12 Days of Christmas

"As most of you may know, I will be taking some R&R off over December and New Year, but that doesn't mean you should miss out completely on you yoga practice.

Each day for 12 days leading up to Christmas I will upload a yoga posture that you can try at home.

This is going to be a great opportunity for you to get stronger, leaner and healthier over the Christmas break, so you look and feel fabulous coming into the New Year"

12 Days of Christmas - Day 1

This pose is a passive, supported variation of the Shoulderstand-like Viparita Karani. For your support you'll need one or two thickly folded blankets or a firm round bolster. You'll also need to rest your legs vertically (or nearly so) on a wall or other upright support.

Anatomical Focus

  • Legs

  • Abdomen

  • Chest

  • Neck

Therapeutic Applications

  • Anxiety

  • Arthritis

  • Digestive problems

  • Headache

  • High and Low blood pressure

  • Insomnia

  • Migraine

  • Mild Depression

  • Repository ailments

  • Urinary disorders

  • Varicose Veins

  • Menstrual cramps

  • Premenstrual syndrome

  • Menopause

Benefits

  • Relieves tired or cramped legs and feet

  • Gently stretches the back legs, front torso, and the back of the neck

  • Relieves mild backache

  • Calms the mind

Contraindications and Cautions:

Many teachers maintain that Viparita Karani is an inversion, and as such should be avoided during menstruation. Others though recommend the pose during menstration. Check with your teacher before performing this pose during menstruation. As with any inversion Viparita Karani should be avoided if you have serious eye problems, such as glaucoma. With serious neck or back problems only perform this pose with supervision of an experienced teacher. If your feet begin to tingle during this pose, bend your knees, touch your soles together, and slide the outer edges of your feet down the wall, bring your heels close to your pelvis.

Before performing the pose, determine two things about your support: its height and its distance from the wall. If you're stiffer, the support should be lower and placed farther from the wall; if you're more flexible, use a higher support that is closer to the wall. Your distance from the wall also depends on your height: if you're shorter move closer to the wall, if taller move farther from the wall. Experiment with the position of your support until you find the placement that works for you.

Start with your support about 5 to 6 inches away from the wall. Sit sideways on right end of the support, with your right side against the wall (left-handers can substitute "left" for "right" in these instructions). Exhale and, with one smooth movement, swing your legs up onto the wall and your shoulders and head lightly down onto the floor. The first few times you do this, you may ignominiously slide off the support and plop down with your buttocks on the floor. Don't get discouraged. Try lowering the support and/or moving it slightly further off the wall until you gain some facility with this movement, then move back closer to the wall.

Your sitting bones don't need to be right against the wall, but they should be "dripping" down into the space between the support and the wall. Check that the front of your torso gently arches from the pubis to the top of the shoulders. If the front of your torso seems flat, then you've probably slipped a bit off the support. Bend your knees, press your feet into the wall and lift your pelvis off the support a few inches, tuck the support a little higher up under your pelvis, then lower your pelvis onto the support again.

Lift and release the base of your skull away from the back of your neck and soften your throat. Don't push your chin against your sternum; instead let your sternum lift toward the chin. Take a small roll (made from a towel for example) under your neck if the cervical spine feels flat. Open your shoulder blades away from the spine and release your hands and arms out to your sides, palms up.

Keep your legs relatively firm, just enough to hold them vertically in place. Release the heads of the thigh bones and the weight of your belly deeply into your torso, toward the back of the pelvis. Soften your eyes and turn them down to look into your heart.

Stay in this pose anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Be sure not to twist off the support when coming out. Instead, slide off the support onto the floor before turning to the side. You can also bend your knees and push your feet against the wall to lift your pelvis off the support. Then slide the support to one side, lower your pelvis to the floor, and turn to the side. Stay on your side for a few breaths, and come up to sitting with an exhalation.

12 Days of Christmas - Day 2

Balasana: ( Childs Pose )

(Muscles that are working in this pose are shown in red)

Anatomical Focus

• Thighs

Therapeutic Applications Benefits Contraindications and Cautions

Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips. Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips.

Beginner's Tip

• Stress

• Gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles

• Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue

• Relieves back and neck pain when done with head and torso supported

• Diarrhoea

• Pregnancy

• Knee injury: Avoid Balasana unless you have the supervision of an experienced teacher.

