MRIGASANA: DEER POSE

This pose is a twist and forward fold at the same time! I love doing this one during restorative practices and at bedtime.

BENEFITS OF DEER POSE:

  • stretches the hips, quads and spine to relieve tension

  • soothing for mind and body

  • promotes spinal health

  • stimulates digestion

YOU CAN FIND THIS POSE IN THESE YOGA CLASSES.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Sit with the legs extended in front of you. Bend the right knee and internally rotate your right hip so that the heel of your right foot comes up next to your right hip. This might feel like an intense quad stretch, but it will lessen as we fully enter this pose. Next you'll bend your left knee and bring the sole of your left foot to the top of your right knee. Open the left hip. Sit up tall, lengthen the crown of your head away from your tailbone. Begin to walk your hands over to the left side. You may notice that your right hip lifts off of the floor, and this is a good thing. Allow your pelvis to move freely. When you're ready, come down onto the elbows, stacking the forearms, one on top of the other. Then rest the forehead on the forearms. If this feels too intense or your forehead doesn't reach, try one of the modifications on the following page. Hold this pose for ten deep breaths. Be sure to practice on both sides. 

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VARIATION: FEET STACKED

If you're still feeling a significant quad stretch, try bringing the knees closer together and stacking the feet. Bring the ankle of the top foot to the arch of the bottom foot. This should help lessen the intensity so that you can fully relax.

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ADDING PROPS: BLANKET BETWEEN KNEES

Adding a blanket between your knees pads the joints and will also lessen the intensity of the quad stretch. If you're feeling any strain in your top hip or low back, this modification should help with that, too.

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ADDING PROPS: BOLSTER UNDER UPPER BODY

Resting the upper body on a bolster lessens the intensity of the stretch and allows you to rest your head so that you can completely relax into this pose. Feel free to adjust the height of the bolster to find what feels best. This restorative variation can be held for up to five minutes on each side.

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ALTERNATE POSE: PIGEON POSE

If twisting is not possible for you, you can get the same hip stretch with your preferred variation of pigeon pose.



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. 




UPAVISTHA KONASANA: SEATED WIDE LEGGED FORWARD BEND

This pose gives such a juicy stretch. It can be practiced anytime of day, but I really like this one for relieving tension and circulating energy at bedtime.

BENEFITS OF UPAVISTHA KONASANA:

  • stretches the inner thighs/groin

  • stretches the hamstrings

  • relieves mental stress

  • soothes the nervous system

  • promotes digestive health

  • circulates energy to the hips/pelvis and low back

  • benefits svadhisthana chakra

YOU CAN ALSO FIND THIS POSE IN THESE YOGA CLASSES.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION:

Be seated on your mat with the legs outstretched in front of you. If this is your first time trying this pose, I’d recommend starting by taking the feet about as wide as the width of your yoga mat. The further apart your feet are, the more intense the stretch will be. Flex evenly through the feet so all ten toes are pointing up toward the ceiling. Sit up tall, lengthening the tailbone away from the crown of the head. If you’re already feeling a good stretch, you can stay right here, or you can begin to walk the hands forward. Be sure that as you fold, your spine stays tall. Gently tuck the chin to create length in the back of the neck. Hold for 10 deep breaths or longer, depending on your comfort.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • the wider you take your feet, the more intense the stretch

  • flex the feet

  • keep the spine tall

  • tuck the chin

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ADDING PROPS: CUSHION UNDER HIPS

It’s common to experience lower back tension in forward folds. Adding a folded blanket under your hips will help to keep the low back comfortable, and you may find that it allows you to fold more deeply. Make sure that you sit at the edge of the blanket so that only your sit bones are on top of it.

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ADDING PROPS: BLOCKS OR WASHCLOTHS UNDER KNEES

Adding yoga blocks or rolled up washcloths under the knees is a good idea if you have tight hamstrings. If you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum and are hypermobile, this is a great option too.

ADDING PROPS: BLOCK, BOLSTER OR CHAIR UNDER FOREHEAD

For a more restorative experience, you can add a prop under your forehead so that you can fold forward and rest deeply. This is very soothing for the nervous system and the third eye chakra.

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SUPINE VARIATION

If being upright isn’t an option for you, try doing this pose supine at the wall. This option may give you a more intense stretch since you’ll have gravity pulling on you.

