Yoga for Our Nature Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 8

Air

35 min - Practice
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A deep relationship with your breath will result in a more open perspective. Melina draws our awareness to our breath and then guides us through a magnificent flowing sequence to increase strength, balance, and spaciousness.
What You'll Need: Mat, Strap, Block

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(water rushes) Hello and welcome to our practice focused on the element air. Today, the focus of the practice will be to help us work on increasing our range of movements, as well as keeping a close eye on our breath throughout the entire practice. So we're gonna start in virasana with a strap and potentially a block to give you some ease in the knees. If that's a place where you tend to feel uncomfortable in this pose, I'm gonna recommend turning your block to that medium height, turn it wide so you've got this wide surface to sit on, and then see if that makes a comfortable place for the knees. If not, try more height.

And then we're gonna take a strap to begin with and make a non-sliding loop. And while you make that, we wanna keep this strap big enough, the loop big enough that you can put it around your body. And then as we get the strap around the back of the diaphragm, we're gonna tighten the strap up so that's it's snug but it doesn't interfere with you taking a deep breath. Okay, so you have it placed below the chest, somewhere catching the diaphragm area, and then we'll rest the hands down on top of your thighs. So allow yourself to try to sit down and back so that you're away from a big back arch here, and that you feel really heavy and rooted through the back of your pelvis.

And with your hands face down on your thighs, let your eyes lower or close while you explore for a moment this relationship with the ground and the sky above. So if you wiggle your feet around and lengthen and widen through the feet, and root down through your shins, and to try to feel even a slight downward rooting of the femurs toward the earth, so that you might feel a little bit more space at the base of the spine, you'll find a lift from the pelvic floor all the way to the crown of the head. And then we're gonna explore, bringing your attention up through the belly area. And letting yourself relax the breath below the strap, and then trying to feel the belly moving slightly toward your back as you exhale. And then we gradually feel like your awareness starts to feel a little bit higher up toward the strap.

And as you're breathing in, see if you can feel like you hit all areas of the strap with an incoming breath, front, side, and back. And as you exhale, just feeling the strap perhaps just settle a little bit down toward the legs. And then as you're breathing in again, you try to expand the torso shape, the three-dimensional shape, to hit the strap, front, side, and back. And exhale, relaxing. So a few more moments, just notice what it's like to try to orient your breath into the center of the body, and to our perhaps blind corners in the back of the lungs, the back of the ribs.

A few more moments, trying to feel into the strap area, and to try to fill that area with breath. And one more round settling, and then try to breathe in a deep breath toward the strap. Exhale, relaxing. Okay, so we're gonna leave the strap where it is so we can still identify those back corners of the rib cage. When you take your arms up towards your ears, you might open the eyes and find that soft focal point.

See if you can breathe into the back area as you inhale to the back of the strap, back of the ribs. And take a little bend over to your right side, and then touch the floor with your fingertips and just create a little bit of a lateral stretch, we're still trying to breathe into the back area where the strap is. Come back up to the center, go to the opposite side, root your fingertips and reach across the room, and creating that lateral bend. And we try to soften it up through the chest, through the front of your sternum bone, so that you're able to breathe into the back area. And then come all the way up and out.

All right, so we're gonna go ahead and release the strap, and throughout the practice, we'll try to remember that area we were breathing into and go back to it again and again, to breathe into the back body. We'll put the strap away for a little bit, and then we'll come up off the prop of the block, set that to the side, and then come around to all fours, if we slide the knees back under the hips and the hands under the shoulders. So from here, as we start to breathe in, we'll start to track the length of the breath. As you inhale, we're gonna lengthen toward the front of the room on the inhalation, counting to three or four. Exhale, count to three or four as you round your back and sit back towards your heels as you complete the out breath.

And then take three or four seconds to inhale, come forward and up, lengthen through the spine. And then take three or four seconds as you exhale and round and sit back towards your heels. And so your breath might be a little bit longer or shorter. And try two more times and stay in rhythm with your breath even, inhale, with the length of the exhalation, and sit back towards your heels, and then, inhaling, coming up to neutral. And from here, we'll tuck the toes under, walk your hands in towards your knees so you can stand up on the knees.

