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!

CE7EC5FE-9759-4EA6-A900-8C01AFADBDA4.jpeg
A78DB6DF-8D6F-44D3-8BC9-F4099CA43C06.jpeg

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. Keep the left foot flexed to protect your knee. 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!

DBE7DBBD-F9F0-4EF8-9CB8-93A132CD90D4.jpeg
F9E7C0E4-7773-409C-B351-52C1DA0265F2.jpeg

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

A common problem in pigeon pose is falling over toward one side because the hips are tight. 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. 

2E0BAB5E-0051-46C8-A932-49A555E1EC90.jpeg

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.

47657FBF-ED16-493C-BA1B-934D0C91B057.jpeg

SUPINE VARIATION

For this option, you'll lie down on your back with your knees bent. Cross one ankle over your opposite 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.

0CA9BF9D-567F-4649-9A35-CA429F0E594D.jpeg
955F5EE5-C8F1-4191-B045-F5D0B397AD8F.jpeg

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

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. 

8E430D96-6388-4F49-863B-FB5A953F5C8B.jpeg
0497A0BE-3336-4587-ADA4-41EFF8C2231E.jpeg
4E9F8D28-727F-4D94-A63C-BFF0DE15D745.jpeg

ALTERNATIVE POSE OPTIONS

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

All of these hip openers offer a similar stretch, 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
93635AA9-740E-4E3B-96F2-104313CFF52D.jpeg

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.

7206C956-3A5F-463F-97CA-F31F6D0E7B4A.jpeg
8F690D24-09D2-40A6-B6B8-1A1971878FF7.jpeg

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.

56982D2C-4841-484F-8FF9-BF2EDF774780.jpeg
BFFC768D-2E60-4370-BA78-FADC09CE952B.jpeg

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.

64D04D42-B14B-4128-8C60-B1D7CE831246.jpeg

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
1070093A-D1C3-4866-B7B7-AEF76F17AEC3.jpeg

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.

058C0A1B-DF47-48B3-84B4-5926F02E5CD4.jpeg

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.

DD621BC3-2131-4939-81C6-4E000ECABE06.jpeg

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.

12DC8F8E-2C25-48E9-9F4F-C595888ADEBF.jpeg

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)
2F0235D4-2968-4DC5-97FA-04D613646F25.jpeg

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.

EAEECF17-8988-4867-A026-C517F6E5A77B.jpeg

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!

BA6EA0DD-27F8-4499-9654-AD10B8DB622F.jpeg

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.

FDF4EE19-DE8A-450F-9986-296E79C71964.jpeg

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)
A1B5E756-0AE5-4400-A9D8-FD0F70C9C806.jpeg

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. 

4BC67B40-7586-47DB-9912-A36A26A66825.jpeg

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.

729D808E-8121-464E-A338-034688452209.jpeg

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. 

9845A722-41CF-4AB3-AE02-10198F702A89.jpeg

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.  

5BBDDB57-F361-4B92-B35D-F89965D90393.jpeg

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. 

358426A1-80D6-410D-8EF1-AC0ED7D8AD73.jpeg

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
DAC26C0A-7546-420E-9A1A-31B5299FF3C0.jpeg

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.

20B3919C-4463-4D5C-8274-43906A39C494.jpeg

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.

 

CA9EC66A-8B87-4FFB-934F-B345BFB23ACC.jpeg

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.

 

B22BA133-CA27-4F0D-BFC9-FBF56EB536E5.jpeg

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.

82939295-4573-4AEB-80AC-7B6344CACE33.jpeg

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.

ECE9589B-8F1E-4145-A7AC-76D387536D14.jpeg

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
13587E56-DA12-4BDA-8177-0C8BCBD4128D.jpeg

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.

5B37B883-2955-4BF2-BF9E-393F9BA15B32.jpeg

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. 

10535AD9-0C25-4F50-B4E1-ED816B98E581.jpeg
C6C793E1-D516-48AD-803A-DEC1C0CE9536.jpeg

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. 

9C765A7F-62B6-4763-AADA-BDF67EBDA593.jpeg

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.

F4444371-F4DD-4610-AA30-046C452D9EC8.jpeg

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
6CA5144D-F1B7-41C6-A474-F62E3879DBE0.jpeg
C3EA5FF8-62F7-440A-A258-9E6E4B802373.jpeg

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...

