Take Flight in Crow Pose

TAKE FLIGHT IN CROW POSE

Strengthen Your Wrists

KAKASANA

WHAT IS THE SECRET TO TAKING FLIGHT IN CROW POSE?

In order to take flight in Crow Pose, it may seem obvious that a great deal of emphasis needs to be placed on your hands, but what often happens is that a great deal of attention is placed elsewhere.

When you think about Crow Pose—Bakasana—you may first think about what you need to do to either strengthen and/or activate the core. This is true, but how often do you think about what is necessary for your hands, wrists, and forearms? This part of your body plays a vital role not only in whether you will find enough strength to sustain the posture for any length of time but also in protecting your wrists overall.  

A great deal of time is spent in wrist extension in yoga. Most commonly, you see varying degrees of this in postures like the following: 

  • Variations of Plank/Vasisthasana 
  • Chaturanga Dandasana 
  • Fallen Angel (Devaduuta Panna Asana)
  • Variations of Crow (Bakasana) 

Matt talks a lot about starting postures from the ground up, and in Bakasana, this couldn’t be more true. You are balancing your entire body weight on your hands/wrists, so creating a solid foundation with your hands/wrists/forearms is non-negotiable. There are also actions in the hands that are mimicked/duplicated in the rest of your body as you layer on each action in the posture. You will see how everything is so closely related in Matt’s demonstration.

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    THE BALANCE BETWEEN WRIST FLEXORS AND EXTENSORS

    When you understand how your body is working in each posture, it becomes a lot easier to see exactly how much everything is connected and how that both influences and supports the rest of your body parts in activating and responding the way you would like and need them to for stronger execution.

    Because you spend a lot of time in wrist extension in yoga, the wrist extensors (which are located on the back side of the forearms) are often shortened, and the flexors of the wrist (located on the front of the forearms) are in a more lengthened position. It’s imperative that these muscles be strong enough to, as Matt puts it, “apply the brakes” in arm balances. 

    Sending your weight forward is required in Crow Pose, so the strength of the “opposing action,” or creating an eccentric contraction of the flexors of the wrist to almost pull you back (that “application of the brakes” if you will), is in essence doing the work of keeping you balanced in the pose. Without this opposition or strength of the wrist flexors, you would just continue to go forward and then downward with gravity and eventually fall.

    So how do you activate and strengthen the flexors of the wrist? If you’ve practiced with Matt before, you’ll know that he often refers to creating a “suction cupping” of space, or a Hasta Bandha in the hands (an energetic hollow-like quality in the center of the palms). 

    “Hasta Bandha (Hand Lock) assists energy up through the soft center of your palms to bring strength and stability to your arms and upper body.”

    Ekhar, Esther, The Bandha Approach You Haven’t Tried—That Could Change Everything, Yoga Journal, February 28, 2018

    FOCUS ON YOUR HANDS

    In Crow Pose and other arm balances like it, the more you lean forward, the more you are required to grip the fingers into the ground in order to achieve the appropriate activation.

    Let’s look at some of the anatomy first.

    Your carpals are all of the tiny bones at the wrist (base of the palm), and the carpal tunnels are the space for the nerves to go through.

    When it comes to the hands in Crow Pose and other arm balances, we want to be lighter in the carpals (with less pressure, pulled away from the ground, due to the nerve lines that are present). In opposition to this, we want to get stronger and push into the ground at the head of the metacarpals (this is the surface/place you might describe as the knuckles or where the fingers [phalanges] meet the upper portion of the palm.)

    You achieve this action by drawing the pinky and the thumb towards each other and down into the ground at the same time. This action can also be described as adduction (pulling in towards the midline of the palm). At the same time, the 3 fingers (pad of the index, middle, and pinky) are also pulling towards the palm of the hand.

    This is creating a generous amount of activation and therefore strengthening of the flexors of the wrist (flexor digitorum profundus and superficialis). Although there are many other muscles involved (both flexors and extensors) that are co-activating, these are 2 that are great to keep in mind because the flexor digitorum profundus attaches all the way down to the fingers. This muscle also works in conjunction with the flexor carpi radialis and the flexor digitorum superficialis (as previously mentioned).  

