Leah Cullis’ Joyful Sequence: 14 Poses For the Holidays

  • Embrace and celebrate the season by honoring the practices that create light and joy for you, and by sharing these gifts with others. This series of flowing sequences can help you do so by bringing you back to your center and igniting the energy you want to radiate. They emphasize hugging in to your body’s centerline and focusing on your breath. Throughout, you’ll also activate your core and shed stress with heat-building standing poses, twists, dynamic backbends, and deep hip openers.

    Practice Tips

    Have a block handy. Move with your breath to awaken energy and focus. Cultivate Ujjayi Pranayama: Breathing slowly through your nose, slightly constrict the back of your throat so you feel the breath’s texture. As you expand your breathing, set your intention for your practice. Create space for celebration and joy.

    OUR PRO Model and teacher Leah Cullis teaches Baptiste Power Vinyasa yoga in Austin, Texas. She works with Baron Baptiste to design and deliver yoga teacher trainings and transformational programs. Learn more at leahcullis.com.

  • If you only have 10 minutes, try this practice.

    If you only have 10 minutes, try this practice.

    Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

    Instructions: Do 4 rounds of this sequence (a round is the sequence practiced on both the right and left sides). In round 1, hold each pose for 5–6 breaths, or 30 seconds. In rounds 2–4, hold each pose for 1 breath, or 5–6 seconds.

    Standing at the top of your mat, fold forward, plant your hands on the earth, and step your feet back into Downward Dog. Lift your hips high as you ground through your hands and firm your leg muscles to the bones. Pull your navel in and feel your abundant breath.

    See also Downward-Facing Dog Pose

  • Low Lunge

    Low Lunge

    Anjaneyasana

    From Down Dog, step your right foot forward to your right thumb. Lower your left knee to the earth, keeping your back toes tucked. Inhale and sweep both arms to the sky as you lift your chest and come into a gentle backbend.

    See also Low Lunge

  • Lightning Warrior

    Lightning Warrior

    Reach your arms back along your sides and spread your fingers wide. Lift your back knee up and hover your chest at a 45-degree angle. Extend through your back heel and reach through the crown of the head to create a long line of energy. Hug your outer shins in toward your centerline and draw your low belly up and in.

    See also High Lunge

  • High Crescent Lunge

    High Crescent Lunge

    Keep your legs in a deep lunge. Inhale as you sweep your arms up and lift your chest upright. Move fluidly with your breath. Lengthen the sides of your torso as you reach your arms higher. Lift your low belly and scissor your inner thighs in toward your centerline.

    See also High Lunge, Crescent Variation

  • Crescent Twist

    Crescent Twist

    On an exhalation, bring your hands together in prayer position at your heart and twist your torso to the right. Hook your left tricep over your right thigh, pressing your arm into your leg to help you lengthen your spine and spin your heart up. Unwind, return to Downward Dog, and practice sequence on the left.

    See also Twists

  • If you have 20 minutes, add these poses to your sequence.

    If you have 20 minutes, add these poses to your sequence.

    Warrior II Pose (Virabhadrasana II)

    Instructions: Do 4 rounds of this sequence. In round 1, hold each pose for 5–6 breaths, or 30 seconds. In rounds 2–4, hold each pose for 1 breath, or 5–6 seconds.

    From Downward Dog, step your right foot forward to your right thumb, plant your back foot on the ground, and rise up to Warrior Pose II. Stretch your arms away from each other. Draw the tips of your shoulder blades together and broaden your chest. Look forward over your front hand. As you inhale, radiate out in all directions.

    See also Warrior II Pose

  • Three-Legged Dog, variation

    Three-Legged Dog, variation

    Bring your hands to the mat and step back into Downward Dog. Inhale as you reach your right leg high behind you, lifting from your inner right thigh. Bend your right knee, bring your heel toward your glute, and open your right hip and side body. Keep your hands firmly planted and arms parallel.

    See also The Reason for Hip Stretches

  • Flip Dog

    Flip Dog

    Press onto your left tiptoes and into your left hand as you spin your torso and hips open to the ceiling and lower your right foot to the floor. Lift your hips high. Keep your feet grounded and hip-distance apart. Squeeze the tips of your shoulders together to expand your chest, and reach your right arm behind you. Let your
    head drop, and take deep, expansive breaths.

