The Yoga Path • Omaha, NE

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{ Practicing Physical, Mental & Spiritual Health }

Legs Up the Wall

This pose, which many students do when first coming into class, has so many benefits. Viparīta Karani, legs up the wall, improves circulation in the legs and pelvis, stretches and releases the lower back, boosts the workings of the lymph-system thus diminishing stress and tension in the body. It can be held anyway from 5 to 20 minutes. Try the variations offered in this video, but above all, do it — often.

Variations of legs up the wall/Viparīta Karani

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Stiffness

Many of us are out walking or running these days. It’s nice to get outside in the spring air. Some of us walk with our dogs, some for exercise, some for both. We might even be doing this more than once a day, going faster or vigorously for the cardiovascular, aerobic benefits; even breaking out into a run.

For myself, I like to bicycle. Not fast, but sometimes for long distances, discovering the adventure of back roads.

However these activities, while good for us tend to lead to a tightness in the hips, low back, shoulders, and neck. Running particularly can take a toll on the knees, ankles, and hips. Sheila commented recently after I returned from a long ride, that I was stooped over like it was still on the bike; rounded shoulder, slumped back, and craning neck. I had to admit, I felt stiff.

While our exercise is beneficial, there is this tendency to move just along the front and back plane of our body, which leads to this stiffness. The body is just adjusting to the activity we’ve set before it, so muscles and joints ramp up to strengthen these areas which leads to added strength, while weakening others. But the after effect can be imbalanced in body tension and stiffness as we cool down. To help the counteract some of the negative effects, we have, yes you guessed it: yoga asanas.
Here is short little practice that I find helpful and renewing after physical exercise.


Ardha Uttanasana / half forward bend:
With hands on the wall at hip level or higher so you can strive for a concave back. Keep legs very straight. Lengthen the neck by drawing the point of the chin toward the sternum. Repeat again widening the legs.


Pavanmuktasana: Remember you can stuff the hands behind the knees. Play around with the legs to going into the happy baby pose rocking from side-to-side.


Parvatasana in Virasana: Once you have the legs in position, interlock the fingers in front of your chest, palms turned outward. Keep arms straight and bring them up over your head. Lengthen from hip to wrists hold for 3 breaths. Repeat 4 times.
Remember you can sit on a blanket or a block to raise the hips and ease the knees. If this pose is not accessible, then move onto the next pose sukhāsana but working the same arm position. Keep spine straight.


Sukhāsana/simple sit: Sit with spine straight and elevated. Sit on blankets to elevate if knees are higher than hips. 2x changing the cross of the legs.

“Practice asanas by creating space in the muscles and skin, so that the fine network of the body fits into the asana.”

BKS Iyengar


Sukhāsana Twist: Maintain the extended , straight spine and twist to the side from the waist first. Remember twists always start from the low spine and waist. Move the core in the same direction as the twist.
If virāsana is available to you, do the twist from that pose instead.

Adho Mukha Svanasana / downward -facing dog: Try to do this down dog off the mat, so your hands and feet may tend to slip. Try to pull up to the hips (the peak of the pose) instead of stretching. Hold for a minute keeping the neck long.

This whole sequence shouldn’t take more than ten minutes. Just feel the body after your walk or run, while the muscles and joints are still warmed up.

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Yoga for Sleep

Most of us don’t think about doing an asana practice before going to sleep. When it comes to the time when we’re ready to crawl into bed, the last thing we want to do it unroll the mat and do yoga poses. We also might believe that the stimulation of doing asana before bed would tend to keep us awake, like a shot of caffeine or adrenaline at bed time. While this could be true, often when going to sleep, we’re bringing the same states of mind that we’ve carried with us throughout the day. Sleep doesn’t cancel this condition out, but often carries it over into our resting state. So when the initial exhaustion wears off, our sleep becomes more restless and shallow.

The following sequence is for helping with your sleep. It’ll aid in calming you down both physically and physiologically by settling the nervous system, thus preparing for a rest-state.


