Enchiridion PranaVashya 

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Introduction

Thank you for reading this and your interest in learning yoga. With this page, I aim to detail as many postures and learning resources as I can. This is a work in progress, so please be patient. Just touch or click on posture names below.

Sequences

Perform the postures in the orders below:

Group 1 Forward Fold Sequence

Janushirshasana

Can’t do Hero’s Poses - Pizza Pose

Can do Hero’s Poses - Half Split

1 Legged Camel

Special Notes

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Section 1 - Technical Notes on Yoga

In yoga breathing is separated into two halves: the inhale and the exhale.

The inhale creates expansion by creating space. The intercostal muscles (between the ribs) expand and the diaphragm lowers allowing the body to be supported by the structure (skeleton). The exhale is the opposite of this, where the muscles support the body.

This process of creating space (inhale) and compression (exhale) takes place in every position of yoga. With regard to the muscles, this process is called agonist (expansion) and antagonist (compression). Fundamentally, no compression can take place within a muscle without expansion. When a muscle is stretched, part of the muscle will contract to grip the bone. As a beginner, the amount of weight held in the compressed gripping muscle is higher. As more experience is gained, the load is spread over a larger group of muscles that are combined to carry the weight. This reduces the probability of injury. Conscious effort is required on behalf of the yogi to achieve this.

Expansion and compression are fundamental to yoga. If the diaphragm cannot move down, the body is in a compressed state. If the spine is expanded, the body is in a state of expansion. This may seem a concrete idea, however it is a concept of permanent change, as each depends on the previous position or movement.

For the beginner, the amount of muscle used to grip (bearing load) will be large. As they progress, less muscle will be used and more will be in an expanded state (stretched). The act of stretching will tear the muscle. This is physically required for the muscle to achieve a higher state of mobility. Yoga students must try to balance the rate of progress against the probability of injury. Certain postures such as lotus, can cause injury if the student is too eager for progress.

Practising yoga causes greater activation of load bearing muscles. This is often experienced as feeling better after practice. In reality, it is training the body to carry load by the muscles and not by the skeleton. The muscles will slightly tear, and heal, meaning progress will be slow and constant, instead of sudden and fast.

By focusing on the combined use of muscles to bear load, the experienced yogi, should be able to practice postures in a calm and comfortable state. A beginner is unlikely to find the postures easy, calming or comfortable. Regular practice will turn a beginner into an experienced student.

Focusing on single muscles when performing exercise will lead to fatigue. This occurs due to the muscles continued use, resulting in tiredness and placing load on the joint (with its supporting tissue) instead. Continued load bearing on joints will lead to a demotivated state, pain and probable injury. Do not focus on single areas of the body, aim to perform a set of postures that effects the entire body. Poor quality teachers should be avoided, or if no quality teachers are available, perform set sequences of techniques that cover the entire body (from reputable schools of yoga, i.e. Ashtanga, Hatha, Iyengar, PranaVashya, etc). Avoid teachers who have completed poor quality TTC (teacher training courses) in short time periods. If the teacher looks bad performing postures, they probably are.

All sequences should include: A warm up of some kind (normal Sun Salutations). Back bends, side bends and strengthening. Symmetrical forward folds, and asymmetrical, with counter postures (i.e. one legged camel). Hip and groin postures. An abdominal sequence of some type. Twisting postures. Their should be reasonable focus between strength, mobility, flexibility and endurance.

At a very basic level, make sure you extend on the inhales, and let your body weight, or slight pressure in some postures work into the posture on the exhale. Without a teacher gauging the correct effort will be difficult, but not impossible. I’ll try and inform you if a posture is dangerous. Always be careful of your spine and knees. With breathing, simply slow it down and breath in and out through the nose. Inhale and say 1 abcd, 2 abcd in your mind, and do the same for exhaling. This about the correct tempo. Hold each position for 5 breaths. Each posture starts with an inhale, and ends with an exhale. At the most basic, inhale, Align, exhale, effort (but be careful!).

