Foundational Pose #5: Knees to Chest

Introduction

Like Down Dog, Mountain, Staff Pose,  and Child’s Pose , Knees to Chest is another foundational pose that is used to easily transition to other poses. This pose is typically used in a supine (lying down)  warm up and toward the end of a yoga session.  This pose utilizes gravity to stretch your glutes and lower back. There are a few options of Knees to Chest for you depending on what sensation you are looking for. Most options are restful, relaxing and a way to become more aware of your body. Knees to Chest is the “go-to” pose anytime you need to take a moment and breathe toward the end of your yoga practice, especially following back bends. This allows you to release your lower back and neutralize your spine.

As always, no pose should hurt – if it hurts, or just doesn’t feel right for any reason, stop!

Enough already… How?

Start in a supine position with your back on the floor, bring your knees into your chest. Hold the back of your thighs. Keep drawing your knees into your chest while keeping your tailbone on the floor.

Options:

  1. Use a towel or a strap to reach around your thighs if there is limited hip flexion.
  2. Alternating knees into the chest one at a time for abdominal work. This is also a great way to gently warm the body up before exercise.
  3. If you have lower back discomfort or limited movement gently try this pose with one leg only. If you can do this without pain for several days in a row, advance to lifting both legs (if you can’t do it without pain, don’t do it).
  4. If you have trouble getting that lift in the lower pelvis, you might consider placing a small towel or folded blanket under your sacrum to get you started in the right direction.
  5. For a gentle back massage, rock side to side. This is especially nice if you’ve been targeting those back and core muscles throughout your workout.

You want to avoid grabbing your shins or the tops of your knees. This could place added pressure on the knee. Also remember to keep your tailbone and shoulders on the floor. Your lower back should follow its natural curve and lift slightly off the floor.

But…Why?

Benefits of Knee to Chest

The following are some benefits of the Knee to Chest if done on a regular basis:

Conclusion

Similar to what I said about Child’s pose, because this pose is typically only done at the beginning or end of class it can get neglected. But honestly, who doesn’t want a free back massage?

Leave a comment below or email me if you’d like to join the conversation.

Other Links

Knees to Chest Exercise

 

Yoga Anywhere

Introduction: Yoga Anywhere

I recently went on a family vacation on a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas. We had a blast! While on vacation I had the opportunity to practice yoga on the ship and at Serenity Bay, an adult only private beach owned by Disney. The purpose of this blog is not to make you jealous by showing you pictures of the Bahamas but to talk about a lifestyle. Being fit is a lifestyle. Just like any other commitment you make in life, you have to decide everyday whether to stick with it or not – to burn the extra cupcake with exercise or let it go to your hips. Eventually you will want only half of a cupcake or no cupcake at all because you realize that you have to run 3 miles to burn 1 cupcake – not to mention cupcakes aren’t the greatest fuel for a 3 mile run. I’m not suggesting you don’t indulge every now and then (full disclosure: I overate on the cruise). However, I am suggesting you try to stick to your fitness goals while on vacation or anywhere else that you may be out of your routine. Newton described it best with his First Law of Motion (paraphrased), bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. Bodies at rest tend to stay at rest! So get moving and don’t stay at rest!

Did I Find Yoga or Did Yoga Find Me?

I find yoga pretty much wherever I go now. The good thing is that I don’t need anything but willpower to practice. There is no need for a machine or some crazy device that costs a fortune. Yoga is not only creating long lean gorgeous muscles. It also gives a peace of mind and a sense of serenity. It is not just yoga that can keep you in shape and well-balanced, although, it is my preference. For example, my husband is a runner. He ran (and won) the Castaway Cay 5k while on the vacation. The point is, whatever keeps you moving, keep at it! It beats the alternative of sitting around and eating all day and feeling miserable afterward. Whatever your form of exercise is, stay true to it. You will not regret it!

Conclusion:

Here are some pictures of me doing yoga in the Bahamas.

 

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Challenge:

  1. I would love to post some pictures of you doing yoga anywhere. Try to make me, and anyone else reading this blog, jealous!
  2. For all of you math and science advocates out there, let me know how many of these questions from the link below that you answered correctly

NASA: Questions

For a simpler version about the Laws of Motion check out

Newton’s Three Laws of Motion

Foundational Pose #4: Child’s Pose

Introduction

Like Down Dog, Mountain, and Staff Pose, Child’s Pose is another foundational pose that is used to easily transition to other poses. This pose is great with props such as bolsters, blocks and blankets or as a standalone pose.

The name is derived from the fact that the form emulates an unborn child’s natural position in the womb.

There are many options of Child’s Pose for you depending on what sensation you are looking for. All are restful, relaxing and a way to become more aware of your body. Child’s Pose is the “go-to pose” anytime you need to take a moment and breathe during your yoga practice, especially following a particularly intense sequence.

