Archives for category: Seated Postions

In Seated Angle Pose, the aim is to create a 180 degree angle between the feet! But we are talking about serious flexibility and a serious amount of time spent practicing yoga. So, don’t be put off and just get the feet moving in the general direction of 180 degrees. In fact, in this position, it is very important to work really slowly. Otherwise, you can pull the muscles at the backs of the thighs and knees. In order to prevent this, sit off your mat on the floor. Place your feet on the mat and work on taking them apart as far as is comfortable but do not let them move off the mat. This will prevent you from overstretching.

This position is deceptively difficult in the beginning but is worth persevering with as it increases circulation to the pelvic region, opens the hips and groin, stretches the hamstrings and lengthens and strengthens the spine.

How to practice Seated Angle Pose:

  • Sit off the mat on the floor. Place your feet on your mat and take them as far apart as is comfortable for you.
  • Reach back and grab the right buttock muscle and lift it sideways and back off the sitting bone. Repeat on the left side. You should now be sitting on the centre of the sitting bones.
  • Now check the positioning of the legs: (1) point the toes up towards the ceiling; (2) position the kneecaps so that they face the ceiling; (3) turn the thigh muscles inwards towards each other.
  • Anchor the thigh bones and sitting bones down towards the floor.This creates a re-bounce action in the spine so that it can ascend upwards with more ease.
  • Place the hands on the floor slightly behind the hips. Inhaling, press into the hands to encourage the spine to elongate upwards towards the ceiling. Exhaling, move the tailbone forwards towards the pubic bone and take the feet a little further apart each time, if it is comfortable for you.
  • Continue in this way for 6 breaths keeping the head, neck and spine in line at all times

NEED HELP? If your hamstrings are tight, place a folded blanket under each knee.

STOP! Be very careful if you have hamstring or groin injuries, or if you suffer from sciatica.

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The following exercise teaches you to learn how to manage your neck in a safe way. The neck is alternately stretched and released very slowly. This allows the spaces between the vertebrae to lengthen and relieves stiffness in the neck. We also use this exercise before practicing headstands in order to release the neck to its maximum length.

  • Start in Kneeling Pose. (See Post 25/6/12). Check that your toes are in line and that the big toes are touching.
  • Take the knees about hip-width apart or whatever is comfortable for you.
  • Place your hands in front of your knees, arms straight with the inner elbows in line with the ceiling. Spread out your fingers with the thumbs touching.
  • Make sure the buttocks are in contact with the backs of the thighs at all times.
  • Inhaling, slowly extend your neck away from the shoulders. Exhaling, gently drop your head towards the floor, feeling the neck release as you do so.
  • Continue in this way until you can bend the elbows, bringing your head nearer and nearer to the floor.
  • After a few more breaths, stretch out the arms and bring the forehead to the floor, as if you were practicing Child Pose.
  • Hold for 6 breaths. Inhale, and very slowly come back up to kneeling again.
  • N.B. Keep a close eye on the positioning of your neck throughout the day. Check the following: (1) Look straight ahead, then look about 2 inches below the nose; (2) Take the eyes back towards the back of the head; (3) Keep the backs of the ears directed up towards the ceiling.

NEED HELP?

~If you can’t bring your forehead to the floor, just rest your chin in your hands after you have bent the elbows.

~ If you can’t bring your buttocks in close contact with the thighs, place a cushion or folded blanket under the buttocks.

~ If you find it difficult to kneel, place a cushion or folded blanket under the buttocks and if necessary, another one under the knees.

STOP!

~ DO NOT bring the forehead to the floor if you suffer from high blood pressure or heart problems. Rest your chin in your hands instead.

~ ALWAYS be careful if you have knee problems. If you have had knee surgery, ask for your doctor’s advice before attempting kneeling poses.

When I introduce this pose to a class for the first time, people usually think I’m making it up. The idea is to imitate a lion about to attack its prey. So yes, you will look a tad moronic. But who cares? It is a fabulous stretch for the muscles of the face and neck and eases tension in those areas. The jaws, in particular, hoard massive amounts of tension  It also relieves the symptoms of a sore throat and according to B.K.S. Iyengar, it cleans the tongue and eliminates foul breath. Well worth looking silly for, then!

How to practice Lion Pose:

  • Kneel on your mat. (See Kneeling Pose)
  • Place your hands on the floor in front of the knees with the fingers pointing in towards the body.
  • Inhale, exhale and do the following 5 things in quick succession: (1) come forward onto your hands; (2) open the eyes as wide as possible; (3) look up at the ceiling; (4) stick your tongue out and down towards the chin; (5) roar like a lion making the sound ‘HAR!’
  • Repeat x 6
  • Practice the pose every day for maximum results.
  • Smiling also tones the face beautifully!

NEED HELP?

If you have difficulty kneeling, place a folded blanket or cushion under the buttocks and if necessary, another one under the knees.

STOP! If you have had knee surgery ask your doctor’s advice before attempting kneeling poses.

