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Season 2 - Episode 8

Opening out to Truth

40 min - Practice


Dedicate your practice to the unfurling of truth and exploration. Jennifer guides us in a backbending practice at the wall, where we explore the mechanics of blooming the heart. We begin with Surya Namaskar C (Sun Salutations) and progressively move into deeper backbends.
What You'll Need: Mat, Wall

About This Video

Mar 21, 2016
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(waves) Namaste. So the next series of about 10 postures are dedicated to unfurling, to opening out the front of the body. And we know that we're the only animal that really stands upright and shows all of this vulnerable stuff right here. And that's a big deal. And we also know that as we get older, we tend to round or protect.

That happens. And part of our yoga practice is dedicated to staying open and living moment by moment with the truth. Whatever that is. And I recently heard Gandhi talk about, obviously when he was alive, talk about how the commitment to truth means that sometimes consistency suffers with a deep, deep, dedication to truth because the truth can change moment to moment. And I love that, that if we dedicate ourselves to unfurling, I know that today, how I open, is going to be quite different than yesterday.

And one of the traps of the practice is thinking, "Well, yesterday, I got into this. So today it'll be just the same." And that isn't the case. So we want to employ some of those same principles that we've been looking at earlier in our practice. Certainly the principle of exploration. Let's find out.

Let's find out where we are. Let's stay dedicated and committed to the truth of where we are. And let's have the unfurling be an unfurling of the truth. As opposed to some sort of desired shape or emotional state. Okay, so that's what we're looking.

We're looking to open out into the truth. Now, ideally, you have done the first practice. Where we went through the salutations, the surya namaskars. And the second practice with the big open-legged postures because those will prepare you for this series. In case you haven't, we're going to do three surya namaskar c's to open the body.

But if you haven't, please be absolutely attentive to your movement, all right. Namaste. Let's begin standing. So standing at the top of the mat, why it's useful to have done the other series that I've created, first, is they've addressed the body from the bottom up. And because we tend to be so oriented around arms and shoulders, it would be very easy to go into these big postures without awakening the rest of the body which will inevitably result in very bad news.

So as we stand here, we want to feel the feet root. Feel the drawing up in the inner line of the legs. Feel the pelvic floor ascending, just a little lift. The navel draws in to help support us. The rib cage is stacked over the hips and everything down below is rising up from the root.

Let's inhale ascending the arms all the way up. Exhale, folding forward, out and down. Send your right leg back behind you, knee to the floor, top of the foot to the floor. Inhale, come up. We'll interlace our fingers so we can get a lot of length here.

Couple breaths. Let the right hip flexor sink. Good, a lot of controversy about the left shin. You can have the knee over if you've got no issues with the knee. Otherwise, left shin vertical.

Good, slide, scoop the shoulder blades under. Lift the heart. Feel all those same principles we just talked about in mountain pose apply here. Inhaling. Exhale, hands down, right toes tuck under, left leg back behind you, lower through, or knees, chest, chin.

Inhale cobra or upward dog. Press the feet into the floor. Exhale, back. Downward facing dog. Lengthen your spine.

Now, really draw the sit bones back. Might be nice to bend the knees. Good, for our purposes, we can allow the heart to melt just a little bit downward. Lift the knee caps. Let's inhale.

Exhale, knees bend, look past your hands, step or float forward between your hands. Inhale, lengthen. Exhale, fold in. Inhale, rise all the way up, palms touch. Exhale, fold forward out and down on this side.

And then we take the left leg back, knee to the floor, top of the foot to the floor. Inhale, grow your posture from the ground up. Feel the root, the weight, of your bones in the floor. Rise up out of that root. (breathing) Good, inhaling.

Exhale, hands to the floor, tuck you left toes under, right leg back, lower through. And inhale, open. And exhale, navel leads you back. (breathing) Allow the heart to melt down just a little bit. (breathing) Good, the yoga police might get a little bit mad about this, but this is going to help with the back bending.

