The 7-Day Pain Free Challenge Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 9

Day 6: Strengthen and Hold

45 min - Practice
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Welcome to the summit of the challenge! In today's practice the poses will be fewer, but held longer with a focus on strength building and releasing tension. Peter encourages us to modify where needed throughout. You will feel strong and motivated.
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Welcome to day 6. Practice today is really the summit of this challenge and the rhythm of the class is different. The poses will be fewer but they will be held longer and the focus really is on strength building. My encouragement is to modify as needed. So let's begin. We'll start in child's pose. Knees together, feet together, arms beside you, palms turned up. Completely surrender your arms. Consciously slow your breath down. Keep the sound of your breath soft, the rhythm of your breath slow. Three to four second inhale. Three to four second exhale. With each exhale soften where your belly and chest meet your thighs. As you create that softness you feel gravity pressing you flatter on your legs. As you feel yourself being pressed onto the legs. Experiencing the spine naturally lengthening. Each inhale follow the fullness of your breath through the back into the pelvic floor. With each exhale notice how the body changes. Notice how the resistance you occasionally meet with breathing dissolves. And now take your arms straight out to the sides. Walk your hands as wide apart as you can, arms straight. Each exhale softening where the front body meets your legs. Softening the collar bones, feel the shoulders and upper arms falling. And in that moment simultaneously inching the hands further apart. Releasing all effort in the shoulders without losing the extension in your arms. Palms gently pressing the floor. Slowly bending your right arm like a push-up. Turn your face to the right. Drop the right hip to the floor beside you. Keep the left arm straight. Keep following the fullness of your breath through the back into the right buttock. Each exhale softening the diaphragm. Abdominal organs recede a little. Simultaneously lift your right shoulder higher. Press the left shoulder lower. With an inhale come back to the center. Turn your face left. Bend the left arm straight in the right. Drop the left hip to the floor beside you. The rhythm of your breath is slow. The sound of your breath is soft. Each inhale feeling the breath through the back into the left buttock. Each exhale softening through the belly, through the ribs, simultaneously turning through the shoulders. Turning through the waist.

With an inhale come back to the center. Again to the right. Right arm bent, left arm straight. Gazing at the right hand. Each exhale simultaneous release through the belly and ribs. Turning through the shoulders. Turning through the waist. With an inhale come back to the center. And last one to the left. Left arm bent, right arm straight. Each exhale softening into the ribs. Feel gravity pressing you flatter onto the thigh. With an inhale come back to the center. Arms forward. Walk the hands as far forward as you can. Elbows off the floor. Each exhale softening where the belly and ribs meet your thighs. Soften your collarbones. Arm pits sink a little. Inch the fingers forward. Shoulders passive. Arms engaged. Now take the arms behind the back. Interlock your fingers. Palms apart. Slowly take the hands over the head. Each exhale. Re-release your shoulders. They drop a little. Simultaneously move your hands a little. With an inhale release. Sit up. Sit cross-legged. If you're comfortable in lotus you can sit in full lotus.

Place your hands on the floor in front of you. Arms straight. Palms flat. Keep your head in line with your neck. Like you're still in child's pose breathing through the back. Let the breath lift you slightly. Skin spreading. Spine rounding. On the exhale release the collarbones. Extend the spine. Inch the fingers forward. Each inhale like you're coming out of the pose slightly. Using the breath. Each exhale softening through the front body. Releasing through the shoulders. Extending through the spine. Inch the hands forward. If you're flat rib cage resting on the legs let your forehead drop to the floor. If your head's on the floor. Arms behind the back. Interlock your fingers. Palms apart. Hands over the head. Each exhale. Re-release your shoulders. Move your hands.

