Align with Freedom: 30-Day Yoga Challenge Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 29

Day 27: Integration 3

30 min - Practice


The more space inside, the more freedom. We find space and freedom in the chest and front body while exploring how alignment can create this spaciousness. We close with a meditation to find a sense of openness and peace.
What You'll Need: Mat, Blanket, Strap, Block (2)

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Welcome back to day 27 of our 30-day challenge. We are in day 3 of integration and we're going to start slightly differently than we have been in the past. I have underneath me two folded blankets and it would be my preference for you. However, a block will work well. So choose whatever you have available and we'll get started. Sitting up on the prop that you have, we're going to sit in cross legs. And this particular challenge, this day here, we're going to be working on opening up the chest a lot. And the chest is the home of space. And the more space there is, the more freedom there is.

So I want you to feel very distinctly how alignment in the body will open up the chest. Starting on the props, folded legs, we're going to reach underneath one sit bone at a time and pull the skin and muscle back. Second side, pull the skin and muscle back. And here, what I want you to notice, when you pull those areas back, that you feel very well lifted through the chest and lumbar spine. Then stretch the buttock bones down into your seat to get a sense that you're lifting the front of your spine up.

All the way up until you feel like there's some space in your chest. And the feeling that I normally sense is that it goes up here and feels like it spreads almost like a waterfall out to the sides. See if you can feel that. And now for a moment, close your eyes. Allow the shoulders to draw back just a little bit, broadening the collar bones.

Gently press the shoulder blades into the upper back. All of this to support open the chest. And my goal for this exploration is for you to notice how appealing the space in the chest is to your awareness and attention. It's like it has a gravitational pull to it to draw the awareness from its normal space in the thinking mind into that quiet stillness of the chest. Maintaining the lift in the spine, openness in the chest.

I'm going to do a little experiment and you can keep your eyes closed to do this. I'll coach you through. We're going to now slip forward off of the prop. The blankets are blocked right down to the floor. Rest your hands on your thighs. We're sitting on the floor now and just notice what's different in the chest. If I use my words to describe what I feel, there's a downward feeling to the chest, a collapse and inward feeling of the chest. It no longer has that gravitational pull like it did before.

And open your eyes. Let's go one more time up onto the blankets. We'll quickly pull the skin and muscle back. Fingertips on the blanket, roll the shoulders back and lift your spine, lift your chest, open your chest. Then rest the hands. Can you feel the difference? So that's when I would be drawing our attention here today as we now go to the asana to really help open this area up.

Let's push the blankets out of the way. I would like you to grab two blocks for this next particular asana. We're going to place one on the floor flat and we'll have the other turned up on edge. We've explored this before. This is going to help us open up our mid and upper back. I'm going to roll back, get a little test here. That feels about right.

So it should be just behind the rib cage and the other block is resting behind the head. Let the arms out and then extend the legs. Let's take a few breaths here. Allow your awareness once again to settle into that openness. You can adjust your arms until you feel like that is the most open position for your chest. Again, let your awareness settle into that space. Let it explore all around the front of the chest, side of the chest.

Let your breath begin to further open the chest. Inhalations open the rib cage not only to the side but all the way up to the top of the collar bones. Let's take three more breath cycles here. And one more. And then bend your knees one at a time. Turn off to the side and we'll press up to sitting.

Let's send the blocks out of the way for a little bit. Our next pose is one you may not have seen before. We'll start by lying down and I'm going to be hooking my thumbs underneath the back of my body just like you're seeing here. I'm going to start with knees bent, lift my hips and underneath my hips interlock the thumbs as you just saw them. Then I'll tuck my shoulders a little closer together and rest my hips down on the hands.

All the while here I'm trying to pull the thumbs apart but I don't allow the lock to break. Now extend your legs. In this pose the energy of trying to break the thumb lock helps roll the shoulders together and down toward the floor. While we're here work to roll your shoulder blades a little bit closer to your hips. This gives a nice big opening to the chest.

Then bend your knees. Let the hands come apart and we're going to change the interlock of the thumbs. The other thumb on top hopefully you remember which and it's okay if you don't. Once again extend the legs pulling the thumb lock apart but holding it together at the same time so we get the action of the shoulders. Roll the shoulder blades down toward your hips.

