Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

Free Yoga Friday — Home Yoga Practice: Ustrasana

By Anytimeyoga @anytimeyoga

The Practice: Home Yoga Practice: Ustrasana with Alison Smith.
Physical/Instructional Parameters: Physically, the practice works through a fair number of sun salutes and standing postures. Though modifications are offered, the first 20 minutes or so of the sequence involves primarily standing poses. Additionally, since the “peak pose” of the practice is camel, it may not be for folks with significant contraindications for back bending. On an instructional level, there’s a moderate amount of instruction involved in even some of the more basic postures. While it might not be the best choice for someone who’s brand new to yoga, there is enough detailed instruction for people newer to yoga to follow it.
Props: None mentioned at the beginning. A strap and a block were mentioned partway through the practice (for bridge pose — I did not find myself wanting either, though I could see where some people might). I could also see where someone might want a folded blanket in pigeon, though this was not suggested.
Length: 40 minutes

This practice is centered around the idea of a “peak pose” — building toward an asana that may require a fair bit of opening beforehand.

Before I go any further, one thing I have to admit: I kind of hate the phrase “peak pose.” When I read or hear it, I get the idea that folks are valuing more highly postures that are often more physically difficult to enter. Even though I don’t think that’s what the instructor was implying here, it’s an association that I have difficulty shaking.

That said, I do enjoy practices that are sequenced with the “peak pose” idea in mind — though I don’t necessarily choose a “peak pose” that is physically difficult for me. As the instructor here explained, it can be a nice way to bring focus to a practice or to work through a particular physical issue.

And in that, this is a very well designed practice. I like it a lot. It’s simple in that there aren’t really a whole lot of different postures for the time it encompasses, but it’s also flexible in that there are a lot of options for many of the poses.

After some seated centering, it moves into some sun salutes. The instructor cued a lot of options — knees up or down to lower from plank, cobra or up dog — and was careful to mention them through multiple sun salutes.

it moves on to some standing forward folds — wide-legged and then uttanasana. Both offered the option of clasping the hands behind the back: as someone with stiffer shoulders who actively wants to work more shoulder opening into my practices, I might keep a strap handy if I use this practice again. It offers the option of moving through a vinyasa in between each of the more static poses, and I like very much that the instructor herself sometimes takes the vinyasa and sometimes doesn’t.

Next in the sequence are some hip opening postures: a high lunge with arm variations as well as an “active” upright pigeon, again with different arm options, resulting in different amounts of back bend. (If you’re not sure what I mean about describing the pigeon as “active,” the base is more raised, as in the third variation here.)

And after that, the sequence moves into ustrasana three times, and there’s a good emphasis on building a progression. The instructor offers two different entries (pressing up from thunderbolt and dropping back from upright kneeling), two different foot positions (toes tucked under or tops of feet flat on the floor), and a variety of hand positions (on back of pelvis, reaching for heels, reaching for backs of knees, reaching overhead and to the floor behind). I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but with this — there’s a variation that’s gentle enough for me when I’m at my un-back-bendiest and a variation that’s a stretch for me when I’m at my back-bendiest.

Finally, the practice cools down with child’s pose, twisted child’s pose, and a long savasana.

Overall, I really like this practice a lot, and I’ll actually be using it again — as opposed to the times where I say I would use a particular practice if I had trouble putting together a similar sequence of my own. While I don’t usually have a problem building a camel or other back bending sequence, I just… feel like I haven’t explored all the options this one has to offer.


Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog