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chapter 9 – yoga triangle or love triangle

Stretching your hamstrings, side body and chest, triangle pose, trikonasana, is a sure favourite! Let’s break it down so it’s not a tricky trikonasana!

Trikonasana (trick-on-ass-ana) – Triangle Pose

Another pose which we transition into from our Warrior 2. You may want to heel-toe the back foot in slightly if you have a wide Warrior 2. Straighten the front leg, reach the front hand forwards until you can reach no more and then allow the front hand to come down and rest against the shin while the back hand lifts up to the sky.

Feet and Legs

Foundation of this pose:

The foundation is as Warrior Two (head here for a reminder). In brief, front foot faces forward, the back foot is 3-4 feet back and slightly angled towards the top corner of the mat. The heel of the front foot is aligned with the arch of the back foot.

** Ground down through the outer edge of the back foot.

The difference here is the front leg is straight, not bent as the Warrior is. We keep the energy through the back leg all the way down to the outer edge of the foot.

Pelvis and Torso

The tilt of the body comes from the hips, not the waist.

This means that if you rotated the body, the torso would still be as straight as it is in Tadasana. In order to tilt the body without collapsing at the waist, you guessed it, suck that bellybutton back in, turn on your core muscles and engage in order to support yourself.

**Lean the chest back against an imaginary wall behind you.

There is a tendency for the chest to round down in order for the hand to reach the foot. Don’t worry about how low the hand slides down the leg, just focus on the chest being nice and open. Although, not so open t’s leaning backwards, mind!

Arms and Shoulders

** Rest the back of the hand against the shin or slide it down to the inner heel or big toe.

The reason for just resting the back of the hand against the leg rather than using the leg to support the hand against, is so that you keep using your core and you don’t dump into the pose. This is such an easy pose to just hang out in in all of the joints and be super lazy, but that’s not going to achieve anything is it 😉

The top hand reaches up, energy reaching through to the tips of the fingers. Using the top hand as an opposing force, lifting up as the bottom hand sinks down.

Head and Neck

As with the torso, the neck follows that long line from the spine.

The head can turn in whichever direction feels best for your neck, traditionally the gaze is to the top hand, but if that feels icky in the neck, you can look towards the front foot, or straight in front of you. The only thing to avoid would be the neck bending.

 

And hey presto, that’s another pose, triangle pose, trikonasana, in our repertoire! We are doing well xo

chapter 8 – look at it from a side angle

Transitioning from our Warrior Two, we can move beautifully into our Side Angle Pose. Experience a wonderful side body stretch from the edge of the foot to the ends of the fingers, me loves this one!

 

Parsvakonasana (pars-va-kon-ass-ana) – Side Angle Pose

To move into this posture from Warrior 2, bring the front forearm to the front thigh, then circle the back hand down towards the mat and then around the face, ending up with the fingers pointing forwards. The front arm can stay resting on the front thigh, or the hand can slide down inside of the front foot.

Feet and Legs

Foundation of this pose:

The foundation is the exact same as Warrior Two (head back here for a detailed breakdown). To touch on it lightly, front foot faces forward, the back foot is 3-4 feet back and slightly angled towards the top corner of the mat. The heel of the front foot is aligned with the arch of the back foot.

** Ground down through the outer edge of the back foot.

There is a tendency here to let the foot roll inwards, but energetically, really think about that blade edge firming down to start that line of energy coming from the ground all the way up the side of the body.

Your front leg is bends towards a 90 degree angle, allowing the thigh to come parallel with the mat. The front knee keeps tracking over the front toes, avoiding the knee from rolling in or out. The back leg is strong and straight.

Pelvis and Torso

**Keep sinking the pelvis towards the ground.

We have an inclination to raise our hips as the upper body lowers (as it relieves some pressure from the legs), so allow the hips to stay low and work those bad boys! The torso is rotating, allowing the chest to maintain it’s openness towards the side, jus as it was in Warrior 2. Guess what?! The bellybutton is STILL drawing back towards the spine, crazy hey?! Keep that core turn on so that the lower back doesn’t become unstable and start to overarch.

