Here is a short and simple yoga practice to relax, refresh, and energise you during hot summer days. Each of the five steps below can be done on their own as a stand-alone practice, for those times when you are looking to fit in just a few blissful moments of yoga. Or do all five together as a short and sweet yoga practice. Always remember that even a few minutes of yoga can be very beneficial and uplifting.
1 Blossoming Hands
Close your eyes and draw your awareness inwards (or if you prefer keep eyes open). Begin to gently open and close your fingers. Make a gentle fist, like a flower closing back to bud. Then spread the fingers, like a flower opening. Continue to slowly and gently repeat this opening and closing movement. Once you have established a rhythm to the movement, bring your awareness to the natural flow of your breath. As you observe the breath, notice how it corresponds to the opening and closing movement of the hands. (Can be done standing, sitting, or lying down).
2 Flower Arms
Stand tall, feet hip width apart. In your mind’s eye picture your favourite summer flower. Now place fingertips on your shoulders, elbows out to the side; relax shoulders down away from ears.
Inhale: open arms out to the side; like a flower opening.
Exhale: bend arms, bringing fingertips back to shoulders; like a flower closing back to bud.
Repeat 6 times.
3 Bend and Straighten Warm-up
Take the feet just over hip-width apart, toes turned slightly out; arms out to the side just below shoulder height. Exhale: bend both knees over feet; lower the arms. Inhale: return to the starting position. Repeat 8 times.
4 Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Stand tall, feet hip width apart; hands in prayer position. Picture your favourite tree in its summer splendour. Imagine that like a tree you have roots going from the soles of your feet way down into the earth. Then bring the sole of your right foot to rest on your inner left thigh; rotating your right knee out to the side. Either keep your hands at the heart, or take your arms above the head, hands in prayer position. Fix your gaze on a point that is not moving. Stay for a few breaths. Repeat on the other side.
For balance problems: instead of bringing the foot onto the thigh, just rest the sole of the foot on the opposite inside ankle. Or be near a wall for support.
5 Bow to the Earth (Bhumi Pranam)
Stand tall, feet hip width apart, hands in Prayer Pose (Namaste). Stay here for a few breaths focusing on the heart chakra (anahata). Keeping hands together raise arms above the head: stay here a few breaths, focusing on the space above the crown of the head, the crown chakra (sahasrara). Lower the prayer hands to the third eye Chakra (ajna) and then the throat chakra (vishuddha). Bend the knees deeply (thighs parallel to the floor) and bring the prayer hands to touch the floor. Stay here for a few breaths, thanking the earth for supporting you. Inhale: come back up to standing, taking prayer hands above the head. Exhale: lower prayer hands back to heart. Repeat 3 times.
To conclude the practice: Breathe in, breathe out, smile! Breathe in, Breathe out, smile...Repeat...Enjoy the rest of your day :-)
Recently I've been enjoying bringing the Twisting Balancing Sequence back into my own early morning home yoga practice. I'm also teaching this sequence in my yoga classes this week, so I thought I'd share my handout with you.
You can use the sequence on it's own; or use it to prepare for a stronger sequence such as Salute to the Sun. Students who find Salute to the Sun too challenging could use this sequence instead if they prefer.
In the handout below you'll see that I combine the "Twisting Sequence" with the "Lunge and balance Sequence" to make one longer Twisting balancing Sequence. I usually do about 3 rounds of the sequence, but you could do less or more as suits you.
Today in my home practice I followed the Twisting Balancing Sequence with Utkatasana (standing squat), and then a few rounds of Salute to the Sun.
Here's a Yoga Journal video with teaching points for Chair Pose:
And here's my favourite version of Salute to the Sun.
Enjoy your practice!
You can find more seasonal yoga idea and inspiration
on my Yoga Through the Year website.
In winter some of us get in to the habit of a slumped posture, as we attempt to fend off the cold weather, and succumb to the winter blues. So during the autumn term one of the themes of my yoga classes has been: Yoga to Avoid the Winter Slump. The benefits of this sort of programme are: improved posture, correcting mid-back slump, lengthening the front of the body, strengthening the back, and relieving neck tension caused by the head migrating forward when slumped. The feedback I've got from my students has been positive. One student reported back that she didn't have her usual back pain for a few days after attending class. Another was delighted when she had a week free of her usual tension headaches.
Julie Gudmestad's article Break out of your Slump was my original inspiration for creating a series of practices on this theme.
Here are my teaching notes/aide memoire for one of the practices I designed in this series. Excuse their unpolished nature, but they were originally intended for my eyes only, but they'll give you an idea of what the practice is like.
Another yoga sequence that I have found fits in very well with the Break out of your Slump theme, is the Leg stretch Bridge Combination. It can be used to start or finish your yoga practice, or use it on its own as a mini yoga practice, when you are pushed for time. My inspiration for this sequence originally came from the book, Yoga for your Life, by Margaret and Martin Pierce. Here's my class handout for the sequence:
Trawling through some of my old teaching notes, I also came across a really nice warm-up that fits in really nicely with the theme too. The inspiration for this warm-up came from the book, Supple Workout by Lorna Lee Bender. Here's my class handout for the warm-up:
I find working with various practices that help you to avoid the slump can be uplifting, boosting your mood, and helping you to shake off the winter blues. They also have a wonderful heart opening effect.
"Learn to pause for a moment as you begin each pose, to feel the vitality of the support muscles of your back, the spaciousness of your lungs, and the openness of your heart. Over time, this practice of opening your heart will contribute not only to changing your posture but also to the development of compassion. In just this way, the physical practice of asana changes our outlook on the world and the way we interact with other beings."
A lovely way to conclude your heart-opening, Avoid the Winter Slump practice is to focus on your heart centre (anahata), whilst silently repeating the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum. This is a Tibetan mantra, that roughly translated means: resting in the jewel of the lotus.
The steps of this heart-opening meditation are:
Here is Jane Winther's beautiful rendering of the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum:
This occasional blog is designed to share my yoga class handouts, resources, and tips with my yoga classes.