Head to Knee - Overview
Beginner: Head to Knee is an excellent practice for anyone who experiences tightness in the spine, hamstrings or calves. Only go as far into the poses as you feel comfortable. As the movements become familiar, they will feel more smooth in your body. The sun moon breath body link will call you to take control of your oppositional forces - be mindful of your spinal alignment as you inhale and reach to the sun - tuck your tailbone under and focus on pulling your belly and chest up to follow the reach of your arms. On the exhale, contract your belly and use the strength of your arms to bring the calm energy of the moon back to you.
Advanced: There is more than meets the eye in head to knee practice. Really focus on the nurturing aspects of the folding of the upper body over the lower. The smallest adjustments in your spine, hips or chest will deepen your pose and may reveal tensions you did not know you have. Upon exhalation in the sun-moon breath body link, feel the earth energy rising through you, lifting with the bandhas. On the inhale, stretch your arms and upper body outward and up as the lower body reaches down.
Beginner: Beginners benefit greatly from forward fold, as it stretches the leg muscles where we most commonly hold on to tightness. Feel the weight of the head as you fold forward. Be mindful of your body. Do you feel any pain behind the knees or near the tail bone? If so, bend your knees deeply until that tension is relieved. Only go to your limit. That is your perfect expression of the pose.
Advanced: Advanced practicioners can continue to benefit from this posture. To deepen your fold, lay your chest on the thighs as you deeply bend the knees. Now, as you straighten your legs, keep your chest glued to the thighs - the strength here comes from your abdominals and hip flexors. Engage mula bandha as you stretch your upper body towards the earth and your tail towards the sky - feel the expression of perfect opposition.
Beginner: Monkey pose is an excellent posture for beginners to strengthen the leg and abdominal muscles. Alignment of the front knee over the foot is very important, you need to create a strong base to rise from as you lift your chest. Uncurl the back toes and feel the weight and length of the back leg sinking as you lift your body up and into the pose.
Advanced: Once you are comfortable in this pose, begin to deepen by rolling your shoulders back and down. Lift the chest up as the shoulder blades squeeze together. Be mindful to keep your weight evenly distributed across the whole of your front foot and back shin as you deepen into the pose. Your chin is lifted slightly, gaze is up, and arms reach back.
Beginner: The hamstring stretch is a wonderful way to lengthen and stretch the spine and all the muscles down the back of your leg. The hamstrings are often the tightest muscles for beginning students. Keep your shoulders and hips square as you stretch your body back and down. The top of your back foot should lie along the floor, while your front toes should point upward. For now, do not worry if it is enough of a stretch without bending forward - the placement of the legs is a wonderful stretch by itself!
Advanced: To deepen your hamstring stretch, concentrate on making your back flat as you settle your shoulders back and down. Lengthen your neck and really flex your front foot. Feel your whole front leg super straight, super activated. Tuck your chin in and really reach towards your toes with the top of your head.
Head to Knee
Beginner: Head to knee appears to be a simple pose, but do be very mindful of the width of your stance. If there is too much pull in the hamstrings, bring the back foot in. You may also bend the front knee to be more comfortable in the pose. Hands should be placed on either side of the foot with your head sinking towards the front knee.
Advanced: The advanced yogi can deepen in head to knee by lengthening the spine and lifting the chest while in the fold. Think of laying the whole of the upper body along the length of the front leg. Are your hips square? Make sure your feet and knees are straight and not rotating inward or outward.
Beginner: Needle is an exciting and beautiful pose for beginners. It is a challenging pose that strengthens your legs and elongates your spine. Focus on dropping the weight of the head down to counterbalance the lift of the leg. Use your hands for balance and make sure to keep your weight evenly distributed across your hands and all of your fingers. Remember: however high you lift your leg is fine.
Advanced: To deepen into needle pose, use the energy of the standing leg. Send energy down through that leg by pressing into the ground with the whole foot. Now pull power up through the arms and all the way up to the lifting toes. Keep the weight of the head dropping down and the lifting leg rising up.