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Hollye Holbrook

Posture of the Month: Garudasana (June 2016)

June's posture of the month is Garudasana (Eagle Pose), a standing balance pose that requires and develops focus, strength, and serenity. The name comes from Garuda, the mythic “king of the birds,” the vehicle of Vishnu. The word is usually rendered into English as “eagle,” though the name also literally means “devourer,” because Garuda was originally identified with the “ all-consuming fire of the sun’s rays.”

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standing, balance, hip opener

• Strengthens and stretches the ankles and calves
• Stretches the thighs, hips, shoulders, and upper back
• Builds balance, calm focus, and concentration
• This pose is therapeutic for those with lower back pain and sciatica

PREPARTORY POSES: downward facing dog, cow-face pose, wide-leg forward fold, hero’s pose, supine butterfly, tree

FOLLOW-UP POSES: tree, cow-face pose, chair

CAUTIONS: Students with knee injuries should avoid this pose, or perform only the leg position
described in the modification below.

MODIFICATION: Sometimes this pose feels unstable. As with all standing balancing poses, you can
use a wall to brace and support your back torso while you’re learning to balance. Some yogis may
find it difficult to wrap the arms around until the palms touch. Stretch your arms straight forward,
parallel to the floor, while holding onto the ends of a strap. Keep the strap taut between your hands.
Some yogis might also find it difficult to hook the raised-leg foot behind the standing-leg calf and
then balance on the standing foot. An option is to cross the legs but, instead of hooking the raised
foot and calf, press the big toe of the raised-leg foot against the floor to help maintain your balance.
DEEPEN THE POSE: Look at the tips of your thumbs once you're in the full pose. Typically the thumb
tips point a little bit off to the side of the upper arm. Press the mound of the upper thumb into the
bottom hand and turn the thumb tips so they point directly at the tip of your nose.
VARIATION: Here's a challenging variation of Garudasana: once you are in the pose, exhale and lean
your torso into a forward bend, pressing the forearms against the top-leg thigh. Hold for a few breaths,
then come up with an inhalation. Repeat on the second side.

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Here are some tips as you practice this pose:

• Squeeze your thighs and arms together tightly. The more compact you can make your body, the more balance you will gain.

• For greater stability, think about lifting the inner arch of the standing foot so there's a sense of drawing energy up the inner leg.

• Work to keep your hands, arms, and thighs in one straight line.

• Practice just the arms of the pose (generally referred to as “Eagle Arms”) throughout the day to counterbalance the shoulder and neck strain from sitting in front of a computer or driving!

As with all postures, I encourage you to listen to your body and honor where you are mentally, physically and emotionally each day. The pose will be there again tomorrow... practice in such a way that you can be too!

Hollye and the SGY Teaching Team

Ashley Dresen

Let's Talk About Breath, Baby...Part 1

Let's Talk About Breath, Baby
Part 1
by Ashley Dresen

Yoga teachers are often painting pictures to explain breathing concepts and they can sound crazy at times. “‘Pull energy into the body” or “ let your breath ground you”, even better “breathe into your hips”. While these phrases may feel a little far out there is some scientific truth behind the pictures we describe. My goal is to give you a basic foundation of anatomy to improve your visualization of breathing and to understand where we get some of our wacky verbage.

An artist can create a more accurate representation of an image if he understands the subject matter. Likewise, knowing the basic parts of our insides is essential in a yoga class. A large portion of what we are doing when we step onto our mat is dedicating time to connect with ourselves, to get to know where our parts are and how they work together so we can avoid or repair dysfunctions. Having a working understanding of anatomy ensures that we are moving in a way that is beneficial to our bodies instead of harmful.

I have great respect for the science community and all the painstaking hours it took to map our human body. So let’s use what they know and apply it to yoga. Welcome to Respiration 101.

What the F is respiration?

