Welcome. Thank you so much for being here with me today. We're going to use two blocks, a strap, and a folded blanket for this practice, and we're going to start off bringing that folded blanket underneath the sit bones just for a little bit of lift of the pelvis, and I'll invite you to reach back and just move the flesh of the buttocks out of the way, so that we find that support and that lift. We're going to take the soles of the feet together into a nice wide Baddha KonÄ쳌sana, so nothing too aggressive with heels towards the groin, but instead just letting it be more of a nice, wide diamond shape, and what we're going to do is we're just going to start off with a little bit of awakening for the feet and the calves, and we're just going to do that by coming forward and actually giving ourselves a little bit of a massage, so a really nice chance just to get back to yourself and connect with the breath and connect with the body. Starting with the inner arches of the feet, I'm just using the thumbs, working towards kneading, releasing, up towards the heels, into the calves, coming into a little awareness of our breath, big, deliberate inhales and full exhale.
We're going to focus this practice on the lower legs, so just starting to bring a little bit of extra circulation up into the calves. Sometimes it's nice to kind of move the large gastrocs muscle out of the way and get into that longer soleus that's underneath that gets a little sticky, so to pull the meat of the calf up and get into that underbelly, so whatever feels good and right for you. As we continue that self-massage, maybe a little exploration of the shins, maybe even a little rubbing up and down, again, just to encourage that blood flow, and then as we take the arms forward, perhaps allowing the fingers to interlace around those toes and let an inhalation lift and lengthen through the heart and the spine, and then a nice big exhale, let everything collapse and round. Breathing into the width of the heart, a little wiggle. Sometimes it feels nice to bring those elbows to the front side of the shins and use that as a little bit of leverage to pull the shoulder blades down the back, away from the ears.
Feel that lower spine reaching forward out of the pelvis, and then again with an exhale allow the softening to occur. A few breaths here. Just arriving. A little release of the head, the neck, even a little exploration of the jaw. And then releasing the arms heavy to more of a ragdoll-like softening, chin to the chest, as we slowly roll on up, allowing the vertebra to stack one on top of the other, lifting last through the head and neck, and then a nice, big loop of the shoulders, as the heart opens wide.
From here, we're going to transition into a nice, wide Malasana, a nice, wide squat. You may want to have a block available for you if you know that that's something that may be a little bit difficult and you need a little support, but one option is to just simply step the feet wide here from that Baddha KonÄ쳌sana, and I like to bring one hand back and bring the other arm forward just for a little bit of that leverage, that sense of, like, a friend is pulling you up from the ground, pressing down to reach forward, and then allow the weight of the body to come forward. Again, perhaps placing that block underneath the buttocks if you need a little extra support, and then coming into that foot and ankle and lower leg awareness again. We're just going to rock the weight from side to side, so I'm rolling from toe to heel and then toe to heel, and allowing those knees to alternate as they come forward. As I play with this rocking and rolling I'm going to start to bring a little exploration into the side body, so I'm going to roll my weight over to the right side, let that right knee come forward, and then let an inhalation extend the left arm up and open to the sky.
Find that sense of reaching and expanding, and then let an exhalation extend that left arm forward as my weight shifts on over to the left side. So now that weight's on that left side, left knee extending forward as the right arm lifts. Take a nice big inhale and then as you exhale let that arm extend forward. My dear friend, Kira, used to call this one swamp monster, and I think it's a really great visualization here as we move from side to side, like you're just kind of working your way through the muck. Inhale, expanding, and exhale, lengthening, and just play with this side to side in your own breath.
When that feels complete for you and even through both sides letting the hands start to come forward and then to the Earth right underneath the shoulder heads. From here, pressing into the Earth with both the hands and the feet to lift the tail towards the sky. Keeping those feet where they are, we're in a nice, wide-footed Uttanasana here. Let an inhale lift through the heart, and then let an exhale release everything. As we allow the heart and the head to hang, feeling the length through the spine and the lift of the tailbone, begin to toe-heel those feet together, a little bit closer, more towards hip-distance, and we can now take that blanket and just move it off to the side, and as we move the blanket off to the side, as we return to that Uttanasana, we're going to bend into those knees deeply, and as we bend into those knees deeply, we're going to really feel that sense of rooted-ness through the feet.
