Align with Freedom: 30-Day Yoga Challenge Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 28

Day 26: Integration 2

30 min - Practice


Today we continue to explore the joint-to-joint connection that helps us open into the body and into a deep sense of integration. We pay close attention to the inner arms and legs as we move through our practice. You will feel aware and integrated.
What You'll Need: Mat, Blanket, Block (2)


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Welcome back to day 26 of our 30-day challenge. We are in day two of integration and continuing to work on the joint-to-joint connection that helps us open into the body and into a deep sense of stillness and meditation. We're going to be focusing a little bit more on the inner arm and inner leg today. We're going to be starting low. Let's turn onto the mat and come to hands and knees. Our first exploration here is how much of an effect the hands can have on the entire rest of the arm and even into the torso. Often when folks take dog pose, their hands can be sort of what we call tinted like this and that certainly has an effect on the body. But we're going to start today with a little exploration. Let's make it the left hand. Spread out all five fingers like a starfish and then with the right hand, pick up each finger, lift it and stretch it away from the center of the palm and then glue that elongated finger down to your mat. Let's do it with the index finger. Pull, reach and glue it. Middle, reach, ring, reach it, pinky. Good. Keep that there. Glue those areas to the ground and with your other hand, we're going to kind of make it a little loosey-goosey, okay? Not much participation in the hand. From there, we're going to have you move up into a dog pose and feel what happens in the two sides of your body. I'm going to try not to give you too many ideas here first. I want you to feel it but notice the two arms. Notice the shape and size of your chest, right side, left side and then come down and rest. So I hope you could feel that there's a distinct difference between those two sides of the body. Let's try that in child's pose where there's a little less need for the effort. We'll spread out the hand and both hands this time. Keeping those hands well spread and connected to the floor, arms straight, let's come into child's pose and see how that affects the length of your torso. And then come up for a moment and now we'll bring the awareness here for the first time to what I'm going to call the inner arm, the inside edge of the arm. Often the outside edge of the arm rolls up, inside rolls down. We're going to work the inner edge of the arm up, pressing down, especially the thumb and index finger sides of our well-spread hands. Roll the inner edge of the arm up and parallel with the outer edge and once again child's pose. Let's try for just a moment, see what happens if you drop the inner arm now downward toward the yoga mat, outer arm will be relatively lifting up toward the ceiling and you can feel how there's a pinch of the shoulder joint and even the neck. There's a closure there, no more space. Then return to that inner arm lifting, outer arm rolling downward toward the yoga mat. We're making them parallel and see how you have greater access to space here. Now from here let's find our way into a forearm plank. Come up, we'll place the forearms down and our first version we're going to make fists with the thumbs pointing up, curl under your toes, nice strong abdominal wall. We've sure been building that up over our previous challenges or previous practices. We're holding here and then turn the thumbs outward. This helps us start to feel the inner arm lifting up off the yoga mat or lifting up toward the ceiling. Rolling up, hold there constantly keeping the thumbs turning out and then lower the knees and rest.

