AGNISTAMBASANA: FIRELOG POSE (AKA DOUBLE PIGEON)

Firelog pose is also known as double pigeon pose (dwi pada rajakapotasana) or ankle-to-knee pose. It’s a deep hip opening pose, and it requires a focused awareness of the knees for safe practice.

BENEFITS OF FIRELOG POSE:

  • opens the hips

  • may relieve lower back pain and pain associated with sciatica

  • promotes good posture

  • benefits the root chakra and sacral chakra

YOU CAN FIND THIS POSE IN THESE YOGA CLASSES.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Start by being seated on the floor. Stack the shin bones with the left on top of right, aligning the left ankle over the right knee. The left foot will “hang” off of the knee. Flex the left foot as though you’re trying to press all four corners of the foot into an invisible wall. The right foot can be flexed or pointed - experiment with each and see which feels best for your body. You will probably notice a generous space between the top knee and the bottom ankle. This is okay.

Sit up tall. Lengthen the spine. Knit the front ribs together. Relax the shoulders. Take the fingertips to the mat on either side of the hips. Relax the jaw. Relax the muscles of the face. If it feels comfortable for you, you may close your eyes here.

Hold for ten deep breaths, then practice on the other side.

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FOOT SICKLING

You may be tempted to bring the top foot over the bottom knee in order to close the gap between your top and bottom leg (see image above). DO NOT do this. This will result in foot sickling, which can cause problems in the ankle and torquing in the knee. This can result in damage to the knee joint over time with repeat practice. The hips can happily rotate externally, but the knee cannot. Flexing the foot will keep the external rotation happening in the hip only.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • Think ankle over knee. Not foot over knee.

  • Keep the top foot flexed to protect your knee.

  • Knit the front ribs in, and sit up tall.

  • Relax the jaw.

  • BREATHE.

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ADDING PROPS

Most of us will have a pretty large gap between the top and bottom leg. You may also notice a gap between the bottom knee and the mat. Adding folded blankets or yoga blocks can help you relax into the pose with more ease.

But this isn’t a free pass to let go of muscle engagement! Keep the top foot flexed. Keep your spine tall.

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ALTERNATIVE POSE: SUKHASANA - EASY SEATED POSE

Firelog pose is INTENSE. If you find that the stretch is so intense that you are struggling to take deep breaths, consider practicing sukhasana instead. Sukhasana will open the hips in a similar fashion.

Hold for teen deep breaths or longer if desired.

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CHAIR VARIATIONS


For this seated variation, you'll sit at the edge of your chair with the feet flat on the floor. Lift the left foot and place the outer edge of the foot on a block or you can cross the left ankle over the right knee. It’s still just as important to keep your top foot flexed here!

Hold for ten deep breaths, then practice on the opposite side. 

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SUPINE VARIATION

For this option, you'll lie down on your back with your knees bent. Cross one ankle over your opposite knee. Keep the foot flexed to protect the knee. You may already be feeling a stretch. If so, stay right here. If you want to go deeper, you can interlace your hands behind your bottom knee and bring it in toward your chest. Make sure that the shoulders stay relaxed against the mat.

Hold for ten deep breaths, then practice on the other side.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

BHUJANGASANA: COBRA POSE

There are many incarnations of cobra pose, but I always like to practice and teach this pose without putting much weight into the hands. This means, it ends up looking more like a baby cobra pose. Not as impressive to look at, but the benefits are magnified. By relying on the back muscles to lift and hold the pose, you build strength in muscles that don’t get much attention in daily life. This helps to balance the spine and improve posture, which can lead to less pain and better breathing capacity.

BENEFITS OF COBRA POSE:

  • builds back and core strength

  • opens the chest and shoulders

  • balances the heart chakra

  • improves posture

  • improves breathing capacity

  • stimulating and energizing

YOU CAN FIND THIS POSE IN THESE YOGA CLASSES.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

INSTRUCTIONS:
Come down onto your mat and lie on your belly. Start by pressing the tops of the feet into the mat. (Some people teach this pose with the feet together, but I prefer it with the feet hip distance apart. I find this makes it more comfortable for the lower back.) Engage the legs - quads, hamstrings and inner thighs. Lift the kneecaps off the mat. Engage the lower belly. Lengthen the tailbone away from the crown of the head and press the hip bones into the mat. Bring the palms of the hands below the shoulders, but refrain from putting too much weight into them. They’re just there for support. The elbows are magnetized toward one another, and you may feel your biceps brushing against your torso. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and begin to lift your chest up off the mat. Feel the heart space open. Tuck the chin slightly in to create length in the back of your neck, gazing at the floor.

Hold for ten deep breaths, then relax in child’s pose to balance the spine.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • Engage the legs and lower belly to protect the lower back

  • Press the hips into the mat

  • Squeeze the elbows and shoulder blades toward the midline

  • Use the upper back muscles to lift the chest - avoid using the hands

  • Tuck the chin to protect your neck (you may find that this helps your lower back too)

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VARIATION: TAKING THE ARMS WIDE

If hugging the arms close to the torso doesn’t feel comfortable, you can take the hands wide, pressing into the palms of the hands or coming onto the fingertips. This variation can be more intense as it takes the backbend deeper. Remember to keep your lower body engaged to protect your lower back.

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ADDING PROPS

Adding a folded blanket under the hip bones can make this pose more comfortable, especially if you’re doing this on a hard floor.

You can also add a bolster or a thick pillow underneath the chest. If your back muscles are particularly weak, this can help you to build strength. (Don’t fret. Most of us have weak back muscles.) Do your best to muscularly engage the same way you would if you were doing the traditional variation.

This variation can be held for ten deep breaths, or longer if desired.

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SEATED VARIATION

If getting down onto your belly isn’t possible for you right now, you can practice this seated cobra variation to open the chest and enliven the nervous system. This can be seated on the floor or in chair.

Start by sitting up tall with both sitting bones evenly pressing into the earth. Lengthen the tailbone away from the crown of the head. Engage the low belly and begin to arch evenly through the entire spine. Squeeze the shoulder blades together. Open the chest. Slightly dip your chin to keep the back of the neck long.

Hold for ten deep breaths.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

JANU SIRSASANA: HEAD TO KNEE POSE

Despite the name, you don't need to be able to bring your nose all the way to your knee in order to practice this pose and get the benefits:

  • stretches the spine, hips and legs

  • relieves headaches

  • relieves fatigue

  • calms the mind

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Seated, swing both legs out in front of you. Sit up tall, pressing into both of your sit bones evenly. Lengthen the spine and relax your shoulders. Hug the left knee into your chest. Press the sole of the left foot into the inside of your right leg and let the left knee open to the side. Keep the right foot flexed, but avoid locking your right knee. If needed, place a rolled up blanket under your knee. Take a deep inhale, then exhale to walk your hands toward your foot. If you can't touch your toes, that's okay. If you can't touch your nose to your knee, that's okay too. It can be deeply relaxing to rest the head in this pose, so if it doesn't reach your leg, try one of the following modification ideas. Hold for ten deep breaths, and then practice on the opposite side.

