October 23, 2011

Oh Yes You Did!

Five advanced poses you can rock without being an advanced yogi.

By Kelli Harrington, Ed.D

Need a kick in the yoga pants? Tired of the same ol’ asanas? Here are five advanced yoga postures that are within reach, inspiring, and full of blissful benefits!

 1.    Headstand (Sirsasana)

Think headstand is only for yoga pros or folks with freakishly strong necks? Think again! Headstands are for everyone and have enormous blissful benefits, such as increased blood circulation to and from the heart, reduced blood pressure, and improved vertebrae alignment. What do you need to get there? Core strength is key for headstand, as well as good upper-body strength—you’ll ‘steer’ with the shoulders and forearms. Having spacial awareness and inner thigh strength—you’ll want to squeeze in to the midline–is also helpful in getting you upside-down. Find a wall and give it a try!

2.    Supported Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana)

Want less neck tension, along with definition in the chest, shoulders and biceps? Shoulderstand has it ALL going on! Blissful benefits of a supported Shoulderstand are similar to that of other inversions, including increased circulation from head to toe, balanced blood pressure, and diminished stress levels (often associated with the hormone cortisol). Strength building in your biceps, triceps, core, booty, and inner thighs will help to get you in and out of this posture safely and smoothly – keep working those high and low lunges, Chaturangas and Chair poses! For extra support, fold some blankets under the shoulders (with the head off of the blankets), remember to keep the head stationary (don’t turn side to side), and take the hips up.

3.    Crow/Crane (Bakasana)

Want to increase your strength, balance, and endurance at once? Crow/Crane posture is a great place to start. In this posture there is a connection “between the upper and lower extremities at the inner thighs and upper arms” according to Ray Long, MD, FRCSC of Bandha Yoga (2010). In addition, the adductors, the abdominals, hips, biceps, triceps and chest are all activated creating a keen balance between strength, endurance and flexibility. Crow/Crane has blissful benefits on the wrists, forearms and abdomen, while simultaneously improving balance. So, keep working those sun salutations! Consider starting by perching on a block and placing a few blankets in front of you for a sense of security, and squeezing in with the legs as you lean forward.

4.    Firefly (Tittibhasana)

Have you ever thought you would never reach this posture? Well, guess what? It’s a lot closer then you think. I found that out just a few years into my practice when I decided to give Firefly a try. A great way to approach Firefly is to practice full tortoise pose (Kurmasana) for several months to get used to the necessary flexibility in the hamstrings, the back, inner thighs, hips, and booty. A well-rounded posture, Firefly’s blissful benefits include increased strength and balance in the biceps, triceps, abdominals, inner thighs, hips, booty; and upper, middle, and lower back. A great way to prepare, in addition to practicing full Tortoise, is to get more comfortable with your Chaturangas and Crow/Crane.

 5.    Dancer/Standing Bow (Natarajasana)

Ah, the beauty of Dancer/Standing Bow! This posture combines a standing backbend with inner focus and balance. It has the blissful benefits of back, shoulder, hip, and psoas flexibility–as well as muscle lengthening, which creates longer, lean muscles, rather then bulk. Preparing for Dancer/Standing bow begins with foundational practice in postures including Tree and Dancing Shiva-to-Knee, as well as Wheel to work the strength in the back, shoulders, forearms, and triceps.

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