After a few rounds of Surya Namaskar A (here’s your refresher on that sequence if you’re unfamiliar), you’ll be warmed up and ready to move through the sequence below, Surya Namaskar B. For the B variation, you’ll fire up your legs in Utkatasana AKA Chair or Fierce Pose and you’ll add the strong standing pose, Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I).
Once you establish a rhythm and familiarity with this sequence, you can start to create targeted sequences by adding poses after Warrior I. If you want more specific guidance about how to best sequence for peak poses and how to stretch and strengthen your body safely and effectively, check out the online sequencing course that I offer through YogaGlo.
For all Sun Salutations, it’s essential that you breathe in and out through your nose and elongate your breath. Try to imagine that your breath leads the movement; it’s what compels you to move through each pose. Follow the breath cues below, staying for five full breaths in your third Downward Dog before you jump forward to Uttanasana. Build up to 5 rounds of Surya Namaskar B, dropping your knees to the ground if you need to in Chaturanga.
There are days when we want to work toward a peak pose, and there are other days when we’re not sure what to do with our bodies. On those days, I always find it’s most helpful to do an all-around balanced, whole body yoga sequence: One that stretches and strengthens all the different regions of the body, that works the front body, back, and side body, and that allows me to turn upside down, even if only for a 5-10 breaths.
Not only are these types of whole body yoga sequences physically balancing, they are often incredibly soothing to the nervous system.
To encourage this effect, I invite you to spread your attention evenly throughout your whole body as you do each pose in the yoga sequence below. Instead of focusing on the part of your body that feels the biggest sensation or stretch — which, by the way, can be a very valuable technique for focusing attention during asana practice — try to give all the different parts and pieces of the pose the same amount of attention. Let the shapes of the poses spark genuine curiosity in you — check in to what the back leg is doing in Warrior II or what the fingers are doing in Triangle Pose. By cultivating this type of attention, you’ll create a wonderful sense of soothing equanimity in your attention, in your nervous system, and in your poses.
I’ve spent many an evening, after a long, hard day doing these poses in our living room while family life happens around me. That might mean that my daughter is jumping on me, or that there’s an occasional sports newscast on in the background. My evening wind down practice isn’t pristine (and yours doesn’t have to be either), but I still find it incredibly helpful to spend a few minutes on self-care in the evening. It provides a buffer zone that helps me relax so that when it’s time for sleep, my mind isn’t buzzing and my body isn’t calling out for more attention.
The evening sequence focuses on stretching the hips, hamstrings, and shoulders – all areas that accumulate tension in daily life. You’ll notice that there are no Sun Salutations at the beginning of the sequence and that’s intentional. The idea is to gently nurture yourself by stretching, breathing, and tuning your awareness to your body and breath. This act of focusing on exactly what you’re doing in your body and breath will help slow down the momentum of your mind so that when it’s time to let go and sleep, it’s easier to do that.
Take 5-10 breaths in each pose and do each side before moving to the next. Rest, savor, and repeat as often this evening-sequence you can!
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I love creating sequences for Parsva Bakasana. I always have. Since the posture contains so many components, there are countless ways I can take the class. I can focus on a sequence of upper body and core strengthening postures before tackling Parsva Bakasana. Or, I teach a practice full of deep, detoxifying twists before guiding my students into this peak pose. Other times, like in the sequence below, I’ll create a more balanced approach where each of the posture’s components is equally prepared.
Sequencing for Parsva Bakasana is also deeply satisfying because a sound, logical progression can help students break through and do the posture for the first time. Confusion is one of the biggest hurdles to doing this pose well—-or, at all. Often times students are physically capable to do the pose but struggle because they don’t know the building blocks. A good sequence demystifies the actions and helps you feel your way into the pose.
Since Parsva Bakasana is the foundation for more advanced arm balances such as Dwi Pada Koundinyasana and Eka Pada Koundinyasana I, it’s a nice posture to emphasize in mixed level classes because you can encourage the more seasoned students to work on these variations.
Here are a couple of thoughts about the practice before you begin:
Sequence Focus: Parsva Bakasana requires core strength, upper body strength, hip flexibility, and spinal flexibility. The practice begins with core strengthening postures, then transitions into a progression of twisting standing postures. The standing postures I chose will help open your hips and prepare your spinal muscles for the twisting component of Parsva Bakasana. Finally, the posture hits its’ peak with Bakasana and Parsva Bakasana. If Bakasana is a challenging pose for you, please check out my Bakasana sequence. Take your time, be patient, and enjoy yourself—-even if you struggle a little.
Before You Begin: For a longer, more intense practice, you can begin with Sun Salutations. Feel free to include as many lunge salutations, Surya Namaksar A, and Surya Namaskar B as you’d like. Otherwise, you can dive into the practice below.
After You Finish: This sequence is predominantly twists. Twists prepare the body for forward bends and backbends, so, really, you can go either way after you’ve concluded Parsva Bakasana. If you want to do forward bends, Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), Upavistha Konasana (Wide Angle Pose), and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) are a good bet. If you want to do backbends, I recommend a Low Lunge to open the front of your thigh before transitioning into a few rounds of Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) and Urdvha Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose).
You could take a few minutes in seated meditation before calling it a day and resting in Savasana.
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It’s holiday season and, for me, it’s “My child is in preschool and constantly has the sniffles season.” Whether you’re in hyper-drive, ticking your way through the holiday to-do list or you’re feeling too depleted to get off the couch and do yoga, the yoga sequence here is invaluable to have in your back pocket during the winter months. It’s not a high-intensity practice – it’s a healing, nurturing, immune boosting yoga practice. The poses encourage relaxation, reduce stress, and facilitate circulation throughout your whole body. These are the three most effective things that yoga asana can do to help support your immune system.
Yoga for the Immune System
You’ll start off on your back in a Supta Padangusthasana series, which requires very little exertion for those of you feeling fatigued. From there, you’ll gently open your hips, where stress and tension often pool. Then you’ll move into forward bends, which facilitate quiet, inward-drawn attention. You’ll finish with some rejuvenating yoga inversions that reverse blood flow and open the neck and shoulders. (Sometimes they even relieve sinus congestion, although too much inverting can make it worse, so listen to your body.)
As you move through the practice, give yourself permission to slow down and settle in to your body and breath. Try to be as gentle and patient with yourself as possible – especially if you have a cold when frustration and impatience can rear its head. These qualities—going slowly, nurturing yourself, taking your time—are your own natural antidotes to stress, depletion, and fatigue. I hope this sequence helps you tap into them and have a healthy winter season!
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