Join us for #HolidayHarmonyYoga, 31 days of yoga poses for the whole body, to restore, build strength, and center yourself during the holiday season! Read this first: How to Participate & What to Know Before You Begin
Day 1 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward Facing Dog, possibly the most well-known basic yoga pose. Start at the top of your mat in Tadasana, mountain pose: standing straight up, feet parallel to the sides of your mat and to each other and hip-width distance apart. On an in-breath, raise your hands overhead and reach for the sky, keeping your shoulders down and back, away from your ears. Then swan-dive forward, hinging at the hip, not the waist, and keeping your back straight. Place your hands on the floor slightly wider than shoulder width, fingers spread wide to give you a good base of support. Step back with one foot and then the other so your body forms an inverted V with the floor. Let your spine sink in between your shoulder blades as you push your tailbone towards the sky. If your feet aren’t flat against the mat, that’s ok; it takes time to work them down. especially if your calves or hamstrings are tight. Once you are in downward dog, you can hold it for several breaths. You might “pedal” your feet back and forth, keeping toes on the ground while bending each knee. You might also shift to a three-legged dog, planting one foot and raising the other leg straight behind you, as high as you comfortably can while still keeping your hips square. You might have to shift the floor-foot closer to the center of the mat to help with balance. This is a great foundational pose that can lead in to many others in your practice!
Day 2 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana, High Plank (strength). To get the most out of your plank, let’s start with the right alignment: hands on your mat directly stacked beneath your shoulder joints forming a solid foundation, legs long and straight behind you with your feet together pushing up from the floor with your toes. Your body should form a nice straight line from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Use a mirror to check your alignment. Push strongly through your arms and legs. Be mindful to not crunch your neck upwards towards the sky or down to your chest. Neck should be relaxed and long. Your drishti or gaze should be towards the floor near the top of your mat to help with neck alignment. Pull powerfully through your core and pelvic floor to keep it tight and strong, preventing your back from arching or rounding out. Modifications: if staying on your toes is too much, please take your plank to your knees, but remember to maintain a line with your body; if you have wrist problems you can take your plank to your forearms. Need more of a challenge? Try alternating between lifting either leg and do foot taps. Work that strong, sexy core!
Day 3 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Parigasana, Gate Posture (leg flexibility). This is an excellent pose to use to stretch out your hamstrings and obliques. Start in a seated position on your mat. Straighten one leg out in front of you. There are a few options for placement of the second leg: bend knee outwards from your body and place foot to the upper thigh of your straight leg or bend knee inwards allowing your foot to point away from your body. Please choose which ever leg option that feels best to you. Start slow with the oblique stretch, by placing the same side arm as your straight leg on the floor on the inside of your straight leg. Bend sideways at your core in order to lean the side of your body towards your straight leg and foot. Reach your free arm up overhead towards your foot. Please listen to your body and stop where your flexibility is today. If you’re feeling particularly flexible, you can grab your straight leg foot with your overhead arm to get an even better oblique/hamstring stretch. If you can get one arm on the foot and are still feeling good, trying grabbing the foot with both hands then and twisting your heart open to the sky. Please stretch both legs to keep yourself even!
Day 4 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Vrksasana, Tree Pose (balance). This is a fun balance that can be modified for all levels and has quite a few options. Start standing upright in Tadasana, Mountain Pose. Pick a leg to balance on and shift your weight slowly and mindfully to that leg. Place the foot of the other leg somewhere on your leg where ever it feels comfortable, but never on your knee joint. Lower placement of the foot on the ankle or calf being easier and upper placement on the thigh being more difficult. Once your foot is secure you can bring your hands together at heart center or “grow your tree” by bring your arms up overhead in a straight v-shape. Pick a still object for your drishti (gaze) out in front you to help with balance. Don’t forget to do both sides! Want a more challenging variation? Place your foot to your hip pocket and if you still feel balanced bring the same arm as the bent leg around your back and bind with your foot.
Day 5 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, Bridge Pose (back flexibility). I love this gentle back opener that can be easily modified for how your back is feeling today. Begin lying on your back, knees bent with feet firmly planted on the floor about hip width apart. Inch your legs and butt close together so that your finger tips can touch your heels. Using your glutes and leg muscles, firmly push into the floor to raise your hips off the ground as high as you can. Hand/shoulder placement options: if you want extra support for your spine bring your shoulders closer together behind your back and place your hands underneath your lower back to create a supportive shelf; arms can also remain at your sides pushing into the floor for support and to deepen your back stretch; you can also grab your ankles if that feels good to you. Need an extra challenge? Lift your heels off the floor for relevé to push up the hips even higher. If that feels great on your back you can also lift one leg at a time for a bonus leg stretch. Have fun with this pose!
Day 6 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Matsyasana, Fish Posture (restorative). You will need a yoga block, foam roller, or thick pillow to help with this pose. The goal of this pose is provide a nice passive mid/upper back stretch. Begin in a seated position of your choice and comfort: straight legs (the easiest option), cross legs, one leg on top of the other, or lotus legs. Place your yoga block, roller, or pillow under the mid point of your back near your lower ribs. Allow your back to rest over the block. Let any tension melt away; gravity will do the work here to open your heart. ❤ Arms and hands can lie at your sides palms up or down or you can grab a hold of your feet if you are in lotus. Choose whatever placement feels most natural for you today!
Day 7 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Chaturanga Dandasana, Four Limbed Staff Posture (strength). We are building off our work on Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana, high plank pose. so I have similar tips as I gave on day 3. Start in high plank pose. Body alignment: hands on the floor directly stacked beneath your shoulder joints; legs long and straight behind completely engaged; core is kept tight and strong, pulling in towards the mid-line of your body; buttasana, neck, and spine in a neutral position, no crunching, sagging, or rounding. Modification: if being up on your feet just isn’t happening today, please take your plank to your knees, keeping the nice long, lean line of your body. Once you have found your strength in your plank variation, start to bend at your elbows, keeping them “glued” to your rib cage, no elbows flaring out and maintaining length and strength from your plank pose. Hover when your elbows form 90 degree (right) angles. Fight to maintain good form not letting your back sag or round out (think neutral spine). If you still need more challenge try maintaining your chaturanga while lifting one leg at a time! This is a tough pose, forcing your entire body to remain engaged at once!
Stay tuned for Week 2, and keep posting your progress on Instagram – tag @strongisoursexy and #holidayharmonyyoga2015!