Fri | Aug 17, 2018

Every mickle make a muscle - week two

Published:Monday | July 6, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Downward dog.
Forearm Plank.
Dolphin pose

This week we continue with #everymicklemekamuscle. For the month of July, we take you through 30 yoga poses in 30 days. Here is this week's challenge. Remember to share you photos with us.

- Day 6 (Supported headstand) Advanced

Remember that while you are learning to do a headstand, it is best to practise with a teacher until you find your bearings. This posture is healing, but only if you are doing it properly and safely. If you have any neck or back issues, you will most likely want to skip this posture. It is also advisable not to do it if you are on your moon cycle or pregnant.

Use a folded blanket or sticky mat to pad your head and forearms. Kneel on the floor, lace your fingers together and set the forearms on the floor, elbows at shoulder width. Imagine you're holding a tennis ball between your palms and place the crown of your head at the base of your palms right at the wrist crease. Engage your scapula and press the tops of your shoulders down away from your ears as you engage your shoulder blades.

Inhale and lift your knees off the floor. Walk your feet in as close as you can so your hips come over your shoulders. You will almost feel like you're going to topple forward but you won't, as long as you're pressing firmly into your forearms and outer wrists, and engaging your core. Firm the shoulder blades against your back and lift them towards the tailbone so the torso stays as long as possible. This should help prevent the weight of the shoulders collapsing on to your neck and head. Exhale and lift your feet off the floor. Take both feet up at the same time, even if it means bending your knees and hopping lightly off the floor. Actively press the heels towards the ceiling (straightening the knees if you bend them to come up). Keep the weight evenly balanced on your forearms. It's also essential that your tailbone continue to lift upward towards the heels.

To come out of the pose - exhale without losing the lift of the shoulder blades. Slowly bring your knees back into your chest (if you bent them to come up) and lower your feet to the floor. Rest in Child's Pose to recover.

Tip: If you are just beginning to practise this pose, press the bases of your palms together and snuggle the back of your head against the clasped hands. More experienced students can open their hands and place the back of the head into the open palms.

Beginners tend to take too much weight on to the neck and head when coming into and exiting this pose, a potentially harmful situation. Do this pose against a wall. To come up, set your arms in place and lift your head slightly off the floor. Move into the wall-supported position with the head off the floor, then lower it lightly on to the floor. Support 90 to 95 per cent of your weight on your shoulders and arms, even if it means staying for only a few seconds.

Over time, take more and more weight on your head, but proceed slowly. Similarly, when you exit this pose, first lift your head off the floor, then bring your feet down. Eventually you will be able to keep your head on the floor when going up and coming down.

- Day 7 ChaturangaDandasana (Four-limbed Staff Pose)

Start on your hands and knees with your knees directly below your hips and your wrists below your shoulders. Inhaling, extend your legs out behind you with your toes curled under and feet slightly apart. Your torso is parallel to the floor. Exhaling, slowly lower your torso and legs to a few inches above and parallel to the floor. While in this position, keep the tailbone firmly in place and the legs very active and turned slightly inwards.

Draw the pubis towards the navel, keeping the elbows by the side ribs, and push them back towards the heels. Lift the top of the sternum and your head to look forward. You can practise this pose for 10 to 30 seconds. Release with an exhalation by laying yourself lightly on to the floor.

Tip: The completed form of ChaturangaDandasana is quite difficult to perform, until your arms, back, and legs are strong enough to support you. From Plank Pose, begin by lowering your knees to the floor and then, with an exhalation, lower your sternum to within an inch or two above the floor.

- Day 8 Dhanurasana (Bow pose)

Lie on your belly with your hands alongside your torso, palms up. (You can lie on a folded blanket to pad the front of your torso and legs.) Exhale and bend your knees, bringing your heels as close as you can to your buttocks. Reach back with your hands and take hold of your ankles (but not the tops of the feet). Make sure your knees aren't wider than the width of your hips, and keep your knees hip width for the duration of the pose.

Inhale and strongly lift your heels away from your buttocks and, at the same time, lift your thighs away from the floor. This will have the effect of pulling your upper torso and head off the floor. Burrow the tailbone down towards the floor, and keep your back muscles soft. As you continue lifting the heels and thighs higher, press your shoulder blades firmly against your back to open your heart. Draw the tops of the shoulders away from your ears, gazing forward. With the belly pressed against the floor, breathing will be difficult. Breathe more into the back of your torso, and be sure not to stop breathing. Stay in this pose for 20 to 30 seconds. Release as you exhale, and lie quietly for a few breaths. You can repeat the pose once or twice more.

Tip: If it isn't possible for you to hold your ankles directly, wrap a strap around the fronts of your ankles and hold the free ends of the strap, keeping your arms fully extended. Sometimes beginners find it difficult to lift their thighs away from the floor. You can give your legs a little upward boost by lying with your thighs supported on a rolled-up blanket.

