Art Direction: The Magazine of Yoga
Quadriceps: Thinking Warrior 1 Thoughts
Finding length to open the heart
BY MAGAZINE EDITOR SUSAN MAIER-MOUL
(a tip of the hat to Bob Geldof and The Vegetarians of Love)
I’ve heard Shiva Rea say many times, “I worship at the altar of the sacrum,” and you should too. Honoring the sacrum leads to a long and fruitful life of practice. This is why it’s so important to practice grounding and lengthening as a unified expression of a posture.
When we ground and then lengthen, there’s a tendency to ground with the lower body and lengthen in the upper. This leaves the sacrum particularly vulnerable as the pivot where two demands wrestle for control of your attention and strength. It doesn’t create many options or support a responsive posture.
Get ready, get set, get connected
Variations aren’t just warm ups. They have a neurological function as well as bringing blood to your muscles for greater flexibility.
Practicing with preparatory variations on postures helps us to “locate” the muscles we need for stability and gives us the opportunity to explore their relationships. Coming into a posture from the center of the body means being able to ground and lengthen as a single expression of focus rather than as opposite needs we’re fighting to keep equal.
Warrior one has many additional challenges besides its backbend, but it’s easy to get caught up in wanting to “go for it” and making way too much of a demand on your sacrum. All postures benefit from strong abdominal muscles used with skill to protect your back, and warrior one is no exception.
To successfully spread the back bend over the entire front of the body as though you were setting an arrow in a bow, it’s essential to find space in the hips and quadriceps –
Creating space to explore Warrior one
I use a double thick mat on a bare floor. If you protect your knees the way I do, feel free to get a blanket or a second mat within reach for your knees before beginning.
After warming up, you can prepare the back of your body with this hamstring and back stretch if you like.
Place your left hand on the wall. Round your back and bend your right knee and use a strap or your hand to hold your right ankle.
With your left knee soft, pull your belly muscles in to keep your sacrum neutral. Reach through your right leg and point your right knee straight down from your hip (not out to the side) toward the floor.
Straighten your standing (left) leg.
Left your heart up as you lengthen the front of your body.
- Keep your back long – don’t arch.
- Don’t lock the knee of the standing leg
- Don’t pull your foot toward your butt.
Lying face down feet six inches apart, upper body lifted on your forearms.
Press the front of your thighs against the floor.
Pull your arms as though you were trying to move your elbows toward you as you continue to press the whole thigh of each leg against the floor and “drag” slightly.
Relax to the mat, follow with cobra, locust or navasana, then move slowly into child.
Take some extra time with lunge. Keep a pair or two of blocks at the front of your mat.
Once you’ve stepped back with your right foot, lift or “stand up” out of lunge about six inches and soften both knees. Allow your torso to be extended forward for a moment as you explore length from your heart to your heel.
Draw your abdominal muscles in and reach from the belly through the legs into the knees in both legs as you straighten your right leg back and bend the left knee into lunge position over your left ankle.
Try to feel the extension in both legs evenly. Experiment with how to feel the deep structural and muscular connection between your torso and legs.
With hands on the blocks curl up your heart into a supported lunge. Don’t arch your back – keep your sacrum long with your legs.
Rest out of the lunge by putting your right knee down on the mat. Add a second mat or blanket under your knee if you like. If you have any pain or discomfort, skip this part of the warm up.
Turn the toe of your right foot under and “walk” your right knee back another inch or two if that’s comfortable. You want to find a place where there’s no pressure on your knee cap.
With the blocks under each hand, relax your torso forward and rest the collar bone or pectoral muscle (between your breast and shoulder) on your left knee. Let you neck release and your head fall forward. Relax all effort. Breathe.
Move up and back, bringing your hips over your right knee. Belly pulled into to protect your neutral back torso long and strong. Reach through your right knee to the floor. Without arching your back lift your heart up. Pause and lengthen the front of your body as you did in the standing quad exercise.
With hands on the blocks, allow the upper back to curve bringing your heart over your hips.
Use your abdominal muscles to maintain a long, neutral tailbone. Reach your heart forward, first feeling your torso lengthen out of your hips subtly. Lift your heart up as you curve your back into knee down lunge.
Push back slowly, letting your butt come to your right heel and your left leg lengthen for a gentle hamstring stretch.
Change legs and repeat on the other side.
Finish with rotated child posture (thank you Paul Grilley!)
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.