With an inhale release coming up. Change the crossing of your legs. Palms flat. Arms straight. Head in line with your neck. Keep the rhythm of your breath slow. The sound of your breath soft. If you're flat chest on your legs let your forehead drop. If your head is flat. Arms behind the back. Interlock the fingers. Hands over the head. Each exhale. Re-release your shoulders. Move your hands. With an inhale release. Sit up. Take the arms straight out to the side. Shoulder height. Head upright. Release your collarbones. Extend out through the fingers. To create a base top of the hip bones gently pressing forward without leaning forward. Releasing the diaphragm. Feel the abdominal organs dropping. Releasing the collarbones. Extend out through the fingers. Spine lifting gently from the back of the skull. Breathe into the front side and back of your lungs. The full length of your torso. In all of these poses during this sequence if at any time you need to rest try first just dropping out of the pose slightly whatever you can hold to get release and then as you build more strength you can bring the hands back into the position as you can. If you have to fully release you can rest and then join us again when you feel rested. Each inhale following the fullness of your breath front side and back the full length of your torso. Each exhale. Re-release your collarbones. Extend out through the fingers. Diaphragm soft abdominal organs heavy. Spine lifting gently from the back of the skull. Each exhale. Re-release your collarbones. Extend out through the fingers. Keep your wrists soft. Thumbs soft. Fingers active. As you feel the fatigue setting into the shoulders keep re-releasing your collarbones softening armpits sinking maintaining the extension in the hands through the fingers. Spine gently extending through the back of the skull. Top of the hip bones gently pressing forward. And now slowly turn the palms to face up. Check your hands make sure they're flat. Re-release your collarbones. Extend out through the fingers. Keep the rhythm of your breath slow. Three to four second inhale. Three to four second exhale.

Notice how the mind wants to dwell on the fatigue. Keep moving your attention back into the rhythm and sound of your breath. Follow the breath the full length of your torso. Each exhale. Re-release the collarbones. Extend out through the fingers. Keep re-releasing your diaphragm. Feel the weight of your internal organs sinking spine lifting gently through the back of the skull. And now slowly pull the fingers down. Press out through the heel of the palms. Re-release your collarbones. Keep the spine lightly engaged from the back of your skull. Hip bones gently pressing forward without leaning forward. Keep moving your attention back to the slow soft rhythm of your breath. As you notice the fatigue in the shoulders keep re-releasing your collarbones. Press out through the hands. Pull the fingers down a little more. Find a source of strength not just from the muscle. Simultaneous releasing the shoulders extension in the arms. Lift in the spine and slowly spin the fingers up. Pull the tips in towards your ears. Press out through the palms. Re-release your collarbones. Re-release your diaphragm. Keep the spine engaged from the back of the skull. Returning your attention to the rhythm of your breath. Three to four second inhale. Three to four second exhale. And now slowly draw the arms back spreading the skin across your chest. And curl the wrists. Curl the fingers. Slowly swing the arms forward till they're parallel. When the arms are forward re-release your collarbones. Press the wrists forward. Top of the hip bones forward. Diaphragm soft. Organs dropping. Spine lifting. Keep your attention inward. Listening for the sound of your breath. Scanning where you're holding unnecessary tension in the diaphragm, in the collarbones, even in the pelvic floor. Releasing the sphincter muscles. Keep the spine lightly engaged. Chin moves in slightly towards your throat to create an extension from the back of the skull through the crown of the head. Slowly extend your fingers forward. Slowly turn the palms up. Slowly bend in the arms. Touch your shoulders. And slowly lift your elbows. Try not to get drunk on this feeling. And right hand grabs the left elbow. Pull the left arm behind the head. Drop the right arm behind the back. Hook the fingers if you can. Head upright.

With an inhale release. Forearms together again. Left hand grabs the right elbow. Pull the right arm behind the head. Left arm behind the back. If you can, hook. If you can't, hook. Just extend the fingers. With an inhale release. Forearms together again. See if you can walk the fingertips a little lower. Press the elbows a little closer. Then elbows out to the sides and as far back as you can. Clench your fists. Pump your biceps and hold. Squeezing the fists. Feel the biceps pumping. Keep the diaphragm soft. Feel the weight of your internal organs in the pelvic floor. Spine lifting from the back of the skull. And now interlocking the fingers, press the palms up. Try and get the thumbs a little higher than your pinkies. As you press the arms fully straight, relax your diaphragm. Internal organs drop, tailbone drops. Release your collar bones. Press the hands. Breathe into the front side and back of the lungs, the full length of your torso. Following the breath into the pelvic floor, release the grip and the sphincter muscles. Each exhale, simultaneous release through the top of the lung, collar bones, and diaphragm. Press the hands higher.

