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Season 1 - Episode 7

Day 4: Open

30 min - Practice


In Day 4 we focus on opening the chest and heart through Cobra, a back bending lunge series, and Bridge pose. In meditation Margi asks us to bring awareness to when the mind wanders, gently guiding it back to the here and now with a kind inner voice.

Margi adds to our homework noticing where the thoughts go, and making the meditation we did today occur off the mat.

What You'll Need: Mat, Blanket, Block (2)

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Chapter 1

So welcome back. Here we are at day four, the halfway mark, and it's a good time to stick in it, keep working with the practices of coming in, feeling, and today for our active physical practice we're going to do a chest opening, heart opening, kind of greeting the world practice. I'll have you take a blanket. You can use any blanket from your home and roll it up and it kind of depends on how big of a roll that you want. We're going to put it underneath the upper spine where the heart and the lungs are so it can be kind of a tight area so you can give it a whirl and if it feels like too much you just shift it to lower.

So we're going to have the blanket underneath the shoulder blades, not underneath the low back but up higher underneath the shoulder blades in the part of the spine that's a little bit less mobile. So onto the shoulder blades, the top of your shoulders will roll down towards the ground and then the arms can just be like a goal post or a cactus with open up to the side with the elbows bent. And I'm going to have you stay here and settle in, feeling the openness across the chest as you listen to the sound of the bell. I'm going to get up but you can stay resting down onto your blanket. As you deepen your breath, soften even a bit more over the blanket, try not to resist the sensation, instead sink down into it.

Softening the sides of the neck and the throat, all of the muscles of the face, the ears. And then we'll move along, just remembering this feeling though of the shoulder blades being pressed into the back of the ribs, which in turn opens the heart and chest and lungs. So you'll roll over to one side and then slowly come up and you can just unroll your blanket so that it can be underneath your knees for hands and knees, and we'll set up onto hands and knees. So to come into cow pose, remember the feeling of that blanket and feel the shoulder blades coming in towards the ribs, in turn the head and the tail lift. And then as you exhale, press into your hands, feel the shoulder blades widening away from the spine as the head and the tail drop.

Again moving into a back bend, emphasizing the openness around the shoulder blades, the ribs, the heart, and exhale rounding. So keep going a couple of more times. So very few things in our lives take us into back bends. Whatever you do, there's a lot of emphasis on moving forward, like leaning forward to look at a screen or leaning forward to pick up the groceries or always moving forward. So back bends are a really, really incredible and important part of the yoga practice to open the front of the spine and the front of the organs, creating a little balance from all the forward action in our normal lives.

We'll come to a neutral spine and then reach your right leg back, we're going to do our side bend, take it across the midline, look over your left shoulder, feel those right side ribs really fanning open. And then come back and lift your right leg, we did this a couple days ago, lift your left arm. Get really long, take a breath in, as you exhale bring your elbow and knee to touch or close to each other. And then as you inhale extend out again, exhale, elbow and knee come to touch. Inhale expand, it's important to have core awareness when we move into back bends.

Inhale come in, the core awareness helps us to stay long in the lower back. Inhale extend, exhale hand down, knee down, second side, left toes go back, across the midline look over your right shoulder opening, left ribs, and then come back, feel the inside of the left leg lifting to bring it up to parallel, shift the weight onto the left hand, shift through the low belly, extend the right arm, breathe in, exhale elbow and knee touch spine rounds. Inhale neutral spine as the arm and the leg reach away from one another, exhale knee and elbow touch, breathing in, breathing out, it's fine if you're wobbly, kind of rocky foundation here but try to stabilize as best you can and then hand down, knee down, stick the knees a little bit wider, bring the big toes together and just rest in child's pose and rest your hands, your wrists, rest your low back, rest your brain. Switch your arms forward, come up, tuck your toes in case you've been missing downward facing dog, here she is downward facing dog, two deep breaths here, inhale pressing into the hands, exhale sinking down through the heels, inhale, as you exhale float your knees to the ground and then just take your right arm and thread it underneath the left arm coming to our thread the needle and come back to the center, second side left arm threads underneath the right, come to the center, let's do that one more time. When you do backbends it's good to have your spine warmed up in different and all the six different motions of the spine, it's good to get a little bit of heat going and then come back to hands and knees, back into downward facing dog, as you inhale plank position, as you exhale knees to the floor, lower down and then reach back through your toes, lift your low belly, so that same core work, the low belly lifts up a little bit, the tailbone lengthens towards the heels and then lift your upper chest, feeling the collar bones wide, feeling the muscles of the back lift the chest, so this is called little cobra, in little cobra we don't push into the ground, we keep the hands just lightly resting but it's all about the muscles of the back which are important to stand up in the world to have a strong back.

