YOGA SEQUENCE FOR DRAGON BOATERS
BY STEVEN HICK, OTTAWA DRAGON MASTERS
The proper dragon boating technique requires strength, flexibility and mental control. Dragon boating also requires focus and an ability to know where your body is in space. This enables you to know how to move, when to move and when you have reached your edge and should not move further. The idea here is to move at your edge. This allows you to increase the range of movement, but not overdo it. Let your own sensitivity to your own body override any instruction that I offer. In the process of developing a deeper sensitively to your body you will discover its limits or edges. As you practice you will notice that your edges shift. They will also shift day-to-day.
I believe that all dragon boaters have the potential to enhance his or her ability by adopting a consistent yoga practice. A few of the benefits are:
1. Improved strength – yoga can enhanced core body stability and significantly impeded overuse injury by strengthening the supportive but otherwise under-developed muscles surrounding the more utilized muscles, creating a more balanced and optimally functional overall strength.
2. Flexibility – yoga invariably improves joint and muscular flexibility, which is crucial to the body’s overall structural soundness. Enhanced joint and muscle pliancy translates to greater range of motion, or an increase in the performance latitude of the reach phase of the stroke.
3. Mental control – this is actually the big benefit. Most people, particularly athletes, tend to think of yoga as a great “workout” – a means to gain flexibility. Sure, it does that. But as soon as the rigorous portion of the class comes to a close and it’s time for savasana (corpse pose), otherwise known as the meditative portion of the session where you lie down on your back for a period of quiet meditation, This is the most important part of the practice for a dragon boater (and everyone).
MOUNTAIN POSE (TADASANA)
Standing with your feet together – either bringing the big toes to touch or slightly a part which ever seems most stable to you.
Bringing your awareness up the legs notice the tailbone. Allow a Drawing of the tail bone down and forward. Drawing the belly and lower ribcage in and lifting through the chest. Pressing the shoulders down the back. Be sure the shoulders are directly over the hips. Imagining that you are being lifted through the crown of your head
As you stand here in the Mountain pose bring your awareness to a sense of alertness and softness. Bringing awareness to the breath and body sensations that become apparent.
From mountain pose placing the feet slightly apart. Keeping the hands on the sides of the respective thighs with fingers close together and touching them. Looking straight ahead. Inhaling, raise the right arm slowly and laterally and bring it above the head, the inside of the upper arm touching the right ear.
Exhaling, raise the right shoulder and bend the trunk and head together along with the raised right arm sideways to the left till the right arm is parallel to the floor.
While bending, slide the left palm down your left thigh until it reaches the left knee; knees should be kept straight, and the right arm should follow the ear without bending the elbow.
Holding this position tuning into sensations in the body. Exploring your edge. Noticing if you have a tendency to want to push beyond your edge. Yoga is not about feeling pain.
Inhaling, bring back the trunk, head and the right arm together till the right hand comes straight above the head. Exhaling and keeping the head erect, lower the right arm again to the side, turning the palm inward.
Coming back to standing (Mountain pose).
Stand in mountain pose. With an exhalation, step or lightly jump your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down.
Turn your right foot in slightly to the right and your left foot out to the left 90 degrees. Align the left heel with the right heel. Firm your thighs and turn your left thigh outward so that the center of the left knee cap is in line with the center of the left ankle.
Exhale and bend your left knee over the left ankle, so that the shin is perpendicular to the floor. If possible, bring the left thigh parallel to the floor. Anchor this movement of the left knee by strengthening the right leg and pressing the outer right heel firmly to the floor.
Stretch the arms away from the space between the shoulder blades, parallel to the floor. Don’t lean the torso over the left thigh: Keep the sides of the torso equally long and the shoulders directly over the pelvis. Press the tailbone slightly toward the pubis. Turn the head to the left and look out over the fingers.
Stay for 1-2 minutes. Inhale to come up. Reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time to the left.
REVOLVED TRIANGLE POSE
Stand and then with an exhalation, step or lightly jump your feet 3½ to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down. Turn your left foot in 45 to 60 degrees to the right and your right foot out to the right 90 degrees. Align the right heel with the left heel. Firm your thighs and turn your right thigh outward, so that the center of the right kneecap is in line with the center of the right ankle.