Keep returning your attention to the sound and rhythm of your breath. As you feel the fatigue in your shoulders, you're looking for a source of strength, of power, that comes beyond muscular effort, something deep, literally in the core of your being, beyond even willpower. Realizing how gravity works, creating ground through the pelvic floor in this pose. That ground creates lightness up through the spine, up through the hands and arms. Shoulders passive, chest passive, diaphragm passive. 15 more seconds. Keep re-releasing your collar bones, releasing the diaphragm. Tailbone drops, press your hands simultaneously higher. Now last 15 seconds, arms back, arching the upper back. Just take it as far as you can feel your limit at the limit. Pause there. Each exhale, soften the top of the lung, feel your heart drop. Move the hands even a millimeter further back. Keep the sound of your breath soft. And now releasing the hands back to your shoulders. This feels so good. Squeeze your elbows together. Lean forward a little, but relax the diaphragm. Feel your organs drop, tailbone drops. Squeeze strongly into your elbows. Feel the pectoralis muscles engage. Feel the deltoid muscles on the upper arms engage.

Keep the elbows shoulder height. Don't drop the elbows. Soft, slow, even rhythm to your breath. The length of your inhale equaling the length of your exhale. Notice the heat that's starting to generate in the body. Keep re-engaging the elbows in, re-releasing the diaphragm, keeping the spine engaged from the back of the skull. And now sliding the fingers under your shirt, curl the tips into the trapezius. Pull the elbows down toward your navel, slide the chin in toward your throat, lean the head back. Slowly extend the chin up. With an inhale, head upright, elbows up. Exhale the hands forward, palms up. Inhale the arms apart. Exhale, right arm over the left, palm down, arms cross and hold. Lean forward a little, re-release your diaphragm, organs drop, lift the spine. Breathing evenly, front, side, and back of the lungs, the full length of your torso. Try to keep the arms separated. Don't rest the upper arm on the lower arm. Re-release your collarbones, extend out through the fingers. With each exhale, see if you can cross your arms a little further. Leaning forward slightly, shoulders passive, collarbone soft, spine engaged from the back of your skull. Five seconds. With an inhale, take the arms apart. Exhale, left arm over the right, arms crossed, palm down, hold. Keep space between the arms. Keep returning your attention to the slow, smooth rhythm of your breath. Re-release your collarbones, cross the arms a little more. Five more seconds.

With an inhale, arms apart. Exhale, the arms behind you, palms face each other. Lift your hands as high as you can, lift your chest as high as you can. Feel your triceps engage. Release your collarbones, lift the hands higher. Breathing into the front, side, and back of the lungs. Fingertips extend. Spine lifting gently from the back of the skull. Each exhale, re-release your shoulders, move the hands a little higher, chest a little higher. Last five seconds, turn your palms up, lift your hands higher, lift your chest higher, head upright. Curling the wrists, curl the fingers. Releasing the hands, close your eyes. Hands 12 inches apart, slowly pressing the hands in. Go slow. As the hands get closer, feeling the thickness of the air between the skin and the hands. Feel the awakening in the cells of your hands. And slowly separate your hands. Hook your fingers strongly, clench your fists strongly. Circle the wrists. Change direction. And release. Slowly straighten your legs, especially if they fell asleep. And now moving into plank pose. Straight arms, straight legs. Pull the navel up a little, tailbone down a little. Keep your head in line with the neck. The rhythm of your breath slow, the sound of your breath smooth. Each exhale, pull the navel up a little, tailbone down a little, engage your legs. Feel the gluteal muscles engage without pinching the sphincter muscles. If you start to shake, allow the shake. Keep your attention with the breath. Keep the spine engaged from the back of the skull. Chin moves up a little towards your throat. Back of the skull moves forward through the crown. 15 more seconds. Those you want to challenge yourself. Lean forward, roll onto the tops of the feet. Keep the hips in line. And slowly roll back into dog pose. So not going for gold yet, like your bronze metal dog pose here. Keep the arms slightly passive, legs slightly passive. Release your head and shoulders. Each inhale, let the fullness of your breath lift you out of the pose a little. Each exhale, hips and shoulders soften. They sink a little. Simultaneously engage the arms a little more and the legs a little more. Each inhale, come out of the pose a little with your breath. Each exhale, re-release your shoulders and hips.

