Ambrosini, Diane M-Instructing Hatha Yoga, 2E-Human Kinetics (2015).pdf

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Instructing Hatha Yoga A Guide for Teachers and Students Second Edition Diane M. Ambrosini

Human Kinetics

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Ambrosini, Diane M., 1962Instructing hatha yoga : a guide for teachers and students / Diane M. Ambrosini. -- Second edition. pages cm Includes bibliographical references. 1. Hatha yoga--Study and teaching. I. Kappmeier, Kathy Lee, 1964- Instructing hatha yoga. II. Title. RA781.7.K36 2016 613.7'046076--dc23 2015000918 ISBN: 978-1-4504-8465-7 (print) Copyright © 2016 by Diane Ambrosini Copyright © 2006 by Kathy Lee Kappmeier and Diane Ambrosini All rights reserved. Except for use in a review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying, and recording, and in any information storage and retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher. Notice: Permission to reproduce the following material is granted to instructors and agencies who have purchased Instructing Hatha Yoga, Second Edition: pp. 355-359. The reproduction of other parts of this book is expressly forbidden by the above copyright notice. Persons or agencies who have not purchased Instructing Hatha Yoga, Second Edition may not reproduce any material. The web addresses cited in this text were current as of July 2015, unless otherwise noted. Acquisitions Editor: Gayle Kassing, PhD; Developmental Editor: Bethany J. Bentley; Managing Editor: Carly S. O’Connor; Copyeditor: Tom Tiller; Permissions Manager: Dalene Reeder; Graphic Designer: Dawn Sills; Cover Designer: Keith Blomberg; Photograph (cover): Neil Bernstein, © Human Kinetics; Photographs (interior): Neil Bernstein; photographs © Human Kinetics, unless otherwise noted; Photo Asset Manager: Laura Fitch; Visual Production Assistant: Joyce Brumfield; Photo Production Manager: Jason Allen; Art Manager: Kelly Hendren; Associate Art Manager: Alan L. Wilborn; Illustrations: © Human Kinetics; Printer: Sheridan Books We thank Lanita Varshell and A Gentle Way Yoga Center in La Mesa, California, for assistance in providing the location for the photo shoot for this book. The video contents of this product are licensed for private home use and traditional, face-to-face classroom instruction only. For public performance licensing, please contact a sales representative at www.HumanKinetics.com/ SalesRepresentatives. Printed in the United States of America  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 The paper in this book is certified under a sustainable forestry program. Human Kinetics Website: www.HumanKinetics.com United States: Human Kinetics P.O. Box 5076 Champaign, IL 61825-5076 800-747-4457 e-mail: [email protected]

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This edition is dedicated to the memory of Kathy Lee Kappmeier. Without KLee’s original vision and inspiration, Instructing Hatha Yoga would never have made it to press. Her love for the discipline and art of yoga cannot be overstated. Were it not for her devotion and passion for teaching, many people in San Diego and abroad might never have experienced yoga in any form. Even when she became ill, she was always at her finest when she was practicing yoga, and most especially when she was teaching her beloved students. While her physical presence is no longer with us, the bright light of her soul still illuminates the yoga paths of students and teachers alike through this edition. And although I missed out on a whole lot of chai and chat this time around, her energy was with me throughout every aspect of this revision. I am eternally grateful for the guidance and seemingly serendipitous epiphanies I received from my dear friend and teacher along the way! I am honored to continue on with our collective vision of this book. Profound thanks also to the following: All of my students throughout all of the years. You are my teachers—and a constant source of joy and inspiration as I teach and continue to learn. All of those with whom I’ve had the honor to study, whether in person or via other seemingly disconnected sources. You are my teachers and guiding lights; I bow to your wisdom, generosity, and illuminating energy. All of my family and the friends whom I also consider family. You are my teachers—also my role models, confidantes, and steadfast foundation. My deepest Universal Self. You are my eternal teacher—whether I am aware or not, you connect all of me to the Divine Everything. Dave and Ben Massey. I’m overwhelmed by your continuous love and support! Thank you for sharing the journey and shining your light my way. I love you both with every timeless atom of my being!

Contents Poses vi Preface xv Acknowledgments xxi

Part I  The Practice of Yoga Chapter 1

Understanding Yoga

3

Types of Yoga 4 • Types of Hatha Yoga 5 • Yoga Lexicon 14 • Standards for Yoga Teachers 14 • Liability Insurance and Employment Classification 18

Chapter 2

Basics of Teaching Yoga

19

Qualities of a Yoga Teacher 20 • Becoming a Yoga Teacher 24 • Recognizing Your Students’ Needs 27 • Class Management 30 • Summary 35

Chapter 3

Creating a Class Environment

37

Equipment Selection 38 • Safety and Comfort Concerns 40 • Class Atmosphere 43 • Summary 46

Chapter 4

Breathing and Beyond

47

Pranayama 48 • Instructing the Breathing Process 52 • Linking Pranayama With Asanas 53 • Summary 54

Chapter 5

Energy and Anatomy

55

Yoga Postures and Major Body Systems 56 • Energetic Anatomy 60 • Human Movement Systems 63 • Mechanics of Asanas 66 • Summary 72

Part II  Asanas and Adjustments Chapter 6

Sun Salutations

75

Classical Surya Namaskara 77 • Surya Namaskara A 78 • Surya Namaskara B 79

Chapter 7

Standing Postures Tadasana or Samasthiti (Mountain Pose) 83 • Vrkshasana (Tree Pose) 86 • Utkata Konasana (Fire Angle Pose) 90 • Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle) 93 • Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolving Triangle Pose) 98 • Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend) 102 • Prasarita Padottanasana (Extended-Leg Forward Bend) 105 • Garudasana (Eagle Pose) 108 • Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side-Angle Stretch) 112 • Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon Pose) 116 • Parivrtta Parshvakonasana (Revolving Extended Side-Angle Stretch) 120 • Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolving Half-Moon Pose) 124 • Utkatasana (Fierce, or Chair Pose) 128 • Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) 131 • Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) 135 • Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) 139 • Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch) 143 • Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand-to-Toe Pose) 147 • Natarajasana (King Dancer) 151

iv

81

Contents

Chapter 8

Seated Postures

155

Malasana (Basic Squat, or Bead Pose) 157 • Dandasana (Staff Pose) 160 • Janu Shirshasana (Head-to-Knee Pose) 163 • Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose) 167 • Marichyasana A (Marichi’s Pose, Variation A) 171 • Marichyasana B (Marichi’s Pose, Variation B) 174 • Marichyasana C (Marichi’s Pose, Variation C) 177 • Marichyasana D (Marichi’s Pose, Variation D) 180 • Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend, or Intense West-Side Stretch) 183 • Gomukhasana (Cow’s Face Pose) 187 • Paripurna Navasana (Full Boat Pose) 190 • Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) 193 • Upavishtha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend) 196 • Parighasana (Kneeling Triangle, or Gate Pose) 199 • Virasana (Hero Pose) 202 • Bharadvajasana (Bharadvaja’s Pose) 205 • Padmasana (Lotus Pose) 208 • Tolasana (Scale Pose) 212 • Hanumanasana (Forward-Split Pose) 215 • Bakasana (Crane Pose) 218

Chapter 9

Supine and Prone Postures

221

Durga-Go (Cat and Cow Pose) 223 • Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana (Plank Pose) 226 • Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbs Staff Pose) 229 • Zen Asana (Transitional Pose) 232 • Vasishthasana (Side Plank Pose) 235 • Purvottanasana (Reverse Plank, or Intense East-Side Stretch) 238 • Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) 241 • Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward-Facing Dog) 244 • Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) 247 • Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) 250 • Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose) 253 • Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) 256 • Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged Royal Pigeon Pose) 260 • Ushtrasana (Camel Pose) 264 • Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose) 268 • Matsyasana (Fish Pose) 271 • Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Toe Pose) 274

Chapter 10

Inverted Postures

277

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) 279 • Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand) 283 • Pincha Mayurasana (Peacock Feather Pose) 286 • Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Downward-Facing Tree, or Handstand) 289 • Salamba Shirshasana (Supported Headstand) 292 • Halasana (Plow Pose) 296

Chapter 11

Restorative Postures

299

Balasana (Child’s Pose) 301 • Pavanamuktasana (Purifying, or Wind Relieving Pose) 304 • Supta Urdhva Dhanurasana (Restorative Backbend) 307 • Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Twist) 310 • Viparita Karani (Restorative Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose) 313 • Shavasana (Corpse Pose) 315

Part III  Structuring a Class Chapter 12

Class Framework

321

Class Outline 323 • Lesson Plans and Class Descriptions 325 • Summary 328

Chapter 13

Sample Classes

329

Sample 30-Minute Class 330 • Sample 60-Minute Class 332 • Sample 90-Minute Class 335 • Sample Prenatal Yoga Class 338 • Sample Children’s Yoga Class 340 • Sample Six-Week Course 342 • Putting It All Together 344

Appendix A Sample Relaxation Scripts 349 • Appendix B Yoga Resources 352 • Appendix C Self-Inquiry Questionnaire 355 • Appendix D Yoga Class Evaluation Form 357 • Appendix E Sample Classical-Eclectic Hatha Course Syllabus 358 • Appendix F Chapter Review Answers 360 • Appendix G Anatomical Illustrations 364 • Glossary 367 • About the Author 370

v

Poses

vi

Adho Mukha Shvanasana [uhd-HOE moo-KUHSH-vuhn-AAH-suh-nuh] (Downward-­Facing Dog)—This inverted posture is practiced on the mat lengthwise with the feet and hands pushing against the ground and the hips lifted high in the air. It is practiced most often as part of the Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskaras) series.

279

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana [uhd-HOE moo-KUH vrick-SHAAH-suh-nuh] (Downward-­Facing Tree, or Handstand)—This inverted posture involves the basic handstand, an arm balance in which the hands are placed on the ground and the rest of the body is upside down with the feet in the air.

289

Ardha Chandrasana [AR-dhuh chuhn-DRAAH-suh-nuh] (Half-Moon Pose)—This standing posture starts from Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle). The body weight is balanced on the forward leg as the trailing leg lifts off the ground in an arcing motion. As an extension of Utthita Trikonasana, Ardha Chandrasana provides similar benefits, most notably by opening the chest, hips, and pelvis.

116

Ardha Matsyendrasana [AR-dhuh muht-see-yen-DRAAH-suh-nuh] (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)—In this seated twist, one leg is straight out in front of the body and the other leg is bent and usually crossed over the straight leg near the opposite hip. The upper torso is rotated in the direction of the bent leg.

167

Baddha Konasana [BUD-dhuh kohn-AAH-suh-nuh] (Bound Angle Pose)—In this seated asana, the knees are bent, the thighs are rotated externally to the sides, and the soles of the feet are pressed together or held together with the hands to make a seal or lock.

193

Bakasana [buhk-AAH-suh-nuh] (Crane Pose)—In this squatting arm balance, the arms support the weight of the body as the bent knees rest on the backs of the upper arms. When balance is achieved on the hands, the feet are lifted off the ground.

218

Poses

Balasana [buhl-AAH-suh-nuh] (Child’s Pose)—In this restorative kneeling and prone position, the lower legs are tucked under the torso and the chest rests on the thighs. The arms may be extended over the head (Ancient Prayer Pose), resting on the ground, or wrapped around the outside of the body with the hands resting beside the ankles. This pose is refreshing when practiced after backbends and inversions.

301

Bharadvajasana [bhuh-RUHD-vaah-JAAH-suh-nuh] (Bharadvaja’s Pose)—This gentle, seated twist can be practiced with the legs in Virasana (Hero Pose) or with one leg in Virasana and the other in Ardha Padmasana (Half-Lotus Pose).

205

Bhujangasana [bhoo-juhn-GAAH-suh-nuh] (Cobra Pose)—This prone backbending posture has numerous variations. In its simplest form, the chest is lifted off the ground with the arms resting at the sides. A deeper variation brings the head and feet closer together.

241

Chaturanga Dandasana [chuh-tour-RUHN-guh duhn-DAAH-suh-nuh] (FourLimbs Staff Pose)—This pose is similar to the downward phase of a push-up. The elbows are bent, and the body hovers a few inches (centimeters) above the ground.

229

Dandasana [duhn-DAAH-suh-nuh] (Staff Pose)—In this seated pose, the spine and lower body are straight and strong and the hips are flexed to 90 degrees.

160

Dhanurasana [dhuh-noor-AAH-suh-nuh] (Bow Pose)—In this moderate to deep prone backbend, the knees are bent and abducted slightly wider than the hips and the hands reach back to grasp the feet or ankles.

250

Durga-Go [DUR-guh-go] (Cat and Cow Pose)—This pose is practiced on the hands and knees to move the spine through a gentle range of flexion and hyperextension in the sagittal plane. The rounded, flexed spine of the cat portion of the posture resembles a cat with its back arched. The hyperextension in the spine is reminiscent of the sway in a cow’s back.

223

vii

viii

Poses

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana [eka-PAAH-duh-RAAH-juh kuh-poht-AAH-suh-nuh] (One-Legged Royal Pigeon Pose)—This pose is generally accessed from a low lunge where the flexed front knee is externally rotated and placed on the ground. The extended back leg rests on the ground so that the psoas receives a strong stretch. The chest remains lifted and open, and those with adequate flexibility and balance may flex the back knee and reach for the foot.

260

Garudasana [guh-rood-AAH-suh-nuh] (Eagle Pose)—This one-legged balancing posture involves crossing the non-weight-bearing leg over the standing leg. The thighs and hips are engaged by the slight crouch. The mid back and shoulders are stretched as the arms are crossed in front of the chest.

108

Gomukhasana [go-mook-AHH-suh-nuh] (Cow’s Face Pose)—In this seated posture, the legs are on the ground, stacked in front of the hips with the knees bent. One knee is folded on top of the other and aligned with the middle of the body. The spine is upright, and the arms are bent with one elbow pointed up and the other pointed down and reaching behind the back.

187

Halasana [huhl-AAH-suh-nuh] (Plow Pose)—In this pose, the neck and the tops of the shoulders rest on the ground with the spine as vertical as possible. The hips are flexed with the legs outstretched as the feet rest on the ground behind the head.

296

Hanumanasana [huh-noo-maahn-AAH-suh-nuh] (Forward-Split Pose)—This forward split lengthens both the hamstrings and the hip flexors.

215

Janu Shirshasana [JAAH-noo sheer-SHAAH-suh-nuh] (Head-to-Knee Pose)—In this seated forward bend, one leg is extended forward and the opposite leg is flexed at the knee and rotated externally so that the outer knee lowers laterally toward the ground.

163

Jathara Parivartanasana [juht-HAR-uh par-ee-VAR-tuhn-AAH-suh-nuh] (Belly Twist)—In this restorative posture, the hips are flexed at 90 degrees and the legs are rotated to one side of the body. The knees can be bent or straight. The torso remains as flat on the ground as possible.

310

Poses

Malasana [maahl-AAH-suh-nuh] (Basic Squat, or Bead Pose)—This squatting position is a good transitional posture when moving from a standing posture to a seated one or when moving in a vinyasa practice from one seated posture to the next.

157

Marichyasana A [mar-EE-chee-YAHH-suh-nuh kuh] (Marichi’s Pose, Variation A)—In this seated pose, one leg is extended forward and the opposite knee is bent and pressed close to the chest. The same-side arm wraps around the bent knee, and the hands are clasped together behind the back to create a deeper stretch in the shoulder joints. The pose can be intensified through a forward bend from the hips.

171

Marichyasana B [mar-EE-chee-YAHH-suh-nuh k-huh] (Marichi’s Pose, Variation B)—This pose is similar to Marichyasana A, except that instead of the leg being extended in front of the body, the knee is now flexed and the ankle is placed in Half-Lotus (Ardha Padmasana) or tucked under the opposite hip.

174

Marichyasana C [mar-EE-chee-YAHH-suh-nuh guh] (Marichi’s Pose, Variation C)—This pose is similar to Marichyasana A, except that the foot of the bent leg is now crossed over the opposite thigh. The arms are bound behind the back, but the torso twists in the direction of the bent leg.

177

Marichyasana D [mar-EE-chee-YAHH-suh-nuh g-huh] (Marichi’s Pose, Variation D)—This pose is a combination of the Half-Lotus element of Marichyasana B and the twisting direction of Marichyasana C. It is by far the most challenging Marichyasana variation because it combines Half-Lotus, a spinal twist, and the binding of the arms in one posture.

180

Matsyasana [muht-see-YAHH-suh-nuh] (Fish Pose)—In this supine backbending posture, the hips and crown of the head remain on the ground and the chest and ribs are lifted. Traditionally, Matsyasana is practiced with the legs in Padmasana (Lotus).

271

Natarajasana [nut-tuh-raahj-AHH-suh-nuh] (King Dancer)—This is a one-legged standing posture with a backbend. The non-weight-bearing leg is drawn behind the back with the arms reaching toward the foot of the lifted leg. Persons with adequate flexibility reach overhead to the foot; alternatively, one can simply reach the hands behind the back to clasp the foot.

151

Padmasana [puhd-MAAH-suh-nuh] (Lotus Pose)—This is generally an upright, seated position in which the legs are crossed in front and each ankle rests comfortably on the opposite thigh, near the crease of the opposite hip. This pose is the quintessential seated posture in yoga and East Indian meditation.

208

ix

x

Poses

Parighasana [par-eegh-AAH-suh-nuh] (Kneeling Triangle, or Gate Pose)—This intense side stretch is generally practiced in a kneeling position with one leg abducted and rotated externally.

199

Paripurna Navasana [par-ee-POUR-nuh naah-VAAH-suh-nuh] (Boat Pose)—In this seated jackknife balancing position, the legs are together and straight with the toes at eye level. The spine is straight, and the arms are extended parallel to the ground.

190

Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana [par-ee-VRT-tuh AR-dhuh chuhn-DRAAH-suh-nuh] (Revolving Half-Moon Pose)—In this half-moon posture, the upper torso turns toward the standing leg.

124

Parivrtta Parshvakonasana [par-ee-VRT-tuh paarsh-vuh-kohn-AAH-suh-nuh] (Revolving Extended Side-Angle Stretch)—This is a twisted or revolving flank stretch. Starting from Utthita Parshvakonasana, the torso rotates so the chest turns to the bent leg side and the lower hand reaches toward the ground.

120

Parivrtta Trikonasana [par-ee-VRT-tuh tree-kohn-AAH-suh-nuh] (Revolving Triangle Pose)—In this standing pose, the legs are positioned in an orientation similar to that of Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle), but this pose rotates the torso so the chest faces the opposite direction. The twist through the mid-thoracic spine makes this posture more challenging than Utthita Trikonasana for most students because it requires greater strength, flexibility, and balance.

98

Parshvottanasana [paarsh-voht-taahn-AHH-suh-nuh] (Intense Side Stretch)—This standing pose is similar to Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend), but here one leg is forward and one leg is back. This placement of the legs requires more balance and creates a deeper stretch through the hips and sides. The arms are typically held in Anjali Mudra, or Prayer Pose, behind the back. The stretch extends from the backs of the heels all the way up into the neck, thus releasing tension throughout the entire back of the body.

143

Paschimottanasana [puhsh-chee-moht-tuhn-AHH-suh-nuh] (Seated Forward Bend, or Intense West-Side Stretch)—In this seated, full forward bend, the legs are outstretched in front of the body and the pelvis tilts forward as the torso folds over the thighs. The belly and chest rest on the fronts of the legs to the best of the student’s ability.

183

Pavanamuktasana [puh-VAH-nuh-mookt-AAH-suh-nuh] (Purifying, or Wind Relieving Pose)—In this restorative, supine pose, one or both legs are drawn toward the chest.

304

Poses

Pincha Mayurasana [PIN-chuh may-oohr-AAH-suh-nuh] (Peacock Feather Pose)—This arm balance works the shoulder-stabilizing muscles as in Salamba Shirshasana (Supported Headstand), but here the head and neck do not support any body weight.

286

Prasarita Padottanasana [pruh-SAAH-ree-tuh paah-doht-taahn-AAH-suh-nuh] (Extended-Leg Forward Bend)—This standing pose is a variation of a forward bend with the legs abducted.

105

Purvottanasana [poohr-VOHT-taahn-AAH-suh-nuh] (Reverse Plank, or Intense East-Side Stretch)—This is a reverse plank pose in which the hands press into the ground behind the back as the front of the body is lifted.

238

Salamba Sarvangasana [saah-LUM-buh sahr-vaahng-AAH-suh-nuh] (Supported Shoulderstand)—In this inverted pose, the shoulders, back of the upper arms, and back of the head rest on the ground. The elbows are pointed directly behind, and the hands press against the back or rest on the ground to provide greater lift to the body.

283

Salamba Shirshasana [saah-LUM-buh sheer-SHAAH-suh-nuh] (Supported Headstand)—This inverted, supportive version of a headstand puts less stress on the neck because the forearms and shoulders support the majority of the body weight. The crown of the head is cradled between the hands, and the back of the head rests against the fingers while the spine and legs are vertical.

292

Setu Bandhasana [sey-TOO buhn-DHAAH-suh-nuh] (Bridge Pose)—In this relatively easy supine backbending posture, the back of the head, lower neck, and top edges of the shoulders remain on the ground while the hips are lifted. The knees are flexed, and the feet are flat on the ground for support.

253

Shalabhasana [shuh-luhb-HAAH-suh-nuh] (Locust Pose)—This prone pose, in which the legs and chest are lifted off the ground, strengthens the posterior musculature.

247

Shavasana [shuh-VAAH-suh-nuh] (Corpse Pose)—This restorative pose is the quintessential finishing, resting, and restorative posture. The body reclines on the ground with the arms and legs stretched in a relaxed manner out to the sides.

315

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xii

Poses

Supta Padangusthasana [SOOP-tuh paah-daahng-oost-AHH-suh-nuh] (Reclining Hand-to-Toe Pose)—In this supine position, one leg is flexed at the hip and the big toe or foot is usually grasped by the same-side hand, either with or without a strap. This pose releases hip and lower back musculature.

274

Supta Urdhva Dhanurasana [SOOP-tuh oohr-dhuh-vuh dhuh-noor-AAH-suh-nuh] (Restorative Backbend)—This posture modifies the more strenuous backbends by using a supportive prop, such as a fitness ball, chair, or set of folded blankets, to support the spine.

307

Supta Virasana [SOOP-tuh veer-AAH-suh-nuh] (Reclining Hero Pose)—In this supine posture, the knees are bent and the lower legs are tucked under or to the outsides of the thighs. This posture provides an excellent stretch for the quadriceps.

268

Tadasana [taahd-AAH-suh-nuh] or Samasthiti [suhm-uhst-HEE-tuh-hee] (Mountain Pose)—This posture serves as the foundation for all standing postures. It is generally performed at the beginning of a practice to direct the student’s focus inward and to begin warming the muscles for further practice.

83

Tolasana [tohl-AHH-suh-nuh] (Scale Pose)—This arm-balance pose is often used as a transition from one posture to another. Ideally, it is practiced with the legs in Padmasana (Full Lotus) and the body lifted off the ground and balanced between the hands.

212

Upavishtha Konasana [oo-puh-VISH-tuh kohn-AAH-suh-nuh] (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend)—In this seated straddle position, the legs are outstretched from the center and the pelvis tilts forward as the torso moves toward the ground from the hips.

196

Urdhva Dhanurasana [oohr-dhuh-vuh dhuh-noor-AAH-suh-nuh] (Upward Bow Pose)—This is a full backbend in which the hands and feet support the body and the abdomen faces toward the sky.

256

Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana [oohr-dhuh-vuh moo-KUHSH-vuhn-AAH-suh-nuh] (Upward-Facing Dog)—In this pose, the body is lifted off the ground and supported on the hands and the tops of the feet. The spinal extension is deep, and strength is needed to maintain the openness in the chest and shoulders.

244

Poses

Ushtrasana [oosh-TRAAH-suh-nuh] (Camel Pose)—This is a kneeling backbend in which the hands reach behind the body and rest on the heels. The chest remains lifted to retain length in the low back.

264

Utkata Konasana [OOT-kuh-tuh kohn-AAH-suh-nuh] (Fire Angle Pose)—This wide-legged standing squat, sometimes called Goddess Pose, is a fairly intense hip and thigh strengthener; it also affects balance, since the legs are externally rotated.

90

Utkatasana [OOT-kuht-AAH-suh-nuh] (Fierce, or Chair Pose)—This is a semi-­ standing squat in which the arms are lifted overhead. It strengthens the hips and thighs and warms the body.

128

Uttanasana [oot-taahn-AAH-suh-nuh] (Intense Forward Bend)—This basic standing forward bend should be done by folding at the hips like a hinge while maintaining length in the low back. It can be practiced with the legs at any distance apart that feels comfortable yet challenging. Uttanasana is usually performed as a resting, rejuvenating posture between other standing postures or as part of the Sun Salutations. It intensely stretches and lengthens the spine and hamstrings.

102

Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana [oot-T-HEE-tuh chuh-tour-RUHN-guh duhnDAAH-suh-nuh] (Plank Pose)—This prone pose uses the extended arm positioning of a push-up and is a transitional movement in the Surya Namaskaras (Sun Salutations).

226

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana [oot-T-HEE-tuh HAAS-tuh paah-daahng-oostAHH-suh-nuh] (Extended Hand-to-Toe Pose)—In this one-legged standing pose, the non-weight-bearing leg is extended parallel to the ground with one hand holding onto the big toe of the lifted foot.

147

Utthita Parshvakonasana [oot-T-HEE-tuh paarsh-vuh-kohn-AAH-suh-nuh] (Extended Side-Angle Stretch)—This side-stretching lunge is performed with one hand on the ground of the lunging side or with the forearm resting on the thigh. The opposite arm extends overhead so that the upper arm is close to the ear.

112

Utthita Trikonasana [oot-T-HEE-tuh tree-kohn-AAH-suh-nuh] (Extended Triangle)—Beginning from Tadasana, the legs are abducted as far as is comfortable, then one leg externally rotates 90 degrees. The arms are abducted and extended out to the sides. Then the torso bends out over the straight leg, with the arms kept in the frontal plane but now perpendicular to the ground.

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Poses

Vasishthasana [vuhs-eesht-AAH-suh-nuh] (Side Plank Pose)—This strengthening side-plank pose is most often practiced with the body balanced on the side of one foot and on the palm of the hand on the same side.

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Viparita Karani [veep-uh-REE-tuh kuh-ruh-nee] (Restorative Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose)—In this supine position, the torso rests on the ground while the legs are outstretched up a wall. A bolster or set of blankets is often placed under the hips to lift them slightly higher than the heart, which helps loosen a tight low back and create relaxation.

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Virabhadrasana I [veer-uhb-huh-DRAAH-suh-nuh kuh] (Warrior I)—In this standing forward lunge, the arms are extended overhead and the hips face forward with the legs in the sagittal plane. One leg is placed forward and the other leg back. Virabhadrasana I works deep into the hip muscles.

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Virabhadrasana II [veer-uhb-huh-DRAAH-suh-nuh k-huh] (Warrior II)—This lunge is similar to Virabhadrasana I, but here the lunge is to the side in the frontal plane with the arms extended out to the sides instead of overhead. The bent knee is slightly rotated externally, directly out to the side. The spine is perpendicular to the ground instead of arching back.

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Virabhadrasana III [veer-uhb-huh-DRAAH-suh-nuh guh] (Warrior III)—In this variation of Tadasana, the arms are extended overhead and the body is balanced over one leg. The upper body and opposite leg are parallel to the ground. This pose works deep hip muscles in the standing leg to create stability.

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Virasana [veer-AAH-suh-nuh] (Hero Pose)—In this kneeling posture, the hips reach for the ground between the feet. Variations of this posture are used to sit in certain styles of meditation.

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Vrkshasana [vrick-SHAAH-suh-nuh] (Tree Pose)—In this one-legged balance posture, the trunk, spine, and rib cage reach upward and the arms are stretched overhead like branches reaching for the sun. The bent knee is rotated externally, and the foot presses against the standing leg.

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Zen Asana [zehn AAH-suh-nuh] (Transitional Pose)—In this prone pose, the toes, knees, hands, chest, and chin touch the ground. The hips are flexed and raised, stretching away from the waist. The hands are placed under the fronts of the shoulders, the elbows are bent, and the shoulders are relaxed.

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Preface

The discipline of yoga is thousands of years old, yet even today many of the original tenets are followed by yoga enthusiasts across the world. At the same time, yoga is a dynamic and evolving realm, and it has grown and changed considerably even in the relatively short time since the first edition of Instructing Hatha Yoga was published in 2006. For one thing, the number of new yoga practitioners has steadily increased. The most recent data comes from the Yoga in America market survey conducted by Yoga Journal, which found an increase of more than four million devotees between 2006 and 2012. Based on even more recent trends, that number will no doubt continue to increase. Today, yoga continues to establish itself solidly in the mind-set of the Western world. Indeed, on any given day, one is likely to come into contact with someone or something related to yoga. This mainstream expansion of all things yoga includes, on a more specific level, an increase in the diversity of hatha yoga styles and the individuals who receive the benefits of this ancient field of mind–body awareness. No longer is yoga the territory solely of East Indian monks. For example, many fitness enthusiasts now tout yoga practice as a way to add mindful focus to one’s physical training. Numerous professional sports teams use yoga to minimize injuries and enhance conditioning; indeed, some say the Seattle Seahawks’ use of yoga was their secret weapon in winning the 2014 NFL Super Bowl! Yoga is also used for stress relief in various groups, including children and military personnel affected by post-traumatic stress disorder. More broadly, yoga serves as a way of life for a growing number of mindfully compassionate individuals who use it as a way to promote the holistic idea that healthy lifestyles lead to healthy communities. Strangely enough, despite all the positives associated with yoga, the discipline has also had

its controversies. Fairly recently, for example, a number of publicized lawsuits have been brought against well-regarded yoga teachers based on ethics charges. These indictments have changed the face of two popular styles of hatha yoga, Anusara and Bikram. The repercussions of these allegations and indictments are still being felt by devotees, many of whom felt betrayed by these leaders and are still seeking out other sources for employment and yoga instruction for themselves. In another example, in 2013, a family in Encinitas, California, sued their local school district in an attempt to end its teaching of yoga. The suit asserted that yoga is a religion and therefore cannot be taught legally in a public school. The court ruled against the family, stating that yoga is a secular practice, and the plaintiffs appealed. In July 2015, the court once again ruled in favor of allowing yoga into the school system. The plaintiffs had an opportunity to petition the California State Supreme Court, but chose to forgo further litigation. However, it is likely that other such disputes will arise. Even among yoga practitioners, there have been some dustups. In 2012, New York Times science reporter William Broad wrote a gut-­ wrenching exposé titled “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.” This article, along with Broad’s book The Science of Yoga (2012), reported on numerous injuries sustained by hatha yoga practitioners and assigned some of the blame to underqualified and undereducated instructors. Although these pieces stirred up much of the yoga community, many longtime teachers and students were already acutely aware of how important it is to work with a well-rounded and knowledgeable yoga instructor. Well-trained instructors teach properly executed yoga sequences and cues; in addition, with adequate understanding of the human body, they reduce the risk of injury, both for their students and for themselves.

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A stand up paddle board (SUP) yoga class in San Diego Bay illustrates the diversity of hatha yoga styles available today.

These caveats lead us to the purpose of this book. The first edition of Instructing Hatha Yoga was the brainchild of the late Kathy Lee Kappmeier, a dedicated San Diego–based yoga instructor and yoga teacher trainer, who left this world far too early. After years of personal study and teaching, she had a vision to create a comprehensive yet practical reference guide for hatha yoga teachers in training—and for anyone interested in deepening her or his understanding of the practices of yoga. Her idea was to formulate a manual that would meld the traditional spirit of yoga with both ancient and modern medical sciences, as well as contemporary mental and physical stress reduction techniques. The text was made particularly necessary by the fact that many new yoga instructors lacked adequate training in human anatomy and physiology as related to yoga and therefore were inadvertently placing students in injurious positions. Kathy Lee invited me to collaborate with her in writing the book due to my extensive background in biomechanics and human movement sciences. She asked me to infuse the book with

information about these subjects in a manner easily understood both by yoga neophytes and by experts. Even as a novice yoga teacher, I recognized the extreme importance of providing sound mechanical cueing and adjustments for the wide variety of students who attended my classes. For this reason, I gladly accepted Kathy Lee’s offer to work together and create a one-ofa-kind teaching manual. At the time of the first edition, very few if any books were dedicated to the “how to” of teaching yoga, and none provided information about how to properly make safe hands-on adjustments. Kathy Lee and I recognized that yoga students would continue to experience injuries unless a comprehensive teaching resource was made available to help both instructors and students alike develop a deeper understanding and proper awareness of how to safely move the body when practicing hatha yoga. With this end in mind, our book was the first to break down the biomechanics of many of the foundational asanas (poses) practiced in hatha yoga classes. It was also the first to present a variety of techniques for

Preface adjusting and modifying a pose to meet a variety of students’ needs throughout the practice. These skills and instructions were blended with the time-honored wisdom of long-established yoga traditions. Our intention while writing the first edition was to include information with timeless appeal to the wide variety of people who are drawn to yoga and want to learn how to successfully and safely teach it to a wide range of students. We hoped to design a guide and reference that was easily understandable and intriguing for anyone interested in building the qualities and knowledge base to become a confident, well-qualified yoga teacher. As it turns out, we were successful! Instructing Hatha Yoga has had consistent sales from the moment it became available, both nationally and internationally. Since our original publication date, a number of other texts have addressed many aspects of contemporary yoga teaching, and a few have included comprehensive anatomical information. Some authors have also attempted to cover a wide spectrum of hatha yoga and its teachings, and they have addressed many deeper esoteric aspects of the subject. This is no small undertaking; yoga is a vast field of study, and no single book can hope to encompass every facet of the discipline. As a result, such texts may be challenging or even overwhelming for a novice. In contrast, this book’s comprehensive yet straightforward approach allows anyone interested in the field to teach a safe, compelling, and profound hatha practice to a wide range of students with varying abilities and interests. The manner in which the book is written also appeals to yoga students interested in independently furthering their understanding of the discipline.

Updates for the Second Edition Because much of the information presented in the first edition of Instructing Hatha Yoga is timeless and has been greeted with acclaim, the book’s foundation remains as it was. However, much of the cueing language has been given a softer tone, and some of the descriptive cues have been updated to reflect more appropriate mechanical alignment. For example, the older cues meant to bring a student into anatomically sound standing

alignment such as “tuck the tailbone” and “draw the navel up and in toward the chest” place the low back in an unnatural alignment that may strain the lumbar vertebrae and hip joints over time. These phrases have been replaced with more anatomically sound language such as “Draw the front of the ribcage and chest slightly back toward the spine.” Other changes include the following: • The addition of anatomical charts for reference in appendix G • New asana photos • Updated registration information for Yoga Alliance, a U.S. nonprofit association for yoga teachers, schools, and studios • The addition of prenatal and children’s yoga standards • Updated information about contemporary yoga styles • An accompanying web resource, which includes 75 video clips and illustrates hands-on adjustments for all asanas presented in the book

Key Features and Benefits The response to Instructing Hatha Yoga from yoga teachers and students alike has proven the book’s appeal to a variety of audiences: novice instructors (regardless of personal yoga experience), seasoned teachers, and inquisitive yoga students. Among other topics relevant to all of these groups, the text highlights concerns of personal awareness and safety. It also presents information that even many experienced teachers have been searching for, such as detailed hands-on adjustments, biomechanics information, and cautionary details about asanas. One of the book’s most important features is the inclusion of illustrated, step-bystep guidelines that help instructors understand how to execute the deeper nuances of teaching and how to safely and effectively give students hands-on adjustments in each posture. Instructing Hatha Yoga is a user-friendly guide accepted by many physical education teachers in grades K through 12. Indeed, the book has been reviewed favorably and used effectively not only by a variety of yoga teachers but also by physical therapists, physicians, psychologists, and recreation directors. Here is a more detailed listing of what the book addresses:

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Preface • The impact of yoga today and its potential evolution and further growth • Valued and effective qualities that students expect in a teacher • The importance of the basic forms of pranayama [praah-naah-YAAH-muh] (breath work) • Updated definitions of the most popular styles of yoga and how they evolved • 68 asanas (postures) with variations • Verbal and visual cueing examples, with the addition of energetic focus and physical points of stability • Adjustments and modifications for each posture • Physical and energetic anatomy applied in asanas and related chakra (energy) centers • Examples of how to work with many people with different capacities in one class • Class overview, outlines, lesson plans, and sample syllabi • Sample relaxation scripts for guiding students into a relaxed, meditative state (appendix A) • Information about a variety of yoga resources The unique features of this book include simple yet comprehensive verbal instructions to help you guide each student into her or his most comfortable and appropriate physical alignment, as well as detailed directions for making safe, effective, hands-on physical adjustments and modifications. For each asana, basic kinematics and muscle recruitment are presented in table form. In addition, appendix C provides a self-inquiry questionnaire that complements the discussion in chapter 2 of provocative concerns regarding personal integrity and ethics in teaching yoga. The self-inquiry can help you integrate the information you gain from reading this book with your own experience; it can also help you assess your readiness, willingness, and ability to teach hatha yoga. Part I of Instructing Hatha Yoga consists of chapters 1 through 5, each of which includes a review in the form of study questions (for which the answers are provided in appendix F). These self-tests give you an opportunity to answer many of the questions that a yoga instructor is expected to address. The questions highlight important

information about practicing and teaching yoga, and grasping this information aids both your personal yoga practice and your understanding of an instructor’s role. The web resource, located at www.Human Kinetics.com/InstructingHathaYoga, allows you to view video clips of each pose and offers opinions on how best to physically assist and adjust students when the need arises. For each pose that has a video clip, you’ll see a “play button” icon near the pose title. The asanas are presented with descriptions of how to guide each student toward his or her most appropriate alignment for each pose. You can use this material to deepen your understanding of your students’ abilities and your awareness of the best ways to direct them toward comfort in each pose. The online resource also includes the chapter review questions and appendixes. While reading the book, teachers, prospective teachers, and students alike are invited to remain mindful that the job of a truly qualified yoga instructor is not merely to teach poses and hope for the best but to direct students toward their own internal awareness. An instructor cannot give students awareness; rather, each student must be offered opportunities to find this self-awareness on her or his own. A successful teacher facilitates the student’s path to discover his or her own internal teacher—the all-knowing presence that each of us was born with but has forgotten. Those of us who are teachers can open up the opportunity for these connections to be made in each student by providing a suitable atmosphere for personal development. If you are a hatha yoga teacher, then, your task is to empower each student to adapt the poses to her or his body with comfort, ease, and awareness while attaining deeper self-understanding. Use the information in this book as a guide to support your students as they open fully to themselves.

Sanskrit Pronunciation To some, it may seem unnecessary to learn the Sanskrit names and pronunciations of the poses. In practice, however, it is important to establish a standard way of referring to the asanas in order to enable continuity between classes and teachers. This task is made more challenging by the fact that a particular pose may be given different English names in different translations and

Preface schools of thought; fortunately, however, most poses have a common Sanskrit term. In addition, the ancient yogis, and many contemporary yoga practitioners, believe  that the Sanskrit sounds themselves have a specific divine vibration, or bija (BEE-jhuh), and that when spoken they stimulate energy balance in the human body and spirit. With these considerations in mind, this book presents Sanskrit words and their pronunciations in a user-friendly format. For certain words, the letter h has been added after an s when the pronunciation of the Sanskrit calls for such (many publications leave out the h in transliterations, even though the sound is pronounced “sh”). Often, publishers lack the capacity to include diacritical markings, and many people do not know how to properly read them in any case. For a more complete introduction to Sanskrit pronunciation and the alphabet, please see the resource list in appendix B.

Asana Text The asanas presented in part II of this book are addressed in an easy-to-follow format that provides key information about each pose, including its physical and energetic benefits, a script to help each student move into and out of it in a manner appropriate to individual ability, and the muscular recruitment patterns used in each phase of the pose. The asana discussions include the following elements: • Description—quick-reference summary of the pose • Energetic focus—main energy center (chakra) affected by the pose • Foundational focus—points of physical stability that students should focus on to increase steadiness in the pose • Benefits—key positive effects of the pose for both mind and body • Cautions—any aspects of the pose requiring extra care for certain students • Verbal cues—basic, point-by-point examples of how to guide your class through the pose (updated to enable the soundest mechanical alignment) • Adjustments—what to watch for while students move into and maintain their poses,

along with ways to guide them into more comfortable alignment • Modifications—changes you can use for students who need assistance from a prop or are unable to comfortably or safely perform the full posture, including examples to help you modify the pose to best fit each student’s individual body • Kinematics—reference charts that describe positioning and movement patterns of body segments, indicate muscle recruitment, and specify the type of muscular contraction used throughout the asana (muscles active) and times when muscles are stretched or not active during the posture (muscles released) Each asana section includes a photo of the main posture, and many photos are also provided of adjustments and modifications. These elements help you see the ideal body alignment for each pose.

Disclaimer: It is a teacher’s responsibility to caution anyone with a preexisting medical condition not to practice certain poses presented in this book. Please note that the book presents a variety of possible variations and modifications that teachers can adapt for students with a medical condition. Always ask new students to inform you if they have any known medical ailment or injury; also check in regularly with continuing students regarding their physical well-being. As with any physical activity, if a student has an existing or recurring condition, advise him or her to check with a healthcare professional before beginning a hatha yoga program.

Summary You are encouraged to study and absorb the information presented in this book and to use it as both a foundation and a reference as you find your authentic and self-assured voice as a yoga instructor. With experience, you will add your own perspective and creativity to both polish

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Preface and expand your skills and your overall teaching repertoire. The practical, easy-to-understand instruction provided in these pages highlights the knowledge, expertise, and credibility needed by anyone who is seriously interested in practicing and teaching yoga at any level. As a yoga teacher, you enable your students to experience a euphoric release simply by guiding the body to move in a compassionate, mindful, and self-controlled manner. With this end in mind, use the information presented here to provide safe, engaging classes. Teach each student according to her or his individual learning style while adapting each pose to each student’s body and overall ability. At the same time, develop a solid sense of yoga’s controversies and ethical considerations so that you are able to rise above such unnecessary distractions. As a yoga teacher, you must be fully prepared to acknowledge and experience your students on a physical, mental, and emotional level in the short span of time in which you are called to teach a session. Some students will see you as the end-all authority on “Life, the Universe, and Everything,” whereas others may recognize you simply as the person who unlocks the studio door. In any scenario, you can use the foundational

information communicated in this book as a tool for deftly guiding any student toward a meaningful relationship with his or her truest Self via the time-honored wisdom of hatha yoga. My hope is that even as you instruct others, you also continue to be an eternal student yourself. Learn from your students and from all of your personal experiences. By teaching in a way that resonates with your own heart—as you would appreciate being taught—you will succeed in opening the hearts of others as well. Being a yoga teacher is a timeless calling, and if you choose it you may have the opportunity to positively affect the lives of students for many years to come. At the time of this writing, the spectrum of known yoga teachers ranges from 13-year-old Jaysea DeVoe of Encinitas, California, who earned her certification at age 12, to 97-year-old Tao Porchon-Lynch of New York state. Since you probably fit comfortably within that 84-year range, I wish you many happy years of teaching. As stated by Olympian Mary Lou Retton, “Each of us has a fire in our heart for something. It’s our goal in life to find it and keep it lit.” May your light shine brilliantly as you illuminate the path of yoga for yourself and so many other wonderful souls. Namaste, Om Shanti.*

Sometimes translated as follows: “The divine light within me acknowledges and sees the divine light within you, and together we are that one divine light. Be the Eternal Peace.”

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Acknowledgments

At face value this revision may appear to be a solo endeavor. Nothing could be further from the truth! This body of work could not possibly have come to fruition without the combined efforts of so many. I am eternally grateful to the following supportive people whose guidance and hard work were essential to the success of this edition: • Carolyn Wheat, Lanita Varshell, Celeste Schwartz, and Dave Massey for editing advice, professional suggestions, and muchneeded feedback along the way. • Eternally patient and supportive acquisitions editor Gayle Kassing for being, in so many ways, a positive influence in my life and someone I hope to meet face to face. Thank you for your kindness and guidance in navigating this ship on my own. • Extreme gratitude to Kristin Akerele for the wonderful children's yoga sequence and for permission to photograph your kids. • Developmental editor Bethany Bentley, thank you for injecting your creativity and conscientiousness into this project and for making sure I stayed top of things with both the text and the photos. I believe HK still owes you a trip to San Diego! • Managing editor extraordinaire Carly O’Connor, your gentle persistence and calming responses have made the final edits much less painful for me . . . although I’m not sure if the reverse is true! Your attention to detail has elevated the professionalism of this book significantly. Also, the fact that you answered so many of my questions when it was well beyond your quitting time amazed me. Much gratitude! • Copyeditor Tom Tiller, thank you for smoothing out all the rough edges and for the seemingly endless follow-up questions, which help to clarify so many points.

• The incredibly unflappable videographer Gregg Henness miraculously filmed all the video we needed on time, even with a fivehour delay, hardly any food, and not much sleep. Gratitude! • Neil Bernstein is the most eagle-eyed, entertaining, considerate, and multitalented photographer I’ve ever met. You found the yoga in each of the poses! • Without Michelle Blanchard’s top-notch organizational skills, calming sense of humor, and behind-the-scenes actions before, during, and after the video and photo shoots, those crucial days would not have run as smoothly as they did! • Permissions manager Dalene Reeder, thanks for managing the contacts for the various permissions needed for the book. • Marketing specialist Alexis Koontz, thank you for accepting the idea of the subtitle. And thank you in advance to getting word out that we now have an updated version of an exceptional yoga resource. • The video, arts, and graphics teams, Doug Fink, Keith Blomberg, Dawn Sills, Jason Allen, Joyce Brumfield, Laura Fitch, Kelly Hendren, Al Wilborn (and I'm sure others), showed exceptional creativity and skills in enhancing the aesthetics of this project. • Thanks to the wonderful original models whose photographs still adorn these pages: Tara Bogota, Mary Brown, Dr. Beau Casey, Lauren Derstine, Ann Keenan, Vivienne Kennedy (we miss your beautiful spirit!), Eiko Keyser, Nadège Margaria, Jon Pobst, Brandy Proppe, Brian Ruiz, Jennifer Schilder, and Jim Walther. Thank you for sharing your time. • And a wholehearted bow and thank-you to the second-edition photo and video models Leng Caloh, Veronica Cruz, Bridgette

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Acknowledgments Garcia, Elka Haeckel Almeida, Patty Justo Ober, Joe Lewis, Nori Nolan, Jennifer Oh, Adrian Oritz, Jan Penhall, Cheryl Reiff, Carol Ryan, Sean Ryan, Sheila Shaw, Scott Truel, and Lanita Varshell; mothers-to-be Kacey Holsman Valla and Merrin Muxlow; and superkids Ade Akerele, Ikela Akerele, Jackson McCartney, and Lily McCartney. As

with those before you, the beauty of your practice will inspire so many others. • Thanks to all the lovely yogis,—teachers and students alike—at A Gentle Way Yoga. Whether you have shared classes with me or we have passed in the hallway, your constant encouragement is so uplifting and empowering. Namaste, Om Shanti!

Part I

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The Practice of Yoga

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1 Understanding Yoga

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I

f you traveled back in time to the point when yoga was introduced to the United States, you would likely be surprised by the varied nature of the discipline as compared with what we consider yoga to be today. In 1893, the Indian Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda set sail from Kolkata (Calcutta) for Chicago to participate as a delegate in the World’s Parliament of Religions. Sri Vivekananda captured the attention of many attendees with his message of the divinity of existence and the Universal  Oneness of the soul; as a result, he gained many devoted followers. There was no discussion, however, of matters such as the merits of one pose over

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Instructing Hatha Yoga another, whether a headstand should be used at the beginning of a session or near the end, or what style of music (if any) should be played during a yoga class. In fact, there was no mention whatsoever of the physical practices of yoga. Instead, at that time, the practice was much more centered on the heart and mind, and the physical postures of hatha yoga did not become particularly popular until the late 1960s. Today, of course, yoga is practiced in the West in many forms. However, the past four decades have seen a decided shift in emphasis away from a mainly quiet and meditative discipline to one that is more fully movement oriented. The fact that yoga now provides a vehicle for people to stretch and strengthen their bodies, minds, and spirits makes it attractive to a widely diverse set of enthusiasts. As a result, yoga can be found in gyms and spas, professional sport training rooms, corporate wellness programs, prison cells, hospitals, and even classrooms ranging from kindergarten through high school. This popularity has brought yoga to a point where it is now a worldwide multimillion-­dollar industry. In the United States alone, a 2012 market survey conducted by Yoga Journal found that more than 20 million people practice yoga and that U.S. residents spend well over $10 million annually on yoga-related products and services. To some, the current influence of yoga is mind boggling in light of the fact that yoga is believed to have originated five or six thousand years ago. It developed on the Indian subcontinent as a nonreligious yet spiritual discipline meant to unite an individual with his or her divine nature. The revered teachings of yoga derived from the world’s oldest hallowed texts—the Vedas—and, in some way or another, the wisdom and teachings of these foundational texts likely influences most modern-day yoga scholars and instructors. Within that sweeping context, this chapter briefly defines and demystifies the discipline of yoga, particularly the types of yoga that you are most likely to practice and teach. What does it mean when people say they practice yoga? Is it a mystic spiritual practice? Is it a religion? Or is it simply a program of physical postures and meditation techniques? As yoga continues to evolve from its ancient roots, the answers to such questions can sometimes be unclear. In Sanskrit, the word yoga means “to yoke or unite”; it can also mean “discipline.” The second tenet expressed in the Yoga Sutras, a cardinal text

defining yoga, states, “Yoga chitta vritti nirodha,” which is often translated as, “Yoga is the cessation of fluctuations or distractions to enable movement toward evolved consciousness and being.” In another translation: “Yoga is the pure connection with Universal consciousness within our heart.” As such, yoga can refer to any method by which we can become balanced and united with our own higher nature (self) and obtain supreme bliss. Thus, yoga is a journey of contemplation and self-discovery on the path to personal enlightenment. For this reason, Mother Teresa and Socrates can both be considered as yogis (people who practiced yoga). Moreover, yoga is not a religion; rather, it is a discipline without dogma. Therefore, a person of any faith or fellowship can be considered a yogi.

When referring to a female yoga practitioner, the term is yogini [yoeGEE-nee], whereas when speaking of a man, or of a mixed-sex group, the term yogi, yogis, or yogin is applied.

Types of Yoga There are as many ways to practice yoga as there are to unite with bliss and enlightenment. Essentially, however, current practice involves four primary types of yoga: karma, bhakti, jnana, and raja. • Karma [KAR-muh] yoga is  the path of service through selfless action for the good of others—for example, Mother Teresa’s works to serve poor people as a way to connect the compassion of God with humanity. Unconditional service is a tradition in Hindu monasteries or ashrams [AAHSH-ruhms], and many yoga teacher training programs require candidates to practice karma yoga by cooking and cleaning or providing other voluntary service for others. • Bhakti [b-HUHK-tee]  yoga cultivates the expression and love of the Divine through devotional rituals. Forms of this path include regular prayer, chanting, singing, dancing, ceremony, and celebration. For example, bhakti yoga is practiced and shared in the uplifting music of renowned

Understanding Yoga kirtan (devotional chant) vocalist and spiritual leader Krishna Das. • Jnana [YAAH-nuh] yoga is the path of intellect and wisdom, and its components include study of sacred texts, intellectual debates, philosophical discussion, and introspection. Socrates was a jnana yogi, as are modern-day yoga scholars such as David Frawley and Ravi Ravindra. • Raja [RAAH-juh]  yoga, also known as the “royal path,” refers to the journey toward personal enlightenment. This path consists of balancing the three main yoga types just described—karma, bhakti, and jnana—while integrating the eight limbs, or stages, of yoga (for further discussion, see the sidebar titled The Eight Limbs of the Royal Path). Hatha [HUH-tuh] yoga is represented as a combination of the third and fourth limbs of the royal path—that is, asana [AAH-suh-nuh]  and pranayama [praah-naah-YAAH-muh] (see figure 1.1 and the sidebar about the eight limbs). Hatha yoga is the type generally practiced in modern (and especially Western) society. The word hatha is usually translated from Sanskrit as “sun and moon,” with ha signifying sun energy and tha signifying moon energy. Balancing the active ha energy and the more calming tha energy is the ultimate aim of hatha yoga practice. Hatha is also translated as “forceful” (see figure 1.2), and this translation  is included in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika [praah-DEE-PEE-kuh]—a classic text used by those who study hatha yoga. Some practitioners have expounded that this translation is appropriate because hatha yoga requires great physical effort. On a symbolic as well as a physical level, then, hatha refers to a balancing of energies or forces.

Types of Hatha Yoga Hatha yoga focuses on the path toward personal wellness and enlightenment through physical, mental, and spiritual means. The category of hatha yoga encompasses a number of popular styles of practice. Most hatha classes are generic in style, which means that  they blend popular elements of various styles that stand alone as specific forms. Two of the best-known styles of hatha are Iyengar and Ashtanga, and classical-eclectic hatha classes often include traits of either or both of these styles. As a result, many students are confused into thinking that hatha yoga is a

style in and of itself, apart from any other named style, when in fact it is the umbrella under which all hatha styles fall. Although approaches to hatha yoga differ from each other, all of these methods are meant to help practitioners achieve the goals of greater health and general well-being through deeper self-­ awareness. With this end in mind, this text presents an overall picture of the physical discipline while also bridging the gaps between East and West, ancient and progressive, physical and spiritual, science and art, flexibility and strength, and student and teacher. Yoga is not associated with rebellion or revolution; instead, it is a practical response to the hectic nature of our modern lives, which likely provides the impetus for the tidal wave of interest in yoga throughout the world. The general practice of hatha yoga strives to be progressive while maintaining a basic connection to traditional teachings. Over the millennia, considerable changes have occurred—in practice venues, students, and teachers—and such changes are likely to continue. Yet even as forms and styles branch out and evolve, they continue to derive from the same basic roots. In fact, the founders of two of the most popular styles of modern hatha yoga, Iyengar and Ashtanga, had the same teacher—Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (see figure 1.3).

Iyengar Yoga In the early twentieth century, world-renowned yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar created a style of hatha yoga focused primarily on achieving precise physical alignment during the execution of poses. At times, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Iyengar was likened to a drill sergeant because his teaching style was somewhat strict in its extreme attention to physical positioning. To assist in this positioning, Iyengar yoga students use many types of props, which enable people at all levels of proficiency to go deeper or stay longer in postures with more accurate physical alignment. Props are becoming more common in classical-­ eclectic classes as well, but Mr. Iyengar was an innovator in hatha practice because of his insistence on precision with props and his demand that his yoga students be consciously focused in the mind and obediently energetic in the body. As a result, Iyengar teacher trainings can take three or more years to complete, depending upon which level of certification a candidate is interested in

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The Eight Limbs of the Royal Path Think of the eight limbs of yoga as parts of the great tree of yoga. Each limb connects to the trunk, and yoga is grounded and nurtured by its deep, ancient roots. Each limb has leaves that express the life of the limb; these leaves are the techniques of the yogic limbs. The eight limbs, or stages, of yoga are outlined in the text of the Yoga Sutras, which was compiled and written around 300 to 200 BCE by the sage Patanjali [pa-TAHN-jah-lee].

Limb 1 Yamas [YAAH-muhs]—guidelines for ethical standards and moral conduct • Ahimsa [uh-HEEM-saah]—nonviolence • Satya [SUHT-yuh]—truthfulness • Asteya [uh-STAY-uh]—nonstealing • Brahmacharya [bruh-muh-CAHR-yuh]—moderation • Aparigraha [uh-PUH-reeg-ruh-huh]—nonattachment

Limb 2 Niyamas [nee-YUH-muhs]—observances and disciplines • Saucha [SHOWH-chuh]—cleanliness • Santosha [suhn-TOH-shuh]—contentment • Tapas [TUH-puhs]—austerities (translated as “heat” or “purifying practices”) • Svadhyaya [svaahd-HYAAH-yuh]—study of spiritual scriptures • Ishvara pranidhana [EEHSH-vuh-ruh pruh-need-HAAH-nuh]—practice of awareness and surrender to the presence and divine will of God

Limb 3 Asana [AAH-suh-nuh]—practice of physical postures Pranayama [praah-naah-YAAH-muh]—special breathing techniques used to control the life force, or energy, in the body

Limb 5 Pratyahara [pruht-yaah-HAAH-ruh]—withdrawal of the senses as part of the transcendence of constant nervous stimuli; practice of sensory detachment through deep relaxation techniques

Limb 6 Dharana [dhaahr-UHN-aah]—concentration and focus

Limb 7 Dhyana [dhahy-AAH-nuh]—meditation

Limb 8 Samadhi [suh-MAAHD-hee]—state of ecstasy, bliss, and enlightenment that transcends the Self and merges with the Divine 6

Figure 1.1  The tree of yoga.

E6251/Ambrosini/fig01.01/518456/pulled/r1-alw

Understanding Yoga

Raja

Ashtanga

Yamas

Niyamas Iyengar

Asanas Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga

Hatha Jnana

Pranayama

Hatha

Krishnamacharyra

Desikachar Vinyasas

Pratyahara

Yoga

Bhakti

Dharana

Dhyana

Karma

Samadhi

Figure 1.2  Yoga lineage.

Figure 1.3  Hatha yoga lineage. The blank lines represent other lineages. E6251/Ambrosini/fig01.03/518458/pulled/r1-alw

E6251/Ambrosini/fig01.02/518457/pulled/r1-alw

reaching with their training; Iyengar has three basic levels of training. Iyengar yoga places so much emphasis on physical alignment, as Mr. Iyengar believed that it takes most people most of their lives to get the body into its most appropriate physical alignment, that Surya Namaskaras (Sun Salutations) are not performed and pranayama (breath work) is abandoned in the asana classes until students are proficient in their alignment practices. However, certain pranayamas are taught in workshops or as a separate practice altogether. Iyengar yoga also prohibits music and partner work because they are thought to be distractions. Although some find this hatha style to be intimidating, it is generally the safest form of physical practice because of its diligent attention to body alignment. Even so, many people are uncomfortable with this style because instructors generally do not allow students to go as deeply into a posture as they might like. Instead, instructors insist that students use props and move only as far into a posture as they are able to manage while maintaining the most optimal alignment possible. Given this focus, Iyengar classes disallow baggy clothes because they hide so much of a student’s body that the instructor might miss a detail needing adjustment. Of course, each teacher conducts

class in her or his own way, but true-blue Iyengar instructors tend to be strict in their teaching styles in order to adhere to Iyengar’s exacting guidelines.

Ashtanga Yoga and Power Yoga Ashtanga means “eight limbs”; in contemporary hatha circles, it also refers to a style of yoga practice introduced by Pattabhi Jois. This dynamic form of hatha yoga involves vigorous flow from posture to posture. More specifically, Ashtanga practice today involves six series, or set combinations of postures, in which practitioners move from one posture to the next without stopping. Generally, however, only the primary (yoga chikitsa) series and the second (intermediate, or nadi shodhana) series are taught in class settings because the remaining four series are quite physically demanding. In fact, those four can be practiced only by persons who have spent considerable time learning and accomplishing them. Ashtanga yoga was rediscovered in the twentieth century when Pattabhi Jois and his teacher, Sri Krishnamacharya, translated a practice they found outlined in an ancient text called the Yoga Korunta. Krishnamacharya found the manuscript written on leaves in a form of Sanskrit used 5,000

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Instructing Hatha Yoga years ago; according to interpreters, the estimated date of its transcription is at least 1,500 years ago. Pattabhi Jois named the practice Ashtanga, based on the second Pada (or chapter) of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In the pada, the term ashta-anga (eight limbs) are outlined and the Pattabhi Jois believed the integration of the eight limbs were steps to gradually awaken to Samadhi (Divine Consciousness). Because many people either did not recognize the term Ashtanga or misunderstood it as referring to raja yoga, the practice was referred to for some time by the term power yoga. In the 1990s, Beryl Bender Birch wrote a book called Power Yoga that demystified the practice of Ashtanga for many, and the book still serves as a great reference on the benefits of this style. Unfortunately, however, some confusion persists about Ashtanga and power yoga. Ashtanga is the practice of a set series of postures. In contrast, power yoga classes are generally hybrids that use some of the postures and flow of Ashtanga but are often not true to Ashtanga sequencing. The practice of power yoga continues to be brought alive by innovative modern yoga teachers, such as Baron Baptiste and Bryan Kest. In this book, the term Ashtanga refers to the dynamic series of postures rediscovered by Pattabhi Jois and Sri Krishnamacharya. Many Ashtanga classes use abridged versions of these

original series because a hatha class is often only one hour long and the students are often of mixed ability. In practicing either Ashtanga or Iyengar yoga, one sees (and feels!) both the physical and the mental distinctiveness of the chosen style. At the same time, the two approaches share common ground since their founders—Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar, respectively—are contemporaries who had the same mentor in Sri Krishnamacharya. In fact, at first glance, it may seem surprising that two such different styles could be traced back only one generation to the same root. However, Sri Krishnamacharya was known to teach each student according to his or her personal needs. Table 1.1 illustrates the differences between these two styles of hatha yoga in mental focus and physical components.

Vinyasa Yoga Another style of hatha yoga involves the practice of linking Surya Namaskaras (Sun Salutations) or similar postures between poses. Practitioners repeat each pose in the sequence before going on to the next one; after adding each new pose, they do a vinyasa [vin-YAAH-suh]—a flowing movement linked with the breath. Most vinyasa

Table 1.1  Physical and Mental Comparison of Iyengar and Ashtanga Styles of Hatha Yoga Iyengar

Ashtanga

Pace

Postures generally held for 30 to 90 seconds

Postures typically held for four breaths

Routine

No set routine; postures often repeated with resting postures between

Set routine; continuous flow between postures

Mental focus Pranayama (breathing style) Physical focus Name of opening posture Props Sun Salutations Partner work

The mind is focused on the physical form. The The mind and body are focused on surrendering to surrender comes from staying in the posture the flow of the movement. Less attention is paid to with great effort and attention to alignment. details of alignment. Quiet, natural

Deep, audible ujjayi breath. Ujjayi means “victorious breath” and refers to an audible diaphragmatic breath achieved by slightly closing the back of the throat.

Using and opposing the force of gravity in the postures expands energy throughout the body and mind.

The increase in body heat, attained by continuous movement between postures, allows the student to move deeper into each posture.

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Samasthiti (Mountain Pose)

Mats, straps, blocks, blankets, bolsters

Mats, rugs

No

Sun Salutations provide the foundation for staying warm and flowing.

No

Partner work is used to aid placement in some positions.

Understanding Yoga teachers use variations of poses and sequencing to create a smooth flow from pose to pose rather than simply stopping one posture and starting again. The word vinyasa refers to the flowing or linking of poses in synchronization with the breath. Variations of Sun Salutations are the vinyasas that link other poses together in Ashtanga yoga. However, vinyasas do not have to be vigorous; in fact, they can be slow and gentle as one pose flows easily and softly into another, similar pose. The key is to connect poses with the breath.

Viniyoga Not to be confused with vinyasa yoga, viniyoga is another method of hatha yoga linked to Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. His son, T.K.V. Desikachar, used a style of classical-eclectic hatha that directly applies the physical practices of yoga as a purely therapeutic modality based on an individual’s specific needs. The style is referred to as viniyoga, meaning “applied yoga,” by Western students of Desikachar, including Mark Whitwell and American Viniyoga Institute founder Gary Kraftsow. Viniyoga emphasizes using the breath as a means to achieve specific outcomes, either with or without accompanying movement. When asanas are practiced as part of therapy, they are often repeated and are linked directly to functionality. This style uses the ancient practices of yoga for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. Classes are often taught one on one or in small groups so that the teacher can address each student’s individual needs.

Bikram and Hot Yoga Once known mainly as the “yoga of the stars,” the Bikram style of hatha has spread from Beverly Hills throughout the United States since the late 1970s. The Bikram style is the original “hot yoga” style, and its classes are taught in a room kept at approximately 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius). Bikram yoga is based on one series consisting of 26 poses, which are practiced twice in a class session. Though this style of yoga is purported to have originated with its namesake, Bikram Choudhury, it can be traced back to Bishnu Ghosh, the brother of Paramahansa Yogananda, who founded the Self-Realization Fellowship in 1925.

Mr. Choudhury insists that, barring any physical limitations, newcomers participate in class every day for two months before easing into the regimen. He believes that this intensity serves as an incentive and as an initiation into the style, which promises a better body and new life through a detoxifying practice that some liken to a yoga boot camp. Many Bikram-trained teachers have migrated away from teaching Mr. Choudhury’s particular style of hatha yoga due to trademark and copyright disputes as well as allegations of his misconduct. Instead, they teach their own version of heated yoga. Many Bikram yoga studios are now built from the ground up and include state-of-the-art heating systems to maintain the desired room temperature for classes. Scores of students revel in the feeling of looseness that they attain in the penetrating heat; at the same time, many people are leery about the intense temperature used in these styles. Indeed, the room’s high temperature is enhanced by the mass of body heat exuding relentlessly from class participants as they practice one posture after another. In contrast, in Ashtanga hatha, the heat is created solely by the practitioner’s own body moving through linked poses via vigorous vinyasas. For some people, the high temperature is overwhelming; for many others, however, the effect of performing the asanas in a sauna-like environment is what gets them hooked. Indeed, sweating can be therapeutic and cleansing. Still, these yoga styles are not for everyone.

People with potentially complicating conditions should be very mindful when considering whether to practice in the heat—for example, deconditioned students who have a tendency toward high blood pressure or whose core body temperature tends to run high. In addition, some people simply do not tolerate heat as well as others, and these people need to allow themselves rest periods and water breaks when they attend a class, especially when the heat is extreme.

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Instructing Hatha Yoga

© Christopher Futcher/istock.com

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Students should choose the type of hatha yoga that will be most beneficial to their emotional and physical needs. Consider both the types of class available and the environment in which each class is taught.

Kundalini Hatha In 1968, Yogi Bhajan introduced a form of Sikhism to the West, and with it came a form of hatha that, to many, resembles calisthenics. He founded the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization (3HO), a teaching institution that offers guidance through yogic practices to awaken the dormant Kundalini Shakti—divine spiritual energy—described metaphorically as a coiled snake residing at the base of the spine and believed to be housed in each of us. The purpose of Kundalini yoga is to prepare the body–mind and awaken the dormant Universal energy within the practitioner. Those who follow Yogi Bhajan’s teachings in their entirety wear white cotton outfits with turbans or head scarves. The white clothing is thought to enhance the radiance of a person’s aura, and covering the head is said to aid in meditation. Doing so is not required, however, in order to partake of this form of hatha, which is known simply as Kundalini [KOOHN-duh-leenee]. People practicing Kundalini hatha often chant syllables and perform segments of rapid deep breathing, or “breath of fire,” while holding poses. It is common to practice the poses at a fast pace for as many as 108 repetitions per class and to hold certain hand gestures (mudras) for

prolonged periods—all to allow the Kundalini energy to rise through the body and integrate the energy of the chakras (energy centers) for personal enlightenment.

Classical-Eclectic Hatha Together, the words classical and eclectic are used to describe the mixed form of hatha yoga that is generally taught today. The term hatha indicates that this type of yoga involves asana practice, “classical” indicates that the poses practiced are time honored, “typical” poses taught in more than one hatha style, and eclectic indicates that the style is blended—in other words, that it does not follow one strict method or consistent routine of postures. This category includes the integral yoga series taught by Swami Sivananda and the Himalayan tradition brought to the United States by Swami Rama, as well as the practices of many yoga teachers who combine elements from various traditions and styles. Most yoga teachers choose to teach a classical-­ eclectic, or mixed, style of hatha without naming it as such. This method combines elements from many styles and generally appeals to the broadest population. For example, an instructor may

Understanding Yoga use a combination of deep breathing and background music, along with attention to alignment and physical adjustments. In contrast, another school—for example, Iyengar hatha yoga—may focus on alignment yet oppose allowing music in class because it might be distracting. Furthermore, the expression of a style is often colored by a teacher’s personality; therefore, two classes taught by different teachers might share a lineage yet feel very different. Given these variables, the label classical-eclectic hatha can create confusion since it encompasses a number of styles that range from gentle to vigorous. As a result, the term can make it difficult to know what to expect if one is not familiar with the instructor. In addition, yoga offerings often lack a true class description; instead, many advertising brochures include a list of goals and benefits but avoid describing the style and method of the class. For example, a class pamphlet might read something like this: “Experience the bliss of your muscles and your mind at once” or “Connect with your heart and soul for better well-being.” These promises sound great, and they may offer a true invitation to a class; however, they offer no hint as to how the promised results are achieved. Indeed, they could just as easily refer to a class in which students lie on their backs and rest under blankets in a nearly meditative state as to a class that poses great physical challenge in a room heated to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius)! Both of these styles exist—and both offer great boons to their practitioners—but without understanding a style from its name and reputation, or from a precise description, you would not know what to expect. Classical-eclectic hatha can be found at various levels of intensity, and it usually involves elements of the methods described earlier in this chapter. For example, a Sivananda [Sheevuhn-AAHN-duh] or integral hatha yoga class as taught by Swami Sivananda has a nice sense of flow similar to that of Ashtanga classes. However, integral yoga classes hold postures longer and use more rest between poses (as Iyengar classes might do); they also approach the emphasis on alignment in a different manner, focusing more on joint flexibility and overall stability.

Anusara In 1997, U.S.-born yoga teacher John Friend created a hatha style that he labeled Anusara, which is generally translated  as “flowing with grace,”

although the more literal Sanskrit definition is “following.” Mr. Friend had begun studying and practicing yoga at a relatively early age, and over the years he had explored numerous hatha styles, including Sivananda, Kundalini, Ashtanga, and Iyengar, as well as several Eastern philosophical belief systems. Friend was a dedicated student of both Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar and based much of the physical nature of Anusara yoga on Mr. Iyengar’s alignment systems. In Anusara, these elements are organized into what are described as the Five Universal Principles of Alignment, which encompass opening the heart to grace, as well as awareness and integration of energetic pathways (loops) and biomechanical geometry. Anusara yoga also follows physical and philosophical ideals referred to as the Three As—attitude, alignment, and action—which, when followed both on and off the yoga mat, are believed to enhance a person’s entire life. In early 2012, Anusara was rocked by allegations against Mr. Friend of ethical, financial, and sexual misconduct, all of which he admitted before stepping away from his leadership of Anusara Inc. Because of the scandal, many Anusara-certified teachers relinquished their titles. However, due to the popularity and deep love of the practice in the worldwide Anusara community, a group of dedicated independent teachers formed the Anusara School of Hatha Yoga in October 2012 and continue to certify teachers in the style.

Restorative and Meditation in Movement Style Yoga (MIMSY) In 1995, Judith Hanson Lasater, a renowned yoga teacher and longtime Iyengar student, introduced the world to restorative yoga in her comprehensive book Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times. Lasater pointed out that it is essential to slow the nervous system and quiet the mind in order to heal from the negative effects of stress. Toward this end, her work addresses specific asanas and other yogic techniques as therapeutic tools. Restorative yoga is generally described as a relaxing, modified, traditional hatha style. It tends to be relatively slow moving and generally involves seated, supine, and prone poses. It also uses numerous props that allow students to hold

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Instructing Hatha Yoga poses longer while focusing on more passive stretching and deeper relaxation. Students new to yoga often mistakenly think of restorative yoga as simply beginner’s yoga. At the same time, many yoga teachers advertise their classes as restorative when, more often than not, they are simply slowed-down versions of classical-eclectic poses that use few if any props or modifications. For this reason, in 1996, Lanita Varshell, a longtime yoga teacher and student of Ms. Lasater, developed Meditation in Movement Style Yoga (MIMSY) to help would-be yoga practitioners for whom nonmodified yoga was not a good fit. Diagnosed with fibromyalgia, Ms. Varshell found that yoga practices relieved her symptoms and brought comfort and peace to her mind and body. She also noticed, however, that many traditional poses—even in their slowed and supported versions—were too challenging for many people. At the same time, she recognized that practitioners can move more easily into a relaxed, restorative state when the body shifts fully from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, thus cultivating the relaxation response. MIMSY classes begin with the practitioner in a supine position with props. They use focused breathing and gentle, easy movements to release tension in the spine, hips, internal organs, and mind. From this point of relaxation, many classes remain on the ground and focus on energetic healing and slow, simple movements. Other classes progress from the ground to seated or even standing poses; depending on the students, they may also move into more traditional asana practice. By design, all of the classes are nurturing and begin with modified versions of poses so that less physically able students feel comfortable and safe. More physically active students are invited to take the poses to a level that is more challenging to them yet still comfortable. In Ms. Varshell’s studio, these MIMSY classes are considered Aalamba, which means “with support” in Sanskrit.

tors Sarah Powers and Paul Grilley. The aim of yin yoga is to apply moderate force on the fascia, ligaments, and tendons in order to increase flexibility, circulation, and subtle, or life-force energy,  throughout the joints. Many yin poses are traditional hatha poses modified slightly to safely stretch the overlying muscles and keep a joint within its natural range of motion. Though this style of hatha is slower than other styles, some students find the deep stretch and extended time in the pose to be uncomfortable at best, and deleterious at worst. On the other hand, the style can be very beneficial for students with no history of injury and for those who are in touch with the limits of their bodies and know when to leave a pose. For these students, yin yoga often helps them sit more comfortably in meditation.

Yin Yoga

Children’s hatha classes are designed specifically for younger children, who should not be treated simply as small adults. Children have specific developmental needs that can be addressed through specialized training. The classes are fun and sometimes involve game playing; in addition, both the classes and the individual postures are

Yin yoga is a slower-paced hatha style in which each pose is held for five minutes or longer. This style was first taught in the United States in the 1970s by Paulie Zink, a martial artist and yoga teacher, and it has been popularized by instruc-

Other Contemporary Variations of Hatha Yoga Classical-eclectic hatha includes a growing list of specializations that serve specific populations with unique needs and approaches to the practice. Some popular, specifically adapted styles of classical-eclectic hatha yoga are described in the following subsections.

Prenatal Hatha Prenatal hatha is a practice of modified asanas for women during or after pregnancy. Prenatal classes, which have grown in popularity, offer multifaceted approaches that address both the woman’s changing body and the safe and healthy development of her child. As you might imagine, modifying hatha yoga poses for pregnancy involves certain inherent risk factors. For this reason, anyone interested in teaching this special population should enroll in additional training courses. An outline of a prenatal class can be found in chapter 13.

Children’s Hatha

Understanding Yoga usually shorter in order to cater to children’s typically shorter attention span. In 2008, Galantino et al. published a literature review in Pediatric Physical Therapy addressing the therapeutic effects of yoga on children. These studies showed that, as with adults, yoga benefits kids by increasing overall fitness; expanding attention and memory; and decreasing anxiety, stress, and aggression. An outline of a children’s yoga class can be found in chapter 13.

Chair Hatha Chair hatha can be designed either as a corporate yoga program or as a set of asanas adapted for physically challenged people who are unable to move into standing or ground postures. Chair sequences are incorporated into many classes for seniors or for people with special needs. Workshops on teaching chair hatha can be found throughout the country.

Senior Hatha Senior hatha classes are designed specifically to address the psychological and physiological needs of people as they age. Senior-oriented classes also serve an important role as a community connection for many individuals who are underserved or otherwise socially separated. One source of such classes is the Silver Age Yoga organization, which has its own teacher training program. The group’s founders, Frank and Serpil Iszak, have certified more than 300 teachers on five continents since the program began in 2003. This type of class seems likely to grow as the life span of the overall population increases.

Partner Hatha Partner hatha yoga is usually done for light enjoyment, although many teachers use this practice as a means to bring people closer together in a trusting fashion. Partners can hold poses together, or one person can assist the other. Partner yoga can also be used to practice many moves of Thai massage. In fact, one relatively new form of partner yoga is acroyoga, which blends asanas with Thai massage techniques and acrobatics for a fun and balanced practice. This particular style also offers certification programs.

Water Hatha Water hatha yoga is like other forms of water exercise in that movements performed in the water take away much of the gravitational forces in the joints and alleviate any discomfort some students may feel when exercising on land. Because of the buoyant nature of water or aqua yoga classes, students generally achieve more profound increases in joint range of motion with less strain than in traditional land-based yoga classes. Many water yoga classes are held in warmer water, which increases the therapeutic nature of the sessions. Each type of hatha can be broken down further, and overlap can be identified among various styles. For example, a prenatal yoga class might consist of an Iyengar-like practice with a number of props; alternatively, it might be done in the water. Similarly, a chair class might use partner work or begin as a restorative class and move up to a chair. The possibilities are as vast as one’s imagination.

Adjunct Practices of Hatha Yoga Practitioners of hatha yoga often strive to engage in lifestyle regimens of physical and mental cleanliness both on and off the mat. Although many teachers in public yoga classes do not regularly discuss or teach much about topics such as meditation, philosophy, or diet specified for body type, yoga teachers should have an awareness of such subjects. For example, yoga is a sister science of Ayurveda, the medicine of ancient India. One Ayurvedic or yoga lifestyle practice is the use of a neti [NEH-tee] pot—a device used to wash the nasal passages—as a daily ritual akin to brushing one’s teeth. Another level of yoga lifestyle practice involves discovering ways to incorporate principles of the Yoga Sutras (whether all or part of the eight limbs) or insights from asana sessions into the rest of one’s daily life. Because yoga is a discipline without dogma, each person finds his or her own ways to incorporate aspects of yoga practice into daily life. One way to do so is simply to be more flexible in both mind and body; another way is to strengthen both the muscles and the willpower.

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Instructing Hatha Yoga

Yoga Lexicon Like any widely practiced discipline, yoga uses its own particular jargon to describe its philosophy and physical actions. In addition, each instructor, based on personality, devises her or his own phrases to express feelings and motions to students. Appropriately worded direction sets the stage for a student’s ego to relax more completely while his or her body is engaged in an asana. Therefore, your words should create a warm, nurturing environment for your students. Allow each student to feel comforted and safe in both a physical and psychological way, and select your words with care. Your words set the tone of a class and affect its progress. With that in mind, avoid words that imply judgment or classification—for example, “advanced students” and “correct” or “perfect” posture—as well as all negative-sounding words. Appropriate descriptive terms include “ideal posture,” “more aware,” “deeper,” and “explore.” In addition, the following phrases are ways to descriptively guide students through a class. • “Open space in your lower back.” The idea here is to encourage students to lengthen and expand the low-back area without overly tightening the buttocks or moving the pelvis out of neutral; as a result, the top of the pelvis remains relatively level. “Open space” indicates a gentle expansion of the lower back region and a slight lengthening of the lumbar spine. In contrast, the phrase “tuck your pelvis” is interpreted by many students as curling the tailbone forward or under to create as much length as possible in the lower spine. Unfortunately, this action moves the lower back in the opposite direction of its natural curve and takes the pelvis out of a neutral orientation. • The phrase “edge of balance” refers to the delicate balance point that one reaches just before falling. Being at the edge of balance tests the range of motion and stability of both the body and the mind. • “Bend at the hips like a hinge.” This phrase means simply to fold forward not from the waist or low-back area but from the hip joints. Bending at the hips keeps the spine long and extended and keeps stress off of the spine. • “Breathe into your __________” (any place other than your lungs). The mechanisms of breathing are introduced in chapter 4, and this phrasing is mentioned here because the impor-

tance of continuous focus on breathing cannot be overemphasized. When a teacher tells a student to breathe into her or his knees, the teacher is really asking the student to bring awareness to and feel the breath and all the associated healing energy in the knees. • “Stay centered.” This directive helps students keep their awareness as internally focused as possible. By honing attention to their breathing and movements, they can eliminate a number of external distractions, thus aiding in stress relief and relaxation. • “Inhale as you expand, and exhale when you release.” This directive indicates how the breath should be used when moving into or out of a posture. Typically, one inhales when moving into a posture that lengthens and extends the body. On the other hand, when relaxing into a folding posture, such as a forward bend, one exhales. Although this list could continue, these phases were chosen because they are used widely in yoga classes. It is not necessary to use these phrases constantly to express concepts; however, they offer effective ways to relay directions when one is just starting out as a teacher.

Standards for Yoga Teachers As hatha yoga classes gained in popularity, it became apparent that some form of oversight was necessary in order both to preserve the integrity of this ancient practice and to protect yoga students from underqualified or unethical teachers. In 1997, to meet this need, a grassroots group of U.S. yoga teachers began formulating guiding principles for yoga teachers and training schools. The group formed a not-for-profit organization called Yoga Alliance (YA), which in 1999 developed a set of generalized requirements for yoga teachers. The requirements are sufficiently generic to include all hatha styles, and they meld yoga’s diverse demands with awareness of safety and ethical concerns, as well as mindfulness of yoga’s ancient philosophical heritage. The standards outline mandatory minimum levels of training hours in five categories (see table 1.2 for a more comprehensive overview of the training standards categories required for registration):

Understanding Yoga 1. Teaching techniques and practice (asana, pranayama, and other traditional practices) 2. Teaching methodologies (class management, overall teaching principles) 3. Anatomy and physiology (both gross and energetic or esoteric) 4. Philosophy, lifestyle, and ethics 5. Teaching practice and study Though some disagree with the move to standardize a discipline that has been taught and studied for thousands of years, Yoga Alliance enhances both the public perception and the genuine professionalism of yoga teacher-training programs—and, by extension, of yoga teachers themselves. In 2004, the alliance counted approximately 300 approved yoga schools and 8,000 registered instructors. Just 10 years later, these numbers had skyrocketed to 3,000 schools and

45,000 teachers. As a result, anyone seeking a qualified yoga teacher need look no farther than the YA website. To remain registered with YA, teachers pay yearly dues, participate in at least 30 hours of documented continuing education, and teach a minimum of 45 hours every three years. At least 10 of the 30 hours of this training must be performed in the presence of a lead teacher, and all hours must relate directly to one of YA’s five main educational categories. As incentives, Yoga Alliance offers numerous professional benefits, including inclusion in YA’s comprehensive online directory, discounted yoga supplies, business services, health and liability insurance, and outreach and occupational development conferences. Also, as part of a restructuring effort between 2007 and 2010, the organization hired yoga teachers to provide customer service and credentialing advice to both new and veteran teachers and training schools.

Table 1.2  Yoga Alliance Standards Standards category

Definition

Techniques, training, and practice

Includes but is not limited to asanas, pranayamas, kriyas (specialized practices intended for specific outcomes), chanting, mantras, meditation, and other traditional yoga techniques. These hours must include a mix of (1) analytical training in how to teach and practice the techniques and (2) guided practice of the techniques themselves; both areas must receive substantial emphasis.

Teaching methodology

Includes but is not limited to communication skills, group dynamics, assessment of individual and special population needs, principles of demonstration, observation, assisting and correcting, teaching styles, teacher qualities, the student learning process, and business aspects of teaching yoga (the business component can account for a maximum of 5 hours).

Anatomy and physiology

Includes but is not limited to human physical anatomy and physiology (e.g., organs and systems) and may also include energy anatomy and physiology (e.g., chakras, nadis, koshas). Involves both study of the subject and application of its principles to yoga practice (e.g., benefits, contraindications, healthy movement patterns).

Yoga philosophy, lifestyle, and ethics

Includes but is not limited to study of yoga philosophies and traditional yogic texts, yoga lifestyle, ethics for yoga teachers (e.g., those involving the teacher–student relationship), and the value of teaching yoga as a service to others. At least 2 hours must be spent on ethics for yoga teachers.

Practicum

Includes practice in teaching as a lead instructor (not including hours spent assisting, observing, or giving feedback), receiving and giving feedback, observing others teaching, and assisting students while someone else is teaching. Each trainee must spend at least ten contact hours in practice teaching as the lead instructor. A maximum of 2 practicum hours can consist of noncontact activity, which includes evaluating or observing yoga classes outside of the teacher training program.

Remaining contact hours and elective hours

Remaining contact and elective hours are distributed among all five categories according to the registered yoga school’s discretion based on its chosen emphasis.

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Instructing Hatha Yoga

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A teacher’s personality can greatly influence their students’ yoga experience.

Table 1.3  Yoga Alliance Minimum Requirements for 200-Hour and 500-Hour Programs 200-hour1 program Category

Total hours

Total hours

Contact hours

Techniques, training, and practice 100

75; 50 with lead trainer(s)

150

100; 100 with lead trainer(s)

Teaching methodology

15; 10 with lead trainer(s)

30

20; 20 with lead trainer(s)

25

Anatomy and physiology

20

10

35

20; 0 with lead trainer(s)

Yoga philosophy, lifestyle, and ethics

30

20

60

45; 0 with lead trainer(s)

Practicum

10

5; 5 with lead trainer(s)

40

20; 10 with lead trainer(s)

Electives

15

Total hours

185 55

Remaining contact and elective hours (combination of contact and noncontact hours allocated by a registered yoga school)

1

Contact hours with lead teacher

500-hour2 program

200

245

180 including 65 with lead trainer(s)

500

450 including 200 with lead trainer(s)

Standards effective as of 2005.

Effective for all established and new registrants as of January 1, 2008. A 500-hour program consists of the total cumulative hours from a 200-hour program and 300 hours of additional (nonrepetitive) advanced training.

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© Yoga Alliance

In addition to the originally established 200and 500-hour registry levels (see table 1.3), YA now also offers standards for 300-hour, prenatal, and children’s yoga categories (see tables 1.4, 1.5, and 1.6). The 300-hour category was added in 2013 to eliminate confusion about how to achieve the registered yoga teacher (RYT) 500-hour desig-

nation, which, for many instructors, is a second tier of training, similar to earning a master’s degree after first earning a bachelor’s degree. The importance of women’s health concerns during and after pregnancy was recognized early on by many yoga teachers. The YA prenatal standards address the physical and physiological

Table 1.4  Yoga Alliance Minimum Requirements for 300-Hour Program Category* Techniques, training, and practice

Total hours 50

Contact hours 25; 25 with lead trainer(s)

Teaching methodology

5

5; 5 with lead trainer(s)

Anatomy and physiology

15

10; 0 with lead trainer(s)

Yoga philosophy, lifestyle, and ethics

30

25; 0 with lead trainer(s) 15; 5 with lead trainer(s)

Practicum

30

Electives and remaining contact hours

170

Total hours

390

270 including 135 with lead trainer(s)

The 300-hour standards refer to advanced training that deepens the participant’s understanding of fundamental material taught in the 200-hour training. *

© Yoga Alliance

Table 1.5  Yoga Alliance Minimum Requirements for Prenatal Yoga Category* General background in the specialty area

Total hours 5

Contact hours 5

Techniques, training, and practice

25

25; 18 with lead trainer(s)

Teaching methodology

10

10; 6 with lead trainer(s)

Anatomy and physiology

10

10

Yoga philosophy, lifestyle, and ethics

5

5

Practicum

20

10 observing; 6 with lead trainer(s) 10 teaching; 6 with lead trainer(s)

Electives

10

10

Total hours

85

85; 36 with lead trainer(s)

* After earning a certification with a registered prenatal yoga school (RPYS), an instructor must teach 30 hours of prenatal yoga before they are eligible to register with Yoga Alliance as a registered prenatal yoga instructor.

© Yoga Alliance

Table 1.6  Yoga Alliance Minimum Requirements for Children’s Yoga Category*

Total

Minimum contact hours

General background in the specialty area

12

12

Techniques, training, and practice

20

20; 15 with lead trainer(s)

Teaching methodology

15

15; 12 with lead trainer(s)

Anatomy and physiology

10

10

Yoga philosophy, lifestyle, and ethics

12

12

Practicum

18

6 observing; 4 with lead trainer(s) 12 teaching; 6 with lead trainer(s)

Electives

8

8

Total hours

95

95; 37 with lead trainer(s)

After earning a certification with a registered children’s yoga school (RCYS), an instructor must teach 30 hours of children’s yoga before they are eligible to register with Yoga Alliance as a registered children’s yoga instructor. *

© Yoga Alliance

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Instructing Hatha Yoga changes that a woman goes through during pregnancy; they also focus on safe ways to modify poses and sequences in order to ease physical and emotional discomfort before and even during the birthing process, as well as the postpartum period. YA children’s yoga requirements address the fact that although kids benefit greatly from practicing yoga, they are not little adults. Rather, they form a population that is both diverse in itself and, at the same time, marked by specific developmental needs. As a result, the standards focus on understanding the developmental stages of childhood and how best to design age-appropriate classes for a range of age groups. If you graduate and receive a certification from a school approved by the Yoga Alliance, you can choose to register with the alliance and place the letters RYT after your name. The process is akin to getting a diploma from an accredited school and then applying for registration as a nurse. However, it is not against the law to teach without being registered; association with YA is completely voluntary. Perhaps in the future, education standards for yoga teachers will be expanded to parallel those for chiropractors and acupuncturists, in which case getting registered would become an essential aspect of the profession. As of this writing, numerous states require specific licensure for yoga teaching schools, and many more are considering such requirements. As a result, people interested in teaching yoga are advised to understand their state’s laws regarding yoga licensing and certification requirements. As the demand for hatha yoga continues to evolve, so must teacher qualifications in order to maintain the integrity of the practice and all that it may encompass.

