The Yoga Flow Show Artwork
Season 6 - Episode 4

Heart Waters

35 min - Practice


Shelley shares a fluid Vinyasa sequence designed to open the shoulders, chest, and heart in preparation for expansive backbends. We move through sun salutations and play with jumping towards handstand—igniting the core muscles and strengthening the arms. We close with a quiet sweet series of forward folds to rest in the spacious waters of the heart.
What You'll Need: Mat

About This Video

Feb 11, 2017
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(waves lapping on beach) Greetings, namaste. Thank you so much for coming back to the mat and sharing a little heart opening practice with me. Let's begin with the feet wide apart, and as you inhale, circle the arms out and up. And really take your time here in these first few moments, as you exhale, connecting your hands down from the crown, past the forehead, past the throat, past the heart, the belly, and the pelvis. As you inhale and circulate, just enjoying these first few breaths and simplicity as you exhale, just this opportunity for us to connect our brain to our heart, our heart to our body.

Inhale, expanding into your fullness. (inhales deeply) As you exhale, bring in the hands to the heart, and take a deep inhale here. (inhales deeply) As you exhale, feel an internal om vibrating inside of your heart. (exhales deeply) And then release your hands and open your eyes. Step to the front of your mat, bring the feet together, and we'll come right into a rhythmic version of surya namaskara B. Bend your knees and inhale to utkatasana. As you sweep your arms up, lift your heart. As you exhale, sweep the arms back alongside the hips and feel that coiling up in the bandhas, the base of the spine, and the belly.

As you inhale, rise, and exhale to that, kind of, dual polarity between rooting down in your legs and rising in your heart. And exhale. (exhales deeply) And you can feel your body is a really nice conduit of energy, power in the legs and freedom through the upper body. And just taking one more, as you inhale, reach forward and up, (inhales deeply) and then exhale into your forward fold. Release through the head and neck completely. Inhale to lift your heart, and then, stepping back to plank.

Pause for a moment in plank and shift forward, as if you were going to go to chaturanga, and then skip it, and go back to downward-facing dog, and let your heart melt open to the earth, free of any tension. (inhales deeply) And take a few breaths here as you settle into your down dog. Relax your head and neck, and just make that conscious shift of awareness from whatever you were doing, wherever you were, in your mind and in your body, to just these next few moments here on your mat. Shift your awareness to your breath, to your body, into that really deep personal place inside your mind. And if there's any intention or special dedication that's comin' up for you that you'd like to just place at the front of your awareness, it's always a good thing to do, just focus your mind.

(inhales deeply) And as you inhale, take the right leg to the sky, nice and slow, opening up the gates. And as you exhale, step all the way through, right into a warrior I base. We'll come into a dancing warrior variation I learned from one of my teachers, Shiva. As you inhale, rise, and as you exhale, come right into a humble warrior, bowing down, lace the fingers, and empty the lungs completely, as you open the shoulders and draw the crown down towards the earth. Then, let your inhale take you back up to the sky, rooting as you rise.

And exhale, hands to the mat, shifting into plank, looking at chaturanga, and then, once again, deciding to skip it, just shifting back, taking the left leg to the sky on an inhale. (inhales deeply) And as you exhale, stepping forward, setting up your base for warrior I. Let your inhale lift your heart, lift your gaze, no rush. And as you exhale, bowing in, lace maybe the opposite finger on top, or you can always hold a strap between your hands, if the shoulders feel like they need a little space. And then, inhale to rise, and exhale, hands to the mat. (exhales deeply) Shifting forward for a moment, feel your strength, and then let your heart open.

Back into downward dog. Let's continue with that pattern, right to left, a few more rounds. Inhale to rise, (inhales deeply) and then exhale, step it all the way through. Virabhadrasana I as you rise. (inhales deeply) And gonna exhale, dipping down into the hips, opening up the shoulders. Inhaling to rise. (inhales deeply) Exhaling to release, shifting forward, as if you were gonna visit, and then shifting back.

