In winter I sometimes find it more of a challenge to stay in shape. I love the outdoors but wilt quickly in the cold. I try to get out and bike ride when I can but often the cold keeps me indoors. Not only that but when its cold I am less limber. To help with these two issues I have a little leg routine you can add to your own practice. It will help to keep those legs strong and get them nice and warm for stretching out. This series is appropriate for almost all levels of yogis.
Warm up with your Sun Salutations. Since this is so leg oriented I tend to skip Warrior in the B series.
1. Adho Mukha Svanasana
If you have been practising yoga even a little Downdog should be pretty familiar. Basically you are making an upside down ‘V’ with your body. Make sure you press into fingertips and palms, your shoulders are squared and the shoulder blades are relaxing up the spine. The tail bone reaches up and back and the heels of the feet reach down. You can count it out with your breaths: 1. hands 2. shoulders 3. shoulder blades 4. tailbone and 5. feet.
2. Three legged Downward Facing Dog (Sanskrit name?)
Lift the right leg for a breath. This is just for transition to the next pose here but you can use this pose to stretch or strengthen too. To strengthen drop the right hip so the hips are parallel to the ground and point the big toe of the right foot down so it is in dorsi flexion. To stretch stack the right hip on the left or open the hips to the right side of your mat and point the toe reaching for the sky.
3. Virabhadrasana I
From your three legged dog swing the right leg down and through placing it between your hands. You might have to walk the leg forward or even pick it up and place it forward. It gets easier with practice. Plant the back foot parallel or at a 45 degree angle to the back of your mat. Now walk your hands up to your thighs bring them to your hips. Push the right hip back and the left forward to square them to the front of your mat. If they are a at a 3/4 turn its okay that is just hip flexibility. Check your front knee it shouldn’t be collapsing inward. Also, a 45 degree bend in the knee is fine to start. 90 degrees makes it more challenging. Bring the hands in front of you palms together shoulder blades relaxing down the spine. Breath in and extend up the spine broadening the chest and gaze up. The arms should come up with the spine rather then reaching back.
Whew. That’s a lot of instruction.
4. Virabhadrasana II
From Warrior 1 bring your hands to heart center and open the hips to the long side of your mat. You can adjust feet and hips as you move. Bring the arms out from the shoulders. Lower the front arm to your knee and gently push on the inside of your knee making sure it is not collapsing inward. Now bring the arm back up without reaching at all. Instead open the heart by extending up through the spine and dropping the tail bone towards the floor. Relax the shoulder blades and gaze over the front hand. Again 45 degrees or 90 degrees on the knee is fine.
5. Utthita Parsvakasana (with or without bind)
Bend the front arm breath in and hinge forward at the hips bring the forearm to the front thigh. The movement of your spine forward brings the back arm up continue that movement reaching the back arm overhead towards the front of your mat. If you are flexible enough to reach the ground with your front hand on the inside of your front foot you can try the bind. Reach the front arm under the thigh and the top arm reaches behind the back. Breath in and as you breath out rotate the heart to the sky and extend through the spine. If your hands reach each other you can clasp them.
Low lunge, low crescent or I have also heard it called baby dragon (my fav) comes next. From extended side angle (release your bind) continue the forward movement of the top arm down to the ground and lower the front arm to the outside of the front leg all while lowering the back knee to the ground and the top foot. Breath in and extend up through the spine breath out and sink into the hips pushing into the front heel and relieving pressure off the back knee.
7. Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana
From low lunge tuck the back foot under and lift the back knee and step the front foot back to the back foot. You can also come to hands and knees first. In plank remember to press into fingertips and palms, square the shoulders, tuck the hips and pull the navel towards the spine.
Finally hinge back into downdog so you can do it all over again on the left side.
*Thank you to Brynne for posing so beautifully for me in three legged dog and bound side angle!