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Section 2 - Forward Fold Questions

Question - Why do you do forward folds with the elbows up looking at the big toe?

Answer: Typically, students will reach down with their heads in forward folds. They will try to touch the head off the thighs. This creates curvature in the spine and forces it to carry the weight of the body. On the inhale, they should be creating expansion in the spine. It is very hard to expand the spine in a state of serious curvature. By raising the elbows, the student’s chest has to move lower and the shoulders forward, this elongates the spine, and allows for expansion. On the exhale, the student will be able to actively bring the chest lower and the shoulders forward with the spine in a natural state. Looking towards the big toes will place the spine in a more naturalised state. The spine follows the eyes, this is why rugby players look up when entering a scrum. Looking down creates a curve in the upper back. Humans also have a tendency to go where they are looking. If you look towards the big toes, or ankles, you will naturally straighten your back more. After you have learnt how to forward fold with decent form you can place your head down if you like. As a beginner, I think this is the best method.

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Question - Why flex the feet back?

When the foot is flexed (but not over extended), the thigh muscle grips the leg and allows extension throughout the rear leg muscles, the hamstring and rear torso muscles. This is due to the brain's habituation in believing it is standing when the foot is flexed. It orders the body to free the hip, and creates the expectation of load bearing on the hip. This in-turn, allows the supporting muscles around that area to bear load. As a result of this, the hip can rotate at the same rate as the torso, and the alignment is maintained allowing the muscles of the back to come into play. Pointing the feet places the body in a state of lesser balance and tightens the muscles and so should be avoided. Using the power of the arms in this posture is incorrect. Doing so will overextend the ankles towards the body causing the hip to become uncomfortable and the joints forced to bear the load of the power added by the arms.

Note: If you flex your foot back and it goes back further than 90 degrees, you are hyper-mobile. You’ll have to consciously hold the flexed foot to 90 degrees but not beyond throughout postures. Some postures will probably be easier for you to learn but the risk of injury will be greater.

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Question - Why do you lift the short side shoulder in asymmetrical forward folds?

Answer: When you have mastered the fundamental forward folds, you will no longer feel anything in your legs. After many years of yoga, doing a forward split cold is very easy. Advanced practitioners should aim to perform the postures with the original intention. The intention of the folds can be seen in the names. Ardhabaddha Padma Paschmottanasana means Half Bound Lotus West Stretch. The ‘West’ means the back. These asymmetrical folds are designed to stretch the back, not the legs. The short side, i.e. the side with the straight legs, are shorter to reach for the back muscles than the long sides. This creates a diagonal stretch across the back, from the short side, to the long, and sometimes includes the setup leg (i.e. half bound lotus, or janu legs).

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Question - Why do the counter positions?

Due to the asymmetrical back stretches that occur, the thighs and the shoulders will become tight from only practising forward folds. One legged camel acts as a counter pose to these. One legged camel stretches the back in the opposite direction of forward folds, along with the thighs. Beginners don’t feel the back stretches because their legs are too tight. They should do the counter postures as well, because back asymmetrical stretching has occurred, but hasn’t been felt due to the overpowering sensations felt in the legs.

Question - Are all forward folds the same?

Answer: No, there are Group 1 and Group 2 forward folds. They differ in their commands. Group 1 folds have enough room to breath in and turn the chest to the leg. Group 2 forward folds require the belly to be ‘in’, this creates space for rotation of the chest towards the outer ‘short side’ leg. Group 1 commands are to Inhale: Extend the spine, lift the elbows, turn the chest to the leg, on the Exhale: Fold forward. Group 2 commands are Inhale: Extend the spine, lift the elbows, Exhale: Turn the chest towards the leg, and fold forwards. For beginners, I don’t start with the chest turns. Getting into the starting position for the fold is already very difficult for them.

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Section 3 - Grips

There are many types of grips in yoga. Generally, they follow the same pattern. Never pull back on the foot.

The Beginner Grip

The beginner grip places the hands on each side of the foot, or on both feet (in a symmetrical fold) with the thumbs on the outside. This grip ensures that both shoulders are square to the front leg. In concert with lifting the elbows, the chest can only move downwards and remain squared with forward movement of the shoulders. The thumbs are placed on the outsides of the feet to stop the student from pushing back into the spine. This way the spine can maintain a naturalised state.

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The Intermediate/Advanced Grip

This grip takes hold of the wrist. It is common in forward folds and all bound postures. It is especially useful in asymmetrical folds to increase the shortness of the straightened leg, thereby increasing the effective work taking place in the spine.

An Intermediate Grip

An Intermediate Grip

An Advanced over Grip

An Advanced over Grip

Using the Wrist Grip in a bound posture

Using the Wrist Grip in a bound posture

Using an extended Intermediate Wrist Grip

Using an extended Intermediate Wrist Grip

Toe Hold and Over Top Toe Hold

The Toe Hold is common in a lot of postures including forward folds, various leg balances and in a lot of variations. The Over Top Toe Hold is common in some forms of lotus, pigeons and various back bending postures. The big toe is nearly always held with the first two fingers.

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Section 4 - The King of Arguments

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Straight Legs Vs Bent Legs

This is probably one of the most hotly contested points in yoga. The argument has been raging for years. Each has their weaknesses and strengths.

The image above is with bent legs. I believe this is the weaker version. The reason being, that typically students will press back through their legs, and tear something. I teach a lot of Martial Artists, teaching them with this style is a very bad idea. Mentally strong people will typically press hard into the legs to stretch the hamstring and ignore the pain. The legs are very strong.

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The argument for this style is it lessens stretching on the lower back, or upper hamstring, which the muscle can’t support due to weakness. This is correct, however, PranaVashya Yoga contains a lot of strength postures, so the student will quickly become strong enough for straight leg stretches. Typically, this problem is only seen in relaxed ‘Western Style’ classes where strength postures are neglected.

The next photo is with straight legs. This is typically how a beginner will perform the pose. As long as you explain to the student not to go too hard, it shouldn’t be a problem. Just make sure they are extending the spine on the inhale, and letting the body weight carry them downwards on the exhale. Make sure that the student isn’t putting too much effort.

It’s important to remember that the student is often caught behind the hip at the start, so they won’t be able to touch their toes without arching the back anyway. This way, they have nothing to pull against (the hands aren’t touching anything) and they can’t push back into the legs against the floor. The hips will generally be angled back too. Wait until the hips come to about level before asking them to bring the hands back to the feet. I’ve found this the best method.

 
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Up-Bend - Urdhvasana

Urdhv + Asana (upward + position). In back bends, either sideways or backwards, make sure your spine is extended, and you don’t collapse back into the spine. The muscles should support your body throughout. If you feel pain, stop, or try not going too deep. You can damage your back. Always extend the spine on inhales.

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The Starting Position

Stand with the legs a couple of inches apart, keep the feet facing relatively forward. You want to be relaxed but not floppy when you enter the pose. You’ll probably find it hard to breath in the posture at first, so take a few slow breaths if you need to (only through the nose) before you start.

If you have a stiff back, you will find this posture very difficult. Remember that it can take many years for your back to reach a better state of health.

It has taken me thousands of hours to reach an intermediate practice of back-bends. Unfortunately, I played rugby as a child, for decades. This effected my spine all the way up into adulthood. Yoga will expose bad habits that you have been carrying throughout your life.

If your spine is crooked, you will also find this posture hard. Lengthening the spine can help to straighten the spine, however, it can be improbable to fix spines… Be very weary of yoga teaches making crazy claims about healing.

 
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Beginner Variation A

  1. From the previous position, Inhale: Lift the chest to the chin (you create a nice double chin). Remember, the chest lifts to the chin, not the chin to the chest.

