The 'QL' or Quadratus Lumborum is a deep postural muscle that joins the bottom three vertebrae to the upper crest of the illia in the pelvis. It's function is to laterally flex the trunk is is especially helpful when walking as it lifts the hip upward so that the back leg can swing forward without hitting the ground. Unfortunately as we sit, the QL becomes overly tight and shortened, often so much that it can become difficult to fully extend the lower back when we do stand up after long periods of sitting. This practice will help to bring awareness, movement and breath to this important muscle of the lower back and, hopefully, alleviate the pain of sitting.
Reclining Lateral Bend
Lie on back with legs extended. Bring left foot to right side of mat, hug right knee into chest and step the right foot down to the outside of the left knee. Reach arms overhead and hold left wrist in right hand and draw arms, head and shoulders to the right side of the mat. Keep both hips and both shoulders on the mat. Hold 5-10 breaths, then release and change sides.
Begin seated cross-legged with hands on knees. Draw line of navel around in a circle clockwise five times, then repeat counterclockwise five times.
Passive QL Stretch
Lie on right side knees legs slightly bent. Bring right elbow under the right shoulder and drop the right waist toward the floor. Hold for 5 breaths, then repeat to the other side.
Blossoming lotus is seated pose and deep groin opener that requires balancing on the site bones. In this week's home practice, you will open the hip flexors and work on creating spaciousness within the groins during all aspects of the practice.
Blossoming Lotus Pose, Prep
Sit with legs wide, knees bent and feet on floor. Reach right arm inside of right leg and hook elbow behind knee. Turn torso towards the left and lengthen both sides of the waist. Raise left arm and reach behind the back to open the chest.
Hold 5-10 breaths, then release and change sides
Blossoming Lotus Pose
Sit with legs wide, knees bent and feet on floor. Reach right arm inside of right leg and hook elbow behind knee. Repeat with left arm. Lean slightly back and lift legs off floor and extend front of torso as you balance on sit bones.
Hold 5-10 breaths, then release feet to floor.
Extended Blossoming Lotus
Sit with legs wide, knees bent and feet on floor. Reach arms inside legs and grasp big toes with thumb and forefinger, or use a strap around feet. Lean slightly back and lift legs off floor and extend front of torso as you balance on sit bones. Hold 5-10 breaths, then release feet to floor.
My fascination with shoulder opening continues this week with a series of bound arm postures. These are traditional standing/seated poses that use a strap to bind the arms behind the back. Focus is placed on shoulder extension and internal rotation to counter last week's focus on flexion and external rotation, enjoy!
Tadasana w/ Reverse Anjali Mudra
Stand with arms at sides in internal rotation, palms facing out. Bring palms together behind back and turn hands so that fingers are facing upwards. Press thumb side of hands into back and try to keep heels of hands together. If this is too difficult, grasp opposite forearms. Hold 5 breaths, then release.
Proper shoulder alignment is key when approaching many of the common wrist-based postures, such as downward facing dog, plank, side plank, and chaturanga dandasana. This week we will open and strengthen the shoulders and explore the importance of external rotation and the serratus anterior muscle.
Side Plank at wall
Come into downard facing dog with the heels at the wall. Reach the right hand slightly forward, turn the right foot outward onto the floor and place the left foot in front of the right foot, both feet are pressed against the wall. Bring the left hand onto the hip as you press the hips slightly forward in line with the feet and the head, drawing the belly up and releasing the tailbone towards the wall. Draw the right shoulder under (external rotation) to support the weight of the torso and either rest the left hand on the hip or reach the left arm towards the ceiling. Hold 3-5 breaths, then press back into downward facing dog before changing sides.
Good posture depends on a strong core and on integration of the various parts of our body so that they work together. Our core is made up of many different muscles, both on the surface, such as rectus abdominus, and deeper muscles such as the transversus abdominus, psoas, and quadratus lumborum. When all of the core muscles can be accessed and engaged on demand, we are less prone to injury, especially in the lower back. This week we will focus on strengthening the front and back of the torso to integrate the inherent strength of the core.
Tis the season in North Carolina where drifts of green pollen coat everything outside. When the wind whips it up, it is almost inescapable and all the common symptoms of allergy season are upon us. This week we will practice postures to open the chest to encourage the breath, some mudras to help release congestion as well as relaxing postures with the head elevated to lessen sinus pressure.
Half Moon pose, or ardha chandrasana, requires balance and focused attention as one leg supports the weight of the body and the other leg lengthens parallel to the earth, one arm supports the upper body and the other arm reaches skyward. When balanced, the posture enable as pure sense of flight, expansion and joy so. This week we will work to create stability in the legs so that we can take flight in half moon.
Revolved triangle pose, or parivrtta trikonasana, incorporates a deep abdominal twist with a standing variation of parsvottanasana. In order for the pose to be balanced, both sides of the waist must remain equally long. This week we will work towards creating this length to deepen the twist and ultimately make the posture more stable.
Upavista Konasana is a wide-legged seated forward bend with several variations for opening the hips, hamstrings, inner thighs and lateral torso. This week we will continue our exploration of forward bends through a standing pose sequence ending with this deeply releasing forward bend, all while keeping the lower back structurally sound and aiming for an attitude of surrender.
'Head of the knee" pose, or janu sirsasana, is a seated forward bend that requires open hamstrings and good awareness of the sacrum in order to practice safely and comfortably. We will begin by opening the hips, groins and backs of the legs with postures incorporating one bent knee and one straight leg. The sacrum in the pose should feel supported as the length between the pubic bone and navel is kept long, even when the pelvis is flexed. Imagine the length needed in this part of your lower belly to zip up your jeans zipper. The length of the lower belly should be maintained in all forward bends, and if you desire a deeper forward bend, allow the upper spine to gently release forward.
For years, the name janu sirsasana has been mis-translated to "head to the knee". If you are in the full expression of forward bend over the straight leg, the head is no where near the knee. In fact, to put your head on your knee you would need to round spine, something we are trying to avoid in this posture. The name actually translates to "head of the knee" referring to the bent leg knee. In order to keep the sacrum from feeling pinched in the pose, press the heel of the bent leg side into the opposite groin and lengthen out through the bent leg thigh to widen across that side of the sacroiliac joint.
Home Practice Blog
I attend Cheryl's class regularly and feel that my practice has improved immensely over the past few years due to her expert coaching. Her teaching style is clear and compassionate and her previous experience in teaching adults is evident in her organized approach and easy to understand instructions. I also appreciate that Cheryl not only teaches us about how to correctly position ourselves, but also touches on many aspects of yoga philosophy, which in turn has deepened my personal practice and heightened my awareness of the connection between mind and body, breath and relaxation.