Take a quick pause, come back down with the forearms. This time turn the palms up wide open fingers. This is an unusual forearm plank. Curl the toes under and lift your knees. Here again we're trying, though we may not get there, we're trying to get the thumbs to touch the yoga mat to once again feel the lift, the rising of the inner arm, inner edge of the bicep. Press the outer side of the arm downward into the yoga mat, inside edge lifting and ascending and then release. Now a full plank. Let's get those very widespread fingers, wide palms, curl under the toes. Before we lift, though, let's get a little roll of that inner arm forward, outer arm back. This helps us get into the chest space. Raise the knees from the hands through the elbows to the shoulder, that joint to joint linkage. We create this action for space and lift in the inner body and then bend the knees. Relax for just a moment. You can shake out your arms. That's certainly a lot of work for me here. I imagine it might be for you as well. And now dog pose. Let's start with the feeling of the inner arm has awareness and lift to it. Press well, the thumb and index finger sides of the hands. Lift your toes, sorry, curl your toes and lift your knees but come slowly enough that you can feel that inner arm is always ascending. Be here in dog pose. You could pedal your legs for just a minute if you need that little extra space and then plant the heels down and let's see if we can go back to feeling the inner arm. Have that upward lift. All the way to the shoulders and even the shoulder blades should experience that lift. If you don't feel it today, don't worry about it. With practice this will come. Now let's shift gears a little bit and start to feel the inner leg. We've done the inner arm. Let's see what the inner leg can do for us. Bring the feet a little closer together. Inhale, raise your heels and we'll step the left leg through to the hands. High lunge here. Now I ask you to bring your focus to the inside edge of the right leg. That's the back leg. Push down on the ball of your right foot to energize your right kneecap and lift or at least to sense that inner right leg. And as we do, we sort of practice sometimes what the opposite would feel like. So to do that, you could roll your heel inward a little bit. Outer leg therefore lifting and this creates a bit of a collapse in the body which I'm showing here. Squaring the foot forward again, push down on the ball of the foot and raise the inner thigh so we're looking for a parallel feeling. Outer edge and inner edge. Good. Step back to dog pose. Take a moment, notice both legs. What do they feel like? What's the awareness from one to the next? Raise the heels forward. Now right leg between the hands. We're in that high lunge again.

Now you can't see the inner edge of my left leg so you have to take my word for it but we're again lifting that inner edge. Press the ball of the left foot into the mat. Firm and lift your left kneecap. Firm and lift your left thigh and hip joint. And sense at least that inner edge and attempt to raise it up. It doesn't move much. It's more a feeling of supportive lift. For a moment soften that energy and you'll feel the pose want to collapse toward the floor. Push once again down on the ball of the left foot. Draw that inner left leg up and all of a sudden there's a space, a lift, a support that wasn't there a moment ago. Step back to dog pose. Feel both legs. Come down to your knees for a moment. Grab a block if you've got one nearby. We'll take the block thin and into the top of the legs. I'm gonna wrap the legs around that block nice and firmly for another dog pose. Lift up the knees and there are the feet a bit so you've got a firm grip on that block. If I can remember we'll work into the inner arm lift while we're practicing this. So two things to be aware of. The inner arm and it's as though we're trying to move that block further back away from the hands. As though the inner legs are drawing up and back away from the hands and arms. This creates a deeper space in the spine in the abdomen and then bend the knees come down and it also connects us better to the sensations of the legs. Here's an interesting thing. Whenever you're connected to something you feel it better. So when we're connected to the floor here we feel the arm better. Block helps us connect to the legs better. Draw the legs up again one more time in dog pose and feet together. Raise the heels. Right leg up and now we're focusing on inner arms lifting. Inner right leg also lifting so the pelvis is square here.

And that whole connected notion that I just mentioned works in life too. We can only know ourselves in reflection when we're connected to others. And through a yoga practice we can begin to sense that. Right leg down. Heels down for a moment. Recharge the inner arms. High heels. Inner arms stay lifting. Now left leg up. And once again try to roll that left inner thigh closer to the ceiling. It's easier to do at the foot. Harder to do at the root of the leg. Can you search there? And then bring the leg down. Let's walk the feet forward to a wide leg ragdoll pose. This is our rest. Take a few breaths here. Allow the wrists and arms to calm. Legs to get a little refreshing moment. Head is relaxed. Neck is relaxed. And then hands on knees. Bend your knees a bit. Lift your chest. And then come all the way up. Let's take a minute to grab a block for this next pose. In tadasana. Feet together. We're gonna place the block. Just like you see me doing it here with the full palm on the edge of the block. Okay so that isn't gonna help us much. We need full palm on the edge of the block. I'm gonna start right here. Press down through the legs. Like we learned in the previous practice. Say creme and tailbone down to lift the chest. We're gonna bring the blocks here. Right over the top of the head with a 90-degree bend in the arms. We're gonna try to take that block behind the head. Now the arms, they don't work like this. The elbow points forward when we lift. The elbow will point slightly out. But what this is teaching is a rotation here. All the way through the shoulder blade. Let's do it together. Holding here. Press your palms against the block to narrow those elbows.

