Second level exercises – Mindful Yoga
In the “Mindful Yoga” program, from the 2nd level onwards, we practice being in positions (Asanas).
According to the yogic definition (from Patanjali’s “Yoga Sutras”) Asana should be “Sthiram” and “Sukham” or in translation motionless and comfortable. This means that you enter the position only as much as you can, and then comfortably hold it.
At first it is a challenge to assess, so it is good to first go in and out of the position one or two times with inhalation and exhalation, and then stay in the Asana with breathing. This is something that we will not emphasize further in the exercise descriptions, but consider that you perform the 2nd degree postures in this way. Also, don’t forget to take a short break after each position.
Structure of the second level yoga class:
- introductory relaxation
- first level Asanas – preparation
- second level Asanas – staying in positions
- several rounds of Sun Salutation or Moon Salutation exercise
- final relaxation – integration
- breathing exercises and meditation
Note for beginners: it is recommended to practice only first level for at least a month, before moving on to second level. In case you have certain health problems, please consult your doctor before exercising.
First level exercises and relaxation exercises – link.
Second level Asanas – Mindful Yoga
Combination of positions: Adho Mukha Svanasana – Dog and Sasankasana – Rabbit
Both positions are practiced on the first level as part of the “Moon Salutation”, while on the second level they are practiced as Asanas, with more details.
Way of performing: initial Diamond position. Turn your toes toward the floor, place your palms on the mat in front of you, and rise into dog position. The head is between the upper arms, the shoulders are “integrated” (separated from the neck), the elbows are in microflex, the fingers are spread. Your back and arms are in one direction and your heels are tending to the floor. When you feel the position after a few inhalations and exhalations, start to gently bend the left and right knee alternately. Breathing is deepened.
Then lower yourself into the Rabbit position. Try to sit on your heels, your back is elongated and slightly curved, your forearms and forehead are on the floor. You rise with straight arms and back and place your hands on your thighs in the Diamond position.
Note: in Dog position, actively press the mat with your fingers to relieve the wrist. The hands are in a slight spiral. In the Rabbit position, especially relax your neck and shoulders.
Focus: in Dog position, follow the stretching of the back of the body and the breath between the navel and the throat. In the Rabbit position, feel the lengthening of the spine and by bringing the attention on the abdominal breathing, feel the expansion in the lower back.
Vyagrasana – Tiger
Way of performing: initial Diamond position. Inhale and rise to your knees. With exhalation, position your arms as in the Cat exercise (see first level exercises), round your back up and go forward with your right knee. Inhaling, arch your back in the opposite direction (belly down), look forward and lift your extended leg, and bend it slightly at the knee at the end of movement. Make several changes of position following the rhythm of breathing, then with the exhalation lower the knee to the floor and round the back. With an inhale, rise to your knees and with an exhale, sit in the Diamond position. Then do the exercise with the left leg as well.
Note: the movements have their duration and follow the breath – do not hury. At the end of the movement, the breath stops for a moment. There is also a variation with breathing in positions.
Focus: follow the bending of the spine and the movement of the leg
Meru Akaranasana – side stretch and leg stretch
Way of performing: in the first phase of the exercise, we position ourselves on the right side, the hand is vertical to the floor, and with the upper hip we go forward as far as we can. Hold the position and breathe. In the second phase of the exercise, lower your upper arm to the floor and rest your head on your palm. Inhale, bend your leg, grab your foot or ankle with your hand and stretch your leg up. As you exhale, bend your leg at the knee and lower it and then extend it.
Note: when raising and lowering the leg, the hand goes below the knee (not above). Do it twice dynamically, and then stay in the position with breathing (this also applies to almost all subsequent positions).
Focus: in the phase of lateral stretching, follow the breath through the nostrils. Maintain your balance during the leg extension phase.
Janu Sirshasana – forward bend, abdomen towards the thigh
Way of performing: initial Stick position. Bend one leg, knee to the side and the sole against the thigh. Enter the position very slowly with normal breathing. Position your fingers on the floor and go forward with a straight back towards the outstretched leg. In the final position, touch your leg with fingers and lower your forehead towards your knee. When you come back, also put your fingers on the floor, look forward and keep your back straight. Do the bending exercise towards the other leg as well.
Note: the knee of the outstretched leg is microflexed, the shoulders are integrated.
Focus: as you enter the position, relax as much as possible. Follow your abdominal breath in the position.
