Crow Posture is a common arm balance, holding the body perched on the arms with the legs tucked underneath. It is usually the first arm balance taught in yoga classes, because it's relatively easy to get into and it allows a simple, step-by-step approach to balancing on the hands.
HOW TO DO IT
Start by standing, then bend forward and put your hands on the floor a little bit in front of your feet (see the picture "Setup 1" above on the left). Bend your knees and squat down a little; it will also help to bend your elbows. Put your knees on your arms above the elbows. Keep them there. It helps to squeeze the knees together, like you are pressing them onto the arms. This will prevent them from slipping down.
Now shift your weight forward into your hands (picture "Setup 2) above middle). More and more weight will come into your hands and arms. At first you may not be strong enough to hold your whole body's weight on your arms. This is ok, just keep practicing and getting stronger. It may take weeks or months to build the strength. If your wrists hurt from the pressure, do short little sets, just a few seconds at a time.
Once most of your weight is in the arms, lift one foot at a time (pictured "Setup 3" above right). This will build more strength in the arms while also moving you closer to balance. If it is easy to lift one foot at a time, lift both feet off the floor and balance just on your arms.
This week marks three years since the publication of 3 books: Buddha Bose's lost manuscript of 84 Yoga Asanas, the Beginning Ghosh Yoga Practice Manual and the Intermediate Ghosh Yoga Practice Manual.
For anyone who doesn't already know, the manuscript for this book was created in 1938, containing more than 90 beautiful pictures of a young Buddha Bose. Bose was Bishnu Ghosh's first great yoga student in the 1930s. The manuscript contained instructions for 84 asanas and 10 mudras, but was never published for unknown reasons. Over many decades, it made its way to England and then the US, where Jerome Armstrong found it in a collection in Connecticut. We received permission to publish it and got funding support from hundreds of yogis on Kickstarter. The first edition is now sold out, and we are working on putting together a second edition that is smaller and easier to handle.
BEGINNING PRACTICE MANUAL
After teaching for a few years, it became clear that older people and beginners could use some simple instruction in accessible and beneficial postures. This book is a significant down-level from Bikram's class, intended for ages 60 and up, injured or true beginners. It includes some great therapeutic postures that build health and strength; ones taught by Bishnu Ghosh and Buddha Bose but overlooked in the past few decades. We are proud of this book, since it opens the practices to an underserved community.
INTERMEDIATE PRACTICE MANUAL
All of our book writing can trace itself back to this volume, the Intermediate Practice Manual. It is inspired by and draws heavily from our study with Tony Sanchez. It is meant for capable and comfortable yoga practitioners who are ready for some more complexity and depth in their practice. It has more than 50 postures, taking the yogi from a proficient beginner to the precipice of higher yogic practice.
We never imagined ourselves as authors or historians, but the path of life is strewn with unexpected obstacles and opportunities. In celebration of their anniversary, we are offering 20% off purchases of these three books (or their digital downloads) with the coupon code "3years".
Next time you are offended by someone else's words or actions, see if you can notice the separation you feel from them; that moment when you feel: "I am not you. We are so different." The sense of a separate self is strong in these moments. There is nothing that promotes and strengthens our sense of "I"-ness quite like other people, especially when we disagree with them.
Notice your own sense of rightness---even superiority---in these moments. We all experience it. This sense of "I" is called asmita, and according to the yogis it is one of the most powerful afflictions of the mind (Yogasutras 2.3). Normally, as we walk through everyday life, we aren't aware of this "sense of self." We just treat it as our deepest identity, and it informs our interactions with the world, people and ideas.
Once we witness the separateness we feel, what are we supposed to do?
As with many things in yogic practice, awareness is half of the battle. Once we become mindful of this "sense of self" that defines our identity, we begin to see it everywhere. It is there in both agreement and disagreement, and even in our quietest moments of self-reflection. This "I"-ness is our mind's creation of who we are, who we are not, and who we want to be.
The goal is not to avoid offense. The goal is to realize this tendency in ourselves, and then to explore and deconstruct the conditioning that has created our "sense of self." This is why getting offended is so illuminating. When we feel offense, it is because we have a strong sense of "I"-ness that is conflicting with the other point of view.
