It is important to properly warm-up the body in preparation for the pose. Follow the postures below in order to build flexibility, strength and balance.
Warm up the hips by moving into Adho Mukha Sukhasana, Downward Facing Easy Sitting Pose. Come to a comfortable seat, crossing the legs. Option to sit on a blanket or a block for support. Ground down through the sitting bones and lift the chest and arm pits up towards the ceiling. Sit well, and draw the shoulder blades down the back. Notice the length in the spine the expansion of the chest. Draw the lower ribcage inward and draw the low-belly in towards the spine.
On an inhale breath, reach the arms up over the head. On an exhale breath, fold forward with a flat-back. Walk the palms forward. Stay here and breathe, for 3-5 full rounds of breath.
To come out of the pose: On an inhale breath, lift the gaze and slowly come up the same way you folded forward, with a flat-back and using the core. Switch the feet and move the front foot to the back and the back foot to the front. Repeat the same instructions on the opposite side.
Move into Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana, Half Bound Lotus Intense Stretch Pose, or Janu Sirsasana, Head to Knee Forward Bend in order to warm up the hamstrings, spine and shoulders. Extend both legs out in front. Move into a half-lotus pose. Draw the right heel up towards the navel, with the sole of the foot facing up towards the ceiling. If this is not accessible, and if the right knee if raised off of the ground, place the sole of the foot on the inner left thigh instead.
If your foot is in half-lotus pose, wrap the right arm around the back and grab for the big toe. Option to use a strap or towel for support. On an inhale, sit tall. On an exhale fold forward with a flat-back. Reach the left hand for the foot. Bring the chin to the shin and breathe. Create smooth and even inhales and exhales. Take notice that this is the full posture we are working towards, but in a seat rather than standing. When practicing the seated version, you receive the same benefits without the added challenge of finding your balance.
If the foot is resting on the inner thigh in Janu Sirsasana: inhale and sit tall, raising the hands up over the head. On an exhale breath, reach forward with a flat-back. Grab for your ankle, your foot or allow the palms to rest near the sides of the extended leg. Stay here and breathe for 3-5 breaths.
To come out: on an inhale, lift the gaze and bring the torso back upright, using the core and with a flat-back.
Repeat the same instructions on the opposite side. Take the same variation as you did on the opposite side in order to build balance in the body and mind.
Practice the variation that allows you to move into your edge without causing pain or forcing your way into the pose. Work on strengthening, building balance and “settling-in” to the sensations. Notice any resistance, negative feelings or self-dialogue that may arise. Take inventory of these reactions. Become aware of them and let them go. Re-focus your attention on the breath. Focus on finding a calm and even flowing breath. Find acceptance of where you are in the pose.
Move into Tree Pose, Vrksasana in order to focus on building balance. Come to standing with the feet facing forward and parallel to each other. Ground down through the four corners of the feet. Shift the weight to the left leg. On an inhale, lift the right foot. Bring the sole of the right foot to ankle, calf, or inner left thigh. If bringing the foot to the inner thigh, bring the foot towards the back of the thigh. Press the sole of the foot into the inner thigh and press the thigh in towards the foot.
Find your drishti gaze, create a laser-beam focus on a non-moving object. Bring the palms to heart and expand through the chest.
Notice the external rotation in the hip. Press the left thigh bone back. Draw the low-belly in towards the spine and extend the tailbone towards the ground. Stay here and breathe for 3-5 full rounds of breath. Slowly come out. Use mindful and steady movements coming out of the pose. Repeat the same instructions on the opposite side.
Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana: to move into the full posture: lift the right heel in towards the navel. Adjust the sole of the foot to face upwards towards the ceiling. If the knee is pointed out instead of down, practice building flexibility in half-lotus pose prior to moving into the full posture.
Another variation is to lift the right ankle in front of the body, perpendicular to the standing leg. Grab the right foot with the left hand and bring the ankle in line with the knee. Stay there and breathe, allowing the right knee and hip to open while working on balance.
If the knee is pointing downward, wrap the right arm around the back. Grab onto the foot. Option to use a strap to encourage connection with the foot. On an inhale breath, extend the left arm high towards the ceiling. Option to stay here and breathe or on an exhale breathe, fold forward with a flat-back. Keep the bind behind the back or release both hands to the ground. Bring the palms in-line with the feet and bring the chin towards the shin. Stay here and breathe. Create smooth and long inhales and exhales.
To come out of the pose: on an inhale breath, move with intention and care. Slowly begin to lift the gaze and rise back up to standing with a flat-back. Pause at the top and release the right leg back down. Take a moment and allow the breath to calm. Repeat on the opposite side. Notice if the second side feels different. Notice the difference and make any adjustments you need in order to honor the body and maintain the integrity of the breath.
Move into Child’s Pose. Come down to the ground. Sink the hips over the heels. Allow the knees to fall open wide and the big toes to touch. Release the forehead down and walk the palms forward. Notice how you feel. Allow the breath to calm.
Check with your doctor before performing any form of exercise including yoga and breathing techniques. Always honor your body. If a posture gives you pain, gently come out.
Christi Iacono, 500 hr. cert. yoga instructor and owner of In Rhythms Yoga
Christi Iacono is a 500 hour certified yoga instructor, kids yoga instructor, and owner of In Rhythms Yoga. IRY is a small neighborhood studio in Clairemont, S.D., located in the Mount Streets. She guides adults, kids and families in the ancient tradition of yoga. Christi has experienced many positive physical and mental transformations from her daily personal practice. She is passionate about sharing her experience, inspiration, and dedication with her students. She is committed to being a life-long student and teacher of the practice. Christi carefully works with each student in order to find the variation that best serves their body. Work to find the balance of effort and ease in every posture, “sthira sukham asanam.” Yoga is accessible to all.
IRY offers regularly scheduled vinyasa and yin-based classes on, Sat., Sun. (Yin-Yoga) and Wed. mornings as well as Tues. and Thurs. evening classes.
*Christi uses Young Living Oils at the studio to enhance yoga class, meditation and in her home. Visit http://www.apothecarysociety.com/ciacono to learn more.
*Go to www.inrhythmsyoga.com to see the full yoga schedule, instructors and for private lessons.