Left leg rises. Allow the hips to just slightly open. Exhale, step it through, comin' up into your deep grounded virabhadrasana I. As you come into your forward fold, the shoulders get this wonderful opportunity to open alongside the hips. Inhale to rise, stay deep in your base.

Start to feel a little backbend at the top of warrior I, and then exhale to plank, shifting forward, last time pausing here, and then pressing back to downward dog. Let's take one more round together, inhaling to reach through the sky, open the hip. Exhale, step it all the way through. Feel the backbend inside of warrior I, and then dropping down into the hips and shoulders. Inhaling to rise. (inhales deeply) Exhale, this time, press back to downward dog, and then, just allow your spine to roll like a wave, through plank, past plank, into a buoyant upward dog, and the toes can stay tucked under here, and really power up the legs, power up through the arms, the hands, and then pick up the hips and press back to downward dog.

Inhale, the left leg to the sky. Let the hips open. And exhale, step it all the way through. As you rise, just start to feel where your perceived edges are, and see if you can just brush them with a feather. Backbends really all are about opening up beyond our perceived limitations, and we can start to just pave the way for that, even in simple postures, like shifting from down dog through plank, into upward dog.

Just kinda take an extra moment there to draw the shoulders back, to let the hips melt, maybe open up the throat, and then exhale to downward dog. From here, come to your knees, and keeping your hips right above your knees, start to walk your hands forward into anahatasana. Anahata means heart and asana means seat, so let your heart have a seat on the earth. And you can rest your forehead here if you like, or you're welcome to drop chest and chin, but just try not to put any unnecessary pressure on the neck. If this doesn't feel comfortable on your neck, forehead on the mat is fine.

Take a deep cycle of breath, letting your heart melt down into the earth. And as you exhale, just shift forward into forearm plank, and we take a moment here to cultivate a little awareness through the core. Tailbone needs to coil down to the heels, and the low belly lifts up into the spine. Deepen how, here, feel that coiling through the navel's center, and as you exhale, start to walk your feet towards your elbows, coming into dolphin pose. So, just like downward dog, but we're on our forearms, and press your heart back towards your thighs.

This is an incredibly beneficial posture for backbending, shoulder opening. It requires quite a bit of strength to be able to hold here, but also quite a bit of openness in the shoulders, so, be patient with yourself if it feels tight. Try taking the feet a little wider, or softening the knees a little bit, so you can get a little more length through the underside of the shoulders. You're welcome to come to your hands and knees and then press to down dog, or you can press into your palms and lift directly, if that feels okay on your body. And then press back here for a moment. (breathes deeply) As you inhale, rise up onto your toes.

Shorten the stance a little bit because as we hop forward, we're just startin' to work with getting our hips over our shoulders. So, bend the knees, keep the eyes forward, and pike your hips up over your shoulders, and you can take that a couple of times, just to get a feel for it, and then bring the feet to the top of the mat, and lift your heart. (inhales deeply) And exhale, forward fold. Bring your hands to your own neck for a moment, and just give a little love, through your fingertips, to the base of the neck, the base of the skull. Send a little breath, in the form of love, a little love in the form of breath, to your own neck, and then release your hands. And on an inhale, sweep all the way up to standing, (inhales deeply) and draw your hands to your heart.

So, we'll come into our first standing sequence from a balance. You can draw the left knee to the chest, and bring your hands to your hips here. Open up the chest, feel a little bit of cobra in the back body. This is gonna help us as we move into virabhadrasana III. Keeping the chest open and the shoulders engaged, shoulder blades engaged on the back, start to soften the standing leg, and reach your left leg straight back behind you, finding your virabhadrasana III.

And if balance is a little funky, you can also bend the standing leg. Reach your left arm forward and your right arm back. It's a little variation here, and extend long through your limbs as you bend the standing leg. Then, step back into your warrior II. Take a long reach, and let your arms spiral, and continue to spiral until you wind up in a little variation of garudasana here, so, opening the back of the shoulder.

