The holidays invite us to settle in, slow down, and spend time savoring the most essential elements of our lives. They also include planes, trains, automobiles, overeating, in-laws, expectations, and time spent on a completely different schedule. With everything that the holidays involve, it’s even more important to stay connected to your body and breath. To do this, you may need to adjust your expectations during this time of year. My recommendation is to keep your practice simple and straightforward. Focus on simple, essential postures that help you stay focused, grounded, and present.
I’ve created two short and sweet practices that will help you connect to your core. The two sequences represent a balanced approach to working with your center. One is a mellow sequence that will help soothe your digestive system. The other is a quick practice to fire up, stimulate, and strengthen your midsection. Both practices are effective, quick, and simple. In fact, they’re simple enough that you may want to get your friends and family off the couch and share your practice with them!
There are many ways you can use these core yoga sequences. You can do either sequence on it’s own, you can combine them for a longer sequence, or you can use them as inspiration to get you on the mat and then add as many postures as you like. Please feel free to explore and experiment. For all of the yoga teachers out there, challenge yourself to create an entire practice for your students from these mini-sequences.
The core sequence includes variations and poses you might not have seen before, so I’ve included short instructions beneath the graphic.
Let me know how it goes for you and Happy Thanksgiving!
1) Core Connector: Squeeze a block (or folded pillow) between your inner thighs to engage your inner leg muscles (adductors). Keeping the natural curve of your lower back, lift your feet an inch or two away from the ground. If you lift your feet too high, the posture will become much easier. Gently draw your navel toward your spine and stay for several breaths. Repeat a few times.
2) Reclined Side Crow: Side Crow (aka Side Crane) on your back is a killer abdominal strengthener. Start on your back. Start by lifting your head and chest off the ground and drawing your knees toward your chest. Twist your torso, reaching both arms toward the outside of your left knee. Stay for a few breaths and repeat on the second side. Repeat a few times.
3) Reclined Handstand: Start on your back. Lift your head, upper back, and legs off the floor. Raise your arms slightly off the ground and reach them away from you. Squeeze your legs together and draw your navel toward your spine. Stay until you collapse into a puddle on the ground.
4) Forearm Plank: Forearm Plank works your core much more strongly than regular plank. Start in Sphinx Pose with your elbows directly under your shoulders. Tuck your toes, then slowly lift your torso, hips, and thighs away from the floor. Stay here for a breath or two, then lift and straighten your knees. Stay for 5-10 breaths before lowering back into Sphinx pose. Repeat two more times.
5) Paripurna Navasana: Sit with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Root down through the front of your sitting bones, lengthen your spine, and lift your feet until your shins are parallel to the floor. Continue to lift your lower back and lengthen your spine while you straighten your knees. If straightening your knees strains your lower back or tilts you backward, bend your knees. Take a few breaths here, then bring your toes back to the floor. Repeat two more times.
6) Ardha Navasana: This is a much harder version of Navasana. If it stresses on your lower back, simply repeat Navasana with bent knees. To begin, sit on your mat with your legs straight. Hold the outside of your thighs with your hands. Tuck your tailbone to rotate your pelvis back and slowly lower your back toward the floor. As you lower your torso, slightly lift your legs. Unlike Navasana, you’re slightly rounding your back toward the floor and allowing your chest to sink. Feel free to intensify the pose by interlacing your fingers behind your head. Take a few breaths before releasing and relaxing your whole body into the ground.