Yoga Pose Series

This series of articles on specific Yoga poses will help beginners and home practitioners to safely and effectively get into the poses.

Cobra Pose

© 2010 KaTrina Love Abram

Cobra (Bhujangasana) is a great introductory pose into backbends. The movements are small and simple, but the benefits are far reaching, especially if you include Cobra pose in your daily Yoga practice.

For lower back pain, Cobra helps to develop strength in the lower back, reducing and, in some cases, eventually alleviating the pain. Cobra tones your arms, opens your chest, and lengthens your spine. It helps to improve your posture and stretches your abdominal muscles. It is also good for those who suffer with sciatica.

A baby backbend that tones your entire upper body, an extremely slow Cobra is all that you need to tone and strengthen your arms, so that they look nice and firm in your t-shirts or halter-tops this summer. Your shoulders and arms are heavily involved in getting you in this pose. Not to mention the delicious stretch your torso receives as you ascend into the position.

Benefits of the pose

The benefits of Cobra are:

  • Limbers the spine
  • Tones and strengthens the arms and back
  • Massages your digestive organs
  • Stimulates the kidneys
  • Helps decrease menstrual discomfort and tones the uterus and ovaries
  • Relieves back aches
  • Relieves constipation and gas

Preventing Injuries

We do not recommend Cobra pose if you have hernia or ulcers. 

If you have chronic back, shoulder, or neck injuries, consult your physician before attempting Cobra pose.

If you are pregnant, avoid Cobra pose or any other pose where you lie on your stomach.

If your lower back is tight and inflexible, you will initially feel a little discomfort, which dissipates with time. If this is the case, you might want to start with Sphinx pose if you think that your body is not yet ready for Cobra.

To decrease pressure in the lower back, increase the bend in your elbows—do not fully extend your arms. Listen to your body, which tells you how deep and far you can go into the pose.

Before you attempt Cobra, remember…

While in Cobra, keep everything from your hips to your toes on the mat and keep your legs, knees, and ankles together. Your lower body, mainly your legs, provides the power and stability that your spine requires to lengthen and stretch. Your pelvis and abs provide support for your lower back as you stretch your torso. The only thing that you want to lift is from your abs to your head. Keep your elbows close to your ribs. Don’t let them jut out to the side. Do not hunch or push your shoulders forward; instead, keep them down from your ears and back.

Slithering into Cobra

  1. On your mat, lie on your stomach with your chin on the mat and your legs together. You want the entire lower portion, from your chest to your toes on the mat. The heels of your feet point toward the ceiling.           
  2. Place your hands on the mat, palms down, beside your chest and under your shoulders. Your arms are bent with your entire forearm on the mat.
  3. Squeeze your thighs together, and press your legs and pelvis into the mat. Push your shoulders down and back, which lifts your chest and ribs. Keep your chin parallel to the mat.
  4. Keeping your elbows close to your rib cage, inhale, and push your palms into the mat, extend your arms as you lift your torso slowly off the mat. Only lift up as far as is comfortable for you.
  5. Stay elevated there for a couple of breaths, and then on an exhale, slowly lower back to the mat using the strength in your arms.
  6. Push into Child’s pose.

What You Will Feel

You will feel your arms working, your back strengthening, your legs and glute muscles flexing, and your entire upper torso stretching. You will feel your chest open up to the sky, while your lower body pushes into the earth.

Counter Poses

A good pose to do after you finish Cobra is:

Both of these poses stretch the back and leg muscles that work while in Cobra.

Similar poses

Sphinx pose is similar to Cobra. The difference is that with Sphinx, you are not lifting as much as with Cobra. You also don’t lengthen your arms as you lift with Sphinx.

Upward Facing Dog is very similar to Cobra. The difference in the two poses is that in Cobra, your entire lower body presses against the mat, and in Upward Facing Dog, the only parts of your body that touch the mat are the palms of your hands and the front side of your feet. Cobra is a good segue pose to practice before advancing to Upward Facing Dog.

*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.

