From Warrior I, inhale and straighten both legs. As you exhale, turn your upper body and open your hips to the side (not straight forward over your front leg anymore). Bring your arms down from overhead to shoulder height so they form a line, and bend your front knee directly over your ankle or slightly behind. As in Warrior I, keep your shoulders over your hips and keep the weight distributed evenly between your feet. Turn your gaze to look forward over your front knee. Stay here for 3-5 breaths.
Begin from a standing position. Step your foot back a full stride (approximately 3.5 to 4 feet, or however far is comfortable for you) and turn the foot out to about a 45 degree angle while really pressing the outer edge of your foot into your mat. One major point about Warrior I is keeping your hips square to the front. It’s easy to let your hips open towards the back leg, especially after angling the back foot, so really focus on keeping them square over the front leg. If keeping your hips square to the front is difficult with your foot at a 45 degree angle, adjust the angle of your foot forward until your hips can stay square comfortably. You should feel your weight distributed evenly between both of your feet, i.e. – one leg should not be bearing more weight than the other. As you inhale, bring your arms up overhead with palms facing each other and as you exhale, bend the front knee until it is directly over the ankle or slightly behind. An important checkpoint here is that you can see your toes below your knee. If you can’t see your toes, your knee is most likely bent over your ankle, which can add unwanted stress to the knee joint and possibly injury. Make sure to keep your shoulders down away from your ears and keep your gaze straight forward, or look up towards your hands for more of a challenge. Your upper body should be tall and straight with your shoulders over your hips (no leaning forwards or backwards!). Stay here for 3-5 breaths.
Balancing poses on their own can be pretty challenging, but stringing a few of them together really ups the difficulty level!
Begin standing. Shift your weight to one leg and lift the other for tree pose (take any variation here – ankle, calf, or thigh). From tree pose, keep the leg lifted and move into hand-to-toe pose. I opted to stay with the standard pose, but feel free to extend the leg to the side, or reverse the pose by grabbing the toe with the opposite arm and twisting. From hand-to-toe pose, move into dancer by extending the lifted leg back behind you and reaching forward with the opposite arm. Keep the upper body lifted! From dancer you can release directly into warrior III or return to an upright position (still keeping that leg lifted!!) before lowering into warrior III. Remember to keep your hips square here and not to let it open up towards the ceiling! Stay in each pose for 3-5 breaths and repeat on the other leg when you’re finished with the sequence.
Begin standing. Shift your weight to one leg and lift the other off the ground as you raise your arms overhead. On your exhale, begin to tilt your upper body forward while extending your lifted leg straight back. Keep your hips square (don’t let the hip on the lifted leg open towards the ceiling!) and really reach through your arm and extended leg. Focusing on a single point is key for balance. Stay for a few breaths and repeat with the other leg.
Begin standing. Shift your weight to one foot as you bend the opposite leg at the knee and lift the foot off the ground. Reach back with the same arm as the lifted leg and grab the outside of the foot. Feel free to use a strap if that’s more accessible. Lift the opposite arm overhead as you inhale. As you exhale, tilt the body forward while keeping the chest lifted. Reach through the extended front arm and really think about kicking the lifted leg up and back. Return to standing and repeat with the other leg.
Begin standing. Transfer your weight to one foot and lift the other off the ground. Grab the big toe of the lifted foot and extend the leg straight in front of you. Keep your back straight and tall as you do this! Modify with a strap if extending the leg while holding the toe causes your back to round. Add a challenge to this pose by extending the leg to the side (great for hip mobility!) or adding a twist by grabbing the toe with the opposite hand. After several breaths, come back to standing and repeat on the other leg.
Begin standing. Shift your weight to one leg as you lift the other leg off the ground. Place the foot of the lifted leg at either the ankle, calf, or thigh, NEVER at the knee!!! Make sure to keep the hip of your standing leg lifted and strong, don’t let it pop out to the side! Keep your hands at heart center, or lift them up overhead. Look up towards your hands to really challenge your balance. It’s helpful to focus on a singular point, either in front of you or above you if you’re looking up. Stay here for 3-5 breaths and repeat on the other leg.
Combine the poses we went through this week into a short hip opening flow! Try to stay in each pose for 3-5 breaths.
Begin in downward facing dog and lift one leg for three-legged dog. Bring the lifted leg through the arms, placing the foot between the hands and lift for a low lunge. From low lunge move to lizard pose by scooting your front foot out slightly, so it’s on the far side of both of your hands. Remember, here you can stay up on the hands, or lower down to the forearms for more of a challenge. Return to three-legged dog for a breath and then move into pigeon pose by bringing your ankle to the opposite wrist. Feel free to take any variation of pigeon that feels good for you (reclined, mermaid, king pigeon, etc…). Move back into three legged dog and return to downward dog. On your next inhale, step both feet up to your hands and exhale for a forward fold. On your inhale, lift your upper body and arms up for an overhead lift and and as you exhale, step the legs out wide and squat down for garland pose. Return to downward facing dog and repeat with the other leg.
From a standing position, move your feet to the width of your mat, or slightly further than hip width distance apart. Move your body down into a wide-leg squat. Keep your back straight and bring your hands to heart center and feel a nice stretch in your hips and inner thighs. You can use your elbows to push your legs out slightly, but only as far as it is comfortable for you and as long as you can keep the back straight. For more of a challenge, move to a bound position by twisting from the waist and wrapping your arms around your leg behind you. Don’t forget to keep your back straight as you do this and repeat on both sides if you choose this option!
I like to move into this pose from three-legged dog, but you can also move into this from a tabletop position. From three-legged dog, bend the lifted leg at the knee and bring that ankle to the opposite wrist (i.e. – if the right leg is lifted, bend the right knee. Bring the right knee to the right hand and the right ankle to the left wrist so the leg is (as) perpendicular to the body as is comfortable for you. This front ankle should now be in line with the opposite hip. Keep this front foot flexed and begin to lower down to the mat, while sliding the back leg straight back and sinking the hips to the floor. Only lower down as long as you can keep the hips square. Keep the hands on your mat near your hips and sit up as straight as possible, keeping the spine long. You can also take a forward fold over your tucked front leg by sliding the arms forward and hinging at the hips. For more of a challenge in pigeon, you can take your arms off of the ground and add more of a backbend to the position, or even move into mermaid or one-legged king pigeon pose.
*See Reclined Hip Opener for another option that stretches the hips without placing pressure on the knee joint!