Care Tips: 3 Poses for Awakening

Care Tips: 3 Poses for Awakening

Getty/Oscar Martin

These three inverted yoga poses can spark awakening if practiced with attention, mindfulness, and care.

The difference between yoga and many other forms of exercise is that while you are doing it, you are paying attention. You notice your breath, your rhythm, the specific ways the body feels in each posture. Yoga can be a form of moving meditation. This can be true for any pose, but these three advanced poses, which bring energy into the head, heart, and throat, are especially helpful for awakening.

Inverted postures are not for beginners and should only be done within an appropriate sequence and with an experienced teacher or practitioner. Don’t do anything that hurts or doesn’t feel right, and ask your doctor or health practitioner if this practice is right for you. That said, even the beginning of a headstand will change your perspective.

1. Headstand

Headstand is one of the most classical postures of yoga, the king of the yoga poses, and is said to be the one that brings us closest to enlightenment. Some people think of Headstand as a meditation in and of itself, partly because when you’re in Headstand, you can’t think of anything other than being in Headstand. It also connects your thinking center, your mind, to the earth. With your perspective upside down, you may be able to see things differently than you could when you were right side up. Do not practice this pose with any neck issues, eye issues, or high blood pressure.

To do Headstand, come to your knees and elbows in front of a wall. You can be pretty close to the wall, and, if you like, double-fold your mat under your head. Loosely interlace your fingers and tuck your bottom pinky underneath. Keep some space between your palms, as if you were holding a plum between your palms. Bring your elbows a little narrower than shoulder distance apart. Place the crown of your head between your forearms so you can feel your wrists wrapping around your head (but not your palms). Feel free to stay here.

Tuck your toes under and lift up your bum. The closer your feet come to your face, the easier this will be. Your knees may be bent. Try to get right onto the top of your head, but press into your elbows so they are sharing the weight with your head.

Stay here or lift one leg up. Stay there, or press into your elbows as you engage your core and gently lift your other leg up toward the wall. Do not kick or jump. If you get up, aim to get completely straight, like a pencil balancing on its eraser end. Stay for up to 20 breaths (without discomfort) and then settle into Child’s Pose.

2. Shoulderstand

Shoulderstand is a companion pose to Headstand, often done as a counterpose. It is known as the queen of the yoga poses. It’s also an inversion with many of the benefits of being upside down, but it specifically stimulates the thyroid and thymus, which is helpful for hormone balance and the immune system. It is said to help us channel the nectar of the moon, locking it at the point of the neck. Do not do Shoulderstand if you have any neck issues or if inversions are unsafe for you.

To do Shoulderstand, lie on your back with your legs up in the air. Put your arms beside you like robot arms, fingers pointed up to the sky. Press your elbows down and out to puff up your chest, and lift slightly up onto your shoulders. Swing your legs toward you, lifting your back, and catch your lower back with your hands. Walk your hands up your back and bring your elbows as close together as you can. Press the back of your head into the earth as you stretch your legs up like a candlestick. The pressure should be on the back of your head, your shoulders, and your arms, not on your neck. Stay for up to 20 breaths, then gently support your back as you come down and rest.

3. Fish

Fish Pose is often practiced as a counterpose after Shoulderstand to open up the throat and heart. The throat chakra is an energy center that has to do with speech, expression, creativity, truth, and what we are or are not speaking out loud. It also stretches the heart space, which holds relationships, community, grief, hope, and many other emotions.

To practice Fish, lie on your back. Sit on your hands so that your thumbs are touching, palms facing down.

Snug your shoulders together and straighten your arms, so you might be sitting on your wrists or forearms depending on the length of your arms. Then straighten your legs along the floor and squeeze them together.

Press into your forearms, allowing your chin to lift until you can lightly rest your head on the ground. If you like, stretch your mouth open and stick out your tongue. Stay for about five breaths, then gently lift your head and lay down. Rest in Savasana (laying down with no effort) for as long as you’d like.

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Care Tips 3 Poses for Awakening

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