5 Poses to Do Every Day

Sthira Sukham Asanam     Patanjali  Yoga Sutra 2.46  

5 Poses to do Every Day!

Oh come on, it wont take you that long.
I know it’s hard to schedule 90 minutes in your day for a yoga class, trust me I know! But we all have 10 minutes for a few yogic things to do at home and remember your home practice doesn’t have to be a complicated 90 min Hot class.

Just roll out your mat & spend a few minute’s in each pose listed, focus on your breathing, on being comfortable in the pose & remember try to feel a sense of freedom in the pose. Don’t get caught up in how it looks, but instead bring your awareness to how it feels. The important thing is to move and articulate the spine in all directions allowing for energy movement and to help with back pain & stiffness. Remember our teaching of Sthira (stability) & Sukha (ease, freedom). Take time in each pose to notice where is the balance between being grounded and stable (Sthira) and being free, physically and mentally?

1st pose is Mountain (Tadasana) –Mountain pose is about taking the time to ‘come to your mat’, in the physical sense as well as a mental & emotional sense. Stand in Mountain pose and turn your attention in. Start to make a connection with your breath and just focus on the quality of your breathing. Tadasana is about rooting and grounding your practice with your intention for coming to the mat. This is the time to reflect on your body (how do you feel, how much energy do you have & what does your body need). Draw energy up from the ground into your feet (Sthira), feel that relaxed energy filling your core body (Sukha). Take 5 breaths.

2nd Pose Forward Fold – Forward Fold from an anatomical perspective is about folding from the hips, stretching your hamstrings and lengthening your low back. It’s always a good thing to relax your back body, but your mind and emotions benefit too. A forward Fold relaxes the mind, soothes the central nervous system and calms the senses. While in your Forward Fold look for the Sukha & the Sthira. Where do you find stability and freedom?

3rd is modified crescent lunge – Why modified instead of full crescent lunge? Because most of us will be doing this sequence either first thing in the morning or right after we get home from work, so we are dealing with cold, tight hip flexors. Although if you want to do the full version all the same principles apply. Raise your arms only after you have drawn up the front body, being careful not to thrust the ribs forward, but rolling the body up one vertebra at a time. Play with shifting the Sthira between the Left foot in front and the Right knee behind, find a balance between those 2 points of contact with the mat. The Sukha in the pose might be in maintaining a calm easiness in the arms overhead, so relax those shoulders. Repeat on the other side.

4th is Twists seated or supine – If you aren’t comfortable (sukha) in seated twists please lay on your back for supine twists. Sitting in Sukhasana (simple crossed legged position) Inhale drawing the arms over head lengthening the body then rotate to the right and bring the arms down. Stay for 5 breaths and come to the center and repeat on the other side. It really is that simple. If laying on your back, draw your knees over your body on the inhale then exhale as you lower them to the right, keeping the left shoulder on the mat. Then repeat on the other side.

5 is Sphinx or Cobra  – Spinal extension (back bend) is an important thing to do every day. Most of us are desk jockeys or at least we sit a lot, so it is necessary to length out the front body. Maybe start with baby cobra and move with your breath. Inhale as you lift up (Sukha) and exhale as you lower down. Keep the hips, legs and feet connected to the mat (Sthira).

6 is savasana –  Yep, Savasana. Taking the time for stillness, even just a few minutes, each day is the most important thing we can do for ourselves. Corpse pose requires a stillness of mind as well as your body. It gives your body a chance to return to normal, helping you to reap the benefits of your practice. Corpse pose is the bridge between your practice time and the rest of your life. Take the time to cross that bridge and take the calm, restorative, energetic properties of your practice into the rest of your life.

 

Om Shanti

~C

Developing your Home Practice……Cobra and Upward facing Dog, We’re in the home stretch now!

 (cobra) &  (Up-Dog) carry most of the same benefits; they are both heart openers, create a sense of expansion throughout the front body, stretching the chest and expanding lung capacity. They open, lengthen and stretch the abdomen aiding in digestion. They stimulate the  heart & throat chakras along with the thyroid. They strengthen the wrists, arms, shoulders and back. Back bends are known for helping with depression, anxiety and stimulating the nervous system helping to alleviate fatigue.

Both Cobra and/or Up Dog are the next pose(s) in the sun salutation series, which is the basis for the home practice we’ve been talking about. From Chaturanga we lift the chest up drawing the heart center forward between the arms, bringing the shoulders on to the upper back. The main difference between Up Dog and Cobra is that in cobra the pelvis, thighs, knees & the tops of the feet remain connected to the mat, while in Up Dog the only thing touching the floor are the hands and feet.

The most important thing to remember in either pose is to avoid compressing and crunching the low back. To do this, lengthen the spine, reaching the tail bone towards your heels, then bring the ribs and chest forward. Try not to ‘tuck’ the tail bone (I know, I know, I keep saying ‘”tucking is a whole post all to its self” and someday I will remember to write it).

