Vrksasana - Tree pose vrksa – tree asana – pose Vrksasana is a basic standing asana that helps to develop balance and stability. The whole body is neutral, as in tadasana, with the exception of the lifted leg, which is in external rotation.
1. Stand with the feet parallel. 2. Place all of your weight onto the right leg and bring the left foot to the right thigh. 3. Keep the pelvic rim facing forwards and externally rotate the left femur. 4. If your balance is stable, join the palms in front of the sternum or lift the arms straight overhead.
Begin by standing with the centerlines of the feet parallel, as in tadasana. Shift your awareness and your weight onto the right leg. Keep the muscles of the right leg lifting and drawn close to the bones, maintaining the depth of the right groin, as you bring the left foot to the front of the right thigh. (At this point, the left leg is still neutral and facing forward, as is the pelvis.) Keep the pelvic bones facing straight forward and begin to externally rotate the left femur in its socket. (This movement will rotate the left knee towards the left side of the body and draw the left foot to the inner right thigh.) Take this external rotation only as far as it can go without disturbing the neutrality of the pelvis or the depth of the right groin. Press the inner right thigh into the left foot and resist the left foot against it.
If your balance is stable, join the palms in front of the sternum. Remember that balance is a dynamic state. It is normal for your body to move slightly in order to remain balanced. If your balance is good, with an inhalation, extend the arms overhead. Keep the hands joined if possible, with the arms straight. If this is not possible, let the hands separate and keep the arms straight. Keep the inner edges of the scapula drawn down to cultivate lift in the sternum. As the sternum lifts, also use the inhalation to lift the side and back of the ribs. Feel how this assists in sustaining the depth and adding to the length of the right groin.
If the arms are overhead, take the upper thoracic spine into the back and let this action lift the sternum and move the head back. Lift from the base of the skull and the root of the jaw so there is no compression in the cervical spine. If the thoracic spine does not move in, leave the face forward with the chin parallel to the floor. Keep the length of the inner body, and breathe normally.
Then with an exhalation, release the arms and the left leg, moving back into tadasana. Repeat this on the other side.
Virabhadrasana II creates hip mobility in external rotation while providing great stability. Like all of the standing asanas, it can work to correct misalignments in the legs and feet. Virabhadrasana II also works to broaden the chest and open and stabilize the shoulders in external rotation.
1. With the arms laterally extended, separate the feet so that the heels are below the wrists. (see photo) 2. From the left hip socket, turn the left leg out 90 degrees and turn the right foot in so it faces the same direction as the right knee. 3. Move the right femur into the hip and bend the left knee to bring the left shin perpendicular (90 degrees) to the floor. 4. Lift the circumference of the rib cage and turn the head to the left.
Starting from tadasana, step or jump the feet apart as you laterally extend the arms. If the knees are healthy and you choose to jump, make sure that you keep the knees springy and not locked. Classically, the heels are separated the same width as the distance between the wrists with the arms laterally extended. If this proves to be an unmanageably wide stance, then narrow it as needed for stability.
Lift the front of the left foot and come onto the back of the left heel. From the hip socket, turn the left leg out 90 degrees. Then, keeping your weight firmly on the heel, press the ball mount of the left big toe back to the floor. Finish this movement by spreading and relaxing the toes to the floor. (Observe how this grounds the entire foot.)Turn the right foot in so that it faces the same direction as the right knee.
Deepen the right groin. Then bend the left knee, being sure that both sides of the joints of the leg remain parallel to each other. At full lunge, the left shin should be perpendicular to the floor. If the knee can extend beyond the ankle without disturbing the lateral alignment of the leg joint, a wider stance may be taken. If the knee ends up behind the ankle, this is still a stable knee joint and no further adjustment is required. If you are more flexible and a deep lunge can be taken, do not let the left thigh drop below being parallel with the floor as this can create hyperextension in the right hip.
The rule to remember for maintaining stability with the knee bent in a lunge is as follows: If the head of the femur is higher than the knee of the same leg when the knee is extended beyond the ankle, this creates a shearing action of the femur across the top of the shin. This can create stress on the knee. In some internally rotated lunges, when the knee of the back leg is on the floor, the head of the femur drops below the knee. If this is the case, there will be no shearing effect and the knee may extend beyond the ankle with safety.
Keep the depth of the right groin as you externally rotate the left femur and thigh. Resist the left ankle in internal rotation to keep the left inner heel anchored. The left thigh will feel as though the inner part of the left thigh is extending toward the knee, while the outer part resists back into the hip like a loop.
