Awaken to You: 30-Day Yoga Challenge Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 19

Day 16: Slow Down & Ground In

30 min - Practice


In Day 16, we explore a grounding practice as we begin to tune inward to the subtle sensations in the body. We give the wrists a break while strengthening the core and shoulders and opening the hips and hamstrings.
What You'll Need: Mat


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Greetings, Mitras, friends, namaste. Thanks for joining. Today is day 16. You've come a long way. And as we progress into these next several days of practicing together, we'll see some reflection and repetition of the practices that we've already experienced, some occasional new shapes.

We're not going to get any more complex, but we're going to get a little more sophisticated in how we approach our practice from the inside out. So let's start on our backs together. And if you have a block and a strap, keep it handy for this practice. Bring your knees into your chest and come back and return to that reclined child's pose that hopefully you've come to know and love. And just rock a little bit from side to side across your lower back.

Use your eyes and feel into that first really beautiful deep breath here. And see if you can right away just start to refine your breath so that you can hear it and feel it and its subtlety inside. On your next exhale, gently take your knees all the way over to the left side of the mat and extend your right arm out in opposition. Take a deep breath in as you expand. And as you exhale, soften and relax your shoulders down towards the earth.

And let's take the knees back through the center and all the way over to the right side of your mat. Let your knees drop down, extend your left arm in opposition and enjoy a deep breath in here. Exhale, soften and relax your shoulders, back of the heart, ribcage and waist. Come back to the center on your next inhale and let's lift the feet a little higher than the knees and we'll go into a dynamic twist here and this is one we're familiar with now. So as you twist, it's an inhale and as you come back to the center, it's an exhale.

Exhale to your twist, exhale to come back to the center and let's let the movement be a little more subtle today so rather than going right into a deep twist, just let it be more of a tilt, just pouring your weight from one hip to the other and keeping a nice integration at the center of the body, at the center of the core. Feel how your head and neck can move in opposition from your hips and your feet and your knees. And let's just enjoy a couple more to each side, activating through the core, finding a rhythm with the breath and once more to each side, inhale as you twist, exhale back to the center, inhale as you twist, exhale back to the center. Bring your feet to the mat, hips width apart and sweep your arms over your head coming into your dynamic bridge. As you exhale, tuck your tailbone under through the posterior tilt, lift through the hips, the waist, the ribs, the heart and exhale, roll right back down and sweep your arms over your head.

We'll continue rolling up and down on the breath so exhale as you lift, inhale at the top and then exhale as you roll down, inhale at the bottom. Continue on your own, exhaling as you lift, inhaling in between the movement and then exhaling to roll back down. We'll take about three or four more rounds and just notice as you move and breathe, do things feel a little more familiar now? Do things, what feels a little easier, what feels stronger or more open in your body? It's really nice to just acknowledge and notice where you've made any significant change or growth or openings and sometimes they're really subtle and sometimes it's like, wow, look at that, my hands are on the floor now and my forward fold, right?

So just really look for that in these next several practices. Next time you come on up, let's stay lifted and you can lace your fingers behind your back or take a strap and walk your outer shoulders in underneath you and open up across the chest and just enjoy a few deep breaths here right into the center of your heart. Stay for the exhale, let this asana feel like a full body offering opening up to your intention today, to your commitment, to your practice, to this challenge, it's no easy task. So really rising up to the occasion literally as you inhale and then exhale, separate your shoulders, separate your hands and let's roll down the spine one vertebrae at a time. Go ahead and take hold of your strap.

Let's revisit our supta padagusthasana A, B and C and again, just like knees to chest on your back, hopefully by now this shape is like an old friend. So extend your right leg to the sky, left leg long and draw the leg towards your face any amount and just notice here if you have a little bit of a different range than you did at the beginning of this challenge and a little bit of refinement. Let's hold the strap with our left hand and bring your right thumb to your right hip crease. Draw the right hip down and feel both hips, both shoulders against the floor and let's enjoy a deep breath in here. As you exhale, we'll bring it across into the twist.

