This month I want you to choose your closest soul mate, the one who’s been there for you during all the ups and downs of your life and the person who has never, ever left you, and never will. Your very own best friend, if you just take the time to allow it … that person is there, and that person is you! During our Yoga practice we begin to make the shift from looking externally for love, and treating yourself like the person that deserves for your heart to be more open and forgiving.
When we begin to practise Yoga, we often become aware of poor posture and our shoulders rotating inwards: this is usually caused by varying degrees of physical and/or emotional mis-alignments. Known as a “heart opening” yoga pose, Ustrasana can enable a sense of release, and therefore allow us to become more open and emotionally balanced. Ustrasana also stretches the entire front of the body, the ankles, thighs, groin, abdomen, chest, heart, throat and hip flexors (psoas), whilst strengthening the back muscles, and stimulating the organs of the abdomen. Therapeutic benefits also include reduced fatigue, anxiety and menstrual discomfort.
1. Begin by kneeling upright with your knees hip-distance apart. Rotate your thighs inward and press your shins and the tops of your feet into the floor. Do not squeeze your buttocks.
2. Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis, with your fingers pointing to the floor. Lengthen your tailbone down toward the floor and widen the back of your pelvis.
3. Lean back, with your chin slightly tucked toward your chest. Beginners can stay here, keeping their hands on their back pelvis.
4. If you are comfortable here, you can take the pose even deeper. Reach back and hold onto each heel. Your palms should rest on your heels with your fingers pointing toward your toes and your thumbs holding the outside of each foot.
5. Keep your thighs perpendicular to the floor, with your hips directly over your knees. If it is difficult to grasp your heels without feeling compression in your low back, tuck your toes to elevate your heels. You can also rest your hands on yoga blocks placed to the outside of each foot.
6. Lift up through your pelvis, keeping your lower spine long. Turn your arms outward without squeezing your shoulder blades. Keep your head in a neutral position, or allow it to drop back without straining or crunching your neck.
7. Hold for 30-60 seconds. To release, bring your hands back to your front hips. Inhale, lead with your heart, and lift your torso by pushing your hips down toward the floor. Your head should come up last. Rest in Child’s Pose (Balasana) or Corpse Pose (Savasana).
CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS
High or low blood pressure, migraine, insomnia, serious low back or neck injury
Practising Ustrasana can sometimes invoke more emotions in the practitioner than other poses. It is important to keep a calm awareness of your feelings when practising this pose; fear of your emotions can create stiffness in the body and may lead to injury.