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Category Archives: Pose Breakdown

Summer of Core Day 26: L-Sit

Now that we’ve been practicing Summer of Core for almost a month (tomorrow is the last day!), we should have a much stronger core than we did when we started.

So I’m throwing in this “L-sit,” bramcharyasana in Sanskrit, which is a true challenge.

L-sit

When I first attempted this many, many years ago, actually the first time it was suggested to me by my yoga teacher I started laughing. How was I going to get my hips off the ground? My arms were too short! My arms weren’t strong enough! Etc. Etc.

Practice and all is coming, right? As the Ashtanga school guru K. Pattabhi Jois carried as a mantra, I continued to practice this but still could not get my hips to lift off the ground!

Then a teacher introduced the pose with blocks. What an awakening!

With the help of the blocks, I finally lifted my hips off the ground! I could feel the deep core strength needed to control this pose. The use of breath. The slightly tilted upper body position. Things began to unravel to make sense! It’s still a work in progress for me, as I can’t lift my legs off the ground yet. But…it’s coming.L-sit blocks

Still, L-sit requires strength. Good thing we’ve been building it up!

Let’s Do It

  • Sitting in staff pose, dandasana, legs extended on the floor, sitting up tall, hands alongside the hips.
  • Walk your hands about one hand length in front of your hips, finger pointing toward your toes.
  • Bring a block under each hand.
  • Inhale to lengthen your spine.
  • Exhale, draw your belly button up and in and press into the floor with your hands.
  • Your hips may or may not lift from the ground.
  • If your hips lift off the ground, try also lifting your legs by contracting your quads and pulling your femurs in toward your hip sockets.
  • Hold for as long as you can, maintaining your deep breath.
  • Release.
  • If you were able to lift your hips from the ground, try it without a block next time!

We’ll practice this in class today 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Join me!

~ Shoshana

 

Summer of Core Day 22: Forearm Plank Burn

Don’t be scared by the title. Today’s move is strenuous, BUT we have been going for 22 days! We should be getting very strong.

So…staying with forearm plank, today we’re adding in some leg moves to make hanging out in plank a little more dynamic. We’ll work a little into our obliques as well.

Let’s Do It

  • Begin in your strong, straight forearm plank.
  • Inhale, lift your right leg.
  • Exhale, pull your right knee to the outside of your right arm.
  • Inhale, stretch your right leg back out.
  • Exhale, lower it to the ground.
  • Switch sides.
  • Repeat as many rounds as you can handle, trying to keep a strong, straight plank throughout.
  • Rest in child’s pose.

A Word on Shoulders

Our shoulders are made up of lots of muscles and ligaments and a ball and socket joint, which can be very unstable. Think about shoulder dislocations, or rotator-cuff tears—not uncommon!

There are a lot of ways to strain or injure your shoulders. I still suffer from an old high school volleyball injury to my right shoulder, which gets irritated when I don’t keep my shoulder strong or in good alignment.

Forearm plank is a really great way to strengthen the muscles in your shoulders. But if you start to feel like your form is falling apart, like you’re sagging, and the integrity of your alignment begins to falter, come out of the pose and rest. There’s no reason to push beyond your limits.

Always listen to your body!

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 21: Dolphin Push-Ups

Today we continue to build on our strong forearm plank with Dolphin Push-ups. You may have done some of these in class with me, or maybe you’ve done them somewhere else. If you have, you know that these not only target the abs, they really work your shoulders as well.

For me, breath is key to this move, as I use it to flow between Dolphin and Forearm Plank.

Watch the lovely and talented Susan Leslie demonstrate below.

Susan teaches at 4:30 today at Soul! Check out her class…maybe she’ll do some Dolphin Push-ups?

Let’s Do It

  • Come to your strong forearm plank, knees lifted.
  • Walk your feet in a little bit to get your hips high, but not all the way into a full Dolphin pose.
  • Inhale.
  • Exhale, begin to lower your body, stretching your nose over your wrists, landing in forearm plank.
  • Inhale, lift your hips, pressing your forearms into the ground.
  • Repeat five to 10 rounds.
  • Rest in child’s pose.

Keep in Mind

  • Keep your core engaged throughout, belly pulled to spine.
  • Move slowly with your breath, full inhale, full exhale.
  • Drop your hips low enough so you are flat in your forearm plank.
  • Don’t let your shoulders come farther forward than your elbows.

This move is in no way easy, but it’s such a great one for building strength that will come in handy for the rest of your yoga practice, and whatever other activities you do. I find that when I’m spending a lot of time on my bike, especially my triathlon bike with its aero bars, Dolphin push-ups help me build the stability in my shoulder girdle and core I need to maintain good form.

Hope you have fun doing this one!

~ Shoshana

 

Summer of Core Day 20: Sphinx Roll Up

This move is one of my all-time favorite core exercises because you can go slowly and deliberately and really feel what’s going on. Plus, you get a really nice chest and shoulder opener in the process.

If you’ve never done this one before, make sure to go slowly and methodically for maximum benefit.

Let’s Do It

  • From forearm plank, come onto your belly. Keep your elbows under your shoulders and your forearms extended on the ground, palms flat on the ground.
  • Roll your shoulders back and extend your chest forward into sphinx pose.
  • Gaze straight ahead.
  • Inhale and expand more in your chest, feel your belly button.
  • Slowly exhale, start to drop your gaze toward your belly. As you do, lift your belly off the ground, then your hips and then your thighs until you’re in a kneeling forearm plank.
  • For an extra challenge, tuck your toes under and lift your knees into full forearm plank.
  • Inhale in forearm plank.
  • Exhale, begin to slowly roll down onto your thighs, hips, belly, lifting your gaze and returning to sphinx.
  • Continue through three to five rounds, moving slowly with your breath and feeling the articulation of your spine the whole way up and down.

