Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Pose of the Month: Seated Cross-Legged Twist August 15, 2011

Filed under: Pose of the Month,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 2:06 pm
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Pose Name:

Seated Cross-Legged Twist

Sanskrit Name:

It’s possible to add a twist to Sukhasana (Easy Pose), Agnistambhasana (Fire Log Pose), or Padmasana (Lotus Pose), depending on the ability of the student.

Steps:

  1. Come to a comfortable cross-legged position. (Take Lotus Pose if you’re able, or stack your calves so the ankle of the top leg is directly above the knee of the bottom leg for Fire Log Pose, or simply sit comfortably in Easy Pose.)
  2. Sitting up straight, bring your right hand to your left knee.
  3. Keeping your spine straight, raise your left arm to shoulder height. Lift the arm up and overhead, then turn to drop it down behind you, placing the hand right next to your hip. (Placing the hand too far behind you will have you leaning over backward.)
  4. Turn and look over the left shoulder. Let your eyes rest on a point as far to the left as you can see. Your body will naturally follow your gaze and twist more deeply into the pose.
  5. Continue to breathe smoothly and evenly as you twist.
  6. Inhaling, look toward the front of the room, then lift your left hand and stretch the left arm overhead, reaching toward the front wall for a side stretch. Feel the stretch all down the left side. You may want to grip your right hand into your left knee for leverage to stretch further. Take a slow, deep breath.
  7. On an exhale, drop the left hand to the right knee, and then fold forward over your crossed arms. Breathe into your belly.
  8. Inhaling, release and come back up to seated. Change your legs and repeat the sequence on the other side.

Benefits:

Twisting poses compress the internal organs, releasing toxins and cleansing the body. Twists are beneficial for abdominal health. This pose also incorporates a side stretch that opens the chest and a forward fold which further works the abdomen.

Contraindications:

This pose is contraindicated for students with serious back/spine injuries. Pregnant students should be cautious with any twist and with folds.

My Experience with Seated Cross-Legged Twist:

I first learned this little twisting sequence from a teacher at Yoga on Main in Manayunk and I practice it frequently. I like how it combines a twist with a side stretch and a forward fold, neatly and economically stretching a variety of muscles. I appreciate the simplicity of the leg position that makes the pose accessible to students at any level. My mind stays engaged as I move through the variations, and I find the forward fold at the end gives a feeling of completion.

 

Seated Cross-Legged Twist 2

Seated Cross-Legged Twist 1

 

 

 

 

Pose of the Month: Bridge Pose July 25, 2011

Filed under: Pose of the Month,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 2:35 pm
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Pose Name:

Bridge Pose

Sanskrit Name:

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

Steps:

  1. Begin by lying on your back on the floor.
  2. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on mat. Skootch your heels as close to your tush as you can.
  3. Tuck your chin.
  4. On an inhale, press your arms and feet into the floor and lift your hips into the air.
  5. If you wish, you can grab the edges of your mat with your hands, or you can clasp your hands under your back, rolling your shoulders under to open the chest even more. You can also lift your hands to support your lower back, pressing your upper arms into the floor.
  6. Continue lifting and extending the hips as high as you can. Keep the legs and feet parallel. Don’t forget to breathe!
  7. Exhaling, unclasp your hands and gently lower down to the floor. Hug your knees into your chest.

Benefits:

Bridge pose is a backbend, stretching back muscles and helping to relieve back pain, as well as a chest opener, stretching the muscles of the chest, which can improve and expand breathing. Bridge also works the muscles in the tush and abdomen. The pose stimulates abdominal organs and can improve digestion.

Counterindications:

Those with back injuries may want to avoid this pose. Those with neck injuries may want to place a folded blanket under the shoulders to protect the neck and should only practice the pose under an experienced teacher’s supervision.

