teaching side crow.

For beginners teach side crow with the back hip on the tricep of the back arm. They will feel more steady. As the student builds strength and becomes comfortable in this version of the posture encourage them to try the second option.

For the second option of side crow the hip is lifted off of the back arm, so only the thigh is in contact with the front arm. This option is more challenging, but rewarding and empowering!

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Side crow pose for beginners. (Parsva Bakasana)

Teach Side Crow With Modifications

  • Encourage students to bring their head down to a block and learn the muscular engagement to lift the legs.
  • For students whose elbows wing out to the side use a yoga strap to secure their arms to shoulder width distance. Slide the loop of the strap just above their elbows.

Teach Side Crow with Props

  • Use a blanket, bolster, or block underneath their face if they are worried about falling on a hard floor.
  • Place a block under their face to support the head, so they can focus on lifting their feet up.
  • Use a strap around their upper arms to secure the elbows above the wrists. Some students have a tendency to allow their elbows to swing out to the side or collapse inward. When the joints are stacked improperly and the weight of the body is distributed unevenly their is a risk of injury.
  • Use a block in the set up. Have them start with both feet on a block as they twist to the side and set up for side crow. This way their feet will almost be in position for side crow and they can focus on the arms and upper body.

Preparatory Poses for Side Crow

Contraindications:

  • Glaucoma
  • Wrist injury

How to Teach Warrior Three

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Warrior Three Teaching Tutorial

Virabhadrasana III or warrior three in English is a strong posture that builds focus and concentration while strengthening the entire body. In this yoga teaching tutorial you will learn to teach warrior three confidently and effectively with these help helpful tips.

Warrior three has many benefits. Make sure to share the benefits of the posture when you teach warrior three. Sharing the benefits will help your students discover the purpose of the posture and the focus needed to execute it.

The posture builds strength throughout the backside of the body, especially in the ankles, calves, hamstrings, glutes, back and shoulders. It also tones and strengthens the abdomen, ignites our inner fire and improves our concentration and focus. Your students may even find they feel invigorated and energized after practicing warrior three. Sweet!

Warrior Three Alignment Tips

  • Remember to start with the foundation of the posture. For warrior three the foundation is the foot of the standing leg.
  • In virabhadrasana III the toes of the standing leg foot should be spread wide. Think of distributing weight evenly throughout the entire sole of the foot (all four corners).
  • When standing in warrior three the extended leg is straight back from the hip and the extended leg stretches long.
  • The foot of the extended leg is flexed and the toes point straight down toward floor the floor or the foot is pointed strongly.
  • There is one long line from the heel of the extended leg out through crown of the head. Aside from the standing leg the body is parallel to the floor.
  • Make sure that the hips are level with one another. It is very common for the hip of the extended leg to want to lift up.
  • In warrior three the navel draws in and up to support the lower back (think mula bandha and uddiyana bandha).
  • To bring more stability to the posture draw the lower ribs in toward one another instead of allowing them to flare out and the back to arch.
  • Arms extended long overhead with biceps by ears.
  • Use a focal point or drishti for your eyes.

Warrior Three Modifications

Finding balance in warrior three can be a challenge for many. For students struggling to find steadiness in virabhadrasana three here are three modifications to help them find their balance and build strength in the stabilizing muscles necessary for steadiness and ease. Yoga Journal provides a helpful article about Warrior Three for beginners and advanced practitioners alike.

  • Bring a chair just beyond the top of your students yoga mat. Have the back of the chair facing your student. When the student comes into the posture they will hold onto the back of the chair with their hands. Overtime, increase the amount of time they hold the posture. Make sure to switch sides. If there is no chair available use the wall or a sturdy countertop. 
  • Another modification for warrior three is to offer two blocks that they can use underneath their fingertips. Place the blocks shoulder width distance at the top of your student’s mat. Have them use the blocks for balance as they find the alignment through the torso, hips and legs.
  • Some students may need to stay upright in warrior three to work on balancing on one leg. Have students that need to remain upright stand in the center of their mat. As they inhale have them take the arms overhead. On their exhale have them extend one leg straight back behind them and keep the toes on the mat. When they feel steady they can begin to lift the back foot and lower the torso to parallel with the floor. These students may also benefit from using a chair, block or wall for stability for the upper body as well.

Warrior Three Variations

  • One of my favorite warrior three variations is interlacing the fingers behind hips and drawing the palms of the hands toward one another.
  • If students have tight shoulders or shoulder strain/pain teach warrior three with hands at heart center.
  • Another arm variation for virabhadrasana three is airplane pose. In airplane pose the arms are extended back and out to the side with the palms turned down toward the floor.

Props for Warrior Three

  • Use the wall for warrior three
    • Press hands into the wall
    • Press the foot of the extended leg against the wall
  • Use blocks for strength and stability in virabhadrasana three
    • Block(s) under hands for stability
    • Block between the palms of the hands with arms extended overhead. Have students squeeze the palms of their hands into the block to strengthen arms, shoulders and upper back.

