People love the fancy poses, it’s easy to overlook foundational postures. They can be boring, I know. The trick is to find a basics class at a studio with great teachers. The first time I took a “basic” class, it was at a NYSC and I was admonished for being too flexible. Taking a class at a boutique studio, where you love the teachers, where there will be maybe eight students in the class – that’s the way to go.
The other thing is to remember that your teacher, most likely, has a greater range of motion than you do. This video, for example. His back is so flexible that there isn’t much difference between Cobra and Upward Facing Dog. And then there’s me – in the photo above. There is a BIG difference between what I can do in one pose vs. the other.
To get into Cobra Pose, lie on your belly with your palms on the floor just behind your shoulders. Firm and lengthen your legs, keeping them parallel with your tailbone back. Pressing your hands against the mat, gently lift your navel. Lift your chest forward and up, straightening your arms as much as you can without straining your back. That last part – as much as you can without straining your back – that is the part to focus on. It is so easy to press your arms straight, putting everything into your shoulders, wrists, but this is a backbend. You should use your stomach muscles as much as you do anything else. Straightening your arms quickly, doesn’t allow you to feel the posture in your back and skips the point.
Similarly, Upward Facing Dog is one of those poses that you think you know, but you really may not. For me, wit this posture, the main thing I try to remember is that my thighs shouldn’t touch the floor when transitioning from Chaturanga to UpDog. If I can’t do it without them touching, if I don’t have the strength that day, I stick with Cobra.
To get directly in to Upward Facing Dog, prep as you did for Cobra with index finger joints pressed firmly down and parallel to one another. Keep your legs hip width distance apart with feet pointing straight back. Keep your neck long and your arms lifted, don’t dump in to your shoulders. With the tops of your feet on mat. all five toes pressed down evenly. Only your toes. Your hands and toes should be the only things touching the mat. If your arms are straight andyour legs are on the ground, you are in some strange combination of the two – and that’s how you get hurt.
Both postures have many benefits, they stretch the spine (improving posture) arms, wrists, chest, shoulders and abdomen. And with bikini season coming, they firm the buttocks (or as my daughter says – the bum bum). Who doesn’t want a firm bum bum?