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30 Yoga Poses in 30 Days (April 2014)

It’s official: Kiss My Asana has begun!

In addition to raising money and awareness for Mind Body Solutions, one of the ways people will participate in this month’s yogathon is by doing more yoga. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never done yoga or feel like you’re as committed to your practice as you can possibly be, I’m going to encourage you to just add one more pose to your day – every day, for the next 30 days. (NOTE: This is not a yoga sequence. Some of the links do put the featured pose in a sequential order; however this is only intended as a daily opportunity.)

The poses below can be done almost anywhere, at almost any time. And, you don’t need previous experience to do them. You do, however, need a little common sense* and a sense of wonder. Enjoy!

April 1st – Simhasana.

The Anywhere Version: Close your eyes (unless you’re driving) and breath in through your nose. When you exhale, open your eyes and mouth, extend your arms and fingers, while you stick out your tongue and ROAR.

Kari A. picked this first pose and I think it’s a brilliant choice for April Fool’s Day! Because, seriously, only a fool would pass up the chance to release a little steam during the day.

(Need a little inspiration? Click here!)

 

April 2nd – Spinal Twist with Garudasana Legs (aka Twisted Roots)

revised

The Anywhere Version: If you’re stuck in a chair (or on a stability ball), cross the right thigh over the left, squeeze the legs together, and then twist to the right. You can even turn your whole body sideways before you come into the pose – so you’re still facing your desk or conference table. If you are at a standing desk (or stuck behind a service counter or stove top – without a chair), behind your knees and cross the right leg over the left so the lower body is in Garudasana (Eagle Pose).

GENERAL NOTE: If you are on your back, legs go to the left first.

PRENATAL MODIFICATION: Do the seated “Anywhere Version” – and check with your doctor and yoga instructor if this is your first time doing yoga while pregnant.

April 3rd – Half Forward Fold (aka “Down Dog on the Wall” or “Standing Puppy Dog”).

The Anywhere Version: Instead of a wall, you can use a table, a desk, or the back of a chair or couch as extra support. Double the fun by reaching out to a partner. Since it is the 3rd pose on the 3rd day, prepare for Warrior 3 by lifting/stretching one leg up in line with your hips.

GENERAL NOTE: All three (3) of the links for this pose contain information about contraindications and cautions. The second link is by “The Pragmatic Yogi” – who is also a physical therapist.

 

April 4th – Figure 4 (aka “Supine Pigeon”).

The Anywhere Version: Sitting in a chair (ideally with feet on the floor and knees at 90-degree angles), cross one ankle across the opposite thigh. You can stay upright or lean forward. Arms can rest on your thighs as extra weight; however, be mindful about pushing the legs with your arms. You can also place hands/arms under the top leg as extra support so the hip releases rather than resists.

There are so many ways to do this pose: as a standing balance, up against a wall, sitting in a chair, sitting on the floor, lying on your back, or in Bridge Pose or Wheel Pose. So, why stop with one? Try all of the above!

 

April 5th – Tadasana/Samasthiti.

The Anywhere Version: Try the alignment principles for Mountain Pose/Equal Standing Pose while you’re sitting in a meeting; waiting in line at the grocer, co-op, or bank; and even lying down. You can even do this pose while driving – just keep both hands on the wheel! Keep in mind the intention behind calling the same pose by different names.

GENERAL NOTE: Did you know good posture can give you more energy and help alleviate sciatica? Now you do!

April 6th – Anuvittasana (aka Baby Back Bend).

The Anywhere Version: This pose is (quite literally) an extension of Tadasana/Samasthiti – so try it everywhere you tried the Day 5 pose (except while driving). Just for fun, try it on a wall; see how many different arm variations you can do or how low you can go; and, try it with a partner!

GENERAL NOTE: Play around, but remember to keep the legs straight and the knee caps lifted. Also, be mindful of you low back – especially if you are using this pose as a break from sitting or standing.

WALL NOTE: When you “try it on the wall” remember you can stand with the wall behind you and use it to guide you down into a deeper heart opener (as shown in the link above) – or you can stand with the wall in front of you, which turns the pose into a (softer) standing cobra.

April 7th – Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall with or without props).

The Anywhere Version: What happens if you don’t have a wall?!?! (Or you just finished a long run or bike ride?) Use something like a chair, coffee table, couch, bench,a stack of pillows, or footstool as a foot rest – making sure your knees and hips (if on the floor) are at a 90-degree angle. Still not working for your space constraints? Well, you could try Yaara’s version (scroll down for picture)! Or, lie down, lift your legs straight up and use your hands (or a partner – or a partner’s legs) as a modified wall.