And we inhale. Exhale, knees bent, look past your hands, step for float forward. Inhale, lengthen. Exhale, fold. Inhale, rise all the way up, palms touch.

Exhale, fold forward. Right leg back, knee to the floor, top of the foot to the floor. One breath this time, inhale. Exhale, hands down, right toes tuck, left leg back, lower. Inhale, open.

Exhaling, back. Inhale. Exhale, knees bend. Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale.

Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale, pause. And feel that. Feel the feet. Now let's inhale, arms rise up.

Exhale, fold forward out and down. Inhale, lengthen. Exhaling, we're gonna jump the feet back or step back. Lower through. Come on to your belly for a moment.

And let's rest. Let's take the hands under the shoulders for a moment. Lengthen the spine by pulling on your mat, elbows back. Feel your legs root. Good, so just be sure now, we're talking about the truth, so where is the truth?

The truth in the posture like this, lives in taking the hands off the floor. Just notice the spine on its own, its lift. And then the legs. So what does the truth look like here. Toes wide.

Inner lines of the legs, can you feel them? Good, then you can go ahead pull the mat. Don't worry how far up you come. And grow your breath along your collarbone area. (breathing) So you're widening, widening the collarbone area.

Inhale. Exhale, release. Rest on the other cheek. Watch the breath. (breathing) I want to do one more variation 'cause it will help us later on.

Interlace your fingers behind your back into a fist. Draw your shoulder blades together like they're kissing. Good, keep your feet on the floor, even the pinky toes attempt to stay down. Inhale. Lift the chest off the floor.

Grow the front of the spine. (breathing) Inhale here. Exhale, slowly release. And rest on the other cheek. Just remember, pause and feel.

(breathing) So let's bend the knees now. Lift the chest. Feel the shoulder blades move in toward each other. Good, reach back. See if you can find your ankles.

Toes are wide here. So we've now activated the muscles in the legs. Inhale. Allow the thighs to float upward. Legs draw us open.

Shoulder blades come together. (breathing) Use your inhale, lengthening upward. Exhale, pause inhabit that space. Inhabit that space. You could see about taking the legs wide.

That's going to feel really interesting. And then what happens if the legs come all the way together. Inner thighs together. And then find the middle way. What a relief, the middle way.

Inhale here. Exhale, let's release. Come down rest on the other cheek. (breathing) So we can already begin to feel the whole effect of the front of the body opening. We take the hands under the shoulders, slowly rise up.

(breathing) Walk the legs in. You might roll your calves out to the side. It depends on whether that feels good on your knees or not. We'll slowly bring the sit bones toward the floor. And if they don't come down to the floor, they should be on a surface.

It could very well be that you slide the block under the sit bones. The idea is that we're seated just like we'd be standing from the hips up. I like to use my toes like little rudders here. I press the toes into the ground because that helps keep me forward on the sit bones. Ve rosanna, hero pose.

I also like to take my hands to my rib cage. Lift the rib cage up. And I kinda, up, up, up. Make more room for the organs. Makes it a little easier to come on the front of the sit bones.

Good, if you're pretty comfortable here, you're not feeling much length happening through the front thighs which is what we're attempting to do to further the opening of the front. You can take the hands to the ground. Slide the tail bone underneath now. And make your way down and remember the truth. Okay.

So where is it today? What's the truth? (breathing) Good, when you look at your feet, your feet are absolutely parallel. Inner heals right up against the outside of the thighs. (breathing) From this allow the front of the thighs to lengthen.

(breathing) Now we soften. Soften the outside of the body. You may notice, you can draw the navel into the spine a little bit. Notice how that does lengthen the front of the thighs. It's actually quite telling.

You can see why it'd be easier to just let everything stay relaxed, but then we're not doing the work of engaging. (breathing) So feel your toes press. And if you were lying back, you can slowly make your way up. (breathing) Good, and then let's rise up onto the knees. So here, we're going to use the wall.

