The Art of Vinyasa Sequencing Artwork
Season 2 - Episode 2

Teaching Astavakrasana

70 mins - Practice


In this sequence, Rosemary uses an advanced arm balance, Astavakrasana, to help her students approach their edges, physical and energetic, and explore what is going on in the internal landscape on the way to a challenging pose. The route to Astavakrasana is slow and careful, warming, opening, and strengthening the body, and allowing students to modify and pause mindfully. Rosemary provides verbal encouragement and breathing cues throughout, demonstrates the peak pose with her students, and offers gentle hands-on adjustments to help her students move a bit deeper into poses
What You'll Need: Mat


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Teaching Note: Introduction

Theme of class

Welcome everyone. Such a joy to have you with us. I'd love to introduce you to my yogi friends. This is Amy, and this is Jeff. Thank you both for being with us. What we're exploring in this practice is meeting our edge through the asana of asta vakrasana. Really could be any really challenging peak pose. I chose asta vakrasana because it's been kind of interesting and juicy for me lately.

So on a physical level, what we're aiming to do is prepare the body to get into the posture. So opening across the upper back, thoracic spine, opening through hamstring muscles, inner thigh muscles, really firing up and energizing the core to support ourselves in the lift of that arm balance. Hopefully you'll see all of that throughout the flow. And then even more interesting to me lately, what's happening on the internal level, on kind of the energetic level, is what goes on internally when we meet our edge. And I think the asana practice is such a wonderful place to explore that because it's so tangible, it's so palpable. Can we get into the pose? Are we not accessing the pose? Can we do a variation of the pose? And then are we judging ourselves?

Are we grasping? Are we attached to the full glory of kind of the yoga journal cover of the posture? Or are we okay being right where we are in the experience? The other thing that I think is really fascinating about this physically and energetically is if we're very present for each stage of the preparation of the posture, we're way more likely to experience kind of the opening, the strengthening, the lifting, kind of the full benefits of each stage than if we are, if we jump ahead. If we kind of rush through all of the preparatory experience and just go for the full posture, then we miss all of the nuance and the subtlety and the growth that's available at each stage. Kind of an obvious metaphor for off of the mat as well, right, but a really, really juicy place to experience.

So wherever you are on this physical journey, as you experience this flow, see if you can kind of pause, slow it down, be curious about the experience and really meet yourself. Right where you are, right? Let's see what unfolds from there. Thank you for joining us. Enjoy the ride. Namaste.

Practice: Opening

Seated Meditation and Pranayama

Settling into a comfortable seat, feel the bones rooting into the earth, and feel all points of contact with the earth, settling and rooting. And then from that foundation, let the length of your spine rise, and feel that line of energy extend beyond physical body. Imagine it rising beyond crown of head.

Shoulders are soft down the back, hands are at rest, wherever they're most comfortable. And for now the gaze is simply soft out and down or eyes closed, whichever you prefer. Let the awareness start to tune into the flow of the breath for the time being. Let it do whatever it wants to do, your natural rhythm of breath. It's kind of making contact. See what's there.

Where do you feel your breath and your body? Where do you feel your breath and your body? What do you notice about sensations of inhales, sensations of exhales? And touching in. So in preparation for meeting our edge in practice today, we're going to be working with Kapalabhati breath and a fiery stimulating energy energizing breath. As always honor your own edge. If it feels like it's a little too much, back off and just come back to a steady rhythmic breath.

So hands at rest, let's turn the palms up and draw the first finger and thumb together. Move awareness down into the deep low belly and just feel a slight rise through that energy center. You're going to engage through center. Spine stays tall, shoulders soft. Brief reminder with Kapalabhati, we're emphasizing the exhale and kind of letting the inhale happen organically. So for now, take a nice big inhale through the nose, expanding everything. Go ahead and exhale through the nose.

Sip a little air in and begin. Then exhale all the breath out. Together through the nose, really big inhale. Slight pause, top of inhale, lift deep belly, slight drop of chin, hold. Then lift the chin, open the mouth, exhale, release. Yeah, let it go. Good, two more cycles. Sip a little air in through the nose and begin.

Exhale, empty it all out. Through the nose, really big inhale. Beautiful. Hold the breath in, lift deep belly, slight drop of chin, hold. Then lift the chin, open the mouth, exhale, let it go. Nice, one more round. Sip a little air in and begin. Stay with this at your own pace. Feel free to kind of speed it up or slow it down, emphasizing the exhale, letting the inhale happen. Five, four, three, two, all the breath out. Good, together through the nose, big inhale.

Hold the breath in, engaging belly, dropping chin, hold. Hold. Lift the chin, open the mouth, exhale, let it go, release. Nice, and then just resting in that stillness. Let the breath be organic again. Notice how you feel. And we'll simply rest in stillness for a few more moments. And as we do, let awareness follow each inhale, each exhale.