Uttanasana: getting the head or upper body supported on blocks or chair. Hold for 1 minute or more.

Prasarita Padottanasana: Do this with head down on block or supported from the chair with hips on the wall. Try to get the chest lower than the hips, but head and arms are supported. Hold for 1 minute or more.

Adho Mukha Savanasana: do this with head resting on block or cushion. Hold for 1 or 2 minutes.

Adho Mukha Virasana supported as shown. Try to find a cushion or blankets to get the head the same height at the hips. Hold for about 3 minutes


Paschimottanasana it doesn’t matter how low you get in this pose, just try to get the head and front torso supported. Your back may release as you hold.Hold for 1 or 2 minutes.

Janu Sirasana: As with the previous pose, get the front of the body supported. Hold for 1 or 2 minutes.

Supta Baddhakonasana: use the strap if you have one and get the outside of the legs propped. Hold for 3 minutes or more.

Supta Virasana: try to do this pose, but if the knees won’t allow hold the previous pose longer. Hold for 3 minutes or more.

Sirasana: again don’t skip. Preparation pose is acceptable. Hold for 1 or 2 minutes.

“The aim of yoga is to calm the chaos of conflicting impulses.”

BKS Iyengar

Salamba Sarvangasana: Obviously this poses is not accessible without a chair, so you can use the wall for support. Hold for 1 or 2 minutes.

Halasana: do this right shoulder-stand. The legs don’t have to drop all the way to floor, but it would be good to get them supported. Hold for 1 or 2 minutes.


Setu Bandha Savanganasana: As you can see from the picture the hips and feet are supported. You can raise or lower the blocks to the height that works the best for you. Hold for 3 minutes


Swastikasana: Sit with back very upright. Sit on blankets to get the hips higher than the knee. Shift into both positions with the legs.Hold for 1 or 2 minutes each side.


Viparita Karani: do this on the wall with hips raised if possible. Notice the arm position and emulate. Hold for 3 minutes.


Savasana: Get the chest open on a blanket or bolster. (It doesn’t have to be done on blocks as pictured, unless that is comfortable.) Don’t skip this pose and try to do it in bed, deliberately make a point to do it.

You can see the essence of this sequence is to get the body supported. This is not, however, to be thought of as a restorative practice. Move efficiently from pose to pose, holding each pose and going deeper with your breath while in it. If you stay focused, the sequences takes about 45 minutes.

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Depression

The sequence presented here is to help with feelings of depression. Without going too deeply into the implications of this term, given the current environment of a global pandemic, it seems safe to say we’re all experiencing some feelings of depression, sadness, or despair in the midst of our social isolation. Listed below will be a chart in the two ways these feelings might be manifesting.

Type of depressionQualitiesSymptomsTypical Breath
Rajasicfeeling
agitated
anxiety, restless
impulsiveness
quick & erratic
hard to exhale
Tamasicfeeling
lethargic
inertia, dullness,
hopelessness
shallow, hard
to inhale

You can probably tell the emphasis here is to get your arm-pits and upper chest open, while by-in-large getting the head supported. This aspect of the body can be very helpful Try to hold the poses long enough to you can reside in the shape of your breath.

In regards to how to practice this sequence, you will see that some props (blankets, bolsters, chair) would be helpful. If these are not available, please try to improvise with furnishings or cushions you may have around the house. Just make sure the props aid in supporting your position in the pose. If it doesn’t feel safe or helpful then get out and try to readjust.

Supta Svastikasana: In this pose the ankles are comfortably crossed. Hold for about 2 minutes then switch ankle position.

Supported Backbend: You can do this over a bolster or rolled up blankets to get the upper chest opened. Head and hips should be on the floor, with arms as shown or in a cactus position.

Adho Mukha Virāsana: with support. Try to find a cushion or blankets to get the head the same height at the hips. Legs are apart, arms are forward.