We usually think of it as breathing in and out but respiration is ultimately about gas exchange. It is the way all organisms get life-giving oxygen into their bodies and get rid of carbon dioxide, a waste product of various ongoing activities in the body like keeping your cells alive and working properly.

There are a few parameters that must be met for a respiratory system to function properly. First, we need a place for this gas exchange to happen. This is termed as the respiratory surface. All animals have some kind of surface but the structure can change significantly based on the organisms’ environment and needs. A fish gets her oxygen from water molecules (hydrogen and oxygen atoms) flowing through her gills. A worm gets his supply though his skin. We get ours through the lungs.

Second, this surface must be moist. Not a problem for a frog whose environment is typically humid and near water but it can be an issue for us sometimes. Think of our common use of a humidifier or diffuser when we have a dry, irritated lungs. Why does steamy air make us feel we can breath better?

The oxygen that you breathe every day is a gas, which can be dissolved through a liquid. To get this substance into our body the molecules need to be pushed onto a wet, slightly warm surface before entering the bloodstream. We need that moist surface area of our inner lungs, humidified mostly from the the sinuses, as a landing pad for oxygen molecules. When you add a little moisture into the irritated lungs using a humidifier you increase your odds of absorbing the oxygen you need.

The third important factor in respiration is having a very, very large landing pad to obtain the most oxygen possible. Our body has solved that issue by creating a large tree on the inside of the lungs with multiple branching ends covered in roughly 300 million little pods called alveoli. If we were to take the total inside surface area of the lungs and stretch it out it would be about the size of a tennis court.

Breath 1

We need a way to push oxygen molecules onto the wet surface of the lungs. To understand this let’s talk about the nature of gas. While water molecules like to stay together and network among their people, oxygen molecules love their space to move around. They love it so much they are continually trying to find open spaces where they can get away from each other and dance, dance, dance. In science they call this process of particles moving from a crowded space into a less crowded area: diffusion. For example, you spill your lavender oil. In the first hour you smell it very strongly but over time as the molecules move away into more spacious corners of the room the fragrance lessens.

What happens when we force them together? They get very grouchy about their limited space and begin banging into each other and the container walls. This creates an increase of pressure on the inside of the container. An example of this is carbon dioxide (another similar acting gas) stuffed into a soda can. The inside of the can has a lot of pressure exerted on the walls due to many gas molecules colliding in a small space. While the carbon dioxide waits patiently dissolved in the liquid, you release the lid, giving them the space to move into the wild where they can dance in peace. This is again diffusion where particles move from a small, highly pressurized area into more comfortable one with a room to move reducing pressure.   

The atmosphere around you has a continuous pressure. In fact you are being pressed from all sides, at all times, your entire life. The atmosphere is made of oxygen, increasingly more carbon dioxide and a small percentages of other gases. They are all dancing and banging around, continually looking for more space to occupy. Fifteen to twenty times a minute you inhale and your lungs become that extra space for them to move into.

Our lungs are hollow organs that are extremely elastic. Think of them as two stretchy sacks sitting pretty on either side of your heart. Your heart and lungs are essential to your survival. To protect these precious goods, a series of bony bars curve around these organs meeting in a breast plate at the center of your chest. Yes, the ribcage is protective but it also serves another purpose: maintaining the shape of the lungs.

Each lung is attached to a double lined bag known as the pleurae. The inside layer of the bag is attached to the lungs, the outside layer of the bag is attached to the ribcage and in the space between the layers is a little bit of negative pressure. In extremely simple terms, they are suctioned together with a little water in between to prevent friction. There is no air between the outside of your lungs and your ribcage and you can think of the membranes being vacuum sealed together. The ribcage, bag and lungs all move as one because of this relationship, so when the ribcage enlarges the lungs easily follow due to their elastic nature.

