Standing Poses

Basic Practice: Freeing the Pelvis and Ribcage in Twists

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In this twisting practice, the goal is to elongate the trunk and spine so that the pelvis and rib cage can move freely with a certain amount of independence from each other. To help this happen, focus on folding cleanly at the hip crease without collapsing the chest and rounding the back, or without pushing the chest forward and gripping the back. In each of the asymmetrical pose--be they standing, seated or reclined--allow the pelvis and the chest to turn away from each other.

The Sequence:


Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vajrasana (Downward Facing Thunderbolt Pose)

Reclined Glute Stretch

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose) simple variation
• Do the pose with the knees bent and a block between them.
• Do five sets, rolling the pelvis from side to side without holding. Exhale the pelvis out to the side, inhale it back in.
• On the last set, hold the pose for several breaths on each side.

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Pashchima Baddha Hastasana (Elbows Clasped behind the Back) in Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
• Do both crossings.

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) with the elbows clasped behind the back

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Dandasana (Staff Pose)

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3) sitting up on a block or blankets

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) legs only into a forward bend

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1) sitting up on a block or blankets

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose) passive variation
• Lie on the floor and release into the pose.

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Basic Practice: Legs, Lower Back and Core

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In our last practice, we dealt with the front of the body, here we are going to focus
buttocks
on the back of the body. In particular, we need to think about the buttocks as we work towards some baby backbends.

Gluteus maximus, the largest, most superficial muscle of the buttock area, has two effects on the thighs and back when contracted. When the lower fibers contract, the thigh bones are turned out in the hip sockets and pulled away from each other, causing the back body to become narrowed. This action will be detrimental in poses where the hip joint is opening up, or extending, causing the lower back to crunch. Contraction of the upper fibers, however, is what makes the hip joint extend, so it is not helpful to have the buttocks completely soft.

When performing these poses, consider the following actions:
  • Strengthen and lengthen the inner thighs, the adductor muscles.
  • Soften the lower buttocks.
  • Widen and lengthen the upper buttocks down the length of the body, away from the head.
  • Lengthen the sides of the waist, drawing the abdomen up towards the head.
  • Soften and widen the back of the neck.


The Sequence:

Opening Vinyasa:
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Adho Mukha Vajrasana (Downward Facing Thunderbolt Pose)
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Lunge With the back leg up
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1) with the hands on the hips

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) with a foam block between the feet

Shalabhasana 2 (Locust Pose 2) with a foam block between the feet

Sphinx Pose

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Eka Pada Bhekasana (Single Leg Frog Pose)

Eka Pada Dhanurasana
• From Sphinx Pose, bring one forearm across the body, reach back and do bow pose on one side, then switch.

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
• Do this twice.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) legs only into a forward bend

Ardha Halasana (Half Plough Pose)

Child’s Pose over a bolster

Parshva Bharadwajasana (Side Bharadwaja’s Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Basic Practice: Legs, Abdomen and Core

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In each of these poses, think of the following three actions:
  • Strengthen and lengthen the inner thighs.
  • Widen the hip creases and lower abdomen.
  • Strengthen the sides of the waist and either stretch them towards the head (most of the poses), into the floor (Ardha Navasana/Half Boat Pose) or towards the ceiling (Setu Bandha/Bridge Pose and the Sarvangasana variations).

The Sequence:

Opening Vinyasa:
[Hold each pose for several breaths.]

Child’s Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) walking the hands back to the feet
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) stepping or hopping the feet forward between the hands
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose
Plank Pose with the toes pointed
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) stepping or hopping the feet forward between the hands
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose
Plank Pose with the toes pointed
Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) stepping or hopping the feet forward between the hands
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose
Plank Pose with the toes pointed
Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose with the toes pointed
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) stepping or hopping the feet forward between the hands
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Vrkshasana (Tree Pose)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior Pose 3) variation
• Loop a shoulder-width belt around the wrists behind the back.
• Press out into the belt to strengthen the arms and stretch the sides of the torso from the hips to the head.
• Go into the pose with the arms behind the back in this way.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Paripurna Navasana (Full Boat Pose) Cycle:
[Hold each stage for a few breaths.]

Dandasana (Staff Pose) with a foam block between the feet
Paripurna Navasana (Full Boat Pose) prep with the legs bent, feet off the ground and the hands on the floor
Paripurna Navasana (Full Boat Pose) prep with the legs bent, holding onto the thighs
Paripurna Navasana (Full Boat Pose) prep with the legs bent and the arms extended forward
Paripurna Navasana (Full Boat Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Ardha Navasana (Half Boat Pose) Cycle:
[In this cycle, keep the lower back on the floor. Hold each stage for a few breaths.]

Resting Pose with the feet flat, the knees up and the hands on the abdomen
Ardha Navasana (Half Boat Pose) prep with the feet flat and the head, chest and shoulder blades curled up
Ardha Navasana (Half Boat Pose) variation with one foot flat and the other leg lifted, both sides
Ardha Navasana (Half Boat Pose) variation with both legs lifted
Resting Pose with the feet flat, the knees up and the hands on the abdomen

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose)
• Feet up on blocks, holding on to the ankles directly, or with a belt.

Sarvangasana Cycle with a chair:
Halasana (Plough Pose) with the feet on the chair
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand) with one foot on the chair, both sides
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Halasana (Plough Pose) with the feet on the chair

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Intermediate Practice: Moving From the First Four Ribs

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In this practice consider the following actions:
  • Expand the first four ribs evenly, softening and widening the upper back and the top chest evenly.
  • Allow the shoulder blades and collarbones to be supported by the first four ribs, but also allow them to move with the arms.

The Sequence:

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Take a few minutes to allow the upper body, head, neck, shoulders and arms to release.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) with the head supported

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart and the head supported

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Pashchima Baddha Hastasana (Reverse Bound Hands Pose) in Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
• Clasp the elbows behind the back and hold. Do both crossings.

Chaturanga Block Sequence:
[Cycle through these poses, resting the chest on a block in Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose) and pushing it forward to come up into Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose).]

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose
Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose)
Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)
• Cycle through these 5 to 8 times.

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Vashisthasana (Vashistha’s Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)

Salamba Shirshasana 2 (Head Stand 2)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Chatushpadasana (Four Footed pose)

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 2 (Shoulder Stand 2) variation with the arms shoulder width and the wrists belted
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Salamba Sarvangasana 2 (Shoulder Stand 2)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 1 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 1)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 2 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 2)
Halasana (Plough Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Basic Practice: Lengthening the Sides and Across the Diagonal of the Torso

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In this sequence, focus on lengthening both sides of the torso to separate the rib cage from the pelvis, providing the length and freedom in the spine necessary to move freely in twists. Make sure to keep both sides of the body parallel, not crunching one side and over-stretching the other, causing the sine to flex laterally.

In all of the poses, but especially in the twists, focus on lengthening across the diagonal of the body: left shoulder moving away from right hip, right hip moving away from left shoulder and vice versa.

The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with the feet on blocks

Reclined Hip Stretch

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose) simple variation with the forearm on the thigh’

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose) with the hand on a block

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Dandasana (Staff Pose)

Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1) preparation, hugging one knee in at a time only

Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1) twist only

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Basic Practice: Strengthening and Lengthening the Sides of the Torso

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In this sequence, consider where the strength of the arms is coming from. Instead of the shoulders and shoulder blades being attached to the neck, think of them as dropping down and being supported by the ribs underneath them. Widen the ribs in the front and back body evenly, reaching the arms from them instead of pushing from the shoulders or the chest. Allow the collar bones and shoulder blades to widen into the arms.

The Sequence:

Side Stretch at the wall
• Stand with the feet together about eight to twelve inches away from the wall and lean the right hip, waist and ribs against it. Reach the right arm up. Pause here for a few breaths.
• Come up onto the balls of the feet. Stay here for a few breaths.
• Slowly drop the right heel, resisting up through the ribs and arms to lengthen out the right side of the waist. When the right heel is down, drop the left.
• Bend the right elbow and clasp it with the left hand. Draw the upper arm bone up towards the ceiling. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Take the tip of the elbow up and over the top of the head while keeping the outer armpit moving into the wall. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Turn the chest a slightly into the middle of the room to send the stretch towards the back. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Release and repeat on the second side.

Garudasana (Eagle Pose) arms with the back against the wall

Child’s Pose

Child’s Pose INTO Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Plank Pose INTO Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Pashchima Baddha Hastasana (Reverse Bound Hands Pose) in Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
• Clasp the elbows behind the back and hold. Do both crossings.

Chaturanga Block Sequence:
[Cycle through these poses, resting the chest on a block in Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose) and pushing it forward to come up into Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose).]

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose
Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose)
Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)
• Cycle through these 3 to 5 times.

Utthita Hastasana (Extended Hands Pose)
• Spread the arms in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and hold.

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Vashisthasana (Vashistha’s Pose) with the elbow bent and the forearm on the ground

Vashisthasana (Vashistha’s Pose) with one knee down

Vashisthasana (Vashistha’s Pose)

Purvottanasana (Intense East Stretch Pose) Table Top Variation with the hands on blocks

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with the feet on blocks

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with the feet on the floor

Reclined Hip Stretch

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1) with the feet on the wall

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Basic Practice: Upper Body Strength from the Arms, Chest Sides and Back

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This practice is all about upper body strength, but not just the strength of the chest, shoulders and arms. In addition, think about supporting the arms and shoulders by detaching them from the neck and allowing them to rest on the rib cage. Expand the ribcage evenly—front and back, left and right—to support the weight of the arms.

