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Season 2 - Episode 4

Teaching Back Bending

70 mins - Practice


In this class, Rosemary explores with her students the interplay between the physical and energetic bodies through the practice of back bending. Physically, back bends require students to have openness across the chest and a strong foundation and core. Energetically, they will need a strong sense of their own center in order to feel safe enough to open their hearts. This class offers a steady opening of the upper back, as well as strengthening of the foundation and center to support the hearts blossoming in Dhanurasana. After they experience their back bends, Rosemary leads her students in deep supine twists and forward folds as counter poses to release the low back, and a supported restorative pose grounds and settles the body before Savasana.
What You'll Need: Mat, Square Bolster


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Teaching Note: Introduction

Theme of class

Welcome everyone. Thank you so much for joining us for this adventure. I'd love to introduce you to my yogi friends. This is Julia and this is Jeff. Thank you both so much. We're exploring a theme that is a beloved one to me these days. It's about the interplay between the physical body and the energy body. So we're mapping it specifically to the experience of deep back bending. So on the physical level we need a strong foundation and a strong center to support the body as we move into the deeper back bends. And then on an energetic level we need a strong personal foundation and a strong connection to our own center to make that expansive heart opening safe and supported. So we're looking at that in terms of safe physical structure and a kind of a nourishing supported energetic structure. I hope that it's illuminating and supportive for you. Thanks for going on the ride. Namaste.

Practice: Opening

Seated Meditation and Pranayama

Let's begin by softening the gaze or letting the eyes close, whichever you prefer. And then begin to move awareness down into your foundation. So feel the feet and the legs and the sit bones and all points of contact with the earth rooting and grounding.

And then from that foundation let the spine lengthen, let the shoulders soften, and let your awareness move to the rise and fall of your breath. And sustaining this, simply rest the left hand on your heart and then the right hand on the left. And very gently let the head bow down in the direction of the heart. And start to bring your awareness there. Very gently begin to expand your inhales and kind of let the exhales happen organically.

So the pranayama practice associated with the heart chakra, anahata chakra, is the inhale. Simple emphasis on the inhale. And you can feel as you take that breath in the expansion through the heart, through the chest, through the whole body really. So breathing into heart center, bringing awareness into heart center. And simply let the awareness rest there. As we transition, as we draw, as we exhale, as we exhale, as we transition, as we drop into the body, as we prepare for the practice, the essence of this flow is supporting the heart.

There is a whole lot to say about this, but for the time being we'll keep it really simple. On a physical level, we need a really strong foundation and core to safely move into deep back bending. We need that strength and that structure and that support in order to safely and intelligently deepen into really expansive back bending poses. On an energetic level, it's very similar. It's really beautiful how the physical and the energetic bodies map. On an energetic level, we need a strong internal foundation and a strong sense of our own center to safely, wisely, and elegantly open our hearts. So throughout the asana practice, we'll be exploring those two dimensions, how the physical body, strengthening and centering, supports the deep back bending postures. And how reconnecting to our own center and our own source energetically creates a really beautiful field for a wide-open heart.

Just a few more moments of stillness here. Let the inhales expand the heart center and let the exhales just happen. And as you start to awaken through that energy center, consider silently in your own internal awareness what supports your heart. Could be anything at all. Beautiful, wild places, loving relationship, maybe your animals, likely your practices, anything at all that arises. And get that feeling tone in your body. Let it well up from the inside and then emanate out in all directions.

And throughout the flow of the practice, if you ever feel fatigued or distracted or overwhelmed, whatever it may be, see if you can return to this quality. See if you can return to this quality. Let it nourish you and let it support you. All right. With the hands continuing to rest on the heart so we can feel the vibration of the sound, let's open with one gentle om. Exhale, empty all the breath out. And then together through the nose, a big inhale. And then in that vibration, plant the seed of your personal intention right in the center of the heart. The opening meditation and pranayama practice were designed to introduce the essence of the class,

Teaching Note: Opening

Setting Intention

the theme of the class, and to begin to shift the awareness to the heart center, the energy of the heart center, and begin to plant the seeds for that beautiful interplay between physical and energy bodies. So how they support one another and how they map to one another. The idea is that that will be woven throughout the whole flow and then returned to in the closing meditation. And the opening serves to yeah, lay that foundation. And as you're ready, just gently let the hands release

Practice: Warm Up

Low postures

and let the eyes open or lift the gaze. And with the next inhale, reach the arms out and out.