The right femur is actually still in internal rotation in the hip socket. The muscles of the right thigh, however, are working in external rotation. To prevent the weight of the right leg from pressing into the outer right ankle, resist the shin in internal rotation. The muscular external rotation of both legs should assist to release the buttocks down and the coccyx towards the pubic bone without hardening the right groin. These actions help to keep lumbar lordosis neutral.
To lengthen the inner body, inhale and lift the side and back ribs, along with the sternum, out of the belly. Feel how this action lengthens the groins and the spine.
As you externally rotate the upper arms, draw the inner scapula down. Feel how this assists in broadening the ribs and collarbones. Resist the forearms in internal rotation and face the palms toward the floor. Energetically charge the arms to feel the core of the arms extending through the skin of the palms and the middle fingers. Draw in the jaw slightly, as you turn the head to face the left.
To release this asana, inhale and straighten the left leg. Come to the back of the left heel, and from the hip socket, return the leg back to a forward position. Then step or lightly jump the feet together as you join the palms in front of the sternum. Relax the arms at the sides in tadasana.
Repeat on the other side.
Virabhadrasana II - Warrior pose
Parsvakonasana - Side angle pose parsva - side or lateral kona - angle asana - pose
Parsvakonasana creates a deep external rotation release in the hip while sustaining stability in the joint. Parsvakonasana also increases lateral extension in the spine, which can be helpful in addressing scoliosis.
1. From tadasana, step or lightly jump the feet apart so that the heels are as far apart as the distance between the wrists when the arms are laterally extended. 2. From the left hip socket, turn the left leg out 90 degrees and the right foot in so that the right foot faces the same direction as the knee. 3. Keeping both sides of the joints of the left leg parallel, bend the left knee as needed, so that the shin is perpendicular to the floor, but keep the knee behind the ankle. 4. Maintain the length of the left ribs as you fold deeply at the left hip and place the left hand on a block or the floor outside the left leg as you sweep the right arm along side the head.
From tadasana step or lightly jump the feet apart so that the ankles are below the wrists with the arms laterally extended. If the knees are healthy and you choose to jump, do not lock the knees. Keep the knee joints springy. If necessary, the stance can be narrower. Lift the left front foot onto the back of the heel. Then from the hip socket, turn the left leg out 90 degrees. Keep the heel grounded and press the ball mount of the left big toe back to the floor. Then spread and relax the toes to the floor. Turn the right foot in so that it faces the same direction as the right knee.
Deepen the right groin. Then bend the left knee, keeping the inner and outer edges of the leg parallel. Keep as much height in the right leg as possible by resisting the inner right leg towards the outer right leg. At your full lunge, the left knee may be slightly behind or directly above the ankle, but do not let the knee go beyond the ankle. The thigh may be as low as parallel with the floor, but not lower, to avoid hyperextension of the right hip.
Inhaling, lift the left arm and lengthen the left ribs. Keep as much of this length as you can as you fold deeply at the left hip, extending the torso to the left. Bring the left hand onto a block or onto the floor outside the left leg. To assist in sustaining the length of the left ribs, continue to deepen the left hip joint as the right pelvic rim moves towards the right ribs. This action will also support the feeling of lift and stability in the right leg. Maintain depth of the right groin as you work the left thigh and femur in external rotation. Keep the inner left heel and the outer right heel grounded.
Externally rotate the upper arms and draw the inner edges of the scapula down the back. Keep this stability in the shoulder girdle as the right arm sweeps up alongside the head. Face the palms toward the floor, by internally rotating the right forearm. Feel how the opposing actions of the external rotation of the upper arm and the internal rotation of the forearm stabilize the shoulder girdle. Lengthen the entire right side of the body from the outer right heel to the right middle finger.
By stabilizing the shoulder girdle, the sternum and collarbones should feel lifted. If the sternum has good lift, draw the jaw slightly back and turn the face towards the right arm. If the neck is not as comfortable in this position as it was looking forward, then do not look up until the chest is able to open more.
In this position, the sides of the torso are not going to be the same length. One of the challenges of this asana is to keep the left side of the torso as neutral as possible while lengthening the right side of the torso. If the left side of the torso shortens excessively, you will notice that the breath will not easily move in the left kidney area. If you cannot bring the breath into this area, add height under the left hand and lengthen the left ribs more.
To release this asana, inhale and lift yourself back to a standing pose. Again, shift onto the back of the left heel and from the left hip socket, turn the leg forward. Then step or lightly jump the feet together and rest in tadasana.
Repeat on the other side.
