Yoga is so much more than the asanas, or postures, that are included on this page. The practice of yoga dives deeper into an understanding of a higher consciousness, love, compassion, and even indifference. As the third limb of Patanjali’s eight limbed foundation of a yogic life, asana is essential to teach discipline, compassion, and truthfulness and will play an important role on the road to self discovery and liberation. And why deny that asana can just be flat out fun as we lunge, twist, grunt, fall, and, most importantly, smile and laugh.
Below are alignment guidelines for postures, including Sanskrit and English names. Click on the picture for a bigger view.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) Hands are shoulders distance apart and feet are hips distance apart. Sits bones (ischial tuberosity) are reaching toward the sky, creating an inverted ‘v’ with the entire body. Push the ground away from you to drive the hips up higher and to work on having one line from the hips all the way to the wrists. Neck should be relaxed and gaze is between the knees or feet. Heels are reaching toward the ground and might be hovering above the mat. If this is too much for your hamstrings, soften the knees a bit. Shoulders and scapulae should be reaching away from the ears. (Best way to feel this part of alignment is to do it wrong first by crunching the shoulders to the ears. Then bring the shoulders away from the ears to feel it right and to protect the shoulders.) Work towards rolling the biceps toward the front side of the mat.
Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff) Body is hovering over mat, only toes and hands holding you up. Fingertips are underneath shoulders. Very important **Shoulders are in line with elbows!** People often dip their shoulders, causing the shoulder to be on a lower plane. This puts unnecessary pressure in the shoulder joint and all too often causes injury. A way to remember to keep shoulders up is to constantly think about the heart beaming forward as we lower to this posture from plank. Elbows are kept in tight to the body. Tailbone (coccyx) is tucked to have one line from heels to shoulders. Feet are hips width apart. Gaze is forward. This posture requires a lot of strength; try doing the posture with knees dropped to build up the necessary arm strength.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog) Legs are hovering over mat, only tops of feet and hands are holding you up. Toes are untucked, legs are lifting away from the ground. Hands are under the shoulders, arms straight. Feet are hips width apart. Shoulders away from ears and rolling back toward back end side of the mat. Heart is beaming forward and up. Gaze is up, opening throat and having a complete extension of entire spine. This posture requires a lot of strength; try doing the posture with knees on the ground or a variation such as cobra (bhujangasana).
Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana (Plank) Often termed, “Top of a push up.” Wrists are underneath shoulders, feet are hips width apart. Shoulders are away from ears and are stabilized by the rhomboids and serratus anteriors. Imagine a magnetic pull between the elbow to stabilize the arms. Biceps and inner elbow are reaching toward front edge side of the mat. Heels reach back as the heart reaches forward, creating energies that are moving in opposite directions. Tailbone (coccyx) is tucked to have one line from heels to shoulders. Gaze is forward. This posture requires a lot of strength; try doing this posture with knees on the ground to build up the necessary arm strength.