The Yoga Flow Show Artwork
Season 6 - Episode 3

Fluid Fire

35 min - Practice


Shelly shares a playful practice that embraces arm balancing. We move through a rhythmic flow that warms the body and heart, igniting the core in preparation for twisting and arm balancing. This practice is designed to build heat and inspire courage.
What You'll Need: Mat

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(waves crashing) Greetings tribe, good to see you again, welcome back. This practice is a playful practice that has a few different arm balances inside of it. And an important thing to remember about any asana but especially arm balancing is treat it like a lotus and it's what's inside of it that matters. Working with focus, working with a little bit of determination, courage, but also keeping a sense of humor is really important so let's enjoy it together. Let's begin.

So come into child's pose to start. You can take your knees kind of wide apart, big toes together and let your forehead rest down on the mat or your block or you can even stack your fists if you like but allow your hips to rest down towards your heels and just take a single deep breath, maybe the deepest breath you've taken all day right here. And exhale through the mouth. And slide your hands in, come up to your hand and knees and we start with a simple cat cow as you inhale, open your chest as you exhale, draw your energy into your navel center and coiling in energy we call it samana vayu. As you inhale, expand your energy outward, outward reaching energy referred to as vyana vayu.

And there's this distinct coiling in and expanding out that we see in all of nature around us. A sea anemone closes in and expands out. As the sun rises and the sun sets it's a natural part of nature and we feel it inside of our bodies as well and that feeling of samana vayu especially when we coil in is the feeling that we like to cultivate inside of our arm balances that drawing into the center. So let's activate just a little more as you inhale open your chest and as you exhale press into the tops of the feet and let your knees lift. Just an inch or two while keeping the spine nice and round.

And then set the knees down and inhale, arc your spine, open your heart as you exhale. Walk the hands back a couple of inches and round the spine and coil in once again, let your knees hover, feel your weight being supported by your navel center, set the knees down and inhale, walk the hands back again, shortening up your stance. Exhale, coil, pull the knees up using the strength in your core and then set your knees down, sit on your heels or a block and inhale open your chest, open your throat, let your head drop back. As you exhale go up and over your navel center. Plant your palms right next to your knees and coil up and in.

And let's take that twice more, inhale to open, and exhale to coil up and in. Just activating all the power that's right at the center of your body. Could ask you to do several crunches but this is a little more interesting and little more applicable to where we're going in our arm balancing. So open the chest once more and as you exhale one last time to coil, lift the knees, lift the feet maybe and then set it down. And walk your hands forward and come into your downward facing dog.

Bicycle pedal through the feet and knees, let the hips shift and just kind of root down into your down dog like it's your most favorite asana kind of like when you slip into your most comfortable pair of jeans and sometimes you wiggle around and until it feels just right. Let the shoulders open, let the neck relax, shake out the head a couple of nods yes, a couple nods no. And then inhale to your toes, bend your knees and step or lightly hop to the top of the mat, lift your chest and exhale forward fold. Bend your knees, draw the navel in and slowly roll up your spine one vertebrae at a time. Surrender your shoulders, your head and your neck and come up to standing.

You can stay facing this direction you're in but I'm going to turn and face you so it's a little bit easier for you to see. So let's inhale and circle the arms out and up and we'll go through a pattern I like to call this utkatasasna vinyasa and as you exhale side bend and really root down through the feet and knees lift up through your side waist. Bend your knees and start to side bend all the way down towards the earth and once your feet and your hands line up with your hips, drop off your right hand, keep the right knee bent and open the left half of the body to the side so it's an asymmetrical forward fold and as you inhale reach to the sky, exhale, circle the top arm back and down and then both knees so you arrive in your utkatasana. Exhale to your forward fold. Inhale to lift your heart, unround your spine, exhale back into your forward fold, bend the knees and slowly roll up and just feel how the spine unfurls and unfolds, inhale circle the arms and we take the second side.

Grabbing onto your right wrist and extend up and over. Inhale to get a little more length through the side waist, exhale bend the knees, come all the way down to neutral. Drop off the left hand and open the right half of the body. Inhale, a little more reach towards the sky. Exhale, circle the top arm back and down.

