Cat Squat, which we explored in the January issue, is a good warm up and complement to this pose. It helps you loosen your hips and hamstrings in the forward bend before you extend into twist. Beyond the physical stretch, please ensure that you allow yourself time to establish the feeling of two-way moving energy through your body in Prasarita Padottanasana and enjoy a surrendered forward bend, before you extend your energy between the Earth and the sky through your arms.
Remember that this pose, and all poses, are not about you moving externally to make the asana look like what you see in a photograph. YEM is about you coming into contact with your breath and the impulse of life-force energy flowing through your spine and your body/being, which, in this pose, causes the movement of your arm to arise and expand until you express a natural, open connection between the Earth and the cosmos.
Bring your awareness to two-way moving energy. Inhale, draw life-force energy through the whale spout at the crown of your head. Sense or visualize life-force energy descending through your spine, through your body/being towards your center of gravity, just below your navel.
When you have arrived at this point, exhale and feel that life force energy split in two. It travels up your spine, out your whale spout towards the heavens, and down through your legs, out your feet and into the Earth.
Practice this two-way moving energy for a few breath cycles. Sense or visualize that your body/being is a neutral conduit for life-force energy.
When your breath feels focused and relaxed, take a step so that your legs are now a meter apart, knees slightly bent. Continue to draw life-force through your whale spout on the inhale, and experience two-way moving energy on the exhale.
On the next exhale, slowly allow your neck to roll forward. Feel each vertebra move one by one, as though you were walking down the rungs of a ladder, through your neck, shoulders, and upper back. Move slowly, still breathing in and out, letting go of tension in your shoulders and arms. Allow them to respond to gravity as you roll forward.
Continue to roll down vertebra by vertebra through your middle and lower back. Keep your knees slightly bent, so they are not locked.
When you arrive as far forward as you feel comfortable, place your left hand on the floor, directly below your face, with your palm open and broad. Keep your torso straight. If you cannot do this comfortably, place a block under your hand.
Straighten out your spine as though you are sitting up straight, so that the crown of your head moves away from your tailbone. Tilt your tailbone ever so slightly towards your heels, so that you can feel the energy run down your legs and into the ground.
Release your heels into the ground so that your feet feel broad and engaged, as you bring your right arm up towards the sky. Life-force energy travels out your arm to your fingertips, lengthening the arm out from your spine. Don’t pull on your arm, so that your shoulder joint is stressed. Allow the feeling of arising to come from your spinal cord.
Inhale, draw in life-force energy down the crown, down the spine, to your belly. Exhale back up your spine, out the crown of your head, and out your tailbone, creating spaciousness through your spine. Let the crown of your head float away from your tailbone. Let your jaw release. Feel life-force energy travel both down your legs and out your feet and up your spine towards your crown.
Look up towards your outstretched arm. Let your arms be open and free, almost wing-like.
Sense your arm as a tube of breath, tingling with life-force energy right through to the tips of the fingers.
Sense your legs as tubes of breath. As you breathe into your belly, let your heels grow into the ground, the soles of your feet broaden, like roots.
Scan your body. Notice where you are holding on. Ask yourself how much more open and spacious you can be, to receive this energy that is moving through your body.
When you are ready, change sides by bringing your right arm down, turning your face back to the floor. Plant your right hand on the floor right under your face, your palm broad and engaged with the floor.
Straighten your spine. Sense the crown of your head float away from your tailbone as your left arm arises towards the ceiling.
Turn your face towards your outstretched left arm.
Follow the same process of breathing into the belly, creating spaciousness through your spine, lengthening your arms and legs, sensing them as tubes of breath.
Let your breath be centered in the belly as your heels continue to grow roots into the floor and your arms expand like wings.
Conclude the pose by bringing your left hand, and your gaze, back to the floor. Stay here for a few breath cycles in a gravity-supported forward bend.
When you are ready, slowly roll up vertebra by vertebra, keeping your knees soft as you come into standing. Your head is the last to rise. Step your feet together back into tadasana, taking a few breaths here. Feel taller, more grounded. Know that you are rooted, vital and expansive.
Parvati is an award-winning musician (I Am Light, Electro Yog, Yoga In The Nightclub), yogini (YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine), author (Aonani of Avalon, Confessions from Your Awakened Self) and founder of the not-for-profit Parvati.org. All her work is dedicated to protecting all life on Earth by establishing the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS). More info: parvati.tv; parvati.org.