• How to do Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

    Adho mukha shvanasana, or downward facing dog, is a yoga pose that is often used in sun salutations. It is a great pose for stretching and strengthening the body. Adho mukha shvanasana is repeated so often in your yoga practice that it holds the foundation keys for good forward bending and good alignment in your shoulders for all arm balances.

    Before we look at how to do downward facing dog, let’s look at the benefits of downward dog.

    Benefits of Adho Mukha Shvanasana

    Downward dog is a great pose for stretching the hamstrings, calves, and Achilles tendon. It also helps to strengthen the arms and shoulders.

    This pose can help to relieve back pain by lengthening the spine. Additionally, downward dog is a good pose for improving digestion and relieving stress.

    Contraindications for Downward Dog

    If you have any injuries in your shoulders, wrists, or arms, be careful with this pose. You might want to avoid this pose when you have a headache. A

    How to Do Adho Mukha Shvanasana

    To come into downward dog, start from all fours. Tuck your toes and lift your hips up to the sky. Keep your feet hip-width apart and your hands shoulder-width apart.

    Press into your hands and lengthen your spine. Draw your navel towards your spine to help with this.

    Press into your hands and feet to gently lift your hips up and back. You want about a 45-degree angle at your hips.

    Roll your shoulders down your back.

    Root down through your feet with your heels reaching to the mat.

    Your back is straight and your navel is drawn in.

    Try to evenly distribute your weight between your hands and feet.

    Let your head relax downward.

    Look at your navel or the top of your thighs.

    Your arms should be engaged. Your shoulder girdle is firm but open.

    Stay here for five even breaths.

    To come out of the pose, lower your hips back down to all fours and release your feet.

    There you have it! A simple guide on how to do downward facing dog. Be sure to listen to your body and only go as far as you feel comfortable. Watch the video with Kino for a more detailed description of the pose.

  • How to do Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana (Seated Bound Half Lotus)

    Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana, or Half Bound Lotus Forward Bend, is one of the seated poses in the Ashtanga primary series. It stretches the hamstrings and hips. It also opens the chest and shoulders.

    Benefits of Seated Bound Half Lotus

    There are many benefits to this pose.

    • stretches hamstrings and hips
    • opens chest and shoulders
    • eases lower back pain
    • stimulates internal organs
    • relieves constipation
    • improves posture

    Contraindications for Seated Bound Half Lotus

    If you have knee, hip, or shoulder injuries you shouldn’t do this pose. This pose is not recommended during pregnancy.

    Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana Step by Step

    Start in Dandasana, or Staff Pose. From there, bend your right knee and bring the sole of your right foot to the inside of your left thigh.

    Externally rotate your hip letting your knee drop to the floor.

    Lift your leg and place the top of your right foot on your left hip crease.

    Now bring your right hand around your back and grab your right foot for the bind.

    Exhale and lift the ribcage before folding forward.

    Stay here for five breaths. Then exit the posture in the same way you entered it.

    Watch Kino’s video about how to do Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana.

  • How to do Simple Bridge Pose

    Backbending is an important part of your practice because it gets the energy flowing through your spine. Backbends help increase spinal flexibility and can even lift your mood.

    Simple Bridge pose is a good introductory pose to help you incorporate backbends into your practice. It is beneficial for your spine and hips.

    Benefits of Simple Bridge Pose

    When you perform bridge pose, you are working to strengthen your hips, glutes, and hamstrings. This is a great pose to help improve flexibility in your spine and can help relieve back pain. Bridge pose also helps to open up the chest and shoulders.

    Here are some of the benefits of doing simple bridge pose:

    -This yoga pose strengthens your back and spine.

    -It can help relieve pain in the neck and upper back.

    -It stretches hip flexors.

    -It can help improve circulation.

    -It is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety.

    Contraindications for Simple Bridge Pose

    If you are suffering from high blood pressure, bridge pose is not recommended. If you are pregnant, avoid this pose or speak with your doctor before attempting it.

    How to Perform Simple Bridge Pose

    Step One: Lie flat on your back with your feet hip-width apart and parallel to each other. Your knees are bent and the soles of your feet are flat on the floor.

    Step Two: Move your feet so they are as close to your buttocks as you can comfortably get them. Your arms are at your sides with your palms down. Try to get your fingertips to touch your heels.

    Step Three: Inhale and press into your feet to lift your hips off the ground. Send your hips up and forward. Do not squeeze your glutes.

    Step Four: Roll your shoulders under and let your spine lift. If you are comfortable here you can roll your shoulders under even more and grab your ankles.

    Step Five: Hold for five breaths, then release and lower your hips to the ground.

    So, if you are looking for a simple yoga pose that offers many benefits, give simple bridge pose a try! You won’t be disappointed. Watch this video with Kino for more details about how to do simple bridge pose.

  • How to do Triang Mukha Eka Pada Paschimottanasana

    Today we’ll look at one of the seated postures in the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series, Triang Mukha Eka Pada Paschimottanasana. This posture is different than the other postures you’ve done up until this point in the Primary Series because it is the first obvious internal rotation of the hip.

    This energetic pose loosens up your hips and hamstrings while releasing the tension in your back muscles. Like other forward folds in the series, Triang Mukha Eka Pada Paschimottanasana calms the nervous system while toning the internal organs. It is a good posture to do when you need to relieve stress.

    We’ll look at the simplest way to get into this posture. This is a good way to approach the pose if you have knee sensitivity.

    Start by sitting on your mat with your legs straight out in front of you.

    Bend your right leg so the sole of your right foot is on the floor and your thigh is drawn into your chest.