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CHAIR VARIATION

If getting down to the floor isn’t possible, you can experience the inner thigh stretch of upavistha konasana seated in a chair. To start, sit at the edge of the chair with the feet flat on the floor. Take the knees wide. Bring the elbows to your inner thighs and press the palms together at heart center. This will create gentle pressure that will deepen the inner thigh stretch. Hold for ten deep breaths.

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ALTERNATE POSE: BADDHA KONASANA

This pose offers similar benefits as Upavistha Konasana but without the hamstring stretch. You can choose to do this one upright (image above) or opt for the supine variation.


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. 

URDHVA MUKHA SVANASANA: UPWARD FACING DOG

Before attempting upward facing dog, please warm up your body with cat/cow stretches and cobra pose. Doing this pose without warming up first can cause lower back discomfort.

BENEFITS OF UPWARD FACING DOG:

  • opens the chest and shoulders

  • builds upper body strength

  • improves spinal flexibility

  • energizing

  • benefits the heart chakra and sacral chakra

YOU CAN FIND THIS POSE IN THIS YOGA CLASS.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Lying on your belly, press the tops of the feet and all ten toes into the yoga mat. The feet can be together or hip distance apart. Engage the legs and lift the knee caps off the floor. Bring the hands below the shoulders. Fan the fingertips wide and firmly press all the knuckles into the yoga mat. Begin to open your heart, lifting the chest off the mat, squeezing the shoulder blades together. Press into the palms of the hands, straighten the arms and lift the hips up off the mat. Lengthen the tailbone away from crown of head and keep the core engaged. Feel the pelvis moving forward in space. These core actions will protect your low back. Keep the shoulders are away from the ears and broaden through the collarbones. Dip your chin to keep the back of the neck long, and gaze straight ahead. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths. A good counterpose to practice after this one is child’s pose.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • engage the legs

  • engage the core and lengthen the tailbone

  • sensation of the pelvis moving forward in space

  • keep a microbend in the elbows and fan the fingers

  • press firmly into all the knuckles

  • dip your chin to create length in back of neck

  • gaze straight ahead

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ADDING PROPS: YOGA BLOCKS

Adding yoga blocks under the hands will give you a bit more height here so that it might be easier to lift the hips off the mat. Be extra mindful to keep your core strong so that your low back doesn’t sag too far and cause pinching.

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ADDING PROPS: YOGA BOLSTER

This variation is my current favorite! If you’re new to updog, I’d recommend starting here. It helps you to build strength while keeping the body supported. With the bolster underneath the pelvis, you can focus on engaging your core and really feeling the pelvis moving forward in space. So important for us to keep our low back safe in these backbends.

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CHAIR VARIATION

This is a great option if getting down to the floor isn’t possible for you right now. However, this variation is still just as challenging for the upper body!

ALTERNATE POSE: COBRA POSE

This pose is a great alternative if putting a lot of weight on your hands doesn’t feel good. Cobra pose still builds lots of strength in the body and opens the chest and shoulders.

ALTERNATE POSE: FISH POSE

If you’re looking for a deep back bend but you don’t want to lie on your belly or put weight into your hands, try one of these fish pose variations. Fish pose can be practiced passively when you add props, so you get all the benefits of opening the heart without any effort.

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 III: WARRIOR III

I have such a love-hate relationship with Warrior III! It’s so effective at improving balance and strengthening the body. But it’s so HARD!

BENEFITS OF WARRIOR III:

  • strengthening for whole body (especially the glutes! 🍑)

  • improves balance

  • improves posture

  • strengthens the ankles and feet

  • stretches the hamstrings

  • grounding

  • empowering

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

From Tadasana, bring your hands together at your heart in prayer. Find your center. Engage your core. Hinge at the hips and begin to lift the right foot up off the floor. Flex the right foot as you lean forward, extending the leg straight back. Imagine trying to press that foot into a wall (or maybe actually use a wall if you want!) Keep a microbend in the knees to prevent hyperextension. Keep the hips squared (both hip points pointing down toward the mat like two headlights). You may need to pull the right hip in more than you think you do. Pull the navel in. Keep the shoulders relaxed. Experience a line of energy from the heel of the right foot to the crown of the head. If desired, you can extend the arms straight in front of you. This will make the pose more challenging. Keep the neck long and gaze at one point on the floor in front of you. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • Microbend the knees

  • Engage your core!

