(**Do not do this sequence if you have a series back injury, hamstring injury or are working with shoulder problems. Please consult a physician before embarking on this or any other practice on this website.)
Adho Mukha Virasana
We don't often think of Child's Pose, or forward Virasana as being a great stretch. Often it is a 'resting' place after holding Downward Dog. But in the series of poses I taught this week, I introduced this pose as a way to create length in the sides of the body, to stretch the back muscles and opening the shoulders.
As you hold the pose, press your hands into the wall and drop the buttocks toward the heels. Broaden your shoulder blades away from each other by taking the back armpit area toward the floor. Breathe. Observe the length in the torso and the sensations in the back of your body.
To come out, bring your hands beneath your shoulders and push yourself to sitting.
Stand facing the wall. Feet parallel to each other and hip width apart. Reach your hands up the wall, fingers pointing away from each other (you can try it a second time with the fingers pointing upwards and note the difference in your shoulders).
Press the palms firmly into the wall, broaden your shoulderblades and step your feet back six inches from the wall. Press the four corners of your feet into the floor. Pull the kneecaps up towards the tops of your thighs and press the thighs back, sending your buttocks away from the wall. Breathe. And observe the length in the sides of your body.
Can you walk the hands higher? Can you come onto the balls of the feet and reach the hands further up the wall? How about keeping the hands there and slowly lowering the heels? When the heels come down, work the kneecaps up. Observe your breath.
Standing close to the wall, take your hands to shoulder height, again with the fingers pointed outward. Step your feet back away from the wall, straightening your arms and bringing your chest to face the floor. Again, broaden your shoulder blades, taking the outer armpits toward the floor. Press into the hands and lengthen the sides of the body back toward the buttocks, the buttocks away from the wall. Keep the four points of your feet pressing down and lift your kneecaps. Breathe. To come out bend your knees, step in toward the wall.
You can do this a second time, changing the position of your hands so the fingers point upwards. Or you can lower your hands to waist height repeating the pose but bringing a little more intensity to the backs of your legs. Don't do this if you feel any compression in your back.
Begin this Dog pose on the floor and at the wall. With fingers pointing outward, take your index finger and thumb to the wall, press your palms into the floor. Tuck your toes under and lift your buttocks up toward the ceiling. Create the length through the sides of your body the way you have been throughout this practice. Lifting from hands to shoulders and from shoulders to buttocks. Pull your kneecaps up toward the tops of your thighs and press your thighs back. Lower your heels back and down without losing any of the length you've created through your side body.
If you feel tight in the backs of the legs and heavy in the shoulders then go back to the above stretches to work on creating the length and openness you need for this pose.
To come out, bend your knees and come onto the floor into a resting Child's Pose. Big toes together, knees apart. Take the buttocks toward the heels, fold your forearms and rest your head on your forearms.
When you are finished this sequence, rest for several minutes in Savasana totally releasing your arms and legs and softening your back.