And let the breathing open up the ribcage. And then bend the knees, release the hands. Let's come up to sitting. We're going to take a mermaid pose here with the right shin in front and the left leg tucked back. We'll be doing a twist here bringing the hands around to the side and turning.

Let those shoulder blades just like in the previous pose open the chest. And then release second side will flip the legs over left shin in front right leg drawn back and turning. Taking a few breaths here shoulder blades rolling back toward the spine to open up the chest. And we let some of the breathing motion further create space. Opening up the freedom of movement in the chest.

Then we'll bring the legs together and sit down on the heels if you need a block underneath your hips that's perfectly fine you might want to grab that now will interlace the fingers invert the palms and stretch the arms overhead. Squeeze the elbows in towards your ears to help open up the chest and then bring the arms down turn the palms to face you now watch how I change the finger interlock I take the lower pinky and all those fingers and make them the higher. I push out and take the arms up once again squeeze the elbows into the ear. Once again focusing on the breathing to help open the ribs. And then release and let go come down off of your seated posture we're going to grab a blanket and a strap.

This will be another pose here to help us open up the chest will sit up on top of the blanket left leg is drawn in right leg out to the side and bent. Then we'll take the strap wrap it around the bottom of that right foot and bring it to the outside of your body the left hand comes behind wraps over the top of the strap. And now we're going for a twist so I push out the right leg which turns my body and rolls the left shoulder around. We want to follow that action with the shoulder and elbow. Take a few breaths here feeling how the movement of breath again further opens the chest.

And then release we'll do the second side right leg brought in strap is around the left foot strap goes behind right hand comes around and remember it grabs over the top of the strap. We'll bend the left leg now we're ready to go press the left leg out to straight this turns my body around to the right and I'm working on helping that right shoulder follow the strap around the back. A few breaths to help open up the right side chest. We'll take the strap and blanket away we won't need them for a while. And let's take dog pose.

Hands on the mat and remember as we practiced in our last session spread wide all the five fingers in each hand curl under the toes and lift the knees. Inner arms lifting inner legs reaching back release the head release the neck. If you want to pedal the legs. Now's a great time to do that. Otherwise we'll just hold dog pose and work the actions of the arms and legs. Allow that breathing to show you where there may be some stuck areas that need your attention. Now raise your heels up bring the feet a little closer together left foot forward into a kneeling lunge point your right toes back let's come up hands on the front knee and drop in a little.

Come back twice more forward and back one more time. And draw the body back we're going to take the arms up overhead and clasp opposite elbows holding here notice how this brings a lift into the chest. Now sacrum and tailbone down let's come forward a little bit holding here raise the tips of the elbows up toward the ceiling to draw up the chest. And then keeping the chest well lifted will unlock the elbow grip left hand of the floor right arm up and over big side stretch here. Come up both arms to the ceiling hands down to the floor dog pose take a moment to notice the two sides of your body space in the chest is there any difference are you able to feel that.

And then bring the heels up feet together look forward right foot now between the hands for kneeling lunge point the left toes back hands on the front knee. Let's go forward and back a few times. One more. And then coming back raise the arms over the top of your head lock elbows again. Start to slowly drop a little forward into your lunch holding here lift the tips of the elbows higher and higher hands as well while holding that class to lift the chest.

And now maintaining that lift in the chest sacrum and tailbone down right hand of the floor left hand goes over for a big side stretch. Use the breath to open up the ribs create that freedom there. And then coming all the way back with two arms up to complete our pose hands down dog pose. Once again feel what you've created what changes are there from that action you just did. Look forward walk the feet forward.

Let's make them hip with hands on shins half. Strong legs lengthen the front of your body from pubic bone to the top of the chest. And then use your hamstring strength to come all the way up from here interlock your fingers behind your back. If the fingers don't lock easily it might be a great time to grab a strap so you have a little bit more space and freedom to move there. I'll show with fingers interlocked we'll start with bending the knees tilt forward over the legs lift the hands as much as you can up off your back body head and neck are soft.

To come out bring the hands down to your hips first and standing up. Now if you remember how I showed to change the finger interlock before can you do that here if you're doing the finger class change the finger interlock roll the shoulders back bend the knees and fold forward hands once again coming up. Back is rounding head and neck are soft and the arms actively pursuing a lift up off the back body. And then hands back down to your hips come on up. Let's take mountain pose Tadasana. We'll separate the feet again so balances in an issue and we're going to do a clasp of the elbows behind the back.