Bend your knees come into utkatasan. And as you exhale let's go right into the bakasana, you can separate the knees, I'm gonna turn back towards the front of my mat now. And squeeze your knees into your triceps, rise up onto your tippy toes and coil into the navel center, it's that same coiling feeling that we did on our hands and knees. Keep your gaze forward, lift one foot, maybe two, and if you've been working with bakasana for a while you might even start to straighten your arms. When you're ready, step or shoot back and inhale to open your heart, exhale, folding into downward dog, continue to with some really simple namaskars to keep warming up the body.

Sweep the right leg to the sky on your inhale and exhale step it through and let's take a low lunge for this first cycle. Inhale to reach forward and up to crescent. Exhale simple twist, let the left hand come down and your right arm swings back and up like a pendulum. Retrace the pathway, coming back up to crescent. And then exhale hands to the mat, step back to plank.

And lower through a classic vinyasa, connecting chaturanga to upward facing dog and folding back to downward dog. Left leg rises with your inhale, exhale step it all the way through, and come into a low lunge. Inhale to rise to a low crescent, exhale simple twist and keep the heart connected close to your inner left thigh, retrace the pathway, inhale to rise, exhale through your vinyasa. So it's a really simple pattern with an easy twist. And it's just starting to pave the way, the pathway for where we're going in our arm balances.

Let's take a couple more rounds. Right let rising, exhale step it through, this time to a low or high lunge. Inhale to rise to crescent pose. Exhale simple twist, inhale to rise. Exhale, melting down and feel your strength as you lower and hover in a high chaturanga roll the shoulders back, open your heart, in your upward dog and exhale downward dog.

Inhale the left leg. Exhale step it through. Inhale to rise, exhale simple twist. Inhale to rise. Exhale through your vinyasa.

Just following the rhythm of the breath, there's never any need to rush when you follow the rhythm of your breath. Never any need to rush. When you're on your yoga mat. Take the right leg to the sky. Exhale step it through, let's take one more cycle, inhale to rise, exhale to twist.

Inhale to rise, exhale through your vinyasa. Start to notice any shifting of your awareness. We move through our namaskars it's a chance for us to just start to really lose ourself in the breath. Inhale the left leg to the sky, exhale step it through. Inhale to rise, exhale.

Inhale to rise, start to lift your heart, exhale through your vinyasa. Opening the chest, lingering in your backbend for a moment and then exhale to downward dog. Rising up to your toes, bend the knees, step or lightly spring, top of the mat, lift your heart, and as you exhale release, bend your knees, roll up through your spine, one vertebrae at a time. And I'll turn and face you again as we circle the arms out and up, take your left wrist and we'll just repeat this pattern but add onto it a little bit. And get a little more length through your side waist.

Bend your knees and slowly come down as if you're moving through water. Open the left half of the body as you inhale, exhale circle the top arm back and down. Come into your utkatasana this time I'm gonna take a little twist to our right and start to turn your spine and you're basically in the shape of parshva bakasana we just change the relationship to gravity so you're welcome to stay here or you can come down to the tippy toes and take your hands towards the front end of the mat, shift forward into your chaturanga arms and you might stay on your toes as you gaze forward or you might shift and lift your feet just a touch and just feel the counter balance of the upper and lower body hovering. And then come back to your forward fold. Lift your heart half way, exhale release and roll up.

And then let it go. Like a memory, like a good memory. Circle the arms and take side two with a little curiosity. Inhale to lengthen. Exhale slowly come down, open up your chest, right half of the body opens.

Exhale, circulate the top arm, bend your knees, one of the wonderful things that we can try to bring into our practice, especially with any asanas that tend to scratch at our neurosis a little bit, is we can treat them like any other asana and just fill it up with breath. So as you start to shift down, just turn any worry into focus. Cast your gaze on one spot, shift in, see what happens if you turn your hands one way or the other. See what happens if you let yourself float. And sometimes you face plant and sometimes you don't and it's okay, coming into your forward fold.

Inhale to lift your heart and then step back to downward dog. And pause and just take a moment to notice how you feel, a huge part of our practice, one of the main parts of our practice is looking inside, no matter what the shape is, looking inside the lotus of how we feel. So just take a deep inhale here, notice how your body feels, what kind of energy you have now, if your focus is increased. Where's your mind? And let's go ahead and take the right leg to the sky.

This time we'll move through a little figure eight hip opener so circle your knee from left to right elbow and then cross the right ankle on top of the back knee, sit back so your down dog meets thread the needle. Shift forward draw your knee to your chest and then inhale, extend your leg open, bend the knee. Keep the shoulders even here as you stretch your right leg long and then exhale step it forward into a warrior two base. We come up into a really classic combination of asanas. We come into warrior two.

