Strike a Pose
A few stances for beginners and beyond
Begin standing with your legs straight out in front, knees straight but not locked. and hands resting on upper thighs. With a deep breath, reach straight up over your head. As you exhale, bend forward as far as you can comfortably, placing the hands on the feet, ankles, or floor. Keep the spine and neck as straight as possible. With each exhale, relax deeper into the stretch, bringing the chest closer to the legs. Hold at least 15 seconds, gradually increasing to two minutes.
Begin lying face down on the mat, arms to the sides. Bend arms and place hands flat on the floor next to the shoulders with elbows elevated. Take a deep breath as you push your torso off the mat, keeping the pelvis on the ground, elbows up and stretching the spine. Bring the head back as far as possible and hold 15 to 30 seconds.
DOWNWARD FACING DOG
Begin on your elbows and knees, with knees and arms shoulder-width apart and hands flat on the floor. Inhale, then and as you exhale, push up onto the hands and feet until your legs and arms are straight, making the buttocks the highest point, with your head in line with your arms. Hold up to three minutes.
Begin sitting with legs straight out in front of you. Lift one foot and place it on the floor on the opposite side of the other leg. Inhale, raise the same arm as the leg that is bent, and twist, placing the palm flat on the floor behind you, fingers pointing backwards. Try to keep both buttocks on the floor. With the other hand, grab the elevated knee and gently pull it towards your body, training your eyes on a point behind you. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Breath should be shallow but steady. Repeat on other side. Be careful: This pose is suitable for most beginners, but don’t force your body into it.
Begin standing with feet together. With a deep breath, bring your arms up beside your head, palms facing ears. Exhale and bend your knees, bringing arms straight out in front, palms facing down. Hold for as long as comfortable, up to one minute. Don’t forget to breathe!
Begin sitting Indian-style. Lift one leg up behind the same-side shoulder, and place foot behind your neck. Repeat with the other leg, flexing the feet so your ankles are crossed and stable. Place both hands on the floor, palms down, in front of the outside of your hips. Push up onto your hands and lift your spine to the sky until your body is parallel to the floor. Lock arms then slowly bend them, bringing your body to the floor until your forehead touches the floor without heels touching the ground. Wrap your hands around your back and clasp them together.
Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart, hands chest-level in prayer position. Lift your arms, keeping hands in prayer position. Take a deep breath in, push your hips forward and slowly bend your body backward, (to protect the lower spine, keep legs locked and butt contracted). Once fingertips barely touch the floor, grab one ankle and then the other and push your stomach toward the sky.
Lie on your stomach, arms straight out in front. Bring arms out into the shape of a “V.” Do the same “V” shape with your legs, toes pointed. Contract your thighs and butt, take a deep breath in and bring your upper body up off the floor, bringing the arms behind you so they are over your legs. Try to keep your hips on the floor, so that you are creating more of a backbend in the spine. Make sure your legs stay on the floor, keep contracting. Bring your hands down and grab the outside of your knees, and then bend your legs and bring your feet to your face.
Stand with feet side-by-side, bend forward and place hands shoulder-width apart on the ground. Lift one leg and push with your standing leg up into a handstand with legs side-by-side, toes pointed up. Bring your feet forward and slowly bring your head up, bending your spine into a backbend. When feet are past your head, bend knees and bring feet to your head.
Begin sitting on knees with elbows on the floor (a bit closer than shoulder-width), clasping fingers with palms open toward your body. Bend forward and place the top of your head on the floor, palms on the back of your head, supporting your head with your fingers. Bring your butt up, straighten legs and walk feet as close to your body as possible. Then, squeeze your butt and legs, contracting stomach and lifting legs up together, toes pointed, until feet and legs are over your head (because of risk of neck injury). Unlace fingers and place both hands on the floor next to your head, palms down, fingers spread. Slowly lift your head and simultaneously bring the feet forward past your head, keeping your legs straight.
• When practicing yoga, breathe in and out of your nose, no mouth-breathing. This way, you can keep your body and mind calm and focused, as well as keep your heart rate regulated.
• The way you get out of all these poses is by doing the exact OPPOSITE of what you did to get into them; no more, no less. This way, you slowly take your body out of what you just put it into, helping to avoid injury or misalignment in the body.
• To avoid serious injury, do not attempt advanced poses unless you are an experienced yoga practitioner. And NEVER go into advanced poses without properly warming up. It is highly recommended that you attempt advanced poses only under the instruction of a certified yoga teacher.
Andrea Pettit has been practicing Bikram yoga for three years. A former gymnast and cheerleader, she credits muscle memory with enabling her to become highly advanced in the practice so quickly. On Jan. 6, she competed and won Second Place at the Florida Regional USA Yoga Asana Championship. On March 2 and 3, she competes in the National USA Yoga Asana Championship in New York City.