Our shop is open!

CHECK IT OUT

Tag Archives: yoga poses

Yoga Pose Notebook: Astavakrasana

Astavakrasana | Eight Angle Pose | Jason Crandell Yoga Method

Long before photos of Handstand ruled the social media kingdom, Astavakrasana was king of the hill. Teachers would get one or two photos of themselves every few years to adorn their bios and show aptitude in their flyers.

There were 3 distinctly different looks that teachers would cast while being photographed in the pose: 1) a joyous smile that gave the look and feel of a yogi’s Senior Picture, 2) a far-off gaze that implied the teacher was being caught in their natural habitat, and 3) the somewhat surly (my favorite) mug that proved the teacher was not being photographed for their Senior Picture.

Astavakrasana is no longer as ubiquitous, but it’s still a great pose. It strengthens the upper body as well as the rotational muscles of the core. If you do it correctly, the pose also strengthens the adductors and outer hips. Plus, it still looks great on flyers.

See also Yoga Podcast: A Strategic Approach to Arm Balances and Inversions

Like all the postures I breakdown on my blog, Astavakrasana has many layers. Many of the cues I use for the pose are featured in the illustration. But, there are three quick tips that I want to give you.

These are the most common elements of the posture I’ve found myself troubleshooting for my students over the last 20 years.

3 Tips for Astavakrasana

1. Placement of the hands

The most common error that students make when they practice Astavakrasana is placing their hands too close to their hips when setting up for the pose. I’m not talking about the width of the hands from each other. I’m talking about the proximity of the hands to the hips. You need to be able to lean forward into your hands in order to bend your elbows and lift your hips. This is not possible if your hands are too close to your hips.

When you set up for the pose, set your hands about a foot forward of your hips. This way, you can lean forward into your hands. This will make bending your elbows and lifting your hips much more accessible.

2. The Outside Elbow

Get. It. In. The outside elbow likes to drift outward. But, this often leads to the outside shoulder dropping too low. When the outside shoulder drops low, it can easily put excess stress on the socket.

In order to help avoid this—and, provide your body with greater stability from your arms—hug your top elbow towards the ribs. It’s okay to set your hand a little wider than your shoulders, but be sure to hug your outside elbow in rather than allowing it to bow out.

3. The Often Overlooked Twist

When we practice arm balances, it’s easy to overlook their subtleties. In Astavakrasana, it’s common for students to forget that one of the posture’s defining element’s is spinal rotation. We get so focused on the hand-balancing element, that we omit the action of twisting. So, don’t drop the ball next time you practice Astavakrasana. Remember to use the squeeze of your legs, press of your hands, and action of your core to maximize your twist.

See also The Expert’s Guide to Chaturanga, Part I

2 comments Add Your Own

Yoga Pose Notebook: Ustrasana (Camel Pose)

Ustrasana Camel Pose | Tips for Camel Pose | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method

I wanted to like Ustrasana, or Camel Pose, for years, but everything kept getting in my way. Everything, meaning, my lower back, my neck, and the way that my ego was offended when I practiced the pose.

Then, it dawned on me that one of the techniques in the posture that nearly every teacher (including myself) uses was totally irrational. The problem—for my body and many others—was forcing the pelvis to stay positioned directly over the knees. To say this another way, the cascade of problems stemmed from keeping the legs vertical and stacking the hips directly over the knees.

Now, before I continue, let me make something clear: Many people can keep their pelvis positioned vertically over their knees. This alignment is not bad. In fact, it works very well for students who have fairly flexible hip-flexors. However, there are plenty of students—like myself—for whom this instruction does greater harm than good.

See also Essential Sequence: Learn to Love Camel Pose

Should the Hips Stack Over the Knees in Ustrasana?

Let’s look at why keeping the pelvis directly over the knees doesn’t work for everyone.

To begin, think about Bridge Pose for a moment. With the exception of the position of your neck, Bridge pose is just like doing Camel Pose— but on your back. When students practice Bridge Pose, they are never told that they must lift their hips to the same height as their knees.

Of course, lifting the hips this high is a good thing if it doesn’t cause compression in the lower back. But, making this a prerequisite for the pose would be silly. There are zero mechanical reasons to lift the hips as high as the knees, and requiring them to lift this high would likely cause students with tighter hip flexors to move too far in the lower-back in order to make up the difference.

The same goes for Ustrasana. If you require your hips to stay vertically aligned over your knees and you don’t have sufficient hip flexor mobility, you’re likely to compress your lower back. Another way to say this: Your lower back is likely to move too far in order to compensate for your lack of hip flexor mobility. And if your lower back is excessively arched (and compressed) in this pose, you’re more likely to misalign other parts of your body, including your neck.

See also Backbends: When and Why to Engage your Glutes

How to Find Safe Alignment in Ustrasana

First, let me reiterate that keeping the pelvis directly stacked over the knees is not a problem if you have sufficient hip flexor mobility. If you practice Camel this way and you’re comfortable in your lower back, there is no reason to change your approach. This alignment is only a problem if it is creating a problem. Unfortunately, this alignment does cause a problem for students with less hip flexibility.

So, what’s the fix? Easy. Simply allow your pelvis to move slightly toward your heels in this posture. Another way of saying this is allow your hips to move slightly back instead of pushing them forward. This should decrease compression in your lower back by reducing the demand on the hip flexors. While doing this posture, remember to engage the bottom of your buttocks and do all the other skillful things that you do in backbends.

One note about your neck in Ustrasana. It’s essential to sort out your lower back before sorting out your neck. However, if your neck is still uncomfortable after you’ve sorted out your lower back, try keeping your chin slightly tucked toward the throat in the posture. This will make the muscles on the front and side of your neck work while preventing your neck from hyperextending. Since this can be demanding on the neck, you might want to shorten your duration in the pose to a few breaths.

