I hear from a lot of you that you are stuck doing beginner practices but that you really want to find a way to progress to the more intermediate level poses. I listened, and as a result have created this practice which includes options for both beginner and intermediate level in each of the 7 poses.
You can test out each variation and see which one works best for your body today. And if the more intermediate level isn’t always accessible right now, you know where you are working towards.
I do not use any props in the following 7 poses, but by all means have a block or two close by if they might help you deepen your practice.
1. Table top – Start in a table top position, on your hands and knees. Spread the fingers wide, and align wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Start to trace circles with the hips. Also begin to connect your breath with your movement, consciously inhaling and exhaling as you move. Returning back to table top, engage your belly to find a nice neutral spine. Extend your right leg up and back, keeping the right hip rotating down. Pushing back through the heel to flex the foot. Notice if your elbows are bending at all, or if you are collapsing in the low back. This is the beginner variation. If you feel steady here you may take to the intermediate level by reaching the left hand forward. Inhale as you lengthen from fingertips to heel, keeping the core engaged. As you exhale, draw your knee in towards your nose, or in the intermediate version bring knee and elbow to meet in the middle. Keep pushing in to the right arm. Do 5 rounds of this, moving with your breath.
2. Forward Fold – Come in to downward dog, lifting your hips up and back. Don’t worry about your heels touching the ground, or having your legs straight. Focus more on lengthening the spine and lengthening the arms. Shake out your head. With a deep bend in the knees, walk your feet forward to the front of the mat for a rag-doll forward fold. Keep your feet a bit wider than the hips, bending your knees generously and holding opposite elbows. Swaying gently from side to side, decompressing the low back and getting traction in your spine. Release your fingers down to the mat, bending your knees further and slowly roll up to standing. Pushing in to the heels as you come up.
3. Half Sun Salutation – Standing at the front of your mat, shine your palms forward in mountain pose. Inhale, rising the arms up and bringing the palms to touch. Exhale, swan diving forward, bending your knees as needed to protect your low back. Inhale, bringing hands to your shins for a halfway lift. Exhale to fold fully, planting the palms on the mat. Bend your knees as needed to step back, and make your way in to downward dog. Hold for a deep breath, then lower knees to the ground and return to table top.
Repeat 1-3 through, but this time extending the left leg back and reaching right arm forward for the first pose.
4. Side Plank – From downward dog, shift forward in to a plank, then lower the right knee down to the mat. Roll to the inner edge of your left foot and extend your left arm up to the sky. Align your left shoulder directly over the right one. This is your modified side plank and beginner option. To step up the level, straighten the right leg, stacking the left foot over the right. Push in to the feet to lift the pelvis higher. Take a few deep breaths here. Look down to the ground to return your left hand to the floor, lower your left knee and shin to the floor and switch sides. Rolling to the inner edge of your right foot and lifting your right hand to the sky. Option again to extend and stack both legs for the intermediate variation.
5. Prayer Twist – From either downward dog or table top, extend your right leg up and back. Squeeze in to your glutes, reaching your right heel up higher. Step your right foot forward to the top of your mat and in between the hands. Bring the back knee down to the mat, keeping the toes curled under. Lift the torso, and check that your right knee is stacked over the ankle. Bring your hands together at your heart. Reach the tailbone down as you press the hips forward and down for a beginners variation in low lunge. To heat things up a little, lift the back knee to take the high lunge variation. Wherever you are, push in to the palms and keep the gaze steady. Then hook the left elbow over the top of the right thigh for a prayer twist. Keep drawing your right shoulder down.
6. Easy Twist – Look down to the ground, lowering the left hand to the mat and reaching the right arm up straight to the sky for an easy twist. Look back towards the ground, bringing your right hand down to the mat. From here, the intermediate option is to straighten your right leg and fold in to pyramid pose. Or for the beginners take on it, lower the back knee to the mat, then straighten the front leg and fold. Either way you are getting a great hamstring stretch. Relax your head and pull the heart forward.
Repeat 5-6 on the other side, starting with kicking the left leg up from your down dog or table top.
7. Warrior 2 with Eagle Arms – From either table top or downward dog, kick the right leg up, then step it through between your hands. Spin the back foot parallel to the shorter edge of your mat. Lift up with your arms. Reaching the arms out, palms facing down. Bend in to the right knee. From this standard Warrior 2, bend your elbows in front of you at 90 degrees, so everything (but front leg) is facing towards the long edge of mat. Swing your right arm under the left, either binding once or twice. If neither bind feels good, cross the arms and hold opposite shoulders like you are giving yourself a hug. Draw your shoulder blades down your back, keep the elbows lifted, and move the hands away from your face. For the beginner variation, drop your elbows to chest and coil in. To take the intermediate option, dive forward inside of the right thigh. Wherever you end up, take 3 deep breaths there. Then switch sides.
If you want more practice and more poses, check out the full Beginner to Intermediate Flow video below.
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Yoga with Kassandra – Disclaimer
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