My Experience of Bridge Pose:

I’ve practiced bridge pose for many years now, and my practice has grown and changed with time. When I lived in Boston, my teacher there emphasized working with the pose dynamically, coming into and out of it repeatedly. We would often do 20-30 repetitions, as if we were doing situps or pushups. Since moving to Philly and taking up a classical hatha practice, I’ve now learned to hold Bridge pose for several breaths. The two practices lead to very different experiences of the pose! I enjoyed working with Bridge athletically, and at first I resisted staying in the pose for a longer time; now I can appreciate settling in to the pose and feeling the stretch through my chest and back. I enjoy the calm, pleasant feeling I get when I practice Bridge pose.

Bridge Pose

 

Pose of the Month: Cobra Pose July 17, 2011

Filed under: Pose of the Month,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 2:14 pm
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Pose Name:

Cobra Pose

Sanskrit Name:

Bhujangasana

Steps:

Cobra pose is frequently practiced as part of the classic sun salutation sequence. If you are practicing cobra during sun salutation, you’d move through the sequence until you come to plank pose, then gently lower your belly down to the floor. Cobra can also be practiced independently: begin by lying on the floor on your belly.

  1. Place the hands lightly on the floor, palm down, under the shoulders. Hug the elbows against the body. Legs are active but relaxed, with the tops of the feet resting on the floor.
  2. Press the legs firmly into the floor. Using only your back and abdominal muscles, lift your head and shoulders off the floor.
  3. Press your shoulders back, opening your chest. Check on your elbows, making sure they are tucked back, keeping your forearms parallel to each other. Close the eyes or gaze at an unmoving point on the floor in front of you.
  4. All the effort of the pose should be in the back, not the arms – you should be able to lift the hands up off the floor.
  5. For a deeper variation, press through the hands, begin to straighten the arms, and lift yourself into a deeper backbend. Extend the neck and stretch the crown of your head toward the ceiling.
  6. Breathe deeply, extending further into the pose on each inhalation.
  7. To exit the pose, gently lower yourself down to rest fully on the ground. If you’re practicing sun salutations, exhale and press back to downward-facing dog.

Benefits:

Cobra pose is a backbend and chest opener. It keeps the spine healthy and expands the chest.

Counterindications:

Those with lower back problems should be very gentle with this pose, practicing only the basic pose and not pressing with the arms. Those with wrist problems may want to practice a different backbend like sphinx that puts less pressure on the wrists.

My Experience of Cobra Pose:

The vinyasa yoga classes I attended in the past emphasized practicing upward-facing dog during sun salutations, so I rarely practiced either sphinx or cobra before coming to East Eagle Yoga, and never really understood before that these poses could substitute for upward dog in a sun salutation. Since beginning my practice at East Eagle, I’ve really enjoyed playing with these poses, especially because upward dog tends to make my back hurt if I hold it too long. At first I felt like I was taking a step backward by choosing cobra over up dog, but now cobra pose has become a really good alternative for me – as a gentler backbend, it allows me to work my back muscles without my arms forcing me into an uncomfortable posture. Also, practicing cobra at the beginning of my practice warms my back up and prepares it for more intensive stretches later on. I like the feeling of opening in my chest that I get when I do cobra pose. Even more, I like the feeling that I’m protecting and strengthening my spine.

Cobra Pose

 

Pose of the Month: Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold June 26, 2011

Filed under: Pose of the Month,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:59 pm
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Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold 1

Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold 2

Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold 3

Pose Name:

Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold

Sanskrit Name:

Prasarita Padottanasana

Steps:

  1. Begin in mountain pose (tadasana). Step your right foot back into a wide-legged stance. Your feet should be approximately 3-4 ft. apart – about the length of one of your legs.
  2. Point both feet towards the side wall and face the wall. The feet can be parallel or slightly pigeon-toed, but should not angle outwards.
  3. Placing hands on hips, come into a slight backbend, extending the front line of the body. Then keep your front torso long while bending forward from the hips.
  4. As your torso begins to come parallel to the floor, drop your hands to the floor right below your shoulders. Begin to walk your fingertips back  between your feet. If you have the flexibility, walk your hands back until your forearms are perpendicular to the floor and your upper arms parallel. Be sure to keep the arms parallel and don’t let your elbows wing out to the sides. If it’s comfortable, rest the top of your head on the floor.
  5. For an alternate stretch, you can grab the big toes with the first two fingers and thumb of each hand; wrap hands around ankles; or clasp hands behind your back and lift the arms up.
  6. Press your weight into the whole foot: don’t let the weight rest in the outside edges of the feet but press through the inner foot, and keep your weight balanced between ball and heel. Breathe deeply, continuing to extend and bend deeper, keeping the back flat and the front of the body long.
  7. Bring your hands back to center, right under your shoulders. Slowly walk your feet in until they’re hip-width apart. Bend the knees, clasp your hands around opposite elbows, and relax, shaking your head to release tension in your neck.
  8. Slowly roll up to standing, one vertebrae at a time, keeping knees bent. Your head should be the last thing to come up. Close your eyes and breathe here for a moment before returning to your practice.

Benefits:

Prasarita increases strength in legs and feet and stretches inner legs and the backs of the knees. Forward folds are beneficial for digestion and the internal organs, and can help to calm the mind. The pose can also be helpful for mild backaches and headaches.

Counterindications:

Students with lower back problems or knee problems should take care and work very gently with this pose. Pregnant students should be careful in any forward bend. Those with balance problems may want to practice at the wall and should come up slowly; those with low blood pressure should move very slowly into and out of the pose to avoid getting dizzy.

My Experience with Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold:

Prasarita has always been difficult for me – I find it painful on my outer calves and outer ankles, and also on the backs of my knees. Because of this discomfort, I don’t usually practice prasarita at home, so I decided to challenge myself by choosing this pose to work on this month.

I was surprised to find another source of discomfort in this pose that I hadn’t known about: I realized that the pose makes me uncomfortable because my head is so close to the floor. I know that many yogis come into headstand from this posture, and I don’t yet have the confidence to do headstand away from the wall. I think prasarita makes me uncomfortable for this reason, because it brings me close to a pose that makes me nervous.

Practicing prasarita this month more intensively hasn’t caused any great changes in my experience of the pose – I still feel pain in my legs, and I still feel uncomfortable in the pose. However, I think I have a better understanding of my feelings now and can work more mindfully on the pose in the future.

 

Pose of the Month: Ardha Chandrasana / Half Moon June 24, 2011

Filed under: Pose of the Month,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:42 pm
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Pose Name:

Half Moon Pose

Sanskrit Name:

Ardha Chandrasana

Steps:

  1. Begin in a wide-legged stance, right foot facing toward the front of the room, arms spread wide. (For example, it can flow nicely to go from a wide-legged pose like Warrior 2 or Triangle pose into Half Moon.)
  2. Cartwheel the arms down so that the hands come to the floor on either side of the front right foot. Walk the hands forward a bit, about 6-12 inches in front of the foot.
  3. Press into the hands and the right foot, straighten the right leg, and lift the back foot off the floor. Try to lift the left leg to hip height.
  4. Extend actively through the left foot to keep the left leg raised up strongly, but don’t lock the left knee.
  5. When you feel steady, lift the left hand off the floor. You can bring the hand to your left hip and open the chest; to go deeper, raise the left arm straight into the air.
  6. Now you’re balancing on your right foot and right hand, with your left leg and left arm making the shape of a half moon. Most of your weight should be on the right foot, with your hand just providing balance as you need it.
  7. Breathe here. Focus your gaze on a point in front of you, and use your ujjayi breath to help balance. If you feel steady, you can raise your eyes up to look at your left hand.
  8. Bring the left hand down to the floor, then gently bring the left leg down. You can come back into your wide-legged stance, or you can bring the left foot together with the right foot at the top of the mat.
  9. Come back up to standing, bringing hands to a prayer at your heart.
  10. Complete the pose on the other side.

