Chair Twist – Bharadvajasana on the Chair

This is a safe and simple twist that can be performed whilst sitting on a chair.  It stimulates and massages the abdominal organs, improving the digestion and providing a gentle stretch that releases tension from the neck and spine.  It can relieve arthritis in the lower back, and alleviates rheumatism of the knees.  Before you begin, a reminder to work within your capabilities.  Never force a posture and remember to breathe.  It’s ok to feel discomfort in muscles as you stretch, but discontinue if you experience pain in a joint.

*Avoid if suffering from a spinal injury, diarrhea, migraine or insomnia.

Sitting on a flat based chair sideways, with the back of the chair on your left.
Make sure your tail is to the back edge of the chair and that your feet are firmly planted on the floor 15cm apart.  Place them on a phone book or blocks if need be.
Place your hands on top of either side of the chair back with your elbows extending away from the body.
Bring your spine back slightly so that is directly above your hips.
Inhale and lift from the crown of the head; drawing you abdomen in so that you create height and length to the spine.

Chair Twist (a)

Then as you exhale gently twist to the left, using your left hand to push away and your right hand to draw yourself towards the chair.
Broaden into the collarbones and let the shoulders release away from the ears.
Concentrate the twist into the spine rather than the neck.
Keep lengthening on the inhalation and turning on the exhalation breath.
Hold for 3-5 breaths and release to the front.
Then turning around and repeating for the other side.
(Try to keep the knees in line so one doesn’t move forward as you twist. Using a block or a thick paperback between the knees can help with this.)

Chair Twist (b) To finish, sit on the front edge of the chair with your legs and feet wide apart.
Have your arms by your sides with the palms facing outward.
Inhale raising your arms and then turning the palms to the front exhale and stretch forward and release your body taking your hands towards the floor.
Let go so that the crown of your head releases towards the floor.

Chair Twist (c) Continue to breathe and let go for 3-5 breaths, then inhale to come up.
*If it is difficult or uncomfortable to release towards the floor stretch forward and place your hands on another chair or table.

Tree Pose

“Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim.  The better your practice, the brighter the flame.”   BKS Iyengar

Tree Pose

YOGA AND THE TREE

Since ancient times and across all cultures the tree has been considered sacred. The inherent qualities of the tree are generosity, forbearance, balance, strength, flexibility and tolerance.  All parts of the tree are useful….roots, bark, branches, sap, leaves, flowers, and fruits…shelter, fuel, oxygen and protection.
From a Yogic perspective the roots represent the foundations of integrity and truth, the trunk represents a dedicated practice and the branches are the asanas and postures.  The bark is the protection needed when the mind detaches from the body and focuses inward and the sap is the concentration of the juice of energy at the core of being.  Leaves are related to the lungs and breath.  The flowers are meditation and the fruits are the attainment of freedom, poise and peacefulness.
Within a seed is a spark of potential which holds all the wisdom of the mature tree.  A balance is needed; as above so below.  Also between strength and flexibility; if the wood is too rigid it will be brittle, too flexible and it will not support it’s own growth.  As you practise the Tree pose, you may like to personalise what the tree means to you.

Vrksasana – Tree pose
     
Benefits:
Strengthens the thighs, calves, ankles and spine.
Stretches the groins, inner thighs, chest and shoulders.
Improves balance, relieves sciatica and reduces flat feet.
Soothes the mind and nervous system, develops confidence and concentration.
*Avoid if suffering from headache, insomnia, low blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure do not raise the arms.

*If you are not sure about your balance, begin by practising with your back 1cm away from the wall. Not so that you are leaning against it, but having it there if you start to lose your balance.
Standing firmly on your left foot, activate the muscles of the leg to be firm and strong like a trunk.
Bend the right knee and place the sole of the foot against the inner left thigh, with the toes pointing toward the floor.
Bring your awareness to the right knee and let it move slightly back to open the right hip.
Place the palms of the hands together in prayer position, level with the heart.
Broaden through the collarbones and let the shoulders release down, expand through the chest as you breathe through the nose and relax the facial muscles.  Focusing softly on a point in the distance at eye level helps to gain stability in the posture.
As the tree grows up towards the light of the sky, imagine the light of your heart center radiating outwardly.

Tree Pose Hold for 5 – 10 breaths, release the arms and the leg and repeat for the other side.
*If you cannot place the foot against the inner thigh, try placing the arch of the foot against the inner knee, cradling rather than pushing into the knee joint.
If balancing is a challenge you may have the right big toe resting on the floor, whilst maintaining to hold most of your weight through the standing leg.
*If you want to take the pose further; you may raise the arms above the head keeping the palms together.

Tree PoseThen separating the hands and fingers, stretch the arms outward like the branches of a tree.
Even though you are stretching up through the arms; try to maintain the shoulders releasing away from the ears, and the chest opening and expanding.

Tree Pose - Vrksasana *Notice how, when you concentrate on balancing, you must still and free the mind from distractions in order to maintain stability.  This is one of the great benefits of practising Tree pose.