Asana Of The Week: Pincha Mayurasana - Feathered Peacock Pose
This deep stress relieving pose alleviates all tension from the shoulders whilst providing a deep and profound opening of the heart chakra. A pose that helps one to face one’s fears, Pincha Mayurasana celebrates the peacock during its dance of extending its tail feathers with fierce energy, an energy that serves and encourages us to venture deeper.
This pose improves balance, helps to relieve depressive or anxious tension and stretches the muscles of the heart whilst strengthening the shoulders, neck and spine.
Step by Step (from yogajournal.com)
Perform a modified Adho Muhka Svanasana at your yoga wall, with your palms and forearms on the floor. Your fingertips should be right at the base of the wall, and your forearms parallel to each other at shoulder width. This pose isn’t quite as scary as Adho Mukha Vrksasana; it has a firmer base of support, and the head isn’t as far away from the floor. But it can still be somewhat intimidating. To ready yourself for and secure yourself in this inversion, firm your shoulder blades against your back torso and pull them toward your tailbone. Then rotate your upper arms outward, to keep the shoulder blades broad, and hug your forearms inward. Finally spread your palms and press your inner wrists firmly against the floor.
Now bend one knee and step the foot in, closer to the wall (let’s say the left leg), but keep the other (i.e. right) leg active by extending through the heel. Then take a few practice hops before you try to launch yourself upside down. Sweep your right leg through a wide arc toward the wall and kick your left foot off the floor, immediately pushing through the heel to straighten the leg. Hop up and down like this several times, each time pushing off the floor a little higher. Exhale deeply each time you hop.
Hopping up and down like this may be all you can manage for now. Regularly practice your strength poses, like Adho Mukha Svanasana (or the modified version that’s the beginning position here), Plank Pose, and Chaturanga Dandasana. Eventually you’ll be able to kick all the way into the pose. At first your heels may crash into the wall, but again with more practice you’ll be able to swing your heels up lightly to the wall.
If your armpits and groins are tight, your lower back may be deeply arched. To lengthen it, draw your front ribs into your torso, reach your tailbone toward your heels, and slide your heels higher up the wall. Draw the navel toward the spine. Squeeze the outer legs together and roll the thighs in. In Pincha Mayurasana your head should be off the floor; hang it from a spot between your shoulder blades and gaze out into the center of the room.
Stay in the pose 10 to 15 seconds. Gradually work your way up to 1 minute. When you come down, be sure not to sink onto the shoulders. Keep your shoulder blades lifted and broad, and take one foot down at a time with an exhalation. Lift into Adho Mukha Svanasana for 30 seconds to a minute. We tend to kick up with the same leg all the time: be sure to alternate your kicking leg, one day right, next day left.
Asana Of The Week: Ustrasana - Camel Pose
This deep heart and throat chakra opener also serves to strengthen muscles of the back whilst toning the abdominal organs and improving posture.
This pose is deeply detoxifying and energetically it benefits someone who has trouble voicing their feelings or communicating with their true intentions.
Step by Step)
Kneel on the floor with your knees hip width and thighs perpendicular to the floor. Rotate your thighs inward slightly, narrow your hip points, and firm but don’t harden your buttocks. Imagine that you’re drawing your sitting bones up, into your torso. Keep your outer hips as soft as possible. Press your shins and the tops of your feet firmly into floor.
Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis, bases of the palms on the tops of the buttocks, fingers pointing down. Use your hands to spread the back pelvis and lengthen it down through your tail bone. Then lightly firm the tail forward, toward the pubis. Make sure though that your front groins don’t “puff” forward. To prevent this, press your front thighs back, countering the forward action of your tail. Inhale and lift your heart by pressing the shoulder blades against your back ribs.
Now lean back against the firmness of the tail bone and shoulder blades. For the time being keep your head up, chin near the sternum, and your hands on the pelvis. Beginners probably won’t be able to drop straight back into this pose, touching the hands to the feet simultaneously while keeping the thighs perpendicular to the floor. If you need to, tilt the thighs back a little from the perpendicular and minimally twist to one side to get one hand on the same-side foot. Then press your thighs back to perpendicular, turn your torso back to neutral, and touch the second hand to its foot. If you’re not able to touch your feet without compressing your lower back, turn your toes under and elevate your heels.
