Pose of the Week: Dolphin

dolphin

Dolphin

MAKARASANA

Benefits of the Pose:

  • Relieves mild depression, headaches & back pains
  • Helps to calm the mind
  • Relieves symptoms of osteoporosis
  • Strengthens shoulders and abdominals
  • Stretches Hamstrings
  • Opens Heart
  • Preparation for forearm balance

Such a beautiful posture, amazing for alignment and strengthening the body to prepare for forearm balance. To get into this posture, begin in table or Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down ward facing dog). Once you have come into alignment in your preparatory posture, come down to your fore arms. Hands can come together into prayer, lay flat on the floor, or gently be clasping one another. If hamstrings are tight, you may take a bend in the knees. Otherwise, root though your ankles, allowing them to press into the floor. Allow the collar bones to lift and spread as shoulder blades draw near one another, chest beams towards the knees. Head hangs heavy. ❤

Please feel free to leave any questions, comments, or recommendations bellow.

Pose of the Week: Upward Facing Dog

Photo Credit: Lily Russo

Upward Facing Dog

URDVHA MUKHA SVANASANA

Benefits of the pose:

  • Strengthens arms, shoulders & wrists
  • Stretches spine, lungs & shoulders
  • Tones stomach muscles
  • Helps relieve mild depression and fatigue
  • Opens chest

Asana Breakdown:

To get into this pose, begin in low cobra. Firmly press your hands into the ground as your arms lengthen. Draw shoulder blades onto the back as the collar bones begin to lift and spread. Feet are together, big toes touching, tops of the feet touching the ground. Hips, thighs and shins are off the mat. Chin can gently tilt towards the ceiling.

Sources:

“Upward-Facing Dog.” Yoga Journal. Cruz Bay Publishing, n.d. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Pose of the Week: Hanumanasana

Lord Hanuman Pose

HANUMANASANA

Benefits of the Pose:

  • Stretches groin, hips, & thighs
  • Opens Heart
  • Strengthens & improves functionality of abdominal muscles
  • Increases flexibility of hips when practiced frequently

Asana Breakdown:

This pose requires great flexibility and strength and definitely requires a bit of a warm up before getting into it. Personally, I keep this posture till one of my final poses, to ensure that I don’t hurt myself and can get the most benefit out of the asana. For preparation, I like to start off in Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Hanuman/Half Splits). To begin, start in Downward Facing Dog. Inhale one leg into three legged-dog, exhale step it in between your legs and bring your back leg down to the floor. Begin to straighten the front leg, allowing your foot to come off the floor, resting on your ankle. Begin to melt your heart closer to your knee and breathe here. This is the traditional prep pose for Hanumanasana.

Once you feel comfortable here, you can begin to ease your front leg forward and extend your back leg on the ground behind you. Straightening both and coming into full Hanumanasana. Here, you want to square your hips as much as possible. So let’s say your left leg is forward, take your attention to the right hip and begin to draw it closer to the front and allow for an external rotation in the the back leg. Lengthen the spine and allow the collar bones to lift and spread.

This can make the pose uncomfortable. The best way to ease int this pose from grace here is to use your hands as leverage and pull your groin a few inches off the ground. Drawing the thighs in closer together, you will begin to get deeper into the pose as well as your hips. Practice here, until you can comfortably remain in the traditional expression with integrity. From here, you can start to play. Options including, bending the back leg and grabbing the foot, reaching arms up over head or leaning forward over the front leg.

Pose of the Week: Triangle

trikonasana

Triangle Pose

TRIKONASANA

Benefits:

  • Relieves stress & anxiety
  • Aids to back tension and pain
  • Strengthens thighs, ankles & knees
  • Stretches abdominal muscles that assist better digestion.
  • Good for sciatica, osteoporosis, & flat feet

Asana Break Down:

Begin in Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), straighten front leg and extend forward, hinging your torso over your front thigh. Allow your front hand to find a block, shin or the floor. If your hands are placed on the floor, make sure your hand is firmly placed palm touching the ground or remain on your fingertips without compromising your thumb. Some people even like to allow their hand to free float by their shin or ankle, using their core muscles to maintain the integrity of this asana. Allow your other hand to reach towards the sky.

