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When you’re feeling sluggish, your yoga practice can help you beat the inertia that Ayurveda calls tamas. This tamas-lifting sequence will help you find your true center and self. Prepare with three Sun Salutations, beginning slowly and gradually increasing to a moderate pace. As you practice, maintain a steady, smooth, ocean-sounding breath (Ujjayi Pranayama) throughout the sequence to enhance focus, concentration, warmth, and inner brightness.
1. Virabhadrasana III (Warrior Pose III variation)
Clear out tamasic excess in your body and mind while enhancing groundedness and steadiness with this energizing balance pose. Place two blocks at their highest height, shoulder-width apart, and about 6–12 inches in front of your feet. Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Inhale, and shift your weight into your right leg. Exhale, and fold forward from your hips, engaging your core and stretching back through your left leg. When your torso and left leg are parallel to the floor, place one hand (either flat or fists) on each block. Keep both hips even, so your low back is level. Gaze down, and tuck your chin, lengthening the back of your neck. Breathe deeply as you stretch from crown to toes. Invite agni (inner heat) to increase as you build strength and endurance. Hold for 3–6 deep, energizing, purifying breaths. Then, keeping your core engaged, slowly rise back to Tadasana.
Switch legs, and repeat.
2. Parivrtta Utkatasana (Revolved Chair Pose variation)
Purify with this fiery, detoxifying twist. Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Inhale your arms overhead, reaching tall. As you exhale, bring your palms down your center line in front of your heart into Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal), bend your knees, and shift your hips back into Utkatasana (Chair Pose). Inhale as you shift weight into your left leg. Exhale as you cross your right lower leg in front of your left shin, bending the knees more deeply, landing on your right toes, and balancing. Inhale to lengthen your spine, exhale to twist your torso to the right, resting the outside of your left elbow on your right thigh. Gaze down and tuck your chin, keeping the back of your neck long. This twist wrings out digestive organs to help eliminate toxins. Hold for 3–6 slow, deep breaths.
Repeat on the other side.
See also Meet in the Middle: Anjali Mudra
3. Baddha Trikonasana (Bound Triangle Pose variation)
A Start in Tadasana at the center of your mat, facing the side of the room. Step your feet wide. Turn your right foot 90 degrees so your toes face the top of the mat. Rotate your left foot 45 degrees to the right. Ensure both heels are on the same line. Inhale, and raise your arms out to the sides at shoulder height as you engage your thighs, lift your kneecaps, and engage your core. Exhale, shifting your hips to the left and placing your right hand on your right ankle (or on a block behind the ankle). Bend your left arm, wrap it behind your back, and hold the top of your right thigh. Inhale as you lengthen from tailbone to crown. Exhale, twisting more deeply, rotating your chest toward the sky, wringing out your spine, and lifting your gaze. Tuck your chin, and soften your jaw. Take 3–6 full, detoxifying breaths. This deeply stretches your side torso, opening your chest and lungs, which will support the release of mucus and congestion. Slowly unwind, and rise up.
Switch sides, and repeat.
See also Revolved Triangle Pose
B Take it deeper: Once in Trikonasana, side bend more deeply, bringing your right side torso along your right thigh. Bend your right arm, and wrap it underneath your left leg. Interlace your hands behind your back. Gaze down, and tuck your chin. Smooth out the breath in this invigorating pose, feeling the various sensations from the complex hip opening, side bend, twist, bind, and inversion—there’s a lot happening! Hold for 3–6 deep, detoxifying breaths. Carefully unwind, and rise up.
Switch sides, and repeat.
See also Extended Triangle Pose
4. Akarna Dhanurasana (Archer Pose variation)
A This standing twist challenges balance while boosting mental focus—making it an excellent pose for piercing through dullness, sluggishness, and lethargy. From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), step your left foot back about 2 feet, and pivot your left toes 45 degrees to the left. Evenly distribute your weight between your legs, and level your hips. Inhale your arms forward to shoulder height with your palms touching. Exhale, relax your shoulders, and engage your core.
B Imagine holding a bow and arrow. Inhale, bend your left elbow, pulling back the bow string and keeping your arms at shoulder height.
See also Standing Yoga Poses
C Exhale, and twist from your waist to the right, rotating to point the arrow behind you. On each inhale, engage your core and lengthen your spine. On each exhale, gently twist more deeply, wringing out your spine while focusing attention on your right fingertips—the tip of your arrow.
D Soften your jaw; relax your shoulders. Hold for 3–6 deep, diaphragmatic (belly) breaths, enhancing groundedness while boosting inner radiance. Slowly unwind, and return to Tadasana.
Switch sides, and repeat.
5. Knee-Down Squat
From Tabletop, curl your toes under, and bring your inner feet to touch. Spread your knees wide, sit back on your heels, and raise your arms overhead. Interlace your fingers and turn your palms toward the sky. Soften your shoulders, tuck your chin, and pull your belly in. Breathe evenly into your side rib cage, gently stretching your intercostal muscles. Hold for 6–10 deep breaths. This simple pose tends to be quite challenging as heat and sensation build in the feet and legs. Try to soften in order to receive the enhanced aliveness and cut through tamasic energy. Mindfully release back to Tabletop.
