Kick off National Yoga Month with 7 tips for starting and maintaining an at home yoga practice.Read more
This is all about the heart rate. The ab-work is just a bonus! The past three months, I've been focusing on heart-strengthening tools in the yoga practice. Which means implementing a cardio aspect into the classes I practice and teach. We have a lot of open-hearts in yoga. It is important to get the heart-pumping, it is vital for our health. I took an indoor cycling class a few months ago that challenged my body in a way I hadn't moved in years. I have been neglecting my beating heart since I stopped running. Now, more than ever, I am bringing a heart-beat into my practice and into my classes. It has been well-received and really has impacted my students to go beyond thought-limitations with the utmost pure, loving intention: to strengthen the heart.
Shorten your downward-facing dog position at the back of your yoga mat, legs together, up high on the balls of your feet. On your inhale, hop your feet forward a few inches at a time. Extend your palms a few inches from your feet with each landing, until you get to the end of your mat. I start at the length of my living room window, until the end of the second. Once you reach the top of your mat, align your palms close to your feet and press down to hop backwards until you reach the back of your mat. Take these rounds forward and back for one minute.
Start in a lifted plank up on your fingertips. Lift your hips high, drawing your belly-button in towards your back so you can feel a buoyancy in your body. Place your right foot behind your right wrist with your left foot extended resting on the ball. As you lift your hips, you jump your left foot forward, extending your right leg back. Taking rounds of these jump switches, landing as softly as you can, really engaging your midline to support the lifts and touchdowns. Start with 20 second increments, pause for a few breaths, and then take another round. The breath will be short and sweet, rate rate jumping. Allow it, feel it. Take these rounds for 1 minute.
Squats and lifts, up off the wrists
Begin in a "yogi squat" taking your feet wide (a little wider than your yoga mat) with your heels slightly in, toes slightly out. Bend your knees, lowering your hips, tucking your tailbone. Stabilize your midline by keeping your belly button in, long spine. Interlace your fingers and send the palms out in front of you. Pause here for a few breaths, wiggle a bit side to side to feel your body. On your next breath in, lift your arms, straighten your legs to stand. Exhale and lower back to squat. Instead of inhaling slow, as a count of 4. See if you can shorten the inhale and exhale. Inhale up, exhale down. With the intention of the heart-rate. Take 10 rounds, pause in squat for 5, and continue for another 1 minute.
Mountain-climbers, for the finale
Come back to a high-plank position. Bring your right knee in towards your chest, hugging in your midline to engage your upper and lower back. For climbers, you will hug switch opposite knees in towards your chest. Similar to jump-switches, only keeping the hugged leg and foot lifted off the earth. These climbers can go quite fast, think of it like running in place in a high plank. Take these for 20 second, pausing for 5, kicking up for 20 seconds. Continue for 2 minutes.
Allow the body to get a shaky, that's just information. There will be a breathless-ness quality nearing the end, the heart will be pounding if you take yourself there. Feel it. Keep steady on strengthening your heart. There will be a point where the mind will tire first. You commit and do it anyway, be all-in, for 5 minutes.
Bring yourself to a place of heart-beating-outside-your-chest. Be all-in.
When you've done so, land in seated meditation. Place one hand on your belly, one hand on your heart. Lift your chest up and out, close your eyes, and feel your fire.
Fire is within us. It is passion and it is life. This is one beautiful, healthful way to use your fire. It is alive and well. You are alive and well.