Inhale, reverse your warrior, reach up and back. As you exhale, straighten your front leg as you come up and over the horizon of your hips and just land ever so lightly in your trikonasana and you might kick the back heel a little further back. And roll your shoulder open. Deep inhale as you look to the ground and exhale you can bend your front knee, shift forward into your half moon and you're welcome to take a block and put it under your hand if the floor seems far away. You can open up your top wing and just hang out here for a moment and balance postures also like arm balances give us an opportunity to work with focus and concentration.

Expand in all directions, just notice what's inside this shape for you and how it feels to be inside of that. Deep exhale, slowly bend the standing leg, and just step back to a low lunge. So we'll turn the hips towards neutral. Lower the back knee down. And release the front leg long.

Come into a little half split, a little ardha hanuman take a deep inhale to the back body. And exhale release over the long leg. Rebound your energy forward into your hands and plant it inside of your front foot, curl the back toe under and lift your back knee. And then we find half of the action of bakasana call this a little eka pada bakasana prep. So coil up through the core.

Squeeze your knee to the outer tricep and just lift your right heel towards your navel. And feel that half of bakasana on the right half of the body and then extend back. And lower down, opening your chest on an inhale. And exhale folding back. Let's enjoy the left side.

As you inhale, the left leg rises. That same figure eight hip mandala, circle your knee from right to left over and then cross your ankle on top of the back knee. As you inhale shift forward, exhale reach the left leg back, up and open the hip. Stretch your leg long on an inhale, exhale, step it all the way through to a deep warrior two base. Rising with your inhale and take a moment as you exhale to just settle into your base here.

Reverse your warrior, reach up and back. And as you exhale, enjoy the trip down as you straighten your front leg and slowly make your way into trikonasana. Left hand can rest on your shin, a block, or the floor. Inhale to open your heart. As you exhale, hand to the hip, turn your gaze and start to shift forward into your half moon.

And just kind of notice again what's at work here for you in your balance posture. And for many of us, balance is an issue. We find ourselves falling out of poses over and over again and that's alright, we just keep getting back on the horse. 'Cause we don't wake up one day just suddenly being able to do it without practicing right? So keep showing up to it, whatever it is.

Deep breath in here, as you exhale, soften the standing leg, turn your hips and set your back knee down gently and then shift your front leg long and give your wonderful left leg a little counter breath, a little counter pose. Rebound your energy forward, plant your palms like a tiger in the grass or right away just assigning that quality of energy to coil inward, pull up through the navel and lift your heel toward your navel just feel the potential here without any tension and then step it back and lower down. Open your chest on the inhale, exhale, it's all a memory. Inhale to your toes, bend the knees, step or hop to the top of the mat, lift your heart and exhale release down. Let's roll up the spine, one vertebrae at a time.

And we'll continue adding onto this pattern as you circle your arms wide, take your left wrist and sometimes I like to bring the thumb and index finger together in gyana mudra as I move into this posture. This is one of my favorite mudras in all of yoga, all of Hindu art, and as you lead through really press the thumb and index finger together, slowly come down and the thumb and index finger pressing together represent coming back to your source, the three fingers extending, loosely represent letting go of whatever you need to let go of, whatever imbalances you need to let go of. So from here we bring the hands to the heart. Let's cross the right ankle, I'm going turn for this one, cross the right ankle on top of your left knee and start to sink down into temple dancer and we worked with this shape in a previous sequence, you may have remembered on the earth and you can stay right here or you're welcome to take your blocks and place them underneath your hands and put a little bit of weight into the blocks. Eventually we go lower and lower and lower and take our hands to the mat for galavasana and this foot plays a pretty important part in this posture, wrap your foot around your shoulder like a little monkey paw, keep it there as you shift forward, find the coiling action and then tuck your back heel in, you might stay right here, if you're new to it you might extend long through the back leg and if you have any moisturizer on your elbow that's an added challenge.

Release your foot into your forward fold. Release your head, release your neck. Release your ego, that's an important one. Bend your knees and roll up your spine. I'll turn and face you again, circle the arms out and up.

Take your wrist, take your gyana mudra, come back to your source and let whatever you need to let go of go through those remaining fingers. Deep inhale, lengthen, exhale bend your knees and side bend all the way down, open up the right half of the body, exhale, circle the top arm back. Bend your knees, big inhale, and with enthusiasm you go to the second side. I'm going to turn for this one as well. Cross your left ankle on top of the right knee.

