Exploring Iyengar Yoga: Part II

“Action is movement with intelligence. The world is filled with movement. What the world needs is more conscious movement, more action.”

– B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life

Welcome back to our exploring Iyengar series! Two weeks ago, we introduced the practice of Iyengar Yoga and what distinguishes it from different types of yoga being practiced throughout the world.  This week we look at the mechanics of three essential yoga poses and understanding the importance of doing these fundamental poses correctly.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward dog) is likely an asana (pose) that all yoga classes incorporate. In examining this asana can you achieve regulation in your nervous system when doing this pose and create mobility, stability integration and consolidation? The answer is yes if completed correctly. For this you will need to be instructed in how to take the pose properly.

There should be symmetry between the left and right sides of the body and an even distribution of weight on the palms and the feet.

  1. Start on all fours with your hips above your knees and shoulders above your wrists and hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Adjust the distance such that the weight is distributed evenly between the legs and arms. Think of straight line down the middle of your mat and from the top of your head to your heals with equal spreading from the centre to each outer edge evenly.
  2. Every movement is done with a full exhalation and followed by inhalation and held for time to allow for the feedback to complete.
  3. Press your hands down completely, extend your fingers, straighten you elbows completely and from the action of your shoulder blades by pressing off your wrists turn your inner upper arm outwards and shoulder blades moving down your back and spreading each one to the right and left. Create a spiral action in your arms by rolling your upper arms away from you and your forearms spiralling inwards.
  4. Keeping your arms firmly in this position, head up, lift your hips up with bent knees. Lengthen your spine and by lifting the bones of your upper legs inward towards your pelvis work to straighten your legs pressing your thigh bones back. Do not push merely your knees back but create mobility and stability in your hips, alignment in your legs from your feet through your knees while maintaining the same stability from your hips to hands.
  5. Slide your shoulder blades down along the spine, collar bones spread with the base of the neck relaxed.
  6. Abdomen should move inward by plugging your tailbone in, lifting your pubic bone up slightly and moving your navel back so the entire organic body sits back and rests in place.
  7. To activate your parasympathetic nervous system, circulatory system and to receive calm and balance, you must be able to breathe, sustain the pose and stay present until lightness comes. Lightness comes thought balanced resistance, mobility, stability, and mindful connection to these areas. It is hard to perform a posture correctly without simultaneously concentrating on the form and breath.
  8. There are at least 22 variations of this pose using props to create the shape of the pose through adaptation to teach it properly and to allow everyone to be able to access the benefits of the fully aligned pose.

Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1)

  1. Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) at the front of your mat.
  2. Place your hands on your waist, lift your chest.
  3. On an inhalation, take your left leg back placing your left foot with your toes turned angularly in and heel down on the floor your square your pelvis. Keeping with you breathe ensure the heel of right foot is in line with the arch of left foot. Straighten both legs, you should be able to lift toes of left foot up and press heel of left leg down not dropping the back leg at all. Use a block under your back heel if you cannot keep heel down, grounding both legs.
  4. Inhale take your arms out to your sides, wrists at the same level of your shoulder with palms facing down. Reach through your middle finger.
  5. Cut your entire shoulder line down and broaden your shoulder blades to the sides. Turn your arms over completely with your palms up and middle finger reaching thumb turning towards the floor and keeping your shoulder blades broad. Breathe.
  6. Making a circular action from your spine down across your arms to your fingertips lift your arms up in line with your ears letting your shoulders blades come up with your arms and open your entire upper back. Your outer shoulder blades raise your arms up. Your arms must lift your trunk and open the chest preventing pressure on the low back and allow for you to breathe while maintaining this pose. Do not let your front ribs push forward.
  7. Turn through your abdomen, ribs, shoulders to face directly Infront of you without dropping forward.
  8. On an exhalation, bend your front leg to a 90-degree angle adjusting from your back leg so your right knee stays directly over your right angle. Resist with the back leg keeping it pressing up not dropping the thigh down. Torso, arms lift you directly up not leaning forward at all.
  9. Turn your inner right knee from the moving the left buttock bone under right knee turns towards the right small toe of right foot.
  10. Breathing, plug your tail bone in and lift your pubic bone, navel, side ribs, front ribs back ribs.
  11. Legs are engaged and grounded into the floor. Upper body is moving directly up not dropping forward at all.
  12. Breathing maintain for 30 seconds.


If already having back issues take a cross over stance with back foot at back edge of mat and front foot ahead of back foot halfway towards the opposite edge rather a heel to arch alignment to provide more space in pelvis and spreading of the sacrum

If the chest is fully expanded the lungs gain elasticity. It relieves stiffness in the shoulders and back and tones the shoulders, back, ankles and knees.

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Dog)

  1. Lie face down on your mat separating your fee hips distance apart and on the tops of your feet extending your feet and ankles directly back
  2. Place your hand directly beside your lower side ribs, fingers pointed forward towards the head, elbows extending directly up towards the sky
  3. Wrap you shoulder blades in and cut your shoulder blades down and in your back
  4. Cut your arches into your ankles and press your thighs down engaging the legs
  5. Plug your tail bone in and into your pubic bone
  6. Roll your eyes slightly up moving your head and ears back
  7. On an inhalation press and simultaneously lift your head and trunk, stretch the arms completely and push the trunk as far back as possible as you press your feet down and lifting your thighs knees, calves off the floor. Use your arm keeping your legs extended and lifted pull your body through your arms lifting your chest higher. Do not throw your head back. Weight of body rests on palms and toes only.
  8. Breathing hold this pose for 30 seconds.

Chest expansion lungs gain elasticity, blood circulates properly in the pelvic region and keeps it healthy, and it rejuvenates the spine elevating back pain.

Place hands on blocks instead of on floor directly as instructed above.

*Hint – In yoga you must inhale to lift the chest at the beginning of moving into an asana (pose) instead of exhaling. Try this jump from feet together to feet apart, do it with an exhalation and then an inhalation notice the difference in your chest and breathe.

To learn more about the fundamentals of various poses and book a class or private session visit Annette’s website at www.bepresent4u.com. Look for this symbol as only Iyengar Regulated Practitioners can use it.

Yoga is a practice that is available to everyone – whichever style of yoga you chose to practice. Spending a little time each day working on the poses will improve your health from the inside out!

Annette will also be teaching for Muskoka Chautauqua from August 6 to the 15th from 8:30am to 9:30am at Muskoka Chautauqua in the village of Windermere in Muskoka. Join her to experience this yourself!!!

To look for an Iyengar teacher near you go to: https://iyengaryogacanada.com

Annette’s passion for lifelong learning has enabled her to gain the experience and education to treat the reciprocal relationship of health (mental health and physical conditions) while walking a continuum of change in the present. ... She holds both a BSC degree in Kinesiology and a master’s degree in Counselling Psychology. She is certified with the College of Kinesiology of Ontario (CKO) and holds National Certification as an Iyengar Yoga Teacher. My professional experience of over 20 years has been working with those individuals who suffer from chronic pain, anxiety, depression and loss.