Pose Of The Month

Pose of the Month: May 2018 Padmasana

April showers bring May flowers, and our pose of the month is Padmasana or Lotus Pose.

Padma= Lotus Asana = Pose

LOTUS is the quintessential yoga pose and probably the most recognizable. It’s deeply associated with meditation and is named after the lotus flower.

In Eastern religions and cultures, the lotus flower is a symbol of purity and enlightenment. It blossoms in stagnant, muddy waters floating pristinely above the surface, untouched by the murk and mire in which it is rooted.

Lotus is considered an advanced pose, as it requires hip flexibility in order to protect the vulnerable knee joints.

Here’s how:

  • Sit on your mat with your legs stretched out in front of you, keeping your spine erect.
  • Bend your right knee and cradle your lower leg with your right foot in the crook of your left elbow. Begin to externally rotate your right hip and carefully place your right foot on your left thigh. Make sure that the sole of your foot points upward and your heel is close to your abdomen.
  • Repeat with your left leg.
  • With both legs crossed and feet placed on opposite thighs, place your hands on your knees.
  • Root your sitting bones down and elongate your spine. Draw your head directly above your hips.
  • Lift your shoulders up towards your ears, squeeze your shoulder blades together and lower them down your back.
  • Hold and continue with long, gentle breaths in and out.
  • To come out, gently remove one foot at a time from your thighs.

This can also be practiced in the half lotus position, ardhapadmasana by sitting in sukhasana easy seated pose and only drawing one foot to upper thigh.

April 2018 Pose of the Month: Eka Hasta Vyaghrasana

Happy April, yogis! Our pose of the month is Eka Hasta Vyaghrasana or One- Handed Tiger Pose!

Eka = One; Hasta = Hand; Vyaghra = Tiger; Asana = Pose

Tiger Pose mirrors the deep stretch a tiger takes when it wakes up. It is a super delicious spinal lengthener and backbend. Use this posture to stretch out your entire front body, from your ankles all the way through your thighs, abdomen, chest, and up to your throat! The one handed variation deepens the opening across your chest and into your shoulder joint.

Here we added a variation with the back knee lifted into a bound down dog. We also added Simhasana Pranayama or Lion’s Breath to increase the purifying benefits of the pose.

Here’s how:

1. Come to a table top position with your shoulders stacked above your wrists and your knees stacked beneath your hips.

2. Engage your abdominal sheath and extend your right arm forward and your left leg back.

3. Bend your left knee to a 90° angle and reach your right hand back for your left ankle.

4. Actively kick your left foot into your right hand to open your chest.

5. Look down at your left thumb for balance. Kick firmly with your left leg and root firmly through your left shoulder as you tuck toes on your right foot into your mat. Use the tension that you’re creating, activate your core and draw your right knee off of the mat.

6. Take a deep inhale through your nose. As you exhale, cross your eyes and stick out your tongue making a “haaaaah” sound at the back of your throat.

Pose of the Month: March 2018 Parivrtta Anjaneyasana

Happy March, yogi friends! It’s the time for new beginnings. New energy flowing in and sweeping out the old stagnant air.

Nothing is better for creating new space than twisting, twisting and …. twisting!

Our pose of the month is Parivrtta Anjaneyasana or Revolved Crescent Lunge.

Parivrtta: to turn around, revolve

Anjaneya: salutation

Asana: pose

This gorgeous pose offers many benefits:

• Strengthens the quadriceps and gluteus muscles

• Stimulates abdominal organs

• Improves digestion and elimination

• Stretches the psoas and hips

• Relieves sciatica pain

• Develops stamina and endurance in your thighs

• Improves your balance, concentration and core awareness

Ok let’s get to it!

1 From downward facing dog, step your right foot between your hands. Extend your left leg back as you press through the ball of your foot. Engage your core. Rise up and bring your palms together at heart center. As you press your left heel back, reach the crown of your head forwards to lengthen your spine and sides.

2 Take a deep inhalation, as you begin to exhale, twist towards your right leg. With your palms still together, place your left tricep on your right thigh, attempting to get your torso as close to your leg as possible.

3 Push your palms together to engage your arms and try to twist in deeper, sending your chest in the direction of the ceiling and shifting your gaze upwards over your right shoulder.

