It’s the final stretch of the #HolidayHarmonyYoga Challenge, 31 days of yoga poses for the whole body, to restore, build strength, and center yourself during the holiday season! Here are the last six poses you’ll need to see you through to the New Year:
Day 26 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Sarvangasana, Shoulder Stand (restorative).
The easiest way to get into shoulder stand is from Halasana, Plow Pose (see day 16). Place your hands on your mid/lower back, elbows out to the side on your mat for support. Gently lift one leg and then the other leg into a pike position to the sky. Feel free to play with other leg positions as well like stag legs, straddle, splits, sun-wheel, frog, or lotus. Just have fun and enjoy the nice opening of your back and neck in this pose!
Day 27 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Navasana, Boat Pose.
This is an excellent core exercise for all levels. Start in a seated position on your mat, legs bent, feet flat, and sit bones grounded. Beginner variations: hands can be kept at you sides near your butt or slightly behind supporting you as your raise your bent legs off the floor until your shins are parallel to your mat. Or: hands can grab the back of your knees or thighs as you lift them off the floor into the same position above. Focus your gaze at a constant point ahead of you to help you find balance and use the power of your breathe. Keep your spine straight, long, and engaged as you lean back to create balance in this pose. Intermediate variation: release your arms from the floor or the backs of your legs and extend them forward in front of you on either side of your bent legs. Advanced variations: from the intermediate variation, straighten your legs out. You can also raise your straight legs up as high as you can and grab your ankles with your hands for a challenging forward fold hamstring stretch while in your boat. Have fun working those core muscles!
Day 28 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Svarga Dvijasana, Bird of Paradise (leg flexibility).
Feel free to use a wall or pole behind you to help with balance in this pose, and make sure you’re nice and warmed up first! Begin in Tadasana, mountain pose and swan dive forward into Uttanasana, forward fold. Step back with one leg for Virabhadrasana II, Warrior II (keep front leg bent at 90 degrees, front foot facing the top of your mat, back leg kept straight, and back foot turned out at about 45 degrees). Next find Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana, bound extended side angle pose, by leaning your torso forward over your bent front leg. The same side arm as your front leg will cross the inside of your front thigh and reach underneath it while your other arm will wrap behind your back, along the outside of your thigh, and will meet your other hand underneath your thigh. If you have trouble making this bind, use a yoga strap, tie, or scarf to complete the bind. Hug your now-trapped leg into the side of your torso as tightly as you can. Gently step your free leg in towards your trapped leg and begin to shift your weight into your free leg. When you find some balance slowly lift your trapped leg using your core muscles. Having a wall or pole behind you can help with balance. Keep your trapped leg bent if you don’t have the hamstring flexibility to straighten it yet. Safety first! If you’re feeling balanced and your hamstring is ready, then straighten your trapped leg up to the sky! Have fun and feel free to take any modification you need today!
Day 29 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Adho Mukha Vrksasana, handstand (balance).
Definitely one of the more challenging balancing poses in yoga. Please feel free to use a wall, pole, crash mat, or spotter if would like or are new to this pose. To enter into your handstand you can do a step lunge into it, hop up into it from downward dog, or dead-lift into it if that’s in your practice. Once you are airborne, find your hollow-body with your core in order to balance in your pike leg handstand. This is one of the hardest handstand leg variations to hold, but it will force you to work on your hollow-body. If you would prefer a different leg variation (like straddle, stag, sunwheel, etc.) feel free to work on that variation. You can use a crash mat or spotter behind you if you’re worried about falling backward. Have fun and practice your handstand with me!
Day 30 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Natarajasana, Lord of the Dance Pose (back flexibility).
Feel free to use a wall, table, chair, or pole to help you find balance so you can focus on getting an amazing shoulder and back stretch. Remember to warm up your back, shoulders, and legs before attempting this. Urdhva Dhanurasana, Lifted Bow/Wheel pose (day 15) and Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana, King Pigeon (day 20) are especially good prep exercises for today’s pose.
Once you’re warm, begin in Tadasana, mountain pose. Lift one leg backwards while you lean forwards with your torso to balance. Holding onto a wall or pole will also help. Reach back with the same side arm as your lifted leg and grab your foot overhand or underhand, whatever is accessible to you. As you flex your leg towards your torso, gently rotate your grabbing arm until your elbow is overhead. Allow the space in your spine to expand, allowing your head to come closer to your bound foot and extending through your hip flexor to raise your lifted leg to the sky. If you’re still working on the shoulder flexibility to do this, please use a yoga strap to make the foot/hand bind. Your free arm can help you balance, or if you’re feeling very flexy and balanced reach for your bound foot so that both hands are grabbing your foot or yoga strap. Continue to extend through your leg to lift it up and overhead. Please stretch and try both sides! Remember to be safe and work at your own pace. This pose only comes with practice and your practice is your own personal yoga journey. Enjoy the process!
Day 31 of #HolidayHarmonyYoga is Viparita Karani, Legs-up-the Wall (restorative).
This is our last day for this challenge! Time sure flies when you’re having fun! 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, you’ll need to do what we did on day 13 for our Supta Samakonasana, Reclining Straddle pose. Start in a seated position with the wall at your side. As you lean back onto your elbows, lift your butt 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. Make sure your legs and butt are nice and straight up on the wall to get the full relaxing benefit of this pose. If you want added release in your back, you can prop your butt up on some yoga blocks, a cushion, or a folded blanket.