As you inhale, get a little lift through the base, and as you exhale, sink down, but keep the elbows high. Once more, inhale, a little lift through the base. Exhale, sink down. Release your arms, reverse your warrior on an inhale. And then, as you exhale, push off the back foot, come into your ardha chandrasana.

If the floor feels far, just grab your block, put it underneath your hand, and start to turn the left side of the body open. Let's keep the top hand on the hip for now, and bend your top leg. And you can reach back and take a little chapasana variation here, holding on to the little toe side of your foot, and rolling chest open, pressing your hips forward, your foot in hand back, and breathing into this little backbend on the left side of the body. (inhales deeply) Take one more deep breath here. And as you exhale, release into a classic half moon, and then step back into downward-facing dog.

Let's work with a new vinyasa to connect right side to left side. I'd love it if you'd inhale to your toes. Lightly set the knees down upon the mat, and then walk your hands back, either into a high camel pose variation, or if the knees are okay with it, you can walk your hands back behind you and come into a virasana variation. As you exhale, hinge at the hips. Reach forward, and then slide your chest through, like a snake in the grass, to either cobra or upward-facing dog, and we'll call that a virasana vinyasa.

It has a virasana variation inside of it. Inhale to your toes. Bend the knees, step or lightly hop, hips high over the shoulders. And if it didn't feel like they were very high, try it again. (breathes deeply) Lift your heart halfway.

Exhale, fold. Inhale to come all the way up. (breathes deeply) And as your hands come to your heart, lift your right knee, and we'll go into the second side. Hands come to the hips, exaggerate the openness in your heart, and start to thread your right leg back behind you. And if at ever along the way, you start to lose your balance, you can trace the pathway with your toe behind you, and then, start to slowly lift your leg to the sky. Sweep your right arm forward, your left arm back, and bend the standing leg as you reach.

Step back to your warrior II and continue to spiral your arms like jungle vines into garudasana variation. Little pulsation here as you lift with the elbows, and then sink down and keep the elbows high. Once more, like you're riding the surface of the ocean. Exhale. (exhales deeply) Release your arms, reverse your warrior. Feel your breath come in like a wave.

And then, push off the back foot, into your half moon. And once again, let's just keep our hand right alongside our hip here. (breathes deeply) As you start to bend the top leg, and reaching back for the little toe side of your foot, keep your thigh parallel to the earth. Try not to lift it up so that you get a little more opening through the quadricep, and then roll the right shoulder onto the back. Feel that wonderful backbend on the right side of the body.

One more breath here. And then, exhale slowly, release into your full ardha chandrasana. Expand in all directions, and step back to downward-facing dog. And we'll roll right through our virasana vinyasa. As you inhale, rise.

Set your knees down, and the chaturanga arms get a little break, 'cause you come back and open the hips, open the front of the body, open your throat. Exhale, hinge at the hips, and get low to the ground, sliding through like water. Inhale to open, (inhales deeply) and exhale to fold. Once again, let's come down for anahatasana. Set your knees down and walk your hands forward, or your knees back, depending on where you are on your mat, and let your chest, your forehead, your chin, whatever touches down comfortably, rest on the mat.

(breathing deeply) And slowly gliding through, just taking one more brief visit into forearm plank. This is a particularly wonderful posture to integrate your core, without going into that crunching action that's the opposite of what we want in backbending. So, take a couple breaths here. One, three, nine, 12, however many breaths you want. I'm gonna take one more, (inhales deeply) and then, as you exhale, walk your feet in, and let's come back into our dolphin.

And this time, just kinda take in a little lift here, paving the way for maybe an arm balance later on, in another class, another sequence, but just starting to pave the way to be able to kick up into pincha mayurasana. And it starts with a simple lift of the leg, right side, and then left side. And from here, come down and take a moment in child's pose. Separate the knees, shift the hips back, and create a little pillow for your forehead. Take three good breaths.

