Every Mickle Mek a muscle yoga challenge: Week 3
We are half-way there in our yoga challenge, how have your poses been going? Remember to share them with us using the #everymicklemekamuscle. Keep checking The Gleaner's Instagram page (@jamaicagleaner) to get the clues to our scavenger hunt and you could win a season pass to Appleton Special Dream Weekend.
p Day 13 Baby Bakasana (Baby
Coming into a low squat, come on the balls of your feet, bring your big toes together and separate your knees.
Plant your hands on the mat in front of you, just wider than shoulder distance apart, and bend your elbows. Ensure your forearms are parallel, and that your elbows aren't splaying out to the sides. Lift your hips up slightly and begin to hug your knees around your upper outer arms. Squeezing your legs in toward the middle of your body, shift your weight forward and keep your gaze ahead of your fingertips. Leading with the heart, begin to round through your upper back and come up onto the tips of your toes. Experiment with your balance, picking up one foot and then the other.
If it feels appropriate, keep squeezing your knees into your upper arms, reach your chest forward, and lift both feet off the ground, drawing your heels toward your buttocks. Remain in the pose for up to five full breaths, then gently lower your feet to the ground on an exhale.
Tips: While it may seem scary, remember to keep your gaze in front of you, and lead with the heart. Looking forward to where you want to go will help you get there most efficiently. Looping a strap around your upper arms can help keep your elbows shoulder distance apart and can encourage the action of energetically drawing in towards the midline. Care must be taken to avoid 'dumping' into the shoulders in this pose. Think about actively pressing through your elbows, firming through your upper outer arms, and resisting away from the ground with your shoulders.
p Day 14: Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)
Sit with your legs straight out. Bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor and slide your left foot under your right to the outside of your right hip. Lay the outside of the left leg on the floor. Put the right foot over the left leg and stand it on the floor outside your left hip. The right knee will point directly up at the ceiling. Exhale and twist toward the inside of the right thigh. Press your right hand against the floor just behind your right buttock, and set your left upper arm on the outside of your right thigh near the knee.
Pull your torso and inner right thigh snugly together, and press the right foot very actively into the floor and lengthen the torso. Lean the upper torso back slightly, against the shoulder blades, and continue to lengthen the tailbone into the floor. You can turn your head in one of two directions, and continue the twist of the torso by turning it to the right; or counter the twist of the torso by turning it left and looking over the left shoulder at the right foot.
With every inhalation lift a little more through the sternum, pushing the fingers against the floor to help. Deepen the twist with each exhalation. Be sure to distribute the twist evenly throughout the entire length of the spine; don't concentrate it in the lower back. Stay for 30 seconds to a minute, then release with an exhalation, return to the starting position, and repeat to the left for the same length of time.
Tips: In this version of the pose, the opposite-side arm is wrapped around the outside of the raised-leg upper thigh. This may be impractical, and potentially harmful for beginners. Be sure to sit up well on a blanket, and for the time just wrap your arm around the raised leg and hug the thigh to your torso.
p Day 15: Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)
Begin with the right leg forward and the left leg back and place your left hand on the left hip. Inhale, bend your right knee, and slide your left foot about six to 12 inches forward.
At the same time, reach your right hand forward, at least 12 inches, exhale, press your right hand and right heel firmly into the floor, and straighten your right leg, simultaneously lifting the left leg parallel to the floor. Extend actively through the left heel to keep the raised leg strong. Be careful not to lock the right knee. Ensure the kneecap is aligned forward and isn't turned inward.
Rotate your upper torso to the left, but keep the left hip moving slightly forward. Most beginners should keep the left hand on the left hip, and the head in a neutral position, gazing forward. Stay in this position for 30 seconds to one minute, then lower the raised leg to the floor with an exhalation. Perform the pose on the other side for the same length of time.
Tips: Many beginning students have difficulty touching the floor with their lower hand. These students should support their hand on a block. Start with the block at its highest height, and if your balance is steady and comfortable, lower it down to its middle height, then finally, if possible, to its lowest height.
p Day 16: Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II Pose)
Begin with the left leg three to four feet in front of the right. Ensure that the heel of the left foot is in line with the arch of the right.
Exhale and bend your left knee over the left ankle, so that the shin is perpendicular to the floor. If possible, bring the left thigh parallel to the floor. Anchor this movement of the left knee by strengthening the right leg and pressing the outer right heel firmly to the floor.
Stretch the arms away from the space between the shoulder blades, parallel to the floor. Don't lean the torso over the left thigh-keep the sides of the torso equally long and the shoulders directly over the pelvis. Press the tailbone slightly toward the pubis and turn the head to the left and look out over your fingers. Stay for 30 seconds to a minute. Inhale to come up, reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time to the left.
