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Click on any of the asanas listed below for a full detailed description, or simply scroll down the page.
Balasana - Child’s pose
This is a simple, but tremendously beneficial asana that can be performed with minimal effort by the majority of people.
- Kneel on the floor with the knees together and then sit with the buttock on the heels.
- Slowly lean forward supporting yourself with your hands until your forehead touches the ground.
- If possible place the centre of forehead and even the tip of the nose on the ground, without putting too much pressure on the nose.
- Place the hands beside the feet with the palms turned upwards.
- Relax the shoulders and elbows.
- Keep the eyes closed.
- Breathe slowly.
- Relax the whole body.
Keep the awareness on:
- A - The contact between the thighs and the abdomen.
- B - The lower back, visualizing the individual vertebrae separating as you inhale.
- C - The contact of the forehead with the floor. Feel the blood coming down into the face and the frontal lobes of the brain.
If the forehead doesn’t reach the ground comfortably you can make adjustments by placing one fist on top of the other and supporting the forehead on them and/or move the knees apart.
Keeping the knees apart is helpful for those who have a little extra around the waist or particularly for women with big breasts.
Keep the buttocks on the heels or if necessary place a cushion or a folded towel between the buttocks and the heels.
Remember the important thing in any asana is to be comfortable and particularly so in Balasan where the emphasis is on relaxation.
As a semi inverted pose where the heart is higher than the head, the brain, and particularly the frontal lobes, which are responsible for higher cognitive and decision making faculties, get thoroughly irrigated with oxygen rich blood.
The lower vertebrae get a nice gentle stretch and this pose is particularly useful as a counter pose after back-bending.
On a psychological and emotional level this is also a wonderful counter pose to the back bending which can often make people a little agitated, anxious or even angry due to the stimulation of the adrenal glands and the subsequent release of adrenaline into the bloodstream.
There is also a very strong body memory linked to this fetal position which helps us feel more secure and grounded.
Child’s pose is very useful in dealing with the emotional crises that life invariably throws at us sooner or later.
It sooths and calms the mind and as such can be used to treat problems like insomnia or hyperactivity. Practice for ten minutes before bed and you’ll find yourself much calmer as you put your head on the pillow.
Padahastasan – Standing forward bend
This is one of the most straight forward (no pun intended) yoga asanas.
Even people who have never done any yoga will know that being able to touch the toes is a good measure of overall flexibility. However, it is not at all necessary to be able to touch the toes to perform this asana and reap the multiple benefits of this simple, semi-inverted pose.
How to do padahastasan:
- Stand with the feet together.
- Stretch the arms over the head.
- Inhale deeply.
- As you exhale push the hips back and stretch forward extending the spine.
- Keeping that extension, lower the hands and the head towards the ground.
- Keep the legs straight.
- Relax the back of the neck so that the top of the head is towards the ground.
- Stay in the position for as long as is comfortable.
- Don’t bounce.
- Don’t extend the fingers.
- Just relax and let gravity do the work.
- Breathe slowly and evenly.
- Push the hips towards the sky as you inhale.
- Contract the abdomen as you exhale.
- Feel the blood coming down into the face and brain.
- Keep the back of the neck relaxed.
To come out of the pose bend the knees and roll up slowly vertebrae by vertebrae keeping the head down until the spine is erect and the shoulders are back.
Another way to come up is to bend the knees deeply, then lift the head straightening the back, then the knees.
Sometimes you might experience some dizziness when you come back up, especially if you have low blood pressure. In this case come up very slowly and when you are standing straight move the arms and legs to stimulate the blood circulation.
There are many variations to this pose:
- You can stand with the feet slightly apart.
- You can fold the arms.
- You can bring the hands behind the legs and either hold the legs or ankles (like in the photo above) or interlock the fingers.
- If you are flexible enough you can stand on the palms of the hands or push the palms of the hands flat on the ground.
- You can point the fingers in the opposite direction and walk the hands back pushing the palms on the ground.
Stay in the position which ever variation you try. Keep still and breathe slowly. If the body is constantly moving then the mind will also be agitated. The stillness in the body will help bring stillness to the mind.