(breathing deeply) As you breathe, really filling in the back body, the back of the heart, the low back. (breathing deeply) And then, climbing back forward, into your downward-facing dog. We're back to the hop to the front of the mat one last time, so shorten the stance again, look forward, and maybe take a few rounds here, keeping your eyes forward, and see if you can just catch a little hover, a little balance with hips over the shoulders. And once again, we're just paving the way for some possible inversion shenanigans later on. Inhale to come all the way up. (inhales deeply) Exhale, hands come to your heart.

Lift your left knee, and we'll go through the same pattern, but just slightly change it. Bring the hands to the hips. Thread the left leg back, coming into your warrior III. This time, open up your arms like wings, and then step back into crescent pose. Inhale to lift up through your heart.

Come right into a twist here. Left elbow to the outside of your right side, open your chest, and gently turn your spine. You're always welcome to lower the back knee down, if you like, or keep it lifted. One more full breath. (inhales deeply) And as you exhale, release your hands to the mat, shift forward to standing split. Let's bend the back knee and take our right hand to the big toe side of the foot.

Soften everything down, as if you were gonna sit down on the ground, and then lift it back up. Lift the heart, lift the thigh. Really helpful to use a block here, underneath your left hand, especially if your hamstrings need just a little more length. Exhale to sink down. And once more, inhale, open up front of the body, front of the hip, heart.

And then, slowly release back to your downward-facing dog. Inhale to your toes, lower the knees. Walking your hands back, either to your hips, or to the back of the mat, lift your heart to your virasana vinyasa. Exhale, slowly shifting through. I love to play with alternative vinyasas in a lot of my practices.

You'll find that as you continue to watch. We spend a lot of time moving through plank chaturanga, up dog, down dog, and it's so wonderful, but it's also nice to just look at different pathways, in and out of these sequences. Let's inhale to the toes, shorten the stance, and once again, just a little float, hips over the shoulders, kinda playin' around with it, and then bring your feet to the top of the mat. Lift your heart, (inhales deeply) and exhale. (exhales happily) Release. Come all the way up to standing for our last standing sequence.

Bring the hands to the heart. Lift the right knee. Draw your hands to your hips and thread your right leg back. Open up like a pelican, just gliding over the water. Step back into crescent pose on an inhale, really filling up your breath.

And then, exhale to your twist. Then see if you can have a little length in two opposing directions: the spine reaching forward through the crown, a leg reaching back through the heel, and just turning your heart, right on the axis of your central channel. (breathing deeply) Last breath here. And as you exhale, release your hands to the mat. Shift forward into a standing split.

Bend your knees and reach your left hand back to catch the big toe side of your foot. Inhale, string the bow between the heart and the foot and the hand. Exhale, softening down. Inhale to open, expand in all directions, and exhale, (exhales deeply) softening. Once more, inhale, string the bow.

(breathing deeply) And then exhale, release. Back into your downward dog. One last pathway through virasana vinyasa. Rising up, lowering down, walk it back. And as you inhale, opening the front of the body up.

Exhale to hinge at the hips. And this time, as you slide through, just come onto the belly and pause here. You can make a little pillow with your hands and bend your knees, shifting your shin bones side to side. (breathing deeply) So, from here, lift your heart. And as you do so, as you feel that very basic movement, it's one of the first things that babies start to do before they begin to try to crawl, is lifting the head and the chest, and feel the upper back engage, and the front of the hips press down to the earth.

And reach your hands back and keep the front of the hips kinda huggin' down into the earth, as you come up into a little dhanurasana, little boat pose, pressing your feet into your hands. Your thighs might lift and your shoulders might roll back a little bit. As you exhale, melt out of the posture, just about halfway. And then, inhale, rise back up again. So, we keep a little bit of fluidity, a little bit of movement inside of this backbend.

