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together, bring your attention to your back. With your mind, place a hundred imaginary nostrils all over your back, from the very bottom of your sacrum all the way up your neck to the base of your skull. Breath by breath, begin to deepen your breathing, imagining that you are drawing breath in and out of those imaginary nostrils. Start at the lower back, eventually breathing all the way to the top, and even breathing into your scalp. Take your time. Try to feel every single part of your back as you do this. If you notice that your mind has strayed, that's no problem. Just rewind to where you spaced out, and take a fresh start from there. Notice which areas of your back feel alive and which feel shut down.

VASISTHASANA (Side Plank Pose)

VASISTHASANA (Side Plank Pose)

Vasisthasana is a great pose for feeling how the arms and legs (known in yoga as the organs of action) support the spine. From Child's Pose, slowly roll up to a seated position, feeling every vertebra along the way, as though your mind were walking up the steppingstones of your spine. Maintain the relaxing effect ofyour Child's Pose by having your head be the last thing to come up. Remove your blanket and shift onto your hands and knees.

In a tabletop position, touch your inner left wrist with your right index finger. Press the wrist down. From there, use your finger to trace a line of energy up the inner arm, then tuck the tip of that line into the front of your armpit, creating a sense of the chest scooping open. Do the same on the other arm, exploring the relationship of the downward-moving inner wrists and the upward-moving lift in the front of the armpits, as ifyour inner arms just grew longer. This will come in handy when you start to stand on your hands.

Extend your legs and come into Plank Pose. Bring your feet all the way together and engage your legs firmly, as though you were zipping them together. See if you can feel how this strong activity supports your spine.

As you stay in the pose for a breath or two, resist the impulse to let your back or your front be the boss of this pose. Move the quads and the hamstrings toward each other and do the same with the abdominal wall and the shoulder blades, so that the abdomen moves up toward the ceiling and the shoulder blades move down the back and into the body

Shift your weight onto the right hand and the outside of your right foot. Be brave and stack your left foot directly on top of your right foot, as though you were standing in Tadasana. Zip your inner legs together, the way you did in Plank. Lift your right inner thigh up, up, up and notice how that lifts the pelvis. You might even start to get a feeling of lightness.

Let the press of the right hand into the earth create the upward reach of the top hand. Take a look at your left fingers and see what they are doing. If your fingers are widely splayed or hardened like a karate chop, you will counteract all the work you have done in Child's Pose. If you focus that much effort in the extremities, you will lose the connection with your center. Think of extending up through the tiny spaces between each finger and feel the upward reach originate at your left shoulder blade.

You've now organized the relationship between your wrists and armpits, inner thighs and spine, front and back body, with a lot of precision and care. See ifyou can relax your mind here for a few more breaths, letting your attention spread throughout your whole body like a tea bag infusing a cup of hot water. When your mind strays, come back to the sensations of the hand on the floor, the active feet, the full breath. This is how you can develop clarity and sensitivity within a very athletic endeavor.

As you shift back to Plank Pose, try to stay integrated with all the work you've just completed so that you can gently replace your left hand on the floor without going plop. If you want to challenge yourself, put your left hand on your waist while you are still in Vasisthasana and keep it there while you come to a one-armed Plank Pose. Then slowly, softly, place your hand on the floor. Come back onto your hands and knees.

GOMUKHASANA (Cow Face Pose), variation Slide your right leg forward and slip your right knee over your left, crossing the thighs all the way at the top.

" Sit back, and if your sitting bones don't easily touch the floor, then sit on a blanket or a yoga block. If your legs just do not cross in this position, then you can straighten the bottom leg or try the pose lying on your back.

With your legs in Gomukhasana, place your thumbs on your outer hip creases and draw them back and down. Do you remember doing this action with the blanket in Child's Pose? This action grounds your thighs and deepens your breath, creating mental and physical space.

Flex your feet as strongly as ifyou were still in Vasisthasana, letting your soles be wide and bright. Press your hands into the soles of your feet as you press your feet out into your hands. These opposing energies will help you activate your legs. Even when you are seated, your arms and legs are still the workhorses of the body, actively assisting your spine to rise up out of your pelvis.

Extend your arms in front of you. Reach through your fingers sensitively, just as you did in Vasisthasana, while feeling the upper arm bones moving back toward the shoulder blades. Cross your right arm under your left arm and continue this spiral action by wrapping your forearms around each other and pressing your hands together in Garudasana (Eagle Pose). Ifyour hands, wrists, or fingers are contorted in this position, uncross the wrists and place the backs of the hands against each other so the energy moves from the elbows through the fingers.

Remember all those imaginary nostrils on your back? They're still there! The position of your arms and legs has created a broadness in your back. Send your breath into that broadness. Sit quietly. Notice whether it is possible for you to feel soft in your front—your belly, chest, kripalu.org stockbridge, ma 800.741.7353

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In yoga we often talk about how opening the chest also opens the heart, but in this position the heart-opening quality comes from the spaciousness of the upper back and the tenderness of the front. Sometimes opening means doing less and cultivating receptivity This pose, which is active in the arms and legs but receptive in the front and back of the torso, creates the conditions for you to explore a sense of opening and resting in "not knowing," through observation, patience, and an appropriate amount of exertion.

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