    See also Backbends

  • Plank Pose

    Plank Pose

    From Flip Dog, with your core engaged, spin your torso back toward the floor and place both hands on the mat. Root your palms to the earth and stack your shoulders over your wrists. Reach your heels back and your crown forward, lengthen your spine, and engage the low belly and legs.

    See also Plank Pose

  • Side Plank Pose, variation

    Side Plank Pose, variation

    Vasisthasana, variation

    Shift weight into your right hand and stack your left foot on top of your right, flexing both feet. Stretch your left arm high. To express joy in the pose, lift your hips as high as you can and open your chest. Reach strongly through your heels and stretch your arms away from each other.

    See also Side Plank Pose

  • Wild Thing

    Wild Thing

    Camatkarasana

    From Side Plank, lift your left leg up a foot or two. Bend your left knee and float that foot to the floor, landing on the ball of the foot, as you soar your hips high. Press into the outer edge of the right foot and engage the right leg. Draw the head of your right humerus in and open your heart. Extend your top arm. Expand and celebrate!

    Return to Downward Dog and practice sequence on the left.

    See also Wild Thing

  • If you have 30 minutes, add these poses to your sequence.

    If you have 30 minutes, add these poses to your sequence.

    Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)

    Instructions: Do the first 4 poses on right, then repeat on left. Finish with the final 2 poses.

    From Downward Dog, bring your thumbtips to touch at the center of your mat. Step your right foot to the outside of your right hand and lower your left knee down. After a few breaths, turn your right toes out, shift to the foot’s outer edge, and let your right hip open. Lower to your forearms. If the stretch is too intense, stay lifted on your hands

    See also 9 Poses Your Hips Need Now

  • Lizard Pose, variation

    Lizard Pose, variation

    Utthan Pristhasana, variation

    From Lizard, bend your left knee, reach your right arm back, and catch hold of your left foot. Draw that foot toward your glutes as you spin your chest open to the right. Squeeze your shoulder blades in to lift and open your heart space. Exhale and release your back leg, returning to Lizard Pose with straight arms.

    See also Q&A: Why Are Hip Openers So Good For Me?

  • Pigeon Pose, variation

    Pigeon Pose, variation

    Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, variation

    Slide your right foot to your left wrist, shin parallel to the top of your mat. Square both hips, and straighten your arms to lift your heart for a few breaths. Walk your hands forward, lower to your forearms, and fold forward. Open with each in breath; send out gratitude with each out breath. To finish, walk your hands back and sit upright.

    See also The King of Hip Openers: Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

  • Firelog Pose

    Firelog Pose

    Agnistambhasana

    Sweep your left leg around and stack your left shin on top of your right, feet flexed. Press your hands down by your hips and scoot your hips back a few inches. Lift your heart high as you inhale and broaden your chest. Ride your exhalation down as you fold forward. Rest your forearms on a block, or the floor.

    Unwind, return to Downward Dog, and repeat the first four poses on the left.

    See also Firelog Pose

  • Hip Opener

    Hip Opener

    Come to all fours and rest on your forearms. Widen your knees as far apart as you can, with thighs perpendicular to your torso and knees bent at 90 degrees. Flex your feet. Stay lifted on your forearms, or stack your hands to create a pillow to rest your forehead on. Find a balance of effort and ease. Let yourself expand with joyous breath.

    See also Challenge Pose: Tipsy Frog

  • Corpse Pose, variation

    Corpse Pose, variation

    Savasana, variation

    Sweep your left leg around and stack your left shin on top of your right, feet flexed. Press your hands down by your hips and scoot your hips back a few inches. Lift your heart high as you inhale and broaden your chest. Ride your exhalation down as you fold forward. Rest your forearms on a block, or the floor. Unwind, return to Downward Dog, and repeat the first four poses on the left.

    Come to all fours and rest on your forearms. Widen your knees as far apart as you can, with thighs perpendicular to your torso and knees bent at 90 degrees. Flex your feet. Stay lifted on your forearms, or stack your hands to create a pillow to rest your forehead on. Find a balance of effort and ease. Let yourself expand with joyous breath. Slide forward to your belly and gently roll over onto your back. Place a block under your sacrum to lengthen your tailbone and counter the sequence’s deep hip opening. Let your feet fall out to the sides. Extend your arms along your body. Let go of Ujjayi breath and come back to breathing naturally. Relax and receive the gifts of your practice.

    See also Corpse Pose