Chaturanga dandasana: Simple but challenging

Chaturanga dandasana is an often practiced but frequently under-appreciated asana in yoga.

In my own experience, I had been practicing yoga for several years before I had a teacher spend time in class to break down the pose and explain all the parts that go into getting it right. Before that, I honestly hadn’t given this asana much thought –especially when I was rushing through ‘the vinyasa’ and on to urdva mukha svanasana (upward dog).

That said, once I realized all the actions that must come together to execute a chaturanga, and its many benefits, it became hard not to appreciate.

Chaturanga dandasana literally translates as the “four-limbed staff pose”, which is an apt description of the pose and its desired alignment.

chatur = four
anga = limb
danda = staff
asana = pose

Although simple in form, the asana is ideal for building functional strength. In addition to strengthening the abdominals, chaturanga strengthens the erector spinae – the set of muscles that run the length of the spine and are key to straightening and extending the spine. These muscles are often overlooked as they’re not seen as a major muscle group, like the biceps, chest and shoulders; however, they are just as important for strength and more so for stability –promoting improved body alignment.

Here’s a breakdown on chaturanga dandasana:

Coming into the pose from santolasana (high plank), you shift forward, bringing the shoulders slightly beyond the wrists and at the same time push up from the balls of the feet to the toes, the ankles dorsiflexed. The scapulae are depressed and protracted.

Bending at the elbows, you continue to shift forward, lowering the torso down while keeping the elbows generally aligned with the wrists and stopping before the shoulders fall below elbow height (i.e., not going past a 90-degree angle). The torso and legs stay a few inches above and parallel to the floor.

Stability of the scapulae is key to allowing for proper shoulder joint function in chaturanga. The serratus anterior muscles are the principle muscles that stabilize the scapulae and prevent them from “winging”. The rhomboids and middle trapezius further stabilize the scapulae by drawing them towards the midline of the spine.

Like the name of the pose implies, in chaturanga the body should be in one straight line –from head to feet. To prevent the shoulders from dipping too far down towards the floor, the triceps and pectoralis muscles eccentrically contract, resisting the pull of gravity. To avoid the midsection from swaying to the ground, the rectus abdominis and psoas must be engaged. The alignment of the pelvis is counter-balanced and kept neutral by engaging the gluteus maximus and hamstring muscles. The erector spinae muscles and quadratus lumborum work to lift the back. The quadriceps muscles and adductor magnus are also actively engaged to straighten the knees and slightly draw the legs towards each other.

In keeping the muscles throughout the body actively engaged, the weight of the body is more evenly distributed, avoiding excessive pressure on the arms and shoulders.

The end result is a simple but challenging asana that is generally accessible to most yogis to incorporate into their practice.

Impact of Our Warriors

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior 1)

Practising this asana brings a whole host of benefits: It strengthens your spine & back muscles and relieves backache, lumbago and sciatica. Tones the abdominal muscles. Relieves acidity and improves digestion. Strengthens the bladder and corrects a displaces uterus. Relieves pain and heavy flow during menstruation.

Skeletal joint actions
Spine Upper limbs Lower limbs
    Front leg Back leg
Extension, slight rotation for chest to face forward, pelvis level

 

Scapular abduction and upward rotation, shoulder abduction and external rotation, slight elbow flexion, forearm supination SI joint nutation, hip flexion, knee flexion, ankle dorsiflexion

 

SI joint counternutation, hip extension and adduction, knee extension, ankle dorsiflexion and foot supination at heel and pronation at forefoot

 

Muscular joint actions
Spine
Concentric contraction Eccentric contraction
To extend spine:

Spinal extensors

To rotate chest forward:

Internal oblique (front leg side); external oblique (back leg side)

To prevent hyperextension at lumbar spine:

Psoas minor, abdominal muscles

To support weight of head as neck extends:

Rectus capitis, longus capitis and colli, verticalis, scalenes

Upper limbs
Concentric contraction
To abduct and upwardly rotate scapula:

Serratus anterior

To supinate forearm:

Supinator

To stabilize and abduct shoulder joint:

Rotator cuff, biceps brachii (long head), middle deltoid

Lower limbs
Front leg Back leg
Concentric contraction Eccentric contraction Concentric contraction Eccentric contraction
To resist tendency to widen knee (abduct at hip):

Gracilis, adductor longus and brevis

 

To allow hip and knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion without collapsing into gravity:

