After the first Pranayama breathing exercise, we move into three postures that are sometimes called the “warm-up” series, in which we stretch, strengthen, and squeeze the body in preparation for the rest of class.
In Half Moon and Hands to Feet we stretch the spine and along with it, the body: side, front, and back.
In Awkward we strengthen the legs and arms, building heat and encouraging circulation.
In Eagle, we squeeze the body, compressing arms and legs together to open up the major joints, improve circulation (through the tourniquet effect), and even get your lymph moving. This month, we’ll be paying extra attention to the alignment and benefits of this important posture.
Tips for Practice:
- Even though this posture isn’t technically part of the “Balancing Series,” you are standing on one leg, and it is a balancing posture. Find a single point of focus in the front mirror. This is called a dristi; keeping your eyes on your dristi will help you maintain your balance.
- You can lean way forward and use momentum (carefully, especially if you have any shoulder issues/injuries) to swing one arm under the other.
- Once you have the closest wrap you’re going to get with your arms, press your elbows into one another and then gently pull your elbows down toward the floor.
- Sit way down with your weight in your heels. Your lower body is approximating the first part of Awkward Pose; the only difference is that your legs and feet are together.
- Try as best as you can to keep your hips down as you lift one leg up and over the other.
- Even if your foot is not hooked, press your thighs into one another. Tight wrap!
- At first, you might desperately grab your calf with your toes in order to hook your foot around. Eventually, as your hips open, to “eliminate the gap” between ankle and calf, relax and slide your toes down and push the top of your foot against the back of your leg.
- While you keep your eyes on your dristi, you should be able to see your joints in your peripheral vision, and get wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles lined up down the center of our body. If you’ve worked up a sweat, it should drop from your lower elbow onto the opposite knee.
- The hip of the lifted leg has a tendency to drift forward. As you become more comfortable with the posture, try to pull your hips back into alignment with one another. Sitting down deeper and really keeping the weight back into the standing leg heel will help.
- In the full expression of this posture, the palms have come back together and the lifted foot is hooked behind the calf of the standing leg. However, remember that you are obtaining the benefits of this posture once you have crossed your arms at the elbows and your legs at the thighs. It might take days or it might take years for you to be able to obtain a tighter twist/wrap of your extremities. Keep working, keep squeezing, but don’t force anything.
- Improves flexibility of the hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints.
- Strengthens calves, quadriceps, hip, abdominal, pelvic floor, biceps, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and deltoid muscles.
- Crossing the arms and legs activates both sides of the brain, improving concentration and coordination.
- Improves balance.
- Increases heart rate.
- Applies pressure to lymphatic system, improving lymphatic circulation.
- Improves circulation to reproductive organs and kidneys.
–Ellen Olson-Brown, The Hot Yoga Factory Chelmsford