Pose Guide

More than likely your first exposure to Yoga was/is The Third Limb of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, Asana (the poses or postures). Remember, it’s not so much what it looks like on the outside, but what it feels like inside.

To get you started we’ll taken five common poses from our bespoke 200 hrs Yoga Teacher Training manual and broken them down into:

What they look like
How to get into them
Variations or Modifications
Benefits
Counterindications

Downward Facing Dog Pose

Inversion


Adho Muhka Svanasana

adho = downward
mukha = facing
svana = dog
asana = posture

Category: Arm Leg Support / Forward Bend / Inversion

Difficulty: Beginner

Description: The body is positioned in an inverted “V” with the palms and feet rooted into the earth and sits bones lifted up toward the sky. The arms and legs are straight. The weight of the body is equally distributed between the hands and the feet. The ribcage is lifted and the heart is open. Shoulders are squared to the earth and rotated back, down and inward. The neck is relaxed and the crown of the head is toward the earth. The gaze is down and slightly forward.

Benefits: Calms the mind and helps relieve stress and mild depression. Energizes the body. Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands. Strengthens the arms and legs. Relieves menstrual discomfort when done with the head supported. Helps prevent osteoporosis. Improves digestion. Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue. Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, and sinusitis.

Contraindications and Cautions: High blood pressure or headache: Support your head on a bolster or block, ears level between the arms. Do not do this pose towards the end of pregnancy (late-term).

Modifications and Props: To get a feel for the work of the outer arms, loop and secure a strap around your arms just above your elbows. Imagine that the strap is tightening inward, pressing the outer arms in against the bones. Against this resistance, push the inner shoulder blades outward. Also, a block between the thighs will help with leg and core activation.

Triangle Pose

Standing


Utthita Trikonasana

trikona = triangle
asana = posture

Category: Standing / Lateral Bend

Difficulty: Beginner

Description: From a standing position, the legs are straight and separated into a wide stance. The feet are aligned and flat on the earth with the back foot in a 60-degree angle toward the front. The inner thighs are rotated externally away from each other. The pelvis is tucked and the ribcage is lifted. One arm extends up toward the sky as the other reaches down to the earth. Both arms are aligned with the shoulders in a straight line. The fingers reach out as the shoulder blades squeeze together. The gaze is toward the front or to the sky.

Benefits: Stretches and strengthens the thighs, knees, and ankles. Stretches the hips, groin, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, chest, and spine. Stimulates the abdominal organs. Helps relieve stress. Improves digestion. Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause. Relieves backache, especially through second trimester of pregnancy. Therapeutic for anxiety, flat feet, infertility, neck pain, osteoporosis, and sciatica.

Contraindications and Cautions: Neck problems: Don’t turn your head to look upward; continue looking straight ahead and keep both sides of the neck evenly long. If a heart condition or high blood pressure are an issue then doing the asana against the wall, keeping the top arm on the hip, as opposed to being extended and drawing the gaze downwards will alleviate some pressure from the asana.

Modifications and Props: If it isn’t possible to comfortably touch the floor with the bottom hand or fingertips, support the palm on a block. For more experienced students, align the front heel with the back foot arch.

Boat Pose

Seated Face Up


Paripura Navasana

nava = boat
asana = posture

Category: Seated

Difficulty: Beginners/Intermediate

Description: An abdominal and deep hip flexor strengthener, Navasana requires you to balance on the tripod of your sitting bones and tailbone.

Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Press your hands on the floor a little behind your hips, fingers pointing toward the feet, and strengthen the arms. Lift through the top of the sternum and lean back slightly. As you do this make sure your back doesn’t round; continue to lengthen the front of your torso between the pubis and top sternum. Sit on the “tripod” of your two sitting bones and tailbone.

Exhale and bend your knees, then lift your feet off the floor, so that the thighs are angled about 45-50 degrees relative to the floor. Lengthen your tailbone into the floor and lift your pubis toward your navel. If possible, slowly straighten your knees, raising the tips of your toes slightly above the level of your eyes. If this isn’t possible remain with your knees bent, perhaps lifting the shins parallel to the floor.

At first stay in the pose for 10-20 seconds. Gradually increase the time of your stay to 1 minute. Release the legs with an exhalation and sit upright on an inhalation.

Benefits: Strengthens the abdomen, hip flexors, and spine. Stimulates the kidneys, thyroid, prostate glands, and intestines. It helps to relieve stress and improves digestion.

Contraindications and Cautions: Asthma, Diarrhoea, Headache, Heart Problems, Insomnia, Low blood pressure, Menstruation, Pregnancy. If you have a neck injury/strain then, if you want sit with your back near a wall to perform this pose. As you tilt your torso back rest the back of your head very lightly on the wall for support.

Back or spine injury: Perform this pose only with the supervision of an experienced teacher.

Modifications and Props: Often, it’s difficult to straighten the raised legs. Bend your knees and loop a strap around the soles of your feet, gripping it firmly in your hands. Inhale, lean the torso back, then exhale and lift and straighten your legs, adjusting the strap to keep it taut. Push the feet firmly against the strap.

Crow Pose

Arm Balance


Kakasana

asana = posture
If the one leg extended variation, then include
eka = one
pada = foot or leg

Category: Arm Balance And Inversion / Balancing

Difficulty: Intermediate

Description: Come to a squatting position with both feet together. Separate your knees but keep your feet together. Spread your fingers wide and press your palms and fingertips into the mat. Come up high on your toes and lift your hips as high as possible. As you shift the weight of your body slightly forward, bend your arms and place your knees on top of your elbows. Continue shifting forward until your toes lift up and the full weight of the body is on your arms. The gaze is down and slightly forward.

Benefits: Strengthens forearms, wrists, shoulders, upper back and abdominal muscles.

Contraindications and Cautions: Wrist issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome, or if pregnant, then this pose should be avoided.

Modifications and Props: Some students have a difficult time lifting into Kakasana from the floor. It’s often helpful to prepare for this pose squatting on a block so that your feet are a few inches off the floor. Also placing a block in front, to allow the forehead to rest on is also a modification. Some students fear the thought of “face planting”. Suggest to them that they place a pillow in front, in case they topple forwards. Graduate students as quickly as possible to place knees on the back of the arms.

Upward Facing Dog Pose

Seated Face Down


Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

urdhva = upward
mukha = facing
svana = dog
asana = posture

Category:Arm Leg Support / Backbend

Difficulty: Intermediate

Description: The body is in a prone position parallel to the earth. The weight of the body is supported equally by the straight arms and the tops of the feet which press firmly into the earth. The shoulders are rotated back and down. The ribcage is lifted and pulled through to the front in a slight upper thoracic backbend. The joints are stacked with the wrists, elbows and shoulders in a straight-line. The neck is a natural extension of the spine and the chin is slightly tucked. The abdomen is pulled up toward the spine. The palms are flat and the elbows are close to the side body. The gaze is forward.

Benefits: Improves posture. Strengthens the spine, arms, and wrists. Stretches the chest, lungs, shoulders, and abdomen. Firms the buttocks. Stimulates abdominal organs. Helps relieve mild depression, fatigue, and sciatica. Therapeutic for asthma.

Contraindications and Cautions: Recent or chronic injury to the back, hips, arms or shoulders, pregnancy and recent abdominal surgery.

Modifications and Props: It can be difficult to keep the legs suspended above the floor. Before you move into the pose, position a thick blanket roll below your top thighs. When you are in the pose, lightly rest your thighs on this roll as you press the tailbone closer to the roll.

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