Tips: When you bend the left knee to a right angle, bend it very quickly with an expressive exhalation, and aim the inside of the left knee towards the little toe side of the left foot. To increase the length and strength of the arms in this pose, turn the palms and inner elbow creases to face the ceiling while you draw the shoulder blades down and back. Then maintaining the rotation of the arms, turn the palms from the wrists to face the floor again.
p Day 17 Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
Feet together, toes pointed forward, shift your weight slightly onto the left foot, keeping the inner foot firm on the floor, and bend your right knee.
Reach down with your right hand and clasp your right ankle. Draw your right foot up and place the sole against the inner left thigh. If possible, press the right heel into the inner left groin, toes pointing toward the floor. The centre of your pelvis should be directly over the left foot. Rest your hands on the top rim of your pelvis, making sure the pelvis is in a neutral position, with the top rim parallel to the floor.
Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor, firmly pressing the right foot sole against the inner thigh and resist with the outer left leg. Press your hands together with palms touching. Gaze softly at a fixed point in front of you on the floor about four or five feet away. Stay for 30 seconds to one minute. Release the right leg with an exhalation and repeat for the same length of time on the opposite leg.
Tips: You can challenge your balance by practising this pose with your eyes closed. Learn to balance without any reference to the outer environment. You can also stretch your arms straight up toward the ceiling, palms facing, or touch the palms together forming an inverted V with the arms.
p Day 18 Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)
Begin with the feet together, with your hands on your hips. Take a big inhalation, and shift your weight onto your left foot. Exhaling, bring your right knee up, hooking your big toe with the first two fingers and thumb of your right hand. You may use a strap if you cannot keep your legs straight. Firm the thigh muscles of the standing leg, and press the outer thigh inward. Press the top of your thigh back to keep your pelvis upright, not tucked.
Inhale and extend the right leg forward. Straighten the knee as much as possible, and press the top of the thigh down to keep your pelvis and lower back level. Draw your right arm back into its shoulder socket to square your shoulders and chest to the front. Steady your gaze at the tips of your lifted toes and breathe smoothly and steadily for five cycles. Release the toe and slowly lower your leg. Repeat on the second side.
Tips: You can hold this pose longer by supporting the raised-leg foot on the top edge of a chair back (padded with a blanket). Set the chair an inch or two from a wall and press your raised heel firmly to the wall.
p Day 19: Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)
Stand with feet together, toes pointed forward. On an exhalation, step or lightly jump your right foot forward three and a half to four feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down.
Align the right heel with the left heel. Firm your thighs and turn your right thigh outward, so that the centre of the kneecap is in line with the centre of the right ankle. Shift the left hip slightly forward, toward the right, but rotate your upper torso to the left.
Anchor the left (back) heel to the floor, then exhale and bend your right knee over the right ankle, so that the shin is perpendicular to the floor. As you bend the knee, aim the inner knee toward the little toe side of the foot. If possible, bring the right thigh parallel to the floor. Firm your shoulder blades against the back ribs. Extend your left arm straight up toward the ceiling, then turn the left palm to face your head and with an inhalation reach the arm over the back of your left ear, palm facing the floor.
Stretch from your left heel through your left fingertips, lengthening the entire left side of your body. Turn your head to look at the left arm. Release your right shoulder away from the ear, and try to create as much length along the right side of your torso as you do along the left. As you continue to ground your left heel to the floor, exhale and lay the right side of your torso down onto (or bring it as close as possible to) the top of the right thigh. Press your right fingertips (or palm) on the floor just outside of your right foot.
Actively push the right knee back against the inner arm; counter this by burrowing your tail bone into the back of your pelvis, toward the pubis. The inside of your right thigh should be parallel with the long edge of your mat. Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Inhale to come up. Push both heels strongly into the floor and reach the left arm forcefully toward the ceiling to lighten the upward movement. Reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time to the left. Then come up and return to starting position with feet together.
Tips: Beginners often have two problems with this pose. They can't keep their back heel anchored to the floor, as they bend their front knee into the pose, and then they can't easily touch the fingertips of their lower hand to the floor once they're in the pose. To solve the first problem, brace your back heel against a wall. As you bend the front knee and then lower your torso to the side, imagine that, with your heel, you're pushing the wall away from you. For the second problem, either rest your forearm on the top of the bent-knee thigh (instead of trying to touch the hand to the floor), or use a block outside the front foot to support your hand.
• Let us know how many poses you were able to complete and post them on social media using the hashtag #everymicklemekamuscle for a change to win weekly prizes. For more information, follow @JamaicaGleaner @jo_hannabanana and @danette_nelson.