Wake up your body with these amazing heart-opening asanas! Refresh your spirit, lengthen and strengthen muscles, and find rejuvenation as you head out into the spring season.
This sequence can be practiced anywhere -- home, office, or studio. Just find a quiet, comfortable place where you can sit and lie on your yoga mat and close your eyes. Give yourself about 20 minutes to complete the flow, staying in each posture for 5-10 breaths to gain the full benefit.
The balance of relaxation, twisting, stretching, and strength will feel so good!
1. Deep Yogic Breath
Sit tall with legs crossed, in Lotus Pose, or with legs extended out in front of you. This can also be practiced in a chair.
Place your hands along your rib cage on either side, finger tips pointing towards the sternum and thumbs toward the back. Close the eyes. Relax your shoulders. Inhale deeply through the nose to the count of three, allowing the abdomen to distend and feeling the rib cage expand.
Exhale fully out the nose, allowing the abdomen to become flat and the lungs to empty. Notice the placement of the hands; the fingers will separate as you inhale deeply and come together on the exhale.
Repeat 6-10 times, stopping if you feel lightheaded or short of breath. Allow the hands to fall into the lap on the final round, and steady the breathing until it is soft. Repeat.
You can recite your personal mantra with the breath, repeat the word “OM,” or inhale “let” and exhale “go.”
2. Tadasana to Uttanasana (Mountain to Forward Fold)
Once the breathing has steadied, mindfully stand tall.
Place your feet together, toes and heels touching. If your balance is off, place the feet slightly apart. Starting with your feet and moving up, focus on aligning and contracting each muscle group. Lift and spread the toes, then lightly place them down. Press through all four corners of the feet to distribute the body weight equally.
Engage the calf muscles. Pull the knee caps up by contracting the anterior thighs, and roll the thighs inwards. Slightly tuck the hips under (posterior tilt with the pelvis) to draw the tailbone towards the earth. Pull the abdomen in. Avoid puffing the rib cage out.
Pull the shoulders down and back. Spread the fingers wide apart to engage the hands and wrists. Slightly tuck the chin to lengthen the back of the neck. Finally, mentally grow taller through the spinal column as you imagine a string lifting your up from the crown of your head. Stand in your best Tadasana.
Inhale the arms overhead sideways until the biceps come parallel to the ears and take your gaze to the sky, between your thumbs. Smile to the sunshine here!
Exhale and swan dive forwards until the hands touch the floor (bend the knees if you need to). Rest your forehead on the knees, face to the shins, and release any tension in the neck. Begin to lengthen the hamstrings by shifting your bodyweight forward and begin to straighten the knees. Avoid over-stretching by paying attention to your body and honoring its boundaries.
Breathe deeply and enjoy the inversion and the stretch.
3. Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana to Makarasana (Plank to Dolphin)
From Forward Fold, allow the hands to find the mat on either side of your feet. Bend your knees if you need to. Step or float the feet back to find Plank position, keeping the shoulders over hands and hips and shoulders in one line (like a perfectly straight board).
Look a few inches ahead of you on the mat to keep your neck in line with the spine. Pull your abs in and slightly tuck the hips under. Press equally into your hands and toes. If this is too intense, take the knees down to the mat.
On an exhale, bring the forearms down to the mat one at a time. Press your hands down into the mat, or clasp your hands together. Slowly shift your weight forward, until the chin touches your hands, then press back on the forearms to lift the seat slightly. The rotation happens in the shoulder joint as you inhale to come forward, and exhale back. Practice mindful breathing through 6-10 repetitions.
Press back into Child’s Pose when you are done.
4. Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Place your knees on the mat and separate them to make space for your abdomen, big toes touching.
Forehead comes down to the mat, and arms can either be extended out straight overhead, or lying by your sides with the palms up. Close the eyes and hold until the breathing becomes soft and steady.
5. Ardha Matsyendrasana (Seated Spinal Twist)
Come to seated, and extend the right leg out long in front of you. Cross the left foot over the right thigh until the sole of the foot is planted firmly on your mat. Lengthen the spine by sitting up tall. Inhale the right arm up, and hook the right elbow outside the left knee as the left hand finds the mat behind you.
Inhale and sit taller, exhale, and twist more to the left. Look over the left shoulder. The left hand will act as a pivot point, so plant the base of the hand close to the sacrum and imagine twisting the entire spine from bottom to top.
If hooking the elbow outside the knee is not an option, you can hug the knee instead. Find steadiness and comfort here before moving on.
Repeat on the other side.
6. Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand)
From seated, gently roll onto your back with the feet extended to the sky. Press the palms down by your sides and lift your hips, supporting your low back with both hands.
Straighten up, bringing the elbows closer together behind you and the arms higher on the back. Keep your neck still, do not turn from side to side.
7. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge)
Shoulderstand to Bridge can be found by gently rolling out the pose and placing the feet close to the seat with the knees bent, or by walking the feet over with the back supported by your hands (more advanced).
Lift the hips up by pressing into both feet, keeping the knees, feet, and ankles about six inches apart. Hands can support the low back, clasp underneath you, or rest overhead. Find your best position and breathe.
Try to relax the hamstrings and glutes, letting the hips and core (abdominals and back) do the work.
8. Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Gently release your hands by your sides and bring the hips to the mat. Take a counter-pose if you need to, either Happy Baby or simply hug the knees to the chest.
Extend the legs long, mat distance apart, arms by your sides away from the body, palms up. Lengthen the back of the neck and close your eyes.
Rest here for at least two minutes.
Did you try this yoga sequence for spring? How did it go? Share with us in the comments below!