Gluteus maximus, hamstrings at hip joint, vastii, soleus, intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of foot

To level and center pelvis over feet and to maintain balance side to side (the narrower the stance, the more active and long these muscles need to be):

Gluteus medius and minimus; piriformis, superior and inferior gemellus

To extend hip:

Hamstrings at hip joint, gluteus medius (posterior fibers), adductor magnus, gluteus maximus

To extend knee:

Articularis genu, vastii

To maintain arches of foot without inhibiting dorsiflexion of ankle:

Intrinsic muscles of

foot

 

To allow outer ankle to lengthen without collapsing inner knee or inner

foot:

Peroneals

 

 

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2)

This pose exercise your limbs and torso vigorously, reducing stiffness in your neck and shoulders. It improves your breathing capacity by expanding the chest. Alleviates the condition of a slipped disc, reduces fats around the hips and relieves lower backache. This pose also makes your knee and hip joints more flexible.

Skeletal joint actions
Spine Upper limbs Lower limbs
  Front leg Back leg
Neutral spine, slight rotation for chest to orient to side, head rotated to face front leg, pelvis level Scapular abduction, shoulder abduction and external rotation, forearm pronation

 

SI joint nutation, hip flexion and abduction, knee flexion, ankle dorsiflexion

 

SI joint counternutation, hip extension and abduction, knee extension, ankle dorsiflexion, foot supination at heel and pronation at forefoot

 

Muscular joint actions
Spine
Alternating concentric and eccentric contractions Concentric contraction Concentric contraction
To maintain neutral alignment of spine:

Spinal extensors and flexors

To rotate chest to side:

External oblique (front leg side); internal oblique (back leg side)

To rotate head toward front leg:

Rectus capitis posterior, obliquus capitis inferior, longus capitis and colli, splenius capitis

(front leg side); sternocleidomastoid, upper trapezius (back leg side)

Upper limbs
Concentric contraction Passively lengthening
To abduct scapula:

Serratus anterior

To stabilize and abduct shoulder joint:

Rotator cuff, biceps brachii (long head), deltoid

To pronate forearm:

Pronator quadratus and teres

Pectoralis major and minor (particularly

in back arm)

 

Lower limbs
Front leg Back leg
Concentric contraction

 

Eccentric contraction

 

Concentric contraction

 

Eccentric contraction

 

To abduct hip:

Gluteus medius and minimus

 

To abduct hip and allow hip flexion without collapsing into gravity:

Gluteus maximus, piriformis, obturator externus, superior and inferior gemellus

To allow hip and knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion without collapsing into gravity:

Hamstrings at hip joint, vastii, soleus, intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of foot

 

To extend and abduct hip:

Gluteus medius and minimus, hamstrings at hip joint, piriformis, obturator externus, superior and inferior gemellus

To extend knee:

Articularis genu, vastii

To maintain arches of foot without inhibiting dorsiflexion of ankle:

Intrinsic muscles of foot

To support inner knee:

Gracilis

To allow outer ankle to lengthen without collapsing inner knee or inner foot:

Peroneals

 

 

 

Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior 3)

One of the favourite poses to improve balance and focus. Teaches body awareness and proprioception as you learn to adjustment your body. Additionally, this asana strengthens the legs, arms, back and core muscles.

 

Skeletal joint actions
Spine Upper limbs Lower limbs
Standing leg Lifted leg
Neutral spine or axial extension

 

Scapular upward rotation, abduction, and elevation; shoulder abduction; elbow extension

 

SI joint nutation, hip flexion and adduction, knee extension, ankle dorsiflexion

 

SI joint counternutation, neutral hip extension and rotation, knee extension, ankle dorsiflexion

 

Muscular joint actions
Spine
Concentric contraction
To maintain alignment of spine:

Intertransversarii, interspinalis, transversospinalis, erector spinae

To prevent anterior tilt of pelvis and overextension of lumbar spine:

Psoas minor, abdominal muscles

Upper limbs
Concentric contraction
To upwardly rotate, abduct, and elevate scapula:

Upper trapezius, serratus anterior

To stabilize and flex shoulder joint:

Rotator cuff, coracobrachialis, pectoralis major and minor, middle deltoid, biceps brachii

(short head)

 

To extend elbow:

Anconeus, triceps brachii

 

Lower limbs
Standing leg Lifted leg
Concentric contraction Eccentric contraction Concentric contraction
To keep knee in neutral extension and balance on single leg:

