Sensational Yoga Poses are divided into types according to body position. There are Standing Poses and Seated Poses, Arm Balances as well as belly down and belly up poses. (You can find these and other groupings under Basic Yoga Poses.) There are also Inversions like headstand, handstand and forearm stand.
This in one of the more usual ways of classifying yoga postures and the general order might be to do standing poses first followed by seated poses and so on.
Another way to classify postures is according to action. Actions include bending forwards, bending backwards, twisting and sidebending to name but a few.
In any yoga pose you can focus on breathing, but if you have trouble with breathing smoothly or slowly you can practice breathing as a stand along exercise. To make breathing easier you can focus on moving your body rhythmically. One method is to practice rocking back and forwards. Read Breathing exercises to find out more!
The idea of classifying postures (and stretches) according to actions will enable you to better choose poses based on a desired affect and also to enable you to create balanced yoga routines.
As an example of balancing a yoga routine, if you do some backbending poses then you'll also want to do some forward bending yoga poses to balance the backbends.
If you do poses to strengthen the front of the body, then you can also do postures to strengthen the back and so on.
Backbending Poses are used to open the front of the body and also to help strengthen the back of the body. You can focus on backbending the whole body (hips and spine) or focus your backbend on only one part, say for example the hips.
Forward bends do the opposite to Backbends. They open the back of the body and can be used to help strengthen the front of the body.
Note that in either case, strengthening the back of the body, or strengthening the front of the body, you may actually have to "consciously" activate the target muscles.
To find out more about activating particular muscles, read Muscle anatomy. You can learn how to direct your awareness so that you can feel your muscles and deliberately activate them. As an example, if your focus is on ab exercises, then these ab exercising yoga poses can help you to exercise your abs. If you are interested in learning to activate your serratus anterior muscle to help with stabilizing your shoulder blade then the serratus anterior page shows the yoga poses and actions that you can practice.
If you have trouble getting your hands together in lifted arm yoga poses like warrior 1 and chair pose then read about how to use your trapezius muscle. For back bending yoga poses where your are bending the spine backwards, you may find it helpful to read about the spinal erectors. This muscle can also be used in back strengthening poses.
Side bending poses can be used to stretch and strengthen the sides of the body. Use the left side to stretch the right side and vice versa. Note that sidebending at the hips can be used to counter or balance hip abduction and vice versa. An example of hip abduction is the side-to-side splits.
Twisting Yoga Poses can be active or passive. Like with side bends, the muscles that twist the spine in one direction can be used to stretch the mucles that twist the spine in the opposite direction. For "passive" twisting, instead of using one set of twisting muscles to stretch the opposing set, you can use your arms to turn your ribcage relative to your pelvis so that you stretch both sets of twisting muscles.
Depending on the pose you could also use your legs to turn your pelvis relative to your ribcage to create a twisting effect.
Binding Yoga Poses are those where you grab a part of your body, a hand or a foot, or a toe, sometimes with some other part of the body intervening.
These poses deserve their own section because not only do they sometimes require more flexibility, but it also helps to understand that when doing these types of poses you change the way your body works.
By grabbing one part of your body, you give your muscles something to work against. And you may also shift your center of gravity, making balance a little bit more challenging.
Note that arm balances are similar to binding poses since one part of the body works against another part, in this case the legs work against the arms.
Another general group of yoga poses is Yoga Balance Poses. In this group of poses, the starting focus can be on using your foundation to feel and control your center. As your body awareness and responsiveness improves you can then work at using your whole body to control your center.
Balance poses are one of the easiest ways (or so I believe) to learn to feel and control your body.
Strictly speaking dance of shiva positions aren't yoga poses. You can think of them as capturing the essence of yoga poses. This is more of a dynamic practice which I learned from the same teacher who taught me universal freestyle yoga. If you can understand dance of shiva then you can understand universal freestyle yoga. And you can also understand how to solve problems and how to create a framework for creativity.
But that's all a bonus. Perhaps the most important aspect of dance of shiva that you can work at taking into your yoga practice is that each of the positions is clearly defined. They are also close to the body's natural range of motion.
Because the positions are clearly defined it makes it easier to focus on doing them. You don't have to wonder about what to do, you can get on with doing it. That's how you become present.
That's how you get into the flow.
By Knowing What Your Are Doing!
And I'd suggest that's the most important thing you can take into doing yoga poses. Know what you are trying to do. Rather than just doing yoga poses, practice knowing what you are trying to do.
Like a carpenter who knows that they are building a table, you can get on with building a yoga pose. And if you find pieces don't match, or the final product isn't quite what you imagined, then you change or adjust it.
A carpenter gets better the more they practice carpenty. The same is true with yoga. As you get more familiar with your body you can get better at using it.
You can think of your body as the tool and the yoga pose as the final product.
So why practice yoga? I do it because it feels good and it has also helped me to become more flexible.
When I first started yoga I wasn't able to touch my toes. And even for a long time after I stared I still wasn't able to touch my toes. Initially I started of with Ashtanga yoga.
The nice thing about this style of yoga is that it has a Set Series of Poses. It meant that I could learn it by myself and practice it by myself.
While this gave me a good start in yoga I eventually did start going to classes so that I could learn how to do yoga poses better. And eventually I took a yoga teacher training course so that I could teach yoga. And that's when I truly began to learn.
