A Yoga Practice To Help You Stay Grounded & Embrace Change
As the fourth of the five elements, air is the element that moves all things.
Unique to the other elements, air is not visible. But what is visible is its impact on that which is moved by it: the trees, our bodies, and everything in the material world.
In this sequence, there is a focus on moving through space and watching through personal observation (svadhyaya) how we can tap into the movement of the body and the breath, in both still and active poses, while at the same time staying deeply rooted (earth), fluid (water), and upward rising (fire).
This sequence, whether practiced independently of the other four elements or in conjunction with them, is a powerful way to harness the power of air.
Easy-Hearted Dancer Pose Adho Anahata Natarajasan
Begin with a warm-up flow of your choice, and then find your way into a standing mountain pose (Tadasana).
Inhale as you raise your right foot behind you, aligning knees or gently releasing the right knee slightly behind the left knee. Grasp your right foot or ankle with your left hand. Place your right hand on your heart and take three deep breaths, feeling the subtle movement within your breath and body. Find an exhale and lower your right foot to the ground. Repeat on the left side.
One-Legged Standing Pose (Eka Pada Visthitasana)
Lower your left foot to the ground. Take a complete breath, and on an exhale lift your right leg straight out in front of you, placing your palms together, thumbs adjoining at the heart center.
Lift the chest gently and raise the crown of your head skyward, sensing the movement that exists in this powerful yet simple one-legged standing balance. Take five breaths here, sensing the movement that lives within the steadiness of the pose while wrapping your right hip back and down and lifting in and up through the low belly. On the next exhale, lower your right foot to join your left. Repeat this on your left side.
Half-Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
Inhale at center with your hands at your heart. Exhale and lower your torso to a forward fold. Walk your left hand out in front of your left foot, and a few inches to the outside for support.
Raise the right leg and open the right hip as the right foot falls toward the left side of the body. Lift the heart and belly toward the sky as you reach your right hand skyward and then for your right foot or ankle. Take five complete breaths here, sensing the upward motion on each inhale, as a leaf is lifted from a resting position. Gaze skyward as you are able.
Find an exhale as you release to a forward fold and repeat this pose, lifting the left leg.
Rotated Hand-To-Knee Pose (Parivrtta Utthita Hasta Janurgusthasana)
Return to your forward fold and, on an inhale, return to a standing pose, with your hands at your heart center.
On an inhale, raise your right knee until the thigh is parallel to the ground. Exhale and rotate from the ribs toward your lifted knee, scooping the back of the right knee with your left hand and placing your right hand on your right hip, right elbow and gaze directed behind you. Sense your upward moving spine as you relax the muscles of your body. Notice the way the left foot grounds you downward as your breath engages to support your balance and lift your torso gently upward.
Take three complete breaths and return to the forward-facing position on an inhale. Exhale as you release your right foot to the ground. Repeat this standing on the right leg.
Soaring Warrior III Pose (Upariga Virabhadrasana III)
Return to standing. Exhale and release your arms along your sides, palms gently rotated forward. Direct your index finger (air finger) to touch into the tip of the thumb as you lift your right leg subtly behind you on an inhale.
Exhale as you lean forward and extend your leg behind you, doing your best to keep your right hip parallel to your left hip while lifting your low belly. Continue to tip the torso toward the ground, lifting the right leg toward the sky until your entire torso reaches a diagonal line from earth to sky.
Take one to three complete breaths here. When you are ready, inhale to lift your torso and exhale as you replace your right foot on the gorund, returning to standing. Release your index finger from your thumb and extend the fingers away from your palms. Take one complete breath to ground. Repeat the pose on the left side.
Rotated Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Parivrtta Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana)
Return to standing. On an inhale, raise your right knee until the thigh is parallel to the ground.
Extend the leg, awakening though the right ball mound of the foot, spreading the toes. Inhale and reach the left arm to the sky and slowly begin to rotate into your right side, from the rib cage.
Exhale, deepening your rotation, reaching your left hand to your right big toe and unfolding your right arm and gaze behind you. Your arm may be horizontal or slightly below the horizon line, drawing the shoulder blade down your back.
Sense your length as you ascend on the inhale into the vertical line of the body. Sense the breadth of this pose as you relax and reach out along the horizon on your exhale. Take three complete breaths and return to your standing pose with hands at the heart and exhale. Repeat this on the left side.
Lord of the Dance Pose (Natarajasana)
Return to your standing pose, the place where there is both subtle movement and steadiness. Inhale and lift your right foot off the ground.
Gradually reach back for your right ankle with both hands on the exhale as you press into your palms, engaging your right thigh muscles and extending fully through the left leg. Send your vision out along the horizon and open the heart as you take three complete breaths here, extending the heart center out and down along the horizon.
Inhale to prepare and then slowly release the right foot and return to your standing pose on an exhale. Take one complete equilibrating breath here and repeat on your left side.
Windy Handstand Pose (Adho Vayura Mukha Vrksasana)
Return to standing. Slowly release both hands to the ground in front of your feet and stack your shoulder over your hands.
Send your gaze out along the horizon and raise a leg of your choice. Flutter-kick your legs as you lift into an active scissor-kicking handstand. Regardless of whether you have a handstand practice, you can play with the steadiness and mobility available here.
Sense the air in your lungs and in the movement of this pose. Allow yourself to move in and out of handstand, shifting legs as you are able, bending and extending knees. Concern yourself not with “holding” the handstand, but instead, sense the movement of your body on the ground in this inverted pose, as a flag moves atop a flagpole. Notice how much mobility and benefit you receive on the journey toward handstand even if the traditional expression of the pose is not currently part of your regular practice.
Gradually come out of windy handstand pose and rest momentarily in a forward fold, breathing deeply. Rise again to standing and sense the power of “air” to move in and through you. This is air in motion: as pose and practice, both on and off the mat.