We're going to take hands to the hips and just rock and roll a few times here from toe to heel, again, bringing some awareness down into that sense of grounding, and then as we find a balance between the toe and the heel so that all four corners of the feet feel like they're grounded, start to extend the arms forward, like we're holding a beach ball between the hands, and just pause here for just a moment, let's do a modified Utkatasana here, just starting to bring some more strength into the legs, and then with an inhale at the ribs start to peel up, away from the thighs, maybe a little wiggle from side to side, so to lift the heart, lift the gaze, and then with an exhale, pressing into the feet, lifting and expanding, releasing the arms, and stepping up to the top of the mat. As we come up to the top of the mat, we're going to go ahead and grab hold of our two blocks now. We're going to take those blocks to the top of our mat, about shoulder distance apart, with an inhalation, reaching up to the sky, and with an exhalation, swan-dive forward. Inhale, half-way. Exhale to fold.
Take that right foot between the blocks, a nice big step back with the left foot into the shape of a lunge. We may want to bring those blocks up a little bit higher, see what height works for you, and as we sink forward into that lunge, again, bringing some awareness to those lower legs, we're going to anchor the front right heel, take that leg to long, extending and opening, and then allow your heart and spine to reach. We're bringing a little bit more awareness here into that back right hip, a sense of bringing that hip towards the wall behind you. You'll feel that awaken through the IT band outside of that leg. Giving a bend back into the knee, opening through the heart, and then pressing back, and again, that extension, that little wiggle through the hips, and feeling that length through that outer right leg.
Once again, bending into the knee, and then extending back, playing with that opening. As we come forward into that lunge shape let the blocks just open wide. Rooting the hands, step back into Down Dog. Play with that dog, side to side. From here, we're going to lower down to the knees.
Inhale, open up through our cow shape, exhale, rounding into our cat shape. Inhale to open, exhale back into Downward Facing Dog, allow the feet to walk forward on that exhale, bring the hands back under the shoulders with those blocks, rooting to lift and open, exhale to fold. Take that left foot back between the blocks. Right foot steps back into the shape of the lunge. Again, inhale, sinking through the hips, reaching through the heart, and with our exhale, pulling back through that hip, find that sense of leveling off, and then that extension back through that left hip, feeling that awaken through the outer leg with a bend of the knee let an inhale lift and open through the heart, and then pressing in, wiggling back, finding the length.
Once more, bending into that knee, feeling that space, let the blocks open wide. Root the hands, step back into Down Dog. Inhale up onto the tippy-toes, with a big exhale from the mouth. Let the heels sink. Inhale to lift.
Exhale to lower. Now, the next time we lift, we're going to keep the heels lifted but allow the knees to lower down to the mat. My toes are still curled undere here as I walk my body weight back, and eventually lift up through my heart, so I'm seated back on my heels. Coming into Broken Toe Pose, or Toes On Fire, and if this is something that's new to you, you'll soon realize why it's called that, and I find that my pinky toes have a tendency to kind of want to get lazy and cheat out of it, so just reach back and check and make sure all of the toes are participating, and then as we begin to lift up through the heart, feeling that length through the spine, bringing that awareness away from the fire in the feet and allowing it to rise up into the heart. With a nice big inhale, let the gaze lift up, and with an exhale bring it into the heart center.
Two more like that. Inhale, and exhale. Inhale, and exhale. Folding forward, you'll feel that fire in the feet now as we press back into Down Dog. Take a nice big breath with that relief, and then working out through the tops of the feet now, so we're just going to take that right foot and just going to lower down the toenail side of your foot onto the mat and just give those toes a nice little counter-stretch.
It feels really good to kind of roll from toe to toe, so big toe to pinky toe, across the top of the foot, and then a little bit of love into the ankle, and all the while, we're really anchoring through this opposite left heel. Then we'll switch sides. Let that right foot release, let the left foot come down, toenail side, and just start to roll from pinky toe to big toe, and just counter-stretch, feel into the ankle, and then again, we're really anchoring that back right heel. Let that foot return to the Earth, take a big breath in, exhale it all. Let yourself walk forward, feet back towards the hands, bringing the blocks back under the shoulders, inhale to rise, and exhale to lower.
