• Weekly Pose Tutorial: Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

    Dhanurasana or the Bow Pose is one of the most traditional backbends. You’ll find this pose in every traditional yoga style.

    As you do Dhanurasana, you should feel energy rising through the center channel of your body. The pose strengthens and hones the muscles in your back and purifies your digestive system.

    Backbends are therapeutic for minor depression because as you move into position you get in touch with vital emotions and hopefully make peace with them. This pose can help to tune your mind and spirit to the deeper meaning of life.

    Dhanurasana is found in the Ashtanga Second Series. You need to have a solid foundational practice in order to integrate this pose into your daily yoga routine.

    When you do Dhanurasana you’re lifting your whole body off the ground. The idea is to think about your body creating a circular motion energetically. To do this you have to create space in the spine. As you create more space you can go deeper into the pose.

    To get into Bow Pose lay on your stomach. Gently bend your knees so your heels go toward your buttocks.

    Reach back and grab your ankles.

    Inhale and lift up.

    Draw the belly in and keep your knees as close together as you can.

    Pressure your iliac crests into the ground. Roll your shoulders forward.

    Breathe from your diaphragm but keep the breath in your lungs. You need to feel stable and rooted down in the pose.

    For more details watch this video from Kino.

    By Omstars

  • Weekly Pose Tutorial: Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Pointed Staff Pose)

    Also known as the Four-Limbed Staff Pose or Four Pointed Staff Pose, Chaturanga Dandasana is a pose that is commonly used in your practice. When you first start to practice you might feel like this position is kind of impossible. If you don’t have a lot of upper body strength you might tend to bellyflop to the ground. Chaturanga Dandasana helps you build up strength from whatever level you’re at in the moment. As you practice this pose you’ll develop more strength, bodily intelligence, aliveness, and awareness.

    To understand this posture think about the staff position. Your body represents a staff. From the head down to the feet, your body is knit together and making a straight line. The four points are where your body connects with the floor through the hands and feet.

    The easiest way to practice Chaturanga initially is to lie on your stomach. So let’s start out by finding the position of the pose while laying down on the floor.

    Laying on your stomach curl your toes under and lift your kneecaps off the floor.

    Take your hands to your hips and rotate your tailbone under. Squeeze your glutes slightly and lift the muscles of the lower abdomen by sucking them in.

    Firm the muscles of your lower ribs. Place your hands on the floor so they are aligned with your lower ribs.

    Draw your shoulder blades down the back but do not pinch them together.

    Make sure your shoulders are pointing forward.

    Push into the heels so you get a little bit of a bounce and practice doing that in this position to build your familiarity with the pose.

    Now push steadily through the heels and push into the ground as though you are going to lift yourself up off the ground in a pushup. You may not be able to get off the ground right now and that’s completely okay. You are building the strength to eventually do so and you are teaching your muscles what to do in the pose.

    Come up onto your hands and knees and line up blocks beneath your sternum.

    Now get into plank position.

    Your hands are under your shoulders. Your core and legs are strong. Your tailbone is tucked.

    Now lower yourself down, keeping your elbows in but now tucking the body. Your shoulder blades are down your back and your shoulders are pointed forward.

    Lower down so you are on the blocks beneath you. As you lower down wrap the elbows back so you can lower yourself down as slowly as possible. Maintain the integrity of the pose and stay there with the blocks supporting you.

    Put your knees down to come out of the pose.

    Once you’re confident doing Chadaranga onto blocks do the same thing but move the blocks so you lower slowly all the way to the floor. Don’t let your body flop to the floor. Keep muscles active and lower down slowly.

    Now that you’ve tried this method of getting into the pose you can practice with your knees down, so you can come down and up without resting on the floor or on blocks.

    Once you’re able to do the pose with the knees down you can try it without putting your knees down. As long as you can maintain the shape we practiced on the floor in the beginning you’re doing the pose correctly. When you lower yourself down don’t lower your shoulders below your elbows. You can always use blocks or bolster to support yourself as you practice and build stretch to do the pose.

    Since this is a pose you’ll do again and again it’s good to develop the habit of good alignment early. This way you’ll avoid injury in the future.

    When you do the pose remember these points:

    • Check the corners of the shoulders. Shoulderblades are back and down.
    • Your ribs are drawn in.
    • Your tailbone is tucked under. Don’t let the tailbone rise up above the line of the body.
    • Your neck is in a neutral position.
    • Front body strength, good shoulder position, and good pelvic position are essential.

    Find a way to work the pose in a way that is intelligent and safe for your body.

    Now that we’ve walked through how to practice Chaturanga Dandasana watch the detailed video by Kino below for more detail.

