Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The rotating, balancing, hip opening... well, the Everything Pose

Impatient yogis everywhere, meet The Everything Pose.

Yes, it's nice to do a whole yoga sequence leading up to a pose, but sometimes you just want to skip to the pose, a pose that cuts to the chase and does everything, you know what I mean?

The hows and wherefores:

1. Start in a lunge: right foot forward, hands framing your right foot.

2. From the lunge, shift your body forward so you wind up on your right foot, left leg up in the air, fingertips on the floor, straight below your shoulders.

3. Bend your left knee and lift the knee out to the side. Think "urinating dog" here. With my apologies.

4. With your left leg lifted and rotated, raise your right hand and grab your left ankle. That's right. You're now balancing diagonally.

5. Lift your head, lift your chest, breathe slowly, and stay for 5-10 breaths.

Repeat on the other side.

BENEFITS: Well, you pretty much get a fantastic quad stretch on the raised leg (as well as hip-opening), a great hamstring stretch on the standing leg, a balance position, a chest-opener, and a bit of a back-bend. You see why this is the Everything Pose, right? Plus, it makes you stand straighter at the end (or happy that you survived it).

AVOID IF: Your knees or shoulders don't like it.

OTHER THOUGHTS: Can't reach the raised foot? Try using a belt to bridge the distance to the foot. Can't balance, or can't straighten the standing knee? Try using a block underneath the hand that's supposed to be on the floor. Can't seem to get into it at all? Well, that's why we have the other yoga poses, my dear impatient yogis, the poses you wanted to skip to get to the one-pose-does-all. Before blaming me, from now on, we'll do those first, and then we'll get to the Everything Pose...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Yogic Tripod

What do people do now that cell phone cameras are replacing regular cameras... and it's hard to find a tripod to mount the phones for those group portraits where you want to include yourself? The yogic tripod is not, I repeat, not a solution to this issue, but it is a nice little inversion/hip opener/quadriceps stretcher. And that's worth taking a picture of.

THE POSE: 1. Lie face down with your arms extended and your palms on the floor next to your thighs. 2. Bend your left knee so your left shin is straight up. 3. Press on your hands, lift your right leg, and rest your right thigh atop your left foot. If you can't quite get the thigh atop the left foot, try the knee. If you can't rest the knee there, try the shin. But the higher up you're able to prop your right leg, the greater the stretch into the hip and quad of the propped-up leg. 4. Breathe. Wait for your body to settle into the pose. Five to ten long breaths is a good general guideline. Yes, you will be slightly tilted to one side in this position. It's normal. Switch to the other side when you feel ready.

BENEFITS: An easy, virtually effortless inversion with the aforementioned quad and hip joint opening.

AVOID IF: The hip on the raised leg hurts.

OTHER THOUGHTS: You can wedge your cell phone camera between the big toe and the second toe on the raised leg and you'll have the tripod you need. But you still won't be able to be in the picture with your friends.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Warrior 1.1

Among the many things in the world that are hard to improve upon, we have cheesecake, rollercoaster rides and bungee jumping. Warrior 1, a staple of any yoga practice, would appear to be in that category. But watch out: fresh out of beta testing, here comes warrior 1.1.

Okay, so we all know the original warrior: feet spaced wide apart, turn toward one foot, bend that knee, keep the back foot sideways and firmly planted through the edge, raise both arms. Our good-natured warrior 1.1 corrects most people's tendency to not turn the hips enough and not align the neck with the spine.

THE POSE: Come into warrior 1 with the right foot leading. Bend your right elbow and drop the right hand toward your shoulderblades while pressing your head back against your right forearm. Reach your left arm forward, drawing your left hip forward as well. Breathe. Enjoy the knowledge you're advancing the cause of yoga by practicing a fractionally upgraded warrior. Repeat on the other side.

BENEFITS: Realigns the spine and hips, strengthens the quads, psychologically helps you be more assertive.

AVOID IF: You have a slipped disk or any other kind of spinal discomfort. Either do it gently enough that you stay shy of pain, or otherwise sit this one out.

OTHER THOUGHTS: Helpful for when you start calculating, in the middle of class, how many warrior 1s you've done in your yoga career -- virtually guaranteed to rein in your (distracted) mind. So go ahead: upgrade your warrior. This isn't Google, so Warrior 1.2 isn't due out for another fifty years. :-)