Re-engage the arms and legs. Feel the texture of your mat with your hands and feet. Don't hyperextend the toes or the fingers. It's like you're touching a partner or child with your hands and feet. Feeling texture, the nuance of your mat. Keep releasing the back of your skull, head heavy. With each exhale, release the diaphragm, release the sphincter muscles. Feel your abdominal organs recede as you release the diaphragm towards your spine. As you release the sphincter muscles, feel your tailbone naturally lifting slightly. Halfway there. If you need to rest here, try doing dog pose on your knees. Keep the elbows off the floor. Each inhale, let the breath lift you out of the pose slightly. Each exhale, re-release the hips and shoulders, re-engage the arms and legs. Releasing the back of the skull, the sphincter muscles, and the skin below your navel.

Keep the weight even on your feet and hands. Shoulders passive, hips passive. Arms and legs active. 15 seconds. And now slowly come forward into plank. Walk your feet back a little as you come forward into upward dog. Shoulders forward, hips sinking, thighs lifting, head upright. We won't stay long here. Each inhale, breathing through the back, taking the breath into the pelvic floor, hips lift a little. Each exhale, releasing the sphincter and the skin below the navel, hips drop, engage the thighs, engage the arms, lift up through the back of the skull. Shoulders slightly forward, the energy of your chest dropping, spine lifting. 15 seconds. With an inhale, slowly come back into down dog. With an inhale, step forward with your right foot, spin to your left. With an inhale, gaze forward. On the exhale, fold. Keep your breathing slow. Following the breath through the back body into the pelvic floor, feel the skin of your buttocks spread a little. Each exhale, release the sphincter and the skin below your navel. Internal organs recede, waist lengthens a little. As you feel the waist lengthen, lean your hips forward a little, walk your hands back a little. Release the back of your skull. Keep the weight even on your feet, side to side, front to back. Feeling the texture of your mat with your feet. Each inhale, let the breath lift you out of the pose slightly, spine rounding, skin spreading. Each exhale, we release the sphincter muscles and the skin below your navel. Waist lengthens, lean your hips forward a little. If you can, walk your hands back a little. Releasing the back of the skull, head heavy. Keeping the weight even front to back, side to side on the feet. Each inhale, following the breath through the back, feel the buttocks spread a little.

Each exhale, we release belly and pelvic floor. We release the back of the skull. Lean forward. Don't be aggressive with your arms. Shoulders are passive. Arms engage a little, keeping pressure on your hands. If your legs are shaking, try to move your attention into the soles of your feet. Touching your mat as softly as you can, feeling the texture of your mat. Each exhale, we release skin below the navel, diaphragm, back of the skull. 15 seconds. With an inhale, straight arms gaze forward. Pull your heels in 45 degrees, shorten your stance a little. With an inhale, coming up into horse stance. Hands at your heart, elbows up. Collar bones down, head upright. Press the knees out a little, in line with your feet. Pull the navel in, tailbone down. Keep the weight even on your feet side to side, front to back. Each inhale, follow the breath through the back, into the pelvic floor. Each exhale, as the belly releases, pull the navel in a little, tailbone down a little. Soften into the groin, knees press out a little, hips sink a little. Keep releasing your collarbones, press your elbows forward. Gently pressing your palms, lift the spine gently from the back of the skull. Keep moving your attention into the soles of the feet, feeling the texture of your mat. Navel in, tailbone down, spine engaged gently from the back of the skull. Three to four second inhale, three to four second exhale. Keep moving your attention away from the fatigue in your legs, into the rhythm of your breath. You can stay here if you want to move into a more challenging pose. Take the arms up, palms together, head back, chin sinking toward your throat. Release your collarbones, press the hands higher, chin sinks lower, hips sink lower. 15 seconds here. Navel in a little, tailbone down. With an exhale, slowly lower the hands to the floor. 15 more seconds here. Keep your knees bent, lift your heels up, push the knees out wider, hips sink lower, lift your heels higher. And now swing the heels out wide, straight legs. Inhale gaze forward, exhale fold. Enjoy this straight leg feeling. Release your head and shoulders, grab your heels, lean your hips forward, re-release your head and shoulders. Keep the weight even on your feet front to back, side to side. Inhale, spin to your right, back into dog pose. Walk your hands back a foot on each side, bend your neck strongly, chin to your chest, bend your elbows out, lower the crown of the head to the floor. Keep half the weight on your hands, half the weight on your head.

