Yoga Poses


I bought a pair of those crazy walking shoes.  You know, the rip-offs of MBLs, that have big rounded soles and look like nurses shoes?   I got the Naturalizer version because they were on sale and I didn’t know if I’d like them enough to shell out major bucks.  The shoes make you walk heel to toe rather than clump along flat footed.  And with that extra propulsion of the rounded soles the  supporting muscles in your core and legs have to work extra hard to support you from falling over. 

The first time out in them I felt a little off-balance and it was hard to place my heel softly.  But over time I’ve gotten more comfortable and have started to really like them.  I walk  fast with a long stride and found that with a good tune on my ipod I get into a good pace,  literally rocking and rolling down the sidewalk on my nurses shoes. 

I also discovered that my butt can seriously hurt the next day.  I took a route that involved a lot of hills one day and with the extra work my glutes were doing anyways  thanks to the shoes, i felt like I’d done the route twice.  So when i got to the yoga mat the next day i was looking for hip stretches and discovered a couple new ones.

Lunge in three parts – I started with a High Lunge, with right foot forward and held it for a couple of breaths with my arms up.  For the second part, i twisted to the right, placing left hand on my knee and right hand on my hip.  I focused the stretched through my spine, keeping my neck relaxed.  For part three, i reached my right hand to my back thigh and stretched my left hand up to the ceiling, my gaze on my left hand.  Wow, what a funky twisty stretch.  Once I did the three-part lunge on both sides I relaxed in Pigeon for what felt like a half hour.  Yum.

Supine Hip Stretch – Lying on my back I started by pulling my right knee in toward the center of my chest, relaxing the leg as much as I could and holding for two or three breaths.  Then I dropped my right knee across my body to the left and held the calf of my bent leg with my left hand.  I focused on using my left hand to tuck my knee toward my chest and toward the floor to find a deep stretch in my hip.  Once I’d stayed for a few breaths, i then let go of the leg and just enjoyed a Supine Twist for a few breaths before going to the other side.

So when you take a 3 and a 4 year old to the pool and discover they can swim happily until their entire body is prune-like you start to get creative like, hmmm how many yoga poses can I do in the pool without drowning? 

Yoga in the water is great.  Taking away that pesky element of gravity really changes things.  I love stretching out in a hot bath in the winter, so it seems reasonable to move on to bigger bodies of water.  I was in a pool that has variable depths - here’s what I discovered works well in knee to thigh deep water:

- Upside Down Bow Pose – I think technically upside down Bow Pose is Wheel, but I really do mean Bow Pose.  To avoid the drowning thing, your face is out of the water, kneeling on the bottom, hands holding feet or ankles.  Press your chest and hips forward, take a couple of deep breaths and then for the final act, dip your head back into the water to get the full expression of the pose through your upper back. 

- Wide Leg Forward Bend Two Ways – I feel like I can get my feet wider than I can outside the pool.  Thanks to that and the bouancy thing I found you can go from seated to standing and back again.   I started in a seated position and pointed my toes straight up and rolled my thighs open to maximize the stretch.  Then to move to the other pose, I spread my arms in front and wooshed them along my sides to come to standing.  I kept a long back with my hands under my face, arms straight.  I held for a couple breaths and then slowly sat back down again.  The cool thing about going back and forth in the water is you can really feel which muscles on the inside of your thighs need it the most. 

- Hip Stretch – This hip stretch is easier to do in the water than out.  Sitting down, bend your right knee and bring the inside of your lower leg toward your chest.  You can also rest the outside of your right ankle on your opposite thigh and bend your left knee more to increase the stretch.  You’re going for a Pigeon pose-like stretch, feeling it in the outside of your right hip.

I found that chest-deep water is a great place to play with headstands.  I put my head on the bottom of the pool and found that using straight arms, hands on the bottom in front of me gave me the best balance.  Then if I felt my legs dropping behind, I could push with my arms and do a fun flip back into the water. 

Of course once the kids noticed they said, “do the flip thing again!” and I had to do it a dozen more times for them.  (Sigh), all in a day’s work for a water-logged yogi.

 

I went to a yoga class last week and since I was the solo attendee Krista asked me what I wanted to focus on and picked Hips! Let’s do Hips! 

She did an awesome routine with Bird of Paradise which I have never done.  Here’s Ana Forrest doing it, my version is more of a bent-knee variation, but you get the idea. 

