Focus & Balance
This week's sequence uses the concept of grounding through the legs to help build focus and balance in both the body and the mind. When balancing be sure to use a drishti, or gaze point. Find something stationary to look at while you are balancing to allow the mind to calm which makes balancing much more easeful.
Touch the tips of thumb and index fingers together, extend middle, ring and little fingers; rest backs of hands on thighs.
Benefits: Helps with concentration and meditation, helps to calm circular thoughts
Practice Tips: Use when suffering from "monkey mind"
Supta Tadasana w/ Block @ Wall
Lie on the back with the feet against the wall. Place a block between the upper thighs and ground and legs into the earth. Squeeze the thighs into the block and raise the arms over the head but make sure that the lower back does not come too far off of the floor so keep the front ribs heavy. You may place an eyebag over the front ribs to encourage them to soften.
Lie on the back with the feet at the wall. Bend the left knee placing sole of the left foot on the inside of the right knee. Extend strongly down through the right straight leg. Keep the pelvis level so that both hip points are equidistant from the floor.
Supta Padangusthasana w/ Two Straps @ Wall
Lie on the back with the feet at the wall. Create a loop with a strap that is as long as your leg from hip to foot and place the left foot inside the loop catching the loop between the ball of the left foot against the wall. Bring the other end of the loop across to the right hip and bend the right knee into the center of the loop. Draw the right knee into the chest and place the second strap across the ball of the right foot. Extend the right leg and reach the arms up the strap so that the shoulders are still on the floor and the right leg is completely extended. Feel how the looped strap helps to ground the right thigh towards the wall Hold for 10 breaths then change the straps to the opposite side.
Begin on all fours.
Variation I: Take right leg back with toes turned under. Reach left arm forward with fingertips on floor. Hold for 5 breaths, then release and change sides.
Variation II: Inhale and extend right leg back and raise left arm forward keeping limbs parallel to floor. Engage belly and look at the floor. Exhale and release to all fours.
Variation III: You may also hold the extended posture while engaging the belly for several rounds of breath.
Benefits: Builds postural strength diagonally across the back body.
Block Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
Stand with feet hips-width apart, block between feet. Engage legs and bear weight on left leg only. Place right ball of foot onto block with knee turned slighty out, rest heel on inside of left calf. Draw belly in and release tail bone towards floor. Inhale and draw arms overhead without gripping shoulders.
Hold as long as you can balance with comfort, release and change sides.
Utthita Padangusthasana (Extended Big Toe Pose)
Variation I: Begin in Tadasana. Lift right foot and either hold foot with right hand or use strap. Keep right hip level with left hip and ground left standing leg as you extend the right leg forward. Extend left arm over head. Engage belly and lengthen tail. For a fully supported version, prop foot on a chair.
Therapeutics: Strengthens and stretches hamstrings and core, opens hips
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Begin on all fours with hands slightly forward of shoulders. Turn toes under and lift knees off floor. Keep shoulders wide and palms flat, press thighs and sit bones back, scooping belly in.
Hold 1-3 minutes, release into Child's Pose.
Therapeutics: Strengthens arms and shoulders, stretches back of torso and legs
From Downward Facing Dog swing the shoulders over the wrists and lower the hips in between the head and heels. Engage the belly and press back through the legs.
Balasana (Childs Pose)
From Plank pose, bend the knees onto the floor and press the hips back into childs pose. Stack the fists under the forehead and rest for 5-10 breaths.
Viparita Karani (Inverse Seal Pose)
Sit beside wall. Swing legs up wall as you lay back on mat. Place either a bolster or long-folded blanket under the lumbar curve, the buttocks should not be on floor. Lay arms out to sides with palms facing up. Rest at least 10-15 minutes, then roll over to release.
Therapeutics: Activates the Relaxation Response, reduces swelling in the legs and feet, balances the nervous system, good if you have been sitting or on your feet all day
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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.