Every mickle mek a muscle: Yoga challenge week 4
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.
- Day 20: Vasisthasana (Side Plank)
Perform AdhoMukhaSvanasana. Shift on to the outside edge of your left foot, and stack the right on top of it. Swing your right hand on to your right hip, turn your torso to the right as you do, and support the weight of your body on the outer left foot and hand. Ensure the supporting hand isn't directly below its shoulder; position the hand slightly in front of its shoulder, so the supporting arm is angled a bit relative to the floor. Straighten the arm by firming the triceps muscle, and press the base of the index finger firmly against the floor. Firm the scapulas and sacrum against the back torso. Strengthen the thighs, and press through the heels towards the floor. Align your entire body into one long diagonal line from the heels to the crown. If you'd like, you can stretch the top arm towards the ceiling, parallel to the line of the shoulders. Keep the head in a neutral position, or turn it to gaze up at the top hand.Stay in this position for 15 to 30 seconds. Come back to AdhoMukhaSvanasana, take a few breaths, and repeat to the right.
Tips: Beginners often have a difficult time sustaining this pose, even with the soles pressed to a wall. Perform AdhoMukhaSvanasana with your heels up on a wall. Measure the distance between your right foot and hand, then step the foot halfway to the hand. Keep the right foot on the floor for support and turn the toes out to the right. Then shift on to the outside of the left foot, press the sole against the wall, and turn on to the left hand as described above. In this position, the bent leg will provide some extra support. Step back to AdhoMukhaSvanasana at the end of your stay, then repeat to the other side.
- Day 21: ParipurnaNavasana (Boat Pose)
Sit with your legs straight in front. Press your hands on the floor behind your hips, fingers pointing towards the feet, and strengthen the arms. Lift through the top of the sternum and lean back slightly. As you do this, make sure your back doesn't round; continue to lengthen the front of your torso between the pubis and top sternum. Sit on the 'tripod' of your two sitting bones and tail bone. Exhale and bend your knees, then lift your feet off the floor, so that the thighs are angled about 45-50 degrees relative to the floor. Lengthen your tailbone into the floor and lift your pubis towards your navel. If possible, slowly straighten your knees, raising the tips of your toes slightly above the level of your eyes. If this isn't possible, remain with your knees bent, perhaps lifting the shins parallel to the floor.
Stretch your arms alongside the legs, parallel to each other and the floor. Spread the shoulder blades across your back and reach strongly out through the fingers. If this isn't possible, keep the hands on the floor beside your hips or hold on to the backs of your thighs.While the lower belly should be firm, it shouldn't get hard and thick. Keep the lower belly relatively flat. Press the heads of the thigh bones towards the floor to help anchor the pose and lift the top sternum. Breathe easily. Tip the chin slightly towards the sternum so the base of the skull lifts lightly away from the back of the neck. Stay in the pose for 10-20 seconds. Gradually increase the time of your stay to one minute. Release the legs with an exhalation and sit upright on an inhalation.
Tips: You can practise this pose throughout the day in a chair. Sit on the edge of a seat with your knees at right angles. Grab on to the sides of the seat with your hands and lean slightly forward. Firm your arms and lift your buttocks slightly off the seat, then raise your heels slightly off the floor (but not the balls of your feet). Let the heads of your thigh bones sink into the pull of gravity and push the top of your sternum forward and up.
- Day 22: SalambaSirsasana (Supported Headstand Variation) ADVANCED
Before you begin, remember that while you are learning headstands it is best to practise with a teacher until you find your bearing. 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 until you are recovered. It is also commonly advised not to go upside down if you are on your moon cycle or pregnant.
Come into the full version of this pose. Engage your abdominal muscles as you slowly lower both legs to be parallel to the floor. Ensure that you do not shift too much backwards but maintain the stability in the shoulder girdle and core for support.
Tips: Beginners may find it less challenging to use a wall for support of the legs in this pose.
- Day 23: UttanaShishosana(Extended Puppy Pose)
Go on all fours. Shoulders are above your wrists and your hips are above your knees. Walk your hands forward a few inches and curl your toes under. As you exhale, move your buttocks halfway back toward your heels. Keep your arms active; don't let your elbows touch the ground. Drop your forehead to the floor and let your neck relax. Keep a slight curve in your lower back. To feel a nice long stretch in your spine, press the hands down and stretch through the arms while pulling your hips back towards your heels. Breathe into your back, feeling the spine lengthen in both directions. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute, then release your buttocks down on to your heels.
Tips: You can hold this pose longer and protect your knees and lower back by placing a rolled-up blanket or bolster between your thighs and calves.
- Day 24: Ustrasana(Camel Pose)
Kneel on the floor with your knees hip width and thighs perpendicular to the floor. Rotate your thighs inwards slightly, narrow your hip points, and firm, not harden your buttocks. Press your shins and the top of your feet firmly into the floor. Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis, bases of the palms on the tops of the buttocks, fingers pointing down. Then lightly firm the tailbone forward, toward the pubis. Inhale and lift your heart by pressing the shoulder blades against your back ribs. Lean back against the firmness of the tail bone and shoulder blades. Keep your head up, chin near the sternum, and your hands on the pelvis.