And interlacing the fingers, exhale, press the palms to the sky. We're going to pause here and simply breathe into the length of the spine. And as we do, let's move some awareness down into the deep low belly and let it draw in and up, connecting with strength of center right off the bat. Yeah. Shoulders are soft, gaze is steady at the horizon, feeling into that length and that space. Well, let's stay for the inhale. And then as you exhale, twist to the right, left hand to the right knee, right fingertips tent behind, and then spiraling the spine, gently gaze back over the right shoulder. You can play with this. It's really subtle. Feel the inhales lengthening up, through the spine. And as you exhale, there might be a little more space to ease into. Yeah. Another breath or two here. And then on your inhale, draw it back to center, reaching the arms up and with the exhale, twist to the other side. Get rooted and then inhaling to lengthen and exhaling to deepen into the spiral. Yeah. A couple more breaths. And then just moving on your inhale back to center, we're going to float side to side, riding the breath. Exhale to the right.

Inhaling back to center. Exhaling to the left. Inhaling center. Exhale, right. Inhale, center. Exhale, left. Inhale, center. Exhale, left. Inhale, center. Once again to each side, exhale to the right.

Inhale, center. Exhale, left. And inhale, center. With the next exhale, rock it forward up onto the hands and the knees, facing the front of your mat. And let's just pause here for a moment. Hands directly under the shoulders, knees under the hips. Yes, nice. And before we move, move awareness down into low belly again and draw it in and up, right? So we reconnect with strength of center, engagement of center throughout the entire flow. On the next inhale, lifting tailbone, heart gaze. And as you exhale, round the back, all the breath out and really draw the belly to the spine. Yes, good. Then inhale again, lifting tailbone, heart gaze. And exhale, round all the breath out, really draw belly to spines. Do three more cycles. Inhaling, let the heart rise, let the shoulders slide down. Exhaling, empty out.

And again, big inhale. And exhale. Last cycle. Inhaling and exhaling. Warming the spine, opening the muscles of the back and synchronizing breath and body. Good. Inhale, just draw it back to a neutral spine. And exhale, simply ground here. Good. Then with the inhale, reach the right arm out and up. And with the exhale, thread it under the body. Left hand can ground, it can reach up, it can even wrap behind the back, really whatever feels best for you in this moment.

Then breathing across, upper back, back of heart for three. Yeah. And two. And two. If that left arm is up, just pause here for a big inhale. And with the exhale, release, root the left hand down. And then on the inhale, reach the right arm all the way back to the sky. And with the exhale, release, come back to a neutral spine, root the hands, just pause here for a breath. Again and again, back to center. And then second side. Inhale, reach, left arm goes to the sky. Exhale, thread it under, come to the back of that shoulder, any variation with the right hand, right arm. Just kind of play with it, see what feels good. Yeah. And then send the breath across, upper back, back of shoulders as you reach away through those left fingertips, ease in the opposite direction through the back of the heart to deepen that stretch. Yeah, a couple more breaths. If the right arm is up, stay for a big inhale. With the exhale, release, root right hand to the earth. Then inhale, reach, left arm goes all the way back to the sky. And exhale to release, hands root under shoulders. Good. Keep this big inhale, just tuck the toes. And with the exhale, walk the arms out into Anahatasana, releasing down onto the forehead or the chin. Yeah. Toes can stay tucked or untucked, whatever feels good here. And then really relax, melting the heart down into the earth. Three. Two. Yeah. And then on your exhale, stay low and just slide the hips back towards the heels for Child's Pose. And in Child's Pose, really let yourself feel into this kind of grounding quality. Feel into your foundation, feel into the support of the earth beneath you. And a couple more breaths. Yeah.

Moving only as you feel ready, let the inhale lift you to your hands and your knees. And as you exhale, tuck the toes, take it all the way up and back, downward facing dog. Let's take about five breaths here for anything you need. Pedal it out, float the hips side to side, shake out the arms, shake out the legs. You can always let sound, sigh, breath out of the mouth, flutter the lips, whatever helps to release, clear, cleanse. Yeah. Feeling the opening of the backs of the legs, continuing to open through spine and muscles of back. Yeah. One more breath here. And then on your inhale, start to walk the feet forward to the front of the mat. As you arrive Uttanasana, the feet are about hips distance, the head is heavy, neck is soft, three, four, five breaths. Hands can drop, you can hold opposite elbows. You might let the upper body sway a little side to side. Again, what feels good? Kind of let it move from the inside out really trusting what the body wants. And in all variations, really release the weight of the head and relax through the neck and the jaw, the eyes and the brow. Yeah. Sweet. If you're swaying, find center. And if you have the bind, let it go. So the hands just released to the earth. Let's keep that soft buoyant bend in the knees and very slowly on the inhale, start to roll to stand. The head is the very last thing to arrive. Yeah. And then when you do arrive, really roll the shoulders back and down. Beautiful. Start to heel toe the feet together, take the hands to prayer at heart center, gazing at the horizon line. Samasthiti. As we begin to move, we're simply looking to start warming the body in preparation

Teaching Note: Warm Up

Warming body for Flows

for deeper flow. Lots of ways to do this, of course. Some specific choices in this section that relate to the flow of this practice. Threading the needle and anahatasana really move energy into kind of the mid-upper back thoracic spine, which of course we want over the spine.