If you have back problems (e.g. slipped disc) then do the forward bend with the legs bent.Don’t hold the position for very long if you have high blood pressure.
It is not a good idea to do this (or any other yoga poses) straight after eating or drinking.
- The heart is higher than the head, so the blood flows naturally to the head, bringing oxygen rich blood from the heart.
- The heart gets a slight rest as it doesn’t have to pump so hard to bring the blood to the head.
- The frontal lobes of the brain are thoroughly irrigated, stimulating the parts of the brain responsible for the higher mental faculties.
- As with all forward bends, the mind will naturally become calmer.
- The hamstrings get a very good stretch.
- The whole length of the spine is extended, stimulating the nervous system.
- Pressure is put on the internal organs, stimulating them and improving their functioning.
- Due to its calming nature padahastasan is very useful in treating anxiety, insomnia and hyperactivity.
Vrikshasan – Tree pose
Concentration, focus and balance are the key points in Vrikshasan. The main challenges in performing this pose are mental rather than physical.
How to do Vrikshasan:
- Stand straight with both feet on the ground.
- Close the eyes and take a few long slow deep inhalations and exhalations.
- Bring the awareness to the soles of the feet and the contact with the ground.
- See if your weight is balanced evenly between both feet.
- Open your eyes.
- Fix your gaze on a point in front of you – something small and unmoving.
- Shift all your weight to the left foot and then raise the right foot placing it either:
- - A against the left calf muscle.
- - B against the inside of the upper left thigh (gentlemen take your precautions).
- - C in ardha-padmasan (half-lotus).
- Once you have your balance raise both hands over the top of the head and join the palms together in prayer position.
- Inhale deeply and stretch upwards lifting the ribcage and bringing the biceps beside the ears (or even behind the ears if your shoulders are flexible enough)
- Keep that upward extension and as you exhale visualize roots spreading out from the sole of the foot anchoring you solidly to the ground.
There are trees on this planet that have stood in the same spot for more than 4000 years – that’s worth contemplating when you are aiming at achieving treelike stability for just a few minutes.
If this is easy enough for you and you want an extra challenge then try closing the eyes and visualizing whatever you were staring at as a point of focus. This is an excellent practice for building up the concentration required for meditation.
Hold the pose for as long as comfortable/possible and repeat on the other side.
The concentration required to hold the position helps to centre the mind and bring us firmly into the present moment. If the mind is moving and jumpy then the pose will be difficult to hold. If the mind is calm and peaceful then it will be much easier.
When we concentrate on anything the breath is automatically affected. Whether it’s listening carefully (with ‘bated breath’) or performing a complicated mental calculation or trying to keep balance, the breath automatically tends to become very quiet and shallow. This means we are getting less air coming into the lungs and less oxygen into the bloodstream which ironically makes it more difficult to concentrate. Hence the importance of breathing calmly and evenly while doing vrikshasan, or any other balancing pose for that matter.
Another very interesting aspect of this asana is what happens when the weight is shifted onto one leg. We know that the left hand side of the brain controls the right hand side of the body and vice versa. Yoga (life) is a two-way street – the mind influences the body, the body influences the mind. When we spend a prolonged period supporting the body weight on the right foot then we are stimulating the left-hand side of the brain. We might even notice that during our daily lives that we may tend to favour one leg or another, particularly while standing. The side you favour is a clear indication that the opposite hemisphere of the brain that is active at that time.
Modern science generally accepts that the left hand side of the brain is concerned with rational-analytical activity while the right hand side of the brain is more intuitive, expressive, non-linear and artistic. The ancient Rishis (sages) understood this and gave a lot of importance in yoga practice to balancing the flow of energies in the ida and pingala nadis – balancing both aspects of our personalities. Alternate nostril breathing is another way this is achieved, but the simple Vrikshasan should not be underestimated as an efficient asana for balancing the pairs of opposites – the sun and the moon, the ida and pingala, the male and female, the yin and yang, however we choose to name or define them.