See that your lower front ribs aren’t protruding sharply toward the ceiling, which hardens the belly and compresses the lower back. Release the front ribs and lift the front of the pelvis up, toward the ribs. Then lift the lower back ribs away from the pelvis to keep the lower spine as long as possible. Press your palms firmly against your soles (or heels), with the bases of the palms on the heels and the fingers pointing toward the toes. Turn your arms outwardly so the elbow creases face forward, without squeezing the shoulder blades together. You can keep your neck in a relatively neutral position, neither flexed nor extended, or drop your head back. But be careful not to strain your neck and harden your throat.
Stay in this pose anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. To exit, bring your hands onto the front of your pelvis, at the hip points. Inhale and lift the head and torso up by pushing the hip points down, toward the floor. If your head is back, lead with your heart to come up, not by jutting the chin toward the ceiling and leading with your brain. Rest in Child’s Pose for a few breaths.
Asana Of The Week: Bakasana - Crane Pose
This pose is often referred to as Crow Pose, either way, it is a pose that opens the powerful root chakra energy center and is, therefore, a wonderful pose to ground and center.
Bakasana develops wrist, arm and core strength whilst releasing the muscles of the upper back and groin. This is also a very beneficial asana to heal the digestive system and ensure that it is toned and functioning optimally.
It is best to avoid this pose if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome.
The most challenging aspect of this pose is gathering the strength from the core to lift the weight of the legs and this is accomplished by drawing in with mula and udiyana bandha creating an upward momentum of energy.
For me, the most important aspect of holding Bakasana lays in the breath. It is not about getting into the shape but rather using the breath to open the body and ultimately release what the body needs to release within the context of the shape. With slow, controlled breath, the body will sustain a parasympathetic response, thus calming it and helping it to strengthen.
Step by Step
Squat down from Tadasana with your inner feet a few inches apart. If it isn’t possible to keep your heels on the floor, support them on a thickly folded blanket. Separate your knees wider than your hips and lean the torso forward, between the inner thighs. Stretch your arms forward, then bend your elbows, place your hands on the floor and the backs of the upper arms against the shins.
Snuggle your inner thighs against the sides of your torso, and your shins into your armpits, and slide the upper arms down as low onto the shins as possible. Lift up onto the balls of your feet and lean forward even more, taking the weight of your torso onto the backs of the upper arms. In Bakasana you consciously attempt to contract your front torso and round your back completely. To help yourself do this, keep your tailbone as close to your heels as possible.
With an exhalation, lean forward even more onto the backs of your upper arms, to the point where the balls of your feet leave the floor. Now your torso and legs are balanced on the backs of your upper arms. As a beginner at this pose, you might want to stop here, perched securely on the bent arms.
But if you are ready to go further, squeeze the legs against the arms, press the inner hands firmly to the floor and (with an inhalation) straighten the elbows. Seen from the side the arms are angled slightly forward relative to the floor. The inner knees should be glued to the outer arms, high up near the armpits. Keep the head in a neutral position with your eyes looking at the floor, or lift the head slightly, without compressing the back of the neck, and look forward.
Stay in the pose anywhere from 20 seconds to 1 minute. To release, exhale and slowly lower your feet to the floor, back into a squat.
Asana Of The Week: Sirsasana II - Tripod Headstand
This asana is a restorative pose and one that should be practiced followed up by it’s counter pose, Sarvangasana or Shoulder Stand. Sirsanasa I is referred to as the king of the asanas, and Sirsanana II provides the same benefits with the addition of strengthening the forearms and shoulders.
This pose is rich with benefits: it stimulates and opens the crown chakra and astral planes of the body. It calms the brain and helps to relive mild depression, stimulates the pineal and pituitary glands, strengthens the spine, writs, arms and legs, improves digestion and strengthens the lungs.
Step by Step
Use a folded blanket or sticky mat to pad your head and forearms. Kneel on the floor. Lace your fingers together and set the forearms on the floor, elbows at shoulder width. Roll the upper arms slightly outward, but press the inner wrists firmly into the floor. Set the crown of your head on the floor. Set your palms down in a triangle with your hands on either side of your head and about a foot forward.
