Master Baptiste Yoga teacher Leah Cullis, who leads YJ’s online course Pillars of Power Yoga (sign up here), demonstrates 9 poses to help you awaken and open to the energy of spring.
March signals the awakening of spring, a new season of growth and renewal. It’s time to emerge from the inward time of the winter, recharge your yoga practice, and stir up the power to spring forward. The following poses will shine new light within as we awaken and open to the energy of spring. Like nature, we’ll move with a beautiful, purposeful rhythm.
To begin: cultivate ujjayi breath. Let the sound and warming temperature of your breath be your anchor into your body. Warm up with 3–5 rounds each of Sun Salutation A and Sun Salutation B. Note: A block is required for this sequence.
Low Lunge, modified with hooked thumbs
From Downward-Facing Dog, step your right foot to the top of your mat, set your left knee down, and hug in toward your centerline to stabilize. Lift your arms and chest high. Hook your thumbs overhead, lift your shoulders toward your ears, and draw your arm bones onto your back. Root down through your legs, and grow your fingertips up and back as you open and expand for 5 or more full breaths.
Keep your left knee to the mat, shift your hips back over your left knee, straighten your right leg, and flex your right foot for Half Split. Use a block to support your right hand if needed, and catch the outer edge of your left foot with your left hand. Inhale, come into a halfway lift to lengthen your spine, hinge at your hips, fold forward on your exhale, and bow over your extended leg. Pull back on the outer edge of your front foot, and hug your leg muscles to the bones. Allow the tension to melt from your hamstrings and low back as you breathe and hold for 5–10 balanced breaths. To come out of the pose, shift your weight back into your right foot, plant your hands to the top of your mat and press back to Downward-Facing Dog. Repeat Low Lunge and Half Split on the left side.
Fire Toes Pose
From Downward-Facing Dog, walk halfway up your mat and drop down to your knees into a kneeling position. Tuck your toes under and sit back on your heels, stretching the muscles of your feet open. Hug your inner ankles together, squeeze your legs toward your centerline, and lift your hands to Prayer. Anchor your tailbone down, lift your low belly, and breathe steadily as you continue to stoke your inner fire. Stay and hold for 10 deep breaths. To amplify the energy, add in arm movement linked with breath. On your inhale, circle your arms out and open like wings and unite your palms overhead. With your exhale, trace your Prayer hands down your centerline, and begin the circular motion again with your next inhale. To come out of the pose, bring your palms to the ground, untuck your toes, and flap out your feet on your mat. Make your way to your seat and onto your back.
Supported Bridge Pose
This time of year, I like adding in some extra time in Supported Bridge to open my low back and pelvis and to help prepare my body for full Wheel Pose. Lie down on your back and place your feet hip-width apart, with your knees stacked over your heels. Tilt your pelvis and lengthen your tailbone to the top of your mat. Ground down through all four corners of both feet, lift your hips up, and slide your block under your sacrum (lower back). It may take a few tries to find the bony sweet spot at the base of your spine, and the height of your block that works best for you. Once you find it, settle in and allow your body to be supported by your block and your mat. Try extending your arms overhead or your legs long, if that supports you in your breath and release. Hold for 10 breaths or more. To come down, press your feet into your mat to lift your hips, slide your block to the side, and slowly lower down onto your back.
Lie down on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet hip-distance apart with your feet facing 12 o’clock. Set your hands over your shoulders by your ears, wider than your shoulders, with your fingers facing back toward your body. Set your solid foundation and generate your breath. With an inhale, press down into the ground and grow your Bridge in Wheel Pose. Allow your entire front and side body to open while you power up your back, legs, and shoulders. Spin your inner thighs down to the ground and lift your outer hipbones up. Hold for 5–10 energizing breaths. Slowly come down, draw your knees into your chest, and when you are ready, come up to a seat.
Supported Headstand variations
Salamba Sirsasana variations
Come to your knees and bring your forearms to the floor. Catch your opposite hand to your opposite bicep to establish proper distance between your elbows. Interlace your fingers, including your thumbs, and press the base of your palms together. It is fundamental to establish proper distance of your arms and to create an equilateral triangle at the base before you go up into Headstand. Press the crown of your head to the ground with your skull pressed against the basket you’ve made with your hands. Gaze to your knees and make sure your eyes are parallel to the mat. Straighten your legs and come into a modified Downward-Facing Dog. Walk your feet forward toward your arms until you stack your hips over your shoulders. When your spine is aligned, pause and tap into the still point within your core. Dive into your breath and generate your flow. Tuck your knees into your chest and hug your heels toward your glutes. Press down through your arms, and when you are ready, straighten your knees and bring your whole body into a vertical line. To generate the vibrant energy of spring, play with leg variations. Trying bending both knees for pinwheel legs, Eagle legs, or a wide straddle. Hold for 10–20 breaths. Slowly come down, hinging at your hips, and make your way into Child’s Pose to reset.
Scoot one hip next to a wall, lie down on your back, and lift your legs up the wall. You can also place your block under your sacrum and lift your heels to the sky. Let the weight of your legs set your thigh bones back and expand your low back. Keep your legs active but easy and allow the energy and blood to flow from your legs to your vital organs. This pose is a passive and supported inversion, allowing the blood from your legs to flow back into your midsection (I recommend performing Legs-Up-the-Wall anytime you need to restore and reset your energy). Extend your arms by your sides and turn your palms up to the sky as a symbol that you are open and ready to receive. Hold for 10–20 breaths.
Wide Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose
From Leg-Up-the-Wall Pose, widen your heels far apart and come into a wide straddle. Flex your feet, spread your toes, and kick your heels away from you. Give yourself an assist by pressing your palms to the tops of your thighs, right by your hip crease, and pressing your thigh bones toward the wall. Allow your low back to lengthen. Hold for 10–20 breaths. To release, catch the outsides of your thighs and gently bring your legs back together. Hug your knees to your chest and scoot away from the wall.
Twist with Eagle Legs
On your back, wrap your right leg over your left thigh, creating Eagle legs. Twist both legs to the left, turn your gaze over your right shoulder, and extend your right arm straight out from your shoulder. Place your left hand to the top of your right leg to help deepen your twist. This gentle, closing twist creates flexibility in the mid- and lower back as it rinses the organs of the midsection, which boosts overall health and well-being. Hold for 10 breaths and repeat on the left side.