The "I"-ness is what we want to pursue, not the offense or the point of view that brought it on.
When we explore our own sense of self and our beliefs about right and wrong, we often find that they are constructions that were taught to us by parents, teachers or society at large. The beliefs we take for granted most are the ones that call for the deepest consideration.
So next time you get offended, use it as a mirror to understand your "self" better.
The inherent relationship between teacher and student is a flow of knowledge--in the form of information or facilitated experience--from teacher to student. The teacher (hopefully) has more experience and knowledge of the subject at hand, and her job is to determine what lessons are appropriate for the student and then to impart those lessons.
You may hear some say that they get a lot from teaching.
Without a doubt, there are things to be learned from the process of teaching. If we are attentive and observant, we can increase our awareness of different people, points of view, mental and physical conditions, and the effects of our teachings upon them. Not to mention that a student may bring something to our attention that we were oblivious to before. A teacher can always learn. But that is not the inherent role of the teacher, and teaching should not be approached as such.
Teaching is inherently a form of service; of giving. Not taking.
Whenever we find that we are unfulfilled by our teaching, we must check our motivation. What are we hoping to gain from teaching? I would suggest that we should not hope to gain anything by teaching, rather to give.
POWER & EGO
Whenever we stand in front of a room of people with their attention focused on us, it is almost inevitable that our ego grows. We find pleasure in the admiration and power. We must be careful of this.
Teaching is an act of giving, which is why "burnout" is so common. We give and give to our students until there is nothing left. We feel empty and soon resent the act of teaching and perhaps the students themselves. Why don't they do what we say? Why don't they give us more?
But it's not their job to give to us. It is our job to give to them.
To avoid burning out, here are three things you can do.
1) The first is the simplest but most profound. It is a change of mentality: realizing that the students are not there for you, you are there for them. Just this little mental shift can flip our relationship with teaching and our students. Don't seek to get anything from your students or teaching. Find ways to give.
2) Teach less. It is common for teachers to spend too much time teaching. Inevitably they give too much of themselves, feel empty and then lose their passion. Perhaps they even quit. Instead, teach less. As one of our teachers said, "It is an ultra-marathon, not a sprint." Ideally you will still be teaching in 30 years and offering your students the gems of wisdom that can only come from such long experience.
3) Find ways to "fill up." What recharges you? What makes you feel alive? What inspires you? Do these things, as they will make you calm and happy and eager to embrace the service of teaching. And they will prevent you from looking to your students for inspiration. Some people recharge with a personal yoga practice (but this has to be separate from your teaching!). Others travel or read or paint or play music. Find what makes you happy and do that. It will improve your teaching.
Perhaps it is obvious to say that we should speak (and write) the truth.
Honesty is one of the fundamental principles of yoga, generally referred to using the word satya or truth. It is also fundamental to moral and spiritual traditions around the world and throughout history. Pick any tradition with a moral stance, and honesty or truth is probably in the top 10 rules. So it is hard to overstate the importance of avoiding lies, at almost all costs.
DISSONANCE WITH REALITY
The most significant reason to speak and think honestly is that it keeps us in harmony with reality. When we knowingly say false things, it pits us against the actual truth, which is a battle that we will not win, and it plays out in our psyche.
For the most part, lying is an attempt at power. If I tell you an untrue version of events, you have little choice but to believe me. So, for a short while at least, I have exerted power over your perception of reality. The more elaborate I can make my lies, the more people I can convince and the more I feel that I am actually controlling what is real. This makes me feel powerful.
The problem with this, aside from misleading others (which is usually remedied over time and through learning, as people gain new perspectives and information; the truth usually comes out), is that I have pitted myself against actual reality. I have fashioned myself as a creator of truth, which is not a natural role for a human, since we are far too small to control it.
With every lie I tell, I separate myself from the way things actually are. I disconnect myself from reality. We have little choice in the matter: lies unhinge us, because they separate us from the truth.
