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. 




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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

 

MALASANA: GARLAND POSE

Malasana (garland pose) is a deep hip opening pose. For some of us, it can feel intense and uncomfortable. In some cases, it may even feel painful for our hips, feet andankles. But when we give the body support with props, it can become a profoundly soothing and grounding experience. 

BENEFITS:

  • opens the hips
  • stretches the inner thighs
  • releases the lower back 
  • strengthens the ankles
  • improves hip and ankle flexibility
  • promotes healthy digestion
  • grounding and calming
  • benefits the root chakra
  • benefits the sacral chakra
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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

From standing, take the feet slightly wider than hip distance apart. Turn the toes out at a 45 degree angle (this will help the hips to open more freely). Lower your hips into a deep squat. Bring your hands together at your heart and use your elbows as a lever against the inner thighs to encourage the hips to open. Lengthen your spine, keep the chest proud. Seat your awareness at your feet to promote energetic grounding.

Hold this pose for ten deep breaths or longer, depending on your comfort.

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ADDING PROPS

You can support this pose with props in a couple different ways to resolve common problems I see in this pose. If you're struggling to reach the heels all the way to the floor, add a rolled up towel or blanket under the heels so that you can experience stability and fully root into your feet. If you're struggling to balance, add a block or a bolster under your hips. This can also lessen the intensity of the inner thigh and hip stretch.

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SUPINE VARIATION 

If putting weight on your feet/ankles is uncomfortable, you can do this pose lying down instead. To come into this variation, lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Take the knees wide as if you were trying to snuggle the knees into your armpits. You can hold the knees with the hands in front or behind. Hold for ten breaths or up to five minutes, depending on your comfort.

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CHAIR YOGA VARIATION

If you struggle with balance issues or if limited mobility makes it difficult to get down to the floor, doing this pose in a chair might be a better option for you. Sit at the edge of the chair and take the feet wide. You can prop the feet up on blocks or a bolster to make sure you're fully rooted into your lower body. Lean forward and place the elbows on top of your thighs or to mimic the traditional variation, you can bring the elbows to the insides of the thighs and use them as a lever to open the hips.

Hold for ten deep breaths or longer, depending on your comfort.

HOW DID IT GO?

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

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. 

ANANDA BALASANA: HAPPY BABY POSE

I feel like this pose is called "happy baby pose" for a good reason. I always feel so refreshed and uplifted after I do this pose, and I think that with proper support, we all can enjoy its benefits:

  • opens the hips and inner thighs
  • massages the internal organs
  • relieves lower back pain
  • uplifts the mood
  • relieves stress
  • relieves fatigue
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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

To practice the traditional expression of happy baby pose, lie on your back and bend your knees into your chest. Separate the knees so it's as if you're trying to snuggle your knees into your armpits. If you're already feeling an intense stretch, stay right here.

To go deeper, you can grab the outer edges of your feet or you can hook the big toes with your index fingers and thumbs. Once you have a solid grip on your feet, begin to lift the heels up toward the sky. Your ankles should be in line with your knees. It can help to gently pull the feet in toward the midline while using the elbows against the insides of the knees to open the inner thighs. This creates an opposing force that protects your knees and deepens the stretch. Keep your shoulders relaxed, feeling both shoulder blades pressing into the earth. 

Hold this pose for ten deep breaths, or longer, depending on your comfort.

If you notice that your shoulders or your lower back are floating up off the floor, try one of the modifications below...

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MODIFICATION: KNEE HUG

Instead of going all the way into the traditional expression of the pose, you can hang out with your arms wrapped around or behind your knees. This can give you all the same benefits of happy baby pose with less intensity. I like to do this version when I wake up in the morning to bring fresh circulation to my lower back and hips, but you can do it anytime of day.

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MODIFICATION: BOLSTER UNDER THE SACRUM

If you notice that your lower back is pulling up off the floor when you're in happy baby pose, try adding a bolster or a folded blanket under your sacrum. This allows you to fully relax into the pose and feel the entire spine grounding into the earth. If you have neck pain or injury, this variation may not be right for you, so you might want to consider one of the other modifications.

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MODIFICATION: STRAP AROUND YOUR FEET

For this variation, you'll loop a strap around your feet instead of holding onto them with your hands. This helps to correct the most common problem that people have in happy baby pose: shoulders pulling up off the mat. It's important to keep the shoulders glued to the floor in order to protect the neck from strain. Adding the strap makes this much easier to achieve.

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MODIFICATION: ONE LEG AT A TIME

Instead of bringing both legs into happy baby at the same time, you can try stretching one side of your body at a time. You might notice that this makes the hips more willing to open. 

HOW DID IT GO?

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