Monday, August 11, 2014

In Rhythms Yoga: Monday Morning Hero Pose

Open the hips and quadriceps while building strength in the feet and ankles in Hero Pose, Virasana. Hero Pose also helps to keep the joints of the knees in good health.

Find stillness and surrender into the pose while focusing on the breath. Use the Ujjayi Breath as a tool in order to “soften” into the pose and bring a more peaceful state back into the body and mind. Seal the lips and create a slight constriction at the back of the throat, creating smooth and even, inhales and exhales. Use props for added support. Place a block or blankets under the buttocks, in order to help support the hips and knees.

To move into Hero Pose: come to kneel on a yoga mat, carpet or blanket for comfort. Sink the hips in between the feet. Use a block or blankets under the buttocks in order to raise the buttocks higher off of the ground or if you find that the buttocks does not touch the ground.  Bring the tops of the feet downwards on the mat with all 5 toes touching. If the knees are not touching the ground, or if you feel discomfort in the knees, use a prop under the buttocks.

Bring the palms to the thighs and take an inhale breath, and reach the crown of the head towards the ceiling, growing the spine taller. On an exhale breath, draw the shoulders blades flush to the back, creating more space and expansion in the area of the chest while drawing the low-belly inwards towards the spine.

You have the option to stay here and breath, for 3-5 full-rounds of breath (one inhale and one exhale, is considered one round of breath) or you can move deeper into the pose. In order to move deeper, bring the forearms down to the ground behind you. Lengthen the tailbone towards the heels by gently lifting the hips and extending them towards the heels. Stay here and breathe. Notice if the knees lift off of the ground after coming to the forearms. If the knees lift, this is an indication that you have moved too deeply into the pose. Come back to the seated variation, upright with the torso.

If the knees stay rooted down towards the ground, stay on the forearms and focus on the breath. Create a smooth and rhythmic Ujjayi Breath, for 3-5 rounds of breath or option to come all the way down to the back.

Take precaution if coming all the way down to the back. Notice if the knees lift off of the ground or if the knees want to splay out to the sides, wider than hips. This could be injurious to the knees, hips and low-back. Move into the deepest version of the pose, Supta Virasana,  if the buttocks can easily rest on the ground without a prop, and if the knees can stay in proper alignment, grounded on the ground and in-line with the hips.

If you come all the way down to the back, into Supta Virasana, Reclined Hero Pose, shimmy the shoulder blades underneath you in order to create more expansion in the area of the chest. Draw the chin away from the chest in order to lengthen more through the back of the neck. Slightly lift the hips and lengthen the tailbone towards the heels. Gently place the buttocks and hips back down. Draw the low-belly in towards the spine in order to lessen the “arching” in the low-back.

Stay here and breathe. Option to bring the hands over the head, clasping the pinkies around opposite elbows. Notice the gaze and the breath. Find a drishti gaze, or focused point of attention on a non-moving object, and refine the breath by focusing on each inhale and exhale, creating a rhythmic and even Ujjayi Breath.

To come out of the pose: slowly come back up to sitting, one step at a time. If reclined on the back, lead with the chest rather than the head, and come back to the forearms and then up to a seated position.

As a counter-stretch after Hero Pose, come down to a table-top position, on the hands and knees. Gaze down, in order to extend the back of the neck. Extend one leg at a time behind you, resting the toes on the ground. Allow the blood to flow freely back into the joints and notice how you feel. Yoga allows us to slow-down and focus on the minute details of the breath. It also allows us to practice being “present”, bringing us peace in between our thoughts, while bringing integrity and alignment into the pose.

Check with your doctor before performing any form of exercise including yoga. Always honor your body. If a posture gives you pain, gently come out.

Christi Iacono, owner of In Rhythms Yoga

Christi Iacono is a certified yoga teacher, at the 500 hour level, and she is the owner of In Rhythms Yoga, in Clairemont. IRY is a small neighborhood studio in Clairemont, S.D., located in the Mounts streets. Christi has experienced many positive physical and mental transformations from her regular yoga practice. She enjoys sharing her experience, passion, and dedication with her students. She believes that yoga is accessible to all. Rather than forcing someone’s body into a pose, Christi carefully works with each individual to find the variation that will best serve their body. Contact for more info.

IRY offers regularly scheduled classes on, Sat., Sun. and Wed. mornings as well as a Tues. evening class. Go to to see the full schedule, instructors and for private lessons.

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