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Master Baptiste Yoga teacher Leah Cullis, who leads YJ’s online course Pillars of Power Yoga, created this fun and challenging sequence to boost your core strength and mood as you flip your world upside down.
Inversions are known for their mood- and health-boosting benefits, but they’re also great tools to help you break free from the seriousness of the adult world and infuse a sense of wonder, exploration, and play into your practice. Turning your world upside down can also have benefits beyond the mat. When you create a sense of fun and lightness in your practice, you expand the energy of play into all areas of your life, from your relationships to your work.
In this core-strengthening sequence featuring inversions, we’ll build up to Handstand Switch Kicks (also known as Playful Warriors) within Sun Salutation B. And remember, falling is a part of the process. It’s not the pose that matters, but rather the energy you bring to your practice, so have fun with these transitions and don’t take yourself too seriously. Before you begin this sequence, warm up with a rag doll Standing Forward Bend for 10 breaths and at least 3 rounds of Sun Salutation A and Sun Salutation B. After you complete the sequence, I recommend finishing with 10 breaths in Half Pigeon on each side, a Seated Forward Bend, and a supine twist on each side. Generate ujjayi breath to set the rhythm for your practice.
From Downward-Facing Dog, move from your core strength and step your right foot to the front of your mat (left side is shown in photo). Ground down through both feet, firm your leg muscles, hug your outer shins in, and draw into your centerline. With your inhale, lift your right arm high to twist. Reach your chest forward and lift your gaze to your top thumb. Open up and hold for 5 full breaths.
Return your top hand to the mat and ground down through all four corners of your front foot. Inhale and come into a Standing Split: power up your standing leg and float your back leg high, lifting from your inner thigh. Bow over your standing leg, work your nose toward your shin, and hold for 5 full breaths. To intensify, you can bring one or both hands to your standing ankle. Gracefully step your top leg to the back of your mat, plant both hands down, and return to Downward-Facing Dog. Repeat from Twisting Lunge on the other side.
Core Work in Plank
From Downward-Facing Dog, stack your shoulders over your wrists and shift forward into Plank. Extend your crown forward and reach your heels back. Lengthen your tailbone toward your heels and lift your low belly up and in. Exhale and touch your right knee to your right triceps. Squeeze your obliques and hold for 5 breaths. Inhale, step back to Plank. Exhale, touch your left knee to your left triceps. Lift your low belly, spread your toes, and hold for 5 breaths. Step back to Plank with your inhale, and move one breath per movement for 10 more full rounds. After you complete the tenth touch on your left side, press back to Downward-Facing Dog.
Handstand Switch Kicks
Walk your feet halfway up your mat and come into a short Downward-Facing Dog. Lift your gaze between your hands, shift your shoulders over your wrists, and lift your right leg high (left leg shown). Bend your standing leg slightly, exhale your air, hop up, and switch kick your legs through Handstand to land with your right foot down and left leg high. Keep moving for 10 rounds or more. Maybe catch some air in Handstand along the way. Repeat with the other leading leg.
Playful Warrior Transitions
Put it all together and add the Handstand Switch Kicks into your Sun Salutation B. Move through Downward-Facing Dog, Chaturanga, and Upward-Facing Dog, and with your exhale back to Downward-Facing Dog, step your left foot halfway up your mat and align your shoulders over your wrists (right leg is shown). Inhale, lift your right leg. Exhale all your air and hop up for a Handstand Switch Kick, landing your right foot in between your hands at the top of your mat and your left foot at the back of your mat in Warrior stance. With your inhale, lift to Warrior I. Repeat the Playful Warrior Transitions on the other side from Downward-Facing Dog.