• 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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