    This fact demonstrates how essential it is, for your practice, to get into deeper awareness and connection with your body in an anatomical sense. This reinforces that nothing works in isolation and that one part of the body, one action, creates a domino effect for other activations, movements, and strengthening to occur.

    WATCH THE VIDEO: STRENGTHEN YOUR WRISTS FOR CROW POSE

    NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 26, 2023 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN
    NEXT TRAINING  BEGINS FEBRUARY 18, 2023. ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN

    STRENGTHEN YOUR WRISTS IN CROW POSE WITH BLOCKS

    Let’s now take the deeper awareness and solid foundation of the hands and create the domino effect with the rest of the body in Crow Pose. In today’s video, Matt demonstrates how helpful blocks are when it comes to strengthening the flexors of the wrist. If flying is not your thing, or it’s just not your thing within a specific practice, you can still work on strengthening the flexors of the wrist by using a set of yoga blocks under your feet and leaning your bodyweight for more extension in the wrists.

    Here are the steps Matt outlines in today’s video:

    1. Place your feet up on the blocks
    2. Take your hands out in front, grip the ground with fingers (using all of the actions previously outlined) 
    3. Place knees outside of the arms and squeeze into arms (mimicking the action of the pinky and thumb drawing towards one another)
    4. Lift bum up to sky
    5. Lean bodyweight forward (increased wrist extension and eccentric contraction of the flexors)
    6. *Now bring your awareness back to the hands; play with the fingers—grip the ground, press through metacarpals, lean forward, and keep strong in the flexors of the wrist 
    7. Bonus is to lift the heels of feet towards bum to fly
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    THE BIG PICTURE—TAKE FLIGHT IN CROW POSE

    1.  Squeeze knees into the arms
    2.  Protract the shoulder blades 
    3.  Grip fingers into the ground

    Inviting in what may be some new actions to this posture, or to any other posture where the wrists are in extension in your physical yoga practice, helps to create a new muscular pattern. Repeating these actions will help your brain allow you to more easily default to these actions and therefore find the strength, ease, and lightness that’s desired in any arm balance.

      PARALLELS BETWEEN CROW POSE & HANDSTAND

      The beautiful thing about creating these patterns in your body and practicing the proper mechanics in Crow Pose is that these same mechanics translate quite well into other arm balances. 

      If you take a look at my previous article,  Kick Up Into Handstand, you’ll see exactly how Matt guides you through the same preparation for the wrists and forearms. You’ll see the importance of gripping the ground, the same alignment for the forearms, and the negotiation of the shift in weight required to balance (the balance of strength between the wrist flexors and extensors)—the same actions and techniques that help you to take flight in Crow Pose are the same fundamentals that help you see success and that assist with the crossover from one arm balance to another.

      Matt’s next Immersion, Handstand and Meditation, offers you an incredible opportunity to work on these fundamentals time and time again. You can also dive deeper into these teachings in his next 200 & 300 Hour Teacher Trainings.

        CHOOSE YOUR PATH

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        KICK UP INTO HANDSTAND

        KICK UP INTO

        HANDSTAND 

        Master 3 Key Actions 

        alignment

        HANDSTAND—3 KEY ACTIONS

        “Squeeze in, turn in, tuck the tail.” These are the 3 key actions for handstands that Matt explains are a must. These may sound like simple cues, and they may even be easy to execute if you’ve already mastered kicking up into a handstand; however, if the pose is brand new and/or you’ve been working at it but still can’t “crack the code,” doing these 3 key actions in addition to all the other steps to prepare yourself may be what you’re missing. Layering on the specific techniques and muscle activations that Matt lays out for you is an essential part of your journey to kicking up into Handstand.  

        It’s impossible to skip the steps required when the intent is to kick up into a handstand position. This actually pertains to any posture, but if you’ve practiced with Matt before, you’ll know how much he stresses that it’s the foundations and the repetition of those foundations that really prepare the body for the desired outcomes. When you repeat these actions over and over again, you build the patterns into your body so that when it comes time for more robust movements and shapes, your body will respond.