  2. Bring the shoulders toward the spine (in the Sun Salute).

  3. As a posture (up-bend), on the Exhale: Bring the shoulders downwards (aiming to the hip eventually).

  4. As a posture, repeat the Inhale: Lift the chest, Exhale: bring the shoulders toward the hips (or mat).

The body-weight is held by the front part of the body. The gaze is forward in order to to achieve this. This helps engage the muscles of the upper front as well as the back. Tilting the head backwards supports the position at the lower back and should be avoided. Don’t hold the weight in the spine, by flopping backwards!

 
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Standing Forward Fold - Hastha Padasana

Fold Folds (Hastha Padasana), plus progression from beginner to intermediate

Instructions

  1. Start from a standing position, with the feet together (or a couple of inches gap) with the hands at the sides.

  2. Inhale: Extend the spine and raise the arms.

  3. Exhale: Fold forwards, keeping the legs straight and place the hands either side of the feet. If you can’t, just stay in the first photo with a relatively naturalized spine shape.

  4. Inhale: Open the chest and extend the torso. Exhale: Fold Forwards (if you get low enough place the palms flat on the floor, if you get super low, bend the elbows back beside the legs (facing forwards).

    Notes: Look towards the big toe. Make sure the body weight is held in the feet and the hands (if they touch). Don’t lean back too much.

 
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Leg Hold - Urdhua Prasaritha Eka Pada Uttanasana

Standing Splits - Urdhua Prasaritha Eka Pada Uttanasana

This posture is normally started from a forward fold.

  1. Place the hands either side of the front foot (if you can if not, place the hands in-front of the head).

  2. Inhale: Raise one of the legs, without consciously lifting the hips (they should remain relatively square). Look forwards.

  3. Exhale: Pressing into the ground, lift the rear leg higher (it will feel heavy).

  4. As a posture (i.e. held for 5 breaths), Inhale: Open the chest, and maintain the gaze forwards.

  5. Exhale: Lift the rear leg higher.

    Notes: This posture is done as a warm up to force the body to hold weight. It’s designed to warm up the muscles. Don’t do a full standing split. Looking forwards will force your body to bare weight.

 
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SIDE BEND LEVEL 1

Notes on breathing

Make sure you breath through your nose, not your mouth.

On each half of the breath (the Inhale and Exhale), make sure you try to follow the command (listed below). In back bends, either sideways or backwards, make sure your spine is extended, and you don’t collapse back into the spine. The muscles should support your body throughout. If you feel pain, stop, or try not going too deep. You can damage your back.

The Starting Position

Stand with the legs shoulder width apart, keep the feet facing relatively forward. You want to be relaxed but not floppy when you enter the pose. You’ll probably find it hard to breath in the posture at first, so take a few slow breaths if you need to (only through the nose) before you start.

 
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Position 2: Extending the Spine

Before back bends of any type, make sure you extend your spine. If you ever feel pain, you probably haven’t extended the spine before the posture.

Inhale through your nose. When you do this reach up with your arm and extend it as far as you can bringing the arm to the ear. Make sure that the top arm is rotated so the palm of the hand faces the side you intend to bend towards. You should feel extension across the entire side of the body as the arm that is lifted.

Keep your feet on the ground.

Don’t place any weight into the arm that rests on the hip.

 
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Position 3: Bending side-wards

Entering the side-bend

The most important aspect of this pose is to extend the side of the body with the arm on top! On the Exhale, lean side-wards without collapsing into the hip with the hand resting on it (remember don’t put much weight on the hip hand).

Holding the Posture

On each inhale, Extend the upper arm, keeping the head touching the shoulder, to save your neck. Try to extend the upper side of the body. Keep the legs straight and don’t lean forwards or back.

On the Exhale, let the body lean sideways, don’t go past 90 degrees with the shoulders, or you’ll just end up collapsing into the hip and hurting your back. Remember to keep the head touching the upper shoulder so you don’t hurt your neck. Nearly everyone does this posture with a bent upper arm and leaning either backwards or forwards… Take a photo or check in a mirror. Hold for 5 slow breaths.

 
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Hero’s Pose - The Neglected Posture

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Starting Position

This pose is setup from a kneeling position.