So inhale. You may feel a widening and filling sensation in the thoracic cage. Oxygen molecules gladly move into the space with less concentration: inside your lungs. More and more of these molecules flow in until the ratio of concentration or pressure is the same inside the lungs and outside the lungs. The oxygen molecules get their little push onto the wet respiratory surface of the alveoli where they dissolve through the membrane. There they diffuse into an area where there is not a lot of crowded space, which happens to be a capillary (thin, small vessel of the circulatory system) around the alveoli. We will discuss more of where the oxygen goes in part two of Respiration 101.

We may think that oxygen flowing in enlarges the lungs similar to blowing up a balloon but it is the change in the size of the ribcage that allows for air to move in. How does the ribcage enlarge? We use a muscular influence to change the size. Lets talk about which muscles are involved in breathing.

One of our main breathing muscles is the legendary diaphragm. We talk about it all the time in class. With the praise given it is just short of its own deity but there is a larger picture happening when you breathe in and out. Let’s start by exploring this main muscle.

What the F is the diaphragm?

It is a dome shaped sheet of muscle that sits underneath the lungs in their bag and above the organs nestled in their own separate protective bag. The diaphragm has to accommodate various structures like the spine and liver and looks a little like a dented, soft sided bowl. Its attachment known as the central tendon is located at the center and directly attaches to the outer layer of lung bag. It’s muscle fibers attach all along the rim of the ribcage including the last two floating ribs and to the spine behind them.

Breath 2

To catch you up on how it operates first remember a typical muscle contracts and brings two parts closer to each other. This is a largely traditional version and we are finding isolated muscle theories open to re-evaulation but that is a topic for a future article. To keep things simple, imagine your bicep. When you contract this muscle you are bringing the wrist closer to the front of the shoulder. As you contract the triceps behind the arm you are bringing the wrist closer to the back of the shoulder A.K.A straightening the arm. A contraction of the diaphragm brings the top of the dome closer to the rim of the ribcage and the muscle morphs from a deep bowl to a flat, wide basin. Because the lungs in their bags are suctioned to the top of the diaphragm this contraction stretches the lungs downward increasing their inside space or volume. Oxygen molecules flow into this extra area.

Breath 3

It is true that the diaphragm plays a large role but there is a whole gang helping us breathe too. We have three main muscles that lift and expand the ribcage to increase the space inside the lungs. We have the external intercostal muscles (muscles between the ribs closest to the skin), that when contracted raise each rib closer to the above rib which gives an overall effect of lifting the ribcage up and forward. The sternocleidomastoid muscle runs from top of the sternum (breast bone) to a round mound of bone (mastoid process) directly behind the ear on the skull. When contracted it raises the ribcage closer to the head. The scalenes are three muscles on either side of the neck attaching the lower cervical vertebrae to the top two ribs also raising the ribcage. There are a few other muscles involved and I will list these at the end for you to look up if you would like more information.

On the exhale, the inspiratory muscles relax and the elastic fibers of the lungs recoil like a rubber band (there are minor exceptions that will be covered in future musculature article). The diaphragm relaxes from its wide basin back to its deep domed structure. On a forced or controlled exhale, for instance the sit up in the Core 26 classes, we use the internal intercostal muscles (located deep to the external intercostal muscles between the ribs) to compress the lungs. This increases internal pressure, inspiring the gas molecules inside to move out into a less crowded area. The abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominus) contract, increasing the pressure on the organs and diaphragm. This pushes them towards the lungs which speeds the rate of the exhale. Here is where our understanding of the gas carbon dioxide comes into the picture.

Our bodies go through a process of using oxygen and glucose to fuel the workings of every cell. When we say “breathe in energy” this may sound a little coo coo but essentially it is accurate. Harken back to your days in high school and you may remember cellular respiration which is the process of converting the broken down pieces of the food you eat, like glucose, into usable energy. Krebs cycle ring a bell? When your body strips glucose apart to use its pieces for making energy (ATP or adenine triphosphate for the science lovers), hydrogen atoms are discarded and oxygen atoms readily pick them up. Together they become a water molecule and we breathe out this water. If the oxygen did not pick up the extra hydrogens we would make a mess of things very fast. Oxygen is essential to us having a steady, smooth way of making energy in the body. Ultimately we are breathing in atoms that are required to make the fuel we need.

