Pose of the Week: Child’s Pose

Child's Pose.jpg

Child’s Pose

BALASANA

“Life is the balance of holding on and letting go.”

~ Keith Urban

Benefits of the pose:

  • Relax’s the mind
  • Open’s hips gently
  • Stretches hips, thighs, and ankles
  • Releases the spine, offering pain relief

Asana Breakdown:

It seems like everyone I have talked to is going through a bit of a thunderous week. In honor of these trying times, I offer up one of my favorite poses: Child’s Pose (Balasana). When I teach, I often invite students to set an intention at the very beginning of class and then recall it here. It’s such a sweet opportunity to bow down to the Sadguru, the teacher within us all, and the forces around us, regardless of whether they are disconcerting or pleasant. Each is a gift. There is so much strength in surrendering.

Often, I enter into Balasana before the first Down Dog. From a table position where your knees are stacked under the hips and the wrists are stacked bellow the shoulders, push back into a wide-legged Child’s Pose. Allow the big toes to touch. Do not cross over the feet over one another. Natural inclination to cross the feet can mean there are other emotional and physical disturbances often in the spine or other areas of the body. Sink down through the hips, finding a seat on your ankles. Reach the arms over head, touching your forehead to the floor.

The variation above is an active child’s pose, it is not passive nor wavering: the arms stretched out overhead are not touching the ground. I am rooting down through my seat, aware of the placement of my hips and feet, releasing through the heart. The nature of this pose is very apanic. Apana is a counterpart to prana as one of the five Vayus (wind). Apana has it’s seat in the pelvic floor, whereas prana holds its seat in the heart’s center. The natural lengthening of the tailbone here provides the grounding and rooting qualities of apana to occur. To find balance between the two (prana and apana), take the awareness to the heart center, create space between the neck/head and shoulders. Spread the collar bones away from one another.

Variations:

If there is pain caused by being unable to rest your sit bones on your ankles, you may role up a blanket and place it between your upper and lower thighs. Some people also like to place a block underneath there forehead to offer more support and ease any intensity in the spine. Child’s pose can also be practiced in many ways, here are a few options: Option 1) wide legged child’s pose (as shown above), Options 2) Leg’s together, arms come on the floor behind your near the feet, Option 3) Legs together, walk hands out in front of you to one side to get stretch in the side body.

Contradictions:

Avoid child’s pose when pregnant, if you have sensitive knees or have had knee surgery, or if you are experiencing diarrhea (Child’s).

Sources:

“Child’s Pose – Balasana – Yoga Pose.” Yoga Journal. Yoga Journal, 28 Aug. 2007. Web. 08 Sept. 2015.

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.