So we'll go right into supta padagusthasana C, reach your right arm out in opposition and same thing here in the twist. You can take that top hip and just guide it down to lengthen the low back and you'll feel into those same refinements when we're in twisting triangle, when we're in this pose balancing, can work with the same little refinements and subtleties. One more full breath in and then exhale, smooth and steady, come back to the center. Change hands on the strap and externally rotate through the right leg as you open up to supta padagusthasana B and feel that nice long line of energy from the center of your hips through the adductor line all the way out the heel and really press through the center of both legs, flexing both feet strongly here, full breath in. As you exhale, stay in the pose, but draw your foot a little closer up towards your temple and then bring it back to the center and let's change sides, loop the left foot up into the strap, right leg comes down and just take a moment here with your right hand holding the strap, left thumb finds your hip crease and draw it down.

Just these little adjustments of the hips, the pelvis can make such a big difference in sensation in these postures, right? Shoulders relax back and just check in with your breath, check in with the inner landscape inside how you're feeling today and how it feels to just be on your mat. For me, sometimes I get the chance for a long practice, a short practice, and sometimes just getting on my mat for five minutes can make a difference. It has a really nice grounding quality to it. Let's bring it across into a twist here, coming into supta padagusthasana C, reach your left arm out in opposition.

See if you can feel that hip dropping down on its own as you breathe. We're just kind of stepping into our practice slowly today, consciously. Coming back to the center and we know the pathway now, we open up this leg to supta padagusthasana B and open up to your intention, your special dedication, whatever it is, can be the same intention you've been working with this whole challenge or it can be just for today. So enjoy a few breaths there, allow your breath to be the calming force inside of you and slowly come on back to the center and let's set the strap to one side, hug your knees into your chest and take a moment here. So from here, we'll take one more shape before we come up off of our back, cross your right ankle over your left knee, come in and to thread the needle, you know this one, it's a really nice hip opener.

Same shape when we stand it up and balance it that we call temple dancer. And what I'd love for you to feel today is we've been practicing our padagusthasana quite a bit with a strap, but just for today, notice if you can take your right piece fingers, make a peace sign and grab onto your right big toe and from your thread the needle, see about opening right up into your padagusthasana B and it might be that you need that longer reach of the strap around your foot. That's fine, but just kind of see where it goes a couple times. Your right leg may or may not be all the way straight. Once more, open it up out to the side like this and then the next time you come in, curl up.

We can turn it into a little core exploration as we open up the head, neck and shoulders come down and as we bring it back in, we coil. So just take a few of these, feel how your body can contract and draw in like a sea anemone and then open up like a sunflower. Once more, pulling it in, exhaling as you draw in, inhaling to open up and then come back to the center and simply change sides. You can place the feet down on the mat for a moment, shift your hips and then let's take the second side, so left ankle on top of right knee and pull this whole shape into your body. Left piece fingers make a peace sign, peace and grab onto your left big toe and from here, trace that pathway of opening up, supta padagusthasana B and then bringing that whole shape back to thread the needle and this is a really cool posture to work with standing from a standing balance, great for increasing your focus but let's just enjoy it here on the floor today and add that little bit of core work as you exhale, just coil up any amount and then inhale, spread out on the floor, exhale, draw in from the navel center, inhale, open up, exhale, inhale, open up.

