Hala Okeili is a yogi and founder of, and one of the main teachers at Sarvam Yoga – born from the idea of wanting to spread the message of Yoga, in all its limbs; yoga as a philosophy of life and a lifestyle. Earlier Hala worked as a corporate lawyer for 8 years but her love and passion for yoga, and her belief in adopting yoga as a complete lifestyle, led her to leave her legal career for a higher purpose; teaching and spreading Yoga. She has accumulated 500 hours of training in the Ashtanga Yoga and the Vinyasa Flow methods from Sampoorna Yoga, India, where she also taught and assisted in a few teacher trainings. Hala has practiced and studied with renowned teachers, such as Mark and Joanne Darby, David Williams, Eddie Stern, Kino Mcgregor, and many more. Today, she continues to study in KPJAYI, the traditional institute of Ashtanga Yoga, with her teacher Sharath Jois. Hala believes that through the teachings of Yoga, we can heal the individual and eventually the society; and hosts weekly segments on MTV Lebanon and has taken part in many public events helping spread awareness on yoga.
- EXTENDED HAND-TO-BIG-TOE POSE
This posture is an expression of a beautiful marriage between strength, balance and flexibility. Start from standing in tadasana pose. Start to shift more weight towards the left foot, engage the left leg, fixate the gaze on one point and hug the right knee to the chest. If you are a beginner you can stay there, work on building balance. For the full pose, bring your index and the middle finger to grab the right big toe, engage your core, and keep your left toes pressing down, as you slowly start to extend the right leg forward. Keep the chest lifted. Take 5 breaths there, then slowly open the leg to the right side. Try to keep the hips in one line and chest lifted. Hold for 5 breaths. Come out the same way you came into the pose.
This pose increases flexibility in the hamstrings, while strengthening the standing leg. It’s great to increase balance. I love balancing poses as they help steadying the mind. Balancing requires focus, focus helps reducing the fluctuations of the mind, reducing stress.
2. FOREARM STAND –
This is a challenging inversion that requires both strength and flexibility. Warm up with few shoulders and hamstring stretches, such as puppy pose, thread the needle, Intense Side Stretch, Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose and some sun salutations. From Downward dog, drop both forearms to the floor with the elbows under the shoulders, start to walk your feet forward until your elbows and shoulders come in one line. Lift the right leg up, and start to shift the body weight into the forearms. If you are new to this, hold it there, then switch leg. If you feel ready, start to lift the other leg off the floor (small kick if you need it), hold an L shape with the left leg parallel to the floor. If you feel strong in the L shape, bring the left leg all the way up to meet the right leg. Keep pushing through the shoulders, maintaining the core engaged throughout the entire pose, and the toes pointing. This posture builds a lot of upper body strength, helps opening the shoulders, and inverts the blood. Yes, this posture may evoke a feeling of fear, but you can use it to overcome fear and build confidence. This posture calms the mind and helps relieve stress.
3. COMPASS POSE –
Make sure you prepare the body before entering into this pose. It requires open shoulders, hamstring and hips. Some preparatory poses are Triangle pose, lizard lunge, bound side angle, Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana), and Revolved Head to Knee Pose. Start in Janu Sirsasana on the left side, take the right knee into right elbow and right foot into left hand. To deepen, wrap arms around shin and slowly bring spine upright. Breathe for 5 deep breaths. Take the right hand to the right ankle, and place the right leg on top of the right shoulder and take left hand over and to the outer edge of right foot. Hold for 5 breaths. From there, release right hand to the ground, and start to bring the head under left shoulder. Start to extend the right leg to any point that feels good, and breathe deeply for five breaths. This posture feels great as it opens the side of the body, the shoulders, hamstrings, and the hips. There is a feeling of expansion in this posture.
4. PIGEON POSE –
This pose can be included in a flow or be practiced restoratively, and held for 3 minutes on each side. Start from your all fours or a downward dog. Take your right leg up and bring your right knee towards your right wrist. Allow the hips to surrender to earth. Keep your hips and body centered, avoid leaning towards the right buttock. If your hips are tight you can place a cushion or a block under the right buttock. To create a more intense stretch, walk your right foot closer to the front of your mat. Continue to deepen the posture by walking your arms forward until your forehead rests on the floor. It is a great posture to open the hips and psoas. It also helps reduce lower back pain. I love to add it in the beginning of my practice, or as a preparation for backbends.
5. FIREFLY –
This is an advanced posture. It requires core, hip flexors, and upper body strength, and opening in the torso and hamstrings. Few preparatory poses are boat pose, lizard lunge, bound side angle and Intense Side Stretch. Start in a squat pose, lift your hips up keeping the legs slightly bent. Take with the right hand the right ankle and tuck the right shoulder under the leg, repeat on the other side, moving your shoulders behind your legs. Place your hands on the mat, shoulder-width apart. Hug your shoulders with your inner thighs and bend your knees to lower the hips. Start to lift the feet off the floor, bringing more weight into the hands. Fixate your gaze on one point in front of you, and start to slowly straighten the legs, lowering the hips down towards the floor. Hold it for 5 breaths. We love this posture as it promotes a sense of mental strength and increases focus. It is a perfect balance between strength and flexibility, which reminds us of the importance to balance yin and yang on the mat and in life. It builds strength in the arms and wrists, and is a great stretch for the hamstrings, hips and groins.
6. SPLIT, MONKEY POSE –
This posture is a very deep stretch for the hamstrings and hip flexors. It should be approached safely. Start in downward dog, take your right leg up and step your right foot forward between the hands, slide your left knee back, hold this lunge for 5 breaths sinking the hips down to earth. Now walk the right foot slightly forward, extend the right leg, keep the left knee and the left hip in one line. Keep the hips squared to the front of the mat. Flex the right toes. Hold this for 5 breaths. To go to the full pose, start to carefully walk the front foot forward and the back foot back, while maintaining the squaring of the hips. Stay in a place that is comfortable. If your hips and hamstrings allow you to, go to the full extension of the pose, resting the hands on the floor. This posture stretches the hamstrings, thighs, and groins. This posture also teaches us to find comfort in uncomfortable situations. It mentally challenges me, which makes me stronger in life.
7. MERMAID POSE –
Mermaid Pose is a deeper variation of Pigeon Pose. It combines the hipopening stretch with a beautiful heart-opening backbend. Start by coming into pigeon pose on the right side. Hold it for few breaths. Then begin to bend your left leg and draw your left foot in, towards your body. I like to start this pose by reaching back with my left hand to my left foot, squeezing the foot towards the left buttock, holding it there for few breaths. This helps open the quadriceps. You can stay there. To go further, hook your left arm around your left foot. You can keep the right hand on the floor for support, or to deepen reach up with the right hand to grab the left hand. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths. I absolutely love this posture, as it helps me open my quadriceps, hips, groins, back, chest, and shoulders.