Earth - Overview
Beginner: In this sequence, you will begin to strengthen your arms, shoulders, back and abdominal muscles while stretching the back, hips and legs. Focus on your breath: inhaling fully and really contracting the abdominals on the exhale breath. In this practice, the heart opening breath-body link is done while in hero pose, so focus on keeping your spine and neck long and straight and extending through the arms, hands and fingers fully. On the inhale focus on the expansion in the chest. On the exhale focus on the contraction, your chin tucked in slightly to elongate your spine.
Advanced: Advanced yogis will find the Earth sequence a wonderfully balancing and restorative practice. Focus on fully expressing each pose and pushing completely through the length of the arms and legs. The breath-body link is called heart opening link. Once you are comfortable opening and closing your arms with breath, begin to focus on your energy. When you inhale extend energy out from your core, letting your tension leave with it. When you exhale return your hands to heart's centre with fresh energy. Feel revitalized and open, ready to begin the sequence.
Beginner: Plank is a fantastic pose for beginners to strengthen their abdominal muscles and spine, as well as arms and wrists. Make sure to distribute your weight evenly across your hands and energize the abdominal muscles. If it is too much at first, you can bring your knees to the floor.
Advanced: Advanced yogis can enhance the benefits of plank pose by continuing to widen across the collarbones and pulling the shoulders away from the ears. Check your alignment: is your spine really straight? Is the core engaged?
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: Child's Pose is a relaxing and comforting pose for beginners. However, do not be fooled by its apparent symplicity! 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 the 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 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: Locust Pose can be a challenging pose for beginners. It will stretch the legs, abdominals and lower back, and uses muscles in the legs, back and arms that we do not often use to attain the posture. If it is too difficult to raise both arms and legs, you may place your arms and hands under the thighs, rest your head on the floor and focus on lifting and extending the legs.
Advanced: Focus on keeping your knees together in Locust pose. Check your spine. Is there any compression or feelings of being pinched? You may need to lower your legs and focus on keeping your pelvis flat along the floor. Remember, the extension is outward as much as it is upward.