Kick off National Yoga Month with 7 tips for starting and maintaining an at home yoga practice.Read more
Heat it up, cool it down.
There are many ways to sequence in a yoga class. The feeling body is in tune to feeling itself, naturally. We can cue to a “T” and navigate from one transition to the next in a vinyasa class. One fun way that feels good is taking on a posture and following it up with a counterposture, also known as counterpose. Below, I’m going to break down some of the ways to go from heat to cool, or pose to counterpose, whichever way you like to think of it.
Low-lunge to half hanuman
From downward-facing dog, step your right foot to your right thumb, and lower your left knee to the ground. Start by keep your palms down on the earth and wiggle your hips side to side a few times, a little sway to lubricate the joints. It great to have two blocks under your palms to gain extra lift and support to reach the earth. After a few breaths, rest your palms to your hips, keeping your pelvis slightly forward. Take 3-5 breaths here and slowly place your palms back down on the earth. From here, slowly walk your palms and hips back, keeping your hip-hinge above your left knee. One option is to lengthen your back and extend your heart forward or round your back and fold in nose to knee. Stay here for 5-7 breaths, pressing forward into low lunge and back into downward-facing dog. Switch to the second side.
This is a great warm up for runners, weight-lifters, or any vinyasa class. It gets into the quads, hamstrings, hips, and arm strength.
Crescent lunge to pyramid
These next two poses are in the same sequencing family as the two above. Crescent lunge, or high lunge, adds a bit of heat since both legs are actively engaged to support the length of this stance.
Start in downward-facing dog, step your right foot to your right thumb, keeping your left heel lifted. Before you lift your palms up, walk your right foot to the right of your mat so your feet are about hip-width distance. This will save space for the transition as all as provide room for the hips.
Lift your left hamstring and activate your left cheek, slightly tucking your tailbone forward. Chest is lifted, fingers spread wide. Stay here for 3-5 breaths. On your last inhale, slowly straighten your right leg, and on the exhale bow your forehead down. Frame your right foot with each hand. Keep your left heel lifted, unless you’re able to drop it down without it pulling your leg. Breathe here for 5-7 breaths. Transition into downward-facing dog and switch to the second side.
Bridge to hammock
Start by laying on your back. Bend your knees and plant your feet on the earth about hip-width distance. Once a breath in, press your feet down, lift your hips up. Shimmy your shoulders beneath you. You have the option to clasp the palms underneath you or grab the outside of your yoga mat for support. Press the back of your head into the earth, so your chin slightly lifts, opening the throat for your breath. Take 5-10 breaths. Lower back down, knocking your knees together and separating your feet a little wider than your hips. Slowly, let your knees sway to the right and to the left a few times, releasing your lower back and hips.
I love this the swaying of the knees. It feels great after a period of sitting time, forward bends, and backbends. It is a sweet release, indeed.
Inversion to child’s pose
This is a loving classic. You can choose an inversion: headstand, forearm stand, handstand. Pictured is a forearm stand, it’s a fun-favorite of mine. Since this is yogi’s choice, I’ll refrain from breakdown of said inversion and guide you to go right into child’s pose. Child’s pose is like a home base posture. Your forehead is dropped to the earth or resting into your forearms. You can take it narrow-kneed or wide. Arms forward or back.
This pose is technically in the inversion family, but the beauty is the re-connect, release, and rest. I highly recommend your variation of child’s pose after any active inversion, backbend, or moment in your life you feel the need to take a pause.
Forward bend to reverse tabletop
Have a seat and extend both legs out in front of you. Your choice, feet together or hip-width distance. For active fold, reach your arms up as you inhale and exhale into a fold. Draw your belly-button in, to hollow your belly, or engage your core. This will help lengthen your back.
Heart is forward and you bow in towards your legs. For a passive fold, seated, walk both palms forward, rounding your back. This is a great place to rest a block or two on top of your legs, providing a place for your forehead to rest. Breathe here for 3-5 minutes. Slowly lift up and plant your palms, facing your fingertips forward. Bend your knees and bring your feet back, to a place your knees rest above the ankles. Lift your hips up and breathe here. You have the option to keep your chin tucked or head dropped, so long as it feels amazing.
Like the hammock pose above, reverse table is great after forward folds or if you need to open up the hip flexors from long periods of seat time.
I mentioned heat to cool above. What that means is going from a “heated” posture into a “cooling” variation. Fiery poses, ones that challenge us, shake us, and make us quite uncomfortable while exacerbating the breath are the very postures that bring the heat to big muscle groups. When we target large muscle groups, it brings on the sweat, like the above crescent lunge, active inversions, backbends, etc. When we counter them with cooling, we are signaling the body into less fire, less muscular engagement, etc., hence the straight leg, head bow, and palms down in the pyramid posture.
I’m a big fan of play in practice. See if you can play in your practice and you come up with endless varieties to make it hot and then cool it off. You’ll have to feel it out!