4 Stay here, or extend your left fingertips down to the ground on the outside of your right leg, and reach your right fingertips up the ceiling.

5 Stay here for five breaths. To exit the pose, unwind and place your hands down on the mat, then step back to Downward Facing Dog. Repeat with your left leg forward.

Tips:

*Option to lower your left knee. This will make the pose less intense and provide more opportunity to deepen the twist.

*Deepen the twist by using your breath: Inhale for length and let the exhalations happen naturally to turn the torso around the axis of the spine.

*Stabilize your shoulder girdle to isolate the twist in the spine. Often once we start to twist, the bottom shoulder head rolls forward, pulling the bottom shoulder blade off the back. Instead work on stacking one shoulder directly on top of the other and working to maintain equal width in both shoulder blades and collarbones as you twist.

*Squeeze your back thigh muscles to the bone, activate your back glutes and internally rotate you back thigh to keep your hips square and pelvis stable.

Pose of the Month – February 2018 Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

Happy February, yogis! This is the month of  LOVE so we are featuring eka pada rajakapotasana or one-legged king pigeon pose as our Pose of the Month! While you can see from the image above, in addition to the deep backbend, your hips enjoy a really deep stretch as well!

Benefits:

  • Opens the hip joint
  • Lengthens the hip flexor
  • Stretches the thighs, gluteals, and piriformis and  muscles
  • Extends the groin and illiopsoas
  • Opens chest and shoulders
  • Stretch abdominal muscles and internal organs
  • Brings spine to natural flexion
  • Opens your heart and mind
  • Relieves anxiety and stress
  • Provides a fresh perspective
  • Relieves insomnia

How To:

  • From downward facing dog, lift your right leg up toward the ceiling
  • Bend your right knee and bring that leg forward as if you were going to step into a lunge. Instead of placing your foot down as you would for a lunge, bring your right knee to the floor on the outside of your right hand.  Your right shin may angle back towards the left hip or be more parallel to the front of your mat, depending on your flexibility.
  • Release your left knee to your mat. The front of your left leg is as flat on the floor as possible. Take a look backwards and make sure that your left foot is not sickling inward. It should point straight back.
  • Square your hips towards the front of your mat.
  • Take a block under the right side of your butt as necessary to make the pose more comfortable.
  • Bend your left knee and reach back for your left foot with your left hand.
  • Draw your left foot toward your left glutes, stretching left quads
  • Reach your left hand to your left foot and rotate your shoulder so that your left elbow faces the ceiling
  • Square your shoulders to the front of the room.
  •  Lift from your lower ribs away from your hips to lengthen spine
  • Draw navel to spine to protect your low back
  • Lift your chin toward the sky and drop your head between your shoulder blades
  • Draw shoulder blades together and down your back to open chest toward the ceiling
  • Take five deep breaths into lungs
  • Repeat on left side

Variations:

  • Rather than the backbend, square shoulders forward and lengthen spine
  • Fold your torso  over your right shin leading with your heart, keeping spine long
  • If you have knee issues, lie on back and make a figure four with your legs

Pose of the Month January 2018

Prasarita Padottanasana – Wide Leg Forward Fold

Benefits:

* Stretches as well as strengthens inner & outer legs & ankles – perfect for post work or after a long car ride.

* Great for fatigue or headaches by getting blood moving towards your brain – it is an awesome pick me up.

* Rushes fresh healthy oxygenated blood to the face giving you that beautiful post yoga glow.

How to:

* Begin in Tadasana & turn towards the long edge of your mat.

* Take a wide step out allowing your feet to take up 3-4 feet of mat space.

* Press firmly into the outer edges of your feet, your arches/big toe side has a tendency to collapse, bring your feet closer together to maintain a solid foundation rooted through parallel feet. Option here to bring toes in & heels out.

* Bring hands to hips & inhale to lengthen your spine, keep your chest open & reach the crown of your head to the sky.

Exhale hinge at the hips & begin to fold over your legs, keeping hips over heels. Do not allow your weight to press back.

* Encourage your shoulders away from your ears & put more weight into the ball mounts of your feet (imagine being able to slide a piece of paper under your heels.)