The invitation throughout the flow of the practice today is to meet your edge with a sort of compassionate, curious awareness. So the asana practice is designed to challenge us and maybe even kind of reach beyond what we are capable of so that we can see what's happening internally, what happens energetically, what's the self-talk when we're meeting our edge. So as we sit, as we breathe, if you feel for it, let your awareness kind of drift to the last time you felt you were at an edge off of the mat. So maybe with a partner, maybe with a child, maybe at work, maybe in a physical challenge, and maybe kind of feel into whatever you recall around that experience. What happened energetically? How did you feel physically? How did you feel physically?

And then throughout the flow of the practice, notice when any of those sensations start to arise, and let's see if we can kind of slow down and back up and approach whatever that challenge is with a sense of kindness towards ourselves, with a sense of curiosity and patience, kind of letting it unfold, letting it evolve. So the physicality, the asana, is completely secondary. What we're really practicing is that internal quality, how we're approaching the physical practice, and how we're treating ourselves throughout the whole experience. All right, with that in mind and heart, let's take the hands to prayer at heart center, and we'll open together with a gentle om. As you're ready, exhale empty all the breath out, and then together through the nose, a big inhale, through the nose, a big inhale. Then just another moment of stillness here, aligning your practice with your intention, and what qualities would you like to welcome in as you meet your edge. Distill that down, let it root in the body.

Teaching Note: Opening

Tune inward, Kapalabhati breath

So what I was aiming to do in that opening welcome, ground, sit, is invite us into our bodies and start to connect with flow of breath. Then the specific choice for kapalabhati was a kind of energizing, stimulating pranayama practice in preparation for a more energizing, stimulating asana practice. Then a very, very brief kind of introduction, exploration of what we're doing physically throughout the flow of the practice, and how that is really on a deeper layer, an exploration of what's happening internally, right? So the pose itself is beneficial for the body, it's strengthening, it's balancing, a whole lot of fun things are happening physically, but really what's interesting to me in this exploration is what happens internally as we meet our edge, as we start to move into postures that we don't necessarily practice on a regular basis. So my hope is to plant that seed in the opening and then carry it through throughout the flow so that we keep coming back to that internal quality and that there's an awareness of the more subtle layers as we're approaching challenging postures. Let's see what unfolds from here.

Practice: Warm Up

Low postures

Beautiful. As you're ready, go ahead and let the eyes open. Let's take a big inhale, reach the arms out and up, and as you exhale, go ahead and rock forward, facing the front of the mat, rising up onto the hands and the knees, hands under the shoulders, knees under the hips, and really let the fingers spread wide, rooting down through base of thumb and first finger. Beautiful. With the next inhale, lifting the tailbone, the heart, the gaze, and with the exhale, rounding belly to spine, releasing the weight of the head. Yeah. And again, inhale, lifting tailbone, heart, gaze, and exhale, rounding all the breath out, belly to spine. Once again, big inhale, let the heart rise, shoulders down the back, exhale, rounding belly to spine. Then with the inhale, just come back to a neutral spine, but keep that slight engagement through deep belly, grounding here on the exhale. We're going to thread the needle with your inhale, reach the right arm out and up, and with the exhale, thread it under, come to the back of that shoulder.

Totally up to you, you can keep that left hand grounded, you can reach it up to the sky, you can even wrap it behind the back, whatever feels best here. And we're intentionally breathing across the upper back, back of shoulders, opening that whole region of the body. Let's take a couple more breaths here. Nice. If that left arm is up, stay for a big inhale, and with the exhale, and with the exhale, just release, root left hand back under the shoulder. With the next inhale, reach right arm back to the sky, opening through chest, and with the exhale, release, grounding through both hands. Good. With the inhale, reaching left arm out and up, and then exhale, thread it under. And again, you choose, you can keep grounding through that right hand, you can reach it up to the sky or even wrap it back, breathing across upper back, back of shoulders, warming through thoracic spine. Yeah, a few more breaths. Three. Nice. Two. And again, if the right arm is up, take a big inhale here, and with the exhale, release, right hand comes back down under the shoulder. With the inhale, reach the left arm back to the sky, rising, and with the exhale, release, both hands on the earth, neutral spine. Beautiful. We're going to move into Anahatasana from here, so stay for a big inhale, and with the exhale, walk the hands out really long through the spine. You can release onto the forehead or the chin, maybe over time the heart itself rests on the earth. And just gently, softening between the shoulder blades, let the heart relax down. More warmth, more opening here through upper back for three. Three. Nice. Two. And then just gently, walking the hands back in under the shoulders, finding hands and knees. Beautiful. Take a big inhale, tuck the toes, and with your exhale, reaching up and back, downward facing dog. Yeah, let's give the body about five, six, seven breaths here exactly. Pedal the feet, shift the hips side to side, really saw through the neck, the jaw, eyes, brow, warming into that whole back body.

