A few weeks ago, my energy stagnated and I was compelled to integrate dynamic movement into my practice as a means of shifting it. Often, in Iyengar yoga, each pose is worked independently. Focus on certain elements of the pose are offered as a means to work dynamically within a posture. I love this work and it is why I’m drawn to Iyengar yoga -- all the delicious details! That said -- sometimes I just need to move.
So here are two variations of a simple vinyasa that lengthens and tones the spine, opens the hips and engages the core. The chair variation is for anyone suffering from arthritis, tight shoulders and even exceptionally tight hamstrings. This cycle can be done in five or ten minutes and is perfect for those who never seem to have enough time!
In the chair:
Grip the sides of the chair with your hands. Step the feet back away from the chair, lift the buttocks up toward the ceiling. Widen your shoulder blades away from the spine by wrapping the back-armpit area toward your chest. Lengthen both sides of your body away from the chair. Pull your kneecaps up toward the tops of your thighs and send your thighbones back.
Explore the lift of the sitting bones here. If you take your heels to the floor, do the sits-bones/buttocks drop toward the floor? If they do, bend your knees and lift them again. Stay on the balls of your feet to engage the thigh muscles. Then lower your heels as much as you can without losing that lift.
On the floor:
Start on the hands and knees. Place your hands one hand-length in front of your shoulders. Tuck your toes, press into your hands and lift the buttocks up toward the ceiling. Widen your shoulder blades away from the spine by wrapping the back-armpit area toward your chest. Lengthen both sides of your body away from the chair. Pull your kneecaps up toward the tops of your thighs and send your thighbones back.
For both chair and floor:
Keep the weight even over the palms of both hands. Lengthen through the sides of your body and lift your right leg up, stretching the heel back toward the space behind you. Notice your pelvis. Has it tipped? Keep both pelvic rims facing the floor by rolling the inner right thigh toward the ceiling. Notice your hands. Is the weight evenly distributed over your palms? Or are you tipping to one side? Keep the back armpit chest moving toward the legs. Lengthen.
For both chair and floor:
From the lifted leg position, bend your right knee into your chest and start to move so that your shoulders come over-top your wrists. Holding this position, push away from the chair with the arms and keep the shoulder-blades moving toward your waist. Draw the knee closer into the body and you should feel the abdominal muscles engage. Keep the straight leg firm.
You can repeat this action several times. Reaching the leg back into Dog with Lifted Leg and into Modified Plank. Or you can just do it once on the way to your lunge. You decide what you need today.
In the chair position, it is easier to step the front foot forward. After you’ve pulled the knee into the chest, set the right foot between the legs of the chair. Descend the buttocks toward the floor and draw the right hip back away from the chair to keep both sides of the waist long.
Roll the shoulders away from the ears and lengthen the breastbone toward the chair-back. Stretch through the left heel, pull that left kneecap up. Observe the back leg, roll the inner thigh up toward the ceiling to keep the sacrum broad and the hips level.
The step forward into lunge can be tricky on the floor. You may want to stretch back into one-legged dog so that you can use the momentum to swing the leg right through. Once the knee is drawn into the chest, place the foot between the hands. If it doesn’t make it all the way, drop the back knee onto the floor, take hold of your right ankle and lift the foot to the space between your hands.
With the foot forward, descend the buttocks toward the floor to bring the right thigh parallel to the floor. Move the right outer hip away from the knee. Roll the shoulder-blades down the back and lengthen the front of the body toward the space in front of you. Stretch through the left heel, pulling that left kneecap up. Observe the back leg, roll the inner thigh up toward the ceiling to keep the sacrum broad and the hips level.
For both variations:
Hold for two or three or four breaths, then step back into downward dog.
After you’ve stepped back into your variation of downward dog, repeat the sequence with the left leg. Then back to the right. And on and on until you feel successfully moved!