THERE IS A FREEDOM, exhilaration and sense of empowerment that comes from mastering and even simply attempting certain poses on the water. Back bends can be challenging, so let’s break down this pose step by step. Only proceed as far as you feel comfortable. Remember to begin with a warm-up paddle to increase your heart rate and find your place on the water. Before beginning your practice, anchor your board to lessen distractions.

ustrasana-1

STEP 1:
Begin in child’s pose, or balasana. Walk your hands over to the left rail and grasp the edge of board, hands stacked. Shift your hips to the right, allowing your right side to lengthen. After a few breaths, walk your hands over to the right rail, reaching your body toward the left and shifting your hips in the same direction.

ustrasana-2

STEP 2:
Come up onto your knees with your toes tucked under. Bring your hand to your sacrum and gently press your hips forward. Press your fi sts up and in to move your hips over your knees. Your gaze should be at the horizon as you maintain space in the back of your neck. Continue to move your gaze up to the sky. Draw your breath in and open your heart to the sky.

ustrasana-3

STEP 3:
Move your gaze over your left shoulder and down to your left foot. Reach down and place your left hand on your left heel. Inhale your right hand to the sky
with intention. For a few breaths, alternate reaching one hand to the heel and extending the opposite arm to the sky.

ustrasana-4

STEP 4:
Hold one side, left hand to left foot, right arm extended upward. Inhale, then exhale and gently extend your right arm behind you, allowing for a gentle curve in the spine as you press your hips forward. Return to center and repeat on opposite side.

ustrasana-5

STEP 5:
Inhale back to your starting position, left hand to left foot. Keeping that hand on your left foot or ankle, reach back slightly for the right heel at the same time. With both hands on your heels, relax. Breathe into this magical space between earth and sky. Notice here if you have a little room to move into the full pose. Softly release your toes so your feet are fl at on the board. Press into all ten toes. Make sure your tailbone is rooted down, and your neck is soft. Keep pressing your hips over your knees and be conscious of not clenching your glutes.

Return to center by maintaining a soft neck and moving slowly. Come to all fours, and then sink back with a full awareness of the strength and space you have just created.