Adho Mukha Svanasana / downward-facing dog pose: Get the head supported and bring feet apart wider than the hips. Notice your breath while holding.

Ardha Chandrasana/half-moon pose: Do this pose as pictured against the wall with a support under the lower arm. The upper heal presses into the wall. Remember to get in and out of this pose from trikonāsana/triangle pose

Prasarita Padottanasana from the chair with hips on the wall. Try to get the chest lower than the hips, but head and arms are supported.

Sirāsana: headstand (against the wall if you want or do the “preparation poses” for as long as you can. Try to do some version of this as as safely as you can, but don’t skip it.)

Ustrasana/camel pose: This is a variation on the camel pose. Do this as pictured with arms supporting the shoulders and chest lifting. If the neck will allow, let the head go back looking up.

Viparita Dandāsana: This could be done over any chair or ottoman you may have at home. Make sure head it supported. Again opening the upper chest.

Adho Mukha Svanasana / downward -facing dog pose: This poses is repeated, but this time no support for the head.

Supported Sarvangāsana/shoulder stand supported: Obviously this poses is not accessible without a chair, so you may have to go the second variation.

Setu Bandha Sarvagāsana / supported bridge: As you can see from the picture the hips and feet are supported. You can raise or lower the blocks to the height that works the best for you.

Savāsana with a supported head and chest. You could do this on a folded blanket instead of the blocks. Should be comfortable but chest opened. Upper torso is similar to the first pose Supta Svastikasana:

BKS Iyengar found that many students with depression hold tension in the outer portion of the their eyes. He would ask students to try to: “move the edge of the eyes toward the temple and ears,” while doing a challenging pose.

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Home Practice Level II, 1

Level II sequence starts with this practice. the sequence moves us from standing poses – to revolved standing poses — to inversions. The practice is very active and energizing. Try to begin with a strong focused attention, letting the breath do what it needs to do, but quieting the breath so as not to force or strain it. Don’t skip the inversions. They are a key component to this practice. If it seems to difficult move back to the Level I sequences for more days.


Tadāsana: Use the mountain to pose to focus and center yourself for the beginning of your practice. Root your feet into the floor while extending inside and outside leg. The quality of this pose will translate into the other standing poses.

Urdhva Hastāsana: Extending the arms up to lengthen the side body. Repeat 2x.

Trikonasna/triangle pose: Use a block or prop as need be, but repeat 2x each side and see if you can get lower on second attempt. Keep both legs very strong.

Utthita Pārśvakonāsana: Use a block or prop as need be, but repeat 2x each side and see if you can get lower on second attempt. Keep both legs very strong.

Ardha Candrāsana: Come up on down into this pose from trikonāsana/triangle with the back leg very straight and strong. Extend out through the lifted heal. Prop the bottom arm up with a block or a chair as needed. 2x

“Yoga is a light, which once lit will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter your flame.

BKS Iyengar

Vimāmāsana: Stand with legs wide apart, bring arms out, turn and bend into the knee you are facing, lifting and pivoting the back heel. Lift chest forward and up utilizing arms to help with balance and strength. Repeat 2x on each side. You’re beginning to revolve with this pose, so move from the hips and belly.

Parivrtta Trikonāsana/revolved triangle: Turn toward the right leg as you begin to twist, so actively move from the hips and core. Change sides. Use a prop (block or chair) as needed to support the bottom arm so the spine is free to lengthen. Repeat 2x each side.

Parivrtta Parsvakonasana/revolved side-angle pose: Again actively twist at the core here getting the bottom arm to the outside of forward knee for leverage. Drop hips low. Repeat 2x each side.

Uttanāsana: There a two variations to choose here. The important thing is to lift the core toward the hips and extend the spine. Repeat 2x.

Prasārita Pādottāsana: Start with hands on floor, straight arms, and concave back. Then lower head to floor or block. Repeat 2x.

