Posts tagged asana
Journey to Pincha Mayurasana

Journey to Pincha Mayurasana

Disclaimer - remember to practice at your own pace and listen to your body. If anything hurts or pinches, come out of the pose safely and rest in balasana (child's pose).

Pincha Mayurasana
pinca = feather
mayura = peacock

Pincha Mayurasana or forearm balance proves for many, to be a fairly elusive asana. It requires strength, core and shoulder stability alongside good balance and courage. But with a strong foundation and (of course) practice it may prove easier than you might think.

We asked CAMYOGA teacher, James Downs to show us how he gets into Pincha.

Pincha Mayurasana Step-by-Step

1. Set yourself up by coming into Dolphin with a brick or block between the palms. (Dolphin is similar to Downward Facing Dog, but with forearms flat on the floor and parallel to the long sides of the mat).

Squeeze the brick with your palms concentrating on broadening and stabilising the shoulders. Push the forearms firmly into the mat which will enable you to lift the crown of the head away from the floor.

Build strength by taking 5-10 breaths in this posture and then coming back down into child's pose and repeat 2-3 times.


2. Flash Prep! Remove the block and then from Dolphin lift the left leg high - keep the shoulders strong and your core engaged.

If you'd like to go further, start walking the opposite hand towards the grounded foot and maybe grab hold of the heel. Breathe deeply for 5-10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Try a balance: Right forearm presses firmly into the mat, left arm at a right angle palm pressing down (think chaturanga alignment). See if you can lift the right leg and use the left tricep (upper arm) as a ledge to rest your left knee on - right leg lifting high.

Try a balance!

Try a balance!

3. Once you've done your conditioning (previous steps). It's time to try the full posture!

Start with your solid dolphin pose, bend one knee and keeping the other leg straight do a couple of bunny hops to get the feeling of going upside down. This may be where you stay, but eventually, you'll feel more comfortable and maybe even get both legs straight!

If you're worried about falling, you can always try this against a wall (palms facing the wall) but be mindful that you're not overarching or banana-ing your back.

Another way to try this against the wall is with dolphin against the wall. Come into dolphin with heels touching the wall. When you feel stable here, place the sole of the left foot onto the wall - your body and leg at a right angle, then bring the right foot up to meet it. Try lifting each leg up and maybe both at the same time!


James teaches regularly at CAMYOGA Central and Mitcham's - check out the schedule here.

Follow James
Facebook Yoga with James
Instagram @Jamesldowns
Twitter @Jamesldowns
Huffington Post James Downs

5 minutes with Pete Blackaby


This November, we welcome Pete Blackaby, author of Intelligent Yoga, back to Camyoga for Taking Yoga into the 21st Century - two days of practical workshops. To give you some background on Pete's extensive body of work, here's a potted history of his life in yoga:

"I started practicing yoga seriously in 1978 as a student of the Iyengar system of yoga, after six years I took their two year teacher training programme and qualified in 1986. I continued in this system for a further four years.

From 1987 -1993 I studied Osteopathy at the college of osteopaths at Regents college London, qualifying in 1994. In 1995 I co-ran a two year teacher training course with John Stirk and Sophy Hoare, and ran a second one in 1997. I also taught anatomy and physiology at the Chiron Centre for Body centred psychotherapy in Ealing between 1995 and 1997.

In 2002 I became involved in the British Wheel of Yoga, (the governing  body in England) and ran a two year teacher training programme for them. I no longer train teachers, but have been running courses for teachers since then. My interest in the last 15yrs has been to put some scientific underpinning to the practice of yoga both in the bio-mechanical sense and in the mind /body relationship.

Currently I teach functional anatomy on the London yoga teacher training course and have input in two other local courses. I also teach the anatomy module at the Esther Myers yoga studio in Toronto. I am regularly invited to teach throughout England Wales and Scotland. The current project I am involved in is a two year course for teachers called 'Grounded Yoga'. There are five faculty, myself teaching bio mechanics, Professor Peter Connolly teaching philosophy, Dr Christine McHugh teaching homeostatic regulation through yoga, Diane Farrell teaching the psychology of the body, and Taravajra, teaching mindfulness. Our aim is to help students understand how yoga can bring productive change to the body, the mind, and the breath and improve our sense of relationship to the environment in which we find ourselves.

What I hope students will gain is a clear and reasonable synthesis of the salient points of yoga practice. What is important to consider in practice and what is less so. These understandings will be based on recent research findings. Whilst recognising that there is no such thing as certainty when dealing with human beings it is useful to know the main perspectives that are out there when dealing with bio-mechanics and the body/mind relationship. At the very least I hope to clarify what the debates are, and more particularly help students navigate some of the ideas with confidence."


Join Pete Blackaby for Taking Yoga Into the 21st Century at Camyoga Shelford, 13-14 November, 10.00-17.00. Camyoga graduates receive 10% off when booking the weekend. Click here for full details or to book online.


Rosalind Southward on Cambridge Forrest Yoga

Rosalind Southward on Forrest Yoga

1489267_749317608429275_172091856_nQ1. What makes Forrest yoga different from all the other schools & styles of yoga?