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ADDING PROPS: Folded blanket under the hips

Adding a folded blanket underneath your sit bones tilts the pelvis forward slightly. Some people may find that this gives them more freedom to fold forward. You could also try a cushion, pillow or yoga block. Play around with the height to find what feels the best.

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ADDING PROPS: Folded blanket or pillow under the bent knee

Snuggle a folded blanket or a pillow underneath your bent knee, as close as you can get it to your hip. This is going to minimize the inner thigh and hip stretch, which might make it more comfortable for you to fold forward.

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ADDING PROPS: Block or bolster under the forehead

You can rest your forehead on top of a bolster or a yoga block. You might find that one side of your body is more open than the other, so you might need to adjust the height of your props when you switch sides.

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CHAIR VARIATIONS

For this seated variation, you'll sit at the edge of your chair with the feet flat on the floor. Lift the left foot and place the outer edge of the foot on a block or you can cross the left ankle over the right knee. Hold for ten deep breaths, then practice on the opposite side. 

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SUPINE VARIATION

This variation is a play on Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose). You'll come into this variation the same way you would Viparita Karani, only you're going to create the Janu Sirsasana shape with your legs. This is going to allow you to experience the same stretch without being upright and without folding forward. This may be a better option for people with severe low back pain, vertigo, or especially tight hips.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

USTRASANA: CAMEL POSE

The traditional variation of camel pose is not one that I personally practice. This is because the traditional variation of this backbend encourages practitioners to lean back, drop the crown of the head and take the gaze backward. This can put stress on the cervical spine and cause pinching in some practitioners.

There are very important arteries in the cervical spine that carry blood flow to the brain. When these arteries get pinched, that blood flow can become decreased. Since I have POTS, my body already struggles to get blood flow to my brain. When I practice camel pose, this becomes even harder, so I start to see spots and feel dizzy. This is definitely not what I’m looking for in my yoga practice!

If you have any kind of neck injury or if you have POTS like me, I would recommend practicing a modified variation of this pose. A simple fix for this is to simply lift the gaze and lessen the bend in the cervical spine. Further modification with props will not only make the pose more doable, but can make it feel absolutely liberating.

Our goal in practicing this pose is to create more space in the chest so that our breath can flow freely through the body. This can be accomplished in any of these variations.

Make sure that you warm up with some cat/cow stretches and cobra pose before you practice camel pose. If you’re feeling up to the traditional variation, by all means, go for it! Listen to your body and do what feels right for you.

After you practice, balance your spine with a forward fold and a twist of your choice.

BENEFITS OF CAMEL POSE:

  • stretches the front body - chest, abdominals, psoas and quads

  • strengthens the legs

  • opens the chest and ribcage

  • stretches the shoulders

  • benefits the heart chakra

FOR CLASSES WITH THIS POSE CLICK HERE.

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VARIATION: HANDS TO LOW BACK

Start by kneeling on your mat with your knees directly in line with your hips and the feet pointing straight back from your knees. Your legs should be in beautiful right angles. The toes can be curled under or you can point the toes and press the tops of the feet into the mat, whichever you prefer. Squeeze the inner thighs together. Feel your tailbone lengthen as you pull your abs in and up. Keep the core engaged as you begin to lift your heart. Feel the ribcage drifting away from the hips. Lean back. Think about pressing your hip bones forward so that they stay in line with your knees. You can practice in front of a wall and press the hips into the wall if you’d like. Bring the hands to your low back with the fingertips pointing up toward your shoulder blades or down toward your knees. If you’d like to go deeper, you can reach your hands all the way back toward your heels (traditional variation). Dip your chin, keeping the neck long. Gaze up toward the sky. Hold for ten deep breaths.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER

  • Hips over knees and feet behind the knees.

  • Keep your core engaged to protect lower back.

  • Squeeze the inner thighs.

  • Dip your chin - lengthen back of neck.

  • If you can’t breathe, you’ve gone too far.

  • Feel free to add a blanket under the knees/shins.

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VARIATION: HANDS TO BLOCKS

This variation is very similar to the traditional variation, but adding blocks lessens the intensity.

Start by kneeling on your mat with your hips on your heels. The toes can be curled under or you can point the toes and press the tops of the feet into the mat, whichever you prefer. Place the blocks back by your feet. Press into your shin bones and lift up, bringing your hips in line with your knees. Squeeze the inner thighs together. Feel your tailbone lengthen as you pull your abs in and up. Keep the core engaged as you begin to lift your heart. Feel the ribcage drifting away from the hips. Lean back. Think about pressing your hip bones forward so that they stay in line with your knees. You can practice in front of a wall and press the hips into the wall if you’d like. Bring the hands to the blocks. Dip your chin, keeping the neck long. Gaze up toward the sky. Hold for ten deep breaths.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER

  • Hips over knees and feet behind the knees.

  • Keep your core engaged to protect lower back.

  • Squeeze the inner thighs.

  • Dip your chin - lengthen back of neck.

  • If you can’t breathe, you’ve gone too far.

  • Feel free to add a blanket under your knees/shins.

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VARIATION: KNEELING WITH HIPS OVER HEELS

This variation can be practiced with or without props. You could also add a folded blanket under the knees for additional comfort.

To come into this variation, you’ll kneel on your mat with the hips over your heels. You can be seated on top of a bolster if you’d like. Root into your sit bones. Lengthen your tailbone and pull the low belly in. This will protect your low back. Lift your ribcage away from your hip bones and lean back. Open the chest. Reach back with fingertips to the floor or hands to blocks. Dip the chin and keep the back of the neck long. Hold for ten deep breaths.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • Root down through the sit bones

  • Engage the core to protect low back

  • Dip your chin to lengthen back of the neck

CHAIR VARIATION

Be seated at the edge of your chair with the feet flat on the floor and all ten toes pointing straight ahead. Ankles are directly below the knees. Root the sit bones into your chair. Lengthen the tailbone as you pull the abs in. Lift the chest and lean back. Open your heart. Gently dip the chin to keep the back of the neck long. Reach the hands behind you and hold onto the edges of the seat or reach the fingertips on top of the seat behind you. Hold for ten deep breaths.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 


PARSVOTTANASANA: PYRAMID POSE

This is a pose that I have not “mastered” yet, but I love practicing it and so I wanted to share it with you. Parsvottanasana provides an intense hamstring stretch, so please make sure that you have warmed up your body before you do this pose. Always approach with mindfulness. It is very easy to overstretch yourself in this pose.

Benefits of Parsvottanasana:

  • strengthens the lower body

  • stretches the hamstrings

  • creates length in the spine

  • grounding

  • improves balance

  • improves posture

  • promotes healthy digestion

  • traditional variation provides a slight inversion

FOR CLASSES WITH THIS POSE CLICK HERE.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Start in Tadasana with the feet hips width apart. Step your right foot straight back with all ten toes facing forward (my form isn’t 100% perfect in the photo). Press firmly into all four corners of the feet. Keep a soft bend in your knees. Engage your inner thigh muscles. Square the hips toward the front of your mat. You may feel the sensation of the left hip pulling back as the right hip moves forward. Create length in your spine, feeling the tailbone lengthen from the crown of your head. Hinge at your hips, keeping the spine tall, and fold forward over the front leg. Reach the fingertips toward the floor, either straight underneath the shoulders or you can flip the arms around so that the fingertips reach behind you. Dip the chin slightly to create length in the back of your neck. Hold for ten deep breaths, then practice on the opposite side.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • Place the feet hips width apart, then step straight back

  • Square the hips

  • Keep the spine tall

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ADDING PROPS: BLOCKS UNDER THE HANDS

If folding all the way forward and placing the hands on the floor is putting stress on your body, try adding blocks under the hands. This will help you to create length in your spine and will lessen the intensity of the stretch.

