Week 66: Pop and Stretch
Extended side angle pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana), to me, is a foundational pose but receives little attention compared to its sister Warrior poses. Officially, not a warrior pose it has the markings of one (such as the bent knee like in warrior II) except for the side bending.
It was an enlightening pose this week, which follows the past two weeks' pattern of bending (forward and side). To be honest, I had a major release (physical and emotionally) with extended side angle pose this week and I don't totally get why. Was it from the hips? Apparently, releasing the hips can be an emotional experience but I have no reference or source to date. Is it the place of tension that rarely gets a break?
Especially as a pregnant women.
I really like this pose for my pregnant body. It focuses on single leg strength and opening of the side body among opening the hips.
One of the things I want to maintain is my leg strength. After sitting for many months nursing with my first child, my legs atrophied to a point where my pants were hanging off me. Muscle tone and strength were gone. So, continually working on leg strength now and once baby arrives is key for me.
Also, in the past couple weeks I've been stretched (read: my belly has popped). And the sensation it brings is very bizarre. It's like the pressure of the abdominal cavity is increasing and my skins elasticity is not ready for the stretch. So a dull ache. Extended side angle pose is fantastic for stretching the areas of my torso that have been under such pressure. *sigh*
Note: That's not me…yet. Nor have I ever seen something like this before!
In my most recent practice session, we went through an extensive flow of
Warrior poses (Virabhadrasana I, II, III). I quite enjoy all three warrior poses
for different reasons but what I want to explore with this post is the "missing"
Warrior IV and V poses.
What? You ask. I didn't know there are more than three!
Well, I guess there isn't. But moving through the handful of
repeated Warrior poses, I started to wonder where these other two poses, Humble Warrior and Reverse Warrior, fit in.
If you are not familiar, Humble Warrior (also known as Devotional Warrior), is in the lunge
position with the arms clasped behind the back and the torso bent forward over
the front thigh. I have rarely done this pose so when I heard the teacher call it by name, I had a mental stoppage and wondered am I missing a Warrior.
As the flow continued, we moved into Reverse Warrior (also known as Crescent Pose or Proud Warrior). I have to admit I love this pose but never knew its name either. It is in an open lunge position (hips are open, facing side ways) where the back arm reaches back for the rear thigh and the front arm reaches over the head. With such flexibility in my hips and hamstrings, my body is able to reach back far and thus, I get a phenomenal stretch!
I went digging into my sources to discover that truly, these two poses are
actually a variation of either Warrior I or Warrior II. And they are not
considered traditional yoga poses as they do not have Sanskrit names. Oh,
that's why they really are not numbered like the other three distinct poses. But what I did find is that all five poses are considered Warrior poses.
Case solved. To read a comprehensive overview of a Warrior sequence, click here. And a bit more on the history of the Warrior poses, click here. It's an interesting read if you know nothing about the poses origin.
Putting the pieces together - one at a time,
Photo credit: yogamama.co.uk's photostream
I was very fortunate to travel to Mexico this past week and enjoy the sun, beach, and ocean. The resort we stayed at offered outdoor yoga classes. I knew I had to participate in at least one class. By the end of the week, I had attended three!
Practicing outdoors is a new experience for me. I would highly recommend it, not now in the dead of a Canadian winter, but when the weather and/or location permits. It is a feast for the senses and it is a whole other type of practice.
My five senses were on high alert through the downward facing dogs, tree poses and corpse pose. The first sense that was heightened was the sense of touch. The coolness of the wet grass we practiced on to the pressure of sand pressing back on my fingers on the beach, the sense of touch kept me engaged with my practice. The sense of sound resonated with the rustling of the palm trees and the crashing of the waves. And the smell and taste of the salty Sea of Cortez was moving in and out with every breath.
It was in practicing outdoors that I was encouraged to keep my eyes open. In my regular practice I typically have my eyes closed. Well, this certainly was not the case. Sunsets of pink, orange and red allow for such an inspired practice. Watching the waves crash into rocks on the beach bring power and strength to a warrior II (virabhadrasana II) pose. The teacher even said, "draw energy from the moving water". How amazing is that!!!
It is in these moments of yoga that really invigorate my soul and gratitude to the world around me. As I become a teacher, it is my hope to bring this sort of energy and experience to the mat even when not on the coast of Mexico.
To many more outdoor yoga classes,
Week 7: Accessible to All
As part of my full time work as an exercise physiologist, I work with individuals with limited mobility. And in most cases but not all, these individuals have not participated in physical activity for years or ever. These clients constantly remind me of how disconnected/connected we can be with our bodies.
I already know that once I am a yoga teacher, I will continue to work with this population. In my opinion, yoga is an essential way to move people from inactivity to activity. I reflect back on the time I had a volunteer yoga teacher come to one of my group classes to teach. It was wonderful to see clients enjoy yoga and reap the benefits. At times, I think yoga can be very intimating and thus, I tried a chair yoga DVD this week to experience a class that's more accessible than your tradition mat class.
The DVD is called, Chair Aerobics for Everyone: Chair Yoga, and I found it on the shelf of a local library location that I rarely visit. I snatched it up instantly and was eager to try it for myself. These are the types of poses I want to perfect to teach to other newbies.
What stood out the most was how great of a yoga session it was and all the poses were in the chair! I wasn't totally surprised but it really drove home the fact that yoga can be accessible to all. I was shocked by how difficult Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) was in a chair. I haven't competely figured out what it was about having a chair support me that made the pose more challenging. Maybe the seat of the chair allowed for a wider stance and thus a greater stretch? Not sure but I know I've never done a Warrior II pose and felt that same intensity.
I've decided that one of the contributions I want to make as a yoga teacher is to use chair yoga to reach the possibly unreachable populations particularly those dealing and coping with chronic disease and mobility concerns.
It's kinda nice to know where I'm headed already!
P.S. I found a short clip on YouTube of the DVD. Very short!
Photo credit: Sitka, Alaska (September 2009). Wouldn't that be a nice place to sit and do yoga?
Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.