10 Poses to Help Build Strength and Grace

Build up your strength and grace by practicing this sequence of 10 poses.
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Build up your strength and grace by practicing this sequence of 10 poses.
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Build up your strength and grace by practicing this sequence of 10 poses.

The dawn of the New Year is empowering and an ideal time to focus on building strength. But if you work too hard and find yourself trembling as you hold Plank Pose for 25 breaths, sweating it out in Warrior I, or huffing and puffing with frustration in Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), your hearty resolve will quickly fizzle. It's during those moments that you can recall what the great sage Patanjali wrote in Yoga Sutra 2.46: sthira sukham asanam, or "the postures should have both steadiness and ease." Intense overexertion in every pose will not lead to a stronger, healthier body.

Instead, take a cue from San Francisco Bay Area vinyasa flow teacher James Higgins, who created this strength-building sequence. Higgins's style is to interweave deliberate periods of rest within challenging flow sequences and to take a whole-body approach. Instead of charging aggressively ahead to try to tone a particular body part, observe your vulnerable or weak areas and integrate them with the rest of your body. "The body has all these independent parts—the forearms, the upper arms, the shoulders. And they all make up the whole," says Higgins. "Focus on finding connections through these segments, and you will build strength through integration."

Of course, Higgins reminds us, true strength comes from deep within. "The whole practice of yoga is to align with spirit," says Higgins. "When you let go of focusing only on external strength in the poses by tuning in to the breath and the flow of movement, you'll find the truth of your strength, which is in your spirit. Spiritual strength always trumps egoic strength."

Before You Begin

Meditate

Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position with your eyes closed.

Take 10 slow Ujjayi breaths. Create a clear stream of breath, filling your lungs to capacity while you explore the inner body.

Let your mind ride with the breath, making each consecutive breath smoother than the one before. Take your time and be thorough with your exhalation. Enjoy
the experience of your breath.

After 10 breaths, allow your natural breathing to return. Release any hint of tension from the body. Keeping the mind quiet and relaxed, take time to
experience your well-being and dedicate your practice to the greater good.

Build up to holding each pose in the sequence for 1 to 2 minutes. The first 5 poses in this sequence will build heat in the body. When you come to the floor after Forearm Plank, you can begin to incorporate rest between each pose.

After You Finish

Rest

Set up for Savasana (Corpse Pose) and stay for at least 5 minutes.

Before you sit up, roll into the fetal position for 2 minutes of quiet nurturing.

Sit up tall, and for a few moments mindfully direct your breath toward your well-being and the well-being of sentient beings everywhere.