Inhale slowly, on the exhale soften your throat, use your head like a wheel, somersault. And now lie down on your back, lift your legs vertically upward, arms beside you, palms turned down, moving your feet away from you a little so the weight of your legs is pressing onto the sacrum not the lumbar. Pull the chin down a little towards your throat, shoulders passive. Breathing through the back body into the pelvic floor like the floor was part of your lungs. Each exhale diaphragm softens, abdominal organs drop. You'll notice the separation between the outer abdominal muscles and the inner abdominal muscles. The outer abdominal muscles are engaged, it's the inner muscles that you're working to soften. Keeping your left leg vertical, lower your right leg one inch off the floor, heels flexed, hold. Keep the weight on your sacrum, keep your breathing slow. Using that awareness of your breath through the back like the floor was part of your lungs. Each exhale top of the lungs softens, heart drops, release the pelvic floor muscles, feel the genitals drop. Slowly change legs. Heels flexed, left leg one inch off the floor. It's natural to be shaking in this pose, heels flexed. Keep your tension with your breath three to four second inhale, three to four second exhale. Breathing through the back the full length of your torso. Inhale both legs vertical. Exhale both legs one inch off the floor and hold. Keep the weight on your sacrum.

Gluteal muscles firm here without pinching the sphincter muscles. Five more seconds and release. Bend your knees, feet flat. Drop your knees together, hands rest on your belly. Spend a moment here consciously slowing your breath down. Each exhale relax the diaphragm, abdominal organs drop. Okay knees hip width apart, walk your feet in. Keep your hands flat or you can even grab your ankles. Slowly lift your hips up. As the hips lift, the chin drops, shoulders passive. Breathing through the back body into the pelvic floor. On the exhale top of the lungs softens, heart sinking. As you feel the drop in the chest lift your hips higher, pressing into the feet. As the hips lift, the chin drops, neck naturally lengthens. Shoulders passive, palms gently pressing the floor or holding the ankles. Gluteal muscles firm without pinching the sphincter muscles. Each exhale release the top of the lungs, heart sinks, lift your hips a little higher. Okay last 15 seconds. If you feel it, hands beside the ears with an exhale roll onto the crown of the head. Inhale slowly, exhale press up. Keep your breathing slow. Each exhale simultaneous release through the shoulders. Engage the arms, engage the legs. Release the back of the skull and inhale slowly coming down. Slowly pull the knees to the chest. Gently rock your legs side to side. Straightening the legs to the floor, arms straight out to the side. Bend your left leg, slide your hips left. Place the left foot on top of the right thigh. Right arm outside the left knee. Turn your head left. Slowly lower the leg to the right. Soften through the belly, organs recede. Soften the pubic bone. Feel your left ilium bone converge on the pubis. Keep your left shoulder blade passive on the floor. With an inhale come back to the center. Shift your hips back to the center. Straighten your left leg, right leg bent. Slide your hips to the right. Place the right foot on top of the left thigh. Left hand outside the right knee. Turn your face right. Slowly lower the leg to the left. Soften the belly. Soften the pubis. Breathe through the back. Each exhale. Simultaneous softening through the belly and pubis. Feel your right ilium converge on the pubis. Right shoulder blade ground into the mat. With an inhale back to the center. Bring your hips back to the center and then straighten your legs for shavasana. Start with your palms down. Lift the outer shoulders away from the floor. Spread the skin and then releasing the shoulders down. Keep the palms down. Release your feet. Slow, even breathing. Feel your bones at rest. Feel your organs at rest. Each inhale following the sensation of your breath into the back of the throat, back of the heart, back of the belly, back of the pelvis, into the pelvic floor. Each exhale. Release the diaphragm, abdominal organs drop. Soften the top of the lung, heart drops. Soften the throat, thyroid drops. Soften the sphincter muscles, genitals drop. Shoulders passive. With your hands feeling the texture of the floor of the mat. But keep the fingers passive. As you feel the floor with your hands, try to visualize the ground beneath the floor. And the ground at its source is warm. That molten core of earth. Can you feel that radiant heat from the core of the earth into the skin of your hands? Shoulders passive. As you feel the warmth in your hands, let it feed into the wrists, into the arms, into the shoulders, even into the heart. And from the heart into the belly. Feel that deep inner warmth sourced from the center of the ground beneath you. And you're on time.

