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Ardha Chandra Chapasana / Sugarcane

Sugarcane, ardha chandra chapasana, yoga

 

 

Instructions:

  • From Tadasana (standing feet together, arms by the side), place the left hand on hip and fold forwards. Take the right hand to the floor on fingertips about 12” in front of the right foot and at a slight diagonal from the little toe (this helps with balance!). For tight groin/hamstrings bend the right knee or place a yoga block or book under the right hand.

  • Engage the abdominals to help stabilise the torso; keep the spine long.

  • Raise the left leg up with the foot flexed and turn the body to the left gradually bringing the top hip directly above the bottom hip then extend the left arm up so shoulders are stacked on top of one another.

  • Bend the left leg and reach around with the left hand to hold onto the foot. If the hand doesn’t quite reach the foot use a strap or belt.

  • Keep drawing the top hip back and press the foot into the hand and hand into the foot, this helps to take the body into a backbend and gives the quadricep, hips and chest a fuller stretch. Take the drishti (gaze) slowly upwards if you feel steady.

  • To exit carefully release the foot, bend the standing leg pushing firmly into the foot and return to a standing position then repeat on the other side.
     

Benefits:

  • Stretches the inner thigh and groin (of standing leg), quadriceps (of bent leg), psoas (hip flexors) and broadens the chest creating more space for the lungs.

  • Strengthens the legs and ankles building endurance.

  • Lengthens the spine.

  • Improves core strength.

  • Fosters concentration, improving balance.
     

Avoid:

  • Keep the standing leg knee bent if you have any knee issues and don’t flex the foot too strongly of the raised leg if this causes knee pain.

  • Only practice if you have a stable Ardha Chandrasana / Half Moon posture.

  • Keep the neck in a neutral position if you have any neck issues.

Crescent Lunge Twist

Crescent Lunge Twist, yoga

Crescent Lunge Twist, yoga, anjali mudra

Instructions:

  • Start in Tadasana (standing feet together, arms by the side) and step out to the right.

  • Turn to face the back of the mat and bend the right knee so you’re in a lunge position with the knee stacked directly over the ankle.

  • Inhale reach the left arm up and turn the torso to the right, placing the elbow on the outside of the right knee, palms together in Anjali mudra (prayer position).

  • Inhale again and lengthen the spine (push back through the left heel and reach the crown of the head forwards for maximum length), then exhale and twist to the right.

  • On each exhale use the stomach muscles (obliques) to twist whilst pressing the right palm firmly into the left working the thumbs towards the heart centre (see pic 2).

  • Modify by placing the left knee on the floor.

  • Take the drishti (gaze) over the right shoulder.

  • Stay for 5 - 10 breaths.

  • To exit, exhale look down and take hands to hips. Press firmly into the feet and come back into a lunge. Rotate to face the front and repeat on the left.


Benefits:

  • Stretches the spine, shoulders, chest, legs, hips and hip flexors.

  • Strengthens the abdominals, legs and shoulders.

  • Stimulates abdominal organs therefore improving digestion.

  • Stimulates the lungs increasing breathing capacity.

  • Improves balance and focus.


Avoid:

  • Any neck issues, keep head aligned with the spine, gaze forward.

  • If you are pregnant (no twisting).
     
  • High or low blood pressure or if you suffer with headaches.

Utthita Parsvakonasana / Extended Side Angle

utthita parsvakonasana

Instructions:

  • Start in Tadasana (standing feet together, arms by the side) and step out to the right.

  • Inhale reach your arms to shoulder height and step feet approximately as wide as hands, turning your right foot forwards and left foot in slightly so it’s parallel to the edge of the mat. Align the right heel with the left instep.

  • On an exhale bend the right knee so it stacks directly over the ankle, taking care that it doesn’t shoot forwards over the toes. Take the thigh, if accessible, parallel to the floor. Place the right forearm on the thigh and press the thigh out.

  • Take your left hand to your rib cage and turn it towards the ceiling, keep pressing the thigh out.

  • Contract the lower abdominals to avoid over arching in the lower back.