GENERAL NOTE: Be very mindful of your neck and head. Make sure the neck is long – lengthening, but not overextending. If your your head isn’t evenly resting on the mat, if your neck is arching back, and/or if your neck doesn’t feel relaxed talk to your yoga teacher about your options.

PRENATAL NOTE: Yes! Check out Carole Westerman’s thoughts on prenatal inversions in general and this pose in particular. Of course, if your health care provider has put you on bed rest or has told you not to lie on your back, you’ll have to hold off on doing this pose.

April 8th – Eye Exercises.

The (Almost) Anywhere Version: You can do these while sitting or standing up; however, I wouldn’t do them during a board meeting (unless everybody joins you) – nor while driving!

GENERAL NOTE: It’s easy to overlook (smile) our eye muscles. However, taking a moment to stretch out muscles we use every day can go a long way towards keeping us focused (bigger smile). If Paul McCartney doesn’t convince you (see link above), check out thoughts and instructions by yoga teachers Jinjer Stanton (in Minneapolis) and Katrina Hokule’a Ariel (in British Columbia).

April 9th – Eagle Arms (for the neck and shoulders).

The Anywhere Version: You can practice Eagle Arms while standing, sitting, or balancing on one leg. However, standing on two feet or sitting gives you an opportunity to explore different variations and how each one affects the neck and shoulders in a slightly different way. In addition to the variations in the link above, consider looking over the top shoulder or pulling the hands away (with elbows into the chest) and then bowing the head down.

PRACTICE CHALLENGE: To how many poses (other than Garudasana) can you add Eagle Arms?

April 10th – Ardha Pawanmuktasna (aka Supta Pawanmuktasana).

The Anywhere Version: Lying on the floor gives you extra support and stability. But we all know we can relieve gas in any position. While sitting or standing, hug right knee into chest. You can  alternate legs as indicated in the link above. Or, instead of repeating each side, hold each leg for a longer period of time – in which case, don’t hold your breath! Any version of this pose helps with digestion and low back issues, while also toning the abdominal and hip muscles.

GENERAL NOTE: Keep your head on the mat (or neck extended) if you have issues with the upper spine.

PRENATAL NOTE: While this pose is not appropriate if you’re pregnant, it is part of a larger family of poses – some of which are prenatal friendly. Talk to your yoga teacher for an alternative – or ask your partner or yoga buddy for wind releasing massage. Also, check out these tips on avoiding gas as much as possible.

April 11 – Deviasana, aka Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose, aka Fiery Angle Pose).

The (Almost) Anywhere Version: OK, you would be hard pressed to do this pose while driving in a car – especially if you’re pregnant. But if “Iron Man makes sure he practices Goddess pose before every dangerous encounter.”, you can do it before every meeting. This is definitely another pose you can do at your desk or on a stability ball. You can even try the legs during a meeting – without getting funny looks from your supervisor, co-workers, employees, or clients (as long as you’re behind or under a counter or table).

PRACTICE CHALLENGE: Rise up to your toes!

PRENATAL NOTE: Strike this pose at every stage of your pregnancy! You can move it around, substitute it for Utkatasana (Chair Pose), or use it as baby bonding time – before and after your birth. It’s also great toddler support.

April 12 – Yogi Prayer Squat.

The (Almost) Anywhere Version: Sure, you can squat on a chair, an outdoor bench, or a stability ball; but, if you find yourself without the room – or with bad knees – try Goddess (yesterday’s pose) instead. This is also a great prenatal pose.

GENERAL NOTE: Try doing this pose on your back or lying down with your feet on the wall.

April 13 – Uttanasana (Intense Stretch, aka Forward Fold/Bend).

The (Almost) Anywhere Version: It doesn’t take much to practice this simple forward fold in your office chair. And while this is not the ideal pose to practice while you’re driving, if you are on a road trip Ragdoll Uttanasana (grabbing opposite arm with each hand) IS one of the best “pull over for a pit stop” poses ever! You can even use your door, bumper, or passenger seat for one of these chair modifications. (Don’t use the hood if it’s hot!)

GENERAL NOTE: Not sure if this inversion is for you and your body? You can check out the contraindications and modifications in the first link above – or, check out a really great breakdown of issues and solutions outlined by the UK’s Tabitha Evans.

