Cobra is one of my favorite yoga poses. It’s a backbend and heart opening pose that can be modified to fit whatever your body needs.Read More
I have a love-hate relationship with Four-Limbed Staff Pose, or as it’s more referred to, Chaturanga. It’s essentially a “half pushup”—a position in which the entire body is working, especially the shoulders, triceps, and core.Read More
You might be thinking, “Halfway Lift … wtf?” Because you’re right, Halfway Lift is kind of a weird name. But if you’ve been to a yoga class, you’re likely all too familiar with this common, transitional pose that teachers will call out, ahem, like so:
Inhale, arms overhead
Exhale, fold forward
Inhale, halfway lift!
Exhale, fold back in
It’s not a pose that really gets “taught” but rather breezed through in the midst of sun salutations. In my opinion, that’s a miss opportunity because there really is a lot of good stuff to think about and feel and slow down to enjoy in this posture.
So, without further ado, keep reading below for all the juicy goodness of halfway lift!
Everything You Need to Know About Halfway Lift
Sanskrit name: Ardha Uttanasana
Pose benefits: Improves posture, stretches the entire torso and front of the chest, great exercise for shoulder integration and lengthening the neck
Precautions: Neck or back injuries (always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program)
1. How to Find Halfway Lift
From your forward fold, root down through your feet and bring your hands up to your shins (make sure you’re not locking out your knees)
Draw your shoulder blades together, pull the low belly in towards your spine, and reach the crown of your head forward
Keep the neck nice and long, gaze is down at the floor below you (not forward)
Draw your ears back in line with your shoulders (like you’re trying to give yourself a double-chin) to really emphasize the elongation of the spine and neck
Notice if your hips are leaning forward—see if you can send your hips back so that they’re stacked above your ankles, even as you’re stretching your upper body forward
Traditionally, in yoga, this pose is done on the inhale … exhale to fold forward, inhale to halfway lift. Try it several times with the breath cues and see how it feels
2. Modifications and Variations
If you have tight shoulders and can’t seem to feel the sensation of drawing your shoulder blades together down your back, try bending your elbows and bringing your hands all the way up to the tops of your thighs
For a more advanced version, lift up halfway by bringing your fingertips to the floor in front of your feet—helpful if you’re working on jumping back to chaturanga or deepening your forward folds. That said, don’t sacrifice shoulder mobility :) it’s not worth it!
3. Bonus Tips & Tricks
Just like in forward fold, you can bend your knees a lot in this pose! Try it out, it can feel really good if you’re working tight shoulders and/or tight hamstrings
Also, just like in forward fold, you can play around with taking a wider stance to give your lower back a little more space to elongate
Forward fold is one of the most foundational postures in yoga asana. It’s an element of all sun salutations and is typically done towards the beginning of class to help lengthen the hamstrings, spine, and release tension from the head, neck, and shoulders.
Personally, I love forward folds. It’s one of my go-to poses when I’m struggling with a headache or general stress and anxiety. Because it’s technically an inversion, with your head lower than your hips, it brings a fresh supply of blood to your head and gives you the benefit of seeing the world with a new perspective.
Below are some tips to help make your forward folds feel better and more accessible. Don’t shy away from this pose just because you might have some tightness in the lower body—that’s why you need it! Use these adaptations and alignment cues to help find a forward fold that works for you and your body.
Have fun and enjoy!
Everything You Need to Know About Forward Folds
Sanskrit name: Uttanasana
Pose benefits: Calms the mind, eases anxiety, helps soothe headaches, decompresses the spine, deeply stretches the entire back chain of the body, builds strength in the feet
Precautions: Back injuries, herniated discs (always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program)
1. How to Begin Your Forward Fold
Start in mountain pose with your feet about hips distance apart and your arms out to the side—stand up nice and tall
Take a big inhale and sweep your arms overhead for length
On your exhale, begin to swan dive forward, hinging at the waist as you begin to fold your upper body over your legs towards the floor
Bend your knees A LOT on this first one—enough so that your hands can rest comfortably on the floor, on blocks framing your feet, or on the seat of a chair placed in front of you
2. How to Engage and Deepen the Pose
Root down through all four corners of your feet (both corners of your heels, your big toe ball mounds, and the pinky-side edges of your feet)
As you root down and grip the floor with your feet, imagine you’re pulling an upward current of energy out of the earth and through your feet and legs—this will help create a lift behind your knee caps and through your outer hips as tip your pelvis forward and reach your sit bones towards the sky
Keep as much of a bend in your knees as you like, keep tilting the pelvis forward
Legs are energized but not locked out—again, keep a little buoyancy in the knees
What should you do with your hands?
They can wrap around your ankles or calves
They can rest on the floor, blocks (or whatever you’ve got at home), or a chair place in front of you
You can clasp opposite elbows and rag-doll a bit back and forth
Allow your head, neck, and shoulders to full release—gaze is behind you; maybe allow the eyes to close as you relax and let your spine lengthen and unwind
3. Bonus Tips & Tricks
I can’t say it enough, don’t be afraid to bend your knees A LOT and ALWAYS :) you might even bend them so much that you can rest your torso on the tops of your thighs—this can feel really nice and can really help stretch the hamstrings
Experiment with taking a wider stance, especially if you don’t feel super stable or balance is a challenge in this pose
Try taking a bind—interlace your hands behind your back and fold as normal. Allow gravity to do the work, releasing your shoulders and upper back
Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.
Despite being one of the most foundational yoga poses, not to mention a pose that you’ll do multiple times in almost any yoga class, downward dog is not exactly an “easy” posture. For a lot of people, especially those who are just starting out in yoga, downward dog can be particularly taxing on the arms, shoulders, and hamstrings. Here are a few alignment tips you can try out to help make your downward facing dog feel a bit more inviting.Read More
Despite the ever-increasing popularity of yoga, there is still a lot of misinformation on what yoga is all about, who it’s for, and what it can do for you. I’ve laid out five of the most common yoga myths and have done my best to debunk them. Read them below and let me know what you think!Read More
One of my absolute favorite parts about yoga teacher training (and there are many) was learning about and discussing the chakra system. After our first chakra discussion, my teacher recommended the book Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self. I was so excited about the chakras and hungry to learn more that I’m pretty sure I bought the book that same night.Read More
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Despite the number of years I’ve been practicing yoga asana, meditation was something I resisted for a long time. So, what changed my mind and got me started meditating?Read More
Writing has always been my thing, but somewhere along the way, I got scared. The creative, therapeutic process that had always brought me joy, energy, and stability, suddenly became anxiety-ridden, constricted, and tense.Read More
A dedicated yoga practice has changed my life and if you're open to it, it can change yours too. Here are five ways yoga will transform you from the inside out.Read More