Uttanasana, or intense forward-bending pose, is a component of Sun Salutes and vinyasa, as well as, a dynamic part of the transition between standing and Chaturanga Dandasana. In Sanskrit, Ut means Intense, Tana means stretched and Asana means a yogic pose.
Uttasana is often dismissed as an uninteresting and basic pose; yet it offers a wealth of opportunities to develop muscle actions that support other standing poses like Warriors and Pyramid Pose. Practicing this foundation pose brings numerous benefits. Uttasana is also an inversion. Albeit a much more accessible inversion than head stand or handstand but with many of the usual benefits and more. Personally, I lovepracticing Uttansana because the weight of the head hanging heavy is enough to give my neck a gentle stretch. The stretch decompresses the spinal joints allowing a little stretch of the muscles and ligaments as well as a burst of nourishment.
Beginner’s Tip: If you cannot touch the ground, hold onto the backs of the legs wherever the hands fall (except for the knees) or cross the arms in front of the body holding onto the elbows. Let the head hang with gravity. If this is still too intense, take tension off the hamstrings and low back by bending the knees. Working with the breath, try “inhaling, bending”, “exhaling, straightening”. Deepen the Uttanasana pose to increase the stretch on the backs of the legs, stand in the forward bend with the balls of your feet elevated an inch or more off the floor on a sand bag or thick book or lean slightly forward and lift up onto the balls of your feet, pulling your heels a half-inch or so away from the floor. Draw your inner groins deep into the pelvis, and then, from the height of the groins, lengthen your heels back onto the floor.
Caution: Uttanasana requires patience and practice. It can take a while to reach the deepest variation of the pose. Those with back injuries can practice this pose with bent knees, use a block for support under the hands, or substitute Half Forward Bend instead.
Dandasana may look like a simple pose, but it's important to make sure that you're doing it the correct way because it is the foundation of all seated poses. Dandasana comes from the Sanskrit words Danda – meaning “stick”, and Asana – meaning “posture”. This pose is best known as the base of all asanas in seating position, forward bends and twists.
It's easy for your everyday posture to slump forward since most of us suffer from poor posture, and staff pose helps correct us. When the spine is straight and the shoulders back, our breathing naturally becomes deeper and more regular. The nervous system relaxes and the mind and body become in alignment and harmony.
Caution: People with high blood pressure should not perform this pose. In case of any wrist or lower back injury avoid this pose.
Baby Cradle pose or Leg Cradle pose, is a seated hip-opener that also stretches the hamstrings and calf muscles. It is a slight variation of pigeon pose and is sometimes also known as rock the baby pose. Although this pose is considered a beginner level yoga asana, its benefits can be profound. This asana is a wonderful yet gentle preparation for meditation and for more challenging asanas, such as full lotus and pigeon pose.
How to do Hindolasana
1. Begin in Dandasana / Staff Pose.
2. Inhale and lift your right leg up.
3. Place your right foot on your left forearm, and your right knee on your right forearm.
4. Clasp for fingers and bring your right shin close to your chest.
5. Twist your upper body to right side and then to your left side.
To come out of this pose, release your foot and sit in Dandasana / Staff Pose.
Repeat the sequence on your left side for the same length of time.
If this pose causes your lower back to round, or doesn’t feel good for your knee, try a seated figure four stretch instead, planting your feet on the floor and your palms or fingertips on the floor behind you. Lean back (keeping a long spine); cross your right ankle over your left thigh, keeping your right foot flexed; and walk your hands back until you find a position where you’re able to maintain a gentle curve in your lower back.
Caution: Do not attempt this pose if you have knee or hip injury.
Marjaryasana/Bitilasana (Cat/Cow pose) is a combination of two yoga poses that gently stretch and warm up your spine. The Sankrit name for cat cow pose is Marjaiasana. Marjay meaning cat and Bitil meaning cow (asana meaning pose). Cat/Cow pose consists of moving the spine from a rounded position to an arched position. Hence Cat/Cow pose is good for the spine. It’s a basic motions but it is enormously beneficial in preventing back pain and maintaining a healthy spine. Bringing movement and flexibility to your spine helps your body to become more coordinated. Try a few slow rounds of Cat-Cow when you wake in the morning, before bed, or after sitting for a long period. You may notice yourself walking taller throughout the day! 😊
How To Perform Cat-Cow Pose:
1. Start on the ground with a neutral spine in table-top position with your knees and hands on the floor. Your knees should be hip distance apart in line with your hips and your arms should be straightened and in line with your shoulders. Keep your head in line with your body and either close your eyes or gaze towards the ground.