Kind of the mid-upper back thoracic spine, which of course we want open and warm for deeper back bending. And then bringing them into child's just for a moment was about connecting with the earth and feeling into foundation so that we have that connection in place, that really strong rooted quality as we move into expansive back bending. So throughout the beginning stages, we're planting seeds for the bigger practice and also beginning to warm and open the body.

Practice: Sun Salutation Flow

Sun Salutes A and B

With the next inhale, sweeping the arms out and up. Belly and flat back, exhale to bow out and down. Surya namaskar A. Inhale, lengthen halfway and then exhale, hop or step back, lower knees or chaturanga dandasana, whichever you prefer. Inhale, cobra or upward facing dog. And exhale, take it back, downward facing dog. Adho Mukha Svanasana. Five breaths. We're still landing, we're still arriving in the body, warming the body. So if you want to play with this, feel free and tune in. What's showing up in your body in this moment for this practice? A couple more breaths. Yeah. And then at the bottom of your exhale, a soft bend in the knees, hop or step to the front of the mat. As you arrive, inhale, lengthen halfway. Exhale, bow and fold. Again, strong through the center. Inhale, rise all the way up. Tracing the midline, exhale, draw the hands home to heart center. Two more. Inhale, reach out and up. Exhale to bow, out and down. Inhaling halfway, hop or step back. Exhale to lower knees or chaturanga.

Inhale, lifting through the heart and exhale, take it back, downward facing dog. Good. About five breaths here. Again, continuing to land in the body, warming it all up. And letting the focus shift and the mind softens and the awareness connects with body and breath. Bottom of your exhale, soft bend in your knees, hop or step front of the mat. As you arrive, inhale, we lengthen halfway. Exhaling, bow and fold.

Strong through center. Inhale, we rise all the way up and exhale, hands to prayer at the heart. Now once again, inhaling, reach out and up. Exhaling to bow, out and down. Inhaling halfway, hop or step it back and exhale, lower however you choose. Maybe every now and then you even skip the vinyasas. Always free to play, always tuning in to what your body truly needs. Downward facing dog, deep full breath. Five. Mm-hmm. Four.

Three. Mm-hmm. Two. The bottom of the exhale, soft bend in the knees, hop or step front of the mat. Inhale, lower back. Exhale, lower back. Exhale, lower back. The bottom of the exhale, soft bend in the knees, hop or step front of the mat. Inhaling to lengthen halfway. Exhaling, bow and fold. Strong through your center. Inhale, rise all the way up, reaching it out. Nice. And then exhale, hands to prayer, heart center. Surya Namaskara, be slowly through the first cycle. Bending the knees, inhale, scoop the arms out and up. Utkatasana.

Just pausing here, feeling into the strength of this. The legs engaging, the deep belly rising, so you're really fired up through foundation and center. Yes. Stay for the inhale. Exhale, bow, out and down. Inhaling, lengthen halfway. Hop or step it back. Exhale to lower as you choose. Inhale, scoop the heart up. And exhale, take it all the way up and back, downward facing dog. Inhale, reach right leg to the sky, straight up and back. Exhale, step that right foot forward, spin the back heel down to the earth. Inhale, rise, warrior one, Virabhadrasana A. We're going to give this about three breaths, so moving slowly through the first cycle, really feeling into alignment and letting the body have a chance to really experience the posture. Savor the felt experience. Yes. Another breath. Stay for the inhale, let the heart rise a little. And with the exhale, release hands to the earth, step back, optional vinyasa, just following your own energy and taking what really serves.

As you're ready, inhaling left leg to the sky and exhale, step it forward, root down through the back heel, rise on the inhale, warrior one, Virabhadrasana A. Full three breaths, descending through the tailbone, drawing the deep belly in and up. Easing back a little through left rib cage, easing forward a little through right rib cage. Yes. Another breath or two. And then stay for the inhale. And exhale, release hands to the earth, step back, take the vinyasa or let it go. We'll meet in downward-facing dog.