And then, inhale to come back up, and just kinda noticing if the knees tend to go wide, hugging 'em in a little bit to the midline, the neck, nice and free. And as you exhale, come on down, bringing the hands back underneath the forehead, and oscillating your knees, your shins, side to side. And from here, we'll take one more round of a backbend. You're welcome to come back up into dhanurasana, or if you'd like to flip over and come into urdhva dhanurasana, into full wheel, you can just flip over like a pancake, onto your back. Place your feet about hip's width, and inhale to bring your arms over your head, palms right alongside your ears.

And if this is a new posture to you, really, any of the stages along the way, you can feel free to stop and linger at, maybe lifting the hips and hanging out there, feeling the transfer weight into your hands, lifting and coming up onto your crown, and hugging the elbows in. And then, finally, starting to press your heart to the sky, just opening and pressing the shoulders over the hips, maybe shortening the stance between the hands and the feet, either walking the hands in or walking the feet in, and just enjoying this full opening, heart opening to the sky. Couple of breaths, wherever you are. (breathing deeply) And as you exhale, just slowly releasing down, back of the head, shoulders, and then hips, and coming down to neutral for a moment. (breathing deeply) Rocking over onto one side, pressing yourself up.

Then, we start to come into our counter-postures, and different forward folds, and hip openers, to just start to balance the body from backbending to forward bending, to neutral. So, let's come into pigeon pose, and you can take the left leg back behind you, the right knee forward. Lift your heart, take one final backbend here, and then exhale to melt down into the sand. (breathing deeply) And you're welcome to stay here as long as you like. Sometimes, when I'm inside of a flow practice and I finally get to pigeon, I want to hang out for a while, want to hang out for several minutes.

And it can be very profound to stay in a hip opener for a longer bit of time. (breathing deeply) But we'll stay here just for a couple more breaths, and with each exhale, just see if you can take a layer off, whether it be a layer in your mind, or in your body, or softening around the breath. (breathing deeply) When you start to come up, lead with your heart, lift your chest, walk your hands in, and swing the back leg around for janusirsasana. So, you can bring the sole of the foot to the inner thigh. Lift up long through your spine, through your heart, and then walk your hands forward.

You can take a strap to your foot, grab onto your ankle, grab onto your foot, whatever is accessible for you. If you're a little more bendy, can even place a block just past your foot and drop yourself in. (breathing deeply) Take your deepest breath you've taken all practice right here, and exhale completely. (exhales deeply) When you come up, lead with your heart, extend through the spine, rise up on it, inhale. And exhale, bending the left knee, stacking the right leg on top for a seated twist. Reach up long through your left arm.

As you exhale, elbow, tricep to the outside of your thigh. Just start to turn your spine gently, and we're not looking for a chiropractic adjustment here. Maybe you are, but a gentle spine twist, right? So, all the musculature, the nervous system, and more important than that, just the inner body can find that gently opening bit by bit, rather than being forced into it. You'll find that you can twist a little deeper on the exhale, and that you can sit a little taller on the inhale.

(breathing deeply) Last breath here. (breathing deeply) And then slowly release, ah. And we'll take the same sequence on the second side, so you can open up the left knee, thread the right leg back behind you. Come on up for one last little baby backbend, and then exhale, going down into the sand, into the earth. (breathing deeply) Two more breaths here.

When you rise, leading with your head and your heart, slowly comin' on up, walk your hands in. Swing the back leg around, comin' into our janusirsasana, and lifting through the chest. As you walk it in and down, never any reason to be concerned with how far your hands are, but rather to be really interested in the feel of this particular asana, really of any asana, just the feel of it. So, with each exhale, surrender, (breathing deeply) and you'll find, with any of these practices, when you really release into the breath fully, you go much deeper, not only inside of the asana, but just in your ability to open the mind, to relax the mind, create a little spaciousness between your thoughts. (breathing deeply) Last breath here, let it be the deepest one you've taken all day.

