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Five Pillars Yoga

Posts Tagged ‘Asana’

Yoga For An Open Heart

At the end of a deeply divided election, it’s fair to say that all of could use an injection of happiness, hope and optimism. Before spreading that message to our communities and reaching a hand out to those on the other side of the aisle, we need to first embody those qualities ourselves.

The first step in cultivating an open heart is to literally feel an open heart. Yoga is full of heart openers, postures in which the collarbones widen, the shoulder blades draw together around the spine, the abdomen protects the low back and the heart center lifts and fills.

Heart openers are stress-relieving and uplifting. A balm to the body and mind, they are also vulnerable and exposed. To offer up your heart is to offer yourself up without armor or explanation, a harder task than the most challenging asana. See our earlier post for more benefits and tips on front extensions.

The postures below can be done in sequence or on their own. Explore Yin or Restorative versions, with lots of props and plenty of time, to really open up.

Puppy Dog Pose, Anahatasana

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A combination of Child’s Pose and Downward Facing Dog, Puppy Pose is a deep heart opener that offers the support of the floor to sink the chest into. If the floor feels impossibly far away, support your upper arms with blocks and bend at the elbows, meeting your hands in prayer overhead.

Upward Facing Bow Pose, Dhanurasana

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In the traditional shape, both knees are bent and the outer edges of both feet are grasped. Try a one-sided variation and go for extra lift through the extended front arm.

Camel Pose, Ustrasana

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A strong heart opener needs a clear support system. In Camel, roll the inner thighs toward the midline, keep your hip points stacked over your knees and imagine your legs pressed firmly against a wall (or, better yet, press your legs firmly against a wall!). Start with your toes tucked under, tops of feet lifted, and work your way to feet flat against the floor.

Wheel Pose, Dhanurasana

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Probably the biggest and best known heart opener of all, full Wheel Pose is energizing and demanding. Keep the outer edges of your feet parallel and hips-width distance apart. Rest on the crown of your head before pushing into the full posture and be sure to release any tension or straining in the neck. Play with narrowing the distance between your feet and hands as you breath your heart up and out.

Reclined Bound Angle Pose, Supta Baddha Konasana

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For a chill solo pose or the integrating shape at the end of a sequence, Supta Baddha Konasana cannot be beat. We explored a Restorative version in our Deep Sleep post, and offer a few more supported heart-melters here. If you can, treat yourself to props and extra support. Here, with the floor or a bolster beneath the spine you can feel into the breath filling the length of the torso, from the belly up into the chamber of the heart. Take the opportunity to breathe deeply and offer something, perhaps yourself, up fully.

Photos: Top image; Taryn Toomy in Puppy Pose; Bow; Camel; Wheel; Supta Baddha Konasana

Boo-Asana

The benefits of doing yoga with kids are manifold. Besides improving balance and endurance, yoga and mindfulness practices increase concentration and self-esteem while reducing anxiety, stress and the effects of ADHD.

Also? It’s fun.

With a little imagination yoga lends itself perfectly to Halloween. After all, the ultimate pose is named after a dead guy.

Our reccomdation is to do the following poses in costume, with lots of candles burning and the lights low. The presence of kids is not necessarily required.

Cat

One of the most common instructions for getting into Marjaryasana, Cat Pose, is to dome your back like a Halloween cat. It’s an enduring image: a hissing black cat, teeth bared, with its fur standing on end. Hollow your belly into your spine and press your palms flat against the floor to fully lengthen through your arms.

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Crows have long been a symbol of death and are often the consort of witches. Like vultures, crows are carrion birds and have a general air of otherwordly spookiness. Of course, your Bakasana can be smiley and kind; there are lots of good witches out there, too! Kids are natural balancers so play with getting the knees really close to the armpits before shifting your weight forward. Remember to look out, not down.

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Creepy Bug Pose

Tittibhasana, or Firefly Pose, really does look like a creepy bug. Float your feet off the floor, nestle your eblows in the hollow of your knees and move your heart center forward to pick your seat up off the ground. Walk on your hands for added spook factor.

Scary Lion’s Breath

Sit on your shins and press your palms against your thighs. Take a deep breath in through the nose, hollow your belly, and breathe out, “BOO!” Simhasana, or Lion’s Pose, is all about the demon-chasing breath you do with it. This is a great pose to do if feeling scared; it relieves tension in the face, strengthens the throat muscles and clears the air of any unwanted energy…like uninvited ghosts.

Zombie Pose

Even zombies need to stay limber. Sit in Dandasana, Staff Pose, with your legs outstretched in front of you. Instead of folding forward, extend your arms out long, parallel to the floor. Sitz-bone walk while making like the living dead.

Corpse Pose

Now’s the time to play dead. Tonight in Savasana picture your bones settling into the earth and drift into that limbic state between worlds. Who knows who you might meet?

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Happy Halloween!

Photos: Skeleton crow; black cat; bakasana; firefly; You Are A Lion!; zombie pose; shavasana 

Yoga Lab: Bird of Paradise

Over the past several weeks we’ve been building up to a peak pose, Svarga Dvijasana, or Bird of Paradise.

First we broke down Extended Side Angle, a challenging pose in its own right that opens the hips and inner groins — a must for what’s to come. After that we tackled binds, exploring deep shoulder opening and spinal flexibility. In addition to being a bound inner-groin opener, Bird of Paradise is a standing balancing posture. It really doesn’t get much more dynamic than this.

Our lovely Five Pillars teacher Erika Mehiel got in front of the camera to demo the transition from Bound Extended Side Angle, with both feet on the ground, to one-footed Svarga Dvijasana. Here’s how she does it:

A centered self, a steady gaze, a clear shifting of weight, and plenty of breath. These, as Erika points out, are totally key elements to rising up and staying steady.

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Also crucial? Retaining an open heart. Because we rise into this posture with a rounded back there’s a tendency to keep the lumbar spine puffed out and the shoulders hunched forward. More challenging in this shape than straightening the lifted leg is broadening the collarbones, supporting the low back with a strong belly and shining the heart up toward the ceiling.

Once upright, kiss the shoulder blades together around the spine and roll the shoulders back and down.

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Keep thinking about streaming the hipbone of the standing leg forward while working the outward rotation of the lifted leg. To increase your likelihood of effortlessly pointing the toes of that leg toward the ceiling,  dive into hamstring openers when you’re on the ground. Forward folds — seated or standing — and half or full Hanumanasana (a.k.a. The Splits) will all help you get there.

