Each week smile in the sky feature a different yoga pose and 5 physical health benefits and 5 mental health benefits related to it.
This week...one-legged pigeon pose [sanskrit translation: Eka Pada Rajakapotasana: eka (one) pada (legged) raja (king) kapot (pigeon) asana (pose).
Protect the front knee joint: move into the pose by moving the back leg back (after following a thorough warmup and practice). There is so much going on in this pose: chest, shoulders and hip opening, with a lot of flexibility required. As I often mention
in these blogs some poses are best thought of as a front opener rather than ‘back bend’
to avoid crunching the lower back. The breath is at the core of the pose, as with
all of yoga. If the breath becomes laboured, shallow or short: ease off the intensity until you can maintain long full breaths.
Mental benefit: REFRAMING
Taking the gaze upward to the sky shows us a perspective we don’t take often enough. A different view, seeing problems (or reality), in a different way can help us break out of negative patterns.
Physical benefit: FULL LUNG CAPACITY
Opening the chest creates space for the lungs, making full breaths possible (very important in this pose!).
Mental benefit: BRAVERY
Fear serves an evolutionary purpose. Experiencing fear provides the impetus for courage. Surprise yourself with what you can do and with consistent practice this pose will
be a beautiful shape and opens the body and mind.
Physical benefit: SHOULDER OPENING
A high level of tricep flexibility and underarm opening is essential in this pose in order
to reach back for the foot of the bent leg.
Mental benefit: MEDITATION
This pose may come easily to some but most have to work hard for it. The breath
is crucial throughout yoga and in this pose it can help to mentally visualise and bring awareness to areas that feel tight. See these short techniques for meditation.
Physical benefit: GROIN OPENING
Although the energy required to hold this pose increases heat in the body, the opening of the groin allows heat to escape thus cooling the body down.
Mental benefit: SELF-TRUST
Exposing the throat is a vulnerable position and this body-mind communication is one way to be with, and allow discomfort, in a safe environment. Acknowledgment and allowing of experience is central to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
For more on this mindfulness-based therapy used for eg anxiety and depression please see here.
Physical benefit: HIP OPENING
One-legged pigeon pose creates a strong hip flexor stretch in the front pelvis of the back leg: you can walk back leg further back to increase the stretch. Go gently and breathe into this area.
Mental benefit: ACCEPTANCE
Although patience and practice will get you far in this pose, an important lesson is to recognise limits – of your mind, energy, and body. In this way we show respect for our bodies and minds. Rest is so important to grow new cells and to heal: after completion of this pose fold forward to release the back and be gentle with yourself.
Physical benefit: BACK & NECK FLEXIBILITY
Central to this pose: strength in the back body and neck combines with mobility between the vertebra to allow the full expression of the pose.
To learn more about the mind-body connection and our services, including workshops for mental health, yoga, and research consultancy, please see www.smileinthesky.com
Next week... flying pigeon pose [Eka Pada Galavasana]