Category Archives: Posture Tips

Posture Clinic: Rabbit Pose

Rabbit Pose

Sasangasana

Rabbit Pose photo: Bikram Yoga San Antonio

The progression between Camel Pose and Rabbit Pose is one of the most stimulating and beneficial parts of the Bikram Yoga series. Both poses open the spine deeply, helping to stretch and stimulate the inter-vertebral disks. This helps to not only ensure proper spinal alignment but helps to maintain the spongy nature of the disks which helps them absorb shock from daily movement to prevent back pain. Highly theraputing for the nervous, skeletal, digestive and glandular systems this is pose that is difficult to master but well worth the effort.

Strengthens:
Abdomen

Stretches:
Muscles of the back
Shoulders
Scapula
Medulla Oblongata

Stimulates:

Thyroid
Parathyroid

Physical Benefits:
Provides maximum longitudinal extension of the spine.

Stretches the spine to increase proper nutrition to the nervous system.

Improves the mobility and elasticity of the spine and back muscles.

Helps balance and regulate metabolism.

Balances hormones.

Improves digestion.

Helps relieve glandular problems.

Helps improve conditions of the sinus, common cold and chronic tonsillitis.

Emotional Benefits:

Helps with depression.

Helps with insomnia.

Releases issues with taking on responsibility for the happiness of others.

Energetic Benefits

Opens the back of the heart chackra.

Posture Tips

Rabbit pose is one of the most challenging postures to master in the Bikram Yoga series. This is a posture where it is especially important to pay attention to the dialogue.

Always start with the right grip in the pose. The thumbs should be included with the rest of the fingers, thumbs on the outside, fingers on the inside.

Once you are in the posture, do not move to correct it. Fix the posture in the set up, not when you are in it. – Bikram

The biggest misconception beginners have about rabbit is that there should be no weight or pressure on the head. In fact, about 15% of the body weight should be in the head.

The dialogue will always encourage to lift the hips up, which is important to the pose. But it is important to never sacrifice the grip to get the hips higher. Remember,it is the grip and pull that create the force to stretch the spine.

If there is too much pressure on head, grab lower on the foot – Craig Villani

The harder you pull on the feet the better of a compression you will create benefiting the organs.

Try to eliminate any gap under the ankles and work to have the heels together through the pose.

While pulling on the heels, lift the shoulders away from the ears.

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Posture Clinic: Awkward Pose

Awkward Pose

Utkatasana

For most of us Awkward Pose is, well, awkward. But do not let the discomfort of this position turn you away, it is packed with huge benefits for your entire body, and just a little attention and applying yourself to the posture can go a long way.

Anatomical Focus

Awkward Pose. Photo: Bikram Yoga College of India

Strengthens

  • Triceps
  • Deltoids
  • Abdominal Muscles
  • Quadriceps
  • Tones muscles of the legs

Stretches and Opens

  • Ankles
  • Feet
  • Toes
  • Pelvis
  • Shins

Stimulates

  • Liver
  • Spleen
  • Intestines
  • Pancreas

Physical Benefits

Helps to realign the legs to prevent lower-back pain

Helps to align the meniscus in the knee

Reduces flat feet, bunions and bowed legs

Helps with lumbago

Relieves menstrual cramps

Relieves sciatica

Reduces fat under buttocks

Good for arthritic conditions in knees and hips

Relieves joint pain

Emotional Benefits

Helps to release anger and guilt in often stored in thighs.

Helps to relieve rage and frustration from calf muscles.

Second set activates the diaphragm, chest and upper abdomen, helping to alleviate depression, hypertension, anorexia and bulimia.

Posture Tips

“If you allow your stomach to be loose, you will overtax your back muscles possibly causing back pain.” Craig Villani

First Part

Always make sure the feet are properly aligned, not v-ing in or v-ing out. This creates the therapeutic alignment of the posture. Pay close attention that the feet do not change position as you move into the posture.

Keep your knees and toes always facing forward to the mirror.

To achieve greater depth in the first part, allow the chest and upper body to come down and sit as low as possible. When the hips reach their maximum depth, focus on bringing the upper body back.

Reach your fingers more forward to counter-balance your effort to sit down lower.

Always keep 100% of your body-weight in the heels.

Notice any tension in your shoulders and face and try to relax the muscles, or move the energy into you arms or abdomen.

