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My mom, Denise, started practicing yoga regularly in 1998. At the time, no one she knew was doing yoga yet, but she loved it and stuck to her Ashtanga practice. When I was in high school, she brought me to my first class, and I quickly fell in love—not only with the yoga, but also the fact that it was something we shared.
Fast forward more than a decade—and a transition to Vinyasa-style classes—and my mom and I have practiced next to or near one another thousands of times. We practice around the country, with other family members, even when inspiration for an impromptu session in my parents’ garden strikes. And it has made us close in some amazing ways. When she comes to a class I’m teaching, I get to adjust her and observe her beautiful practice. (She has the most impressive Revolved Triangle!). We also find ourselves talking about what yoga feels like off the mat; how this ancient practice we both love so much has shaped our lives. As we both get older, we talk about the fact that time has changed our bodies, our balance, our joints, our progress, and our struggles.
Best of all, our shared yoga practice has given me the gift of being able to witness my mom’s strength and grace. Through the unique thread of our shared appreciation of yoga, our relationship has evolved so sweetly—through awareness, honesty, and mutual respect—and has made us true companions sharing the kind of inner journey yoga inspires.
I created this sequence to practice with my mom in the hopes that it might inspire you to practice with your own mom, dad, or family member. All of these poses can be held for shorter or longer than suggested, and the flow can be broken down pose by pose or even repeated with the breath multiple times. Have fun and encourage each other with steady breath and a joyful energy that’s sure to emerge as you practice together.
Try this yoga with mom sequence
1. Siddhasana (Easy Seat)
Sit on a folded blanket or block with your ankles crossed, hips slightly higher than your knees. Lengthen the spine and align your ears over your shoulders, and shoulders over your hips. Close your eyes and breathe in and out through your nose as you begin to connect with your breath. As you inhale, root the base of your spine and your thighs; as you exhale, lift up through the crown of your head. Take in any noises and the setting around you, and try not to let them distract you.
2. Wrist Circles
Keep your spine tall as you extend your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder-height. Let your fingers face the floor and make circles with your hands in your wrist joints, trying not to move your arms or bend your elbows. Inhale your fingers clockwise to the left and up; exhale your fingers to the right and down. Repeat these wrist circles 5-10 times, then switch the direction counter-clockwise 5-10 times. Some yogis find it helpful to keep the gaze on the hands, while some find it easier to concentrate with the eyes closed.
Come onto your hands and knees with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Inhale and arch your spine, tailbone tilting up; exhale and curl your spine, tucking your tailbone. Try to take the full length of your inhale to arch and the entire length of your exhale to curl. Keep your fingertips and knuckles glued down on your mat, your feet parallel,you’re your shoulders away from your ears. Repeat 5 rounds.
4. Thread the needle
Stay on your hands and knees and keep your hips over your knees. On an inhalation, lift your right arm out to the side; on an exhalation, thread that arm underneath your body, reaching it to the left and coming down onto your right shoulder and ear (use a blanket under your head if you need to bring the floor closer to you). Your left hand can stay where it is, or you can extend it in front of you, perhaps tenting your finger tips. After a few breaths, you might wrap your right arm around your back to reach your hand to your sacrum or into your right hip crease. Lengthen your breath and your spine and keep drawing your hips up and back to keep your pelvis even. Hold for 10-15 deep, even breaths.
5. Surya Namaskar A (Sun Salutation A), variation
Stand tall in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) at the front of your mat. Inhale your arms overhead; exhale as you fold forward over your legs; inhale as you lengthen your spine; exhale and step your right foot back into a low lunge.
6. Low Lunge
Keep your front knee in line over your front ankle (not forward over the toes), and keep your hips stable by drawing your front hip back, engaging your back thigh in and up, and pressing through your back heel. Raise your arms overhead, and then bring them to Prayer Pose at your heart center.
See also A Home Practice for Happy, Open Hips
7. Twisted Low Lunge
Place your left hand on the mat or on a block underneath your left shoulder, and on an exhalation, twist to the right, extending your right arm straight up. Keep drawing your front hip back and lift your back thigh up. Hold 1-5 breaths. Then, on an inhalation, look down and exhale both hands to the mat.