Whatever you feel for, whatever the body needs here. A few more breaths. Yes, beautiful. And then as you're ready, slowly, slowly on your inhale, start to walk the feet forward to the front of the mat, take your time getting there. And when you do, it's just an easy forward fold, Uttanasana. So a soft bend in the knees, the hands can fall, they can hold opposite elbows, you might sway a little side to side. Let's give this another three breaths or so. Releasing, unwinding. Nice. If you're swaying, sway back to center, and if you do have a bind, let that go. Hands fall to the earth. And then keep that soft bend in the knees very slowly on an inhale. Let the body roll all the way up to stand. The head is the very last thing to arrive. And when you do arrive, let those shoulders roll back and down. Nice. Heel toe the feet together, draw the hands to prayer at the heart center, gazing at the horizon. Samasthiti.

That brief opening section was just to start warming the body, synchronizing the breath

Teaching Note: Warm Up

Warming Body for Flows

and the body. Lots of different ways to do that. I love Cat-Cow to warm the spine. And then specifically, threading the needle in Anahatasana was emphasizing the upper back thoracic spine. You'll start to see that same opening across that region of the body in the full Astavakrasana. So we wanted to plant the seeds here and start to warm that part of the body specifically. From here, we'll move into some basic sun salutes, bringing in some standing postures, creating more warmth and heat. Inhaling, sweep the arms out and up.

Practice: Flows

Sun Salutes A, standing flow

And with the exhale, bow out and down. Deep fold forward. Inhale halfway, hands to earth or shins.

And with the exhale, simply step back into your plank pose. Let's pause here just for the inhale. Exhale to lower knees or Chaturanga, elbows hugging in. Nice. With the inhale, rise cobra or upward-facing dog. And with the exhale, take it all the way up and back, downward-facing dog. Adho Mukhasvanasana. Five breaths here. And again, we're still arriving, we're still warming the body, so any variations you need, any kind of wiggling or adjustments you need, feel free to take that. Yeah, a few more breaths. Nice. Then at the bottom of the exhale, soft bend in the knees, hop or step to the front of the mat.

Inhale to lengthen halfway, really long through the spine. And with the exhale, bow unfold. Lifting from center with the inhale, rise all the way to stand, reaching arms to sky. And with the exhale, trace the midline, hands home to prayer, heart center. Nice. Two more cycles. With the inhale, reach out and up. Exhale to bow, out and down. With the inhale, lengthen halfway, hop or step back. Exhale, lower as you choose, knees or chaturanga. Inhale, scoop the heart up, melt the shoulders way down the back.

Yeah, and with the exhale, downward facing dog. Again, five breaths here. Letting these opening sun salutes kind of land you in the body, start to soften the mind and continue to connect awareness with the flow of the breath. And the eye for three. Two. Nice. And bottom of the exhale, soft bend in the knees, hop or step front of the mat. As you arrive, inhale, lengthen halfway, let the heart shine out. Exhale, bow unfold.

Strong through center. Inhale to rise all the way up, reaching beyond the fingertips. Feel that expanse beyond physical body. Exhale, hands home to the heart. Once again, inhale to reach out and up. And exhaling, bow to the heart. And exhaling, bow out and down, deep fold. Inhale, lengthening halfway, hop or step back. Exhale, lower as you choose. And inhale, let the heart rise, easing the shoulders back and down.

Exhale, downward facing dog. Again, five breaths, just kind of landing in the body. Dropping in. Three. Two. Beautiful. All right, with the next inhale, sweep the right leg up and back. And with the exhale, go ahead and open the hip, bend the knee. Let's give this a full cycle of breath, opening through that outer right hip, sending left heel to the earth. Good. Inhale, reach it straight up again. And with the exhale, draw the knee to the nose, lift the belly to the spine, hover here, stay for your inhale. Nice. Stay for the exhale, building that core energy.

Inhale, reach, right leg goes back to the sky. And with the exhale, simply step that right foot forward. Let's release the back knee to the earth, pad it if you'd like, simple low lunge. Start with the hands on that front thigh for now. I'm just going to ground through the foundation, dropping tailbone, lifting deep belly, tall through spine. Beautiful. Then inhaling, sweep the arms out and up. And with the exhale, swing your left elbow under your right for eagle arms, back of the hands, or palms touch, whatever's better for your body. Then inhale, reach the arms to the sky, lift the heart. As you exhale, draw the elbows towards the solar plexus and curl in a little. Two more cycles. Inhaling, we rise, exhale, curl it in a little, and exhale, exhale, curl it in a little. Again, inhale, and exhale, draw it in. Good. With the next inhale, release the bind, reaching the arms up, and just pause here. Yes, nice length through the spine, energy extending through fingertips. Stay for a big inhale, lift a little through the heart. And with the exhale, release, hands down either side of the front foot. We're going to transition into lizard here. So hands start to walk inside a front foot. And for this first expression of the pose, stay tall. If it's all right with a knee, turn the right toes out, let the knee follow the toes. So we're kind of emphasizing the opening of the inner thigh muscles here. If it's comfortable for you, you can even take right hand to that right knee, right thigh, and guide it open a little bit.