    By Omstars

  • Weekly Pose Tutorial: Bhujapidasana

    This is the first real challenging arm balance of the Ashtanga Yoga Primary series. It helps build self-confidence and strengthens your shoulders and core.

    Bhujapidasana gives you the tools to tackle the progressively more challenge arm balances that come up as you practice.
    First, we’ll look at an easy way to get into the pose.

    Beginner

    Start out in a squatting position. If squatting is difficult for you then you don’t have the flexibility to get into Bhujapidasana. Flexibility is the foundation of this pose. So, you might have to work on your squats first.

    From squatting position squad put your hands down in front of your feet. Lean forward and lift your hips.

    Lift your left heel off the ground and put your left shoulder under your left calf muscle so your hand is behind you and underneath your heel. Now put your left heel down on your hand. Repeat the same thing on your right size.

    Stepping on your hands ensures your wrists are flat so you can straighten your elbows.

    Look down at the space between your feet. Now gripping your legs over your shoulders wriggle your feet in toward the centerline.

    Cross your feet over each other in front of you. The first step in being able to do Bhujapidasana is being able to get into this position with your feet crossed in front of you. This might be as far as you can get for now. If it is that is okay. If you can’t get into this position, you need to continue working on this step before you try to pick yourself up off the ground.

    Once your feet are crossed, push into the shoulders and lift your feet up off the ground. You may feel like you’re going to fall back. If that happens push into your wrist and into your shoulders. To shift your weight forward.

    For the next step in the pose, you’ll rest your head on the ground. Don’t try to go right into this stage of the pose right away. If you do you’ll likely slam your head on the ground and hurt yourself. Instead, let’s approach this stage step by step.

    Start by placing your feet on the ground and slowly with control put the top of your head down. After your top your head is down, get your feet back behind your wrists. Then lift your feet off the ground. After you’ve done that bring your feet back to in front of the plane of your wrists and place them on the ground. Now lift her head up. Now come out of the pose.

    Intermediate

    Traditionally we move into Bhujapidasana from Downward Facing Dog. Let’s look at how to do that.

    From Downward Facing Dog walk your feet to the outer edges of your hands. Exhale and sink down into your yoga squat. Place your hands down in front of you and lift your hips. Lift up the left heel and put your hand under it and then your right hand under your right heel. Activate your pelvic floor and sender hips back. Wiggle your feet towards the center line and cross them over each other. Use your toes as a kickstand on the ground and then place your head down on the floor.

    As you get better at the pose you’ll stop using your feet as a kickstand to put your head on the ground. The way to do this is the point your feet and squeeze them in as you activate your arms and slowly release your hips back and the head down. Then you wiggle those feet back behind the plane of your wrist. The trick to getting back up after your head is on the ground is to send your hips back so you feel the urge to send your head up and forward.

    The biggest problem in this pose is that when you lift your head up your butt wants to fall back to the floor. You can’t let that happen. You do that by bringing your chest forward, not just coming straight up. If you come up too fast you’ll end up on the ground. If you need a training wheel press your toes to the ground slightly, so you can get up without falling to the ground.

    Advanced

    Now when you do the advanced version of the pose. You jump into the posture and instead of the top of your head touching the ground your chin lightly touches the ground. This version of Bhujapidasana takes a lot of strength and endurance.

    From downward dog bend your knees. Inhale and push from the shoulders. Then exhale and jump forward so your thighs land on your upper arms. Once you land across your feet immediately. Tighten your core to hold yourself up.

    Send your hips back. Tighten your core and slowly lower your chin to the ground in a controlled manner. If you can’t do this with control you should not attempt it because you could end up hitting your chin on the ground and hurting yourself. Make sure you’ve mastered the other versions of the pose first. In the beginning, you should have a cushion in front of you to practice lowering your chin.

    Your chin should barely touch the ground. Keep your muscles active. You need to keep the integrity of the pose.

    When you come up think about reaching your chest forward and your hips back.

    Don’t judge yourself by whether or not you topple over and fall out of Bhujapidasana. This is a journey. Watch the lesson with Kino for more detail about the pose.

    By Omstars

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  • Weekly Pose Tutorial: Bhekasana (Frog Pose)

    Bhekasana or frog pose allows you to lengthen through the front body while engaging through the back body. The first thing you need to understand is that this is a backbending pose. It traditionally comes in the Second Series or Intermediate Series of Ashtanga.

    Bhekasana brings up a little bit of fear in people about what is happening in the knees. It requires an internal rotation of the thighs and deep knee flexion.