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Svarga Dvijasana is one of those poses that looks super impressive, but the final Ta-da! moment is the result of small steps, intentional preparation and steady practice.

 

Photos: Bound forward fold @laviebohemeyoga; bent leg variation from lifeesbella.tumblr; extended leg variation from yoga-life.com.au.

Moving with the Moon

The full moon in Aries this week rose on Saturday night and will stay big and bright in the sky through this evening. Known as a Perigee or Super Moon because of its proximity to earth — closer than most full moons — it’s also a Hunter’s Moon; rising 30 minutes earlier than usual, it keeps the sky lighter longer, a traditional boon for hunters.

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If you’re sensitive to the moon’s energy at all, this time of the month may bring on insomnia or unexpected feistiness. While new moon energy is about initiation and contemplation, the full moon is party time. Everything we’ve been cultivating or growing is illuminated; energetically speaking, it’s about looking outward and sharing your insights and gifts. If the new moon is palms face down — a sign of introspection and contained energy — the full moon is palms face up, a gesture of offering and receptivity both.

Surya Namaskar A is a sequence that gives love to the sun. It is dynamic, heat-building and balanced. Chandra Namaskar is the Moon Salute. It is watery, leisurely and works the body one side at a time through a series of lunges. A gentle hip-opener, Chandra Namaskar brings us into our second chakra, the energetic locus in the body at the base of the sacrum associated with fertility, creativity, sexuality, the color orange and the element of water. In other words, moon stuff.

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Chandra Namaskar

The moon takes roughly 30 days to complete a full cycle, from one new moon to the next. In a nod to the lunar calendar, this flow is fifteen poses long, one step for each tithi (lunar day) in the moon’s transformation from new to full.

  1. Tadasana, Mountain Pose

  2. Utthita Tadasana, Extended Mountain

  3. Uttanasana, Standing Forward Fold

  4. Low Lunge

  5. Adho Mukkha Svanasana, Downward Facing Dog

  6. Table

  7. Balasana, Child’s Pose

  8. Rise to kneel

  9. Devotional Balasana, arms overheard with palms together

  10. Urdhva Mukkha Svanasana, Upward Facing Dog

  11. Adho Mukkha Svanasana, Downward Facing Dog

  12. Low Lunge, second side

  13. Uttanasana

  14. Utthita Tadasana

  15. Tadasana

This sequence can be taken as many times as you like. Move slowly, breathe deeply and enjoy the moonlight, you party animals.

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Photos: Crescent lunge; full moon; Venus; Child’s Pose 

Yoga Lab: Twists + Binds

One of my favorite teachers calls the process of working up to certain poses “putting deposits in the bank of your practice.” A couple tentative hops here, a few ungraceful falls there, some solo time working with a spotter or the wall and suddenly, without even really trying, you find your hips over your shoulders, hovering for a moment in handstand.

I love this analogy. One because I have found it to be completely true in my own practice, and two because of the reminder that we do not step on the mat and — ta-da! — land in camera-ready yoga asanas (even yogi supe Christy Turlington, below, has a regular practice). Another favorite teacher posits that we should do what we need to on the mat to increase consciousness; in other words, modify poses as needed to stay fully present and engaged. How boring would yoga be if we did every pose perfectly, without effort or concentration, every time?

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This brings us to Bird of Paradise, a pose we are slowly working toward. A few weeks ago we broke down Utthita Parsvakonasana, a foundational pose for its upright sister, and today we take on twists and binds in preparation of going full Svarga Dvijasana.

Spinal Mobility

Healthy spine = healthy body. The spine moves in six directions and needs to explore all six of them to stay strong and supple. Twists are key for decompressing the vertebrae and keeping the discs between them hydrated. The more space and cushion between the vertebrae the less likely they are to harden or fuse.

Binds take twists to the next level. Think of Bound Seated Spinal Twist: The linking of the arms creates an organic container for the torso to move within; as the shoulders open the yogi can use herself like a pulley system, guiding her top arm down with the fingers of the opposite hand to deepen the twist even more.

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Binds are major shoulder openers. To prepare for Bird of Paradise or other bound poses, try a forward fold with your hands behind you and interlaced. Draw your wrists together for a deeper opening along the shoulder girdle and draw your hands over your head toward the floor in front of you.

Another great prep for binds? Gomukhasana arms. The shoulders are rotating in opposite directions, with the bottom shoulder in an inward rotation and the upper arm moving outward. Try it first with a strap then work toward joining the fingers together without sacrificing the heart opener.

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Energy Boost

It’s basically impossible to take a twist or a bind when slumping or slouching. In order to fully rotate, the spine needs to be super long; this lengthening action creates space between the vertebrae, creating a clear channel through which energy can flow and unblocking anything that might be stuck. As the spine elongates, the Central Nervous System perks up and the mind clears.

In a twisted bind, the shoulders rotate, the wrists revolve and the collarbones widen, creating a sky-facing heart opener. It just feels nice.

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Good Digestion

Twists and binds are widely touted as improving digestion and massaging our internal organs. While the internal organ massage piece is a bit controversial, the action of a twist — when properly executed from the base of the abdomen and spine and not from the shoulders and the neck — absolutely fires up and brings heat to the belly, a boon for toxin elimination and regularity.

New Perspective

In a twist you are facing in one direction but looking in another. There are many ways to unpack this, but the key lesson for me here is about polarity: To move forward you must know what it is to move backward. To reach up you must be able to ground down.

And if you can put your leg behind your back and grab on to it from behind while folding forward, then that’s great, too.

Photos: One-armed balance bind; Christy Turlington; bound seated spinal twist; Gomukhasnabound eagle; bound forward fold

Yoga on the Autumnal Equinox

Today marks the Autumnal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, the true start of fall and a day split evenly between darkness and light. Since the Summer Solstice we’ve been slowly losing daylight; now we hit equilibrium, a balancing pose between sun and earth that, as the days pass, will gradually tilt toward darkness. The process will reverse itself on the Winter Solstice in December, the shortest day of the year, when our days will grow longer again.

To honor the seasonal shift and this fine moment of cosmic balance, we’re practicing a simple sequence designed to bring our dual aspects into alignment.