With an exhalation, turn your torso to the right, and square your hip points as much as possible with the front edge of your sticky mat. As you bring the left hip around to the right, resist the head of the left thigh bone back and firmly ground the left heel.
With another exhalation, turn your torso further to the right and lean forward over the front leg. Reach your left hand down, either to the floor (inside or outside the foot) or, if the floor is too far away, onto a block positioned against your inner right foot. Allow the left hip to drop slightly toward the floor. You may feel the right hip slip out to the side and lift up toward the shoulder, and the torso hunch over the front leg. To counteract this, press the outer right thigh actively to the left and release the right hip away from the right shoulder. Use your right hand, if necessary, to create these two movements, hooking the thumb into the right hip crease.
Beginning students should keep their head in a neutral position, looking straight forward, or turn it to look at the floor. More experienced students can turn the head and gaze up at the top thumb. From the center of the back, between the shoulder blades, press the arms away from the torso. Bring most of your weight to bear on the back heel and the front hand.
Stay in this pose anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute. Exhale, release the twist, and bring your torso back to upright with an inhalation. Repeat for the same length of time with the legs reversed, twisting to the left.
Watch a demonstration of Revolved Triangle Pose
REVOLVED TRIANGLE AT THE WALL – ALTERNATIVE TO THE ABOVE IF YOU HAVE A WALL
Propping: The wall is the main prop in this version of Revolved Triangle Pose. You’ll also use a block for your bottom hand.
Why This Works: Using the wall will stabilize your body and provide considerable leverage for rotating your spine. The block under your bottom hand will allow you to continue to lengthen your spine effectively as you stretch your hamstrings, outer leg, and hip.
How to: Revolved Triangle Pose at the wall combines the stability and opening you felt in the reclined version with the spinal length and rotation of the chair-supported version. It approximates the shape of Revolved Triangle and provides you with enough support to move deeply into the pose and access its finer points.
To prepare, place the long side of your mat next to a wall and have your block nearby. Stand at the top of your mat so that your right hip is about 6 inches from the wall. Step your right foot forward and your left foot back so that you have plenty of distance between your feet. Finish the setup by aligning your heels with each other, turning your back foot to a 45-degree angle and placing a block just inside your front foot. You can always make adjustments to the spacing and angle of your feet once you’re in the pose.
Transition into Revolved Triangle by rooting down strongly through both feet, drawing up through your legs, and stretching your arms toward the ceiling. Take a slow, deep breath and focus on lengthening your spine. On an exhalation, hinge forward from your hips and take your left hand to your block on the inside of your foot (experimenting with the block height that best suits you). Place your right hand on the wall in line with your shoulder; your right elbow will need to bend. See that your torso and hips are in the same plane as your feet, and make sure you don’t feel too close or far from the wall before deepening and fine-tuning your pose and switching sides.
BOAT POSE WITH A TWIST
Start in a seated position. Rock back so you are on the tripod of your two sit bones and your tail bone.
Deepen the posture by bringing your shins to parallel with your mat or begin to lengthen the legs to create a V shape.
Find an appropriate hand placement, either on your hamstrings, at your heart, or out extending towards the feet.
Add a twist with hands outstretched. Inhale at centre and exhale to twist.
Moving now into a reclining twist. Remaining on your back with your knees bent and your feet comfortably on the floor. Now moving your arms on the floor at 90 degrees to the body – out like a T.
Take a few moments to sense into the how the body feels. PAUSE
Allow your knees to flow over to the right side. Notice if your left shoulder wants to lift off the matt. If it does so this is OK. You can think about inclining the shoulder toward the matt in a relaxed manner. Notice any tension in the body and what happens when the tension is released.
Invite the skin of the back body to spread and soften, settling with ease and relief into the earth. Try to let go as you rest quietly here, breathing comfortably and drawing your awareness inward.
