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Fitness 101: How to perfect four popular yoga poses

 

Certified yogi or not, you’ve no doubt heard of yoga’s long-term benefits: a rock-solid core, lithe limbs, purified internal organs, dewy skin, razor-sharp mental clarity and a sense of calm to help you surmount everyday mountains or molehills. Joanne Miller met with Katie Sheridan at Hom Yoga’s Orchard Central studio to learn how to tweak four common poses for a challenging yet centering workout.

 

Vrksasanaor “Tree” Pose

Caution: Don’t raise your arms overhead if you have low or high blood pressure.

This is an excellent pose for centering and de-stressing, as it brings you back into your body and connects you to the earth. Balancing postures require complete focus to steady your body and eventually calm your mind. They also strengthen and tone your legs and feet; and open your hips, groin and chest, while balancing your muladhara, your first or “root” chakra. As Buddha says, happiness will come if you can “rest like a great tree in the midst of them all”.

The secret to balancing without the aid of a supporting wall or chair is to cultivate awareness of your body’s midline or centre of gravity.

1.Begin in tadasana or “mountain”pose, with your feet hip-distance apart and parallel. Your arms should be relaxed by your sides and your eyes closed.
2.Shift your awareness inward and feel where your feet meet the earth. All four corners of each foot should be evenly pressing into the floor and the arches of your feet slightly lifted. Imagining a small pebble under the centre of each foot will help.
3.Think of moving your tailbone down into your heels.
4.Square your shoulders and lift through the back of your head, without raising your shoulders to your ears.
5.Now breathe…

Beginner

 

Begin in “mountain” pose with your left side about a foot away from a wall.
Spread your right toes and press evenly through all four corners of your foot, lifting the arch slightly.
Hold your left foot with your left hand and place it against the top of your right inner thigh or the inside of your right calf. Your left toes should point down.
Position yourself so that your left knee firmly touches the wall and you feel supported and in place.
Move your right outer hip toward your midline, drawing your pubic bone toward your belly button and move the crown of your head up. Imagine you are growing, like a tree!
Press your palms together in anjali mudra (or namaste) at the centre of your sternum.
Repeat on the other side.

Intermediate

 

Spread the toes of your right foot and press it evenly through all four corners, being conscious of evenly distributing your weight.
Ensure your right knee is facing directly forward.
Lift your left foot up to the top of your inner right thigh or inner calf, but not to the knee as this puts unnecessary pressure on your knee joint.
Keep your hip bones pointing forward and draw your left knee into the same plane as your left hip to open up your hips and groin.
Bring your palms together in front of your heart and gently press them together.
Keep your throat and eyes soft and gaze a few feet in front of you.
Repeat on the other side.

Advanced

 

To deepen this pose, raise your arms overhead with your palms facing each other.
Relax your shoulders and tailbone downward as you lengthen your spine upward.
Breathe calmly and smoothly.
If your balance is centred and you feel steady, slowly bring your gaze up between your fingertips (imagine they’re branches of a tree) and gently arch your back, keeping your spine long.
Hold this pose for three to eight breaths, working up to a minute.
Repeat on the other side.


Parivrtta Anjaneyasana or “Revolving Crescent Lunge”

Caution: If you have neck pain or injuries, don’t turn your head to look up at your arm. Instead, look straight ahead with an even and lengthened neck, or look down at the floor.

 

Torso twisting applies pressure to your internal organs, which creates a build-up of heat, flushing your digestive organs with oxygen-rich blood to eradicate toxins and improve your digestion. This pose also stretches and tones your legs and hips while opening your chest, shoulders and arms.

As Buddha says, happiness will come if you can “rest like a great tree in the midst of them all”

Beginner

 

Begin in downward-facing dog (adho mukha svanasana).
Exhaling, step your right foot forward between your hands.
Bend your front knee to 90 degrees, aligning your knee directly over your heel. Your feet should be hip-width apart with both feet facing forward and your front shin should be perpendicular to the floor.
Lower your back knee to the floor, un-tuck your back toes and rest the top of your back foot on the floor.
Place your left hand onto the floor, directly underneath your left shoulder and reach your right arm up for the sky, stacking the shoulders on top of each other.
If it doesn’t strain your neck, bring your gaze to the thumb of your top hand, keeping the back of your neck long.
Repeat on the other side.

Intermediate

 

Get into the lunge position as explained in the beginner section.
Lift your back knee off the floor and shift your weight onto your back foot, lifting your heel and drawing it forward to align directly over your back toes.
Lift your back knee and draw your quadriceps up and toward the ceiling.
Straighten your back leg completely and keep the ball of your back foot firmly on the ground.
With your back leg strong and active, gently draw your left hip forward as you press your right hip back, squaring your hips so they remain parallel to the top edge of your mat.
Inhale as you raise your torso to an upright position.
Sweep your arms overhead and then open them so your palms face each other.
Lower your arms and bring your palms together in prayer position at your chest.
Exhale and twist your torso to the right.
Bring your left elbow to the outside of your right thigh.
Press your upper left arm against your right thigh and roll your right shoulder open towards the sky.
Without straining your neck, turn your gaze to the sky and twist from the bottom to the top of your spine.
Repeat on the other side.