You're also of course welcome to stay just as you were. Good. A couple more breaths. Yeah, and then hands back to the earth. If you've shifted them, you're welcome to stay here or release down onto the forearms and elbows. Then we'll just let the upper body relax into it. And notice where you feel the pose, hips, inner thighs, could be hip flexors on that left side, and meet that with your breath. Good. Yeah, one more full cycle of breath here. Then with the inhale, walk the upper body back in and up.

With the exhale, take hands either side of that front foot again, draw the right knee, right toes back in. Pause here, big inhale. And then exhale, draw the hips back, Ardha Hanumanasana. Right foot flexes, lengthening the right leg. Yeah. Then inhale, extend out through heart center, and with the exhale, deepen into the fold. If you're working with really tight hamstring muscles, you can always take the hands up on blocks for a little more support. Few breaths here. Nice. And as you're ready with the inhale, guiding the hips forward, bending that front knee. And then with the exhale, tuck the back toes, lift the back knee. With the next inhale, sweep the right leg all the way back to the sky. And then whatever you need here, exhale, shake it out a little bit, circle it around a little bit. We're gonna meet in down dog in a breath or two. Yes, good. And then let's kind of wash it away through sides. So with the inhale, come forward into your plank. With your exhale, lower knees or Chaturanga. Inhale, let the heart rise, cobra or upward facing dog. And exhale, take it back, downward facing dog.

Right into the second side. Inhale, left leg sweeps to the sky. With the exhale, open the hip, bend the knee. Yeah, full breath here. Breathe into it. Get into it. With the next inhale, reach left leg straight up. With the exhale, draw the knee to the nose, all the breath out. We're gonna hover again. So stay for the inhale. Stay for the exhale. Inhale, reach, left leg goes back to the sky. With the exhale, step it forward, release the back knee down to the earth. Again, padded if you'd like, simple low lunge. Start with the hands on that front thigh just to kind of ground and connect for a moment. So dropping tailbone, engaging deep belly. Nice. Then with the inhale, reach, arms go to the sky. And with the exhale, swing the right elbow under the left, interlace. Here we go. Inhale, reach, arms up. Exhale, curl in. Again, inhaling to reach. Exhale in. Feel that expanse across upper back, back of shoulders. Again, inhaling, heart rising. Lift the gaze and exhale around. Curl in. This time with the inhale, release the bind. Reach the arms all the way up and just pause. Feel the length, the vitality of the spine, the energy through fingertips. Yes.

Stay for your inhale. Lift a little through the heart and exhale. Release hands to the earth, moving it into lizard again. So the hands come inside of that front foot. And again, we're going to stay tall through the upper body for this first iteration of lizard. You're welcome to keep the hands right where they are or turn toes out, let the knee follow and take that left hand to the left knee, kind of upper thigh, and just gently encourage it out a little bit. Yeah. Breathing into inner thigh muscles. A couple more breaths. Nice. Yeah. If you are in that variation, release it. Hands back inside of that front foot and then just let the upper body release towards the earth. You can stay on the hands or come down onto the forearms and elbows. No strain, of course. Kind of feeling into the optimal expression of the pose in your body in this moment. It can change, of course. Yeah. Sweet. And with the next inhale, walk the upper body back in and up. With the exhale, draw the knee in. Hands either side of the front foot. Pause here. Inhale and then exhale, draw the hips straight back, lengthening the left leg, Ardha Hanumanasana. Inhale, reach out through the heart, lengthen the spine a bit and then exhale, deepen into the fold. Good. Breathe into the back of that left leg. Opening hamstring muscles, lengthening spine and continuing to warm the body. Good. With the next inhale, draw the hips forward, bending the front knee.

Exhale, tuck back toes, lift back knee and then from center inhale, sweep that left leg back to the sky and again, whatever you need. Shake it out a little bit, circle it around a little bit. We're going to meet in Downward Facing Nog as you feel ready. If you want the vinyasa, roll through it. If you don't, stay right where you are. You're continuing to check in with your own energy, honoring what you feel for. Good. All right. In a moment, moving into another standing flow. So as you're ready, inhale, sweep, right leg goes to the sky. Exhale, open the hip again, bending the knee. Inhale, float it back to the sky. With the exhale, draw the knee to the nose, all the breath out. Inhale, directly back to the sky and with the exhale, step that right foot forward, spin the back heel down to the earth. Left arm opens you on the inhale, Warrior II, Virabhadrasana B. Excellent. Softening through the shoulders, lifting through the heart a little, steady gaze out over right fingertips. Nice. Yes. Another breath here. And then we'll stay for a big inhale and exhale, move into side angle, forearm to thigh or hand to earth, any expression of the posture. And if the bind is a part of your practice, you can start to move into that half or full bind. We'll see this kind of similar shape as we move into full Ashtavakrasana. So this is a lovely place to experience it. Beautiful, Amy. Yes. Good. Nice, Jeff. A couple more breaths here.

