Tag Archives: downward facing dog

Balance in Your Home Yoga Practice

Easy Pose

Easy Pose

 

Balance In Your Home Yoga Practice
by Trina
 

We tend to do more of what we like and less of what we don’t like. This practice also bleeds over into our home exercise practices, but we must learn to balance even when our instructor isn’t around to remind us or to choreograph our routine. 

Yoga teaches that balance is extremely vital to the practice and our bodies. When we inhale, our exhale should be the length of our inhale. When we work our right side, we must work the left side. Every muscle that we contract, we must lengthen or stretch. In Yoga, each pose has a counter pose to create the necessary balance. 

I want to emphasize the importance of balance in your home routine, specifically when you work your abdominal (abs) muscles. Everyone wants great abs, so people tend to do extensive abdominal exercises, especially at home, where people are enamored with sit ups and crunches. But as you strengthen your abs, you must also stretch out the ab muscle that you worked AND strengthen and loosen your lower back. The abs and the lower back work together to provide strength and stability and to support vital organs and stabilize the skeleton. 

Have you ever seen those body builders whose arms are so huge and thick that their shoulders round over? That is an example of imbalance. We are inclined to develop the muscles and body parts that we can see, the front of our body, often neglecting what we don’t see, the back of our body. 

In your home practice, I encourage you to do more than crunches and sit ups. Try some of the poses listed below that not only work your abs, but they also work your Core. When you work your abs, include poses that loosen, stretch, and strengthen your lower back too. Essentially, you want to make sure that when you work or contract a muscle, you also lengthen and stretch it, for example, after Bridge Pose (contracting the back and stretching the abs) do Plow Pose (stretching the back and contracting the abs). 

Bridge Pose

Bridge Pose

 

       *After Bridge Pose, do Plow Pose 

Plow Pose

Plow Pose

 

Camel Pose prepares the body for more difficult Backbend Poses. It makes the lower back flexible, while limbering the shoulders and opening the chest. Child’s Pose is an excellent counter pose to Camel

Locust Pose

Locust Pose

 

 Locust Pose strengthens the lower back muscles, while opening the chest, and encouraging good breathing. A good counter pose to Locust is to lie on your back and hug your knees to your chest. 

 Bow Pose  induces flexibility in the spine, tones the abdominal muscles, and also helps to relieve backaches. Child’s Pose is a good counter pose. 

Balancing Poses, such as Tree Pose and Chair Pose, also strengthen your abs and your lower back. 

Upward Facing Dog

Upward Facing Dog

 

The Sun Salutations series contracts the abs when you are in forward bends, such as Standing Forward Bend, and it lengthens the abs in back bends, such as Upward Facing Dog

Here are Core Poses that loosen, stretch, and strengthen your Core muscles

Full Boat Pose
The Hundred
Dolphin
Plank
Bridge Pose

Staff Pose
Dolphin Plank Pose
Upward Plank Pose 

Resources:
The Yoga Bible by Christina Brown
The Yoga Journal
About.com
Althea Lawton-Thompson of Aerobics Yoga & More 

*Disclaimer: As with any exercise regimen, consult your doctor or physician before you start. Make sure that you have adequate instructions about how to do these poses before you do them. Leisure Living, it’s contributors, or listed resources are not responsible for any injuries. 

© 2009 KaTrina Love

Yoga Basics Part 4: Alignment

AlignmentisKeyThere are Yoga poses that seduce, challenge, and humiliate you. Some poses will make you smile with satisfaction, while others illicit a grunt of frustration. What ever the pose, and regardless of how it makes you feel, the most important aspect of a Yoga pose is alignment.

Alignment is the combination of technical intricacies of the pose that enable you to properly position yourself into the pose without causing injury. While it might take some time for your pose to echo your teacher’s example, a picture you see a lot, or the fitness lady on the DVD, if your alignment is correct, then with practice, your body will eventually ease into the pose. Of course unless you have injuries that prevent it.

You want to make sure that every part of your body is correctly positioned. Let’s talk about some actual poses as examples.

When you get into position, mentally start at your toes and move up to the top of your head to ensure that you are properly aligned.

Alignment Checklist for Downward Facing Dog

When you get into the Downward Facing Dog position, mentally check that you are:

  • Pressing the heels of your feet towards the ground. It is the act of pressing that is important, and not that your heels actually make it to the mat.
  • Pressing your tailbone up towards the ceiling
  • Pressing your chest towards your thighs.

Also ensure that your:

  • Arms are straight
  • Head is hanging down
  • Neck is loose and not lifted
  • Gazing between your knees
  • Palms are pressed into the mat with your weight on your palm, thumb and first finger to prevent injury to your wrist
  • Fingers are spread wide

These are the technical intricacies of Downward Facing Dog that put you into proper alignment. These alignment principles prevent you from straining your neck, arching your back, and injuring your wrist. They help to lengthen and stretch your hamstring and calf muscles, strengthen your arm muscles, and loosen and strengthen your shoulder muscles.