 

April 14 – Hugging Mother Earth (aka Balasana with arms wide and gaze to the side).

The (Almost) Anywhere Version: If you can’t lie down – and you’re not driving – you have a couple of options. First, you can just sit and fold over, like you would to do a seated forward fold. A second option is to sit with your knees pulled to the outside of your chest; hug the arms around your legs and turn your gaze to the side. Don’t forget to do both sides!

GENERAL NOTE: You can do this pose without the bolster.

April 15 – Sukhasana (Easy Pose, aka Criss Cross Apple Sauce).

The (Almost) Anywhere Version: Not only can you do this pose in a chair, on a board, or on a mountain top, you can twist it, bend it, or (one of my favorite variations) do it like Marilyn! If you’re driving an automatic you can take half an easy pose when you’re on the open road – or while stalled in traffic.

Hip and Knee Modifications: The “easiest” of poses can be anything but easy when you have knee and/or hip issues. Quick and easy fixes include widening the legs (so the ankles are further from the hips and closer to each other); straightening one leg; and/or using props to lift your hips up higher than your knees. You can also use props to support your thighs and ankles.

April 16 – Marjaryasana (Cat Pose).

The Anywhere Version: Keep your head up, as you round your spine, and you can even do this pose while driving. Think of it as a mindfully bad posture moment – and use it to realign as well as to stretch your shoulders. Don’t forget to try this at your desk, and in a seated position on your yoga mat. You can even do this standing! Just bend your knees a little, rest your hands on your thighs with your fingertips on the inside of your legs, and go to town.

April 17 – Bitilasana (Cow Pose).

The Anywhere Version: In the Land of Asana, Cat and Cow follow each other around like a dog chasing it’s tail. So, anywhere you did Cat Pose (above) you can now do Cow Pose.

GENERAL NOTE: When you do the Cat/Cow sequence inhale to Cow and exhale to Cat.  This is your spine on breath! You can still hold each pose for a series of breaths, but moving 1:1 (one breathe:one motion) is your an exaggeration of what your spine naturally does when you breath.

April 18 – Hot Half Moon Pose (aka Urdhva Hastasana Ardha Chandrasana/Upward Salute Half Moon Pose)

The Anywhere Version: You can do this great lateral stretch in a chair, with one arm in the air, or in a Blue Marlin lair. You can even do this pose if you’re a bear. Of course, this pose becomes Bananasana if you do it in the bed or on the floor!

GENERAL NOTE: This pose is featured in Bikram’s Hot Yoga sequence and in some Moon Salutations. Both variations give you a lateral stretch; however, be very mindful that the extreme side bending stretch achieved in Hot Yoga is partially due to the heat and partially due to the sequence order. While both variations look simple and easy, this pose can be a hazard to the low back when taken too far.

April 19th – Half Moon Pose, Krishna variation.

The Anywhere Version: No matter where you are (sitting, standing, etc.) cross left shin over right while standing on the ball mound and toes of the left foot. Exhale and squeeze the shins together. Inhale arms out like the letter T and then exhale and arch to the right as the right arm extends across the belly and the left arm reaches over the head. Sync up the breath as you switch the arms and then start over with opposite arm and leg positions. Feel free to try it with a mudra, but if you’re driving keep your eyes on the road and one hand on the wheel. The arms in this convenience store variation are very ballet; but that’s kind of appropriate since this pose draws from classical Indian dance.

GENERAL NOTE: Yoga Journal and Scott Blossom offered a great picture and sequence featuring this pose back in 2007; but, the sequence is for the end of summer. So, click here and bookmark this for August/September.

April 20th – Dandasana (Staff Pose).

The Anywhere Version: I know, you’re thinking (a) “Did I miss something?” and (b) “Shouldn’t this be the ‘(Almost) Anywhere Version’?” The answer to both questions is “nope.” The very first time I took a class with Matthew Sanford it was at an outdoor Gorilla Yogis event and we did Dandasana with a partner. The partner helped to reinforce how length and stability in the spine translated into length and stability in the legs (and vice versa). Same goes for the feet. So, even if you’re at your desk or in your car, see if you can find length and stability in your spine – and then transfer that experience to the rest of your body (even if the knees are bent). And if you’re practicing with a partner take turns being creative about how you can support each other. The supine version of this pose looks like a modified Legs-Up-the-Wall (modified because you have no wall), but here the core is engaged while the legs and hip flexors are more active than passive.