Yes. And as you're ready, start to unravel, let the inhale lift you back up into your Warrior II. Exhale, just settle and ground. Then inhale, lengthening the right leg. And with the exhale, spin the feet to parallel, release the hands to the hips, grounding here. Good. Inhale, sweep the arms out and up, tracing the midline. Exhale, release hands to the earth for Prasarita Padottanasana A. Hands rooting, maybe fingers are in line with the toes and maybe not, doesn't matter, just see what's available. Once you're rooted, inhale, lengthen halfway and exhale, deepen into the fold. Couple breaths, stretching through hamstring muscles, continuing to find space through the spine and the muscles of the back. And then inhale, lengthen halfway up. And with the exhale, turn toes out, heels in, and start to bend into the fold. And then inhale, lengthen, halfway up. Turn toes out, heels in, and start to bend that right knee. And then of course, just go as far as feels comfortable for the knee joint. Yes. Beautiful. Yeah. And if it's available, that other foot is flexing, deepening into hamstring muscles, inner thigh muscles. Give this another breath. Good. Then let the inhale draw you back to center. And as you exhale, ease to the other side. It's a whole new knee. So again, go mindfully. No pain in the knee joints ever, ever, ever. Good. Couple more breaths here. And then just feel free to play. So inhale, draw back to center, exhale to the other side, floating back and forth at your own pace. You're kind of rising on the inhale, deepening on the exhale. If you happen to notice one side is a lot tighter than the other, you might pause there, give it a few extra breaths. Just kind of make this your own, playing with it a bit, breathing into it. And say about three more breaths. Nice. Yeah. You can use the hands or not for the transition, building the strength or supporting yourself. Again, whatever you feel for. Yeah. Then as you're ready, you're coming back to neutral. No rush at all. Feet parallel, hands to the earth. With the inhale, lengthen halfway, strong center. Exhale, hands to hips, belly to spine. Inhale, rise all the way up. Exhale, just ground. Nice work. With the inhale, warrior two, back to the front of the mat, arms wide. Exhale to ground.

Exhale to ground. Good. Big inhale here. And with the exhale, hands to the earth, step back into your plank pose. Take the vinyasa or let it go. Yes. Good. Moving into the second side. Inhale, reach, left leg goes to the sky. Exhale, open the hip, bending the knee. Inhale, reach it up again. Exhale, knee to nose, all the breath out, belly to spine. Inhale to rise. Exhale, step that foot forward, spin the back heel down to the earth. Right arm opens you on your inhale, warrior two. And exhale, settle ground, gazing out past the fingertips, feeling into your strength and your stability. And then with the exhale, side angle, resting forearm to thigh or taking the hand to the earth, anchoring through that right heel, lengthening side body. Beautiful, really strong. Again, totally up to you. Keep what you've got or start to explore the bind or the half bind, the feeling into what's available. Yes. A few more breaths here.

Excellent. And then unravel on the inhale, rise, returning into your warrior two, settle ground on the exhale. Inhale, lengthen the left leg. Exhale, spin the feet to parallel, just release hands to the hips again. Then inhaling, sweep arms out and up. And with the exhale, bow out and down, returning to prasarita padottanasana, hands grounding. Good. For this variation, inhale, lengthen halfway. And then with the exhale, walk the hands through the legs to deepen into the fold. Just go as far as you feel for. And again, feeling into this opening through upper back thoracic spine. Breathe into this three, two. Yeah. As you're ready, walk it back to neutral on the inhale, hands ground under the shoulders, exhaling here. Then inhale to come halfway up, just parallel to the earth. Exhale, hands to the hips, belly to spine. Press through the feet. Inhale, rise all the way up. Exhale, ground. Inhale to open it, warrior two. A saddle here for a moment. Good. Take a big inhale.

And exhale, hands to the earth. Step back into your plank pose. Take the vinyasa or move directly into your downward facing dog. Excellent. Yeah, we'll meet there. Take a big inhale through the nose. Open the mouth. Exhale, let it go. Beautiful work. And just pause. So this is essentially the butt pose. And what we're aiming to do here is really start to build the energy, really warm and open the

Teaching Note: Flows

Strength and Opening for Peak Pose

body, start to bring some strength into some key muscle groups. You could do this in a lot of different ways, various sun salutes, different standing postures. We chose side angle with the option of the bind specifically for the lower back thoracic spine. So we're going to do this with the upper back thoracic spine. We chose side angle with the option of the bind specifically because it starts to open across the upper back and speak to some of the actions in the astava krasana, which we'll see in a moment. Similarly, in the prasarita padottanasana variations in skandhasana, we're opening hamstring muscles and inner thigh muscles as preparation.

