To navigate the hectic and often emotionally charged holiday season with ease and grace, New York City yoga teacher Nikki Costello suggests that you slow down and really come home to yourself on the mat.
Costello's method of choice is a sequence of simple yet effective standing poses, shown on the following pages. Costello recommends setting the intention of creating a firm, grounded base from your feet up into your legs and hips. "The legs hold you up. They take you where you want to go," Costello says. "When you focus on the legs, you go back to the source of your power and strength." She suggests moving your legs more slowly and deliberately than you would normally and focusing your awareness on the details of your alignment to help draw your attention inward. "Ground into the legs to sink deeper into yourself," she says.
The sequence is prop free, so you can do it anywhere at any time—even while traveling or visiting family. Try it as we present it here, turning the feet back to parallel between each side, or try it as a flow practice (which we demonstrate in our online video) by inserting Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) between each pose. Enjoy giving yourself some quiet practice time this season!
To Begin: Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. Elongate your spine from the base to the crown of your head. Fold your palms in front of your heart. Chant Om to invoke the steadiness that resides within you.
To Finish: Lie in Savasana (Corpse Pose). Follow your breath in and out, patiently and gradually extending the exhalation until your limbs are relaxed, and your body and mind become tranquil.
1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Join the inner edges of your feet. Stand upright. Lift your toes and move your thighs back toward your heels. Spread your toes and expand the soles of your feet. Inhale, and broaden your chest and collarbones. Exhale, and allow your attention to reside in the firm, steady support of your legs.
2. Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
Bend your right knee and hold your ankle with your right hand. Turn your knee to the right and place the sole of the foot high against the inner left thigh. Press your heel strongly into your thigh, securing the legs together. Reach your arms up and lengthen both sides of your torso evenly. Breathe freely. Switch sides; then return to Tadasana.
3. Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)
Jump or step your feet wide apart. Turn your right leg out to the right and bring your left foot slightly in. Exhale, and extend your torso to the right, placing your right hand on the floor or on your shinbone. Lift the arches, ankles, knees, and thighs, and press down through the heels. Exhale, and turn your chest toward the ceiling. Extend your left arm straight up directly over the right shoulder. Stay for 1 minute. Inhale to come up; then switch sides.
4. Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II)
Place your hands on your waist while keeping your chest lifted and open. Turn your right leg to the right and bring your left foot slightly in. Exhale, and bend your right leg to form a right angle. Lift your arches and spread the weight evenly throughout both feet. Extend your arms to shoulder height and turn your head to look beyond your right hand. Stay for 1 minute. Inhale to come up; then switch sides.
5. Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)
Come back into Virabhadrasana II on the right side. Exhale, and take the right hand to the floor or onto a block. Extend your left arm straight up; then externally rotate the left arm and extend it over your left ear. Press your left heel down, feeling a stretch from your left heel to your fingertips. Stay for 1 minute. Inhale to come up; then switch sides.
6. Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I)
Place your hands on your waist. Turn your right foot out and bring your left foot in. Rotate the back of your left leg from the inner thigh to the outer thigh. Then turn the shoulders, torso, and pelvis to the right. Bend the right knee deeply. Extend the arms up. Stay for 1 minute. Inhale to come up; then switch sides.
7. Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)
Take Utthita Parsvakonasana on the right side, with your left hand on your waist. Place the right hand on the floor about a foot in front of your right leg. Shift your body forward and lift your left leg up until it is parallel to the floor. Straighten the right leg. Extend the left arm up and turn the chest, waist, and head to look up. Repeat on the other side.
8. Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch)
Position your legs as you did in Virabhadrasana I. Inhale, and lift the sides of your torso evenly. Exhale, and extend your entire torso forward until it is parallel to the floor. Bring your fingertips to the floor on either side of the front foot. Maintain equal length on both sides of your torso as you walk your hands forward and take your head toward your shin. Stay for 1 minute. Inhale, slowly come up, and repeat on the left side.
9. Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)
Stand with your legs wide apart and place your hands on your waist. Exhale, and bend forward until your torso is parallel to the floor. Place your fingertips on the floor beneath your shoulders. Reestablish your legs by lifting the arches, ankles, knees, and thighs. Walk your hands back toward your feet, press the palms to the floor, and bend your elbows. Lower your head to the floor or support it with a block. Stay for 2 minutes. Inhale to come up.
10. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
Bring your feet together and come to the top of your mat. Bend forward, place your hands on the mat, then step back, one leg at a time, into Downward Dog. See that your hands are shoulder-width apart and your feet are in line with your hands. Spread your palms and feet as you lift up through your arms and legs. Move your thighs back. Descend the heels and head toward the floor, breathing evenly.
Watch a video demonstration of this pose.