Friday, July 22, 2011

Bowing To The Pyramid

In some of my yoga classes this week, I have focused on hamstring stretching. There are some great yoga poses that help with lengthening the legs and experiencing greater flexibility. One such pose is called Pyramid Pose (or Parsvottanasana in Sanskrit). It offers a variety of benefits and a great pose to do for a home practice with an intention.

Pyramid Pose
Because this is an intense hamstring stretch while practicing this posture, it is also about balance, focus, lengthening, extension, and honoring.

Start by standing in Mountain Pose with your hands at your heart. Close your eyes. Take time to set your intention. If you've been feeling a little off balance lately, or need more direction, focus, and concentration in your life right now, this is a great pose for you. Further, if you've been lacking some self-confidence or have not given yourself proper attention and care lately, this pose will also help to honor yourself.

Inhale and extend your arms over head. Exhale into a forward fold. (Feel free to bend your knees as much as you need to so you can touch the floor or your toes.) Inhale to extend the spine, lifting up halfway (Monkey Pose), then exhale to lower back down. From here, lift your left foot and place it directly behind your right foot (about 1 1/2 feet behind the other). Have all ten toes pointing directly forward. It will feel and appear as if you're standing on a painted line on the floor. (If this is too challenging to maintain your balance, simply step the foot out slightly.) Root back into your heels (try lifting your toes.) You legs are completely straight.

Lift to extend your spine, as if moving into Monkey Pose, and hold this position. Feel free to keep your fingertips on the floor. If you cannot reach the floor, then use a block or two underneath your hands to help maintain this posture. If you can hold your balance here, reach your arms directly behind you. They will be parallel to the floor. Engage your core (abdominal muscles) by exhaling and drawing your navel into your spine. This will help you with the balancing portion of pose. Feel as if you have a pair of hands holding onto your hips that are gently pulling you back. This will help to square out the hips. As you feel the imaginary tug on your hips, resist the pull by continuing to extend your spine forward. Here, you will feel an dynamic stretch in your hamstrings. You can even use your own hands on your hips to create that light tug. Further, this is a balancing pose, so take care to focus on your breathing in order to bring full awareness and concentration to your practice. This is one variation of Pyramid Pose.

To go deeper into this pose, place your hands on the floor on either side of your front foot. (Use blocks if needed.) Fully extend through the spine with an inhale, then, as you exhale, draw your heart closer to your extended leg. This may heighten the sensation of the lengthened hamstring. Also, you are practicing an honoring to self since you are literally bowing downward. As you hold this pose (for 5-10 breaths) be sure to acknowledge your strengths, talents, and traits.

Release out of the pose by extending the arms forward lifting up with an inhale. Exhale, and step forward, bringing your feet together to Mountain Pose, then bring your hands to heart center. Repeat the sequence to do the other leg.

If the outer portions of your legs, particularly down by your shins and calves, get tight, this pose helps to stretch this portion of the leg. This pose also helps strengthen your back and tones your abdominal muscles. Experience the well-rounded benefits of this pose and any yoga pose. There are certainly physical benefits, but also remember the very important emotional and mental benefits.


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