The ability to ground the thighs is key to bringing the weight back onto the feet in Downward Facing Dog. This sequence teaches this principle of drawing the sit bone back away from the heel to articulate the alignment of the legs.
Curl the middle, ring and pinkie fingers into the palm to make a fist and touch the tips of the index finger and thumb together. Rest the hands palms down on the knees.
Benefits: Creates a sense of grounding, reduces stress and blood pressure
Reclining Thumb to Big Toe Pose I
Supta Padangusthasana I
Lie on the back with the legs straight. Draw your right knee into your chest and lengthen the left leg onto the floor. Wrap a strap around the sole of your right foot and extend the leg into the air. Reach the hands up the strap until the elbows are straight but the shoulders are still grounded.
Ball of Foot: Wrap a strap around the sole of your foot and flex ankle to stretch the plantar fascia, achilles and calf. Hold for 10-20 breaths.
Arch of Foot: Wrap a strap around the arch of your foot and flex ankle to stretch the lower hamstrings. Hold for 10-20 breaths.
Heel of Foot: Wrap a strap around the heel of your foot and flex ankle to stretch the upper hamstrings. Hold for 10-20 breaths.
Therapeutics: Stretches the hamstrings, calves, buttock; also releases tension in the lower back.
Thread the Needle Pose
Lay on the back with the knees bent, feet on the floor Cross your left foot over the right knee and flex the ankle.
Variation I: Gently press the upper inner left thigh away from your belly. Hold for 10 breaths, then release and change sides.
Variation II: Draw the legs towards the chest and clasp the hands behind the right thigh. Hold 10 breaths then release and change sides.
Therapeutics: Opens the outer hips and provides traction to the lower back.
Crescent Lunge to Runner's Lunge Flow
Anjaynasana to Ardha Hanumanasana Vinyasa
Begin on all fours and bring left foot between hands. Inhale sweep arms forward and up to the heart (shown) or overhead pressing pelvis forward. Exhale touch floor on either side of foot as you press pelvis back evenly and extend chest over the straight leg. You may also use blocks under the hands if it is difficult to reach the floor.
Repeat to both sides 5 times with the breath.
Therapeutics: Stretches hip flexors and strengthens legs.
Lunge to Pyramid Pose Flow
Ashwa Sanchalanasana to Parsvottanasana Vinyasa
Begin on all fours and bring right foot between hands. Inhale sweep arms forward and up to the heart (shown) or overhead pressing pelvis forward. Exhale and touch floor on either side of foot as you lift right knee off floor and straighten both legs. You may also use blocks under the hands if it is difficult to reach the floor.
Repeat to both sides 5 times with the breath.
Therapeutics: Stretches hip flexors and strengthens legs
Downward Facing Dog with Chair
Adho Mukha Svanasana with Chair
Stand in front of a chair and bend forward to hold sides of seat with thumb on top and fingers wrapped around underneath. Step both feet back until arms are extended and hips are over heels. Bend knees if the lower back is rounding. Extend back through thighs and sit bones to extend the spine. Keep the head above the arms and the shoulders wide on the back.
Therapeutics: Extends the spine, stretches back of body.
Standing Forward Bend
Stand in Tadasana. Inhale arms overhead. Exhale and bend forward from hips. Engage quadriceps and draw belly in as you press heels into floor, and sit bones upwards.
Hold up to 1 minute. Release back into Tadasana by drawing hands onto hips and lifting entire torso up as a single unit.
Therapeutics: Stretches entire back body, especially hamstrings and low back
Standing Wide-Legged Forward Bend
Stand with feet wide apart.
Variation III: Bend forward from hips placing hands between feet. Release spine forward reaching hands forward keeping the weight on the feet. Engage the abdomen and hold up to 1 minute, then return to standing by drawing hands onto hips and lifting entire torso up as a single unit.
Therapeutics: Intense hamstring stretch, opens back of body
Begin standing with feet slightly wider than hips distance apart. Keeping the knees soft, begin to swing arms around the body like two elephant trunks, lightly tap the body with the hands wherever they land as you twist right and left. Go faster or slower depending on how it feels to you for about 1 minute. Then slow down the swinging until you are again standing still.
Therapeutics: Increases circulation of blood and lymph throughout the body, awakens the energy and detoxifies the abdominal organs.
Stand with feet wide apart. Turn left out to 90 degrees and right foot in 30 degrees. Inhale arms out from shoulders. Exhale and cock hips to the left. Reach left arm parallel to floor to lengthen the left waist and bring left hand on block, foot or floor. Rotate the chest towards the right and reach right arm towards ceiling.
Hold 5-10 breaths then release and change sides.
Therapeutics: Opens side body, strengthens legs, eases pain in the lower back
Lie on back with legs straight. Draw right knee into chest. With the opposite hand, draw the knee across the body. Hold up to 10 breaths.
Benefits: Stretches illiotibial tract, outer hip flexors
Lay on back with knees bent and feet hips with apart. Inhale and lift hips away from floor, rolling onto upper back. Press arms back into floor and lengthen tail bone towards backs of knees.
Hold 5-15 breaths and release.
Therapeutics: Opens chest, activates thyroid, tractions spine
Lie on back with legs in the seat of a chair. Lift pelvis off floor and place block or a folded blanket under pelvis. Place arms away from sides and palms up. Rest 15 minutes.
Therapeutics: Induces relaxation response, reduces swelling of feet and legs, relaxes lower back
Contraindications: High Blood Pressure
I attend Cheryl's class regularly and feel that my practice has improved immensely over the past few years due to her expert coaching. Her teaching style is clear and compassionate and her previous experience in teaching adults is evident in her organized approach and easy to understand instructions. I also appreciate that Cheryl not only teaches us about how to correctly position ourselves, but also touches on many aspects of yoga philosophy, which in turn has deepened my personal practice and heightened my awareness of the connection between mind and body, breath and relaxation.