In this process of converting glucose into energy (ATP) a good amount of waste is created in the form of carbon dioxide. This is expelled out into the atmosphere via the lungs. A beautiful relationship exists between us and the surrounding vegetation. Plants need our carbon dioxide waste and a little sunlight to make glucose that we later eat. What is their waste product? Oxygen, the very gas we need to survive! Hooray, we live in synergy!

So we got the basics of how and why we breathe. I recognize that this can be a lot of information and it may be time for a break. Let this sink in. There is more to cover in part two where we will track how breathing affects the other systems of the body like the nervous, circulatory and lymphatic system. We will also take a walk into how breath work in our yoga practice creates quantifiable change in our movement and thoughts.

Our world of yoga sometimes gets a bad rap for saying things that are weird and unconventional. I like it or I wouldn't be in it but I recognize that we may need a little grounding at times. Still I believe that by practicing yoga, we potentially have the best of both worlds. We can use science to create richer, more intricate pictures yet we are not so attached to the idea that we know everything. This is the fun of learning, for no matter what we learn there is always more to know and there is a large chance that what we know is not the whole picture. I don't know about you but if I didn't have a place where I could not think but just be, this thought would be really frustrating.

My hope is that we step outside of ourselves for a moment by learning the science behind what we experience, then step into that very experience once again with new eyes to feel more deeply.

Lets try it out.

Inhale, feel your diaphragm drawing downward, the chest, sides and neck drawing the ribcage up and forward, all of these muscles working together create a wide space for oxygen to flow in. Feel that point where your breathing muscles cannot contract anymore and you have lots of pressure in the chest. Release. The muscles relax around the neck, chest and sides and the ribs lower back down while the diaphragm relaxes up towards the heart. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat.

Breathing muscles: serratus anterior, pectoralis major and pectoralis minor, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, erector spinae, iliocostalis lumborum, quadratus lumborum, serratus posterior superior, serratus posterior inferior, levatores costarum, transversus thoracis, subclavius

Frederic Martini, Judi Nath, Edwin Bartholomew. Fundamentas of Anatomy & Physiology, Ninth Edition. (2012).
Cecil Starr, Ralph Taggart, Christin Evers, Lisa Starr. General Biology. (2012).
H. David Coulter. Anatomy of Hatha Yoga (2001)


May at Sweaty Ganesh Yoga


  • Summer Schedule Changes
  • Class Announcements
  • Community Class
  • Strength & Conditioning Monthly Focus
  • Muscle Testing and Quick Muscle Fixes Continuing Education Workshop
  • Improve Your Yoga Postures Workshop
  • Hot Yoga Teacher Training at SGY
  • Student of the Month

Summer Schedule Changes

Effective June 15th - September 30th

Monday - 9am C26 changes to 9am 1 hr C26
Tuesday - no 4pm C26, and no 7:30pm Restorative
Wednesday - 9am C26 changes to 9:30am 1 hr warm Vin-Yin
Thursday - no 4pm C26+
Friday - 4 and 6pm C26 classes condensed to 5:15pm C26
Saturday - 4pm C26 changes to 4pm 1 hr C26

Class Announcements

Foam Rolling Class with Kristen
Sunday, May 8th

foam rollingFoam Rolling is a myofascial release technique designed to stretch out connective tissue, break up scar tissue in the body, and massage and release tight muscles. It also increases flexibility while decreasing muscle tightness, as well as muscle soreness. Join Kristen for these drop-in classes once per month and see how foam rolling can improve your yoga practice and mobility in daily life!

