Welcome back. So this sequence is all about opening up the hips for a second series posture such as leg behind the head. First a single leg behind the head, and then ultimately, Dwi Pada Sirsasana, double legs behind the head, and Yoganidrasana, with both legs behind the head, and you're on your back supine. In Chinese medicine, I'm a practitioner of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, when we're looking at posture such as legs behind the head, what we're dealing with is what we call Shao Yang. The Shao Yang channels are the gall bladder and the San Jiao channel.
The gall bladder channel starts around the eye, actually, and then it goes around the head, tranverses the whole side of the body into the hip, particularly right here, and then down the side of the leg to end at the outside of the baby toe. The San Jiao channel is more to do with the shoulder. So Shao Yang in Chinese medicine is emotionally, has mainly to do with dealing with changes, decisiveness or indecisiveness, if there's some sort of block or stagnation in the Shao Yang. What I find most clinically, is that people have a lot of stagnation in the Shao Yang channels. We have a lot of shoulder tension, shoulder stress, mainly shoulders coming up towards the ears.
And then, because of our lifestyle, we also wind up having a lot of tension and stress, and old emotions especially that we store in the hip region. So as we go into a second series, we wind up actually finding that there's a lot of deeper layers of things to clear out. In first series, we're dealing more with the backs of the legs, the hamstrings, and of course, opening up the hips. But then we start working towards putting the legs behind the head, it's really much more internal, and it requires the use of locks and bandhas in order to access that musculature. So today's sequence, I've integrated some twisting, because all of the muscles in the Shao Yang channels are the same muscles that we use to both open the hips, the shoulders, and also incorporating twisting.
On that note, I've also found that as we start to open up the hips and start to go into twists, what typically happens, as a way to avoid wringing things out, and is not necessarily a conscious avoidance, is that we sometimes wind up side bending. So today's emphasis when we're twisting is really gonna be about keeping both sides of the waist equally long, and then we're pivoting, so that we're really accessing the central channel of the body and twisting evenly. And the same with as we're putting legs behind the head. Something I really want everyone to be aware of and consider is that you're not taking your leg behind the head by crunching, you're actually gonna keep the integrity of both sides intact. So we'll get started at the front of our mat.
First Surya Namaskar A, we'll just bring the hands to center to hands to prayer position at the heart. And just drop the shoulders down the back, close the eyes just to really start to focus the awareness within. Finding your ujjayi breathing by inhaling and exhaling through the nose. Relaxing any tension in the shoulders by drawn them down away from the ears, but then plugging the shoulder blades into the body, so that the chest can be expansive. Simultaneously as the chest is expanding, keep the front lower ribs slightly drawn down and in.
Then as you press down through the feet, start to energize the legs by lifting the kneecaps up the thighs. And pull the lower belly in. And then starting to lengthen the breath, lengthening the breathing so that you have a lot of time to move within the breath. And then releasing the arms down alongside the body, preparing for Surya Namaskar A, inhale, reaching the arms up overhead, and the arms can stay apart or you can touch the palms together and look up towards your thumbs. And then as you exhale, hinge at the hips and fold forward.
Keeping the chest nice and open as you fold, let the head and neck relax. Inhale, to look up and lengthen, either coming to your fingertips, hands to your shins, or if your hamstrings are really open, you can keep the palms flat on the floor. And exhale, bend the knees, step back, and lower down to Chaturanga. First one, we'll come all the way to our belly, point the toes, roll the shoulders down the back, lift the chest forward, press the tops of the feet down on the floor, keeping the legs nice and energized, lengthen the tailbone, pull the belly in, inhale into either cobra, or all the way to upward-facing dog. And exhale.
Curling the toes under, pulling the hips up and back, to downward-facing dog. Five breaths here, pressing the roots of the fingers down. Pushing the hips up and back, and reaching the heels towards the floor. That's two. Energizing the legs.
Three, really feeling contact in the base of the index finger. Firming the outer upper arms in. And last exhalation, look forward, and then step your feet to your hands at the end of the exhalation. With inhalation look up and lengthen. Exhale, leaning forward as you fold.
And inhale to come all the way up, reaching the arms up overhead, maybe touching the palms together, and exhale, taking the arms down alongside the body. And again, inhale, reaching. Exhale, folding forward. Inhale, look up, lengthen the spine, pull the chest forward. Exhaling, either stepping right to Chaturanga.