Second Part

Start the pose by coming up as high as possible on the toes and try not to allow your heels to lower.

Watch the alignment of your ankles, they should be straight and not shooting out or in from the alignment of your legs.

“Concentrate mostly on your big and second toes of each foot pressing into the floor. The rest of the toes are mostly decoration.

As your toes press down and out into the floor, pull the abs in toward the spine and up towards the rib cage creating an abdominal “lock”.

Everything in class is oppositional, so if you are pushing something down, something else has to pull up.” Adam Roper, Bikram Yoga Harlem

As you bring your hips lower into the chair try to bring your heels higher and come more on to the toes.

Sit your hips all the way into the chair. This is important to achieve the therapeutic benefits of the posture. Shaking, burning and discomfort is a good thing, it means you are burning calories and building muscles.

If your upper body is leaning forward, this means you must come up higher on the toes. Don’t be scared to come as high as possible on the toes. Remember that Bikram often says this posture should one day be done just on the big toe.

Come up from the second part slowly to build more strength in the legs.

“Whenever there is shaking, there is always a threatened nerve. It’s NEVER an impulse saying, “If you keep going there could be trouble.” Shaking is not bad, it is your body creating new neural passageways and learning to strengthen and hold.” Emmy Cleaves

Third Part

Only come up on the toes as much as is necessary to bring the knees together, but not as far as the second set.

Never allow the knees to part, as you do the pose think of pressing not just the knees but the thighs together as if you are zipping your two legs together up to the groin.

Try to come out of the posture with a straight spine as much as possible.

“Hardest of all three parts is coming out of the third part with a straight spine, so keep trying.” Bikram



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Posture Clinic: Bow Pose

Bow Pose

Dhanurasana

Teshia Maher in bow pose

Anatomical Focus

Strengthening of…

Erector Spinea muscle

Deep spinal muscles

Deltiods

Rhomboids

Trapezius

Lattismus Dorsi

Compression of…

Kidneys

Stetching, extension of…

Entire front side of the body

Shoulder joints

Spinal column

Stimulation of…

Digestive system

Liver

Thymus

Lymph glands in neck and endocrine glands.

Benefits…

Increases circulation to the heart and lungs.

Improves breathing by extending and opening the diaphram and chest.

Increases circulation to the spine, helping to revitalize the spinal nerves.

Tones the abdomen, improves digestion and relieves constipation.

Helps to regulate the ovaries and prostate gland.

Helps to relieve rheumatism, arthritis, lumbago and cervical spondylosis.

Relieves menstrual problems.

Stimulation of the thymus gland helps to regulate the cycle of eating, making bow good for eating disorders.

Helps to correct bad posture.

Alleviates fatigue.

Improves the function of the kidneys, liver and spleen.

Good for bronchitis,

Mental Benefits…

Strengthens concentration and determination

Emotional Benefits…

Works through issues of sexual insecurity.

Helps to relieve the need for external validation.

Develops freedom of expression.

Relieves stress associated with taking too much responsibility for others.

Tips

Always grab right below the toes, no grip on the ankle or shin.

Remember, this posture is about kicking

Often students will kick first and look up second. Try to synchronize bringing your head back and the kick at the same time.

Always look up in the pose, this helps to complete the benefit for the cervical spine (neck) and helps to tone the muscles surrounding the eyes while stretching the ocular nerve.

Tips from the Pros

If one foot is higher than the other, instead of thinking to kick harder with that foot, think kick toward the corner of the ceiling. – Bikram

Manifest tension in the grip, but not the arm – Craig.

80/20 breathing is essential because it directly effects the compression of the spine. – Craig

Grab the feet not the ankle. – Craig

Tips for Teachers

Recently, Bikram began advising teacher trainees (from the Spring 2008 training onward) that he wanted bow pose to be taught to start with the knees together in the set up (instead of six inches apart) and then to allow the legs to separate once in the pose. This helps to keep the knees closer together once in the full expression of the posture.

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Posture Clinic: Balancing Stick

by Barbora Simek

Balancing Stick

Tuladandasana

One of the most invigorating and challenging postures in the Bikram Yoga series, balancing stick is a hugely beneficial to the internal organs and as a large calorie burner, helps to tone the entire body. Like standing head-to-knee and standing bow-pulling pose, bringing the chest parallel to the floor helps to stimulate and strengthen heart giving huge cardiovascular benefit. Finally, it requires extreme concentration and helps to release emotion and open the heart.

