Category Archives: Ashtanga Yoga

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Stance Forward Bend) A, B, C & D

This asana has four parts, A, B, C & D.  All four combine a standing forward bend with an inversion, giving you the best of both worlds.  Practicing Prasarita Padottanasana is believed to create a calm mind and tranquility.  By keeping the focus on your breathing and the dristi (focal point) to your nose, it is sure to slow the mind and calm the nerves.

Start in Samasthiti and jump the feet out to the right in a medium-width stance (the width will depend on your height, but anywhere from 3 – 5 feet apart).  The feet are parallel facing forward and the hands are on the hips.

Hands on hips, feet parallel

Inhale and open the chest, exhale fold forward.  Place the hands shoulder width apart on the ground between the feet.  Inhale flatten the back creating length in the spine, gaze it towards the third eye (between the eyebrows) flat back, gazing to the third eye, exhale fold forward, working towards placing the top of the head on the mat, bending the elbows at 90 degrees.  Gaze is towards the tip of the nose.  This is Prasarita Padottanasana A.  Hold here for 5 breaths.

Prasarita Padottanasana A

 Inhale flatten the back, look to the third eye, exhale come all the way up. 

Inhale the arms out to the sides, exhale place them back on the hips, inhale open the chest and exhale fold forward.  Keep the hands on the hips and working towards placing the top of the head on the ground.  Gaze is to the tip of the nose.  This is Prasarita Padottanasana B.  Hold for 5 breaths here. 

Prasarita Padottanasana B

Inhale back up, exhale.  Reach the arms behind the back and interlace the fingers.   Inhale open the chest and exhale fold forward working to reach the arms overhead and place the hands on the ground for Prasarita Padottanasana C.  Gaze is to the tip of the nose.  Hold here for 5 breaths. 
 

Prasarita Padottanasana C

 
Inhale back up to center, exhale.  Inhale open the chest, exhale fold forward and grab the big toes with the first two fingers, hooking with the thumbs.  Inhale flat back, lengthening the spine and gazing to the third eye (between the eyebrows), and exhale fold forward.  Bend the elbows out to the sides at 90 degrees and working towards placing the top of the head on the ground.  This is Prasarita Padottanasana D, the final position in this series.  Gaze it towards the nose.  Hold here for 5 breaths.

Prasarita Padottanasana D

After 5 breaths, inhale flat back, gaze to the third eye, exhale hands to hips, inhale come all the way up, exhale back to Samastithi.
 
 
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Utthita Parshvakonasana & Parivrta Parshvakonasana

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Side Angle Posture) is an asana in which we learn to balance opposites and awareness in many directions.  We experience the groundedness of the earth with our feet, along with the movement of air with our hands.

Start at the front of your mat in Samasthiti.

Jump out to your right with your legs wide (the widest of all the standing asanas). Lunge deeply in your right leg, turning your back foot only slightly.  Work to keep both feet flat on the ground and trying not to collapse into the hips.  It is of special importance here to make sure that your knee does not hang over your ankle, as over time this can lead to knee pain.

Extending through the back leg all the way up the body through the left arm and out through the fingertips.

Beginners can place the right arm on the right thigh and gaze to the left palm.  The palm faces down to the floor and the left armpit faces out to the side (not up to the sky).  Keep the shoulders down and away from the ears.

Modified Utthita Parshvakonasana

In the final posture, place the right hand beside the right foot, extend the left arm over the head at an angle and gaze to the palm.

Utthita Parshvakonasana

For the correct head position, pretend as though you are smelling your armpit, but then decide not to and only turn your gaze to the palm.  Hold Utthita Parshvakonasana for five breaths.

Inhale back up to center and switch sides.

Once both sides are complete, move into Parivrta Parshvakonasana (Revloved Side Angle Posture).

Turn again to your right, lunging deeply in your right leg, but this time taking a twist in your spine.  Beginners may place the hands in prayer position, hooking the left shoulder on the outside of the right knee and gazing to the sky.

In the final posture, place the left hand on the ground beside the right foot, fingertips in the same direction as the toes.  Extend the right arm at an angle with the gaze to the right palm.  Make sure to keep the back foot flat on the ground.

