I’m loving this roundup of information from HuffPo on how yoga improves health and well-being. Click on the infographic for more information!
Pose of the Month: Goddess Pose February 28, 2012
Sanskrit Name: Utkata Konasana (Fierce Angle Pose)
- Begin in a wide-legged stance, with feet about three feet apart, or roughly the length of one of your legs. Angle your feet so your toes point out and heels point in, about a 45 degree angle.
- Exhale and bend both knees deeply. Don’t allow the knees to swing out to the front – keep knees right over the ankles. Also, be sure to keep your knees and your toes pointing at the same angle – if needed, adjust the angle of your feet a bit. Tuck your tailbone under.
- Keeping your back straight, raise your arms up to shoulder height. Bend the elbows so your fingertips point toward the ceiling. Palms face forward or in, and fingers are active and extended. Drop the shoulders down and back, and press the chest forward.
- Look straight ahead and breathe. (Ujjayi breath is great to use here.)
- To come out, exhale and release the arms down, then inhale and slowly straighten the legs.
Goddess pose offers many of the benefits of a squat: it’s a great hip opener and works to stretch the pelvic floor, and, like a squat, it’s a great pose for improving your sex life and for pregnant women to practice for those reasons. It also offers many of the benefits of the warrior poses: strengthening the arms and legs and building heat and stamina. Goddess pose is also a great heart opening pose, stretching and strengthening the muscles of the chest.
Those with knee injuries should work gently and mindfully in goddess pose. If you have poor balance, you could try practicing the pose with your back against a wall for support.
My Experience with Goddess Pose:
Although I’ve always liked this pose, I didn’t practice it often until just recently. Now that I’m pregnant, I find this pose is a nice alternative to a squat and a great supplement to my warrior series: I really enjoy bringing some strong feminine energy to my standing sequence, since the warrior poses feel so masculine to me. I love this pose because it feels elegant and fierce, strong and grounded.
Pose of the Month: Malasana (Squat) February 23, 2012
Sanskrit Name: Malasana (Garland Pose), Upavesasana (Sitting-Down Pose)
- Begin standing in tadasana (mountain pose): feet hip-width apart, spine nice and straight, hands in prayer at heart center.
- Slowly bending the knees, come down toward the floor in a squat. Try to keep your feet flat on the floor. If you need to, you can widen your stance slightly – toes as far as the outside edge of the mat, heels pointing in.
- If you can, work your elbows inside your knees with your hands in prayer. Try to use the elbows to press the knees back, opening the hips and lengthening the spine. Press your shoulders back – you want to keep the chest open and spine straight. Don’t hunch!
- Work on balancing here. Find your center of gravity and try to find a way to hold the pose comfortably. Feel your pelvic floor muscles relaxing and opening.
- If you need to, you can rest by leaning forward a bit and placing your palms on the floor. You can allow your heels to lift as you do this. When you can, come back into the pose.
- To release, simply sit your tush down on the mat.
Variation Using the Wall:
Begin in mountain pose as described above, but with your back pressed against a wall and heels a little out from the wall (maybe a fist’s width). As you come down into your squat, slide down the wall, then use the wall to support your back in the pose. This will take some pressure off and help you balance, allowing you to focus on opening the hips and relaxing the pelvic floor.
This is a great simple pose for anyone to practice since it stretches the hips, works and relaxes the pelvic floor, and strengthens the legs. Because it works these regions, it’s a good pose for improving your sex life. It’s also a great pose in particular for pregnant women (hence my current interest!).
This pose may be difficult for those with balance issues or knee/ankle problems. If it’s difficult to keep your feet flat on the floor or you feel pressure in your ankles, you could try using some support under your heels (like a blanket folded in half or the folded edge of your mat). Over time, gradually use less support until you can comfortably keep your foot flat. If the whole pose is difficult, you could try it seated on the front edge of a chair: with thighs at right angles to the floor, and heels slightly forward of your knees, lean your chest forward between your thighs.
My experience with this pose:
Right now I am loving squats. They feel great and I know they’re a good preparation for childbirth. I’ve liked squats for a long time, though – one of my yoga teachers in Boston had his students practice squats regularly. As a yoga teacher myself, I like squats for sequencing reasons, because they make a great transition from standing to seated poses, adding more interest and structure to an asana sequence than “OK, let’s all come to the floor now.”
Surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly), since I’ve been practicing this pose regularly, I’ve been finding myself using it in other parts of my life – like examining items on the bottom shelf at the grocery store, picking up something I’ve dropped, or cleaning up a spill. It’s nice to be able to hang out down there for a while to compare nutrition info on product labels or find that loose change!
For more useful tips on this pose, check out Tori’s post On Squatting.
Pose of the Month: Partner-Assisted Wide-Legged Forward Fold November 7, 2011
Sanskrit Name: Upavistha Konasana
- Sit facing your partner. Lift your legs and stretch them out wide on the floor.
- Rest your feet or ankles against your partner’s feet or ankles – this will be different for everyone depending on your and your partner’s leg length and degree of flexibility in the hips and groin.
- Reach out and clasp your partner’s hands or wrists. Clasping hands may be easier if you’re farther apart; clasping wrists will give more stability and will be better if you’re able to be closer together.
- Bend forward with a straight spine, keeping your legs active and engaged. Your partner will lean back, helping to pull you further into the bend.
