This advanced practice behind with Shavasana (Corpse Pose), breath awareness and reclined pranayama to free the ribcage, shoulder girdle and arms. It follows with seated pranayama in which the practice is to maintain that freedom in the upright. After that comes an inversions practice with an awareness of the breath and organization of the arms, shoulders, back and chest.
This intermediate inversions practice begins with reclined poses to soften and widen the chest and back, and open the shoulders. It follows with floor poses to integrate the legs and arms into the torso before going into Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand), Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand), Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1), and shoulder stand variations.
This basic practice begins with floor work to create widening and lengthening of the torso and separation of the arms from the body. It follows with a short series of standing poses with a focus on the use of the arms and floor work to widen the chest and collarbones. Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) is threaded through the practice to create stability and connection of the arms into the torso as well as to increase range of motion in the shoulder girdle.
This advanced practice begins with standing poses and inversions to activate the torso and integrate the legs while strengthening the upper body and opening the chest and shoulders. It follows with a series of back bends over the chair to open the abdomen, hip creases, chest and shoulders while minting integration of the limbs into the spine, ending with Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) from the floor. It ends with a short series of supported forward bends and restorative poses to widen the back and settle the energy.
This intermediate back bends practice begins with wall work to wake up the shoulders, hips and torso. It follows with standing poses to strengthen and integrate the legs arms and back while lengthening the thighs and opening the chest. Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose) and Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) are included to deepen the opening of the front body before a floor sequence of baby back bends, using a bolster for support to encourage release of over-work in the back. The practice ends with some brief restorative work to bring the body back to balance.
This basic back-bending practice begins with simple reclined poses to soften and open the abdomen and chest. Standing poses follow to encourage the separation of legs and torso while establishing the dynamic oppositions necessary for the floor work to come. Warrior Pose 1 and lunges stretch out the fronts of the thighs and more explicitly open the hip crease. In the floor work, the opening of the chest in relationship to the widening and freeing up of the abdomen, and the lengthening of the thighs is introduced while breaking down the component parts of Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), before practice the poses on its own. A short sequence of restorative poses softens and widens the lower back in preparation for final relaxation.
This advanced practice includes work at the wall ropes. It begins with a sequence hanging from the hips to create length and width across the torso. It moves on to some floor work to develop strength and integration in the front and back body, which is then taken into Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1). The classic Iyengar Ropes sequence called “Ropes 1” is interweaved with Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand) practice. All that chest and shoulder opening is then taken into Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand) practice, followed by the shoulder balance variations of Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand).
This practice includes a lot of rope work, so it might not be accessible to everyone.
- Widen evenly across three bands of the back: the pelvic fan muscles and the two bands that include the superior posterior serratus and the inferior posterior serratus. The pelvic fans we explored here and the posterior serratus we explored here.
Support the widening of the back actions with these front body actions:
- Turn the xiphoid process towards the navel.
- Draw from the sitting bones to the pubic bone to to the navel.
- In general, find a connection inwards, from the extremities to the core, in order to find the strength and coordination to expand back out into the limbs.
Wrist Actions in Ropes:
- Widen across the heel of the hand and thumb mound.
- Lengthen from the forearm to the fingertips across back of the wrists.
- Draw from the heel of the hand to the forearm to strengthen the hand and wrists. (more…)
Perhaps you have your period and don’t want to invert. Perhaps you want to give your neck and chest a rest. Perhaps you want all the benefits of Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) without doing the actual pose itself. Perhaps you need to counter Salamba Shirshasana (Head Stand) and don’t have the props to do shoulder stand. Then one of these five poses might be for you:
This is the perfect pose to do if you need a gentle chest opener as a preparation for pranayama. It also works great as a counter to abdominal poses. Done with the feet elevated to the same height as the back, it is a perfect substitute for Sarvangasana when you have your period. (Feet on the floor would be to much of a stretch for the abdomen and the organs.)
When working with the upper body it is important to keep the shoulders soft, free and wide so that they are able to transfer the weight of the arms properly onto the back without compromising the head and neck. In this practice, consider the folloing points as you go through the sequence:
- Allow your neck to be soft and free so that your head is can balance and mover freely on the top of the spine.
- Allow your shoulders, shoulder blades and collarbones to release away from your ears and rest easily on your torso.
- Soften and widen evenly across your upper back and top chest.
- Lengthen up through the sides of your torso all the way up into your armpits. Soften and widen your armpits front to back and back to front. Allow your torso to support your shoulders from underneath.
- In the Table Top, Bridge Pose and Shoulder Stand variations, take care to stay soft and wide in the space between your shoulder blades. Lengthen and strengthen your triceps while expanding and lifting the sides of your chest towards the ceiling, rolling your armpits towards your head. Working from the sides of your torso will help to keep your back and chest wide.