Extending deeply in both directions, hold for five breaths.

Parivrta Parshvakonasana

Inhale back up to center and switch sides.

Finally, coming back to the front of your mat for Samasthiti.


Food for Thought…

What an amazing weekend with David Swenson and his wife, Shelly, this weekend!

We had a led primary practice followed by pictures and videos of David as a young teen practicing on a towel to his time in India with many fond stories and memories of Pattabhi Jois.  The next day we went through second series, worked on back bending and finished with inversions on Sunday.  David shared many good tips and advice!

However, I think the biggest gift I got from this workshop was compassion.  The real challenge with an Ashtanga practice is not to get swept away with trying to do more, get better, and progress in your series.  This weekend I was deeply touched by how much David and his wife, Shelly, respect and love each other so completely and fully.  I felt that love spills out into the entire room and to all of the students.

I started wondering…”how did they get there?!”   Then I was reminded that a true yoga practice is so much more than the asanas we do on our yoga mat.  It is about finding acceptance, love and compassion on and off of the mat, and once that is found within, how can it not flow without.  In Mysore, India, they do not praise the guy with the leg behind his head any more or less than the girl who cannot get her legs into lotus.  We are all equal and yet very unique.

There are many health benefits to a regular yoga practice, but this weekend reminded me to not forget about the bigger emotional and spiritual benefits yoga offers us as well.

Namaste 


Utthita Trikonasana & Parivrta Trikonasana

Utthita Trikonasana or Extended Triangle

Trying to eliminate belly fat?   This asana is said to help dissolve excess fat at the waist.  Working to open the collar bones, we expand the narrow portion of the breathing channel while strengthening the backbone.  This asana tones the hamstrings, trunk and chest, as well as aiding in the recovery of groin injuries, sciatica and spinal compression.

Utthita Trikonasana

Inhale, jump out to the right placing the feet about 3 feet apart,

Exhale, extending at the waist, keeping the legs straight, reaching for the big toe.  If you cannot reach the big toe, try grabbing your shin.

Inhale, opening the chest and reaching the left arm up to the sky.  Working to shift the right hip forward and the left hip back, ultimately aiming to stack the hips in a line above each other.  The fingers are together and gaze is to the palm.

5 Breaths here…

Inhale up to center and switching sides.

Parivrta Trikonasana or Revolving Triangle

In this asana the twisting works to stimulate the spine and nervous system. A healthy, straight spine allows for energy to flow more fluidly throughout the body causing more clarity and mental stability.

Squaring the hips to the right, bring your right hand to the waist while the left arm is straight up, opening the chest and looking forward

Parivrta Trikonasana

Exhale folding forward and placing the left hand to the outside of the right foot.  Twisting the spine and opening the chest, bringing the right arm up to the sky.  Both legs are actively engaged and gazing to the palm.  If it cannot get your palm flat on the ground, try first grabbing the shin or the foot.

5 Breaths here….

Inhale up to center and switching sides.

Exhale back to the front of your mat in Samastitihi


Padangusthasana and Padahastasana

Standing Forward Bends – Encircling the big toe and hands under feet

Padangusthasana and Padahastasana are the first standing asanas in the Primary Series after warming up with Sun Salutations.  These asanas are believed to help dissolve the fat of the lower stomach and purify the kidneys.  If done with patience, they can induce calmness and peace in the mind. Those suffering with bloating in the stomach, acidity and gastric issues will benefit immensely by practicing these asanas.

In addition, forward bends increase the blood supply to the brain, helping to regulate blood pressure, while gently stretching the spine, hamstrings, and arms.

Samasthiti

Jump the feet hips width apart and place the hands on the hips.  Inhale open the chest and look up.

Exhale fold forward, grab the big toes with the “peace fingers” (pointer and middle fingers) wrapping the thumb over the top of the toe.

Inhale, flatten the back and look up, gaze is between the eyebrows

Padangushtasana

Exhale, folding forward, working to get your nose to your knees, elbows out to the sides, and holding for 5 breaths.  Making sure to keep the shoulders away from the ears and workiing to get the legs straight.  If the legs are very tight, you can slightly bend the knees, and to deepen the stretch bring the weight into the balls of the feet.