Sirāsana: headstand (against the wall if you want or do the “preparation poses” for as long as you can. Try to do some version of this as as safely as you can, but don’t skip it.)

Adho Mukha Virāsana: with support. Try to find a cushion or blankets to get the head the same height at the hips. Legs are apart, arms are forward.

Catuspādāsana: Hold the ankles in this pose. If unable to reach, then us a strap or a belt. Hold and breath for about 30+ seconds. Repeat 2x releasing slowing and mindfully. .

Sālamba Sarvāngāsana/shoulderstand: Set up with at least two folded blankets so the head is lower than the shoulders. This can be done supported on a chair or from the wall as we practiced in class. Be very strong in extending the legs up to the ceiling. Try to hold for 3+ minutes.

Eka Pāda Sarvāngāsana: move from full shoulderstand to this using the wall as pictured. Maintain stability in shoulder and torso. Hold this in conjunction with sālamba sarvāngāsana. Repeat 2 or 3x with each leg.

Halāsana/plow pose: Hold your shouldstand and keep legs straight as you lower them. Use the wall if there is pressure on the neck or head. Hold and breath.

Savāsana: Don’t skip this pose, but very intentional allow yourself to rest with awareness in this corpse pose.

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Home Practice Level I,4

We’re on to the fourth and final sequence of the First level. If you’ve be following this level you will of course see that the poses are very simple and basic. Yet these are the building blocks for moving into the more difficult and longer sequences. While the practice is simple and can be done in about 20 minutes, if you repeat the poses where instructed you may find that you can go very deep into each pose.

Sukhāsana/simple sit: Sit with spine straight and elevated. Sit on blankets to elevate if knees are higher than hips. 2x changing the cross of the legs.

Sukhāsana Twist: Maintain the extended , straight spine and twist to the side from the waist first. Do both sides then change the cross of the legs. 2x

You’ll notice in this practice twists are being introduced. This involves utilizing the core. So with this first twist draw the core in the direction your body turns so as to awaken the belly. Than draw the core actively into all the poses that follow. Move the core-strength out into the extended limb(s).

Adho Mukha Vīrāsna/downward-facing hero: Spread the knees apart, extend arms forward, lift elbows, press the palms of the hand down. Try to drop the head down, widen through the shoulders. Hold for about 2 minutes following the breath.

Trikonasna/triangle pose: Use a block or prop as need be, but repeat 2x each side and see if you can get lower on second attempt. Keep both legs very strong.

Virabhadrasana 2: Repeat 2x each side and see if you can get lower on second attempt. Keep both legs very strong.

Ardha Candrāsana/half-moon pose: Come up on down into this pose from trikonāsana/triangle with the back leg very straight and strong. Extend out through the lifted heal. Prop the bottom arm up with a block or a chair as needed. 2x

Adho Mukha Svanasana / downward -facing dog pose: Repeat 2x moving into the planks pose between. Notice your breath while doing. It should be strenuous enough to make you breath hard.

Bharadvājāsana in chair: Again get the spine straight and extended. Feet a directly under the knee with the mid-thigh pressed into the chair back. Start at the waist spiraling the twist up the torso. 2x each side.

Savasāna/corpse pose: Hold 5 minutes with a long folded blanket over the belly. (not pictured) Remember this is a pose too, so come out of it slowly and intentionally as you’ve learned.

We shall not cease from exploration
And at the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

T.S.Eliot

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Home Practice Level 1,3

This practice sequence is very short, but intense (rajasic). The feel is very energetic while helping with focus. If you feeling sort of anxious or antsy, these poses can be very helpful. Yet the poses are basic and you are familiar with them all. I encourage you to go through it once, skipping the last two poses and repeat from the beginning including the last two. Especially if you’re still feeling restless.

Urdhva Hastasana coming from Tadasana. Palms facing inward with fingers and thumb together. Repeat 2x.

Utkatasana coming from Tadasana. Palms pressing together, keeping knee in line with ankles and hips . Repeat 3x going lower each time.