Take your mind through that mental checklist every time you do Downward Facing Dog. Your pose might not look the way you want it to just yet, but 95% of the battle is getting the alignment correct; the rest is just practice.

Alignment Checklist for Camel Pose

When you get into Camel position, mentally check tha you are:

  • On your knees
  • Pressing your hips forward
  • Pressing your shoulders down and back
  • Lifting your face towards the ceiling
  • Not recklessly hanging your head back
  • Contracting your buttock muscles
  • Opening your chest
  • Putting your hands either on the heels of your feet or in the small of your back

When most people see Camel , they immediately try to reach their arms to their heels, even if it means that they are not up on their knees as they should be. Touching your feet is not the most important thing of the pose. The most important thing about Camel pose is that you are pressing your hips forward while you are on your knees. This stretches and opens your hips, rib cage, ab muscles, shoulders, and chest.

Yoga is a life long investment into your physical, mental, and emotional prosperity and wellness. Take your time to learn the basics, so that you maximize the results. Don’t rush through the Yoga moves. Take your time to breath, listen to your body, and focus on how you feel in each pose. Pay careful attention to the technical instructions of the pose, and do a mental check as you ease into the pose. Alignment is more important than the aesthetics of the position.

*Disclaimer: As with any exercise regimen, consult your doctor or physician before you start. The Leisure Living Blog, its contributors, or listed resources are not responsible for any injuries.

© 2009 KaTrina Love Abram

Yoga Pose Series: Downward Facing Dog Pose

NewYogaPose

 

Downward Facing Dog is one of the most popular Yoga inversion poses. An inversion is a reversal of the usual or natural order of things. Total body strength, improved circulation and digestion, and stimulated memory are just a few of the benefits of Yoga inversion poses.

The frequency in which Downward Facing Dog is used  in most Yoga classes might annoy you in the beginning, but after you reach your level of comfort, you will love this pose. And it gets easier and more satisfying the more you practice it. This pose stimulates you and warms your body, while simultaneously lengthening and stretching it. Downward Facing Dog requires your total thoughts and concentration as you find a comfortable weight distribution between your legs, arms, and torso. You develop balance and strength as you stretch, lengthen,  and align your spine.

When used in Ashtanga Sun Salutations or Yoga Flow classes, Downward Facing Dog is a pose that you continually repeat and return to. It is also a resting pose, rejuvenating, and realigning pose that slows down the asana flow, allowing you to catch your breath.

Getting into the Downward Facing Dog Pose

Be patient with yourself and your body as you practice this pose. Don’t be tense, aggravated, or pushy. Listen to your body and stop when your body tells you to stop. Remember to breath conciously and deeply.

Prevent Injuries

Don’t:

  • Round your back
  • Hunch your shoulders
  • Look up because this can cause neck strain
  • Bend your elbows
  • Put all of your weight on your wrists

Talk to your doctor before attempting this pose if you have spinal or wrist injuries. If you are on your monthly menstrual cycle, do not remain in this position for more than two breaths.

Getting Down

Distribute most of your weight towards your heels and away from your wrists.down dog Make sure that you lengthen as much as you can. Use all of the mat.

  1. Start on your hands and knees. Your arms should be as far apart as your shoulders and your knees should be hip distance apart. Situate your hands slightly above your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips.
  2. Spread your fingers out wide, pressing firmly into the mat. Your weight should be more towards your palms, thumbs, and your first fingers.
  3. Inhale, and lift your hips toward the ceiling and push back as you straighten your legs, lengthening and elongating your spine.
  4. Press your chest towards your thighs, which should make you push back on your heels.
  5. Push your heels toward the floor, stretching your calf and hamstring muscles. 
  6. Push your tailbone towards the ceiling. Keep your knees straight, but don’t lock them.
  7. Let your head hang between two straight, strong arms, and gaze between your knees. 

cowCounter posesChilds pose

To come out, inhale and return to your hands and knees, and either release into Cow pose or into Child’s pose.

 

Variations for Beginners

Your hamstrings might be too tight, which will prevent you from fully unfurling. If this is the case, you can bend your knees.

What you will feel

You will feel your hamstrings and calves lengthening, your upper back and shoulders extend, and your arms stretch. Your chest and armpits open. Your lower back arching.

*Disclaimer: As with any exercise regimen, consult your doctor or physician before you start. The Leisure Living Blog, its contributors, or listed resources are not responsible for any injuries.

© 2009 KaTrina Love Abram

Yoga: Sun Salutations Part 2

Yoga01Sun Salutations Part 2

By Trina Love Abram

 Lastweek in Sun Salutations Part 1, I gave you a Sun Salutation series that contained base Yoga Poses. There are a variety of ways that you can customize Sun Salutation, and this week, I’m giving you a harder variation.

