YOGA POSE SPOTLIGHT: VINYASAS
At your Yoga Vine classes you will often hear your teacher often asking you to take ‘Vinyasa’ – a powerful flowing movement linking 4 poses together that develops stamina, opens major joints (hips and shoulders) and reset’s the body in between static poses.
Understanding how to do these 4 poses correctly is crucial to ensure your Vinyasa’s are safe and building strength, rather than movements that tire or create injuries. You know your body better than any Yoga teacher, and practicing Yoga asanas mindfully, honoring where how far is enough in each pose to maintain safety, is one of the most important lessons on our Yoga mats.
POSE 1 HIGH PLANK
Inhale standing on the hands and the balls of the feet, palms underneath the armpits and feet hip distance apart. Use your core muscles to draw the belly in, supporting the lower back, positioning your body in to one straight line. Imagine your collarbone is spreading outwards from the centre of your sternum, and your shoulders are drawing back towards your hips. Press your front thighs to the ceiling, but don’t drop the tailbone, instead lengthen it towards your heels.
Arm strength and core work is the aim here- avoid crunching the neck/ shoulders. Gaze is straight down and feel your skull lengthen from your neck.
If you feel ready, keep your legs and arms straight with your knees off the floor. To moderate this pose, bend knees to the floor and work to straighten the arms.
POSE 2 LOW PLANK/ CHATURANGA DANDASANA
From high plank, exhale lowering your straight body to a parallel line. Keep your elbows in to your side ribs as you lower down, maintaining openness in the chest/ collarbone and strength in the core to avoid ‘hanging’ on the shoulders as you lower down. Keep your tailbone gently tucking towards navel, which assists the core muscles to engage. Drawing the elbows towards the heels will help to maintain openness in your chest as your arms build strength. Press the index fingers to the floor to keep the weight central.
If your arms feel strong enough, keep your knees off the floor so you make one horizontal line with your body; if your building arm strength, put your knees on the floor as you lower down.
Only go as far down as you can, keeping the chest open and collarbones wide- don’t round the shoulders. Over time, lowering too far down and rolling the shoulders will create shoulder/ upper- back tightness and possibly injuries.
POSE 3 UPWARD DOG/ URDHVA MUKHA SVANASANA
From low plank, press into your palms and roll on to the tops of your feet inhaling to lift your chest to Upward Dog. Imagine the bottom of your rib cage drawing up the front of your body to open your chest and your shoulders rolling back with the shoulder blades drawing down towards the hips. Don’t sag in the belly- keep the core muscles working to support your back. Drawing the tailbone to the pubis while lifting the pubis to the belly button will assist the core to stay engaged and support the back. Careful not to crunch your butt and over tighten! Muscles are softly engaged.
Look straight ahead or if your neck and lower back feels good, gaze up to the ceiling while lengthening the throat.
Again, if your body feels ready, arms are straight and knees are off the floor. To moderate, keep the knees on the floor and elbows bent.
POSE 4 DOWNWARD DOG/ ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA
You will do many MANY downward dogs in the life of your Yoga practice- it is one of the most beneficial poses for spine strength and length. Understanding how to do it effectively is an important milestone in your Yoga practice!
From Upward Dog, exhaling roll back over your toes lifting your hips high and draw your chest through towards your shins into Downward Dog.
In Downward Dog, the belly draws back towards the spine and the shoulders roll outwards away from the neck allowing your inner elbows to roll slightly forwards. Spread your fingers, feeling broadly into the mat under your palms, with your index finger pointed forward or slightly out. Draw the weight out of the wrists upwards.
Spread your toes, letting your feet widen on your mat. Imagine the tops of your thighs lifting your hips higher, while your lower back lengthens towards the top of your sitting bones. Keep your inner ankles lifting up the inner thighs.
If your hamstrings are ready, your legs are straight and heels are on the floor. To moderate, bend the knees as much as needed, and focus on rolling shoulders out, strengthening spine and building shoulder strength.