Down Dog (Variation)
Start on all fours with your wrists 6 to 12 inches in front of your shoulders. Separate your knees hip-width apart and curl your toes under.
Pushing evenly into your palms, lift your knees off the floor. Lift your sit bones toward the ceiling and push the top of your thighs back so that your body looks like an inverted "V." Slowly start to straighten your knees-but don't lock them. Gently begin to move your chest back toward your thighs until your ears are even with your upper arms; don't let your head dangle. Keep your hips lifting and push strongly into your hands.
While in Downward-Facing Dog, create an air pocket under your palms by cupping your hands on the mat instead of placing them flat. Lift the palms so that only your fingertips touch the mat. You'll have to fire up the forearms by pressing the muscles from the elbow to the wrist into the mat to support your own body weight.
Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, then return your hands flat on the mat. When you're in class, use this variation in every Downward-Facing Dog after you are warmed up.
Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga)
Lying face-down, smoothly push your body off the ground just 2 to 3 inches and hold it there, palms flat, elbows squeezing tightly toward one another. Do 5 or 10 controlled reps, holding for a few seconds each time before slowly lowering through each one.
Lying face down, curl your toes under and place the palms of your hands flat on the mat beside your shoulders. Squeeze your elbows into your body. As you inhale, push your body up into Chaturanga. Exhale.
On the next inhale, lift your body in one fluid motion all the way up (hips in line with shoulders). Starting from a suspended position rather than the ground makes it very difficult. "Try one or two of these at first and work up to 7 to 10 over time," Lechonczak says.