Sun Moon - Overview
Beginner: This sequence brings awareness of balance and extends your flexibility. Be aware of your limitations and resist the urge to compete with yourself. The Sun Moon breath-body link will call you to take control of your oppositional forces - strength in the legs and feet as you stretch your arms and spine. Be mindful of your spinal alignment as you inhale and reach to the sun - tuck your tailbone under and focus on pulling your belly and chest up to follow your arms. On the exhale, contract your belly and use the strength of your arms to bring the calm energy of the moon back to you.
Advanced: Sun Moon blends strengthening postures with balancing poses to create equilibrium throughout the body and mind. Focus on keeping your breath steady as you make the most of all the opposites in this practice, being mindful of strengthening, lengthening, lifting and contracting all at once. Upon exhalation in the Sun Moon breath-body link, feel the earth energy rising through you, lifting with the bandhas. On the inhale, stretch your arms and upper body outward and up as the lower body reaches down to the earth.
Wide-legged forward fold
Beginner: Concentrate on turning your toes in slightly. Begin to use the entire surface of your foot to ground and balance your body; this is challenging as we seldom try to control different parts of our feet. Give it a try in this strengthening pose. Hand placement should be even with your shoulders but do not worry if your hands do not touch the ground with straight legs. Bend your knees deeply for now and be patient with the tight muscles at the back of the thigh.
Advanced: Balance is not a problem as you sink into forward fold. Focus on improving the flow of oppositional energy in this pose. Lift from your tail bone so the spine can release down. Use the grounding force of your legs to push your tail higher, as you sink your head lower. Ground down with your palms and, if you are comfortable, you can bend your elbows deeply.
Beginner: Begin with an awareness of your alignment. Your front knee should bend to be in line with your foot and go no further. This protects the knee from injury. Keep your hips and shoulders even. Is your back leg completely straight? Is your weight evenly distributed across both legs? You should feel all points of your foot pressing into the ground.
Advanced: As an advanced practitioner, Warrior I is a strong and confident pose for you. Bring your focus to your tail bone, dropping it down and tucking it under as you lift your chest and shoulders up and back. Feel the energy from your core extend through the sides of your waist and straight up through your arms to your fingertips. Take your gaze up to the fingers, feeling the power of your focus.
Beginner: Monkey Pose is an excellent posture for beginners to strengthen the leg and abdominal muscles. Alignment of the front knee over the foot is very important. You need to create a strong base to rise from as you lift your chest. Uncurl the back toes and feel the weight and length of the back leg sinking as you lift your body up and into the pose.
Advanced: Once you are comfortable in this pose, begin to deepen by rolling your shoulders back and down. Lift the chest up as the shoulder blades squeeze together. Be mindful to keep your weight evenly distributed across the whole of your front foot and back shin as you deepen into the pose. Your chin is lifted slightly, gaze slightly lifted, arms reaching back.
Beginner: The hamstring stretch is a wonderful way to lengthen and stretch the spine and all the muscles down the back of your leg. The hamstrings are often the tightest muscles for beginning students. Keep your shoulders and hips square as you stretch your body back and down. The top of your back foot should lie along the floor, while your front toes should point upward. For now, do not worry if it is enough of a stretch without bending forward - the placement of the legs is a wonderful stretch by itself!
Advanced: To deepen your hamstring stretch, concentrate on making your back flat as you settle your shoulders back and down. Lengthen your neck and really flex your front foot. Feel your whole front leg super straight, super activated. Tuck your chin in and really reach towards your toes with the top of your head.
Beginner: Needle is an exciting and beautiful pose for beginners. It is a challenging pose that strengthens your legs and elongates your spine. Focus on dropping the weight of the head down to counterbalance the lift of the leg. Use your hands for balance and make sure to keep your weight evenly distributed across your hands and all of your fingers. Remember: however high you lift your leg is fine.
Advanced: To deepen into needle pose, use the energy of the standing leg. Send energy down through that leg by pressing into the ground with the whole foot. Now pull power up through the arms and all the way up to the lifting toes. Keep the weight of the head dropping down and the lifting leg rising up.