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!
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.
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.
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.