Exercise and Fitness Guide

How to Ease Into Advanced Yoga Poses

Dr. Cindy Haines Feb 5th, 2014 (updated Jun 9th, 2015)
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The practice of yoga is simple and complex all at the same time. Yoga can be simply noticing and smoothing out one's pattern of breathing. It can also be the practice of one or more poses (asanas). When performed correctly and appropriately given any one individual's needs and readiness, yoga poses and physical practices provide great benefits with little risk. But done incorrectly, or before one is ready for any given pose or practice, the benefits may not be as meaningful, and the pose or practice could lead to injury. To maximize the benefits and minimize any risk, here are 5 yoga poses to perfect - setting up a strong and safe asana practice.

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Jump back into chaturanga
Jump back into chaturanga

When stepping back into high plank, the option to jump or "float" back and move through chaturanga is often cued. If you choose to jump (or "float") back into plank, do so keeping a bend in the elbows to protect the shoulder girdle. If not yet ready to "float" back into bent elbows, step back into high plank and lower down into low plank (chaturanga). Your shoulders will thank you!

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Side plank
Side plank

From high plank, roll to the outer edge of one foot and stack the other foot. You can lower the bottom knee to the earth for more support or scissor the feet so one foot is in front of the other. Lift your upper arm to the sky or bicep across the ear. Draw in through the core and lift both hips up toward the sky, using core strength to reduce the work placed on the arm.

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Eagle
Eagle

For full eagle, forearms wrap and palms connect, legs wrap and the wrapped foot presses against the back of the standing leg's calf. Focus first on the hugging in of arms and legs. Catch opposite shoulder, giving yourself a hug and wrap one leg over the other, placing toes on the ground as a kickstand. The forearm/palm and full leg wrap offer the next step. Hug in to the midline and draw navel in and up.

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Camel
Camel

Reach back to catch each ankle in a deep backbend that originates from a kneeling posture. But to enjoy the benefits without any risks, keep hands at lower back and simply squeeze elbows toward one another as you press your hips forward and lift through the heart and lift your gaze. With each inhale, lift up with the torso; with each exhale, draw elbows in and press the hips forward.

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Wheel
Wheel

Start with bridge with knees bent, heels close to glutes. Lift hips to sky. Lower hips and bring palms to the earth up by the ears, fingers pointing toward shoulders. As hips lift again, come lightly onto the crown of the head then lift upper body up by pressing earth away with hands. When coming out of wheel pose, remember to release to the tops of shoulders rather than the head to protect your neck.