A practice I have been loving recently, as I embrace this slow season of my life. Unroll your mat, treat yourself to some quietude, try one or all of these poses and linger as long as you like in each one. Wonderful to slowly open the body in the morning, OR to wind down at night. Remember: if we’re not breathing, we’re not doing yoga.
1. Child’s Pose (Balasana): Knees can be wide or close, depending on what feels right. A blanket can be used under the knees, or in between the backs of the thighs and the calves. You can also use support under the forehead to bring the floor closer. Reach through the fingertips, while rooting the sit bones toward the heels. Begin to lengthen the inhales and the exhales. Stay at least 5 breaths.
2. From child’s pose, walk the hands over the the left edge of the mat, to feel a stretch through the right side of the torso. Keep the right sit bone rooted down and visualize breathing into the right lung. Stay for 5 breaths, and repeat on other side.
3. Cat/Cow (Marjyasana/Bitilasana): from child’s pose, come to all fours. Spread the fingers wide. On an inhale, drop the navel toward the floor while reaching back and up with the tailbone and forward and up with the heart. On the exhale, draw the navel to the spine, round the back of the heart toward the sky, and drop the tailbone and crown of the head toward the floor. Repeat flow for 5 natural breath cycles.
4. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): Tuck the toes and press the hips up and back. Stay deeply rooted through the index finger joints of the hands, pull the navel in towards the spine. Create length from the crown of the head to the tailbone. Imagine hips lifting up up and back, as the heels drop heavy toward the floor. Find the breath and stay for 5 full cycles.
5. Forward fold (Uttanasana): From down dog, an inhale, gaze forward to the fingers. Exhale and step the feet in between the hands. Keep the toes parallel, spread the toes and stay rooted into the heels. Bend the knees as generously as you need so that there is no tension in the spine or neck. Option to clasp opposite elbow, or as pictured clasp the hands behind the back for a heart and shoulder opener. Breathe 5 times.
6. Mountain Pose (Tadasana): On an inhale, release the arms, and slowly rise to stand. Keep the feet rooted, firm up the legs, keep a soft engagement of the navel, roll the shoulders softly down the back, and lift the crown of the head toward the sky. Option to close the eyes. Here we set an intention. Perhaps “slowness,” or something else that feels authentic in the moment. Stay here rooted to the earth for 10 breaths.
7, Dancer Pose variation (Natarajasana): The purpose here is to slowly move into balance and gently open the thighs. Moving to the wall is always a nice option for balance postures. Begin by reminding yourself of your feet on the ground. Keep the navel pulled in. Let your eyes settle on to one point. From here, shift the weight onto the right foot, slowly bend the left knee, moving the left heel towards the left sit bone. You may feel a stretch here; to deepen, reach back and grab the foot with your left hand to deepen the opening. Stay rooted into the right foot, keep the navel moving in, keep the gaze steady. Stay at least 5 breaths – it’s okay to come in and out. Repeat on the other side, and take the time to notice if one side feels more challenging than the other.
8. One legged forward fold (Janu Sirsasana): From standing, flow back down to forward fold, and then step back to Downward Dog. Stay here for 5 more breaths, then come to the knees and pull the legs through to a comfortable seat. Here is a great place to add some support under the hips: a folded blanket or a thin cushion under the sit bones will ensure a long spine and prevent unhealthy rounding.
Bend the left knee and bring the left foot to the inner right leg. Root through the sitbones, draw the navel in. On an inhale lift the crown of the head up. Exhale and fold forward, brining the fingers or palms to the floor in front of you. Walk them out as much as you can to feel an opening in the extended leg, while keeping the sit bones rooted down and continuing to breathe. Stay here 5 breaths.
9. One legged forward fold variations: Instead of folding forward, rise back up and exhale to fold over the extended leg. Or, plant the opposite hand behind your hip and on an inhale, sweep the same side arm up and over for a side stretch/heart opener. Always keep the hips rooted and play here! Then switch sides.
10. Butterfly Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana): Bend both knees and bring the soles of the feet together in front of the groin. It doesn’t matter how far in or out they are. Option to support the outer legs with pillows or blankets. Root the sitbones, inhale to grow tall, exhale to fold any amount. Stay 5 breaths.
11. Figure 4 (Sucirhandrasana): Roll up and slowly come into the back. Bend the knees and plant the feet on the floor. Lift the right leg, bring the outer right ankle to the left thigh. Flex the right foot and without the hands, press the right knee away from you. If you feel a stretch in the outer right hip, stay here. To deepen, draw the legs in towards the chest and grab on to the back of the left thigh or the left shin. Breathe here 5 times.
12. Reclined twist (Supta Matsyensrasana): From figure 4, unwind the legs and bring both feet to the floor with the inner legs together. Drop the legs over to the left, resting them on the floor or a blanket or cushion. Open the arms to the sides with the palms face up and keep the right shoulder heavy to the floor. Stay 5 breaths. Repeat 11-12 on the other side.
13. Legs up the wall variation (Viparita Kirani): Feel free to move the wall, or elevate the legs into the air. Feel the hips and shoulders root down, and allow gravity to nourish the body. Option to incorporate some ankle or wrist circles. Excellent for circulation and a very restful pose. Stay as long as you like.
14. Seated pose (Sukhasana): When you’re ready, rise back up to a seat. Again, elevating the hips can help keep the spine long. Here’s an opportunity to play again, with side to side stretches, a twist, arm circles, or whatever other shapes and movements feel good for your body to close out practice. Here are a few I like to do in the morning to energize and open my chest and shoulders:
And now to end the practice in seated meditation. Let’s think of it as quiet sitting. Root the sit bones, lift out the crown of the head. Close the eyes. Take a moment to find the breath.
A couple nice options for our quiet sitting practice:
• Follow the breath cycle in and out. When the mind wanders, remind it of your breath. Keep bringing it back to the breath. Remember the mind wandering is normal, just keep bringing it back to the breath.
• Remember your intention from the beginning of practice and focus on that. Put it into one word, and repeat that word over and over with every breath cycle.
• Do a slow body scan and notice how you’re feeling after practice. Do you notice any remaining tension? See if you can consciously release those areas.
Don’t rush this part of practice. Remember, we’re inviting slowness. Slowness is a gift to ourselves. It can be a great teacher. If you feel called and have the time, lay down on your back and take as long Savasana as you can. Rest, release, be heavy. As you step off the mat, where can you bring this slowness into your days?
Wanting to dive a little deeper?
Read! Yoga for Life
Reflect! Embracing Slowness Print out this worksheet, or use it as a journal prompt!