Autumnal Equinox Flow

  • Start in Mountain Pose, Tadasana. Close your eyes and draw energy up through the soles of your feet. Follow it up the spine and out the crown of your head. Bring your awareness to your breath and trace it up and down the midline for several inhales and exhales. If you work with an intention, set one now.
  • Open your eyes and step your left foot back about three feet. Turn all ten toes to face the long edge of the mat, outer edges of your feet parallel. Square your hips and then set up for Trikonasana, Triangle Pose. Turn your right toes to the top edge of the mat and align your right heel with your left arch.

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  • Lengthen the arms, shift your hips back and hinge forward. Place your top hand on your leg, a block, the floor or peace-wrap your big toe.
  • Stay in Triangle for several breaths.
  • Rise up from Triangle and lengthen your stance. Bend the front knee deeply over the ankle and press firmly through the outer edge of your back foot. Extend through your fingers and sink into Warrior Two.

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  • From Warrior Two, tip forward and place your fingertips on the floor outside your right foot. Shift your weight and gaze forward, get light on your back toes and float the left leg up. Stack the left hip on top of the right, lift the top arm and turn your gaze to the ceiling. You’re in Ardha Chandrasana, Half Moon Pose.

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  • Imagine yourself balanced between two planes of glass, or picture yourself at the intersection of day and night, not leaning more into one than the other.
  • Come out of Half Moon by lowering your top hand to the floor and squaring your hips to the mat. Keep your back leg lifted.
  • Dome your back by drawing your belly into your spine. Bend the lifted knee toward your nose and draw it into your chest. Wrap your hands around the shin below your knee, firm through your standing foot and rise up to stand on one leg.
  • Place the sole of your left foot on the inseam of your right leg. Take Tree.

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  • Stay in Vrksasana for at least ten breaths. When you’re complete, lower the leg and find Tadasana. Restate your intention and prepare for the second side.
  • Move through the poses on the left side. After tree, take rest in Child’s Pose and then relax into Shavasana.
 Photos: Autumn mandala from kosmosjournal.org; Triangle from yogadudes.tumblr.com; Warrior Two from puryoga.eu; Half Moon from www.yogatrail.com; Brooklyn Bridge Tree Pose from relaxandrelease.co.uk

Yoga Lab: Extended Side Angle, Three Ways

Utthita Parsvakonasana is one of those foundational yoga asanas that, much like Adho Mukka Svanasana, requires a solid understanding of body geometry in order to reap its full benefits. Plenty challenging on its own, Extended Side Angle is also a vital stepping stone for showier poses like Baddha Parsvakonasana (the bound variation), Visvamitrasana and Bird of Paradise.

We’ll cover the last of those, Bird of Paradise, in a few weeks; until then, consider this a review of the not-so-basic basics.

Option One: Elbow to Knee 

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Utthita Parsvakonasana has three clear stopping points on the path to full extension. In all variations the legs are rock steady. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Legs are in…
  • A Warrior Two stance with the heel of the front foot in line with the arch of the back foot.
  • The outer edge of the back foot is yearning for the floor.
  • The front knee is at ninety degrees (look down and see your big toe).
  • Energy is being pulled up from the base of the pelvic floor; engage Mula bandha, or your root lock, to keep the pose from energetically sinking into the ground.
  • Lift the front toes to avoid gripping with the front foot and sinking too much of your weight over the bent knee.

The extended part of this pose is the side body lengthening that occurs from the pinkie toe side of the back foot through the fingers of the top arm. Imagine a clear line of energy moving up and out. But don’t let the underside of the rib cage get squished. Pick your side waist up and off the top of the bent thigh and draw your hip point up and back.

Now this is where the elbow comes in. To keep all that length, place your bent elbow on your front knee and push down, using it as leverage. Roll your shoulder blade down the back — think of the two shoulder blades kissing around the spine — and use the downward thrust of the elbow to open the heart toward the ceiling.

Sweep the front arm across the chest, past the face and up and over the top ear. Turn your gaze to your top thumb.

Option Two: Hand to Block

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Place a block at any height outside your front foot. Keep everything the same in the lower body as described above but lower your bottom hand to the block. Without the press of the elbow against the knee you’ll need to breath even more length into the lower side ribs. Make sure the front knee is tracking over the ankle.

Option Three: Hand to Floor 

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Feeling good? Okay, remove the block and bring your finger pads or the palm of your hand to the floor. Keep opening the heart up to the ceiling.

Bonus Option: Bound Variation 

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A little visual inspiration for taking it to the next level. Here the opening of the heart is crucial to bringing the top arm back and down.

No rush. Enjoy variations one through three for as long as you desire. As we work up to Bird of Paradise we’ll spend more time breaking down the shape pictured above.

Photos: Top photo from wellbeyondmars.tumblr.com; elbow on knee variation from theberry.com; yogi Leslie Howard with the block variation from Yoga Journal; hand down variation from yogaorkney.com; twisted side angle from yogamen.tumblr.com

Adho Mukha Svanasana

There may not be a pose more associated with yoga in the West than downward facing dog. It’s the peak of Surya Namaskar A, the Salute to the Sun, and serves as a resting pose or home base for many vinyasa sequences.

Incredibly common, it’s also sneakily hard. Adho (downward) Mukha (face) Svan (dog) asana (pose) positions the head below the heart, making it an inversion. Like any inversion, this posture requires simultaneous rooting down and lifting up. In this case the peak of the posture is the tailbone, with the heels and the palms providing a deepening foundation into the ground.

 

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Apana vayu, the downward flow of prana through the body, is at play, drawing energy down the backs of the legs and out the heels; meanwhile prana vayu, upward flow, keeps the heart from collapsing and supports the low back by lifting the belly in and up, creating a platform for the tailbone to lift up and off of.

All of that energy play is good for the soul. Here’s how:

  • Downward dog calms the brain and energizes the body
  • Helps relieve stress and acts as a balm for mild depression
  • Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings and calves
  • Brings energy and awareness to the arches of the feet and the hands
  • Strengthens the arms and legs
  • Alleviates the symptoms of menopause and, when done with the head supported, can ease menstrual cramps
  • Improves digestion
  • Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
  • Is beneficial for anyone with high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica or sinusitis

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Before coming into it, try a couple plank poses to feel into the press of the palms and the balls of the feet. Roughly speaking, the length of your plank is the same as your down dog, meaning your hands and feet should stay in the same place as you move from one shape to another.