Achieving, or maintaining this balance in our daily lives is all the more important in this predominately right-handed, left-brained world in which we live, where things are so obviously out of balance.
Sarvangasana - Shoulderstand
Of all the yoga asanas this one is possibly the most important pose. Sarvanga literally means ‘all parts’ and this asana is good for all parts of our being. Read more below after the instructions.
How to do Sarvangasana:
- Lie down on the floor and relax in savasana, breathing smoothly, calmly and deeply.
- Bring the feet together.
- Bring the arms close to the body with the palms facing downwards beside the thighs.
- Take a couple of deep inhalations, gathering the energy towards the solar plexus.
- Inhaling, raise both feet off the ground using the strength in the abdominal muscles.
- At the same time push down in the floor with the palms of the hands and roll the back away from the floor so that the bodyweight is supported on the shoulders.
- Place the palms of the hands on the lower back, bringing the elbows in as close together as possible.
- Raise the feet to the ceiling so that the toes are roughly above the eyes.
- Breathe by expanding and contracting the abdomen, as in this position the upper portion of the ribcage is quite constricted.
- Keep the jaw and moth relaxed – it is very easy to clench the teeth in this position, though of course there is no need for it.
- Some schools of thought say that you should tighten and tense all the muscles in this position, particularly the legs.
- We prefer to say relax everything that can be relaxed without compromising the position.
- Sthira sukham asanam – Patanjali says in his sutras that asanas should be comfortable and steady.
- Close the eyes and observe the sensations as the blood flows down from the legs towards the upper body and head.
- Hold for as long as comfortable.
To make any adjustments to the position
- Bend the knees down towards the face.
- Release the hands from the back.
- Interlock the fingers and stretch the arms away towards the floor.
- Work the shoulder blades closer together.
- Bring the hands to the back again, with the elbows a little closer together to each other if possible.
- Lift the legs back up towards the sky again.
To come out of the pose
- Lower the feet down towards the ground behind your head.
- Release the hands from the lower back.
- Place the hands palms downwards on the floor with the arms straight.
- Gently roll down, placing the spine on the floor vertebrae by vertebrae, using the strength in the arms to support the bodyweight.
- Keep the legs straight and the knees close to the face at first.
- Keep the head and shoulders on the ground.
- When the lower back reaches the ground use the strength in the abdominal muscles to lower the straight legs to the floor with control.
- Separate the arms and legs in savasan and roll the head from side to side, releasing any tension in the neck.
- Take a few long slow breaths and relax observing the sensations in the back and the body as the blood returns towards the legs and feet.
- Don’t forget to do a counter pose like Matsyasan (fish pose), Sethubandhasan (bridge pose) or Chakrasan (wheel pose) to open up the upper portion of the ribcage again.
It is very important not to move the head or neck to the sides while in Sarvangasan. Doing so can result in damage to the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the neck.
Don’t talk in this position as it places undue strain on the voice box. It is not recommended for people with high blood pressure or glaucoma to hold sarvangasana for very long.
Some people like to do shoulderstand with the shoulders and back on the edge of a folded blanket to reduce the contact of the back of the neck with the floor.
Overweight people might find this quite challenging and women with particularly large breasts may have trouble breathing. In that case you can support the feet against a wall and lean at an angle.
Do whatever is comfortable for you.
So why is Sarvangasana so important?
The short answer is: because of its action on the Thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland is responsible for regulating the entire metabolism of the body and even the activity of the other glandular systems in the body. The Thyroid gland also regulates our moods, so we can become more even-tempered by practicing shoulderstand.
Among many of the other things the thyroid gland does is helping to assimilate calcium – so particularly important in terms of warding off problems like osteoporosis which might occur in later life, especially for women.
As well as the thyroid gland, the heart is also affected in this position getting a slight rest. Gravity helps bring oxygen rich blood to the brain. The legs are also drained – particularly good for people with low blood pressure and/or varicose veins whose blood tends to gather in the lower legs.
The breathing pattern in shoulderstand is particularly soothing due to the placement of the diaphragm and the use of the abdominal breath.
