An Energizing Yoga Flow To Get You Through Today
Power movements for that mid-day struggle. Beachside location not included.
As anyone who works the obligatory 9-5 would know, doing anything other than plopping down on the couch by EOD sounds a lot like punishment. Yeah, sometimes even an awaiting glass of Merlot with the girls won’t lure us away from PJs and Netflix. And don’t even get us started on the AM struggles—we’re not morning people, what can we say?—that even a triple-shot espresso can’t fix. We'll sum up by saying, at times, our energy levels are, well, drained.
But something changed us, guys. And it happened on our recent trip to Oz, where we met up with yoga instructor Ashley Yellin on Bondi Beach for a powerful seaside yoga sesh to stretch out our jet-lagged muscles (we travel a lot, in case you haven’t noticed). Miraculously, it left us, gasp, energized (you'd notice too if you spend the majority of your time in the pseudo zombie state that we do). And, okay, so it could have had something to do with the epic scenery or it really could have been the Wild Thing pose. Either way, from now on we’ll be limiting our snooze to one round, and doing this routine to get us up and through our day. And you should too.
Core Powered Crescent Lunge
Downward Facing Dog is a pose to get very familiar with, as it is the anchor for most Hatha yoga practices. It is considered a resting pose, allowing the body to regain energy in an engaged way, and is also one of the greatest hamstring and shoulder stretches in all of yoga.
Begin in downward dog, engage your belly and using your core. Your feet should be parallel about hips distance apart, and your hands shoulders width apart. Lift your tailbone up to the sky, while driving your heels towards the earth and pressing your chest towards your thighs. Your body should be making an upside down 'V' shape. Keep your fingertips engaged, as if you were clawing into your mat. This will engage your inner and upper arms, drawing energy upward, which strengthens wrists, reducing the risk of injury. Lengthen through your tailbone, and soften the neck and shoulders, allowing your head to dangle free between your arms.
Pull your leg through and place your foot between your hands. Keep your hips in line, facing forward towards the front of your mat and come into Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana). This is a mild backbend, opening through the heart center by lifting between your shoulder blades. Driving energy through the back heel, firing up the back thigh is the anchor of this pose. This not only strengthens the hips and thighs, but is also a balancing pose, strengthening the ankles.
Radiant Warrior Sequence
Starting in Warrior 2 (Virabhadrāsana 2), draw your belly towards your spine, sink your hips low and tuck your tailbone underneath you as you extend through your fingertips. Be sure that your knee is directly over your front ankle, if it's too far, then widen up your stance a bit.
Lift your front palm up, and allow your back hand to gently slide down your back leg, coming into a 'Reverse' or 'Radiant Warrior'. While maintaining extension through the side body, reach your front hand forward and towards the floor, extend your top arm up towards the sky, coming into Side Angle Pose (Pārśvakonāsana). Be sure to keep your bottom hip wrapping underneath you as you rotate your chest upwards. This is a powerful hip and groin opener and strengthener. If your fingertips don't reach the floor, you can rest your elbow on your knee. Always modify as your body calls to you.
Standing Leg Stretch
Begin in Standing Mountain Pose (Tadāsana) and lift one knee towards your chest. Grab your big toe using your peace sign fingers on the inside, and your thumb on the outside. Slowly straighten the leg as far as you can to the side, coming into Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Pādāngusthāsana). As you extend both arms out for balance, you can continue to find the fullest expression of the pose, by slowly turning your gaze over to the opposite hand.
Fierce Arm Balance Transition
Utkatāsana, is widely known as 'chair pose' because it looks like you are sitting in a chair. But the actual Sanskrit translation is 'Fierce Pose' which if held for 5 long breaths, anyone would agree is much a more appropriate name! Try to keep your spine as straight as possible, by tucking your tailbone underneath you, and lengthening the low back. Think of it as sticking your bum downward towards the mat, as opposed to out behind you.
From here you can come into Crane Pose (Bakāsana) by placing the hands shoulders width apart, knees firm into the armpits, and allowing your heart to lead the way as you lean forward into the arm balance. It is commonly referred to as Crow Pose when the elbows are bent, and you can work towards the fullest expression of a crane by eventually straightening the arms.
Standing Forward Bend
Uttānāsana (Standing Forward Fold), is a great way to cool the nervous system. Pressure on the vital inner organs of the abdomen gives our Parasympathetic Nervous System the signal to cool down. It does this by slowing heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and is also an inversion, refreshing blood flow to the brain.
Saluting The Sun: Vinyasa Warmup
This is a basic sun salutation or Surya Namaskar A, which is used a lot in Vinyasa classes. It is great for building heat and upper body strength. Begin in Tādāsana, Mountain Pose. Opening the arms wide, welcoming the sun's energy and freshness of a new day. Then folding inward and halfway lift. Stepping or hopping back into plank pose, and lowering into a tricep push-up (Chattauranga Dhandāsana). Roll over the toes into an upward facing dog (Ūrdhva Mukha Śvānāsana), opening the chest with shoulders relaxing away from ears, and stepping back into a downward facing dog.
Advanced Backbending Sequence
In the next series, I did a bit of a more advanced transition from downward dog. Opening up the hip and bending the knee, gives a great hip stretch. From here is a 'Wild Thing' pose, a more modern twist on the evolution in the yoga asana practice.
Step the foot to the outside of your mat, and lift your hips to the sky. From wild thing, you can head into a full Upward Facing Bow pose (Urdhva Dhanurāsana), by reaching the fingertips and hand all the way to the floor, which is a classic backbend. Turn the fingers toward your body on both hands. Only attempt this if you are a fairly experienced practitioner, or with the guidance of a teacher, and have no recent shoulder or wrist injuries.
Standing Mountain Pose
Standing Mountain Pose with the hands in prayer at the heart center and the eyes closed is a great way to catch your breath, and turn inward for a moment. Notice the sensations of tingling through your entire body, as muscles feel stronger, joints feel more open, blood is flowing more freely, and your breath remains steady and calm. Enjoy the benefits of your practice throughout the day.