         

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        • Learn the most effective drills to safely build your Handstand
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        • Build strength and the necessary skills for balancing Handstand
        • 12 classes: All levels appropriate
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        HANDSTAND PREPARATION 1 & 2

        Here are the steps for Handstand Preparation 1: 

        1. Place your hands on the ground
        2. Set up your blocks behind your forearms
        3. Straighten your elbows 
        4. Elevate the scapulae (push the floor away and bring your shoulders up to your ears)
        5. Lift your heels as high as you can

        Handstand Preparation 2 is a continuation of the process and includes lifting one leg up.

        Here are the steps:

        1. Inner leg lifts up to the sky as high as you can
        2. Look up to the lifted leg; when you do this, it’s common for your weight to shift back. Your weight needs to go forward
        3. Lean forward into your fingers (or more specifically, into the metacarpals)
        4. Lift the bottom heel as high as you can 
        5. Push through the arms (lifting the shoulders up)

        What muscle engagements are happening? The gripping of the ground leads to activations in the muscles in the forearms. The elevation of the scapulae leads not only to the activation of the muscles of the shoulders (deltoids) but also to the contraction and use of the trapezius muscles. 

        This action of elevating the scapulae also helps you avoid shoulder impingement.

        As you lift the shoulders up, you are getting longer through the sides of your body, which creates length and stretch through the latissimus dorsi; however, it’s the upper fibers of the trapezius that you want to strengthen in order for you to rely on the strength there rather than on the stretch in the latissimus dorsi. Additionally, contracting the abdominals will assist in bringing the ribcage back and into better alignment, reducing excessive spinal extension. The action here is to contract the abdominals while expanding. You can do this by pulling your front ribs down as you continue to push strongly through your hands.

        WATCH THE VIDEO: KICK UP INTO HANDSTAND

        NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 26, 2023 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN
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        HANDSTAND PREPARATION 2 WITH A CHAIR

        Before we dive in, be sure to use a chair that is stable and steady on the ground. Matt can use a rolling chair due to his many years of experience in the posture. This is important, because once you set your hands on the ground, you place 1 foot on the chair prior to the required muscle engagements. The chair should be secure for you.

        Once you have 1 leg on the chair, Matt walks you through the same steps as in Handstand Preparation 1 & 2. However, there are some slight differences when you use the chair. Matt cues you to feel as though you are pulling the chair towards you, while the top leg stays away from the wall.

        online classes for anatomy of arm balances

        ANATOMY OF ARM BALANCES

        MAY 2022 Immersion

        • Anatomy of 12+ arm balances
        • Foundational and advanced arm balance techniques
        • Visualize your movements internally
        • Improve balance and proprioception
        • Sensation-based practices
        • Learn empowering modifications
        • Access appropriate variations for your level of practice
        • Active, passive, and isomentric Stretching
        • Improve wrist, core, and shoulder strength
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        KICKING UP INTO L-POSE HANDSTAND

        When your foot returns to the ground, it’s easy to feel very heavy towards your foot, so leaning forward into the hands is imperative.

        Now, Matt stresses that the ability to balance in “L-Pose Handstand” is a must. This means keeping 1 leg low. If you can balance there, this can translate into sending both legs up to the sky. Remember those 3 Key Actions for Handstand from the beginning? 

        1. Squeeze in
        2. Turn in
        3. Tuck the tail

        What do these actions mean, and why are they important?

        Once you’re in a handstand position, you have to stop the movement of your hips; otherwise, you will be thrown off balance. In this stage of maintaining your balance, squeeze in means squeezing your legs together (activating the adductor and abductor muscles). Turn in means to internally rotate the thighs (activating TFL, pectineus, and hip flexors). Finally, tuck the tail (posterior tilt of the pelvis) helps to activate the hamstrings, the glute muscles, and hip extensors). Doing all of these things will help to stabilize the legs in Handstand.

        With all of this, there is still so much more to this posture. Matt’s next immersion, Handstand and Meditation, begins September 7th. Gain deeper insights into what is required of both mind and body by registering for the immersion.

        See you on the mat!

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        Article by Trish Curling

        Video Extracted From: Anatomy Of Arm Balances

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        EKA PADA BAKASANA II

        EKA PADA BAKASANA II

        The Essence of Push & Pull

        THE GUNAS

        THE GUNASThe essence of push & pull

        We’ve all experienced the essence of push and pull in one way or another. Its presence is evident all around and within us. We all experience the rise and fall, the movement of our thoughts in our minds (the vritti). These forces are present during our various emotions, when we’re making decisions, during conflict, when we are challenging ourselves physically and emotionally. Push and pull is undeniable in nature and the environment all around us… You get it. It’s really everywhere. We also experience it in our yoga practice. In the Yoga Sutras, these forces are explained as the Gunas. 