But I still wasn't flexible. After teaching and doing Ashtanga yoga for a number of years I met Andrey Lappa. He gave me something that I was looking for but didn't know existed at the time. A structure for creating yoga routines freely that still resulted in a balance body. He effectively taught me to be free within my yoga practice. Now I rarely if ever do the same practice twice. Instead I work freely based on how my body feels, or if I'm teaching, based on the needs of my students.
This freedom also makes it easier for me to develop routines or even special poses to make working towards difficult poses more easier.
But I still wasn't flexible. That came later after I moved to Taiwan and began developing practicing and teaching Inner and Outer Thigh or Hip stretches, Quad Stretches, Hamstring Stretches, Hip and Psoas stretches) and Shoulder Stretches, in part based on what I'd learned from Andrey, in part from studying with various tai ji and martial arts teachers, and in part, based on my own growing experience.
And that's also where I began to understand Balance.
Apart from flexibility training, balance is one of my favorite subjects to teach. (I even wrote a Book About Balance.) It offers a simple gateway into learning to feel and control the body.
Actually, who am I kidding. I enjoy teaching lots of different aspects of yoga.
That also includes Meridian yoga, or perhaps more appropriately, Meridian Stretching. For me understanding the Meridians is a nice compliment to what I learned from Andrey. They provide a way for guiding the way I structure my yoga routines based on the flow of the meridians.
Another related topic is the chakras. One of my personal interests has been figuring out correspondances or ways to relate the Meridians to the Chakras (and vice versa).
And as for another key element of yoga, Breathing is something else that I like to teach with a different approach. Rather than just "feel your breath" I like to teach my students to feel the muscles that they are breathing with. That makes it not only easier to feel the breath but also to adjust and even control it.
At the center of yoga is the body, and that's what I'm really trying to help my students learn is their body.
And so really what Sensational Yoga Poses aims to be is a User's Guide for the Body.
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Standing yoga poses are one possible starting point for beginners yoga. This set is designed to improve both body awareness and yoga pose awareness and includes rest and recovery yoga poses.
This yoga workout includes exercises for working towards foot behind the head, the front to back splits and increasing arm strength and body awareness with yoga push ups. And it includes some more basic yoga poses like bridge, pigeon and seated forward bend.
This beginners yoga workout is designed to get you familiar with your body as well as some basic yoga movements. It includes poses that strengthen the arms, legs and core, and simple exercises that develop awareness, coordination and balance.
This selection of psoas stretches with a focus on lengthening the lower fibers of the psoas. You'll need some body awareness for these stretches but you may find that these stretches also help you to develop it.
The lower fibers of the psoas muscle can be a lot more difficult to stretch than the upper fibers. These are the fibers that may cause low back pain in some people. Learn how to lengthen both the lower fibers and get a taste of controlling them.
At one of his workshops Richard Freeman constantly invited us to lift our kidneys or our 12th ribs or even the back of the diaphragm in order to lengthen the psoas major. I later found out that via connective tissue (or anatomy trains) these are all connected.
The lower fibers of the psoas major can create a shearing action on the lumbar spine in some body positions. This shearing force can easily be felt in yoga poses like reclining hero pose. Learn how to counter-act that effect.
Learn how to use your psoas major to help your forward bends (it is a hip flexor after all) and your jump ups into handstand. Also included, some simple psoas stretches you can do while sitting or standing.
Pigeon yoga pose has several variations all of which can be used to stretch the outer hips and some of which can be used to stretch the hip flexors. Learn how to stretch the hips whether the front hip is lifted or whether it is resting on the floor and how to create space in this hip stretching posture.
Yoga arm stretches can be done while standing or sitting or in any other position where the arms are free. Use some of these arm positions as preparation for yoga binding poses or as substitutes.
Scapular mobility and stability can be facilitated with greater scapular awareness. These yoga exercises are designed to make it easier to become aware of your shoulder blades while moving them slowly and smoothly without the arms bearing weight. You can then carry the same awareness into exercises where the arms do carry weight.
New yoga notes, try the yoga half side split while lifting one arm to develop inner thigh strength and to work towards one armed push ups. The mindful use of tension is important to be able to smoothly transition in and out of this position.
When the hands are on the floor in yoga poses like handstand, chaturanga, wheel pose or while doing yoga push ups, one option for creating shoulder stability is to work from the ground upwards. That means stabilizing the hands, fingers and interestingly, the elbows.
Reclining half hero yoga pose, eka pada supta virasana, is a gravity assisted quadriceps stretch with several variations. Some simple adjustments can be used to help keep the knee down and create room for the hip.
Bridge yoga pose can be used as a preparation for wheel pose or as a counterpose to re-energize the body after forward bending. It can also be used as a preparation or substitute for plough pose and/or shoulderstand yoga pose.
Foot behind the head can be a challenge both mentally and physically. To make it easier work towards it while laying on your back and prepare with variations of pigeon and happy baby yoga poses.
Happy baby hip stretch can be used as a substitute for low lunge and as a preparation (or alternative) for marichyasana type yoga poses as well as foot behind the head. And it's an easy way to stretch the hip extensors without involving the hamstrings.
In pigeon yoga hip stretch you can deepen the hip stretch by gradually moving your foot further forwards. Another way to deepen the yoga pose is to add weight.
Yoga push ups can be used to develop body awareness and arm strength and help make chaturanga dandasana easier. They can also leave you feeling nicely energized.
And just like there are two options for jumping through with legs straight, there are also two options for jumping into bakasana. These tips are from Dice Lida-Klein.
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