Inhale and lift your knees off the floor. Carefully walk your feet closer to your elbows, heels elevated. Actively lift through the top thighs, forming an inverted “V.” Firm the shoulder blades against your back and lift them toward the tailbone so the front torso stays as long as possible. This should help prevent the weight of the shoulders collapsing onto your neck and head.
Exhale and lift your feet away from the floor. Take both feet up at the same time, even if it means bending your knees and hopping lightly off the floor. As the legs (or thighs, if your knees are bent) rise to perpendicular to the floor, firm the tailbone against the back of the pelvis. Turn the upper thighs in slightly, and actively press the heels toward the ceiling (straightening the knees if you bent them to come up). The center of the arches should align over the center of the pelvis, which in turn should align over the crown of the head.
Firm the outer arms inward, and soften the fingers. Continue to press the shoulder blades against the back, widen them, and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the weight evenly balanced on the two forearms. It’s also essential that your tailbone continues to lift upward toward the heels. Once the backs of the legs are fully lengthened through the heels, maintain that length and press up through the balls of the big toes so the inner legs are slightly longer than the outer.
As a beginning practitioner stay for 10 seconds. Gradually add 5 to 10 seconds onto your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 3 minutes. Then continue for 3 minutes each day for a week or two, until you feel relatively comfortable in the pose. Again gradually add 5 to 10 seconds onto your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 5 minutes. Come down with an exhalation, without losing the lift of the shoulder blades, with both feet touching the floor at the same time.
Asana Of The Week: Camatkarasana - Rock Star Pose
This asana provides a deep opening in the heart and throat chakras strengthening ease of communication and speaking the truth. It also provides an intense stretch in the hips and hip flexors and serves to strengthen the shoulders and upper spine areas.
If you are having trouble speaking your truth or are in denial of your true intentions toward a situation or a person, this pose will help you to process that energy through breath. This asana is also very helpful for mild depression and fatigue.
Step by Step
Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana(Downward-Facing Dog).
Bring your weight into your right hand and roll onto the outer edge of your right foot likeVasisthasana (Side Plank Pose).
On an inhalation, lift your hips with buoyancy. Stay strong in your right hand making a clawing action with the fingers. Keep the head of the right arm bone back. On an exhalations, step your left foot back and place your toes on the floor with your knee partially bent.
Curl back through your upper back to create a sweeping action of the shoulder blades into the back of the rib cage.
On an inhalation lift your hips higher until you curl more into a backbend with your right foot solid on the ground.
Keep breathing and curl your head back, extending your left arm from your heart and expressing your power and freedom.
Hold for 5-10 breaths breaths, return to Down Dog and repeat on the other side.
Asana of the Week: Kapotasana - King Pigeon Pose
This is an advanced asana which takes quite a lot of preparation to achieve as it is a very deep and intensive backbend. There are many stages within which beginners may work until their bodies and energy centers open to experience the full asana.
This powerful asana heightens mental awareness and clarity through unbounding the heart and crown chakra energy centers; evoking feelings of vulnerability, freedom, serenity and connection to the divine. It can often result in unplanned emotional expression if such a release is required.
- Stretches the entire front of the body, the ankles, thighs and groins, bdomen and chest, and throat
- Stretches the deep hip flexors (psoas)
- Strengthens back muscles
- Improves posture
- Stimulates the organs of the abdomen and neck
- Deeply opens the heart and crown chakra energy centers
Step by Step
Kneel upright, with your knees slightly narrower than hip width apart and your hips, shoulders, and head stacked directly above your knees. With your hands, press down against the back of your pelvis.
On an inhalation, tuck your chin toward your sternum and lean your head and shoulders back as far as you can without pushing your hips forward. Firm your shoulder blades against your back and lift the top of your sternum. When your chest is maximally lifted, gradually release your head back.