As you exhale bring your forehead down, again little cobra with an inhale, exhale come down, feel your feet, remember your feet, reach all toes back one more time, toes back it's kind of like you're rolling up over that blanket roll, exhale come down, press up and back into downward facing dog and then a hand walking meditation to the back of the mat, hold onto elbows, bend the knees and let the spine really relax and pour out of the bowl of the pelvis. From here release your hands and bring your hands to your shins and pull the chest forward and have that little feeling of little cobra, really roll the chest forward, engage the upper back as you exhale fold over and then bend your knees, roll up bone by bone to stand, feel the three corners of each foot or three parts rooting of each foot and then as you inhale reach your arms up, lift your chest, look up and feel how this is much like the little cobra, the tailbone is lengthening, the legs are strong, the center of the heels are rooting but the back shoulder blades are lifting up to help the ribs lift, to help the heart lift and you get so high up there that the only choice is to spill over your legs releasing this head at the bottom. Now that feeling of little cobra as the chest opens and as you exhale fold forward, inhale reach out to come all the way up, exhale mountain pose, alright let's come to the front of the mat and get the two blocks and let's do this as a this transition as a meditation, so as I said earlier the Buddha taught meditation in action, so feeling the blanket, feeling your hands meet the blocks and mindfully with awareness placing the blocks at the front of the mat for a lunge series, so once you're arranged find mountain pose and then with an inhalation reach your arms up, as you exhale fold all the way over your legs, we'll bend the knees and take the head forward as the right foot steps back to a lunge, left thigh is sucking back, right thigh is sucking into the pelvis, the left foot is grounded like mountain pose like we talked about and there's a little hint of little cobra in the chest just because the tendency is to round so we try to give a little hint of cobra and then bend your back knee just a little bit, spring off of it, step forward, second side and right knee bends, left leg steps back, the thighs are plugging into the sockets to create some stability in the lunge, our yoga pose is we want to balance stability with mobility and then feel your breath helping you to lengthen and extend the spine with some freedom, bend the back knee, spring forward, first side again, we're going to add this time a twist so get into your nice solid lunge and then turn, you can let the right half of the pelvis drop down, the belly spins from right to left, the chest spins from right to left and the left arm goes up towards the ceiling, breathing here and then with an exhalation bring your hand down, bend your back knee so you can spring forward and step your other foot back to the lunge, again we're going to start the twist from letting the pelvis turn just a little and then the waist turns, the rib turns, the chest turns, the arm going up is the cherry on top, breathing here, drawing your right thigh in towards the midline, left ribs towards that right thigh and then bring your hand down, bend the back knee, step forward, we're going to do one more lunge with the back knee down, if you need a blanket for that please feel free to slide it underneath your knee, lower the knee down, point the toes, reach up into the pose, it's called anjana asana, stretching the front of the right hip among many other things, hands down, straighten the back leg enough to step forward and second side, left leg goes back, left knee goes down, point the foot, reach up and as you exhale come down, we'll place the blocks to the side, root the hands and step back into downward facing dog, breathing here, so from this downward dog come forward into plank position and let's lower the knees and then just do a little push up, bending the elbows keeping the chest wide and then push into the floor, straighten the arms, bend again and see if you can keep the deep core, the belly, the center of the belly, pelvic floor steady, one more bending the elbows, pushing the floor away and then lower all the way down onto your belly, so many people think that yoga is all about flexibility but it's equally important to cultivate lots of strength, so reach your left leg up a little bit, pull the toes back, lift the left inner thigh up towards the ceiling, that's a little bit of internal rotation, it's called the leg and then lower that leg down, feel the difference between the two legs, right leg lifts up, roll it in, reach back through every single toe and then bring the leg back and then lift right beneath your belly button, lift off the mat so you feel that low back tailbone lengthening, let's take the hands