As we go further into advanced yoga poses that tend to stretch our body into deeper bends and twists, it is important to ensure that we also perform the corresponding counter-poses to avoid injuries.
A counter-pose in yoga is a posture that helps neutralize the body after performing a particular pose. Its purpose is to restore balance in the body, help us to avoid injury and imbalances in the body.
Here’s some general rules on counter-poses:
- For backbend poses, such as Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel pose), Ustrasana (Camel pose) or Kapotasana (King Pigeon Pose), the counter pose is to take the body into opposite direction like forward fold. Do take note that moving back and forth between the two extremes can cause strain in the body. Therefore, avoid the extreme spinal movement by doing a more gentle preferred counter-pose like Pawan Muktasana (Knees To Chest), which gently stretches and neutralizes the spin before attempting the complete forward fold like Paschimottanasana.
- Forward folds like Paschimottanasana stretches the back side of the body, including the spine and hamstrings. The corresponding counter-pose would be Purvottanasana (Upward Plank Pose), which opens the front side of the body and stretches the shoulders, chest, and ankles.
- Sirsasana (Headstand) requires the use of forearms and head on the floor to provide a stable foundation for the inversion. With the reverse in blood flow during headstand, it is important to remain in Balasana (child pose) to prevent sudden change in blood flow direction after coming out of headstand.
- Variations of shoulder stand poses like Sarvangasana, Urdhva Padmasana, involve stretching on the neck and upper shoulder muscles in order to balance the pose. After coming out of shoulder stand, take a couple of breaths in Savasana (Corpse pose) and attempt Matsyasana (Fish pose). Matsyasana is a great counter pose to stretch the shoulders and cervical vertebrae in opposite direction and therefore relieving any tensions built up during the shoulderstand.
- Poses like Vakrasana, Parivrtta Parsvakonasana involve twisting of the torso. To ensure there is balance on spine, perform the twisting postures on both sides of the body.
Always remember to incorporate the corresponding counter-poses in your practice sequence! Have a safe practice everyone!