8. Plank Pose
From Low Lunge, stabilize your hips and on an inhalation, step your front foot back into Plank Pose. Keep your shoulders over your wrists, pull your belly button in and up towards your spine like a hook, and keep your collar bones broad. Press into every fingertip and knuckle and engage your thighs to press back through your heels. If you need to modify, place your knees on the mat and keep your core engaged. Hold here and breathe, or exhale and bend your elbows straight back and lower knees-chest-chin or Chaturanga.
9. Bhujangasana (Cobra) or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)
Inhale to lift your head and heart forward and up. Engage your thighs, lengthen your tailbone toward your heels, and keep all of your toenails down. Lift your pelvic floor, knit the front ribs in and open your collarbones. In Cobra, your hips stay down. Press into your hands to draw your shoulders down, perhaps lifting higher. In Upward Facing Dog, your thighs and knees are lifted off the ground and your arms are straight.
10. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
On an exhalation, lift your hips up and back into Downward Facing Dog: Hands are shoulder-distance apart; feet are parallel, sit bones-distance apart; fingertips and knuckles are pressing down into the ground; shoulders are away from the ears; and thigh bones are pressing up and back. Bend your knees slightly and lengthen your spine as you hold for 5 breaths.
Repeat this sequence, this time stepping your left foot back into Low Lunge from Tadasana. Then, repeat on both sides 1-5 times.
11. Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)
From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot in between your hands on an exhalation, making sure to keep your right knee over your right ankle. Turn your left foot in about 15 degrees, then on an inhalation, lift your torso to align your relaxed shoulders over your even hips. Extend your arms long, energize through your fingertips, and gaze over your right middle finger. Press into the outer edge of your left foot and hold 5-10 breaths.
12. Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle)
From Warrior II, bring your right elbow onto your right thigh and extend your left arm up and over your ear, rotating your left pinky finger edge towards the ground. Breathe into the sides of your body as you create a long line of energy from the outer edge of your left foot through your left finger tips. Hold 5-10 breaths.
See also 3 Ways to Prep for Visvamitrasana
13. Lizard Pose
From Extended Side Angle Pose, inhale your hands to the inside of your right foot. Lift your back heel up and extend through that heel, reaching your heart forward. Turn your right foot out slightly and keep your knee over your ankle, in line with your toes. Your arms can stay here; or, you can come down onto your forearms or to blocks. You can also modify this pose by placing your back knee down and the top of your foot on the mat. This pose has so many options, so really listen to your body as you open your hips. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
From Lizard Pose, you can challenge the core and transition right into Forearm Plank. Or, come onto your hands and knees or into Downward Facing Dog.
14. Forearm plank
Place your forearms on the mat parallel to each other with your shoulders over your elbows. Draw your shoulders away from your ears as you reach your heart forward. Straighten your legs to engage your thighs, and lengthen your tailbone back toward your heels. Knit your front ribs together and engage your lower abs in and up. Try to lift your body away from the mat and lengthen your spine, especially the low back. To modify, place your knees down and keep your belly button drawing in and up towards your spine. Hold 5-15 breaths.
Rest in Balasana (Child’s Pose) if needed. Then, come to stand for Tree Pose and have fun with the following partner work for balance, forward folding, backbends, and inversions!
See also Feathered Peacock Pose
15. Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
Any partner work requires clear communication. Talk to each other as you breathe and move into these poses. Help each other, and speak up if something doesn’t feel right. Ask questions, such as if the pressure feels OK, or if you can go deeper or need to ease back.
Stand side by side and reach your closest arm out to place your hand on the other’s shoulder. Balance on your inner leg as you bring the outside leg into Tree Pose, placing your foot above or below your knee. Once settled, keep your arms long as best you can to support each other and the natural swaying you’ll likely feel. Try to keep your balancing leg strong, foot rooted deep into the ground. Play with lifting your outside arms up, side bending, or even looking at each other. Smile! Then, repeat on the other side.
