Summer seems to be right around the corner. Our enthusiasm for physical activity increases with warmer temperatures. Unfortunately, our aches and pains also increase as we get into summer shape.
For dancers who are spending long days in summer intensive programs, it is important to implement a restorative yoga practice at the end of the day. Many old or unfamiliar body pains are often awakened during weeks of working with new teachers, new dance floors, and new choreography.
Stay tuned to this blog space as I will share one restorative pose each week. My aim is to assist you in building your very own healing yoga practice for wherever you dance this summer! The five postures I selected for you are currently being incorporated into classes I am designing for the fabulously fierce students attending the NYU Tisch Dance Summer Program in New York City. After a full day of dancing, they know they can bring me their requests and body woes so I can guide them in healing through the yoga practice.
Summer Intensive Restorative Pose #1: If you are looking for a healing asana/pose that will be a good fit on days when you are experiencing lower back compression and hip tension, try Agnistambhasana (Firelog or Ankle-to-Knee Pose).
From its name, this asana sounds intense, doesn’t it? In one way, the posture is intense, coupling deep hip opening and lengthening of the spine and back muscles. This depth is accompanied by an intricate and precise detail of leg assembly. But in another way, when practiced with proper alignment principles and focused breathing, the posture creates healing space and ease. The rotation of the legs provides more space at the back of the pelvis and encourages the tailbone and sacrum to have more “room” to elongate the base of the spine, allowing for overall spine decompression.
Take your time getting into the pose safely:
Sit on your mat, or perhaps on a folded blanket for extra support to elevate hips. Close the knee joints first, then rotate at the hips to stack the legs one on top of the other. The shins should be parallel to the front of the mat and the anklebone on top rests on the knee. The knee on top rests towards or on the anklebone below. Flex strongly through both feet to protect the knees. Ground your sitting bones and then begin to either breathe sitting upright with a long spine if you are experiencing intensity, or go forward, curving the spine for more complexity. If your top knee does not stack easily on the bottom leg, take a block or blanket to fill that space to support and encourage safe alignment as you deepen into the pose. Breathe in the pose for several cycles to fully experience the capacity of this pose’s benefits. Dancers, “sickling” the top foot is not a good idea here in order to achieve more rotation in the hips. Be patient. Working with proper alignment will actually intensify the stretch!
Note: Due to its complexity, this posture requires time spent in other preparatory postures and moving with the breath first. After the body is warm and ready, you can sequence this posture towards the end of your home mat practice.