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Yoga Aligned

Welcome to Yoga Aligned. Here, you can explore the alignment of the poses of the Primary Series of Ashtanga-Vinyasa. Although the positions are approached from the perspective of Ashtanga, the information and anatomy and alignment are applicable to other forms of Yoga.

If you’re new to Ashtanga,  read about Ashtanga or start moving with the Sun Salutation sequence

Asana: Pose / Posture

Asana literally means ‘seat.’ It is taken today to mean a Yoga pose or posture. Each asana presents its own challenges and opportunities, and yet each is simply a new form or container for the breath to fill. Competence in an Asana is not simply creating the physical appearance of the pose; it is when the breath is full and unlabored, the entire body is intelligent and participating fully in the effort, the is mind clear and focused. When we begin to work on a new, difficult asana, the breath is shallow, rapid, or held, and parts of the body are stiff, weak, painful, forgotten, injured, or immobile. The Ashtanga sequences are crafted to systematically uncover and rehabilitate these deficiencies, frequently ones that we were unaware of. Over time, with intelligent practice, each part of the body and mind becomes strong, light, and healthy. Continue reading…

 

 

Ashtanga-Vinyasa

  • mantra textAshtanga Mantra

    Everywhere in the world, Ashtanga yoga practice begins with this mantra. To a long-time practitioner, it becomes a familiar friend and a welcoming presence, a signal to release the body and mind into the present moment. Mantra is not a blind devotion or guru-worship or religious indoctrination. It is a tool that we use to focus...

  • ujjayiHow to Breathe: Ujjayi

    Ujjayi, “victorious,” breath is central to a fruitful practice of Ashtanga Yoga. It is performed continuously during the practice of asana. Technique Ujjayi is performed by lightly constricting the musculature of the throat so that the epiglottis is slightly closed. This creates friction as breath passes through the narrowed opening of the airway. Then, with the...

  • The jump back of vinyasaThe Vinyasa

    How to Jump back and Jump through Vinyasa means ‘carefully ordered.’ It refers to the sequence as a whole, since each movement has been carefully choreographed. It also refers to the connective tissue between each pose, which is the subject of the following discussion. The vinyasa between poses is the middle section of the Surya Namaskar form (Sun Salutation): catvari (chaturanga); panca (urdhva mukha svanasana); and Sat (adho mukha svanasana.)*

Keys Of Awareness

  • bandha featuredDiscovery and Experience of the Bandha

    One of the concepts very central to Ashtanga-Vinyasa practice is the Bandha*. It’s a word with a connotation of bridging, fastening, binding, connecting, or locking. There are three Bandha discussed in historical texts and modern practices: Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha, and Jalandhara Bandha. Much allure surrounds the Bandha, though they tend to be poorly understood...

  • Into the looking glass

    When you hear the word Yoga, what image pops into your head? For many, it’s vaguely synonymous with “relaxing,” “stretching,” or “calm.” My idea is a bit different. But then, I practice Ashtanga Vinyasa. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a therapeutic system designed to create alignment in body and mind with an emphasis on tapas. In...

  • Pelvic Tilt - anterior and posteriorUnderstanding Pelvic Tilt

    The pelvis has three primary skeletal components: the right hip, the left hip, and the sacrum. While these pieces can move independently, they often work together as a unit. This movement of the pelvis is important to be aware of in most Yoga positions as it has a significant effect throughout the body.

  • Latissimus DorsiLatissimus Dorsi

    The Latissimus Dorsi, commonly known as the 'Lats', is a broad muscle group in the back. They are essential for stability and safety in any pose in which weight is on the hands, including arm balances and inversions. Using the Lats will also help you guide the upper back and shoulders to participate in backbending postures, rather than only the lower back (which is harmful over time).

Primary Series

  • Urdhvamukha-PaschimottanasanaUrdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana

    Urdhva: Upward Mukha: Facing / Looking Paschim: West / Behind (Referring to the dorsal or back surface of the body) Uttana: Stretched Asana: Pose Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana is the twenty-ninth pose of the primary series, and the twenty-fifth seated pose. It prepares the practitioner for Sarvangasana-family poses and helps to build strength and finesse in the musculature of...