- Day 9 Santolasana (High plank pose)

Come on to all fours with palms shoulder width apart and directly under the shoulders. Press fingers and palms firmly into the mat. With straight arms, actively press the mat away from you and draw the tricep muscles in towards each other. You want to keep the shoulder blades down the back, away from the ears, creating lots of space for your neck. Draw the navel in and up towards the spine and narrow the sides of the waist and as you do, acknowledge that this aspect of your body is the centre of the pose (this helps to take the mind out of it).

Place one leg back, maintain neutral spine and activate core. Place the other leg back and balance on the balls and toes of the feet. Create one straight line from the top of the shoulders all the way to the heels. Suck in the belly button towards the spine, keeping the core activated. No dipping or sagging of the butt, and maintain position. As you do this, lengthen the tailbone towards the heels and draw the crown of the head forward. Hold the pose for five breaths.

Tip: If you have certain back, shoulder, arm or wrist injuries, Plank may actually be contraindicative so practise with caution (or skip the pose altogether). It's also common to place the hands too close together or to hover the shoulders out in front of the wrists, and both can make this pose a lot more challenging and uncomfortable for our joints.

- Day 10 AdhoMukhaSvanasana (Downward facing dog pose)

Come on to the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders.

Spread your fingers and turn your toes under. Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first, keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it lightly towards the pubis. Lift the sitting bones towards the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groins. Then while exhaling, push your top thighs back and stretch your heels on to or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Firm the thighs and roll the upper thighs inward slightly. Firm the outer arms and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor. From these two points, lift along your inner arms from the wrists to the tops of the shoulders. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them towards the tailbone. Keep the head between the upper arms; don't let it hang. Stay in this pose anywhere from one to three minutes. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest.

Tips: If you have difficulty releasing and opening your shoulders in this pose, raise your hands off the floor on a pair of blocks or the seat of a metal folding chair.

- Day 12 PinchaMayurasana

(Forearm Stand)

Begin in Dolphin Pose. If you're practising the pose against a wall, begin with your fingertips a few inches away from the wall.

Ensure that your elbows and palms are placed shoulder distance apart and your forearms are parallel - set your gaze forward between your hands. Continue to walk your feet in as much as you can, bending your knees as much as you need to find the action of stacking your hips over your shoulders.

Keep your core engaged, and gently draw your shoulder blades into your back to support your back body. Extend your right leg into the air, pressing down firmly into your elbows, and come up on to the ball of your left foot.

Keep hugging your elbows in towards the middle of your body, and reach out actively through the ball of your right foot. If you feel comfortable here, bend your left knee, shift your weight slightly forward and take a very gentle hop with your left foot (or several) to bring your left leg up to meet your right.

Actively squeeze your legs together and extend the balls of your feet upwards. Push down strongly through your elbows and forearms, gently draw your low ribs in, and lengthen your tailbone towards your heels. Stay here for up to five breaths, then slowly release your legs to the ground, one at a time.

Rest in Child's pose, and repeat the pose, leading with the opposite leg whenever you feel ready.

Tips: Props can be extremely helpful with this pose. Try looping a strap around your upper arms to keep them shoulder distance apart, and place a block between your hands, with the thumb and pointer finger of each hand framing the corners of the block. If at first your feet crash loudly against the wall, don't despair! Practise hopping and sending your legs up with control until you can swing your heels up to the wall lightly. If your head always seems to sink towards the floor, work on strengthening your shoulders by holding Downward Dog and Dolphin for up to two minutes at a time.

- Day 11 Dolphin Pose

From all fours, bring your elbows to the floor directly under your shoulders. To make sure it's in proper alignment, try cupping your elbows with opposite hands. You have the option to clasp the hands in front of you with the elbows in place, or bring your forearms parallel to each other palms faced down.

Curl your toes under, engage your core, and lift your hips up and back. Keep your shoulder blades away from the ears and glued to your back, opening up the chest. Stay in this position for five deep breaths. Slowly lower to the knees to get out of the pose.

Tips: Open your shoulders by lifting your elbows on a rolled-up sticky mat and pressing your inner wrists firmly to the floor. Actively press down on the forearms and lengthen the spine, sending the tailbone up away from the back. Slightly bend the knees if you feel that your back is rounding. The goal here is to lengthen the spine, so don't worry if your heels aren't touching the floor. In time, the flexibility will come.

Note the tendency for the lower back to come into a deep arch here, and counter that action by engaging your core and drawing your low ribs in. Lengthen your back body by sending your tailbone towards your heels and your feet towards the ceiling. One way to challenge yourself is to work on lowering your legs to the ground together and with control.

• Let us know how many poses you were able to complete and post them in social media using the hash tag #everymicklemekamuscle for a change to win weekly prizes. For more information, follow @JamaicaGleaner @jo_hannabanana and @danette_nelson