Benefits:

Ardha Chandrasana is excellent for improving balance. Because it works the standing foot strongly, it’s good for the health of the foot. The pose also benefits the core muscles and improves strength in the raised arm and leg. Half moon pose can also help with conditions like indigestion, constipation, menstrual pain, fatigue, and backache.

Counterindications:

Half moon pose may be quite difficult for someone with balance problems. Such students can try to practice the pose at the wall for added stability. This pose also puts some strain on the standing leg, so those with leg injuries should take care. If you have neck problems, keep the gaze focused on the floor and keep the neck long and even. Low blood pressure is another counterindication for this pose.

My Experience with Half Moon Pose:

I’ve hated half moon pose for years. I tend to dislike all the forward-bending balance poses: half moon, warrior 3, and standing split are all very uncomfortable, so this month I decided to challenge myself and practice half moon regularly. I’ve even been practicing the pose in the kitchen while cooking dinner! In addition to my home practice, I also attended N’s Tuesday night class several times this month, where she had us do a series of balance poses strung together, including half moon. These sequences were really difficult for me – when doing one or two balance poses and then coming down, I can do well, but several all at once without a rest was challenging.

I think that one thing I don’t like about poses like half moon is that the forward bending action makes me feel off-balance. In poses like tree or dancer, I’m standing up tall and can see what’s going on around me, but in a forward-bending balance, I’m relying on just my leg, and if I fall, my head is a lot closer to the ground. I wobble much more in half moon than I do in an upright pose like tree, even though in half moon I have two points of contact with the floor. I think the change in my center of gravity, plus the discomfort of trying to balance while bent over with my head close to the ground, have combined to make me dislike half moon pose and the other poses like it.

Working on half moon pose this month, I feel like I’ve identified why I don’t like the pose as well as the areas where I feel physical discomfort – the pose seems to put a lot of strain on my standing leg, for example. After practicing the pose frequently this month, I do feel stronger and more balanced in it. I want to cultivate a feeling of lightness and ease in the pose. Before this month, I didn’t like the pose so it was never a part of my home practice; from now on, I want to continue to practice the pose regularly and see where it takes me.

(Photo artistry by F. The yoga room is too small for him to fit all of me in one shot, so he took a bunch and collaged me together.)

 

Pose of the Month: Side Plank May 29, 2011

Filed under: Pose of the Month,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 6:45 pm
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Side Plank - Back View, Unmodified
Side Plank - Back View, Knee DroppedSide Plank - Back View, Foot Planted
Pose Name:Side Plank

Sanskrit Name:

Vasisthasana

Steps:

  1. Begin in downward-facing dog. Shift your weight forward into plank pose.
  2. Place your left hand directly under your face.
  3. Rotate the left foot to press the outside edge of the foot against the floor, and stack the right foot on top of the left.
  4. If this version of the pose is too challenging, there are two variations you can try. Either variation will add stability to the pose.
    • You can drop the left knee to the ground and keep the right leg extended with the inside edge of the right foot on the floor.
    • You could also keep the left leg extended, but bend the right leg and plant the right foot on the floor in front of you.
  5. Once the feet are settled, open your body to the right and extend the right arm straight up overhead, supporting yourself just on the left hand and left foot (or variation as appropriate).
  6. Keep the body straight. Try to make the body one long straight line from the outside edge of the foot to the top of the head. Engage your core muscles to hold yourself up.
  7. Hold the pose and focus on your breath.
  8. To come out of the pose, drop both knees to the mat. Press back into either downward dog or child’s pose if you need a rest.
  9. Repeat the pose on the other side.

Benefits:

Side plank greatly strengthens the arms and core muscles. It’s also helpful for improving balance.

Counterindications:

Those with wrist problems may want to avoid this pose, as it places a lot of pressure on the wrist; working with dolphin pose and dolphin plank, or just resting in child’s pose, may be good alternatives for these students.

