Friday 26th May – say hello to my little friend

BeltBelts. They can open up whole new areas of yoga. So I was very pleased to able to use some for the first time in class this week.

The theme of the technique class this week was feet and hips. Understanding the action that’s needed in the feet for different poses is key to being able to do them well. We kicked on with Adho Mukha Svanasana. After all, it’s a pose where it’s easy to see what your feet are doing. Yoga helps us develop our sensitivity and awareness of what we’re doing with parts of our body, but sometimes it useful to actually see what we’re doing!

By looking back at the feet in Adho Mukha Svanasana you can see if the arches are lifting, and if you’re doing anything else, such as rotating the knees, to achieve the action in the feet. We practiced the same lifting action in the palms of the hands. Hands are so much more sensitive than the feet and understanding the action through the hands can help to get the action with the feet.

We also looked at the feet, literally, in Uttanasana and Parsvottanasana.

In Uttanasana the arches are lifting but the weight is over the toes, rather than towards the back of the foot as is Adho Mukha Svanasana. But in both poses both feet are doing the same thing, unlike Parsvottanasana.

In Parsvottanasana the front foot and back foot are doing different things. In this pose the focus is on pressing in to the outside edge and heel of the back foot – along with lifting the arch. Whereas the focus of the front foot is pressing down into the ball of the foot behind the big toe – and lifting the arch. Getting pressure down into both feet is key to having a stable pose and also getting and keeping the hips square. It’s not easy.

The belts came into play in the second half of the lesson when we practiced Supta Padangustasana and Sarvangasana.

I really enjoy working with the belt. Supta Padangustasana is a really useful pose for developing hamstring flexibility and core strength, as well as developing the sensitivity for releasing tension in your abdomen – key to forward bends.

It felt great to be able to include Sarvangasana in class. This inverted pose is a good way to relax and calm down and has other benefits:

  • develops core strength
  • develops flexibility in neck and shoulders
  • stimulates the thyroid gland
  • reduces pressure in the veins and eases venous return

The belt is used around the elbows to help keep the arms close together and stable, which helps to keep the whole pose stable.

Our final relaxation pose this week was Supta Baddha Konasana – with the belt keeping the feet strapped together – lying back on a couple of blocks. It’s a nice alternative to finishing in Savasana.

I kept the vinyasa class challenging this week. We warmed up limbering with Setu Bhanda (lie on your back, knees bent, inhale and lift you hips, exhale and slowly lower them back down). We did a few breaths with both feet on the floor, then with only 1 foot on the floor to really work the gluteal muscles.

From there it was into the normal routine:

  • Adho Mukha Virasana
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)
  • Urdvha Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog)

Between downward and upward dog I add either a standing pose (to work the legs) or something designed to work the arms a bit more, like Chaturanga Dandasana. The poses this week were:

  • Anjaneyasana
  • Virabhadrasana 1
  • Eka Pada Rajakapitonasana
  • Chaturanga Dandasana
  • Vasisthasana (side plank)

After running through these poses we did some shoulder stretches, using the belt to help with Gomukhasana. Then we finished with Supta Baddha Konasana. No point having the belts if you’re not going to use them!