Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2019 issue.
I love this sequence because it combines the two top priorities in my yoga practice — discipline and fun …
This contemporary upgrade on a centuries-old classic reminds me of a great concert with lots of driving rhythms, syncopated surprises, and a big finish before the house lights come up.
Straight up or a varied classic Sun B — expressed here with crescent lunge in place of Warrior I for accessibility — provides a ton of space for an exploration of both of these necessary qualities of sustainable empowerment.
Plenty of Chaturangas in between, a wide stance Utkatasana, options for Crow, and a Flip Dog finale make this exhilarating for the entire body.
After a static hold and several fast rounds — up to you how many you do, but consider going until you don’t want to anymore … and then doing one more — finish the series with a flourish of Flip Dog and bring the house down like the last big solo at a concert with Wild Thing.
A mudra is an energetic Seal of Authenticity — Rock n’ Roll mudra a particularly badass one at that!
Fold the middle and ring fingers till the tips are touching the palm of the hand then tuck your thumb over them, holding securely in place. Extend the index and pinky fingers boldly both directing and dispersing energy.
Front knee stacked directly over the ankle, back leg super strong. Arms reach up like Mountain pose and the fingers spread wide. Discipline from the waist down and boldness of expression from the waste up.
– In between the right and left side –
The most productive tip I can offer on this often maligned and misunderstood movement is that the elbows don’t hug in tight to the side-bodies (unless you’re cheating), and you don’t swoop through like a Navy SEAL push-up (unless you’re determined to do some serious damage to your rotator-cuff and labrum). Instead find anatomical-neutral-for-you by kneeling and letting the arms hang naturally. Without moving them in any way, bend the elbows 90 degrees — this is your personal, anatomical-neutral Chaturanga hand and elbow placement. Take it all to the ground and try a few out — straight down and then straight up (like a push-up), and then up-dog. Don’t be surprised or discouraged if the first few hundred are not as strong as your last few; you’re likely doing the motion correctly for you for the first time and new muscles will need to be recruited. Anatomical-neutral-for-you will be your most optimum long-term place to practice this movement from. Remember that this is a push-up whose placement is cribbed from a power lifting bench press (to generate maximum power of movement), not bodybuilding (where wider hand placement promotes a broader looking chest).
– In between rounds –
Feet a little bit wider than hip widths distance like you’re doing a back-squat at the gym. Sink until the thighs are parallel and press the hands together at the heart center.
Hands plant your new chaturanga’s-width distance (this may be wider than your shoulders depending on your anatomy). Bend the elbows 90 degrees to make a shelf of the upper body. Knees to the triceps and tucked in as tight to the armpit as possible before you play with lifting one foot and then the other. When both feet meet, hug up in the belly to create buoyancy (trying to lift the knees off of the arms), and fling (that’s a technical term) your legs back to low plank. Turn your face to the side to avoid breaking your nose, if necessary, and remember falling is almost always a necessary precursor to flying.
Rinse and repeat until you reach your desired level of exhilaration. After your last round finish with a flourish with this transition art sequence.
Lift the right leg, bend the knee and flip over courageously. Left arm straight and strong, both legs bent, reach your free hand forward and roar like a Lion.
Extra Credit Lion’s Breath
If you’re going to go to the trouble of crossing your eyes, sticking out your tongue, then why not go ahead and ROAR?! Instead of purring softly like a kitty…
From plank plant the right hand under the face, stack and rotate the feet as you open the left arm high to the sky.
Lift the left leg high, bend the knee and step back like Flip Dog, except your right leg remains straight.
I like to end all sequences with three breaths. It creates a sense of closure and consistency for the yogi — it says, “clear what came before to make room for what lies ahead.” One breath in and out, second breath in with a long sigh ooooooout, and then a third breath that punctuates the whole hullabaloo with a resounding whoooo!
Up to you.
But do remember that ‘tried and true’ doesn’t necessarily mean optimum for you … every discipline develops a dogma — that you have to be serious to be spiritual or silent to create sacred space; these are just a couple that seem to stymie yoga spaces the way a misaligned Chaturanga will erode your shoulder over years of your yoga practice.
Don’t be afraid to play, to listen to your own innate wisdom before anyone else’s (including your yoga teacher’s). Remember, the universe rewards boldness not blandness. Unleash your dog. Let loose your inner rocker …
Don’t be afraid to play, to listen to your own innate wisdom before anyone else’s
From a disciplined foundation grows a BIG, bold expression.
Photos courtesy of Justin Kaliszewski.