Chaturanga Dandasana - Four limb staff pose chatur - four anga - limb danda - staff asana - pose
1. Lie face down, palms on the floor, wrists at the bottom ribs, fingers facing the shoulders. 2. Curl the toes under and straighten the legs. 3. With a slight lunge from the feet, lift the torso to the height of the elbows.
Lie face down and place the palms on the floor alongside of the torso. Place the wrists at the bottom ribs with the fingers facing the shoulders. To initiate the pose, first lift only the upper torso and shoulders up to the height of the elbows. If the shoulders are tight, it may feel as though you are trying to pinch the scapulae together. (This is acceptable in the beginning stages.) If the shoulders are loose, however, the scapulae will actually pinch together. (This action, being extreme, needs to be balanced out.) To balance either predisposition, keep the scapulae flat on the back ribs by lifting from the outer shoulders and expanding the rib cage laterally from the inner body.
The width of the elbows should be the same as the width of the shoulders. Although it is possible for the elbows to extend wider than the shoulders without disturbing shoulder stability, as a rule the upper arms should be kept parallel to one another. Keeping your weight on the inner edge of the ball mounts of the first fingers will help to stablize the shoulders and minimize the weight on the wrists.
If the shoulders are tight, the elbows tend to be wider than the shoulders, and need to be drawn in. If the shoulders are loose, the elbows tend to be drawn too close together and this can stress the shoulders. (In most cases, a loose body is more difficult to address than a tight body.) An outside observer can be helpful to make you aware if you are keeping the elbows at the proper width.
Tuck the toes under and straighten the legs with internal rotation to broaden the sacrum. Keep the legs engaged and breathe into the back to release the coccyx toward the pubic bone. The stability of the legs and shoulders are the foundation of the “danda,” or staff position of the pose.
To lift fully into chaturanga dandasana, push off from the feet and lift the torso away from the floor so that the torso is reasonably inline with the upper arms and shoulders. Extend out through the crown of the head and resist back through the inner heels. Stay in this asana for several breaths and then release it, bringing the body back to the floor.
Hamsasana - Swan pose hamsa - swan asana - pose
1. From a squatting position, place the palms on the floor between the legs with the fingers spread and the thumbs almost touching. 2. Bend the elbows out to the sides and into the inner creases of the knees. 3. Shift your weight forward and let the feet lift as you balance on the palms.
Squat and place the palms on the floor between the legs. Broaden the palms and spread the fingers. The hands should be placed close enough together that the extended thumbs almost touch. Press firmly into the ball mounts of the first fingers to minimize the weight in the wrists.
Bend the elbows out to the sides against the creases on the inside of the closed knee joints. The elbows will press into the legs as the legs press into the elbows.
Shift your weight forward. However, let the feet remain on the floor until the asana feels stable and strong between the palms on the floor and the grip between the elbows and knees. If you do this, the feet will easily lift away from the floor as you shift your weight forward into the pose. Although the head is slightly lifted and the upper body working, try to keep the tongue and soft palate relaxed. Also relax the belly as much as possible. Release.
Kakasana - Crow pose kaka - crow asana - pose
1. From a squatting position, place the palms on the floor shoulder width apart. 2. Bend the elbows straight back, resting the knees on the elbows. 3. Shift the weight forward, lift the feet and balance.
Squat with the palms on the floor. The hands should be shoulder width apart. Broaden the palms and spread the fingers. Press firmly into the ball mounts of the first fingers to minimize the weight on the wrists.
Externally rotate the shoulders so that the inner creases of the elbows face straight forward. Let the chest extend forward as you bend the elbows straight back. Rest the knees on the arms just above the elbows. Shift the weight forward onto the hands. When you feel the weight shift far enough forward, the feet will easily lift away from the floor moving you into the pose. (As you learn the pose, the feet can remain on the floor until you develop your balance. Then lift the feet away from the floor into the asana.)
Do not jump into this pose as this can cause you to fall. There will be some gripping in the neck, but keep the belly, throat and tongue as relaxed as possible. Be patient and permit the asana to develop in its own time.
Lolasana - Pendant/Earring pose lola - dangling pendant or earring asana - pose
1. Kneel with crossed ankles. 2. Place the palms on the floor shoulder width apart. 3. Keep the arms straight as you fold and lift the legs up and away from the floor.