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VARIATION: HALF PYRAMID

To come into this pose, start in low lunge (anjaneyasana) with your fingertips on the floor or with the hands on blocks. Shift your hips backwards so that they’re stacked over the back knee. Straighten the front leg and flex the foot. Remember to keep your hips squared toward the front of your mat. Hold for ten deep breaths and then practice on the opposite side.

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VARIATION: SEATED IN A CHAIR

For this variation, you will also need two yoga blocks. Start by sitting at the edge of the chair with the feet flat on the floor. Set the blocks on either side of your legs. Straighten the left leg in front of you and flex the foot so that the heel is on the floor. Increase the bend of the right knee so that the ball of the foot rests on the floor underneath your seat. Lengthen your tailbone away from the crown of your head. Relax the shoulders. Hinge at the hips and fold forward. Bring your hands on top of the blocks, adjusting the height as needed. The hands should be underneath your shoulders. Dip the chin and lengthen the back of the neck. Hold for ten deep breaths, then practice on the opposite side.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER

  • Flex the front foot

  • Keep the spine tall

  • Hands underneath the shoulders

  • Keep the neck long by dipping the chin

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

TADASANA: MOUNTAIN POSE

Tadasana is frequently inserted throughout vinyasa (flow) yoga classes. This pose brings us into anatomical neutral and serves as a reference point for the rest of our movement during the practice. It may look easy, but holding this pose can be really challenging!

 

(If you are like me and have POTS, please practice this pose with support until you are sure that you can safely execute the traditional variation. Do not hold for long periods of time.)

 

BENEFITS OF TADASANA:

  • increases stamina
  • improves lower body strength
  • improves balance
  • improves posture/alignment
  • grounding
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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Stand with the feet hip distance apart and toes pointing straight ahead. Press into all four corners of the feet, feeling yourself rooting into the ground at these points as you simultaneously lift up through the arch of the foot. Keep a soft bend in the knees. Pull the lower belly and front ribs in. The arms are alongside the body with the palms facing forward and the fingertips spread wide. Relax the shoulders away from your ears and keep the chin parallel with the floor. Experience the sensation of simultaneously rooting down and rising up. Tailbone lengthening toward the earth as you reach through the crown of your head. Your body is a straight line of energy. Think shoulders over hips, hips over knees and knees over ankles. Hold for 10 deep breaths or longer, depending on your comfort. You’ll be surprised how challenging this pose is!

BONUS TIP: If you struggle with poor posture, practicing this pose with your back against a wall can help to train your muscle memory so that your body will learn what it feels like to be in proper alignment. This can also help if your muscles become fatigued easily in this pose.

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KNEELING VARIATION

If you have foot or ankle pain or if you struggle with vertigo, the kneeling variation of this pose may feel better for you. Come into a kneeling position with the knees directly below your hips. The legs are at a right angle so that your ankles and feet are pointing straight back from the knee joint. Pull the lower belly and front ribs in. Relax the shoulders. Extend the arms alongside the body with the palms facing forward. Hold for 10 deep breaths.

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STANDING CHAIR VARIATION

If you struggle with balance, holding onto the back of a chair is a good insurance policy. Try not to press any weight into your hands unless you have to. Focus on keeping your legs strong. Feeling the connection of your feet with the earth. Hold for 10 deep breaths.

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SEATED CHAIR VARIATION

Be seated in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. The legs should be at a right angle so the feet are directly below your knees and the knees are in line with the hips. If your feet don’t reach the floor, you can place yoga blocks, a bolster or folded blanket under your feet. Actively press into the feet and sit bones. As you root down through the lower body, feel the spine lengthen. Pull the lower belly and front ribs in. Relax the shoulders. Keep the chin parallel with the floor.

Hold for 10 deep breaths or longer, depending on your comfort.

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ALTERNATIVE POSE: SAVASANA

If being upright is not an option for you right now, I would recommend practicing savasana instead. This way you can still receive the benefits of bringing the body into a neutral position and practicing proper posture.

 

 

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

SAVASANA: CORPSE POSE

It may appear that you're just lying there, but savasana is arguably the MOST important yoga posture of all. Savasana is typically done at the end of our yoga practices, and this is because savasana allows the mind and body to integrate all of the work you did throughout your practice. Yoga builds and circulates prana (life-force energy) and when you rest in savasana, you allow this prana to permeate your entbody.

Benefits of Savasana:

  • grounding
  • relaxing and calming
  • soothes the nervous system
  • relieves fatigue
  • promotes integration of body, mind and spirit
  • promotes good posture
  • benefits Sahasrara chakra (crown chakra)
  • meditative pose
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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Lie on your back. Make sure that the shoulders are in line with your hips. The feet are at least hip distance apart (or wider) with the feet relaxed and flopping open to the sides. Scoop the shoulder blades back so that they're away from your ears and pressing evenly into the mat. The arms are resting alongside your body with the palms facing up. This is a position of deep surrender and rest. Tuck the chin slightly to create length in the back of your neck. The eyes can be open or closed. Hold this pose for up to twenty minutes or even longer, depending on your practice.

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ADDING PROPS: Bolster under knees + Pillow under the head

This pose can be uncomfortable for people with lower back pain. Adding a bolster or a pillow under the knees can help to alleviate this discomfort. You can also add a pillow or yoga block underneath the head to help create length in the back of your neck.

If lying flat doesn’t feel good at all, you can elevate the upper body using a bolster propped on top of a yoga block.


ALTERNATE POSE: Constructive Rest Pose

If adding a bolster doesn't alleviate your lower back discomfort, you can practice constructive rest pose instead. To come into constructive rest pose, lie flat on your back. Bend the knees and place the feet flat on the floor. Take the feet slightly wider than hip distance apart and let the knees fall in toward one another. The arms are extended alongside your body with the palms facing up. Hold this variation for as long as you like.


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ALTERNATE POSE: Side-Lying Pose

As the name suggests, for this pose, you'll lie on your side with the knees slightly bent to create length in the lower back. You can bring a pillow between your knees and a pillow under your head to keep your spine and hips in alignment. I also like to bring a bolster behind my back in this pose to feel extra safe and supported. You can also bring a pillow in front of your body and rest your top arm on it. 

ALTERNATE POSE: Seated in Chair

If lying down still doesn’t feel good, you can be seated in a chair with feet flat on the floor and the ankles directly below the knees. Rest the palms face-up on your thighs to create the same feeling of surrender.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

ARDHA MATSYENDRASANA: HALF LORD OF THE FISHES

Twists are a great way to re-energize the body and promote spinal flexibility. This can help us to reduce pain, improve posture and balance both sides of the body. I would recommend doing a twist every day if you can because they have so many benefits! 