(breathing deeply) And when you rise, leading with your heart, reach forward, inhale to come on up. Bending your right knee, stack the left foot on top. As you inhale, reach up through the right arm, and then exhale, threading into your twist. And there's all sorts of variations that you can take here. You can obviously go into a bind, or wrap the elbow in front of the knee, whatever feels accessible for you so that you can just breathe kinda freely here as you sit tall.

And as you exhale, turn your spine. Sometimes, I even like to take my fingers to my heart and just encourage a little self, hands-on adjustment here into the twist. Inhale to sit tall, (inhales deeply) and exhale, turning into the twist. (breathing deeply) Last cycle of breaths. (breathing deeply) And then slowly unwind.

Extend your legs straight out in front of you. Shift your sitz bones back and come into a relaxed forward fold. We call it paschimottanasana. And there's the paschimottanasana that we do sometimes that's very attentive and focused, and then there's this paschimottanasana, which is simply, ah, just relaxing in, maybe relaxing your feet, relaxing your neck. (breathing deeply) Total surrender through the back body.

And then let that feeling of surrender roll you up, and you can roll straight down onto your back into shivasana. I'm gonna swing around the opposite direction, so I can feel this beautiful sunlight just coming in towards my heart, as I lower down. And spread yourself out on the earth. Take a nice wide open expanse from your heart through to your fingertips. And if you happen to have a hairdo that might be just tilting your head up in the tiniest bit, it's worth it to take it out.

Take a moment so that you can do that. I'm gonna take that moment. (breathing deeply) And dropping down into gravity, taking 10 deep breaths here in shivasana in silence together. (breathing deeply) Slowly bring your awareness back into your body. Send a little movement to your fingers and your toes.

Stretch your arms over your head and reawaken. And as you exhale, hug your knees into your heart. And rocking over to one side, press yourself up to a comfortable seated position. Let's bring our hands together at our heart. Can just rest your hands right on your heart center, and as you inhale, lift your heart up into your hands.

And as you exhale, open your hands away from your heart and just feel your fullness here. As you bring the hands back to the heart, let your heart rise to meet your hands, (inhales deeply) and exhale, radiating all your wonderful unique gifts away from yourself, sharing it openly. And once more, I'm gonna just add the simplest sound of om on our exhale. The sound of om is the song of the heart, the sound that we're one tribe. (exhales deeply) So, let's take a deep inhale here together. (inhales deeply) Om.

Bring your hands back together, open your eyes. Thank you so much for sharing your presence and your practice with me. Have a wonderful day, namaste.


2 people like this.
Very nice practice, Shelley! Love the way we transition to warrior 3, the plank to down dog and the unique vinyasas! Also liked the playfulness and good vibes, thank you!
Thanks for a wonderful morning
1 person likes this.
Wonderful practice! Felt just like one of the in-class sessions. Can’t wait to take more of your classes Shelley on yogaanytime
Beth Thank you! I am so glad you enjoyed it! I will be happily hosting this January 30 day Yoga challenge, I hope you jump on board! xoxox
2 people like this.
This is one of my favorite practices of all! Thank you!
Thank you Julie!! Have a wonderful rest of your week 🤩🙏
3 people like this.
Having recently completed your 30 day challenge, I had a real need to hear your calm, reassuring voice guiding me through another practice! This was a lovely heart-opening flow. Thank you, Shelley : )
Hi Kate ! You are on a roll, keep it going... so glad to see you exploring these practices, too. Hugs to you...!
1 person likes this.
Back again. This is a beautiful practice. Your calm, joyful presence is inspiring. Thank you again, Shelley, for making these sequences available : )
Kate Hey Kate! So glad you liked this one!! I am honored to be a part of the Yoga Anytime family of amazing offerings, and happy to know these practices are well received.  My best to you!!
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