Liability Insurance and Employment Classification No matter where you teach—and regardless of whether you are paid or volunteering your time— it is vital that you acquire professional liability insurance for yourself. Even if you teach in a yoga studio, gym, spa, or educational facility that is required to have a business insurance policy, an individual policy can help guard against legal action against you. Moreover, many teaching facilities hire teachers as independent contractors (rather than as employees) and require them to provide their own individual insurance policy. Even if a business maintains an umbrella policy that includes workers, the coverage it provides could be less than needed if damages are brought against you as an individual instructor. Fortunately, most insurance companies that cater to fitness and wellness professionals provide coverage of an individual even if she or he teaches in various locations—obviously a good thing for independent contractors. Liability insurance policies are offered by many yoga and fitness-related organizations, including Yoga Alliance. Most small, noncorporate yoga facilities hire instructors as independent contractors because these businesses often have a relatively small profit margin and teachers generally do not work full-time. In addition, by hiring independent contractors, U.S. businesses eliminate the responsibility imposed by many state and federal tax laws. At the same time, as independent contractors, yoga teachers qualify for certain tax benefits for operating as their own yoga business. Depending on your desired teaching locale, you may be required to obtain a business license along with your teaching certificate.

Review Questions 1. Approximately how old is yoga? 2. Define yoga in a few sentences. 3. What four types of yoga are typically practiced, and of which type is hatha yoga? 4. What is Ashtanga yoga? 5. How did Patanjali codify yoga practice? 6. What well-known type of hatha yoga focuses on alignment, form, and the use of props?

7. Identify some popular styles of hatha yoga practiced today. 8. Describe some concerns facing modern yoga practitioners and some of the ways in which the needs of today’s yoga students and teachers are being met. 9. What are the five categories of yoga teacher training by Yoga Alliance? 10. Explain the meanings of the terms yamas and niyamas.

2 Basics of Teaching Yoga I

t can be a challenge to teach any subject. Beyond this basic reality, yoga instructors must be particularly mindful of the bodies, minds, and emotions of their students—not only as an overall group but also as individuals who come to class with various abilities and needs. On some days, it may seem easier to teach yoga to a dog than to a group of highly diverse people! A dog doesn’t care whether you have charisma, what you wear, whether you are in good physical condition, or whether you practice what you teach. People, however, generally expect all of this and more.

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Instructing Hatha Yoga Yoga teaching today continues an ancient tradition of master and pupil even as it engages the complex expectations, agendas, and reactions of a modern, materialistic, and often competitive society. In this challenging environment, one of the keys to success is to develop awareness both of your own teaching inclinations and of your students’ learning styles. To help your students expand their skills, you first need to examine your perceptions of yourself as an example and mentor. If you explore your own moral compass and motives, you gain understanding, tolerance, and compassion for your students. If, on the other hand, you do not balance your personal needs and desires with the demands of providing service to others, you will likely experience teacher burnout. This chapter highlights several aspects of teaching yoga, including ways to build trust and rapport with your students, ways to optimize your students’ yoga experience based on their learning styles, and instructor traits often cited by students as preferable or not preferable. This information will help you recognize and expand your own capabilities and those of your students. The chapter also presents guidelines for applying hands-on adjustments as well as questions to ask yourself before doing so. Yoga teacher training programs often require a solid background in yoga practice for at least one year and generally more. This is a wise approach, because your teaching style should form as an extension of your personal practice. A practice of your own not only gives you tremendous insight into the asanas but also provides you with residual calm and confidence for times when you are too busy teaching to enjoy a yoga class for yourself. The process of learning to teach yoga can take years, but you can accelerate it by reading and applying the information provided in this book. Even if you are relatively new to the practice of yoga, you can use this material to evaluate your readiness, willingness, and ability to begin teaching. Toward this end, appendix C offers a self­inquiry questionnaire to help you introspect while studying the information provided in this book.

Qualities of a Yoga Teacher First, you may be relieved to know that you do not have to be able to put your foot behind your head in order to be a good yoga teacher. You do need to

look deep within yourself to find the qualities that you can use to build trust and instill confidence in your students. These qualities allow you to demonstrate both to yourself and to your students that you have the knowledge and experience to guide them authoritatively through a class. This is true for both veteran and novice instructors. A yoga teacher’s main responsibility is to help people “remember” themselves as they travel the path of self-awareness—to help them become whole again. As young children, we explored our bodies and tested our boundaries; unfortunately, as adults we generally forget the joys and challenges of that exploration. People often pay no attention to their bodies, other than in superficial critiques, unless they are feeling intense pain or displeasure. Even athletes tend to focus on the performance of their bodies rather than the associated sensations. In fact, they often play through pain in an effort to win, believing that the “no pain, no gain” mentality is a virtuous model of behavior. After years of disassociation from bodily awareness, it may be difficult for people to perceive sensations that are not painful enough to grab their attention. It is as if their mental muscles have atrophied; that is, people who are used to paying attention to their bodies only when they can no longer ignore the pain have experienced atrophy of awareness. Your job is to open their minds and hearts through yoga in order to guide them back to that integral awareness. Do not expect, however, to stand up in front of a group of complete strangers and miraculously send them on a path to bliss. You first need to open your own heart to them and allow their hearts to open to you.

To gain or enhance your ability to guide your students to their own awareness, remember the four Cs of teaching yoga: connection, compassion, confidence, and commitment.

Connection Think back on the most joyous learning you have experienced with the help of a mentor. Most likely, your joy derived in part from the strong connection you felt with your instructor

Basics of  Teaching Yoga

Find Your Purpose Kathy Lee Kappmeier, coauthor of the first edition of Instructing Hatha Yoga, once served as a delegate at the International Yoga Conference in Rishikesh, India. While there, she asked Swami Veda Bharati for his opinions on requirements of yoga teachers in today’s world. He spoke about connection and the importance of each teacher’s ability to facilitate a change in consciousness in students. He explained that a good yoga teacher is someone who, simply by presence and manner, can soothe another person. The renowned scholar and spiritual master also said that he worries about the hours of training focused on the exercise and fitness aspects of asanas and wonders if this concentration truly perpetuates the art of yoga teaching. He questioned whether the essence of yoga itself might be lost. He said that he felt some yoga schools have lost sight of yoga’s vast lineage. He wants the legacy of yoga to be protected, and he fears that the greatest benefits of yoga will be buried if teachers do not pay attention to its roots as they endeavor to become leaf sprouts on the living tree of yoga.

and your realization that she or he understood you and knew just the right way to guide you to your own new understanding. The two of you established a meaningful connection—a link of understanding—that created a bond of trust. As an instructor, your job is to create the same kind of connection with your students so that they are active participants in learning. One of the simplest ways to connect with your students is to ask and remember their names. Knowing students’ names builds rapport and lets them know that you care about them as people. As you get to know how a student’s body moves, and as she feels more comfortable around you, you increase her sense of well-being. This connection builds trust and understanding. Over time, the more a student trusts you, the more he follows your instructions to listen to his body instead of listening to his mental chatter. A skilled yoga teacher directs students to take as much responsibility as possible for themselves during class. For example, by instructing students to avoid going into a posture or to come out of a posture if they feel pain, you empower them and invite them to explore their bodies and minds on a deeper level. By asking students how they feel in their postures—where they feel strength, weakness, tightness, or fatigue—you help them connect with their inner teachers. This inner knowledge allows them to find and expand the edge of their awareness. Always remember that your personal yoga practice is one of your most important resources and assets. Regardless of how many teachers you study under, or how many yoga texts you read,

your personal practice is how you authentically connect with yourself time after time. With practice, the wisdom and skill of yoga science flow through you into your students. At times, you may hear words coming out of your mouth and not know consciously where they came from or how you knew what to say. This experience derives from your reconnecting to the vast source of yoga knowledge.

Compassion It is essential when teaching to express the compassion you have for yourself and for your students. Compassion resides in your heart center— the Anahata chakra [uh-nuh-HUT-uh CHUK-ruh]. It is an expression of your passion to nurture and provide care to others. In a book that he wrote about his father, renowned master yoga teacher Krishnamacharya, T.K.V. Desikachar (2005) emphasized the importance of caring: The qualities we seek in a teacher are a life devoted to practice; evidence that he or she, too, is ever a student of yoga; a nature that is always truthful; a commitment to the student’s own awareness and possibilities, each in his own terms. And caring—above all, caring. When people arrive . . . and ask us, “Can you help me?” the only answer we can give is “I can care.” Show your students that you care about them by choosing your words and actions thoughtfully.

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Instructing Hatha Yoga

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To show students that you care about their efforts to reach their individual potential, avoid emphasizing that their alignment is wrong when applying physical adjustments.

Be sure you really know what you are saying and what exactly your words mean. For example, some yoga teachers seem to go around “correcting” their students with adjustments, as if the student’s body movements are inappropriate, thus making them feel inferior. If you use the word correct, then you imply to some students that they are doing something wrong. If, however, you apply adjustments with the attitude that you have been given the opportunity to assist students as they experience deeper, more relaxed postures, you provide them with an act of kindness and coaching. There is no such thing as perfection, and there should be no competition anywhere in your class. It is thoughtful to explain to your students that if you physically adjust them, it does not mean they are doing anything wrong; conversely, if you do not touch them, it does not mean that they have reached perfection. Providing adjustments and modifications lovingly allows students to find and

experience the truth of their bodies and minds in any given pose. In addition to caring for your students, you must also have compassion for yourself and realize that you will not know all the answers to all the questions that your students will ask. Yoga is too vast a field to master quickly or completely. Recognize that your teaching style will not appeal to everyone, and do not take it personally if a student finds another instructor or offers criticism, whether constructive or not. Have compassion for yourself and recognize that though it may not always feel like it, you and your circumstances are ideal just as they are. Believing this will help you relate to and help students who experience many of the same struggles you do. Some of the best teachers have worked through physical or emotional difficulties, and their understanding of their own concerns gives them deeper insight into their students’ struggles. If, on the other hand, asanas come easily

Basics of  Teaching Yoga to you, then it may be difficult for you to work with others who have trouble understanding the postures in the beginning. However, when you can empathize with and nurture your students, you become a source of connection, caring, and compassion.

Confidence It is normal to feel nervous when you are teaching, especially in a new setting or style. However, if you do not exude some semblance of confidence, your students will have difficulty trusting or believing in you or, perhaps, in the benefits of practicing yoga. Even new teachers can seem extraordinary if they stick to what they know and have confidence in the ability to do so. Tap into the well of knowledge that you have created for yourself, and your passion will shine through. One example of how confidence can lead you through new situations is illustrated by Judith Hanson Lasater,  an accomplished yoga leader in the United States and abroad. When she first taught yoga, she did so because the teacher she had been studying with needed a substitute. Although she was not sure what to do, she did not want to let the class down, so she led the students through some poses and kept saying, “If it hurts, don’t do it.” Theoretically, you can lead a nice, relaxing yoga class simply by saying, “Breathe. If it hurts, don’t do it. Relax. Breathe.” Thus it is possible for a humble beginning to unfold into a calling and a new career. No matter what, it is crucial to maintain your humility and teach what you truly know. Real confidence is not arrogance, nor is it rooted in ignorance. Confidence is part of your personal power or ego strength and might be felt in your third chakra—the Manipura [muhn-EEpoor-uh]  chakra, or solar plexus center. Being confident also does not mean having a closed mind. In fact, the more confident you are in your teaching, the less you are threatened by others who may criticize, teach differently, or appear to be more commercially successful. Moreover, you need to be confident in order to speak clearly and compellingly in front of a group. Assert yourself without being overly aggressive. Believing in yourself and your abilities gives you the confidence you need.

Sometimes self-doubt can creep into your psyche. Do not worry or allow yourself to think that students are coming to your class only because it is inexpensive, is close to their homes, or takes place during a convenient time. Rest assured that people will not come to your class if they do not think you are good, even if you live right next door! Be the person you would like to take a class from. For your students, be the yoga teacher they need at any given time by being genuine. Also, continually help build up your students. Encourage them throughout class and let them know when you see changes in them over time. These interactions build their confidence and give them a feeling of self-satisfaction.

Commitment Always take time to reflect on the scope of your knowledge and ability as an instructor. Doing so strengthens your integrity not only as an instructor but also as a caring, compassionate human being. Regardless of your innate teaching ability, you must know well the information that you are teaching. For some people, acquiring the information is the easy part, whereas learning how to impart it is more challenging. You can enhance your ability to share information effectively by exploring your own body and its physical and mental boundaries; this experience helps you better understand the bodies and psyches of your students. All of this is possible if you are sincere and honest, regardless of where you begin on your teaching path. If you commit yourself to being the best teacher you can be, you will consistently look for and find ways to improve yourself. Remain open to learning new ways of teaching and finding new ideas. Be the proverbial student so that you can share your newfound knowledge with your students. As you travel the path of a yoga instructor, keep your mind open to learning, even as you pass knowledge along to your students. The late Georg Feuerstein, renowned yoga scholar, stated, “Even when, after due preparation, we are called to teach others, we would be wise to remain learners—or, in traditional terms, to cultivate ‘beginner’s mind.’ . . . [W]e stop growing when we think there is nothing more to learn” (2002, p. 37).

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Instructing Hatha Yoga

Becoming a Yoga Teacher Some people begin teaching yoga because they have practiced the discipline for some time, feel that yoga has changed their lives in a meaningful way, and wish to share this gift with others. They want to serve as a link in the lineage of ancient wisdom and dispense the knowledge to their students. Others, including many in the fitness industry, have discovered that yoga is kind to the body and that teaching yoga has a far gentler impact on the joints, muscles, voice, and feet than teaching aerobics, Spinning, kickboxing, or water exercise. For many, then, teaching yoga keeps them connected to students and allows them to give their own bodies a respite from high-­intensity work. Although you should not use teaching yoga as a way to get more workouts in, you may be happy to find your stress suspended as you focus fully on your classes. The work of your heart, head, and hands gets stronger through teaching. Indeed, a well-taught yoga class can be a peak experience not only for your students but also for you. Long ago in India, yoga teachers never charged a fee for their services. Indeed, doing so was considered sacrilegious because teaching was believed to be not a job but a calling. In contrast, in today’s world economy, there is no escaping the fact that yoga has become a fitness and wellness commodity. Unless you are officially volunteering your teaching hours, you do need to be fairly compensated. However, if money is your primary motivation for teaching yoga, then you either have the unusual circumstance of serving a wealthy and generous benefactor or you are sadly mistaken. Fortunately, most teachers of yoga find that the satisfaction of teaching generally outweighs financial concerns. By attending continually to your reasons and motivations for teaching, you allow yourself the space to change and grow. It cannot be emphasized enough that your greatest assets as a teacher are your own personal practice and your experiences with your students. Neglecting your personal practice creates an energetic imbalance in you and often produces a profound disconnect between you and your students. Keeping these connections at the forefront of your mind brings the meaning and purpose of yoga to life in yourself. To guide your exploration of your personal yoga practice and teaching, make regular use of

the self-inquiry questionnaire (appendix C) and the yoga class evaluation form (appendix D).

Regardless of why you want to teach yoga, the most important things are that you teach well and help your students relax their minds and expand their spirits—all while protecting their bodies from physical injury.

Education No matter how long you have studied and practiced yoga, you can always gain deeper knowledge and insight. Retain a beginner’s mind-set and stay open to new experiences. Take classes and workshops to open yourself up to new ways of thinking and to keep yourself energized. It is rejuvenating to interact with other instructors as a peer and as a student. Use the comprehensive yoga class evaluation form presented in appendix D to evaluate your class or that of another teacher. Depending on your schedule, it may seem impossible for you to find the time to attend other yoga classes. However, especially as a new teacher, the more you attend classes taught by others, the better off both you and your students will be. Find a good teacher who motivates you and whose classes enable you to feel comfortably challenged on all levels. Try to attend these classes for an average of 8 hours a month; this time investment benefits you and sets a solid example for your students of practicing what you preach. In addition, students enjoy seeing their own instructors in other classes that they attend. If you have been teaching yoga for some time, then you might try taking a 1-hour class for every 10 to 20 hours that you teach. If you are a novice instructor and cannot find the time to physically attend other classes, the next best thing is to access outside instruction via video, whether online or in the form of a DVD. This approach can give you a taste of classes conducted by well-known instructors. Although it cannot give you the tailored feedback and teaching provided by a live instructor, a good recorded class can be replayed and studied or simply enjoyed as a mini retreat from your daily grind.

Basics of  Teaching Yoga

Your Personal Practice

© DuxX/istock.com

You can also benefit from the excitement and energy of a conference or workshop, which can both inspire you and expose you to the latest developments in yoga. The more you remain abreast of trends, research, and news that you can share with your students, the better you serve both their needs and your own. In addition, attending a conference or workshop is a good way to avoid falling into a rut or getting burned out. If you go to a workshop, ask yourself how the information and experience will contribute to both your teaching and your personal practice. Usually, if your personal practice is uplifted, so is your teaching. One last caveat on education: If you have not yet studied how to provide hands-on adjustments safely, it is best not to attempt them until you have. Seek out the education and experience you need, and in the meantime be mindful of your students’ needs and make it your top priority to do no harm (ahimsa [uh-HEEM-saah]).

Regardless of how you teach your classes, your personal practice should always reflect your own particular needs and intentions.

In addition to continuing to gain knowledge through classes and workshops, it is important for you to maintain a regular personal yoga practice so that you gain firsthand experience of the benefits of yoga. You serve as an example for your students when you practice what you preach and can honestly share with them how yoga positively influences your own life. For example, students feel reassured when you tell them that you once struggled with meditation or with a specific posture and that you discovered—as they will with consistent practice—that it does get easier. When students look at you as a work in progress, they have more faith that they will advance in their practice as well. Nothing can replace the wisdom you gain from the consistency of applied awareness over time. As you teach, you may see yourself in some of your students, which can make it easier to explain certain aspects of an asana to them. At the same time, as you answer their questions, you increase your own understanding of the mechanics and benefits of a given asana. In addition, when you practice an asana at home, you gain insight into how to instruct others regarding aspects of that position. For example, if you have tight hips and are practicing yoga sincerely, then you become an expert on tight hips and how to work with them. Reflect on your personal motives for practicing yoga so that when you teach you can relate honestly to your students. Learning about yourself gives you insight into the struggles and joys that your students experience as you guide them through a class. Sharing deep philosophical truths that you learn through study and reflection can help you shape your classes and give the entire experience a more profound meaning. You may also find yourself teaching asanas very differently from the way in which you practice them. This is fine. For example, it is absolutely okay to teach a vigorous yoga class and enjoy a much gentler practice at home. You practice what you crave during your own time and give your students what they need during theirs. Similarly, no doubt, many music teachers help their students with pop music yet prefer jazz when they play at home. One thing that a new instructor may not realize is that teaching yoga often does take time away from one’s own practice. As in teaching any subject

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Instructing Hatha Yoga or activity, it takes a great deal of time and energy to gain the necessary knowledge and competence for yoga teaching and to prepare for and facilitate classes. For this reason, you must decide what teaching yoga is worth to you and balance that value with what you believe your personal time is worth. Unless you are a famous teacher or own a very popular yoga center, yoga instruction is generally a part-time job that does not provide great monetary benefits. It does, however, bestow great karmic boons, such as the satisfaction of watching others heal and grow through yoga.

Ethics As with any occupation in which one deals directly with the public, yoga instructors must follow certain moral guidelines to protect the rights, safety, and well-being of both the students and the instructor. Indeed, the Yoga Sutras list ahimsa (no harm) as the first  yama  [YUHmuh] (social restraint) in the foundational limb of all of yoga. As a yoga instructor, then, your primary duty is to do no harm to any student through action, thought, or word. As of yet, no laws have been passed in the U.S. regarding behavioral interactions between yoga teachers and their students. However, many schools of hatha yoga have established specific standards that generally follow the basic code of professional ethics created by the California Yoga Teachers Association in 1995, which states, “All forms of sexual behavior or harassment with students are unethical, even when a student invites or consents to such behavior and involvement” (http://www.anandainfo.com/ethics_code.html). In addition, in 2013, Yoga Alliance updated its Code of Conduct, which emphasizes the importance of following the traditional tenets of yoga, adhering to local governmental laws, practicing within the scope of one’s knowledge, and protecting the well-being and respecting the diversity of students (www.yogaalliance.org/AboutYA/ OurPolicies/CodeofConduct). Having tea with a student after class can be harmless, even healthy, but dating a student borders on being unethical. It can be tough to know where to draw the line in extending yourself socially or even professionally with your students outside of class. In no case should you jeopardize the student–teacher relationship, and it is very risky to blindly agree to spend time with a student alone in a non-yoga-related activity.

Even best friends have been known to part ways after taking a trip together or lending money to one another, and it is in no one’s best interest to risk the student–teacher relationship. However, if someone in your class is destined to be your best friend, then surely it will unfold in time. One risk in having a close personal relationship with a student lies in the fact that if a student is aware of your personal concerns, she might have a hard time just being your student during class. Indeed, she might begin to see you in a different light, and instead of being totally present for herself during class she might think of her interactions with you as a friend and guide. The student might also disagree with your handling of a personal concern and wonder if perhaps you do not know what you are doing in any area of your life, including teaching yoga. It can be a very fine line between being a person with faults (like everybody else) and being a perceived authority figure who helps others. Therefore, you must strike a balance between your private and professional life. If you feel sincerely drawn to become more intimately involved with a student, then it is best that you not continue to be that student’s teacher. If, after some months, the personal relationship is moving along well, then you both may feel comfortable with the person taking part in your class again. Remember that yoga is not about taking a black-and-white approach to concerns or guidelines, and there are exceptions to rules. Always be mindful, however, of the very real and serious risks that you as a yoga teacher are open to if you see students on a basis that is more than casual.

Discovering Your Teaching Style When you stand in front of a roomful of yoga students, you may feel like a performer. You may even get into a character, and your public teaching persona may appear to be much different from the person you are when you are not teaching. There is nothing wrong with “acting” as you teach; all teachers need to find the most comfortable way to express themselves. The most important part of teaching is to serve as a channel through which knowledge flows as you connect with receptive students. You may slip in a little humor or storytelling to get and keep the students tuned in. Just remember that teaching is your top priority, and your purpose is not to entertain but to guide.

Basics of  Teaching Yoga If you do find that you can mix in a little entertainment in order to facilitate enlightenment, then by all means do so—but only as a way to enhance students’ yoga education, not to overshadow it. The lessons of practicing yoga should be in the figurative spotlight. Even if you have a physical stage from which to teach, with the students on the floor below you, you yourself should never be in the spotlight. Rather, you shine the light on yoga, which, as much as possible, is illuminated from within each student. As you engage your various students and their diverse intelligences and ways of learning, remain aware that at any given moment a student may get distracted and allow his or her mind to focus elsewhere. If you pay close attention, you can gently reel a student’s awareness back to your instruction by facilitating what is called a state change. When students appear not to listen or fail to respond, it may occur because their attention span is short, because your voice is monotone, or because they are distracted or bored. You can usually lure their wandering minds back to the activity at hand if you suddenly, yet subtly, raise or lower your voice, change the pace of your words, or walk around the room. Not only must you appeal to a broad range of learning styles and abilities, but also you must sufficiently charm your class with the qualities

that students believe you should have in order to keep their interest. From years of experience in teaching yoga in many different settings, I have composed a summary of what students typically like and dislike about their yoga instructors (see table 2.1). Keep these tendencies in mind as you settle into your teaching style, but always remember to be as genuine as possible.

Recognizing Your Students’ Needs People come to yoga class for many different reasons. If your class includes 25 students, they probably have, at the very least, 25 different reasons for being there. To name but a few, these motivations may include stress reduction, increased flexibility, relaxation, improved fitness, and weight loss. Whatever a given student’s goal is, it may change from one class session to the next. Some people even have a hidden agenda for practicing yoga, and this is not necessarily a bad thing; not all reasons need to be noble ones. For example, if a person is motivated to practice yoga simply to look better, doing so is far better

Table 2.1  Students’ Likes and Dislikes About Instructor Characteristics Likes

Dislikes

Is outgoing and charismatic; has a magnetic personality. Uses good music. Cues clearly; uses cues that motivate people to work harder. Is personable without sharing too much. Has an unshakable positive attitude. Uses a routine that flows well. Is consistent. Builds good rapport with students. Is funny or witty. Gives an intense, yet conscientious class; challenges without losing people. Genuinely seems to care about students. Has a motivating physique. Is prepared and organized. Has unstoppable high energy. Is professional. Moves around while teaching. Has star quality; is someone to emulate. Takes notice of each person. Facilitates a sense of family in the class.

Uses the same music for too long. Uses poor cues. Shares too much about personal life. Is too loud or has a high-pitched voice. Teaches with the microphone too close to the face. Uses any negative comments. Stops too often during the session. Is tardy too often. Gets subs too often. Brags, is self-absorbed, or seems distant from students. Picks on students, even if it’s meant to be tongue in cheek. Sticks with an advanced combination when it is clear that people are not following. Makes political or religious comments. Has low or inconsistent energy. Wears clothing that is too revealing or ill fitting. Complains—for example, about the sound equipment or the previous instructor. Has an outdated appearance or style. Seems to be uninterested in getting to know students.

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Instructing Hatha Yoga than not practicing yoga at all. If another person hopes to meet like-minded people or find “the one,” what better place to make connections than a yoga class? Many times, some people come to yoga class who wouldn’t dare show up for a CrossFit, spinning, or kickboxing session. Your class might include, for example, an older woman with severe osteoporosis, a middle-aged man with a low-back injury, a young pregnant woman, or a stressedout college student. You may not be able to teach more than a few simple postures and a breathing technique, but if you do so with a soothing voice or an inspiring quote, your students usually leave feeling more serene and relaxed than when they arrived. It is a teacher’s job to ask students to express their goals. Why have they come to class? For stress reduction, to gain strength or flexibility, to get away from the everyday aspects of life? What do they expect to gain from their time with you? In addition, many instructors ask their students if they have particular areas of the body that need attention and then structure the class to accommodate these requests. People usually feel euphoric after a yoga class, but occasionally emotions other than bliss surface during a class, especially during Shavasana (Corpse Pose)—the resting portion of a practice session. Many people, in their attempt to escape pain and discomfort, keep themselves busy in order to avoid feeling distress. As a result, when the mind gets a chance to truly relax, suppressed emotions may surface. Your job as the yoga teacher is to offer a safe and peaceful space for all of your students. You can empathize with your students without even saying a word. Once students begin Shavasana, they should rarely be disturbed because this is their personal, private time. However, if a student needs your assistance, you need to be there when she or he asks. You can reassure the student that feeling emotional is not an abnormal response when practicing yoga. The purpose of yoga is to connect with what is real. Let the student know that sometimes part of the mental and emotional balancing process releases stored-up energy, such as sadness or even pain. In terms of physical responses, reassure students that crying is a normal process, like passing gas or sneezing, by which the body relieves itself. If something needs to be released, it needs to be released! Suppressing it is unhealthy. If a student

passes gas during class, you would not call attention to it. Recognize that tears, sighing, and even seemingly excessive yawning are other kinds of gentle physical releases that can be induced by yoga practice. The only caveat about dealing with an emotional student is to be careful not to take on the role of counselor. Your time with your students should not extend more than 10 minutes beyond the end of class, if that. Boundaries are important. If students want to ask you a quick question, then, if you are so inclined, spend a few minutes before or after class to answer it. But if the same student keeps asking you numerous questions about how he should be practicing at home, which poses are best for him and his condition, or other concerns, tell the student what your hourly rate is for private sessions or refer him to someone else. And if a student asks for advice about personal concerns, direct her elsewhere unless you are a professional counselor. As a yoga teacher, you are like a parent to your students, standing up for them and supporting their efforts. You are a sponsor, an advocate, and a coach—maybe part friend and part drill sergeant—and someone who can guide others to the next level of their personal awareness. Because you took the journey yourself, you understand how to guide your students along their path.

Learning Styles You Will Encounter Just as each student has her or his own reasons for attending yoga class, each person also has an individual way of learning. A given person may use multiple learning styles in varying degrees. Your objective is to develop your “teaching intelligence” as much as possible while using your students’ learning styles for their edification. There are three fundamental learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (Barbe 1979). Visual learners need to see what they are being taught, auditory learners conceptualize learning through hearing, and kinesthetic learners absorb information best through touch and movement. Remember, however, that few if any people learn solely through one approach. Fortunately, many cues you use will overlap words, images, and touch so that your instruction can be more universal. You can use visual and verbal cues by

Basics of  Teaching Yoga explaining a pose while demonstrating for students, in addition to directing her or his awareness to where they might generally feel a given posture in their bodies. When you engage all three basic learning styles, you allow each student to receive instruction in the way that he or she can most easily understand in that moment.

Visual Learners Students who are visual learners prefer that the instructor demonstrate poses. They also respond well to verbal cues that create imagery in their minds. For example, an appropriate cue for a visual learner might be “Imagine that there is a wall behind you as you are standing in Triangle Pose and that you are becoming more flush with that wall as you press your shoulder blades back.” Visual learners also appreciate photographs and illustrations of poses. One disadvantage for visual learners is that they tend not to feel their own bodies in the asana. Instead, they have an organic need to see how to be in the pose; therefore, these learners sometimes experience a gap in feedback if you do not provide them with a visual reference. For example, when instructing them to lower their shoulders from their ears, it is a good idea to have them peek in a mirror, if available, to see their raised shoulders first. Similarly, invite them to look down at their thighs as they rotate externally to open the hips more deeply. Otherwise, they may have trouble grasping what you mean. Visual learners may be able to imagine and respond to such an instruction, but they must usually overcome a steep learning curve if they cannot see their own bodies. If you find yourself teaching without the aid of mirrors, you can use a work-around by duplicating the student’s body position and then moving your body into the more appropriate position. Partner work can also help these students grasp the mechanics of many poses.

Auditory Learners Auditory learners pick up information by listening. For example, whereas visual learners read musical notes in order to play a song, people who can play a tune after simply hearing it are good auditory learners. These students are receptive to skillfully offered verbal cues. They learn from your words and may be able to practice at home by hearing your words in their heads, especially if you have a soothing teaching voice.

Invite auditory learners to close their eyes and figuratively listen  to what their bodies say to them as you instruct them to move deeper into an asana. As you direct students through class, tell them which specific areas of the body to focus on and what types of sensation they might expect to feel. Throughout your cueing, use many different descriptive words.

Kinesthetic Learners As compared with visual and auditory learners, kinesthetic learners can more easily feel places in their bodies that cannot be seen from the outside. They may be unsure, however, of what or where they are supposed to feel in an asana. To reach these learners, indicate which places in their bodies they should attend to and invite them to notice specifically what they feel there. For example, in Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog), direct students to note the weight of the head helping to stretch the necks and elongate the spine while opening space between the vertebrae. Kinesthetic learners benefit less from demonstration and verbal cues and more from experiencing a posture in their own bodies—that is, from feeling the sensations of their bodies as they move through space. Because they readily feel changes in their bodies, they can directly understand how to adjust an asana. Such learners also typically enjoy hands-on adjustment because they can more properly align themselves based on their sensations. For example, kinesthetic learners may initially have trouble with the verbal instruction “Breathe into your lower back.” But if you lightly place your hand on a student’s lower back and say, “Breathe into my hands,” he will usually connect to the cue. As a result, you will feel the student’s lower back relax and gently expand with the inhalation.

Ayurvedic Humors Another factor in how a person learns has to do with basic disposition, or humor, as it is called in the ancient practice of Ayurveda [AAH-yoorveh-duh]. This sister science to yoga is a holistic medical system that has been practiced in India for many centuries. It posits three basic humors, called doshas  [DOH-shuhs],  each of which emphasizes a particular way of learning and processing information. The three doshas are vata [VAAH-tuh], pitta [PIT-tuh], and kapha

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Instructing Hatha Yoga [KUP-huh]. Everyone has all three doshas but in various proportions, and in most people one dosha is primary. The doshas are made up of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether (sometimes referred to as space). Vata individuals relate to the air and ether elements. These individuals tend to have an airy or spacy (sometimes frenetic) quality about them and may be described as having their heads in the clouds. A student with a mostly vata constitution may be easily distracted. For example, he or she may seem to immediately grasp a concept, such as lifting the kneecaps, but moments later seem to have forgotten all about it. You can help such students by repeating your directions numerous times. Pitta people have the fire energy or element in their humor. They tend to heat up faster than individuals with a vata or kapha constitution. Pitta students tend to stay present and focused on their tasks; therefore, whereas vata learners tend to ask questions just for the sake of exploring, pitta students gather facts with a particular goal in mind. They also appreciate direct and specific instructions. The kapha dosha is made up of earth and water. Kapha students may be slower to grasp information, but once they understand lessons they tend to remember them well. The earth element of the kapha dosha is practically the opposite of the air energy of the vata dosha. Whereas vata people can be seen fluttering around nonstop, perhaps socializing with other students before

and after class, kapha students are content to lie down on the mat until the teacher gives the command to begin class. Kapha students respond well to slow, descriptive cues that enable them to completely absorb the meaning and intention of an instruction. There is more to the doshas than these basic behaviors and learning styles, but this introduction is sufficient for the purpose of teaching yoga. While everyone has a combination of each dosha, most people’s primary dosha is readily apparent. This is true of the three basic styles of learning as well. For example, a student may learn well both visually and by auditory means while having plenty of pitta and kapha energy. The main point here is that people are combinations of many variables that affect their learning; therefore, you need to employ teaching techniques that appeal to multiple styles of learning and to the various doshas. Use table 2.2 as a guide in matching learning styles with specific teaching methods.

Class Management When you teach yoga, you are a channel of ancient knowledge, imparting what you know to each of your students on a level to which they can relate. In this process, you are an authority, and it is important to maintain control over your class. It is also crucial, however, to temper that authority with humility and a realization that

Table 2.2  Learning Styles and Teaching Methods Learning style or Ayurvedic humor

Learning tendencies

How best to teach

Visual

Look up often, which frequently takes them off task and out of position

Physically demonstrate poses; provide verbal imagery.

Auditory

Often feel lost when no verbal instructions are given

Give many and varied verbal cues; use nondistracting background music.

Kinesthetic

Need to become familiar with the movement Provide hands-on adjustments and remind and flow of a posture in order to feel the them to breathe. effects

Vata

Fast, conceptual learners but quick to forget and easily distracted

Provide structure to keep their attention focused.

Pitta

Intensely focused and perhaps intolerant of high temperature or of a teacher who lacks confidence

Provide detailed descriptions and answer questions accurately and authoritatively.

Kapha

Slow, patient learners with good retention but can lack drive

Provide frequent motivational feedback.

Basics of  Teaching Yoga not every student in your class is able to connect with you. Still, if students start talking, or if people who are not students come in, it is up to you to serve as a peace officer by asking them to be quiet. Whatever rules you have should always be applied equally. Some teachers lock the door once class begins so that a tardy student does not disturb a class in progress. However, this practice is not always acceptable or even possible to enforce in today’s hectic world. Still, instructors cannot simply stop the class and make everyone else wait while attending to a new or late-arriving student. Nevertheless, you may need to take action in order to avoid a bigger concern, such as incurring liability for injury. For instance, a new student who arrives late may not know enough to warm up on his or her own and may therefore jump into whatever posture the class is practicing at the moment, which could put that student in a potentially injurious position. In this situation, many teachers direct the rest of the students to hold a pose while they attend to latecomers long enough for them to integrate with the rest of the group. If instances like these happen occasionally, most of the on-time students will be accepting. However, if situations like this occur often, students will definitely complain. Part of what a yoga class involves is not letting others distract you; another part is not contributing to the distraction of others. With these concerns in mind, when you are faced with a perpetually tardy student, take time to explain that coming in late is disrespectful to the class. This explanation is best done at the end of a class. Deliver it in a nonjudgmental but firm manner so that the student understands the detrimental effect of being late not only on the class as a whole but also on the quality of her or his own experience. In addition, because the warm-up and resting periods are vital to the class, explain to students that if they come in late they need to do a physical and mental warm-up on their own. Good warm-up options include Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation) and most standing poses. By the same token, if students must leave early, they need to spend time in Shavasana on their own before they leave. You may also wish to establish a policy about being tardy and leaving early. The details of such a policy depend on where you work and on the population you teach. Ideally, everyone should be

present for the start and end of class; however, life does happen, and sometimes a person cannot avoid being late or must leave early. Therefore, it is prudent to establish a general plan or policy regarding how to deal with tardy and even intrusive people. In a studio setting, it is typically the management's responsibility to create policies regarding how best to operate, based on their resources; for example, are front-desk personnel available to monitor students’ arrivals and departures, or are teachers on their own once class begins? In independent settings, instructors must decide what they feel is acceptable behavior for their students and present their policies directly to the students. At one time or another, you may have a student in your class who in some way adversely affects other members of the class. If it is a simple matter of, for instance, a student wearing copious amounts of perfume (or cologne), then the solution is to ask the student to refrain from wearing scents because some students are highly sensitive to them. Finding a resolution may not be so easy if a student makes inappropriate remarks, harasses another student, or constantly talks during class. In any case, your responsibility is to communicate with compassion but in a way that indicates clearly what behaviors are unacceptable and need to change. You cannot always prevent hurt feelings, because you cannot control someone else’s emotions. To minimize the chances of offending or upsetting a student, speak in terms of facts, not judgments. Just as a parent must sometimes say no to a child, you have to enforce certain boundaries with students. As someone in a position of authority, you must be consistent so that your students know what to expect from you and from the class as a whole. How strictly you control your class depends both on the style of yoga you teach and on the people you are teaching. Although yoga has a long history steeped in tradition, it also is a living art, which means that it is adaptable and constantly evolving—and you are part of that ongoing history.

Relating Information Your students’ learning depends on how you deliver and relate information to them. If you are not a good conduit of yoga information, students will have difficulty learning from you.

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ASANA: Methods of a Good Instructor Ahimsa (and ask) Suggest Align Nurture Assess

Cause no harm to your students or yourself. Take requests, get permission to touch, and inquire about your students’ conditions and goals. Be direct and confident with your instructions but let students know that they should modify poses or rest at any time as needed. Constantly direct your students’ attention back to the breath. Advocate good physical and mental alignment to prevent injury and promote balance. Become an ally who helps students overcome distractions and disharmony. Be sincere and professional. Give specific positive reinforcement. Provide a safe and soothing space that allows students to be comfortably challenged throughout their practice. Constantly monitor the energy of the practice session. Be aware of the overall group, as well as each student’s learning style and needs, and progress accordingly.

To help you succeed in relating information, the accompanying sidebar provides a checklist of keys to remember. Specifically, it uses the letters of the word asana as a mnemonic device for remembering good teaching methods: a for ahimsa (and ask), s for suggest, a for align, n for nurture, and a for assess.

Ahimsa (and Ask) Ahimsa is the practice of nonharming. Your first duty as an instructor and a human being is to avoid physical or emotional injury of others at all times. Protect your students’ well-being by adhering to ethical standards of honesty and good conduct. Be trustworthy as you build rapport. Ask permission before you touch your students; inquire about what they need from you. In addition, show compassion to yourself. Be mindful of your own body mechanics when you adjust a student, and be aware of your workload in order to prevent teacher burnout. Take care of yourself by setting boundaries and making time to practice yoga on your own every day.

Suggest Encourage students to take your instructions as suggestions. Invite students to explore how your suggestions affect them as they also listen to their bodies to see if they need a rest or modification. Deliver each instruction with humble authority, compassion, and confidence. At the same time, when you are teaching a diverse group of people with varying physical conditions and levels of training, you must give relative instructions.

Even if you have only one student, or if you are practicing yourself, be open to the possibility that at any time a modification may be in order. Sometimes, for example, a student cannot muster the strength or focus to be in a posture that everyone else seems to engage in easily. In addition, because some people do not give themselves permission to be noncompetitive, you need to remind them that everything but breathing is optional in yoga class. Remind them that the class is all about them as individuals, and that advancement in yoga occurs when one listens to his or her inner teacher—even if that means backing away from a pose.

Align Alignment applies both to the physical adjustments that you provide for your students and to your own connection with your various teaching qualities. One way to examine how much you are aligned with your path as a yoga practitioner and teacher is to practice self-inquiry. Keep coming back to your ideals as you progress in your personal practice and in your teaching. Doing so helps you connect authentically with your students and impart information in the manner that is best suited for them.

Nurture Nurture the evolution of your students’ practice. If you find gaps in your compassion for your students, start with the principle of ahimsa. Notice any empathy you have for your students and whenever possible cultivate a true understanding

Basics of  Teaching Yoga of their needs. This idea may sound simplistic, but there are times when it is difficult not to take it personally if you have difficulty getting along with a student. For instance, a student might complain about the class in front of others, perhaps even saying negative things about you, challenging you, or mocking you. If something like this occurs, remember that your job is to nurture without hurting yourself or anyone else. However, in an instance like this, you will need to firmly establish boundaries that express your authority as the teacher, while also showing empathy toward your student’s negativity. Conversely, if a student strokes your ego, do your best not to give in to the temptation of encouraging such behavior. In addition, when you give feedback to your students, include concrete details—for example, “your knees are much straighter now”—so that students develop the ability to notice such things in themselves when you are not around. A good yoga teacher is far from being a cult leader. If you enable a student to be dependent on you, you are simply nurturing your own ego—which benefits no one. Instead, a good teacher guides students to find new places of connection within themselves.

Assess As an instructor, you must continually assess and reassess your effectiveness in transmitting the essence of yoga to your students. Be constantly aware of each student’s progress throughout class. By carefully watching your students, you become aware of changes in the receptivity of their bodies and minds. In addition, when you quiet your own mind, you can more easily tap into the energy of your surroundings and channel it to your students.

Some of your students may be unable to do certain poses, in which case they will need suggestions for modification.

in a student’s mind may or may not match the sensation of her or his body. Ideally, however, the words you choose to cue a postural adjustment should facilitate a merger of mind and body in each student. By encouraging students to go deeper within themselves, you help them discover an image that moves beyond any preconceived picture and allows them to experience the posture from the inside out. This integration can take place only when students tap into their innate awareness and locate their personal edge instead of imitating the actions of an instructor.

Imagery As mentioned earlier, some students cannot learn simply by watching a visual demonstration. Among these students, some may be able to attain proper alignment if you provide clear verbal instructions. However, do not be surprised if a number of your students still do not understand your directions unless you verbally express a concept in a variety of ways. Even when giving verbal directions for adjustment, it is necessary to engage the various learning styles discussed earlier in the chapter. For example, if your students lack even a vague understanding of anatomical terminology, they simply will not know what to do if you say, “Extend your cranium toward the ceiling.” It’s fine to give anatomical cues as long as you also provide a variety of other prompts for students. In this case, you might say the following: “Feel the top of your head lift away from your shoulders.” If you need more detail, you might use the following imagery: “Imagine that the top of your head is a magnet, and the beam above your head is metal. Notice the spaces you open in your neck as the magnet draws up toward the beam.” These are just a few simple examples of how you can use different cueing methods to achieve the same adjustment by addressing the individual learning capabilities of your students. The most important aspect of auditory cueing for adjustment is that you observe your students and use compassion and creativity to reach every one of them.

Adjustment Guidelines

Physical Adjustments

An instructor’s words paint a picture in students’ minds, illustrating how they can best move their bodies into any given asana. The image created

A significant portion of this text is devoted to giving you guidelines for providing your students with safe and appropriate verbal and physical

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Copyright, The Patriot Ledger

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Instructors must decide whether and when to approach students for manual adjustments. Always ask permission.

adjustments. Always remember that a teacher’s main responsibility in any class is to guide each student’s attention inward, where the student can connect with his or her ideal physical, energetic, and emotional harmony. Because hatha yoga is a means to self-transformation and awareness of mind–body wholeness, the importance of intention on the teacher’s part cannot be overemphasized. Again, when trying to modify a student’s posture, it is generally best to begin by giving verbal cues. One reason for taking this approach is that continual physical adjustments may lead a student to depend on them and therefore be unable to find her or his own inner instructor—the one who actually feels the appropriate place to be in the posture. When verbal cues are ineffective in realigning a student, the next possible course of action is to adjust the student physically. When providing hands-on adjustments, it is imperative that you first ask for—and receive—permission to touch the student. Renowned yoga teacher Donna Farhi (2006) notes that the simple act of asking a student’s permission to touch him or her provides a slight pause in which the student can either prepare for the adjustment or request that the teacher

pass. This pause allows the student to more fully control her or his practice and reinforces the fact that you, the instructor, respect the student’s boundaries. In contrast, an adjustment made without invitation constitutes an intrusion and can break down the trust that students feel in the instructor. By always asking a student’s permission to touch, you show that you honor the student’s confidence in you. When you are given permission, always move the student’s body as you would want another instructor to move your own: with invitation, compassion, firm support, nurturing, and receptivity to feedback. There will be times when a student denies you permission to touch him or her. Respect this decision without judgment or negative feelings. Approach the situation as an opportunity to practice your verbal cueing skills on another level. If the person is truly in a position where he or she may incur an injury, invite the person to exit the pose and then move back into it more slowly and with added awareness. This approach proves to your students that you value them and encourage their right to make decisions regarding their practice. Any time that you do touch a student, remain mindful that the two of you are conveying

Basics of  Teaching Yoga information to each other on an energetic level. This transfer of energies can be transformative when you as the teacher proceed from a place of understanding, compassion, and knowledge. When using your hands, remember never to tightly grab a student. Whenever possible, use the palm of your hand as an alignment guide; touching with the fingers often implies a deeper intimacy, since the fingertips are exceptionally sensitive. Using a gentle yet firm touch, you can help the student find the best expression of the pose with grounded sensitivity. If you apply your adjustments with receptive hands, you will notice it when the student discovers a personal comfort level, because the muscles will soften, the breathing will be steadier, and you will feel the student’s energy relax. Finally, before you approach a student with the intention of providing a physical adjustment or modification, understand your personal reasoning for doing so. As you decide whether to approach a student or allow the student to continue exploring on her or his own, consider the following questions.

Are you honestly connecting with your student? Once you place your hands on a student, your attention must be fully focused on that student’s well-being. It is very easy to become distracted by the rest of your charges; however, it is possible to remain completely present with a single student simply by touch. This personal interchange allows you to perceive any physical resistance or other subtle cues that the student may display and to alter your adjustment accordingly. Is it still teaching? It is very easy to form a mental picture of how you think a particular student should look in any particular asana. However, it is not your responsibility to mold a student to a preconceived notion of a pose. Rather, a teacher’s responsibility is to adapt the pose to the student and guide the student into a deeper understanding of both the pose and herself or himself.

Is an adjustment really necessary? If a student remains in a position in which he or she may experience physical harm even after being offered repeated verbal and visual cueing, then it is most likely appropriate to offer an adjustment or modification. Do you truly understand the pose? If you are not completely comfortable and confident that you understand the biomechanics of a pose, refrain from physically adjusting anyone. In fact, it is best if you refrain from teaching any pose of which you lack intimate awareness. Were you invited or given permission? Students often ask to be moved deeper into a pose. Grant this request only sparingly so that your students do not become dependent on you to move their bodies for them. At the opposite end of the spectrum, if a student denies your request to touch him or her, do not take the refusal personally. Do, however, convey your respect to the student for being responsible and mindful of her or his personal space.

Summary As you consider the information presented in this chapter, what important qualities of an ideal yoga instructor do you find are already strong in you? What qualities might you wish to cultivate further? How effective and dynamic are your voice, your creativity, your repertoire, and your ability to build rapport? Beyond considering these questions, you might compare your work habits and ethics with the qualities that students report liking and disliking in a yoga instructor (see table 2.1). Doing so can provide you with a reality check in terms of how people might perceive you professionally. You can use self-inquiry as a regular part of your own yoga practice to deepen your understanding and connections to your path as both a yoga practitioner and a teacher. If you recognize obstacles and struggles in yourself, you can better recognize them in your students and respond to them with empathy. When you understand your students’ motivations and know how they learn best, you can effectively direct your compassion and your instructions.

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Instructing Hatha Yoga Students will judge you, both consciously and unconsciously, on many levels. Remember that it is more important to nurture a student’s progress than either his or her ego or your own self-interest. Your job is to present an entrancing and safe class as you embody the essence of yoga as best you can. The adjustment information provided here should serve as a guideline in your journey as

a yoga instructor. Each person is unique, and no formula is right for everyone all the time. Touch can be a comforting, healing modality for one person and a psychological nightmare for another. With time, mindful instruction, and practice, you will discover your own teaching techniques, as well as the intuition and skill with which to apply them.

Review Questions 1. What are the four Cs of teaching yoga? 2. What are the three basic learning styles? 3. Which dosha is associated with the fluidity of air? 4. Which type of student often has trouble staying motivated? 5. List two things that students typically like in a yoga instructor and two things that they typically dislike.

6. How is the word asana used as an acronym for teaching yoga? 7. True or false: There is a very strict code of ethics that you are legally required to abide by as a professional yoga teacher. 8. What aspects of your personal yoga practice will make you a better teacher? 9. Define ahimsa.

3 Creating a Class Environment

© RyanJLane/istock.com

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oga students trust that an instructor has the knowledge and ability to create a nurturing, safe, and engaging class environment for practice. Such an environment enhances students’ mental, physical, and spiritual awareness and well-being during the relatively short time they spend together. But how does one go about creating such an environment? This chapter answers that question by addressing three key topics: equipment, safety, and class atmosphere. It begins by discussing the types of equipment and attire typically used by students in a variety of classes. It then describes how the

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Instructing Hatha Yoga setting of a class helps create a safe and soothing practice session. It also highlights specific environmental safety concerns that instructors should attend to before, during, and after each class session. The chapter then discusses how to create an atmosphere suitable for any practice and shares ways to manage many of the typical distractions encountered in class.

Equipment Selection If you walk into a sporting goods store or the retail area of a fitness club—or peruse the cover of many yoga periodicals—you might get the impression that yoga requires a specific uniform, as well as certain equipment, if one is to practice it successfully. In reality, Western fashion sense and marketing notwithstanding, nothing could be further from the truth. Unlike many physical activities and exercise programs, yoga practice requires minimal equipment. Indeed, East Indian citizens practiced yoga for millennia with nothing more than thin reed pads, a simple loincloth or sari, and bare feet. However, though yoga instruction and practice require little in the way of equipment, certain elements can make your teaching—and your students’ class experiences—both safer and more comfortable. The specifics depend on the style of hatha yoga you teach, the nature of your student population, and the location of your class.

Yoga Attire Apart from personal fashion preference, select from lightweight fabrics to allow for maximum movement and comfort. In general, comfortable shorts or leggings and a snug-fitting shirt work well for practicing yoga. Loose-fitting T-shirts, though comfortable and easy to move in, often end up over the head in inversion postures, thus creating an annoying distraction. These clothing selections apply to students and instructors alike. Another factor to consider when suggesting clothing options for students is the type of yoga being practiced. Students in a fast-paced class may be most comfortable in a single layer of lightweight, sweat-wicking clothing that can accommodate the heat and moisture generated by the body. In contrast, students in a less vigorous style of class may be most comfortable beginning

class with warm-up layers that can be peeled off as body temperature increases and then put back on during the cool-down at the end of class. Yoga instructors should follow the same general clothing guidelines as their students for comfort and ease of movement; in addition, they should always dress in a professional manner. Students must be able to see how your body moves as you demonstrate, but you should avoid wearing clothing that might be overly revealing, such as see-through fabrics, precariously low-cut necklines, or wide-legged or skimpy shorts.

Practitioners of Kundalini yoga suggest that you wear clothes made of white cotton and other natural fabrics to foster the electromagnetic field surrounding you during practice.

Yoga Mats In addition to bare feet and comfortable clothing, another indispensable piece of yoga equipment for most people is a sticky yoga mat. Yoga mats provide a stable, nonslip surface and, depending on the thickness, a bit of cushion on which to practice. Mats can be found in a variety of colors, lengths, thicknesses, and materials—all of which are matters of personal preference. In some settings, yoga mats are provided on site. If you teach at a site where mats are not provided—and if students are reluctant or unable to purchase their own—you might suggest that they each bring a large towel or blanket. Whatever is used, it should be large enough that both the hands and the feet can be in contact with it during postures such as Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog). Be mindful, however, that towels and blankets are generally slippery and should be used with caution, especially during standing poses. In fact, in many instances, one might be best served by practicing directly on the ground. Occasionally, you will encounter a student who recognizes that a mat is beneficial to one’s practice but is under the false impression that any exercise mat will do. It is true that the mats used in Pilates floor classes can be used for yoga practice; however, they tend to be thicker and made of more flexible material and provide less traction than do yoga mats. Many fitness clubs

Creating a Class Environment provide short, soft, and sometimes slick mats that are generally used for floor-exercise work. Unfortunately, these mats are designed to cushion sit-ups and other exercises or stretches that do not require the traction provided by yoga mats. These and other soft mats may slide across the floor unless the student pays closer attention to the mat than to his or her yoga practice, which both defeats the purpose of yoga and increases the potential for injury. This type of mat also has too much cushion to provide stability while standing. Therefore, one would be much safer using a towel or no mat at all. If you teach in a facility where yoga mats are provided for students, you will need to address a health and safety concern that is often forgotten or ignored. When multiple pairs of sweaty bare feet use a mat, it becomes a dirty and foul-­ smelling habitat for germs. For this reason, mats should be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis, and replacement mats should be purchased as needed. The smell factor alone should encourage students to bring a personal mat! For many people, an average investment of $30 for a basic mat is a small price to pay for the practical protection provided by a mat reserved for personal use.

Props Many hatha yoga styles use props to aid students as they move through and deepen their postures. Props can be especially helpful for a student who is new to yoga because they provide additional support as the student works to increase strength, flexibility, and balance in any given posture. The many ways in which props can be used to modify and adjust students are illustrated in the chapters covering specific asanas. For now, here is a brief description of some typical yoga props: • Blankets or other soft bolsters can be placed beneath students who have marked tightness in the hamstrings, hips, or back to mechanically lift and support the body in seated postures. These props are essential in providing support and comfort in very gentle and restorative classes. If blankets and bolsters are not readily available, you can use folded towels or mats. People with sensitive knees can use gardening kneepads to settle comfortably into kneeling postures. Many studios also provide blankets to keep students warm as they relax in Shavasana (Corpse Pose) during the resting portion of a practice session.

• In many postures, straps or belts can be used to help students expand reach without straining. Straps are particularly helpful in extending the stretch of the hamstrings without causing discomfort in seated and supine postures. These props can also be used to secure or support the limbs in certain postures. • When blocks are used, it is generally in standing poses, to extend the arms’ reach toward the ground without causing undue strain in the hips, hamstrings, or back. They can also be used in place of bolsters or blankets to provide more stable elevation when needed. The blocks can be made of wood or a polystyrene blend. Wood blocks tend to hold up better over time, but they are less comfortable and often slide. • Chairs and walls can be used to assist students who have difficulty in balance postures. Chairs can also be used as an aid in seated asanas for those who find it difficult to move up and down from the ground. In addition to supporting balance, a wall can be used to help students check alignment for themselves in many postures. The wall is also a great place for people to practice assisted inversions, such as shoulderstands. • Sandbags can be used in seated, prone, and supine postures to provide a constant yet gentle pressure to release tight muscles. They also help some students feel more deeply grounded and supported. • Eye pillows can be used to cover the eyes during the relaxation phase of a class. If the eye pillows are filled with herbs or essential oils, they add an aromatherapy component to aid in relaxation. An important hygiene note: If you provide eye pillows to students during class, it is best to ask them each to place a tissue under the eye pillow in order to keep the pillow surface clean. • Mirrors can be used as visual aids to help both the teacher and the student check body alignment. Wall mirrors are generally found in group exercise facilities and dance rooms, but a yoga studio may or may not have them, depending on its style and focus of practice. In fact, many yoga schools feel that mirrors create too much distraction for students. Still, depending on where and what style of yoga you teach, you may have the opportunity to use wall mirrors as an aid in aligning your students. • Yoga walls are specialized, wall-mounted wooden structures equipped with straps and harnesses to help students with balance and

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Instructing Hatha Yoga

Props can help a student modify poses to match individual ability; they are also tools to help the instructor more easily align a student’s posture.

alignment. The original yoga wall apparatus was designed by B.K.S. Iyengar as a means to enhance even the slightest anatomical alignments in asanas. However, a studio need not teach Iyengar yoga in order to use such a wall. In fact, many studios offer classes that focus on accessing deeper muscles with the aid of the wall straps, as well as offering inverted poses without fear of exacerbating any preexisting spinal condition.

Safety and Comfort Concerns Most people would agree that participating in any physical activity carries inherent safety risks. Because yoga practice is a relatively nonimpact activity, injury rates tend to be much lower and less severe than those for many other movement-­ oriented activities. Of course, this is not to say that injuries cannot occur in a yoga class; they can and do.

In fact, if yoga is approached without mindfulness and attention to detail, it involves significant inherent risk, a fact that was highlighted in 2012 by journalist William Broad in his New York Times article titled “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” and his book The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards. Although the scope of this text does not allow us to describe every possible injury, this section of the chapter addresses some of the most commonly identified safety and comfort concerns that you and your students may face.

Student Safety In addition to guiding your students through a blissful class practice, your primary concern as an instructor is your students’ personal safety while they are in your care. At the beginning of each class, and as new students join your ongoing classes, make certain to ascertain whether any student has an injury or illness that could affect physical ability. If so, pay particular attention to these students and help them modify asanas

Creating a Class Environment as needed. Also remember that, for a variety of reasons, many people will not volunteer such information; therefore, it is your responsibility to ask questions.

Bare Feet Regardless of which style of yoga you teach, encourage students to practice in bare feet. Doing so allows each student to feel the connection to the ground more completely in standing postures. In addition, without the rigid constraint of shoes, the feet are strengthened and are able to move in a more natural manner, which helps with balance. The bottoms of the feet also generally provide the correct amount of traction against the ground to guard against slipping in standing postures, thus increasing the student’s safety. And in seated postures, bare feet resolve the concern of the sole of a shoe pressing uncomfortably into the flesh or getting caught along the surface of the mat. There are times, however, when the sole–mat connection is just not firm enough. For example, if a student sweats profusely through the bottom of the feet, you may find that she or he is unable to remain stationary. In this case, you might suggest that the student bring an extra towel to place on the mat to help absorb sweat and provide a firmer grip on the surface. Because of the popularity of hot or vigorous yoga, many companies now sell specialized, highly absorbent towels with nonskid bottoms designed specifically for eliminating slippage and mopping up excess sweat. These towels also help keep the hands from sliding in poses such as Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog.) In addition, nonslip socks are now available that are engineered like gloves with a sheath for every toe. As with the nonslip towels, these socks are made with materials that wick away sweat, and can be very helpful for anyone who tends to sweat profusely from the soles of the feet. These socks also are a nice alternative for travel, as they are easier to transport than a yoga mat. Although it is rare, you may occasionally encounter a student who is opposed to practicing barefoot. If the room is chilly, or if a student has foot concerns, it may be difficult to convince him or her to take off warm, and concealing, socks during class. You can get most students to comply, however, by gently reiterating the safety concerns involved in wearing socks and reminding them that they are free to put their socks back

on during the seated portion of class. If that still does not persuade them to remove their socks, you can assure them that any classmate who is looking at another’s feet instead of focusing on his or her own practice will not be getting the full benefit from the class! However, if a student is adamant about wearing socks, suggest that they invest in the non-skid style previously described. Everyday-­wear socks tend to have slippery soles and do not provide a solid foundation in standing poses. Also, the foot tends to slid out of regular socks, creating an unnecessary distraction.

Adjustments When physically adjusting your students, the most important safety measure is to respect each student’s body with compassion as if it were your own. Recognize that some students are physically unable to move the body into what is generally perceived as the picture-perfect posture. Each student must contend with his or her own physical and mental limitations, and it is not your decision as the instructor to dictate where each student’s precise position should be. In addition to being compassionate and respectful, ask yourself the following questions before physically adjusting a student: Why am I adjusting this person? Is a physical adjustment really necessary? If the student asked you for help to move a bit deeper into the pose, then the answer to the second question is yes. Alternatively, if the person appears to be straining in a pose—and verbal cues are ineffective—you might ask to realign his or her positioning for comfort and safety. No matter what, always ask permission before physically touching a student, and always maintain awareness of just how far a person is willing and able to deepen into the posture. Move slowly, with compassion and awareness of each student’s needs.

By first obtaining a student’s permission and then using a gentle touch, you decrease the possibility of causing physical or psychological injury when providing an adjustment.

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Instructing Hatha Yoga Also, remind your students throughout the class that it vitally important for them not to take the body to the point of physical discomfort or pain in any asana. Students need to recognize the part that they play in their own physical safety by respecting and accepting any immediate limitations that they sense when opening into an asana. The mantra “No pain, no pain” should be recited by each student before practice begins! In addition, in today’s fast-paced, push-it-to-the-limit society, most people achieve their deepest yoga by not forcing the body all the way to its limit.

Hydration and Nutrition Any activity that puts a physical demand on the body requires adequate hydration and nutrition; of course, yoga practice is no exception. For this reason, remind students to stay well hydrated before, during, and after class. Hydration is even more important in classes that involve a high room temperature or highly vigorous routines. Most people who exercise on a regular basis know that it’s best to exercise with a relatively empty stomach—both for comfort and for healthy digestion. However, many students who are new to yoga mistakenly think that they will “just be stretching” and therefore can come to class having just eaten a full meal. Inform your students that, in reality, they will have a much more comfortable and healthful experience if they wait two or three hours after a large meal to practice yoga. Indeed, the internal pressure created during certain yoga postures can cause people to feel lightheaded or nauseated if they are overly full. In addition, when the stomach contains food, the body moves significant blood and energy into digestion instead of circulating it through the skeletal muscle system. Therefore, the emptier the stomach (and bladder and bowels), the more comfortable the student feels, thus allowing her or him to relax more fully into asana practice. If a student really feels the need for a little extra energy before class, you might suggest a light, easily digestible snack (for example, yogurt or a small piece of fruit, such as half a banana or a handful of grapes) about an hour before class.

Instructor Safety Amidst all the concerns about keeping your students safe and comfortable, it is just as import-

ant to attend to your personal well-being as you teach. Constant awareness is your best defense. For example, as you walk among students, always be on the lookout for tripping hazards. When adjusting a student, maintain your own good posture and balance. As you use your body to help a student gain or maintain balance, keep your knees slightly bent so you can make any adjustments needed in your own balance. As a student performs an inversion, such as a handstand, stand to the side to avoid being smacked in the head as the student lifts or lowers the legs. When adjusting students who are seated or lying down, resist the temptation to remain standing. Instructors often experience overuse injuries, and even with the best intention to maintain sound positioning, it is easy to place your spine and joints in a precarious position. Therefore, to minimize your risk, stay low by squatting, kneeling, or even sitting.

Environmental Safety No matter where you teach—a cozy yoga studio, a wide-open auditorium, or a grassy field—take time before each class to ensure that the practice area is clean and as free of hazards as possible, both for your students and for yourself. For starters, the area should be clear of debris on the floor or ground. In addition, if your yoga session follows any type of high-energy class in which people may have been sweating, give the floor a good swabbing to reduce the risk of slipping, either on or off the mat. Also, if possible, ask your students to store their personal possessions away from the practice area. Doing so reduces the risk of accidentally tripping and falling, thus making it much safer for you to walk among the students as you check alignment and make any requested adjustments. This precaution is especially important in classes where space between students is at a premium. In addition, if you teach strenuous inversions and arm balances, be sure that any unused props have been moved out of the practice area to decrease the possibility of students falling out of a pose onto the props and causing injury. It is also important to make proper use of hand washing. One of this book’s main objectives is to teach instructors how to make effective hands-on adjustments. When doing so, of course, you will touch students who are perspiring. Though it is

Creating a Class Environment infeasible to run out and wash your hands after every touch (and doing so would create quite an unacceptable break in class flow), remember the importance of good hygiene before and after class, both for your own health and for that of your students.

Equipment Safety

ment, if possible, and suggest he or she replace the props before their next practice.

Class Atmosphere In the days before yoga’s popularity soared, if you had asked a non-yoga-practicing person what came to mind when thinking about yoga, he or she might have described a candlelit room filled with patchouli incense and low droning chants. If asked today, the person might conjure an image of 20 to 50 people on yoga mats packed tightly into a large room while moving in unison to contemporary music. In reality, hatha yoga practice today is approached in many diverse ways. Some instructors use live music; some use none at all. Some sessions are conducted one on one; others can, and do fill a football field. In addition, classes take place in a wide variety of settings and may happen anywhere that space is available—for example, commercial yoga studios (large or small), gymnasiums, group exercise rooms in fitness facilities, community recreation

Courtesy Diane Ambrosini

If you use props in your class, check them regularly to ensure that they are in good condition. Straps should be unfrayed, blankets should be clean, and blocks should be well balanced and stable. If you provide mats for your students, make sure the small tread on the surface is intact and that the surface still provides traction. If any props have defects, remove them from use and replace them.  Often, students bring their own props with them to class. While it is their responsibility to maintain their own equipment, if you notice extensive wear, be sure to mention your concerns to the student. If you feel the student's props present an immediate hazard, supply a safe replace-

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Many students feel that practicing outdoors gives their yoga a more natural ambiance and a deeper connection to nature.

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Instructing Hatha Yoga centers, libraries, and the great outdoors. Because of the increasing demand for yoga, the variations are almost limitless.

Ideal Setting Yoga classes can be, and often are, taught almost anywhere. However, some locations are more favorable for helping students achieve the release, relaxation, and overall awareness that they crave. Generally speaking, the most desirable space to teach and practice yoga is one that was designed with yoga in mind. Such a setting is spacious, comfortable, free from outside distractions, well ventilated, and warmly lit. For many, yoga is also associated with calming music and the aromatherapy of incense, and indeed these elements can be used to help create a soothing atmosphere. However, incense burning is not always a welcome addition to class; in fact, in many facilities, it is strictly forbidden. If you teach in a facility that does allow incense, it is a courtesy to first ask the students if they mind. Many individuals are severely allergic to smoke or perfume and may be adversely affected by any scent wafting through the room. For this reason, it is also advisable to maintain a policy stating that no one should wear perfume or overly scented lotions to class.

Floor Surfaces Yoga can be practiced almost anywhere: a sandy beach, the sidelines of a football game, your living room, a mountain campground, or even the water. However, while the surface may vary, it should always be as level as possible to avoid compromising a person’s balance and to protect the joints when holding postures. In addition, as in any physical activity, some surfaces are better suited than others for practicing yoga. Because yoga is generally practiced indoors, this discussion addresses indoor floor surfaces. Wood flooring can be found in a variety of settings, including many yoga studios; most dance studios, high school gyms, and group exercise rooms in newer fitness facilities; and some older recreational facilities. Wood provides a smooth, flat surface with a small amount of flexibility that is relatively forgiving to the body. It also provides greater warmth than concrete and other harder surfaces. Yoga studios that feature wood flooring often disallow outside footwear on the

studio floor in order to maintain the integrity of the surface. Concrete-based surfaces are the norm in older fitness facilities, elementary school auditoriums, and even some newer recreation facilities. They provide a smooth surface that is generally easy to clean. In many cases, the concrete is covered with ceramic tile or linoleum. Unfortunately, concrete flooring is much cooler than wood; it is also rigid and provides no shock absorption for the joints. Even so, it is a viable surface for practicing yoga because of the extremely low-impact nature of the activity. In addition, students can obtain some cushioning and warmth by using mats. Some facilities have carpeted flooring. These surfaces provide the warmest floor and are very suitable for gentle and restorative yoga, during which students spend considerable time on the ground. Although carpet does provide a little extra cushioning, pay attention to what kinds of activity are performed on the carpet. A sweat-­ inducing activity can create a foul-smelling and unsanitary surface if the carpet is not cleaned on a regular basis.

Temperature Control In general, the room temperature for a nonheated yoga class should be between 70 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit (about 21 and 24 degrees Celsius). Temperatures in this range tend to create a comfortable environment for most student—not too hot, not too cold. However, these general guidelines notwithstanding, room temperature should be tailored appropriately for both the style of yoga being practiced and the student population. For instance, peri- and postmenopausal women tend to insist on cooler room temperatures and gently moving air. In contrast, some styles of yoga use a room heated to a temperature between 96 and 106 degrees Fahrenheit (between 36 and 41 degrees Celsius) with the intention of helping warm the muscles for practice. In addition, in Bikram and other “hot” yoga classes, the room is kept at a much higher temperature that most other yoga styles, in order to help students release more sweat. Despite the importance of temperature, some spaces do not provide easy access to the thermostat, which can cause consternation for both the instructor and the students. For instance, one instructor taught in a fitness club where an aerobics class was scheduled to follow her morning

Creating a Class Environment yoga class. She found that the automatic cooling fans turned on 15 minutes before her class ended—right during the cool-down and Shavasana. After much shivering and complaining by students, the management was finally convinced to change the thermostat. In the meantime, however, many students came to class in multiple layers. In fact, one student came with two layers of exercise clothing, mittens, and a parka—a remarkable situation in eastern San Diego County in the summer! This anecdote may be extreme, but it illustrates the importance of reminding students to dress in layers so that they can accommodate variable conditions and changing body temperature. In addition, be sure that the management where you teach understands the intricacies and environmental needs of yoga practice.

cafeteria with a dotted line down the middle, the word yoga on one side, and the word dance on the other. It was explained that the line represented a dividing wall between the two classes. When she went to teach, however, the instructor saw that the so-called dividing wall was a mere curtain. Moreover, the dance class was a tap class, in which the instructor broadcast show tunes over loudspeakers as the students stampeded on an old, warped wooden stage just a few feet from the yoga instructor’s voice. As a consequence, the instructor had to shout: “Breathe!” “Relax!” Almost all of the yoga students demanded their money back, and the class was canceled. As this story shows, some settings contain obstacles that are simply impossible to overcome.

Distractions

Many yoga teachers like to use music in class because it can help set the mood from the moment a student walks in the door. In settings where students may be distracted by other sounds—such as clanging weights, loud voices, or more bombastic tunes—appropriate background music can help anchor their awareness more fully in the yoga classroom. Music can also help students, especially those new to yoga, drown out mental distractions. On the other hand, students may become dependent on music and then have trouble focusing without it. However, after some practice, and with your repeated cueing, they can use their own breathing to clear the mind. Some traditions of yoga view music itself is a distraction. For example, Iyengar hatha yoga views music as distracting “fluff” and disallows it in the class environment. In such classes, the instructor’s voice and direction are most important in guiding students’ minds inward to fend off outside distractions.

Students come to yoga class for a variety of reasons. One of the most common is to attain a certain level of self-awareness and focus—to clear the mind of stress and distracting thought processes. Yet even in the most ideal yoga setting, outside distractions can seep into the class and disrupt the serene mood that students crave. In settings that are less than ideal—for example, a fitness facility in which the yoga class is adjacent to a basketball court—these distractions can seem almost too much to overcome. In such cases, help students focus on their asanas by reminding them to notice their breathing, thus buffering out  many distractions. In addition, before class begins, instruct students that all cell phones must be turned off. Nothing is as distracting to the students or the instructor as a phone ringing during class! The following example illustrates the importance of establishing an appropriate atmosphere for your students’ yoga experiences. Picture a yoga class set in a wonderfully spacious dance room situated in a quiet bungalow at an adult education center. The longtime students were delighted, and perhaps a bit spoiled, by the room’s seclusion, warm wood floors, and whispers of wind sneaking in from outside. Sadly, the use of the bungalow was taken away, and the class was relocated to what the center’s administration thought was a perfect space: the cafeteria. The instructor was given a floor plan showing the

Music

Music Selection For a time, most music played in yoga classes was in the New Age genre, which is characterized by soothing, eclectic rhythms and natural sounds. However, many instructors and students are uncomfortable with this style of music due to its tendency toward nonmelodic content. Today, many yoga practitioners consider a variety of music styles to be acceptable as a background element, including contemporary kirtan (devotional chants), crystal bowl playing, classical, jazz, and

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Instructing Hatha Yoga even hip-hop and techno beat. Regardless of style, the pace of the music should not clash with the pace of your class. For example, although many people adore chants or tribal beats, some people find the rhythm of the music distracting when also trying to listen to a teacher’s instructions. Many yoga instructors have a naturally soft, soothing voice that in itself is almost hypnotic and can take the place of background music. If you need to speak loudly—whether due to background noise, large class size, or poor acoustics—use softer music. In faster-paced classes, more energetic music can help the class move along quickly. The tempo and style of your music should reflect both your personal style and the desired tempo of the class you are teaching.

Inviting musicians to play live music or crystal bowls during class can be a real treat for both you and your students.

Music as Mood Setter If you choose to use music in your classes, allow yourself to be creative. Do not feel that you need to stick with one style. Test out different pieces with your students. Both you and your students may appreciate some variety! If you find yourself less than enthusiastic about a piece of music that you have played for the past eight class sessions, your students are likely to feel the same way—and they will generally let you know it. Fortunately, as yoga’s general popularity has increased, so too has the breadth and variety of the music available to instructors. In addition, many musicians have

added contemporary stylings to ancient chants, thus creating yet another evolutionary shift in modern yoga practices. Although the objective of playing music in class is to help create a mood, it should not overwhelm the focus of the class. However, playing nontraditional music can provide a delightful change of pace and even express a background theme. For instance, playing Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker suite could be fun while teaching a classical-eclectic yoga class in December. As an example, in one workshop focused exclusively on complex postures, the instructor played rock songs with lyrics such as “have mercy.” This lighthearted music created a sense of levity in the class that was most enjoyable and surprisingly nondistracting. Some vivacious yoga instructors have been known to create a purposeful party atmosphere in their more rigorous classes simply by playing spirited, nontraditional music. Similarly, in two ballet classes, one featured live music by a classical pianist and the other used Smokey Robinson tunes with the bass turned up. Students relished both classes. Why shouldn’t yoga classes have the same creativity?

Summary Although yoga practice may not require much in the way of equipment or attire, it is unique in its atmospheric needs. It is your responsibility as the instructor to use all of the available resources to create a safe and comforting environment in which students feel protected and secure enough to allow themselves to truly open their hearts and minds to your instruction.

Review Questions 1. Why would yoga practitioners choose to wear white cotton or other natural fibers? 2. Name three indispensable items used when practicing yoga. 3. How can blocks be used? 4. What is the most important concern when physically adjusting your students?

5. How long should the average person wait after a meal before practicing yoga? Why? 6. Describe an ideal setting for a yoga class. 7. What temperature range is generally considered ideal for most yoga styles? 8. What are some pros and cons of using music while teaching yoga?

4 Breathing and Beyond

© PeopleImages/istock.com

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he most important thing is your breath. These are words that a good yoga teacher should say many times during class. Reminding students to breathe is always an important cue. Poor breathing is an epidemic bad habit in today’s society, and it contributes to the stress and high anxiety suffered by many people. Breathing deeply and slowly allows for greater circulation with less work; it reduces stress on the heart and enhances the entire cardiovascular system. During asana practice, one’s breath can make a difference in ability, comfort, and awareness. Alignment in asanas and proper breathing are two aspects

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Instructing Hatha Yoga of hatha yoga focused on by most Western practitioners. These two elements enhance each other in creating a more complete internal awareness in the mind and body. This chapter focuses specifically on breath awareness and provides an overview of the anatomical structures involved in the breathing process. It also presents general guidelines for helping students develop breath control during asana practice. More specifically, it covers the most common yogic breathing techniques and how they relate to asana practice.

Pranayama Yogis refer to the force behind life itself—which is inherent in the breath—as prana  [PRAAHnaah]. In turn, the term pranayama [praah-naahYAAH-muh] refers to breath work, which connects the mind and body in a shared consciousness. Focusing on the breath helps a student bypass the chatter in the mind and ego. When a student begins attending to and controlling the breath, his or her circulation improves, thus delivering more oxygenated blood, which better fuels the muscles and enhances concentration. The fact that people usually breathe automatically—that is, without conscious effort or thought—does not mean that the breath cannot be controlled. In fact, for thousands of years, yogis have developed ways to bring what were once considered strictly involuntary systems of the body under conscious control. The most essential function of the body that can be regulated is the breath. One’s breath provides a relatively easy and convenient mechanism for tuning in to one’s inward self because it can be heard, felt, and counted without special equipment. It is much more difficult to notice various other aspects of body functioning—such as blood pressure, brain waves, immune cells, electrolytes, and digestion— let alone consciously alter them. Happily, the functioning of these systems generally improves when breathing is more efficient. Breath is also a metaphor for life. Not only can breathing patterns affect a person’s physiological well-being; they can also affect—and be affected by—one’s thought processes. Emotions can be triggered either negatively through shallow, labored breathing or positively through smooth, flowing breaths, which stabilize our thoughts and allow relaxation to set in.

Process of Breathing Most people tend to breathe too shallowly, in the uppermost region of the chest. This habit is inefficient because it leads one to take in more breaths in order to feel comfortable. This type of overbreathing is a mild form of hyperventilation, and it is exacerbated by stress. In fact, in some people, this chronic breathing habit can induce the stress response. When a person’s breaths are shallow and frequent, his or her heart must work harder to deliver oxygenated blood throughout the body. If the circulation is chronically compromised, many other body systems may function below the level that nature intended. For example, poor circulation puts the immune system at risk by hindering the elimination of toxins, thus diminishing the body’s overall functional capacity (Jerath 2006). Pranayama plays a major role in keeping the processes of the physical and energetic body healthy and in preventing the physical decay that occurs when cells receive inadequate oxygen over a prolonged period. Choppy, shallow breathing occurs when the sympathetic nervous system activates the body’s fight-flight-freeze response to a situation perceived as threatening. When this system remains activated over a long time, it causes hormonal changes, which in turn produce physiological responses that endocrinologist Hans Selye labeled as “general adaptation syndrome.” The resulting increase in cortisol and adrenaline stresses the body and often leads to one of many causes of premature death, such as heart disease or stroke.

Anatomy of Breathing A proper full, deep breath begins from the base of the diaphragm near the pelvic girdle. This action alone helps relax the rest of the respiratory muscles, as well as some neck muscles. The calming effect of deep breathing is brought about by the parasympathetic nervous system, which, when activated, allows the body to rest and conserve energy. At the same time, this effect deactivates the sympathetic nervous system, which regulates bodily functions involving the  energy expenditure generally associated with the body’s self-protection during the activation of the fightflight-freeze response. As a result, according to an article published in the International Journal

Breathing and Beyond of Preventive Medicine (2012), the regular yogic practice of deep, slow, nostril breathing produces a multitude of health benefits: reduced anxiety, healthier blood pressure, balanced brain waves, and improved physical endurance. The human breathing process is centered in a crowded part of the body—the torso, where most of the body’s major organs are located adjacent to one another. The heart resides almost in the middle of the chest, and the bulk of its mass lies toward the left side. As a consequence, this fistsized organ leaves the left lung room for only two lobes, whereas the right lung has three. The diaphragm, a parachute-shaped muscle, is located below the heart and lungs and attaches to the lumbar spine, the lower six ribs, and the sternum. As this powerful muscle contracts, the space in the chest cavity expands, giving the lungs room to fill. Similarly, the intercostal muscles, located between the ribs, also contract to expand the rib cage upward and outward. As this space opens, air is drawn in and the lungs inflate. Exhalation occurs when the diaphragm relaxes, moves upward in the chest, and presses the air out of the lungs (figure 4.1). Beneath the diaphragm are located additional organs—the liver to the right and the stomach and spleen to the left. The diaphragm also has three openings to allow passage of the esophagus, the inferior vena cava, and the aorta. As you can

Nose Mouth Trachea

Lung

Diaphragm

Figure 4.1  The diaphragm and lungs in the thoracic cavity. E6251/Ambrosini/fig04.01/518474/pulled/r1-alw

imagine, then, when the diaphragm is activated, the many surrounding tissues and organs get massaged and stimulated. When a person breathes too shallowly, the diaphragm does not contract fully, which means that the lungs do not expand to full capacity. As a result, air is moved only into the upper chest, which strains the neck and shoulder muscles and therefore causes more rapid and shortened breaths. In this way, a person who breathes consistently into the chest rather than into the belly creates strain in the entire body, robbing cells and tissues of needed oxygen and creating weakness and imbalance in the diaphragm and intercostal (rib) muscles.

Types of Pranayama If you watch a young child sleep, you will notice the smooth, rhythmic rise and fall of the belly and the gentle expansion of the upper torso and chest. This is how all human beings begin breathing—free from worries about constantly needing to “suck in our gut” and simply allowing the fullness of prana to flow easily into and through our body. Over time, however, we tend to pick up stresses and carry them through our life’s journey; therefore, we need to retrain our breathing process. The idea is to get the breath to expand below the rib cage toward the navel by engaging the diaphragm more completely. Simply observing the breath is a type of pranayama that is often practiced during Shavasana (Corpse Pose). When we breathe more efficiently, we can take in sufficient oxygen with fewer breaths. Animals that take fewer breaths generally live longer. For example, a tortoise breathes four times per minute and lives up to 300 years. The average human, in contrast, takes 16 to 20 breaths per minute and usually does not reach his or her 100th birthday! It is possible for the mind to be alert while the body is quiet and calm. It is also possible to be very active while breathing steadily and smoothly through the nose. Not only can we practice yoga more efficiently and easily, but also we can walk, run, and even swim at a good pace while breathing deeply and relatively slowly—and without taking oxygen in through the mouth, which tends to dehydrate the body. There are many styles and techniques of pranayama practice. The three most commonly practiced methods are outlined in the following

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Instructing Hatha Yoga subsections: deep abdominal breathing, complete yogic breath, and ujjayi [oo-JAAHY-ee] breathing. A fourth subsection addresses the alternate-­ nostril breathing technique (nadi  shodhana [NAAH-dee SHOH-duh-nuh]), which can be taught either at the beginning or end of a class session or separately from a typical class setting. All of the methods are easily taught; however, it is best to receive hands-on training from a qualified instructor before teaching these styles in any great depth.

breathing styles tend to be easier to grasp and perform. To view a video clip which demonstrates deep abdominal breathing, visit the web resource at www.HumanKinetics.com/InstructingHatha Yoga.

Complete Yogic Breathing Some refer to full, deep breathing as durga breathing. It is the practice of fully inflating the lungs from bottom to top. A full, deep breath has three parts. One begins by breathing deeply into the abdominal area and continuing to inhale, thus filling the entire torso with breath from the abdomen to the collarbones. At the end of this deep inhalation, the sternum rises (from lifting the front ribs by using the mid-back muscles assisted by deep breathing) and the collarbones (clavicles) expand forward and up while the shoulders remain relaxed.

Deep Abdominal Breathing The simplest form of pranayama practice involves breathing deeply into the abdomen. Teaching this breath style gives students the opportunity to become more fully aware of their current breathing patterns and shows them an easy way to begin to control their breathing. One way to teach deep abdominal breathing is to have students place the hands on the lower abdomen over the navel. Instruct them to breathe slowly and deeply so that the hands gently rise from the expansion of the breath. This exercise can be done while standing, sitting, or (most easily) lying on the ground, either supine (faceup) or prone (facedown). Students should feel the belly expand while the ribs, chest, and shoulders remain relaxed (see figure 4.2). For additional feedback when lying supine, a small sandbag can be placed on the abdomen, which produces a slight feeling of resistance and can help students draw the breath deeper into the belly. If students lie prone, the hands should be placed beneath the forehead for comfort. For feedback, students can use the feeling of the abdomen expanding against the ground. To further aid students, ask them to imagine being a small boat drifting on the gentle sea of the breath. They can think of the torso rising and falling like small waves. Once a person becomes comfortable with deep abdominal breathing techniques, other

When teaching the complete yogic breathing technique, repeat the following cue: “Chest up, shoulders down.” The inhalation is full and deep into the abdomen, and the exhalation is equally deep and complete. When teaching this pranayama technique, direct students to release the breath from the top of the torso to the bottom—from the chest down to the abdomen. At the end of the exhalation, instruct students to gently squeeze the abdomen in to expel as much old air as possible, thus enabling an even deeper inhalation on the next in-breath. If students have difficulty using this technique to breath rhythmically, begin by focusing on the exhalation, which is the most relaxing stage of breathing. To view a video clip which demonstrates complete yogic breathing, visit the web resource

b

a Figure 4.2  Deep abdominal breathing: (a) in and (b) out.

Breathing and Beyond at www.HumanKinetics.com/InstructingHatha Yoga.

Ujjayi Breathing Ujjayi breathing is a more sophisticated pranayama technique that is used most often in Ashtanga yoga classes. Basic ujjayi breath tends to expand the lungs and chest more fully than most other pranayama practices, and with more control, and also can help warm the body. The breath produces a noise that resembles something like a whispering roar as it vibrates in the back of the throat and sinus areas, making a sibilant “ssss” on inhalation and a “hhhh” sound during exhalation. When students synchronize their breathing in this manner, it sounds like a pod of dolphins breathing together. One easy way to introduce ujjayi breathing is to ask students to begin breathing through an open mouth while slightly tightening the back of the throat. This action helps make the breath more audible. Instruct students to whisper as they inhale and exhale. For the more difficult inhalation sound, you might have them practice making an “ash” sound while slowly breathing in. The exhalation is easier, because they can usually get a good sound by trying to whisper a prolonged “ha.” Although breathing through an open mouth makes it easier to feel the breath and hear the sound, mouth breathing can be very dehydrating. As students become more comfortable with the breathing rhythm, instruct them to continue to breathe through the nose. As they breathe slowly and deeply through the nose, they should strive to keep and emphasize the sound vibrations. This breathing method is very efficient, and it helps students focus not only on breathing but also on the flow of asana movements. Because ujjayi makes such a distinct sound, it automatically brings students back to awareness of the breath. When a whole class uses this pranayama technique, the students become a community, helping each other focus through the sound they are emanating. For example, in one class, on a day when a certain accomplished ujjayi breather was absent, the other students commented on how much they missed her audible breathing to help them stay focused on their own breathing during asana practice. To view a video clip which demonstrates ujjayi breathing, visit the web resource at www .HumanKinetics.com/InstructingHathaYoga.

Alternate-Nostril Breathing Known as nadi  shodhana, alternate-nostril breathing increases and balances the prana flow in both nostrils and throughout the whole body. The term nadi shodhana means to clean the nadis, or nasal passages, which are channels through which the energy, or prana, circulates. Chapter 5 provides more information about the energy system; meanwhile, this section acquaints you with the basic technique and the main benefits of alternate-nostril breathing so that you can practice and teach it. According to Dr. Jeannette Vos, an expert in education and brain research and best-selling author of The Learning Revolution, people learn five times more information when both hemispheres of the brain are active. Alternate-nostril breathing engages both hemispheres of the brain as it opens up both nostrils for a better breath. The clearing and balancing effects of nadi shodhana on both the left and right nostrils makes it easier for students to breathe through the nose overall. Unlike ujjayi, nadi shodhana is a quiet breathing practice. It comes in many variations and styles of hand positioning and fingering; the most traditional way is to use the thumb and the ring and little fingers of the right hand to alternately close and release the nostrils. The index and middle fingers are folded inward toward the palm (see figure 4.3). To begin, invite students to the ground to find a comfortable position. Usually, students are seated, but one nice way to teach this technique is to have them lie supine with the legs in a comfortable cross-legged position either on the ground or up against a wall. Instruct students as follows: Begin by exhaling through your left nostril while your right thumb closes your right nostril. Now inhale through your left nostril. Use the ring and little fingers of your right hand to close your left nostril and release your right nostril. Exhale through your right nostril. Inhale through your right nostril. Close your right nostril with your thumb. Open your left nostril by releasing your ring and little fingers and exhale through your left side. This process completes one breath cycle. To start, ask the students to try seven to ten cycles through both nostrils.

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Instructing Hatha Yoga

Figure 4.3  Hand positioning for nadi shodhana breathing.