  • Keep the hips square - right hip may need to come forward more than you feel like it does

  • keep the spine (including the neck) long

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ADDING A CHAIR OR BLOCKS FOR SUPPORT

Resting your hands on the seat of a chair or putting a yoga block under each hand will help you to balance in this pose as you build strength. (My head isn’t actually touching the back of the chair)

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ALTERNATE POSE: SPINAL BALANCE

This pose strengthens the same muscles and also challenges your balance, but you may find it a bit less intimidating since you’re closer to the floor in case you fall 😉

Start by coming into table top pose. Firm the abs in. Keeping the hips squared (both hip points pointing down toward the mat) extend the right leg straight back. Start by coming onto the ball of the foot, then experiment with lifting the leg up so that it’s parallel with the floor. Stay here, or further challenge yourself by lifting the opposite arm up. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths, then practice on the opposite side.

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ALTERNATE POSE: SUPTA PADANGUSTHASANA

Supta Padangusthasana will give you a similar stretch as Warrior III, but without needing to balance.

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. 

UTTHITA TADASANA: STAR POSE

Anytime I’m feeling low, disempowered, ungrounded, I find my power again in this pose. Standing with the feet firmly planted, muscles engaged, taking up space. The way we position our bodies affects us energetically, and I love that yoga gives us the tools we need to take conscious control of our own embodiment.

BENEFITS OF STAR POSE:

  • strengthens the whole body

  • grounding

  • energizing

  • relieves fatigue

  • empowering - boosts confidence

  • improves posture

  • improves circulation

  • increases breathing capacity (more prana = more energy)

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Start in Tadasana. From here, step the feet wide, about three feet apart. Press down evenly into all four corners of the feet and lift up through the arches. Engage the quads and inner thighs, keeping a microbend in the knees. Lengthen the tailbone and scoop the low abs in and up. Pull the front ribs in. You can keep the hands at your hips or together in prayer at the heart. For more challenge, you can extend them into a T position either with the palms face down or palms facing forward. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • Keep your muscles active!

  • Strong core

  • Feel yourself rooting down as you simultaneously rise up

  • note: This pose is typically done with all 10 toes facing forward, but you can experiment with turning the toes out 45 degrees and see which one feels better for you

YOU CAN ALSO FIND THIS POSE IN THIS YOGA CLASS.

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CHAIR VARIATION

For the chair variation of this pose, sit at the edge of the seat with your feet flat on the floor. Take the knees wide and press firmly into the feet. The ankles should be directly below the knees. Pull the navel in toward your spine. Sit up tall. Keep the hands on your hips, together at prayer or extend the arms into T position. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths.

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SEATED VARIATION

Come into sukhasana and take the arms wide to focus on upper body strengthening. This is great if you have balance issues or joint pain in the lower body. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths.

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SUPINE VARIATION

Lie flat on your back with the shoulders in line with your hips. Extend the legs and take the feet wide. Flex the feet and activate the legs. Take the arms into T position with the palms facing up. Spread the finger tips. Hold for 10 deep breaths. Then relax the muscles. You can rest here as an alternative to savasana if you’d like. It can feel very empowering to let your body soread out and take up space.

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. 

SETU BANDHA SARVANGASANA: BRIDGE POSE

Please be safe and warm up with some cat/cow stretches and cobra pose before attempting the traditional variation of bridge pose. Traditional bridge is a deep heart opening and shoulder opening pose, a shape that your body will be happier to make if your muscles are warm.

Please avoid practicing the traditional variation of this pose if you have any kind of neck injury. Scroll down for more variations.

BENEFITS OF BRIDGE POSE:

  • heart opening

  • benefits anahata chakra

  • strengthens the hamstrings, glutes and inner thighs

  • strengthens the core and low back

  • promotes thyroid health

  • alleviates fatigue

  • reduces insomnia

YOU CAN FIND THIS POSE IN THESE YOGA CLASSES.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Lie on your back with the arms extended alongside your body, palms facing down. The feet are flat on the floor and all ten toes are pointing straight ahead. The feet should be about hip distance apart, so the heels are in line with your sit bones. Press into the soles of the feet and lift your hips. Adjust the position of your feet so that your ankles are directly below the knees. Keep the toes pointing forward. Feel the inner thighs magnetize toward one another. If you notice the knees splaying open, put a yoga block or a rolled up blanket between your thighs and squeeze the thighs together.