Before you arch all the way back and place your head and hands on the floor, bring your palms together in front of your sternum in Anjali Mudra. Then separate your hands and reach them overhead toward the floor behind you. Bring your hips forward enough to counterbalance the backward movement of the upper torso and head. Keep your thighs as perpendicular to the floor as possible as you drop back. Place your palms on the floor, fingers pointing toward your feet, then lower your crown to the floor as well.
Press your palms, lift your head slightly off the floor and raise your hips, opening your front groins as much as possible. Lifting your pelvis as much as possible, lengthen and extend your upper spine and walk your hands to your feet. As you do, lower your forearms to the floor. If possible, grip your ankles (or, if you’re very flexible, your calves). Draw your elbows toward each other until they’re shoulder width apart, and anchor them firmly on the floor. Extend your neck and place your forehead on the floor.
Take a full inhalation to expand your chest. Then, exhaling softly but thoroughly, press your shins and forearms against the floor; as you do, lengthen your tailbone toward the knees and lift your top sternum in the opposite direction.
Hold the pose for 30 seconds or longer, further expanding the chest with each inhale, softening the belly with each exhale. Then release your grip, walk your hands away from your feet, and push your torso back to upright with an inhale. Rest in Child’s Pose for a few breaths.
* Beginners can approximate this pose by kneeling with your back to a wall, big toes or soles touching the wall. Clasp your hands at the back of your head, lean back, and rest your crown on the wall as you press your forearms against the wall.
Contraindications - This asana is tough on the entire body, however, areas that are most vulnerable will be the lower back or L-section, and neck or C-section, and quadriceps. If you have any current or previous injuries in these areas be certain to speak to your physician, and work with a Yoga professional.
Asana of the Week: Mayurasana – Peacock Pose
A mystical symbol of love and immortality, this pose awakens the Kundalini, conjuring an innate sense of wholeness and union. Deeply purifying, and invigorating, the digestive system is purged of toxins, and cleansing organs are revitalized as the inner fire is stoked.
There are many benefits to doing this pose aside from those stated above. Mayurasan purifies and detoxifies the entire digestive system, destroying the effect of putrid or unwholesome food or gastrointestinal disorders, decreases swelling in liver and spleen; detoxifies, tones abdominals and bowels, cures chronic and habitual constipation, awakens Kundalini energy increasing connectivity and astral unification.
Step by Step
(info from yogajournal.com)
Kneel on the floor, knees wide, and sit on your heels. Lean forward and press your palms on the floor with your fingers turned back toward your torso (thumbs pointing out to the sides). Bend your elbows slightly and touch the pinky sides of your hands and the outer forearms (up to the elbows) together. Then bend your elbows to a right angle and slide your knees to the outside of your arms and forward of your hands. Lean your front torso onto the backs of your upper arms and burrow your elbows deep into your belly at or below the navel.
If your elbows slide apart, you can bind them together with a strap. Position the strap just above your elbows. If you can’t quite manage the full pose (as described in the next step), support your feet on a block (sitting on one of its sides), placed near the back end of your sticky mat.
Firm your belly against the pressure of the elbows. Lower your forehead to the floor. Then, straighten your knees and stretch your legs out behind your torso, tops of your feet on the floor. Firm your buttocks and round your shoulders slightly downward. Lift your head off the floor and look forward. Lean your weight slightly forward—if your legs and buttocks are firm and active, this slight shift of weight will lever your feet off the floor. Position your torso and legs approximately parallel to the floor (you may also Lift the head or balance on the chin as shown in photograph) for shoulder or neck injuries.
Hold at first for about 10 seconds, gradually increasing your time to 30 seconds as you gain more experience with the pose. Then lower your head and feet to the floor, bend your knees, and lift your torso off your arms.
Asana Of The Week: Salabhasana
The Grasshopper or Locust Pose
Salabhasana is a deep lower-back strengthener and is wonderful for releasing the abdomen from any type of gastrointestinal discomfort such as indigestion, gas or bloating.
The pose strengthens muscles of the spine, back, bum, hamstrings, triceps and legs whilst opening the heart chakra. This is an excellent asana for stress release.
