Heart Opening - Overview
Beginner: Heart Opening is a great sequence to explore balance, strengthen the lower body and stretch tight muscles in the backs of the legs. Narrow your stance a bit if you feel excessive tension in the legs. The Heart Opening breath body link will help develop strength in muscles not typically used. Can you feel tension in your ankles and on the hip rotators? Keep your feet parallel to one another. On the inhale, focus on the expansion in the chest. On the exhale focus on contraction, your chin tucked in slightly to elongate your spine.
Advanced: An energizing sequence for the advanced practitioner, focus on placement of the feet and really energizing the legs as you transition through the poses. Continue to expand and open the chest through the sequence. Once you are comfortable with the Heart Opening link, focus on your energy. Inhale and extend energy out from your core, letting tension leave with it. Exhale and return your hands to centre with fresh energy. Feel revitalized and open, ready to begin the sequence.
Beginner: For now focus on becoming familiar with the physical expression of the pose. Check your alignment - is your bent knee directly over your foot? Is your back leg straight? Are your feet in one line? Drop your shoulders and reach with your fingertips. Feel your body's length.
Advanced: Your muscles now know where to take you on the mat. Turn your focus to deepening into the pose. Sink into your hips, opening them slowly by keeping your upper body completely still as you move in and out of the posture. Can you feel your front hip open to allow for this movement? Feel the power of the exhale breath; core is tight; eyes are focused.
Beginner: Lateral Angle is a great posture for developing strength in your ankles and leg muscles. If it is difficult to bring your hand all the way to the floor, keep your elbow resting on the thigh - but try not to lean to heavily on the thigh; instead, keep lifting from your core by squeezing your abdominal muscles. Once you feel comfortable here, try it with your hand on the floor or on a block for support. Remember to keep your knee directly above your ankle to avoid pressure on this delicate joint.
Advanced: Now that your hand is planted firmly on the ground, focus on shifting the weight to be evenly spead between your hand and your two feet. Can you push out from each section of your back foot while you push down into your front foot and hand? Squeeze your legs towards one another to relieve pressure from the ankle joints. Reach with your top arm, chin tucked into armpit, gaze lifted. Feel one smooth line of energy from the tips of your top fingers all the way down to the edge of your back foot.
Beginner: Triangle will help you build strength in your legs and ankles while improving your balance and concentration. If straightening your front leg creates an uncomfortable stretch in your hamstring, keep that knee bent while you press through your back leg, super straight. We deepen in triangle by shifting our focus from the earth to our top hand. Careful! It is easy to lose balance here.
Advanced: To deepen your expression of triangle, focus on bringing your chest parallel to the floor as you reach out from center. Squeeze your leg muscles to pull energy through the legs into center. Concentrate on extending the spine parallel to the floor and keeping your shoulders away from your ears. Your fingers are glued together and your chest, open.
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.