How does your physical body feel in the space you are in at the present moment? Do you feel as if you can truly take up space where you are in this current moment?
Taking up space has become a popular topic in the last few months. Whether it’s because of social distancing measures or an increased focus on including more voices from the BIPOC community in the national conversation, taking up space looks radically different than before. I’ve been practicing this breath-focused sequence in order to center and prepare myself before I hold space out in the world. Before and during each pose, take a deep inhale and exhale to find more spaciousness within and without.
Side Body Pose
- Sit in easy pose and take a moment to root down in your sit bones.
- Take the left arm out to the side. Walk your fingers away and bring weight into it.
- Begin to open the right side of the body with a deep inhale and exhale.
- Breathe in and lift the right arm up towards the sky, reaching out of the side body, through the arm and exhale as it goes over the head, being sure to be stable in your seat.
- Breath deep for 30 seconds.
- Switch sides and repeat.
Fish Pose (Matsyasna)
- Begin on the back with the knees bent and the feet planted beneath the knees.
- Place the feet hips distance apart and parallel, with the knees also hips distance apart.
- Spin the inner thighs down towards the floor to broaden across the lower back.
- On an inhale, press your forearms and elbows into the floor and lift your chest to create an arch in your upper back. Lift your shoulder blades and upper back off the floor.
- Tilt your head back and bring the crown of your head back, touching the head to the floor if it’s available. Continue to focus on the breath, while pressing through your hands and forearms. There should be very little weight pressing through your head.
- Keep your thighs active and energized. Press outward through your heels.
- Hold for five breaths. To release the pose, press firmly through your forearms to slightly lift your head off the floor. Then exhale as you lower your torso and head to the floor. Bring your knees into your chest for Knees-to-Chest Pose for a few breaths to settle and then extend your legs and rest.
- Lying on your back, place the soles of your feet on the ground and extend your arms out like a letter “T.”
- Press your feet into the ground to lift your seat, then shift your hips 5-6 inches to the left. Draw your knees into your chest and let them fall to the left while you turn your head over the right shoulder.
- Stay here for 5-10 breaths.
- To switch sides, make sure to shift your hips 10-12 inches in the other direction, so that your spine stays in one unbroken line.
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Child’s Pose (Balasana)
- Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips.
- Exhale and lay your torso down between your thighs. Broaden your sacrum across the back of your pelvis and narrow your hip points toward the navel, so that they nestle down onto the inner thighs. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of the pelvis while you lift the base of your skull away from the back of your neck.
- Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up, and release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor. Feel how the weight of the front shoulders pulls the shoulder blades wide across your back.
- Balasana is a resting pose. Stay anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Beginners can also use Balasana to get a taste of a deep forward bend, where the torso rests on the thighs. Stay in the pose from 1 to 3 minutes. To come up, first lengthen the front torso, and then with an inhalation lift from the tailbone as it presses down and into the pelvis.
Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
- Begin standing. With an exhalation, take your feet 4 to 5 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down.
- Turn your left foot in slightly to the right and your right foot out to the right 90 degrees, right heel aligned with the left. Firm your thighs and turn your right thigh outward, the right knee cap aligning with the right ankle.
- Exhale and extend your torso to the right over the right leg, bending from the hips, not the waist. Activate the left leg and press the outer heel firmly to the floor. Rotate the torso to the left, keeping the two sides equally long. Let the left hip come slightly forward and lengthen the tailbone toward the back heel.
- Rest your right hand on your shin, ankle, or the floor outside your right foot. Stretch your left arm toward the ceiling, in line with the tops of your shoulders. Keep your head in a neutral position or turn it to the left, eyes gazing softly at the left thumb.
- Stay in this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Inhale to come up, strongly pressing the back heel into the floor and reaching the top arm toward the ceiling. Reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time to the left.
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your knees, put your feet on the floor. (Option to slide your left foot under your right leg to the outside of your right hip). Lay the outside of the left leg on the floor. Step the right foot over the left leg and stand it on the floor outside your left hip.
- Exhale and twist toward the inside of the right thigh. Press the right hand against the floor just behind you and set your left upper arm on the outside of your right thigh near the knee. Pull your front torso and inner right thigh together.
- Press the inner right foot into the floor, release the right groin, and lengthen the front torso. Lean the upper torso back slightly, against the shoulder blades, and continue to lengthen the tailbone into the floor.
- You can turn your head to either side as desired.