These are simple, directed breathing techniques that can be introduced to students at all levels of yoga experience. There are many variations, both in hand positioning and in the duration of the breathing cycles. The key is to help your students understand that it is important to be aware of their breathing, not only during asana practice but also throughout the day. To view a video clip which demonstrates alternate-­nostril breathing, visit the web resource at www.HumanKinetics.com/InstructingHathaYoga.

Instructing the Breathing Process Some schools of yoga instruct students that pranayama should be practiced only under the tutelage of a seasoned professional yoga instructor. In other words, they take a “Don’t try this at home!” approach. Others, however, preach that students must practice these techniques every day. One reason for caution regarding pranayama is to deter those who would abuse or exploit shallow knowledge of such a powerful and sacred tool. Without a good foundation, a novice practitioner might hyperventilate or hold the breath when it is inappropriate to do so. However, when the focus is constantly brought back to the breath

in an appropriate fashion, the student develops a strong internal focus and a deeper awareness of the body overall. Thus, the body and mind are gradually disciplined into the habit of better breathing and posture. The breath, like the perception of the body in the asanas, should be felt and visualized from the inside out. Instruct your students to visualize the breath as white light radiating from the center of the body, first to expand the spaces of the body and then to move beyond the body’s edges. The spine lengthens with the inhalation, and the spaces between the vertebrae and the ribs expand in all directions. The skin across the sternum subtly stretches, both vertically and horizontally. When students ask you how or what they should practice at home between classes, educate them about the benefits of simply becoming more aware of their breath at any time during the day and of learning how to breathe more slowly and deeply. Here are some basic guidelines to apply to pranayama practice. They may also be applied to asana and meditation practice. • One minute fully focused is better than twenty minutes with no focus! What really matters is not quantity but quality. Start by committing to only 30 seconds or a few easy rounds of breathing. Consider that a person who decides to run a marathon would be foolish to train on the first day by running 20 miles (32 kilometers). Why approach pranayama practice in such a manner? • Expand according to your joy, not your clock. When the benefits of pranayama are felt and experienced, the result is a natural desire to expand the time spent in practice. This expansion often occurs without even being noticed by the student. To use another running analogy, a person who truly enjoys running often looks forward to taking a longer run rather than viewing it as a chore. • What is the meaning of pranayama practice? No matter what is practiced, every action should have meaning. Instead of simply understanding on an intellectual level that one should practice pranayama, the true meaning behind the action must be exposed and addressed. The motive need not be spiritual in nature. If a student starts practicing pranayama because he or she believes that it makes the face wrinkle less, that is an appropriate motive and will lead to further self-­exploration. In fact, many people start doing asanas to lose weight. Once the excess weight is

© Serg Myshkovsky/istock.com

Breathing and Beyond

Asanas and pranayama work together to establish good posture and to open the torso for better breathing.

gone, or they simply begin to feel better, they are past the physical concerns of appearance and open themselves up to feeling, eating, and thinking better as well! Understanding the importance of breath awareness to overall health allows students to more fully reap the benefits of pranayama practice, both as its own discipline and as a support for overall asana practice.

As in asana practice, if a pranayama technique makes you feel dizzy, nauseated, or highly uncomfortable, it’s best to stop and perhaps resume at another time.

Linking Pranayama With Asanas Many people find it difficult to sit and focus solely on the breath. The mind constantly begs for

attention or entertainment, and the body becomes numb and restless. It is common to feel more like an untamed lion than a peaceful and content yogi! With this in mind, an asana session can be used to jump-start a pranayama practice; the calming effects of the breath help relax the mind, and the rhythm and focus of the asanas give the body what it craves—movement. Pranayama allows you to achieve a relaxed yet focused state of being, both mentally and physically. Moreover, asanas and pranayama—the third and fourth limbs of yoga—work together in that the good structural posture created through continual asana practice allows for increased space in the torso, thus enabling greater breath volume. Asanas also loosen the tight muscles of the rib cage and the diaphragm so that the breath can expand more fully. The more the breath expands, the more effectively the circulatory and muscular systems work. After years of shallow breathing, the diaphragm and intercostal muscles lose functional capacity and flexibility. When a muscle is not regularly stretched and strengthened, it loses both mass and function. The asanas strengthen the

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Instructing Hatha Yoga torso’s deep core muscles, which in turn support good spinal posture and enhance the range of motion and stability of the entire body. Here are some general pranayama instructions for students during asanas: • Breathe slowly and deeply through the nose. A good duration to strive for is seven seconds for the inhalation and seven seconds for the exhalation. Breathing through the nose allows for a slightly higher oxygen uptake and filters the air while preventing the dehydration that occurs with mouth breathing. • Keep the breath smooth and steady. Jerky or labored breath is a sign that a student is struggling and possibly overstraining. In that case, the student should modify or come out of the asana. • Expanding and opening movements of asanas usually occur on the inhalation, generally when moving the body into extension. For example, you might say, “Inhale as you raise your arms overhead” or “Inhale and gently bend back to open up the chest.” • Releasing or relaxing movements of asanas generally occur on the exhalation. For example: “Exhale as you bend forward from your hips.” Actions that move the body into flexion, especially forward folds, feel more comfortable during exhalation. • Visualize your breath moving into any area of tension or resistance in order to soften and release mental and physical blocks and bring greater circulation and awareness to the affected area.

Summary The lessons and benefits of pranayama practice take time. Give students a chance to feel, see, and in some instances (such as ujjayi) even hear their breath. Remember, students cannot be reminded enough to focus on their breath; constant feedback is necessary. Start students off with good, deep, slow abdominal breathing; then, as the class progresses, begin teaching durga breathing with the asanas. If you teach a physically strenuous yoga class, such as an Ashtanga practice or rapid vinyasa, the ujjayi breath techniques generally take more time to teach when working with less experienced students. Also, because it is best to teach from experience, remember to practice these techniques yourself. If you are just starting out as a yoga teacher, breathing deeply and slowly will also help you feel less nervous. If you have been teaching for a while, then you already know the benefits of these pranayamas and may be ready to incorporate these beneficial techniques into your classes. Pranayama practice offers so many physical and mental benefits, not the least of which is to clear the mind. Prana signifies the breath and vital life energy, and cleansing the energy channels is an integral component of breath work because it aids mental focus. Pranayama breathing enhances the rejuvenating effects of the parasympathetic nervous system. Deep, slow breathing provides greater oxygenation with less effort, thus reducing stress on the entire cardiovascular system. Focused breathing also makes a positive difference in one’s ability, comfort, and awareness during asana practice.

Review Questions 1. Identify an epidemic habit in modern society that contributes to the stress and high anxiety suffered by many people. 2. How can a student bypass the chatter in his or her mind and ego? 3. ___________ can be triggered either negatively through shallow, labored breathing or positively through smooth, flowing breaths that stabilize thoughts and allow relaxation to set in. 4. Choppy, shallow breathing is associated with which nervous system?

5. What type of breathing was mentioned in a National Institutes of Health report as a way to improve physical endurance? 6. How many breaths per minute does the average human take? 7. What are the three most common pranayama techniques taught in asana classes? 8. What is nadi  shodhana, and what effect does it have on the brain hemispheres? 9. Which is generally better while entering Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend)— inhaling or exhaling?

Energy and Anatomy

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© RyanJLane/istock.com

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n order to guide students through an asana practice without harm, you must understand the basic mechanics of human movement and be able to provide skillful cues. You give your students more protection when you include kinesthetic and auditory instruction rather than using only visual demonstration. If you teach primarily through demonstration, students tend to concentrate on imitating your movements instead of focusing inward to become aware of their personal edge or the boundaries of their physical and mental capabilities. In contrast, good instructors facilitate students’ awareness and experience of “playing the edge” in a posture without going beyond their physical and emotional limits. In this way, they help students arrive at a place of deeper personal understanding on the physical, mental, and emotional levels. Certainly, in this process, students may experience some struggles, both physical and mental. However, if they surpass their personal edge in an asana, the possibility of injury increases. Therefore, as a yoga teacher, you need to have a firm grasp on the limits of your students’ knowledge of biomechanics and their physical and mental capacity to focus. In addition, because of the dynamic qualities of most styles

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Instructing Hatha Yoga of hatha yoga, all instructors must have at least a basic understanding of what is called energetic anatomy. You must also understand how the human musculoskeletal and physiological systems function before guiding students through a class or providing hands-on adjustments to postures. This chapter begins with an explanation of how practicing yoga postures affects the major body systems. It then introduces energetic anatomy and defines the terms used to describe it. Later sections of the chapter provide an overview of basic human kinematics, movement systems, planes of motion, and muscle mechanics. They also illustrate the importance of describing and applying proper mechanics when observing and adjusting students in asanas.

Because of internal imbalances, a student sometimes unintentionally moves the body in a manner that creates a risk of injury. It is your duty to help such a student move in a mechanically sound manner that helps maintain joint integrity and decreases the chance of injury.

Yoga Postures and Major Body Systems The beneficial effects of yoga asanas are relative to the postures being practiced. Therefore, a well-rounded program includes a number of asanas from each category—standing, seated, supine, prone, inverted, and restorative (all covered in part II of the book)—and moves the spine through its total range of motion to bring about the best results. A balanced yoga practice affects the person as a whole, helping to eliminate stress; rejuvenate the immune system; and protect against age-related degenerative conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease (Sengupta 2012). Use the detailed information presented in the following sections to educate students when they ask, “What can yoga do for me?”

Skeletal System Bones make up the frame of the body. Bone-­ tissue growth, or osteogenesis, is stimulated by weight-bearing activity; therefore, weight-bearing yoga practice helps keep the skeleton strong and aligned and reduces one’s general risk of injury. More specifically, the standing poses, especially those that require balancing, create and maintain joint stability in the hips, knees, and ankles. Asanas that work the arms build strength and stability in the shoulder joints; examples include Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) and plank pose variations. Twists and inversions, on the other hand, utilize the abdominal and spinal muscles and keep the spine strong and aligned. Overall, hatha yoga helps maintain the integrity of structural balance and therefore helps prevent and alleviate osteoporosis, arthritis, and mechanical misalignments. When strong, balanced muscles and tendons hold the bones in place during movement, mechanical alignment is maintained within a joint. Chiropractors manipulate the joints of the spine to realign them, but if the muscle tissues that connect to the spine are not balanced and strengthened, then the adjustment is temporary. Similarly, many treatments can relieve the pain of a ruptured disc or pinched nerve, but in the long run the safest and least expensive approach is usually to treat the root cause of misalignments. Just as car tires need to be balanced and held in place, the joints of the human body are kept in alignment by strong, balanced muscles. When your car tires are misaligned, unnecessary strain is placed on the structure of your vehicle. Not only do your tires wear out much faster, but also your steering is impeded in proportion to the degree of imbalance. Even after you get your tires balanced, if the mechanic neglects to secure them properly, then—like your joints after a chiropractic adjustment—the alignment may not hold.

Muscular System When muscles are not used, they lose mass and functionality; normal muscle function can also be hindered by chronic tension or scar tissue from healing after an injury. Yoga, on the other hand, is one of the few physical practices that increase functional strength, flexibility, and mobility in a balanced way. Research performed at the Uni-

Energy and Anatomy

These women are minimizing their risk of osteoporosis and arthritis by practicing a fun, weight-bearing pose.

versity of California, Davis, demonstrated that after only eight weeks of practicing yoga, study participants experienced a 31 percent increase in muscular strength, a 57 percent increase in muscular endurance, and a 188 percent increase in flexibility (Bauman 2002). Asana practice strengthens and deeply stretches the muscles. Both stability and range of motion are needed for optimal performance of the muscles, joints, and connective tissues (such as fascia, tendons, and ligaments). Therefore, hatha yoga practice not only promotes basic healthy functioning but also enhances fitness. Indeed, the human body is made to move, and regular yoga practice helps preserve, and often enhance, daily living skills. Ultimately, if a person does not maintain functional strength and mobility, he or she may suffer reduced or lost ability to perform simple tasks, such as getting up from a chair, walking up stairs, or opening a jar. Asana practice also helps prevent repetitive motion strain by strengthening and balancing the opposing muscles in a joint. In addition, a well-balanced muscular system protects other bodily systems; as muscles flex, extend, and rotate, they massage and manipulate adjacent structures, such as the spine and internal organs.

Digestive System The gastrointestinal tract is also toned and stretched through asana practice; sluggish digestion is stimulated by the rhythmic movements of the body. More specifically, forward bends can stimulate digestion and hunger; in contrast, hunger is often reduced by backbends because they stretch the vagus nerve, which is involved in the control of digestion. Backbends also

stretch the stomach away from the esophagus and diaphragm, thus greatly reducing the risk of herniation when they are practiced on a regular basis. In addition, the rhythmic movement of poses that affect the spinal and abdominal muscles simultaneously massage the liver, pancreas, and other organs. Because yoga asanas encourage healthy digestion and elimination, they increase nutritional absorption and decrease constipation, gas, and toxicity. For persons who suffer from digestive system disorders, such as heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome, the gentle stretching and compressing of twisting yoga postures helps increase circulation and soothes the entire system, thus helping it heal.

Reproductive System For women in their childbearing years, the hormonal fluctuations of the monthly cycle often cause unpleasant effects, such as painful menstrual cramps, backache, and irritability. Happily, the stress-reducing properties of restorative asanas can help calm one’s mood. Asanas that open the hips can be applied to both menstrual disorders and pregnancy. For example, Malasana (Basic Squat, or Bead Pose) is a good preparation and labor technique because it flushes the reproductive and urinary organs with greater circulation and stretches and strengthens the pelvic supporting structures. Practitioners can also prevent or reverse prolapse in these areas through the practice of mula bandha (root lock; see later section on bandhas). And for women who have difficulty with pregnancy, the hormone-­regulating effects of hatha yoga often help create the conditions for successful conception and gestation.

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Instructing Hatha Yoga Restorative yoga asanas have also been shown to relieve many symptoms in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women (Kaur Khalsa 2007). Here again, fluctuating hormones can cause a range of uncomfortable effects: hot flashes, irritability, insomnia, intense fatigue, and depression. Erratic hormone fluctuations can be counteracted and balanced by the restorative poses, which calm the nervous system on a deep level. The male reproductive system also benefits greatly from yoga practice. Specifically, ­pelvic-opening postures loosen and support the hips and lower back. Practicing mula bandha in certain poses helps strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and increases blood flow, which, especially in older men, may help decrease swelling in the prostate gland (Bonura 2013). As mentioned earlier, the relaxing properties of restorative yoga also lower stress hormone levels, which may in turn help with performance-related conditions in men.

Respiratory System The skin is the largest organ of the human body; it is also part of the respiratory system. Therefore, as pranayama improves the entire respiratory system, it benefits the skin as well. In addition, both pranayama and asana practice optimize lung capacity by increasing the elasticity of the intercostal (inter-rib) muscles. As a result, although the rib junctions and spine typically stiffen with age—thus diminishing the thoracic cage and, in turn, one’s capacity for oxygen intake—yoga practice provides the opposite effect. Asana practice also expands the intercostal muscles, thus enabling the walls of the lungs to remain elastic. In addition, the alveoli (sacs that contain air in the lungs) are opened more fully, thus improving oxygen perfusion in the lungs. In forward-bending asanas, the posterior lungs get stretched and are well ventilated—which is not the case in most other forms of exercise. Poses such as Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) can improve vital capacity, producing the effect of having run for a prolonged period without the accompanying strain. This effect can be assessed by means of a . VO2max test, which measures a person’s maximal oxygen uptake and can be used to calculate how efficiently the person uses oxygen. In one study,

. regular yoga practitioners had VO2max measurements equivalent to athletes in moderately intense sports (Bauman 2002). Ultimately, then, yoga improves the cardiovascular system.

Circulatory System Like the skeletal muscles, the heart and blood vessels are strengthened and kept supple by yoga. For example, backbending movements strengthen the cardiac sphincter. In addition, the anterior and lateral walls (front and sides) of the heart are completely stretched  and strengthened as the anterior body elongates from the arch, thus aiding healthy blood flow around the periphery of the organ. Also, all asanas enhance blood flow into the thoracic bed and improve the elasticity of the aorta. You may have heard of angina, which is referred chest pain occurring when the heart receives insufficient oxygen. Angina tolerance can be improved by yoga and many other types of exercise. However, the other types lack the arterial-­massage effect created by yoga movements. Because standing poses are more static than dynamic, they cause only minimal lactic acid to form in the skeletal muscles, thus avoiding fatigue in both the muscles and the circulatory system. Yoga practice also aids the health of the entire vascular system as blood vessels get relief from gravity in inversions and restorative poses, in which the legs are raised or the head is placed below the heart. The constant massaging effect of the asanas reduces the formation of varicose veins. Yoga also increases circulation to the brain, which can reduce the chance of stroke. And the rhythmic nature of asanas and breath awareness allow increased efficiency in the circulatory system without undue strain on any body system.

Endocrine System The endocrine system monitors and produces hormonal secretions needed to regulate body functions. When operating well, this system creates a healthy balance (homeostasis) in the body, thus strengthening the immune system and increasing one’s resistance to illness. The pineal gland, an endocrine gland associated with the sixth chakra [CHUK-ruh] or energy center, is located in the midbrain and regulates the function

Energy and Anatomy of the other endocrine  glands. Also considered the body’s “third eye,” the pineal gland secretes the hormones known as serotonin and melatonin, which stabilize the body’s rhythms in processes such as sleep, mood regulation, sexual function, memory, and appetite. Blood flow to this area of the brain is increased by inverted poses such as Salamba Shirshasana (Supported Headstand). Yoga practice also aids other endocrine glands. For example, the thymus, which plays a major role in immune function, is located in the mid-sternal area, which can be stretched and stimulated by backbends and chest-opening poses. Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand), on the other hand, increases circulation in and around the thyroid and parathyroid glands. The thyroid is responsible for thermoregulation, as well as growth and repair of bodily tissues. It is believed that regular flushing of this gland helps guard against imbalances such as hyper- and hypothyroidism, which cause either agitation and irritability or slowed metabolism, respectively. The parathyroid regulates the body’s metabolism of calcium and phosphorus, which, when out of balance, negatively affect bone and kidney health. The pancreas produces insulin, which is necessary in regulating blood sugar. It can be stimulated by asanas that gently stretch or exert pressure on the abdominal area, such as twists, forward flexion, and even simple backbends. The adrenal glands produce and discharge adrenaline and noradrenaline during stressful situations for use in the fight-flight-freeze response. If the adrenals are underactive, the body is not equipped to protect itself; if they are overactive, the stress exhausts the body and negatively affects the immune system. To stimulate the adrenal glands, which are located just above the kidneys, it helps to practice supported backbends. Supportive yoga poses and pranayama practices also help calm the nervous system. Psychoneuroimmunology is the study of the immune system with regard to mind–body health. More specifically, this form of study looks at how behavior and perceptions work with the endocrine system to influence overall well-being. Of the seven major energy centers, or chakras, identified in energetic anatomy, the ones that correspond to the endocrine system are associated with physical and mental balance. Both energetic anatomy and the chakras are discussed in more detail in the next section.

Nervous Systems The brain and spinal cord form the central nervous system (CNS), which is the body’s command center. The CNS receives and interprets information sent from the body’s many systems and, after processing the signals, sends out impulses for these systems to act on. The CNS is connected to the muscles and glands by the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which relays information between the CNS and the body’s periphery. The PNS is further divided into the somatic and autonomic nervous systems. Somatic neurons (nerve cells) send impulses from the CNS to the skeletal muscles to produce movement, whereas autonomic neurons connect to the two types of involuntary muscle tissues: smooth (located in the stomach, intestines, and blood vessels) and cardiac (located in the heart). The autonomic nervous system is further divided into the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS). These two branches play key roles in the stress response. When the SNS is stimulated, it calls the body’s systems into action. The typical response of a person under stress includes an increase in heart rate and respiration, a redirection of blood flow away from vital organs and into skeletal muscles, and dilation of the pupils. These actions are a result of a surge of adrenalin, norepinephrine, cortisol, and other stress hormones racing through the body. The roles of the PSNS, in contrast, are to bring the body’s systems back to normal after a stressful event and to conserve the body’s energy. As the PSNS shuts down the stress responses of the sympathetic system, it also nourishes and rebuilds the body to bring systems back into balance and relative calm. If the PSNS is unable to bring relief to the body—which is often the case in modern society—eventually all systems of the body become overtaxed. In many cases, when the PSNS is unable to do its work, organs and systems begin to fail and illness and disease set in. The result is often early death. As mentioned in chapter 4, pranayama strengthens the PSNS by bringing relaxation through rhythmic breathing. With this effect in mind, students practice Shavasana (Corpse Pose) at the end of each asana session as a method of deep relaxation and restoration.

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All asanas promote homeostasis, or internal equilibrium, in which the body functions without strain. Asanas that place the spine in a horizontal position are especially good because they quiet the sympathetic neurons and regulate blood pressure.

Energetic Anatomy All forms of life have an essential energy flowing throughout their physical structure. To many, this energy is the essence of life itself, and many world cultures understand the relative health of their citizens on the basis of the health of the energy systems in each individual. The term energetic anatomy (alternately, metaphysical anatomy) refers to systems in the body that are not necessarily observable. Energetic anatomy may or may not be consciously felt, and only recently has it been measured by modern science, yet teachings about this subtle system have existed since ancient times. The body’s energy channels, or meridians, are mapped out in traditional Chinese medicine. These maps are used to guide practitioners in treating patients through acupuncture. The channels are also mapped out in Ayurveda, the ancient medicine of India, and the Ayurvedic term for such a channel is nadi [NAAH-dee]. The nadis make up a vast network throughout the body and connect from  the chakras, or power centers, which are located vertically alongside the spinal column. In 2000, Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama (2001), re­nowned author, physiological psychologist, and founder of the California Institute for Human Science, demonstrated that the areas in the body believed to be chakras have a distinct electrical presence when compared with other locations of the body. Thus he essentially verified the physical existence of the chakras. More information on Dr. Motoyama’s research can be found at the institute’s website (www.cihs.edu). The nadis provide a network for energy to flow from the chakras. Each chakra has a corresponding psychological and physical center. As the

body moves through a variety of asanas, these life force (prana) energy centers are gently twisted, compressed, and stretched. Special techniques in hatha yoga are practiced as a means of moving and conserving the energy of the metaphysical body while protecting the physical body. Each of these practices is referred to as a bandha [BUHNdhuh], which in Sanskrit means “to hold” or “to lock.” Yogic anatomy also includes sheaths or layers called koshas [KOH-shuhs], which are briefly explained later in this chapter.

Chakras The chakras are considered to be the major energy centers of the physical and energetic body. Energy moves through the seven main chakras, which are spaced along the spine from its base to the crown of the head. It is believed that each chakra represents a level of developmental progression of consciousness in a person’s life as he or she follows the path toward enlightenment. The chakras shown in figure 5.1 are each associated with a physical location in the body, as well as an emotional or psychological manifestation. Table 5.1 presents the chakras, their Ayurvedic elements, and their physical and psychological functions and associations. Chakra energies can be affected profoundly by the movement and flow of asana practice. Each pose’s physical orientation

Sahasrara Ajna

Vishuddha

Anahata Manipura Svadhishthana Muladhara

Figure 5.1  The physical locations associated with the seven chakras.

Energy and Anatomy

Table 5.1  Chakras Chakra

Location

7th—Sahasrara

Crown of head

6th—Ajna

Above and between the eyebrows (the “third eye”)

Ayurvedic element

Physical function(s) and association(s)

Kosha

Medulla oblongata, pineal gland

Psychological function(s) and association(s) Wisdom, intuition, meditation

Ether

Thyroid

4th—Anahata

Heart area

Air

Thymus, heart, respiration

Love, compassion, immunity

3rd—Manipura

Solar plexus; navel area (between the navel and sternum)

Fire

Digestive system

Ambition, achievement, power, control

2nd— Svadhisthana

Sacral plexus (pelvic area) Water

Reproductive system

Sexual energy, self-esteem, identity

1st—Muladhara

Perineum and coccyx (between the genitalia and the base of the spine)

Elimination

Survival, stability

Earth

and focus can help equalize imbalances in energy and emotion. The main chakra associated with an asana is included in the explanation of each pose in chapters 7 through 11.

Bandhas In traditional yoga, the bandhas are practices used to control the body’s internal prana. The three main bandhas described in this section were customarily practiced in unison while in a seated position. This advanced practice is called Maha Bandha (“the great lock”). The purpose of this practice is to allow the Kundalini energy to rise from the base chakras and be purified through the fire  of the Manipura chakra. As the energy continues to rise, blocks to free-flowing prana are said to be eliminated. In an asana practice, one or all of the bandhas may be activated. Just as specific muscles are activated to provide core strength or stability, the bandhas act as metaphysical or core-energy stabilizers. A bandha essentially holds energy within the body by contracting certain muscles; therefore, a bandha is often applied during an asana because it enables greater energy and stamina to remain within a person on both a physical and an energetic level. However, one should not

Anandamaya Vijnanamaya Manomaya Pranamaya Annamaya

Expression, communication, will

5th—Vishuddha Throat

attempt to engage any or all of the bandhas on a continual basis, or necessarily with 100 percent effort. Because the bandhas act like a valve for moving and retaining subtle energies, overusing any of them is like overusing the muscles without relaxation. The associations and applications of energetic anatomy are intertwined with physical, mental, and emotional effects. For example, some yoga styles advise women to refrain from practicing Shirshasana (Headstand) and other inversions during menstruation. It is believed that during this time, as the body eliminates unused tissue, a woman’s energy needs to flow downward. The term for downward-moving energy is apana  (uh-PAAH-nuh). The apana is not only in opposition to a physically inverted asana but also in conflict with the upward promotion of energy of the root lock, or mula bandha. Udana [oo-DAAH-nuh], or “upward movement,” refers to the upward-moving energy that directs effort in the body. A bandha is generally thought of solely in energetic terms, but it is also a physical technique that has physical effects, during which muscle contraction occurs in a particular region of the body. The body has three main bandhas: mula [MOO-luh], uddiyana [ood-dee-AH-nuh], and jalandhara [JAAH-lund-uh-ruh].

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Instructing Hatha Yoga • Mula bandha—Located in the perineum between the anus and the genitalia. The action of the lock is akin to Kegel exercise when the pubococcygeal muscles are contracted. Practicing mula bandha helps stimulate the digestive and reproductive systems and brings an uplifting and refreshing feeling to the asanas. • Uddiyana bandha—Located in the lower abdominal area. The action of this lock firms and lifts the respiratory diaphragm and supporting musculature, specifically the transverse abdominis, while still allowing for normal respiration. The physical action of this bandha also helps support and stabilize the back musculature in inverted poses. The inward, lifting action draws the energy in the same direction. • Jalandhara bandha—Located at the top of the throat. The action of this lock occurs when the chest is lifted and the chin rests on or near the sternal notch. This bandha is traditionally practiced in seated meditation. The slight restriction in breathing caused by flexion in the next benefits  the respiratory system and calms the nervous system by drawing attention to the rhythm and flow of the breath, which generally helps to alleviate physical and emotional stress. By applying these physical techniques during asana practice, students can better retain and move energy throughout the body while increasing mental and physical stability, both during and after practice.

Koshas In traditional yoga anatomy, a person’s physical and energetic body are made up of five layers or sheaths, called koshas. The layers can be thought of as a progressive series of levels that make up

the reality of our existence and lead to Atman, our eternal center. The koshas are as follows: • Annamaya [AAH-nuh-MAAH-yuh]—Material, or physical, sheath that requires food. It is the outermost level. This category includes all of the gross anatomy forming the physical body. • Pranamaya  [PRAAH-naah-MAAH-yuh]— Astral, or vital, sheath that channels prana (breath) throughout the body. It is where sense awareness resides, and it allows our true nature to move in the world. • Manomaya  [MAAH-noh-MAAH-yuh]— Emotional mind sheath, which comprises our affect, feelings, and emotional quotient, or degree by which we can empathize with others. We can become more deeply aware of this kosha level through meditation. • Vijnanamaya [vih-nyuh-nuh-MAAH-yuh]— Wisdom or knowing sheath, encompassing intelligence on the deepest level. This is where the consciousness of the ego-self is manifested and where an understanding of truth resides. • Anandamaya  [AAH-nuhn-duh-MAAHyuh]—The sheath of bliss. This sheath is the link to and awareness of the infinite spirit of true peace and joy. One focus of this book is to help you develop your understanding of how to teach and adjust yoga postures appropriately. It is equally important to your students’ well-being that you develop a basic understanding of ancient yogic beliefs about the interconnectedness of the physical, emotional, and spiritual realms of human existence. Table 5.1 presents the connection between the chakras and koshas and physical and psychological functions and associations. A yoga class can have a positive effect on the koshas and create more balanced functioning of

Energy Words Bandhas [BUHN-dhuhs]—Physical techniques that lock in, move, and hold energy in the body. Drishti [dr-EESH-tee]—Area on which your physical eyes focus while practicing asanas. Gunas [GOOH-naahs]—Three subtle qualities of mental and spiritual nature that govern spiritual growth. Koshas [KOH-shuhs]—Energetic layers, or sheaths, that move inward from our outermost physical boundary to our deepest spiritual core. Koshas provide the framework for how we conceptualize our deepest Self. Mudras [muhd-RAAHS]—Energy-locking techniques that generally consist of hand gestures, such as prayer position, or Anjali Mudra [UHN-juh-lee muhd-RAAH]. Prana [PRAAH-naah]—Life force inherent in the breath.

Energy and Anatomy the chakras. Some people strive in yoga to integrate all of the faculties, as much as possible, in order to experience spiritual ecstasy. Most people in today’s Western world, however, simply wish to reduce stress and pain or improve the immune system through yoga practice. Many people are also motivated to be in better physical shape. Regardless of one’s aim, a certain mindfulness is essential in all yoga practice and teaching. The more prevalent this mindfulness is, the more profound the benefits are on all levels, both physical and energetic.

Human Movement Systems Movement of the human body occurs at many levels—from the molecular level, where oxygen passes into the bloodstream, to the coordinated effort of the musculoskeletal system in intricate and complex single-limbed balance postures. The gross, or large, anatomy of the human body includes the physical structures that can be seen with the naked eye. Although the practice of yoga postures affects the body at all levels, this section focuses on the interconnectedness of the musculoskeletal structures and how they are meant to move efficiently and with minimal risk of injury. Understanding the mechanical principles of human movement can help you determine how to structure your classes. Appropriately sequenced classes afford students the maximum physical and mental benefits possible. Applying principles of human movement also enables you to recognize when students place themselves at risk of physical injury—and when, how, and why to properly apply physical adjustments.

Musculoskeletal System The human movement system is composed of bones, skeletal muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fasciae. The skeleton is the framework of bones that defines one’s shape and general physical movement abilities as a human being. Muscles are attached to bones by tendons and other connective tissue and provide the means to move the bones through specific movement patterns. A joint is formed where the ends of two bones come together; within a joint, bones are bound together mainly by ligaments. For movement to occur, a muscle must be attached to two separate bones

and cross a joint. When that muscle contracts concentrically (see the later section of this chapter describing muscular contractions), the bone acts as a lever to create movement.

Skeletal Muscle In hatha yoga, a person moves from posture to posture by means of the skeletal muscle contractions that create movement throughout the body. An overview of muscle tissue illustrates how movement in one part of the body affects other, seemingly remote areas of the body. Each skeletal muscle consists of layers of muscle tissue bundled together, surrounded, and intertwined by a matrix of dense collagenous tissue called the deep fascia. At the end of each muscle, the fascia converges as tendons and connects the muscle to bone (see figure 5.2). Within the muscle belly, the deep fascia separate muscle tissue into smaller and smaller bundles of contractile tissues—the smallest of which are myofibrils. A myofibril is a cylinder comprised of proteins called actin and myosin. It is within the myofibrils that muscular contraction occurs on a microscopic level. (More information regarding muscular contraction can be found in the section How Muscles Create Movement.)

Fascia The fascia is a web of connective tissue distributed throughout the body. Fascia is organic material that not only holds the body together but also is responsible for our basic human shape—both inside and out (Myers 2014). The fibers of this matrix are infused throughout the body’s cells and surround them from the epidermis inward. A subcutaneous layer of tissue, called the superficial fascia, is located throughout the body directly beneath the dermal layer of skin. This fascia forms the "outer shell" of the entire

Muscle belly Epimysium (deep fascia)

Tendon

Fasciculus Endomysium (between fibers) Sarcoplasm Sarcolemma Myofibril Myofilaments actin (thin) Perimysium myosin (thick) Single muscle fiber Nucleus

Figure 5.2  Arrangement of connective tissues in and around a skeletalE6251/Ambrosini/fig05.02/524912/pulled/r1-alw muscle.

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Instructing Hatha Yoga body. As previously mentioned, the deep fascia surrounds the muscle tissues. It also wraps a continuous web over the nerves and the blood and lymphatic vessels. When movement of the muscles occurs, it creates a massaging action, which helps circulate lymph and interstitial fluid throughout the body. On one level, the fascia acts much like a stocking does when it is pulled onto a leg. Imagine pulling on a long stocking, then think about what happens to the material at the toe when a tiny section of the stocking is snagged at the upper leg. The tension can be seen and felt through the entire length of the stocking because all of the material in it is interconnected. The effect is even greater in the fascia because it contains more layers than a stocking. Thus, to some degree, a tight spot in the body—that is, a spot of tension— affects the entire structure. This description illustrates how interconnected are the physical structures of the human body; changes in one area affect another area, even if no direct connection is apparent. As a result, tension or strain in one area can manifest as pain or dysfunction in other, seemingly unconnected, areas. Practicing yoga postures helps the entire system achieve more balance by strengthening, stretching, and increasing mobility in the joints.

How Muscles Create Movement A body segment moves when a muscle applies force through its tendon onto its bony attachment. When muscle fibers generate sufficient tension, the muscle contracts, thus moving or stabilizing the affected area of the body. Muscles work in concert to move the body in a coordinated fashion. Due to the interconnectedness of skeletal-system tissues—and the fact that many muscles cross more than one joint—trying to isolate a single muscle in a yoga posture (or any other movement) is like trying to isolate a single note in a musical chord. However, even though multiple muscles influence the movement of a particular body part or segment, a given movement is often driven primarily by one muscle. This muscle is referred to as the prime mover, whereas the other contributing muscles are referred to as synergistic or collaborative muscles. In addition to aiding the prime mover, synergistic muscles stabilize and refine certain types of movement.

Types of Muscular Contraction Most meaningful movement is created by a coordination of different types of muscular contraction. There are three primary types of muscular contraction: concentric, which shortens the muscle fibers; eccentric, which lengthens the muscle fibers; and isometric, which holds the muscle fibers at the same length. Asana practice uses a variety of contractions when moving into, remaining in, and moving out of positions. To illustrate how a particular asana uses all three types of contraction at various points, the following description highlights the action of the oblique (lateral or side) abdominals and the quadratus lumborum muscles (located on each side of the spine in the lower back) when performing Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle). • An eccentric contraction occurs when muscle fibers lengthen from a shortened state while an external force (such as gravity) is applied. The tension in the muscles acts as a braking force that resists the external force and often slows the movement. In Extended Triangle, as a person leans the torso out to the left and reaches the left hand toward the ground, the internal and external oblique muscles and the quadratus lumborum on the right side contract eccentrically in order to lower the torso in a controlled fashion. • An isometric contraction occurs when the muscle fiber length remains the same. As a person holds the extended position in Extended Triangle, the muscles (internal and external obliques and quadratus lumborum) remain essentially the same length to hold the body in place and keep the rib cage from either collapsing or rounding. • A concentric contraction occurs when muscle fibers draw together to shorten the muscle’s length and bring the two ends of the muscle toward each other. In Extended Triangle, as a person moves back into an upright position, the muscles (internal and external obliques and quadratus lumborum) contract concentrically to bring the person back to standing. The same muscles are generally used throughout a given posture. The type of contraction, however, varies with changes in the direction of movement and the influence of gravity. This statement holds true for most yoga postures and is explained in more detail in each asana chapter in part II.

Energy and Anatomy

Three-Dimensional Movement To facilitate proper execution of an asana with regard to the body’s spatial orientation, we use standardized terms. The most widely accepted way to describe movement patterns is to begin with the body in what is called the anatomical position. Picture a person standing erect with the arms at the sides of the body and the head, chest, palms, knees, and toes facing forward (see figure 5.3). Movement can then be described in terms of how the body deviates from the anatomical position. For example, an action that moves a body section away from the midline and to the side of the body is referred to as abduction. When a body section is moved from the side toward the midline, that action is referred to as adduction. When two bones, such as upper and lower arm bones, move closer to each other, decreasing the angle, the joint is said to be in flexion. When the segments move away from each other, thereby increasing the angle, the joint is said to be

Transverse

Frontal

Sagittal

Figure 5.3  The anatomical position. E6251/Ambtosini/fig05.03/535439/KH/R2-alw

in  extension. When a segment twists about a fixed point within the joint, the action is referred to as rotation.

Anatomical Planes of Motion The body moves in the three planes of three-­ dimensional space: sagittal, frontal (or coronal), and transverse. Each plane is perpendicular to each of the other two. By using these directional terms, we can describe where a body segment is in relation to another—whether standing, seated, prone (facedown), or supine (faceup). The planes of motion can be described more specifically as follows. • The sagittal plane is a vertical plane that passes through the body from front to back, thereby dividing it into left and right sides (see figure 5.4). Movements within this plane occur forward and backward, as in the typical human gait. • The frontal, or coronal, plane also passes through the body vertically but divides it into front (anterior) and back (posterior) parts (see figure 5.5). Movement within this plane occurs along the side of the body, as in side bends. • The transverse, or horizontal, plane passes through the body horizontally, thereby dividing it into upper and lower portions (see figure 5.6). One example of movement within this plane is found in rotation of the body about the spinal axis, as in a twist or pirouette. Figures 5.4 through 5.6 illustrate movement and stillness in relation to the anatomical planes. In figure 5.4, illustrating the sagittal plane, the person is entering into Natarajasana (King Dancer). The bent leg moves backward, and the opposite shoulder is flexed; both actions take place in the sagittal plane. Figure 5.5 illustrates movement in the frontal plane as part of Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand-to-Toe Pose). In the beginning phase (not shown), the hip flexes and the lifted leg is in the sagittal plane. When the leg rotates out to the side, the movement occurs in the transverse plane; the leg then aligns with the rest of the body in the frontal plane. In any given class, the spine should move in the six directions for which it is designed, which all occur in the three planes: moving forward and backward in the sagittal plane, bending laterally to the left and right in the frontal plane,

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Figure 5.6  The transverse plane. E6251/Ambronsini/fig 05.06/535422/kh/r1

Figure 5.4  The sagittal plane. E6251/Amgrosini/fig 05.04/535440/pulled/R1-kh

and twisting (rotating) both left and right in the transverse plane.

A well-crafted yoga class moves each student’s limbs and spine through their full range, thus engaging all three planes of motion.

Mechanics of Asanas

Figure 5.5  The frontal plane. E6251/Ambrosini/fig 05.06/535441/pulled/R1-kh

When executed correctly, most asanas move the body fully through the three anatomical planes of motion. For all students, especially those with limited mobility, proper muscle alignment minimizes strain on the stabilizing structures of the joints, thus increasing the efficiency of movement and decreasing the risk of injury. One of the most important areas of the human body consists of the spine and its surrounding structures. Without mechanically sound alignment that begins in the spine, the rest of the joints and segments in any given asana can be thrown off balance. It is therefore imperative to guide each student to her or his best spinal alignment at the beginning of a posture—before the student moves deeper.

Energy and Anatomy

Spinal Positioning The ideal in human postural alignment is a flexible, strong spine with healthy curves; unlike a pencil, the spine is not meant to be perfectly straight. A normal, healthy spine contains 24 moving vertebrae and has a natural S shape when viewed from the right (see figure 5.7). The cervical (neck) area has a slight concave curvature. The shape of the spine becomes convex in the thoracic (upper middle) area of the back, then moves into a concave curvature in the lumbar, or low back, area. An additional convex curve is found in the sacrum (mid-pelvis), which is the location of an additional five fused vertebrae. The coccyx, or tailbone, is an extension of the spine that can move independently of the sacrum. Neutral positioning of the spine occurs when the natural curves are intact but not exaggerated. The shape of the spinal curves, in addition to the cushioning of the disks, provides shock absorption and allows for greater range of motion in the spine. At the same time, stability in the range of motion, along with the spaces between the vertebrae, allows the nerves to be free of obstruction. One should strive to create as much space as possible between the vertebrae when standing in a semi-relaxed upright position, such as Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Opening this space helps lengthen the torso and allows for easier movement about the spine—both in yoga and in everyday movement patterns. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of healthy spinal curves. Problematic curvature

Cervical (7)

Thoracic (12)

Lumbar (5)

Sacral (5) Coccyx (4)

Figure 5.7  The curves of the spine. E6251/Ambrosini/fig05.07/524917/pulled/r3-alw

can take a variety of forms. A spine that curves to either side or twists about the axis of the spine results in a condition known as scoliosis. If the thoracic section has an overly pronounced convex curve, it is said to be hyperkyphotic. If, on the other hand, the lower back sways far beyond a balanced neutral spine, it is considered hyperlordotic; in contrast, in a hypolordotic spine, the lower back seems to be flat, or lacking a curve. All of these conditions can create physical ailments, such as general spinal pain, headache, and compressed internal organs. They can also lead the body to overactivate certain muscles in an attempt to attain proper alignment. People with such spinal deviations can alleviate some of the detrimental effects by regularly practicing yoga, which focuses on lengthening and strengthening the spine in all directions. Given that a joint is the meeting of two moveable bones, the spaces between vertebrae are considered joints. Some of these joints are more flexible than others and are generally more susceptible to injury. These joints are located at points where the spinal curve changes direction; they are as follows: C7 and T1 (cervical 7 and thoracic 1); T12 and L1 (thoracic 12 and lumbar 1); and L5 and S1 (lumbar 5 and sacrum). Practicing a varied range of asanas helps protect these hypermobile vertebral joints from overuse by bringing greater mobility to the entire spine. The size and density of vertebrae is not uniform. Lumbar vertebrae, which bear considerable body weight, are thicker and wider than those in the cervical spine. The lumbar joints are also less mobile than the smaller cervical joints. Therefore, deeper spinal twists, flexions, and extensions should be focused in the upper spinal region rather than the lower region in order to minimize the risk of injury.

The “Perfect” Asana Because yoga has become so popular, anyone can find a photo or video depicting a supposedly perfect posture. Unfortunately, many people feel that even in the first attempt at a posture, they should look exactly like the people presented in magazines and videos—or, for that matter, like the instructor. In reality, however, yoga is not solely for the svelte, flexible, young models one often sees in the media. Yoga is for everyone, regardless of physical attributes, age, strength, or mobility. Each person’s body is unique, and everyone has some degree of imbalance in strength, flexibility,

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Instructing Hatha Yoga balance, or focus. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to label someone as a beginner or advanced student based simply on how he or she looks while doing certain asanas. Instead, advancement in hatha yoga is an internal process for each person. Therefore, it is crucial for students to learn to recognize, for themselves, areas of tension and weakness in the body. They can then work on ways to tailor an asana to their needs rather than striving for what they think the pose should look like.

A yoga pose should be modified to fit a person as she or he is in the moment—not the other way around. If students do not work within this principle, then they are simply performing gymnastics instead of yoga and often end up placing themselves at risk for injury. For example, when a gymnast enters a backbend, her goal is to make her body bend backward and look a certain way. When a yogi enters a backbend, he seeks to connect fully with all of the sensations the posture may reveal to him. A properly executed asana is one that restores or maintains range of motion and functional postural strength while at the same time opening the person’s internal focus and energetic expansion. If a practitioner engages enough awareness and control of the body and mind, she or he can not only reduce the risk of injury but also minimize the normal degenerative processes of aging. Everyone’s ideal posture looks somewhat distinctive. Therefore, the most effective adjustments are made from the inside out—from an awareness of how the body’s energy is being used and how comfortable the pose feels, both physically and emotionally. As B.K.S. Iyengar has said, “The brain is the hardest part of the body to adjust in asanas” (Iyengar 1993). Indeed, one’s preconceived idea of how an asana should look or feel does not always mesh with reality. In such cases, it can be difficult for an instructor to persuade a student that it is not important to achieve what may be considered a visually ideal posture, especially on one’s first attempt. Still, a skillful instructor works to guide each student into finding the excellence of a posture within herself or himself—into feeling the grace and miraculous beauty of her or his own body.

Holding Asanas To decide how long students should remain in postures, consider the physical and mental abilities of the entire class. In some ways, this aspect of asana practice can be likened to weight training or endurance training. In weight training, the number of repetitions and sets can be modified slowly to increase muscular strength over a period of time. In endurance training, the percentage of maximum heart rate and the duration of exercise are increased to bring about changes in both muscular and cardiovascular endurance. In yoga, no matter where a student is, physically, within a posture—assuming that the student is not in a position that risks injury—one of the instructor’s duties is to create an appropriate sequence from that posture to the next. At the beginning of a class, let students know that it is perfectly appropriate for them to exit a pose if they feel pain or feel that the pose is just too much. With this caveat established, you can determine the amount of time for students to remain in a given asana. To do so, use a 10-point scale, in which 1 means that very little mental or physical energy is exerted and 10 means that an extreme amount of energy is put forth throughout the asana. On this scale, in active classes, the body and mind should be in the intensity range of 5 to 8, or slightly higher, and for less intensely active, or restorative classes, a range from between 2 and 4, for the following variables: • Physical exertion. Students should try to keep the energy level consistent in the muscles while maintaining the appropriate physical alignment. However, different body parts may need to be considered independently. For example, in Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle), a student’s legs may be strong even as the neck needs to rest. If so, the student can adjust the neck and continue—if the rest of the body remains at an intensity level between 5 and 8. As the overall energy in the pose diminishes, the student should come out of the posture. • Mental focus. Students should continually ask themselves whether the mind is aware of the body or is wandering elsewhere. For example, instead of noticing how the hamstrings relax with each exhalation, one might be wondering, “How can the person next to me do this posture so much better than I can?” When such thoughts occur, the mental focus plummets to the lowest level on the scale, and it is time to either refocus or come out of the asana.

Energy and Anatomy • Endurance. Postures should be held with awareness and intensity as long as the breathing is steady and the mind and body do not stray from the 5 to 8 range for more than two breaths. As soon as two breaths are taken outside of the ideal range, then it is best to come out of the pose and rest or start over. Another guideline is to work up to maintaining the intensity level at 5 to 8 or slightly higher for each posture for 90 to 120 seconds. In an active class, the instructor must decide on a baseline pose duration that comfortably challenges the group as a whole. Many of Mr. Iyengar’s students recall him mentioning that the moment when one feels that one cannot hold a pose any longer is when the posture really begins. With this in mind, yoga teachers must constantly observe students to assess how they are doing. A general rule of thumb is to wait until 20 percent of students have come out of the asana, then bring the rest of the class out and move on. For example, in a class of ten students, wait until two students appear to have come out of the position before moving on to the next posture. Meanwhile, if you begin to observe minor struggles—such as labored breathing, strained faces, fidgeting, and profuse sweating—you might quote Mr. Iyengar’s view that the pose may be just beginning for some of them. In response, you may see smiles. You may even hear moans—but probably no serious threats! If you hear sighs when you finally bring the students out of the pose, then they were probably in the pose long enough to have reaped the benefits of the asana and are relieved to move on to another. In restorative classes, the intensity of each asana should be reduced according to the overall objectives of the class. The time held in each asana also depends on the energy level of the class and on the meditative depth into which the instructor is hoping to guide the students.

Avoiding Injury Students often attend yoga classes in part because they have heard that yoga makes people flexible. In fact, one of yoga’s big draws is the consistent focus on relaxing and lengthening the muscles in asanas. Unfortunately, many students either come to yoga from competitive sport or still partake of the old-time “no pain, no gain” mentality; as a result, they have no idea just how much they can or should push themselves in yoga class. Muscles can stretch up to 150 percent of their resting length before tearing. In contrast, most

experts agree that tendons and ligaments can stretch by only 4 percent before injury (Alter 2004). Tendons and ligaments do have some elasticity, but their main functions are to stabilize joints and protect them from moving beyond their natural range of motion. Moreover, stability should not be sacrificed in pursuit of greater range of motion. In fact, one of yoga’s basic tenets is that asanas should be practiced with a balance of stability and ease (sthira and sukha, respectively, in Sanskrit). Forcing a joint beyond the elastic capacity of its associated ligaments can result in dislocation or tearing. If a ligament is stretched beyond its elastic limits, it cannot return to its original resting shape and stability; furthermore, because ligaments do not have a large blood supply, even slight ligament injuries are slow to heal. You can reduce the risk of injury by teaching students to go into a posture with full awareness and to avoid deepening a posture to the point of physical pain or beyond a joint’s natural range of motion.

Hypermobile Joints Most students who come to yoga know that stretching and lengthening require effort, but some students arrive with seemingly exceptional flexibility. These students may amaze other students (and uninformed teachers), who may strive to emulate them. However, although these loosejointed or “bendy” students can move the body to the extreme, they often do not feel any kind of stretch or physical signal, even at the extreme edge of an asana. They also tend to have difficulty with proprioception—that is, knowing where their body parts are at any given time, or even noticing that they have moved beyond a joint’s normal range of motion. Joint hypermobility generally occurs when the connective tissue—specifically, the cartilage— within and surrounding a joint is weak and fails to provide adequate structure and stability. This condition occurs more often in women than in men, and in some people it is a genetic trait. Laxity or looseness in the joints can be a mechanism for injury because the bony structures of the joint are able to move without restriction across the joint surface, thus possibly leading to joint dislocations as well as labrum tears in the hips and shoulders. Hypermobile students should be encouraged to practice alignment-based and strengthening styles of yoga (for example, viniyoga and Iyengar). They should be discouraged from practicing

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Instructing Hatha Yoga quick-paced styles (such as Ashtanga and other vinyasa styles) and long-holding styles (such as yin yoga) until they develop adequate strength and kinesthetic awareness. Teach these students to focus on alignment and to prevent their joints from moving beyond a natural range. Cue them to keep a slight bend in the elbow and knee joints when they are bearing weight and to stop slightly short of the end of the physical range of motion. This can be a hard sell to some students, but if you approach them from the perspective of joint health, most will comply.

Spinal Stability To properly execute either a standing or seated forward bend, the body should hinge at the hip joint while the spine remains in a lengthened position (figure 5.8a). However, due to limited flexibility in the hamstrings and weakness in the spinal muscles, many students allow the back to relax and round while they attempt to bring the head toward the knees (figure 5.8b). This action puts undue stress on the weakened spinal musculature, causes compression in the vertebrae, and can exacerbate even the slightest injury or discomfort in the area. Remind students to elongate the trunk as they inhale in order to retain postural integrity of the spine in any position. In standing forward bends, the legs help suspend the weight of the body, and because the pelvis is not resting on the ground it can be moved more freely in space. Whether gravity helps or hinders a person in a forward bend depends on his or her degree of flexibility in the hip muscles and hamstrings. In general, even a person (without injury) with extremely inflexible hamstrings and lower back muscles can bring the torso close to 90 degrees of forward flexion without much spinal flexion. If a person can flex the torso more than 90 degrees, then the pull of gravity encourages the spine to lengthen.

To protect the lower back in students with extremely tight hamstrings, invite them to place the hands on a supportive prop, such as a wall, chair seat, or block. If no props are available, ask students to use the shins or even the thighs to support the body weight without straining the back. Students may also bend the knees slightly; this action relaxes the hamstring attachment at the knee joint and consequently allows for lengthening at the connection to the pelvis, which in turn allows the pelvis to rotate forward more freely. With either technique, instruct students to concentrate on keeping the spine lengthened and to stop at the first point of resistance or discomfort. Seated postures have the potential to overextend the structures of the lower spine. Because the legs and lower pelvis are fixed against the ground in seated forward bends, students with limited flexibility in the hamstrings or lower back are especially affected. The gravitational force in seated forward bends encourages the spine to curl or hunch forward. Impress on students the need to keep the torso as straight as possible as they fold forward from the hips. This alignment is the most difficult for many students to accomplish because they are focused on reaching forward and touching the toes at all costs! For most students in a seated forward bend, the body is placed in 90 degrees of hip flexion to begin with. The ischial tuberosities, or sit bones, are fixed against the ground, thus making it difficult to roll the top of the pelvis forward. Because less forward flexion is initiated at the hip joint in these positions, they place more stress on the lower back. Ironically, most people think that seated poses are easier than standing postures and less likely to lead to injury, when in fact they require greater effort and strength in the soft tissues that stabilize the spine. To help alleviate the possibility of straining the back, instruct students to sit on a folded blanket or other prop in order to lift the pelvis, which gives them a slightly forward

UNSTABLE

IDEAL

a

b

Figure 5.8  Forward bend: (a) ideal alignment of the spine and (b) unstable and possibly harmful alignment of the spine.

Energy and Anatomy overall posture. Over time, hyperextension in the knee joint can overstretch the hamstring tendons and cause undue stress in the other structures of the joint. To help students avoid placing the knee joint in a potentially harmful position, remind them to maintain a balance of activity in the front and back of the legs.

pelvic tilt. This position allows most students to sit longer and more comfortably. In light of the effects just explained, be careful when physically adjusting someone in a seated forward bend, such as Janu Shirshasana (Headto-Knee Pose) or Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend). Students should avoid pressing the rib cage down toward the knees; instead, they should lengthen the ribs upward, away from the hips and toward the toes.

External Rotation The modern lifestyle is torturous to the shoulders and the overall spinal posture. Long hours spent sitting and slouching in front of computers, cellphones, and televisions lead to a tendency to allow the shoulders to roll forward and sink into the chest. Yoga practice is a wonderful way to open the chest and shoulder joints, thus helping to erase the effects of poor posture. In almost all asanas, external rotation of the shoulder joint is applied to open and expand the chest. When a student stands in the anatomical position, which is akin to Tadasana (Mountain Pose), the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) rests securely in the joint socket (see figure 5.10a). As the humerus is turned inward toward the chest (internal rotation), the head of the bone rolls slightly away from its secure position in the socket. In non-weight-bearing postures, this action generally does not pose much injury risk. When a student is upright, with the arms by the sides (or even with the arms extended to the sides, parallel to the ground), it is easy to visualize the direction in which to externally rotate the shoulders and open the chest. When a student is upside down, however, with the arms over the head, the situation can be somewhat disorienting for an instructor. One serious mistake made by inexperienced instructors is to internally rotate, by accident, the shoulders of students practicing asanas in which the arms support a significant portion of the body weight (see figure 5.10b). Examples include Adho

Lifted Kneecaps (Not Locked) In standing asanas, the legs provide support and stability for the entire body. Ideally, all of the lower-extremity muscles should be contracted at a moderate level to stabilize the joints and provide balance (see figure 5.9a). To extend the knee joint and keep the legs as straight as possible, the quadriceps (front thigh muscles) must be contracted. This action slightly lifts the kneecaps (patellas). However, if the quadriceps contraction is extreme and there is no reciprocal hamstring contraction, the pull through the quadriceps tendon can shift the head of the tibia (lower leg bone) backward rather than aligning the tibia with the femur (thighbone). If the hamstring muscles (back of the thigh) are relaxed, or if a student has weak or naturally loose joints, the knee joint may move past zero degrees of extension, thus causing the knee to hyperextend—that is, moving the joint in the direction opposite of that in which it is intended to move. The most common description for this occurrence is “locking” of the knee joint (see figure 5.9b). You will probably find that many students make the mistake of locking the knees, especially in forward bends. If the hamstrings and quadriceps are not activated simultaneously, the knees are placed in a vulnerable position; moreover, unbalanced muscular activation in the quadriceps and hamstrings can adversely affect a person’s

IDEAL

UNSTABLE

a

b

Figure 5.9  Knee joint alignment: (a) ideal positioning of the knee and (b) unstable knee alignment (locked, hyperextended knee).

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Instructing Hatha Yoga

IDEAL

a

UNSTABLE

b

Figure 5.10  (a) Ideal rotation of the shoulder and (b) unstable rotation of the shoulder.

Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog), Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward-Facing Dog), Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana (Plank Pose), Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Handstand), Bakasana (Crane Pose), and Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose), which all place significant body weight on the shoulder joint. If the shoulders are rotated internally in these asanas, the shoulder joint is placed in an unstable position, which can stress the shoulder tendons and ligaments. In contrast, when the shoulder is rotated externally, the joint is more properly aligned and therefore more stable. Reports have arisen about instructors seriously injuring students when adjusting them in a full backbend (Urdhva Dhanurasana). If you are untrained or inexperienced in physically adjusting for external rotation, stick to the verbal cues explained in this book. In addition to studying the information presented here, you can seek out

a registered teacher training school by contacting the Yoga Alliance (www.yogaalliance.org). Ask about programs that emphasize hands-on adjustments.

Summary A yoga instructor carries great responsibility. Students place their trust in an instructor’s ability to relate physical, emotional, and spiritual concepts; they also trust that these concepts and ideals are founded on a large body of knowledge. In order to guide your students through a practice that is both mechanically sound and personally satisfying, you must develop a basic understanding of how the body’s major systems function, on both the physical and metaphysical levels, and how these systems benefit from yoga practice.

Review Questions 1. Define safe yoga instruction. 2. What is a nadi? 3. What is mula  bandha, and with which chakra is it associated? 4. Is it advisable for a woman to practice yoga while menstruating? Why or why not? 5. Which anatomical plane does Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle) move through? 6. What are the six directions in which the spine should move in a balanced session? 7. Identify a few asanas that stimulate osteogenesis and contribute to joint stability.

8. What does it mean to “lift the kneecaps”? Why, when, and how would you teach this action? 9. Which muscles in the torso are used to move into a standing forward bend, and what type of contraction is used? What about when entering into a standing backbend? 10. What type of contraction occurs during the holding of most asanas? 11. How long should asanas be held? 12. What makes a yoga student advanced?

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Part II

Asanas and Adjustments

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6 Sun Salutations

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erhaps one of the quintessential visions of Western hatha yoga practice involves the series of linked asanas known as Sun Salutation, which is accompanied by focused breathing. The Sanskrit name for these movements is Surya Namaskara [SOOHR-yuh nuh-muhs-KAAH-ruh]. Surya is a word for sun, and namaskara can be translated as offering a deeply respectful acknowledgment or greeting; the same root is used in the salutation namaste. No true agreement has developed as to the exact origin of these practices,

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Instructing Hatha Yoga but it is known that during the period of Indian civilization between 1750 and 500 BCE, the sacred texts known as the Vedas depicted worship practices including praise chants to the sun god. These reverent mantras and prayers were often performed while lying prostrate in the direction of the rising sun; for many, they may also have been an element of religious pilgrimage. Some contend that these devotional practices sowed the seeds of the modern Sun Salutation. Others, including yoga historian Mark Singleton (2010), maintain that Surya Namaskara was likely introduced into yoga in the early twentieth century by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya as a means to warm the body and focus the mind for further practice. No matter where the practices originated, they offer an apt representation of the Westernized view of hatha yoga as a sometimes-intense physical activity that can be pervaded by reverence. Three versions of Surya Namaskara are presented in this chapter. However, it is possible to modify and adapt any of the asanas, as well as the physical intensity of any series. The Classical Sun Salutation comprises a flow of postures through gentle backbends, lunges, Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana (Plank Pose), and Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog). In the West, Ashtanga hatha yoga practices more vigorous salutations called Sun Salutation A (Surya Namaskara  Ka in Sanskrit)  and Sun Salutation B (Surya Namaskara Kha). Though the more vigorous Surya Namaskaras are usually associated with Ashtanga, variations can be practiced in any hatha style by changing the speed or adding alternative postures to the basic form or set. For example, when cueing a lunge in a Classical Surya Namaskara, you can teach a variation by raising the arms overhead or clasping the hands behind the back. Each basic set includes about 12 positions and breaths. In addition, the Sun Salutations can be practiced as

an entire class series; alternately, they are used by many vinyasa flow classes to link other postures. Traditionally, Surya Namaskaras are practiced facing the rising sun, and the postures are linked in a way that brings each part of the body in contact with the sun’s rays. Indeed, the true value of the salutations is to warm the body. You can practice one or two slowly and gently or do a number of salutations quickly in a row. The momentum involved in practicing faster salutations warms the body, and the warmth allows you to move into poses more easily. On the other hand, going slowly builds deeper strength, even though students may not warm their muscles as quickly and will not be able to rely on momentum to get into the poses. All of the salutations provide the following benefits: • Warming the muscles by taking the body through a large range of motion • Linking the mind, body, and breath • Increasing overall circulation • Energizing the body and mind When guiding students through the Sun Salutations, keep in mind that, due to the flowing nature of the sequence, each pose is typically held for a short time. Therefore, adjustments are generally not made unless there is a risk of student injury; even so, it is very important that the instructor watch for rounded backs and shoulders as students move into and out of forward-­ bending poses. If desired, it is also both possible and appropriate to move through the sequences at a slower pace. The individual poses that make up the Sun Salutations can be found in chapters 7 through 11, which provide detailed descriptions, cautions, verbal cues, adjustments, modifications, and kinematics.

Sun Salutations

Classical Surya Namaskara This is the traditional Sun Salutation practiced in many styles of hatha yoga.

4  Inhale and point your fingertips toward the ground, then sweep your arms up over your head. Arch back gently, reaching out of your lower back.

1  Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), then inhale and reach your hands over your head, wide apart.

2  Stretch your arms wide and open your chest. Feel your feet and legs rooted and pressing firmly into the ground.

3  Exhale and press your palms together overhead, then lower your hands down to your chest.

6  Place your hands on the ground. Inhale and take a long step back with your right leg, coming into a lunge. Raise your torso and roll your shoulders back. Lift through your spine and sink your hips lower than your front knee, placing your left knee on the ground if you like. Open your chest and shoulders by pressing your hands toward the ground behind you.

7  Exhale and place your hands flat against the ground, shoulder-­ width apart. Step your left foot back, coming into a plank position.

8  On your next exhalation, bring your knees to the ground. Hug your elbows in to your sides and slowly lower your chest and chin to the ground, resting in Zen Asana (Transitional Pose).

9  Inhale and slide your chest forward and up, coming into Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose). Roll your chest and shoulders open.

11  Inhale and step your right foot between your hands, coming back into a lunge with your left leg back. Place your right knee on the ground if you like. Open your chest and shoulders by pressing your hands toward the ground behind you.

12  Exhale and step your left foot forward and fold into Uttanasana again. Elongate the front and sides of your body.

13  Stretch your arms out to your sides and inhale as you lift your torso upright. Reach your hands above your head and press your palms together.

14  Exhale and bring your hands down in front of your chest.

5  Exhale and fold forward from your hips into Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend). Bend your knees slightly if you need to, and relax from your neck to your sit bones.

10  Curl your toes under and, as you exhale, press firmly through your hands and lift your sit bones toward the sky into Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog). Press your chest back toward your thighs. Roll your elbows down toward each other. Breathe in Adho Mukha Shvanasana for five to eight breaths.

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Surya Namaskara A This is the first salutation series done in Ashtanga-style hatha yoga.

1  Start in Samasthiti, with your arms at your sides.

2  Inhale as you reach your hands above your head in Anjali Mudra (Prayer Pose). Feel your rib cage lift and elongate your body.

3  Exhale and bring your arms out to your sides and fold forward from your hips, leading with your chest, as in a swan dive.

4  Fold into Uttanasana.

6  Exhale and step or jump your feet back into a plank position.

7  Move into Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana.

8  Slowly bend your elbows and lower your torso toward the ground into the Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbs Staff Pose). Keep your elbows in toward your body and your legs straight and energized.

9  Inhale and press your hips, ribs, and chest forward and up into Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward-Facing Dog). Press firmly through the tops of your feet. Maintain length in your spine.

11  Inhale and either step or jump your feet forward between your hands.

16  Exhale and bring your arms back to your sides, into Samasthiti.

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12  Arch your back slightly in your forward bend.

13  Exhale and fold forward completely into Uttanasana, resting and lengthening your spine.

14  Inhale and reach your arms out to your sides with your palms facing forward. Press through your feet and lift your torso upright.

5  Inhale and, keeping your hands on the ground or on your shins, lift your chest and chin, arching your back slightly.

10  Curl your toes under and, as you exhale, lift your hips up and back into Adho Mukha Shvanasana. Breathe deeply for three to five breaths.

15  Press your palms together overhead, making your body as long as possible.

Sun Salutations

Surya Namaskara B This series is also traditionally practiced in Ashtanga hatha yoga.

2 Simultaneously bend your knees and bring your body into Utkatasana (Chair Pose). Breathe two or three breaths. Inhale and press through your legs, straightening your body.

3  Exhale and bring your arms out to your sides and fold forward from your hips, leading with your chest, as in a swan dive.

4  Fold into Uttanasana.

5  Inhale and, keeping your hands on the ground or on your shins, lift your chest and chin, arching your back slightly.

6  Exhale and step or jump back.

7  Move into Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana.

8  Slowly bend your elbows and lower your torso toward the ground into Chaturanga Dandasana. Keep your elbows in toward your body and your legs straight and energized.

9  Inhale and press your hips, ribs, and chest forward and up into Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana. Press firmly through the tops of your feet.

10  Curl your toes under and, as you exhale, lift your hips back into Adho Mukha Shvanasana. Breathe deeply for one to three breaths.

11  Turn your left foot out about 45 degrees. Inhale and step forward with your right foot. Bend your right knee into a lunge position and raise your arms overhead, coming into Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I).

12  Exhale and sweep your hands down to the ground as you step your right foot back, bringing your body into Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana.

13  Move down to Chaturanga Dandasana.

14  Inhale and press your hips, ribs, and chest forward and up into Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana. Press firmly through the tops of your feet.

15  Curl your toes under and, as you exhale, lift your hips up and back into Adho Mukha Shvanasana. Breathe deeply one to three breaths.

1  Begin in Samasthiti, then inhale and lift your arms over your head.

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Surya Namaskara B (continued)

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16  Turn your right foot out approximately 45 degrees. Inhale and step forward with your left foot. Bend your left knee into a lunge position and raise your arms overhead, coming into Virabhadrasana I.

17  Exhale and sweep your hands down to the ground as you step your right foot back, bringing your body into Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana.

18  Move down to Chaturanga Dandasana.

21  Inhale, then exhale and step or jump your feet forward between your hands.

22  With your hands on the ground or on your shins, inhale and arch your back slightly.

23  Exhale and completely fold forward into Uttanasana, resting and lengthening your spine.

19  Inhale and press your hips, ribs, and chest forward and up into Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana. Press firmly through the tops of your feet.

24  Inhale and bend your knees and hips. Sweep your arms overhead as you lift your torso and settle into Utkatasana.

20  Curl your toes under and, as you exhale, lift your hips up and back into Adho Mukha Shvanasana. Breathe deeply three to five breaths.

25  Inhale and straighten your legs, stretching as tall and long as possible. Exhale and lower your arms to your sides back into Samasthiti.

7 Standing Postures

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his chapter highlights 19 standing postures. Simply speaking, standing postures are asanas practiced either when standing either on both feet or when balanced on one leg at a time. The practice of standing asanas makes one more fully aware of one’s connection to the earth and helps one feel grounded, stable, and rooted. The energies of the earth draw up through the legs into the spine, creating a lightness and expansion throughout the entire body. In active yoga classes, standing asanas are generally sequenced at the beginning of a session in order to warm the major muscle groups and create total body and postural awareness, which continues throughout the rest of the session. Standing postures also help strengthen the joints of the lower extremities and promote comprehensive joint stabilization and integrity. In addition to developing strength and stability in the pelvis and legs, standing poses help students focus on spinal alignment, improve and maintain sound overall posture, and increase balance and breath awareness. The postural awareness and strengthening of the core musculature also create the control and mindfulness needed to practice inverted asanas. In fact, Tadasana (Mountain Pose), and standing postures in general, not only build a foundation for all other postures but also are considered to form the safest category of poses for most people because they draw on the entire body’s strength and support. For example, it is almost impossible to

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Instructing Hatha Yoga stand on one leg for very long without focusing the mind and strengthening the target muscles that increase overall balance. In yoga, without the deep awareness and good habits that arise from practicing standing postures, a person often experiences muscle imbalance, which, over time, leads to injurious movement patterns. The effort to achieve balance in any standing posture can serve as an analog for life’s journey. It does not matter if a person actually achieves and maintains a state of solid balance for a long period of time. What does matter is that the person learns to recognize and become aware of where her body is in space and, if she loses her balance, to refocus her mind and body without judgment. After all, nothing is static in life; balance consists simply of noticing the synergy (or lack thereof) of a dynamic system and learning how to flow with it—on or off the mat! The standing postures are presented here in such an order that they generally build from one

to the next. Depending on your students and class format, some sessions may be composed mainly of standing poses, whereas other sessions may include only a few standing poses or none at all. As you practice on your own with your students in mind, you will find that certain postures naturally flow into certain others based on body positioning. The first standing asana presented here is Tadasana, which is considered the quintessential standing posture. For simplicity, all standing poses in this chapter begin and end in Tadasana (except for Ardha Chandrasana, which often begins from Utthita Trikonasana). Remember, however, that the forward-bending postures can be interspersed throughout any standing sequence to allow the mind and body to rest and reenergize. Although you can follow the order of asanas presented here, you can also sequence your class in a variety of ways depending on your personal style and class focus. Some examples of sequencing are presented in chapter 13.

Standing Postures

Tadasana or Samasthiti Mountain Pose [taahd-AAH-suh-nuh] or [suhm-uhst-HEE-tuh-hee] In Sanskrit, tada means “mountain”; sama means “upright,” “straight,” or “unmoved”; and sthiti means “steadiness.” The name Tadasana is used in Iyengar and most eclectic hatha classes, whereas Samasthiti is used mostly by Ashtanga (power) yogis. A few yoga schools call this pose Talasana, a word for “tree,” but it should not be confused with Vrkshasana (Tree Pose), which is the more common one-legged balance pose.

Description Tadasana provides the foundation for all standing poses. It is generally performed at the beginning of a practice in order to direct the student’s focus internally and to begin warming the muscles for further practice. We begin with the feet—the base of the body—to highlight the importance of a strong, balanced foundation.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy

Foundational Focus Root equally through the metatarsal heads and the center of the heel in both feet.

Benefits • • • • •

Builds symmetry and balance in body alignment and overall posture. Tones the lower extremities. Strengthens the arches. Improves strength in the spinal and abdominal musculature. Improves overall posture.

Verbal Cues • As with all poses, begin by bringing your focus to your breath. Slow down and deepen your breath as you center your mind within yourself; let your thoughts settle out of the forefront of your consciousness as you continue to breathe deeply. • Begin with your feet parallel, as close together as is comfortable, and your toes pointing straight ahead. Spread your toes and feel the length of each toe against the ground; doing so prevents your toes from curling under and cramping your feet. Imagine your toes rooting outward and down, enhancing your stability. • Anchor through your big toes, your little toes, and the middle of your heels. Balance your body weight equally between the feet. Imagine that you are breathing in through your arches to help them lift slightly. • Firm your thigh muscles as you gently lift your kneecaps upward without locking your knee joints. Your legs should remain long and strong but with slightly soft knees. Begin to rotate your upper legs inward and your lower legs slightly outward. Your legs will not actually rotate much in either direction, but you will become more aware of the energy of your leg muscles in the process. Imagine an upward flow of energy from your arches along your inner legs into your pelvis. • Continue to focus on your breath.

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• Keep your pelvis in a neutral position so that the top of your pelvis is parallel to the ground. Center your hips so they align more directly over your heels and find the place where you have to work a bit to stay balanced without forcing or straining. • Keep your chest lifted (without arching your back), your shoulders relaxed, and your spine lengthened. With each inhalation, feel your rib cage lift slightly away from your pelvis and imagine the energy from your feet moving higher through your body toward the crown of your head. • Draw your shoulder blades together slightly to allow your chest to open more fully, with your arms relaxed alongside your body and your fingertips pointed down toward the ground. Your palms should face either slightly forward or toward your thighs • Continue to focus on your breath. • Keep your chin parallel to the ground, or slightly tilted downward, and imagine someone gently lifting your skull away from your shoulders. • Keep your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles in a comfortable, not overly rigid alignment. Imagine a straight line of energy running up and down the side of your body through each of these joints. • As you continue to breathe deeply, eliminate any thoughts other than those that have to do with your alignment and your breath, and simply notice the physical and energetic movements in your body. • When your awareness becomes fully present in this asana, you have the key to practicing all asanas. The extension to grow in this pose comes from deep in the mid back, and from this position the entirety of your daily posture improves.

Adjustments Arches—Direct the student to roll the inner (medial) ankles outward to lift the arches. You can brush your hand in the direction in which you instruct the student to move the ankle, or you can place your fingers between the ground and the arch of the foot to illustrate more space beneath the arch. Hips—Stand behind the student. Center the hips more directly over the heels by placing your hands lightly on the student’s hips at the iliac crest (top of the pelvis) and gently guiding the hips into alignment over the heels. Shoulders—Stand to the side of the student and check shoulder positioning while cueing the student to relax the shoulders. Place your hands between the lifted shoulder blades (mid-trapezius muscles) and guide the shoulders down away from the ears. You can also touch the mid-chest (mid-sternal) area to encourage the chest to lift slightly, making sure that the student does not begin to arch the lower back by lifting too forcefully. Head and neck—Place your fingertips under the student’s chin or on the forehead and your thumbs at the base of the skull behind the ears. Lightly suggest more length in the neck by softly lifting the head. Gently guide the head back so that the ears align comfortably over the shoulders. Adjustment: lifted shoulders.

Modifications Pregnancy—Instruct students to stand with the feet as wide apart as needed and in a position that is comfortable enough to accommodate the belly and help them maintain balance. If balance is compromised, advise them to use a wall or other sturdy prop. Lordosis—Students with this condition (extreme forward pelvic tilt) may need tangible feedback to move into a more fully aligned Tadasana. It helps to have them stand against a wall and move the low back toward the wall in order to feel the action of bringing the pelvis into a more neutral position (where the anterior superior iliac spine [ASIS], the hip “points” located at the front of the pelvis, and pubic bone align vertically). Kyphosis—For students with this condition (extreme upper back curvature), place the back against a wall with a pillow at the posterior bottom ribs while assisting them in pressing the shoulders back toward the wall. This modification can also benefit people with extremely tight pectoral (chest) and anterior deltoid (front shoulder) muscles achieve more awareness and open up more space in these areas. 84

Standing Postures

Weakness, fatigue, or paralysis—Students can place the hands on the back of a chair for support while standing, or sit instead of standing, and focus on lengthening the spine. Severe balance concerns—Students can stand with the back in front of a wall and use it in the way that a child who is learning how to ride a bicycle uses a training wheel. Specifically, they can press against the wall with the hands for stability. Eventually, as balance improves, the rest of the body works with more synergy and the hands and arms are used less for support.

Kinematics To the outside observer, Tadasana may appear to be nothing more than relaxed standing in the anatomical position; in actuality, it is slightly more active. Electromyographic studies on standing posture indicate that human beings produce a rather minimal amount of muscular activity while standing in a relaxed, upright posture (Basmajian 1985). In Tadasana, however, the muscular activity is focused on consciously attaining and maintaining length in the entire body and is generally isometric in nature. Mechanically, if the base of the body is not aligned properly, compensations must be made higher up the body in order to achieve proper balance. For example, if you stand with your shoulders rolling forward and toward each other, your neck tends to hyperextend to keep your head in a more upright posture. These compensatory changes create poor overall posture, which, in the long term, may lead to many physical and emotional concerns.

Tadasana Body segment Foot and toes

Lower leg

Thigh

Hip and pelvis

Torso

Kinematics

Muscles active

Toe abduction, stability

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Slight external rotation of lower leg

Peroneus longus, brevis, and tertius (I)

Stability to counter body sway (muscles relaxing and contracting as necessary to maintain balance)

Gastrocnemius, anterior and posterior tibialis, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Knee extension and patellar elevation

Quadriceps (C, I)

Thigh extension

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (I)

Slight internal rotation of femur

Adductors, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus (C, I)

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, hamstrings (I)

Hip stability

Gluteus medius and minimus, deep external rotators* (I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae (I)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae (C, I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Shoulder

External rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Hand and fingers Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Neck

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis (I)

Neck extension and stability

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

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Vrkshasana Tree Pose [vrick-SHAAH-suh-nuh] Vrksha is the Sanskrit word for “tree.” In Vrkshasana, the one-legged balance is reminiscent of the strength and energy in the trunk of a tree. The roots, represented by the standing foot, press down into the earth for support, and the branches or hands extend up ever taller toward the sun. Standing as a tree, you are strategically balanced so that energy comes up to your standing foot from the earth and you use gravity to your advantage as you press downward. Many trees have roots on top of the earth, but the roots anchor into the ground. The part of Vrkshasana that represents roots anchoring into the ground is the force, or energy, exerted by gravity on the standing foot. Reciprocally, energy is drawn upward through the trunk of the body, while the arms stretching overhead are like branches reaching for the sun. This action allows the ribs to lift and expand the diaphragm, thus enabling more expansive breaths.

Description Vrkshasana, like all single-legged balance postures, should be practiced equally on both legs. Vrkshasana and Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle) work well together because of the muscular engagement needed to stabilize and open the hips. In fact, many people prefer practicing Utthita Trikonasana before Vrkshasana to prepare the hips for deeper external rotation.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy

Foundational Focus Root through the metatarsal heads and the heel of the standing foot. Press the inner thigh of the standing leg and the sole of the non-weight-bearing foot toward each other.

Benefits • • • • •

Builds concentration, focus, and postural balance. Reduces stress—it is nearly impossible to worry and remain balanced at the same time. Develops strength and stability in the feet and ankles. Stabilizes and strengthens both superficial and deep hip muscles. Is said to balance the pituitary gland because of the pressure on the first metatarsal for balance (pressure that in reflexology is said to affect the structures in the neck and head). • Increases overall body strength.

Caution High blood pressure—Students with this condition should refrain from lifting the arms overhead.

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Standing Postures

Verbal Cues • From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), find a point somewhere in front of you to focus on with your eyes turned slightly downward. Gaze forward on a motionless drishti and allow your eyes to remain softly fixed on the chosen point. Breathe deeply and feel your body come into alignment. • Slowly and smoothly, shift your body weight more fully onto your right leg and begin to lift your left heel off the ground. When you feel stable on your right leg, exhale and draw your left knee up toward your chest. Find the balance on your right foot from front to back, redirecting the movement that naturally moves the body from side to side when standing on one leg. • Connect even more fully into your right leg, feeling the energy from the ground lengthen your spine and being mindful not to let the left side of your pelvis drop lower than the right side. • Keep your right hip pressed back; at first, it may feel almost as if you are overcompensating. Keep your pelvis square while you externally rotate your left knee out to your left side. Feel the front of your right thigh and the inside of your left knee reaching away from each other. • Exhale and place the sole of your left foot on the inside of your right leg anywhere that you feel you are comfortably, yet challengingly, balanced. However, avoid placing the foot on the inner knee joint. Firmly press your left foot and your right leg into each other. Doing so helps draw energy into the midline of your body and helps you maintain balance. • Moving slowly, place your hands in Anjali Mudra (Prayer Pose) with your palms pressed lightly together at the level of your heart. Remaining fully rooted to the ground, imagine all the energy in your body drawing inward toward the midline and upward toward the sky. • Continue to focus on your breath. • As you breathe in, slowly raise your arms overhead and feel your chest and ribs lift higher, away from your hips. Remain here for two to three more breaths. • Slowly release your arms to your sides and set your left foot on the ground. Rotate your right foot in both directions and shake your leg out slightly to loosen up the joints of your right leg. Come back to Tadasana to prepare for the other side.

Adjustments Toes—Remind students to spread the toes for stability and to focus on keeping the balance between the front and back of the foot without clenching the toes. For a kinesthetic reminder, point to or lightly brush the tops of the toes. You can also press down into the first metatarsal (big toe) to help the student work from front to back instead of wobbling from side to side. Hip of non-weight-bearing leg—Stand behind the student and place your hands lightly on the hips as you level them. Move slowly so that the student is not thrown off balance. If necessary, move the hip of the standing leg back into alignment over the knee. Spine—Encourage length in the low spine by reminding students to lift the crown of the head toward the sky. You can lightly brush upward in the space between the shoulder blades. Chest and ribs—Stand behind the student, placing your palms against the sides of the rib cage, and gently draw the ribs up. Alternatively, hold the student’s upper arms so that you can support the student while promoting extension through the spine. Encourage the student to keep the pinky fingers touching as the arms are raised in order to maintain external rotation at the shoulders and keep the chest open. Standing behind the student works best because it requires little physical effort on your part and is less distracting to the student. Shoulders—Place your hands lightly on top of the student’s shoulders and remind the student to stay relaxed. Adjustment: hip alignment.

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Modifications Hip replacement—To avoid creating stress in the hip joint with its limited range of motion, instruct the student to focus solely on balancing on one leg with little if any external rotation of the bent leg. Invite the student to keep the toes on the ground and rotate on the ball of the foot to the first point of resistance in the hip. Balance difficulty—Instruct students to keep the toes of the bent leg on the ground with the heel pressed against the straight leg or on a block to the side of the standing leg. Have students use a prop (chair or wall) as a sort of training wheel—that is, only as a way to regain balance if they tend to wobble. Severe balance difficulty—Instruct students to place the foot of the bent leg on a block or step stool. This technique helps students work on opening the hips without compromising balance. Pose deepening—Instead of placing the foot of the bent knee against the standing leg, direct the student to reach the foot across to the opposite hip into Ardha Padmasana (Half-Lotus) and wrap the sameside hand behind the back to hold the foot. If the student cannot Modification: balance quite reach the foot, she or he can use a strap. difficulties.

Modification: pose deepening.

Kinematics Students often complain that the inside of the standing thigh is “too slippery” and that they are therefore unable to hold the other foot against it. Generally, the problem does not really involve slippery pants or skin; rather, it is a matter either of not pressing the sole of the foot firmly into the opposite thigh or of not having adequate range of motion for that particular placement. If a student has enough flexibility and openness in the inner thigh to place the heel of the foot into the groin, he or she will gain significant stability in the posture.

Vrkshasana (Standing on Right Leg) Body segment Foot and toes (R)

Kinematics

Active muscles

Toe abduction, stability

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Foot and toes (L)

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum longus, hallucis longus (C, I)

Lower leg (R)

Stability to counter body sway (muscles relaxing and contracting as necessary to maintain balance)

Gastrocnemius, anterior and posterior tibialis, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Knee extension, stability

Gastrocnemius (I)

Lower leg (L)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus, hallucis longus (C, I)

Thigh (R)

Knee extension and patellar elevation

Quadriceps (C, I)

Stability and adduction (adductor Adductors (C, I) magnus helping to extend knee)

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Muscles released

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Standing Postures

Body segment

Kinematics

Active muscles

Thigh (L)

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip extension, stability

Hamstrings (C, I)

Hip stability

Gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus; deep external rotators* (C, I)

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, hamstrings (I)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris (C, I)

Hip external rotation

Deep external rotators,* gluteus maximus (C, I)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum (I)

Adduction of scapulae

Rhomboids major and minor, mid trapezius (C, I)

Postural support in mid back and downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

External rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Abduction of humerus

Deltoids (C, I)

Depression of humeral head

Infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis (C, I)

Pronation

Pronator teres, pronator quadratus (C, I)

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Neck extension, stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis (I)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Torso

Shoulder

Upper arm

Lower arm

Hand and fingers

Neck

Muscles released

Adductors

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

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Utkata Konasana Fire Angle Pose [OOT-kuh-tuh kohn-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, utka means “fierce” or “intense” and kona means “angle.” This wide-legged squat gets its name from the intense energy used in the thighs to hold the position. The asana is also often called Goddess Pose because it is reminiscent of the commanding stance of strength depicted in many statues of feminine deities.

Description Utkata Konasana is a powerful squatting pose that charges up the energy of the hips and legs. The more the legs are rotated externally, the more the balance is affected.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy

Foundational Focus Root through the heels and the fifth metatarsal heads. Anchor into the first metatarsal heads and draw energy through an invisible line down from the base of the pelvis into the ground.

Benefits • • • • •

Opens and strengthens the hips and groin. Strengthens the entire thigh and the upper body. Stabilizes the knee joints. Serves as a beneficial pose during pregnancy due to the pelvic opening. Increases overall body strength.

Caution Knee or hip surgery—Persons who have had knee or hip surgery should refrain from this pose until range of motion is reestablished, then proceed with modifications if medically appropriate.

Verbal Cues • From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), step your legs as wide apart as is comfortable. Externally rotate the front of your thighs, knees, and feet outward. Make sure that your knees are aligned in the same direction as your toes. Visualize your kneecaps pointing directly away from each other. • Inhale and raise your arms out to your sides so that they are parallel to the ground with your palms facing down. Keep your shoulders soft. Exhale and flex your hips, knees, and ankles, coming into a semi-squat. • Establish that your kneecaps are pointing in the same direction as your toes, and on the next exhalation squat deeper. Breathe smoothly. Feel your outer hip muscles work to help open up more space between your inner thighs. Picture the outsides of your knees and thighs pressing into an imaginary wall behind you.

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Standing Postures

• Squat deeper until your upper thighs come as close to parallel with the ground as is comfortable for you. Feel your hamstrings (the backs of your thighs) and gluteal muscles (buttocks) contracting by imagining your heels drawing together. Visualize the strong energy holding your thighs in place. Breathe length through your back and sides while keeping your hips centered under your shoulders. • Continue to focus on your breath. • Press energy from your heart center out through your hands. Spread your fingers. If your arms fatigue, press your palms together in front of your heart or place your hands on your hips. • Inhale and reach your arms overhead as you straighten your legs. Exhale and lower your arms back to your sides. Prepare for the next pose.

Adjustments Feet and knees—If a student’s knees rotate inward out of alignment with the toes, semi-squat behind the student and slightly to one side. Place your palms to the inside of the thighs, just above the knees, and gently press the knees away from each other. Instruct the student to use the outer hip muscles to help draw the thighs away from your hands. Pelvis—If a student’s hips are thrust back so that the pelvis is considerably behind the line of the shoulders, stand directly behind the student and turn your body slightly sideways with your knees somewhat bent. Press the outside of your closest thigh against the student’s pelvis. Place your hands on the front of the student’s shoulders and encourage him or her to draw the backs of the shoulders toward you as you support the movement. Move slowly so that you both keep your balance. Adjustment: feet and knees. Spine—If the student rounds the back as he or she squats, encourage length in the spine by cueing the student to lift the crown of the head toward the sky. Stand behind the student and place your hands lightly on the shoulder blades. Ask the student to draw the upper back into your hands. Shoulders—If the chest is flexed so that the arms are not in line with sides of the body, stand behind the student and place your hands lightly on top of the shoulders. Draw the upper arms slightly back to open the chest.

Modifications Hip or knee replacement—This pose may be practiced only if the student has been medically cleared to work on range of motion and if the external rotation is not taken to the extreme. Place the student near a wall for stability. Balance difficulty or pregnancy—Invite the student to practice with the back against a wall while pressing the outer thighs toward the wall. Pose deepening—If the student is comfortable practicing with the knees flexed at 90 degrees, invite her or him to bring the arms into Garudasana Modification: deepening the pose with arm variation. (Eagle Pose).

Kinematics This pose is energizing and powerful, and it is a good pose for women to practice during pregnancy; in fact, the delivery process is often aided by the attention to pelvic opening and strengthening. The pose is also grounding and highly beneficial for students who are not pregnant. In addition to holding the pose statically, students can slowly flex and extend the legs in a rhythmic pattern to dynamically increase lower-body strength. Practicing the pose in a dynamic manner can gradually increase stamina and range of motion in the legs. Ensure that the patella aligns with the foot to avoid straining the inner knee structures.

