Transitions can be tricky. Practiced well, they can give us a brief moment outside time, a chance to reset and repurpose our energy toward a new task. Practiced without awareness, they are an opportunity for mistakes to happen. This is true both in races and in yoga practice. In triathlon, for example, transitions are a chance for “free time,” to make a quick, purposeful shift from swim to bike or from bike to run. In pool races, turns at the wall are a chance to shift muscle use briefly, and to reestablish the momentum of the glide with a strong push off the wall. In a relay race, handoff transitions can be a moment of quick shift or a disastrous baton drop. In a yoga practice, transitions can help us develop efficient transfer of the workload between muscle groups, or they can open the door to injury when done mindlessly.
In keeping with the Tree/Eagle pose transition we looked at previously, here’s another balance pose flow: Lord of the Dance Pose (Natarajasana) to Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III). Practice it with care, and you’ll tap into lower leg, hip, and core strength to make this pose shift gracefully.
Balancing on your left foot, lift the right leg up and back as you reach your right hand back to grasp hold of it. If you’re tight in the quads and/or chest hold the outer foot; hold the inner foot if you’re looser. To avoid compression in your lower back, actively lift your pubis toward your navel, and at the same time, press your tailbone toward the floor. Stay a few breaths for the thigh to stretch. Hinge forward from the left hip, holding your pelvis level as you breathe. Maintain your balance by actively pressing your right foot back into your right hand while reaching out and up with your left hand.
Before making this transition, visualize it. Picture stretching your right leg behind you, engaging your core in the long line of Mountain Pose, and spreading your arms by your hips, to the side, or overhead. Then, slowly release your right foot and take the shape. Stay for five breaths or more.
Back to Dancer?
As you gain comfort with the shift from Dancer to Warrior III, you might try returning to Dancer. Push into your left leg as you slowly reach your right hand for your right foot, keeping shoulders and hips squared to the front and opening the chest. Move with intention and efficiency. If you go too fast, your right hamstrings may cramp. Approach this shift back with a sense of humor—it’s a chance to try using just the energy you need to make a shift, and to approach your yoga practice as just that: practice.