Triangle pose Gives a good lateral stretch to the spine, which is a movement that most people don’t do very often in daily life. I often notice that if I don’t warm up properly before my yoga practice, this pose lets me know as my spine clicks when I move into it! Hence the importance of warm-ups...
Trikonasana or Triangle pose strengthens the legs and ankles, and can help to relieve backache and neck ache/sprain. It can also help with developing a sense of balance. Other claimed benefits include stimulation of the nervous system, alleviation of nervous depression, appetite stimulation, easing constipation, and reduction of waistline fat with regular practice!
Warrior 2 poseThis pose is all about alignment – of the bent knee above the ankle; the spine vertical (not lunging forward over the front foot); both arms level at shoulder height. Gives a feeling of strength and stability.
Virabhadrasana II or Warrior II is said to relieve cramp in the calves and thighs, and to strengthen the leg muscles generally. It’s a good posture for beginners as it can be modified/made easier by taking a narrower stance at first, gradually widening the distance between the feet over several weeks or months until the thigh of the bent leg is parallel to the floor.
Half Moon poseThis is my ultimate favourite pose: I also call it the Triangle balance, as it feels as though you are moving into Triangle pose before you lift the leg into the air. I learnt it at my first ever yoga class back in the early 1980’s, and it made a big impression on me then!
Ardha Chandrasana or Half Moon pose tones the lower part of the spine, and helps to strengthen the knees. It strengthens the leg muscles on the balancing leg as well as the hip and trunk on the raised/extended side. It helps to open the chest and shoulders. Being a balancing pose, it aids in developing focus and concentration.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downward Facing Dog pose A lovely stretch for the spine and legs. Depending on the placement of the feet (distance from the hands), it can be easy or difficult to get the heels onto the floor. Beginners often throw their weight forward with a rounded back, rather than moving their upper body through the arms towards the floor. It can be useful to work this pose with knees slightly bent to relieve any tightness in the hamstrings, and to keep the spine lengthening.
This can be regarded as a restorative pose, as it helps to remove tiredness when one is exhausted. The pose strengthens the ankles, stretches the calves and hamstrings, and helps to release stiffness in the shoulders, while building strength and stability in this area. The abdominal muscles should be drawn towards the spine, which will strengthen them. It is a useful alternative when Sirsasana/Headstand is contra-indicated (e.g. hypertension) as it has some of the same benefits of inverted poses (increased circulation to upper body without strain on the heart).
Four-limbed Staff poseFor many years I found this pose difficult; then one day I decided that I was going to master it, so spent a few months practising it until I could hold my body weight in a straight line on just my hands and toes. Shortly after this I badly damaged my upper arm and shoulder (by walking into a door handle!) so had to give up this pose for a year or two, but am now fully recovered and enjoying being able to practice it once more!
This pose strengthens the shoulders, arms and wrists. It also tones the abdominal organs and strengthens the abdominal muscles.
NB This pose should be avoided by pregnant students, and those with wrist problems like carpal tunnel syndrome.
Ekapada Adho Mukha Svanasana
One-legged Downward Dog pose The first pose can be practised free-standing, but if done against a wall, then the other leg can also be walked up the wall to work towards a half handstand; then each leg can be taken away from the wall alternately to give a stronger inversion.
This pose has similar effects to Adho Mukha Svanasana. Downward Dog pose: it strengthens the arms and legs, rests the brain, and creates space in the trunk so that the internal organs can function better. It also helps to develop confidence as there is an element of balance in the pose.
N.B. This pose is best avoided during menstruation as it inverts the body more strongly than Downward Dog.