tofino yoga - open your heart

Tofino Yoga: Energise & Focus

by Natalie Rousseau, Tofino


This intermediate sequence is designed to open the upper back and chest, take the shoulders back and lengthen the front of the body.

Warm up for this sequence with a nice walk on the beach and a few rounds of Sun Salutations or the Simple Standing Sequence from July's Tofino Time issue.

These heart opening poses promote a sense of internal spaciousness resulting in greater self confidence and increased energy.


tofino yoga: upward salute

Upward Salute

Start in Mountain Pose, feet hip width, spine long, shoulders back and down. On an inhale breath lift arms, heart and gaze upwards, press your thighs back and your tailbone forward. Extend from heel to crown.

Simple standing salute helps to open chest and upper back, free the breath, and energize the legs.

tofino yoga: bound forward bend

Bound Forward Bend

From Upward Salute bend forward at the hips and interlock the fingers behind your back. Raise your arms over your head and release them towards the ground behind you allowing your spine to lengthen and your head to drop. Most people will find a slight bend in the knee helps the pelvis/spine to release and the weight to balance more evenly over the feet. Hold 3-4 deep breaths. Repeat 3 times adding Upward Salute in between each fold.

Stretches out the spine and legs, opens chest, upper back and shoulders.

tofino yoga: deep lunge

Deep Lunge

From Mountain Pose step your right leg back in a big step and bring your knee and fingertips to the floor. Lift your shoulders over your hips, release your hips forward and down, and rest your left hand on the floor or a block at your left side. Inhale to raise your right arm up following with your heart and your gaze. Exhale to bring the right arm down. Repeat this 3 times. On your third round expand across your chest as you lift your heart higher, reach your arm back and keep your chin slightly tucked to support your neck as you gaze up. Hold this deeper pose for 3-4 breaths, come out and shift into Downward Facing Dog for 5 breaths before repeating on the left side.

This energizing lunge lengthens the front body, opens the chest and upper back, and strengthens the back body.

tofino yoga: downward facing dog

Downward Facing Dog

From your lunge bring the hands to the floor shoulder width apart, tuck your back toes under, lift your hips, and step your front foot back. Relax your neck, press the floor away through strong arms, and move your hips back as you draw inner and outer heels towards the floor. Soften knees slightly if your legs are very tight to maintain length in your spine. Hold 5-7 deep slow breaths.

Soothing, strengthening forward bend pose, great counter pose for backbends.

tofino yoga: four limbed staff pose

Four Limbed Staff Pose

From Down Dog shift into Plank Pose (see January issue if unsure), arms straight, heart between your hands, legs firm. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale move your heart forward as you bend your elbows back. Keep your thighs strong, tuck your tail under slightly to firm your low abdomen and gaze forward to keep upper back long. This pose is difficult but try not to rush it, pay attention to the details. If you really want to work on your core strength try holding an extra breath or two, otherwise transition into Upward Dog on your next inhale.

Strengthens upper back, chest, legs and core, great weight bearing pose.

tofino yoga: upward facing dog

Upward Facing Dog

As you inhale roll over your toes and push down through your hands to straighten your arms and lift through your heart. Hips and thighs should lift off the floor, keep the thighs strong, tailbone long. Keep pressing the shoulders down away from your ears as you lift your collarbones. Hold 2-3 deep breaths. Press back into Down Dog. Repeat Down Dog/Staff/Up Dog cycle 3 times. Finish in a final Downward Facing Dog.

Strengthens upper back, arms and legs, opens the chest, energizes.

tofino yoga: upward facing bow

Upward Facing Bow

From Down Dog lay down on your back and bring your feet to the mat near your buttocks, knees bent, chin tucked slightly in, navel to spine. Bend your elbows, take your hands by your ears, fingertips facing towards your heels. On an inhale breath press down through your feet and hands to lift your spine and pelvis off the floor. Allow the head to relax back. Keep the breath steady and relaxed. Try not to grip overly with the buttocks. Expand horizontally and vertically through the chest. Hold 3-5 breaths. Repeat 3 times. If Upward Facing Bow is not accessible to you, practice Bridge Pose by lifting the hips but keeping arms, shoulders and head on the ground.

Invigorating, strengthening back bend. Great for depression or exhaustion, heaviness in the body or mind.

tofino yoga: reverse staff pose

Reverse Staff Pose

If you can practice Upward Facing Bow with confidence and comfort give this next pose a try, otherwise proceed to Supported Wide Leg Fold.

From Upward Bow lower your head and elbows back to the floor. Interlock your hands behind your head and on an inhale press down powerfully through your forearms as you lift through your chest. Start to straighten your legs as you walk your feet to the end of your mat. Draw the legs together, inner thighs touching as your point your toes into the floor. Keep the thighs strong, tailbone long, breath even. Hold 4-6 deep slow breaths. Come out by moving slowly back into Upward Bow and then releasing to the floor. Take a few moments to relax before moving on.

Powerful heart opening backbend. Strengthens legs, shoulders and upper back. Promotes confidence.

tofino yoga: supported wide leg fold

Supported Wide Leg Fold

Sitting up place a folded blanket or chip foam yoga block beneath your sit bones and take your legs out to the sides. Place a bolster (or stack of folded blankets) in front of you, in between your legs. As you exhale hinge from your hips to fold forward placing your arms on the bolster. If the legs and spine allow it place your head on your folded forearms, otherwise simply relax your neck and lean into the support of the bolster with your arms. Breathe length into your legs and spine. Close your eyes, relax your face, and enjoy 5-10 long slow breaths here. Come out slowly when you are done, take a few moments to notice the way you feel before continuing on with your own practice or settling into final relaxation pose, Savasana.

This calming forward bend helps to lengthen the spine and legs, open the hips, and soothe the mind while steadying the breath.

Natalie Rousseau e-ryt teaches drop in and private classes in Tofino. If you have any questions about this or other articles, or yoga in general, please email her at

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Tofino yoga lesson: Energise & Focus! This intermediate sequence is designed to open the upper back and chest, take the shoulders back and lengthen the front of the body.

tofino time february 2007

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