Advanced

To deepen the pose, extend both of your arms, reaching with your right fingertips to touch the sky and your left fingertips to touch your mat. You can place your left hand on a block if you’re unable to touch your mat.
Once your arms are extended, fix your gaze on your top thumb.
Ensure your front shin remains vertical.
Widen your stance as needed to ensure your front knee doesn’t move forward past your ankle.
Extend your spine and keep yourback leg straight, strong and always lifted.
Tuck your tailbone under and engage your abdomen to stabilise your core.
Extend up through the crown of your head and lengthen your upper body.
Draw your shoulders away from your ears.
Lengthen your spine as you inhale and twist deeper on your exhalations.
Stack your top shoulder above your bottom shoulder.
Draw your thumbs to your heart, and your heart toward your thumbs.
Hold this pose for 10 to 20 seconds, about three to eight breaths. With practice, you might work up to a minute on each side.
Inhale as you return to centre, reaching both arms overhead.
Exhale and release your hands back to the mat.
Step back into downward dog.
Repeat on the other side.

Camatkarasana or “Wild Thing”

Caution: This may be unsuitable for anyone with wrist, elbow or rotator cuff injuries.

This poetic and playful pose opens your chest, hips, legs and arms and is beneficial in treating both fatigue and mild depression.

Beginner

 

Position yourself into adho mukha svanasana or downward-facing dog.
Come onto your hands and knees, setting your knees below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders.
Spread your fingers and position your wrist creases so they are parallel to the top of your mat, pressing through your thumbs and index fingers.
Turn your toes under and lift your knees off the floor, making an upside-down capital ‘V’.
Lift the sitting bones toward the sky and draw your chest toward your thighs, pushing the tops of your thighs back and stretching your heels onto or down toward the floor. Aim to straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them.
Firm your outer arms and press the base of the index fingers actively into the floor while firming your shoulder blades against your spine.
Remain in this pose for three to ten breaths, working up to a minute.
Exhale as you bend your knees to the floor and rest in child’s pose.

Intermediate (“Three-legged Downward-facing Dog”)

Start in adho mukha svanasanaas above.
On an inhalation, raise your right leg off the ground behind youand spread your toes.
Keep your hips level with eachother as you lift your right leg. Your hips should remain squared with the floor.
Keep your left heel releasing toward the floor.
Keep an equal amount of weight on each of your arms.
Extend through your raised right heel and the crown of your head.
After holding the pose with your hips squared for several breaths, you can open your right hip, stacking it over your left hip, allowing your right leg to come higher and provide a definite hip stretch.
Maintain even weight distribution over both of your hands as you open up your right hip.
After several breaths, straighten your right leg and re-square your hips toward the floor, dropping your right foot back to the floor and coming back into downward facing dog.
Repeat on the other side.

Advanced

Continue to open your right hip and extend the bent right knee towards the ceiling as above.
Bring your weight into your left hand and roll onto the outer edge of your left foot.
On an inhalation, lift your hips.
On an exhalation, step your right foot back and place your toes on the floor with your knee partially bent.
Stretch your right hand back, keeping your arm straight and not allowing it to touch the mat.
Lift your hips while curling your head and back to a full extension, extending your right arm down towards the floor.
Hold for five to ten breaths and return to downward-facing dog.
Repeat on the other side.
  

Mayurasana or “Peacock” Pose

Caution: This may be unsuitable for anyone with wrist, elbow or rotator cuff injuries.

Hindu lore cites the peacock as a symbol of immortality and love. This pose builds arm strength, balance and concentration.

Beginner

Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.
Ensure your knees are set directly below your hips and your wrists and that your elbows and shoulders are aligned and perpendicular to the floor.
Centre your head in a neutral position, eyes looking down at the floor.
Turn your palms around so that your fingers are turned back toward your torso,thumbs pointing out to the sides.
Hold for three to ten breaths, being conscious to open up your muscles in your wrists and forearms.

Intermediate

Maintain the tabletop position as above and ensure your fingertips face your torso.
Tuck your toes under and lift your knees off the floor to reposition into a modified plank.
Ensure your shoulders are directly over your wrists and keep your torso parallel to the floor.
Firm your shoulder blades and then spread them away from your spine.
Press your thighs up toward the ceiling and lengthen your tail bone toward your heels.
Look straight down at the floor, keeping your throat and eyes soft.
Stay in this pose anywhere from three to ten breaths. Challenge yourself to remain in this position for up to one minute as you develop strength.

Advanced

 

From the position above, bend your elbows and lower your body onto your upper arms, bringing your elbows to your lower abdomen.
Bring your upper arms parallel to the ground and lean your weight forward to extend your legs and lift them off the ground.
Note: Your hands and elbows can be together or apart, depending on your balance and how your abdomen feels. Experiment to find what feels the most comfortable and sustainable. An easier way to lift your legs off the ground is to bring the soles of your feet together, move your knees out to the side and lift from this position.
Hold the pose anywhere from three to five breaths, building up to 30 seconds.

If you’d like more information, contact Malvina or Katie at either of Hom Yoga’s studios at Orchard Central (181 Orchard Road, #06-12/13) and Raffles Place (3 Canton Street, #02-01).

Hom Yoga

6238 0101 or 6438 0103| homyoga.sg

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