2. Take an inhale while in this neutral spine position and then slowly exhale your breath while rounding your spine towards the sky, keeping your hands and knees where they are.
3. As you round your spine you will gently release your head towards the ground while making sure not to tense your neck. Engage your lower core muscles and really try to bring your tailbone towards the center of your body while rounding your back as high as you can.
4. Once you have released your entire breath in Cat Pose start to inhale deeply while dropping your belly towards the ground.
5. Begin to arch your back and lift your chest towards the sky keeping your neck in line with your spine. Release your lower belly to the ground while actively lifting your tailbone to the sky.
6. After a full inhale while in Cow Pose, start to slowly exhale your breath and move through to Cat Pose once again. Continue through the Cat-Cow sequence as many times as you need, maintaining a slow and steady breath the entire time.
Balasana (Child’s Pose) comes from the Sanskrit words bala meaning child and asana meaning pose. Child’s pose is practiced in almost every style of yoga and class. This pose is usually practiced as a way to rest after an intense pose or sequence. However, it has numerous benefits of its own. Balasana is a great pose that allows you to turn inward; providing the opportunity to calm the mind and restore energy. Child’s pose is a basic beginner pose that nearly anyone can do.
Child’s pose is one of the most common postures that you will see when using yoga for back pain due to the versatility that it offers. Child’s Pose relieves tension in your back and hips while increasing flexibility and circulation to the muscles and joints in your low back. When practiced in the full expression of the posture, Child’s Pose can produce immediate back pain relief. Above are more great benefits of Child’s pose.
Getting into the pose:
To come into this pose, kneel onto the floor, and sit back onto your ankles. Keep your knees and big toes touching one another as you sit back. Lean forward at the waist and place your forehead on the floor. If your hips pop up, don't worry about it. As you stay in the pose, keep inviting your hips to meet your heels.
Your arms can take several positions:
To open your body farther, begin the pose in the same manner as described above. Instead of keeping your knees together, spread them as wide apart as is comfortable for you. Still keeping your big toes together.
Caution: If you have a groin injury, back or hip problems, consult with your physician prior to doing this pose. Please, carefully check in with your body before doing this pose, and do NOT do anything in which your body feels unsafe!
Padangusthasana or Big Toe Pose is a beginner yoga asana (pose) that is a very good stretching pose for all muscles of the body – from head to toe. In Sanskrit Padangusthasana translates as Pada meaning foot, angustha meaning thumb, hasta meaning hand, so the pose literally translates to thumb to foot pose and hand to foot pose.
Practicing this pose increases blood circulation to the brain and stretches the thigh muscles, hamstrings, calf muscles and the back, lower back and both the arms. This is one of the very few poses that increase muscle density and burn fat accumulated in them. Padangusthasana massages the liver and spleen and gives strength to the knees.
This pose is said to balance the body and mind is ideal for women who are trying to conceive due to its stretching quality. Big Toe Pose improves concentration, memory and focus and can help prevent osteoporosis to a great extent. It calms down the practitioner and cures headache and insomnia, making the body more flexible at the same time. The Big Toe Pose helps relieve wind and rejuvenates tired muscles.
How to do Padangusthasana:
Caution: In all forward bending poses, be to fold from the hips, not the waist. As you fold from the hips it will require a little more effort as you are moving more of your body than when folding at the waist. Performing hip flexion instead of spinal flexion in this pose will protect your intervertebral discs.
When we explore the layers of the wisdom that comprise the yoga poses we hold, breathe and release, we start to discover symbolism and meaning in every movement. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, your instructor has most likely guided you into poses such as Warrior II (or in Sanskrit Virabhadrasana II). The Sanskrit words vira means “hero”, bhadra means “friend”, and asana meaning “seat or posture”. Not only does this pose offer many amazing benefits, there’s also an interesting story behind the pose.
According to Hindi mythology, Virabhadra, was a fierce warrior who was at the command of Shiva. In the myth, a powerful priest named Daksha refused to accept Shiva, even when Shiva and Sati (Daksha’s youngest daughter) were married. This dislike between Sati’s father and Shiva upset her so greatly that she killed herself. Upset by his wife’s death, myth says that Shiva created the fiercest warrior from a bead of sweat on his forehead. This warrior’s name was Virabhadra, and Shiva set him out to destroy those who had caused the death of his beloved Sati.
