I have been doing a lot of post lately for the new yoga student or for injuries. So, in favor of being balanced I decided to make a post for the more advanced yoga student. These poses take time and practice to achieve. Many of them of poses the lead up to the more advanced poses. Please remember to listen to your body when trying these asanas, it will let you know if you are ready. Particularly show caution with any poses using your head and neck to balance.
Bridge Pose (Half Wheel Pose)
We will start with Half Wheel pose. Lie on your back, bend your knees and plant your feet behind your tail bone and a little away. Hands are firmly pressed into the mat by your hips. Curl up your spine as you breath in. Keep your neck neutral and still. Stay here 3 – 5 breaths then on an out breath release down.
To advance this pose, clasp your hands under your legs as you lift. Walk your shoulders under to deepen the curve of your upper spine.
After you have done Half Wheel and feel comfortable and secure you can further the stretch in your spine by pushing up into Bridge Pose. Lying on your back again bend your knees and plant your feet. Bring your hands up and back planting the palms of your hands behind your head as you breath in and push your spine up. Extend your arms and push the tops of your thighs to the ceiling and your spine up. Release your neck and keep it neutral. 3 – 5 breaths here. Lower on and out breath. Hug your knees to your body or counter pose with Plow or Happy baby.
Modified Bridge Pose
After you feel solid in Bridge Pose you can further advance by lift your leg. Keep your hips parallel and your weight evenly distributed on the remaining foot and hands. Point your toe to make it more pretty. 3 breaths each leg. Lower on the out breath and counter pose with hugging your knees and rocking, Plow or Happy Baby.
Modify further by lowering your head to the floor and bringing your forearms to the ground behind your head. Clasp your hands behind your head. Now raise each leg.
One more modification for Bridge is to extend your legs long, planting your feet into the mat. Lower your head and forearms clasping your hands behind your head. If you are really strong you can lift each leg pointing your toes.
Balancing poses are already a challenge. Crow pose adds balance and strength and is deceptively difficult to master. To start come into a low squat. Place your hands firmly on the mat in front of you and start to rock your weight back and forth. Get a feel for your body’s center in this position. As you feel more confident rock your weight onto your hands, keep your arms bent leaving your toes on the ground to start. If you feel pretty good here pick up one foot replace it and try the other foot. Stay here 3 – 5 breaths. Counter pose by placing the tops of your hands on the ground in front of you and lightly shifting your weight to them. Clasp your hands in front of you and roll them.
After you have practiced the modified Crow for a while and your wrists have become stronger you might want to try full Crow. Using the same technique as described above, rocking your weight into your hands and testing each foot; this time as you pick up one foot place the shin on top of the back of the arm. Engaging your thigh muscles to help stabalize you. Now pick up the other foot and place the shin on the other arm. Keep your neck neutral and your face quiet. Stay here 3 – 5 breaths building up to 10 breaths.
You can further this pose by moving your shins higher up on the arms which puts your weight more forward and makes balancing more challenging.
Counter pose by placing the tops of your hands on the floor while in squat and gently pushing weight into them. Clasp your hands in front and roll your wrists.
Fish pose is a deep back bend. Start lying on your back with your hands on either side of your hips. Breathing in arch your back and place the forearms on the floor behind your back keeping your head up and looking forward. Slowly allow your head to fall backwards being careful of the neck. 3-5 breaths. Release to the floor on an out breath. Counter pose with hugging your knees to your chest, Plow or Happy Baby.
If you feel good about the previous modification you can try turning your hands into your hips as you arch your back deepening to back bend. Keep your head on the floor as you come up and plant the crown of your head onto the floor. 3-5 breaths. Counter posing the same way.
To advance this pose come into fish with your head planted on the ground and your hands on your hips. Breathing in push your lower spine up and plant your feet on the mat. Stay here 3 -5 breaths again counter posing the same.
You can also modify fish by first coming into Lotus position then lying back on your mat. Breath in and arch your back placing the crown of your head on the mat, grabbing the sides of the hips. You can keep your butt down or push it up and balance on your knees if your really strong. 3 -5 breaths and counter pose the same as Fish pose.
Nothing quite says Yoga like Lotus pose. I remember wanting to learn this pose as soon as I started really getting into Yoga. Cliche I know but it really is a great pose and not as hard as it seems.
Start seated with your legs out in front of you. Bend one leg and bring your foot up to the crick of your opposite arm. This can already be challenging. Don’t worry, just get it as high as your can. Wrap your other arm around your knee bring your hands together or trying to. Breath in and straighten your spine then gently and SLOWLY rock your leg back and forth. This will help to open the hip flexors.
If you find you can do the above pretty easily you can move on. I just want to take a moment to point out that it took me a good 6 months to advance from the first hip opener to this next part and then another 3 months into full Lotus. Be patient with your body and you will get there.
Take your leg from the above pose and grasp your foot and your knee in each hand. Externally rotate your hip allowing the top of your foot to come down onto the opposite hip crease. Gently push down the knee to stretch. Breath 3-5 breaths and slowly realese. Counter pose Heroes pose, Frog or Doe.
After you have loosened up your hips with the above poses you can try full Lotus. Again start in Staff position and release your hip flexors. Place the first Foot down onto the opposite hip crease. Gently, pick up the other foot and place it over the opposite thigh. At first your will probably feel a pretty intense pull across the bottom foot. 3 – 5 breaths building up more breaths until this becomes a resting pose. Switch sides. Counter pose with Heroes pose, Frog or Doe.
Happy stretching. Namaste.