Lolasana is considered an arm balance but also requires abdominal strength and a great deal of stability in the hips.
Begin the pose by kneeling with the ankles crossed. Place the palms on the floor about shoulder width apart. Broaden the palms and spread the fingers. Begin to shift the weight forward onto the hands and away from the feet. Press firmly into the ball mounts of the first fingers to minimize the weight on the wrists.
In order for the bones of the arms to support the weight of the body in this pose, the arms need to fully straighten. This action functionally stacks the bones, so that the bones are bearing the weight more than the muscles. If the arms are bent, much more muscular work will be required. If the palms need to be separated a little wider than the shoulders in order to straighten the arms, this is acceptable, but if the hands need to be placed too much wider than the shoulders, the weight of the body will be felt too much in the elbows.
Too much stress will also be felt in the elbows if they hyperextend, or if they have a carrying angle. (A carrying angle is when the elbow joints are skewed laterally, causing the top and bottom parts of the joint to move in opposite directions.) This is true in any load bearing asana done with the arms straight such as adho mukha svanasana or adho mukha vrksasana.
When you first begin practicing this pose, you may want to only lift the knees, leaving the feet on the floor. When the arms feel stronger and your balance more stable, you can then lift the feet away from the floor and draw the knees toward the chest. Be mindful of keeping the inner scapulae drawn toward the hips. When you are ready to release the asana, sit back on the heels and rest. Reverse the cross of the ankles and repeat.
Bakasana - Crane pose baka - crane asana - pose
1. Squat with the feet together on the floor. 2. Sink the torso between the knees and bring the knees behind the shoulders. 3. Shift the weight forward and straighten the arms to lift off of the floor.
Although bakasana is an arm balance, it requires a fair amount of hip opening. Fortunately, gravity helps to deepen the opening of the hips in this pose.
Squat with the feet joined. Sink the chest down between the knees. To get the knees way up and behind the shoulders, reach the arms back between the legs and hold the heels. Use this leverage to work the knees behind the shoulders. This will necessitate broadening the sacrum and deepening the groins. You may even feel the belly softening and releasing down.
Lift from the sternum as you shift your weight forward. As you straighten the arms, press into the inner edges of ball mounts of the first fingers to minimize the weight on the wrists . Keep the throat and belly as relaxed as possible as you balance in the pose.
To release, bend the arms and return the feet to the floor.
Supta Virasana - Resting hero pose supta - dormant or at rest vira - hero asana - pose
1. Kneel on the floor with the feet facing straight back, outside the hips. 2. Keep the femurs parallel as you lie down. 3. Release the sacrum away from the lumbar spine as you extend the arms over the head onto the floor.
Supta virasana is one of the best asanas available as a preparation for backbends. It lengthens the belly of the quadriceps without over-stretching the ligaments in the hip joints. This helps the femurs to remain grounded in backbends.
Begin on the hands and knees with the knees joined and the feet separated just enough for the hips to fit between them. Place the palms on the calves with the finger tips touching the backs of the knee joints. Then use your hands to smooth the calf muscles back towards the heels as you lower the pelvis down between the feet. As the pelvis is brought down it should press the feet out.
If the sitting bones do not reach the floor, use some elevation beneath the hips such as a block or a blanket. If the knees are uncomfortable in this setup, it is usually because of compression in the knee joints. To help alleviate any discomfort, place some padding tightly in and behind the knees to keep the knee joints open and minimize compression.
Once the seated stage of the asana is established you can prepare to lie down. If elevation was used beneath the hips, assume that at least as much, and probably more, will be needed behind the back and additional height behind the head. (A blanket can be used for this as well.)
As you recline, move the sacrum away from the lumbar spine . If you are using any type of elevation, rest the arms along side of the torso as in savasana. However, if you wind up lying flat on the floor, the arms should be placed on the floor over the head.
Breathe into the back and release the sacrum away from the lumbar spine and the coccyx toward the pubic bone.
To release the pose, place the palms on the floor by the feet. Press the elbows into the floor and lift from the sternum. Then bring the hands back further and return to seated virasana. After practicing supta virasana, it often feels good to spend a few moments in adho mukha svanasana or phalakasana to release the knees.