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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 


BAKASANA: CROW POSE

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

Benefits of Crow Pose:

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

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

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

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

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

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

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

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

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ADDING PROPS: BLOCKS UNDER THE FEET

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

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SEATED VARIATION ON BLOCKS

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

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CHAIR VARIATION WITH BLOCKS

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

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SUPINE VARIATION

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

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

HOW DID IT GO?

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

EKA PADA RAJAKAPOTASANA: PIGEON POSE

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

Benefits of Pigeon Pose:

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

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

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

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

A NOTE ON KNEE PAIN:

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

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

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

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

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

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SUPINE VARIATION

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

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SEATED CHAIR VARIATIONS

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

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STANDING CHAIR VARIATION

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

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ALTERNATIVE POSE OPTIONS

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

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

HOW DID IT GO?

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

 

MATSYASANA: FISH POSE

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

BENEFITS:

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

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

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

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VARIATION: HEAD UP

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

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VARIATION: SUPPORTED WITH BOLSTER (OPTION 1)

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

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

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

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VARIATION: SUPPORTED WITH BOLSTER (OPTION 2)

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

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

HOW DID IT GO?

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