6. Ardha Baddha Padmasana (Bound Half Lotus Pose variation)
This bound forward fold—with gentle compression in the belly—helps stimulate digestive fire and release abdominal constriction, while quieting the mind and enhancing inner ease. To prepare, begin in simple cross-legged pose and place a block about 12 inches in front of your feet. Place your right leg into Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose), resting the outer ankle on the left thigh. Bend the right arm and wrap it behind the back. Hold the right foot with the right hand (or use a strap). Inhale and elongate the spine. Exhale and twist slightly right, folding forward over your bent right leg. Rest your forehead on the block and soften the shoulders. Close the eyes; relax the jaw. Direct the breath into the back body and hips, stretching and calming the mind. Hold for 6–10 slow breaths. Carefully unwind to resume a seated position.
Switch sides and repeat.
See also Feel Your Full Bloom: Lotus Pose
7. Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose variation)
This upward-pointing balancing posture helps lift energy, enlivening your entire system. Begin seated in Dandasana (Staff Pose). Place your left leg in Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose) with your left foot as close to your right hip crease as possible. Bend your right knee, placing your foot on the floor. Evenly distribute the weight between your hips. Reach down, and hold each side of your right foot, digging your fingertips into the sole of your foot (or use a strap). Inhale, and lean back slightly, lifting your right foot and balancing on your sitting bones. Exhale, and straighten your right leg, elongating your spine. Tuck your chin; relax your shoulders. Gaze up at your right foot. Breathe evenly into your side rib cage, inviting more openness and lift. Hold for 3–6 energizing breaths. Carefully bend your right leg, lowering your foot to the floor.
Unwind, and repeat on the other side.
8. Mandukasana (Frog Pose variation)
This seated pose deeply stretches your hips and shoulders, opening your torso for deeper breathing and uplifted energy. Begin in Tabletop. Spread your knees wide, and with the tops of your feet on the floor, bring your feet together with the big toes touching. Slowly and mindfully, sit down so your seat lands slightly on, or just in front of, your feet. Elongate your spine. Take a breath or two here, allowing your legs to settle into the stretch. Inhale your arms up overhead. Exhale, and bend your elbows, resting your palms on the back of your neck (or cross your wrists and hold opposite shoulders). Tuck your chin; soften your shoulders. Pull your belly in, and keep your spine neutral—no backbending! Close your eyes; relax your jaw. Take 3–6 low, deep belly breaths, grounding your energy while stretching open. Slowly release, and return to Tabletop.
See also Half Frog Pose
9. Anantasana (Side-Reclining Leg Lift)
Stretch deeply, and direct energy upward in this tamas-lifting side stretch. Lay down on your right side, keeping your legs straight. Bend your right arm, and in your right hand, cradle the back of your head, turning it slightly to the left. Inhale to bend your left knee, and hold your left big toe with your left hand (or use a strap). Exhale to straighten your left leg, reaching the sole of your foot toward the sky. Gaze upward; soften your shoulders. Lengthen through your inner right leg and foot. Keep your hips stacked—it’s a balancing challenge! Hold for 3–6 deep breaths, lengthening with each breath.
Carefully release, switch sides, and repeat.
10. Ardha Dhanurasana (Half Bow Pose)
This backbend is all about elongation—stretching mentally and physically toward transformation! It massages your belly to stimulate agni and remove toxins while strengthening your back muscles to enhance poise and grace. To begin, place a folded blanket in the middle of your mat. Lie down so your belly and pubic bone are supported on the blanket. Rest your forehead or chin on the floor. Reach your left arm overhead; with your palm facing down, dome your hands so your fingers press into the floor. Stretch back through your left toes. Bend your right leg, and hold your ankle with your right hand (or use a strap). Inhale to prepare, exhale and press your pubic bone into the floor, engaging your core and back muscles. Inhale to lift your head and chest off the floor, pressing your right foot up toward the sky. Tuck your chin; gaze forward. Soften your shoulders. Breathe deeply, lengthening into the backbend. Continue pressing your pubic bone downward, maintaining core engagement and elongation in your low back. Hold for 3–6 breaths, allowing the inner fire to build and burn off excess tamas. Gently release.
Switch sides, and repeat.
See also Bow Pose
11. Supta Matsyasana (Supported Fish Pose Variation)
This restful pose grounds and soothes, while gently opening your heart and chest to allow the breath to penetrate deeply and remove toxins. Position a bolster on the mat and lay your mid-back over it so you feel supported. Reach your arms overhead and rest the backs of your hands evenly on the floor. Lengthen through your legs and feet, draining the tension out of your legs. Hold for 1–3 minutes, as you practice a gentle 3-part breath to promote circulation: Inhale into the lower lungs, then rib cage, then upper chest. Exhale with ease. Rejuvenate and refresh!
See also Fish Pose
About the author
Larissa Hall Carlson is an Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist, Ayurvedic Practitioner, and Yoga Teacher Training Director specializing in mindfulness, pranayama, women’s health, stress relief, and yoga for elite performers. She is co-director of Yoga Journal’s online course “Ayurveda 101,” the former Education Manager of Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living, and the former Dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda. Learn more at LarissaCarlson.com. Follow her on Instagram @larissahcarlson.