Strengthens your back body, from the hamstrings to the upper back muscles; opens and lengthens your chest, psoas, and quadriceps muscles
Lie on your back, with your legs bent and your feet hip-width apart. Press down with your feet, shoulders, and hands and slightly lift your bellybutton, creating a small backbend in your spine. Do not initiate the action by tucking your pelvis or leading with your tailbone. Continue pressing into your arms and feet to lift your bellybutton into Bridge.
Then rock from side to side and tuck your shoulders and upper arms underneath you. Interlace your fingers and ground down again with your arms. Relax your jaw and let your chin fall away from your chest, keeping your throat open and soft. Hold for 3–5 breaths before exhaling to release your hands and come down.
Creates length in your quadriceps and hamstring muscles; shows you what it feels like to press down with your feet to open your chest.
Come to kneel on your shins and the tops of your feet. Lift your chest toward the ceiling, finding length in your spine and sides. Don’t squeeze your glutes, tuck your pelvis, or press your thighs forward; instead, engage your inner thighs.
Begin to curl your upper spine backward. Release your arms and let them swing behind you to catch your feet. Press your feet down to lift your chest more. Tuck your shoulder blades, as you did in Matsyasana. Hold for 3–5 breaths. To come up, press your feet down and lengthen your spine. Let your head come up last.
Stretches your side body; shows how working the legs liberates the spine.
Stand in Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II), with your left leg forward and your knee tracking over your foot (your hips may be at a slight diagonal). Extend and externally rotate your arms. Then, internally rotate your forearms, creating a strong spiral from your shoulder blades.
Sidebend to the right, rest your right hand on your right leg, and extend your left arm up and back. Avoid backbending. Hold for 3–5 breaths. Return to Warrior II and switch sides.
Teacher and model Cyndi Lee is the first female Western yoga teacher to integrate yoga asana and Tibetan Buddhism. Founder of New York City’s OM Yoga Center (1998–2012), she now owns Yoga Goodness Studio in central Virginia and teaches workshops and trainings worldwide. Author of Yoga Body, Buddha Mind, Lee regularly writes for Yoga Journal, Real Simple, Lion’s Roar, and other magazines. She holds an MFA in dance from the University of California, Irvine, is a longtime student of Gelek Rimpoche, and is currently training for ordination as a Zen Buddhist chaplain. Learn more at cyndilee.com.