Feel how that side chest has have to be brought into this muscle energy to create the action. Bring the block down and rest. This is really important for handstands, headstands, inversions. Let's do it one more time. Block. Parallel arms. Arms bent at 90 degrees. Go on rolling those elbows in. All the way from your side chest. And now keeping the arms there, can you bring that block almost to touch the back of your body? Elbows stay narrow. Holding. Press the block and then release. Let it go. Let's put the block off to the side. Intanasana again. Feel what that did to your chest. Nice open space. Now take the arms out to the sides. From your inner arm. Here it is again. Inner arm. We're gonna roll up. That's the same move as in dog pose. Turn those inner arms up. The chest is brought wide open. And we're holding here. Hold, hold, hold. We can help this. Turn the palms all the way to the ceiling. And this really helps us get that spiral up. Now can you maintain the lift of the chest? The turn of the arms. And turn the palms down. And then rest. Good. Again feel that sense in the chest. The space that we've created. Let's try again. Bring the arms out to the sides.

Palms up and rotate the entire arm from the shoulder joints. You really feel the inner arm is lifting. Can you feel it? Notice how that lifts the chest. Now we tie it all together with the chest lifted. Arms in their rotated position. Bring them up. You hold there. I'll point. This area right here has to be turned on. That's what we use the block for. And now we get the full lifted arms in mountain pose. And then release. Great job. Let's grab a block one more time. We're gonna take Utkatasana, chair pose. We'll take the block in that same way again. Feet together. And now arms up. And this is the tough part. Squeeze those elbows in towards your ears. Acrement tailbone down. And be careful of overextending your back. I'm showing that now. When we try to lift the arms sometimes the back tries to take over. That's something we want to be mindful of. Holding there. Big breath in. Bending the knees. Thighs together. Utkatasana. Go only as far as you can maintain a neutral back. And the arms squeezed in. Tough pose with this extra addition of the block. And then release. We'll give the arms a little bit of a break. Block goes thin way in between the legs. High up in the thigh. The feet will be slightly apart for this. Arms out to the sides. Roll the arms from the shoulders and lift above. Keep them there. Breath in.

Exhale. Coming down again into your chair pose. Squeeze the brick. And coming down only as you can. Only as far as you can. It did not distort your spine. So we keep that spine healthy, open, and spacious. So all these joint to joint actions we're working to create an open space in the body. And then release. Let's put the block down. Keep it nearby. You might need it for a later pose that we'll do standing. Wide legs now. Prasarita padasana. Press down through the heels. Sacramon tailbone down. Chest well lifted. We've been practicing this. Now we add the arms. Rolling from the root of the arm, inner edge up. This is warrior two. Turn the left toes in, right leg out. Now we're combining our last session's practices with this now. Outward roll of the leg gives the chest and expressed all the way through the arms. Warrior two. Holding there. The mantra of the leg positioning that we practiced. And now the action of the arms to create an inner space and openness that draws the awareness throughout the body. Rest the arms. Turn the foot in. Take a moment's breath. Second side. Right toes in. Left leg out. Outward spiral of the legs. Tailbone down. Chest up. Now the inner arm lift. Big breath in. Exhale. Warrior two. Let's play for just a minute, shall we? Roll your arms the other way. See what happens. Chest collapses. Neck. There's a downward sinking energy. Let's see if we can get it one more time. And then come out of the pose. Turn the feet in. Rest your arms. Mountain pose. Notice the space in the chest that you're able to create so far. Now side angle using the same concepts. Wide legs. Left toes in, right leg out. Outward spiral of the legs. Tailbone down. Chest up. Inner arm up now. Big breath in. Exhale. Right knee bending. Side angle. Here's where you might need a block. Now a new way of using the top arm. Take the hand. Palm to head. This turns the arm in the way we've been practicing. Now maintain that and shoot the arms straight up over the head. Holding there. Roll the front body. Chest up. And back body between the shoulder blades. Down toward your right hand. And inhale. Come up. Turn the feet to center. Second side. Right toes in, left leg out. Outward spiral of the thighs. Inner arms lifting. Exhale. Bend the knee. Side angle pose.

