We designed the Elemental Kata with the simplest and most fundamental positions and movements of the Bowspring practice.
The kata consists of the most basic Level 1 Bowspring poses with their most common Elemental forms and postural variations. All the most important elementary movements like Seaweed Sway, Pulsing, Swiveling, Stepping, and Dig-Drag are included.
The Elemental Kata takes about 60-75 minutes to practice in its entirety at a deliberate pace. The Kata could easily longer if the students take their time to thoroughly feel and consciously connect with all 10 key areas of the body in each position.
By first reducing the student’s stress level, we set the space to best receive the powerful, transformative experience of the Bowspring. Therefore, we begin the Elemental kata lying down on the floor. While resting on the floor, the student can use the least amount of effort to effectively open the ribcage to gain a fuller breath. Students can be accommodated with props like a blanket under the back of the head if necessary. Students that can not get down to the floor can begin sitting in Bowspring in a chair. The increased expansion of Radiant Heart in a restorative position allows the student to naturally bow their belly and neck, to freely open the pelvic floor and the throat, and to easefully release deep psycho-emotional tensions.
The Bowspring is most easily experienced in a less forceful way practicing the poses on the floor, where the student can take their time to breathe slowly and release stiffness and unconscious tensions in an opening way. The firmness of the floor gives the student good feedback to push back against and greater kinesthetic awareness especially in the 3 spheres – ribcage, pelvis, and head. Standing poses are beneficial for the new student to feel less vulnerable, more solid in their feet and legs (Roots), and to clearly see the instructor modeling the Bowspring alignment. The wall helps make the basic Bowspring standing poses more accessible. In all sections of the Elemental class, either lying down on the floor or standing, the postural forms are simple and the student can close their eyes throughout the practice to relax more and to heighten inner awareness.
The general template of an Elemental class is to start lying supine on the blanket/mat for a couple of minutes of relaxation and breathing. Then make a mindful transition to standing so that the student can best see the teacher while they are instructing and demonstrating the new postural forms from Earth pose. A minute or two of mental centering with eyes closed helps the student turn their awareness to the increasing flow of their breath. Then with eyes open the student can observe the detailed alignment of their hands and feet in a new way. At this early time in the global presentation of the Bowspring, new students have never seen these alignments before so they don’t have the mind-body connection yet to do them successfully for the first few tries. The more agitated the nervous system of the new student, the longer it takes to make the mind-body connection to do the Bowspring. So, it is good to go slowly with the Elementals class so the student can breath and release psycho-emotional tensions to be able to relax to a state in which the Bowspring can be consciously embodied with the least amount of force.
After 5 minutes of guided relaxation and deep breathing in Assimilation to start the practice, then roll to the side and transition into All-Fours and then to Earth pose.
After 5 minutes of easy, bouncy light, standing poses flowing with the breath, go slowly back to the floor on All-Fours. Then take 10 minutes to do Elemental forms on the floor – side, supine, and prone poses. This section can be performed in a very restorative way so the student has a chance to fully breathe and open into the Bowspring.
From the floor, then transition mindfully to standing via All-Fours. Practice walking and stepping to a wall. Practice basic standing forms at the wall for 10 minutes.
Return to All-Fours and practice Crouching Cat and variations.
Finish last 15 minutes of class back on the floor focusing on twists and side spiraling, including 5 minutes for Assimilation pose.
Here is the general template for a one-hour Elemental class:
Start lying down –
Assimilation pose - on the back for breathing and relaxation / centering practice. (3 - 5 minutes)
Standing – (5 min)
Down to the floor – (10 min+)
All-Fours, then to the side, the back and then onto the front
Standing – (5 min)
Wall – (10 min)
All-Fours / Crouching Cat and variations – (10 min)
Return to the floor – (10 min+)
Assimilation pose – (5 min)
Radiant Heart in the central channel is the foundational theme in all Elemental classes.
Each Elementals class has Radiant Heart as a central theme and an additional focus on one other main sub-system of the Bowspring depending on the week of the month:
week 1 - Central Channel & Radiant Heart
week 2 – Wings – Shoulders, arms, elbows, and hands
week 3 – Roots – Hips, legs, knees, and feet
week 4 – Pulsation & Spools – waist / lower back and neck
Progressive classes could also have secondary focuses like the alignment of the Wings or the Roots building on the Radiant Heart grand theme.
Central Channel – special focus on side-to-side movements, lateral expansion of Radiant Heart, lateral bending of the spools, breath pulsation.
Wings - special focus on Seed Hands, Dome Hands, Bright Hands, hollows of the palms and wrists, hollows of armpits.
Arm alignment in Earth position - elbow hollows face each other.