And, remember, if you’re still unable to make friends with the pose, there’s always Bridge Pose instead.

{illustration by MCKIBILLO}

3 comments Add Your Own

A Smart Yoga Flow for Hamstrings

Downward-Facing Dog | Yoga for Tight Hamstrings | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method

I am a vinyasa flow girl through and through. I believe that spending time studying alignment is vital to a lifelong yoga practice — whether in the form of Iyengar classes/workshops or with a flow teacher like Jason who occasionally slows things down. When you learn to understand and tune into the details of alignment you not only stave off potential injuries, you truly learn the skill of connecting your body and mind.

But after years of studying, I find that most days I want to flow. I like to begin and end practice with postures that are close to the ground because these poses simultaneously help me settle in and open up. And in between, I like to move. Moderately-paced movements help me build heat and keep my busy mind focused. And when I repeat poses — as opposed to doing long, static holds — I give myself the opportunity to slowly open up into a pose.

See also Sequencing Solutions: Strengthen your Hamstrings

The yoga for tight hamstrings sequence is a simple, forward bending flow that I love. Here are some notes on how to do the practice:

Poses 1-3: Half Happy Baby, Supta Padangusthasana A and Supta Padangusthasana B

Warming up your hamstrings on your back is a gentle, grounding way to begin. Be sure to keep a natural lumbar curve — don’t press your low back down into the ground. Do each of these poses for five breaths on both sides.

Poses 4 & 5: Downward-Facing Dog Pose and Uttanasana

From Supta Padangusthasana, draw your knees into your chest and rock back and forth on your spine. Keep rocking until you can place your hands on the floor in front of you and step back into Downward-Dog. Use this Down Dog to shake off the cobwebs. Feel free to pedal your feet and move and groove. Stay for 5-8 breaths.

Walk your feet to your hands and come into a very relaxed Uttanasana. Some people call this version Ragdoll. I’d like to coin the name, “Chill Uttanasana.” Do you think that will catch on? The point is: Bend your knees. Press down through your feet and try to gain length in your spine. After 5-8 deep, full breaths, roll up to standing.

Poses 6-10: Trikonasana, Parsvakonasana, Ardha Chandrasana, Parsvottanasana, Prasarita Paddotanasana

Yahoo, it’s time to flow! Jump your feet wide and face sideways on your mat for poses 6-10. Repeat these poses on the second side. (If you know how, you can incorporate this section into Sun Salutations and repeat it twice on each side.)

Poses 11-14: Upavistha Konasana, Janu Sirsasana, Paschimottanasana, Savasana

Move into your seated postures remembering that the goal of a forward bending practice isn’t to slam your torso against your thighs. The goal is to stretch the whole back side of your body in a way that works for you!

In each of these poses press the tops of your thighbones down as you lengthen your spine into the forward bend. Stay for 5 breaths each (do Janu Sirsasana on both sides) before taking a 5-minute Savasana.

Sorry: Preschooler in a tutu not included. But feel free to incorporate your own, or your dog, your cat, your bird, your guinea pig…

Yoga for Tight Hamstrings | Yoga Sequence for Hamstrings | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method

3 comments Add Your Own

Yoga Pose Notebook: Eka Pada Bakasana I

Eka Pada Bakasana I

HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
There are 3 ways to use this blog:
1. You can simply practice Eka Pada Bakasana I using the illustration above.
2. You can learn the steps get into the posture in the “How To” section.
3. Or you can geek out on the sequencing and anatomy details by skipping down to Part II.

Don’t forget to pass this along to your students and colleagues!

If you want to learn more, join me live at my 500-hour Certification Program or join me online for my Sequencing and Anatomy E-Courses.

GETTING INTO EKA PADA BAKASANA I

If I had the choice of doing 108 Sun Salutations, doing 20 Upward Bows, spending 90 seconds in Handstand, or holding Eka Pada Bakasana on each side for 5 seconds, I’m not sure what decision I would make. Honestly. I pride myself on using leverage and technique to outwit difficult postures. I pride myself on my ability to break down advanced postures and make them more accessible for my students. But, aside from a few essential keys that I’ll share in a moment, Eka Pada Bakasana I is just a seriously difficult posture that requires a ton of strength—and a photographer that can work very, very fast. Nonetheless, the tenacity and humility that the pose builds, make practicing this posture a worthy endeavor.

Before tackling this pose, there are three things to keep in mind. Continue reading Read More > >

2 comments Add Your Own

Yoga Pose Notebook: Parsva Bakasana

 

Side Crow Pose | Parsva Bakasana | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method

HOW TO USE THIS SIDE CROW POSE BLOG
There are 3 ways to use this blog:
1. You can simply practice Side Crow Pose (Parsva Bakasana) using the illustration above.
2. You can learn the steps get into Side Crow Pose in the “How To” section.
3. Or you can geek out on the sequencing and anatomy details by skipping down to Part II.

Don’t forget to pass this along to your students and colleagues!

If you want to learn more, join me live at my 500-hour Certification Program or join me online for my Sequencing and Anatomy E-Courses.

GETTING INTO PARSVA BAKASANA (SIDE CROW POSE)
Parsva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose) is a part of the iconic Bakasana family of arm balances. I frequently include the posture in my classes and I break it down for my students this way: I demonstrate how the posture is one part twist, one part squat, and one part Chaturanga. Is it simple? Yes. Is it easy? No. Especially the version illustrated in the infographic above, where the outer hip hovers above elbow instead of resting on it. Still, it’s a good bang-for-your-buck kinda of pose since you’re strengthening your upper body and core, as well as generating greater spinal flexibility at the same time.
Continue reading Read More > >

9 comments Add Your Own