The seated twist we’ll be looking at in this post has a really weird name, and I think it’s one if the poses that makes people think you need to be able to bend yourself into a pretzel in order to do yoga. But fear not, my friends! There are ways for us to modify this pose so that we can all get the benefits.

BENEFITS OF HALF LORD OF THE FISHES:

  • revitalizes the spine
  • stimulates the digestive system (great first thing in the morning)
  • energizing
  • promotes detoxification
  • relieves pain 
  • opens the shoulders
  • improves hip flexibility
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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Sit with your legs extended in front of you. Bend the right knee and place the foot flat on the floor. Cross the foot over the top of the left leg so that the foot is beside the left knee. Then bend the left leg so that the left foot comes beside the right hip. Evenly press into both sit bones. Lengthen your spine. Pull your belly button in, then begin to twist toward the right. Reach back with the right hand so that the palm is flat against the floor. This encourages the chest to open. Wrap the left arm around the right knee. Or press the outside of the left elbow into the outside of the right knee. Whichever position feels more comfortable for your shoulder is fine. Keep the jaw relaxed and the chin parallel with the floor. You may take the gaze over the right shoulder or keep the gaze straight ahead. Keep the spine tall and the chest proud as you breathe here. You may feel your hips shift a little bit to accommodate the twist. This is okay as long as the sit bones are still evenly rooted to the earth. Remember that you don’t need to force the twist as deep as you possibly can. Bring yourself to the place in the pose where you’re experiencing sensation but can still breathe deeply. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths on the right side, then practice on the left side.

 

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BOTTOM LEG EXTENDED

If you have sensitive knees, it might feel better to straighten the bottom leg. Otherwise, the same alignment tips from above would apply. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths and then practice on the opposite side.

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GAZE STRAIGHT AHEAD

Keeping your gaze straight ahead is recommended for stroke survivors and for those of us who may have neck pain or cervical instability. 

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ADDING A BLOCK 

If you’re hand doesn’t reach the floor, you can place a yoga block or folded blanket under the hand. Being able to actively reach the heel of the hand toward the floor will encourage your shoulders to open and is also energetically grounding.

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EASY SEATED VARIATION

If bending your legs into this pretzel shape doesn’t feel good, that’s okay. A simple seated twist is just as beneficial. You can do this on the floor with the ankles crossed or seated in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. Feel free to elevate your hips with a cushion or folded blanket so that the hips and knees stay comfortable. Keep both sit bones rooting into the earth as you lengthen your spine. Pull the belly button in and twist to the right. Reach back with the right hand and gently grasp the right knee with your left hand. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths and then practice on the left side. 

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CHAIR VARIATIONS

Be seated in your chair at the edge of the seat away from the back. Place the feet flat on the floor. From here, you may lift the right foot and place it on top of a block or you may cross the right knee over the left. Root the sit bones into your seat and lift through the crown of your head. Pull the belly in and twist to the right. You can place the right hand flat on the seat of the chair or you can hold onto the back of the chair. The left hand puts gentle pressure on the outside of the right knee. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths, then practice on the opposite side.

 

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SUPINE VARIATION 

If being upright isn’t an option for you right now, you can choose to do a supine twist instead. You’ll still get the same benefits. To come into the seriation, lying on your back with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor. Present to the soles of your feet and shift the hips slightly to the right.  Keep the shoulders pressing into the earth as you drop the knees over to the left. Extend the arms into a T position to open the chest and keep the shoulders rooted. Rest here for ten deep breaths and then practice on the opposite side. If you’d like a deeper stretch, you can practice this pose with one knee crossed over the other, alternating the top leg when you switch to the opposite side.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

BAKASANA: CROW POSE

Arm balances can seem really impressive and intimidating and impossible. But I would encourage you to give this pose a try! Crow pose was the first arm balance I learned as a yogi, and I think like me, you will surprise yourself with your own strength. You won't know what you're capable of unless you try. Even if you're not ready for an unsupported variation, one of these modification ideas can give you the same benefits!

Benefits of Crow Pose:

  • strengthens the whole body
  • targets the core muscles especially
  • improves balance
  • boosts confidence and promotes self-trust
  • promotes mental focus 
  • improves hip strength and flexibility

I would recommend warming up before you practice this pose. Some hip opening poses like Pigeon Pose and Garland Pose would be great choices. If you're practicing any of the variations that place weight on the hands, I would also recommend doing this practice to warm up your hands/wrists. 

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Start by coming into a squat on your tip toes with the big toes touching. Take the knees wide.

Place the hands flat on the floor, about shoulder width apart. Fan your fingers and press firmly into all ten fingers. The fleshy part of the hand between the index finger and thumb should also be pressing into the mat. The center of the palm is lifted. This focus on hand positioning will help to protect your wrists.

Snuggle the knees as close as you can get them into your armpits. The knees will be resting on the backs of your arms. Lift the hips up in the air and lean forward so that your weight shifts onto your hands. Engage your core. Pull the belly button in toward your spine. You will feel the back body round, and this is good. This is what is going to give you the lift you need.

When you're ready, lift one foot off the floor. See how that feels. Then lift the other foot. The big toes should be touching. 

This pose does require arm strength, but it also requires core strength and hip strength to hold the shape. I have seen people on Instagram doing crow pose challenges where they're timing how long they can hold it. But honestly, if you can only hold this pose for a couple seconds, that's great! I can only hold it for a few seconds myself. Because of this, I usually will do repetitions. So I'll rest for a couple breaths in between each attempt. This allows me to build strength at my own pace. Honor your body. Whatever you are capable of doing is worth doing.

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ADDING PROPS: BLOCKS UNDER THE FEET

Adding blocks will allow you to put more weight on your hands and create the shape of crow pose without actually lifting your feet. So this is going to help you feel more stable while still building strength. You can practice holding this variation for up to one minutes or you can practice doing repetitions of shorter holds.

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SEATED VARIATION ON BLOCKS

This variation is similar to Navasana (Boat Pose). To practice it, sit down on top of a yoga block. Extend your arms in front of you with the hands flexed. Engage the core muscles and pull the knees up toward the armpits. You can keep the toes resting on the floor, or if you'd like more challenge, you can lift the feet off the floor. Hold for up to one minute, or practice doing repetitions or shorter holds.

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CHAIR VARIATION WITH BLOCKS

For this variation, you will sit at the center of your chair so that when you lean into crow pose, you don't tip forward and fall on your face. In your seated position, take the knees wide. Then lean forward so that the knees are snuggling up toward the armpits. The hands are going to come onto blocks, about shoulder-width apart, adjusting the height of the blocks as needed. Press into the palms of the hands. Engage the core muscles and round through your back body. Bring the big toes together and lift the feet. Don't be fooled! This pose is challenging, even when done in a chair! Practice holding this pose for up to one minute, or practice doing repetitions.

