backbending

They’re my new obsession. This week. Last week was hip openers, and it’s rather a natural progression. In fact, many of the more advanced hip openers involved some backwards bending, so it’s a continuum. To some extent, I’m finding a lot of the labels we as teachers use are squishy and relative… Level One versus Mixed Level? Eh, depends on who shows up! Gentle vs. Mixed Level? Yep, depends on who shows up.  Hip focused backbends vs hip openers… eh, could be the same class! Hip and shoulder openers? Backbends.

 In any event,  here’s what I’m playing with this week… (in what follows, the sequence is bold & italicized so you can just follow along. also, any one class will be some mix of the following elements, this was just my practice today and what I’m drawing from when I teach….)

Standing breath awareness & pranayama.

Shoulder warmups: raise & lower arms with your breath, like beginning of sun salutation, changing position of shoulder blades and biceps relative to ear and neck. Also, exhaling down through midline in Anjali Mudra w/ wrists lower than elbows: press the palms together & notice what happens at the shoulders: let them broaden, feel the chest expand in every direction.

Standing half moon (leaning to L & R)

Sun Salutations (20 – last 10 w/ dog splits… that hip opener thing again)

Inhale arms up, Exhale sit into Fierce pose (Utkatasana)

Your third exhale, twist from the belly to L, hooking R elbow on outside of L knee w/ hands in Anjali Mudra again: Parivrtta Utkatasana

Exhaling into forward fold, keep belly on knees, Inhale arms up, drop tail to lift heart: Tadasana

Inhale arms up, slight backbend, Exhaling, sit and twist simultaneously into Parivrtta Utkatasana on other side.

Step back into Virabhadrasana I, resisting back leg down and back, and tilting pelvis back. Pressing into back foot nudge same hip forward; pressing into front foot, draw that hip back.

Exhaling, lean forward, opening your arms out to a T, palms down toward the floor perpendicular to your torso. Curl your back foot up so you’re on your toes and center your mass over your bent knee, before lifting your back leg (now your flying leg) and surrendering your heart to gravity: Virabhadrasana III (Warrior Three)

After three breaths and keeping the back leg in line with the torso, place the hand on the same side of the flying leg on the floor in front of and lateral to your standing foot. Open your torso towards your standing leg, lifting same side arm perpendicular to floor: Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana

On your third exhalation, reach back with your flying leg, bending your standing knee and place your flying foot on the ground. Reaching back through that leg and pressing into your front foot, straighten front leg: Parivrtta Trikonasana

On your third exhale, place both hands on the ground in front of you, step forward with the back leg into Forward Fold (Uttanasana). Bend your knees, drop your tailbone to lift your heart and sweeping your arms out wide, come up to Urdhva Hastasana and down to Mountain (Tadasana). Repeat on other side.

Step out wide. Moving with your breath: Trikonasana to L, then R followed by Wide Legged forward fold (Prasarita Padottanasana). Step back to the top of the mat. Vinyasa down to prone.

Working up to Locust (Salambasana):

Reach your arms out with palms facing and lift your head, neck and chest off the ground. Feel the stretch in your abdomen. Repeat, this time pressing in on a block placed long ways between your hands: Note the expansion in your chest. It will be harder to come up as far: remember yoga isn’t about how far but how deep.

After resting in a prone position, place your hands face down near your hips, mouth on your mat (good reason to bring your own, eh?). Pressing your legs together and moving with your breath, lift the straight legs as a unit, pressing down into the front of your pelvis. Rest in crocodile with one cheek on your stacked forearms. Repeat, rest with other cheek on arms.

Reach your arms forward, your toes stretching back. Breathe here several full rounds, stretching the head away from the tailbone & visa versa, pressing your arms and legs toward midline, expanding your torso. Exhaling, lift torso and legs up simultaneously, balancing on your low abdomen & symphysis pubis (front of pelvis): Salambasana (Locust, superman:)

Rest in Balasana (child’s pose) with wide knees

Come up on your knees. Place your hands on your butt like in the pockets of jeans, thumbs circling around your hips. Lean back, let the head go (caution w/ neck injuries), press hips forward and feel your abdominals elongate and your sternum curl toward the sky: Camel Pose (Ustrasana). Remeber to breathe fully, deeply and smoothly. Rest in Balansana. Repeat Ustrasana reaching your hands to your heels or ankles if you want more stretch.

Recline on your back. Place two blocks near your ears over your shoulders and up against a wall for an elevated hand placement in upward bow (Danurasana). Bend your knees & place your feet close to your buttocks. Place the heels of your hands on the blocks with your fingers curving over the close edge of the block. Press into the thumb & first finger of each hand as you press into your feet raising your torso and pressing your hips back toward your hands and letting your head fall (don’t try this alone if it’s your first time: always start out in class; if you’ve not done Danurasana before or have any concern about understanding the instructions or your ability to safely experiment with this backbend, try Bridge ( Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)  instead) Relax your buttocks, straighten your arms and press your knees toward midline (keeping them in line w/ the hips): Danurasana (Bow) Pose

If you are tired, use Vitparita Karani (legs up the wall) for your inversion. An extreme counter pose to Danurasana would be Shoulderstand, but the twist in a minute will do as well. Try finding yourself in headstand (Sirsasana), perhaps using the instructions on yogaguide.wordpress.com to get there.

Take a Lying Twist of your choice and then Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana) before luxuriating in the infinite breath with gratitude in Savasana

Happy Yoga!

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