But the opposite is also true, which is why moral traditions take truth so seriously. The more I speak the truth and align myself with reality, the more I come into harmony with the way things are. So the world becomes clearer, people's thoughts, intentions and actions become clearer, and my own purpose becomes clearer. When I have made myself consonant with reality, much confusion and obscurity dissipates.
WHAT IF I'M WRONG?
None of us know everything, so it is inevitable that we will learn new information that proves our beliefs and statements wrong. There is no inherent dishonesty in being wrong. What is important is staying aligned with reality. So when our knowledge changes and we become aware of something new, often our beliefs must change to keep us truthful.
It is far too easy and common for us to establish what we think of as "the truth," and then defend it against new information. This is called "confirmation bias," where we accept information that supports our currently-held worldview while rejecting anything that conflicts. This is admittedly part of our human psychology, but it amounts to telling ourselves little lies to maintain power over our construction of reality. In doing so, it separates us from actual reality.
Most of us have tight hips, especially in the front where the thigh connects to the pelvis. We sit for so many hours each day and this area gets used to being bent, which is another way of saying that the muscles and tissues get tight.
At the same time, our butt muscles (gluteus maximus) get sat upon and become very weak. The combination of these two elements--tight hip flexors (on the front) and weak glutes (on the back)--create all kinds of problems in our body, usually beginning with back pain.
These two sets of muscles are opposite each other across the hip, so they work as a team. When one side engages, the other relaxes to allow the hip to move. And vice versa. So, the easiest way to "stretch" the front of the hips is to engage and strengthen the glutes/butt.
The best posture to do this in is a lunging position, pictured above. To stretch the front of the left hip, step the left leg back. Then bend the right knee a little. You may already feel the stretch in the left hip. Straighten your left leg and squeeze your left butt/glute. The sensation in your left hip will intensify.
If you're not used to doing this, it is normal for the butt to engage for a second before relaxing again. When this happens, just squeeze your butt again. Engage it 5 or 10 times and then switch sides. You will strengthen an important muscle, the glutes, while releasing a tight area, the front of the hip.
It is Practice Week this week, and we are in Pennsylvania. The days are intense and draining: 5 hours of practice and another 3 hours of discussion. It is an all-out extravaganza for the body and mind. Needless to say, the end of the day finds us exhausted, and it only compounds over the course of the week.
But I have always been a morning person, and no matter how tired I am, I usually wake up early. I say this with no sense of pride; I would often choose to sleep later if I could. But once my internal clock decides it’s time to wake up, there is no way of returning to rest. So I get up.
My favorite thing to do in the morning, aside from doing breathing practices, is organize information. It is so quiet and peaceful, and my mind is full of new connections that were generated while I slept. I love to write down little bits of information that I’ve learned and questions I have. I read and research to find answers to my questions. Sometimes I gain a new sense of understanding.
This morning, I sat in the yoga room here in Pennsylvania before anyone else was up. I gathered pictures and bits of info and placed them into a slide presentation. I rearranged their order until a coherent story appeared. I looked up, saw myself in the mirror and realized that this is a pattern with me: rise early and organize information.
Doblar la columna vertebral hacia atrás, o “Flexionar la espalda” tiene innumerables beneficios para el cuerpo y la mente. Lo puedes hacer parado, de rodillas, acostado boca abajo, e incluso de espaldas. En nuestra cultura de estar sentados en sillas y jorobados ante una computadora o teléfono, flexionar la espalda es simplemente más importante que nunca para la salud funcional. He aquí 5 razones para flexionar la espalda:
5. Mejora Tu Postura: La mayoría de nosotros pasamos el día sentados y jorobados hasta cierto grado. Nuestra espalda se arquea hacia el frente, el pecho se colapsa, y la cabeza sobresale hacia el frente. Los músculos de la espalda se alargan y debilitan y pierden su habilidad para mantener el cuerpo derecho. Con el tiempo esto puede causar respiración corta, problemas digestivos y dolor en el pecho y espalda. Hacer flexiones de espalda, especialmente las que dan fortaleza como Cobra, Arco o Langosta Completa (fotografiada arriba), enderezará la columna vertebral, elevando el pecho y la cabeza. Esto va a camino largo para prevenir todos los problemas mencionados arriba.
