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SPECIAL ISSUE

YOGA TODAY
THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO DAILY PRACTICE

22
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b y h e r P R O m a t a n d y o g i t o e s t o w e l i n A s p i r e . F i n d h e r a t P l a y l i s t Y o g a i n We s t H o l l y w o o d , C A .
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Back to basics EDITOR IN CHIEF


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2 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
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contents yoga essentials free video
This essential beginners guide
provides a complete workout
warming

for your body and mind.


HERES THE RESOURCE
GUIDE youve been asking Get your free copy at
yogajournal.com/sampler.
for: a collection of some
of Yoga Journals most
informative instructional
storieswritten by some
of the best teachers around.
warming
standing & balancing

8 Shine on Me Sun Salutations are


Most of the contents
a great way to kick off your practice.
here were originally created
B Y K E L LY M c G O N I G A L
for the benet of beginning
14 Teachers Pet Be a happy Down-
yoga students looking to
ward Dog. B Y N ATA S H A R I Z O P O U L O S
build a good basic practice.
Taken together, they form 20 Flow Motion Up Dog and
Chaturanga are at the core of every
a Yoga Journal reference
vinyasa class. B Y J A S O N C R A N D E L L
backbends & abdominals

guide of sorts.
Beginners will nd this 24 Seat of Power Find out why Chair
material accessible and Pose is so erce. B Y A N N I E C A R P E N T E R

helpful, but intermediate standing & balancing


and advanced practitioners
28 Ways of the Warrior Do you
can (and should) use it to
know the right way to do Warrior I?
revisit the fundamentals. Think again. B Y H I L L A R I D O W D L E
Plus, you just may nd
34 Plumb Perfect A leading yoga
some surprising and inspir-
anatomist explains why balance poses
inversions, twists &

ing insights hidden in these


are so hardand how you can intro-
forward bends

storiesjust as we do. duce ease. B Y R O G E R C O L E


THE EDITORS
40 The Right Angle Learn to get
grounded in Triangle. B Y M A R L A A P T

46 Stand Strong Get in touch


with your inner strength in Warrior II.
BY RICHARD ROSEN
relaxation & meditation

28
self-care 101

COVER CREDITS
Amy Ippoliti in Revolved Crescent Lunge;
ANNE HAMERSKY

photographed by Jeff Nelson. Stylist: Jessica Jeanne Eaton;


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contents yoga essentials


warming

To read about many more essential poses, visit yogajournal.com and click the Poses button.

backbends & 74 Do the Twist Unwind your spine

abdominals as you stimulate your major organs


with a practice of simple reclining 64
standing & balancing

50 The Compassionate Backbend twists. B Y C L A U D I A C U M M I N S


Dont struggle with backbends
approach them with an open heart 78 Peace Process Turn yogas most
and mind, and let them be an exercise common forward fold into a chance
in self-care. B Y K A T E T R E M B L AY to gaze inward. B Y M A R L A A P T

56 Fab Abs Leg lifts may seem a bit


more like calisthenics than yogabut
relaxation &
they build the strength you need to do meditation
backbends & abdominals

advanced poses. B Y R I C H A R D R O S E N 82 Heavenly Rest Cant stop


squirming in Savasana? Heres how
60 Chart Your Depths Dare to take
you can be stilland good reasons
a journey to your innermost core in
why you should. B Y J O H N H A N C
Full Boat Pose. B Y M A R L A A P T
86 Peace of Mind Meditation
inversions, twists & doesnt have to be difcult. Find the
right practice for you among these
forward bends easy options. B Y J A N I C E G A T E S
64 Strike a Royal Pose How to
safely approach Headstand and 90 Serenity Now! Need to cool off
quickly? Try doing Legs-up-the-Wall
inversions, twists &

Shoulderstand. B Y A A D I L P A L K H I V A L A
forward bends

Pose. B Y C Y N D I L E E
70 Get Hip Pigeon Pose is a fabulous
hip opener. B Y N A T A S H A R I Z O P O U L O S
self-care 101
94 True Beauty Take care of your
appearance out of respect for the

94 divinity within. B Y N I I K A Q U I S T G A R D

100 Pampering with Purpose


relaxation & meditation

If you nd yourself in need of pamper-


ing, choose spa services with your
dosha in mind. B Y H I L L A R I D O W D L E

105 Your Best Diet Every body is


different and unique. Heres how to
better understand yours and learn to
feed it well. B Y N I I K A Q U I S T G A R D
LEFT TO RIGHT: DAVID MARTINEZ; JOHN ROBBINS

also in this issue The exercise instructions and advice presented in


2 Editors Letter this magazine are designed for people who are in
good health and physically t. They are not intended
self-care 101

108 Altogether Now Heres how to substitute for medical counseling. The creators,
producers, participants, and distributors of Yoga
to turn all the poses in this issue into
Journal disclaim any liability for loss or injury in con-
a well-rounded home practice. nection with the exercises shown or the instruction
BY HILLARI DOWDLE and advice expressed herein.

6 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
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Start your day with reverence for the sun,
warming
S H I N E

standing & balancing


ON ME

and harness its life-giving energy with Surya Namaskar.

BY KELLY M C GONIGAL
O PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID MARTINEZ

Each Sunday morning, Christopher Key Chapple opens his 8:30 yoga

inversions, twists &


class with eight rounds of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation). Students

forward bends
at the Hill Street Center in Santa Monica, California, reach toward the sky
MODEL: SARAH TOMSON BEYER; STYLIST: LYN HEINEKEN; HAIR/MAKEUP: VERONICA SJOEN/ARTIST UNTIED

and then fold to the ground as if in prostration to the sun, expressing the
same reverence for life-giving solar energy as did the ancient yogis.
Repeating the sequence in each of the four cardinal directions, the
students perform a silent yet powerful ritual of gratitude. Chapple, a profes-
sor of Indic and comparative theology at Loyola Marymount University, says
the sequence not only wakes up the body but also calls us to stretch our

relaxation &
meditation
minds and spirits to the corners of the universe, allowing us to feel the vast
expanse of the cosmos within the movement of our bodies.
To Chapple, Surya Namaskar is nothing less than the embodiment
of the Gayatri mantra, a sacred prayer to the sun. As we sweep our arms
up and bow forward, we honor the earth, the heavens, and all of life in
between, he says. As we lower our bodies, we connect with the earth.
self care 101

As we rise up from the earth, we stretch through the atmosphere once more,
reaching for the sky. As we bring our hands together in Namaste, we gather
the space of the heavens back into our heart and breath, acknowledging that
our body forms the center point between heaven and earth.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 9
L I G H T
U P YOUR LIFE

TADASANA URDHVA UTTANASANA ARDHA UTTANASANA


(Mountain Pose) HASTASANA (Standing (Half Standing
Start by establishing equal (Upward Salute) Forward Bend) Forward Bend)
weight on both feet and a Inhale, turn your palms Exhale and fold Inhale and lift your chin,
tall, bright posture through out, and sweep your forward at the hips. your chest, and your
the spine and crown of arms up and overhead. Let the descent be gaze. Stay rooted through
the head. Bring your palms The spine can take a an offering of grati- strong legs, reaching
together in front of the gentle backbend, lift- tude. Keep the spine down through your heels.
heart center. Pause and ing the heart and ex- straight as long as Press your hands into
imagine a sun at your panding the chest. Let you can, then let it your shins to help lift your
heart, shining brighter this movement be a softly round into a full heart and straighten your
with each inhalation. gesture of opening to forward bend. You spine. Savor this smaller
Sense gratitude for the life. Gaze up, keeping can bend your knees movement, letting your
life-giving energy of the the forehead relaxed to ease strain on your breath ll you up.
sun, for the prana (life and the face soft. back or hips. At the
force) that ows through end of the exhalation,
you and all other beings. draw your chin in and
gaze at your legs.

While its not always taught with such lofty intentions, the Surya Namaskar also embodies the spirit of yoga in the West:
Sun Salutation is nonetheless deeply potent wherever and when- It is intensely physical but can be infused with devotion. And
ever it is practiced. It revitalizes every aspect of your being, like so much about yoga today, it reects both ancient ideas and
from physical to spiritual, says Shiva Rea, creator of Prana Flow modern innovation. Understanding its history and meaning will
Yoga and founder of the Global Mala Project. allow you to bring the healing energy of the sun and a connection
Rea prefers the Sanskrit name for the sequence, arguing that to the Divine into your own practice.
the translation to the English Sun Salutation doesnt capture
the intention and experience of the word namaskar. Namaskar Sun kissed The original Surya Namaskar wasnt a sequence
means to bow, to recognize with your whole being, she explains. of postures, but rather a sequence of sacred words. The Vedic
The meaning is inherent in the movement. Eventually, you are tradition, which predates classical yoga by several thousands of
going to have an ecstatic experience of the life force entering years, honored the sun as a symbol of the Divine. According to
your body. Ganesh Mohan, a Vedic and yoga scholar and teacher in Chennai,

1 0 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
warming
As a moving meditation, Surya Namaskar develops focus and peace of mind. Let your breath
guide each movement, and extend the movement over the entire length of each inhalation or
exhalation. Your gaze should follow the direction of movement, linking your mental energy
with your physical action. In the spirit of the Sun Salutation, bring to mind and heart a sense of
gratitude for life, and let the movement remind you of your connection to something bigger.

standing & balancing


CHATURANGA DANDASANA (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) URDHVA MUKHA SVANASANA (Upward-Facing Dog Pose)
Exhale and step or jump back to Plank Pose. On the same ex- or BHUJANGASANA (Cobra Pose)
halation, shift your weight slightly forward, bend at the elbows, Inhale and press back through your toes to come to the tops of your
and lower your body halfway to the ground until your upper feet. Simultaneously, press down through your hands and draw
arms are parallel to the oor and close to your side ribs. Be your shoulders back to broaden your chest, letting the inhalation

inversions, twists &


careful not to sink your hips or collapse your core. Let this expand your heart. Activate your feet and legs to oat your knee-

forward bends
action be an offering of the heart, a surrendering of the ego, caps, thighs, and hips. Lift your gaze past the tip of your nose. For
a full-body prostration to the earth. To modify, lower your a modication, practice Bhujangasana, keeping your elbows bent
knees or whole body to the ground. and your legs and pelvis rooted to the earth.
MODEL: CORTNEY CANTRELL; STYLIST: LYN HEINEKEN; HAIR/MAKEUP: TAMARA BROWN/ARTIST UNTIED

India, Vedic mantras to honor the sun were traditionally chanted on the breath and on devotion that set his teaching of yoga asana
at sunrise. The full practice includes 132 passages, which the apart from a purely athletic endeavor. According to Mohan, co-
practitioner performs in full prostration, lying in the direction author (with his father, A. G. Mohan) of the 2010 book Krish-
of the sun in an expression of devotion. namacharya: His Life and Teachings, it was the attitude with

relaxation &
meditation
However, the origins of Surya Namaskar in modern hatha which one practiced Surya Namaskar that Krishnamacharya
yoga are more mysterious. There is no reference to asanas as cared about. Whether he was teaching the Vedic mantras or the
Sun Salutation in traditional yoga texts, Mohan says. sequence of postures, the intention he conveyed to his students
So where did this popular sequence come from? The oldest- was the same. One is offering salutation to the Divine, repre-
known yoga text to describe the Sun Salutation sequence, the sented by the sun, as a source of light removing the darkness of
Yoga Makaranda, was written in 1934 by T. Krishnamacharya, a clouded mind and as a source of vitality removing the diseases
who is considered by many to be the father of modern hatha of the body, says Mohan.
yoga. It is unclear whether Krishnamacharya learned the Krishnamacharya taught the sequence to his students, includ-
sequence from other sources, or whether he invented it. In The ing K. Pattabhi Jois (founder of the Ashtanga Yoga system),
self care 101

Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace, yoga scholar N. E. Sjoman B. K. S. Iyengar (founder of the Iyengar Yoga system), and Indra
identies an earlier text called the Vyayama Dipika (or Light Devi (recognized as the first Western woman to teach yoga
on Exercise) that illustrates athletic exercises for Indian wres- around the world). These students went on to become interna-
tlers, including some that are strikingly similar to Krishnam- tionally prominent teachers and to inspire much of the practice
acharyas version of Surya Namaskar. in the West. As a result, Sun Salutations became an integral part
So, it appears that Krishnamacharya was inuenced by both of our modern practice.
athletics and spiritual practice, and it was the emphasis he placed

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 1 1
ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA FEET TO HANDS (Transition)
(Downward-Facing Dog Pose) At the end of the fth exhalation, jump or step
Exhale, tuck your toes under, and use the strength of your your feet forward to your hands.
belly to pull your hips up and back. Establish a straight line
from your wrists through your shoulders, spine, and hips. If
this is difcult, you can bend your knees, take your feet wider
apart, or lift your heels away from the ground. Relax the back
of your neck. Stay for 5 breaths, feeling the ow of breath and
holding the pose with strength but not strain. If you need to Greet the sun Although Sun Salutations can be practiced
rest, drop to your knees and bow into Balasana (Childs Pose). at any time of the day, the early-morning hours are considered
especially auspicious. The hour just before sunrise is called
Brahma muhurta (time of God). The mind is supposed to be
most calm and clear at this time. Ayurveda recommends that
one awake at this time every day, says Mohan.
Rise up To enjoy the full experience of Surya Namaskar, Shiva For most of us, early morning is one time of the day we can be
Rea recommends four things. First, let the breath lead the move- alone, without demands and distractions. Rising a bit early can
ment. Each inhalation and exhalation should draw you into and allow you to experience inner stillness and offer your energy to a
through the next pose, and not be forced to t a predetermined greater intention for your day. An extra one to two hours of sleep
pace. When you go into that state of following the breath, you cannot equal the energy of the sunrise, Rea says. Celebrating
are following the source, she says. That is the heart of yoga. being alive is the essence of a spiritual experience.
Also, take the time to fully contemplate the meaning of Surya If getting up to practice yoga before sunrise seems intimidat-
Namaskar and to sense your authentic gratitude to the sun. ing or impossible, you can capture the feeling of Surya Namaskar
Contemplating the vitality of the sun allows you to go to a by doing a simple morning ritual whenever you wake up. Bring
deeper level of participation with the sequence, Rea says. the attitude of the Sun Salutation to your heart and mind, face
Rea also recommends adding mantra to the movements. the direction of the rising sun, and offer a formal bow of grati-
With mantra, you really start to feel the spiritual activation of tude. Even in long winters, you can face the sun, says Rea.
Namaskar, she explains. You can use any sacred sound, includ- Visualize that you have the sun inside your heart. Part of Surya
ing Om, on the exhalations, or open and close your practice with Namaskar is really being able to see the sun inside yourself.
a recitation of the Gayatri mantra (facing page).
Finally, Rea suggests practicing outdoors, in the presence of Kelly McGonigal, PhD, is the author of Yoga for Pain Relief and
the sun, at least occasionally: Its really important to experience teaches yoga and psychology at Stanford University. Visit her at
it with the rising sun, feeling the rays of the sun on your body. kellymcgonigal.com.

1 2 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
warming
standing & balancing
ARDHA UTTANASANA UTTANASANA URDHVA TADASANA
(Half Standing Forward Bend) (Standing Forward Bend) HASTASANA (Mountain Pose)
Inhale and lift your chin, chest, Exhale and fold forward com- (Upward Salute) Exhale and return to Moun-
and gaze, straightening the spine. pletely, softening the back. Inhale, rise fully and tain Pose. Pause and feel
radiantly with a straight the heart-opening effects

inversions, twists &


spine, and look up. of this sequence.

forward bends
SACRED
S U N
offering. The second purpose is to
Inspire your practice with the Gayatri mantra, a prayer to the divine light. seek wisdom and enlightenment. The
mantra is a request to the sun: May
Om bhur bhuvah svah The eternal, earth, air, heaven we meditate upon your form and be
tat savitur varenyam That glory, that resplendence of the sun illumined by who you are? (Consider
that the sun offers its gift of illumina-
bhargo devasya dhimahi May we contemplate the brilliance of that light
tion and energy to all beings, without

relaxation &
meditation
dhiyo yo nah prachodayat. May the sun inspire our minds. judgment and without attachment to
Tra n s l a t i o n by D o u g l a s B ro o ks the outcome of the gift.)
Finally, the mantra is an expression
The Gayatri mantra rst appeared in The mantra is a hymn to Savitur, of gratitude, to both the life-giving
the Rig Veda, an early Vedic text writ- the sun god. According to Brooks, the sun and the Divine.
ten between 1800 and 1500 BCE. It sun in the mantra represents both Brooks encourages taking a heart-
is mentioned in the Upanishads as the physical sun and the Divine in all centered approach to the mantra.
an important ritual, and in the Bhaga- things. The Vedic mind doesnt sepa- The sensibility it evokes is more im-
vad Gita as the poem of the Divine. rate the physical presence of the sun portant than the literal meaning. Its
According to Douglas Brooks, PhD, a from its spiritual or symbolic mean- an offering, a way to open to grace, to
self care 101

professor of religion at the University ing, he says. inspire oneself to connect to the
of Rochester and a teacher in the Ra- Chanting the mantra serves three ancient vision of India, he says. Its
janaka yoga tradition, the Gayatri is purposes, Brooks explains. The rst effect is to inspire modern yogis to
the most sacred phrase uttered in the is to give back to the sun. My teacher participate in the most ancient aspira-
Vedas. It doesnt get more ancient, used to say the sun gives but never tion of illumination that connects
more sacred, than this. Its an ecstatic receives, Brooks says. The mantra is modern yoga to the Vedic tradition.
poetic moment, he says. a gift back to the sun, an offering of
gratitude to refuel the suns gracious

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 1 3
warming by N atas h a R izo p o u los
warming

Teachers Pet
ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA (Downward-Facing Dog
Pose) was the rst asana I fell in love with. It remains my
desert-island pose because it offers many benets. When
youre tired, staying in this pose for a spell will
restore your energy. It can also help strengthen Master this
and shape your legs, ease shoulder stiffness, and fundamental pose
slow your heartbeat. I nd it the perfect micro- to feel all that
cosm of yoga practice: It requires both strength yoga has to offer.
and flexibility; it teaches you to appreciate
alignment and thus prepares you for doing inversions,
backbends, and forward bends; and it offers philosophical
lessons, such as the cultivation of stability and spacious-
ness, that will carry over into the rest of your life.

TRAINING GROUND
Most of us come to the yoga mat with a predisposition
toward either bendiness or stiffness. Whichever end of
the spectrum you swing toward, you can begin to balance
your body by practicing Down Dog. If youre stiff, the pose
will feel challenging because of tightness in the shoulders
and hamstrings. If youre exible, youre likely to collapse

STRAIGHTEN
THE ELBOWS

PRESS HANDS TO MAT Y O G A T O D AY


warming
LIFT THE SITTING BONES

DONT overarch your lower back.

PRESS
QUADRICEPS
TOWARD
HAMSTRINGS

DO align your ears with


your upper arms.

REACH
THROUGH
YOUR HEELS

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 1 5
)
wa r min g

1 pose benets
warming

Opens and strengthens


the shoulders and upper body

Stretches the hamstrings


and calves

Tones the legs

contraindications
High or low blood pressure

Acid reux

Hiatal hernia

History of stroke

Serious shoulder injury

2
(
in your lower back and shoulders. Unfor-
tunately, bendy types might not feel the
effects of the collapse until years later,
when they begin to sustain injuries in
their lumbar disks or rotator cuff muscles.
But whether you are stiff or bendy, a won-

PHOTOS: RORY EARNSHAW; MODEL: KISHAN SHAH; STYLIST: LYN HEINEKEN; GROOMING: VERONICA SJOEN/ARTIST UNTIED
derful modication that I call Puppy Dog
can teach you the actions and alignment
that allow you to experience a Down Dog
that feels spacious and open but is also
stable and strong.

PUPPY DOG
To begin, stand facing a wall. Place both
of your hands on the wall at about the
height of your frontal hipbones. Your
hands should be shoulder-distance apart,
with the creases of your wrists forming
a horizontal line and your index ngers interfere with your ability to find this to the position of your head in relation to
pointing straight up. Keeping this align- extension. Because the hands and arms your upper arms: If you are more exible,
ment in your hands, step back so that your in Puppy Dog are not bearing weight (as you will have a tendency to sink through
arms and torso are parallel to the floor, they are in Down Dog), the effect of tight the armpits, poke the front ribs toward
feet are hip-distance apart and parallel, shoulders is mitigated, allowing you to the floor, and overarch the spine. But
and hips are stacked over your feet. extend out of your shoulders and move remember that, over time, this can injure
Firmly connect to the wall with the most of your weight back into your legs. the shoulders and lower back.
whole of each hand and use the energy As you breathe here and continue If your ears are lower than your upper
from this contact to help you elongate to lengthen your spine, notice if youve arms, lift your head slightly, soften your
your spine as you press your hips away created congestion around your neck, front ribs, and rotate your shoulders
from the wall ( figure 1). Creating this which can happen if youre narrowing away from your ears as you rm your tri-
length is one of the central goals in Down across your upper back or sinking your ceps (outer arms). This external rotation
Dog, but tightness in the shoulders can front ribs toward the oor. Pay attention should help bring your ears back in line

1 6 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
wa r min g
with your biceps. As you align your shoul- different In the Yoga Sutra, the sage Patanjali writes, Sthira
ders, you are establishing the quality of dogs sukham asanam, or, The posture should be steady
sthira (strength or steadiness). You can
and easy. Our asanas should be equally alert and relaxed.
warming

then use this sthira to create sukha (ease Downward-Facing Dog Pose balances opposites and can be
or spaciousness). A posture needs both practiced in myriad ways. Various yoga traditions approach
attributes to have integrity and balance. the posture differently. Heres a look at a few different Dogs.
Maintaining these stabilizing actions,
press your hips away from the wall to cre- ANUSARA This approach empha-
ate length through your spine, and then sizes the connection between the
spread your shoulder blades away from physical practice and the spiritual BIKRAM The 26-pose Bikram
heart. Specic instructions often sequence does not include
your spine to create breadth across your
focus on lifting the undersides of Downward-Facing Dog.
upper back. Emphasize the spaciousness the arms to allow a deeper connec-
in your torso by engaging your quadriceps tion of the shoulder blades with the IYENGAR Down Dog is consid-
and pressing the tops of your thighs back, back of the heart, then softening ered a neutralizing pose that is
creating even more space in your lower the heart and extending energy held for a long period of time
back and waist area. back out through the entire body. (up to ve minutes or more!) to
establish alignment principles,
ASHTANGA This tradition uses generate heat, and build strength.
BLOCK PARTY
a short stance and spends ve This pose is a great preparation
To set up for the next variation, place a breaths in the pose, which makes for the inversions that are a big
pair of blocks at and lengthwise toward sense for the heat-building ow part of this tradition.
the front of your mat, and arrange them that is central to this method. The
so that they are shoulder-distance apart gazing point is the navel. Students KUNDALINI In certain Kundalini
engage the bandhas and jump sequence sets, or kriyas, the pose
and parallel. Come to all fours, with your
or oat from Downward-Facing is practiced, but it is called Tri-
hands on the blocks and your hips stacked Dog to Dandasana (Staff Pose) in angle Pose. (On the other hand,
above your knees. Adjust the blocks so the Ashtanga primary series. the pose you might know as Tri-
that your hands are an inch or so in front konasana is not practiced in the
of your shoulders, with the fleshy part Kundalini tradition.)
of your palms just over the closest edge
for traction (as opposed to having your
hands on the center of the blocks). This happen only if the legs become an integral Next, incorporate the actions that you
is the most stable position for your hands part of the posture. If your hamstrings learned in the earlier variations. Exter-
and is a way to make sure that the creases are tight, straightening your legs will be nally rotate your shoulders; firm your
of your wrists form a straight line rather challenging, but notice how the blocks outer upper-arm muscles in toward the
than tilting in diagonallya common help you to move in this direction. If your bone. On an inhalation, draw yourself
misalignment that hampers shoulder lower back rounds, bend your knees a up onto your hands and knees, feet hip-
opening. Once youve organized your little bit. As you energize your legs, imag- distance apart. On an exhalation, press
hands, set your feet hip-distance apart, ine someone standing behind you with your hips back and up. Glance at your feet
lift your hips, and straighten your legs their hands at the tops of your thighs and to make sure they are parallel; let your
(figure 2, page 16). pulling back so that your pelvis is drawn head hang, observing the relationship of
Remember the actions and alignment farther from your waist. your head to your upper arms.
from Puppy Dog. Extend your front and Try to balance your effort so that all of
back body equally and emphasize the ex- FULL DOG your limbs can work together to obtain
ternal rotation in the shoulders so that To come into the classical pose, begin in length along the spine. Just as you may
you dont collapse your armpits or create Balasana (Childs Pose), with your arms nd both alertness and relaxation in the
tension in your upper back. With your extended in front of you. Have your hands alignment of this pose, so may you also
hands elevated on the blocks, you will be shoulder-distance apart, with the creases bring the spirit of sthira and sukha to the
able to extend out of your shoulders more of the wrists parallel to the front edge of rest of your life. Too often in our daily lives
actively, transferring some of the weight the mat. You can turn your hands out these two qualities exist in opposition.
of the pose from your arms to your legs. slightly to help you extend out of your On the yoga mat, however, we can learn
As you do this, engage your quadriceps shoulders. As you press with your hands, to inhabit them simultaneously.
and press them back, reaching your heels try to lift your forearms away from the
toward the oor. In Light on Yoga, B. K. S. ground; this important intention will help Natasha Rizopoulos lives and teaches yoga
Iyengar writes that Adho Mukha Svana- stabilize your shoulders once you move in Boston.
sana promotes shapely legs, but that will into the full pose.

1 8 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
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warming by J aso n C ran d ell

EYES, FOREHEAD,
AND JAW ARE SOFT
AND RECEPTIVE

TOP OF THE CHEST


LIFTS AND EXPANDS SHOULDERS ARE DIRECTLY
OVER THE WRISTS

SPINE IS ARCING EVENLY

LOWER BACK IS LONG

SACRUM LENGTHENS
TOWARD THE HEELS

LOWER BELLY LIFTS


GENTLY INTO THE BODY

WEIGHT IS DISPERSED
EVENLY BETWEEN FINGERS,
PALMS, AND WRISTS

2 0 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
Flow

warming
Motion
Chaturanga and
IF YOUVE EVER TAKEN a ow class, youve
Upward-Facing
heard the teacher call out Chaturanga,
Dog are key parts
Upward-Facing Dog, Downward-Facing
of any vinyasa f low
Dogover and over again. Known as a vin-
practice. Heres
yasa, this sequence is often inserted between
how to do these
poses, making them the most repeated
poses correctly.
poses in a flow-based class. When done
correctly, they build suppleness, strength, and endurance. They
also require the spine to extend, as you arch into Upward Dog, DO keep the shoulders
directly over the wrists.
and then lengthen, as you move into Downward Dogultimately
bringing it into a neutral position. These poses cleanse the palate
of the body so its ready for the next pose.
Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) and Urdhva
Mukha Svanasana (Upward Dog) are demanding for any practitio-
ner, and repeatedly slogging through them can feel like an uphill
battle. Ever feel your neck tense and your shoulders hunch as
you take a nose-dive into Chaturanga, ultimately collapsing into
a heap on the oor? Or press into Upward Dog and feel a sudden
twinge in your lower back, causing you to rush back to Down
Dog to nd some ease? Racing through these poses can lead to
injurytypically in the shoulder joints and lower back. But you
can avoid these common problems if you learn proper alignment
and build strength to sustain it through the entire ow.
Learning these poses in detail can be challenging, particularly
in a ow class where the rhythm often takes precedence over the
DONT hunch your shoulders
subtle nuances of postures. So, as you watch fellow students move or strain your neck to look up.

LEGS ROTATE IN AND STRONGLY EXTEND

TOPS OF THE FEET


PRESS INTO THE
FLOOR

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 2 1
wa r min g

Modied Chaturanga Dandasana

Full Chaturanga Dandasana

through Chaturanga and into Upward ing your breath, you too will lower with your jaw, soften your brow, and smooth
Dog, you might feel some pressure to control into Chaturanga and oat effort- out the texture of your breath.

PHOTOS: THOMAS BROENING; MODEL: SCOTT BLOSSOM; STYLIST: LEKA DOBBS; HAIR/MAKEUP: NATALIE KUENEMAN
fake the poses and keep up with the lessly into Upward Dog. With your knees on the floor, move
class, rather than stand out as the soli- your chest forward and down as you slowly
tary neophyte. But I urge you to resist CHART YOUR CHATURANGA bend your elbows and squeeze your upper
this temptation. Come onto all fours with your palms arms into the sides of your body. Moving
Instead, I beg you (as I do my own stu- directly underneath your shoulders, and your chest forwardas opposed to only
dents) to learn them slowly and to modify your knees several inches behind your downwill keep your elbows aligned
them. Rather than fake their motions and hips. Rest your shins and the tops of your over your wrists and maintain the sup-
bypass their difficult aspects, develop feet on your mat. Spread your ngers wide portive architecture of your shoulders and
these postures with finesse and mind- and press the base of each one into the arms. As you descend, keep your hips in
fulness. Its true that if you allow your- floor in order to evenly distribute the line with your shoulders and chest.
self to be newand a little lostrather weight of your upper body. Continue to move your chest for-
than blufng the motions, your learning Next, bring your awareness to your ward and down until your upper arms
curve will be steeper. But youll build belly and pelvis. Tuck your tailbone slight- are parallel to the floorbut not any
strength as you learn this modified ly and gently rm your lower belly (just lower (your elbows should form about a
version of Chaturanga and spend time below your navel). These two actions are 90-degree angle). Remain here for two
hovering just above the floor, allowing vital in both Chaturanga and Upward Dog full breaths, staying with the intensity of
your arms to quiver. And as you extend because they elongate and support your Chaturanga instead of rushing through
your stay in Upward Dog, youll create lower back. it. Breathe evenly and soften your facial
the opening in your chest and upper Now, slide your shoulders away from muscles while you navigate the difculty
back necessary to master more complex your ears and squeeze the bottom tips of of this moment. If its too hard, back off
backbends. Give yourself time to pause, your shoulder blades together. Feel how and maintain your bodys integrity rather
rewind, and replay the poses, and one this awakens your upper back as it broad- than overworking the pose, which leads
day, without gritting your teeth or hold- ens your chest. Gaze forward as you relax to collapse or strain. If youre unable to

2 2 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
)
keep your upper arms parallel to the oor, by looking at your matif you see an even
back out of the pose by lifting higher up handprint, you know youve got it.)

warming
instead of crashing to the oor. Stay in the pose as you lift, broaden,
After a couple of breaths in modied and draw your chest forward. Lift your
Chaturanga, lower all the way to the oor. pose benets collarbones as if they were going to loop
Then press back into Balasana (Childs over the top of your shoulders, and slide
MODIFIED CHATURANGA
Pose) for a moment of rest. your shoulder blades down your back. As
Strengthens and stabilizes the shoulders,
chest, arms, and abdomen
you did in Chaturanga, draw the lower
ONWARD TO UPWARD DOG tips of your shoulder blades toward each
Produces heat in the body

standing & balancing


When practicing backbends, its not other and firm them into the back of
Prepares you for full Chaturanga Dandasana
the depth of your backbend that mat- your chest. Bring your shoulders down
ters; its more important to distribute the and back and observe how this helps lift
curve evenly along the full length of the UPWARD-FACING DOG POSE your chest. Lastly, with your head placed
spine. This is difficult to do in Upward Strengthens and stabilizes the shoulders, directly over your shoulders, lift your gaze
Dog because youre supporting the weight chest, arms, and abdomen forward and slightly up. Avoid dropping
of your entire torso with your arms and Cultivates suppleness in the spine the back of your skull to your shoulders.
legs. But dont be discouragedeven if Stretches the pectoralis muscles and the Instead, maintain an easy, natural curva-
its not your deepest backbend, Upward deep muscles of the abdomen ture of your neck.
Dog strengthens your shoulders, arms, After three to six breaths in Upward-
and abdomen.
Before tackling Upward Dog, consider
contraindications Facing Dog, bring your knees to the oor
and transition into Childs Pose.
this anatomical information:Your pelvic FOR BOTH POSES
bone is one of the heaviest bones in your Wrist injuries ALL TOGETHER NOW
bodyand its more or less your center of Carpal tunnel syndrome Now that youve practiced Chaturanga
gravity. This means that without proper Shoulder injuries
and Upward-Facing Dog separately, you
support, it tends to sink toward the oor. can link them together and incorporate
Lower-back pain
While its common to work hard in your your breath into a owing sequence.
Spinal disk injuries
upper body in order to stay lifted, the key Begin on all fours with your wrists

inversions, twists &


(
to supporting your weight in Upward Dog directly under your shoulders, and your

forward bends
is to use your belly and legs to hold the pel- knees about a foot behind your hips. Draw
vis stable. This makes the posture easier a full, smooth inhalation into your body.
and more sustainable. As you exhale, move into Chaturanga by
From Childs Pose, come back onto bending your elbows and lowering your
your hands and knees. Move through and draw your lower belly up into your chest until your upper arms are parallel
modified Chaturanga, hovering about body. After these renements, straighten to the oor.
two inches above the floor. Then transi- your legs vigorously, lifting your shins and On the next inhalation, move into Up-
tion into Upward Dog by straightening knees off the floor. Dont squeeze your ward Dog by straightening your elbows
your arms and stacking your shoulders buttocks as you do this. It may be dif- until your shoulders are directly over

relaxation &
meditation
directly over your wrists. Your shoul- cult to keep the buttocks soft and the legs your wrists. Continue inhaling, filling
ders may end up in front of your wrists, rm, but its worth making the effort to your lungs to the brim, and lift the tops
which can lead to strain. So look down do so since squeezing the buttocks will of your thighs and knees away from the
at your hands to gauge where your jam the lower back. oor. Exhale and shift back onto all fours,
shoulders are and adjust accordingly by At this point, the only things touching oras you do in Sun Salutationscome
moving yourself forward or back. the oor are the tops of your feet and the into Downward-Facing Dog.
Now that your arms and shoulders are palms of your hands. To complete Upward Practice these poses consistently, and
properly aligned, you can focus on your Dog, make a few last adjustments in your theyll feel less clunky and more silken.
legs. To counteract lower-back compres- upper body: First, observe how your When the postures start to feel natural
self care 101

sion in Upward Dog, keep the sacrum weight is distributed on your hands and and graceful, you can begin to lift and
broad and long. To keep it broad, rotate wrists. Is it concentrated on your wrists? straighten your legs in Chaturanga. Most
your legs internally by spinning the out- Localized on one side of your palm? Or important, enjoy the feeling of flow in
sides of your thighs toward the oor and is it dispersed evenly? Make subtle shifts your body at every stage.
pressing the pinkie toes into the mat. To in your hands and arms until the weight
keep it long, draw your tailbone toward is evenly distributed and no part of your Jason Crandell teaches yoga in San Francisco
your heelsas you did in Chaturanga wrist is being stressed. (You can check this and is a contributing editor to Yoga Journal.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 23
warming by Annie Carpenter

Seat of Power This is no easy chair; Utkatasana


demands full-body engagement.

SOME YOGA POSES may come to you quickly and easily, with
little struggle in flexibility or strength. Other poses can feel
nearly impossible, even after years of practice. Utkatasana (Chair
Pose) falls into a category of its own: It looks deceptively easy
and straightforward, yet when you try it, youll nd it demands
a great deal of exibility in the shoulders as well as
stability in the core and strength in the legs.
That is the challenge of Chair Pose. Its simple
feeling erce?
Utkata means powerful or
form offers little promise of glory. For all the effort erce, and while this pose
it requires, you wont end up with your leg wrapped calls for ery power in the
behind your head or in some other fancy posi- body, its best practiced with
tion. When I teach Chair, at rst it produces more a cool mind. Notice if you
frowns and even moans than almost any other crunch your brow or clench
your jaw; if so, relax them. If
pose. Yet when I ask my students to persevere, they
your breathing starts to turn
are always glad they did. Its hard while youre in it, into panting, lengthen your
but in the end this pose brings a satisfying sense of exhalations. Youll feel cooler
accomplishment. It teaches you the determination and more focused.
you need to meet a challenge and the perseverance
to return to it repeatedly over time, despite its difculty.
Chair Pose will strengthen your thighs, helping to stabilize
your knees. Your ankles will become more limber and sturdy,
and your arms and shoulders will gain power and exibility. As
you reach your arms up and stretch the muscles between your
ribs, youll increase your breathing capacity. The pose can also
help improve your posture. All of the core muscles re as you
hold the pose, lifting your pelvis into a more upright alignment

24 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
warming
LIFT YOUR
CHEST

ENGAGE LENGTHEN
YOUR CORE LOWER BACK

KEEP WEIGHT
IN HEELS

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 25
wa r min g
ST E P 1
and working against the tendency to exag-
gerate the arch of the spine as you reach Power up your
up and back with the arms. Whew! Sound
like a lot? Thats the point of Chair Pose:
lower body
You learn to handle many actions all at the Work your legs
same time for what feels like way too long. in a deep squat
SET IT UP while keeping
Its helpful to practice Chair in two
Stand with your back
parts. First, practice the pose with the against a wall and your
your spine long.
lower half of your body. Before adding the hands on your hips.
arms, work on bending your knees toward Step your feet about
a right angle while shifting your weight 2 feet from the wall and
back into your heels. Then, stand tall in bend your knees into a right
angle, as though you were
Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and work on
sitting in a chair.
extending your straight arms up and over- Adjust your feet so that
head without letting your rib cage jut for- your shins are perpendicular
ward or your back overarch. Finally, you to them, with your knees
can bring all the elements together into stacked above your ankles.
a cohesive and powerful whole. Unite the REFINE As you exhale,
work of the legs and arms by bringing your press your heels strongly
awareness to your torso as you lift your into the oor until you
core muscles and lengthen your spine. feel your calves and ham-
strings engage. Maintain
If you commit to a steady practice, you
the strength in your legs
will gain stamina in this pose after a few and observe the back of
months. When you take a break from your your body making contact
practice, it might feel as if all of your prog- with the wall. The backs of
ress is gone once you return to the mat. If your pelvis, your ribs, your
this is your situationif your muscles are shoulders, and your head
will touch the wall, while the
burning in Chair and its a sweaty struggle
lower back and neck will
of willdont be discouraged. The pose

PHOTOS: KATRINE NALEID; MODEL: CHAD HERST; STYLIST: LYN HEINEKEN; GROOMING: TAMARA BROWN/ARTIST UNTIED
tend to curve away from it.
is teaching you its most important lesson
and a key concept in yoga: Steady prac- If you feel your hips tipping
forward away from the wall,
tice over time is better than occasional,
exaggerating the curve tuck your tailbone, which
intense spurts. Its worth maintaining a in your lower back, use your will atten your lower back.
regular daily practice rather than feeling hands to redirect the hip
FINISH Your thighs are
like you have to start all over again each points into an upright align-
probably burning by now,
time you do a pose. Consistency in yoga ment. Activate your lower
but try to stay strong and
yields deep and lasting results. belly to sustain this position.
maintain good posture for
The action feels like drawing
several deep breaths. On
up a zipper from the pubic
Annie Carpenter leads classes and trainings an inhalation, straighten
bone toward your navel. Use
and mentors teachers at Exhale Center for your legs and rest.
just the right amount of
Sacred Movement in Venice, California. effort. Dont go so far as to

Adjust yourself Try these modications to optimize the pose for your body.

Feet Practicing Arms This pose Knees Shift Chest Lift your Neck Keep your
with your feet demands stam- your weight back chest up and head and neck
together will help ina. If you feel toward your away from your in line with the
awaken your inner winded, try prac- heels to keep thighs. It helps to rest of your
thigh muscles, ticing with your your knees safe. imagine leaning spine. Instead of
but if youre feel- arms straight out Make sure your your whole torso looking up, rest
ing unsteady, try in front or down knees dont against the wall your gaze on the
stepping your feet by your sides. extend forward behind you. oor a few feet
hip-width apart. past your toes. in front of you.

26 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
ST E P 2
Elements of practice

warming
In Sanskrit, the word for dedicated practice is abhyasa. It means
making an effort to reach a goal, wholeheartedly and consistently
over time. In yoga, this implies discipline, but it is also a move-
ment toward effortlessness. Practice means staying aware of
the present moment. This awareness is quickly lost if you get
too interested in achieving a pose. Effortlessness arises when
you let go of the outcome of practice. You have to make yourself

standing & balancing


show up, which is hard, but if you stay interested in the practice
itself rather than the goal, effortlessness will come.
Open your chest
and shoulders
while stabilizing F I N A L P OS E
your spine with a
strong core.

Utkatasana
SET IT UP
Begin in Tadasana with your feet
together. Spread your weight evenly
through your feet.
Lift your arms to shoulder height
directly in front of your body. Draw the
Align your upper body shoulders back, opening your chest.
Now lift your arms overhead as high

inversions, twists &


forward bends
as you can without letting your lower
SET IT UP ribs pop out.
Stand with your back to a wall. Bend your knees, coming as close as
Step your feet together, or keep them you can to a right angle while keeping
a few inches apart if you feel unsteady. your weight in your heels.
Lift your arms to shoulder height
and spread them shoulder-width apart. REFINE Recall the feeling of your
Straighten your arms, but draw the heads back against the wall in Step 1 (see page
of your shoulders back into the wall. 26) and try to re-create that feeling
now. The more deeply you descend as
REFINE Notice that your shoulders and you bend your legs, the more youll need
upper back are touching the wall; your to lift your lower belly to maintain the

relaxation &
meditation
lower back and neck are notthese are balanced curves in your spine. Remem-
places where your spine naturally curves ber to zip your pubis up toward your
toward the front of the body. Work to main- navel and to pull in your lower ribs. Keep
tain (but not exaggerate) these natural stretching up through your straight
curves as you lift your arms. Notice that arms even as you reach down with your
when you reach your arms up, your ribs strong legs and press rmly through
and spine will want to follow the arms, jut- your heels. Let your gaze rest on a point
ting forward and producing discomfort in just in front of your mat.
the lower back. Engage your core muscles
to stabilize yourself, and gently draw your FINISH Take a couple more breaths
lower ribs toward the wall. Experiment if you can, and on an inhalation, press
self care 101

with how high you can take your arms down to rise up. Straighten your legs
overhead while keeping your ribs in con- and lower your arms, returning to
tact with the wall behind you. Tadasana. Pause and feel the effects
of this powerful pose.
FINISH
Take at least 5 full breaths here, expanding
your chest and grounding your legs. On
an exhalation, lower your arms and relax.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 27
There are many
ways to cultivate

ways
quiet strength in
Virabhadrasana I.
Here, teachers
of ve yoga
styles reveal
the nuances of
Warrior Pose I.

of the

BY HILLARI DOWDLE
Warrior and external rotation, and
strength and exibility.
In some ways, that may yoga. Take Warrior I with un-
For everyone whos ever seem ironicespecially given derstanding and intention, and
sweated and groaned their that the ideal of yoga is ahimsa, you are a warrior, ready to ght
way through Virabhadrasana I or nonharming. In other ways, the good ght.
(Warrior Pose I), it may come it makes perfect sense, says Like much of asana, the
as no surprise that the pose Richard Rosen, a contributing pose comes in many variations.
was named for an ancient war- editor to Yoga Journal and a Though the details differ from
rior, Virabhadra, created by the longtime yoga teacher in the style to style and yoga class to
god Shiva to exact vengeance Bay Area. The yogi is really a yoga class, the energy remains
for the loss of his love, Sati. warrior against his own igno- the same. Here, ve celebrated
(Turn to page 47 to read the rance, he says. Warrior I is teachers from different tradi-
whole gory love story.) about rising out of your own tions share their own instruc-
Many yogis, especially be- limitations. tions and insights to help you
ginners, feel genuinely em- When viewed this way, the deepen your understanding
battled in Warrior I by its pose is about the triumph of of the pose so that you can ac-
persistent tug-of-war between the spirit, a universal theme in cess the power of the warrior
extension and compression, within you.
twist and backbend, internal
P H OTO G R A P H Y B Y A N N E H A M E R S K Y
FROM TADASANA (Mountain
Pose), jump the legs wide apart
and extend the arms to the side
to make a T, so that the feet land
directly under the hands. Turn the

standing & balancing


upper arms out, palms up, and
raise the hands overhead. Lift the
sides of the torso toward the n-
gers while moving the shoulder
blades forward to support the lift
of the chest. If you can keep the
arms straight, join the palms
together. Turn the right foot out
90 degrees; turn the left foot and
leg strongly inward. Exhale and
turn the hips and torso to face
the right leg. Bend the right knee
to a 90-degree angle, keeping the
knee aligned directly over the
ankle. Press the back edge of
the left heel into the oor and
straighten the left leg. Internally
rotate the left leg so that the
outer thigh rolls forward as you
bring the right thigh parallel to
the oor. Let the top of the right
thighbone descend as you lift the
front of the pelvis and abdomen
up toward the chest. From the
MODEL: DAVID SIRGANY; STYLIST: LYN HEINEKEN; HAIR/MAKEUP: VERONICA AND CLAUDIA SJOEN/ARTIST UNTIED

left back ribs, turn the left side


of the torso forward. Lift through
the sides of the rib cage, the
armpits, and the sternum as you
INSTRUCTION BY MARLA APT look up toward the ceiling.

Iyengar considered by some to be the gold stan-


dard in American yoga.
front body. The abdomen lifts, but the
buttocks move down. The tailbone and
GOD IS IN THE DETAILS To practice the pose the Iyengar way shoulder blades move forward, but not
Although the story of Virabhadra may means nding the proper balance be- at the price of causing lumbar compres-
be an ancient one, the asana is mostly tween inspiration and execution. You sion. The outer edge of the back foot
a modern invention. Virabhadrasana I can watch Iyengar do the pose, and pushes into the oor. The arms are like
is not a posture thats found in the clas- though its erce, its also completely swords, very sharp, Apt says. The head
sical asana texts, Rosen notes. Its not harmonious, says Marla Apt, a senior- looks up as if making a triumphant of-
clear where it came from, but it was level teacher at the B. K. S. Iyengar Yoga fering to the gods.
probably thought up by T. Krishnam- Institute in Los Angeles. Thats what Because there is no single point of
acharya about 70 years ago. Its a 20th- we want: warrior energy without ag- physical focus in the pose, it demands
century poseyou can think of it as gression. Our mind is absorbed in the 100 percent of your attention. The two
part of the evolution of asana. actions of the pose. sides of the bodyleft and rightare
You can also credit the popularity and The actions are many, and Apts in- doing totally different things, Apt says.
form of the posture done today to Krish- struction is lled with ne details. The Its quite sophisticated and a good rep-
namacharyas student (and brother-in- twist in the upper body comes from resentation of Iyengar Yoga. We never
law) B. K. S. Iyengar, whose conception the back middle ribs, she says. The back focus on just one thing; we spread our
of the pose and its detailed alignment is body ascends and moves toward the consciousness everywhere. >>

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 29
STAND IN TADASANA (Mountain
Pose) at the back of the mat.
Step the right foot forward to
create a stance thats long but
allows you to easily shift your
weight forward and back. Feet
are hip-width apart. Inhale as you
simultaneously bend the right
knee, draw the shoulders back,
and lift the arms forward and
overhead, ngers interlocked
and palms facing upward. Keep
the upper arms in line with the
ears. Move the chest slightly
forward, displacing it in front of
the hips to bring the arch into
the upper back. Lift the sternum
away from the navel. Keeping the
weight rmly and evenly pressing
through both feet, gaze forward
with the chin level. Exhale, lower
the arms, straighten the right leg,
and return to the starting point.
On the next inhalation, bend
the leg and re-enter the pose,
retaining the breath for 2 sec-
onds. Continue to move in and
out of the pose with the breath
5 more times. Release the pose,
INSTRUCTION BY GARY KRAFTSOW and repeat it on the other side.

Viniyoga doing Virabhadrasana Iin fact, there


are as many variations on the pose as
curve in the upper back]. If you rest
the same-side arm on the front leg and
AN ASANA FOR EVERY BODY there are people practicing it, Kraftsow displace the chest forward and up, rais-
Gary Kraftsow, founder of the American notes. The pose can be done in differ- ing the other arm, it can help you access
Viniyoga Institute, considers Warrior I ent ways to achieve different functional and stretch the iliopsoas muscles. And
a greatest-hits asana. If there are 10 or potentials in the body. these are just three among the nearly
15 postures that are core for all human Variations include the width and endless physical variations.
beings, this is one of them, he says. It length of the stance, the arm and head Kraftsow explains that these modern
strengthens the legs and back, realigns positions, the depth of the bend in the adaptions of Warrior 1 are based on
the spine, stretches the psoas, opens the front knee, the relative rotation of the an ancient Indian martial-arts stance.
hips, creates stability in the hip joints, back leg, and the relationship between In a martial situation, youd be able to
and deepens respiration. It can be seen the hips and shoulders. If you have a advance or retreat without using excess
as a symbol of increasing self-condence wide stance with the front thigh parallel energy, he says. The pose should be
and courage. to the oor, it can help build strength long but allow you to step forward or
MODEL: SIENNA SMITH

In the Viniyoga tradition, asana is in the legs, he explains. If you make back easily. The center of gravity is low,
often used therapeutically and taught the stance shorter, keep the arms paral- so youre stable and grounded on your
one-on-one, so the teacher will vary lel to the oor, and pull the shoulder feet. The chest is open in a symbol of
the pose depending on the individual. blades toward each other, it helps to courage, and you gaze directly forward
There is no correct or incorrect way of atten thoracic kyphosis [an excessive across the battleeld.

3 0 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
START IN Adho Mukha Svana-
sana (Downward-Facing Dog

standing & balancing


Pose). Step the right leg forward
and plant it 4 feet directly in
front of the left foot, with the
heels aligned. The right foot
points forward; the left foot is
angled 30 degrees inward. Bend
the right knee so that the thigh
is parallel to the oor. Keep the
outer edge of the back foot
pressing into the oor. Extend
the spine upward from the coc-
cyx, lifting the arms to the sides
and overhead. Square the torso
to the front. Engage the pelvic
oor and lift the pubic bone to-
ward the navel to engage the
bandhas (energy locks). Inhale
as you sweep the arms to the
sides and overhead. Press the
palms together and look up,
directing your gaze steadily at
your thumbs (this visual focus is
called drishti). Allow the mind to
become quiet. With each breath,
come into the pose more deeply
by gradually increasing the bend
of the right leg to align the knee
INSTRUCTION BY TIM MILLER with the tips of the toes.

Ashtanga is no one right way. Which is not to say


that you want to do the pose sloppily.
around the sacrum and are able to ac-
cess the granthis, he says. The granthis
GO WITH THE FLOW Most of the ne points of the Ash- are energetic knots that block the ow
Warrior I is perhaps the dening pose in tanga pose are familiar: front leg bent of prana in the body. You can think of
Ashtanga Yogas B-series Sun Salutation, 90 degrees, back leg straight and outer them as places where you feel tangled
or Surya Namaskar B. In Ashtanga, we foot pressed down, hips square to the up. There are three: Brahma granthi,
usually run through Virabhadrasana I front, arms overhead. But theres one the physical knot headquartered in the
several times as we repeat each side in key difference: In Ashtanga Yoga, as sacrum; Vishnu granthi, the emotional
Surya Namaskar B, explains Tim Miller, taught by K. Pattabhi Jois, another stu- knot centered in the heart; and Shiva
director of San Diegos Ashtanga Yoga dent of T. Krishnamacharyas, the front granthi, the mental knot associated with
Center. It all happens quickly, so you knee extends beyond the ankle, in line the third eye.
are not spending a lot of time consider- with the tips of the toes. This is the ul- Warrior I addresses all three simulta-
ing the biomechanics of the pose. Its timate goal for the pose, but it may not neously. The physical nature of the pose
MODEL: CATHERINE SHADDIX

more about doing it in the ow. be safe or accessible for every student, addresses Brahma granthi, the focus
The ow is what Ashtanga is all about. Miller points out. on the breath addresses the emotional
The benet is that it gets you out of Practiced this way, the pose has a knot in the chest, and the idea of drishti
your head, Miller says. Its a more benet that transcends the physical, ac- [focal point] addresses the mental knot,
right-brained approach. Its not about cording to Miller. By going deeper into Miller says. Its a whole package that
trying to gure everything outthere the front leg, you get more into the area works on an energetic level. >>

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 3 1
WITH WARRIOR POWER, place
the feet 4 to 5 feet apart. Stretch
your arms to the sides. Lift your
chest, turn your right (front) foot
out 90 degrees, and swivel on
your back heel to point the toes
slightly inward. Heels are aligned.
With the left leg rooted, turn the
hips toward the front of the mat.
With Muscular Energy, draw both
legs in toward the midline, and
plug the arm bones into the
shoulder sockets as you lift the
arms to the sky. Draw the shoul-
der blades down the back and
curl them in toward the heart as
you lift victoriously through the
chest. Bend your right leg to a
90-degree angle, knee aligned
over the ankle. Spiral the left
thigh in and draw the outer right
hip back and down. Counterbal-
ance by spiraling the right thigh
slightly outward. Imagine the
source of your Organic Energy
as a luminous orb in the pelvis
where the tailbone meets the
sacrumfrom here, root down
and extend up toward the top of
the head as you curl your throat
slightly back. Keeping a natural
curve in the neck, lengthen and
look up, remembering the divine
INSTRUCTION BY JOHN FRIEND source of the warrior power.

Anusara to remember the Universal, he says.


Virabhadra is strong only because he
Outer Spiral is emphasized on the front
thigh to bring the legs closer together and
GODDESS POWERED comes from God. Remembering this, draw the tailbone forward, he says. It
In Anusara Yoga, the pose is inseparable the inner body grows lustrous, and the balances the effects of the Inner Spiral.
from the legend that inspired it; tease outer body can simply drape down onto Finally, Organic Energy. Create a
the two apart, and its simply not yoga, this inner light. Focal Point in the pelvispicture a
says Anusara founder John Friend. I saw Once youre in the posture, the next small orb of light at the area where the
some guys in the park doing lunges with principle is Muscular Energy. You are tailbone meets the sacrum, Friend in-
their arms up, and they were just build- always hugging in toward the middle structs. From there, everything extends
ing their butts, he says. When you are squeezing into the source of your power, out and shines like the sun.
doing Warrior I, you are toning muscles, he says. This translates into a scissoring The key to the pose is the rst prin-
but youre also expressing your spirit action in the legs. ciple, Friend says. When you brighten
MODEL: KENNETH GRAHAM

through your body in a triumphant way. Third, Inner Spiral: The back leg up on the inside and relax on the out-
Friend points to ve main actions in turns inward so that the thighbone side, you dont have to work so hard,
the poseeach of which corresponds moves back and the hips widen, Friend he concludes. The pose should be a full
to one of Anusara Yogas ve Universal says. This will allow the back hip to expression of ones intention, which
Principles of Alignment. The rst of turn more readily to the front. And might be to honor the universal creative
these is Opening to Graceyou have the fourth principle, Outer Spiral: The powerthe Shakti.

32 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
standing & balancing
STAND IN TADASANA (Mountain
Pose). With your hands on your
hips, exhale and take a big step
forward with the right foot, keep-
ing the feet hip-width apart. The
left heel is off the mat. Bend the
right knee, letting the hips sink
toward the oor. Keep the right
knee directly over the ankle (slide
the left foot back, if necessary,
to create a strong base posture).
Square the hips to the front of
the mat, moving the left hipbone
forward and the right hipbone
back. Press back through the
lifted left heel to engage the leg
muscles and straighten the leg.
Inhale and sweep the arms out to
the sides and overhead, shoulder-
width apart and palms facing in.
Let the hips sink toward the oor
as you lift the sternum, extending
through the crown and pressing
the ngertips toward the ceiling.
INSTRUCTION BY RICHARD FAULDS Gaze straight ahead.

Kripalu Swami Kripalu. At age 38, his kundalini


energy awoke, and his body spontane-
power to bear on the world. But you also
need to be able to surrender enough to see
STRONG AND SOFT ously performed all of these postures. the opportunities in life naturally. Many
Of all the schools in American yoga, three The pose that Swami Kripalu taught of us struggle to nd that balance.
major onesBikram, Kundalini, and Kri- differs in one key detail: The back heel The pose is terric for exploring the
paludo not ow from Krishnamacharya. stays off the ground. Not that the physi- difcult emotions that can hold you
Though it shares its name and mythology cal specics are the most important back from lifes full expression, Faulds
with other traditions, the Kripalu Warrior thing. We see postures as tools to explains. The strength you tap into in
was received by divine inspiration during open and awaken presence in the body, Warrior I can also bring up anger, frus-
Swami Kripalus practice in the 1950s. Faulds says. The question we always ask tration, and hostility, he notes. In the
Our tradition holds that if you meditate in Kripalu Yoga is: What does the pos- pose, we can let those energies build
deeply enough, hatha yoga will emerge ture bring forth in you? we can let ourselves feel them fully. We
from the inside out, explains Richard The answer is individual and personal. learn to ride the waves of emotion and
MODEL: KAIT PHILBIN

Faulds, director of yoga development at But, in general, Warrior I invites a sense of sensation, so that the pose becomes a
the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in empowerment. The posture makes you safe space for our feelings to play out.
Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and author simultaneously strong and openhearted,
of Kripalu Yoga: A Guide to Practice On and even vulnerable, Faulds explains. You Hillari Dowdle is a freelance writer based
Off the Mat. Thats what happened to need will to bring your energy and mental in Tennessee.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 3 3
plumb
Perfect By Roger Cole
Photography by John Robbins

One-legged poses give us a chance to nd our center


of gravity and dance around its edges. Heres how to put an
end to the wobbling and create a sense of uid stability.

w hen yoga master B. K. S. Iyengar visited


the San Diego Zoo in 1990, he was struck by
the effortless aplomb of the amingos. He
pointed to a gaudy pink bird as it balanced on one leg, as
steady as a boulder. Oblivious to its squawking neighbors,
beak tucked under its feathers, the amingo was fast asleep.
one-legged postures. It goes beyond the instinctive fear of
falling and strikes directly at the ego. After all, we rarely
tumble to the ground and hurt ourselves; we simply put our
other foot down. Yet that simple act can be maddening.
If we fall out of Vrksasana (Tree Pose) when practicing
alone, we often hear an internal critic saying, Whats wrong
Surveying the group of yoga teachers accompanying him, with you? You should be able to do this! If were in a class,
Iyengar playfully challenged them: Can you relax like that? the same fall can bring a sense of humiliation thats greatly
The answer, of course, was no. For humans, nodding off disproportionate to the physical event. We feel out of con-
while balancing on one leg is out of the question. Theres no trol when we lose our balance, and the ego hates to lose
faking it: The instant we lose focus, we fall over. Standing on controlespecially when other people are around to see it.
one foot, we naturally drop extraneous thoughts to focus on Despite the frustration, one-legged balancing asanas
the task at hand. Thats why practicing balancing postures offer so many benets that its well worth the trouble to
can instill a deep sense of calm even though it requires practice them. In addition to promoting concentration and
intense, unwavering alertness. calm, these poses strengthen our muscles and build our
When we balance, we align our bodys center of gravity coordination and balance, improving our ways of standing
with the earths gravitational eld. Quite literally, we place and walking as well as how we perform many other everyday
ourselves in physical equilibrium with a fundamental force activities. And these benets might actually prolong our
of nature. But we cant achieve this harmony by remaining lives, helping us avoid the falls that often lead to injuries and
absolutely still. Instead, we must refresh our balance moment death among the elderly.
by moment. The sustained effort to center and recenter The three essential elements of balance are alignment,
brings not only our esh and bones into balance but also our strength, and attention. Alignment of the body with grav-
nerve impulses, thoughts, emotions, and very consciousness. ity is crucial; it makes balance physically possible. Strength
Hence, we feel calm. Equilibrium brings equanimity. gives us the power to create, hold, and adjust alignment.
Lack of equilibrium brings just the opposite. There is And attention continually monitors alignment so we
something uniquely frustrating about losing our balance in know how to correct it from one moment to the next.