* Take a couple of breaths & ease into the position.

Options:

* For low back pain allow a gentle bend in your knees.

* Place your hands on the earth, reach for your ankles or legs.

* Place one palm on the earth & reach up introducing a twist into your spine (Pictured – repeat on opposite side). 

* Interlace your fingers at the base of your spine & lift your fists up away from your hips.

Allow yourself time to explore this pose, feel the sensation of being upside down. If you are working towards handstands or tripod headstand you can place your palms down & begin lifting your heels off the earth to strengthen the backs of your legs even further & feel yourself growing confident in the change of gravity.

 

October Pose of the Month

Looking back can be dangerous and even painful, sure, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s a quiet beauty in being mindfully contemplative, and a certain maturity required to learn by looking back, all while staying rooted in progress that’s already been made. With broken hearts and confusion that’s erupted for so many of us surrounding recent tragedies, perhaps we need this soft rewinding contemplation more than ever. So, this month we’re bringing you reverse warrior. Stay rooted at the core of who you are, but know that’s it’s okay to bring it back a bit. Reach back, go back, and learn.

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Accessing Reverse Warrior:

  • From warrior II, keep that same strong foundation in your legs
  • Stack your front knee directly over your ankle, and energetically pull your knee back to open your hip
  • Keep your back leg strong and straight, with the sole of your foot grounded at the back of your mat
  • Inhale your front arm up while your back hand drops down with little to no weight on your back leg
  • Look up and continue energizing through your fingertips as your torso stretches back for a side body stretch
  • Try not to compromise the bend in your front lunge

Benefits of Reverse Warrior:

  • Stretches and strengthens legs, groin, and hips
  • Increases blood flow throughout the body, calming the mind
  • Stretches the torso
  • Builds lower body strength

September Pose of the Month

Shift is here. Whether it’s just climatically, and you’re feeling the cool shift in seasons with a somewhat stiff body as you’re embracing for the cold, or it’s something more personal like a total rerouting toward your right life, change can be hard. Keep going, though. You got this. And, if you need a little break along the way, take a child’s pose with open palms to welcome your new intentions.

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Accessing Child’s Pose:

  • Sit on your heels with your big toes together to touch, and open your knees wide toward the outside of your mat or blanket
  • Hinge forward between your legs as you use your hands to crawl forward and low
  • Rest the center of your forehead on the earth
  • Internally rotate your arms so that your palms flip upward
  • If you have tight hips and your seat leaves your heels as you surrender forward, option to use a blanket between your back thighs and calves for added support

Benefits of Child’s Pose:

  • Stretches hips, thighs, and ankles
  • Stretches and soothes the spinal cord
  • Relieves stress and fatigue
  • Releases back and neck tension
  • Teaches surrender

August Pose of the Month

Wowie, this weather’s got us tip-toeing into the fall like “NOOOOOOOOO!” It might be chilly out today, but our pose of the month is invigorating and will bring some sure fire back to your body. Tiptoe Fish Pose requires some warm-up, but it’s super fun with lots of juicy benefits. If you love toe stand and/or fish pose, this fusion is for you!

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Accessing Tiptoe Fish Pose:

  • Lie supine, bend both knees, and ground the soles of your feet like you’re preparing for a traditional bridge pose
  • Come up on to your shoulders as you lift your hips
  • Tuck your toes under your heels and shimmy your heels underneath your seat as you would have them in a traditional toe stand
  • Keep your arms long at either side of your torso and use your hands to wrap around the tops of your feet
  • Energize your knees forward until they make contact with your mat
  • Then, ground your elbows and forearms to pop your chest up
  • Let the crown of your head rest on the mat as well so that your throat and neck are fully exposed
  • You may choose to hold your feet and keep your forearms grounded at either side of your body, or you can play around with extending your arms up overhead and bringing your palms together to touch

Benefits of Tiptoe Fish Pose:

  • Intense backbend broadens the chest
  • Stretches and lengthens the abdominal area
  • Stretches the thigh muscles and quadriceps
  • Stimulates and strengthens toe joints
  • Energizes the heart center

May Pose of the Month

May the 4th be with You today! Because we speak so much to energy and energy lines in class, yoga and The Force pair together nicely. In Star Wars, Obi Wan explains The Force to Luke as “an energy field created by all living things that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” If we think of ourselves as just a small piece on this larger energy grid, we can begin to use energy in our yoga practices to control our behaviors, soothe our emotions, and motivate us to live our very best life both on and off the yoga mat.

