Firebird - Overview
Beginner: Firebird is great for learning to keep the mind focused and not wandering. The pace is faster than most other practices. Try to keep up, but if you do fall behind, come back to center for the breath-body link when you are ready. The breath-body link is Earth-Rain. The link pulls grounding energy from the earth while showering the mind and body with positive energy flow. Elbows seal as you lift your hands on the inhale. Drop shoulders and release tension on the exhale breath. Keep your weight balanced on both legs and feel grounded in your feet through the link.
Advanced: Firebird is a fun sequence for advanced yogis. The practice mixes spinal stretches with hip opening poses to relax the mind and relieve tension in the body. Enjoy flowing smoothly and quickly from one pose to the next, being mindful of proper alignment and never retaining the breath. The link is Earth-Rain. Focus on creating energy in the palms of the hands and as the forearms and elbows connect on the inhale lift. Drop the chin and lift from the head as your arms rain down on the exhalation. Feel grounded in your feet and tuck your tailbone gently under.
Beginner: Beginners benefit greatly from Forward Fold, as it stretches the leg muscles where we most commonly hold on to tightness. Feel the weight of the head as you fold forward. Be mindful of your body. Do you feel any pain behind the knees or near the tail bone? If so, bend your knees deeply until that tension is relieved. Only go to your limit. That is your perfect expression of the pose.
Advanced: Advanced practicioners can continue to benefit from this posture. To deepen your fold, lay your chest on the thighs as you deeply bend the knees. Now, as you straighten your legs, keep your chest glued to the thighs - the strength here comes from your abdominals and hip flexors. Engage mula bandha as you stretch your upper body towards the earth and your tail towards the sky - feel the expression of perfect opposition.
Beginner: Child's Pose is a relaxing and comforting pose for beginners. However, do not be fooled by its apparent simplicity! This posture will deeply stretch the quadriceps and hips. If it is not comfortable to rest your belly on your thighs, try placing a block or towel between the buttocks and the feet, this will lessen the stretch in the hips. If you have any tension in your neck, try making fists with your hands and placing them one on top of another - rest your head on your hands.
Advanced: Advanced yogis enjoy the calming and restorative benefits of Child's Pose. You can deepen into the pose by stretching your arms forward as you press your tail towards the earth. To increase the stretch in the hips, separate the legs, making room for the buttocks between the feet instead of on top of the feet. Keep a steady, even breath.
Beginner: Beginners can develop strength and flexibility in the shoulders, chest, and abdominal muscles in Upward-Facing Dog. As you look up, be careful not to pinch the back of the neck or spine. Instead focus on lengthening and stretching from the crown of the head. Keep your hands firmly grounded, weight spread evenly between all of your fingers.
Advanced: Upward-Facing Dog is a joyous pose for those who are more advanced in their yoga practice. Feel the fluidity of the spine as you move smoothly into the pose. With weight evenly distributed across your hands and fingers, use super-straight arms to press upwards, while keeping your shoulders down and back as your neck lengthens. Be careful to keep the arms fully engaged, preventing the elbow joints from locking. The strength of the posture comes from the muscles, relieving pressure on the joints.
Beginner: Beginners benefit from Downward-Facing Dog as it stretches the muscles of the upper back, shoulders, hamstrings, calves, right down to the arches of your feet! Don't worry if you cannot straighten your legs in this pose. It will come with time. For now, focus on keeping the back super flat and your knees deeply bent. Begin to push the legs straight while the back stays flat, opening into the tight hamstring muscles. If you have wrist problems, be very mindful of any pain you feel in this posture.
Advanced: To deepen in Downward-Facing Dog, the advanced practitioner can focus on sinking into the heels and lifting the tail bone. Keep your arms super straight and energize the palms of the hands and fingers.
Beginner: The Swan Pose can be challenging for the beginning yogi as it is a deep hip opening pose. Be gentle with yourself, and go no further than your hip and groin muscles can afford. While you are learning this posture, you can put a block or towel under the hip of the front leg. The aim is to keep the hips even so give your body the support it needs to express the pose.
Advanced: The Swan Pose is a graceful and elegant posture for the advanced yogi. Tuck your tail slightly and lift the chest. Keep lifting from the back of the head and the shoulders. Your hips are level - beautiful. Now, can you pull belly to spine on the exhale? Focus on lifting the chest, not compressing the spine. Arms are straight, gaze is lifted slightly. Feel the serenity of this pose.