Leslie Christiansen in Balancing Stick Pose photo: Bikram Yoga College of India


Anatomical Focus

Strengthens

  • Upper Thighs
  • Buttocks
  • Shoulders
  • Abdomen
  • Trapezius Muscles
  • Deltoids
  • Ankles

Stretches

  • Hip Joints
  • Shoulders
  • Full Stretch of the spine

Stimulates

  • Pancreas
  • Liver
  • Spleen
  • Kidneys
  • Nervous System

Physical Benefits

Improves balance

Increases endurance

Increases lung capacity

Stimulates the heart and arteries, strengthening the heart

Helps to clear blockages from arteries helping to prevent future cardiovascular problems

Helps varicose veins

Burns fat (up to 300 calories during the posture according to Rajishree Choudhury)

Slims waistline and eliminates deposits fat on the body

Relieves tension from the spine

Energetic Benefits

Activates and opens the heart chackra

Mental Benefits

Improves memory and concentration

Emotional Benefits

Releases doubt and fear of giving and receiving love (by activating the heart chackra)

Allows you to open yourself to love and soul expression

Posture Tips

BREATHE This is especially important because you are working the cardiovascular system which is aided by the respiratory system

SUCK YOUR STOMACH IN, using the abdominal muscles in this posture will stabilize your core and will ultimately help you to balance in the posture.

Point your toes from beginning. After you step forward and before you bring your body down, lift your back leg one inch off the floor, and point your toes.

Improvement in balancing stick will help your locust pose and vice versa.

Tips from the Pros

The set up determines how well you will do the posture, lock everything before (knees, elbows, etc) so that you will have more stability in the posture – Craig

Lean back slightly in the set up to stretch the chest as you step into the posture – Craig

Come down absolutely straight, and use your strength immediately – Bikram

Use your eyes to continue the stretch of the spine, the spine stays straight but the eyes look forward – Craig

At the end of the posture stretch forward a little more than you stretch back – Craig

Check out more posture tips from Bikram Yoga NYC here

Tips for Teachers

Keep the set up in a regularly paced tone, once the student is in the posture make the dialogue more energetic – Craig

“Sound is almost the same as solid matter. Voice and volume is tangible.” Craig Villani

Because of the intensity of the posture, you must increase your vocal energy and intensity to help the students complete and endure through the pose.

Put emphasis on stretching forward. Before coming to the repetition of ‘stretch, stretch, stretch’ at the end of the pose, make sure the final instruction is to stretch forward. – Craig

Correcting the alignment of the hips is a correction for intermediate and advanced students only, not for beginners – Craig

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Posture Clinic: Why back-bending is good for your spine.

“If you have a good spine, the gods will chase you. Nobody has psychological or emotional problems, everyone has a bad spine.” Bikram Choudhury

Ashley Hooper and Elisa Matthews back-bending photo: Bikram Yoga College of India

by Barbora Simek

Understanding why and how back-bending is beneficial for the spine is a challenge for many yoga students. For many, back-bending is an emotionally charged, challenging and often uncomfortable part of practice. However despite its discomforts back-bending can be one of the most therapeutic parts of a yoga practice.

Think of all the time you spend bending forward in a day, from enjoying a coffee with a newspaper, to driving, to typing at a computer, cleaning or lounging with a friend. The reality is, we spend most of our day in an unsupported forward bend.

Internally, forward bending causes the front of vertebrae move closer together, forcing the inter-vertebral disks and spinal nerves back. Prolonged poor posture can:

  • cause or aggravate back and neck pain
  • constrict blood-flow and put pressure on vital organs and glands preventing them from functioning properly
  • has been shown to have negative effects on self-esteem and mood in studies

Ironically, when most people experience back pain or discomfort their first reaction is to bend forward, not knowing it is the cause of their discomfort. In reality back-bending is what is needed to counter-act the impact of continuous forward bending. This impulse is not easy to unlearn.

First it is important to recognize that back-bending is a natural range of motion for the spine. “Think of monkeys or children climbing in a tree who reach backward for a branch, the spine bends backward,” says Jeff Weisman a Toronto based Bikram Yoga teacher and Hellerworker.