        To be more specific, Alan Finger, in Tantra of the Yoga Sutras, explains Yoga Sutra 1.16 (Tat param purusa khyater gunavaitrsnyam) in the following way: 

        “The three gunas are rajas, tamas, and sattva. They are considered to be the primary sources of nature that are responsible for all of the change and movement that we experience in life.” 

        Finger, Alan. Tantra of the Yoga Sutras, Shambhala Publications, 2018. (pg. 26)

        What’s incredible is that we will see how this also applies to our physical yoga practice. Matt breaks down the biomechanics of Eka Pada Bakasana II and shows us how the essence of push and pull exists in both the mind and the body.

          Handstand and meditation online yoga classes

          HANDSTAND & MEDITATION

          ONLINE YOGA IMMERSION

          BREAK THROUGH MENTAL & PHYSICAL BLOCKS

          • Learn the most effective drills to safely build your Handstand
          • Practice essential meditation techniques to break through mental barriers and build confidence
          • Improve focus and breath support right side up and upside down
          • Build strength and the necessary skills for balancing Handstand
          • 12 classes: All levels appropriate
          • Lifetime unlimited access to all
          • Attend livestream OR practice the replays any time that’s convenient for you

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          RAJAS, TAMAS, & SATTVA

          Finger explains how rajas is a more outward, vigorous force, while tamas is a more inward, softer, more restful force. While these 2 energies sit at opposite ends from one another, it’s sattva that sits in the middle and/or is considered the balance between the two. Alan Finger explains that sattva is where we find stillness.

          Being that these forces are ever present and that the circumstances of our lives are constantly shifting, it’s easy to find ourselves leaning more towards one side of the spectrum than the other. It’s our awareness that helps us to recognize when we have gone “too far” over to one side. Now, it’s super important to understand that if we adopt the more contemporary interpretation of the three gunas, then we understand that all of these forces are necessary and very human parts of life. It’s not “bad” to experience one or the other, but it’s your awareness and deeper connection, or knowing of yourself, that helps you experience these states of being without any attachment. 

          When in a more rajasic state, we are in a place of taking action; we are “handling our business,” so to speak. There is no struggle to get out of bed, we might engage in a regular asana practice, we eagerly run through tasks at home and/or at work, etc. On the other side, in a more tamasic state, we surrender to rest, and we tend to go more inward. In this state, we allow ourselves time to replenish and renew.

          If we adopt this more contemporary point of view, there seems to be a comfort and safety present. There is no need to reject what already exists within and around us. Noticing, without judgment, these forces of nature may help us move and flow more freely between each state when necessary. This may be viewed as actually being in a more sattvic state because we are actually experiencing flow, a steady mind, and therefore stillness and balance.  

          HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO YOUR PHYSICAL YOGA PRACTICE?

          Matt teaches a class in the Heart Module in his 300 Hr. Teacher Training called “Push & Pull: Rajas and Tamas. Crow/Half Crow Half Titibhasana” (Eka Bakasana II). There he says, “Sattva is how we feel when the push and pull of rajas and tamas come into a state of equanimity. This leads quite nicely into how we can understand the push and pull in our asana practice as well. In this sense, it’s the actions and activations we take in our bodies.”

          Before we explore this, it’s also essential to understand that even though the gunas are natural forces of nature, we can still find ourselves spending too much time on one end of the spectrum. In this class, Matt explains that when we are way out of balance, a more rajasic state can produce feelings of anger, impatience, even anxiety. If we’re spending too much time in a tamasic state, this is where we may not be attending to necessary tasks and there is loss of energy and lack of motivation.

          Just like our yoga practice, these emotions, actions, or lack of actions are not who we are; they are actually opportunities. They are messages telling us something. They’re sending us messages that something needs to shift. This can be recognized as the development of our discernment. Now this is key, this is actually the juicy part! This collision of philosophy and physical practice is where we really unleash both our emotional and physical potential.

