I haven’t finished my write-up of the April teacher training weekend yet, so let’s remedy that. On Friday, we had talked about sun salutations; in Saturday’s class we covered other types of yoga postures. Most postures can be grouped into one of the following categories:
- Standing postures build strength, endurance, and flexibility. They can improve circulation and energy by building heat in the body. Standing poses also increase mental energy, improving alertness and concentration. There’s a lot to concentrate on during standing poses, after all! Although vigorous, standing poses are good for beginners because they strengthen the body and improve focus, which is necessary for meditation. Standing postures include the warrior poses, triangle, chair pose, and balances like tree, eagle, and dancer pose.
- Forward bends can be done while standing or seated – all you do is bend forward. These poses are good for calming body and mind, releasing tension, and lengthening the spine. Forward bends also provide an abdominal massage, which can be good for the internal organs and digestion. In seated forward bends, the legs can be straight, wide open, in a split, or one or both knees can be bent – different positions of the legs allow you to get different leg stretches during the pose. For standing forward bends, you can bend with legs hip-width apart or in a wide-legged stance.
- Backbends are heart opening poses. For this reason, backbends can be difficult for some people – a backbend can make you feel vulnerable. When you drop your head back, you can’t see what’s in front of you, and that can be scary. However, backbends can be really beneficial because they open the chest and shoulders; if you spend a lot of time hunched over a computer keyboard, backbends can really help to balance out your body. They improve posture, decrease depression, and strengthen the back. Common backbends are upward-facing dog, cobra, sphinx, camel, and wheel pose. You can do a simple backbend right now, either standing or seated, just by placing your hands on your lower back for support and leaning gently back, opening and bending backward from the heart.
- Twisting poses wring out the body, releasing toxins and massaging the internal organs. This makes them good for digestion and circulation. Twists also, obviously, twist the spine, which can release tension in the back and shoulders. Many standing poses involve a twist (think of revolved triangle), but usually we think of twists as seated or reclining poses. Twists are great for improving energy – when you’re feeling stressed, do some twists and unwind!
Tomorrow: learn about arm balances, inversions, and sivasana, and find out what my homework for this month will be!