Purvottanasana (Upward Plank Pose)
BENEFITS Strengthens your core, back, neck, and arms; increases flexibility in your shoulders and hips
INSTRUCTION Sit on your mat with your legs fully extended in front of you. Once in the pose, your shoulders should be directly above your wrists: To find the correct hand placement, put your hands on the floor near your hips, then bend your elbows back, taking them to the floor so that you’re leaning on your hands, forearms, and elbows. Now lift both of your elbows by shifting your weight slightly forward and pressing your hands down. Place the heels of your hands where your elbows were resting, palms pressed firmly to the floor, fingers spread wide. Straighten your arms. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart behind your hips. Press your hips up until your shoulders are directly above your wrists. Take your head back without letting it sag to the floor. Focus on lengthening your neck and gently gaze at your nose. Press the soles of your feet downward. Hold for 2–5 breaths.
Sasangasana (Rabbit Pose)
BENEFITS Encourages spinal elasticity; tones abdominals
INSTRUCTION Kneel with your feet touching, and sit on your heels. Round your back, and take the top of your head toward the floor. Reach your hands back and clasp them around your heels or the bottoms of your feet. Straighten your arms, and with a firm grip of your hands, begin to round your back. Tuck your chin into your chest. Raise your hips upward until they are in line with your knees. Allow your back to bow out and upward. Keep your breath flowing. Stay here for 2–5 breaths.
See also Pranayama Exercises & Poses
Bakasana (Crane Pose, variation)
BENEFITS Strengthens your back, core, arms, wrists, and fingers; enhances balance
INSTRUCTION Begin by squatting with your feet together, knees to your chest. Put your hands on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Take your knees outside your arms. Raise your hips as high as you can with your legs bent and feet touching. Bend your elbows straight backward—not out to the sides, which can strain your wrists. Lower your knees or shins onto your upper arms, just above your elbows. Round your back slightly. Shift your weight forward. Grip the floor with your fingertips. As your weight comes off your feet, point and raise them up until your lower legs are parallel to the floor. Continue pulling your feet together, toes pointed, to keep your lower legs in a position where balancing is accessible. Hold for 2–5 breaths.
See also Side Crane (Crow) Pose
See also Get Back on the Mat
About Our Pro
Teacher and model David Swenson began teaching yoga in 1972 and today is recognized as one of the world’s foremost instructors of Ashtanga Yoga. He is one of a handful of people worldwide who has learned the entire Ashtanga system as originally taught by K. Pattabhi Jois. Swenson has produced eight Ashtanga Yoga DVDs and is the author of Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual, which has been translated into 14 languages.