Nice, deep, full breath for three. Two. Two. Yeah. Bottom of the exhale, soft bend in the knees, hop or step, front of the mat. As you arrive, inhale, lengthen halfway, exhale, bow and fold. Deep bend in the knees, inhale, scoop it up, utkatasana. Strong through center, soft through shoulders. Excellent. Again, feel into that strength of the legs, of the root, of the connection with the earth, and feel into the lift of deep low belly. This will serve you as we move into back bending. One more breath.

Good. Pressing through the feet, inhale, simply rise and exhale, just draw hands home to the heart, samasthiti. Surya B building the pace. Bend the knees, inhale, utkatasana. Exhale to bow, out and down. Inhaling halfway, hop or step it back, exhale to lower. Inhale, scoop the heart up, melt the shoulders back, exhale, downward-facing dog. Inhaling, right leg goes to the sky. Exhaling, step that foot forward, anchor the back heel. One inhale, rise warrior one. One exhale, release, hands to the earth, step back, chaturanga, dandasana. If you need an extra breath there, take it. Inhale, lift the heart. Exhale, take it back, downward-facing dog. Inhaling, left leg goes to the sky.

Exhaling, step it forward, anchor the back heel. Rising on the inhale, exhale, release, hands to the earth, step back, optional vinyasa. Again, just follow your own energy. Let's meet in downward-facing dog as you're ready. And then deep, full breath for three. Nice, two, and bottom of the exhale, soft bend in the knees, hop or step, front of the mat. As you arrive, inhale halfway, exhale, bow and fold, bending the knees, inhale, utkatasana, and exhale directly into samasthana. Last cycle, bending the knees, inhale, utkatasana. Exhaling, we bow out and down. Inhale halfway, reach through the heart, hop or step it back, your vinyasa, or you let it go, find your down dog in your own time. Nice.

Inhaling, right leg goes to the sky. Exhaling, step that foot forward, anchor through the back heel. One inhale, rise, virabhadrasana. One exhale, hands to the earth, step to plank, lower knees, or chaturanga. Inhale, cobra or upward-facing dog. And exhale, exhale, step to plank, lower knees, or chaturanga. Inhale, cobra or upward-facing dog. Inhale, cobra or upward-facing dog. And exhale, downward-facing dog. Left leg, inhale to the sky. Exhale, step it forward, grounding the back heel. One inhale, rise, warrior one. Exhale, hands to the earth, step back, optional vinyasa.

Again, we meet in down dog, find it in your own time, in your own body. And then pausing here, deep, full breath. Feel the energy building, feel the heat rising in the body, using your ujjayi breath to hold it all steady and to cultivate that heat and energy. All right. So from here, we're going to keep the feet where they are. And with the next exhale, simply walk the hands to the back of the mat, when you arrive, just let it be kind of soft and supple for a couple breaths. The head is heavy, the neck is relaxed, the jaw is relaxed. And from here, padangusthasana. So taking big toes, first two fingers and thumb, and then inhale, lengthen halfway. And exhale, deepen into the full. Yeah. Breath into the back body. Let a little weight tip into the front of the feet, deepening the stretch. Three, two. Mm-hmm. If this is enough, stay right where you are. Otherwise, inhale, lengthening halfway. And then with the exhale, padangusthasana, slide the hands under the feet, toes against the wrists.

Inhaling, we lengthen halfway. And exhale, we deepen into the fold. Good. Again, breathing into the back body. Three, two. Yeah. We're going to keep the grip. Inhale, lengthen halfway up. And then release the grip, shake out the hands and the wrists. Just pause here. Inhale, lengthening halfway again. And with the exhale, walk the hands back to the front of the mat, returning to your downward facing dog. Take a breath here. Just reconnect center and intention. Mm-hmm. Then on your next inhale, ripple the body forward into plank pose and pause here. You're welcome to stay in this variation as Jeff is demonstrating, or you can lower the knees to the earth as Julia will demonstrate. Both are working the core. It's just whatever feels better in your body, right? So with the inhale, lift the right foot. And with the exhale, draw the right knee outside the right elbow. Stay here for your inhale. Then exhale, draw the knee to the midline. Knee to nose, nose to knee. Mm-hmm. Stay here for your inhale. Exhale, go back into plank pose. Good. Inhale, lift the left foot. Exhale, knee outside left elbow. Stay for your inhale. Exhale, draw to the midline. Knee to nose, nose to knee. Stay for your inhale. Exhale, step it back into plank. One more cycle. Inhale, right leg. Exhale, knee outside elbow. Stay for the inhale. Exhale, knee to midline, nose to knee.