Exhale and lay your torso down between your thighs. Broaden your sacrum across the back of your pelvis and narrow your hip points toward the navel, so that they nestle down onto the inner thighs. Lengthen your tail bone away from the back of the pelvis while you lift the base of your skull away from the back of your neck.

Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up, and release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor. Feel how the weight of the front shoulders pulls the shoulder blades wide across your back.

Balasana is a resting pose. Stay anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Beginners can also use Balasana to get a taste of a deep forward bend, where the torso rests on the thighs. Stay in the pose from 1 to 3 minutes. To come up, first lengthen the front torso, and then with an inhalation lift from the tail bone as it presses down and into the pelvis.

We usually don't breathe consciously and fully into the back of the torso. Balasana provides us with an excellent opportunity to do just that. Imagine that each inhalation is "doming" the back torso toward the ceiling, lengthening and widening the spine. Then with each exhalation release the torso a little more deeply into the fold.

12 Days of Christmas - Day 3

(Link Cat and Cow pose together for more effective Asana)

Cat (Marjaryasana)

Anatomical Focus

•Uterus

Therapeutic Applications

•Stress

Benefits

•Stretches the back torso and neck

•Provides a gentle massage to the spine and belly organs

Contraindications and Cautions

•With a neck injury, keep the head in line with the torso.

Start on your hands and knees in a "tabletop" position. Make sure your knees are set directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows and shoulders are in line and perpendicular to the floor. Centre your head in a neutral position, eyes looking at the floor.

As you exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling, making sure to keep your shoulders and knees in position. Release your head toward the floor, but don't force your chin to your chest.

Inhale, coming back to neutral "tabletop" position on your hands and knees.

This pose is often paired with Cow Pose on the inhale for a gentle, flowing vinyasa

Beginner's Tip

If you have difficulty rounding the very top of the upper back, ask a friend to lay a hand just above and between the shoulder blades to help you activate this area.

Cow Pose (Bitilasana)

Anatomical Focus

•Uterus

Therapeutic Applications

•Stress

Benefits

•Stretches the front torso and neck

•Provides a gentle massage to the spine and belly organs

Contraindications and Cautions

•With a neck injury, keep the head in line with the torso.

Start on your hands and knees in a "tabletop" position. Make sure your knees are set directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows and shoulders are in line and perpendicular to the floor. Centre your head in a neutral position, eyes looking at the floor.

As you inhale, lift your sitting bones and chest toward the ceiling, allowing your belly to sink toward the floor. Lift your head to look straight forward.

Exhale, coming back to neutral "tabletop" position on your hands and knees. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

Beginner's Tip

Protect your neck by broadening across your shoulder blades and drawing your shoulders down, away from your ears.

12 Days of Christmas - Day 4

Alternative arms and legs

Benefits of opposite arm opposite leg The role of this movement is vast. Done properly and consistently, the most noticeable benefits include: • More lubricated shoulder and hip joints • Stretching the hamstrings • Opening the shoulder joint and hip joint • Strengthening the abdominals • Sync breath with the movement • Overall centring Contraindications and Cautions • Recent shoulder surgery • Pins in the shoulders, modifications can apply • Pregnancy in the late stages • Low back injuries Come back to hands and Knees (Table top pose), checking the alignment is the same as it was in cat / cow pose. Inhale right knee comes to the chest, exhale right leg out the back, draw toes towards the floor to lengthen hamstrings, checking that the right hip hasn’t lifted towards the ceiling, if yes draw back down, we want to keep pelvis in its natural alignment. Then Left arm comes out the front, fingers away from the body, thumb towards the ceiling. Stay for 5 breaths, come back to table top pose and repeat on left side. (Do 5 rounds) Rest in Extended child’s pose

12 Days of Christmas - Day 5

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward – Facing Dog)

Anatomical Focus

• Upper back

Therapeutic Applications

• Sinusitis

Benefits

• Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression

• Energizes the body

• Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands

• Strengthens the arms and legs

• Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause

• Relieves menstrual discomfort when done with head supported

• Helps prevent osteoporosis

• Improves digestion

• Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue

• Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis

Contraindications and Cautions

• Carpal tunnel syndrome

• Diarrhea

• Pregnancy: Do not do this pose late-term.

