Balance in Warrior III

In this version of Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III), you'll use blocks to support your upper body and a wall to take some of the weight off your lifted leg, helping you strengthen and stabilize your legs, hips, and sacrum.

Start in Tadasana(Mountain Pose), with your back facing a wall that's about a leg's distance away. Have two blocks handy. Fold forward into Uttanasana(Standing Forward Bend), lift your left leg behind you, and press your left foot against the wall at hip height so that it's parallel to the floor. Inhale as you lift your spine away from the floor and place one block under each hand. See that your hands are beneath your shoulders.

Build your pose from the ground up. Spring the arch of your foot upward. Then press the outer edge of your standing leg inward toward your inner leg. Next, imagine zipping up a long zipper from your inner ankle to your inner groin to help you lengthen the inner shaft of your leg. Lastly, shave the outer edge of your right hip back toward the wall behind you. Stay here for a few breaths, making sure that the whole leg works evenly; no part of it should feel slack. Bring your attention to your upper body. Slide the front of your spine, from just below your navel, toward your heart. Do this without hardening your belly or sucking it back and up. Simultaneously, elongate the two sides of your tailbone away from your lumbar, toward the wall behind you.

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Backbend vs Insomnia

Indian mythology is rich with references to the bow, a simple stringed weapon that enables a steady and skilled archer to defeat an enemy. The pose Dhanurasana extends the body into the shape of a bow as the arms reach back straight and taut, forming the "string" of the asana. Done properly, Dhanurasana is a superb back strengthener that can help vanquish the postural enemy of rounded shoulders. Arching the body backward opens the chest and provides a powerful stretch for the front of the shoulders and the quadriceps—a wonderful antidote to all the time we spend "crunched" forward in daily life.

Like all other backbends, Dhanurasana is dynamic and energizing—stretching the front body increases the flow of blood to the digestive tract and enhances the efficiency of the stomach, liver, and intestines, while contracting the back body stimulates the kidneys and adrenals. But it can be so invigorating that if you suffer from insomnia, you should not practice it late in the day. You can modify Dhanurasana by reaching the arms back without catching the ankles or by using a strap. Don't worry about catching the ankles if this puts pressure on your knees or lower back. Remember that the Yoga Sutra states that a yoga asana should have two qualities: steadiness and ease. If you don't feel steady and at ease in this pose, back off to easier versions until you do.

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Back into Balance - Handstand

Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand) is not a particularly difficult pose physically. The real challenge of Handstand for many students is working on the necessary physical skills in a calm, focused manner while confronting the primal human fear of falling.

Handstand, like all balancing poses, requires that you feel comfortable with instability. When faced with instability of any kind—physical or mental—most of us tend to recoil immediately and try to regain control by locking things tightly in place. Ironically, this reaction only serves to make us more rigid and less able to make minute and sensitive adjustments to bring ourselves back into balance. Instead, try to bring a childlike enthusiasm to your Handstand explorations, focusing on the process rather than the outcome. Imagine the solidity of bone paired with the cushiony, more resilient quality of muscle: a secure firmness merged with a more fluid, I-can-respond-instantly-to-anything feeling. As you let yourself yield to gravity without collapsing, you can go inside and find a balanced energy flow that supports the posture.

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Fold Forward for Relaxation


Janu Sirsasana or Head-to-Knee Pose is a gentle way to stretch the lower back, open the hips and groin, and release the hamstrings. It's a pose that's sometimes considered easier than folding forward with two straight legs. For this reason, it's an excellent pose for beginners or those who are less flexible in their hamstrings or lower back. So try it:
Sit with your legs straight in front of you and your spine tall. Then bend one knee and place the heel on the inside of your thigh as close to your pubic bone as possible. Exhale and let your bent leg drop toward the floor. Release your "sit bones" into the earth and lengthen your spine, extending up through the crown of your head. Exhale and turn your body slightly toward the extended leg, then inhale and lift the front torso. Keep breathing and lengthening as you hinge forward from the hips, folding your torso over your extended leg. If you can't reach your foot, use a strap-but don't pull yourself into the forward bend. Allow your body to lengthen forward comfortably, with the lower belly touching the thighs first and the head touching last. Stay for at least five to 10 breaths, then switch sides.

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