And as we find where that block is, we'll use the block over on your right side, turn it tall. Take your left leg out to the side, with your toes facing straight ahead. And if that's bothersome in your foot or your knee, you're welcome to also turn the foot out, like triangle pose. We'll try to have the foot facing straight ahead. When you breathe in, take three or four seconds to bring the arms up by your ears, and then three or four seconds to reach over to your left side on the exhale.

Inhale coming up, three or four seconds to neutral, and then again exhale, three or four seconds over to the left. Come up three or four seconds to neutral. And this last time, we'll stay over to the side, root your hand down on your leg, and then let your right hand come down and assist and support the neck as we hold just above the left ear. Then take a moment as you soften through the neck and let your left ear release toward the left arm bone. And then feel our intention here is to create a little more space through the muscles between the right rib cage, create a little more space into the right side of your chest.

One more big breath in and out. And we'll slide the left hand up your leg and then reach that right hand down for the tall block. And, as if you're doing a side plank, we'll root the palm down, and then take the left arm across the room over your head and then stretch your left fingertips away from your left foot. Now if you find your right ear is wedged up into the, if you find, you find your right arm wedged up into your right ear, turn your block a little bit flatter to give you a little bit more room to reach and relax the arm away from the ear. So basically, we try to find this range of movement through the upper left ribs and turn to look underneath towards your left palm if that feels good, almost like a back bend.

If that doesn't feel so good, just turn to look more down towards your lower wrist or straight ahead. When we come up, we'll take the left arm down at your side. As you come up, take the block with you. We'll take this left knee down to the floor and take the tall block over to the left side, and then set your right foot in place. You'll find when you're even.

Then inhale as we take the arms up, three or four seconds, then exhaling, three or four seconds to the right. Come up three or four seconds to breathe in, and exhaling three or four seconds to the right. Inhale, come all the way up, and then we'll, over to your right side, as you exhale, root your right hand down, use your left hand to assist and support just above the right ear, and take a moment to release the ear toward the right arm bone, and then start to feel again the space you're making between the bones and the muscles on the left side of the rib cage, and the space you're creating on the side of your chest. One more breath in here, one more breath out. Slide the right hand up your leg, reach over for that tall block on your left side, and then take the right arm all the way across the room.

As you press into that right foot, we open up that whole outer right ridge of the body. If the left arm feels like it's in your ear, turn your block a little lower and then reach out further across the room. Some of you might enjoy looking underneath your right hand, it's a little more like a back bend. Some of you would prefer looking forward or even down towards your left wrist, okay, whichever one feels the best. One more big breath in.

And then as you exhale, we'll take the right arm to your side, and then come all the way up. We'll take the right knee to the floor. Curl your toes under. We can set the block out of your way. And with that out of your way, let your knees start to lift off the ground, separate your knees, and just take a moment for a malasana, where we try to put the feet more and more in contact with the earth.

Walk the hands out in front of you, and at some point, just let your head start to drop down toward the floor, and see if you can feel again maybe more and more willingness for the ankles to bend and the heels to eventually settle into the floor. One more breath here, and one more breath out. Walk the hands in under the shoulder area as you draw your legs together, and then fold into your legs, a first forward bend with your knees bent, and just take a gentle fold forward. And then from that first forward fold, bend your knees and slowly come up in a good way for your to stand, let the arms rise up by your ears, ease up as you breathe in, and then exhale as the hands return to the heart's center. So begin with some slow flow, with the feet rooted into the ground, stand tall.

And take three or four seconds to bring your arms up by your ears as you're breathing in. As we exhale, three or four seconds to bring the hands down beside your feet. Again, your breath rhythm might be slower or faster. We'll try to keep even through your inhale and exhale. Inhale three or four seconds to lengthen your spine forward, and step back with your legs into plank pose and then pause.