Inhale, flat back, placing the hands under the feet stepping on the palms, while the toes touch the wrists, setting up for Padahastasana.

Padahastasana

Exhale folding forward, once again working to get the nose to the knees and holding for 5 breaths here.

Inhale, place the hands on the hips and look up, exhale here

Samastitihi

Inhale coming all the way up, and Exhale back to Samastitihi.


Surya Namaskara B (Sun Salutation B)

Just like Surya Namaskara A, Surya Namaskara B is also practiced 5 times.  The standing postures in this sequence help us achieve alignment in the body and also build strength.  After finishing 5 sets of Surya Namaskara B you should feel good and ready to tackle the rest of the asanas…

Utkatasana

Inhale, bending the knees and reaching the arms up over the head for Utkatasana

Uttanasana

Exhale, folding forward, nose to knees

Inhale, flat back gazing between the eyebrows

Chaturanga Dandasana

Exhale, jump or step the legs back into plank, bending the elbows and engaging the abdominals.

Urdva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog)

Inhale, pushing forward with the feet and rolling over onto the top of your toes, straightening the arms and opening the chest and shoulders.  Ideally the knees come off of the ground, but beginners feel free to rest them on the ground at first.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

Exhale, lifting the hips for downward facing dog

ViRABHADRASANA

Inhale, stepping the right foot through the hand, lunging in the front leg and turning the back foot about 45 degrees, working to get it flat on the ground, reaching the arms up over the head for Warrior One or Virabhadrasana

Exhale the leg back, taking the vinyasa, and switching sides, holding for 5 more breaths.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana

Exhale the leg back, taking the vinyasa, Holding downward facing dog – Adho Mukha Shvanasana for 5 breaths

At the bottom of your 5th exhale bending the knees and jump or step the feet between the hands, Inhale, flat back gazing between the eyebrows

Uttanasana

Exhale folding forward,

Utkatasana

Inhale reaching the arms all the way up over the head, bending the knees into chair position – Utkatasana

Samastitihi

Exhale back to Samastitihi

Now your body should feel completely warmed up and awake…ready to take on our Ashtanga Yoga Practice!


Surya Namaskara A (Sun Salutation A)

Salutations to the sun, practiced 5 times.

Surya Namaskara A is the first set of asanas (yoga postures) practiced in the Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga.  Traditionally, these are practiced facing east to greet the rising sun, which is worshiped in many cultures as the giver of life.  Surya Namaskara A is practiced 5 times.  This sequence of asanas is great for warming up the body, improving cardiovascular fitness and is also believed to alleviate depression.  More can be done on cold days and less in extreme heat.  The goal is to achieve a feeling of warmth and balance in the body.

SAMASTITIHI

Starting in Samastitihi, arms by your sides, toes together, heels slightly apart so the knees are facing forward.

Inhale, reaching the arms up over the head, palms touching and gazing to the hands.

UTTANASANA

Exhale, folding forward, working to place the palms on the ground, gaze is to the knees.

Inhale, flat back gazing up between the eyebrows (to the third eye).

CHATURANGA DANDASANA

Exhale, jump or step the legs back into plank, bending the elbows and engaging the abdominals.

URDVA MUKHA SHVANASANA (Upward Facing Dog)

Inhale, pushing forward with the feet and rolling over onto the top of your toes, straightening the arms and opening the chest and shoulders.  Ideally the knees come off of the ground, but beginners feel free to rest them on the ground at first.

ADHO MUKHA SHVANASANA (Downward Facing Dog)

Exhale, engaging the abdominal muscles and lifting the hips.  Lifting the tailbone up towards the ceiling or sky, and working to get the heels to the ground.  Bending the knees at first if it is more comfortable.  Beginners gaze is to the knees, advanced gaze is toward the navel.   Hold this asana for 5 breaths.

At the bottom of your 5th exhale bending the knees and jump or step the feet between the hands.  Inhale,  flat back gazing between the eyebrows.

UTTANASANA

Exhale, folding forward.

Inhale, reaching the arms up over the head, gazing to the hands.

SAMASTITIHI

Exhale, bringing the arms back to the sides for Samastitihi.