- If you have difficulty bending forward, you can bend your knees a little bit, and even put a rolled-up blanket under the knees for support, but as you bend, make sure the kneecaps are facing up towards the ceiling.
- Come up gently, then switch – you lean back while your partner bends forward.
- Work dynamically, allowing each partner to move in and out of the forward bend. See if you can bend a little deeper each time.
- On the last round, come up slowly and release your hands and feet.
Those with lower back injuries should take care, sitting on a folded blanket and staying mostly upright. Pregnant students should take care with any forward bend.
My Experience in Wide-Legged Forward Fold:
This is a pretty simple pose that I’ve been practicing for many years, even before I tried practicing yoga. I was really surprised to see how much further I could move into the pose with the help of a partner!
Yoga for Better Sex Sequence November 2, 2011
This sequence of poses will get you moving and warm up all the necessary places for a great time in the bedroom! For each pose, I’ve included a brief explanation of what it does and how it can improve your sex life.
child’s pose relaxing, centering cat/cow tilt
This pose wakes up the spine, stimulating the natural flow of energy through the chakras and strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. Also, being familiar with the subtle movements of the pelvis will help in the bedroom. downward dog Downward dog stretches and strengthens the entire body! forward fold Forward folds open up the back and massage the internal organs. 5 half-salutes Half-salutes are meditative, promoting focus and awareness of the present moment. 2 full salutations The sun salutation is a series of poses linked together gracefully. Sun salutations serve to limber up the body for yoga practice. The poses in the sun salutation alternately stretch, expand, and contract the entire body, making it great for overall health, fitness, and stamina. goddess pose Standing poses are good for overall fitness, strengthening the entire body, especially the legs, and building heat in the body. These poses really stretch and work the thighs and hips, as well as toning the extended arms, and standing poses help to improve stamina too. warrior 1 warrior 2 triangle side angle half moon Half moon pose opens the hips and includes a balancing element. Repeat standing sequence, other side crane pose Balancing poses encourage a calm, focused mind, improve concentration, and remind us to stay in the present moment. tree pose squat (transition to seated) Squatting is excellent work for the pelvic floor muscles and also opens the hips. cobbler pose This pose increases blood flow to the pelvis and opens the root chakra, which helps to cleanse and energize the sexual organs. The pose opens up and promotes greater flexibility in the hips. boat pose This pose warms up the core and gets blood flowing in the pelvic region. wide-legged forward fold This pose works and stretches the hips, thighs, and groin and opens the root and sacral chakras, and it increases blood flow to these regions. locust pose This pose opens the chest and heart center, and the act of lifting and squeezing the legs stimulates the sexual core. bridge pose This pose stretches and elevates the pelvis, hips, and thighs. It’s also a chest and heart opener. reclining spinal twist Twisting wrings out the toxins from our internal organs, promoting good health. savasana Savasana is the most important yoga pose for healthy sex. In savasana we learn how to relax, how to be in the present moment, and how to be comfortable with the stillness within yourself, which is what will allow you to connect deeply with another person.
Pose of the Month: Double Boat Pose October 31, 2011
Since we’re talking about yoga and sex this month, I’ll be bringing you a few fun poses you can do with a partner!
Pose Name: Double or Partner-Assisted Boat Pose
Sanskrit Name: Navasana
- Sit facing your partner with your knees bent. Reach out and clasp your partner’s hands or wrists (clasping hands will give you a little more room to work with your legs, but clasping wrists gives a little more stability).
- Lift your right foot off the ground while your partner lifts her left foot off the ground. Press the soles of your foot against the sole of your partner’s foot. (It will help if you’re able to keep your right knee inside your arms.) Begin to straighten the right knee.
- Repeat on the other side, lifting your left foot and pressing it against your partner’s right foot.
- Once both feet are up, you can work on straightening the legs. Make sure to use your core muscles to hold you up as you would in regular boat pose.
- Work playfully with the pose, have fun, and don’t forget to breathe.
- Come down slowly, one foot at a time, and release your hands.
Boat pose really strengthens the core muscles and stimulates the abdominal organs. In terms of our ongoing yoga and sex series, boat pose is great because it warms up the core and gets your energy flowing!
Practicing boat pose with a partner can give you added stability and support to straighten the legs while you work the core. Plus it’s fun!
Contraindications for boat pose include asthma, insomnia, diarrhea, heart problems, low blood pressure, and pregnancy. Those with neck problems may want to practice boat pose at the wall (so you can lean your head back and rest it against the wall).
This isn’t a contraindication, but if you’re practicing double boat with a partner, it will be trickier to do if the two of you have different leg lengths (i.e., someone short practicing with someone very tall). See the photo below: my legs are longer than Stacey’s, so my knees are slightly bent. However, I can still move much further into the pose with a partner than I can on my own! If you and your partner are differently proportioned, try the pose anyway and just have fun with it. Be ready to laugh!
My Experience with Boat Pose:
Long have I hated boat pose. It’s one of those poses where I just never seem to improve. My core isn’t strong enough, it’s hard to straighten the legs, and even my arms get sore. So I was excited to find this fun modification of boat that can be practiced with a friend. You still get a core workout, but without all the disappointment. Instead, it’s a great way to share yoga with your partner and get warmed up together!
Thanks to Stacey for helping me model this pose!