The Sequence:

Side Stretch at the wall
• Stand with the feet together about eight to twelve inches away from the wall and lean the right hip, waist and ribs against it. Reach the right arm up. Pause here for a few breaths.
• Come up onto the balls of the feet. Stay here for a few breaths.
• Slowly drop the right heel, resisting up through the ribs and arms to lengthen out the right side of the waist. When the right heel is down, drop the left.
• Bend the right elbow and clasp it with the left hand. Draw the upper arm bone up towards the ceiling. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Take the tip of the elbow up and over the top of the head while keeping the outer armpit moving into the wall. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Turn the chest a slightly into the middle of the room to send the stretch towards the back. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Release and repeat on the second side.

Garudasana (Eagle Pose) arms with the back against the wall

Urdhva Baddha Hastasana (Upward Bound Hands Pose) with the back against the wall

All Fours INTO Child’s Pose

All Fours INTO Child’s Pose INTO Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

All Fours INTO Plank Pose INTO Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart, clasping the elbows

Pashchima Baddha Hastasana (Elbows Clasped Behind the Back) in Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Chaturanga Cycle with Block:
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose
Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose)
• Lower down into the pose with the chest resting on a block.
Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)
• From Chaturanga Dandasana, push the block forward with the chest to lift up into the pose.
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Repeat the whole cycle 3 to 6 times.

Utthita Hasta Padasana (Extended Hands and Feet Pose)
• Pause here for a few moments before moving into the next pose.

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Vashisthasana (Vashistha’s Pose) with the elbow bent

Vashisthasana (Vashistha’s Pose) with the knee on the ground

Vashisthasana (Vashistha’s Pose)

Purvottanasana (Intense East Stretch Pose) table top variation with the hands on blocks

Setu Bandha With the feet on blocks

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1) with the feet on the wall

Shavasana (Corpse Pose) with the torso on a bolster

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Basic Practice: Lengthening the Front and Widening the Back

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As the sequence moves into progressively deeper back bends, focus on keeping the back—the back ribs, the lower back and the buttocks—as wide as possible, expanding the ribs to support the back muscles.

The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)

All Fours INTO Child’s Pose

Plank INTO Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lunge with the back leg up

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vajrasana (Downward Facing Thunderbolt Pose)

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Hands Pose)

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Hands Pose) INTO Utkatasana (Furious Pose)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1) with the hands on the hips

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose) with the hips resting on a block

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)

Shalabhasana 2 (Locust Pose 2)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with the feet on blocks

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with the feet on the floor

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Adho Mukha Vajrasana (Downward Facing Thunderbolt Pose)

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose) soft variation, releasing into the pose

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Basic Practice: Oppositional Action Along and Across the Body

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Each of these poses require a certain amount of oppositional action in the body. As you go through the sequence, think about the legs reaching one way and the torso and arms reaching the other way to create length and strength. In the twisted poses, think of elongating across the diagonal: the opposite leg and arm/shoulder elongating away from each other.

The Sequence:

Opening Vinyasa:
Child’s Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose
Lunge with the back leg straight
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet hip width apart
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose) variation
• With the arms reaching overhead, lift and lower one leg only five times. Then repeat with the other leg.

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose) with the arms down by the sides

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose) with the arms overhead if possible

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose)
• Do the pose with the knees bent and a foam block between them.

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose)
• Do the pose with a foam block between the feet. Start with the knees bent and then work on straightening them once you have the twist well established.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• Flat back only, with the hands on the shin or on blocks.

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• Flat back only, with the elbows clasped behind the back.

Parivrtta Parshvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)
• Simple variation, coming into it from Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose), stepping forward into a lunge and placing the hand down inside the foot rather than crossing the arm over.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with the feet on blocks

Reclined Hip Stretch

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with the feet on the floor

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1) with the feet on the wall

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab: Working with an Advanced Practice from "Light on Yoga", Part 9 [Light on Yoga]

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[Part 1 of this series, in which we pick apart an advanced sequence from “Light on Yoga”, can be found here.]

Our advanced sequence truly features a bit of everything. After all the arm balances and all the back bends comes lots of deep work in and around the hip joint. The three poses that we are focusing on this time—Hanumanasana (Hanuman’s Pose), Samakonasana (Same Angle Pose) and Supta Trivikramasana (Reclined Three Strides Pose)—are each a variation of a deep split, requiring length and freedom in both the font of the hip joint, the hip flexors, lower abdomen and quadriceps, behind it, in the buttock, the lower back and the hamstring, and in the inner thighs.

The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

Padangusthasana (Big Toe Pose)

Padahastasana (Hand Under Foot Pose)

Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense Stretch Pose)

Urdhva Prasarita Ekapadasana (Single Leg Extended Up Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shirshasana Cycle:
Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Head Stand
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) in Head Stand
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana (Revolved Single Leg Head Stand)
Eka Pada Shirshasana (Single Leg Head Stand)
Parshvaikapada Shirshasana (Single Leg to the Side Head Stand)

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Supta Konasana (Reclined Angle Pose)
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand)
Parshvaikapada Sarvangasana (Single Leg to the Side Shoulder Stand)
Eka Pada Setu Bandha (Single Leg Bridge Pose)
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) legs only into forward bend

Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose)

Parivrtta Janu Shirshasana (Revolved Head of the Knee Pose)

Lunge Series:
Lunge with the hands on the floor and the back knee up
Lung with the hands on the floor and the back knee down
Lunge with the hands on high blocks and the back knee down
Lunge with the hands on high blocks and the front foot on a low block
Lunge with the hands on high blocks and the back toes on a low block

Hanumanasana (Hanuman’s Pose)
• If you are unable to do the full pose, bringing the pelvis down to the floor, stack a bolster and/or blankets up underneath you so that you are able to rest completely down on them, allowing the muscles to release completely, without having to negotiate holding you up.

Samakonasana (Same Angle Pose)
• Similarly here, stack the props up underneath as high as necessary to fully support you with your legs out to the side.

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1) with a belt around the foot and the back on the floor.

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1) holding on to the big toe and lifting the head

Supta Trivikramasana (Reclined Three Strides Pose)
• If you are unable to do the full pose with the back on the floor, lift the torso up to clasp the heel with both hands. Either stack bolster and/or blankets up under your back to support your torso, or reach the waist towards your head and widen the back towards the floor without the support.

Virasana (Hero Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


Next time will go further into hip and groin territory exploring Yogadandasana (Yoga Staff Pose), Mulabandhasana (Root Lock Pose) and Kandasana (Knot Pose).


Related Posts:

Practice Lab: Working with an Advanced Practice from "Light on Yoga,” Round-Up


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Basic Practice: Releasing the Buttocks, Outer Hips and Thighs

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In this practice, focus on using the inner thighs to support the legs in order to help the outer hips and thighs soften and widen. In all the poses, be very clear where the torso ends and the legs begin, in the hip joint. Whenever the the hip flexes, turn the torso as a unit up and over the top of the thigh without tilting the pelvis forward or back.

The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Child’s Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) feet apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) with the shins together

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) with the heels apart, forward bend without the arms

Upavishtha Garudasana (Seated Eagle Pose)
• Sitting on the floor, cross the right leg over the left as for Garudasana (Eagle Pose).
• Turn to your left, bringing the right knee across the body and onto the floor. Turn to face the floor, supporting yourself on your elbows and walk the trunk around to face the wall behind you. Hold this pose for half a minute.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Hands Pose)

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)

Garudasana (Eagle Pose) legs only

Garudasana (Eagle Pose) arms only

Garudasana (Eagle Pose) full pose

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Virabhdrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) with a blanket behind the knees

Virasana (Hero Pose) with a blanket behind the knees

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Basic Practice: Strengthing the Arms, Back and Sides

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The focus of this practice is on strength of the upper body: not only the arms, back and chest, but also on the sides of the body and the muscles that connect the shoulder blades to the back.

As you go through the poses, focus on moving the shoulder blades forward with the arms, pasting them onto the back as you also widen the ribs into the shoulder blades, creating a strong, anchoring seal. All the while, keep the upper back and chest equally wide.

The Sequence:

Side Stretch at the wall
• Stand with the feet together about eight to twelve inches away from the wall and lean the right hip, waist and ribs against it. Reach the right arm up. Pause here for a few breaths.
• Come up onto the balls of the feet. Stay here for a few breaths.
• Slowly drop the right heel, resisting up through the ribs and arms to lengthen out the right side of the waist. When the right heel is down, drop the left.
• Bend the right elbow and clasp it with the left hand. Draw the upper arm bone up towards the ceiling. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Take the tip of the elbow up and over the top of the head while keeping the outer armpit moving into the wall. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Turn the chest a slightly into the middle of the room to send the stretch towards the back. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Release and repeat on the second side.

Urdhva Baddhanguliyasana (Upward Bound Fingers Pose) with the back against the wall

Down Dog Cycle:
[Perform these poses one after the other, holding each for 30 seconds at a time.]