Inhale into upward-facing dog. Exhale downward-facing dog. And holding for one. Two. Long, deep breaths.
Three. Four. And five. Complete your exhalation, look forward, and step or jump. Inhale as you land, look up and lengthen.
Exhale and fold. Inhale, all the way up to the top. And exhale, arms down alongside the body. Last one, inhale, reach the arms up. Exhale, hinge at the hips and fold forward.
Inhale, look up, lengthen. Exhale to Chaturanga Dandasana. Inhale to upward-facing dog. And exhale back to downward-facing dog. That's one.
Two. Reaching out through the heels and pressing the tops of the thighs back. Three, pushing the floor away from you to lengthen your side bodies. Four. And then five, looking forward, stepping or jumping.
Inhale as you land, look up. Exhale and fold. And inhale come all the way up to the top, reach up overhead. And exhale, returning to Samasthiti. Surya Namaskar B, first one will be broken down.
Bend the knees, sit the hips back and inhale, reach the arms up, Utkatasana. Exhale and fold forward, straightening the legs as you fold. Inhale to look up and lengthen. Exhale, step or jump to Chaturanga. Inhale to upward-facing dog.
Exhale back to downward-facing dog. First one we'll just step the right foot forward, and we'll bring the left knee down to the floor, just to start opening up the hip flexors on the left side, so you can bring your hands to your knees, start to lengthen the tailbone down, pull the belly in, and relax the shoulders. So very often, as the intensity starts to build up, the shoulders start to creep up, so we wanna stop that patterning now. Relax the shoulders and you can start to deepen the bend in the right knee. If it feels a little too intense, you back off a bit.
Just hold here for a few breaths. And then curl the back toes under, set the fingertips down to the floor, and we have the option to straighten the back leg, and as you straighten the back leg, lift the inner thigh up and press out through the back heel. And then maybe let the hip sink down a little lower. And be careful, be mindful here of your right knee. We do wanna keep it directly over top of the left ankle.
If it starts to go out on top of the right ankle (laughs), if it starts to go past the ankle, then we're gonna put a little too much pressure in the knee. And then we'll bring the left knee down, and just turn the right toes out. This outside of the hamstring, the outer aspect of the hamstring, really important to start to open that up. Now as we take this next little lunge, make sure that your right knee is pointing towards your right toe, your second toe. And you'll just start to drop your left hip down, and we'll roll onto the outer edge of your left foot.
So you're starting to face towards the right knee. Now you might start to feel something in your right hip, or the IT band, or the outer aspect of the hamstring, that's what we're going for. If not, maybe you're blessed and just have openness there. And then we'll come back to center, step the right foot flat, curl the back toes under, straighten the back leg, and push down into your hands, right here, opportunity to start moving from the core. So you'll pull your belly in, almost start to round your upper back, see if you can take the right heel up, step to plank, and lower down.
Inhale, upward-facing dog. Exhale, downward-facing dog. Left side, we'll step the left foot forward inside the left hand, and we'll bring the right knee down. You can point your right toes. Now we'll come up, bringing the hands onto the left knee.
Again, relaxing the shoulders down, lifting up from the sternum, pulling the belly in, then you have the option to go a little deeper into the bend in the left knee, but even here, being mindful that the knee stays over top of the ankle. Taking a few breaths here. And very often, as we're going into a posture, and we start to go into the areas of our body that have some resistance, the tendency can be to either push through it aggressively, or to back off. See if you can find that place right before it gets tough. Really focus on relaxing the breath, you can close the eyes and just visualize that area.
Guide the breath to that area, and then see if you can settle into it, and move into a deeper place, not from aggression, but from surrender. And then we'll set the right hand down to the floor, turn the left toes out, coming onto the outer edge of the left foot, and you'll start to move your left knee in the same direction so it's pointing to your second toe. And then you can start to drop the right hip down, so you'll be pivoting onto the outer edge of the right foot. And this'll start to move the stretch into the outer aspect of the hip, IT band or outer hamstring. And there can be some places that feel a little stuck, anywhere in there, in the hip, in the hamstring.
