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.
Geeta Iyengar is the daughter of living yoga master B. K. S. Iyengar and is the director’s of her father’s Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in Pune, India. She is a world-class teacher in her own right, and an authority on adapting yoga for the special needs of women. She is the author of Yoga: A Gem for Women, and Iyengar Yoga for Motherhood: Safe Practice for Expectant & New Mothers. In 2002, on a teaching tour of Europe, she gave a lecture in Poland on yoga for women which was transcribed and published in 2009 with many illustrations. The transcript has been made available as a fee download online by the folks at The Yoga Studio in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It’s worth downloading and reading if you are a student or teacher who wants to know more about the hows and whys of adapting asana practice to support a woman’s monthly cycle.
Download the .pdf file here.
Thanks to Kristen Davis at Yogasana Center in Brooklyn, New York for the tip.
This is practice is for when you need a time-out. Perhaps after the meal is underway, after cleaning up, or after company has finally gone. It is a quiet practice designed to restore and rejuvenate.
If you have an eye pillow or a face cloth, place it over your eyes in the supine poses.
This quiet practice is designed for later in the day, after the big meal, or perhaps the next morning. It is a quiet, supported practice, designed to open the abdomen and to create space for digestion to happen.
Later on, perhaps even the next day once you’ve had a chance to digest, repeat The Fire in Your Belly Practice.
All this week, in celebration of the Thanksgiving Day holiday that we’re having here in the U.S., I thought I would do a special series to help you cope with the trials and tribulations of guests, entertaining and too much time off.
The aim of this practice today is to find you some peace of mind in the face of stressful interpersonal relationships. You could practice this in anticipation of the arrival of company, after company has left, or even in the midst of the holiday if you can get away.
The thought behind the sequence is to give you a gentle warm-up, followed by some relatively quick pose progressions that you don’t have to think about too much, culminating with Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose), a balancing pose that will require a certain amount of presence of mind to do well. All of this will get the blood moving and hopefully facilitate unblocking any emotional holding. The inversions will then help to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing the effects of stress and bringing you to a more serene state, which can then be consolidated by the restorative poses at the end of the practice. Keep this in mind if you find you need to edit the practice to fit within your capabilities and the time available to you. (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.)
Serratus Posterior Superior and Serratus Posterior Inferior are two accessory breathing muscles. This means that they expand and contract as you breathe, but are not the primary muscles of breathing: the diaphragm and intercostals. Ideally, accessory muscles only help to drive the breath under extraordinary circumstances, but most of us over-work as we breathe in one way or another. In this practice we will attempt to contact and release these two muscles of the back body.
With the inhalations, the muscle fibers of Serratus Posterior Superior shorten and with the exhalations they lengthen. The reverse is the case with Serratus Posterior Inferior , which lengthen with the inhalations and shorten with the exhalations. In this practice we will attempt to keep them soft and wide throughout the entire cycle of breath. These are very deep muscles and potentially challenging to contact. To simplify the process we will aim to soften and widen the entire band across the back in which each reside. This will have the added benefit of releasing anything else in that area that my be gripping:
A lot has been written about the application of yoga to support women’s health, especially in the realm of pregnancy and the menstrual cycle. It might seem silly to think that men would need a special application of yoga to support their health when the whole system was originally created by men for men exclusively. The truth is that the pressures of modern society put men in a difficult situation with regards to their health. We are primed by the culture to be active and aggressive in the support of our goals. We are supposed to keep our emotions hidden and not to complain. Fitness culture pushes us to over-work and tighten our bodies with explosive muscular action. All of this puts huge amounts of stress on our joints, our nervous systems and our organs. Here are five simple poses we can do on a regular basis to help support our continued wellness:
In our third practice focused on supporting the organs, we will turn our attention to the heart and lungs.
- Allow the abdomen to soften and open, releasing away from the chest.
- Allow the chest and front ribs to soften and widen.
- Follow each exhalation al the way to the very end.
- Allow the ribs to soften and drape down the length of the body every time you exhale.
- Allow the lungs to gently deflate inside the rib cage with the exhalations.
- Allow the heart to settle back towards the spine as you exhale. As the breath rolls back in, allow the lungs to fill and gently wrap around the heart, gently cradling and supporting it.
This week our focus is on creating softness and space around the kidneys and bladder.
- Take a few moments to gather the mind and body up into the present moment, letting go of the day that’s been and releasing any anticipation or apprehension over the time to come.
- Become aware of the movement in the torso as you breath. With the exhalations it empties, narrowing and lengthening. With the inhalation it fills, widening and deepening. Become aware of the inner volume of the body, the chest and abdominal cavities, and the way it changes as you breathe.
- Become aware of the movement of the abdomen and the lower back. With the inhalation, the diaphragm moves down and the abdomen and lower back expand. With the exhalation, the diaphragm moves up and the abdomen and lower back narrow. Observe the contents of the abdominal cavity and the way they move and are reshaped with the breath.