Yoga for Your Heart....(neck and shoulders!)

This is for the benefit of the students that I recently had in a Yoga for the Neck & Shoulders workshop at Adeline Yoga Studio but I am sharing it with all as it is a gift that can help almost everyone these days! I would like to give all credit to Lois Steinberg who has fearlessly collected and transmitted the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar and Geeta Iyengar as they apply to modification and adjustments for common problems as well as more complex yoga therapeutics.  If you are a more experienced yoga practitioner and study with a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher (CIYT), I would seriously consider an investment in one or many of her books. You can purchase them here: 

This is a simplification of the poses that we did in the workshop that is meant to be a guide for home practice. 

Start with a resting pose, especially if you are experiencing any pain. 

Pavanmuktasana: Two chairs can be used instead of the bench

Pavanmuktasana: Two chairs can be used instead of the bench

Shoulder Savasana with weights on the shoulders and arms. Sandbags are used here but you can get creative!

Shoulder Savasana with weights on the shoulders and arms. Sandbags are used here but you can get creative!

Then move on to "re-patterning" the shape of your shoulders and upper girdle of the torso.

  • Lower the inner shoulder (upper trapezius)
  • Turn the outer shoulder to insert the outer shoulderblade into the body towards the spine
  • Fill the upper chest under the collar bone
  • Stretch the forearm towards the wall broadening the heel of the hand
  • You will feel strong sensations in the wrist, arm and shoulder here but should not feel shooting nerve pain. Back it up if this happens.
  • Watch a video of Lois teaching this pose!

Next, open the front of your chest and particularly the armpit area. Watch a video of Lois teaching this here.

Next for some chair twists, Bharadvajasana. If you also have lower back issues, make sure that you are executing these twists from the diaphragmatic area vs. the lumbar spine and sacrum.

Another standing twist, Utthita Marichyasana. In this one use the legs and arms to find length in the torso vs. screwing yourself down into a twist. Ascend and twist from the bottom back ribs. Use the actions from the arm exercises at the wall earlier to inform your twists.

  • Watch Lois teach this pose!

Finally, rest again in a supported version of Viparita Karani (Inverted Action or Lake pose). A chair can be used in leue of the Halasana box that is used in the photo. Be sure that your lower back and pelvis feels secure and rested on the bolster so the abdomen is placid and spreading. Open your chest by releasing the shoulders to the floor and spreading the bottom, front floating ribs (the diaphragm). Breath should be through the nose and soft, even, smooth and tranquil.

At the end of the practice, take some version of Savasana, either face up or face down. Observe the transformation from the practice you did. Allow the effects of the practice to percolate and fill all the cells of your body. 

Yoga for Your Heart: High & Low Blood Pressure

This series of standing, supported forward bends are a great start to a practice focused on either high or low blood pressure. In fact, they are a great way to decompress and de-stress before starting any yoga practice session. 

Be sure to use height and supports so you can sustain the poses for 3-5-10 minutes comfortably.

As B.K.S. Iyengar says in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the asana (posture) should feel nourishing and illuminative otherwise they're not yoga asana.

The order can also be swapped. For example, you could start with Adho Mukha Svanasana vs. Uttanasana. But, here is the basic sequence:

  • Supported Uttanasana (Intense Stretch) See previous post on Uttanasana
  • Supported Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) with head on a block
  • Prasarita Padattonasana (Expanded leg intense stretch) with head supported

Note: The first version the head is handing and shoulders are supported; the second version the head is resting and the shoulder are releasing.

Note: Second version is Lois Steinberg demonstrating a version that can be used for pregnancy. If you are not pregnant, you can join the bolsters and rest the whole torso forward.

What most people want is the same. Most people simply want physical and mental health, understanding and wisdom, and peace and freedom. Often our means of pursuing these basic human needs come apart at the seams, as we are pulled by the different and often competing demands of human life. Yoga, as it was understood by its sages, is designed to satisfy all these humans needs in a comprehensive, seamless whole. Its goal is nothing less than to attain the integrity of oneness-oneness with ourselves and as a consequence oneness with all that lies beyond ourselves. We become the harmonious microcosm in the universal macrocosm. Oneness, what I often call integration, is the foundation for wholeness, inner peace and ultimate freedom.
— B.K.S. Iyengar

Yoga for Your Heart: Rock & Roll!

Is your heart feeling heavy, depressed, anxious? Then, sometimes you just gotta' "Shake it Off"!

Yogi Zain and I are doing a rolling practice to get things moving. We start from Paschimottanasana (intense stretch of the west) which is a forward bend to Halasana (plow) which is an inverted forward bend.

Then, we mix it up with Malasana (garland pose) a standing squat, to Uttanasana (intense stretch) standing forward bend, to Urdhva Ekapadattanasana (One leg extended up) another standing forward bend, to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog). 

Finally, I support Zain in doing a freestanding handstand. You can use a wall if you are practicing on your own.  And feel free to mix up the poses you go into because....

most importantly....Have fun! 

The dull brain becomes active and the brooding mind gets refreshed. Thus, it is kind of a brainwash, where the person begins to see with new perspective and a better future.”
— Geeta Iyengar on Surya Namaskar


No seriously, HERE'S where the FUN begins (Prasarita Padattonasana)

Prasarita Padattonasana (Wide leg intense stretch) is a standing forward extension pose that helps us to become comfortable being upside down. 

The arm actions can help us to create the stability needed in the shoulder blades for Sirsasana (headstand) and Sarvangasana (shoulder stand)

Please make sure your head is supported on the floor or a block before attempting the arm movements.

If you don't have stability in the legs yet then go back to the concave version from yesterday

Get a grip! On your outer hip that is...(Trikonasana)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose): The front leg

But seriously, how does one get that front leg to support the upper body? 

We can learn the actions through Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)

Strengthen the outer hip by pulling the outer knee back into the hip socket

Keep that grip and straighten the leg to Trikonasana

Go back to Virabhadrasana II and try again!

Click on the image for a slideshow demo!