Gate Opening - Overview
Beginner: Gate Opening is a graceful practice that works your abdominal muscles and upper body, while improving your balance and increasing fluidity in the movement of your joints. Focus on moving smoothly from one pose to the next and never holding your breath. The Earth-Rain breath-body link pulls grounding energy from the earth while showering the mind and body with positive energy flow. Elbows seal as you lift your hands on the inhale. Drop shoulders and release tension on the exhale breath. Keep your weight balanced on both legs and feel grounded in your feet through the link.
Advanced: This is an uplifting sequence with movements that are expansive and fluid, allowing for full extension and deepening into a range of poses that work the entire body. Pay close attention to your alignment and tune into grounding your body while stretching up and outward with raised arms and legs. The link is Earth-Rain. Focus on creating energy in the palms of the hands and as the forearms and elbows connect on the inhale, lift. Drop the chin and lift from the head as your arms rain down on the exhalation. Feel grounded in your feet and tuck your tailbone gently under.
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: Plank is a fantastic pose for beginners to strengthen their abdominal muscles and spine, as well as arms and wrists. Make sure to distribute your weight evenly across your hands and energize the abdominal muscles. If it is too much at first, you can bring your knees to the floor.
Advanced: Advanced yogis can enhance the benefits of plank pose by continuing to widen across the collarbones and pulling the shoulders away from the ears. Check your alignment: is your spine really straight? Is the core engaged?
Beginner: Beginners benefit from downward facing dog as it stretches the muscles of the upper back, shoulders, hamstrings, calves, right down to the arches of your feet! Don't worry if you cannot straighten your legs in this pose, it will come with time. For now, focus on keeping the back super flat and your knees deeply bent. Begin to push the legs straight while the back stays flat, opening into the tight hamstring muscles. If you have wrist problems, be very mindful of any pain you feel in this posture.
Advanced: To deepen in downward facing dog, the advanced practitioner can focus on sinking into the heels and lifting the tail bone. Keep your arms super-straight and feel all the way around each finger. Focus on the energy that is coming down the outside of your arms, activating your triceps.
Beginner: Sunbird is a wonderful pose for beginners to help stretch and strengthen the arms, chest and core. The grounded knee should be parallel with the hip, and hips stay level as the opposing leg lifts skyward. For the bow, keep elbows tucking into the body and rest your head along the floor. If this posture is hard on your knees, try adding an extra mat or placing your knees on a blanket.
Advanced: To deepen into sunbird lift, advanced yogis can expand and widen in the collarbone area while pushing outward with the insides of the arms. Squeeze your shoulder blades together but keep your shoulders relaxing away from your ears. In Sunbird bow, keep the head hovering gently above the floor, building immense strength in the shoulders and arms. Your abdominal muscles are super engaged, super energized.
Beginner: Gate Pose can be a challenge for beginners as you test your balance and strength in your arms. Try to push the outside of the top foot into the mat to steady yourself. Keep your abdominals energized and feel very long in the waist. If you lose balance, do not worry, falling is part of the practice.
Advanced: When you are comfortable in Gate Pose, become invested in the full expression of the posture. Focus on your chest stretching and lifting, following the direction of your head. Circle your arm in a fluid, complete motion, and really stretch into the extension. Push your grounding arm down. Are your shoulders away from your ears? Remember to lengthen through the neck and keep the gaze focused on a drishti point for balance.