Swaying ribs side-to-side = Crescent (arcing)
Roots - special focus on Earth Foot, Hero Foot, Fiesta Foot, ankle hollows, groin hollows, Dig-Drag, Square Leg, Open Leg
Swiveling of the feet
The list of poses and key actions within each main section are recommended but not required to present in each Elemental class.
The main Elemental forms and actions that are emphasized in every Elementals class include:
Pulsing slowly with the breath – exhale, rooting / inhale, rising
Deep breathing – breath retentions
flowing side to side movements - serpentine
Radiant Heart - expanding the side ribs
V-Vector of the Wings
Seed Hands, Dome Hands, Bright Hands
Dig-Drag - Earth Foot
stepping and walking
swiveling Earth Foot
(tease) skipping and hopping
All-Fours and variations
Lying down into Side Bow
Rolling supine and prone
Crescent pose - standing side bends
Centering in the beginning and ending of each kata
Pausing and assimilating between katas
Supine Bow pose – 5 min
Standing – 5 min
Earth pose – Centering
Pulsation – Exhale, root; Inhale, rise
Lifting and placing a foot – Bicycle pedaling
Hip & Foot Swivel
Crescent pose – (from Recovery pose) horseshoe hand on thigh - Ecstasy Arm
Wide Stance Standing Forward Bend ->
All-Fours – (blanket) – 5 min
Dome Hands -> Bright Hands
Square Leg -> Open Leg
Spring Load pose – exhale, hips back; inhale, ribs forward and up
Side Stretches and serpentine movements – Ecstasy Arm
Side Bow – 1 min each side - transition through Prone Bow
High Dome Hand
Supine – 5 min
Prone – 3 min
Panther Push-up -> All-Fours ->
Crouching Cat -> walk hands back to Earth pose
Standing - 5 min
Sliding the Paws
Back <-> Forward
Back and Front
Wall – 10 min
Isometric Dig-Drag – Hovering Heel
One-Legged - Square Leg – Pulsation
High Lunge -> Kneeling
Bowing Squat – bend forward, exhale -- Inhale, rise up vertical
Wide Stance Forward Bend
Hopping – 1 min
One foot side-to-side - hopping
Crouching Cat / Crouching Sphinx – 3 min
V-Vector Arm – Seed Hand -> Ecstasy Arm
One-Legged – Square Leg
Square Legs – base of thighs on the floor
Base of the thighs on the floor
Wide Stance Recovery <-> Crouching Cat (walking the hands forward and back)
Wide stance Crouching Cat -> wide stance recovery pose ->
Seated Side Twist -> Side Bow ->
Baby Hurdler – 3 min each side
Supine poses – 3 min
Supine Twist – Cross Ankle
Assimilation pose – 5 min
Stand in Earth position looking out at the expanse of the Horizon. Open your Central Channel from the pelvic floor to the top of the head as wide as the circumference of your neck. Radiate spaciousness and fullness from the center of the Central Channel in the middle of the ribcage out in all directions circumferentially. With Radiant Heart expand and lift the sides of the ribs first, then the back and the front, then push the whole shoulder girdle upward from the center-point of the ribcage.
Natural breathing through both the nose and the mouth.
Let the breath move on its own, and keep releasing unnecessary tension throughout the whole body.
Pausing to watch 3 natural rounds of your breath while focusing on relaxing your belly while the heart is radiant and buoyant.
With the arms by your sides, straighten the arms from the expanse of the Radiant Heart.
Float the outer elbows wide, forward and up slightly from the push inside the heart.
Bend the elbows and bring the hands forward.
Globe Hands -> widen the circle of your arms as full as possible from the center of your radiant heart.
All fingers are bent, and the thumbs are long and softly curved. The thumbs and the index fingers make more the shape of a kidney bean in the beginning as you learn to squeeze the base of the palms in a downward V-vector.
Genie Arms -> Liquid Hands with long thumbs holding the outer forearms – widen the sides of the heart and dilate the sides of the ribcage from Radiant Heart. Breathe into your belly and open it energetically to increase sensitivity.
Horizon Arms with Seed Hands -> push wide, up and forward from the center of the heart to the tips of the thumbs.
Seed Hands – open Dome Hands facing each other, curl in the little finger first toward the center of the palm followed by each finger in sequence with the index finger curling in the least amount and the thumb pad softly touching the side of the second knuckle of the index finger. The shape of the Seed Hand is conical with the thumb pad and index finger knuckle being the most extended part of the hand.
The position of the index finger and thumb is like when holding a key in your hand.
The finger pads are soft and not touching the palm. Squeeze the mound of the thumb and the mound of the little finger toward the midline and down toward the center of the base palm. Deepen the Valley of Neptune, while expanding the center of the Seed Hand to make the hand more rounded and full in its shape.
With Seed Hands, turn the arms in with palms face down. Lift the outer elbows, and turn the inner creases of the elbows to point toward each other. Widen and lift the sides and the upper back between the shoulder blades.