Shoulderstand helps to relieve tension in the back of the neck and the shoulders – something that is endemic to modern society which puts us for long hours in hunched, defensive semi-fetal positions while leaning over computer screens or driving cars. These positions are closing, introverted postures which only increase the sense of isolation and separation many people feel in today’s results orientated world. As well as releasing tension in the back and shoulders and neck we need to focus on postures that open up the heart and chest – hence the added importance of rounding off shoulderstand with counter poses.
In terms of Ayurveda, shoulderstand reduces all Doshas. It is a cooling position that helps to reduce the Pitta (fire element) as well as reducing Vata (the air element that keeps the mind moving, among other things) and also reduces Kapha (that can make us feel dull and lethargic).
Ustrasan - Camel Pose
This is a kneeling backbend that really gets in there and squeezes out those seasonal toxins from the kidneys. It also stimulates the adrenal glands which help boost the immune system and energize the whole body.
How to do Ustrasan:
- Come to a kneeling position with a bit of space between the knees and the feet
- Some people find kneeling uncomfortable - if that's the case then you can fold over the front your mat (if you use a mat) to add a little extra softness under the knees.
- If you are comfortable in backbends then you can point the toes away so the tops of the feet are on the ground.
- Otherwise you can tuck in the toes, which will give you an extra few inches leeway.
You can start progressively in stages.
To warm up
- Bring the hands on the hips
- Lift the chest
- Push the hips forward
- Let the head hang backwards and feel the stretch on the throat region
- Breathe deeply, expanding the abdomen first, then the chest.
It's important to get that lift in the chest before you lean back to help protect the lower back.Now for the classic version
- Kneel with knees and feet slightly apart
- Lift the chest
- Push the hips forward
- Reach the hands back to the feet using a backstroke movement to open up the chest
- The hands or even fingers just need to reach the heels to support yourself - remember its about arching the lower back
- Lean the head back and stretch the front of the neck and throat
- Keep the hips above the knees
- Squeeze the buttocks to keep the hips forward, also to support the lower back
- Bring the hands down further if you can - maybe the palms of the hands on the heels or even the hands around the ankles if that is comfortable for you.
- Do not hold the breath
- Expand the abdomen then the chest
- Push back with the chin
- Push forward with the hips
- lift the head first bringing the chin towards the chest
- The head is quite heavy so lifting the head helps shift the centre of gravity significantly Stretch one arm forward in front of you with the horizontal
- Extend forward and come back up to a kneeling position
- Keeping the feet apart sit down between the feet bringing the hips to the floor in Vajrasan
- You might need to move the calf muscles away
- If you are comfortable there you can lie down in supta vajrasan and stretch the arms over behind the head with the hands touching
If your knees don't allow you to do vajrasan then bring the knees together and the big toes touching together and sit on the feet. Place the hands, palms downwards, on the thighs.
Sit quietly with the eyes closed and observe the effects of the Ustrasan.
As with any backbend Ustrasan stimulates the adrenal glands. (We've talked about this before in previous newsletters, but there's no harm in repeating a bit.) The heart beat accelerates, the breath may become erratic, the mind can become quite agitated. Strong emotions may be experienced - anxiety, panic, fear, anger, rage are not uncommon.
Sit and observe all this. Accept the sensations and emotions. Do not push them away or label them as 'bad'. Be aware and mindful.
The part of us which is aware of the experience is quite different from the part of us that is having the experience. Pure awareness is not affected by the emotions or thoughts or the physical sensations in the body - it is just aware. When we move into awareness we are drawing closer to our true nature. Duality starts to fade and we realize the impermanence of the whole mind body system.
Developing awareness is one of the most important aspects of yoga practice.
Developing awareness is one of the most important aspects of yoga practice.
Developing awareness is one of the most important aspects of yoga practice.
Sitting forward bend - Paschimotthanasan
Sitting forward bending helps to stretch the whole back of the body - all the way from the heels to the back of the head.
The mind an the body are one. The tensions in the body reflect the tensions in the mind.
The back of the body is associated with the past - all the things we put behind us. We all have a past, and most, if not all, people have at least a few unresolved issues from our past. Stretching the back of the body can help release the physical tensions and their corresponding mental tensions.
