This morning I was chatting with a friend of mine who runs a karate school. He has added a couple of morning classes for the summer to try to keep the kids engaged in karate over the summer. When the kids stop training for a period, they are more likely to give up all together. They lose confidence because they feel they are behind when they do return to class.
He made a point that resonated with me. He said that holidays are for taking care of yourself. We have this tendency to go on vacation and let things go – eat and drink like crazy, forget about exercising.
It’s definitely desirable and even healthy to indulge sometimes. But holidays are about self-care. They are about getting away from the everyday stressors of your life. You can truly indulge yourself by taking some time to love and care for yourself. You can do this by being mindful of what you eat, think, and how you move.
In yoga, practice self-care by surrendering. Yoga is about uniting your mind and body. The breath is considered to be the bridge between the two. When you are in a yoga pose, focus on staying connected to your breath. This allows you to work with intention and direct prana (life force energy) to places that need care and healing. Breath keeps you in the present moment. It connects your poses and helps settle your mind. Surrender to where it takes you.
A Yin Yoga Sequence for Self-Care
My yoga practice ebbs and flows from strong to soft and goes everywhere in between! Over the past couple of weeks, I have been drawn to a yin style of practice. It is slower, with longer held poses and a focus on the lower body. Here is one of the sequences I have been working with of late.
As you practice this sequence, focus on breath. Instead of “putting yourself into a pose,” first get into your breath. And then move into the posture. Feel it. Cultivate stillness in the pose but don’t become stiff or stuck on being a certain way.
Soften and surrender into your breath and let it lead you deeper or pull you back. I like to use a timer set for 3 minutes. When the timer goes off, back out of the pose slowly and mindfully. Then take a minute to breathe into the vibrations of the pose you just completed before you move into the next shape.
Start by sitting with your legs about 90° or more apart. Lean forward, bending from your hips, and bring your hands to the floor in front of you. If you can go a little deeper, rest your forearms on the floor and eventually your head. Use a bolster or blocks to support your torso.
2. Sleeping Swan (Pigeon)
Bring your knee to your right wrist while releasing your left leg to the floor behind your. Square your hips to the front of the mat. Use your hands to bring your torso upright while expanding your chest. On an exhale, fold forward over your right leg. Repeat on the other side – left knee to left wrist.
3. Saddle with Bolster
Sit on your feet with your knees spread apart. This may be enough of a stretch. If you would like to go little deeper, position a bolster with the small end against the small of your back. Lower yourself backwards onto the bolster supporting your weight with your arms. Come out of this post very gently, using your elbows and hands to either press yourself up or roll over to one side.
Sit on the floor and bring the soles of your feet together. Gently pull your heels in toward your pelvis and let drop your knees out to the sides. Stay here or fold forward on an exhale bringing your hands to the floor in front of you. Option: Support your forehead with a block.
5. Frog on the Wall (see pic above)
Sit next to a wall so that the side of your hip touches it. Bend your knees to your chest. Gently lower yourself to the floor rolling onto your back so your legs are going up the wall. Bend your knees and slide both of your feet down the wall. Use your hands to support each shin. Open your knees and walk your feet to the side so that your feet and knees are about the same width.
6. Legs up the Wall
Sit next to a wall so that the side of your hip touches it. Bend your knees to your chest. Gently lower yourself to the floor rolling onto your back so your legs are going up the wall. Relax your shoulders and let your arms rest at your sides, palms up. Soften your belly and breath deeply. Close your eyes. Hold for a blissfully long time.
Let me know how it goes if you try out this sequence! Do you have any favourite poses or special ways that you take care of yourself over the summer? Just leave a comment below.