Yoga teaches us to be mindful of transitions, and one of the most abrupt occurs when we move from the “outer” world of people, places, and things to the inner realm of yoga practice.
Starting your practice with meditation and pranayama can certainly assist with that transition, as can the first series of movements. The opening sequence that follows, performed first on the right side of the body and then on the left, targets the hips, with a bit of leg and back work as well. It’s a great way to segue into your practice with mindfulness.
Focus on the flow of movement echoing and supporting the breath as you maintain the intention to move with awareness.
Begin by lying on your back. Bend your knees and plant the soles of your feet on the mat hip-width apart, arms alongside your body, palms down. If you can reach your heels with your fingers, walk your feet a bit farther away from your hips. Keep the four corners of each foot firmly rooted.
On an inhale, lift your hips into bridge and reach your arms up and overhead to the floor. On an exhale, slowly lower your hips and bring your arms back to the floor alongside your body. Repeat for a total of five breaths/repetitions.
Moving Eye of the Needle (Similar to Moving Bridge)
With your feet and legs in position from bridge, bend your right knee toward your chest and, flexing your right foot, place your right ankle on the left thigh above the knee. Using your hand, gently nudge your right knee away from your body, then rest your arms on the floor alongside your body, palms down.
On an inhale, lift your hips as in dynamic bridge, continuing to reach the right knee away from the right shoulder, reaching your arms overhead to the floor, and rooting down into your left foot.
On an exhale, release your hips back to the floor and bring your arms to rest alongside your body again. Repeat for a total of five breaths/repetitions.
Seated Eye of the Needle to Reverse Table Eye of the Needle
From reclined eye of the needle, make your way onto your forearms and then all the way up to seated with your legs still in eye of the needle pose. Bring your hands to the floor about six inches behind you with palms down and fingertips pointing toward your body.
On an inhale, lift your hips into a reverse table with legs still in eye of the needle; you can gaze toward your legs or up to the ceiling. Keep reaching the crown of your head and tailbone away from each other.
On an exhale, release your hips back to the floor. Repeat for a total of five breaths/repetitions, but hold the last rep with the hips lifted to transition into the next pose.
Extended-Leg Reverse Table to Head to Knee Pose
On an inhale from reverse table with eye of the needle legs, extend your right leg straight out at hip height.
On an exhale, lower your hips and right leg to the floor, allowing your left knee to drop open onto the floor and the sole of the left foot to rest against the inner right thigh.
On an inhale, lengthen the spine. On an exhale, tilt your pelvis forward and fold over the right leg until you feel a stretch in your right hamstrings. Stay here in head to knee pose for five breaths with your hands resting on the floor on either side of your right leg.
Lengthen the spine on each inhale, and explore deepening the fold with each exhale. After five breaths, on an inhale, begin to walk your hands back toward your body, lengthening your spine to lift back up into an upright position.
Use your left hand to gently lift your left knee until the sole of your left foot is on the mat. Your left heel should be in line with your left sitting bone and about a hand’s length away from it (or more, if necessary).
On an inhale, place your right hand to the outside of your left knee or wrap your right arm around your left leg, catching the knee in the crook of the right elbow, and lengthen through your spine. On an exhale, twist to the left.
Your left hand can be placed six inches or so behind your left hip with fingertips pointing away from your body or your left arm can extend out at shoulder height.
Stay here for five breaths. On the last exhale, release your right hand or right arm and turn to face the front, but keep your legs as they are.
Let your right leg turn out and root the outer edge of your right foot into the ground. Place your right hand about a foot behind and slightly to the right of your right hip, fingertips pointing away from your body.
On an inhale, root down through the ball of your left foot (your left heel may come off the floor) and lift your hips straight up as you reach your left arm up and overhead, palm facing down, to come into wild thing. Direct the heart to face up to the ceiling. Hold for five breaths, and then lower the hips back to the ground.
Seated Cow and Cat
Bend your right knee to come in line with your left knee (which should still be bent from the previous pose), making sure your feet are situated comfortably in front of your hips. Wrap your arms around your shins as if hugging your legs.
On an inhale, press your belly into your thighs, lifting your heart and gaze. On an exhale, round your spine and drop your head, gazing at your tummy. Repeat for a total of five breaths/repetitions.
After the final rep, slowly release to a reclined position and repeat the whole sequence on the other side, beginning with moving bridge.
Once you’ve completed the sequence on both sides, you’ll be ready for the rest of your practice, with blood and energy flowing to all parts of your body. Or, if this is a stand-alone practice, move into savasana for at least five minutes.