You should get a really nice deep stretch along that top line of the body. Try your best to keep the bottom line of the body extending forwards as well, so the length of the two sides are equal, and that bottom line isn’t just collapsing.

Arms and Shoulders

As I mentioned at the top, the front forearm can either be resting on the front thigh, or the hand slides down and rests inside the front foot. (You may see some people take the hand to the outer edge of the foot. I prefer not to do this as an advanced variation of this pose is Bound Side Angle, for which the front arm is inside the front leg, so to take it outside seems counter-intuitive. We may re-visit Bound Side Angle in a later post sometime in the future. Remind me if I forget and you want it broken down.)

**Top hand circles down towards the foot, round in front of the face, finishing with the arm over the ear, fingers pointing towards the front.

Again, this cue may be different to other which just lengthen up and over. The reason for circling down and up, is that it really encourages the chest to open to the side, rather than ending up facing slightly down. And it makes me feel like a beautiful dancer doing it haha. The palm of the hand faces down.

Other pointers here, keep energy running through the arms, that top arm is an extension of the side body stretch and should be energised all the way through to the ends of the fingers. Keep space between the shoulders and the ears, especially on the bottom edge, try not to sink into it.

Head and Neck

Standard. Long neck. The crown of the head is reaching towards the front.

The head can either be turned so the gaze is towards the palm of the top hand, straight ahead or looking down to the front foot, it all kinda just depends what feels right in your bod babe.

 

And voila. Side Angle Pose.

Hit me up with any questions 🙂 xo

chapter 7 – you can be a warrior two

Moving out of the Surya Namaskar sequences and into where we start to find a little more freedom in our flow sequences. So, our amazing Warrior Two, sets as a base for a lot of postures to flow in and out of. Meaning, you guessed it, having this foundation down is super important. So without further ado, I present to you:

 

Virabhadrasana II (veer-ah-bah-dras-ana two) – Warrior 2 

Like the Warrior I, this pose is again asymmetric (the feet are not doing the same thing). Unlike the Warrior I, which was neutral as our hips and shoulders were facing towards the front of the mat, the Warrior 2 is external as our hips and shoulders face the long edge of the mat.

Feet and Legs

Foundation of this pose:

This standing posture has the feet 3-4 feet apart.

**Turn the back foot down at a 45 degree angle, heel to arch alignment.

The front foot faces forward, like a good tadasana foot. The arch of the back foot aligns with heel of the front foot. The toes of the back foot angle slightly towards the front corner of the mat (left back foot, left front corner), the toes of the back foot can turn out towards 90degrees if this feels better for you but DO NOT let those toes angle towards the back edge of the mat. That is BAD. You hear me naughty yogi?!

**Front thigh comes parallel to the ground.

**Ground the outer edge of the back foot down.

The knee of the front leg bends. The knee tracks over the toes, it doesn’t roll in or out. Use those big ol’ muscles in your leg to help stabilise, ya hear me? The back leg is strong and straight. The outside edge of the back foot has a tendency to roll up, so make sure you’re pressing that outer edge down helping you find a line of energy all the way up the side of the back leg.

Pelvis and Torso

So this is where Warrior 2 differs from Warrior 1. Our hips are facing the long edge of our mat. Your torso lengthens up from your pelvis, there’s no lean in a Warrior 2, which often tends to happen as the arms reach out (we’ll discuss further in the next section). So, you know the drill, nice, long, straight spine. Nailed it.

Arm and Shoulders

The shoulders are directly over the pelvis, not forward or back which would lead to that torso lean. The shoulders are also facing the long edge of the mat. The arms extend straight out from the shoulders parallel with the ground. They are the same height, don’t let that back arm get lazy, I know you don’t really want a droopy back arm, you warrior.

