Bryant Park Yoga is back in New York City for its 12th season, featuring teachers curated by Yoga Journal. This week’s featured instructor is Alison McCue, who led the Tuesday morning class.
Build up your courage—and sense of humor—through your yoga practice. This 4-pose sequence can give you a confidence boost when you need it most—and help you tap into a lighter, sweeter state of mind any time of day.
Before you start, stand at the top of your mat, close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths. Visualize something that scares you—like doing a certain dreaded pose or giving a presentation at work. Then imagine that you are laughing about the funniest thing that ever happened. These poses will encourage you to try the things that scare you while staying lighthearted about them.
Keep your breathing smooth and even, as you add in a few standing and balancing poses. When you hold yourself up with the strength of your feet and legs, you start breaking through resistance and begin softening into playfulness. If you start to fall, good! Just get right back up. Falling is a sign of building stamina and strength—physically and mentally.
TRY IT Take 5 deep breaths in each pose.
For Better Balance: High Lunge
From Mountain Pose (Tadasana), step the left foot toward the back of the mat, keeping the heel lifted. Raise your arms high to the sky. Press into your right big toe mound for balance as you squeeze your upper, inner thighs toward each other. Lift your belly in and up as you raise your hands high in the air. If you wobble, stifle any negative thoughts by hugging the muscles into your midline even more. Find the perfect balance of holding on tight while you soften into this shape. Remember these actions and feelings next time you feel stifled in a work, family, or relationship situation.
For Playtime: Eagle Pose
Press into all four corners of your right foot as you bring your left knee up into your chest. Bend your right knee and wrap the left knee over the right. Legs will cross at the shins (the left toe may or may not wrap around the right ankle). Make a T-shape with your arms and wrap the left elbow underneath the right—maybe the palms touch. If that’s too much, opposite hands hold opposite shoulders. Wobbling out of this High Lunge-to-Eagle transition is a big plus. Falling can be really funny, so laugh about it to soften your face muscles and immediately feel lighter and less tense.
To Get Fierce: Warrior III
Unwrap your arms and put your hands on your hips. Bring your left knee into your chest and extend your left leg behind you, parallel to your mat. Press into your right foot a lot as you dial your left pinky toe toward the floor to square your hips. Extend your arms down the length of your sides. Lift up through your right quad and hug into your core. Enjoy how fierce you are. When the pose starts to become challenging, bring the focus back to your breath. Your ego may resist staying here, but your body and mind will benefit from the challenge of holding on strong.
To Let Go: Twisted Prayer Lunge
Gently step the left foot to the back of the mat into a High Lunge. Bring your hands to Prayer at your heart center and inhale to lengthen your spine. As you exhale, place your left elbow outside of your right knee, twisting through your front and back ribcage. (It’s OK if the left elbow doesn’t hook, and feel free to rest your left knee on the mat.) This is a twist and a balance. It will feel good and challenging at the same time. Breathing through the pose will give the signal to the body that it’s OK to hold on—and you can totally do this. Smile as you come out of the pose, because you just did a challenging series all on one leg.
Repeat on the other side, then take a Child’s Pose (Balasana). Hugging in, tightening, softening—and smiling about all of it—are actions that take practice but increase your feelings of strength and accomplishment.
Check here for the schedule of upcoming Bryant Park Yoga classes, which take place every Tuesday and Thursday through Sept. 23. Follow the Bryant Park Yoga series at #YJendlessYOGAsummer.