Over the last couple of weeks we've looked at the power of inversions in yoga, whereby poses put your head below your heart. Though great core strengthening movements, inversions can be incredibly strenuous and are often a real challenge to the novice yogi or yogini. However, even if you're not quite at the level of a headstand or a shoulder stand and find Downward Facing Dog difficult to sustain, there's no reason why you cannot still benefit from some yoga inversions for beginners.
If you are not used to being topsy turvy and upside down, yoga inversions can prove to be a rush to the head that's a little too far out of your comfort zone. However, with as they boast such great benefits, it'd be a shame to dismiss inversions altogether. Instead, start with less challenging but still incredibly beneficial beginner inversions.
Extended Puppy Pose
This is a good and far easier pose than Downward Facing Dog; begin on all fours, like a dog but take time to make sure you are creating a good, grounded position. This means your hands should be placed on your mat firmly, under your shoulders and your knees should be under your hips.
Keeping your arms shoulder-width apart, walk forward with your hands. You will need to keep your palms pressed down. Throughout the exercise you want to ensure that your forearms and elbows stay away from your mat and do not make contact with the floor. To do this you will have to consciously raise your arms a little.
As you move your hands forward, let your chest lower to your mat. As you rest your forehead on the ground, you'll feel a kind of melting sensation as you let your body sink down, while your spine lengthens.
Keep your hips up and vary the pose on an exhale, by bringing your hips back so that you are halfway to sitting down on your calves and really stretching your back. All the while you should be keeping your hands in place and feeling that sense of relaxation in your core. You can let your forearms touch the ground and then you are transforming your pose into Child's Pose which inspires deep relaxation and calm.
If you are feeling this is too much of a stretch then add a blanket or bolster for support between your calves and thighs, and also bring the arms in a little and add a blanket under your forehead.
This is really a variation on Downward Facing Dog. Start on all fours and lower your forearms so that they lie parallel with each other. Your palms should be facing down and your elbows under your shoulders.
Curl your toes in to get a grip on your mat as you raise your hips and abdomen. Try and walk in a little if you feel yourself slide. You are aiming for a V shape, so it is important to keep your hips straight and pulled up. A good way to achieve this is visualize an imaginary piece of string pulling you up toward the ceiling and keeping you in place.
If you can, place the soles of your feet flat on the ground, but don't worry if you have to raise them because your calf muscles are too tight; it's always best to listen to your body and not over-stretch.
Keep your head and neck relaxed and in line with your upper arms, with your face looking into the V. Your legs and spine need to be straight.
In essence, Dolphin Pose, takes the pressure off the wrists that you often feel with Downward Facing Dog and allows for greater stability with an inversion that is still incredibly effective.
Next week, we will look at shoulder stands and also how putting your feet up can relieve stress and tension in the body. Meanwhile, come and be part of our yoga experience.