All Fours
Child’s Pose
All Fours
Plank Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose
All Fours
Plank Pose with the toes pointed
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose

Standing Pose Cycle:
[Perform each of these on after the other, going from side to side without returning to Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and without lower the arms throughout the entire sequence.]

Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)
Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)
Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 2)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Vashisthasana (Vashistha’s Pose) variation with the elbow bent

Forearm Stand preparation

Makarasana (Crocodile Pose)

Forearm Stand preparation with second interlock of the fingers

Makarasana (Crocodile Pose) with second interlock of the fingers

Up Dog Cycle:
[Perform these poses one after the other, holding each for 30 seconds at a time.]

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose) with the toes turned under
Plank Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose) on the tops of the feet, with the toes pointed
Plank Pose on the tops of the feet, with the toes pointed
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose) preparation
• Organize yourself as if about to do the pose and brace the body into the floor to take a little weight, but without actually lifting up.

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose) with a block under the pubic bone

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose) with a block under the chest

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose)
• Do the pose twice, resting in between.

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with the feet on blocks, holding onto a belt around the ankles

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) over a bolster

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose) with a lift under the trunk


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Basic Practice: Widening and Strengthening the Abdomen

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So often we erroneously equate strengthening the core with squeezing the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor as much as possible. I grant that, in certain poses, it is important to properly engage the abdominals to support the strength of the hip flexors and torso, but indiscriminately gripping them can have negative effects in the long run: tightening in the hips and chest, and even consequences to the effective functioning of the internal organs. Better to have a strong and supple abdominal wall that can engage and support when needed, but also release and lengthen when appropriate.

In this practice, consider the following actions:
  • Keep both the upper and lower abdomen soft and wide at all times. I use the word “soft” to suggest toned and responsive, not flabby and unused or squeezed and gripped.
  • Keep the hip creases soft, wide and well-defined in your awareness in all the poses.
  • Find length in the torso by remaining elongated from the hips to the head to keep the sides of the waist long and engaged.
  • Increase the strength of the core by engaging the inner thighs to support the legs and hip flexors.
  • In the more obviously abdominal poses, draw the pubic bone up towards the navel and the navel in towards the spine, keeping the sides of the waist cinched and long.

The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lunge with the back leg up

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Hands Pose) with the back against the wall

Half Utkatasana (Furious Pose) with the back against the wall
• Keep the torso upright and the back against the wall as you raise the arms and bend the legs.

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)
• Come into Half Utkatasana with the hands on the hips, keeping the torso upright, only bending the legs a little.
• Fold forward from the hips without pushing the lower back and chest forward or tucking the tailbone under.
• Reach the arms up.
• Then sink down into the full pose.

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)
• Come into the pose as above.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)
• 2 repetitions.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
• Upright seated version only.

Paripurna Navasana (Full Boat Pose)

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)

Ardha Navasana (Half Boat Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) over a bolster with breath awareness

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose) with breath awareness

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Basic Pactice: Widening Across the Upper Back and Chest to Create Freedom in the Shoulders

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In this practice, focus on softening and widening evenly across the upper back and chest. Create freedom across the collarbones and shoulder blades, allowing them to reach with the arms away from each other. In Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog), roll weight from the outer hand to the inner hand and from the heel of the hand to the fingertips to energize and strengthen the wrists and forearms.

The Sequence:

Matsyasana (Fish Pose) simple variation

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Garudasana (Eagle Pose Arms) in Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Pashchima Baddha Hastasana (Hands Bound Behind the Back Pose) in Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) with the toes turned under
• Clasp the elbows behind the back and hold for 30 seconds before changing the crossing and holding again.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) full pose including arm variation

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) with the elbows clasped behind the back

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Bharadwajasana 1 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 1) simple variation

Bharadwajasana 1 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 1) full variation with one arm behind the back

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) with the feet up on low blocks against the wall

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) with the hands up on low blocks against the wall

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) with the feet up on medium blocks against the wall

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) with the hands up on medium blocks against the wall

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) with the feet up on high blocks against the wall

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) with the hands up on high blocks against the wall

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with the feet on blocks, holding onto the ankles with a belt if necessary

Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) with the feet on the wall

Shavasana (Corpse Pose) with the trunk elevated on blankets


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Level 1 Group Class: Loosening the hips and elongating the trunk in twists

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The spine needs to be fully elongated in order for the vertebrae to turn effectively around their axis. In this sequence, focus on lengthening the sides of the trunk and broadening the chest and back evenly to achieve a properly elongated spine. Work on softening and widening the buttocks and outer hips to help free up the trunk and allow the pelvis to tilt forward more readily, enabling the trunk to lengthen that much more easily.

In addition, keep the hips level. This means that when the leg is raised, or in front of you, or crossed over the other leg, make sure that the hip doesn’t roll up the length of the body towards the head, causing the side of the waist to crunch. If this happens, the pelvis os not level and the lower spine is being hooked to the side, compromising it’s ability to twist in the lower portion. In all of your poses, focus on rolling the outer hip away from the head, towards the tail to help keep the hips aligned.

The Sequence:

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
• Simple variation with the legs in Sukhasana (Comfortable Pose) and the elbows clasped overhead.

Down Dog flow:
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Lunge with the back knee up, right side
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Lunge with the back knee up, left side
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose

Reclined Hip Stretch Sequence

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Parivrtta Supta Padangusthasana (Revolved Reclined Big Toe Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) legs only into forward bend

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1)

Parivrtta Parshvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)
• Come into a lunge with the back knee on the ground; then bring the arm across to twist; then, if able, lift the back knee up.

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) over a bolster with breath awareness

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose) with breath awareness

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Level 1 Group Class: Widening the Front and Back Evenly in Back Bends

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In this class, focus on keeping the entire back body wide, including the buttocks, the lower back and the back ribs, as you elongate the trunk.

The Sequence

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lung with the back leg straight

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) INTO Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)
• Come into the flat back variation of Parshvottanasana with the arms in front of you to the right. Hold for a few moments.
• Come out of the pose, adjust the position of the feet and go into Utthita Trikonasana to the right. Hold here.
• Come up and repeat on the second side.

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Spread Feet Pose) preparation INTO Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)
• Come into the flat back Prasarita Padottanasana preparation with the hands under the shoulders. Hold for a few moments.
• Come up, raise the arms overhead, turn to the right and go into Virabhadrasana 1. Hold here.
• Return to the Prasarita Padottanasana preparation and repeat to the second side.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) preparation with arms overhead
• Lie flat on the abdomen and reach the arms over head.
• Stretch the arms and the legs away from each other to elongate the trunk.

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) with the arms by the sides

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) preparation with arms overhead

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) with the arms by the sides

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) preparation with arms overhead

Sphinx Pose

Eka Pada Bhekasana (Single Leg Frog Pose)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) preparation with arms overhead

Sphinx Pose

Eka Pada Dhanurasana
• From Sphinx Pose, bring one forearm across the body, reach back and do bow pose on one side, then switch.

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) preparation with arms overhead

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
• Do this twice.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) legs only into a forward bend

Child’s Pose over a bolster

Parshva Bharadwajasana (Side Bharadwaja’s Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Level 1 Group Class: Standing Forward Bends

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In this practice, focus on deepening the hip creases and stretching from the hips to the head. Engage the inner thighs as you work to encourage the outer hips and thighs to soften. Do the straight leg poses with the legs slightly bent if it helps deepen the fold.

The Sequence


Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vajrasana (Downward Facing Thunderbolt Pose)

Urdhva Baddhanguliyasana (Upward Bound Fingers Pose) in Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) with the toes turned under

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
• Have the balls of the feet up on a blanket roll or blocks to stretch out the calves.
• For half the time, do the pose with the legs bent, half with the legs straight.

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)
• Do the pose first with the knees bent. Press the hands into the calves to resist the legs straightening as you draw the legs up.
• After half a minute, slowly release the resistance and straighten the legs without locking the knees out.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Utkatasana (Furious Pose) with a block between the thighs

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) full pose with arm variation

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• First, come into the flat back variation, bend the knee, deepen the hip crease and re-straighten the leg without locking out the knee.
• Then go into the full forward fold.

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)
• Bend the knee, deepen the hip crease and re-straighten the leg without locking out the knee.

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior Pose 3) with the wrists belted and the arms by the sides of the trunk

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose) over a bolster

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Level 1 Group Class: Standing Twists

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In this practice we need to find balance in the standing poses by using the strength of the inner thighs. This has the added benefit of allowing the outer hips and thighs a chance to soften, which, in turn, allows the trunk to elongate, allowing for a more effective twist.


The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet hip width apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) kegs only into a forward bend

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• Flat back first, then into forward fold.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose) with the hand on a block

Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior Pose 3) variation
• Come into the pose with both hands on high blocks.

Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolved Half Moon Pose) with the hand on a block

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose) with the hand on a block

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) over a bolster

Parshva Bharadwajasana (Side Bharadwaja’s Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Level 1 Group Class: Elongating the Trunk to Protect the Lower Back

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In this class we will be opening the hip crease in back bends. To lengthen the thigh and open the abdomen, keep the back leg in the standing poses strong, modifying your poses to accommodate this (bringing the feet closer together in standing poses, for example). To protect the lower back, work on the following actions:
  • Widen and lengthen the buttock flesh away from the head.
  • Reach the legs away from the head.
  • Lengthen the abdomen and sides towards the head.

