Balancing Poses and Standing Yoga Poses for Your Beauty
Balance is strength, and all your muscles must coordinate to meet the challenge. Draw strength from the earth with the soles of your feet, and then draw your energy into the center line of your body when performing a balance. The key to balance is also a metaphor for life: it’s all about focus. Pick a focal point (in Sanskrit, drishti) upon which to gaze, preferably a stationary object in your horizon line (more advanced: the tip of the nose, or eyes closed). Keep the focus as unwavering as possible. As in life, you will surprise yourself by what you achieve when you keep it simple and focus.
Training your gaze to be specific but not too intense and keeping your focus sharp but released is a great practice for toning the oculus orbus muscles, the ring muscles around the eyes. If you can train yourself in the challenging asanas to keep a smooth, steady gaze, devoid of furrowing and wrinkling (which signifies too much effort and paradoxically will make it easier for you to lose your balance, as you are gripping too much and are therefore rigid), you will train your facial muscles to stay released and calm at all times.
Balancing poses in yoga
Balancing poses will take stress and gripping away from the facial muscles as well—facial releasing translates to a smoother, less furrowed brow and a looser jaw. These poses fight marionette lines (the lines that form between the mouth and the nose, like those of a puppet).
Standing poses require concentration but must not be performed with too much effort or the face will clench and tighten. The balancing in standing poses teaches us to maintain our serenity and a relaxed facial demeanor in the face—pun intended—of a challenge. Doing them is a great way to practice grace under pressure, and they will train the facial muscles to stay smooth and unruffled in stressful situations. If you are prone to worrying, doing these poses is an excellent way to counter the stress and worry lines around your forehead, eyes, and mouth. They encourage the facial muscles to relax.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Tadasana with fun
This is the foundation of all the other poses: elements of this pose can be found in all of the asanas. It is like first position in ballet and is a simple, stable, extremely grounding pose that you can practice anywhere, anytime. Placing yourself in Tadasana for five minutes can be a calming yet energizing experience, a standing meditation. Emotionally this pose teaches us to be strong and steady, focused and calm. It gives a lot of earth energy, which enhances the health of the skin and hair and reminds us that being still and doing “nothing” can be a potent form of action.
Stand with the middle lines of your feet parallel, the big toe joints touching. Look at the outer edges of your feet and try to make them parallel, too. Lift the crown of your head up on top of your spine. Close your eyes and feel your collarbones broadening and your shoulder blades spreading like wings on your back. Drop the bottom tips of your shoulder blades down toward your waist. Externally rotate your upper arm bones slightly while internally rotating your forearms, turning your palms in toward your thighs. Lift your rib cage up off your pelvis. Visualize, then drop your pubic bone down toward the inner arches of your feet. Curl the bottom of your tailbone slightly under you and also toward the mid-arches of your feet. Plant your heels down on the floor and feel your pelvis and lower back becoming more open and spacious.
Next, plant the balls of your feet down. Try rolling to the outer edges of your feet, then the inner edges. Rock to the balls of your feet, then the heels. Finally, find your most grounded, even stance by pressing all four corners of your feet on the ground evenly. Breathe deeply, and feel your stance, strong, tall, and easy. Do not lock your knees. Visualize the earth’s energy (you can imagine it as a specific color—perhaps green—if you like) running up the front of your body through the soles of your feet, into your calves and thighs, through your pelvis, torso, and heart, up to the crown of your head and then down the back of your body, back into the earth. Visualize this cycle several times. Breathe into the back body, especially filling up the kidneys and then the lungs with air. Savor the strength and ease of being in your body, firmly rooted in the earth.
While standing like this, close your eyes and imagine your face. Dewrinkle it by breathing and letting tension go. Imagine your brow smooth and unlined. Unclench your jaw. Relax your eyes, and imagine them sinking deeply back into their sockets. Smile lightly. Your face will loosen its grip and the jaw will release, preventing forehead wrinkles and pucker lines around your mouth. Smile and breathe contentment. This pose can take five to fifteen minutes.
Warrior 2 – the best pose to start doing yoga
Although it is numerically the second warrior pose, Warrior 2 is an easier pose to start your practice with than Warrior 1, so I list it first. This pose opens up the hips, pelvis, lower back, shoulders, and upper back. It also strengthens the thighs and buttocks. It creates room for the internal organs to breathe and thereby detoxifies the system, creating a more youthful appearance. It lends a sense of strength, stability, freedom, ease, and flexibility. Runners and walkers should always do this stretch after a workout. Practiced with a gentle smile and your teeth separated from one another lightly, this pose will release jaw tension and smooth frown lines.
Start on the right side, with the right foot facing forward and the left foot perpendicular to the right, about four feet behind. Adhere the outer edge of the back foot firmly to the floor; though in the beginning this may feel challenging, over time you will make progress. Bend the front knee so that the front thigh is parallel to the floor, with the right knee in direct alignment over the right ankle—not in front of, or behind it. Open the hips sideways (toward the left side when your right foot is forward) and bring your spine as vertically centered over the hips as possible. Do your best to keep the arms extended over the legs and parallel to the floor, and avoid the tendency to drop your back hand lower than your front. Allow the crown of your head to float on top of the spine, and smile. Breathe into the lungs and feel the back ribs expand as you extend the breath. Take five to eight counts here. Then, switch sides.
Start with feet about hip-width apart. Step forward in a lunge (right foot forward first). Turn down your left heel to a 33-degree angle. The back heel may not press down completely right away—that’s okay. Over time you will see progress. Lift your arms above your head, turning your palms to face each other shoulder-width apart or pressing together in prayer. Lift your sternum toward the ceiling. Drop the bottom tips of your shoulder blades down your back toward your waist. Press your left hip point forward and draw your right hip back. Continue to bend your right knee deeply (make sure the knee doesn’t extend out in front of the ankle in the lunge, however—it should be on top, in a 90-degree angle, and not in front). Hold this pose for five to eight long breaths, then repeat on the other side, with the left foot forward. The warrior poses open up the body to receive grounding earth energy, and they free up the heart, kidneys, and lungs, allowing for increased circulation to the face. When your heart receives more circulation, more oxygen goes to the blood cells and, in turn, the skin.
One of the best poses for dewrinkling the brows and forehead
A challenging balancing pose as well as a standing pose, this pose aligns the heart and the head at the same level. The skin of the face receives more oxygen, so this pose will enhance and improve skin tone. Because this pose is challenging and requires a lot of concentration, it is a great way to practice grace under pressure. Try smiling in this pose, and etch your muscle memory with a template of facial relaxation even when you’d normally scowl and tighten. This will translate into a smoother, more wrinkle-free countenance no matter what the outer circumstances. This pose is especially good for dewrinkling the brows and forehead. From Tadasana (standing pose), separate your feet hip-width apart and make sure they are parallel. Bend your right knee a little, and extend your hands alongside your hips, palms facing the thighs. Tip your torso forward and pick up your left foot. Turn the left toes down and flex the left foot strongly, and extend your left leg back behind you until the leg parallels the floor. Inner rotate the left thigh and square the hips (i.e., face both hip points toward the floor as evenly as possible). Extend your spine forward and look straight down, either to the floor or to the tip of your nose. Pull the lower abdomen (two inches under the navel) in and up to engage your core muscles, which will help your balance. Your head should be in line with the rest of the spine, but will probably want to tip up a bit. Don’t let it. Hold this pose for five counts, if you can. You may struggle with your balance and that’s okay! Try the other leg. Do each side once, or if you really enjoy this pose try each side twice.
Do not feel as though you have to completely straighten either the standing or the elevated leg; the standing leg can be a little soft in the knee if you are especially tight in your hamstrings. You can do this pose at the wall by facing the wall and lifting a leg parallel to the floor (full footprint on the wall, toes facing up), then turning away from the wall with the leg parallel to the floor and turning the foot on the wall so that the toes point down. Beginners or those experiencing physical challenges may wish to use a chair to aid in balance—lean on the same side arm as the leg that’s lifting up the wall on the chair back.
To be continued…
Annelise Hagen «The Yoga Face»