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Part I.

Warm Up
1. Warm-Up Sequence

9 Poses

Focus: Hips, Shoulders, Spine

A quick warm-up series that touches on the major tension-holding areas of the body.
You can do a few of these poses if you get to class early or do the whole sequence at home.

1. Pelvic Tilts
Pelvic tilts are an exercise comprised of
very

subtle

spinal

movements

that

strengthen the support muscles around


the low back, particularly the abdominal
muscles. They are a good preliminary
exercise for those seeking low

back

pain relief, and they feel great because


they give your back a little massage.
1.

Lie on your back with the knees bent and the soles of the feet on the floor. This is your
neutral position, with the natural curve of the lumbar spine causing the low back to be
slightly elevated from the floor.

2.

On an exhale, gently rock your hips towards your face. Your butt will not actually leave
the floor, but you will feel your low back press into the floor. You are essentially taking
the curve out of the low back. Think of the pelvis as a bowl of water. When you do the
pelvic tilt, the water would be spilling towards your belly.

3.

After a few seconds, inhale and return to your neutral position.

4.

Repeat this movement 5 to 10 times.

2. Eye of the Needle Pose - Sucirandhrasana


Type of Pose: Hip opener
Benefits: Stretches the hips.
Remaining on your back, cross one ankle over
the opposite knee for eye of the needle pose.
Since you are just getting started, you can stay
in this position if you have tight hips, or you
can draw the bent knee toward your body for a
bigger stretch. Go easy since your hips may be
stiff at first.

Instructions:
1.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor.

2.

Hug your left knee into your chest.

3.

Cross the left ankle over your body and rest it on the right thigh.

4.

Let the left knee relax away from your torso.

5.

Bring both your hands to your right shin, lifting your right foot off the floor and
threading your left hand through your legs to do so.

6.

Using your hands, draw your right thigh toward your chest. This will cause your left hip to
open.

7.

Keep both feet flexed.

Continue to relax the left knee to open the hips.

9.

Repeat on the other side.

Beginners: If you have very tight hips, stop after step 4, keeping the right foot on the floor.
Advanced: To deepen the stretch, draw the right knee closer to your chest.

3. Easy Pose - Sukhasana


Type of pose: Seated Sukhasana is really
any comfortable, cross-legged, seated
position. It is a good pose for meditation
orpranayama practice.

Come up to sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position. Place one to three folded blankets under
your seat so that your knees are lower than your hips. Do a few neck rolls here. First, let your
chin drop toward your chest. Then roll your chin over to the left shoulder, circle the head back,
then bring the chin to the left shoulder. Continue circling slowly, moving through any areas of
tightness, for about five rotations. Then do an equal number of rotations in the opposite direction.
If you have trouble with your neck, skip the part where you let the head drop back. Just move the
chin from ear to ear instead.
Instructions:
1.

Arrange padding under your sit bones so that your hips come above your knees.

2.

Come to sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position.

3.

Bring one heel in towards your groin. The other foot may rest on the floor in front of you
or you may bring it into your lap.

4.

Root your seat down as your spine grows long. Stack the shoulders over the hips and
slide the shoulder blades down your back. The crown of your head rises towards the
ceiling.

4. Eagle Arms

Type of pose: Standing, balancing


Benefits: Strengthens legs, improves balance, stretches
the shoulders
While staying seated in easy pose, take the arm position
for eagle pose. This gives you a really nice stretch across
the shoulder blades and center of the back, an area that
is otherwise hard to get in to. If you do the position with
the right arm on top first, make sure to spend equal time
with the left arm on top.

Instructions:
1.

From Utkatasana shift your weight onto the left leg.

2.

Bend the right leg, lifting the foot from the floor and cross your right thigh over your left.

3.

Hook the right foot around the left calf.

4.

Bring the arms out in front.

5.

Cross the left arm over the right and bring the palms to touch.

6.

Lift the elbows while keeping the shoulders sliding down the back.

7.

Hold 5-10 breaths.