The Sequence

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
• Simple variation: legs crossed in Sukhasana, lying back flat on the floor with the arms overhead.
• 90 seconds each crossing.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lunge with the back leg up

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lunge with the back knee down and the hands on the floor

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lunge with the back knee down and the hands on the thigh, the trunk lifted

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Utthita Hasta Padasana (Extended Hands and Feet Pose)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1) with the hands on the hips

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1) with the arms raised

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Sphinx Pose

Eka Pada Bhekasana (Single Leg Frog Pose)

Eka Pada Dhanurasana
• From Sphinx Pose, bring one forearm across the body, reach back and do bow pose on one side, then switch.

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
• Do this twice.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) legs only into a forward bend

Child’s Pose over a bolster

Parshva Bharadwajasana (Side Bharadwaja’s Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Intermediate Group Class: Balancing the Neck and Dropping the Thighs

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This week our journey up the spine continues as we work with the atlanto-occipital joint, the joint between the first vertebra and the base of the skull. It can be a tough one to locate as it lies deep within the head. If you soften back from the cheekbones, behind the roof of the mouth and the back of the tongue towards the base of the skull you will find the plane of the joint. As you practice the following sequence, soften and release the joint and think of it rising towards the crown of the head.

As you do this, find your femurs and allow the bones to drop away in the opposite direction. (In the case of the inversions, the two ends still move away from each other, just in the opposite direction relative to gravity.) These two are not so much muscular actions as they are thought directions. Within the dynamics of each pose, find softness and freedom in the muscle and connective tissue to allow the release to happen.

The Sequence

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
• Lie back over a small mat roll or a thin- and narrow-folded blanket to create a very gently arch of the back.
• 3 minutes.

Side Stretch on a chair or ledge
• Place the elbows on the chair (from a kneeling position) or ledge (from a standing position) with the arms bent and the hands together in Namaskarasana (Prayer Position).
• Hold the pose for 2 to 3 minutes.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1) with the raised leg on a ledge or a rope hook

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 2 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 2) with the raised leg on a ledge or a rope hook

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose Arms) in Virasana (Hero Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
• 2 minutes in the regular pose.
• 1 minute with the fingers pinched, touching the shoulders.
• 2 minutes in the regular pose with the second interlock of the fingers.

Shirshasana 2 (Head Stand 2)
• From the floor.
• 30 seconds.

Shirshasana 3 (Head Stand 3)
• From the floor.
• 30 seconds.

Baddha Hasta Shirshasana (Bound Hands Head Stand)
• From the floor.
• 30 seconds each crossing.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)

Salamba Sarvangasana 2 (Shoulder Stand 2)
• Include the different arm variations.

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) legs only forward bend

Pigeon Pose forward bend

[Do each of the following three hip openers all on crossing and then all on the other]
Ankle to Knee Pose
Revolved Ankle to Knee Pose
• Twist to the side of the top foot.
Side Ankle to Knee Pose
• Extended forward over the side of the top foot.
Ankle to Knee Pose

Padmasana Cycle [either in full Padmasana, Ardha Padmasana with the legs bound or Sukhasana with the legs bound]
Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
Tolasana (Scales Pose)
Simhasana 2 (Lion Pose 2)
Gorakshasana (Cowherd Pose)
• Support yourself with one hand on a block if necessary.
Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
Yoga Mudrasana (Yoga Seal Pose)

Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Level 1 Group Class: Deepening the Hip Crease and Releasing the Lower Back and Buttocks

sq_basics
In this sequence, think about softening and widening the abdomen and hip creases as you deepen them. At the same time, soften and widen the lower back and buttocks.

The Sequence

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
• Simple variation: legs crossed in Sukhasana, lying back flat on the floor with the arms overhead.
• 90 seconds each crossing.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lunge with the back leg up

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vajrasana (Downward Facing Thunderbolt Pose) with the head on a block

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Malasana (Garland Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Prasarita Padottanasana 1 (Wide Spread Feet Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose) over a bolster

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) over a bolster

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Level 1 Group Class: Opening the Chest and Shoulders

sq_basics
The general idea here is to create width and openness across the collarbones and top chest while also keeping the upper and middle back broad. The sequence is perhaps a little more than basic as it has an inversion prep in it.

The Sequence

Side Stretch at the wall
• Stand with the feet together about eight to twelve inches away from the wall and lean the right hip, waist and ribs against it. Reach the right arm up. Pause here for a few breaths.
• Come up onto the balls of the feet. Stay here for a few breaths.
• Slowly drop the right heel, resisting up through the ribs and arms to lengthen out the right side of the waist. When the right heel is down, drop the left.
• Bend the right elbow and clasp it with the left hand. Draw the upper arm bone up towards the ceiling. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Take the tip of the elbow up and over the top of the head while keeping the outer armpit moving into the wall. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Turn the chest a slightly into the middle of the room to send the stretch towards the back. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Release and repeat on the second side.

Garudasana (Eagle Pose) arms with the back against the wall

Urdhva Baddhanguliyasana (Upward Bound Fingers Pose) with the back against the wall

All Fours
• Take a moment to seal your hands into the mat while widening the upper back and the top of the chest.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)
• Put the hand of the raised arm on the hip.
• Press the collarbone away from the ear and roll it up towards the ceiling.

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Bharadwajasana 1 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 1) simple variation
• Turn the head away from the direction of the twist.

Bharadwajasana 1 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 1) full pose with bound arm
• Turn the head away from the direction of the twist.

IMG_2180
Head Stand Preparation
• Do twice, once with each interlock of the fingers.

Right Angle Forearm Stand at the wall
• Sit with the buttocks against the wall and mark off where the heels are. Set yourself up in the Head Stand Prep with the elbows where the heels were.
• Walk the feet up the wall to hip height.
• Hold for several seconds and repeat with the second interlock of the fingers.

Purvottanasana (Intense East Stretch Pose) table top variation
• Have the hands on blocks.

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with the feet on the chair

Ardha Halasana (Half Plough Pose) with the toes on the chair
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand)
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose) with a lift under the trunk and head
• 5 minutes.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Level 1 Group Class: Lengthening the Sides to Balance the Spine in Twists

sq_basics
For the spine to twist it needs to be fully elongated with the curves balanced. The easiest way to achieve this is to make sure that the sides of the trunk are elongated and parallel to each other. Then there will be room in the trunk for the twisting action.

The Sequence

Reclined Hip Stretch Sequence

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) legs only into forward bend

Parivrtta Supta Padangusthasana (Revolved Reclined Big Toe Pose)
• Have the foot resting on a block. Keep the hips/pelvis facing the block.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)
• Come into the pose with the arms raised alongside the ears, then bring them down into position.

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• Flat back position with the hands on blocks only.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)
• Come into it from Parshvottanasana.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose) with the knees bent

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose) working on straightening the legs

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) over a bolster

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab: Standing Poses (from "Light on Yoga")

One of the reasons I got behind with my posts last week was because of this new obsession that Kristen and I have been developing over the sequences in “Light on Yoga”. When we got together last Monday to practice, we ended up doing one of the more basic sequences from LoY and I was thinking I might do something not from the book later in the week for variety and to have something to write about. Turns out I didn’t. I was back on the old BKS treadmill. (There’s something great about not having to think and plan what you’re going to do all the time.) I was even trying to come up with advanced classes that weren’t based on the book (coming soon), but then I found out that Kristen was teaching from the book as well. So I surrendered to the call. It’s going to be all “Beeks” (as my friend Leslie calls him) all the time for a few weeks. One could do worse.

This sequence comes from the end of the first course in the back of the book. After 30 weeks of progressive sequences he offers a three-day course that hits all the important poses from the course. This is the third day, which mostly features standing poses. Notes that it begins with Shirshasana (Head Stand), but there is NO SHOULDER STAND! Shocking! I wondered if it was a typo, but I have a newer UK edition that corrects some other mistakes, and this was unchanged.

I should add that all of these Light on Yoga sequences that I’ve been presenting have pranayama associated with them as well, but I haven’t been practicing or teaching them that way. Iyengar pranayama has moved on so much since then, it doesn’t really fit with these sequences any more. The body is too exhausted to have the necessary sensitivity and ease required.

The Sequence

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
• 10 minutes.

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Parivrtta Parshvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior Pose 3)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

Prasarita Padottanasana 1 (Wide Spread Feet Pose 1)

Padangusthasana (Big Toe Pose)

Padahastasana (Hand Under Foot Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Urdhva Prasarita Ekapadasana (One Foot Extended Up Pose)

Garudasana (Eagle Pose)

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Ushtrasana (Camel Pose)

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Virasana (Hero Pose)

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)

Paryankasana (Couch Pose)

Padmasana (Lotus Pose)

Parvatasana (Mountain Pose)

Tolasana (Scale Pose)

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)
• In the book, Gomukhasana is presented with the shins together underneath you, rather than heels apart as is more commonly practiced.

Lolasana (Tremulous Pose)

Simhasana 1 (Lion Pose 1)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Level 1 Group Class: Hips and Hamstrings

Warrior Pose 2
In this practice we are thinking about opening up the back of the leg and stretching the hamstrings in the belly of the muscle where the fibers are most flexible. In each of these poses, think of widening the backs of the thighs and moving the thighbones into the hamstrings as you deepen the hip creases and lengthen the sides of the trunk forward.

