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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.
  • Urdhva Mukha Prasarita Padottanasana

    Gravity is responsible for keeping us from floating off the surface of the Earth. It is also responsible Earth’s orbit around the sun and the moon’s orbit around us. It is partly responsible for the tides. Yes, there are some who get to play around in anti-gravity environments, and there are yogis who reportedly levitate. But these numbers are small. For most of us, gravity is a given. Despite gravity’s inevitability, we often seem to invest a lot of energy into struggling against it. I see it a lot in yoga classes—muscles hugging bones, chests and shoulders heaving upward, all...

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  • Parvrtta Anjaneyasana: Revolved Lunge Pose

    The pose Anjaneyasana (Lunge Pose), in all its variations, was named after a young legend named Anjaneya. Born to Anjana (a supernatural woman) and Kesari (king of the monkeys), Anjaneya had magical powers and royalty in his genetic inheritance. His godfather was Vayu, the wind god. Anjaneya was considered to be the reincarnation of Lord Shiva. His auspicious pedigree made him a bit of a star among mortals. According to legend, Anjaneya once mistook the sun for a glowing piece of fruit. In an effort to grab it for himself, Anjaneya leapt repeatedly, much to the annoyance of Indra, the...

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  • Salamba Sarvangasana: Shoulderstand

    Looking to see the world from a new perspective? Going upside-down is one way to shift your point of view—literally. Inverted yoga poses can shift your perspective, and possibly cultivate fertile creative ground in the body/mind. In addition to their many physical benefits, inversions are said to allow us to see with new eyes. When we turn upside down, the world looks different. The world hasn’t fundamentally changed of course; it is our relationship with it that has changed. This shift opens us to new perspectives. Translated literally as “good-for-all-of-you” pose, Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) is one of the fundamental asanas...

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  • Gomukhasana: Cow Face Pose

    It’s common knowledge that cows hold sacred status in India. To ancient nomadic and farmers, cows represented wealth, nourishment and nurturance. While they are valued for their milk that yields staples of the Indian diet—ghee, yogurt and cheese—cows are not slaughtered for their flesh. Only when a cow dies of old age can her hide be made into shoes. In Hindu mythology, Nandi the bull is a constant companion to Shiva, the Lord of Yoga. Nandi not only provides Shiva with ground transportation, but he also shuttles Shiva and his wife Parvati around the Universe. The cow has not always...

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  • Talasana: Palm Tree Pose

    Talasana (Palm Tree Pose) is a variant of Tadasana (Mountain Pose), the basic standing pose upon which all other poses are built, at least according to the Iyengar tradition. When I studied with Iyengar in 1989, I felt that if, after three weeks of intensive classes, I had an inkling of an understanding of Tadasana, I’d be more than happy. I feel it’s the key to understanding all the rest of the asanas. If you think of Tadasana as the trunk of the palm tree, like a swaying palm tree, Talasana can sway because of the tree’s deep roots and...

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  • Viparita Karani: Legs Up the Wall

    In our Western addiction to busyness we often feel we have to justify taking time out, even if it’s to practice a restorative yoga pose. If we’re not jumping around from one pose to the next, burning calories and raising our heart rates, we’re not accomplishing anything, right? While it might not look it from the outside, Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose) is a powerful pose. Viparita Karani is a curious mix: It’s an inversion, a backbend and a restorative pose. Inverted poses nourish the endocrine glands, promote circulation, balance metabolic function and increase blood flow to the brain...

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  • Utkatasana: Fierce Pose

    Have you ever seen the famous paintings of ancient Indian yogis sitting in chairs meditating? Me neither. Over the millennia, the vast majority of sadhus who committed themselves to the yogic life owned little more than the minimal clothing they were wearing, along with a bowl and utensils for collecting their daily alms of rice. Most of them likely never saw a chair, let alone sat on one. So, like Malasana, the original Sanskrit name for  Utkatasana, has absolutely nothing to do with its most widely used English name:  Chair Pose. Utkatasana’s root word, utkata, actually means “wild,” “fierce,” “frightening,” “furious,”...

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  • Setu Bandha Sarvangasana: Restorative Bridge Pose

    The shortest day of the year is fast approaching. It is also one of the busiest times of the year for many of us. As darkness reigns here in the Northern Hemisphere, our natural tendency is to draw inward. But for most of us, that’s just not an option. On top of that, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can dampen holiday spirits. SAD is a form of depression that coincides with the change of seasons. The most common form begins in fall or early winter. According to the National Institutes of Health, the following are symptoms specific to fall/winter SAD include:  Low...

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  • Janu Sirsasana: Head-of-the-Knee Pose

    Forward bends have a reputation for drawing us inward and encouraging introspection. While I doubt there’s scientific proof of this, they do seem to have a calming, nurturing effect on my nervous system, as well as the nervous systems of my students. Practicing forward bends, such as Janu Sirsasana (Head-of-the-Knee Pose), Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend Pose) or Upavista Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) toward the end of an asana practice may even help us internalize and integrate the poses that came before. Forward bends can help our bodies wind down and slide effortlessly into Savasana (Final Relaxation Pose). Forward bends are...

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  • Marjarasana-Bitilasana: Cat-Cow Pose

    Marjarasana (Cat Pose) Every morning as I begin to stir, the three felines that share my sleeping hours begin to mobilize along with me. The promise of breakfast, of course, is the great motivator, but before breakfast—before they do anything else—they do a little cat yoga. They begin with Downward Facing Cat. As their front paws stretch forward, I watch as the stretch ripples its way up to the pinnacle of their bodies:  their hips. Then they return to all fours, and I watch their furry skin elongate and vibrate as they stretch each foreleg forward and each hind...

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