Yoga has always been a physical manifestation of my internal emotional dialogue. I jumped on the emotional roller coaster ride this week and watched my practice alter with it. My yoga schedule went a bit like this:
Day one: All good. Nothing pressuring me, body working well, smile on my face. Practice was controlled, open, and lovely.
Day two: Saw something right before I entered the asana room that made my blood boil. Immediately asked the teacher for a detox/release class. Found myself adding Chaturangas and nailing handstands and any other hard variation I could muster. I was a bit out of control, but strong as all get-go. Kinda like a yoga-banchee let out of hell.
Day three: Indulged in a few too many adult beverages the night before and nestled myself into the back corner of the room hoping to detox my system. One hour of asana felt like an entire lifetime. Child’s Pose and slow breath became my best friends. So did my pillow and the water jar as soon as I left class.
Day four: Resolved long term issues that allowed me to take a much needed exhale. Practice was strong but not perfect, yet I found myself enjoying both my accomplishments and hiccups. Everything felt right because everything was exactly as it should be. I felt trust–in myself and in spirit’s roadmap for me.
Sound familiar at all? Do you find your practice altering with your whim and moods? It’s an interesting study and the moral of the story–yoga is always there. It will take you when you’re strong, it will take you when you’re weak. It doesn’t care if you’ve had wheatgrass or tequilla. It won’t mind if you sit a few poses out and catch up on breath. It doesn’t judge. It allows you to be yourself. All good, bad, and ugly of it.
I chose Vashistasana B because it is one of the most expressive and beautiful postures out there. It epitomizes carefree joy. No inhibitions, no agenda, just a huge burst of internal bliss and trust in yourself and all that surrounds you.
That being said, venture forward into this pose from your heart. Bundle up your joy and let it shine through in this gorgeous side plank variation. If you fall into my day 2 or 3 category, just remember that nothing is permanent, this too shall pass, and yoga will be there through thick and thin.
Strike a pose!
Start in Plank Pose–shoulders over wrists, fingers spread, evenly rooting every single knuckle down. Step the feet together and bring the right hand to the center of the mat. Roll onto the pinky edge of the right foot stacking the left foot directly on top of the right. Keep the feet flexed. Extend the left arm up towards the ceiling stacking the left shoulder over the right. Draw the bottom tip of the right shoulder blade down the back to free the neck. Lift the frontal hip points towards the heart and elongate the tailbone towards the heels. Stack the left hip above the right. If the balance is tricky keep the gaze down. Challenge yourself by taking the gaze sideways or up towards the fingertips. Take 8 breaths. Return to Plank and either go directly into the second side or rest in Child’s Pose.
Add a little something extra. . .
The next step is learning how to externally rotate the top hip to prepare for full extension! Repeat step one coming into full Side Plank. Keeping the gaze sideways or down for balance, lift the top leg off the lower and bend the knee. Take your top hand to the big toe edge of the foot and grab the ankle helping the foot up above the kneecap onto the inner thigh. The sole of the foot will land as far up as it will comfortably go keeping the toes pointing straight down the leg. Push the lower leg inner thigh into the sole of the foot as you lift the lower hip towards the ceiling. Also work on pushing the entire sole of the bottom foot down into the ground (see picture). The combination of these actions will fire the oblique muscles needed to get that extra za-za-zing in the final pose!
What would Burt do. . .
Anantasana, or as I jokingly refer to it, Burt Reynolds-asana (if you don’t get the joke google Burt Reynolds centerfold. Oh mama.) is a great posture to engage the obliques and prepare for external rotation. Lie flat on your belly. Roll over to your right side and prop the head up with the right hand, bearin
g the weight on the elbow. You want to be in a completely straight line, so if you struggle with this you can line your heel, knee, hip, shoulder, and elbow up with the back edge of your mat. Bend the top leg and place the sole of the foot in front of the bottom inner thigh so that the toes point directly towards the other foot. Take the top hand and place it on the inner thigh of the top leg pressing back to encourage more rotation of the hip. Lengthen the tailbone towards the heel and lift the frontal hip points to connect to the core strength.
Grab the mound of your big toe with your top hand and begin to straighten the leg up towards the ceiling. Let straighten be an operative word. Work your leg towards straight or until you feel a decent amount of sensation. Flex the bottom foot engaging the entire length of the leg. This will act as your anchor. Now, it’s OK if you start to wobble like a fish out of water; this is very common. That’s your side muscles trying to engage to keep you balanced. Continue to anchor your bottom leg to aid in the lift of the top. Take deep Ujjayi breaths and hold for up to a minute.
Time to combine your anchor, side core, and extension! Repeat step one coming into Vashistasana (Side Plank). Keep your gaze lower for balance and bend the top leg grabbing the mound of the big toe with the top index, middle finger, and thumb. Slowly extend the foot up towards the ceiling working towards straight. As the top leg grows taller, anchor the bottom leg deeper–press the bottom sole of the foot down towards or into the mat if possible. This action engages the lower glute and oblique to lift the hips and elevate the top leg. Root into the heel of the bottom hand as the tip of the lower shoulder blade glides down the back. Slowly rotate the neck to look up at the top foot and hand. Try a smile or a huge exhale of relief and freedom! Take 5 breaths and release back into Side Plank. From Side Plank come into Plank. Take a vinyasa and drop into Child’s Pose.
Kathryn Budig is a yoga teacher, writer, philanthropist, Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, MindBodyGreen + Yoga Journal blogger, foodie, and lover of her dog. Follower her on Twitter and Facebook or on her website.