  • ubhaya-padangusthasanaUbhaya Padangusthasana

    Ubhaya Padangusthasana is the twenty-eight pose of the primary series, and the twenty-fourth seated pose. This posture, as with Supta Konasana, prepares the practitioner for Sarvangasana-family poses. It also serves to create strength and coordination in the low belly and hips.

  • chakrasanaChakrasana

    Chakrasana is the method of taking Vinyasa from postures that end in a supine position.

  • Supta PadangusthasanaSupta Padangusthasana

    Supta Padangusthasana is the twenty-seventh pose of the primary series, and the twenty-third seated pose. It has A and B variations. Though it may appear to be a "flexibility" pose, this is a very strength-based asana. It is one of the few hamstring-strengthening poses in the primary series.

  • Supta KonasanaSupta Konasana

    Supta Konasana is the twenty-sixth pose of the primary series, and the twenty-second seated pose. It is the first introduction to the sarvangasana ("shoulderstand") pattern of postures.

  • urdhva-konasanaUrdhva Konasana

    Urdhva Konasana is the twenty-sixth pose of the primary series, and the twenty-first seated pose. It focuses more on balance than flexibility, and on integration of the limbs. Most of the effort is concentrated in the hip flexors and low belly.

  • Upavistha KonasanaUpavistha Konasana

    Upavistha Konasana is the twenty-fifth pose of the primary series, and the twentieth seated pose. While both this pose and Baddha Konasana focus on the area of the groin/inner thigh, the position of the legs emphasizes the length of the hamstrings, unlike Baddha Konasana. Specifically, semimembranosus, one of the three hamstring muscles, is lengthened, unlike a forward fold such as Paschimottanasana which is more likely to involve the other hamstring muscles.

  • Baddha-Konasana-A-SideBaddha Konasana

    Baddha Konasana is the twenty-fourth pose of the primary series, and the nineteenth seated pose. It has three forms: upright, folded, and flexed.

  • kukkutasanaKukkutasana

    Kukkutasana is the twenty-third pose of the primary series, and the eighteenth seated pose. This is the final pose of what is often called the "apex" of the Primary series—five challenging asana in the middle of the sequence. Kukkutasana, an arm balance, is entered directly from Garbha Pindasana. It can only be performed in Lotus. (If attempted with the legs not in lotus, it becomes Bhujapidasana.)

  • Garbha-pindasana-sideGarbha Pindasana

    Garbha Pindasana is the twenty-second pose of the primary series, and the seventeenth seated pose. This is the fourth pose of what is often called the "apex" of the Primary series—five challenging asana in the middle of the sequence. Garbha Pindasana is a dynamic asana, still for five breaths and nine breaths while moving. The practitioner rolls the length of the spine nine times, said to symbolize the nine months of gestation.

  • Supta KurmasanaSupta Kurmasana

    Supta Kurmasana is the twenty-first pose of the primary series, and the sixteenth seated pose. This is the third pose of what is often called the "apex" of the Primary series—five challenging asana in the middle of the sequence. Supta Kurmasana is the deepest forward fold of the Primary series. It has several manifestations. The first two forms described here can be perfected during the course of learning the Primary series. The final form, with both legs crossed behind the head, is best added after some degree of competency has been gained with the Intermediate series.

  • KurmasanaKurmasana

    Kurmasana is the twentieth pose of the primary series, and the fifteenth seated pose. This is the second pose of what is often called the "apex" of the Primary series—five challenging asana in the middle of the sequence. Kurmasana requires significant hamstring length, the most of any pose in the Primary series. The final action of Kurmasana—lifting the heels off the ground—demands strength of the quadriceps at their shortest length.

  • BhujapidasanaBhujapidasana

    Bhujapidasana is the nineteenth pose of the primary series, and the fourteenth seated pose. This pose is the summary and archetype of the primary series, encapsulating the lessons and actions that the series is constructed around: hip and hamstring flexibility, shoulder strength, and healthful spinal flexion.

  • NavasanaNavasana

    Navasana is the eighteenth pose of the primary series, and the thirteenth seated pose. Navasana is primarily a strength-building posture, developing the hip flexors, abdominal, and spinal musculature.

