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Yoga Journal - - CONTENTS - By Kristin Cal­abria

Power up your core and legs with this thought­ful and dy­namic strength-build­ing se­quence from vinyasa and fit­ness teacher Kristin Cal­abria.

WE ALL HAVE THE ABIL­ITY to nav­i­gate change and chal­lenge with grace. One way we learn to do this in yoga is by us­ing our breath—a pow­er­ful tool that helps get us through dif­fi­cult tran­si­tions by link­ing dif­fer­ent poses with its con­sis­tency. Yoga also helps build phys­i­cal and men­tal strength. As you shift your weight in a pose—and par­tic­u­larly as you move through tran­si­tions—fear, doubt, and in­sta­bil­ity can show up. Suc­cess­fully nav­i­gat­ing these mo­ments re­quires a strong body and be­lief in your­self.

One method for find­ing strength is by us­ing your core. When you’re fully im­mersed in your yoga prac­tice, core is about more than just mus­cles. En­gag­ing it means tap­ping into who you are, what you be­lieve, and what you stand for. In short, yoga can help you find sta­bil­ity and root­ed­ness at the core of your iden­tity.

This chal­leng­ing prac­tice works with the phys­i­cal body, but its ben­e­fits go fur­ther. Try en­gag­ing with feel­ings of dis­com­fort (not pain) to iden­tify how you re­spond to tran­si­tion and change—mo­ment to mo­ment, breath to breath. The jour­ney to a sin­gle-leg pis­tol squat, like the one to any ad­vanced asana, will in­volve fall­ing, fail­ing, ris­ing up, and try­ing again. Stay rooted in your breath, an­chored by your cen­ter. Dis­cover strength, mo­bil­ity, and trust in your phys­i­cal and men­tal stamina. This flow will fire up your core, elicit lower-body burn, and teach you to meet chal­lenges with ease.

1 SUPTA BADDHA KONASANA VARI­A­TION Re­clin­ing Bound An­gle Pose

Lie on your back, about mid­way down your mat. Bring the soles of your feet to­gether to touch, and al­low your knees to fall open like pages in a book. Take a few cy­cles of breath to set­tle into the shape of your body, the present mo­ment, and your higher Self.

(If you need sup­port, use one block un­der each knee or thigh.) Let heavy hands fall to the ground, palms down, next to your hips. Firm­ing up your feet against each other, in­hale, and lift your hips a few inches off the ground. Ex­hale, and re­lease back to the earth. Fo­cus on main­tain­ing the width of your knees rather than the height of your hips. Re­peat for 5 breath cy­cles.

2 URDHVA PRASARITA PADASANA VARI­A­TION Leg Lifts

Use your hands to draw your knees to your chest. Ex­tend your legs straight up to the sky, and ac­ti­vate your feet by point­ing or flex­ing them. Press your palms into the earth on ei­ther side of your hips. With your lower back glued to the ground, breathe in. Breathe out, and lower your legs one-third of the way to the ground, keep­ing them straight. In­hale, then ex­hale, low­er­ing your legs an­other third of the way to the floor. In­hale again. Ex­hale, and hover your feet 2 inches from the earth. In­hale, and lift your legs back to per­pen­dic­u­lar with the floor. Re­peat for 10 full cy­cles.

3 VASISTHASANA VARI­A­TION Side Plank Pose

Hug your knees to your heart. Rock up and down the length of your spine. Cross your an­kles, and roll over your feet to Table­top. Prac­tice Mar­jaryasana-Bi­ti­lasana (Cat-Cow Poses) to warm up. In­hale, ex­tend your right leg back, and tuck your toes near the edge of your mat. Ex­hale. Spin your right heel to the floor with the outer edge of your foot rooted firmly to the ground. Ex­tend your right arm over­head. Lift up and out of your left shoul­der by en­gag­ing your left oblique. Keep your core ac­tive: Pull your navel to­ward your spine, and knit your ribs to­gether. Hold for 3 breaths.

4 PARIGHASANA VARI­A­TION Gate Pose

Ground­ing down through the out­side edge of your right foot, zip your thighs to­gether. In­hale, and use your obliques to sweep your left fin­ger­tips up and over. Slide your right hand down the side of your right leg. This should feel sim­i­lar to a Peace­ful War­rior side-body stretch on your left oblique. Ex­hale back to Side Plank Pose vari­a­tion. In­hale to Gate Pose and ex­hale to mod­i­fied Side Plank 5 times.

5 CHAT­U­RANGA DAN­DASANA VARI­A­TION Four-Limbed Staff Pose

At the end of your fifth breath cy­cle, cart­wheel both hands to the floor, and float your right leg off the mat to hip height. Lift your right heel to en­gage your glutes. In­hale, and shift your weight for­ward to your fin­ger­tips. Ex­hale, bend your el­bows, and lower your chest and chin to the ground. In­hale, and press back up. Re­peat for 3 breath cy­cles. Re­peat poses 3–5 on the other side.

6 ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA VARI­A­TION Down­ward-Fac­ing Dog Pose

From Table­top, walk your hands for­ward one hand-length. Tuck your toes, and lift your hips to Down Dog. Pedal your heels, shake your head, and wag your tail­bone. Ad­just the dis­tance be­tween your hands and feet to get com­fort­able. In­hale, and float your right heel sky­ward. Ex­hale, draw­ing your knee to your nose. Press your palms into the floor while mov­ing your shoul­der blades out­ward. Draw your navel up and in. In­hale, and float your right leg sky­ward. Ex­hale, draw your knee to your nose, and step your right foot be­tween your palms.

7 VIRABHADRASANA III War­rior Pose III

Crawl your hands in front of your right foot, shift­ing your weight into it. Guide the crown of your head for­ward as your left foot floats off the mat. En­gage your left glutes by lift­ing your back heel higher. Keep your hips in one line. Reach your arms be­hind your back like wings and turn your palms to face the earth. Roll your shoul­ders back to open your heart space. Float your knuck­les up­ward an­other inch to en­cour­age that same broad­ness in your col­lar­bones. A soft bend in your stand­ing (right) knee can help with bal­ance or tight ham­strings. Even­tu­ally, work on straight­en­ing this leg by en­gag­ing your quads and pulling up and out of your stand­ing (right) hip.

8 TADASANA VARI­A­TION Moun­tain Pose

Ex­hale, and draw your hands to An­jali Mu­dra (Salu­ta­tion Seal) at your heart cen­ter. Bring your left knee to your chest. In­hale, rise up to stand­ing, and bal­ance. For ad­di­tional sup­port, hold the un­der­side of your left leg. Stay here for 3 breaths.

9 UTTHITA HASTA PADANGUSTHASANA Ex­tended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose

Root down through your right foot. Bring your left peace fin­gers and thumb to your left big toe, and take a yogi toe lock. Kick­ing through your left heel, ex­tend your left leg straight at hip height (or if needed, keep a bend in your left knee). Pull your right quad up to en­cour­age a lift­ing away from the earth. Press your ab­dom­i­nals back while keep­ing your chest broad and spine long. Stay here for 3 breaths.

10 PIS­TOL SQUAT

From Ex­tended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose, wrap both hands around the sole of your left foot. Con­tinue to kick your left heel for­ward while pulling your ab­dom­i­nals back. Lift your ster­num up to keep your spine long. Slowly, start to bend your stand­ing knee and send your hips back­ward as you would in Utkatasana (Chair Pose). Keep your left leg ac­tive. As your hips lower to­ward the earth, main­tain the length in your spine. With con­trol, lower your seat to the floor.

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