The Sequence

Reclined Hip Stretch Sequence

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lung with the back leg straight

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Supta Padangusthasana (Reclined Big Toe Pose) variation with block
• Hold a block against the middle of the hamstring.
• Draw the knee into the chest, deepening the hip crease, while reaching through and anchoring the opposite leg.
• After a few breath press the thigh bone into the block and straighten the leg by reaching up through the inner thigh/inner foot.

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart and the toes up
• Do the pose with the ankle flexed and the toes/balls of the feet up on a block or a blanket roll.

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Urdhva Baddhanguliyasana (Upward Bound Fingers Pose) in Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2) INTO Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• Come into the flat back position with the hands on blocks.
• Bend the knee and deepen the hip crease.
• Straighten the leg by moving the thigh bone into the hamstring. Stretch the sides of the trunk forward.
• Walk the hands and blocks forward.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand) on a chair
• Come into Setu Bandha with three blankets under the shoulders and the feet on the chair.
• Widen and lift the hamstrings up into the thigh bones.
• Repeat.

Halasana (Plough Pose) with the feet on a chair
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand) with one foot on the chair
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)
• Sit on your shoulder stand blankets and lean forward resting the forearms and forehead on the chair.
• Do both sides.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose) with the lower legs resting on the chair


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Level 1 Group Class: Protecting the Lower Back

Warrior Pose 1
As we work towards Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1) in this class, the concern is to keep the back and front of the trunk equally wide as we find strength and direction through the sides of the body. As you go through the poses, consider the following directions:
  • Slice the outer edge of the back foot firmly down into the floor and reach through the inner thigh into the back heel to ground and strengthen the back leg. Do not compromise the solidity of the back leg, bringing the feet closer together in the bent leg poses if you need to keep the knee on top of the ankle.
  • Widen the buttock flesh and lengthen it down, away from the head. This is could be thought of as a “tucking” of the tailbone under, however you do not want to go quite into a full tuck, as that can create its own set of problems, not least of which would be losing the strength of the back leg.
  • Strengthen and lift the sides of the waist, moving them back to stabilize and firm the lower back area.
  • Widen evenly across the buttocks, the lower back, the back ribs in the back and the abdomen, the front ribs and the chest in front.
  • Keep the back of the neck and the throat soft and wide.

The Sequence

Reclined Hug
• Lie on the back with the feet on the floor and the knees pointing up.
• Wrap the arms around the chest to clasp the shoulder blades.
• Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds, softening and widening the back from the tailbone to to back of the skull.
• Change the crossing of the arms and hold for the same amount of time.

Chest Opener
• Continuing on directly from above, inhale and raise the right arm over head.
• Put the left hand on the very top of the right side of the chest, just under the collarbone.
• As you inhale, reach through the right arm. As you exhale, keep reaching through the arm and press the chest down, expanding the back ribs into the floor.
• Hold this for 30 to 60 seconds, then repeat on the second side.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lunge with the back foot up

Lunge with the hands on the floor and the back knee down

Lunge with the hands on the thigh and the back knee down

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Supta Urdhva Hastasana (Reclined Upward Hands Pose)
• Belt the wrists at shoulder width so that the arms are parallel.
• Press strongly out into the belt as you lie flat on the back and raise the arms overhead.
• Reach strongly through the legs and the arms, widening the back and front and pressing the sides of the waist down into the floor.

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Hands Pose)
• Wrists belted and back against the wall.
• Reach strongly through the legs and the arms, widening the back and front and pressing the sides of the waist back into the wall.

Vrkshasana (Tree Pose)

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)
• With a block between the thighs and the wrists belted.

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)
• With the wrists belted.

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1) with the hands on the hips

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1) with the wrists belted

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose)
• With the feet on blocks and holding a belt around the ankles.

Reclined Glute Stretch

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose)
• With the feet on blocks and holding a belt around the ankles.

Parshva Parvatasana (Side Mountain Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Level 1 Group Class: Strength and Mobility of the Shoulders

The Shoulder Blade
In this class we are working with the shoulder blades, the ribs underneath and the muscles around them. We need to find strength around the shoulder blade by creating a seal between shoulder blade and back. This seal happens both from pressing the shoulder blade forward onto the ribcage, but also by expanding the ribs back into the shoulder blade. Sealing the shoulder blades does not mean pinching them together. If the space between them (the rhomboids and trapezius) grips, then they will not be able to move with the arms, which they need to do for proper mobility of the shoulder. Throughout the class keep the back of the neck and the space between the shoulder blades soft, even when the arms are behind the back. Find support for the arms not by tensing the upper back, deltoids and neck, but by expanding and lifting the ribcage.

The Sequence

Reclined Hug
• Lie on the back with the feet on the floor and the knees pointing up.
• Wrap the arms around the chest to clasp the shoulder blades.
• Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds, softening and widening the back from the tailbone to to back of the skull.
• Change the crossing of the arms and hold for the same amount of time.

All Fours into Child’s Pose
• Rock back and forth between All Fours and Child’s Pose, exhale back and inhaling forward.
• Seal the hands into the mat.
• Observe and allow the shoulder blades to slide along the back: moving forward with the arms as you go into Child’s Pose, sliding back down towards the tailbone as you go back to All Fours.

Plank Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Observe and allow the same movement as you make the transition from the first pose to the second.

Reclined Chest Opener
• Lie back in Shavasana (Corpse Pose).
• Raise the right arm overhead and place the left hand on the top of the chest just below the right collarbone.
• As you inhale, reach strongly through the arm.
• As you exhale, keep reaching through the arm, fixing it in place, and press the chest down into the floor.
• Expand the back ribs on the right into the shoulder blade and the floor.
• Do this for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Child’s Pose
Plank Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Seal the hands into the floor, the shoulder blades into the back and the back into the shoulder blades as you transition through each of these poses.

Block Lifts Over a Roll
• Roll a mat up and lie back over it with the roll across the bottom of the shoulder blades so that the shoulders are not all the way down on the floor. Adjust the position of the roll to make the neck comfortable.
• Hold onto a block (a foam block is a little easier than a wooden block) between both hands and reach the block up towards the ceiling.
• Seal the shoulder blades into the back and the back into the shoulder blades.
• Slowly bring the arms and block up and over the head to the floor. Allow the shoulder blades to move with the block, keeping the strong seal. Make sure the block doesn’t wobble from side to side. If it does, re-trace that part of the arc to make the movement as smooth as possible.
• With the arms alongside the ears, reach the arms and legs away from each other.
• Brace the back into the roll and slowly lift the block back up without jerking or wobbling.
• Repeat this two or three times.

Child’s Pose
Plank Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Hands Pose)
• Come into the pose through Utthita Hastasana (arms out to the side).
• Inhale bring the arms up to shoulder height with the palms facing down.
• Exhale, turn the palms, elbows and biceps up.
• Pause here and stretch evenly from the upper back and the top chest, pulling the wrists away from each other.
• Exhale and lift the arms overhead, allowing the shoulder blades to move with the arms.

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)
• As the arms grow tired expand and lift from the ribcage to support the shoulders.

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog pose)

“Up and Over” chest stretches
• Hold onto a belt with the hands wide apart.
• Inhale and bring the arms up over head. Exhale, bring the arms down behind the back.
• Inhale and bring the arms up overhead. Exhale, bring the arms down in front.
• Repeat this for a minute or two.

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) chest opener
• Put a shoulder-width belt around the biceps just above the elbows.
• Bend the knees and lean forward, resting the abdomen on the thighs,
• Exhale and bring the arms overhead. Start with the elbows bent. Straighten them after a few breaths.
• Reach through the arms, but allow gravity to do most of the work for you.
• Try and clear the upper arms away from the back of the armpit to open the chest.

Purvottanasana (Intense East Stretch Pose) table top variation
• Hands on blocks.

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose)
• Feet on blocks.
• Hold onto a belt around the ankles.

Reclined Glute Stretch with one ankle on the opposite thigh

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1) with the feet on the wall

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Fold blankets for a gentle lift under the trunk.


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Level 1 Group Class: Softening the Outer Hips and Thighs

Half Moon Pose
The outer hip, outer upper thigh area often gets very thick and tight, not least because the outer hip rotators also serve as stabilizers for the hips. In this class we will try and stop the outer hip rolling up towards the head, shortening the waist. In each of these poses think of rolling the outer hip away from the head to lengthen the waist whenever you are folding at the hip.

The Sequence

Reclined Floor Stretch Sequence
• Reclined Glute Stretch: place one ankle on the opposite thigh, take hold of the legs and draw them in towards you with the strength of the arms, keep;ing the leg muscles passive.
• From the above position, roll over onto your side and place the foot flat on the ground. Roll the thigh away from you so that the shin and knee point up towards the ceiling.
• Either cross the legs or rest one thigh on the other and open out into a twist.
• Hold for 30 to 60 seconds in each of these positions, then repeat on the other side.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) leg variation
• Instead of sitting down between the feet, bring the ankles and shins together with the feet pointing back behind you. Put the hands on blocks to support yourself and sit back on the heels.
• Keep the shins and ankles together, even if this means you are not able to get the hips very far down.