Articularis genu, quadriceps, intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of foot and lower leg

 

To control hip flexion:

Hamstrings

To allow lateral shift of pelvis over standing foot

for balance and to keep

pelvis level:

Gluteus medius and minimus, piriformis, superior and inferior gemellus

 

To maintain neutral hip extension and rotation:

Hamstrings, adductor magnus, gluteus maximus

 

 

 

Reference:

Yoga Anatomy-2nd Edition-Human Kinetics (2011) by Leslie Kaminoff, Amy Matthews

The Path to Holistic Health by BKS Iyengar Yoga

 

 

 

 

Ah, the almighty backbend

Upward Bow Pose – Urdhva Dhanurasana

I still remember the first time I was introduced to upward bow pose during my Ashtanga Yoga class last year. Lying on my back, I tried to figure out the pose by observing other students. All of a sudden, the young lady next to me swiftly pressed herself all the way up and stayed firmly in the pose. The way she powerfully rose up and held the pose like a majestic mountain left me with astonishment until today. What a beautiful pose with the perfect curve of a bow shape! If you ask me what is one pose that embodies strength and flexibility, this is the pose.

Benefits of upward bow pose

As a deep backbend and chest opening practice, upward bow pose, or commonly known as wheel pose, is helpful to improve our overall health in modern life. With long hours spent sitting at the desk for work or study, we tend to lean the body forward, drop the shoulders and hunch the back. This can lead to undesired consequences such as bad posture, muscle tension, back pain and restricted breathing. While the good practice is to keep your self-awareness in maintaining a good body posture, practising backbend to stretch the spine in opposite direction proves to be a good way to counteract the hunched or slouched body posture. Not only upward bow pose can improve spinal mobility, it also strengthens the arms, shoulders, abdomen and legs. You can also benefit from the energy boost by practising this pose. Spiritually, by opening the chest, upward bow pose can help to activate heart chakra which serves as our center of love, compassion, empathy and forgiveness.

Anatomical movement and muscles involved

  • Hip extension and adduction
    – Stretch all the muscles in the front side of the body by eccentric contraction (i.e. lengthening) of rectus abdominis, iliopsoas and quadriceps
    – Strengthen all the muscles in the back side of the body by concentric contraction (i.e. shortening) of erector spinae, quadratus lumborum and hamstrings
    – Concentric contraction of magnus, one of the inner thigh muscles
  • Shoulder external rotation
    – Concentric contraction of infraspinatus and teres minor (Note: Tightness of subscapularis can limit this movement)
    – Eccentric contraction of latissimus dorsi and pectoralis major
  • Posterior pelvic tilt

How to get into the pose?

  1. Begin by lying on your back. Bend your knees perpendicular to the floor. Make sure feet are parallel and hip width apart. Bend your elbows and place your palms on the floor next to the ears with elbows pointing up.
  2. Press your feet into the floor and lift your hips up. Keep your thighs and feet parallel. Then, firmly press the hands into the floor and lift your shoulders up, leaving the crown of your head on the floor. Keep your arms parallel.
  3. Press your feet and hands into the floor. Lift your head up off the floor and straighten the arms. Gaze at your nose tip or in between the eyebrows. Stay in the pose for 5 breaths.
  4. To exit the pose, bend you elbows and tuck your chin into your chest. Slowly lower down your body. Follow up with a counterpose such as hugging knees to chest or seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana).

Tips 

  • Splaying knees and feet to the side will compress the lower back. To keep your knees and feet parallel and hip width apart, try squeezing a block between your thighs or pressing your feet against a block placed between them.
  • Engage your core muscles by lengthening rectus abdominis to create airbag for the protection of lumbar spine. This avoids hyperextension of the lumbar spine in backbend.
  • Aim to open your upper back more. Draw your chest towards the wall behind you. This allows the arms to carry more body weight to allow a leg to lift in one legged wheel pose.
  • Practise wheel walks to build the strength and learn to transfer the weight into one leg then the other.

Up for a challenge?

Here are a few options to advance and deepen the pose:

  • One legged wheel pose
  • Forearm wheel pose
  • Transitioning from wild thing to wheel pose
  • Transitioning from standing to wheel pose and the other way round by walking your hands down or up a wall behind you

Safety precautions

Practise upward bow pose at the end of yoga practice when you have sufficiently warmed up your body and opened your muscles.