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Yoga Pose Series: Twists

Yoga twists are great stress reducers. The mental energy that you expend to correctly enter the pose and the physical relief that you get as you settle into it are like balms on a sore. You can do twists, especially seated twists, anywhere: in your car, at your desk, or standing at the counter. Anytime my body feels tight, simple twists help to rejuvenate me, loosen me up, and stretch my upper back and midsection.

Benefits of Twists

Your spine gets lengthened and your obliques and internal abdominal organs get massaged when you settle into a twist.  Your  internal organs also get a deep massage, which results in detoxification. Twists aid the body in flushing fluids through the body and help to improve digestion. They stretch your upper back, shoulders, neck, and torso. Your lower lungs get a good squeeze in twists, which gives the middle and upper lungs the opportunity to activate. Breathing deeply and rhythmically in twists calms your body, which graciously reduces stress.

Types of Twists

There are supine, seated, and standing twists. In this article, we discuss supine (reclined) twists.

Before You Twist, Remember . . .

It is imperative that you breathe deeply to get the optimum affect and benefit of the twist. When you inhale, your spine stays straight but also lifts higher. When you exhale, your spine stays straight and tall, but your body eases further into the position.

In seated twists, make sure that you keep both sitting bones on the mat. Don’t allow one side of your behind to lift off the mat to deepen the twist and don’t tilt towards the twisting side. Make sure that you sit up straight and connect both sitting bones to the mat. The more you practice the twists, the deeper your body will settle into them.

Lengthen your spine BEFORE you twist

Supine or Reclining Twists

Twists help to energize you, stimulate sluggish digestion, aid your breathing, and reduce stress. They massage your internal organs from the lungs to the stomach. With supine twists, you stay in the pose longer because you are laying down, allowing your body to wring out more.

I enjoy reclining twists as I wind down and end the Yoga session. It is one of the last things that I do before taking my students into Corpse pose for final relaxation. This Supine Twist also stretches your neck.

To get into a Supine Twist:

  1. Lie flat on your back, and draw your knees up towards your chest.
  2. Extend your arms out on both sides, forming a T.
  3. Leaving your shoulders and scapula on the mat pointed towards the ceiling, and keeping your knees as close to your ears as you can, lay your knees to the right.
  4. Turn your gaze to your left.
  5. To deepen the stretch, extend the top leg in the direction of your gaze.
  6. Breathe slow and deep.
  7. Lift your knees back towards your chest, and then lay them down on the left side, turning your gaze towards the right.

What You Will Feel

You will feel a stretch from your glute muscles all the way up to your shoulders and your neck. You will feel your middle and upper lungs working. Your torso might feel hollow.

In the next Yoga Pose series post, we discuss seated twists.

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Tree Pose

tree 01Tree Pose is a standing balancing pose that enhances your focus, self-awareness, and concentration. It simultaneously harnesses your mental ability to concentrate while calming your mind. When we write/work, we are sometimes easily distracted or  our mind  starts to wander, which impedes focus. Just stand up and do Tree Pose, and bring your thoughts back into proper focus and order.

Tree Pose helps your balance, flat feet, and it strengthens your calves and ankles, among other things, which do not get as much work as the other parts of your body.

Preventing Injuries

Do not put your foot on your knee. Do not stick your tailbone out. Do not lean forward. Do not be impatient with yourself. Do not tense up. If you have high blood pressure, you do not have to raise your hands above your head.

Forming Your Tree

Make sure that your tailbone is tucked in, your shoulders are down & back, your abdominal muscles are engaged, and your gaze is focused on a non-moving object.

  1. Stand up straight in proper posture, which means that all parts of your body are engaged. You are the trunk of the tree, strong and powerful. Shift your weight to your left foot.
  2. Tuck your tailbone in, tighten your buttocks, and press your shoulders down and back.
  3. Using your hand to assist, if necessary, put the sole of your foot at your ankle, below your knee on your shin, or above your knee on your thigh. Your toes are pointing down. Do not place your foot on your knee.
  4. After you get your foot positioned, turn your knee outward, which means that your inner thigh is turned straight ahead and your knee is pointing to the side. Lift your neck and head.
  5. Concentrate, inhale and exhale through your nose, and bring your palms together in prayer position at heart level. Balance.
  6. When you feel balanced, inhale and raise your palms above your head. You can stop here or you can keep going to the next step.
  7. Widen your arms above your head. Now, you are the tree branches and leaves, soaring, steady, and strong. Inhale and Exhale through your nose.
  8. When you are ready to exit Tree Pose, bring your hands into prayer position, exhale, and bring your hands down to prayer position at heart level. Place your foot back on the floor, and raise the other leg.

