This month we continue to explore the pose Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward Facing Dog; specifically the relationship between tightness in the hamstrings and the alignment of the lower back. We will work this week to open the hamstrings with gentle floor stretches and begin to learn how to bring the weight back onto the heels in our peak pose by using a chair.
Reclining Thumb to Big Toe Pose I
Supta Padangusthasana I
Lie on the back with the legs straight. Draw your right knee into your chest and lengthen the left leg onto the floor. Wrap a strap around the sole of your right foot and extend the leg into the air. Reach the hands up the strap until the elbows are straight but the shoulders are still grounded.
Ball of Foot: Wrap a strap around the sole of your foot and flex ankle to stretch the plantar fascia, achilles and calf. Hold for 10-20 breaths.
Arch of Foot: Wrap a strap around the arch of your foot and flex ankle to stretch the lower hamstrings. Hold for 10-20 breaths.
Heel of Foot: Wrap a strap around the heel of your foot and flex ankle to stretch the upper hamstrings. Hold for 10-20 breaths.
Therapeutics: Stretches the hamstrings, calves, buttock; also releases tension in the lower back.
Cat: Exhale round the back and drop the head and tail bone towards the floor.
Repeat with your breath 10 times.
Cow: Begin on the hands and knees, toes pointed. Inhale lift the sternum forward and drop the pubic bone back between the legs to arch the spine.
Therapeutics: Massages the internal organs and warms-up the muscles along the spine.
Extended Puppy Pose
Begin on the hands and knees, feet flexed. Reach the hands forward and press the hips back so that they are directly over the heels. Extend through the sides of the body being careful not to arch to back.
Therapeutics: Provides traction for the spine and warms up the shoulders.
Downward Facing Dog with Chair
Adho Mukha Svanasana with Chair
Stand in front of a chair and bend forward to hold sides of seat with thumb on top and fingers wrapped around underneath. Step both feet back until arms are extended and hips are over heels. Bend knees if the lower back is rounding. Extend back through thighs and sit bones to extend the spine. Keep the head above the arms and the shoulders wide on the back.
Therapeutics: Extends the spine, stretches back of body.
Marichi's Pose II
Sit in Dandasana. Bend right knee and either step the foot down in front of right sit bone, or cross over and step outside of right thigh. Inhale and sit up tall through torso, wrap left arm around front of right knee, right arm reaches to floor behind torso. Exhale and twist into right leg, belly, ribs, chest and head.
Hold for 5-10 breaths then release and change sides.
Therapeutics: Opens hips, stretches muscles along spine & neck
Head of the Knee Pose
Sit on floor with sole of the left foot on inside of right thigh with the right leg straight. Press right leg into floor and extend through ball of right foot. Inhale and sit up tall through front of chest. Exhale turn torso towards right leg and release forward from hips, keeping heart forward and shoulders relaxed.
Hold up to 1 minute each side, then release.
Therapeutics: Stretches back of legs, hips and lower back
Supported Bridge Pose
Salamba Setu Bandha
Variation I: Lie down on the back with the knees bent and feet on the floor. Lift pelvis off floor on an inhalation, place block under sacrum on whichever height is appropriate for you, and rest sacrum on the block. Turn palms up and toes slightly in. Rest up to 5 minutes.
Lie on back with legs in the seat of a chair. Lift pelvis off floor and place block or a folded blanket under pelvis. Place arms away from sides and palms up. Rest 15 minutes.
Therapeutics: Induces relaxation response, reduces swelling of feet and legs, relaxes lower back
Contraindications: High Blood Pressure
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.