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Hands Pose)

Vrkshasana (Tree Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Virasana (Hero Pose)

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2) simple variation

Bharadwajasana 1 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 1) simple variation

Parshva Parvatasana (Side Mountain Pose) over a bolster

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab: Separating the Ilio-Psoas

Pasted Graphic
This week’s practice was not particularly complicated in terms of the poses I worked on, but I ended up focusing on quite a high level of detail. I’ve always had trouble in my sacrum, psoas and pelvic floor, and the whole area has been particularly troublesome in the past few weeks. I went to Phoenix to teach the fine folks at Gravity Center and the air travel pretty much did me in, hence all the attention to the lower body of late.

Ideally, as you go through the sequence keep in mind all of the factors presented here. If, however, you are only beginning to become familiar with this area and it’s too much to focus on straight away, work with one or two of the ideas, building up slowly. I’ve arranged the actions in an ordered progression, from what should be mastered first to finishing touches.

In essence, we are balancing the movement around the hip joint by anchoring through the femur head (top of the thigh bone) and balancing the work of the ilio-psoas muscles.

The Lesser Trochanters and the Hip Joint

First we need to stabilize the base. Strengthen and anchor the legs by moving the lesser trochanters in each of the following directions:
  • Move them away from each other.
  • Move them away from the midline of the body.
  • Move them towards the feet or the floor.
In some poses, these might all be the same direction, depending on the arrangement of the legs. When working with the lesser trochanters there is often a tendency to roll the thighs in as well, so make sure to keep the hip creases (where the thigh and abdomen meet) and the buttock creases (where the buttocks and hamstrings meet) evenly wide.

With the femurs properly grounded, center the weight evenly around the entirety of both hip joints. You might think of the wall of connective tissue that wraps the joint, balancing the weight around it. Just this part can requite a huge amount of vigilance, as we often have habitual movement patterns in the hips an legs that are very easy to fall back into unawares.

The Iliacus and the Psoas

Think of separating these two muscles. Strengthen and lengthen the psoas up the length of the body from the lesser trochanters towards the head. Think of widening the iliacus outwards away from the psoas and down towards the lesser trochanters.

In addition, to create spaciousness in the lower back, think of moving both muscles back, away from the front body.

When working with the psoas, people who tend to be more tucked back in the pelvis may well have to lengthen down through the lesser trochanters more as they draw up and back through the psoas. People who tend to be more tilted forward may have to draw up and widen back away from the lesser trochanters more.

The Pelvic Floor and the Lower Ribs

Soften and widen the fan of the pelvic floor as evenly as possible. Draw up the length of the body towards the head from behind the pubic bone. Soften and widen the lower ribs from the xyphoid process around and back towards the spine.

Once you have each of these actions working, build them up in your poses and cycle through them one to three times in each pose.

Additional Thoughts

For variety, you might also think of working with the psoas major and minor, lengthening the fibers of psoas major down towards the feet and psoas minor up towards the head (or reversing it if that works for you, perhaps if you are more tucked). Working with just psoas major, you could direct the lower fibers (say from L3 down) forward and down towards the feet while drawing the upper fibers (L2 to T12) up towards the head, or vice versa if it suits your body more.

The Sequence

Vrkshasana (Tree Pose) with the knee at the wall

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1)
• Foot on a rope wall hook or some other ledge.
• Upright variation.

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 2 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 2)
• Foot on a rope wall hook or some other ledge.
• Triangle Pose variation with the standing foot a little further out and turned in.

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1)
• Foot on a rope wall hook or some other ledge.
• Forward bend variation.
• If you can, put more height under the foot to make it above hip height.

Virasana (Hero Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Padangusthasana (Bog Toe Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

Prasarita Padottanasana 1 (Widespread Feet Pose 1)

[Perform the following Supta Padangusthasana sequence all on one leg, then all on the other]
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)
Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
Parivrtta Supta Padangusthasana (Revolved Reclined Big Toe Pose)
Supta Padangusthasana 3 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 3)
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1) raised head variation

Virasana (Hero Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Head Stand
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) in Head Stand
Eka Pada Shirshasana (Single Leg Head Stand)
Parshva Eka Pada Shirshasana (Single Leg to the Side Head Stand)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Shoulder Stand
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) in Shoulder Stand
Supta Konasana (Reclined Angle Pose)
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand)
Parshva Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg to the Side Shoulder Stand)

[Do each of the following three hip openers all on crossing and then all on the other]
Ankle to Knee Pose
Revolved Ankle to Knee Pose
• Twist to the side of the top foot.
Side Ankle to Knee Pose
• Extended forward over the side of the top foot.

Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose)

Ardha Baddha Padma Pashchimottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense West Stretch Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Intermediate Group Class

Marichi's Pose 6 or F
Developing the theme of working with latissimus dorsi and pectoralis major, in this practice we are going to look at twists. If you remember from previous practices, the lats continue through the back of the armpit to the upper arm bone, just as the pecs continue through the front of the armpit attaching right next to the lats on the bone. We will be taking our twists from these two muscle groups, so that means we need to take the armpit into consideration as well as we turn. In addition, the whole lumbar/sacral area tends to get a bit thick and fibrous. We need to ensure that the lat fibers widen and move towards the head in a uniform manner, rather than getting stuck and crunched in that area.

Consider the following actions as you go through the poses:
  • Soften and widen the palms, the pecs and the lats.
  • Think of the inner and outer armpits as four pillars of connection and support of the arms into the trunk. Distribute the weight and/or stretch evenly between each of the four pillars of the armpits.
  • Soften and widen the deltoid (the shoulder cap muscle), wrapping it around the shoulder joint.
  • Hollow out the armpit deep into the joint.
  • Stretch the apex of the armpit, where the lat and the pec come together, towards the palms as you either take the sternum towards or away from the head, depending on the pose. Generally, when the arms are overhead move the sternum away from the head. When they are in front of you, move them towards the head. When the arms are clasped behind the back, widen the sternum and move it deeper into the body.
  • Initiate twists in the lat--the left lat, for example, when turning to the right-- and complete the thought by widening the opposite--the right when turning to the right--pec.
  • Complete the twist by firming the back of the left armpit (when turning right) and moving it across the body, while widening the front of the right armpit.

The Sequence

Shoulder Stretch at wall: Place the forearms and elbows on the wall with the palms together. Make a right angle at the hips with the feet under the pelvis hip width apart. Draw the inner thighs back and reach the arms forward.

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)
• Do the pose with a block between the thighs.
• Set yourself up close to a wall so that you can place your elbows and forearms on the wall without leaning forward any more than you would normally be in the pose.

Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana (Revolved Hand to Big Toe Pose) with the raised foot on a ledge

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Have the hands up on blocks set to the lowest level. You might want to set yourself up with the blocks against a wall and the mat folded over the blocks if you find yourself slipping.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Have the feet up on the lowest level blocks.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Hands on the blocks turned up one level.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Feet on the blocks turned up one level.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Hands on the blocks turned up to the highest level.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Feet on the blocks turned up to the highest level.

Uttanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
• Have the hands flat on the floor on either side of the feet. If you are unable to get the whole of the hand down, put blocks underneath.

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) with the hands on blocks
• Two stages: first the hands under the shoulders; second the arms alongside the ears.

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand) with the hands on blocks

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)
• Simple variation with the Padmasana (Lotus Pose) leg in Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) against the inner thigh of the opposite leg instead. Bind with a belt around the foot.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)
• Have the hand that is on the floor flat on a block turned up as high as you like.

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)
• Either the full variation, if possible, or some other modification as necessary.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)
• Have the hand that is on the floor flat on a block turned up as high as you like.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Head Stand
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) in Head Stand

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
• Support the thigh with a block, bolster or blankets.

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
• Back against the wall, sitting up on blankets as necessary to get the sitting bones underneath you.
• Place a narrow-folded blanket behind the lower back.
• Spend half the time with arms down by the sides, then raise the arms overhead.

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
• Back against the wall, sitting up on blankets as necessary to get the sitting bones underneath you.
• Remove the blanket in the back and place a block between the feet.
• Spend half the time with arms down by the sides, then raise the arms overhead.

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
• Back against the wall, sitting up on blankets as necessary to get the sitting bones underneath you.
• Place the block under the feet.
• Spend half the time with arms down by the sides, then raise the arms overhead.

Utthita Marichyasana (Extended Marichi’s Pose) variation
• Bind the arms as if twisting away from the bent leg in Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1).

Utthita Marichyasana (Extended Marichi’s Pose)

Marichyasana 5 (Marichi’s Pose 5) twist only
• Bind the arms and twist away from the raised knee.

Marichyasana 6 (Marichi’s Pose 6)
• Two stages: first with the elbow to the outer knee; second binding the arms, using a belt if necessary.

Chatushpadasana (Four Feet Pose)

Reclined ankle-to-knee glute stretch

Chatushpadasana (Four Feet Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Chatushpadasana (Four Feet Pose)

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)
• 5 to 10 min.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• 5 to 10 min.


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Level 1 Group Class

Single Leg Frog Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Have a block between the thighs and pull it back.
• Grip the edges of the mat and pull them forward.

Child’s Pose
• Grip the edges of the mat and pull them forward.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Seal the hands into the mat.