**Feel the energy from your back fingers all the way to your front fingers.

Head and Neck

Nice long neck. Shoulders are down away from the ears not shrugging up, eating up our neck space. The head faces the front. The gaze is over the front fingers. This focused gaze is called your ‘drishti’. Look at me getting all sansktri-y and yoga-y on yo ass. It helps you develop a concentrated intention (I stole that off Google, cheers Google). But seriously, it helps you feel like a total badass with a mission rather than allowing your mind and eyes to be wandering all over the shop.

 

And that’s it. Nailing your Vira II. Like I said at the top, getting this pose is great because we transition in and out of it so many times. I’m looking forward to putting together a nice flow sequence for you where we can explore it further. Now go forth and Warrior your way through the rest of your wonderful day.

 

interlude 2 – that word you’re still scared of

This is a post I’ve been meaning to, and avoided writing for quite some time. For several reasons, firstly, it is something that it so important to me that I want to do it justice. Next, it’s controversial and I don’t want to offend or undermine anyone else’s opinions or beliefs on the matter. And finally because it’s such a huge topic, I’m not really sure where to start, where to finish or where it’s going to go in the middle. So please bear with me on all of the above and hopefully we’ll end up with some semblance of a half decent article.

Right, now, what is it I’m actually on about? Feminism. [She senses a clicking of the X to close the post by some.]

Yesterday, 6th Feb 2018, my newsfeeds and timelines filled up with posts celebrating 100 years since women were first granted the right to vote in the UK. Not all women, but a good step in the right direction. So how is it a century later, that we still need to discuss feminism and equality? I wish it was something that we didn’t have to, and I have no doubt that there are at least a few of you reading saying, “We don’t. Women are as equal, if not more equal* than men now. We have a female prime minister for crying out loud, how much more equality do you want?!”.

It is like describing colour to the blind

Explaining inequality to someone who has never dealt with it is like describing colour to the blind. I will not be able to do it justice. And as I imagine the majority of the people reading this on LinkedIn will be of a male-white-middle-class demographic, I’m probably already on an upheaval. But if you’ve made it this far, then read on. I dares ya.

 

I’ve come on a long journey with feminism.

I was a tomboy at school, who would rather play football than play kiss-chase.

I was the only girl in my Physics A-Level class

I was one of 2 females in my design and manufacturing engineering degree class.

I spent the best part of a decade working in construction where it wasn’t unusual to be the only woman on site in a non-admin based role.

I spent years being wound up and angry about the injustice, the pay gap, the belittlement, the sexual harassment, the cat-calling [yes they are the same thing but I thought I’d type it twice in two different ways, just to make it clear], the undermining, the lack of education and many other things which all amount to inequality and led to my fierce affiliation with feminism.

And then I woke up. And I was tired of fighting to be treated like a man.

Hell, I do not want to be treated like a man. I want to be treated like the powerful woman that I am.

The powerful woman that I am

You can’t compare apples with apples when we are bananas and peaches [immature chuckle break]. We have different physiology. But our capacity to learn and think are the same. Sure, we’ll all take different roads to get to the same destination but there’s no right and wrong in that logic. To me, feminism and equality is not everyone being or doing the same. It’s about honouring our true self, our innate qualities, our unique superpowers, respecting one another and being grateful for our differences.

The reason it was so important for women to gain the right to vote was because when decisions are made which are not representative of the whole population, you are not honouring the differences. To paraphrase Corbyn, you are for the few, not the many. If you make a cake without sugar (women), butter, eggs and cocoa powder (think race/ class/ sexuality/ religious beliefs etc.) then you just get baked plain flour. And who wants a societal equivalent of that? No-one. I’ve never met anyone who would rather have baked plain flour instead of a chocolate cake.

Belief, education and about £40,000

So, 100 years on, why are we still not explaining to girls that they can work, and be successful in industries which are currently inherently male? Why is it an office and site full of men needed to construct new buildings? Do you know what the difference between a PM and a PA is? Belief, education and about £40,000. Why are we not giving more women the belief, the education and the money? Because they demonstrate every day that they have the skill set to run and manage an office and get people to do what they want. They just maybe didn’t shout and bang their fists to do it.