What You Will Feel

You will feel strong, powerful, focused, and undeterred. Your trunk is doing most of the work. You will feel your ankles, calves, and thighs working to keep you steady.

*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

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Yoga Pose Series: Triangle Pose

100_2755by Trina Love Abram

My favorite Yoga pose is Triangle or Trikonasana. The root word trikona, means “three angle or triangle” and asana means posture in Sanskrit.

Benefits of Triangle Pose

Triangle Pose simultaneously energizes and relaxes you, alleviating stress. It is an elegantly powerful pose that works the abdominal external oblique muscles, effectively lengthening and shaving them. Triangle also strengthens your back, opens your chest and your hip joints, strengthens and lengthens your inner thigh muscles, strengthens your calves, helps to reduce love handles, and engages the abdominal muscles to aid in digestion. The twisting and extending that is involved also massages the spinal nerves. In Triangle, you feel balanced, energized, and focused. You are stable, secure, and powerful.

Prevent Injuries

For Triangle Pose to be effective, you MUST do the pose correctly. You must concern yourself with proper alignment and placement of your limbs. The line of the torso from the side of your waist to the armpit must be flat, and not rounded, toward the ceiling. It is the contraction of the abdominal external oblique muscles that work to strengthen and tone your sides.

Do not stand with your legs too close or too far apart:

The foundation of this pose is your stance. Your legs are the base and must be properly positioned and far enough apart to support you. Stand in the middle of your mat, and extend your arms to the side. Step your legs apart so that your stance is as wide as or wider than the length of your arms from your shoulders to the tips of your fingers. If one or both of your knees want to bend, then your stance is too wide.

Do not lean forward:

Do not lean forward. The objective of the pose is not that you reach the mat with your hand or fingers. Open your chest towards the ceiling. The arm that is extended towards the ceiling should be in line with your ear. Stick your pelvis and hips forward. I repeat, do not lean forward in this pose.

Getting Into Triangle

*I advise you to first practice Triangle up against the wall. Leave your top hand on your hip, your lower hand on your shin. Bend at the hips instead of at the waist. This gives you the proper alignment of your hips pressed forward, your shoulder rotated up, and your chest open and lifted to the ceiling along with your head and your gaze. The wall acts as a buffer.

  1. Lift your arms to shoulder height into a T position.100_2757
  2. Lift your chest and torso up, keeping your shoulders down and back.
  3. Step your feet straight out to each side so that your toes are parallel with the tips of your fingers. It is essential that your stance is far enough apart to support you. This is your base.
  4. Turn both of your feet forward, so that they are parallel to one another and pointed directly to the front, as your torso should be.
  5. Lift and spread your toes wide, and then place them back on the mat.
  6. Leaving the left foot pointed straight ahead, turn your your right foot out to the right 90 degrees.
  7. Extend your torso to the right, and then continue to bend to the right from your hip until your right arm is comfortable100_2758 either above your knee, on your shin, on your ankle, or on the mat. Simultaneously, lift your left arm straight to the ceiling. Imagine that your arms are making a vertical T (in line with the tops of your shoulders). Listen to your body. If as far as your body says it can do down is you placing your hand on your thigh, then don’t go further than that. As you practice the pose, your hamstrings will loosen up, and you will be able to go down farther.
  8. Press your hips forward, tuck your tailbone under, and rotate your left shoulder towards the ceiling. Do not stick your butt or tailbone out to achieve the position. You are defeating the purpose.
  9. Turn your chest up towards the ceiling, effectively opening the chest and providing more flexibility in the oblique muscles.
  10. Keep your gaze straight ahead or gaze softly towards your left thumb.
  11. Inhale and exhale, and feel your rib cage expand and contract. As the weight of the rib cage shifts during breathing, you are100_2756 challenged to maintain the pose in its proper form. Triangle also benefits your posture because the dynamics of the position challenge your balance and your coordination.
  12. Stay in this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Inhale to come up, strongly pressing the back (left) heel into the floor and pulling the right arm downward. Reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time on the left side.