How to do Paschimotthanasan
Forward bending, though it works mainly with the spine and the hamstrings, requires a certain degree of flexibility or opening in the hips. It can be useful to do a few hip-opening exercises (baddhakonasan) before starting. The aim is to work on increasing the space between the heads of the femurs (the top of the thigh bones, sometimes called the "sit-bones"). The anatomical term for this movement is 'nutation' and can be achieved by following these steps.
- Sit with the legs bent and the soles of the feet flat on the ground.
- Bring the feet slightly apart and create a bit of space (about the width of a fist) between the knees.
- Bring the palms of the hands to the outside of the knees and push the knees towards one another.
- At the same time resist by pushing the knees outwards against the hands.
- Lean to the right and raise the left hip a few millimeters from the floor and then lean to the left and raise the right hip. you will feel a slight movement where the heads of the femurs come slightly apart. It might only be a few millimetres but it will affect the overall position of the hips in the sitting forward bend.
- Once nutation is achieved straighten the legs and bring the feet together.
To begin the pose:
- Inhale, stretching both hands towards the sky, extending the spine upwards.
- Keeping that extension, lean forward from the hips, exhaling and contracting the abdomen.
- Bring the hands to wherever they can reach comfortably.
- If you can hold the toes, then hold the toes.
- If you can only reach the ankles then hold the ankles.
- If the hands only reach the knees, then place the hands on the knees.
- No matter which position you are in relax the back of the neck. Let the head hang down towards the chest. the head is quite heavy so gravity and the extra weight will help to come deeper in the pose.
Breathe slowly and comfortably.The breath will generally not be very deep in this position due to the compression of the abdominal area and the position of the thorax / chest region.
As you breathe work on expanding the back of the ribcage.
You can also visualize the breath as starting from the tail bone and moving all the way up the spine.
On each inhalation the torso will rise up slightly and each exhalation you will sink down a little further.
Stay relaxed keeping the back of the legs straight and the back of the neck relaxed.
If you can reach the feet comfortably then there are many hand positions or grips you can use or experiment with. Each will make subtle changes to the stretch on the back of the torso and legs.
A common position is to wrap the first two fingers around the big toes.
Alternatively you can hold the outer edges of the feet and bend the elbows down towards the ground.
Holding and pulling on the heels is not particularly advisable as over time you can damage the hip joints.
For those who cannot reach the feet you can use a towel or a strap across the soles/balls of the feet and keep the body forward.For people who have difficulty even sitting at a right angle (something that is increasingly common, thanks to desk jobs and long commutes and the prolonged hours of sitting involved) you can raise the hips by sitting on a cushion or a block. thisw will help to move the torso beyond the perpendicular and then gravity becomes our ally.
Sitting forward bend is a very interesting pose in terms of the physical reflection it gives to the mental attitude. Perhaps there is no other pose that people literally struggle with so much. People stretch and strain to reach their feet and then pull and tug to come further - literally fighting with themselves to achieve "the goal" of reaching the feet or bringing the head to the shins.
The "goal" only has value in terms of giving us a direction in which to work. Just like a hiker climbing a mountain, the mountain top is not the point - its the path taken to reach the summit that is important. If we are only focused on the goal then we miss the point.
Certainly, in the short term, if we pull and struggle and stretch we might be able to reach a centimeter or two further - but at the cost of creating so much physical and mental tension. In the long term we will gain much more flexibility and peace of mind by relaxing in the position and working with gravity, the breath and awareness.
Patanjali, in his wisdom defined an asana as 'a steady comfortable pose (sthira sukham asanam). Sukham can even be translated to mean pleasurable or enjoyable. We should enjoy our asana practice, not use it as an occasion to fight with ourselves.
Yoga teaches us to accept ourselves as we are. If we can't touch our toes - big deal - be happy. If you can easily reach your toes - so what - be happy too.
