6 Yoga Poses: Air

Air is associated with the mental plane: thoughts give rise to action and are then manifested in the physical realm. The realm of air is ethereal. Practicing the poses in this category will help you transform your physical reality quickly and easily. These poses will literally turn you upside down and help you let go of preconceptions and fixed ideas about who you are and how you appear.

Inversions enhance facial radiance, fill facial hollows, and regulate the thyroid and other glandular functions. The thyroid is an important regulator of hormonal function, and when imbalanced it can negatively affect metabolic function, which can cause swelling and bloating around the face and neck, along with unnecessary weight gain and water retention. The pituitary and hypothalamus are stimulated in head balances such as Headstand, which helps to keep youthful energy flowing and bring radiance to the face. When the head is lower than the heart in inversion practice, the heart rate slows and the brain and face receive more oxygen, which counters the rapid acceleration associated with aging.

1.Plow Pose (Halasana)

Lie down on your back, palms facing down alongside your legs, and lift your legs over your head. Walk your arms under your back toward your spine, and interlace your hands. Walk your feet as far away from your head as possible, then roll your shoulders under your back. You can try pointing your toes and engaging your thigh muscles, or you may flex your feet to feel the stretch more in the hamstrings.

2.Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

Not everyone can, or wishes, to practice handstands, but if you are willing to try, you may fund them extremely rejuvenating. They require strength and coordination as well as bravery. By literally turning yourself upside down, you will receive all the beauty and anti-aging benefits of inversion, plus an extra dollop of grace.

Handstand connects us to playfulness and the joyfulness of youth—the inner kid comes out to play.

Start from a Downward-Facing Dog position facing a wall with your hands shoulder-width apart. Make sure you have eight to ten inches between the wall and your hands. Lift up one leg very slowly, keeping your hips as square as possible, then lift the other leg up to meet the fast. You may need someone to spot you on this pose, or try it in a class with an experienced teacher before doing it at home by yourself. Rest in Child’s Pose after your handstand for five breaths.

3. Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)

This pose is said to help regulate the thyroid gland and the rest of the endocrine system. Be mindful of this pose’s power, and avoid practicing it when menstruating or pregnant (you may practice Legs-Up-the-Wall—the following exercise—instead).

  • Take a blanket and fold it in half, or quarters, making sure it has no ripples or bulges. Place the blanket one third of the way down your mat, the upper portion of the mat above the blanket.
  • Lie down with your head over the edge of the blanket, and roll your shoulders toward each other. Bring your upper arm bones under your back toward the midline as much as you can.
  • Make sure you are not resting weight on the vertebra at the base of your cervical spine, where it attaches the neck to the shoulders (the C7 vertebra). You should feel that vertebra tucking in and up in the direction of the front of the throat. There should be a hollow under your neck at this point, and a bit of a curve.
  • If you do feel pressure on the cervical spine, back off and practice Vipariti Karani (“Legs-Up-the-Wall,” the next posture) instead. If it feels good, take your gaze to the breastbone and count twenty slow, deep breaths, then lower the legs over the head, and take the hands in the opposite direction for Plow (Halasana), then press the palms down toward the bottom of the mat and use your hands for brakes as you roll from the top of the spine to the

4. Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Vipariti Karani)

Vipariti Karani is a mild inversion that gives you the same benefits (to a lesser degree) as Shoulderstand without the same physical challenges. I recommend it for beginners and those with physical limitations that preclude practicing Shoulderstand (such as neck injuries or shoulder tightness). It is calming, reverses the downward flow of energy, and brings your prana (life force) back up to the upper chest, neck, throat, and face, endowing you with a rosy glow and slowing the heart rate.

Sit sideways at a wall, with your knees bent and right hip touching the wall. Recline and lift your legs up the wall. Table-top your legs by pressing the feet hip-width apart into the wall and pushing your pelvis toward your face, hands on the floor for support. Slide a rolled-up blanket or a block under your sacrum, drop your lower back on your support, and lift your legs straight up the wall. You may cover your eyes with a scented pillow for enhanced relaxation. As an option, you can spread your legs wider and enjoy the hip opening! Stay here for three to five minutes, minimum. You can go up to ten minutes for super-rejuvenating effects.

5. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

  • From Child’s Pose, come on to the hands and knees.
  • Tuck your toes under you, and lift the hips up, as you walk your hands about two feet forward, shoulder-width apart.
  • Walk your legs back, and make sure the feet are hip-width apart and parallel to the best of your ability.
  • Look at the fingers, and make sure the thumb and index are wide apart, and center the middle fingers to face the top of the mat and keep them parallel to one another.
  • Let your neck be released, and draw in the front ribs toward the center of the spine.
  • Then, look at your navel or between your upper thighs as you hold the pose.

Think of this pose as an equilateral triangle, with the floor being one side, your hips, pelvis, and legs the second side, and the torso, arms, and head the third side. Don’t bog your front body down with your weight. Keep the legs active by engaging the quadriceps (front of the thigh muscles), but avoid locking the knees. Don’t worry if your heels don’t reach the floor right away. Like all the poses, this pose takes years to really master and the journey is as important as the destination. Hold this pose for eight breaths if possible. You can pedal your feet out for a few breaths first, stretching through the Achilles tendon and the calves to warm up, before reaching the heels down together.

Modifications: if you are tight in the legs, slightly bend your knees. Do not jam your knee joints or lock them, as this will lead to hyperextension. Engage your quadriceps but leave your knees as loose and open as possible. Do not worry if your heels don’t touch the ground.

5. Fish Pose

Fish Pose is named after a noble prince who was transformed into a fish so he could learn the various poses. Once he learned them, he resumed his human form and taught his fellow humans the poses.

This pose is a total release, but it takes strong back muscles. Sit on your mat with your legs extended. Bending at the elbows, arms alongside the hips, lean back and rest weight on the forearms as you arch your back and gently drop the top of your head back toward the floor. If your head doesn’t make it all the way down, place a folded blanket or small pillow under the crown to bridge the gap. You can make the shoulders release here by placing one hand at a time palm-up under your respective buttocks, then “walking in” the elbows toward one another under your back. Then, lift your sternum up as you gently drop back the crown of the head toward the floor. Once you have found your alignment, you can slide one palm at a time up and alongside the hips, resting weight on the elbow points. Hold this for five to ten deep breaths. You can roll up a blanket and place it under your shoulder blades perpendicular to your body to provide extra support, alleviating muscular effort. Fish will smooth out the forehead and unclench the jaw. Slide your lower teeth over your upper teeth while relaxing your tongue, to firm the throat, neck, and chin.

6. Cat/Cow Pose

Cat/Cow is a great toner for the facial muscles and throat, and firms the jaw, cheeks, and neck. It stretches the ring muscles around the eye (orbicularis oculi), thereby tightening and firming the skin around the eyes. It lubricates the joints of the spine and will give you more energy and free you of tension.

Go on your hands and knees making sure your wrists are under your shoulders and that your upper arm bones are externally rotating a little to soften the shoulders. Place your knees under your hips. On an inhale, arch your back and look up to the ceiling, stretching your jaw, eyes, throat, and face as you stretch your spine. Then, on an exhale, round your back, still keeping your arms like pillars (the spine; not the arms; should be doing the work here). Repeat three or four times.

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