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SUPINE VARIATION

This variation is my current favorite! In this variation you get to really focus on your hips and core. You're strengthening your core and teaching your body what it feels like to make the shape without worrying about falling. If you've never done crow pose before, I'd recommend starting here.

To practice this variation, lie on your back. Extend the arms straight up toward the ceiling like you're trying to push the ceiling away with your palms. Then engage your core muscles and bend your knees up toward your armpits. Lift your head. Get round in your spine. Feel the belly button pull in toward your spine. Hold the pose for 5-10 deep breaths or longer, depending on your comfort.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

EKA PADA RAJAKAPOTASANA: PIGEON POSE

Pigeon pose is a pose that I do every day. If you are someone who spends a lot of time sitting during the day, I would recommend that you do this pose daily as well! When we spend prolonged periods of time seated, our hips can become tight, and this can cause problems like low back pain, hip pain and sciatica. This pose can help us to counter these effects.

Benefits of Pigeon Pose:

  • stretches hip flexors, rotators and lower back
  • can help alleviate sciatica pain
  • relieves pain associated with menstruation
  • benefits svadhisthana chakra (the sacral chakra)
  • with the forehead resting on a prop or on the ground, it can be very soothing and grounding for the nervous system

People seem to either love or hate pigeon pose, but I think that with proper support, we can all enjoy this hip opener. And there are lots of variations to choose from!

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Come onto your hands and knees (tabletop position). Bend your left knee and slide it up between your hands so that your left foot is in front of your right hip. Extend the right leg behind you and sink into your hips. Keep the hips even. If you notice that you're falling over to the left side, try one of the following modifications. You can stay upright, or you can deepen the stretch by walking the hands forward. Rest your forehead on top of your forearms (or use props). If you start to notice that your breath is restricted, this can be a sign that you've gone too deep into the pose. You may need to back up and try one of the modification options. This is the time to "play your edge." Finding the space in the pose where you're experiencing sensation and challenge, but you can still breathe comfortably. Hold this pose for ten deep breaths, then practice on the opposite side. Keep in mind that it is normal for one side to feel different than the other, so you may need to add props to one side when the other doesn't need any props. Listen to your body!

A NOTE ON KNEE PAIN:

The front knee can easily become aggravated in this pose when the hip doesn’t want to externally rotate open enough to accommodate the bend in the knee.  This can happen simply because of the way a person’s hip joint is structured and isn’t necessarily a sign of inflexibility nor is it a sign that you should keep pushing. If you’re experiencing knee discomfort, please consider modifying this pose with props or trying one of the alternative poses. You’ll get the same benefits while keeping your knees happy.

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ADDING PROPS: Blanket or block under the hip of the bent leg

A common problem in pigeon pose is falling over toward one side. It's important to keep the hips even so that we're protecting the lower back in the stretch. To help you keep your hips square, you can add a block or a folded blanket under the hip of the bent leg. 

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ADDING PROPS: Block under the forehead or bolster under the upper body

For a restorative practice or evening practice, it's very soothing to be able to rest the head. For these kinds of practices, we don't want to overstretch the body. Adding a block under the forehead or a bolster under the upper body allows you to relax into the pose without experiencing excessive sensation in the hips.

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SUPINE VARIATION

For this option, you'll lie down on your back with your knees bent. Cross one ankle over your opposite knee. Keep the foot flexed to protect the knee. You may already be feeling a stretch. If so, stay right here. If you want to go deeper, you can interlace your hands behind your bottom knee and bring it in toward
your chest. This option eliminates the hip flexor stretch and may be more comfortable for yogis with lower back pain.

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SEATED CHAIR VARIATIONS

For this seated variation, you'll sit at the edge of your chair with the feet flat on the floor. Lift the left foot and place the outer edge of the foot on a block or you can cross the left ankle over the right knee. Keep the foot evenly flexed. Hold for ten deep breaths, then practice on the opposite side. 

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STANDING CHAIR VARIATION

This is a great option if getting up and down from the floor is difficult. To come into this variation, stand in front of your chair and grip the edges of the seat of the chair. Lift the left leg and place the bent knee on the seat of the chair with the left foot flexed. The right leg is straight and you're up on the toes as if you are in a lunge position. Keep the hips squared. Stack your arms on the back of the chair and let your forehead rest on top of your forearms. Take ten deep breaths, then practice on the opposite side. 

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ALTERNATIVE POSE OPTIONS

  • Deer Pose (Mrigasana)
  • Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana)
  • Firelog Pose (Agnistambhasana)

All of these hip openers offer a similar stretch in the outer hip, but eliminate the hip flexor stretch.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

 

MALASANA: GARLAND POSE

Malasana (garland pose) is a deep hip opening pose. For some of us, it can feel intense and uncomfortable. In some cases, it may even feel painful for our hips, feet andankles. But when we give the body support with props, it can become a profoundly soothing and grounding experience. 

BENEFITS:

  • opens the hips
  • stretches the inner thighs
  • releases the lower back 
  • strengthens the ankles
  • improves hip and ankle flexibility
  • promotes healthy digestion
  • grounding and calming
  • benefits the root chakra
  • benefits the sacral chakra
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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

From standing, take the feet slightly wider than hip distance apart. Turn the toes out at a 45 degree angle (this will help the hips to open more freely). Lower your hips into a deep squat. Bring your hands together at your heart and use your elbows as a lever against the inner thighs to encourage the hips to open. Lengthen your spine, keep the chest proud. Seat your awareness at your feet to promote energetic grounding.

Hold this pose for ten deep breaths or longer, depending on your comfort.

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ADDING PROPS

You can support this pose with props in a couple different ways to resolve common problems I see in this pose. If you're struggling to reach the heels all the way to the floor, add a rolled up towel or blanket under the heels so that you can experience stability and fully root into your feet. If you're struggling to balance, add a block or a bolster under your hips. This can also lessen the intensity of the inner thigh and hip stretch.

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SUPINE VARIATION 

If putting weight on your feet/ankles is uncomfortable, you can do this pose lying down instead. To come into this variation, lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Take the knees wide as if you were trying to snuggle the knees into your armpits. You can hold the knees with the hands in front or behind. Hold for ten breaths or up to five minutes, depending on your comfort.

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CHAIR YOGA VARIATION

If you struggle with balance issues or if limited mobility makes it difficult to get down to the floor, doing this pose in a chair might be a better option for you. Sit at the edge of the chair and take the feet wide. You can prop the feet up on blocks or a bolster to make sure you're fully rooted into your lower body. Lean forward and place the elbows on top of your thighs or to mimic the traditional variation, you can bring the elbows to the insides of the thighs and use them as a lever to open the hips.

Hold for ten deep breaths or longer, depending on your comfort.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

MATSYASANA: FISH POSE

Fish pose (matsyasana) is an intense backbend. Please approach this pose with caution if you experience blood pressure issues, migraines/headaches or neck pain/previous neck injury. Whenever I practice this pose, I pretty much always use props. You can still experience the same  benefits without going into the traditional variation, so be gentle with yourself. It's a good idea to warm up with some cat/cow stretches and a gentle backbend like cobra pose. If you're going for an unsupported variation of this pose, I would recommend including it in the second half of your practice.