Trikonasna/triangle pose: Use a block or prop as need be, but repeat 2x each side and see if you can get lower on second attempt. Keep both legs very strong.

Utthita Parsakonasana /side-angle pose: Use a block or prop as need be, but repeat 2x each side and see if you can get lower on second attempt. Keep both legs very strong.

Vimanasana bring arms out, turn toward the bent knee, lifting and pivoting the back heel. Lift chest forward and up utilizing arms to help with balance and strength. Repeat 2x on each side.

Vibhradrásana 1 / warrior 1 Plant back heal down and in, turning front of legs out vigorously. Push head of back hip forward and sink hips as low as you can; then lower. Don’t allow forward knee to project ahead of the ankle. Repeat 2 or 3x on each side.

Adho Mukha Svanasana / downward -facing dog pose. Repeat 3x moving into the planks pose between. Notice your breath while doing. It should be strenuous enough to make you breath hard.

Catuspadāsana / bridge holding ankle. Hold the ankles in this pose. If unable to reach, then us a strap or a belt. Hold and breath for about 30+ seconds.
Repeat 2x releasing slowing and mindfully. .

Adho Mukha Virasana with support. Try to find a cushion or blankets to get the head the same height at the hips. Legs are apart, arms are forward. Breath and hold.

Savasāna/corpse pose. Yes finally you get to do savasāna! Remember this is a pose too, so come out of it slowly and intentionally as you’ve learned.

“Yoga is the method by which the mind is calmed. And the energy directed to constructive channels.”

BKS Iyengar

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Home Practice Level I, 2

I’ve been hearing from some of you that in the midst of social distancing and our self-imposed remoteness, you are feeling somewhat antsy and dispersed. Today’s sequence* might help with that feeling. It starts out active with some standing postures, then spirals into a more introspective poses. Give yourself room to sink into these quieter poses. Their simplicity can perhaps mislead one to thinking they are easy or insipid. But stop and dive down into the intricacies of each asana. The stillness offered can sometimes be quite intense.

Trikonasna/triangle pose: Use a block or prop as need be, but repeat 2x each side and see if you can get lower on second attempt. Keep both legs very strong.

Virabhadrasana 2: Repeat 2x each side and see if you can get lower on second attempt. Keep both legs very strong.

Ardha Uttanasana / half forward bend:
With hands on the wall at hip level or higher so you can strive for a concave back. Keep legs very straight. Do 1x but hold.

Parsvottanasana / side-angle forward bend: Leave hands on hips and try to maintain a concave spine. Repeat 2x each side and see if you can you can get lower on the second attempt.

Prasarita Padottananasana / wide legged pose: Start with hands on floor, straight arms, and concave back. Then lower head to floor or block. Repeat 2x.

Sukhasana/simple sit: Simple crossleg position. Do on a folded blanket to get hips the height of the knees. Switch leg position or (if you’re feeling adventurous) twist to each side but be kind to knees. Repeat 3x

Baddha Konasana / bounded angle pose: Get the back supported against the wall or couch. Use your arms behind you as pictured to learn to get spine straight and strong. Get the outside legs supported as needed. Hold for several minutes with back straight; read a poem.

“Yoga does not just change the way we see things; it transforms the person who sees.”

BKS Iyengar

Vajrasana (urdhva Hastasana & Parvatasana): Sit with heals and knees together under you placing a rolled up blanket between calves as needed. Bring straight arms up in line with ears (urdhva hasta) then repeat interlacing fingers and palms turned up (parvata).

Adho Mukha Virasana with support. Try to find a cushion or blankets to get the head the same height at the hips. Legs are apart, arms are forward.

Pavanmuktasana: Remember you can stuff the hands behind the knees. Play around with the legs to going into the happy baby pose rocking from side-to-side.

Adho Mukha Svanasana / downward -facing dog: Repeat 2x after short rest between.