As always, no pose should hurt – if it hurts, or just doesn’t feel right for any reason, stop!

Enough already… How?

From all fours (neutral horse) with your toes pointed straight behind you (it’s ok if you want to bring your big toes together), sink your hips back toward your heels. Lower your body toward your thighs. Bring your arms alongside your body. Your forehead is on the mat.

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For Extended Child’s Pose reach your arms out in front of your body.

extended childs pose

Another option is to rest your forehead on stacked fists or a block. For clarity, in the picture below I have my head up so you can more clearly see the stacking of my fists. To complete the pose, your forehead would actually be resting on your fists rather than in the air like mine is in the picture. If you use a block, your hands would be positioned like either of the first two pictures above and your head would simply rest on the block. Whether on your fists or a block, this option is great for leveling the heart with the head and can take pressure off the sinuses.

stacked fist

Wide Knee Child’s pose is great for anyone who is expecting or anyone who wants a great hip opener. This option allows more room for your midsection.

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One of my favorite options is Restorative Child’s Pose. This is done with a bolster or blocks and blankets. It restores your body with a restful position (and you may need somebody to wake you up).

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But… Why?

This list isn’t exhaustive, but Child’s pose is great because it:

  • Restores balance to the body and rests the mind
  • Offers a wonderful opportunity for us to explore our breath. As you inhale, feel the back of the torso widen and soften outwards – all the way down the spine to the sacrum.
  • Gently stretches the hips, thighs and ankles. For a deeper hip stretch, widen the legs so your knees touch the mat, big toes together.
  • Can be a good stretch for the shoulders, if the arms are stretched out in front the body, palms facing down.
  • Can be a good back and neck pain reliever; at the same time, the head and torso are supported.

Conclusion

Because this pose is typically only done at the beginning or end of class it can get neglected and overlooked. But, trust me, you can audibly hear sighs of relief when the instructor says, “Let’s head back to child’s pose” after a really challenging flow series. After reading about all of the active foundational poses, this one should seem fun to try.

I would love to hear about your favorite option in child’s pose. Leave a comment below or email me.

Other Links

Balasana

5 Health Benefits of Child’s Pose

Just Breathe

Introduction: Just Breathe

The questions most frequently asked in my yoga classes pertain to breathing. I could finish the year writing blogs about different breathing exercises and techniques. This post is general and may not apply in all circumstances. I will go deeper (or not) depending on your email and comments.

The main thing is to just breathe. I see it all the time, and many times students don’t even realize they are holding their breath. It takes time and practice to learn where to inhale and exhale, but eventually connecting the breath with movement will become natural – so don’t worry about it. And, please, don’t let breathing (or not) stop you from practicing. Keep at it!

General Principles

As a general rule, you inhale up and exhale down. Inhalation allows you to find length and exhalation allows you to find twists. Inhale to be stable, tall and grounded. Exhale to deepen the pose you are in (Sinking Breath) or to transition into a new pose. Remember that each person’s inhale and exhale is unique and will last for differing amounts of time. Largely this is based on aerobic fitness and the level of relaxation. Your exhale may take 6 seconds, and my exhale may be 3 seconds. The point is to be aware of your body and move at your breath rate – not mine or your neighbor’s. This is also a huge part of yoga:  self awareness, letting go of competition and being in the present.

Another important note: if possible, breathe in and out of your nose throughout your yoga practice. There are times when a lion’s breath (opened mouth) or a puppy’s breath (panting) is needed to expel the carbon dioxide allowing more oxygen in.

Why is Breathing Important?

Beyond yoga, the simple act of breathing can work wonders for your health. This NPR article  is only one of many examples.

In yoga, different types of breath create different sensations. Here are just a few examples:

  • 3-Part breath or Belly breathing emphasizes calming and relaxation
  • Sinking breath is used in folding the body naturally – exhaling out and releasing
  • Expanding breath opens the body
  • Equal ratio breathing balances the volume and flow of air
  • Retention of breath increases the level of concentration – if we control our breath, we control distractions of the mind
  • Alternating Nostril breath has a balancing effect on the mind, body connection
  • Warming Single Nostril Breathing brings energy
  • Cooling Single Nostril Breathing calms
  • Breath of Fire stimulates the nervous system and clears the respiratory system
  • Whisper Breath (Ujjayi Breath or Darth Vader breath) retains heat, Allows one to self-monitor breath and helps focus attention.

Again, if you want more specifics or a more in depth blog on any (or all) of these, give me that feedback in email or the comments section below, and I will work on it.

Conclusion

When you find yourself tensing up, just breathe, relax and enjoy your yoga journey!