Let’s kick of the new year right, albeit a little late. I created this practice to set goals for ourselves and see where we are in our yoga, health, and life in general. This is to reflect on what we need to work on, our limits, and where we’d like to be. Take this as a moment to think about what you’re good at too, not just what you need to work on. And don’t feel as though needing to work on something is a bad thing! We are all working toward something. Here’s to achieving our goals and taking our time.
New Year Yoga
Tadasana: We’re going to start by standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Stand with your feet about hip width apart and keep your feet parallel. Try not to lock your knees. Roll your shoulders back and stand nice and tall, but keep your chest relaxed down. If you already stand with good posture, this is likely similar to how you would normally stand. Let your hands hang loose at your sides. (Stay tuned for next week’s talk on proper alignment and Tadasana.) This is your moment to breath, smile, and reconnect with your body.
Standing Side Stretch: (This is called Half Moon in Bikram Yoga.) Bring your hands up in front of you, shoulder height, palms facing. Clasp your hands, so your fingers will be interlaced, and your palms will be touching. Keep your index fingers extending, kind of like they’re a steeple. Bring your arms up and overhead. Really ground your feet in this pose, your legs really need to support you. Lean your upper body to the right, keep your chest, head, and pelvis facing straight forward. Come out of it slowly, then lean to the left!
Shoulder Stretch: Bring your right arm up straight in front of you about shoulder height. Keep your palm facing in, toward the left. Bring your left arm under your right and hook it around your right arm. Your right arm should sit in your left elbow. Use your left arm and pull your right arm like a lever to the left. your arm will start to lay against your body. Sit up nice and tall, and try to avoid letting your shoulder’s hunch. I find moving back and forth in this pose to feel sort of nice. Switch sides!
Cowface: Bring your right arm straight out to the side, palm facing forward. Raise your arm straight up then bend your elbow, you’ll end up patting yourself on the back. Now straighten your left arm out to the side, but with your palm facing back. Lower your arm down and bend your elbow so the back of your hand can rest against your back. If it’s available to you, try to hook your fingers together, if not, hold a strap in your right hand has you get into this pose, then grab it with your left when it comes up your back. Being able to clasp your hands behind your back is not for everyone, and some people may never be able to do it simply because of our bodies! So never fear, straps are here! Also, straining is counter productive and more likely to cause injury. It’s better to back out of a pose and get a mild stretch than put yourself at risk for injuries!
Neck Circles: Draw big circles with your nose one direction, then the other. Avoid throwing your head back very far; it may help to think about trying to keep your neck movements gentle. Return to neutral then look left and right, then up and down.
Forward Fold/Shoulder Stretch: I like to do this with a wide legged stance. I always feel like I’m going to fall over if I have my feet together, though that is an option too. Clasp your hands together behind your back. Bend forward and raise your arms up. This pose feels great, but it’s best to make sure you’ve stretched your shoulders a little first if you have tight shoulders! To come up, bend your knees and lower your arms. Raise your torso up slowly. If you’re in this pose for an extended period of time you may feel dizzy if you stand too fast. If you do feel dizzy, remain still for a moment before moving on.
Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation): I do 4 of these total. There are so many different kinds of this sequence that I encourage you to find one you like. After all this is all about doing what you want, so I’m gong to grant you a little freedom! Here’s the style I do:
Inhale arms up and over head
Exhale swan dive into Uttanasana or forward fold
Inhale into a flat back forward fold
Exhale into Uttanasana
Inhale and send your right foot back into a lunge (Left for the second round, right for third, left for the fourth)
Exhale and send your left foot back into a plank
Exhale into a Chatturanga
Inhale into an Upward Facing Dog
Exhale into Downward Facing Dog
Breath here for a few moments
Inhale and look up between your hands
Exhale and bring your left foot forward into a lunge (Right second round, left for third, right for fourth)
Inhale and bring your right foot forward
Exhale into Uttanasana
Inhale into a flat back
Exhale forward fold
Inhale, slowly roll up, and raise your arms over head
Exhale and bring your hands down in a prayer position at your heart
Tadasana: Back to Tadasana. We’re only here for a moment to check in with ourselves and take a short break after our previous pose.