8.

Repeat on the other side.

Beginners: If you have trouble with the balance, rest your backside on a wall. If you can't hook
the lifted foot around the calf, put a block under the foot instead.
Advanced: Start to come into a forward bend, bringing the elbows in front of the knees. Bring
the thumbs to your third eye.

5. Seated Spinal Twist


Also Known As: Seated Spinal Twist
Type of pose: Seated Twist
Benefits: Opens the shoulders, neck and hips while
stretching the spine.
You can also take a gentle spinal twist without coming into
full ardha matsyendrasana. Keep your legs in easy pose
and twist to the right, bringing your left hand to your right
knee and the right hand behind your back. Then twist to
the left, bringing the right hand to your left knee and the
left hand behind your back. Remember that this is just a
warm up, so this shouldn't be your deepest twist.
Instructions:
1.

From Staff Pose - Dandasana, bend your left knee and bring the sole of your left foot to
the floor on the outside of the right thigh.

2.

Bend the right knee, and tuck the right foot in near the left buttock.

3.

Inhale and bring the right arm up near your right ear.

4.

Exhale and twist the to the left, bringing the right elbow to the outside the of left knee
and the left palm to the floor, just behind your sit bones.

5.

Look out over the left shoulder, but dont overturn the neck -- the twist originates in the
belly, not the neck.

6.

On each inhale, draw the spine long, and on each exhale, twist a little deeper.

7.

Be sure to keep the sole of your left foot flat on the floor.

8.

When you release the pose, take a slight counter twist to the opposite direction.

9.

Release the legs and switch their position as you prepare to twist to the other side.

Beginners: You may want to sit on some padding if you are uncomfortable. If you cannot bend it
into the ideal position, you may also keep the right leg extended.
Advanced: Come into a bind with the arms. Thread the right arm back underneath the left knee.
Reach the left arm behind your back, and clasp the left wrist with your right hand.

6. Cat-Cow Stretch
Also Know As: Chakravakasana
Benefits: Improves spinal flexibility and
abdominal strength.
The cat-cow stretch is a yoga classic, and with
If you still have some time, do a few rounds
of cat-cow stretches. These will further
loosen the spine. Since you are doing this on
your own, take care to synchronize your
body to your breath, letting the breath initiate
the movement. Begin each motion in your
tailbone, letting it ripple up the spine until
your head is the last thing to move.

good reason. It consists of moving the spine


from a rounded position (flexion) to an arched
one (extension). It's a simple motion, but one
that is enormously beneficial in preventing back
pain and maintaing a healthy spine. Each
movement is done in conjunction with either an
inhalation or exhalation of the breath, making
this a simple vinyasa. If you already have back
pain, check with your doctor before beginning to
make sure these movements are appropriate for
your condition.

Instructions:
1.

Start on all fours, bringing the wrists underneath the shoulders and the knees
underneath the hips.

2.

Think of the spine as a straight line connecting the shoulders to the hips. Try visualizing
the line extending forward through the crown of the head and backwards through the tail
bone. This is the position of a neutral spine.

3.

Keep the neck long, as the natural extension of the spine.

On an inhale:

On the next exhale:

1.

Curl your toes under.

2.

Drop your belly, but keep your

1.

Release the tops of your feet to the


floor.

abdominal muscles hugging your

2.

Round your spine.

spine.

3.

Drop your head.

3.

Take your gaze up toward the ceiling.

4.

Take your gaze to your navel.

4.

Let the movement in the spine start


from your tailbone, so that your neck is
the last part to move.

Repeat the cat-cow stretch on each inhale and


exhale, matching the movement to your own
breath.
Continue for 5-10 breaths, moving the whole
spine. After your final exhale, come back to a
neutral spine.

