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I take many yoga cues from being out and about in nature. One of my favorite gurus would have to be the duck. I live near canals and see them all the time. My dog is obsessed with tackling them and I adore watching their aquatic landing skills as they remind me of landing a graceful jump-through-to-sit. One little mechanic shift of their legs and they land seamlessly in the water just as I would want to on my mat. To this day, I channel the duck when working my jump-throughs, which also triggers a smile on my face–a duck is by no means perfect or even remotely intelligent, but the ability to step out of the crazy world, drink in some fresh air, and enjoy the world of the duck has given me this transition. So, hit up the lake or YouTube to see some ducks in action, and dive in!
Low-belly confidence is a major player in jumping through to sit. This exercise is helpful in strengthening the low belly and building awareness. Start seated with straight legs and two blocks on the lowest level next to each hip. Place a hand on the center of each block and gaze toward the toes. Press down into the blocks to straighten the arms and to lift the hips off the ground. Flex the feet but keep the heels on the ground, and hold for 8 breaths. Set back down and repeat 3 times. Once you get comfortable with this practice, try lifting the hips and one foot at a time. Eventually, you’ll lift the hips and both feet by squeezing the inner thighs, spreading the toes, and keeping the low belly engaged. This will be the ideal hover spot when you jump thorough to sit right before the buns hit the ground.
Place the blocks the lowest level shoulder-distance apart (your hips need to clear the middle space). Come into Downward-Facing Dog with the hands on the center of the blocks. Depending on the size of your hands, the fingers may curl around the edges a bit. Push your hips up and back like you would a normal Down Dog, and take the gaze to the spot where you’d like your feet to land if they were to go through with straight legs.
Time to imagine you’re a duck. When a duck gets ready to land in water, it flexes its little webbed feet so it enters heels-first, which creates a nice, smooth line when it hits the water. There’s no splash, just a clear dive in. The same thing goes for us in the jump-through. Take the gaze way forward to where you want your feet to land. Lift your tail feather high into the air and come onto the balls of your feet. Bend the knees and hop up and forward. Draw the thighs tight to the chest (it’s almost like Uttanasana in the air) and flex the feet as soon as they get close to the blocks. Continue to push into the blocks to maintain the connection to the low belly. You might land in Standing Forward Fold several times while trying this, or fall all over the place. That’s completely normal. This is a move that you have to practice over again and again.
Once you’ve created your flexed duck feet, you’ll be able to clear the blocks. Instead of landing right onto your bottom (which will be the only way in the beginning), try landing in a hover. This means you keep lifting from the low belly, give a huge push through the palms into the blocks and a good round in the upper back. Hug the thighs together like peanut butter and jelly, and point-flex the feet as you spread the toes.
Kathryn Budig is a yoga teacher, writer, philanthropist, Women’s Health Magazine expert, Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, MindBodyGreen + Yoga Journal blogger, foodie, and lover of her dog. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook or on her website.