(Pose of the Month)
Ustrasana is one of my favorite poses because it is a multi tasking pose. It opens up the heart, lengthens the spine, stretches the shoulders, chest, arms, legs and even wakes up the feet. I find it to be a very challenging pose that I sometimes dread but I’m always happy after I do it .
Starting in table pose walk your hands back toward your knees and then walk the hands up to your hips and stand on your knees.Please pad your mat if you have sensitive knees and never stand directly on your knee caps.
Adjust your knees so that they are about hip width apart and directly under the shoulders. Feel free to tuck your toes under for the first few camels especially if you have a tight back.Then you may want to push down against the tops of your feet or even get blocks .
Lengthen the spine long by lifting the crown of your head up towards the sky then draw the belly button in and drop the tailbone down towards the earth.tighten the buttocks but try not to over do it ! Next , if your toes are tucked under you will push down against the balls of your feet’s push against the shins and the tops of your feet.
Inhale the arms up to get a nice extension overhead and then backstroke the arms all the way back so the hands land ( with fingers faced up ) on mid back or hips . If you have shoulder issues you can just place the hands on the hips instead of reaching over the head. Where you place your Hands will be depend on how flexible you are in your upper shoulders and mid back. The goal is to keep the shoulders lifted up back as the elbows draw in. This is an important part of camel because too many people rely on the flexibility of their lower back and don’t pay attention to the opening of their upper back.
Now inhale to keep the length and then exhale start to push the hips forward as the elbows and shoulders dry up and back to make the look of a camels hump. Try to keep your hips moving forward as your upper body arches back. Sometimes it’s nice to do this up against the wall where you can keep your hips glued to wall . . It is important to keep a nice fluid breath here. We tend to get really shallow in our breath because we push too far back. Be gentle to your spine and start slowly.Stay here for a few breaths before you come out .
To get out of the pose remember to pay attention to those stabilizer muscles .Push down against feet and pull in from the belly as you lift the shoulders back over the knees . The arms can come overhead like a butterfly stroke or just gently release them from your back. It’s nice to take either a downward facing dog here to walk out some of the grumpiness in your feet or maybe a child’s pose. Take a few breaths to readjust this pose can be very invigorating but it can make you feel dizzy too so move slowly going in and out. Enjoy !
Jathara = abdomen
parivartana = to completely revolve
asana = pose
Generates elasticity and strength in the core; twists or “wrings” abdominal organs to improve circulation throughout the gut. B.K.S. Iyengar states that this pose is good for reducing excess fat (why not!), it tones and eradicates the sluggishness of the liver, spleen and pancreas, and also cures gastritis and strengthens the intestines. He states that it also helps relieve sprains and catches in the lower back and hip region.
Lie on your back with your knees drawn into your chest. Inhale and exhale several times to lengthen the connective tissues in your lower back.
Set your arms out to your sides at shoulder level, palms turned up. On an exhale, sweep your knees right and draw them toward your right elbow.
Actively stretch your left arm in opposition to your legs to provide a counterpoint to the twist. Imagine that the arm is weighed down by sandbags. At the same time, ground your left shoulder blade.
With each exhalation, revolve your abdomen to the left, away from your knees. Keep your low back energized by actively drawing your lumbar spine inward (as in a small back arch) to stabilize your core and deepen the twist.
Feel how your skin, connective tissue, organs, and spine rotate with each breath. Stay for 30 seconds before actively swinging your knees back up to center. Repeat on the left.
Avoid These Common Mistakes
Don't allow your knees to shift below your pelvis. This places pressure on the low back and leaves the lumbar vertebrae vulnerable to strain. With knees drawn upward, the spine, paraspinal muscles, and organs are appropriately revolved.
Don’t let your left arm and shoulder blade lift off the ground. This negates the counterpoint to the twist, leaving your shoulder, neck, and upper spine vulnerable to strain.
Anne was taught this pose by Shiva Rea, who calls it “sacred body pose” with one hand over your heart (also known as “wild thing”). Anne’s favorite version is with hand over heart.
There are a few ways to find the pose:
First, from a dancing downward dog, bend the upper knee and open the hip, it’s a modified flip dog.
Shave the back of the knee with the top foot. Land the pose on the ball of your back foot.
Draw the hips to the sky, it is a heart opener so we pull bellybutton to heart and heart to hand.
The bottom leg is strong on in its edge like a side plank. The standing arm has a micro bend at the elbow to protect the shoulder..allow the head to hang off the body.
Drishti (gaze/focus) is to the back wall. It’s not about the shoulders holding you up, it’s about the legs and Bandhas (Mula and Uddiyana)
Smile and breathe!
To come out of the pose look down the energized standing arm and draw the upper knee back into high push-up. Move to child’s pose or flow through vinyasa.
You can also enter the pose from seat, with one leg straight and other knee bent. Backstroke the arm (on the bent knee side) press down through the bent leg and up through the hips. All the same actions apply once the pose is elevated.
Yogis should avoid this pose if recovering from a rotator cuff injury or are in the final trimester of pregnancy.
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Start in Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Bring your palms together at heart center.
