May 14, 2013
Let your inner star shine with this flowing sequence, designed to build physical strength and engage the core and leg muscles. This flow also promotes increased flexibility in the shoulders and hips, helping to give you an extra burst of openness and joy to take on the day.
Stand tall at the front of your mat in Mountain Pose (tadasana), with your palms pressed together in Salutation Seal (anjali mudra), close your eyes and bow your head to your heart. Silently acknowledge your efforts for being on your mat. Begin with three to five Sun Salutations to warm up the entire body. Concentrate on steady ujayii breathing, completing deep inhalations and exhalations through the nose as you move mindfully between poses.
From Downward-Facing Dog Pose (adho mukha svanasana), inhale as you sweep your left leg high to the sky, and as you exhale step your left foot forward between your hands, with your front knee aligned over your heel and your right heel lifted off of the mat.
Inhale and extend your arms overhead into Crescent Pose (anjaneyasana). To go deeper, reach your right hand forward. Another option to explore involves extending the left hand to connect at the back of the right leg as you send the right arm skyward in twisting, reverse anjaneyasana. This pose introduces the challenge of keeping the pelvis stable and the foundation of the feet firm while you twist the spine. Explore reaching your arms away from one another—right arm forward, left arm back—to open through the chest, firming the outer hips in to keep your pelvis squared to the front edge of the mat.
On a rich exhale, spiral the body open to the right side of the mat, opening the arms out to the sides into Warrior II (virabhadrasana II), keeping the shoulders stacked over the hips. Continue to maintain a deep bend in the left knee with the knee tracking over the middle toe as the left thigh draws parallel to the floor. Inhale as you continue to lengthen the arms in opposite directions.
As you exhale, transition to Extended Side Angle Pose (utthita parsvakonasana), placing your left fingertips to the outside of your left foot. You can modify this pose by bringing your forearm on your front thigh and extending your right arm over your right ear, palm facing down with the shoulders relaxed.
On an inhale breath, rise up into Star Pose (tara asana). Extend your arms out to the sides with your palms facing forward and toes turned out, positioning the feet and wrists approximately the same distance apart—adjusting your stance if needed. Root down through your heels and straighten your legs fully (but avoid locking or hyperextend the knees). Continue to ground your feet firmly into the earth, pressing evenly across all four corners of both feet as you spread your fingers wide and reach out strongly through your fingertips. Broaden across your collarbones, look up and smile!
To transition to Wide-legged Standing Forward Bend (prasarita padottanasana), continue to stand with the legs wide, yet turn the toes in slightly. Bring the arms out over the legs with an inhale, clasp the hands behind the back and exhale as you slowly fold forward. In wide-legged standing forward bend, gravity will help you open the hamstrings, hip joints and back muscles. Allow the shoulder blades to firm into the back as the arms open away from the pelvis, keeping the arm bones stable in the shoulder sockets as you extend the arms.
Slowly rise up to your starting position and transition back into Warrior II, this time with the right foot forward as you soften into the right knee, bringing your left hand to your left hip as you prepare to transition into Half Moon Pose (ardha chandrasana). Straighten the right leg and bring the right hand to the floor about 12 inches in front of the right foot with the fingertips touching the floor or a block. With control, lift the left leg directly out from the hip so that it is parallel to the floor. Keep the pelvis in a neutral position, avoiding arching or rounding the lower back. When you feel balanced, lift the left arm toward the ceiling, firming and elongating through both arms.
Slowly rise up and transition back into Warrior II, this time keeping the right leg forward as you repeat the entire sequence while facing the back edge of the mat.
Stacy McCarthy, B.S., E-RYT500, is a wellness expert, coach and author in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. Stacy is an ACE-certified Group Fitness Instructor, and was recently named by IDEA as a finalist for Instructor of the Year based on her significant contributions in inspiring the world through programming and education for the body, mind and spirit. Stacy is an experienced yoga teacher (E-RYT 500) through Yoga Alliance, and is the creator of 5 best-selling yoga DVD’s. As the Yoga Director for Yoga School of Business she leads monthly coaching programs, as well as mentors teachers for Yogaworks Professional Level Training. In addition, Stacy is an adjunct faculty member at Miracosta College, teaching the Yoga Certification Program.