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. 




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. 

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. 

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!

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!