When we practice yoga, we often practice just the physical aspect, but yoga is so much more. It can be used as a means to connect you with yourself. We use the asanas (poses) as a tool to do so. While the physical aspect of yoga has been linked to improving the cardiovascular system, preventing injury and building strength and flexibility (among others), there is no denying the emotional benefits of practicing yoga. Whether we are looking to improve our health, looking to discover ourselves, or looking to find peace in the chaos in our lives, yoga can bring balance and healing to our hearts.
From my own experience, yoga has helped me reopen my heart and rediscover myself. I recently ended a long-term relationship, which took a toll on my heart and soul. I made compromises to areas I shouldn’t have. I tried to change who I was and what I wanted out of life to make it work. I lost a piece of myself trying to save the relationship. When it was all over, my heart hung heavier than it ever had before.
But there was a light at the end of this tunnel. After losing myself, I now had the opportunity to find myself. This would be my own adventure that would lead me to me. I began to dive deep into my practice, not just the physical aspect, but the emotional. What I’ve learned is that I still have much to learn, but as long as we stay open-minded and open-hearted in our journey, we can ultimately find our highest self.
The following sequence will allow you to be self-aware, allow you to conquer and embrace new challenges, and to understand your body. Before starting the physical practice, study yourself. Start with the breath. Close your eyes and just breathe. Take this time to be mindful to yourself, your time, your practice. Let each breath be slower than the last. When you’re ready, open your eyes.
#1 Cat-Cow (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)
As you inhale, press the mat away from you as you lift your chest and tailbone towards the sky. Let the belly sink towards the earth. Lift your head to look forward.
As you exhale, round the spine, and continue pressing the mat away as you tuck the chin towards your chest and tailbone in. Keep the belly drawn in.
Repeat this sequence as needed.
#2 Modified Gate Pose (Parighasana)
From tabletop, lift your right leg to prepare our transition into Gate pose. Take a moment to find your balance on the mat. On exhale, lift your right hand towards the sky and open your heart. Stack your hips on top of one another and keep your foot flexed. Turn your gaze to the sky as you open your heart. Hold this pose for 3-5 breaths.
Return the right hand back to the earth, keep the right leg lifted to transition to our next pose.
#3 Three-Legged Down Dog (Tri Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Take a moment to find your place on the mat, spread your fingers wide and curl your left toes under your feet. On exhale, lift your left knee and press the mat away from you with your hands. Extend your right leg up as you press away to 3-legged downward facing dog. Keep your shoulders and hips square, flex your right foot and press the sole of your foot into the wall behind you – and breath. Hold for three breaths.
#4 Wild Thing (Camatkarasana)
(Proceed with caution.)
With the lifted right leg, bend the knee so that it is stacked on your right hip. Begin to curl your back. The transition to Wild Thing from 3-legged down dog takes a little faith in yourself and a little bravery. Remember that you own both as we make this transition. With the bent right knee, allow your foot to fall behind you, off the mat if needed. Curl into your back bend and reach your right hand forward. Allow your heart and hips to lift and open. Breathe for three breaths and embrace the wild thing in you!
#5 Head-Stand (Salamba Sirsasana)
(Proceed with caution, option to come into tripod headstand with knees bent or pose against a wall for assistance.)
This final pose requires you to challenge your fears, understand your body and open your mind. Start first with your legs hips width apart. When coming into a head stand, first try to find the placement of your head to the earth where you will balance best (a little trick is to grab a block and balance it on your head. Where it balances is the spot you should rest on the mat.)
Start in table top pose and lower the top of your head onto the mat. Place your palms to either side of your head for tripod headstand (Salamba Sirsasana II). Keep your elbows in line and at 90 degree angles. The second option is to leverage the support from your forearms and elbows by interlacing your fingers into a bind and placing the back of your head into your inner palms (Salamba Sirsasana I). Begin to lift your knees off the mat and start walking the feet towards your head. This may be enough if it’s your first time trying a headstand. Take this moment to build the strength and balance in the shoulders, upper back and neck. When you’re ready, lengthen through the neck and begin to draw one foot up towards the ceiling. Once your lifted leg is over your hips and shoulders, begin to lift the opposite leg (sometimes a little jump is needed). Engage your core to stay upright and always lengthen through your neck to protect your spine – allowing you to open your heart as you lift from the ground up.
Don’t be afraid to fall, because you will many times. Instead, practice falling safely. When you fall, use your muscle and core control to fall gracefully and pick yourself back up. Concentrate, be aware of your highest self, and balance will come.[Photos by Sukha Design and Photography]
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