  • To get into Adho Mukha, start in table on your hands and knees. Stack your shoulders, elbows, and wrists; make sure your spine is long and your hips are over your knees.
  • Tuck your toes, hover your knees off the floor and slowly lift your sitting bones toward the ceiling.
  • Lengthen your tailbone away from your low back. If you had a tail, think of sending it straight up instead of tucking it between your legs.
  • On an exhale, push your thighs back and your heels down as you slowly straighten the knees. Bent knees are fine, too — whatever avoids congestion in the low back.
  • Firm the outer arms and press through the palms, especially the webbing between the index finger and the thumb.
  • Draw your forearms energetically inward, toward each other, and your upper arms out and away from each other.
  • Pick your shoulder blades up and draw them down toward your tailbone.
  • Draw your chest into your spine (no dumping in the ribs) and draw the ears in line with the upper arms.
  • Stay for as long as you like, breathing evenly and adjusting as you lift up and settle down.
  • Finish with a long child’s pose.
Photos: Top dog from lovelyyogi; partner picture found here

Make Your Practice Count

Who can imagine a world without elephants?


These magnificent creatures embody wisdom, connection and graceful strength. They form deep bonds, display complex social behaviors, rituals and communal care. Elephants can communicate at a frequency below human hearing and this vibration can travel for miles, coordinating group activities such as courtship or mourning the death of a herd member. They teach, they play, they love.

The global demand for their ivory has fed a brutal slaughter, which claims the lives of 96 elephants every day.

Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society

Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society


Let us not be the generation that sees the extinction of Elephants due to illegal ivory trade, poaching and greed. Let us join together with the Wildlife Conservation Society for the 96Elephants Campaign and raise awareness and funds to combat this brutal violence.

 

This Summer Solstice join Yogis around the world who are dedicating their practice to Elephants. As elephant activist Seane Corn says, let your body be a prayer, a prayer of support and education. Participate on Social Media to raise awareness but don’t stop there. DONATE. Get involved. Check out the resources on 96Elephants and become an Elephant Hero.

 

Pose. Challenge. Donate.
Make Your Practice Count.

96Elephants is inviting yogis to strike Elephant Trunk Pose, Eka Hasta Bhujasana, share the photo and tag three friends to spread the word and spread the love.

Follow us on Instagram to see our teachers and join our community in striking a pose!

There are great variations for beginners and advanced practitioners – check out these instructive videos to take your Elephant pose to the next level!

 

Beginner

 

Intermediate

 

Advanced

Yoga For Dads

Tight hamstrings don’t just plague dads or dudes. Our thigh muscles — quads in the front, hamstrings in the back — rarely get the release they need, making them an area of common complaint. In addition to over-or-underusing those muscles and not stretching accordingly, tightness or limited mobility in the hamstrings can also be a low back problem. Our sciatic nerve begins around the base of the pelvis and runs down the legs — any pressure put on that nerve sends a shock wave down the hamstrings, causing them to tighten.

This sequence targets the inner, central and outer muscles that make up the hamstrings. But, just like any other muscle group, the hamstrings don’t work alone. Strong quads, an engaged core and a stabilized low back are all pieces of the open hamstring pie. So if tight hamstrings are your thing — be you dad, dude or daughter — luxuriate in these good-kind-of-groan inducing stretches, but don’t forget to tune into the rest of your body.

Here are the poses:

  • Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
  • Down Dog
  • Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose)
  • Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle)
  • Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Angle Forward Fold)
  • Paschimotanasana (Seated Forward Fold)
  • Shavasana 

First step: Use blocks! The hamstrings love them.

With feet hip-width distance apart, find an easy forward fold, knees slightly bent, hands on blocks. Lift your toes to find the four corners of your feet. Lay them down one at a time and engage from the ground up. Stay here for several breaths, slowly moving your thighs to the wall behind you, hips stacked on top of knees. After several rounds of breath, see if you can lower the blocks. You may have already created more space.

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Step back into Downward Facing Dog. Bend your knees, tilt your tailbone up to the sky, lower your heels toward the floor and straighten your legs. Hello! Take slow pulses with each leg, bending one knee and then the other.

Step your right foot between your hands and adjust your back foot for Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose). Feet are similar to Warrior One with a slightly shorter stance (or shorter still depending on the length of your hamstrings).
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Straighten through both legs, bring your hands to your hips and hinge forward, out and over your right leg. Fold over the front leg, hands on blocks on either side of the foot. After several rounds of breath here — lengthening forward on in the inhale, releasing crown of head toward the floor on the exhale  — keep your left hand on the block and turn your belly, chest and collarbones to the right. Stack your shoulders and raise your right arm up to the ceiling for Revolved Triangle.
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Keep moving your right hip back in space. Lower the right hand down when you’re ready. Turn your right toes in, walk your hands to the left and parallel your feet, toes pointing toward the long edge of your mat.

You’re in Prasarita Padottanasana. Press down through the outer edges of your feet. You’ll most likely feel this in the inner hamstring muscles. See if you can find an outward rotation of the thighs, keeping your hips and pelvis stacked (read: don’t stick your toosh out behind you).

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Fingers are in line with toes, on the floor or your blocks. Spine and neck are long. The longer you stay, the deeper the release. When you’ve had enough turn to the back of your mat and rise up. Take Pyramid and Revolved Triangle on the left. Return to Wide Angle Forward Fold and then turn to the top of the mat. Rise up to stand and make your way to the floor.

Extend your legs out long in front of you, for Paschimotanasana (Seated Forward Fold). Flex your toes, stay active in the quads, lengthen through your spine and hinge forward, moving the top of your head toward the tops of your feet.

Option to take this pose as pictured below, with one leg extended at a time. You may find a greater stretch through the back of the extended hamstring. 

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You’ve come to the end. After your forward fold, lower down on to your back for Shavasana, Corpse Pose. Don’t skimp on this one. Use this final pose to integrate all the opening, stretching, strengthening and toning you’ve just done.

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Enjoy. You and your hamstrings deserve this. Happy Father’s Day!

Photos: Crow pose photo found here; forward fold from The Yoga Lunchbox; revolved triangle from Blissology; forward fold from Yoga Dudes; yogi dad from Do You Yoga

Yoga Lab: Ardha Chandrasana

Grounded and uplifting, Ardha Chandrasana is a standing balancing posture that’s also a hip and heart-opener. Ardha is the Sanskirt word for half, and chandra means moon. The yogi is inside the half moon: Her stacked arms create the full circle’s diameter and her outstretched leg reaches back to the curve of the moon behind her.

