Home Practice

Asana 101: Upward Facing Dog Versus Cobra

Extended Mountain Pose, Forward Fold, Half Lift, Plank, Chaturanga— Inhale for Your Backbend?

If you have ever been in a yoga class you have most likely heard the above poses called at a pace that assumes you know where you are going and what to do when you get there.

WHAT IS A BACKBEND?

Backbends can be one of the most visually appealing poses, but they also encourage spinal extension, core strengthening and heart opening.

TIPS FOR BACKBENDING

  • Focus on extending through the spine as a opposed to deep bending.

  • Draw the shoulders down, back and away from the ears.

  • Engage through the core to support the low back.

  • Gaze forward or gently upward keeping length in the neck.

COBRA POSE - BHUJANGASANA (boo-jang-GAHS-anna)

Cobra pose is the most accessible option. We suggest you start here to build strength and practice the subtle engagements.

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  • Come to the belly, extending the legs long. Place the hands under the shoulders.

  • Press the tops of the feet, thighs and pubis into the floor.

  • On an inhale, press through the hands to straighten the arms. Press only as high as you can keep the lower body connected to the floor. Hug the elbows into the body. Relax through the shoulders drawing them away from the ears.

  • Draw the belly button into the spine to keep low back supported.

  • Draw the sternum forward and gaze ahead.

  • Hold for 8-10 breathes.

UPWARD-FACING DOG POSE - URDHVA MUKHA SVANASNA

(OORD-vah MOO-kah shvon-AHS-anna)

UPWARD FACING DOG.png

Once you have built strength in the arms, legs and belly you may want to try Upward-Facing Dog. The primary difference between Cobra and Upward-Facing Dog is the complete lifting of the lower body from the mat and straightened arms.

  • Come to the belly, extending the legs long. Place the hands beside the waist (elbows bent).

  • Press your hands firmly into the floor and slightly back. Then straighten your arms and pressing through the tops of the feet lift your lower body off the floor. Engage through the legs and turn the inner thighs toward the ceiling, the arms firm and turned out so the elbow creases face forward.

  • Draw the belly button into the spine to keep low back supported.

  • Draw the sternum forward and gaze ahead.

  • Hold for 8-10 breathes.

Creating a Home Meditation Practice

What the heck is meditation? Why would I do it? How do I start?

Meditation is a set of techniques that are intended to encourage a heightened state of awareness and focused attention. Meditation has been practiced across most religious traditions and separate from them. Practitioners have found increased self-awareness, stress management and improved well-being.

There are two primary types of mediation.

Observational meditation

Observational mediation is the practice of becoming an observer of your thoughts. The goal is not to become thoughtless but to become aware of your thoughts and avoid engaging in a narrative.

Try at home:

Sit in a comfortable seated position (chair or on a bolster), close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath. As thoughts or sensations arise begin to label them. As a thought arises say to yourself “thinking” and send it away. Do you have an itch? Maybe you label it “feeling” and try to sit through it. Did a noise get your attention? Label it “noticing.” As you work through this practice notice the space between each sensation or thought.

Focused meditation

Focused meditation directs your attention to a specific object – breath, object or mantra. The goal is to really experience whatever you are focusing on, whether it's your breath, a specific word or a mantra.

Try at home:

Find a comfortable seated position with a lit candle a few feet in front of you. Take a few deep inhales and exhales. Keeping your eyes open, focus a soft gaze on the candle. If your mind wanders rather than pursuing the thought let them go and bring your attention back to the candle.

Tips for success

  • Create a space that is free of distraction.

  • Get comfortable before you begin.

  • Begin with a few deep inhales and exhales.

  • Start with 5-10 minutes. Begin small and add time as you progress.

  • Be consistent. Meditation is a practice.