MODIFICATION NOTE: You can always alleviate pressure in the wrists. Sit on a block, blanket, or a towel if you have tight hips and/or compression in your low back.  If you have spinal issues, a weak core, and/or “poor posture,” check out the contraindications and modifications in the first link above – or, check out a really great breakdown of issues and solutions outlined by the UK’s Tabitha Evans.

PRACTICE CHALLENGE: If you currently practice arm balances and/or inversions, consider the ways Dandasana can become an arm balance and/or an inversion. I can think of five (5) ways right off the bat!

April 21st – Makarasana (restorative Crocodile Pose & “Sleeping Pose” variations)

The (Almost) Anywhere Version: If you’re in the right part of the country, or world, you will see crocodiles in the oddest places. This pose, however, is practiced on a flat, neutral temperature surface. Use the links above to switch between “muscle” and “photo” mode.

 

I usually practice the “sleeping variation” with head turned to the bent knee side or the two-legged version with big toes touching. Rest arms by your sides if you have wrist issues. Both variations are great way to relieve insomnia, digestion issues, and anxiety, as well tension in the low back, hip, and neck.

GENERAL NOTE: Clearly, this is not the Nakrasana “Crocodile Pose” B. K. S. Iyengar demonstrates in Light on Yoga. Note the difference in the Sanskrit spelling – and that both spellings are listed in the LOY glossary.

PRENATAL NOTE: Since this pose is not prenatal friendly, practice Hugging Mother Earth (see April 14th, above).

 

April 22nd – Upavistha Konasana (Seated Wide Angle Pose, aka YIN Straddle/Dragonfly)

 

The Anybody Version: On more than one occasion, I have heard or read about Matthew Sanford’s first experience with this pose. And, every time, I am struck by how something so simple can be so profound. Yes, you can do this pose in a chair; on your bed; upside down and in the air.You can even do it like a bear (especially if you have low back issues). But, I strongly encourage you – regardless of your physical abilities – to find a way to just get on the floor and do it!

April 23rd – Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle).

The (Almost) Anywhere Version: If you’re seated, stretch the legs out wide and focus on stabilizing the hips so you can extend and rotate the torso. (See “Practice Note” below for more information on the alignment and engagement you want to feel). If you’re lying down, Triangle looks a lot like Supta Padangusthasana II – so do that (especially if your hips are tight; you have pesky hamstrings and/or ankle issues; or any of the contraindications).

TWO-FOR-ONE NOTE: Yup, I just gave you a bonus pose! Consider it lagniappe, and then consider the fact that there are at least two (2) ways to turn this into a balance moment.

PRACTICE NOTE: Forget about the pictures you see in the magazine – and forget about touching the floor. Focus on the triangles you’re making! Dr. Geeta Iyengar provides some of the best instructions (ever) on practicing Extended Triangle. Check out the long and the short of it.

 

April 24th – Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose).

The Anybody (Almost) Anywhere Variation: There are several ways you can do this pose in a chair; however, a good option is to use a folding chair as prop chair to support your extension. If you go to a Bikram’s Hot Yoga class, they will call this pose Trikonasana – and, when done safely, you will look like this (in your dreams).

MODIFICATION NOTE: Neck, hips, and knees are the hot spots to watch in Extended Side Angle. You can check out the contraindications and modifications hereor, check out a really great breakdown of issues and solutions outlined by the UK’s Tabitha Evans.

April 25th – Vrksasana (Tree Pose).

The Anywhere Version: Tree Pose is everywhere! You can do it in your bed or standing on your head (if you have an inversion practice). You can do it in your kitchen, at a picnic, or in a chair. You can even do it if you pledge. But – no offense to Alaskans, Republicans, runners, moms, people who practice yoga on their Wii, or anyone who falls in all of the aforementioned categories  – don’t you dare do it like it’s pictured here.

GENERAL NOTE: Check out the anatomy of a Tree. If you want to focus on the hips more than the balance, use a wall or a block. You can also check out contraindications and modifications.

 

April 26th – Purvottanasana (Intense Stretch of the East, aka Reverse Table or Reverse Plank)

The Anybody (Almost) Anywhere Version: At first glance, it is easy to dismiss the pose – especially if you have neck, shoulder, and/or wrist issues (not to mention a weak core). However, if you skip out on this pose you miss out on a hidden jewel – and all links above include modifications. (So, don’t skip it!) Try it with a best friend; or try it propped up on your desk of dining room table.