a little bit wider and then come up into this is cobra pose and you just have to really, really listen to your back here, it should not hurt, it should feel maybe intense but not like a pinching or a gripping or a grabbing or bad, just figure out for yourself how high you can come up without pinching into the back and have a feeling of length through the front of the spine of course and then some kind of length through the back of the spine also and then exhale, lower down, stack your hands, turn your head to one side, rest for a moment and then bring your arms forward, reach back again through your legs at the same time, lift them up off the ground, feeling the inner thighs lift, the tailbone lengthens, low belly engages and then lift your arms up off of the ground. From here reach your arms out and back, interlace your fingers, pull the arms back, open across the chest and as you exhale, stack your hands, turn your head to the other side, rest and then again, organize back through your legs, reach the arms forward, from the lift of the inner thighs, inner knees, lift the legs up, toes reach back, tailbone lengthens and then engaging the upper back as if you're rolling back over that blanket that we started with, open the arms, interlace the fingers, pull up and then exhale, release down again, stacking hands resting and breathing, send breath along your spine like a paintbrush. One more back bend in this prone belly family and bring the hands back by the ribs, push into the tops of the feet so that the knees come up off the ground, it's a big engagement of the legs, lift your shoulders up and then come through cobra and this is the upward dog, we push into the hands and the only thing touching the ground is the tops of the feet and the hands and if it's too much because it is a big pose, feel free to come down, always you can use cobra which has a lot more variation than upward facing dog, whichever back bend you're in, feel as if the blanket is behind your shoulder blades, lift the chest up and over that imaginary blanket and then from here we'll bring the knees to the floor, pull the pelvis back, come into child's pose, breathing in and breathing out, I can just feel how amazing that is for my body to do those back bends and we'll come forward, roll onto your back, I hope you agree with me, that's a nutritious feeling to open the front body, okay, so preparing for what I call a dynamic bridge pose, we're going to keep moving a little bit more here, feet tip distance apart, heels pretty close in towards the pelvis and we're going to push into the feet and lift the pelvis up and then lower down and as you lower you lengthen the spine and then with your arms bring your arms up towards the ceiling and then keep them going so they go up overhead and then with an exhalation pull the arms back down and then doing those movements at the same time, pelvis lifts, arms lift with an inhale and pelvis lowers, arms lower with an exhale, keep going, pushing into the feet, feel like the outer hips can lift the highest and as you exhale lengthen as you come down, just one more like that, inhale rising up, pressing firmly into the feet and then as you exhale come down, alright, that was a big series of back bends, we're going to kind of chill out, take things in a different direction a bit and let your knees go from one side to the other like windshield wipers, this is just a gentle, mild twist as well as a little bit of a hip opener and for many people it's just a soothing thing to do, the windshield wiper knees and then come to the center and we'll cross the right ankle over the left knee and pull the left leg in, just this is different than what we've done today, this is more in the Warrior II hip opening family but just to balance out our practice, it's a nice opener also for the low back and then we'll do the other side, make sure the shoulders aren't bunching up, see if your shoulders can be down away from your ears as well as down towards the ground and then release and we'll do either constructive rest where the feet go mat distance apart and the knees come together or if you prefer you can extend your legs into Shavasana, maybe for most of you keeping the knees bent with the knees dropped in together, it's a little bit milder on the low back so after back bending that might feel good and we'll just let everything settle and the breath settles, maybe after all that attention it took to do those active poses now the mind can settle, the tongue can soften and then we'll come out of this by rolling over to one side, pressing into the ground, take your time coming up, you want to keep your head down until the last minute and then the head can float up and I'll see you in a moment for meditation, thank you for practicing opening the chest and heart with me, it's such an important thing to do when life tends to take us this way so thank you.