So we'll reach back see if you can get hold of the elbows maybe just the forearms then press the forearms into your mid back to move your shoulders back away from the chest. See how that creates and I'll do this a few times you can do this with me if you like sort of a pumping action to help teach that chest to lift and open. Let's hold it. And then release and second side will change the forearms. Let's do a few times rolling back as you push the forearms into the mid back.

Really gets those shoulders moving chest and open chest is opening. And then holding. And release now a wide legged stance. This is reverse Namaskar a prayer happening behind the back. The wide legs helps give a little bit more freedom to the spine to take the hands back.

We'll start with the hands coming together like this behind the back. So I'll start out wide breath in exhale hands just as you saw a moment ago fingertips pointing straight down to the floor thumbs pressing into the back body roll the shoulders and elbows back holding there. And then release. I'm going to turn around on this next version so you can get a better look at the hands and this time I'll be demonstrating the full reverse prayer. My hands were here in the previous pose.

Now we can challenge the full reverse prayer arms out big breath in exhale we bring the hands back and flip those fingers up to the top. We try to work those fingers higher and higher and then rolling the shoulder bones closer and closer to the spine. This is a challenging pose for shoulders wrists and hands so please don't force it do the fingertips toward the floor if this is beyond the motion of your shoulders today. Pressing the hands into the back and raising the fingertips higher once again to help open the chest. And then bend the knees release the hands and shake it out a little bit.

Let's grab a strap for this warrior pose little variation on something we've seen before we'll start with wide legs and the hands way out on the strap here. We'll start by taking the arms up overhead turn the feet and legs and body all the way around to the right side for warrior one big breath in exhale would bend in. And then working the hands and arms back for a big chest stretch. Now you might need to take your hands out a little wider if your shoulders won't allow for more motion. Bring the arms up straighten the leg turn the center rest the arms second side arms up legs all the way around to the left side legs arms body and everything big breath in exhale warrior pose and we'll take those arms back to further open the chest.

Tailbone down front body lifting. And then come out of your pose release the arms we can put the strap down. Wide legs once again strong legs into the floor folding forward hands to the floor or if you need blocks at this time great time to get it especially if your back is quite rounded. You should have some blocks here this will be a twist left hand on the floor just below your heart right hand with the back of the hand against your hips and then rolling that right elbow around behind you. And then release right hand takes the position on the floor left hand coming around remember back of the hand touches the back of the hips and then roll that right left elbow and shoulder around behind you.

Release to center strong legs you can either heal toe your feet together or we can challenge it hands on hips and then strong hamstrings to pull you up now we can heal toe together turn to the front of your mat feet together inhale arms exhale forward fold. Hands on shins half to lengthen that spine all this work we've been doing to open the chest and then hands to the floor step back. We're in plank pose take a break breath big breath in there we go exhale chaturanga up dog inhale. Now down dog exhale. And then come down to knees walk the feet forward and out from underneath us and we're going to challenge the tabletop pose feet about hip width apart hands on the floor pointing towards your hips.

Press down on the floor to start the chest lifting and inhale press all four hands and feet into the floor raise your hips look up. Use those strong legs and arms to help boost up your body. Come down and rest now you could continue with that pose tabletop or we could challenge it a little further and what is known as porvatanasana feet together legs together and we're going to be lifting and straightening the legs. Just like in tabletop but a little bit stronger ready press the hands on the floor feet the floor lift you can extend the legs holding there. Very strong pose go on lifting the chest.

And then come down and rest great challenge there from here we'll try camel pose and this is our peak pose for the day. We've been working for this opening the chest and now we are here. We're once again going to do it with the toes tucked under that gives us a little higher platform to reach for start by taking the sacrum and tailbone down waist back chest is already nice and open inhale tailbone forward hands to your heels. If the hands don't go well to the heels you might come out and bring some blocks into play. Press down through your knees sacrum and tailbone down waist back chest up.