  • Marichyasana-D-SideMarichyasana D

    Marichyasana D is the seventeenth pose of the primary series, and the twelfth seated pose. There are four variations of Marichyasana (A, B, C, D). A & B are forward folds (straight leg / lotus leg), and C & D are twists (straight leg / lotus leg). The common thread of the Marichyasana poses is (1) the loosening of the Sacroiliac (SI) joint—as such, it is an essential posture for aspirants to deep backbending and lotus postures—and (2) enhancing the mobility of the shoulder girdle by binding the hands together behind the back.

  • Marichyasana CMarichyasana C

    Marichyasana C is the sixteenth pose of the primary series, and the eleventh seated pose. There are four variations of Marichyasana (A, B, C, D). A & B are forward folds (straight leg / lotus leg), and C & D are twists (straight leg / lotus leg). The common thread of the Marichyasana poses is (1) the loosening of the Sacroiliac (SI) joint—as such, it is an essential posture for aspirants to deep backbending and lotus postures—and (2) enhancing the mobility of the shoulder girdle by binding the hands together behind the back.

  • Marichyasana B from the SideMarichyasana B

    Marichyasana B is the fifteenth pose of the primary series, and the tenth seated pose. There are four variations of Marichyasana (A, B, C, D). A & B are forward folds (straight leg / lotus leg), and C & D are twists (straight leg / lotus leg). The common thread of the Marichyasana poses is (1) the loosening of the Sacroiliac (SI) joint—as such, it is an essential posture for aspirants to deep backbending and lotus postures—and (2) enhancing the mobility of the shoulder girdle by binding the hands together behind the back.

  • Marichyasana AMarichyasana A

    Marichyasana A is the fourteenth pose of the primary series, and the ninth seated pose. There are four variations of Marichyasana (A, B, C, D).The common thread of the Marichyasana poses is (1) the loosening of the Sacroiliac (SI) joint—as such, it is an essential posture for aspirants to deep backbending and lotus postures—and (2) enhancing the mobility of the shoulder girdle by binding the hands together behind the back.

  • Janu Sirsasana CJanu Sirsasana C

    Janu Sirsasana C is the thirteenth pose of the primary series, and the eighth seated pose. There are three variations of Janu Sirsasana (A, B, C) which differ in foot placement. Although this pose is intense and demanding, it offers a unique method of enhancing the mobility of the tissues inside the knee joint.

  • Janu Sirsasana BJanu Sirsasana B

    Janu Sirsasana B is the twelfth pose of the primary series, and the seventh seated pose. There are three variations of Janu Sirsasana (A, B, C) which differ in foot placement.

  • Janu Sirsasana AJanu Sirsasana A

    Janu Sirsasana A is the eleventh pose of the primary series, and the sixth seated pose. There are three variations of Janu Sirsasana (A, B, C) which differ in foot placement.

  • Triang-Mukhaikapada-PaschimottanasanaTriang Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana

    Triang Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana is the tenth pose of the primary series, and the fifth seated pose. Depending on your body, this pose could serve as a focused lengthening of the quadriceps group, the hamstrings, or both.

  • Ardha-Baddha-Padma-PaschimottanasanaArdha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana

    Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana is the ninth pose of the primary series, and the fourth seated pose. It is essentially the same as Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana, simply seated.

  • purvottanasanaPurvottanasana

    Purvottanasana is the eighth pose of the primary series, and the third seated pose. It is one of the best postures in the seated primary series to develop hamstring and backbending strength.

  • Paschimottanasana C VariationPaschimottanasana

    Paschimottanasana is the seventh pose of the primary series, and the second seated pose. Paschimottanasana has 3 progressively deeper variations: A, B, and C, distinguished by the position of the hands.

  • DandasanaDandasana

    Dandasana is the sixth pose of the primary series, and the first seated pose. Dandasana is performed before each seated posture as part of the vinyasa to seated. This pose establishes the blueprint for all forward folds and teaches the principles of forward folding that will be revisited frequently during the primary series.

  • Virabhadrasana (Distinguished Hero) BVirabhadrasana B

    Virabhadrasana B is the fifth pose of the primary series. The front knee is bent to approximately 70-90 degrees, such that the tibia is perpendicular to the ground in every dimension. The back leg is fully straightened. The upper body is not only vertical, but lifting.

  • Virabhadrasana A - Warrior IVirabhadrasana A

    Virabhadrasana A is the fourth pose of the primary series. The front knee is bent to approximately 70-90 degrees, such that the tibia is perpendicular to the ground in every dimension. The back leg is fully straightened. The upper body is not only vertical, but lifting.