ROSALIND: For me Forrest Yoga is different to other schools/styles of yoga for its emphasis on using yoga as a way to heal yourself physically, emotionally and psychologically; it empowers you by giving you the tools you need to be able to do this powerful work for yourself. Ana developed the practice through working with her own injuries and traumas so it’s a system which is derived from her personal experiences and discoveries – for me this makes it more real and relevant. Forrest yoga takes traditional yoga poses and adapts them so they give our tweaky modern day stressed out bodies and minds what they need. As a student you are taught how to work the poses for your body; alignment is important, but we’re all in different bodies and working with different limitations so being taught to work in this way is a really valuable experience. Hands on assists are a big part of a Forrest class and as teachers we are taught how to work with students to help them to heal; so an adjust is not about getting deeper into the pose but to help you get what you need out of it. I think the emphasis on breath is really significant in Forrest yoga too – as some of you have already heard me say, although I thought I knew how to breathe deeply I discovered I really wasn’t breathing at all until I trained with Ana! Finally, one more very special element to Forrest yoga is the way it incorporates ceremony from the Native American Indian tradition and more shamanic practices. This really resonates with me and was one of the reasons I was drawn to this style.

Q2. What drew you to Forrest yoga?

ROSALIND: It’s funny – I feel like I didn’t really choose Forrest yoga, it chose me. The first Forrest class I took I was on holiday in Bali; I had problems with over-exercising so I was trying to do as many classes as I could each day. I found myself in a Forrest class with no idea what to expect and wondering if the person who wrote the schedule had made a typo. The thing that struck me though was using the breath to heal your body; literally breathing and sending the breath energy to wherever you need it – this really fascinated me. When I decided to do my first teacher training I actually applied to do a vinyasa course in India; but they wouldn’t accept my application because I told them about my herniated disc in my low back. I was told I wouldn’t be physically able to do it, which really upset me. A few weeks later I found an advert for a training being run by the teacher I had taken Forrest classes with Bali and I knew then that this was the course I was destined to take. Although this first training wasn’t a Forrest training, our morning practice was taught using Forrest sequencing and after 4 weeks of this, the differences I felt in my body were amazing. After this training I started a personal Forrest based practice, took workshops with Ana, bought her DVD’s – I couldn’t get enough! When I started teaching, I realised that I was essentially teaching what I practised – Forrest yoga and that I really wanted to train with Ana to become a certified Forrest teacher. Ironically, I came all the way back to the UK from Malaysia to Peterborough to do the Forrest Yoga Foundation training! The training was an amazing experience, especially with the emotional and psychological process work we did. For me this is a very powerful method of yoga – it heals injuries, builds strength in the body and enables you to connect with yourself authentically. I really honestly believe in it as system and it’s for this reason that I want to take it out and share this with others.

Q3. I've seen pictures of you in some amazing advanced postures. Do you think that advanced posture practice is important to yoga and something to aim for?

ROSALIND: Advanced poses are fun to master if that’s where you’re at, but no I definitely don’t think that they are the be all and end all of a yoga practice. If you become hell bent on achieving certain poses it’s almost like you end up in competition with yourself, and you get attached to the pose – this isn’t yoga. I know this sounds like a cliché and I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but it really isn’t about the end goal or destination but what you learn on the way there. When you’re learning a new pose (or any new skill for that matter) there’s this really long period of time where you are on the plateau – the time when you feel that you’re not improving or getting anywhere. But this is the part we need to learn to love, and when we focus on this and not what we’re aiming for, ironically that is normally when the improvement happens. I spend a lot of time on my mat, and whilst I can do some “advanced poses” that have been captured on film, I also spend a lot of time falling out and not looking quite so amazing. (There have been some classic bloopers too believe me!) With my handstands, I realised I had to stop focusing on getting both legs straight up and step back a stage and figure out where exactly these muscles are that are actually going to hold me up. I got it for about a week, and just when I got complacent I lost it again. So, I’m back to reconnecting and figuring out what else there is to discover that I haven’t noticed so far. But this is what keeps me so fascinated I guess!

Q4. Can you describe your daily practice?

ROSALIND: I practice pretty much every day, mostly in the mornings right after I get up. My main practice is a Forrest based practice – it makes such a difference to my tweaky low back and helps me to figure out whatever things might be playing on my mind or that I am processing at that time. I always start with pranayama – I find this helps me to wake up first thing in the morning, way better than a cup of coffee does. Then I move into seated poses, followed by lots of core strengthening work, and a bridge pose or variation. Next comes dolphin pose, and maybe some inversion work depending on how warmed up I’m feeling – I make sure I work on my handstands/and or forearm balance every day so I can keep working on what I’m learning in these poses. Then I do lots of sun salutations to get really hot, and this is normally when the music comes on if it hasn’t already! I don’t teach Forrest yoga to music but I enjoy having it in my personal practice. And I’m sure you’d smile if you could see my playlists – lots of hip-hop, R’n’B and funky beats and I do sometimes break into a dance in the middle of my practice too! Once I’m nice and hot I work with standing poses and maybe arm balances or back bends depending on what type of sequence I’m doing. My personal practice is not necessarily what I’m going to teach in class later that day – what I need might not be what my students need. But, at the same time what I learn in my personal practice definitely makes its way into my classes – figuring out how to switch on new muscles, noticing when my breathing goes – there’s always something new to learn and that’s what I love about yoga.

Q5. What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

ROSALIND: To stop struggling to be perfect or how you think everyone else wants you to be. I spent too many years trying to shoehorn myself into the image that I thought everyone expected from me; it made me desperately unhappy, sick and trapped in a cycle of bad habits. The relief of just being myself was immense, and my yoga practice changed too as a result. Or maybe it was that I changed my attitude to my yoga practice and it naturally evolved from there. I’m thankful that Ana opened my eyes to the fact that it’s ok to be my authentic self and to speak from a place of real truth even when it feels difficult and scary to do so. And when you don’t feel like you have the courage, to take a deep breath and then speak from there.

Rosalind160x160Rosalind is an Advanced Certified Forrest Yoga instructor and teaches Forrest, Yin Yoga and Yoga Flow at Camyoga, Cambridge. To book onto one of her classes click here.