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!
I've been yoga prop adverse in the past but have slowly incorporated more props into my regular practice. The more and more I practice, the more I see props place in yoga. Even for someone who is relatively flexible, props allows me to move further and/or relax into the pose.
The yoga strap has found it's regular place in my practice. It's been with some trial and error that the strap has found it's place. My inability to loop the strap has been my biggest challenge! :)
And as usual I've fished around to get a couple key points about yoga straps. Here's what I found:
Typically yoga straps are made of hemp or cotton and are between 6 to 8 feet long. I opted to get two straps with different lengths just to be sure (and honestly, try to encourage my husband to use one to help with his posture!)
Duskyleaf.ca states three main reasons to use a yoga strap.
#1 - Strap in and Relax
Essentially let the strap secure your specific body part into a pose or let the strap carry the weight of your body part to increase the stretch.
#2 - Binding your Time
Allow the strap to make connections between hand and foot or hand to hand.
#3 - Better Blindfolded
In the end of practice while in savasana, use the strap just like an eye pillow to encourage the eyes to relax and block out any extra light.
What prompted my exploration of yoga straps this week is that I tried a new DVD called Hatha & Flow Yoga for Beginners by Tamal Dodge. During the Hatha portion of the DVD, he uses the strap in many unique ways that I have never tried before. For example, using the yoga strap with the upper body during a modified warrior I pose (seemed to help stack the shoulders over the hips better and engage the arm muscles more) and single leg happy baby pose (allowed for greater hip range of motion).
Again, I can't reiterate how much I still need to learn about yoga and how to incorporate the yoga strap into poses. All this work is building on my knowledge and experience to be a teacher one day!
With my goal to practice the yoga poses I journaled about over ten years ago and reflect on how they feel today, I headed into three more poses this week. To be honest, I struggle with a home practice (read: it's not exciting by myself or when it's not lead by anyone else, AND setting time aside to go through poses correctly and slowly is tough to do). I really still appreciate being taught yoga in some format instead of just doing it on my own.
But I did practice three more poses on my own (I added corpse pose to the end as well). They were the following:
Hero Pose (Virasana)
With this pose, I had to page through my various books to remind myself what this pose is all about. Based on the book Yoga for 50+ by Robert Rosen, it is a sitting pose with the legs parallel to the thighs. It is likely that you've seen a child sitting in this exact position. And you might recall thinking, Ohmygoodness - how is he/she sitting like that!?!
I completed the pose for five breaths (approximately the 30 seconds recommendation). But in reviewing what I wrote 11 years ago, it just didn't seem to fit. Again back to the books (the class manual to be exact) and there in the schematics is the hero pose but it looks more like a warrior I pose. What?!? Well, needless to say, I just did both versions. Here's what I wrote many years back:
"At the start of the movement, I allowed myself to become focused by doing five diaphragmatic breaths. During the pose, I began to warm up and became hot. I realized that I was warming up my body after all it had been resting during the night. My muscles did not seem to be tight and the stretching of the hamstrings was not difficult."
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
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.