Astronomy bonus: The moon reached the halfway point of its cycle on Sunday, so now’s a great time to practice this asana, cosmically speaking. a0ee86aec66ff735abdcd27fc534891d

Half Moon Pose is frequently taught as part of a vinyasa flow, usually toward the middle or end of a standing sequence. As such, there’s often not a lot of time to play in it. Like any balancing posture it’s nice to have several breathes to fall in and out of equilibrium, and, as a hip opener, to find the stacking of the hips that makes the pose almost effortless.

Why do it? Well, Ardha Chandrasana

  • Works the whole core (front to back)
  • Strengthens the ankles, knees, thighs and bum
  • Tones the intercostal muscles
  • Stretches the inner groin muscles, hamstrings and calves
  • Opens the shoulders, chest and heart
  • Increases spinal flexibility
  • Improves coordination, focus and balance
  • Regulates kidney function, helping to improving digestion and relieve constipation

It also feels a little bit like flying.

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Here’s how to get into it. 

Make sure your hips and groin are open and affable before you begin. Consider spending a few minutes in Baddha Konasana, Bound Angle Pose, with the soles of your feet together, knees opening out to the sides. Allow the inner groins to relax and press the feet together so the thighs can roll out and away from each other.

Next, stack and open the hips with a three-legged down dog. Lift one leg, bend the knee and point it up toward the ceiling. Lengthen through the side body, and let gravity pull the foot of your lifted leg toward the floor behind you. Stay for several breathes, and repeat on the other side.

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When your hips feel awake, take a wide stance front-to-back on your mat, setting up for Utthita Trikonasana, Extended Triangle Pose. (For more on Triangle check out our Yoga Labs on the original and the revolved version.)

We’ll start on the right side. Align your front heel with your back arch. Ground down through the feet and press firmly into the outer edges to allow the inner thighs to outwardly rotate, away from the midline of your body. Extend your arms from your shoulders and hinge forward, bringing your right hand to rest on your right shin or on the floor. Moving on, bend the front knee gently and walk your fingertips out in front of you, past the edge of your mat. Advanced option: Place a block under your hand. (It is the truly wise yogi who knows when to seek support.)

Bring your left hand to your left hip crease and slowly lift your left leg up behind you, pouring weight into your right foot and fingertips as you come forward. With the left leg extended behind you, make sure your foot is in the same line as your hip socket, foot flexed, toes facing in.

Use your left hand to manually open your left hip up, stacking left hip on top of right. Stay here, or straighten your left arm up to the ceiling, making one long arm from your extended left fingertips to your grounded right hand. If it feels okay in your neck, shift your gaze to your left hand.

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Continue to stack the hips and shoulders. Tip your heart up to the sky. Engage through both feet. Stay awhile. Then float on down and take it on the second side.

Photos: Top watercolor illustration available here; moon phase watercolor by tigermilk; first quarter moon photo by Priya Kumar; Triangle Pose illustration by Minne; photo from Whole Living 

Yoga Lab: Parivrtta Trikonasana

Spring on the east coast has had a bit of a late start, but it’s still the season for clearing out and starting fresh (see our colon cleanse post for a specific sort of purge), and twists are where it’s at when it comes to self-cleaning.

Deeply stimulating for our internal organs, twists improve digestion and create heat in the belly — great fuel for starting a new project or finishing one that’s been lingering. Twists also energize the spine by creating space between the vertebrae, letting energy flow more freely (consider the energetic difference between a slumped spine and a tall one).

So, let’s get into one! 

A challenging standing twist we love is Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle). There is a lot going on in this posture — twisting, forward-folding, hamstring-stretching, and balancing. It requires rooting down into the ground and ascending up toward the sky; there is an ease and lightness in the upper body and a strong level of action in the legs. The center of this pose is an engaged belly, fired-up enough to support the low back as the spine lengthens forward, and soft enough to allow the twist to happen from the navel.

How to prepare:

Start by lengthening and warming up your hamstrings in Janu Sirsasana: 

Sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose) with both legs extended out in front of you. Draw the sole of your left foot to the inside of your right thigh, ground through your sitz bones, extend through your spine and hinge forward over your straight front leg. Move the crown of your head toward your flexed toes, keeping your spine straight. Bend your elbows out to the sides to draw yourself deeper. Repeat on the left side.

Next, take a seated twist, like Ardha Matsyendrasana or Marichyasana III: 

Come back to Dandasana and bend your right knee toward your chest, sole of your foot on the floor. For Marichyasana III stay here and wrap your left arm around your bent right leg, bringing the elbow to the outside of the knee. For Ardha Matsyendrasana, place the sole of the right foot outside the left thigh and take the twist. When coming into both, twist from the navel first, slowly turning your chest to the left. Repeat on the second side.

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Ready?

Come into Triangle pose in your legs, right foot forward. The distance between your feet will depend on your own body geometry, but start with your back foot behind you by about 3½ to 4 feet. In Triangle, the heel of the front foot is in line with the arch of the back foot, like in Warrior Two; traditionally, Revolved Triangle maintains the same set-up, but I like to work with the feet slightly wider apart (toward the long edges of your mat). Find a happy distance somewhere between Warrior Two and Warrior One. The back foot should be at a 45-degree angle or so.

What’s happening in the legs? Good question. The thighs are moving away from each other (outward rotation), away from the midline. Knees are slightly bent, quad, hamstring and calf muscles engaged. The outer edge of the back foot is pressing firmly into the mat.

If you have one, use a block. Place it, to start, on the inside of your front foot at the highest height.

Bring your hands to your hips. Use an exhale to square them, as much as possible, toward the top of the mat (this is where having your feet slightly wide apart comes in handy). You’ll most likely need to drop your front (right) hip point down, shift it toward the back of your mat and and pick your back (left) hip point up.

Keep your hands on your hips and hinge forward. Find a long spine and flat back; reach the crown of your head out in front of you until there’s no where else to go and then reach a little more. Keep your right hand on your hip and place your left hand on the block inside your right foot.

Hook your thumb into your right hip crease to draw your right hip back.

Inhale to draw your belly up and away from your hip crease. On your exhale, turn your torso to the right, keeping your hip points as square as possible. Ground your back heel, press through the knife edge of your back foot and move your left thigh bone back in space.

Press into the block with your left hand or come onto fingertips. Continue turning your torso to the right, twisting from the navel. Think about pressing your heart against the ceiling.

