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. 

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. 

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. 

VIRABHADRASANA II: WARRIOR II

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

BENEFITS:

➕Energizing

➕Grounding

➕Empowering

➕Strengthens the entire body

➕Stretches the inner thighs and opens the hips

➕Improves balance

 

TRADITIONAL VARIATION 

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

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CHAIR WARRIOR 

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

FLOOR VARIATION 

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

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

HOW DID IT GO?

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

 

ANJANEYASANA: LOW LUNGE

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

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

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

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ADJUSTING YOUR POSITION

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

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WITH PROPS

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

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CHAIR VARIATION

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

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SUPINE VARIATION

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

HOW DID IT GO?

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