7. Downward Facing Dog - Adho Mukha Svanasana


Also known as: Downward Dog, Down Dog
Type of pose: Standing, Mild Inversion,
Resting

Benefits: Stretches and strengthens the whole


You may want to come into a downward
facing dog, primarily to stretch out the legs.
Pedal the heels up and down here to lengthen
the calves and hamstrings.

body. Can help relieve back pain. Downward


facing dog is done many times during most
yoga classes. It is a transitional pose, a resting
pose, and a great strengthener in its own right.
It may be the first yoga pose you encounter as
you begin a yoga practice.

Instructions:
1.

Come to your hands and knees with the wrists underneath the shoulders and the knees
underneath the hips.

2.

Curl the toes under and push back raising the hips and straightening the legs.

3.

Spread the fingers and ground down from the forearms into the fingertips.

4.

Outwardly rotate the upper arms broadening the collarbones.

5.

Let the head hang, move the shoulder blades away from the ears towards the hips.

6.

Engage the quadriceps strongly to take the weight off the arms, making this a resting
pose.

7.

Rotate the thighs inward, keep the tail high and sink your heels towards the floor.

8.

Check that the distance between your hands and feet is correct by coming forward to
a plank position. The distance between the hands and feet should be the same in these

two poses. Do not step the feet toward the hands in Down Dog in order the get the heels
to the floor. This will happen eventually as the muscles lengthen.
Beginners: Try bending your knees, coming up onto the balls of your feet, bringing the belly to
rest on the thighs and the sit bones up high.
Then sink your heels, straightening the legs keeping the high upward rotation of the sit bones.
Also try bending the arms slightly out to the side, drawing the chest towards the thighs. Then
restraighten the arms.
Advanced: If you are very flexible, try not to let the rib cage sink towards the floor creating a
sinking spine. Draw the ribs in to maintain a flat back. Try holding the pose for five minutes,
placing a block under your head for support.

8. Child's Pose - Balasana

Type of pose: Resting


Benefits: Gentle stretch for the hips,
thighs and ankles. Can help relieve back
pain.

Child's pose is always a a good addition to a warmup routine. Though often thought of as a resting
pose, child's pose also offers a nice stretch for the
hips and thighs and gives you a chance to turn
your attention inward in preparation for your
upcoming class.
Instructions:
1.

From Downward Facing Dog, drop the knees to the floor.

2.

Spread the knees as wide as the mat, keeping the big toes touching.

3.

Bring the belly to rest between the thighs and the forehead to the floor.

4.

There are two possible arm variations:


Either stretch the arms in front of you with the palms toward the floor or bring the
arms back alongside the thighs with the palms facing upwards.
Do whichever feel more comfortable to you.

Beginners: Rest in Childs Pose at any time if you get tired or out of breath. Rejoin the class
when you are ready

9. Goddess Pose - Supta Baddha Konasana

Type of Pose: Supine, Restorative


Also Known As: Reclined Bound Angle Pose
Benefits: Opens the groin
Instructions:
1.

From Cobbler's Pose Baddha Konasana


lean backward, bringing your elbows to
the floor.

2.

Lower the back all the way to the floor.

3.

Stay here several minutes. To come out,


roll over to your side and sit up, using
your hands to support you.

Many people like to await the start of class in


goddess pose to further open the hips.
(Indeed,

many

people

would

skip

the

preceding eight poses in favor of a long stint

Beginners: If you are not comfortable reclining


on the floor, you may use a bolster or several
folded blankets to support the spine.

in goddess. If this is your preference, by all


means do it.) You can place blocks or
blankets under your knees for support if this
feels like a bit too much, or come into the
seated version of the pose (cobbler's pose)
or just return to easy pose for a few minutes
until your class begins.

2. Ten Simple Yoga Exercises

10 Poses

Focus: Hamstrings and Hips

Yoga poses don't have to look like a crazy, twisted pretzel in order to be effective.
The ten poses in this series are likely positions that are familiar to you. Do them regularly
and you will definitely feel a difference in your body.

1. Mountain Pose - Tadasana

.
Just because these poses are simple

Type of pose: Standing

doesn't mean that they are going to be

Benefits: Improves

easy. Bringing new awareness to a

posture, strengthens

position you think your know can actually

thighs,can help relieve

be very challenging. Take mountain pose,

back pain

which may look like just standing around.