If you are in a chair with limited mobility, start with the adaptive yoga instructions for Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Two-Legged Inverted Staff Pose), but instead of reversing the arms over the head, let the arms extend down the sides of your chair – externally rotating the arms and holding the sides of the chair if that is accessible. Here’s what Purvottanasana would look like if you were in a fashion magazine.

GENERAL PRACTICE NOTE: This pose often follows Pascimottanasana (Intense Western Stretch), because they counterbalance each other. However, this pose is also a counter pose for Chaturanga Dandasana if you practice any style of vinyasa. Definitely use your forearms (or one of the bolster versions) if you have wrist issues.

April 27th – Marichyasana III (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi, video).

 

The Anybody Version: Twisting poses are challenging poses; sometimes it’s hard to breath in them and sometimes people think twisting is not for them – especially if they have disk issues/back pain. However, anyone (and any body) can benefit from twists, you just have to work with a yoga teacher, physical therapist, medical professional, or body worker to modify the pose for you specific needs. This adapted version of Marichyasana can be done seated in a chair with two (2) chairs in front for the extended leg. (I suggest starting with the right knee bent.)

 

I love this picture of Charlottesville’s Amber Karnes working it(!), but what she has to say about working it(!) is worth reading, because (let’s be honest) sometimes we forget everybody (and every body) has a belly.

 

April 28th – Supta Baddha Konasana (Supine Bound Angle Pose, aka “Reclining Cobbler’s Pose”).

 

The (Almost) Anywhere Version: You can always do this pose without a lot of fancy props; however, the more you support, the muscles the deeper you go. So, consider the possibilities – in bed (support the head), on a board, or with a baby on board. Just relax – especially if you are at the end of your rope!

GENERAL NOTE: Two blocks, 4 blocks, 6 or a dozen – it’s up to you. But, if you’re struggling (rather than relaxing), listen to your body.

Prenatal Modifications: You can support this pose until you are almost seated in Baddha Konasana – just make sure you’re relaxed. If you are in your third (3rd) trimester; your health care provider has said to stop lying on your back; and/or you are recently postpartum, try the Baddha Konasana with your back against the wall.

 

April 29th – Sanmukhi Mudra (Six Face or Six Gate Seal; aka Parangmukhi Mudra, Facing Inwards Seal; aka “Womb Seal”)

 

The (Almost) Anywhere Version: It’s time to turn inward! So, this is definitely not the pose to practice when driving, operating heavy machinery, or when you’re suppose to be tuning in/check in with your supervisor, co-workers, employees, children, parents, or friends. This is, however, a great pose to practice before that check in moment – or as part of a meditation practice.

PRACTICE & PRANAYAMA NOTES: Take any comfortable seated position; don’t press into the eyeballs; and breathe normally. Do not practice breath retention unless you are guided by your teacher to do so – and even then, be very mindful of contraindications. If you already have a Bhramari (Bumble Bee) Pranayama practice, consider buzzing like a bee with this seal. (Dr. Timothy McCall’s Yoga International article contains more information on the pranayama practice, as well as a modified version of Sanmukhi Mudra for those folks who would rather not cover the face.)

 
HEARING AID MODIFICATION: As you probably already know, the first part of the seal – covering the ears – is problematic if you have a hearing aid. So, adapt! Turn it off or down, or experiment with a sash/blindfold which covers your eyes and ears.

 

April 30th – Savasana (Corpse Pose).

 

The Anybody (Almost) Anywhere Version: We save the best for last, because…If you can relax here, you can relax anywhere! And, ultimately, you want to find a point of relaxation in every pose.

 

The problem is, some people don’t make time to relax – and some people haven’t figured out how their bodies relax. But, if you were only going to practice two (2) poses a day for the rest of your life, I’d say, “Make sure Savasana is one of your poses!” It’s that important.

 
PRACTICE NOTE: It doesn’t matter if you hate it, love it, or haven’t given it a lot of thought; take a few minutes to review the instructions in one of the first two links (the second one includes timed videos) – or try one of these variations – and then actually practice Savasana. Novel idea, I know.

 

~ NAMASTE ~

 
 
*Common Sense Fine Print: I am not a doctor, and this information is not intended to replace consultation and/or treatment from a health care professional. If you are not currently practicing yoga, please check with your health care professional. And, always listen to your body! While I am reviewing the source information before linking to the websites highlighted above, I am not responsible for the opinions or information provided and I am not endorsing a particular teacher, style, or tradition. **
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