THE BLOG
12/20/2012 02:58 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2013

Degas Dancer: An Easy and Effective Open-Hearted Pose

This one I like to do in the office in between patients to clear my head and heart. Hardly a day goes by when I don't look for and do this posture at some point to lift my spirits and switch up my proverbial energy. This posture is taken from a mat Pilates stretch. If you can follow my drift, it feels like my being is flushed clean. I get to take a toxic dump myself. Having tested myself for the last few years, I find I can do this pose in office attire, of all kinds. I've tried it in suits, pants and skirts, as well as a dress, and as the title says it's very effective and rather simple, even with jewelry on.

Start with the pose depicted in the sculpture "The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer" by Edgar Degas (French, Paris 1834-1917 Paris). Stand posed in a relaxed fourth position, back arched, belly forward, hands clasped tightly behind your back, but don't overly do it. The tendency is to push it, but not the first one or two cycles.

Gently, feel how this open-hearted pose opens your chest. Roll back your shoulders up, over and behind in a counter-clockwise, oblong-shaped circle. Look up, at the third eye, or the mid-point between the eyes and a little farther up. Keep your forehead unwrinkled; don't over-arch with the head.

Let this opening in the chest take as much time as you can give it, even if it's not all that you need. Comfort yourself knowing you can do it again, in another hour or so. If you get dizzy, it's a sign that you're overdoing it. You're not ready to open up or arch more. Listen to your body; it doesn't lie. If you do get dizzy, focus on your voice box, the mid-point between your collarbones. Another way to visualize balance is look to the horizon.

Feeling particularly steady on your feet or want to change it up? Tap your foot that's forward. You'll feel the stretch now in the back and front of the foot. Next, release the hands; bring them up over the head in a clockwise, circular motion and bring your hands to your thigh, just above your knee, or lower down your shin, to your ankle, or on your fingertips to the floor. Release the head. Say yes to all the good things life has to offer. Say no, thank you, to the things you don't want to invite into your life.

Enjoy the stretch, don't rush it, which goes for the earlier stretch too. Now, reach forward, as though something was pulling you up and out, slowly but surely, and then letting you go at the highest point you can go. Imagine that you are now leaning back into the feather bed of life as you look up and back, again not wrinkling your forehead, as it's a sign you're going too fast or being overly ambitious in the pose. Again, if you get dizzy, keep your eye, focus and attention very acutely on your voice box and the horizon line.

Repeat by changing your feet. Step to the center and put the opposite foot out in front. Clasp your hands behind you and repeat. If you're really advanced, bring your hands into a reverse prayer pose.

Make sure you reverse this entire posture, too. Start by reaching for the leg that's in front of you, working your way up over and back. So there you have it. Enjoy. Be safe with this posture. It's deceptively simple. Don't underestimate its power. Let me know what you think. I'm always looking for new variations and visualizations.

For more by Tara Fass, click here.

For more on yoga, click here.

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