Since this first one is on Mother's Day, if you bring your mother, you both get in for $5 each. :) 

Please bring your own foam roller if you have one. We have 20 available for use while at the studio, and if all of those are taken, you can also purchase a foam roller at the studio.

$10 drop-in at SGY
Doors open 30 minutes prior to class start time
Call or email SGY with any questions


Friends for Free Friday

Friday, May 13
All Classes
Bring one friend for free to each class you attend today!


Music Class
Friday, May 27th
Theme is Modern Teenage Jams
(This should be hilarious!)
6pm Core 26 Class
Led by Lyn

Community Class
unday, May 29h
12:30 - 2:00pm
90-minute Core 26 Class
by donation
Led by Daniel

This donation-based class benefits Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon (PPAO), which defends the Planned Parenthood mission by advocating for public policy that will enhance and protect women’s health; by building support and accountability among our elected officials in Oregon; and by engaging and motivating the public.

The class is open to all levels of practitioners, community members and visitors.


Strength and Conditioning

May Focus: Balance in Yoga and Everyday Life
Tuesdays, 9:30-10:30am (child care available)
Wednesdays, 6-7pm 
Thursdays, 4:30-5:30pm 

Join us in Strength and Conditioning this month as we focus on balance, integrating the right and left hemispheres of the brain, and cross-crawl exercises. If you've missed our classes on Outer Hips, Functional Core Strength, Shoulders, and Lower Back Stability, we will revisit some of the exercises we've done, with an emphasis on neurological patterning in the brain and the body. Classes include conditioning exercises, functional movement activities, yoga postures, myofascial release, targeted muscle testing and quick self fixes.

Check out our monthly challenge videos posted at the start of each month on our Facebook page!


 Muscle Testing and Quick Muscle Fixes Continuing Education Workshop

with Kristen and Greg

Friday, May 13th - Sunday, May 15th
$220 in advance, $240 after May 1
(includes 2 books and 2 DVDs)
Limited to 16 people

Join us for a weekend workshop where you will learn 32 specific Targeted Muscle Tests and correlating Quick Self Fixes that you can use on your clients and on yourself! This intimate, hands-on workshop with two certified instructors will give you an edge as a massage therapist, personal trainer or yoga instructor and give you tools that will empower your clients, helping to keep them injury free, healthy, and happy!

Continuing Education Credits through NCBTMB, NASM, and the Yoga Alliance
12 Total Hours: Friday 5pm-8pm, Saturday 8:30am-3:30pm, Sunday 8:30am-11:30am

Register online or contact Kristen at 404-512-0739, or kristen@mobfitstudio.com

 Improve Your Yoga Postures Workshop
Led by Kristen and Greg
Sunday, May 15th 1-3:30pm

 Early bird registration is through May 1st - $40/$35 for Diamond members 
after May 1st, $45/$40 for Diamond members

Kristin-quickfixesJoin us for a small, hands-on workshop to learn tools that will empower your yoga practice and everyday life. Kristen Rucker, a functional fitness specialist, and Greg Tinkle, a certified yoga teacher, are two of ten people certified in the country to teach this very unique form of self treatment therapy, known as Muscle Testing and Quick Self Fixes.

Get plenty of hands on instruction and leave feeling empowered to take care of your own weaknesses and improve not only your yoga practice, but your life!

Space is limited so register today!
Register online or contact SGY at 541-349-9642, sweatyganeshyoga@gmail.com

 SGY Hot Yoga Teacher Training

Free Informational Session
Monday, June 6th, 5:30-6:30pm

JesshelpsRiva (524x640)
Interested in deepening your practice, learning more about the path of Yoga, and learning how to guide others along this path? We are so excited to announce our very first in-house, comprehensive hot yoga teacher training with Jess. This will be a 200 hour Yoga Alliance certified training program conducted over 8 weekends from October 2016 through March 2017. Find out more detailed information and ask any questions you have at this free informational session on June 6th. If you are unable to attend this session, we will hold one more informational session in September, and you are also more than welcome to email Jess at sweatyganeshyoga@gmail.com.

