With Halloween fast approaching, we’re putting the spotlight on five of the “spookier” postures in the 90-minute hot yoga series – and giving you tips on how to make each one of them a lot less spooky!
No. 1: Half Moon Standing Backbend
Starting instructions for the second part of Half Moon Posture, the Standing Backbend, actually include the words, “Don’t be scared!” As the first backward bend of the series, it can produce a sense of fear or dizziness in some students. The key to making this posture less frightening is to:
> Think about distributing the bend evenly over the entire spine. Imagine your spine as a perfect arch; do not hinge over at one spot. Work on the flexibility of your least-flexible vertebrae.
> Lift through the entire backbend. Imagine there is a bar up near your shoulders that you need to bend over top of.
> Continue to breathe – through your nose – in the backbend. This may seem or feel difficult to do, but simply concentrating on your breath, making sure it remains consistent and easy, will help calm you during this somewhat scary posture.
Read more about Half Moon Pose here.
No. 2: Standing Head to Knee
When you’re a beginner hot yogi, it can be intimidating to look around the room and see more advanced students balancing on one leg with their forehead touching their knee – especially if you can barely hold your foot in your hands without tipping over! Tips to making this pose less scary include:
> This posture begins in the mind: you must to believe 100% that you can do it! Once you’ve got that mental picture of yourself holding the full expression of Standing Head to Knee, it becomes a lot less daunting to take the necessary steps to achieve it.
> Do your best. Until you are able to successfully lock the knee on your standing leg, there’s no point moving on to the next step (kicking out). Focus on the fact that, simply by working on perfecting step 1, you are receiving the full benefits of the posture. Remember: it’s all about the journey!
> Getting a good, tight grip on your foot, preferably with all the fingers including the thumb locked together, is key. Don’t lose the grip!
Read more about Standing Head to Knee Pose here.
No. 3: Toe Stand
Even though it’s a beginner’s posture, Toe Stand, where you need to trust in yourself and your abilities as you move from Tree Pose to the ground and then again as you lift your hands from the floor to balance on one foot, can seem scary to some. Here’s how to make it less frightening and more friendly:
> Laser focus on one spot on the floor, four feet ahead of you. Don’t move your eyes from this point – the mirror is a moving target and may cause you to lose your balance.
> Start by bending forward at the hips, reaching your hands toward the floor directly below you. Then, just hang there, keeping your standing leg straight to feel stable and supported. Do this for 10 classes or so; your hamstrings and spine will lengthen and your hands will get closer and closer to the floor.
> When you are able to touch the floor and are sitting on the heel and ready to lift your fingers from the floor, focus on stretching your spine up toward the ceiling at all times, aligning your spine to the gravitational force of the Earth. If you round the spine, gravity will pull you down!
Read more about Toe Stand here.
No. 4: Camel
The final and deepest backbend in the series, Camel can literally take your breath away – and this can cause some trepidation when attempting to do it. Banish the fear and learn to relax in this posture with the following advice:
> The dizziness you experience as a beginner is completely normal so try not to get anxious. If you just keep pushing your hips forward and breathe, the dizziness will pass. When you feel dizzy it is because of a change in blood pressure in your body from the backward bend. It is a new sensation that can be scary because we do so much forward bending in our daily lives.
> When entering into Camel make sure your hands are on your hips, fingers facing down. Take a deep breath and drop your head back, go back halfway and stop. If you lean back halfway you will realize how close your hands are to your feet. Once you realize how close your hands are to your feet it becomes less scary to just reach back and grab a hold of your heels.
> Remember to relax and breathe. The more you tense up, the harder it becomes. Breathe calmly and all of the sensations you feel will normalize. We promise!
Read more about Camel Pose here.
No. 5 Rabbit
Having to keep your head down, which prevents you from looking up and around, can make this posture distressing for some. The fact is, Rabbit is not an easy posture – it takes many experienced yogis (yes, even teachers!) years to master it. In the meantime, try these tips to ease your anxiety:
> Your anatomy is your destiny. This is one of the most difficult postures for people who have a wider midsection or a long spine in proportion to their thighs or femur bones. Even the time of day you take class can affect your success with this posture, as your spine is far more contracted/compressed early in the day.
> As you probably know, this is the only posture that involves use of a “prop” – your towel. The purpose of placing the towel over your heels is to make sure your grip is secure – and it’s an absolutely necessary part of this pose, so no excuses!
> The throat-choked feeling and the cramp in your stomach is no reason to come out early – stay in it, you’re doing it right! Rabbit doesn’t require great body strength or agility; the object of the pose is to stretch the spine out slowly, getting maximum longitudinal extension of the spine.
> Do a couple of extra sets of Rabbit Pose after each class to speed your progress. Also, ask the teacher for some extra help after class the next time you practice.
Read more about Rabbit Pose here.