Chaturanga Dandasana, or Plank pose, can be both physically and psychically challenging for the yoga practitioner as the entire weight of the body is balanced across the hands and the toes. It is important to practice this pose in alignment to avoid overstraining the wrists and elbows. Keeping the elbows over the hands at a ninety degree angle and the arms pulled in tightly to the body is correct. Our tendency is to muscle through this pose by only using the front side of the torso, which causes us to incorrectly splay the elbows out and away from the body.
Someone recently asked a question about the history and practice of traditional yoga, and I suggested reading up on the 1893 world parliament of religion. I thought it might be helpful to explain why this event matters for people who do yoga.
I have enjoyed a rich and deep yoga practice for most of my life. My mother practiced yoga when I was young and my sister and I would relish the shoulderstand pose throughout our childhood, if we could keep from giggling at the same time. I trained concurrently in dance and understood the importance of balance in movement--for safety, for beauty. As I have evolved, I have experimented with many different schools within Hatha Yoga and love them all for different reasons. I relish the gym yoga classes where we would collectively power and flow through the most challenging poses.
Ever wonder why most group instructors or trainers end classes or sessions with deep breathing? No, we're not finding ways to waste those last few minutes! Well, ok, sometimes. We're usually doing one of two things or both:
Over the years I have seen quite a few runners find their way into the yoga studio. Typically the reason cited is “I'm so tight!”. Stretching muscles tight places is a benefit a runner can certainly get from yoga. I do think there are some others as well. I also think it is useful to think about what kind of practice, and what sort of asana work might best serve the runner's needs.
Yoga before mommyhood is competely different from yoga after mommyhood. No more running out th door to get to whatever class I can hit. No more staying at the studio after hours to get my practice in, regardess of time. These days, my yoga mat is often covered with stuffed animals and Dora blanket. Ashtanga yoga is my main practice, and I've always had a home practice, but it's getting harder and harder to fit everything in a day, and get more than five hours of sleep.
If you think of the historical path of yoga kind of like an hourglass, with various threads moving together, and then moving out into diverse variations at the center of the glass is Patanjali's “Yoga Sutras”. It is harder to see that today as the flow of yoga has become very asana focused, and as the philosophical and cultural underpinnings and shared belief systems of practitioners have shifted so much. But those whose practice digs deepest usually reach a place where they uncover the sutras.