Stay for the inhale. Exhale, back into plank. Inhale, lift left leg. Exhale, draw the knee outside of the elbow. Stay for your inhale. Exhale, draw to the midline. Knee to nose, nose to knee. Good. Stay for the inhale. Exhale, back into plank pose. Nice work. Stay here for your inhale. Exhale, back into downward facing dog. Mm-hmm. Stay with it. Really big inhale. Open the mouth exhale. Let that go. In this section, we're continuing to warm the body and really start to

Teaching Note: Sun Salutation Flow

Building pace, energy, heat

generate the heat. I love the classic three Surya A, three Surya B. It builds the heat, of course, in the body, but it's also incredibly focusing. The simplicity and the repetition really start to kind of hone awareness, which I think can be incredibly supportive as we move into the next section, as we move into wide open heart. And then we moved into some really specific core strengthening work in that plank section so that the yogis could feel strength of center and that core energy that's needed to support wide open heart physically and energetically. From here, we'll start to move into some more standing flows that continue to warm the body and really open through shoulders and upper back in preparation for back bending.

Practice: Standing Flow

Standing poses with binds

With the next inhale, sweep the right leg to the sky. And with the exhale, draw the knee to the nose, belly to spine. Mm-hmm. Inhale, reach it back to the sky. With the exhale, step that right foot forward, back heel down, warrior two. So inhale, let the left arm open you. And exhale, settle and ground for a moment. Yes, nice. Feel the shoulders relax down the back. Lift through deep belly. Beautiful, yes. All right, we're going to play with a little bit of a bind here. So keep the fundamental shape and then inhale, reach the arms to the sky. And with the exhale, bend that right elbow and take the left hand to it. Yes, good. Feel that opening through the right shoulder, through right tricep muscles. Keep the right arm where it is and then release the left arm and reach it up the back. So you might be able to find fingertips. You might hug onto your clothing. If you have a strap at home, you can always grab a strap. Yeah. And then pausing here. You might even gently ease the head back into that right arm, right elbow. Feel the opening there, the lift of heart center. Yes. We're going to play with this. Keep the bind. Inhale, lengthen the right leg.

And then exhale, spin the feet to parallel. You know where we're going. Keep the foundation inhale, lift the belly, lift the heart and exhale. Keep the bind into the fold, a variation of prostrida padottanasana. Breathing into the shoulders, strong through the legs, keep the connection to center. Yes. Another breath or two. Stay for your inhale. And then as you exhale, just release the hands down to the earth. Simple prostrida padottanasana A. Yeah. Give this a breath. And then with the inhale, just lengthen halfway, really strong through center. So exhale all the breath out, belly to spine, hands to hips. Press through the feet. Inhale, rise all the way back up. Exhale, just ground. Good. And then inhale, open it back into warrior two towards the front of the mat. And exhale, saddle. Good. Big inhale. Exhale, hands down either side of the front foot. Step back into your plank pose. Take the vinyasa or move directly into downward facing dog. Good. Give yourself a breath in your down dog. Reconnect with your center. Reconnect with your intention. And then inhaling left leg to the sky. Exhale, need a nose, all the breath out.

Good. Inhale, come back up. Exhale, step that foot forward, root the back heel. Right arm opens you on your inhale, warrior two, second side. Exhale, ground and settle. Feel softening of shoulders. Feel the lift of deep belly. Yeah. And then we keep this and with the inhale, reach the arms up. With the exhale, bend the left elbow, take the right hand to it. And bending at the elbow to deepen the stretch. And then maybe even play with easing the head back a little bit. Yeah, release that right arm, walk it up the back. Maybe you find your fingertips, maybe not. It doesn't matter at all. Find the bind that works in your body. Breathing into this. Yes. And then we keep the bind. Inhale, lengthen the left leg. Exhale, spin the feet to parallel. Ground the feet. Inhale, lift from the belly all the way up front body. And then exhale, bow into the fold, sustaining the bind if possible. Really getting some breath and energy and warmth into the shoulders. Good. Another breath here.