EYE OF THE NEEDLE
To begin, come onto your back with your knees bent and your thighs parallel and hip-distance apart. Next, cross your left ankle over your right thigh, making sure that your anklebone clears your thigh. Actively flex your front foot by pulling your toes back. When you do this, the center of your foot will line up with your kneecap rather than curving into a sickle shape, which can stress the ligaments of the ankle and the knee.
Maintaining this alignment, pull your right knee in toward your chest, thread your left arm through the triangle between your legs and clasp your hands around the back of your right leg. If you can hold in front of your shin without lifting your shoulders off the floor or rounding the upper back, do so; otherwise, keep your hands clasped around your hamstring or use a strap. The goal is to avoid creating tension in the neck and shoulders as you open the hips, so choose a position that keeps your upper body relaxed. As you draw your right leg in toward you (making sure to aim it toward your right shoulder and not the center of your chest), simultaneously press your left knee away from you. This combination of actions should provide ample sensation, but if you don’t feel much, try releasing your pubic bone down away from your navel toward the floor. This will bring a bit more curve into your lumbar and should deepen the hip stretch.
Begin in downward dog. Your knees should be right below your hips on the mat. Your hands should be slightly ahead of your shoulders.
Starting in Downward Dog. Lift your right leg up and sweep it through to your mat, folding it and placing it on the mat. Keep your right foot flexed to protect the knee. Your left leg is straight behind you with the toes pointed. Keep your hips square and level, with the left hipbone pressing toward your right foot. Inhale and press your hands into the mat, getting as much length in the spine as possible.
THREADING THE NEEDLE
On your hands and knees in Table pose, slide the right hand between the left hand and left knee. Slide the arm all the way out to the left so that the right shoulder and side of the head rest comfortably on the floor.
Inhale and reach the left hand up towards the ceiling. At first explore the posture with the arm, finding the place were you feel the deepest stretch, then stay there and reach out through the fingers.
Breathe and hold for 3-6 breaths. To release: exhale the palm back to the floor and slowly inhale back to Table pose. Repeat on the other side.
Sit then bend your right knee and put the foot on the floor, with the heel as close to the right sitting bone as possible. Keep the left leg strong and rotated slightly inward; ground the head of the thigh bone into the floor. Press the back of the left heel and the base of the big toe away from the pelvis. Also press the inner right foot actively into the floor, but soften the inner right groin to receive the pubis as you twist. Grounding the straight-leg thigh and bent-knee foot will help you lengthen your spine, which is always the first prerequisite of a successful twist.
With an exhalation, rotate your torso to the right and wrap your left arm around the right thigh. Hold the outer thigh with your left hand, then pull the thigh up as you release the right hip toward the floor. Press your right fingertips onto the floor just behind your pelvis to lift the torso slightly up and forward.
Remember to keep your straight leg and bent-knee foot grounded. Sink the inner right groin deeper into the pelvis, then lengthen your front belly up out of the groin along the inner right thigh. Continue lengthening the spine with each inhalation, and twist a little more with each exhalation. Hug the thigh to your belly, then lean back against your shoulder blades into an upper-back backbend. Gently turn your head to the right to complete the twist in your cervical spine.
Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then release with an exhalation, reverse the legs and twist to the left for an equal length of time.
DOLPHIN PLANK POSE
Press your inner forearms and elbows firmly against the floor. Firm your shoulder blades against your back and spread them away from the spine. Similarly spread your collarbones away from the sternum.
Press your front thighs toward the ceiling, but resist your tailbone toward the floor as you lengthen it toward the heels. Lift the base of your skull away from the back of the neck and look straight down at the floor, keeping the throat and eyes soft.
Stay anywhere from 1-3 minutes. Then, release your knees to the floor with an exhale.
LYING DOWN OR CORPSE (SHAVASANA)
Lying on your back, let the arms and legs drop open, with the arms about 45 degrees from the side of your body. Making sure you are warm and comfortable, if you need to place blankets under or over your body.
Closing the eyes, and breathing naturally. Allow your whole body to become soft and heavy, letting it relax into the floor. As the body relaxes, feel the whole body rising and falling with each breath. Feeling the effects from doing these poses. What sensations are present for you right now.