BENEFITS:

  • spinal flexibility
  • upper back strength
  • improves posture
  • opens the chest and ribcage
  • opens the throat
  • benefits the throat chakra
  • benefits the heart chakra
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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Start by lying down on your back. Slide your hands underneath the outer edges of your hips with the palms facing down. Press into the elbows, forearms and hands and begin to lift your chest. Open your heart, broaden the collarbones while engaging the lower belly to protect your lower back. Keep the sit bones rooted into the floor. Lengthen the entire spine, including the neck. Keeping the neck long, lean back and rest the crown of the head on the floor. There should be no "crunching" of the cervical spine here. If this is uncomfortable, please consider trying option two instead. The neck is fragile, and it's not worth injuring yourself! The legs can be extended with the feet flexed, or you can bend the knees and place the feet flat on the floor. I'd recommend trying both leg positions and seeing which one feels best for you. It may be different for you each time, and that's okay!

Hold this pose for 5-10 deep breaths, then return to lying on your back. Follow up poses should balance the spine, such as any type of forward fold or gentle twist.

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VARIATION: HEAD UP

If you are uncomfortable placing the crown of the head on the floor, you can keep the head up. This does require a degree of strength to hold, so placing a block under the head is another option here. Hold for ten deep breaths.

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VARIATION: SUPPORTED WITH BOLSTER (OPTION 1)

This is my personal favorite variation. You get to hold the shape of the pose without any effort. To come into this pose, you'll set the bolster so that it's horizontal. Lie back over the bolster so that it's underneath your shoulder blades. Take the arms overhead into "cactus arm" position. You can come onto the crown of the head if that's comfortable for you, but I prefer to support the head and neck with a yoga block.

Hold for up to ten minutes, depending on your comfort. 

This variation can still provide a pretty intense chest opening. If your chest muscles are particularly tight, I would recommend the next variation.

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VARIATION: SUPPORTED WITH BOLSTER (OPTION 2)

For this variation, you'll prop your yoga bolster up on top of a yoga block (or a rolled up towel or blanket) to create an incline. You can adjust the incline to lessen the stretch if desired. Turn your back to the bolster and lie back. Let the chest gently open and rest the forearms on the floor with the palms face-down. If your arms don't reach the floor, place pillows or yoga blocks underneath. The legs can be bent or straight, depending on your preference. 

Hold for up to ten minutes or even fifteen minutes, depending on your comfort. 

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

BHARMANASANA: TABLETOP POSE

Tabletop pose is a foundational pose that we work with fairly often in asana practices. We use it as our base for cat/cow stretches, and it can be used as an alternative for downward-facing dog in a vinyasa (flow) practice. Although it is a common pose, that doesn't mean it is easy! I know many yogis struggle to get comfortable in this pose, so today I'm going to show you a few ways to modify it to fit your body's needs. All of these variations come with the same benefits:

  • building upper body strength
  • building core strength
  • building strength in the wrists and hands
  • improving posture
  • improves proprioception (awareness of body in space)
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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

For the traditional variation of this pose, come down onto your hands and knees. The hips are stacked over your knees. You can point or flex the toes, whichever you prefer. The shoulders are stacked directly over the wrists. All ten fingers are fanned out so that you're pressing evenly into all ten fingertips. The fleshy part of the hand between the index finger and the thumb is pressing into the mat. The center of the hand is lifted off the mat like a suction cup. This activation of the hands is going to protect your wrists in this pose. 

Engage your core muscles to keep the back flat. The gaze is just past your fingertips, keeping your neck straight so that it is an extension of your spine. 

Hold this pose for five to ten breaths or longer if you'd like to challenge yourself.

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VARIATION: TAKING A WIDE STANCE

If you'd like, you can give yourself more space to explore in this pose. Take the hands beyond the shoulders, maybe take them as wide as the mat. You can do the same with your knees. This can make it feel a bit easier on the wrists, but it does challenge the shoulders a bit more. Give it a try and see if it feels good for you!

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VARIATION: COMING ONTO THE FISTS

If you have sensitive wrists, coming up onto your fists will take the bend out of your wrists, which can help to alleviate pain here. This can feel a bit odd for your knuckles though, so again, give it a try and just see if it feels right for your body.

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VARIATION: ADDING BLOCKS 

Adding blocks under the hands shifts the weight back onto the knees a bit, so this may be a good option for you if you are just beginning to build upper body strength or if you have sensitive wrists and/or shoulders. 

VARIATION: STANDING WITH A CHAIR

This option can be helpful if getting down to the floor isn’t an option for you or if you have sensitive knees or knee injury. The same idea of stacking the shoulders over wrists and hips over knees applies. You can rest the hands on top of the seat and fan the fingers or you can grip the edges of the seat like I have done here.

 

VARIATION: ADDING A FOLDED BLANKET UNDER THE KNEES

Giving yourself extra padding on your knees can help to reduce pain. Remember that you can combine any of these variations to optimize your personal comfort.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

VIPARITA KARANI: LEGS UP THE WALL POSE

This pose can be practiced at anytime of day. Because it is so grounding and restorative, it's especially good for those times when you're feeling "tired but wired." But it has many other benefits too:

  • calms an anxious mind
  • revives tired muscles
  • replenishes energy stores
  • balances blood pressure
  • soothes headaches
  • alleviates PMS symptoms
  • relieves insomnia
  • soothes the nervous system
  • can benefit patients with POTS (just make sure to exit slowly)
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TRADITIONAL VARIATION:

Be seated next to a wall with your left hip pressing into the wall. Begin to roll yourself onto your back and simultaneously swing your legs up the wall. You might need to do this quickly so you can get some momentum going. Once you've got your legs up the wall, make any adjustments so that your spine is straight and your hips are squared. The closer your hips are to the wall, the more stretch you will feel in the hamstrings. This pose is usually held for at least five minutes and up to thirty minutes. If it's your first time trying this pose, I would recommend starting with just ten deep breaths and increasing your duration slowly. This pose trains the circulatory system to balance blood pressure and blood circulation, so your body may need some time to get used to this. To come out of this pose, bend your knees into your chest and roll yourself over to the side. Press yourself up to sit very slowly. 

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VARIATION: FOLDED BLANKET OR BOLSTER UNDER SACRUM

Adding a folded blanket under your sacrum may lessen the intensity of the hamstring stretch and magnifies the pose's benefits by making it more of an inversion (head below the heart). You can add the blanket after you've gotten into position, or you can start sitting on top of it before you roll onto your back, whichever feels easier to you.

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VARIATION: KNEES BENT, FEET FLAT AGAINST THE WALL

Bending the knees and placing your feet flat against the wall will help if your hamstrings are tight. It also puts gentle pressure on your lower belly, massaging the internal organs. 

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VARIATION: YOGA STRAP AROUND THE THIGHS

Securing a yoga strap around the thighs eliminates any muscle engagement in this pose. With the strap, your muscles don't need to work to keep your legs together, so you can completely release into the pose.  

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VARIATION: LEGS ON CHAIR

You can use a chair instead of a wall for this pose. This completely eliminates the hamstring stretch and allows the legs to completely relax and surrender to gravity. 

