Saturday, March 31, 2012

Yoga Home Practice Ideas for You

While Harmony Yoga of Ann Arbor is on break next week, April 2 - 7, 2012, that doesn't mean that you need to go without yoga.

Yes, you know I'm going to tell you to practice at home!

Some of you already do -- wonderful!  Keep it up!   If you don't have a home practice, consider starting one now, even if it's for just 10 - 15 minutes a day, a couple times a week.   

Many of you commented that the classes I taught this past week were difficult -- some backbending work with an emphasis on arms, shoulders, and upper backs.

Backbending poses are often difficult for most people, and they don't get any easier if we don't practice them, or practice the elements that will lead to more open shoulders, stronger arms, and more flexible upper backs.

Consider practicing a few Adho mukha svanasanas (downward facing dog pose) and also stretch your arms overhead with a few of the different arm positions we practiced this past week.  Remember Gomukhasana arms?  (clasping hands behind you, one arm up and back, one arm reaches down and back)    Lie over a rolled blanket or rolled towels to help you open your chest and create more mobility in your upper back.   Then practice Salabhasana (locust pose) and Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog pose).   Do you remember the leg work we did with these poses?   (roll thighs in, tailbone down, to stabilize the low back)   Those of you who can, do Urdhva dhanurasana (upward bow pose...the backbend where you push up from the floor).

Other practice ideas:
IYNAUS (Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States) has practice sequences available for you to print out, courtesy of The Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York.   There are four Level I sequences and four Level II sequences in pdf form.
IYAGNY Sequences for Practice

For inspiration, and for ideas for starting your own home yoga practice, read The Importance of a Yoga Home Practice.

Books I recommend:
If you're serious about your own practice, these following books are useful resources.   I have most of these at the studio -- you can take a look at them there.

You might be able to find these books at Crazy Wisdom, Nicola's Books, or Barnes and Nobles in Ann Arbor.  Also, of course, on Amazon.

Yoga: The Iyengar Way by Silva, Mira, and Shyam Mehta
How to Use Yoga: A Step by Step Guide to the Iyengar Method by Mira Mehta
Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar
Yoga: A Gem for Women by Geeta Iyengar
The Tree of Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar

The first two, in my opinion, are the most accessible for beginning students, and will be useful as you progress. The second two, Light on Yoga (B.K.S. Iyengar), and Yoga: A Gem for Women (Geeta Iyengar), are invaluable for the serious Iyengar Yoga student, and The Tree of Yoga, by B.K.S. Iyengar, will give you an easy-to-read overview of the philosophy of yoga

Yoga DVDs
I really wish there'd be more Iyengar Yoga DVDs, but there aren't that many that are strictly Iyengar Yoga.      Here are a few DVDs to consider:

Yoga for Beginners with Barbara Benagh
A.M. Yoga for Your Week with Rodney Yee
Flexibility Yoga with Patricia Walden
Yoga for Inflexible People
Yoga for the Rest of Us with Peggy Cappy

Barbara Benagh (first DVD) has a background in Iyengar Yoga, but also from other styles of yoga.  Same with Rodney Yee (second DVD).   Patricia Walden is one of the top two certified Iyengar Yoga teachers in the U.S.  Yoga for Inflexible People has three disks.  The first disk shows poses taught and modified in the Iyengar Yoga style.  Yoga for the Rest of Us is accessible to the "average" person who may be older, stiffer, and a little weaker :-)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Virabhadrasana II -- Warrior 2 Pose

Virabhadrasana II (from

Last week most of our classes were practicing Virabhadrasana II, or Warrior Pose 2 (shown left), with an emphasis on keeping the trunk upright and the sides evenly extended.  

Of course the legs and arms are important too -- the bent leg at a right angle, the back leg firm and straight, and the arms extended horizontally.  But we were focusing more on keeping the trunk upright and the shoulders and hips squared off with each other.

As many of you experienced, it can be very difficult to keep all aspects of this pose (or any pose!) going.  

I found a couple of photos online that represent two common variances to the upright trunk position (and made them into line drawings, to keep the people anonymous!).

These are reasonable poses -- not bad -- but compare them to the photo at the top.

This first line drawing shows what many of us do -- we don't quite get the full right angle bend for the front leg, and the trunk is leaning a little over the front leg.  
The second line drawing shows a good bend for the front leg, and the shoulders are mostly over the hips, but the right side of the torso (her bend leg is her right leg) is longer than the left side, because her hips are tipping to the right; her right hip is lower than her left.

Still, it's a pretty good pose.   Both drawings show that the hips are a little tight.   This is very common to many of us!

What does your Virabhadrasana II look like?   How can you tell?

This is where a full length mirror can help you.   You might feel that your trunk is upright and your front leg is in a right angle, but the mirror may show differently.  

A point of focus is at the upper outer thigh where it meets the hip socket for the back leg (the straight leg).  It has to hinge inward more than we think.  We rarely use our legs that way, and the hip will be unfamiliar with that action.    Keeping an awareness of the hips directly under the shoulders, and the shoulders directly over the hips as you bend your front knee is also necessary.