Sun Salutation is a Salute to the Sun. We are advised to perform this vinyasa just as the sun is rising. The Sun Salutation series is an invigorating, body warming, flow of poses that improve strength and flexibility. Do Sun Salutations right after you warm up to prepare your body for the remaining poses in your Yoga practice. The base poses in the series are: Mountain Pose, Forward Fold, Plank, Four-Limbed Staff Pose, Upward Facing Dog, and Downward Facing Dog. In Sun Salutations Part 1, we added a lunge to the base poses. The lunge is either a low lunge (gentler Yoga), which occurs with one knee on the mat, or it can be a high lunge with your knee off of the mat.

Today, we add Warrior I Pose and Chair Pose to our Sun Salutation series.

100_2491

Warrior I

 

Warrior I is a powerful pose that strengthens the thighs and the calves and stretches and opens the back muscles, the chest, and the shoulders. It builds, shapes, and tones the entire lower body. It tones the abdominal section and helps to prevent, reduce, and eliminate back pain. Because we are moving the entire upper body, Warrior I increases the respiratory system’s capacity. It can reduce fat around the hips and tone the ankles and knees.

*Disclaimer: As with any exercise regimen, consult your doctor or physician before you start. Injuries can occur if you do not  have a licensed instructor present when you do these poses, especially for the first time. Leisure Living, it’s contributors, or listed resources are not responsible for any injuries. Remember to always listen to your body. Yoga isn’t about straining or pain. Also, match your breath with the poses to get the maximum effect.

 

Chair Pose

Chair Pose

 

Chair Pose works the muscles of the thighs and reduces flat feet. It also strengthens the spine, ankles, and calves. When correctly in this pose, you stretch your shoulders and chest. Chair pose also stimulates the abdominal organs.

 

To do Sun Salutation with Chair & Warrior Poses:

  1. Stand in Mountain Pose: Legs strong, spine straight, tail bone tucked,
    torso lifted, hands to your side, regal head.

    Mountain

    Mountain

  2. Inhale into Chair Pose: Bend your knees and stick your tail out as if you are sitting in a chair, attempting to make your thighs parallel with the floor. Lift your chest and torso. Make sure that your knees do not pass your toes. Most of your weight is on the heels of your feet. Engage your abdominal muscles to assist your thighs.
  3. Exhale into Forward Fold Pose: Lead with your chest as you fold toward the mat, as you straighten your legs, and sweep your arms down in an arc to rest on the back of your calves. Gaze at your toes.

    Plank Pose

    Plank Pose

  4. Inhale and then Exhale into Plank Pose: Jump or step your feet back to stretch your body out. Your feet are tucked under, abdominal and glutal muscles are contracted, and arms straight and strong. Alternately, you can stay on your knees.
  5. Lower into Four-Limbed Staff Pose: As if doing a push up, lower down to the map keeping your elbows close into your sides, and hover just above the mat. 
  6. Inhale into Upward Facing Dog: Straighten your arms, and using teh strength of your arms, pull your chest forward and up. Nothing on your body touches the mat except your palms and the front side of your feet. Press your pelvis to the map without touching the mat. Keep your legs active, and tuck your tailbone under. Keep your shoulders down and back away from your ears. Look slightly upward.   
  7. Exhale into Downward Facing Dog: Tuck your toes under, push your tailbone up and back. Press your chest toward your
    4 Limbed Staff

    4 Limbed Staff

    thighs, hang your head between strong arms, and gaze between your knees.

  8. Inhale and pull your right foot up between your arms into Warrior I: Pivot your left foot at a slight angle or lift on the ball of your left foot (which ever is comfortable). Lunge forward on your right leg, your knee must not go past your toes (if it does, pull your right foot up). Your eventual goal is to have your thigh parallel to the floor. After you are balanced, pull your arms up towards the ceiling, lifting your ribcage away from your pelvis, shoulders down and back. Lift your chest. Look striaght ahead. Feel powerful.
  9. Exhale back into Plank Pose: Place your hands on either side of your right foot, and pull the right foot back into Plank Pose.

    Upward Facing Dog

    Up Dog

  10. Inhale into Upward Facing Dog.
  11. Exhale into Downward Facing Dog.
  12. Inhale and pull your left foot up between your arms into Warrior I:
    Pivot your right foot at a slight angle or lift on the ball of

    your right foot (which ever is comfortable). Lunge forward on your left leg, your knee must not go past your toes (if it does, pull your right foot up). Your eventual goal is to have your thigh parallel to the floor. After you are balanced, pull your arms up towards the ceiling, lifting your ribcage away from your pelvis, shoulders down and back. Lift your chest. Look striaght ahead. Feel powerful.
  13. Exhale into Plank Pose.
  14. Inhale into Upward Facing Dog.

    Down Dog

    Down Dog

  15. Exhale into Downward Facing Dog.
  16. Inhale and walk or jump your feet to the front of the mat just behind your hands. Your knees can be slightly bent.
  17. Exhale into Chair Pose.
  18. Inhale into Mountain Pose.

Namaste,
Trina

*Disclaimer: As with any exercise regimen, consult your doctor or physician before you start. The Leisure Living Blog, its contributors, or listed resources are not responsible for any injuries.

© 2009 KaTrina Love Abram