          In today’s video, Matt demonstrates the required push and pull in Eka Pada Bakasana II (Half Crow / Half Titibhasana). We witness the importance of what Matt says: “harnessing the activity of the mind (rajas) to move toward sattva.” This is done with focus and intention. There can only be well-placed effort, continuous well-placed effort, in order to achieve this.

          WATCH THE VIDEO: EKA PADA BAKASANA II

          NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 26, 2023 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN
          NEXT TRAINING  BEGINS FEBRUARY 18, 2023. ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN

          EKA PADA BAKASANA II (HALF CROW, HALF TITIBHASANA)

          When it comes to the execution of Eka Pada Bakasana II, the push comes from the upper body, while the pull is in the lower body. There must be equal effort within these opposite actions. This can be interpreted as a “sattvic state in the body.” What I mean by opportunities is that when we feel something “off”  in these actions, we must utilize our discernment. Maybe there is not enough pull/adduction of the legs and/or not enough rounding (protraction) of the upper back due to lack of push with the hands/upper body. Even neglecting the internal rotation of the extended leg can throw things off. This may lead to a loss of stability in the posture, taking us out of balance. 

          We can see more deeply how this is the practice; this is yoga. The process of harnessing the mind to focus and find balance and equanimity in Eka Pada Bakasana II (Half Crow/Half Titibhasana) is completely aligned with our process to move towards sattva in our emotional body. There can be moments of frustration, of uncertainty, but again, these are all beautiful messages for us to receive. They are exquisite opportunities for us to explore and experience without attachment.

          online classes for anatomy of arm balances

          ANATOMY OF ARM BALANCES

          MAY 2022 Immersion

          • Anatomy of 12+ arm balances
          • Foundational and advanced arm balance techniques
          • Visualize your movements internally
          • Improve balance and proprioception
          • Sensation-based practices
          • Learn empowering modifications
          • Access appropriate variations for your level of practice
          • Active, passive, and isomentric Stretching
          • Improve wrist, core, and shoulder strength
          • ALL LEVELS APPROPRIATE

          $168.00

          MORE INFORMATION

           

            Take the opportunity to dive deeper into these teachings and the potential of your physical body in Matt’s upcoming 200 & 300 Hr. Teacher Trainings.
            See you on the mat!

          The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

          The 300 Hr. Advanced Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

          Article by Trish Curling

          Video Extracted From: 300 Hr. Training

          CHOOSE YOUR PATH

          NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 26, 2023 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN
          NEXT TRAINING  BEGINS FEBRUARY 18, 2023. ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN

          Continue Learning

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          read more
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          read more
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          read more
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          read more
          Side Angle Pose

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          read more
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          read more

          THE FREE TECHNIQUE PACK

          When You Subscribe You Will Get Instant Access To

          • The Technique Pack: 15 Yoga Pose Breakdowns
          • Exclusive Online Course Discounts
          • Exclusive Blogs and Videos
          • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

          full side plank and modifications

          FULL SIDE PLANK WITH MODIFICATIONS

          STEP-BY-STEP VASHISTHASANA BREAKDOWN

          FULL SIDE PLANK

          FULL SIDE PLANK AND MODIFICATIONS: VASHISTHASANA

          USING THE WALL AS A PROP

          Full Side Plank (Vashisthasana) has many modification options and variations to help make it more accessible or more challenging. I love teaching this posture with a foot on the wall to increase stability and provide a frame of reference for shifting the weight out of the hand and into the foot. 

          Some people avoid props, thinking of them as a “crutch.” For sure, they can be used as a way to avoid challenges if that is your intention, but they can also be used to increase body awareness and help you develop technique. Props are neither good nor bad; it’s just a matter of how and why you are using them. Is it that you want to avoid challenge or that you want to face challenge intelligently and appropriately?

          In the video tutorial below, I show how to modify side plank by placing your top foot on the wall. This reduces the required balance and will allow you to focus on the foundations of the posture, like the strength of your hand and wrist. Press your thumb and pinky fingers into the ground. Then focus on your bottom foot, pressing the instep of your foot into the wall. Eventually, you will be able to place the whole standing foot on the ground, which will give you strength and the power to lift the hips up. Lastly, keep your shoulder externally rotating, as indicated in the video.

