Exploring poses that stretch our range of motion and challenge our strength can be great fun and can release deep-seated tension throughout the body.
We don’t have to do fancy poses to be “good” at yoga, of course. But exploring poses that stretch our range of motion and challenge our strength can be great fun! And really, who doesn’t need a little deeper stretch in those hamstrings, upper-back muscles, and shoulders? This month’s Pose of the Month, Tortoise Pose, fits the bill!
Begin with the YogaFit standard Warm-Up (standing or supine) and a few rounds of Sun Salutations to warm the body.
Throughout Mountain II, focus on poses with ample opportunity to explore the actions of the hips and shoulders.
Warrior Poses (Warrior 1 & 2, Reverse Warrior, Side Angle Stretch, Triangle) can begin the work into the hips, especially when lengthening the stance as class progresses. To get a deep opening through the shoulders in Side Angle Stretch, suggest Bound Side Angle (front arm reaching under the front leg and back arm reaching behind the back where hands clasp together). Be sure to encourage students to elongate the spine and rotate the ribcage toward the sky.
To work into the inner thighs, begin in Low Lunge or Kneeling Lunge and move students into Lizard Pose by having them place both hands inside the front foot and allowing the front knee to relax out to the side while hips relax towards the floor. A bonus benefit: Lunges release tightness in the hip flexors, which makes folding forward a whole lot easier. Also cue Wide Legged Forward Fold, which allows inner thighs to stretch and open and serves a dual purpose with its wonderful hamstring release as well!
Don’t forget Standing Forward Fold! Be sure to emphasize elongating and relaxing the spine so that students can remember how to recreate that same sense of length and relaxation later. An excellent place to practice releasing the spine over the legs is in Pyramid Pose. Placing hands behind the back in reverse prayer position or clasping elbows, also introduces the shoulder and upper-back stretch that we’ll deepen in Tortoise Pose. After lengthening and creating a strong hamstring stretch, cue students to gently round over the front leg, release the hands, and focus on evening out the breath (a reminder here to avoid stretching any deeper into Pyramid once the spine is in flexion).
Seated Forward Folds are an additional bonus, which can prepare the shoulders, hips, and spine for Tortoise Pose. A favorite is Marichi’s Pose, which brings the shoulder and knee closer together, mimicking the action we’ll experience in Tortoise Pose.