If you have difficulty kneeling, and feel pain in the knees, you should tell your teacher. It is common among martial artists, and professional athletes to have very tight quad muscles. If you cannot touch the hips to the ankles, but feel stretching in the quads, practice kneeling everyday for a minute or too before continuing into the following postures.

The big toes should touch at the back without over lapping. There should be 1.5 fists distance between the knees. This position should be reasonably comfortable for a few minutes. Nearly all children can do it. It is something you have neglected to practice due to the culture of seating in chairs. It will take time to relearn.

IF YOU EXPERIENCE PAIN IN THE KNEES, DON’T DO THIS OR THE FOLLOWING POSTURES

 
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Hero’s Pose Setup Stage 1

  1. Place both hands down beside either leg (about half way along the calf).

  2. Lean forward lifting the hips from the ankles.

  3. Let both ankles move outwards until they are parallel with the hips, making sure that they are not angled with outward or inward. The tops of the feet should be facing down towards the mat. Don’t rest of the sides of the ankles.

 
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Entering Hero’s Pose

  1. On the Inhale: Relax and extend the spine.

  2. On the Exhale: Gently bend the elbows and let the hips lower with gravity between the ankles. Do not push the hips towards the ground.

  3. Once the hips touch the ground, extend the spine, lower the shoulders and sit for five breaths (or an extended period if you practice it regularly ).

Special Note This posture can damage your knees if you use force! If you feel any pain in the knees please stop immediately.

 
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Hero’s Pose Back Bend Variation

  1. From Hero’s Pose, place the hands on the feet and come onto the elbows.

  2. Inhale lift the chest high into the air, looking forward, so the weight is held by the front of the body, not the spine.

  3. Place the head back on the mat.

  4. Inhale: Lift the chest.

  5. Exhale: Look towards the floor.

    *Make sure that the knees don’t lift off the ground, if they do, you need to practice more Hero’s pose first.

    *The hips should stay on the ground between the legs. The knees shouldn’t widen, which is common.

 
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Lying Down Hero’s Pose

  1. From the previous position, slide the head flat on the ground, and raise the arms over the head.

    *Make sure that the knees don’t lift off the ground, if they do, you need to practice more Hero’s pose first. The hips should stay on the ground between the legs. The knees shouldn’t widen, which is common.

 
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Pizza Pose - Beginner Forward Fold

Starting Position

  1. Sit down with both legs in-front of you.

  2. Bring one of the feet back, bending the knee and place it next to the knee of the leg that is left straight on the ground.

  3. Flex the front foot back (to 90 degrees if you can). Note: If you flex your foot back and it goes back further than 90 degrees, you are hyper-mobile. You’ll have to consciously hold the flexed foot to 90 degrees but not beyond throughout the posture.

  4. Straighten the back, but don’t arch it.

 
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Pizza Pose Setup Stage 1

  1. Split the legs apart, to about 45 degrees (like a pizza slice). If you can’t do this, just go as far as you can comfortably.

  2. Flex the front foot back to 90 degrees (following the tips from the post above).

  3. Make sure the the foot of the bent leg is still pressing into the ground.

  4. Place the arms behind the hips on the floor in preparation for Pizza Pose Beginner Variation 1.

 
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Pizza Pose Beginner Setup Stage 2

  1. Turn the chest to face the straightened leg on the floor.

  2. Come up on the fingers of the hands behind the hips and straighten the back.

Pizza Pose Beginner Variation Type A

Inhale: Extend and straighten the back Exhale: Twist, or push into the hands lightly to square with the front leg.

 
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Pizza Pose Beginner Variation Type B

  1. Keep the Foot of the bent leg pressed into the ground.

  2. Keep the shoulders squared with the front leg and place both hands on the floor with the hands flat against the mat (both should be the same length or you’re not squared with the front leg). They will be either side of the front leg.

Inhale: Extend (but do not arch) the spine with the hands on the floor. Exhale: Slide the hands forward, keeping then squared towards the front leg.

