Lessons from the Mat: Bound Half Moon Pose and the Yogi Solution to EverythingArticle posted in: Fitness
By: Eliza Darling
My father forwarded me an article today about how yoga can be used as a way to build strength. As a seasoned yogi, the obviousness of the article’s topic struck me as odd: of course yoga makes you strong! But I quickly realized that there is a misconception amongst the non-practicing community that the benefits of yoga are limited to flexibility and the ability to reduce stress, and often over looked are the physical strengthening benefits of the practice.
I’ve had, on more than several occasions, potential students approach me with the concern that they are not flexible enough to practice yoga. It is generally assumed that yoga has a flexibility prerequisite, and that flexibility is primarily what the practice will produce. I reassure them that although yoga poses will assist in gaining flexibility, they are also used as tools to gain strength, length and clarity.
Yoga is multidimensional and offers a variety of physical and metaphysical benefits, some more focused on strength than flexibility (or vice versa), some are more focused on expansion and meditation and all are dependent on the chosen style of yoga.
Just as students have hesitated to join a class because of their flexibility insecurity, plenty of new students have come up to me after class, cheeks red and clothes saturated with sweat, to shyly confess that they had avoided yoga because they preferred their workouts to build muscles and increase the heart rate. With a glimmer of new understanding in their eyes, they express how exciting it is to find what they were looking for, on their mat, in a yoga studio.
In a typical powerful vinyasa practice, the practitioner will move through dozens of vinyasa flows, building strength in the arms, shoulders, core, back, glutes and legs. A single high plank or chatturanga can immediately begin to fatigue the muscles, and held for longer periods of time or repeated over and over, will have the yogi’s body shaking and sweating.
There is no one single benefit to yoga. Strength, flexibility, stress-relief, mindfulness, compassion, forgiveness, acceptance and truth are some of the wonderful qualities that can be gained from a thoughtful yoga practice. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for in one class, try another. There is a yoga class and teacher out there for EVERYONE.
POSE OF THE WEEK: ARDHA CHANDRA CHAPASANA (BOUND HALF MOON POSE)
Ardha Chandra Chapasana is a variation to last weeks pose (Ardha Chandrasana) that requires a gentle backbend and opening of the heart, in addition to the challenge of balance, strength and focus.
- Strengthens the abdominal muscles, thighs and buttocks.
- Stretches the groins, hamstrings, calves, shoulders and chest.
- Opens the chest and the upper back.
- Can help improve. coordination and sense of balance.
- Can help provide stress relief.
- May help stimulate digestion.
HOW TO DO IT:
- Begin in Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana) on the right side.
- Inhale, bend the right knee and slide the left foot forward about 6-12” towards the top of the mat.
- At the same time, place the right fingertips on the floor about at least 12” in front of the right pinky toe.
- Exhale and press the right heel firmly into the mat and straighten the leg.
- At the same time, lift the left leg parallel (slightly higher than parallel) to the floor.
- Flex the left foot and extend energy out through the heel to keep the raised leg strong and engaged. Be careful not to hyperextend the standing leg, and make sure the knee is pointing forward instead of rotating inward.
- Rotate the left shoulder and hip back, so the left hip is aligned on top of the right hip and the left shoulder on top of the right shoulder.
- Beginners should keep the left hand on the hip and the gaze at the floor; more advanced practitioners can extend the left hand to the ceiling and lift the gaze to meet the hand.
- The standing foot bears most of the weight, with very little weight in the supporting fingertips. The right hand is only a tool to help with the balance.
- Lengthen the tailbone toward the extended heel and slide the shoulder blades down the back.
- Bend the left knee, reach the left hand back and hold onto the top of the foot.
- If the foot is not within reach, rest the hand on the left thigh, continuing to open the left shoulder as though holding onto the foot.
- Use bicep strength to pull on the left foot as you simultaneously press the foot into the hand.
- Hold for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Release foot and slowly extend.
- Exhale, lower the lifted leg to the floor and return to Utthita Trikonasana.
- Repeat on the other side.
TIPS & MODIFICATIONS:
- Avoid bending the standing knee.
- Keep the gaze down to steady the balance.
- Rest binding hand on the thigh if it can’t reach the foot.
- Rest front hand on a block for a supportive modification.
- Execute the pose with the back against a wall for added support.
*Always consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.