How To Get Into Eight-Angle Pose

Eight-Angle Pose | Yoga with Bianca ?

When I first tried yoga, the instructor cued us through?chaturanga (tricep pushup) and I couldn’t hold my elbows next to my sides. I kinda laughed inside because my arms were so weak. I continued to show up on my mat and?I would take?chaturangas on my knees. After months of taking classes, my body finally understood how to do a chaturanga. ?Over time, I was able to improve my form in this foundational pose and this unlocked my access to most of the yoga arm balances, including eight-angle pose. In this post, I will show you how to get into eight-angle pose?in a safe and accessible way.

Just to preface this tutorial, everyone’s body structure is different. Our muscles, joints, and bones are built differently and any injuries will also change the dynamic. If you have hip, wrist?or shoulder injuries, I would avoid arm balances for now until your body is ready.

With any yoga pose you are attempting, you can use the following template to break down the pose:

Breaking Down Eight-Angle Pose – SOUL

S-?Strengthen

Core, arms, wrists

O-?Open

Inner thighs, outer hips

U-?Understand Muscle Action

Extension of hamstring muscles and core stabilization

L- Lengthen

Hamstrings

Build-up Poses

Yoga Sequence

To prepare for this pose, I recommend flowing through sun salutations, hip-opening poses and core strengthening poses. Once you have flowed through the recommended poses at the links here, your body will?be ready to try eight-angle pose.

Forward Fold Variation

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Eight-angle pose requires open hamstrings.?Check out my splits tutorial here for more hamstring stretches. I like this variation of forward fold because it also?stretches your IT band. In this variation, your ankles are crossed which mirrors how your ankles are positioned?in eight-angle pose. Hold this pose for 5 to 10 breaths.

Firelog Pose

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Firelog pose is a deep hip opener. Place your ankle on top of the opposite knee and work your shin parallel. Flex your feet to protect your knee joints. Ground your sitting bones to the mat and balance your weight evenly on both hips. If you find that there’s a space between your top thigh and your bottom ankle, you can place a block underneath for more support. Hold this pose for 5 to 10 breaths.

Cradle your Leg

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Next, take your top leg and cradle your shin with your arms. You can extend your other leg or keep it bent for now. Try getting your shin parallel to the floor. Place the sole of your foot on the inside of your elbow. Move side to side and take deep breaths as you do so.

Elephant Trunk Pose

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Elephant trunk pose is a fun arm balance that builds lower core and wrist strength. Take the leg that you cradled and place your leg above your shoulder. Getting your leg above your shoulder requires open inner thighs as well as outer hips. My favorite inner thigh stretches are horse pose, frog pose and prone frog pose.

Side story: one time I was teaching class and I cued through 4 poses in a row?and laughed out loud because I realized all 4 poses were named after animals!

Try to get your leg as high as you can on your shoulder. Support your calf with your hand. Then plant your hands down on the mat next to your hips. Extend your bottom leg out long. Make sure your fingers face forward and your wrists are in the same line. Press your top leg firmly into your arm while you press out from your hands. Engage your lower core?while you press through your hands.

Layer one, lift your seat off the mat but keep your front heel planted. At first you may need to sit back down after a few seconds. Try getting up three times and keep your breath steady. Layer two, after you lift your seat, lift your heel off the floor and point your toes. Try to hold this pose for 3 to 5 breaths.

The key to this pose is the leg pressure on your arm and really pulling your core up and in. From here, we build on elephant trunk pose.

?Eight-Angle Pose

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There are a few ways to get into eight-angle pose. This tutorial will show you how to get into eight-angle from elephant trunk pose. While you are in elephant trunk pose, lift the heel of your extended leg and hook your ankle on top of your other ankle. See this in action at the video below.

Once you hook your ankles, bend your elbows back like chaturanga and press both inner thighs firmly into your arm. Pin your elbows next to your ribs and extend your hamstrings out. While you bend your elbows back, you also lift your hips up. Try to keep your shoulders level. I’ve included photos that show you the front and side views of this pose.

The key here is to squeeze your inner thighs as much as you can. This will help you balance. Hold this pose for 3 to 5 breaths. For more advanced yogis, try transitioning from eight-angle pose to hurdler’s pose.

Bringing it all Together- Yoga Flow

Here’s a video that brings these poses together. Remember to breathe and have fun with it! Hope you enjoyed this tutorial and please feel free to comment below with feedback, questions or requests.

??Bianca

3 Partner Yoga Poses to Try with Your Friends & Family

In this post, I’ll break down three partner yoga poses you can try with your friends and family this holiday week!

Partner yoga is so fun because you get to share the experience with someone else. I am definitely that person at a family party or friendsgiving talking about the benefits of yoga and/or inviting everyone to come to class. 🙂 I remember at one family party, my brother’s girlfriend and I tried a partner yoga pose (it was one where she got into high plank on the floor facing one way and I stacked my plank on top of hers facing the other way) in the living room just for fun!

The great thing is you don’t need to be an advanced yogi to try these. Alright, let’s go!

Headstand x Dancer’s Pose

This pose connects headstand and dancer’s pose. Before you start, check out my?headstand tutorial here.

So step one, one of you get into headstand (for more advanced yogis, you can try it with handstand or one-legged wheel pose). The partner that will do dancer’s pose should capture both of your ankles to stabilize both of you.

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Once you both feel stable with your foundation, your partner will start to remove one hand away and take his/her palm and capture the inside arch of her foot or ankle. Make sure this partner’s shoulder opens outward and the eye of her elbow faces out to protect her shoulder.

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For you in headstand, keep your breath steady and core engaged. For you in dancer’s, kick your foot back into your palm to lift your leg higher. Find one steady point that isn’t moving to focus your gaze on. Hold the pose as long as you’d like and?slowly release.

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Balance out right and left and take turns being the headstand partner!

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Handstand x Legs up the Wall Pose

This is a really fun way to practice your handstand with some help! Have one partner get into legs up the wall. This partner gets to chill for a bit! Stand in front of your partner about one leg’s distance but facing away. Then go into forward fold, on an inhale lift your spine halfway and then plant your palms shoulder width distance apart. Try to have your wrist creases parallel in one line. Lift your right leg as if you were going into standing splits, then connect that foot to your partner’s. Then lift your left leg to connect your other foot. Now you’re in handstand!

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Your hands will be pretty far forward at first, so hug your lower core in and wrap your front ribs in, then walk your hands back slowly closer to your partner. As you do this, keep pressing your feet into your partner’s to help you get your hips stacked over your shoulders.

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The best part? You get to jump off! Take turns being the handstand partner.

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Locust or Bow x Legs up the Wall Pose

This one is really fun and requires some bravery and lots of trust and communication! One of you go into legs up the wall. Have your partner stand in front of you then interlace your hands with hers. Bend your knees then place your feet in a V position on her hips. The trick here is your toes should be right around her hip bones for a stable foundation. Grip your partner’s hips with your toes.

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Bend your knees a lot and stabilize your hips.?Ask your partner to lean her weight into your feet. Use your hands to draw her closer to parallel to the ground. At this point, she is balancing on top of your feet.

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Then here’s the trick, once your hips are stable, imagine yourself at the leg press machine and press out through your legs. For the flying partner, engage your spine and core as you balance and be fearless here! The next important trick for you is to use your toes. Imagine you are playing piano on their hips with your toes; this will really help you balance!

Once you both feel confident and stable, start to release your hands.

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Then you can?play?with resting your arms on the ground and the flying partner can go into floor bow pose.

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Then gently release your partner and take turns being the flyer!

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As you can see, we had so much fun playing with these poses! Hope you do too and let me know in the comments below!

My partner is MariAngel?and we are both wearing Monday Active?via?Bandier.?Photos by Alex Jay.

??Bianca

How To Get into Headstand

Yoga with Bianca | Supported?Headstand

Supported headstand is one of the first inversions I learned when I got deeper into my yoga practice. I remember practicing the pose at home and usually by a wall. Then one day, I was in a yoga class and my mat was in the middle of the room. The instructor cued us through the pose by piking up our legs and I found the lift up and held the pose! I was so excited! It wasn’t until I learned to use core stability to pike up did this pose really click for me. In this post, I will show you how to get into headstand in a safe and accessible way.

Just to preface this tutorial, everyone’s body structure is different. Our muscles, joints, and bones are built differently and any injuries will also change the dynamic. If you experience any neck or shoulder injuries, I would refrain from spending time in headstand and opting for other inversions instead.

Here we go!

With any yoga pose you are attempting, you can use the following template to break down the pose:

Breaking Down Supported Headstand- SOUL

S-?Strengthen

Core, Shoulders

O-?Open

Shoulders

U-?Understand Muscle Action

Extension of hamstring muscles and core stabilization

L- Lengthen

Hamstrings

(Source of acronym:?Corepower Yoga?Level II Teacher Training)

Build-up Poses

Yoga Sequence

Before you go into headstand practice, I recommend flowing through sun salutations and a strength series for your core. You can practice the poses and vinyasa flow shown here, which will help warm up your body for this peak posture. You can incorporate the poses below in?your own flow.

Child’s Pose Variation

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This is a modification for child’s pose that opens up your triceps. I love starting in child’s pose because it is so grounding. This pose opens up your hips and shoulders. Try bringing your knees to mat distance or wider and bringing your big toes to touch. You can massage your forehead side to side to ease away tension. This is the perfect transition from your busy day into your yoga practice.

?Three-Legged Dog

three-legged-dogGround your palms into the mat in downward facing dog. Focus on pressing your knuckles down into the mat so you alleviate the pressure from your wrists. Stay in downward facing dog for a few breaths. Lift your leg up in space while keeping equal pressure on both palms and squaring your hips in line with one another. Keep breathing here, wrap your front ribs in and hug your belly button to your spine to keep your core engaged.

The tendency is for your hip to open up so you can lift your leg higher. It isn’t so much about how high your leg goes but more so on the position of your hips. This pose is great for working your glutes as well. Hold here for a few breaths then switch legs.

One-Legged Plank

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It’s important to have a strong core if you want to invert yourself. Find plank pose. Align your shoulders over your hips and press your weight into your hands and balls of your feet. Micro-bend your elbows to further work your arm muscles and core and avoid hyper-extending through your elbow joints. Form one line of energy from your heels all the way to the top of your head. Broaden through your chest and stay strong. When you feel stable in your plank, you can work on lifting one leg up. Keep your hips stable and squared to your mat and only lift your leg as high as hip height. Hold one side for three to five breaths and then switch.

Chaturanga

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Chaturanga is a foundational pose and is the key to unlocking most, if not all, yoga arm balances.?When I started yoga, I remember it took me a few months to be able to bend my elbows back and keep them by my sides (I’m still working on my alignment in this pose too 🙂 ).

Starting from high plank, inhale as you hinge your body forward onto your tippy toes. Keep your core strong and exhale as you lower halfway down by bending your elbows back. Keep your shoulder heads pulled back away from your ears. Avoid lowering down more than halfway as this will put a lot of pressure on your shoulders. Lengthen your tailbone back and keep your glutes in line with the rest of your body. If you feel too much pressure on your shoulders, lower your knees down and you will still get the strength benefits of the pose!

Forearm Plank Pose

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Forearm plank is one of my favorite static hold poses because it gets so much done! You can interlace your fingers or have them flat in a number “11” position. Stack your elbows right underneath your shoulders and keep them only shoulder width distance apart. A quick check is to cross your arms and capture your biceps with your hands– this will tell you how wide your base should be.

Use the same tips as plank from above. In this pose, press down through your forearms and work on hugging your shoulder blades together down your back. This will keep your upper body from sinking. Take deep breaths as you hold. Challenge yourself with this pose. Start out by holding your forearm plank for 30 seconds. Then keep upping your time as you go!

Hey, you never know when you’re going to be challenged to a plank contest. 😉 A few years ago, when I worked as an auditor at the Big Four, they flew us out to the East Coast for training.?My training room had people from investment management, banking, and insurance. They asked me to represent investment management in a plank competition as part of our team building activity. The last person standing err planking was a guy who held it for seven minutes! You know I held my own though!

Dolphin Pose and Dolphin Push-ups

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From your forearm plank, walk your feet in and find downward facing dog with your lower body. Lift your hips as high as you can and wrap your front ribs in. This is dolphin pose. As you gain flexibility in your hamstrings, you’ll be able to bring your feet closer and closer to your arms. You can hold dolphin for 3 to 5 breaths or more. From here, you can also practice dolphin push-ups.

Start from dolphin pose then exhale as you shift your body over to plank with your shoulders aligned over your elbows, then inhale as you lift your hips high for dolphin. Try 10 reps then rest in child’s pose.

Supported Headstand Pose

Headstand Base: Measuring the Crown of your Head

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The crown of your head is the foundation for any headstand. You can find the safest part of your head to balance on by placing your palm on your forehead. Where your middle finger meets the top of your head is the crown of your head. When you try headstand, place the crown of your head gently on the mat.

Headstand Layer 1: Leg Lifts

 

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Interlace your fingers and open your palms up. Rest your forearms on the mat at shoulder width distance. Place the crown of your head on the mat right in front of your open palms. Your palms should be supporting the back of your head. Supported headstand is great because most of the weight will actually be on your forearms (which is why shoulder strength is key).

Once you have the top part of your headstand set up, walk your feet as close in as you can. The higher your hips are, the easier it will be to get into the pose. Start by practicing lifting one leg up at a time while keeping your hips as square as you can. (When you open up your hip, it throws off your center and balance.)

It’s important to use your core and shoulder strength during your leg lifts. It’s best to avoid kicking up into handstand or using momentum because it can cause injury.

When you lift up one leg, try coming onto your tippy toes on your base leg. This will elevate your hips further.

Headstand Layer 2: Practice Pike

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I personally think piking up is the safest way to enter into headstand. So once you feel like you are solid with your leg lifts, you can practice piking up!?There’s a low risk of toppling over?because one leg is close to the ground and can catch yourself if you tip over.

The key is pressing your weight through your forearms, activating your shoulders, and engaging your core. Most of your weight should be on your arms. ?

Start by lifting one leg up in space. Keep your hips as square as you can and walk your toes in as close to your torso as possible so you can get your hips above your shoulders. From here, use your glutes to keep lifting your raised leg as high as it can go. When you lift your top leg as high as you can while keeping your hips stable, your bottom leg will start to follow and lift up as well, as you can see in the series of photos above.

Keep breathing through this pose and try it on both sides! Stay persistent. Just remember, yoga is a practice.

Full Supported Headstand

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You can also bend your knee on your way up! Find what works best with your body. After you are done playing with headstand, rest in embryo pose (which is child’s pose with your knees together and arms by your sides) for three to five breaths.

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Here is a video showing you one way to get in and out of supported headstand. Go layer by layer, take it slow, and be brave! For more advanced variations, you can pike both legs up at the same time and add in fun poses using your legs (eagle, lotus, splits). I am so excited for the headstand breakthrough you will achieve! Please share with me your experience or feedback by?leaving a comment below.

??Bianca

How To Get into Splits Pose

Yoga with Bianca |?Splits Pose

The splits is one of my favorite poses! While I practiced this pose years ago in ballet, I lost a lot of that flexibility as the years went by. When I first attempted it again as an adult, my hips were more than a foot above the ground. With intentional stretching?over a period of a few months, I was able to eventually rest my hips on the ground. In this post, I will show you how to get into splits pose with photos and a video.

Just to preface this tutorial, everyone’s body structure is different. Our muscles, joints, and bones are built differently and any injuries will also change the dynamic. Everyone’s splits will look different, but take this tutorial as a foundation.

So let’s get started!

With any yoga pose you are attempting, you can use the following template to break down the pose:

Breaking Down Splits Pose- SOUL

S-?Strengthen

Core

O-?Open

Hips: Outer hips and hip flexors

U-?Understand Muscle Action

Extension of hamstring muscles and core stabilization?to hold you upright

L- Lengthen

Hamstrings and quads

(Source of acronym:?Corepower Yoga?Level II Teacher Training)

Build-up Poses

Forward Fold

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Start with your knees shoulder width distance apart or wider.?Bend your knees and let your chest rest over your thighs.?Allow your head to hang heavy and feel the release of tension from your neck and shoulders.?After a few deep breaths in and out through your nose, work on straightening your legs.?It’s totally fine if your fingertips don’t touch the ground, your hamstrings will open up over repeated practice.?For the fullest expression of this pose, place your palms flat on the mat with your fingertips in line with your toes.?Hold the pose for 3 to 10 breaths depending on how much time you have.

Downward Facing Dog

This one deserves a whole post on its own so I’ll break down down dog (had to ;p) in the future but this is a great pose to lengthen your calves, hamstrings, and spine.?You can take organic movements in this pose by “walking” out your dog by bending one knee and the other, nodding your head “yes” and “no”, or taking shoulder dips. Bend your knees slightly to find more length in your spine. Keep your core engaged, palms flat on the mat, shoulders away from ears. Stay here for three to ten breaths.

?Crescent Moon

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This is one of my favorite poses and I try to incorporate it in each class I teach. Our hip flexors get shortened everyday because most of us sit all day. Align your hips over your back knee. If you have sensitive knees, you can rest your knee on a block or double roll your mat. Position your front knee at a 45 degree angle so your knee stacks over your ankle to protect your knee joint. Lengthen your spine and keep your core and glutes engaged to feel this pose even more. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths and make sure you do both sides to balance out your body.

Half Splits

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From crescent moon, slide your front heel up as far as it takes to straighten your front leg. Keep your hips aligned above your back knee. Flex your front toes towards your face and work on squaring your hips to the front of your space. Feel free to keep a slight bend in your front knee or use blocks underneath each palm to bring the ground closer to you. With every inhale, lift your spine to a half-lift like the second photo and with every exhale fold deeper into your front leg. Keep moving through this flow as many breaths as you have time for to create space in your hamstrings.

Pyramid Pose

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This pose is so grounding. Start from Warrior I then straighten your front leg. Lengthen your torso towards the front while keeping?your hips squared then fold over your front leg. Continue to ground your back heel down to your mat to lengthen your calves and hamstrings. Repeat the inhale half-lift, exhale-fold flow similar to half splits above.

Standing Splits

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You’ll find that you can invert most?yoga poses and keep the same shape. Standing splits is basically splits but just on your feet! Square your hips to the ground when you lift your top leg up. Point your lifted toes to the mat and press your heel up in space. Picture the inseam of your lifted leg spiraling up to the ceiling. Take a microbend in your standing leg to protect your knee joint. It doesn’t matter how high your leg goes here, you will still experience the benefits of the pose with proper alignment! To make this pose more challenging, walk your fingertips closer to your standing leg or add a balance challenge by holding onto your shins. To ease the pose, use blocks underneath your hands or lower your lifted leg.

Half Pigeon

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This by far was one of the most uncomfortable poses for me when I first started doing yoga. Start in a three-legged downward facing dog. Take your right knee towards your right wrist and right toes toward your left wrist. Try to work your shin as parallel to the top of you mat as you can while still keeping your back kneecap on the mat. This alignment will take time and practice. You may find that your shin is angled at a 45 degree angle at first.

Check that your?back foot is angled straight and the tops of your toes press on the mat. Balance your weight equally on both hips. Take deep inhales to send your breath into the tight spaces around your hip. You can stay upright in this pose or come onto your forearms or chest. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths. Your release is three legged down dog and I like to take knee circles to further open up the hip joint.

Splits

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Now you’re ready and warmed up to try full splits! I recommend having two blocks within reach when you try this for the first time. Start in half splits (see above) then slide your heel forward until your front leg straightens as much as it can. Point your front kneecap towards the ceiling. Then, slowly slide your back knee in space until you have reached your maximum stretch. Continue to square your hips forward. A test to see if you are doing this right is your back kneecap and back thigh will be facing or resting?onto the mat.

If you have two blocks, place your blocks on either side of your hips and rest your palms on top of each block. Use your tricep and core strength to keep your body lifted against gravity. Work on breathing calmly in this pose. Hold here for 3 to 5 breaths. If there is only a block height of space from yourself and the mat, you can sit on a block and work on steady breaths in and out. This pose will take practice so give yourself a lot of grace! To get out of the pose, press your hands into the mat and?use your core strength to slowly lift your hips off the ground or the block. Be gentle with yourself. As a counter stretch, bring both legs in front of you for seated forward fold and stay for a few breaths.

Bringing it all Together- Yoga Flow

Now let’s see all these poses in action! Remember to breathe and have fun with it! Hope you enjoyed this tutorial and please feel free to comment below with feedback, questions or requests.

??Bianca