If you are looking for a well rounded practice on your mat, you should be working both on the outside as well as the inside. This sequence will do just that by combining vinyasa and yin.
We will start first with some vinyasa flows that will stoke your inner fire, boost your confidence, and get you feeling great. These poses will be strong, working the upper body and testing your balance. And will include an option for an arm balance.
Then we will wind down, learn to let go and release, while opening the hamstrings and upper body. These yin poses should be held much longer, about 3-5 minutes each.
Have 1 block close by, and you may want a strap for the final pose.
1. Laying Chest Opener – Ease down on to your belly. Extend the left arm out to the side, line the elbow up just in front of the shoulder, and bend it at 90 degrees. Roll on to your left hip, left shoulder, and left ear. If you can’t lower the head to the floor in this position, use the block as a pillow to support it. With your right hand, push in to the floor, helping you to twist open on to the left side. Or bring the hand to rest on your low back. If you want to intensify further, you may want to try stepping the right foot back behind you, otherwise leave it stacked on top of the left. Slowly roll back on to the belly, do 3 baby crows and then switch sides.
2. Plank Series – Returning flat on to your belly, keep your toes pointing back behind you. Slide your forearms out in front of you. Bring the elbows underneath your shoulders as you lift your chest up. Let the palms rest flat on the mat, spreading the fingers wide. As you exhale, push in to the tops of the feet, and lift up in to a forearm plank. Gazing towards the naval as you round your back. Inhale to lower down. Do a few rounds of this with your breath. On the last round, hold in your forearm plank. Tuck the toes underneath, and extend the arms one at a time to lift up to a regular plank. Shift your hips back in to downward dog. Let this down dog move, pedaling out the feet or bending the knees.
3. Standing Circles – Walk your feet forward, coming in to a rag-doll forward fold at front of the mat. Hold on to opposite elbows and sway gently from side to side. Keep hold of the elbows, bend your knees deeper, then roll all the way up to standing. To open through the side of the waist, keep hold of the elbows and reach your arms up overhead. Start to trace big circles with the upper body. Inhale to lift up. As you exhale, lean over to your left, bend your knees and fold all the way down. Inhale as you complete the circle, coming up to the right side. Do 3 in this direction, then switch directions. Release the arms down, standing for a few breaths in mountain pose.
4. Standing Flow, Start to Build Heat – Bring your big toes together and heels apart. Sink your hips down coming in to chair pose. Bring your hands together at your heart. Hug the belly in as you rock your weight back on to the heels. As you exhale, straighten the legs and fold forward. Inhale, halfway lift. Exhale to fold, planting the palms and stepping back in to plank and lowering to belly. Point toes back and inhale up to cobra. Tuck the toes and exhale as you lift the hips up to downward dog. Extend your right leg up to the sky, before stepping it forward between the hands. Ground the back heel down, opening the toes up 45 degrees. Lift up in to Warrior 1. Face the palms toward one another. To intensify, bring the hands together and gaze up to add a little back bend. Straighten your front leg, and take your hands in to prayer behind you (or hold on to opposite elbows). Narrow your stance a bit, square your hips and shoulders to the front of mat. Inhale to lift and lengthen, then exhale as you hinge at the hips. Folding towards the front leg. Pushing strongly in to the feet, make your back up. Shift the weight in to the front leg, extending the back leg up off the ground. Bringing the chest parallel to the floor for Warrior 3. Hinge back up, bring the left leg forward and cross the left ankle over the right thigh. Sink the hips down for a standing pigeon pose. Send the hips back and chest forward. Make your way through a vinyasa flow before repeating through on the opposite side.
5. Standing Flow, With Twists – From downward dog, lift the right leg up, step it through to front of mat and lift back up to Warrior 1. Bring the palms back together over head, gazing up. Bring the hands to the hips, square up to the front, straighten your front leg and bring back leg in a couple of inches. Have a block set up in front of you as you come in to a revolved triangle. Inhale to lift and lengthen, exhale to tilt halfway down. With chest parallel to ground, lower the left hand to the ground or the block. Draw your right shoulder and right hip back as you open to the right side. Reach the right arm up towards the sky. Extend your arm span as wide as you can for a breath or two. Lower the right hand to the hip, square forward. Lift your hands in to prayer. Lean weight in to the right leg and lift the left leg up behind you for Warrior 3. Holding here, or extending the arms forward to test your balance and strength further. Lifting back up, cross your left ankle over right thigh, sitting back in to standing pigeon. To add on a twist this time, hook your left elbow under the left foot. Looking at something which isn’t moving. If grasshopper is a part of your practice, you have the option to insert that arm balance here. Bringing your arms down to the floor, leaving left foot on your chaturunga arms and lifting standing leg up. (Find the full tutorial here). To come out, gaze back at the floor, release the leg down. Take a vinyasa, and repeat this standing flow through on the other leg.
For the final two poses, it’s time to slow down, let go, and tap in to your inner strength. Yin is a passive practice, benefiting the joints, fascia and deep tissue. But you can only really experience those benefits if you learn to relax the muscles, so make that your goal here.
6. Dragon Pose – From hands and knees, step your right foot forward to the outer edge of your right palm. Stay with your toes and knee pointing forward, or lift your toes up and roll on to the outer edge of your foot for a nice external hip rotation. Stay lifted here, or lower down on to your forearms. If lowered, you may also want to rest the head on to a block. Relax your chest and arms as much as possible.
7. Reclined Hamstring Stretches – Lay down on to your back, bringing your right knee in to the belly and extending left leg on the ground. Extend the right leg up to to the sky, grabbing hold of wherever is good for you or looping a strap over the ball of your foot. Relax as much as you can, particularly the arms and shoulders which may be tempted to pull you further in to the pose. After several breaths here, drop your right foot and leg over to the left side to take a twist. Use your left hand to gently hold leg in place as your right arm and shoulder press down on the right side. Ease flat on to the back, hug both knees in, rocking side to side to release your low back. Lower the right leg, keeping the left knee hugged in and repeating the stretches on this side.
Prefer to practice with a guiding voice and visuals? Press play on the video below.
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