Challenge Poses: Eka Pada Koundinyasana I

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You could call me a bit of a frequent flyer. I spend time in flight-oriented poses on my mat as well as on those big buses in the sky called airplanes. Airports and my yoga mat are my home-away-from-home and have both taught me endless lessons in patience.

I had just finished a lovely weekend teaching at Kripalu in Western Massachusetts. I was en route to the Albany airport to fly home to Los Angeles for a day before hopping back on a flight to Boulder. During my ride to the airport, just after I finished a discussion with my driver about the importance of facing airports with finesse and ease, I found out my flight was canceled.

Yes, Universe. . .you are SO funny sometimes.

Forced to put speech into action, I calmly rescheduled my flight to later in the day and decided that this would be a great opportunity to write and catch up on some of my favorite magazines. A few hours later, my second flight was postponed to the point of missing my connecting flight home. I was stuck in Albany for the night. I managed to not have a meltdown as the counter assistant broke the news and wrote up a waiver to the nearest Best Western. I did my best to stay collected and arrived in my room sad and frustrated but determined to take the good with the bad.

I love my life and adore my job. An unfortunate pitfall of this flight-filled career is the occasional unwanted night at the airport hotel. It's similar to this week's challenge pose: It's gorgeous and empowering, but if you plan on doing plenty of flying, you better be prepared for the hiccups that accompany it. This posture is challenging and often full of turbulence, which means you may not land it every time. Just because you don't nail the pose or get home on time doesn't mean there isn't a valuable lesson or fluffy pillow waiting for you on the other side. So keep your cool, keep on trying, and don't forget that there's always tomorrow.

Step One: Stick a leg out.

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Begin standing in Tadasana with your feet together. Bend both knees, bringing the weight into the heels while keeping the tailbone down and the front ribs in. Draw the hands to the heart and twist to the right, taking the left elbow onto the outer right thigh. Press the hands into Namaste or, if the armpit reached the thigh, drop the left hand down to the outside of the right foot and extend the right arm straight up. Even out the knees to come into full Revolved Chair Pose. Lift the left foot just a few inches up off of the ground keeping the twist alive. Begin to drive the left heel forward working the left leg towards straight so it extends forward. Hug the inner thighs and knees to glue the foundation together and maintain balance. Take 5 breaths (this should burn a bit) then place the foot back down. Come back to chair pose and press to stand. Switch sides.

Step Two: Kick the feet up. 

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Come into a squat with the knees touching, balancing on the balls of the feet. Inhale, lift the left arm, extending upward through the heart, exhale, twist and reach the left elbow to the outside of the right thigh. Work the elbow down, getting closer to the armpit. Place the right hand in front of the right heel and bend the elbows toward Chaturanga. As you lower, place the right hip onto the right elbow for extra shelf support if needed. Once you can't lower anymore, sweep the feet up away from the ground, working toward being parallel with the mat. Hug the elbows in and find a small round in the upper back. You will feel compact, but just keep trusting. Take 5-8 breaths. Place the feet down and switch sides or continue into step three.

Step Three: Sassify your Side Crow.

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Continue all the actions of Side Crow and keep your gaze on one spot for focus. Keep the top knee tightly bent as you start to straighten the bottom leg forward. The inner thighs hug each other and the shoulders remain level. Extend through the ball of the left foot and spread the toes. Highly caffeinate this bottom leg! Put as much extension into the left leg as possible, extending through the back of the kneecap and engaging the entire length of the leg.

Step Four: Fly!

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Continue to keep the bottom leg caffeinated from step three. Imagine something behind you that you really don't want near you. Push through the ball of the right foot as if to push it away from you. Do your best to keep this top leg parallel to the ground. Once you can't push any further, animate this back leg just as much as the front. Even though the feet end somewhere, your line of energy doesn't. Kept extending until tomorrow and keep the gaze soft, lower belly in. Eventually start to practice Side Crow and this pose only on the inner arm, leaving the right arm to fend for itself. This will feel heavy at first, but with time will become second nature.

Kathryn Budig is a yoga teacher, writer, philanthropist, Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, MindBodyGreen + Yoga Journal blogger, foodie, and lover of her dog. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook or on her website.