While I wrote about my frustrations with yogi glamor shots on Wednesday, the same photos I dislike have also brought students into my classroom. Recently, awareness has been pointed in the direction of a practice for everyone, through the #realyogiselfie project. Their current contest is not about celebrities doing yoga or a product being auctioned off to the best pretzel, it’s bringing the simple life back to the practice. Glimpses of yogis doing yoga will always inspire me, especially if they’re in savasana.
So, what do I do in my own practice to build strength, stability and stamina? I create complexity under the surface. During my 300-hr advanced teacher training, one rule of sequencing given to me was to always include Warrior 1, Warrior 2, and Extended Side Angle in each class. At the time, I appreciated the nice little nugget and followed the guideline. Now that I have had a few years distance between the advice and my current practice, I see the wisdom in those 4 simple poses.
The beauty of Warrior 1 is the back leg’s combination of strength and stretch. As the lateral edge of the back foot presses into the ground, the stretch of the peroneals on the outside of the ankle is a nice counterbalance to the flip flop loving and arch collapsing stride of most students’ posture and gait. By activating the inversion muscles of the foot and lifting the arch, you can start to strengthen the muscles of the feet. The strength that we build in our foundation will take us off the mat to enjoy other activities like running, hiking or just simply climbing stairs.
After strengthening the lower leg muscles, I like to move into Warrior 2 and bring my focus to the front leg. The deep flexion in the hip and knee require a great amount of strength in the quadriceps. To dial it up a notch and strengthen my hamstrings more, I focus on pressing the foot into the ground while maintaining the flexion of the knee. In Yoga Tune Up®, we love to create asymmetry to add an additional element of strength and awareness by placing a block under the front foot in Warrior 2 (as seen in the photo).
I continue with the theme of lower body strength as I move into an Extended Side Angle. The focus of this pose is the stretch to the latissimus dorsi. With the supporting arm placed on the thigh, I can bring my attention to the flexion and external rotation of the upper arm. If you sit at a desk all day and find yourself mimicking a vulture in front of your computer, the latissimus dorsi can be super tight. By lengthening this muscle, you’ll be freeing up tightness to increase your range of movement in the shoulders and restore healthier posture.
The last movement that I never leave out of a daily practice is a Yoga Tune Up® pose called Adductor Slides. Building strength in the inner thighs will influence the way you walk and hold yourself, not to mention it’s a good core workout as well!
This is how I live better in my body and I encourage you to find unique ways to express yourself on and off the mat, while embracing simplicity in your yoga practice. Remember, #ImitationIsLimitation!