 Student of the Month

 Jason Boness

JasonbonessI have always had a naturally high mind/body connection, so yoga has been a very intuitive process. In the early 2000s, I was a world ranking high jumper for the University of Oregon.  Those years of highly explosive movements that were unbalanced between the sides of my body slowly took a toll.  I’ve had three arthroscopic operations to clean up and repair a torn meniscus on my right knee, a number of smaller but notable muscular sprains/strains.

It’s very interesting to see how yoga has reversed the process of wear and tear on my body, and I can now confidently say that I currently feel like I did when I was fully trained and jumping at my prime.  I feel 16 years younger inside my body, there is lightness and a clear kinesthetic awareness, but also a clear and crisp mental picture with an ability to block out peripheral mental chatter.  I’m very excited because it’s been about 18 months since I’ve placed my full focus on yoga, and I can’t wait to see where the rest of my life takes me and my yoga practice. Thank you all for sharing your practice with me, as I can tell you nothing is appreciated more than having like minds come together and share some encouragement, and a little pain that will better us all in the end. Namaste

Hollye Holbrook

Posture of the Month: Ardha Matsyendrasana (May 2016)


May's posture of the month is Ardha Matsyendrasana (ARE-dah MOT-see-en-DRAHS-anna), otherwise known as Half Lord of the Fishes Pose.

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose is a seated spinal twist with many variations. The pose is named after the great yogi Matsyendranath, who is traditionally considered the founder of haṭha yoga as well as the author of some of its earliest texts. Born in Bengal around the 10th century c.e., he is venerated by Buddhists in Nepal as an incarnation of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara.

To do this pose, place one foot flat on the floor outside the opposite leg and twist the torso toward the top leg. The bottom leg may be bent with the foot outside the opposite hip, or extended with toes vertical. The arms help leverage the torso into the twist and may be bound in a number of configurations by clutching either feet or opposite hands.

It is helpful to warm up your hips for this freeing, balancing, and energizing seated twist.
If you have a spine or back injury, practice this pose with caution or not at all.


Pose type:
seated spinal twist

• Stretches the shoulders, hips, and neck
• Energizes the spine
• Stimulates the digestive fire in the belly
• Relieves menstrual discomfort, fatigue, sciatica, and backache
• Therapeutic for asthma and infertility
• Traditional texts say that Ardha Matsyendrasana increases appetite,
destroys most deadly diseases, and awakens kundalini.

Prepartory poses: butterfly/bound angle pose; head to knee forward fold; reclining hand to big toe pose; hero pose

Follow-up poses: seated forward fold; head to knee forward fold

Cautions: Back or spine injury: go easy and/or skip this pose altogether

Modification: It's often difficult at first to get the torso snug against the inner thigh. Position yourself a foot or so away from a wall, with your back to the wall; the exact distance will depend on the length of your arms. Exhale into the twist and reach back for the wall. Your arm should be almost but not quite extended (make sure you aren't sitting too close to the wall, which will jam the shoulder). Push the wall away and move the front torso against the thigh.

Deepen the pose: If you have the flexibility in the hips and spine you can bring the upper left arm to the outside of the upper right thigh. With the legs in place, exhale and turn to the right. Lean slightly back, away from the upper thigh, and bend the left elbow, pressing it against the outside of the upper right thigh. Then snuggle the torso in against the thigh and work the left upper arm further on to the outer leg until the back of the shoulder presses against the knee. Keep the elbow bent and the hand raised towards the ceiling. Lean into a slight upper-back backbend, firming the shoulder blades against the back, and lift the front torso through the top sternum.

As with all postures, I encourage you to listen to your body and honor where you are mentally, physically and emotionally each day. The pose will be there again tomorrow... practice in such a way that you can be too!

Hollye and the SGY Teaching Team