Keep your hand there or slowly raise your right arm up, shoulders in line, shoulder blades drawing toward the spine.

Being mindful of your neck, shift your gaze to your top thumb if that arm is extended. Other options for the gaze are out in front of you or toward the floor.

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Stay here for several long, grounding breathes. On an exhale, release the twist and bring your torso back upright on your inhale. Repeat on the second side, twisting to the left.

 

Top photo courtesy of Garvey Rich; Marichyasana III picture from gymflowstl.tumblr.com

Exploring the Eight Limb Path: Asana

Over the next few months we’ll #GoDeep into Patanjali’s Eight Limb Path. If you’re just checking in, be sure to read our intro post on the path itself and its first limb, the yamas, and our second post on the niyamas.

Now we arrive at limb #3, asana, the practice of the poses themselves.

This limb of the path has gone undeniably main stream, resulting in more leggings and hashtags than Patanjali could have ever dreamed of, as well as increased awareness around the concept of awareness itself and practices like mindfulness, meditation and self-care.

christy turlington doing yoga for vogue satin jumpsuit blue futuro ontem

Long before Christy Turlington graced the cover of Vogue in Calvin Klein and Upward Facing Bow, the postures associated with modern yoga arose as a way to prepare the body for long spells of seated meditation: Open hips to accommodate a cross-legged seat; a strong back to hold a straight spine; equanimity between the left and right hemispheres of the brain for clear focus. By stretching their limbs and working out their physical kinks, yogis had one less thing to worry about when they sat down to meditate, no nagging aches or distracting bodily tension.

The word asana translates as seat, and it also means shape or pose, so it’s found at the end of most every posture name: Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), Tadasana (Mountain Pose), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog pose), etc. As the practice of asana was once understood as a way to create a comfortable seat, the poses themselves contain that seed of meditative focus. Each posture presents an opportunity to gaze inward and quiet the mind. As B.K.S. Iyengar puts it, “It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.”

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In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali has this to say about the practice of asana: Sthira-sukham asanam. Sthira comes from the root stha, which means to stand firm and sukha translates to joy, happiness, and ease; its component parts are good (su) and space (kha). How to apply this to our practice on the mat? Find strength and ease in your asana — cultivate a good and comfortable seat from which to move.

A regular asana practice builds strength, flexibility, balance and discipline on all dimensions — physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. We are asked to sink deeper into challenging positions, observe thoughts and reactions that arise, connect to our life-giving breath, and stay calm. Powerful on its own, asana as part of the Eight Limb Path has potential for serious transformation.

 

Christy Turlington photographed for Vogue by Steven Klein; yogi in seated meditation from @amoremindfulyou

Therapeutic Essentials: Dynamic Stretching

I recently came across a New York Times article titled Stretching: The Truth, revealing new findings on the effectiveness of stretching on boosting athletic performance. More specifically, which kinds of stretching actually can boost athletic performance. Studies revealed that static stretching, the type we’ve all been doing since middle school gym class, didn’t actually help athletes’ performances, nor did it increase the health of their muscles and joints. In many cases it actually had detrimental effects on their sporting performance.


What does this have to do with Yoga Therapeutics?

Well, our Therapeutics classes integrate many different healing modalities – Yin and Restorative yoga, strengthening and core work, breath work, guided meditation, Ayurveda, and, Self Awakening Yoga Movement Inquiries… some of which I’ll fondly refer to as “rolling around on the ground.”

When I came across the article I was struck by the images… there were a few that looked remarkably similar to some of the Self Awakening Yoga Movement Inquiries. Like this “Scorpion” and “Straight Leg March” examples below. The images drew me in, and the article itself reinforced the significant value of these movement inquiries.

 

According to the research complied by the Times:

“The old presumption that holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds — known as static stretching — primes muscles for a workout is dead wrong. It actually weakens them…

Stretching muscles while moving, on the other hand, a technique known as dynamic stretching or dynamic warm-ups, increases power, flexibility and range of motion.”

 

I’ll often describe one of the intentions of Self Awakening Movement Inquiries as: Reclamation of Our Inherent Range of Motion. That’s a big fancy phrase, and sometimes I imagine a king’s trumpeters blowing in the background as I say it. But the truth is, that kind of effect in the body does deserve a little fanfare. We move through this life, stub a toe here, break a leg there, slip a disk here, pull a muscle there, and pretty soon we’re lopsided, sore and in pain. Don’t we deserve to reclaim a bit of our mobility and suppleness? Turns out, we’re empowered to do exactly this, just by rolling around on the ground.

 

Full scorpion

 


Many of you know, I’m super nerdy about the science of yoga and love me some cutting-edge research. But I’m also in the fortunate position of being able to witness the powerful effects of this practice first-hand. What I see in class and in private sessions absolutely upholds what the experts are finding.

 

The other day I was working with a brand new client, he has arthritis in his neck, symptoms of Lyme disease in his joints, has had numerous surgeries and does not practice yoga. He started as we often do in class, by lying on the ground and noticing how it felt. He shared that was very uncomfortable, and he had to bend his knees and place the soles of his feet on the floor to alleviate pain in his lower back. We began with some head rolls from side to side and I asked him how it was going. He said “Fine. Well, I just go to where I feel resistance and push.” This is something we’ve all done and in fact most of us were taught in grade school. I explained that this was a little different, that movement inquiries aren’t about pushing past our edge, but that the exploration was actually where the benefit lay. I suggested something that many of you have heard me say — that he not worry about getting all the way to the edge, and instead focus on feeling every millimeter between one side and the other. Feeling the shifting of the weight of his own body and exploring all the places the head could roll.

 

He was able to slow down and really try this unfamiliar (and, admittedly, kind of strange) practice. We went through the whole therapeutic reclining spinal series and then I asked him to notice how he felt. He was lying fully on the floor with his legs outstretched, his back and his whole body felt “settled” on the floor, “not like before when there were just a few painful points touching the mat.” He was really surprised at how comfortable he felt when he had begun in such agony a mere hour prior.

 

Hmmmm. So there’s really something to this dynamic stretching thing.

Movement Inquiries take dynamic stretching it one step further – a key distinction being the act of paying attention. Bringing consciousness to our bodies, our sensations, our movements and even our stillness. This is where stretching can become yoga. Inviting the body to move, and turning our attention on that movement, is like shining a flashlight into all the little nooks and crannies that time forgot. Sometimes just by shining that flashlight of awareness on a forgotten nook is enough to re-enliven it and reawaken even more range of motion. This is where movement becomes Movement Inquiry.

