• 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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  • Yoga Pose Tutorial: Astavakrasana (Eight Angled Pose)

    Astavakrasana or Eight Angle Pose is an arm balance from the challenging Ashtanga Third Series. It is an asymmetrical arm balance. That means you do the arm balance with your legs over to the right and then with your legs over to the left. Ironically, it’s used to create symmetry in the body. You’ll find that it’s easier for you to do on one side than the other. By working on the pose on both sides over many years of practice, slowly each side will equal out.

    If you do only symmetrical arm balances, you can subconsciously favor one side over the other. Asymmetrical balances show you which side is stronger than the other, so you work on each side equally. Over many years of practice, you will find more balance as you work on both sides.

    While doing the pose itself is relatively accessible, all of the traditional entry points are pretty challenging. You need flexibility and strength to do this pose.

    Let’s start by doing the pose on the right side.

    Start out sitting on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground a little wider than hip’s width apart.

    Put your hands on the ground. Your right arm is between your legs and in front of your hips. Your left arm is outside your left leg.

    Place the right calf on the right shoulder.

    One of the easiest ways to enter the pose is the leave the left foot on the ground as you press into your arms and send your hips up and back.

    Now hook your left foot around your right foot and straighten your legs.

    Then slowly reach your chest down and bend the elbows. Lift the legs up. Shoulders forward. Your hips are up and your belly is in.

    To make it a bit harder. Hook your feet together before you lift up. Then straighten your legs.

    Watch Kino’s Encyclopedia of Yoga class about the pose to find out how to work your way up to getting into Astavakrasana.

    To see traditional entries and exits of the pose watch Kino’s video below.

    By Omstars

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  • Yoga Pose Tutorial: Ardha Matsyendrasana or Half Lord of the Fishes Pose

    Ardha Matsyendrasana or Half Lord of the Fishes Pose is a seated spinal twist that brings you into the center of the body and helps you access the deep space of the pelvic bowl. In any twisting posture, the hips are your foundation so avoid twisting from the pelvis. Instead, empty out the pelvis and twist from the thoracic spine. In this posture that is very important. 

    To enter the pose on the right side fold your left knee underneath you so your left heel is next to your right hip. Make sure there is no discomfort in the knee. Your knee should line up with your sternum. 

    Cross your right leg over your folded left leg with the sole of your foot on the ground. Take a moment to settle your hips between the open space between your left foot and left hip. Both sitting bones are on the ground.

    Make sure both of your knees are lined up along the centerline. Your sternum, pubic bone, and knees should all be lined up. Keeping all these points aligned will make sure your right foot isn’t too close to the pelvis. You should be able to see your toes ahead of your right knee.

    Inhale and suck the belly in. Drop the right hip down. Allow a gentle internal rotation of the right hip and hug your torso close to your thigh.

    Wrap your left arm around your right leg and twist to the right, looking over the right shoulder. 

    To take it deeper suck the belly in and lift the ribcage around the right thigh. 

    Place your right hand on the ground.

    Drop the left shoulder in front of the right knee and reach down to grab your foot. If you can’t reach the foot reach down to the ground.

    Lift your chest and bring your right hand behind your back and find the top of your left thigh.

    Slowly release yourself from the pose and repeat on the other side.

    If you feel any intense pain in your knee or hip joint back off the pose. 

    Ardha Matsyendrasana purifies the digestive system. It also realigns the sacrum and brings energy into the center of the body. 

    Watch Kino’s video below for more detailed instructions.

    Yoga is a journey into the center of yourself. Never judge yourself. Regardless of what shape your body can make appreciate the process of finding the pose. 

    By Omstars

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  • Yoga Pose Tutorial: Janu Sirsasana B

    This week’s pose is Janusirsasana B or also called Head-to-knee pose B.

    Start in Janu A with your knee out 90 degrees.

    Lift your pelvis off the floor and push your body forward over your right foot until your pelvis rests on top of your heel. Allow your perineum to contact the heel of the foot and rest here.

    Your sit bones are off the floor.

    Keep your right foot flexed so the toes point forward to your left foot.

    The left leg is active and straight.

    When the right foot is in position, fold forward over your left leg.

    Grasp your wrists around the left foot as your reach forward in the bend.

    Align your torso and pubic bone along the centerline of your body, facing forward as much as possible.