Child’s Pose
• Seal the hands into the mat.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lunge with the back leg up

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
• Have the knees a little bit bent.
• Hold onto the elbows and draw the upper arms down towards the floor.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vajrasana (Downward Facing Thunderbolt Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)
• 3 rounds.

[Perform the following series flowing from pose to pose, holding each for 30 seconds or so.]

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose
Plank Pose on the tops of the feet
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose
Plank Pose on the tops of the feet
Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose
Plank Pose on the tops of the feet
Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose on the tops of the feet
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)
• 2 repetitions.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose on the tops of the feet
Lower yourself with control to the floor

Makarasana (Crocodile Pose)
• 2 repetitions, both finger crossings.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose on the tops of the feet
Lower yourself with control to the floor

Shalabhasana 2 (Locust Pose 2)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose on the tops of the feet
Lower yourself with control to the floor

Eka Pada Bhekasana (Single Leg Frog Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose on the tops of the feet
Lower yourself with control to the floor

Lung with the back knee down

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior Pose 3)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Ardha Halasana (Half Plough Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab

Pasted Graphic
At the studio in Brooklyn two of the teachers (Eve Holbrook and Jen Kagan) are teaching a series of workshops of sequences that they were taught in RIMYI, the Iyengar center in Pune, by Geeta Iyengar. I have yet to make it to them, but Kristen has and she’s been wowed by Geeta’s sequencing. So she had the idea of us doing a sequence from Geeta’s book “Yoga: A Gem for Women.”

“Gem” is a tough book to read. It’s full of great information, but it is really badly laid out, which is a shame. Published in 1990, it has tips and sequences that are useful not just to women. Her sequencing is extremely interesting and unconventional, by the standards of what is thought acceptable in the Iyengar community at large. In the sequence that Kristen and I practiced (reproduced below from p.112 of the 2002 Timeless Books edition) Head Stand is this first thing you do, without a warm-up, and you do twists, ropes and back bends after Shoulder Stand. All of these things would be considered no-no’s in a class taught in the West these days. And this sequence is part of what she calls the “Elementary Course.”

Geeta is, however Mr. Iyengar’s successor and what she says, goes. I find it interesting how there is a constant discrepancy between the way things are supposed to be done and the way senior teachers and the Iyengars themselves actually do things. Iyengar yoga is increasingly presented as this rigid, militaristic practice in the West, when the truth is there is still a great amount of playfulness in the way it is taught in India. [There are, of course, horror stories of aggressive and damaging behavior from senior teachers that filter back from Pune, so let us not paint too rosy a picture of the mothership.]

Try this sequence out and see how you feel afterwards. I’m writing this the morning after the practice. My back is sore, in a good way, and I had an excellent and refreshing night’s sleep. There’s definitely something in this way she is sequencing that makes me want to explore it more.

The Sequence

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

Prasarita Padottanasana 1 (Wide Spread Feet Pose 1)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1)

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 2 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 2)

Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)

Virasana (Hero Pose)

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)

Halasana (Plough Pose)
• Toes on a chair.

Ardha Halasana (Half Plough Pose)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) seated portion only

Bharadwajasana 1 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 1)

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) on the ropes (She calls this Yoga Kurunta I)
• Leaning forward holding onto the ropes with the feet away from the wall.

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) on the ropes (She calls this Yoga Kurunta 2)
• Leaning forward holding onto the ropes with the feet at the wall.

Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) over a chair
• She presents it over a bench so that the body is horizontal. We used 2 chairs.
• Reach the arms through the front chair legs to grab the back chair legs.

Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) over a chair
• Still on the two chairs, slide off until you can get your head and arms to the floor in the classic set-up.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand)
• This first variation is presented with the hands on the back as in Sarvangasana the hips and legs horizontal and the feet pressing against a bench at the wall. We just used the wall.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand)
• This second variation is presented lying over a high Setu Bandha Bench so that only the pelvis is on the bench. We used two chairs and bolsters under the shoulders. IO found this really hard on the sacrum and had to come out of it pretty quickly, though Kristen didn’t have a problem

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Intermediate Group Class

Intense Side Stretch Pose variation
I’ve been rather consumed with this idea of the pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi coming together deep in the armpit. The way they feed in toward the upper arm bone means that pec major makes up part of the muscular ridge that forms the inner or front armpit, while latissimus dorsi makes up part of the ridge that forms the outer or back armpit. (When the arms are down it makes sense to me of thinking of these ridges as front and back. When the arms are up overhead, I usually think of them as inner and outer as a result of their position relative to the head.) I’ve found that working with the armpits, chest and back in this way creates incredible strength and stability through the shoulder girdle and core, including activating and expanding serratus anterior in a powerfully supportive way.

Think of the following points as you go through the practice:
  • Soften and widen the palms, the pecs and the lats.
  • Think of the inner and outer armpits as four pillars of connection and support of the arms into the trunk. Distribute the weight and/or stretch evenly between each of the four pillars of the armpits.
  • Soften and widen the deltoid (the shoulder cap muscle), wrapping it around the shoulder joint.
  • Hollow out the armpit deep into the joint.
  • Stretch the apex of the armpit, where the lat and the pec come together, towards the palms as you either take the sternum towards or away from the head, depending on the pose. Generally, when the arms are overhead move the sternum away from the head. When they are in front of you, move them towards the head. When the arms are clasped behind the back, widen the sternum and move it deeper into the body.

A note about props: I’ve found that foam blocks are not ideal for the Down Dog and Hand Stand variations presented here. They serve their purpose, just be aware that they can be a little slippery and the wrists tend to sink into them.

The Sequence

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
• Lie back over a bolster arranged across the back.

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)
• Do the pose with a block between the thighs.
• Set yourself up close to a wall so that you can place your elbows and forearms on the wall without leaning forward any more than you would normally be in the pose.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Have the hands up on blocks. You might want to set yourself up with the blocks against a wall and the mat folded over the blocks if you find yourself slipping.

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
• Have the hands flat on either side of the feet, fingers lined up with the toes. Put blocks under the hands if necessary.

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• First stage: Hand under the shoulders, palms flat, back flat. Use blocks if necessary.
• Second stage: Arms forward, head down. Palms flat again.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Hands on blocks.

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• Do the pose with the hands clasping the elbows behind the back. Change the crossing when doing the second side.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Hands on blocks.

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• Full pose with the hands in Pashchima Namaskarasana (Reverse Prayer Pose).

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)
• Hands on blocks.

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Spread Feet Pose)
• Arms alongside the ears as for Adho Mukha Shvanasana.

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Spread Feet Pose)
• Hands clasping the elbows behind the back. Do both crossings.

Prasarita Padottanasana 2 (Wide Spread Feet Pose 2)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
• With the hands flat on either side of the feet, fingers lined up with the toes.

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) on a chair
• Lift the back of the armpit towards the ceiling.
• Roll the front of the armpit towards the floor.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• 5 to 10 min.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Have a sandbag or some other weight along the length of the sternum.
• 5 min.

Ujjayi 4 (Victorious Breath 4) in Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Be sure to take the sandbag/weight off the sternum for this.
• Full, easy expansive breaths.
• 5 min.

Ujjayi 8 (Victorious Breath 8) in any comfortable seated pose
• Put a tennis (or some other) ball under each armpit to support the arms.
• Full, easy expansive breaths.
• 5 min.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• 5 to 10 min.


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Practice Lab

Marichi's pose 1 (Bound Twist Variation)
Pectoralis Major and Latissimus Dorsi have an interesting relationship with each other. Though one is high on the body and in front and the other low and in back, they meet on the upper arm bone deep in the armpit. When working these poses, think of the following actions:
  • Widen the lats and the pecs as evenly as possible. Widen also the palms.
  • Soften and deepen the armpit as you soften and widen the deltoids around the shoulder joint.
  • When twisting to the right, initiate the movement by widening the right deltoid and the left lat. Reverse this when twisting to the left.

The Sequence

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
• Lie back over a bolster arranged across the back.

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)
• Do the pose with a block between the thighs.
• Set yourself up close to a wall so that you can place your elbows and forearms on the wall without leaning forward any more than you would normally be in the pose.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Hands on blocks.

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• Do the pose with the elbows clasped behind the back.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Hands on blocks.

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)
• Simple variation with the Padmasana (Lotus Pose) leg in Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose) and binding with a belt around the foot and over the Virasana (Hero Pose) thigh.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)
• Full pose.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)
• With the hands on blocks.

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1)
• Bind the arms in the pose.
• Only twist away from the bent leg, do not go forward into the full pose.

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)
• Bind the arms in the pose.

Marichyasana 5 (Marichi’s Pose 5)
• Bind the arms in the pose.
• Only twist away from the bent leg, do not go forward into the full pose.

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)
• Bind the arms in the pose.

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) over a bolster or a bench

Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) on a chair

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Hold the pose for 10 to 15 minutes.

Ujjayi 4 (Victorious Breath 4) in Shavasana

Ujjayi 8 (Victorious Breath 8) in any comfortable seated pose
• Tennis balls in the armpits to support the arms.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• 5 minutes.


