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I know this Challenge Pose may not look as challenging as others, but this one is a hidden gem. Obviously, it’s challenging in the hip and hamstring department, but Side-Reclining Leg Lift is quite the ride on the core roller coaster. This seemingly innocent lounge-like posture requires a ton of abdominal engagement to maintain the balance without toppling over (which is actually quite fun). I compare the movements in this post to being a fish out of water; your body will do an interesting dance to stay in the shape of the pose.
So, skip the crunches and tell Navasana to sail ship. Let’s work our core in the “chill” way today, and create some interesting fishy choreography. Dive in, fishies!
It begins rather simply. Lie on your side on your yoga mat. The goal is to line up your entire body with the long edge of the mat. Start with your bottom heel (keep your foot flexed) and then continue along the line of your leg. Line up your hip with your heel and then prop yourself up on your bottom elbow with your head in your hand. Gently draw your ribs together as if you were tightening a corset so that the upper back stays along the edge of the mat. Adjust the angle of your bottom elbow to be in line with the mat. You can keep your top foot and hand on the ground in front of you for balance. Look over your shoulder to make sure everything is straight and ready to go.
Once your body is in a long straight line, bend your top knee and place the sole of that foot in front of your bottom thigh. Adjust your foot so that your toes and knee cap point toward your flexed base foot. Bring the pinky edge of your bent knee foot flush with your inner thigh. Place your top hand to the inside of the top thigh and gently press back to open your hips and encourage external rotation. There is a tendency to pitch the low back and puff the ribs. Counteract this by zipping your tailbone toward your flexed foot and drawing your front ribs in as if you just tightened that corset around your ribcage.
Keep the action of your tailbone and ribcage as you hook your top leg big toe with your top hand. Before you extend your top leg reaffirm the flex of the base foot and the engagement of the base leg. This leg will be your anchor to prevent you from falling. Slowly extend your top leg toward a straight position keeping the top shoulder in the socket. Externally rotate the top leg taking the heel forward and toes back. Here’s where the dance begins; don’t panic is your body wobbles, this is normal. Just keep the intention of the anchored base leg, long tailbone and corseted ribcage. Relax your gaze and head on your hand. Try to go for a solid 8 breaths or longer if you’re feeling inspired. Switch sides.
About our contributor
Kathryn Budig is jet-setting yoga teacher who teaches online at Yogaglo. She is the Contributing Yoga Expert for Women’s Health Magazine, Yogi-Foodie for MindBodyGreen, creator of Gaiam’s Aim True Yoga DVD, co-founder of Poses for Paws and author of Rodale’s The Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga . Follow her on Twitter; Facebook;Instagram or on her website.