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Yoga Poses

Poses are a mainstay of yoga. We look to provide you with insight into the various poses, their origins and their value to your yoga practice.
  • Parsva Balasana: Bird Dog Pose

    Chances are Parsva Balasana (Bird Dog Pose) does not have a 2,000-year history in the yoga tradition. More likely, the concept of a bird dog—symbol of one of their favorite pastimes—may have come from the British who colonized India, as did so many of yoga’s more gymnastic poses. This doesn’t diminish its value, however. Parsva Balasana confers many benefits. Practicing Bird Dog Pose: strengthens and stabilizes the core. strengthens the low back. challenges, and therefore increases, your ability to balance. may promote balance between the right and left lobes of your brain through the contralateral relationships between the arms and legs. As a core...

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  • Parvrtta Utkatasana: Revolved Fierce Pose

    Utkatasana is popularly known as “Chair Pose.” But I can’t imagine that ancient yogis—who had never seen, let alone sat in a chair—would have invented a word for “chair” just in case. Truth is, they didn’t. Instead, the root word—utkata—means “fierce.” Utkatasana, a pose that strengthens the legs, feet and abdominals, is a staple in my healthy hips regimen. It strengthens muscles that can help stabilize hypermobile hips. In addition, it strengthens the core. The revolved version, Parvrtta Utkatasana, adds a thoracic spine rotation that can help soften shoulder tension. One of the keys to releasing upper body tension is...

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  • Dekasana: Airplane Pose

    Right off, I’ll say that the chances that Dekasana (Airplane Pose) is one of yoga’s ancient staple poses are slim. Unless an ancient yogi sage predicted the invention of airplanes thousands of years ago, this pose, or at least its name, has to have arrived recently. That’s no problem, however, as many of yoga’s most popular asanas actually derive from British gymnastics. When the British occupied India, they introduced many of the more acrobatic asanas to yoga’s existing collection of poses. While not traditional in the strictest sense, these poses—such as backbends and standing poses—confer benefits that can help us...

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  • Eagle Arms: Dissolve Upper Back Tension

    Garuda, the eagle god known in Buddhist lore for his 40-foot wingspan, is revered for his special powers, such as shrinking and growing at will. A single flap of his gargantuan wings is said to move mountains. Garuda is ubiquitous in the East. His image is the national symbol of Thailand and Indonesia, and his legends span across Hinduism and Buddhism. He plays a starring role in the first book of India’s epic, Mahabharata. Garudhasana (Eagle Pose) expresses Garuda’s powers by strengthening and rooting our legs and feet. The arm position expresses the eagle god about to take flight. In...

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  • Anjali Mudra: Simple Greeting or Divine Salute?

    Few positions are more ubiquitous in yoga practice than Anjali Mudra (Prayer Position). We often practice Anjali Mudra to begin and end a class. We begin and end Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) in Anjali Mudra. On silent meditation retreats, since verbal communication is verboten, it can mean lots of things:  “I acknowledge you,” “thank you,” “may I pass by?,” or “hello.” Anjali Mudra’s roots span Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Sikh traditions. As such, its meaning, and the meaning of its often accompanying verbalization, “namaste,” is subject to lots of interpretations. In many Western yoga asana classes, Anjali Mudra, accompanied by...

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  • Parvrtta Ardha Padmasana: Lotus with a Twist

    Lotus Pose (Padmasana) may be yoga asana’s most recognizable pose. This is a bit odd, since many Westerners do not have hip joints that will perform the pose safely. Lotus Pose requires a whole lot of external rotation, more than many Western hip joints can muster. Perhaps Lotus Pose became an asana icon because of the practice’s East Indian origins. My own completely anecdotal observation from time spent in India revealed that Indian hip joints appear to externally rotate much more easily and universally than those of my students in the U.S. Poses such as Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose...

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  • Parvrtta Parsvakonasana: Rotated Side-Angle Pose

    If I had to pick yoga’s most complicated yoga asana—among the more commonly practiced poses—Parvrtta Parsvakonasana (Rotated Side-Angle Pose) would get my vote. Parvrtta Parsvakonasana is a Warrior Pose, a twist and a balance pose. Its benefits are many. According to Yoga Journal, practicing Rotated Side-Angle Pose: Strengthens and stretches the legs, knees, and ankles Stretches the groins, spine, chest and lungs, and shoulders Stimulates abdominal organs Increases stamina Improves digestion and aids elimination Improves balance Parvrtta Parsvakonasana is commonly practiced in many popular classes, including fast-paced vinyasa classes. Even if you prefer moving quickly through sequences, it can be...

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  • Urdhva Dhanurasana: Wheel of Energy

    Backbends are one of yoga practice’s great gifts. Because our daily lives don’t require a lot of backbending, doing some sort of backbend every day is a way to balance our forward-folded lives. Plus they’re energizing and just plain fun. Backbends take many forms, from smaller backbends such as Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) to full-body backbends such as Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow), the subject of this post. All of them can be beneficial to our bodies. They mobilize our spines, lengthen our front bodies and strengthen our back bodies. In Yoga International, teacher Rod Stryker writes: “Urdhva Dhanurasana increases the vital...

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  • Expand the Heart with These 3 Yoga Poses

    When we use the term “open-hearted” what comes to mind is a person whose kindness extends to all. We can develop an open heart by practicing qualities such as those listed in the yoga sutras. These include kindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity. We can also open our physical heart space in our asana practice. Practicing poses that mobilize and expand the rib cage help us maintain mobility and spaciousness in that area. The rib cage is the structure that houses the heart. Mobilizing the thoracic spine, to which the ribs are attached, is the most effective way to create...

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  • Tadasana: The Root of Yoga Asana

    Look out your window at the bare skeleton of a winter tree, its branches reaching toward the sky. Now call on your memory and picture a rose bush laden with blooms or a single spring tulip. The flowering that you see in these things is possible because of what you don’t see—the vast system of roots that anchors each to the earth, roots that are often more complex and expansive than the branches and blooms they support. Twenty-eight years ago, I had the good fortune to travel to India, the place where the ancient system of yoga first took root...

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