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Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Begin to warm up the body by coming into Downward-Facing Dog. With your feet about hip-distance apart, start warming up your hamstrings by pressing one heel down and shifting the weight to that side, then moving in the same way on the other side. Press into all four corners of both palms while lifting your hips and pressing your heels down toward the ground. Begin to stabilize the pose and elongate the sides of your body by pressing the heart toward the back of the mat. Hold for 8-10 breaths. Downward-Facing Dog is a great home base for hip-focused poses, like Side Plank, or Vasisthasana. And Down Dog can be used as a transition pose between postures in this series.
Low Lunge, Variation
From Downward-Facing Dog, step your right foot forward. Try stacking your right knee above your ankle as you press into all four corners of the right foot. Frame your right foot with both hands, coming onto your fingertips. Press into the big toe of the left foot as you hug both legs in toward your center line and keep your left knee lifted. Inhale to externally rotate your shoulders. Exhale and allow for surrender and to guide your hips deeper into your Low Lunge. During a round of about 8-10 breaths, energetically keep the back knee lifted, the spine long, and the heart soft. To release, return to Down Dog. Then repeat on the other side.
Half Splits (Half Monkey Pose)
From a Low Lunge with your right foot forward, gently place your left knee on the ground. Leading with your hips, slowly shift your body weight toward your back heel as you begin to straighten your right leg (going only as far as is comfortable) and flex your right foot. Bring your hands, fingertips, to the ground or blocks underneath your shoulders. Inhale as you elongate your spine. Exhale as you square your hips by shifting the right hip back and the left hip forward. You can deepen the hamstring stretch by gently bowing forward with an open heart and long spine. After breathing through this posture for at least 5 breaths, release by bending the right knee and placing the sole of the right foot on the floor. Switch sides.
See also Moving Toward Monkey Pose
Side Plank, Variation
Adding a “kickstand” to Side Plank is a great way to warm up your hips and IT Band in preparation for the full form of the pose (Vasisthasana). From Downward-Facing Dog, start shifting your body weight into your right hand as you pivot on the outer edge of your right foot. Place your left foot on the ground in front of your right knee. Make sure your left foot is parallel to the short edge of the mat. Begin pressing into all four corners of your left foot as you lift your hips. Try stacking your right shoulder above your right, grounded wrist. Finally, extend your left arm as you externally rotate your left shoulder. As you hold for at least 5 breaths, focus your effort on becoming lighter through your breath, core engagement, and through the placement of your grounded hands and feet. To release, pivot the body into downward facing dog and start over on the other side.
Side Plank Pose
From Downward-Facing Dog, just as you did in the last pose, start shifting your body weight into your right hand as you pivot on the outer edge of your right foot. Being aware of alignment, try stacking both shoulders above the right, grounded wrist. Flex both feet and try stacking your ankles as you employ core strength and lift your hips. Exhale to press energetically into the ground and inhale to organically radiate energy out. This pose is a great way to build stability and strength. After holding for at least 5 breaths, start pivoting the body into Downward-Facing Dog and then switch sides.
About Chelsea Jackson
Chelsea Jackson, PhD, has a 200-hour hatha yoga training from Kashi Atlanta Urban Yoga Ashram. Jackson is also certified by Yoga Ed to teach yoga to children, and earned her PhD from the Division of Educational Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. She founded chelsealovesyoga.com, a platform for discussion on yoga, race, and diversity; is a member of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition; and created the Yoga, Literature & Art Camp for teen girls.