Shoulders, Core, Hips, Strength
This heart opening yoga sequence is a variation of a sun salutation that focuses on externally rotating the arms. Use it as a warm up or as part of your regular practice.
External Rotation Standing
Begin by finding external rotation with the arms while standing. This is a movement that is useful in most positions where the arms are overhead because it aids in scapular protraction. First reach forward and pretend that you’re grabbing on to two giant knobs. Now imagine you're turning both knobs outwards (your right hand turns right and your left hand turns left). You’ll notice that the biceps and forearms are now facing upwards. Conversely, if both hands turned inwards, that would be internal rotation. Once you understand this difference, return to standing.
Forward fold (Uttanasana)
Since this is a Sun Salutation variation, feel free to take the same first few beginning movements as a Sun A. Reach up, then fold forward. Pull the navel in as you fold to create space in the mid-body and reach the crown of the head downward (instead of towards the knees). Hang out here as long as you’d like, then lift up halfway to lengthen and straighten the spine.
From your halfway lift, step the right foot to the back of the mat. Sink the right knee to the ground and reach the arms up overhead. As the arms lift, sink the hips down and forward to stretch into the hip flexor muscles. On an exhale, make fists and find a cactus (or goalpost) shape with the arms. Now, find external rotation from here by actively reaching the fists backwards without moving the elbows.
Anjaneyasana Variation w/ external rotation
1-Legged Plank (Phalakasana Variation)
On an exhale, bring the upper body forwards so the hands frame the front foot. Press into the hands and hover the left (front) foot. If possible, bring the left foot to the back of the mat without brushing the ground. Instead of placing the foot next to the right in a plank, keep it hovering behind you. Engage the core and the left glute so that the leg lifts without excessively arching into the lower back.
Awkward plank (Phalakasana Variation)
From 1-legged plank with the left foot hovering, move the right hand slightly forward as you come onto your right fingertips. Once again, engage your core so it feels almost like your pulling your right foot towards your left hand and vis versa. Slowly, reduce the number of fingers touching the ground on your right hand. If comfortable, lift the hand off the ground and reach it overhead. If you’ve made it this far, once again find your external rotation with the right arm so the bicep come right next to the ear.
Cobra with Arms Hovering (Bhujangasana Variation)
On an exhale, lower the arm and leg into plank position. Bend into the arms until you come all the way down onto your stomach. With the hands by the chest, gently push downwards to lift the upper body into a slight backbend. Engage the core by pulling the navel in towards the spine and activate the glutes/posterior chain. From here, begin to hover the arms off the ground in a cactus shape. Like earlier, find external rotation by reaching the hands backwards without moving the elbows in space.
Downward Facing Dog focusing on external rotation (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)
Place the hands back on the ground and lift the hips into Downwards Facing Dog. Take a slight bend in the knees so that the seat lifts straight up towards the ceiling. With a slight arch in the lower back, allow the heels to sink. Press into your index and thumb knuckles to distribute weight onto the inside of your hands. Now, externally rotate the arms so the biceps come by the ears. Notice that this is a simultaneous internal rotation of the hands and external rotation of the arms. This creates tension (or torque) that provides stability.
Dolphin Pose (Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)
Begin to bend into both arms so that the elbows slowly sink down to the ground. Feel free to walk your feet slightly in or make any other necessary adjustments. Keep your forearms parallel and about a blocks distance apart, then imagine that your squeezing them towards one another to form a solid base. Work for the same lower body shape that you had in Downward Facing Dog.
Puppy (Uttana Shishosana)
Sink the knees down to the ground so that they’re just about under the hips (you can go a little further back or forward depending on your body). Walk the hands forwards and begin to sink the chin and chest down towards the mat. As you sink, find a slight external rotation in your upper arms.
Yogic Squat (Malasana)
Lift the chest back up. With the hands planted and the toes tucked under, hover the knees. In one big motion, bend into the knees and float the feet up to the top of the mat. Sink the hips down and lift the upper body into a yogic squat. Hands can come to heart center with the elbows gently guiding the knees apart. Assure that the knees and feet are pointing in the same direction. After several breaths, rise straight to standing. Repeat this sequence on the opposite side. Feel free to run through both sides 2 or 3 times as a heart opening warm up.