This is one of my favorite poses as it is so simple and calming. It is also wonderfully toning for the legs, particularly the ankles and the hips. Traditionally, the Japanese sit this way when eating a meal as it aids the digestive process. If you have digestive difficulties, you could try kneeling for a few minutes after eating.

Don’t be worried if you find this pose difficult in the beginning. Many people do. After some time, the legs become more flexible and you should be able to remain in this pose for long periods. You can then use the position for breathing exercises as an alternative to sitting poses. It is also a useful position for stretching the arms and shoulders. (See Kneeling Pose + Variations). Traditionally, this position is called Thunderbolt Pose. Vajra means thunderbolt.

How to practice Kneeling Pose:

  • Kneel on your mat with your knees, legs and ankles together. Place the tops of your feet flat on the mat and check that all of your toes are lined up obediently in a straight row!
  • Grab the right buttock muscle and pull it sideways and back off the sitting bone so that the back of the thigh rests on the right heel. Repeat on left.
  • Drop the tailbone and sitting bones down towards the floor.
  • Lift the lower abdomen away from the tops of the thighs.
  • Allow the spine to lengthen upwards with the neck extending into the head. Direct the backs of the ears up towards the ceiling. (You’ll know you’ve got it right if you can balance a book on top of your head).
  • Rest your hands on the thighs and relax the shoulders and arms.
  • Hold for 6 breaths or for as long as you like. Afterwards, stretch out the legs, bounce them up and down and give the backs of the knees a bit of a rub.

NEED ASSISTANCE?

~ If you find it difficult to kneel because of stiff knees or tight hamstrings, place a cushion or folded blanket under the buttocks.

~If you can’t keep your knees together, tie a belt or a scarf around your ankles.

~ If you find it difficult to flatten out your feet, place a rolled up blanket under the ankles.

~ If you tend to hunch up your shoulders or collapse the chest, place your hands in Namaste position (see below), to help open out the chest and take the shoulders back and downwards.

STOP!

~Take care if you have knee problems. Place one folded blanket under the knees and another one under the buttocks.

~ If you have had knee surgery, ask your doctor’s advice before attempting Kneeling Pose.

Kneeling Pose + Variations

The following stretches tone the arms and shoulders.

Arm Stretches in Kneeling Pose:

  • Kneel as before.
  • Inhaling, stretch the arms overhead. Interlock the fingers and turn the palms to face the ceiling.
  • Hold for 6 breaths. Exhale, and release the arms back down again.
  • Inhaling, stretch the arms overhead again, this time with the knuckles facing the ceiling.
  • Hold for 6 breaths. Exhale, and release the arms back down again.

Namaste in Kneeling Pose:

  • Kneel as before.
  • Take the arms down to the back of the waist. Place the palms together with the fingers pointing downwards.
  • Rotate the wrists upwards until you can point the fingers up towards the ceiling.
  • Take the hands up the back as high as you can. Relax the shoulders downwards.
  • Hold for 6 breaths. Exhale, and release the arms back down again.

Head of a Cow in Kneeling Pose:

  • Kneel as before.
  • Inhaling, stretch the right arm out at shoulder height. Exhaling, take the arm down to the back of the waist.Bend the elbow and place the back of your hand in between the shoulder blades (or as high up the back as you can).
  • Inhaling, extend the left arm overhead. Exhaling, drop the left hand down the back until you can clasp the right hand. If you can’t reach the right hand, hold a belt or a scarf in both hands and keep extending the hands towards each other.
  • Hold for 6 breaths. Keep extending the left elbow up towards the ceiling and the right elbow down towards the floor.
  • Inhaling, release both arms and repeat on the opposite side. Typically, one side is easier to work with than the other.

Butterfly Pose is a wonderful pose for oiling up the hip joints and the entire pelvic region. It is the classic pose for women relieving premenstrual, menstrual and menopausal symptoms and is a great help for preparing the body for childbirth. It also tones up the bladder and eases kidney problems.

To practice Butterfly Pose:

  • Sit on a folded blanket against a wall with the back of the head, shoulder blades and buttocks in contact with the wall. When your back gets stronger, you can do without the wall.
  • Bend your knees until you can “sandwich” the soles of your feet together. (If you can’t do this, place a cushion between the soles of your feet, and hold your ankles instead. )
  • Clasp your hands around your toes and draw your feet in towards the pubic bone.
  • As you inhale, draw the spine upwards towards the crown of the head. Also lift the ribs, the sternum and the collar bones.
  • As you exhale, drop the sitting bones, tailbone, shoulders and knees downwards. The more the knees can drop downwards, the more the hips can open. But go easy. Otherwise, you can cause a groin strain.
  • Stay in the pose for 6 breaths. Inhale, straighten your legs and bounce them up and down to alleviate any stiffness.

NEED HELP? If you find it difficult to (a) hold the feet with the hands or (b) bring the feet close into the body, place a yoga belt or long scarf around the soles and hold it with your two hands. As you exhale, gently pull on the belt to help bring the feet closer into the body.

