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Friday Fitness – Happiness Expression Challenge

One of the joys of yoga is the feeling of being free and light.  I encourage you to cultivate that happiness by becoming aware of and grateful for the present moment.  This Friday marks the last Friday Fitness of 2011 – so let’s celebrate our lives, our freedom and our light right now in this moment! 

Below are three yoga poses – in each of the poses, I challenge you to bring attention to your limbs (in the Happiness Expression Challenge), as these are extensions of your heart.  Allow your arms and hands to create and express your happiness in the current posture.

Crescent Pose /// Warrior III /// Chair Pose

Step by Step: Crescent Pose

1. Start in Downward-Facing Dog. Exhale and step your right foot forward between your hands, aligning your knee over the heel. Keep your left leg strong and firm.

2. Inhale and raise your torso upright. At the same time, sweep your arms wide to the sides and raise them overhead, palms facing each other.

3. Be careful not to overarch the lower back. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor (tuck your tailbone under and pull your low core in).  Reach back through your left heel to activate your left quad to help create an equal balance between both legs. Come into your right leg, (bend-lunge position) weight staying in the heel.

4. As you inhale grow taller through the torso. Be sure not to press the front ribs forward. Draw them down and into the torso. Lift the arms from the lower back ribs, reaching through your little fingers. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to a minute. Repeat the posture on the opposite side.


***Happiness Expression Challenge: As you hold Crescent Lunge, instead of reaching your arms up, open your arms out by your side. Turn your palms upwards as if you were catching raindrops. You are nourishing your very own happiness.  Be open and ready to receive the blessings of each moment. Smile…Let happiness in!

Step by Step: Warrior III

1. From the lunge (crescent lunge) position, stretch your arms forward, parallel to the floor and parallel to each other, palms facing each other. Exhale and press the head of the right thighbone back and press the heel actively into the floor. Synchronize the straightening of the front leg and the lifting of the back leg. As you lift the back leg, resist by pressing the tailbone into the pelvis.

2. Normally students come up into Warrior III by lunging the torso forward. This tends to shift the body weight onto the ball of the front foot and unbalance the position. Don’t allow the torso to swing forward as you move into position; instead, as you straighten the front knee, think of pressing the head of the thighbone back. This centers the femur in the hip joint, grounds the heel into the floor, and stabilizes the position.

3. The arms, torso and raised leg should be positioned relatively parallel to the floor.  For many students the pelvis tends to tilt. Release the hip [of the raised leg] toward the floor until the two hip points are even and parallel to the floor.  Energize the back leg and extend it strongly toward the wall behind you; reach just as actively in the opposite direction with the arms. Bring the head up slightly and look forward, but be sure not to compress the back of your neck.

4. Stay in this position for 30 seconds to a minute.


***Happiness Expression Challenge: When you transition into Warrior III, place your hands in prayer position at your chest. As you glance at your hands, be happy for your friends and loved ones – share your hearts energy and joy.

 Step by Step: Chair Pose

1. From Warrior III, bring your extended leg down to meet the root leg as you pendulum back into an upright position (feet together). Inhale and raise your arms perpendicular to the floor.

2. Exhale and bend your knees, trying to take the thighs as nearly parallel to the floor as possible (squat position). Keep your weight back in your heels, hugging your legs in towards each other.

3. Firm your shoulder blades down, relaxing your shoulders and releasing the tension in your neck. Lengthen your spine with every inhalation and root deeper (sink into the squat) with every exhalation.

4. Stay for 30 seconds to a minute. To come out of this pose straighten your knees with an inhalation, lifting strongly through the arms. Exhale and release your arms to your sides, back into mountain pose.


***Happiness Expression Challenge: As you place your feet together in chair position, open your arms out wide to your sides and give the world and yourself a great big hug.

 Go through this series of three movements on your right and then your left side. Feel free to improvise according to how you feel. Remember to be true to your physical needs and your hearts expressions!

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