In Spring, we emerge from the dark period of winter and return to the budding of new life. As the days become longer, we have the opportunity to restore ourselves physically and energetically. In this 12-posture sequence featuring highlights from our new book, Holistic Yoga Flow: The Path of Practice, you will move through standing twists to detoxify and cleanse, as well as yin and restorative postures to ground, center, and connect as this new season unfolds.
The inclusion of both yin and yang, strong and supple postures will cultivate a balance in the koshas as you enter Spring. The focus will be on wringing out and massaging the digestive system for a thorough spring cleaning, while creating a steadiness and presence to remind us to turn inward, reflect, and consciously prepare to renew. Whether moving through a transition from one yoga posture to the next, or from winter to spring, lingering in the moments in between encourages us to slow down, move mindfully, and find the yoga beyond the asana.
Begin in Child’s Pose. From a kneeling position, bring the big toes together and separate the knees wider than the torso. Fold forward from the crease of the hips, placing the forehead on the floor. Place the arms by the sides or extend them forward with the palms facing down, and drop the hips back toward the heels. Close the eyes and breathe into the low back and belly. Set an intention for yourself as you enter this new season: What are you bringing back to life? How do you intend to welcome the light back in? Remain here for 10–15 breaths.
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Rise to all fours, tuck the toes and press back to Downward-Facing Dog. From Down Dog, step the right foot forward and lower the left knee down to the mat, sliding the knee behind the hip. Interlace the fingers on the front knee and straighten the arms to lift the chest. If the posture feels steady and secure, sweep the arms overhead, bringing the biceps toward the ears, as you reach up through the sides of the waist. The hands can remain shoulder-distance apart as the pinkie fingers spin toward each other or the palms can press together overhead. Continue wrapping the outer arms forward to hollow out the armpits. Take 5–8 deep breaths. Then place the hands down and step back to Down Dog. Repeat on the left side.
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From Downward-Facing Dog, step the right foot forward, staying on the back toes. On an inhale, rise to Crescent Lunge. As you exhale, bring the hands to the heart in Anjali Mudra. Pressing the palms together in a prayer position, twist the torso toward the front thigh using the side obliques to deepen the twist. Maintaining spinal length, lean forward, placing the opposite elbow to the outside edge of the front knee. Stack the elbows directly on top of each other, creating a clear, open line of energy. Actively press down with the top hand while sliding the bottom elbow to the outside edge of the knee. Actively press up with the bottom hand to lengthen the bottom ribs and create more space for the breath. Rotate the sternum while stacking the shoulders and continuing to square the hips forward to create a detoxifying twist. Draw the shoulders down the back and rotate the gaze over the top elbow. Take 5–8 deep breaths. Inhale back to Crescent Lunge. Exhale, place the hands to the mat and step back to Down Dog. Repeat on the left side.
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From Down Dog, step the left foot forward. Then step the right foot in a third of the way, straighten both legs and fold forward. On an inhale, lift halfway with a flat back, gazing forward, and float the hands to the hips. Pause on the exhale and feel the lift of the belly. On the inhale, lift both the torso and the right arm to the sky. On the exhale, lean out halfway, extending the right arm forward to the top of the mat. Begin to twist toward the front thigh while maintaining length in the spine. Place the right hand to the outside edge of the left foot or on a block to the outside or inside of the foot. Reach the left arm toward the sky, stacking the shoulders without losing the squaring of the hips. Hug the inner thighs toward each other and keep both legs straight, though if you tend to hyperextend, you might opt to slightly bend the front knee. Stand firmly into the back foot and continue to rotate the torso inward, as you draw the crown of the head forward, elongating the spine. Take 5–8 deep breaths. From here, move directly to the next posture in the sequence.