Softness, vulnerability, caring, nurturing, loving. All words which could describe a mother successfully running a home, but running a construction site, pah, never! So woman has tried to imitate the hard, severe, crude qualities of the masculine in order to claw her  way up the ladder. I’ve seen it to many times to count. Hard-faced women, laddish banter, giving shit out to the boys just to level up with her male comrades. Not the woman who is going to encourage more women into the industry. Women need to feel like they are part of a sisterhood to really thrive. Women who are constantly pitting themselves against each other will be the demise of women in any industry. And the reason women do this is as a territorial marking, because she’s insecure and believes that her uniqueness as a woman on site is her strength. It’s not. It’s all the other wonderful things that she’s learnt to hide over the years, because they don’t fit the masculine environment she works in.

Grey matter shrinks as neural networks become more specialised

Why do we still have conversations about a woman limiting her career because she chooses to also have a family? Likening the prospect of promotion or salary increase during her maternity period to a man taking a year sabbatical to travel the world [yes, I really have had this conversation]. Not honouring her and respecting and marvelling at what she is creating. At the point when she is no longer able to contribute to a company, she is no longer considered of the same value [statutory maternity pay is 90% for the for 6 weeks and then 90% or £140.98 per week, whichever is LOWER, for the remaining 33 weeks].

[Side note: did you know a woman’s brain actually changes during pregnancy? Baby brain is an actual thing, grey matter shrinks as neural networks become more specialised in areas involved in processing and responding to social signals and the hippocampus (related to memory) shrinks. This allows the mother to stop worrying about details which do not have any real consequence and become attuned to social surroundings in order to ensure her child’s wellbeing and safety is her main priority. This change lasts for approximately 2 years after birth, which is why so many women find it extremely difficult to return to work and leave their child with someone else, most commonly, a complete stranger. An incredible change which means that your child is kept safe. But often downplayed as being a forgetful new mum.]

Let’s face it. Money is King. [Do you like the masculine term I used there to demonstrate it’s top?] And until we can equally recompense women for their contributions to society in the same monetary way that we do for men [I mean, like, the comparison that raising a well rounded child with good morals being on par with someone making numbers go up and down in a stock exchange is even a valid one [eye roll]] then we will never really achieve equality.

The delicate balance of yin and yang

No woman really wants to be a man**. She just wants to live in a society where she knows that her ability to formulate and execute ideas, plans and tasks is equal to a man’s and be respected for that.

When we honour the feminine and masculine, you know that woman doesn’t need to be man. We live in a universe which survives on a delicate balance. Day and night. Ice cold and scorching heat. Wooden branches and soft fruits. The delicate balance of yin and yang.

 

So here I am, calling bullshit on anyone who thinks that feminism shouldn’t still be a thing.

And I will continue to call bullshit until, as a society, we value the strengths of the feminine.

 

Sometimes you need brute strength, other times you need inner strength.

 

 

 

Footnotes:

  • This article is based on my own experiences and those which I have born witness to and the conclusions I have drawn from those.
  • I do not believe that jobs should be gender specific, if you want to do something and it is not physically a detriment to you, then I fully back you.
  • I know not all women want to have families. I do not believe that anyone should feel pressure from society to conform.
  • Child bearing does remain a female only role, unless you are Arnold Schwarzenegger in Junior.
  • *More equal is one of my all-time favourite phrases.
  • ** Ok, some women do want to be men. And I have generalised throughout.

 

 

part 2 review – 20 minute flow sequence

We’re upping the game a little now. Here’s a 20 minute sequence including a warm up, 2 rounds of the Sun Salute A and 2 rounds of the Sun Salute B. All the postures in A & B are covered in our previous posts, so if you feel unsure about where you’re supposed to be at any point, scroll back and have a read through again xo

chapter 6 – be a warrior one

So this is super exciting. Finally moving into Warrior poses. I absolutely love warriors, because they make me feel like a warrior, duh! So here’s the first one for you.

