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Thunder Bolt

Vajrasana

Benefits

  • Strengthens the low back and pelvic muscles, while lengthening the spine
  • Opens the hips in internal rotation and adduction and stretches the quadriceps, creating flexibility and alignment in the hips, legs, and knees
  • Increases efficiency of the entire digestive system, relieving stomach ailments such as hyperacidity and peptic ulcer
  • Important meditation posture helping the body to sit upright and the spine to lengthen, especially for those with sciatica
  • Massages the reproductive organs, helping to alleviate menstrual disorders and assisting women in labor
  • Prevents hernia and is good for virility
  • Stimulates vajra nadi, activates sushumna nadi and redirects sexual energy to the brain for spiritual purposes

Effects

To Practice:

  1. Begin on the hands and knees in Table posture.
  2. Bring the knees and toes together, and begin to sit all the way back toward the heels, allowing the heels to cradle the pelvis (see modifications if this is uncomfortable).
  3. Lift and lengthen the torso so the spine is vertical, and rest the hands on the knees with the fingers spread wide.
  4. Relax the shoulders and widen the upper back.
  5. Lift the chin so it is parallel to the earth, softening the gaze and relaxing the face and jaw.
  6. Engage the bandhas by drawing the low abdomen in and up, and lifting the pelvic floor, while lengthening the tailbone toward the earth in order to maintain length in the low back.
  7. Press the shins and tops of the feet into the earth, grounding the pinky toe sides of the feet.
  8. Feel the breath traveling down the spine as you inhale, and up and out as you exhale.
Contraindications
  • Those with knee or ankle pain should begin with modifications.
Modifications
  • Use a cushion or rolled blanket under the hips or ankles, or behind the knees to alleviate any strain or tension.
  • Allow the knees to come apart slightly if there is any discomfort in the knees.
  • Half Thunder Bolt: In the final position, bring the sole of one foot to the floor. Reverse.
Variations
  • Gracious Pose (Bhadrasana): Separate the knees as wide apart as possible, keeping the feet together (pictured).

Humming Bee Breath

Bhramari

Benefits

  • Excellent for speeding up the healing of body tissues
  • Alleviates stress and tension, anger, anxiety, asthma, insomnia, and high blood pressure
  • Strengthens the voice and relieves thyroid ailments
  • Benefits are enhanced when practiced after Nadi Shodhana

Effects

To Practice:

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Bhramari Pranayama

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  1. Sit comfortably, with lips closed and teeth slightly opened. Make sure the jaw is relaxed.
  2. Raise the arms to the sides, bend the elbows, and bring the hands to the ears, plugging the ears with the index or middle fingers.
  3. Bring the awareness to the center of the head (ajna chakra) and keep the body still.
  4. Inhale through the nose, and while exhaling make a deep, steady humming sound like a bee for the duration of the exhale.
  5. Then, while inhaling, contract the throat to produce a humming sound on inhalation (if this sound is difficult to make at first, focus only on producing the sound while exhaling).
  6. Practice 5 rounds, ending with a humming exhale.

Contraindications

  • Never strain the body, nor rush or force the breath for this practice.

Seated Boat

Paripurna Navasana

Benefits

  • Strengthens the abdominal muscles and core
  • Aids in digestion and elimination, and tones the liver
  • Strengthens back muscles and aligns the spine, alleviating low back pain
  • Improves concentration
  • Tones the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems

Effects

To Practice:

  1. Begin in a seated position, with the knees bent and the feet on the floor.
  2. Engage the bandhas to support the spine, lengthen the spine, and lift the ribcage up out of the pelvis, relaxing the shoulders down away from the ears.
  3. Place the hands on the floor at the sides of the body, and then walk the hands back, leaning back to lift the legs.
  4. Find your point of balance on your sits bones, and extend the legs while lengthening the spine.
  5. Once you feel balanced and strong, reach the arms forward alongside the legs.
  6. Feel into the energetic triangle supporting this posture, lengthening and breathing into these lines of energy.
  7. Draw energy from the earth up into the body with each inhale, and with each exhale allow this energy to radiate through the limbs.
  8. Slowly release the posture by bending the knees, lower the feet to the floor and returning to a seated position.

Contraindications

  • Those with hernia or abdominal pain should avoid this practice.
  • Those with back pain should begin with modifications.

Modifications

  • Practice with the knees partially bent (pictured).
  • Practice with one leg at a time, keeping the opposite knee bent and the foot on the floor.
  • Hold the hands under the thighs to support the position.

Plank

Chaturanga Dandasana

Benefits

  • Balances the nervous system
  • Improves postural stability for the entire body
  • Strengthens the back and arms, and stabilizes the shoulder girdle, preventing shoulder injuries
  • Improves health of the heart and lungs, yielding greater stamina

Effects

To Practice:

  1. Begin in Table posture.
  2. Widen the chest and upper back, drawing the shoulder blades and collarbones apart.
  3. Press the pads of the fingers into the floor, and rotate the upper arms outward to engage the back.
  4. Lengthen out through the crown of the head, so the head is an extension of the spine and the focus is on the floor in front of the hands.
  5. Engage the bandhas by lifting the pelvic floor upward, and drawing the abdomen back toward the spine.
  6. Extend the right leg back, flexing the foot and bringing the ball of the foot to the floor.
  7. Stabilize the body, and extend the left leg back and the ball of the foot to the floor to come into plank.
  8. Reach the heels back and the crown of the head forward, lengthening the sits bones toward the heels.
  9. Imagine pressing the forearms toward each other, and the upper arms away from each other, to stabilize the upper body.
  10. As you breathe, imagine drawing energy up from the soles of the feet to the crown of the head with each inhale. With each exhale, imaging sending energy down into the earth.
  11. Slowly release the posture by lowering one knee to the floor at a time, returning to Table.
  12. Take a few moments to rest in Child’s Pose.

Modifications

  • Place a block under the pubic bone to help support the weight of the pelvis.
  • Practice with only one leg at a time, keeping the opposite knee on the floor.

Half Spinal Twist

Ardha Matsyendrasana

Benefits

  • Opens the ribcage and breath
  • Massages digestive organs, alleviating digestive ailments and aiding elimination
  • Stimulates lymph flow and strengthens the immune system
  • Calms the nervous system and tones the nerves of the spine
  • Strengthens the back muscles, relieving lumbar pain and muscular spasms
  • Regulates secretion of adrenaline and bile
  • Recommended in the management of diabetes

Effects

To Practice:

  1. Begin seated with the legs extended in front of you.
  2. Inhale to lengthen the spine and press the sits bones into the earth. As you exhale,  bend your right knee, drawing it towards your chest while maintaining a long spine.
  3. Cross your right foot to the floor on the outside of the left knee.
  4. Inhale to stretch the left arm up toward the sky, lengthening the sides of the body. As you exhale, twist your shoulders to the right, bringing the left elbow to the outside of the right knee (or alternatively hugging the right knee with your left arm).
  5. Turn to look over your right shoulder, bringing the right arm to the floor behind you to support the length of the spine Be careful not to put too much weight in this arm, as the length should primarily be coming from the strength of the torso.
  6. With each inhale, feel the spine growing longer. With each exhale, release the body deeper into the twist.
  7. Hold the final position for 5-10 full breaths.
  8. Release the posture and repeat on the other side.

Contraindications

  • Those with low back pain should begin with modifications.
  • Women who are more than 3 months pregnant should avoid this practice.
  • Those with sciatica or slipped disc should use caution and/or practice with the guidance of a qualified yoga teacher.
Modifications
  • Keep the bottom leg extended straight out, rather than bending the heel toward the opposite hip (pictured).

Variations

  • With the Bind: Reach the left arm under the right thigh, and the right arm behind the back, bringing the hands together to find the bind while maintaining the length of the spine (pictured).