Category Archives: Yoga Basics

Basic yoga poses.

Head to Knee Forward Bend variation – Janu Sirsasana

janusirFAs the name implies this pose is traditionally done folding toward your extended leg but we’re going to tweak it. Why? Well when we fold forward at this different angle we get to an area where the inner thigh muscles or adductors meet the medial hamstrings (the muscles on the back side of your thigh). Before I explain anatomy let’s get back to doing the pose.

Sit down take one leg out to the side fold the other in. Allow your legs to open up as far as possible. Your heal should be pointing to your groin but should never touch. While you do the pose make sure to actively press though your heals and extend your toes. Take a deep belly breath and as you exhale fold forward directly toward the middle of your legs. (A blanket or pillows maybe useful if this pose if too intense.  Just place them in front of you for support as you fold forward.)

As you fold a hip may rise. Use the placement of your hands to find leverage and actively press your hip toward the floor, this will intensify the stretch. You should feel this on the inside (medial) back (posterior) area of your thigh. This area is notorious for being tight because the fascia from the adductors is stabilising while the hamstrings are using tons of energy to move as you stand or do any movement. This area of the body is extremely overused and under loved. Even more reason to do this stretch everyday!

ANATOMY LESSON; There are 4 Hamstrings, 3 of them originate on the boney spots at the base of your pelvis “sit bones” (latin name ischial tuberosity). The 4th originates lower down on the outside (lateral) femur (thigh bone). The 3 hamstrings from the pelvis fork off as they move toward their insertions below the knee inserting onto the bones of the lower leg.

The 2 Hamstrings that start on your sit bones attach below the inside (medial) of the knee on the top of your Tibia (the shin bone). You are really getting these muscles in the above pose.

The 3rd ham and the 4th originating on the femur attach outside (lateral) and below the knee onto the top of the fibula (the smaller bone of the lower lower leg).

What is Fascia? Think of cheese cloth and invision it wrapped all around your muscles holding them in place and binding them with their neighbor muscles, tissues and organs.  Fascia is everywhere even your skin has a thin layer.  It literally holds everything in your body in place. Fascia can be tight anywhere there is overuse or over contraction of tissue.  Yoga and massage are great ways to help the facia move and ultimately help your body function better.

PS; If you hold a stretch for 3 minutes or longer you are really making fascia move.  It’s not into moving past it’s happy zone but you have to push it.  If an area is really hung up hold the pose longer.  Enjoy!

Photos by.  amyelizabethbruce

Fire Log – Agnistambhasana

This pose could be easy for you or it could be very uncomfortable. Have a blanket ready if you need to wedge it under a knee for support.  Sit in easy seated pose (sukhasana) and begin to move your feet so that your knees and ankles are stacked directly on top of each other.  This is the eventual goal but if its too hard you can fold forward in easy seated pose and each time you do the pose try to move your feet a little further.  You can stay sitting up or you can fold forward to intensify the stretch.  You’ll get there!  This is one of my everyday poses.

ANATOMY LESSON: Remember with yoga that you can feel the stretch anywhere you might be tight.  You should feel a deep stretch in your hip.  This is getting your gluteus muscles (your butt cheek area) and the muscles located under the glutes the lateral rotators. You may also feel it down your leg.  PHOTO BY amyelizabethbruce

Cow Face Pose variation – Gomukhasana

cowfaceposeFThis is half of the pose.  The full pose also has an excellent arm/shoulder stretch but here we’ll just focus on the legs.  Extend you legs out. Cross one leg over then swing the feet to either side of the body with the goal of getting the knees to stack on each other.  You may need a blanket to place under a hip. One of your hips will certainly come off the floor and one day it will make it to the floor.  Hold this pose for as long as you like or can tolerate and don’t forget to do both sides.  This stretch is excellent for the hip muscles that laterally move your legs.  Exp; Glutes, lateral rotators (perifomis is one of 6 that are deep in your hip, under your glutes). Also you may feel a very intense stretch on the outside of your thigh.  This is your iliotibial band (IT band) The longest tendon in your body and a very important stabilizer!

ANATOMY LESSON: PLACE YOUR HAND ON THE FRONT OF YOUR HIPS. You should feel 2 bony spots on either side of your pelvis these are your ASIS (AKA; Anterior Superior Iliac Spine). The most anterior areas of your pelvis.  Move your fingers just to the outside of the ASIS and this is where the muscles for your IT band originate.  It’s a little Muscle called tensor fascia lata (TFL) It starts then transitions into the IT band. (your gluteus maximus muscles also partially attach to the IT band they form your butt cheeks!  Then the IT band inserts on the outside/lateral side of your knee on your Tibia (the shin bone).  FYI! Muscles transition into tendons and then attach to the bone.

PHOTO BY amyelizabethbruce

Pyramid Pose – Parsvottanasana

PyramidFAlso called Intense Side Stretch Pose. Start by standing with your feet hip width apart. Step one foot up anywhere from 12 inches or a few feet. The distance of your feet depends on how deep you want the stretch to be. The back foot should rotate a few degrees away from you. Check to make sure your hips are aligned so one side isn’t more forward than the other. If one hip is more forward then your feet are too fat apart. Take a big inhale as you reach your arms overhead and as you exhale fold forward. If you you can’t touch the ground you may want to use blocks until you get there. Hello Hamstrings! FYI Make sure you have a micro bend in the front knee while doing the pose. You can easily overextend your knee. BE CAREFUL! When you start to come out of the pose place both of your hands on your front thigh and bend your knee and then rise to standing. Now to the other side. Have fun! Love this one. PHOTO BY amyelizabethbruce