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Utkata Konasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Toe abduction, stability

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Lower Leg

Ankle dorsiflexion, stability

Gastrocnemius, soleus (E, I)

Stability

Peroneals, anterior and posterior tibialis, gastrocnemius, soleus, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Thigh

Knee flexion, stability

Quadriceps, rectus femoris (E, I)

Knee stability

Hamstrings, popliteus (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion, stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus, adductors, iliopsoas (E, I)

Hip external rotation

Gluteus medius and minimus, deep external rotators* (C, I)

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, hamstrings (I)

Hip external rotation

Deep external rotators,* gluteus maximus (C, I)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum (I)

Humerus abduction and stability

Deltoids, infraspinatus, teres minor, supraspinatus, pectoralis major (C, I)

Postural support in mid back and downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius, subscapularis (C, I)

External rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Abduction of humerus

Deltoids (C, I)

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii, brachioradialis (C, I)

Pronation

Pronator teres, pronator quadratus (C, I)

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Neck

Neck extension, stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis (I)

Torso

Shoulder

Upper arm

Lower arm

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

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Muscles released

Adductors

Standing Postures

Utthita Trikonasana Extended Triangle [oot-T-HEE-tuh tree-kohn-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, utthita means “extended” or “stretched,” tri means “three,” and kona means “angle.” The posture is named for the triangle formed by the extended legs and the side bend in the body.

Description From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), the legs are abducted (extended out) as far apart as is comfortable, preferably between three and four feet (about one meter), with one leg externally rotated. Arms are extended out to the sides. The torso tilts laterally toward the externally rotated leg so the arms are then perpendicular to the ground, creating many triangles in the body's geometry.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heartopening energy

Foundational Focus Root through the heel and the first metatarsal head of the front foot (of the externally rotated leg). Anchor into the outer edge and heel of the back foot. Evenly balance the grounding energy in both legs.

Benefits • • • • • • • •

Tones the legs and strengthens the ankles. Loosens the hip joints, groin, and hamstrings. Stabilizes and opens the hip joints when the pelvis is aligned properly. Helps release the spinal musculature. Opens the chest and shoulders. Strengthens and aligns the neck. Stimulates abdominal organs and improves digestion as it tones the abdominals. Aids in stress relief.

Cautions Heart conditions and high blood pressure—Instruct the student to turn the gaze downward and keep the upper arm on the hip. Neck pain or injury—Direct the student to continue to gaze forward without turning the neck. Shoulder concerns—Instruct the student to keep the top hand on the hip and continue to rotate the shoulder back.

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Verbal Cues • From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), inhale and extend your arms out to your sides with your palms facing downward. • Step your legs apart, trying to place your feet as far apart as your outstretched hands, or as far apart as is comfortable to you. • Externally rotate your right leg out slightly more than 90 degrees, then internally rotate your left leg toward your right heel about 45 degrees. Imagine a straight line drawn back from your right heel that passes through the middle of your left arch. • Keep your front thigh muscles (quadriceps) actively firm by gently drawing your kneecaps up. Bring a slight bend into both knees to keep from hyperextending the joints. Inhale and raise your right arm overhead, stretching your side from your hip to your shoulder. • Slightly shift your pelvis to the left. As you exhale, extend your trunk to the right and reach out with your right arm, bringing it parallel to the ground. Reach your fingers farther to the right, lengthening both sides of your trunk. Let the weight of your hips shift back naturally. • Draw your shoulder blades slightly toward each other and imagine your clavicles (collarbones) moving slightly apart to open your chest. Work to keep your front right thigh rolling out (rotating externally). At the same time, press firmly into the left foot, while engaging the gluteal (buttocks) and hamstring muscles as if you were pressing your thigh backward. This action opens both hip joints to create a natural opening within the groin. Your pelvis will continue to rotate slightly toward the right, which protects the integrity of your sacrum. • Inhale and create more length in your torso by imagining your pelvis and right rib cage moving away from each other as you stretch your torso further out over the right thigh. This elongates your right side and helps keep your spine in alignment. • Continue to focus on your breath. • When you have reached as far to the right as you comfortably can, begin to lower your right hand toward the ground and reach your left fingertips toward the sky, keeping your hands aligned with your shoulders. Allow your pelvis to remain slightly turned inward to the right and externally rotate your left rib cage open toward the sky. Imagine your breath opening more space in your right rib cage as it extends out over your right leg. • Feel the left side of your torso stretch so that your left shoulder and left hip move farther away from each other. Keep your rib cage as parallel to the ground as possible. Imagine that your upper body is suspended to the side with gentle support from your legs. • Gaze forward, keeping your ears aligned with your shoulders; alternatively, turn and look down toward your right fingers. Keep your neck relaxed and in line with the rest of your spine. • Focus on balancing yourself evenly in both feet as your chest and hips remain open. • Continue to focus on your breath. • To come out of the posture, inhale and continue to press down through your legs as you bring your upper body into an upright standing position. If there is any tension in your front leg, slightly bend the knee to create more ease as you exit the pose. Prepare for the other side.

Adjustments Arches—Encourage students to roll the inner (medial) ankles upward to lift the arches. You can brush your hand in the direction in which you instruct a student to move the ankle, or you can place your fingers between the ground and the student’s arch to create more space beneath the arch. Legs—Remind students to lightly draw up the front thigh muscles (quadriceps) to help keep the kneecaps lifted. You can gently brush the mid-thigh muscles toward the hips. If the knees are hyperextending, remind students to relax the knees slightly and engage the hamstrings by imagining that they are drawing the legs back together. Torso—Stand behind the student, using your thigh as a brace. Place your hand on the student’s upper rib cage and gently guide the upper ribs toward you without drawing the pelvis back.

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Standing Postures

Rib cage—Place the palm of your hand lightly on top of the student’s upper rib cage, halfway between the shoulder and the hip. Instruct the student to lengthen the spine and move the rib cage away from your hand so that it does not curve toward the ceiling. Also, you may stand facing the student’s outstretched arm and hold onto the forearm as you move it toward you. While doing this, place your toes against the bend in the student’s hip crease and gently press the student’s pelvis away from you. Shoulders—Direct students to rotate both shoulders externally in order to keep the chest open and expanded, cueing them to softly draw the shoulder blades toward each other. If a student’s torso is extending either in front of or behind the plane of the front hip, gently move the shoulders back into alignment. Be sure to hold students securely while you move them and to let go slowly, making certain that they maintain balance. Hands—If the student’s lower hand is placed against the shin or anywhere close to the knee joint, instruct the student to be conscientious by not pressing the body weight into the front of the leg; pressing back on the leg increases the risk of knee hyperextension. If the student continues to press on the top of the leg, modify the posture by placing a block or chair under the lower hand on the outside of the front leg wherever the student can comfortably Adjustment: rib cage. reach it. Also encourage the student to use the abdominal and back muscles to help support the upper body. Head and neck—Cue the student to lengthen the neck and extend the head away from the shoulders without strain or stiffness.

Modifications Extreme stiffness—If a student has trouble reaching for the ground without rotating the chest toward the ground, place a block or the seat of a chair under the bottom hand to elevate it slightly. The student may also need to decrease the distance between the legs. Balance and alignment difficulty—Place the student against a wall to work on alignment. Cue the student to press the shoulder blades and the back of the lower hip into the wall. The student may also need to decrease the distance between the legs. Neck weakness—Suggest that the student turn the gaze toward the ground, but remind him or her to maintain the line of the entire spine. This action continues to build strength but reduces the strain on the neck. Modification: extreme stiffness.

Kinematics Utthita Trikonasana engages both balance and strength. Getting into position requires eccentric contractions of the top lateral torso. Much of the movement in this asana occurs in the transverse plane, with the torso and top leg moving slightly backward in opposition to the natural forward rotation of the pelvis. Once the position has been established, most of the muscle activity shifts to isometric contractions to maintain body position with balance. Many instructors have been taught that the torso and pelvis should be kept squared in the frontal plane by strongly pressing the top hip back. However, for most people, this alignment creates an unnatural torque in the sacrum, and it often overstretches the ligaments. This destabilizing force can create pain in the sacroiliac joint and the lower back. Cueing students to slightly vary the internal rotation of the back foot, based on individual comfort level, allows for a softer hip opening for those with tighter hips.

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Utthita Trikonasana (Flexing to the Right) Body segment Foot and toes

Muscles active

Muscles released

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Lower leg (R)

Stability to counter body sway (muscles relaxing and contracting as necessary to maintain balance)

Peroneals, posterior tibialis, flexor digitorum longus, gastrocnemius, soleus, flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Lower leg (L)

Internal rotation of foot, stability

Anterior tibialis, posterior tibialis, Gastrocnemius, soleus, peroneflexor hallucis longus (C, I) als

Thigh (R)

Knee extension and patella elevation

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hip stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (I)

External rotation of femur, stability

Deep external rotators* (C, I)

Gluteus medius, gluteus minimus

Stability

Adductor longus, adductor magnus (I)

Adductors

External rotation of femur, stability

Deep external rotators* (I)

Abduction, stability

Tensor fascia lata (I)

Hip stability

Gluteus medius, gluteus minimus (I)

Pelvic stability

Hamstrings (E, I)

External rotation of femur, stability

Deep external rotators,* gluteus maximus (C, I)

External rotation of femur, lateral flexion, stability

Deep external rotators,* gluteus maximus (C, I)

Hip extension, stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, E, I)

Lateral flexion to right, stability

Tensor fascia lata (E, I)

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, hamstrings (I)

Spinal stability

Erector spinae (C, I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Trunk stability and rotation

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum (I)

Lateral flexion to right, stability

Internal and external obliques, quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi, erector spinae (E, I)

Thigh (L)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Torso (R and L)

Torso (L)

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Kinematics Toe abduction, foot stability

Adductors, medial hamstrings

Iliopsoas, gluteus medius, tensor fascia lata

Internal and external obliques, quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi, erector spinae

Standing Postures

Body segment Shoulder

Kinematics

Muscles active

Abduction of humerus and joint stability

Deltoids, supraspinatus, teres minor (C, I)

Depression and stability of humerus

Subscapularis, infraspinatus (C, I), teres minor

Scapular rotation

Serratus anterior, mid and lower trapezius (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids major and minor, mid trapezius (C, I)

Postural support in mid back and downward pull on scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

External rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus and teres minor with some posterior deltoid (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Wrist and finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Stability

Sternocleidomastoid (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Neck

Muscles released Pectoralis major

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

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Parivrtta Trikonasana Revolving Triangle Pose [par-ee-VRT-tuh tree-kohn-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, Parivrtta means “the other side”; it is also often translated as meaning “to revolve” or “revolving.” Trikonasana means “triangle”—thus the name of this asana, in which the anterior (front) torso rotates along the axis of the spine in the opposite direction of Utthita Trikonasana.

Description Parivrtta Trikonasana is similar to Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle) but shifts the front of the pelvis from the frontal plane to a position in which it is almost parallel to the ground, thus causing the upper body to rotate around the spine. The twist through the mid-thoracic spine makes the posture more challenging for most students because it requires greater strength, flexibility, and balance than are needed for Utthita Trikonasana.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, and third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root through the heel and the first metatarsal head of the front foot. Anchor into the heel and the metatarsal heads of the back foot. Evenly balance the grounding energy in both legs.

Benefits • • • •

Energizes the entire body. Massages the internal organs and stretches supporting spinal musculature. Enhances balance. Strengthens and stretches hips and legs.

Caution Back injury—As with any twisting posture, students with an acute back injury should be cautious when practicing this asana—or skip it entirely.

Verbal Cues • Moving from Tadasana (Mountain Pose), step your left leg back far enough that the distance between your feet is challenging but comfortable while also allowing you to keep your left heel firmly on the ground. Face your right foot forward and externally rotate your left foot about 10 to 15 degrees. • Place your hands on your hips and softly press your inner thighs toward each other to stabilize your pelvis and bring attention to your balance. This action also draws your left hip slightly forward and keeps your right leg and torso facing your right foot.

98

Standing Postures

• Inhale, lengthen out of your low spine, and reach your left arm overhead while keeping your right hand on your hip. • Exhale and fold forward from your hips like a hinge, keeping your right hip stable. Allow your right hand to slightly encourage your right hip back as you continue to reach forward with your left hand to elongate your torso. • Stop folding forward at the first point of resistance, whether it be in your hamstrings, hips, or lower back. Picture your breath stabilizing your balance. • When you are in a comfortable position, exhale and place your left hand as far down the outside of your right leg as possible without extending past your comfort range or the edge of your balance. Imagine pressing your right leg outward, without actually moving it, and press your left hand against your outer right leg to engage your outer hip muscles more fully for stability. • When you feel stable, rotate your torso slightly to the right and imagine the outside of your right shoulder pointing toward the sky. Take a breath for stability and then straighten your right arm so that the palm points away from you and your fingers point to the sky. • Inhale as you reopen the space between your hips and ribs by lengthening your lower ribs away from your pelvis. Continue to elongate your entire spine all the way through your neck. Align your chin with the center of your chest as much as possible without strain. If this taxes your balance, continue to look toward your right foot. • Keep your left hand reaching down toward the ground as your right hand stretches upward. Allow your breaths to encourage more openness across your chest. • Remember to continue grounding through your feet and feel the revolving action through your mid-spine and arms with each exhalation. • Continue to focus on your breath. • To exit the posture, unwind and bring your hands to either side of your front foot or leg. Take a breath, then slowly place your hands on your hips. As you inhale, raise yourself upright. Prepare for your next posture.

Adjustments Feet—If the back foot lifts off the ground, cue the student to press down more firmly on the outside of the back heel and the outer edge of the foot. You can squat behind the student and press lightly on the outer aspect of the back foot with your hands or toes. If the heel still lifts, ask the student to decrease the distance between the feet. Spine—If a student is rounding the spine, stand to the side of the back leg, near the hips. Place your closest hand on the top of the student’s far hip and your other hand on the far shoulder. Using your hip to support the student’s balance, draw the student’s hip and shoulder slightly farther apart and draw the top shoulder toward you. Use your hand to roll the shoulder down, away from the ear. Adjustment: spine.

Modifications Balance difficulty—Have the student slightly bend the front knee. This action also allows for more leverage to open the hips and straighten the spine. Tight hips or hamstrings—Place a block or a chair under the lower hand. The use of the prop helps establish and maintain a straight spine while eliminating undue strain on the hamstrings. Balance or weakness—Have the student stand with the outside of the front leg against a wall. Instruct the student to lean into the wall for balance and to press the hand reaching down against the wall. A block may also be necessary for comfort. Modification: tight hips or hamstrings.

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Kinematics One of the most important aspects of this posture is to keep the spine as elongated as possible while flexing from the hip joints. For this reason, students with tightness in the hamstrings or low back should use a block or other prop under the bottom hand to keep the upper back from rounding. Also, direct students to focus on having the twist come predominantly from the thoracic spine in order to help maintain integrity and stability in the hips, sacrum, and lumbar spine.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Rotating to the Right) Body segment Foot and toes

Muscles active

Muscles released

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Plantar flexion for foot and ankle stability

Gastrocnemius, soleus (C, I)

Stability to counter body sway (muscles relaxing and contracting as necessary to maintain balance)

Peroneals, anterior and posterior tibialis, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Lower leg (L)

Ankle stability

Peroneals (E, I)

Thigh (R and L)

Knee extension and patellar elevation

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hip stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus, adductors (I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip flexion

Hamstrings (E, I)

Hamstrings, tensor fascia lata, gluteus medius and minimus, deep external rotators*

Hip and pelvis (L)

Hip extension

Hamstrings (E, I)

Adductors

Slight external rotation and stability

Deep external rotators* (I)

Trunk stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis (I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Torso (R)

Rotation to right

Internal obliques, quadratus lum- External obliques borum (C, I)

Torso (L)

Rotation to right

External obliques (C, I)

Quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi, internal obliques

Shoulder

Humerus abduction and shoulder stability

Deltoids, infraspinatus, teres minor (C, I)

Pectoralis major

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids major and minor and mid trapezius (C, I)

Postural support in mid back and downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

External rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus and teres minor with some posterior deltoid (C, I)

Lower leg (R)

Torso (R and L)

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Kinematics Toe abduction, foot stability

Gastrocnemius, soleus, peroneals

Erector spinae

Standing Postures

Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Upper arm

Elbow

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm (R)

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Lower arm (R and L)

Elbow

Anconeus (C, I)

Lower arm (L)

Pronation

Pronator teres (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension

Extensor carpi radialis, longus, Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, and brevis; extensor carpi ulnaris palmaris longus (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Stability

Sternocleidomastoid (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Neck

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

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Uttanasana Intense Forward Bend [oot-taahn-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, Ut means “intensity,” and tan means “to stretch or lengthen.”

Description Uttanasana intensely stretches and lengthens the spine and hamstrings. This basic standing forward bend should be done by folding from the hips, like a hinge, while maintaining a straight low back. It can be practiced with the legs at any distance apart that feels comfortable yet challenging. Uttanasana is usually performed as a resting, rejuvenating posture between other standing postures and as part of the Sun Salutations.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) expressive energy

Foundational Focus Root through the metatarsal heads. Anchor into the center of each heel.

Benefits • • • • • •

Strengthens and stretches the spinal muscles. Lengthens and stretches the hamstrings and opens the posterior of the hips. Relaxes and rejuvenates the whole body. Stimulates the liver, spleen, and kidneys. Helps relieve headache. Stimulates the digestive system.

Cautions Back concerns—Anyone with low back concerns should be extremely mindful to bend forward from the hips only as far as is comfortable and only with the use of props. In addition, instruct students to be mindful when exiting from Uttanasana to avoid straining the low back. By focusing on lifting from the crown of the head to maintain length in the spine, softening the knees slightly, and using their arms when necessary, students alleviate pain and avoid possible damage. Late pregnancy—Practice with modifications (wider leg position and use of props) or skip this posture. Glaucoma—As with all postures where the head is below the heart, this pose is not recommended without modification for students with glaucoma. If it is practiced, it should be held for a very short time.

Verbal Cues • Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with your feet at a comfortable yet challenging distance apart. Firm your thigh muscles by pressing your legs slightly back without hyperextending your knees. Inhale and raise your arms above your head. If your lower ribs flare forward and your spine moves into extension, imagine pressing your back rib cage toward a wall behind you and draw your front pelvis slightly upward to reestablish an aligned posture. 102

Standing Postures

• Exhale and draw your kneecaps upward slightly as you begin to fold forward at your hip joints. Keep the length of your spine intact. Fold as far forward as feels comfortable to your back and hamstrings, stopping to breathe at the first point of resistance. Let your arms come into a restful position on a prop or on the ground and relax your shoulders. • Continue to reach out of the low back to keep length in your entire spine. Relax and picture your vertebrae sinking toward the ground. If you feel any discomfort in your low back, place your hands on a prop to decrease the flexion. • Continue to focus on your breath. • Relax your neck so that the crown of your head sinks toward the ground. • If your hands can touch the ground comfortably, place them near your heels and move your body weight slightly more forward so that your hips align directly over your ankle joints. This action challenges your balance slightly. • If your hands do not touch the ground, allow them to hang down or place them against your legs or on a prop. Be sure that there is no strain in your low back, hips, or hamstrings. • Picture your tailbone and sit bones reaching up to the sky as the crown of your head extends toward the ground. Press through your heels as you breathe in and let the bottom of your pelvis reach up farther. As you exhale, allow your spine to relax even deeper, suspending your upper body forward. • Soften your belly. Breathe into your low back and visualize your ribs expanding to the sides, thus allowing more space for your breath. Keep your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears. • To come out of the posture, place your hands on your hips or reach your arms out to the sides. Open your chest by gently squeezing your shoulder blades toward each other. Keep the front of your rib cage elevated, and as you inhale press through your legs. Lift through the crown of your head and begin to raise yourself to a standing position.

Adjustments Feet—As much as possible, be sure that the outer edges of the student’s feet are parallel with each other and with the outer edges of the mat. This adjustment allows for more stability and alignment in the knees and hips. Lower body—Standing behind or to the side of the student, place your hands lightly on the outside of the hips and gently move the hips so that they are aligned over the ankle joints with the legs perpendicular to the ground. Neck—Gently touch the back of the student’s head, or just remind Adjustment: lower body. the student verbally to relax the neck.

Modifications Tight hamstrings—Instruct the student to use a prop under the hands for support and to keep the spine elongated. Rounded back—Instruct the student to take a wider stance with the feet or to use a prop. Pregnancy or stiff back, hips, or hamstrings—Suggest that the student use a wall or chair for support to relieve some of the physical work involved in the posture, thus promoting an easier release in the spine and hamstrings. Instruct students to practice Ardha Uttanasana (Half Forward Fold) by placing the hands against a wall or on top of a chair seat and folding forward only until the spine is parallel to the ground. Weakness or balance difficulty—The student can be seated on a chair (or exercise ball) with the feet placed comfortably apart. From Modification: weakness and balance difficulties. there, instruct the student to fold as far forward as is comfortable. 103

Kinematics The most common mistake that students make in practicing this posture is to bend forward from the lumbar or thoracic spine instead of from the hip joints. If the knees bend, the hips usually move out of alignment. Although bending the knees can take pressure out of the lower back, it does not allow the hamstrings the opportunity to stretch fully, and students generally continue to initiate the forward fold from the back rather than from the hips. To protect the lower back in people with particularly tight hamstrings, use a prop under the hands.

Uttanasana Body segment Foot and toes

Kinematics

Muscles active Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Stability to counter body sway (muscles relaxing and contracting as necessary to maintain balance)

Gastrocnemius, anterior and posterior tibialis, flexor digitorum longus, and flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Slight external rotation of lower leg

Peroneus longus, brevis, and tertius (C, I)

Thigh

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hamstrings

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion, stability

Hamstrings (E, I), iliopsoas (C, I)

Gluteus medius and minimus, deep external rotators*

Hip stability

Adductors (I)

Spine extension

Thoracic erector spinae (C, I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Scapular abduction

(Gravity induced)

Latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius

Humeral flexion

(Gravity induced)

Deltoids

Upper arm

Elbow extension

(Gravity induced)

Triceps brachii, biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

Lower arm

Wrist extension or hyperextension

(Gravity or ground induced)

Extensor carpi radialis, brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris

Hand and fingers

Finger extension

(Gravity or ground induced)

Neck

Extension

None

Lower leg

Torso

Shoulder

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

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Muscles released

Toe abduction, foot stability

Gastrocnemius

Lumbar erector spinae, quadratus lumborum

Sternocleidomastoid, splenius capitus and cervicis, cervical erector spinae

Standing Postures

Prasarita Padottanasana Extended-Leg Forward Bend [pruh-SAAH-ree-tuh paah-doht-taahn-AAHsuh-nuh] In Sanskrit, Prasarita means “to expand or spread.” This asana is a variation of a forward bend with the legs abducted.

Description Although Prasarita Padottanasana has a number of variations, four are traditionally practiced in the warm-up of the Ashtanga yoga series. All four are pictured here; however, the cueing is described only once because each variation begins in the same opening stance, followed by a gentle back arch and forward fold from the hips. The only difference is in arm and hand placement. After each forward bend, bring the hands back to the hips, stand, and move into the next posture.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, seventh chakra (Sahasrara), especially if the head touches the ground

Foundational Focus Root through the metatarsal heads slightly more than the heels. Anchor into the outer edges of the feet.

Benefits • • • • •

Stretches the hamstrings, inner thighs, and low back. Builds stability in the feet and legs. Stretches the shoulder joints throughout the range of motion. Relaxes and recharges the mind and body. Stimulates and tones the abdominals.

Cautions Shoulder injury—Students with shoulder concerns should proceed cautiously in variation 3. Back concerns—Anyone with low-back concerns should be extremely mindful and bend at the hips only as far as is comfortable. A block or wall should be used for additional support.

Verbal Cues • From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), step your legs out as wide as is comfortable. Internally rotate your feet slightly and press through the edges of the feet. • Position your body so that your hips, belly, and chest point forward. Anchor into the outer edges of your feet, drawing energy up from your arches into your pelvis. • Bring your hands to your hips and open your chest by drawing your shoulder blades gently toward each other and softening them down toward your hips. As you continue to press your feet firmly against the ground, feel your spine lengthen. 105

• Inhale and lift your chest slightly, feeling more expansion in your chest. Imagine the breath drawing your collarbones wider. • Exhale, drawing your lower abdomen inward as you begin to fold forward from your hip joints. Slightly lift your kneecaps as you continue flexing forward. • As you continue to exhale, press through your legs and fold further forward, maintaining the length and openness in your upper back and chest. Variation 2: Hands remain on the hips and elbows are drawn toward • Lower your hands to the ground or to a each other behind the back. prop and place them shoulder-width apart between your feet. • Inhale as you straighten your arms and look forward while arching (hyperextending) your back slightly. Feel the front of your chest broaden and the front of your torso open. • Exhale and bend your elbows as you lower the crown of your head toward the ground into a deeper fold. Keep your inner elbows pulled in toward each other and relax your neck so that your ears drop away from your shoulders. • Adjust your body weight so that your hip joints align directly over your ankles. Variation 3: Hands clasp behind the back. If there is sufficient flexibility Roll forward slightly toward your toes, and comfort, the hands can lower toward the ground behind the head. while still keeping your heels on the ground; this straightens your knees slightly, giving you a deeper stretch in the hamstrings. By moving slowly, you will maintain balance. • If your head touches the ground, put as much weight on the crown of your head as feels comfortable to you, being mindful not to compress your neck. If you have so much flexibility in the hips that when you fold forward your neck crimps, bring your legs slightly closer together. • Continue to focus on your breath. Variation 4: Hands reach out and grasp the big toes. • To exit, place your hands on your hips and press firmly through your feet. Keep your elbows pointing away from you behind your back. Inhale as you lift yourself upright. Step or jump your feet together into Tadasana.

Adjustments Balance—If the student has weak balance, stand behind her or him. Place the side of your hip against the back of the student’s thigh to block him or her from placing the weight too far back on the heels. You can also stand to the front of the student, placing your hands lightly on the outer edges of the hips, and slowly and gently bring the body weight forward onto the toes to provide better alignment. Hands—When the student’s hands are on the ground, they should be in line with the feet. If the hands are too far forward in front of the line of the toes, instruct the student to move the hands back. Have the student accommodate moving the hands back by spreading the feet wider apart if comfortable. Neck—If a student has hyperextended the neck, gently touch the back of the head to cue relaxation. Elbows—In variation 2, if the student’s elbows are not parallel to each other, stand behind the student and place your hands on the upper arms and roll the elbows inward toward the midline of the body. This adjustment also helps increase chest expansion. To further stabilize and build strength in the chest and shoulders in variation 1, place a block between the student’s elbows and instruct the student to squeeze into it while keeping length in the spine. 106

Standing Postures

Modifications Tight hamstrings or back—For the very inflexible, place the student’s palms against a wall or on the seat of a chair to help avoid back strain while slowly stretching the hamstrings. For those with more flexibility, place the palms on a yoga block to provide support. Remind the student to focus on the length and expansion of the spine while relaxing the back of the legs. Tight groin—If the student is unable to abduct the legs far enough to place the head on the ground, place a block or chair seat under the head for support. Make certain that the prop is on a secure surface so that it will not slip. Weakness—Place the student at the edge of a chair or on a fitness ball. Instruct the student to bend forward from the hips and practice the variations of the arm positions. Modification: tight hamstrings or back.

Kinematics

As in Uttanasana, if the quadriceps contract concentrically, the hamstrings relax more readily. Like Uttanasana, which focuses deeply on the hamstrings, Prasarita Padottanasana also stretches both the hip adductor group (inner thigh) and the peroneal group (outer calf) at the lateral ankle joint. Note: Although four variations of the asana are discussed, only variation 1 is described in the kinematic table.

Prasarita Padottanasana (Variation 1) Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Foot and toes

Toe abduction, foot stability

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Lower leg

Stability to counter body sway (muscles relaxing and contracting as necessary to maintain balance)

Gastrocnemius, soleus, peroneGastrocnemius, anterior and posterior tibialis, flexor digitorum als longus, flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Thigh

Leg extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hamstrings, adductors

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion

Hamstrings (E, I)

Deep external rotators*

Thigh abduction, stability

Tensor fascia lata (C, I)

Spine extension

Thoracic erector spinae (C, I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Scapular abduction

(Gravity induced)

Overhead extension

(Gravity induced)

Upper arm

Humeral flexion

(Gravity induced)

Lower arm

Elbow flexion

(Gravity induced)

Wrist extension or hyperextension

(Gravity or ground induced)

Hand and fingers

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (I)

Neck

Extension

None

Torso Shoulder

Lumbar erector spinae Latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, mid trapezius Deltoids, triceps brachii, biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris

Sternocleidomastoid, splenius capitus and cervicis, cervical erector spinae

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

107

Garudasana Eagle Pose [guh-rood-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, Garuda refers to the king of birds: the eagle. It also suggests the focus needed to remain steady in this position.

Description This one-legged balancing posture involves crossing the non-weight-bearing leg over the standing leg. The thighs and hips are activated by the slight crouch. The mid back and posterior shoulders are stretched as the arms cross in front of the chest. As with an eagle focused and ready for action, this pose helps one develop stillness and concentration.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy

Foundational Focus Root through the metatarsal heads and the heel of the standing foot. Squeeze the energy of the inner thighs together.

Benefits • Helps develop focus, concentration, and increased balance. • Provides a deep stretch in the outer hips, along the posterior shoulders, and between the shoulder blades. • Stretches and strengthens the calf and ankle of the standing leg.

Cautions Hip replacement—For students with hip replacement, crossing the affected limb beyond the midline of the body (adducting) is generally contraindicated (see the modifications section). Knee injury—Students with knee concerns should use modifications.

Verbal Cues • From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), find a gazing point (drishti) somewhere in front of you for focus. Keep your gaze fixed on this spot throughout the posture to help eliminate visual distraction. • Shift your weight slightly to your right leg. Root through the toes and heel of your right foot. Inhale to create space in your spine and keep your pelvis square and aligned under the shoulders. • Bring your hands to your hips and roll your front shoulders open as you exhale and slightly bend both knees. Be sure that your body weight falls straight down from your spine and that your knees do not extend beyond your feet. Flex your hips as if you were going to sit on a tall chair. • Slowly lift your left heel off the ground. Breathe, and when you feel stable, lift your toes off the ground and cross your left knee over your right leg above the right knee joint, keeping both knees bent. If possible, hook the top of your left foot behind your right calf and slightly press your inner thigh muscles (adductors) toward each other for stability. • Keep the line of your sit bones directed toward the ground and your rib cage and chest lifted and open. With every breath in, reach the crown of your head upward. • Continue to focus on your breath. 108

Standing Postures

• Maintain length in your entire spine from your low back to your neck. Keep your body weight balanced with your hips pressing back slightly and your spine as perpendicular to the ground as possible. • Inhale and stretch your arms apart out to your sides, like wings. Exhale and cross your arms above the elbows in front of your chest as if you were giving yourself a hug with your right arm over your left arm. Feel the shoulder blades draw slightly apart. • On an exhalation, externally rotate your upper arms so that the backs of your hands come closer together in front of your face. If you comfortably can, press your palms together, essentially wrapping (binding) your arms. Bring your hands in line with your gaze, along the midline of your body. • Continue to focus on your breath—the smoother and steadier your breath, the steadier your balance. Imagine drawing energy up from the ground and having it centered in your navel, where your center of mass sits. • Breathe into the space between your shoulder blades, feeling them move slightly away from each other with each inhalation, gently stretching the trapezius muscles. Be sure to soften your shoulders away from your ears, keeping your neck as long as possible. • To exit the posture, inhale and slowly unwind your arms. Uncross your left leg and place the foot on the ground. Inhale and straighten your right leg. Prepare for the opposite side.

Adjustments Balance—First, for better balance, instruct the student to spread the toes as wide as is comfortable. Stand behind the student and place your hands lightly on either side of the hips. While the student exhales, draw the hips slightly back and down. At the same time, use the outside of one of your shoulders to press against the student’s mid back in order to encourage the student to lift the rib cage and open the space between the shoulder blades. Knee of standing leg—If the knee of a student’s standing leg extends too far forward in front of the line of the toes, stand behind and slightly to the side of the student with your hip close to the student’s sacrum. Allow your hip to support some of the student’s body weight. Holding onto the hips, gently move the student’s body weight back over the heels. Shoulders—Lightly touch the tops of the student’s shoulders to encourage the student to relax the shoulders away from the ears. Elbows—If the student’s arms are crossed below the elbow, on the forearm, stand to the front of the student and grasp the upper arms and gently move each arm across the student’s chest, toward the opposite shoulder. Do not attempt this adjustment if the student has any shoulder injury or discomfort.

Adjustment: balance.

Modifications Balance difficulty—Place the student with the back against a wall if one is available; if not, instruct the student to keep the toes of the lifted foot lightly touching the ground or resting on a block. Knee concerns—Encourage the student to keep the toes of the non-weight-bearing leg on the ground to help maintain balance. This placement also keeps the supporting leg from taking all of the body weight. Students with knee concerns should avoid hooking the top of the raised foot behind the standing calf. Another option, which can also help those with balance difficulty, is to sit at the edge of a chair or fitness ball (or lean against a wall) in order to keep the hips aligned (and use the wall as a sort of training wheel as needed). Hip replacement or extremely tight hip—Instruct the student to cross the legs at the ankle joint and to avoid crossing the non-weight-bearing knee over the midline of the body. Tight shoulders or large chest—If the student is unable to bring the elbows near each other in front of the body, one option is to invite the student to focus on pressing the forearms together and breathing fully into the space between the shoulder blades. The student may also simply reach the top hand across to the opposite shoulder while placing the bottom hand or forearm against the outside of the reaching arm, thus Adjustment: tight shoulders or encouraging a stretch in the outside of the top arm as it crosses the chest. large chest.

109

Kinematics To avoid placing undue stress on the weight-bearing leg, the knee joint should be aligned with or posterior to the forefoot. Students whose upper body is heavy or tight will have difficulty wrapping the arms. In this case, instruct them to give themselves a “hug” by reaching the hands toward the opposite shoulders. This action allows for a stretch in the posterior shoulder musculature.

Garudasana (Standing on Right Leg) Body segment Foot and toes (R)

Muscles active

Muscles released

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Foot and toes (L)

Toe hyperextension

Extensor digitorum longus, extensor hallucis longus (C, I)

Lower leg (R)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (E, I)

Ankle stability

Anterior and posterior tibialis, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus, peroneals (C, E, I)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis (C, I)

Ankle eversion

Peroneals, extensor digitorum longus (C, I)

Knee flexion

Quadriceps (E, I)

Knee stability

Adductors (I)

Thigh (L)

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip flexion, stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (E, I)

Hip stability

Gluteus medius and minimus, adductors (I)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris (C, I)

Thigh adduction

Adductors, gracilis, pectineus (C, I)

Trunk stability

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (I)

Postural support and downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

Horizontal flexion of humerus

Pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, Rhomboids, upper and mid tracoracobrachialis (C, I) pezius, posterior deltoid

Stability and external rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor (I)

Scapular depression

Pectoralis minor, subclavius (C, I)

Scapular stability

Serratus anterior (C, I)

Lower leg (L)

Thigh (R)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Torso

Shoulder

110

Kinematics Toe abduction, foot stability

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Gluteus medius and minimus; deep external rotators*

Standing Postures

Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Upper arm

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis (C, I)

Lower arm

Pronation of lower arm

Pronator teres, pronator quadratus (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Wrist extension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris (C, I)

Wrist stability

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus (I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis (C, I)

Finger adduction

Flexor and extensor pollicis longus, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Neck extension, stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis (I)

Neck

Muscles released Triceps brachii

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

111

Utthita Parshvakonasana Extended Side-Angle Stretch [oot-T-HEE-tuh paarsh-vuh-kohn-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, Parshva means “side” or “flank,” kon means “angle,” and utthita means “extended.” Thus Utthita Parshvakonasana is an extended side-angle (or flank-angle) stretch.

Description This posture is a side-stretching lunge in which one hand is placed on the ground on the lunging side and the other arm is extended overhead. Moving into it from Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) is an easy transition.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy

Foundational Focus Root into the metatarsal heads and the heel of both feet. Anchor into the outer foot of the back leg.

Benefits • • • • • • • •

Stretches the side of the body. Helps relieve sciatica. Helps relieve hip, thigh, and low back pain caused by arthritis or imbalance. Opens the groin. Stabilizes the hip and knee joints. Opens and stabilizes the chest and shoulders. Increases circulation to structures around the heart and lungs. Tones the abdominal muscles.

Cautions Knee concerns—Students with a knee injury should be extra careful to prevent the bent knee from either rolling inward or extending beyond the line of the toes. Neck pain or injury—Students with a neck concern should look forward and focus on keeping the sides of the neck long.

Verbal Cues • From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), extend your arms out to your sides with your palms facing down. • Step your feet apart, abducting your legs, so that your feet are as far apart as your outstretched hands, or as far apart as is comfortably challenging. • Externally rotate your left leg out 90 degrees, then turn your right foot in slightly toward your left at about 45 degrees. 112

Standing Postures

• Exhale and slowly bend your left knee so that the top of your left thigh is as parallel to the ground as possible while making sure not to extend the knee beyond the toes. If this misalignment happens, move into a slightly wider stance. • Inhale and open and expand from the front center of your spine. Feel your hips and shoulders opening and your spine extending and lengthening. • Exhale, keeping the foundation of your body strong, and reach through your left arm as your left rib cage extends out over your left thigh. Continue to root through the outside edge of your right foot. Bend your left elbow and place the forearm on top of your left thigh. Breathe here and allow your pelvis to naturally turn slightly toward your left leg while your right thigh remains active and anchoring. • If it feels comfortable to do so, on an exhalation, lower your left hand to the ground, to either the inside or the outside of your left foot. By placing your left arm in front of the knee, you make it easier to press back with your upper arm to keep your knee from rolling inward. Placing your hand behind your left foot makes it easier to maintain a frontal plane orientation in your rib cage. Place your hand where you feel that it most supports your body. • Continue to focus on your breath. • Take your right hand to your right rib cage and press back (externally rotating) if you feel your chest rolling toward your left thigh. Inhale and reestablish the length in your side, expanding through the front and back of your spine. • On the next inhalation, sweep your right arm out in front of your body with your right palm facing the ground. Keep your shoulders relaxed away from your ears and extend your right arm over your head so that your biceps (upper arm) is close to your right ear. Imagine a strong line of energy drawing upward from the outside of your right foot all the way into your right fingertips. • Keep the space in your neck as long and extended as possible. Press your right thumb slightly back to open your shoulder a bit more. Continue to root through your right foot while still pressing the outside of your left knee laterally to open your groin. Visualize your thighs rolling away from each other, opening your hip joints more with each breath. • Remain focused on your breathing. • To exit the position, press firmly through both feet and inhale while extending your left knee and sweeping your right arm out to the right side of your body. Imagine that you are being pulled up by that right hand. Prepare for the next side.

Adjustments • Bent knee—If the student is physically able to do so, remind him or her to maintain the bent knee at an angle where the thigh is close to being parallel with the ground. If necessary, instruct the student to adjust the distance between the feet in order to modify the angle of the knee. If the knee rotates inward, semisquat behind the student and place your closest hand on the midthigh of the bent knee and your opposite hand on the upper hip for stability. Gently guide the bent knee into alignment. • Hips and torso—Instruct the student to imagine rolling the front of the straight leg externally to encourage more opening in the hip joint without compromising the pelvis. Stand behind the student and brace your knee against the back of the pelvis. Use your closest hand to stabilize the top hip so that the student maintains balance. Use your other hand to support the student’s upper body and maintain an open chest. • Hand placement—Help the student decide whether to place the lower arm in front of or behind the foot, depending on the student’s stability, flexibility, and openness in the hips. If the student is new to the pose or has overly tight hips, encourage Adjustment: hips and torso. the use of a block. 113

Modifications Stiff hips—If the student cannot comfortably reach the ground without compromising the spinal alignment, instruct the student to bend the elbow of the downward facing arm and place the forearm on the bent thigh as close to the knee as possible. The student may also use a block for leverage. Caution: Students often sink into the shoulder in this modification. It can be difficult for them to achieve length in the side to lift out of the low back and neck, so cue them to press the forearm down into the thigh, or hand into the block, and lengthen the torso. Balance concerns—A student with balance concerns can be placed with her or his back against a wall to help maintain balance. It is also helpful to use a block or chair to support the lower arm. Stiff neck or shoulders—If the neck fatigues or is extremely stiff, Modification: stiff hips. instruct the student to look down toward the foot of the bent leg instead of forward.

Kinematics Students new to the posture often practice it in the modified position, wherein the lower arm rests on the thigh of the bent leg. Over time, as students increase strength and flexibility in the hips and shoulders, they develop the ability to bring the hand closer to the ground. Generally, when you see a student’s lower shoulder pressed up near the ear, you can suggest that the student try to bring the hand to the ground or to a prop.

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Flexing to the Right) Body segment Foot and toes

Muscles active

Toe abduction, foot stability

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Lower leg (R)

Stability to counter body sway (muscles relaxing and contracting as necessary to maintain balance)

Peroneals, anterior and posterior tibialis, gastrocnemius, soleus, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Lower leg (L)

Ankle inversion, stability

Anterior tibialis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Ankle stability

Peroneals (E, I)

Thigh (R)

Knee flexion, stability

Quadriceps (E, I)

Knee stability

Hamstrings, popliteus (I)

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

External rotation of femur

Deep external rotators* (C, I)

Hip flexion, stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (E, I)

Hip flexion, abduction, and stability

Tensor fascia lata (E, I)

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis (C, I)

External rotation of femur, stability

Deep external rotators* (C, I)

Thigh (L) Hip and pelvis (R)

114

Kinematics

Muscles released

Gastrocnemius, soleus, peroneals

Adductors

Standing Postures

Body segment Hip and pelvis (L)

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Hip extension and stability

Gluteus maximus, hamstrings (C, I)

Abduction

Tensor fascia lata

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis (C, I)

Torso stability

Erector spinae, rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum (I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids major and minor, mid trapezius (C, I)

Shoulder (R)

Humerus abduction and shoulder stability

Deltoids, infraspinatus, teres minor (C, I)

Shoulder (L)

Humerus flexion

Anterior deltoids, pectoralis major, biceps brachii (C, I)

Latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

Lower arm

Elbow

Anconeus (C, I)

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Hand and fingers (R)

Wrist hyperextension, stability, finger extension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus; extensor carpi ulnaris; extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger abduction, stability

Abductor pollicis longus, extensor pollicis brevis, interossei dorsales manus, abductor digiti minimi, abductor pollicis brevis, opponens pollicis (C, I)

Wrist extension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor digitorum (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, occipitals, cervical erector spinae, scalenes, sternocleidomastoid (I)

Torso

Shoulder (R and L)

Hand and fingers (L)

Neck

Iliopsoas, adductors

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, digitorum superficialis, palmaris longus

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

115

Ardha Chandrasana Half-Moon Pose [AR-dhuh chuhn-DRAAH-suh-nuh] Ardha is Sanskrit for “half,” and chandra is one of the Sanskrit words for “moon.”

Description This posture is named more for the pattern that the body follows when entering the posture than for what it looks like in the posture itself. From Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle), the body weight is balanced on the forward leg as the trailing leg lifts off the ground in an arcing motion. If you visualize the moon as a big circle, then the arc that the non-weight-bearing leg moves through resembles the curve of the half-moon. As an extension of Utthita Trikonasana, Ardha Chandrasana provides similar benefits, most notably in that it opens the chest, hips, and pelvis.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy, and fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy

Foundational Focus Balance evenly between the metatarsal heads and the heel of the standing leg. Root through the big toe with the little toe acting as a counterbalance. Use the hand on the ground as a balance support.

Benefits • Strengthens the musculature of the weight-bearing leg, as well as the hip and torso on the non-weight-bearing side. • Opens the chest and shoulders. • Builds concentration and focus. • Strengthens the hip abductors.

Cautions Pregnancy—After the first trimester, this pose should be practiced with modifications. Weakness or balance concerns—Those with extreme weakness or balance difficulty should use modifications. Hip or knee replacement—Those with a replacement joint should either refrain from doing this pose or practice it with modifications.

116

Standing Postures

Verbal Cues • Begin in Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle), with a 4 to 6 inch (10 to 15 centimeter) narrower stance. • While extending your upper body over your right leg, bend your right knee and place your right hand down to the ground in front of your toes. Turn your head to look at your right foot and mindfully keep your right knee aligned with your right foot. Slightly press the knee externally to keep it from rolling inward, which can compromise the joint. • Breathe deeply in this position for a few breaths and focus on the balance and strength in your right leg. Keep the space open in your hips, low back, and chest. • Rest your left hand on your left hip. Check that your right leg continues to rotate externally and not inward—leg alignment in this pose is very important. Imagine your breath lifting the arch of your right foot. • Continue to focus on your breath. • While keeping your right knee bent, extend your fingertips 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) further in front of your right toes. Inhale and slowly straighten your right leg as you lift your left leg until it is parallel to the ground. Press through the heel of your left foot, extending your toes to keep your leg strong. Focus on aligning your hips over your right ankle and your balance in your right foot. • Consciously maintain external rotation in your right leg, keeping your knee and toes in alignment. Rotate your left hip back slightly; imagine that you are pressing your shoulder blades and hips against a wall behind you. With each inhalation, expand the space from the front center of the spine. Remember: The steadier your breath is, the steadier your balance will be. • Turn to look forward, aligning your chin with your sternum, and keep length and space in your neck, shoulders, and chest. Raise your left hand in the air and keep both arms reaching out from the center of your spine. Feel the front of your shoulders externally rotate away from your chest. Use the energy in your right arm to help maintain upper body balance and alignment without relying completely on the arm for overall balance. • Continue to focus on keeping the action and energy moving outward through your legs. • To exit this posture, slowly bend your right knee and lower your left leg back to the ground. Inhale as you extend your right knee and bring yourself back into standing. Prepare to repeat on the other side.

Adjustments Standing leg—Make sure that the knee of the standing leg is aligned over the ankle and rotated externally by 90 degrees. For a stable foundation, it is usually best to have the student come out of the posture and move back into it with any necessary modifications. Hip—Stand behind the student, facing toward the head, and position your closest hip against the student’s top leg, hip, or low back for stability. Place your nearest hand on the student’s top thigh and gently draw the pelvis toward you. Place your other hand on the student’s nearest shoulder to help her or him maintain spinal alignment. Extended leg—Standing behind the student, brace your nearest hip against the student’s low back and place one hand lightly under the knee joint to move the leg parallel to the ground. Adjustment: hip.

117

Modifications Balance training—Place the student with the back near a wall, which may be used to encourage alignment as well as balance support. Instruct the student to press the top hip and shoulder toward the wall. Also direct the student to place the fingers of the top arm against the wall and press gently into the hand to move the body away from the wall for a breath or two. Weakness in hip abductors—Position the student with the body perpendicular to a wall, so that the sole of the non-weight-bearing foot is placed against the wall. The pressure helps with balance and with strengthening the lifted leg. If no wall is available, stand facing the sole of the foot and instruct the student to press the foot into your hand. Difficulty reaching support hand to the ground—Place a block under the student’s lower hand to aid in balancing and in maintaining proper alignment. This modification should generally be used for all students who are new to practicing this pose to help them get a feel for balance and keep them from overstretching. Pregnancy or extreme weakness or imbalance—Instruct the student to kneel and place one hand on the ground or on a block at her or his side and lift the opposite leg off the ground.

Modification: pregnancy or extreme weakness or imbalance.

Kinematics Because this version of Ardha Chandrasana is entered from Utthita Trikonasana—first flexing, then extending the knee of the balancing leg—it greatly uses the quadriceps and gluteals. In addition, the pull of gravity challenges the strength in the neck, hips, and spine as the student focuses on maintaining balance and alignment with the spine and non-weight-bearing leg parallel to the ground.

Ardha Chandrasana (Standing on Right Leg) Body segment Foot and toes (R)

Muscles active

Muscles released

Toe abduction, foot stability

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Foot and toes (L)

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum longus, anterior tibialis, extensor hallucis longus (C, I)

Lower leg (R)

Stability to counter body sway (muscles relaxing and contracting as necessary to maintain balance)

Peroneals, anterior and posterior tibialis, gastrocnemius, soleus, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Lower leg (L)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus, peroneus tertius (C, I)

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Thigh (R)

Knee flexion and extension, patellar elevation

Quadriceps (C, E, I)

Adductors, gracilis

External rotation of femur, stability

Gluteus maximus, deep external rotators* (C, I)

Knee extension, patellar elevation

Quadriceps (C, I)

Thigh (L)

118

Kinematics

Standing Postures

Body segment Hip and pelvis (R)

Kinematics

Muscles active

Hip flexion, stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (E, I)

Hip stability

Gluteus medius and minimus, adductors (C, I)

Hip extension

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Hip stability (against gravity)

Tensor fascia lata, gluteus medius and maximus, deep external rotators* (C, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae (I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Humerus abduction, shoulder stability

Deltoids, supraspinatus, (C, I)

Humerus depression, stability

Subscapularis, infraspinatus, teres minor (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Postural support in mid back, downward pull on scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

External rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus and teres minor with some posterior deltoid (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor digitorum (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, occipitals, cervical erector spinae, sternocleidomastoid (I)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Torso

Shoulder

Hand and fingers

Neck

Muscles released

Pectoralis major

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, digitorum superficialis, palmaris longus

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

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Parivrtta Parshvakonasana Revolving Extended Side-Angle Stretch [par-ee-VRT-tuh paarsh-vuh-kohn-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, Parshva means “side” or “flank,” and kon means “angle.” Parivrtta means “the other side” and is often translated as meaning “to revolve” or “revolving.” This posture is a twisted or revolving flank stretch.

Description Starting from Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side-Angle Stretch), the front torso rotates toward the flexed thigh  and  away from the anchoring back leg. It is a challenge to keep the back foot rooted on the ground, so the lower extremities must provide anchoring that connects the energy of the body with the ground while maintaining balance. The two popular variations of this posture usually involve changing the arm position. In one, the top arm extends over the ears, as in Utthita Parshvakonasana. In the other, the hands are clasped together to create a bind (see Modifications).

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root through the metatarsal heads and the heel of the front foot. Anchor into the outer edge of the back foot. Evenly balance the grounding energy in both legs.

Benefits • • • • •

Combines the benefits of Utthita Parshvakonasana with a spinal twist. Improves digestion. Stimulates circulation. Builds balance and focus. Provides deep stretch in the hips and shoulders and in the upward-facing side of the body.

Cautions Back concerns—As with other twists, a student with a back injury should be extra cautious and use modifications. Neck concerns—A student with a neck concern should look straight ahead and focus on keeping length in the sides of the neck. Pregnancy—It is not advisable to practice this posture during pregnancy due to the extreme rotation in the torso.

120

Standing Postures

Verbal Cues • Start from Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side-Angle Stretch) with your right leg forward and your right hand to the outside of your right foot. Bring your left hand from over your head to your left hip. You may need to adjust your left leg by turning your front pelvis toward the ground and lifting your heel off the ground so that you can square your hips and rotate your spine more comfortably. • Once you feel balanced, press through the outside of your left heel, even if the heel does not reach the ground. If the heel remains lifted, gently draw the energy of your inner thighs toward each other without actually moving your thighs to help stabilize your balance. • Rotate the center of your chest toward your right knee as you exhale. Reach your left elbow toward the outside of your right leg. If the spinal rotation feels comfortable for you, place your left hand on the ground to the outside of the right leg. If that degree of rotation is uncomfortable or overly challenging, place your left elbow on top of, or slightly to the outside of the right thigh. • On each inhalation, lengthen your spine and open your chest. On each exhalation, slowly rotate slightly further toward the right, stopping at the first point of resistance. Stay mindful not to go past the edge of what is comfortably challenging. The rotation should be felt in your mid-thoracic spine. • Extend your right arm and lift your right hand over your head, bringing your upper arm near your right ear. Gently guide your right thumb back to allow for more rotation in your right rib cage and openness in your chest, if doing so is comfortable. Keep your gaze forward or look down toward your right foot, keeping both sides of your neck long. • Continue to focus on your breath. • To exit this position, exhale and slowly lower your right hand back to the ground as you release the rotation in your torso. Inhale and lift your left hand off the ground, and imagine being pulled up out of the lunge with that hand as you also straighten your right knee, coming back into a standing position. Prepare for your next posture. • Another option for exiting this position is to place both hands on the ground under the shoulders and step the right leg back into a plank to move on to other positions.

Adjustments Balance—Enable the student to stay in position with greater stability by offering a block on which to place the lower hand. This option should be used with all students who are new to the pose. Bent leg—Check that the student’s bent knee is not rotating inward. If it is, then guide the knee into deeper external rotation by gently pressing your hand against the inside of the student’s leg, slightly above the knee. Shoulders—Instruct students that the shoulders should be as far away from the ears as possible. Gently touch the tops of the shoulders as a reminder to relax in this area. Spine—If the student is rounding the spine, gently touch the upper spine between the shoulder blades as a reminder to elongate through this area. Cue the student to visualize the spine as a long straight line, with the crown of the head moving away from the back foot. Overhead extended arm—The arm extended over the ear must be rotated externally to open the chest and shoulders. Be sure that the student’s palm faces down toward the ground. Stand or kneel behind the student and hold the upper arm while gently rolling the elbow toward the ground. Use the side of your body to stabilize the student if necessary. Adjustment: shoulders.

121

Modifications Difficulty in rotating and balancing—Cue the student to lower the back knee onto the ground, square the hips, and bring the lower arm to the outside of the opposite leg, either to the ground or to a block. The student can then rotate and open the body with more ease. From there, the student can lift the back knee off the ground if so desired. Back knee pain—If the back knee is uncomfortable on the ground, provide the student with extra padding, such as a blanket or small pillow. Tight shoulders—The hands can be in prayer position (Anjali Mudra) so that the bottom elbow is used to press against the top or outside of the bent thigh in order to create more leverage for rotating the shoulders open. Posture deepening—Binding the arms gives a deeper stretch in Modification: difficulty in rotating and balancing. the chest and shoulders. Instruct the student as follows: “Bend the elbow that is placed to the outside of your bent knee, then rotate your forearm inward so that it goes under your thigh. Lower your rib cage slightly further toward your front thigh and reach your lower hand toward the outside of the same-side hip. Next, bend the opposite (top) elbow and rotate the front of the shoulder toward the sky (hyperextending the shoulder). Bring the back of that hand against your spine, reaching toward the opposite hand.” If the student cannot quite clasp the hands together, provide a strap and work the hands toward each other. Make sure that the strap remains securely on the upper hamstrings for comfort. This positioning stretches the chest and the front of the shoulders more intensely. You can move students deeper into the position if they are stable by moving the hip of the bent knee Modification: deepening the posture. toward the back foot, thus creating more space in the torso.

Kinematics This posture uses a considerable amount of energy due to the stability and concentration required to maintain both balance and alignment. Most students will be comfortable practicing any of the modified versions of the pose.

Parivrtta Parshvakonasana (Flexing and Rotating to the Right) Body segment Foot and toes

122

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Toe abduction, foot stability

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Lower leg (R)

Stability to counter body sway (muscles relaxing and contracting as necessary to maintain balance)

Peroneals, anterior and posterior tibialis, gastrocnemius, soleus, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Lower leg (L)

Ankle inversion, stability

Anterior tibialis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Gastrocnemius, soleus, peroneals

Thigh (R)

Knee flexion

Quadriceps (E, I)

Hip adductors

Thigh (L)

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Standing Postures

Body segment Hip and pelvis (R)

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Hip flexion, stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (E, I)

Hip flexion, abduction, stability

Tensor fascia lata (E, I)

External rotation of femur, stability

Deep external rotators,* gluteus maximus (C, I)

External rotation of femur, stability

Deep external rotators,* gluteus maximus (C, I)

Hip extension, stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Torso (R and L)

Trunk stability

Erector spinae, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum (I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Torso (R)

Rotation to right

Internal obliques, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

External obliques

Torso (L)

Rotation to right

External obliques (C, I)

Internal obliques, quadratus lumborum

Shoulder (R and L)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Shoulder (R)

Humerus flexion

Anterior deltoids, pectoralis major, biceps brachii (C, I)

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor (C, I)

Humerus abduction, shoulder stability

Deltoids, infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Slight hyperextension of humerus, stability

Posterior deltoid, teres major, latissimus dorsi (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor digitorum (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Stability

Sternocleidomastoid, splenius capitus and cervicis, occipitals, cervical erector spinae (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Shoulder (L)

Hand and fingers (R)

Hand and fingers (L)

Neck (R)

Iliopsoas, hip adductors

Posterior deltoids, serratus anterior

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, digitorum superficialis, palmaris longus

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

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Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana Revolving Half-Moon Pose [par-ee-VRT-tuh AR-dhuh chuhn-DRAAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, Parivrtta means “the other side” and is often translated to mean “to revolve” or “revolving.” Ardha is Sanskrit for “half,” and chandra is one of the Sanskrit words for “moon.”

Description Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana is basically the half-moon posture with the upper torso revolving to the opposite side. One can enter this posture from either Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon Pose) or Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolving Triangle Pose). This asana is much more challenging than Half-Moon due to the twist, which requires greater strength for balance and greater flexibility to rotate and remain open in the chest. Before attempting this posture, beginning students should be able to balance for at least two or three breaths in the other standing balance postures, and will generally require props.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadisthana) creative energy

Foundational Focus Balance evenly between the metatarsal heads and the heel of the standing foot. Root through the big toe, with the little toe acting as a counterbalance.

Benefits • • • •

Improves flexibility and strength in the hips and torso. Builds balance and focus. Increases stamina. Tones the abdominal muscles.

Cautions Weakness or dizziness—Anyone feeling weak or dizzy should skip this posture. Back or neck concerns—Anyone with acute back injury should avoid this pose. Those with neck issues should practice with caution or modification. Pregnancy—It is inadvisable to attempt this posture during pregnancy due to the extreme rotation in the torso.

Verbal Cues • From Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle), extending to the right side, exhale and draw the crease of your right hip back toward your left heel. Place your hands on your hips and slowly rotate the front of your left hip toward your inner thigh. Press firmly through your left foot for grounding and balance. • Bend your right knee and rotate it slightly outward. Fold forward more deeply from your hips and place your left fingertips on the ground approximately 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) in front of your right foot. 124

Standing Postures

• Root through your right foot and on an inhalation begin to transfer the weight of your left leg forward over your right foot and left hand. Breathe steadily, and when you feel balanced, slowly lift your left foot off the ground. • Look down at the ground as you straighten your right leg. Maintain length on all sides of your spine. When you find your balance and alignment in your hips, continue reaching out of your extended back leg. Lengthen the front of your spine and rotate the right side of your torso toward the sky. • Roll your right shoulder blade back and down toward your hips. Lift your right arm toward the sky and keep length in your neck. Anchor strongly into the right leg, using your left hand to guide your balance. • Continue to focus on your breath, pressing strongly through your non-weight-bearing leg. Spread the left toes to keep the foot active and feel a line of energy moving from the shoulders through the entire left leg. • To exit this position, inhale and slowly bend your right knee while setting your left foot back on the ground. Your chest will naturally rotate forward out of the twist. Take another breath, and on the next inhalation straighten your right leg and lift your torso. Exhale and bring your arms to your sides. Prepare for the next posture.

Adjustments Support foot—Instruct students to spread the toes and keep the supporting knee aligned with the foot, drawing energy up through the arch. Remind them to spread the toes and press through the back lifted foot and leg. Balance—To help a student maintain balance, stand on the side of the elevated leg and use your hip or ribs to provide support. Place the hand closest to the student’s legs on the top hip, to provide support and to slightly draw the hip away from the lower ribcage. Use your other hand to lift or gently guide the top shoulder toward the opposite side of the body for greater rotation. Hips—Create alignment in the hips by encouraging the student to point the hip of the lifted leg toward the standing leg as much as possible. Brush your fingertips on the crease of the standing hip to encourage length in the torso. Exiting the posture—To come out of this posture, students need to focus on moving slowly and being mindful of body positioning. Focusing on the breath enables them to exit the posture as gracefully and purposefully as possible. To assist a student physically, stand to the side of the weight-bearing leg with your hip blocking the student’s hip. Place your closest hand on the student’s upper shoulder and your other hand on the opposite hip Adjustment: balance. and gently guide the person to unwind and come upright.

Modifications Difficulty reaching ground with hand—If a student has difficulty lowering to the ground while maintaining balance, provide a block or the seat of a chair for the lower hand. This modification should also be used by most students who are new to this pose to help provide balance and alignment without strain. Balance—You can help students establish and maintain balance in a number of ways. One way is to instruct them to keep the upward rotating hand on the hip instead of extending the hand toward the sky. Students can also place the hands against a wall for support or place the sole of the lifted foot against a wall for stability. Strength building, balance building, weakness, or pregnancy—Instruct students to start with a “baby” Revolving Half-Moon to build strength, flexibility, and balance. Starting with the hands and knees on the ground, students place the left hand on the ground to the outside of the right knee. Instruct them to rotate the torso to the right and rest the right hand on the right hip or extend the right hand in the air as they lift and extend the left leg back. Some students may require the use of a Modification: strength building, balance building, block under the forearms and a blanket under the knees. weakness, or pregnancy.

125

Kinematics Because the lifted leg has nothing to press against, more effort is required to keep the spine lengthened and to open the chest. This posture requires the deeper stabilizing musculature of the hips, pelvis, and spine to achieve and maintain alignment and balance.

Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Standing on Right Leg) Body segment Foot and toes (R)

126

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Toe abduction, foot stability

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Foot and toes (L)

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum longus, anterior tibialis (I)

Lower leg (R)

Stability to counter body sway Gastrocnemius, soleus, peroand contract and relax as needed neals, posterior tibialis, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Lower leg (L)

Ankle plantar flexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (C, I)

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus

Thigh (R)

Knee extension, patellar elevation, stability

Quadriceps (C, I)

Adductors, gracilis

Thigh (L)

Knee extension, patellar elevation

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Flexion, stability

Hamstrings, adductors (E, I)

Hip stability

Gluteus medius and minimus (C, I)

External rotation of femur

Gluteus maximus, deep external rotators* (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Hip extension

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Torso (R and L)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae (I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Torso (R)

Trunk rotation to right

Internal obliques, quadratus lum- Erector spinae, external obliques borum (C, I)

Torso (L)

Trunk rotation to right

External obliques (C, I)

Quadratus lumborum, erector spinae, internal obliques

Shoulder

Humerus abduction, shoulder stability

Deltoids, infraspinatus, teres minor (C, I)

Pectoralis major

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids major and minor, mid trapezius (C, I)

Supporting posture in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

External rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus and teres minor with some posterior deltoid (C, I)

Hamstrings

Standing Postures

Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm (R)

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Hand and fingers (L)

Wrist hyperextension, stability, finger extension

Extensor carpi radialis longus and brevis; extensor carpi ulnaris; extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Neck

Stability

Sternocleidomastoid, splenius capitus and cervicis, occipitals, cervical erector spinae (C, I)

Hand and fingers (R)

Muscles released Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, digitorum superficialis, palmaris longus

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

127

Utkatasana Fierce, or Chair Pose [OOT-kuht-AAH-suh-nuh] This pose is fierce (utkata in Sanskrit) because when practicing it, one draws energy from and builds strength in the thighs and hips, wherefrom warriors drew much of their power and virility in Indian mythology. Thus Utkatasana is a very symbolic pose. Many yoga styles simply call the pose "chair pose," as it resembles someone sitting.

Description Although the positioning appears as if one is sitting in an uncomfortable chair, it is considered a semi-standing squat with the arms lifted overhead. The energy used in this pose helps warm the muscles in a short time. This posture is part of Surya Namaskara B.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly through both heels. Anchor with the metatarsal heads. Evenly balance the grounding energy in both legs.

Benefits • • • •

Builds strength and endurance in the hips and thighs. Improves balance. Stabilizes and balances the knee joint musculature. Opens and tones the chest and shoulders.

Caution Knee injury—Those with knee pain or injury should avoid bending the knees deeply.

Verbal Cues • Begin from Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with your feet and legs parallel and your toes and knees pointed forward. Inhale and raise your arms forward and parallel to the ground with your palms facing each other. Feel your shoulders soften. Press your palms together; you may keep your hands shoulder-width apart if that is more comfortable for you. • Softly elongate your neck so that your ears move up away from your shoulders. Keep your chest lifted and continue to lengthen through your entire spine. • On the next inhalation, raise your arms higher so that your hands are overhead. Soften through your shoulders. • Exhale and bend your hips, knees, and ankles. As you lower your torso, try to keep your hips aligned slightly behind the line of your heels and to keep your knees back behind your toes. Engage the muscles in the back of your thighs and in your buttocks and imagine them helping to hold your thighs up; this stabilizes the knee and hip joints. • Continue to connect with your breath, keeping an even rhythm as the effort in your legs increases.

128

Standing Postures

• Feel your sit bones sink downward and notice the extension in your low spine. Gaze forward as you draw your thumbs up and back to open your shoulder joints. Take time to breathe deeply, opening your chest and relaxing your shoulder blades down slightly from your ears. • Be sure that your neck is comfortable so there is space in the back of your neck. If you are uncomfortable at all in your neck or shoulders, lower your arms so that they are parallel to the ground, as at the beginning. • Feel the energy of your inner thighs drawing together without moving your legs and keep your knees aligned behind the line of your toes. Notice that your hips feel as if they are being pulled backward and down, as if you were preparing to sit. At the same time, allow your rib cage to lift toward the sky. • Find yourself in the space where you are the most comfortably challenged and continue to focus on your breath. • To exit this posture, inhale deeply as you straighten your hips and knees. Exhale and lower your arms back to your sides in Tadasana. • A nice countering pose is Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend), which will balance the intensity of this pose with relaxation.

Adjustments Feet and knees—Instruct the student to position the feet so that they point directly forward. If the student’s knees are not aligned in the same plane as the feet, gently press against the outsides of the student’s knees. Occasionally, a student will attempt to squat too deeply, thus causing the knees to compensate by rotating externally. To regain alignment, instruct the student to straighten up slightly. Lower extremities—Students often align the hips and knees too far forward. To adjust a student’s posture, stand in a semi-squat behind and to one side of the student and place your hands on the sides of the student’s hips. Gently and slowly guide the hips backward. Because the student’s balance will shift as you move the hips, you must move slowly and with care. Remind the student to direct the sit bones toward the ground in order to keep length in the low spine. Spine—If the student is standing with an accentuated forward pelvic tilt (swayback), instruct the student to point the sit bones Adjustment: lower extremity. toward the ground and to keep length in the low spine. You can place your hands lightly at the low spine, above the pelvis, as a reminder to lengthen the area. If the student flexes at the hips so much that the chest tilts significantly toward the ground, remind the student to imagine sitting in a chair and to draw the spine toward the seat back. Sometimes straightening the knees a bit helps realign the torso. Chest—If the student’s chest is collapsing inward, help rotate the arms externally to keep the shoulders open. Standing in front of the student, place your hands on the upper arms, and externally rotate the elbows toward each other and toward the midline of the body. Also, you can gently guide the student’s thumbs toward the back of the body to open the shoulders even more.

Modifications Weakness or knee pain—Instruct students not to squat down too far. Focus on the alignment and on lengthening the spine. Over time, invite students to increase the flexion once they have gained muscular strength and muscular endurance. Balance difficulty and leg weakness—Place the student with the back against the wall for support, both for balance and for gradually gaining strength in the thighs and hips. Standing instability and late pregnancy—Suggest that students place the feet farther apart for better stability. Remind them, however, to ensure that the knees do not turn inward. Strength building—Place a towel or small ball between the student’s knees and a block between the hands to help target the knee and shoulder alignment. By pressing against the props, the student increases strength at the point of proper alignment. 129

Kinematics The body positioning of this asana is similar to that of a traditional squat but with the legs closer together. Still, even though no additional load is placed on the body, the alignment in the sagittal plane in this asana helps build and maintain joint stability. To provide a balanced load in the knee joint, cue students to engage the adductors and hamstrings, as well as the quadriceps, for greater comfort and stability. Proper body alignment generally enables synergy in the anterior and posterior musculature.

Utkatasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Toe abduction, foot stability

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Lower leg

Ankle dorsiflexion, stability

Gastrocnemius, soleus (E, I)

Stability to counter body sway (muscles relaxing and contracting as necessary to maintain balance)

Peroneals, anterior and posterior tibialis, gastrocnemius, soleus, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Knee flexion, stability

Quadriceps (E, I)

Knee stability

Hamstrings, popliteus (I)

Hip flexion

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (E, I)

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, hamstrings (I)

Hip stability

Adductors, gluteus maximus (I)

Thigh Hip and pelvis

Torso

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae (C, I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae (I)

Humeral flexion (90 to 180 degrees)

Anterior deltoids, pectoralis major, biceps brachii (C, I)

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids major and minor, mid trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Neck extension and stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis; suboccipitals, semispinalis, and upper trapezius (I)

Shoulder

Hand and fingers

Neck

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

130

Muscles released

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

Standing Postures

Virabhadrasana I Warrior I [veer-uhb-huh-DRAAH-suh-nuh kuh] In the Western hemisphere, this pose is known as Warrior I. In India, tradition uses letters of the alphabet rather than numerals as descriptors, and the first consonant letter of the Sanskrit alphabet is pronounced “kuh.” Virabhadra is the name of a powerful mythical warrior who, according to legend, was so great that when a hair of his dropped to the earth it caused a great army to arise.

Description Warrior poses are not only symbolic of warrior energy but also quite physical in that they require considerable strength in the muscles of the legs, which represent virility and power. At the same time, all three warrior asanas demand that the chest and heart area remain open, thus illustrating bravery, vulnerability, and openheartedness. The arms and legs are active, while the heart center, when open, banishes the fear of death. The Warrior I variation is a standing forward lunge. The hips face forward with the legs in the sagittal plane—one leg forward and the other back—instead of having both legs out to the sides (in the frontal plane) as in Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle) and Vrkshasana (Tree Pose). Virabhadrasana I works deeply into the hip muscles. In many active vinyasa or Ashtanga classes, it is commonly entered from Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog).

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root into the metatarsal heads and the heel of the front foot. Anchor into the outer edge and big toe of the back foot. Evenly balance the grounding energy in both legs.

Benefits • • • • •

Strengthens the lower extremities, particularly the thighs. Stabilizes the hips, knees, and ankles. Builds strength and endurance. Opens the shoulders, chest, and abdomen. Improves flexibility and stamina in the spine.

Cautions Knee injury—Students with knee pain or injury should be extra careful to flex the knee less than 90 degrees and to prevent the knee from turning inward. Shoulder concerns—Students with shoulder pain or injury should modify the pose by keeping the arms parallel to the ground, or even with the hands on the hips. High blood pressure—Students with high blood pressure or other heart concerns should keep the arms parallel to the ground.

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Verbal Cues • From Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog), inhale and take a giant step forward with your right leg so that your foot aligns between your hands, with your knee joint stacked over your ankle joint and your toes and knee facing forward. Externally rotate your left foot about 45 degrees and press the outer heel and pinky toe to the ground. (If entering from Tadasana [Mountain Pose], take a large step back with your left leg and align your legs, as just described, then flex your front leg into a lunge.) • Inhale and raise your torso so that it is perpendicular to the ground and your hips are as level as possible with your front knee. Try to keep your right knee bent at 90 degrees so that your right thigh remains parallel to the ground. Exhale, press your inner thighs toward each other, and feel your left hip draw forward, squaring your hips more evenly under your shoulders. • Inhale and raise your arms overhead with your palms either pressed together or shoulder-width apart. Soften your shoulders and press your thumbs back slightly to open your chest and shoulder joints. Direct your gaze forward to a distant point on the ground (drishti). Keep your chin parallel with the ground. • Press firmly into the outside of your left foot and heel and continue to draw your inner left thigh toward your right leg. The front of your left pelvis will align slightly behind the line of your right pelvis. Allow your right knee to open slightly toward your right pinky toe. • As you settle your hips into this pose, imagine sliding your right heel back slightly. This engages the hamstrings and gluteals to help stabilize the knee joint while relieving some of the work in the quadriceps. Connect to the power in your legs. • Continue to focus on your breath. • Inhale and elongate through your lower spine and feel your rib cage lifting and arching back slightly. • With each exhalation, notice your lower body feeling more grounded. With each inhalation, lift your chest slightly higher; notice a lightness in your upper body. • Keep your left heel firmly connected to the ground, pressing through the outer edge of the foot, and draw energy up from the arch into your pelvis. This action helps maintain alignment in the pelvis and increases the balance and grounding in the pose. • Maintain smooth, steady breaths as you feel the strength in the energy of your whole body. • To exit this position, press through your right leg, extending your knee, and step your left leg forward. Alternatively, you can bend forward at the hips, place your hands on the ground, and step or jump back to flow into another posture.

Adjustments Back foot—To help maintain grounding in the back leg, walk to the student’s side and use your toes to lightly brush against the outer edge of the heel, thus encouraging the student to press the foot into the ground. Do not push too hard! Front knee—Lightly touch the medial side (inside) or top of the student’s knee and guide the leg into a slight external rotation, which keeps the knee from rolling inward. Instruct the student to lift the arch slightly, while continuing to maintain balanced pressure through the toes and heel. This adjustment helps stabilize the energy through the knee joint. Hips—To align a student’s hips comfortably under the shoulders, place your fingers at the outer edge of the crease in the flexed hip and gently guide the hip back. At the same time, lightly press the back hip forward. Spine—Remind the student to keep the top of the pelvis level. Brush your hand upward on the low spine, encouraging length through the lower vertebrae.

Adjustment: knee.

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Standing Postures

Upper torso—Stand behind the student and place your hands on the upper arms, with your thumbs to the inside and your fingers to the outside of the arm, near the shoulders. Gently rotate the student’s arms externally, so that the elbows rotate slightly inward and toward each other. Shoulders—Instruct students to softly draw the shoulders down away from the ears to keep space in the sides of the neck. Place your hands gently on top of the shoulders and press softly downward and outward. Chest—Remind students to keep the chest lifted. To help physically, place your fingertips or the palm of your hand on the mid spine. Ask the student to lift the back forward and up, away from your hand.

Modifications Weakness, fatigue, or pregnancy—Students can place a chair, stool, or fitness ball under the hips to take some of the body weight off of the front leg. The prop increases stability and balance and reduces the amount of energy needed for maintaining proper position. It also allows students to focus on centering energy and on body alignment. When using a chair, turn it sideways so that the chair back is nearest to the forward leg, thus enabling the student to use the closest hand to hold onto the chair back for support. Weak shoulders—If a stuModification: weakness, fatigue, or pregnancy. dent has an acute shoulder condition with limited range of movement, instruct the student to raise the arms only as high as is comfortable. For a gentle strength-building option, encourage the student to flex the arms at the shoulders with the palms facing each other at shoulder height. Instruct the student to keep the thumbs pointed up or externally rotate the arm so that the palms face upward. The shoulders often fatigue quickly in beginning students and those who are recovering from injury. Invite these students to orient the upper arms out to the sides with the elbows bent at 90 degrees and pointed outward toward the side walls with the fingers extended—in other words, in a shape resembling that of an American football goalpost. For weaker individuals, encourage them to place the hands on the hips, with the fingers pointing back to keep the shoulders in Modification: weak shoulders. external rotation, and the chest open. Knee concerns—The lunge in this asana is beneficial in strengthening the quadriceps and aligning the kneecaps. Students with a compromised knee joint should move slowly into and out of this pose and should focus on alignment. Instruct them to flex the front knee only as far as is comfortable, while keeping the hips higher than the knee. They should also keep the front shin perpendicular to the ground and simultaneously engage both the quadriceps and the hamstrings. In another possible modification, “Baby Warrior,” the back knee rests on the ground instead of being straight and lifted. This lunge is similar to that practiced in classical Sun Salutations. For comfort, students often require a soft prop, such as a blanket or towel, under the kneecap on the ground.

Kinematics Because students are so focused on the front knee, they are often unaware that the hips are not aligned and that the hip of the back leg is rotated backward. The more firmly they press through the back foot, the more the hip flexors stretch to allow the pelvis to rotate freely forward. You can help students reorient the hip of the back leg forward, as well as increase balance, by reminding them to imagine drawing the inner thighs toward each other.

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Virabhadrasana I (Right Leg Forward) Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Toe abduction, foot stability

Lower leg (R)

Slight ankle dorsiflexion, stability Gastrocnemius, soleus (E, I)

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Ankle stability

Peroneals, anterior and posterior tibialis, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Lower leg (L)

Ankle inversion, stability

Anterior tibialis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Thigh (R)

Knee flexion, stability

Quadriceps (E, I)

Knee stability

Hamstrings, popliteus (I)

Thigh (L)

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, iliopsoas (I)

Hip flexion

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (E, I)

External rotation

Gluteus maximus, deep external rotators* (C, I)

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, hamstrings, adductors (I)

Hip stability, hyperextension

Adductors, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius tensor fascia lata, hamstrings (C, I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Slight spinal hyperextension and stability

Iliopsoas, rectus abdominis (E, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae (I)

Rectus abdominis

Humeral flexion, stability

Deltoids, pectoralis major, biceps brachii (C, I)

Latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoids (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids major and minor, mid trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Head and fingers

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals (I)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Torso

Shoulder

Neck

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis.

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Muscles released

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

Peroneals, gastrocnemius, soleus

Rectus femoris, iliopsoas

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

Standing Postures

Virabhadrasana II Warrior II [veer-uhb-huh-DRAAH-suh-nuh k-huh] In the Western hemisphere this pose is known as Warrior II; it is the second asana named after the warrior Virabhadra. The second consonant in Sanskrit is pronounced “k-huh”—similar to that of Warrior I (“kuh”), but in this case the sound is aspirated. As a guide to proper pronunciation, it takes twice as much breath to say “k-huh” as it does to say “kuh.”

Description This lunge posture is similar to that of Virabhadrasana I, but instead of the chest facing forward in the sagittal plane, the bent leg here is rotated externally, directly out to the side, with the arms abducted and parallel to the ground in the frontal plane. The spine is perpendicular to the ground with the natural curves intact.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadisthana), third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root into the heel of the flexed leg. Anchor into the heel and outer edge of the extended leg. Evenly balance the grounding energy in both legs.

Benefits • • • • • • •

Opens and strengthens the hip musculature. Tones the lower extremities. Opens and stretches the shoulders, chest, and abdomen. Works on subtle alignments of the upper body. Opens and strengthens the shoulder joints. Builds muscular endurance. Tones the abdominal muscles.

Cautions Knee concerns—Students with knee injury or weakness should practice with modification. Neck concerns—Students with neck injury or pain should avoid turning the head and gaze forward instead. Pregnancy—After the second trimester, students should proceed with caution and modification.

Verbal Cues • From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), inhale and reach your hands over your head. Exhale and lower your arms out to your sides until they are parallel to the ground. Step your right leg out to the side so that your feet are as far apart as your outstretched hands, if doing so is comfortable. 135

• Rotate your left foot slightly inward toward your right heel and rotate your right leg out at 90 degrees so that a line drawn from the heel of your right foot would bisect your left arch. Press evenly through both feet and breathe comfortably. • Orient your outstretched arms and shoulders in the frontal plane. Allow your left hip to rotate slightly inward toward the right to protect the structural integrity of your sacrum. Continue to press fully into your left outer heel for anchoring. • Inhale and elongate through your spine while keeping the top of your pelvis parallel to the ground. Imagine externally rotating both thighs, opening them from the center away from each other. Feel the energy of your legs increase. • Exhale and turn your head to the right, gazing past your right fingertips. Align your chin with your right shoulder and soften through your neck. If you feel your shoulders rise, rotate your palms upward to encourage your shoulder blades to soften away from your ears. • Exhale and bend your right knee until your hips and right knee are bent at about 90 degrees. Draw energy upward from your right hamstrings and gluteals by imagining that you are drawing your right heel back, toward your left foot. This action helps to stabilize the knee. • Continue to extend through your left leg and left arm. Feel your left rib cage press back to keep your torso from rotating too far out of the frontal plane. Allow your front pelvis to naturally turn slightly toward the right for comfort and to support your lower back and sacrum. • Continue to focus on your breath. • Keep your right thigh opening out to the right while rooting through the heel and big toe of your right foot. Visualize a wall behind your back and imagine gently pressing the back of your left thigh, rib cage, and shoulders toward it. • With each exhalation, let your hips lower toward the ground as you bring the top of your right thigh parallel to the ground. Make certain that your right knee does not extend beyond the line of your right foot. • To exit the posture, inhale and straighten your right leg. Rotate your toes forward and bring your arms to your sides. Prepare for the next side or asana.

Adjustments Bent knee—Remind students to roll the front thigh outward by lightly brushing your hand against the outside of the knee; alternatively, just point to the knee and remind students verbally. You can also semi-squat behind a student and place one hand on the mid thigh of the flexed leg and the other hand on the outside of the opposite hip for stability. Slowly externally rotate the student’s flexed thigh to more fully open the pelvis. Hips and knees—If a student has difficulty keeping the bent knee and opposite hip apart, place the student’s back against a wall so that less energy is expended on balancing and more can be used to consciously open the front of the body. Instruct the student to press the extended leg back toward the wall. To make a hands-on adjustment, stand to the student’s back, place one hand on the student’s flexed thigh and the other hand on the outside of the opposite thigh, and encourage the student to draw the thighs away from each other. Hip height—Stand behind the student, place your hands lightly on the outer hips, and guide the pelvis lower. Be sure that the student is both strong and balanced enough to comfortably manage this adjustment. You may need to suggest that the student take the legs farther apart in order to avoid placing excessive stress on the bent knee while working to engage the hips and legs more fully. Shoulders—Instruct students to relax the shoulders down away from the ears. Place your hands softly on the tops of the shoulders and gently guide them downward. Spine—If a student’s spine leans out over the bent leg such that the spine is no longer perpendicular to the ground, stand behind the student with your hands on the sides of his or her ribcage Adjustment: spine. and lightly guide the torso back to center by gently aligning the 136

Standing Postures

shoulders over the hips. Instruct the student to guide the pelvis toward the bent knee while keeping the crown of the head pointing directly upward.

Modification Pregnancy, weakness, or rehabilitation—Instruct the student to bend the front knee less than 90 degrees. This modification requires less muscular energy and endurance. The student can also use a wall, chair, or fitness ball for support.

Kinematics It is usually best to instruct students to place the feet slightly wider apart than the distance of the outstretched hands, if it is comfortable for them to do so. Otherwise, the feet tend to be too close together when moving into the lunge, and the bent knee extends Modification: pregnancy, weakness, or rehabilitation. past the foot, thus causing a loss of stability and alignment and possibly straining the knee structures. A too-narrow stance also makes it harder to open the hip and easier to roll the bent knee inward, thus offsetting the body weight and possibly straining the medial knee. Even when the knee is aligned properly, students must engage the hamstrings to work in synergy with the quadriceps in order to balance the muscular forces through the joint. To help students establish this balance, cue them to root through the front heel.

Virabhadrasana II (Right Knee Bent) Body segment Foot and toes

Kinematics

Muscles active

Toe abduction, foot stability

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Ankle dorsiflexion, stability

Gastrocnemius, soleus (E, I)

Stability to counter body sway (muscles relaxing and contracting as necessary to maintain balance)

Peroneals, anterior and posterior tibialis, gastrocnemius, soleus, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Lower leg (L)

Ankle inversion, stability

Anterior tibialis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Thigh (R)

Knee flexion, stability

Quadriceps (E, I)

Thigh (L)

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip flexion

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (E, I)

External rotation, stability

Gluteus medius and minimus (C, I)

Abduction, stability

Tensor fascia lata (E, I)

Hip flexion, abduction, stability

Tensor fascia lata (E, I)

Lower leg (R)

Muscles released

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Gastrocnemius, soleus, peroneals

Adductors

(continued)

137

Virabhadrasana II (Right Knee Bent) (continued) Body segment Hip and pelvis (L)

Kinematics

Muscles active

Hip extension and stability

Gluteus maximus, hamstrings (C, I)

External rotation, stability

Gluteus maximus, deep external rotators* (C, I)

Abduction, stability

Tensor fascia lata, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus (I)

Pelvic stability

Hamstrings, rectus abdominis (I)

Torso stability

Erector spinae, internal and external obliques (I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Humerus abduction, shoulder stability

Deltoids, infraspinatus, teres minor, supraspinatus, pectoralis major (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Scapular rotation

Serratus anterior, mid and lower trapezius (C, I)

Supporting posture in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius, subscapularis (C, I)

External rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus and teres minor with some posterior deltoid (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii, brachioradialis (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres, pronator quadratus (C, I)

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Neck (R)

Head rotation to right, stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, cervical erector spinae, occipitals (C, I)

Neck (L)

Head rotation to right

Sternocleidomastoid (C, I)

Torso

Shoulder

Hand and fingers

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

138

Muscles released Iliopsoas, adductors

Sternocleidomastoid

Standing Postures

Virabhadrasana III Warrior III [veer-uhb-huh-DRAAH-suh-nuh guh] This is the third warrior position dedicated to the ancient warrior Virabhadra. As with the other two warrior asanas, the designation of this third variation is signified by a Sanskrit consonant sound—in this case the third one, which is “guh.”

Description This asana can be thought of as a variation of Tadasana (Mountain Pose), which serves as the starting point. In this pose, the arms are extended overhead and the body is flexed at the hip, balanced over one leg, with the upper body and opposite leg parallel to the ground. To create balance and stability, the deeper core and hip muscles are required to work in unison. The pose also requires considerable strength and endurance due to the force of gravity working against both the extended upper body and the outstretched leg. After performing this posture, be sure to counterstretch, with any forward folding asana, to relax both the low back and the hip stabilizers.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Balance evenly between the metatarsal heads and the heel of the standing foot. Root through the big toe, using the little toe as a counterbalance.

Benefits • • • • •

Strengthens the muscles of the spine, posterior shoulders, and hips. Builds stamina, endurance, and balance. Opens the chest. Promotes awareness of proper hip alignment. Builds abdominal strength.

Cautions Balance concerns or vertigo—Students with extreme balance difficulty or vertigo should practice with support. High blood pressure—Students with high blood pressure should practice with modifications.

Verbal Cues • Begin either from Virabhadrasana I or from Tadasana (Mountain Pose). • From Virahabhadrasana I: • With your right leg forward in the lunge, draw back through the crease in your right hip. Rotate your left foot so that the toes point forward and lift the left heel off the ground. Maintain pelvic alignment. Keep your arms overhead with your shoulders soft. • Exhale and fold forward at your hips. Straighten your right leg as you begin to lift your left foot off the ground behind you. Balance here for a breath or two. 139

• Inhale as you move your body weight completely onto your front leg, bringing your torso, arms, and back leg parallel to the ground. • Root into the big toe and heel of your right foot, directing the energetic balance of your foot from front to back rather than side to side. Slightly guide your left hip inward, toward your inner right thigh to bring the back of your pelvis parallel to the ground. • Gaze slightly forward, looking toward your hands or somewhere slightly ahead of you on the ground. Keep softness in your neck and relax your shoulders away from your ears. Breathe steadily. • From Tadasana: • Inhale and raise your arms above your head. Relax the top of your shoulders away from your ears. Transfer the weight of your body onto your right leg, then step your left foot straight behind you so that the toes are barely touching the ground. Imagine gently pressing your inner thighs toward your midline to help stabilize your balance. Remain poised here for a couple of breaths. Stay mindful of keeping your hips squared and level. • Inhale and lengthen through your spine. Exhale as you slowly begin to fold forward from your right hip while lifting your left leg and lowering your torso until both are parallel to the ground. • With each in-breath, continue to extend and lengthen through your arms, torso, and extended back leg. On each exhalation, imaging your left hip rotating inward toward your right thigh to keep your pelvis aligned. • Gaze slightly forward toward your hands or somewhere slightly ahead of you on the ground. Draw your shoulders softly away from your ears. Breathe steadily. • To exit the pose from either version of entry, inhale and begin to slowly lower the left leg down to the ground as you lift your chest and torso upright. Use the strength of the legs, hips, and lower abdomen to move in a controlled fashion to avoid straining the low back as you lower the leg. Relax your hands to your sides and prepare for the other side.