As you bend backwards you compress the posterior part of your spinal column, pushing your disks away from the spinal nerves and decompress the front of the vertebrae. This effectively counteracts the damage of hours spent forward bending.

Those concerned and intimidated by back-bending should rest assured that the controlled environment and proper progression of the Bikram Yoga series allows for back-bends to be preformed safely. For those with limitations and injuries, remember to speak to your instructor, move slowly and listen to your body.

Physical Benefits

  • Stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and prepares the body for action.
  • Helps counteract damage of bad posture.
  • Relieves back pain, bronchial distress, scoliotic deformities, tennis elbow, frozen shoulder.
  • Realigns the spine.
  • Promotes proper kidney function.
  • Helps with digestive function, eliminating constipation and flatulence.

Energetic Benefits

  • Stimulates all the chackras, primarily creating opening in the fourth (heart) chackra.

Emotional Benefits

  • Helps to break through insecurity and fear.
  • Relieves stress and tedium.
  • Opening the lower back helps to free you from insecurity and taking yourself too seriously.
  • Helps to build confidence and self-esteem in children.

Tips from the Pros

Allow your exhale to lower you into your maximum depth, allow your inhale to lift you up and forward. Reverse this pattern on purpose by pulling backward more vigorously into the posture during the inhalation (taking you more fulling into the posture) and then relaxing and easing off the posture during the exhale (thereby reducing tension).- Anatomy of Hatha Yoga, Dr. H. David Coulter

“Lift your breastbone up as you go down into it, instead of jamming only the lower waistband spine.
You HAVE to have your elbows pressing IN, not bowing out before you go down.

Also, LIFT the front of the neck and shoulders and armpits before you drop down.

Then you lift UP, OUT and OVER your waistband spine so you do not get that crimping feeling.” – Mary Jarvis for All Back-bending Heals the Spine

Do not contract the gluteal muscles until you reach your maximum expression then tighten – Rajishree Choudhury (for more read this article)

The standing back-bend is regulated by locked knees – Craig Villani

Drop the head back as far as it goes. The head and arms do not need to stay together. – Bikram Choudhury

Tips for teachers

Beginners are always afraid of back-bending. Make sure to stress that the hips, stomach, legs everything must come forward. – Bikram Choudhury

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Posture Clinic : Full Locust Pose

by Barbora Simek

Full Locust Pose

Poorna Shalabhasana

Ashley Hooper in Full Locust Pose image: Bikram Yoga College of India


“This is the hardest posture to improve. No matter who you are if you just struggle, you will get 110% benefit.” Bikram Choudhury

Anatomical Focus

Strengthens/ Firms:

Lower and Upper Back

Muscles of the upper arm (deltoids, triceps)

Abdominal Muscles

Bottocks

Muscles of the upper thigh (hamstrings)

Calf Muscles

Stimulates:

Liver

Spleen

Benefits: Continue reading

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Posture Clinic – Standing Bow Part II, tips from Craig

Notes from Craig

The dynamics of the pose are kicking and stretching – forget holding.

The kick and the stretch create the balance of the posture

Direct your fingers to stretch forward so that there is not stopping, liberating any tension in the shoulders.

Make sure the energy of the stretching does not stop in the wrists

The chest must come down to create the stimulation of the circulatory system.

You MUST kick -when you hold back in the posture you create tension rather than stretching, you are preventing the full benefits of the posture

Always grab at the ankle, as this is the center of the force for your kick.

Do not think of your hips, when you shift focus to the hips you lose the rest of the posture, the hips are an extension of the  form.

For advanced students

  • Try to keep the axis of your face perpendicular to the floor.
  • do not anticipate the positioning of your hand, always grab at the ankle
  • flexible people often forget to contract the thigh and allow the knee to come unlocked, make sure to keep it locked.

If you do not bring your body down all the way and the weight remains in the heel, you are grinding your femur bone into the hip joint.

If you fall diagonally in the posture it is diagnostic, and is telling you that your legs are out of alignment.

Check out some more great tips here from New York Hatha Yoga Champion, Kyoko Katsura.

Tips for Teachers

If students are keeping their weight in their heel in the pose, and are resistant to bring it forward, approach and explain to them after class – Craig

It is important to make beginners bring the body down first, because otherwise they never would. For regular and advanced students you can instruct them to focus on the kick first to create a trajectory and achieve a fuller posture – Craig

Source: Fall 2005 Teacher Training Lectures

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