Bhunamanasana – Salutation to the earth
Way of performing: initial Stick position. With an inhale, lift your arms forward and extend a little bit backwards with your back straight (picture 1). With exhalation, twist to the side, put your palms on the floor and go with your forehead towards the floor. Breathe in position. Come out of the twist with an inhale and put your palms on your thighs with an exhale. Do the exercise on one side and then on the other.
Note: try to stay seated on the floor. The outer pelvic area will come off the floor a little bit – don’t go sideways.
Focus: on the entire spine and ribs while following the breath.
Ashva Sanchalanasana – Riding position
Way of performing: from the starting position (picture 1), we stretch our legs with an inhale and return back with an exhale. We raise our toes approximately at eye level. Do it several times dynamically, and then stay in the position, with breathing.
Note: if the position is too hard for you, do not extend your knees to the end. After the exercise, relax on your back.
Focus: on the coordination of movement and breath in the dynamic part and on the affirmation of strength when breathing in the position.
Kandarasana – Lifting the pelvis
Way of performing: from a lying position, bend your knees and grab your ankles. Your heels are on the floor (if your hands do not hold your ankles, then rest them on the floor, palms down). Inhale and lift the pelvis upwards. Exhale and lower it down.
Note: when breathing in the position, try to maintain the height of the pelvis. If you are not holding your ankles, actively push with your hands towards the floor.
Focus: abdominal breathing and the movement of the diaphragm.
Viparita Karani Mudra – Half Stand on the Shoulders
Way of performing: from a lying position on your back, raise your legs and lift up your pelvis. Bring your elbows and shoulder blades together (picture 3). Place your palms on the back of your pelvis and shift your weight onto your palms, straightening your legs vertically. Stay in the position as long as you feel comfortable. When returning, bend your knees towards your forehead and, with the help of your hands, return first your back and then your pelvis and legs to the floor.
Note: When entering the final position, a large part of the weight is transferred to the hands. It’s hard for beginners, so it’s recommended to keep your legs slightly more banded towards the floor. You should be able to relax in the position. Longer relaxation after exercise is recomanded.
Focus: priority is on relaxation. This is the inversion and gravity do the work. In the position, we follow the inhalation from the navel to the throat and the exhalation from the throat to the navel.
Akarna Dhanurasana – bow tightening (breathing exercise)
Way of performing: initial standing position, feet apart. Turn the left foot to the left and place the right foot vertically. From the starting position, raise your left hand to the left side (thumb up) and direct your gaze to the nail of the raised thumb (picture 1). Imagine holding a strong and elastic bow. Grab the bow string with your right hand. With an inhale, tens the bow string. The elbow is at shoulder height the whole time. Exhale and release the bow string. After a few repetitions, do it on the other side.
Note: movement is a combination of strength and elasticity. The muscles of the hands are tensed, when tensing and when releasing bow string. The gaze is all the time on the nail of the stretched hand. Hold your breath for a short time after each inhalation (as if aiming). The exercise is done dynamically.
Focus: stimulation of the lungs through stretching. A combination of strength and elasticity.
Utthit Lolasana – swinging of arms and trunk (breathing exercise)
Way of performing: position feet apart and lower yourself into the starting position (picture 1). Inhale, stretch your arms forward (without raising your back). Exhale, dynamically lowering your torso and go with your hands between your legs. Do 10 inhalations and exhalations. Remain in the forward band position after the last exhalation, and breathe. With a deep inhale, raise your arms and back, and lower your arms with an exhale.
Note: the exercise is done dynamically, with an active exhalation (like Bhastrika breathing). Both inhalation and exhalation are through the nose. If you have low blood pressure, dizziness is possible, so do the exercise very gradually. When lifting, you can tense and relese the muscles of the body to balance the pressure.
Focus: on breathing and gradual return from the position.
Trikonasana – Triangle (variations)
Variation of the triangle without positioning
Way of performing: legs wide apart, inhale and raise your arms to shoulder height. As you exhale, bend sideways to the left side. The lower arm touches the leg, and the upper arm is vertical. Inhale and exhale to return. Make a position on the other side as well.
Note: in the variation without positioning, the feet are beveled at an angle of 45 degrees. Make sure you don’t lean forward, but only sideways.