  • Then sweep your left arm over by the ear and turn the drishti (gaze) towards the palm. Externally rotate the arm so it creates space between your ear and shoulder so your bicep is facing you and tricep away.

  • Press into the outer edge of the left foot so the instep does not collapse and look for a straight line from your left foot to your fingertips.

  • To develop take the right hand to floor outside the foot with the palm flat and press arm and knee into each other.

  • Hold for 5 - 10 breaths

 

Benefits:

  • Strengthens and stretches the legs, ankles, knees and waist (stretches one side, trims the other!)

  • Stretches the groin, spine and hips.

  • Helps to open the chest and lungs.

 

Avoid:

  • Any neck issues keep the head in a neutral position.

Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Dog


One of my favourite positions! I feel completely grounded in this position, I love it's meditative, restorative quality especially when I have my daughter to snuggle up to!

adho mukha svanasana, downward dog, kids yoga, yoga outside

Instructions:

  • Come onto all fours and place hands on the mat shoulder width apart or slightly wider. Spread the fingers wide and press firmly into the knuckles, the mound of the thumb and forefinger to root the centre of the palm.
  • Tuck the toes under and lift the hips up so the body is in an inverted 'V' placing the feet hip width distance.
  • As you press the hands and fingers firmly into the mat lift the sit bones up and back to get maximum length along the spine.
  • Press the heels down towards the floor as you engage the quadriceps and roll the thighs inwards.
  • Roll the shoulders externally away from ears and keep the back of the neck long with the drishti (gaze) towards the upper thighs.
  • Activate uddiyana bandha by drawing in and lifting up the lower belly.
  • If the hamstrings are tight keep a soft bend in the knees and keep the spine long.
  • Stay for 5-10 breaths.

Benefits:

  • Stretches the spine, hamstrings and calves.
  • Strengthens the shoulders, arms, back and legs.
  • Acts as a mild inversion which helps to relieve stress and fatigue.
  • Improves digestion.

Avoid:

  • Wrist problems, i.e. carpal tunnel syndrome. Option could be to practice quarter dog - on forearms.
  • Late pregnancy.
  • High blood pressure.

 

Parivrtta Trikonasana / Revolved Triangle

Parivrtta Trikonasana, Revolved Triangle, Yoga


Instructions:

  • From Tadasana (standing feet together, arms by the side) step back with the left foot about 3-4ft and turn the toes out about 15 degrees, not too much as the hips then tend to turn in that direction also. The inner heels are in line or slightly apart. I prefer the latter as it offers a little more stability and more space for the hips to face forwards.
  • Keeping the hips parallel to the front edge of the mat, press firmly into the feet and engage the quadriceps.
  • Place the right hand on the hip or lower back and as you inhale reach forward with the left hand and exhaling place the left hand inside the foot (if you are a beginner), on the shin or outside the foot placing the hand flat and pressing firmly down. Inhale lift the right arm up and turn the gaze up to the right palm. Actively draw the right hip back and for stability press the back heel firmly down.
  • Focus on turning through the thoracic spine (upper back), resist turning from the hips and/or neck.
  • If the hamstrings are tight using a prop such as a foam brick (or some books!) under the left hand can help the pose to feel more accessible and allow the hamstrings to stretch with a little more ease.
  • Hold for 5-10 breaths.
  • To exit exhale look down and place hands on hips, then inhale press into the feet and keeping the legs strong rise up stepping the left foot forwards back to Tadasana. Repeat on the left side.

Benefits:

  • It's a fairly demanding pose so it is great for building concentration and awareness. Helps to reign in the wandering mind!
  • Stretches the hamstrings, calves, hips and spine.
  • Tones the legs.
  • Aids digestion through twisting.

Avoid:

  • Back or spine injuries.
  • Headache or migraine.
  • Take care not to lock the front knee especially if hyperextensive.

Salamba Sirsasana / Supported Headstand with variations to work the abs

Inversions can be invigorating alongside promoting feelings of balance and calm, so what better place to practice than by the sea on a quiet beach....