My Experience with Side Plank:

Side plank has been challenging for me for some of the same reasons that regular plank is challenging: I have to rely on my arm strength to hold me up. However, side plank is even worse because in this pose I have only two points of contact with the ground (one hand and one foot, instead of both hands and both feet). So in addition to putting pressure on my wrists and wracking my weak arm muscles, side plank requires me to balance precariously on an arm that I know to be untrustworthy. It’s no wonder that side plank is a constant struggle for me. When I try to practice the pose without dropping a knee, my arm shakes and I can rarely hold the pose for more than a few breaths. Even with dropping the knee, the pose requires a strong conscious effort to focus on my breath and keep my breathing slow and even.

With side plank, I don’t feel the disappointment and frustration that I feel when practicing regular plank. Regular plank seems like it should be achievable but stays just beyond my reach, while attaining a solid side plank is clearly pretty far down the road for me. It’ll be a long time before side plank will be a pose where I can find the line between challenge and ease.

Right now, side plank is all work. I try to practice the pose dynamically, dropping a leg down when I need to rest and raising it up again when I feel able. I learned a different modification at an anusara studio last summer – rather than dropping the bottom knee, now I can try bending the top leg and planting the foot out in front, which requires more work than having the knee down but still adds stability. Having a few different techniques for modifying the pose gives me more confidence that I can eventually conquer it.

Side Plank - Front View

 

Pose of the Month: Warrior 2 May 23, 2011

Filed under: Pose of the Month,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 12:07 pm
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Warrior 2 - Back ViewPose Name:

Warrior 2

Sanskrit Name:

Virabhadrasana 2

Steps:

  1. Begin in mountain pose (tadasana).
  2. Step the right foot back and plant the heel. The distance between your feet should be about the length of one of your legs. Your left foot should face forward; your right foot should be at about a 45-degree angle.
  3. Open the hips to the right so that your body faces the right wall. Raise your arms to shoulder height, parallel to the floor (left arm forward over the left leg, right arm back over the right leg).
  4. Keep your right leg straight and bend the left knee deeply. Ideally, the left knee will form a 90-degree angle just above the left ankle. Don’t let the knee come out past the ankle!
  5. Turn your head to the left and gaze out over your left hand at an unmoving point in front of you.
  6. Keep the left leg in line with the body – don’t let the knee swing out to the side.
  7. Keep your spine straight and your torso centered over your hips. Press your weight not just into the front foot, but also into the outer edge of the back foot.
  8. Keep your breath slow, deep and even. Engage your abdominal muscles and focus on the breath.
  9. Come out of the pose by dropping your hands to the floor on either side of your left foot. Step the left foot back and into downward facing dog. Move through a vinyasa if you wish.
  10. Step the right foot forward to repeat the pose on the other side.

Benefits:

The warrior poses are excellent for building heat, strength, and stamina. Warrior 2 strengthens the thighs and the arms. It can relieve backaches and have a therapeutic effect for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Contraindications:

Contraindications include diarrhea and high blood pressure. Those with poor balance may want to practice this pose near a wall for extra stability.

My Experience of Warrior 2:

I like warrior 2 because it makes me feel strong. When I practice this pose, I feel balanced and rooted. It’s a pose that makes me feel confident and fierce like a warrior; confidence and fierceness aren’t exactly natural to my personality, so I love how warrior 2 brings these qualities out in me. Even on days when the pose is physically more challenging for me, it still inspires these positive feelings of strength, giving me the power to practice tapas and remain in the pose for longer. I like to practice warrior 2 in the mornings, especially on days when I have a big meeting or challenging project at work. Starting my day strong and fierce with warrior 2 helps give me energy and strength to last me through the day.

Warrior 2 - Front View

(Side note on the photos with this post: (1) I don’t know why my head’s tilted forward, but it shouldn’t be, I should be looking straight over my shoulder, and (2) my back leg actually is straight, I’m just curvaceous.)

