Join us for #HolidayHarmonyYoga, 31 days of yoga poses for the whole body, to restore, build strength, and center yourself during the holiday season! Even if you are just joining us, you’re free to jump in. Read this first: How to Participate & What to Know Before You Begin
Day 8 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Supta Padangusthasana, Lying Splits (leg flexibility). Please, please DON’T be discouraged by this pose. EVERYONE can work on this pose! There are so many fun variations and modifications. Begin lying on your back in a comfortable position. Decide which leg you want to stretch the hamstring of first. Keep that leg straight on the floor and bend the knee of the other leg so your foot is flat against the floor. Use your current active flexibility in your straight leg to raise it off the ground as high as you comfortably can while still keeping your hips square to the ceiling and your butt firmly rooted into the floor. Do eight pulses of your straight leg followed by an isometric hold (repeat 3 times). Next grab hold of the foot of your straight leg or use a yoga strap to complete the bind. Apply gentle downward pressure to your straight leg using your hand or yoga strap to get a nice hamstring stretch. Remember listen to your body and only go as far as you can. Don’t pull too hard too fast! If you’re ready for more of a stretch, slowly extend your bent knee and place your free leg out straight onto floor so now both legs are straight. Again, keep your butt and your free leg rooted into the floor. Try repeating the sets of pulses and isometric holds with your aerial leg. When you’re finished bend the aerial leg slowly to exit the pose. This stretch is great for helping you improve your splits flexibility! Remember to give love to both legs to keep them both even and flexy!
Day 9 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Bakasana, crow pose (balance). This is a challenging pose (I’m definitely still working on mine), but there are modifications you can take as you work on this pose. Begin in a low squat; feet together on the balls of your feet. Separate your knees and place your hands on the floor in front of you with your index fingers pointed forward and parallel to each other, shoulder distance apart. Rotate your knees to be in-line with your triceps as close to your arm pits as possible. You can also try having your knees slightly wider than your arms, if that feels more natural. Engage your core and hug your legs, knees, and elbows into the center line of your body. Round your back. Slowly begin to lean your body forward (think head closer to the floor), shifting your weight into your arms. If you’re feeling good, try to lift one foot off the ground, balancing that leg on your tricep. Still feel good? Try lifting both feet off the ground, balancing all your weight into your arms and lifting your feet up towards your butt. If you still need a challenge, try straightening out your arms and keeping your knees as close to your arm pits as possible.
Day 10 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Ustrasana, Camel pose (back flexibility). I love this gravity-assisted back stretch. Begin in a kneeling position, wutg knees, legs, and feet about hip distance apart. Toes can be tucked under (easier option) or lying flat against the floor (harder option). If you have bad knees please double up your mat or use a soft blanket for cushioning. Start by trying to isolate different regions of your back and bending backwards. A great way to do this is to place your hands on your back for support to remind your body where you want it to bend from. Once you’ve warmed up your back this way, bend your back and place your hands on your heels for support. If your toes are tucked, this will be easier since your heels are higher off the ground. Try to visualize the spaces in between your vertebrae opening up and allowing you to tilt your upper body closer to the floor. First try looking at the wall behind you. For you super bendy backs, try looking for the floor behind you. For more of a challenge, flatten the toes against the floor to lower your heels. Still need more of a stretch? Move your hands slowly to your ankles and further up your calf or you can put your hands on the front of your thighs. No hands is also an option if you’ve got a really bendy back and you are warm: hands can be placed together at your heart or reaching up over your head. As with all back bending take it slow, listen to your body, and remember to let your breath guide you.
Day 11 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Balasana, child’s pose (restorative). Everyone should love this pose! While this may be one of the simplest yoga poses, don’t underestimate its benefits. It’s a great pose to destress, oppose a backbending pose, and release your spine and shoulders. Begin in a kneeling position, hands on the floor in front of you about shoulder distance apart. Push your hips down and back so your butt is over your heels. Enjoy this amazing stretch. You can play with hand/arm positions: have them out in front above your head for a nice shoulder stretch, you can sway in your child’s pose by walking the hands over to your left and right, or you can lay your arms beside your legs palms up. Also, play with your leg position: you can have knees touching to get a nice round in your spine, hip distance apart, or slightly more open than hip distance to allow your upper body to fall in between your legs. Try all variations or do which ever one feels the most restorative for you!
Day 12 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Hasta Dandasana, L-sit position (strength). This is a hard one and will help build your core and shoulder strength! Use yoga blocks under your hands if you’re new to this pose. The added height will definitely help. Do it from the floor if you need more of a challenge! Start in a seated position with your knees bent close into your chest. Place your hands and arms on either side of your hips. Before we even start to push into the ground, let’s set up our shoulders correctly. Engage and align your shoulders by angling them forward and down away from your ears. Beginner position: keep your knees tucked into your chest and push up through your hands and shoulders (keep shoulder alignment as described above). Try first to just get your butt off the ground, toes barely touching the floor. If it isn’t working out, that’s ok; the mere act of engaging these muscles will help you work towards this pose. Did you get your butt off the ground? Great, now try getting both your butt and and your feet off the ground in this tucked position. Intermediate position: same as above but try to straighten one leg and lift up off the ground. Advanced position: try lifting off the ground with both legs straight and maybe lift the legs up past horizontal! Try your best and have fun with this one!!
Day 13 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Supta Samakonasana, Reclining Straddle (leg flexibility). Here’s a nice and relaxing, passive stretch you can use to stretch your middle splits/straddle. You will need a nice area of cleared wall space for you to place your legs up on. In order to get nice, up-close and personal with the wall, I suggest starting in a seated position with the wall at your side. As you lean back onto your elbows, lift your buttasana and legs sideways up onto the wall and rotate around so you’re facing the wall and your back is on the floor, resting in a neutral, comfortable position. See my video of my crafty and silly way to get on the wall. Bring your legs into a comfortable straddle on the wall, allowing gravity to open up your hips. Try walking your feet down the wall, opening your legs into a wider straddle if you need more of a stretch. This is one of my favorite ways to prep for middle splits if I have some time on my hands.
Day 14 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Astavakrasana, Eight Angle Pose (balance). I remember when I first got this pose and felt the elusive balance, it felt amazing. This is one of my favorite hand balances and I personally find it easier than regular crow. Begin in a seated position with one leg bent inward. Take the opposite leg and place it behind the same side arm as high up on your arm as you can, keeping the knee bent will make it easier. Push through your shoulders and hands to lift your butt off the ground and lean forward like you would for crow or a tricep push-up (elbows in). Take your free leg (will become the bottom leg) and hook this foot underneath and around the top leg foot.Your two legs will be on either side of your arm. Push out and to the side to straighten your legs. Lean far forward to find balance and keep your butt off the ground. If this is not happening for you, work on bakasana/crow pose to help build the strength and balance for astavakransana. Enjoy the feeling of being balanced!