Strengthens your wrists, arms, and shoulders; opens your psoas muscles; enhances breathing by opening your chest and stretching your sides.
Move mindfully with curiosity—this may be the wildest thing we can do in yoga and in life. Distribute your effort evenly through all four limbs. Keep your top arm straight—do not bend the elbow or wrist—allowing it to lift some of the weight off the lower arm. Firmly tuck your shoulder blades into your back to help you avoid sinking into the shoulder; be spacious in the joint, enabling the pose to be supportive and safe. Breathe consciously—not too loudly, not too softly. Let every breath be a conversation between the earth and the sky.
Sit with your right leg straight in front of you and your left leg bent, foot firmly planted on the floor several inches from your right thigh. If your pelvis is tucking under and it’s difficult to sit tall, place a folded blanket under your sitting bones. This will create more verticality in your spine and take the strain out of your back muscles.
As you exhale, twist to the right, away from your bent leg. Place your right hand on the floor behind your tailbone (and blanket if you are using one) and your left arm inside your left leg. This open twist is a good preparation for backbending actions. Stay here for a few breaths. Inhale to get taller; exhale to twist deeper.
Now you are going to press down with three things at once—your right hand, left foot, and right foot—which will lift your hips. Sweep your left arm overhead. Imagine that you’re lying back over a humongous barrel, creating a long, curved spine and open chest. Don’t make this a big deal. Be content with how the pose is for you today. Rather than over-arching and over-reaching, remember the feeling of being supported in Fish Pose and its modifications, and in Bridge Pose. Feel the space both underneath and above you. Support from underneath invites contentment; opening to the possibility above invites joy and delight. Stay here for no more than 3 breaths. Exhale to lower and repeat on the other side.
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.