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Level 1 Group Class

Cow Face pose with the legs together
This week we took some time to stretch out and warm up all the leg joints. Then we broke down forward bends into three elements:
  1. Folding at the hips.
  2. Lengthening forward through the sides of the body.
  3. Stretching out the backs of the legs.
Instead of starting with the legs straight, we came into poses with the legs bent, focusing on the depth of the hip crease and the length in the sides of the trunk. Then we practiced straightening the legs, but without losing the first two elements. That meant that we were not necessarily doing the poses with the legs fully straightened.

The Sequence:

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) with the elbows clasped behind the back
• Come into the pose with the ankles belted together and a blanket behind the knees.

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) with the arms in Urdhva Baddhanguliyasna (Upward Bound Fingers Pose)
• Curl the toes under.

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)

Calf massage:
• Come to all fours and take one shin and wedge it into the crack behind the opposite knee.
• Gently press down on the back of the knee to widen and release the flesh there.
• Work your way down the back of the calf in three or four stages, pressing into the soft tissue and releasing any knots.
• End with crossing one ankle on top of the other and sitting back.
• Repeat on the second side.

Arch massage:
• Sit back with one instep pressing into the opposite arch.
• Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds, releasing the flesh of the arch.
• Repeat on the other side.

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) with the toes curled under
• This should be a little easier now.

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) variation
• The common variation is to cross one knee behind the other and sit back in between the heels.
• In this variation, press the shins together and sit back without letting them come apart.
• Do this variation twice. The first time, support your self with a block. The second, try to balance.

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)
• Do the common variation, keeping the hips level, sitting up on a block or blankets to achieve this if necessary.

Seated Garudasana (Eagle Pose) twist.
• In a seated position, cross the right leg over the left and hook the foot behind the left ankle.
• If you are unable to hook the foot, press the shins together.
• Roll to you left, so that the right leg is on top and walk the upper body around to the left so that it lengthens out behind you.
• hold for 30 to 60 seconds and then do the other side.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Utkatasana (Furious Pose) with a block between the thighs

Utkatasana (Furious Pose) with a block between the thighs INTO Uttanasa (Intense Stretch Pose)
• Once in Uttanasa bend the legs, deepen the hip creases and lengthen the sides of the trunk down towards the floor.
• Work on straightening the legs without losing the depth in the hip crease, perhaps not straightening them all the way in the pose if necessary.

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2) INTO Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose) INTO Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) INTO Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) INTO Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) flat back only
• Start with the front leg a little bent to get the depth in the hip crease.

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) flat back only INTO Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior Pose 3) INTO Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) full pose

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose with a blanket behind the knees

Virasana (Hero Pose) with a blanket behind the knees and the hips on a block.

Virasana (Hero Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Dwwnward Facing Dog Pose)

Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) on the chair

Ardha Halasana (Half Plough Pose) on the chair

Shavasana (Corpse Pose) legs on the chair


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Level 1 Group Class

Table Top Pose

The idea this week was to stretch out the front of the body by opening up the hip crease: lengthening down from the hip crease into the thigh and stretching up from the hip crease to the top of the head. Keep the lower back from crunching by widening the back ribs, lengthening the buttock flesh down the body and stretching the sides of the waist up towards the head.

The Sequence

Camel Pose
Opening Stretches
• Lie on the back with the feet flat and the knees up. Wrap the arms across the chest and hugh the shoulder blades. Stay here for a minute or so to soften and widen the back body. At the half-way mark of your time here, change the crossing of the arms.
• Still on the back with the knees up, reach the right arm over head, resting it on the floor. Bring the left hand across to the top of the chest on the right side. As you inhale, reach through the arm. As you exhale, keep reaching through the arm and press the chest down into the floor. Widen the back ribs.

Opening Vinyasa
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Lunge with the back leg straight
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Lunge with the back leg straight, second side
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Hands Pose) with a belt around the wrists
• Press out into the belt and widen the back

Utkatasana (Furious Pose) with a belt around the wrists
• Press out into the belt and widen the back

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1) with the hands on the hips

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1) with a belt around the wrists
• Press out into the belt and widen the back

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lunge Sequence
• Back leg up, hands on the floor
• Back knee down, hands on the floor
• Back knee down, hands on blocks under the shoulders
• Back knee down, front foot on one block, one hand on second block under shoulder so that trunk is lifted
• Back knee down, block under back foot, toes curled under, one hand on second block under shoulder so that trunk is lifted.

Purvottanasana (Intense East Stretch Pose) Table Top Variation with the hands on blocks

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) with Pashchima Baddha Hastasana (elbows clasped behind the back)

Purvottanasana (Intense East Stretch Pose) Table Top Variation with the hands on blocks

Ushtrasana (Camel Pose) with the feet up on a bolster

Ushtrasana (Camel Pose) either repeating with the bolster, or toes curled under, or full pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) holding the ankles with the feet on a block

Reclined buttock stretch
• One ankle on the opposite thigh, draw the legs in.

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) holding the ankles with the feet on a block

Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) with the feet on the wall)

Parshva Bharadwajasana (Side Bharadwaja’s Pose) on the bolster

Shavasana (Corpse Pose) with a bolster under the knees


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Intermediate Group Class

Single Leg Side Shoulder Stand
In this practice, focus on releasing and widening the big muscle groups of the back: gluteus maximus, latissimus dorsi and trapezius. Soften and unlace the spine from the back, as we have been doing in previous classes.

In the twisted poses, keep the back body soft and wide and turn from the back ribs. Come into the pose and pause for a moment before activating the twist. Allow the basic shape of the pose to help release the big back muscles. Then when twisting, say, to the right, widen the left back ribs away from the spine and around to the sternum as you widen the right ribs away from the sternum around into the spine, keep the bones and muscles wide and full so as not to pinch along the spine. As you turn, differentiate the upper ribs from the shoulder girdle, so that the twist can happen inside the collarbones, arm bones and shoulder blades.

The Sequence

Utkatasana (Furious Pose) on ropes
• Hold onto rope and hang in the pose to stretch out the back.

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1) with foot on ledge

Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana (Revolved Hand To Big Toe Pose) with foot on ledge

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Head Stand
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) in Head Stand
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana (Revovled Single Leg Head Stand)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)
• Without binding.

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)
• With binding, using a belt if necessary.

Marichyasana 6 (Marichi’s Pose 6)

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)
• With binding, using a belt if necessary.

Parshva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose) 3 times each side
• Go lightly into the pose, moving with the breath and without holding for more than a moment.
• Go from side to side quickly and smoothly, only holding the pose the last time on each side.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Shoulder Stand
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) in Shoulder Stand
Supta Konasana (Reclined Angle Pose)
Parshva Halasana (Side Plough Pose)
Parshva Karnapidasana (Side pressure on the Ear Pose)
Halasana (Plough Pose)

Parshva Halasana (Side Plough Pose) into
Eka Pada Parshva Sarvangasana (Single Leg Side Shoulder Stand) 3 times each side
• Be up on 1 blanket instead of 3. Use a belt for the arms.
• With the legs in Parshva Halasana on the right side of the head, swing the right leg up and across the body into Eka Pada Parshva Sarvangasana on the left side.
• Go lightly into the poses, moving with the breath and without holding for more than a moment.
• Go from side to side quickly and smoothly, only holding the pose the last time on each side.

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)
• Support the head with a blanket, block or bolster.

Adho Mukha Shavasana (Downward Facing Corpse Pose) over a bolster

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab

Side Shoulder Stand
Like many people, I have a slew of imbalances that plague me. It’s always the same three or four things that are linked, and that go through cycles of being more or less aggravated. When they do flare up, it’s usually a sign that’s something has shifted and everything else is gripping like mad while the body figures out what it’s supposed to be doing. At times like these, I find it best to batten down the hatches and modify my practice accordingly until things sort themselves out. It’s much less crazy-making that way.

Right now my chest and side are incredibly tight and it’s pulling on my shoulder to the point where the muscles there are weak and over-burdened. So I came up with this practice that includes a lot of side stretches, twists and chest-openers to help create some space in the body.

The Sequence

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog) on the ropes

Side stretch over a bolster

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose) with a bolster across the back

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) With the arms unbound

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Parivrtta Parshvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)

Ropes 1--8-10 rounds

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Head Stand
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) in Head Stand)
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana (Revolved Single Leg Head Stand)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
• Leg supported by a bolster.

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
• Rolling all the way to the side so that the leg is resting on the floor.

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Shoulder Stand
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) in Shoulder Stand
Supta Konasana (Reclined Angle Pose)
Parshva Halasana (Side Plough Pose)
Eka Pada Parshva Sarvangasana (Single Side Shoulder Stand)
Parshva Sarvangasana (Side Shoulder Stand)
Eka Pada Setu Bandha (Single Leg Bridge Pose) from drop-back
Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) from drop-back

Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose)

Maha Mudra (Great Seal)

Parivrtta Janu Shirshasana (Revolved Head of the Knee Pose)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 2 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 2)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Level 1 Group Class

Revolved Triangle Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Floor Stretch Sequence:
• Lying on the back, place the right ankle on the left thigh and draw the left thigh in.
• Roll over onto the left side, place the right foot flat on the floor and turn the thigh so the shin point straight up.
• Hook the right leg around the left, drop the knees all the way over to the left and take a twist.
• Repeat on the second side.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) flat back only

Prasarita Padottanasana 1 (Widespread Feet Pose 1) flat back only

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) arms reaching forward

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose) 2 times

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1)

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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