- With every inhalation lift a little more through the sternum, pushing the fingers against the floor to help. Twist a little more with every exhalation. Be sure to distribute the twist evenly throughout the spine. Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then release with an exhalation, return to the starting position, and repeat on the other side.
Three-Legged Downward-Facing Dog (Tri Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Begin on hands and knees, with your shoulders over your wrists, and hips over knees. Be sure that the hands are facing forward and your weight is evenly distributed.
- On an exhale, tuck your toes under and begin to slowly extend the legs, lifting your hips toward the ceiling. Focus on maintaining the length along the spine. Keep the hips high and back, and press the tops of your thighs toward the back of the room. Remain in Downward-Facing Dog for three deep breaths, creating spaciousness within the pose.
- On an inhale, extend your right leg up and back, lifting it up. Keep the hips level with one another and the right foot flexed (with the heel reaching back and the toes pointing down toward the ground). Remain here with the hips level and breath.
- Point your bent knee up toward the ceiling and begin to open up and stack your hips directly on top of one another. The weight will want to shift into the left side here, breath and keep your weight even throughout your palms and drop your right shoulder so that the upper body remains squared.
- Stay in the pose for five to ten breaths, then slowly square off the hips and lower the extended leg on an exhale. Gently walk out the legs in Downward-Facing Dog, then repeat on the other side.
Cat/Cow Side Body Stretch
- Come onto hands and knees, keeping your chest and core neutral.
- Stretch your right leg back with toes tucked.
- Place the right leg over the left foot while keeping full extension, reach the right leg to the left, look over the right shoulder as you work it towards the right hip. Breath deep into the ribs, finding more space where tension exists and allow the side body to open. Stay here for at least 10 breaths and up to a minute.
- Switch to the left side. Repeat this a few times on both sides. To take the stretch deeper, extend the left leg and cross over the bent right leg as you look to the right, and continue to work the shoulder and hip towards one another. Repeat on the opposite side
Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
- Lay on the floor. Bend your knees and set your feet on the floor, heels as close to the sitting bones as possible. Bend your elbows and spread your palms on the floor beside your head, forearms relatively perpendicular to the floor, fingers pointing toward your shoulders.
- Pressing your inner feet actively into the floor, exhale and push your tailbone up toward the pubis, firming (but not hardening) the buttocks, and lift the buttocks off the floor. Keep your thighs and inner feet parallel. Take 2 or 3 breaths. Then firmly press the inner hands into the floor and your shoulder blades against the back and lift up onto the crown of your head. Keep your arms parallel. Take 2 or 3 breaths.
- Press your feet and hands into the floor, tailbone and shoulder blades against your back, and with an exhalation, lift your head off the floor and straighten your arms. Turn the upper thighs slightly inward and firm the outer thighs. Narrow the hip points and lengthen the tailbone toward the backs of the knees, lifting the pubis toward the navel.
- Turn the upper arms outward but keep the weight on the bases of the index fingers. Spread the shoulder blades across the back and let the head hang, or lift it slightly to look down at the floor.
- Stay in the pose anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds or more, breathing easily. Repeat anywhere from 3 to 10 times.
- Lying on your back, let the arms and legs drop open, with the arms about 45 degrees from the side of your body. Make sure you are warm and comfortable, if you need to place blankets under or over your body.
- Close the eyes, and take slow deep breaths through the nose. Allow your whole body to become soft and heavy, letting it relax into the floor. As the body relaxes, feel the whole body rising and falling with each breath.
- Scan the body from the toes to the fingers to the crown of the head, looking for tension, tightness and contracted muscles. Consciously release and relax any areas that you find. If you need to, rock or wiggle parts of your body from side to side to encourage further release.
- Release all control of the breath, the mind, and the body. Let your body move deeper and deeper into a state of total relaxation.
- Stay in Savasana for 5 to 15 minutes.
- To release: slowly deepen the breath, wiggle the fingers and toes, reach the arms over your head and stretch the whole body, exhale and bend the knees into the chest and roll over to one side coming into a fetal position. When you are ready, slowly inhale up to a seated position.
This year, Yoga Journal’s annual ambassador road trip—the Live Be Yoga Tour—is going virtual. We are calling it The Decompression. Recently, we’ve all been asked to journey inward, to take moments of pause and stillness, and to slow down, rest, and prioritize the things we value. Follow the Live Be Yoga 2020 series here, stay connected with us at @livebeyoga on social, and join the movement to find beauty in stillness.