Counter Poses

wide legged forward bendI emphasize balance in your Yoga practice, which means that when you bend in one direction, you mustwlfb02 follow with a pose that bends in the opposite direction. If you work your right side, you must balance by also working your left side. In Triangle pose, you are bending from side to side. I suggest Wide Leg Forward Bend followed by a Wide Legged Backbend.

 

What You Will Feel

 You will feel:

  • Your oblique (side) muscles lengthen as you extend
  • Your thighs and calf muscles working to keep you steady
  • Your hamstring muscles stretch, if your stance is wide enough
  • The shoulder of your arm that is extended rotate in the socket allowing you to open your chest towards the ceiling
  • Your glute muscles working as you press your hips forward

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

Namaste,
Trina

 www.leisurelivingblog.com

*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

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In this article, we focus on an inversion that is relaxing and calming, Legs Up the Wall.

Yoga Pose Series:Legs up the Wall PoseLegsUpTheWall

Legs up the wall pose is a restorative, submissive, passive pose that enables you to surrender your thoughts to peace.  It is an inversion pose that helps you to rest and center and improves blood flow to your eyes, ears, and brain. It also eases anxiety, headaches, and depression. I usually do this pose after a vigorous Yoga Flow class to warm down, before I go to sleep at night to calm my mind, or anytime during the day when I need a mental break. It is a great pose for centering and calming.

Preventing Injuries

Use caution if you have neck or back problems. If your toes, feet, or legs begin to tingle, bend your knees, and slide your feet down the wall. Because this is an inversion, it is not recommended to practice during your menstrual cycle; however, some maintain that the poes eases menstrual cramps.

Getting Your Lets Up the Wall

*You want to be as close to the wall as possible. The wall is your support. If you are not close enough, bend your knees, and scoot your bottom towards the wall.

  1. Lie on your side on the floor with your knees bent. The side of your thigh, the bottom of your feet, and the side of your bottom are touching the wall.
  2. Turn on your back with your knees still bent, your bottom touching the wall, and the bottom of your feet touching the wall.
  3. Slide your feet up the wall until your legs are fully extended. The back of your thighs and your bottom are touching the wall. Your back, shoulder, and head are lying on the floor.
  4. Gaze at your feet, which are not pointed or flexed, but they are parallel to your head.
  5. Extend both arms out to the side on the floor or place them on your abdomen with your palms facing down.
  6. Breathe deeply and easily.

What You Will Feel

You will feel a stretch in your hamstrings, lengthening of your torso, opening of your chest, and stretching in your neck.

*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

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 In this article, we focus on an inversion, Downward Facing Dog.

Downward Facing Dog

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.

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camelCamel Pose

Camel Pose is a backbend that stretches the chest, abdomen, and quadriceps. It also stimulates your internal organs and improves spinal flexibility. Practicing backbends helps to improve your posture and helps you to stop leaning forward as you sit at your desk or drive. 

 Before You Begin: Put extra padding under your knees. If you have bad knees, you probably don’t want to do this pose.

Camel011. *Come up onto your knees, which should be hip-width apart.

2. Draw your hands up the side of your body, opening your chest.

3. Reach your hands back one at a time to grasp your heels. If yourModifiedCamel hands cannot reach the heels of your feet yet, put your hands at the small of your back.

Camel024. Bring your hips forward so that they are over your knees.

5. Lift your nose to the ceiling, which opens your throat. But don’t let your head hang, keep control of it.

6. To come out of Camel Pose, lift one hand at a time off of your heel and put it into the small of your back to offer support to your back.

7. Counter pose Camel pose with Child’s pose to get a good balance. You can also alternate backChilds pose and forth between Camel and Child’s pose.

 CAMEL NOTES: Make sure that you push your hips out in front of you. You should feel a nice contraction in your back and a stretch of your shoulders and arms. Remember to breath…inhale and exhale through your nose. Relax your face, and don’t fight or struggle with the pose. Make sure that you counter pose Camel with Child’s Pose.

*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.

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