Happy to be back writing Yoga Posts! While I was gone, among other things, I took a Continuing Education class based on the Iyengar style of yoga. It felt good to revisit the principles of alignment. I was reminded how important it is to study the core elements from time to time; especially when your practice is more advanced. In moving back to the essence of Iyengar, I have refreshed my way of practicing yoga.
So this week, I would like to share what I have been learning. The first concept I focused on was how to generate mobility through stability. While I know that grounding is important to keep a pose steady, through this training, I’ve discovered that establishing an effective base can actually improve your pose.
I created the following sequence for my personal practice and class sessions by choosing a group of poses for the upper body – specifically the neck, shoulders and main torso.
Centering and Warming Postures:
- Seated Melting Meditation is a great way to bring awareness to the upper back body. Sit comfortably and visualize yourself melting from the base of your skull to your hips.
- Experiment with this Myofascial Neck Release to relax the deep tissues of the neck. Briefly stretch your right ear towards your shoulder then return your head to center. Massage your left ear cartilage and the area around the ear. Then, repeat the stretch to feel the effects of the massage.
- Try this mini vinyasa flow that moves from a Kneeling Urdhva Hastasana to Anahatasana to build stability for the upper body. You can also add a kneeling open twist with your arms extending forward and backward.
- Practice Standing Marichyasana and Revolved Side Angle by using a chair facing the wall. This is the heart of the Iyengar workshop I took with Carrie Owerko. It is an awesome method for focusing on what needs to be grounded or stabilized for the openings to occur. We placed our hands on the wall to activate the shoulders and used a yoga strap to anchor the hips (by connecting a large loop from the back foot to the front hip).
It is amazing how effective this was for myself and for my students. We could truly create space to move more deeply into these poses.
- Then, I chose to isolate the upper body with Warrior I variations. First, flowing from a cactus arm position to a shoulder hug and then by pushing and pulling the arms away from and into the body. In the end, the traditional pose felt easier and more stable.
Poses to Wind Down:
- The sequence winds down and resolves with Constructive Rest Pose. Simply lie on your back, bend the knees and place your feet mat width apart. Allow your knees to rest together to neutralize the pelvis.
- End with a version of Supported Savasana. In the example below, the spine is lifted with a bolster to open the shoulders and a blanket wrap anchors the ankles and feet in Buddha Konasana.
This is a practice I will revisit often. Its lesson is invaluable as it affects us both physically, mentally and spiritually. It is particularly important to keep in mind when we are transitioning or facing new challenges in life.
Through preparation, we can provide ourselves with a stable base so that we are better equipped to move into action. A pretty important concept for those of us who like to step out onto the ledge from time to time.
Photos by Yoga Journal & YogaU