“Trick or Treat!” the kids shout as they hold their candy bags out. Go on, give them a treat so they don’t play a trick on you. In yoga, every pose has a unique bag of treats to offer practitioners, such as improved flexibility in the hips, spinal alignment, muscle tone in your arms, mental well-being. There are also tricks you can learn for improvement and mastery, by tuning into certain muscles, using props or seeking the guidance of a seasoned instructor.
Here we offer the tricks and the treats of four fantastic poses to try on this October.
1. Tree (Vrksasana)
The trees may still be showy and vibrant, but all too soon they will be bare. Doesn’t life feel like that sometimes? We are young and the world is full of potential, then one day it seems we wake up and everything has changed. The treat of Tree Pose is that it’s an easy pose that will help you maintain your balance throughout your life. The trick is to practice it regularly, even for just 1 minute per side per day!
Begin by standing in Mountain Pose. Shift your weight to one foot and feel as if roots are helping you balance while you lift your other foot. This is the most basic form of Tree Pose – simply standing on one foot. To advance, place the bottom of your other foot on your standing leg, above or below your knee. Bring your hands together in front of your heart or lift them wide over your head like the branches of a tree. Focus on one spot and breathe deeply as your branches sway in the wind. Spend an equal amount of time on each side!
2. Extended Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana)
Triangle Pose has many treats to offer us, from opening our hips and ribcage to gently detoxifying our internal organs while we twist and balance. The trick to Triangle is to lean back more than you think you should to maximize these benefits. If you feel uncertain, try it with your back against a wall.
From a standing position, take a big step forward. Turn your back foot so you’re facing to one side. Reach your arms out like a capital “T”. Breathe in and reach forward over your straight front leg, then breathe out while you slowly teeter totter your arms until your hand touches your leg or the floor. Reach your other fingertips toward the sky, look upward and breathe deeply. Remember to practice on both sides.
|Firefly Pose colored by Karen Kinsley.|
Firefly’s biggest treat is that it’s fun to do and fun to try. Since you’re so close to the ground, it’s not dangerous. Oh and by the way, it will effectively tone your arms and abs as well. The trick is to overcome your fears and just try it. You might surprise yourself! Another great trick: sit on a yoga block to start.
Start in a wide squat and place your hands flat on the floor with your fingertips facing forward. Step around your hands until your heels are standing on your fingers. Lift your chest and look forward, then try lifting your legs until they straighten. Point your toes so that your legs squeeze in and press against your upper arms. Use the light in your belly to stay lifted and breathe deeply.
|Happy Halloween! From K. Mae Copham / Yoga Teddy Bear.|
Upward Hands (Urdhva Hastasana)
The treat of Upward Hands is that it’s such a natural thing to do. Most of us do it naturally when we first awaken – insight into the pose’s ability to get your blood flowing. A handful of tricks to Upward Hands Pose: do it seated while at your computer, or standing while waiting in line. Interlace your fingers and turn your palms up, and squeeze your biceps toward your ears to further tone your arms. Finally, tune into your shoulders to be sure they are relaxed away from your ears.
To begin, firmly plant your feet. Pull your belly in and tuck your tail a little. Make your arms long and strong. Breathe in while you lift your arms up over your head and make your body taller. Gently look up at your hands and breathe.
Happy Trick or Treating!