We'll take the left knee down to the floor underneath the hip, and then turn your right foot in on that long edge. As you inhale, root down through your lower foot and knee. As you inhale, circle up through your top right arm. As you exhale, we'll follow that top right hand back to the top of your mat, come through plank pose, just switch sides, with the right knee under the right hip, turn the left foot in on a long arch. Root the foot, the knee, as we swing top arm toward the sky, and then stretch long through the waist as you reach back for the top of your mat and go through plank pose.

Exhale into downward facing dog. Then from downward dog, we'll bring your right foot forward towards your right wrist. Lower your left knee to the floor. And then, as you root into that right foot, stretch your arms in front of you, and we'll take three or four seconds to bring the arms up in the air above your head, and then exhale three or four seconds with your arms wide. Again, dive forward, inhale three or four seconds to come up, stand on the knee, exhale, arms wide.

One more in that way, inhale, come up, and exhale with your arms wide. And then we'll transfer from plank pose right into downward facing dog. And then take your left foot forward by your wrist and lower your right knee to the floor. And just make sure, as your hips drop forward, you rooted in your left foot, so that you can reach your hands in front of you and inhale three or four seconds, come up, stand on the right knee, exhale, arms wide. And two more times, inhale, and forward and up, stand on the right knee, exhale, arms wide.

Last one, inhale up three or four seconds, exhale, arms wide. And we'll come through your plank pose on the inhale. Exhale, lower down knees, belly, chest, and then one round curling up into your cobra as you breathe in three or four seconds. Exhale three or four seconds, downward facing dog. And stay here, lifting through the heels to get more and more length into your legs, more mobility into your hips and shoulders.

Then we'll walk the feet forward up to your hands, fold over your legs, three or four seconds, breathe out, and then inhale, come up in a good way for you, all the way up to stand, arms up by the ears, and then exhale, hands back in front of the chest. And then keep rooted down through the feet, lengthen your spine. Second round, take three or four seconds to reach up. As you exhale, three or four seconds to reach down beside your feet. Inhaling, lengthen through your spine, breathe in, exhale, step back into plank pose.

And then take a moment as we tip over to our side for vasisthasana, turn on the right foot edge. You can stay with the legs stacked or a previous variation. We'll reach up to that top left arm as you breathe in, and then exhale, follow that left hand back to the top of the mat. And then, transferring over to your left foot, left hand, stack your legs or go back to the original variation with knee down, inhale, reach up, exhale, reach forward and back to our plank pose, and right into downward dog, exhale. And step forward with your right foot into warrior one footprint.

Imagine your feet are on train tracks. Circle the arms out to the side all the way up by your ears, look up on the in breath, exhale, let your elbows stretch out to the side, lower your gaze to the floor as you finish breathing out. Inhale three or four seconds to reach up, exhale three or four seconds with the elbows wide, chin down. Inhaling, up. Hands might even touch above your head.

Exhale, elbows wide, chin down. Lean forward, transfer yourself back through downward facing dog on exhale. Left foot comes forward into that warrior one footprint. Inhale, stay in the lunge in the legs but take your torso tall, look up, exhale, elbows wide, chin toward chest. Inhaling as you go up, exhale, elbows wide, chin toward chest.

Listen for the breath, inhale, go up, exhale, elbows wide. Reach forward and down, transferring through plank pose. And one more time, come down to the floor, knees, belly, chest, and inhale into that cobra, look down the tip of the nose, and then exhale as you work your way back into downward dog, and then stay, big breath in, and a big breath out. We'll walk the feet out between the hands, fold over the legs, long exhale out, and then come up in a good way for you to stand, arms all the way up by your ears. And then exhale, hands in front of the chest.

And as your thumb presses down lightly against your sternum bone, lift your sternum bone slightly up into your thumbs to create a little bit more space through the cavity of the chest. We stay on your right foot, bend your left leg and try to feel your heel rise up toward the back of the pelvis, so you feel eventually something is happening in the back of your glute and your hamstring, hopefully not a big cramp. If so, decrease your effort. We're gonna keep lifting the chest up toward the thumb, and imagine the thumbs stay here as we take the arms up beside the ears, and we're gonna point the fingertips down towards your back foot. So now imagine that you've got a little bit more room to breathe into the sides of your chest.

