Moving forward with yoga poses.

If ever there was a time we need to realise that the body and mind are so closely interconnected, it is the time we decide to move forward. The mind is in the body, after all, and the mind tells the body what to do, and the body even can tell the mind how to feel!

Our bodies speak to us. They tell us how and what to feel and even think. They change what goes on inside our endocrine systems, our autonomic nervous systems, our brains, and our minds without our being conscious of a thing.

Amy Cuddy. “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges”.

We have always know this in yoga, and other physical fitness modalities. The body and the mind cannot be separated – how we hold ourselves, move and breathe actually show the world how we perceive ourselves.

Why is this important when we decide we want a change, and want to move forward? Because we need to convince – not just the world – but ourselves that we are more than capable of accomplishing our goals. And in holding ourselves physically in ways that support our plans to move forward, we actually do move forward!

How to embody moving forward using yoga poses.

A lot about moving forward is embodied in the legs and our hips. This is why we spent some time on grounding through the feet – the foundations of our legs and our entire body. And thinking of our anatomy as a species, we move with our legs, not our hands. No matter how fancy it may seem in yoga, we never ran towards our food or ran away from predators on our hands during prehistoric times. That is the function of our legs.

To move forward, we will focus on split stance standing yoga postures for our capacity to ground as we progress. The following four yoga poses are the best I find to invite this capacity into hearts, minds and lives.

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Virabhadrasana A (Warrior One Pose).

Virabhadrasana A, or Warrior One, is one of the basic split stance yoga asana we are introduced to in yoga mat practice. Slightly more challenging than a high lunge (which has the back heel lifted),

This yoga pose is a sagittal stance with opposing alignments. But once we get the lines of energy in alignment, it will stretch our ankles and calves, strengthen the quadriceps and back, lengthen the psoas muscle, and stretch the arms.

To enter into Virabhadrasana:

  • Begin in Tadasana.
  • Step your right leg out to the back of the mat, rotating the entire body to face the back of the mat. This means your right leg will be forward with your left leg back.
  • Bend the front knee (right knee) to about 90 degrees. The right thigh should be approximately parallel to the floor, with the knee stacked above ankle. Be mindful not to grip the right toes down, as this causes the sheering force to drive up to the knee.
  • The right hip should draw back, as the left hip draws forward, so that the torso is facing the back of the mat.
  • Then drop the left heel to the floor, with the foot pointing to the back left corner of the mat. Check that the back knee (left knee) is straight.
  • If you are able to, get the heels to align with one another. If you find more stability in placing the feet wider than a heel-to-heel stance, then place them wider.
  • With your next inhale, lift your torso and reach your arms overhead, with the palms facing each other (or touching if possible – to avoid unskilful patterns when you are more advanced in your practice, avoid interlacing the fingers).
  • If you are feeling good, look up towards the thumbs.
  • Draw your navel in and maintain long breaths, for for about five breaths (which is roughly one minute), before moving on to the left side.
  • After five breaths, draw your arms down to waist and straighten your right knee.
  • Then rotate your feet first, legs and then torso to the front of the mat – so that your left leg is forward and your right leg is back.
  • Bend your left knee and repeat the same process on the left side, holding the yoga pose for the same duration.
  • To exit the pose, step your right foot forward to the front of the mat, so that you are in Tadasana again.

Virabhadrasana A is said to be the manifestation of Shiva as he takes an active role in the manifest, seeking retribution for the death of Sati. We can explore this idea as we take this yoga pose to help us move forward – that we are made manifest to fulfil whatever we set our minds to.

Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose).

This yoga pose is also called “Intense Side-Stretch Pose”, probably because if you find your outer thighs are feeling tight, it will be intense! Parsvottanasana is a deep forward bend that stretches the hip muscles, hamstrings, and the entire spinal column.

Because of the structure of the pose, it calls on us to be stable and strong as we practise it. Both knees are meant to be as straight as possible (without hyperextension), with a long spine, an engaged abdomen, and a soft throat and eye-gaze.

Like Virabhadrasana A, Parsvottanasana is a sagittal split stance yoga pose, with opposing alignment. The lines of energy we create in aligning ourselves in this pose is important for the integrity of the pose,

To enter into Parsvottanasana:

  • Begin in Tadasana.
  • Step your right leg out to the back of the mat, perhaps not as wide a stance as in with Virabhadrana A. Rotate the entire body to face the back of the mat, with your right leg forward with your left leg back.
  • Keep both knees straight, so long as you do not hyperextend the joint. Be mindful not to grip the toes down, as this causes the sheering force to drive up to the knee. Ensure both heels are well grounded to the mat.
  • If you are able to, get the heels to align with one another. However, if you are more stable in a wider stance, then place your feet wider than a heel-to-heel stance.
  • With your next inhale, lengthen the spine, and engage your quads (front thighs).
  • Then exhaling, hinge at the hips, and fold forward toward your front thigh.
  • What you are hoping for is to rest your belly or right ribs on the front thigh, while maintaining straight legs. Use props for your arms if you cannot reach the floor without bending the right knee.
  • Keep your collar bones broad and lengthen through the spine, rather than through the shoulders and arms. Draw the heads of the arm bones back and try to get your hands (whether on props or on the mat) right under your shoulders.
  • Draw your navel in and maintain long breaths, for for about five breaths (which is roughly one minute), before moving on to the left side.
  • After five breaths, lift your torso up with the inhale and pivot to the other side of the mat with your exhale (i.e. rotating your feet first, legs and then torso to the front of the mat – so that your left leg is forward and your right leg is back).
  • Repeat the same process on the left side, holding the yoga pose for the same duration.
  • To exit the pose, step your right foot forward to the front of the mat, so that you are in Tadasana again.