 

Pose of the Month: High Lunge May 22, 2011

Filed under: Pose of the Month,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 8:04 am
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High Lunge - Side ViewPose Name:

High Lunge

Sanskrit Name:

No official Sanskrit name, but it’s sometimes called Ashva Sanchalanasana.

Steps:

(This pose is often practiced as part of a classic sun salutation series. For brevity, these instructions will start with downward-facing dog rather than go through the whole sun salutation.)

  1. Begin in downward-facing dog.
  2. Step the right foot forward and plant it between the hands. Keep the left leg high, left toes pressing down and left heel stretching toward the floor.
  3. Keeping the left leg straight and balanced, bend deeply into the right knee. Bring your hands to the knee and distribute your weight evenly between your front and back feet.
  4. Tuck the chin, keeping the neck long, and gaze at an unmoving point in front of you.
  5. Stay here, or if you feel steady, stretch the arms up straight overhead.
  6. Engage the abdominal muscles and breathe deeply and evenly.
  7. To come out of the pose, bring your hands down to the floor and step the right foot back to downward dog.
  8. Repeat on the other side.

Benefits:

Lunges improve balance, build heat in the body, and build strength in the legs, as well as in the arms when arms are extended. Balancing on the rear foot is good for the foot muscles.

Contraindications:

Those with balance problems may want to modify the pose – practice near a wall for stability, or drop the back knee down to the mat for a low lunge instead. Those with serious knee problems may want to avoid this pose. Those with neck injuries can try looking down at the floor instead of straight ahead.

My Experience with High Lunge:

Before coming to East Eagle Yoga, I rarely practiced lunges. The vinyasa-style yoga classes I attended in the past didn’t include lunges in sun salutations, and I almost never did them as part of my home practice. so when I first came to East Eagle, all the lunges were a huge issue for me: my thighs burned, my arms ached, I couldn’t keep my balance and I wobbled all over the place. Coming from a vinyasa-focused practice, I found it difficult to hold poses for a long time in the classical way, and this made lunges even more difficult. Classical sun salutations quickly became my least favorite part of hatha yoga classes at East Eagle.

I’m happy to say now that my experience with lunges is turning around. With continued practice, both at the yoga center and at home, my balance and stamina have improved tremendously. I’ve been able to find a level of comfort in just holding the pose, and now I’m able to push myself further and deepen into the pose. Having some sense of ease in lunges means that my mind can relax too; I can clear my mind better and focus more on the breath (rather than on the discomfort). Lunges still aren’t my favorite, but I can tell that I’m making progress!

 

Pose of the Month: Pigeon Pose May 20, 2011

Filed under: Pose of the Month,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 2:10 pm
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Pigeon Pose - FoldedPose Name:

Pigeon Pose (One-Legged King Pigeon)

Sanskrit Name:

Kapotanasana (or, more fully, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Steps:

  1. Begin in downward-facing dog.
  2. Step the right foot up toward the hands, and lay the right leg on the mat: right knee behind right hand, right foot in behind left hand. The right heel should be in line with your left hip point.
  3. Lower your body down onto the floor. Straighten the left leg and lengthen it straight behind you; uncurl the left toes and press the top of the left foot into the floor.
  4. Bring your hands back alongside your hips. Pressing your hands into the floor, breathe in and rise up into a gentle backbend.
  5. Lengthen your spine. Make sure your weight is distributed evenly over both hips.
  6. Fold forward over the right leg. Keep your spine straight and don’t hunch your back. You can rest your hands or elbows on the floor in front of you. If you’re able to bend more deeply, rest your forearms on the floor. You can cross your arms and rest your forehead on your hands, or stretch your arms straight out and rest your forehead on the floor.
  7. Breathe slowly and deeply as you relax into the pose. Don’t push yourself – let gravity pull you deeper into the pose.
  8. Press palms into the floor and come out of the pose, pressing back into downward-facing dog. If you are able, curl your left toes under and press back while bringing your right leg straight up into one-legged dog.
  9. Repeat the pose on the other side.

