Yesterday‘s post discussed standing postures, forward bends, backbends, and twists. Here are a few other categories of yoga postures:
- Arm balances are often the poses that look the coolest. We’ve all seen photos of some flexible, muscular, inhuman-looking guy balancing like some sort of impossible alien creature. We look at these pictures and think, I could never do that. Part of what’s needed to accomplish arm balances is a positive attitude: the ability to get over the idea that it’s impossible. It may be too much for you right now, but anything is possible. This is why arm balances also require and build strength and determination. Because they look like you’re about to take flight, arm balances are often named after birds: crow, crane, peacock, swan. Side plank (vasisthasana), while challenging, can be an easier arm balance for beginners to start with.
- Inverted postures are usually done near the end of hatha yoga class. Any pose that results in your head being below your heart is technically an inversion, but there are many classic ones: the most challenging include handstand, headstand, and wheel; easier ones are bridge and shoulder stand; and finally, there’s legs-up-the-wall, which anyone can do. No matter which you choose, inversions are beneficial because they mix things up, reversing your systems, which can improve slow metabolism and help with headaches. Inversions also make organs and muscles work harder to stay upright, which tones them. With inversions, it’s best to be humble – don’t force yourself into a pose you’re not ready for just to impress others. When you do “egostand”, you’ll be uncomfortable and could end up really hurting yourself. Be kind to your neck!
- Finally, any hatha yoga class will end with sivasana – corpse pose or rest pose. It looks the simplest because your just lying there on the floor, but it’s actually challenging because you have to calm your mind and really allow the body to relax. The whole yoga class is building to this point: relaxing in sivasana. (Here’s an interesting tip I learned: if you have a cold and sivasana makes you cough, try lying on your stomach instead!)
Some yoga poses may seem to fit into more than one of these categories (handstand is both an arm balance and an inversion; wheel is both an inversion and a backbend; standing poses often involve backbends and twists). That’s not a problem, because you’re getting the benefit of both kinds of poses.
Since this month is focused on asana, our homework assignment is to do eight posture write-ups. We have to write on four of our favorite poses, and on four of our least favorite poses. We’ll reflect on what specifically it is that we like or dislike about the pose. After all, the posture itself is neutral – it’s how I perceive the posture that makes it “good” or “bad”, so what does my perception of that posture say about me? This assignment gives us an opportunity not just to examine the poses, but also ourselves based on our feelings about the poses. Some of my classmates wondered aloud how they would find four different poses they disliked, while another classmate had trouble coming up with more than two poses he actually liked! I think we’ll get a variety of responses to this assignment.
We also have to write out a one-hour sequence of postures for a beginner class. We talked a lot in class about how to structure a hatha yoga class, so I’ll write more about this in the days to come.