Same idea, just breathe. If it gets a little too intense, back off a bit. Find your breath. And just stay with it. And then coming back to center, pointing your toes straight, curling your back toes under, straighten your back leg, then press down into your hands, pushing the floor away from you so you can round your back, pull your belly in and just lift the foot up, step it back, and lower down.
Inhale, to upward-facing dog. And exhale to downward-facing dog. And we'll take a few breaths here. And then we'll step the right foot forward again, bring the left knee down to the floor. Point the left toes, we'll just take the left hand close to the right foot, bring the right hand onto the right knee, and start to stack the right shoulder up.
Now here, we're gonna have a tendency to open up the front body. We wanna keep pulling the front ribs in, because if we open up the front body, for those of us who are good back benders, we're just gonna go into a back bend here. Instead we wanna keep this contained so that we can really pivot along the axis of the spine. And you can reach the right arm up, we have the option to add the back leg, curling the back toes under, straightening the back leg. Pull the shoulders down the back, extend the sternum forward but keep the front ribs in.
And then we'll release it, set the hands down, again, stepping the right foot back and lowering down. Inhale to upward-facing dog. Exhale, downward-facing dog. And then stepping the left foot forward, bringing the right knee down, just taking the right hand a little closer to the left foot, bringing the left hand onto the knee, starting to pivot, or twist towards the left. Drop the shoulders down the back.
Again, containing the front ribs, by that I mean just slightly pulling them in and down, but still keeping all that length through the crown of the head, shoulder blades pressing into the chest, and maybe raising the left arm up. Then you can have the option to extend the back legs straight, push down into the floor as you reach to the ceiling. And then release, set the left hand down. Pick up your left heel, step it back, and lower. Inhale.
And exhale, downward-facing dog. One. Two. Three. Four.
Five, looking forward, stepping or jumping. Inhale, look up and lengthen. Exhale, and fold. Bend the knees, sit the hips back, inhale, Utkatasana. And exhale, Samasthiti.
And one complete Surya Namaskar B. Bend the knees, inhale. Exhale, fold. Inhale, look up and lengthen. Exhale, stepping or jumping.
Inhale, upward-facing dog. Exhale, downward-facing dog. Step the right foot forward, pivot the left heel down, Virabhadrasana I, right side, inhale. And exhale. Inhaling.
Exhaling. Step the left foot forward, pivot the right heel down. Inhale. And exhale. Inhaling.
Exhale, downward dog. That's one. Two. Three. Four.
Five, looking forward. Inhale, look up and lengthen. Exhale, fold. Bend your knees, sit the hips back. Inhale to Utkatasana.
And exhale, Samasthiti. Step open to the right, inhale, opening up to the right. And we'll turn the right toes out, left toes in at an angle, and give yourself a good amount of space. You roughly want the feet underneath the wrists. With an exhalation, we'll bend the right knee, taking Virabhadrasana II.
Shoulders stacked over the hips, belly pulled in, chest lifting, and again, pressing the knee out so that it's pointing to the second toe. And then sinking into it, to the point where, maybe the thigh starts to come parallel to the floor. But of course, honoring where your body's at today. Holding for a few more breaths. And then inhaling, straightening the right leg, changing sides, turning left toes out, right toes in, and exhale, bending the left knee, again, being mindful that it stays over the ankle.
Chest opening to the side, arms reaching in either direction, turn to look over the left fingertips. Inhale, straighten the left leg. Turn the right toes out, left toes in again. Parsvakonasana. So we'll take Parsvakonasana with the option to take a bind, so we'll bend the right knee, lengthen the right side body.
As you do so, there's a tendency often to tilt the hips forward. We wanna really pull the belly in, lengthen the left, the tailbone towards the left heel, bend the right knee, and let's start with the right hand inside the foot. Again, knee over top of ankle, stack the left shoulder over the right, and for now, we'll just take the left arm up to the ceiling. If you need a block here, you'll place the right hand onto a block, otherwise, the floor. For some of you, we'll have the option to bind.
We'll take the shoulder inside the knee. Take the right arm underneath, thread it through, and then maybe reach for your left wrist. Open the chest up, hold and breathe. If you've gotten into the bind and you feel it's too much, back off and go to the previous option. Starting to twist the chest open to the ceiling.
