Sukhasana is meant to be a grounding pose where you canmeditate or practice breath work.
Sit evenly on your sit bones and cross your shins in front of you. There should be space between your calves and your thighs. Once in the pose, relax your shoulders. Sit up tall. Take any extreme arch out of your back by using your abs to draw your lower ribs back into your spine.
If you want to practice ujjayi breathing here, close your eyes and begin to breathe deeply in and out through your nose. Remember to fully fill up your lungs. Once you get the hang of it, aim for a nice, even breath so that the length of your inhale matches the length of the exhale. Try to do this for a minute or longer.
While this is called Easy pose, it isn’t always easy for everyone. Depending on the bone structure in your hips, this might be fairly diffi cult, but do not fret, because there is a modification for you. To help ease the pose, sit on something that raises your hips. This can be a bolster, blanket, or pillow or two.
Twists are said to wring out the toxins in the body and stimulate the digestive system. When it comes to twists, you always want to twist your torso to the right first and then to the left, following the direction of the digestive path.
To begin, stay seated in Easy pose. Take your right hand and place it behind your right hip. Put your left hand on the out-side of your right knee. Inhale and sit up a little taller. Then, as you exhale use the placement of your hands as anchors to help you twist a little deeper. Hold for at least five breaths. Repeat on the other side.
To modify this pose, you can place a block under your right hand so that you don’t lose the upright nature in your spine. If you were seated on a blanket or a diff erent prop in Easy pose, then continue to stay on that prop here.
Bound Angle Pose
This is a great pose for opening your hips and releasing your lower back, especially if you’ve spent all day sitting at a desk.
From Easy pose, uncross your shins and draw the soles of your feet together. If this is a lot of stretch for the outsides of your hips, then place your hands behind you and sit up tall to support yourself. You can also sit on a blanket here as well. If your knees are far from the floor, you can also place blocks or pillows under them for support. This will help ease any strain you might feel on the outside of your legs.
If your knees are fairly close to the floor and you want to deepen the stretch, bend over your legs and draw your fore-head toward the soles of your feet and your torso toward the ground. Keep pressing your knees to the ground, but relax your shoulders and your neck. Hold for at least eight breaths.
This pose helps to keep the spine supple and preps the body for moving with the breath.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR COW
Come to your hands and knees. Place your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. As you inhale drop your belly. Let your tailbone reach toward the ceiling and keep your chest wide. This is Cow.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR CAT
To come into Cat from Cow, exhale. Press into your hands evenly and round through your upper back. Imagine some-one has his or her hand between your shoulder blades. Draw your chin to your chest and round through your spine as if you were trying to push the hand away.
Continue to move with your breath, alternating between Cat and Cow to create movement in your spine. Do this for at least five breaths.
This pose is meant to open up your hip flexors, the area at the top of your thigh and front of your hip. If you spend most of your day at a desk or in your car or you are an avid runner or cyclist, then these muscles might be particularly tight. This pose will be especially good for you.
From your hands and knees, step your right foot forward so that it lands just inside your right hand. If this is a lot of stretch in your hips and groin area, then take two blocks and place them under each hand to give you some relief. To deepen the stretch, extend your arms up overhead and reach them alongside your ears. Then, allow your hips to drop toward the mat. Hold for at least eight breaths. Repeat on the other side.
One note of caution here is to not let your front knee go past your ankle. If you sink your hips and notice that this is happening, step your foot forward until your knee lines up directly over your ankle.
This pose is considered a gentle back bend and is meant to open your chest and lengthen the front side of the body.
Lie on the mat on your belly. Lift your chest off the ground and place your forearms on the mat in front of you so that your elbows are directly underneath your shoulders. Fore-arms should be parallel to the sides of the mat. Press your forearms down into the mat and try to drag them backward, thus making the effort to pull your chest through your arms. Your upper body should be doing all the work, and your lower body, especially your glutes, should be relaxed. Hold for at least five breaths.
This pose is considered a resting pose. It is a great counter-pose to a back bend like Sphinx. If at any point during your practice you need a break, return to this pose.
Come to your hands and knees. Separate your knees wider than your hips and bring your big toes together. Sit back onto your heels. Walk your hands forward and allow your belly to drop between your thighs as your ribs rest on the inner thighs. Bring your forehead to the mat. Keep your arms extended forward or bring them alongside you. Hold for at least five breaths.
If it is difficult to sit back on your heels, try placing a blanket or bolster on top of your calves and sit on that. This will ease any back or hip pain.
LegsLegs upup thethe WallWall
This is a great stress-relieving position. Legs up the Wall is an effective stretch for your hamstrings. You can also use it in meditation or for a final resting pose in place of Savasana.
Bring your mat to the wall. Sit next to the wall so that your right hip is pretty close to it and your legs run parallel to the wall. Lean back into your hands so that you can bend your knees and lift your legs up the wall. Lie on your back and straighten your legs up the wall to create an “L” shape with your body. Move your sit bones as close to the wall as possi-ble. Now relax your legs, close your eyes, and breathe deeply. Hold for at least two minutes.
To deepen the pose and stretch your inner thighs and ham-strings, allow your legs to drift apart from each other and slide down the wall, opening your legs into a “V” shape.
To stretch your hips and lower back in this pose, bring the soles of your feet together and press your knees toward the wall. The shape of your legs should look exactly how they looked in Bound Angle pose when you were seated.
Hold each of these variations for at least five breaths. If you’re looking for a more restorative version of this
pose to help you relax, try placing a blanket or a bolster under your hips while your legs are straight up the wall. Hold for at least two minutes.
Finishing the Daily Poses
When you finish doing these eight poses, slowly make your way up to a seated position. Take a moment to check in with your body and notice any sensations you might be experiencing. Do you feel more relaxed? Less stressed? More open in your hips, back, or legs? Make a mental note of how you feel now, and then use this knowledge to motivate yourself to come back to your mat on a regular basis.
Now that you’re on your way to making yoga a daily habit and you’ve gotten a taste of some of the poses, you’re probably wondering about the others. When do you get to move? What about Down Dog, Up Dog, or that fancy pose you saw in a magazine? There’s so much that the yoga poses coming up next in chapter 3 can offer; you should be excited to learn them.