In a yoga context, however, there is a lot
going on in this position. The heels root
down, the muscles of the legs are
engaged, the bones are stacked with the
shoulders directly over the hips, the
shoulder blades slide down the back, and
the crown of the head rises. Don't forget
to breath!
Instructions:
1.

Come to stand with the big toes touching.

2.

Lift up all your toes and let them fan out, then drop them down creating a wide solid
base. You can separate your heels slightly if your ankles are knocking together
uncomfortably.

3.

Let the feet and the calves root down into the floor.

4.

Engage the quadriceps and draw them upward, causing your knee caps to rise.

5.

Rotate both thighs inward, creating a widening of the sit bones.

6.

Maintain the natural curves of your spine.

7.

Tone the belly, drawing it in slightly.

8.

Widen the collar bones and make sure the shoulders are parallel to the pelvis.

9.

The neck is long, the crown of the head rises toward the ceiling, and the shoulder
blades slide down the back. It may seem like you are just standing there, but bringing
the body into alignment is hard work. The alignment for Tadasana carries in to many of
the standing and inverted poses.

Beginners: Take a block between the thighs. Squeeze the block and roll it slightly backward to
feel the engagement and rotation of the thighs.

2. Raised Arms Pose - Urdhva Hastansana


Type of pose: Standing
Benefits: Improves posture, strengthens thighs, opens shoulders

Inhale and bring your arms up and over your head. This is your
basic morning stretch, but you are focusing on keeping the good
alignment you established in mountain pose, particularly staying
grounded in the heels and keeping your shoulders moving away

from your ears at the same time that you reach up through your
fingertips. Your gaze can come up to the hands, which can be
shoulder's width apart or palms touching.
Instructions:
1.

From Tadasana, bring your arms out to the side and up.

2.

Press the palms together, keep the arms straight and take the gaze up toward your
thumbs.

3.

Slide the shoulder blades down the back.

4.

Maintain your alignment.

Beginners: Practice the pose with your back to the wall so you can feel the alignment.
Place a block between the thighs, squeeze it and roll it slightly backward to feel the engagement
and rotation of the thighs.

3. Standing Forward Bend - Uttanasana


Type of pose: Forward bend

Instructions:

Benefits: Stretches and lengthens

1.

the hamstrings

From Urdhva Hastasana, swan dive the arms out


to the side while folding forward.

2.

Make sure the fold come from the hips, deepening


the hip creases, and not from the back.

3.

Bring the fingertips in line with the toes and press


the palms flat.

4.

Engage the quadriceps muscles of the thighs. The


more you use your quads, the more the
hamstrings (the muscles on the back of the
thighs) will open up.

5.

Bring your weight a little bit forward into the balls


of your feet so that your hips stay over the ankles.

Exhale and fold over your legs into


a forward bend. If the hamstrings
feel a little tight at first, bend the
knees so that you can release your
spine. Let the head hang heavy.
Slowly straighten the legs if you like
but keep the head hanging. The
feet can be touching or hip's
distance apart, whichever feels

6.

Let your head hang.

Beginners: Bend the knees if you need to in order to


bring the palms flat. Then work on straightening the legs.
Advanced: If you are very open in the hamstrings, bend
the elbows out to the sides while holding the big toes in
a yogi toes lock. If you are holding the pose for a long
time, bring the palms flat underneath your feet.

better.

4. Garland Pose - Malasana

Also known as: Squat


Type of pose: Hip opener
Benefits: Opens the hips and groin

Move your feet out to the edges of your mat and bend your
knees, coming into a squat. The toes may turn out if
necessary. If your heels do not reach the floor, take a rolled
up blanket under them. This is a position that is quite natural
for children but we lose the knack for it as adults. It's great for
the hips and to counteract the effects of too much sitting in
chairs and riding in cars. It's also a very useful pose.

Instructions:
1.

