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Master Baptiste Yoga teacher Leah Cullis, who will lead YJ’s upcoming online course Pillars of Power Yoga (sign up here to be the first to know when it launches), demonstrates an energizing sequence to boost vitality from Baron Baptiste’s book Journey Into Power.
I just spent 10 days in Sedona, Arizona, at a Baptiste Yoga Level One training, and I’m feeling inspired, refreshed, and revitalized. There is something magical that happens when 180 people gather for a week of practice and purpose. Together we explore what’s possible when we break free from the comfort of our day-to-day and align with greater purpose both on and off the mat.
We can’t always get away for a week to recharge, but it’s possible to tap into a similar vibrant energy when we turn up the heat on the mat. The element of fire is present in these 7 dynamic poses that create the Vitality sequence in Baron Baptiste’s book Journey into Power. Through twists and Warrior poses, you will get your heart rate up as you begin to fan the internal, purifying flame.
Before you begin this sequence, warm up with a rag doll Standing Forward Bend for 10 breaths and at least 3 rounds of Sun Salutation A and Sun Salutation B. Set the rhythm for your practice with ujjayi breath. After you complete the sequence, I recommend finishing with 10 breaths in Half Pigeon on each side, a Seated Forward Bend, and a supine twist on each side.
Crescent Lunge is a full-body pose that trains all the muscles to work as one unit. This pose comes alive when the elements come together, balancing a solid foundation, water in your joints, and fire in your core. From Downward-Facing Dog, step your right foot forward to the top of your 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. Bend your front knee to 90 degrees and align your front knee over your ankle. Hug your inner thighs toward one another and square both hips to the front of the mat. Lift your arms and chest high. Breathe deeply for 5 balanced breaths.
This twist is a tremendous massage, wringing out the digestive and vital organs and unwinding the lower back. From Crescent Lunge, draw your hands to Prayer at heart center. Inhale and lift your chest to meet your hands. Exhale and twist, hooking your opposite arm over your opposite thigh. Continue to ride your breath, lengthening as you inhale, twisting as you exhale. Rinse and wring out your entire midsection. Press your outer shins in and stabilize your foundation. Lift the power from your legs up into your core, and from your core root down into the floor. Hold for 5 full rounds of breath or more and tap into the cleansing heat.
Warrior II is a dynamic, hip-opening pose that sculpts the leg muscles and creates expansion through the whole body. With a focused gaze, this pose teaches you how to hone your concentration and streamline your power. From Crescent Twist, open up to Warrior II. Spread your arms and dial your back heel to the earth. Press the outer edge of your back foot into the mat and lift your inner arch, stacking your front knee at a 90-degree angle. Lengthen your tailbone toward the ground and lift your low belly. Spark your fingers, set your gaze over your right middle finger, and soften your vision as you focus. Breathe deeply as you beam your attention to a single focal point. Feel your body light up with life force as you concentrate and radiate! Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.
Extended Side Angle Pose
Extended Side Angle is a full-body pose that opens, stretches, and strengthens the whole body and creates total body integration. It cultivates balance and coordination as it strengthens the legs and opens the chest. Place your lower hand down on the ground, tent your hand, and press into your fingertips. Reach your opposite arm long overhead. Root and lengthen from your back heel through the crown of your head, and twist your chest open. Keep your heels, hips, and head in one plane. Hug your front heel to the back of your mat, igniting your inner thighs. Tilt your tailbone down toward the floor, and lift the front of your belly up and in. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, then step back to Downward-Facing Dog and repeat the first four poses on the other side. After the left side is complete, step to the top of the mat for the next pose.
Chair twist (right side)
Chair twist creates flexibility and strength in the mid- and lower back as it squeezes and rinses the organs of the midsection, including the kidneys and digestive organs. Chair twist is a powerful way to detoxify your organs and glands, which boosts overall health and well-being. Bring your feet together at the center of your mat and sit deeply into Chair Pose. Keep your big toes together, ground down through all four corners of your feet, and shift your weight back into your heels. Lengthen your tailbone and lift your low belly. Bring your hands to heart center. On an inhale, lengthen your spine, and on your exhale, twist and hook your left triceps over your right thigh. Continue to extend your spine on each inhale, and twist deeper with each exhale. Work your thumbs toward the center of your chest, and lift your gaze over your top shoulder. Feel your inner heat rise as you compress and rinse your midsection. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths on the right side.
Big Toe Pose
Big Toe Pose and all inversions help to flush the brain with fresh energy and oxygen, which soothes and revitalizes the nervous system. As you release the muscles in your neck, you open up the pathway to bring more oxygen-rich blood into the brain, and as you breathe deeply, you infuse even more energy (prana) within each breath. Separate your feet hip-width apart so they are parallel to one another, and ground down through all four corners. Catch your big toes with your peace fingers. Inhale, come into a halfway lift, and fold your torso over your thighs, hinging at your hips on your exhale. Bend your knees as needed to lengthen your lower back, and rotate your inner thighs back. Tilt your hips toward the sky and stack them over the tops of your heels. Engage your quadriceps and lift your low belly. Either catch opposite elbows or keep your fingertips on the ground. Massage your back body with healing, balanced breath. Hold for 5 breaths or more. Release your toes, bring your feet together at the center of your mat, and repeat Chair twist on the left side for 5 to 10 breaths.
Separate your feet hip-width apart and parallel to one another, and slide your palms under your feet so your toes come to the creases in your wrists. Halfway lift with an inhale, fold your torso over your thighs (hinging at your hips), and surrender the crown of your head toward the ground. Tilt your hips toward the sky and stack them over the tops of your heels. Press down into the floor, engage your quadriceps, and lift up into your core, your low belly. Create earthiness and stability in the legs to access release through your neck and spine. Hold for 5 breaths or more.
Crow is an upper-body and core strengthener that leads to balance and lightness. From Gorilla, plant your hands to your mat to set up for Crow Pose. Separate your hands on the floor shoulder-distance apart or wider and bend your elbows. Keep your tail high and hug your knees against the back of your arms. Gaze forward in front of your fingers as you shift your weight forward and start to lift your feet. Your drishti (gaze) helps you to stabilize. Play with taking flight! Hold for 5–10 breaths. Shoot back through Chaturanga and move through through Upward-Facing Dog and Downward-Facing Dog, or simply step back to Downward-Facing Dog.