You let your head back as far as feels appropriate for you and then inhale and come up. Awesome let's take a little child's pose wide legs to get some freedom from the back bends will start in a half child's pose like you see me doing here and we do this to help settle the hips down and release the lumbar muscles for a moment. Then keeping the hips low to the heels walk your hands out and head down and then walk the hands back a bit lift up your chest will bring the knees completely together legs together and once again keeping the heels hips down to the heels. Allow your body to sink into the pose it's great opportunity to bring in the inner arm lifting action that we worked on release those back muscles. Walk the hands to you come up we'll take one blanket or you could use a block if you don't have a blanket one blanket here for Marichyasana this is a seated twist.

Extend the legs out we'll start by bringing the left leg back sitting nice and tall wrap the right hand around that left leg. And we're turning right leg is active and slightly rolling in and here what we're trying to use this pose for is to relieve the back muscles from the back bending. So we're allowing that turn but feeling like you can spread the muscles to the side away from the spine become wider and broader. And then release both legs out right leg in left arm hooks around that right knee active roll in of the left leg and then we're turning. And here I'm spreading to the sides left to the left right to the right untensioning those spinal muscles and then release to center.

So I thought it would be nice today to return to the very beginning of our practice and repeat what we felt to see how things may have changed. I'm going to use a two blanket stack again you could use block if you have that but we're going to do a seated outro today a seated meditation. Come up onto the blankets cross legs and take a minute to reach underneath each hip one at a time pull the skin and muscle back. Push down on the blanket to lift the front of your spine up and roll the shoulders back. Create that broad open expansive chest and almost as though you're going to take your bottom off of the blanket press down with your hands and lift the weight of your spine up.

Then slowly reattach your body to the blanket sneak the hands out from underneath you and join the palms together. Bring the edges of the thumbs to the sternum and feel as though you're reaching the sternum to touch the edges of the thumbs. Relax your shoulder muscles trapezius muscles and close your eyes. We've done the work that we've done. We have a greater ease more freedom to open the chest.

The chest being the home of space stillness quietness. Noticing how there is some inclination of the awareness to settle in and explore that stillness. Feel the shape of the chest feel the rhythm of breath in the chest. Does the breath breath touch the right and left sides equally same speed same volume. Go on watching the chest and this little meditation here and I'll let you do so in silence.

And then to finish release your hands down to your legs and open your eyes. It's really good for us to take a minute to see how our practice is helping our body our awareness evolve. It's nice to change it up every so often to get a different experience of that. I hope you notice some things and I will admit that in the beginning it can be difficult to even hold a posture like that for a length of time. And so your attention may have gone to the work of holding just noticing that perfect for today.

Next day it will grow. Next day it will grow. So good to have you here. Can't wait to see you next time. Have a fantastic day and Namaste.


Jenny S
4 people like this.
Loved this chest opening practice and the ending was the best part...with your soothing, gentle voice a whole season of meditation practice with you would be divine 🙏🏻
Nathan Briner
Jenny, there will be workshops in the near future and I will be sure to let you know!
Kate M
5 people like this.
This challenge is great: it motivates me to show up each day and try things that may be new... nudging me along. The interactional element in the forums is key. Although I'm practicing by myself, I feel connected to a community. And great chest opening today!
Nathan Briner
Kate, I wish it could be done live and in person. But it’s good to be with you here and hearing about your experiences. Thanks again for sharing! 
All my best :)
Luna J
4 people like this.
I love every practice-- I've been doing yoga for 40 years, and you are making it new for me. The sequencing works well for my body-- you challenge me to go deeper, get stronger, listen deeply. I would love to spend a week with you in person! So good. Thank you for all the time you put into creating this challenge. What a gift!
Nathan Briner
Luna! What kind words! Thank you so much. I feel grateful to be able to connect with you through this challenge. There will be some live work in 2020, so perhaps we will be able to meet in person in the future. 
All my best to you :)
Luna K
2 people like this.
What a feeling at the end of this practice! I felt connected to my OWN body thanks to you. It's a gift indeed Nathan! 🙏🏾 
Nathan Briner
Wonderful to hear, Luna! This can truly be one of the biggest gifts of yoga... to feel oneself deeply. 
Christel B
Love working on chest opening. Lovely, peaceful finish. It's amazing to me how much work it takes to remember throughout the day, of course this challenge helps tremendously with that, watching how the body is holding itself and adjusting. 
May R
1 person likes this.
This one is a keeper. Worked really well and gave a feeling of strength and openness. Thank you.
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