Parsvakonasana - Side angle pose
Trikonasana - Three angle pose tri - three kona - angle asana – pose
Trikonasana helps to open the hips in external rotation with stability. In this asana, both legs are straight. This necessitates a greater degree of awareness in the legs than in the externally rotated standing asanas, in which the externally rotated leg is bent. In trikonasana, the torso is a bit more laterally symmetrical than in parsvakonasana. The chest is opened as in virabhadrasana II, but its relationship to gravity is different, so the musculature of the back receives a different complement of work.
1. From tadasana, step or jump the feet apart so that the heels are as far apart as the distant between the wrists when the arms are laterally extended. 2. From the left hip socket, turn the left leg out 90 degrees and the right foot in so that it faces the same direction as the right knee. 3. Keeping the length of the left ribs, fold at the outer left hip and place the left hand on a block or on the floor as is appropriate.
From tadasana, step or jump the feet apart so that the ankles are below the wrists with the arms laterally extended. If the knees are healthy and you choose to jump, do not let the knees lock. Keep the knee joints springy. Narrow the stance if needed for stability or due to restrictions in range of motion. Then come onto the back of the left heel and from the hip socket, turn the left leg out 90 degrees. Keep the weight on the heel as you press the ball mount of the left big toe to the floor and spread and relax the toes back down to the floor. Turn the right foot in so that it faces the same direction as the knee. The centerline of this asana is the centerline of the left foot extending back to the front of the right heel.
Deepen the right groin. Feel how this encourages a slight lift to the sitting bones. This will help to ground the right femur, but may create some hyper lumbar lordosis. Maintain these actions and externally rotate the left thigh and femur as you resist the left shin in internal rotation to keep the weight on the center of the heel. Feel how this can release the buttocks down and soften the lordosis without hardening the right groin or dropping the sitting bones.
Then, exhaling, make a deep lateral fold at the left hip. Maintain the length of the left ribs and place the left hand on a block or on the floor as appropriate, in order to sustain the most neutrality for the spine. If the femurs have remained grounded, the belly should feel soft, open, and easily responsive to the breath. Observe whether or not the left kidney area is responding to the breath. If not, see if you can externally rotate the left thigh more, to more deeply open the left lung. At maximum external rotation, the left knee should face the same direction as the foot. If this action does not bring breath to the left kidney area, use a block; or if you are already using one, add height for the left hand. The left side of the torso should end up reasonably neutral and the right side lengthened slightly.
Externally rotate the upper arms to move the inner scapula down the back and open the chest. Resist the forearms in internal rotation and feel how this stabilizes the shoulders and opens the ribs more. Extend out through the palms and the middle fingers. Feel how this creates the sensation of a line of prana extending from the middle fingers through the center of the palms, through the forearms, upper arms and the midline of the collarbones.
In the early stages, the neck is typically at its most comfortable position with the face looking at the floor. Use this as a starting place. From this position, bring the jaw slightly in to assist in lifting the collarbones. Then, as though the neck originated from the mid thoracic spine, begin to turn the head to look at the lifted hand. Go only as far as you can with comfort in the neck.
Remain in trikonasana as long as you can, while sustaining the articulation of this asana. When you are ready to release, inhale and lift as though being pulled up from the right hand. Again, come to the back of the left heel and from the hip socket, bring the foot forwards. Then exhaling, step or jump the feet together and bring the hands in front of the chest, palms together. Rest in tadasana.
Ardha chandrasana is much like trikonasana, but you do this pose standing on one leg. Ardha chandrasana is the best asana for developing stability and intelligence in the externally rotated leg, while parsvakonasana develops the deepest hip opening. Trikonasana employs elements of both.
1. Begin in trikonasana on the left side. 2. Bend the left leg slightly and lift the right foot a ft. or so to the left. 3. Move the left hand to the left 12 inches or so for support and lift the right leg as you straighten the left.
You may enter this asana from parsvakonasana or trikonasana. Entering it from trikonasana is more traditional, as their forms are more similar. From trikonasana on the left side, bend the left knee and bring the left hand to the left 12 inches or so. Step the right foot to the left 12 inches or so. If you are using a block in trikonasana, assume that you will be using the equivalent height in ardha chandrasana. In either form, the left hand lines up with the outside of the left foot. If your hand is on the floor, be on the fingertips with the thumb in line with the left little toe. Being on the fingertips motivates more muscular energy in the arm, which assists with balance. The asana may be done with the palm on the floor, but for most people this is less stable in the beginning.
With a small lunge, lift the right leg off of the floor. Work the external rotation of the left leg strongly to straighten it. With the left leg straight, the knee should face the same direction as the foot. It is important to keep the leg muscles firmly lifted and held close to the bone. This will keep the points of the leg parallel and support the knee joint.