And then with the variation of the hands through the legs, again, more opening through the shoulders, right? So again, building heat, building energy in the body, warming the body in preparation, and then trying to choose postures that specifically warm and prepare the body for the peak pose. Let's see if it works. At the bottom of the next exhale, soft bend in the knees,

Practice: Peak Pose

Prep poses and Astavakrasana

hopper step through to sit. So lots of options here, basically an easy cross-legged position if lotus or half lotus are available to you, you can come into that not required. We don't see this posture very often, but it's one of my favorites to really help energize and wake up the center. So the hands are outside of the hips, you can come on to tented fingertips if you really wake up the hands and engage, or you can come on to flat palms if you have two blocks, hands can be on blocks as well. So let's try this. Press hands or fingertips into the earth and try to lift your seat up off of the mat, beautiful. Use deep low belly, use the bandhas, three, nice, two, and then release. Excellent work. Take a big inhale through the nose, open the mouth, exhale, let it go. Good. And then just kind of unravel the legs and let yourself roll gently onto the back as you land on your back, hug knees into chest, wrap your arms around your legs and rock yourself a little side to side. Great. Okay. So we're going to move from here into plow pose. This doesn't need to be your maxed out full plow. Let the arms rest alongside the body, rock yourself a little side to side, and then just kind of sweep the legs up and over. Yeah. The idea here again is to open through the back, stretching, lengthening, and again, let it be kind of easeful, even pleasurable. You're not maxing out or straining at all. Just bringing some breath and awareness there. Yeah. Nice. As you're ready, kind of re-engage through the center to support yourself through this transition. You'll exhale, ease yourself all the way back down to the earth, and then gently rock yourself back up into a comfortable seat as you're ready. Good. So we're going to turn forward for this exploration. The left leg extends and the right knee draws in, and then, mindful of that right knee joint, we're going to draw the right shin towards the chest and gently flex the right foot, which engages the leg muscles and protects the knee. Right. If it's available, you can take the outer edge of that right foot into the left elbow crease and then kind of cradle the right leg, rocking it a little bit. Yeah. Excellent. Feeling into this. Keep the breath moving, and then bending the left knee, plant that left foot, and let the right ankle rest just above the knee. This is enough. It's enough. If you'd like, you can tint the fingertips and kind of scoot forward, which deepens the stretch through that right hip. You're just finding your own sweet spot here. Steady the gaze, feel the breath. All right. We're going to keep this shape and roll onto our back. So turning back to the front of the mat and then just easing down onto the back. As you arrive, loop the hands around the left thigh or the left shin and hug it in. Yes. Excellent. Good. Breathing into that outer right hip, glute area. Another breath. Nice. And then keep this shape and just release left foot to the earth.

Draw the right knee in towards the chest again, and then we're going to take a kind of half happy baby. So right hand to outer edge of right foot, right knee is drawing down towards the earth outside of right shoulder. Yes, exactly. All right. Let's breathe into this for a couple moments. Good. A couple options here. You're welcome to stay right where you are, or we can start exploring the lengthening of the right leg. It can extend just a little or it can be full extension. If you have a strap at home, you could even hook that around the ball of the foot and play with the strap for support. Yeah. Always, always, always kind of honoring your own edge, feeling into that, breathing into that, letting it evolve gradually. Three. Nice. Two. On the next exhale, simply release. Let that foot land on the earth.

Let yourself settle. Good. Then draw the knees in towards the chest. From here, we're going to rock up into a half Navasana. Start to rock forward and back on the spine. And then as you're ready, come up holding behind the thighs, knees bent, really strong through center, lengthening through spine. Yes, good. You can keep that or extend the arms out, holding. Three. Nice. Two. Keep that or lengthen the legs. Yeah. Belly stays drawing in and up, spine stays tall. Excellent. Three. Two. And then just release. Easy seat. Let's turn forward again and play with the other side. Right. So right leg extends, bending the left knee and then draw it in. Again, gently flexing that foot, protecting knee joint, feeling into your own edge could be totally different on this side. Maybe outer edge of foot draws into the right elbow crease. Cradle the leg. Rocking a little. Nice. Another breath. And then bending the right knee, plant that right foot and let the left ankle land just below that right knee. This is enough. It's enough. If you want to intensify, tent the fingertips and then scoot forward. Yeah. Good. Find your own edge. Breathe into that. Yeah. And then sustaining the shape, let's turn back to the front of the mat and go ahead and roll all the way down onto the back. As you do land on the back, draw the legs in, interlacing the hands behind that right thigh or around the shin. Feel into this. Take a few breaths.

Great. And then keep the shape. On your exhale, release the right foot down to the earth and the left knee is going to draw into half happy baby. So left hand to outer edge of left foot. Exactly. Draw the knee outside of the left shoulder towards the earth. Here are those options again. Feel into it. Listen to what the body is doing. And then release the left foot down to the earth. And then release the left foot down to the earth. And the left knee is going to feel into it. Listen to what the body wants. Keep what you've got or start to extend that left leg could be just a slight extension and pause could be full extension. And if you'd like to work with the strap, hook it around the ball of the foot. Play with that. Three. Nice. Two. Two. With the exhale, gently release left foot just grounds on the earth. Let yourself settle for a breath.