    We’ll look at the safe way to enter the posture so no matter what your level of flexibility, you will be able to achieve the pose. It’s not about forcing your body. It’s about listening and learning from the messages your body sends you. If you try to bend your knees too hard in this pose it won’t work. Again you should not force anything.

    Lay on your stomach and in a relaxed manner bend your knees. Let your calf lazily come out to the sides just a bit so there is an internal rotation in your hips. Don’t bring your feet up to your butt. They should be on the outside of your hips.

    Draw in your belly and press your iliac crest into the ground. Draw your thigh away from the ground.

    Now reach your right arm back and place the “L” of your hand between the base of your thumb and base of index finger on your foot. Press on the foot and flip your grip to push your foot down. Do the same thing on the left side.

    Don’t force anything. Your hands are simply holding your feet in place. Don’t jam your foot down. You’re gripping but not forcing.

    Lift your quadriceps and press your iliac crests into the ground. Allow yourself to have space in your knee joint.
    Make space through the back.

    The center of the chest is up and forward and the knees are back and away from the body. Your thighs are off the ground.

    When you are ready to come out of the pose release it slowly.

    Watch this video with Kino to get a better idea of Bhekasana.

    By Omstars

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  • Weekly Pose Tutorial: Raja Bhujangasana

    Raja Bhujangasana is a challenging backbend that comes at the end of the Ashtanga Third Series. You need to make sure you warmed up before you attempt it and that you have the strength and flexibility necessary for the posture.

    From Upward Facing Dog plant your pelvis on the ground. Lift your spine up out of the pelvis. Think of this like a Cobra Pose. Your spine is lifting up out of the pelvis. Find space between the vertebrae and use your back muscles to support your spine.

    Come up onto your fingerprint tips and drop your head back.

    Curl your toes under and press into your toes. When you feel your back has reached its maximum amount of bend, bring your palms down on the mat and let your knees bend.

    Don’t force your knees to bend. It’s important that you don’t squeeze the legs.

    Inhale and lift the spine. Exhale and lean back until your head makes contact with your feet.

    Once you can touch your feet with your head, you can go deeper by tucking the feet behind the head.

    The key with this posture is not to squeeze your legs but to let your back do the work.

    Never force. Never squeeze your joints. Use your breath to find space in your back and effortlessly move into this backbend.

    Watch the video from Kino for more details about safely doing Raja Bhujangasana.

    By Omstars

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  • Weekly Pose Tutorial: Bharadvajasana

    Bharadvajasana is a powerful twisting pose that brings you into your centerline. It’s named after Bharadvaja, an ancient Vedic sage. The rough translation of his name is “a source of nourishment.”

    This posture symbolizes a turning inward of the mind and an integration of the deep, powerful work of your practice. This pose brings you to the center of yourself, both physically and spiritually, while bringing energy, life, and circulation into the body.

    The first thing to understand when moving into this twist is its placement in the Second Series. Before we do this twist in the series, we just finished doing a bunch of deep backbends. So Bharadvajasana re-integrates the spine and provides nourishment after doing all of these backbends.

    To come into the pose, sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you.

    Internally rotate your left leg and bend your left knee, so your left heel is outside of your left hip bone. Your knees are slightly apart.

    Bring your right knee into external rotation. The sole of your right foot is toward your left thigh. If lotus position is inaccessible for you, this is your modification.

    If you can do lotus position, you want to close your right knee joint completely. Inhale and pull your right foot up into your left hip crease. The instep of your foot should be facing down, gliding into your left hip crease.

    Resist the desire to have your body weight lean to one side by pulling in your low belly and keeping your core strong.

    Reach your right hand around your back and hold onto your right foot. If you’re modifying, you can reach your right hand around your back and try to grab your left thigh or your shirt.

    Lean forward slightly, pressing into your right hand to keep your left hip on the ground. If your hip pops up off the ground, that is not good for the foundation of the pose.

    Inhale and lift the ribs. Exhale and extend your left arm across the centerline of your body to the outside of your right thigh. Place your left hand on the ground beneath your right knee. Inhale expand the spine and exhaled twist along the center axis.

    Your right shoulder is folding forward and down. Your left shoulder is pulling back and away. Your belly is sucked in and you’re grounding your hips back.

    Calm your mind and feel your centerline. Relax your neck and gently gaze over your right shoulder. Press the heel of your left hand into the ground and grip with your left fingers.

    Push the right foot down with your right hand to keep the left hip pushed into the ground. Activate your pelvic floor.

    To come out of the pose, soften and release slowly as you exhale.

    Now repeat the pose on the opposite side.

    Watch this video by Kino to get a better understanding of Bharadvajasana.

    By Omstars

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  • 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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  • 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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