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Master Baptiste Yoga teacher Leah Cullis, who leads YJ’s upcoming online course Pillars of Power Yoga, demonstrates her energizing 11-pose sequence to get your heart pumping in honor of American Heart Month.
Happy #HeartMonth! As we celebrate the month dedicated to raising awareness of cardiovascular health, this energizing sequence will get your heart pumping as it opens your body, strengthens your core, and clears your mind. I recommend moving through the flow part of the sequence holding each pose for 5 breaths the first time through, then repeating two more times with one breath per movement. Linking the poses together and repeating them one breath per movement will increase the cardiovascular benefits of your practice, warm your body, and prepare you for the backbends.
Before you begin this sequence, warm up at least 3 rounds of Sun Salutation A and Sun Salutation B. After you complete your final backbend, I recommend finishing with 5–10 breaths in Reclining Bound Angle Pose and a supine twist on each side.
Downward Dog Splits With Bent Knee
Come to Downward-Facing Dog and root down through your knuckles to create your foundation. Generate Ujjayi breath, firm your arms and legs, and hug from the skin to the muscle to the bone. With an inhale, lift your right leg high. Bend your right knee, hug your heel toward your glutes, and stack your right hip over your left hip. Flex your lifted foot and spread your toes. Bring your shoulders into balance and lift your armpits high.
Press up to your left tiptoes and thread your tailbone through. Keep your shoulders integrated on your back and bring your right foot to the floor. Plant your feet to hip-distance and ground both heels into the earth. Power your hips toward the sky, shine up and open. Squeeze the tips of your shoulders together expanding across your chest, and reach your top arm long. Let your head drop back, open up your throat, and enjoy the expansion across your chest and front body.
From Flip Dog, on your exhale, plant your right hand back to the top of your mat. On your inhale, move from your core strength and sweep your right leg up and back into Downward-Dog Splits. Align both hipbones toward the ground, flex your lifted foot, and turn all five toes to face the mat. Lengthen from your right wrist through your right heel.
Step your right foot to the top of the mat, and ground down into all four corners of your front foot. Stack your back heel over the ball of your back foot and hug skin to muscle and muscle to bone. On your inhale, lift your arms and chest high. Hug your inner thighs toward one another, square both hips to the front of the mat, and draw in toward your centerline. From the floor to your core, lift up, and from your core to the floor, root down. To modify, you can always place your back knee to the mat.
Crescent Lunge with Bind
Stay in High Lunge, Crescent Variation and interlace your 10 fingers at your low back. Bend your elbows deeply to access your upper back, and hug your shoulder blades in toward your centerline. On your inhale, straighten your arms, stretch your hands toward the ground, and lift your heart and your gaze high.
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From Crescent Lunge with Bind, dial your left heel down and open your arms into Warrior II. Get grounded through your feet, press the outer edge of your back foot into the mat and lift your inner arch, and stack your front knee at a 90 degree angle. Lengthen your tailbone toward the ground, lift your low belly, and knit your front ribs in. Draw your shoulder blades in toward your spine, expand your arms wide, and open up the lines of energy across your heart space.
From Warrior II, flip your front palm and with your inhale reach straight up to the sky, as you slide your left arm down your back leg. Root down through your feet and legs, lift up with your top hand and chest and lengthen both sides of your torso. Your gaze can be up to your top hand, or down at your back foot, whichever feels best to you.
Extended Side Angle
From Reverse Warrior, on your exhale, place your right fingers to the earth or a block to the inside of your right leg, and reach your left arm long. To modify you can always place your right forearm to your thigh. Hug your heels toward each other, igniting your inner thighs. Tilt your tailbone down toward the floor, and lift the front of your belly up and in. Root and lengthen from your back heel through the crown of your head, and twist your chest open toward the sky. Come to Downward-Facing Dog and repeat the entire sequence from Downward Dog Splits through Extended Side Angle on the other side.
Lie down on your stomach with your forehead on the mat. Interlace your fingers at your low back for a bind. Bend your elbows and hug your shoulder blades in toward your centerline and open across your chest. On an inhale, straighten your arms and lift your chest and legs. With your feet hips-width apart, press the tops of your feet into the mat and spread your toes. Keep your gaze down with your neck in line with your spine. Hold for five breaths and repeat two times.
Lie down on your stomach with your forehead on the mat. Bend your knees and catch your outer ankles or shins, and hug your knees in to hip-width apart. With your inhale, kick your shins back, lift your chest with the power from your legs, and allow your chest to open. Press your outer shins in toward your centerline, and spread your toes. Hold for five breaths and repeat two times.
Roll onto your back, bend your knees and place your feet hip-distance apart and facing 12 o’clock. Plug into the earth with your feet, and stack your knees over your ankles. Set your hands over your shoulders by your ears, wider than your shoulders, with your fingers facing back toward your body. Set up a solid foundation and generate your breath. With an inhale, press up to the crown of your head, and draw your shoulders onto your back. With your next inhale, press into your foundation and lift up off the ground. Spin your inner thighs down to the ground and lift your outer hipbones up. Enjoy this heart-opening, full body expansion! Hold for 5 breaths the first time, and 10 breaths for your final backbend.