Summer 2018 Rider’s Sequence part 2

We explored part 2 of our Rider’s Sequence this week, which involves more poses on the mat that are held a little longer and are meant to bring deep release (yin poses), rather than energetic standing poses (yang poses) of last week. The exceptions are the final backbends.

Below are select poses from the practice, which you can explore as a stand-alone sequence.

Half pigeon pose: Come to high plank pose, then bring the knee of one leg to the outside of the hand on the same side; slide onto the ground with your hips, keeping them squared. Gently bring the foot of the bent leg towards the front of the mat, but only to the point where you are not stressing your knee. Lengthen forward. Lovely piriformis stretch.

Keep hips squared and extend front of body. Pad under hip of bent leg if hip is dramatically off ground.

Moving towards eka pada raja kapotasana/king pigeon pose: With torso upright, bend back leg quickly and catch the foot. Once you have the foot, relax the leg completely – otherwise you’ll likely get a charlie horse cramp (and that’s one horse we don’t want in the barn…). Square your shoulders forward and breathe space into the stretch at the front of the hip and thigh.

Hold foot from inside, with arm in external rotation. Hip of bent front leg can still be padded.

Virasana/hero’s pose: Please be extremely careful when practicing this pose, and only practice with a teacher’s help if you have had knee problems in the past. One does take the knee slightly out of the hinge movement for which it is adapted, which can be very helpful, but also quite detrimental if done incorrectly. Place a block or other bolster under your hips to start, and make the bolster progressively smaller until you can sit between your feet on the floor. You do need to be sitting on something, though, not hanging in the air with your hips/seat bones – whether the floor or bolster. Take care that your feet point straight back or even slightly in – not out. The shins and tops of feet get a great stretch here, in addition to the knees.

Pad under seat bones enough that you feel a stretch, but not discomfort in knees. Place blanket under feet or whole leg if you feel too much pressure on bones.

Baddha konasana/cobbler’s pose: Counterpose to virasasana, to be practiced immediately after the previous pose. Sitting against a wall is helpful, as is sitting on a blanket. Place soles of feet together and drawn them in towards the hips. Open knees towards floor. (If you are a hyperextender, place block between feet – your knees will not go down quite as far, but you will build the strength you need in the hip ligaments.)

Roll thighs externally, and attempt to pull big toes apart, while little toes remain together (like opening book).

Upavistha konasana/seated wide legged forward fold: A blanket under the seat bones is useful for this pose as well. Keep toes and knees pointed towards the ceiling, even (and especially) as you stretch front of body forward. Do not hunch or round the back, and press bottoms of legs into floor for a deeper stretch. It’s totally OK if you cannot bend forward even a little when first practicing this pose! Your adductors will thank you (eventually!), especially as you are all riders….

Keeping front of body long is key to this pose – rounding will stress lower back.

Mid-spine extension with bolster: This is an excellent preparation for backbends. Note that if you cannot easily keep both heels of the hands down, elbows towards ears, and hips down without overarching the lower back, then you are not ready for more advanced backbends yet. This pose will give you plenty to work with, so please be mindful and compassionate with your body – not competitive, as you’ll just end up sore, or, worse, hurt.

Lift your hips to initially place arms into position, then slowly lower hips. Take care to allow upper spine to extend, rather than doing the work with lower back.

Ustrasana/camel pose: Holding a block between the knees helps engage the transversus abdominus muscles and keep the lower back from over-arching. Keep chin in if your neck or shoulders are sore/tight. Hips remain over knees, not behind them.

Keeping toes curled under helps one move into this pose initially; pointing toes comes with practice. Place blanket under knees if uncomfortable. .

Counterbalance the backbends with a simple seated forward fold, a headstand or headless headstand (for those who have practiced them), and/or halasana/plow pose with appropriate counterpose.

And don’t forget to breathe as you explore these poses! 🙂



Summer 2018 Rider’s Sequence part 1

As we enter the final four weeks of our summer course (where, exactly, did the summer go?!), we are starting the first half of the Aequus Anima rider’s sequence. The poses below are selected from the first 10 poses of the 20 pose sequence, and can be practiced as a shorter series in and of themselves.

Warm up however you prefer to do so, whether cat/cow, rag doll rollup, or sun salutes.

Anjaneyasana|Low lunge, with arms up and side stretch as option. While bending the front knee well, imagine drawing back thigh bone backwards (two contrasting and balancing energies).

Press top of back foot into ground, and imagine drawing front foot back to stabilize pose. Pad under back knee if needed, and place block under lowered hand if need be.

Utthita parsvakonasana | Extended side angle: Feel the entire side of the body extend, even as you rotate the sternum up towards the ceiling. You may keep the bottom arm on the thigh, as in the top photo below, or place it on a block or floor on the big toe side of the foot, as in the bottom photo below.

Press into outside of back foot well, and be sure to keep the bottom seat bone in line with front knee, rather than jutting out behind you.

Utthita trikonasana | Triangle pose: Second toe, knee and hip of front leg are all lined up with each other. This is an open twist, so be sure to allow for that movement in the spine.

Ensure that knee of front leg is well lined up with second toe of front foot. Imagine that you are pulling the mat longer with your feet. As in extended side angle pose, hip is in line with front leg, not jutting out behind.

Parsvottanasana preparation | Intense side stretch preparation: Keep spine extended over the front leg. Place blocks under hands if you need to curl the spine to reach the floor (or if you cannot reach the floor at all). Hips remain even, with hip of front leg drawing back and up, and hip of back leg drawing forward and down.

Line up front foot and back heel, pressing into big toe in front and heel in back.

Parsvottanasana | Intense side stretch pose: Place hands into reverse namaste behind the back, or simply take a hold of the opposite elbows behind your back. Like the preparatory pose above, the full pose requires good balance, achieved by pressing the front big toe and back heel into the ground. Spine extends above the front leg.

Keep extending spine – arms/hands remind one not to slouch!

End your practice with any pose that your body is requesting, whether bolster behind mid-spine, or a savasana with bolster down the length of the spine. Be sure to give yourself time to absorb the pose in final relaxation.

Happy practicing! 🙂