Someone asked me about counterposes. I remember when I first started doing yoga (especially free flowing yoga seqeunces) this was one of my big concerns. What if I don't do the right counterposes (or "balancing" actions)…
First of all I'd suggest that these should be thought of as a way of returning the body to center, to making your body feel more comfortable.
So if I've been doing back bends with a focus on using my spinal erectors, it can feel good to bend the spine forwards.
This could be a relaxed "bent back hero", or an active pose like dead dog reach.
In either case the spine is bent forwards. In one the abs are relaxed in the other they are engaged.
As I focus on feeling my body I often choose balancing poses based on their effect with the desire, in general, to make my body feel good again.
As an example, I've recently been visiting marichyasana b and d, where one leg is in lotus. I'm still playing with the pose and I found that the outside of my lotus knee got a bit of a stretch. The balancing action I used was modified heron pose with a focus on straightening the knee (making it feel strong) and/or focusing on activating the side of the thigh to help alleviate the "stretched" feeling at the outside of the knee.
Sometimes if I do a lot of relaxed stretching, or a lot of forward bends, I need something to energize or wake me up. So in this case the counterpose might be bridge pose or even wheel pose. In either case the focus can be on using the legs.
Often I feel a lot more awake.
That being said, if I've done a lot of leg work or feel too excited then I need to cool down and/or calm down and so I use forward bends to cool down.
Sometimes I may be working on strengthening, say yoga push ups. The counterpose I may use is lapasana or bennitasana to stretch the muscles that were active.
If I've been doing squats of chair pose or wheel pose where the front of the thighs have been active then I might stretch them with a version of hero, or let them relax in a forward bend, or help them recover by lifting the legs in dead dog or shoulder stand or plough pose.
If I'm stretching the arms and use lapasana to stretch the front of the shoulders then I'll counterpose it by using dragonfly. One has the arms out to the sides. The other has the arm across the body.
If I do an arms over the head stretch then I'll counterpose with the arms down and back.
Some poses like side bends and twists are their own counterpose. You do one side and then the other and are balanced.
You can also counterpose for rotated leg or arm positions.
If you do lotus which is an external rotation with the knee bent, then you might also do hero which is an internal rotation. Also note that in lotus the shin folds to the inside of the thigh, in hero it folds to the outside.
If you stretch the inner thighs in splits or half split, then counterpose by stretching the outer thigh with pigeon or standing side bend (push the hips to the side.)
If you do a pose with the arms internally rotated like in some binding poses, then counterpose with an external rotation.
And if you do arm balances where the arms are in front of the body, you may find that a pose like table top, where the arms are behind the body helps.
If you rest for a moment or two after doing a yoga pose you can notice the way it makes you feel.
The more time you spend noticing how you feel the easier it will be to know what pose to do to counterpose the pose that you've just done.
Then instead of memorizing counterposes, you'll just know what to do by recognizing what your body is telling you.
Learn how to use Friction to improve leg and arm strength.
Simple exercises with easy to follow instructions
Making difficult poses like Chaturanga Dandasana easier to learn.
Learn Your Body with
Frictional Arm and Leg Strength
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Your iphone needs power in order to sense your touch. Proprioception needs muscle activity in order to sense your body.
Some simple exercises so that you can work towards the pistol squat gradually.
Arm supported yoga poses can be used to strengthen the arms and shoulders. Includes plank, chaturanga dandasana, downward dog, dolphin pose, side plank, wheel, reverse plank, table top pose.
This sequence of seated yoga poses includes lotus and virasana variations, janu sirsasana and marichyasana variations as well as more basic seated poses like bound angle, pigeon and seated forward bend.
These hip flexor stretches open up the fronts of the hips and can be used as a preparation for front to back splits. Bent knee hip stretches can be used to focus on rectus fermoris.
Strengthen your hands, your arms, glutes and hamstrings with these standing forward bend variations.
The small actions in this standing psoas stretch can be used to stretch both the upper and lower fibers of the psoas muscle.
Variations of the standing psoas stretch that use the same basic actions.
Here's a break down of the steps of Ashtanga Yoga Surya Namaskar A to make this sun salutation easier to learn and remember.
A reclining psoas stretch I learned from a Richard Freeman Workshop. The better you understand your anatomy the easier it is to work on your body effectively.
The hip stretches included on this page can be used to stretch and improve flexibility of the hip flexors, hip extensors, adductors and abductors.
Friction and pressure are two simple techniques that I use to help my students get stronger and more flexible. These simple techniques also offer a roadway into not only learning how to activate your muscles, but getting a feel for them and your body. Three challenging yoga poses that I use these techniques in are chaturanga, front splits and side splits. While they might not help you get all the way down into the splits, they'll help you feel stronger, and more integrated as you work towards them. And because I've got to pay for my daughters schooling this week, I'm offering a discount on the frictional muscle control videos. (First 100 people only can save over 30%).
Active stretching teaches you muscle control to not only improve flexibility but also body awareness. You'll learn how to adjust postures for better feel as well as more control through a broader range of motion.
Standing exercises for low back pain plus anatomy that can affect the low back and how to use that anatomical understanding.
Experience your body (and understand it) with sensational yoga poses.
Is it a bad idea to heel strike while barefoot running? What are the possible benefits of heel striking? When should you not heel strike?
These yoga poses for abs work on the abdominal muscles (and hips) in both standing positions and seated positions.
Here are the Ashtanga Standing Pose Vinyassas, with inhale movements highlighted in red.
Single joint hip flexors include iliacus, pectineus, obturators, gemelli and gluteus minimus. Use them to help improve your forward bends.
In this preparation for compass pose use your arms to pull your leg towards you for a seated hamstring stretch. To modify, use a strap.