• Tiriang Mukha Ekapada Paschimotanasana Pose Breakdown

    This seated position of Ashtanga Primary Series works with the internal rotation of the hip and knee as well as deep plantar flexion of the foot. Many sensitivities can arise here as we rarely put ourselves into this type of alignment in daily life, but it is important as a counter to the many positions of external rotation we do in our yoga practice.

    To identify your body’s particular resistances, access one movement at a time. You will feel it most intensely wherever you are tightest. From a seated position, begin by flexing the knee in the parallel, closing the joint as much as possible, heel to sit bone. Then rock yourself towards your extended leg, lifting the pelvis on the bent knee side to allow space to drop the thigh across the midline of the body, finding adduction and internal rotation, and tuck the foot back along side the hip, toes pointed behind you.

    You may feel strain in the ankle here if you have reached the limit of your plantar flexion. If this is the case, you an put a rolled towel under the ankle to lessen the pressure and stretch. Draw the bent, internally rotated leg in to touch the extended leg, knees together. There is a tendency here to have scooted the lifted side of the pelvis back in space, so check to see that the pelvis is squared off, knees aligned with each other. If you are already feeling resistance in the hip or knee, you may want to stay here, keeping the hand to the floor for support. If not, begin to send the lifted sit bone back down into the floor to ground. This will deepen the rotation at the hip and the knee so go slowly and honor your limit. If you are able to anchor through both sit bones, fold forward.

    Tippyness is the point here! The tipsiness of the posture directs your awareness to where you need to work. Internally rotate the extended leg to help send energy towards the center. Hug the inner thighs together, draw the femur bones into the hip sockets. In the fold, draw the bent leg and the same side ribcage towards each other. The urge might be to push the knee into the floor, but play with this lifting energy allowing the thigh and torso to hug together. Then, finally, let go of what you don’t need (shoulders tense up, anyone?) and relax as much as possible, without falling over!

    If you struggle with this posture, be patient. For some, it can take many years to find ease and comfort in Tiriang Mukha Ekapada Paschimotanasana. The key to to identify your resistances as they arise and address them mindfully and thoroughly. This is an iceberg posture – most of the effort and exploration is happening below the surface, with subtle changes. Stay present, do the work.

    By Angelique Sandas

    Try it Now on Omstars

     

  • Cultivating Strength in Warrior I

    Warrior I, otherwise known as Virabhadrasana A, is one of the most basic poses in the practice. It is also, however, deceptively simple. When performed correctly, Warrior I should cause the thighs to burn, the heart rate to accelerate, and the breath to become heavy. You should feel a sense of heat rising throughout the entire body as you cultivate both mental and physical strength. When practiced mindfully with proper alignment and adequate effort, the whole lesson of the journey of yoga can be found right there in Warrior I.

    In Indian mythology, Virabhadra is a spiritual warrior created from a lock of Shivas hair. Shiva sends Virabhadra down to Earth to act as a warrior of peace in the world. When Shiva releases this lock of hair, dropping our warrior down to Earth, Virabhadra lands, at the ready in Warrior I. This posture and the story behind it represents the brave heart of the Yogi. As you begin to practice, you gain access to the energy of Virabhadra, and as such, gain the spiritual strength to go out into the world as a force of healing energy and strength.

    To practice your strongest Warrior I, begin in mountain pose – Samasthiti. Hug the belly in toward the spine and begin to lift your energy up along the midline. Cultivate strength in your mountain pose and then step back with the left foot. You want about the distance of one of your own legs between your feet.

    Place the heal of your back foot down onto the mat so that the toes come out to a 45-degree angle. Check to be sure that the heal of your front foot is in line with the arch of your back foot, then press down with the back leg to seal the outside edge of the foot against the mat.

    Be sure to keep your pelvis in a neutral position, oriented forward toward the top of your mat. From here, pull femur-head of your front leg into your hip socket as you bend the front knee. Be sure that you keep the belly hugging in toward the spine, and then reach the fingertips up toward the ceiling, palms touching. At the same time, lift your gaze. The whole body strong, every muscle working. Hold here for several rounds of deep, continuous breath, then step back to Samasthiti. When you’re ready, mode to the other side.

    By Alex Wilson

    Note: The alignment cues and expertise offered in this blog post come straight from Kino’s breakdown of this pose on OMstars series, The Encyclopedia of Yoga.

    Check Out More Pose Breakdowns on OMstars

    Alex Wilson is a writer, yoga teacher, and the content manager at OMstars – The Yoga Network.

     

  • Ustrasana: the subtlety of heart-opening

    Not every yoga pose needs to bring you to edge of limits. Some poses lay the technical and anatomical foundation for deeper practice. It’s crucial that you apply healthy alignment principles in the foundational poses if you seek to maintain your practice over the course of your lifetime. If you jump in with all heart and zeal but forget to use wisdom and intelligence, chances are you’ll push too hard and miss out on the subtlety of your yoga practice.

