From virasana, exhale and lower back toward mat. First lean onto hands, then forearms and elbows. Then place hands on the back of the pelvis and release lower back and buttocks down onto floor or a support. Lengthen lower back into the floor. Lay arms on floor near sides, palms up. Sink hips into mat. Knees may lift slightly away from floor. You may want to raise the knees a few inches up on a folded blanket. Keep thighs parallel. Do not allow knees to drift wider than the hips (to avoid straining hips and lower back).
To begin, hold pose for 30 seconds and gradually extend to 5 minutes. To come out, press forearms into mat, come onto hands. Then push torso up with hands, leading with the chest.
Benefits: Stretches abdomen, thighs, knees, ankles, and deep hip flexors. Relieves tired legs. Improves digestion. Aids menstrual pain.
Contraindications:Serious back, knee, or ankle problems, heart problems.
DO NOT perform pose unless you can sit buttocks easily on the mat between your feet.
*If this feels too advanced, try the modified version shown in upper right corner.
Come to kneeling position. Lower bottom onto feet and lengthen the spine.
You may want to cushion feet or ankles with a blanket for added comfort. Roll shoulders up and back, bringing shoulder blades together. Clasp hands behind back while bringing chest forward and up. Lift chin and breathe.
Benefits: Stretches thighs and ankles, opens the chest, neck, abs, and shoulders.
Contraindications: Knee or ankle injury
Come up onto knees. Place padding under knees if they are sensitive. Curl toes under, lifting heels. Place hands on lower back, open chest and arch (gentle camel). If this feels comfortable, continue to half camel. Reach one hand upward, reach other hand back and grasp raised heel. Breathe 3-6 breaths and lift both hands up, raising torso up into high kneeling. Continue on other side.
Full camel: Reach hands back towards heels one at a time. Grasp heels and bring hips forward over your knees. Release head back, opening your throat. To come out, bring hands up one at a time and lift torso up into high kneeling.
Feet can be flat on mat to deepen the back bend or try taking hold of opposite ankles.
Benefits: Stretches front of the body. Improves spinal flexibility.
Contraindications: high blood pressure, migraines, insomnia.
*This pose can cause back and neck injuries, so preparation and guidance from an experienced instructor is recommended.