Adjustments Standing leg bent—Students often bend the support leg significantly to compensate for balance difficulty or tight hamstrings. Instruct them to spread the toes and straighten the supporting knee. Also, remind students to focus on evenly distributing the body weight on the foot and folding forward only as far as the hamstring comfortably allows with a straight knee. Stand in front of the student to provide balance support as indicated in the balance adjustment description in this list. Hips—If the hip of the student’s lifted leg is higher than the hip of the supported leg, stand to the supporting-leg side and gently hold the student’s outer hips. Lower the elevated side of the pelvis so that the hips are aligned in the frontal plane with the rest of the torso. Move slowly and gently so that the student does not lose balance. To keep the student from falling, press Adjustment: hips. your hip against the student’s hip as a prop. Balance—Standing in front of the student, place your outstretched arms under the student’s forearms and let the student lean lightly into your arms until balanced. Be sure to remove your arms slowly and only when the student is balanced. Assume a relaxed stance with your knees slightly bent; avoid using your own shoulder or back to hold the student up. Many students, especially beginners, are much more comfortable if they position the arms out to the sides for balance. Arms—To help a student straighten the arms and lift or press the thumbs higher, stand in front of the student, hold on to the upper arms, and gently rotate the shoulders externally. This adjustment keeps the student from rounding the upper back and aids in strengthening the back and shoulders. Also, you may simply brush your hands on the outsides of the student’s arms to cue Adjustment: balance. the student to relax the shoulders away from the ears. 140

Standing Postures

Modifications Shoulder or neck tightness or pain—Instruct students to hold the arms at the sides with the hands by the hips. Often, this modification also makes it easier to balance and keep the torso straight. Balance difficulty and strength building—Place the student’s hands on a ballet bar, against a wall, or even on the back of a chair to help provide lift in the upper body and aid in balance. The student can also place the foot of Modification: balance difficulty and strength building. the lifted leg against a wall to build strength and balance. Weakness—It is best not to keep anyone in this posture for too long if it is the first time that a student has practiced it or if the student experiences significant weakness—as may be the case for someone recovering from illness or injury.

Kinematics This asana requires a great deal of strength in the low-back and hip-extensor strength to keep the lifted leg parallel to the ground. As an appropriate counterposture, follow this posture with a resting forward bend, such as Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend).

Virabhadrasana III (Standing on Right Leg) Body segment Foot and toes (R)

Kinematics

Muscles active

Toe abduction, foot stability

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Foot and toes (L)

Toe flexion

Flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Lower leg (R)

Stability to counter body sway (muscles relaxing and contracting as necessary to maintain balance)

Peroneals, anterior and posterior tibialis, gastrocnemius, soleus, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Lower leg (L)

Plantar flexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (C, I)

Thigh (R)

Knee extension, patellar elevation

Quadriceps (C, I)

Stability and adduction

Adductors (C, I)

Thigh (L)

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip flexion and stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (E, I)

Hip stability

Gluteus medius and minimus, adductors (C, I)

Hip extension

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, hamstrings (I)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Muscles released

Anterior tibialis

Iliopsoas

(continued) 141

Virabhadrasana III (Standing on Right Leg) (continued) Body segment Torso

Shoulder

Kinematics

Muscles active

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae (I)

Humeral flexion, stability

Anterior deltoids, pectoralis major, biceps brachii (C, I)

Maintenance of humeral flexion against gravity

Deltoids, rhomboids, trapezius (C, I)

External rotation, stability

Infraspinatus, teres minor (C, I)

Scapular adduction, stability

Rhomboids major and minor, mid trapezius (C, I)

Stability

Subscapularis (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Neck extension and stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, cervical erector spinae, sub­ occipitals, (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Neck

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

142

Muscles released

Latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

Standing Postures

Parshvottanasana Intense Side Stretch [paarsh-voht-taahn-AHH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, Parshva means  “side” or “flank,” and ottana means “intense extension or stretch”; thus parshvottanasana indicates an intense stretch in the side.

Description Parshvottanasana is similar to Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend), but in this case one leg is forward and the other is back. This placement of the legs requires more balance and creates a deeper stretch through the hips, hamstrings, and sides. The arms are in Anjali Mudra, or Prayer Pose, behind the back, if doing so is comfortable. The stretch extends from the backs of the heels all the way up into the neck, thus releasing tension throughout the entire back of the body.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root into the metatarsal heads and the heel of the front foot. Anchor into the outer edge and big toe of the back foot. Evenly balance the grounding energy in both legs.

Benefits • • • • • •

Relieves stiffness in the neck, shoulders, elbows, and wrists. Opens the chest. Increases balance. Stimulates the abdominal organs. Provides deep stretch for the legs, hips, and side torso. Relieves arthritis in the neck and spine.

Cautions Glaucoma or high blood pressure—In general, students with glaucoma or high blood pressure should not place the head below the heart; therefore, modifications should be used. Shoulder injury—Anyone with a shoulder injury should practice a modified version of hand placement.

Verbal Cues • From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), step your legs apart a distance of three to four feet (about one meter). Turn to the right so that your right leg is forward, your left leg is back, and your torso is aligned with your right leg. Rotate your left foot and thigh slightly toward the right. Adjust the width of your feet so that you can keep your left heel on the ground. Gently press your inner thighs toward each other to help align your hips forward. 143

• Press the palms of your hands together behind your back with the fingertips pointed up. Draw the tips of your fingers up your spine. Go only as far as it feels comfortably challenging to go; never force or strain! Keep the front of your shoulders rolling open. If this positioning is not comfortable for your wrists or shoulders, modify by either grasping opposite elbows or clasping your hands together behind your back with the knuckles pointing down. • Continue to focus on your breath as you soften the shoulders and open the chest. • Continue to press your inner thighs toward each other, drawing your left hip slightly forward and your right hip backward. Lift your low back, ribs, and chest away from your hips as you breathe in deeply. Keep your gaze focused forward as you gently arch backward from your upper back, widening your collarbones. Relax your shoulders and maintain even length in your neck. • Exhale, drawing your right hip back slightly. Take your time as you begin to slowly fold forward until either your spine is parallel with the ground or you feel the first point of resistance in your muscles. Keep your pelvis aligned and continue to root through your feet. • With the next exhalation, relax your torso farther down over your right leg as much as you can without rounding your back. Feel the left side of your rib cage move inward slightly toward your right thigh. • As you inhale, feel your torso lengthen from your hips to the top of your head. Imagine lengthening your chest out beyond your toes. Relax your neck and soften your abdomen as you breathe deeply into your back and hips. Feel the balance in your feet from front to back and press firmly through your back heel. • Continue to focus on your breath. • Continue gently moving your right hip back. You should feel your right hip and hamstring lengthening deeply and use your left leg as an anchoring force. • To come out of this position, press down firmly through both feet and extend upward through the crown of your head. Relax your hands and bring them to your sides as you prepare for the other side.

Adjustments Front hip—Standing either behind or to the side of the student, use your fingertips to gently guide the front hip back and square the hips forward in the sagittal plane. Rib cage—Stand behind the student to the side of the back leg. Place your closest hand on the opposite side of the student’s rib cage and your other hand on the side of the rib cage nearest you. Use your hip as a prop to keep the student balanced. With a light touch, slightly rotate Adjustment: rib cage. the nearest side toward you and the far side ribs toward the inner thigh of the student’s front leg, so that the chest points more directly toward the ground. Shoulders—Gently place your hands on top of the student’s shoulders and guide the shoulders down away from the ears. With your fingertips lightly on the student’s anterior (front) shoulders, draw the shoulder blades toward each other to open the chest more fully. Neck—Lightly touch the back of the student’s head as a reminder to release tension held there.

Modifications Tight shoulders—If a student cannot comfortably place the palms together behind the back, instruct the student to place the arms behind the waist and clasp the opposite elbows. Alternatively, instruct the student to clasp the hands behind the body with the elbows straight. As the student folds forward, she or he can lift the arms to help stretch the front of the shoulders and expand the chest. When the student moves to the other side, invite him or her to place the other forearm or thumb on top in order to maintain energetic synergy in the pose. 144

Modification: tight shoulders.

Standing Postures

Increased shoulder stretch—For students who can press the palms together, instruct them to point the elbows up toward the sky. Tight hamstrings—If the hamstring stretch is too intense, instruct the student to bend the front leg slightly, taking care not to let the knee turn inward if it is bent. Also, remind all students to refrain from folding deeper than the hamstring is comfortable going. Rounded back—Cue the student to refrain from folding down toward the thigh all the way. Invite the student to keep the back parallel to the ground. Also, for some students, it is best to cue the leg positioning, but instead of reaching the arms behind the back invite them to place the hands on the hips or against a chair or wall. This modification is appropriate for persons with glaucoma.

Modification: rounded back; tight hamstrings.

Kinematics As in Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I), the more firmly the student presses through the back foot, the more the hip flexors stretch to allow the pelvis to rotate forward. This action also helps create better balance as the student folds forward and deepens the stretch in the hip extensors. The arm kinematics shown in the chart reflect arms in reverse Anjali Mudra (Prayer Position)—that is, with the palms together behind the back.

Parshvottanasana (Right Leg Forward) Body segment Foot and toes

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Toe abduction, foot stability

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Lower leg (R)

Stability to counter body sway (muscles relaxing and contracting as necessary to maintain balance)

Peroneals, anterior and posterior tibialis, gastrocnemius, soleus, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Anterior tibialis

Lower leg (L)

Ankle dorsiflexion, stability

Gastrocnemius, soleus, peroneals (E, I)

Gastrocnemius, soleus, peroneals

Thigh

Knee extension, patellar elevation

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Flexion, stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (E, I)

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, hamstrings (I)

Hip extension

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Slight external rotation, stability

Deep external rotators,* gluteus maximus (C, I)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae (I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Torso

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus

Iliopsoas

(continued) 145

Parshvottanasana (Right Leg Forward) (continued) Body segment Shoulder

Kinematics

Muscles active

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids major and minor, mid trapezius (C, I)

Postural support in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Upper arm

Hyperextension of humerus

Posterior deltoid, latissimus dorsi, teres major (C, I)

Lower arm

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis (C, I)

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension

Extensor carpi radialis longus and brevis, extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor digitorum (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales manus (C, I)

Extension and stability

Splenius capitis and cervicis, cervical erector spinae, upper trapezius (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Neck

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

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Muscles released Pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, coracobrachialis

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus

Standing Postures

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana Extended Hand-to-Toe Pose [oot-T-HEE-tuh HAAS-tuh paah-daahng-oost-AHH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, Utthita means “extended,” hasta means “hand,” pada means either “leg” or “foot,” and gusth means “big toe.” Though the name of this asana refers to a number of different positions, in the standing position it usually refers to standing on one leg with the other leg extended parallel to the ground while holding onto the big toe of the lifted foot.

Description This asana uses strength in the hip flexors and quadriceps of both the standing and (especially) the flexed leg. Once you are balanced on one leg and holding onto the big toe of the lifted leg with either your fingers or a strap, this is generally the end of the pose. However, from this position, the lifted leg can be abducted to the side, then brought back to the center, with the torso flexed forward before finally lowering the leg slowly to the ground.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy

Foundational Focus Root through the heel and the first metatarsal head of the front foot. Anchor into the heel.

Benefits • • • •

Position one.

Increases concentration and balance. Builds stability and strength. Balances stability and symmetry in the pelvis and spine. Tones the abdominal muscles.

Caution Lower back injury—Students with a lower back injury should practice with modifications.

Verbal Cues • Starting from Tadasana (Mountain Pose), shift your weight more fully onto your right leg. Place your hands on your hips for stability and roll your front shoulders and chest open. Exhale as you bend your left hip and knee, drawing your thigh up toward your chest. Breathe here, maintaining balance. • Keep your right hand on your right hip, and reach down with the first two fingers of your left hand to hook your big toe. Maintain length in your spine and keep your chest lifted. Take your time as you sustain your alignment and balance. Slowly begin to straighten your left leg out in front of you so that it is parallel to the ground. Position two.

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• Inhale and lengthen your spine while rolling (externally rotating) your front shoulders back to open your chest more fully. Press firmly into your standing leg so that the top of your pelvis remains in neutral position. Keep your shoulders aligned over your hips. • Focus your gaze on a drishti somewhere out in front of your body so that nothing in your peripheral vision causes you to lose your balance. • Draw your left hip back and down to maintain balance in your pelvis. Press firmly through your right leg (see position one photo). This may be the end of the pose. • Remain in this position or rotate your left leg out to the left side, grounding your balance through your right heel. Turn your head and slowly gaze over your right shoulder. Keep your hand on your right hip or extend your right arm out to the right side, parallel to the ground, as a counter balance. • As you inhale, elongate your neck and continue to point your chin out over your right shoulder to keep the openness in your Position three. Position four. chest and shoulders (see position two photo). • Exhale and slowly bring your left leg and head forward again. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your chest lifted. Bend your left arm, pointing your elbow out to the left, and lift your left foot slightly higher, as far as feels comfortable. • On an exhalation, fold from your hips as far as possible and draw your head toward your left knee. You can hold onto the left foot with both hands if that is more accessible (see position three photo). • Inhale and stand fully upright, moving your chest away from your thigh. Exhale and bring your hands back to your hips, holding your left leg in place in front of you for a couple more breaths before gently lowering the foot to the ground (see position four photo). Prepare for the next side.

Adjustments Standing foot—If the supporting foot is not pointed directly forward under the knee joint, students will have difficulty maintaining balance. Remind them to keep the toes and knees pointed forward and aligned under the hips. Legs—Stand in front of the student and provide gentle support to the lifted leg. Hold the leg lightly at the heel. You can help the student rotate the leg slowly to the side as you help with balance. Hips—To help the student maintain hip alignment and keep the top of the pelvis parallel to the ground, stand behind the student and lightly place your hands on the sides of the hips as you make the necessary adjustment. Proceed with a light touch. Shoulders—Be sure that the student’s shoulders do not roll forward, thus closing off the chest and rounding the upper back. Stand behind the student and place one hand lightly between the shoulder blades. Instruct the student to draw the shoulder blades toward your hand. This adjustment opens the front shoulders and lifts the chest.

Modifications Hamstrings or hip tightness—Give the student a strap to wrap around the foot as an extension of the arms. This modification allows the student to keep the spine straight and aids significantly in balance. If no strap is available, you can instruct the student to keep the knees bent slightly and place the hands behind the thigh for support. Doing so helps alleviate strain in the low back. Increase strength and flexibility—Students can rest the lifted foot against a wall, chair back, or ballet bar as they focus on spinal alignment while building strength and flexibility in the legs. Modification: hamstrings or hip tightness. 148

Standing Postures

Lower back injury or weakness—Instruct the student to sit in a chair or on a fitness ball in order to focus on balance and flexibility while flexing the hip and extending the knee.

Kinematics An added benefit of this posture is the subtle strengthening and stretching of the posterior shoulder in the arm that reaches for the extended foot. To give a student the feeling of elongation in the back of the body, place the back against the wall and direct the student to press the shoulder blades toward the wall. This action helps create proper alignment, which aids balance in the long run.

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Standing on Right Leg) Body segment Foot and toes (R)

Kinematics

Muscles active

Toe abduction, foot stability

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Foot and toes (L)

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum longus, anterior tibialis (C, I)

Lower leg (R)

Stability to counter body sway (muscles relaxing and contracting as necessary to maintain balance)

Peroneals, anterior and posterior tibialis, gastrocnemius, soleus, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Lower leg (L)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus (C, I)

Thigh (R)

Knee extension, patellar elevation

Quadriceps (C, I)

Stability, adduction

Adductors (C, I)

Thigh (L)

Knee extension

Quadriceps, adductor magnus (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip extension, stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Hip stability

Gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus; adductors; deep external rotators* (I)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris, pectineus, tensor fascia lata (C, I)

Torso

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, hamstrings (I)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Humerus abduction

Deltoids, supraspinatus (C, I)

External humeral rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, trapezius (C, I)

Shoulder (R)

Muscles released

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Hamstrings

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus, deep external rotators*

Pectoralis major

(continued) 149

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Standing on Right Leg) (continued) Body segment Shoulder (L)

Kinematics

Muscles active

Shoulder flexion

Anterior deltoid, pectoralis major, biceps brachii (C, I)

External humeral rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor (C, I)

Stability

Latissimus dorsi (C, I)

Scapular stability

Serratus anterior, pectoralis minor (I)

Upper arm (R)

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachioradialis, brachialis (C, I)

Upper arm (L)

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis (C, I)

Lower arm (R)

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Lower arm (L)

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres, pronator quadratus (C, I)

Wrist extension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Finger flexion

Flexor digitorum, superficialis and profundus; lumbricales manus; interossei palmaris (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Neck extension and stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, cervical erector spinae (C, I)

Hand and fingers (R)

Hand and fingers (L)

Neck

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

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Muscles released Posterior deltoid, rhomboids

Standing Postures

Natarajasana King Dancer [nut-tuh-raahj-AHH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, Nata means “dancer,” and raja means “royal.” This posture symbolizes one of the many forms of Shiva (a Hindu god) as Lord of the Dance.

Description Natarajasana is a one-legged balance posture with a backbend and is indeed rather regal looking with the “puffed-out” chest. The non-weight-bearing leg is extended behind the back, and the arms reach either overhead or behind the back to the foot. This posture has many variations. Most people cannot achieve the back arch and shoulder opening of the original posture, so a modified version is generally taught. The posture is described here in three phases, building from the least demanding to the most.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy

Foundational Focus Root through the first metatarsal head and heel.

Benefits • • • •

Stretches the chest and shoulders deeply. Enhances balance and concentration. Lengthens and strengthens the front of the torso and spine. Stretches the quadriceps and iliopsoas (deep hip flexors) in the non-weight-bearing leg.

Cautions Acute back pain—Students with acute low back injury should refrain performing from the back-­ arching phase of this posture. Pregnancy—Pregnant students should practice phase one. Weakness—Students feeling weakness should practice phase one.

Verbal Cues From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), bring your hands to your hips and shift your weight to your left foot without allowing your right hip to drop. Find your drishti (gazing point) and remain focused. Breathe.

Phase One • Bend your right knee and bring your right heel toward your buttocks. Inhale and reach back with your right hand to grasp your right foot or ankle. Hold wherever you can do so comfortably with your hand or a strap, making sure that there is no strain in your low back. Flex your right foot so that the toes point toward the right knee. • Inhale, lifting your ribs away from your hips, and begin to press your right thigh slightly back while keeping your hips stable and aligned under your shoulders. Draw your inner thighs toward the midline of your body so that your bent leg does not abduct or rotate externally. • Continue to focus on your breath. This may be the end of the pose.

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Phase Two • Inhale and raise your left arm overhead while  lifting the rib cage. As you exhale, keep your pelvis level and your chest lifted while bending forward slightly from your left hip joint. • Create a slight backbend as you strive to stretch your hips and rib cage away from each other, opening up your chest and abdomen. Keep the front of your shoulders opening away from your chest by drawing your shoulder blades softly together. Imagine your collarbones moving away from the center of your chest on each inhalation. • Gaze up toward your left fingertips. Keep your neck long. Imagine your pelvis and the crown of your head stretching away from each other with each breath. • Continue to focus on your breath. This may be the end of the pose.

Phase Three • If you feel comfortably balanced and have substantial flexibility in your shoulders, spine, and hips, stand straight instead of flexing forward at the hips. Press the center of your chest upward toward the sky as you arch your mid back slightly. Draw your right heel up toward your shoulder blades. Feel the deep stretch in the front of your right thigh. • Hold your right leg in place while stretching both arms overhead. Reach back with your hands and grasp your right foot or ankle. Use a strap to hold the foot for greater comfort. • Maintain the upright position of your spine and continue to lift your rib cage out of your low back area. With every inhalation, lift higher and feel your chest puff open. Maintain your grip on the foot, lifting it as high as you comfortably can and imagining it to move toward the back of your head. Feel the arc of energy through your torso as you root into the ground with your left leg. • To exit this posture, slowly release your foot and bring your arms back to your sides. Lower your leg to the ground and prepare to practice on the other side. Counter this pose with Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) or Balasana (Child’s Pose).

Adjustments Balance—Stand in front of the student and hold onto the top hand with one or both of your hands. Extend the student’s arm overhead, lifting slowly. You may need to place your hand on the hip of the student’s supporting leg for stability. Release the student slowly so that he or she maintains balance. Non-weight-bearing leg—Stand behind or to the side of the student and gently tap the front of the thigh, cueing the student to lift the thigh higher behind the body. You can also place your hand gently under the student’s heel to aid in balance while helping to lift the leg higher, if doing so is comfortable. Low back—Students often arch the low back or abduct the leg to reach the foot; both moves can aggravate the lower back. To adjust, stand to the side of the student and place one hand on the student’s hip and the other on the shoulder. Help the student maintain alignment and balance as she or he slowly draws the foot toward the hand. Shoulders—Stand behind the student, place your hands on the student’s upper arms, and rotate the shoulders externally and down away from the ears. Adjustment: low back.

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Standing Postures

Modifications Building flexibility—For students with very tight quadriceps, modify the position by wrapping a strap around the lifted ankle or foot. For those with slightly more flexibility, simply instruct the student to grasp the ankle or foot while drawing the heel toward the buttocks. This is also a good counterstretch for Padangusthasana (Entended Hand-to-Toe Pose). Tight shoulders—Make sure that the student’s arms are rotated externally as they reach overhead by keeping the elbows parallel to each other. If the elbows point away from the body, then the arms are not externally rotated and it will be difficult or impossible to reach the hands closer to the foot. If comfortable for the student, a strap can be wrapped around the upper arms to achieve and maintain shoulder alignment. Pregnancy, weakness, or acute low-back concerns—Ask the student to stay in phase one of the posture. For increased balance, instruct the student to practice near a wall or place a sturdy chair in front or to the side of the student for extra support.

Kinematics People with sufficient flexibility in the shoulders, hips, and spine can arch the back so that the foot touches the back of the head.

Modification: building flexibility.

Natarajasana, Phase Three (Standing on Left Leg) Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes (R)

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum (C)

Foot and toes (L)

Toe abduction, foot stability

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Lower leg (R)

Ankle dorsiflexion, ankle plantar flexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (C, I)

Lower leg (L)

Stability to counter body sway (muscles relaxing and contracting as necessary to maintain balance)

Peroneals, anterior and posterior tibialis, gastrocnemius, soleus, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus (C, E, I)

Thigh (R)

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (C, I)

Thigh adduction, stability

Adductors (C, I)

Knee extension, patellar elevation

Quadriceps, gracilis, adductor magnus (C, I)

Stability, adduction

Adductors (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip hyperextension, stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Hip stability

Gluteus maximus and medius, hamstrings, adductors, deep external rotators* (C, I)

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, hamstrings (I)

Thigh (L)

Muscles released

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus

Quadriceps

Iliopsoas

(continued)

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Natarajasana, Phase Three (Standing on Left Leg) (continued) Body segment Torso

Shoulder

Kinematics

Muscles active

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Hyperflexion, humerus adduction

Anterior deltoid, pectoralis major, biceps brachii (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, mid trapezius, (C, I)

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor (C, I)

Scapular stability

Serratus anterior (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow flexion, stability

Triceps brachii, biceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Finger flexion

Flexor digiti minimi brevis, interossei palmaris, flexor pollicis brevis (C, I)

Neck

Neck stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, occipitals, cervical erector spinae (I)

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

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Muscles released

Posterior deltoid

8 Seated Postures

© Dean Mitchell/istock.com

T

he Sanskrit word asana can be translated as “a way of being” or “a way of being seated.” This chapter describes 20 asanas that are seated or nearly seated. In the seated postures, the hips are placed on the ground. Seated poses can include forward bends, side bends, and twists, with crossed or straight legs. The asanas without hips on the ground in this chapter are as follows: Malasana (Basic Squat, or Bead Pose), in which the hips hover slightly above the ground; Parighasana (Kneeling Triangle, or Gate Pose), a kneeling side bend; Tolasana (Scale Pose), an arm balance; and Bakasana (Crane Pose), another strengthening arm balance. The quintessential seated yoga pose, Padmasana (Lotus Pose), often comes to the mind of students and would-be yogis

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Instructing Hatha Yoga when they think about asanas and meditation. Seated poses may appear to be relatively easy because they generally require less energy and strength in the legs than do the standing asanas. However, in seated asanas, the back and abdominal muscles typically must work more intensely to maintain good sitting posture. Moreover, if a student has not developed strong postural muscles and is lacking in hip flexibility, then seated asanas may feel very challenging and uncomfortable. In fact, most people cannot tolerate sitting with a straight spine for more than a few moments because the back muscles are weak and generally lack endurance. In addition, in order for the back to be free to lift and lengthen, the hips also need to be relaxed and flexible. When a student is able to sit comfortably with an aligned spine, the shoulders and chest can open more completely, thus warding off degeneration of the entire spinal column and associated trunk joints (hips and shoulders). Whether students seek to strengthen and release the upper body after long hours in front of a computer or to develop the strength to sit comfortably for long periods of meditation, seated poses can empower them by deepening the opening of the hips, relaxing the shoulders and neck, and improving the muscular endurance of the back and abdominals.

Standing postures are often used to warm up the body and circulate blood out to the limbs. When a person is seated, the blood then has a chance to go back into the internal organs, lymph nodes, and joints more substantially. The residual warmth and more concentrated circulation enable deeper twists and stretches. Whereas standing poses improve hip and shoulder stability, seated poses improve flexibility and spinal endurance, which allow the practitioner to develop the ability to sit comfortably at length. Although most people think that seated postures are more elementary because they appear easier to do, they are actually more demanding of the spine and therefore can be considered, in a sense, more “advanced.” Ultimately, however, any pose is made either more or less advanced by one’s level of perspective and experience. The asanas presented in this chapter are sequenced in an order that lends itself to smooth flow in a class. The order is also geared for your ease of reference and planning, since it begins with the poses that are the easiest to teach and the most popular. Asanas presented toward the end of the chapter are not necessarily more difficult for students, but they do tend to be more sophisticated to teach and to arrange for easy flow into and out of other asanas.

Seated Postures

Malasana Basic Squat, or Bead Pose [maahl-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, mala means “bead,” and in yoga tradition a string of prayer beads is referred to as a mala. It is thought that the squatting position of this posture makes a person appear to resemble a bead dangling from a string. The pose is also commonly called Garland Pose.

Description Malasana is considered a seated posture in this text because of its grounding nature. It is a good transitional asana when moving from a standing pose to a seated one; it is also a good pose for vinyasa practice when moving from one posture to the next. Because of the restorative nature of Malasana, it can be incorporated into a practice session at any time.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy

Foundational Focus Root through the heels. Anchor with the metatarsal heads. Evenly balance the grounding energy between both legs.

Benefits • • • • •

Stretches the back muscles. Opens the pelvic area. Massages the internal organs. Strengthens the abdominals. Stabilizes and builds strength in the ankles and feet.

 Caution Knee or ankle concerns—Students with a knee injury should either practice with modifications or skip this pose.

Verbal Cues • From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), place your feet hip-width apart with your toes pointed straight ahead or slightly out to the sides. Be sure that your feet are not pointed inward or your knees will roll together as you lower your hips toward the ground, which can strain the inner knee structures. • As you begin to flex your hips, knees, and ankles, shift your pelvis and knees back toward your heels as if you were lowering your buttocks onto a chair just beyond your reach. • Keep your rib cage floating up and your chest and front shoulders open as you inhale. Gently draw your shoulder blades toward each other to keep your front shoulders and chest expanded. • As you exhale, lower your hips farther. If you need to, reach your arms out in front of your body to keep your balance. Feel your abdominal muscles activate to aid in your balance.

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• Move slowly and breathe deeply as you lower to a point where you are comfortable yet slightly challenged. Adjust your position according to what feels best for your body to maintain stability. • Continue to focus on your breath. • Press outward through your thighs to keep your knees from rolling toward each other. Anchor your energy down through your heels and do the best you can to sink your heels all the way to the ground. • Stay in this position for a few breaths. Interlace your fingers and rest your forehead on your thumbs, or bring your hands together in Anjali Mudra (Prayer Pose). Soften your abdomen and relax your shoulders as you focus your breath into your back. • If your knees begin to roll toward each other, gently press your elbows into your inner thighs to maintain alignment with your knees and feet. Keep your shoulders soft. • To exit this position, lower your bottom onto the ground as slowly and gracefully as possible and prepare for the next asana.

Adjustments Heels—Many students have tight calf muscles, which causes them to lift the heels off the ground. The ideal solution is to place a towel or blanket under the heels for support and comfort; you can also simply roll up the back of a mat and place it under the heels. This is the most common adjustment needed for this posture. Knees—A student’s knees often roll in toward each other. When this happens, place the student’s arms between the knees as a wedge to hold the knees out. Cue the student to check to ensure that the knees are pointed in the same direction as the toes. Balance—Squat or kneel in front of the student, whichever is most comfortable for you. The two of you should hold onto each other’s wrists. Take on some of the student’s weight until she or he feels well balanced. Adjustment: heels. Gently draw the student toward you so that the student’s body weight does not sink back too far behind the heels.

Modifications Knee concerns—Use a bar, such as a ballet bar, if available, so that the student can hold onto it when squatting down, thus taking the body weight off of the knees. In addition, you can have the student sit on blocks or on the ground with bent knees. In this option, instruct the student to abduct the thighs and slightly round the torso while engaging the abdomAdjustment: balance. inal muscles. Foot injury, very stiff ankles, weak knees, or hip replacement—The student can lie on the back with the knees pulled into the chest. The knees should be held apart wider than the shoulders for a restorative posture.

Kinematics Although this posture’s deep squat may seem completely contraindicated for those with a knee injury, it can be beneficial to some because of the stretching in both the thighs and the calves. Some causes of knee hyperextension may be helped by gently stretching overly tight calf muscles. This pose is a particularly beneficial posture for pregnant students because the squat opens and gently stretches the pelvis and perineum.

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Seated Postures

Malasana Body segment Foot and toes

Lower leg

Kinematics

Muscles active

Toe abduction, stability

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Ankle dorsiflexion, stability

Gastrocnemius, soleus (E, I)

Ankle stability

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus, peroneals (I)

Muscles released

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Thigh

Knee flexion

Quadriceps (E, I)

Quadriceps

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (E, I)

Gluteus maximus, deep external rotators*

Stability

Adductors, gluteus medius and minimus, deep external rotators* (I)

Torso

Trunk stability

Quadratus lumborum, erector Internal and external obliques, spinae rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae (I)

Shoulder

Internal rotation

Latissimus dorsi, anterior deltoid, Rhomboids, trapezius pectoralis major (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachioradialis, brachialis (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Thumb abduction

Abductor pollicis longus and brevis, extensor pollicis brevis (C, I)

Neck flexion

Splenius capitus and cervicis, levator scapulae, cervical erector spinae, upper trapezius (E, R)

Neck

Triceps brachii

Splenius capitus and cervicis, levator scapulae, cervical erector spinae, upper trapezius

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, and R = relaxed.

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Dandasana Staff Pose [duhn-DAAH-suh-nuh] Danda is Sanskrit for “staff” or “walking stick.” The pose name Dandasana describes the straightness and strength of the upper torso and back.

Description In Dandasana, the spine and the lower body are straight and strong with the hips bent to 90 degrees. It is an active posture with the upper spine, lower abdominal, and thigh muscles all working to keep length in both the upper and lower body. This asana is generally the point from which many other seated postures build.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly through the sit bones. Anchor into the backs of the heels.

Benefits • • • • •

Massages internal organs. Strengthens upper back. Strengthens and stretches abdominal muscles, lower back, and thighs. Can soothe heartburn. Helps build postural awareness.

 Caution Back pain—Students with acute back pain should practice with modifications.

Verbal Cues • Sit on the ground with your legs stretched out in front of you. Keep your legs and feet as close together as is comfortable with your sit bones (ischial tuberosities) level on the ground. Place your hands down to either side of your hips with your fingers pointed forward toward your toes. • Breathe in deeply as you lengthen your spine, lifting your rib cage from your pelvis. Draw your shoulder blades together slightly, and soften your shoulders away from your ears. Gaze softly forward beyond your toes. • Roll your upper thighs toward each other slightly while keeping your toes pointed upward. Slide your kneecaps toward your hips by activating your quadriceps. Anchor into the back of your heels to keep them from lifting off the ground. Imagine your pelvis rooting into the ground and draw energy upward. • Press down through your hands and sit bones to elongate the sides of your spine. Feel your shoulders softening away from your ears and the front of your shoulders rolling open away from your chest.

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Seated Postures

• With each exhalation, notice your ears aligned over your shoulders, and your shoulders aligned over your hips. With each inhalation, feel the crown of your head stretching upward toward the sky. • Focus on your breath. Prepare for your next pose.

Adjustments Legs—Remind students to keep the toes pointed upward. Gently brush the outsides of the feet to cue students to press the feet closer together by activating the adductor and quadriceps muscles. Spine and shoulders—Most students will not realize that the upper back is rounded. To adjust, kneel behind the student (watch your mechanics), and place your hands to the sides of the ribs and gently cue to lift the rib cage upward. You can also press your knee gently against the student’s mid back to encourage more length in the spine. At the same time, place your hands on the fronts of the student’s shoulders and gradually roll the upper arms back to open the chest and elongate the spine. Head—Observe students to see if the chin is jutting forward. To adjust, place your hands lightly to the sides of the student’s head and move the head back to align the ears directly over the shoulders. You can also place your hand lightly on top of a student’s head and ask the student to press against your hand to lengthen the neck and spine.

Modifications Tight hamstrings or weak upper spine—The most common adjustment for Dandasana is to place a folded blanket or towel under the student’s pelvis. It is also acceptable to allow students to keep the knees flexed slightly as they work, over time, to stretch the hamstrings. Another modification is to place students with the hips and back against a wall, stick, or other sturdy linear object and instruct them to press the pelvis and upper back against the object to align the spine. Tight shoulders—Invite the student to externally rotate the upper arms so that the fingers point backward instead of forward to open the shoulders more completely.

Modification: tight hamstrings or weak upper spine.

Kinematics The common modification of placing a blanket, bolster, or folded towel under the student’s hips helps alleviate strain in the low back by repositioning the tilt of the front pelvis slightly more forward, thus achieving a more natural alignment in the spine. This modification also helps alleviate the rounded back that occurs in those with very tight hamstrings. By allowing more concentrated flexion at the hip joint, the student strengthens the upper spine muscles while also aligning the shoulders directly over the hips. This modification is appropriate and quite beneficial as it provides a base of aligned posture with ease and stability in all of the other seated positions.

Dandasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum longus (C, I)

Lower leg

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus (C, I)

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Thigh

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hamstrings

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion, stability

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris (C, I)

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, hamstrings (I)

(continued)

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Dandasana (continued) Body segment Torso

Kinematics

Muscles active Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Trunk extension and stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi (I)

Scapular adduction, stability

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Postural support in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

External rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus and teres minor with some posterior deltoid (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

Lower arm

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus

Wrist hyperextension

Extensor carpi ulnaris, radialis longus and brevis, extensor digitorum (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Neck

Neck extension and stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, cervical erector spinae, upper trapezius (I)

Shoulder

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

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Muscles released

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis major

Seated Postures

Janu Shirshasana Head-to-Knee Pose [JAAH-noo sheer-SHAAH-suh-nuh] Janu is Sanskrit for “knee,” and shirsha means “head.”

Description In this seated forward bend, one leg is stretched forward in front of the body, and the knee of the opposite leg is flexed and lowered laterally to the ground. This posture is broken down into two parts, the first of which concentrates on lengthening both the upper and lower halves of the body. In the second, or resting, phase of the pose, the head rests close to the knee. In some variations of Janu Shirshasana, the foot of the bent knee is flexed and rotated with the toes pointing toward the ground. In other variations, the ankle of the bent leg is crossed into Ardha Padmasana (Half-Lotus).

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly through the sit bones. Anchor into the heel of the straight leg.

Benefits • • • • • • •

Stretches and strengthens the spine. Stretches the hamstrings and groin. Calms the nervous system and helps relieve mild depression. Improves digestion. May alleviate symptoms of menstrual discomfort or menopause. Can reduce anxiety, fatigue, and headache. Relieves symptoms of high blood pressure, insomnia, and sinusitis.

 Cautions Acute knee or back pain—Practice with modifications. Intestinal discomfort—Due to the pressure created in the abdomen, those with intestinal discomfort should refrain from practicing this pose until the discomfort passes.

Verbal Cues Phase One • From Dandasana (Staff Pose), anchor through your left leg. Bend your right knee and draw your thigh toward your chest while pointing your sit bones slightly toward the back edge of your mat. Keep your hips as squared as possible as you rotate your right leg out, lowering the outer leg toward the ground. • As your right thigh lowers to the ground, picture the top of that thigh as a bottle top opening. As your right thigh rotates out (externally), the twisting action helps free the hip joint, thus opening space and releasing ten-

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• •







sion. The more the hip opens, the less stress is placed on the knee. Dorsiflex the foot, so that the toes point toward the knee and help stabilize the joint. Interlace your fingers, and, as you inhale, raise your arms overhead. Pronate your forearms to rotate your palms away from your body. Extend your arms as straight as is comfortable, pressing your thumbs toward the sky and pointing your pinky fingers toward the ground behind you to more fully engage your posterior shoulder and upper back muscles. Relax your shoulders away from your ears, opening space in the sides of your neck. Exhale and turn your torso slightly toward the left so that you align your spine with your straight left leg. Inhale and lengthen your spine as you begin to feel taller through your torso. Feel your rib cage lift out of your low back. Gaze forward beyond your toes. Exhale and slowly fold forward from your hips, like a hinge. Stop at the first sign of resistance and breathe into that space. Phase one. Fold only as far as you can comfortably go without rounding your spine, then place your hands on the ground to either side of your left leg. Maintain all of the length and extension in your spine and reach your hands toward your left foot. Hold on wherever you can reach comfortably with your hands or with the use of a strap. Continue to focus on your breath.

Phase Two • On the next inhalation, arch your mid back slightly, lift your chest, and imagine your navel reaching toward the sky. • Exhale and fold your torso forward from the bottom to the top, draping your upper body over the front of your left leg. With each exhalation, let your neck relax as your head lowers toward your knee. Allow your right rib cage to relax toward your left leg. Moving into phase two. • Soften your abdomen. Visualize your breath moving into your back and imagine that energy opening space between your ribs and between your vertebrae. Focus your breath on any place where you feel tension or resistance. • To exit the pose, bring your hands to the ground beside your hips. Inhale and press through your arms to raise your torso. Exhale and stretch your right leg out, and prepare for the opposite side.

Adjustments Feet—If the student’s bent-leg ankle feels uncomfortable, adjust by either increasing the angle of the knee or placing some light padding under the ankle. Knee—If the student’s bent knee is off the ground, you can offer support with a folded blanket or adjust for hip and back tightness (explained next). Hips—If the student’s hips are not square in relation to the outstretched leg, use your hands to gently draw the hips back; alternatively, cue the student to move the hips in a manner such that the hip of the straight leg moves back a little. You also can press the other hip (of the bent-knee leg) slightly forward at the same time. Note: The forward bend should come from the hips; otherwise, the back tends to round, especially in the low spine.

164

Seated Postures

Torso—The back should be aligned toward the extended foot. Kneel slightly behind the student, place your hands on the student’s outer rib cage, and encourage the student to lift the rib cage out of the low spine as much as possible. Additionally, when kneeling behind the student, place one of your hands at the top of the pelvis and your other hand on the student’s shoulder in a way that helps relax the shoulders down and open. As you guide the student’s torso forward and up, you also guide the shoulders down. These two actions together should begin to straighten the back and open the chest. Head—In the resting phase of this asana, the neck and head should relax. If the student’s neck is holding any tension, brush your fingers against Adjustment: torso. or lightly tap the neck or head to release. Arms—The arms and hands can be held in many ways in this pose. As long as the student’s shoulders remain relaxed and away from the ears, various options for hand positioning can be explored without detracting from the pose’s general benefits. If a student has enough flexibility to reach the hands to the foot, then the arms can be either active or passive. If the student is flexible enough to reach beyond the foot, then the student may apply a grip with one hand holding the opposite wrist.

Modifications Raised bent knee, rounded back and shoulders—Seat the student on a bolster or blanket to lift the hips higher than the knees. If the bent knee remains lifted higher than the hips, place a bolster, folded blanket, or block under the upper thigh for support. This modification helps open the hips and takes effort off of the low back, thus allowing for more relaxation. It also allows for a straighter upper spine. Tight hips or hamstrings—Provide a strap to wrap around the outstretched foot if the student cannot reach it without rounding the spine. Pregnancy or otherwise large belly—To comfortably accommodate a larger belly in this forward fold, invite the student to widen the straight leg slightly before folding. This modification may also be used to open more space in the low back Modification: tight hips or hamstrings. of the bent-leg side.

Kinematics This posture uses the concentric contraction of the quadriceps to help release the hamstrings and hip rotators as the torso folds over the outstretched leg. As the student continues to lengthen the torso out over the straight leg, the adductors of the bent leg are stretched. In the torso, the scapulae (shoulder blades) are drawn slightly together and toward the hips by the concentric contraction of the rhomboids and trapezius muscles between the scapulae, which help keep the torso long throughout the posture. The torso should be elongated as much as possible, especially during the first phase of the pose. If a student's upper back is rounded, then it is important to help the student lift the front ribs and open the chest.

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Janu Shirshasana (Left Leg Extended) Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus, tibialis anterior (C, I)

Lower leg

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus (C, I)

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Thigh (R)

Knee flexion

Hamstrings, sartorius (C, I)

Adductors, gracilis

Thigh (L)

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hamstrings, adductors

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris (C, I)

Adductors

Initial hip external rotation

Adductors (E, R)

Hip abduction and external rotation

Gluteus medius and minimus, deep external rotators*

Initial hip flexion (forward bend)

Hamstrings (E)

Hip flexion over 120 degrees

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris (C, I)

Spinal extension with forward flexion

Erector spinae (C, E, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis (I)

Humeral flexion

Anterior deltoids, biceps brachii, coracobrachialis, pectoralis major (C, I)

Scapular adduction, stability

Rhomboids major and minor, mid trapezius (C, I)

Scapular stability

Serratus anterior (I)

Postural support in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

External rotation

Infraspinatus and teres minor with some posterior deltoid (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Finger flexion

Flexor digitorum profundus and superficialis, flexor digiti minimi, interossei palmaris (C, I)

Neck

Neck extension, stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis, cervical erector spinae, upper trapezius (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Torso

Shoulder

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus, deep external rotators Quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi

Biceps brachii, brachioradialis, brachialis

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right (in the body segment column) or relaxed (in the muscles active column).

166

Seated Postures

Ardha Matsyendrasana Half Lord of the Fishes Pose [AR-dhuh muht-see-yen-DRAAH-suh-nuh] Matsya means “fish” in Sanskrit, and endra means “ruler.” In one of the legends explaining the origin of the asanas, a fish overheard Shiva (a Hindu god) explaining the secrets of yoga and was fascinated with the knowledge. The fish began to twist its body in order to hear the words more clearly. Shiva noticed the fish and gave it the divine form of Matsyendra, who then spread the knowledge of yoga throughout the land. This twisting asana is the foundation of all the seated twists.

Description Ardha Matsyendrasana is a seated twist in which one leg is straight out in front of the body and the other leg is bent and usually crossed over the straight leg near the opposite hip. The upper torso is rotated in the direction of the bent leg.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly through the sit bones. Anchor into the heel of the flexed leg and the back of the heel of the straight leg.

Benefits • • • • • •

Increases energy level. Stimulates and massages the internal organs, specifically the kidneys and liver. Stimulates digestion. Aligns the spine. Builds the trunk muscles. Opens the shoulders and chest.

 Cautions Migraine or cold symptoms—Students with migraine headache or severe cold symptoms should replace this posture with a gentle, restorative supine twist. Hip replacement—Students with a hip replacement should not cross the foot of the bent knee over the straight leg. Acute back injury—Students suffering from a back concern should either proceed with caution or skip this pose. Pregnancy—Pregnant students should rotate only through the upper spine if they are beyond the first trimester.

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Verbal Cues • From Dandasana (Staff Pose), inhale and lengthen your spine. Exhale and pull your right thigh to your chest. Cross your right foot to the outside of your left leg as close to your left hip as is comfortable. Press firmly into the ball of your left foot. You will feel a slight rotation of your pelvis where your left hip moves slightly forward of your right. • Inhale and raise your right arm overhead to lift your rib cage. On an exhalation, slowly rotate your rib cage and belly toward the right. Stop when you can no longer move without assistance from your arms. • Inhale and feel your rib cage lift away from your hips. Lower your right arm and place your hand on the ground as close to your sacrum as possible. Externally rotate your right shoulder so that your fingers point away from your body. Breathe deeply into the open space of your right chest, and feel your chest rotate slightly more to the right. • Place your left arm wherever it feels most comfortably challenging—hugging your right rib cage, wrapped around your right knee, or with the back of your elbow to the outside of your right thigh. Use this connection for stabilizing the twist. Remain mindful to keep the line of your spine perpendicular to the ground. Soften into the twisting action through your thoracic spine. • Continue to focus on your breath. • Inhale and lengthen your spine, imagining more space opening up between the vertebrae. As you exhale, turn your head to look over your right shoulder. Rotate your rib cage as much as you comfortably can so that your right shoulder points as far back from the front of your body as is comfortable. Tuck your chin toward your right shoulder to encourage a deeper stretch on the left side of your neck. • To exit this posture, inhale and slowly turn your head and chest forward. Place your hands to your sides and extend your right leg out. Prepare for the next side.

Adjustments Legs and hips—Make sure the student’s outstretched leg is extended but comfortable and that the hip of the bent knee remains on the ground. If it lifts off the ground, either instruct the student to root through the sit bones or place the student on a bolster or blanket. Spine—If the spine rounds, kneel behind the student and gently press against the middle spine with your hands or knee. Cue the student to lift the chest and lengthen the spine, moving it away from your support. Shoulders—Cue the student to relax the shoulders away from the ears by placing your hands gently on top of the shoulders. Also, remind the student to reach the crown of the head upward. Adjustment: spine; shoulders. Rotation—For students with a limited spinal range of motion or with shoulder concerns, instruct them to keep the elbow of the front hand straight and to place the other hand to the side, wherever it is comfortably challenged. To adjust, kneel behind the student and place one hand on the front of the shoulder to the side where the student is rotating. Place your other hand on the student’s rib cage on the opposite side. Gently move the student’s rib cage forward, away from you, while rotating the shoulder around a little farther, thus creating more spinal rotation. Hand position—Encourage the student to keep the back arm as straight and as close to the spine as possible. This position depends on the length of the student’s arm and the width of the shoulders. In all cases, the shoulders should remain relaxed.

168

Seated Postures

Finger position—Instruct the student to rotate the back arm externally so that the fingers point away from the spine. Kneeling behind the student, place one hand on the student’s extended upper arm and rotate the shoulder externally. At the same time, place your other hand on the student’s opposite shoulder to create length through the front of the chest.

Modifications Low-back weakness or hip or hamstring tightness—Place a folded blanket under the student’s hips to help align the pelvis. Hip replacement or larger belly—Instruct the student not to cross the bent knee over the opposite leg but instead to keep it aligned with the same-side hip by placing the foot of the bent leg against the inside of the straight leg. Adjustment: rotation.

Kinematics

Ardha Matsyendrasana focuses on toning the abdominal and spinal muscles and creating a gentle stretch in the deep external hip rotators and the shoulders. Having both legs grounded helps create more length in the torso, as does the grounding of the arm that rotates behind the body. The twist is initiated in the lower thoracic region and, depending on a person’s spinal flexibility, continues up through the spine into the cervical spine (neck). The firmness of the abdominal muscles also helps keep the torso lifted and stable.

Ardha Matsyendrasana (Rotating to the Right) Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (C, I)

Lower leg

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus (C, I)

Thigh (R)

Knee flexion

Hamstrings, sartorius (C, I)

Thigh adduction

Adductors, gracilis, pectineus (C, I)

Muscles released

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Thigh (L)

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris (C, I)

Torso (R and L)

Trunk stability

Erector spinae, transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis (C, I)

Chest and rib elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Torso (R)

Rotation to right

Internal obliques, latissimus dorsi Erector spinae (L), external (C, I) obliques

Torso (L)

Rotation to right

External obliques (C, I)

Tensor fascia lata, deep external rotators,* gluteus medius

Quadratus lumborum, serratus anterior, internal oblique

(continued)

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Ardha Matsyendrasana (Rotating to the Right) (continued) Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

External rotation

Posterior deltoid, teres minor, infraspinatus (C, I)

Shoulder (R)

Humeral hyperextension, stability

Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoid, teres major (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, trapezius (C, I)

Shoulder (L)

Humeral extension, leverage against right knee

Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoid, teres major (C, I)

Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoid, teres major, rhomboids, mid trapezius

Upper arm (R)

Forearm extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

Upper arm (L)

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis (C, I)

Lower arm (R)

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Lower arm (L)

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Hand and fingers (R)

Wrist hyperextension

Extensor carpi radialis longus Flexor carpi radialis, flexor carpi and brevis, extensor carpi ulnaris ulnaris, flexor digitorum superfi(C, I) cialis, palmaris longus

Hand and fingers (L)

Wrist extension

Extensor carpi radialis longus and brevis, extensor carpi ulnaris (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Neck (R and L)

Neck extension, stability

Cervical erector spinae, splenius capitis and cervicis, semispinalis (C, I)

Neck (R)

Head rotation to right

Splenius capitus and cervicis, occipitals (C, I)

Sternocleidomastoid

Neck (L)

Head rotation to right

Sternocleidomastoid (C, I)

Upper trapezius, splenius capitus and cervicis, occipitals

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

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Muscles released

Shoulder (R and L)

Anterior deltoid, pectoralis major

Seated Postures

Marichyasana A Marichi’s Pose, Variation A [mar-EE-chee-YAHH-suh-nuh kuh] Marichi is the name of a great sage in Hindu mythology, and the word can be translated as “the way of light.” The Marichyasana variations are symbolically and energetically powerful, as Marichi himself is said to be. This is the first of four Marichyasana poses.

Description Marichyasana and its variations are extensions of the spinal twist of Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose). The main difference between the two postures is that in the Marichyasana variations the arms are bound around the body to create a deeper stretch into the joints. Marichyasana has four commonly practiced variations—A, B, C, and D. In variation A, the bent leg does not cross the opposite leg, and the arms wrap behind the back as the torso moves into a forward bend.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly through the sit bones. Anchor into the heel of the flexed leg and the back of the heel of the straight leg.

Benefits • • • • • •

Increases energy level. Massages the internal organs. Brings the spine into alignment. Builds strength in the trunk muscles. Strengthens the hip and shoulder joints. Increases circulation in the joints.

 Cautions Pregnancy—After the first trimester, pregnant students should avoid doing this posture due to the compression of the abdomen. Spine concerns—Those with a spine injury should practice with modifications or skip this pose. Shoulder injury—Proceed with caution and modifications.

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Verbal Cues • From Dandasana (Staff Pose), inhale to lengthen your spine. As you exhale, bend your right knee and draw your thigh to your chest. Place your heel as close to your pelvis as possible. Imagine your left leg as an anchor, keeping the thigh muscles activated. • Inhale and raise your right arm overhead. Exhale and bring the outside of your right upper arm to the inside of your right leg. Exhale and fold from the hips, imagining someone gently pulling your right hand forward so that your right shoulder reaches beyond your right shin. • Rotate your chest and belly slightly to the left. Bend your right elbow and press against your shin with your upper arm. Inhale and lift your rib cage away from your hips. • Internally rotate your right arm so that your thumb points downward. Bend your elbow and reach your hand around the outside of your right leg toward your spine. Press your upper arm against your shin to help lift your chest, moving it forward toward your right foot. • Bring your left arm behind your back, with the palm facing out and reach toward your right hand. Grasp your left wrist with your right hand. Inhale and lengthen your spine, arching back slightly to lift your chest and open your abdominal region. • Exhale and fold forward from your hips while you stretch your chest toward your left knee. Relax your spine and neck. Release your muscles with each exhalation. • Continue to focus on your breath. • To exit this position, exhale and release your arms slowly. Bring your hands by your hips and inhale as you lift your chest upright. Straighten your right leg and prepare for the other side.

Adjustments Extended leg—If the student’s extended leg is rotated externally, this generally means that the leg is relaxed. Brush the outside of the foot to cue the student to activate the leg throughout the posture, with the toes and knee pointing up, and remind the student to anchor through that leg. Bent leg—Sometimes a student needs to take the knee wider than hip-width apart to accommodate the rib cage rotation. However, instruct the student to align the knee with the hip as much as possible to make it easier to wrap the arm around the leg. Gently press the outside of your shin against the student’s outer thigh to bring the leg into alignment. Shoulders—Kneel behind the student and place one hand on the upper arm on the side toward which the student is rotating. Gently guide the shoulder into greater external rotation. At the same time, place your opposite hand on the lower back ribs, near the kidneys, and gently press forward and up. This adjustment creates length as well as rotation in the torso. Hands—If the student’s hands are nearly but not quite touching behind the body, ask the student to relax and breathe deeply. Kneel behind the student and place a hand on each of the student’s upper arms. As the student exhales, slowly press the arms closer together to draw the fingertips nearer. The student also can bend farther forward to help shorten the space between the thigh and the rib cage. Have the student stay in this position for only a few breaths until more strength and flexibility are gained.

Modifications Tight hips—If the hip of the bent leg is lifted off the ground, place a rolled-up blanket or towel under the student’s opposite hip and remind the student to root the hips into the ground. Tight shoulders—Instruct the student to hold the ends of a strap between both hands in order to allow the student to hold the arms in a static position and deepen the stretch.

Kinematics Because of the deep shoulder stretch, students new to this pose may feel like the circulation is being cut off when they bind the arms. After some practice, the muscles relax and the joints loosen and students gain more range in the joint to allow the posture to be comfortable for a longer time. 172

Seated Postures

Marichyasana A (Right Knee Bent) Body segment Foot and toes

Kinematics

Muscles active

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (I)

Lower leg (R)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis (I)

Lower leg (L)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis (C, I)

Thigh (R)

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (C, I)

Thigh (L)

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas, sartorius, left rectus femoris (C, I)

Torso

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum (I)

Chest and rib elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Hyperextension, adduction of humerus

Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm (R)

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis (C, I)

Upper arm (L)

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis, triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Wrist extension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor digitorum (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Finger flexion

Flexor digiti minimi brevis, interossei dorsales manus and palmaris, opponens digiti minimi, flexor pollicis brevis (C, I)

Neck

Head extension or slight hyperextension, stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, occipitals, cervical erector spinae, semispinalis, upper trapezius (I)

Shoulder

Muscles released

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Pectoralis major and minor, anterior deltoid

Sternocleidomastoid

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

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Marichyasana B Marichi’s Pose, Variation B [mar-EE-chee-YAHH-suh-nuh k-huh] This asana is the second of the four Marichyasana variations.

Description This variation of Marichyasana is similar to variation A, except that instead of the leg being extended in front of the body, the knee is flexed and the ankle is placed in Ardha Padmasana (Half-Lotus).

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly through the sit bones. Anchor into both feet and the externally rotated knee.

Benefits • • • • • • • •

Increases energy level. Massages the internal organs. Aligns the spine. Builds strength in the trunk muscles. Deeply strengthens the hip and shoulder joints. Increases circulation in the joints. Relieves stiffness in the hips, knees, and ankles. Strengthens the low spine and abdominal muscles.

 Cautions Knee injuries—Students should be extremely mindful of the knee in Ardha Padmasana whether they have a knee injury or not. If it is difficult to rotate the leg externally because the hips are tight, the knees take on the strain in order to compensate. Pregnancy—Due to the compression into the abdomen, women in the second or third trimester of pregnancy should not practice this posture. Shoulder injury—Those with a shoulder injury should proceed with caution and modifications.

Verbal Cues • From Dandasana (Staff Pose), inhale to lengthen the spine. On the next inhalation, bend your left knee and externally rotate the leg so the knee lowers toward the ground. Exhale and bring your left ankle to the crease of your right hip, into Ardha Padmasana (Half-Lotus Pose). Please see modifications for Ardha Padmasana for students who cannot accommodate this positioning comfortably.

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Seated Postures

• With your next exhalation, bend the right knee and bring the thigh toward the chest. Dorsiflex the left foot so the top of the foot and toes press into the outside of the right thigh. This helps secure the foot in position. • Inhale and raise your right arm overhead. Exhale and lower your right arm to the inside of your right leg. Exhale, folding from your hips and imagine someone gently pulling your right hand forward so that your right shoulder reaches beyond your right shin. • Rotate your chest slightly to the left. Bend your right elbow and press against the shin with your upper arm as you lift your rib cage away from your hips. • Internally rotate your right arm so that your thumb points downward. Bend the elbow and reach your hand around the outside of your right leg toward your spine. • Bring your left arm behind your back, with the palm facing out, and reach toward the right hand. Clasp the left wrist with the right hand. Inhale and lengthen the spine, arching back slightly to lift the chest. • Exhale and fold forward from the hips, pressing your chest toward your left knee. Relax your spine and neck. Release your muscles with each exhalation. • Continue to focus on your breath. • To exit this position, exhale and release the arms slowly. Bring the hands by your hips and inhale as you lift your chest upright. Uncross your left leg and straighten both legs back into Dandasana. Prepare for the opposite side.

Adjustments Leg positioning—Use the adjustments for Ardha Padmasana to help the student into the most appropriate positioning, as some students are unable to sit in the full expression of the pose without lifting one side of the pelvis off the ground. You may also simply cue the student to place the left foot under the right thigh, near the hip. Feet—The foot in Ardha Padmasana should not be overstretched on the outside of the ankle. Remind the student to keep the foot dorsiflexed and active. Hips—If student’s hips are not level, kneel behind the student with your hands lightly touching the hips. Press downward gently and draw back slightly on the side that is not in Ardha Padmasana. Bent leg—Sometimes a student will need to take the knee wider than hip width to accommodate the rib cage rotation. As in Variation A, encourage the student to align the knee with the hip as much as possible to make it easier to wrap the arm around the leg. Gently press against the student’s outer thigh to bring the leg into alignment. Hands—If the hands are almost touching, remind the student to relax and breathe deeply. The student can bend farther forward to help shorten the space between the thigh and rib cage. Invite the student to stay in this position for only a few breaths until the student gains more strength and flexibility.

Modifications Tight hip in Ardha Padmasana—If the student is unable to sit in Ardha Padmasana, instruct the student to keep the bent leg on the ground as in Janu Shirshasana (Head to Knee Pose). Place a blanket or bolster under the bent knee to relax the leg in either position. Tight shoulders—Instruct the student to hold the ends of a strap between both hands to allow for holding the arms in a static position while deepening the stretch in the shoulders.

Kinematics Because the foot of the leg in Ardha Padmasana is wedged against the opposite thigh and abdomen, it makes it somewhat easier to hold the leg in position for those working on the external rotation in Padmasana (Lotus Pose). Tight shoulder adjustments are the same as in Variation A.

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Marichyasana B (Right Knee Bent, Left Leg in Ardha Padmasana) Body segment Foot and toes

Kinematics

Muscles active

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (I)

Lower leg (R)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis (I)

Lower leg (L)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis (R)

Thigh

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (R)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas (C, I)

Hip external rotation

Adductors, sartorius (E, R)

External rotation, stability

Gluteus medius and minimus, deep external rotators* (C, I)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae (I)

Chest and rib elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Hyperextension, adduction of humerus

Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm (R)

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis (C, I)

Upper arm (L)

Elbow flexion

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Wrist extension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor digitorum (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Finger flexion

Flexor digiti minimi brevis, interossei dorsales manus and palmaris, opponens digiti minimi, flexor pollicis brevis (C, I)

Neck

Head extension, stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, occipitals, cervical erector spinae, semispinalis, upper trapezius (I)

Torso

Shoulder

Muscles released

Adductors

Pectoralis major and minor, anterior deltoid

Sternocleidomastoid

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = relaxed (in body segment column) or right (in muscles active column).

176

Seated Postures

Marichyasana C Marichi’s Pose, Variation C [mar-EE-chee-YAHH-suh-nuh, guh] This is the third of the four Marichyasana variations.

Description This variation of Marichyasana is somewhat similar to variation A. In this variation, the foot of the bent leg is crossed over the opposite thigh, the torso twists in the direction of the bent leg, and the opposite arm wraps around the bent leg binding behind the back.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly through the sit bones. Anchor into the heel of the flexed leg and the back of the heel of the straight leg.

Benefits • • • • • • •

Increases energy level. Massages the internal organs. Aligns the spine. Builds strength in the trunk muscles. Deeply strengthens the hip and shoulder joints. Increases circulation in the joints. Increases focus.

 Cautions Pregnancy—Due to the compression in the abdomen, women in the second or third trimester of pregnancy should not practice this posture. Shoulder injury—Those with a shoulder injury should proceed with caution and modifications.

Verbal Cues • From Dandasana (Staff Pose), inhale to lengthen your spine. Exhale and bend your right knee, bringing your thigh to your chest. Cross your right foot over your left thigh and place the foot on the ground wherever it feels most comfortable. • Inhale and rotate your rib cage to the right. Turn your head to look over your right shoulder as far as is comfortable. Imagine your left leg as an anchor, keeping the thigh muscles activated. Place your right hand on the ground for support.

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• On your next exhalation, continue to keep your torso rotated to the right and reach your left arm across your body to the outside of your right leg. Move your left shoulder blade toward the outside of your right knee as you turn your torso a bit more to the right, if comfortable. • Bend your left elbow and press your upper arm against the outside of your right knee as you lift your rib cage away from your hips. • Internally rotate your left arm so that your thumb points toward the ground, then wrap your arm around the front of your right leg. Reach the hand around, toward your right hand, and bind your hands together, if comfortable. • Inhale, lengthening your spine, and open as much space between your lower ribs and pelvis as possible. Continue to press the back of your left upper arm against your right leg for leverage. • Continue to focus on your breath. • To exit this position, exhale and release your arms slowly. Rotate your chest forward and bring your hands by your hips. Uncross your left leg and straighten both legs back into Dandasana. Prepare for the opposite side.

Adjustments Extended leg— If the student’s extended leg is rotated externally, this generally means that the leg is relaxed. Brush the outside of the foot to cue the student to activate the leg throughout the posture with the toes and knee pointing up; remind the student to anchor through that leg. Hips—If the student’s hips are not level and touching the ground, kneel behind the student with your hands lightly touching the student’s hips and press downward to ground the pelvis. Torso—Kneel behind the student, and place your hand on the student’s same-side shoulder. Pull back gently as you use your opposite hand to press forward and up on the student’s rib cage, thus creating more spinal rotation. Hands—If the student’s hands are almost touching and have enough range of motion, encourage the student to relax and breathe deeply, drawing the hands closer together on an exhalation. You may aid in drawing the hands closer by kneeling behind the student and grasping the upper arms. As the student exhales, press the arms toward each other and draw the hands closer together, as far as is comfortable.

Modifications Tight hips—If the hip of the bent leg lifts off the ground, place a rolled-up blanket or bolster under the opposite hip, or both hips if necessary, to balance the pelvis. Tight shoulders—Invite the student to hold the ends of a strap between the hands behind the back. This modification allows the student to hold the arms in a static position to deepen the stretch without straining the shoulder joints. Shoulder injury or tight chest—Instead of asking the student to bind the arms behind the back, invite the student to place the back arm against the spine and press the back of the opposite arm into the bent knee. You can also have the student practice Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose) instead.

Kinematics The pressure of the bent arm against the opposite thigh aids in gaining leverage to rotate the torso more fully.

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Seated Postures

Marichyasana C (Right Knee Bent, Rotation to Right) Body segment Foot and toes

Kinematics

Muscles active

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (I)

Lower leg (R)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis (I)

Lower leg (L)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis (C, I)

Thigh (R)

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (C, I)

Muscles released

Thigh (L)

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas, sartorius (C, I)

Gluteus maximus

Hip and pelvis (L)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris, sartorius (C, I)

Hamstrings

Torso (R and L)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae (C, I)

Trunk stability

Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae (I)

Torso (R)

Rotation to right

Internal obliques, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi (C, I)

External oblique

Torso (L)

Rotation to right

External oblique (C, I)

Internal oblique, quadratus lumborum

Shoulder (R)

Humerus hyperextension and adduction

Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Pectoralis major and minor, anterior deltoid

External rotation

Posterior deltoid, infraspinatus, teres minor (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Internal rotation

Pectoralis major, anterior deltoid (C, I)

Humerus hyperextension

Latissimus dorsi, teres major (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm (R and L)

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis (C, I)

Lower arm (R and L)

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Wrist extension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor digitorum (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Finger flexion

Flexor digiti minimi brevis, interossei dorsales manus and palmaris, opponens digiti minimi, flexor pollicis brevis (C, I)

Neck (R)

Head rotation to right, stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, occipitals, cervical erector spinae (C, I)

Neck (L)

Head rotation

Sternocleidomastoid (C, I)

Shoulder (L)

Sternocleidomastoid

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

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Marichyasana D Marichi’s Pose, Variation D [mar-EE-chee-YAHH-suh-nuh g-huh] This is the fourth of the four Marichyasana variations.

Description This variation of Marichyasana is a combination of the Ardha Padmasana (Half-Lotus) element of variation B and the twisting of variation C. It is by far the most technically challenging variation; in fact, many people describe this combination of hip opening, spinal twisting, and arm binding as a “pretzel” pose.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly through the sit bones. Anchor into both feet and the externally rotated knee.

Benefits • • • • • • • •

Increases energy level. Massages the internal organs. Brings the spine into alignment. Builds strength in the trunk muscles. Opens the shoulder joints. Deeply strengthens the hip and shoulder joints. Increases circulation in the joints. Increases focus.

 Cautions Knee injuries—Students should be extremely mindful of the knee in Ardha Padmasana, whether or not they have a knee injury. If it is difficult to rotate the leg externally because the hips are tight, the knees take on the strain in order to compensate. Modifications should be used. Pregnancy—Due to compression in the abdomen, women in the second or third trimester of pregnancy should not practice this posture. Shoulder injury—Students with extreme shoulder tightness or injury should practice with caution and modifications.

180

Seated Postures

Verbal Cues • From Dandasana (Staff Pose), inhale to lengthen the spine, creating as much space between the ribs and hips as possible. Keep the hips level and on the ground. • On the next inhalation, bend your left knee and externally rotate the leg so that the knee lowers toward the ground. Exhale and bring your left ankle to the crease of your right hip into Ardha Padmasana (Half-Lotus Pose). (Please see the modifications for Ardha Padmasana for students who cannot accommodate this positioning comfortably, or simply place the left foot under the right thigh as close to the hip as possible.) • With your next exhalation, bend your right knee to your chest. Dorsiflex your left foot so that the tops of the foot and toes press into the outside of your right thigh to keep the foot in position. • Breathing in, place your right arm behind your spine for leverage. Bring the back of your left arm across to the outside of your right knee. Reach as far as you can, using the energy of your right arm to lift your spine. • Reach your right hand behind your back toward your left hip. Internally rotate your left arm so that your thumb points toward the ground, then wrap your arm around the front of your right leg. Reach your left hand toward your right hand. • As you exhale, rotate your right shoulder and rib cage back as far as is comfortable and press your left rib cage forward toward the outer edge of your right knee. Press the back of your left upper arm against your right thigh for leverage. Bind your hands together, if comfortable. • Continue to focus on your breath. • To exit this position, exhale and release your arms slowly. Bring your hands beside your hips and inhale as you lift your chest upright. Uncross your left leg and straighten both legs back into Dandasana. Prepare for the opposite side.

Adjustments Ardha Padmasana positioning—Please refer to the modification instructions for Padmasana in chapter 8 to help the student into the most appropriate positioning. The foot in Ardha Padmasana should not be overstretched on the outside of the ankle. Hips—If the hips are not level, kneel behind the student with your hands lightly touching the outer pelvis. Press down gently and pull back on the hip that is not in Ardha Padmasana. Bent leg—Sometimes a student needs to take the knee wider than hip-width apart to accommodate the rib cage rotation. However, instruct the student to align the knee with the hip in order to make it easier to wrap the arm around the leg. Gently press against the student’s outer thigh with the outside of your calf to coax the leg into alignment. Hands—If the student’s hands are almost touching, encourage the student to relax and breathe deeply. The student can bend farther forward to help shorten the space between the thigh and rib cage. Have the student stay in this position for only a few breaths until the student gains more strength and flexibility.

Modifications Tight hip in Ardha Padmasana—If the student is unable to sit in Ardha Padmasana, suggest that the student keep the bent leg on the ground. Place a blanket under the bent knee for support to relax the leg in either position. Tight shoulders—Cue the student to hold the ends of a strap between the hands. This modification allows the person to hold the arms in a static position to deepen the stretch. Inability to bind arms—Instead of binding with the initial balancing arm, suggest that the student keep the hand on the ground behind the spine and place the outside of the opposite arm against the outside of the bent knee. You can also instruct the student to bind by twisting the torso in the opposite direction. Balance concerns—If the student has extreme difficulty attaining this posture without strain, or cannot maintain positioning and stay balanced, it is best to substitute another posture.

Kinematics The Ardha Padmasana positioning of the leg in this posture is likely to require modification for many students. As always, students should refrain from forcing the legs or arms into this position if they experience any discomfort. 181

Marichyasana D (Right Knee Flexed, Left Leg in Ardha Padmasana, Torso Rotated to Right) Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (I)

Lower leg (R)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis (C)

Lower leg (L)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis (C, I)

Thigh

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R and L)

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, hamstrings (I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas, sartorius (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas (C, I)

Hip external rotation

Adductors, sartorius (E)

External rotation, stability

Gluteus medius, deep external rotators* (C, I)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae (C, I)

Trunk stability

Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae (I)

Torso (R)

Rotation to right

Internal obliques, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi (C, I)

Torso (L)

Rotation to right

External obliques, internal oblique, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae (C, I)

Shoulder (R)

Humerus hyperextension and adduction

Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoid (C, I)

External rotation

Posterior deltoid, infraspinatus, teres minor (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Internal rotation

Pectoralis major, anterior deltoid (C, I)

Humerus hyperextension

Latissimus dorsi (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis (C, I)

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Lower arm

Wrist extension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor digitorum (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Finger flexion

Flexor digiti minimi brevis, interossei dorsales manus and palmaris, opponens digiti minimi, flexor pollicis brevis (C, I)

Neck (R)

Head rotation to right, stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, occipitals, cervical erector spinae (C, I)

Neck (L)

Head rotation

Sternocleidomastoid (C, I)

Torso (R and L)

Shoulder (L)

Upper arm

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

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Muscles released

Adductors

External obliques

Pectoralis major, anterior deltoid

Sternocleidomastoid

Seated Postures

Paschimottanasana Seated Forward Bend, or Intense West-Side Stretch [puhsh-chee-moht-tuhn-AHH-suh-nuh] Paschima means “west” in Sanskrit, and uttana means “intense stretch.” Traditionally, it is considered ideal to face east for meditation and practice; therefore, the east side of the body is viewed as the front, whereas the west side is viewed as the back. Literally translated, then, paschimottanasana means “intense stretch of the west”—or, in this case, of the back side of the body.

Description This is a seated, full forward bend. The legs are outstretched in front of the body, and the torso is folded forward at the hips and, to the best of the student’s ability, resting on the front of the legs.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly through the sit bones. Anchor into the backs of the heels.

Benefits • • • • • • •

Calms and soothes the nervous system. Stretches the hamstrings and the entire back, both in the passive and the active variations. Stimulates circulation to the liver, kidneys, and reproductive organs. Improves digestion. Can relieve some symptoms of menstrual discomfort and menopause. May alleviate headache, anxiety, and fatigue. Can help relieve high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis.

 Caution Back injury—Perform this pose with the back straight and little or no forward bend. Until the student is strong enough to release the spine while sitting, the pose should be practiced with modification or replaced by a different pose. Intestinal discomfort—Due to the pressure created in the abdomen, students with intestinal discomfort should refrain from practicing this pose until the discomfort passes.

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Verbal Cues Active • From Dandasana (Staff Pose), inhale and sit tall. Roll your upper legs toward each other slightly and reach your sit bones back so that your pelvis tilts slightly forward. Inhale and raise both arms overhead. • Expand the space between your front hip points (anterior superior iliac spines) and your navel. Exhale and begin to flex at your hips, like a hinge. Fold forward only as much as is comfortable without rounding your upper back. Stop at the first sign of resistance or tightness and soften into that space. • Place your hands on the ground beside your hips and use your arms to help lengthen your spine. Keep your ears aligned with the top of your shoulders. • Gently reach your hands toward your feet and hold wherever you comfortably can while maintaining an elongated back. • Inhale, lift, and open your chest, arching back slightly. Roll your upper arms out, imagining your collarbones expanding away from each other, and continue to lengthen the front of your torso. Move your ribs forward and up slightly, and soften your shoulders away from your ears. Maintain length in your throat and the back of your neck.

Resting • Exhale and slowly roll down your spine from the bottom to the top, relaxing your torso over your legs. • Soften your abdomen and find your breath moving into the back of your body. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and keep your neck soft. Visualize your body sinking into the earth. • Imagine your breath moving into any place that is resistant or holding tension and release that area completely. Soften the back of your neck to feel more lengthening between your shoulder blades. • To exit this position, place your hands on the ground beside your hips. Inhale and press down through your hands as you slowly lift your torso and head.

Adjustments Feet—The student’s feet are generally not of much concern in this pose; however, if the student can reach the hands beyond the feet, then you can help the person deepen the posture. Instruct the student to bring the feet together and draw the toes toward the head. You can assist by gently pressing up against the bottom of the toes. Legs—If the student’s knees are bent, check for proper back alignment and support. It is better to have the student back Adjustment: spine; shoulders. off, focus on the legs, and sit more upright than to let the student struggle with tight hamstrings. Note: If the student has finished with the active phase of the posture and is resting, he or she may UNSTABLE bend the knees slightly as a modification, as long as the body remains relaxed. Instruct the student to bring the legs as close together as is comfortable. Hips—If tight hamstrings prevent the forward bend from starting in the hips, modify with a strap (see the modifications section). Spine—Students often have trouble keeping the back straight. To help a student lengthen the spine, squat or kneel behind the student and place the heels of your hands at the bottom edge of her or his rib cage. Lift, ever so lightly, as the student exhales. This action helps tilt the pelvis forward and lengthens through the lower back. Do not press downward on a student in this Unstable and possibly harmful alignment: spine and shoulders rounded. position; doing so may result in back injury! 184

Seated Postures

Shoulders—If a student’s back is rounded, the shoulders will usually be rounded as well. To help the student roll the fronts of the shoulders open, kneel behind the student and place a hand on each shoulder with your fingers draped just in front of the junction of the arm, shoulder, and chest. Use your hands to gently draw the collarbones apart and lightly press the shoulders down. At the same time, you can softly press your knee into the student’s mid back, thus lifting the chest and opening the shoulders. Neck—The student’s neck should be actively aligned with the spine in the active phase of the pose and should be relaxed in the resting phase. The key is to keep space in the neck between the head and shoulders regardless of the phase.

Modifications Spinal weakness—When practicing this pose, it is common to use a prop, such as a strap, pillow, or folded blanket. A blanket or bolster propped under the hips takes some of the pressure and work off of a weak or rounded back. Tight hamstrings or hips—Students benefit greatly when they sit propped up on a blanket or bolster. This positioning helps tilt the front pelvis forward to ease the hamstrings and lower back. If a student cannot reach the hands to the feet, offer the student a strap to wrap around the feet. The strap allows the student to get an extra stretch in the shoulders and lateral torso. The student should not grasp the strap tightly, because doing so Modification: tight hamstrings or hips. tightens the upper body in the pose.

Kinematics If a student is very close to bringing the chest down to the legs, you can assist in deepening the flexion. However, when applying adjustments in this posture, be certain that your hand placement and the movement of the adjustment are mechanically sound. Never press down on the student’s spine to deepen the forward bend! Doing so would put excessive strain on the spinal ligaments and discs. To begin, kneel behind the student and lightly place your palms flat against the student’s upper pelvis with your fingers pointing toward the ground. Keep your hands in position and gently lift and lengthen the pelvis toward the direction of the head. The pelvis will not actually lift, but the motion will elongate the lower spine and help the student flex at the hip joint, rather than allowing the low spine to round. Also, make certain that you move according to the student’s breath pattern; actively provide the adjustments as the student exhales to keep the energy flow.

Paschimottanasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (C, I)

Lower leg

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus (C, I)

Muscles released

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Thigh

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hamstrings

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas, sartorius, rectus femoris (C, I)

Deep external rotators, hamstrings, gluteus maximus

Hip flexion more than 120 degrees

Rectus abdominis (C, I)

Spinal extension, stability

Erector spinae (E, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae (I)

Torso

Quadratus lumborum, erector spinae

(continued) 185

Paschimottanasana (continued) Body segment Shoulder

Kinematics

Muscles active

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids and mid trapezius (C, I)

Scapular stability

Serratus anterior

Humeral flexion

Deltoids, pectoralis major, biceps brachii, coracobrachialis, supra­ spinatus (C, I)

Postural support in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

External rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus and teres minor with some posterior deltoid (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Hand and fingers Finger flexion

Flexor digitorum profundus and superficialis, flexor digiti minimi and brevis, interossei palmaris (C, I)

Neck

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis, upper trapezius (C, I)

Head extension, stability

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

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Muscles released Latissimus dorsi

Biceps brachii, brachioradialis, brachialis

Seated Postures

Gomukhasana Cow’s Face Pose [go-mook-AHH-suh-nuh] Go in Sanskrit means “cow,” and mukha is the word for “face.” At first glance, this pose may not seem to resemble the face of the gentle and symbolically nurturing creature after which it is named. You may see the pattern, however, if you look at your image in the mirror while practicing this pose. The arms are like a cow’s ears, and the legs form the shape of a cow’s mouth.

Description In this seated asana, the legs are on the ground, stacked in front of the hips with the knees bent. One knee is folded on top of the other, aligned with the middle of the body. The spine is upright, and the arms are bent, with one elbow pointed up and the other pointed down as the hands reach toward each other and bind behind the back. Note: Sometimes the two halves of the pose are done separately.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heartopening energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly through the sit bones. Anchor into the outer thigh of the leg resting on the ground.

Benefits • • • • •

Opens the chest and shoulders. Improves circulation. Stretches the arms and wrists. Relieves discomfort for headache sufferers and postnatal women. Relieves sciatica.

 Cautions Hip replacements—Students with a hip replacement are advised not to cross the legs over the midline of the body. They may practice the arm portion of the posture and sit in any other comfortable position. Shoulder injury—Advise students with any shoulder injury to use caution. For students with rotator-cuff tears, the anterior shoulder of the bottom arm is usually sensitive and tight in this pose, thus making it inadvisable for them to rotate the arm externally. Students with a history of shoulder dislocation should modify the pose with the use of a strap so that the hand does not reach as far behind the back.

Verbal Cues • From Dandasana (Staff Pose), exhale and bend your right knee, drawing your thigh toward your chest. Cross your right foot over your left leg, placing your foot on the ground outside your left thigh as close to the hip as is comfortable. 187

• Externally rotate your left leg so that your left little toe moves toward the ground. Flex your left knee and bring your left heel to the outside of your right hip. • Exhale and relax your right hip, allowing your knee to rotate externally and rest on the top of your left knee. Draw your right foot as close to your left hip as is comfortable. • Dorsiflex your feet so that the toes point toward your knees. Root through your sit bones and settle into the stability of your pelvis. With each exhalation, relax your legs more. • Inhale and reach your right arm overhead so that your upper arm aligns with your ear. Externally rotate the arm, pointing the thumb away from your body. • Soften your right shoulder and bend your right elbow. Slide the palm of your right hand down your back to the lowest vertebra you can comfortably reach. Inhale and lift the elbow toward the sky, being mindful not to push your head forward. • Extend your left arm out to the side with your palm facing up. Keep the front of your shoulder rolled open and place your left hand to the ground behind you. Rotate (pronate) your lower arm so that the palm faces away from your body. Bend your left elbow and reach the back of your left hand up your spine toward your right hand. If your hands touch, bind them together. If not, simply focus on pointing your elbows in opposite directions—the right elbow to the sky, the left one to the ground. • Continue to focus on your breath. • Inhale and lift your chest upward to keep your spine elongated. Exhale and let your shoulders relax. Feel the space opening between your ears and shoulders, keeping your neck long yet soft. • To exit this posture, inhale and release your fingers. Slowly bring both hands down to your sides. Exhale and lift your right knee off of To prepare the shoulders for the bind, your left. Lean back slightly and straighten your left leg, then your extend your left arm out to the side with right leg, and prepare for the next side. your palm facing up.

Adjustments Back—If the student’s upper back is rounded, kneel behind the student, place the palms of your hands just below the scapulae, and slowly press the rib cage forward and up. Arms—If the student’s elbows are abducted and aligned wider than shoulder-width apart, place your hands against the outsides of the upper arms, near the shoulders, and gently press the arms closer toward the student’s midline. Hands—If the student’s hands do not touch but are very close, you may be able, with the student’s permission, to move the hands the extra distance to enable them to meet. Kneel behind the student and place your hands on the student’s upper arms, just above the elbows. Carefully and slowly, press the hands closer together.

Modifications Hips—If the hips are not level on the ground, place a blanket under the lower hip. As an option, the student can sit on the foot of the bottom leg to raise the hip level. Hip replacement—Instruct the student to sit in any comfortable position where the thighs do not cross over each other. Tight shoulders—If a student cannot reach the hands together without assistance, ask the student to hold the ends of a strap between the hands. Modification: tight shoulders.

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Seated Postures

Kinematics Gomukhasana provides an excellent stretch for the triceps. If a student is unable to touch the hands together, it is beneficial for the student to use a strap of some type between the hands. The strap allows the student to hold the arm positioning with much more ease. Remind the student to keep a fairly relaxed grip on the strap so as not to tighten the arms.

Gomukhasana (Right Elbow Up, Left Elbow Down) Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (I)

Lower leg

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus (C, I)

Thigh

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas (C, I)

Initial external rotation, adduction

Adductors, sartorius (E)

Initial external rotation

Gluteus medius, deep external rotators* (C, I, R)

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, hamstrings (I)

Torso stability

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (C, I)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Sternoclavicular stability

Subclavius (I)

Horizontal flexion of humerus

Pectoralis major, coracobrachialis, anterior and middle deltoid (C, I)

Stability and external rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor (C, I)

Supporting posture in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

Torso

Shoulder (R)

Muscles released

Adductors, tensor fascia lata, gluteus medius and minimus

Latissimus dorsi, trapezius, pectoralis major and minor

Scapular stability, lateral rotation Serratus anterior (I) Shoulder (L)

Hyperextension and adduction of humerus

Latissimus dorsi, teres major (C, I)

Stability and external rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm (R)

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Lower arm (L)

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Wrist extension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis, dorsal interossei (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Neck extension

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis (I)

Neck

Anterior deltoid, upper trapezius, levator scapulae, subscapularis

Triceps brachii

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right (in the body segment column) or relaxed (in the muscles active column).

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Paripurna Navasana Full Boat Pose [par-ee-POUR-nuh naah-VAAH-suh-nuh] Paripurna means “full” or “complete,” and nava is Sanskrit for “ship” or “boat.” The shape of the body in Navasana resembles a boat with the oars balanced in the water.

Description Navasana is a seated jackknife balancing position. The legs are raised off the ground with straight knees, and the toes hover at eye level. The spine is straight and reclined slightly, and the arms are extended parallel to the ground.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly through the sit bones. For those with stronger abdominals and no low-back concerns, the root can move back more fully onto the sacrum.

Benefits • • • •

Strengthens the thighs, hips, abdominal muscles, and back; targets the core musculature. Massages the internal organs. Stimulates digestion. Builds balance and concentration.

 Caution Pregnancy or injury—Pregnant or injured students are advised to avoid this posture. Intestinal discomfort—Due to the pressure created in the abdomen, students with intestinal discomfort should refrain from practicing this pose until the discomfort passes.

Verbal Cues • From Dandasana (Staff Pose), exhale and bend your knees, bringing them toward your chest. Keep the soles of your feet flat on the ground. Place your hands on the backs of your thighs and lift your chest as you inhale. Keep your spine long and your shoulders relaxed. • Exhale and begin to recline your torso with your spine straight. Feel your abdominal muscles and hip flexors engage to support your spine and notice your balance shifting toward the backs of your sit bones. • On an exhalation, slowly lift your feet off the ground, keeping your knees flexed. Balance here between your sit bones and your tailbone and slowly take your hands away from the backs of your thighs, bringing your arms to your sides parallel to the ground.

190

Seated Postures

• If this position feels comfortably challenging, stay here and focus on your breath. If your back feels fatigued but your abdominals feel strong, bring your hands again to the backs of your thighs for support. • If you feel strong and comfortable, especially in your low back, then roll farther back onto your sacrum so that there is more activity in your abdominal muscles. Remain relaxed in your shoulders, with a long torso. • Continue to focus on your breath. • To go further, into the full Navasana (Paripurna Navasana), place your hands behind your thighs again. Use your arms to hold onto your legs to assist or relieve your low back and legs. Exhale and gradually straighten your knees, bringing your toes to eye level. Look toward your toes with a soft gaze. • If and when you feel ready, release your hands so that your arms are once again parallel to the ground. Breathe length and strength from your sit bones to your hands and feet. You are in full Navasana if you are breathing! • To exit the position, exhale and slowly lower your feet back to the ground and sit upright. To rest your thighs and abdominal muscles, lower your legs into Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle) and rest before the next posture.

Adjustments

Adjustment: spine.

Spine—It often takes a little practice before a student has enough strength to keep the spine from rounding. If the torso is collapsing inward, direct your student to maintain spinal alignment by keeping the hands behind the thighs and focusing on the breath while continuing to elongate the torso. Another option is to kneel behind the student and lightly support the spine with your knee or palm in order to create more length and support. Legs—If the student’s legs are shaking and the student is having difficulty keeping the legs extended, kneel beside the student and place your closest forearm under the calves to support the legs briefly. Place your other arm behind the student’s back to support the spine, as well. Supporting the legs enables the student to straighten the legs more fully and build strength. Adjustment: legs.

Modifications Weakness or fatigue—For a weak or tired student, the intensity of the pose can be reduced by bending the knees. Also, to build strength, instruct the student to keep the feet on the ground while reclining for a few breaths at a time. Building strength—The student can use the arms for support by placing the hands on the ground behind the hips with the elbows bent. Instruct the student to raise one leg while maintaining the integrity of the upper body. After a few breaths, the student can switch to the other side. Tailbone concerns—Occasionally, a student complains of tailbone pain when reclining in this asana. First, instruct the student to sit on a folded blanket. If this does not alleviate the pain, skip this pose altogether, or instruct the student to recline only somewhat and to focus on lifting the feet off the ground while Modification: weakness or fatigue. maintaining an elongated spine.

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Kinematics For students who are new or weaker, the balance point of the body falls between the ischial tuberosities (sit bones) and the tailbone. If the body is balanced above the tailbone, higher onto the pelvis, the likelihood of flexion in the lumbar spine increases, as does the possibility of injury. For more experienced or stronger students, balancing on the flattened sacrum provides more concentrated strengthening of the abdominals; it is important that these students do not have any lumbar or sacral concerns.

Paripurna Navasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (I)

Lower leg

Plantar flexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (C, I)

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus

Thigh

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hamstrings

Thigh adduction

Adductors, gracilis (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris (C, I)

Torso

Spinal extension, stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, latissimus dorsi (C, I)

Humerus flexion

Pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, coracobrachialis (C, I)

Joint stability

Trapezius, rhomboids, teres minor (I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension, stability

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis, triceps brachii (E, I)

Lower arm

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Wrist extension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor digitorum (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Neck extension against gravity

Sternocleidomastoid, scalenes (C, I)

Shoulder

Neck

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

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Muscles released

Seated Postures

Baddha Konasana Bound Angle Pose [BUD-dhuh kohn-AAH-suh-nuh] Baddha is Sanskrit for “bound,” and kona means “angle.” This posture is often called “Cobbler’s Pose” because it replicates the traditional seated position for East Indian shoemakers. The shoemakers used the feet to hold a shoe so that both hands were free. The pose is also referred to as Butterfly Pose by teachers who do not use Sanskrit terms in their teaching and in children’s classes.

Description In this seated asana, the knees are bent and the legs rotated externally with the soles of the feet either pressed together or held together with the hands to make a seal or lock. Variations of this posture involve making the space between the ankles and the groin more or less open.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly through the sit bones. Anchor into the outer legs and the outsides of the feet. Connect with the energy of the heels and toes of each foot pressing together.

Benefits • • • • • • •

Promotes wellness in the urinary and reproductive organs. Increases general circulation by stretching the major arteries and lymph glands in the groin, legs, and thighs. Stretches the adductor muscles of the thighs. Relieves mild depression symptoms. Can help alleviate pain from sciatica. Relieves discomfort for pregnant and menstruating women. Helps ease childbirth, if practiced regularly.

 Caution Knee, hip, or groin injury—Students with such an injury should use modifications and props.

Verbal Cues • From Dandasana (Staff Pose), exhale and bring your knees toward your chest. Inhale and let the outside of your knees slowly lower toward the ground.