8FF60553-3114-4CA2-90CA-AB94C4212FA3.jpeg
6C428FBB-60C8-4BCF-8228-7B07283B0A57.jpeg

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.

361E61C1-3E49-43C5-923D-3B715C325857.jpeg

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.

87F4DCAF-7AF7-4D11-A8F1-4761464646C6.jpeg

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.

C8D3194B-0F90-4C17-9B99-13598A32898D.jpeg

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.

5EF14890-9847-4E0C-9049-AFC1D0E0E5AC.jpeg

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.

487D3E74-44FC-4B7E-B1CF-6F9F30AC02C1.jpeg

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.

2DD4CACC-8582-4F70-B820-DE76F1830793.jpeg

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. 

96CDAA61-042D-422D-9324-F01C8D6D88D0.jpeg

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.

D359D85D-AE52-483F-A4E7-CBD76B7D962F.jpeg

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!

UTTANASANA: STANDING FORWARD BEND

This inversion is one of the poses in sun salutations, and it comes with so many benefits:

  • stretches the hamstrings
  • stretches and lengthens the spine
  • may benefit scoliosis
  • stimulates the lymphatic system
  • stimulates healthy digestion + relieves gas
  • strengthens the circulatory system
2E4F5775-6A4A-43DC-9387-6BDC472B96B5.jpeg

TRADITIONAL VARIATION

From Tadasana, hinge at the waist and bend forward, reaching the fingertips toward the floor or grasping the backs of the legs. Tilt the pelvis forward and draw the lower belly in to create extra length in the backs of the legs. Keep a soft bend in the knees to prevent locking the knees. The feet can be together or hip distance apart, whichever is most comfortable for you. Hold for 5-10 breaths.

47B0FCDB-9453-4C02-AB4F-882C68F70333.jpeg
2E59B777-9FB1-46BA-9801-61B0D2836CC7.jpeg

ADDING PROPS

If you are unable to reach the floor, that’s ok! You can modify this pose with a strap under the feet to help you create length in the spine and hamstrings. Or you can use a block or chair to bring the floor to you.

6506D94C-8697-47FE-AA12-4A5C0F04C61C.jpeg

CHAIR VARIATION

If you struggle with fatigue or have difficulty balancing, you can modify this pose with a chair. This will also lessen the intensity of the hamstring stretch.

Come into a seated position away from the back of the chair. The feet are flat on the floor, ankles directly below the knees. Hinge at the waist, reaching for the floor with your fingertips. Let the chest rest against your thighs and relax the head and spine. Hold for 5-10 breaths. To come up, press the palms of the hands into your thighs and slowly rise.

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!

BALASANA: CHILD'S POSE

Not everybody likes child’s pose. For many people, child's pose is a favorite. It's restorative, restful and cozy, and it can relieve pain and anxiety within the space of a few breaths. But it isn't that way for everybody.

As a yoga teacher, I have seen many students struggle to get comfortable in child's pose. Most people see child's pose as an easy pose that anybody can do even if it's their first time on the mat, but the reality is that some bodies just don't like the traditional shape of child's pose. Some bodies just don't want to bend that way, and that is perfectly okay! 

We shouldn't have to modify our bodies in order to fit the shape of our yoga practice, but rather our yoga practice should be modified to fit the shape of our bodies. There is nothing wrong with you if you don't like child's pose! But because this pose comes with so many benefits, let's explore some ways to make this pose more accessible.

Named balasana in sanskrit, child's pose comes with many benefits, including:

  • calming and grounding the mind and body
  • soothing headaches
  • opening the hips
  • stretching the spine
  • relieving lower back pain
  • stretching the shoulders
  • massaging the internal organs
  • soothing menstrual cramps

You can still get all of these amazing benefits with the modified variations of child's pose below. 

75EE4FC7-A0EF-490A-B7CD-0EF4CA364B9D.jpeg

TRADITIONAL CHILD’S POSE

Come down onto your hands and knees. Bring the big toes to touch. Knees can be together or apart, depending on your comfort. Taking the knees wide does give more space for the belly to expand with breath.

Walk the hands forward, reaching the arms straight out in front of you and draping your upper body over your thighs. Let your forehead find the floor. Take a big breath in and exhale, completely relax your entire body. Stay here for ten deep breaths or up to three minutes. Supported variations can be held longer. 

