Sit to Stand

Sage Rountree teaches a simple but surprisingly complex move that builds core strength and balance at the same time while helping to teach you to stay in alignment during transitions.

It seems simple: rising to standing from the ground. It’s a motion we do often in some variation over the course of a day. But with a few simple rules, it transforms into an exercise that challenges our strength, balance, and sense of humor, building new awareness of where our bodies are in space and how to move them.

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Adding this move to your transitions, you'll get a good sense of where your body is in space, practice how to keep yourself in alignment, and work your core and balance at the same time.

The Rules

The exercise has three rules.

  1. Don’t cross your ankles.
  2. Don’t put your hands on the ground.
  3. Don’t rock back in order to come up.

When we try this in my yoga for athletes classes, some students get the action on the first try; for others, it’s quite frustrating. If you haven’t been asked to do this movement—or any movement, for that matter, from pushing into handstand to swinging a driver in golf—don’t expect to nail it on your first try. It takes practice. Take a deep breath and try again.

Better yet, if you practice for a few minutes, then let it go and have a good night’s sleep, it might go better tomorrow. During your rest, your brain, thinking, “What if I have to do that again?!?,” will begin to forge neural pathways, determining which muscle fibers need to be activated for this movement to happen.

Prop It Up

In this transition, as in many poses, using yoga props can help you find the appropriate action and gain comfort, especially if your hips are tight or your knees are creaky. Stack two or three blocks on their broadest sides, sitting on them, then pushing to stand. As the action becomes more comfortable, you can take blocks away.

Trick Question

When I led this exercise in class one night, an elementary-school teacher in the class said, “Aha! I know this is a trick question!” She explained that she gives her second graders the same rules, and the solution is teamwork. When you sit facing a partner and clasp wrists, it’s far easier to come up in unison. Try this with a friend, or even holding onto a fixed object like a tree or fence post. Then try it again on your own, remembering how it felt to have something to pull against as you pushed down through your feet.