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. 

SUKHASANA: EASY SEATED POSE

This pose is called “easy,” but for many of us, sitting up straight can actually be really challenging! It requires a good deal of core strength, so as we’re building up to this, it can be helpful to have some alternative variations. Finding a comfortable seat is so important in yoga, especially when you want to be able to sit for awhile to meditate.

BENEFITS OF EASY SEATED POSE:

  • promotes good posture

  • opens the hips

  • boosts energy

  • grounding

YOU CAN ALSO FIND THIS POSE IN THESE YOGA CLASSES.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Come down onto the floor and be seated. Cross the ankles in front of you. Root the sit bones evenly into the floor. Feel the tailbone lengthen toward the earth as the navel pulls in and up. This will keep the pelvis neutral and protect the low back. Knit the front ribs in. Relax the shoulders and get broad through the collar bones. Rest your hands on your thighs - I find that this helps the shoulders relax better than putting the hands on the knees, but you can choose what you prefer. Gently tuck the chin to create length in the back of the neck as you reach through the crown of the head. The eyes may softly close.

Stay here as long as is comfortable for you.

Sitting up straight can make us feel like we’re drifting back in space because most of us spend so much time hunched over. If you’re not sure if you’re sitting up straight, try practicing this pose at a wall (see photo/description below).

If your toes or legs easily fall asleep in this pose, try propping the pose with a cushion or bolster (see photos below).

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • evenly root the sit bones into the mat

  • actively engage the core muscles

  • when you sit up straight, you may feel like you’re drifting backward in space

  • think shoulders over hips, crown of head over tailbone

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SITTING AGAINST A WALL

Sitting with your back against a wall will help to retrain your muscle memory to remember what it feels like to sit up straight. If you struggle with poor posture or if you have weak core muscles, I’d recommend this variation.

Sit with your sacrum and shoulder blades pressing into the wall. Sit up tall, lengthen the tailbone away from the crown of the head. Knit the front ribs together. Your natural lumbar curve will create a small gap between your low back and the wall. This is good. Lean back and let your head rest against the wall.

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ADDING PROPS: CUSHION OR FOLDED BLANKET UNDER THE HIPS

If you experience low back pain, hip pain or knee pain in this pose, elevating your hips with a prop may help this pose feel more comfortable. You can try using a folded blanket, bolster, cushion or yoga block. Find the height that feels right for you. Make sure to sit at the edge of the prop so only your seat is on the prop. Doing so allows the pelvis to come into neutral and creates more space for the hips to open.

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CHAIR VARIATION

To practice this variation, be seated at the edge of your chair with the feet flat on the floor and the knees over the ankles. Separate the knees so that they’re in line with the hips and the femur bones are parallel. Sit up tall and evenly press both sitting bones into the seat of the chair. Lengthen the tailbone away from the crown of the head, gently pulling the navel in toward the spine. Relax the shoulders. Dip the chin to create length in the back of the neck. Rest the palms of the hands on the thighs.

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ALTERNATE POSE: SIDDHASANA

If crossing the ankles doesn’t feel comfortable, try siddhasana. This pose is a lot like sukhasana, but iInstead of crossing the ankles, you’ll line the heels up in front of each other so that the tops of the feet are on the mat and the heels point up toward your face. Depending on your knees, this may or may not feel good. If your knees are sensitive, try sitting up on a folded blanket or cushion.

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ALTERNATE POSE: SAVASANA

Sukhasana is the go-to yoga pose for seated meditation, but you can meditate in savasana, too! It might be a bit harder to stay awake, but if it’s more comfortable for you to lie down, then I say to go for it.

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. 

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. 

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!