The birds become human beings and the human beings become birds. Everything is astonishing, heartbreaking, and possible.
Imagine the bird unfurling his feathers after a long winter’s slumber. Imagine how he flexes his wings and tests the wind before takeoff. You too have to learn how to prepare for flight, how to ride a current of breath.
He roots his tail feathers down toward moist spring soil. Even the bird knows his relationship to ground. See how he puffs his breast? See how he expands the space around is heart? Flying is mostly a matter of confidence. Or belief.
Root down through your primordial tail. Draw the wings of your shoulders against your back.
Your heart is a hot air balloon. Going up.
Bring your foot up behind your head. Imagine you can see the fuzzy outline of your toes hovering at the crest of your forehead. They’re that close. It doesn’t matter if they’re really that close. Just imagine. It's mostly a matter of belief.
Point the beak of your elbows skyward.
Lift with everything you’ve got.
1. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged Pigeon Pose) requires both openness in the hips and mobility in the shoulders and spine. After sitting for a few minutes with focused breathing, move through 5-8 rounds of sun salutations for a general warm up. Linger for a few breaths in each upward dog, concentrating on lengthening your tailbone towards the heels and hugging in through the core as you lift the chest and move the shoulder blades firmly down the back. Follow with a series of standing poses that access the legs and hips--warrior I & II, triangle pose, and extended side angle pose are good options.
2. Start with your right foot forward, left knee on the mat. Angle your right toes about 45° to the right, keeping the right knee aligned in the direction of the toes. Bring your left forearm to the floor, angled about 45° to the left (for a gentler version of this pose, keep your left arm straight with just the hand rooted to the floor). Sink the hips as deeply as you’re able, while hugging in through the core and lifting the chest. Begin moving into a spinal twist by rolling the right side ribs upwards. Pick your left foot up off the floor, reaching the right hand back to find the top of the food. Keep softening the hips, containing the core, lifting the chest and rolling the right side ribs open as you draw your right heel toward your right buttock. Repeat with the left foot forward.
3. Come unto your belly. Bring your left forearm to the floor parallel to the top edge of your made. Root the pelvis as and lengthen the tailbone toward your heels. Pressing down into the support of the left forearm, lift the chest forward and up as you roll the heads of the shoulders back and slide the shoulder blades down. Pick up your right foot and reach your right hand back to find the top of the foot. Try reaching from the inside, rather than the outside of the foot (you have to keep rolling your right shoulder open to find this grip, but keep the chest square forward!). Keep hugging in through the core and lifting the heart as you draw your right heel toward your outer right hip. You may be able to start turning the right fingers forward as you angle your right elbow upwards to push straight down on the foot with your palm. Make sure the sensation of this pose is in your right thigh and not in your knee. Repeat on the left side.
4. Bring your hands by your upper ribs and push up to upward dog, again hugging in through the core as you reach the tailbone towards the heels. Bring your knees to the floor and lift the feet. Keep pulling in through the belly and lifting the rib cage as you roll the shoulders back and open the throat. Hug your inner thighs towards your midline and extend your toes towards the back of the head. Remember, this is about length in the spine—be sure not to jam the low back or the back of the neck.
5. From downward dog, bring your right knee to your right wrist, laying the shin down at an angle that’s comfortable for you. Lay the top of your right foot down, but keep the outer edge of the foot actively pressing towards the floor. Settle the hips evenly towards the floor (if you find that your weight rocks to the right, prop your right hip up with a bolster or blanket). Bring the top of the left foot to the floor and reach straight back through your left big toe so that the ankle is evenly long on both sides. Pull your inner thighs towards your midline and hug up from the pelvic floor. Lengthen the tailbone down, contain the belly and front ribs, and walk your hands slowly back towards your hips. Find support from your core so that there’s no crunching in the low back.
Lift the left foot and reach back with your left hand. Hook your left thumb between your pinky and second toe with the palm facing out. Sliding the left shoulder blade down the back, begin to swing your left elbow up. As the elbow comes up reach your left fingers for the top of the toes and your thumb to the ball of the foot. Still supporting from the core reach your right hand up over the head and then down to your left foot, so that the right thumb holds the arch of the foot and the elbows are parallel (the right shoulder blade also has to slide down the back here). Once you’re firmly holding the foot, open the throat and take the top of the head back as your pull the foot in (again holding length in the back of the neck).
Keep lifting with everything you’ve got! Repeat on the left side.
6. Take a few breaths in downward dog to neutralize the spine, and then come into child’s pose as a gentle counter forward fold. Close your practice with a reclining twist, happy baby, and an inversion (shoulder stand, headstand or legs up the wall, for example). Last, but most definitely not least, savasana.