Reflect Back to Gaze Ahead: Yoga for the New Year

Holiday travel and revelry can make it difficult to get to your regular yoga class, which makes this season a fruitful time to explore a home practice. Here’s a yoga sequence that you can practice wherever you’re celebrating.

1) SIT QUIETLY for a few moments of reflection on the year that’s closing. What experiences or lessons will inform choices you make in 2015? What are you ready to leave behind?
2) WARM UP with downward facing dog and a few rounds of sun salutes.
3) INCLUDE THESE STANDING POSES to prepare your body for more complex postures:

  • Parsvakonasana (side angle) with a half (or full) bind will open your shoulders in preparation for a backbend.IMG_0355
  • Prasarita Padottanasana C (wide-legged forward bend with fingers interlaced behind your back) will continue to stretch the fronts of your shoulders and your chest, as well as the backs of your legs so that you can forward bend more easily. Check out this tutorial from myyogaworks.com.
  • Virabhadrasana 1 (warrior 1) will open your hip flexors to facilitate back bending. Check out this tutorial from myyogaworks.com with a 2 week free trial.
  • Parsvottanasana (forward bend with one foot forward and one back, hands in reverse namaste) will create even more chest and hamstring openingYW_TTP_6_4_1422515

4) WRING OUT THE OLD with Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (revolved side angle, a leveraged twisting lunge). From down dog, step your right foot forward. Place your right hand outside your right hip. Reach your left arm forward on an inhale. As you exhale, hook your left arm outside your right leg. Join your palms in namaste, prayer pose (or choose your preferred arm variation). To exit the pose, replace your hands on either side of your front foot, then step back to down dog. Repeat on the left.

IMG_03745) LOOK BACK AT 2014 in Ustrasana (camel). Stand on your knees with knees and feet hip-distance apart. Bring your hands to the back of your pelvis and smooth your buttocks flesh toward the backs of your knees as you strongly lift your chest to the ceiling. Release both hands to your heels at the same time. If your chest opens willingly and your upper back can find a generous arc, it’s safe to take your head back. To do so, trace an arc on the ceiling with your gaze, finally landing your eyes on the wall behind you, so the back of your neck remains long throughout the process. Press your shins and lead with your chest to come up.
IMG_03926) (W)RING IN THE NEW and neutralize your spine post-backbend with Ardha Matsyendrasana (half lord of the fishes, a seated spinal twist). Sit with your legs stretched out in front of you. (If your spine rounds when you come into the twist, your intervertebral disks will appreciate blankets under your hips). Bend your right knee and step the right foot to the outside of the left thigh. Bend the left knee and swing your left foot outside your right hip. Press your right fingertips into the floor (or blankets) behind you and reach your left arm to the ceiling to create length in your trunk. Keep this length as you turn your trunk to the right and either hook your left elbow outside the right knee or take the knee in the crook of your left elbow. Hold for a few breaths, then unwind, stretch your legs forward and repeat on the second side.
IMG_56757) LOOK FORWARD TO 2015 with Janu Sirsasana (seated forward bend). Sit with your legs stretched out in front of you. If your hamstrings resist forward bends and your spine is very rounded in the final shape, sitting on blankets will preserve your lower back. Bend your right knee and place the sole of your right foot against your inner left thigh. Inhale and lift your chest, exhale and walk your hands toward your left foot. Your hands may catch your foot or you may remain on fingertips cupped on either side of your outstretched leg. Spend a few breaths gazing forward to lengthen the trunk and to look ahead into the year to come. If your belly is on your thigh, you can fold the rest of the way down for the last few breaths. Walk your hands back toward your hips to return to upright. Repeat on the other side.
IMG_03798) REST AND REJUVENATE with Savasana (corpse pose, lying flat on your back). Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest for a few breaths. Then stretch your limbs into Savasana. Exiting Savasana with a clear, quiet mind can be an opportunity to set an intention or resolution for the upcoming year.
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Happy New Year!

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Jennie Cohen

Jennie Cohen was first introduced to yoga through dance, and her work with Simonson technique informs her approach to teaching yoga: classes prioritize working safely and address the needs of different students. Precise instruction and focused sequencing invite students to delve into the intricacies of postures and to explore a sense of adventure. Jennie’s interest in anatomy and her studies of the texts that form the philosophical foundation of the practice infuse her classes. Jennie is 500-hour certified through YogaWorks and has studied anatomy with Irene Dowd and Leslie Kaminoff. For more information on Jennie, visit her website or like her on Facebook.

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