16. L-Shape Downward Facing Dog (a.k.a. Handstand prep)
One yogi goes into Down Dog. The other yogi positions her hands about 6 to 8 inches in front of the yogi in Down Dog’s hands, fingers facing the same direction. Stand one foot onto her sacrum—the flat, boney part of the low back—then the other foot. (Note: This should not hurt anyone! And the person holding Down Dog should feel a great feet-on-sacrum adjustment, lengthening the low back.) Talk to each other, as the Down Dog yogi will know the right spot. Say “walk your feet more towards my seat” or “move your right foot so it’s more even with the left.” Once your feet are well placed on the Down Dog yogi’s sacrum, engage your things, knit your front ribs in, and keep your fingertips and knuckles pressing down. Imagine making and L-shape with your hips over your shoulders, pressing back through your heels. If you’re up for it, exhale one leg up towards the sky, flexing through your foot, and hold for a few breaths. Then, switch with control. To come out of this, step off the Down Dog yogi’s back.
17. Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold) and Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
Sit back to back with your legs straight out in front, feet flexed. (Sit on a folded blanket to help lengthen hamstrings and/or low back if needed.) Place your hands beside your hips and breathe into the length of your spine and the support of each other’s backs. Stay here, or one yogi begins to lean back as the other folds forward. If you’re comfortable to play with more, the yogi that leans back lifts her arms up for the forward-fold yogi to take hold of her wrists. The yogi on top begins to extend into Fish Pose, relaxing the weight of her head into the yogi in Paschimottanasana, who can see if it is OK to gently pull her wrists a bit. Breathe together as you hold for as long as you’re comfortable, and communicate when you need to inhale and come out of Fish Pose and back into Dandasana.
Another variation includes the yogi on top coming into Incline Plank: Place your feet on the ground and use them inhale and lift your hips. Focus on the thoracic spine opening, and if it feels OK on your low back (and for the yogi supporting you), straighten your legs, pointing your toes and squeezing your inner thighs together.
18. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon)
From Downward Facing Dog or hands and knees, bring your right knee behind your right wrist. Flex the left foot to lift and even out the hips—right hip back, left hip forward—then point your left foot, toenails on the mat and the center of the left knee on the mat, keeping your back leg from rolling in or out. Fold forward and rest your head on a block or mat. Breathe here for 10-15 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
19. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, variation (Supported Bridge)
Laying on your back, place your feet parallel and sit bones-distance apart. On an inhalation, lift your hips up and place a block under your sacrum (any height). Relax your glutes in this supported pose and allow a softness to the front of the hips, rib cage, and chest. Some yogis like to straighten their legs (be mindful of low back issues). You can also try gently hugging one knee into your chest as you extend the other leg long on the mat for a nice psoas stretch. Hold for 10-20 breaths, then place your feet on the mat and inhale to lift your hips and take the block out from under you.
See also 3 Ways to Modify Bridge Pose
20. Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)
Laying flat, hug your right knee into your chest and extend your left leg out on the mat (or keep that foot flat on the mat for more support). Place a strap around the arch of your right foot and begin to extend that leg long, foot towards the sky. Flex through both feet. Notice if your sacrum and hips are even, and try to drop the right hip down and away from the right shoulder. Hold 5-10 breaths, then inhale the strap into your right hand and exhale the leg out to the right. Keep your left hip and thigh pressing down into your mat. Notice your back and your rib cage, and try to keep the right and left sides even. Hold 5-10 breaths, then switch sides.
21. Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose)
For an alternative to traditional Savasana (Corpse Pose), lie on your back with your seat close to the wall and lift your legs up, resting your feet and legs up the wall. Bring one hand on your heart and one hand on your abdomen and close your eyes. Breathe fully into your belly, ribs and chest; exhale through your mouth. Relax your arms alongside the body with your palms facing up. Relax fully, feeling your face soften and your breath flow naturally. As thoughts come up, simply let them pass you by, allowing the stillness in your body to inspire stillness in your mind.
About the Author
Christine Gagen is a yoga and Pilates teacher in Greenport, New York, and Miami, FL. Follow her on Instagram here.