Turn the Seed Hands palms up and widen the collarbones, and open the front of the neck keeping the shoulders broad and the upper back full.
Keeping the width and loft in the shoulders and neck, spiral the forearms inward to turn the Seed Hands palms down.
Keeping the arms straight and arms toned with Seed Hands, move the ribs in a swaying, fluid motion from side-to-side. Widen the side ribs, and crescent one side of outward while tipping the head to the opposite side. Create a serpentine, waving movement in the ribs side-to-side to open the back of the ribcage as much as the front.
Open the side body from top of the waist up to the outer shoulder.
Straight arms, bent knees, groins back, belly forward and up.
Lifting a Foot
In Earth, the top of the foot is domed, toe pads and mounds are spongy paws.
Bend the knees deeper, push down through all the toe pads and mounds (the paw of the foot), and hover the right heel only an inch off the ground. Keep weight on the back of the mounds of the toes. The back of all the metatarsals (balls of the feet) must be in contact with the ground.
Dig – keeping the top of the foot softly domed and all the toe pads and mounds down on the ground,
Push the front of foot forward isometrically, like you about to kick a soccer ball. Push your knee forward and slide your groin far back behind you as far as you can without leaning forward too much.
A little leaning forward in the upper part of the body can help get the groins further back in the beginning. Once the bottom of the hips is far back and more level with the floor, then bow the waist forward and up as you rise vertically in the center of the ribcage and through the top of the head.
While keeping the front of the ankle flexing and pushing forward, push down through the whole paw of the foot like you are trying to imprint the floor with the toe pads and mounds.
Drag – keeping the forefoot pushing forward and down,
Pull back from paw to the heel. Isometrically drag the back of the heel backward to engage the whole back of the leg through the hamstrings up into the glutes.
Keeping the Dig and Drag, lift the foot up off the floor from the center dome of the foot.
The 4 main actions of Dig-Drag: forward, downward, backward, and upward – are the flowing circular motion of bicycling. As the foot makes a circle in space, the hip also follows the same circular motion. The glutes are always back and up, and the waist is forward and up.
Stepping – After a full circle in the bicycle action of Dig-Drag, place the paw of the foot back down to the floor before the heel touches the floor. All 5 toe pads and all 5 toe mounds touch the floor as a single unit all at once with the center dome of the transverse arch lifted.
In learning how to step forward or backward in the Bowspring, it is good to first practicing sliding the foot forward and back on the floor without the toe pads lifting.
Keep the ribcage and central tube of the body light and buoyant while moving the base of the hips back the whole time.
Initiate stepping backward from the base of the hips.
Keep the tone even on both the back and the front of the legs.
Keep the elbows in the front plane and arms straight during the walking kata.
Standing -> Stepping feet apart
The stepping is from the Dome of the foot. It is like Dome stepping.
Swiveling the feet, knees in, hips back, knees out, hips up.
Swiveling on the Paw of the foot –
heel out and in, knee in and out.
Dig-Drag the feet, knees in, hips back. Knees out, hips up.
Knees forward, groins back.
Parallel Parking – Knee in, hip back and out wide. The glutes widen, move back and shift out to the side. The thighbone widens out to the side, expands laterally to help broaden the floor of the pelvis.
Swiveling of the paw and parallel parking are interconnected to the integrated movement of the Roots (foot, legs, hips).
Standing Forward Bend
When the hips go back behind the ribcage, then you can safely bend forward to place your:
Hands on the base of thighs
Hands on the wall
Hands on a table
Hands on the floor in standing forward bend
In a Recovery pose – standing with hands on base of the thighs.
Arms straight, knees bent.
Hovering Heel – Swiveling Foot
With hands in Recovery on thighs, make ribs, neck and head lighter to lift the central channel up away from the Earth. Move the groins back, and allow the belly to relax and the waist to melt down in a bow shape forward.
Pulsing / Bouncing in Earth position – Inhale up, exhale down
The pulsing action is a cyclical movement down and up, rooting and rising, compressing and expanding. The rising and expansion within the pulse is the ultimate goal.
The supple paw of the foot pushes down and the pulse rises up through the heel, the legs and through the length of the central channel. The Roots push down and the central channel rises up through the Crown.
Crescent Pose – Earth pose with Ecstasy Arms
Cup the back sides of the head with soft Dome Hands. Squeeze the base of the palms to engage the arms up into the shoulders and ribcage. Knees bent, groins back, and waist forward and up. Bend sideways from the base of the ribcage. Keeping a buoyancy in the ribcage, arch the central channel over to the side. Keep the elbows straight ahead as you look forward. Tip the top of the head over to the side while keeping fullness and lightness in the neck.
Widen the top shoulder by expanding out and up from the center of the ribcage.
Walking Kata –
Earth pose -> stepping backward / forward on a smooth, non-sticky surface.