  • UtkatasanaUtkatasana

    Utkatasana is the third pose of the primary series of Ashtanga Vinyasa. This pose builds strength of the legs and shoulders, and demands flexibility of the shoulders.

  • ardha baddha padmottanasanaArdha Baddha Padmottanasana

    Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana primarily challenges and builds balance, focus, and coordination. Binding the foot requires significant shoulder flexibility, and the practice of this posture serves to lengthen the Pectoralis muscles and bring the shoulders into a more healthful alignment. It also teaches the release of the rectus abdominis muscle during forward folding.

  • Utthita-Hasta-Padangusthasana-CUtthita Hasta Padangusthasana

    This is the first pose of the Primary Series, performed after all the Standing (Foundational) Poses. This posture has three variations, which are performed in sequence. The third variation, C, is pictured.

Standing/Foundational Poses

  • Parsvottanasana Standing Forward FoldParsvottanasana

    This is the eighth and final movement of the Ashtanga Standing Series. Following the symmetrical stretching of the hamstrings in the previous position (prasarita padottanasana), the hamstrings are now lengthened asymmetrically. The elements of backbending essential to all forward folds (the lifting and broadening of the rib cage, especially the chest) is encouraged by the positioning of the hands between the shoulder blades.

  • Prasarita Padottanasana DPrasarita Padottanasana

    This is the seventh position of the Ashtanga Standing Series. It consists of four movements, Prasarita Padottanasana A, B, C, & D. The essential aspect of this pose is, like all forward folds, a lengthening of the hamstring muscles and rotation of the pelvis. The entire back side of the body, from the heels to the hips, down the spine to the neck, lengthens and relaxes while the front side of the body takes the effort of balancing.

  • Parvrtta ParsvakonasanaParivrtta Parsvakonasana

    This is the sixth position in the Ashtanga Standing Series. The essential aspect of this position is a twist of the spine from sacrum to atlas (pictured above left). With practice, additional layers are added, working more deeply in the shoulders, and then finally the hips, until the body twists in a spiral from the outside edge of the left foot, through the thigh, spine, and all the way up the right arm to the fingertips (pictured above right).

  • Utthita ParsvakonasanaUtthita Parsvakonasana: Extended Side Angle

    This is the fifth posture in the Standing Series. This is a deceptively complicated posture, and practicing it correctly demands great awareness. It is concerned primarily with the external rotation of the upward side of the body.

  • Parivrtta-TrikonasanaParivrtta Trikonasana - Revolved Triangle Pose

    This is the fourth position in the Standing Series. It serves as a counterpose to the previous posture, Trikonasana, by twisting the hips in the opposite direction, opening the opposite shoulder, and lengthening the lateral collateral (outside) ligament of the knee.

  • TrikonasanaUtthita Trikonasana - Extended Triangle Pose

    Utthita Trikonasana is the third of the Ashtanga-Vinyasa standing positions. The primary effect of this pose is an increased ability to rotate the forward leg (right pictured) in the hip socket, plus a strengthening of the oblique abdominal muscles. This posture can also be very beneficial for the health of the knee joint, stretching the medial (inside) collateral ligament (the next position, revolved triangle, creates balance by stretching the lateral [outside] collateral ligament).

  • PadahastasanaForward Folds: Padangustasana & Pada Hastasana

    The first and second positions of the Ashtanga Standing Series. It begins to lengthen the hamstrings and prepare the hips and shoulders for the coming movements.

Surya Namaskara

  • Animated Surya Namaskara BSun Salutation: Surya Namaskara B

    Performance of Surya Namaskara B follows Surya Namaskara A. It is typically performed five times, but this may vary depending on the practitioner and the temperature: practice it as necessary until you begin to perspire lightly.

  • Sun Salutation AnimationSun Salutation: Surya Namaskara A

    Ashtanga-Vinyasa practice begins with the performance of this sequence, typically repeated 5 times.

Writing

  • "Modification" is a dirty word

    “I’m sorry,” she said, “I’m really out of shape.” I said something soothing in response. That wasn’t the first time that class she had said something of the sort. It wasn’t until later that I found the words I really wanted: “Why are you apologizing to me? I’m here to serve you, no matter if...