Live Be Yoga ambassadors Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt are on a road trip across the country to sit down with master teachers, host free local classes, and so much more—all to illuminate the conversations pulsing through the yoga community today.
At the start of the tour in Boulder, Colorado, we had the privilege of meeting master Ashtanga Yoga teachers Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor, who led us through two powerful practices to balance body, mind, and subtle energy. The short sequences explore a range of poses—from grounding postures, such as forward folds, to expansive postures, including heart openers. Ready to give them a try? Check them out below. These two practices are meant to be done after a full warm-up that includes Sun Salutations and simple backbends and inversions, such as Bridge Pose.
Richard Freeman’s Sequence for Balance
Lie on your belly with your elbows beneath or just in front of your shoulders. With your hands parallel in front of you, rest on your elbows for a moment. Roll the top of your shoulders up toward the ears, back, and down, pushing through the elbows to connect to the serratus anterior muscle while allowing the heart to lift and spread. Engage the legs and pelvic floor. Guide the heart and shoulders forward and up as you inhale. Your head can be neutral or slightly tilted back. If you look back, gaze down the nose. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)
From here, transition into Downward Dog, and hold for 5-10 breaths.
Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
From Down Dog, gently bring your knees to the mat and use your hands to support you as you lift your upper body. Standing on your knees, take one hand at a time to your heels by stretching and reaching each arm up and back. If this is too much, place your hands on blocks on a comfortable height on the floor beside the feet. Exhale to ground into the earth. Focus on the internal rotation of your femurs so your feet and lower legs stay parallel. Exhale to ground and tone the pelvic floor. As you inhale, allow your heart to expand and gaze forward. As you exhale, reset and lean back to take hold of the heels (or blocks). Extend through your cervical spine and gaze down your nose or up at the ceiling as you allow your head release back.
To refine this posture, with each exhale connect to the pelvic floor. With each inhale, expand and extend the heart and spine. Keep the jaw soft and the palette released, which will help the heart stay open. If there’s discomfort in the sacroiliac joint region or lower back, place a block between the thighs to maintain an internal rotation of the femurs and to keep the legs active, which will help engage the pelvic floor as well. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Baddha Padmasana (Bound Lotus Pose)
Find a seated position in Padmasana, either bringing one foot or both feet to the opposite hip crease. If this isn’t accessible, sitting in Sukhasana (Easy Pose) or any cross-legged seat with the knees resting on the earth (or blankets or blocks). Make sure your pelvis is vertical to the floor. This may require propping your sitting bones on a blanket or block. Round your spine, curling the entire upper body slightly. Let the pelvis tilt backwards, or rotate under. If it feels good to you, reach behind the back with right hand to take hold of the right big toe. If this is not accessible, hold each elbow in the opposite hand behind the back to lift the kidneys. As you breathe, trace the inhale and exhale and examine how each pour into each other. This helps you train the body to welcome calming patterns of breath. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Yoga Mudrasana (Yogic Seal)
Find a comfortable seat, keeping the sitting bones heavy and the kidneys broad. As you inhale, tilt the head back and gaze down the nose. As you exhale, guide the chin or forehead to the ground or onto a block at a comfortable height. Examine the aspects of softness and relaxation in this forward bend while observing the pattern of breath. This pose helps release tension in the neck and allows you to cultivate awareness of deeper sensations and the wave-like pattern of the breath. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Namaste From Our Partner
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Mary Taylor’s Sequence for Balance
Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Upward-Facing Two Foot Staff Pose)
This pose can be done at the end of any practice before finishing postures, as long as you’ve done enough backbends to warm up. To begin, lie flat on your back, bend your knees, and place your heels next to the outer edges of your buttocks. Bend your elbows, and with your hands in fists, place them alongside your head. The heels of your hands will touch the sides of your neck; point your elbows straight up toward the ceiling and allow them to gently reach toward each other. If this isn’t accessible, you can set up the same way you would for Urdhva Dhanursana (Wheel Pose), placing your hands beside your ears and then coming up to your elbows to more readily enter the pose.
Take a deep inhale, and as you exhale, push through the legs to lift the sacrum off the floor about 4-6 inches. As you inhale, push through elbows and arms down to the floor alongside the head and clasp your hands together behind the head. If this isn’t accessible, stay in Wheel Pose with the top of your head gently resting on the floor. Push through the elbows and draw the elbows isometrically towards each other and toward the sides of the head. This will engage the serratus anterior.
If you’d like to take the pose deeper, slowly begin to walk the legs out long, setting the toes on the floor and placing the inner edges of the feet together. Take 5-10 cycles of breath.
To get out of the pose: If your legs are straight, walk them back to the buttocks so the knees are bent. Lift the head first before lowering all the way down to the earth. Lower the spine slowly, releasing the sacrum last, on the exhalation. Straighten the legs out onto the mat in front of you, and come back to your breath.
Garbha Pindasana (Embryo Pose)
As a counterpose to the previous inversion, Embryo Pose offers a grounding, contracting, internalized forward fold. First enter into Halasana (Plow) and Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand). As you come into Shoulderstand, draw the knees toward the ears alongside the face. Cross your legs or, if accessible, place your legs in a Lotus position. Rest your knees on your hands, as pictured. Feel yourself in a rounded, inverted shape. In this posture you should feel no tension on the head or neck. If there is discomfort, you can place a blanket or two underneath your head and neck for additional support and to maintain the natural cervical curve. Stay for 10-20 breaths. (The next slide explains how to release the posture.)
Garbha Pindasana (Embryo Pose), continued
To get out of the posture, slowly roll out of the pose, allowing your knees drop down toward the earth.
Matsyasana (Fish Pose variation)
Fish Pose is considered a contemplative backbend and a counterpose to the previous posture. Begin with your legs long, or in Padmasana on your back. Take your hands to the back edges of your femurs. As you exhale, lift your head to look at your naval (this will help engage your abdominals). As you inhale, allow your heart to lift. Push your elbows into the ground beside the hips. Rotate your pelvis forward so it lifts from the ground. Slowly release the head back until it reaches the earth. If this is uncomfortable, simply look down toward the naval to keep the back of the neck long. If the crown of your head comes to the floor, look down your nose and toward the ceiling. If it feels right to you, take your hands to your feet and pull with your arms on the feet to allow your heart to lift even further. Stay for 5 cycles of breath.
To release the pose, inhale and gently lift your head off the floor. As you exhale, lower your back and your head to the floor. Release into Savasana (Corpse Pose), the final resting pose. Allow your body to lengthen, with the arms alongside the body and a soft gaze that allows you to focus internally.