Pose of the Week: Plank

Plank pose

Plank pose

Plank is a great way to strengthen and tone your core.  It also strengthens the wrists, arms and spine.  Plank helps lay the groundwork for more challenging arm balances and is also a key pose in Sun Salutations.

Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward Dog.  Inhale, shift the weight forward until the shoulders are directly over the wrists and the torso is parallel to the floor.  Spread your fingers wide.  Firm the bases of your index fingers into the floor. Essentially press the earth away.  Broaden the shoulder blades. Lengthen the crown of the head forward and the tailbone toward the heels.  Align the body in a straight line from the top of your head to your heels.  Hold the posture for 30 seconds to one minute.  For a more advanced variation try lifting one leg at a time.  Avoid Plank if you are suffering from Carpal tunnel syndrome.

Pose of the Week: Vrksasana

Vrksasana or Tree Pose

Vrksasana or Tree Pose

Vrksasana or Tree Pose

"Storms make trees take deeper roots." - Dolly Parton

Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Shift the weight onto the right foot and bring the left foot high to the inner thigh. If you're struggling to bring the foot to the thigh, bring the foot to rest on the calf.  Avoid placing the foot directly on the knee.  Press the sole of the foot into the thigh and resist with the standing leg.  Tailbone points down, hips stay squared forward, much like headlights. Choose a drishti, (a focal point on the floor or wall in front of you) to focus on and help keep your balance.  If you are struggling with balance use a wall for support.  Arm variations include hands to the heart, stretching your arms straight up toward the ceiling, parallel to each other, or touch the palms together forming an inverted V with the arms. For an extra challenge try closing your eyes.  Practice the pose for thirty seconds to one minute.  Vrksasana works to improve balance and strengthens thighs, calves, ankles & spine. A great one to practice in the kitchen while making dinner or standing in line at the grocery store!

Pose of the Week: Trikonasana

Trikonasana / Triangle Pose

Trikonasana / Triangle Pose

Trikonasana (trik-cone-AHS-anna)or Triangle Pose.

Standing in Tadasana/Mountain Pose (big toes to touch, heels slightly apart, arms by sides).  As you exhale bring feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down.  Turn your right foot slightly to the left and the left foot out about 90 degrees.  Align the left heel so it is bisecting the arch of the right foot. Exhale and extend your torso to the left directly over the left leg, bending from the hip joint, not the waist.  Imagine you are between two walls and don’t want to touch either one. Anchor this movement by strengthening the right leg and pressing the outer heel firmly to the floor. Rotate the torso to the right, keeping the two sides equally long.  Rest your left hand on your shin, ankle, or the floor outside or inside your right foot, whatever is possible without distorting the sides of the torso. You may also rest your hand on a yoga block.  Stretch your right arm toward the ceiling, in line with the tops of your shoulders. Shift the gaze up towards the right thumb. You may choose to take the extended version and extend your top arm parallel with the top ear.

If you feel unsteady you can use a wall for support.  If there is any strain in the neck look down towards the front foot. 

Avoid this pose if you have low blood pressure, diarrhea, or a headache. If you have a heart condition, practice against a wall and keep top arm on hip.  Stay in this pose for five (5) to ten (10) breaths.  Inhale to come up, strongly pressing the back heel into the floor and reaching the top arm toward the ceiling. Reverse the feet and repeat on the second side for the same amount of breaths. 

Benefits include stretching and strengthening the thighs, knees, and ankles.  Stretches the hips, groins, hamstrings, and calves; shoulders, chest, and spine.  Helps relieve stress. Improves digestion. Can relieve the symptoms of menopause. Relieves backache, can be especially helpful through second trimester of pregnancy. 

Pose of the Week: Viparita Karani

Viparita Karani (vip-par-ee-tah car-AHN-ee) or legs up the wall is a personal and a student favorite.

Viparita Karani is a gentle, restorative inversion and a wonderful way to relax. Benefits of this posture, include relieving tired or cramped legs and feet, gently stretches the back legs, front body, and the back of the neck. It can also relieve mild backaches and calms the mind.

Grab a blanket/towel or pillow if you prefer a little extra cusion and head to the nearest wall. Begin by sitting next to a wall with one side of your body against the wall and your knees bent into the chest. Bring the lower back onto the floor while bringing the legs up the wall so your heels are resting on the wall. Slowly release the elbows and lower thewhole back down to the floor. If you have any low back or neck pain, fold a yoga blanket or towel (or pillow) and
place one under the low back and also under the neck. Keep your legs relatively firm, just enough to hold them vertically in place without “locking” the knees.

Stay in this pose anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Be sure not to twist off the support when coming out. Instead, slide off the support onto the floor before turning to the side. You can also bend your knees and push your feet against the wall to lift your pelvis off the support. Then slide the support to one side, lower your pelvis to the floor, and turn to the side. Stay on your side for a few breaths, and come up to sitting with an exhale.

Try Viparita Karani to relieve anxiety, arthritis, digestive problems, headache, high and low blood pressure, insomnia, migraine, mild depression, respiratory ailments, urinary disorders, varicose veins, menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome and menopause.

As with any inversion Viparita Karani should be avoided if you have serious eye problems, such as glaucoma. With serious neck or back problems only perform this pose with the supervision of a teacher. If your feet begin to tingle during this pose, bend your knees, touch your soles together, and slide the outer edges of your feet down the wall, bringing your heels close to your pelvis.

 

Viparita karani / legs up the wall

Viparita karani / legs up the wall