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Graceful Yogi

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Pincha Mayurasana: Forearm Stand

Hello friends! Michelle, the Graceful Yogi and a fellow teacher trainee of mine was kind enough to provide a post in my absence! Lucky you guys get some tips from an expert teacher and student with an abundance of experience with inversions. I had the honor of photographing her at Gasworks Park in Seattle this summer, and can’t wait to share more from the shoot with you! 

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Process and Key Actions for Pincha Mayurasana:
For Pincha Mayurasana, I start in a strong Dolphin pose with my forearms parallel and hands pressing firmly into the mat. I tuck my tailbone a little, engaging Mula Bandha and my core so that my torso is strong and integrated. Once I feel solid in my Dolphin, I shift my gaze forward between my hands.
I lift my right leg high, careful to keep my hips as even as possible and keep my core engaged. I begin to shift my weight toward my hands and roll my left heel and eventually toe off the ground, bringing my hips over my shoulders. I slowly bring my left foot to meet my right in the air, keeping my gaze forward and my torso engaged. My hips are stacked direclty over my shoulders, and my shoulders are stacked over my elbows.
Fun Variations:
When I first started working on variations I hada major breakthrough learning:
to sustain Pincha, it is imperative for me to have my shoulders over my elbows, so that my arms make a right angle; this lets me use the structure of my skeleton to hold me up, taking some strain from my back and shoulder muscles. To do this, I press down through my hands, energetically lift my weight out of my shoulders, and find a tiny bit more backbend in the middle of my back. This is a VERY deep backbend (contortionists do it in the circus). A good indicator is to see if you can comfortably bring your forearms to the ground in Urdvha Danurasana, Wheel pose (guidance on this below). Vrischikasana is essentially the same shape, with the added challenge of bringing your feet to your head.
From Pincha, I start by energetically lengthening my whole body toward the sky, creating space in my spine and lightness in my shoulders. I allow a little more bend in my mid-back, creating more of a crescent shape with my body. Once I feel stable there, I mentally glue my feet together and start to bend both knees so that my feet come toward my head. From here, it’s a balancing act. I think about the feeling of Urdvha Danurasana in my back as I shift my gaze a little further forward, out past my hands. My feet come over my head, my hips are over my mid-back rather than over my shoulders, and my shoulders have to shift slightly forward (NOT back! This will knock me over almost instantly) to counterbalance my hips. It is not uncommon for me to put a little too much weight forward and fall into Urdvha Danurasana from here :).
“Weed Whacker”
Bring your right leg toward your head until it is mostly parallel with the ground as you bend your left leg so that the toes on both feet are pointing in the same direction. From here, begin to rotate your legs clockwise, bringing your right leg out to the side and extending your left leg to the other side, coming into a wide legged straddle; inverted straddles are a great passive stretch for the groin and release for the hip flexors. Continue rotating your legs clockwise until your left leg is extended over your head and your right leg is bent. Continue in the same direction or switch to counter-clockwise. It’s a fun balance challenge, and builds endurance in Pincha.
Important Tips for all variations:
-Keep your core engaged to help you balance and take the strain out of your back
-Send energy out through your toes to keep lightness in your arms and shoulders
-Use your skeleton to your advantage: stack shoulders over elbows and hips over shoulders (even though Scorpion deviates from this a bit, it is still a helpful way to think about how you are aligning your joints in Scorpion)
My Photo

Michelle Chambers I have always been in love with movement, using all of my being to express an emotion, an idea, a prayer. I did this through ballet for many years, until my body decided yoga was a better idea. I soon discovered that yoga was therapeutic not only for my aching back and joints, but also for my mind and even my soul. As I grew in my physical practice, I began to explore each asana as a means of expressing the love and gratitude in my heart. Inspired by this flow of grace, I completed a Vinyasa yoga teacher training with Silvia Mordini to share the freedom and joy of movement through the physical, mental, and spiritual practice of yoga. 
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Inversion Tips from Graceful Yogi

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INVERSION PRACTICE TIPS & TRICKS:
Be brave. Most people like to use the wall to get comfortable with the structure of the pose and practice getting your hips over your shoulders. A note of caution, though: the wall can become a security blanket to the point that you can execute a pose next to the wall without touching the wall, but you can’t execute it in the middle of the room because you don’t have the wall for comfort. Once you start getting comfortable with the pose and using the wall less, get away from the wall and start practicing in the middle of the room. Falling down is encouraged! 
 
Exit strategies. if you feel your weight starting to get too far behind you, contract your abdominals to come out of the backbend a little and bring your feet back down to Dolphin, one at a time; if it’s too late for that, press down into your hands as if you’re pressing into handstand and let your feet come down behind you into Urdvha Danurasana. If you’re really falling down in a crazy direction and you’re headed for the floor, TUCK YOUR CHIN to protect your neck.
Building strength and muscle memory. Bakasana is a good arm balance to start getting used to bringing your weight forward over your hands and stacking your joints; it also builds great core strength and awareness.
 
Build strength in your shoulders and upper back. Swimming Dolphin: Start in Dolphin; on an exhale, shift forward bringing your heart over your hands but keeping your hips high; as you inhale, press back to Dolphin. Repeat at least 4x. This exercise is not very comfortable, so I like to actually imagine myself as a swimming dolphin in the ocean and put a big Flipper smile on my face. Sounds goofy, but it works!
 
Practice courage, get your hips over your shoulders. To practice getting your hips over your shoulders, try some 3-legged Dolphin hops: Start in Dolphin with your right leg lifted high like 3-legged Dog; start to shift forward over your forearms, rolling your left heel off the floor, working toward only the tip of your big toe on the ground. Remember to send energy out through your right toes to lengthen and lighten your whole body. Be sure to try it on both sides (it’s good to put these at the end of a vinyasa sequence so that you have a little rest between right side and left side). Once your comfortable with heel-raises, move on to hops. Start with the same action but as you roll the heel off the ground, press off through the ball of your foot and find a moment of balance before bringing your foot back to the floor. If you need a little momentum to find liftoff, you can bend your knee a little to give yourself an extra push toward lifting your foot off the floor.
 
My Photo

Michelle Chambers

I have always been in love with movement, using all of my being to express an emotion, an idea, a prayer. I did this through ballet for many years, until my body decided yoga was a better idea. I soon discovered that yoga was therapeutic not only for my aching back and joints, but also for my mind and even my soul. As I grew in my physical practice, I began to explore each asana as a means of expressing the love and gratitude in my heart. Inspired by this flow of grace, I completed a Vinyasa yoga teacher training with Silvia Mordini to share the freedom and joy of movement through the physical, mental, and spiritual practice of yoga. 
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