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For me, growing up Chinese American, the Chinese New Year was always one of my favorite holidays—and one I had a great sense of joy around sharing. Red decorations strewn everywhere, firecrackers popping, smells of delicious foods wafting in streets filled with people laughing, celebrating, and singing—that was the most wonderful time of my year. I remember running from adult to adult with my hands extended, saying giddly, “Xing Nian Kuai Le! Hong Bao Na Lai!” as I received red envelopes filled with a little cash.
In the Chinese culture—as well as many other Asian cultures—Chinese New Year represents a time of deep connection, reflection, gratitude, and optimism. The Chinese have long followed the lunar calendar, which is why the New Year, which falls on the first New Moon of the new lunar calendar, varies by a few weeks between late January and mid-February, and doesn’t coincide with the western world’s New Year celebration on January 1st.
What is Chinese New Year?
Spread over the course of 15 days, with the final celebration ending on the Full Moon, Chinese New Year is filled with ritual. Each day represents a new task and space for reflection and appreciation. For this reason, it is such a wonderful time to be inspired by our own practices, harnessing the energy of the Chinese New Year to find more clarity, connection, and direction.
According to the legend I learned growing up, there was great argument between the great animals of the kingdom as to who was the greatest. The squabbling was so bad that finally the great Emperor decided to have a race over a stretch of terrain to determine who actually was the greatest. Thirteen animals all joined in, including the Cat, and off they went over land, air, and water, racing for the coveted spot of first place. There are great tales and lessons of friendship, working together, shrewdness, deceit, confidence, and self-doubt woven into the stories of each animal as they made their way to the finish line—wise tales of character and about the choices we make.
Alas, only 12 animals crossed the finish line, their order representing the order of the 12 subsequent years of the Chinese Zodiac. The Cat though, never made it, as it was sabotaged by the Rat at the river and drowned, creating the legend of why cats then forever hunted mice—and also offering a cautionary tale of discernment.
This is the Year Of The Pig, the 12th and final zodiac animal, and one that is considered quite auspicious with luck, overall good fortune, wealth, honesty, and general prosperity. It is a great year to see your planted seeds and hard work yield results—or, it’s a good time to get started on those dreams you’ve put on hold.
Along with the animals, the Chinese have always included the elements in each zodiac, which adds additional energy and representation. This year is Earth. After an intense two years, this new energy gives us a chance to rest and digest, even carving out much needed space to reflect and make sense of the intense energy changes we have experienced around the world.
The Pig is a friendly animal that will inspire us to build bridges, not walls, and to start to really take care of ourselves from the inside out. Being gentle to ourselves and others is key this year. I created this Year of the Earth Pig flow to help you press the re-set button—to clean up, clear out, release what no longer serves you, and rest deeply. May this Chinese New Year help you welcome in a change of pace—and space for a year filled with luck, fortune, self-care, and true alignment with your life’s purpose.
See also 18 Reasons to Practice Self-Care
A Sequence to Celebrate the Chinese New Year
1. Ego Eradicator with Breath of Fire
In alignment with the first day of New Year, we clean out our space with breath and melt our ego.It’s the perfect opener to clear space for the new by blasting out the old. Sit back on your heels or in Easy Pose. Raise your arms to a 60-degree angle. Curl your fingertips onto the base of your fingers and point your thumbs into the sky. Close your eyes, concentrate above your head, and repeat Breath of Fire. (Strong pumping of your belly, focusing on active exhalations out your nose and passive inhalations through your nose. Continue for 1-3 minutes.Then, on an inhalation, touch your thumb tips together overhead. On an exhalation, apply mulabandha, and relax on an inhalation.
A warmed and cleared body is perfect to work the meridians and central energy channel. Focus on expanding with each cycle and gently encouraging range of motion that feels good for you. Long, deep, and even breaths in and out enhance this flow’s effectiveness and overall well-being. Repeat 12 cat/cows each, focusing on quality over quantity.