Virabhadrasana I (veer-ah-bah-dras-ana one) – Warrior 1

This is the first asymmetrical pose we’ve broken down, by this I mean, our feet aren’t next to each other doing the same thing. Which means I’ll be referring to a front foot and a back foot. During our sequences, we alternate which foot is front to make sure we stay nice and balanced.

Feet and Legs

Foundation of this pose:

It’s a standing posture, the feet are about 3-4 feet apart from one another. The front foot faces forward, just like a tadasana foot.

**Turn the back foot in 45degrees, heel to heel alignment or wider.

The toes of the back foot are angled towards the top corner of the mat. If you have an imaginary line drawn down the centre of your mat, you want the heels to either both be on this line, or slightly wider. The wider the feet are, the more stable you will probably feel.

Avoid the back foot crossing over the line. Like el below:

The front knee bends. The knee tracks over the toes. No rolling knees like this:

The back leg is strong and straight and there is a line of energy down the outside of the leg, all the way down to the foot, grounding the outer edge of the foot into the mat.

Pelvis and Torso

This is where this posture gets a little tricky. Warrior 1 is a neutral pose, meaning the pelvis and shoulders face the same way as the front foot.

**’Energetically’ the pelvis turns towards the front of the mat.

What does ‘energetically’ mean? Surely it either faces the front or it doesn’t?! Well, not quite. Anatomically, with the feet pointing in different directions, the pelvis will naturally turn to the side slightly. However, you want to imagine turning to face front without jarring your pelvis into a position where you are going to hurt yourself.

As ever, keep that bellybutton drawing in towards the spine and keep length through the spine. The tailbone is still lengthening down, not booty-popping out.

Now, I don’t often teach this variation, but I know that for some people, even energetically turning the hips forward with the back foot down causes pain. And as I would never want anyone to experience pain, in these circumstances, lifting the back heel is an option. My main concern here would be to ensure that your Virabhadrasa I doesn’t turn into a high lunge. But the option, should you feel this is something you need is shown below:

Arms and Shoulders

The arms reach up over head. If it’s accessible and feels comfortable to bring the hands together, then that pose is all yours baby. As I’m sure you know by know, if I do that, it brings my shoulders up towards my ears and I lose the openness, so I keep my hands apart. Wherever your hands are, energise through the fingertips and reach up with the whole arm.

The shoulders point towards the front of the mat. Not like this:

Head and Neck

Head is facing front, with your gaze either directly forward or slightly up. Not like chuck your head back and crank your neck, up, just a slight upward gaze. You know the drill, long neck. Imagine that bit of string pulling up from the crown of your head even here.

 

And that’s basically it. Our first warrior.

chapter 5 – oh sit down, oh sit down, sit down next to me

In the spirit of honesty, Chair pose, is possibly one of my least favourite postures. Ever. Literally translates as Awkward Pose. And now that’s out there, let’s talk through the mechanics of it, so that love it or hate it, you can do it with good form. *Also side note, as with all these asanas, there will be different teachers who teach this pose differently – this is how I teach it. So if it works for you, take it, if it doesn’t, leave it.

Utkatasana (Oot-kah-taas-ana) – Chair Pose/ Awkward Pose

No need for small talk, let’s dive in.

Feet and Legs

The foundation of this pose:

It’s a standing posture, with those feet of yours in your Tadasana. I’m saying big toes to touch, heels slightly apart, but if you’d rather feet slightly apart – hey, it’s your practice.

**Evenly distribute your weight throughout the feet.

Some people, prefer to have the weight in the heel of the foot, so the toes can lift, others prefer to have the weight in the toes, so that you can move fluidly into the next posture. My preference is evenly distributed, grounded in the corners of the feet, across the ball of the foot and in the heel. Using those toes to keep you balance nice and even. Not like the picture below, this is a whole different challenge in itself, which I might sometimes put on you, but not where we want to be for our normal Utkatasana.

