Will I Be Able To Do Those Pretzel Poses Someday?
Many people start yoga thinking the goal is to be able to one day do those bendy poses you see on Instagram and at the back of the yoga books. Well, whether you can is not the point of yoga. Yoga is about gaining and improving our holistic health in its widest sense. So, just showing up on the mat regularly, consciously connecting with your breath as you move in and out of the poses and staying aware of your limitations in strength and flexibility will bring about amazing changes: benefits to body, mind and soul that you may not have known were even possible. Be clear about why you are doing yoga. Is it to get well and stay healthy – or seeing it unconsciously as an apprenticeship to the Cirque du Soleil?
7. Headstand and Shoulderstand
Are Headstand and Shoulderstand Really The “King and Queen” of Poses?
The “father” of modern postural yoga, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, made a big deal of these two poses, coining them, King and Queen of Poses, to emphasise their importance in his mind. His brother-in-law and world-famous yoga guru, BKS Iyengar, carried on that belief in his teachings across the globe. Whether these poses offer as much benefit as those iconic figures claimed is now being questioned by many movement scientists. Along with Lotus Pose, the Headstand and Shoulderstand are now seen as a potential source of injury rather than benefit, if not taught correctly And maybe they should not be taught at all for some! Shoulderstand places a lot of pressure the head as it is flexed forward towards the chest while the body weight is borne on the shoulders. Headstand places the weight of the whole body on the crown of the head if the pose is done “correctly.” Some expert yogis have done these poses for decades without a problem, but this does not mean they are safe for the contemporary drop-in class.
8. Which Poses?
What Are The Most Important Poses To Do?
We all have busy lives and may not have time or expertise to know which are the most beneficial poses for a home practice. We, at the Alberta Yoga College, would recommend beginning a class with poses recommended by Prof. Stuart McGill, world’s leading expert in back disorders. This includes Cat Cow Pose, which warms the spine without placing it under load. Traditional Sun Salutations may not always be a good idea, especially early in the day, as they involve deep forward bends and significant repetitive loading of the shoulder joints that can lead to injury. We might follow with Bird Dog Pose to build awareness of back stability while exercising the arms and legs. Then Plank and Side Plank are great for building strong backs and preventing back injury. Perhaps follow with Standing Poses. And don’t forget a cool down with Savasana.
9. Taking it Further
Who Has the Best Instructional Videos on Yoga?
There are hundreds, if not thousands of videos on yoga. We like ones with a strong basis in science, functional movement and biomechanics. Try anything by Yoga Teachers Jenni Rawlings, Jules Mitchell, Julie Gudmestad, Dr. Ray Long and Dr. Loren Fishman. Also try any of the many instructional videos on www.yogauonline.com. Let us know if you have any of your favorites to add to this list.
Is Savasana, or Corpse Pose, really that important?
Interestingly, the one thing almost every major style of yoga includes is Savasana, or Corpse Pose, 5-10 minutes of deep lying relaxation at the end of each class. But with today’s action packed, intense lifestyles, many students fail to appreciate the rich benefits of Savasana and leave for this important part of the class. Some feel anxious or fidgety with an unfamiliar slow-down in their fast-paced routine. Ironically, this is the most important moment for those people to understand that we are human beings, not human doings! A part of yoga that has emerged from the annals of yoga history, Savasana is now strongly supported by science. Andrew Huberman, neuroscientist from Stanford University, popular on podcasts and Instagram, advocates these periods of deep waking rest after intense learning. This is now a proven benefit for optimum learning retention and for mental health.