We're gonna try to lift the sternum and keep the musculature of the back engaged for the beginning of our dancing Shiva pose. And take one more breath, just lifting up through the chest, and then letting it go, with your arms at your side, feet together, and eventually hands back to your chest. So lift again your chest up towards your thumb. You're doing a little bit of a back bend but it's more through the upper back. Breathe, stay on your left foot, reach your right leg back, and just feel the toes rise up toward the ceiling, thighs parallel.

And then, as the arms stretch back, as if you could imagine a strap between your foot and your hands, we're trying to reach the arms back as you lift your foot up, so that you're working more of the musculature of the back, your glutes, and your hamstring to support you, before we go into more of the mobile parts of the pose. Take one more breath here, and then letting it go, exhale back to neutral. Okay, then, sometimes to increase the range of motion, if we put our right foot on the floor and reach back this time for your left foot, and give that a little squeeze toward the back of your hip. So some of you, it's less of a squeeze, some of you will be a bigger squeeze to the back of the hip, thighs parallel, chest comes up, and then stretch up through your arm, away from the knee. And we can increase that range of motion and still work with the strength.

So if you press your foot into your hand, feel like you're still turning on the muscles of the left glute, the left hamstrings, and then lifting up through that right corner of the chest towards your top hand so you're increasing the space between your chest and your lower knee. And then keep breathing as you reach up, press the foot into the hand, and then slowly, slowly coming back to neutral, with your feet on the ground, palms together. Big breath in, big breath out. Stay on your left foot, reach back with your right hand for your right foot and give it a little squeeze or a big squeeze toward the back of your hip, thighs parallel. Chest draws up, that left arm's gonna reach up beside your ear, and then start to feel that musculature turn on in the back body, the glutes, hamstrings, the back engages as we arch, and then try to feel like your intention today is to create more space between your knee and your chest.

With the chest, lift up toward the top hand. Another breath, big breath into your chest, big breath out. And then we'll go ahead and release the foot, bring your hands back in front of your chest. So we're gonna step our feet out wide, and if we turn the feet out to a three, 3 1/2 foot position. Let your arms rise out to a size as high as your shoulders.

We'll start with your left foot turned out to the side. Bend your knee, just test it out, does that feel like a good warrior two stance for you? If not, continue to adjust your feet so you feel stable and balanced from your right foot to your left foot. We'll take your left arm up by your ear and reach your right hand around your back, first along your lower rib cage line. You could slide your right hand up between your shoulder blades, which should look a little something like this.

As you find that position here, you can take your top left hand and reach down toward your right hand, the connection points between the fingers who are pulling against each other and trying to lift here from your left waist up to your left elbow. And then take a big breath in, big breath out. We're gonna try to keep the intention to have the space lengthen, increase on your left side. As you lean over to the left side, let your head lean into that left elbow, and then continue to pull a little longer through the left side of your waist. Not all the way down, but just feeling you're lengthening your left side.

Big breath in. When we release the left hand to the inner leg, slide that right hand around your back for the inner thigh. So our intention is to keep that top right chest rolled open. Soften through the neck, slide down as far as you're comfortable with your left hand, noticing that we don't lose this opening through the right side of the chest. Big breath in, big breath out.

As we come up and out, release your right arm first, spread your arms, straighten your left leg, and then turn the left foot in, turn your right foot out. Come into your warrior two shape. If you need to, readjust your feet if anything changed. Eventually, the right arm comes up by your ear, left hand along the lower rib cage line, or the left hand up between your shoulder blades. Right hand reaches down toward the left, try to make contact with the opposite hand.

If not, it's okay. Reach out for your right elbow. Big breath in as you go up, and then just simply soften into the shape as you exhale. Let your hips sink down while reaching up through your right elbow. And take a little lean over to your right side, let your head really lean into your right arm bone as you go to your side, with the intention to lengthen your right waist.