**Sink the bum backward as you bend the knees.

**Now bend the knees more.

The more you bend the knees, the more you need to use the muscles of the legs to support you, which is why this posture is good. Hard, but good. The reason I like the toes together is so that you can actively press the thighs together, if you have the feet apart, you still need to energetically squeeze the legs together, but it may just be a little harder to find that sensation. The knees are tracking over the feet, not rolling in or out.

Your quads (the muscles on the front of your leg) should be on fire. Your glutes (your bum muscles) should be engaged to support you.

Pelvis and Back

**Keep the length through the spine.

So the bum is going backwards, but the spine is still straight. Not straight up. Because that would put a big ol’ arch in the spine. You see.

**Pull the bellybutton back towards the spine.

Keeping the core engaged will help protect the spine and help keep the torso nice and straight and long.

Arms and Shoulders

**Reach the hands up, keep the shoulders down.

So, for some people, bringing their hands together at the top here is no drama. If you are one of these people, then go ahead. For me, closing the hands together brings my shoulders up to my ears and crunches everything up. So I do not do this. Keep the hands and arms energised, this will make them feel less heavy. I promise.

**Keep the chest open.

Not sticking the chest out, but also not rounding in. Just open.

Head and Neck

Keep the head and neck in line with the spine.

**Maintain that length from the tailbone all the way to the crown of the head.

 

And that’s pretty much it. It’s basically Utthita Hasta in Tadasana with bent knees. Just hard work on those quads 😉

 

Let me know how you get on with it, AP xo

part 1 review – 10 minute sun saluation A sequence

Go ahead and take what we’ve learnt from the postures we’ve been through in Part 1 and string them all together in a short Sun Salutation A sequence which I guide you through.

If you have any questions about anything we’ve gone over, just drop me a note, and maybe a quick video or photo of what you’re struggling with and I will do my best to help clarify xo

interlude 1 – the art of not having it all together

** Foreword, this is an article I published on LinkedIn on 3rd Oct 2017. And as it happens, I’m sharing it again whilst sat in Kuala Lumpur airport, this time connecting on my way to Thailand.

 

I’m writing this article as I sit on a 12 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur from London Heathrow. Part 1 of 2 flights which will get me to Bali. 8 hours in to this flight, 2 movies down, lunch and snack box through, fidgetting to get comfy yet still unable to sleep, I had an overwhelming urge to write.

And what is it that I wanted to write? Well, I’m not entirely sure. There are so many thoughts running through my head right now, but I thought I’d start with this one. I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.

I have so little idea about what I’m doing, that I’m not even sure how this article is going to evolve.

First things first. Why am I flying to Bali? Other than the above statement of not really knowing, it stems back from my trip I took there last year, where I did my Yoga Teacher Training course. It was while I was there, that I had this moment of realisation that I just wasn’t very happy. I had nothing to complain about, a well paid job, a home which makes me feel safe, friends and family who support me through everything. Yet, when I removed all of those things, I suddenly felt content. I was learning things that were interesting to me, which ignited a passion inside of me, a desire to keep learning. I found that whilst nervous to start, I had a voice for teaching, a voice which used to wobble when I had to speak up in meetings on a construction site. I was able to be authentic and be myself, I finally took off the steely mask which had been so firmly secured that I had forgotten that I was even wearing one.

This mask somehow made most of the people around me believe that I had my shit together. Ha.

“Bulshy, opinionated and strong.”

I was wearing this mask to protect myself, to shield myself from the cruel reality, that in my experience is still far too prevalent, of being a woman in construction. Bulshy, opinionated and strong. I had meant to emanate confidence, but I fear I just became a mirror of the traits which I disliked so much. It stopped being a mask and just became my face.