As in trikonasana, the groin of the right leg should remain hollow. There is a tendency in ardha chandrasana to drag the lifted leg too far towards the back body. (This makes the external rotation in the supporting leg much more difficult and can unground the right femur, projecting the bottom ribs forward.) So keep the depth of the right groin and externally rotate the right thigh muscles only. Extend out through the right heel. Keep this action and the length of the Achilles tendon as you press through the ball mount of the right big toe. Feel how this straightens and energizes the leg.
Make your primary work the external rotation of the left leg. Feel how the entire asana evolves from this action. Feel how it lengthens the back and front body, radiating every part of the body away from the navel. This action should also create a healthy arch in the left foot. If the external rotation does not lift the arch, keep the inner heel and the ball mount of the big toe grounded, and move the inner anklebone towards the outer anklebone to lift the arch.
The head may face forward or, if this asana is quite stable and the sternum is open, you may look up to the right hand as long as the neck is comfortable.
To release this asana, bend the left leg and release it as you move into trikonasana. Then inhale and lift yourself out of the asana from the right hand. Come to the back of the left heel and, from the hip socket, turn the leg forwards. Step or lightly jump the legs together with the hands in front of the sternum, palms together. Rest in tadasana.
Repeat on the other side.
Vasisthasana - Pose dedicated to the sage Vasistha vasistha - name of a sage asana – pose
Vasisthasana is an arm balance. Its form is much like trikonasana and ardha chandrasana, but supported by one arm and one leg. In trikonasana and ardha chandrasana, the primary work is in the legs. In vasisthasana, the primary work is centered around opening and stabilizing the upper body. The work in the supporting leg of vasisthasana is the equivalent of the lifted leg in ardha chandrasana and the back leg in trikonasana.
1. Rest on the floor, on your right side, in a side-seated position, legs straight, sup- ported by your right hand. Keep the shoulder and wrist in alignment.
2. Press the ball mount of the right first finger, as you externally rotate the upper arms.
3. Lift the hips off the floor to bring the torso and legs into a straight line, with the left arm resting on the side. (preparatory version) 4. If this is stable, move into the final version by taking the left big toe with the left hand and extending the leg up, while pressing the sole of the right foot towards the floor. (see photo on the next page)
Begin on your right side, with your foot, leg, and hip making contact with the floor, but your torso off the floor. The weight of the upper torso is resting on your right hand. Your arm, wrist, and shoulder should be aligned. In this seated position, the tendency will be to let the weight sink into the shoulder joint. To take the weight out of the shoulder joint begin by externally rotating both of the upper arms and drawing the inner scapula down. Feel how this opens the chest. Externally rotate the upper right arm enough to face the crease of the elbow towards the first finger. Remember that this is a shoulder action more than an arm-only action. Keeping the upper arm in external rotation, resist the forearm in internal rotation and press through the ball mount of the first finger. These two actions together should offer the greatest lift out of the shoulder joint.
Next, with the shoulder stabilized, inhale and lift the hips from the floor. (The feet can remain separated as needed for good balance.) If your balance is good, the feet can be placed one on top of the other. Work the legs and torso as in tadasana. The left arm at this time can rest on the left side. Let the left arm serve as a straight edge to educate the lateral symmetry of the torso. When the torso is symmetrical, the left arm may be extended perpendicular to the spine.
This is the preparatory version of this asana. For many people, this will be the finished asana for now. If you can do trikonasana with the hand or fingers on the floor, instead of on a block, then you can begin working with the final version of vasisthasana.
The final version of vasisthasana is as follows: Take the left big toe with the left hand. To do this, place the first and second fingers inside the big toe, so that the thumb can touch the tip of the big toe. This hand position will help to cultivate the external rotation of the shoulder. Sustain the form of the asana as well as you can during this transition.
Holding the big toe, extend the left leg slightly forward. (By bringing the leg forward first, it should be easier to sustain the depth of the right groin.) Then sustaining the depth of the right groin, bring the left leg toward the ceiling. Don’t worry about how far the leg lifts. Sustain the feeling of tadasana in the torso and the grounding of the right femur.
If you feel stable with the left leg lifted, press the sole of the right foot to the floor and let the hips lift higher. If your balance is still stable, maximize the lift of the sternum and collarbones and turn the head to look at the left foot.
To come out of this asana, exhale and release the left leg back to the preparatory position and then rest the hips on the floor.
Repeat on the other side.
Vasisthasana - Shown in right-side stretch (opposite the description in the text.)