Variation: Supine Butterfly Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

This variation of the pose is particularly helpful during pregnancy and menstruation or when you are just too tired to do any other poses.

  • Lie down on your mat with your arms by your sides.
  • Bend the knees placing the soles of the feet together as before.
  • With each exhalation, allow the knees to drop nearer to the floor. Or you can just simply bounce the knees up and down gently like the wings of a butterfly! Keep the tailbone moving down and slightly into the body and keep the pubic bone moving up towards the face.

STOP! Neither of these poses is recommended if you have had a hip replacement. If you have knee problems, place cushions under the knees and proceed very carefully.

However, don’t be fooled by the name Easy Pose. In the beginning, it is not easy to sit for long periods in this position if you have been used to sitting on furniture for most of your life. Your buttocks, hips, knees and back will all have a good old moan, but persevere with it and you will discover a way of sitting that will stretch the spine, open the hips, calm the mind and energize the body. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up putting the 3-piece suite on eBay!

To practice Easy Pose:

  • Sit against a wall until the muscles of your back have grown stronger and can effectively support the spine. Place a folded blanket or two under your buttocks so that your hips are higher than your knees. This will help reestablish your natural spinal curves.
  • The back of your head, your shoulder blades, and buttocks should be in contact with the wall. There should be a gap of no more than 2 inches between your lower back and the wall. If the gap is larger than this, add another blanket.
  • To sit comfortably, you need a secure base of support. This is achieved by a) keeping the rim of the pelvis firm; and b) by sitting on the centre of the sitting bones. So, lift one buttock off the floor, grab (and you do need to grab) the muscles that cover the sitting bone and move them back and off to the side of the bone. Repeat with the other buttock. You should now be sitting on the centre of your sitting bones and the spine should feel more erect.
  • Bend the knees, crossing the right leg over the left and rest your hands on your knees.
  • Stay for 6 breaths or for as long as you like. When you inhale, gently draw the spine up towards the crown of the head. Also lift the rib cage and the chest upwards. Exhaling, drop the tailbone and the sitting bones down towards the floor. Also relax the shoulders, shoulder blades and the sides of the neck downwards.
  • After 6 breaths, change the crossing of the legs and repeat.

This position imitates the way the child in the womb often sleeps and in fact many small children will often instinctively sleep or relax in this pose. It is used for resting in between more vigorous yoga positions and can also be used for cooling down the body and mind at the end of a class. It is one of those yogic wonders, a pose that relaxes and stretches the body at the same time. It encourages the spine to gently stretch itself while allowing tense back muscles to unwind. One of the beautifying poses, it brings blood to the face and head, thereby restoring energy to the person.

To practice Child Pose:

  • Kneel on your mat so that the backs of your thighs are in contact with the backs of your calves. (If you can’t manage this, place a cushion or folded blanket in between the thighs and calves.)
  • Inhale, exhale, and bend forwards from the hips until you can rest your forehead on the floor. (If you can’t bring your forehead to the floor, rest it on a folded blanket, OR, prop up your elbows on the floor and rest your chin in your hands.)
  • Rest your arms either down by your sides or stretched out on the mat in front of you.
  • Stay in the position for 6 breaths or for as long as you like! As you exhale, allow your chest to descend towards the floor. Always make sure that your tailbone and sitting bones keep moving downwards so that you maintain that contact between the backs of the thighs and the backs of your calves. This allows your hips to open and the spine to extend itself.

Variation: Child Pose moving forwards

This is a more active form of the pose where the arms are extended forwards and the hands hold the legs of a chair. (You could also hold human legs if you can find a willing participant!) The spine gets more of a stretch and the hips open more fully.

Place a chair in front of your mat giving yourself enough room to extend your arms fully. Perform child pose as above but as you exhale, stretch your arms forwards in the direction of the legs of the chair. Also release the chest towards the floor. Hold the legs of the chair. As the sides of the body and the armpits release, you can nudge the chair slightly backwards and extend the arms further. But keep the backs of the thighs in contact with the backs of the calves at all times. If the hips keep lifting, place a cushion or folded blanket under the backs of the thighs.  Continue for 6 breaths.

STOP! Do not take your forehead to the floor if you suffer from high blood pressure or have heart problems. Prop up your elbows on the floor and rest your chin in your hands instead. If you are pregnant, you can take the knees apart to make it easier for you to bend forwards.

P.S. In last week’s post I said the oldest yoga teacher in the world had died last year aged 90. Since then, one of my students sent me an email telling me about another yoga teacher, Bernice Bates, who is still teaching yoga in the U.S. at the tender age of 91. She is quoted in the article as saying, “Why should I quit? As long as I can do it and be a help to someone else. I’ll just stay as long as I can.” My own yoga teacher once said that if you do yoga regularly, you will be young until you are 70, middle-aged between 70 and 90, and only when you are 90 odd should you consider yourself to be getting old. It seems in Ms.Bates case, she has no intention of getting old, just yet!