It became my strength and my weakness. My blessing and my curse. Initially people are fascinated by someone who is strong and knows what they want in life. But when you are strong all the time, people think you don’t need their support, that you don’t need someone to lean on, to guide you when you’re tired. People think that you have an unlimited capacity to give without ever needing anything back. You are the person who they can rely on to fix their problems, no problem. You have a plan, you know what you want and how to get it and nothing ever bothers you.

I love having the strength to know that I will always be OK because I have the tenacity to do whatever it takes to get what I want. But don’t for a second think that I have an elegant, steamlined plan on how I will achieve it. I’m just stubborn.

I love having an opinion and beliefs that I feel are important enough to be said. But if you listen carefully you might hear the undertone of doubt because I’m scared you might just tell me I’m wrong and make me feel stupid.

I love having the confidence to know that I’m worthy of achieving the dreams I have and the life I want. But don’t get it in your head that your comments or actions don’t have any impact on me.

And now, here I am, travelling back to the place where almost a year ago, I started to feel the edges of this mask peel away. And since then, I have continued to remove more of the war paint and try to remember what my face looks like when I use my vulnerability as my strength. I had been offered a position doing a work exchange, teaching yoga at a hotel in return for accomodation and meals. On Sunday, 3 days before I left, I recieved a message saying that it wasn’t going to be possible for me to take this position anymore. They’d had some issues with the previous live-in teacher and so were withdrawing. I was at a Christening, where I was honoured as Godmother, so the “faaaaaaaaaack” that I exhaled was barely audible.

“The “faaaaaaaaaack” that I exhaled was barely audible.”

I’m sat on a plane to Bali with ZERO idea about what the hell I’m doing. I have no accommodation booked. My budget is now blown before I’ve begun. But the island is all mine to explore. And after a month in Bali, then what – well more of not knowing. I fly on to the Sunshine Coast, where the loosely held plan is to volunteer at Wanderlust and then travel down to Byron Bay. Then over to Thailand for a training course. And finally back to Australia, probably Sydney, for some more ‘I have no ideas’ other than hopefully finding some work teaching yoga.

I spent so much of my time working in construction, with a sense of impending doom that evenutally someone might work out that I was just winging it. That was, until I realised everyone else is just a blagger too. This has been reconfirmed for me since spending time with other yoga teachers. Whilst passionate about what we teach, sometimes the sequence we pull together is a complete fluke. The classes we are offered happen by complete chance. The people who turn up to practice, completely random.

“One of those loud bangs might just be a firework filling the darkness with colour and wonder.”

But through it all, the one thing I know for sure, is that if you want these flukes, chances and random opportunities to come your way, then you have to put yourself out there. You have to walk the firing line with the faith that one of those loud bangs might just be a firework filling the darkness with colour and wonder. When you feel like your swimming upstream, kicking frantically under the water or maybe just sinking, remember I don’t have a clue what I’m doing either. And that’s ok. And if I’m honest, I don’t believe that anyone else really does either. So I’m putting it out there into the universe. Go dance, sing and laugh along a path that’s all yours for the taking, if only you stop thinking so much and start believing a little more.

 

Disclaimer: if this article makes no sense, is badly written or you found any other flaw – firstly thanks for making all the way down to the disclaimer, and secondly, I’m blaming the altitude and lack of sleep.

chapter 4 – getting down down baby, down-dog it baby

And we finally make it to our last posture in the Surya Namaskar sequence. The bad-boy of the yoga world. The posture which often starts off as your arch nemesis and grows to be a dear old friend. The ‘how is this possibly a resting pose?!’ pose. But find your groove and I promise it’ll transform your practice.

 

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Ar-dough moo-kah sh-waan-ass-ana) – Downward Facing Dog

Moving from your upward facing dog, pull the bellybutton into the spine, roll over the toes and send the tailbone to the sky.

Moving from baby cobra, push the bum backwards towards the heels, moving through a child’s pose, curl the toes underneath the bum and send the bum high to the sky.

Foundation

Hands shoulder-width distance apart. Feet hip distance apart. The feet and hands are far apart enough to allow the body to approximately make a right-angle shape.