One more time, just kind of a different way to start activating the body and open it up. Back to the center, release both feet down and hug your knees into your chest. So let's transition up to forearm plank, roll onto your side, make your way onto your hands and knees and let's go ahead and just lace the fingers together and extend back to your forearm plank. Feel your pelvis tilt down towards the posterior tilt, belly draws in, we've been here before and feel into the strength in the front of your body as you breathe, inhaling and exhale, hold the shape, let's lift our right leg up just for a moment and then set it down and then lift the left leg up just for a moment and set it down and then go ahead and lift both legs up, just kidding, let's lower both hips down, you can do it, I'm going to skip it and turn your palms to face down, lift your chest, feel sphinx pose is one of my favorite foundation backbends and nice little opening across the tummy and the chest, pull your elbows towards your ribs so it literally feels like you're dragging your body forward and from here let's go to dolphin pose, curl your toes under, lift your hips and walk your feet towards your elbows and take a moment here and breathe in dolphin as you press your chest back towards your thighs, really fantastic shoulder opener. Two deep breaths here and also build a tremendous amount of strength in our shoulders in this pose as well and then as you're ready, exhale, just come into child's pose for a moment, big toes touch, knees are wide, sit back and dropping back down into the dugout into home base, wisdom pose and on your next inhale, shift forward to your hands and knees, curl your toes under, let's press back to downward facing dog.