Tree: From Tadasana, slowly transfer your weight to only your right foot. Keep your hips level here. Come onto your left toes with a slightly bent left knee. Turn out your left knee. For some people, this will be their full pose. If you can, slowly lift your left foot up and place it on either your calf or inner thigh. Avoid placing your foot on your knee, this can actually damage your knee. Raise up your arms into big tree branches. You could stay there, or you can lower you arms in a prayer pose at your heart. (Thumbs at your sternum.) To come out, slowly lower your left foot to the ground. Switch!
If your tree faces a storm, don’t worry! There is no shame in shaking, wobbling, or even falling out of it. You can also always use a wall for support.
Transition to floor: I suggest coming into a gentle forward fold then sitting on down, nothing fancy since we’ve done a bunch of Downward Facing Dogs already!
Cobbler’s Pose: Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall out to the sides. Have fun here and rock side to side, or make small pulses forward. We’re trying to loosen any tension in the hips and inner thighs, but this pose is an opportunity to have fun as well.
Wide Legged Forward Fold: Sit with your legs in a V. This is very similar to a seated forward fold. Begin with a straight back and lean forward. Once you’ve reached your limit stay there a moment, then relax into the pose. If you’re flexible enough, you can rest your head on a block or book! Roll up slowly.
Face your right leg and do the same thing. Straight back, lean forward, then relax. When I come up from this pose, I like to stay facing my right leg, and do a quick side stretch by reaching my right up up and over head and leaning sideways over my left leg. Switch sides!
Seated Side Stretch: I find it is easiest to do this pose sitting in a cross-legged position. If that’s totally not for you, you can also kneel. You may need to place your hand on a block if you kneel. Start by firmly planting your right hand off your right hip (this is the hand you would place on a block if you are kneeling). Your fingers should point out to the right. Bring your left hand, palm up, up and over head so you create a night long straight line from your left hip all the way up to your left finger tips. Lean to the right, and maybe even slide your right hand out! If you can, rest on your right elbow. Remember to switch sides!
Seated Twist: With your legs bent in front of you, take your right foot, and bring the heel to the outside of your left hip. Your leg will be bent and completely on the ground, sort of like you’re sitting cross legged. Keeping the left knee bent, bring the left foot to the outside of the right thigh. Hook your right arm around your left knee, or bring the top of your right arm to the top of your left thigh. Use this arm to help twist your body to the left. Lead with the torso, then turn your head to look over your left shoulder last. To come out, start at the top of your spine and turn your head to neutral then your torso. Don’t forget to switch!
Thread The Needle: From your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, left your right foot off the ground and cross your right ankle over the top of your left thigh. This is a pretty common position for some people to sit. You may feel a stretch here on the outside of your right hip. If it is available to you, send your right hand in the gap created by your right leg, between your legs, and your left hand on the outside. Clasp them behind your left thigh. I recommend keeping your feet flexed in this pose to protect your knees. And switch side!
Wind-Relieving Pose: Lift your right foot off the ground, and bring it into your right chest. You can wrap your arms around your right shin, back of your right thigh, or use a strap in either place. People who are stiff or curvier may prefer to use a strap, but maybe not! Send your left leg out straight on the ground. This is a nice relaxing pose. You can turn this into a twist by sending that bent right knee over to rest on the ground to your left. I love twists, especially this one! Don’t forget to (you guessed it) switch sides!
Savasana: Draw smooth and slow circles with your nose. Try to do the same amount in both directions. Keep them small and sweet. We’re just working out the kinks, you don’t need to push your limits.
I hope this was wonderful and gave you the change to be a little introspective. Perhaps you even came out feeling like you have some goals!