    Janu B provides a deep stretch through the sacrum and the lower back or QL’s.

    Now try the other side.

    Check out Kino’s excellent YouTube description for greater detail.

    By Dr. Bruce E. Barkus

    Dr. Bruce E. Barkus came to yoga, like most people, to become more flexible, get stronger and reduce stress. Low and behold he fell in love with all the other benefits yoga provides. He has been very consistent with a daily practice for the last eleven years and has come to look at it as part of his daily routine. Bruce’s certifications are Yoga Alliance RYT 500 through Asheville Yoga Center and 500 hours of Ashtanga Training for teachers with Miami Life Center. He teaches Ashtanga at Level Yoga in Vero Beach Florida and at Asheville Yoga Center. Over time, his students started asking for more details on poses and the benefits of a daily practice, so he started doing the pose of the week. There have been many that have guided his yoga practice, including Kino MacGregor, Tim Feldmann, Doug Keller, David Keil, Manju Jois, Stephanie Keach, and Lewis Rothlein. The poses he shares are primarily from the Ashtanga Primary Series as he finds the basic postures build a solid foundation for all the advanced poses.

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  • Yoga Pose Tutorial: Janu Sirsasana A or Head-to-Knee Pose

    This week’s pose of the week is Janu Sirsasana “A” or Head-to-Knee Pose A.

    The FOCUS of head-to-knee pose is really the extension of the sternum toward the knee. You should try your best to get extension in the back and avoid rounding.

    Rotate your right hip joint externally, while pointing your knee out to the side at a 90-degree angle.

    Try to relax the hip joint so the ball and socket can open and release.

    The sole of your right foot is resting against your inner left thigh and the right heel rests close to the pubic bone.

    Constantly roll your upper thigh toward the back of your pelvis while elongating your inner thigh muscles. It sounds like a lot but really it is not.

    Once you have the external rotation of the right thigh, fold your pelvis as far forward as possible and align your torso OVER your left thigh.

    Your heart, sternum, and public bone should be aligned and centered toward the left knee.

    Reach your chin to your left shin and gaze toward the toes of your left foot.

    Kept the left leg engaged and active.

    Hold for five breaths and do the other side.

    Remember, never force a pose but advance your practice with effort and ease. Check out Kino’s YouTube on the pose. It is only 3:18 but will give you a deeper understanding of the asana.

    By Dr. Bruce E. Barkus

    Dr. Bruce E. Barkus came to yoga, like most people, to become more flexible, get stronger and reduce stress. Low and behold he fell in love with all the other benefits yoga provides. He has been very consistent with a daily practice for the last eleven years and has come to look at it as part of his daily routine. Bruce’s certifications are Yoga Alliance RYT 500 through Asheville Yoga Center and 500 hours of Ashtanga Training for teachers with Miami Life Center. He teaches Ashtanga at Level Yoga in Vero Beach Florida and at Asheville Yoga Center. Over time, his students started asking for more details on poses and the benefits of a daily practice, so he started doing the pose of the week. There have been many that have guided his yoga practice, including Kino MacGregor, Tim Feldmann, Doug Keller, David Keil, Manju Jois, Stephanie Keach, and Lewis Rothlein. The poses he shares are primarily from the Ashtanga Primary Series as he finds the basic postures build a solid foundation for all the advanced poses.

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  • Yoga Pose Tutorial: Tiryang Mukha Ekapada Paschimattanasana or Three-Limbed Forward Fold

    This week’s pose seems harder to say than to do but fortunately, Tiryang Mukha Ekapada Paschimattanasana translates to the three-limbed forward fold. This pose elevates the awareness of the bandhas, helps to internally rotate the hip joints, and gives a great stretch on the quads/hamstrings.

    While rotating your thighs inward, bend your right knee back and point your right toes back.

    Let your right hip sink to the floor with your heel outside your buttock.

    TIP: if you move your right calf out of the way, you can get a more comfortable bend in the right knee.

    Your thighs remain parallel and your knees are close together.

    Reaching forward, wrap your hands around the left foot and bring your chin to your left shin.

    Draw your belly back and in and engage your pelvic floor to gain stability in the asana.

    Press your left calf and left heel into the floor as you activate your energy.

    Ground your right sit bone and the top of your right foot into the floor.

    The Drishti for this pose is the toes on the left foot.