Feel the spine arch evenly. The sternum and collarbones lift. Snuggle the shoulder blades toward one another so that you’re lifting up onto the shoulders to create space for your neck. You can keep the palms of the hands pressing into the earth, or you can clasp the hands. You could also press the palms of the hands into the lower back for support if desired.

Hold for ten deep breaths, then lower the hips back down. Balance the spine by hugging the knees in toward your chest and then rest in savasana.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • Toes face forward

  • Knees over ankles

  • Inner thighs magnetized toward one another - add a block here if you’re struggling

  • Avoid clenching your rear - this will put stress on the low back. If this happens, try adding a block between the thighs and squeeze the thighs together.

  • Snuggle the shoulder blades together, like you’re tucking your shoulders in.

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YOGA BLOCK UNDER THE SACRUM

Lie on your back with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor. Press into the soles of the feet and lift your hips. With the hips lifted, slide a yoga block underneath your sacrum, adjusting the height to your comfort. The higher the block, the deeper the backbend will be. Snuggle your shoulder blades together, coming onto the tops of the shoulders. Tuck the chin into your chest for a stretch in the back of the neck. Let the majority of your weight rest on top of the block. Hold this pose for ten deep breaths or up to five minutes. To come out of this pose, press into your feet, lift the hips and remove the block. Roll yourself over to the side and slowly press yourself up to sit.

NON-INVERTED VARIATION

For this variation, set a yoga block in front of a bolster. Sit down on top of the block and lower yourself back onto the bolster. Adjust your position so that your sacrum is on top of the block and your entire spine is on the bolster. You can keep the feet below the knees and actively press into the soles of the feet, engaging the legs. For a more restorative option, you can take the feet as wide as the mat and let the knees fall in toward one another. Hold for ten deep breaths or up to five minutes.

This is a good option for people with neck pain.

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RESTORATIVE VARIATION

If lying flat isn’t comfortable, this variation can give you the same heart opening benefits of bridge pose. Set your bolster with one end over a yoga block, then lie back with the spine along the bolster. Take the arms alongside the body with the palms facing up. This will encourage the shoulders to open. The legs can be straight, or you may bend the knees and place the feet flat on the floor. Rest here for as long as you’d like.

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. 

UTKATA KONASANA: GODDESS POSE

Goddess pose is an empowering, sensual and challenging yoga pose. Also called “yogi squat,” this pose will strengthen your whole body.

BENEFITS OF GODDESS POSE:

  • stretches the inner thighs and groin

  • strengthens the quads and glutes

  • strengthens the core

  • strengthens the upper body (when done with arms up)

  • benefits svadhisthana chakra (sacral chakra)

  • inspires sensuality and creativity - awakens the divine feminine energy

  • grounding

  • empowering

  • energizing

YOU CAN FIND THIS POSE IN THESE YOGA CLASSES.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

From Tadasana, step the feet wider than hip distance apart. Turn the toes out to 45 degrees. Press firmly into all four corners of the feet. Bend the knees and sink low in the hips. Try to get the knees to 90 degrees, and make sure the knees are stacked over ankles (my stance is just a tad short in the first photo). This will protect your knees from strain. Engage your core muscles, pulling the low abs and front ribs in. There are a lot of options for the arms here. You can choose to keep the hands on the hips. You could bring the hands together at prayer or you can take cactus arms (first photo) with the fingertips fanned and the arms active. Hold this pose for ten deep breaths or as long as you can ;)

To exit the pose, straighten the legs and step or hop the feet together.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • knees over ankles

  • core engaged

  • sink lower than you think you can

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CHAIR VARIATION

Doing this pose seated in a chair is still suuuper challenging! Sit at the edge of your seat and take the knees wide. Actively press into the feet. Feel the glutes and quads engage. Pull the navel in toward your spine. Knit the front ribs in. Keep the hands on your hips or together at prayer. For more challenge, take the arms up into cactus arms. Hold for ten deep breaths, then walk the feet back together.

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ALTERNATE POSE: MALASANA

You may find malasana a bit less challenging, and it will help you to build strength and flexibility in the lower body. It offers all the same energetic benefits as Goddess pose.