Right palm to your head. Elbow open. And then push the fingers straight up over your head. Chest turning up. Back body between the shoulder blades. Rolling down toward the left hand. And inhale. Come up. Turn the feet to center. Let's one more time hit mountain pose. Oh, all of that space just draws that awareness down out of the head in that quiet openness. Stepping toward the front of the mat. We'll start here. Inhale. Arms up. Moving toward the floor. Exhale. Forward bend. Step back to plank. And dog pose. Then bend your knees. We'll do a little cat and cow. Exhaling spine goes up. Inhaling spine goes down. One more. Then please take a moment to grab a block for an exploration of dolphin pose. Don't worry, we won't be kicking all the way up. It's just about the supports that we're learning for space. Place the block flat down and hug it with a figure L of thumb and index finger. Forearms down. Press the thumb and index finger down onto the floor to get the inner arm lift. We're gonna combine arm and leg actions. Curl the toes under. Lift your knees. Feet together. Walk your feet towards your hands. Shoulders lifted. Inner arms lifted. Right leg up. Now can you keep that inner arm awareness and lift your inner right leg. Hold there. Tap down that right foot. Let's challenge the left. Relift the inner arms from elbow to armpit and left leg up. And then come down. Bend your knees. And out of your pose. Let's put the block away. We're gonna use two blocks in just a moment but first grab a blanket and we'll take a seat for a wide leg twist. And let me just say again that if you don't feel these things profoundly today with practice they come and the more you feel the actions the more you'll feel the space. Take a moment to press your hands on the blanket and lift your trunk. Left hand in the middle. Right hand behind you and easy twist. Just focus on a twist here now. And second side. Right hand in the middle. Left hand behind and we're just focusing on creating a twist and a little space in the chest. Turn to middle. Pressing down through the arms. Lifting your chest. Big one now. Two arms straight up overhead. Here's that inner arm action. Now maintain a steady seat and turn trunk to the right. Arms still by the head and they love to split apart when we do this. Can you keep them parallel? And then to center and second side. Turn, turn, turn. Inner arms alive and lifting. And then release. Let the arms down. Pull the knees back. We'll come off the blanket and grab two blocks for an exploration of up dog. One block. Two blocks. These are going to be for our hands. We'll take the hands wrapped just over the front edge of the block. Knees down onto the ground. Bring the shoulders over the wrist for this dog pose. And let's work on that inner arm energy moving forward. Just like it did in all the other poses in the various relative shapes. Now allow the hips to come down. Curl under your toes. And we're going to do a little wiggle toward the front of the mat. Go on turning the inner arms forward. You see that? Lift my chest. This is the first one right here. Press down on those palms. Inner arms moving forward. Shoulder blades down the back. And then release. Sort of a hands and knees position release. If you need to move your back, please do. And then second pose. Second attempt. We can walk the knees back a moment. Shoulders over wrists. Inner arms forward. Now drop the hips.

Keeping the inner arms moving forward. Chest up. Walk in with your knees. Toes are still curled under. And tailbone down. And then back we go. Walk the knees back. Hands and knees. Ease position. And we have one more to do. This time I offer you the option of lifting your knees. Once again shoulders over wrists. Inner arms moving forward. Chest up. Walk in your hips toward the blocks. Press down through the arms. Once again inner arms forward. And then if it's available to you, consider lifting your knees. Toes are still tucked under. Inner legs lifting. And lower down. Put the blocks off to the side. And a little bit of cat and cow to relieve the back. And as we've been doing, I suggest you look all around the various ranges. I'm not going to say for a specific range up, down, left, or right, or diagonal. You hunt around moving through every different direction your spine can go. And see if there's any tension that needs your attention. Good. Let's take a child's pose with the awareness of the arms. Sit your hips down to the heels. Stretch your arms forward. Inner arms up. This helps us to relieve the back bend of up dog by stretching the hips down to the heels. Come back up. And now bring the knees together. All the way together. Sitting back. And you'll notice that this creates an even deeper rounding of the back to help us relieve the back bend. Inner arms lifting. Now in this particular version, my head doesn't touch the floor. Yours might not either. No problem. We're using it more as a counter pose than anything else. Using your active arms helps settle your hips down to your heels. And then walking up. Tell you what, for the end of this practice, because we did back bends, why don't we give the knees the gift of lift today. We'll take a blanket, roll it up into a nice tube, and this will go underneath the knees. That will help let our back soften down into the floor. So you arrange that for your legs. And then coming down. There we go. Got it. Then a little stretch of the hips away from the lower back, buttocks away from the lower back. Tuck the shoulders one by one. Let's get a good shavasana in here today. Ah, here again. Inner arm is allowed to open and lift. To spread. It's not an effortful thing, musculosy speaking.