• High blood pressure or headache: Support your head on a bolster or block, ears level between the arms.

Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under.

Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it lightly toward the pubis. Against this resistance, lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groins.

Then with an exhalation, push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Firm the outer thighs and roll the upper thighs inward slightly. Narrow the front of the pelvis.

Firm the outer arms and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor. From these two points lift along your inner arms from the wrists to the tops of the shoulders. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the head between the upper arms; don't let it hang.

Adho Mukha Svanasana is one of the poses in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. It's also an excellent yoga asana all on its own. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Child's Pose.

Beginner's Tip

If you have difficulty releasing and opening your shoulders in this pose, raise your hands off the floor on a pair of blocks or the seat of a metal folding chair.

12 Days of Christmas - Day 6

Thread the Needle pose

Benefits: • Threading the Needle pose stretches the shoulders, arms, upper back and neck. Contraindications: • Recent or chronic injury to the knees, shoulders, or neck. Come back to Table top pose, arms shoulder width apart and knees hip distance apart. Inhale flow right arm towards the ceiling, eyes looking at the fingers. Exhale thread right arms through the left arm resting across the mat, palm facing the ceiling. On the next exhale walk left arm forward to top of the mat. Either palm flat or on fingers tis for more height. Stay for 5 breaths and bring left hand back to the body, push into the hand and lift the body, inhale flow right arm back to the ceiling, exhale right hand to the mat, to finish in table top. (Repeat left side) Complete 3 rounds. Modifications:

• Place a folded blanket under the knees to protect them from pressure and stress. Variations: • Cross upper hand over back and hold onto the inside of opposite thigh.

12 Days of Christmas - Day 7

Virabhadrasana I : (Warrior 1)

Anatomical Focus • Ankles • Calves • Thighs • Groins • Abdomen • Chest • Lungs • Shoulders • Neck Therapeutic Applications • Sciatica Benefits • Stretches the chest and lungs, shoulders and neck, belly, groins (psoas) • Strengthens the shoulders and arms, and the muscles of the back • Strengthens and stretches the thighs, calves, and ankles Contraindications and Cautions • High blood pressure • Heart problems • Students with shoulder problems should keep their raised arms parallel (or slightly wider than parallel) to each other. • Students with neck problems should keep their head in a neutral position and not look up at the hands. Beginner's Tip When the front knee bends into the pose, beginners have a tendency to tip the pelvis forward, which duck-tails the coccyx and compresses the lower back. As you perform step 2 in the main description above, be sure to lift the pubis toward the navel and lengthen the tail toward the floor. Then as you bend the knee, continue to lift and descend these two bones, keeping the top rim of the pelvis relatively parallel to the floor. Stand in Tadasana. With an exhale, step or lightly jump your feet 31/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms perpendicular to the floor (and parallel to each other), and reach actively through the little-finger sides of the hands toward the ceiling. Firm your scapulas against your back and draw them down toward the coccyx. Turn your left foot in 45 to 60 degrees to the right and your right foot out 90 degrees to the right. Align the right heel with the left heel. Exhale and rotate your torso to the right, squaring the front of your pelvis as much as possible with the front edge of your mat. As the left hip point turns forward, press the head of the left femur back to ground the heel. Lengthen your coccyx toward the floor, and arch your upper torso back slightly. With your left heel firmly anchored to the floor, exhale and bend your right knee over the right ankle so the shin is perpendicular to the floor. More flexible students should align their right thigh parallel to the floor. Reach strongly through your arms, lifting the ribcage away from the pelvis. As you ground down through the back foot, feel a lift that runs up the back leg, across the belly and chest, and up into the arms. If possible, bring the palms together. Spread the palms against each other and reach a little higher through the pinky-sides of the hands. Keep your head in a neutral position, gazing forward, or tilt it back and look up at your thumbs. Stay for 30 seconds to a minute. To come up, inhale, press the back heel firmly into the floor and reach up through the arms, straightening the right knee. Turn the feet forward and release the arms with an exhalation, or keep them extended upward for more challenge. Take a few breaths, then turn the feet to the left and repeat for the same length. When you're finished return to Tadasana.