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ALTERNATE POSE: SUPTA BADDHA KONASANA

Reclining bound angle pose will also stretch the inner thighs and groin and offers similar energetic benefits. If you actively press the soles of the feet together and engage the inner thighs, you’ll get some muscle conditioning in this pose as well.

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 BADDHA KONASANA: RECLINING BOUND ANGLE POSE

I've had students tell me that they've fallen asleep in this pose and woken up feeling amazing! When supported with props, this pose can be safely held for long periods of time. Feel free to combine all of these modification ideas for total support and relaxation.

BENEFITS OF RECLINING BOUND ANGLE POSE:

  • stretches the inner thighs

  • relieves menstrual discomfort

  • balances heart rate and blood pressure

  • relieves fatigue

  • calms the nervous system

  • recirculates energy to the hips, groin and lower back

YOU CAN ALSO FIND THIS POSE IN THESE YOGA CLASSES.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Bring the soles of the feet together and let your knees fall open to the sides. Lengthen your tailbone away from the crown of your head, tucking the tailbone slightly to relieve any lower back tension. The arms can rest alongside the body with the palms facing up, or you can rest the hands on top of your lower belly.

Hold this pose for 10 deep breaths or up to 20 minutes when you practice with props. To come out of the pose, bring your knees together, roll yourself over to the side and slowly press yourself up to sit.

ADDING PROPS: FOLDED BLANKETS OR YOGA BLOCKS UNDER KNEES

Adding a blanket or block under each knee will lessen the inner thigh stretch, making this pose more comfortable so that you can hold it for longer periods of time.

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ADDING PROPS: YOGA STRAP

Create a loop with a strap and slide it up around your waist. Lie on your back and come into this pose as you normally would. With the strap around your waist, secure the other end of the same loop around your feet. This allows you to hold this shape without any effort, and it releases the lower back.

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ADDING PROPS: BOLSTER

Reclining back on a bolster lessens the intensity of the inner thigh stretch and also gently opens the chest. Be sure to tuck the tailbone under to keep the lower back long. If you'd like, you could add folded blankets or pillows under each of your arms for 
additional support.

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. 

SUKHASANA: EASY SEATED POSE

This pose is called “easy,” but for many of us, sitting up straight can actually be really challenging! It requires a good deal of core strength, so as we’re building up to this, it can be helpful to have some alternative variations. Finding a comfortable seat is so important in yoga, especially when you want to be able to sit for awhile to meditate.

BENEFITS OF EASY SEATED POSE:

  • promotes good posture

  • opens the hips

  • boosts energy

  • grounding

YOU CAN ALSO FIND THIS POSE IN THESE YOGA CLASSES.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Come down onto the floor and be seated. Cross the ankles in front of you. Root the sit bones evenly into the floor. Feel the tailbone lengthen toward the earth as the navel pulls in and up. This will keep the pelvis neutral and protect the low back. Knit the front ribs in. Relax the shoulders and get broad through the collar bones. Rest your hands on your thighs - I find that this helps the shoulders relax better than putting the hands on the knees, but you can choose what you prefer. Gently tuck the chin to create length in the back of the neck as you reach through the crown of the head. The eyes may softly close.

Stay here as long as is comfortable for you.

Sitting up straight can make us feel like we’re drifting back in space because most of us spend so much time hunched over. If you’re not sure if you’re sitting up straight, try practicing this pose at a wall (see photo/description below).

If your toes or legs easily fall asleep in this pose, try propping the pose with a cushion or bolster (see photos below).

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • evenly root the sit bones into the mat

  • actively engage the core muscles

  • when you sit up straight, you may feel like you’re drifting backward in space

  • think shoulders over hips, crown of head over tailbone

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SITTING AGAINST A WALL

Sitting with your back against a wall will help to retrain your muscle memory to remember what it feels like to sit up straight. If you struggle with poor posture or if you have weak core muscles, I’d recommend this variation.

Sit with your sacrum and shoulder blades pressing into the wall. Sit up tall, lengthen the tailbone away from the crown of the head. Knit the front ribs together. Your natural lumbar curve will create a small gap between your low back and the wall. This is good. Lean back and let your head rest against the wall.