The basic pose does not include supporting one leg as shown in the photograph but rather the upper back, neck and legs lifted. The version in the photograph shows a supported locust with the neck relaxed. Either option provides the same therapeutic benefits:
- Lower-back pain
Step by Step
For this pose you might want to pad the floor below your pelvis and ribs with a folded blanket. Lie on your belly with your arms along the sides of your torso, palms up, forehead resting on the floor. Turn your big toes toward each other to inwardly rotate your thighs, and firm your buttocks so your coccyx presses toward your pubis.
Exhale and lift your head, upper torso, arms, and legs away from the floor. You’ll be resting on your lower ribs, belly, and front pelvis. Firm your buttocks and reach strongly through your legs, first through the heels to lengthen the back legs, then through the bases of the big toes. Keep the big toes turned toward each other.
Raise your arms parallel to the floor and stretch back actively through your fingertips. Imagine there’s a weight pressing down on the backs of the upper arms, and push up toward the ceiling against this resistance. Press your scapulas firmly into your back.
Gaze forward or slightly upward, being careful not to jut your chin forward and crunch the back of your neck. Keep the base of the skull lifted and the back of the neck long. If you experience any neck or upper back stiffness or soreness, keep your cheek to the mat. You may also support one leg with the other (as shown in the picture) if your neck is rested.
Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then release with an exhalation. Take a few breaths and repeat 1 or 2 times more if you like.
Asana Of The Week: Eka Pada Rajakapotasana - One Legged King Pigeon Pose
(aa-KAH pah-DAH rah-JAH-cop-poh-TAHS-anna)
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana is an amazing chest and heart opener as well as a very deep hip and groin opener. It causes flection in the bandas (body locks) thereby preserving prana or vital energy within the body.
The full pose as shown in the photograph is an intermediate posture and should first be practiced with the back leg extended rather than elevated (follow steps 1-5). The full intermediate pose is described ‘Full Pose’ section.
For me, this asana challenges me to surrender. The moment I begin thinking about what I am doing, I lose balance; thus this asana, for me serves as a powerful meditation.
- Stretches the thighs, groins and psoas, abdomen, chest and shoulders, and neck
- Stimulates the abdominal organs
- Opens the shoulders and chest
Step by Step
Begin on all fours, with your knees directly below your hips, and your hands slightly ahead of your shoulders. Slide your right knee forward to the back of your right wrist; at the same time angle your right shin under your torso and bring your right foot to the front of your left knee. The outside of your right shin will now rest on the floor. Slowly slide your left leg back, straightening the knee and descending the front of the thigh to the floor. Lower the outside of your right buttock to the floor. Position the right heel just in front of the left hip.
The right knee can angle slightly to the right, outside the line of the hip. Look back at your left leg. It should extend straight out of the hip (and not be angled off to the left), and rotated slightly inwardly, so its midline presses against the floor. Exhale and lay your torso down on the inner right thigh for a few breaths. Stretch your arms forward.
Then slide your hands back toward the front shin and push your fingertips firmly to the floor. Lift your torso away from the thigh. Lengthen the lower back by pressing your tailbone down and forward; at the same time, and lift your pubis toward the navel. Roll your left hip point toward the right heel, and lengthen the left front groin.
If you can maintain the upright position of your pelvis without the support of your hands on the floor, bring your hands to the top rim of your pelvis. Push heavily down. Against this pressure, lift the lower rim of your rib cage. The back ribs should lift a little faster than the front. Without shortening the back of your neck, drop your head back. To lift your chest, push the top of your sternum (at the manubrium) straight up toward the ceiling.
Stay in this position for a minute. Then, with your hands back on the floor, carefully slide the left knee forward, then exhale and lift up and back into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose). Take a few breaths, drop the knees to all-fours on another exhalation, and repeat with the legs reversed for the same length of time.
For the full pose, first perform the preliminary leg position. Then with your hands braced on the floor, bend the back knee and bring the foot as close to the top of your head as possible. Inhale, stretch the right arm upward; then exhale, bend the elbow, and reach back and grasp the inside of the left foot. After a few breaths, reach back with the left hand and grasp the outside of the foot. Draw the sole of the foot as close as possible to the crown of your head. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Then release the foot, lower the leg, perform step 5 to change the position of the legs and repeat on the second side for the same length of time.