E55BA1BA-4C27-4AEA-A1A6-42E8D71C077B.jpeg
4BEC09F2-F9E3-4B92-B766-2B17C9A427D5.jpeg

CHILD'S POSE WITH PROPS

Start by coming down onto your knees. If you'd like, you can also place a folded blanket or cushion under your knees and under your hips for extra padding. Take your knees wide. Big toes touch. Bring the bolster between your knees so you can drape your entire torso over the top. These props help to correct the most common problem I see in child’s pose: booty floating way up in the air. Once you’re settled in, turn your head to one side. You can rest here for up to ten minutes. Just make sure that you turn your head to the opposite side halfway through so your neck doesn't become stiff.

60B3E333-162E-4A70-8D11-761656CE0BCD.jpeg

CHILD'S POSE WITH EXTENDED LEGS

For this variation, you will need a bolster and a yoga block. Lie down on your belly on top of the bolster. Stretch your legs out behind you, and rest your forehead on the yoga block. The arms can be bent with elbows under shoulders or the arms can be extended. This option is great for people with knee pain or neck pain, and it still gives you all the benefits of traditional child's pose. You may rest here for as long as you'd like.

2D29CCBF-1512-4829-A325-4150A491C0B1.jpeg

CHILD'S POSE IN A CHAIR

If getting down to the floor is a no-go for you, you'll love this third modification! This option uses two chairs facing each other, a yoga bolster and a yoga block. Sometimes we just have to get a bit creative!

To come into the pose, be seated in a chair with the feet flat on the floor. If they don't reach, use blocks or books to bring the floor to you. Set your block on the chair in front of you and place one end of the bolster on top of the block and the other end between your knees. Make sure it's secure and then drape your upper body over the bolster. You can rest here for up to ten minutes. But again, make sure you turn your head the opposite direction halfway through so your neck doesn't become stiff. 

I hope this pose helps you feel relaxed and supported. You deserve it!

If you'd like to see how to set up and execute these poses, play the video below.

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!

PASCHIMOTTANASANA: SEATED FORWARD BEND

Contrary to popular belief, Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) is not about touching your toes or being able to tap your knees with your nose. It's actually about creating length, as much length as you possibly can, in your spine and in your hamstrings.

Paschimottanasana comes with so many benefits, including:

  • massaging the internal organs and improving digestion
  • relieving lower back pain
  • soothing the nervous system
  • stretching the hamstrings and spine

There are so many different ways to modify this pose, so you're sure to find a variation that feels good for your body.

CE0B29CC-05FF-432C-B160-4B6D08BCD269.jpeg

TRADITIONAL PASCHIMOTTANASANA

With legs stretched out in front of you and feet flexed, first sit up nice and tall, reaching through the entire spine. Draw the lower belly in as you tilt the pelvis forward to create length in the back legs. Slowly walk your hands forward, keeping your back flat as you fold over your legs and reach for the feet with your hands. Do not compromise the straightness of your spine in order to come closer to your legs. Doing so may strain the lower back, which can be very sensitive. As long as you continue to practice, the flexibility will come.

Practice this pose for ten breaths or longer if part of a yin or restorative practice.

Alignment tips:

  • Engage the lower belly and lengthen your tailbone to protect your lower back.
  • Keep the spine tall and the shoulders relaxed.
  • Be mindful of your neck - it is an extension of your spine

Avoid this pose if you have herniated spinal discs or other back injury, or diarrhea.

A8A6523B-8AA0-43CC-A7D1-F37D24866921.jpeg
06CFD499-B143-485C-9A84-D54C60132C13.jpeg
1682E0FE-9C36-4B96-894C-AC101DDBF013.jpeg

SEATED VARIATIONS

1. Adding a folded blanket or a yoga block under your hips will help to facilitate the pelvic tilt that is required to fold forward in this pose. This creates extra length in the hamstrings, and you might find that even a prop at a low height makes a big difference. 

2. If you have tight hamstrings, try adding a rolled up towel, blanket or a yoga bolster under your knees. This allows you to relax into the pose while keeping the knees bent.

3. Lassoing a yoga strap around your feet can help you to work on deepening your flexibility while still honoring your body. Remember to keep your spine tall and the shoulders relaxed. If you start to feel like you're clenching your jaw or restricting your breath, you've gone too far into the pose and should back up to the point where you feel sensation but are still comfortable enough to breathe.