From our downward dog, walk your hands to the back of the mat and inhale, lift up halfway, exhale forward fold, with a flat back come all the way up to standing, circulate the arms out and up, exhale hands to your heart, we're standing up, congratulations, let's continue moving and breathing, big inhale to reach to the sky, exhale forward fold, lift your heart halfway and then walk your hands forward into downward facing dog. Now one of the things I really love about this practice is that it's pretty easy on the wrist, so as you shift forward, shift into forearm plank, so we don't spend a lot of time on the wrist in this practice, lift the right leg up for a moment, exhale, set it down, lift the left leg up for a moment, exhale, set it down, lower the hips and lift your heart, sphinx vinyasa, exhale, curl the toes under, lift your hips, return to dolphin, so we walk the feet forward and widen the feet as you press your chest back, take a full breath in here, exhale completely and then you can come to downward dog straight from here if you'd like, you can lift the elbows and press right into it, sometimes that feels pretty technical though, so I like to come down to my knees first, plant my palms and then come into downward dog, it's your choice, walk your hands all the way back to your feet, lie on the wrist, inhale, lift the heart halfway, exhale, forward fold, with the flat back come all the way up to standing, inhaling, exhale, draw the hands to the heart, let's do that again, circle out and up, full breath in, exhale, forward fold and just notice how you move from one asana to the next, allow it to become a moving meditation as you lift your heart, walk your hands forward to downward dog, no rush, guiding with the breath, take an inhale to shift forward, exhale, lower to your forearms, inhale, lift one leg, exhale, let it lower, inhale, lift the other leg and this isn't without effort, forearm plank is challenging, lower the hips, lift the heart as you inhale, stay for the exhale, curl the toes under, lift your hips coming into dolphin, walk your feet towards your elbows and hang out here for a breath, one more full inhale, as you exhale it's return to downward dog either via the hands and knees or press right into it, walk your hands all the way back to your feet and then come on up halfway, big inhale, exhale, forward fold, with a flat back come all the way up to standing, exhale hands to your heart, so you notice we took quite a bit more time in our warmups in this practice, so the namaskar's and the standing balance is going to be a little briefer, we've worked with half moon already, let's come into it in a different way today, so from the back of your mat go ahead and step your right foot forward as you reach your arms up, now as you exhale we'll come into a floating half moon, so open your chest and your hips like a book, the left leg lifts and slowly lower like your right hand is going to reach towards the floor but we won't touch down so it's a little more work and effort in your core and your standing leg, if balance feels a little squirrely bend the bottom knee no problem and then come right back up to stand in the middle of the mat, touch your palms, exhale, release your arms and it just feels a little different, a lot different to come into half moon this way, let's take the second side, reach up on your inhale, exhale, step your left foot forward, shift your weight into the left foot, open your chest and hips like a book as you lower and notice again how does this affect you on the inside, does it take a little more concentration, a little more focus, does it feel better if you bend your standing leg a bit or keep it straight, if you fall out of the pose can you come back into it unruffled, come all the way up to standing at the top of the mat touch your palms, exhale hands to your heart, from here step your left foot back about two feet and then let's open up from our heart center and reach back behind us into a reverse namaste and once again we did this in yesterday's practice or the day before and you can bring your fists together or wrap and hold your wrists, let's lift the heart on and inhale and then exhale just come halfway down, create a tabletop with your spine, roll the shoulders back and open the chest and hang out here and breathe eyes steady, breath steady, feeling into the inner landscape, we spend a lot of time working on the alignment and the discipline of the outer body equally as important if not more important to focus on the alignment of your mind, that's really where the yoga practice is. So one more breath here, as you exhale release over the front leg any amount and then come up like you're coming through water, lift your head, lift your heart, stand up, reach your arms to the sky, as you exhale hands to the midline and let's step back up to the front of the mat, super simple, given the wrists a break, step the right foot back, reach behind you into your reverse namaste variation, grabbing the wrists or fists together, as you inhale lift through the heart and then exhale come down halfway, breathing steady, mind focused, engaging through the outer body and so it's really nice to oscillate your awareness from the outer body to the inner body, really look at what is the practice of yoga, it's outer body to inner body and back again, not just the alignment of the body, not just the breath, not just your intention, but really all of it combined, enjoy another full breath here and exhale, relax over the long leg to come up, lift your head, lift your heart, power up your legs, come all the way up to standing and then step to the top of the mat and reach your arms to the sky, full breath in, exhale forward fold, inhale to lift your heart halfway, exhale step back to downward dog, deepest breath in here, let's exhale through the mouth this time, slowly come on to your hands and knees and take your block let's bring it close to the mat and behind you, we're going to come into a seated hip opener that we've been working with on our backs but we'll come into it seated upright for the first time, so from your hands and knees bring your knees together and reach your right leg straight back, then tuck your right knee behind your left and spread your feet out like a mermaid or a merman tail and you can take your block behind you, start to ease your hips back towards the block almost like you're easing into a cross legged child's pose and some of you will come down to the mat, no problem, some of us are going to need a block to sit on, no problem and so when you find yourself in this shape, we call this Gomukhasana, the femur bones kind of cross the midline here and the knees stack, the feet are wide, right, men you got to get your ducks in a row, that's all we're going to say about that and then sit up nice and tall as you inhale, as you exhale simply walk your hands forward and come into a forward fold, there is a upper body arm position that goes with this posture but let's just work on the base for today, just the legs, so relax down and breathe into the back of the heart, so hang out here for a few breaths, feeling into your hips and your low back, dropping into your breath, visiting your intention, coming back up again and slowly walk it back up forward and we're going to come out of this by extending the right leg back and then just draw your knee forward and in, we could thread it right over to the other side but let's come back to neutral for a moment and take a couple of cat-cows, just so we elegantly change sides, inhale to arch the back, exhale round and now bring the knees together, go ahead and flip the right foot to the outside of the block, extend straight back through the left leg and then tuck the left knee in behind the right, adjust your feet, adjust whatever you need to adjust and then start to sit back towards a cross-legged child's pose, sometimes I like to come up for a moment and just kind of organize where my feet are, stack my knees, take a deep breath in here and then exhale bowing in and forward and you may not even need to bow forward, it might feel super juicy and therapeutic to just stay seated upright with your legs in this orientation, so whatever works for you and come back to that oscillation of your awareness, alignment of the body, your breath, alignment of your mind, your breath and you can just kind of travel back and forth between those kind of ranges, sometimes I even like to think of it as the ocean, the surface of the ocean versus the depth of the ocean. Some more breaths here, as you're ready slowly come on up with your new hips, shift forward, back leg extended out for a breath of fresh air and then go ahead and just tuck and roll to come onto your back, come into a supported shoulder stand to really drain and release the hip opening from the legs, so come down onto your back, knees bent, place your feet flat on the mat and lift your hips placing the block underneath your sacrum, low or medium height, you can even go tall but just depends on you, I really like a low block for this one, take your legs straight up to the sky and feel the lift, arch in the low back, pelvis is just kind of almost like you're on a cake plate with your hips, so really feel the center of the sacrum connecting firmly into your block, reach through your legs and spiral the big toes together, little space between the heels, so super specific with the legs and just allow the energy to drain down and into your open palms, take a full couple of breaths in and out, perhaps closing your eyes as you breathe, so from here relax your legs, soften your knees and just let them float down like you're floating through water all the way down to the ocean floor, let's lift the hips, take the block out from underneath you, roll down, we'll stretch the legs out for Shavasana and today take your block and just let it rest right on top of the low belly and the hips to ground the pelvis and sacrum down and relax your hands, palms face up and rest, rest, rest, rest, rest, rest, rest, rest, rest, rest, rest, rest. Slowly bring your awareness back into your body. Send a little bit of movement through your fingers and your toes. Reach your arms over your head and reawaken, refreshed.

