What you need to practice this variation of Eka Pada Koundinyasana II: a bit more lean and a lot more sass.
I moved from the yoga mecca of Los Angeles where yoga classes are virtually offered 24-7 to a small town in central Florida. My practice went from easy and accessible to, "am I really in the mood to do a home practice?" Needless to say, the move did leaps and bounds for my soul but didn't care much for my yoga practice. I had the fortune to find an amazing friend and yoga partner in my now assistant, Taylor Harkness. This incredibly joyful and whimsical soul made me fall in love with the yoga confines of my own house as long as I had him there to inspire me.
Today's challenge pose was his take on the classic, Eka Pada Koundinyasana II. There are a few adjustments that need to be made so I'd recommend tackling the traditional pose first if you haven't yet. This variation adds a bit more lean and sass. Sometimes all we really need is a pinch of flare to remind us that everything is amazing and exactly as it needs to be.
The traditional stance of Downward Facing Dog has our hands in line with each other and shoulder-width apart. Today we're going to tweak that just a bit. Let's keep the feet and legs as they are with the continuation of lifting your hips up and back. The hands will remain the same distance apart but take your right hand about 5 inches behind your left hand. In other words, you're shortening the stance of your Down Dog ONLY on your right side with your right hand. It will feel lopsided and odd, but will help the final product. Keep firming your upper outer arm in on the right side as this adjustment in stance will make you want to collapse in your shoulder head.
Time for some core and shoulder discipline! I recommend practicing this step several times just to create foundation and strength before entering the actual arm balance. The key here is to keep your gaze forward and be brave enough to lean! Lift your right leg up into the air from Downward-Facing Dog. Bend your knee as you look forward and bend both elbows toward Chaturanga. Don't take your shoulders in line with your elbows immediately (this can be very heavy). Keep them slightly higher as shown in the picture and HOLD. Try to be be here for a good 5 full breaths. Once this feels strong, continue onto Step 3.
Once you've landed your knee onto your arm as in Step 2, it's OK to lean into a full Chaturanga. That extra lean forward and down is often all it takes to get the strength and momentum to pick up the back leg. If you have more flexibility you can straighten out your right leg before the full lean and lift of the back. If you're less flexible, lean forward with the bent knee and then begin to straighten your front leg once you're in the arm balance. Engage your back leg deeply; it should feel caffeinated! Bend your back knee and draw your heel in toward your hips. Draw the bottom tips of your shoulder blades down your back to avoid any collapsing of your shoulder heads. Keep your heart extending forward and tilt your gaze toward your front foot. The left shoulder may be slightly lower than your right, just keep the shoulders rolling back.
*a nice cheat* Eventually this pose is done solely on the front arm, but it's nice to use your extra arm as a training wheel or just when you're feeling tired! Let the left side waist rest on your left outer arm to create a shelf. If you feel more stable this way, stick to it!
ABOUT KATHRYN BUDIG
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.