Open your heart

Try these lib­er­at­ing vari­a­tions of Us­trasana (Camel Pose) from se­nior Iyengar Yoga teacher Car­rie Ow­erko.

Yoga Journal - - Practice Well -

IYENGAR YOGA IS a dy­namic process of in­quiry, in­formed and in­spired by a man who ded­i­cated his en­tire life to ex­plo­ration, says Ow­erko. In this short se­quence, Ow­erko props up your Us­trasana with vari­a­tions that warm up your shoul­ders, quads, and back and en­cour­age ex­pan­sion and feel­ings of safety dur­ing mo­ments of vul­ner­a­bil­ity. Along the way, she touches on, and plays with, some themes and prin­ci­ples that make Iyengar Yoga so ex­per­i­men­tal, adapt­able, and sus­tain­able.

Be­fore ex­plor­ing Us­trasana, en­liven your legs (and the rest of your body) with a few stand­ing poses like Utthita Trikonasana (Ex­tended Tri­an­gle Pose), Parsvot­tanasana (In­tense Side Stretch Pose), and Virabhadrasana I (War­rior Pose I). Then mo­bi­lize your mid- or tho­racic spine with Parighasana (Gate Pose) and Supta Vi­rasana (Re­clin­ing Hero Pose) over a block or two. Open­ing the tho­racic re­gion be­fore prac­tic­ing Us­trasana is es­sen­tial so that the neck does not overex­tend due to a stiff up­per back. Fi­nally, if you have tight shoul­ders, try warm-up poses that em­pha­size shoul­der ex­ten­sion, such as in­ter­lac­ing your fin­gers (or hold­ing onto a strap) be­hind your back in Tadasana (Moun­tain Pose) or Uttanasana (Stand­ing For­ward Bend).

For ex­tra cush­ion­ing in the fol­low­ing Us­trasana vari­a­tions, place a blan­ket on your mat un­der your knees and use an ad­di­tional mat over your chair. Once you’ve set­tled into the poses and props, try to stay in each vari­a­tion for sev­eral breaths. Fi­nally, don’t for­get to play!

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