As you exhale, bend your knees, take your block off your hips and roll on off to one side. You can come on up and let's actually have a seat on top of our block today. So set it behind you and bring your hips right up on top of your block. Coming into a cross-legged position, notice how your legs can drop down a little more comfortably now. Bring your hands to your heart center. Thank you so much for joining me today, for slowing down and grounding in. I look forward to seeing you in the next practice. Namaste.


Jenny S
5 people like this.
Shelley I can’t help myself from leaving comments on this challenge almost every day! I’m just so in love with your style of teaching and your choreography AND your sense of humor (ducks in a row lol.). Loved this!
Shelley Williams
Jenny Just so you know, I look FORWARD to reading these comments... so thank you so much for taking the time to write me...we are pen pals, now! Much appreciation, and glad to know you pick up on my dorky jokes ;-0
Glenford N
4 people like this.
Yoga is where the outer body combines with the inner body.... I love your description, Shelley. I enjoyed the slower pace and more focus on each pose. Quality not quantity. Can't believe how quickly this challenge is progressing. Namaste
Shelley Williams
Glenford Have you ever read any of Mark Nepo's books? You would love his poetic, nature related analogies of consciousness. All of his works are wonderful, check out "The Endless Practice"
2 people like this.
great practice. surprised me how much the internal rotation of legs in supported shoulder-stand caused sort of localised crampy discomfort in the top front of both thighs. i suspect my internal rotators are weak (as well as hip stabilisers in general) but the location of the discomfort was odd (and interesting!). would be interested if you have any thoughts on this. thanks.
Shelley Williams
Matthew Hi there! Interesting, I will be honest, that is a new feedback for that posture. Perhaps try:

1) External hip opening (Pigeon and Thread the Needle) followed by
2)Adductor opening (seated wide straddle in Upavista Konasana) as well as releasing 3)Psoas and frontal hip flexors with a single knee to chest stretch while sacrum is supported on block or foam roll (opposite leg draped long and to the floor)

See if that allows more freedom for internal rotators in Shoulder stand... lmk how it goes :)
Gabriel W
2 people like this.
Brilliant loved it.
Andrew S
2 people like this.
Hi Shelley. Great day. I'm noticing much more flexibility in the shoulders and neck. For instance, it usually takes a good 15 seconds before I can lie flat on my back, head touching the floor, without any neck strain in the back of the neck . Usually it's not that comfortable for me. I also can't lie flat arms reaching overhead touching the floor. My arms are usually a good 4 or 5 inches from the floor. This is really really improving. Hips and legs also improving.
Shelley Williams
Gabriel 🙃 💜
Shelley Williams
Andrew That is a huge improvement, buddy! The shoulder opening will help your neck tightness and upper back posture, they all work together... notice if you are standing up a little straighter, more freedom in your gait and other activities too? Awesome!! A little a day goes a long way!
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