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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

 

PASCHIMOTTANASANA: SEATED FORWARD BEND

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

Paschimottanasana comes with so many benefits, including:

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

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

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TRADITIONAL PASCHIMOTTANASANA

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

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

Alignment tips:

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

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

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SEATED VARIATIONS

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

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

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

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RESTORATIVE VARIATIONS

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

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CHAIR YOGA VARIATION

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

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SUPINE VARIATION

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

Take ten deep breaths here and then release the hold. 

HOW DID IT GO?

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