Last week was all about balance. We need to balance all kinds of things in our crazy lives. And we need to balance body parts in some of those crazy yoga poses!
It seems that balance is what I am in need of these days so I been working with this short yoga sequence over the past week.
I start with the intention of finding steadiness. Steady does not mean stiff. It implies a certain amount of flexibility and movement. It requires awareness and encompasses the idea of equilibrium, a state where opposite forces are balanced. This is just what we strive for in standing poses. For example, we create a strong foundation by grounding and rooting through the feet. At the same time, we lift and reach through the torso creating extension.
This yoga sequence focuses on balance and it also opens the hips. Hips store strong emotions. Hip openers coupled with the vulnerability of balancing may create some interesting emotional release.
I have included three standing balances: Tree, Half Moon and Standing Figure Four. Half Moon is a pose I find particularly challenging. As your body sways toward one side or the other, focus on bringing it back to alignment with small adjustments. My friend says he likes to think of this as a search for center. And if you fall, just get back up and carry on.
You can find an illustrated version here.
A Yoga Sequence Focused on Balance
1. Warmup: Do a few gentle movements to your stretch your spine and warm your muscles. A warmup I like: Kundalini Circles, Cat/Cow, Standing Forward Bend, Downward Dog.
2. Sun Salutation: Choose your favourite version and do 3-6 sets.
3. Tree (Do both left and right sides) Draw one foot up and place the sole against the inner thigh or ankle of the opposite leg. Toes are pointing toward the floor. Bring hands to your heart. It helps to think of pressing the foot into the thigh while at the same time pressing the thigh into the foot. Softly gaze at a point about 4 feet in front of you. Hold for one minute or longer.
Do poses 4 through 8 all on the left side first then switch to the right.
4. Warrior 2: Step feet apart (3-4 feet wide). Back foot is turned at a slight angle, front foot pointed forward. Bend your front knee. Stretch your arms out parallell to the floor, palms down. Relax your shoulders. Keep the torso upright (not leaning forward). Hold for 5-10 breaths.
5. Extended Side Angle: From Warrior 2, stretch your torso toward the front leg. Extend your back arm straight up toward the ceiling, then turn the palm to face toward your head. With an inhalation reach the arm over the back of your head, palm facing the floor. Imagine stretching from your back heel to your fingertips. You can rest your lower arm on your thigh or bring your hand to the floor. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
6. Triangle: From extended angle, straighten your front leg and lift your upper body straight. Extend your arms at shoulder level, palms down. Take a breath in and on the exhale, stretch and tilt your torso forward. Place the front hand on the floor or shin. Extend the opposite arm towards the ceiling. Open the chest and navel upwards. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
7. Half Moon: From triangle, soften your front knee and and bring your top hand to your hip. Bring the bottom hand to the floor (or a block) about 8 inches in front of the foot. Straighten the front leg while simultaneously lifting the back leg. Open the hips so they are stacked. The lifted leg should be parallel to the floor, foot flexed and toes forward. Keep the gaze down or turn it toward the ceiling, gazing softly at one spot. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
The wall can be a great aid here! Stand close with your back to the wall touching softly. Move away from the wall as you gain balance and confidence. Have a look at this video for tips!
8. Wide Leg Forward Bend: Turn towards the long side of your mat and open the legs about 4 feet. I like to turn my toes in slightly. Take a deep breath in and on the exhale, bend at the hips lowering the hands to the floor. Place hands on the floor or at each ankle. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Come back to standing at the top of your mat.
9. Standing Figure Four: From standing, bend both knees like you are sitting in a chair. Cross one ankle on top of the opposite thigh just above the knee. The top knee is open to the side, foot flexed. Hands can either be at the heart or gently push the palm of the hand into the bottom of the foot and put the other hand on the knee. Find a point on the floor in front of you for balance and keep your gaze there. Keep the hips level and slowly sit back further. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
10. Child’s Pose: Kneel on the floor, sitting back on your heels. Take a deep inhale, then as you exhale, fold forward (butt stays on your heels) and stretch your arms our in front. Rest your forehead on the floor. Take a few deep breaths in this resting pose.
11. Reclined Twist: Lie on your back. Feet are flat on floor, knees bent. Let your knees gently fall to one side. Shoulders stay on the floor. Look in the opposite direction if it is comfortable for your neck. Hold for 3-5 breaths. Come back to center and repeat on the other side.
12. Savasana: Stretch your legs out and let your feet fall open. Bring your ams by your side, palms up. Relax into your mat. Stay here for as long as you like.
Enjoy and please let me know how it goes!