The most elementary walking kata is sliding the paw of the foot forward and backward on the floor to train to keep the toes down and the top of the foot soft while moving.
Wide Stance Standing Forward Bend –
Keep the lightness in the upper part of the body, and the springiness in the hips back and up – extend the belly long as you touch the floor with a high Dome Hand – fingernails first, finger tips not far apart.
Both hands in Dome -> Bright Hands
The groins and the base of the hips move back and up away from the ribcage. The belly stretches long as the ribcage stretching up and forward away from the hips.
From wide stance standing forward bend, step back one leg at a time -> kneeling on All-Fours -> Crouching Feet to Hero Feet.
Look down at the floor between your Bright Hands which are separated outer shoulder-width apart. Creases of the inner elbows face each other.
Radiant Channel – heart, throat/neck, and head are inflated with light straight up away from the Earth. Elongate the neck and the top of the head forward.
Slide the groins and inner thighs back toward the heels while keeping the heart up and forward. Soften your belly and allow gravity to melt your waistline toward the Earth. Bow your belly forward and lengthen from your navel toward your sternum.
Squeeze your heels inward, move your hips back and up.
Push your knees apart, and lift your outer glutes up and in toward the sacrum.
Tip the sacrum down and forward.
Highest point of the lower back will be at the base of the sacrum, while the lowest point of the lower back will be at L1-T12 when in All-Fours. This reflects the universal template for a dynamic posture of the lower back / hips in the Bowspring.
All-Fours -> Seated Side Spiral -> Side Bow
Radiant Heart, groins back, belly long…Lift knees slightly and swiveling on the feet turning the knees to the right. Keeping the ribcage light and right side crescent, lower the left side of the hips down on the floor. Tip the top of the head down to the left and lift the right side of the shoulders higher. Slide the left hand out a little in front of you and long down to the floor at a diagonal. Lay the side of your head on your arm as a pillow with the top of your head heavy and your neck and ribcage light.
Dome Hand with fingernails pointing down on the floor. A high Dome brings the finger tips closer together and the center of the palm higher up away from the floor.
All the joints of the fingers are softly bent, while the base of the palm is strongly squeezing toward the midline and down into the center of the palm.
The thumb is long, and the whole top of the hand is soft and smoothly domed.
The squeeze of the mound of the thumb, and the mound of the little finger side of the base palm moves in toward the center of the palm and then downward in triangular direction to the center of the base palm (Valley of Neptune).
Keep the arm straight and toned from the Dome Hands up into the shoulder and the ribcage.
Radiant Heart expands and lifts the center of the ribcage up away from the Earth, the right shoulder and the outer elbow slides upward toward the top of the head.
Separate the feet and the knees slightly apart. Flex the front of your ankles, and push the front of your feet forward as you pull your heels backward isometrically.
Slide your groins back and open your belly forward and long. Let the sacrum tip forward and move the base of the waist at the top of your right pelvic bone forward. Initially, melt the lower back into the bow shape. Bow the belly long with pubis back and the chin sliding up.
Root down from the hips through the paws of the feet, and extend the spine long from your lower belly up through the top of the head.
Side Bow -> Supine Bow
Feet on the ground, knees bent, straight arms, Seeds Hands - thumbs to the sky
Square Legs, Earth Feet float off the floor, waistline bowed upward
Twist knees one direction, and turn ribcage and shoulder girdle the other direction.
Prone Bow ->
V-Vector Elbows – Interlaced Hands
Horizon Eyes looking at the floor
Tummy Time -> Panther Prep -> All-Fours
In Panther Prep – hands at the level of the shoulders. Hands wide apart to bring the elbows toward a square. Legs bent in Square Legs. Lead with the hips to move diagonally up and back away from the wrists to All-Fours.
Another kata to transition from Tummy Time:
-> Side Bow -> seated side spiral
All-Fours – variations ->
-> one leg up – Square Leg -> Open Leg
one arm up – Rooster Arm
All-Fours -> Crouching Cat
Ribs up as high as possible while drawing hips up and back away from the extension of the central channel forward through the top of the head.
All-Fours -> All-Fours Crouching Sphinx
Bring the outer edge of Seed Hands down onto the floor first before the elbows.
Walk the knees backward behind the hips to allow the belly to have more space to bow and elongate, and for the lower back to release downward.
Crouching Cat ->
Twisted Cat ->
Tip the top of the head to the side before swiveling the feet in the opposite direction.
Lift the ribcage up away from the floor and open the top side of ribs in a crescent shape. Dome Hand on the side to which you are turning toward.
All-Fours -> Crouching Cat – variations ->
Bright Hand <-> Dome Hand – side to side / R-L
Wide Stance Recovery <-> Crouching Cat (walking the hands forward and back)
Wide stance Crouching Cat -> wide stance recovery pose ->