    Now rock onto the left side of your sit bones.

    Internally rotate your hip joint and bring your foot back so your foot is pointed straight behind you.

    Your knees are next to each other with your right knee pointed straight out in front of you.

    As you get into the position pay close attention to how your knee feels. If you need to you can sit on a block to help you get into the position more comfortably and decrease any pressure on the knee.

    Send energy down into your sit bones to create a firm foundation. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed between the left and right hip. Find balance in the centerline of your body. It is important to keep centered.

    Inhale and lengthen, drawing the spine up out of the pelvis and lifting the chest.

    Exhale hinge forward from the pelvis, folding over the left leg. Catch your foot, ankle, shin or wherever you can reach. Keep your shoulder blades on your back and your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears.

    Inhale and lengthen through the back even more. Exhale and fold, relaxing your back and bringing your forehead toward your shin. Stay here for five breaths and repeat on the other side.

    Click here to see how to do Triang Mukha Eka Pada Paschimottanasana in more detail.

    By Omstars

  • Weekly Pose Tutorial: Ustrasana (Camel Pose)

    Ustrasana or Camel Pose is a nice easy backbend from the Ashtanga Yoga Second Series. This is a very therapeutic backbend that can help you create space between the vertebra, building strength and flexibility in the spine. When in this pose, you must try to find the balance between openness and steadiness.

    Let’s take a look at how to do this pose with a healthy technique.

    Come to your knees with your knee joints at 90-degree angles. Your feet are pointed behind you, and your thighs are hip-width apart.

    Inwardly rotate your thighs while pressing your knees into the ground.

    Lift up through your pelvic floor and tighten your core.

    Draw your energy up through the centerline and lift your spine out of your pelvis, creating space in your back.

    Now take your hands on your iliac crests on the front of your pelvis.

    Send your hips forward. Gently lift your chest and roll your shoulders down your back to prepare for the pose.

    Now move your hands to the back of your hips and place your thumbs on your sacrum.

    Squeeze your elbows together and inhale.

    Press your hips forward with your hands and let your head fall back.

    Try to keep your glutes relaxed and your thighs moving forward. If you feel any pinching in your spine, come out of the pose.

    From here, you are ready to move deeper into the backbend for the full expression of the pose.

    First, inhale and lift through the spine even more to create the space you need for the pose.

    Exhale and dangle your arms back behind you. Let them hang loosely at first.

    Now inhale, lift your spine further out of the pelvis and find your feet with your hands.

    Let your cervical spine extend backward. Gaze at the tip of your nose. Keep your core strong, and be careful not to stick your belly out.

    When you’re ready to come out of Ustrasana, don’t collapse. Instead, use your strength to press into your knees and lift yourself back up. Follow this posture with child’s pose.

    Watch Kino’s tutorial below for a better understanding of the pose.

    By Omstars

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  • Weekly Pose Tutorial: Bakasana (Crane Pose)

    Bakasana or Crane Pose is an arm balance done with your arms straight as opposed to the crow pose which is a bent elbow arm balance. It is a foundational arm balance in your yoga practice. Once you get this pose and are able to do it well, you’ll be able to take the same strength tools and apply them to any arm balance.

    Arm balances require strength, pressing up from the shoulders and pulling up from your core. So let’s approach this arm balance from those two perspectives. One of the things with this pose is that there is a lot of pressure on the wrist. So the more you bring your shoulders away from your hands the more space you’ll create in your wrists.

    From a squatting position, your hands come forward flat on the mat.

    Place your knees as close to the armpits as possible.

    Send your shoulders forward and lift your feet off the ground.

    Your arms are straight not bent.

    One of the main differences between the Crow Pose and the Crane Pose is the positioning of the knees. For the Crow Pose your knees are on the outside of your shoulders and for the Crane Pose your knees are in your armpits.

    Watch this video for more detailed instructions.

    By Omstars

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  • How to do Marichyasana B

    Marichyasana B of the Ashtanga Primary Series is one of what I call “Birthday Cake Poses”. It involves specific ingredients that must be added in the proper order, at the appropriate time, for the recipe to work. The process is essential to honor the intention of the posture.

    The first ingredient is the lotus posture. Without lotus, it is really just a version of Marichyasana A. So take your time with your lotus position, finding release in the hip, checking in with the knee, bringing that foot high across the other leg, heel positioned within the line of the pubic bone and belly button. Once you have a workable lotus – perfection is not required, just something that is not painful and gives you space to work the other leg – lean back into the hands so that you can draw the second leg up, heel to sit bone. This moment may reveal some resistance in the hip, acknowledge that and navigate a path through it. If the hip is not too intense, rock your weight forward and diagonally toward the lotus leg. Eventually you want to feel secure in this foundation, the thigh of the lotus leg and the foot of the other side, that sit bone lifted. This is the baking phase of our recipe. Settle into your foundation, sit with ease. If you are still holding on to the planet to avoid falling back, then work here for a while. Next take a forward fold over you lap, reaching around for the bind just as in Marichyasana A, first arm around the upright knee, the other tossed behind the back. Got the bind? Frosting! Lastly, enjoy your dessert, finishing with a deep fold, forehead or chin to the floor. Breathe.

    If you rush this posture, you may end up with some distorted version with no integrity. Step by step process draws your awareness to places of resistance and thus places to work. When the full expression is reached it will feel like it makes sense, you will feel ready for it. No hurry! And always honor injuries, especially in the knees. It is certainly acceptable, even encouraged, to modify the lotus during a time of injury.

    By Angelique Sandas

     

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  • 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 heel 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 heel 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 the 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 is strong. Every muscle is 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.