Here’s how to do it.  First warm up with lots of lunging, Warrior 1 and 2,  a long juicy Triangle and whatever else you do to move the concrete out of your hips. 

Krista also did a nice variation on low lunge:

Start in high lunge, lower your back knee to the mat and scoot it back a couple inches before letting your hips sink down and forward.  Then place your hands on the inside of your front foot and bend your elbows (or rest elbows on the mat), lowering your torso to deepen the stretch.  Then lift the inside of your front foot to bring your knee out farther to the side.  This shouldn’t cause any knee discomfort but will really deepen the hip stretch.

Once your hips are like butter do this routine:

Get into Side Angle pose, right foot forward first, right hand on the floor on the inside of your front foot.  Place left hand on your waist and tip your elbow back behind you opening up your chest.  Hold here for 3 breaths.  Then bind by reaching right arm under thigh, left arm around your back from the left, grab your hands under your butt if you can or use a strap.  Hold for another 3 breaths continuing to keep your right knee open over your ankle as you spin your torso toward the ceiling.

Here comes the fun part.  Look down at the floor and holding your bind, step your left foot like a one-footed chicken until it’s next to your right.  Get your weight solid in your left foot and holding the bind, come up on your toes on your right foot.  Taking your time, come up to standing.  Straighten your torso.  Play with straightening your right leg without pulling your shoulder out of its socket ;-) Hold for 3-5 breaths.

Very slowly bring your right foot back down to the mat and unbind.  Awesome no?  Repeat on the other side.

 

You simply haven’t done Pigeon Pose until you’ve done it with a 35 pound preschooler on your back.  It makes for a great stretch.  He is available to rent as a yoga prop, by the way, but his attention span is short and he requires constant feeding.  So if that’s not an option, breath some life into your Pigeon Pose with these variations.

Let’s say you’ve got your right leg forward for each of these descriptions.   

- With hands supporting you on the mat, twist your right shoulder to the right.  If you want to go deeper, bring your right hand behind you and reach to the back of your left thigh.

- With your left hand firmly on the mat, lift your right arm straight above your head.  Feel how it changes the stretch.

- Walk your hands forward bringing your face to the mat.  Walk your hands to the left and hold.  Pause for a few breaths, then walk them to the right and hold it there.

- Roll onto your left shoulder and bring your hands to a prayer position and hold.

If Pigeon is intense for you anyways, make sure you’re well warmed up for these variations, because you’ll feel the stretch in a whole new juicy way.

So I wrote before about Bowen Therapy and my hip.  I’ve tried everything to deal with my Piriformis syndrome.  I’ve now finished 6 sessions of Bowen and in the last couple of weeks have been trying to tweak my hip.  I’ve done all the things I either avoided or was Very Careful About.  I’ve run hills.  And lots of ‘em.  I’ve amped up my speed and distance without the appropriate ramp up period.  I should be crippled – instead – nothin’.  Happy Hips.

I actually had the thought, I wonder if I should train for a Half Marathon this spring?  Now whether I do or not, I don’t care – but this is from me, who hobbled about painfully (and grumpily) when my hip acted up.

You just don’t know how happy I am about it.

And it’s had impact on my yoga too.  I’m more flexible.  I can do a full Lotus position now.  Not like “gee I should sit here for a half hour” but at least a few minutes where my foot is not completely dislodging my inner thigh.

And while I’m on that note – let me say something to yoga teachers who are naturally flexible.  Don’t be an jerk, k?  Flexiblility is mostly god-given.  Be careful about using your yoga classes as a “see what I can do!” Stuart thing from Mad TV.  Most people do not have the kind of flexibility that made you think “wow I’m good at yoga, I should teach”.  Let’s face it, yoga won’t make them a bunch more flexible unless they’re able to do it 4 hours a day.  Don’t let your ego teach your yoga.  Show the advanced version of the pose and then do the modified version.  People will feel included, instead of, well, bad. 

Whew glad to get that out.

So the other thing Bowen has done for my yoga practice is really increased the prana or energy flow in my hips.  We all have those poses that make us go “AH” right?  You know the ones – you feel the rush of energy and it Just. Feels. So. Good.

So because I’m a hip person, those poses for me are Seated Twist, Pigeon, also Reclining Big Toe pose where you cross your leg over into a twist – AH.  Except since I’ve done Bowen those poses give me 10 times the rush.  Like a total Yogasm.  Like wipe the drool, Corilee, it’s not attractive.   Not every time, but enough that it’s defiinitely helped me get to the mat more often ;-)

So Sarah the cute little naturopath who did the treatments on me said that I might need to come back in three months for a tune-up or when I notice my flexibility decreases.  No problem, I’ll be there in a flash if I can keep my hip, and me, this happy.