12 Days of Christmas - Day 8

Virabhadrasana II: (Warrior 2)

Anatomical Focus

• Shoulders Therapeutic Applications • Sciatica Benefits • Strengthens and stretches the legs and ankles • Stretches the groins, chest and lungs, shoulders • Stimulates abdominal organs • Increases stamina • Relieves backaches, especially through second trimester of pregnancy • Therapeutic for carpal tunnel syndrome, flat feet, infertility, osteoporosis, and sciatica Contraindications and Cautions • Diarrhea • High blood pressure • Neck problems: Don't turn your head to look over the front hand; continue to look straight ahead with both sides of the neck lengthened evenly. Beginner's Tip When you bend the left knee to a right angle, bend it very quickly with an expressive exhalation, and aim the inside of the left knee toward the little-toe side of the left foot. Stand in Tadasana. With an exhalation, step or lightly jump your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down. Turn your right foot slightly to the right and your left foot out to the left 90 degrees. Align the left heel with the right heel. Firm your thighs and turn your left thigh outward so that the centre of the left knee cap is in line with the centre of the left ankle. Exhale and bend your left knee over the left ankle, so that the shin is perpendicular to the floor. If possible, bring the left thigh parallel to the floor. Anchor this movement of the left knee by strengthening the right leg and pressing the outer right heel firmly to the floor. Stretch the arms away from the space between the shoulder blades, parallel to the floor. Don't lean the torso over the left thigh: Keep the sides of the torso equally long and the shoulders directly over the pelvis. Press the tailbone slightly toward the pubis. Turn the head to the left and look out over the fingers. Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Inhale to come up. Reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time to the left.

12 Days of Christmas - Day 9

Utthita Trikonasana: (Extended Triangle Pose)

Anatomical Focus • Thighs Therapeutic Applications • Stress Benefits • Stretches and strengthens the thighs, knees, and ankles • Stretches the hips, groins, hamstrings, and calves; shoulders, chest, and spine • Stimulates the abdominal organs • Helps relieve stress • Improves digestion • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause • Relieves backache, especially through second trimester of pregnancy • Therapeutic for anxiety, flat feet, infertility, neck pain, osteoporosis, and sciatica Contraindications and Cautions • Diarrhea • Headache • Low blood pressure • Heart Condition: Practice against a wall. Keep the top arm on the hip. • High blood pressure: Turn the head to gaze downward in the final pose. • Neck problems: Don't turn your head to look upward; continue looking straight ahead and keep both sides of the neck evenly long. Beginner's Tip Brace your back heel or the back of your torso against a wall if you feel unsteady in the pose Stand in Tadasana. With an exhalation, step or lightly jump your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down. Turn your left foot in slightly to the right and your right foot out to the right 90 degrees. Align the right heel with the left heel. Firm your thighs and turn your right thigh outward, so that the centre of the right knee cap is in line with the centre of the right ankle. Exhale and extend your torso to the right directly over the plane of the right leg, bending from the hip joint, not the waist. Anchor this movement by strengthening the left leg and pressing the outer heel firmly to the floor. Rotate the torso to the left, keeping the two sides equally long. Let the left hip come slightly forward and lengthen the tailbone toward the back heel. Rest your right hand on your shin, ankle, or the floor outside your right foot, whatever is possible without distorting the sides of the torso. Stretch your left arm toward the ceiling, in line with the tops of your shoulders. Keep your head in a neutral position or turn it to the left, eyes gazing softly at the left thumb. Stay in this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Inhale to come up, strongly pressing the back heel into the floor and reaching the top arm toward the ceiling. Reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time to the left.

12 Days of Christmas - Day 10

Ardha Matsyendrasana: ( Half Lord of the Fishes Pose )