    After 5 breaths release and work the other side.

    Never force a pose and gradually it will come. Use effort and ease with your breath to move your practice along.

    Check out my teacher, Kino’s YouTube video below. The pose starts at 6 minutes and 25 seconds into the video.

    By Dr. Bruce E. Barkus

    Dr. Bruce E. Barkus came to yoga, like most people, to become more flexible, get stronger and reduce stress. Low and behold he fell in love with all the other benefits yoga provides. He has been very consistent with a daily practice for the last eleven years and has come to look at it as part of his daily routine. Bruce’s certifications are Yoga Alliance RYT 500 through Asheville Yoga Center and 500 hours of Ashtanga Training for teachers with Miami Life Center. He teaches Ashtanga at Level Yoga in Vero Beach Florida and at Asheville Yoga Center. Over time, his students started asking for more details on poses and the benefits of a daily practice, so he started doing the pose of the week. There have been many that have guided his yoga practice, including Kino MacGregor, Tim Feldmann, Doug Keller, David Keil, Manju Jois, Stephanie Keach, and Lewis Rothlein. The poses he shares are primarily from the Ashtanga Primary Series as he finds the basic postures build a solid foundation for all the advanced poses.

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  • Yoga Pose Tutorial: Purvattanasana or Upward Facing Plank

    Welcome to the pose of the week Purvattanasana, also called Upward Facing Plank Pose. This is a great pose that extends and strengthens the back while also countering all the forward bends so far in the primary series.

    Place your hands about a foot behind your pelvis with palms flat on the floor and the fingers facing forward.

    Inhale as you lift your pelvis UP AND FORWARD.

    Be sure to engage your inner quads with your active, lifted kneecaps.

    Point your toes and press your feet toward the floor with an inward rotation.

    Open your heart toward the ceiling by lifting your chest high.

    Draw your shoulder blades down and arm are straight.

    Lift the upper back. If your neck is comfortable look to the back wall.

    Remember to never force a pose and let it come naturally over time.

    Check out my teacher Kino’s YouTube video that is only (2:18 Minutes) and well worth the watch.

    By Dr. Bruce E. Barkus

    Dr. Bruce E. Barkus came to yoga, like most people, to become more flexible, get stronger and reduce stress. Low and behold he fell in love with all the other benefits yoga provides. He has been very consistent with a daily practice for the last eleven years and has come to look at it as part of his daily routine. Bruce’s certifications are Yoga Alliance RYT 500 through Asheville Yoga Center and 500 hours of Ashtanga Training for teachers with Miami Life Center. He teaches Ashtanga at Level Yoga in Vero Beach Florida and at Asheville Yoga Center. Over time, his students started asking for more details on poses and the benefits of a daily practice, so he started doing the pose of the week. There have been many that have guided his yoga practice, including Kino MacGregor, Tim Feldmann, Doug Keller, David Keil, Manju Jois, Stephanie Keach, and Lewis Rothlein. The poses he shares are primarily from the Ashtanga Primary Series as he finds the basic postures build a solid foundation for all the advanced poses.

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  • Yoga Pose Tutorial: Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Bound Lotus Forward Fold)

    Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana or Bound Lotus Forward Fold stretches the muscles in the hip, hamstrings, and shoulders. Standing on one foot increases your balance while building strength in the muscles of the foot, ankle, and leg. The pressure of the foot on the abdomen as you fold forward massages your internal organs. Let’s take a look at this pose so you can practice it at home.

    Bound Lotus forward fold is a fun pose, but be careful with your folding knee to assure you don’t tweek it.

    Start from standing and bring your right foot into half lotus. The folded knee points down.

    Reach your right hand behind your back to hold the top of the right foot. When entering the pose aim the top of your right foot at your LEFT hip crease.

    Be sure to fully rotate your hips to free space in the pelvis to create room for the bind and fold forward.

    Once you have the half lotus bind, stabilize your standing leg and fold forward with an exhale. Draw in your abdomen and lift your sit bones.

    After folding, place your left hand firmly on the floor right next to the left foot and align fingernails with toenails.

    Equalize your hips while you reach your chin to the left shin.

    If you can’t get the bind yet, no worries, place both hands on the floor.

    Check out Kino MacGreagors YOUTUBE video (2:27min) below as you work this asana. The video is well worth the two minutes!