Releasing. Reach the left arm up, coming back into our Parsvakonasana, press down into the heels, pull the belly in, with inhalation we'll come up. And then exhale, we'll transition to the opposite side. Deep breath in. Exhale, bend the left knee.
We'll reach the left arm. Start to tuck the tailbone under, reaching it towards your right heel. Pull the belly in, set the left hand down inside the foot, and reach the right arm up to the ceiling. Keeping the right leg as straight as you can, press into the outer edge of the foot, and start to open the chest up, again, without compromising the integrity of the front body, so keep pulling the front ribs in and down. And then we have the option to add the bind.
Letting the left arm spin in, reach back for your right wrist, pull the shoulders back, open the chest, and start to twist to the ceiling. Holding and breathing. And then releasing. Coming back to Parsvakonasana, pressing down into your feet, inhale to come up. Exhale, parallel the feet and step or jump to the front of your mat.
Taking a transition towards the floor, inhale, reach the arms up. Exhale, fold forward. Inhale, look up, lengthen. Exhale, stepping or jumping back and lowering. Inhale to upward-facing dog.
Exhale, downward-facing dog. From downward-facing dog, look forward, and we have the option to either step forward to seated, or jump through to seated. Coming to Dandasana. From here we're gonna grab a block, for Baddha Konasana, but we're gonna do it a little different with the intention of opening up the outer hamstring, IT band area, and prepping more for poses like Kurmasana, Supta Kurmasana, and leg behind the head. So we'll start with the block, any block will do.
And we're gonna take a diamond-shape Baddha Konasana. And at first we'll just start diamond-shape, feet together, knees apart. And we wanna work on that tucking the tailbone under, pulling the belly in, and folding forward. So just bring your hands outside your feet and fold. And pulling the lower belly in, you can even work the effort of pulling the sitting bones together slightly, and as you do so, you'll start to feel that the knees start to separate and come down a little bit more.
So finding that action and effort and folding. Now for some people, if you have a tendency to round your back a lot, you're gonna work just a little bit of the opposite effort, which is reaching the pubic bone back and starting to bring the lower back forward, and folding more like this. And either direction, try them both, even if you're a tendency to be more of a back bender, or more of a hunched over body type. Try both efforts, because you should be able to find something deep in the hip there. And then we'll just hold and breathe.
Once you've found that tender spot. And you're welcome to stay in this position as long as you'd like, or we can add another dimension to the pose, we'll bring a block in between the feet. And this is another place where you can play around in your regular practice with different variations, so the block can go any width. I'm gonna go with the widest width, just to see where that brings me. We'll take the hands down, and exhale, fold.
And in some ways it may make it easier, we're all very different, we're all unique, so it's just finding where you're holding tension. And from day to day, that can change dramatically. And then, playing around with that tilt in the pelvis, going from tilting more forward, and tucking under. Ultimately, we're just finding that place in between, but while we're working on breaking up some of the scar tissue or tension, whatever's stored in the hips, it's worth it to just go in both variations, directions. And then from here we're gonna go into Krumasana.
So we can move the block to the side for now, we won't need that anymore. And we'll take the feet, flexed, toes pointing to the ceiling, and the legs out. The heels, lets start with them about mat distance, they're really not gonna need to go much further than mat distance, just maybe a couple inches at most. We'll take the hands forward, walk the hands forward, and start to squeeze the knees in, and resist the shoulders out. Now one of the biggest things I see that happens here, is that we start to collapse the chest, and round the back.
We wanna find a little bit of the opposite, a lot of the opposite actually. So pull the shoulders back, and let's take the hands to the outside of the feet, so thread the shoulders underneath the arms through. Squeeze the knees in, resist the shoulders out, pull the chest forward. For many of you this is just gonna be where you stay for right now. And then some of you will reach the arms out to the side.
If it's more like your knees are over top of your elbows, you're probably better off here. It's too much pressure on your elbows, and there's still a lot to work through in this position. If you can take your arms straight out to the side, you'll snuggle the shoulders in behind the knees, and then you'll start to straighten the legs out in front of you. Now, I like to have my students reach their chest to the floor before their shoulders get to the floor. So if the shoulders come to the floor first, that means you're starting to collapse in your chest.
