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Set an intention Sit in Virasana (Hero Pose) and become clear about your intention. This is a challenging practice, but resolve to be more interested in learning about yourself than in "getting" the pose. Keep a playful nature in mind and enjoy yourself.

to finish

Unfold Practice Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) and a few simple backbends to balance the spine. Lie in Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose) to soften the groin and abdomen. Then stretch your legs into Savasana (Corpse Pose).

Arm balances require more than Popeye's strength. Just ask senior Iyengar teacher John Schumacher. "Hardly anyone can muscle their way into arm balances," he says. Schumacher describes some of his students as men who are strong enough to do 100 Sun Salutations but who can't do an arm balance because they lack the flexibility to get their arms and legs into position. He also teaches a lot of flexible people who need to develop more strength. Schumacher came up with the sequence on the following pages to help you increase both strength and flexibility.

The sequence will definitely work your abdominal muscles and build core strength, even in your spinal muscles. Once you've toned your core, you'll put it to the test in the arm balances. You'll need to use your strength and flexibility for a key action you'll do in the last four poses: tucking your abdominals up and in toward your spine. Yoga students are often instructed to lengthen the spine, but here Schumacher wants you to move your sacrum away from your lumbar spine and "tuck" inward as you round or curl. Visualize wrapping yourself around a beachball, he advises.

Even when practicing taxing poses, Schumacher encourages having a playful, adventurous attitude. "Kids will try to stand on their heads, laugh, and have fun—not get mad—and try again," he says. Infuse your practice with this spirit of playfulness and realize that you might not get a pose right away. "But try to learn about yourself as you play," Schumacher says. "See if you can maintain equanimity as you discover what your response is to a difficult situation." DiANE ANDERSON

home practice with John Schumacher

1 Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Stand with the inner edges of your feet touching each other. Spread the balls of your feet, press your heels firmly into the floor, and lengthen your inner ankles upward. Draw your tailbone down and forward into the pelvis and move your groins back. Reach toward the floor with your arms. Stay for 1 minute.

2 Utkatasana (Chair Pose)

From Tadasana, lift your arms overhead. Bend your knees so your thighs are as nearly parallel to the floor as possible. Keep your heels heavy and continue to move your tailbone down and forward. Lift your abdomen and chest away from the inner groins and reach up through your arms. Stay for 30 seconds to a minute.

3 Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Leg Lifts)

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Stretch your arms overhead and place the backs of your hands on the floor. Raise your knees to your chest and stretch your legs up perpendicular to the ceiling (90 degrees). Press the sides of your waist toward the floor. Lower your legs halfway to the floor (45 degrees) while moving your tailbone away from your lower back and pressing your low back into the floor. Hold for 3 breaths then raise your legs back to 90 degrees. Keep the sides of the waist down to avoid back strain. Repeat 3 to 10 times. As you get stronger, you can lower the legs from 45 degrees all the way to just above the floor.

4 Jathara Parivartanasana

(Revolved Abdomen Pose)

Lying on your back, stretch your arms out to your sides with your palms up. Bend your knees and lift them to your chest. Keep both shoulder blades on the floor and your knees

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