What Your Favorite Yoga Pose Says About You (4 of 4): Triangle Pose

As we come to a close with the series, “What Your Favorite Yoga Pose Says About You,” I’ll ring in Trikonasana or Triangle Pose.  In Sanskrit, tri means three and kona means corner, which is the woman-standing-trikonasanashape of the body (primarily the legs) when expressing this fundamental yoga pose.

Another one of my favorite poses (notice the theme of the selection process here), Trikonasana strengthens the core, particularly the obliques.  Control your descent and ascent into the pose with your core to protect your back and hips.  We often strengthen our rectus abdominus muscles (upper), but neglect our transverse abdominals (lower), and obliques.  And when our core muscles atrophy, our back weakens.   When done correctly, triangle stretches the muscles of the groin, ankles, hamstrings, calves, hips, spine and chest.  Tight hips often manifest in back pain, so this opening pose can actually relieve back pain.

From Tadasana (mountain pose), step your left foot back three and a half feet or more, and ground your left foot so it’s parallel with the back edge of your mat.  A good way to determine if your stance is wide enough is to spread your arms and see if your ankles are below your wrists.  From this standing pose, shift your hips back toward the back of your mat and extend your right arm far out over your right ankle before lowering your right hand to the floor to ensure length in the side body and spine.  Be careful not to lock your knees and ground your right big toe into the mat so you aren’t rolling to the outside of your foot.  This subtle adjustment facilitates strengthening the arch of your foot.

Let go of ego when sinking into Triangle.  If you can’t bring your hands all the way to the floor without collapsing into your side, bring your hands up to your shin or a block.  Open your hips, open your chest, extend your left arm and gaze to the ceiling and protect your neck by keeping your head parallel to the floor and maintain length in both sides of the neck. Continue reading

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What Your Favorite Yoga Pose Says About You (3 of 4): Fish Pose

matsyasanaIf you have read any of my other posts, or know me at all, you know that Matsyasana (Fish) is my favorite asana.    For me, fish heals a multitude of ills.  In fact, many ancient texts refer to Matsyasana as “destroyer of all diseases.”  Whether active or supported, this pose relieves stiffness and tension in your neck and back.

This backbend pose also stretches the muscles in your groin (psoas), abdominals, and chest (intercostals),  provides an opening at the heart and throat chakras, and stimulates the thyroid.

For those of us who spend most of our day hunched over a desk at work, or round our shoulders over a mobile device while engaged in a battle of wits playing “Words with Friends,”  matsyasana helps correct our oft horrendous posture.

In my favorite variation of the active pose, I instruct my students to lie on their backs with their arms tucked closely by their sides, and roll their shoulders back and chest open.  Then I have them place their wrists directly under their sit bones.  This little adjustment can bring tremendous relief for carpal tunnel sufferers.   On an inhale, press into the hands and forearms, draw the shoulder blades (scapula) together and down the back, and bring the torso and head off of the floor.  Then, gently, place the head down on the mat leaving a nice arch in the back and open chest. To protect the neck, there’s very little weigh on the head. Continue reading

What Your Favorite Yoga Pose Says About You (2 of 4): Pigeon

pigeon-poseIn the first post of this series, I talked about how Warrior I is the ultimate pose to activate the muladhara (root) chakra, establish a grounded footing and presence, and tackle fear.   Now, we move onto one of my favorites, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (pigeon) pose.  As I wind down my personal practice, or begin to cool down my students, I almost always include pigeon.

Pigeon is one of the most often requested poses when I ask my class if there’s anything in particular they want to include for the day.  Primarily a hip and chest opener, pigeon assists in releasing the tension we hold in the pelvis and hips.

Whether sitting at a desk all day or as a measure of bottling up emotions, sinking into pigeon pose enables an opening.  In fact, the next time you are in pigeon, notice what emotions arise.  Do you become irritated, frustrated or sad?  Do you resist and clench the abductor muscles of the outer hip?  Or, do you melt, relinquishing the stress of the day? Continue reading