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My 5 Favorite Yoga Postures (And Why I Love Them)

Jason Crandell in Pigeon Pose

Common wisdom tells you to work on the postures that bring up resistance and challenge you. Personally, I’m okay with this sentiment—after all, there’s plenty of value in exploring the edges of your comfort zone. As a practitioner and teacher, though, I tend to emphasize the opposite—I choose to indulge the postures that I love with egregious frequency. I encourage the teachers that I train to do the exact same thing. We love the poses that we love for good reasons: they awaken us, they ground us, they soothe us, they challenge us, and they nurture our mind’s ability to focus and settle down.

These five postures come up time and time again in my classes because I’m shamelessly enthusiastic about them.

Urdhva Dhanurasana — It Soothes Me

Yep, that’s right, I find Urdhva Dhanurasana deeply soothing. Yes, I’m aware that everyone and their cousin goes on and on about how uplifting and energizing backbends are. But, honestly, my experience is the opposite. A nice, strong Urdhva Dhanurasana (or 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6) actually cuts through whatever narrative my mind is engaged with, focuses my attention, and burns off whatever anxiety I may be experiencing. Urdhva Dhanurasana is never easy for me, but it’s always settling.

Paschimottanasana — It Humbles Me

Paschimottanasana bums me out. I’m always prattling on about integrity of movement being more important than range of movement. Even though I firmly believe this, the first thought that runs through my head when I practice Paschimottanasana is, “Ugh. Is this really as far as I can go today?” This pose continues to reveal how judgmental I can be toward myself and provides me with the opportunity to let go.

Pigeon Pose — It Grounds Me

The bittersweet release of Pigeon is undeniable. While the big, tension-busting stretch in the outer hips steals the show, the posture has another component that helps produce a grounding effect: The vast majority of your body is laying on the floor when you do the posture. Sure, it’s intense for many, but the intensity is always local. The majority of the body has the opportunity to drop, release, and let go into the floor.

Handstand — It Balances Me

There’s a saying in England that black tea wakes you up if you’re tired and quiets you if you’re unsettled. My experience of Handstand is the exact same. If I need an uplifting boost of energy, practicing Handstand does the trick. If, on the other hand, I’m overstimulated, a minute or two in Handstand grounds my energy and rebalances my mood.

Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana – It Unwinds Me

Oh, the poor side body. It can be challenging to access and rarely gets treated to elongation in day-to-day life. Even in asana practice the side-body rarely gets the TLC that the hips, shoulders, core and spine receive. Thankfully, Parivrtta Janu sirsasana digs deeply into the side-body and wrings out tension. When I do this pose I literally have to will myself to get out of it. I want to stay there, nestle in, and take a nap.

I’d love to hear from you. What postures are keeping you calm, grounded, and sane these days?



13 Comments

  1. Hi Jason I love your teachings and I am an avid follower on yogaglo, you are a true inspiration to the yogic community. Here are my favourite 5 poses, and like you I always indulge in my favourites just because I can, and they make me really happy:

    Hanumanasa – just because I felt amazing when I learnt this, the freedom was the best feeling ever.let me say it wasn’t easy, but well worth the effort.

    Pigeon – like you I could stay in this all day, it is my absolute favourite, I am probably bias as I love hip openers.

    Area chandrasana – it always draws my attention to the hear and now, as with any balancing pose. If you add the bind I love hip flexor stretch I get.

    Half spinal twist – twists are always challenging to me, but I love how they open the spine and the upper body, and the detox element is an added bonus.

    Revolved triangle – again it’s the twisting and opening sensation and the lengthening in the hamstrings and side body, which are fantastic.

    I always include the above in my practice, and try to include them as much as possible in the vinyasa flow classes that I teach.

    Thank you for the wealth of information you provide Jason.

    Namaste
    Rosie

    1. Love you Jason! My favorites are pigeon, Arda chandrasana chapasana, triangle regular and revolved, prayer twist, and downward dog! I enjoy your classes! Keep up the good teaching!

  2. Ha! You are so correct about Paschimottanasana! I’m warmed up, in the zone, moving with the flow, and–what the heck?! Are you kidding me? I thought for sure my chest would be on my leg.
    I feel the same way about Handstand!
    Right now, my go-to is Bakasana. I love the grounding through my hands and the lift I feel as my spine reaches my pelvis up away from my rib cage.
    Thank you!
    Namaste.

    Sarah

  3. Great article, Jason. Thanks for sharing how the poses affect your mind and heart too. You’ve covered many of my favorites for many of the same reasons, and these ones make regular showings in my class. Here are some other favorites:

    Camel because I sit at a desk for work and it opens everything that has gotten closed down physically and in my heart.

    Eka Pada Koundinyasana II because I can hear my sweet yoga teacher’s voice saying keep practicing without attachment and you will fly one day…and some days you won’t and that’s ok.

    Chapasana because it’s gorgeous and forces me to warm up smartly

  4. I like reclining hero. It seems to release tension for me, mind and body.
    Also long cat for my stiff upper back. Back bends always feel good to me like wheel and camel.
    I did an all day intensive class last March with you, Jason, and it pushed me outside my comfort zone. Thank you so much for that.

  5. Parsvottanasana : makes my upchuck reflex whisper in my ear but reminds me of the compassion that we must show ourselves in not only our practice but more importantly our lives. The subtle shifting from sickness to softness and humbling myself to the experience is beyond it all.

    1. Upchuck is not a good look in Parsvottanasana, Amanda! That’s a legitimate reason to have some aversion to the pose!

  6. Headstand has the same effect for me that handstand does for you. And while shoulderstand used to be my nemesis, over the past decade, I’ve discovered how much happier I am when I do it every day. It grounds me, it energizes me, and it gives me a great stretch through the shoulders.

  7. hi Jason. Thanks for your letters. very helpful!!

    I love quarter moon, triangle, reverse triangle, prasaritta paddotonasana aw heck the whole moon salutation,and something you have mentioned before – practicing without music……..

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