4. Da Energía A Tu Sistema Nervioso: Doblando la columna vertebral hacia atrás expone al pecho y la garganta, estimulando nuestro sistema nervioso simpático (respuesta de lucha o escape). Para algunos de nosotros que somos letárgicos o lentos, esta estimulación tiene la habilidad para dar energía a la mente y el cuerpo.
3. Aumento De Confianza: Como explicado arriba, flexionando la espalda estimula el sistema nervioso simpático, aumentando nuestra atención. Si hacemos flexiones de espalda mientras estamos acostados boca abajo, también empujamos la pelvis hacia el suelo, lo que estimula la secreción de testosterona – tiene un efecto general de elevar autoestima y confianza.
2. Mejora Tu Digestión: Usualmente nos sentamos o páramos con una pequeña joroba, nuestras costillas presionando abajo en nuestros estómagos. Solo que nos muévanos mucho, los intestinos (en nuestros estómagos) como que se estancan y pierden parte de su habilidad para mover comida hacia el sistema digestivo y desechar. Cuando nos doblamos hacia atrás, toda el área de atrás se estira, cambiando drásticamente la forma de los intestinos y las vísceras abdominales. Esto casi siempre tiene el efecto de despegar áreas estancadas en el intestino.
1. Reduce el Estrés: Cuando nos doblamos hacia atrás, comprimimos la parte trasera del cuerpo donde están localizados los riñones y las glándulas suprarrenales. Esto tiene el efecto de reducir el cortisol en la sangre, bajando nuestro estrés a nivel químico. Varios científicos han demostrado que esto es cierto, uno de los grandes beneficios “médicos” de practicar yoga y flexionar la espalda.
Tomando todo junto, estos beneficios hacen que flexionar la espalda sea una herramienta poderosa para la salud mental y física.
Click here for the version in English.
Here are three of the simplest and most useful postures you can do. Do them in the morning right after you get out of bed, do them in the middle of the day for a boost of energy or to reduce your stress. You can do them late in the day, too, but then you should do the Wind Removing Posture twice instead of once. It will prevent your nervous system from getting too energized before bed.
PLANK (pictured above left)
This posture will strengthen your arms, shoulders, chest and abs. It can help improve your posture and reduce back pain.
Hold the body as straight as possible, including the spine, hips and legs. It will be difficult to breathe, but that is because you are using your muscles. Take small breaths, keep your neck and face relaxed, and hold the posture for a minute if you can. Then rest and breathe normally for a minute.
COBRA (pictured above center)
This posture will strengthen your back and release tension in your chest and throat. It compresses the kidneys and adrenal glands in your mid-back, helping to reduce stress by reducing cortisol. It will help to stabilize your spine, reduce back and neck pain.
Lie on your belly with your hands under your shoulders. Lift your head and shoulders using the muscles of your back. You may need your arm strength a little bit, but use it as little as possible. You will feel the muscles on your back near your spine light up. Breathe up high in your chest, near your collarbones. Hold it for a minute if you can. Then relax and breathe normally for a minute.
WIND REMOVING, SEATED (pictured above right)
This posture calms your central nervous system and stimulates your digestion and immune system. It is so simple to do, yet incredibly effective.
Sit and pull your knees close to your chest. Wrap your arms around your legs. Now breathe deep into your belly. This is important. As you inhale, you will feel your abdomen expand and press into your legs. This type of breathing affects your nervous system, digestion and immune system. Do this for a minute and then lie down on your back and relax for at least one minute.
Scott & Ida are Yoga Acharyas (Masters of Yoga). They are the head teachers of Ghosh Yoga. This blog is about their experience with yoga practice, study and teaching.
- The 113 Postures of Ghosh Yoga
- Make the Hamstrings Strong, Not Long
- Understanding Chair Posture
- Lock the Knee History
- It Doesn't Matter If Your Head Is On Your Knee
- Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
- 5 Reasons To Backbend
- Origins of Standing Bow
- The Traditional Yoga In Bikram's Class
- What About the Women?!
- Through Bishnu's Eyes
- Why Teaching Is Not a Personal Practice