Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I am experimenting with a new blog name--Yoga Dose (as in a prescription for stretching and relaxing)--to see if it is easier for people to find me. The address is still the same, only the title is changing (for now). Let me know what you think!

Stayed tuned for a Shoulder Stand sequence on Friday...

Friday, August 18, 2006


Eamonn and I had a great time this past week, splashing in the warm waters of Holden Beach, NC. The few rainstorms we encountered just encouraged more naps and movie watching (Rosemary’s Baby, The King of Comedy, episodes of Strangers with Candy) and we only saw two jellyfish—there is a good chance one was just an empty sandwich bag. Jeff (the friend with the birthday) was a brilliant social chemist and the mix of personalities was dynamite.

One thing most of the guests had in common was an interest in yoga, so we had several classes on the beach. (The guests that had no interest were greatly amused at the response to this class by other beach goers—mostly curious smiles). We did the following sequences:

Work for the Abdominals

Sukhasana (Seated Easy Pose)-Concentrate on lengthening the side ribs to create space in the lower half of the torso. Balance the pelvis so you are resting on the center of the sit bones, not rolling forward or back.

Hastasana + Dandasana (Overhead Arm Stretch and Staff Pose)-Maintain the length you just established, while adding the stretch of the feet forwards and the arms overhead. Keep the spine long and the pelvis balanced so the lower back doesn’t overarch or slump backwards.

Cat Stretch-Start by lifting the tailbone towards the sky and let the arch move through the spine until you are lifting the head. Then point the tailbone down and open the back of the spine until the head drops forward. Repeat, slowly.

Bhujangasana (Cobra)-Use the palms on the ground as a support, but don’t push the chest up; let your back muscles do the lifting. Repeat, and this time you can use your hands to push the chest up and get a deeper stretch in the spine. Keep the hips pressed to the ground.

Salabhasana (Locust)-Deepen the work of the back by lifting both the hands and the feet off the ground. Keep the neck long and the shoulders away from the ears.

Tadasana + Gomukhasana (Mountain and Cow’s Head Arms)-Stand up to give the back muscles a rest and do a little chest opening. Try to press the elbows back and towards the center to deepen the rotation in the shoulder joints.

Navasana (Boat Pose)-Come back to the floor and try and hold this intense pose (see July 10) for at least 10 breaths.

Sukhasana with a twist-Release your abdominals by adding a twist to this seated pose. Let your exhales help you deepen into the twist, as you lengthen the spine by grounding through the sit bone and lifting the top of the head towards the sky.

Standing Poses

Tadasana+Hastasana (Mountain and Overhead Arm Stretch)-Align in this standing pose and keep the lower back in neutral as you lift the palms towards the sky. Standing will make this a more energetic pose, so be sure to keep your breath even.

Trikonasana (Triangle)-With your attention in the side ribs, try to keep both sides long as you fold over the right leg first. Repeat on the left side.

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2)-Try to bring the right knee to almost a 90-degree angle, while keeping the head lined up with the tailbone. Make sure the knee stays directly over the right ankle. Change sides.

Parsvakonasana (Lateral Angle)-Keeping the stance you established in Warrior, now fold over the bent right leg and rest the forearm on that thigh. Try to make a straight line from your wrist to ankle by keeping the 90-degree bend in the right knee. Repeat on the left side.

Flow of the following three poses-Use feedback to improve each successive pose—keep the side ribs long, keep the knee over the ankle, keep the hips level—as you flow from Triangle to Warrior to Lateral Angle on each side.

Tadasana+Gomukhasana (Mountain and Cow’s Head Arms)-End with the same quiet energy that you started with, this time by stretching out the chest and shoulders. Pause for a moment in Mountain with your eyes closed and notice what muscles were worked by these poses.

Now, open your eyes and go jump into the ocean (beware of any beached Ziplocs)! ©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 04, 2006


It’s been awhile since I’ve included an actual sequence in my posting, so this week I decided to focus on a favorite series of poses, shoulder-openers. The poor upper back—it often bears the physical manifestations of our mental stress, such as tight shoulders, stiff necks and slouched postures. In June, I discussed how sitting tall and breathing can be relaxing, but here are some poses you can also do to open these areas and relieve some of the tension. They are especially nice at the end of the day.

Shoulder Opening Sequence

Sukhasana-Sit with the spine completely aligned and let the breath help you release any tension you are holding in your shoulders. Notice how the shoulders start to drop away from the ears as the neck softens and you settle into the pose.

Neck stretch-With the torso aligned, let the weight of the right hand anchor the body as you gently stretch your head to the left, lengthening the muscles along the side of the neck and top of the shoulder. Gently use pull the head farther left with your left hand on top of the head. Then, rotate your head slightly forwards so the stretch moves into the upper back. Change sides.

Hastasana-Keep the shoulders away from the ears as you lift your arms overhead. After your initial stretch, bend the elbows slightly and let your palms come further overhead to deepen the rotation in the shoulder joints. Try to straighten the arms. To stretch the legs, sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose) or Virasana (Hero Pose).

Balancing Cat-On all fours, stretch to opposite right hand and left foot away from each other, making a straight line from the fingers through the torso and to the toes. Lower that arm and leg. Now switch hands and legs. This engages muscles in both the front and back body.

Salabhasana (Locust Pose)-Let your inhales help you as you lift the palms and the soles of the feet off the mat from a prone position. This increases the work of the torso, because the muscles of the rib cage help you lift. Keep your awareness in the muscles on either side of the spine and lengthen the neck as the fingers and toes stretch away from each other.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)-This pose is sort of the opposite of locust, because now you are grounding through the hands and feet while lifting the tailbone up. Enjoy the stretch in the shoulders and backs of the calves. To deepen the rotation of the shoulders, you can rest your heels against the wall, about 4-5” above the floor, and let the front of the body sink a bit deeper.

Balasana (Child’s Pose)-Come down to the floor from Dog, but keep the hands stretched out in front of you at first. Press the tips of the fingers to the floor and lift the palms of the hands—notice the stretch behind the shoulder blades. Then rest the hands on the floor, or relax the arms along side the body.

Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall Pose). Lie on the floor with the backs of your legs and hips resting against the wall and the feet lined up over the hips. Feel the pressure draining out of your feet and ankles. Keep the spine long as you relax the back into the support of the floor. Stay in this relaxing pose as long as you like.

This is going to be my last posting for a couple of weeks, because I’m going to in North Carolina. My friend, Jeff, is celebrating his 40th birthday by renting a beach house--so Eamonn and I are going to join him out there for a vacation. Rough, isn’t it? (Well, turning 40 is, but sunning ourselves on the sand is not) Hopefully, all tropical storms, heat waves and jelly fish decide to leave us alone.

While I’m gone, think about what sorts of poses and discussions you’d like to read about on this blog. Do you want more general sequences for home practice? Specific poses for different muscle groups? I haven’t heard much from any one out there and would like some feedback. If you’re shy, don’t worry, I have the comments section set up so I read any messages before they are posted and can delete those you don’t want published. Let me know what you think and if you have any requests.

Stay cool (as if that’s ever in question) and I’ll be back in a few weeks!

©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved.