Terre Pruitt's Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Mountain pose’

Upward Salute

Posted by terrepruitt on November 21, 2013

As with all workouts, it is important to warm up before beginning.  In a Nia class our warm up is one or two songs.  When I was young and was first learning to exercise the way to warm up was to perform a series of static stretches.  Science has proved that static stretching can actually increase relaxation and in a sense put your muscles to sleep.  Research has now shown that the best type of warm up is to actually prepare your body for the activity it is about to do.  So moving in a slower and more gentle way that you will be moving in the activity you are preparing for is a great way to actually warm up the muscles.  Walking and/or a slow jog is always a great way to warm up the entire body — depending upon the planned workout.  For a yoga practice a warmup could include moving the muscles that you will be using as you do the sequence of poses in your practice for the day.  It is important to warm up the muscles before you put them into a full on stretch or expect them to hold you in a pose.  A warmed muscle moves more easily and can stretch better than a “cold” muscle.  In the beginning of our classes we often do an Upward Salute.  I think it is a great way to start the warming up process.

The Upward Salute is sometimes called Extended Mountain Pose / Mountain Pose with Upward Stretch / Mountain Pose with Arms Overhead.  The basis of the pose is the Mountain Pose.  To do this pose first position your body in the mountain pose.

Summary of Mountain Pose: Toes touch and feet are parallel sense a stable base.  Distribute the weight over the entire foot – both feet.  Your legs are active and rooting you to the earth.  The abdominals are engaged.  The crown of your head is reaching up creating a long spine.  Your muscles are active.  Once you are comfortable in the Mountain Pose (for more details about the pose click here) turn your palms out and raise your arms up in a sweeping motion.  Allow your arms to reach over the top of your head.  Your palms come together.  You gently look up.

If it is not comfortable to look up then keep your gaze forward.  If it is not comfortable for you to bring your palms together then keep them apart, but facing each other.  No matter if you are looking up or your palms are touching your shoulders are down. There is space between your shoulders and your ears.  You have the idea of your shoulder blades sliding down into your back pockets.  Allow the energy to flow down your arms, through your shoulders, through your back and your spine.  Let it travel through your legs.  Enjoy this nice stretch.  Let it warm your entire body.

Staying here in this pose is a great warm up.  If you would like more of a stretch and warm up for the back allow yourself to bend backwards.  With this pose as a warm up the backbend is not deep.  Your shoulders remain back and down even though you move your head tilts back while your gaze is up.  Remain in this pose for a few breaths.  Then move into Mountain and repeat several times.

Now, I am aware that many people have back issues either with their actually back bone, or their spinal cord, or the nerves, so these poses are to be done with the utmost caution.  Keep in mind your OWN back situation and do only what is good for your own body.  It could be that your body gets the stretch it needs by just standing in Mountain Pose with your arms raised and your gaze looking slightly up . . . that is fine.  If that is a stretch for your back, then stay there and enjoy it.  Yoga is not about competing.  It is about doing what your body can do.  Then as you do what your body can do there is a possibility that it will be able to do more.  But there is no rush.  Yoga is a practice.  Enjoy the journey.  This is a wonderful pose to stretch and warm up the body.  And, of course it can also be done at the end of the session in the cool down when getting ready for Savasana.

Do you practice this gentle backbend?

Some Benefits Of Doing Back Bends

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Sun Salutation – My Way

Posted by terrepruitt on May 4, 2013

The Sun Salutation is a sequence of asanas.  I have not yet included it in any of my Nia classes, but I am thinking about doing so.  In general modern day usage “asana” is what people call a yoga pose.  So the Sun Salutation is a sequence of yoga poses.  Now, if you look up Sun Salutation on the internet you will find a lot of variations.  There are certain asanas that you will consistently find in all of them, but then not all of the Sun Salutations will include the same EXACT ones.  I’ve seen anywhere from 9 to 13 poses in a single salutation.  Since yoga is considered a practice associated with religion, a meditation, a prayer, a movement form, and/or a straight out exercise it makes sense that there are so many difference ways to do the Sun Salutation.  If you are chosing to do the movement as a form of worship it might have different movements than if you are doing it to get a specific physical benefit.  Most of the instructions on how to do it agree that the movements are based on breath.  Inhale here, exhale there.  I have decided on a combination of what I have been trained with, what I have practiced in classes, what I practice at home, several applications, and things I have learned along the way.  I have decided on thirteen movements.  I move using the right leg through 11 asanas, then through them again using the left leg.  Two of the poses making the sequence 13 are only used only in very beginning and the end.