Leg walks

Now, does all this mean there is no place for stillness in stretching? Absolutely not. For example, both Restorative and Yin Yoga incorporate stillness for longer periods of time with profound health effects. Over the coming weeks as we continue this Therapeutic Essentials series of articles we’ll #Go Deep into these modalities as well. Instead, what this article reveals is that, whether we are athletes or not, we benefit from this “dynamic stretching.” In considering regular body maintenance, or as we prioritize healthy aging and self-recovery from physical issues, I believe this form of Right Movement is absolutely essential.

 

I encourage you to read the full article and to incorporate some of the concepts into your regular routine. Better yet – see you on the mat!

 

 

 

Yoga Lab: Camel Pose

Full wheel, Urdhva Dhanurasana, with only your feet and hands on the floor and lots of space between your back and the ground, can be a little intimidating. Camel, or Ustrasana, is a great way to ease into back-bending. Grounded and dynamic, it offers many stopping points along the way for practitioners at any level, and, when you’re ready, the option to drop back into full wheel like a piece of spaghetti.

Why do it?

Backbends are powerful medicine. They can function like a yogic cup of coffee, drawing your energy in and up and making everything a little bit clearer and more vibrant. They’re also heart-openers in disguise: as your spine curves and back muscles fire, your heart gets (energetically) cracked wide open and intentionally exposed. Knowing what a physically exposed heart feels like on the mat makes finding an emotionally open one off the mat an easier and more familiar practice.

tumblr_lqnpkfFRei1qg46ogo1_500Here are more of the benefits: 

  • Shoulder, chest, and quadricep opener
  • Energy booster
  • Mood improver
  • Throat opener
  • Psoas stretch (the psoas is a major muscle group in the hip flexors that gets a lot of work but not a lot of love)
  • Back strengthener
  • Abdomen and chest opener
  • Entire front body stretch, from the ankles up through the throat

 

Here’s how to do it: 

1. Come to your knees with your legs hip-width apart. Tuck your toes under and flex your feet. Place your hands on your hips and put your thumbs on your sacrum, the broad triangular bone at the base of your spine. Stack your hips over your knees and internally rotate your thighs toward the midline. Use a prop: To find inward thigh rotation, place a block skinny-ways midway between your knees and pelvic floor, short end sticking out. Squeeze! Think of shooting the block back behind you, like a piece of Pez in a Pez dispenser.

Go Deeper: For more bend, enter the pose with your toes untucked and the tops of your feet on the floor.

2. Energetically draw your tailbone toward your knees and reach the crown of your head toward the sky, creating space between your vertebrae.

3. Imagine a golden thread anchored to your heart center and, on an inhale, allow it to pull you up toward the sky. Draw your shoulders down your back and your elbows toward each other. Feel your rib cage expand.

4. Keep your chest raised, your core engaged, and your spine long. Gently tuck your chin toward your chest. Think about opening your heart instead of bending your back.

5. Stay here. You’re doing it! Or, to go deeper, lower one hand onto your raised heel and then the other, fingers pointing toward the floor. Keep lifting through your sternum and taking long, deep breaths.

6. If it feels safe for your neck, gently lower your head behind you and gaze at the tip of your nose.

7. Come out of the posture the same way you came into it. Bring your chin toward your chest and your hands to your hips one at a time. Engage through your lower belly and use your hands to support your low back. Rise up slowly.

Modifications: 

Use more blocks! Place two at the tallest height in between your heels and lower your hands on to them instead of dropping them to your heels. Adjust the height of the blocks as needed.

Use the wall: To keep your hips stacked over your knees, face a wall and press your legs against it. Come into the pose from here.

Use a chair: Take a cue from Iyengar and use a chair as a prop. Drape your hands back onto chair legs and lower your neck onto the back of the chair (with a folded up towel for maximum comfort vibes). For total security scoot the chair against a wall.

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Yoga Lab: Warrior What?

Aside from Down Dog, Virabhadrasana I and II are some of the most commonly practiced asanas in a yoga class. This doesn’t mean they’re easy. In my mind, Virabhadrasana I is one of the most challenging postures out there — it’s a potpourri blend of stability, balance, flexibility, alignment, strength and grace. Try embodying all of those things in just one inhale and exhale before dropping to the floor for chaturanga. That’s not to say that these poses aren’t great in a flow, but it’s important to break them down first, and really understand how they feel in your body, before throwing them into the vinyasa mix.

Warrior One

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Feet: Hip-width distance (or wider) apart. The common analogy here is a train track. Place your feet wide, one on each track, to allow your hips to square to the front of the mat. If your hipbones had headlights, they’d be beaming out straight in front of you. Pro tip: If coming into this posture from downward facing dog, place your right foot to the outside of your right hand (or left foot, left hand) before coming to stand. That way you’re already starting the pose with a wide base.

Back foot: Toes angled in, toward the top corner of your mat, at a roughly 45-degree angle. The outer edge (pinkie toe-side) of the foot is pressing into the mat.

Legs: Front-knee bent at a ninety-degree angle, knee over ankle. To ensure your knee isn’t collapsing in, look down and make sure you can smile at your front big toe. The back leg is really where it’s at in this posture. The inner seam of the leg is going to want to sink toward the floor. Resist the temptation and press up from the inner arch. Take a tiny bend in the back knee to avoid locking it, and think about turning the kneecap and the inner thigh flesh up and out, away from the opposite leg.

Hips: Square! Or with the intention of square. They may never get there, and that’s okay.

Upper body: Arms raised, shoulders down the back, gaze at your thumbs. Angels sing.

Warrior Two 

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Feet: Get off the train tracks and find a tightrope. Here the feet are in one line: The heel of the front foot bisects the arch of the back, which means you’ll have to do a little shuffle to get your feet into position if coming into Warrior Two from Warrior One. The angle of the back toes is the same as in Warrior One.

Legs: Back leg is long and strong. Play with increasing the distance between your feet, from the top of the mat to the back. You may be able to bend a little bit more deeply into the front knee. Check out your first few toes.

Hips: Warrior Two is a hip opener, and the action comes from allowing your thighs to open out and away from each other. A strong foundation in the legs will allow you to sink safely into the hips. Tuck your tailbone underneath you instead of letting your butt poke out behind you, and again, ensure that your bent knee isn’t collapsing inward.

