One of my favorite things to witness as a yoga teacher is when students take the practice that you’ve outlined for them and make it their own. They embody the practice and make it unique. Sometimes you see this as finding their own pace, altering for their needs, or exploring variations. Every once in a while you get a glimpse of how students have welcomed the practice into their hearts. They explore the practice physically and emotionally.
This week’s PowerPose, Utthan Pristhāsana or Lizard is one that students like to personalize. When we find this pose in class you can bet that the variations will number the students in the room. This pose is very grounding, which might welcome comfort when branching out and experimenting. It can also be a very intense hip opener, which can force us to modify to the right level. Whatever the case it’s a lovely sight to see each individual yogi finding their unique expression.
Try these variations as you explore and make the practice your own.
Option 1: Utthan Pristhāsana with blocks. From down dog, step the foot to the outside of the same hand. Keep the back heel lifted and the back leg long as if it were in plank. If there is any tension in the shoulders or neck, take the hands to blocks. Keep the hands shoulder width, with the arms long. Find a gentle pull of the hands toward the feet as you reach the shoulder heads wide. Keep the front foot pointing straight forward with the knee stacked over the ankle, pointing in the direction of the toes. Gently lift through the pelvic floor as you tone the belly.
Option 2: Arms and Back Knee Lowered. You might think that bringing the back knee down would make this pose easier. It does change the amount of heat in the pose, but it offers a new level of challenge. This position of the back leg allows for a deeper stretch through the hip flexor and groin, which can be just as hard, if not more so than option 1. When range of motion in the shoulders and hips allow, the forearms can be brought to the mat for further grounding and a deeper stretch. An intermediate step would be to lower the forearms to blocks. Keep the front knee hugging toward the shoulder and keep reaching the heart forward.
Option 3: Shoulder Behind Knee. Smooth the calf muscle of the front leg down with your hand, then start to shimmy the shoulder behind the knee. This can feel a bit awkward, so be sure to breath as you challenge the opening of the hip. When you find the right spot, find a gentle pulling back of the front hip. Keep the shoulders open and broad. Don’t let the pull back of the hip “bully the shoulder” or make the heart collapse. Place the hands on the mat or blocks to leverage grounding through the floor.
Option 4: Bound Utthan Pristhasana. Plant the back foot as in Warrior I. Gently scissor the legs, lift the pelvic floor, and tone the belly. Reach the arms behind the back to find the bind. If you are close and need to bridge the gap use a towel or strap. Open the heart and think of lifting the shoulder that is under the knee. Find stability and breathe.
Always work where you feel comfortable and find the right amount of challenge for you. Personalize your practice as you work. Follow this #PowerPose challenge @suzannewrightyoga on Instagram or at Suzanne Wright Yoga on Facebook. If you post your pictures or about your experience be sure to tag #PowerPose and @suzannewrightyoga.