Begin in downward facing dog. Lift one leg up and back for three-legged dog and bring the leg forward, placing the foot between the hands. Bring the back foot in towards the front foot slightly and melt your body over the front leg, hinging from the hips. Similar to forward fold, make sure to keep your back straight, only rounding slightly at the very end. Stay for 3-5 breaths and return to downward facing dog. Repeat with the other leg.
Begin laying on your mat with your knees bent, similar to bridge pose. Place your hands by your ears with your elbows bent, fingertips pointed back towards your feet. When you’re ready, push up through your hands and feet into wheel. Make sure your weight is distributed evenly through all four contact points with the ground and feel lift through your midsection. Stay for 3-5 breaths and slowly lower back down.
Whenever working on backbending/heart opening I like to begin with some gentler backbends as a warm up. Stay in each pose for a few breaths, but only as long as is comfortable for you and while you can breathe easily. Backbends can be really intense so go at your own pace and modify as needed!
Begin facedown on the mat, with your hands by your ribcage and shoulders rolled back and down. Squeeze the glutes and press into your hands while lifting the upper body for cobra. Lower back down after several breaths. Reach your arms behind you and clasp the hands together. Lift the upper body and legs off the ground while reaching the arms back for locust pose. Do your best to keep your legs together. Lower down to the mat after several breaths. Next, bend both legs at the knees and reach your arms back, grabbing the ankles. Lift the chest up and ‘kick’ the legs back for bow pose. Feel free to rock back and forth if that feels good for you. Lower back down to the mat after several breaths in bow and come up onto your knees for camel pose. Keep your knees hip width distance apart and place your hands on your lower back as you push your chest forward and move into camel. Keep the hips stacked over the knees and reach back for your heels if that feels good. Focus on staying extended through the spine in this pose and not ‘dumping’ into your lower back (ouch!). Stay here for a few breaths and slowly return to an upright position. Rest in child’s pose to counteract the backbending you just went through!
Begin on your knees with your legs hip-width distance apart. Bring your hands to your lower back to help facilitate the backbend. Instead of putting a lot of emphasis on the ‘backbending’ aspect, think about keeping your chest lifted and pushing forwards as you begin to bend back. Keep your hips stacked over your knees and feel free to reach your hands towards your heels if that’s comfortable for you. Only go as far as is comfortable and you’re able to keep steady breath! Stay for a few breaths and come back to an upright position. Rest in child’s pose to counter the intense backbend!
Begin lying facedown on the mat. Bend the legs at the knees and reach your arms back to grab your ankles. On your inhale, lift the upper body off the mat and really lift and push through the legs so just your midsection remains on the mat. Stay here for 3-5 breaths and lower back down to the mat. Bow can be a really intense pose, so make sure the spine is warmed up (cobra, locust pose, etc…) and modify by working one side at a time!
Locust is another great warm-up for deeper backbends such as bow pose. Begin lying face-down on your mat. Reach your arms back behind you and clasp your hands together. If clasping the hands is difficult, use a strap or simply reach both arms back. On your next inhale, lift the chest and legs off of the mat. Keep your legs pressed together and project the chest forward. Remember to keep reaching your arms towards your feet! Stay for a few breaths before relaxing back down to your mat.
Cobra is a great substitution for upward facing dog in sun salutations! After your chaturanga, lower completely down to the mat keeping your hands near the rib cage. Make sure your shoulders stay rolled back and down, away from your ears. Lift your upper body off of the mat and project your chest forward. I like to think of keeping everything from my belly button down on the mat.
A warrior pose sequence is a great way to strengthen the leg muscles in yoga.
Hold each pose for 3-5 breaths (or longer if you really want to work those legs!!)
Begin in downward facing dog. Lift one leg for three-legged dog and bring the lifted leg through the arms, placing the foot between the hands. Turn the back foot out about 45 degrees and lift the upper body and arms overhead for warrior I. Remember to keep the hips square over the front leg and keep the front knee bent directly over the ankle or slightly behind! Move to warrior II by opening the arms straight and opening the hips to the side. The front knee should still be bent directly over the ankle or slightly behind, and your gaze should be forward, over your bent knee. Move to reverse warrior by reaching the back arm down the back leg and lift the front arm overhead as you gaze up. Feel a nice stretch in your side body and don’t let the legs get lazy here! From reverse warrior, move to side angle or extended side angle by resting the front elbow on the front thigh or placing the front hand on the ground and reaching the back arm overhead, like a diagonal line. You should be feeling a nice stretch in the opposite side body here. Return to downward facing dog and repeat on the other leg.
For side angle pose, begin from Reverse Warrior. Drop the front arm to rest the elbow on the thigh. Extend the back arm up overhead, next to your ear. You want to look like a diagonal line from your extended back leg all the way up through your fingertips. Feel a nice stretch through your side body of your extended arm. Remember, your bent knee should still be directly over your ankle or slightly behind!
For extended side angle, drop the front arm down to the ground in front of and in line with the bent front leg and place your fingers on the ground. Everything else from side angle applies here! Don’t let the upper shoulder drop forward towards the ground. Imagine you are stuck between two boards to keep everything aligned properly.
From Warrior II, as you inhale, slide your back arm down the back leg and bring the front arm up overhead. Turn your gaze up towards your fingertips and feel a nice stretch in your front side body. Stay here for 3 breaths. Your lower body should not have changed at all –i.e. – front knee bent directly over ankle, both legs active and engaged with weight distributed evenly between them.