Hands, Arms and Shoulders

Hands are so vital here in your downward facing dog.

*Press down into the tips of the fingers, the pads of the hands and the palms of the hands. Think about pushing the earth away from you. The rotation of the hands is personal preference, but generally pointer or middle finger should be facing forward. And remember to use the thumb as one of your fingers as well.

Straighten through the arms (or keep a microbend in the elbows if there’s any discomfort) and squeeze the biceps together. Obviously you aren’t actually squeezing the biceps together, but engage them so that energetically they feel like they are moving towards that direction.

Shoulder blades are drawing down the back and towards one another. This will help create some length and avoid your head and neck being squished by your shoulders.

Head and Neck

Release any tension you’re holding in your neck and allow your head to hang heavy. Your gaze may go towards your feet, in between the thighs or towards your bellybutton, whatever feels comfortable and allows you to not strain the neck.

Chest, Back and Pelvis

Being yoga, our main focus is to have a long straight spine.

To create said nice long line in the spine, you want to send the chest back towards the thighs. A nice long back, which can fully expand with the nice deep breaths you are taking here.

The tailbone is following the line of the spine and the last vertebrae in the spine are pointing in the direction of the top back corner of the room. This is different to pointing to the back of the room which would curve the spine. Comprends?

Don’t compromise a straight spine for straight legs. Speaking of which….

Legs and Feet

Ideally, you lengthen through the backs of the legs. This pose can be quite a big hamstring stretch for many of us. More often than not the desire to get the feet on the ground with straight legs means that we compromise that nice long back we discussed above. Don’t do it. It is sooooo much better to bend the knees and keep the back straight than to have straight legs with heels on the floor and a rounded back. Length in the hamstrings and therefore straighter legs will develop over time. There is no hurry for a final, perfect pose.

This is what we don’t want to happen:

So modify by doing this instead:

Trust me, you’re back will thank me.

Besides, for many of us, there’s a good chance that in Adho Mukha Svanasana, you’ll never get your heels on the floor because of the amount of rotation in the ankle joint. That doesn’t mean you’re doing the pose wrong, I promise!!

The toes should be pointing forward and the heels backwards. You shouldn’t really be able to see the heels, unless you have an rare anatomical rotation which dictates it, and I’m yet to have a student with such a turn out.

 

The way I like to think about Downward Facing Dog, is by pushing the earth away with the hands, an equal and opposite reaction force is sending energy up through the arms, all the way to the tailbone and then down the backs of the legs all the way to the heels coming back down to the earth again. So the harder you push the earth away, the more energy you have moving through the rest of your body.

Imagine you rotate that picture of my downward dog around so my legs are on the floor, do I want to be sat with a straight spine of a spine curving forward. How would you modify a seated posture, by bending the knees right? So do the same here.

 

Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog

OK, so this isn’t an official posture in the Sun Salutation sequence, but one that is often included in a Vinyasa-style class, so I thought I’d run through the basics of it here as we’re already set up.

Hands, Arms, Shoulders, Head, Neck, Chest, Back and Pelvis

All stay the same. Big note here, PELVIS STAYS THE SAME.

Legs and Feet

Move the feet closer together and then sweep a foot up behind you. Moving the feet close together first, helps give you more of a tripod setup, so you have a sturdier foundation.

The foot sweeps up behind you and I tend to keep the toes pointing down to the ground. This helps keep the pelvis neutral. Three legged dog is NOT a hip opener, the focus here is not getting the leg as high as it can go but lifting it with a neutral pelvis. You can open the hip when we come into a hip opener. But here, we keep it turned down.

Side on open hip:

Now I’ll let you play a game of spot the difference:

You can give yourself 10 points if you can see the difference in the hips here. And I’ll give you a further 10 bonus points if next time you practice, you consciously keep that pelvis dialled down and not just let that leg swing as high as you can get it!

 

As ever, send all questions to me on a postcard, or maybe just via email.

 

Love and light xoxo