Hello, day four meditation, so we've talked about finding an anchor to keep the mind present,

Chapter 2

we've talked about how normal it is to think and it's not a problem at all but we're just honing back, guiding backs to feel body and one of the important things for me in this meditation practice has been that I have some awareness of when I'm really lost in fantasy, I could give you an endless amount of examples about this but one that was really came up over and over for me was when I lived in New York City and my husband worked in a restaurant until about 2am and he would ride his bike through the East Village back to our apartment and he was very reliable and when he was late or I couldn't get in touch with him, I would just immediately start to fantasize about the bus that had hit him on Second Avenue and I had a whole story, it was long, it was detailed, I could see the newspaper and I didn't quite have the training to notice, to be like wait a minute, there's a slight possibility that happened but chances are everything is okay and what would help me with noticing everything is okay, if I had the tools, was feeling the body, feeling the breath, feeling the feet, anchoring in the reality of what's happening right now. So as we move into the practice, it's interesting to notice when the mind goes a little ways away and then you can bring it back or sometimes it goes pretty far away and even if your mind gets far away, it's fine, try to notice it and bring it back, there's something called the negativity bias where most people's minds tend to go down darker alleys, if you get 99 good reviews and one bad review, the bad review will probably stick up in your mind so really important, this ability to not get lost in fantasy but to come back to the reality of being here now, so finding your seat and the eyes can be open or closed, whichever helps you feel more connected to yourself and beginning here by anchoring into the body, feeling the ground, feeling the sky, the openness perhaps lingering from the back bending practice and a sense of ease. Bring your attention to your anchor, whether it's the breath, the body, the ground, rest your attention there. Notice when your mind starts creating those thoughts. Maybe you catch them right when they pop up and come back, maybe they take you a little further away but when you notice, if you can efficiently cut the thought and come back to the reality and the reality now is that we're sitting here together, opening to life as it is in this body, right here, right now.

Thank you. Thank you very much. When you notice the mind is busy, it's very important that you guide yourself back with kindness, the gentle voice. Thank you for sitting with me. So, off the mat.

Chapter 3

First of all, remembering to find your breath, the cumulative homework, find your breath. Remember your intention, feel your feet. And then today we talked about how the mind can go and go and go, and you can get very lost in fantasy. And sometimes that fantasy takes us to dark places that creates unnecessary suffering. Mark Twain says something like, a lot of terrible things have happened in my life.

Only a few of them actually happened, referring to the spinning of the mind. So, when you notice over the next 23 and a half hours until we meet again that you are kind of lost in thought, you can just notice where your thoughts are going. Come back, make the meditation that we did today occur in your life off of your yoga mat. And be well. Thank you so much for practicing. Namaste.


Christel B
1 person likes this.
Sometimes or maybe often we are so busy trying to make each moment “count”; so as we meditate we may catch ourselves solving a problem we haven’t had time to think about.  Then it’s back to the breath as you remind us so well, to return to meditation.
Gale S
1 person likes this.
Margi, each day of this series brings joy. I love your warm presence, clarity, precision and progressive building blocks of asanas, meditations and homework. A special thanks for introducing me to the most easeful posture of taking my meditation seat on two blocks between my feet— a relief for back,knees and ankles. You have a gift for teaching—Thank you for sharing it.
Glenford N
Your thoughts on being lost in fantasy are extremely helpful for my recovery journey. I felt a warm glow in my back which is how much I am grateful for this challenge. Thanks Margi.
Corinne M
Thank you so much Margi!   Every practice feels so personal and like it is meant just for me and exactly where I am these days.  The homework is one of my favorite parts (not what I expected)!  
Margi Young
corinne So glad it is working for you. That often happens in yoga that it seems tailor made! Also happy that the homework is interesting. I'm especially glad since it lasts the rest of our lives! Waking up and up and up. Margi
Francie S
I resonated with your comments about negative bias. It is helpful to have a term for this chatter in my mind. Thank you. 
Margi Young
Francie Welcome to the club! There is a lot of spiritual teaching around this negative chatter. If you want other suggestions, please contact me through my website, Margi
Margi Young Thank you for a sweet practice. Loved the savory slow pace. Allowed me space to wander around the poses. 
Margi Young
Jillian I love what you wrote. So beautiful. Enjoy and thank you. Margi
Sandra Židan
Thanks, Margi! I like today's homework! Namaste! ❤️🌹

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