Saturday, 31 December 2016

Hornstand Variations

We had a mini-workshop on the weekend (unplanned) where our class ended up playing around with hornstand and ways to help ourselves in this posture.

Hornstand is a forearm balance--that means the head is not on the ground.  The head is as far away from the ground as you can manage.  If your head starts to unintentionally dip towards the ground while you are in this posture then come out.

You should feel light and lifting in this posture and all of its variations.  If you feel heavy and sinking then these practices are not for you just yet.

In the video below I have put some ways to practice hornstand with increasing difficulty.  I have skipped the more basic practices and this post assumes you can get yourself into a downward dog on forearms position while feeling freedom around the neck and shoulder area.  If you cannot then don't practice any of these variations.

Variation one is against the wall with your tummy facing the wall.  I get myself into a small little ball and then 'emerge' into forearm down-dog from this little ball.  I am not concerned with straightening my legs but more trying to let my spine unroll and feel as light as possible.  In class I sometimes say it is as though a crane has got your hips and is just lifting them straight up.

In this wall variation I am on tip toes.  The soles of my feet are against the wall.  Being able to be on the tip toes is important for the upcoming variations.

If it feels comfortable (and no sinking head) I can take one foot up, then the other.  My legs are not straight.  I am not trying to make an 'l' shape.  If possible I take one leg up and reach up through the ball of foot and hang out there.  This is actually 'easier' than having both feet on the wall.  It is a great way to start to feel your balance and lightness.  Don't try to take two feet off.  If you come crashing down it will be into the wall and will really hurt.

Variation two relies on you being able to kick up to a wall.  That is a technique in itself (not described here).  If you can get to the wall then I practice trying to find my balance point by keeping one tip toe on the wall as lightly as possible.  Then, slowly remove the other leg and bring it more over your shoulders.  You will need to find the place where you feel like it is helping you lift and reach and balance.

Keeping the toe tip lightly on the wall you hang around there and start to pay around with putting weight through the horn and making slight weight shift variations until that toe tip starts to 'float' off the wall.  When you are in the right balance the toe will just come away from the wall so don't try to take it off.

Variation three is the full hornstand away from the wall. Look how far my kicking leg has to come behind me initially.  I spend some time in a sort of 'splits' with the legs and slowly bring the front leg up as I bring the back leg forward to bring them together.

Don't practice this without a teacher.  This post is mainly intended for regular class attendees who can get individual attention and adjustments so we can discuss whether this is appropriate for you.

Happy new year.  Happy and safe practicing.
Canberra Outdoor Yoga

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Trikonasana 3 Ways

It has been a long time between postings.  We have still been out there practicing our yoga together and here is something we are thinking about in our current sequence.

The video below shows our practice of trikonasana in three variations.

Fundamentally the major actions are the same in all three variations.  It is just that as I progress to 'closer to the ground' options I make sure I bring my back leg pelvis around.

Bringing the back leg pelvis around means I am progressively bringing the pelvis more towards the front leg.
Hand on back leg pelvis to show I have turned it more

If you practice this way you will feel how bringing your pelvis around helps to 'free up' the front hip joint and you can move your torso more freely.

In each of the variations I am doing many key things, ones I will mention here are:

  • I start this one from gadjastan (elephant stance).  This puts my hips in external rotation (they are rolling out).
  • I turn the 'front leg' foot out some more to match the rolling out of the front thigh.
  • I turn the whole back thigh in, allowing my pelvis to come with me as it needs so that I don't feel strain on my inner thighs and so my front thigh is not struggling to roll out.
  • I 'stretch the ground' with my feet.
  • I lift up and out over my front leg with my torso in a way that my spine is not drooping to the floor and my side waists stay long.
  • I let me bottom hand go down wherever it goes to without drooping the spine to the floor.
  • I keep my pelvis where it is and turn my navel, ribs, and chest towards the sky.
  • I reach up with my top hand if that feels comfortable.
  • I put my head and neck in a comfortable position.
  • I do a gentle backbend along my spine.

As I progress from one posture to the next my legs stay in place but I start to allow my pelvis to turn even more, which allows me to place my bottom hand further down my leg as it pleases.  

Hand on sternum to show I am thinking about lengthening the spine

In the final variation I do a 'wrap'.  Most people will not be able to do this wrap.  Often they will try to take their bottom hand underneath the front leg by bringing their whole spine forward and so end up losing the alignment of the spine in this position.  If you watch the video you can see that when I wrap and bind I do not go into a forward bend of the spine.  In the video I touch my sternum so you can see that I am emphasising lengthening rather than shortening of the front of the body.  

Happy and safe practicing.   It is better to practice with a teacher present.  

Merry christmas and a happy new year to all!