This month we’re bringing you flying cobbler’s pose, mostly because when you’re floating on a block in this way, it makes you feel like a little meditating Jedi.

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Accessing Flying Cobbler’s Pose:

  • Start in baddha konasana or “butterfly” with the soles of your feet touching and your knees splayed open to the outsides
  • Warm up your feet and ankles by using your hands to massage your feet open, so that the tops of your feet begin to rotate up toward the ceiling
  • Place a large block on the floor at the flat wide width, and then place your feet on top of the block so that the outside edges of your feet rest directly at the center
  • Come up on to your fingertips with one hand in front of the block and the other hand back behind your hips for support
  • Use your abdominals, the lift of your hips, and the momentum from your arm at the back to launch up and forward with your hips and chest
  • Take a moment to get acclimated as you balance your weight on top of your feet and ankles
  • Your shoulders and chest should be slightly in front of your hips to keep balanced
  • Don’t forget to breathe!

Benefits of Flying Cobbler’s Pose:

  • Stretches inner thighs, groin, and knees
  • Stimulates heart and improves general circulation
  • Conquers fear by being suspended on the block

April Pose of the Month

Up we go, down we fall. Up again, down again. Up again, down again. Up again, down again. Some people might find this frustrating, or pointless altogether. The journey to Handstand is long and tedious, and often an on-again-off-again one due to the up and down nature. I guess it’s just like glass half full versus glass half empty people. You can get on your hands every single day, fall down every single day, and become impatient at a lack of progress, OR you can get on your hands every single day, fall down every single day, and call yourself a handstanding hero. And here’s the thing…you are. This month, we’re bringing you pike handstand at the wall, and reiterating that when you’re on your hands every single day…it doesn’t even matter if you’re up again, down again. It’s the every single day part that matters, and your journey to Handstand *will* be fruitful.

The key to finding your Handstand lies in building a strong core, body awareness to stack your joints, and finding your line. I’ve been leading Handstand workshops (one more coming up on 4/30!) and we go through drills on drills on drills to get there. One of the first Handstands we practice is pike at the wall, and I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s a foundational Handstand for beginners and advanced inverters in that it: 1) fosters proper body alignment with hips over shoulders, 2) helps familiarize bodies with any disorientation that occurs from being inverted, and, 3) the use of the wall as a prop makes it so that we can focus more on engaged muscles, active bandhas, and teeny anatomical refinements instead of solely the balance challenge. Collectively, attention on these prep items as a prerequisite to just kicking up willy nilly is going to set a foundation that you’re less likely to abandon. There are three little piggies, but you’re the one that chooses brick, ya feel me?

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Accessing Pike Handstand at the Wall:

  • Sit with your back against the wall and legs straight out in front to measure out where you’ll place your hands
  • Place your palms exactly where your heels rested on the floor (you can use a partner as a marker, so you don’t accidentally eye out the wrong distance)
  • With hands shoulder-width distance apart, use your feet to walk up the wall until your legs are parallel to the floor
  • Push the earth away from you with your palms
  • Knit your ribs inward and fire up your abdominals
  • Draw your armpits in and shoulder blades together
  • Note your lines
  • Don’t forget to breathe!

*Note: It’s great to practice with a partner to get to this shape, mostly because being upside down can be disorienting and walking “up” the wall can feel a whole lot like giving directions in a room of funhouse mirrors.

Pre- and Post-Handstand Reminders:

  • Always Handstand with a warm body & worked abdominals
  • Take time to warm up your wrists and forearms with proper stretching and massage, and give them the same amount of love when you’re done practicing
  • Strengthen and open up your shoulders to protect your joints

Remember that it’s just a basic law of gravity that whatever goes up, must come down. So just keep going…up, and back down!

*Next Handstand Workshop*

4/30 from 1:30-3:30 at our Downers Grove Yoga By Degrees // $40 for nonmembers and $20 for members // Sign up in advance, online or at any of our locations