Root down through the four corners of your left foot and engage your left quadricep and your core
Option 1 - Slowly lift your right leg and bring the sole of the foot to the left inner ankle, ball of the foot on the floor
Option 2 - Lifting your right leg and placing the sole of the foot to the inner left calf, (below the knee)
Option 3 - Draw your right foot up and place the sole against the inner left thigh and resist with the outer left leg
Inhale and lengthen through the crown of your head. Find your drishti (focal point) hands at heart center, directly in front of you, or lifting your gaze
Take five-ten deep breaths here
You can choose any arm variation such as keeping your hands in prayer, raising your arms over your head separated, or arms raised palms together overhead
Slowly release your arms back to heart center and release the right leg returning to tadasana.
Repeat on the other side.
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
This strong and empowering pose requires stability and strength in both upper and lower body, commanding full and undivided attention to the physical practice of the pose. Follow these instructions to get into Warrior II:
Setting up a strong base is essential to Warrior II. From standing (Tadasana) with hands at the hips, gently bend into the right knee while stepping the left foot back about 3 feet.
Next, pivoting the left heel about 45 degrees rest the heel down on the mat.
Bending deeper into the right knee so that it is directly over the right ankle, begin to align right heel with the arch of the left foot.
Once the lower body feels sturdy in this set up, check in with the upper body to ensure that shoulders are stacked over hips and spread arms wide with fingers parallel to the floor.
Create space between the shoulder blades by stretching the fingertips in opposite directions with palms down. Complete the pose by rotating the gaze to see the right palm.
Repeat on the opposite side.
Standing Figure Four
This standing one legged balancing pose can be practiced after warming up your body with lunging postures, sun salutations, and forward folds. As always, keep your breath steady and your core active to help with balance and stabilization.
Begin standing evenly in Tadasana with two feet grounded, hands folded at heart or placed on hips, gaze forward.
Shift your weight into one foot, crossing the other ankle over your standing thigh just above your kneecap. Flex your lifted ankle to stabilize that knee.
Activate your hips by pressing your lifted ankle into your standing leg. Modify for days of questionable balance by crossing your ankle much lower on your leg, even placing your toes on the ground, but still pressing the ankle into the standing leg.
Bend your standing knee and sit though your hips just like in chair pose, keep your torso upright at first, gaze still forward, sinking low enough to bring plenty of sensation to the hip of the lifted leg.
Hinging at your hips will lower your torso closer towards your lifted shin, dropping your gaze to the floor in front of you. Hands can stay where they were, or you could reach hands down to blocks, fingertips, floor or standing shin.
Final steps would be to send the gaze back behind you, dropping your head and releasing your neck while broadening upper shoulders and back.
Back out of the pose the same way you came into it, coming back to an even standing posture.
Parsva Bakasana (side crow pose)
There’s two ways you can approach this pose. Our “training wheel” version will involve having both elbows on the body, the full expression will only have only one.
In the beginner version:
Start in a knees together squat. If your body allows you to be on the balls of the feet with heels high to give you more lift, go for it.
Bring your palms together and twist your torso to the right wall, hook your left outer arm above the elbow to your right outer thigh above the knee.
Let the palm and fingertips face the right wall, and do the same with the left hand, only the left elbow will be right in front of your right hip.
Use your feet to lift your hips and fully connect left elbow to right upper knee and right elbow to right hip and gaze forward (so important always!).
Start by teasing the idea of leaning forward and bringing all of your weight into your hands. You might explore bringing both feet off the ground into the arm balance. To support yourself from dropping the the floor, think energy up and forward.
Gaze forward and keep shifting forward, but to get energy to go up, as you press your hands down, hug your forearms towards one another and press the back of your heart up, creating and action that spreads your back shoulder blades away from one another (protraction).
The second version:
Start in the same position of a low squat.
With hands together you will again hook your left elbow on the outer right thigh, just above the knee.
Instead of twisting the torso and direction of the hand to the right, keep both the chest and hand facing forward with the knees.
Bring the left hand down to the ground, and then bring your right hand down facing forward as well and a shoulders distance away to the right.
This arm will connect to nothing so really remind yourself to press away with that arm!
Lift the hips and bring the weight of your legs onto the left arm.
Again we gaze forward and shift forward. Pick those toes up and protract those shoulders!
Parivrtta Parsvokonasana (revolved side angle pose)
Set up for crescent lunge with right foot forward and the front knee at a right angle. Keep the front thigh parallel to the floor and the knee directly over the ankle and in line with the second toe.
With an inhale emphasize the length of the torso, energetically reaching the hands to the ceiling.
With an exhale draw the palms together in Anjali Mudra (prayer hands) at the center of the sternum and begin to tilt the torso forward maintaining length.
Press the back leg straight and re-lengthen from the back heal to the crown of the head. Twisting bring the bottom arm outside of the front knee.
As soon as the arm is hooked, recommit to lengthening the torso.
Use inhales to lengthen and exhales to twist; spinning the bottom ribs forward and top ribs up. The sternum extends forward as the back heel presses back. The front hip pins back and into the midline as the back femur presses to the ceiling.
Hands can stay in Anjali Mudra at the center of the sternum or the arms can open out; top arm reaching to the ceiling and bottom hand coming towards the floor.
Hold for 5-8 breaths, release to Adho Mukha Svanasan (down dog) and repeat on the other side.
Bound boat pose
This is a wonderful starter boat pose, wonderful for a beginner or for someone who is rebuilding their core strength or beginning to work on strengthening of the mid and lower back.
Grab your elbows underneath the knees and shift the weight into your sits.
Distributing the weight evenly come up to boat pose and hang out.