Yeah. Then again, hug the knees in towards the chest. We're just going to rock directly to sit. So rock and roll a little bit and then come on up comfortable seat. All right. So we've done a lot of preparation. We're ready to move into astava krasana. And just a reminder, you do what you can, you meet your edge, you take the expression of the pose that works for you. All right, here we go. Let's turn it forward again. Step by step, extend that left leg. Draw the right knee in. Take the left hand to the outer edge of that right foot, right hand to right ankle and start to draw right knee behind the shoulder. Right, we remember the shape from bound side angle, plant the left hand, keep that leg there if possible, and then start to bend the left knee, cross the left ankle over the right. Here's the Uplutti action, lift that deep low belly, pick up the sit bones, and maybe start to extend the legs out. Again, your edge, play with it, cultivate that inner quality, beautiful three, nice, two, and exhale, release. Excellent work. Let that go. Just kind of breathe it out a little bit and let's play with the second side. Before we go into second side, I just want to take a couple breaths, soft gaze or close your eyes. Come back to that opening inquiry and that exploration of how we work with our edges, right? Does the breath stay steady? Do we sustain kindness towards ourselves? Can we be curious rather than grasping? That's the deeper practice. I don't care what the pose looks like. Second side, right leg extending.

Bend that left knee, draw it in, start to crawl the shoulder under the knee. Maybe this is your pose, maybe this is where you pause. Maybe you start to bend the right knee and then cross that right ankle over the left. Then plant both hands, re-engage that deep low belly, Uddiyana Bandha. Maybe you pick it up, maybe you pause here and maybe the legs extend. Hold three, two, and exhale, release. Beautiful work. Come into a really comfortable seat, rest your hands wherever you'd like, soften your gaze or close your eyes. Reconnect with your breath and your intention. And whatever happened physically or energetically, notice that. Without judgment, without storyline, if possible, just notice. And whatever it is, can it be okay? It's a practice of self-exploration.

So there's no right or wrong, there's just that inquiry. This of course was the peak pose section of the practice. What's happening physically is

Teaching Note: Peak Pose

Full expression of Astavakrasana

the culmination of all of the preparatory work that we've been doing for a long time. So for instance, the bind and sign angle prepared us for crawling the shoulder under the knee in the full expression of astava krasana. The extension of hamstring muscles, inner thigh muscles in poses like prasarita padottanasana and skandhasana help for the full leg extension in the posture. And then what's happening energetically, kind of on the internal leg, is this exploration of meeting our edge, right? So when we work with a posture that we're not super comfortable in or maybe even can't access completely, we have the opportunity to see what goes on internally. What happens in the self-talk, what happens to our energetic field, and then how do we work with that? And ideally, when we have that opportunity in the asana practice, it helps prepare us to meet our edges off of the mat as well. Can we come from a place of curiosity and compassion rather than grasping or self-criticism? It could be any peak pose, really doesn't matter. It's just the exploration that we're after. And as you're ready, let the eyes open and just gently turn back to the front of the mat.

Practice: Closing

Restorative poses, Savasana

We're going to cross the ankles, root the hands, ease your way back into downward-facing dog.

Just let this be gentle. I'm going to pedal it out a little bit. Reconnect with your breath. If a vinyasa would feel good after all of that to kind of clear things out, you're welcome to roll through. And if you'd like to remain where you are, please feel free. All right. And then with the next inhale, sweeping the right leg to the sky. And with the exhale, draw knee and shin through and down for pigeon. Take your time with the setup. If you'd like support underneath, right glute area, blanket, block, grab it. And then once you're rooted, plant through the hands, inhale, lift from the belly all the way up through the heart and exhale, ease the upper body out and down. You can also take support under the upper body if you'd like. Sometimes a bolster or a blanket there can be really lovely. To ground and to settle after all of that deep work, moving breath down the length of the spine, into low back and sacrum, and into right hip glute area.

Let awareness move to the breath, move to the physical sensations in the body. The breath move to the physical sensations in the body. Letting yourself be right here. Yeah. A couple more breaths. And then nice and easy through the transition with your inhale, walk the upper body back, in and out. And with the exhale, tuck the back toes, lift the back knee. On the inhale, reach the right leg back to the sky. And whatever you feel for here, kind of shake it out.

Take a breath or two. And as you're ready, release into down dog. Nice. Let's take a cleansing breath. Stay right where you are. Big inhale through the nose, opening the mouth, exhale. Yeah. Inhale, left leg to the sky. And exhale into pigeon, the second side. You might want more support here. You might want less. Just feel into it. Then ground the hands, inhale from low belly all the way up. And exhale, walk upper body out and down. And kind of move the breath wherever you need it. What do you notice in the body?