If you don't have a wall, no worries. But employ these same principles as if you've got a wall right there, okay? If you've got a wall, let's come on over. And place the front of the the thighs right up against the wall. And starting with the toes tucked under, very good idea.

Thighs against. Belly against. Remember this business with lifting the ribs up? This is really nice because we're going for frontal opening as opposed to back bending. Right, it's like revealing the truth.

Revealing the truth. Toes tucked under. Lifting up. Now some of you are going to have neck issues. In which case, keep your chin to your chest.

Then see if one hand comes. If the other one doesn't, left arm up, right hand down. Open out. Again, chin to chest, if it bothers you. You see how the thighs stay close to the wall.

Those of you with no wall, you are pretending you've got a wall. Thighs pressed forward. And I like to pretend that I've got a hand under my shoulder blade and that person, that invisible person with that hand, is helping guide my upper back upward. (breathing) And inhale, rise back up evenly. Exhale, release, pause.

Come down to a seat. So you can see that the body doesn't necessarily, on its own, especially if you're new to this, want to unfurl one step at a time. Often it will stay caved and hollow in here with the shoulders rounded. And we'll end up in all kinds of trouble. So follow the path from the front of the spine all the way up and around.

Next version of this, we'll try with the front of the feet down, if you're ready for that. Otherwise stay where you were. Repeat again. Back bends really nice to repeat twice or three times. Okay.

(breathing) Thighs press. Lift the ribs cage. Chin to chest. Lengthen, lengthen, lengthen. (breathing) Hands come for the ankles, push.

Open the front. Relax the jaw. Remember the shoulder blades tend to like to kiss back there to help to support the upper back, which doesn't open as easily as the lower back. But we've got to do the work at the upper back. (breathing) Inhale, come back up.

Exhale, release. Good, step away from the wall, if you've got one. Just let's take a child's pose with the knees wide for a moment. Make some room around your tail bone. (breathing) I often say circle the tail bone with breath.

(breathing) Then the hands slide under the shoulders. Let's rise up. So where we're going next is a posture that's been around for a very long time. What it reminds me of is you know how you might be running down a hill and you come to a creek, except it's not really a creek, it's a river, but there's no bridge. And you've got to jump across to the other side.

And there's a lot of water going by and it seems like a little bit much. So the space between camel and kapotasana seems like a pretty big deal. And we don't want to lose that opening on the way. So, again, what do we employ? We employ the truth.

All right? Let's see what happens. All right, so we're going to build this from the foundation upward. And you're going to see that at one point you're going to want to cross that river. It's really important to stay attentive to see if yeah, is that crossing, can it be done with integrity.

Right, integrity. So thighs forward. Root the shins. Lift the rib cage. Fix in chest.

Open the front. You want to pause for a minute. Can you feel as though, indeed, the front is open? Shoulder blades down. Arms extend way up.

Reach back, thighs forward. Hands down. Okay, that was a big move, right? So here we are. This may be where you pause.

You can check for yourself. Do you tend to contract the buttocks all the time? If that's the case, soften them. If you tend to keep them soft all the time, contract. But we want the thighs forward.

I'm gonna down for a moment on the top of the head. Walk the hands back, see if you can find your feet. Forearms are down. Good, the head will, on the mat, inevitably come up. Press the shins into the floor.

Toes into the floor. Good, hands back. All right, remember that river we talked about? So when we cross the river back up again. We want to do it evenly.

Inhale, come up. Exhale, release. And pause and feel that. (breathing) So a lot of times when you go to a yoga class, the teacher talks about opening your heart and you can see how, invariably, with postures like this, the front body just does. It opens.

I suggest, in these big opening postures, play with your relationship to loving. 'Cause if you can put love inside there, it's going to help with the opening. So we'll do that next, okay? You now know, likely, where it is that you're going to pause and feel the pose. Okay, you pick your full expression of the posture.

