Submitted by Amanda Freed
Natarajasana: The dancing Shiva. Symbolizes grace, power and beauty
Incorporating balance, stretch, and a bit of a backbend, this pose is perfect pre or post run. Challenge yourself by trying a few times on each side.
Stand with feet parallel about hip width apart. Draw right foot up off the earth plugging into pelvis; foot off earth, knee straight. Take right hand behind you palm open as if you were being handed something, a baton for relay perhaps. Bend right knee behind you hugging it into the midline for balance. With the right hand catch the inner edge of the right foot. Raise left arm toward sky. Begin folding forward at the waist extending left fingertips forward and pressing right foot into right hand and back behind you. Try to square hips toward the earth as you fold forward and stabilize by straightening left /standing leg. Repeat on left side. To increase intensity, practice in front of a mirror and look forward as you bend forward increase the stretch by raising back leg higher. Eventually you may deepen into the stretch so much that you appear to have a foot (your own) growing out of the top of your head!
Take a wide legged stance, toes pointing forward, hands on hips. Engage leg muscles by hugging legs isometrically toward midline of body. Spread your toes with emphasis on pinky toe, rooting all four corners of the feet down evenly. Pressing hands into hips, gently lift shoulders expanding ribs and drawing shoulder blades onto your back. Fold forward at the waist and bring hands and head toward the floor. Keep legs strong as the upper body stretches, melts and softens down toward the floor. Begin by holding 40 seconds. Place fingertips onto floor straightening arms and lift halfway out of the pose stretching heart forward while looking forward. Move pelvic bone toward tailbone, widening the seat. Then draw lower belly up and in, and tailbone down toward heels. Fold forward again drawing shoulder blades more deeply onto back to allow upper spine to release and lengthen, holding up to 60 seconds this time. Try a wider stance on subsequent attempts at this pose, remembering to keep legs straight and muscles engaged. To come out of pose safely, heel – toe feet toward midline until feet are hip width apart, place hands on hips and rise to standing.
*If hands do not reach the floor, a block, bolster or blanket can be used to raise the floor.
Take note of your progress and remember to breathe through your pose inhaling as you stretch and exhaling as you fold. Enjoy!
Adhomukha Svanasana—Downward Facing Dog
Various schools of yoga incorporate repeated versions of this delightful stretch many times during each practice. It’s a deep stretch that lengthens hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendons while strengthening quadriceps, shoulders and biceps and supporting knee and ankle joints.
Begin standing in Tadasana — mountain pose, hands at sides. Stretch arms up toward sky and fold forward bringing fingertips to earth even if knees need to bend to do so. Step right foot back to a lunge and pause for a few seconds feeling the hips begin to open. Step left foot back to meet right to a high push up or plank position. Spread fingers rooting hands into the earth. Raise hips and press back so they are high, arms straight and heels stretching back toward the floor. Bend right knee and press left heel back toward the floor, hold 30 seconds and switch sides. Stretch both legs deeply back beginning with heels, calves, hamstrings and finally engage quadriceps and press thighs back. Pause, Breathe, Enjoy! Step right foot forward to return to lunge then left foot forward returning to a forward fold then rise back to Tadasana.
Repeat beginning with left foot back into lunge. After becoming comfortable with Downward Facing Dog, experiment with bending knees and then stretching heels back, moving hips side to side and enjoying the feeling of increased freedom. Remember, your practice is your own and should feel good so you will look forward to it and repeat it often.
Uttanasana—standing forward bend
Begin standing upright in Tadasana — Mountain Pose-feet aligned parallel approximately 1-2 fist widths apart. Inhale and raise arms above head toward sky and then release joining palms at heart; repeat 3-5 times. Realign feet engaging leg muscles and rooting all 4 corners of feet equally into the earth. Exhaling, fold forward drawing lower belly up and in and keeping legs strong. Bend knees to bring fingers to earth if necessary. Rooting feet in again, widen knees as wide as hips. Breathe into forward fold slowly as hamstrings begin to open and let go. Hold 30 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times adding 5 seconds each time. Alternately, use a block under fingers to bring floor closer and carefully straighten legs. Breathe, release, enjoy!
This is a simple (relative term) cross-legged seated pose. First, sit cross legged on the floor with a foot under each knee. Notice in the photo the knees are level with the hips. If this is not how your seated posture looks or is at all painful to your knees, begin to fold towels or thin blankets and place them directly and only under sitting bones rolling forward as needed to rotate top of pelvis forward not allowing low back to round. Pillows are great for props as well. Use as many props as needed to level hips and knees, this will allow hip flexors to begin to open and release. Sit for 5 minutes, eyes closed, breathing into any areas of tension or holding. Switch cross of legs, repeat.
This simple 10 minute exercise will help counter the shortening of hip flexors, stretch the all important psoas muscles and promote calm.
Enjoy and keep stretching!