Now, again, stepping right foot forward, left foot back, back into that lunge shape, so now you'll feel a lot more extension now that we've opened up that connective tissue on the bottom of the foot. With an inhale, let the heart extend, and similar to what we did before, press into that front heel. Take the leg to straight, feel into the length of your spine those little shimmies, and now we're going to bring some awareness down into this front right foot. I'm just going to bring my blocks a little bit more under my shoulders, and then root and anchor through my right heel as I start to flex my toenails up toward my face. This may be where you stay, but if it feels welcome and inviting, just starting to awaken that calf a little bit more by rooting and anchoring the heel, and then turning the sole of the foot up and away from the Earth.
Take a nice, big breath into that extension, and then as you exhale, allow the foot to soften, allow the knee to soften, allow the blocks to open, rooting through the hands, step back into a high push up plank position. From here, lower your knees to the mat, then the elbows, start to sweep the heart forward, open Bhujangasana. It may feel nice to take a couple extra breaths here. Just feel into that release of the low back. And then with an exhale, release to the Earth, pressing up and back into BÄ쳌lÄ쳌sana, just for a moment, to feel the length.
Rising up, curling the toes, and pressing back, Downward Facing Dog. Take a big breath in. Exhale it all. From Downward Facing Dog, taking another nice, deep breath in, and on the exhale, beginning to walk the feet forward, placing those blocks back under the shoulder heads, left foot, right foot back, coming into that lunge shape, and then again anchoring through that front heel as we pull the towards long. As we extend through the spine, let the blocks walk back under the shoulder heads.
Start to play with peeling the toenails up towards the face and elongating through the spine. Staying here, or perhaps coming into the calf on this side by anchoring and then lifting through the sole of the foot. Take a nice, deep breath in to elongate, and then as you exhale, soften the foot, soften the knee, let the blocks open wide. Rooting through the hands, step back into a high push up plank position, exhale, lower through the knees, the chest, and the chin. Inhale, rising up, Bhujangasana, shoulders away from the ears, and again, perhaps staying for a few deep breaths.
Let an exhale release you to the Earth. Inhale to peel up, and exhale, extending back. Tabletop back into Downward Facing Dog. From here stepping the feet back towards the hands, inhale, reaching wide, and lifting all the way to the sky. Exhale, returning hands to heart center.
Inhale, opening wide. Exhale, folding forward. Inhale to lift. Exhale to release. Keeping the right foot grounded, stepping left foot back but this time turning it to 45 degrees, and as we play with this, we're going to bring that block to the inside of the right foot, whatever height you need, and then we're going to start to take this left hand to the back left hip, and we're going to start to extend and open through the side-body.
There's a slight engagement here of upper arm to inner thigh, as well as that knee pressing in to find that sense of unwinding and opening. From here, as we extend through the side-body, take that left arm in front of the heart and reach and open forward as we peel the heart away and extend. From here, keeping strength through the legs, we're going to inhale this left arm up and use it to windmill us all the way open into Warrior II. From here, taking that front leg into straight as the arms come in towards the belly, and then give a bend into the knee as we open and extend. Inhale, coming in with that straight leg, and exhale, extending forward and open.
One more time. In, and extend out. Flipping that front right palm, reach up, over, and across the body, opening into that peaceful Warrior, and then let an exhale windmill us all the way forward and down. We're going to take that block back to the outside of the mat, root the hands, step back into Downward Facing Dog. From Down Dog coming forward into Plank position, lower the knees, elbows, chest, and chin.
Inhale, opening through the heart, exhale, returning to the Earth. Pressing up and back. Inhale to Tabletop. Exhale to Down Dog. Take a breath in.
Full breath out. Stepping the feet forward, inhale halfway, exhale to full. Rooting through the feet, widening as we open, extend and return to the heart center. Inhale, opening wide. Exhale, Forward Fold.
Inhale, flat back. Exhale, fold. We're going to keep the left foot forward, step the right foot back to that 45 degree angle. Bring that block to the inside of the left foot, bringing the knee over the ankle, again, finding that connection from inner thigh and knee to upper arm. Right hand to the right hip as we begin to open up through the chest, and as we feel that elongation through the side-body, let that right arm now drop in front of the heart and then extend forward, and as we reach and grow and continue to open the heart, anchoring through that front left foot, let the right arm lift and open.
Virabhadrasana II. As we sink into Warrior II, we're going to play with the breath. Let an inhale bring it in, straight leg, and let an exhale open and expand. Inhale, in towards the body. Exhale, open, reach.