Benefits:

Pigeon pose is a deep hip opener and stretches the thighs, groins, and psoas. Stretching the piriformis muscle can relieve sciatic pain.

Contraindications:

Those with hip or knee problems should practice this pose gently. Those with lower back problems may want to omit the backbend. Pregnant students should take care with any forward-bending pose.

My Experience of Pigeon Pose:

I love pigeon pose. It’s a pose that just feels good! I love the feeling of my hips opening in this pose. When I practice pigeon, I always feel I can just relax and enjoy the pose. My mind feels calm and relaxed in this pose. I also feel a sense of achievement that I can bend forward and rest comfortably in the pose.

Pigeon is also challenging – I’ve been working on the royal pigeon backbending variation, but my hips and low back aren’t quite open enough to move deeply into the backbend. I have a long way to go before I’ll be able to bring the back foot up to my head! I love that pigeon still has challenges in store and provides a deep stretch no matter what the level of the yoga student.


Pigeon Pose - Side

 

Pose of the Month: Chair Pose May 18, 2011

Filed under: Pose of the Month,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 2:41 pm
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Chair PosePose Name:

Chair Pose (also known as Awkward Pose or Fierce Pose)

Sanskrit Name:

Utkatasana

Steps:

  1. Begin by standing in mountain pose (tadasana) with hands in prayer.
  2. Breathe in and reach the arms overhead. Either keep the arms parallel, palms facing inward, or press the palms together.
  3. Breathe out and bend the knees deeply so that it looks like you’re sitting on a chair. Try to bring the thighs to be parallel to the floor. Press your knees together and keep them facing straight forward – don’t allow them to fall out to the sides.
  4. Tuck your tailbone under (this protects your spine).
  5. Balance your weight evenly over your feet. You should be able to lift and flex your toes – if you’re pressing all your weight into your toes, redistribute!
  6. Tuck the chin slightly; roll the shoulders down the back; keep the spine straight (don’t hunch!). Engage abdominal muscles to help support you in the pose.
  7. Keep your breath steady and even! Bend your knees a little deeper and stretch the arms a little farther.
  8. To come out of the pose, breathe in and straighten the legs, rising up. Breathe out and bring the hands down to prayer in front of the heart.

Benefits:

Chair pose builds heat in the body and works and strengthens the legs, especially the thighs, as well as the extended arms. Chair pose can improve balance and is also good for the feet.

Contraindications:

Contraindications include headache, insomnia, and low blood pressure. Those with knee problems should take care to keep knees aligned properly in this pose to avoid injury.

My Experience in Chair Pose:

Chair is one of my least favorite poses to do. My thigh muscles always burn and it’s very uncomfortable to stay in the pose. In addition to the burning muscles, the pose also makes my ankles hurt. I almost always have these experiences of discomfort, even when I practice the pose regularly, which I find discouraging – it’s nicer when I can see myself improving, even if it’s just a little bit at a time. With chair pose, I often feel defeated before I even begin.

Of course, this pose is awkward to do and it feels awkward to hold. With so many things to remember in the pose, I find it difficult to relax or find any ease in the pose – it’s all work. I also worry that I’m missing something and not doing the pose correctly. In hatha yoga class, I’ll look around and it always seems as though everyone else is bending deeper than I am, and then I feel embarrassed.

I need to remember that it doesn’t matter how anyone else does the pose. Looking at other can inspire me to push myself further, which is good, but it shouldn’t make me feel badly about myself. If I can only bend a little bit that day, that’s okay. Also, I should keep in mind that I am tall, and, practically speaking, someone shorter is going to look as though they’re bending deeper in the pose, since the shorter person already has a head start, so to speak. If I’m looking at the tops of my classmates’ heads in chair pose, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole class does the pose better than I do. We all have different bodies and it doesn’t do any good to compare my chair pose with anyone else’s. What matters is staying focused on my own experience of the pose and practicing tapas to stay with the pose, continually working to improve.