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

VIRABHADRASANA II: WARRIOR II

We call ourselves chronic WARRIORS for a reason! Even when we may not feel strong in body, our spirit is strong 💪🏼 For this week’s #poseoftheweek we are channeling our inner warrior with Virabhadrasana II. 

BENEFITS:

➕Energizing

➕Grounding

➕Empowering

➕Strengthens the entire body

➕Stretches the inner thighs and opens the hips

➕Improves balance

 

TRADITIONAL VARIATION 

From standing, take the feet wider than hip distance apart. The wider your stance, the more intense the pose will be, so keep that in mind. Line up the heel of your fromt foot with the arch of your back foot. Bend the front knee so that the knee is directly over the ankle. This will protect your knee and also give you more stability. You may need to shorten your stance to achieve this, and that’s okay. Safety is more important than going as deep in the pose as possible. Activate your legs, press firmly into the feet. Engage the glute of the bent leg to open the hip and keep your knee over your ankle. Pull the belly and front ribs in. The hands come to the hips, or you can extend the arms to a T position. The gaze is over your fromt shoulder or straight ahead, whichever feels best for your neck. Hold this pose for five to ten breaths, then practice on the opposite side. 

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CHAIR WARRIOR 

If you are experiencing lower body weakness as a result of injury, illness or deconditioning, supporting this pose with a chair will allow you to rebuild your strength safely. This is also a good option if you have balance issues. All of the elements of warrior II are present here. All of the same muscles are activated. The only difference is that you’ve added a chair under the front thigh. To come into this pose, sit side-ways in your chair. Firmly plant the front foot, then swing your other leg behind you. Find your stable base, then extend your arms if desired. Hold for 5-10 breaths and practice on both sides.

FLOOR VARIATION 

This variation is a bit easier to balance in than the traditional variation and requires less muscle engagement. Only do this variation if you have happy knees! Padding the knees with a blanket can help, but keep in mind that most of your weight is on one knee in this pose.

To come into this variation, kneel on the floor. Keep your left knee directly below your left hip, and swing your bent right leg out to the side. Engage the right glute to open the hip and plant your right foot below your right knee. Engage your core. The hands find your hips or the arms extend to T position. 

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

 

SUPTA PADANGUSTHASANA: RECLINING HAND TO BIG TOE POSE

This pose can offer quite an intense hamstring stretch. Be gentle with yourself and honor your body with modifications if needed.

BENEFITS:

  • grounding
  • stretches the hamstrings
  • alleviates lower back pain and sciatica
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TRADITIONAL VARIATION 

Lie on your back with the shoulders directly in line with the hips. Hug the right leg into your chest. Hook your right big toe with your right index and middle fingers and thumb. Begin to straighten the right leg, reaching through the heel. If your knee is a bit bent, that's okay. Keep both shoulder blades and both hips evenly pressing into the earth. You may need to actively externally rotate the right hip (feel it pulling away from your shoulder) to keep it anchored to the earth. Keep the feet flexed and the bottom leg pressing into the floor. If it feels difficult to keep both sides of your body even, try one of the modifications on the following page. This will protect your lower back and neck from being strained. Hold this pose for 5-10 deep breaths and then practice on the opposite side.

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HANDS BEHIND KNEE

If you can't reach your foot, grab hold of the back of your knee to hold the leg in place. This can help to keep the shoulders relaxed.

 

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LOWER LEG BENT 

Bending the bottom leg and placing the foot flat on the floor slightly curls the tailbone under which can decrease the sensation of stretch in the top leg. This can also help to keep the hips
even.

 

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ADDING A STRAP

To practice this variation, lie on your back. Hug your knee into your chest and lasso the foot with a yoga strap. Straighten the leg as far as you can and adjust your grip on the strap as needed. This variation allows the shoulders to relax more easily.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

TRIKONASANA: TRIANGLE POSE

Trikonasana (triangle pose) can feel totally liberating...or totally frightening. I have fallen so many times in this pose, but I always come back to it because it’s one of those poses that just has so much to offer. Supporting the pose with props can allow us to create the stability we need in the lower body in order to feel the expansion in the upper body, so don’t rush yourself to doing this pose free-standing if you aren’t ready. You can experience the same benefits with support, which include:

  • inner thigh stretch
  • lower body strengthening
  • core strengthening - including the obliques
  • improving our balance
  • opening the chest
  • energizing the body

TRADITIONAL VARIATION 

We’ll start with the left side, so your left foot will be in front. Take a wide stance, much like we do for Warrior II with the heel of the front foot in line with the arch of the back foot. Experiment with the length of your stance. The wider your feet, the deeper the stretch will be for the inner thigh. Lift your arms into a T position. Cock your right hip like you’ve got attitude and reach through your left fingertips. Get as long as you can through your upper body, then windmill the arms so the left hand comes down in front of your left shin bone. The top arm extends toward the sky or you can bend it and place the right hand on your right hip. Pull the front ribs in, keep thr core strong. You may feel your obliques activate here in order to keep your upper body lifted. Keep both shoulders plugged in their sockets as you lean back, creating space in your chest.  Taking the gaze up will challenge your balance, so feel free to keep your gaze straight ahead or toward the floor.

Hold for five to ten deep breaths. Then practice on the opposite side.

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WITH A BLOCK

Adding a block under the bottom hand to the inside of the front foot can help with balance and relieves a bit of the core effort. Feel free to play with the height of your block, but make sure you aren’t dumping all of your weight into it. You should still experience some core activation and side-body lift.

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CHAIR OPTION #1

This variation is similar to using a block, but it elevates the height, which might feel better for people with vertigo, POTS or balance issues.

CHAIR OPTION #2

This variation is something I invented, and I absolutely love it! It still allows you to engage all your muscles while the chair holds your weight and keeps you stable.

To come into this variation, be seated in a chair. Take your right leg straight out to the side, and keep your left leg bent in front of you, ankle stacked over knee. You’ll turn your body toward the right, reaching down with your left hand and up with your right hand. Open the chest as you pull your belly button in. You could add a block to this variation if desired or you could bend your bottom arm and rest your elbow on top of your bent leg. Feel free to play with the position of your top arm and with your gaze. 

Hold for ten deep breaths and then practice on the opposite side.

BONUS TIP:

In any of these variations, you have the option to practice against a wall, so that your back is pressing into the wall. This allows you to fully open the chest and find extention in your spine without worrying about falling backwards (which I have done...many times).