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• Root through your sit bones with your body weight evenly distributed to both sides. Inhale and keep your spine lifted and strong, and reach your tailbone and sit bones slightly back toward the end of your mat by slightly folding the front pelvis forward. Settle back firmly on the base of your pelvis. • Bring your hands to the ground beside your hips and press the soles of your feet together. Feel your knees move slightly closer to the ground as you exhale softly. Press lightly into your arms to open more length through the sides without lifting your hips off the ground. • Maintain the length in your spine and place your hands on your ankles or clasp your fingers around your feet, keeping your shoulders relaxed. • Continue to focus on your breath. • Inhale deeply to elongate your torso. On your next exhalation, fold forward from your hips, feeling your pelvis rock forward. Imagine lowering your chest toward the ground beyond your feet. Soften your shoulders and continue to keep your hands around your ankles or feet for leverage. Feel free to gently press your elbows against your inner legs to help open your thighs slightly more. You can also place your hands on the ground—however you are most comfortable. • If your hips feel comfortable, use your hands to draw the soles of your feet open toward the sky. This action gently rolls your outer legs closer to the ground, thus opening the groin more deeply. Place your hands on your mid thighs and gently rotate your thighs externally to open them. As always, when you inhale, lengthen your spine and extend the crown of your head beyond your feet. • To exit this posture, place your hands to the ground beside your hips. Press firmly through your arms and inhale as you lift slowly through your chest and the crown of your head. Exhale and stretch your legs out in front of you as you move back into Dandasana.

Adjustments Feet—Instruct the student to actively press the outer edges of the soles of the feet together. Gently brush the feet with your hands as a reminder. Knees—If the student has difficulty lowering the knees to the ground, help the student roll the soles of the feet up by pressing the tops of the feet toward the ground. Instruct the student to open the soles of the feet as if opening a book. This action rotates both legs externally. Spine—To help support the student’s back, sit or kneel behind the student with your shin against the back. Place your hands lightly on the mid thighs while gently rotating the legs externally. Press your shoulder or knee lightly against the student’s spine and lift. This action encourages length in the back.

Modifications Groin or knee injury—Place blocks or blankets under the student’s outer knees and hips for support. Tight hips—Instruct the student to make the knee angle larger by moving the feet farther from the body. The student may also keep the feet slightly apart for comfort. Most students with tight hips also benefit greatly from propping the outer legs as in the previous modification. Weak or injured spine—Place the student on the back for spinal support but open the angle between the legs to stretch the groin. This positioning is called Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle). If this positioning still creates a strain on the spine, instruct the student to lie on the ground with the legs against a wall and place the soles of the feet together while gently pressing the knees toward the wall. Pregnancy—Place stacked bolsters, blankets, or a chair in front of the student and have her rest her arms and forehead on the prop for support. This modification works well for all seated forward bends. Modification: groin or knee injury. 194

Seated Postures

Kinematics In this posture, it is sometimes difficult for students to recognize why the knees do not come all the way down to the ground. Common sense would suggest that tight adductors are the culprits, and this is true in many cases. However, other factors are often involved as well—specifically, tight hip rotators and individual anatomical differences. For students with tight hips, the forward-bend portion of the asana is made possible by a coordinated effort between the hip flexors (iliopsoas and rectus femoris), the spinal extensors (erector spinae), and sometimes the arms. The forward bend is initiated by an eccentric contraction of the spinal muscles; if initiated with an exhalation, the contraction of the abdominal muscles also aids reciprocally in allowing the spinal muscles to soften. Then, to aid in the flexion, the hip flexors contract concentrically to help draw the torso down farther. Because of the external rotation of the femurs, the angle of contraction in the flexors may not allow a person to lower any farther without using the arms to draw the torso down as well. Students should keep the shoulders relaxed when using the arms and should not force the torso downward.

Baddha Konasana Body segment Foot and toes

Kinematics Toe extension

Muscles active

Lower leg

Ankle inversion

Anterior tibialis (C, I)

Thigh

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas, quadriceps (C, I)

Initiates external rotation

Adductors (E)

External rotation

Deep external rotators,* gluteus medius (C, I)

Flexion, external rotation

Sartorius (C, I)

Spine extension, stability

Erector spinae, semispinalis, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis (C, I)

External rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids major and minor, mid trapezius (C, I)

Postural support in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow flexion

Brachialis, biceps brachii, brachioradialis (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Finger and thumb flexion

Flexor digiti minimi brevis, interossei dorsales manus and palmaris, opponens digiti minimi, flexor pollicis brevis (C, I)

Neck

Neck extension and stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, cervical erector spinae, semi­ spinalis (I)

Torso

Shoulder

Muscles released

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (I) Peroneals Iliopsoas, quadriceps (after external rotation), gracilis, sartorius

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

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Upavishtha Konasana Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend [oo-puh-VISH-tuh kohnAAH-suh-nuh] Upavishtha means “seated” or “sitting” in Sanskrit; kona means “angle.”

Description Upavishtha Konasana is a seated straddle position. With the legs outstretched from the center, the torso folds forward toward the ground from the hips.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly through the sit bones. Anchor into the backs of the heels.

Benefits • • • •

Opens the hips. Stretches the groin, hamstrings, and low back. Stimulates digestion. In a complete forward bend, deeply stretches the hips and lengthens the torso.

 Cautions Back pain or injury—Practice with modification or skip the pose. Advanced pregnancy (where the belly gets in the way of folding forward)—Practice with the use of props to support the abdomen and back.

Verbal Cues • From Dandasana (Staff Pose), inhale and move your legs apart as wide as you comfortably can, making sure that the stretch in the groin is not intense. Point your tailbone and sit bones toward the back of your mat, which will tilt the front of your pelvis slightly forward. • Root the fronts of your sit bones into the ground and imagine energy drawing from the top of your head downward toward your hips. Point your toes and knees up. Breathe deeply and slowly and lift your rib cage away from your hips. • Inhale and reach your arms up and then out to your sides as you expand your chest. Gaze forward with your chin parallel to the ground and your ears aligned over your shoulders. • As you keep your chin and chest lifted, exhale and fold slowly forward from your hips. Maintain length in your spine as you bring your chest closer to the ground. Stop at the first point of resistance and breathe length through your entire spine. Keep your chest open and your upper back long. • Lower your arms and place your hands above or below your knees or on the ground in front of your legs. Press lightly down into your hands and use this energy to support your back and rib cage as you lift the chest higher, slightly arching the back. Exhale and fold forward more deeply from the hip joints. 196

Seated Postures

• Continue to focus on your breath. • When you get to the point where you feel that you want to relax your back, stay in this position and breathe deeply, allowing your breath to loosen and soften your muscles. Imagine the breath expanding between your vertebrae and ribs. • On the next exhalation, allow your body to completely relax. Make certain that your spine feels comfortable and use your hands or a prop for support. • To exit this posture, bring your hands to your mid thighs and press down slowly but firmly. Inhale and lift through your chest and the crown of your head, coming once again to a seated position. Exhale and bring your legs together again in Dandasana. Roll your thighs in and out to loosen your hip joints and hamstrings.

Adjustments Knees—If the student needs to bend the knees slightly for comfort, seat the student on folded blankets or a bolster to help lift the hips and decrease stress on the hamstrings and low back. Spine—If the student rounds the spine in the forward fold, cue the student to sit upright slowly and begin again. Kneel behind the student and place your hand lightly on the mid back and encourage length by moving the fingers up the spine Adjustment: spine. toward the head.

Modifications Tight back or hamstrings—Seat the student on a folded blanket or bolster to help tilt the pelvis slightly forward. You can also invite the student to keep the knees bent slightly or place a small rolled-up towel behind the knees. Pregnancy—Help the student keep the abdomen open and not compressed. Place a chair or stacked blankets in front of the student for her to rest her hands on. As the student flexes forward slightly, the support of the chair allows her to keep the torso upright. The student may also rest her arms and head on a chair with a pillow for relaxation. Many students also find a soft bolster or pillow under the growing abdomen to be comfortably supportive. Weakness or injury—Modify the seated posture to a restorative one such as Viparita Karani (Restorative Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose), in which the heels and backs of the legs are against a wall and the back is on the ground. Modification: pregnancy.

Kinematics As the upper body flexes forward, people with tight adductors often find that the legs roll into internal rotation. To help make your students aware of this action, give them an additional verbal cue to keep the knees and toes pointing upward or slightly externally rotated. Remind students to focus the breath softly into the groin and hamstrings if they feel any tightness in these areas, and not to push beyond the first point of resistance.

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Upavishtha Konasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (C, I)

Lower leg

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus (C, I)

Thigh

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion over 120 degrees

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris (C, I)

Thigh abduction, stability

Tensor fascia lata, gluteus medius Adductors, gracilis and minimus (C, I)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids major and minor, mid trapezius (C, I)

Humerus horizontal extension

Mid and posterior deltoid, supraspinatus (C, I)

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Joint stability

Subscapularis, teres minor, infraspinatus

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Finger and thumb flexion

Flexor digiti minimi brevis, interossei dorsales manus and palmaris, opponens digiti minimi, flexor pollicis brevis (C, I)

Neck

Neck extension and stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, cervical erector spinae (I)

Torso

Shoulder

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

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Muscles released

Foot and toes

Hamstrings

Pectoralis major

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

Seated Postures

Parighasana Kneeling Triangle, or Gate Pose [par-eegh-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, parigha is the word for a crossbar used to lock a gate, which is the shape of the body in this posture. Physically, this side stretch lengthens the intercostals (rib muscles) and enables the expansion of the breath. In a metaphysical sense, the breath is the gateway that connects the mind, body, and spirit.

Description This intense side stretch is generally practiced in a kneeling position with one leg abducted and rotated externally. It can also be described as a kneeling version of Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle). The deeper variation of this posture requires considerable flexibility in the lateral torso because the hips are lowered onto the ground.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy, third chakra (Manipurna) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root into the knee and the top of the foot of the bent leg. Anchor into the heel and possibly the toes of the straight leg.

Benefits • • • • •

Applies a deep lateral stretch to the torso and low back. Loosens the spine. Stretches the pelvis and chest. Strengthens the lateral abdominal muscles. Aids in digestion.

 Cautions Knee concerns—Practice with modifications. Back concerns—Those with back pain or injury should limit the lateral stretch to some degree and use props for support.

Verbal Cues • From a kneeling position, place your knees hip-width apart with your thighs perpendicular to the ground. Align your spine and legs as in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Abduct your right leg, keeping it in line with your torso. Rotate the top of your right thigh externally so that your knee and toes points upward. • If possible, press your right forefoot flat against the ground to help support your balance and stretch the upper ankle. If this action strains the ankle or causes cramping, allow your toes to lift slightly off the ground. Anchor into your left knee and right heel. • Stretch your arms out to your sides with your palms facing downward. Inhale and lengthen your spine, reaching the crown of your head toward the sky.

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• As you exhale, reach your right arm out over your right leg, maintaining length in your low back. When you have stretched out as far as you comfortably can, slowly lower your right hand toward the ground without placing any upper body weight on your right leg. Be sure that your left thigh remains perpendicular to the ground and does not shift to either side. • Sweep your left arm forward, then reach over your head, bringing your upper arm close to your left ear. Point your palm toward the midline of your body. Continue to gaze forward; however, if there is tension in your neck, look down to your right foot. • Continue to focus on your breath. • As you breathe, notice your breath filling your entire torso, lengthening your sides. Feel the muscles between your ribs expand as your spine continues to lengthen. Keep your torso aligned over your right leg. • To exit this pose, press your right foot firmly into the ground and sweep your left hand out to the left side of your body. As you inhale, feel yourself lifted by your left arm. Exhale and lower your arms to your sides. Bring your right knee back under your body and prepare to move to the left side.

Adjustments

Adjustment: extended thigh.

Foot of extended leg—If the student’s foot is not aligned with the hip, the balance will be compromised. Invite the student to slide the foot back so that the heel is in line with the hip. Extended thigh—Squat or kneel behind the student and place one hand on the outer mid ribcage or the hip of the kneeling leg to provide stability, and the other hand on the mid thigh of the straight leg. Gently draw the muscles toward you to externally rotate the leg and open the pelvic region. Rib cage—If the torso is sinking into the extended thigh, kneel behind the student and lightly place your hand on the outer portion of the rib cage. Cue the student to lengthen the spine and draw the ribs away from your hand. Shoulders—To help open the chest and shoulders, squat or kneel behind the student, place your nearest hand on the student’s upper arm, and slowly rotate the arm externally. Cue the student to maintain length in the neck.

Modifications Knee pain—If the student has difficulty placing the total body weight on the knees, double up the mat or place other padding under the joint. Modification: tight back or sides. Tight hamstrings or adductors—Instruct the student to keep the extended knee slightly bent. Tight back or sides—If the student is unable to reach the ground with the bottom hand, place a block or other prop to the outside of the extended leg. This modification allows the student to keep weight off of the leg yet remain balanced. Posture deepening—Instead of keeping the thigh of the bent knee perpendicular to the ground, the hips can be flexed so Modification: deepening the pose. that the sit bones rest on the ground. If flexibility allows, the hands can reach overhead toward the foot of the straight leg. This variation should be practiced only by students with sufficient range of motion in the hips and knees to allow for deepening the asana comfortably.

Kinematics The upper-body and hip mechanics of this posture are similar to those in Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle), except that this is a kneeling posture. As with Trikonasana, the emphasis here is to keep the torso mainly in the frontal plane and to continue to encourage length in the spine. 200

Seated Postures

Parighasana (Leg Abducted to Right Side) Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Foot and toes (R)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexors digitorum and hallucis longus, flexor digitorum brevis (C, I)

Foot and toes (L)

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum longus, extensor hallucis longus, anterior tibialis (C, I)

Lower leg (R)

Ankle plantar flexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (C, I)

Lower leg (L)

Ankle plantar flexion and stability

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus, peroneals (C, I)

Thigh (R)

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Thigh (L)

Knee flexion

Hamstrings, gastrocnemius (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip abduction and external rotation

Tensor fascia lata, deep external rotators,* gluteus medius and minimus (C, I)

Hamstrings, adductors

Hip and pelvis (L)

Hip extension, stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Iliopsoas, quadriceps

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, hamstrings, quadratus lumborum (I)

Torso

Trunk stability

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (I)

Torso (L)

Lateral flexion to right

Quadratus lumborum, erector spinae, internal and external obliques (E, I)

Shoulder (R)

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Humerus horizontal flexion

Middle and posterior deltoid, supraspinatus (C, I)

Humerus flexion

Anterior deltoids, pectoralis major, biceps brachii (C, I)

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm (R)

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Forearm extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Wrist extension

Extensor carpi radialis longus and brevis, extensor carpi ulnaris (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Hand and fingers (L)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Neck

Neck extension and stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, sternocleidomastoid, scalenes (I)

Shoulder (L)

Hand and fingers (R and L)

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus, anterior tibialis

Quadratus lumborum, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, internal and external obliques

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

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Virasana Hero Pose [veer-AAH-suh-nuh] Vira is Sanskrit for “hero” or “champion.” In Hindu mythology, the thighs are an extremely important part of the body, signifying virility and power. This pose focuses an intense stretch in the front thighs (quadriceps).

Description Virasana is a deep kneeling posture in which the hips are seated on the ground between the feet. Variations of this asana are used to sit in certain styles of meditation.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly through the sit bones as they rest either on the ground, on a prop, or on the backs of the calves. Anchor into the tops of the feet and the shins.

Benefits • • • • •

Helps alleviate calcaneal (heel) spurs and strengthens the arches. Stretches the quadriceps and ankles. Helps alleviate arthritis pain in the feet and ankles. Provides good spinal support for meditation (better than sitting cross-legged). Stimulates digestion.

 Cautions Acute knee injury—Students with undiagnosed knee pain should not practice this posture. Others with a knee injury should proceed cautiously and with modifications. Circulatory concerns—Students with cardiac or other circulation concerns should avoid this pose.

Verbal Cues • Kneel on the ground with your knees approximately hip-distance apart. Rest the tops of your feet against the ground with your toes pointed directly backward. • Exhale as you begin to slowly lower your hips toward your heels. Place your hands on your upper calves and rotate the bulk of your calf muscles away from the midline of your body. This action helps relax the knees as you lower farther and opens up space in which to place your hips. • Keep your knees aligned and your spine lengthened as you lower your hips onto the ground between your ankles. If you notice your knees splaying, focus on drawing your inner thighs toward each other. This action will also provide an anchoring sensation in your pelvis. • Inhale and lift your chest and the crown of your head upward. Roll your shoulders back and relax them to keep your chest expanding with your breath. Gaze softly forward, keeping length in the sides of your neck.

202

Seated Postures

• Rest your hands at your sides or on top of your thighs. Breathe deeply and continue to relax your shoulders. • Continue to focus on your breath, and feel your hips soften with each exhalation. • To exit the position, place your hands on the ground beside your legs. Slowly shift your pelvis to one side and rest on the side of your hip. Extend your knees as you sweep your feet forward, bringing you into Dandasana. Roll your ankles in both directions in order to loosen your knees and hips. Prepare for your next pose.

Adjustments Feet—Ensure that the student’s toes are not pointing out to the sides. If they are, instruct the student to come back into a kneeling position with the tops of the feet on the ground and the inner ankles against the side of the hips. Knees—Take care that the student’s knees are as close together as possible. Kneel in front of the student and place your hand lightly between the knee joints. Instruct the student to press against your hand with both knees. Remove your hand and instruct the student to keep the pressure constant. Shoulders—Remind the student to keep length in the spine with the front shoulders rolled back. To help establish length in the upper spine, kneel or semi-squat behind the student, press your knee or palm lightly against the Adjustment: shoulders. student’s spine, and lift gently. Place your opposite hand on the student’s nearest shoulder to help encourage openness in the chest.

Modifications Foot pain or tight ankles—If the student has a foot or ankle injury or complains of feeling uncomfortable with the top of the feet against the ground, place a folded blanket under the front of the ankle joint. It may also help to place the hips on a folded blanket or block. Knee pain—Place a folded blanket or a block under the student’s hips to open the angle under the knees. This action decreases pressure on the knee joints. Another possible modification is to bend only one knee at a time, especially if the student has pain or injury in one leg. From the low lunging position, instruct the student to extend one leg forward and lower the hips to the ground behind. Depending on the student’s flexibility, she or he may wish to place a block or blanket under the hip of the straight leg. Posture deepening—Instruct the student to interlace the fingers and press the palms out. Then have the student inhale and reach the hands over the head. On an exhalation, cue the student to bring the hands behind the hips and slightly recline the spine to achieve a deeper stretch in the quadriceps.

Modification: knee pain.

Modification: knee pain.

Kinematics Sometimes a student rotates the lower legs externally in order to rest the pelvis on the ground between the heels. This action creates a risk of injury in the medial knee structures. Always check that the front of the shins is resting flat on the ground and that the calves and feet do not rotate externally.

203

Virasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum longus (I)

Lower leg

Ankle plantar flexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (I, R)

Internal rotation

Posterior tibialis (I)

Thigh

Knee flexion

Quadriceps (E, R)

Quadriceps

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (E, R)

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus

Torso

Spine extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis (C, I)

External rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Humerus adduction

Latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension

Extensor carpi ulnaris, radialis longus and brevis (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (I)

Neck

Neck extension and stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, cervical erector spinae (I)

Shoulder

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, and R = relaxed.

204

Muscles released

Foot and toes

Anterior tibialis, peroneals

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris

Seated Postures

Bharadvajasana Bharadvaja’s Pose [bhuh-RUHD-vaah-JAAH-suh-nuh] In Hindu mythology, Bharadvaja was one of the legendary Seven Seers. He was also the father of Drona, a great military leader who fought the war chronicled in the Mahabharata.

Description Bharadvajasana is a gentle, seated twist that can be practiced with the legs in a sideways, leaning Virasana (Hero Pose) or with one leg in Virasana and the other in Ardha Padmasana (Half-Lotus Pose).

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly through the sit bones. In the basic position, anchor into the outside of the leg resting on the ground. In the deeper expression of the pose, anchor into the outside of the leg resting on the ground and press the top of the foot into the opposite hip.

Benefits • • • • • •

Stretches and strengthens the low spine. Stretches the neck, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. Massages the internal organs. Helps relieve sciatica pain. Improves digestion. Helps relieve anxiety.

 Cautions Acute knee concerns—Students with acute knee concerns should practice only the basic variation or use modifications. Acute spinal concerns—Students with spinal concerns should limit rotation in the spine. Intestinal discomfort—Due to the pressure created in the abdomen, students with intestinal discomfort should refrain from practicing this pose until the discomfort passes.

Verbal Cues • From Virasana (Hero’s Pose), shift your body weight to your right hip and lower the hip to the ground. Keep your legs together and allow your left ankle to rest on top of the arch of your right foot. • Inhale and lengthen your spine as you settle your hips more comfortably onto the ground. Exhale and bring your right hand to the ground behind your hip. Reach your left hand across your body to the outside of your right leg.

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• As you exhale, focus on keeping the top of your pelvis level with the ground and continue to ground through your sit bones. • With each inhalation, lengthen your spine, allowing your right arm to aid in keeping your spine perpendicular to the ground. With each exhalation, lightly press your right shoulder farther back, and rotate the front of the shoulder away from your chest in order to open more space in this area. • Keep your right shoulder open, and slowly turn your head and look over your left shoulder. Align your chin with your shoulder without straining your neck. For a deeper stretch in the right side of your neck, slightly lower your chin toward your left shoulder. • Continue to focus on your breath. • To exit this posture, exhale and slowly turn your head forward. Then inhale and slowly bring your chest forward. Lift your hips back over your heels into Virasana and prepare to practice the pose on the opposite side.

Adjustments Feet—Be sure that the bottom foot is resting on the ground. Cue the student to relax both feet. Hips—If the top of the student’s pelvis is not level with the ground, place a blanket under the lower hip. Kneel behind the student, place your hands softly at the top of the pelvis, and apply light pressure downward. Be aware of the student’s comfort level. Spine—Remind the student to lift out of the low spine. Kneel behind the student, gently place your hand on the rounded spine, and encourage lengthening up. Rotation—If the student has difficulty rotating the shoulder, squat or kneel behind the student and place one hand on the front of the shoulder joint nearest to you. Place your opposite hand on the student’s outer rib cage and gently rotate the shoulder toward you as you gently press the rib cage away. Lightly lift the student’s spine as you move the torso.

Modifications Tight spine or shoulders in the Ardha Padmasana variation—If the student has difficulty grasping the toe, wrap a strap around the foot and cue the student to hold onto the other end with the hand behind the back. Pose deepening—The following variation is for students who can sit comfortably in Ardha Padmasana (Half-Lotus Pose). Instruct students to cross the bottom leg over the top so that the foot rests in the crease of the opposite thigh in Ardha Padmasana. Next, instruct them to reach the hand farthest from the feet behind the back and toward the top foot. If possible, students can grab the big toe and use the Modification: tight spine or shoulders connection for leverage while rotating. in the Ardha Padmasana variation.

Modification: deepening the posture.

Kinematics In Bharadvajasana, the spine should remain perpendicular to the ground with all of the natural curves intact. However, because of tight hip extensors and rotators, some students find that they cannot keep both halves of the pelvis on the ground. To compensate, the low back curves laterally toward the legs; another compensation is to exaggerate the forward curve in the low spine (lordosis). For comfort and proper alignment, place a bolster or blanket under the hip farthest from the legs.

206

Seated Postures

Bharadvajasana (Rotating Torso to Right) Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (I)

Lower leg

Ankle stability

Gastrocnemius, soleus, peroneals (I)

Thigh

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas (C, I)

External rotation, stability

Adductors (E, I)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas (C, I)

Internal rotation

Deep external rotators* (E, I)

Spinal stability

Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum (I)

Chest and rib elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Torso (R)

Spinal rotation to right

Internal oblique, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi (C, I)

External oblique

Torso (L)

Spinal rotation to right

External obliques (C, I)

Quadratus lumborum, internal oblique, erector spinae

Shoulder (R)

Humeral extension

Posterior deltoid, latissimus dorsi (C, I)

Pectoralis major

External rotation

Posterior deltoid, teres minor, infraspinatus (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Torso (R and L)

Deep external rotators,* gluteus medius

Shoulder (L)

Internal rotation and humeral Latissimus, posterior deltoid (C, I) Quadratus lumborum extension (aids in spinal rotation)

Upper arm (R)

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Upper arm (L)

Elbow extension against resistance (also aids in spinal rotation)

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm (R)

Supination

Supinator (C, I)

Lower arm (L)

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Hand and fingers (R)

Wrist hyperextension

Extensor carpi radialis longus Wrist flexors and brevis, extensor carpi ulnaris (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Wrist flexion

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Neck (R)

Head rotation to right, stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, occipitals, cervical erector spinae (C, I)

Neck (L)

Head rotation to right

Sternocleidomastoid (C, I)

Hand and fingers (L)

Sternocleidomastoid

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

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Padmasana Lotus Pose [puhd-MAAH-suh-nuh] Padma is Sanskrit for “lotus flower,” which is associated with beauty, spirituality, and eternity. When meditating in Padmasana, the energy of prana is said to flow through the chakra centers, which are generally represented as lotus flowers.

Description Padmasana is an upright, seated position in which the legs are crossed in front with each ankle resting comfortably on the opposite thigh near the crease of the hip. This is the quintessential seated asana in hatha yoga and East Indian meditation. Padmasana is said to connect the energies of the root chakra and the crown chakra while in meditation. To sit comfortably in this position, one needs flexible, open hips. This takes time and practice. Many people, especially in the West, have inflexible hip joints and cannot easily sit in this position without much preparatory work. Four variations of Padmasana are provided here so that students at every level of flexibility can sit in this restful position.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, seventh chakra (Sahasrara) divine energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly through the sit bones. Anchor into the outer edges of the thighs while resting the outside of each foot against the opposite thigh.

Benefits • • • • •

Relieves stiffness in the hips, knees, and ankles. Strengthens the low spine and abdominal muscles. Promotes a relaxed, balanced posture. Increases circulation of interstitial fluids (lymph fluids). Boosts energy.

 Cautions Acute knee injury—Students with acute knee concerns should either practice only the basic variation or use modifications. Artificial joints—Students with a hip or knee replacement should either skip this pose or practice only with modifications.

Verbal Cues For all variations, emphasize to students that they should each respect the limits of their own body! Even if a student can normally come into Padmasana quite easily, there may be days when, because of body temperature or fatigue, the student has difficulty. Remind students to move slowly and to come into the posture only to the point where the body is most comfortably challenged. In this way, they can sit restfully. 208

Seated Postures

First Variation: Baby Lotus • From Dandasana (Staff Pose), bend your knees, then cross one ankle over the other and draw your feet in as close to your body as is comfortable. It is fine if your knees are lifted off the ground. However, if your knees are higher than your hips, it is best to sit on a folded blanket or bolster. • Elongate your spine and allow your shoulders to relax. Rest your hands on your lap or down by your hips. • Focus on your breath. Practice this pose on both sides to maintain balance in your hips.

Second Variation: Sukhasana [soo-KHAAH-suh-nuh] (Easy Pose) • From Dandasana, bend your left knee and draw your heel close to your right hip. Next, bend your right knee and place your lower leg in front of your left shin. Your ankles do not cross in this position. • Allow your knees to rotate easily toward the ground. This is generally a precursor to sitting comfortably in Padmasana. First variation: Baby Lotus. • Elongate your spine and allow your shoulders to relax. Rest your hands on your lap or down by your hips. • Focus on your breath. Practice this pose on both sides to maintain balance in your hips.

Third Variation: Ardha Padmasana (Half-Lotus, or Tailor’s Seat) This variation gets to the root of sitting in a deep, comfortable Padmasana. • From Sukhasana, place your right foot on top of your left ankle and calf. If you feel comfortable doing so, wedge your right foot between your left calf and thigh to help keep your legs in this position. • Focus on your breath. • If there is no strain in your knee or hip, lift your light leg up slightly and bring Second variation: Sukhasana. your right knee inward toward the midline of your body. Breathe. • Place your right ankle above your left knee so that your right foot and knee hang comfortably toward the ground. Move your left foot away from your body by extending your knee slightly. • As comfortably as possible, move your legs so that the knees are at a 90-degree angle. Lower your top (right) knee toward your left ankle as much as you can in a relaxed manner. This position is called Agnistambhasana [ugh-NEEstumb-AAH-suh-nuh] (Fire Log Pose). Relax and breathe here for a few breaths, elongating your spine as you inhale and softening your shoulders as you exhale. • Turn the sole of your top (right) foot upward; if you can, bring your right heel slowly toward your navel. Move your right knee even more toward center. Be sure that the knee feels comfortable. • Rest the top of your right ankle as close to the crease of your left thigh as is comfortable for you. Relax your right ankle so that the foot hangs over the outside of the thigh. Your right hip is stretched and open, thus Third variation: Ardha Padmasana. allowing the ankle to soften. 209

• As you relax your lower body into this posture, be sure to keep your spine straight, lengthened, and relaxed. • Continue to Padmasana or, to exit this variation, extend your bottom leg and then your top leg. Loosen your hips, knees, and ankles by rolling your legs from side to side. Switch sides.

Fourth Variation: Padmasana (Full Lotus) • From Ardha Padmasana, move your left (lower) leg away from your body so that the outside of your top thigh rests completely on the ground. Exhale and, as much as you comfortably can, bring your left foot up from the ground and draw your left heel in toward your navel. This action brings your left knee farther forward. Breathe. • If your knees and hips still feel comfortable, inhale and bring your left ankle into the crease of your right thigh. • Root into your sit bones as you relax your lower body more deeply into this position. Breathe length through your spine and relax your shoulders. Place your hands on your mid thighs with your palms facing upward and keep your arms relaxed, or bring your hands to your chest into Anjali Mudra. • To exit this posture, slowly straighten your left leg. Roll the leg from side to side and rotate the ankle around. With the next breath, extend your right leg and loosen its joints. Although many people are more comfortable practicing on one side, it is always a good idea to practice this posture with the opposite leg positioning in order to Fourth variation: Padmasana. keep both sides of the legs and hips loosened.

Adjustments Ankles—Students often complain of ankle pain when sitting in Ardha Padmasana or variations in which the ankle is on the ground. To cushion the bones, place a small folded towel under the foot. Also, if the feet are crossed over the opposite thigh, make sure that the ankles are not inverted (rolling inward); this positioning places undue stress on the lateral ankle structures. Instruct students to bring the knees more in line with the center or to move out of the position. Knees—If much stress is placed on the knees as the adductors relax, place folded blankets, bolsters, or blocks under the outside of the thighs as a wedge. Spine—If a student is rounding the back, place a blanket under the hips to lift the pelvis and lengthen the spine. Place your hand lightly on the spine to cue the student to sit taller through the spine and chest.

Modifications Low-back or hip tightness; weakness in all variations—Place a folded blanket under the student’s hips. You can also place the student with his or her back against a wall for support. Hip tightness—Depending on the degree of tightness, instruct the student Modification: low back or hip tightness; weakness. to keep the legs in the most comfortable and least stressful position.

Kinematics Many students are so determined to come into either Ardha Padmasana or Padmasana that they place excessive stress on all of the leg joints, especially the knees. A common error many students make is placing the ankle only partially across the opposite thigh. If the ankle is not draped over the thigh, the lateral ligaments and tendons become overstretched. Impress on your students the importance of sitting comfortably and without strain. Also, for students new to sitting in the full expression of this pose, it is essential to do a thorough warm-up of the hip and thigh muscles. 210

Seated Postures

Padmasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Lower leg

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis (C, I)

Thigh

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas (C, I)

External rotation

Adductors (E, R)

Flexion and rotation

Sartorius (C, I)

Spine extension, stability

Erector spinae, semispinalis, quadratus lumborum, (C, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis (C, I)

External rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids major and minor, mid trapezius (C, I)

Postural support in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachioradialis (R)

Lower arm

Forearm supination

Supinator (R)

Hand and fingers

Finger flexion

Flexor digiti minimi brevis, interossei palmaris, flexor pollicis brevis (R)

Neck

Neck extension and stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, cervical erector spinae, semi­ spinalis (I)

Torso

Shoulder

Muscles released

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (I) Adductors Deep external rotators,* adductors

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, and R = relaxed.

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Tolasana Scale Pose [tohl-AHH-suh-nuh] Tola is the Sanskrit term for a measurement of mass. Because this pose resembles the balancing platform of a measuring scale, it is named Tolasana. In Ashtanga practice, this posture is called Utpluti (oot-PLUHT-tee).

Description This arm-balance pose is generally used as a transition from one asana to another. Ideally, it is practiced with the legs in Padmasana (Full Lotus) and the body lifted off the ground and balanced between the hands. This asana requires strength, balance, and concentration.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root into the metacarpal heads and fingertips in both hands. Evenly balance the grounding energy in both hands.

Benefits • • • •

Strengthens the abdominal muscles, arms, wrists, and hands. Increases balance and mental focus. Increases energy. Stretches the hips if the legs are in Padmasana.

 Cautions Pregnancy—Due to the concentrated effort of the lower abdominals, this posture is not recommended beyond the second trimester. Extreme weakness—Students with this condition should practice with modifications to increase strength. Shoulder or wrist concerns—Students with shoulder or wrist injury should avoid this pose or practice with modifications.

Verbal Cues • From the variation of Padmasana (Lotus Pose) that best coordinates with your ability, place your hands on the ground beside your hips. Hug your elbows in toward your rib cage and lightly squeeze your shoulder blades toward each other to open your chest. • Inhale and lengthen your spine. Widen your fingers and press your hands onto the ground as you focus on anchoring into your fingertips and the heels of your hands. • Exhale and straighten your elbows while you lift your hips off the ground. Draw your legs inward toward your lower abdominal area. Distribute your body weight evenly between your hands and feel the strength in your abdomen aiding your balance.

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Seated Postures

• Encourage a slight bend to your elbows to keep from hyperextending the joints. Relax the tops of your shoulders away from your ears and lift the crown of your head toward the sky. As you inhale, feel your chest lift as you open the fronts of your shoulders. Continue to be aware of the even balance between your hands, and the power in your abdominal area. • Keep your breathing smooth and controlled. • To exit the posture, exhale and bend your elbows to slowly lower your hips and legs back to the ground. Flex and loosen your wrists. Uncross your legs, then recross them the opposite way and come back into the position. • Another option for exiting this posture is to extend the legs either forward or backward in order to move directly into another asana.

Adjustments Arms—If the student’s hands are placed too far away from the hips, balancing will be difficult and the shoulder joints will be unstable. Instruct the student to place the hands as close to the hips as possible before lifting. Also, students often collapse into the chest and hunch the shoulders into the ears. Remind them to keep the elbows straight and near the rib cage. To adjust, kneel behind the student and place your hands on the upper arms. Lightly rotate the upper arms externally and encourage the student to lengthen the spine. Neck—Place your hands lightly on top of the student’s shoulders to encourage length in the neck. Also remind the student to gaze forward, not down, while lifting the hips off the ground.

Modifications Arm strength—To help a student build strength in the arms and shoulders, cue to press through the arms and lift the hips while the legs remain on the ground. Place a folded blanket under the hips to shorten the distance to lift. Abdominal strength—To help a student build abdominal strength, instruct the student to keep the palms and hips on the ground and then lift the legs toward the abdomen. Long torso—If a student’s torso is longer than the arms, the student will tend to lift from the fingers instead of the palms, thus placing undue stress on the finger joints. Place blocks under the student’s hands to “lengthen” the arms. Wrist weakness—If a student complains of wrist pain, props are available that Modification: building abdominal strength. allow the student to grip an elevated bar in order to lift, rather than bending the joint. Also, make certain to counter the hyperextension of the wrists with some gentle, Modification: long torso. easy wrist flexion.

Kinematics Tolasana is not a pure seated posture; it is generally considered an arm-balancing asana. However, it is a good transitional posture in the seated category. It can also build strength in the arms, abdominals, and legs—even if the legs are not lifted off the ground. It is a pose that requires coordinated strength and attention throughout the entire body. 213

Tolasana Body segment Foot and toes

Kinematics

Muscles active

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (I)

Lower leg

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis (C, I)

Thigh

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion, stability

Iliopsoas (C, I)

External rotation, stability

Adductors (E, I)

Flexion, external rotation

Sartorius (C, I)

Hip stability

Deep external rotators,* gluteus medius (I)

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum (I)

Flexion

Rectus abdominis (C, I)

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis (C, I)

External rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids and mid trapezius (C, I)

Scapular depression, stability

Serratus anterior (C, I)

Postural support in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

Humerus hyperextension, stability

Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoids (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Elbow stability

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis (I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation, stability

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension, stability, and balance

Wrist flexors and extensors (C, I)

Finger abduction

Abductor digiti minimi, interossei (C, I)

Finger stability, balance

Flexor digitorum profundus and superficialis, flexor digiti minimi brevis, interossei palmaris (C, I)

Neck extension and stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, cervical erector spinae, semispinalis, upper trapezius (C, I)

Torso

Shoulder

Hand and fingers

Neck

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

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Seated Postures

Hanumanasana Forward-Split Pose [huh-noo-maahn-AAH-suh-nuh] In Hindu mythology, Hanuman was a powerful god of service and the son of Vayu, the god of wind or breath. He is a magical monkey characterized by both mental and physical strength. The epitome of service, he helped rescue Sita, the wife of Lord Rama by making great flying leaps across the seas to fulfill his duty.

Description This asana is a tribute to Hanuman’s giant leap—a forward split. Hanumanasana is another posture that many students may find quite challenging when they first try it. With practice, however, it provides very beneficial flexibility in the hamstrings and hip flexors. When one is able to practice Hanumanasana comfortably, the pose can be deepened by a slight backbend.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy, seventh chakra (Sahasrara) divine energy

Foundational Focus Root into the sit bone of the forward leg and the top of the thigh of the back leg. Anchor into the back of the heel of the forward leg and the top of the foot and thigh of the back leg. Evenly balance the grounding energy in both legs.

Benefits • • • •

Stretches the hamstrings and hip flexors. Stabilizes and balances the deep hip muscles. Helps relieve sciatica pain. Strengthens the spinal and abdominal muscles.

 Caution Hamstring or groin injury—Proceed with modifications.

Verbal Cues • Begin in a kneeling lunge (a position in the classical Sun Salutation) with your right leg forward. Slide your left leg back and lower your front thigh toward the ground. Your hands remain on the ground. • Square your shoulders so that they align directly over your pelvis. Inhale and move your pelvis toward your right heel and lift your rib cage so that your spine is as long as possible. Preparation for Hanumanasana. 215

• Breathe deeply into any area in which you feel resistance and relax, or back away slightly. Gaze softly forward. • Secure your hands on the ground as you slowly slide your right heel forward. Exhale and straighten your right leg as much as is comfortable. Go to the first point of resistance and breathe here. Your pelvis should remain in a fairly neutral position. • Find the place where you feel balanced between your legs and remain there as you breathe deeply. Allow your muscles to relax with each exhalation. Lift your rib cage away from your hips as you inhale. • If you can do so comfortably and without strain, lower your hips all the way to the ground. Inhale and raise your arms overhead if you feel grounded in the hips. Stay here and soften your breath. • If you cannot bring your hips to the ground comfortably, focus on keeping your hips and shoulders in alignment. • To exit this posture, use your arms and abdominal muscles to eliminate the possibility of straining your low back or groin. Move slowly and press your hands into the ground while lifting your hips. Bend your right knee and move your body back into the lunge. Switch legs and prepare to practice on the opposite side.

Adjustments Hips—If a student’s hips are out of alignment where the front hip rotates forward, squat or kneel to the side of the forward leg and place your hands on the sides of the pelvis. Very gently draw the front of the flexed hip back and press the back of the extended hip forward. Adjustment: balance. Balance—If a student has difficulty balancing in the posture with the arms overhead, stand to the student’s side and lightly hold onto the arms as a means of support.

Modifications Tight hamstrings or hip flexors—If either of these muscle groups is tight, the student will be unable to comfortably lower the hips to the ground, and may require blankets under the hips or back knee for more support. Another modification is to place blocks under the student’s hands to keep the upper body weight from overly stretching the hamstrings and hip flexors. Cue the student to keep the shoulders relaxed. Knee discomfort—For some students, the pressure of the back knee against the ground creates discomfort; to alleviate it, Modification: tight hamstrings or hip flexors. place padding under the knee.

Kinematics As with Padmasana (Lotus Pose), some people can come into this posture naturally and with ease, but most need to practice modified versions as they increase the range of motion in the joints and flexibility in the hamstrings and hip flexors.

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Seated Postures

Hanumanasana (Right Leg Forward) Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (C, I)

Lower leg (R)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus (C, I)

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Lower leg (L)

Ankle plantar flexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (I)

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus

Thigh

Knee extension

Quadriceps

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris (C, I, R)

Hamstrings

Hip and pelvis (L)

Hip hyperextension

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris

Torso

Slight lumbar hyperextension

Rectus abdominis (E, I)

Rectus abdominis

Slight lumbar hyperextension, spinal stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Trunk stability

Transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques (I)

Humeral flexion

Anterior deltoids, pectoralis major, biceps brachii (C, I)

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior tibialis (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Forearm extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Neck extension and stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, upper trapezius (I)

Shoulder

Hand and fingers

Neck

Latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior

Biceps brachii, brachioradialis

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right (in body segment column) or relaxed (in muscles active column).

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Bakasana Crane Pose [buhk-AAH-suh-nuh] Baka is Sanskrit for “crane” (the tall wading bird). Like a tall and poised crane, Bakasana is a graceful, balancing asana. In some yoga traditions, this pose is often mistakenly referred to as Crow Pose. However, despite some physical similarities, Crow Pose, or Kakasana (KAH-KAH-suh-nuh), is generally practiced with the elbows completely straight.

Description Like Tolasana (Scale Pose), Bakasana is most often categorized as an arm balance but is frequently used as a transitional seated pose. In this squatting arm balance, the arms support the weight of the body as the bent knees rest on the backs of the upper arms. Once the person is balanced on the hands, the feet are lifted off the ground. Many students are naturally somewhat fearful of falling forward onto the face when they first practice this asana.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root into the metacarpal heads and fingertips in both hands. Anchor the front of the knees (or shins) into the backs of the upper arms. Evenly balance the grounding energy in both hands.

Benefits • • • •

Strengthens the arms and wrists. Improves focus and balance. Strengthens the abdominal muscles. Stretches the low back.

 Cautions Wrist injury or acute carpal tunnel syndrome—Students with wrist concerns should refrain from practicing this posture. Pregnancy—This posture is not recommended after the second trimester.

218

Seated Postures

Verbal Cues • From Malasana (Basic Squat, or Bead Pose), place your hands shoulder-width apart on the ground in front of you. • Fix your gaze on a drishti (focal point) slightly forward of your hands. Spread your fingers apart to create a wider base of support and anchor into your fingertips. • Lean forward slightly and feel your body weight shift toward your fingers. Engage your inner thigh muscles (adductors) to draw attention to your lower abdominal region. On an exhalation, firm the abdominal muscles. • Bend your elbows and slowly lift your heels off the ground as you shift your body weight more toward your hands. Continue to gaze forward toward your drishti. Feel your hips lift upward. • Press your knees or shins against the backs of your upper arms with your knees as close to your underarms (axillas) as possible. Notice your balance center and imagine your breath moving into and out of this mid-­ abdominal space. • Continue to focus on your breath. • As you lean forward, exhale and slowly lift one foot off the ground. If you do not feel comfortably balanced, slowly lower that foot and lift the other. If you feel balanced, lift both feet slowly off the ground. Spread the toes to keep the entire body energized. Hover here and breathe slowly and smoothly. • Continue to focus your gaze past your hands. Apply abdominal lock (uddiyana bandha) and continue to balance for five or six breaths. • To exit the posture, exhale, slowly lower your feet back to the ground, and rest in Malasana or transition into another pose.

Adjustments Aiding balance—Squat or stand in a slight lunge behind the student with your hands on the outsides of the hips; alternately, place a strap into the creases of the student’s hips. Lightly aid the student’s balance without holding the student up with your strength. Hands—Remind the student to place the hands no more than shoulder-width apart and to press the hands firmly into the ground. If the student’s fingers are not spread, lightly touch the top of the hand to encourage expansion. Elbows—Kneel beside the student and place your hands on the outsides of the upper arms to guide the elbows in toward the body. Adjustment: aiding balance.

Modifications Confidence building—Some students feel much more confident and less fearful with folded blankets or a pillow positioned nearby so as to cushion any fall. Also, continue to remind them to keep the gaze forward of the hands. If a student does fall forward, remind her or him that continuing on after falling builds strength and character in all aspects of life! Strength building—For students who have difficulty lifting both feet off the ground, place blocks or folded blankets under the feet so that they begin the pose with the hips in a slightly elevated position. Also, for those recovering from wrist injury, instruct them to practice putting body weight on the hands while keeping the feet on the ground.

Kinematics Individuals with tight hips may lift the hips significantly higher than the head as they get into position and often lose balance more quickly. The more compact a student can make the body in this position, the easier it is to remain controlled and balanced. This is a very active posture, in which, once the person is in position, most of the muscles remain in isometric contraction to maintain balance.

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Bakasana Body segment

Kinematics

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (C, I)

Lower leg

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus (C, I)

Thigh

Knee flexion, stability

Hamstrings, sartorius (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion, stability

Iliopsoas, sartorius, rectus femoris (C, I)

Hip abduction, stability

Gluteus medius and minimus (C, I)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Sternoclavicular stability

Subclavius (I)

Torso stability

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (I)

Flexion of humerus, stability

Pectoralis major, coracobrachialis, anterior deltoid (C, I)

Adduction of humerus, stability

Latissimus dorsi, teres major (C, I)

Stability and external rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Shoulder and scapular stability

Subscapularis, serratus anterior (C, I)

Scapular stability

Rhomboids and mid trapezius (C, I)

Supporting posture in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow flexion, stability

Triceps brachii (E, I), biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis (I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation, stability

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension, balance, and stability

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris (C, I), flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus (E, I)

Finger abduction

Abductor digiti minimi, interossei (C, I)

Finger extension, stability, balance

Flexor digitorum profundus and superficialis, flexor digiti minimi brevis, interossei palmaris (C, I)

Neck hyperextension and stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, cervical erector spinae, semispinalis, upper trapezius (C, I)

Torso

Shoulder

Hand and fingers

Neck

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

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Muscles active

9 Supine and Prone Postures

© Alexander Novikov/istock.com

T

his chapter comprises 17 poses that render the body either faceup (supine) or facedown (prone) with the bottom of the pelvis (the ischial tuberosities) generally off the ground. In addition, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (OneLegged Royal Pigeon Pose)  is included in this chapter because it can be practiced with the body in both supine and prone positions. More generally, the positions presented here include backbends, plank variations, positions on the hands and knees, and asanas in which the body is lying faceup or facedown (for example, Supta Padangusthasana [Reclining Hand-to-Toe

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Instructing Hatha Yoga Pose], which borders on being a restorative pose). Also included here is Vasishthasana (Side Plank Pose), which, though neither supine nor prone, is related to regular plank poses and does not fit well into the other categories outlined in this book. Generally, the supine and prone asanas stretch and strengthen the core musculature. Plank poses build stability and strength in the arms and shoulders, and backbends open the chest and strengthen the mid and upper back. Some of the postures included in this chapter also help warm

up the body. Others are often practiced to energize the body and mind—for example, Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose). Backbends typically serve as counterposes to forward-folding asanas (and vice versa) and complete the balancing of the spinal range of motion during asana sessions. Although prone poses are not generally advised after the first trimester of pregnancy due to the pressure on the abdomen, many postures can be practiced with modifications so that the belly does not rest on the ground.

Supine and Prone Postures

Durga-Go Cat and Cow Pose [DUR-guh-go] Cat and Cow pose has no official Sanskrit translation. Some schools of yoga use the Sanskrit term Marjaryasana because marjara means “cat.” The name Durga-Go was chosen because in Hindu belief, Durga is a warrior goddess who rode the back of a ferocious tiger; go is Sanskrit for “cow.”

Description

Neutral position.

Durga-Go is a flowing pose practiced on the hands and knees. It moves the spine through a gentle range of flexion and hyperextension in the sagittal plane. The rounded, flexed position of the spine resembles a cat with its back arched, and the hyperextension in the spine is reminiscent of the sway in a cow’s back.

Energetic Focus Third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy

Foundational Focus Root into the metatarsal heads and fingertips in both hands. Anchor into the knees and the tops of both feet.

Durga (cat) position.

Benefits • Warms and stretches the spinal musculature. • Provides a safe substitute for other poses, such as Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog), when one is pregnant or unable to support the body weight with the arms. • Loosens and relaxes the neck, upper back, and shoulders. • Moves the energy with the breath. Go (cow) position.

 Cautions Wrist concerns—Students with a wrist concern should practice with modifications. Neck pain or injury—Students with neck pain or injury should keep the head aligned with the torso. Lower back concerns—Students with acute lower back pain or injury should practice with modifications or move through a smaller range of motion.

Verbal Cues • Begin on your hands and knees. Place your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Maintain length in your neck and openness in your shoulders. Spread your fingers and soften your elbows slightly. 223

• Inhale and lengthen your spine. Stretch so that the crown of your head and your tailbone are as far away from each other as possible. Feel your breath expand through your entire torso. Imagine your back as a tabletop while keeping a strong torso. • Exhale and tuck your lower pelvis downward as you draw your chin toward your chest. Draw your abdomen slightly in toward your spine and lift your mid spine toward the sky. Relax the space between your shoulder blades and feel your lower back stretch. This is the durga position. • Inhale and move your spine back into the tabletop position. Feel your spine lengthen once again. With your next inhalation, press your hips back slightly as you point your tailbone toward the sky. At the same time, press your chest forward and up, with your chin slightly lifted. Arch your back as far as feels comfortable to you. Imagine your collar bones drawing apart as you open your chest and inhale deeply. Feel your abdomen lengthen and stretch. This is the go position. If your lower back feels uncomfortable, decrease your back arch slightly. • Exhale and release your spine back to the tabletop (neutral) position. • Repeat this cycle two or three times, or more, moving with the breath. Return to the tabletop position. Prepare for the next posture.

Adjustments Hands and knees—If the hands and knees are either too close together or too far apart, the student will have trouble flattening the back. Cue the student to adjust the distance accordingly. Elbows—If the elbows are locked, the student will often internally rotate the upper arms and sink the head into the shoulders. To adjust, kneel or squat at the student’s side, lightly grasp the upper arms near the shoulders, and rotate the elbows toward the rib cage. Shoulders—Remind the student to maintain distance between the ears and shoulders. Gently tap the tops of the shoulders to cue the student to relax them. Spine—To help a student achieve flexion in the spine, kneel or squat at the student’s side and place your hand lightly on the middle of the back. Encourage the student to press the spine against your hand to lift it. To help the student hyperextend the spine, place your hand at the mid spine and instruct the student to move the spine away from your hand. Breath awareness—When in the durga (rounded back) position, place your hand lightly on the mid spine and cue the student to direct the breath to that area, as if breathing the shoulder blades apart.

Modifications Feet and ankles—If the student has trouble balancing with the tops of the feet on the ground, instruct the student to curl the toes under for stability. You may also place a small rolled towel under the student’s front ankles for comfort. Wrist pain—Instead of cueing a student to place the hands on the ground, instruct the student to bend the elbows and place the forearms on the ground or on top of blocks. Another option is to place a chair in front of the student and invite her or him to place the forearms on the seat. Ideally, the chair should be at the student’s shoulder height. Variation for lateral movements of the spine—Cue students to remain in the same hands-and-knees position with the spine parallel to the ground, exhale, and squeeze the sameside hip and shoulder together. Instruct students to look over the shoulder on the side being flexed. Cue students to inhale and move back to straight spine, then exhale and move to the other side. Invite them to move rhythmically, with the breath, just as in the original pose. Modification: wrist pain.

Kinematics Hands-and-knees positioning is a transitional position for many other postures. The hands should remain directly beneath the shoulders and the knees directly under the hips to avoid putting undue shearing stress on the joints. The elbow joints should remain straight but not hyperextended. 224

Supine and Prone Postures

Durga-Go Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum longus, extensor hallucis longus (C, I)

Lower leg

Ankle plantar flexion, stability

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus, peroneals (C, I)

Thigh

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas (C, I)

Hip stability

Gluteus maximus, hamstrings, deep hip rotators (C, I)

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, hamstrings (I)

Torso stability

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (C, I)

Spinal flexion

Rectus abdominis (C, I)

Sternoclavicular stability

Subclavius (I)

Torso (go phase)

Spinal hyperextension, stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Shoulder (both phases)

Flexion of humerus

Pectoralis major, anterior deltoids, coracobrachialis, biceps brachii (C, I)

Torso (durga phase)

Muscles released

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis

Stability and external rotation of Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior humerus deltoid (C, I) Supporting posture in mid back, downward pull of scapulae Shoulder (durga phase)

Lower trapezius (C, I)

Scapular abduction and stability Subscapularis, serratus anterior (C, I) Humerus adduction

Pectoralis major, anterior deltoid (C, I)

Shoulder (go phase)

Adduction of scapulae

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Forearm extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension, stability

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris (C, I)

Wrist stability

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus (C, I)

Finger extension, stability

Extensor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis (C, I)

Finger abduction

Abductor pollicis longus, opponens pollicis (C, I)

Neck (durga phase)

Initial neck flexion

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis, upper trapezius (E)

Neck flexion

Sternocleidomastoid, scalenes (C, I)

Neck (go phase)

Neck hyperextension

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis, upper trapezius (C, I)

Hand and fingers

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

Trapezius, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis, upper trapezius Sternocleidomastoid, scalenes

225

Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana Plank Pose [oot-T-HEE-tuh chuh-tour-RUHN-guh duhn-DAAH-suhnuh] Utthita is the Sanskrit word for “extended,” chatur means “four,” anga means “limbs,” and danda means “staff” or “rod.” This pose is sometimes called Kumbhakasana [koom-BAHK-AAH-suh-nuh], or Breath Retention Pose, due to the short moment of breath holding before the torso is lowered toward the ground. The pose is also sometimes called Phalakasana [fuh-LUK-AAH-suh-nuh]. In Sanskrit, phalak translates as “guardian.” Some schools of hatha yoga refer to Phalakasana as a forearm plank.

Description This posture essentially uses the extended-arm positioning of a push-up; it is a transitional movement in the Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskaras).

Energetic Focus Third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root into the metatarsal heads and fingertips in both hands. Anchor the metatarsal heads of both feet. Balance the grounding energy evenly between the hands and feet.

Benefits • Prepares the body for variations of extended body postures—for example, Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbs Staff Pose) and Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward-Facing Dog). • Builds strength in the shoulders, arms, back, legs, and abdominal muscles. • Builds stability in the shoulders and core musculature.

 Cautions Wrist concerns—Students with wrist injury or pain or carpal tunnel syndrome should use modifications. Lower-back weakness—Students who have difficulty holding this pose should practice with modifications. Pregnancy—After the first trimester, this pose should be practiced with modifications, and generally avoided in the third trimester.

Verbal Cues • From a low lunge, place your palms on the ground directly under your shoulders. Spread your fingers and press into your fingertips to lighten the pressure on the heels of your hands. • Inhale and lengthen your spine as you open your shoulders and chest. Hug your upper arms in toward your rib cage. Soften your elbows slightly to keep them from hyperextending. • Exhale and step your front leg back as you lift your back knee off the ground. Curl your toes under and straighten your legs. Press back through your heels and imagine touching the back wall.

226

Supine and Prone Postures

• Slightly rotate your inner thighs toward each other to energize your legs. In your mind’s eye, notice that your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles are aligned. Gaze down at the ground between your hands, lengthening the sides of your neck. • Breathe deeply and slowly and apply uddiyana bandha (see chapter 5). On an energetic level, this action helps maintain energy; on a physical level, it helps support your abdomen and low back. • Imagine pressing the ground away from your chest. This action helps keep your upper back elongated and your shoulder blades pressed against your spine. • In the Sun Salutations, the body is next lowered toward the ground to continue the vinyasa (flow); the body is also in position to transition into many other postures.

Adjustments Heels—Make sure that the heels press back to keep the legs active. Lightly touch the backs of the heels to remind the student to press backward. Hips—If a student’s hips are lifted higher than the shoulders and knees, place your hand lightly, with no pressure, on the upper pelvis and instruct the student to move the hips away from your hand. Shoulders—If the shoulders are not aligned over the hands, kneel to one side or in front of the student’s head. With your hands on the student’s upper shoulders, gently realign the student’s body weight over the hands. Shoulder blades—If the student’s shoulder blades “wing” out (lift away from the back due to weakness), remind the student to press more firmly against the ground through the arms. Kneel beside the student, place your hand lightly between the shoulder blades, and instruct the student to press the body up against your hand. Neck—Cue the student to look down toward the ground without dropping the head. The ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should be aligned. If any of the joints are sinking, gently touch the side of the joint and instruct the student to lift slightly.

Modifications Difficulty in finding alignment—Straddle the student’s back and bend your knees as you lightly hold the sides of the student’s hips and lift slightly to take some of the body weight. Weakness—If the student is unable to maintain a straight spine in the position, instruct the student to keep the knees bent and on the ground and to focus on keeping the spine straight from the shoulders to the hips. Adjustment: shoulders. Wrist concerns—If the student cannot flex the wrists or put weight on them, instruct the student to flex the elbows and place the forearms on the ground or on blocks. Students can also use specialized props to keep the wrist joints aligned.

Kinematics This particular asana works best as a preparatory posture to build the necessary strength in the arms, legs, and abdominal muscles for performing arm balances. It also helps develop the necessary range of motion in the shoulders and chest for performing many other poses. And, as with any plank, it is a core strengthener and balancer.

Modification: wrist concerns.

227

Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana Body segment Foot and toes

Lower leg

Thigh Hip and pelvis Torso

Shoulder

Kinematics

Muscles active

Toe abduction

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe hyperextension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus, anterior tibialis (C, I)

Forefoot stability

Anterior tibialis, flexor digitorum longus (C, I)

Ankle stability

Gastrocnemius, soleus, posterior tibialis, flexor digitorum and hallucis longus (I)

Ankle dorsiflexion, stability

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus (C, I)

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Femur adduction, stability

Adductors (C, I)

Hip extension, stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Hip stabilization

Gluteus medius, deep external rotators* (I)

Torso stability

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (I)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (I)

Sternoclavicular stability

Subclavius (I)

Flexion of humerus

Pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, coracobrachialis, biceps brachii (C, I)

Stability and external rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular stability

Rhomboids, mid trapezius

Scapular abduction, stability

Serratus anterior, subscapularis (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Forearm extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris (C, I)

Wrist stability

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis (C, I)

Finger abduction

Abductor pollicis longus, opponens pollicis (C, I)

Neck

Neck extension, stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semi­ spinalis, upper trapezius (I)

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

228

Muscles released

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Rhomboids, mid trapezius

Supine and Prone Postures

Chaturanga Dandasana Four-Limbs Staff Pose [chuh-tour-RUHN-guh duhn-DAAHsuh-nuh] Chatur means “four” in Sanskrit, anga means “limb” and danda means “staff.” In this pose, the four limbs support the straight staff of the spine.

Description This posture is more challenging than Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana (Plank Pose). Whereas that pose has straight elbows and is similar to the up phase of a push-up, this pose has bent elbows and is similar to the down phase of a push-up, with the body hovering slightly above the ground. It is practiced in the Ashtanga Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara A and B).

Energetic Focus Third chakra (Manipura chakra) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root into the metatarsal heads and fingertips in both hands. Anchor the metatarsal heads of both feet. Balance the grounding energy evenly between the hands and feet.

Benefits • Strengthens the shoulders, arms, and wrists. • Strengthens the abdominal muscles and massages the organs.

 Cautions Wrist concerns—Students with wrist injury or pain or carpal tunnel syndrome should use modifications. Lower-back weakness—Students who have difficulty holding this pose should practice with modifications. Pregnancy—This pose should be practiced with modification past the first trimester.

Verbal Cues • From Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana, with your palms pressed against the ground and aligned with your shoulders, press back through your heels and prepare to slowly bend your elbows. • Exhale and slowly lower your body toward the ground. Keep your upper arms close to your rib cage and your shoulders away from your ears. Lower your chest toward the ground and hover a few inches (centimeters) above it; the exact distance will vary from person to person. Go to where you feel you are most comfortably challenged and can still breathe smoothly. • Squeeze your upper arms in toward your ribs and lengthen your neck so that your ears are farther away from your shoulders. Continue to gaze at a spot between your hands. • To exit the pose, lower to the ground and prepare to transition into another posture.

229

Adjustments Elbows—If the student’s elbows point away from the body, kneel to one side and place your hands on the person’s upper arms near the shoulders. Gently move the arms in toward the rib cage. Hips—Align the student’s body so that the hips are neither too high nor too low in relation to the shoulders and knees. If the hips are too low, straddle the student’s back and bend your knees as you hold the sides of the hips and lift slightly. If the student’s hips are lifted too high, place your hand lightly on the upper pelvis and instruct the student to move the hips away from your hand.

Modifications Strength building—Instead of allowing the student to struggle to hold the pose, instruct the student to bring the knees to the ground and focus on lowering the chest to the ground slowly and in proper alignment. Wrist concerns—If the student cannot flex the wrists or put weight on them, instruct the student to flex the elbows and place the forearms on the ground or on blocks.

Kinematics To maintain stability in the shoulders in this pose, the elbows should be placed close to the body. This placement maintains the proper alignment of the humerus (upper arm bone) in the shoulder socket while the joint bears body weight.

Chaturanga Dandasana Body segment Foot and toes

Lower leg

Thigh Hip and pelvis

Torso

230

Kinematics

Muscles active

Toe abduction

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe hyperextension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus, anterior tibialis (C, I)

Forefoot stability

Anterior tibialis, flexor digitorum longus (C, I)

Ankle stability

Gastrocnemius, soleus, posterior tibialis, flexor digitorum and hallucis longus (I)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus (C, I)

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Leg adduction and stability

Adductors (C, I)

Hip extension

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Hip stabilization

Gluteus medius, deep hip rotators (I)

Torso stability

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (I)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (I)

Muscles released

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Supine and Prone Postures

Body segment Shoulder

Kinematics

Muscles active

Sternoclavicular stability

Subclavius (I)

Humerus extension, stability

Pectoralis major, biceps brachii, anterior deltoid (E, I)

Humerus extension, adduction, and stability

Latissimus dorsi (C, I)

Stability and external rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular abduction, stability

Subscapularis, serratus anterior (C, I)

Scapular stability

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Supporting posture in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow flexion and stability

Triceps brachii, posterior deltoid, biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis (E, I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension, stability

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus (E, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis (C, I)

Finger abduction

Abductor pollicis longus, opponens pollicis (C, I)

Neck extension, stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis, upper trapezius (I)

Hand and fingers

Neck

Muscles released Pectoralis major

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

231

Zen Asana Transitional Pose [zehn AAH-suh-nuh] The name Zen was chosen for this pose because it is not really a pose; instead, it is usually practiced either as part of, or as a transitional movement during, the Classical Sun Salutation. In a sense, then, it does and yet does not exist; therefore, although a name in Sanskrit might not be found, it is appropriately named Zen Asana. This transitional positioning is both valuable and important, because it places weight on the sternum (breastbone) and helps develop flexibility and coordination in the joints.

Description Zen Asana is a prone pose in which the toes, knees, hands, chest, and chin touch the ground. The hips and low back are lifted and reach away from the waist, whereas the elbows are flexed and aligned close to the ribs.

Energetic Focus Fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy

Foundational Focus Root into the knees and the tops of the feet. Anchor through the chest and evenly in both hands.

Benefits Although seldom practiced outside of the Classical Sun Salutation, this position provides the following benefits: • Strengthens the sternum. • Promotes alignment, stability, and flexibility in the spine and shoulders. • Prepares the body for backbends and other weight-bearing arm poses. • Creates expansion in the neck and low back. • Provides a good substitute pose for modifications, as well as a bedrock pose for healthy spinal extension in Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward-Facing Dog) and Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), which it often precedes in practice.

 Cautions Lower-back concerns—Students with lower-back injury or pain should modify or skip this pose. Wrist or shoulder concerns—Modification should be used by students with shoulder or wrist injury or pain or carpal tunnel syndrome. Lower-back weakness—Students who have difficulty holding this pose should practice with modifications. Pregnancy—This pose should be avoided after the first trimester, and with modifications in the second and third trimesters.

Verbal Cues • From Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana (Plank Pose), exhale as you bend your knees and bring them to the ground. As your knees near the ground, slowly begin to bend your elbows and bring your chest and chin to the ground as well. 232

Supine and Prone Postures

• Keep your elbows drawn in and close to your ribs. Your hips will be lifted, and your sit bones will face the sky. • Allow your chest to sink into the earth as you roll your collarbones apart. Breathe deeply into your chest. Relax your shoulders away from your ears. • Press your sit bones up and back as far as you comfortably can, encouraging space in your low back. • Let the inhalation open space throughout your body, especially in your spine and chest. Allow a deeper release into your body with each exhalation. • Transition into Bhujangasana (Cobra) or Balasana (Child’s Pose).

Adjustments Hips and knees—Some students struggle with the torso positioning in this posture and find themselves basically flat on the ground. The main reason for this discomfort is that they move the chest forward and often lack the arm strength to lower the chest straight down. To adjust, if the knees are not bent and the hips are not raised, straddle or semi-squat above or beside the student, placing your hands to the sides of the pelvis. Instruct the student to bend the knees as you slowly guide the hips to move up and back. Low back—To support and create space in the student’s low back, kneel next to the student and place your hand on the base of the spine. Use your palm—with your fingers pointing toward, yet not touching, the student’s tailbone—to gently press the pelvis up and away from the waist. Chest—Encourage students to rest the sternum on the ground. If a student seems tense in the upper spine, kneel beside the student and place your hand on the mid back. Remind the student to breathe and let the spine sink away from your hand. Take care not to press down on the student’s back. With each breath, simply let your hand get a little heavier while the student further relaxes the spine. Arms and shoulders—If a student’s elbows splay and the shoulders are drawn up by the ears, kneel or squat to the side and lightly grasp the upper arms. Gently move the student’s arms closer to the ribs. To relax the shoulders from the ears, place your hands on top of the fronts of the student’s shoulders and gently draw the shoulders back and away from the ears. Neck—The adjustment described for arms and shoulders can also create more space in the back of the neck because moving the student’s shoulders down, away from the ears, creates an opening across the front of the chest. If the student’s arms are in a good position but the neck is cramped or tense, kneel beside the student and use your hands to encourage the shoulders away from the ears. To help the student elongate the neck a little more actively, gently touch the crown of the student’s head and instruct the student to push your finger farther up with each inhalation.

Modifications Pregnancy—During the first half of pregnancy, many women feel comfortable lowering themselves into this pose, especially if they have been practicing yoga consistently throughout the pregnancy. If not, it is best to replace Zen Asana with Durga-Go (Cat and Cow Pose). For a woman in her first trimester who feels comfortable, place a pillow or blankets under her abdomen for support. This pose may be a little difficult for postpartum women, especially if they are breastfeeding. If the student does not wish to replace the pose, instruct her to keep a folded blanket or pillow under her chest. Low-back concerns—If a student is uncomfortable in this posture because the low back feels compromised, replace it with Balasana (Child’s Pose) and cue the student to spread the knees wider apart so that the chest and chin sink toward the ground as the student releases the spine.

Kinematics The key is to get into this posture with awareness and control. If students can lower slowly while eccentrically contracting the triceps and actively working the posterior shoulder muscles, then they will settle appropriately into the posture. Cue students to bring the knees to the ground before the body is halfway down in order to avoid having to use the back muscles for support; instruct them to focus on using proper upper-body mechanics. Generally, a student who has good low-back and core structure support in this positioning can more easily perform other variations of plank (such as Chaturanga Dandasana, or Four-Limbs Staff Pose) and backbends (such as Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana, or Upward-Facing Dog). 233

Zen Asana Body segment Foot and toes

Kinematics

Muscles active

Toe spreading

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe hyperextension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus, tibialis anterior (C, I)

Lower leg

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus (C, I)

Thigh

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (E, I)

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Leg adduction and stability

Adductors (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (E, I)

Gluteus maximus

Torso

Torso stability

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (I)

Rectus abdominis

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (I)

Sternoclavicular stability

Subclavius (I)

Humerus extension, stability

Pectoralis major and minor, biceps brachii, anterior deltoid, serratus anterior (E, I)

Humerus extension, adduction, and stability

Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Stability and external rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Adduction of scapulae

Rhomboids and mid trapezius (C, I)

Supporting posture in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow flexion

Triceps brachii, posterior deltoid (E, I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Elbow forearm

Anconeus (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus (E, I)

Wrist stability

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis (C, I)

Finger abduction

Abductor pollicis longus, opponens pollicis (C, I)

Neck hyperextension, stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis, upper trapezius (C, R)

Shoulder

Hand and fingers

Neck

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, and R = relaxed.

234

Muscles released

Pectoralis major, anterior deltoid

Supine and Prone Postures

Vasishthasana Side Plank Pose [vuhs-eesht-AAH-suh-nuh] Vasishtha is Sanskrit for “most excellent.” It is also the name of a well-known sage associated with good fortune, strength, and dignity. Holding this posture requires strength and increases poise and confidence.

Description Vasishthasana is a side plank pose most often practiced with the body balanced on the side of one foot and the palm of the hand on the same side. In another variation, the top leg is lifted above the leg on the ground, rather than being stacked on top of it, and the big toe of the lifted leg is grasped by the non-weight-bearing hand.

Energetic Focus Third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy

Foundational Focus Root into the metacarpal heads and fingertips of the weight-bearing hand. Anchor through the outer edge of the lower foot.

Benefits • • • • • •

Strengthens the arms, abdomen, and legs. Stabilizes the shoulders. Stretches and strengthens the wrists. Opens the chest. Opens the hips if the top leg is lifted. Improves concentration and balance.

 Cautions Wrist concerns—Students with wrist concerns should practice with modifications. Weakness—This asana should not be practiced by students recovering from serious illness or injury. Pregnancy—After the first trimester, practice with modifications.

Verbal Cues • From Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana (Plank Pose), shift your body weight onto your right hand. Make sure that your shoulder aligns over your wrist and that your fingers point away from your body. Press into your fingertips. • Rotate the front of your body away from the ground so that your left hip and shoulder are stacked over your right hip and shoulder. Place your left hand on your left hip. Your body weight is supported on your right hand and the outside of your right foot. Feel the energy in your legs. 235

• Breathe deeply and smoothly. • Exhale and lift your left arm with your fingers pointing toward the sky. Gaze forward, keeping your ears aligned with your shoulders and your neck long but relaxed. Slightly soften your right elbow to keep it from hyperextending and to stabilize the joint. • Lengthen your body as much as possible, with the crown of your head moving away from your feet. The more you stretch your feet away from your head, the easier it will be to keep your hips aligned with your knees and shoulders. • Continue to focus on your breath. • To exit the pose, exhale and rotate your body back into plank; prepare to practice on the opposite side.

Adjustments Legs and hips—The legs should be straight and active in this Adjustment: shoulders. posture, with the hips lifted and aligned with the knees and shoulders. If the hips sink, then squat or kneel behind the student and press your hand against the outside of the bottom hip to cue lifting of the hips. Low spine—If a student’s low back is significantly arched (that is, constituting swayback), kneel behind the student and gently press your hand or knee into the upper pelvis to encourage length in the low back. Shoulders—Cue students to align the shoulders comfortably. If the hand is aligned too far forward of the shoulder, the joint will be unstable. If the hand is placed too close to the hips, the wrist joint may be strained. To adjust, kneel behind the student while you place one hand on the lower shoulder and the other hand on the outside of the top hip.

Modifications

Modification: weakness or wrist concerns; deepening

Weakness or wrist concerns—The asana may be practiced pose (hips). with the lower elbow and forearm on the ground. This modification allows the student to gradually build strength in the shoulder and torso without putting strain on the wrist. Low-back weakness or pregnancy—Instruct the student to bend the lower knee and place the lower leg on the ground for support. Balance difficulty—If a student cannot balance with the top foot stacked on the lower, suggest that the student place the top foot on the ground in front of the opposite foot. Pose deepening—If students are comfortable in the standard side plank, cue them to lift the top leg while keeping the non-weight-bearing arm perpendicular to the ground. To deepen the hip stretch, cue students to bend the top knee, Modification: deepening the posture. grasp the big toe with the first two fingers of the upper hand, exhale, and slowly extend the top foot toward the sky. In another modification for a deeper pose, instruct students to anchor through the top foot, stretch the lower leg out in front of the body, and grasp the lifted foot with the top hand.

Kinematics This pose requires a coordinated effort between the strength of the torso and the strength and stability of the weightbearing shoulder and hip. Students need to build strength in both areas so that they do not drop the hips toward the ground or allow the bottom shoulder to “collapse” into the side of the head. 236

Supine and Prone Postures

Vasishthasana (Weight on Right Side) Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus, tibialis anterior (C, I)

Lower leg (R)

Lateral ankle stability

Peroneus longus, brevis, and tertius (C, I)

Lower leg (L)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (C, I)

Thigh

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Adduction and stability

Adductors (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R and L)

Hip extension, stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip stability

Gluteus medius, deep external rotators,* tensor fascia lata, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Torso

Torso stability

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, right latissimus dorsi (I)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (I)

Shoulder

Sternoclavicular stability

Subclavius (I)

Horizontal humerus extension, external rotation, and stability

Deltoids, infraspinatus, teres minor (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm (R)

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Forearm extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension, stability

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor digitorum, flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus (C, I)

Lower arm (L)

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Hand and fingers (R)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis (C, I)

Finger abduction

Abductor pollicis longus, opponens pollicis (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Neck (R)

Head rotation to left

Sternocleidomastoid (C, I)

Neck (L)

Head rotation, neck stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, occipitals, cervical erector spinae, upper trapezius (C, I)

Hand and fingers (L)

Muscles released

Sternocleidomastoid

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

237

Purvottanasana Reverse Plank, or Intense East-Side Stretch [poohr-VOHT-taahn-AAH-suh-nuh] Purva means “east” and relates to the front of the body. Uttana means “intense.” This posture stretches the front of the body intensely.

Description Purvottanasana is a supine or reversed plank pose in which the hands press into the ground behind the back as the front of the body is lifted. This asana is practiced as one of the five major exercises in Tibetan yoga.

Energetic Focus Third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly into the metacarpal heads and fingertips. Anchor into the backs of the heels. Balance the grounding energy evenly between the hands and feet.

Benefits • • • •

Deeply stretches the chest and shoulders. Strengthens the wrists and ankles. Builds endurance. Provides a counterstretch to Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend, or Intense West-Side Stretch), or seated forward fold. • Strengthens the posterior muscles in the legs and spine.

 Cautions Extreme neck weakness—Do not allow students with a neck concern to hyperextend the neck so that the head drops below the shoulders. Instruct them to practice modifications if they experience discomfort. Shoulder or wrist concerns—Students who have acute pain or injury in the shoulder or wrist should practice with modifications or avoid the pose.

Verbal Cues • Begin in Dandasana (Staff Pose) with your palms on the ground beside your hips. Move your hands 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimeters) behind your hips and shoulder-width apart. Point your fingers either toward or away from your body, depending on which feels most comfortable to your shoulders and wrists. • Spread your fingers and press through your arms to expand your chest. Imagine your collarbones moving apart with each inhalation. Breathe deeply, lengthening your spine. 238

Supine and Prone Postures

• Exhale and lift your hips and legs off the ground, bringing your body weight onto your arms. Press the soles of your feet into the ground. Feel the length of your body increase with each breath. • Keep your arms perpendicular to the ground, with a little softness in your elbows to deter hyperextension. If your shoulders and chest are open and the level of your chest is above your shoulders, exhale and slowly relax your neck so that the top of your head points toward the ground behind you. Focus on keeping length in the back of your neck. Allow your throat to stretch gently; however, if you feel discomfort, slowly draw your chin back in toward your chest. • Continue to focus on your breath. • To exit the posture, exhale and bend your elbows to slowly lower your hips to the ground. Keep your neck relaxed. As your hips touch the ground, slowly roll up your spine from the bottom to the top, moving back into an upright position. Inhale and slowly lift your head upright. Prepare for the next pose.

Adjustments Feet—If the student’s toes are almost touching the ground, gently place your fingers on the top of the foot to help the student ground. Do not press forcefully. However, if the student is susceptible to cramping in the feet or calves, invite her or him to keep the ankles flexed. Hips—Assist the student in lifting the hips by kneeling to the side and placing your hands on either side of the student’s hips. You may also straddle the student’s knees and squat slightly as you place your hands on the outside of the student’s hips and lift. Another method is to use the same body position, wrap a strap behind the student’s pelvis, and lean back to help the student raise the pelvis until it is aligned between the shoulders and knees. With either method, be mindful of your body position. Shoulders and chest—Remind the student to keep the chest lifted. You can lightly tap the chest while instructing the student to push through the arms and move the chest toward the sky. You may also kneel or squat behind the student, place your hand between the student’s shoulder blades, and cue the student to move away from your hand. Neck—Make certain that the student places the neck in a comfortable position. If the student feels strain caused by the hyperextension, instruct the student to keep the ears aligned with the shoulders and to look straight ahead, or to press the chin into the chest. If the student has difficulty lifting the head, kneel to his or her side with your hand on the back of the head and gently guide the head back into alignment. Adjustment: hips.

Modifications Weakness or discomfort—Instruct the student to bend the knees, keeping the feet flat on the ground. As the student lifts the hips, the body will be in a tabletop position, which reduces the workload by redistributing the center of mass. Tight ankles or cramping—Instruct the student to dorsiflex the ankles (draw the toes toward the knees). Doing so helps keep the calves and arches from cramping. Weak or tight shoulders—Instruct the student to rotate the shoulders externally so that the fingers point away from the body rather than pointing toward the feet. If the student is unable to lift the chest higher than the shoulders, then instruct the student to lower the chin toward the chest. Encourage the student to focus on lifting the chest to eventually touch the chin. See the Kinematics section for the reasons that this modification is important.

Kinematics Students who sag in the shoulders and chest tend to overcompensate for the weakness by hyperextending the neck to such a degree that they “pinch” the neck rather than maintaining length throughout the spine. This overcompensation tends to decrease circulation and expansion in the region, which in turn leads to tension and can injure the vertebrae and supporting structures, rather than increasing the circulation and creating more length and strength.

239

Purvottanasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexors digitorum and hallucis longus, flexor digitorum brevis (C, I)

Lower leg

Plantar flexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (C, I)

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus

Thigh

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip extension or hyperextension

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius (C, I)

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris

Torso

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (I)

Rectus abdominis

Hyperextension

Erector spinae, semispinalis (C, I)

Scapular adduction, stability

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Humerus hyperextension

Latissimus dorsi, teres major (C, I)

Shoulder

Hyperextension, stability

Posterior deltoid (I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, ulnaris (I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (I)

Finger abduction

Abductor digiti minimi, abductor pollicis brevis, opponens pollicis (C, I)

Neck hyperextension

Sternocleidomastoid, scalenes (E, I)

Hand and fingers

Neck

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

240

Muscles released

Anterior deltoid, pectoralis major and minor

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

Flexor digitorum profundus and superficialis, flexor digiti minimi, interossei

Sternocleidomastoid

Supine and Prone Postures

Bhujangasana Cobra Pose [bhoo-juhn-GAAH-suh-nuh] Bhujanga is Sanskrit for “serpent” or “snake.” This pose is often translated in the West as Cobra because the chest is lifted in the same way that a cobra raises its head.

Description Bhujangasana is a prone backbending posture with numerous variations. In the posture’s simplest form, the chest is lifted off the ground and the arms are at the sides. This posture is part of the Classical Sun Salutation. A deeper variation brings the head and feet together.

Energetic Focus Fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly into the metacarpal heads and fingertips. Anchor into the front pelvis and upper thighs.

Benefits • • • • • •

Increases range of motion in the spine. Strengthens and stretches the spine. Opens the chest and shoulders. Increases circulation through the lungs and abdomen. Energizes the legs. Can be used to relieve pain from herniated disks and sciatica.

 Cautions Pregnancy—Women past the first trimester should use a substitute posture. Acute back pain or injury—Students with back discomfort or injury should avoid this pose. Wrist pain or carpal tunnel syndrome—Students with wrist concerns should practice with modification.

Verbal Cues • Begin from a prone position, resting your chin or forehead on the ground. Inhale and bring your hands under your shoulders. Relax the tops of your feet and your front thighs against the ground. Point your fingers forward and hug your upper arms into your sides as you exhale. Breathe softly, feeling the connection of your belly with the ground. • Spread your fingers and as you exhale lightly press into your fingertips as you continue to draw your upper arms towards your rib cage. Inhale, opening space between your shoulder blades and softening your shoulders. Imagine your spine lengthening with each breath. • Press the front of your pelvis into the ground and activate the muscles in your legs slightly by rolling your front thighs slightly toward each other. Exhale and begin to press the tops of your toes lightly against the ground. Keep the back of the hips (gluteus maximus) relatively relaxed so that the lift in the torso comes primarily from the back muscles. 241

• Keep your hands rooted into the ground, inhale, and press down and back into your palms to extend your chest forward. Visualize sliding your chest and rib cage forward. Feel your chest lift naturally away from the ground. Keep your neck long and lift through the crown of your head. Anchor your front thighs into the ground and straighten your elbows only to a point where your low back feels comfortable. Keep your hips and thighs on the ground. • As you inhale, feel your spine and abdomen lengthen; as you exhale, feel your shoulders relax down away from your ears. Be aware of your mid-back muscles helping to lift your chest. • Continue to focus on your breath. • If it feels best to keep your abdomen on the ground to ease your low back, notice your torso slowly rise as you inhale deeply and lower as you exhale. If you can comfortably lift your abdomen off the ground with no strain in your low back, expand your front torso and chest with each inhalation. • To exit the position, exhale and slowly lower your abdomen and chest back to the ground from the bottom of your torso to the top. Counter Bhujangasana with Balasana (Child’s Pose) or Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-­Facing Dog).

Adjustments Feet—The top of the feet should be flat against the ground. If the student’s toes are curled under, lightly brush the backs of the heels and instruct the student to relax the tops of the feet on the ground. Legs—The legs should remain active in this position, stretching down away from the hips. To cue the student to activate the muscles, gently tap the backs of the legs. Hips—If the student’s hips are off the ground, lightly touch the low back and remind the student to press the hips toward the ground. Low back—If a student has trouble lengthening through the back, kneel to the side and place your hand lightly on the upper sacrum. Encourage the student to press the pelvis away from the head. Elbows—If the student’s elbows point away from the body, you can kneel to the side, grasp the upper arms just above the elbows, and gently press the outsides of the Adjustment: elbows. arms toward the body. Shoulders—Make sure that the student’s shoulders do not lift toward the ears. Kneel to the student’s side and lightly place your hands on top of the shoulders. Press down gently to cue the student to create more space between the ears and shoulders and to position the head so that the ears remain aligned with the shoulders.

Modifications Tight back—Ask the student to slide the elbows wider apart than the shoulders and to rest on the forearms for support. Instruct the student to use the arms for support instead of the back muscles and to focus on pressing the chest forward rather than lifting. Pregnancy—From the second trimester on, pressure on the abdomen is generally uncomfortable and contraindicated. Therefore, instead of Bhujangasana, Modification: tight back. pregnant women should substitute Durga-Go (Cat and Cow Pose).

Kinematics The McKenzie press-up used in physical therapy is a variation of Bhujangasana. The McKenzie version is a passive spinal arch in which the arms press the spine into a gentle backbend to increase the range of motion. Bhujangasana is a much more active pose, in which the erector spinae muscles help lift the chest and arch the back, thus building strength and increasing the range of motion in the spine. 242

Supine and Prone Postures

Bhujangasana Body segment Foot and toes

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Toe abduction

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe hyperextension

Extensor digitorum longus, extensor hallucis longus, tibialis anterior (C, I)

Lower leg

Ankle plantar flexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (C, I)

Thigh

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Leg adduction

Adductors (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip hyperextension

Hamstrings (C, I)

Iliopsoas, gluteus maximus

Torso

Spinal hyperextension

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Rectus abdominis

Torso stability

Internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (I)

Sternoclavicular stability

Subclavius (I)

Extension and adduction of humerus

Latissimus dorsi, teres major (C, I)

Stability and external rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular stability

Subscapularis, serratus anterior (C, I)

Adduction of scapulae

Rhomboids and mid trapezius (C, I)

Supporting posture in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow flexion

Triceps brachii, posterior deltoid (E, I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris (C, I)

Wrist stability

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis (C, I)

Finger abduction

Abductor pollicis longus, opponens pollicis (C, I)

Neck extension

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis, upper trapezius (I)

Shoulder

Hand and fingers

Neck

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus

Pectoralis major

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

243

Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana Upward-Facing Dog [oohr-dhuh-vuh moo-KUHSH-vuhn-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, urdhva means “upward,” mukha means “face,” and shvana means “dog.” The stretch in this pose resembles the way that a dog stretches its chest and belly.

Description This posture resembles Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) but differs in that the entire body is lifted off the ground and supported on the palms and the top of the feet. As a result, the spinal extension is deeper in this pose, and more strength is needed to maintain the openness in the chest and shoulders.

Energetic Focus Second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly into the metacarpal heads and fingertips. Anchor into the tops of the feet. Balance the grounding energy evenly between the hands and feet.

Benefits • • • • • • •

Strengthens the spine, arms, wrists, legs, and hips. Opens the chest. Increases circulation to the lungs and abdomen. Increases spinal range of motion. Improves posture. Stretches the abdomen and hip flexors. Stimulates the abdominal area.

 Cautions Pregnancy—Women past the first trimester should use a substitute posture, such as Durga-Go (Cat and Cow Pose). Low-back pain or injury—Students with this type of condition should use Bhujangasana as a substitute pose. Wrists—If a student has a history of wrist concerns or complains of wrist pain, use a prop or modify the pose.

Verbal Cues

244

• From a prone position, with your chin or forehead resting on the ground—or from Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbs Staff Pose)—stretch your legs away from your hips and chest. Press back through your hands so that they align closer to your waist, spread your fingers, and press into your fingertips. • Inhale and press the tops of your feet down as you begin to raise your chest and shoulders off the ground. Feel the energy of your arms shift your chest forward. • Straighten your arms and direct the crown of your head toward the sky. As you continue to extend your elbows, press your pelvis forward, raising your hips and legs off the ground. Feel the strength and energy in your legs moving up through your chest.

Supine and Prone Postures

• Soften your elbows slightly and keep your upper arms drawn into your sides. With each inhalation, lift your heart toward the sky. Elongate your neck and tilt your chin slightly upward, keeping length in the back of your neck. • Continue to focus on your breath. • Roll the front of your shoulders open by drawing your shoulder blades slightly closer together. Preserve as much length as possible through your low back and imagine that space expanding in all directions with each breath. • To exit this position, bend your elbows and slowly lower your body back to the ground; alternatively, move into Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog).

Adjustments Feet—Remind the student not to curl the toes under but to flatten the tops of the feet on the ground. Lightly press the bottoms of the heels forward. Legs—The legs should remain close together, active, and lifted off the ground. If the student’s hips, knees, and shins are touching the ground, straddle the student’s legs and squat or kneel above the calves. Place your hands or a strap under the thighs just above the knees and lift. Instruct the student to contract the leg muscles to help support the weight. Be mindful of your own mechanics! Pelvis—If the belly sags, instruct the student to contract the abdominal muscles while you squat behind and place your hands on the sides of the rib cage or on the outer hips. Guide the torso gently upward and slightly back toward you to help create more space in the low back. Hands—Remind students to align the hands under the shoulders and to spread the fingers. To encourage students to widen the fingers, lightly touch the tops of the hands. Chest—The chest should be positioned in front of the arms. To adjust, squat or kneel to one side of the student and place one hand between the shoulder blades. Encourage the student to press forward and up through the chest, away from your hand. Neck—If the student’s shoulders are hunched up Adjustment: chest. toward the ears, cue the student to lower the shoulders and then lengthen the neck and tilt the chin slightly toward the sky. To encourage more length through the back of the neck, stand to the side and place one palm against the base of the student’s skull with your fingers pointed toward the spine.

Modifications Extreme weakness—To build strength, instruct students to practice Bhujangasana before attempting this pose. Strength building—Allow the student to keep the lower legs on the ground and work on lengthening the spine. Cue the student to engage the leg muscles. Tight ankles—Some students have difficulty plantar-flexing the ankles (that is, pointing the toes and stretching the top ankle). For these students, place a small, rolled-up towel under the fronts of the ankles to provide some relief when anchoring into the feet. Tight hip flexors or low back—Place blankets or a bolster under the student’s thighs. Encourage the student to anchor through the feet by pressing the hips and upper thighs down while lengthening the spine upward. Modifications: tight ankles.

Kinematics Many students who are new to yoga confuse this posture with Bhujangasana. As a result, they extend the arms fully but keep the legs and hips on the ground—a position that generally creates too much hyperextension in the lumbar spine. Suggest that these students come down to Bhujangasana and work on gradually lengthening the spine. 245

Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Toes in extension against ground

Extensor digitorum longus and hallucis, anterior tibialis, flexor digitorum and hallucis longus, posterior tibialis (C, I)

Lower leg

Ankle in plantar flexion but actively dorsiflexing

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus, peroneals (C, I)

Thigh

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip extension and hyperextension

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus, rectus femoris (C, I)

Hip stability

Deep external rotators,* adductors (C, I)

Torso stability

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (I)

Spinal hyperextension

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Flexion of humerus, stability

Pectoralis major, coracobrachialis, biceps brachii (C, I)

Arm stability

Latissimus dorsi, teres major (C, I)

Stability and external rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Adduction of scapulae

Rhomboids and mid trapezius (C, I)

Supporting posture in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris (C, I)

Wrist stability

Flexor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis (C, I)

Finger abduction

Abductor pollicis longus, opponens pollicis (C, I)

Slight neck hyperextension and stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis, upper trapezius (I)

Torso

Shoulder

Hand and fingers

Neck

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

246

Muscles released

Iliopsoas (I)

Rectus abdominis, obliques

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

Sternocleidomastoid, scalenes

Supine and Prone Postures

Shalabhasana Locust Pose [shuh-luhb-HAAHsuh-nuh] Shalabha is Sanskrit for “locust” or “grasshopper.” This posture is said to resemble a locust as it rests on the ground with the legs higher than the front of the body.

Description In Shalabhasana, the body is prone and the legs are lifted off the ground. The posture has two main variations, both of which strengthen the back of the body.

Energetic Focus Second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root into the front of the pelvis. Anchor into the upper abdomen.

Benefits • • • • •

Strengthens the low spine and the posterior hip and thigh muscles. Stretches the abdominal cavity. Stimulates the kidneys. Opens the shoulders and chest. Stimulates circulation in the abdomen and chest.

 Cautions Pregnancy—Because the belly is on the ground, this posture should not be practiced after the first trimester of pregnancy. Low-back pain or injury—Students with this type of condition should either practice this pose one leg at a time or avoid the pose.

Verbal Cues • From a prone position with your chin or forehead resting on the ground, reach your feet toward the wall behind you. Rest your arms at your sides with your palms facing down. • Inhale and imagine the crown of your head and your toes moving farther away from each other as you lengthen your sides. Reach your hands back toward your feet and feel a lengthening in the sides of your neck and your upper shoulders. • Inhale and raise your head, chest, knees, and feet slightly off the ground. Imagine the length of your body increasing as you inhale: feet and head moving even farther apart. Your abdomen and front pelvis remain rooted on the ground. • As you continue to breathe, press your chest forward and stretch your feet away from your body. Spread your toes to more fully energize your legs. Feel your front body lift and lengthen slowly as you breathe in deeply. If it is comfortable to do so, lift your legs slightly higher while keeping length in your low spine. • Continue to focus on your breathing. 247

• As you breathe, feel the muscles throughout the back half of your body working to maintain the lift in your legs and torso. Keep your ears aligned with your shoulders and expand through your chest. • To exit the position, exhale and slowly lower your chest, head, and legs back to the ground. Bend your knees and slightly rock your feet from side to side to relax your low back. Counter with Balasana (Child’s Pose) or Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog).

Adjustments Feet—If the student does not actively engage the feet, tap the balls of the feet to cue the student to stretch out and spread through the ends of the toes. Legs—The knees should be extended and the hips slightly hyperextended. Remind the student to contract the muscles of the hips and legs and stretch the feet away from the hips. Kneel behind the student’s feet, placing your hands under the ankles, and slightly lift the legs as you draw the toes toward you. Shoulders—Kneel beside the student, and place your hands on the upper arms near the shoulders. Rotate the student’s shoulders externally (toward the spine), and remind the student to lengthen the spine.

Modifications Strength building—Instruct students to practice Ardha Shalabhasana (Half-Locust). The chin remains on the ground, and the legs are lifted one at a time. Deeper variation—Cue students to start in a prone position while keeping the chin on the ground. Instruct them to place the hands and forearms under the fronts of the hips and thighs for support. As they inhale, instruct them to lift one or both legs into the air as high as is comfortably challenging. Modification: deeper variation.

Kinematics

The degree of hyperextension in the hips and spine is dependent on the strength of the student’s spinal and hip extensor muscles, as well as the flexibility of the oppositional abdominal and hip flexor muscles. It is important to cue students to maintain length in the lower back.

Shalabhasana Body segment Foot and toes

248

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Toe abduction

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe flexion

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Lower leg

Ankle plantar flexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (C, I)

Thigh

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Slight thigh adduction

Tensor fascia lata (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip hyperextension

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris

Torso

Spinal hyperextension

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Rectus abdominis, obliques

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Torso stability

Internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (I)

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus

Supine and Prone Postures

Body segment Shoulder

Kinematics

Muscles active

Arm hyperextension

Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoid, triceps brachii

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids and mid trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Arm extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Wrist extension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris (C, I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Neck extension and stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis, upper trapezius (I)

Hand and fingers

Neck

Muscles released Pectoralis major, anterior deltoid

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

249

Dhanurasana Bow Pose [dhuh-noor-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, dhanu means “bow,” as in a bow and arrow. In this pose, the torso represents the bow, and the arms signify the action of the bowstring by pulling the head and feet closer together.

Description Dhanurasana is a moderate to deep backbend. The knees are bent, and the arms reach back toward the lifted feet.

Energetic Focus Third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy

Foundational Focus Root into the front of the pelvis and abdomen. Anchor through the fronts of the shins, where the hands grasp the ankles.

Benefits • • • • •

Stretches the entire front of the body. Strengthens the spine. Opens the shoulders, chest, and throat. Stimulates circulation in the abdomen and anterior of the pelvis. Strengthens the lungs.

 Cautions Pregnancy—This pose is not recommended for women after the first trimester. Acute low-back injury, high blood pressure, or heart concerns—Students with any of these health concerns are not advised to practice this pose. Shoulder concerns—Students with shoulder injury or pain should practice with modifications.

Verbal Cues • From a prone position, with the chin or forehead resting on the ground, position your legs so that your knees are slightly wider apart than your hips. Exhale and bend your knees so that your lower legs are perpendicular to the ground. • Inhale and reach your hands back toward your feet while slowly lifting your chest off the ground. Dorsiflex your ankles (point your toes toward your knees) and wrap your hands around the outsides of your ankles or the tops of your feet. Anchor the front of your pelvis into the ground and lift your chest forward and upward to lengthen your abdomen. By pressing your chest slightly forward, you open space in your low back as well. • Inhale and draw your shoulder blades toward each other to open the front of your shoulders and chest. • Spread your toes to energize your feet and legs. As you exhale, press your feet away from your body. As you do this, you will feel your chest lift and open more fully. 250

Supine and Prone Postures

• Continue to focus on breathing smoothly. • On your next exhalation, if it feels comfortable to you, lift the fronts of your thighs off the ground as you reach the soles of your feet toward the sky. Maintain the lift and openness in your chest and shoulders. • With each inhalation, lift the crown of your head, pressing your chest forward and lengthening your low back. • Feel your breath as your abdomen expands and contracts against the ground. • To exit the position, exhale, release your hands gently from your feet, and lower your knees and chest back to the ground. Slightly rock your legs from side to side to relax your low back. Balasana (Child’s Pose) is a good counterstretch.

Adjustments Feet—If the student’s toes are not pointed down toward the knees, lightly tap the feet to cue the student to activate them more. Knees—The knees should be slightly farther than hip-width apart. If the student’s knees are too close together, kneel or squat to the side and lightly place your hands on the insides of the knees. Apply enough pressure to cue the student to widen the legs. Also, the knees should not be flexed more than 90 degrees. If they are, generally the elbows are flexed as well. Lightly touch the backs of the student’s heels and cue the student to extend the knees slightly so that the arms straighten. This adjustment keeps the chest open. Shoulders—If a student has difficulty lifting through the front of the chest, kneel to the side with your hands on the fronts of the shoulders and rotate the shoulders externally (toward the spine) as you gently lift the student’s upper torso.

Modifications Strength and flexibility building—Instruct students to first practice Ardha Dhanurasana (Half-Bow Pose) by lifting one leg at a time Modification: strength building. while keeping the torso on the ground. This modification helps build strength and flexibility gradually in the legs and low spine. As students build strength over time, they can begin lifting both legs at the same time, then move on to lifting the torso as well. Tight shoulders—If the student cannot reach back to the feet comfortably, place one end of a strap in each hand and wrap it around the fronts of the ankles. Deepening of the shoulder stretch—Instruct students that instead of placing the palms around the outside of the ankles or feet, they can place the palms against the arches of the feet and align the thumbs with the big toes. This position actively increases the external rotation of the shoulders. Modification: deepening the shoulder stretch.

Kinematics Because the full body weight is borne by the abdominal cavity in Dhanurasana, individuals who are new to practicing the posture may find that the heart rate increases due to the pressure exerted on deep blood vessels such as the vena cava. If this effect causes discomfort, suggest that the affected student exit the pose and practice lying on her or his side. Students who can easily grasp the ankles can lift the thighs off the ground more effectively by contracting the quadriceps concentrically, as if straightening the legs, than by using a solely concentric contraction of the hip extensors. The two sets of opposing muscles work together to create the bow position that gives the posture its name. In addition, the wider positioning of the feet in relation to the hips helps the student avoid placing undue stress and strain on the sacrum. 251

Dhanurasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum longus, extensor hallucis longus, tibialis anterior (C, I)

Lower leg

Ankle plantar flexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus (C, I)

Thigh

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (C, I)

Quadriceps

Hip and pelvis

Initial hip hyperextension

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris

Active hip hyperextension

Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Spinal hyperextension

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Torso

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Torso stability

Internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (I)

Humerus hyperextension

Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoid, triceps brachii (C, I)

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids and mid trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Wrist extension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris (I)

Finger flexion

Flexor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis, dorsal interossei (I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (I)

Neck hyperextension

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis, upper trapezius (C, I)

Shoulder

Hand and fingers

Neck

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

252

Muscles released

Rectus abdominis

Pectoralis major, anterior deltoid

Supine and Prone Postures

Setu Bandhasana Bridge Pose [sey-TOO buhn-DHAAH-suh-nuh] Setu is a Sanskrit term for “bridge” or “dam,” and bandha means “lock.” The shape of the body in this pose resembles a bridge.

Description Setu Bandhasana is a relatively easy backbending asana in which the head, the neck, and the top edge of the shoulders remain on the ground, while the knees are flexed and the feet are flat on the ground. The resulting body shape resembles a bridge, and because the neck and chin press together (jalandhara bandha), energy is held in, much like water controlled by a dam.

Energetic Focus Third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy, fifth chakra (Vishuddha) purifying energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly into both heels. Anchor into the shoulder blades and the backs of the arms.

Benefits • • • • • • • •

Opens and expands the chest. Strengthens the mid and upper spine. Helps alleviate symptoms of mild depression. Stretches the entire torso. Increases circulation to the thyroid gland. Energizes the legs. Relieves low-back tightness. Helps alleviate menstrual and menopausal discomfort.

 Caution Neck pillows—The use of neck pillows should be avoided in this posture, as they do not allow for the proper range of motion in the back of the neck. Neck concerns—Students with acute neck pain or injury should avoid this pose. Pregnancy—This pose should not be practiced after the second trimester.

Verbal Cues • From a supine position, bend your knees and bring your heels toward your hips. Place your feet hip-width apart and parallel with each other. Bring your arms to your sides and slightly reach your hands toward your heels. Rest your shoulder blades comfortably against the ground. • Slightly tilt your lower pelvis so that your sit bones point toward the backs of your knees. Lengthen your low back slightly. Anchor your shoulder blades into the ground, and lengthen the back of your neck. Without moving your legs, feel your inner thigh muscles activate as if they were pressing together. 253

• Inhale to energize your body. Exhale and slowly peel your pelvis and lower spine off the ground. Feel your vertebrae lift, one by one, off the ground as the lifting action moves up toward your neck. • Press the fronts of your hips and your abdomen toward the sky. Imagine your tailbone reaching to touch the back of your knees. Feel your chest draw in toward your chin. • As you exhale, press your kneecaps forward, away from your body, and notice a lengthening in your front thighs. As your chest moves closer to your chin, breathe into the stretch in your abdomen and in the back of your neck. • If possible, interlace your fingers under your back. Squeeze your elbows and shoulder blades together, lifting your chest even higher. • Continue to focus on your breath. • With each inhalation, feel your chest and ribs open more fully. On each exhalation, press your feet more firmly against the ground. • To exit the position, unclasp your fingers and bring your arms back to your sides. Exhale and slowly lower your spine back to the ground, one vertebra at a time, from the top to the bottom. Rest your spine against the ground and allow all of your muscles to relax. Lift your knees into your chest and rock gently from side to side.

Adjustments Feet—The feet should be hip-width apart and parallel to each other. If the toes turn in or out, gently tap the outsides of the student’s feet to cue the student to realign the feet. Knees—If the student rolls the legs out laterally from the body, kneel in front of the knees and place your hands on the outsides of the student’s lower thighs. Lightly move the knees closer to parallel. Hips and low back—If the hips are not lifted higher than the chest and knees, place a strap around the student’s pelvis at the sacral level. Stand in a slight lunge facing the student’s knees and place your front foot between the student’s feet. As you hold onto the ends of the strap, lean back slightly while straightening your front leg and gently lift the student’s hips toward you. Move slowly and check in with the student regarding comfort. Chest—If the chest sinks between the shoulders, place a strap around the student’s upper torso under the scapulae. Hold the ends of the strap in your hands and sit or semi-squat a few inches (centimeters) away from the student’s head. Lean back and lift the student’s chest and rib cage Adjustment: chest. toward you.

Modifications Early pregnancy or weakness—Place folded blankets under the student’s low back and hips. You also can place a block under the sacrum for the student to rest on. These modifications allow the abdomen and chest to stretch without the effort. Low-back discomfort—If the student has slight tightness in the lumbar area, instruct the student to lift the heels off the ground in order to relieve some of the muscular activity in the back. Also, remind students to press the inner thighs toward each other so that the legs do not splay outward. Pose deepening—Instruct the student to draw the heels closer to the hips and grasp the ankles. This modification increases the stretch through the thighs and allows for a greater arch throughout the length of the spine. Deeper supported positioning—In this variation, place a block under the student’s upper pelvis (the block must not rest on the lumbar spine) as in the pregnancy modification. Instruct the Modification: deeper supported positioning. student to extend one leg, keeping the heel on 254

Supine and Prone Postures

the ground. Invite the student to relax the leg and, if the student is comfortable in the lower back, to extend the other leg. If discomfort is felt, ask the student to slowly bend the knees again and rest. If the student feels comfortable with the legs extended, the student may stretch the arms overhead and relax in this position. The low back should remain comfortable.

Kinematics Because the neck remains on the ground in this posture, it can be used as a preliminary step in building the necessary range of motion in the neck and shoulders for Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand). In the deeper supported variation of Setu Bandhasana, the lifting of the pelvis allows for a deeper passive psoas stretch. Remind students not to turn the head once the pelvis is lifted so as not to place strain on the neck.

Setu Bandhasana Body segment Foot and toes

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Toe abduction

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum and hallucis longus, flexor digitorum brevis (C, I)

Lower leg

Ankle dorsiflexion, stability

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (I)

Thigh

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (C, I)

Slight adduction

Adductors (I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip hyperextension

Gluteus maximus, hamstrings (C, I)

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris

Torso

Spinal hyperextension

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Rectus abdominis

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Torso stability

Internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (I)

Humerus hyperextension

Latissimus dorsi, teres major, posterior deltoid, triceps brachii (C, I)

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular adduction and depression

Rhomboids, mid and lower trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Finger adduction

Adductor pollicis, flexor pollicis longus and brevis, interossei (C, I)

Finger flexion

Flexor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis, dorsal interossei (C, I)

Neck flexion, jalandhara bandha

Sternocleidomastoid, scalenes, hyoids (C, I)

Shoulder

Hand and fingers

Neck

Quadriceps

Pectoralis major and minor, anterior deltoid, serratus anterior

Cervical erector spinae, splenius capitus and cervicis, upper trapezius

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

255

Urdhva Dhanurasana Upward Bow Pose [oohr-dhuh-vuh dhuh-noor-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, urdhva means “upward” or “backward,” and dhanu means “bow” (like a bow and arrow). Thus the name signifies an upward bow, and the posture is sometimes called Urdhva Mukha Dhanurasana (Upward-Facing Bow). Another much-used name for this position is Chakrasana [chuk-RAAH-suh-nuh]. Chakra means “wheel” and, as discussed in chapter 5, is the name for the body’s energy centers. The shape of the body in Urdhva Dhanurasana can be said to resemble the drawn string of a bow or the roundness of a wheel; generally, however, Chakrasana indicates a backward somersault, which is used in some vinyasa flow practices.

Description Urdhva Dhanurasana is a full backbend in which the hands and feet support the body and the abdomen faces toward the sky. The pose may also be classified as an inversion.

Energetic Focus Third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy, fifth chakra (Vishuddha) purifying energy

Foundational Focus Root into the heels and metatarsal heads of both feet. Anchor into the metacarpal heads and fingertips of both hands. Balance the grounding energy evenly between the hands and feet.

Benefits • • • • • •

Increases flexibility and range of motion in the spine. Strengthens the shoulders, arms, wrists, legs, and spine. Opens the chest and shoulder girdle. Relieves asthma symptoms by expanding the lungs. Increases energy. Stimulates the thyroid gland.

 Cautions Shoulder or wrist concerns—Students with any of these concerns should practice with modifications or avoid this pose. Glaucoma or high blood pressure—Students with either of these conditions are advised against practicing this pose. Low-back injury—Students with this condition should avoid this pose. 256

Supine and Prone Postures

Verbal Cues • From a supine position, bend your knees and bring your heels as close to your hips as is comfortable. Bend your elbows and lift your upper arms off the ground. Place your palms flat on the ground near the top of your shoulders with your fingers pointing toward your body. Exhale and gently hug your elbows toward each other so that your arms are parallel to each other. • Spread your fingers and press into your fingertips. Slightly rotate your thighs internally and feel the strength and grounding in your legs. • Exhale and begin to press your feet and hands firmly against the ground. • As in Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose), press firmly into the heels and lift the hips and back off the ground. Continue to hug the inner thighs toward each other and the elbows toward each other. • Inhale to open your chest and lengthen your low back. As you exhale again, slowly straighten your arms while lifting your head and upper torso off the ground. Maintain the alignment in your elbows, drawing them in closer toward the midline of your body. • Continue to press strongly, yet without strain, through your arms and heels. Lift your lower abdomen toward the sky. Feel as if your spinal and posterior hip muscles are gently lifting your spine upward away from the ground. • Continue to focus on your breath. • Feel your spine lengthen and maintain equal balance between your feet and hands. • To exit the posture, exhale and slowly bend your knees and elbows, lowering your shoulders and hips back to the ground. Inhale and exhale deeply to relax your spine. Let your knees rock gently from side to side, massaging your lower back.

Adjustments Feet—Make certain that the student’s feet are hip-width apart and parallel to each other. If the toes point out, squat in front of the student and gently nudge the feet into alignment so that the toes point forward. Remind the student to keep the feet active and press through the heels. Knees—The knees should remain somewhat flexed. If the student’s knees point laterally from the body, lightly place your hands on the outer thighs and move the student’s legs closer to parallel. Continue to cue the student to press inward with the inner thighs. Hips and low back—If the hips are not lifted, place a strap around the student’s hips at the sacral level. Stand facing the student’s knees in a slight lunge with your front foot between the student’s feet. As you hold onto the ends of the strap, lean back, straightening your front leg, and Adjustment: hips and low back. gently lift the student’s hips toward you. Mid and upper spine and chest—The chest should be lifted and positioned opposite the lower legs. If the chest sinks down between the shoulders, place a strap around the student’s scapulae (shoulder blades). Stand facing the student’s head and begin in a lunge position, holding the ends of the strap in your hands. Lean back slightly and lift the student’s chest and rib cage forward. Use caution with this adjustment so as not to take the student off balance. Shoulders—Use extreme caution when adjusting a student’s shoulders in Urdhva Dhanurasana! The shoulders should be rotated externally. However, because the student’s body is upside down and facing away from you, confusion can arise about the direction in which you should attempt to roll the upper arms. Face the student’s head and place your hands on the upper arms, near the shoulders, with your thumbs closest to the head. Rotate the student’s arms Adjustment: shoulders. Slowly rotate the arms in the direcso that your thumbs move toward you and the student’s tion of the arrow. 257

elbows move toward the student’s body. Moving the arms in the opposite direction can injure the student’s shoulders. If you have any doubts about making this adjustment, do not do it! Neck—Do not touch the student’s neck in this posture. Verbally cue the student to relax the neck and to keep length between the ears and shoulders.

Modifications Arm weakness or tightness—Position the student in Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose) with the pelvis on a block. Instruct the student to place the hands in position for Urdhva Dhanurasana and press into the hands while maintaining elbow alignment. To focus more energy into pressing through the arms, a strap can be placed around the upper arms, just above the elbows, to keep the arms together. Weak or tight wrists—Place two blocks diagonally against a wall; be sure to place the blocks on a mat so that they do not slide. Instruct the student to start in Setu Bandhasana, with the head facing the blocks and the hands on the front of the blocks with the fingers facing down. On an inhalation, the student straightens the arms as much as is comfortable. With this modification, the angle of the wrist is much more forgiving for those who have with weakness and tightness in the joint. If the elbows rotate outward, a strap can be wrapped around the upper arms above the elbows. Limited spinal range of motion and significant weakness—Have the student lie with the back over an exercise ball or a blanketed chair with the feet and hands touching the ground. This prop supports the spine and lengthens the torso. (See chapter 11 Restorative Postures.) Posture deepening—A student can deepen the posture by entering the asana from a standing position. To build confidence, position the student with his or her back to a wall that is about as far away as the student’s hands and feet are from each other in the full expression of this pose. Instruct the student to reach the hands overhead and behind and “walk” the hands down the wall toward the ground. Make certain that the toes point directly forward and the thighs rotate inward slightly as they lower the upper body down toward the ground. Moving into the pose from a standing position also builds strength in the abdominal muscles.

Kinematics The closer the hands are to the feet, the more challenging the posture is. To remain comfortable in this pose, the student needs a certain range of motion through the torso. One also needs external rotation in the shoulder joint in order to retain joint stability. As in all backbending poses, if the thighs rotate slightly internally then the lower spine and sacrum are not compressed.

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Lifting Up From a Supine Position) Body segment Foot and toes

Muscles active Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (I)

Toe flexion (pressure into ground)

Flexor digitorum and hallucis longus, flexor digitorum brevis (C, I)

Lower leg

Ankle plantar flexion, stability

Gastrocnemius, soleus, anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (I)

Thigh

Knee flexion

Hamstrings, stability (C, I)

Thigh adduction, stability

Adductors (C, I)

Hip hyperextension

Gluteus maximus, hamstrings (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

258

Kinematics Toe abduction

Muscles released

Quadriceps Iliopsoas, rectus femoris

Supine and Prone Postures

Body segment Torso

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Spinal hyperextension

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, rectus abdominis (C, I)

Torso stability

Internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (I)

Sternoclavicular stability

Subclavius (I)

Humerus hyperflexion, stability

Pectoralis major, anterior deltoid (I)

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular stability

Serratus anterior, subscapularis (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids and mid trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension, stability

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Forearm extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris (C, I)

Finger extension, stability

Extensor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis (C, I)

Finger abduction

Abductor pollicis longus, opponens pollicis (C, I)

Neck hyperextension

Sternocleidomastoid, scalenes (E) Sternocleidomastoid, scalenes

Shoulder

Hand and fingers

Neck

Rectus abdominis

Latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major and minor

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

259

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana One-Legged Royal Pigeon Pose [eka-PAAH-duh-RAAH-juh kuh-poht-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, eka pada means “one leg,” raja means “royal,” and kapota means “pigeon” or “dove.” This pose name reflects the fact that the practitioner’s chest puffs out like that of a roosting pigeon.

Description Eka Pada Rajakapotasana is addressed here in the form of two variations and one modified alternative. The version practiced most commonly is referred to as Baby Pigeon, which is more of a prone posture that comes after a deep lunge. The outside of the front leg is placed with the knee flexed and resting against the ground, and the trailing leg is extended straight back with the front of the leg on the ground. The torso is folded forward over the bent knee. The second variation begins in the same position as Baby Pigeon; however, instead of folding forward over the front leg, the practitioner keeps the torso upright and arches back slightly while the head and hands reach toward the back foot. This variation is generally called Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged Royal Pigeon).

Energetic Focus Second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy

Foundational Focus Root through the sit bone and the outer edge of the flexed leg. Anchor into the front thigh of the back leg. Balance the grounding energy evenly in both legs.

Benefits • • • •

Opens the hips and chest. Lengthens the hip flexors and external rotators. Stabilizes the hips. Stimulates and stretches the abdominal organs.

 Cautions Knee or hip injury—Students with an acute knee or hip concern should avoid this posture. Sacroiliac concerns—Students with sacroiliac injury or instability should proceed with modifications or avoid this pose.

260

Supine and Prone Postures

Verbal Cues Variation 1: Baby Pigeon • Starting with your weight on your hands and knees, inhale and lengthen your spine. Imagine moving the crown of your head and your sit bones as far from each other as possible. • Exhale and step your right foot forward, coming into a low lunge with your hands on the ground. Slide your right foot across to the outside of your left hand, then slowly lower your right knee to the outside of your right hand. If you feel discomfort in your hip or knee as you lower your leg, practice the rest of the pose with modifications. • Slide your left leg behind you and lower your pelvis toward the ground. Feel the front of your left thigh elongate. Breathe softly into that space. Press into your hands and lift your lower rib cage away from your hips as you open space in your low back. • Inhale and stretch your chest and head toward the sky. Roll the fronts of your shoulders open to expand your chest. As you breathe, imagine your collar bones drawing apart with each inhalation. • Exhale and begin to slowly walk your hands forward away from your body, lowering your torso toward the ground. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart, and if it is comfortable to do so your right knee should be positioned to the outside of your right shoulder. This positioning helps release your hips without straining your knee joint. Again, if this positioning is not comfortable, practice with modifications. • Continue stretching your upper body forward, breathing deeply to relax your hip and spinal muscles. • Take another five or six breaths as you continue to soften your upper body and hips. • To exit this position, press your hands into the ground and slowly walk your hands back toward your body as you raise your torso. When your hands are under your shoulders, press down and lift your hips off the ground and move back onto your hands and knees; alternatively, stretch out your legs in Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) before preparing for the opposite side.

Variation 2: Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged Royal Pigeon Pose) • From Baby Pigeon, with your torso perpendicular to the ground, focus on lengthening your spine and lifting your rib cage away from your hips. • Exhale and bend your left knee, bringing your left foot toward the back of your pelvis. Your pelvis will likely rise off the ground. Breathe and picture your hips rooting into the ground. • Exhale and reach your arms overhead and grasp your left foot or ankle with both hands. Breathe slowly and smoothly. • Inhale deeply and “puff” your chest up and out like that of a pigeon to lift your rib cage even more. Rotate the fronts of your shoulders out from your chest. Slightly tilt your chin upward and arch back from your mid spine as much as you feel comfortable doing. Exhale and draw your elbows closer together. • Continue to focus on your breath. • Maintain the length in your low back as you continue to lift your chest. Imagine setting the back of your head into the arches of your feet. Feel the smooth arc of your spine. • To exit this position, slowly release your left foot. Maintain control of your left leg so that the foot does not drop quickly to the ground. Bring your hands back to the ground under your shoulders and press down to lift your hips off the ground and move back onto your hands and knees; alternatively, stretch out your legs in Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-­Facing Dog) before preparing for the opposite side.

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Adjustments Feet—The top of the foot on the extended leg should be relaxed and resting on the ground. The leg should be aligned with the hip. If the leg is abducted, squat or kneel to the side of the student and guide the leg inward by gently pressing the outer hip inward. Lightly tap the foot to encourage relaxation. Knees and hips—The extended knee should be square to the ground and not rotating outward. Generally, if the knee rotates externally, it does so because the opposite hip is tight (see the modifications section for this pose) and the body leans to that side. To guide the student into alignment, place your hands on the outsides of the hips while kneeling behind the student. This adjustment usually also realigns the extended knee. If the student is able to keep the hips grounded but feels discomfort in the kneecap of that leg, place a folded towel or cushion under the knee for comfort. Lumbar spine—If the student slumps into the lower back, cue the student to lift the rib cage. Kneel beside the student, place your hands on the outsides of the rib cage, and lift gently to encourage length in the back. Shoulders—Remind the student to maintain soft shoulders and keep space in the neck below the ears. Place your hands gently on the fronts of the shoulders to cue relaxation and expansion in the chest and neck.

Modifications Modification: tight hips.

Tight hips—Place a rolled blanket or a block under the hip of the bent leg to bring the top of the pelvis level. Strength and flexibility building—Place blocks under the hands and to the sides of the student’s hips to help support the upper body as the student strengthens the torso and stretches the hips. Intermediate variation—Some students are flexible enough in the hip flexors but unable to reach the arms over the head to clasp the back foot. Offer these students the following variation. Bring them to the point where they bend the back leg. Instruct them to exhale and reach both hands back to grasp the ankle as they open the chest. If students feel comfortable, instruct them to exhale and rotate the torso slightly to the extended-leg side as they reach the same-side arm back to clasp the foot. If they have enough balance and strength, invite them to raise the opposite arm overhead and slightly raise the chest, breathing deeply and smoothly. Modification: intermediate variation. Deepening of the pose (Twisted Pigeon)—Cue students as follows: “From Baby Pigeon, with your right leg flexed, cross your left elbow toward the outside of your right thigh. Bend your elbows, press your palms together in front of your chest, and rotate your torso to the right. Your hips should maintain contact with the ground during the twist.” This pose can be called Parivrtta Eka Pada Rajakapotasana. To adjust, kneel behind the student with one hand on the closest shoulder and your other hand on the back of the student’s rib cage. Gently guide the shoulder toward you and Modification: deepening into Parivrtta Eka Pada Rajakapotasana. press the rib cage away.

Kinematics Many people have overly tight external hip rotators and therefore find it difficult to sit comfortably in Eka Pada Rajakapotasana. The asana can be modified with a bolster or folded blankets placed under the flexed hip; otherwise, the student risks injuring the knee. The risk is even greater if the student places the weight of the upper body on the flexed thigh. 262

Supine and Prone Postures

The following table illustrates the kinematics of the full expression of the pose. Due to the extreme hyperextension in the spine in the deepest expression of the pose, it should be modified for students whose hips are even moderately tight. If the outer hip on the bent leg and the front thigh of the back leg do not rest comfortably on the ground, then the tightness in the hips and extreme hyperextension in the spine may lead to instability or injury over time.

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Right Knee Bent) Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus, anterior tibialis (C, I)

Lower leg (R)

Ankle dorsiflexion, inversion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus (C, I)

Lower leg (L)

Ankle plantar flexion, stability

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus, peroneals (C, I)

Thigh (R)

Knee flexion

Hamstrings, sartorius (C, I)

Thigh (L)

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas (C, I)

Femoral abduction

Gluteus medius and minimus (C, I)

Initial femoral external rotation

Adductors, sartorius (E, R)

Femur external rotation

Deep external rotators* (I, R)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Hip hyperextension

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Iliopsoas, quadriceps

Torso

Spinal hyperextension

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Rectus abdominis

Rib and chest elevation

Pectoralis minor (C, I)

Torso stability

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (E, I)

Humerus flexion

Pectoralis major, anterior deltoids (C, I)

Stability and external rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular stability

Subscapularis, serratus anterior (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Supporting posture in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis (C, I)

Lower arm

Wrist flexion

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Finger flexion

Flexor digitorum profundus and superficialis, flexor pollicis longus (C, I)

Neck

Neck hyperextension

Sternocleidomastoid, scalenes (E)

Shoulder

Adductors, gracilis

Triceps brachii

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right (in body segment column) or relaxed (in muscles active column).

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Ushtrasana Camel Pose [oosh-TRAAH-suh-nuh] Ushtra is Sanskrit for “camel.” In this pose, the arch of the body represents the hump of a camel’s back, and the bend in the legs resembles those of a camel’s rising from the ground.

Description Ushtrasana is a kneeling backbend. The openness in the hips and shoulders is a good precursor to more demanding backbends.

Energetic Focus Third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy

Foundational Focus Root into the tops of the feet and the shins. Anchor the hands onto the backs of the heels or onto a prop.

Benefits • • • • • • •

Opens the shoulders and chest. Strengthens the mid-back and posterior shoulder muscles. Stretches the abdominal cavity. Increases circulation to the throat area. Lengthens the hip flexors. Stretches the fronts of the ankles. Increases awareness of alignment.

 Cautions Back or neck concerns—Students with back or neck difficulty should practice with modification. High blood pressure—Students with this condition are advised to use modification.

Verbal Cues • Starting in a kneeling position, align your knees hip-width apart. Curl your toes under so that your heels are lifted. Slightly rotate your thighs inward to stabilize your hips. • Reach behind you and place the heel of your hands on the top of your pelvis. Exhale and draw your elbows and shoulder blades closer together. Feel your chest expand. Press your hands against the top of your pelvis to move your hips slightly forward. Your thighs should remain mostly perpendicular to the ground. • Inhale and lift your ribs and chest as you press your pelvis forward a little more. Imagine that a hand placed between your shoulder blades is gently pressing in and up to lift your chest. • Reach your right hand down toward your right heel and rest your palm there. Take a breath, then slowly reach your left hand to your left heel. Your thumbs should point away from your body. Breathe in deeply and rotate the fronts of your shoulders away from your chest.

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Supine and Prone Postures

• Continue to focus on your breath. • Press your hands into your heels as you draw your elbows slightly closer together. With your next inhalation, relax your neck, allowing your head to tilt back slightly into a comfortable position. Continue to maintain length in the sides and back of your neck. If your neck feels compromised or uncomfortable, softly draw your chin in toward your chest. • If you are comfortable in this position, lower the tops of your feet against the ground. Continue to open your heart toward the sky. Feel the front of your chest expand, opening up your heart energy. • On each inhalation, feel your chest and lower back rise. On each exhalation, feel your thighs rotate inward for stability. • To exit this position, inhale deeply and imagine being lifted by your chest. Move slowly and lift your right hand off your foot and bring it to the front of your body, as if someone were pulling you upright. Bring your left arm forward and lift your torso upright. Lower your hips to your heels and your upper body to the ground into Balasana (Child’s Pose). Gently rock your pelvis from side to side to soften your back.

Adjustments Feet—Remind students to begin with the toes curled under and the heels lifted. If, when a student brings the tops of the feet to the ground, the toes point outward, gently brush the outsides of the feet to encourage the student to realign the toes. Knees and thighs—If the student begins with the knees wider than hip-width apart, cue the student to move the knees closer together before moving into the posture. In addition, remind students to rotate the thighs internally in order to keep the back of the pelvis open. As a reminder, gently brush the outsides of the thighs. Hips—The hips should remain aligned directly over the Adjustment: hips. knees; however, as students reach for the feet, they often neglect to press the pelvis forward. To adjust, stand or kneel beside the student and place your closest palm on the student’s upper pelvis. Move the torso slightly forward and upward while moving the pelvis into alignment over the knees. Another option is to stand in front of the student in a semi-lunge, place a strap around the pelvis, and use the strap to gently draw the student toward you. Spine—If the student’s low spine is collapsing, kneel to the side, place your hand on the low back, and instruct the student to move the body away from your hand. Shoulders—The shoulders should be rotated externally and be relaxed away from the ears. To adjust, instruct the student to press firmly through the arms for length. To aid in external rotation, stand or kneel behind the student and place your hands on the shoulders with your thumbs closest to you. Rotate the student’s arms so that the shoulder blades come closer together. Chest—The chest should be higher than the level of the shoulders. To adjust, stand beside the student and place your hand between the shoulder blades, then instruct the student to lift away from Adjustment: shoulders. your hand.

Modifications Neck discomfort—If a student is not comfortable with lowering the head back, instruct the student to tuck the chin into the chest. This modification should be used for those with high blood pressure. 265

Tight hip flexors—If the student has difficulty bringing the hands to the feet without dropping the hips back, cue the student to place the hands on the back of the pelvis and squeeze the elbows and shoulder blades inward while moving the pelvis forward. For additional support and leverage, place blocks under the student’s hands and cue the student to press firmly into the blocks. These modifications help the student build flexibility in the quadriceps and psoas. Upper spine weakness and tight chest—A student may need assistance to lift the upper spine and rib cage. Sit behind the student as he or she kneels and place the ball of one foot lightly between the student’s shoulder blades. Clasp the wrists in your hands and instruct the student to grasp your wrists. While the student inhales, gently press your foot forward against the back while holding the arms. As the student exhales, instruct her or him to move the pelvis forward and relax the shoulders and neck. This action is a Thai yoga therapy technique used to expand the student’s chest and shoulders while the instructor supports the weight. Abdominal weakness—Assist the student in exiting the posture. Standing behind the student in a semi-squat, place your hands between the shoulder blades Modification: tight hip flexors. with your fingers pointing down. As the student inhales, gently press upward on the back to help the student lift upright. Another variation is to stand in a slight lunge in front of the student. Cue the student to reach the right arm forward and clasp your right arm, above the elbow, while you clasp the student’s arm. Straighten your legs and lean back slightly to lift the student upright.

Kinematics With the toes hyperextended, the arch of the foot is stretched as the body weight is moved over the heels. Some students find such positioning fairly uncomfortable at first; encourage them to practice this positioning in order to benefit the structures of the feet.

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Supine and Prone Postures

Ushtrasana Body segment Foot and toes

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Toe hyperextension

Extensor digitorum longus and hallucis, Plantar fascia, flexor digitoanterior tibialis, flexor digitorum and hallu- rum and hallucis longus, poscis longus, posterior tibialis (C, E, I) terior tibialis

Foot stability

Extensor digitorum longus and hallucis, anterior tibialis, flexor digitorum and hallucis longus, posterior tibialis (I)

Lower leg

Ankle in dorsiflexion, stability

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus, Gastrocnemius and soleus peroneals (C, I)

Thigh

Knee flexion, stability

Hamstrings (C, I)

Quadriceps

Hip and pelvis

Hip hyperextension, stability

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris (E, I)

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris

Hip stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Stability

Deep external rotators,* gluteus medius (I)

Torso stability

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (E, I)

Spinal stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (I)

Adduction of scapulae

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

External rotation and stability

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Hyperextension and adduction of humerus

Latissimus dorsi, teres major (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension (also aids in hyperextending humerus)

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Finger flexion

Flexor digiti minimi brevis, interossei palmaris, flexor pollicis brevis (C, I)

Neck

Neck hyperextension

Sternocleidomastoid, scalenes (E, I)

Torso

Shoulder

Rectus abdominis, obliques

Pectoralis major and minor, anterior deltoid, subscapularis, serratus anterior

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

Sternocleidomastoid, scalenes

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

267

Supta Virasana Reclining Hero Pose [SOOP-tuh veer-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, supta means “reclining” or “lying down” and vira means “hero,” “chief,” “warrior,” or “champion.” In Latin, virilis means “man.” In both the Mahabharata (a Hindu epic) and the legend of King Arthur, a man’s secret strength, power, and virility reside symbolically in the thighs.

Description Supta Virasana is a supine posture in which the knees are bent and the lower legs tucked under or to the outside of the thighs. This pose provides an excellent stretch for the quadriceps.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy

Foundational Focus Root into the back of the pelvis and the inner thighs. Anchor into the shoulder blades and upper arms.

Benefits • • • • • • •

Lengthens the quadriceps and iliopsoas. Increases circulation in the legs. May help alleviate symptoms of sciatica. Gently stretches the abdomen and aids digestion. Opens the chest. Increases flexibility in the ankles and feet. Helps relieve menstrual discomfort.

 Cautions This pose should be introduced only if students are able to sit comfortably with the buttocks on the ground in the seated version (Virasana). If a student is uncomfortable in the pose, it may be practiced with modifications. Serious knee or back concerns—Students with knee replacement should avoid this asana. Those with back concerns should practice with modifications. Pregnancy—Due to hormone-induced laxity in the tendons and ligaments during pregnancy, the reclining version of Virasana should not be practiced past the first trimester.

268

Supine and Prone Postures

Verbal Cues • From a kneeling position, with the shins and the fronts of the ankles against the ground, slowly lower your hips toward your heels. As you lower, fold forward slightly from your hips and reach behind to grasp your inner calves. Gently roll your calf muscles away from the midline of your body to provide a more open space between your legs. Lower your hips slowly to the ground. • Make certain that your toes point straight back or slightly inward. As your hips settle, align your shoulders over your hips. Breathe smoothly, making sure that the position is comfortable for your knee joints. • Inhale, lifting your chest, and extend your arms behind you. Place your hands on the ground in front of your toes. Inhale and press down firmly through your arms to lengthen your torso and low back. • Exhale and slowly bend one elbow at a time to bring your forearms to the ground. As you breathe, continue to lengthen your rib cage away from your hips. Lower your chin to your chest if doing so feels comfortable. Soften your buttocks and thighs. • On the next inhalation, slowly extend your arms, one at a time, to the sides of your legs, lowering your back a little closer to the ground. Your breath should be smooth and steady. All the while, ensure that your knee joints and lower back do not feel compromised. • If you are comfortable, lower your shoulders and head to the ground. Listen to your body and be sure to avoid any strain in your knees or back. Breathe relaxation through the fronts of your thighs and softness and length into your lower back. • Continue to focus on your breath. • If you are comfortable with your entire back and head resting on the ground, reach your arms overhead and interlace your fingers. Press your palms away from your head and feel the elongation of your entire torso. • To exit this posture, bring your elbows in to the sides of your waist. Exhale and engage your abdominal muscles while you press your elbows down to lift your shoulders off the ground. Draw your chin into your chest. Press your hands into the ground and slowly straighten one arm at a time. Leading from your chest, slowly lift your torso upright, from the bottom to the top, and raise your head last. Stretch and shake out your legs.

Adjustments Ankles—If the student cannot comfortably rest the tops of the feet on the ground, place a small cushion or rolled-up towel under the ankles. Kneel behind the student and gently rotate the feet so that the toes point straight back or slightly inward. Knees—Before the student lowers the hips to the ground, be sure that the knees are no farther than hip-width apart. If the knees splay, wrap a strap around the lower thighs to keep the knees together or place a rolled towel between the knees and instruct the student to press into the towel. Another adjustment is to kneel facing the student, place your hands on the mid thighs, and rotate the muscles internally to help keep the knees aligned and relaxed. If the student’s knees lift slightly from the ground, and the person would like more stretch in the thighs, place a weighted sandbag or other weighted prop on the lower thighs to increase stretch Adjustment: knees. in the quadriceps and iliopsoas. Low back—If the student’s back is considerably arched while reclining, first cue the student to exit and then reenter the pose with focus on elongating the spine. If this action does not help, kneel in front of the student’s knees and lightly secure the legs. As the spine lowers to the ground again, cue the student to reach the shoulder blades away from the hips in order to encourage more length in the torso. Chest—The chest should remain lifted, not collapsed. Lightly touch the student’s upper sternum with one finger and instruct the student to push upward into your finger.

269

Modifications Building flexibility and awareness—Instruct the student to practice what is called Ardha Supta Virasana (Half-­ Reclining Hero Pose). In this variation, only one knee is flexed; the opposite leg stays extended forward. Practice on each side, unless one knee is compromised. Modification: building flexibility and awareness; tight hip Tightness in the feet, ankles, or knees—Place blankets or a flexors. block under the student’s hips to support the body weight while taking pressure off the feet, ankles, and knees. Some students may require additional propping to elevate the entire torso; in this instance, the support should extend from the hips to the back of the head. Overly arched lumbar spine—Place blankets under the student’s hips and shoulders to encourage the low back to relax. Tight hip flexors—If the student is unable to rest the torso on the ground without the knees lifting off the ground, place blankets under the shoulders to raise the student’s chest and encourage the legs to relax.

Kinematics The focus of this asana is to increase stability and flexibility in the knee joint. And while it may appear to be contraindicated for people with knee pain, when practiced with modifications and props, it can provide a therapeutic lengthening of the quadriceps. However, those with acute knee pain or diagnosed joint injury should refrain from practicing this pose.

Supta Virasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum longus (I)

Lower leg

Ankle plantar flexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (I, R)

Ankle inversion

Posterior tibialis (C, I)

Knee flexion

Quadriceps (E, R)

Thigh

Anterior tibialis, peroneals Quadriceps

Hip and pelvis

Hip and pelvis extension

Iliopsoas, rectus abdominis (E, R)

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris

Torso

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (E, I)

Rectus abdominis

Shoulder

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Pectoralis major

Humerus flexion (initial)

Anterior deltoid, pectoralis major (C, I)

Humerus flexion (final)

Posterior deltoid, triceps brachii (E)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Finger adduction

Adductor pollicis, flexor pollicis longus and brevis, interossei (C, I)

Finger flexion

Flexor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis, dorsal interossei (C, I)

Neck flexion, jalandhara bandha

Sternocleidomastoid, scalenes, hyoids (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Neck

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, and R = relaxed.

270

Muscles released

Cervical erector spinae, splenius capitus and cervicis, upper trapezius

Supine and Prone Postures

Matsyasana Fish Pose [muht-see-YAHH-suh-nuh] Matsya is a Sanskrit term meaning “fish.” This asana is dedicated to Matsya, the fish incarnation of Vishnu, who saved the first man (Manu) and the seven sages from a great flood.

Description Matsyasana is a supine backbending posture in which the legs, hips, and crown of the head remain on the ground while the chest and ribs are lifted. Traditionally, Matsyasana is practiced with the legs in Padmasana (Lotus Pose). In another, more challenging variation, the arms and legs are extended and lifted off the ground.

Energetic Focus Fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy, fifth chakra (Vishuddha) purifying energy, sixth chakra (Ajna) perceptive energy, seventh chakra (Sahasrara) divine energy

Foundational Focus Root into the back of the pelvis. Anchor onto the top of the head.

Benefits • • • • • • •

Opens the rib cage, chest, and abdomen. Helps with respiratory ailments. Gently strengthens the neck. Increases circulation in the throat. Stimulates the thyroid gland. Strengthens the back. Improves digestion.

 Cautions High blood pressure or migraine—Students with high blood pressure or migraine should refrain from practicing this pose. Insomnia—Students who suffer from insomnia should not practice this posture immediately before trying to sleep. Neck issues—Students with neck injury should refrain from practicing this pose. Low back pain—Students with pain the lower back musculature should practice with modifications. Those with acute low back pain or disc injury should refrain from practicing this pose.

Verbal Cues If the student is comfortable practicing Padmasana, begin with the legs in that position, reclining with the spine and head resting on the ground. If not, follow the instructions from a straight-leg or bent-knee position. • Lie supine, with your legs extended and your arms at your sides. Exhale and internally rotate your thighs. As you inhale, bend your elbows and press the backs of your upper arms down into the ground. 271

• On the next inhalation, lift your back and shoulders off the ground, supported by your arms. Lengthen your neck, then arch your head back to rest the crown of your head on the ground. Continue to elongate your neck on all sides as you breathe deeply. Notice the bridge that your torso forms from your pelvis to the crown of your head. • If your spine and neck are comfortable in this position, place your palms together over the center of your chest in Anjali Mudra (Prayer Pose). Feel your energy from your heart expand from this space. Continue to elongate through your neck. • Continue to focus on your breath. • Feel your chest continue to lift and lengthen with each breath. Focus on using your spinal muscles to support your upper body; imagine them lifting your entire torso up from the ground. The weight on your head and through your neck should feel comfortable. • To exit the position, bring your arms back to your sides. Exhale, and uncross or straighten your legs. Once again, press into the backs of your arms and lift your head from the ground. Draw your chin slowly in toward your chest as you exhale and gently bring the back of your head to the ground. Lower the rest of your torso to the ground slowly. This pose is often used as a counterpose for Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand).

Adjustments Hips—The hips should remain on the ground throughout the pose. If the student presses against the ground and lifts the hips (which happens often when the pose is practiced with the knees bent), instruct the student to anchor into the back of the pelvis in order to keep the hips rooted. To assist, kneel beside the student and lightly place your hands on the lower thighs or, if the legs are bent, on the knees. This subtle reminder helps the student focus on securing the hips to the ground. Chest—If the chest or rib cage collapses, kneel above the student’s head, place your hands behind the shoulder blades, and cue the student to lift the Adjustment: chest. back away from your hands. Head—The student’s head should touch the ground with the crown—not with the back of the head. Instruct the student to press down strongly with the arms in order to create more lift in the chest and to hyperextend the neck until the crown rests on the ground. The chest adjustment is also appropriate for realigning the head, as well.

Modifications Discomfort—If a student is uncomfortable in Padmasana, cue the student to bring the legs into Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), which helps open the hips. Some students may also find it more comfortable to simply bend the knees with the feet flat on the ground. Straining—If a student’s face is strained or red, or if the breath is labored, place the student in a less demanding asana, such as Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose). Neck or low-back pain—Place folded blankets or bolsters under the student’s shoulders to relieve the back muscles. Posture deepening—If students are comfortable, cue them to deepen the pose by lifting the legs and arms off the ground while maintaining the rest of the pose. You may need to help a student hold the limbs in this position. To do so, kneel or squat by the student’s feet and place your hands under the heels for light support. Modification: deepening the posture.

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Supine and Prone Postures

Kinematics In order to eliminate the possibility of straining the neck muscles, the crown of the head, not the back of the head, should rest on the ground.

Matsyasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Toe flexion

Flexor digitorum and hallucis longus, flexor digitorum brevis (C, I)

Lower leg

Plantar flexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (C, I)

Thigh

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris (C, I)

Torso

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum (I)

Spinal hyperextension

Erector spinae, semispinalis, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C)

Humerus hyperextension

Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Wrist extension, stability

Flexor digitorum profundus and superficialis (I)

Hand and fingers

Finger extension and stability

Flexor digitorum profundus and superficialis, flexor digiti minimi, interossei (C, I)

Neck

Neck hyperextension, stability

Sternocleidomastoid, scalenes (E, I)

Neck stability

Cervical erector spinae, splenius capitus and cervicis, upper trapezius (C, I)

Shoulder

Muscles released

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus

Rectus abdominis

Anterior deltoid, pectoralis major and minor

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

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Supta Padangusthasana Reclining Hand-to-Toe Pose [SOOP-tuh paah-daahngoost-AHH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, supta means “reclining,” pada means “foot,” and angustha means “big toe.”

Description Supta Padangusthasana is a supine position in which one leg is flexed at the hip and the big toe of the same-side foot is typically grasped by the same-side hand. This is often used as a transitional asana to move from the more active phase of a session into more relaxing and restorative poses near the end.

Energetic Focus First chakra (Muladhara) grounding energy, second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy

Foundational Focus Root into the back of the pelvis and the back of the heel of the grounded leg. Anchor the hand or a strap around the lifted leg.

Benefits • • • • •

Lengthens the hamstrings and hips without any strain on the back. Stretches the calves and arches. Stimulates the reproductive organs. Relaxes the spine. Aids digestion.

 Caution Pregnancy—Instruct pregnant women to lie on the side instead of on the back and to flex the top leg toward the chest.

Verbal Cues • From a supine position, with your arms at your sides and your legs straight, press firmly into your left leg and, as you exhale, draw your right knee into your chest. Hug the leg in to stretch your low back but keep your shoulders relaxed. • Inhale and slowly straighten your knee, lifting your right foot toward the sky. The knee should remain as straight as possible without locking. Be mindful of any discomfort in your low back or hamstrings. If your back feels compromised, bend your left knee and bring your left heel to the ground as close to your sit bones as is comfortable.

274

Supine and Prone Postures

• Reach up with your right hand and grab as close to your right toes as possible—wherever you can reach comfortably. Your shoulders and hips should remain on the ground. Feel your back sink into the support of the ground. • Inhale deeply and anchor your left leg more firmly into the ground. As you exhale, press your navel toward the ground while lifting your chest and head toward your right foot. Send energy through your right heel Lenthening the hamstrings. and point your toes toward your head. This helps to lengthen the hamstrings and keep the abdominal muscles engaged. Imagine your breath lengthening your leg. • As you breathe, allow your abdomen to soften and relax your shoulders. Exhale, maintaining length in your leg, and slowly lower your head and shoulders back to the ground. Continue to breathe length through your leg. • Continue to focus on your breath. • To exit the position, release your right hand to your side and slowly lower your leg back to the ground. If your low back feels uncomfortable, slightly bend your knee. As your leg rests on the ground, notice that your right leg feels longer and more relaxed than your left. Rest for a few breaths, then prepare to practice on the left side.

Adjustments Feet—If the heel of the lifted leg is not higher than the toes, instruct the student to point the toes down toward the head more fully. To guide the toes lower, you can gently press down on the ball of the foot. Knee—If the student bends the knee in an effort to grasp the toes, adjust the hands to a position where the student can hold on comfortably or offer a strap to wrap around the foot while maintaining as much knee extension as possible. Hips—If the leg extended on the ground is comfortable but lifts off the ground, kneel beside the student and press gently on the top of the thigh, near the hip. Do not press near the knee joint. A weighted sandbag can also be placed at the top of the thigh. Shoulders—The shoulders should remain relaxed. Especially when the torso is lifted, students have a tendency to round the shoulders and lift them toward the ears. To adjust, kneel beside the student and gently place your hands on the tops of the shoulders as a guide to relax and keep space between the ears and shoulders. Cue the student to elongate the sides of the neck. Neck—Remind the student to keep the ears aligned with the shoulders and not to drop the head back or bring the chin to the chest while lifting the torso. Kneel beside the student and place your hand lightly on the back of the head. If the head drops back, instruct the student to move the back of the head away from your hand. If the neck is flexed, cue the student to press lightly into the back of your hand until the ears are aligned with the shoulders.

Modifications Tight hamstrings—If the student is unable to reach the hand to the foot without bending the knee, wrap a strap around the ball of the foot and place the loose ends in the student’s hand. Instruct the student to find the place where she or he feels comfortably challenged while still extending the knee as much as possible. Overly tight spine—Instruct the student to bend the knee of the anchoring leg, placing the foot flat on the ground. This modification helps eliminate strain in the low back. Spinal weakness—Place the student in a position where the back is on the ground and the legs are up against a wall with the hips and the backs of the legs touching the wall. Instruct the student to flex one hip more deeply so that the leg moves closer to the chest while keeping the knee extended. This modification reduces strain on the back while still allowing the hamstring to stretch. Modification: spinal weakness. 275

Kinematics Resting the torso on the ground in the beginning and ending phases of this asana allows the student to focus on stretching the hamstrings and hips while the spine remains in alignment. With the posterior shoulder muscles pressed into the ground, one can take a true measure of flexibility in the hamstrings and posterior hips; in contrast, in seated and standing forward bends, the range of motion is often distorted by flexion in the torso.

Supta Padangusthasana (Right Hip Flexed) Body segment Foot and toes (R)

Kinematics

Muscles active Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Toe dorsiflexion

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus, anterior tibialis (C, I)

Foot and toes (L)

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus, anterior tibialis (C, I)

Lower leg (R)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (C)

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Lower leg (L)

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (C, I)

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Thigh (R)

Knee extension

Quadriceps, gracilis (C, I)

Thigh (L)

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (R)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris, pectineus (C, I)

Hip and pelvis (L)

Hip extension, stability

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Torso

Trunk stability

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Shoulder (R)

Shoulder flexion

Anterior deltoid, pectoralis major (C, I)

External humerus rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, trapezius (C, I)

Shoulder (L)

Shoulder abduction

Deltoids (C, I)

Upper arm (R)

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Upper arm (L)

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachioradialis (C, I)

Lower arm (R)

Forearm supination

Supinator (C, I)

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Lower arm (L)

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres (C, I)

Hand and fingers (R)

Wrist extension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris (I)

Finger flexion

Flexor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis, dorsal interossei (C, I)

Hand and fingers (L)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Neck

Neck extension and stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis (I)

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, L = left, and R = right.

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Muscles released

Toe abduction

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus

10 Inverted Postures

© AleksandarNakic/istock.com

I

nversions are asanas in which the head is placed below the heart and part or all of the body weight is supported by the shoulders, arms, or head. As a result, Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend) is considered a standing pose rather than an inversion because the legs support the body as a whole. Bear in mind, however, the fact that many poses have characteristics of more than one category. For instance, consider Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow  Pose, or backbend), which is illustrated in chapter 9. Because the head is below the heart in that pose, it is often considered

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Instructing Hatha Yoga an inversion. (However, in this book, it was placed in Supine and Prone Postures in order to illustrate a progression in backbending poses). Many inversions are physically demanding and require not only considerable strength but also openness and flexibility in the upper body. It is advisable, therefore, to teach modified versions of the poses to students who are not already familiar with inversions. Once students feel stable and confident in a variation, begin cueing them into the full expression of the pose. It is also best for students who are new to practicing inversions to hold a posture for only brief periods and gradually increase the duration as they build strength and confidence. Being upside down provides both physical and emotional benefits. In physical terms, it strengthens the veins by increasing demand on the heart, while also increasing stability in the neck, arms, and torso because the body weight is supported by the upper body. It also improves balance and relieves, at least for a time, the effects of gravity, such as varicose veins and sagging. In emotional terms, perhaps one of the most profound reasons for practicing inversions beyond simply doing Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) is for the metaphor of being comfortable when turned upside down! Indeed, the biggest obstacle to learning Salamba Shirshasana (Headstand) is often fear, exacerbated by the disorientation that many students feel when they are first upended. The following list presents cautions about inverted postures and certain medical conditions. Additional cautions specific to any given asana are listed in the description of that asana. • Glaucoma and detached retina—Most inversions present some risk for students with either of these conditions. If a student is not accustomed to being upside down, the pressure of the circulation suddenly flooding into the head could

put pressure on the blood vessels surrounding the eyes. Certain inversions, such as Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand) and Halasana (Plow Pose), call for the head and neck to be in a neutral position, thus concentrating the blood in the throat area rather than creating pressure in the head and therefore the eyes. Even these two poses, however, should be approached with caution. • High or low blood pressure—The following inverted asanas raise blood pressure and are therefore contraindicated for students with hypertension: Salamba Shirshasana, Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Handstand), Pincha Mayurasana (Scorpion), and to some extent Adho Mukha Shvanasana. Asanas contraindicated for people with low blood pressure include Salamba Sarvangasana and Halasana. • Menstruation—As mentioned in chapter 5, inversions are often modified during menstruation because energy should flow downward during this time in a woman’s cycle. In many cases, personal preference dictates whether a woman practices inversions during menses. • Neck or shoulder injury or extreme spinal weakness—Depending on the severity of injury to the neck and shoulders, some students may not have the muscular strength needed to safely support an inversion. If a student cannot muster the strength to use the ideal (primary) muscles, other muscles are engaged in order to compensate and injuries are often exacerbated. This danger exists in all poses but is especially acute in inversions, in which the possible injuries tend to be relatively serious and dramatic. For example, if a student falls, it is of course more injurious to twist the neck than to twist the ankle. Students who suffer from spondylitis (inflammation of the vertebral joints) or another arthritic condition of the spinal column should refrain from practicing weight-bearing inversions.

Inverted Postures

Adho Mukha Shvanasana Downward-Facing Dog [uhd-HOE moo-KUHSH-vuhn-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, adho means “downward,” mukha means “face,” and shvana means “dog.” This asana is named Downward-Facing Dog because it resembles the pose that a dog strikes when stretching or, sometimes, when feeling playful.

Description Adho Mukha Shvanasana is practiced with the feet and hands pushing against the ground and the hips piked with the sit bones lifted high in the air. This posture is technically considered a resting asana, but for many who are just starting out in yoga it can be quite challenging because it requires considerable strength and flexibility in both the upper and lower body. The restful, rejuvenating effects of the pose become apparent after continuous practice. This pose is part of the Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskaras) series. Practicing this asana builds strength and flexibility in the arms and shoulders, which makes it a foundational pose for arm balances.

Energetic Focus Fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy, fifth chakra (Vishuddha) purifying energy, sixth chakra (Ajna) perceptive energy, seventh chakra (Sahasrara) divine energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly into the metacarpal heads and fingertips. Anchor into the backs of the heels—even if the heels do not reach the ground. Balance the grounding energy evenly between the hands and feet.

Benefits • • • • • • • • •

Builds strength and stability in the shoulders. Stretches the hamstrings and deeper calf muscles that other stretches usually cannot affect. Stretches, strengthens, and improves circulation in the legs, making this posture especially beneficial for runners. Stretches the hands and feet. Rejuvenates the whole body. Builds a foundation for other inversion postures. Relaxes the heart. Increases blood flow to the head. Can relieve menstrual and menopausal discomfort.

 Cautions Shoulder dislocation—If a student has a tendency toward shoulder dislocation, do not emphasize the external rotation of the shoulders. Instruct the student to focus on keeping the arms as straight and as comfortable as possible, perhaps slightly drawing the shoulders nearer to the ears. Also, see the modifications discussion for ways to build shoulder stability and strength. Wrist injury or carpal tunnel syndrome—Students with wrist injury or weakness should practice this pose with modifications. Pregnancy—Women who are new to the pose or past the first trimester of pregnancy should practice with modifications. 279

Verbal Cues • From Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), align your hands so that they are slightly farther than shoulder-width apart. Spread your fingers. Inhale to elongate your spine, then curl your toes under. Exhale and straighten your arms to lift your upper body off the ground. As you raise your hips toward the sky, press them back as far as is comfortable. Reach your heels toward the ground. • Relax your neck. Inhale and imagine your shoulders moving away from your hands. • Press firmly into your fingertips, taking weight out of the heels of your hands. Visualize pushing the earth away from your body. Feel the strength in your arms. • Gently draw your upper arms in toward your ears. Inhale and rotate the backs of your upper arms slightly toward the ground. To minimize the possibility of hyperextending your elbows, soften them slightly while still contracting your upper arm muscles. Feel your shoulders and chest open and your spine lengthen with greater traction. Imagine more space between your vertebrae with each breath. • Press your thighbones (femurs) back and continue to ground through your heels. It is okay if your heels do not touch the ground; simply focus on lengthening your legs and lifting your sit bones. • Continue to focus on your breath. • As you breathe in, feel the energy in your hands and arms, as well as the weight of your head providing traction to your spine. Envision opening more space between your vertebrae. • To exit this position from the Classical Sun Salutation, step one foot forward between your hands, coming into a lunge. • To exit this position from an Ashtanga Sun Salutation, walk or jump both feet forward between your hands into Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend). • Otherwise, flow into another pose. If you need to rest, bend your knees, place them on the ground, and relax in Balasana (Child’s Pose).

Adjustments Hips—Stand behind the student in a semi-lunge, with your front foot between the student’s legs. Place one hand on the outside of each hip joint. Cue the student to ground through the hands and inhale while leaning back slightly and lifting the hips back. The student’s whole torso should elongate. The arms will be relieved of some workload and will feel more relaxed. Make certain that your own body mechanics are sound: bend your knees and use your body weight, rather than your back strength, to draw the student back. Spine—If the student’s upper spine is rounded, perform the adjustment described for the hips. You may also stand to the student’s side and place a palm lightly between the student’s shoulder blades with your fingers pointed toward the hips. Gently press your hand upward in the direction of the pelvis, thus encouraging the student to lengthen the spine; however, do not actually slide your hand, but simply simulate the direction the pelvis should move to give the student a kinesthetic feel for the motion you Adjustment: hips; spine. are indicating. Neck—Make sure that the student’s neck is relaxed. Cue the student to lower the crown of the head toward the ground. To encourage the student to lower the head, place a hand gently on the back of the neck. Shoulders—Encourage the student to rotate the shoulders externally. Because the student is upside down, it may be challenging for you to recognize the correct direction in which to adjust. It is crucial that you rotate the arms

280

Inverted Postures

in the correct direction. Stand or squat facing the student’s head. Place your hands on the student’s upper arms, just below the shoulders, with your thumbs closest to the head. Very slowly rotate the student’s arms so that your thumbs move away from each other and the student’s elbows draw in closer. Make certain that the student keeps pressing the palms firmly and securely into the ground. Hands and fingers—Students often rotate the hands inward or outward to adjust for shoulder or wrist tightness. Cue students to point the middle finger directly forward, away from the body. If this positioning is difficult, instruct students to use modifications. Some students place most of the pressure on the hands to the outside, on the pinky, with very Adjustment: shoulders. little weight on the rest of the hand. To adjust, kneel or squat beside the student and lightly press on the tops of the index finger and thumb in order to encourage the student to anchor into those joints.

Modifications Arm, wrist, or shoulder weakness—Instruct the student to bend the elbows and place the forearms on the ground. This positioning is more challenging for the shoulder joint but serves as a good modification for anyone who cannot support the body weight fully on the hands. This position is often considered a pose in and of itself—namely, Dolphin Pose, sometimes translated as Makarasana (muh-kuh-RAH-suh-nuh). It is a good preparatory pose for Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Headstand). Hip, hamstring, or back tightness—Cue the student to bend the knees slightly while continuing to lift the hips. Suggest that the student move the feet farther apart, since doing so often helps with balance and can change the angle of pull in the hamstrings. Pregnancy, extreme weakness, or tightness in the upper extremities— Place the student facing a wall with the hands at shoulder height. Instruct the student to position the body at arm’s-length from the wall while keeping the hands in place. Next, cue the student to bend forward from the hip joint and step back so that the feet are under the hips. Direct the student to push into the wall so that the hips shift back as far as is comfortable. The spine is now free to suspend, Modification: pregnancy, extreme weakness, or opening the shoulders and chest, and the head can relax between tightness in upper extremities. the upper arms. An alternative pose is Durga-Go (Cat and Cow Pose). Fatigue—Because this asana is physically demanding, many students are unable to stay in the position for very long. Encourage such students to rest in Balasana (Child’s Pose).

Kinematics The arms and legs gain considerable strength from practicing this asana. Weakness in the posterior shoulder muscles and upper back can combine with tightness in the anterior shoulder muscles and chest to constrict the nerve and blood vessel plexus that supplies the arms and wrists. Therefore, imbalance in the upper body can be a contributing factor if a student complains of numbness or pain in the wrists during day-to-day activities. Adho Mukha Shvanasana is an excellent pose for balancing the shoulders and back and for opening the chest.

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Adho Mukha Shvanasana Body segment Foot and toes

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Toe extension, stability

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus, flexor digitorum longus, and flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Toe abduction, stability

Dorsal interossei, abductor digiti minimi brevis, abductor hallucis (C, I)

Lower leg

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum, and hallucis longus (C, I)

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Thigh

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hamstrings

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris (C, I)

Gluteus maximus, deep external rotators*

Hip internal rotation and stability Adductors, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus (C, I) Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, hamstrings (I)

Torso

Trunk stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumInternal and external obliques, borum rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae (I)

Shoulder

Humerus flexion and hyperflexion, stability

Pectoralis major, coracobrachialis, deltoids, biceps brachii (C, I)

Scapular stability, external rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Joint stability

Subscapularis, supraspinatus (C, I)

Scapular stability

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (I)

Pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, levator scapulae

Scapular stability, downward pull Lower trapezius (C, I) of scapulae Scapular stability and abduction

Serratus anterior, teres major (C, I)

Sternoclavicular stability

Subclavius (I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension, stability

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

Lower arm

Forearm pronation, stability

Pronator teres, quadratus (C, I)

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus

Wrist hyperextension, stability

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus (E, I)

Finger extension, stability

Extensor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis (C, I)

Finger abduction

Abductor pollicis longus, opponens pollicis (C, I)

Neck relaxed

None

Hand and fingers

Neck

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

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Cervical erector spinae, splenius capitus and cervicis

Inverted Postures

Salamba Sarvangasana Supported Shoulderstand [saah-LUM-buh sahr-vaahng-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit,  sa  means “with,” alamba means "support,” sarva means “all,” and anga means “limb.” In this pose, almost all of the body weight is supported by the upper body, specifically the upper spine, upper arms, shoulders, and back of the head. The pose is also practiced in unsupported variations, such as Niralamba [neer-aah-LUM-buh] Sarvangasana. Shoulderstand is often considered the queen or mother of all asanas because it is both active and restorative.

Description In Salamba Sarvangasana, the shoulders rest directly on the ground, or on a prop. The upper arms are behind the back in a supportive position, and the hands are positioned on the back to provide greater lift. The neck is flexed so that the chin and chest are close together.

Energetic Focus Third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy, fifth chakra (Vishuddha) purifying energy

Foundational Focus Root evenly into the backs of the upper arms and the upper shoulders. Anchor into the back of the head.

Benefits • • • • • • •

Soothes the nervous system and the mind, thus relieving stress and mild depression. Stimulates the thyroid gland. Aids digestion. Stretches the shoulders and neck. May relieve menopausal symptoms. Reduces fatigue and may help alleviate insomnia in some people. Beneficial for relieving symptoms of asthma, infertility, and sinusitis.

 Cautions Acute neck or shoulder injury—Practice with modification or substitute another asana. Pregnancy—Women who are new to yoga should not practice this pose after becoming pregnant. Those who are experienced with the pose may practice it through the second trimester.

Verbal Cues • Lie supine with your torso and shoulders on a folded blanket. Position your neck and head to rest off of the blanket, on the ground. Bring your arms to your sides and, as you exhale, draw your knees in toward your chest. Press into your hands, roll your body weight toward your shoulders, and, if you can, lift your hips slightly off the ground. Keep your hips aligned with your shoulders. • Inhale and anchor into your shoulder blades. As you exhale, press into your arms more energetically and lift your hips higher while raising more of your spine off the ground. 283

• If you feel stable in this position, bring your palms, with your fingers pointed up toward your feet, to your back as close to your shoulder blades as is comfortable. Inhale and draw your elbows slightly closer together. Breathe smoothly. • On your next inhalation, straighten your legs and reach your feet toward the sky. Spread your toes and engage your leg muscles as if you were standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). As you elongate your legs, bring your hips into alignment over your shoulders as much as possible. As your hips and legs align, you will feel your chest move in closer to your chin. • With each inhalation, open your chest and shoulders more so that your spine continues to lift. Anchor through your upper arms and reach through your toes. • Continue to focus on your breath. • To exit this pose, slowly bend your knees toward your chest. Round your back and gently roll your spine down onto the ground, one vertebra at a time, keeping your abdominal muscles active to support the movement. Use your hands and arms as support against the ground so that you do not tense or lift your neck. • Another option is to bend from your hips, then slowly lower your feet to the ground into Halasana (Plow Pose). Matsyasana (Fish Pose) is often used as a counter pose.

Adjustments Chest—Many students can lift the legs but cannot easily straighten the spine or align the hips. As they build flexibility and strength, they should practice a variation of the pose (see the modifications discussion). If a student’s chest is collapsing (that is, if the upper back is rounding), stand to the side and hold onto the ankles with your hands. If the student is stable, you may also stand in front of the heels. You may also place your lower leg against the student’s spine to offer more support. Once the student feels stable, slowly release your grasp and step away. Elbows—To help straighten the spine, the elbows should be as close together as possible. You can assist by holding onto the legs as described for the chest adjustment and cueing the student to squeeze the elbows closer together. You can also kneel to the side of the student and, as the student lifts the legs, gently guide the elbows together by pressing lightly on the outsides of the upper arms.

Modifications

Adjustment: chest.

Difficulty with lifting the torso—Place a slightly higher stack of folded blankets under the student’s shoulders so that the back of the head still touches the ground and the shoulders rest on the blankets. This modification positions the shoulders higher and helps stretch the neck more effectively. Some styles of hatha yoga teach this variation only. Drifting elbows—If the student’s elbows splay, the foundation is compromised. To help the student maintain alignment, wrap a strap around the upper arms just above the elbows. Balance concerns—If the student has difficulty balancing the body while lengthening the spine, place folded blankets on the ground near a wall so that the student’s torso rests on the blankets and the backs of the legs are against the wall. The back of the head should rest on the ground. Instruct the student to place the feet flat against the wall and “walk” up it so that the body weight is placed at the top of the shoulders. When comfortable, the student can move the legs away from the wall and practice balancing, either Modification: drifting elbows. on one leg at a time or on both at the same time.

284

Inverted Postures

Assistance with props—If a student has difficulty lifting the legs directly from the ground, cue the student to come into an assisted Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose) and raise the legs off the ground while resting the pelvis on the block. Once comfortable, the student can lift the pelvis off the block and move more fully into the pose. Make certain to remove the block before the student exits the pose.

Kinematics Salamba Sarvangasana is an excellent pose to gently loosen the neck and shoulder joints. In addition, because of the gentle pressure on the thyroid gland, this asana helps enhance the function of the gland and may help lower blood pressure.

Modification: assistance with props.

Salamba Sarvangasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus, anterior tibialis (C, I)

Lower leg

Plantar flexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (C, I)

Thigh

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Femur adduction

Adductors (C, I)

Hip extension

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Hip stability

Iliopsoas (I)

Torso stability

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (I)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Humerus hyperextension, stability

Posterior deltoid, triceps brachii, Pectoralis major and minor, antelatissimus dorsi, teres major (C, I) rior deltoid, serratus anterior

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular adduction, depression, and stability

Rhomboids, mid and lower trapezius (C, I)

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachioradialis, brachialis, (C, I)

Arm stability

Triceps brachii (I)

Forearm supination, stability

Supinator (I)

Wrist hyperextension

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris (I)

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis (C, I)

Finger abduction

Abductor pollicis longus, opponens pollicis (C, I)

Neck flexion, stability, jalandhara bandha

Sternocleidomastoid, scalenes, hyoids (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Torso

Shoulder

Upper arm

Lower arm

Hand and fingers

Neck

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus

Cervical erector spinae, splenius capitus and cervicis, upper trapezius

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

285

Pincha Mayurasana Peacock Feather Pose [PIN-chuh may-oohr-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, pincha means “feather,” and mayura means “peacock.” The asana resembles a peacock with its tail feathers lifted and spread before its mating dance.

Description This arm balance strongly uses the same shoulder-stabilizing muscles used in Salamba Shirshasana (Supported Headstand); here, however, the head and neck do not support any body weight. Students often progress from Pincha Mayurasana into the more physically demanding Vrschikasana [vrISHICK-AAH-suh-nuh] (Scorpion Pose). In that pose, the arm balance remains the same, but the hips hyperextend, the knees flex, and the feet sink closer to the back of the head.

Energetic Focus Third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy, Fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy, fifth chakra (Vishuddha) purifying energy, sixth chakra (Ajna) perceptive energy, seventh chakra (Sahasrara) divine energy

Foundational Focus Root into the elbows and forearms. Anchor into the hands.

Benefits • • • • • •

Strengthens and stabilizes the shoulders and the mid and upper back. Maintains shoulder flexibility. Strengthens the low spine. Stretches and tones the abdominal muscles. Energizes the body and mind. Increases circulation, concentration, and balance.

 Caution Neck, shoulder, or back injury—Students with acute injury in any of these areas should refrain from practicing this pose.

Verbal Cues • From Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog), bring your forearms to the ground. Place your palms flat against the ground and align them with your shoulders. Spread your fingers to widen your base of support. Maintain the alignment of your elbows with your shoulders. Feel your hands and arms root into the support of the ground. • Inhale and press firmly down through your elbows. Shift your body weight back slightly more toward your shoulders while also pressing the center of your chest back toward your legs. This action lifts and expands your chest and activates the muscles needed to help you balance. • Slightly hyperextend your neck so that you focus your gaze on a drishti (gazing point) in front of your hands. Keep your breath smooth and steady. • Remain focused on your drishti point as you begin to walk your feet forward slightly. As your torso moves forward, keep your shoulders in line with your elbows. To help with this alignment, press your chest toward your 286

Inverted Postures



• •





legs. Continue to press firmly into your forearms and keep your upper arms perpendicular to the ground. Maintain length in the front and back of your neck. Exhale and slowly raise one leg and then the other, pressing into your arms for leverage. Try not to “kick” your legs up; raise them in a controlled manner to maintain your balance. When both legs are raised, reach your toes toward the sky and feel your torso stretch from your shoulders to your hips. Spread your toes to help maintain energy in your legs. Continue to focus on your breath. If you feel comfortable in Pincha Mayurasana and would like to move into Vrschikasana, continue to breathe smoothly and press firmly through your forearms. On an exhalation, slowly bend your knees and press your chest toward the line of your gaze, as if you were going to reach your heart out beyond your hands. Maintain length in your neck. Exhale and arch your back slightly so that your feet move closer to your head. Feel your abdomen and front thighs elongate and open while continuing to support your Entering Pincha Mayurasana. balance. Maintain length in your low back and keep your throat open as you continue to focus on your drishti. To exit this position, exhale and flex your hips. Lower your feet slowly back to the ground. Fold your body into Balasana (Child’s Pose) and relax. Vrschikasana.

Adjustments Elbows—Make sure the student’s elbows are shoulder-width apart and not splayed. Before the student begins to balance, kneel to the side and gently guide the elbows toward each other with your hands; alternatively, wrap a strap around the upper arms just above the elbows. If a student struggles with arm placement, place a block against the wall and instruct the student to place the hands to the outside of the block and align the elbows at the same distance (see the modifications discussion). Head and neck—Remind the student to maintain head position in order to preserve balance and stability in the shoulders. Kneel beside the student, place one hand behind the back of the head, and cue the student to move the head toward your hand. Spotting—Stand to the student’s side. As the legs lift, use your forearms to act as a block in front of and behind the lower thighs, so that the legs do not drop to the other side of the body. Ideally, you act not as a crutch but as a training wheel. It is best not to hold the legs up; instead of supporting the pose for a student, help the student find and then independently maintain her or his own balance. To help a student attain more length in the torso, stand to one side and lightly wrap your hands around the ankle, lifting slightly. Again, try not to provide too much of the student’s balance. Always stand to Adjustment: spotting. the side of a student! Otherwise, there is a large possibility that the student will come crashing down onto your body.

Modifications Balance concerns—In contrast to Salamba Shirshasana, it is most appropriate to practice Pincha Mayurasana using the wall as a supportive prop. Difficulty in maintaining arm position—Place a block against the wall, or, if the student has adequate balance, away from the wall, and instruct the student to kneel facing the wall with the thumbs Modification: balance pressed against the near surface of the block and the index fingers concerns; difficulty mainon the sides. Cue the student to press firmly into the block and hug taining arm positioning. the elbows toward each other while practicing the leg lifting. 287

Kinematics If the student positions the elbows farther than shoulder-width apart, the foundation of the asana is compromised. Consider that if a structure is balanced on stilts positioned farther apart than the width of the building’s base, the building collapses through the middle; a body on an unstable base does the same. This alignment is also important for protecting the shoulder joints from possible injury.

Pincha Mayurasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Toe extension

Lower leg

Plantar flexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (C, I)

Thigh

Knee flexion

Quadriceps (E, I)

Quadriceps

Hip and pelvis

Hip extension

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Iliopsoas

Hip stability

Iliopsoas (E, I)

Torso stability, spinal hyperextension

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (E, I)

Spinal stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Humerus flexion, shoulder stability

Pectoralis major, coracobrachialis, deltoids, biceps brachii (C, I)

Stability

Latissimus dorsi (I)

Stability and external rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (I)

Joint stability

Subscapularis (I)

Scapular depression

Subclavius (I)

Scapular stability

Rhomboids, mid trapezius, serratus anterior (I)

Supporting posture in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis (C, I)

Elbow stability and balance

Biceps and triceps brachii (I)

Forearm pronation

Pronator quadratus and teres (C, I)

Elbow stability

Triceps brachii (I)

Finger extension, stability

Extensor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis (I)

Finger abduction

Abductor pollicis longus, opponens pollicis (I)

Hand and wrist stability and balance

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus (I)

Neck hyperextension

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis, upper trapezius (C, I)

Torso

Shoulder

Upper arm

Lower arm

Hand and fingers

Neck

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus, anterior tibialis (I)

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

288

Muscles released

Foot and toes

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques

Latissimus dorsi

Sternocleidomastoid

Inverted Postures

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana Downward-Facing Tree, or Handstand [uhd-HOE moo-KUH vrick-SHAAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, adho means “downward,” mukha means “face,” and vrksha means “tree.” In this pose, the length and strength in the body resemble that of a tree, and the hands serve as the roots.

Description Adho Mukha Vrkshasana is a basic handstand—that is, an arm balance—in which the hands are placed on the ground and the rest of the body straight up in the air. This asana can be practiced against a wall by students who are new to the pose or feel fearful of it. Once a student succeeds in that version of the pose, she or he should practice without the aid of a wall.

Energetic Focus Sixth chakra (Ajna) perceptive energy, seventh chakra (Sahasrara) divine energy

Foundational Focus Root into the metacarpal heads and fingertips. Anchor into the balancing energy within your abdomen.

Benefits • • • • •

Strengthens the shoulders, arms, and wrists. Opens the chest and rib cage. Strengthens the abdominal and spinal muscles. Increases confidence, focus, and balance. Invigorates the nervous system.

 Caution Pregnancy—Women who are new to yoga should not practice this pose after becoming pregnant. Those who are experienced with the pose may practice it through the second trimester.

Verbal Cues Note: The cues for this asana are designed for students who are new to the pose and possess adequate shoulder strength and flexibility but may worry about trying the pose without the reassurance of a wall for support. Some students may wish to practice without the aid of a wall, which is totally acceptable. • Stand facing a wall at a distance of two to four feet (roughly one-half to one meter). Exhale and fold forward from your hips, placing your hands flat on the ground one to three feet (no more than a meter) from the wall. Make certain that your hands are shoulder-width apart. Spread your fingers wide and press into your fingertips.

Entering Adho Mukha Vrkshasana.

289

• Keep your arms straight as you look toward the ground in front of your hands, focusing your gaze on a spot between your hands and the wall. Take a deep breath in and imagine energy from the ground moving up from your hands into your entire body. • Exhale and slowly lift your legs one at a time. If your feet land on the wall, feel free to connect into your heels and use the wall as a prop. Take a couple of breaths and anchor into your hands. • If you feel comfortable in this position, experiment by slowly bringing one heel away from the wall. Press up through your toes, energizing your legs by squeezing the inner thighs together. If you feel balanced, slowly take your other heel off the wall. Find the edge of your balance by using the wall as a sort of training wheel. • Use your hands to help direct the movement of your body. Bring your ankles in line with your hips as your balance moves more fully onto your hands. Continue to press your thighs together and press the front of your ribcage back toward your spine. This action will keep the abdominals engaged and help maintain alignment and balance. • Continue to focus on your breath • Continue to focus your gaze toward the wall and spread your toes. Imagine reaching your feet into the sky. • Your breath should be as smooth and deep as possible. If you feel you are straining to maintain the position, slowly take your feet back to the ground. • To exit, slowly lower your legs back to the ground one at a time. Come to the ground into Balasana (Child’s Pose) to rest.

Adjustments Hand alignment—Make certain that the student’s hands are shoulder-width apart. As in Pincha Mayurasana (Peacock Feather Pose), the arms in Adho Mukha Vrkshasana act like stilts under a house. The hands and shoulders must remain aligned to support the weight of the body and prevent injury in the supporting joints. Assistance or spotting—Stand to the side of the student and use your hands or Adjustment: assistance or spotting. the inside of your forearm as a “leg-stop” so that the student does not fall over backward. Do not hold the student’s legs up; if you do, the student will not sense when the body is properly aligned and balanced. Low back—If the low back arches significantly, stand beside the student, place your hand between the knees or calves, and direct the student to squeeze your hand. As in Pincha Mayurasana (Peacock Feather Pose), always stand to the side of the student for your own protection. Tell the student to imagine that the hands are pushing the ground away and that the energy from the ground is moving through the body toward the toes.

Modifications Difficulty with maintaining balance—Instruct the student to keep the heels resting against the wall and to focus on gaining the strength and stability needed in the shoulders and spine to maintain balance. As the student feels more comfortable, cue to take one leg, then the other, away from the wall. Variations of exit—If the student is steady in the pose and no longer relies on a wall for support, then instead of bending the hips and lowering the legs to the ground in front of the body, the student can slowly arch the back and lower the legs behind into a backbend. This variation applies only if the student practices away from the wall and has the strength and flexibility to move in such a manner.

Kinematics Maintaining the elongated hyperextension in the neck helps preserve the openness in the upper chest and also helps keep the legs from dropping forward. 290

Modification: difficulty with maintaining balance.

Inverted Postures

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana Body segment Foot and toes

Kinematics

Muscles active

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus, anterior tibialis (I)

Lower leg

Plantar flexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (C, I)

Thigh

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip extension

Hamstrings (C, I)

Hip stability

Iliopsoas (C, I)

Hip adduction

Adductors (C, I)

Torso stability

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (I)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Humerus flexion, stability

Pectoralis major, coracobrachialis, deltoids (C, I)

Stability and external rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid, latissimus dorsi (C, I)

Joint stability

Subscapularis (I)

Scapular depression, stability

Subclavius (I)

Scapular stability

Rhomboids, mid trapezius, serratus anterior (C, I)

Supporting posture in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension, stability

Triceps brachii (I)

Arm stability

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis (I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Forearm extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Wrist hyperextension, stability

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus, extensor carpi ulnaris

Wrist stability

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus (E, I)

Finger extension, stability

Extensor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis (C, I)

Finger abduction, stability

Abductor pollicis longus, opponens pollicis (C, I)

Neck extension

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis, upper trapezius (I)

Torso

Shoulder

Hand and fingers

Neck

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

291

Salamba Shirshasana Supported Headstand [saah-LUM-buh sheer-SHAAH-suh-nuh] Salamba means “with support,” and shirsha means “head” in Sanskrit. This pose is a headstand supported by the strength of the arms.

Description Shirshasana is considered the king of asanas and therefore is one of the most important poses in many styles of hatha yoga. This supported version puts the least stress on the head and neck because the majority of the body weight is supported by the forearms and shoulders. The crown of the head is cradled between the hands, and the back of the head rests against the interlaced fingers. Numerous headstand variations exist, and this is the best version for building the strength and stamina needed to accomplish all of the others.

Energetic Focus Sixth chakra (Ajna) perceptive energy, seventh chakra (Sahasrara) divine energy

Foundational Focus Root into the elbows and forearms. Anchor onto the crown of the head and the supporting hands.

Benefits • Increases stamina and strength in the shoulders, neck, abdominals, and upper spine and helps prevent bone degeneration in these areas. • Creates good posture. • Improves circulation. • Massages the lungs and builds resistance to illness. • Stimulates the pineal gland. • Increases energy and body heat. • Increases concentration and balance as it stimulates the pressure points at the Sahasrara chakra (crown of the head).

 Caution Pregnancy—Women who are new to yoga should not practice this pose after becoming pregnant. Those who are experienced with the pose may practice it through the second trimester.

Verbal Cues Explain to students that they may lose balance when practicing Salamba Shirshasana and that the fall is not nearly as painful or frightening as they might imagine, especially if they simply allow the body to relax on the way down. If a student does begin to fall, cue him or her to immediately tuck the chin to the chest. The most important—albeit most difficult—thing to do is relax! Before beginning, ask students to make sufficient space between one another and to clear the area completely of props and other gear.