Come to stand with the feet about mat's width apart.

2.

Bend the knees, coming into a squat.

3.

Keep the feet as close to parallel as possible.

4.

Take the upper arms inside your knees and bend the elbows. Bring the palms together
into anjali mudra (prayer position).

5.

Try to bring the hands to your heart center with the forearms parallel to the floor to open
the knees slightly.

6.

Keep the spine straight and shoulders relaxed.

7.

Stay here for five breaths, then straighten the legs to come out.

Beginners: Bring a folded blanket under your heels for support if your heels come up when you
squat. This is better than trying to balance on the balls of your feet.
Advanced: If your feet are parallel, work on bringing them closer together.

5. Lunge Pose
Type of Pose: Standing

Straighten your legs and move your feet back under

Benefits: Opens the hips and groins;

your hip before stepping your left leg to the back of

stretches the calves, thighs, and


hamstrings.

your mat and bending your right knee for a deep lunge.
Try to bring your bent knee directly over your ankle so
your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep the left leg
straight and strong with your heel reaching back. If this
is too intense, you can drop your left knee to the mat
instead. Stay five breaths before returning the left foot

to the front of your mat next to the right one. Then


repeat the lunge with the left foot forward and the right
leg back.

Instructions:
1.

From downward facing dog, step the right foot up inside your right hand on an inhalation.
If the foot doesn't make it all the way up, move it into position with the right hand.

2.

Bend the right knee so that it is directly over the right ankle with the right thigh parallel to
the floor. Take particular care that your knee does not get ahead of your ankle, since this
places the knee in a vulnerable position.

3.

Line your fingertips up with your toes.

4.

Come onto the fingertips to avoid placing too much weight in your hands.

5.

Roll your shoulder blades down your back, lengthen your spine, and bring your gaze to
the horizon line.

6.

Extend from your back heel to the crown of your head.

7.

Hold up to five breaths, then return back to downward dog on an exhalation.

8.

Repeat with the left leg forward.

Beginners: See our advice on adjusting your foot position manually.


Advanced: Play with straightening your front leg for a hamstring stretch. You can move back and
forth between a bent and straight front leg a few times.

6. Plank Pose
Type of pose: Arm Balance
Benefits: Strengthens the arms and spine.
Preparation for more challenging arm
balances.

After your second lunge, step the left foot back so


that it is next to the right foot at the back of your
mat. This is the classic preparation for a push-up.
Stay five breaths here while making sure that your
hips do not drop too low or rise too high. If your
elbows

tend

to

hyperextend,microbend them.

Bring your knees down if necessary. After five


breaths, release your knees to the mat and come
back to sit on your heels, resting for a moment.

Instructions:
1.

From downward facing dog, bring your hips forward until your shoulders are over your
wrists and your whole body is in one straight line from the crown of your head to you
heels. This is very similar to the position you would take if you were about to do a pushup.

2.

Spread your fingers and press the firmly down into your palms.

3.

Microbend your elbows.

4.

Press back through the heels.

5.

Move your shoulders away from your ears.

6.

Keep the neck in line with the spine and look at the floor.

Beginners: Move back and forth between down dog and plank without moving your hands or
feet. The distance between your hands and feet should be the same in both poses.
Pay close attention to the position of your hips. Do not stick your butt in the air or let it sag
towards the floor.
Advanced: Hold the pose for five breaths. For an extra challenge, try lifting one foot off the floor
at a time.

7. Staff Pose
Type of pose: Seated
Benefits: Strengthens legs; improves alignment
Dandasana is the basic seated pose from which all
the others originate. Think of it as a seated version
ofMountain Pose - Tadasana.

Instructions:
1.

Sit with the legs outstretched


straight in front.

2.

Engage the thigh muscles and


flex the feet. The heels may come
up off the floor.

3.

Make your spine long.

4.

Stack the shoulders directly on


top of the hips.