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Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana
From Twisting Triangle, fold over the front leg placing both hands onto the floor or two blocks. Next, shift your weight forward onto your front left foot and lift your back left leg off the ground parallel to the floor. Place the right fingertips on the mat directly under the right shoulder. Rotate the chest toward the left as the left fingertips reach for the sky. If the spine is not parallel to the mat, place a block under the right hand to lengthen the spine. Firm the standing leg and continue to draw the standing hip in toward the midline. Point the toes and knee of the standing leg directly ahead to keep the knee safe. Flex the foot of the lifted leg and point the toes toward the mat. Draw the shoulder blades away from the ears and lengthen the neck, stacking the top arm directly on top of the bottom arm to create one line of energy. Take 5–8 deep breaths. Lower the right leg to meet the left at the top of the mat and fold forward. Step back to Down Dog and repeat Twisting Triangle and Twisting Half Moon on the right side.
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From Down Dog, float to Plank Pose. Lower one forearm at a time to the floor and stack the elbows directly under the shoulders. With the forearms pressing down into the mat, reach the fingers forward and ground the palms into the floor. There should be a straight line from the middle finger to the elbow. For additional support, you might interlace the fingers. Draw the chest forward, spread the collarbones wide, and slide the shoulders down the back as the shoulder blades press into the back and widen away from the spine. Draw the lower belly up and draw the front ribs down toward the frontal hip points, as in Tadasana. With the feet hip-width apart, send energy out through the heels. As you gaze directly beyond the fingertips, keep the neck long and the cervical spine in line with the rest of the spine. Take 5–8 deep breaths. One hand a time, press back up to Plank Pose and then back to Downward-Facing Dog.
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From Down Dog, shorten the stance by stepping the feet slightly forward. Lift the left leg to hip height. Bring the right knee to the left arm above the elbow, creating a twist. Gaze ahead, widen the collarbones and keep the shoulders even. Shift the weight forward and, as the elbows bend, rest the outer thigh of the lifted leg above the opposite elbow. Continue shifting the weight forward and float the back leg off of the floor while contracting the abdominals. Keep the shoulders lifted the same height as the elbows. Straighten the bottom leg toward the side. Hold for 5 breaths. Step back to Down Dog and repeat on the second side.
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From Down Dog, float to Plank Pose. Lower to the belly. Bring the knees and big toes close together and bend the knees. Relax the glute muscles as the heels come toward the sitting bones. Grasp the ankles as the feet flex. If that reach is uncomfortable, you may hold the outside edges of the feet. Roll the shoulders back, expand the breath into the upper chest, and lift the front body. Don’t throw the head back; lengthen the back of the neck as the crown of the head reaches toward the sky. Lift the knees from the floor and press the shins toward the back of the room. With the ankles pressing into the hands, bring the big toes and knees hip-width apart and press the feet toward the ceiling. Take 5–8 deep breaths. Press back to Child’s Pose.
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From Child’s Pose, rise to all fours, cross the ankles behind you and roll onto the sitting bones. Cross the right shin in front of the left for Sukhasana, sitting on a block or the edge of a folded blanket for support. Place the left hand directly behind the sacrum and lengthen the spine. Place the right hand on the left knee and roll the shoulders back and down. Draw the right hip back so that both hips point directly forward. This will ensure the twist is created through the movement of the shoulder girdle. Shift the gaze over either the front or back shoulder, keeping the chin parallel to the floor, depending on what feels better for your neck. Take 8–10 deep breaths. Change the crossing of the legs and repeat on the second side.
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Beginning in Dandasana, bend the right knee and place the sole of the foot flat to the floor, aligning the heel with the right sitting bone. Flex the left foot and draw the left femur into the hip socket to ensure the two frontal hip points face forward. Place the right hand on the floor a few inches behind the tailbone to maintain stability and length in the back body. Sweep the left arm toward the sky, lengthening through the left side. Spin the chest toward the right knee while ensuring the hip points face the front of the mat. Bend the left elbow and place it to the outside of the right knee. Roll the right shoulder back and gaze over it, keeping the chin parallel to the floor. Draw the belly toward the spine and soften the shoulders down the back. Hold for 8–10 breaths. Repeat on the left side.
