Good (ugh- early) morning readers!
So naturally, when we have a snow day is when my insomnia kicks in. And when I say insomnia, I mean waking up unable to get songs from the Sound of Music out of my head. Thus, I decided to play around on my Blog.
I will not be the model today, as photographer hubby is snoozing away peacefully.
I recently finished BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga and stumbled across a couple of the below things, that made me ponder other poses/pranayama/mudras that I frequently forget about myself, or have not seen frequently in classes. The practice of yoga is much like that of learning and/or using a foreign language: If you don’t use it- you lose it! Try to think of these things the next time you practice, or teach. Remember, parts of yoga involve finding comfort in the uncomfortable. Get out of your routine to give these a try!
We will begin with a Mother Goose tale: The Tortoise and the Hare/Rabbit.
Tortoise Pose: Kurmasana
Rabbit Pose: Sasanganasana
Both Tortoise and Rabbit are great counterposes to any backbend that you do- you can see the curve of the spine in the opposite direction in the photos above! In both postures, the brain is lower than the heart, so they could be, technically, an inversion as well. Both of these asanas stretch out the upper and lower back, and, depending on how far you can stretch your hands back, the shoulders.
The contraindications for these postures are pretty self explanatory- do not do them if you have back injuries, shoulder or neck injuries. These postures are a definite no-no while pregnant, due to space (there’s a baby in the way!) and for comfort and safety. We don’t want to squish our baby tortoise/hare in there!
These poses beg for bolsters and/or blocks. I can get into Rabbit easily, but for Tortoise, which involves a wide legged forward straddle, it is tough on my hips. Having a bolster to place your head on in either posture will lesson your chance of injury and will make them more comfortable.
Dolphin Pose: Makarasana
Dolphin pose is the launching pad to so many other postures, especially those tricky arm balances or inversions you want to try (headstand, scorpion, feathered peacock, etc.). If your heels can easily reach the floor in Downward Facing Dog, Dolphin might pose a new challenge, because coming onto the forearms moves the hips further away from your heels. Some people also struggle to keep their back straight when in Downdog, and Dolphin provides help. Because you don’t lock your elbows (which you shouldn’t do anyways for safety), it helps your shoulder blades to be more of a hinge, as opposed to your wrists. Excellent for those who want to practice but have sprained or broken wrists (I speak from MUCH experience here!) Dolphin also allows those with weak upper body strength, like me, to get used to the sensation of using your core to help keep you upright as you move your weight onto your arms.
Nadi Shodhana: Alternate Nostril Breathing
In a yoga class, the most common breath technique you hear is Ujjayi- Victorious breath, designed to help heat the body. However, Nadi Shodhana is a great way to enter into Savasana, for it is a cooling breath that helps calm the mind and slow down the body. Because you are focusing actively through which nostril you are inhaling and exhaling, this pranayama helps you to center yourself in the present moment, and activates both hemispheres of your brain, which in turn, helps activate the sides of the body and personality that they control.
Inhale and exhale through one side, then cover it up and switch to the other. Some say your hands have to be in a particular mudra, others don’t. I like to practice Nadi Shodhana with my non-dominant hand, to try and improve my awareness and dexterity.
Not ideal for stuffy noses, obviously.
Jnana = palms up to the sky. Surrender, allowing things to come to you.
Chin = palms down towards the earth. Grounding, finding yourself again.
Ironically, when you ask people my grandma’s age about yoga, this is the hand movement they do first, perhaps because of the meditative postures they saw when seeing yoga for the first time. However, most of us stick to Anjali Mudra in class, because having your hands at heart center helps your balance, and is easy. Mudras, or seals, are used in yoga to bring your attention to the reflexes you have in your body, and to close off the circuitry of your energy and awareness, to bring it back to your breath and self.
I like to utilize mudras like the above while in balances, like Dancer’s pose. To me, it is similar to engaging the foot in a flex while in Warrior 3. It helps me to focus on other parts of my body, because that part is already fixed.
Ok- now it is 5:32 AM and I’ve been up for around 2.5 hours. I am going to give going back to sleep another try!
Namaste for Now!