If you’re following along, then this is Chapter Two of your weekly guide to learning just a few Yoga poses with ease. Keep in mind that, while learning the names and concepts might be easy, becoming comfortable with these poses can take a lot of time (years, even!), practice, and patience. Teachers of different styles and lineages will invariably use slightly different names or want you to execute these postures with various techniques, but this little guide will help you keep track of what’s happening in your first few classes. Without further ado, here are your next four poses.
Fire up the core!
This little pose has lots of iterations, and it’s a sure-fire way to get into the midsection– so be prepared to hear it called out regularly. Remember that core strength is vital to strength and balance throughout the rest of your body. Some other variations include:
- A block between the legs to encourage a gentle squeeze for stability
- Legs extended straight for more intensity (keep the knees bent or use the hands to grab under the legs for less intensity)
- Dynamics— moving this pose up and down (knees to chest, body long to a hover) with the breath adds an even spicier edge
- Teacher’s Tip— take a break whenever you need to and try to keep the toes at eye-level so your hip flexors don’t overwork.
Tone and develop the “back body”.
This posture is Locust Pose, though you might hear it referred to as salabhasana (shah-lah-bah-suh-nuh). Though the benefits are complex and there are many of them, suffic to say that it’s wonderful for strengthening the entire back of the body, from the glutes and hamstrings tothe low, mid, upper back, neck and shoulders. Like just about every other pose, there are los of variations:
- Tops of the feet down, hands back, just lift the chest.
- Reach back and clasp the hands or a strap/scarf for a shoulder stretch
- Lift the legs and arms for more oomph or reach the hands out in front of you and pull everything (chest, arms, legs) up away from the ground for a big dose of strength training.
- Dynamics— lift up as you inhale, come down flat as you exhale. Repeat a few times.
- Teacher’s tip— most of us have weakened hamstrings and tight front bodies (more on this in another post), so start slowly and move through this pose a few times a week to begin to develop strength.
Keep working on your balance and core strength.
One of my faves, this pose is effective at strengthening the legs, posterior core and lateral stabilizers. Warrior 3 has lots of variations, but until you feel comfortable balancing on one leg, try to play with these tips for safe flying:
- In any one-legged balancing posture, resist the urge to lock your knee. Though it might feel easier, it’s only because you’re disengaging the muscles that protect your joints. Instead, put a tiny bend in the knee and engage your quad to pull the knee cap up.
- Keep your gaze (aka your drishti) down and set on one point, with laser focus. This will help keep you from wobbling. Breathe smoothly.
- Utilize props! Bring your hands down to blocks to help support the weight and balance as pictured.
- Other variations include: hands at the heart, hands outstretched behind you and hands outstretched in front of you for an added challenge.
- Dynamics— this pose can easily be turned into a squatting movement by exhaling to come down low by bending the standing knee and inhaling to lift back up straight.
- Teacher’s Tip— you should be nice and warm before diving into standing postures or you’re bound to feel tight and wobbly.
Stretch out the low back and hammies with this folded pose.
Wide-legged forward fold is often times called prasarita padottanasana (prah-suree-tuh pod-o-ton-ah-suh-nuh). It’s a mouthful, so I tend to just stick to wide-legged fold. It’s a really effective hamstring stretch and can be used early on or later in class since there are lots of ways to both soften and intensify the posture. Check ’em out:
- bend the knees as much as you need to in order to take the strain out of the low back and hamstrings
- bring the hands down to blocks and put some of the weight in the arms to decrease the load on the legs
- narrow your stance to lessen the pose or widen your stance to increase sensation
- there are traditionally four hand variations. From less intensity to more intensity, these would be: hands on the ground or blocks, hands on the ankles or hooking the big toes, hands on the hips, and hands clasped behind your back.
- Dynamics— you can also walk your hands over to your right foot for a right leg focused stretch and over to the left foot for a left leg focused stretch.
- Teacher’s Tip— gently squeeze the thighs inward to stay engaged and bend the knees and lift the knee caps as you would in the last pose discussed. Resist the urge to go too deeply.
That’s it for this week! As always, take your time getting to know these postures and feel free to write me with any questions.