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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.
  • 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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  • Viparita Virabhadrasana: Reverse Warrior Pose

    Since the yoga boom began in the early 2000s, asana practice has experienced transformation. New styles of yoga and new poses have entered the practice. Some of these innovations have come and gone; others have proven that they have staying power. Many of these poses, such as some of the crazier arm balances, aren’t accessible to much of the population of practitioners. There are a few, though, that have proven to have staying power. Viparita Virabhadrasana (Reverse Warrior Pose) is one of these. Popular in many Vinyasa classes, the pose has also become part of the Hatha Yoga standing pose...

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  • Bakasana: Crow Pose

    When we think of balancing poses,  Vrksasana (Tree Pose) or Hasta Padangusthasana (Standing Big-Toe Pose) often come to mind. But standing on one foot is not the only way to develop the skill of balancing. We can balance on our rear ends, as in Ubhaya Padangusthasana. We can balance on our arms and hands, as in Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand) or Bakasana (Crow Pose). We can even balance on hands and knees, as in Parsva Balasana (Bird Dog Pose). Balancing poses not only teach the extremely valuable skill of balancing, but they can also help us collect a fragmented mind. They...

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  • Savasana: Lifting the Veil

    According to Celtic tradition, Samhain (the predecessor to Halloween) was a liminal time. As days in the Northern Hemisphere began to darken it was a time of ambiguity and of disorientation. Celts believed that during Samhain, the veil between life and death became more permeable. Communicating with those who have passed on became easier. So what does this have to do with yoga? It may seem like a stretch (pun intended), but I also interpret Savasana (Corpse Pose or Final Relaxation Pose) as a pose that gives us a glimpse into the vastness of awareness. In Savasana, concerns for the...

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  • Vrksasana: Tree Pose

    Trees are our partners in keeping this living, breathing planet alive. We inhale the oxygen that trees exhale, and they inhale the carbon dioxide we exhale. We are inextricably tied together. Trees can also teach us about the importance of cultivating roots. While only the trunk, branches and leaves are usually visible to us, the roots of most trees are just as massive as what’s above ground. Knowing that this complex invisible root system is what keeps a tree upright can teach us about grounding our own bodies. Vrksasana (Tree Pose) emulates the steady, rooted stance of a tree. When...

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  • Modified Viparita Karani—aka “Instant Maui”

    We could all use retreat time. When most of our days are filled with activities and responsibilities, taking a five-minute break—let alone a 20-minute one—can seem out of reach. Not to mention that it often seems a waste to “do nothing” We in the West tend to believe that the busier we are, the more value there is to our lives. Accomplishing things feels good. How we spend our days is important. But taking time to rest is equally important. Lizzie Lasater, daughter of Judith Hanson Lasater (author of Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times), explains the importance...

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