Balance, Hamstrings, Core
This balancing flow juxtaposes standing with inverted balancing to provide a little perspective and a lot of core engagement.
Standing Hand to Big Toe (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana)
From Mountain Pose, bring one knee into the chest. Reach to wrap the index and middle fingers around the big toe of the lifted leg, then extend the leg forward. Pull the shoulder blades down the back as you shine the chest forward. Press forward with the lifted heel. Engage your supporting leg to increase your stability. Reach upwards through the crown of the head to lengthen the spine.
Standing Hand to Big Toe B Variation
Slowly, shift the lifted leg until it reaches out to the side. Pull the navel in towards the spine to remain engaged and stable through the core. Work to maintain length in the spine as you extend upwards through the crown of the head, downwards through the heel of the supporting leg, and outwards through the lifted leg.
From Standing Hand to Big Toe, cross the ankle of the lifted leg over the opposite knee and begin sitting the hips backward until the supporting leg is bent towards a 90-degree angle. Flex actively through the top foot to protect the knee. Reach the hands directly forward to counterbalance the weight of the hips as you sit back. Extend and lengthen through the spine.
Figure 4 with Arms Forward (Eka Pada Utkatasana Variation)
Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)
Without touching foot to floor, lift out of Figure 4 and begin to lean the upper body forward as the lifted leg extends backwards towards Warrior III. Work to straighten the lifted leg, maintaining it parallel to the floor. If you find stability here, feel free to energetically reach the arms overhead with the biceps alongside the ears. Feel free to find a slight bend in the grounded leg if you’re prone to hyperextension in the knee.
From Warrior III, bend into the supporting leg as you reach the lifted leg towards the back of the mat, eventually placing it down and lifting the upper body in to Crescent Lunge. Engage into the back thigh to straighten the extended leg. Remain solidly rooted through the front leg with the knee bent at 90-degrees. With this solid base, reach upwards with the arms externally rotated (palms facing the back of the mat) and core engaged.
Open Arm Twist
From Crescent Lunge, open the arms into a twist towards the side of your bent front leg. The body should remain upright throughout the twist, as you enegetically reach both forward and backwards. Use the strength of the core and obliques to actively hold your position. The gaze can remain to the side or turn to follow the back arm.
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
Release the twist, and windmill the arms so that they reverse the direction of their reach, into Warrior II. Sink the front knee towards 90-degrees as you ground down through the knife edge of your back foot. Pull the core in and lift the chest so that it is centered over the hips. Assure that the the front knee, front foot, and both sides of hip are in one straight line.
Half Moon with Front Arm Hovering (Ardha Chandrasana)
From Warrior II, begin to place your weight in the front foot. As your weight shifts forward, lift the back leg into Half Moon pose. Engage the grounded thigh to create stability in the supporting leg as the opposite leg lifts. The back foot should remain flexed and engaged. Reach the upper hand towards the ceiling so that the top shoulder stacks directly over the bottom shoulder. The bottom hand can find the ground for stability, or hover slightly off the ground to increase the amount of engagement and work needed from the core stabilizers.
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
From Half Moon, close the hips so that the chest and lifted toes face the ground. Then, tuck the knee of the lifted leg behind the supporting leg as the supporting leg bends until the hips find the ground. Ground down evenly through the hips. If you’d like, take a moment here to wrap the arms around the bent leg and pull it into the chest to help even the hips. Then, reach up with the arm opposite of the upwards-facing knee to lengthen the spine before placing it’s elbow on the outside of the leg. Use the elbow to leverage your twist, as the fingers of the opposite hand reach behind for support. On each inhale, create length with the spine, and on each exhale, twist deeper.
Headstand with Crossed Legs (Salamba Shirshasana Variation)
From Half Lord of the Fishes, lean the body forward and place the crown of the head on the ground with the hands in a tripod position. If you like, feel free to maintain the cross of the legs as you enter your headstand. Slowly, press weight into the hands as you straighten the legs to lift the hips. Focus on using your crossed legs to bring your hips as high overhead as possible before attempting to lift the feet fully off the mat. Keep the core and arms strongly engaged throughout the entire movement to avoid dumping weight into the neck. Once the feet have left the ground, feel free to straighten the legs overhead with only the feet remaining crossed.