    Backbending is a both challenging emotionally and physically. As such, it truly demands that you learn optimal technique from the beginning. If you try and force your backbends not only will you prevent your spine from opening but you may experience an entirely preventable injury. The beauty of backbends is that they energize the small micro-muscles of the back and stimulate the nervous system. Not to mention that in a healthy backend every single muscle of the entire body is involved.

    The process of backbending can be thought of as bending over backwards with the entire body. As the muscles of around your spine lift and create space around the vertebrae, the front body lengthen, the legs engage, the pelvic floor firms, and the shoulders and chest open. On a more internal level, the digestive system is cleansed, the cardio-vascular is stimulated and the nervous system is enervated. Finally on an energetic level, the vital life essence known as Prana is pushed upwards along the central channel, often bringing heat, emotions and rarefied states of consciousness to the surface. You will only progress to the deepest levels of realization within the inner body once the basics of alignment are set up well. Ustrasana, translated into English as the Camel Pose, is the perfect backbend to establish your awareness of anatomical and alignment.

    Starting off in Downward Facing Dog, step or jump your feet forward to a kneeling position. Place the knees hips’ width apart. If your backbend is relatively open leave the toes pointed, but if your backbend is relatively tighter then curl the toes under and use the strength of the feet for more foundation. Internally rotate the hip joints and gently activate the inner thigh muscles to adduct the femurs. A gentle internal rotation allows the sacrum to be free and helps keep the glutes soft. Activate the pelvic floor and send the hips forward, opening the fronts of the hip joints and releasing the psoas and hip flexors. Inhale as you draw the lower abdomen in and lift the rib cage away from the hips to maximize the space between the joints of the spine. Exhale bend each each of the joints of the spine in to extension and facilitate a soft arched back. Nutate the sacrum and distribute the bend equally throughout the entire spine. Place the heels of the hands on the heels of the feet, roll the shoulders forward to internally rotate the humerus and send the sternum up and forward. Allow the trapezius muscles to come up and support the neck pillow as you comfortably drop your head back and gaze towards the nose. Stay for five breaths. With each inhalation create space both physically and emotionally. With each exhalation surrender into that space in every way possible. Come out of the pose in the same methodical way that you entered, reversing the instructions and maintaining space and support for every joint of the body. Move with symmetry and awareness. Never force.

    By Kino MacGregor

    Watch Omstars Yoga Encyclopedia episode on Ustrasana

  • Navasana: it’s all about balance

    Navasana gets me every time in a Led Ashtanga Yoga class. No matter how much I practice or how many extra breaths I take on my own, I always suffer when I get to this point in the practice. Since Navasana is traditionally repeated five times it gets increasingly more intense. The first round usually ignites a mild burning sensation in the core. The last round culminates in shaking, burning and emotional anguish. Each time I jump back I feel like a survivor.

    But, you probably wouldn’t see that from watching me practice. The hidden secret of the practice is that often times what looks equanimous and peaceful from the outside corresponds with a great deal of effort and grit on the inside. Knowing how to distribute your effort most efficiently means that you will be able to maintain a balanced state of mind regardless of the challenge. Finding that sweet spot in Navasana begins by changing your focus from lifting the legs to the inner work of the pelvic floor.

    The key to finding good balance in Navasana is to orient both your effort and attention to the pelvic floor. Not only do you need a strong core but you need to distribute your weight between your sitting bones in order to feel comfortable in this asana. Translated into English as the Boat Pose, in Navasana you have to focus on building a firm hull so that your ship won’t sink.

    Start off in a seated position, then bend your knees, place the soles of the feet on the floor and keep the legs together. Root the heads of your femurs into their sockets and begin activating the pelvic floor. Allow a gentle roundedness in the base of the pelvis, in the space between the sitting bones and the tailbone. Contract the anus and the pelvic muscles and draw the lower abdomen inwards. Avoid trying to balance on the tips of your sitting bones. Use a subtle rounding of the base of the pelvis to be your connection into the ground. Especially if you have a bony protrusion around your tailbone, you will find t useful to soften into a more rounded root. Next, lengthen the torso, relax the next and straighten the arms. Then, to enter Navasana, shift your chest back  just to counterbalance the weight of your legs, come up onto the tips of your toes and inhale as your lift and straight the legs. Gaze towards the toes and stay for five breaths.

    By Kino MacGregor

    Practice with Kino and watch the Navasana episode of Yoga Encyclopedia

    Watch Yoga Encyclopedia for more asana tips & breakdowns

     

  • Rotate Your Pelvis: Yuval’s Secret Handstand Tip

    I love being a student. There is something magical about learning from a true master. While I make time to study with my yoga teacher every chance I also love to study with hand-balancing masters every chance I get. In the world of handstands there are few people who have devoted themselves to the mastery of hand-balancing than Yuval Avalon.

    Read More