Pose of the Week: Eight Angle

Ashtavakrasana.jpg

Eight Angle

ASHTAVAKRASANA

Pose Benefits:

  • Strengthens Arms, Wrists, Shoulders and Abdomen
  • Stretches Legs
  • Improves Balance
  • Tones inner Thighs

Asana Prep:

No doubt this is a more challenging asana and it is important to make sure you are fully warmed up to practice. To prep for this asana, I like to sit in staff and come into a “rock the baby” motion. Take your knee in on hand and your foot in the other and gently begin to twist your torso, rocking your leg back and forth as if it were a baby. If there’s more available, you can cradle your leg in your elbow creases. Repeat on the other side.

Asana Breakdown:

When you are fully warmed up and ready to begin, start in staff. Making sure your pelvic floor is tilted forward and your spine is erect. Begin with your left leg. Prop it behind your left shoulder. Firmly rooting your hands directly underneath your shoulders, make sure all five knuckles are connected to the floor. Move your weight  from your bottom to your wrists so that your sit bones comes off the ground. Now your right leg should be extended while your left leg sits above your left shoulder. This is a great place to begin and may be where you find yourself pushed to your edge. However, if there is more, hook your right foot to your left. Extend both legs and deeply bend your elbows so that your arms are parallel with the floor.

Food for Thought:

As you may notice, I am smiling in this photo. For me, this asana is not always an easy task, however, a teacher of mine once said that when you are in the midst of struggle, especially in an asana — but also in day to day life — try smiling and notice how the asana changes. So I encourage you to find the posture that pushes you and move into the meditative, nonattached mind, and smile. See how it changes your practice and how it changes your life from day to day. ❤

Pose of the Week: Extended Side Angle

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Extended Side Angle

UTTHITA PARSVAKONASANA

Benefits of the pose:

  • Relieves shoulder & back stiffness
  • Relieves Constipation
  • Reverses Infertility
  • Strengthens legs, knees, & ankles
  • Stretches side body
  • Opens Chest
  • Relieves back pain
  • Relieves Menses pain

Asana Break Down:

To get into this pose start in Warrior II. Checking your alignment: make sure the front ankle aligns with the back arch. The back foot should be at roughly a 45 degree angle. Bending the font arm, allow it to rest gently on your from thigh, extending your other arm over head. Another variation of this pose is to place your front hand on the ground next to your front foot instead of putting your hand on your thigh. Find your strength in your core so that all of your weight doesn’t rest on your from thigh. Open the chest and take the gaze towards the sky.

 

Pose of the Week: Crow

Crow

Crow

BAKASANA

Benefits of the pose:

  • Strengthens Upper Arms & Wrists
  • Increases Focus
  • Works Core
  • Stretches Upper Back
  • Tones Abdominal Organs

Asana Breakdown:

To get into this pose, begin in malasana firmly place your hands directly in front of you. Rooting down through your first three knuckles, begin to lift up onto the balls of your feet. As a beginner, you can begin to rock back and forth hear. Perhaps, holding the pose for only a second or two and then coming back to the ground. Allow the knees to draw in closely to the armpits as the shoulders move over the wrists, aligning with the middle finger. Draw your feet close to your glutes as you begin to work towards gradually straightening the arms. Once the arms are completely extended, you move from Crow to Crane! ❤

Pose of the Week: Eagle Pose

Eagle (behind)

Eagle

GARUDASANA

Pose Benefits:

  • Increases balance and proprioception
  • Increases flexibility
  • Open Shoulders and Hips
  • Relieves back ache & sciatica
  • Asthma

Asana Breakdown:

Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Beginners may want to practice next to a wall. Slowly and gently begin to bend your knees, rooting into the left leg, allow your right leg to come off the ground crossing over the left. Some people have the flexibility to hook their right foot behind their thigh. If that’s not in your practice, don’t fret! Simply crossing over is just fine. Begin to sink deeper into the hips, cross the left hand over the right, mirroring the pattern of your legs. Allow the collar bones to lift and spread, breathe deeply here. Connect with your core, tucking your tailbone. Find your drishti (gazing point) and begin to left your elbows so that they align with your shoulders. Another variation is to fold forward so that the knees and elbows touch.

Eagle (profile)

Pose of the Week: Peaceful Warrior

Peaceful Warrior.jpg

Peaceful Warrior

SHANTI VIRABHADRASANA

“There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path. There is no path to love. Love is the path. There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.”

~Dan Millman

After the incredible amount of violence this week, it only seems fitting that the pose of the week would be peaceful warrior. I love that traditional yoga often centers around the warrior postures. It reminds us, we do not need vengeance to be strong. We do not need to inflict pain upon another to be triumphant. It reminds us that we do not count our victories as the number of wars have defeated on the battle field, but rather the amount of wars we have overcome within ourselves.

My heart goes out to those suffering right now at the hand of another. I feel so removed from that reality, I can only say this: The war stops externally, when the war stops internally. Peace is a choice. And it is possible. Do not lose faith. Do not lose your smile to grief. Draw inward and we will be triumphant. ❤

om shanti om shanti om shanti om.

Benefits of the Pose:

  • Strengthens the Legs
  • Stretches abdominal muscles and engages core
  • Stretches and supports the lungs
  • Opens Chest & Shoulder
  • Opens Heart

Asana Break Down:

Come into Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), check your alignment with the front ankle. Make sure it is in alignment with the arch of the back foot. The back foot should be flat at a 45 degree angle. Bend deeply into the front knee. Make sure your front knee does not go past the front ankle. Draw the thighs together, squaring the hips, as if they were being pressed between two panes of glass. Arms should come out directly from the shoulder blades. Turn the hands towards the sky and bend backwards. Back and highly presses into the back leg. Most of the strength is being drawn from the core; the weight is not on the back knee. Open the chest and the heart lifts and spreads. Front arm comes over head, gaze comes towards the sky or the thumb.

 

Above, I have a chant you can say out loud or silently to yourself, either in this posture or sitting quietly. Om shanti translates into “om” the divine universe and “shanti” translates to peace, as a phrase it means may the divine creator, energy, and wisdom grant eternal peace to all things.

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.