Lets look at the details of Cobra; press into the hands to create the lift in the chest, lengthen your rib cage towards the front of your mat, lift the ‘girls up‘ (unless your a guy then keep lifting that chest!) as you draw the tail bone towards the feet, draw the shoulder blades in towards each other, this is a low cobra. To deepen the pose, press a bit more into the hands and begin to use more of the musculature in the upper and middle back to avoid crunching the low back. There is no need to straighten the arms, especially if is causes you to ‘scrunch‘ your shoulders up into your ears. Emphasize the length in your neck by drawing up through the crown of your head. Internally rotate the thighs to broaden the sacrum, and press them firmly into the mat.

Many of the details in Up Dog are the same; create space in your front body, by lengthening out through your tailbone and up through the crown of your head. Let your heart float forward; keep the shoulders away from your ears. The differences are that in Up Dog you ‘do’ want to straighten the arms. Just don’t lock the elbows and don’t press the inside of the elbow forward, that creates hyper-extension. Avoid hanging your body on the shoulders, like a shirt on a clothes hanger. Lift the belly, engaging the Bandhas, wrap the shoulders around and on to the back. Utilize the strength of the back, belly and bandhas to carry the weight of the body. Hug the inner thighs in, engage the hamstrings and press down through the tops of the feet.

If you feel any tension or anxiety building, or if your breath gets shallow back out of the pose a bit. Backbending poses can ‘stir things up’ emotionally, so, as with any pose or sequence, practice Ahimsa along with your asanas.

From your Cobra or Up Dog you can roll to the balls of your feet, deeply engage your belly and begin to lift through the navel, coming to plank (full or modified) then allow the hips to float up to full Down Dog.

From Down Dog slowly lower knees to your mat and sit back in Childs Pose. There you have it! A simple, basic home practice that almost anyone can do.  Take your time, start with 1 or 2 poses and work up to the full sequence. Remember to allow your breath to take center stage in your asana practice. Let the breath lead. Imagine your breath as your dance partner, let it lead you through the ‘dance’ that is your practise.

I guess it’s time to put it all together, thats the sound of me setting up the video camera….I wonder who I can get to be my victim…I mean Yoga model. Oh wait I know, Oh Cherie  ….

Om Shanti

Cheryl

Chaturanga Dandasana; dreading, dreading, dreading

aka, Hover or half plank, Low push up, it doesn’t matter what you call it Chaturanga is still a dreaded pose for yoga virgins. It’s a toughie, I get it, and even men sometimes have trouble with this one. But this pose isn’t all about strength; there is finesse to it as well. And remember this isn’t realllly a pose, nooo it’s not, it’s a transition between plank and cobra/updog. It’s a bridge from point A to point B, albeit, sometimes a shaky pre-Columbian art bridge AKA Romancing the Stone, but a bridge none the less.

Chaturanga builds strength in the obvious places, Triceps, upper back, chest, it is also a great core strengthener and since the foundation of Chaturaga is in  your plank pose, it has all the benefits of Plank as well. Starting in Plank;

  • shoulders over tops of hands
  • long line from crown of head to heels
  • belly drawn in, bandhas engaged
  • press down through the hands to create the lift in the body
  • use the bandhas in the hands too

Ok, now we’re all set up; go on, Chaturanga to your hearts content. Go ahead, lower down…I’ll wait…….

So? How many of you ended up doing ‘bellyflopasana’?

 Yea, like I said it’s a toughie. But this is where the finesse comes in, you have to keep your elbows close to the body as you lower down, otherwise you lose the work of the big muscles in the upper back.  If you’re just learning this pose or having trouble with it lower your knees to the mat. Seriously, lower your damn knees. Sorry, but why wont anyone do that? Did they have a teacher who rapped them on the head with a ruler if they modified a pose?

Look, if your belly is getting to the ground first (before the chest and chin) take  the knees to the ground before you start down, if you’re lowering the belly first you compromise the low back, put too much load on the shoulders and probably lock your elbows. You end up moving through the bones and not the muscles, so how are you getting any stronger if you aren’t using the muscles.    Sigh….

Tips for Chaturanga

  • keep your ears pulled back ( i.e. don’t drop your chin to your chest)
  • press the heart center forward, that helps keep the torso long
  • press the tail bone towards your heels, lengthen don’t tuck, that just flattens out your back, and ‘tucking’ is a whole ‘nother post
  • press down through the hands and engage Uddiyana Bandha as you lower down
  • keep the legs very active, Quads drawn up &  Hamstrings engaged

We wanna avoid this if possible. By tilting the shoulders down towards the finger tips, puts way to much load them.   To protect the shoulders you need to work towards getting a 90 degree angle in the elbows. So try this ….. As you start lowering down press forward out of your toes, that should shift your torso forward enough to get the 90 angle you are looking for in your elbows.

This is lovely Sadie Nardini  doing a damn near perfect Chaturanga. She Rocks for sure.

From that point you can keep pushing forward and roll over your toes into Cobra or Updog.

Happy Hovering 

OmShanti