Supta Baddha Konasana: getting support for the back, head, and outer legs too. Should be comfortable because again there is no savasana in this sequence.

*These sequences originate from the Iyengar Institute of New York.

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Home Practice Level I,1

For those of you who are perhaps a little tired of Sun Salutations (if that could be possible?) here is a home practice sequence Level 1. Many of the poses get repeated 2x or 3x. Repeating poses is a very fruitful way to deepen your practice. The first time is stopping (shamata) and the second time leads to insight (vipassana). Enjoy!

1. Tadasana/
Mountain pose. Alternate by swinging straight arms forward up into urdhva hastasana. Repeat 3x.

2. Move from tadasana to urdhva baddh-anguliyasana (interlocking finger over head with palms turned upward). Repeat 2x changing the finger interlock.

Vrkasana /tree pose; face a wall or use a wall, but do try to get the arms overhead as pictured. Do both sides 2x. Notice your breath.

Trikonasna/triangle pose: Use a block or prop as need be, but repeat 2x each side and see if you can get lower on second attempt. Keep both legs very strong.

Utthita Parsvakonasana/ side-angle pose: Use a block or prop as need be, but repeat 2x each side and see if you can get lower on second attempt.

Parsvottanasana / side-angle forward bend: Leave hands on hips and try to maintain a concave spine. Repeat 2x each side and see if you can you can get lower on thy second attempt.

Prasarita Padottananasana / wide legged pose: Start with hands on floor, straight arms, and concave back. Then lower head to floor or block. Repeat 2x.

Adho Mukha Svanasana / downward -facing dog pose. Repeat 2x after short rest between. Rest could be Adho Mukha Virasana / Downward Hero pose.

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana / legs up the wall: Back is flat on the floor. come away from the corner if the back hips are not on the floor or legs are bent. Rest quietly here for at least 5 minutes. No savasana.

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How are Sun Salutations going?

“Asana, one of yoga’s most significant “tools,” help the sincere student develop physically and spiritually. The ancient sages believed that if you put your whole heart into your practice, you become master of circumstances and time.” BKS Iyengar

You knew I was going to ask. Now that classes are suspended, I can’t bug you in person before each class as to how’s it going with your 108 sun salutations? But now that we’re all distancing ourselves and settling into the new normal that is our life, the practice of yoga is now available in new ways. Surya Namaskara is the ideal entrance into a daily practice.

For those of you unfamiliar to the Yoga Path history, every March students and teachers at the Path commit to do 108 sun salutations for the month. The shared endeavor has been nicknamed “March Madness.” Some students talk about this event as early as the beginning of the year. Others avoid the subject with a quiet dread and contempt. Some rebel at the idea of keeping score, while the more analytic types, map out their plan to complete the goal on or before deadline.

I don’t remember how this tradition even got started, but was surprised and gratified to discover that, for some, they actually took their practice home. We created a card to track our progress with 108 squares. Some would even come to class earlier than usual to knock off a few before class started. One of my students reported that she would do a couple of them every evening, during the commercials while watching the news.

First completed card 2020

Some resist this regimenting of yoga with all their might. Some just don’t like the sequence. But whatever gets people practicing on their own, to me, is a good thing.

I usually encourage students to use surya namaskara as a starting point for practicing. Don’t worry about the amount you do, but how it feels while doing them. Sometimes the first couple don’t seem very worthwhile, like the beginning of run, but let yourself settle into the flow of the sequence. Or just start with a salutation, but leave it behind if the body needs to do other asanas.

Here is a sheet to see how we practice surya namaskara at the Yoga Path. However, as my teacher Margaret Hahn use to say, “the sun salutation is like potato salad. Everyone has their own recipe.: Just Google surya namaskara / sun salutations to get a couple of thousand variations on a theme. Below is pictured the Iyengar version from the Preliminary Course book.

Just practice it for yourself and for the others in your life. It can do nothing but good! You still have 10 days to go.

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