When you're ready, slowly roll to the right side. Bend your knees into a semi-fetal position. Rest your head on the right arm. Left arm resting on the side body. In your own time, slowly make your way up to sitting. Sit cross-legged or in lotus. Rest your hands on the knees. Palms down. Head upright. Shoulders passive. Arms heavy. Hands heavy on the knees. Spine light and lifting from the back of the skull. Diaphragm soft. Abdominal organs resting in the pelvic floor. Breathing into the front side and back of the lungs. Looking for the same quality of stillness sitting as you had reclining. Slowly bringing the hands together at your heart. Keep the touch of your hands light. Thank you for your presence in class. Namaste.

Comments

Scuba Chick
Today's practice was done slowly, gently, with extreme modifications. Thank goodness for blocks. I was able to hold most of the positions, no problem, and only avoided the ones that caused pain. This series offers a great set of exercises, even with limitations in the body. Thank you.
Debra D
3 people like this.
I quail when I hear the word "peak" as in "peak pose" or in this case "peak of the practice". But what I love about these challenges is that you're on the path so you just keep going. I always feel at th start that I'm not good enough because I'm not young and flexible, but I try to find something to hang onto in the teaching, in this case, "slow even breathing", and also, as in this case, the trust that the teacher has built up. I did all of this practice without faltering. It wasn't easy, but I could do it. And at the end I had to ask myself, with a wry smile, how many years is it going to take before you believe you can do it? Thank you yoga and thank you Peter for keeping on nudging me towards this insight. I've really loved the repetitive and accumulative nature of this challenge. All love đź’ś
Peter Sterios
Hi Debra, what a sweet message to receive! You asked 'how many years is it going to take before you believe you can do it?" I have a question for you, "how much time will it take you to realize you already did 'do it'?" No matter what level you are at in yoga, anyone on the mat will be challenged, and the challenges you face will be very personal ones. It doesn't matter what the "final" shape of your poses look like, as long as you consistently approach your practice with softness towards the limitations you experience with slow, even breathing, and patience to see what that process reveals. I wish you the best on your path. By the way, may I use your comment for one of my posts on my Instagram page? It would be anonymous of course...
Lauri K
4 people like this.
Debra what an inspiring honest post. I loved your elegance in expressing it.
Kate M
2 people like this.
This was an interesting practice! Physically challenging, yet slow and meditative. The prolonged physical challenge seemed to force a meditative stance. It was the only way to keep going!
Peter Sterios
Hi Kate The strength practice with static poses we refer to as "Crack the Nut" and it sounds like that is actually what happened for you - the mind breaks open when it realizes it has the power to overcome physical limitations...
North F
Thank you! Love that "Yin thing".
Glenford N
Challenging but calming, the only way to continue in the poses was to deepen my breath and soften my internal organs. Instead of fighting it was a form of sweet surrender. And what I learn on the mat, I take into the world around me. The reference about going beyond strength resonated with my Higher Power and my breath is the all important connection and trying to get it into every fibre of my practice. Amazing what you can do when you don't try! Namaste.
Peter Sterios
Hi Glenford you have the rare quality of perceiving the subtle. It will serve you well with this style of practice. Keep it up!
Christel B
Wonderful practice. Albeit my one knee rebels when I sit too long crosslegged. I used to be able to sit in lotus but now the knee has pain and I have to stretch it out for a while in order to continue. Yes, the repetition is allowing me to really learn these poses so that maybe later I can intuitively be able to use and recall them not to mention improve capability.
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