Salamba Bharadvajasana - With support bharadvaja pose salamba - with support bharadvaja - proper name/name of a sage asana – pose
Bharadvajasana is actually a seated twist. This version of bharadvajasana is per- formed supported and lying down. It is a very relaxing asana and can be used to develop breath in the back. Because it is an asymmetrical asana, it can be used to develop breath in one lung at a time. This asana also provides a soft release for the groins and promotes mobility in the thoracic spine. Like all twists, bharadvajasana assists in detoxi- fying the internal organs.
1. Begin by sitting on your side on the floor with your feet to the right and two folded blankets to the left. 2. Begin the rotation to the left as a visceral action in the belly. 3. Continue the rotation in the thoracic spine, resting the left side of the face and chest on the blankets. 4. Rest the palms on the floor overhead with the arms bent.
Use at least two firm blankets. The blankets should be neatly folded and stacked. The dimensions of the stack should be approximately 12"x 24". The height of the blankets should provide full support to the front body with a slight increase in back body length.
Begin sitting with the left haunch on the floor, knees bent, with the feet to the right and the blankets extending to the left. You can place your right hand on your belly to initiate the rotation. Keep the belly soft as you use your hand to escort the belly to the left. The hips will also rotate slightly. Then place the hands on the floor on either side of the blankets and use the leverage provided to deepen the rotation in the spine. The majority of the vertebral rotation will occur in the thoracic spine. To maximize the rotation at this point, also rotate the neck and head so that the right side of the head rests on the blankets. Rest the palms on the floor overhead with the elbows bent. Once you are settled into this asana, turn your head in the other direction to rest the left side of the head on the blankets. For most people, this will be the most relaxing position for the head and neck. If the thoracic spine is very open, and it is comfortable to do so, the head may remain turned to the left as is the rest of the body.
Remain in this asana for at least five to ten minutes or longer, breathing in the back lower lungs (kidney area). When rotating to the left, it is likely that the lower right lung will breathe dominantly. Because of the rotation and the weight on the front body, the breath will move more easily in the back. Breathing into the back body helps to quiet the adrenals and the nervous system. To release this asana, place the palms on the floor under the shoulders. Then with an inhalation, lift out of the asana with the strength of the arms. Keep the inner body soft. Repeat on the other side.
Tadpole This is not a classical asana. It was originally taught as a version of bhekasana (frog pose). But the consensus of opinion was that its resemblance to bhekasana was so distant that the term “tadpole” was adopted, as it was considered only an embryonic version of the asana.
Tadpole, like salamba bharadvajasana, assists in bringing the breath into the back body. However, this asana is symmetrical. Like any asana that cultivates back body breath, it quiets the nervous system and the adrenals.
1. Lie face down on stacked blankets. 2. The blankets should support your body from the groins to the collarbones. 3. Rest the palms and the top of the forehead on the floor. 4. Breathe into the back.
Use at least two firm blankets. Ideally, the blankets should support fully from the groin to the collarbone. It is better if the blankets are a little too short than too long. If the blankets are too long and extend under the thighs, they will not encourage as much groin depth and may overly lift the sitting bones, which can over arch the lumbar spine. With the setup of this asana the sacrum should be encouraged to release away from the lumbar spine.
When you are lying on the chest and belly, the blankets should provide enough height so that the top of the forehead can rest on the floor without the nose receiving any weight. Let the elbows bend about 90 degrees and place the palms on the floor above the head.
Remain in this asana for five to ten minutes or longer, breathing into your back body. Feel the kidney area broaden with the inhalations and soften with the exhalations.
To release the pose, place the left palm on the floor along side the ribs and roll onto the right side. Rest there until you feel the weight of the visceral body sink into the floor. Then use your hands to bring yourself to a seated position.
BENEFITS OF THE STANDING POSES
1. Develops correct posture and body alignment.
2. Builds strength, stamina, and stability.
3. Increases flexibility in the ankles, feet, and toes, while developing the arches.
4. Stretches hamstrings and tones leg muscles.
5. Opens hip joints and strengthens knee joints.
6. Improves circulation to the legs.
7. Lengthens the spine while opening the chest.
8. Brings energy and alertness to the body and mind.
9. Removes dullness and depression and leaves you feeling invigorated, refreshed and light.
10. Stimulates digestion and elimination.
11. Greatly improves the efficiency of the respiratory, reproductive, glandular, and nervous systems.
12. Removes blockages and impurities in the subtle body.
13. Teaches you to move in an even, integrated way.
14. Builds the body heat necessary to easily and safely perform other postures. 15. Lays the foundation for practicing more advanced postures.