Variation of the triangle with positioning
Way of performing: turn the left foot to the left and the right foot vertically or even slightly to the left. Breathing normally, raise your arms horizontally, shoulders integrated, look to the left. Before going sideways, open the left side slightly. Go down to the left side and look up. Breathe in position. When returning, look down, inhale and raise your hands and exhale. Do the exercise on the other side as well.
Note: with this variation, pay special attention to the grounding through the feet. They provide support and stability for opening in position.
Variation of the triangle with a twist
Way of performing: legs wide apart, inhale and raise your arms to the side. Exhaling with a straight back, bend forward and twist with your left hand down and your right hand vertically. Look up. With an inhale return to the center and lift up, and with an exhale lower your hands. Make a position on the other side as well.
Note: the lower hand touches the leg. Always lengthen the back first and then twist (principle for all twists). Preform dynamically first and then stay in the position with breathing.
Variation of the triangle – forehead towards the knee
Way of performing: legs wide apart. Inhaling, grasp the wrist of the left hand with the right fist, the left thumb is closed in the fist. Turn the left foot to the left and the right foot vertically or even slightly to the left. With an exhalation, lower yourself by bending your left knee with a straight back to the left side (picture 1) and then lower your forehead towards your knee. Inhaling, first look forward, then with a long, straight back up. Exhale to untangle your hands. Make a position on the other side as well.
Note: as in previous variations, pay special attention to grounding through the feet. They provide support and stability in position.
Hansasana – Swan (balance position)
Way of performing: step a little forward with your right foot and transfer your weight to it. Bend the left leg at the knee and grasp the ankle of the bent leg with the left hand. Inhale, open into the Swan position. Breathe in the position, looking at one point in space. Go back gradually. Do the exercise on the opposite side as well.
Note: be careful not to bend the trunk forward, and to extend the knee of the bent leg to achieve a swan neck shape.
Focus: on breathing and maintaining balance.
Dvikonasana – Double Triangle
Way of performing: intertwine your fingers from a standing position. Inhale, bring your shoulder blades together and turn your palms towards you and down. With exhalation, enter the forward band position and immediately stay in it, with breathe (we do not preform this exercise dynamically). The knees are in microflex. Inhale, rise up with a straight back, then exhale, untangle your hands.
Note: if you can’t turn your palms towards you and down, don’t turn them to the opposite side as it will separate the shoulder blades. Just leave them as they are and bring the shoulder blades together. Enter the position gradually, so that you can deepen it with your breathing.
Focus: a combination of inversion and chest opening. The focus is on relaxation.
Setuasana – Bridge
Way of performing: from the Stick position, move your hands slightly backwards and rest your palms on the floor. The fingers of the hands are directed towards the heels. Inhale, raise your pelvis in the air and press your feet towards the floor. Open your chest and slightly extend your head. As you exhale, lower your pelvis down. Do the position two to three times dynamically, and then breathe in position.
Note: before extending your head back, open your chest and slightly tense your neck muscles. Lengthen the neck during the backward movement. It shouldn’t be painful, and if it is, don’t extend your head back at all. After the Bridge position, relax in the Rabbit position (described at the beginning).
Focus: opening and affirmation of strength.
Here we have described 15 out of arond 20 positions practiced at the second level of Mindful Yoga.
If you already know some other positions, of course you can combine them with the one described here.
The structure of the second level class is described at the beginning. The class ends with breathing exercises and a short meditation.
Aternate breathing – second level Pranayama
At the second level, we practice alternate breathing – Anulom / Vilom Pranayama. It is an upgrade to Pranayama of the first level, and it is necessary to first ajust yourself well in the sitting position.
With alternating breathing, we place the hand in the same position as in the first level Pranayama. Close the right nostril with the thumb and inhale through the left nostril. After inhaling, open the right nostril, close the left nostril with the fourth finger and exhale through the right nostril. Then inhale through the right nostril, then close it and exhale through the left nostril. That’s one round.
We preforme about 10 rounds and then put the hand back. Then we repeat the exercise one more time (two times in total).
After the breathing exercise, we keep our eyes closed and continue observing the breath. We try to listen to the breath and immerse ourselves in its rhythm of breath, with our attention. As we calm down, we are more and more able to perceive and experience the silence in the background of the movement of the breath. Try not to pay attention to the thoughts that come to you. Just relax and let your intuition guide you.
We finish the exercise by rubbing the palms – described in the first level.
Notice how you feel after exercising and carry it through the day!