 
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Full Pizza Pose - Become the King of Pizza

  1. Take hold of the front foot, do this by taking hold of the foot from either side, with the thumbs on the outside. This will stop you pressing back into the spine, which is really common…

  2. It is very common for people to lift the bend leg foot in this posture, maintain the bend foot on the floor, by adding a little pressure to it.

Inhale: Lift the elbows high, flaring them outwards, and extend the spine looking towards the big toe. Exhale: Place the chest on the thigh, and if you can the chin on the shin bone.

Special Note Different styles of yoga place the forehead down on the leg, which is fine. We are doing it looking at the big toe, with the elbows up, so that you don’t bend your spine too much. This is a really common mistake, and doing it like this will help stop that.

 
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Hip Opening Forward Fold - Janushirshasana

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Starting Position

  1. Sit down with both legs out in-front.

  2. Bend the left leg, and place the bent leg's foot to the inner thigh of the straight leg. Make sure it is square to the hip.

  3. Keep both seating points on the ground. Pull the hip of the straight leg back to square the hip. Flex the front foot back to about 90 degrees.

If you have difficulty squaring up everything, or getting the hip opening leg to the floor don’t worry. Just try and sit in a position that reasonably resembles this, or do Pizza Pose. Half of the battle is reaching the starting point as a beginner.

 
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Beginner Variation Type A

Some students are very stiff as beginners. They should attempt this posture first.

  1. From the starting position, place the hands behind the back.

  2. Come on to the fingers of the hands.

  3. Inhale: Extend the spine.

  4. Exhale: Lean forwards lightly.

Pay special attention to keeping the chest squared with the front foot. Remember to flex the front foot back. Let the bent leg move with gravity towards the ground. Often beginners will hold up the bent leg with muscle power and get tired… Just let it fall naturally. Look towards the big toe, it maybe easier to look forwards too.

 
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With Inhale Spinal Extension

With Inhale Spinal Extension

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With Exhale Compression

With Exhale Compression

Beginner Variation Type B

  1. From the previous position, place both hands on the floor.

  2. Inhale: Extend the spine, and keep the hands relatively still.

  3. Exhale: Slide the hands forwards.

Remember to keep the hands square with the front leg. The shoulders and chest should remain square to the front leg. Flex the foot back, look at the big toe.

The breath is extremely important in forward folds.

Remember to only put in “effort”, i.e. body-weight on the exhale, and allow the spine to decompress, and extend on the inhale.

Look towards the big toe once you can get the hands down. Read the Forward Fold Questions if you haven’t already and are confused.

 
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Intermediate Grip Variation

  1. From the previous posture, take hold of either side of the foot with the hands.

  2. Inhale: Lift the elbows, extend the spine, and look towards the big toe. Turn the chest towards the straight leg (the right shoulder will be slightly higher with this grip).

  3. Exhale: Fold forwards keeping the foot foot flexed back to 90 degrees.

Questions?

Why lift the elbow and look towards the foot?

Why flex the foot back?

Why turn the chest to the leg?

 

Advanced Grip Variations

The short side arm grips the long side wrist. The short side is the bottom, straight leg. Be careful advancing further than the advanced grip. The photo on the right, is at the limit of my muscles, just before the ligament. Most people can reach the advanced grip without hitting the joints, however, beyond it becomes up-to the yogi to judge correctly. The advanced grip allows the shoulders to come forward, and increases the chests turn to the leg. The long side shoulder will be visibly higher than the short. The eye line remains at the big toes. Advanced practitioners of other styles of yoga reach these positions with the head down. It doesn’t make a difference if the spine is in a naturalised state.

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Half Split - Trianga Mukhaika Pashimottanasana

YOU MUST BE ABLE TO DO HERO’S POSE FIRST!

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Starting Position

  1. Sit down with both legs out in-front.

  2. Bend the left leg, and place the bent leg's foot back to come to a similar position as in hero’s pose. The calf should be parallel to the straight leg.

  3. Keep both seating points on the ground. Pull the hip of the straight leg back to square the hip. Flex the front foot back to about 90 degrees.