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

ANJANEYASANA: LOW LUNGE

Anjaneyasana (low lunge) can feel graceful and empowering when we find the version of the pose that both challenges and supports our bodies well. Even if the traditional variation of the pose isn't feeling good for you, you can choose a different variation and still receive these benefits:

  • stretches the inner thighs (front leg in the pose)
  • opens the hips
  • stretches the psoas muscles (also called the hip flexors, which originate in your lower back and wrap all the way around to the front of your pelvis/groin area) - these muscles often become shortened and tight when we spend lots of time sitting down, and this can cause us problems like back pain and lower body instability
  • balances the sacral chakra - svadhisthana chakra
  • grounds the body and mind
  • challenges our balance (with the exception of the chair and supine variations)
  • energizes the body
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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

From uttanasana (standing forward bend), generously bend your knees and plant the palms of your hands into the floor. Step back with your right foot, landing on the toes. Lower your right knee to the floor and uncurl the toes. Make sure that your left knee is directly over your left ankle. Firmly root into your lower body. Square your hips - externally rotating the hip of your left leg (backward motion) and internally rotating the hip of your right leg (forward motion). We want the hips to be even - think parallel with the front of the mat. Engage your core muscles to stabilize and protect your lower back. Once you feel stable in your lower body, lift your chest, lengthen your spine. You can choose to extend the arms overhead or you can bring them together at your heart or you can rest your hands on top of your left knee. Hold for five to ten deep breaths, and then practice on the opposite side.

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ADJUSTING YOUR POSITION

This stretch can feel pretty intense for the psoas (hip flexors) and quads. If you feel an overstretched sensation, pinching or pulling, you may need to adjust the distance between your front foot and your back knee. Shortening your stance will lessen the intensity of the stretch and may also help you to feel more stable and balanced. 

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WITH PROPS

You can cushion your back knee and shin with a blanket to make this pose more comfortable.
Adding blocks under your hands will help you to balance in the pose more easily. This will in turn help you to focus on lengthening your spine and sinking evenly into your hips. 

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CHAIR VARIATION

If you have sensitive knees or struggle to balance, this chair variation will help you to safely practice this pose while still conditioning your strength, flexibility and balance. For this variation, you'll need a flat-bottomed chair and a yoga bolster or blocks. Start by sitting sideways in the chair with your bolster in front of your chair. Firmly plant your right foot on the floor (if it doesn't reach, you can put a block under your foot) and make sure that the knee is stacked over the ankle. Extend the left leg back and rest the knee and shin on top of the bolster. All the alignment cues from above still apply. Place your hands wherever it feels comfortable for you. Hold for five to ten deep breaths. Practice on both sides.

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SUPINE VARIATION

If being upright isn't in the cards for you right now, that's okay! You can enjoy the same stretch on your back. For this variation, start by lying on your back in savasana. Hug your right knee into your chest and play with the ankle of the bend of your knee. See what feels good. What's going to give you the best inner thigh stretch. Keep your left leg active. Flex the foot and press the thigh bone into the earth. If you'd like to go deeper, you can hold onto the outer edge of your right foot and come into a half happy baby pose variation. This is going to intensify the inner thigh and hip stretch. Hold for five to ten deep breaths, and make sure to practice on both sides.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

ANANDA BALASANA: HAPPY BABY POSE

I feel like this pose is called "happy baby pose" for a good reason. I always feel so refreshed and uplifted after I do this pose, and I think that with proper support, we all can enjoy its benefits:

  • opens the hips and inner thighs
  • massages the internal organs
  • relieves lower back pain
  • uplifts the mood
  • relieves stress
  • relieves fatigue
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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

To practice the traditional expression of happy baby pose, lie on your back and bend your knees into your chest. Separate the knees so it's as if you're trying to snuggle your knees into your armpits. If you're already feeling an intense stretch, stay right here.

To go deeper, you can grab the outer edges of your feet or you can hook the big toes with your index fingers and thumbs. Once you have a solid grip on your feet, begin to lift the heels up toward the sky. Your ankles should be in line with your knees. It can help to gently pull the feet in toward the midline while using the elbows against the insides of the knees to open the inner thighs. This creates an opposing force that protects your knees and deepens the stretch. Keep your shoulders relaxed, feeling both shoulder blades pressing into the earth. 

Hold this pose for ten deep breaths, or longer, depending on your comfort.

If you notice that your shoulders or your lower back are floating up off the floor, try one of the modifications below...

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MODIFICATION: KNEE HUG

Instead of going all the way into the traditional expression of the pose, you can hang out with your arms wrapped around or behind your knees. This can give you all the same benefits of happy baby pose with less intensity. I like to do this version when I wake up in the morning to bring fresh circulation to my lower back and hips, but you can do it anytime of day.

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MODIFICATION: BOLSTER UNDER THE SACRUM

If you notice that your lower back is pulling up off the floor when you're in happy baby pose, try adding a bolster or a folded blanket under your sacrum. This allows you to fully relax into the pose and feel the entire spine grounding into the earth. If you have neck pain or injury, this variation may not be right for you, so you might want to consider one of the other modifications.

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MODIFICATION: STRAP AROUND YOUR FEET

For this variation, you'll loop a strap around your feet instead of holding onto them with your hands. This helps to correct the most common problem that people have in happy baby pose: shoulders pulling up off the mat. It's important to keep the shoulders glued to the floor in order to protect the neck from strain. Adding the strap makes this much easier to achieve.

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MODIFICATION: ONE LEG AT A TIME

Instead of bringing both legs into happy baby at the same time, you can try stretching one side of your body at a time. You might notice that this makes the hips more willing to open. 

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress!

UTTIHITA CHATURANGA DANDASANA: PLANK POSE

Plank pose can be a very physically demanding pose, one that we may be tempted to avoid if we have chronic pain or chronic illness symptoms. But there are ways we can modify it to make it more comfortable and less demanding, so that we can find the version of the pose that challenges us without completely exhausting ourselves. We don't want to miss out on the benefits of this pose! If you have sensitive wrists, these modifications will help you too.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

For the traditional expression of this pose, we'll start in table top pose. This way we can set up the arms first and then bring in the legs. The shoulders should be stacked directly over your wrists. Externally rotate the shoulders so that the inside creases of the elbows are facing the front of the mat. Keep a micro-bend in the elbows to prevent locking or hyperextension. Press firmly into all ten fingertips. Lengthen the tailbone and engage the core muscles. Finally, extend the legs back, coming onto the toes. Hold for as long as possible. 5-10 breaths is a great goal to start with. When you are finished, take rest in child's pose so your body can recuperate.

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MODIFICATION #1: PLANK POSE ON FISTS

Instead of practicing plank pose with the hands flat, make fists and come onto the knuckles. Otherwise, your alignment will be the same. Practicing this way keeps the wrists straight and may help relieve wrist pain.

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MODIFICATION #2: FOREARM PLANK

This variation may also help those with sensitive wrists, but it can be more demanding on the shoulders. Begin in tabletop pose, then come down onto the forearms with the shoulders aligned over the elbows. Elbows are bent at a 90 degree angle. Lengthen the tailbone, engage the core muscles. When you are ready, extend the legs behind you and come onto the toes. 

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MODIFICATION #3: HALF PLANK

Again, you'll start in tabletop pose with the knees together. Walk the hands forward slightly, then drop the hips to engage the core muscles. The toes can be pointed or you can come onto the toes, whichever feels more comfortable.

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MODIFICATION #4: PLANK AT THE WALL

This variation places significantly less weight on the arms and hands. Face the wall and place the palms against the wall shoulder width apart and at shoulder height. Walk the feet back a bit and come onto the toes so that you're leaning into the wall. This will help you to build strength. 

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress!