• Weekly Pose Tutorial: Chakrasana (Backward Roll)

    Chakrasana is a transition pose that can be difficult to figure out at first, but it’s an important part of the practice. Today we’ll break it down so you can start using it in your practice.

    When you think about this pose think about a wheel. A wheel has an axis point. In Chakrasana your body also has an axis point–your shoulders. So when you roll backward think about sending your body around the axis point of your shoulders. You’re not sending your body up. You’re going around.

    You need a good amount of hamstring and upper back flexibility to do this pose properly. If you have long hair, you shouldn’t have your hair in a ponytail or a bun because they will make your head move to the side and could injure your neck.

    If you have any kind of herniated disc or neck issues this is contraindicated for doing this pose.

    If you have a healthy neck, this pose can actually release neck tension. It can also help you learn how to lift your pelvis through the centerline. Gives you a good sense of directionality so you can feel where you’re going without always seeing it.

    To prepare for Chakrasana, you need to come into a shape that’s almost like Plow Pose.

    Start out laying on your back. Now bring your legs up overhead. Bend your elbows and bring your hands down so they are near your ears.

    If you can’t get into Plow Pose, you don’t have the flexibility to do the Chakrasana yet.

    Now draw your elbows in and suck in your belly. On the exhale, flip your body all the way over, using your shoulders as an axis.

    Don’t push hard with your arms to get yourself to go over. You’re moving on a lateral plane and not an up-and-down plane.

    Now here’s a more advanced version.

    Lay on your back with your knees bent.

    Prepare by bending your elbows and placing your hands next to your ears.

    Exhale tighten your pelvic floor. Inhale bring your legs up and all the way over your head.

    Roll completely over and land directly in Chaturanga Dandasana.

    Before you attempt this make sure you have enough room behind you to land in Chaturanga without hitting anything.

    Remember you’re thinking about rolling the axis of your wheel around the shoulders.

    The most important things to remember is that it’s a lateral motion and not upward. You’ll feel the full length of your body traveling back.

    Watch the video from Kino below to get a better idea of how to do the pose.

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  • Yoga Pose Tips: Upward Facing Dog

    Upward facing dog is the first posture where you start to establish the patterns for back bending.  It’s the patterns that are going to eventually help you get into the deeper and more advanced back bends.

    When I’m stuck in an advanced posture I always go back to its building blocks in basic postures, which are conveniently placed at the beginning of every Ashtanga yoga sequence. I imagine this will be a lifelong process of going back to the foundations and finding more subtler experiences of them. Which is why I think an intro class can serve any level. It’s intended for beginners but there’s something to learn for any level practitioner when slowing things down and allowing ourselves the space to rediscover the inner workings of a basic posture.

    Establish the patterns for back bending.

    It’s important to create the right foundation right from the beginning with upward facing dog. In order to do that, we’re going to come into a sphinx position, to start to understand some of the movement mechanics involved in upward facing dog. Where your forearms are on the ground, and your elbows are underneath your shoulders.  First thing, you’re going to point the toes, and press the tops of the feet into the mat.  Engaging the legs, and lifting the knee caps. And then you’re going to pull the lower belly in, towards the spine.


    Create space in the front side of the body, a main objective of back bending.

    And this part is really important. You’re going to press the elbows down. Shoulders down.  You are going to sort of like drag the elbows back towards your ribs.  You’re pushing the elbows back towards the ribs.  That gives you the leverage to push the ribcage forward, and up, away from the hips. This helps to create space in the front side of the body, which is one of the main objectives in back bending.  Pressing the tops of the feet into the mat, engaging through the legs, and then moving the elbows back.  Ribcage forward, stretching the front side of the body.

    Translate the principles of Sphinx into Upward Facing Dog.

    Translating these same principles into upward facing dog, you bring your hands underneath the shoulders.  Straighten the arms. Press the shoulders down.  Tops of the feet on the mat.  Press into the tops of the feet.  Engage through the legs.  Drag the hands back.  Ribcage forward, as you pull the lower belly in towards the ribs. Shoulders down, and breathe.

    Practice with Monica Arellano

    By Monica Arellano

    Monica Arellano is a Level 2 Authorized teacher in the Ashtanga Yoga Method; a formal blessing received by her teacher R. Sharath Jois in Mysore, India. She first connected with the practice of yoga in 2010, looking for a more peaceful way of being. When she found her way to Miami Life Center in 2014 she began a regular Ashtanga Yoga practice and soon after completed a 2 year apprenticeship program under Tim Feldmann. Today she continues to practice, teach and travel regularly to Mysore, India to learn yoga directly from the source. 

    Monica’s teachings are informed by the knowledge carried on from her teachers and the first-hand experience from her daily asana and meditation practice. Her classes emphasize the breath, alignment, proper foundations and methods of concentration; in hopes of exploring the deeper intention of Asana and the resulting expression in each student’s unique body and mind. In this space, she believes we can deconstruct unhealthy patterns, facilitate healing on many levels, and find our way back to the most honest version of ourselves.