Yeah, stay for your inhale. And with the exhale, release hands to the earth. Simply root again. Stabilize for a breath or two. And then inhaling halfway up. Exhale, strong center all the breath out, belly to spine, hands to hips. And then inhale, rise all the way to stand. As you arrive, exhale, ground. Inhale, opening into warrior two, back to the front of the mat, arms wide. Steady here, reconnect. Big inhale. And with the exhale, hands down either side of the front foot, step back into your plank pose, lower knees or chaturanga. Inhale, lifting through heart center. And exhale, downward facing down. Nice. Take a big inhale through the nose. And open the mouth. Exhale, let it go. Yeah, really strong work. With the next inhale, rippling forward into your plank pose, pause, feel buoyancy of center. And then as you're ready, on your exhale, you're going to come all the way to the earth, knees first or chaturanga style. Lay the whole body down and then untuck the toes, extend the arms out. You can either rest the palms on the earth or take prayer with the hands. This is sometimes known as full pranam or a full body prayer. To me, it feels like a full body, full being surrender, which I think can be extremely useful as we move into deep heart opening. We create the conditions, we support ourselves as best as we can. And ultimately, we surrender. Let a deeper, higher, wiser energy come through. Just feel that for a moment. Feel the full body offering reconnect with intention.

Let me recall what supports you. Infuse the body with that energy.

Teaching Note: Standing Flow

Open Body for Back Bending

The second body of the flow is again about warming the body, continuing to build heat and energy. Lots of different various standing poses you could offer here. I specifically chose Warrior II with the bind of the arms so that we could move into the opening of the shoulders. Really, really, really useful as you prepare for full Urdhva Dhanurasana to have that flexibility through the shoulders. That's what we were playing with there. And then after the standing flow section of the class, bringing them all the way down to the earth in this kind of full body surrender and offering to invoke the quality of, yeah, kind of moving beyond ourselves, letting another energy flow through. There's plenty we can do structurally and physically and energetically to support the opening of the heart. And in my experience, the ultimate ingredient has to do with grace, something way beyond our control. So this release of the full body to the earth is meant to welcome that in. It's from this state of grace that we move into

Practice: Peak Poses

Back bends, twists, forward folds

back bending. So let's draw our arms alongside the body in preparation for Shalabhasana or Locust Pose. The legs come together. Gently rest forehead or chin on the earth. And with the next inhale, rise, lifting the legs, the head, the chest up off the earth. Arms can rise as well, but remain alongside the body for this first variation. Feel the strength of the back, feel the opening of the heart, let it shine out for three, two. Yeah, let's stay. Even rise a little on the inhale. Beautiful. And with the exhale, release. Got a couple options here. Melt to the earth or root the elbows under the shoulders, plant through the forearms to pick it up into forearm plank. Rise as you're ready, strong through center.

Breathing three. Excellent. One long line of energy from the crown through the spine, out through the legs and the heels, two. Stay for the inhale and exhale to release. Yes, Shalabhasana with the bind. So again, base of the big toes come together, forehead or chin on the earth, arms alongside the body and then interlacing behind the back. And with your next inhale, rise, lift the legs, lift the head and the chest, and shine out through heart. Center, deep full breath for three, two. And then with your exhale, just release, melt all the way to the earth. You choose, just rest or return to your forearm plank, rooting down through elbows, forearms, palms, tuck the toes, and lift the body. Strong through center. Again, that long line of energy. Breathing three. Nice. Couple more breaths. If you're resting, rest. Enjoy that choice. Really wise one.

If you're in forearm plank, stay for the inhale and exhale, release. All right. One last back bend here on the belly. You can repeat either of those variations or Dhanurasana, bending the knees. Reach back to cold of the ankles or outer edges of the feet. Re-engage through center. And as you're ready, inhale, rise. Pick it up. Yes. Breathing here. Feel the opening of heart center. Let it shine out for three. Yeah. Two. Stay for the inhale and then exhale, release. You might windshield wiper the feet a little bit. You might just rock the hips a little bit. You might just let the whole body sink into the earth. Give it a moment. Give it a moment. And then feet about hips distance, hands come outside of the rib cage. With your inhale, tuck your toes. And with your exhale, just press back onto the hands and the knees and then all the way back into your downward facing dog. Yeah. Give the body a breath or two here. Reconnect.

At the bottom of the exhale, soft bend in the knees. Upper step through to sit and go ahead and lie all the way down on the back. And when you land on the back, hug the knees in towards the chest. Rock the body a little side to side. It's releasing for a moment. And just touching into the core for a brief moment so that we keep coming home to strength of center as we move deeper and deeper into the opening of the heart. So the legs essentially stay where they are, knees in line with the hips, calf muscles parallel to the earth. And then you're going to press the hands into the thighs and the thighs press back into the hands. Yep. You can keep this relatively gentle or you can really engage. You can keep the head down as Julia is demonstrating, or you can lift the head and the shoulders as Jeff is demonstrating. Breathing three, just one cycle. Reconnect with strength of center, two. And exhale, release. Feet on the earth, arms alongside the body. Big breath into the belly. Good. And then we'll ground the feet, scoop the tailbone, lift the hips, simple bridge pose. If you have a block at home and you feel for a more restorative variation, always feel free to take that. Without the block, you have the option of arms alongside the body, or as Jeff is demonstrating, the hands clasping under the back, which helps to kind of wiggle the shoulders under a little bit more and create a bit more lift and height for the back bend. Let's breathe here. Three and two. As you're ready, release. Melt from the top to the bottom of the spine, back down to the earth.

