The side of the chest is an often ignored part of the body. We hold our arms at our sides most of the time during the day and the muscles between the ribs, the intercostal muscles, can get very shortened and tight if we are not bringing movement into this area. This week we approach keeping the heart chakra open by ensuring that the side of the chest also remains open. This practice is also wonderful for assisting with lymphatic drainage of the lymph nodes in the armpit, keeping our breasts healthy. We will be working towards triangel pose, or trikonasana, a pose which requires extension along the sides of the body to enable a slight twist and an open front and back chest. Enjoy!
Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose)
Lie on the back with the legs straight.
Variation I: Draw your right knee into your chest and lengthen the left leg onto the floor. Wrap a strap around the ball 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.
Variation II: Hold the strap in the right hand and place a block on the outside of the right hip. Externally rotate your leg and as you exhale, lower the leg directly out to the side so that the outer thigh rests on the block. Extend the foot into the strap and reach the left arm out to the side keeping the left hip on the floor. To release, use the inner thigh to draw the leg up to center.
Variation III: Hold the strap in the left hand and slowly bring the leg across the body as you twist the lower body, keeping the shoulders on the floor and the right arm out to the side. To release, drop the right hip into the floor and allow the leg to follow. Hold each variation for 10-20 breaths.
Lie on the side with a bolster or rolled blanket under side ribs and a second bolster to support the head Extend bottom arm between the two bolsters. Begin with both knees bent then try extending top leg in line with the rest of the spine. Raise the top arm overhead and support with the head bolster. Breathe into the rib cage that faces the ceiling. Rest 3-5 minutes per side.
Therapeutics: Opens both sides of thoracic region increasing breath capacity
Medha Prana Kriya Mudra
Touch index finger nails to the middle joint of the thumb and apply light pressure, extend all other fingers and turn palms up.
Benefits: Opens heart and releases deep emotional blockages, encourages breath in the side ribs
Practice Tips: Use when feeling bogged down by old emotional patterns
Wagging the Tail
Begin on all fours. Inhale: lift left foot by bending the knee. Exhale move left shoulder and hip together as you swing left foot to the left. Inhale to center. Exhale move right shoulder and hip together as you cross left foot over the right shin. Inhale to center. Repeat 5-10 times each side.
Half Circle Pose
Begin kneeling. Straighten right leg out to side and bring left hand to floor in front of the left knee. Inhale right arm up as you twist the torso to the right, hold for 5 breaths.
Repeat to the left side.
Parighasana (Gate Pose)
Begin kneeling. Straighten left leg and press toes towards floor to prevent hyperextension of knee. Exhale and side bend over left leg bringing left hand to block behind knee or to floor. Reach right arm overhead and keep tail bone long.
Hold 5-10 breaths then release and change sides.
Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
Stand with feet wide apart. Turn left out to 90 degrees and right foot in 30 degrees. Inhale arms out from shoulders. Exhale and cock hips to the left. Reach left arm parallel to floor to lengthen the left waist and bring left hand on block, foot or floor. Rotate the chest towards the right and reach right arm towards ceiling.
Hold 5-10 breaths then release and change sides.
Therapeutics: Opens side body, strengthens legs, eases pain in the lower back
Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Bend)
Stand with feet wide apart. Bend forward from hips placing hands between feet. Release spine forward with crown of head facing floor.
Hold up to 1 minute, then return to standing by drawing hands onto hips and lifting entire torso up as a single unit.
Therapeutics: Intense hamstring stretch, opens back of body
Lie on back with knees bent and feet on floor. Shift hips to the left a few inches from center. Draw the knees into the chest and release legs to the bolster on the right. You may use right hand to hold down outside of left knee. Reach left arm back to floor and turn head to the center or to the right.
Hold for 1-3 minutes, then bend knees and draw them up to center, change sides.
Therapeutics: Broadens back of pelvis, stretches outside of legs, gently compresses the abdominal organs
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Lie on back with legs straight and feet relaxed to sides. Move arms away from sides slightly and turn palms to face ceiling. You may use support under the knees for low back pain; and a folded blanket under the head if needed. Rest 5-15 minutes.
Therapeutics: Allows for integration of mind and body after asana practice, promotes restful awareness
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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.