Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Lateral Standing Poses Part 1

One fun thing to do in your practice is play the "what happens when" game.   This game is changing one thing about a pose and seeing what happens to that pose.  Today we are playing that game with Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle pose), but these same props could be used with Utthita Parsvakonasana (Side Angle) and Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2).

So the first "what happens when" game I worked on today was using blocks in Utthita Trikonasana.  So here is my regular pose:

So what happens when I put my front foot on a block?  Look around my front hip crease and even my back foot arch. 

That was fun.  What happens when I put my back foot on a block?  How does that effect my upper side chest?

Don't forget to try it in Virabhadrasana 2 and Utthita Parsvakonasana as well.

What about if I got my strap out?  What would happen then?

Here I am with my strap around my front foot.  Does it do anything to the length of my bottom side ribs?

I've moved the strap to my back foot.  I feel more rotation here.

 Also try putting the strap on the back calf and back thigh, with the rotation outward.

Many thanks to Arunji for inspiration.  He is touring the US right now.  Click on his name to see if he's giving a workshop near you.

More standing lateral poses next time.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Working your arms

Here are some fun things you can do to work on  your arm strength and shoulder flexibility.

Place a loop around your wrists behind your back.  Press out into the strap to broaden across your chest and bring your shoulder blades into your back.  This will also help to straighten your elbows.
Now, grab a block and place it between your palms.  Press into the block with your palms without using your fingers to hold onto the block.  Feel those triceps working!  Also, work on straightening your elbows.  Yours truly has difficulty with this one.  You can also see here, why it's important to stand in Tadasana with your feet in one line.  If you look down at my feet, the left one is ahead of the right - notice what that does to my hips - you can see my shirt is more wrinkled on the right side.  An unevenness in the feet creates unevenness in the hips.
Now, let's take our hands in the air.  Here again, you can have a strap around your elbows to assist you in straightening your arms.  Press out into the strap to work your arms more.
Now, we switch to the block again.  Press into the block to straighten the elbows.  A wooden block gives you extra incentive to work your arms.
Here's a really fun one I learned from Anne Schultz who I think learned it from Laurie Blakeney.  Place a looped strap lower down on your arms, so the strap presses against the bottom of your skull.  This will open up your shoulders quite a bit.  You can tighten the belt enough to get your hands together in Urdhva Namaskar, if your shoulders will allow it.

Please don't eat the straps.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Prop up your Tadasana

Today my friend Melissa demonstrates Tadasana.

 Place a block between your feet.  Feel the way your feet touch the block.  Notice the weight distribution in your feet.

Place a block between your thighs.  Squeeze in to the block, activating the inner thighs.  Notice if this does anything toward straightening your legs.

Place a strap around your calves with your feet hip width apart.  Press out into the strap, activating the outer thighs.  Notice what this does to your legs.  You can also try this with the strap on the thighs.

Place a looped strap around your wrists.  Press out into the strap and feel the effect on your triceps and shoulder blades - and the lift of your chest

Now stand in Tadasana without any props with the memory of all of those actions.

He's watching you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Introduction to Props


I enjoy all the wonderful things yoga props have done for my practice, so I've created this blog to share them with the ether of the internet.  Almost everything I will ever post on here, I've learned from one wonderful teacher or another.  They may have created it themselves or learned it from one of their teachers.  When I can remember who I learned the use of the prop from, I'll let you know. 

I will focus on the following props: a strap (belt), block (brick), wall, mat, and/or blanket - unless I get so excited about a new thing I learn, I must share it with you.  

You could go to your local big box store and buy these props.  Or could could support a small business, like one of these:

Yoga Mart


Tools for Yoga

So let's get started talking about the different types of props.


You get what you pay for here.

The blue ones are superior because they do not have the ridge in the middle, the way the brown ones do.  This ridge is really annoying in sirsasana (headstand).

There are also smaller off white blankets, called "Pune" blankets.  They come from India.  I don't have any to show you.

Next are blocks.  There are three main types of square blocks: wood, cork, and foam.

 Wood are stable and durable.  When you get used the hardness these blocks, you may prefer them for almost everything.
 Cork is a compromise between the wood and foam.  It's more stable than foam and softer than wood.  A good choice for the beginner.
 I don't like these that much.  The ones pictured above are the skinnier ones.  Which just proves that skinnier isn't always better.  I wouldn't buy these again, although on a rare occasion foam is preferable.  The cats like to chew on them, if you're wondering what the nicks are in the blocks.

 Straps or belts.  The blue one is called a "D" ring belt, the white is a "Pune" belt.

I usually prefer the slimmer and faster Pune belt but both are useful.

Here is how to make a belt loop.  Start with the belt as shown above.  Then for the D-ring, place the tail through both loops.  For the Pune, place the tail through the inside of the clasp:

Then, for the D-ring, thread the tail over one ring and under the other.  For the Pune belt, thread the tail through the other side of the center bar:

Now you have a loop.  Loops are useful.  If you did it correctly, it should be easy to tighten but still hold it's shape when pulled.

If you're still confused, try a video:
Pune Belt

See you next time.