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On days when you don’t have as much time to practice, you can still find time to unwind. Even just a few minutes of gentle movement can help you become more responsive to what your body needs. Centering yourself provides an opportunity to land in your body, connect to Mother Earth, reflect for a moment, and recall once more what your intention is for the day and for doing yoga. Try this eight-pose sequence of seated asana to enliven your body and mind.
Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
Sit on a folded blanket, preferably with your hips higher than your knees in Easy Pose. You could also sit on a bolster or on a chair. Feel your hip bones against the ground and be supported by the earth. Stretch through your spine and reach upward with the crown of your head as you take support from the sky. Close your eyes and breathe deep, calming breaths. Relax your jaw, release the tongue from the palate. Relax your temples and the space between your eyebrows. Now direct your inhalation to your heart and exhalation from your heart, down to your stomach or the place you want to focus on.
Benefits: Helps you to center yourself, find peace, and quiet your thoughts.
To create neck rolls, imagine drawing small clockwise circles in the air in front of you with the end of your chin. Then enlarge the circles. Do 15-20 turns, then change directions. The neck is sensitive, so do the movements slowly, about 10 seconds per circle.
Benefits: Neck rolls increase mobility and stretches the soft muscles of your neck and throat. They also massage the thyroid gland, which can help balance your body’s energy.
See also 6 Soothing Neck Stretches
Synchronizing Breath and Movement
Begin with your arms alongside your body. Inhale and raise your arms, palms facing upward, up over your head. Exhale and lower your arms with your palms facing down. Repeat this 5-10 times.
Benefits: This simple exercise will help synchronize breathing and movement. It stretches the sides of your body, softens up your shoulders and stretches your spine.
Hold your knees as you slowly rotate your upper body clockwise around your own midline. Let your chest lead and keep your head upright and centered. Inhale as you circle to the side and the front. Exhale as you circle to the other side and back. Do a few minutes in this manner, then switch directions.
Benefits: This centering and stabilizing movement softens your hips and back, massages your abdominal organs, and can improve digestion.
Seated Side Stretch
As you inhale, lift your right arm up with your palm facing the floor. Press your left hand down on the floor for support and bend sideways to your left. Hold this for as long as feels good, then repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Side bending stretches the muscles between the ribs in your chest. It makes room for deeper breathing and can help release blocked energy and trapped emotions.
Seated Spinal Twist
Inhale and extend your spine. As you exhale, turn your chest to the left. Place your right hand on the outside of your left knee or thigh, and place your left hand down behind your seat. Increase your torso’s rotation for five breaths. Rather than leading with your head, let your head follow the movement of your body. Counter-rotate briefly to the other side. Return to center and pause. Now rotate to the right.
Benefits: Twisting massages your respiratory muscles and your abdominal cavity. It creates circulation in your bloodstream and lymphatic system.
See also 5 Twists to Tame Your Tension
Supported Child’s Pose
Sit on your knees on a blanket. Your knees can be together or apart. Lean forward and place your forehead on a bolster, rolled up blanket, or a pillow/s for support. Stay for 2–5 minutes. If you are resting your cheek to one side, change sides halfway through the time.
Benefits: This calming, centering shape stretches your back, inner thighs, and the tops of your feet. It also stretches the muscles between your ribs and increases circulation in your chest, creating room for deeper breathing.
This natural buckwheat filled bolster from Brentwood Home can help you melt into the pose.
Come to all fours with your wrists slightly in front of your shoulders, your knees a little behind your hips. For Cow Pose (shown), inhale and lift your head and heart as you lower your shoulders away from your ears. Allow your chest and abdomen to soften. As you exhale, curve your back into Cat Pose (not shown) by rounding your spine as you press your hands and knees into the floor. Alternate between Cat and Cow Poses in synchronicity with your breath.
Benefits: Both Cat and Cow soften your shoulder blades and open your chest.
See also Cat and Cow Poses Enliven Your Spine
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Excerpted from Healing Yoga by Jennie Liljefors, 2019.