19171D52-66BD-4633-BA30-9830ACBDEBE1.jpeg
53CBC3FA-5E25-4A2B-BC8F-B4F569326E15.jpeg

RESTORATIVE VARIATIONS

When practicing this pose as a part of a bedtime or restorative practice, it's important that we are able to rest the head to fully immerse ourselves in the pose and soothe the nervous system. Using props is the best way to achieve this goal. Remember that you can always combine modification ideas to achieve the ideal support for your body.

A9ADBF46-5C34-45DF-A9C2-2B4503E059D7.jpeg

CHAIR YOGA VARIATION

To practice this variation, sit at the edge of a chair with the legs extended in front of you. The feet should be flexed, toes pointed toward the ceiling. You can rest your hands on your thighs or on two blocks. Sit up tall, lengthen the crown of your head away from your tail bone. Tilt your pelvis forward and pull the low belly in to protect your lower back and create additional length in your hamstrings. Keep your neck neutral. Shoulders away from your ears. Hold for ten deep breaths.

52420981-6E82-4703-87CB-F87056400884.jpeg

SUPINE VARIATION

For this variation, you will need a yoga strap. To come into this pose, lie flat on your back with your strap at the ready. Bend your knees into your chest and lasso both feet with your strap. Begin to extend your legs and reach the heels toward the sky. Make sure that your strap is long enough so that when you extend your legs, you can still keep your shoulder blades and elbows glued to the mat. This will prevent you from straining your neck. If there is a bend in your knees here, that's okay! 

Take ten deep breaths here and then release the hold. 

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!

ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA: DOWNWARD FACING DOG

I once heard a yoga instructor of mine call downward facing dog a "resting pose." Ha! I beg to differ. This pose is an energizing pose and is very physically demanding for the upper body. It strengthens the arms, shoulders and core muscles while lengthening the spine and stretching the hamstrings. It tones the digestive organs, and when done with the head supported, this pose can also relieve headaches and menstrual discomfort.

Check out the variations below to find the one that works best for your body, and don't forget that you can always ask questions here

739D664D-F496-4D40-8A19-5EBF63A5630E.jpeg

TRADITIONAL DOWNWARD FACING DOG

Start on hands and knees, but unlike tabletop pose, you'll walk the hands slightly in front of the shoulders. Spread the fingers wide and press firmly into all ten fingertips. Curl your toes under, and begin to lift your hips up toward the sky. Reach the heels toward the floor and straighten the legs as far as you are able (If your heels don't touch the floor, you might like the next modification option). Lengthen your tailbone away from the crown of your head. Engage the lower belly to protect your lower back and to prevent all of your weight from falling on your hands. Shoulders are plugged in their sockets, relaxed away from the ears. Take ten deep breaths here, then take rest in child's pose.

Modify or avoid this pose if you have a rotator cuff injury, high blood pressure, diarrhea, or carpal tunnel.

56FB27E8-0BF2-47F2-94C6-6E2BD11178AE.jpeg

VARIATION: BLANKET UNDER THE HEELS

Adding a blanket underneath your heels will allow you to ground your feet firmly into the earth while still maintaining a bend in your knees. This is helpful if you have tight hamstrings. 

C6F4DEC2-326B-49B4-A0C9-9E86F89DFA49.jpeg

POSE ALTERNATIVE: DOLPHIN POSE

If you have sensitive wrists, dolphin pose might be a good alternative to downward facing dog. However, dolphin pose does put a lot more pressure on the shoulders and requires quite a bit of shoulder flexibility. To come into this pose, start on your hands and knees. Drop down to your forearms with the elbows in line with the wrists. Curl your toes under and begin to lift your hips and straighten your legs. Hold for ten deep breaths and then take rest in child's pose.

E70CA282-E595-4862-A1A0-9EC0CB838E45.jpeg
29FA0D89-9CE7-48A1-9C61-F88985E07ABF.jpeg
CBA4C2DF-69D8-4ABD-893A-FB4DC1945970.jpeg

CHAIR YOGA VARIATIONS

These variations are incredibly helpful if you have sensitive wrists, upper body weakness, headaches, dizziness, or balance issues. 

The first two standing variations are pretty similar, but the first one will give you more of an upper body stretch. The second variation, gives you a lower body stretch while allowing you to rest your head. This variation is especially beneficial for headaches.

The third chair variation allows you to support your entire body weight on the chair. You don't have to worry about balance at all, but you still get the benefits of the upper body stretch, lower back pain relief and benefits for the digestive system.

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!