3 4 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
Parivrtta Utthita Hasta
Padangusthasana
(Revolved Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)
Stand with your feet together in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Spread your
toes and broaden both feet on the oor. Shift your weight onto your left
foot; then lift your right foot and shift your hips farther to the left. Grip the
outer edge of the right foot with the left hand (or wrap a strap around the
ball of the right foot and hold it in the left hand). Lower your right hip as
close as possible to the level of the left one; keep it here throughout the
pose. As you inhale, lift your chest and make the spine tall. As you exhale,
simultaneously perform each of the following actions: Lift and straighten
your right leg diagonally up and to the left, twist your trunk to the right, and
reach your right hand out to the right, parallel to the oor. Strongly grip the
muscles of your outer left hip to stabilize your pelvis. Hold the pose for 30
to 60 seconds (or even longer as you grow stronger and more stable).

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 35
w hen you stand with two feet on the oor, as in
Tadasana (Mountain Pose), your weight is evenly
distributed on either side of your midlinethat
imaginary plumb line that runs from the crown of your head
down to the floor. Its pretty easy to balance here. But the
moment you lift your right foot off the oor and start to draw
your right knee out to the side for Tree Pose, everything changes.
Your base of support becomes narrower; now its just your left
foot. And the weight of your leg swinging out to the right moves
your center of gravity to the right, so its no longer on your mid-
line. To compensate, you automatically shift your whole body
to the left, working to bring your center of gravity back onto
the new plumb line that runs through your new base of support.
To find balance, you must distribute your body weight in

Alignment
the physics of balance
equilibrium on either side of the plumb line. But that doesnt
necessarily mean placing equal weight on each side of the line.
Think of two people of unequal weight trying to balance a see-
saw. They can balance if the lighter one sits farther out and the
heavier one sits closer to the center. In yoga, the same principles
apply: A light part of the body farther from the center of gravity
can counterbalance a heavier part thats closer to the center. As Vrksasana
you raise the weight of your right leg higher off the oor, you (Tree Pose)
shift your hips and torso slightly to the left. Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), lifting your spine. Spread your

MODEL: SARAH POWERS; STYLIST: KAREN ZAMBONIN; HAIR: NICOLE PETERS/KOKO REPRESENTS
You may notice that Vrksasana becomes more difficult toes and broaden both feet on the oor. To nd your center of grav-
when you bring your hands to heart center or overhead. Thats ity, bring your attention an inch or two below your navel and deep
because each of these movements raises your center of gravity. inside your body. Shift this point slightly forward and back, then
When the center of gravity is high, just a few degrees of tilt can from side to side, making ever smaller movements until you come to
move it far enough off the plumb line to upset your balance; rest at center. When youre correctly aligned, youll feel weight placed
when it is low, theres more room for error. If you have trouble evenly on the heels and balls of the feet and on the inner and outer
balancing in Vrksasana, try lowering your center of gravity by edges of the feet. Youll also feel a sense of lightness.
practicing the pose with your standing-leg knee slightly bent Then shift your pelvis to the left until your center of gravity lies di-
and your arms in a lower position. You can also enhance your rectly above the middle of your left foot. Lift your right foot and place
equilibrium in these poses by spreading the toes and the ball it as high as possible on your left inner thigh, toes pointing down.
of the standing foot. The broader your base, the more stable Press your right foot against your left thigh, and your thigh against
you are, and even the slightest widening of the sole of the foot your foot. Lower your right hip until it is level with the left; this move-
is surprisingly helpful. ment will require you to again shift your hips signicantly to the left.
If youre wobbly in Vrksasana, you can try actively pressing Contract your right buttock, draw your right knee back without
down into the big-toe ball of the foot and the inner heel. This drawing your right hip back, and bring your hands into prayer position
causes a rebound up through your body and shifts your center at your heart. Keep your gaze soft and level. As needed, rmly but
of gravity toward the outer edge of your foot. Such skillful use of gently press the inner or outer edge of the foot into the oor to shift
your muscles is an important part of balancing. Your bones cant your center of gravity directly above your left foot. When your center
put themselves into line with gravity; they need the muscles to is properly placed, youll feel a sense of lightness, just as you did in
move them into position, hold them there, and reposition them Tadasana. Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds (or even longer as
as needed. This is where strength comes into the picture. you grow stronger and more stable).

3 6 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
t wo muscles do most of the work in keeping us from
falling over in any balancing posture: the gluteus medius
and the gluteus minimus. The gluteus medius connects
the outer rim of the pelvis to the upper thighbone; the gluteus
minimus lies underneath the medius. The best way to strengthen
these crucial muscles isyou guessed itto practice lots and
lots of one-legged standing poses! All the poses discussed in
this article will help; each will work the muscles in a somewhat
different way. Try holding each posture with the support of a

standing & balancing


wall or ledge so you can hold it for a long time without losing
your balance. Hold it until muscle fatigue causes you to lose
proper positioning of your limbs or trunk. Then come down
and practice on the other side. Youll get even better results if
you repeat this process several times.

Strength
the power to balance
Smaller muscles are also important in helping you balance
in poses like Vrksasana and Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana
(Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose). When you stand in them,
youll probably nd your foot and ankle making frequent side-to-
side adjustments. The inner foot presses down (pronation), then

Utthita Hasta the outer foot (supination), then the inner foot again, and so on.
If you pay attention to this involuntary small dance, youll see

Padangusthasana that pressing down the outer edge of the foot shifts the bodys
center of gravity toward the inner foot, and vice versa.
(Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose), variation Being narrow, the foot has very poor leverage for shifting the
Stand in Tadasana. Spread your toes and broaden both feet on the entire mass of the body left and right. The muscles that press
oor. Shift your weight onto your left foot; lift your right foot and shift the inner and outer foot down must therefore be quite strong
your hips farther to the left. Reaching your right arm to the inside of to move the center of gravity far enoughand fast enoughto
your right knee, grasp the right big toe with your index and middle maintain balance. The primary muscles involved are the tibialis
ngers. (If you are less exible, hold a strap looped around the ball of anterior (on the outer front shin) for supination, and the peroneus
your foot.) Lift your right knee as high as possible without lifting the longus and brevis (on the outer calf) for pronation. The supina-
hip. Simultaneously perform the following three actions, carefully tors are strengthened by almost every standing pose, one-legged
balancing them across the plumb line of your body and working to and two-legged alike. The pronators are strengthened more by
constantly equalize the weight on the inner and outer sides of your one-legged standing poses, especially Vrksasana, in which they
standing foot: (1) Lower your right hip as close as possible to the help offset the tendency to overbalance toward the inner foot.
level of the left hip, (2) lift and straighten your right leg diagonally up The better you get at balance poses, the less muscular effort
and to the right, and (3) place your left hand on your left hip. Strongly you need to maintain them. This is because you become more
grip the muscles of your outer left hip to stabilize your pelvis. Without skilled at using your bone structure to support your weight,
moving either hip forward or back, strongly contract your right but- rather than wasting muscle energy to do so. You also waver
tock muscles and pull your right foot back to bring a stretch to your less, so you need to make fewer and smaller muscular cor-
right inner thigh. Lift your spine and stand tall. Feeling how your calf rections. Such finesse often depends on practicing other
and shin muscles frequently contract to correct your balance, ne- poses to gain adequate exibility, which allows you to place your
tune your position so it requires the fewest possible muscular cor- center of gravity in the most favorable position. If you nd yourself
rections. Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds (or even longer as you clenching the oor with your toes, white-knuckled, theres a good
grow stronger and more stable). chance youre using too much brawn and not enough brain.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 37
Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)
Take Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) to the right. To move into Ardha Chan-
drasana, bend your right knee toward your right foot and slide your left foot along the oor until
you can center your weight above your right foot. Place your right hand on the oor beyond
your right toes and to their right. Keeping your right knee bent and your left leg straight and
rm, lift your left leg until your heel is slightly higher than your hip. Place the leg in line with your
hips, angling neither forward nor back. Keeping your right knee bent, rotate the front of your
pelvis up toward the ceiling by contracting the right buttock where it joins the leg. Then care-
fully turn the rest of the upper body toward the ceiling, one part at a time, in this order: waist,
chest, shoulders, neck and head together, and nally, eyes. During this turning process, imagine
a vertical plane centered on your standing foot and running through your entire body. Rotate in
a way that keeps your bodyespecially your pelvisbisected by this plane. Straighten your
standing leg only after all the other aspects of the pose are complete. Equalize your
weight between the heel and ball of the foot. Hold the pose for 30 to 60
seconds (or even longer as you grow stronger and stabler).

3 8 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
t he price of balance is
constant attention. Think
of all the actions you must
coordinate to remain stable in a
pose like Ardha Chandrasana.
You must keep your center of
couldnt stay there for long. Youve probably gotten so good
at using your eyes for balance that you dont bother to use the
other systems you have available.
Now think about what happens when you practice Ardha
Chandrasana outdoors. If you direct your gaze toward the hori-
zon, you can probably balance, but if you turn and look up at the
gravity under close observation open sky, you may quickly lose your equilibrium. Even though
and tight control to maintain its your eyes are open, you no longer see a xed point of reference
precarious position above its nar- to tell you which way is up or which way you are moving.

standing & balancing


row base of support: the standing Another reason its hard to look up in Ardha Chandrasana,
foot. To manage this, your ner- even indoors, is that turning your head changes the position of
vous system must stay on its toes the balance organs in your inner ears with respect to gravity.
and do some fancy footwork. It Nerve impulses that used to mean up and down now mean
keeps repeating three steps: monitoring your position, calculat- something different. Your brain needs time to reinterpret all
ing any necessary corrections, and directing these adjustments. of these messages. If it doesnt adapt to the new conditions
To monitor your position, your nervous system has to answer rapidly enough, you may fall over. One way to overcome this
the questions Which way is up? and Where is my body? It problem is to turn your head very slowly and incrementally,
has several ways to do this. Before you turn your head to look pausing to rebalance at various points along the way. Another
up in Ardha Chandrasana, your eyes collect data about your good approach is to focus your attention on the sensations
position from the horizon line or wall in front of you. The from your standing foot, ankle, and hip, allowing them to guide
semicircular canals, which your balance as you turn

Attention
are balance organs in the your head.
inner ear, also help you nd Since the brain compares
up by feeling the down- your actual position with an
ward pull of gravi ty. And image of where you want to
pressure sensors on the be, it helps to have a pretty
bottoms of your feet detect
which way you are tilting.
focus on balance precise internal image. And
some mental pictures are, of
To indicate body position, course, more helpful than
nerve endings in your joints signal the angle of your limbs, others. One very useful image is your old friend, the plumb line
trunk, neck, and head. Nerve endings in your muscles and ten- that runs vertically up from the center of your standing foot. If
dons detect force and stretch, and others in your skin detect you can develop a strong internal sense of this line, it will help
stretch and pressure. In addition, your eyes provide visual your nervous system calibrate movements that maintain equi-
information about the location of various body parts. From all librium around the line.
of this sensory input, you can tell whether your body is where In Ardha Chandrasana, its helpful to expand the concept of
you want it to befor example, whether your lifted leg is too a plumb line to a plumb plane. Imagine that the plumb line lies
far forward or back for an optimal Ardha Chandrasana. You can on a at, vertical surface, like an innitely thin wall, that divides
also tell not only where you are in space but which way you are your standing foot in half lengthwise and runs up through your
moving and how quickly. body. Concentrate on keeping your head, trunk, pelvis, and
To calculate corrections, your brain adds up all of this infor- both of your legs balanced on either side of this plane. But dont
mation, compares it with an image of where it wants your body abandon the plumb line; you still need it to keep your stand-
to be, and does some heavy number-crunching to decide which ing leg from leaning too far back toward your heel or forward
movements to make. To direct the needed adjustments, your toward your toes.
brain and spinal cord do additional computations and send At a higher level of the nervous system, your attitude toward
nerve signals to dozens of muscles, telling them to contract or practicing balancing poses has a tremendous effect on your suc-
relax as needed. As you make these movements, your sensory cess. Approach them seriously and with determination, but also
systems constantly monitor the results and start the cycle of with good humor, patience, and curiosity, like a child learning
correction over again. to stand. If you can laugh when you wobble or when you fall
Thats a lot of work. No wonder its a challenge to balance yet be ready to try the pose again in earnest, you have found
and chew gum at the same time! Lets look at how this complex true balance in your practice.
process affects your practice.
If youre like most people, you depend primarily on visual Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher and research scientist Roger Cole, PhD,
input to maintain your balance. Have you ever tried balancing specializes in human anatomy and physiology, relaxation, and biological
on one foot with your eyes closed? If so, the odds are that you rhythms and sleep. For more information, see rogercoleyoga.com.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 39
STRETCH THE ARMS AWAY
FROM EACH OTHER

BROADEN AND
LENGTHEN THE CHEST

STRAIGHTEN BOTH
LEGS AND KEEP
QUADRICEPS FIRM

TURN THE FRONT THIGH


AND KNEE OUT
standing by Marla Apt

The Right
Angle

standing & balancing


Learn proper
alignment in this pose
and lay a powerful
foundation for your UTTHITA TRIKONASANA (Extended Triangle
whole practice. Pose) looks like its name. You can see several
triangles in the pose: Your hands and back foot
are the points of one; your two feet are points of another; and your
torso, arm, and front leg form the sides of yet another. One of the rst
poses yoga students learn, Triangle teaches you to feel rmness in your
legs, a lengthening of your spine, fullness in your chest, and freedom
in your neck and shoulders. Triangle also increases the exibility and
strength of your legs and lower joints (ankles, knees, and hips). If you
have tight hamstrings, forward bends might aggravate lower-back
pain, but Triangle provides a safe way to stretch the legs while extend-
ing the back sideways.
When I rst attempted Triangle, I thought that if I could reach
my hand to the oor, voil! I was done. I was not yet aware that in
reaching to the oor, I had sacriced the alignment of other body
DONT let the front knee turn inward and drop.
parts. My knees drooped, my hips ew backward, and my shoulder
slumped forward. I had yet to learn to use my muscles to support me
so that I had a strong foundation from which to extend.

BUILD A BASE
The main triangle you can see in the pose is the one at the bottom,
where the oor is the base and your legs are the sides. The feet and
oor form the foundation of the structure. Beginners often immedi-
ately reach their hands to the oor, as I did, but sacrice the stability
of the foundation. Take time to create a rm, balanced, stable base.

DO turn the front thigh outward.

PRESS THE OUTER EDGE OF THE


BACK HEEL INTO THE FLOOR

YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 4 1
stan d in g & ba lanc ing

)
1 pose benets
Increases exibility and strength
in the legs, ankles, knees, and hips

Stretches the hips, groins,


hamstrings, and calves
standing & balancing

Opens the shoulders and chest;


extends the spine

Improves digestion

Relieves lower-back pain


and stiff neck

contraindications
Knee pain

2
Neck problems

High blood pressure

Low blood pressure

Heart conditions

( Your upper body should feel as though


it is lifting off your lower body. As you
ground your back leg and heel, lift the
front of your pelvis toward the ceiling.
Your abdomen and sternum should
extend toward your head. Your arms are
straight and rm in this pose. Your bot-
tom arm doesnt bear much weight, but it
helps you extend. It should feel as though
your arms are reaching apart from the
center of your chest. Lengthen the bot-
tom side of your rib cage to be as long as
PHOTOS: RORY EARNSHAW; MODEL: JASON CRANDELL; STYLIST: LYN HEINEKEN; HAIR/MAKEUP: VERONICA SJOEN/ARTIST UNTIED
the upper side so that both are parallel
to the oor.
When you roll your shoulders away
from your ears and turn your chest toward
Figure 2 (variation of Trikonasana) is described on page 44.
the ceiling, you can turn your head to
look at the uplifted hand. If your neck
Your bones form the frame of the pose, rm, they hug the bones and support hurts, look forward instead and work on
and your muscles help align the bones. the skeletal structure. Straightening the opening the chest by moving your back
B. K. S. Iyengar said that in Trikonasana legs may not, at rst, seem difcult, but ribs and shoulder blades into the chest
you need to entwine the muscles to the the challenge lies in doing so without col- while rolling the shoulders back.
bone, which means that the quadri- lapsing into the ankles, knees, or hips.
ceps, calves, and gluteal muscles must be Youre collapsing if it feels as if most of BE A WALLFLOWER
actively engaged. When your muscles are your weight is on your front knee or shin. Its challenging to incorporate all of these

4 2 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
stan d in g & ba lanc ing
nuances into the pose. So, to begin, its good angles of repose
to practice at a wall ( see gure 1), which will
In Tantric yoga philosophy, the sri yantra
help you stay balanced and grounded in the
is the geometrical representation of
back leg. Stand on your mat and spread your
the creation of the cosmos. It is a sym- yantra in a pose like Trikonasana. Your
legs wide apart, with your arms stretched bol or picture with nine interlocking body forms several triangles, and you
out to the sides at shoulder height. See that triangles surrounding a bindu, or point. seek the yantric ideal of straight, clean
your right foot is directly under the right The upward-facing triangles represent lines to access the union of material and
hand. Place the outer edge of your left heel aspiration toward the transcendental, spiritual impulses. The material impulse
and the inverted triangles represent the manifests as a concern for physical well-
against the wall. Turn the toes of the left
source of energy and the root of life. being and helps you to be cautious
foot slightly away from the wall so that only
standing & balancing

When the two are connected, multiple when practicing. The spiritual impulse
the outer edge of the heel touches the wall. triangles emerge, signifying the web spurs you on to courageously seek
Turn the right leg completely out so that the of existence. greater depth and intensity.
knee faces away from the wall.
Yantras are often used as an aid to As you carve the many triangles
Place your hands on your hips and lift meditation, in which the practitioner with your body, you learn to balance
the sides of the torso and chest up. Now visualizes the graphic image to steady the qualities of rmness and release,
raise the arms again, maintain the height the mind and make it run along a path stability and mobility, expansion and
of your torso, and stretch the arms out of spiritual alignment. As an asana contraction. In the practices
from the sides of the chest. From the feet, practitioner, you can try to embody the of visualizing the yantra and aligning
yourself in the pose, the mind is
draw the thighs up toward the hip sock-
brought to a state of meditation.
ets. Balance the weight evenly between
the inner and outer edges of the feet and
align ankle, knee, and hip with the center that it is facing over the middle toe of the ceiling. Now, extend your arms away
of the foot so that as you engage your leg the right foot. Pull the right leg up from from each other and broaden your chest.
muscles, you feel as though one joint is the ankle to the hip. The muscles of the
lifted off the other in a single-le line. thigh and around the outer hips should ON YOUR OWN
Keeping your legs straight and firm, feel as though they are gripping the bones Use what you have learned in the previ-
press the outer left heel into the wall and turning the upper leg out, pulling the ous variations to determine how low you
and down into the floor while extend- thigh up and into the hip socket. Keep the can go without sacricing the integrity of
ing your torso over your right leg. When knee and hip in line with the heel. the pose. If you cant reach the oor but
your trunk extends over your front leg in See if you can maintain the firmness feel you can go lower than the block, clasp
Triangle, you may find yourself putting of the left leg and the pressure on the left your ankle with your hand. If your chest
too much weight on that leg. The weight outer heel as you exhale and extend to the and abdomen turn toward the oor, raise
should be distributed evenly on both legs. right to take your right hand to the block. your hand higher up the shin. Remember
Press the heel into the wall to help main- If your palm doesnt quite reach, you can that the chest should remain broad and
tain awareness of the back leg. place your ngertips on the block. Dont open in the pose.
Clasp your ankle or shin with your lean on the block, but push off it with the First-timers tend to lean slightly for-
right hand and place your left hand on right hand to extend upward through the ward and push the right hip backward so
your left hip. Now see if you can rm the chest and left arm. Keep both legs rm, that they dont fall back and out of the
entire left leg and put power into the left extend your arms, come up on the inhala- pose. Take your right outer hip forward,
heel. Take your right hand only as low tion, and move your block to the left to bring your torso in line with your legs
as you can without losing the weight on repeat on the other side. and hips, roll both shoulders back as if
the left outer heel. To come out of the Stability comes with the evenness in you had a wall behind you, and revolve
pose, press the left heel down and use both feet; the strength, straightness, and your chest toward the ceiling. The back
the left leg to help pull you up. Repeat rotation of the front leg; a strong upward body should feel firm and stable, like a
the pose on the other side, with the right lifting action of both legs; and a rmness wall that supports the front body.
heel pressing against the wall. of the back leg and heel. The result is free- In Triangle Pose, as in all asanas, you will
dom that allows the pelvis, abdomen, and learn to balance the dualities of courage
HAND YOURSELF A PROP chest to lift and turn toward the ceiling. and caution. As you form various triangles
Once you feel stable on the back leg, try Lengthen both sides of your torso over with your body, perhaps you will glimpse
the pose away from the wall, but place a the right leg so that the right side of your the connections between firmness and
block on the oor to the outside of your rib cage feels as long as the left side. Firm extension and creation and freedom.
front ankle (see figure 2). Separate the feet the muscles of the up per right arm to
as you did before and turn the legs to the draw them upward and feel the lifting of Marla Apt is a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher
right. Look at your right kneecap to see the chest and extension of the left arm to based in Los Angeles.

4 4 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
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standing & balancing by R ich ard Rose n

STRAIGHTEN ARMS TO
SIDES, PARALLEL TO FLOOR

LENGTHEN SIDES
OF TORSO EVENLY

ALIGN KNEE OVER HEEL

4 6 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
Stand

standing & balancing


Strong
Come into your
power as you connect
with the warrior
Virabhadra.

THE STANDING POSE Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II)


is standard practice in most yoga classes. But few yogis know
the tale of its genesis. In Hindu lore, the powerful priest Dak- DONT arch the lower back.

sha threw a huge sacrifice and invited everyoneexcept his


youngest daughter, Sati, and her good-for-nothing yogi husband,
Shiva, whom Daksha despised (even if Shiva was supreme ruler
of the universe). Sati was livid. In one version of the story, she
stormed over to the sacricial re and threw herself in to teach
her father a lesson; in another, her ire was so intense that she
spontaneously combusted. Shiva was devastated by his beloveds
immolation and went berserk. When he yanked out a tuft of
his hair and beat it into the ground, up popped a nightmarish
creature with a thousand heads, a thousand feet, a thousand
eyes, a thousand hands, with fangs terrible to behold. It was
armed to the teeth and invincible. Meet Virabhadra, whose
name means blessed hero, though typically its rendered into
English simply as warrior. Shiva dispatched Virabhadra and
an army of demons to pay Daksha a visit. Happily, Shivas wife
DO aim inner knee toward pinky toe.

PRESS OUTER FOOT


TO FLOOR

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 47
)
stan d in g & ba lanc ing

1 pose benets
Strengthens legs
and ankles

Stretches groins

Opens chest

Improves balance

contraindications
Serious knee injury

Sprained ankle

Neck problems (look straight


ahead, rather than over the hand)

High blood pressure

(
2 youre tall, you might need a blanket; if
youre short, grab a block. Set the chair on
your sticky mat, near the front edge, with
the back of the chair facing the right edge.
Face the front edge of your mat and sit on
the chair with your knees over your heels,
shins perpendicular to the oor. Ideally
your thighs will be parallel to the floor.
If you are tall and your knees are higher
than your hips, use a blanket to raise your

PHOTOS: KATRINE NALEID; MODEL: JOEL BENDER; STYLIST: LYN HEINEKEN; HAIR/MAKEUP: CHRIS MCDONALD
buttocks until your thighs are parallel
to the oor. If your feet dont reach the
floor (typical for shorter students), put
the block beneath your right foot.
Swing your left leg around the seat,
straighten the left knee as much as possi-
ble, and step the ball of your left foot onto
gets brought back to life, and Dakshas out in his book Light on Yoga that Virab- the floor near the back edge of the mat
whupping teaches him humility (he loses hadrasana II tones the abdominals. Its in a lunge. Rotate your torso away from
his head and winds up with a goats head as also a nice way to strengthen your legs and the chair toward the left, pivot on the ball
a replacement). make them shapely. of your left foot, and press your left heel
We re-create the image of Virabhadra to the oor so your foot is angled slightly
in three incarnations of Virabhadrasana, LEGWORK toward the front edge of the mat. Align the
designated by Roman numerals (I, II, Its important in Vira II to bring aware- middle of the right heel with the middle of
III), in which we stand like mighty war- ness to the front legs femoral headthe the left foots inner arch and adjust your
riors. Our focus will be on II. Virabha- little ball on the end of the bone that plugs inner right thigh more or less perpendicu-
drasana II is an excellent way to stretch into the hip socket and swivels like a joy- lar to the front edge of your mat (figure 1).
your groins and, even though both feet stick. You also need to pay attention to
stay on the floor, improve your bal- the outer heel of the back foot, just under BE A WARRIOR
ance. You can also, to a lesser extent, the outer ankle bone. In Vira II, you take the stance of a strong
strengthen your arms and open your To work on proper front-leg alignment, warrior. You balance your weight between
chest. Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar points try a simple chair-supported exercise. If both legs, and your torso rises up evenly

4 8 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
from your hips. On the chair, avoid lean- war? what is it good for?
ing forward or back. Burrow the base
of your right palm into the hip crease One of yogas primary behavioral injunc-
between your front thigh and pelvis and tions is ahimsa, literally nonviolence.
push down against the head of your thigh- Vyasa, an early commentator on the Yoga yogis rened version of what started
Sutra, denes ahimsa as refraining from out as the heroic posture of a battling
bone. Push into the crease, not farther
injuring any being, at any time and in any warrior many centuries ago?
down the thigh. Ideally, youll feel the manner (Yoga Sutra, II.30). If so, what better name for it than
back of your thigh press rmly against the Doesnt it seem odd that such an that of the archetypal warrior? Although
seat and, in response, your spine effort- exceedingly violent character as Vira- yoga esteems nonviolence, images of

standing & balancing


lessly lengthen upward. Draw your right bhadra is celebrated in a yoga posture? war and warriors arent unusual in its
hip point away from your thigh, lengthen Whats up with that? literature. The most obvious example
One possible explanation can be is in the Bhagavad Gita, the glorious
your tailbone down, and shift your shoul-
found in the Encyclopedia of Traditional song (gita), or yoga instruction, deliv-
ders so they line up over your hips. After Asanas, published by Indias Lonavla ered by the god-incarnate Krishna to
a minute or so, release your hand yet stay Yoga Institute. We know that many the fearsome warrior Arjuna on the eve
here, sitting heavily on your thigh. Bend asanas are imitations of, and are named of a civil wars 18-day bloodbath. This
your left knee, swing the leg back to where after, what the yogis see in the world, setting and its two main characters
it started, turn the chair 180 degrees, and whether livinglike humans, animals, suggest that the warrior is actually
and plantsor inanimate like the moon the average yogiyou and mestrug-
repeat on the other side.
or a boat. The encyclopedia includes gling mightily against the enemy
In the full pose, many beginners depend Pratyalidhasana (extended to the left), forces of self-ignorance (avidya) on the
on their muscles to sustain the position, which mimics the ready stance of an battleeld of life. Krishna is our higher
and quiver uncontrollably after a few sec- archer: left leg forward, knee bent, right Self (atman), always present behind
onds. Then things go downhill. Try to re- leg back (like a lunge), arms held up as the scenes to offer aid and comfort
create your chair-supported experience, if holding a drawn bow. It looks like a as he leads us to self-realization.
rough-cut version of Warrior II. Could And so the name Virabhadra is a sub-
so that some of the support is shifted to
Virabhadrasana II be some modern tle acknowledgment and a reminder,
your bones, and your muscles can release. embodied in a trio of powerful postures,
Then you can sustain the posture almost of our commitment to ght the good ght.
indenitely, needing to come out only for
meals and to attend yoga class.
Like other split-leg standing poses, back (left) foot to the right 30 degrees, and with the long edge of the mat.
Virabhadrasana II is anchored and stabi- your right foot to the right 90 degrees. To get your thigh parallel to the oor,
lized by rooting the outer back heel into Align your front heel and your back arch. hang a sandbag on a yoga strap from your
the ground. Many beginners have tight Dont push the left hip back, away from front hip crease (figure 2). Want to go
groins, so bending the front knee buckles the long edge of your mat. further? Inhale and raise your arms out
the back knee, which pulls the outer back Many teachers have you square your to the sides, palms down. Press into the
heel off the floor. Think: What would pelvis toward the wall your chest is facing; back heel and reach actively through the
happen to a tree deprived of its roots? I teach the pose slightly differently to cre- back arm, as if your left arm is trying to
Before you bend your front knee, dig ate more width and ease in the lower back. pull your front knee straight. You can gaze
your outer back heel into the floor. As As you bend your front knee, roll the back over the front arm, but if you have neck
you bend your front (right) knee, have an hip forward a fair amount and rotate the issues, simply look straight forward. Hold
imaginary friend resist that movement by front knee out, toward the pinky-toe side. for 30 seconds to a minute, inhale and
pulling on a strap on your left groin. Your Once the knee is thus aligned, you can straighten your front knee, release your
left leg will move physically through space take the back hip back a bit, but be sure arms, and turn your feet forward. Never
closer to the oor; however, energetically your front knee doesnt buckle in toward come out of this posture by shifting your
it opposes the movement and keeps your the big-toe side of your foot. weight forward onto the front leg. After
outer back heel rooted. Inhale, consciously grounding your a few breaths, repeat on the left.
back heel; on an exhalation, bend your This pose looks like the mighty war-
GET HIP front knee over your heel. Aim the inner rior Virabhadra emerging fearlessly
Stand sideways in the middle of your knee toward the pinky-toe side of the foot from the earth and should be a big part
sticky mat, facing a long edge, and step to avoid swiveling your knee inward as you of your practice. It increases flexibility
your feet apart. Ideally, your feet are bend it. Now sit your right femur head on and builds strength, physical endurance,
spread wide enough that when you bend the imaginary chair. Then lift your right and willpowerwhich will serve you well
the front knee and position it over the hip point away from your thigh, tuck your throughout your practice and your life.
heel, the front thigh is parallel to the oor. tailbone, and position your shoulders over
With your hands on your hips, turn your your pelvis. Align the inner right thigh Richard Rosen lives and teaches in California.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 49
THE COMPASSIONATE

Backbend BY KATE TREMBLAY


PHOTOGRAPHY BY THOMAS BROENING

LEARNING TO PRACTICE WITH OUR


LIMITATIONS INSTEAD OF STRUGGLING
AGAINST THEM CAN MAKE BACKBENDING
AN EXERCISE IN SELF-ACCEPTANCE.

