Opens and expands the chest and shoulders; stretches the quadriceps
To begin, come into Virasana (Hero Pose): Kneel with your knees together, shins hip-width apart, and sit between your heels. If this is too stressful for your knees, place a block at its short height between your ankles before you sit back; for further comfort, you can also add a blanket behind your knees. Now place a tall block on the floor behind you so that when you recline it lands between your shoulder blades. Allow your neck to extend, and release your head backward as you reach your arms overhead and down toward the floor. (If this position hurts your neck, place another block on its tall setting under your head.) Try holding onto the edges of your mat. Stay in the pose for at least 1 minute with steady breathing. Keep your eyes soft, and your throat and tongue relaxed. Observe how your heart is uplifted and your lungs are spreading.
Expands the chest and shoulders; stretches the groins and hamstrings; provides a balance challenge
Lie down with your knees bent, heels close to your buttocks, and feet hip-width apart with your toes up on a wall. Place your hands by your shoulders, with your elbows in line with your wrists. On an exhale, bend your elbows and place the crown of your head on the floor. On the next exhale, push up, straighten your arms, and lift your back ribs and sacrum. After 2 breaths, press into the inner edge of your left foot as you draw your right knee toward your chest. On an exhale, straighten your right leg upward. Keep your hips level, and relax your face. Stay for a few breaths, then bend your right knee into your chest; switch sides. Rest; repeat sequence 3 times.
Opens the hips and hip flexors; helps you learn to maintain the lift of the back ribs and chest when moving into a deep extension of the spine
From kneeling, place your right foot on a block at the top of your mat, with your knee over your ankle. Keeping your hips level, extend your left leg backward. Inhale, reaching your arms overhead and then toward the wall behind you. Lift your back ribs. Maintaining your attention on the connection of your base (back shin and front foot) and the flow of your breath, reach up through your arms to come up and out of the pose. Repeat this movement 3 times.
About our Pro Carrie Owerko is a New York–based Senior Iyengar Yoga teacher, Laban Movement Analyst, and playful-practice enthusiast. She travels the world sharing her love of inquiry and the practice of Iyengar Yoga.