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          Full Side Plank & Modifications • Vashisthasana at the Wall

          This Side Plank tutorial footage is taken from the July 2021 Immersion, titled BALANCE

          Full Side Plank Setup

          What I don’t discuss in this particular clip is how the setup of this posture is exactly like Wild Thing. This means your pelvis is more open toward the sky, while in standard Side Plank, your feet are stacked. The spine is in a backbend as well, unlike the standard variation, where the spine is neutral.

          There are other alignments you could explore, but these will tend to give you the greatest access to the full Side Plank variation where you grab the top foot and extend the leg. If you want to practice the full class, be sure to check out Class #9 of the July 2021 Immersion, called Balance

           

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          Three Full Side Plank Modifications and Variations

          1. Foot on the Wall: Once you rise up into Wild Thing, place the back foot on the wall and push your weight toward the wall, even if it means both knees are bent. This is not only okay but an indication that you are doing it properly.
          2. Tree Pose: The next step is infinitely more challenging because it requires greater balance and flexibility. Take the foot off the wall, similar to Tree Pose but without placing the foot on your inner thigh (though that is also another variation). I suggest pushing your knee into your hand to get your hip flexors active. Hip flexor strength becomes key when you attempt to straighten the leg. Often the tension of the hamstrings is too much and people have to let go of the foot. If your hip flexors are strong and used to engaging in this position, then they can help out by keeping the top leg closer to your upper body, lessening the chances that you’ll have to let go of the foot when extending the leg up to the sky.
          3. Full Side Plank or “Extended Vashisthasana”: Pull your knee in as tight as possible in order to grab your foot. Either stay as a modification or begin to kick the foot to the sky, straightening the top leg. Pro tip: It’s helpful to keep the bottom, weight-bearing leg bent while extending the top leg upward. 
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          VITALITY: RIGOR & RELEASE

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          • GET BACK TO FEELING ENERGIZED
          • ALL-LEVELS VINYASA CLASSES
          • HIPS, TWISTS, HEART, SHOULDERS, NECK, AND CORE
          • GUIDED MEDITATIONS TO DE-STRESS, INCREASE FOCUS, AND GAIN MENTAL CLARITY

          Can’t Straighten Your Legs?

          This is normal and really shouldn’t be your focus. This is an incredibly physically demanding posture that requires extreme flexibility. Even with slightly bent knees, the posture is still visually stunning and, I would argue, even more biomechanically sound because bent knees typically trigger more muscle engagement.

           

           

          Edited by 300-hour Chromatic yoga teacher, Donna Morin.

           

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          2. Arm Balance Immersion: 12 Classes – 12 Arm Balances

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          Side Angle Pose Shoulder Fix At The Wallupward rotationSIDE ANGLE POSE Stop for a moment  and think about how many times you lift your arms overhead in any given asana practice.  There are plenty of opportunities, aren't there?  Side Angle pose is a perfect example of...

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          Chaturanga Alignment Part 2

          Chaturanga Alignment Part 2

          3 Steps to Apply Shoulder Actions

          CHATURANGA

          CHATURANGA: Integrating Shoulder Actions

          Integrating the 3 Necessary Shoulder Actions into your practice can be complicated, so to help you I have come up with 3 Steps to Master your Chaturanga. If you haven’t yet watched Chaturanga Alignment: 3 Necessary Shoulder Actions  then it is best to start there and come back to this afterwards. The 3 step process will help you develop “Muscle Intelligence” or the awareness of how to create specific actions in your body to find less complicated positions which require less strength and give you the space to explore new sensations. If done consecutively, these steps will build the strength over time that will make chaturanga feel light and free.

          Most of us sitting at our computers are not able to get up and start practicing, but if you do have the liberty of doing so, practice along with this video. If not, then simply watch and come back to it at another time so you can practice along. This is meant to help you apply the actions, not just understand them.

          Be patient with yourself as you work through each of the exercises – techniques take time to embody.