Beginners: Put padding under your sit


After catching your breath, swing your legs around

bones, if necessary.

so that they are outstretched in front of you. This is


the seated equivalent of mountain pose, in that it

Advanced: This pose looks easy, but if

seems very simple but has a lot going on. The legs

you are really working the thighs, you can

stay strong with the feet flexed. The shoulders

break a sweat.

stack over the hips so that the spine is long and


straight. The arms may be straight or slightly bent.

8. Seated Forward Bend - Paschimottanasana


Type of pose: Seated

Instructions:

Benefits: Stretches the hamstrings


and spine

1. From Staff Pose - Dandasana bring the arms


straight out to the sides and up over your head.
2. Inhale and draw the spine up long.
3. As you exhale, begin to come forward, hinging at
the hips.
4. On each inhale, extend the spine, and on each
exhale, come a bit farther into the forward bend.
5. Keep the neck at the natural extension of the
spine.
6. Do not round the back.

On an exhalation, bring your torso over

7. Take hold of the ankles or shins, whichever you

your legs in a forward bend. Your

can reach.

hamstrings should be warmer now than


when you did your standing forward
bend earlier. Work with your breath,
lengthening the spine on each inhale
and deepening your forward fold on
each exhale. Stay for five breaths,
keeping the feet flexed.

Beginners:

Put

padding

under

the

bones

if

necessary. Imagine the belly coming to rest on your


thighs, rather than the nose coming to the knees.
This will help you keep the spine long instead of
curving over.
Advanced: If you can easily grab the soles of your
feet, try taking a block in front of the feet and holding
that instead.

9. Head to Knee Pose - Janu Sirsasana


Type of Pose: Forward Bend
Benefits: Stretches the hamstrings,

Instructions:
1.

From Staff Pose - Dandasana, bend your knee


and bring the sole of the left foot to your inner-

hips, and groins

right thigh.
2.

Square your torso over the extended right leg,


and begin to forward bend over that leg.

3.

Keep the right foot flexed while pressing the


back of the right thigh down toward the floor.

4.

In order to not collapse your back, keep the


heart center lifted as long as possible as you
come forward. When you reach your limit, bring
the heart and head down toward the extended
leg.

Come back up to sit and bend your


left leg, bringing the sole of the left
foot inside your right thigh. Use the

5.

On each inhale, extend the spine long, and on


each exhale, deepen the forward bend.

6.

You may hold on to the extended leg or place


the hands on the floor wherever they reach.

same technique described above to


deepen the pose using your breath.
After five breaths, sit up and switch
legs.

7.

Repeat the pose on the other side.

Beginners: You may sit up on a blanket if the hips are


tight.
If you like, place a strap around the extended foot. Hold
an end of the strap in each hand as you forward bend.
Advanced: Clasp your hands under the sole of the
extended foot.
Try the pose with the bent leg in a Half-Lotus position.

10. Happy Baby Pose - Ananda Balasana

Type of pose: Supine


Benefits: Releases the low back,
stretches the hamstrings

Lie down on your back and hug your knees into your
chest. Then separate your knees and bring each ankle
directly

over

its

knee

so

that

the

shins

are

perpendicular to the floor. Flex your feet and hold onto


them from the outside as your draw your knees
downward. Roll side to side a bit on your sacrum if it
feels good. This is a position that is familiar to anyone
with children. Resist the urge to put your toes in your
mouth. After five breaths, stretch your legs out on the
floor and rest.

Instructions:

This pose is appropriate for both


beginners and advanced students.

1.

Come to lie on the back.

2.

Bend the knees into the chest.

3.

Open the knees, bringing them towards the


armpits.

4.

Stack each ankle directly over the knee, so


that the shins are perpendicular to the floor.

5.

Flex the feet.

6.

Hold the outer edges of the feet at you draw


the knees towards the floor.

3. Daily Stretch Routine

10 Poses

Focus: Hamstrings, Hips, Spine

This is my go-to sequence for a short practice you can do every day. It's also a good
place to start a longer practice. On the days when you have more time, add on one or
more of the sequences below.