Be very careful not to hurt your knees! Many beginners will become twisted up in this posture. Try to keep everything reasonably squared. Try and keep the spine in an extended state. Traditionally the arms are raised, but just copy the photo for now.

 
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Beginner Variation Type A

  1. From the previous position, place both hands on the floor.

  2. Inhale: Extend the spine, and keep the hands relatively still.

  3. Exhale: Slide the hands forwards.

Remember to keep the hands square with the front leg. The shoulders and chest should remain square to the front leg. Flex the foot back, look at the big toe. Remember to only put in “effort”, i.e. body-weight on the exhale, and allow the spine to decompress, and extend on the inhale. Look towards the big toe. Read the Forward Fold Questions if you haven’t already and are confused.

 
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Intermediate Grip Variation

  1. From the previous posture, take hold of either side of the foot with the hands.

  2. Inhale: Lift the elbows, extend the spine, and look towards the big toe. Turn the chest towards the straight leg (the right shoulder will be slightly higher with this grip).

  3. Exhale: Fold forwards keeping the foot foot flexed back to 90 degrees.

Questions?

Why lift the elbow and look towards the foot?

Why flex the foot back?

 
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Advanced Grip Variations

The short side arm grips the long side wrist. The short side is the bottom, straight leg. Be careful advancing further than the advanced grip. You can stretch your joints (not advisable) if you keep stretching past this point. Most people can reach the advanced grip without hitting the joints, however, beyond this point the amount of muscle left before stretching the joint changes depending on the person. The advanced grip allows the shoulders to come forward, and increases the chests turn to the leg. The long side shoulder will be visibly higher than the short. The eye line remains at the big toes. In the photo you can see a very large tilt on the shoulders, this is a desired part of the advanced forward fold. Advanced practitioners of other styles of yoga reach these positions with the head down. It doesn’t make a difference if the spine is in a naturalised state.

Why turn the chest to the leg?

 
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One Legged Camel - Ekapada Ushtrasana

Forward Fold Counter Pose - Group 1 Forward Folds

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Starting Position

  1. Come to stand on the right knee.

  2. Open the front leg out at an angle to make the posture easier.

  3. Make sure that the rear leg is not too far back, the leg should be at around a 90 degree angle, or aligned with the spine.

  4. Straighten the back.

  5. Traditionally, the arms move forwards, but with beginners, I just get them to place the hands on hips first.

 
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Beginner Variation Type A

  1. From the previous position, place both hands on the lower back.

  2. Inhale: lift the chest upwards to the ceiling, keeping your gaze forwards.

  3. Exhale: Try to keep the shoulders level.

Remember to keep the weight on the rear leg. You will probably feel stretching in your quad. Don’t fall backwards, the front leg shouldn’t go back past 90 degrees. It will probably be hard to breath as a beginner, it becomes easier with time. Make sure you actually lift your chest as high as possible! This will expand the spine, and stop you from collapsing backwards into the vertebrae.

 
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Beginner Variation Type B

  1. From the previous position, place the same hand as the rear leg onto the rear foot with the spine still extended and arched. Don’t let the bottom leg come back past 90 degrees when doing this. If you can’t perform Variation A.

  2. Lift the chest upwards to the ceiling and bring the gaze back, lowering the neck gently.

  3. Inhale: Lift the chest to the ceiling.

  4. Exhale: Try to square both shoulders with each other.

Remember to keep the weight on the rear leg. You will probably feel stretching in your quad. Don’t fall backwards, the front leg shouldn’t go back past 90 degrees.

 
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Intermediate Variation

  1. From the previous position lower the open shoulder (not touching the foot) to the ground, directly under the shoulder.

  2. Inhale: Lift the chest to the ceiling.

  3. Exhale: Try to bring the shoulders back, as they rotate forwards, and rotate the hip of the bent leg forwards to level the hips. This is quite difficult.

The lift on the inhale takes place from the lower back, bottom leg hip side too. Remember to keep the weight on the rear leg. Don’t fall backwards, the front leg shouldn’t go back past 90 degrees.

 
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