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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

 

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Summer of Core Day 24: Mointain Pose/ Pelvic Floor Awareness

Happy Saturday (again)! Our last Saturday of Summer of Core!

Is it me, or has this month flown by? I hope that however fast August seems to have gone by for you that your core, at least, has been feeling like it’s been putting in some long hours!

Today, similar to last Saturday, we are going to be doing an exercise that can be done anywhere at any time: Mountain Pose, tadasana in Sanskrit.

For those of you who have been to my class, you know that I like to go through a long series of body awareness to get into a full Mountain Pose. After finding the feet and strength in the legs, we travel right up into our pelvic floor. But what is the pelvic floor?

pelvic_floor

Here’s an illustration of a female body, identifying the pelvic floor. Men have pelvic floor too!

In short, it’s the muscle that keeps everything from falling out.

Finding the pelvic floor, however, can be difficult. But there are a couple of ways:

  • Imagine you’re zipping up a tight pair of pants. Feel your low abs pull up and in, as if you’re lifting from the ground up.
  • Imagine wading into cold water. When it gets to your pelvic area, you cinch up.
  • It’s a similar feeling to retaining urine, though with less urgency!
  • Kegels! Kegels are a contraction and relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles. If you’ve done Kegel exercises before, you have worked your pelvic floor! To keep the pelvic floor engaged, don’t release, but continue to contract gently, feeling a subtle lift.

Hopefully, one of these ways will work for you. Remember that this is a subtle move. You should be able to keep your pelvic floor lifted and engaged while breathing, even with deep, yogic breath.

Moving into Mountain

  • Standing with your feet hip-width apart, close your eyes.
  • Imagine your feet rooting into the ground, forming your foundation.
  • Allow the ground to push up into your feet, drawing that energy up your legs.
  • Lift your kneecaps, engage your thighs.
  • And now lift the pelvic floor!
  • Feel your low, deep abs engage and lift, followed by a lifting throughout your entire spine.
  • Reach to the sky from the crown of your head.
  • Relax your shoulders down and back, away from your ears.
  • Stretch your arms long, reaching through your fingers, palms forward.
  • Draw your ears back in line with your shoulders.
  • Soften the muscles in your face, your jaw, your throat.
  • Pause and breathe.

Foundation for Everything

Mountain pose is a fundamental pose for all standing postures, and I like to bring a reminder into my classes to think about your posture and engagement in mountain pose in many other positions. It’s especially helpful in balancing positions, as the act of lifting from your center, getting long and stable, engaging your core and standing tall will give you a stronger ability to hold a balancing pose.

Do It All Day Long

So today, and for the rest of the weekend, take time to check in with your pelvic floor, while you’re washing dishes, or watching TV or reading a book, or sitting at a baseball game (which I will be doing later). Get used to that feeling and give yourself permission to bring it into a daily practice.

See you on Monday for our last three days of Summer of Core!

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 23: Hip lift –> Jack Knife

We’re going to get onto our backs today, with a move that gets deep into the transverse abdominis.

Hip Lift

This move can be done simply by lifting the hips with the legs extended toward the sky. You’ll definitely start to feel it after a couple of lifts if you use lots of control.

Let’s Do It

  • Lie flat on your back, your arms alongside your body.
  • Extend your legs to the sky.
  • Inhale, lift your hips toward the sky, reaching the souls of your feet up as well.
  • Exhale, lower all the way back down slowly, with control. Legs stay lifted.
  • Repeat five to 10 times.

Add on To It

For a bit more dynamic work, add an upper body reach, coming into the Jack Knife exercise.

  • On your back with your legs elevated upward, extend your arms behind your head.
  • Take a big inhale to stretch long.
  • Exhale, reach your hands to touch your feet, while reaching your feet to touch your hands.
  • Your hips and shoulders should come off the ground as you reach.
  • Inhale, return to position one.
  • Repeat five to 10 rounds.

Have fun with this one!

~ 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 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