So pull your shoulders back, get your sternum bone to touch the floor, then you can continue on. And then once the legs are fully straight, you can point the toes and lift the heels up off the floor. And we'll hold here for several breaths. Slight intention to squeeze the knees in, against the shoulders. And then we'll release that.
Transitioning to Supta Krumasana. We'll just start to come up a little bit, but we don't lose that contact of the knees and the shoulders, in fact, we wanna even snuggle in deeper if we can. Then turn the outer edges of the feet onto the floor. Now we get that external rotation. Pull the chest forward, maybe take the arms back behind you.
But if that causes you to collapse too much, work it with the hands on the floor, pulling the chest towards the floor. And then if you can, clasp the hands. Go ahead and clasp the hands, and for now we're not gonna worry about taking the legs behind the head. This is also a great place to use a strap, if your hands are almost there, you can use a strap, and then start to walk your hands together on the strap. Okay, and then let's release that.
Coming up out of it. And coming to seated. So that sequence is where we're introduced to legs behind the head in the first series. So that's a really important place to work your practice if you haven't quite gotten that from first series, you're gonna wanna stay with that. One thing I see that happens is people get too obsessed with getting their legs behind the head there, and they lose, they don't put enough emphasis on really clasping the hands together.
So my opinion, work the hands first, and then it'll be easy to just cross the legs behind the head. So now we're gonna transition to the wall. So we're gonna need a bolster for this one. So I mainly use the bolster here, this is where we're gonna start working Eka Pada Sirsasana, for second series. And we wanna bring the bloster a little more than about 3/4 away from the wall, 3/4 mat distance away from the wall.
And we'll come forward on this side. And the bolster is really so that we can relax into it, so in Eka Pada Sirsasana, we're sitting up, we bring our leg back and behind the head, like so. However, in the beginning, if we don't quite have that opening in the hip and the outer leg, it winds up being more like this, and sometimes, like I was talking about, left side body expands, right side body contracts. And it can be a lot of pressure on the neck, not good. So when I teach this pose I have you come to the wall.
The left foot is really on the wall just for support, to keep you from falling side to side. And then we bring the bolster behind the back, so that you can rest onto something. And depending on your flexibility, you may want a little more height or little more lowered to the floor, so you can use blankets, rather, or a fuller bolster. So we're gonna take hold of the ankle and the foot, start to rotate the knee out to the side, and get a sense that your femur bone is spinning out into the hip socket. Then we're gonna reach the knee out to the side, and start to lean back on the bolster.
This may be enough for you. If you can get your shoulder inside your knee, you'll go to that stage. And then some of you may be able to get your head in front of your ankle or shin. Now one thing that's really important for safety is just to make sure that your toes stay, I'm gonna say pointed, and that you don't sickle your foot. You wanna keep the outer aspect of the shin bone active.
Here. And then if you have your head in front of your ankle, you can start to press the head back, reach the chest up, but take your time working into this. Settling in, again, to your hip, breathing, and not going to a place where you have to force through any discomfort, but more to a place where you can just breathe and settle into it. And then while you're here, if you do have your head in front of your ankle, start to pull the left ribs in towards mid line, so that you can preserve and keep both side bodies equally long. If you're a little more advanced, and you've been doing this, you have open hips, then you start to bring the shin bone down your back.
And then press the shoulders open. Okay. And then we'll release. And that's a good pose to spend lots of time in, if you're working on Eka Pada Sirsasana. And then we'll take the left side, point the toe, reach the knee out so you're finding that external rotation, and then we'll start to lift the foot up.
Some of us will stay in this position. Continue to left sitting bone towards mid line, and you can press the right foot into the wall, as much as is needed, and take the right ribcage into mid line. And then if you can bring the head and the shoulders in front of the leg, go ahead and do so. And then start to bring the right ribs, again, into mid line. And then you can keep holding on to your left foot with your hand for support.
And also so that it's not so much on your neck. Pull the shoulders back. The more we can pull the shoulders open, the less pressure there is on the head and neck. And if you're more advanced, starting to snuggle the shin bone down behind the shoulders. Your hips are more open.
Holding for a few more breaths for today. However, integrating this into your normal practice, and spending a lot of time. These larger muscle groups just take time to open up. And then we'll release. Then we'll just go into double leg.