This mythical story shows our human responses to emotions. We often overlook emotions like anger, jealousy, and bitterness in spiritual pursuits like yoga. Being a yogi isn’t about being blissful or “Zen” every single day. Practicing yoga means being able to deal with life’s ups and downs. Along with the extraordinary range of emotions we exhibit, we also have the capacity for reflection. So when our life battles seem beyond our control, we possess the most important tools of the “spiritual warrior”, compassion and forgiveness.
Caution: Do not practice Warrior II if you have hip, knee, or shoulder injury, or if you are experiencing diarrhea or high blood pressure. Those with neck injuries should not turn their head to face the front hand (modify the pose as seen in the picture). Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
Revolved Side Angle pose or Parivritta Parsvakonasana comes from the Sanskrit word, Parivritta meaning to turn around, Parsva meaning side and asana meaning pose. Parivritta Parsvakonasana is a side angle twist pose that has many variations. One of the classic variations for Revolved Side Angle Pose is to practice this pose with Anjali Mudra(hands in prayer position near your sternum).
All twisting asanas stimulate detoxification, improve blood circulation and rejuvenate the spine. When you twist your torso you compress your internal organs, cutting off all blood supply. When you release the twist you allow fresh blood to flow to your internal organs. This process cleanses your organs and improves their ability to function.
How to perform Revolved Side Angle Pose
Begin standing in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms at your sides. Breathe deeply and evenly, calming your mind and focusing on the present moment.
Turn to the right and step your feet wide apart, about 4 to 5 feet. Turn your left foot out 90 degrees. Align your front heel with the arch of your back foot. Your pelvis and torso should face the same direction as your toes.
Parivrtta Parsvakonasana is a powerful pose that can shift your yoga practice to a deeper level. It will build focus, detoxify your organs, and develop inner and outer strength. When practicing this pose, remember that the "goal" is not to achieve the full expression the pose, but to be aware of the pose you are currently in; staying focused in the present moment.
In yoga, the word inversion is used to describe any asana (pose) where the head is below the heart. Most of us think of headstand, handstand or one of these more advanced asanas when we hear “inversions,” but there are many approachable inversions that can be practiced even for a beginner.
There are numerous benefits to inversions: bringing the head below the heart reverses blood flow and improves circulation, builds core strength and confidence, promotes diaphragmatic breathing, stimulates the lymphatic system, and soothes the nervous system. Seniors especially can benefit from inversion poses, but everyone can enjoy improved circulation, reduced foot and leg swelling and of course, rush of oxygen to the brain by including regular inversions in their yoga practice.
While you can practice inverted yoga poses at any time during the day, practicing them early in the morning will help keep you energized and refreshed throughout the day. All inverted yoga poses for beginners can act as elixirs of life, provided they are practiced regularly (and safely). Remember, yoga is a lifelong journey. You don’t need to practice any fancy arm balances to reap the benefits of inversions. Starting with these beginner-friendly inversions is a great way to turn your world upside down. 😊
Caution: Before attempting any inversions, be sure to check with your doctor, particularly if you have elevated blood pressure. Ladies will also want to refrain from inversions during their menstrual cycles.
Adho Mukha Svanasana is most often performed as a part of Surya Namaskaras (Sun Salutations). Downward-facing dog comes from the Sanskrit word Adho Mukha Svanasana (Adho meaning downward, Mukha meaning face, Svana meaning dog, and asana meaning pose or posture). This pose is like the position a dog takes while stretching after having a nap.
Since the head is brought lower than the pelvis this pose is generally classified as an inversion pose. Downward dog is considered one of the most easily accessible inversions. This simple yet dynamic yoga pose is often used as an opener for more complicated and demanding yoga asanas. Downward-facing dog can be practiced independently as it has an entire set of physical, mental and emotional benefits that can be obtained by practicing this asana regularly.
This inverted pose is performed lengthwise with the hands and feet pushing against the floor. The hips are raised in the air. The body eventually forms a pyramid triangular- shape. Yoga beginners can use yoga props such as placing the hands on yoga blocks or keeping the knees bent (as seen in the picture above) to help maintain proper alignment in the pose. Even if your feet do not touch the ground, they eventually will with continued practice. The goal is not necessarily for the feet to touch, but to keep the back in the “slope” position.
Avoid this pose if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome or diarrhea.
Avoid practicing this pose during the latter stages of pregnancy.
It is unadvisable to practice this pose during menstruation.
If you have a headache or suffer from high blood pressure, you should support your head with a block or bolster.
Avoid this pose if you suffer from a chronic or recent injury to the shoulders, arms, hips and back.
*Always consult your doctor prior to beginning any exercise regimen including yoga. If you have any questions or about this pose, consult a yoga practitioner to ensure that you learn the posture correctly to avoid injuries.
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