Beginners probably won't be able to drop straight back into this pose, touching the hands to the feet simultaneously while keeping the thighs perpendicular to the floor. If you need to, tilt the thighs back a little from the perpendicular and minimally twist to one side to get one hand on the same-side foot. Then press your thighs back to perpendicular, turn your torso back to neutral, and touch the second hand to its foot. If you're not able to touch your feet without compressing your lower back, turn your toes under and elevate your heels. See that your lower front ribs aren't protruding sharply towards the ceiling, which hardens the belly and compresses the lower back.
Press your palms firmly against your soles (or heels), with the bases of the palms on the heels and the fingers pointing towards the toes. Turn your arms outwardly so the elbow creases face forward, without squeezing the shoulder blades together. You can keep your neck in a relatively neutral position, neither flexed nor extended, or drop your head back. But be careful not to strain your neck and harden your throat. Stay in this pose anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. To exit, bring your hands on to the front of your pelvis, at the hip points. Inhale and lift the head and torso up by pushing the hip points down, towards the floor. If your head is back, lead with your heart to come up, not by jutting the chin towards the ceiling and leading with your brain. Rest in Child's Pose for a few breaths.
Tips: First, try to turn your toes under and elevate your heels. If this doesn't work, the next thing to do is to rest each hand on a block. Position the blocks just outside each heel, and stand them at their highest height (usually about nine inches). If you're still having difficulty, get a chair. Kneel for the pose with your back to the chair, with your calves and feet below the seat and the front edge of the seat touching your buttocks. Then lean back and bring your hands to the sides of the seat or high up on the front chair legs.
- Day 25: Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I Pose)
Stand with feet together. Exhale, step or lightly jump your left foot 31/2 to 4 feet back. Raise your arms perpendicular to the floor (and parallel to each other), and reach actively through the little finger sides of the hands towards the ceiling. Firm your scapulas against your back and draw them down towards the coccyx.Turn your left foot in 45 to 60 degrees to the right and your right foot out 90 degrees to the right. Align the right heel with the left heel. Exhale and rotate your torso to the right, squaring the front of your pelvis as much as possible with the front edge of your mat.
As the left hip point turns forward, press the head of the left femur back to ground the heel. Lengthen your coccyx towards the floor, and arch your upper torso back slightly.With your left heel firmly anchored to the floor, exhale and bend your right knee over the ankle so the shin is perpendicular to the floor. More flexible students should align their right thigh parallel to the floor. Reach strongly through your arms, lifting the ribcage away from the pelvis. As you ground down through the back foot, feel a lift that runs up the back leg, across the belly and chest, and up into the arms. If possible, bring the palms together. Spread the palms against each other and reach a little higher through the pinky-sides of the hands.Keep your head in a neutral position, gazing forward, or tilt it back and look up at your thumbs. Stay for 30 seconds to a minute. Return to starting position and repeat on the other side.
Tips: When the front knee bends into the pose, beginners have a tendency to tip the pelvis forward, which duck-tails the coccyx and compresses the lower back. Be sure to lift the pubis towards the navel and lengthen the tail towards the floor. Then as you bend the knee, continue to lift and descend these two bones, keeping the top rim of the pelvis relatively parallel to the floor.
- Day 26 : ParsvaBakasana(Side Crow Pose)
Do a half-squat, thighs parallel to the floor. If your heels don't rest comfortably, support them on a thickly folded blanket. Take your left elbow to the outside of your right thigh as you soften your belly. Exhaling, twist your torso to the right, bringing your left lower ribs across towards your right thigh as far as you can. Slide the back of your left arm down the outside of the right thigh, bringing your outer armpit as close to the outer thigh as you can. Do a slight back bend and draw your right shoulder back to twist your torso more deeply. Slide your left upper arm several inches towards your right hip and press it firmly against your right thigh; maintaining this pressure, draw the upper arm back towards your right knee without allowing the skin to slide.
Once your arm is in position on your thigh, note the point of skin-to-skin contact. Squat fully, buttocks just above your heels. Place your left palm on the floor just outside your right foot. If the hand doesn't easily reach the floor, tip your torso to the right until you can put your palm down flat. Maintaining contact between your left upper arm and your right outer thigh, lean even more to the right until you can place your right hand on the floor. Your hands should be shoulder width apart.
Concentrate on maintaining the point of contact between your left arm and right thigh as you slowly lift your pelvis and shift it to the right, aiming to bring the middle of your abdomen above and between your hands. This is not the precise balance point, but if you get this close you'll probably be able to find the perfect position by feel. As you get close, the weight on your hands will increase, while that on your feet will decrease until they lift easily. Now put the finishing touches on the pose. Keep your feet together and press out through their inner edges. Draw your heels towards your buttocks. Exhaling, soften your belly to prepare for the twist, then pull your left hip strongly down and lift both feet up.
Your left arm may remain slightly bent, but straighten it as much as you can without allowing your legs to slide down. Straighten your right arm completely. As you lift your right shoulder, twist your spine further. Lift your chest and head, and look forward. Breathe evenly and naturally. Hold the pose for 20 seconds or longer, then lower your feet back to the floor with an exhale. Repeat it on the other side for the same length of time.
Tips: To secure your balance, lower your forehead on to a block or bolster as you lift your feet off the floor.