We do what we can do and in so doing face and accept our limitations. Forcing ourselves beyond the physical limits of the body leads to stress and injury. No one should practice yoga to increase stress or injure themselves. Patience and acceptance will help us to extend the limitations of the body - certainly some effort is required, but work closer to 75% of your capacity instead of 110%. If we are two involved in forcing the body into the position then there is no room for awareness - and it is much more important to develop our awareness than to have loose hamstrings. Yoga asanas are working with the body, but not for the body - at least not as a primary concern. Peace of mind can be achieved even by people with stiff legs - or even people with no legs.
Trikonasana - Triangle Pose.
In Sanskkrit Kon means angle and Tri - well you've guessed - means Three.
Incidentally, all European languages - with the exceptions of Finnish, Hungarian and Basque belong to the Indo-European group of languages and share their roots with Sanskrit - so Three Angles or triangle.
Trikonasan is a simple sideways bend. There are different variations but the simplest version is to:
Stand with your feet about a metre (3 feet) apart.
- Turn the feet slightly inwards so that the outer edges of the feet are parallel.
- Stretch your right hand up towards the sky
- Inhale deeply
- As you exhale bend to your left hand side and stay there
- Let the palm of the extended hand face the ground
- The front of the torso is facing forwards
- Look up towards the ceiling/sky
- Breathe deeply, using the breath to expand the whole right hand side of the rib-cage
- Feel the stretch on the whole right flank of the body.
- Let the left arm just hand down by the left leg
- Make sure that you don't use the left hand as a crutch to support yourself.
- Stay there for at least 5 deep breaths
- Raise the extended arm upwards again
- Then lift the torso back to centre (the weight of the arm gives a slight counter balance).
- Take a few deep breaths, comparing the sensations on both sides of the ribcage
- Repeat on the opposite side.
Generally the right lung has three lobes, whereas the left lung has only two - in order to make room for the heart.
See does this affect the ease at which you breath in this position.
When performing trikonasan imagine that you are standing between two parallel walls. Make sure not to lean forwards, keeping the body on one plane.
A common variation is to turn the left foot out at 90 degrees.
Usually this will cause the right hip to rotate slightly inwards.
Correct this - keeping both hips straight and then repeat the same steps as above.
Another, slightly more challenging, variation is known as Uttitha Trikonasan (Extended triangle Pose)
- Bring the feet much further apart
- Turn one foot outwards 90 degrees
- Keep the other foot facing forwards (some teachers suggest turning it inwards 45 degrees, but then the hip tends to rotate inwards and we lose some of the hip aligning effects of the pose)
- Keep the raised hand pointed upwards and the other hand reaching the ankle, or the floor, or a block
- Both arms are stretched and extended opposite each other.
- The hand that is towards the sky comes down to the floor beside the foot (on the outside of the foot if you are flexible enough and want to increase the twist).
- The other hand is raised towards the ceiling.
- The gaze is directed upwards towards that hand.
This variation allows for a substantial twist in the spine and helps stimulate the digestive system and increase shoulder flexibility.
However these last two variations don't do as much to open up the ribcage and stretch the intercostal muscles as the first and second version.
This stretching of the intercostal muscles gives much more mobility to the rib cage and allows the breath to be deeper and less constricted. As a result by practicing Trikonasan regularly we will quickly improve the way we breath.
Another effect of Trikonasan is its action on the liver. The liver is massaged ansd stimulated in this position. The liver is unique in being the only internal organ that can regenerate itself after it has been damaged. Very useful for those who may have indulged in excessive use of alcohol - particularly spirits - in the past.
Trikonasan and any of the variations mentioned above will also help increase shoulder flexibility.
Bending sidewards is not a movement many people do in their everyday life, so it may take a little time to build up some lateral flexibility in the spine.
Ardha Matsyendrasan - Half Spinal Twist.
Most asanas work on the mobility of the spine.
When we practice yoga asanas we should include asanas that move the spine in four different ways
In terms of sequencing it is generally accepted that twists should follow forward and backward bends so that the the spine is already warmed up. Even a few rounds of Surya Namaskar (sun salutation), with its emphasis on placing the spine in forward and backward bending positions, will effectively prepare the spine for twisting.
