This is more of a home practice sequence for me – most studios don’t have a ton of fitness balls lying around (totally understandable – those suckers take up A LOT of space! See: my living room). But if you are lucky enough to practice in a studio that has them, have access to a gym that has them or have one or two in your living room (ahem), now’s the time to take them out to play! Some of this isn’t necessarily yoga per se, but it is very helpful!
No need to do these poses in order. I think with any fitness ball practice, you sort of have to go with the flow. Working with the fitness balls can take a little practice so expect rolling, falling and giggling – but please don’t hurt yourself! You might not want to practice around breakable things either – I have had the fitness ball go flying across the room. Apologies on the unedited photos – it kind of looks like the cord is coming out of my head. I am not a cyborg. I promise.
Step 1. Fitness ball plank. This is way more fun than regular plank! To start, rest your torso onto the fitness ball. Then place your arms and feet onto the mat, making a plank shaped pose (see photo). Depending on your structure and how inflated the ball is, your butt might be a little higher than is strictly kosher for plank, but that’s ok. The beauty here is that we can work on our plank form – i.e. shoulders over wrists, engaged back legs, head up etc…without killing ourselves trying to hold ourselves up. Also, as long as your torso stays on the ball, you can’t really collapse your lower back. Play with having your feet off the floor to build strength in the arms (see photo 2 – notice how I’m looking at the camera with a “didja get it???” plea!)
Step 2. Fitness ball chaturanga. I’m pretty sure you need to have your feet up off the floor for this. If you figure it out with your feet on the floor, let me know how you did it in the comments. This is a great way to work on the chaturanga action without having to do the full pose. I bend my elbows straight back (important!) and keep them close into my body. As I come down, you’ll see in the photo that I pitch forward. This is really a function of the fitness ball, but it does mimic the slight forward motion of classic chaturanga. You should come down as far as is comfortable but not too much past a 90 degree angle in the elbows (I’m a little past it, but c’est la vie). Push yourself back up, repeat, say hello to your triceps.
Step 3: Fitness ball abs. This is, hands down, the most fun I ever have with abs exercises. This time, you balance your knees on the ball in a sort of modified hands and knees pose. Then, using your core, bring your knees closer into your torso. Try not to do this with your back or quads. Push your legs back out with your core and repeat at least 5 times but really just go as long as you can without compromising form.
Step 4: Take a downward dog break. Blocks optional, but I like them.
Step 5. Fitness ball purvotanasana (inclined plank). This pose is only accessible to me because of the fitness ball. I love the fitness ball! Purvotanasana can be so painful and hard to do correctly, but this is a breeze (relatively) and feels great! Sit with your sacrum on the fitness ball. Lean back so that your lower torso and butt are supported. Bring your hands down so your wrists are under your shoulders. As you can see from the photos, I start the pose with my feet flexed and my chin tucked in until I’m sure I’ve got my placement correct. Once you are situated, work on bring the feet flat onto the floor and drop your head back a bit if it’s comfortable. Enjoy the chest-opening goodness!
Step 6. Rest! If you are feeling particularly energetic, you can do a fitness ball wheel – for instructions see this post. Otherwise, take a well deserved savasana!