So back up. (breathing) We have to pause for a minute. So sometimes it's easy to find somebody that we love in our lives. That's really, really easy to love. I have a son.

He's really easy to love. You might have a pet. And it might be God. Put thighs forward with the ribs. Shoulder blades.

And we gotta practice the art of opening ourselves, okay? Arms extend up. Lots of space. Thighs press forward. Hands down.

Head down. Lock in. Pause here. Love. (breathing) Hands down.

Come right back up. Inhale. Exhale. Child's pose. Knees wide.

Feel that. (breathing) Remember to lasso your breath around your sacrum. (breathing) Good, hands under the shoulders. Slowly rise. So I love approaching postures like that from a stand point of inner qualities that we're cultivating because you can see them.

It's less likely about the shape and far more about what it is that we're putting inside the shape. Opening out. What are we going to do? We're going to put love in there. Vulnerability.

Those things that sometimes as adults we avoid. And that we desperately want to have in our lives. How do we have them in our lives? And we learn to cultivate them. Okay, so from here, let's just pause for a moment.

Take a downward facing dog. So we can lengthen the spine. Do a little bit of opposite work. (breathing) Gotta remember the root, through the legs. The kneecaps lift.

Outer heels drop. Grow your spine upward through your tailbone and your sit bones. (breathing) Inhale. Exhale. Release, just a short child's pose.

(breathing) Slide the hands in beneath the shoulders. Good, we're gonna take the legs forward, come to bridge pose. So however you need to get there. Remember this? I use this any chance I get because I gotta keep working on the core.

Lift the thighs, feet forward. (squeal) Will the legs come forward? Or just bring your legs around. Slide the hips. Make your way down.

Just lying back for a moment. (breathing) Okay, so one thing to say about the big, big forward, big opening through the front, a lot of times we'll feel our nervous system come alive. And it's often stated that at night, if you do back bends at night, you might not sleep for a little while. So just notice what you feel internally. Could be there's a little more energy than there was.

But you check to see. And we'll start with a very basic, wonderful back bend. Bridge pose. We're gonna just draw the tailbone under. Slowly rise up.

Good, then sneak the arms in underneath. Push the feet in. Draw the knee caps away from the rib cage. Draw the rib cage toward the chin. Might come up onto the balls of the feet.

And perhaps you can slide the hands in underneath the hips. (breathing) Good, so it's always chest to chin, never chin to chest 'cause you want to feel that space under your cervical vertebrae. You can play with pressing the heels in the floor versus the balls of the feet. And you notice on you, one's stronger. Upper arm bones pressed.

So I'm really interested in evening it out, right. So for me it's harder to press the heels in, so I might stay here a little bit longer. (breathing) Good, use arm bones. Now we all come onto the balls of the feet. Inhale.

Exhale. Feel each vertebrae make its way to the ground. Now let's just pause for a moment. Soles of the feet together, knees wide. And close the eyes.

This is such a great posture for receiving. It's like you've turned yourself into an antenna. (breathing) Completely relax. (breathing) You might notice that while your here that naturally the exhale often becomes a little longer than the inhale. With the back bend, the huge frontal opening, we really rely on the inhale being a little longer than the exhale.

So we're just balancing it all out. Now we'll bring the hands around the thighs, draw the legs up. So we have choices to make. We can either do another bridge pose. Fantastic posture.

If you have a block, place it underneath your tailbone for support right here and hang out. This would be in my top five postures to do everyday actually. Block under the tailbone. Or if you wish to go on and you've got a wall nearby, your hands can come to the wall. Now this part's tricky.

I'm making this letter L with my hands. And you may want to watch first before you try. I'm gonna slide the hands right down the wall until the thumb tip and the finger tips come to where the wall and the baseboard meet. Okay? When I look at my arms, my elbow tips point directly up.

They'll want to splay out for some people. So they're directly up. Walk the feet in slightly. Now, my next task here is to lift my hips up. And then I'm gonna come on to the top of the head.

