Awkward pose is well....awkard to say the least! But it's also chock full of benefits! This month Senior Instructor Diana Bisso dissects it all - check out what she has to say and then put her technique to the test at your next hot yoga class.
The benefits of Awkward Pose are many. Mainly we aim, when properly aligned, to stimulate circulation to the lower limbs of the body. The legs are considered the roots of the nervous system and are stabilized from the ground through the feet. The feet are the epicenters of nerve endings and can dictate a tremendous amount of pleasure and/or tension throughout the body. Proper foot, leg joint, and pelvic alignment can give incredible amounts of flexibility and strength to the spine, which can access the main nerve centers in the body, allowing for increased health and vitality. So although this pose may focus on lower body strength, it’s done in an effort to access full body awareness.
Step your right foot 6 inches to the right. Your feet should look like the number 11 throughout all three parts of this pose. Plant your feet firmly into the ground until you feel your leg muscles engage. Bring your arms up parallel to the floor, reaching out at the level of your shoulders directly in front of you. Squeeze all five fingers and straighten your arms, helping to engage your arm muscles.
Take a full breath and sit back and down onto an invisible chair. Eventually, your hips will be hidden at the same level behind your knees. Make sure your feet are strongly planted and that they have stayed on the number 11. Keep them parallel! Your knees stay 6 inches apart as well, keeping the structure and energy of the legs. This will help to align your pelvis and hip joints. Pull in your belly and arch your upper body back, maintaining a deep seat with your hips. Stretch your spine up, as you sit down. Don’t forget to keep stretching your arms forward!
From a standing position, rise up onto your tiptoes like a ballerina. Get as high up on your toes as you can. Keeping your arms straight and strong in front of you, parallel to the floor, pull in your abdominal wall to engage your core muscles. Begin to slowly bend your knees. Eventually, your thighs will be parallel to the floor and your heels lifted 6-8 inches off the floor with your whole body’s weight balanced on your tippy toes! Keep your back straight, your abs engaged, and your arms stretching forward. Never stop lifting your heels!
From a standing position, hug your knees and thighs together like they were tied with rope. Keep your feet on the number 11, but if you need to lift the heels slightly off the floor to rotate your thighs together, that’s ok. They should adjust naturally. Keep a straight spine, your abs engaged and arms stretching (they should be BURNING by now) and slowly start to bend your knees (keeping them together) to slide your spine down an invisible wall. Go slow like you’re riding an elevator down. Stop and few inches above your heels to be sure you’re not resting on your calf muscles or resting in your joints. Keep squeezing your thighs together with your knees touching. Your arms stretched from the shoulders, parallel to your thighs, your thighs parallel to the floor, and your spine is stick straight. Hold it and breathe. Slowly come up the way you came down. The strength of this pose is built through the entrance and exit.
As stated earlier, yoga is all about increasing awareness. The nervous system is like “awareness headquarters.” All roads lead to Rome, and all yoga postures lead to stimulating the nervous system in one way or another. In all 3 parts of Awkward Pose, it is our goal to heat up and stimulate the feet and legs (the roots of the nervous system) and to help free up and debris blocking communication from the legs to the hips, which is the seat of the spine. In all 3 parts, we work to hold the spine in traction, always lengthening up, in hopes of pulling the strength of the legs upward toward the base of the spine. Thinking of the legs like roots can really help one understand the meaning of growing from the ground up. This will and can counteract the weight of gravity and help you maintain an upright posture throughout life.