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. 




URDHVA MUKHA SVANASANA: UPWARD FACING DOG

Before attempting upward facing dog, please warm up your body with cat/cow stretches and cobra pose. Doing this pose without warming up first can cause lower back discomfort.

BENEFITS OF UPWARD FACING DOG:

  • opens the chest and shoulders

  • builds upper body strength

  • improves spinal flexibility

  • energizing

  • benefits the heart chakra and sacral chakra

YOU CAN FIND THIS POSE IN THIS YOGA CLASS.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Lying on your belly, press the tops of the feet and all ten toes into the yoga mat. The feet can be together or hip distance apart. Engage the legs and lift the knee caps off the floor. Bring the hands below the shoulders. Fan the fingertips wide and firmly press all the knuckles into the yoga mat. Begin to open your heart, lifting the chest off the mat, squeezing the shoulder blades together. Press into the palms of the hands, straighten the arms and lift the hips up off the mat. Lengthen the tailbone away from crown of head and keep the core engaged. Feel the pelvis moving forward in space. These core actions will protect your low back. Keep the shoulders are away from the ears and broaden through the collarbones. Dip your chin to keep the back of the neck long, and gaze straight ahead. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths. A good counterpose to practice after this one is child’s pose.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • engage the legs

  • engage the core and lengthen the tailbone

  • sensation of the pelvis moving forward in space

  • keep a microbend in the elbows and fan the fingers

  • press firmly into all the knuckles

  • dip your chin to create length in back of neck

  • gaze straight ahead

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ADDING PROPS: YOGA BLOCKS

Adding yoga blocks under the hands will give you a bit more height here so that it might be easier to lift the hips off the mat. Be extra mindful to keep your core strong so that your low back doesn’t sag too far and cause pinching.

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ADDING PROPS: YOGA BOLSTER

This variation is my current favorite! If you’re new to updog, I’d recommend starting here. It helps you to build strength while keeping the body supported. With the bolster underneath the pelvis, you can focus on engaging your core and really feeling the pelvis moving forward in space. So important for us to keep our low back safe in these backbends.

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CHAIR VARIATION

This is a great option if getting down to the floor isn’t possible for you right now. However, this variation is still just as challenging for the upper body!

ALTERNATE POSE: COBRA POSE

This pose is a great alternative if putting a lot of weight on your hands doesn’t feel good. Cobra pose still builds lots of strength in the body and opens the chest and shoulders.

ALTERNATE POSE: FISH POSE

If you’re looking for a deep back bend but you don’t want to lie on your belly or put weight into your hands, try one of these fish pose variations. Fish pose can be practiced passively when you add props, so you get all the benefits of opening the heart without any effort.

HOW DID IT GO?

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

MARJARYASANA/BITILASANA VINYASA: CAT/COW STRETCHES

Cat/cow stretches are a beautiful way to warm up your body before you practice deeper yoga stretches or active poses. Cat/cow stretches are made up of marjaryasana and bitilasana, and they are considered a vinyasa because we are linking our movement with our breath as we flow between these two poses.

BENEFITS OF CAT/COW:

  • creates length in the spine

  • relieves tension

  • strengthens the core muscles

  • massages internal organs

  • improves digestion

  • improves posture

Press play on the video below for three cat/cow variations.

YOU CAN ALSO FIND CAT/COW IN THESE YOGA CLASSES.

CLICK HERE FOR TABLETOP POSE PROP IDEAS.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER

  • always engage your core muscles on the exhale to propel the movement

  • focus on length and spaciousness - not how extreme your range of motion is

  • evenly arch through the entire spine in cow pose

  • think about being an evenly rounded rainbow in cat pose

  • keep your neck long

HOW DID IT GO?

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

PARSVA BALASANA: THREAD THE NEEDLE

This is one of the first yoga poses I learned! It targets the upper back, which can become tight from all of the time we spend hunched over our phones, our desks, etc. So poses like this one are something I am ALWAYS needing.

This pose is often referred to as thread the needle, but you may also hear it called revolved child’s pose.

BENEFITS OF THREAD THE NEEDLE:

  • opens the ribcage

  • relieves tension in the neck, shoulders, hips and back

  • calming for mind and body

  • stimulates digestion and promotes detoxification

  • benefits the solar plexus chakra and heart chakra

YOU CAN FIND THIS POSE IN THESE YOGA CLASSES.

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Come onto your hands and knees with the knees directly below your hips and your hands directly below your shoulders. Bend the right elbow, begin to twist toward the right, dropping the left shoulder toward the earth, then "thread" the left arm through. Rest the left temple and left shoulder on the floor. Once you feel stable, you may extend the right arm overhead to create space in the right side of the body. In this twist, it's normal to feel the hips shift slightly off center. This is okay! It's your body's way of protecting the integrity your pelvis and sacrum. Hold this pose for 5-10 deep breaths, then practice on the opposite side.

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VARIATION: TOP ARM BENT

Instead of stretching the top arm overhead, you can keep the elbow bent and the palm resting on the floor beneath the elbow at a right angle. Press into the palm of your hand if you would like to deepen the twist. 



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VARIATION: ADDING A BLANKET

Adding a blanket under the knees and curling the toes under may help to relieve knee discomfort in this pose.

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VARIATION: HIPS TO HEELS

Instead of staying up on the knees, you can do this twist from child's pose with the hips on the heels. This takes a lot of weight off of the knees, and it requires less upper body strength to hold this variation. The top arm can be bent or stretched overhead.

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. 

MATSYASANA: FISH POSE

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

BENEFITS:

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

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

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

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VARIATION: HEAD UP

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

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VARIATION: SUPPORTED WITH BOLSTER (OPTION 1)

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

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

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

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VARIATION: SUPPORTED WITH BOLSTER (OPTION 2)

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

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

HOW DID IT GO?

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

UTTANASANA: STANDING FORWARD BEND

This inversion is one of the poses in sun salutations, and it comes with so many benefits:

  • stretches the hamstrings
  • stretches and lengthens the spine
  • may benefit scoliosis
  • stimulates the lymphatic system
  • stimulates healthy digestion + relieves gas
  • strengthens the circulatory system
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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

From Tadasana, hinge at the waist and bend forward, reaching the fingertips toward the floor or grasping the backs of the legs. Tilt the pelvis forward and draw the lower belly in to create extra length in the backs of the legs. Keep a soft bend in the knees to prevent locking the knees. The feet can be together or hip distance apart, whichever is most comfortable for you. Hold for 5-10 breaths.

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ADDING PROPS

If you are unable to reach the floor, that’s ok! You can modify this pose with a strap under the feet to help you create length in the spine and hamstrings. Or you can use a block or chair to bring the floor to you.

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CHAIR VARIATION

If you struggle with fatigue or have difficulty balancing, you can modify this pose with a chair. This will also lessen the intensity of the hamstring stretch.

Come into a seated position away from the back of the chair. The feet are flat on the floor, ankles directly below the knees. Hinge at the waist, reaching for the floor with your fingertips. Let the chest rest against your thighs and relax the head and spine. Hold for 5-10 breaths. To come up, press the palms of the hands into your thighs and slowly rise.

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!