Just let it settle. Take a breath or two here. Okay. We're going to rise. Two more back bends, your choice. Stay with your bridge with or without the block, or plant the hands under the shoulders in preparation for Urdhva Dhanurasana. Before we come up, feel your feet, feel your legs, feel strength of center, and let the back bend emerge from strong foundation and core. Grounding through the hands. As you're ready, inhale, rise. Yes. And enjoy this. Let the breath move into the heart. Let the inhales expand that energy center. Notice anything you notice physically, energetically. There's no right or wrong here.

Just let whatever wants to emerge emerge. Three and two. As you're ready, gently, chin to chest, shoulders, upper, mid, lower back, all the way back to the earth. Let yourself settle. Let yourself ground. Take a breath or two. We're going to take one last back bend, any variation. So again, stay with bridge. Or as you're ready, plant your hands under your shoulders and rise into full Urdhva Dhanurasana. If you're practicing any other back bends at home and you feel for those instead, go for it. Listen to the body. Take what serves. And when you find it, again, move breath and awareness into the heart center, expanding with each inhale and grounding with each exhale. Three.

Two. Gently, as you're ready, releasing shoulders to the earth, upper back, mid and lower back, all the way down. When you do land, take the soles of your feet together. Let your knees fall open, hand to heart, hand to belly, Supta Baddha Konasana. Soften your gaze or close your eyes. And notice how you feel. And again, there is no right or wrong here. Sometimes deep back bending, sometimes expansive heart opening can be energizing and enlivening, and sometimes it can stir quite a bit energetically, emotionally. Allow it all. Be curious about it all. If possible, meet it with compassion. And really tune in. How does it feel to open the heart, physically and energetically? Another breath here.

And then gently draw the knees together. Hug your legs in towards your chest, rock your body a little side to side. We're going to twist to the left with the legs as is, or you might wrap your right leg over your left and then let the legs fall. Any twist you feel for. As the legs come left, the right arm reaches out to the right and you can follow right fingertips with a soft gaze. Letting this deep supine twist release the low back. I'm gonna wring it all out for three, two, and then gently inhale, draw it back to center. Move your hips to the left a little bit. If the legs are bound, switch the bind and then with the exhale, let the legs just fall to the other side, reaching out through left arm, fingertips, letting the gaze follow, wringing it all out internally. So whatever we've stirred up, whatever we've loosened up, the twisting can help clear. And another breath. And then gently inhale, draw the legs back to center.

Exhale, hug the knees in towards the chest, rocking the body a little side to side. Then we're going to switch the rocking forward and back. So you're kind of massaging the spine, rolling forward and back until you're all the way up to sit for Dandasana, seated staff. Helps to move flesh out from your sit bones. If you're tight through back body, you can take a blanket at any height under sit bones. Then press the hands down, then press the hands down outside of the hips. Yeah. Flexing the feet, wake up the legs, spine tall. And traditionally, gaze is at the tip of the nose. That's a little headachy, a little funky. You can gaze at the top of the thighs or even close the eyes. Yeah. With the next inhale, reach the arms to the sky. And with the exhale, bow out and down, Paschimottanasana, seated forward fold. Once you have your grip, inhale, reach out through the heart and exhale, deepen. And the hands can hold the feet, the ankles, the shins, maybe a strap. You just take the bind that serves. So the seated forward fold is a beautiful counter pose to deep back bending. It's also exceptionally grounding and stabilizing.

So it gives us this opportunity to come back to foundation, come back to the earth. Yeah. Come back to our own roots after all of that expansion. A couple more breaths here. Yeah. And then as you're ready, keep your grip, inhale just halfway up. And then exhale, release, rise. And we're going to roll onto the back. And as you do, simply turn and let the head find the top of the mat. And when you land, gently hug the knees in towards the chest and let yourself rock a little side to side.

Teaching Note: Peak Poses

Peak, counter, and cooling poses

This of course was the back bending portion of the class. We did three on the belly and then three on the back so we could work with going deeper and deeper and deeper into it. We touched a little bit back into core strengthening in certain moments throughout so that we could have that experience of reconnecting with center and our own internal strength as we open the heart.