Do not practise this pose if you have

  1. Injury with knees, wrists, shoulders, neck, or back
  2. Heart problems
  3. High or low blood pressure

My journey with upward bow pose

Although the pose may look intimidating for a complete beginner, I started to enjoy practising backbend after a few rounds of practice. Not only upward bow pose reminds me of the strength I have within myself, I can feel the beneficial effects of back bending and chest opening shortly after practising this pose. I am able to naturally come to a good body posture with open chest each time after practising this pose. This is much appreciated by someone like me who is so used to being in hunched or slouched body posture. The good effects stay beyond the physical body. Mentally, I feel happier and with the chest opened, I feel my heart is opened as well. I feel like letting everything come and go freely. Like the big sky, every cloud is free to come and go. The sky is big enough to accommodate anything that comes, but in the meantime, the sky is willing to let each of them go when they are ready.

As for my experience of practising this pose, I had trouble with keeping my knees and feet parallel before. As much as I reminded myself not to splay the knees and feet, I tended to point them out when I was lifting myself up off the floor. I only realized my problem after having looked at the photos and videos of myself doing this pose. I would suggest students to identify any possible misalignments in your pose by taking a picture or video of yourself in this pose from different angles. From the diagonal top-down view, you can clearly see if your feet and hands are parallel and in line with each other. From the side view, you can see if your shins are perpendicular to the floor and whether you need to straighten your arms more and push your chest forward more. From the diagonal bottom view, this is how you will be amazed at the almighty backbend standing tall like a mountain.

Remember, flexibility comes with consistent practice. 

 

With love,
Wei Li

Simple Yoga Poses to Make Your Cramps Feel Better

I’m sure many woman (like myself) would experience cramps or some discomfort during their time of the month. Doing exercise would probably be the last thing on our list. However, some yoga positions are so effective at relieving menstrual pain that once you attempt them, they can be integrated into your pain management routine!

According to Women’s Health Concern (2020), about 80% experience period pain at some stage in their lifetime. 5 to 10% of women suffer severe pain enough to disrupt their life. 40% of women experienced premenstrual symptoms such as mood swings, tiredness, bloating, tender breasts.

There are 2 different types of period pain.

Primary dysmenorrhoea

  • Caused by the uterus contracting to shed its lining.
  • Common in teenage girls and young women.
  • Pain may be caused by the decreased supply of blood to the uterus.
  • Pain is mainly at the lower part of the abdomen but may go into the back and down the front of the thighs.
  • Some may feel nauseated as well.

Secondary dysmenorrhoea

  • Occurs mid-twenties or later.
  • It is unlikely to cease after childbirth.
  • Pain is not restricted to “time of the month” bleeding and can occur throughout the cycle.
  • Periods may become heavier and more prolonged, and intercourse may be painful.
  • Can be a sign of other conditions, including pelvic infections, which may need urgent attention (seek professional help).

 

Yoga Poses

Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Level: Beginner

Physical Benefits

  • Stretches the lower back muscles
  • Relieves tension in the spine
  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue

Technique

  1. Sit on your knees, knees hip-width apart, toes together.
  2. Exhale, lower your torso between your knees. Rest on your forehead.
  3. Extend your arms alongside your torso with your palms facing down. Relax your shoulders toward the ground.
    Stay here for 5 breathe or rest in the pose for as long as needed.

Yoga Poses

Supine Spinal Twist Pose (Supta Matsyendrasana)
Level: Beginner

Physical Benefits

  • Stimulate the blood circulation
  • Release tension in the muscles of the abdomen
  • Relieves menstrual discomfort
  • Improves spinal mobility

Technique

  1. Lie on your back
  2. Exhale, Hug your right knee in toward the right side of your ribcage
  3. Release your right knee to the left and if possible place in on the ground. Stretching your right arm straight out to the right. Your right hip should be stacked on top of your left hip.
  4. Inhale, Open your right arm to the right, to make a T shape with the arms. Palms facing the ceiling.
  5. Turn your head to the right, bringing your gaze over your shoulder to your right fingertips. You can skip this step if it does not feel comfortable on your neck.
  6. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths.
    Draw your right knee into your chest. Place both legs to the floor to neutralize your spine for several breaths.
    Repeat on the other side

Safety and Precautions

Avoid doing this pose if you have a recent or ongoing injury of your knees, hips, or back. There should be no pain when doing this pose.