Ground your feet. And we'll release the hands. As the right hand comes down that inner leg, left arm slides around your back to grab the top of the inner thigh. Open up the top left corner of your chest. You can simply look down to the lower right ankle if that feels good.

For some of you, it might feel better to look straight ahead. So keep having the intention to open the left side of your chest. Big breath in, big breath out. As we come up, slide the right hand up your leg, release your left arm, your right arm, and then both feet face forward as your arms relax at your side. Gradually heel toe your legs and feet toward each other till your feet are about shoulder distance apart.

And we'll come down into a squat position, with your torso in the inside of your legs. And you might need to have your heels up for just a moment in transition. For some of you, your heels can root down. And just take a moment to stretch a little deeper down into the hips. And then, ever so slowly, find a way to sit down, and then stretch the legs out to the sides.

From here, we're gonna need a strap for the next pose. And what I'm gonna have you do is to grab your strap, unroll it as much as you can so that you have the strap around the ball of the foot, and if you open up your strap, they're even, okay, the ends. So we'll reach the hand out towards the right foot, we'll lower the elbow down toward the inner knee, and then from here, take the right arm up into the air and eventually over to your side, where we're gonna feed the strap up into your right hand. The left hand is gonna lower down to your left leg. And from here on out, the right hand's gonna hold the strap, and the left hand is gonna hold your left leg.

So from here, to make it a little easier to roll onto your back, we're gonna take this right foot, bring it a little closer onto your mat, closer to your sit bone. We'll slowly roll over onto your left shoulder, and then give yourself enough room with the strap that you can slide your hand away from the foot, enough to take the right shoulder blade to the floor. So when you land, so stretch out through that right leg, and possibly even turn to look away from your left leg and a little bit more to the right. If that's too intense, you look straight up. And this is fair territory to feel this stretch through the left inner leg.

Oftentimes, we'll feel this stretch all the way down from the right side of the chest, down through the front of your hip, deep into the psoas, all the way down into your inner leg. So there's not many places where you don't feel a stretch. So you wanna create just the right amount of tension between your right hand and your left foot to make it interesting for you. When you feel like you're in a good space, let your eyes close, and just feel the ribs that might be moving more to the sky, to invite your ribs to settle more toward the earth. Tune in to the rhythm of your breath.

And then, coming back into that three or four-count inhale, three or four-count exhale breath. As we work our way out, first turn your gaze towards your left foot. Gonna reach your right hand out toward the foot and try to find a graceful way to roll up and out. And then usually when you come out, your hair feels really big (laughs). You feel really wonderful, hopefully by opening up the side body in that way.

Okay, so then in making your adjustment to your second side, we know how much space we need behind us, so move anything that might be in your way. The strap goes around the bottom of the foot, we try to find those even edges of the strap. Slide your right hand out towards your foot, and then lean over to your right side. The left arm comes up above your head. The arm frames the head, and we'll feed the strap into the left hand, right hand down by your ankle.

So you might pause here and just get comfortable with the position of the left arm. This is what it's doing when you're on your back. We bring that left heel a little bit closer to your pelvis, it's easier for you to roll over onto your side. And as we roll onto the side, make sure you give yourself permission to slide your hand away from the foot so that you can bring your left shoulder blade to the floor. And as you settle in a good way, stretch out long through your left leg.

And then find the right amount of tension of your hand, moving towards your right foot, to find sufficient stretch and sensations down that outer left side of your body. And then everything here gets better with time. So if you relax your eyes and just let yourself settle into the pose, so you can start coming back into that breath awareness that we started with today. And try to imagine your breath is hitting even the back side of the ribs, touching into the back side of the diaphragm. Of course, this requires your intention and your imagination to get the breath to move into that specific back corner.

One more big breath in here, one more big breath out. And as we begin to move out, we'll turn to look towards your right foot. Reach your left hand towards your right foot so that shoulder is lifted, and then simply roll over your right leg and we come back out to neutral. Grab your legs and then bring them slowly together. And we're gonna roll onto the back.