Props: a 4 year old if you have one handy mainly to cause distraction making balance and focus a little more tricky although useful to hold a leg up!

If you have a confident headstand practice it can be fun to start playing around with different leg positions which not only challenges your balance and focus but also strengthens the abdominals as you need to engage them actively to stabilise the pelvis as you start to move the lower limbs!

If you prefer to practice tripod headstand please be aware that this places more pressure on your head. With supported headstand the forearms are actively pressing into the ground allowing the head to be light on the floor.

All variations are once you are in supported headstand. Throughout each variation make sure the forearms are pressing firmly into the ground, the shoulders are lifting up away from the ears and the belly is actively being drawn in and upwards towards the heart.

Variation 1 - Garudasana / Eagle legs
Place the right thigh over the left and either stay there in a half bind or wrap the foot around the calf in a full bind. Press the thighs into one another.

Variation 2 - splits with bent legs
Scissor the legs apart whilst bending the knees, bring legs back together and straighten then repeat the other side.

Do you need a hand Mummy?

Variation 3 - lifting into headstand with straight legs, lowering and lifting back up. Repeat as many times as you like! As you lift the legs up make sure the glutes and hamstrings are engaged, the abs are there to stabilise the pelvis not to lift the legs.

Lift up higher Mummy!

i

Half Bound Lotus Seated Forward Fold / Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottansana

Instructions:

● Start in Dandasana / Staff Pose (seated with legs extended, big toes touching).
● Bring the right knee into the chest and cradling the foot guide it in towards the left hip crease as close as possible into half lotus.
● Flex the foot to avoid over stretching the ankle.
● Inhale, lengthen the spine and reach the right arm behind the back and grab onto the big toe knuckle or modify and hold onto the bicep. If the hand does not reach the bicep use a strap and loop it around the foot, holding on with the right hand.
● If you feel the knee needs support place a yoga brick or blanket underneath.
● If you’re holding the big toe knuckle or strap, inhale and lengthen the spine, exhale fold forward, keep the spine straight and hold onto the foot, pressing into the sit bones. If the hamstrings are tight or the foot isn’t in a full half lotus and therefore restricting the fold, you can modify by placing the hand on the shin or on the floor.
● If you are holding onto the bicep, stay sitting upright keeping the spine long.
● Stay for 5-10 breaths.
● To come out, inhale look forwards, exhale release the posture and gently guide the leg out of half lotus into Dandasana and switch sides.


Benefits:

● Increases flexibility of the hips.
● Stretches the back, shoulders, hamstrings and calf muscles.
● If the foot is in full half lotus the heel presses into the abdominal organs, improving digestion.


Avoid:

● Knee or ankle injuries.
● Proceed with caution with hamstring injuries.

Wide Legged Forward Fold / Prasarita Padottanasana D

Instructions:

  • Start in Tadasana (standing big toes touching, arms by the side).
  • Step to the right, feet 3­-4ft apart and place hands on hips.
  • Press into the outer edges of the feet so the inner arches lift and firm the quadriceps.
  • Take an inhale and gaze up, as you exhale keep the spine long and fold from the hips pressing the thighs back; then with the first two fingers of each hand (peace fingers) hold onto the big toes. If the arms are bent align the elbow over the wrists.
  • If this feels too intense for the hamstrings then place the hands/fingertips on the mat underneath the shoulders or on shins.
  • Inhale gaze forward keeping the neck long and as you lengthen the spine exhale fold forwards engaging the lower belly.
  • Relax the head and draw the shoulders away from the ears.
  • If the head reaches the floor there should be no pressure on the head.
  • Stay for 5-­10 breaths.
  • To come out, inhale look forwards, exhale place hands to hips and inhale up to standing. Step the feet together at the top of the mat back into Tadasana.


Benefits:

  • Stretches the backs of the legs and spine.
  • Strengthens the legs, back and abdominal organs.
  • Having the head below the heart can feel rejuvenating and calming as it sends a
    rush of fresh blood and oxygen to the brain.
  • Can relieve mild backache however if you suffer from lower back problems avoid
    a deep forward fold.