Let’s feel better with the simple yoga poses!

 

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) – Simple pose but not that simple (at least for me)

When I came back to practice yoga in 2014 (after my first trial in 2009 and thought yoga is probably not for me), I only went for hot yoga. The reason was so simple – I didn’t feel good doing Downward facing dog! I felt very uncomfortable holding the pose and I didn’t know that I totally did it wrong. In fact, I just understand the correct alignment and do it better at Tirisula and especially during Yoga Teacher Training. With the correct weight distribution and alignment, I don’t feel bad holding the pose anymore!

How to get to the pose:

  • Hands shoulder-width apart, spread fingers wide.
  • Feet hip-width apart, toes point forward
  • Microbend the elbows
  • Relax the neck
  • Draw shoulders down along the spine. Shoulders are away from ears
  • Engage the lower belly and draw the navel back to the spine. Lengthen the spine.
  • *Squeeze and Lift the hips up to make the body as an upside down V shape* To me, this helps a lot to distribute the weight equally between hands and feet and this technique helps me to hold longer in the pose and can be rest in the pose.
  • Place the heels down on the mat
  • Gaze towards the navel

Terms of movement

  • Scapula depression
  • Arms flexion
  • Hips flexion
  • Ankle dorsi flexion
  • Torso extension
  • Knee extension

Muscles used for Downward Facing Dog

  • Stretch Gluteus Maximus
  • Stretch Latissimus Dorsi
  • Contract Abdominals
  • Stretch Pectoralis major
  • Contract Triceps
  • Contract Quadriceps
  • Stretch Hamstrings
  • Stretch Gastrocnemius and soleus
  • Contract Tibialis anterior

I hope my experience of getting into downward facing dog can be useful to someone. Enjoy the pose!

The Deceivingly Easy Pose (for me at least)

PASCHIMOTTANASA (SEATED FORWARD BEND)
Paschim (West) + Uttana (Intense Stretch) + Asana (Pose)

Muscles Involved

  • Erector Spinae
  • Iliacus
  • Tensor Fasciae Latae
  • Rectus Femoris
  • Sartorius
  • Hamstrings
  • Gluteus Maximus
  • Gastreocnemius

Benefits
To motivate students to fold deeper/ hold longer when they are in the pose

  • Stretches/ tones the spine, shoulders, hamstrings, calves and opens up the hips
  • Stimulates the liver, kidneys, ovaries, and uterus
  • Improves digestion and releases blocked gas
  • Relieves the symptoms of menopause and menstrual discomfort
  • Soothes headache/anxiety and reduces fatigue
  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis

Contraindications and Cautions
Take note of students practising this pose if they have the below conditions

  • Asthma
  • Diarrhoea
  • Pregnant
  • Arms, shoulders, back, hips or ankle injuries

Fun Tips!

Get a buddy to help you fold deeper! Go into the pose and then have the buddy gently press his/ her hands against your lower back and pelvis as you exhale. Ask the buddy to check that your spine is straight as you fold forward – try to bring belly to thighs, microbend your knees if you need to!

If your hands are at your shin, reach for your toes. If you are holding your toes, aim to wrap your hands around the feet. If you are holding the feet, put a block against the soles of the feet and hold the block!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going Upside Down

We should all turn upside down.

I mean, we should all do inversions for our yoga practice. It doesn’t matter whether you are going into a handstand, headstand, shoulder stand, Pincha or downward facing dog – It is a great addition to your practice for the multitude of benefits it brings. I would like to bring our focus to the headstand aka Salamba Sirsasana in this article. In Sanskrit, salamba means “supported” and sirsa translates as “head”.

Headstand is considered the king of yoga poses. It builds stamina, alleviates insomnia, reduces the occurrence of heart palpitations, helps to cure halitosis, strengthens the lungs, improves the function of the pituitary and pineal glands, increases the haemoglobin content in the blood, relieves the symptoms of colds, coughs and tonsillitis. Additionally, it brings relief from digestive and eliminatory problems when practiced in conjunction with Salamba Sarvangasana. Mentally, as inverting your entire body brings a rejuvenating supply of blood to the brain cells, it enhances clarity of thought, increases your concentration span, and sharpens memory. Consistent practice of this asana widens your spiritual horizons. This asana also helps those who get mentally exhausted easily. (2)