Where are there sticky spots or sore spots? And then breathe into that. I'm starting to slow it all down and letting the practice settle and integrate. I'm giving the hips a chance to open in a really grounded, settled position after all of that exploration. A couple more breaths. Yeah. And as you're ready, inhale, walk the upper body back in and up. And exhale, tuck the back toes, lift that knee. Lifting from center, inhale, sweep left leg back to the sky. You can shake it out a little, circle a little, again, whatever feels best.

We'll meet in down dog. And let's take another cleansing breath. So through the nose, big inhale. And open the mouth, let it go. Exhale, release. Good. At the bottom of your next exhale, soft bend in the knees, hopper step through to sit. And as you land on the mat, let's spin so the head is at the top.

And go ahead and release all the way down onto the back, hug knees into chest, rocking yourself a little side to side. Take a really sweet restorative posture here to continue facilitating this supporting, integrating grounding, right? Feet are on the earth. And you're just going to press the feet deep into the earth, lift the hips, and slide your block under your sacrum, low, medium, or high. Just feel into your own sweet spot, okay? And then the legs are going to reach straight up to the sky. And once you lift the legs, feel into it, you might want to adjust the block a little bit of where it feels right in your body is really personal. So a little higher if the body tilts back when the legs lift, or a little lower as needed. Exactly. Arms just resting, really soft gaze, or let the eyes close. All right, when we challenge ourselves physically, energetically, it can stir up quite a bit. Really, really beneficial to give ourselves time and space to rest, to be relatively still. Kind of let the nervous system recalibrate.

Just letting the body settle here. Letting the system settle here. You can stay with your ujjayi breath. You can start to ease into a more organic, kind of like, you know, kind of like, you know, kind of like, you know, you can stay with your ujjayi breath. You can start to ease into a more organic, effortless breath. You're trusting what you feel for, trusting the wisdom of the body. Yeah. A few more breaths. Yeah. So we're going to ease out of this slowly. You can take both feet or one foot at a time back to the earth. And once the feet are grounded, kind of lift the hips, remove the block.

And just pause here. Let yourself settle. Feel into your body. If there is anything at else, anything else at all that you feel for before your final rest, please feel free to take it. You might just hug the knees in towards the chest and rock a little bit. You might find a happy baby. If you have time and space at home and you'd like to add anything, feel free. Yeah. That's what feels good. The body knows. And then when you are ready, let yourself release into your final rest. Right. Right. Legs extending and kind of gently rolling open from the hips. Arms resting alongside the body. Palms roll open. Yeah. If there's any tenderness in the lower back, you might want a blanket or a bolster under your knees. You can even have the knees bent, feet rooted, knees falling in. You just take the final resting posture that serves and nourishes your body the most. Yeah. And as you land, let the weight of the body just sink into the earth. Let yourself release and surrender. The work is done. Let yourself savor the integration, the absorption of the practice.

Stay soft really gently through the nose. Inhale. Slight pause. Open the mouth. Exhale. Let it go. As much as possible. Whatever it is, just let it go. And let yourself truly rest. Okay. Okay.

Okay. If you have the time and space and you'd like to remain here, please feel free. Your eyes gently beginning to deepen the breath, bring a little movement into the fingers and the toes. We're going to gently transition back into a comfortable seat. You get there however you'd like. Maybe reach the arms up and over. Extend in both directions. Maybe roll to either side. You might pause there. You might just rock directly up. Finding your seat in your own time. And then when you land, rest the hands. Really soft gaze or let the eyes close.

Let's take a moment of stillness here so that we transition from the practice into the rest of the day mindfully. Really reflecting on that experience of meeting your edge. Allowing whatever wants to be known, whatever is emerging or arising, and giving it a really vast spacious field. Hands come to prayer, heart center. And we'll close with a gentle om. Exhale to empty. And then together through the nose, a big inhale.

Gently inhaling and a soft bow forward. Namaste. Thank you all so much for joining us. Be well. Namaste.

Teaching Note: Closing

Slow, settle, and integrate

I love the end of practice. This opportunity to let everything kind of sink and savor. It's like when you're cooking, letting the flavors marry. I closed with pigeon, a really long hold in pigeon to let their bodies settle, kind of let their hips relax into that opening in a more passive way.

And then played with a restorative pose for a little bit more integration. Shavasana, of course, always so necessary after deep practice, but especially after something where you're challenging yourself and kind of moving your nervous system into unchartered waters. Yeah, could play with that in different ways, could do a different restorative posture, could sit a bit longer at the end. Yeah, lots of variations. But the essence is this grounding and nourishing, calming period to let the body and the nervous system settle.


Christel B
1 person likes this.
It's wonderful to listen to Rosemary explaining the subtler points  of the practice leading up and past the peak pose. I'm looking forward to this series. Thank you for this sharing Rosemary.
Francesca Venturini
Dear Rosemary, your teaching is so precious! Thank you so much!! 
Rosemary Garrison
Thank you, Christel B . I am so heartened to hear you're finding this useful. It was such a joy to create and share. 
Rosemary Garrison
Thank you, dear Francesca Venturini . 

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