How to Build An Ashtanga Practice

Session 11 - Mechanics of Sun B - Stepping Not Kicking

It is pretty challenging to move from Downward Facing Dog into Warrior 1 in the flow of Sun B.  It can leave us feeling unsteady, not sure about our core and feeling like a T-Rex with short arms.  It jams up the feel good flow of moving in Sun Salutations like we did in Sun A.

There are ways to feel more coordinated, so help is on the way. You can also give yourself permission to meet yourself where you are right now.  So if it takes a few steps to get the right foot to the front of the mat for Warrior 1, so be it. No guilt.  Our bodies change all the time. There are days when we feel strong, flexible and steady and days where we don't feel that way at all.  Our bodies change over time and there will come a time in our lifelong yoga practice where we have to be patient and compassionate. It's all about finding yourself where you are right now.

So let's address the step up into Warrior 1 as just that. It is a step up and not a kick up behind in Three Legged Dog to get to your foot to the top of the mat with momentum.  Momentum is not strength.  Kicking the leg up behind you also puts asymmetrical force into the SI joint and over time it could be a contributor to instability in the SI joint.  Instability in the SI joint leads to chronic pain. Nobody wants that.  The act of kicking the leg back to step forward is very showy, so remember this is not a performance. Stepping into Warrior 1 is that, you are stepping into the role of the brave, strong, confident warrior.  We are all warriors on a path of self caring which includes getting and maintaining strength, flexibility and balance - all of which are found in Warrior 1.

The logistics of stepping up into Warrior 1 involve folding the stepping leg into the chest and bringing the shoulders forward over the wrists. This aligns the bones of the arms to maximize the force of Down energy to bring the leg Up into the torso. The closer we can get the thigh to the chest, the easier it is to hinge the lower leg forward to place the front foot down.  

The same energy principles we talked about previously are in play here, down informs up and front informs back. You can feel this at work when you step forward to Warrior 1.

Just for today we are going to practice this specific skill of stepping forward into Warrior 1. The Skill Build Video is a great way to see this in action and includes a core warm up of "marching the legs" before stepping in and up.

  1. Start in Down Dog - I recommend hands on blocks to give you more room to work in if your arms feel short or your feel tight in your hips and low back. Remember the blocks have 3 settings - low, medium and high.

  2. Bring your right knee into your chest and shift your shoulders over your wrists simultaneously.

  3. Take a moment to press down through the hands and feel that lifting your back up into a rounded shape - like you are creating a dome to house your thigh to your chest.

  4. Feel how the thigh and the front of the chest are reaching toward the spine and back body.

  5. Hinge your foot forward and place it on the ground - don't worry about how far it is from your hand right now. That doesn't matter right now.

Repeat this on your right side 3- 5 times and then do the same on your left side. Rest as needed, but do several repetitions to get this engrained in your muscle memory.  

 

You may find that your foot steps forward a teensy bit more with each repetition. Be patient and and don't forget to breath. You need fuel to do this maneuver.

Also practice the entire Sun B and do your best to remember this training to step into Warrior 1. If it takes more than one breath, so be it. Focus on building strength from where you are. 

Don't forget to find Tadasana in each of the poses in Sun B - from Chair to Chair!

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