Here’s Susan Leslie giving a fantastic demonstration of Sphinx Roll Up for us. Susan is a gifted kids yoga and vinyasa yoga instructor. She teaches at Soul Wednesdays at 4:30 and a kids class at Barre Energy on Thursdays at 4 p.m. If you have elementary-aged kids, Susan’s class is a wonderful way to immerse your kids in a playful yoga practice.

I hope you’re having fun with this month of core! I certainly am enjoying it. Please let me know if you have questions, comments, ideas. I love to hear your feedback! Come to Soul at 9 a.m. and/or 4:30 and practice with me!

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 19: Forearm Plank

Well, here we are at Week 3. Incredible, right?

Normally, I’d say let’s continue on with adding five seconds on to your plank, which you can, but I am structuring this week around forearm plank, so if you’re comfortable doing your plank on your forearms, do it and add five seconds to last week’s plank time.

Alignment Points to ConsiderForearmPlank

  • Stack your elbows under your shoulders. A good way to figure this out is to set your elbows on the ground and wrap your hands around the outsides of your elbows. This enables you to use the length of your forearm as a measure to line up your elbows under your shoulders.
  • Start on your knees. Just like in straight-arm plank, understanding the engagement in your lower abdominals, turning them on, so to speak, is the main point of control here. Lower your hips enough so you have good core engagement, your abs are working and your back is flat.
  • When your kneeling plank is solid, lift your knees. Stay in a flat line, like a board, shoulders, hips, heels making a straight, diagonal line.
  • Keep your shoulder strong. If you feel your chest sagging or your shoulders slipping up toward your ears, press down through your forearms to get those shoulders flat and your chest broad. You’ll be working your shoulders a lot in this variation, so drop to your knees if your form starts to disintegrate.

Building strength

This week you should be holding your plank at least 10 seconds longer than you did the first day. That’s a great improvement. Keep it going. Make sure to record your time so you have it for next week!

Let’s Practice Together

Join me Tuesday in class at 9 a.m. for vinyasa flow and at 4:30 for Active Recovery at Soul, where we’ll go through some of last week’s and this week’s moves together.

By the way, Active Recovery is a great class for anyone who is a little tighter than the average yogi. I structure the class to get the body very warm so we can move into deep stretches and restorative poses with more ease. I love teaching this class, and if you haven’t tried it yet join us at 4:30 on Tuesday!

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 17: Spinal Balance Challenge

Today we’re going to put this week’s moves into a sequence to challenge yourself.

We move from your Plank to all fours and right into spinal balance, then knee to elbow crunch, to side plank T-Flow.

I’ll break it down.

  1. Hold Plank 3 long breaths. This is YOUR version of plank, make it strong.
  2. Come to All Fours.
  3. Inhale, Spinal Balance on one side.
  4. Exhale, knee to elbow crunch. Repeat 3 rounds.
  5. Inhale, Spinal Balance.
  6. Exhale, Kneeling Side Plank.
  7. Inhale up to a “T” (flow from yesterday). Take 3 “T” flows.
  8. Return to all fours.
  9. Plank 3 breaths.
  10. Switch sides.
  11. Keep going with another round on both sides or rest in Child’s Pose.

Here’s the full sequence in a video:

This sequence will definitely get your breath and blood flowing. Have fun with it, and challenge yourself to do more than one round!

~ Shoshana

 

Summer of Core Day 16: Side Plank T-Flows

I made this one up. Well, I’m sure I picked some of it up somewhere. But I certainly made up the name. It’s not so much side plank as it is a chance to utilize your obliques in a new way.

Here’s Katy for a second day in a row demonstrating the move.

Thanks again Katy for being a wonderful model and dedicated student!

Let’s Do It

  • Begin in kneeling side plank with your right knee down and left arm to the sky.
  • Inhale, lift from your left arm so your right arm lifts off the ground and both arms form a “T”, palms facing down, arms out to the sides, torso stacked over hips.
  • Exhale, float your left hand to your left thigh. Reach your right arm straight up.
  • Inhale, extend toward the sky, stretching from your right knee through the whole right side of your body up to your finger tips.
  • Exhale, float your right arm back to the ground with control, left arm to the sky, returning to side plank.
  • Repeat this flow five to ten times. Switch sides.

Alignment Tune-Up

  • In kneeling side plank, make sure your bottom arm is stacked beneath your shoulders, so there’s a long, straight line running from your bottom hand through your chest and shoulders and up your lifted arm.
  • Bring your bottom knee directly under your bottom hip for optimal stability.
  • Extend your top leg straight out so the foot is in line with your bottom knee. You should feel like your body is in one singular plane.
  • Engage your extended thigh and keep your top hip lifted, core engaged.

Why Flow?

We primarily practice vinyasa yoga, meaning yoga that flows with the breath. It becomes a moving meditation, which can be very effective in clearing the mind and reducing stress from our hectic, daily lives.

“The Western world has become a seated society, which is why vinyasa yoga is so important: its orientation is breath and movement, and research shows that increased movement in a seated society is absolutely essential for health. Vinyasa yoga gets us moving.” ~ Eddie Modestini, renowned yoga instructor and student of BKS Iyengar and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

I hope that this flow and yesterday’s flow will get you moving today and you’ll find some joy and freedom in the practice.

~ Shoshana