Intermediate Group Class: Separating the Femurs from the Trunk

To make the quality of the poses softer and more holistic, instead of moving from the muscle, or even the connective tissue, think of moving from the bone. Specifically, think of moving from the femurs and the humeri, while directing the trunk and the spine towards the head (or away from the head if inverted). This sequence occasionally uses the rope wall.

The Sequence

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) on the ropes

Rope Sequence:
Urdhva Dandasana (Upward Staff Pose) on the ropes, 3 minutes
Shalabhasana (Locus Pose) on the ropes, 1 minute
Urdhva Dandasana (Upward Staff Pose) on the ropes, 3 minutes

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand to Foot Pose 1) on the rope wall

Shirshasana Cycle:
Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1), 5 minutes
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose)
Eka Pada Shirshasana (Single Head Stand)
Parshvaikapada Shirshasana (Single Leg to the Side Head Stand)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2) with the bent leg thigh supported on a chair

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose) with the bent leg thigh supported on a chair

Chair Hip Sequence:
Single Leg Ankle-to-Knee forward bend on the chair
• Sitting in the chair, put one ankle on the opposite thigh, just above the knee, and fold forward.
Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2) in the chair
• Sitting in the chair, bring one leg into Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose) and bind.
Adho Mukha Ardha Padmasana (Downward Facing Half Lotus Pose)
• Sitting in the chair, bring one leg into Ardha Padmasana and fold forward.

Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense Stretch Pose) chair variation
• Without binding, come into the pose with the hands on the chair for balance.
• First, extend out into a flat back, then fold forward.

Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense Stretch Pose)

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
• Lying back over a bolster.
• Any leg variation.

Uttana Padma Mayurasana (Intense Stretch Lotus Peacock Pose) over a block

Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Salamba Sarvangasana 2 (Shoulder Stand 2)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 1 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 1)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 2 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 2)
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Urdhva Padmasana (Upward Lotus Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Intermediate Group Class: The Head, Neck and Top Ribs

This week we have our last exploration of the head and neck for the time being. In these semi-restorative long holdings we will be thinking about three things:
  • Embodying and releasing the atlanto-occipital joint, the joint between the skull and the top of the spine, located behind the cheekbones/roof of the mouth/root of the tongue and between the ears.
  • Expanding the neck ribs, those first two ribs to which the scalene muscles attach.
  • Expanding the neck ribs causes the scalenes to contract, so we must then think of lengthening the core of the neck--everything close to the cervical spine--while softening and widening the sheath of the neck--the soft tissue and organs that are more superficial.

The Sequence

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) on the ropes
• Hands and head supported by blocks.
• 3 to 5 minutes.

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) on the ropes
• Hands and head supported by blocks.
• 3 to 5 minutes.

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
• 10 minutes.

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)
• 5 minutes.

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
• 5 minutes.

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
• 10 minutes.

Halasana (Plough Pose)
• 5 minutes.

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)
• 5 minutes.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Tie a long belt to the middle hook of the rope wall and use it as a sling in which to rest the head.
• Make sure that the head is not too far off the floor. The back of the neck and the throat need to remain balanced.
• 5 minutes.

Ujjayi 4 Pranayama (Victorious Breath 4) in Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Ujjayi 4 is a complete inhalation followed by a complete, slightly longer exhalation.
• 5 minutes.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Tie a long belt to the middle hook of the rope wall and use it as a sling in which to rest the head.
• Make sure that the head is not too far off the floor. The back of the neck and the throat need to remain balanced.
• 5 minutes.


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Intermediate Group Class: Balancing and Releasing the Lumbar Joints

The Curves of the Spine
In this week’s class we turn our attention to the two joints at either end of the lumbar spine: the lumbar-sacral joint and the lumbar-thoracic joint. The goal here was to first stretch out the muscle and fascia around these two joints and then to create dynamic balance in the soft tissue during pranayama. In each of the poses, think of the following actions:
  • Soften and widen the fascial walls that surround the two joints, especially those associated with the latissimus dorsi and the gluteus maximus.
  • Imagine each joint encased in a ball. Soften and expand the ball three-dimensionally.
  • Balance the weight so that it transfers evenly throughout the three-dimensional ball.
  • Imagine the balls moving away from each other, the lumbar-sacral ball connecting down to the feet, the lumbar thoracic ball connecting up to the head.
This practice makes extensive use of a rope wall.

The Sequence

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog) on the ropes
• Stack up a couple of blankets on a bolster and use them to support the head.
• Clasp the elbows and rest the forearms on the bolster as well.
• The props should be high enough to reduce the angle of the forward fold and make the pose more elongated.
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)
• Do this pose with a long belt looped around both the very top of the raised thigh and the descended foot.
• Press out into the belt to move the thighbone away from the head and to lengthen out the lower back and buttock of the raised leg. You might even have the foot of the descended leg against the wall to give you more grounding.
• Hold for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
• Same set-up as above.
• Hold for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1) leg facing forward
• Do this on the ropes with the raised leg supported by the middle rope hook.
• Loop a sandbag through a rope and slip the rope around the hip crease of the raised leg to create a similar effect to the belt in the previous poses.
• Hold for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 2 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 2) leg to the side
• Same set-up as above.
• Hold for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1) leg facing forward
• Same set-up as above.
• If possible, use a foam block or some other prop on the rope hook to raise the foot higher.
• Fold forward over the raised leg.
• Hold for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

Side stretch over a bolster
• Lie on your side over a bolster across the ribs so that the body curves and the side waist and ribs can stretch out.
• If you know for a fact that one side of your trunk is shorter or tighter than the other, stretch that side out first. Otherwise, stretch the right side first.
• Hold for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

Hanging Child’s Pose on the ropes
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.

Hanging Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) on the ropes
• Come into this directly from the Child’s Pose.
• Slide the feet down to the floor (or to blocks if they don’t reach). Slide the rope into the abdomen to support the upper body.
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.
• Come up slowly from this so that the blood does not rush to the head.

Hanging Shirshasana (Head Stand) on the ropes
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) over bolsters with the legs bound in Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Fold a blanket lengthwise to create a ridge of support under the spine.
• Have a second blanket for a pillow.
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.

Ujjayi Pranayama 4 (Victorious Breath 4)
• Ujjayi 4 is full and expansive inhalations with slightly longer, easy and complete exhalations.
• In the above position: take a belt and fold it in quarters; place the belt on the blanket under the top of the sacrum to give you feedback.
• As you do the pranayama, soften and release the soft tissue around the lumbar-sacral joint so that they expand and release in a balanced and easy fashion as you breath.
• 5 minutes.

Ujjayi Pranayama 4 (Victorious Breath 4)
• In the above set-up, move the belt to the floating ribs for feedback on the lumbar-thoracic joint.
• 5 minutes.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Remove the blanket ridge under the back and lie flat on the floor with just a blanket under the head. Have a bolster under the knees as well if you desire.
• 5 minutes.


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