Lately, I’ve been stuck in a yoga rut. It’s not necessarily that I’m feeling unmotivated, but rather that my practice feels a little stale, a little predictable. Conveniently, the new year is upon us, and 2018 has me thinking about how I can bring more intention to my yoga practice. The word that keeps coming to mind is “renewal”–to me, that implies a cleansing and realignment, an opening up rather than shutting down.
This yoga sequence has me feeling all the feels, mostly because the focus — physically and mentally — is on opening up the heart center. The partial vinyasa sequence, which is executed between each posture in the Ashtanga method, builds internal heat; this is great preparation for backbends and deep forward folds. By the time you lay down for savasana, you should feel calm, refreshed, and ready to face the day–and year–ahead.
The following four poses should be done consecutively, between each posture. If you’re feeling winded, feel free to skip the vinyasa and focus on the poses below.
Start in downward-facing dog, gazing at your navel. Inhale and exhale five times.
Then, gazing at the top of your mat, bend your knees and prepare to jump (or walk) between your arms.
Engaging your lower belly on an inhale, cross your feet as you jump through your arms. Try to keep your knees as close to your chest as possible. Keep gazing forward.
Once your feet have cleared your arms, extend your legs and try to hover off the ground in an L-sit. This is much harder than it looks, and requires a strong core. See if you can hold for a few breaths before slowly lowering down.
Bring your legs to your torso and bend them so your feet are touching. Hold the soles of your feet with your hands. Engage your lower belly and lift your sternum. Breathe five times. Move back into downward-facing dog and complete the vinyasa sequence as described above.
Baddha Konasana A
Once you have jumped through a second time, bend your knees as you did in Baddha Konasana. From there, elongate your spine and slowly fold forward, ideally resting your chin on your mat. If your hip flexors are not open enough, this might not be possible. If that’s the case, don’t worry! Simply hang your head and allow your hips to slowly open (you should feel a deep stretch, but it should not be painful!). Hold for five breaths. Lift your head and return to Baddha Konasana. Complete another vinyasa sequence.
Baddha Konasana B
As before, start in Baddha Konasana. Then, rounding your back and engaging your lower belly, slowly lower your head to your feet. You should feel a deep stretch in your hip flexors, spine, and neck. Hold for five breaths before returning to Baddha Konasana. Complete another vinyasa sequence.
Once you have completed your vinyasa, swing your legs around and lay down on your stomach. Begin to lift your chest as you reach your arms and lift your legs. If it’s possible, grab your ankles and reach your legs up toward the sky. Hold for five breaths before slowly releasing your ankles. Return to downward-facing dog and complete another vinyasa.
Starting on your knees in a kneeling position, slowly bend your back with your arms overhead. Focus on bending from your upper back to relieve pressure from your lower back. You shouldn’t feel any sharp pain–just a gentle opening in the front body. If your back is flexible and you feel comfortable, you can attempt kapotasana. If this stretch is enough, return to a kneeling position and take child’s pose (don’t do a vinyasa).
Continue reaching your arms towards your feet. If you’re able to touch the ground, you can start inching your fingers towards your feet. Hold for five breaths and then slowly return your body to a kneeling position. Return to downward-facing dog and complete a final vinyasa.
From a kneeling position, lower down and fold over your thighs. Hold for two minutes, breathing deeply and relaxing into the posture. Finally, lay on your back and take savasana.
How are you preparing your body and spirit for the new year? Let us know if you try this yoga sequence for renewal!
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Photo: Molly Lansdowne