Practice: Closing

Restorative pose, Savasana

I'm going to take this into a supported Supta Baddha Konasana.

So just gently let your bodies rock up so we can slide the bolster under your backs. The bolster goes just at the base of the spine, maybe inched a little bit away so that as you lean back, there's some space for the lumbar spine. The soles of the feet can be together, knees open, or you can have the feet grounded and knees to the sky. Arms resting alongside the body. If you want to deepen the chest, shoulder opening, you can bend at the elbows and take a kind of cactus shape. This is the end of the practice. Time to slow and settle and nourish. So choose the version of supported Supta Baddha that is most gentle and supportive for you. When you find it, let the breath be effortless. Let the Ujjayi breath go. If that deep inhale into the heart center feels good, you can welcome that back.

And if just a simple, effortless breath feels good, you can play with that. We've asked a lot of the physical body, the deep, strong practice, and we've asked a lot of the energy body to move into deeper and deeper heart openings. It's so important and so deeply beneficial to give ourselves time to integrate and rest after moving in that way and exploring in that way. So as you rest here in this supported shape, let everything begin to soften, unsettle. And that whatever was stirred, whatever emerged from the deep back bending, it's going to move through, maybe move out, maybe find new pathways in the body.

And so much innate wisdom. Most of our work is just clearing the path, getting out of the way. And you've done that work. Let the system savor the benefits. If you're comfortable here, you're welcome to stay through part of or even all of your shavasana. At any point, if you'd like, just gently draw the knees together and let yourself roll to either side, removing the props, and then easing all the way down to the earth for your final rest.

And if there's anything you need on the way, take it. And when you do find shavasana, if you'd like support under the knees, if you'd like to cover your body or cover your eyes, do so. It's especially important after so much expansion to really support the body as you rest. I'm letting the legs gently roll open, and palms face the sky. Really soft gaze. If it's comfortable, let the eyes close.

The breath is effortless. And the whole being is effortless. And trusting the work of the practice, allowing all of the energy that you've cultivated and liberated to find its own way, to work its own magic. Just rest. So you feel for remaining here. Please do so.

As you're ready, draw some awareness back, deepen the breath a little, bring some movement into hands and feet, and then make your way into a comfortable seat in any way you choose. You might just rock up, you might roll to the side, you might reach up and over. The body will know how it wants to rise. And taking that seat, let hands rest wherever they're comfortable. Let the gaze soften or close the eyes.

The spine tall, shoulders soft. And awareness rests in the center of the heart. Again, allowing anything at all that emerges there. It doesn't need to make sense. Tuning into that energy center is a very powerful practice. Just meeting it with curiosity and compassion.

And feeling into whatever wants to be known. And then touching in just briefly once again to anything you feel that supports your heart. And again, doesn't need to make sense. Anything at all that arises. Maybe it's similar to the opening of the practice. Maybe there's new information. We just keep listening.

And this is a very, very simple invitation, simple practice you can invoke at any time, on or off the mat. What does the heart need? Where does it take support? Where does it take support? And then we'll rest left hand on the heart, right hand on the left. Very gentle bow of head to heart center as we close with a gentle Aum. Exhale to empty. Through the nose, big inhale. Aum. Hence to prayer at the heart. Taking a very soft bow forward to seal the practice. Namaste.

Thank you all so, so much for joining us. Incredibly deep, expansive work. Namaste.

Teaching Note: Closing

Slow body, integrate

I imagine that the choices for the final close were fairly straightforward. We want to give the physical body, the energy body time to settle and integrate and absorb. And I really do want to emphasize this. I see trends in the vinyasa power flow world these days that are moving away from this time of integration and stillness. And I think it's a great disservice to, well, to the whole system. We need it physically. And we really, really need it energetically. And in some sense, this is, this is the nectar. This is the juice of the practice. You've worked so hard and you've really stirred and churned things. And if you don't give yourself time and space to rest and absorb, then all of that magic is just lost. We move out into our day, into our world, and things get kind of jumbled or disjointed. And there hasn't been time and space to kind of savor the sensations and the insights and any wisdom that might arise. So I really, really encourage taking this time and space at the end of any practice and especially at the end of a practice where you've moved really deeply.


Christel B
1 person likes this.
Thank you for the reminder of the "nectar" of the practice and the thorough, graceful teaching guidance throughout.
Rosemary Garrison
Thank you, Christel B . I love nectar! ; ) Enjoy. 

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