Once I'm on the top of the head, I'm looking back. This is where I've really got to check what's going on with my arms. I want my forearms absolutely parallel. Not elbows out and then push and lift up. Lift up straighten the arms.

So we're looking to see where will the arms go and can I bring my chest to the wall? I'm trying to take the weight as far forward into the arms and chest as it'll go. You can play here with bringing the feet in. Notice what that's like. Notice what it's like wide.

And notice there's somewhere in the middle that feels quite natural. (breathing) Inhaling. Exhale, one foot in, the other foot in. Slowly, slowly bring the head to the floor. Soles of the feet together, knees wide.

Move right back into complete receptivity. (breathing) And check that out. So much happening internally. Likely, it feels like you're bathing in fireworks. Just notice what it's like for you.

Now we're gonna go on to another version of wheel that moves into a variation after that where we attempt to straighten the legs. You could go back to bridge. You could take a leg up if you wish in bridge. Or you could take the hands back to the wall. But this time we'll have the hands on the ground.

The fingers are spread wide. You're gonna use the whole palm pressing. The elbows are gonna want to go wide, pull them in. Feet right beside the sit bones. Lift the hips up.

Come on to the top of the head. Align your forearms. Push the ground away. Good, now remember what I said about the lower back and the upper back. The lower back'll want to do all the work.

Go into the upper back. Scoop the shoulder blades under Present your heart and remember love. Remember love. And if you're going on, one leg and the other leg straighten and they come together. (breathing) Whole body engaged and open.

Chest soft. Back body supports you. Inhale. Exhale, feet return. Inhale.

Exhale, as you come down keep the elbows in. Slowly come down. Soles of the feet together. Knees wide. (breathing) So we talk a lot in this practice about be here now.

My teacher, Ram Dass, he wrote "Be Here Now". He also wrote a book call "Be Love Now". So that's really interesting, right? How do we love without it being focused on one particular person or our pet. How do we love indiscriminately.

That which is the same behind all of these different personas and personalities. So easy to love those that are easy to love. Is it easy to love ourselves? Can we possibly feel love or affection for those we don't know very well? And then there are those in our lives that are teachers.

Those that make love challenging. Can we love them? You know we make enough room for them. Can we see behind the story that separates us? We ask ourselves these questions in the spirit of exploration and inquiry as a way of slowly opening.

(breathing) So take your hands now to the outside of the thighs and lift the knees back up. As if we were going into bridge, but we're not, we're gonna slide the arms in underneath the hips. They've lifted up. Arms come in close. Remember the kissing shoulder blades.

Then lay your hips down on your arms. One leg at a time, we point the toes. Good, so we have final work to do in the opening of the front of the body and it's up at the top chest and the throat. And I often say that we're connecting our heart with our mouth, right? Because there's a lot that comes out of our mouth that's not necessarily connected to our heart at all.

So remember the marionette. Right there at the chest we life up. Come lightly on to the top of the head. Press the forearms into the floor. You can let your head float here.

Root the legs. Find your heart. And find your mouth. It's like connect-the-dots. Feel that space.

I always make a promise when I do this posture. To reconnect the words that come out of my mouth with my heart. So I don't waste my words. No gossip. No ill feelings toward others.

Inhale. Exhale. Slowly release. Good, slide the feet in a little bit. Release the arms.

Pause for a moment. You can see the value of practicing every day because so often we find ourselves saying things that later we regret. So we always have this chance in fish pose to recommit once again. Now I like to bring my knees together with the heels wide and just let the pelvis and the sacrum, just give it some space. Notice again.

What's it like inside? It's often the case when we do these big frontal openings that tears emerge. And I've had so many students say to me, "Oh my gosh, I do these postures and I want to cry." or "I do cry. Is that normal?" And I say, "Uh huh". (laughing) It's normal. Giving the body a chance to open and whatever's been in there is gonna come out.