Upper Body: The shoulders love to creep up to the ears in this pose. Drop ’em! Float your shoulders over your hips, draw your shoulder blades together, and open through the collarbones. It’s also common for the torso to creep forward as the front hand reaches. Explore centering your body right above your hips

Arms: Think about making one long arm from the tips of your front fingers to the tips of your back fingers. The back hand likes to go a little wonky here, so sneak a peek and see that it’s extending out evenly from the wrist. Turn your gaze back to your front hand and ask yourself, “What is my life’s purpose!?”

 

And, a little yoga PSA: Remember Right Movement! What makes it “right” is that it’s right for you. Always feel free, in any class, to slow down and come into right alignment, even if the teacher is urging you on. Finding these poses in your own body is more important than finding them in someone else’s flow. Namaste.

Photos: Reposted from the awesome Instagram account Where Is My Mat

Yoga 101: Relaxing Heart Openers

Our modern posture has gone from homo-erectus to “homo-hunchy-textus” with most of us spending time hunched over a computer or slouching over our cell phones. The result is a caving inward of the chest, and a sinking of the heart – which can manifest in both the physical and energetic realms.

As Valentines Day approaches, what better time to cultivate an open, loving heart?

 

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And what more delicious way than with an indulgent Restorative or Yin heart opening asana? Restorative and Yin yoga styles ask us to find a shape and to stay… and breath…. and give in to gravity… and let the shapes do their work. We hold these postures for a few minutes each, rather than just a few breaths, and with that decadent time the nervous system resets, fascia and connective tissue releases and patterns of constriction, tension or resistance slowly begin to melt.

 

Heart opening shapes support the health and vibrance of the heart chakra,  Anahata Chakra in Sanskrit.

Anahata is the wellspring of love, warmth, compassion, and joy… it is the center of your deep bonds with other beings, your sense of caring and compassion, your feelings of self-love, altruism, generosity, kindness, and respect…. The “way of the heart” or the “path of the heart” is living your life from this energy center of love.
-Read more at Chakra Anatomy

 

 

So – make a playlist of a few of your favorite relaxing, romantic songs, light a candle or two, and relax into any or all of these supported heart openers.

 

  • Use a couch pillow or a blanket for this soft supportive version. Legs can be in butterfly shape or stretched out long.
  • Create this Supported Fish Pose by placing a yoga block, small pillow or even a stack of books right under your shoulder girdle. If your head doesn't rest on the floor, place a blanket below so you're fully supported.
  • Mountain Brook is an indulgent and relaxing posture. Place a low rolled-up blanket under the shoulder girdle and a pillow under your knees. Relax and feel the energy gently flow....
  • When relaxing in mountain brook, try to have the shoulders resting on the floor - maybe this means taking only a very small blanket or even just a towel rolled up under the shoulder girdle.

 

Finish with some reclining twists and a forward bend, and then let your heart lead the way…

Yoga 101: The 6 Directions of the Spine

 

“A healthy spine is a healthy body!” So has said a teacher of mine, and I doubt we’d find any medical expert or average Joe who would argue this simple logic.

In your very first yoga class you were likely introduced to the Cat/Cow spinal warm-up. And since then, it’s probably made an appearance in 99% of classes — so much so that you might have even found yourself getting bored (“not Cat/Cow again!”). It’s critical to warm up the spine as we go into a practice. In fact, it’s critical to the health of the spine (and thus the body) to warm it up every day, even a couple times a day, and especially at the start of the day. Cat Cow moves the spine in two primary directions, and there are four more directions that make up the complete spinal spectrum. These six movements elongate the spine, encourage elasticity of the spinal column, wake up the cranio-sacral “highway,” and provide a host of other benefits.

Beginning your day by easing your body into each of these six directions will ensure you’re loosened, lengthened and lubricated – ready to take on the world with a supple, strong spine.


“Warm up When you Wake Up” and Move the Spine All Six Ways Every Day

Direction 1 – Spinal Extension

aka arching the spine as in Cow Pose

This shape lengthens the spine, expands the chest, strengthens the lungs and facilitates deeper breathing.
From an emotional standpoint, this shape helps us “open our heart.” Best of all, this shape is the exact opposite of how most of us spend our days – hunched over a computer or slouched looking down at a phone.

The simplest version of Spinal Extension is just a seated arching stretch, and cow pose is also a gentle option for the morning. Poses such as cobra, upward-facing dog, bow pose, and wheel are more dynamic versions of this shape, typically called “backbends” but perhaps wisely reframed as “front extensions” going for length over bend.

 

Direction Two – Spinal Flexion

aka rounding the spine as in Cat Pose

This shape expands the backbody, stretching the back of the lungs increasing breath capacity, and tones the abdomen with an engaged core. On an emotional level, these shapes help us turn inward for reflection and calm. This shape can be done via the usual cat shape, or seated by rounding the spine forward. Deeper versions of this shape are seated forward bending like in pachimotanasana, standing forward bending in utanasana, or even balancing shapes like devotional warrior.

 

Directions 3 & 4 – Lateral Side bending

as seen in crescent arches

By bending up and over to the left and right, we lengthen our side bodies, improving rib cage mobility and again, create even more space for the lungs. These shapes lengthen the muscles between the ribs and pelvis, plus parts of the lower back. They also support the health of the lymph system. It’s easy for things to get “stuck” in life, and side body stretches clear out often-neglected nooks and crannies. These gentle C-shaped curves can be created from a seated position, or from table top by reaching “cheek to cheek” – reacing the cheek on your face towards the hips and the hips towards your face. Standing crescents poses are also a gentle lateral side bend, and more active variations include peaceful warrior and extended side angle pose.

 

Directions 5 & 6 – Twists

as experienced in seated or reclining twists to both sides

Twisting to the right and left completes the set of six directions, mitigating against fusing and limited-mobility of vertebrae. Twisting also hydrates the intervertebral disks and massages the organs within the abdomen supporting digestion. It also asks us to “look forward and look backward” which can help us find the middle ground of the present moment. You can be seated in a cross-legged position, or atop bend knees to twist side to side, thinking about lengthening on the inhale and gently twisting deeper on the exhale. Or opt for a reclining twist and let gravity do most of the work! From table top, threading the needle is a good option, and revolved triangle pose is a powerful standing variation.