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ADDING PROPS: CUSHION OR FOLDED BLANKET UNDER THE HIPS

If you experience low back pain, hip pain or knee pain in this pose, elevating your hips with a prop may help this pose feel more comfortable. You can try using a folded blanket, bolster, cushion or yoga block. Find the height that feels right for you. Make sure to sit at the edge of the prop so only your seat is on the prop. Doing so allows the pelvis to come into neutral and creates more space for the hips to open.

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CHAIR VARIATION

To practice this variation, be seated at the edge of your chair with the feet flat on the floor and the knees over the ankles. Separate the knees so that they’re in line with the hips and the femur bones are parallel. Sit up tall and evenly press both sitting bones into the seat of the chair. Lengthen the tailbone away from the crown of the head, gently pulling the navel in toward the spine. Relax the shoulders. Dip the chin to create length in the back of the neck. Rest the palms of the hands on the thighs.

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ALTERNATE POSE: SIDDHASANA

If crossing the ankles doesn’t feel comfortable, try siddhasana. This pose is a lot like sukhasana, but iInstead of crossing the ankles, you’ll line the heels up in front of each other so that the tops of the feet are on the mat and the heels point up toward your face. Depending on your knees, this may or may not feel good. If your knees are sensitive, try sitting up on a folded blanket or cushion.

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ALTERNATE POSE: SAVASANA

Sukhasana is the go-to yoga pose for seated meditation, but you can meditate in savasana, too! It might be a bit harder to stay awake, but if it’s more comfortable for you to lie down, then I say to go for it.

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. 

MARJARYASANA/BITILASANA VINYASA: CAT/COW STRETCHES

Cat/cow stretches are a beautiful way to warm up your body before you practice deeper yoga stretches or active poses. Cat/cow stretches are made up of marjaryasana and bitilasana, and they are considered a vinyasa because we are linking our movement with our breath as we flow between these two poses.

BENEFITS OF CAT/COW:

  • creates length in the spine

  • relieves tension

  • strengthens the core muscles

  • massages internal organs

  • improves digestion

  • improves posture

Press play on the video below for three cat/cow variations.

YOU CAN ALSO FIND CAT/COW IN THESE YOGA CLASSES.

CLICK HERE FOR TABLETOP POSE PROP IDEAS.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER

  • always engage your core muscles on the exhale to propel the movement

  • focus on length and spaciousness - not how extreme your range of motion is

  • evenly arch through the entire spine in cow pose

  • think about being an evenly rounded rainbow in cat pose

  • keep your neck long

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. 

PARSVA BALASANA: THREAD THE NEEDLE

This is one of the first yoga poses I learned! It targets the upper back, which can become tight from all of the time we spend hunched over our phones, our desks, etc. So poses like this one are something I am ALWAYS needing.

This pose is often referred to as thread the needle, but you may also hear it called revolved child’s pose.

BENEFITS OF THREAD THE NEEDLE:

  • opens the ribcage

  • relieves tension in the neck, shoulders, hips and back

  • calming for mind and body

  • stimulates digestion and promotes detoxification

  • benefits the solar plexus chakra and heart chakra

YOU CAN FIND THIS POSE IN THESE YOGA CLASSES.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Come onto your hands and knees with the knees directly below your hips and your hands directly below your shoulders. Bend the right elbow, begin to twist toward the right, dropping the left shoulder toward the earth, then "thread" the left arm through. Rest the left temple and left shoulder on the floor. Once you feel stable, you may extend the right arm overhead to create space in the right side of the body. In this twist, it's normal to feel the hips shift slightly off center. This is okay! It's your body's way of protecting the integrity your pelvis and sacrum. Hold this pose for 5-10 deep breaths, then practice on the opposite side.

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VARIATION: TOP ARM BENT

Instead of stretching the top arm overhead, you can keep the elbow bent and the palm resting on the floor beneath the elbow at a right angle. Press into the palm of your hand if you would like to deepen the twist. 



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VARIATION: ADDING A BLANKET

Adding a blanket under the knees and curling the toes under may help to relieve knee discomfort in this pose.

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VARIATION: HIPS TO HEELS

Instead of staying up on the knees, you can do this twist from child's pose with the hips on the heels. This takes a lot of weight off of the knees, and it requires less upper body strength to hold this variation. The top arm can be bent or stretched overhead.

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. 

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.