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Today, we’ll work on strengthening your core with a few standing postures, which will help you feel the relationship between your core and steadiness— both physically and energetically. Warm up by holding Down Dog for a few breaths to stretch your limbs and muscles. Then, as you move through the asanas, place your attention on your belly as you breathe, taking your navel to your spine with each exhalation to help lengthen and open the front of your body.
Warrior Pose III
From Down Dog, step your right foot forward between your hands, come onto fingertips, and walk your hands forward to the upper corners of your mat. Lift your front body from pelvic floor to throat, send your gaze forward, and lift your back leg off the mat, foot active, toes pointing toward the back wall. Breathing deeply, lift your left arm up alongside your body (for more of a challenge, lift it in front of you). Optional: For the full balance pose, lift your right arm, too—either alongside or in front of you. Lengthen your spine and smile for 3 breaths, then step back to Down Dog and repeat the pose on your second side when ready. Finish back in Down Dog.
Extended Triangle Pose, with arm variations
From Down Dog, step your left foot forward between your hands, straighten your leg, and drop your back (right) heel to the floor with your toes angled toward the right side of your mat. Place your left hand on your left shin and your right hand flat to your belly, elbow pointing up. Breathe into your right hand and exhale your navel back to your spine to twist open; gaze toward the sky. Continue breathing here, extending your top arm skyward, palm facing forward. Option: Lengthen your bottom arm parallel to the floor, palm up, keeping your core strong and back foot steady. Hold for 3 breaths, and then step back to Down Dog and switch sides. Finish back in Down Dog.
Flying Side Angle pose, Katonah-style
From Down Dog, step your left foot forward, bend the knee to 90 degrees, place the back heel down (working toward a 45-degree angle), and then stack your left armpit on your left knee. Reach your left fingertips forward and out beside your mat. Keeping your armpit and knee in contact, extend your right arm to the sky, palm forward, exhaling your belly toward your spine to stabilize your core. Option: Lift your left fingertips off the floor and “fly.” After 5 breaths, come back to Down Dog, switch to the second side for 5 breaths, and then return to Down Dog.
Plank Pose to Down Dog
From Down Dog, inhale forward to Plank, then exhale navel to spine, seat high, back into Down Dog, with knees slightly bent. Get bouncier and more buoyant in Down Dog by widening your sitting bones and sending them high. Repeat this sequence (inhale to Plank, exhale to Dog) at least 5 times, moving primarily from your hips to come forward and back. Find your own rhythm, and use your exhalations to support each movement. Come down onto your knees when ready.
Come to a comfortable cross-legged seat. Bring your arms up to 60 degrees and fold your fingers into your palms, gently tugging on the mounds at the base of each finger; point your thumbs up and angle them slightly toward one another. Sit for 3 or 10 minutes, feeling a sense of joy and fulness. If your arms fatigue, bring them to your lap.
Elena Brower is the author of Art of Attention, a renowned yoga workbook, now translated into five languages. Studying and teaching since 1998, she’s respected globally for her distinct blend of alignment and attention in her teaching of yoga and meditation. Her audio meditation coursework, Cultivating Spiritual Intelligence, is beloved for its accessibility and relevance, and her yoga teaching is influenced by several traditions including Katonah Yoga, Kundalini and ParaYoga. Elena is also the founder of Teach.yoga, a global website for teachers, and her second book, Practice You, will be published in 2018 by Sounds True. Practices with Elena can be found on YogaGlo.com.