Normally, headstand is practised towards the end of a yoga class and functions to allow energy to flow towards your head, activating our crown chakra. While this advanced pose does require much focus, precision, balance and strength, this asana is essentially meant to be a resting pose. (3)

Getting into a headstand:

Kneel in front of a wall and interlace your fingers. Place your interlaced fingers down on the mat with the palms apart so you create a support for your head and place the crown of your head in your interlaced fingers onto the mat. If you’re unsure where, bring your thumb to your third eye in between your eyebrows and wherever your middle finger lands, that’s where the crown of your head is. Make sure that your elbows are shoulder-width distance apart and that your wrists are perpendicular to the floor. Shoulders should be protracted and rotated upwards. Cradle the back of your head with your hands firmly.

Next, lift your knees off the ground and straighten your legs and your spine. You will be in a modified dolphin pose with your head on the ground. Start to walk your feet as forward towards the body then lift your legs. The goal is to get your hips stacked over your shoulders. This is where hamstring and lower back flexibility comes into the game.

Once you feel stable, lift your legs straight up towards the ceiling. If you feel confident and have done it a few times, lift them both at the same time. Make sure that your body is in one straight line and there is no bent in the hips. (3)

Being in a headstand:

When you stand on your head, the first sensation you will feel is pressure—pressure on the crown of the head, pressure in the arteries and veins, and pressure in the soft tissues of the head and neck. And along with these comes more subtle aspects of pressure—the demand for maintaining your balance and the psychological urge to come out of the posture. These physical and psychological pressures affect every system in the body in one way or another: muscular, skeletal, nervous, endocrine, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, urinary, immune, and reproductive. (1)

In headstand no muscle is in an eccentric movement, but every body part is either stabilizing or contracting. Ultimately, your body will be stacked in a single vertical line. Muscles involved in this pose are the trapezius, the rhomboid muscles, rectus abdominus, the levator scapulae, the pectoralis minor, iliopsoas and flexors, and the serratus anterior. It is important to strengthen them through regular practise of asanas and strengthen training. (4)

Contraindications:

Please do not practise this asana if you have high blood pressure, cervical spondylosis, a backache, headache, or migraine. Also, refrained from starting your yoga session with this pose if you have low blood pressure. Perform the asana only once in a session and do not repeat it – seasoned yogis can hold up to 5 minutes. It is best not to practise this asana during menstruation. (2)

 

Let me end this article with a quote:

“Sirshasana is really a blessing and a nectar. Words will fail to adequately describe its beneficial results and effects. In this Asana alone, the brain can draw plenty of Prana and blood. This acts against the force of gravity and draws an abundance of blood from the heart. Memory increases admirably. Lawyers, occultists, and thinkers will highly appreciate this Asana. This leads to natural Pranayama and Samadhi by itself. No other effort is necessary.”

— Swami Sivananda

 

Reference:

  1. Anatomy of Hatha Yoga: A Manual for Students, Teachers, and Practitioners-Body & Breath Inc (2017) by David H. Coulter
  2. The Path to Holistic Health by B.K.S. Ivengar Yoga
  3. How To Do Headstand – Alignment, Anatomy, Benefits & Preparation by Joschi Monika
  4. Yoga Anatomy-2nd Edition by Leslie Kaminoff

Sitting All Day? These 4 Yoga Poses Will Relieve Tension

Corporate warriors, this one’s for you!

Image from Unsplash

If you have a desk job, chances are you’re familiar with that feeling of sitting by your computer all day.

Unfortunately, all those hours you’ve spent hunched over your keyboard contribute to tension in your body – from achy shoulders to tightness in the hips as well as legs, and sometimes even a stiff neck.

For some people, this can also result in bad posture and low energy.

The good news is that it is possible to undo the damage caused by sitting at your desk all day (without having to quit your job). All it takes is a little time from each day to consistently do these 4 yoga poses.

Apart from soothing your body, these yoga poses can also help to calm a busy mind that is plagued by day-to-day work stress. So why not give them a try after a long day at work? Your body will thank you after that!

1. Forward fold (Uttanasana)

Image from Pexels

If you have anxiety, the forward fold can do wonders for you as it calms your nervous system.

Besides that, your hamstrings, back muscles and glutes also get a nice juicy stretch while your abdominal muscles enjoy a gentle massage.

To get into this posture, stand with your feet hips-width apart and slowly bend forward from your hips. Bend your knees slightly to avoid locking them so you protect your tendons, ligaments and meniscus from tearing.

