With the holiday season tends to come a feeling of peace and love, a sense of comradery with our family, friends, and neighbors. What better time then to use our yoga to open our hearts and bravely carry the compassion and understanding of the holiday season into the new year?
Make some time for yourself this holiday season to try our heart opening yoga sequence!
Cat-Cow (Wide Squat Variation)
From standing, turn your toes out slightly, angle your heels in, and bend your knees to come to a wide-legged squat, grounding through the fronts of your heels. With palms on your thighs, draw the chest and heart forward as you inhale (for cow) and round the back as you exhale (for cat). Repeat for a few breaths.
On an exhale, straighten the back and extend your arms out, staying in your wide-legged squat for standing goddess pose (utkata konasana). Inhale and exhale deeply for five breaths, keeping your heart lifted.
Next, come into downward-facing dog, with your hands shoulder-distance apart and feet hips-width apart. As you hold this for five breaths, try to lengthen the spine and send your breath toward the back of your heart.
From down dog, lift your right leg and bend your right knee to open that hip. If you’re able, slowly release your foot all the way to the floor to flip your dog, keeping your hips and heart lifted. Hold for 6-8 breaths before coming through downward-facing dog and repeating on the other side.
High Lunge Variation
Come back to down dog after wild thing then bring your right foot up and place it between your hands. Inhale and lift your arms up over your head for a high crescent lunge. Keeping the ankle beneath the knee and your shoulders relaxed, draw your hands behind your hips and interlace the fingers. Hold this for three breaths before repeating on the other side.
After your lunges, come back to downward-facing dog before lowering all the way down to the floor. Slide your forearms forward so your elbows align under your shoulders, creating a right angle. If this is too much on your lower back, widen your feet to the width of your mat.
Roll over from your stomach onto your back. With feet on the earth, hips-width apart, press your two big toes down and inhale while lifting your hips as high as you can without having to squeeze. Keep your head still, gazing up the whole time. Hold this pose for five breaths.
Come to your knees, keeping them hip distance apart. If your knee joints are sensitive, place a blanket or fold your mat underneath them. Pressing the hips forward, lean back and reach for your heels. Allow your head to fall back and focus on creating space in your neck as you hold this pose for five slow breaths.
Come back to seated and grab two blocks (or other similar props). Place one of the blocks behind you on the medium level with the long end lining up with the top of your mat. Set the other block about the length of a block away, starting it at a high level. Lie on the blocks so that the edges of your shoulder blades drape over the first block and the back of your head is resting comfortably on the second block (play around with it if you need!). Leave your legs extended or bring the soles of your feet together. Hold this pose for 1-2 minutes, rolling over to one side to come out of the pose.
Using a bolster or a blanket, come to a kneeling position, bring your big toes together, and open the knees wide. Draw your bolster in between the knees and lower your torso onto it, releasing your arms alongside your body. Breathe and rest heavy in this pose for 2-4 minutes.
Savasana is an especially important pose after this heart-opening sequence as it helps your spine come back to neutral after all the heart-openers and backbends. So make sure you don’t skip it!
Lie flat on your back on your mat, arms comfortably at your sides, legs slightly apart, allowing the feet to fall open. Let go of your breathing here and try to focus on staying grounded and in the moment for 2-3 minutes.