I was at the Atlantic Yoga Conference on the weekend (fabulous, would highly recommend it) and Frank Jude Boccio talked about how we help create our own suffering by seeing the permanent as impermanent and the impermanent as permanent.  Um, yeah.  And then I experienced it for myself.

On Saturday it seemed every session was all about holding Downward Facing Dog as long as possible.  So on Sunday my shoulders were *sore*.  I went to a session with Beryl Berch Bender and holding ‘Dog’ in the first few Sun Salutations was brutal. 

So my thought process goes “oh no, this really sucks!  I can’t do a whole Primary series with shoulders this sore!  What am i doing to do!?”  And then I get into whether I should push myself or allow myself to come out of the pose.  And all the ego stuff that goes with that. (Aside: although I always encourage folks in my classes to go at their own pace, I’m still working on that advice for myself).

But as the class progressed and I stopped worrying about it, it got easier.  I slid through the Vinyasas like nobody’s business.  It felt *good*.

This makes no sense – muscle strength should be a linear thing right?  I hold Down Dog forever, I get sore.  When I’m sore I can’t do Down Dog easily until my muscles recuperate.

But it didn’t work that way.  What I perceived as Permanent was actually Impermanent.  My sore shoulders didn’t have the impact I thought they would.  I was busy planning all the outcomes and it just didn’t happen that way. 

Which means I really shouldn’t have bothered with all the thinking about it.  It means I should have just trusted and breathed.  It means I should have stripped it down to either doing the pose or not doing the pose.  Because that’s really what it’s all about.

I like to download from Yoga Today and then do a class on weekend mornings.  I grab whatever looks interesting when I think of it and then have a few classes to pick and choose from – thank god for large hard drives! 

I’ve been doing alot of Sarah Kline’s classes. I find she throws in some interesting flows and poses that give me ideas for my own classes.  Also I’m mad for a good hip stretch, so I loved this flow that she did in a recent Dynamic Kripalu class:

Downdog with Lift – In downdog, keep your right leg straight and lift it, pressing your foot toward the ceiling.  Hold for a moment, then,

Plank with Tuck- bring your shoulders over your wrists for Plank and bend your right leg and tuck your knee into your chest.  Hold for a moment.  Repeat this 2 or 3 times.  Then, bring your right foot forward for a High Lunge and hold for a couple breaths, then drop the back knee to the floor and flatten out the foot for,

Low Lunge – hold here for a couple breaths.  Place both hands on the left side of your right foot, or drop to your elbows and hold a deeper stretch here. 

Add the twist – Keeping your torso low, place your right hand on your right knee and twist to your right.  When Sarah did this she even used her hand to press her knee out to the right a little, which adds an inner thigh stretch too.  Wow, that gets into spots I didn’t know existed!  Then repeat on the other side.

Thank you Sarah!

I went crazy this week with the workouts.  Tuesday I did some challenging stuff at the gym preparing to teach Power Yoga and then did it again that evening with the class.  And if that wasn’t enough I ran hills yesterday.  So this a.m. I got up feeling *so* stiff.  I poured a hot bath with Epson salts and did some bathtub yoga.  I’ll tell you about my routine.

Everyone’s bathtub is a different size, so these are just guidelines intended for the yogi with some experience.  The point isn’t to go for the gusto with the poses, keep it easy and enjoy the watery element that the bathtub environment adds to your practice, it’s very calming.  Here’s Cor’s Bathtub Yoga routine:

Fish in the Water - interlace your fingers behind your head with your elbows out the side.  Feet are in the lower corners of your tub and knees are bent.  Arch your back lifting your belly and chest toward the ceiling.  Press into your elbows, squeezing your shoulder blades together.  Hold for a couple breaths or come in and out of the pose with your breath.

Bridge over Bubbles - with your feet in the corners of your tub and arms by your side slowly lift your hips one vertibrae at a time until you come into an easy bridge.  Lower again the same way.  Come in and out with long breaths, close your eyes and try to feel each bone moving individually.

Knees to Chest – squeeze and hold for two breaths.  Then cross one knee over the other and press them into your chest.  Change sides. 