 

2. Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Image from Pexels

The downward facing dog might look like a simple pose, but it is not to be underestimated because it can strengthen and stretch various parts of your body.

To get into this posture, come into an inverted V by stretching your hands out in front of you with your hips lifted and feet grounded at hips-width distance.

When you’re in the downward facing dog, the muscles in your arms, chest, shoulder and back are engaged. Also, you’re able to strengthen your wrist and ankle joints as well as stretch your leg muscles after a long day of sitting.

It is not only relaxing, but also energizing. So the next time you need quick relief from a stressful day, get into this pose!

 

3. Cobra (Bhujangasana)

Image from Pexels

The cobra pose is a simple backbend that can counteract the hours of hunching over your desk.

It strengthens your wrist, arm, shoulder, back and abdominal muscles. As it also stretches your abdominal muscles, it helps to tone uterine muscles. Apart from that, it also contracts the dorsal muscles in your spine’s lumbar region, flushing out your kidneys.

To get into this posture, start by lying on the ground with your hands slightly in front of you. Tuck your elbows in and push up into your hands with a slight backbend. Make sure you bring your shoulders down to open your chest, while gazing upwards.

 

4. Fish (Matsyasana)

Image from Pexels

If you feel tension in your neck or head, the fish pose can help you to relieve it.

Since it stretches the front of your body, expect to engage your throat, chest, hip flexors, abdomen and intercostal muscles. Also, as it contributes to strengthening the back of your neck and upper back muscles, you’ll have improved posture and spinal flexibility.

To get into this posture, sit on your hips with your legs stretched out together in front of you, with toes pointed (or get into a seated lotus position if you’re able to). Bring your hands under your hips and prop yourself up on your forearms while learning back.

Tadasana (Mountain Pose) – A seemingly easy and basic pose that we sometimes forget to “work”

Its a standing pose, yes… but it also requires us to engage all our muscles when doing the posture.   

Pose: 

Standing tall with feet slightly apart, with both hands on each side, palms facing forward. 

Cues: 


Keeping the spine long
Feet parallel to each other and evenly grounded. Quadriceps engaged.
Activate also the adductors muscles.
Chest should be opened
Core engaged, belly sucked in.
Widen the collarbones.
Shoulders should be parallel to the ground. No slouching.
No overarch the back and squeeze the gluteals, keeping the tail bone down.
Gaze through the nose
Keep your neck long.
Chin neither tucked in or lifted
Breathing is relaxed.
5 Breaths

Benefits:

Improves posture and body awareness, strengthening legs and establish alignment.

It is a good pose to introduce to the beginners to help their awareness of the body.  One way of helping a beginner to engage the adductor muscles is by squeezing a yoga block between the inner thighs.  This would allow any beginner to recognise the muscle group and remember the sensation.  


How can we prepare for such an easy pose, one might ask. 

Standing with feet slightly apart, interlace the fingers.
Inhale raised the interlaced fingers above the crown, lengthening the spine, legs and arms
Exhale, release and relax
10 reps

 

The Anatomy of Kakasana (Crow Pose)

Kakasana (Crow Pose) : Analysing the postures with knowledge from the muscular and skeletal system

 

Note: I am not extremely familiar with the muscular and skeletal system so some muscles/bones pointed out MAY be wrong!

 

(Taken from Pinterest)

 

To get into Kakasana, yoga practitioners need to ensure first that their arms are able to hold the body weight. This involves activating the triceps brachii and biceps brachii to provide a strong base to rest the body weight upon. Contracting the deltoid muscles (anterior, medialis, posterior), pectoralis major muscle and trapezius muscle will also provide additional support to the arms to bear the weight. As the practitioner leans forward, he/she increasingly activates and contracts the serratus anterior muscle and psoas muscles (iliopsoas and iliacus) to keep the body lifted up and able to rest on the arms for a sustained period of time. To a certain extent, in order to bring the feet together to touch, there is a need to contract the adductor muscles (brevis and longus) to bring the feet closer together, and the tibialis posterior and extensor digitorium to point the toes.

 

As this is an arm balance posture, the areas with the greatest points of contact with the ground, and thus bearing the most weight are the hands – the tips of the fingers (phalanges), and especially the carpals. Practitioners whose arms and psoas muscles are not properly activated for the posture will end up bearing more weight on their wrists and potentially put strain on the wrist area.