292

Inverted Postures

• From a hands-and-knees position, bring your forearms to the ground in front of your knees. Align your elbows with your shoulders and loosely interlace your fingers. Place the backs of your little finger and ring finger against the ground. Release your thumbs so that they do not touch each other but instead rest on your index fingers. Inhale deeply. • Exhale and draw your chin closer to your chest and lean your torso slightly forward to place the crown of your head in your palms. Press into your forearms to lengthen your neck so that your shoulders do not hunch toward your ears. • Inhale and lift your knees off the ground, bringing your hips into the air. Your body positioning now resembles Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog), with your forearms on the ground. This is a position called Dolphin Pose, or Makarasana. Pause here for a few breaths and create length in your spine, moving your chest and rib cage away from your arms. See preparatory position 1, Makarasana. • Lift your heels off the ground and begin to slowly walk your feet toward your face. Maintain space in your spine, feeling your hips move toward alignment over your shoulders. • Continue to focus on your breath. • When your hips are stacked over your shoulders, bend one knee and draw it to your chest. Continue to breathe deeply, pressing firmly into your forearms. As you do so, you may feel your opposite foot naturally begin to hover off the ground. Gradually, as you are comfortable doing so, bring your other knee toward your chest. Keep both knees bent and balance here, hugging your knees into your chest and pressing the inner thighs closer together. See preparatory position 2. • If you can remain comfortably balanced with your knees into your chest for five or six breaths, you are ready to extend your legs. (For most students, this progress will come after a number of consistent Prepatory position 1, Makarasana. practice sessions. Once a student has sufficient strength, she or he may enter the position by slowly raising and straightening both legs simultaneously.) • Exhale and very slowly straighten your legs one at a time. Move slowly and refrain from kicking your legs up; doing so will throw off your balance. Stretch your toes up toward the sky. Be sure to move slowly and purposefully to maintain your balance. • As you breathe in this position, focus on aligning your body in an upside-down Tadasana. Roll your thighs in toward each other slightly. Straighten your spine with each inhalation. Press firmly through your elbows to bring strength and stability to your shoulders. • Continue to focus on your breath. • To exit this posture, exhale and slowly bring your legs down to the ground with as much control as possible. Fold yourself into Balasana (Child’s Preparatory position 2. Pose) and rest.

Adjustments Again, emphasize the importance of moving slowly. Control comes from building strength and coordination in the muscles and using them to lift the legs rather than using momentum, which generally takes the student out of alignment. Elbows—Make sure that the student’s elbows are shoulder-width apart and not splayed. If necessary, before the student begins to balance, kneel to the side and gently press the elbows toward each other. Some students may welcome a strap wrapped around the upper arms just above the elbows to help maintain alignment. Other students will find the strap distracting. Spine—If the back starts to round as the student brings the feet toward the face while raising the legs, instruct the student to stop in that position. Stand in a semi-squat or kneel beside the student, place your hand on the rounded spine, and instruct the student to move the spine away from your hand. Cue the student to lengthen the entire torso with each breath.

293

Chest and ribs—If the student’s chest and ribs flair out and the lower back hyperextends, stand beside the student and place your closest forearm in front of the thighs for support. Place your other hand around the backs of the ankles and instruct the student to press more firmly into the arms while reaching the toes to the sky. Gently guide the feet upward while encouraging the thighs to move into alignment. Move subtly so as not to disturb the student’s balance. Cue the student to press the ribcage toward the spine, and to engage the abdominal muscles to aid in alignment. Initial balance assistance—Stand to the side of the student in a semi-squat position for your own comfort and safety. As the student brings one or both of the knees into the chest, use your forearm to stop the student from rolling over. When you feel that the student is balanced on her or his arms, slowly remove your arm. Straight-leg balance assistance—Stand to the student’s side and use the inside of your arm as a “legstop” so that the student does not lose balance and roll onto the back. Do not hold the legs; if you do, the student cannot get a feel for proper alignment and balance. This assistance is simply to help the student recognize when the legs are perpendicular to the ground. Strength building—To aid the student’s alignment and strength, stand to the side, place your hand between the knees, and cue the student to squeeze your hand while lifting it toward the sky. This adjustment teaches the student to lengthen and lift more actively in the posture.

Modifications

Adjustment: chest and ribs.

Students who are determined yet slightly fearful—If a student is truly building the strength for the balance but feels disappointed in not yet being able to balance in the posture, place the student’s back against a wall. Use this modification sparingly, so that students do not become dependent on the wall for the balance. As the student gains confidence, move him or her away from the wall and place one or two folded blankets to the back side for cushioning in case of a fall. Tight shoulders—If the student has difficulty keeping the elbows aligned, a strap can be wrapped around the upper arms to keep the elbows from moving apart. This should be done in the preliminary stages of building the strength and flexibility for this posture. Upper-body strength building—As the student builds strength in the upper body, balance may be achieved by bringing the knees into the chest and focusing on the balance in the arms. If the student loses balance, the forward roll comes naturally. Extreme weakness—Instruct the student to practice Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) to build the needed arm and core strength.

Kinematics It is common for people new to Salamba Shirshasana to practice with the back against a wall. Unfortunately, it is highly possible to become dependent on the support provided by the wall and therefore never build the muscular coordination and balance needed to practice without the wall. With patience and practice, however, the student can learn to enter and exit this asana way from the wall, which not only builds muscle strength and endurance but also helps eliminate the fear felt by many students when they first attempt the asana. In addition, proper alignment reduces the intensity of isometric contraction in the torso and legs, thus making the pose more relaxing. This is an excellent asana for building and maintaining vertebral strength in the neck. Some may argue that the neck is not designed to carry the load of the body; however, in many cultures throughout the world, people carry heavy loads balanced on the head. Proper postural alignment keeps the load balanced and strengthens the vertebrae and surrounding musculature. Moreover, because the majority of the body weight is borne by the arms in this pose, only a small percentage of weight is supported by the neck. If a student indicates soreness in the neck rather than in the arms, it is best for that student to practice modified versions of the pose in order to build strength in these joints and reduce pressure in the neck.

294

Inverted Postures

Salamba Shirshasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus, anterior tibialis (I)

Lower leg

Plantar flexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (C, I)

Thigh

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Femur adduction

Adductors (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip extension

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (C, I)

Hip stability

Iliopsoas (I)

Torso

Torso stability

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis (I)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Humerus flexion, stability

Pectoralis major, coracobrachialis, deltoids (C, I)

Stability and external rotation of humerus

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid, latissimus dorsi (C, I)

Scapular abduction and stability

Subscapularis, serratus anterior (I)

Scapular depression, stability

Subclavius (I)

Scapular stability

Rhomboids, mid trapezius, serratus anterior (C, I)

Supporting posture in mid back, downward pull of scapulae

Lower trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Humerus flexion, shoulder stability

Biceps brachii, brachioradialis, brachialis (I)

Stability and balance

Triceps brachii (I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator quadratus and pronator teres (I)

Hand and fingers

Wrist stability

Flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, palmaris longus (E, I)

Finger flexion

Flexor digitorum superficialis and profundus, lumbricales manus, interossei palmaris (C, I)

Finger adduction

Interossei palmaris, adductor pollicis (C, I)

Neck extension and stability

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis, sternocleidomastoid, scalenes, levator scapulae, upper trapezius (I)

Shoulder

Neck

Muscles released

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

295

Halasana Plow Pose [huhl-AAH-suh-nuh] Hala is the Sanskrit word for plow. In Halasana, the shape of the body resembles that of a traditional plow utilized to till the earth; the legs represent the handles and the rest of the body the blade.

Description In this asana, as in Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand), the top of the shoulders and the back of the head are the roots. For the greatest benefit, the spine should be held as straight as possible, but it can be rounded in some variations. The hips are flexed, and the legs are outstretched as the feet rest on the ground behind the head.

Energetic Focus Fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy, fifth chakra (Vishuddha) purifying energy

Foundational Focus Root into the upper shoulders and the backs of the arms. Anchor into the tops of the feet.

Benefits • • • • •

Stretches the neck, back, and shoulders. Can relieve indigestion. Promotes sound sleep. Stimulates the thyroid gland, abdominal organs, and digestion. Helps relieve menopausal symptoms.

 Cautions Asthma and high blood pressure—Practice Halasana with the legs supported by a prop, such as a chair. Pregnancy—Students who are experienced with this pose may continue to practice it late into pregnancy by using props for support. However, it is contraindicated to begin initial practice of the pose when pregnant. Back pain or other concern—Students with a history of back pain or discomfort should practice this pose with modifications.

Verbal Cues • From Salamba Sarvangasana, exhale and slowly lower one foot toward the ground beyond your head. On your next exhalation, lower your other leg in the same manner. Maintain length in both legs. If you are experienced in the pose and feel completely comfortable and strong, lower both legs at the same time. • Keep your torso perpendicular to the ground and press strongly through your legs, as if you were standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Feel your inner thighs roll toward each other to keep your legs energized. • With your toes resting on the ground, press into your upper arms and lift the bottom of your pelvis toward the ceiling. Continue to support the length of your back with your hands. Breathe slowly and smoothly.

296

Inverted Postures

• If you feel comfortable in your low back, release your hands from your back and straighten your arms behind you. To deepen the stretch in the chest and front shoulders, clasp your hands and draw your elbows closer together. Feel this action roll the fronts of your shoulders open, expanding your chest. • Draw your chest toward your chin into jalandhara bandha (throat lock). Feel your energy relax in the neck and throat. • Continue to focus on your breath. • To exit this pose, unclasp your hands, if clasped, and press your palms into the ground. Keep your shoulders and neck completely relaxed as the back of your head remains on the ground. Move and breathe slowly. • Bend your knees and bring them closer to your chest. Gently begin to roll your spine back to the ground while you use the leverage in your arms to help keep your shoulders and head resting against the ground. • Pause when your hips first contact the ground and take a couple of breaths. Imagine your whole body sinking softly into the ground underneath you. • Bring your feet the rest of the way to the ground and stretch your legs out. Take a breath or two and prepare for a counterpose or for Shavasana (Corpse Pose).

Adjustments Neck and shoulders—Make sure that the student’s chest does not collapse into the chin, which is common when the upper back is weak or the shoulders and neck are tight. Allow the student to use props (see the modifications discussion). However, do not allow the student place a pillow or other prop under the head; doing so compromises the neck by allowing it to overstretch or strain. To help the student maintain a long torso, kneel to the side and place your farthest foot near the shoulder blades. Align your inner thigh and calf along the length of the spine and cue the student to stretch the spine away from your leg. Hips and spine—If the low back is rounded and the hips are positioned too far forward or too far back (rather than aligned with the shoulders), kneel beside the student as in the neck-and-shoulder adjustment, and guide the student to move the hips more into alignment. You can also use a pole, or even a broomstick, to illustrate length in the spine.

Modifications Tight hips or back—If the student has difficulty lowering the feet to the ground, place a block, a stack of blankets, or a chair near a wall. Instruct the student to lie on the ground with the top of the head facing the wall and the prop and move into the pose according to the regular cues. Once the legs are lowered, they will rest on the prop rather than on the ground. The exact distance between the prop and the wall depends on the student’s height (taller students are farther away). Weak or tight shoulders and back—To aid the student and increase comfort, provide extra support Modification: tight hips or back. by placing a folded blanket under the shoulders, as in Salamba Sarvangasana. You can also wrap a strap around the upper arms, above the elbows, to help keep the arms shoulder-width apart and stretch the chest and shoulders.

Kinematics Students often allow the back to round in order to stretch the entire spine. For many people, this feels great! However, do not allow the student to remain in this position for more than a breath or two; the misalignment—having the hips placed posterior to the shoulders and head—puts undue strain on the neck and upper-back vertebrae over time. Some students will feel comfortable dorsiflexing the ankles and extending the toes so that the sole-side of the toes are on the ground. Others will prefer to plantarflex the ankles and flex the toes, as if they were "on pointe." This is an individual preference. The kinematics table below illustrates muscular activity in both positions.

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Halasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Toe hyperextension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus, anterior tibialis (C, I)

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus

Foot and toes

Toe flexion

Flexor digitorum longus and brevis, flexor hallucis longus (C, I)

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus, anterior tibialis

Lower leg

Ankle dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (C, I)

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Ankle plantarflexion

Gastrocnemius, soleus (C, I)

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum and hallucis longus

Knee extension

Quadriceps (C, I)

Femur adduction

Adductors (C, I)

Hip flexion

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus (E)

Pelvic stability

Rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, hamstrings (C, I)

Trunk stability

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae (C, I)

Spinal extension and stability

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum (C, I)

Arm hyperextension

Posterior deltoid, triceps brachii, latissimus dorsi (C, I)

External rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Scapular adduction

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Forearm pronation

Pronator teres and quadratus (C, I)

Elbow extension

Anconeus (C, I)

Finger adduction

Adductor pollicis, flexor pollicis longus and brevis, interossei (C, I)

Finger flexion

Flexor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis, dorsal interossei (C, I)

Neck flexion, jalandhara bandha

Sternocleidomastoid, scalenes, hyoids (C, I)

Thigh Hip and pelvis

Torso

Shoulder

Hand and fingers

Neck

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

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Muscles released

Foot and toes

Hamstrings, gluteus maximus

Pectoralis major and minor, anterior deltoid

Biceps brachii, brachioradialis, brachialis

Cervical erector spinae, splenius capitus and cervicis, upper trapezius

11 Restorative Postures

© Dean Mitchell/istock.com

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deally, all asanas are practiced with comfort and a sense of ease. It may be difficult to relax while trying to balance on one foot or on your head, but it can be done. Birds often sleep standing on one foot, and bats hang upside down, which for most humans would be considered a form of physical torture or insanity. Any pose falls into the restorative realm if it is done in a way that allows for the complete release of tension rather an increase in physical or mental exertion. These postures are considered restorative because little physical energy is needed to enter and maintain them. As a result, the soothing effects of these asanas permeate the

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Instructing Hatha Yoga body more fully on all levels. Restorative asanas are practiced specifically to engage the parasympathetic nervous system and allow the mind and body to heal and deeply relax. In some styles of hatha yoga, Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) is classified as a resting pose for students who have practiced it consistently enough to feel relaxed and recharged rather than challenged by tight shoulders or legs, or simply by the effort exerted to hold the body in position. In contrast, Balasana (Child’s Pose) is an asana in which students can generally escape the labor of Downward-Facing Dog and other strenuous postures. Indeed, Balasana is a wonderful resting asana because it requires virtually no muscular activity. All true restorative poses require extremely little or no muscular activity; in fact, other than the act of getting into and out of them, they are usually totally passive. Some are uniquely restorative, such as Balasana and Shavasana (Corpse Pose), and many are passive variations of other poses. For example, using a fitness ball or a chair seat to do a backbend transforms a rather challenging asana into a restorative one. In addition to making yoga accessible to students who are physically challenged, tired, or weak, restorative poses offer a way to release deep habitual tensions. For instance, people often hold tension unconsciously in the spine, hips,

and shoulders. However, when the supporting muscles have absolutely no work to do in a pose, a person generally begins to relax the body after a few breaths. Restorative poses are often practiced with pillows, blankets, or other supportive props that help students feel safe and nurtured. Encourage your students to relax into these poses as fully and deeply as possible. Although restorative poses do not build bones or enhance muscular strength, they enable the release of the imbalanced holding patterns that the body has carried, often for years. Many students report that they feel the hips relax back into alignment just as much as if they had experienced a chiropractic adjustment or acupuncture treatment. To help guide students into a deeper state of restive relaxation, you can use a relaxation script, such as those found in appendix A. For many students, especially those who find it difficult to slow down and truly relax, a restorative practice may be extremely difficult on both the mental and the emotional level. When one truly relaxes and taps into the parasympathetic nervous system, repressed emotions and concerns sometimes surface. Although this is a healthy response, students may be overcome by their realizations. As discussed in chapter 2, it is important for you, their instructor, to reassure them that such feelings are natural and that they are in a safe, comfortable place to experience them.

Restorative Postures

Balasana Child’s Pose [buhl-AAH-suh-nuh] Bala is the Sanskrit word for “child.” Balasana resembles the fetal position in the womb. This asana is very restorative and calming and evokes a feeling of safety and security.

Description Balasana is a kneeling, prone position where the shins rest on the ground and the belly and chest lie on the thighs. The arms may be extended over the head and resting on the ground (often called Ancient Prayer Pose), or wrapped around the outside of the body with the hands resting beside the ankles. This pose calms the body and replaces energy after vigorous, challenging postures. It should be practiced as a counterpose after intense backbends and inversions.

Energetic Focus Second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy, sixth chakra (Ajna) perceptive energy

Foundational Focus Root into the shins and the tops of the feet. Anchor lightly onto the forehead or the palms.

Benefits • • • •

Restores energy. Stretches and releases the low back. Relaxes the neck and shoulders. Stimulates digestion.

 Cautions Knee pain—Practice with modifications or practice in a supine position with the knees drawn in toward the chest. Intestinal discomfort—The pressure placed on the abdomen in this pose can exacerbate intestinal distress, so students should avoid this pose until the discomfort passes.

Verbal Cues • From a kneeling position, sink your hips down toward your heels. Feel the front of your thighs elongate as you soften your hips. • Exhale and slowly fold forward from your hips. Relax your upper body downward so that your torso rests on, or between, your thighs and your head rests on the ground or on a soft prop under your forehead. • Exhale and bring your hands back by your feet; alternatively, if it is more comfortable for your neck and shoulders, extend your arms over your head in Ancient Prayer Pose. In either position, feel your shoulders sink toward the ground as you relax your neck. • If your arms are stretched overhead, breathe deeply and feel your side ribs expand. If your hands are beside by your feet, allow the backs of your shoulders to soften so that your chest melts toward the ground. Take deep, slow breaths. 301

• With each inhalation, feel your shoulder blades move apart. As you exhale, allow your front body to sink completely toward the ground. Draw your tailbone gently down toward your heels to lengthen and stretch your lower back. • Continue to focus on your breath. • As you relax more deeply, adjust your hips and legs so that you are as comfortable as possible. You may want to widen the space between your knees for comfort. Imagine the entire front of your body descending into the support of the ground. • Slow down and deepen your breath, feeling its softness. Imagine each breath opening your rib cage and lengthening your spine. Relax your neck and shoulders more and more. • To exit this position, place your palms on the ground under your shoulders. As you inhale, slowly press through your arms and lift your torso upright.

Adjustments Feet—The feet should be relaxed; however, if a student experiences discomfort in the feet or ankles, instruct the student to curl the toes under. If this is not comfortable, place a small rolled towel or blanket under the fronts of the ankle joints. If the student’s toes are pointed outward, kneel behind the student and gently rotate the feet so that the toes are aligned straight back or slightly inward. Knees—To help the student relax more deeply, cue the student to move the knees a little farther than hip-width apart. This positioning opens the hip joints and often makes the student more comfortable, especially if he or she has a larger belly. Spine—If the student’s lower back is not convex (rounded), kneel to the side and place your hand (the one closest to the student’s hips) flat against the pelvis with your fingers pointing away from the student’s head. Place your other hand between the shoulder blades with your fingers Adjustment: spine; breath. pointing toward the student’s head. Press down only enough to feel some traction in your hands. Keep your hands in the same spot but move them in a motion away from each other as the student exhales. This action lengthens the spine and is generally comforting to the student. Never push straight down on the spine! Another option is to stand behind the student’s hips, facing away, and sit very lightly on the student’s pelvis. Make certain that you connect at the pelvis—not higher, which would be on the low spine. Use this adjustment only if the student is free of knee concerns. In addition, this adjustment is best practiced in small-group or private sessions because it takes time and attention away from the rest of the class. When using either of these adjustments, ask if the student is comfortable with the amount of pressure you are providing. Shoulders—If the student’s shoulders press up into the Adjustment: spine. ears, kneel at the student’s side and place your hands lightly on top of the shoulders. As the student exhales, gently press the shoulders away from the ears and cue the student to elongate the neck. The student may need to lift the head slightly in order to reposition. Breath—To help the student’s breathing, kneel to the side and place one hand on the mid pelvis and the other between the shoulder blades, as in the spine adjustment. Instruct the student to breathe deeply into the hand at the pelvis and then move the breath up the spine into the hand at the shoulders. Ask the student to exhale in the opposite direction, from the shoulders down to the pelvis.

302

Restorative Postures

Modifications Tight hips and knees—If the student is not comfortable with the knees fully flexed, place a rolled towel, blanket, or small bolster between the hamstrings and calves. It is fine if the student simply lifts the hips up away from the heels, but this generally does not allow the student to fully relax into the pose. Tight low back—If the student’s lower back does not round into a relaxing curve, place a folded towel between the upper thighs and belly. For some students, this modification allows the back to curve gently. If it does not bring a curve to the back, roll a blanket and place it under the knees. This modification lifts the front body slightly as it raises the fronts of the knees, which allows the pelvis to drop toward the ground. Ancient Prayer Pose—Some students are more comfortable with the arms outstretched overhead rather than by the sides. Tight shoulders—If a student has difficulty relaxing the shoulders, instruct the student to stretch the hands overhead in Ancient Prayer Pose and externally rotate Modification: Ancient Prayer Pose with shoulder external the upper arms so that the backs of the hands rest on rotation. the ground.

Kinematics Balasana is essentially a resting and restorative posture that stretches the fronts of the shins and ankles, the front thighs, the hips, and the spinal musculature. With the arms resting alongside the body, the shoulder blades gently relax away from each other as the student focuses on deepening the breath. Because this is a passive pose, all the muscles should be relaxed. The muscles indicated in the following chart are those that are additionally stretched when practicing this pose.

Balasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles released

Foot and toes

Plantar flexion

Anterior tibialis, gastrocnemius, soleus, peroneals

Lower leg

Knee flexion

Quadriceps

Thigh

Hip flexion

Hamstrings

Hip and pelvis

Legs slightly abducted

Gluteals, deep external rotators*

Torso

Slightly flexed

Erector spinae

Shoulders

Slightly internally rotated if arms are at the sides

Rhomboids, trapezius, posterior deltoid, pectoralis

Overhead extension

Latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior, trapezius, rhomboids

Upper arm

Relaxed in either position

Biceps brachii, brachioradialis, triceps brachii

Lower arm

Extended

Hand and fingers

Relaxed

Neck

Forward flexion

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis, sternocleidomastoid

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. When properly positioned in this asana, the entire body is relaxed; therefore, no muscle contractions are listed.

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Pavanamuktasana Purifying, or Wind Relieving Pose [puh-VAH-nuh-mookt-AAH-suh-nuh] In Sanskrit, pavana means “purifying,” and mukta means “liberating” or “freeing.” Pavana is also the name of the god of wind (and the father of the monkey god Hanuman). This pose, true to its name, does indeed help stimulate the digestive system while gently stretching the low back.

Description Pavanamuktasana is a supine asana that, when practiced with both legs drawn into the chest simultaneously, resembles a flipped-over version of Balasana. This pose gently stretches the low back as it calms.

Energetic Focus Second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy, third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy

Foundational Focus Root into the upper pelvis and spine. Anchor lightly onto the shins or the backs of the thighs with the hands.

Benefits • • • •

Stimulates the digestive organs. Stretches and releases the low back. Massages the reproductive organs. Tones the arms and legs.

 Cautions Neck concerns—Students with neck concerns should practice with modification. Extreme intestinal discomfort—The pressure placed on the abdomen in this pose can exacerbate intestinal distress, so students with this condition should avoid this pose until the discomfort passes. Abdominal surgery or herniation—Students who have a hernia or are healing from abdominal surgery should refrain from practicing this pose. Pregnancy—After the second trimester, this pose should be practiced with modification.

Verbal Cues • From a supine position, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground, breathe deeply and, as you exhale, bend your right knee and draw it in toward your right shoulder. • Bring your right hand to the front of your right shin and, using your arm, gently pull your leg as close to your shoulder as is comfortable. Move with gentle ease. Inhale and settle in a relaxed manner onto your back. • As you exhale, draw your left knee in toward your left shoulder. Place your left hand onto your shin to help move your leg in closer to your body.

304

Restorative Postures

• Inhale deeply and feel the back of your pelvis root into the ground. Tuck your chin toward your chest and keep your chest open. • On your next exhalation, feel your navel rooting down toward your spine. Allow your breath and the flexion of your abdomen to lift the back of your head and your shoulders off the ground. As you breathe, feel your belly and thighs pressing gently together. • Use the strength of your biceps (upper arm) to hold your legs in place. Keep your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears. If you notice tension in your chest or shoulders as you try to hug your legs closer, wrap a strap around your shins for more ease. • Continue to focus on your breath. • If it is comfortable to do so, allow your body to rock gently from side to side. Feel the massaging action in your pelvis and low back. After a few breaths, bring your body into stillness and continue to breathe deeply. • To exit this pose, slowly lower your head and shoulders back to the ground and release your shins. Bring your arms to your sides and, as you exhale, lower your right foot back to the ground. On your next exhalation, bring your left foot down. Relax in this position for a few more breaths.

Adjustments Knees—If the student’s knees splay, kneel to one side and place your hands lightly on the outsides of the mid thighs. As the student exhales, gently cue her or him to press the knees closer together and take the thighs away from your hands. Ask the student to keep the legs parallel to each other. Arms and knees—If a student is unable to reach the front of the shins, or if the pressure on the knees is uncomfortable as the student presses on the shins, invite the student to hold behind the thighs rather than on the shins. Some students may wish for an additional stretch in the hips. If they feel comfortable doing so, they can reach up for the soles of the feet and draw the bent knees toward the shoulders into a position called Balasana Ananda (Happy Baby Pose). Neck—If the student does not tuck the chin toward the chest, or if the neck is in hyperextension, kneel behind the student’s head and place your hand Adjustment: neck. lightly on the back of the head. Ask the student to move the head away from your hand. Shoulders—If the student’s shoulders are squeezed up tightly toward the ears, kneel behind the student’s head and place your hands lightly on the fronts of the shoulders. As the student inhales, gently guide the shoulders away from the ears and open the front of the chest.

Modifications Tightness or weak low back—If the student has weakness or discomfort in the low back, cue the pose as Ardha Pavanamuktasana (Half Wind-Relieving Pose), in which Modification: Half Wind-Relieving Pose. the student draws in only one leg at a time. Depending on the student’s comfort level, the opposite leg may remain anchored flat against the ground or with the knee bent and the foot close to the pelvis. Difficulty in reaching the legs—If the student has difficulty reaching the shins or the back of the thighs, place a strap behind the thighs to help draw the legs in without strain. Neck weakness or discomfort—If the student has difficulty lifting the head, instruct the student to keep the back of the head on the ground. Modification: difficulty in reaching the legs. 305

Kinematics Pavanamuktasana is a comforting, restorative pose. The gentle stretching of the low back while the spine is supported benefits students who have weakness or are rehabilitating after injury. It also strengthens the abdominals, as well as the upper arms and chest. Students should use the biceps in conjunction with the pectorals to draw the legs in. If students use only the chest muscles to hold the legs, they typically engage the upper trapezius in order to help hold the position, which creates tension in the neck and shoulders and defeats the purpose of the pose.

Pavanamuktasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Foot and toes

Plantarflexion

Lower legs

Knee flexion

Thigh

Knee flexion, thigh stability

Hamstrings (C, I), adductors (C, I)

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas, rectus femoris (C, I)

Gluteus maximus and medius

Torso

Spinal flexion and stability

Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis (C, I)

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum

Shoulders

Flexion

Anterior deltoid, pectoralis major Rhomboids, upper trapezius and minor, biceps brachii (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow flexion

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis (C, I)

Lower arm, hand, and fingers

Finger flexion

Flexor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi brevis, dorsal interossei (C, I)

Neck

Flexion

Sternocleidomastoid (C, I)

Gastrocnemius (C)

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

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Muscles released Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum and hallucis longus

Triceps brachii

Splenius capitus and cervicis, occipitals, upper trapezius

Restorative Postures

Supta Urdhva Dhanurasana Restorative Backbend [SOOP-tuh oohr-dhuh-vuh dhuh-noorAAH-suh-nuh] Supta is Sanskrit for “sleeping” or “reclining,” and urdhva dhanurasana means “upward-facing bow.” This pose is a restorative, supported backbend.

Description This posture is a modified backbend in which spinal support is provided by a supportive prop, such as a fitness ball, chair, or set of folded blankets. As a result, no further modifications are provided in the following description.

Energetic Focus Third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy, fifth chakra (Vishuddha) purifying energy

Foundational Focus Root through the bottoms of the feet. Anchor into the support of the prop under the pelvis and back.

Benefits • Is relatively accessible to students with weakness or other physical challenges. • Opens the chest. • Increases flexibility in the spine.

 Caution Back pain or injury—Although this is a supported version of a backbend, caution should still be practiced by students with back or neck injury. Extra time should be allotted in moving into and out of the pose.

Verbal Cues Cues for a Fitness Ball • Sitting on a fitness ball with your feet flat on the ground and hip-width apart, place your hands on your hips or against the side of the ball—wherever you feel comfortable and balanced. • Walk your feet forward and feel your hips roll slowly forward on the ball. Continue walking forward until your lower back rests on the ball. On an exhalation, tuck your chin toward your chest and slowly lower your mid spine onto the ball. Evenly balance between both feet. • Inhale and continue to lower your upper back and head onto the ball. Feel the openness in your throat as the back of your neck rests in the support provided by the ball. Breathe slowly and smoothly. • If you feel comfortable and balanced, stretch your arms out to your sides or overhead. 307

• Breathe and feel your shoulders and chest expand and relax. • To exit the position, draw your chin toward your chest and slowly walk your legs backward as the ball rolls away from your spine and your torso returns to an upright position. Slowly bring your head up last.

Cues for a Chair • Place at least two folded blankets or a thick, firm pillow on the seat of a folding chair. Sit sideways at the very edge of the chair with your feet flat on the ground. Hold onto the sides of the chair for support. • Exhale and fully engage your abdominal muscles. Move your hips forward so that your buttocks slide down the side of the chair. Tuck your chin to your chest and slowly lower your torso backward, one vertebra at a time. Breathe slowly and smoothly. • As your shoulder blades reach the blanket, adjust your body slightly to allow the top of your shoulders and your head to drape comfortably over the side of the chair. • If you are comfortable, stretch your arms overhead and allow your hands to float toward the ground. Breathe deeply and relax your chest and shoulders. • To exit the position, bring your hands back to the sides of the chair. Draw your chin in toward your chest. Exhale and slowly roll your spine upright and slide your hips back so that you are once again in a seated position.

Cues for Blankets • Place a number of stacked, folded blankets on the ground. Make the stack 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) high. • Sit on the ground with the backs of your hips against the pile of blankets. Exhale and slowly lower your back onto the blankets. Once your shoulder blades are supported by the blankets, lower your head slowly over the back of the stack. The blankets should be pressed comfortably into the curve of your spine. Allow yourself to relax into the support of the blankets. • Place your arms where they feel most comfortable—beside your hips, stretched out to the sides, or overhead. If your back feels comfortable, stretch out your legs. Breathe and relax your entire body. • To exit this position, bend your knees and press your hands to the ground. Exhale and tuck your chin toward your chest. Slowly lift your body upright. Soften your shoulders and take a few more breaths while seated.

Adjustments Spine—The apex of the support (ball, chair, or blankets) should rest comfortably against the student’s back. To help the student roll back against the support, kneel or squat behind the student’s back. If using a ball, place your hands to the side of the ball and guide the movement as Adjustment: spine and back. the student lowers back. Remain here until the student feels balanced and comfortable. If using a chair or the blankets, simply guide the student backward, providing as much support as the student needs. If the student is on the ground, place a small bolster under the lower thigh to further support the lumbar spine. Neck—Some students require support as they lower the head back. To adjust, kneel to the side and place your hand on the back of the student’s head. As the student relaxes the neck, provide support until the student feel comfortable. Some students may also require the use of your hand as a prop when lifting the head as they sit up; if so, place your hand behind the back of the head and softly support it. Shoulders—Make certain that the student’s shoulders are relaxed away from the ears and that the chest is open. Kneel above the student’s head and softly place your hands on the fronts of the shoulders. Lightly press outward with your hands to encourage the student to expand the chest and soften the shoulders.

Kinematics The relative softness of the ball or blankets provides support along the contours of the spine, thus allowing for relaxation throughout the entire body. 308

Restorative Postures

Supta Urdhva Dhanurasana Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Lower leg

Ankle plantar flexion (and stability if on ball)

Thigh

Relaxed knee flexion

Hip and pelvis

Hip hyperextension (and stability if on ball)

Torso

Spinal hyperextension

Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae

Shoulder

Humeral external rotation (humerus)

Pectoralis major and minor, deltoids

Gastrocnemius, soleus (I)

Anterior tibialis Quadriceps

Hamstrings (I)

Iliopsoas

Horizontal hyperextension Upper arm

Elbow extension

Biceps brachii, brachioradialis, triceps brachii

Forearm supination

Pronator teres, supinator

Lower arm

Wrist hyperextension

All

Hand and fingers

Finger extension

All

Neck

Neck hyperextension

Splenius capitus and cervicis, suboccipitals, semispinalis, sternocleidomastoid

C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, and I = isometric contraction.

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Jathara Parivartanasana Belly Twist [juht-HAR-uh par-ee-VAR-tuhn-AAH-suh-nuh] Jathara is the Sanskrit word for “stomach” or “belly,” parivartana means “to roll or turn around.”

Description In this supine pose, the hips are flexed and the legs are rotated to one side. The shoulder blades remain as flat on the ground as possible and act as an anchor. This asana is generally used in a finishing sequence at the end of class. For a restful and restorative posture, as in this example, the knees are bent with one leg crossing over the other. For a more active yet still restorative pose, the legs remain straight.

Energetic Focus Third chakra (Manipura) vitalizing energy, fourth chakra (Anahata) heart-opening energy, fifth chakra (Vishuddha) purifying energy

Foundational Focus Root through the shoulder blades and the outer arms. Anchor into the hip and the outer leg on the twisting side.

Benefits • • • • • •

Cools and relaxes the body. Stretches the entire spine gently. Requires little strength in the back. Opens the chest. Relaxes the neck. Aids digestion.

 Cautions Hip replacement—Students with a hip replacement should not cross the thighs over the midline of the body; therefore, they should practice with modification. Acute spinal concerns—Students with disk injury or spinal pain should practice with modification. Pregnancy—Students past the first trimester should avoid deep supine twists, including this pose, and instead should practice seated upper back and neck twists.

Verbal Cues • From a supine position, bend your knees and bring your heels as close to your hips as is comfortable, with the soles of your feet on the ground. Align your hips with your shoulders and settle your shoulder blades comfortably against your rib cage and the ground. Inhale deeply and elongate your spine. • Exhale and cross your right leg over your left leg above the knee. If it feels comfortable, hook the top of your right foot behind your left calf.

310

Restorative Postures

• Inhale and reach your arms out to your sides at shoulder height with your palms facing up. Turn your head and look toward your right hand. Slightly anchor the backs of your hands into the ground. • Inhale deeply and feel your spine lengthen and your chest expand. • Press into your left foot and lift your hips just enough to take some body weight off of your pelvis. As you exhale, shift your hips so that your pelvis moves slightly to the right. Settle your pelvis back to the ground and slowly lower your knees to the left side of your body. Rotate as far as is comfortable for you, imagining your right hip stacking over your left hip. Be mindful of any discomfort in the spine, and back away from the pose if necessary. If your back feels comfortable, uncross the legs and reach your toes up toward your left hand. If your right shoulder lifts from the floor, back away from the pose slightly. • Continue to focus on your breath. • With each breath, feel your legs and shoulders anchor softly, yet deeper, into the ground. If your right shoulder blade lifts off the ground, draw your legs back toward the right until both shoulder blades are once again grounded. • To exit the posture, inhale and slowly bring your knees and head back to center and rest flat on your back. Uncross your legs and prepare for the other side.

Adjustments Spine—The spine should not round while rotating. Assist the student in lengthening the spine by kneeling behind the student’s back and placing one hand on the front of the closest shoulder. Place your opposite hand on the outside of the student’s hip. As the student inhales, gently press your hands away from each other to lengthen the spine. To help the student deepen the twist, as the student exhales, slowly and gently press the outside of the top hip away from you so that the top knee moves closer to the ground. Shoulders—If the shoulder farthest from the twisted knees is lifting slightly off the ground, kneel behind the student’s back and place your closest hand at the junction of the chest and shoulder and your opposite hand on the outside of the student’s hip. Gently press the shoulder blade toward the ground while anchoring the top hip with your other hand. If the student gives you permission, use light pressure to press down and away on the hips slightly more with each exhalation. Neck—If the student’s neck is not lengthened, cue for length by lightly sweeping your fingers against the back of the neck from the base of the Adjustment: spine; shoulders. shoulders to the back of the skull.

Modifications Tight spine or hips—Support the student’s knees by placing folded blankets or a block between the legs and the ground. Another modification is to instruct the student to begin with the legs up the wall and then bend the knees so that the soles of the feet are flat against the wall. With the arms stretched wide, as in the traditional pose, the student can then slowly “walk” the feet in an arcing motion down toward the ground to one side. Cue the student to stop at the first point of resistance and to rest in that position. If the legs are not on the ground, place a prop under the leg for support. Hip pain or hip replacement—If crossing the legs stresses the top hip, then instruct the student to keep the legs parallel and press the insides of the legs together while lowering the knees to the side. Also instruct the student not to lower the knees completely to the ground. Place blocks or blankets under the Modification: hip pain or hip replacement. legs for support. 311

Posture deepening—If the student can comfortably rest the lower leg and opposite shoulder on the ground, then he or she can draw the legs closer to the opposite arm. In this variation of the pose, cue the student safely out of the pose. Students with a strong, healthy back may simply anchor into the arms and lift the legs as they inhale. For many, however, this exit is extreme and can strain the back muscles. For these students, cue them to bend the knees and bring the legs up one at a time.

Kinematics The closer the knees are to the shoulders, the deeper the stretch Modification: deepening the posture. is in the hips, low back, and shoulders. However, the closer they are together, the harder it usually is to keep the opposite shoulder relaxed on the ground. This is a good asana to use for measuring increased flexibility in the spine and chest.

Jathara Parivartanasana (Legs Rotated Left) Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles active

Muscles released

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Extensor digitorum and hallucis longus, anterior tibialis (C, I)

Lower leg

Foot dorsiflexion

Anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum and hallucis longus (C, I)

Thigh (R and L)

Knee flexion

Hamstrings (C, I, R)

Thigh (R)

Thigh adduction

Adductors (C, I, R)

Hip and pelvis (R and L)

Hip flexion

Iliopsoas (C, I)

Gluteus maximus

Hip and pelvis (R)

Internal rotation

Gluteus medius and minimus, adductors (C, R)

Gluteus medius and maximus, tensor fascia lata, deep external rotators*

Torso (R)

Pelvis rotation

External oblique, quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi (E, R)

Quadratus lumborum, external oblique, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi

Torso (L)

Stability

Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, erector spinae (I, R)

Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum

Shoulder

Adduction of scapulae

Rhomboids, mid trapezius (C, I)

Anterior deltoid, pectoralis major and minor, biceps brachii

External humerus rotation

Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid (C, I)

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Triceps brachii (C, I)

Lower arm

Elbow extension

Anconeus (E, I)

Elbow supination

Supinator (C, I)

Hand and fingers

Finger extension

Extensor digitorum, indicis, and digiti minimi; lumbricales manus; interossei dorsales (C, I)

Neck (R)

Head rotation to right

Splenius capitus and cervicis, occipitals, upper trapezius (C, I)

Sternocleidomastoid

Neck (L)

Head rotation to right

Sternocleidomastoid (C, I, R)

Splenius capitus and cervicis, occipitals, upper trapezius

Gastrocnemius, soleus

Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

*Obturator externus and internus, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, and piriformis. C = concentric contraction, E = eccentric contraction, I = isometric contraction, left = left, and R = right (in body segment column) or relaxed (in muscles active column).

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Restorative Postures

Viparita Karani Restorative Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose [veep-uh-REE-tuh kuh-ruh-nee] In Sanskrit, Viparita Karani means “in the inverted or reversed position.” Many yoga instructors, however, simply refer to this asana as “the legsup-the-wall” pose when using English terms.

Description In this restful asana, the student’s torso is supine on the ground and the legs are stretched up a wall. Often, a bolster or set of blankets is placed under the hips to lift the student’s pelvis higher than the heart as a modified inversion. This variation makes the pose more restorative and, for many, also helps loosen and relax the low back. If props are not used, then the sacrum is placed flat against the ground and the ischial tuberosities (sit bones) are pressed into or near the wall. This pose is often used as a modified inversion for menstruating women, in which case the hips are positioned farther away from the wall.

Energetic Focus Second chakra (Svadhisthana) creative energy

Foundational Focus Root through the back of the pelvis. Anchor softly into the shoulder blades and the back of the head.

Benefits • • • •

Helps relax the low back. Calms the nervous system. Helps increase comfort and range for other forward bends. Relieves menstrual discomfort.

Verbal Cues • If using a mat, place it flat on the ground with the short edge against a wall. • Lie on the outermost right edge of the mat on your right side in a fetal position with the soles of your feet pressed into the wall. Move your hips flat against the wall. • Inhale and slowly roll your body onto your back, walking your feet off the ground in an arc. You should be lying in the middle of your mat.

Starting position.

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• Exhale as you straighten your legs. Let the backs of your legs and your heels rest against the wall. If the stretch in the hamstrings feels too intense, move your hips away from the wall slightly. Settle into your shoulder blades and bring your arms to your sides with your palms facing up. • Completely relax your legs. Allow your toes to soften. With every exhalation, feel your back and hips sink deeper into the support of the ground. • Breathe here, close your eyes, and relax. • To exit the pose, slowly bend your knees and walk your feet to the ground so that you are resting on your right side. Take a few slow breaths here. Press your left hand into the ground and gently lift your torso. Take your time and come completely into a seated position away from the wall.

Adjustments Hips—If the student’s hips are slightly lifted off the ground or blanket, and if the student has sufficient flexibility in the hips, stand to the side of the legs and place your hands or a weighted sandbag on the soles of the student’s feet. Press down slowly and gently. This action provides a nice stretch in the hips and legs and feels very comforting to many students. If a student does not have sufficient flexibility in the hips, cue the student to move the hips farther from the wall. You can also increase the height of any prop under the hips. Shoulders—If the student’s shoulders are up near the ears and rotated internally, kneel above the student’s head. Lightly place your hands on the fronts of the student’s shoulders and gently press the shoulders away from the ears and against the ground.

Modifications Tight hamstrings—If the student has difficulty with fully straightening the knees, instruct the student to bend the knees slightly or to move the hips slightly farther from the wall. Overly tight neck—If a student is so tight in the neck that he or she is unable to rest the back of the head on the ground, place a small pillow under the neck and back of the head for support and to allow for deeper relaxation.

Modification: hips.

Kinematics Bolsters or blankets placed under the hips create more length in the low spine while providing support. In addition, the increase in the angle between the legs and torso allows students with tight hamstrings to find a comfortable position while keeping the knees straight.

Viparita Karani Body segment

Kinematics

Muscles released

Foot and toes

Neutral

Lower leg

Neutral

Thigh

Knee extension

Hamstrings, adductors

Hip and pelvis

Hip flexion

Gluteals

Torso

Spinal extension

Shoulder

External rotation

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Lower arm

Wrist extension

Hand and fingers

Neutral

Neck

Extension

When properly positioned in this asana, the entire body is relaxed; therefore, no muscle contractions are listed.

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Restorative Postures

Shavasana Corpse Pose [shuh-VAAH-suh-nuh] Shava is the Sanskrit word for “corpse.” In this asana, the body resembles the stillness and detachment of an unmoving corpse.

Description This supine pose is the quintessential finishing, resting, and restorative asana in which the student reclines on the ground with the arms stretched beside the body. Because the nervous system is constantly bombarded with stimuli throughout the day and most people are distracted by unconscious, nonessential, self-limiting thoughts (known as vritti), the purpose of practicing Shavasana is to completely release tension from the mind and body and to engage the parasympathetic nervous system. This shift frees the mind, allowing it to move into a more meditative state. From the outside, this important asana may appear extremely simple because it involves no effort or movement in the body. However, it can be one of the most challenging asanas because many people find it difficult to quiet the mind when the body is still.

Energetic Focus Sixth chakra (Ajna) perceptive energy, seventh chakra (Sahasrara) divine energy

Foundational Focus Root softly into the solid support of the ground.

Benefits • • • •

Relaxes both the mind and the body after a physically intense asana practice. Allows for deep healing and relaxation, thus leading to successful meditation. Removes fatigue. Helps increase the body’s psychoneuroimmunological abilities (see chapter 5).

 Cautions Pregnancy—After the first trimester, pregnant women should practice this pose either by lying on the left side or with the head and chest raised so that they are not flat on their backs. Back injury—Students with back pain or injury should practice with modification.

Verbal Cues See appendix A for sample relaxation scripts to help your students become completely relaxed into Shavasana.

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Getting Into the Posture • From a supine position, exhale, bring your knees to your chest, and rock your body gently from side to side. • Inhale and bring your body into stillness on the ground. • Exhale and stretch your legs down onto the ground. Allow space between your thighs. Rest your arms by your sides. • Open your chest by rotating your palms up. Wiggle your shoulders slightly and feel the upper corners of your shoulder blades settle gently into the ground. Take a big breath as you exhale and imagine your entire upper back melting into the support of the ground. • Relax your legs and hips, allowing your feet to roll to the outside. Feel your back sinking into the support of the ground. • Close your eyes and relax the muscles of your face. • Allow your breath to flow in its natural pattern so that you are no longer controlling it in any manner. Feel and visualize your breath as it flows over and through your body. With each breath, allow your body and mind to sink deeper into relaxation. Let peace wash over you. (It is ideal to allow students at least 10, and preferably 20, minutes of silent meditation time.)

Bringing Students Out of the Posture • In the next few breaths, continue to focus on your breath and begin to notice your relaxed, recharged body. • Start to gently move your fingers, toes, wrists, and ankles as you become more and more aware of your body. Open your mouth and move your jaw from side to side; this simple movement may cause you to yawn. Continue to remain relaxed as your awareness and mindful presence builds. After a few more breaths, start to bring a little more movement into all of your limbs. • Notice whether your body and mind feel any different than they did when you began your practice today. If so, be aware of the differences. If there are none, be aware of that without any judgment. It is simply an observation. • When you feel comfortable and completely aware of your surroundings, begin to slowly roll yourself to one side and continue to rest. Use as little energy as you find sufficient and, when you feel ready, gradually and gently bring yourself back upright as we prepare to close our class. • Namaste, Om Shanti.

Adjustments Because adjustments can distracting to some people, it is best to make any necessary modifications to a student’s positioning in Shavasana as soon as possible, unless a student specifically asks for assistance. Feet—Kneeling down, place your hands lightly around the student’s ankles and gently roll the student’s feet externally. Arms—Kneeling above the student’s head, place your hands lightly on the front of the shoulders and rotate the arms externally so that the student’s palms face upward. Shoulders—Kneeling above the student’s head, place your hands on the shoulders and lightly press down and out to help the student relax more deeply. Move with the student’s breath. Neck—To lengthen the neck, cradle the base of the student’s skull in your palm and lightly draw the head away from the shoulders. Some students require a pillow under the head for support.

Modifications Spinal discomfort—If the student has discomfort in the low back, instruct the student to bend the knees and place a bolster or a number of folded towels under the knees. If no props are available, instruct the student to bend the knees and move the feet as wide apart as is comfortable and to let the knees roll inward so they touch. This modification allows the student to rest the legs without using any muscles. 316

Modification: spinal discomfort.

Restorative Postures

Pregnancy—For pregnant women who feel uncomfortable lying on the back, or are past the first trimester, cue them to roll to the left side in a restful fetal position. For added comfort, place pillows or bolsters between the thighs and under the head. Respiratory discomfort—If the student has difficulty lying on the back and breathing comfortably, place a bolster under the upper shoulders and head, lifting the head slightly higher than the chest. Modification: pregnancy.

Kinematics Because all of the muscles are in a relaxed state, the kinematic chart illustrates only the body’s positioning in the pose.

Shavasana Body segment

Kinematics

Foot and toes

Toe extension

Lower leg

Slight ankle plantar flexion

Thigh

Knee extension

Hip and pelvis

Femoral external rotation Hip extension

Torso

Spinal extension

Shoulder

Humerus external rotation, abduction

Upper arm

Elbow extension

Lower arm

Forearm supination Wrist extension

Hand and fingers

Finger extension

Neck

Neck extension

Because the entire body is relaxed when properly positioned in this asana, no muscle contractions are listed.

Because many people need a bit of guidance to bring their body and mind into full relaxation, appendix A offers some sample relaxation scripts. You may also view the Belly-to-Universe relaxation video by visiting the web resource at www.HumanKinetics.com/InstructingHathaYoga.

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Part III

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Structuring a Class

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12 Class Framework

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ike any organized physical activity, a comprehensive yoga class follows a certain structure, which allows the class to flow smoothly and logically. In the case of yoga, the class must be balanced and provide a variety of poses in a manner that facilitates harmony in students’ physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. It must also be as free from distraction as is possible. In general, asana sequencing should be characterized by continuity and balance in both effort and purpose. For instance, in the warming phase at the beginning of a session, it is best to start with poses that

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Instructing Hatha Yoga emphasize the larger muscles. As body systems begin to move more fluidly, you can then offer more refined movements involving the smaller muscle groups. Such a progression enables students to feel energetic and physically comfortable with movement; it also helps students avoid injuries that might occur if the muscles and joints were not adequately prepared for strenuous or intricate poses. With these same principles in mind, some hatha yoga styles, such as Bikram and Ashtanga, practice the same postures in the exact same sequence in each class session. In addition to the physically logical progression of these series, students become familiar with the flow of poses, which allows many of them to feel a kind of comfort as they flow from known pose to known pose. This is not to say, however, that more eclectic hatha styles cannot be just as comforting to students. It is simply to illustrate the importance of being thoughtful when arranging the asanas in your classes. Just as hatha yoga has many styles, many personality types make for effective yoga teachers. Some instructors plan a class with great detail and organization, down to such minute details as what song will play during a particular asana. Other instructors seem to simply wing it, modifying and adapting the class structure based on the changing energy of the students in attendance. Either way, you must have a good repertoire and the ability to address both the immediate and the long-term needs of your class. Using the tools presented in chapter 2 for understanding your students’ needs, you can apply the outlines provided in this chapter to create a sequencing formula and chart the prog-

ress of each session for yourself or your students. Examples presented here range from basic lesson plan frameworks for generic or classical-eclectic hatha yoga classes to more sophisticated and detailed class charts. The examples are given as guidance for you to study and then use either exactly as presented or as a seed for your own inspiration and creativity. A basic class framework consists of a vital yet often superficial outline of a class session. No matter if you plan a session with generalized goals, or with every detail outlined, this essential framework should remain at the forefront of your mind. Just as the foundation and frame of a house enable the rest of the house to be fabricated and completed with different materials, so a basic outline and lesson plan give form to a yoga session’s strategy and allow it to unfold over time based on students’ needs and the instructor’s inclinations. In another way of conceiving this work, David Swenson (1999), a well-known Ashtanga instructor, has said that each series of Ashtanga hatha is structured like a sandwich. The warm-up and finishing poses are like the bread, and the main asanas are the sandwich filling. Moreover, the warm-up and finishing poses in Ashtanga hatha are always the same for every series; only the physical movements in between differ from series to series. This is an illustration of using the basic framework of sequencing, specific to Ashtanga classes, yet it may be adopted for any classical-eclectic class if the teacher finds the outline has value for his or her students. A class framework can also be likened to a flight plan (see table 12.1). A flight entails checking in with the control tower, which is similar to getting centered. Then, before taking off, the

Table 12.1  “Flight Plan” for Yoga Session Centering (preflight check with control tower) Tadasana or easy seated poses Asanas

Warm-up (engine start-up and idling)

Workout (flight)

Tadasana, Sun SalutaStanding poses; some tions, or basic poses that seated poses (supine and move all joints prone), including inversions; overall sequence incorporating spinal movement in all six directions

Durga breath (three-part, Durga breath (threeBreathing “full,” or ujjayi) part, “full,” or ujjayi)

Durga breath (three-part, “full,” or ujjayi)

Cool-down (landing) Finishing poses, twists and slower movements, then a seated meditation or Shavasana

Nadi shodhana or simple passive and natural belly breathing

Class Framework plane’s engine needs to warm up; similarly, the body needs to be warmed before it can go through more strenuous poses. The main poses then correspond to the flight itself, and the cool-down period corresponds to the plane’s landing, which is gradual and, like Shavasana (Corpse Pose), often requires the most skill.

Class Outline In a yoga class, the basic framework consists of the following elements: centering of mind and body, warm-up of body and loosening of physical tensions, main asanas, cool-down period, and class closure. With this basic framework, you can choose your class goals and the activities, rationales, and objectives through which to meet them. To put it another way, the asanas and the pranayama you instruct are activities that you offer your students in order to meet the chosen goals. The following bare-bones, class-structure outline can be applied to almost any style of hatha yoga.

Centering Centering is the part of class in which students begin to prepare mentally for practice—a time to clear the mind of extraneous thoughts and begin drawing the focus inward. To help your students move into this mind-set, remind them to turn off cell phones and other devices, move belongings away from the practice space, and slowly begin letting the outside world dissolve. During this portion of class, atmosphere plays a big role in directing students to their practice. If you choose to use music, you can play it softly in the background as students enter the room to help set a peaceful, calming mood before a word is spoken. In many hatha traditions, Tadasana (Mountain Pose) is used to bring the focus of the mind into the body. By inviting students to focus on breath, balance, and alignment, you help them begin to ignore outside distractions and eliminate mental stresses. Some hatha styles, especially restorative classes, generally begin with students in a seated position. Others start in Shavasana to create restfulness and help push away ordinary distractions. Many instructors also facilitate centering by means of intention setting, chanting, or motivational readings.

In addition, breath work, or pranayama, is used in many forms of hatha yoga to help keep the mind focused within the body. In general, either durga or ujjayi breathing (see chapter 4) is practiced to slow the mind and create a feeling of relaxation. These breathing techniques also help warm the body as preparation for the rest of the class. Focused breathing alone can bring the energetic channels (the ida and the pingala) into balance.

Physical Warm-Up To prepare the muscles and joints for movement in any asana practice, the tissues need to be moved and warmed to a certain degree in order to avoid injury. The same rationale applies to any type of physical activity: warmed muscles are less apt to strain or tear. In addition, when joints can move more fully and smoothly through their designed range of motion, students are generally more able and willing to open themselves and tune into their energy throughout the class. Warm-up involves the Sun Salutations. Practiced slowly or rapidly, this series of asanas increases circulation to the muscles and joints and allows practitioners to link each movement with the rhythm of the breath. As presented in chapter 6, the sequencing of the classical Sun Salutations, linked to the breath, allows students to form a deep mental and physical connection with the truth of how they feel on a physical and emotional level. In some styles of hatha yoga, however, teachers choose either to not implement the Sun Salutations at all or to introduce them later in the class. This decision is based on a teacher’s preference and the style of yoga they instruct. In classes that do not practice Sun Salutations as a means to warm the body, the beginning of class generally focuses on using the breath as a means to warm the body and on practicing simple, rhythmic joint movements. In Iyengar hatha yoga, the practice begins with standing postures, and some teachers might utilize poses that require strong isometric energy, such as Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana (Plank Pose).

Main Practice The bulk of a class session consists of the main practice, which is generally the most physically

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Instructing Hatha Yoga

Beginning your class with warming poses, such as the Sun Salutations, helps prepare the muscles and joints for the movements to follow.

challenging portion. This is the part where a variety of asanas are presented, now that the muscles have been warmed, the mind is focused, and the breath flows comfortably and naturally. Thus students are prepared to deepen their practice—ready to expand their energies and open themselves more fully to their innate strengths on all levels: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Regardless of whether you teach a fast-paced vinyasa class or a gentle restorative class, a well-­ balanced practice presents a range of asanas that move the spine in the six directions in which the spine can move: forward, backward, laterally left, laterally right, rotated left, and rotated right. Generally speaking, postures that move the body in one direction should be followed by an oppositional pose or counterposture. To put it more specifically, a forward-bending posture should be followed by a backward-bending posture and vice versa. After practicing a headstand or backbend, for instance, it is advisable to relax and stretch the spine in a restful Balasana (Child’s Pose), which counters the preceding intensity and demanding effort.

Cool-Down Asanas that are not physically demanding are quite effective when sequenced near the end of class as part of the cool-down period. Many restorative supine poses, as well as pranayama and eye exercises, are suitable for practice during this phase because the mind is calm yet actively attentive and the body is ready to relax comfortably. Finishing asanas are either very passive—for example, Viparita Karani (Restorative Legs-Upthe-Wall Pose), which naturally facilitates the cooling-off period—or, as in Salamba Shirshasana (Supported Headstand), require so much energy and stamina that only a few passive poses are practiced immediately afterward as a cool-down. Many seated asanas are soothing when practiced slowly—lowering the heart rate and respiration while moving the mind into a restful state. Shavasana (Corpse Pose) is the heart of hatha yoga. The deep meditative relaxation provided by this pose opens a space where the body and

Class Framework mind meld into a restful state and are restored and recharged. Consciously withdrawing the senses from the material world and from excessive stimuli gives the nervous system a chance to recuperate and brings the entirety of the bodily systems back into balance. On a physical and energetic levels, this deep relaxation improves immune system function and allows for increased fitness. On the mental and emotional levels, willpower increases, as does the tolerance of many of life’s stressors. In fact, for some people, conscious relaxation and meditation are often more healing and fortifying than sleep. Sometimes students become so relaxed in Shavasana that they fall asleep. (You may even hear snoring!) At other times, students fall asleep in Shavasana because they are so physically and mentally exhausted. For these students, it may be appropriate to allow them this snippet of sleep, as long as they do not distract others. The purpose of Shavasana, however, is to remain aware yet detached. When a student remains attentive but calm in body and mind, she or he experiences a true, deep, conscious relaxation. As you hold the peaceful space for your class while they are in Shavasana, observe the slow rise and fall of abdomens. In addition, observe the calmness and tranquility in hands, feet, and faces, which appear to hold much less tension than they did when the class began. Often, students also have a smile or a few words to share in appreciation of experiencing the journey of your yoga class.

Class Closure To finish the class, slowly revive the students, guide them back to awareness of the body, and bring them back to a seated position. To draw students back from the relaxed state, many instructors use guided imagery. Some also provide an inspirational reading or thought as a way of closing the class session. In the classic closing gesture, students are invited to press the palms together in front of the heart in Anjali Mudra. Some instructors chant “Om” and then offer the salutation “Namaste.” By establishing conscious closure for the class, you enable each student to experience a smoother transition from the mat to her or his next destination. Although the important time spent on the mat has ended, students generally

carry the awareness and any other benefits they gained during the class with them as they leave. These benefits are not abruptly rolled up with the mat; instead, over time, students become able to integrate relaxation more easily into their daily lives. A slow shift from class to “reality” also brings students back to the room if they ended up feeling spacey—which is a frequent occurrence. In addition, even a very brief closing is a way of saying, “Thank you and good-bye,” thus showing your students that you honor and value the time and energy they have shared with you and with the rest of the class.

Lesson Plans and Class Descriptions A lesson plan not only provides your class with structure and definition but also can be quite useful for educating  your students. Depending upon the overall objectives you set for your class, you may choose to share additional philosophical or anatomical information about the asanas, or about yoga in general. This is also a great way for your students to get to know you better, and for you to help build a closer-knit "community" within the group. In addition, the information included in a lesson plan helps you stay organized, explain your class to prospective and current employers, and promote yourself and yoga in general. Eventually, teaching a class becomes second nature, but going through the process of writing a lesson plan at any point during your professional progress is edifying because it deepens your understanding of yoga, enhances your teaching skills, and allows you to promote yourself and the discipline on a professional level. One marketing technique used in many yoga brochures and course listings is that of stating class goals instead of describing the class itself. The fact is, however, that all yoga classes share some wonderful goals. For example, a brochure might say, “Feel renewed and balanced in your body, mind, and spirit with the nurturing workout of our yoga journey.” It sounds great, but it could refer to the goal of almost any yoga class. The statement indicates promised benefits rather than describing the class itself, and it gives the reader no way of knowing whether the class style is gentle and passive or active and heated.

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Instructing Hatha Yoga Some key words, however, do, and should be used to, indicate the style of a class and how it is taught. Examples include the following: alignment, mindfulness, breath awareness (or attention), slow, fast, sustained, flowing, playful, serious, spontaneous, consistent, regimented, hot (or heated), hands-on adjustment, meditative, strengthening, quiet, and athletic. In contrast, words such as relaxing, rejuvenating, and therapeutic are nondescript and fail to indicate the style or methods that will be practiced. Hold these concerns in mind when composing a course outline, especially for potential students or employers. It is not always easy to set measurable objectives for an ongoing yoga class because students may vary greatly in both goals and ability. Objectives can be stated, however, in relative terms. For example: “After 10 classes, the student will be able to breathe at least two seconds longer on the inhalation and exhalation.” Objectives can also be open ended: “After three weeks, with regular attendance at two classes per week, the student can expect to move farther into and hold position more comfortably for a longer time in at least three postures.” A course outline or lesson plan should also include rationales that justify and remind the instructor, students, and any potential employers of the reasons for using a particular technique. For example, if the outline includes forward bends, the rationale could be that they serve as counterposes for backbending postures. In another example, a lesson plan might list a certain modification, such as practicing Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend) with the use of props. The rationale behind this modification could be that practicing postures with props is one way to alleviate tension in the low back.

As part of your lesson plans, you can integrate students’ requests for help in certain areas, such as overall body strengthening.

Themes Starting with a basic lesson plan and specific guidelines, you can apply various themes and intensity levels in any given class. One way to do so is to ask students for their feedback regarding any area of the body that may require additional

attention. The most common requests are for postures that focus on the low back, hips, neck, and shoulders—all of which are locations where tension tends to gravitate. To address these concerns, integrate a number of poses focused on these body areas when following a basic class plan. At the same time, recognize the possibilities and importance of focusing on often-ignored parts of the body, such as the toes, abdomen, and elbows. Often, what was meant as a clever remark by an unsuspecting student (for example, “I’d like to focus on my big toe”) ends up leading to a challenging and beneficial session. The templates and outlines presented next are rudimentary and intended to be used for reference and as a starting point. Remember that every asana uses many muscles, and overlap is therefore unavoidable. Indeed, trying to isolate a muscle or body part in an asana is like trying to isolate a note in a musical chord; your muscles (that is, your instruments) work together in concert as they express the poses. As a yoga teacher, you can orchestrate a class routine to meet the needs and wishes of your students by being familiar with the proper biomechanics of poses and by establishing rapport with your students. An attentive teacher also assesses the energy level of a class in order to appropriately pace the practice.

Areas of the Body After determining what your class will benefit from the most, use the examples described next to help you organize your class based on body area. Realize that this is just a quick reference guide to asana categories, and more asanas (and their variations) can fit into each of these categories. The following list includes poses that are generally practiced. For more complete information, see chapters 7 through 11, in which individual asanas are described in detail. Neck and Shoulders • Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle) • Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) • Any asana with the arms overhead, both during the warm-up and again later in the class • Gomukhasana (Cow’s Face Pose) and passive neck positions, such as rolling the head from shoulder to shoulder • Garudasana (Eagle Pose)

Class Framework Low Back • Surya Namaskaras (Sun Salutations) • Any standing posture • Side bends, twists, and forward- and backbending postures so that the spine is moved in six directions • Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle) • Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose) • Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend) • Ushtrasana (Camel Pose) • Balasana (Child’s Pose) Abdominals (Core) • Focus on deep abdominal breathing • Drawing the legs forward and backward during Sun Salutations instead of pushing off with the feet • Navasana (Boat Pose) • Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana (Plank Pose) • Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbs Staff Pose) • Vasishthasana (Side Plank Pose) • Purvottanasana (Reverse Plank, or Intense East-Side Stretch) Hips • Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle) • Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) with focus on frontal plane • Natarajasana (King Dancer) • Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) • Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolving Triangle Pose) • Variations of Raja Kapotasana (Royal Pigeon Pose) • Ushtrasana (Camel Pose) • Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) Hamstrings • • • • •

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle) Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch) All forward bends Hanumanasana (Forward-Split Pose) Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Handto-Toe Pose)

Calves • Vrkshasana (Tree Pose) and other single-leg standing poses • Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) • Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-­ Facing Dog) with emphasis on pressing the heels down to the ground or on placing the toes of one foot on the heel of the opposite foot • Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch) Chest Openers • Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) • Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward-­ Facing Dog) • Ushtrasana (Camel Pose) • Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose, or Full Backbend) • Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)

Postures for Various Energy Levels Use the following general guide to help you choose poses according to the energy levels, moods, and requests of your students. Remember also that, at any time, all students can choose (consciously or unconsciously) to push themselves further or ease off on the energy that they put into a posture. The following asanas are listed in order from more passive to more vigorous. Again, this is just a quick reference guide to asana categories. For more complete information, see chapters 7 through 11, in which postures are described in detail. Stamina and Endurance • • • •

Tadasana (Mountain Pose) Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle) Virabhadrasanas (Warrior variations) Balancing poses: Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand-to-Toe Pose), single-leg poses, Bakasana (Crane Pose), arm balances

• Backbends: Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) • Inversions: Salamba Shirshasana (Supported Headstand)

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Instructing Hatha Yoga Twists • Easy supine twists: Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Twist) with knees bent • Supported and seated twists: Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose) • Standing twists: Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolving Triangle Pose) • Partner and assisted twists Balancing • Malasana (Basic Squat, or Bead Pose) • Inversions: Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Handstand), unsupported • One-legged standing poses: Vrkshasana (Tree Pose) or Garudasana (Eagle Pose) • Pincha Mayurasana (Peacock Feather Pose) Inversions • Forward bends: Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend), Prasarita Padottanasana (Extended-Leg Forward Bend) • Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-­ Facing Dog) • Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand) • Salamba Shirshasana (Supported Headstand) • Pincha Mayurasana (Peacock Feather Pose)  Forward Bends • Any pose supported by a chair, blocks, exercise ball, or wall

• Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend) • Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) • Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch) Backbends • Supta Urdhva Dhanurasana (Restorative Backbend) • Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) • Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose) • Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) • Ushtrasana (Camel Pose) • Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)

Summary A well-sequenced hatha yoga class is designed to benefit each of your students on many levels. Remain mindful of the need for physical and energetic balance in the sequencing of  poses. Whether you are highly detail oriented or tend to be spontaneous in your approach to the framework of your classes, you can use the information presented in this chapter as a guide to help you map out smooth, logical asana transitions based on your desired outcomes and those of your students. By clearly outlining the objectives of your classes in expressive, well-defined language, you provide prospective students and employers with a realistic description of what to expect from you and your classes.

13 Sample Classes

© AfricaImages/istock.com

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iven the many variables discussed thus far in this text, how do you determine which asanas to include in a class? Teaching yoga involves so many layers. One person may need to be reminded to breathe more, another may need help in selecting an appropriate prop, and yet another may be best served by the softest touch on the head to cue the neck to relax away unconscious tension. As you multitask—giving verbal cues, physical adjustments, and demonstrations—you must also observe the level of comfort and ability in each of your students. As discussed in chapter 12, your lesson plan serves as a map, or a flight plan, and as the instructor you navigate the course and guide students through the journey. In doing so, you have a plan, but you must remain ready and able to adapt your teaching based on your observations. A lesson plan that includes a solid foundation of postures gives you strong bearings to guide your movement through the plan. This base also allows you the freedom either to make liberal use of the examples presented here or to make alterations if and when you are required or inspired to do so. The following sample outlines are geared toward classes lasting 30, 60, or 90 minutes. The duration noted beside each asana includes the time that it takes to bring students into and out of the posture in a flowing manner, with few or no pauses. These durations can be manipulated to address the specific objectives that you set for your class. In addition, outlines are provided for a basic children’s yoga class and a prenatal yoga class in order to illustrate some of the modifications necessary to meet the needs of these specialized populations. If you intend to teach children or expectant women, additional training is highly recommended—and in some settings required.

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Sample 30-Minute Class A 30-minute class is most likely the shortest class you will teach. Although short, a 30-minute class can nicely introduce students to the basics of asana practice—the names of postures, the flow of a class, and the initial work on body awareness and alignment. This duration is used in many school-based physical education programs. The following outline includes foundational postures and an easy progression through which to introduce students to yoga.

See chapter 6, pages 77-80

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1  Tadasana, 1.5 minutes

2  Surya Namaskara series, two times for 1 minute each

3  Utthita Trikonasana, right side for 1.5 minutes

4  Uttanasana, 1 minute

5  Utthita Trikonasana, left side for 1.5 minutes

6  Uttanasana, 1 minute

7  Virabhadrasana II, right side for 1 minute

8  Uttanasana, 1 minute

9  Virabhadrasana II, left side for 1 minute

10  Uttanasana, 1 minute

11  Malasana, 1 minute

12  Janu Shirshasana, right side for 1.5 minutes

Sample Classes

13  Janu Shirshasana, left side for 1.5 minutes

14  Matsyasana, 1 minute

17  Supta Padangusthasana, left side for 1 minute

18  Jathara Parivartanasana, legs to left side for 1 minute

15  Durga-Go, 1.5 minutes

19  Jathara Parivartanasana, legs to right side for 1 minute

16  Supta Padangusthasana, right side for 1 minute

20 Pavanamuktasana, 30 seconds

21  Shavasana, 6.5 minutes

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Sample 60-Minute Class Most fitness and recreational facilities allot 60 minutes per class. To expand a 30-minute basic class into a 60-minute class, you can simply double the holding times in each pose and use more time to focus on alignment and breathing. Alternatively, you can use the additional 30 minutes to add postures for increased variety. The additional time also gives you a chance to walk through the class and provide any necessary adjustments for students, especially in larger classes. As students become more comfortable with the asanas—and as their awareness, flexibility, and endurance increase—you can begin to add variety to the class by substituting different postures.

See chapter 6, pages 77-80

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1  Tadasana, 3 minutes

2  Surya Namaskara series, two times for 3 minutes each

3  Utthita Trikonasana, right side for 1.5 minutes

4  Uttanasana, 1 minute

5  Vrkshasana, standing on right leg for 2 minutes

6  Utthita Trikonasana, left side for 1.5 minutes

7  Uttanasana, 1 minute

8  Vrkshasana, standing on left leg for 2 minutes

Sample Classes

9  Virabhadrasana I, right side for 1 minute

10  Parshvottanasana, right side for 1 minute

11  Uttanasana, 1 minute

12  Virabhadrasana I, left side for 1 minute

13  Parshvottanasana, left side for 1 minute

14  Uttanasana, 1 minute

15  Malasana, 1 minute

16  Janu Shirshasana, right side for 1 minute

17  Janu Shirshasana, left side for 1 minute

18  Matsyasana, 1 minute

19  Gomukhasana, right side for 1 minute

20  Gomukhasana, left side for 1 minute

(continued)

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Sample 60-Minute Class (continued)

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21  Dandasana, 1 minute

22  Paschimottanasana, 2 minutes

23  Purvottanasana, 1 minute

24  Navasana, 1.5 minutes

25  Baddha Konasana, 1 minute

26  Upavishtha Konasana, 1.5 minutes

27  Supta Padangusthasana, right side for 2 minutes

28  Supta Padangusthasana, left side for 2 minutes

29  Jathara Parivartanasana, legs to left side for 2 minutes

30  Jathara Parivartanasana, legs to right side for 2 minutes

31  Shavasana, 14 minutes

Sample Classes

Sample 90-Minute Class Many yoga studios and some fitness facilities allot 90 minutes per class. This amount of time may seem daunting at first; however, the additional time allows for more creativity and more opportunity to practice asanas that often require more hands-on help from the instructor, such as Salamba Shirshasana and Salamba Sarvangasana. Many instructors also use the additional time to teach in a more workshop-oriented style, opening up more time for discussion and individualized practice.

See Chapter 6, pages 77-80

1  Tadasana, 3 minutes

2  Surya Namaskara series, four times for 3 minutes each

3  Utthita Trikonasana, left side for 2 minutes

4  Ardha Chandrasana, left side for 1.5 minutes

5  Uttanasana, 1 minute

6  Vrkshasana, standing on right leg for 2 minutes

7  Utthita Trikonasana, right side for 2 minutes

8  Ardha Chandrasana, right side for 1.5 minutes

9  Uttanasana, 1 minute

10  Vrkshasana, standing on left leg for 2 minutes

11  Virabhadrasana I, right side for 1 minute

12  Parshvottanasana, right side for 1 minute (continued)

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Sample 90-Minute Class (continued)

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13  Uttanasana, 1 minute

14  Virabhadrasana I, left side for 1 minute

15  Parshvottanasana, left side for 1 minute

16  Uttanasana, 1 minute

17  Virabhadrasana II, right side for 1.5 minutes

18  Utthita Parshvakonasana, left side for 1 minute

19  Uttanasana, 1 minute

20  Virabhadrasana II, left side for 1.5 minutes

21  Utthita Parshvakonasana, right side for 1 minute

22  Uttanasana, 1 minute

23  Malasana, 1 minute

24  Janu Shirshasana, right side for 1 minute

25  Janu Shirshasana, left side for 1 minute

26  Gomukhasana, right side for 1 minute

27  Gomukhasana, left side for 1 minute

28  Dandasana, 1 minute

Sample Classes

29  Paschimottanasana, 2 minutes

30  Purvottanasana, 1 minute

31  Navasana, 1.5 minutes

32  Baddha Konasana, 1 minute

33  Upavishtha Konasana, 1.5 minutes

34  Salamba Shirshasana, 5 minutes

35  Salamba Sarvangasana, 5 minutes

36  Matsyasana, 1 minute

37  Supta Padangusthasana, right side for 2 minutes

38  Supta Padangusthasana, left side for 2 minutes

39  Jathara Parivartanasana, legs to left side for 2 minutes

40  Jathara Parivartanasana, legs to right side for 2 minutes

41  Shavasana, 17 minutes

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Sample Prenatal Yoga Class This example presents a basic sequence of poses appropriate for a prenatal yoga class. The sequence includes modified traditional asanas, as well as those designed to ease or strengthen specific areas related to the special needs of pregnant women. This is a generic outline appropriate for all stages of pregnancy. The durations indicated include slow transition times for a 60-minute class. If you are interested in teaching prenatal classes, please pursue training with a certified prenatal yoga training school.

1 Seated meditation; using props to bring physical ease in this centering period (5 minutes)

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2 Garudasana (Eagle Pose) arm and shoulder rolls; gently loosening tensions in the upper body (1 to 2 minutes for each side)

3  Durga-Go (Cat and Cow Pose); possible gentle warm-up and beneficial for spinal strength (1 to 2 minutes)

4 Low lunge; for loosening and opening the pelvis and hips (1 to 3 minutes for each side)

5 Balasana (Child’s Pose); drawing the legs wider as the pregnancy advances (1 to 2 minutes)

7 Tadasana (Mountain Pose); legs only as wide as feels stable (1 to 1.5 minutes)

6 Kneeling Gomukhasana (Cow’s Face Pose), arms only; strength building for the lower body and loosening for the upper body (1 to 3 minutes for each side)

Sample Classes

8 Modified Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend); using props such as blocks, or a chair seat or wall (1 to 1.5 minutes)

11 Malasana (Basic Squat, or Bead Pose); important pelvic opening pose, beneficial for elongating the low back, using props for balance as pregnancy advances (0.5 to 1.5 minutes)

14 Modified Ardha Matseyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose); rotating only from upper thoracic region as pregnancy advances (0.5 to 1 minute for each side)

9 Utkata Konasana (Fire Angle Pose); strengthening and expansion for the hips and pelvis (0.5 to 1 minute)

12 Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose); another important pelvis opener (1 to 3 minutes)

10 Vrkshasana (Tree Pose); best practiced near a wall or chair as pregnancy advances and students’ balance begins to shift (0.5 to 1.5 minutes for each side)

13 Janu Shirshasana (Head-to-Knee Pose); as pregnancy advances, straight leg abducted more and props used for abdomen and upper body (1 to 2 minutes for each side)

15 Modified Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Toe Pose); practicing on the side to avoid pressure on the inferior vena cava (the main vein returning blood to the heart). An additional seated variation allows the student to remain upright if it feels more comfortable for her (1 to 3 minutes for each side)

16  Shavasana (Corpse Pose); practicing in side-lying position after the first trimester and modifying for specific needs of each student. This pose should be practiced lying on the left side to avoid putting pressure on the vena cava (10 to 20 minutes)

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Sample Children’s Yoga Class Reprinted, by permission, from Kristin Akerele, MPH, RYT 200.

The following example is geared toward a children’s yoga class for ages 6 to 12 years. It is included to give you an idea of the differences in format and function of a children’s class as compared with an adult hatha class. Due to the more fluid nature of a children’s class, no time indicators are given for the asanas. This sample is designed to take about 30 minutes, which is appropriate for younger children. For older kids, class may be extended by 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the students’ attention spans. If you are interested in teaching classes to children, please pursue training with a certified children’s yoga training school. Children may begin practicing yoga at any age because their bodies tend to be flexible and their minds are open to learning new things. It is valuable to teach children basic breathing and meditation techniques at a young age because they can then use the techniques to deal with stress and difficult situations as they arise. The key to teaching yoga to kids is to make it a fun, creative experience for them! For example, because many yoga poses have animal names, it is easy to incorporate animal sounds into the practice to further engage kids. Children’s yoga classes are often loud and lively, but everyone loves the quiet shavasana at the end.

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1 Peace begins with me breathing—Sit in crisscross-apple-sauce position. Breathe in through your nose and count to four, then count to four again when you breathe out. Feel your body relax as you breathe slowly and steadily. Now say, “Peace begins with me,” counting each word out on your fingers, starting with your pinky touching your thumb (and moving to the third, second, and first finger, respectively, touching the thumb).

2 Cat and Cow—Make your body into a table so that your back is the flat tabletop and your arms and legs are the table’s legs. Inhale and let your belly drop toward the ground. Breathe in through your nose as you look up to the sky and then say “moo” like a smiling cow. Now breathe out through your nose and make your back round like a cat and look at your belly button. Meow like a happy cat. Repeat “mooing” and “meowing” movements a few times.

3 Child’s Pose—Come back to the table position and sit back on your heels. Move your knees wider apart and walk your hands forward. Bring your forehead down to the ground and let your body rest. Take a few breaths. Now breathe in and come back to the table position.

4 Downward-Facing Dog—Lift your tail up high toward the sky. Stretch your arms and legs and bark a few times! Now wag your tail back and forth and maybe pretend you are walking in place.

5 Forward Fold—Look between your hands and walk or jump your feet up to your hands. Hang forward and let your arms relax. Bend your knees a little if you like.

6 Mountain—Bend your knees a little and slowly roll up so that you stand tall, still, and strong like a mountain. Pretend that your feet are part of the earth and that nothing can move you. Keep breathing in and out through your nose.

7 Hello Sun—Reach your arms up high and look up, saying, “Hello Sun!” Stretch your fingers up high and imagine reaching the sky.

8 Forward Fold—Reach your arms out to your sides like wings and let your hands float down toward your feet. Hang forward and let your arms relax. Bend your knees a little if you like.

Sample Classes

9 Monkey—Breathe in and bring your hands to your knees. Look forward with your back long and straight. Make monkey sounds, then bring your hands to the ground again. You may bend your knees.

10 Surfboard—Keep your hands on the ground and step your feet back one at a time into Surfboard (or Plank Pose.) Make your body one long line and squeeze your belly button in! Pretend you are riding strong and straight on a wave.

11 Cobra—Bring your knees down to the ground and put your hands under your shoulders. Hug your legs together so they look like a snake tail. Inhale and lift your chest up like a cobra. Hiss like a snake!

12 Downward-Facing Dog—Bring your chest back to the ground. Lift your tail up high toward the sky. Stretch your arms and legs and bark a few times! Now wag your tail back and forth and maybe pretend you are walking in place.

13 Forward Fold—Look at your hands and walk or jump your feet to your hands. Hang forward and let your arms relax. Bend your knees a little if you like.

14 Mountain—Bend your knees a little and slowly roll up so that you stand tall, still, and strong like a mountain. Pretend that your feet are part of the earth and that nothing can move you. Keep breathing in and out through your nose.

15 Rock and Star (partner pose)—Find a partner, and pick one of you to become a rock by bringing your body into Child’s Pose. The other partner, the star, first sits softly on the rock, then lies back gently. The star reaches his or her arms out wide and shines! Breathe softly for five to ten breaths, then switch positions.

16 Tree (partner pose)—Stand in front of your partner in Mountain Pose. Touch palms with your partner. Each of you lifts one foot off the ground (you can do the same leg as your partner or the opposite leg). Put your foot on the inside of your other leg. Lift your hands together and use each other to balance. Imagine strong roots growing out of your feet and helping you stand strong. Now pretend that a strong wind comes up and blows you around while you try to keep your balance!

17 Froggy—Start in Mountain Pose with wide legs and point your feet away from each other a little. Bring your hands together in front of your heart and breathe out. Bend your knees so that your seat comes close to the ground. Keep your elbows inside your knees and jump around like a frog as you say “Ribbit!” Take five hops, then sit down on the ground.

18 Bridge—Lie down on the ground and bend your knees. Bring your feet back toward your seat. Rest your arms on the ground by your sides. Breathe out and lift your seat up high. Slowly bring your seat back to the ground and relax.

19 Happy Baby—Lying down on your back, bend your knees. Bring your knees toward your chin and hold onto your ankles or feet. Rock back and forth. Start to giggle and pretend to be a happy baby.

20 Final Relaxation and Cloud Pose— Lie on your back and stretch your arms and legs long on the ground. Inhale, scrunch up your face, and squeeze your fingers and toes. Squeeze all your muscles like you are cold and shivery. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze! Now exhale and relax your whole body. Wiggle your jaw from side to side and take a big yawn! Now imagine floating away on a soft, fluffy cloud and going to your favorite place. It could be the beach, the mountains, a park, a lake— anywhere you like! Breathe and relax! (When teaching younger children, it is best to read or to tell a relaxing story, such as the preceding, during this part of the class.)

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Instructing Hatha Yoga

Sample Six-Week Course Many students may wish to experience the relaxation and peace of mind that come with meditating. Let your students know whether you will be able to guide them in this area and whether you will provide informational materials about it. To give you an idea of how a series of classes might progress within a limited time frame, the next section provides a detailed class outline for a six-week introductory course in classical-eclectic hatha yoga. This sample course meets twice a week for 75 minutes per session; it is intended for you to use as part of your own lesson plans, if you so desire. 1. Introduce yourself by name; if appropriate, hand out your contact information. Break the ice just enough to establish that you are both nurturing and organized. Be humble but also express authority in order to gain students’ trust. Here is an example of an opening statement: Namaste, or Salutations. My name is ________, and I will facilitate your class for the next six weeks. I am here to guide and support your practice and, more important, your discovery of how yoga practice may benefit you. Please know and take comfort in the fact that I cannot do all of the postures “perfectly.” I may briefly demonstrate poses as part of the learning process; however, the idea is not to do them exactly as I do them but rather to experiment and see how much your own body and mind can engage in the asanas while you are comfortably challenged. Please remember to move only as far as your body feels comfortable moving. You should feel no pain. I will continually remind you to breathe as you practice. 2. Offer a brief explanation of what pace and style the class will follow during the next six weeks. If you are teaching a specific style of hatha, such as Ashtanga or Iyengar, make this fact clear

to students. The following sample introduction is appropriate for a classical-eclectic hatha class: This class is a mind–body wellness class; therefore, I do not have time to cover much yoga philosophy or meditation. However, in your handout (or on the white board, or overhead screen) I have included a small list of resources for further study if you are interested. Also, I invite you to take to heart the words of the great yoga master Pattabhi Jois: “Yoga is 95 percent practice and only 5 percent theory.” We will practice a great foundational routine, and each week we will add a few variations and build on the strength, flexibility, and endurance that you gained from previous sessions. The pace will be such that everyone can follow along. As I see the need, or as you tell me of it, I will assist you in modifying the postures to make them easier or more challenging as you wish.” 3. In a handout or other appropriate form, include the following information: • Your name and contact information, if you are willing to provide it • Class syllabus (A sample syllabus appears in appendix E in an easy-to-copy form.) • The word Namaste and its general meaning (loosely translated): “The Divine light within me salutes the Divine light within you.” Although many studios and athletic clubs offer yoga classes in different styles and levels of intensity, the distinction between a “beginner” class and an “advanced” class is relative, because most classes include students of various ability levels. The ideal plan is to teach a foundational class and build on the foundation by adding variations and gradually introducing new asanas. The sample syllabus provided in appendix E is a guideline only; it is your responsibility to determine how to adjust the time spent on particular poses based on your students’ abilities, comfort levels, and requests. 4. If appropriate, at the end of the course, have students fill out a brief class evaluation. A sample evaluation form is included in appendix D.

Sample Classes

Week One: Foundation Introduce simple breathing techniques, teach names, and practice basic asanas. • Introduce the complete yogic breath— breathing in and out through the nose from the abdomen. Invite students to practice breathing in for four seconds and out for four seconds. • Postures for week one include: • Tadasana • Basic Surya Namaskara (two rounds) • Utthita Trikonasana • Uttanasana • Virabhadrasana II • Malasana • Janu Shirshasana • Marichyasana A • Durga-Go • Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana • Jathara Parivartanasana • 15 minutes of Shavasana with a mini guided progressive relaxation

Week Two: Expanding the Foundation of Balance Work on increasing strength and focus. • Review breathing while students are in Tadasana • Tadasana • Surya Namaskara with variations of clasping the hands behind the back while lunging in the second round • Vrkshasana • Uttanasana • Utthita Trikonasana • Malasana • Janu Shirshasana • Marichyasana A • Paschimottanasana

• Padmasana (or sitting in any comfortable cross-legged position with easy neck stretches) • Durga-Go with alternating arm and leg extended • Supta Padangusthasana • Five breaths resting supine with knees bent while focusing on belly breaths and hands resting on the abdomen • Jathara Parivartanasana • 10 minutes of Shavasana with a mini guided progressive relaxation

Week Three: Adding More Endurance to the Core Foundation All asanas are held longer than in the previous classes. • Tadasana (with focus on breathing—working to increase complete yogic breath from four-second inhalation and exhalation toward seven-seconds) • Two Surya Namaskaras (the first with the hands lifted off the ground while in Bhujangasana, the second with the arms lifted overhead while kneeling in the lunge) • Utthita Trikonasana (held longer by a few breaths) • Uttanasana • Virabhadrasana I • Malasana (held longer, focusing on balance) • Janu Shirshasana (held longer) • Marichyasana A (held longer) • Padmasana or variations (adding easy neck stretches) • Gomukhasana • Supta Padangusthasana (held longer) • Jathara Parivartanasana (working to extend legs) • Shavasana (focused mainly on watching the breath)

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Week Four: Adding More Variation to Poses • Tadasana (with focus on breathing—continuing to lengthen the time of inhalation and exhalation toward seven seconds each) • Two Surya Namaskaras (the first with Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana instead of Bhujangasana; the second with Adho Mukha Shvanasana while one leg is lifted off the ground for 30 seconds, then with legs switched for the same amount of time) • Parivrtta Trikonasana • Uttanasana (focused on finding the edge of the balance on the feet) • Virabhadrasana II (with arm binding) • Malasana (held longer, focused on balance) • Janu Shirshasana (held longer) • Deeper version of Marichyasana (B or C) • Padmasana or variations (with easy neck stretches) • Gomukhasana (bending forward and backward from the hips for variation) • Supta Padangusthasana (after basic posture, extending the legs out to the side to open the hips farther) • Jathara Parivartanasana (working to extend legs) • Shavasana (focused mainly on being aware of the breath)

Week Five: Expanding the Practice • Tadasana (centering longer) • Two or three Surya Namaskaras (first one easy, second two with variations in postures) • Utthita Trikonasana • Parivrtta Trikonasana • Malasana • Janu Shirshasana (with a twist) • Paschimottanasana • Gomukhasana • Garudasana • Upavishtha Konasana (with variations of twisting or side bending)

• Baddha Konasana • Supta Padangusthasana • Setu Bandhasana • Shavasana

Week Six: Reviewing and Renewing Postures • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Tadasana Surya Namaskaras Vrkshasana Utthita Trikonasana Uttanasana (with arm variations) Prasarita Padottanasana Virabhadrasana II (side-lunge version) Utthita Parshvakonasana Malasana Janu Shirshasana Marichyasana A Paschimottanasana Durga-Go Dhanurasana Supta Padangusthasana Jathara Parivartanasana Shavasana (reviewing abdominal breathing with hands on abdomen, mini guided relaxation)

Putting It All Together Part I of this book outlines the philosophical tenets and ancient lineage of hatha yoga. It also answers questions typically asked by students who are new to yoga practice—questions that you as an instructor should be able to answer, whether on the spot or after doing some follow-up. In addition, it