There are two ways to do Ardha Matsyendrasan
1 - starting with the legs straight
2 - starting with the legs bent
1 - Start in a sitting position with both legs extended forward in front of you
Bend the right leg
Crossing the legs, place the right foot on the outside of the left knee
Bring the right hand around behind the back with the heel of the hand close to the base of the spine
Turn the torso to the right so that the abdomen comes in contact with the top of the right leg
Bring the left hand across the body with the elbow against the outside of the right knee
Push the elbow against the knee to increase the twist
Turn the head so that you are looking over the right shoulder
Variation - bring the left armpit closer to the right knee and the left hand to the right foot or ankle.
Another variation - if you are quite flexible in the hips and shoulders you can bend the left arm and bring it through the space between the legs, then bring the right hand around behind the back to meet it, interlocking the fingers. this is sometimes called Baddha-Ardha-Matsyendrasan (bound half spinal twist)
On each inhalation straighten the spine and lift the chest
As you exhale increase the torsion, twisting the whole spine
The twist should be from the base of the spine and continue up to the shoulders
Turn the head as well, but be careful not to strain the neck.
Visualize that you are twisting the spine like wringing outa wet towel
Hold for at least 5 breaths
Repeat on the opposite side
2 - Start with the legs bent, sitting on or between the heels
Bring the hips to the floor on the left and the legs to the right
Place the right foot flat on the floor on the outside of the left knee
Make sure you are not sitting on the left foot
Gentlemen may have to make some adjustments to be comfortable in this position
Follow all the same steps as above including the arm variations if you wish.
After twisting in both directions it is useful to do a forward bend to put everything back in a straight line.
This pose can be practiced several times on each side.
Ardha Matsyendrasan is very useful for the digestive system and will help relieve gas from either end of the digestive tract.
this pose also gives a good stretch to the upper thighs and sciatic region. The internal organs are stimulated and the shoulders are stretched as well.
Also known as Cow-Face pose, this asana works on the major joints - the ankles, knees and hips and the wrists, elbows and shoulders and helps to relieve tension and increase flexibility in these areas.
There are two main components to Gaumukasan which can be practiced together or separately:
1 The sitting position
2 The arm position.
Sitting position (Dhyana Virasana)
Start by sitting on the ground with both legs extended in front of you.
Bend the left leg bringing the knee to the floor in front of you.
Bend the right leg and cross it over the left.
You should be sitting between the feet rather than on them.
Try to bring the right knee down onto the left knee. (Gentlemen should take their precautions.)
Once the legs are in position sit back and try to distribute the body weight evenly on both hips.
Sit up straight with the spine erect.
Close the eyes and breathe, sitting up from the base of the spine and lifting the chest on each inhalation.
Bend the left arm and bring it behind the back with the palm facing away.
Push the hand up the back between the shoulder blades.
Raise the right hand and reach over the right shoulder to take hold of the left hand.
If you can’t reach the hands together you can use a strap or a belt or a cloth and hold that with both hands.
Keep the eyes closed and breathe.
Keep the right elbow up.
Keep the spine erect on each inhalation.
If this is easy, you can try carefully leaning forward bringing the chin down towards the knee, making sure not to strain the elbows, tear any ligament or dislocate the shoulders.
Carefully release the arms. Loosen up the shoulders by rolling the shoulders backwards.
Then interlock the fingers behind the back and lift the arms away from the back.
Rinse and repeat, this time with the left leg on top and the left arm on top.
This involves bringing the right arm around behind the back which is generally a bit more difficult for right-handed people.
Just like Garudasan some people prefer to do Gaumukasan with opposite arms and legs ( i.e left leg, right arm on top, and right leg left arm on top). If you feel strongly about it, go for whatever works best for you, or try both options and see what difference that might make.
Gaumukasan is an excellent asana for increasing overall flexibility. The opening of the rib cage in this asana is good for asthmatics and is probably the most beneficial pose for this ailment after Matsyasana (fish pose). On a more esoteric level this ‘opening’ works on the heart chakra.
The sitting position, also known as Dhyana Virasana improves digestion and stimulates the kidneys.