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Yoga Poses

5 Uncommon Yoga Poses

Let’s face it, a lot of what we do with our bodies on the mat looks a bit ridiculous. It’s healthy to take a step back from time to time, lighten the mood, and note the absurdity of it all.

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kino macgreggor advanced yoga pose

While yoga can be quite the serious spiritual endeavor (the quest for self-realization being nothing to scoff at), there’s no denying the fact that a lot of what we do with our bodies on the mat looks a little incredulous—especially to those on the outside looking in.

One of the pitfalls of being a yogi is that we’re constantly surrounded by (and, dare I say, comparing ourselves to) other yogis. All of a sudden, being able to do things like wrap your legs around your head seems normal. The majority of folks would love to be able to touch their toes, let alone hang out in the splits, and admire you for even having the courage to step onto the mat. Allow that realization to sink in.

Then stop taking your practice so seriously. Believe me, I know how easy it is to become frustrated and quick to judge yourself on the mat. I’m constantly telling my students to tell themselves “something nice” and reminding them that no one is a better, happier person because they can stand on their hands. That’s what yoga’s about after all; becoming a clearer, more compassionate, connected human being.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with going after advanced poses; it creates tapas (heat), inspires commitment, and generates transformation. However, developing tunnel vision on those endeavors usually results in missing the bigger picture. The world at large couldn’t care less whether or not you can touch your toes to your head. Yoga practice is about so much more than the poses themselves. When all else fails, though, it’s healthy to take a step back and keep it all in perspective.

5 Uncommon Yoga Poses

Super Soldier Pose

super soldier pose

Forward fold, lift a leg, bend a knee, reach under and grab a foot where? Super Soldier is as complicated as it looks. Aside from requiring incredibly open hamstrings, thighs, shoulders and side bodies, this pose asks you to balance on one foot while hanging upside down and grabbing the other foot above your butt. For most, the pose never feels as graceful as it sometimes looks on social media.

If you want to try it…

If you’re interested in figuring it out, spend time warming up with Standing Splits, thigh stretches, and shoulder openers, as well as binds. Then grab a yoga friend or teacher to walk you through the steps in person.

Knee-to-Ear Pose

Knee-to-Ear Pose, Karnapidasana

Karnapidasana

This inversion is an evolution from Halasana (Plow Pose), deepening the stretch along the spine. While doing Karnapidasana can be quite calming, the pose can feel totally awkward. Aside from having your sitting bones pointed directly skyward for all of the world to see, having your ears boxed in by your knees and chin locked into chest can feel slightly claustrophobic. However, if you can breathe into the pose, it’s an incredible stretch for your entire back body.

If you want to try it…

Full Karnapidasana requires a decent amount of shoulder, hip, back, and hamstring flexibility. For some, Child’s Pose is a great place to start, opening the hips, rounding the spine and bringing the crown of the head down, while others will need more seated forward folds to open the hamstrings. Next practice getting your shoulder blades on your upper back in Bridge Pose to prepare for Shoulderstand and Plow Pose, both of which should be learned under the guidance of a teacher.

Once you’re comfortable in Plow Pose, you can begin to slowly lower your knees to the floor alongside your ears. If your knees don’t come all the way down to the floor, keep your hands on your low back for support. Only extend the arms when the tops of your feet and knees are both on the floor.

Embryo Pose

Embryo Pose Garbha Pindasana

Garbha Pindasana

The name Garbha Pindasana means “embryo in the womb” (garbha = womb, pinda = embryo). Teachers, this is a great tension breaker when a class begins to take the pursuit of Lotus Pose a little too seriously.

If you want to try it…

Mostly dependent on your ability to do Lotus Pose, this variation follows the hand balance Kukkutasana, which requires sticking your arms through the tiny space behind each bent knee. If you’re able to do that, turn your palms up and begin to bend your elbows as you lean back to balance on your sitting bones. Final touch: Bend your elbows and figure out how to grab your ears.

If you want to try Garbha Pindasana but Lotus Pose isn’t available to you, simply cross at the shins in Sukhasana (Easy Pose) and lean back to balance on your sitting bones, lifting your knees up. Rather than grabbing your ear, reach your arms around your knees and potentially clasp hands.

Yogi Staff Pose

kino, Yogi Staff Pose Yogadandasana

Yogadandasana

Yogadanda means “the staff of a yogi.” Generally speaking, there are a flexible few who can get their knee to the floor outside their hip and foot to the back of their upper arm to come into Yogadandasana. Fortunately, there are many stages, a few variations and other, more accessible prep poses for this advanced asana.

If you want to try it…

Please note: I first tried this pose in a two-hour hip-opening workshop, and it really should not to be attempted cold. Be sure to warm your hips up well. A sequence leading up to Yogadandasana should probably include a few Humble Warrior Poses, a series of Lizard Pose stretches, as well as a Pigeon Pose or two. If you really want to work on opening your external hip rotators for Yogadandasana, try working Half Happy Baby on your back. With the bottom of the lifted foot pointed at the ceiling, practice pulling the lifted knee down toward the floor alongside your outer ribs.

The Exorcist

kathrynbudig, exorcist

Dubbed “the Exorcist” by Kathryn Budig, this pose is a variation on Kala Bhairavasana (Pose Dedicated to Shiva the Destroyer) and a natural progression from Compass Pose.

If you happen to have the hip, hamstring and shoulder flexibility to get into Compass Pose, you then need to have the hamstring strength to keep your top leg straight without the use of your hands, while pressing up into a Reverse Tabletop position.

If you want to try it…

It’s important to both engage and open your hamstrings well with a skillful sequence including poses like Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose, Chair, and Bound Triangle. This pose requires equal parts (and exceptional amounts) of strength and flexibility.

 

About Meagan McCrary

Meagan McCrary is a 500 E-RYT and writer with a passion for helping people find more comfort, clarity, compassion, and joy on the mat and in life. She’s the author of Pick Your Yoga Practice: Exploring and Understanding Different Styles of Yoga, an encyclopedia of modern yoga systems. You can find her teaching and retreat schedule, along with her latest offerings at MeaganMcCrary.com, as well as on Facebook Twitter and Instagram.