“Parsvottanasana” comes from the Sanskrit words ‘parsva’, meaning ‘side’; ‘ut’, meaning ‘intense’; ‘tan’, meaning ‘to stretch’; and ‘asana’, meaning ‘pose’ or ‘posture’. It helps us have a sense of moving forward with humility and integrity, with a split-stance stride as we fold forward to our destiny.

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Virabhadrasana B (Warrior Two Pose).

Virabhadrasana B, or Warrior Two Pose, is the second pose in the sequence of yoga poses named after Shiva, in his incarnation as Virabhadra. Unlike Virabhadrasana A, this pose is in the frontal plane of movement, it strengthens and lengthens almost the same leg muscles as Virbhadrasana A, except in a different plane of movement.

In addition, it opens up the hips, strengthens the shoulders and perhaps requires a little more control of the legs, especially the front knee.

To enter into Virabhadrasana B:

  • Begin in Tadasana.
  • Step your right leg out to the back of the mat, rotating just the feet to face the back of the mat. This means your right leg will be forward with your left leg back.
  • Bend the front knee (right knee) to about 90 degrees. The right thigh should be approximately parallel to the floor, with the knee stacked above ankle. Be mindful not to grip the right toes down, as this causes the sheering force to drive up to the knee.
  • The left hip should draw back, while the right hip and knee remain stable, so that the torso is facing the entire length of the mat (as opposed to facing the back of the mat).
  • Check that the left heel is grounded, with the knee is straight. Your tailbone should be lengthening downward, especially on the right side.
  • If you are able to, get the heels to align with one another. If you find more stability in placing the feet wider than a heel-to-heel stance, then place them wider.
  • Check that the crown of the head is stacked over the entire length of the spine, which is stacked right over the pelvic bowl. The shoulders should be right over your hips.
  • With your next inhale, lift your arms shoulder height, reaching strongly through both arms toward the front and back of the mat. Get your eye-gaze over to the right fingertips.
  • Keep your your torso lifted, as you hold the pose for five breaths.
  • After five breaths, draw your arms down to waist and straighten your right knee.
  • Then rotate your feet only, to the front of the mat – so that your left leg is forward and your right leg is back.
  • Bend your left knee and repeat the same process on the left side, holding the yoga pose for the same duration.
  • To exit the pose, step your right foot forward to the front of the mat, so that you are in Tadasana again.

As with Virabhadrasana A, Virabhadrasana B is the second of three yoga postures representing Shiva in the form of Virabhadra, the manifested warrior seeking retribution for the death of Sati.

This yoga pose is said to be when Virabhadra / Shiva beheads Daksha – the capacity to stick to strict rules and rituals – something we need to embrace when we seek to move forward. While we have a plan to move forward, sticking to it strictly may hinder us more than help us in our progress.

Trikonasana (Triangle Pose).

Trikonasana (or to give it its full name – Utthita Trikonasana – or Extended Triangle pose, is a mix of stability in grounding, with expansion in the heart. This yoga poses opens up the hamstrings and back, while the practitioner requires activation in the in the core.

Because of its symmetry, this yoga posture has us focusing on the breath and the body, which helps us become fully present in the moment.

To enter into Trikonasana:

  • Begin in Tadasana.
  • Step your right leg out to the back of the mat, perhaps not as wide a stance as in with Virabhadrana B. Rotate just the feet to face the back of the mat, which means your right leg will be forward with your left leg back.
  • rotating just the feet to face the back of the mat. This means your right leg will be forward with your left leg back. Your right foot points towards the back of the mat, while the left foot is at a 90 degree angle to the right foot.
  • Keep both knees straight, so long as you do not hyperextend the joint. Be mindful not to grip the toes down, as this causes the sheering force to drive up to the knee. Ensure both heels are well grounded to the mat.
  • The left hip should draw back, while the right hip and knee remain stable, so that the torso is facing the entire length of the mat (as opposed to facing the back of the mat).
  • Check that the left heel is grounded, with the knee is straight. Your tailbone should be lengthening downward, especially on the right side.
  • If you are able to, get the heels to align with one another. If you find more stability in placing the feet wider than a heel-to-heel stance, then place them wider.
  • On the next exhale, extend your torso towards the right leg, leaning forward from the hip, not the waist. Keep extending your torso directly over the the right leg.
  • To bring stability to the movement, anchor the left hip to the left, while ground the left heel down.
  • When you have reached the maximum your torso can extend, place your right hand down wherever it lands (it may be your shin, or a yoga prop, or the ankle, or the floor outside the right foot).
  • Then extend your left arm toward the ceiling, in line with the shoulders. To check if this is aligned correctly, look up to your left hand and check that the nose is in line with the the left thumb.
  • Keep your breath long and your gaze soft, as you take five breaths on the right.
  • After that duration, draw your left arm down to waist, maybe bend the right knee a bit as you li and straighten your right knee.
  • Then rotate your feet only, to the front of the mat – so that your left leg is forward and your right leg is back.
  • Bend your left knee and repeat the same process on the left side, holding the yoga pose for the same duration.
  • To exit the pose, step your right foot forward to the front of the mat, so that you are in Tadasana again.

“Trikonasana” or ‘triangle’ reveals a little bit about the power of three: body / mind / spirit; birth / life / death; or what we we’re working on right now, i.e. grounding / letting go / expansion. We can explore these capacities as we move into trikonasana, experiencing stability in the legs, a sense of letting go through the breath, and expansion in the chest, neck, and the lifted arm.

Yoga poses to move forward.

Now you have learnt a few poses to help you ground to move forward, take the opportunity to learn more about grounding / letting go / expanding for your (mid)life transformation with the FREE e-book below.

Learn how to ground, let go and expand with principles of yoga that will help you towards your midlife awakening!