And I just want to demonstrate on the second side with the blocks, you can even start to work your way into the arm balance using the blocks for support, you don't want to do this with the blocks super high. But the medium or low positions work really well. And it just gives you a little leg up, a little hip up literally to start to shift forward and coil up and in and once again you can stay right here or extend through the back leg. And then we tuck it back in and we set our blocks mindfully to one side. And come into our forward fold.

Surrender the head and neck. Surrender your hands, surrender you especially. Inhale lift your heart, plant your palms and just step back to downward facing dog. And we just take one more very simple standing pattern. So let the right leg swing to the sky, exhale circle the knee from left to right elbow, cross your ankle and you might find that you're now getting a little deeper into your hips here.

Shift forward knee to chest. And then extend back up and over. Absolutely okay to turn the dog inside out if you like. Or to stay in your downward facing dog where you were. And then step your foot about two thirds of the way through and set your feet up for parsvavottanasana so your front foot points straight ahead, the back foot slightly turned out, bring your hands to your hips come on up and then just offer your hands, your heart forward, turn the hands in and just slide your fingertips up your spine, like you're zipping up some high waisted pants and turn your fingers to touch, heels of the hands down, so we're gonna reverse namaste.

But you can also take fists together. Or hold your opposite wrists. And as you inhale, let your heart just pour up and over your hands. As you exhale, melt over the long leg in the front. And use this as an opportunity to really just drop it down, drop it in.

Let any tension go. And notice the energy that you generated in your arm balancing. Release your hands, lift your chest, and then just slide the left foot back. Come into a long deep lunge. So last time we were here we came into the prep for eka pada bakasana and this particular posture I have to say, I wouldn't put it for my personal practice on my top five or even top ten but because of that it's one that I like to interact with often.

Because the posture's that are really difficult for us are the ones that we need so squeeze in and with a little bit of courage, draw the heel to the navel, shift forward and bend your elbows and then radiate through the back leg, lift it up, then step back and lower down and it's a memory. Downward facing dog, let's take the left side. Inhale reach it to the sky and as you exhale, just circulate right to left, ankle to knee, inhale to shin forward, open your hip up, maybe turn your dog inside out for a moment, let your heart lift to the sky. And then come back to center. Stepping forward about two thirds of the way.

Set up your base for parsvavottanasana and come on up. Reaching forward, noticing what's inside each of these shapes and this one parsvavottanasana is so grounding, it's so nourishing, so as you arc back imagine that you are in a waterfall. And then exhale, just bow in. And let yourself be pulled. Release your hands.

Lift your heart and with that same enthusiasm, stepping right into your eka pada bakasana, plant your palms, squeeze your knee, pull into samana vayu, pull the heel to the navel, shift forward and fly. It's hard to talk and do the posture at the same time. But we try. Meeting up in downward facing dog. Take a moment and come to your child's pose.

Regroup right back to where we started. And it's a great opportunity to just notice how do I feel? To listen to the beat of the heart. And to feel your body shimmering. And your mind stimulated.

As you inhale, glide forward to your hands and knees. Arc your back just like we did in the beginning. And then exhale round your spine. Once more, inhale to open your heart. And exhale, bowing in, feeling a little gratitude for your wonderful vehicle that is your body.

Lowering down to the belly, you'll take a really gentle chest and shoulder opener to counter pose so extend your right arm out directly to the side of your body. And then bend your left elbow, bend your left knee and simply roll onto your right side. And if you feel any compression whatsoever in the low back you can just dial the tailbone down a little bit, opening up through the right chest, the right shoulder, head is heavy. Bottom leg you can bend and you can create a little kickstand here with your bottom foot on the top knee, last breath here. As you exhale, slowly come back through the center.

And repeat it on the second side. Extend the left arm out, bend the right elbow, bend the right knee, and slowly roll onto your left side. And feeling that drawing down of the tailbone. And opening of the heart, opening the left half of the heart and shoulder, bend the bottom leg, create a little kickstand for yourself. And then exhale slowly come back to the center.