    By Dr. Bruce E. Barkus

    Dr. Bruce E. Barkus came to yoga, like most people, to become more flexible, get stronger and reduce stress. Low and behold he fell in love with all the other benefits yoga provides. He has been very consistent with a daily practice for the last eleven years and has come to look at it as part of his daily routine. Bruce’s certifications are Yoga Alliance RYT 500 through Asheville Yoga Center and 500 hours of Ashtanga Training for teachers with Miami Life Center. He teaches Ashtanga at Level Yoga in Vero Beach Florida and at Asheville Yoga Center. Over time, his students started asking for more details on poses and the benefits of a daily practice, so he started doing the pose of the week. There have been many that have guided his yoga practice, including Kino MacGregor, Tim Feldmann, Doug Keller, David Keil, Manju Jois, Stephanie Keach, and Lewis Rothlein. The poses he shares are primarily from the Ashtanga Primary Series as he finds the basic postures build a solid foundation for all the advanced poses.

    Start your 14-day Free Trial with Omstars Today!

  • Encyclopedia of Yoga: Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)

    This is the pose that is dedicated to the Sage known as, Matsyendranath. Sometimes people call this pose, Lord of the Half Fishes Pose.  You can take those individual words, Matsya, meaning fish, and Ardha, meaning Half. Contained in, Matsyendranath, is also the word for King, or ruler.  You have all those put together for quite a powerful posture.

    This seated spinal twist brings you into the center of the body, and helps you access the deep space of the pelvic bowl.

    Foundation and Alignment

    In a twisting posture, the hips are your foundation. You want to avoid twisting from the pelvis, and instead, empty out the pelvic bowl. Twist from the thoracic spine.  In this posture, it is very important. To enter the pose on the right side, fold your left knee underneath. You want to make sure that your knee feels good.  If there is any discomfort in the knee, there is a modification (below). Close the knee joint and bring it all the way in.  You will notice that the knee lines up with the sternum. Right foot on top. Take a moment, and settle your hips in between the open place between your left foot and the left hip–both sitting bones are on the ground. You want to see both of the knees lined up along the center line.  Make sure that you can see your toes ahead of your right knee. 

    Entering the Twist

    Inhale, as you suck the belly in. Drop the right hip, down. Allow a gentle, internal rotation of the right hip. Hug your torso close to your thigh. Gently wrap your left arm around, holding onto the right side, looking over the right shoulder. Pointing the left foot, both sitting bones down, look over your right shoulder. This is nice and easy.  If you don’t want to go any further, all is good.

    Pivoting Deeper 

    Slowly suck the belly in. Begin to lift the rib cage all the way around the right thigh. You can press on the thigh, and pivot around. Take your right hand on the ground. Drop the left shoulder in front of the right knee. Reach down. Hook the shoulder under, spinning the armpit, up. Grab the foot by spinning the armpit, down. If you can’t reach your foot, you can hold onto the knee, or leave your hand on the ground. Lift your chest up, keep your left shoulder down. Lifting the chest up, reaching around. The second option, is simply to leave your right hand behind you, looking over the right shoulder.

    The Full Posture

    If you feel comfortable, inhale, lift your chest up, and exhale. Reach around, taking your right hand and just kind of wiggle it around until you can find the top of the left thigh. Look over your right shoulder.

    Modifying When Necessary

    This is a way that you can repeat this pose, and relieve any burden that may be too stressed on your knee. Simply cross the foot over, leaving a relatively big space. In this version of the posture, I would keep it relatively simple. Work on bringing your chest close to your thigh, and twisting along the center line. Don’t worry about binding your hands.

    Remember the Journey

    Remember that yoga is a journey into the center of your self. Never judge yourself by the success or failure of your body, to make a shape. We’re interested in the journey.  So, regardless of what shape your body is able to make, dive down into the inner experience.  And tune in to the power of the ancient tradition of yoga, which is really what this pose represents. Keep the seed of inspiration to practice, every day.

    By Kino MacGregor

    Learn More from Kino on Omstars.com

    Kino MacGregor is a world renowned Ashtanga Yoga teacher, the author of several yoga inspired books, including The Yogi Assignment, and founder of OmStars.com. Practice the Ashtanga Yoga Full Primary Series online with Kino to get started on your journey today.

  • 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.