3. Extended Cat Pose
Once the spine is warmed up, encourage more space through your back body with this delicious stretch. From Cat Pose, seal your hands to the earth and stay rounded in your upper back as you lean your hips back, finding the sweet spot where the notoriously tight shoulder blade area needs serious TLC. Hold for 5 breaths, focusing on inflating the back of your body. Come back to tabletop, cycle through 3 rounds of cat/cow, and on the third cat, lean back into Child’s Pose. Repeat this 3 times.
4. Extended Child’s Pose
Take a wide-kneed Child’s Pose with your arms extended straight out from your shoulders. Bring your palms together in a Prayer position, and then bend at your elbows, brining your prayer hands over the back of your head. Keep the weight of your seat heavy and grounded as you inch your elbows forward, and look for the opening through your underarms, side body, and back. Hold for 8 breaths and gently release by extending through the elbows and straightening your arms. Find Down Dog and enjoy the new length you likely feel.
5. Revolved Low Lunge
From Down Dog, step your right foot forward into Low Lunge, then press the floor away to help you rise up to a High Lunge, with your arms extended overhead. Take a deep inhalation and on the exhalation, twist to the right, hooking your right elbow to the top or outside edge of your right thigh, layering your palms in Prayer Pose at your heart center. Connect to the strength of the Earth by pushing down into it and feeling it push up into you. Hold for 5 even breaths, then release your hands to Earth, framing the front foot and stepping back to Down Dog. Repeat on your other side, ending in Down Dog.
6. Goddess Pose to Standing Wide-Legged Forward Fold
Step or hop to the top of your mat, finding Mountain Pose. From there, step your left foot length wise on your mat and extend your arms straight out from the shoulders. Heal-toe your feet under your wrist or palms and stand firmly on the Earth. Turn both feet out 45-90 degrees, depending on your flexibility, and squat deeply into your power seat. Draw the Earth up through your pelvic floor by isometrically hugging your feet toward each other, and bring your index finger and thumb together for Jnana mudra. Take 5 breaths here, letting your body naturally expand deeper into the pose.
To transition to a wide-legged forward fold, straighten your knees and turn your toes forward. From there, turn your toes slightly in, no more than 15 degrees. Bring your hands to your hips, and look up. On an inhalation, rotate at your hips to fold toward the Earth. Take yogi toe lock and lift your shoulders away from your ears. Take 5 breaths here, then rise up and step to the top of your mat. Move through a vinyasa and end in Down Dog.
7. Half Lord of The Fishes
From Down Dog, step or float to a comfortable seat with your legs extended. Step your right foot to the outside of your left leg, and if possible, bend your left knee to bring the left foot to the outside of the right outer hip. Use your right fingertips on the outside edge of your right hip to ground down, then reach your left hand high. On an inhalation, reach slightly back to find space; on an exhalation, twist toward the right, hooking your left elbow on your right thigh. If it requires too much effort to stay twisted, wrap your left arm around the front of your right shin. Take 5 even breaths here, gently releasing to center to switch sides.
See also Watch: Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
8. Seated Forward Fold
With your legs together and extended straight out in front of you, feet flexed, inhale to reach your arms skyward, lifting through your waist. On an exhalation, rotate at your hips and drop your hands at a comfortable position, not forcing any forward fold. Take this space to reflect and draw further inward. Stay here for 8 breaths. On each inhalation, find more space in your body; on each exhalation, sink into that new space.
See also Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend
9. Fish Pose
Round off this Chinese New Year-inspired sequence with an auspicious Fish. Roll flat on your back and tuck your hands, palms facing down, under your seat. Lift your chest and balance on your forearms and bent elbows. Open your chest toward the sky, letting your head tilt back, crown resting gently on earth. Hug your inner thighs and reach energetically through your toes. Hold here for 5 breaths, then release and bend your knees, plant your feet on the Earth, and slowly move your knees from one side of your spine to the other.
End your practice with a well-deserved Savasana, having found new space and energy to bring your dreams to reality. Xian Nian Kuai Le!