Preparatory Poses for Warrior 3

The following postures will help your students find stability, strength and ease in warrior three. Before you teach warrior three make sure to offer a mix of postures to bring both stability and mobility to the muscle groups and joints used in virabhadrasana.

  • Table top pose/ Tiger pose (stability)
  • Low Lunge (mobility in hip flexors)
  • Ardha Hanumanasana/Half Splits (flexibility for the hamstrings)
  • Locust (strengthens the back body)
  • Crescent Lunge (strengthens the legs and tones the core)
  • Pyramid Pose (opens the hamstrings)
  • Warrior 1 (strengthens the legs)
  • Tree Pose (balance and focus)

Vinyasa Yoga Sequencing to Teach Warrior Three | Four Fun Warrior Three Sequences

  1. Crescent lunge, warrior three, standing splits, forward fold
  2. Warrior 1 with hands bound behind hips to Warrior 3 hands still bound, release the bind and swing arms forward in Warrior three, return to warrior 1
  3. Warrior 1/Crescent Lunge to Warrior 3 to Garudasana/Eagle Pose, hinge from hips elbows to meet knees, lift two inches and come back to warrior 3
  4. Teach Warrior 3 to Dancer Pose to Warrior 3 to Standing Splits to Handstand to Standing Splits

How to Teach Crow Pose

Are you finding it difficult to teach crow pose effectively? When my yoga practice began arm balances were rarely taught in group yoga classes. I struggled with the posture myself for a really long time. But from that struggle I’ve learned nearly every tip in the book for crow pose and here I will share them. We will cover tips for teaching crow pose or bakasana (for all of you Sanskrit junkies), different ways to prep for it,  and how to use props to assist entry into the posture.

I joke that it took me seven years to get crow pose. Maybe it wasn’t quite seven years, but it took me longer than average. Eventually, once I stopped freaking out about falling on my face or injuring my wrists, shoulders, etc. it happened. I nailed. The funny thing is before I mastered crow pose I was already practicing other arm balances. I guess with bakasana you risk falling flat on your face and I have a deep fear of falling… somewhere in my psyche I have linked falling and failing together into one big massive knot of fear and in crow pose you literally have to face your fears head on.

Learn to effectively teach your students to face their fears head on with Bakasana/Crow Pose.

crow pose tutorial

Teach Crow Pose Effectively With These Alignment Tips

  • Hands are shoulder width distance
  • Fingers are spread wide
  • Press down through the base knuckles of the fingers, especially through your index finger and thumb
  • Dig fingertips into your mat
  • Use hasta bandha
  • Make sure the elbows are above the wrist and not “winging out to the side”
  • the eye gaze, or drishti, is slightly forward toward the top of the mat (not back at your feet)
  • Bring the knees as high up on the triceps as possible
  • Squeeze knees and triceps into one another
  • Engage mulabandha and uddiyana bandha as the hips lift high
  • Tip forward slightly
  • Guide the big toes toward one another
  • Lift heels up toward your hips
  • And breathe…

Prep Poses for Crow Pose

Remember to warm up before practicing crow pose. Before you teach Crow Pose prepare by teaching a few or all of the following postures.

  • Happy Baby
  • Cat/Cow
  • Lizard Pose
  • Seated or Reclined Crow Pose
  • Malasana- Yoga Squat
  • Chaturanga Dandasana
  • Boat Pose & Half Boat
  • Wrist therapy
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Brushing up on crow pose basics on retreat in Nicaragua.

Props and Modifications for Crow Pose

For students with shoulder or wrist injuries offer seated crow pose or malasana.

In seated crow emphasize squeezing upper arms and knees squeezing in toward one another, the engagement of the pelvic floor and lower abdomen and rounding the upper back.

Offer malasana with or without a block underneath the pelvis. Encourage students to lift through mula bandha, press down through the feet, and squeeze upper arms and inner thighs/knees into one another.

For a student afraid of falling on their face offer a blanket or block underneath their forehead when you teach crow pose.

For a student struggling to find the engagement and balance in bakasana bring them over to the wall.

Set them up in malasana about a foot and one half away from the wall. Get them set up to come into the posture and have them press the top of their head into the wall as they work on lifting the feet off the ground.

For students struggling to lift their hips high in crow pose suggest a block under their feet. Lifting the hips up high can bring up a fear of falling for some students. If this is the case offer verbal encouragement. You may choose to provide a hands-on assist.

Advanced Variations for Crow Pose

For advanced students offer variations to challenge their strength and focus.

Teach crow pose to tripod headstand back to crow pose.

From crow pose teach a jump/float back to chaturanga and then forward to crow pose.

Offer up a bakasana fusion pose like: half tittibasana and half crow pose or half lolasana and half crow pose.

For students that have the strength and would like a challenge offer Eka Pada Bakasana (one legged crow pose).

Autumn is available for yoga instructors seeking mentorship. Have questions? Reach out and connect.