Bath Twist – Depending on the size of your tub it may be tricky to get a good twist in the water, but try this.  Scoot over to the right side of your tub, knees bent.  Then drop both knees to the left, let them rest on the side of the tub or in the water.  Press your right shoulder toward the right side of the tub to deepen the stretch.  Hold and enjoy.  Change sides.

Hara H2O - if it’s morning and you need help waking up, add some Hara-action.  Bend knees and keep feet on the floor of the tub.  Interlace fingers behind your head again.  Take a deep inhale as you exhale squeeze your core muscles and lift your shoulders up.  Exhale as you release down and repeat.  The key is to not go all the way back down or you’ll drown in a Tsunami, just lower back to water level and repeat.  Relax and rest for a couple breaths and then do a few more.

Hamstrings 2 Ways - On your back, lift one leg and find a hamstring stretch.  Drop your toes toward your face.  Change sides.  Alternatively, come to sitting and stretch your hamstrings with your legs in the water.

Hot Water Cobra – roll over to your front.  Bend your knees, plant your hands ahead of you for support and come into an easy Cobra pose.  Hold for 2-3 breaths and then come down and rest your chin on your arms while you relax.  Repeat again if you like.  

Half Child in the City - slide your hips back onto your ankles but keep your hands or lower arms on the floor to support your upper body.  Your chest is not resting on your thighs unless your water level is low enough.  Rock your hips slowly side to side.  

Soaking Savasana – Sink into the water on your back.  Let your head sink into the water so that your ears are under and take a few long Ujayai breaths.  Relax as many muscles as you possibly can and just allow yourself to float.  Set a “for your highest good” intention before coming back to terra firma.

Yoga baths are great because you’ve gotten clean, gotten a good soak and stretched out a bit too.  Although it’s not a major yoga session I find the warm water really helps me get more out of it both mentally and physically.  So grab your rubber ducky - we’ll see you in the bath!

 

We did a lunge flow in Power Yoga class this week that really heated up the body and loosened up the ol’ hips.  We didn’t hold each lunge long – just a breath or two.

To transition we did Downward Facing Dog to go from one side to the next, and then we did a Plank/Cobra/Downward Facing Dog transition to go to the next Lunge.  If you get out of breath, just stay in Downdog for a bit before moving to the next pose. Here’s the list:

High Lunge with Arms Overhead – arms like Warrior 1

High Lunge with Twist – with right leg forward, put your right elbow on your knee and slide the back of your left hand along your lower back to lift your left shoulder away from the floor, opening your chest.

High Lunge with Yoga Mudra – clasp hands behind hips, roll shoulders back, squeeze shoulder blades together as you straighten your arms and lift your hands away from your hips.

High Lunge with Chest Opener – place hands on lower back, fingers pointing down.  Squeeze elbows together as you open your chest and lift your gaze.

High Lunge with Horizontal Twist – with right leg forward, place left hand on thigh and stretch right arm out horizontally.  Sweep your arm to the right to open you up into a twist.

Low Lunge – here’s where you really see the benefit of all your lunge work.  Drop your back knee to the floor this time, lower the top of your foot to the mat.  Place hands on your front thigh.  To deepen the stretch, bring your torso upright so your weight assists in the stretch.  If that’s too intense lean your over your front thigh a little more.  Hold this for 3-5 breaths.

We did Pigeon Pose after this, it was great after all the lunging.

I added this routine to the Sun Salutations we did in class this week and it was a good warm-up.

We worked in Chair pose and variations on it after the first Forward Bend.  It worked well with half Salutations (just the standing poses) as well as full (adding in Plank etc.).  

1. Chair – From Halfway Lift or the ‘look up’ or whatever you want to call it – check that your feet are hip width apart and the insides are parallel, then stretch up into Chair.  Hold for 3-5 breaths and then finish the Sun Salutation.

2. Half Chair – I saw this in Yoga Journal, it’s a cool variation.  Your lower body is in Chair, but you fold deeper at the hips, reaching forward with your arms so that the line of your body and arms are more parallel to the floor.  If you go deep into the pose your torso will become parallel.  Hold this for 3-5 breaths and finish the Sun Salutation.

3. Chair with an easy twist – Come back into Chair, bring your left hand to the outside of your right thigh, bring your torso a little closer to your thighs as you reach up with your right hand, bringing yourself into a twist.  Make sure your hips stay even.  Do both sides at once, or finish the Sun Salute before doing the other side.

I found this routine helped warm up our legs and hips more for standing poses like Warrior 1 and 2 than usual.  But try it for yourself!

Next Page »