Awkward Pose…Demystified

Yes, it’s awkward. In fact all three parts of Awkward Pose are difficult, weird and are simultaneously amazing for your health. Go figure.

Confession: I don’t like this pose. As someone who struggles with this posture I wanted to share a few of the things I’ve learned over the years, from master teachers (like Martha Williams featured below) and lessons I learned on my own, during the quiet difficult moments in one’s hot yoga class.

Awkward Pose

Mind your breath

It’s easy to know that breathing is important during your yoga practice and it’s another thing to actually do it. I have noticed it’s easy to restrict my breathing during these postures; relaxing your lungs and chest will allow you to oxygenate your body (including your quadriceps) throughout all three parts of this posture.

Relax the inside of your mouth

This was one of the first tips I wrote about on this blog in a popular post called Ten Secret Tips for Bikram Yogis. Teachers often ask us to relax our faces when we are working hard, this is important. But I have found that consciously relaxing the inside of my mouth helps me relax and breathe more freely.

Embrace your elevated heart rate

The moments after Half-Moon Pose can feel like the first mile of a run, clunky and uncomfortable. That’s okay. Let your heart rate rise, embrace it, and know that you are preparing your body for the rest of class. You can let your heart rate rise while simultaneously use your breath to to make sure you are evenly distributing oxygen throughout your body. And by focusing on your breath, you can ensure that your heart rate won’t get out of control.

Engage your core

Engaging your core, especially your lower abdomen is key for all three parts of this posture. This helps stabilize your body while you are balancing, protects your lower spine and tones your abs.

Work from your hips, not just your thighs

This posture is just as much about opening your hips as it is about toning and strengthening your thighs. Think about leaning back into your hips in the first posture, while still staying engaged (especially for very flexible people). In the second and third part, you may need to slightly roll your hips forward to create straight alignment in your spine.

Part One Pro-Tip:martha 06

Sit back, way back

In the first part of the posture it’s easy to sit down, without leaning back. When you shift the weight back into your hips and heels, you will naturally engage your core (otherwise you will fall over) and tone your thighs. Similar to Standing Bow Pose, this first part of Awkward Pose requires you to engage your arms from the shoulder to your finger tips to counter the momentum of your hips moving back.

It’s a backbend baby

You may not realize it, but this first part of Awkward Pose is a backbend. When you are sitting that low, in order to have your spine look like Martha’s, you will need to engage your core and lean back.

Part Two Pro-Tip:

martha 07

Slightly roll your hips forward

If you have a large bum (nothing wrong with that!), tight hip flexors or your hips naturally roll back, you may need to slightly roll your hips forward before descending in part two of this posture. Practice after class and look in the mirror to check your alignment.

OMG, look at her toes!

Take a look at Martha’s toes. Wow! She is really working to sit right on the top of her toes, this protects her ankles, knees and helps maintain proper alignment. When you first start practicing this may create a strong stretching sensation on the bottoms of your feet (I notice this especially when I have been wearing heels). This is a good thing, this posture can help relieve planter fasciitis. If you look at the balance Martha has created, you can see that it all starts from the toes.

Don’t go all the way down if it hurts your knees OR you’re “hanging out”

The first six months I practiced hot yoga, I couldn’t go all the way down in this posture. Right now I have established a bad habit where I go down too far and I just kind of hang out. I am starting from scratch and am re-learning the posture the right way. It’s HARD…that’s ok! Go as far down as you can while keeping your alignment, engaged core and your legs start to shake. And then relax the inside of your mouth and breathe.

Part Three Pro-Tip:martha 08

Don’t cheat

Use your mental discipline to avoid cheating in this posture. For example, I tell myself that “the right way is the only” way to execute the posture. When I don’t give myself a choice I end up doing the posture properly and in return I receive the health benefits!

This series of poses is intentionally designed to raise your heart rate, work the largest muscles in your body and strengthen while you stretch. And if you’re like me, Awkward Pose is just as challenging for the mind as it is the body. That is the beauty of hatha yoga.

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