So if single leg wasn't happening yet, you're probably gonna wanna stay with the single leg version of this, however, if you were able to get one leg or both legs behind the head, then we'll go into kind of a modification for Yoganidrasana. We'll take the right knee out to the side, pointing the toe, start to bring the right leg behind the head. And then use your right hand on the floor for support. Bend the left knee back. Take hold of the left ankle with the foot, and then see if you can bring it back.
Both hands on the floor, pull the chest open, maybe start to press the head towards the feet a little. And then we start to cross the ankles a little deeper, eventually the toes are pointed here. Okay. And then we'll release that. Again, another place where we can spend a lot of time just to work through that deeper, the dense muscle tissue.
We'll move the bolster out of the way. And we'll just lie down on the back, with the knees bent, just gonna do a little bridge pose to counter all of that deep forward folding. And when we start doing a lot of deep legs behind the head, especially when we start learning Krumasana and Supta Krumasana, it can be quite a contrast to go right into Urdhva Dhanurasana, or upward-facing bow, wheel pose. So I always recommend taking a little time in that transition just to neutralize the spine before going into back bends. So separating the feet, hip distance, toes pointing forward, press the shoulders, or wrap the outer upper arms underneath you and start to press the chest, shoulders into the chest.
Push down into your feet, lift the hips up, reaching the knees forward towards the wall. And then maybe interlacing the fingers. And then lifting the chest up towards the chin, slightly firming the knees in towards mid line. And breathing. You really wanna keep the direction of the knees towards the wall.
And the chest towards the chin. And then we'll release. And we're not gonna go into full wheel today, it's just a counter to all the forward folding. And we'll take that one more time. Press the back of the head to lift the chest up, work the outer upper arms underneath you, push down into your feet, reach the knees forward.
And then maybe interlace the fingers. And lift the chest to the chin, knees forward, slightly in. And then releasing the hands and lowering the hips down. While we're at the wall, we'll take our straps, and bring your left foot against the wall, just as we had it before. With a slight bend in the left knee, only so that as you push into the wall, you can use that to help you lengthen the tailbone down.
We'll take the right foot, wrap the strap around the roots of the toes, just go gentle here, even if you can hold the toe. Let's just take it here with the strap. Keeping the shoulders on the floor. So a lot of times we reach for the foot, and the shoulder lifts up. We wanna start bringing the shoulder back down.
So let's do it with the strap so we can find that. Shoulders on the floor, press through the roots of the toes, wrap the outer right hip down, firm the belly in, front ribs in and down. And then let's take the strap into the right hand, left hand can go onto the left thigh. And we'll just open up to the right, keep pushing into the left foot, so that both hips stay on the floor. And then we'll inhale, bring it back to center.
And we'll exhale, release. Might need to come a little closer to the wall at this point. Loop the strap around your left toes, pull the shoulders down to the floor. Press the right leg straight, press through the left big toes. Keeping both side bodies equally long.
Outer left hip wrapping down towards the wall. And then bringing the strap into the left hand, right hand to your thigh, starting to turn the left toes out as you take the foot over to the left. And if you'd like, you can turn to look over right shoulder. Otherwise, just keep looking to the ceiling. And then bringing it back to center, and then releasing that, and moving your strap out of the way to the side.
And then prepping for legs up the wall. This'll be our final pose, we'll use this as our resting pose. So if your hamstrings are a little tighter, you can keep your hips a little further away from the wall, otherwise you'll bring your hips right up against the wall, come down to your elbows, lower your back, take the legs up the wall, and the feet can just kinda be together or hip distance. Palms open to the ceiling, and you'll press your sacrum down, lift your shoulders up, bring them underneath you, take your palms open to the ceiling. And then just close the eyes here.
And you'll rest in silence the remainder of the time. You're welcome to stay here as long as you'd like. And stay for at least five minutes. At any point you feel a little uncomfortable in this position, then you can transfer into Shavasana. And then slowly starting to deepen the breath.
And bring small movements into the fingers and toes. If you'd like to roll your wrists and ankles, go ahead. Maybe stretch the arms up overhead. Then we'll bend the knees, and roll over to your right side. Rest there for a moment or two.
And then place your left hand on the floor, keep your head and neck relaxed as you press yourself up. And come to a comfortable seated position. We'll just bring the hands to prayer position. Thank you all for your efforts today. We'll see you next week, namaste.