Have you ever seen those crazy yogis on Instagram or Facebook — the ones who post amazing pictures of their postures out in the world or in their home? You may think that is what it means to have a home practice; however, it really doesn’t have to be so complicated. In my previous post about cultivating a home practice, I mentioned that a great way to start your home practice is with five Sun Salute As and five Sun Salute Bs. I want to help you with alignments for these Sun Salutes so you don’t feel lost and scrap your home practice.
You do not have a teacher at home to help with your alignment. Now, more than ever you have to pay attention to your body (Click here to read about pain or discomfort). The most common tightness that students suffer from can be; hamstrings, hips, lower back and shoulders. Remember we want to create space in those tight areas, to help open them up! Below are a couple of modifications to help with tight parts of your body while you do your Sun Salutes.
Tightness in your lower back
~ Separate your feet two fist distance apart, in your tadasana. You want to keep your feet parallel while you separate your feet. This foot positioning should be maintained while you do, forward folds, extending your spine in your forward fold, and utkatasana. While you keep your feet parallel, your knees might start to push outwards. To keep this from happening, imagine your feet have four corners and push down through each of those corners to make a strong foundation. As you push down into each corner of your feet, you want to engage your inner thighs with a internal rotation and keeping your knees in a neutral position.
~In Down Dog you will want to bend your knees to take pressure out of your lower back. The main focus here is creating extension in your spine.
Tightness in your Hips and Hamstrings
~In your Forward Folds, I want you to change your thinking about getting your legs as straight as possible. The yoga isn’t always better the closer your head is to the ground. To enter your forward fold, try entering with bent knees, taking pressure out of your lower back caused by tight hamstrings and hips. As you descend in your forward fold, keep your back flat and extended. Once you enter your forward fold, bend your knees connecting your quadriceps and belly. This keeps great extension in your spine. Keep this connection as you slowly extend your legs. Once you lose that belly/quadriceps connection you want to stop and reconnect. With your lower back, you want to pay attention to what your body is telling you because there is a difference between pressure and stretching!
~In your Down Dog you want to keep your knees bent, just like I mentioned above. A great way to enter down dog is from extended child’s pose. You keep that extension in your spine as your life into down dog.
Tightness in your Shoulders
~The shoulder muscle complex is a tricky thing and I am looking at different ways to help open them up. I think if we change the thought process of the use of our shoulder in sun salutes, this will help with the mechanics of your shoulders opening them up. My thought process of asanas if using strenght to find flexibility and flexibility to find strength, applies greatly to shoulders. (Here is a video with a couple of exercises that will help with opening up your shoulders)
~Chaturanga is normally entered in from high plank unless you are jumping back. There are a couple ways to move into chaturanga and what I want you to concentrate is how you use your shoulders while you descend into your version of chaturanga. I have been guilty of this cue and this is a common cue that is given. The cue is; as you descend into chaturanga hug your elbows into your body. That creates separation in your shoulders from your arms. Instead of moving your arms to keep them close to your body, we will use your shoulders to keep your arms close. To do so, before you descend from high plank, think about expanding through your collarbone, then drawing your shoulder blades towards each other and down the back. Keep that activation as you descend into your version of chaturanga. Now as you descend try to go as slow as you can to really engage your rhomboid muscles! (Here is a video on improving your push ups or chaturanga)
~Upward Facing dog, first make sure you are pushing into the tops of your feet to lift your knees off the ground. This will help when you push into your hands to take pressure out of your shoulders and to help open your collarbone. Here is a big thing to remember, when you push into your hands the muscles that helps with pushing is your triceps not your shoulders. Your shoulders are stabilizers not pushers. To help engage your triceps think about pushing into your knuckles of your hands to take the pressure out of your wrist. Another way of thinking about this is trying to lift your fingers off the ground as you push your hands into the ground! Now as you engage your triceps think about engaging your biceps at the same time (like a reverse bicep curl)! This helps to create a strong foundation to help open and engage your shoulders. Once you have that foundation created, open your collarbone by drawing your shoulders together and down your back as you move into your upward facing dog.
Now try each of this alignments for each posture slowly first and listen to your body. Then once you get these alignments down start to speeding up!