Friday, February 14, 2014

Dynamic Balance

One legged standing poses can strengthen the standing leg and promote mobility in the raised leg hip

Standing on one leg helps develop stability in the hips, knees, and ankle of the standing leg.  When you are really stable on that leg you can do all sorts of interesting things with the rest of your body.

In the videos below I demonstrate how you can do a lot more with one legged standing poses than just plain old vrksasana (tree pose).  Not that there is anything wrong with vrksasana--it's great too.  But there is a lot more you can do in standing balances that will take your non weight bearing hip through more range of movement while moving energy through the spine.  

These movements are based on my interpretation of the opening postures of the Yoga Synergy Air Sequence.  Please go to the original teachers, Simon Borg Olivier and Bianca Machliss for expert guidance (

I have filmed a simple version and a more complex version.  Do what feels right for you. 

One-legged dynamic standing sequence: Simple version

For most of these postures it helps if the weight bearing foot is slightly turned out.  Allow the standing leg to be bent.  You do not have to straighten it.  You can claw with the standing toes a little.  It helps with balance.  Relax your gaze.  In the beginning it helps to look at the floor but with practice you will find you can find other points of focus on.  Let the grounded foot move and wobble as needed to help you find your balance.  

The standing leg hip might try to jut out to the side so try to keep it in.  It's important that you don't feel squashing around the front of the thigh or in the lower back.  Make subtle shifts to keep these areas at ease.  It helps to keep reminding yourself to let the sitting bones move down the back of the thighs.  Relax the tongue, lips and jaw.    

The instructions for the simple and more complex versions are basically the same.  Don't raise the toe if it does not feel right.  You will develop your balance skills even if you keep the toe on the ground.  

Over time, you can lighten the load on the toe so it is just the toenail touching and one day, perhaps, the toe might feel like floating off.  Don't be in a rush to get there and even when you do come back to the toe tip practice sometimes.  I often do and it feels great.

One-legged dynamic standing balance sequence: More complex version


Stand comfortably.  Knees soft.  Soften the sitting bones down the back of the thighs to create relaxed space in your lower back.  Relax the face.  Breathe naturally.

Stand comfortably

Simple version
More complex version
From standing comfortably, lean to the right and take your left toe tip forward.  Move the hips forward. Roll the shoulders out, chest rises.  Stay, or lift the toe.  Stay or straighten the leg.  Raised thigh rolling out. 

Simple version

More complex version

Toe tip down, take it to the side.  Thigh rolls out.  Roll the shoulders in.  Hips move forward.  Stay, or lift the toe.  Stay or straighten the leg.  Raised thigh rolling out.

Simple version
More complex version

Toe tip down, arms down.  Roll the thigh in.  Take the toe diagonally behind, knee straight.  Raise the opposite elbow to shield your face.  Lengthen through the front side waist and move the back leg hip forward and up to firm the opposite waist.  Stay, or raise the toe.  

Simple version
More complex version

Toe tip down, elbow down.  Take the toe tip behind you, knee straight.  High on the back toes.  Thigh rolls in.  Push both armpits down towards your waist.  Move the hips forward. Slowly lower the body a third to a half way, however much is comfortable.  Stay, or raise the toe.  

Simple version
More complex version
Toe tip down, thigh rolls in, body rises.  Raise the same side elbow, lengthen through the waist.  Stay, or raise the leg.  

Simple version
More complex version
Toe tip down, elbow down, you are still in a twist.  Toe tip forward, hips forward, take the arms forward and across to twist the other way.  Turn the head and look over your front shoulder, chin to the middle of the throat  head tipped to the side to lengthen the top side of the neck.  Stay, or raise the toe.  Perhaps straighten the leg.  

Return to centre.  Repeat on the other side.  Happy and safe practicing.  Look forward to seeing you in class.

Much metta,

xo Samantha

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Using Your Core Wisely For Ease in Arm Balances

In this video I am trying to transmit teachings I have learned from Simon Borg Olivier ( and apply them in arm balance poses that we practice regularly in class, the simplest of which is bakasana.  I advise you to attend Simon's classes where you can.

The basic idea is to generate some thrust or power through the abdomen in a way that you can feel relaxed and calm but which will generate the lift you need for arm balances.  Please re-read earlier posts on how to use your hands and armpits as this is assumed knowledge here.

There are many ways to come into bakasana and my intention here is to find a way that allows you to breathe into your belly while it is firm.  I do not mean to infer that other ways are incorrect.  I like practicing this way because, as you will see in the video, I can smile and talk and have a good time in a strong pose because I am at ease.

The great thing about this way of coming into bakasana is that there is only one basic instruction, albeit with a few caveats.

That basic instruction is to start with a relaxed belly and attempt to push the hips forward.  This is not a pelvic tuck.

If you watch the video you will see I start in standing.  I soften the knees.  I let the sitting bones feel as though they are melting down the back of the legs (give length to the lower back, this is not a pelvic tuck).  I relax my belly and breathe into it.

I poke my fingers deep into my squishy belly so you can see it is relaxed.  As a little sidebar, I don't normally walk around with my t-shirt tied up in an 80s Flashdance knot, I just wanted to show you I am  not sucking all of my belly in and that I am starting with a soft belly.

Then I simply move both hips forward.

If you perform this action yourself you should feel that your lower belly automatically becomes firm.  You didn't have to tell it to do so, it just did.  Isn't your body amazing?  This is what I have learned as creating firmness through posture.

Note, you will be unlikely to feel this if you started with a tense belly.  So, let it relax.  Let it hang out.

When done correctly you should still be able to breathe into your belly, although it will not feel as though it is moving out so much anymore.  This is because it has become firm through the posture.

Once you understand this in standing you can try to maintain this feeling as you fold forward.  Only do this if it feels safe and comfortable for you to do.

You can see that I bend my knees to do a forward bend.  This helps me keep the forward momentum of the hips and the postural firmness.

The thing is, as you fold forward the firmness is going to want to escape.  It will almost definitely escape if you try to stick your bottom back and up.  If you look at me, I am trying to move more forward and down so the hips can keep trying to move forward.

To come all the way to the floor my bottom will actually move back a little.  But I keep trying to move it forward.

If, when you put your hands flat on the floor you feel you have lost the firmness then come back up again and try again.

When you can maintain this firmness, lean further into the hands--as much as is safe and comfortable for you.

Perhaps your feet will start to become light and you can dance your toes in so your knees come to rest on your upper arms.  I am not gripping or squeezing them.  I am resting them lightly.  As lightly as possible.  The power if coming from the firmness I have created in my torso and this helps me generate lift so I do not sink.

I apply these principles in other arm balances too.  However, I use postural firmness like this in all of my postures. My whole yoga practice is using my core.  Using it in a very special way; to quote Simon, to create stability with mobility and ease.

Please watch and re-watch is incredible video on the matter of whether it is correct to pull navel to spine here.