From adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog), exhale -step right foot forward between hands. Aligning right knee over ankle. Lower your left knee to floor. Slide left leg back until a comfortable stretch is felt in left front thigh and groin. Turn the top of left foot is on mat. Inhale- lift your torso to up, sweep arms out to sides and up above head (in line with ears).
If desired, gently arch back and look upward making sure neck is comfortable. Reach your pinkies up and hold for about a minute. Exhale chest down over thigh, your hands to mat, turn back toes under. Exhale, lift left knee off the mat, step back to downward-facing dog. Repeat on the left side.
Benefits: stretches hip flexors. strengthens legs and arms
Contraindications: knee problems or injuries
You can place a blanket or padding under knees for more cushioning.
Paschimottanasana (sitting forward fold)
Sit up straight, legs straight in front of you, toes towards the ceiling. Rock gently from left buttock to right, pulling away flesh, allowing sitting bones to be grounded into floor. Inhale, stretching arms over head and lengthen spine upwards. Exhale, bend forward from the hips, spine elongated, reaching towards feet. Let the hands wrap around feet, ankles, legs, or rest on the mat. Try to keep the back more straight (but not rigid) rather than deeply curved. With each inhale, slightly lift and lengthen. With each exhale, gently bring head closer to knees. Hold 20 seconds at first and work to increase to about 3 minutes as desired. To come out, inhale and stretch your hands past feet, come up with straight back stretching arms and spine upward. Exhale and relax the arms down.
Benefits: stetches back of body from head to toe; back of legs, entire spine, and neck. massages internal organs, aids in digestion, calms anxiety, relieves headaches, lowers blood pressure, eases sinusitis.
Contraindications: asthma, diarrhea, back injury (use caution)
Janu sirsasana (head-to-knee forward bend)
Sit on mat, folded blanket under your seat, legs straight in front. Bend right knee, heel back toward perineum, sole of right foot against your inner left thigh. Right shin at a right angle to the left leg. If right knee does not reach mat, use a folded blanket for support. Exhale and turn torso slightly left. Line up torso with middle of the left thigh. Using a strap around left foot, gently pull and lengthen the spine while grounding through the sitting bones.
Or, without strap, reach right hand to grasp inner left foot and left hand to the outside of the foot. Inhale and lift torso, pressing the top of left thigh into the floor, extend through the left heel. Exhale, extend forward from groin (not hips). Stay in pose 1 to 3 minutes. Inhalation up and repeat on other side.
Benefits: Stretches spine, back muscles, hamstrings, and groins. Stimulates internal organs (liver and kidneys). Improves digestion. Calms the mind, relieves headache, and menstrual and menopausal discomfort. Therapeutic for high blood pressure, depression, and insomnia.
Contraindications: knee or low back injury, diarrhea, athsma