Next, we want to align the body by twisting deeper in the pose. To do this, imagine someone was pressing into your hand that is in the air and encouraging you to twist your lower ribcage forward. Head should align with the line of the spinal chord. Draw shoulder blades closer to one another and check your torso’s alignment over your front leg. Often, people will puff their chest forward and either collapse their ribcage or put their body dramatically off balance. Make sure the center of your torso aligns with the center of your front leg. Allow there to be a mirco-bend in the front leg so that you don’t hyper extend. Back hip muscle should descend down towards the ground. Allow the back body to lengthen. Take your gaze towards the sky.  ❤

Pose of the Week: Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog.jpg

Downward Facing Dog

ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA

Ego says,’ Once everything falls into place, I’ll feel peace.’ Spirit says, ‘Once I feel peace, everything will fall into place.'” ~Marianne Williamson 

Benefits of the pose:

  • Decreases Stress & Mild Depression
  • Wakes up the body
  • Stretches shoulders, hands, spine, & calves
  • Strengthens hands, arms & legs
  • Relieves insomnia, headaches, and back pain
  • Helps with digestion

Asana Breakdown:

I want to take you a little farther down this path than maybe you have gone before. Practically everyone has done Down Dog at least once in their life, but I’ve found a lot of people, myself included, don’t really know how to do it. I had been practicing it for about 7 years before someone showed me how to properly do it. Here’s what I mean: Begin in table pose, flat back, hips stacked above knees, shoulders stacked above ankles. Curl onto your toes and lift up your legs. And allow your hips to move both upwards and backwards. This is about as far as people usually go, but wait, there’s more! From here, Root down through the first three knuckles of your palm so that they touch the mat. Allow for an external rotation through the shoulders. By this I mean that your collarbones should move away from one another, and that your shoulders should physically turn outward. Usually, this compromises the tailbone and causes the chest to beam forward. Correct this by energetically wrapping your ribs into your sternum and tucking the tummy inward. Check to make sure you haven’t compromised your hips, continue to move them upwards and backwards. Now, for the final element of the posture: feel an energetic pull between both of your forearms as if they were moving closer together. Put all of this together and you, my friend, have yourself a downward facing dog!

For a visual break down check out my youtube video: https://youtu.be/Zn3-XJlBltU

As always, leave any questions or comments bellow! If you have a request for the next pose of the week let me know! ❤

Sources:

“Downward-Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana – Yoga Pose.” Yoga Journal. Cruz Bay Publishing, 28 Aug. 2007. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.

Pose of the Week: Extended Puppy Pose

puppy pose

Extended Puppy Pose

UTTANA SHISHOSANA

The body is my temple, asanas are my prayers.”

~ BKS Iyengar

Benefits of the Pose:

  • Relief spinal & neck tension
  • Relieves chronic stress, tension, and insomnia 1
  • Strengthens arms, hips, and upper back 1
  • Opens shoulders
  • Opens heart

Asana Breakdown:

This is a great gentle stretch and restorative pose. It’s very simple and easy to get into. In a Yin practice this pose is referred to as anahatasana, which means heart-melting pose 2. To get into it, begin in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Muhka Svanasana) and drop down onto all fours, checking your alignment of shoulders, wrists, knees, and hips: Shoulders should be stacked above wrists, hips above knees. Extend your arms out in front of you. Keep your arms active, being sure that they don’t touch the ground. Curl your toes underneath you. Allow the head to relax, coming to the floor, a blanket, or a block. Allow the collar bones to spread away from one another.

As the chest opens up, allow your heart to melt towards the floor. Notice, the tendency here is to compromise the lower back by dropping the ribcage too low. Take a moment here to wrap the ribs in closer like they were going to fold onto the sternum. Tailbone should descend here, activating Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha. To activate these locks within the body, feel as if you tightening a belt a notch or two tighter than usual, causing the belly to move upward and in.

