Life is riddled with social rules. Take this biggie, for example: “Don’t talk politics, religion, or money in polite company.” You can always break the rule, but know that if you go there, it may turn confrontational and possibly damage your relationships. Of course, social rules have their place and importance, but living entirely within their limits can restrict the outward expression of your individuality. Worse, they can chip away at the time and energy you spend looking inward, which can cause a serious disconnect from your authentic Self. Eventually that can start to erode your sense of self-worth and the self-confidence it takes to pursue what you believe to be important and right.
The practice offered here was designed by Baron Baptiste to help you counter this common disconnection and feel empowered by what he calls boundless self-expression: “Having the freedom to authentically be and act outside the confines of doing things ‘the right way,’ without feeling limited and bound up by expectations imposed on us by others,” Baptiste explains. “In this free space to express, we enter a realm of self-discovery and new possibility that can alter our lives in very real and tangible ways, both on and off the mat.”
This sequence will engage you in an expanding flow of chest- and heart openers to create space for using principles of “true north alignment.” “On both physical and energetic levels, we are literally opening and releasing the muscles of the chest, which can result in a paradigm shift in how we see life and ourselves,” Baptiste explains. “We can begin to trust ourselves in new ways and make choices that more fully honor ourselves in any situation.”
1. EKA PADA RAJAKAPOTASANA, One-Legged King Pigeon Pose
Begin in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). Bring your left knee to your left wrist, and place your shin on the mat with your left ankle behind your right wrist, foot flexed. Lower your back leg to the mat, and tuck your back toes under. Press your fingertips into the mat to square your hips forward. Draw your shoulder blades to your back body, and energetically scissor both thigh bones toward each other. Stay here for 3–5 breaths. Return to Down Dog, and repeat on the other side.
2. GALAXY POSE
From Down Dog, bring your thumbs to touch. Step your left foot outside your left hand, and drop your back knee. Turn your left foot to 10 o’clock, coming onto the outer edge of your foot. Press the four corners of your right hand into the mat, bend your back knee, and catch your back foot with your left hand. Press your foot into your left wrist, draw your shoulder blades to your back body, and pull your thoracic spine into your chest. Twist your body open, and energetically scissor your legs together to create stability. Take 3–5 breaths; repeat on the other side.
3. ARDHA URDHVA DHANURASANA, Flip Dog or Half Upward Bow Pose
From Down Dog, lift your right leg to the ceiling, and bend your knee. Keep opening until your right foot lands on the floor, hip-distance from your left foot. Relax your buttocks, lift your hips toward the ceiling, and draw your shoulder blades to your back body. Extend your lifted arm overhead toward the front of the room. Spread your fingers, drop your head, and set your drishti toward the top of your mat. Breathe here for 3–5 breaths; repeat on the other side.
4. UTTHITA TRIKONASANA, Extended Triangle Pose, variation
From Down Dog, step your left foot to the top of your mat, toes facing 12 o’clock. Spin your back foot down so the outer edge is parallel with the back of your mat. Make sure your left hand is on the floor outside of your left leg and below your shoulder. Reach your right arm straight up, draw your shoulder blades in toward your thoracic spine, and slowly move into a backbend. Reach your right fingers behind you, drop your head, and gaze at your right hand for 3–5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
5. ANJANEYASANA, Low Lunge, variation
From Down Dog, step your left foot between your hands. Place your back knee on the mat so that your front leg is at a 90-degree angle. Bend your back knee, and grab your inner ankle with your right hand; press your foot into your wrist, and spread your fingers. Lunge forward. Move your shoulders straight back, and draw your shoulder blades in toward your thoracic spine. Lift your left hand to the ceiling, and spread your fingers. Open your throat by dropping your head back, and set your drishti past your finger- tips. Stay for 3–5 breaths; repeat on the other side.
See also 3 Ways to Modify High Lunge
7. TRIKONASANA, Triangle Pose
From Down Dog, step your left foot to the top of your mat, toes facing 12 o’clock. Spin your back foot down so the outer edge is parallel to the back of your mat. Straighten both legs. Place your left hand on the floor outside of your left leg and underneath your shoulder. Reach your right arm to the ceiling, hand above your shoulder. Spread your fingers. Move your shoulders straight back to the back of your body, and draw your shoulder blades in toward your thoracic spine. Set your drishti toward your thumb on your upper hand. Stay here for 3–5 breaths; repeat on the other side.
8. ARDHA CHANDRASANA CHAPASANA, Half Moon Pose, sugarcane variation
From Down Dog, step your left foot halfway up your mat, and lift your right leg to the ceiling. Lift your right arm, stacking your right shoulder above your left shoulder, and pin your right hip to the side, stacking your hips. Bend your right knee and bring your right hand to your shin bone. Press your left foot and hand into the ground; extend through your right leg, pressing it into your right hand and pulling your right foot toward the ground, creating stability. Stay here for 3–5 breaths; repeat on the other side.
8. SETU BANDHA SARVANGASANA, Bridge Pose
Lie on your back with your knees bent and stacked over your heels, feet hip-width apart and toes facing 12 o’clock. Relax your buttocks. Tilt your tailbone up toward your knees and press into the four corners of your feet, lifting your hips. Bring your chest toward your chin, and press the back of your head into the mat. Roll your shoulder blades underneath you, and draw them in toward your thoracic spine. Clasp your hands under your lower back, and press your arms and fists into the ground. Gaze at the ceiling. Stay here for 3–5 breaths; slowly come down.
Yoga Journal’s online Master Class program brings the wisdom of world-renowned teachers to your fingertips, offering access to exclusive workshops with a different master teacher every six weeks. In March, Baron Baptiste presents a practice designed to enliven and empower your practice. If you’re ready to get a fresh perspective and maybe even meet a lifelong yoga mentor, sign up for YJ’s year-long membership.