Such a wonderful therapeutic posture and it was a gift that was given to me from one of my teachers, Shiva Rea. From here let's tuck the right arm underneath. And come into a sort of fetal position here, left knee can draw up and then bend the bottom leg, the long leg, reach back, you can take a strap to your foot if it's far away or grab the big toe side of your foot, leave the bottom leg wide, as wide as you can. And then just allow your head to drop down. Let your hips open towards the earth and it's really wonderful quadricep hip flexor opener, really safe and supported on the knee.

If you have any knee issues this is definitely a posture that you can come into to open the quads without any unnecessary pressure on your knee. If your head's hanging in space grab one of your blocks or a pillow and just support your head and close your eyes take a couple breaths here. You can draw your heel in a little closer towards your hip. And then slowly release your foot. And change sides.

Pick yourself up, extend the leg long, thread your left arm through and draw the right knee in. Right hand reaches down to grab the bottom foot. Adjust your knee just a little wider. And then as soon as you can just let go, drop down, let gravity do the work. And enjoy a couple of breaths here.

Drawing the heel in towards your buttock any amount. And one more cycle of breath. And notice what's inside of this shape, this asana. How it feels to be relaxing into gravity. Release your foot and then roll onto your tummy and just create a little pillow for your head with your hands, bend your knees, and oscillate your shin bones from left to right.

Just releasing the lower back. Releasing the inner thighs and hips. And as you rotate your shins bones left to right maybe your head rocks in opposition so you get a little cranial sacral adjustment. And if you're here, just simply roll over like a pancake you can flip over in any direction onto your back and set yourself up for savasana. And you can take if you like a classic savasana with the legs extended long or if you like to open into a supta baddha konasana we had a lot of coiling in in this practice so it's nice just to allow the inner hips to open now and relax.

Close your eyes. Take about 10 cycles of breath here in your savasana, breathing past through the heart and down into your belly with each inhale and as you exhale just completely relaxing the belly, relaxing the chest, feeling the back of the heart melt into the earth. Just continue to work with that internal pathway as you inhale lifts your heart, lifts your belly. And as you exhale, releases your body down into the sandy soil beneath you. Feeling into that space that you were working with in your practice, just being able, being enthusiastic, showing up to any particular challenges or opportunities for growth and evolution with enthusiasm.

And we'll take in the next five deep breaths, the deepest breaths you've taken all day, just take them in silence. Last breath here. Slowly draw your hands to the arms. Draw the knees to the midline. Just pour your body over onto one side.

Slowly pressing yourself up to a comfortable seat. And when you find your nice tall seat upon your throne, bring the hands, the fingertips to meet in front of you, pinky fingers touch and the thumb and index fingers come together to that same gyana mudra, that wonderful feeling of connecting, connecting to that true authentic self and also releasing whatever it is that needs to be let go of, letting go. As you inhale bring your hands to your heart, bow your chin to your chest, thank you so much for showing up and sharing your energy today, it's been a pleasure, namaste.


Laura M
2 people like this.
Absolutely adored this practice Shelley, it absolutely was fluid fire :) Thank you
Shelley Williams
Thank you Laura! Happy yoga... more to come :)
Sara T
2 people like this.
I was reluctant to try this one because I'm not very strong in the upper body, but was very pleased with the arm balances. I was able to practice my arm balances without feeling "left out" of the practices. I was able to do as much as I could and still be part of this "flow"!
Shelley Williams
Thanks Sara! That is the goal, there is room at the dinner table for everyone :)
Angela C
1 person likes this.
Lovely visualization!!
Kate M
1 person likes this.
This was a beautiful and meditative preparation for a journey I'm about to take to hospital to visit my mom. Thank you : )
1 person likes this.
I do Yoga in the morning and when I looked at this episode my thought was, I’m ready for this first thing but I was pleasantly surprised. Question for you Shelley. I had trouble getting into flying pigeon. There was no issue with cross my leg or with the balance, I just couldn’t bend my leg to get down. I assume its due to tight hips.
Shelley Williams
Robin Hi Robin! Thanks for your comment here!  Yes, continue to workshop  (as a a preparation) "Temple Dancer" with your hands at the wall, and work on bending your standing leg, so you can eventually lower yourself down to the blocks and then the floor. As your hips open, (external hip opening in particular) this will allow you to get lower and deeper into these shapes! Happy practicing!
Kate M
1 person likes this.
Sweet. I find your cueing very calming and empowering. Challenging postures become a fun adventure to explore! Thank you, Shelley.
Christel B
1 person likes this.
Loving the flow and challenge.
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