Bandha-Basics

Image from: http://bluezeliayoga.com/tag/uddyana-bandha/

Ultimately, this is a yummy pose and should feel really safe and comfortable to the body, take a moment to get settled into the pose, making micro adjustments to find your sweet spot. Find your breath here and breathe deep. ❤

Sources:

  1. “The Health Benefits of Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Pose) | CNY Healing Arts Wellness Center & Spa.” CNY Healing Arts Wellness Center Spa The Health Benefits of Uttana Shishosana Extended Puppy Pose Comments. CNYHA, 25 Feb. 2011. Web. 06 Oct. 2015.
  2. “Extended Puppy Dog Pose – Uttana Shishosana | GaiamTV.” Gaiam TV. Gaiam TV, n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2015.

Pose of the Week: Dancer

dancer

Dancer

NATARAJASANA

Benefits of the pose:

  • Strengthens balance, core, ankle, and legs
  • Develops proprioception
  • Opens heart
  • Opens Shoulders
  • Stretches and strengthen low back

Asana Breakdown:

To get into this pose, begin in Samasthiti, equal standing, begin by placing all of your weight onto one leg, lift your opposite leg by bending the knee and allow your hand to find the top of your foot. Find your drishti here and extend the hand that is not holding the foot towards the sky. Imagine your body like a balancing scale as you begin to hinge your body forward. As you extend forward, lift your bent leg towards the sky like an archer’s bow. Lift and spread through the heart, while also allowing the tailbone to descend. ❤

Variations of Dancer:

Dancer can be achieved in a variety of energetic ways, to get a deep hip stretch, but take away the challenge of balance, feel free to go to a counter, ballet bar or a wall. Another approach is to rap a strap and loop it around your foot. This can get you deeper into the stretch or allow you to take away any strain you may feel in the arm that is holding the leg. If you have severe hip, knee or leg issues, you can come onto your stomach bend one knee, reach for it with one or both hands, and once again extend your leg towards the ceiling.

Mythology of the pose:

This pose exemplifies aspects of Shiva Nataraja, the lord of destruction. We often think of destruction as a terrible thing, however Shiva can be a liberating force of destruction, causing the death of ignorance, shame, malice and so on. Even more so, dancer is appropriate for this time of year because destruction causes rebirth and change.

As we enter into Fall and the change of seasons, we can honor the divinity and Shiva-like qualities within us all. Like Shiva, Natarajasana encourages us to turn our gaze within and find balance, ease, grace and joy no matter what kind of change we face around us in our day to day life.

Pose of the Week: Garland Pose

malasana

MALASANA

Garland Pose

Benefits:

  • Opens hips
  • Heart opener
  • Strengthens legs
  • Opens & Strengthens ankles
  • Develops core

Asana Breakdown:

This is not one of the most difficult poses, but it is so powerful and is one of my favorites. I love coming into Malasana: using it as a transition, a rest, and a heart opener. It’s pretty basic to get into, however, every body is different and some people do experience a bit of difficulty when they first get into it. To start, get into Mountain Pose (Tadasana), heal toe your feet as wide as your mat, take your hands to heart center, and squat down. Allow your elbows to line up with the crux of your knee, feeling the sensation of your hands being pushed together while your elbows push gently into your knees. Allow the heart to lift and spread . If you find any pain here you can place blanket or a block underneath you to achieve a more restorative rendition of this posture.

Asana Variations:

  • Place a block or a blanket underneath your sit-bones.
  • Place one hand on the ground and open up to one side by lifting the other arm off the ground. Do this on both sides.
  • Take a side bind/twist. Rooting down through both feet, wrap one arm in front of your leg while the other comes behind your back. Both hands should meet behind the knee. Do this on both sides.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this! Let me know if this was helpful or if you have any pose requests bellow! ❤

Pose of the Week: Tree

Tree

Tree Pose

VRIKSHASANA

“I felt my body changing and becoming one with the tree. I could feel my roots deepen into the earth, and my branches reaching towards the sun. Being a tree felt every bit as natural as being a human. I was the same but my form had changed. The whole physical universe became fluid, and time and space lost all meaning for me.”