Last one, inhale, and exhale. From here, flipping that left palm, reach up, over, and across the body into that peaceful Warrior, and then with our exhale windmilling hands down. We'll move that block back out to the side. Rooting the hands, step back, plank, and then we'll lower the knees and soften them to Child's Pose. After a few deep breaths here, resting in BÄ쳌lÄ쳌sana, rising up into Tabletop position, and you can go ahead and move your blocks off to the side.
We're going to grab ahold of our strap and then we're going to release ourselves into a supine position, onto the back. As we release ourselves onto the spine just take a moment to wiggle into the Earth. Allow that strap to open, and I like to keep my strap in a little lasso. I find it's a little easier to find the loop over the foot, but feel free to have it open. We're just going to start by bringing that right knee in towards the heart, and then we're going to just hook that lasso, or the strap, over the right foot as we extend the right leg to the sky.
As we extend through the sky, just come back to that awareness of rooting through the hips and the pelvis. Keeping this opposite left knee bent may be more appropriate for you if those hamstrings are sticky, but if it feels okay and available, feel free to extend that left leg to long. We're just going to want to keep a nice dorsiflexion through that left foot so both feet are active, pressing with the heels and flexing back with the toenails. If there's any tension that's showing up in that shoulder, just allow the hand to slide down the strap so the shoulders can also be wide. Take a nice big breath in, and then with your exhale, just begin to allow that right leg to journey on over to the right side.
It may only go about a foot or so, or it may continue its journey down towards the Earth. We just want to make sure that we're keeping this left hip and the left side of the pelvis rooted. Finding wherever that is for you, pressing through the heel, and then with an inhale engaging through the core and letting that leg return to the sky. I'm just going to go ahead and switch hands, so left hand to the strap now. Let that right arm relax, and we're going to begin to bring this leg over and across the body.
Again, bringing some mindfulness to the sense of grounding through the pelvis. The tendency is that this hip wants to kind of lift and follow, so instead we want to anchor. As we bring the leg across, wherever that is for you, again, softening through the shoulder, for a little extra IT band and calf awareness, we're just going to crook the foot over. You'll see how my pinky toe just kind of reaches over to the side. Take a nice, deep, full breath.
Then on an inhalation bring it back up to center, pressing with the heel again. I'm going to reach up with my right hand to remove the lasso from the foot. Bringing the hands down to help ground through the lower back, feel the navel pull in towards the spine, keep that activity like we're hugging that thigh bone, and keep the activity through the heel as we begin to slowly lower that leg. Keep checking in with the foot, keep checking in with the breath. Let the jaw and the throat soften.
As we extend that leg to long, allowing it to eventually rest to the Earth. Take a big breath in. Let it all out. Soften the effort, and just allow the mind and the body to integrate that experience. How is that right side showing up so differently now than the left?
As you're ready, bringing that left knee up into the chest, we'll take that lasso again, or that strap, we're just going to hook it around that left foot and extend that leg up and open to the sky. Again, this right leg can either stay long or it can come into a bend, whatever feels best for you, but if we're taking it long again, rooting, and then pressing with the heel, soften down through the shoulder blade, take an inhale, and with your exhale begin to drop this left leg out to the left side, maybe just a few inches, maybe a little closer to the Earth. See what this side has to show you today. With an engaged core, let an inhale bring that leg back up through center, and then we're going to switch hands. Anchoring through this outer left hip, begin to bring it across.
It's not going to nearly go as far as that open external rotation. This internal rotation, if we keep that hip level and grounded, may only be an inch or two. Soften through the shoulder, crook that pinky toe over and across to say hello to that IT band. Big full breaths. Let an inhale bring it back through center, press up with the heel, reach up with the left hand to remove the strap.
Again, feel that engagement, hugging that femur, pressing down through the palms to root navel to spine, spine to Earth. Take another inhale, and then as you exhale begin to lower the leg, aware of the breath, the softness in the jaw, all the way back to the Earth. As it finds the Earth, let it all release. Take a big breath in, and a full breath out. Just allow yourself to feel the effect.
A little final rolling of the head and the neck. Softening through the fingertips and the toes. As you allow yourself to soak in the stillness and the silence, perhaps staying here a little while longer, and in your own time starting to reawaken with gentle movements, fingers, toes, wrists, and ankles. Eventually bending the knees all the way up into the heart for a hug. Rolling on over to the side and gently pressing up to a seat.
As we find a comfortable seat, settling, returning, hands joining at the heart. Just take a moment to observe the flow of the in-breath and the flow of the out-breath. Bowing the head with gratitude. Namaste.