Pose of the week: Chaturanga Dandasana

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Pose of the week: Chaturanga Dandasana also known as Four-Limbed Staff Pose is a foundational part of a sun salutation sequence requiring ample leg, arm and core strength.  

Getting into the pose: From plank pose, engage your leg muscles and core, pull sternum forward(shifting body weight forward), keep elbows stacked over wrists and pressed against side ribs. Lower down until elbows are in line with shoulders and draw the heads of the shoulders back pressing the lower tips of the shoulder blades together to avoid dumping into the shoulders. Imagine one long line of energy from your heels through the crown of the head while keeping the body in a straight line. Modify with knees down. 

Getting out of the pose: Press back up into plank pose or move through your vinyasa by shifting onto the tops of your toes and pressing up into upward facing dog.

Benefits:

  • Strengthens and tones the wrists, arms, abdominal muscles and lower back

  • Prepares the body for more challenging arm balances

  • Strengthens the muscles surrounding the spine which improves posture


"Darkness has a hunger that's insatiable and lightness has a call that's hard to hear."

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I love the Indigo Girls for their soulful and insightful lyrics and melodic harmony. I remember first hearing them from outside the walls of my sister’s bedroom. As a younger sibling always trying to keep up with her, I “borrowed” her cassettes and spent many afternoons after school belting out their lyrics with my good friend Stephanie. ⁣

⁣It wasn’t until my semester abroad in Aix-en-Provence that I revisited the group via my dreadlocked roommate Maggie from Colorado. It was the Indigo Girls that initiated our bond which developed into a long-lasting friendship. ⁣

⁣I’ve been listening to them lately and with a good bit of life experience under my belt, relate to their words at a deeper level. I’m hearing lightness. Galileo is my favorite✨⁣

Pose of the Week: Utthan Pristhasana

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Utthan Pristhasana, also known as lizard pose, is a deep hip opener and lunge variation often practiced once the body is fully warmed up. This pose helps to strengthen your leg muscles and improves flexibility in the hips and groin. I like to start by placing a block under my forearms and gradually come down to the mat working with my breath to deepen the stretch. I have tight hips from running and cycling so this is both a welcome and dreaded pose.

Getting into the pose: Starting from lunge pose, place your hands on the inside of your left foot. Gradually sink your hips forward and down possibly lowering your forearms to the mat. Shift your weight into the outer edge of the left foot to ease the hip open. Maintain a long spine and open chest. Placing a block under the forearms is a great option if flexibility is restricted.

Alignment cues: Extend the heart forward, lengthen the spine and draw the shoulder blades together to avoid any rounding in the back. Use your block for your forearms if they do not rest comfortably on the mat. Flex the left foot to protect the ankle and knee. Curl the back toes under and lift the back knee for a deeper stretch. Listen to your body and breathe.

Benefits:

  • Opens the hips, hamstrings, groins and hip flexors

  • Strengthens the inner thigh muscles on the front legs

  • Opens and releases the chest, shoulders and neck

  • Prepares the body for deeper hip openers


Pose of the Week: Anjaneyasana

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Lunge or Anjaneyasana is a great pose to stretch the hips, open the chest and improve balance. It is found in many yoga practices and accessible to all levels. As a runner and triathlete, I have tight hip flexors and this pose allows for a gentle stretch of the psoas and serves as a preparatory pose for deeper hip openers.

Getting into the pose: Starting from downward facing dog, exhale your right leg forward and rest your left knee down on the mat. Place your right knee over right ankle and left knee directly behind left hip. Inhale your arms and torso up, reaching fingertips towards sky with palms facing in or interlacing fingers overhead with triceps aligned with ears. On an exhale, allow your hips to settle forward and down to deepen the stretch in the front of the left leg and psoas. To exit the pose, plant the palms on the mat and step the right leg back pressing into downward dog. Repeat on the opposite side.

Alignment cues: Lift the lower back ribs away from the pelvis to keep the lower spine as long as possible. Draw the tailbone down, relax the shoulders and shift the gaze up as you reach your fingertips up and back for a slight backbend. Press the top of the left foot and shin into the mat. Option to curl the back toes under and lift the left knee for crescent lunge.

Benefits:

  • Strengthens the quadriceps and gluteus muscles

  • Stretches the psoas and hips

  • Relieves sciatica pain

  • Expands your chest, lungs and shoulders

Pose of the Week: Ustrasana

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Camel Pose or Ustrasana in Sanskrit was first introduced to me in Bikram yoga. I attended a Bikram class everyday for a month and was very close to entering the teacher training program. I decided to take a different path and still love the discipline, series of poses and HEAT this particular practice delivers. Camel pose is a backbend and big heart opener which may leave you feeling a tad dizzy. Doing this pose forces me to get calm and find comfort in the discomfort. Use camel pose to increase spinal flexibility and open that HEART.

Getting into the pose: Position yourself kneeling with knees hip width and thighs parallel to the mat. Place you hands with fingers pointed downward on the top of your buttocks. Use them to spread the back of your pelvis and lengthen the tailbone down. Lean back and grasp your heels with each hand. Keep the chest lifted and hips and thighs pressing forward as you breath into your backbend for 30 seconds to 1 minute. To exit the pose Imagine there is a string connected to your sternum lifting you up as you rise to kneeling with head coming up last. Rest kneeling with palms facing down on thighs for 3-5 breaths.

Alignment cues: Lift the lower back ribs away from the pelvis to keep the lower spine as long as possible. Option to curl the toes under to elevate the heels and avoid compression of the lower back. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and keep your head in neutral or drop it back without straining the neck. Keep your hips stacked over knees and chest lifted.

Benefits:

  • Stretches the chest, abdomen, quadriceps and hip flexors.

  • Improves spinal flexibility, posture and back strength.

  • Creates space in the chest and lungs thereby increasing breathing capacity.

  • Stimulates the kidneys and aids in digestion.