~Darren Main, Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic

Benefits of the Pose:

  • Increases Balance
  • Stretches and strengthens the legs
  • Opens the Hips
  • Helps to relieve Sciatica
  • Rejuvenates the mind
  • Increases focus and concentration
  • Heart opening

Asana Breakdown:

Start off in Samasthiti, equal standing, also referred to as Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Shift your weight into the left foot, rooting down through your mat. Bend the right knee and allow the right foot to find its placement above or below the knee. Beginners may take a variation where the right ankle comes off the ground and finds its seat on the left leg while keeping the right ball of the foot on the mat. I like to start with my hands in heart center to allow my body to find balance easily as I look upon my chosen drishti (gazing point). From here you may lift your arms overhead, as if they were branches. Heart lifts and spreads as the gaze comes towards the thumbs.

Troubles often Encountered:

You may begin to sway here, like trees often do in the wind. Take deep breathes and try to center yourself, focusing on your third chakra, manipura, located in the middle of your solar plexus. If you fall, that’s okay, too. Trees fall all the time, but then they seed and become trees once again. Do they same and find your expression of tree pose.

Variations:

The dynamic tree has many variations. Option one: Keep hands at heart center. Option two: Hands towards the sky with gaze towards the thumbs or eyes straight ahead. Option three: Close the eyes. Option four: Take a twist to your left side with arms spanning out from the shoulders. Option five: Take a twist to your right side.

tree1 tree2 tree3

Contraindications of the pose:

“Avoid doing this posture if you are suffering from migraine, insomnia, low or high blood pressure (those with high blood pressure may do this pose but without raising their hands overhead, as this may further raise their blood pressure)”(Tree).

“I knew in that moment that the tree was Spirit masquerading as a tree, and I was Spirit disguised as a human . I knew for the first time that there was only One that took shape in many.” 

~Darren Main, Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic

Sources:

“Tree Pose (Vrikshasana).” Tree Pose. Art of Living, n.d. Web. 30 Aug. 2015.

Main, Darren John. Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic. Forres, Scotland: Findhorn, 2002. Print.

Pose of the Week: Bird of Paradise

bird of paradise

Bird of Paradise

SVARGA DVIJASANA

Benefits of the pose:

  • Strengthens legs, hips, quads, and pelvis.
  • Opens the shoulders
  • Increase balance and body awareness
  • Strengthens Core and Abdominals
  • Lengthens the hamstrings

Asana breakdown:

Traditionally, I get into this posture from a variation of extended side angle. I take my hand that is placed on my thigh and reach it under my leg and bring my other hand to grasp it, coming into a bind, Utthita Parsvakonasana (Bound Extended Side Angle). From here, I take my back leg and bring it to the front of my mat, squaring both of my feet. Keeping in mind that I will pour my weight into the leg which is not bound by my hands, I find my drishti (gazing point) and slowly begin to rise up, keeping my bound leg bent. Once my spine is fully erect, I root down through my standing leg. Noticing my foot and toes, allowing them to unclench and find the four corners of the foot. I then draw my shoulder blades closer together, allowing the collarbones to lift and spread away from one another. Once I feel stable in my foundation and my gaze is locked on my drishti, I will extend the bound leg towards the sky. ❤

Troubles often encountered:

It is in the troubles or difficulties with this pose I feel most like a bird. For me, if I have not focused my mind and taken my awareness to the breath, I will begin to wobble, hop (with my leg raised), or loose my balance. My advice here is to release the pose. Come into Tadasana (Mountain) and take some grounding breathes. Assess why you are trying to get into this pose: is it ego or curiosity? Find your root through your mat and pour all of your energy into the quality of your breathe. The quality of the breathe will be the defining factor in all of your asanas, especially more difficult or new pose. When you are ready, reproach the asana with integrity and respect. Find your gazing point and come into your full expression. If you don’t get it on your first try, warm up the legs more with more hip openers and remember why we call it a practice.

Sources:

“Bird of Paradise – Svarga Dvijasana | GaiamTV.” Gaiam TV. Gaiam TV, n.d. Web. 23 Aug. 2015.

Editor, YJ. “Bird of Paradise: 5 Steps to Master This Standing Pose – Yoga Journal.” Yoga

Journal. Yoga Journal, 18 Nov. 2014. Web. 23 Aug. 2015.