Well hello, Scorpion Pose. I see you're well on your way!
Today marks the end of our 39 day flexibility project, and to be totally honest, I was feeling a little bummed that I couldn't participate fully due to my travel schedule. Sometimes I feel like if I can't practice regularly I won't make any progress. If you feel like that too, I guess we can both rest assured that's not the case. It came as a surprise to me, but above, I can clearly see I've made progress despite not having had the most regular practice. The December picture was taken today. Sure, I practiced weekly...but sometimes it was once a week for fifteen minutes and sometimes it was three times a week for an hour. Pretty much whatever I could do, I did, and tried to let that be enough.
What I liked about this flexibility project was that the emphasis was on a consistent yoga practice and we could keep our progress measurable through one single pose. People used the Yoga Forum as a space for encouragement, feedback and to cheer each other on, which I thought was awesome. I want to thank all the people who participated! You can hop on over to instagram and search the #YBCprogress hashtag to see everyone's pics.
From the start, I had worked closely with a couple YBC readers who were willing to share their progress here on the blog, and I'm so excited to share their results with you today. Their commitment to the practice (a hot topic on the Yoga Forum) is evident in their progress. So proud!
I want to share a few pictures and break down what's going on. The point of the breakdown is not to pick apart the pictures, but to point out what to look for in case you're working on the same pose and want to progress.
Wheel Pose Progress
This is Diana. She's 33 and from the US and just started practicing yoga less than a year ago and wanted to work on her chest and back flexibility with wheel pose.
Let's break it down At week 1, Diana had difficulty pushing into the mat to lift her head and straighten the arms. She practiced 4 - 5 times per week, for 60-90 minutes at a time, and by week 3 you can see what a difference that made!
In my experience, I find that low back flexibility comes quite quickly, which you can see here (there's not that much difference between week two and three - nor should there be, it's great just as it is), but the upper back and shoulder/armpit area takes a little longer to open. While it isn't glaringly obvious, you can see there's major improvement in the upper back and shoulder/armpit flexibility. This is evident not only from the slightly straighter arms, but also by her gaze. In the third picture, her gaze is spot on between the hands which means her upper spine is bending more than in the second picture. Great job!
This is Mana. She is 39 years old and checking in from Russia. She is a total beginner and wanted to work on her hamstring flexibility so decided on forward fold. She practiced 4-5 times per week between 60-90 minutes each time. She missed four days in the middle of the practice due to catching a cold and was nervous she'd lose all her progress, but she said she couldn't believe how quickly her flexibility bounced back.
Let's break it down So you can see that already by the 3 week mark she's doing so great - the hip joints are coming over the ankles which is what we want in a forward fold. And by week six? Incredible! Her fingers are in line with her toes (that's a big stickler thing in Ashtanga), and her belly melts over the thighs which means she's getting a fantastic stretch in her hamstrings. Her back is round which is really not much of a problem (our bodies physically cannot have a perfectly straight spine in forward folds due to the quads, belly and chest getting in the way). The key with a forward fold is to check that the hip joints are over the ankles, and she's nailed it. Amazing!
With dancer's pose, we have Maria, a 24 year old YBC reader checking in from Canada. She wanted to work her way into full dancer's pose eventually and it looks like she's well on her way!
Let's break it down When Maria sent me her first picture, I was concerned she was beginning to hyperextend in the standing leg. If you look at her knee you can see it's just kind of hanging out there and the back of the leg is beginning to arch a bit. We really want to protect the knees so all I said was to lift the kneecap and engage the standing leg muscles and boom, if you look at the second picture, you'll see that leg is nice and strong. You can almost see the lift she has in the leg - it looks so much more powerful and sturdy than the first picture, no?
Ok now let's move on to the obvious - the angle of her legs. We can tell she was really tight to begin with because her lifted knee looks like it might be going off to the side in the first picture. We want to be careful of this because it can be a strain on the knee and hip area. In the second picture, the lifted knee is in excellent alignment. In both pictures the lifted foot's toes are nice and bright which indicate there's an active stretch happening. Further, we can see her back and chest has opened up quite a bit, as well, and her extended arm's shoulder is nice and relaxed away from her face. Fantastic work!
And for dancer's pose on the other side we have Reggi, who is 28 and checking in from Germany. Reggi says she doesn't see much difference in her pose pictures but she knows why - November was really hectic for her and it was hard to find the time to practice yoga. Further, she got really sick the past few weeks and couldn't practice then either. But, she is happy with her overall progress and says she feels much better not only in dancer's pose, but in others as well.
Let's break it down I see a couple things that look awesome. First, her standing leg looks nice and strong, that kneecap is lifted so the muscles are engaged and the leg is firmly rooted into the mat. We can see more expansion in the chest, and a nice round in the back in the second picture, and she definitely has a higher lift in the second photo (just check out that knee compared to the first picture). And of course, we can't forget the toes which are nice and bright, telling us that there's an active extension happening in the leg.
Hope you guys have enjoyed this project! The next one is happening now - a creative yoga sequencing project, and I'd love for you to be a part of it. It's just once a week which I think is manageable, and it's just for the month of December. In November, I've got something really good cookin' up for ya and I cannot wait to share!
Let's talk How's your flexibility? In what pose would you like to see improvement?