And as we find your way down onto your back, we'll simply work our way to a comfortable spot, just rest the head down, and then set your feet on the floor. And from here, I'm gonna have you bend your arms and press your elbows down beside your rib cage. Then, at the same time, press the shoulders back to the floor. So as you come up into that bridge variation, let your thighs reach forward, and we're gonna try to lift up the sides of the lungs, the sides of the chest. And then get into that place where you feel like your sternum bone is starting to move its way towards the base of your chin.

And just find a comfortable edge where you could really notice that you're breathing well into your back bend. If you need to lower your hips more to breathe better, then lower your hips a little bit closer to the ground. Take one more breath, inhale three or four seconds, fill the chest. And then, as you exhale, working your way down through the spine, till we come all the way down to the floor, and then relax your arms. Please bring your knees towards your chest.

Cross your ankles, one over each other, and then reach forward with your right hand for your left foot, and with your left hand for your right foot. And drop the heels down toward the back of the sit bones, squeeze your knees in towards your chest, and then create a little more space in the back rim of the pelvis as you rock a little bit side to side. Observing the breath, three seconds in, three seconds out. As you come back to a neutral place, let the feet come and make contact with the floor. Notice if there's any last closing movements that you'd like to do to balance from our practice.

And if you're ready, we'll just stretch your legs all the way down to the floor and head into shavasana, with your arms out to the side. As you wiggle into a good space, let your eyes close. And try to notice the jaw releasing from the upper palate. Lengthen all the way down from your throat into your chest. And then feeling as if the strap were still around your rib cage, and that the area of the back of the diaphragm, the ribs is starting to move toward the earth.

And then feeling the openness in the hips, release the legs, left and right. And as the physical body settles, just beginning to notice, then, a little bit more of the breath and the body coming back to its natural rhythm. Letting go of any efforts or any control put upon the breath. And as you become more aware of breath coming in and out, see if you can start to make yourself a little more at home in the spaces between the breaths. That little opening is the portal into the more subtle states of meditation.

While receiving the support of the ground underneath you, stay here and start to come back into more of the breath rhythm we began with. Slow inhale, three or four seconds long, long, steady exhale out. And five more times, focusing on the length of the inhale, whatever your number is. The same amount with the breath out. After the last exhale, let your legs draw together, let your arms reach back by your ears, and take a long stretch here on your back, as if it was the first stretch of the day.

Big inhale. And, as you exhale, bend your legs, and go ahead and start to roll over onto your right side. And then from your side, take in a moment to integrate before you come all the way back up to a neutral seat, a cross-legged or virasana. And then finding what seat helps you sit the best without discomfort, we'll take a moment to use your breath to help you balance from shivasana. We need to take in a little bit more inhale to feel a little more alert and awake, or to focus a little bit more on the out breath and the pause after exhale to calm down the mind if you feel anxious or agitated.

And then, in closing in, invite the hands in front of the heart's center. And, in closing this practice, may we take a moment to think of one thing that you're grateful for, and just bringing that into your heart, center your awareness. And then, expressing our gratitude for all of our teachers' teachers for passing along the practice of yoga. Namaste. Thank you.

Comments

1 person likes this.
Inspiring practice ... Love the precise instructions to each asana. Ingenuous way to stretch the legs :)
1 person likes this.
thanks marcia and i hope to see you soon in person for more yoga and leg stretching!
1 person likes this.
Hi Melina, I love your elemental yoga! I've already done your water practice and it was amazing, and now I find this one also feels really good for me:). Love your style and instructions and hope to see more workouts from you here:).
Thanks Elena and there will be more classes on the horizon! Stay tuned and I hope the to other elements also help you feel wonderful.
1 person likes this.
Thank you! Looking forward to more classes from you!:)
thanks, really nice practice
2 people like this.
This deep instruction is making a difference in my life. Bless you for that.
So nice! My asthma has been acting up, and, this practice really helped. Thank you Melina!
1 person likes this.
Using the belt around the diaphragm was a REVELATION. Brilliant exploration of the breath. Many thanks!
1 person likes this.
Great for posture for the gravity challenged...over the top in n er thigh stretch. Breath for anti agitation, busy mind imperative for me
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