I start in Anjali mudra then go to the
Mountain Pose, then arms move out and up into an
Upward Salute, then I swan dive into a
Forward Bend, up into a
Standing Half Forward Bend, then I place the left leg back into a
lunge then the right leg back into a
plank then I move down onto knees into
knees, chest, chin/Ashtanga Namaskara or chaturanga up into
cobra, then I push back into
downward dog, I stay here longer than any other pose.  I breath.  Then I bring my right leg forward, so I am in a
lunge, then I bring my left leg forward then I
forward bend, then I come up a little into
Standing Half Forward Bend then lift my arms out and up as I rise into an
Upward Salute which I consider the start of the right sun salutation.  I go through the sequences again this time place my right leg back into the lunge.  When it is time to lunge again, I bring my left leg forward.

I find that as I move through the salutation, I like to change my Upward Salutes into more of a little back bend.  Only bending back as I warm up and it feels good.

Since this is my Sun Salutation, and I am not worshiping the sun . . . in fact I don’t even think of the sun at all, I just do it my way.  I do it in the way I feel like doing it that day.  Sometimes I time it with my breath inhaling on this move and exhaling on that move, sometimes I stay in each pose longer and while I am aware of my breath my movements are not dictated by it.  I do somewhat feel that is WAAAAAY contrary to the way it is “supposed” to be done, but then again it is MY movement.  It is MY practice.  It is MY meditation.  So I do it the way MY body feels like doing it that day.  I don’t usually decide how I am going to do it when I begin, I just begin and however I seem to move is how I do it that day at that time.  Sometimes I even time it to the music I am listening too.  Sometimes, unfortunately, I am in a hurry and I just want to get a few in so I do them.  It all depends.  That is why I think it is nice because YOU can do it how you want to do it to match the reason you are doing it.  After doing at least six, I end with the Mountain Post and the Anjali mudra.

Do you do a version of the Sun Salutation?  What asanas do you include in your salute?

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Standing Still

Posted by terrepruitt on February 23, 2013

Just as there are specific moves in Nia (Nia’s 52 Moves), there are different asanas or poses in yoga.  There is an asana (pose) in yoga that is standing still, but it is called Mountain Pose.  In Sanskrit, what I think of as the language of yoga, it is Tadasana.  While this pose is a still pose and the body is standing erect, it is an active pose.  The body is not just upright and relaxed, there are muscles engaged and energy moving.  It is more than likely that there is no straining involved and one might look relaxed and even feel relaxed yet there is more than just standing there happening.  Mountain Pose is an active pose often used as a transitional pose.  Yet can stand on its own, no pun intended.

In Tadasana toes touch and feet are parallel.  Of course, as with many things, there are many variations, and people have their own way of doing them.  In this post in the pose our toes touch, feet are parallel forming a stable base.  For some the heels might need to be fanned out a bit or feet may need to be separate.  The goal is to have a stable base so adjust the feet as necessary in order to ensure stability.  One way to assist with stability is to relax your feet allowing the toes to spread.  Imagine your feet becoming wide and open.  The feet do not grip the earth, they spread out.  Weight is evenly distributed.  Take time to sense all points of the feet.

The ankle joints remain open.  The shins and calves are rooted into the floor.  The knees are not locked, yet they sense stability because the quadriceps are reaching up lifting the knee caps.  The thighs are turned ever-so-slightly in.  The buttocks are lifted yet there is no arching in the lower back.  The belly (abdominals) are engaged.  The spine is long.

With the crown of your head reach for the sky, lengthening the entire back.  Keep the chin parallel to the earth and your head in alignment with your chest, hips, knees, and feet.  Shoulders are gently pulled back with shoulder blades down, the chest does not stick out, yet the sternum is presented up allowing the collar bones to open wide.  Arms are along the side of the body, not hanging, not touching the body, not rigid, but active.  Hands are active with fingers gently fanned open.

Energy is moving up allowing for the lengthening of the entire body, yet there is a sense of being rooted and stable.  As I mentioned this pose is often used as a transition.  You might see it performed in between standing poses.  It is perfect to reset the body in order to correctly move into another position.  It can also be used as a resting pose.  Even though it is an active pose, it still can be a rest for the body.

As you can tell, if you got up to try it, this is not a passive pose.  There is a lot of muscle engagement, so maybe you can see why this pose could be practiced on it’s own and not just used as a transition.  It is not just standing still, it is a strong, stable pose, like a mountain.

So if you didn’t already do it, are you ready?  Get up and try it!

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