          The Intention 

          Perhaps the most confusing thing in the yoga community is the myriad of opinions about how to do each pose. Part of the reason for this is the differences each of us have from body type, to personality, to experience. Additionally, however,  each of us offering a path has a different intention behind our set of alignment cues or muscle actions. It is for this reason that I want to be clear that this is only one approach, and I am happy to provide for you the benefits and the challenges that come with this way. This approach to Chaturanga comes with the intention to build strength in multiple forearm muscles, the seratus anterior, triceps, external rotators of the the humerus, and the pectorals major. With all of these muscles working together to build strength you will inevitably feel more stable and light in your chaturanga and jump back to chaturanga, and also you will be well prepared for arm balances. If you have no intention of building strength in your upper body or practicing arm balances, there might be better ways of practicing Chaturanga. If you have a movement pattern that does not allow you to do protraction without upward tilt of the scapula then you might be better suited to a softer approach for a while. If you are experiencing chronic strain or compression in your wrist joints you may find leaning back in your chaturanga may be either better or worse for you. I mention this not to deter you from fully understanding and integrating this approach to chaturanga, but to help you to understand that there is never and will never be one correct approach to anything. What is good for you now may not be good for you later, and what was good for you yesterday may not be good for you today. This may be hard to grasp but if you try to keep an open mind and let yourself explore various approaches with the utmost attention to detail, you may find a greater sense of mastery in your body than you could ever find by doing one posture “the right way.” If you are ready to build strength, and/or set your self up for arm balances and jump backs, then let’s get started together!

          3 Step Integration

          When learning to integrate new muscle engagements or structural alignments into your practice, it is beneficial to simulate the shape with less stress on the muscles and joints. This usually entails changing your relationship to gravity. In the video and in the 3 steps below, I show you how to do this by doing chaturanga at the wall first, and then on your knees before trying the full posture. Doing these steps often provides a greater proficiency than simply trying it all out right away. This is because your body will always fall into its normal patterns when it’s asked to hold all your weight. We have to shake things up a bit to learn something new.

          Step 1 - Chaturanga at The Wall

          Regardless of your level, doing chaturanga at the wall and applying the three shoulder actions is huge in helping build masterful proprioception. This is the most important step in my eyes, especially since you’ll have plenty of time in class to practice step 2 and 3. Taking all the weight off of your body and just applying the actions until it is fully integrated and completely clear in both mind and body will be the best thing you can do. Mastery is not about halfway getting something, but rather nailing it down so that it will never be forgotten regardless of how long you leave the subject of study. Rock this exercise several times for several days/weeks and you will be well set up for building strength rapidly. Strength builds rapidly when our actions are precise in our body.

          Step 2: Chaturanga on Knees

          To be honest, when I take a vinyasa class, I do the first 5-10 chaturangas on my knees to get my body and mind linked together prior to floating back. Chaturanga on the knees is a great way to practice the actions with slightly less body weight. This is where you will begin building muscles appropriately, so be as precise and mindful as possible so you are strengthening the muscles required for the 3 shoulder actions. My best advice is start with your shoulders a little bit past the wrists to simulate the leaning forward when coming from plank. With your knees on the ground you can’t actually shift forward so you’ll have to begin by placing your knees closer to your wrists than you normally would. Second, make sure you create one long line from shoulders to knees, without breaking at the hips.

          Step 3: Plank To Chaturanga

          When attempting full chaturanga with a block, it becomes easier to compensate and “fake it” and either over engage in muscles that are not efficient for the actions, or simply getting caught up in compression – placing your bones in the way of the movement in order to slow the movement down – SEE  FIRST VIDEO when I talk about “Upward Tilt” of the scapula.

          Mastering these shoulder actions will not only make your practice of chaturanga easier and more enjoyable, but will open up a whole new world of power and strength in your arm balances.

          If you find yourself struggling to integrate the actions in this version, I highly recommend focusing on the first two options for about 3-5 months and then coming back to this.

          Complexity

          The shoulders are incredibly complex and as a result, it takes quite a lot of self-practice and study to gain any sort of mastery.  I break things down into small steps so that you are able to integrate the actions in your body more easily, however these steps are just the beginning. Let these actions settle into your body over time; rather than forcing them into every chaturanga, pick one action to focus on in your classes and first observe what you are doing before you make changes. Little by little, try to apply the action and notice what it feels like each time. This is a highly effective approach that builds patterns in the body and awareness in the mind. If you are interested in more shoulder strengtheners and stretches check out the Handstand Training. It comes with several videos that directly target the shoulders. Thank you for stopping by. Please share your comments, questions, or requests for other blog topics!

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