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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.
  • Parvrtta Trikonasana: Revolved Triangle

    If I had to pick the most complicated asana that’s regularly practiced, Parvrtta Trikonasana would be among the top few. Parvrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle) is a balance pose, a spinal rotation, a forward bend, and even contains an element of backbending. One of the trickiest things about this pose is that it’s really easy to sacrifice the length of your torso in order to place your hand closer to the floor. Breathing is always more important than forcing your body into the “full expression” of any pose. Make sure that your bottom hand is always high enough up that you...

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  • Urdva Hastasana: Upward Salute

    When your first leave the comfort of your bed each morning, what’s the first thing you want to do? Like other animals—think about your cat or dog—our instinct is to stretch out. While we sleep, our bodies immobile, the fascia that surrounds our muscles tightens. In order to wake up our muscles, we need to loosen this outer sheath. So we stretch. So our first actual asana of the day might be a simple standing stretch. In asana practice, this stretch is called Urdva Hastasana (Upward Salute Pose). In the context of a vinyasa class it’s often the pose that initiates the whole sequence. From Urdva...

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  • Bharadvajasana: A Sage’s Twist

    The heroes of yoga’s ancient texts appear in many of its asanas. Most of these heroes (and heroines) take the form of gods and goddesses. Revered sages have also been honored with poses all their own. The pose I’d like to feature today, Bharadvajasana, is named in honor of Bharadvaja, a famous sage in the Ramayana. Here’s how Zo Newell, author of Downward Dogs and Warriors: Wisdom Tales for Modern Yogis, tells the story of Bharadvaja: “Bharadvaja was a rishi, an ancient sage—one of the famous Seven Sages of Vedic times, who are immortalized in the constellation known in India as...

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  • Parvrtta Ardha Padmasana: Revolved Half Lotus Pose

      It used to be that when people in the mainstream thought of yoga, Padmasana (Lotus Pose) came to mind. Now that yoga has entered the mainstream, Padmasana may still be emblematic of practice, but the asana field has become much more crowded. Photos of yoga practitioners in all manner of pretzelish poses dominate social media. But Padmasana remains a goal for lots of practitioners. While Padmasana may be symbolic of yoga, it’s not necessarily a pose everyone can do, no matter how much they practice. Whether you can practice this pose depends more on genetic skeletal structure than it does...

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  • Parvrtta Anjaneyasana: Revolved High Lunge Pose

    In almost every class I teach, when I ask what people in class would like to focus on, twists are high on the list. Whether we twist while standing, sitting or lying down, spinal rotation often feels like a remedy for whatever ails us. Why do people love twists so much? I speculate that one reason is that we just don’t have that many opportunities to rotate our spines in daily life. Sure, we turn to look behind us while we’re driving sometimes, but for the most part, we keep our bodies in the sagittal plane. So twisting feels like...

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  • 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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