Salabhasana
M
ost of us come to yoga seeking sanctuary. We realize
how important it is to briefly step away from the
A simple, active backbend, Salabhasana
(Locust Pose) offers a primary education in
demands of life and relax into a spacious quality of
backbending dynamics. In it, you can move mind that allows us to be with ourselves as we are, without judg-
easily toward and away from your physical ment. Insulated from the racket of demands and from the need to
limits. (See instruction on page 53.) rush, we become quiet enough to hear the stirrings of our hearts.
And in the act of accepting whatever we nd there, we replenish
our energy and inspiration. Accepting the truth of our selves, our
hearts, our muscles, our level of energy in any given moment is
the height of compassion, and practiced this way, yoga becomes
an exercise in equanimity.
How is it, then, that so many of us quickly abandon these ide-
als when we practice backbends? If were not paying close atten-
tion, the acceptance and lovingkindness we were working with

5 0 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
in other poses suddenly dissipates. that path and, incidentally, no purication either. Its a path that
Any practice of the yamas and niya- leads only deeper into neuroses.
mas, those attitudes and behaviors If the discipline of yoga is to bring greater freedom, you
that epitomize the spirit of yoga, must practice backbends in a way that accepts and accom-
falls away. We grasp for a deeper open- modates your resistanceeven values and honors itwhile
ing, greedy for the glory of a perfect still letting you receive the intended benets. The point of this
pose. We refuse to surrender to our practice is not to become someone else but to become more
own bodys wisdom. If were not pay- fully yourself, to achieve not the glorious backbend pictured
ing close attention, we can become on a yoga calendar but one that is at once stable and comfort-

backbends & abdominals


shockingly forceful and disrespectful able for your body and glows with an inner experience of joy,
of ourselves. exhilaration, and freedom.
With few exceptions, backbends Youre more likely to choose poses that honor your limits
elicit a passionate response. People if you keep in mind the point of the practice, which in this
either pepper their practice with case is opening the front of the body. You probably already
deeper and deeper ones or they skip do this instinctively after long periods of time spent hunched
them whenever possible, dreading forward, whether over a computer, a patch in the garden, or
the inevitable discomfort. Those something else. You know the stretch: arms reaching up and
who avoid them mostly do so sheep- out, chest puffing forward, maybe even accompanied by a
ishly, for what does it say about us if yawn or a growl. This informal backbend opens the muscles of

inversions, twists &


we dread backbends? These are poses the front body that tightened and shortened while you were

forward bends
that open the heart chakra, build pitched forward, and it offers the overstretched and fatigued
courage and stamina, and give us the back muscles relief by shortening them, ushing out waste, and
sort of energy that propels us to reach bringing in a fresh supply of oxygenated blood. It feels great to
out toward others. Do we not value open this way, doesnt it?
those benets? What makes this most natural of backbends especially plea-
Chances are very good that if you surable is that you rarely try to reach beyond your bodys natural
are miserable in backbends, its not comfort level. Youre not trying to achieve anything in particu-
that you dont value the benets; its lar, just instinctively going for the relief and exhilaration of the
more likely that you have never truly arch. If you can remind yourself that this revitalization is pos-
experienced them. Maybe you are sible with even the simplest of poses, you will gravitate willingly
stiff or tight along the front body or and eagerly toward the practice of backbends.
havent yet built enough strength in the back muscles. Perhaps
you instinctively know that you need to protect a vulnerable TAKING ONLY WHAT YOU NEED
heart from openings you are not ready for. If you have yet to But sometimes even that natural impulse to arch backward is
nd joy in opening the front body, its time to develop a different accompanied by an unexpected twinge of pain in the lower back.
approach to your practice. This is the area of the spine that typically bears the greatest
strain during backbends, and if you tend to experience compres-
HONORING RESISTANCE sion in the lower back during practice, you may decide that your
The discipline of yoga is a purication practice, but not in the body just doesnt bend backward with enough ease to garner the
sense that we Americans seem so inclined to believe. The goal benets of the practice. Fortunately, the breath can be used to
is purication not for the sake of perfection but for the sake of create both comfort and control in backward-bending poses.
freedom. If you practice backbends intent upon eradicating Lifting and arching the chest on an inhalation and drawing the
aspects of yourself that you see as somehow not measuring abdomen in to lengthen the lower back on an exhalation inten-
up, such as weak muscles, stiff joints, or protective insulation, tionally create a shallower and more uniform arch. This action
you succeed only in beating yourself up. Theres no freedom on also pulls the apex of the curve up and out of the lower back,

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 5 1
where it tends to settle uncomfortably, and gives it a new home in fully with your physical body. In backbending, the connection is
the chest. Practiced this way, backbends are not only safer but absolute. To set the tone for a skillful, compassionate backbend-
easier to hold. Rather than struggling against the pose, you can ing practice, start by giving yourself the space and freedom to
relax into it and receive the gift of opening it has to offer. observe the movement of the breath separately from the actions
Using the breath to control the depth and apex of a backbend of backbending. To do this, lie on your back with your knees
offers an interesting encounter with aparigraha, the attitude bent and your feet on the oor. Place your right hand on your
thats described in Patanjalis Yoga Sutra as the ability to accept upper chest and your left hand on your lower abdomen. Rest
only what is appropriate. You make a conscious choice not to take each elbow on a blanket so your arms can relax. As you inhale,
all that you could, not to move into the fullest backward bend feel the right hand move rst as the lungs ll and the rib cage
that your body can manage, because you see the value in holding lifts and broadens. Gradually move the breath downward until
back; you value the health and integrity of your body more than the diaphragm moves down and the belly expands, lifting the left
the glory of a deeper backbend. You value the primary function hand with it. Then exhale in reverse, beginning with a gentle con-
of the posethe opening of itmore than the nal shape or traction of the abdominal muscles under the left hand and then
the form of the posture. relaxing and releasing progressively upward until the diaphragm
This kind of restraint is so uncommon in our culture that it and muscles of the rib cage relax and the right hand settles.
can feel quite unnatural. To embrace restraint, you might need Maintain the gentle contraction of the abdomen initiated
to acknowledge how strongly it conicts with the messages during the exhalation throughout subsequent inhalations, rst
we regularly receive about what it means to be accomplished lling the upper lungs and lifting the rib cage. Maintain the
and successful. Like it or not, the culture we live in has a strong lift of the rib cage in subsequent exhalations while reafrm-
inuence on our psyche. If you move into backbends without ing the contraction of your abdominal muscles. This subtle
work of using the abdomen to stabilize the lower
back and pelvis while reaching the chest forward
THE POINT IS TO ACHIEVE NOT THE GLORIOUS BACKBEND
lengthens the spine. Working backbends this way
PICTURED ON A YOGA CALENDAR BUT ONE THATS STABLE AND has a similar feel to opening an extension ladder:
COMFORTABLE FOR YOUR BODY AND THAT GLOWS WITH AN The base remains grounded, and the front spine
becomes progressively longer. If the back of the
INNER EXPERIENCE OF JOY, EXHILARATION, AND FREEDOM.
ladder were becoming shorter, like the muscles
of the back, extending the ladder would create a
acknowledging their potential to collide with the values of yogic long and graceful arch. This action becomes the mechanism by
practice, doing your best can translate into doing your most. Not which you control how deeply you arch backward and where
only can this lead to injury, but it can also sabotage the benets you locate the apex of your curve. The breath can be a constant
of the practice altogether. If you want to give backbending your reminder of these actions. It can also serve as the ground-setting
best effort and still remain true to the spirit of yogic practice, intentionon the inhalation, you can extend compassionate care
you have to remind yourself that success comes with taking only to yourself; on the exhalation, you can revel in pure sensation.
what you need from a poseonly what your body can appropri- The attitude of compassion can start with choosing the poses
ately use and no more. that are most appropriate for your body. Its very easy to fall into
the trap of thinking that simply because a pose exists, every-
LET YOUR BREATH BE YOUR GUIDE one should work toward being able to do it. Not every pose is
If you pay close attention, the breath will tell you what you need appropriate for every body. If youre in pain while practicing
and when youve gone too far. The breath is constant, but at the a pose and cannot nd adjustments that enable you to be in
same time, its ever changing. It reects the state of the body the pose comfortably, even with the advice and assistance of
and mind in the most honest and direct way. Strain, pain, anxi- a trained instructor, then you must accept that the pose is not
ety, striving, frustration, over-effortall of these are revealed by appropriate for your body at this time.
the breath, and you can learn to work within your limits if you Most people with a healthy spine and normal exibility
learn how to interpret the sensation and sound of the breath. will nd variations of Salabhasana (Locust Pose), Utkatasana
The breath can also be used to connect your intention more (Chair Pose), and Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) to

52 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
Setu Bandha
Sarvangasana
A restful, passive pose,
Bridge Pose teaches us
that legs and arms can
be powerful allies in the
practice of backbending.
(Instruction is on page 54.)

backbends & abdominals


be comfortably challenging and invigorating backbends. (If Stay in touch with your level of exertion and any signs of
these poses leave you feeling unopened or unchallenged, how- resistance in your lower back. Resistance doesnt necessarily
ever, your body is likely ready for deeper work and more chal- mean you should stop what youre doing, but it is a reminder
lenging poses, and it would be unskillful for you to leave this to slow down and pay attention to what is happening. Lower

inversions, twists &


more challenging work out of your yoga practice. Remember, the chest a bit to slow down and observe. Find space to move

forward bends
youre looking for what is appropriate for you individually.) within the pose, to work the chest forward on your inhalations
and lengthen the back on your exhalations.
SALABHASANA Once youve mastered the action, begin to experiment with
Salabhasana (pictured on page 50) involves an active contrac- deepening the backbend, taking care to honor your comfort
tion of the back muscles to open the front body. This feels deli- level. Is there enough ease in your lumbar spine (in the lower
cious when the back is strong and the front body is not overly back) to offer it a little more arch? Ideally, you want the lumbar
restricted. Remind yourself that the primary purpose of back- spine and the cervical spine (in the neck) to arch without over-
bends is to release tension along the front of the body, helping compressing and without compromising your ability to open
you feel more movement of breath and energy in those areas. the front of the thoracic spine (in the middle and upper back).
As an active backbend, Salabhasana also offers the promise of If youve lifted the apex of the curve upward and your lower
strengthening muscles along the back of the body. In service of back feels ne, release a little of the abdominal contraction at
these intended benets, try lifting your body only 50 percent as the end of your next inhalation, letting the lower back move a
high as you comfortably can. Use the reserved energy and the little farther forward. Work to keep the apex of the curve draw-
mental space created to stay a few breaths longer than you might ing upward, and support the lifting heart from underneath by
be able to if you were really pushing yourself. Then use the extra bringing the shoulder blades rmly against the rib cage. Mirror
time to observe sensations and to maneuver within the pose. the action of your chest with the base of your skull, extending
To come into Salabhasana, lie face-down with your forehead it upward on an inhalation so the neck comes to its full length.
on the oor and your arms alongside your body, palms down. Then look forward and up with the chin still slightly tucked,
Exhale and lengthen the lower back by drawing the belly gently as if you were arching up and back over a large ball. The entire
toward the spine and pressing the pelvis and thighs toward the spine should lengthen and open into a long, graceful bend, with
oor. Hold a subtle tension in the belly as you inhale and lift no single part receiving a disproportionate share of the back-
the chest and head. Exhale and again lengthen the lower back, bend. This is the true glory of the pose. Savor it.
drawing the belly gently toward the spine. Inhale, expanding If you want to move more deeply into the pose, add your
the chest forward and at the same time pulling the apex of the legs, lifting them and stretching back through the heels. Every
arch from the lower back up to just behind your breastbone. time you move, take only 50 percent of what is possible. Know

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 5 3
that as the body opens, you can take another 10 percentand your knees safe, be sure they track directly forward in line with
another, and another. If you are still comfortable and want a the toes. The closer the thighs come to parallel with the oor,
bit more chest opening, lift the arms off the oor too. Keep the more challenging the posefor both your legs and your
them by your side and turn the palms to face each other, or back. Remind yourself to work at 50 percent so you have plenty
interlace your ngers behind your back and stretch the knuckles of space to make subtle adjustments.
toward the heels. Just be sure to keep some extra wiggle room On each inhalation, lift the chest away from the thighs,
for observing and respondingthe ultimate yogic conversation pulling the apex of the curve upward into the thoracic spine.
among body, breath, and mind. On each exhalation, gently contract the abdominal muscles,
tucking the tailbone under and length-
ening the lower back. Stabilize the pose
YOU CAN MAKE A CONSCIOUS CHOICE NOT TO TAKE ALL THAT YOU
by reaching into the four corners of each
COULD, NOT TO MOVE AS DEEPLY INTO THE POSE AS IS POSSIBLE foot, most strongly into the inner and
FOR YOUR BODY, BECAUSE YOU SEE THE VALUE IN HOLDING BACK; outer edges of each heel to encourage
YOU VALUE THE HEALTH AND INTEGRITY OF YOUR BODY MORE THAN length in the lower back.
Start slowly, with your hands on your
THE GLORY OF A DEEPER POSE. thighs. If your body calls for more open-
ing and a stronger surge of energy, bring
Whenever you take all that your body will give, the question your arms straight out in front of you and parallel to the oor.
of when to come out of the pose never emerges. You come out For an even stronger position, reach the arms overhead. Keep
when your body gasps uncle. By contrast, working as you are adjusting the depth and apex with each position change. When
here, and as the Yoga Sutra advisesbalancing sthira (steadi- you are ready to come out of the pose, return to Tadasana,
ness) and sukha (ease)there is room to observe cues that the releasing your arms to your sides, and take several breaths.
quality of your effort is beginning to wane and its time to rest.
Do you have less control over the subtle actions of controlling SETU BANDHA SARVANGASANA
depth and apex? Is your breath beginning to lose its smooth, Perhaps the kindest of the lot, Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (pic-
easy rhythm? When your resistance to remaining in the pose tured on page 53) is a passive arch for the back; it allows the
overpowers the conversation of your body, it is time to come back muscles to completely relax as the front body opens, with
out. Lie down slowly, turning your head to one side and resting the legs and hips taking on most of the work. To come into the
your arms alongside the torso, palms rolling up toward the ceil- pose, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the
ing. Listen to the echoes of the pose reverberating throughout oor hip-width apart. Press into the feet to lengthen the lower
your body. Enjoy the total release of effort and observe the back, bringing it into contact with the oor. Continue pressing
new quality of your energy. After a short rest, push back into through the feet as the knees reach away from the shoulders,
Balasana (Childs Pose). lifting the buttocks and increasingly more of the back from the
oor. Remind yourself that this is a pose in which your back
UTKATASANA muscles can actually relax while your legs do the work of open-
Salabhasana is challenging for those who have a long torso, a ing the front body. By keeping the effort at 50 percent, youll
stiff front body, and weak back muscles. If this is the case for nd space to enjoy the drape of the back from the pelvis down
you, try Utkatasana (Chair Pose) instead. Like Salabhasana, toward the shoulders, relaxing into the force of gravity.
Utkatasana (at right) is an active backbend. It can challenge the Let the arms remain passive on the oor or, if your chest is
back muscles to develop strength, but it does so using gravity, exible enough to permit, bring them under your back, interlac-
which makes it easier for weaker backs to handle. ing your ngers and straightening the arms as much as possible.
To come into the pose, stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), Either way, reach the arms, like the legs, toward the floor to
with your feet parallel and hip-width apart. On an inhalation, support the arch of the pose. Once youre situated, settle into a
raise the arms overhead. On an exhalation, bend your knees as rhythm of breathing in as you extend the chest toward both ceil-
if to sit in a chair as you bring your hands to the thighs. To keep ing and chin, and breathing out as you lengthen the lower back.

5 4 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
Utkatasana
Working with Utkatasana
(Chair Pose), you can learn
to control how your back
bends and where. Its also
a pose that clearly shows
how well youre striking a
balance between sthira
(steadiness) and sukha (ease).

initially resisted the practice. Your joints open


more, you become stronger and more flexible,
and your heart opens into greater self-acceptance
and compassion for others.
So why not start with those intentions? Why
not practice with the aims of increasing your exi-
bility, deepening your arch, and banishing your
fears? Why should you honor and accommodate
your resistance instead of directing your practice

backbends & abdominals


of backbends toward eliminating the cause of
that resistance?
Any effort to eliminate a part of yourself or
your experience is a treacherous practice, and
where it leads depends on your mental training.
Can you acknowledge your resistance without
judging it? Are you able to see weak back muscles
as simply that and not as somehow connected to
your value as a human being? That might seem
easy, but what about when you look at something

inversions, twists &


deeper, such as a protective barrier around the

forward bends
heart chakra? Can you observe that with under-
standing and equanimity? If you seek to eliminate
your resistance because you feel it reects badly
on you as a person, your practice will be lled with
negativity and self-loathing. That is a practice
Reach strongly through the heels, contracting the hamstrings to of purication for the sake of perfection, and it leads only to
pull the sitting bones toward the back knees. As the hamstrings deeper entrapment in suffering.
contract, the lower back is pulled long from below. But what if you do have the ability to look at yourself closely,
When you are able to lengthen the lower back by tugging the compassionately, and with equanimity? Can you then meet
back of the pelvis down with your hamstrings, the front body your resistance head-on? Well, heres the interesting thing:
becomes more available to lengthen and open. If you struggle A mind trained in equanimity doesnt push unwanted things
with the comfort of your lower back in backbends, however, away or grasp desired things closer. It honors and accommo-
MODEL: MALACHI MELVILLE; STYLIST: CHRISTINE MONNET;

you may still nd the most comfort by continuing to stabilize dates, knowing that such treatment is transformational. Ulti-
and lengthen the lumbar spine at least partially through the mately, it is only in letting go of what you wish you could be,
HAIR/MAKEUP: NICOLE PETERS/KOKO REPRESENTS

contraction of your abdominal muscles. When you are ready in seeking greater freedom to be who you actually are at any
to come out of the pose, release the arms out from under you given moment, that the process of your becoming unfolds. So,
and slowly return the spine to the oor, one vertebra at a time. practice enjoying the backbends that your body enjoys without
Rest a moment with the knees bent and the feet on the oor. forcing yourself into poses that reect only what you wish your
Relax and observe new sensations. body could enjoy. Let each arch be an exercise in acceptance
and equanimity, an active embrace of the sanctuary that yoga
SEEING WITH COMPASSION can offer, and a simple acknowledgment of a truth that might
When you practice backbends this wayby honoring resis- just change your whole life.
tance and working with integrity and sensitivitythe result
is not only more access to the benets of backbends but also Kate Tremblay is a yoga teacher and massage therapist in Birmingham,
an inevitable transformation of the elements within you that Alabama.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 5 5
abdominals by R ich ard Rosen

PRESS THROUGH
HEELS

Fab
Abs
Strengthen your
core and improve
your posture.

THOUGH IT SOUNDS impressive in Sanskrit, Urdhva


Prasarita Padasana rendered in English becomes the
decidedly clunky Raised Stretched-Out Foot Pose.
The name is much ado about a fairly simple exercise that
has deep benetsbut most teachers save the syllables
and just call it by its initials. UPP involves nothing more
than lying on your back and swinging your extended legs
through a slightly less than 90-degree arc, from perpen-
dicular to the oor to nearlybut not quiteparallel,
and back again. And again.
In Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar says that UPP is won-
derful for reducing fat round the abdomen, strengthens
the lumbar region of the back, and tones the abdominal
organs. Whats not to like about that?
continued on page 58

SOFTEN FACE AND THROAT SOFTEN BELLY

5 6 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M
DONT arch lower back.

backbends & abdominals


DO release shoulder
blades away from ears.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 5 7
a bd omin a ls

The pose has a well-deserved reputa- psoas, outwardly a powerful hip exor, releases the string, exhale and lightly oat
tion as an abdominal strengthener, but we plays an important role in general body your foot back toward the oor.
arent talking about the rectus abdominis, structure, in posture and movement, and But wait! Just as your tippy-toes brush
the long, at muscle that shores up the even in digestion and elimination. the oor, pause for a deep inhalation. On
belly between the pubis and ribs, which the exhalation, the puppeteer will pull
bodybuilder types, like former California PUPPET PRACTICE again, and your foot will rise up. Con-
governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, trans- The root of UPPs movement is deep tinue this up-and-down swinging for at

PHOTOS: KATRINE NALEID; MODEL: AUTUMN ALVAREZ; STYLIST: LYN HEINEKEN; HAIR/MAKEUP: CHRIS MCDONALD
form into ashy six-pack abs. This simple inside the torso where the psoas attaches least a minute. Pause at the conclusion
movement strengthens a deeper muscle to the lumbar spine. I find it useful to of each movement to inhale; lift or drop
that passes through the very core of your imagine that the psoas is a puppet string, your foot only on an exhalation. When
body and aids your posture, your move- originating on my inner thigh (the lesser finished, return your right foot to the
ment, and even (because this muscle is trochanter). The puppeteer (what good oor and repeat with your left leg.
in close proximity to the back of the are puppet strings without a puppeteer?) When each leg has worked solo, try the
diaphragm) the way you breathe. Its the is sitting on my lumbar spine and holding exercise with your legs together. Be pre-
psoas, which Ida Rolf, the originator of the other end. She can pull on or release pared for a bit more challenge, especially
Structural Integration (popularly known it, depending on whether shes raising or if your psoas pair is weak or unbalanced,
as Rolng), deemed one of the most sig- lowering my leg. as it likely is. You can expect two things to
nicant muscles of the body. Lie on your back, knees bent, feet on happen as you swing your legs: One, youll
In truth, you have two of them, one the floor with your heels about a foot unconsciously assist the psoas by tighten-
on each side of the body (but for simplic- from your buttocks. Focus on the right ing your rectus abdominis; and two, your
itys sake, well refer to the muscle in the lesser trochanter. From here, in your low back will arch away from the oor.
singular). The psoas lies just behind the imagination, follow the course of the Neither action is desirable. Tightening
abdominal organs and is more difcult to puppet-string psoas through the pelvis the abdominal muscle interferes with
access than the rectus abdominis. It takes and up to the lumbar spine, where your breathing, overworks your six pack, and
a circuitous route through the core of the puppeteer is holding its free end. also prevents the psoas from assuming
body, attaching on the front of the lumbar As she pulls on the string, exhale and its proper role in hip exion. Arching is
spine (lower back), then runs along the watch your right foot lift effortlessly off an invitation to an oh-my-aching-back
inner surface of the pelvis and over the the floor and your right thigh close in injury. What to do?
pubis to attach to the inner surface of the toward your belly. (For now, keep your Still lying supine on the oor, rest your
thighbone (femur) at a bony knob called knee bent.) Pause when the hip is fully ngertips on your lower belly (below your
the lesser trochanter. Rolf says that the flexed, and inhale. As the puppeteer navel) and have your puppeteer lift your

5 8 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
2
( ) pose benets
Strengthens low-back
and psoas muscles

Tones abdominal muscles

Improves posture

contraindications

backbends & abdominals


Low-back
and hip injuries

feet off the oor. Set your knees over your legs are perpendicular to the oor. Sepa- smoothly and bring your legs back to ver-
hip joints (so your thighs are perpendicu- rate your feet about 12 inches, inwardly tical. Maintain the inner rotation of your
lar to the oor and your heels hang down rotate your thighs (so that your big toes thighs and the active push through the
by your buttocks) and hold this position are closer to each other than your heels), backs of your heels.
for a minute or so. Your belly should be press through the backs of your heels, Gradually build toward a dozen or

inversions, twists &


rm (neither rock hard nor squishy) and then squeeze your legs together. Exhale more repetitions. Youre ready to increase

forward bends
relatively flat (not mounded up), your and lower your legs until your heels touch the number when your jaw, tongue, eyes,
lumbar spine in its natural, gentle arch. the wall. Inhale; exhale as you bring your and the back of your neck are relaxed in
Slowly lower and raise your bent legs. legs back to perpendicular. the pose. When you can swing your legs
Your puppeteer may pull with more effort Take a moment to assess how close to through a full arc smoothly without lock-
than before. As she goes about her busi- the wall you need to be. Edge back until ing or gripping the psoas, or holding your
ness, mind your lower belly and back. you nd a spot that feels like a challenge breath, you can add more repetitions.
Keep the surface of your belly relatively but not a strain. Measure your preferred Its easier to do this exercise if you
soft and maintain the natural arch in your distance from the wall so you know where press your palms and arms down against
lower back. Try not to disturb them with to plunk yourself down the next time you the oor alongside your torso for stability
your leg movements. If you feel strain practice UPP. Four to six repetitions is a (as shown on page 56). For a greater chal-
in your low back, protect it by swinging reasonable start, and 12 to 15 repetitions lenge, you can reach your arms overhead
your legs only a few inches through the a worthwhile goal. Over time, gradually along the oor, with your palms facing up.
arc. Continue for a minute or so; then, back away from the wall until that won- You can also weigh your hands and wrists
on an exhalation, release your feet to the derful day when you can go into the pose down with a sandbag (gure 2).
oor and rest for a minute. without any support. UPP is great for strengthening the
The second approach to UPP is to do psoas, improving posture, and firming
ALL TOGETHER NOW it unsupported, which I suspect a lot of belly bulges. It also teaches you to root
Now try the full pose, with both legs. You enthusiastic male readers will attempt your legs energetically. When your move-
can practice UPP with or without sup- even though they shouldnt. Lower your ments are initiated from the spine, youll
port. If the previous exercise was difcult, legs either until your abdominals and feel more stable. And youll nd that UPP
use the support of a wall ( gure 1). Lie on back start to howl, at which point you is great preparation as you take on more
your back with your buttocks about 12 to should immediately swing your legs back exciting yoga challenges.
18 inches from the wall. Exhale, lift your to vertical (bend your knees if needed); or
feet, and bring your knees over your hips. until your heels are 3 or 4 inches from the Contributing editor Richard Rosen lives and
Inhale and straighten your knees so your oor, at which point you should exhale teaches yoga in Northern California.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 5 9
abdominals by Marla Apt

KEEP THROAT SOFT

LIFT STERNUM STRETCH ARMS AND


HANDS FORWARD

PULL SHOULDERS
BACK AND DOWN

FIRM AND
TIGHTEN KNEES

MOVE BACK RIBS


FORWARD

6 0 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
Chart Your
Depths
Let Paripurna

backbends & abdominals


YOU MAY HAVE HEARD that Paripurna Navasana
Navasana (a.k.a.
(Full Boat Pose) builds core strength. But in yoga,
Full Boat Pose) take you
the core refers to more than just abs. B. K. S.
on a journey to your
Iyengar says that practice leads you on an inward
innermost core, where
journey from the periphery of your body to the
youll find a sea of calm.
core of your being. With Navasana, youll build
strong abdominal muscles that can help support your lower back.
The process of coordinating the work of your limbs and your torso while
strengthening your spine will also teach you about your breath, your atten-
tion span, your emotions, and your very nature. Eventually, even a simple

DO bring your legs close to your torso,


DONT let your back round and chest collapse.
and lift your back and chest.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 6 1
a bd omin a ls
lower back), and it can facilitate smooth
and efficient breathing as you do your
asana practice or go about your day.

HALF-MAST
Full Boat Pose is like a balancing version
of Dandasana (Staff Pose), so if you can-
not sit up straight in Dandasana because
of tight hamstrings, you may nd it dif-
cult to bring your legs toward your torso
without rounding your back and sinking
into your chest.
Bending your knees in the rst varia-

1
Bent knees tion (figure 1) will take your hamstrings
support bringing out of the equation, enabling you to prac-
the thighs and tice the pose without sagging in the spine.
torso together
If your abdomen, back, or legs are not yet
with a long spine.
strong enough to manage the dynamics of
the full pose, the second variation ( figure
2) will show you how to lift your spine
while straightening your legs. Both varia-
tions give you the opportunity to learn
pose like Navasana can penetrate beyond the pose gradually so that you can experi-
the muscles, nerves, bones, and organs to ence the dynamics of the back, legs, and
your Selfyour innermost core. abdomen working together to bring you
Navasana is a compact pose that re- into your core.
quires you to draw everything into your To do Navasana with bent knees, be-

PHOTOS: RORY EARNSHAW; MODEL: JASON CRANDELL; STYLIST: LYN HEINEKEN; GROOMING: VERONICA SJOEN/ARTIST UNTIED
center: The abdomen moves toward the gin by sitting in Dandasana, and then
spine, and the spine moves forward to place your palms on the oor beside your
support the front of the trunk. The shoul- pose benets hips. Press your thighs down and stretch
der blades move down and in toward the Relieves bloating
your heels away from your pelvis to fully
chest, the chest spreads, and both the and gas straighten your legs. Lift your torso away
arms and the legs stay firm. Its a lot to Strengthens the from the oor and open your chest. Your
pay attention to, but the integration of abdomen and back back should feel as though its moving for-
all your body parts in Full Boat Pose will ward, toward the front of your body. Now
leave you feeling strong and supple as well
as mentally and emotionally steady.
contraindications lift the front of your body all the way from
the bottom of your pelvis to the top of
If your mind begins to wander, the Pregnancy your chest. To create some space between
inner rmness youve cultivated will start Menstruation your torso and legs, press the very tops
to waver, and youll lose your balance. So, Diarrhea of your thighbones into the floor and
to nd your inner core and stability in the lift the bottom of your abdomen up away
poseand maintain your focuskeep from your thighs without leaning on the
your face soft and your breath relaxed. back of your buttocks. Lift your rib cage
The idea is that when your brain is tense away from your abdomen and roll your
and your eyes bulge, your focus becomes abdomen to lift the chestall while bal- shoulders back.
more ex ternal. When youre mentally ancing on your buttocks. Practice this Next, bend your knees and place your
relaxed and your facial features recede, pose often, and youll discover how to feet on the oor. Hold the tops of your
however, your attention draws inward, engage and stretch the abdomen simul- knees with your hands and pull on them
and you can easily nd stability again. taneously. Lengthening the front body slightly to lift your sternum. Raise your
Although Navasana will work your like this is an essential action for many feet until your shins are parallel to the
core muscles, its no gym crunch. Instead asana and pranayama techniques. It sup- oor, and then ex your feet. With your
of bringing your chest and pelvis close ports the entire chest cavity (as opposed legs touching and your knees still bent,
together and shortening the front body, to a tight, short front body, which puts bring your thighs closer to your chest and
youll pull your ribs away from the pressure on the lungs, internal organs, and lift your chest.

62 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
outward strain so that your mind remains
quiet. Then exhale, bend your knees, and
place your feet back on the oor.

FULL SAIL
Now youre prepped and ready to practice
Full Boat Pose. If you nd that your back
or legs wont let you hold yourself up with-
out sinking in the spine, you can support

2
your heels on a wall or tall chair.
Start in Dandasana and again lean back
on your hands. Lift and straighten your
legs as you did in the second variation.
Now come onto your ngertips and lift
Use your hands your lower back so that your entire spine
to help you feels as though it is moving toward the
balance and to
front of your body. Lift your arms and
lift the spine.
stretch them evenly out in front of you,

backbends & abdominals


parallel to the floor. Keep your palms
extended, facing each other. Stretch your
ngers forward and pull your shoulders
back and down as you lift your sternum.
BALANCED TO THE CORE your hands on the floor behind you to Keep your knees rm and tight to help
Now that you are balancing on your but- help you feel steady and to support the maintain straight legs. Extend the inner
tocks, see that youre not rounding your lift of your spine. legs toward your inner heels, and spread
back. Move your spine forward, toward Begin in Dandasana. Lean back slightly the balls of your feet from your big toe
your front body. Pull on your bent knees and place your palms a few inches behind toward your little toe. Without bending
once again to lift your chest and increase your hips. Lift your chest, bend your your knees, work toward lifting your legs
the distance between your sternum and knees, and raise your legs until your shins higher so that your feet rise above the
your navel. Without dropping your chest, are parallel to the oor. Bring your thighs level of your head.
stretch your arms out in front alongside toward your torso, and move your back Lift your chest while keeping your
your shins; keep them parallel to the oor, ribs and shoulder blades forward. Exhale chin level and your throat soft. Look
with the palms facing each other. Notice and straighten your legs without round- straight ahead, perhaps at your feet, as
how your abdominal muscles engage as ing your back. Extend from your calves you hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds.
you pull your thighs closer to your torso. to your heels until your toes are about as Then exhale and release your legs to the
Dont let your back round, but see if you high as your head. Youll feel your abdo- floor. Lie down on your back with your
can lengthen the front of your torso more. men working, but dont let the front of knees bent to rest. Allow your abdomen
Even as you stretch your arms forward, your body shorten. Instead, lift your navel to release toward the back of your body
pull your shoulders back and move your toward your chest and your ribs off your and your back to press into the oor.
shoulder blades down and in toward your abdomen. Roll your shoulders back and Holding yourself up and lengthening
chest. Although simultaneously engaging gaze straight ahead. your arms, legs, abdomen, and chest in
and lengthening your abdomen is chal- It doesnt take long in this pose to real- Paripurna Navasana draws your focus
lenging, these actions bring your attention ize that your legs have to work very hard inward. Despite the effort involved, con-
toward the source of your movements and to remain straight and uplifted. So, just necting to the stability of your core can
help keep you focused. Breathe normally, as you do in Dandasana, nd support by be calming and centering to your body,
relax your throat, and look straight ahead. pressing your thighs to the back of your mind, and emotions. Contact with this
You can hold the pose for 30 seconds, and legs and extend your calves toward your center of your being is like nding silence
then work up to one minute. When youre heels. Reach out through your inner heels in the midst of a storm. Despite the many
ready, exhale and place your feet on the and broaden the soles of your feet. Use actions involved in this pose, the result of
oor to return to Dandasana. your hands to help balance yourself with- those actions can draw you closer to your
out tilting back. Breathe smoothly and own source of calm stillness.
ANCHORED AND STEADY keep your face and throat relaxed. Let
In the second variation, youll balance in the effort to become tall and balanced Marla Apt ( yoganga.com ) is a certified
Navasana with straight legs while keeping be supported by your inner body without Iyengar Yoga instructor in Los Angeles.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 6 3
strike a
ROYAL
pose
a beginners
guide to
yogas key
inversions
by AADIL PALKHIVALA
photography by JOHN ROBBINS

Salamba Sirsasana
(Supported Headstand)
KING OF ASANAS
W
hen I announced to the class during a workshop
I was teaching a few years ago that it was time
for Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand),
an elderly woman slunk out of the room, quickly followed
by her yoga teacher. Moments later they came back. Later,
I learned that the student had left because shed never been
upside down in her life and was scared to try; her yoga teacher
had gently persuaded her to return, telling her that this was
the perfect opportunity. Hesitantly, the student had agreed.
I helped her up, kept her there for about 15 seconds, and
carefully brought her down. She stood up, smiled, and gave
me a big hug. The next day the first thing she said to me
was, Can you take me upside down again today? Ive been
told that she has happily practiced inversions during every
class since. At a spry 82, this woman had faced her fears,
empowered herself, and made herself more able in old age
than she had been in youth.
Since we rarely, if ever, purposefully turn ourselves
upside down, an aversion to inversions is natural. But
its a shame to let fear keep us from so many benets and

inversions
delights. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, He has not
learned the lessons of life who does not every day surmount
a fear. What better time to discard an old fear than today?

ROLE REVERSAL
Because of their myriad benets, Salamba Sirsasana (Supported
Headstand, pronounced shir-SHA-sa-nuh) and Salamba Sarvan-
gasana (Supported Shoulderstand, pronounced sar-vaan-GAH-
sa-nuh) are considered the king and queen of asanas, respectively.
Sirsasana develops our capacity for action (re element) and
enhances our ability to create (air element). Sarvangasana nur-
tures our capacity to stop doing and get grounded (earth element)
and fosters our ability to be still and reective (water element).
Sirsasana makes us more alert and focused; Sarvangasana
makes us calm and receptive.
Inversions set yoga apart from other physical disciplines:
Psychologically, they let us see things from an alternative

Salamba Sarvangasana
(Supported Shoulderstand)
QUEEN OF ASANAS
Shoulderstand tips
T H E LIFT of the spine is paramount; if
the spine drops sharply or presses into
the oor, it puts excessive pressure on
the vertebrae, causing various problems
in the cervical and thoracic vertebrae.
RELAX the throat and neck.
USE YOUR HANDS to lift your back
toward the ceiling; try walking them
perspective. Emotionally, they guide the down toward your armpits. will feel ready to do full Sarvangasana
energy of the pelvis (seat of creation and KEEP YOUR upper arms parallel, with (figure 4, right) by lifting one leg at a time
personal power) toward the heart cen- your elbows about shoulder-width apart. from Ardha Sarvangasana.
ter, enabling self-exploration and inner YOUR SACRUM should feel as if it is While pads are unnecessary for limber
growth. Physically, they stimulate the moving upward. bodies, for the rest of us they are neces-
immune and endocrine systems, thereby NEVER TURN YOUR HEAD while sary. Ultimately, the shoulders themselves
invigorating and nourishing the brain in this pose, and dont lift your chin or become the pads, and no part of the spine
and the organs. Done correctly, they also pull it in; these actions put tremendous touches the oor. In the meantime, the
release tension in the neck and the spine. strain on the neck. If you need to adjust stiffer the shoulders, the higher the pads
I practice both poses every day and rec- your head or neck, come out of the pose, need to be. Though many instructors
ommend that most of my students do the make the adjustment, and then go back teach this pose without pads, I value my
same. However, I do suggest that women into the pose. students necks and consider pads to be an
forgo inversions during their menstrual indispensable part of the posture.
period; reversing blood ow goes against After you come out of Sarvangasana,
the bodys natural urge to release stale aration, because it distributes weight sit up and notice its effects. Your eyelids
blood and the endometrial lining, and it between the feet and upper body while should feel heavy and your facial muscles
may lead to a backow of menstrual uid. protecting the neck. In this pose, you soft and weighted, as if your jawbone is
Other contraindications include neck can check to see if youve developed the going to drop off. If you feel agitated,
injuries, high blood pressure, heart con- necessary exibility in your shoulders for angry, or tense, you may have stayed in
ditions, epilepsy, and eye problems. Sarvangasana. Lift your pelvis, leave your the pose too long or may need to work
To receive the palpable benefits of shoulders on the oor, and notice your with a teacher to rene your alignment.
these posesand to prevent injury, espe- seventh cervical vertebra (C7), that big
cially to the neckits essential to learn bump at the bottom of your neck. If its LEARNING HEADSTAND
the correct setup and alignment for pressing into the oor, you will need to The gifts of Sirsasana are so great that
each pose. Be mindful about your body use a stack of rm blankets or foam pads even if you are not ready to do the actual

MODEL: AURORA; STYLIST: KAREN ZAMBONIN; MAKEUP: NICOLE PETERS/KOKO REPRESENTS


as you approach these inversions, but do to support your body. If you use blankets pose, you can benet by preparing for it.
give them a try. Take the time to master or pads, they should support your body The preparations help you strengthen
them, and you will reap their benets for from your elbows to your shoulders and the latissimus dorsi musclesthe large
the rest of your life. upper trapezius muscles, which cover the muscles that attach the upper arms to the
upper-back part of the neck and shoul- backas well as help create the awareness
SHOULDERSTAND BASICS ders. If you have stiff trapezius muscles, required to spread, lift, and strengthen
A healthy Sarvangasana requires a strong C7 will also rest on the pads. Eventually, the muscles around the shoulder blades
opening of the armpits and a rolling of your chest will touch your chin, indicating so that the neck is protected.
the shoulders back and toward each other that your neck is mobile enough for you to To start, you take Adho Mukha Sva-
to allow the neck to release properly. A practice Sarvangasana. nasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose;
good way to prepare for this is to stand If you feel you are ready to move on, figure 1, page 69) and focus on engaging
with your back near a table, interlock your try practicing Ardha Sarvangasana (Half the muscles that spread the shoulder
ngers, place your hands on the table, and Shoulderstand; figure 3, right). This is done blades away from each other, away from
bend your knees while lifting your chest with the pelvis lifted off the oor, the feet the oor, and toward the rib cage. This
(figure 1, right). This replicates the move- on the wall, and the shoulders rolled under action builds the upper-body strength
ment necessary in the full pose but places with two or three carefully folded blankets you will need, and when you re-create
no weight on the head or neck, allowing or rm pads under them to ensure that the this in Sirsasana, both your head and
you to cultivate exibility without risk. neck is pain free. The pads should be in neck will be protected. In Adho Mukha
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge the same position as described above for Svanasana, make sure that your shoulder
Pose; figure 2, right) is another good prep- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana. In time, you blades are wide and your neck is long.

6 6 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
4 Steps to
Shoulderstand 2

3 3 Ardha Sarvangasana
(Half Shoulderstand)
Wrap three folded blankets or pads in a
sticky mat and place them against a wall.
Lie on your back, bend your knees, and
place your feet on the wall, knees slightly
bent. Lift your pelvis off the oor and roll
your shoulders under, as in Bridge Pose.
Place your hands on your back and walk
them toward your shoulders, keeping your
elbows and knees hip-width apart and your
shinbones level. Drop your body weight into
your elbows and look toward your heart
center. Hold for 18 to 36 breaths.

1 Shoulder Opener 4 Salamba Sarvangasana


Stand with your back facing a table. In- (Supported Shoulderstand)
From the gure 3 position, slowly straighten

inversions
terlock your ngers and rest your palms
on the tabletop. While exhaling, drop
your buttocks, bend your knees as much
as possible, and move your armpits and
4 one leg at a time, taking weight onto your
shoulders without tensing your neck. If your
buttocks drop toward the wall, you are not

the sides of your chest forward and up. yet ready to straighten your legs. (If thats

Press your shoulder blades down and the case, place your feet back on the wall.)

apart, rolling the tops of your shoulders Drop your lower belly into your upper belly

toward each other. Hold for 9 breaths. as you lift and relax your buttocks. Walk
your hands down your back toward the

2 Setu Bandha Sarvangasana oor, keeping your elbows shoulder-width

(Bridge Pose) apart. Hold for 18 to 36 breaths.

Lie face-up on a sticky mat. Bend your


knees and place your feet hip-width apart.
On an inhalation, lift your pelvis 8 to 12
inches off the oor. Straighten your arms,
interlocking your ngers and thumbs un-
derneath you, palms facing each other. Lift
and roll your shoulders under your body
one at a time, until your seventh cervical
vertebra (C7) is off the oor. Relax your
throat as you move your chest toward
your chin. Now lift the pelvis to your maxi-
mum. Hold for 9 to 18 breaths.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 67
Headstand tips
KEEP YOUR elbows shoulder-width
apart. Most people spread their elbows
too wide, which forces the shoulder
blades toward each other and cramps
the upper back and the neck.
YOUR SHOULDER BLADES should
be constantly lifting and spreading
so that the bones of your neck drop
(You can allow your head to rest on a block toward your throat. When you come out of Sirsasana and
as you do this work.) Check to see if your MAKE SURE your wrists do not lift sit up, you should feel a peaceful, focused
shoulders are below an imaginary line off the oor. sensation in your brain and nerves. Your
drawn between your wrists and your but- ASSUMING THAT your neck is hands should be calm and steady. If they
tocks; if so, you are ready to go on. healthy, you should be balanced on are not, you have stayed too long, worked
Learning how to set up your arms and the fontanel or slightly in front of it, incorrectly, or worked too hard. Ask a
head is the next step toward Sirsasana. not on the crown of your head. teacher to check your pose to see that
Interlock your ngers and thumbs on the IF YOU FEEL like you are going to your head and neck are in the correct
floor in front of you. Keep your wrists fall, remember that the less tense you alignment and that your shoulders are
as far apart as possible and your elbows are as you go down, the less likely lifting and widening properly.
shoulder-width apart, so that your inner you are to hurt yourself. I always tell

elbows and inner armpits form a square. my students to pretend they have no INVERSIONS IN PRACTICE
Place your head against your wrists and bones as they go down! Now that you know how to do the royal
thumb mounds; your head should rest poses, how do you fit them into your
on the oor at your fontanel (the spot in practice sequence? Because it cools the
front of the crown of the head) or slightly The next step is Ardha Sirsasana (Half body, Shoulderstand should be done
in front of it. You can nd the fontanel Headstand; figure 3, right). There are no after Headstand, which warms the body.
by feeling for the big bump on the top of balance issues in this preparatory pose, In Sarvangasana, the back of the neck is
your head and then sliding your ngers because the arms are on the oor and the released and the vertebrae are extended,
forward; you will feel a valley (the fonta- feet are pressing against the wall with the releasing any tension and compression
nel) followed by a second bump. legs parallel to the oor. Kneel with your in the neck that an incorrect Sirsasana
If you have stiff shoulders and a back to a wall, and place your arms on a may have caused. In a well-rounded prac-
rounded upper back, try a Sirsasana sticky mat set a legs length from the wall. tice session, Sirsasana should come after
preparation (figure 2, right) with firm Interlock your ngers and thumbs, place standing poses and before other intense
pads against a wall. This helps to atten your elbows shoulder-width apart, bring work such as deep backbends and twists.
and open your upper back, create a soft your fontanel to the oor, and make sure Sarvangasana comes at the end, before
neck, and encourage the sense of lift in your head is not tipped or twisted to one Savasana (Corpse Pose). How long should
your shoulders that is necessary for doing side. Lift your shoulders, moving your you hold the poses? The rule of thumb
Sirsasana correctly. Set up your head and shoulder blades up and apart like water is to hold Sarvangasana twice as long as
arms with your knuckles touching the owing from a fountain. Then slowly walk Sirsasana, yet not to strain. Work with a
wall, then walk your feet toward your your feet up the wall until your thighs and teacher to nd whats right for you.
arms and straighten your legs. Press your legs are parallel to the oor. Hold the pose I hope these words have encouraged
wrists down and try to take your shoul- for about 30 seconds; come down. If you you to begin a lifelong practice of these
ders off the pads; as you do so, you should were able to feel your shoulder blades magnificent poses in a way that is both
feel your head lifting off the oor. move up and away from each other in the safe and beneficial. In doing these two
As a beginning yoga student, you pose, you are ready for Sirsasana. inversions, the king and queen of asanas,
should have 90 percent of your weight To move into the full pose (figure 4, you will be experiencing the best of yoga.
on your forearms and 10 percent on your right), set your sticky mat next to a wall May your work help you discover the fra-
head. Many beginners nd that Sirsasana and place your knuckles next to the wall, grant sweetness that is, after all, your own
is no longer scary when they realize there following the same setup instructions for inner essence.
is very little weight resting on their head the head and shoulders. To come up, bend
and neck. As you evolve in the posture, your legs and gently jump both legs up and Aadil Palkhivala is the founder and director
youll put more and more weight on your land with the soles of your feet touching of Alive and Shine Center in Bellevue,
head until eventually nearly 100 percent the wall (figure 4, inset). Straighten your Washington. For more information about his
of your weight is on your head. legs one at a time, pressing them together. teaching, visit aliveandshinecenter.com.

6 8 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
4 Steps to Headstand
1 2

apart, so that your inner elbows and inner


armpits form a square. Place your head
Prep
against your wrists and thumb mounds;
your head should rest on the oor at your
fontanel or slightly in front of it. Have a
helper place two long, rm pads between
your back and the wall. Bend your knees,
walk your feet in as close as possible, and
straighten your legs. Relax your neck and

3 press your wrists and forearms into the


oor. Hold for 9 breaths.

1 Adho Mukha Svanasana 3 Ardha Sirsasana


(Downward-Facing Dog Pose) (Half Headstand)

inversions
Sit on your shins and bend forward, resting Place a folded mat near a wall, about a legs
your chest on your thighs. Stretch your arms length from it. Facing away from the wall,
out in front of your body. Tuck your toes under, kneel and place your arms and head on the
lift your hips, and straighten your legs while mat in Sirsasana position. Walk your feet up
pressing your hands into the oor. Press the the wall until your legs are parallel to the
mounds of your index ngers into the oor and oor. Press your wrists and forearms into the
spread your shoulder blades away from each oor and open your shoulders, just as in Adho
other. Glide your shoulder blades toward your Mukha Svanasana. Squeeze your legs together
buttocks by dropping your rib cage toward and lift your sitting bones and the sides of your
the oor while pressing your shoulder blades waist toward the ceiling. Hold for 9 breaths.
into your upper back. Press your upper back
toward your feet, creating a downward arch 4 Salamba Sirsasana
between hands and pelvis. Place your fore- (Supported Headstand)
head on a block. Activate all three movements Place your arms and head in Sirsasana posi-
of your shoulder bladesspread them apart, tion on a folded sticky mat, your knuckles
glide them toward your buttocks, and move touching the wall. Press your forearms
them into your rib cage. Hold for 9 breaths. and wrists into the oor while moving your
shoulder blades toward your buttocks. Walk
2 Salamba Sirsasana your feet slowly to the wall, then bend your
(Supported Headstand), variation knees and gently jump your legs up, placing
With your knuckles against a wall, set up your feet on the wall with your knees bent.
the pose by interlocking your ngers and Straighten your legs one at a time. Squeeze
thumbs, keeping your wrists as far apart as
possible and your elbows shoulder-width 4 your inner legs together and lift your heels
toward the ceiling. Hold for 9 to 18 breaths.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 69
forward bends by N atas h a R izo po u los

Get
Hip
Learn proper
alignment in Pigeon
Pose and enjoy a
safe and sweet
hip opener. YOGA HANDLES STIFF HIPS in a variety of
ways, but most directly through a family of
poses that are known loosely as hip openers. Some hip
openers increase the external, or outward, rotation of the
femur bone in the hip socket. Others lengthen the psoas
muscle, a primary hip exor connecting the torso with the
legs that gets chronically shortened in our chair-bound soci-
ety. Pigeon Pose is an extremely effective hip opener that
addresses both areas, with the front leg working in external
rotation and the back leg in position to stretch the psoas.
Pigeon is actually a variation of the advanced pose Eka
Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged King Pigeon Pose). The
two poses share a similar alignment in the hips and, more
importantly, an imperative to be approached thoughtfully
and consciously. Most practitioners recognize that One-
Legged King Pigeon is an advanced backbend that requires
precise alignment. Yet many of us are likely to thought-

RELEASE FOREHEAD ADJUST FRONT SHIN


TO THE FLOOR TOWARD FRONT OF MAT

70 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
DONT fall off to one side. DO have your hips even and level.

forward bends
MAINTAIN LEVEL SACRUM

KEEP LEG IN
NEUTRAL ROTATION

SUPPORT FRONT HIP


WITH FLOOR OR BLANKETS

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 7 1
fo r wa rd b e n d s

1 shoulders off the floor or rounding the


upper back, do so; otherwise, keep your
hands clasped around your hamstring or
use a strap. The goal is to avoid creating
tension in the neck and shoulders as you
open the hips, so choose a position that
keeps your upper body relaxed. As you
draw your right leg in toward you (mak-
ing sure to aim it toward your right shoul-
der and not the center of your chest),
simultaneously press your left knee away

)
lessly fold into the forward-bend varia- from you. This combination of actions
tion of Pigeon, which can stress the knee should provide ample sensation, but if
and sacrum. To avoid injury, I approach you dont feel much, try releasing your
Pigeon by rst doing variations that will pubic bone down away from your navel
open the hips gradually and safely. Once
your hips are open, youll be able to craft pose benets toward the oor. This will bring a bit more
curve into your lumbar spine and should
a well-balanced Pigeon that benets your Increases external range of motion deepen the hip stretch.
hips and lower back. If you practice it con- of femur in hip socket

sistently, youll notice more ease in your Lengthens hip exors BOOST YOUR BIRD

PHOTOS: RORY EARNSHAW/SANDBOX STUDIO; MODEL: CHRISANDRA FOX; STYLIST: LYN HEINEKEN; HAIR/MAKEUP: VERONICA SJOEN/ARTIST UNTIED
lower half as you sit, stand, and walk. Prepares body for backbends This variation moves more in the direc-
Prepares body for seated postures like tion of the nal shape but uses blankets to
THREAD THE NEEDLE Padmasana (Lotus Pose) help maintain alignment. Come onto all
One of the best ways to open the hips and fours with your hands shoulder-distance
prepare for Pigeon is through a supine
modification called Eye of the Needle
contraindications apart and about a hand span in front of
your shoulders. Bring your left knee for-
(sometimes called Dead Pigeon, figure Knee injury ward and place it on the oor just behind
1). I teach this pose to first-timers and Sacroiliac issues and slightly to the left of your left wrist,
(
practice it myself on a regular basis. As with your shin on a diagonal and your left
you move through this and the next varia- heel pointing toward your right frontal
tion, and then toward the nal pose, make hipbone (figure 2). Now bring your atten-
sure that you alternate sides so that your

2
body can unfold evenly and progressively.
To begin, come onto your back with
your knees bent and your thighs parallel
and hip-distance apart. Next, cross your
left ankle over your right thigh, making
sure that your anklebone clears your
thigh. Actively ex your front foot by pull-
ing your toes back. When you do this, the
center of your foot will line up with your
kneecap rather than curving into a sickle
shape, which can stress the ligaments of
the ankle and the knee.
Maintaining this alignment, pull your
right knee in toward your chest, thread
your left arm through the triangle between
your legs, and clasp your hands around the
back of your right leg. If you can hold in
the front of your shin without lifting your

72 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
tion to your back leg: Your right quad- hip connections
riceps should squarely face the floor so
People tend to either love or loathe poses
that your leg is in a neutral position like Pigeon. Regardless of which camp
you want to avoid the common pitfall of you inhabit, keep in mind that Pigeon can
externally rotating the back leg. Establish help safeguard your precious knees and youll be able to rotate your front thigh
this neutral leg by tucking your right toes low back and make the other poses in your out and line up your front knee toward
under and straightening your right leg so practice innitely more pleasant. Heres a the pinkie side of the toes. But if that
look at its tremendous benets. area is tight, your knee will buckle in
that the thigh and knee come off the oor.
toward your big toe, which can strain
Lift your right inner thigh up toward the Open hips can mean less back pain.
the inner knee. So if youre unable to
ceiling and move your right frontal hip- Tight hip exors pull your pelvis forward
externally rotate the femur bone in the
and exaggerate the curve in your lower
bone forward so that it is parallel to your hip socket (which is one result of tight
back. Picture your entire pelvis as a bowl
left frontal hipbone. You want to have hips), the smaller and more delicate knee
of water spilling toward your toes, with
your hipbones square toward the front of joint can become overworked.
the back side of the bowl raised up. When
the mat. As you roll your right hipbone your lumbar becomes shortened, youre The hip is a ball-and-socket joint
forward, draw your left outer hip back likely to feel compression and discomfort constructed for movement in a whole
and in toward the midline of your body. Its over time. Youll notice it in your poses, slew of directions, including rotation (as
too. If your hip exors are short in a pose opposed to the knee, which is a hinge
natural tendency will be to swing forward
like Warrior I or Camel, your lower back joint that is supposed to bend and extend
and out away from you.
will overdo the arch, and youll feel pain. but not rotate). The great thing about
When your hipbones are parallel in Open hip exors help bring the pelvis back Pigeon is that if you practice it on both
Pigeon, the sacrum is less likely to be to neutral and mitigate pain. sides, you get exion and extension of
torqued, and you can practice the pose your knees and your hips. The added
Hip openers help your knees. Heres
without straining your low back. Main- bonus is that you get external rotation of
an example: When your outer hips are
taining this hip alignment, shimmy your the femur in your hip socket, too. Barring
relatively open in a pose like Warrior II,
injury, its a good idea to regularly take
right toes back slightly, and then point
your joints through their full range of mo-
them so that your right thigh releases to tion in your yoga practiceyoull move
the floor. Move your left foot and shin through your daily life with more ease.
toward the front of your mat, aiming for
your shin to be parallel to the front edge,
and ex your foot the way you did in Eye upright. For the nal version, keep mov- If your knee is sensation free (hooray!),

forward bends
of the Needle to protect your knee. ing your left foot forward, working to extend your torso forward across your
Now observe your left outer hip. If, make your left shin parallel to the front left shin, walking your arms out in front
after you square your hips, the area where edge of your mat. Make sure that in doing of you and releasing your forehead toward
your thigh and buttock meet doesnt rest so you maintain the alignment in your hips the oor. Fold forward only after youve
on the oor, you need to add a blanket or and sacrum, continuing to use blankets if spent time checking your alignment and
two underneath. This is crucial to practic- necessary. The left leg will be in external paying attention to your body. Your left
ing the pose safely. If the outer hip doesnt rotation, the right leg in neutraleach knee will be to the left of your torso (with
have support, the body will fall to the left, position giving access to a different type the left thigh on a bit of a diagonal), and
making the hips uneven and distorting of hip opening. The right leg will stretch your exed left foot will be just alongside
the sacrum. Or, if the hips stay square but the psoas and other hip exors, and the the right side of your rib cage. As you fold
your left hip is free-oating, youll put too left side will get into the group of rotators forward, turn your attention inward.
much weight and pressure on the front in the buttocks and outer hip. We tend to hold this version of Pigeon
knee. Neither scenario is good! In this pose, you may experience in- longer than more active postures, so see if
tense sensations in the left hip as the part of your practice in this pose can be to
GET EVEN femur rotates outward in the hip socket. stay mentally focused once you have set-
Use your arms for support as you organize (For many people, these sensations arise tled in. In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali denes
your lower body. Adjust so that your hip- in the eshy part of the buttock; others practice as effort toward steadiness. In
bones are parallel to the wall youre facing feel it more along the inner thigh.) Addi- these extended, quieter holds, you get
and your sacrum is even (meaning one side tionally, some feel a stretch along the to explore this idea, tethering your scat-
hasnt dipped closer to the oor than the front of the right hip as the psoas length- tered attention by following the breath as
other), and place however many blankets ens. You do not, however, want to feel any it moves in and out, nding stillness as you
are necessary to maintain this alignment sensations in your left knee. If you do, this open and expand.
beneath your left outer hip. variation is not for you! Return to Eye of
Place your hands in front of your left the Needle, where you can safely open Natasha Rizopoulos lives and teaches yoga
shin and use your arms to keep your torso your hips without strain. in Boston.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 73
twists by Clau d ia Cu m m in s

Do the
Twist
Create suppleness
in the spine as
you tone muscles and
stimulate organs.

A FEW YEARS AGO, some friends and I performed an eye-opening


experiment. We painted the bodys major organs, glands, nerves,
and muscles on a long white unitard. Then one of us donned the
outt and moved through a series of yoga postures as the rest of us
watched. We observed the kidney area being squeezed in backbends,
the stomach being compressed in forward bends, and the ribs and
lungs being gracefully stretched in sidebending actions.
Watching my friend move through a series of spine-wringing
twists was the most illuminating of all. Twisting seemed to alternately

DO keep the knee of the bent leg DO keep the sides of the neck
anchored on the oor. Use a blanket long as you relax and draw the
if necessary to fully anchor the knee. shoulder blades down the back.

74 Y O G A J O U R N A L . C O M Y O G A T O D AY
RIGHT THIGHBONE REACHES
TOWARD THE RIGHT KNEE

HEAD LOOKS
TO THE RIGHT
BOTH SIDES OF THE WAIST
ARE EQUALLY LONG

twists
SHOULDER BLADES RELAX
TOWARD THE HIPS

BACK BODY IS LONG


AND UNWRINKLED

LEFT SHOULDER
RESTS ON THE FLOOR

RIGHT KNEE IS FIRMLY


GROUNDED ON THE FLOOR

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 75
tw i sts
you set the pelvis back down. Let a few

two-legged soft breaths ripple through your body as


you surrender to gravitys embrace.

twist Consider the sensations in your back


body. If you notice that you are at all
kinked up or wrinkled, adjust your posi-
tion until you feel as if you are resting atop
a well-made bed rather than a tired and
lumpy mattress.
Invite the skin of the back body to
spread and soften, settling with ease and
relief into the earth. Try to let go as you
MODIFICATION

rest quietly here, breathing comfortably


and drawing your awareness inward.

ROCK AND ROLL


When you feel the urge to move, grab
hold of the back of the right thigh or
the shin with your hands and draw the
right knee toward your ribs. (If you nd
WHY DO IT
it difcult to reach your leg, wrap a strap
This variation offers a gentler wringing action for the abdomen without
behind the knee, hold one end of the strap
sacrificing the benefits of Reclining Twist.
with each hand, and gently bring the knee
HERES HOW toward you.) Rock gently from side to side
Lie on your back with both legs bent and your feet resting on the floor. to massage the lower back, and invite your
Then bring your feet together about a foot from your tailbone. Rest your exhalations to lengthen.
arms on the floor at shoulder height with the palms up. As you exhale, Still drawing the right knee toward
drop both knees toward the left, keeping the left edge of the left foot your chest, slowly straighten the left leg by
in contact with the floor. As you do this, press actively through the right reaching your foot toward the end of your
shoulder to maintain its contact with the earth. After several breaths, mat. Ideally, the leg will end up fully out-
return the knees to their starting position and repeat on the second side. stretched, as in Savasana (Corpse Pose).
If this action causes you to wince, though,
extend the leg only as far as is comfortable.

PHOTOS: DAVID ROTH; MODEL: LISA FRANZETTA; STYLIST: SAMANTHA DEGEN; HAIR: COLETTE TABER
Linger here for just a few moments, allow-
squeeze and stretch the entire contents of like me, this pose will leave you feeling ing the leg and hip muscles to release while
the torsomuscles, nerves, glands, and refreshed, rejuvenated, and rinsed clean. encouraging the breath to feel as free and
organsfrom the pelvis all the way up rhythmic as possible.
through the neck. After seeing this uni- EASE INTO THE EARTH Now comes the fun part. Imagine that
tard demo, Im not surprised that twists To begin, lie on your back with your youre lounging around in bed on a sleepy
are renowned for their balancing and ton- knees bent and your feet comfortably on Saturday morning. Roll onto your left
ing powers, and for their ability to cleanse the oor. If your neck and shoulders feel side, bringing your right knee and both
the body from head to toe. tense, or if your chin juts up toward the arms along with you as you turn. You
Twists are often taught as balms for sky instead of settling comfortably toward should end up on your left side from ear to
sluggish digestion, low energy, stifled your chest, elevate your head a few inches ankle, with your right hip stacked directly
breathing, and a variety of muscle aches with a folded blanket or pillow. on top of your left and both arms resting
and pains. Best of all, they feel good from Take a few moments to make sure the on the floor to your left. If rolling over
the inside out. Reclining Twist offers an back body is long. Roll gently toward your feels awkward or gawky, bend your right
opportunity to feel the power of wringing left side and slip your right shoulder blade arm so the ngertips point upward, then
out the body from its core. It can improve down toward the hips to create additional press the right elbow rmly into the oor
breathing, ease back and neck tension, and space between the ear and shoulder. on your right side. This should give you a
soothe frazzled nerves. Its reclined posi- Repeat this action on the other side. little leverage to roll toward the left with-
tion lets us linger in the postures curves To relax the lower back, lift the hips off out feeling any strain.
and spirals, inviting the twist to penetrate the ground and gently draw the tailbone Once youve rolled over, take a moment
deep into the spine. If youre anything toward the heels. Maintain this length as to assess the situation. For some, the right

76 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
knee will drop easily toward the oor. For In your minds eye, trace a diagonal to different creatures. How does your
others, the floor will feel like its a mil- line from your right knee to your right right shoulder feel compared with your
lion miles away. If the latter is the case hand and then lengthen through the torso left? Can you detect any new pattern to
for you, slip a folded blanket or bolster along that line. If you feel yourself kink- your breathing after practicing just one
between the right knee and the earth. In ing up in the right waist, place your right side of Reclining Twist? Does your spine
this twist, its more important that the thumb in the hip crease and actively draw feel more uid and free?
right knee is supported enough for you the right hip away from your shoulder and When youre ready, repeat the pose on
to feel grounded than to force the leg to toward your feet. Then bring the right the second side. Because twists are asym-
reach all the way to the oor. arm back to its place. metrical, its important to spend equal

)
time on both sides to create overall bal-
FREE YOUR TORSO ance. Remember, the name of the game
Before completing the twist, visualize the in this exploration is to anchor the legs
possibility of maintaining the well-rooted while revolving the spine and torso in the
feeling of the lower bodywith the pel-
vis still looking toward the left. From the
pose benets opposite direction; on the second side,
that action will maximize the stretch in
pelvis down, youll stay nestled on your Improves breathing the left side of the body.
left side in that sleepy Saturday-morning Eases back tension When youve reached your comfort-
pose. However, from the rib cage up, you Increases hip flexibility able limit, remember to settle in and
will spin toward the rightending up Opens the chest and shoulders breathe. Soften the body, relax the skin,
relaxed and lying on your back as if you and sur render into the stretch of the
Soothes the nervous system
were resting in Savasana. twist. Observe how, breath by breath,
Enhances digestion
To do this, rst anchor the inner right time and gravity allow you to release ever
knee by imagining that youre stitching it more deeply into the pose, wringing out
to the ground. Press the left elbow into the
oor to help you rise up lightly through
contraindications your spine from bottom to top.
Now sink, stretch, ooze, and release.
Lower-back injury
the chest, so the ribs and heart can spin Relinquish any grasping from your bones
Herniated disk
toward the right ever so slightly. As you all the way out through the skin, so you
do this, reach the right arm up above the Pregnancy feel softer, warmer, and stretchier. In your
(
body and extend from the heart all the mind, trace the snakelike spiral of the
way through the ngertips, with the palm twist from your tailbone to the top of your

twists
facing the same direction as the face. head. Linger here for a few more breaths,
Now imagine you have eyes in the yielding and growing more supple with
front of your heart. When you are rest- The action of twisting will compress each exhalation.
ing on your left side, these eyes are look- the diaphragm, so you may feel your When youre ready, unravel yourself,
ing toward the left. But as you revolve breathing get shallower. Bring your atten- coming onto your back. Draw both knees
the upper chest toward the right, the tion to the space you have created in the toward your chest, rocking gently from
heart spins so it gazes up toward the sky. right side of the rib cage and imagine side to side; place your arms and legs on
This deep rotation at the bodys core will ooding the right lung with your breath. the floor and settle into Savasana. Let
encourage the right arm and shoulder Once youve settled as far into the twist your breathing be full and deep, with each
blade to sweep outward toward the oor as your body will allow, release any sense inhalation bringing you renewal and vital-
on your right side. Let the head follow the of effort and let gravity do the rest of the ity, and each exhalation offering a sweet
action of the twist, so you end up looking work. Enjoy the deep spiral of the spine. sigh of relief.
toward your right hand. When you feel the urge to unwind, release Before you move on with your practice
It is likely that in the beginning, muscle out of the posture and lie at on your back or your day, note the effects of the twist
tightness will prevent the right shoul- in Savasana. you might feel an evenness in your body
der from releasing completely onto the from left to right, an increased ability to
ground as you spin the upper body open. EXPLORE ASYMMETRY breathe deeply, or a sense of stillness and
If this is the case for you, dont despair. Remain here for a few moments and equanimityand bring this increased
Instead, bend the right arm and rest your take stock of any new sensations moving awareness with you the next time you
hand on your ribs. Positioning your arm in through you. After exploring the asym- come to your mat.
this way is a better solution than plopping metry of this twist, you will likely note
your right hand onto the ground while the that the two sides of your bodyyour Claudia Cummins teaches yoga in central Ohio.
shoulder still bobs in space, which risks shoulders, ribs, belly, hips, and legs on Visit claudiacummins.com to read a selection
straining the upper body. the left and rightfeel like they belong of her essays.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 7 7
forward bends by Marla Apt

LENGTHEN
ABDOMEN
FORWARD
KEEP CHEST OPEN

PIVOT FROM
THE HIPS

EXTEND CALVES
PRESS THIGHS INTO THE KEEP ELBOWS UP AND HEELS AWAY
FLOOR AND LENGTHEN FROM THE PELVIS
HAMSTRINGS BACK

78 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
Peace
Process
Fold forward to THE ACT OF FOLDING OVER in a
find balance pose like Paschimottanasana (Seated
between effort Forward Bend) is like retreating into
and ease. your own personal cave. Distractions
recede from your awareness, mak-
ing way for introspection. Paschimottanasana is also
thought to improve digestive function, calm your mind
and nerves, relieve headaches and menstrual cramps,
and increase agility in your hips, legs, and lower back.
Its gifts are many, but for years Paschimottanasana
was my husbands nemesis posture. When Paul began
a serious yoga practice when he was in his 20s, he
had very stiff hamstrings that barely let him nudge
his torso forward in the pose. It took months of sit- DONT round your back, drop your elbows, or hunch
ting almost upright with a strap around his feet and your shoulders to get your head down.
diligently lifting his back before he could let go of
the strap and catch hold of his feet. That should have
been celebrated as a great milestone, but Paul was
all too aware that he had a long way to go before he

forward bends
brought a long torso over his legs without hunching
his back.
Paul put intense effort into his practice and tried
to go deeper in the pose, but it wasnt until he began
to apply nonattachment that he could work on
Paschimottanasana without a painful struggle. The
seemingly opposing concepts of effort or persever-
ance (abhyasa) and nonattachment (vairagya) appear
DO lengthen the front of the torso and pull your
early in Patanjalis Yoga Sutra (1.12), and they are often
shoulders away from your ears.
referred to as the two wings of yoga practice. You

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 7 9
fo r wa rd b e n d s
LIFTOFF

1
The first phase of Paschimottanasana
( figure 1) stretches tight hamstrings and
teaches you how to lengthen your lower
back and move forward from the hips.
Lengthening the spine is crucial in this
Use a strap pose: If you bend from the spine to come
to make your
forward, you risk putting pressure on the
back concave
as you begin to muscles and disks of the lower backa
fold forward. recipe for injury. Instead, you want to
lengthen forward from your hips and cre-
ate a concave shape with the back.
Before starting, prepare your legs, hips,
and spine with some standing poses and
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-
Facing Dog Pose). Then sit on the edge of
two neatly folded blankets in Dandasana
(Staff Pose). If you cant straighten your
legs, or if your sacrum or lower back is
rounding, sit up higher on more blankets.
Once you have your foundation, place
your hands on the ground by your hips,
press your thighs into the oor, and lift

2
the sides of your torso.

PHOTOS: RORY EARNSHAW/SANDBOX STUDIO; MODEL: JANET UM; STYLIST: LYN HEINEKEN; HAIR/MAKEUP: VERONICA SJOEN/ARTIST UNTIED
Place a strap around the arches of your
feet and hold an end of the strap in each
hand. Come back into an upright posi-
tion, press your legs rmly into the oor,
Bend your and on an inhalation, lift the entire front
elbows out to of your torso from the bottom of the pel-
your sides to vis to the throat. Pull on the belt, drawing
broaden across
your chest.
your arms back into the shoulder sockets,
and lift your chest up as if you were trying
to raise your bottom ribs above the level
of your arms. Then, on an exhalation, walk
your hands down the strap and closer to
the feet, maintaining the lift of the front
body. Keep your arms straight. If any part
of your back begins to round, apply a little
vairagya and take a measured, considered
walk back up the strap. That might mean
need to apply both to nd the peaceful the hips and keeping a long spine so that your forward fold is more upright, which
stillness that yoga promises. Abhyasa the front and back of your torso both is perfectly OK.
is informed effort with the goal of self- lengthen evenly. Sometimes the knees and feet turn
understanding. Vairagya is detachment When youre able to balance effort out or become loose in this pose, which
from the nal results of your actions; it and surrender and apply this approach can tighten the lower back. To keep the
involves reection, stillness, and surren- to Pa schimottanasana (or to any other legs firm, press the inner edge of each
der. For example, if youre sufficiently asana), your frustration with your limi- leg into the oor and extend the back of
exible in the nal version of the pose, tations will lessen, and youll experience your heels away from your pelvis. As your
the entire front of the torso and head rest the poses physical and mental benets. calves reach forward in the direction of
on the legs. But if youre stiffer, you may Distracting thoughts and mental agita- your heels, imagine that your hamstrings
have to surrender the idea of taking your tion will decrease, and youll be able to stretch back toward your buttocks, as if
head down and instead put your effort enter your personal refugethat is , a you were pushing the blankets behind you
into working patiently on folding from calm, wakeful state of pervasive attention. with your buttocks.

8 0 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
Stay in the pose for another minute, by coming up slightly, extending your from the hips and release the lower spine
with your hands about shoulder-width legs, and lifting your ribs away from your forward, away from the hips. Compacting
apart so that your chest doesnt narrow. abdomen. Otherwise, continue to extend the hips can propel the sides of your waist
Move the shoulder blades and back ribs deeper into the pose by drawing your forward and protect your hamstrings
forward toward the chest, and spread chest closer to your feet for up to a min- from overstretching. From the top of your
your collarbones apart. Employ abhyasa ute. Then, on an inhalation, let go of your buttocks, lengthen your entire lower back
as you engage the middle back, where you feet, lift your arms to the ceiling again, toward your head. Ideally, youll feel as
may especially feel the effort of the back and return to Dandasana. though your hamstrings go back while
muscles contracting to support the lift your spine moves forward.
of your chest. To come out, let go of your As you take your head down, keep the
belt, inhale, and sit up straight, returning sides of the neck long. If your head doesnt
to Dandasana. If you suffer from lower- reach your legs, or if you find that the
back problems or are very stiff, you may throat is constricted, the chest is closing,
want to continue practicing this version
before going on to the next phase.
pose benets or your head is much lower than your
chest, place a blanket, bolster, or block on
Stretches hamstrings and back top of your shins to support your head.
THE LOWDOWN Relieves menstrual cramps Keep the back of the neck parallel to the
In this second phase ( figure 2), you hold Reduces headache oor, not diagonally slanting downward.
the sides of your feet to get more exten-
sion in the sides of your torso while broad-
ening across your chest and shoulders and
contraindications FEEL FREE
Now that you have gone deeper in the
moving farther toward your feet. Sciatica and lumbar- pose, observe what is happening along
disk problems
Begin in Dandasana as you did pre- your spine. If you feel as though your bot-
viously. Inhale and extend your arms Depression tom ribs are stuck to your abdomen, you
straight up overhead. Lift the sides of Pregnancy are folding from the waist rather than
your rib cage and waist. On an exhala- the hips. So, come up slightly to free your
tion, reach forward and clasp your outer lower abdomen, spread the diaphragm,
feet. Pull on your feet and draw your arms and lengthen the front of your torso from
back as you did in the rst variation, to the pelvis toward your chest. To rene the

forward bends
make your back concave. Flatten your DEEP FOLD pose, move your back ribs down to bring
thighs into the oor and move your but- If you were able to keep your torso long your front ribs closer to your thighs.
tocks back as you inhale and lengthen while going forward in the previous vari- Its a lot to keep in mind, but be patient.
your abdomen forward. Broaden the top ations, you can now attempt the final If you find yourself getting frustrated,
of your chest so that the shoulders, col- pose, which involves folding down while work intelligently with the breath. On
larbones, neck, and throat remain soft. lengthening forward. Starting in Dan- the inhalation, focus on lengthening the
On your next exhalation, begin to bend dasana, inhale and lift the arms skyward front of your torso and working your legs.
your elbows out to the sides, and lengthen to open your front body. Exhale, lengthen On the exhalation, focus on lengthening
your torso toward the feet. Dont drop forward, and clasp your heels with your forward. During and at the end of the
the elbows, but keep them level with the hands. Lift your chest and make your exhalation, you may also experience ten-
shoulders. Push through your inner heels back concave again. Pull the outer edges sion being released for a few moments,
as you continue to widen your elbows, of your feet toward your pelvis as you allowing you to go deeper into the pose
keeping the top chest broad. Spread the push forward through your inner heels. without aggression. This release is an im-
shoulders away from each other so that Broaden the soles of your feet. portant component of forward bending
your upper back feels wide as well. On the next exhalation, bend your el- with abhyasa and vairagya, as it helps you
Now that your torso is broad, create bows to the sides and begin to pull your create inner space and freedom. With
more length. Pull the sides of your waist torso forward. Turn the tops of your thighs your forehead resting, your brain can relax
forward toward your side ribs, the side inward and press them strongly down so from the activity of constantly process-
ribs toward your armpits, and the armpits that you feel your hamstrings lengthen ing information. In this position, you can
toward your elbows. This will help you and widen on the oor. Even though you enter a sanctuary for a stressed mind and
maintain the length of your front torso are working to spread your hamstrings rest in a deep sense of peace.
so that your back doesnt form a hump. and buttocks, your hips should feel com-
If you nd that your abdomen is tight- pact. Press your outer thighs and hips into Marla Apt (yoganga.com ), a certified Iyengar
ening, your effort has become aggressive. the oor. Lengthening the hamstrings and Yoga instructor, teaches yoga and leads teacher
Balance your perseverance with vairagya spreading the buttocks will help you pivot trainings in Los Angeles and abroad.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 8 1
heavenly
rest
For the fullest experience of yoga and a
deep connection with your vital energies,
Savasana, or Corpse Pose, is one
posture you cant live without.

There i was, cocooned in warmth and dark-


ness, feeling as light as air and as relaxed and
carefree as a million-dollar Lotto winner on a teacher. Soon, a half-dozen classmates and I were alert
Caribbean beach. I might have been a space and energized, sitting in Sukhasana (Easy Pose) with our
traveler in suspended animation, rocketing off legs crossed, bowing to the Divine within.

relaxation & meditation


at light speed to a new solar system, or even an Namaste. Then class was over.
infant in the womb, except that I had a vague As I was clearing up my props, Maria came over. John,
sense I was watching myself in a state of what she said. Youre really getting better at Savasana.
could best be described as alert relaxation. I almost dropped a pair of blocks on my foot. Better?
Begin to bring awareness to your inhalation At Savasana? You mean, my ability to imitate a corpse
That voice so familiar. Cautiously, I opened has improved?
one eye and found that I was not oating along You used to be more dgety, she said.
on a river of soothing darkness or soaring Understand: Im an overcaffeinated, Type A New York
through the outer reaches of the Milky Way, guyand on top of that, Im an avid marathon runner and
but lying motionless on the oor of Om Tara gym rat. Of course Im dgety, and its clear to me that I
Yoga Studio in Massapequa, New York. need yoga. Still, I thought, of all the things I havent done
W h e n yo u r e r e a d y, g e n t l y r o l l t o o n e well in my seven years of practicewhich, to my mind,
side observe how you feel It was Maria was almost everythingsurely, lying quietly on the oor
Yakkey, my regular Thursday-morning yoga was the exception.
So, I said, Im getting better at lying on the oor?
BY JOHN HANC Maria sighed and looked at me reproachfully. Sava-
ILLUSTRATIONS BY ANDREA COBB sana is a lot more than just lying on the oor.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 8 3
Now, dont get me wrong: I enjoy that delicious rest at the gratefully dead
end of class. But until I gave it serious consideration, I thought Despite its many benets for body and mind, more than a few
of Savasana as a yogic chill pill, built into the end of practice practitioners still view Savasana as an afterthought, the yogic
to calm yuppies and soccer moms before they climb back into equivalent of the cooldown in an aerobic workoutideal if you
their SUVs and start texting their way to the nearest Starbucks. have time but not essential. Also, boring.
But Maria is right. Savasana is much more. This traditional I have students who try to sneak out the door as Savasana is
Indian yoga practice is a very purposeful resting pose. If you beginning, says John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga.
stay alert and keep your mind from wandering while practicing They feel vulnerable lying still for 5 or 10 minutes. Others see
Corpse Pose, youre bound to reap enormous benets. By lying it as siesta time. I have another who falls asleep immediately,
down and resting after practicing asana, you can experience what he says. He drops off like a rock.
teachers call Presence or Beingthat quality of awareness that But this master teacher educates his students around the
is not dependent on your external circumstances, your body world to understand that Savasana is not synonymous with
type, your personality, or your activities, but that simply isthe napping or checking out in any way. In fact, it is just the oppo-
part of you that is present even when your body and mind have site. This seemingly simple pose can lead, Friend says, to the
temporarily died from the duties and pleasures of daily life. In experience of ultimate freedom. You want to stay awake for it.
the quiet stillness of Savasana, your body and mind have a chance Some modern schools of yoga take this pose very seriously.
to synthesize all the actions, instructions, and sensations you Practitioners of Sivananda Yoga begin a 90-minute class with
experienced in class. It gives you an opportunity to integrate Savasanato relax the body and prepare the mind for the work
your experiences from practice so that you can carry that calm, ahead. They also include it between the postures (allowing
heightened awareness into every situation the breath to circulate freely and to both
you encounter thereafter. Many teach- invigorate the nervous system and protect
ers consider it to be the most important through your torso, with your heels it from overstimulation) and then again at
asana, because this quiet, humble pose can only a few inches apart. Move your the end of practice, to bring the yogi back
head so your ears are an equal dis-
bring you closest to the true spirit and goal into balance.
tance from your shoulders, and your
of yoga, the realization that you are part of eyes are an equal distance from the It gives a wonderful sense of calm, says
something larger than your individual self. ceiling, so your head is not tilted Swami Sadasivananda, former director of
or turned. The more you can bring
your body into a neutral position,

a savasana
the more your brain can let go.

Once youre in a neutral position,


to die for make sure your tongue is resting on
the oor of your mouth. Your
On your inhalation, receive the
breath without effort. Feel your
Follow Richard Rosens nuanced tongue has its own midline, brain recede from your forehead
instructions for what might appear so you want to be sure to spread and release toward the back of your
to be a very simple pose, and feel the tongue from the midline out, head. On your exhalation, allow
your mind, body, and breath release equally on both sides. Drop your the breath to release gracefully.
deeply into Savasana. eyes toward the back of their sock-
For the next few minutes, its impor-
ets. Soften your nose and deepen
Lie on your back and bring your tant to stay as still and present as
your ear canals so that youre lis-
body into as neutral a position as possible. Allow the mass of your
tening to the sound of your breath
possible. Your brain experiences body to sink onto the back of your
from deep inside the back of your
misalignment in Savasana bodyonto your heels, your calves,
head. And nally, soften the skin
as a disturbance, so the more your buttocks and torso, the backs
of the bridge of your nose, or the
youre able to bring yourself into of your arms, and the back of your
space between your eyebrows.
balance, the more your brain will head. Feel your connection to the
quiet down. Once this happens, Once you feel settled in your center oor and maintain an awareness of
what you normally perceive as the and notice your organs of percep- your breath and the ambient sounds
limits of your body start to soften tion softening, visualize your brain from the room around you to keep
and dissolve, and you begin to feel inside your skull. Imagine that you you rooted to the present moment
consciously expansive. can feel your brain shrinking, getting throughout your Savasana.
smaller and smaller, moving away
Place your arms by your sides One way to gauge the time you
from the inner lining of the skull.
at a 45-degree angle to your torso might spend in Savasana is to plan
Then imagine your brain releasing
with your hands palms-up, each to stay at least 5 minutes for every
onto the back of your head.
one resting on the same knuckle. 30 minutes youve practiced. Other-
Adjust your legs so that theyre at Keep your eyes as still as possible, wise, you can lie back and enjoy this
equal angles from a midline drawn resting in the back of their sockets. delicious pose for 5 to 20 minutes.

8 4 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
rest in peace
Savasanas success starts not with instruction, but location:
You want a place that is quiet, somewhat dark a place that is
comfortable yet stable, Friend says. These conditions will help
foster what he calls an internal drawing in and settling that
helps clear the deck for the Savasana voyage.
Then comes a careful positioning of your body. Savasana,
I discovered, is not just lying on the oor. Whats really im-
portant for a good Savasana is to lie in a neutral position, says
Richard Rosen, a Yoga Journal contributing editor and Bay
Area yoga instructor. Your head should lie square and equi-
distant from each shoulder. Arms should be by your sides, at a
45-degree angle relative to the torso. (This keeps your shoulders
loose and your breathing unrestricted.) It also means lying in
a straight line, with your arms or legs not tilted or bent to one
side, and your head not drooping. Stay in line as much as pos-
sible, suggests Palkhivala. Energy ows in smooth lines. So if
your head is crooked, your pelvis is tilted to one side, and your
body looks like a serpent, the energy wont ow.
Are you comfortable? Straight, balanced, and relaxed as you
lie on the oor of a still, dark room? Wonderful. Now comes
the real work and pleasure of Savasana. This is the time to go
inside and nd the spirit within, Palkhivala says.
Good luck, if youre anything like me.
Its hard to stop the mind from wandering, Rosen acknowl-
edges. You have to continuously back off from your thoughts.
Try to withdraw and look at them from above.
the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in New York City. Savasana
is an important time for students to assimilate all the benets 1,000 ways to die
from the practice of asanas. During Savasana, there is a complete The Savasana experience can be as diverse as the yogis who
recharge and rejuvenation of the body, mind, and spirit. teach it. Maria, my teacher at Om Tara, creates a warm and
comfortable atmosphere for Savasana in our Thursday classes.
the beginning of the end She draws the blinds, drapes us with blankets, places eye pillows
According to Aadil Palkhivala, founder of Alive and Shine Cen- on us, and allows Corpse Pose to unfold in silence.
ter in Bellevue, Washington, Savasana is real yogadened as Jeff Logan, a certied Iyengar Yoga teacher, does it a bit dif-
an act of union between your self with a small s, your ego, and ferently at his studio, Body & Soul Fitness and Yoga Center in

relaxation & meditation


your Self with a capital Sthe spirit. Because youre encouraged Huntington, New York. Savasana with him is peaceful but not
to release your minds occupation with the distractions of daily quiet. He talks the class through a systematic relaxation of jaws,
life, Savasana is conducive to making that connection, he says. arms, hands, abdomen, and legs, encouraging us to let go of
Of course, simply assuming Corpse Pose will not in itself our tongue, ears, and skin. At the end, Jeff asks each of us to lie
make the connection between the small-s self and the capital- in a fetal positionlike a newborn, he says. After he brings
S Self for you. But one of yogas promises is that if you live us up into a seated position, he invites us to open our eyes and
your life with the intention to closely observe yourself with as greet the world around us like a reborn child.
much honesty as you can, the union of self and Self can truly This idea of Corpse Pose as a symbolic rebirth is intriguing.
be forged. Savasana creates the space for that quiet reective In Jeff s class, I ran with it. Like an infant, what I wanted to
inquiry and that union. do now was eat. So, having thought about nothing, I started
I admit that my ego is far from integrated with spirit: My to calmly observe that I was thinking about lunch. Having
male ego in class eagerly shows off my prociency in Plank and successfully been a dget-free corpse, I was ready to go about
Chaturanga, the only two poses Im convinced that I can do my day as an even more fully functioning, self-observing, live
better than my female classmates, who are far more exible human being with a little help from a well-done Savasana.
and adept than I am. Still, even though Im far from perfect,
I can feel perfectly at peace in Savasana. In Savasana, Friend John Hanc writes for Newsday in New York and is a contributing
says, the spirit, the very essence of our being, is not clinging editor to Runners World magazine.
or caught in the physical realm.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 8 5
b y Ja n i c e G a t e s

peace
of
mind i l l u s t ra t i o n s b y S c o t t B a k a l

In the Yoga Sutra, the sage Patanjali


denes yoga as citta vritti nirodha:
When you cease to identify with your
thoughts, then your heart, mind, and
body unify and you recognize your true
nature. Meditation is the means for get-
ting therethough its not often taught
in modern yoga. To really move beyond
the basics, you need to cultivate con-
centration so that meditative states
can arise in your practice and in your
life. Heres our guide to getting on the
cushion and getting started.

8 6 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
a get-started guide
for would-be
meditators
Meditation can seem
complicated. In truth, its
easy. All you need is time,
patience, and a technique
that works for you.

Like asana, meditation takes disci-


pline. If your toes start to curl when you
hear the D-word, redene discipline
as developing a positive habit.

Begin by nding a quiet space


and scheduling a regular time to prac-
tice. Perhaps early mornings work best
because they occur before you get
caught up in the busyness of the day.
The simplest way to integrate medita-
tion into your life is to follow your
asana practice with pranayama (breath-
work) and Savasana (Corpse Pose), and
then sit back up in a comfortable posi-
tion for meditation. Practicing the asa-
nas themselves can also be a form of
meditation. At the very least, poses
help to prepare the body and mind for
meditation by taking you inward.
PHOTO: TRINETTE REED; MODEL: SARAH DAVIS/LOOK; STYLIST: JASMINE HAMED; HAIR/MAKEUP: TOKYO/WORKGROUP

Then, take a moment to check in


with where you are startingphysically,
mentally, and emotionally. Ask yourself:
What is my motivation for todays prac-
tice? Why do I want to cultivate focused
attention anyway? It might be that you terns of your mind. With that comes It takes time to develop a new habit,
want to feel calmer at work or nd the freedom to connect more fully with so be patient with yourself. Begin with
some relief from a difcult time youre your deeper wisdom. 5 to 10 minutes and progressively build

relaxation & meditation


going through. Whatever your answer, up to 30 to 45 minutes of quiet medita-
make it an intention for your practice, Of course, even the most seasoned tion. (You might nd it helpful to use a
imbuing your meditation with meaning. meditators experience oods of timer so that you dont have to watch
thoughts. When the thoughts arise, the clock.)
The next step is to begin training gently and lovingly invite your mind to
your mind to focus on, and stay with, return to the technique youve chosen Try all of the practices on the fol-
one thing for an extended period. For as an anchor for your attention. lowing pagesmaybe devoting a week
seated meditation, you might either or more to each oneand see what
close your eyes or keep them slightly Once you begin to notice works for you. Keep in mind that you
open, which would help keep you alert how out of control the mind is, you will are not trying to get anywhere, so dont
if youre a little sleepy. Various medita- learn to not take all of the thoughts get caught up in the techniques. They
tion techniqueslike those presented that come up so seriously, and will start are simply tools; they are not the medi-
on the following pagestrain you to to develop compassion toward yourself. tation itself. Meditation is ultimately a
unify, calm, and center the mind and Some meditators liken this process to way of being with the present moment,
nd focused attention. This attention the process of training a puppy. If you exactly as it is, with an open heart and
will allow you to begin to see, but not train a dog by beating it, it will become an open mind.
get caught up in, the habits and pat- obedient, inexible, and neurotic. If you
train the little guy with kindness and
rmness, your pet will learn condence
and trust.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 87
mind-focusing
practices
Try one of these
simple techniques to
of the foot, the arch. Continue
hone concentration
in this detailed fashion to the
just breathe and invite meditation.
top of your head. Ask yourself:
What tension do I feel? Where
Find a comfortable seated posi-
is there pain? Observe any
tion and begin by observing your
sensationswarmth, coolness,
natural breath. Notice the tex-
tingling, dullness, compression,
ture, length, and rhythm as the
and spaciousnessas you move
breath ows in and out of your
through the body. Notice your
body. Feel the temperature of
relationship to your experience,
the air as it touches your nos-
to thoughts, images, and feelings
trils. Take note, too, of pauses
between breaths. As thoughts see the light as they arise and pass away. This
is not an exercise in trying to
arise, note them, but then allow Where the eyes go, so goes your change or judge the body, but to
them to oat by like clouds, attention. Tratak, a Sanskrit experience what is there. Meet
gently bringing your attention word that means xed gazing, what you nd with friendliness
back to the breath. If you nd is the practice of staring at an and without resistance. The
it difcult to concentrate, try object to steady the mind. Place point is to train your mind to
silently counting. For example, a burning candle at eye level, go where you want it to go.
inhale 1, exhale 1, inhale 2, exhale about two feet from where you
2, up to 10, and then repeat the are comfortably seated. Focus
cycle. After a while, you can stop
counting and just focus on your
your gaze on the ame without step out
blinking your eyes for about a Walking meditation is great if
natural breath. minute, using the light as a focal you nd you are too restless to
point to return to when your sit still, and it can help widen
mind wanders. Then close your your eld of focus. Begin stand-
chant a mantra eyes and visualize the ame at
the point between your eye-
ing, bringing your attention to
the bottoms of your feet and the
Traditionally, mantras are sacred brows, holding the image for as contact of your feet with the
words or syllables given by a long as you can. When the image surface beneath you. Lift one
teacher that are repeated as fades, open your eyes. Repeat foot, noticing how your body
a means for awakening to the the exercise three or four times. weight shifts to the standing leg.
Divine. Working with sound is End your practice by rubbing Feel the standing foot spread
a powerful way to soften the your hands together until they itself over the ground. Going as
critical mind and transform the heat up, and gently place your slowly as you can, step forward,
energy of your internal dialogue. palms over your eyelids to bathe tracking the changes in the body
In yoga, Sanskrit sounds imbued them in warmth. as you move. Can you feel spe-
with specic meanings are often cic muscles contracting and
used, but you can choose any others relaxing? At what point
sound or word that has meaning
for you. You might try repeating scan your body does your balance shift from
the back leg toward the front
the word shanti (peace) out This is a great technique to use leg? Each time your mind wan-
loud as you exhale, and peace if you have an injury or illness ders, bring your attention back
silently to yourself as you inhale. that makes it uncomfortable to to your feet. Notice the environ-
When thoughts arise, concen- sit. Lie on your back with your ment around youthe colors,
trate on the sound and the vibra- legs straight, or prop yourself the scents, the textures, and any
tion of the sound in your body. up on pillows so that you are in thoughts or feelings that arise
a reclining position. Close your and keep bringing your attention
eyes unless you are sleepy, in back to the act of walking.
which case you can keep your
eyes open. Cultivate an alert but
relaxed attention as you take a
mental tour of the body. Bring
awareness to each part of your
body, starting with the big toe,
each of the other toes, the ball

8 8 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
freeform
practices
Connect with a more
spacious awareness
zoom in strongly? See if you can narrow
throughout the day with
freeform meditations.
and out your attention to the edges of
the sensation. Then shift to a
This practice helps you to culti- wide-angle lens. As you continue
vate concentration and a more to feel all of the sensations in
spacious awareness during daily your hands, open to the space
activities. Imagine that your around you: the sounds in the
attention has two lenses: a zoom room, the view in front of you,
lens and a wide-angle one. As the space behind you, and the
you move through the various
gaze at the sky activities of your day, zoom in
ground beneath you. Alternate
between narrowing and widening
Nature is a powerful ally of on a specic task or object, and your focus and notice how the
meditation. Sometimeswhen then zoom back out again. For changing perspectives affect
the computer crashes as youre example, while washing the your experience.
facing a pressing deadline, or dishes, notice the feeling of the
the car breaks down when youre water on your hands, zooming in
on the sensation. Is it warm or Janice Gates teaches meditation and is
short on moneyits easy to get
cool? Where do you feel it most the founder of The Yoga Garden in San
caught up in the dramas of life
and feel disconnected from your Anselmo, California.
sense of presence. For this prac-
tice, nd a place in nature where
you have an uninterrupted view
of the sky. Invite a soft gaze that
allows you to have peripheral
vision. Imagine you have eyes
in the back of your head and
have a 360-degree eld of view.
Take in the spaciousness of the
sky and open to it. You are not
looking for anything in particu-
lar. Instead, youre simply being
with the spacious awareness as
your thoughts appear and disap-
pear. If you start to zone out,
you can close your eyes and
come back to your body and
breath. Once you feel more con-
nected, you can open your gaze

relaxation & meditation


again and keep some awareness
in the body as you invite your-
self back to the experience of
spaciousness. Before returning
to your daily activities, take a
moment to ground yourself and
reconnect to the earth.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 89
RELAX LEGS
Serenity
Now!
Frazzled? Fried? Try yogas most
potent anywhere, anytime de-stress
Rx: Legs-up-the-Wall Pose.

RELEASE HIPS
TOWARD FLOOR

BROADEN
COLLARBONES

RELEASE SHOULDERS SOFTEN


AWAY FROM EARS THROAT

9 0 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
relaxtion & meditation by Cyn di Lee

VIPARITA KARANI is my favorite pose. I know, I know:


There is something wonderful to discover in every pose. But
honestly, sometimes I just dont feel like bending forward or
back, or I am simply too tired to balance on one leg, even
for a moment. But have I ever turned down an opportunity
to practice Viparita Karani? Never! Ive done this pose on
hotel beds around the world, against trees on yoga retreats,
and in the steam room at my gym.
Viparita Karani is often called Legs-up-the-Wall Pose,
but viparita actually means inverted, and karani means in
action. We can interpret that to mean that the pose inverts
the typical actions that happen in our bodies when we sit
and stand. There are many benets to inverting the actions
in your body. Here are a few: When you put your legs up the
wall with your pelvis elevated on a folded blanket, lymph DONT place a blanket under your
and other uids that can lead to swollen ankles, tired knees, sitting bones or tuck your pelvis.

and congested pelvic organs ow into the lower belly; this


refreshes the legs and the reproductive area. This is healthy
at any point in your reproductive life cycle.
This pose also gives blood circulation a gentle boost
toward the upper body and head, which creates a pleasant
rebalancing after you have been standing or sitting for a long
time. If you are stressed, fatigued, or jet-lagged, this pose is
especially refreshing. But its true greatness is that it teaches
us experientially that positive results can come from doing
less, not more.
Many of us have been trained to believe we must work
hard in order to reap the benets of any particular effort,
whether it is practicing yoga, being married, or running
a business. And, of course, that is useful and appropriate

relaxation & meditation


advice at times. But Viparita Karani offers a paradigm shift
in how to approach the notion of work, in both yoga and DO put a blanket under your low back, tilt
your pelvis, and release your buttocks.
life. And this is the No. 1 reason I love Viparita Karani so

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 9 1
re l a xtio n & meditation

For extra ease

variation
in the pose,
support your
arms and cover
your eyes.

pose benets
Alleviates headaches

Boosts energy

Soothes menstrual cramps *

Relieves lower-back pain

contraindications
Glaucoma

Hypertension

Hernia

* Some yoga traditions advise against doing


Viparita Karani during menstruation.

much. The benefits of Viparita Karani Fold one blanket into a large square. If your setup doesnt match these
derive not just from inverting an action Then fold that in thirds, creating a rm, guidelines, adjust the placement of the
but also from inverting the whole notion supportive cushion. Place your blanket blanket thats closest to the wall. To do

PHOTOS: CHRIS ANDRE; MODEL: FAITH HUNTER; STYLIST: LYN HEINEKEN; HAIR/MAKEUP: FRANCE PIERSON
of action. When you relax with your legs cushion about 12 inches from the wall. so, bend your knees and place your feet
up the wall, you are practicing the polar Fold the other blanket in half and place at on the wall. Press your elbows down
opposite of activity, which is receptivity. it three feet from the wall. Youll use this and lift your hips up. Now reach down
blanket to support your head and to ll and move the blanket with your hands. If
THE ORGANIZING PRINCIPLE in the space between your neck and the you need to be farther from or closer to
Every yoga pose has an organizing prin- oor. Then sit sidesaddle on the cushion the wall, press your feet into the wall and
ciple and a container principle. When so that your right side is near the wall. shimmy your shoulders forward or back.
you apply the organizing principle, you Loop your yoga belt around the middle When you have finished adjusting, see
arrange your alignment so that the ener- of your shins. Draw it snug but not tight. how you feel.
getic circuitry you set up is balanced and Place your left elbow on the oor and If your pelvis feels tucked under, you
unobstructed. Organized alignment cre- swing your legslike a mermaid tailup are too close to the wall. Move an inch or
ates the conditions for the benefits of the wall. The rest of your body will natu- so out from the wall or pull your blanket
each particular asana to arise. rally go down so that you end up lying on farther up your back. Your sitting bones
Lets look at the organizing principle in the oor with your legs up the wall. should slightly roll off the blanket edge,
Viparita Karani. To get the full benets of Now its time to organize your body in creating a tiny curve in your back. Your
the pose, youll need to get the placement relationship to your props and the wall. groins should feel soft and hollow. You
of the blanket under your hips just right. The folded blanket closest to the wall can completely relax your legs because the
To begin, youll also need a wall space that should be underneath your sacrum and belt is holding them together. If you feel a
is clean and clear. If you are doing this at low back, with enough room between the big stretch in the back of your legs, your
home, try to nd a space that is not clut- wall and your seat for your sitting bones to hips may be too close to the wall, so move
tered. Gather two blankets, a belt, and slightly drop over the edge of the blanket farther from it. If you still feel strain,
two eye pillows. If you have a bolster, toward the oor; your hamstrings should place your bolster vertically against the
bring that along. feel comfortable, not stretched. wall. The top of the bolster will probably

92 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
come near the back of your knees, allow-
ing them to softly bend. This will release
nd
any stress in the back of the legs and also
help you untuck your pelvis.
Asana practice can be challenging.
But when we apply ourselves to
contentment
Once you are comfortably situated, learning the poses, nally managing notice how little you really need to
with your arms resting by your sides, place to hold a balance and be precise in be happy. When you schedule fewer
our alignment, we usually feel a things, you create space in your day
an eye pillow in each of your open palms.
healthy sense of accomplishment. for noticing the natural contentment
All this organizing might take a couple of thats always present.
tries before you get it just right, but it is But that feeling meets with a Catch-
22, as one of the guiding principles SIMPLIFY Can you simply do the
worth the effort to nd the sweet spot,
of yoga is santosha, or contentment. one thing youre doing right now
because youll be staying here for awhile.
My students often get stuck trying to and nothing else? I often see yoga
If you have more time, you can create a understand this, confusing content- students dgeting away on their yoga
delicious variation with a few extra props ment with complacency. They ask, If mats, reorganizing their alignment.
(see photo, opposite). Have a heavy block or I become content with things as they Instead, I invite you to be satised with
sandbag and some blankets nearby. Once are, what is my motivation to ever your pose as it is. Try organizing the
do anything? Isnt trying to improve setup of a pose with no more than two
youre in the pose, bend your knees, keep-
a good thing? or three adjustments, and then simply
ing your feet flexed. Place the block or
abide there. Can you allow the pose to
sandbag on the soles of your feet, and then Those are good questions! Practicing unfold for you? You might be surprised
carefully straighten your legs. If its hard contentment doesnt mean that you at the mental spaciousness that arises
stop striving, but that you live with
to reach your feet, ask a friend for help. from simplifying your actions.
more acceptance of what is, celebrat-
Next, place a folded blanket under each APPRECIATE Appreciation is the
ing the good in each moment. My
arm and rest your hands on your belly. suggestions for practicing content- cherry on the top of contentment. The
This will let you feel as though you are ment are to reduce, simplify, and rst two steps are semi-renunciations
oating, yet supported. Finally, place an appreciatein that order. leading you to an open place where
eye pillow over your eyes. you can recognize the goodness that
REDUCE Can you shrink the number was there all the time without having
of activities you need to do to feel to add anything else. This is how yoga
THE CONTAINER PRINCIPLE fullled? First Ill go to yoga class and invites us to relate to a healthy sense
Have you noticed that asanas dont really stand on my head, and then Ill of accomplishment. Not a notch on our
exist? When we come out of a pose, that have a smoothie, and then Ill meet yoga belt begging for more achieve-
my friend for a movie, and then ment, but an appreciation for all the
pose is no more. Asanas are impermanent
The rst step toward contentment is to goodness that we are so fortunate to
forms or containers that help us focus our
experience in our practiceand life.
awareness. In a faster-moving practice,
that experience is eeting. In restorative
poses, such as Viparita Karani, we invert
the habit of action and abide in the con- and leaving me with fresh creativity. Can to sitting, letting your head come up last.
tainer of the pose. The only work we are you be open to what happens when you Slide the belt off your legs and sit on your

relaxation & meditation


meant to do is to let go and be receptive. let yourself rest? Maybe this container will blanket, with your back at or near the
You gotta love Viparita Karani: There show you something interesting. And if wall. Sit quietly for a few minutes and feel
is no warm-up for this pose. You really can the most interesting thing is that you feel the effects of your practice.
do it anywhere, anytime. But just because the energy of a fresh start when you sit up, Viparita Karani shows us that the
you get into the physical position doesnt well, thats worth a million bucks! feminine, receptive aspect of our prac-
mean that you will instantly drop into a Stay in Viparita Karani for 5 to 20 min- tice can be as important as the active, or
relaxing experience. A calming breath utes. If you are not used to restorative masculine, element. The hidden message
exercise may help. Inhale deeply for four yoga, you may want to get up after 5 min- of Viparita Karani is something many
counts, then exhale for eight counts. Lon- utes, and thats ne. Over time, you will women already know but dont always
ger exhalations slow your heart rate and be able to stay longer. Eventually youll heed. Back in my college days, whenever
calm your nervous system. Repeat five trust the container of the pose to support I complained about obstacles, my dad
times, and then breathe naturally. your process of undoing, leading to more would encourage me to keep up my good
Then do nothing. Really. Let your mind profound rejuvenation. work, but I can still hear my moms voice
oat like a kite riding on a soft breeze. If When you are ready to come out of saying sympathetically, Oh, dont worry
you fall asleep, thats fine. If you dont, the pose, bend your knees toward your so much. Go put your legs up the wall.
thats also ne. I do this pose when Im chest. Roll onto your right side and rest
stuck on a writing assignment. It acts like there for several breaths. Then, press your Cyndi Lee is an author, artist, and yoga teacher
brain sorbet, cleansing my mental palate hands into the oor and walk yourself up as well as the founder of OM Yoga Center.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 93
TRUE
beauty Celebrate your natural radiance
with four Ayurvedic self-care rituals
that nourish body and spirit.

by Niika Quistgard

Each morning across India, people offer prayers to the resplendent goddess Lakshmi.
Adorned in a red silk sari with copious golden ornaments, Lakshmi Devis luminous
skin, gleaming hair, and magnetic eyes signal her enchantment. She is Beauty.
According to Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of health and longevity, the kind
of beauty Lakshmi embodies naturally arises from simple acts of reverent self-care.
When you undertake your daily routines with the knowledge that you are a precious,
unique manifestation of lifes energy, you embody Lakshmis spirit.
These Ayurvedic self-care practices will kindle your radiance from head to toe. Each
is an opportunity to care for your body as a sacred manifestation of life. When you
honor yourself in this wayno matter your age or genetic attributes or personal style
the vitality, grace, and generous luminosity of the goddess will shine forth through you.
self-care 101

eyes photography by David Martinez


Rose petals cool
and refresh tired
eyes (page 96).
eyes feet
wash away give some good
cloudy vision vibration to
your foundation
Our eyes both perceive and
reveal our beauty. A regular We all know how good it feels to
eye-washing practice can leave get our tootsies rubbed. But foot
them clear and bright, says massage as a facial? Yes, says
Geetha S. R. Harigeetham, ND, Melanie Sachs, an Ayurvedic life-
who was the house doctor at style counselor and the author
Rasa Ayurveda, a now-closed then cover Layer organi- of Ayurvedic Beauty Care (Lotus
womens clinic in Kerala, India. cally grown rose petals, cucum- Light Publications).
(Full disclosure: I founded Rasa ber slices, or cilantro leaves Foot massage can relieve eye
Ayurveda.) Also, she notes, bath- over each closed eye. (Choose strain, relaxing and opening the
ing the eyes can help rejuvenate whichever you like; all 3 are face and allowing our beauty to
tiny muscles that have been cooling and refreshing to the shine through easily, she says.
taxed by computer use or driving. eyes.) Place a cotton pad over Her words are backed up by the
Harigeetham recommends each eye; tie a band of muslin classical Ayurvedic text the
infusing your washing water cotton or a bandanna around Ashtanga Hridaya, which identi-
with triphala. The Ayurvedic the eyes to create a loose es four major nerves in the feet
herbal powdermade up of the blindfold. that connect to the eyes.
amalaki, haritaki, and bibhitaki Holding and massaging your
fruitsis a blood purier and
eyeball it Lie back in Sava-
feet with your own hands can
sana, relax, and envision some-
whole-body rejuvenator, and it help reintegrate the subtle-
thing beautiful. Then, keeping
has properties that support the energy pathways owing be-
your eyes closed throughout,
ophthalmic nerves and eye tween the upper and lower
do 5 cycles each of these ve
muscles, she notes. body. And well-massaged feet
eye exercises:
After the washing, consider connect more completely with
Rotate your eyes
applying the dark eyeliner the earth when you stand or sit
clockwise.
known as kajal (also known with your feet on the ground,
Rotate your eyes
as kohl). Kajal reduces glare giving your whole being a more
counterclockwise.
in bright light, sharpening the stable and relaxed foundation.
Move your eyes in a
vision, and encourages the Plus, says Sachs, Well-oiled
gure 8, looking to the
growth and darkness of eye- feet are also more protected
upper left, lower right,
lashes, Harigeetham explains. from cracking and peeling,
upper right, lower left.
If you choose an Ayurvedic reducing chances for fungal
Look straight up and
herbal formulationsuch as and bacterial infections.
then straight down.
the Shahnaz Husain Kohl Kajal
Eyeliner ($8 at shahnaz
Look left and right. ...how

STYLIST: MARGO BRUMM/ARTISTS SERVICES; HAIR/MAKEUP: FRANCE PIERSON


husainusa.com), which contains then rest Now, relax your First, create a foot soak that
almond oil and ower extracts efforts and breathe for 20 meets your current needs, using
youll also be nourishing and minutes. Release the blindfold. one of the following recipes:
strengthening the tissues Immediately direct your vision
around the eyes, she says.
to cool down Fill a foot tub
to a beautiful sight, object, or
with cool water and mix in a
photo that makes you feel calm
...how and connected. If youre using
tablespoon of honey and a hand-
ful each of dried lavender and
First, prepare the triphala infu- kajal, apply it now.
fresh rose petals. You can also
sion by boiling 1 teaspoon of As you transition back to
use lavender or rose essential
triphala powder in 1 cup of water your day, allow your vision to
oil. This will soothe the mind.
for about 10 minutes. Allow the remain soft, letting the scene
mixture to cool completely; of the world come to you with to warm up Fill a foot tub
strain thoroughly. effortless focus. If possible, with lukewarm water and add
avoid harsh lighting. Let your 1 teaspoon of ginger powder.
rst bathe Wash your face
inner vision come forward. This will invigorate the body
with cold water. Then, using a
and increase circulation.
cupped palm, bathe each open
eye with cool triphala water to relax and rejuvenate
3 times. Rinse the face with a bit Fill a foot tub with very warm
of pure water and pat dry. water and add 3 tablespoons

9 6 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
per gallon of Epsom salt. This
will reduce any swelling and
alleviate fatigue.

rst soak Submerge your


feet, relax for 10 minutes, then
remove your feet and pat them
dry. Next, give yourself a foot
massage, using sesame, olive, or
coconut oil. Apply the oil gener-
ously throughout your massage.

then touch Starting with


your right foot, massage in cir-
cles around the ankle. With your
left hand, squeeze down from
the base of the calf muscle all
the way to the heel bone, 3 times.
Holding the heel, pull back on
the ball of the foot, exing and
stretching several times. With
small circular movements, mas-
sage the spaces between all
the toes, pinching the webbing
between nger and thumb. Glide
your thumbs up and down the
grooves between the tendons
on top of the foot.
Now turn your foot over so
the sole is facing you and hold it
in both hands, with your thumbs
just under the ball of the foot.
Press your ngers into the top
side of the foot, stretching the
base of the toes apart. Then
use your thumbs to milk each
toe, sliding from the base over
the tip of each toe several times.
Next, massage vigorously
from heel to toe using the heel
of your hand. Walk your thumbs
along the outer edges of the
foot, along the arch, and deeply
into the edge of the heel. Use
your knuckles to massage the
arch to relieve back tension.

gently twist Hold your ankle base of your little toe to ease baby steps Finally, rinse your
with your right hand and the top shoulder tension. Finally, using feet with warm water, dry thor-
of your foot with the left, rotat- the at palm of your left hand, oughly, and slip them into clean
ing the foot clockwise, then massage the entire sole of your cotton socks, which will allow
counterclockwise. (Its a spinal foot in a gure-8 pattern. your feet to feel protected, soft,
twist for the foot! says Sachs.) comfortable, and responsive. Let
Grasp your big toe and rotate
energize Slap the sole of your a smile drift upward to your face.
foot a few times. Then press the
it fully, as if you were drawing
self-care 101

palm of your hand to the center


a large circle with the tip of the
of the sole. This encourages a
toe. Then rub the big toe between
healthy ow of apana vayu, the
the palms of your hands to ease
grounding, downward movement
neck pain and tension, and the
of vata, the Ayurvedic air princi-
ple. Repeat the entire sequence
on the left foot.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 97
hair
care for your
crowning glory
For thousands of years, Indian
women have kept their tresses
lovely with sumptuous scalp oils
made from coconuts, herbs,
owers, and spices. Scalp oils
promote thick, lustrous, healthy
hair. But theyre also used to
ward off colds and u, relieve
headaches, keep you cool in
hot weather, and repair frayed
nerves. Rubbing warm oil into
the sensitive and receptive
scalp area is a deliciously calm-
ing experience that helps protect
the mind from the overstimula-
tion of daily life.
You can use plain coconut or
sesame oil, or pick up a ready-
made herbal oil, such as Aroma-
blisss Vamakesi Hair Oil ($17 for
4 ounces at aromabliss.com).
Incorporating traditional Ayurve-
dic botanicals like brahmi and
bhringraj, this artisanal hair oil
supports a healthy agni (metab-
olism) in the scalpthe site of
hair growth. Either way, youll
feel pampered and centered as
you treat your hair to decadent
conditioning.

...how
First, brush your hair thoroughly
and wash out any hair-care prod-
ucts. Then, warm 2 to 3 table-
spoons of oil in a metal spoon
over a ame or an aromatherapy
diffuser. Your scalp is more sen-
sitive to temperature than other rub it in Apply oil to the crown skull. To nish the massage, rub
areas of the body, so carefully of your head, working downward your open palm in wide circles all
test the oil temperature for and outward with your nger- over your scalp.
safety and comfort by trying a tips. Massage your scalp using a
few drops on your inner arm. pinching motion, bringing the
take a moment Finger-comb
the oil through your hair and
ngertips and thumbs together,
leave on for 15 minutes as you
then releasing. Move hands for-
relax. Gently shampoo with a
ward and back, then side to side,
mild cleanser, towel dry, then
covering the entire head.
let your hair nish drying natu-
Next, make small circles on
rally. If you feel inspired, add
the scalp with your ngertips,
ornaments or fresh owers to it.
maintaining an even, enjoyable
pressure as you work from the
hairline back to the base of the

9 8 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
show your face
some love
Our skin keeps us in constant
connection with the textures and
energies of our worldso its no
wonder our faces reveal so much
about our mental, emotional, and
physical status. When we care
for ourselves well, our authentic
beauty reects in our skin, says
Ayurvedic aesthetician Evan
Healy, founder of the eponymous
all-natural skin-care line.
To keep facial skin glowing,
Healy recommends giving your-
self a wonderfully uncomplicated
axseed facial. Grind axseeds
in a coffee grinder, or buy a pre-
ground meal like Bobs Red Mill
($3 for 1 pound at bobsredmill
.com). Its all good, ac-cording to
Healy: A axmeal facial paste is
pure simplicity and great for
every skin type.
The concentrated essential
fatty acids in axseed moistur-
ize and protect the skin, she
explains, and the texture of the
hulls stimulates circulation;
cleans away dirt, sweat, and
excess oils; and sloughs away
dead skin cells. Plus, the ax-
seed, like all seeds, packs prana,
or life energy. Releasing prana to
your skin energizes and vivies.
To increase the healing bene-
ts, Healy recommends that you
follow your facial with a nourish-
ing turmeric-yogurt mask.

...how
Prepare the nourishing mask by
mixing 2 tablespoons plain yo-
gurt with 13 teaspoon honey and
a pinch of turmeric powder.
relax into the mask Next, a moisturizer or serum, such
scrub gently At the bath-
spread the yogurt-turmeric mix- as Evan Healys Pomegranate
room sink, splash water onto
ture evenly over your entire face. Repair Serum ($41 for 0.5 ounce
your face. Then mix a little warm
Lie down and relax for 10 min- at evanhealy.com). Finish by pat-
water with 2 teaspoons ground
utes, taking full, deep breaths ting your damp face with clean
axseed to form a light paste.
and making a conscious effort to hands to seal the good effects
Apply a thin layer to your skin
release any tension you may be of your facial into your skin. Your
and massage in circles all over
holding in your jaw or forehead. natural glow is all the makeup
your face, spending some extra
self-care 101

youll want!
time gently scrubbing any oily seal in the goodness Rinse
or rough areas. with cool water and pat dry. If Niika Quistgard is an Ayurvedic
Rinse well with cool or warm youd like, follow with a spritz practitioner and the founder
water. (Never use hot water! Hot of rosewater or other aroma- of Rasa Ayurveda Traditional
water stresses delicate facial therapy facial spray, and apply Healing Centre for Women, which
skin and strips away protective was in Kerala, India.
oils.) Pat dry.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 9 9
self-care by H illar i Dowd le

Pampering
with Purpose
For a spa experience thats truly rejuvenating,
surrender to treatments tailored just for you.

HERES MY TRUE CONFESSION: I do not choose to relax. I like to


imagine what it would be like to live a life of leisure, lounging by the
pool, sipping on cucumber-infused water, biding my time until my
next spa appointment. I admire the people who can do it. But in truth,
thats not me.
No, I like to work. I like long hours and extreme effort and as much
tension as I can possibly build up. I may like to think about relaxing, but
given the option to actually do it, Id rather sit in front of my computer
for hours on end, spinning away on whatever project I happen to have
on hand (they all feel, to me, utterly urgent).
Even my vacations tend to be effort-oriented, if you can call them
vacations at all. For one thing, I dont take many, and
theyre usually short. And for another, they always happen
WHATS YOUR SPA
for a reason: to further my career (think story research, job TYPE? To get the most
interviews); or to better my body (yoga conferences, detox out of your spa experience,
intensives). Work, in other words, must be getting done. start by understanding
And so it was, a few years ago, that I found myself at the your dosha (this is your
constitution, according to
Chopra Center at Southern Californias Omni La Costa
Ayurvedic tradition). Learn
Resort & Spa. At the time, I was the editor of a magazine
the basics by taking the
dedicated to the merits of leading a healthy, balanced life. quiz at yogajournal.com/
Ironically, I had been working 12-hour days for months. ayurveda, then try the
My staff was begging me to take a few days off; my boss treatments recommended
kindly, then rather rmly, suggested that I do so. for your type. felt so out of place. But when I
STYLIST: LYN HEINEKEN; HAIR/MAKEUP: BETTEN CHASTON
I decided that at Chopra I could work on my yoga, do set foot through the door of the
a little detox, log some meditation hours, and maybe even get a future Chopra Center, I knew I was at home. It was slightly
PHOTOS: DAVID MARTINEZ; MODEL: JOHANNA EPPS;

story out of the mix (et voil!). Whats more, I would deepen the typi- darker and a little funkier... still lovely, but with the
cal spa experience by getting treatments based in the ancient Indian signs and symbols of yoga all around. There was
healing art of Ayurveda. I would take a little vacation, yes, but I would Ganesha smiling down on me. It would be OKI
not waste my time. Id sign up for a crash course in the Perfect Health could apply effort here; I could have ease.
program (normally a ve-day program; I would do it in three), then get The yoga, meditation, and cooking classes
back on the jobinformed, rejuvenated, and acceptably refreshed. offered at the center conrmed this hunch. It was
during one of these group sessions that I had an
DOSHA DIAGNOSIS Aha! moment that would change my attitude
Situated in Carlsbad, California, just north of San Diego, Omni La toward relaxationif not forever, at least for the
Costa Resort & Spa is breathtaking and luxurious. Surrounded by glow- course of this particular vacation. Wed all just
ing, clearly afuent families in their matching golf attire, I had never had our dosha makeup diagnosed and now knew

1 0 0 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
tition. This makes gentle
what vatas massage (think Swedish
need or abhyanga), body wraps,
bathing rituals, and all
TOUCH THAT SOOTHES sorts of warming hydro-
therapies particularly good
I love to see the vatas choices. Sweet almond,
coming, because they are sesame, and safower oils
so much fun, says Natasha can balance vata, as does
Korshak, a onetime director the scent of patchouli
of yoga, meditation, and essential oil.
mindfulness training at the
TREATMENT TO TRY
Miraval Resort in Catalina,
BODY WRAP
Arizona. Theyre the ones
having wild rides! With A body wrap combines
them, we are always talk- the best of warmth and
ing about grounding. touch, slathering the body
with clay straight from
When in balance, vata
the earth. What could be
types are characterized by
more grounding? A good
high energy, creativity, and
body wrap is an amazing
an inspiring uidity. When
cocoonlike experience,
out of balance, they tend
says Korshak. It makes
to be nervous, restless,
you feel safe and swaddled
confused, and exhausted.
and completely centered.
They are the kind of
Plus, there are some inter-
people who can turn up
esting opportunities for
lots of opportunity; when
self-discovery. The sig-
theyre in balance, thats
nature Turquoise Wrap at
great, says David Green-
The Boulders Resort and
span, whos served as the
Spa, in Scottsdale, Arizona,
lead Ayurvedic educator at
begins with a cornmeal
the Chopra Center. But
scrub, ends with a steam
when theyre facing 30
and a full-body honey
choices and feeling over-
mask, and in-between
whelmed, they start to
enrobes the body in tur-
suffer anxiety, they dont
quoise clay, which is
eat well, and they feed
believed by Native Ameri-
on themselves until theyre
cans to have powerful pro-
totally imbalanced.
tective properties.
The keys to balancing
vata, Greenspan says, are
BEING COVERED IN CLAY IS
warmth, touch, and repe-
GROUNDINGLITERALLY.

whether we were an airy, creative, changeable vata; quickly, and they are the quickest to take action.
a driven, intense, ery pitta; an earthy, loving, steady Generally, when vatas go out of whack, they start to
kapha; or some mix of the above. (Most of us are made feel anxious and overwhelmed, and they want to do
up of a combination of doshas, with one or possi- something about it. Vata types come here saying
bly two that are predominant. To learn more about they need to slow down so they can think clearly.
your dosha mix, take the online quiz at yogajournal The least likely to show up, he said, were kapha
.com/ayurveda.) David Greenspan, a former corpo- types. Imbalanced kaphas feel withdrawn and slug-
self-care 101

rate executive who has served as Chopras lead educa- gish, and they dont do much of anything unless they
tor in Ayurveda and meditation, was giving a talk on really feel inspired, he explained. Its a rare couch
the interplay of the doshas within each of us when potato who will leap up and say, I need to get to the
someone in the class asked, What dosha type do you spa! Instead, kaphas tended to show up because a
see most often at the Chopra Center? concerned family member sent them.
Greenspan didnt have to think for long. Vata And right in the middle were pittas. Pittas come
types, he answered. Vatas go out of balance very in because they have been burning the candle at both

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 1 0 1
WARM OIL
And I did. For my two remaining days,
SOOTHES AN I stopped striving and angling for control.
what pittas OVERHEATED I let the Chopra Center recommend my
need BRAIN.
treatments and enjoyed a balancing shi-
rodhara treatment, a soothing abhyanga
CALM FOR THE MIND
massage, and a completely blissful sound-
We see a lot of stressed- therapy/massage hybrid treatment called
out pittas at Exhale in New Gandharva, with glorious crystal singing
York, says Robert Mac- bowlssomething I would have never
Donald, the spas director
selected for myself (too frivolous).
of healing. They are the
people who are ultrasuc-
I had the great fortune to meet with
cessful on Wall Street. They David Simon, the late neurologist who
literally thrive on stress. was the medical director, CEO, and co-
But the body cant tell the founder of the Chopra Center. He recom-
difference between stress mended that I simply create some space
you love and stress you
in my schedule every dayfive-minute
dont. So you have to work
to offset the impact.
buffer zones before and after each of my
many meetings and endless tasks. That
Pittas have a lot of stamina,
would, he said, go a long way toward cre-
says Greenspan, which is
ating balance and helping me tap into my
both good and bad. They
can push themselves right own compassionate heart.
up to the point of collapse. For the next two days, I ate well; I drank
at healing (pittas benet tendency to think too
They need to learn cooling
enormously from creating muchit cools down an
tea. Between spa appointments, I did
techniques so they dont amazinglynothing. I sat by the pool. I
the intention to heal) and overheated head quickly.
scorch the earth around
those that address heat- As a bonus, shi ro dhara sipped cucumber water. My head be gan
themso they can be com-
related complaints. Cool- also brings down excess to clear. I felt a little better. But though
passionate and loving in-
water therapies are good vata, thereby reducing any I was relinquishing control, I was still
stead of so pointed and
choices, as are Reiki and winds that might be fan-
direct, he says. The great- soaking up information. The best mind-
other gentle forms of en- ning your ames. (If you
est cooling tool in the arse-
ergy work, massages, and have a re going and you
body spas send you home with the tools
nal? Meditation. you need to balance your life outside
facials. Choose avocado or add a lot of wind, suddenly
Meditation soothes coconut oils for a massage, its a bonre, Greenspan their raried walls. I was learning what I
and calms; it allows you and work with essential explains. You often need needed to know about how to eat, sleep,
to have stillness and oils of sandalwood, jasmine, to address vata and pitta.) exercise, and keep a cool head even as
silence instead of reactive or rose. If youre angry, irritable, or
I kept a warm heart.
responses, Greenspan agitated, indulge in a shi-
TREATMENT TO TRY
says. It can allow a pitta to rodhara treatment and say
SHIRODHARA SUSTAINABLE TRANSFORMATION
live life with great grace goodbye to those little puffs
and ease. It can create a Shirodhara is the classical of smoke that have been And that, says Robert MacDonald, an
huge shift. soothing Ayurvedic treat- blowing out of your ears. acupuncturist and massage therapist who
ment in which a continuous is director of healing for the Exhale Mind
At the spa, good choices
stream of therapeutic oil is Body Spa (with facilities in New York City
include treatments aimed
applied to the head. Its the
and other locations around the world), is
perfect antidote to the pitta
what makes a visit to the spa transforma-
tional. When you embrace therapies like
endstheyve been running at such a high familiar. My ears pricked up as he outlined yoga or acupuncture or even bodywork,
level of execution that they are literally the cure: Pittas need to be soothed; they youre really reaching for tools that can
fried, Greenspan said. They are working are inamed. You can only get so inamed elevate you to a higher level of function-
all the time, barking at people, causing and before you incinerate yourself. Youre like ality, he says. If you go off to a spa and
getting headaches. Theyre not taking any an engine running, running, running. You you just have treatments and dont learn
time off for anything. They end up getting have to shut off so you can cool down. anything, its like going on the Atkins diet.
so overheated everyone around them gets I know the truth when I hear it. I was a Its great when youre using it, but when
burned. I call it scorching the village. pitta out of control. I needed to do what you get back to your regular life, it all falls
people come to spas to do: let go, unwind, apart. But a good spa is about sustainable
CHILLING OUT and turn myself over to someone else to transformation.
Huh. I myself am a pitta type, and some- manage for a little while. Create space. For Seane Corn, an occasional spa visit
thing about this scenario sounded a bit Surrender. See what would happen. is part of her ongoing pitta-management

1 0 2 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
plan. Corn is a busy yoga instructor, social
activist, workshop coordinator, creator of
what kaphas
DVDs and audio courses, and c0-creator
of the nonprofit Off the Mat, Into the need
World. Im a Type A personality, and
MOVES THAT ENERGIZE
my pattern is go-go-go-go, crash, she
explains. When I go to the spa, theres a A balanced kapha is a
reason for itI need to be in an environ- beautiful thing: strong, lov-
ment geared to relaxation, feeling, and ing, kind, earthy, grounded.
The constitutions all have
introspection. It allows me space to let
their upside and their
go and receive. downside, says Jonathan
An occasional spa excursion ts right Ellerby, former spiritual
in with Corns yoga. I think that anything programs director at Can-
that helps bring you back into the present yon Ranch in Tucson, Ari-
is a valid form of practice, she says. It is zona. Someone may be a
kapha, and it may help
a luxury and a privilegeand optional
them to be steady and
dont get me wrong. A $95 herbal wrap is patient at work. But per-
not going to get you any closer to God. haps in a relationship
But we live in a culture of stress, and you where there is a crisis,
A THAI YOGA MASSAGE
should do everything you can to bring theyre absent, maybe INVIGORATES GENTLY.
yourself into alignment. sleeping a lot.

The kapha dosha is com-


gradually. Kaphas need safower or sesame oils
PROFOUND PEACE posed of earth and water,
stimulation, but you have for massage, and add
For most of us, that means slowing down. which makes it solid, yes,
to go gently or theyll get aromatic frankincense,
but also slow. When a
We are overscheduled multitaskers, scared off, says Korshak. peppermint, or rosemary.
kapha goes out of balance,
addicted to doing and not so big on just You have to help them
the person becomes very TREATMENT TO TRY
being. Natasha Korshak was at one point see the benet of more-
sluggish and the imbalance THAI MASSAGE
vigorous efforts. The chal-
the director of yoga, meditation, and is much deeper than with
lenge for out-of-balance The perfect marriage of
mindfulness training at the storied Mira- vata or pitta, explains
kaphas? Weight loss. movement and massage,
val Resort in Catalina, Arizona. We see all Greenspan. When kaphas
are overwhelmed, they Thai massage invigorates
types here at Miraval, but I think of it as a To invigorate stagnant
often just shut down. You stagnant kapha types with-
kapha, select body scrubs,
playground for pittas, she says. Many of out overwhelming them. A
have to break that cycle deep massage such as
our guests have high-level positions and of inertia. The way you do Rolng, lymphatic drainage,
blend of assisted stretch-
are very driven. They come here and are that is by invigorating the ing and acupressure treat-
detox facials, vishesh (an
ment, it has often been
ambitious with their agenda. I encour- body through yoga and Ayurvedic deep-tissue fric-
diet and treatments that described as passive yoga.
age them to slow down, to decide from tion massage), or udvartna
bring blood to the skin The therapist uses his or
moment to moment what they want to (an Ayurvedic treatment in
and get the body moving. her weight to take muscles
which an herbal paste is
do. To think deeply about what they need and joints through a wide
used to draw out excess
now and going forward. The message at Kapha types who have range of motion. Its both
uids and toxins). Dry-heat
Miraval is: This is fun, but were asking been on the couch for a energizing and relaxing
saunas and any kind of
while should get moving and moreover, its fun.
you to be present for every moment of it. moving massage therapy
Indeed, for overtaxed Americans are also helpful. Choose
particularly those who dont pursue a
daily yoga or meditation practicea nd that the mind relaxes and something around me if only Id chill out just a little.
trip to the spa can be a spiritual expe- else emerges. They can connect to a pro- I would move forward with a commit-
rience, says Jona than Ellerby, former found sense of peace, open-mindedness, ment to take better care of myself, know-
spiritual programs director at Canyon and present-moment awareness. They say, ing that my life could be not only happier
Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. There is so How come I couldnt do this on my own? and healthier, but also more efcient and
self-care 101

much that stands between us and our I say, How come you thought you could? productive! And suddenlyfrom my pos-
spiritual selvesour minds, habits, dis- We all need support sometimes. itively pitta perspectivean occasional
appointments, kids, jobs, taxes, he says. And so I took a deep breath. I got trip to the spa began to seem very worth-
People come here and they slow down some perspective, and I realized I was while indeed.
and nurture themselves, sometimes for angry all the time. And then, I wasnt. I
the first time ever. They may be having began to see how my life could be a little Hillari Dowdle, former editor of Yoga Journal,
a shirodhara treatment or a massage and bit sweeter for me and for everyone else is a freelance writer in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 1 0 3
self-care by N iika Qu istg ard

Your Best Diet A nourishing Ayurvedic regimen


naturally guides you to the body
weight thats right for you.

WHILE LIVING IN an ashram in Northern India years ago, I loved


playing auntie to two young girlsChaya and Lakshmifrom
a nearby village. When Lakshmi neared puberty, she started to
gain weight. As she grew softer and wider, her mother continued
her usual mealtime practice of putting balls of rice and lentils
into Lakshmis mouth, well past the point of satiety. The family
became more and more delighted, parading her ahead of them
as they walked to temple, showing off their daughters eshly
abundance. Look how round and healthy she is, theyd say.
Shes going to catch quite a husband!
Meanwhile, back in California, the wo men in my own
extended family were worried about a distant cousina
beautiful, creative girl who happened to be a little chubby
in her elementary-school years. Weve got to help her con-
trol her weight, theyd whisper with desperation. We
dont want her to feel bad about herself for being heavy.
Despite their good intentions, both families showed
more commitment to cultural norms than to under-
standing the needs of their girls bodies. A persons
perfect weight cant be sized up by the eye or measured
by a scale. According to the principles of Ayurveda,
the ancient Indian science of health, everyone has
an ideal weight thats unique to their prakriti, or
constitutional nature, made up of the three life
energies, or doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha.
Because your ideal weight is unique,
it cant be compared with your
sisters, your neighbors, your
PHOTOS: SHERI GIBLIN; FOOD STYLIST: ERIN QUON

self-care 101

VATA-CALMING BUTTERNUT
SQUASH AND SWEET POTATO
SOUP (RECIPE ON PAGE 107).
se l f-ca re
best friends, or your own ve years ago.
Your ideal weight is affected by your age,
the season, the climate, andif youre a
womanyour menstrual stage. The right
weight has nothing to do with numbers.
Instead, its a reection of feeling and be-
ing truly healthybeing comfortable and
stable in body and mind, and having the
strength and endurance to fully engage in
the demands of everyday life.
Knowing your dominant dosha can
help you establish healthful eating habits
and dietary choices. (Take our survey de-
signed to reveal your dosha at yogajournal
.com/ayurveda.) Over time, by living and
eating according to your dominant dosha,
youll settle into the best weight for you
and only you.

VATA FIND THE RHYTHM


Vata-dominant people have slight or
deerlike builds. When out of balance,
they might tend toward irregular diges-
tion, usually losing weight when stressed.
If vata dominates your constitution, you
can become imbalanced after emotional
trauma, and your weight may yo-yo up and
down as your system attempts to insulate,
ground, and protect itself. SATISFY A SWEET
TOOTH NATURALLY WITH
Youll nd balance in your weight and
APPLES AND DRIED APRICOTS.
life by following a rhythm: eating three
meals a day at regular times, with the
main meal of the day around noon, when
digestion is strongest. Warm, moist, and
heavier foods with sweet, sour, or salty
tastes will nourish tissues, emotions, and PITTA GO FRESH AND LIGHT
overall body weight. Foods that are bitter, The pitta dosha is associated with fire
pungent, or astringent should be avoided. energy. If youre pitta dominant and live in Kapha-Calming
Warming spices like cumin, garlic, or cin- balance, youll most likely sport a medium, Apple Dessert
namon support a stable agni (digestive equine, well-proportioned body. Associ- MAKES 4 TO 6 SERVINGS

re, or metabolism). ated with re energy, the pitta dosha gov-


You might crave sweets, caffeine, or erns digestion and transformation in the 1 teaspoon dried orange peel,
other substances that affect the nervous body and mind. soaked overnight in 1 teaspoon
systemespecially if life has you running With a propensity for ambition and boiled water
in rapid, unpredictable circles. Instead of hyperfocus, you might keep your nose 4 apples, washed and chopped into
turning to food stimulants, try develop- to the grindstone far past lunch, honing -inch pieces
ing faith through a devotional or spiri- your mental aim with acidic coffee and 1
3 cup dried apricots, chopped
tual practice to help you disengage from attempting to quell hunger with whatever Sprinkle of ground cloves
anxious, repetitive thinking. Warm oil, is most easily available. Sadly, fast food Drizzle of honey
applied externally with an all-over self- usually means junk food. The salty, fatty
massage, can calm tense or hypersensi- processed ingredients, articial avors, 1 Mix all of the ingredients in
tive digestion and bring you back toward and preservatives can aggravate acid pro- a large bowl.
a comfortable, stable, balanced body duction, eventually weakening the liver, 2 Let sit at room temperature for
weight and muscle tone. gallbladder, and small intestine. an hour, and then enjoy.

1 0 6 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
When you do sit down to enjoy a meal, dependence on heavy, cloying sweets.
youre likely to indulge a craving. Strik- However, dried fruit and treats sweet-
ingly sour and hot tastes that deliver sharp ened with the herb stevia can bring kapha
stimulationlike red wine, garlic, chilies, energy back into balance. Fresh berries, Vata-Calming Soup
and vinegary picklesjust add intensity apricots, and apples are great choices, too. MAKES 3 SERVINGS

to the fire. These foods dont translate While your natural sense of stability This soothing soup is simple to make and
directly into weight gain, but according can become stagnation that resists even beautiful to behold (pictured on page 104).
to Ayurvedic thought, they do lead to healthy change, once you have made a
intestinal inflammation, which creates commitment, your slow and steady na- 2 tablespoons ghee
circulatory congestion, or uid retention, ture will keep you on a sure path until you 1 medium butternut squash, peeled,
a precursor to obesity. reach your goal for a naturally balanced seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
To eat for balance, you must take time and healthy body weight. 1 medium sweet potato or 2 large
for regular meals, making lunch the big- carrots, peeled and chopped
gest meal of the day, as digestion is at its SIMPLY SATISFIED 1 large onion, loosely diced
peak at midday. A pitta metabolism is How will you know when youve hit the 2 large cloves garlic, smashed
naturally strong with high agni, which right weight? The Caraka Samhita, a class- 1-inch knob of fresh ginger, washed
demands fuel; if the digestive re isnt fed sic Ayurvedic text, says: The senses are and nely chopped
regularly, it overheats. Acids and enzymes fullled; hunger and thirst are assuaged; 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
then concentrate, disrupting normal di- standing, sitting, lying down, walking, teaspoon ground cloves
gestion and contributing to the forma- breathing, talking, and laughing are 1 teaspoon ground cumin
tion of ama, the toxic byproduct of a faulty effortless; food is digested easily by eve- teaspoon turmeric
digestive process that Ayurvedic theory ning or morning. 3 cups broth or water
suggests can clog various bodily channels Forget cultural expectationsif you 1 cup coconut milk or half-and-half
and cause weight gain. nourish yourself in a way that brings you Salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh, light fruits, veggies, and grains health and joy, your body will follow your to taste
with bitter, sweet, and astringent tastes lead to your perfect, balanced weight. Freshly minced parsley to garnish
(like cucumbers, green beans, apples, qui-
noa, and greens) calm the doshas over- Niika Quistgard directed a womens Ayurvedic 1 Melt 1 tablespoon ghee over
heated passion and ease digestion. clinic in Kerala, India (rasaayurveda.com). medium-high heat in a large, deep
saut pan.
KAPHA SAVOR THE BITTERSWEET 2 Add squash, sweet potato, and then
Kapha-dominant types tend to have onion. Saut, stirring very little at
stockier builds and round faces. You fall rst, then more frequently, for 7 to 8
out of balance slowly and are most likely Pitta-Calming Saut minutes or until all the ingredients
to gain weight over time and hold on to it. MAKES 1 SERVING turn golden brown.
A slide into extra weight might begin with For a light but satisfying dinner, 3 Reduce the heat to low and add
long hours at a sedentary job. Add a few serve over cooked quinoa and rice. garlic. Continue cooking until the veg-
slices of birthday cake, a couple of rainy etables are a rich caramel color, about
weekends sleeping in, a movie instead of 1 tablespoon ghee 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
yoga, and a few servings of rich comfort 1 small head of broccoli, orets 4 In separate soup pot, add remaining
food, and extra pounds appear. roughly cut tbs ghee, ginger, and remaining spices
If kapha dominates your prakriti, youll 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated save salt and pepper. Saut until fragrant.
nd a healthy weight when you eat smaller 2 tablespoons scallions, chopped 5 Add broth and vegetables to soup
meals of fresh raw and light foods with pot. Bring to a low boil over medium-
bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes. 1 Heat ghee in a saut pan over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and
Eating your main meal around noon is medium heat. simmer for about 10 minutes, partially
especially good for balancing digestion 2 Add the broccoli and saut covered, until the squash is tender.
self-care 101

in kapha-dominant prakritis. until just cooked, about 5 to 8 6 Pure in a blender until smooth.
Dessert, unfortunately, is not on the minutes. 7 Return the mixture to the soup pot.
menu. The sweet taste just creates an im- 3 Sprinkle ginger and scallions Pour in enough coconut milk so that
balance of kapha energy that can lead to over broccoli, and serve. the soup ows easily but has a thick
weight gain. Instead, try an after-meal and hearty consistency. Add salt and
cup of green tea with dry ginger to boost pepper to taste. Heat through and
digestion and metabolism and reduce All recipes by Niika Quistgard. serve, garnished with parsley.

Y O G A T O D AY YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M 1 07
For a wide range
of free practice
home practice by H illar i Dowd le
videos, go to
yogajournal.com.

Altogether Now Youve learned the basics. Now, how do you


turn them into a practice? Heres one way to
do it: an all-purpose routine for everyone.

Start with three to Then drop one knee to 90 74). Make it a practice of total
six rounds of Sun degrees into Warrior II (page ease and release. Do one side,
Salutations (page 46). Feel the openness in the then the other. Luxuriate in the
8), starting slow, hips as you keep them square to stretch for as long as you like.
then building up the sides of the mat. Arms up,
heat and speed. looking forward, feeling strong Sit up straight, reach for your
Backbends come next in a logi-
Let your breath be and able. Do both sides, holding toes, and take Seated Forward
cal sequence; embrace them
your guide as you for 5 to 10 breaths. Bend, which is shown on page
with compassion, as explained
moveyou can 78. Here is where you bring your
on page 52. Concentrate on one,
depend on it to set attention from the external
or do all threeLocust Pose,
the proper pace world to the internal one. Feel
Bridge Pose, and Chair Pose. If
for you. During the benefits of your practice in
you do the latter, notice the dif-
your last round, body and soul.
ference in your body as youve
pause for a minute
opened and readied it more with
or two in Downward-Facing Finally, its time for yogas ulti-
practice. Let the focus be on the
Dog (page 14). Let yourself mate reward: Corpse Pose, on
backbend.
wriggle in the pose, shaking off page 83. Give up all effort now,
stress and finding your proper letting the earth support you.
An abdominal strengthener
alignment. Then do the same in Shorten your stance, rotate your Breathe deeply and steadily, and
will benefit every pose in your
Upward-Facing Dog (page 20) hips forward, and come into know that this is all you need do
practice through increased core
allowing gravity to open your Warrior I. As the article reminds right now. Aim to stay for at least
strength. We offer two of our
heart. At the end of your session, us on page 31, there is no one 10 minutes. When youre done,
favoritesleg lifts, on page 56,
stand still, honoring your effort. right way to do this (or any come out of the posture by sit-
and Boat Pose, on page 60. Do
other) pose, but aim to keep ting up slowly. Take a moment to
one, or both.
Next, drop into Chair Pose your chest square to the front, integrate all the bits and pieces
(Utkatasana) for 5 to 10 breaths raising your arms overhead and of your practice.
Inversions are optional, and
(page 24). This is a strengthening feeling the delicious stretch from
please learn them from a trusted
and warming pose when done the back leg through the torso. Nows the time to meditate, if
teacher before you try them on
early in a practice, and a good you feel so inclined. Keep
your own. But Supported
gauge of how you are really feel- Now is the time for a balancing it simple with
Headstand and Supported
ing today. If youre strong, go for posture; choose any from the any one of
Shoulderstand would come next.
it! If youre feeling fragile, take it article Plumb Perfect on page Janice Gatess
Follow Aadil Palkhivalas advice
easy on yourself. 34. We think that Tree Pose is easy practices,
(page 64) and dont do them
an especially apt posture for found on page
until youre truly ready.
Next, take Triangle Pose (page feeling the openness and stabili- 86. Otherwise,
40)practicing first on one side, ty youve created with your carry the atten-
Come into Downward Dog.
then the other. Allow the pose to standing poses. tion and care
Swing one foot forward into
open the sides of the body, and youve built with your practice
Pigeon Pose (page 70). Play
feel the grounding through your into your day.
with bending forward and lean-
feet. Stay on each side for 10 to
ing back in this pose. Stay for 10
20 breaths.
breaths or so. Next, lie on your
DONNA GRETHEN

back, pull up a leg, and take a


simple Reclining Twist (page

1 0 8 YO GAJ O U R N A L .CO M Y O G A T O D AY
Embrace your path.

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