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Starting from Dandasana, on an inhale, sweep the arms overhead as you draw the shoulders down the back. On the exhale, fold forward from the crease of the hips. Grasp the outside edges of the feet. If grasping the feet causes the spine to round, engage Uddiyana Bandha and Mula Bandha to lengthen the back. If rounding still occurs, slide the hands back along the legs, use a strap, or bend the knees until the rounding is removed. As the feet flex, draw the pinky toe side of the foot toward the face as the inner arch of the foot presses slightly forward, which will keep the foot even as it flexes. Send energy out through the heels, keeping the legs active throughout the pose. Draw the heart forward and elongate the spine. Bow the forehead down, keeping the cervical spine in line with the rest of the spine. Hold for 8–10 breaths, allowing this posture to provide a healing touch to the abdominal organs.
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Roll onto the back and hug the knees into the chest. Place the feet hip-distance apart on the floor.
Beginning in Supported Bridge Pose with the block on the lowest or medium height, float the knees to the chest and lift both legs toward the sky. Press through the balls of the feet and spread the toes. Keep the sacrum rooted to the block. With the arms by the sides and the back of the head resting on the floor, move the chin slightly away from the heart to maintain a curve through the cervical spine. Close the eyes and rest here for 10–15 breaths. Bend the knees and come back into Supported Bridge Pose. Lift the hips, remove the block, and slowly release your back down to the mat. Extend the legs, relaxing into Savasana for 5–10 minutes.
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Coming into a comfortable seat, close your eyes or rest them eyes softly on a single, unmoving point. Invite your body to soften. Turn your palms face up, a gesture of receptivity and openness, resting the backs of your hands on your knees. This meditation is a practice of opening to all this new season has to offer.
Begin to turn your awareness to your breath, letting it be natural and un-efforted. Spring is a time of renewal, a time of rebirth. As you stay with your steady, even breath, consider what you are welcoming in as you enter this new phase of light and life. What is the intention you are setting for yourself at this time of budding energy and existence? Try to capture your Spring intention in a single word, like “joy” or “abundance.” On each inhale, internally and silently, say to yourself, “I am (your intention)." For example, inhaling, “I am joyful” or “I am abundant.” On each exhale, allow your intention to radiate through your body, mind and spirit. When the mind wanders, simply return to this repetition. Continue this meditation for 5–20 minutes. At the end of your practice period, allow the repetition to slowly subside. Remain still for a few moments, allowing your breath to deepen, and slowly open your eyes. Give yourself permission to repeat this mantra throughout your day, taking your practice off your cushion and into your life.
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Travis Eliot is a Yoga Alliance-certified E-RYT 500 yoga instructor, meditation teacher, kirtan musician and certified Ayurveda practitioner. He teaches his signature Holistic Yoga Flow classes in Los Angeles and in workshops and retreats around the world. Travis is the creator of the groundbreaking DVD series The Ultimate Yogi, along with many other bestselling yoga DVDs; the highly acclaimed kirtan CD The Meaning of Soul, which debuted at number three on the iTunes World Music charts; and coauthor of “Holistic Yoga Flow: The Path of Practice.” Travis is the CEO of Inner Domain Media, and a member of the faculty of the prestigious Kripalu Institute. Learn more on traviseliot.com.
Lauren Eckstrom is a Yoga Alliance-certified E-RYT 500 instructor and meditation teacher, and guides some of the world’s most well- known musicians, fashion icons, filmmakers, executives and Fortune 500 companies in both yoga and meditation. She co-authored “Holistic Yoga Flow: The Path of Practice” and was the associate producer of the award-winning DVD series The Ultimate Yogi. Lauren leads Holistic Yoga Flow workshops, retreats and teacher trainings in the Los Angeles area and internationally. She regularly partners with licensed therapists, community leaders, and studios to help facilitate workshops and conversations that advocate yoga as a healing practice for all abilities, body types, and backgrounds. Learn more on laureneckstomyoga.com.