New Year, New Yoga Practice!
Yoga newbies and regulars can cultivate a NEW yoga practice!
Here are 4 yoga postures that are accessible for new yogis and can be experienced in a NEW way by regular practitioners. The majority of the asana (yoga posture) instructions below are from Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar. To learn more about Light on Yoga, you are welcome to join us at the Yoganic Flow: Detroit Yoga Book Club.
- Sukhasana (Easy Pose)/Padmasana (Lotus)
New to Yoga: Try Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
- Sit on the floor (or a couple folded blankets) with your legs extended in front of you.
- Bend your knees, and cross your right shin in front of your left shin.
- Move the knees closer together until your feet are directly underneath them.
New Way to Feel Pose: Try Padmasana (Lotus) explained by Iyengar on page 45 of Light on Yoga.
- Sit on floor with the legs straight.
- Bend the right leg at the knee, hold the right foot with the hands and place it at the root of the left thigh so that the right heel is near the navel.
- Now bend the left leg, and holding the left foot with the hands place it over the right at the root, the heel being near the navel. The soles of the feet should be turned up.
4. People not used to sitting on the floor seldom have flexible knees. At the start they will feel excruciating pain around the knees. By perseverance and continued practice the pain will gradually subside and they can then stay in the pose comfortably for a long time.
5. From the base to the neck the spine should remain erect.
6. Change the leg position by placing the left foot over the right thigh and the right foot over the left thigh. This will develop the legs evenly.
Benefits of both variations:
Both poses are good for curing stiffness in the knees and ankle. Since the blood is made to circulate in the lumbar region and abdomen, the spine and the abdominal organs are toned.
2. Salamba Bhujangasana (Spinx)/Bhujangasana (Cobra)/Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)
New to Yoga: According to YogaOutlet.com you can practice Salamba Bhujangasana (Spinx) by trying the following:
- Begin by lying face-down on the floor with your legs extended behind you, hip-width apart. Press the tops of your feet into the mat and spread your toes. Do not tuck your toes, as this can crunch your spine.
- Bring your arms up and rest your elbows under your shoulders with your forearms on the floor, parallel to each other. Point your middle fingers directly forward.
- On an inhalation, press your forearms into the floor and lift your head and chest off the floor. Press your pubic bone into the floor. Strongly engage your legs. Roll your outer thighs slightly toward the floor to help lengthen your low back.
- Keep your elbows tucked into your sides. Drop your shoulder blades down your back and draw your chest forward. Lengthen your tailbone toward your heels.
- Let your face and eyes soften. Draw your chin toward the back of your neck. Gaze at your “third eye,” the space between your eyebrows.
- Hold for up to 10 breaths. To release, exhale as you slowly lower your torso, chest, and head to the floor. Relax your arms at your sides. Turn your head to the side and rest quietly.
New Way to Feel Pose: Try Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) explained by Iyengar on page 107 of Light on Yoga.
- Lie on the floor face downwards. Extend the legs, keeping the feet together. Keep the knees tight and the toes pointing.
- Inhale, press the palms firmly on the floor and pull the trunk up. Take two breaths.
- Inhale, lift the body up until the pubis is in contact with the floor and stay in this position with the weight on the legs and palms.
- Contract the anus and the buttocks, tighten the thigh
You Can Always Go Deeper: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog) explained by Iyengar on page 108 of Light on Yoga.
*Note: If you can’t breathe there, you shouldn’t be there. Practice whichever pose allows you to breathe evenly through your nose.
- Lie on the floor on your stomach with your face downwards.
- Keep the feet about a foot apart. The toes should point straight back. Place the palms on the floor by the side of the waist, the fingers pointing to the head.
- Inhale, raise the head and trunk, stretch the arms completely and push the head and trunk as far back as possible, without resting the knees on the floor.
- Keep the legs straight and tightened at the knees, but do not rest the knees on the floor. The weight of the body rests on the palms and toes only.
- The spine, thighs and calves should be fully stretched, and the buttocks contracted tight. Push the chest forward, stretch the neck fully and throw the head as far back as possible. Stretch also the back portions of the arms.
- Stay in this pose from half a minute to a minute with deep breathing.
- Bend the elbows, release the stretch and rest on the floor.
Benefits of all variations:
These poses all lead to a healthier spine and can reduce back pain. These poses also expand the chest which helps the lungs gain elasticity.
3. Baddha Konasana (Cobbler’s Pose)
New to Yoga: Try a modified version of Baddha Konasana (Cobbler’s Pose) explained by Iyengar on page 128 of Light on Yoga.
- Sit on the floor with the legs stretched out in front.
- Bend the knees and bring the feet closer to the trunk.
- Bring the soles and heels near the perineum. The outer sides of both feet should rest on the floor, and the back of the heels should touch the perineum.
- Widen the thighs and lower the knees toward the floor.
- Interlock the fingers of the hands, grip the feet firmly, stretch the spine erect and gaze straight ahead or at the tip of the nose. Hold the pose and breath.
New Way to Feel Pose:
- When you get to step #4 listed above, work to bring your knees to the floor.
- Place the elbows on the thighs and press them down. Exhale, bend forward, rest the head, then the nose and lastly the chin on the floor. Hold this position for half a minute to a minute with normal breathing.
If your face won’t make it down to the floor (or even close), NO worries!
Sit back up, smile and breath! The modified versions are also beneficial.
Benefits of both variations:
The pelvis, the abdomen and the back get a plentiful supply of blood and are stimulated. It keeps the kidneys, the prostate and the urinary bladder healthy. These poses also can also relieve sciatica and prevent hernias.
4. Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand)
New to Yoga: Try a modified version of Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulder stand). It can also be done against a wall and is commonly referred to as Viparita Karana (Legs Up the Wall Pose)
- Lie flat on your back keeping the legs stretched out, tightened at the knees. Place the hands by the side of the legs, palms down. Take a few even breaths though the nose.
- Exhale, bend the knees and move the legs towards the stomach till the thighs press it. Take two breaths.
- Lift your legs straight up, working to press your footprints towards the ceiling.
New Way to Feel Pose: Try Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) explained by Iyengar on page 205 of Light on Yoga
- After #2 listed above, raise your hips from the floor with an exhalation and rest the hands on them by bending the arms at the elbow. Take two breaths.
- Exhale, raise your body up perpendicularly supported by the hands until the chest touches the chin.
- Only the back of the head and the neck, the shoulders and the backs of the arms up to the elbows should rest on the floor. Place the hands in the middle of the spine and take two breaths.
- Exhale and stretch the legs straight with the toes pointing up.
- Stay in this position for 5 minutes with even breathing.
- Exhale, gradually slide down, release the hands, lie flat and relax.
Benefits of both variations:
These poses restore tired feet or legs. They also have been reported to relieve symptoms or mild depression and insomnia.