Begin in Utkatasana (Chair Pose), with your palms together at the center of your chest. Lift your left foot away from the floor and place your left outer ankle atop your right knee. Flex your foot. Breathe steadily. Bend your standing knee, lengthen your spine, and reach your arms toward the ceiling.
Fold forward and place both sets of fingertips on the floor or blocks in front of your shoulders. Lower your hips and draw your chest forward until you feel a stretch in your left outer hip. (If you’re not feeling the stretch, keep your left hand on the floor or a block and press your right hand against the arch of your left foot.) Breath slowly and deeply.
Lean forward slightly and wrap your left foot around the outside of your right tricep. Flex your foot strongly so the top of your foot grips your outer arm. If you can’t wrap, or your hands are on blocks, this is your final destination for today, as it indicates that your hips need more range of motion before you can reasonably move to the next phase. Otherwise, bring your palms to the floor, slowly bend your elbows, and shift your chest forward—just like the motion from Plank to Chaturanga, though admittedly much harder. Continue to shift forward and bend your elbows until they’re approaching a 90-degree angle. Now that your hands are supporting your weight, lift your back foot off the floor— you’re moments away from the full expression of the pose.
To complete this pose, straighten your right leg toward the back of your mat so that it’s parallel to the ground. Engage your hamstrings and glutes to help lift and keep aloft your back leg. Continue to draw your navel toward your spine to support the weight of your pelvis. Press the floor away from you, draw your chest forward, and feel every part of your body working as one. Take 2 to 4 breaths before releasing and repeating on the other side.
Asanas can’t be rushed, and sensations shouldn’t be ignored when practicing yoga—especially when the sensations are strong and close to your joints. This demanding posture loads your shoulders and hips. If this results in shoulder or knee pain, it means that your body needs more time and preparation. In this case, take the long view by stepping back and patiently repeating the preparations for and initial steps of the posture.
San Francisco–based instructor and model Jason Crandell has 20 years of teaching experience. His classes integrate elements of power yoga, anatomical precision, and mindfulness. Crandell has taught on many teacher-training faculties and leads trainings globally. He is a contributing editor at Yoga Journal, where he has authored more than 25 articles, a podcast series, and four full-length DVDs. Find more of his teachings at jasonyoga.com.