But now you may be acutely aware of that inner arm and inner leg area. This is our chance to relax that regions of our body. If you think of how we express tension, it's the tendency to close arms against body, tighten the legs. Here we want to give the nervous system the cue that it's okay to soften those areas. And the integration of our yoga is to use these techniques and ideas to allow the brain to quieten, to settle the thought processes, and allow a aware presence to reveal itself. Thank you. Take as much time as you need to soften. If you are ready to come out of your pose, rest your hands on your tummy for a moment. And bend your knees one at a time. Turn softly over to your right side, support your head with a blanket or your arm. And then softly press your way up into a comfortable seated position for you. I hope you were able to discover some new things, new sensations in today's practice. And just to remind you again that it is that consistent effort and exploration in these that really opens up all of these experiences. So take your time, be patient. I look forward to seeing you in our next practice. Namaste.


Sally S
5 people like this.
Thank you for the practice today. Regarding the inner rotation of the arm. For those who are very flexible, at what point do you stop turning the inner arm.
Nathan Briner
Sally, typically we work to roll the tricep forward in the arms over head position. Is that what you’re asking?
Kate M
2 people like this.
Beautiful to explore cultivating this expansive energy in familiar standing poses. So transformational. Enlightened embodiment. 
Eden M
1 person likes this.
Going to have to revisit this one. Had a hard time “getting” (physically and intellectually) the inner lift of the arms. The cue to press down with thumb and index finger confused me a bit as it seems in opposition to the movement of the arms, but I suppose that’s the point! My arms, shoulders and back are tired from surfing today, so it was a particular struggle today. Hoping it comes together another day. Really enjoying these subtle challenges.
Nathan Briner
Eden, Yes you are totally right. When we press the thumb and index finger down, the initial reaction by the arms is to follow and the bicep rolls downward toward the floor. But! If you establish the pressure of the thumb and index finger as a foundation, pressing in to the floor, and from that, roll the biceps upward toward the ceiling, a whole new view opens. the arms lift rather than sink. the shoulders can widen away from the neck rather than pinch in. And the lifting and rolling of the arms as I am describing sets the shoulder blades in such a way that the chest can be deeply opened and moved into the pose. 
Let me know what you discover :) 
Nathan Briner
Eden, I am speaking about downward dog. But this action holds true in its relative way for most poses. 
Eden M
1 person likes this.
Nathan Briner Hence the first exercise spreading the fingers on one hand.  Makes sense now.  Thanks!!
Martha K
2 people like this.
That was amazing! My whole body feels invigorated, connected and happy. Always more to experience.
Nathan Briner
That is wonderful to hear, Martha
Debra D
2 people like this.
Thank you so much Nathan for this session and for the whole challenge. It’s one of the best I’ve done. For a long time I’ve had a somewhat painful pinching at the crease of the left shoulder and head of the arm, whenever I lift my arms overhead. It’s more pronounced when I’m supine with arms extended behind along the floor. But today, holding the block between my palms, narrowing my elbows and lifting the block towards the back of my head, I felt relief from that pinching pain. So, thanks a million for that! 😀 Although I have a daily yoga practice, the strength work we did earlier in the challenge suggested to me that I could do with more of that. I’ve starting lifting weights at a gym and have found even over just two weeks that it has improved the steadiness of my yoga practice. I love your thoughtful, sensitive approach! All the best 🌺
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