It's one of the greatest things about this practice. All right, so let's just let the legs roll off to the left for a moment. Take your arms out. You can take your left foot on top of the right thigh once again. (breathing) Let the shoulder blades draw down, looking to the right.

(breathing) Now it's almost like with the body, we're asking it to do the exact opposite of these huge back bends. Soften and release. But with the same internal quality that the back bends have of opening. Truth and love go hand in hand. They are really good friends.

(breathing) Left foot down. Inhale up. Crossing right foot, might come across or here. (breathing) You can see that right next to me are these incredible flowers. Do they look afraid (laughing) to express themselves?

Nope, it's a perfectly natural phenomenon. (breathing) It's natural for us to open and be vulnerable. (breathing) Inhaling, come right back up. Let's release the legs. Turn the palms up, slide the shoulder blades down, close the eyes, feel how much space you want to take up in your savasana.

And then just allow the body to drop. (breathing) Allow the breath to get almost inaudible without force. (breathing) Every day when I'm practicing sometimes seated, sometimes on the mat, sometimes lying down on my bed in the middle of the night, I practice loving indiscriminately. When we feel love in our body, we know what that feels like. It feels really good.

(breathing) Now those that are highly evolved are able to hold and exude so much love and they're able to forgive easily. Stay present and connected to the truth. So we practice. (breathing) And we use these shapes to practice. (breathing) And slowly take a few deeper breaths.

(breathing) Draw your navel to your spine. Bring the legs in one at a time. Give yourself a hug like you mean it. (breathing) Take your right arm up and roll to the side. Pause here.

(breathing) And gradually come up to a comfortable seat, whatever that is for you. And grow from that root. (breathing) Soften and then open from the inside. (breathing) If your eyes are closed, then nobody's watching. You're safe.

Open from the inside. Let's draw our palms together at our heart. And we'll bring our hands to our forehead. Right thoughts. May we be steady and present and joyful.

The hands come to the mouth, right speech. May our words improve upon the silence. Our hands hands come to our heart, right action. May we be the change that we wish to see. Namaste.



Frederic M
Thank you Jennifer for this wonderful practice. I feel so open and present!
Jennifer Prugh
Lovely!! You are welcome Frederic!
Elana M
Jennifer, Thank you so much for your strength and your love. I was getting in my own way until I closed my eyes and opened to that love you spoke of and fell deeper into the pose almost instantaneously. I know I am always trying to remain focused on the love - especially towards those who make it harder to do so. Thanks for the reminder and the connection with fish pose. I will bring that into my daily practice!
Jennifer Prugh
Thanks for your feedback, Elana. Practicing by drawing upon love is a really fascinating and sometimes difficult practice (at least for me). I can find all kinds of ways to avoid dropping into love. And yet, it's all we really want in our lives, to love and be loved. Practicing being love is more powerful than any asana, and at the end of one's life, what will remain will not be a whole lot of fancy asana, but hopefully, a whole lot of love. I'm glad you found it valuable. Thanks again for letting me know!
Suzie C
Hello, Jennifer. This is the first video I've watched on yogaanytime and I am so happy to have come across such a meaningful practice! Your perspective on love and life has really made me pause and think. Thank you for sharing your wonderful state of mind and tips, I am very inspired! ❤️
Jennifer Prugh
Hi Suzie,
Thanks for your lovely note! I think you will find many of the teachers on Yoga Anytime to be purely inspirational. The folks who run YA are so good at assembling great teachings. Find me on Facebook and Instagram if you'd like and I hope you enjoy all the shows. And thanks again!
Christy Li
As always, you know just how to challenge me both physically and internally/mentally whether live at your studio or in your videos, amazing, thank you! Hugs & Lots of Love! :)
Jennifer Prugh
Thanks Christy! I'm glad to know it's still possible to convey the big message over your screen! :D Thanks for letting me know. xoxo
1 person likes this.
Feeling the love! There is so much good work in this beautiful practice, this one's for life. Thank you, Jennifer.
Jennifer Prugh
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