Anatomical Focus • Upper back Therapeutic Applications • Sciatica Benefits • Stimulates the liver and kidneys • Stretches the shoulders, hips, and neck • Energizes the spine • Stimulates the digestive fire in the belly • Relieves menstrual discomfort, fatigue, sciatica, and backache • Therapeutic for asthma and infertility • Traditional texts say that Ardha Matsyendrasana increases appetite, destroys most deadly diseases, and awakens kundalini. Contraindications and Cautions • Back or spine injury: Perform this pose only with the supervision of an experienced teacher. Beginner's Tip In this version of the pose, the opposite-side arm is wrapped around the outside of the raised-leg upper thigh. This may be impractical, and potentially harmful, for beginning students. Be sure to sit up well on a blanket support and for the time being just wrap your arm around the raised leg and hug the thigh to your torso. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, buttocks supported on a folded blanket. Bend your knees, put your feet on the floor, then slide your left foot under your right leg to the outside of your right hip. Lay the outside of the left leg on the floor. Step the right foot over the left leg and stand it on the floor outside your left hip. The right knee will point directly up at the ceiling. Exhale and twist toward the inside of the right thigh. Press the right hand against the floor just behind your right buttock, and set your left upper arm on the outside of your right thigh near the knee. Pull your front torso and inner right thigh snugly together. Press the inner right foot very actively into the floor, release the right groin, and lengthen the front torso. Lean the upper torso back slightly, against the shoulder blades, and continue to lengthen the tailbone into the floor. You can turn your head in one of two directions: Continue the twist of the torso by turning it to the right; or counter the twist of the torso by turning it left and looking over the left shoulder at the right foot. With every inhalation lift a little more through the sternum, pushing the fingers against the floor to help. Twist a little more with every exhalation. Be sure to distribute the twist evenly throughout the entire length of the spine; don't concentrate it in the lower back. Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then release with an exhalation, return to the starting position, and repeat to the left for the same length of time.

12 Days of Christmas - Day 11

Bhujangasana - Cobra Pose

Anatomical Focus • Upper back Therapeutic Applications • Stress Benefits • Strengthens the spine • Stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen • Firms the buttocks • Stimulates abdominal organs • Helps relieve stress and fatigue • Opens the heart and lungs • Soothes sciatica • Therapeutic for asthma • Traditional texts say that Bhujangasana increases body heat, destroys disease, and awakens kundalini. Contraindications and Cautions • Back injury • Carpal tunnel syndrome • Headache • Pregnancy Beginner's Tip Don't overdo the backbend. To find the height at which you can work comfortably and avoid straining your back, take your hands off the floor for a moment, so that the height you find will be through extension. Lie prone on the floor. Stretch your legs back, tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Hug the elbows back into your body. Press the tops of the feet and thighs and the pubis firmly into the floor. On an inhalation, begin to straighten the arms to lift the chest off the floor, going only to the height at which you can maintain a connection through your pubis to your legs. Press the tailbone toward the pubis and lift the pubis toward the navel. Narrow the hip points. Firm but don't harden the buttocks. Firm the shoulder blades against the back, puffing the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Distribute the backbend evenly throughout the entire spine. Hold the pose anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily. Release back to the floor with an exhalation.

12 Days of Christmas - Day 12

Savasana: (Corpse pose)

Corpse Pose commonly called Savasana, may look easy, but it can be highly challenging. It requires total “Surrender” and quieting of the body and mind. Your goal is to let gravity – not your muscles – do the work for you. Therapeutic Applications • Stress Benefits: • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression • Relaxes the body • Reduces headache, fatigue, and insomnia • Helps to lower blood pressure Contraindications and Cautions • Back injury or discomfort: Do this pose with your knees bent and your feet on the floor, hip-distance apart; either bind the thighs parallel to each other with a strap (taking care not to position the heels too close to the buttocks) or support the bent knees on a bolster. • Pregnancy: Raise your head and chest on a bolster. Lay down on your back, nice and comfortable. Legs at hip distant apart, allow the feet to fall at the ankles. Arms resting by the side. Make some space between the arms and the body and then turn palms to face the roof (If this is not comfortable you can rest your hands on your belly). Lengthen the spine by drawing the tail bone down towards the floor, and tuck in the chin, just enough to feel a natural lengthening in the back of the neck (you don’t want to feel a pulling, just a natural lengthening). Close your eyes and bring your focus to the breath. Take three long deep breaths and three slow breaths out, on each exhale allowing the body to sink down into the mat. (Stay here for about 3 – 5 mins) Beginner's Tip Often it's difficult to release the heads of the thigh bones and soften the groins in this pose. This creates tension throughout the body and restricts the breath. Take two 10-pound sand bags and lay one across each top thigh, parallel to the crease of the groin. Then imagine that the heads of the thigh bones are sinking away from the weight, down into the floor.


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Leeanne Zissimous

Buderim, Queensland, 4556
E: yogalou5@gmail.com
M: 0424 994 982

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