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Beginner’s Mind: A Back-to-Basics Yoga Sequence

Been a while since you’ve been on the mat? Or maybe you’re just starting out and don’t even have a mat, yet. Don’t sweat it. There is space for you wherever you decide to begin. Whether you’re a seasoned yogi who has just fallen out of routine, a mom with little to no free time, or a college student whose current practice consists of the few poses you’ve tried from Instagram- this is your time. This is your practice. If you’re not sure where to begin, well, you’ve come to the right spot. Here is a quick 10-minute Back-to-Basics flow you can do anywhere, any time.

Child's Pose


Come to all fours on your mat. Take your big toes to touch with the tops of your feet on the mat, and your inner thighs in towards one another. Then press your hips back until they come to rest over your heels and extend your torso long. Walk your hands out in front of you, elongating the arms and side bodies. Rest your forehead on the ground between your arms. If this is difficult for you, you may take a block under your face for your forehead to rest on. If your knees become sensitive try placing a rolled up towel or blanket behind the backs of your knees. Stay here for 10-20 deep breaths. See if you can get each breath to be just a little bit deeper than the one before it. Set your intention here if that is something that calls to you. Your intention is the word or phrase or reason for practice that keeps you anchored to the movement happening on your mat.

Table Top


From where you are in Child’s Pose, begin to press into the palms, engaging the arms and parts of the core to pull your body up on to all fours. Place the hands down, wrists directly underneath shoulders, and stack the knees directly beneath the hips, shins parallel to each other. Press down through the tops of your feet. With your gaze down at the mat, allow your neck to grow long, reaching the crown of the head forward, Activate the belly muscles once more and pull the belly button up into the low back, creating space between the vertebrae of the lumbar spine. The tail bone reaches straight back behind you. Then begin to notice the quality of the connection between your body and the mat. Breathe as you fully experience the mat beneath your hands or beneath your legs.

Cat/Cow




On an inhale allow the fronts of the hips to tip forward, reaching the tailbone directly upwards. This puts an arch in the low back. At the same time the belly and chest drop, and the shoulders pull back, allowing opening through the collarbone and upper back. Here, you can turn the gaze up by lifting the chin slightly. On the exhale, tuck the tailbone and round through the spine. Push into your hands so much that you can make a dome out of the space between your shoulder blades. Tuck the chin in towards the chest, and reach the forehead towards the pubic bone. Repeat this movement several times, and try to remain constant in the breath.

Downward Facing Dog


Walk both hands forward about one hand length, and plant the palms on the mat at shoulder width so that the index fingers are something close to parallel. Spread the hands wide apart so that they take up as much surface area as possible. Tuck the toes under and begin to find that same low abdominal engagement we talked about in table top. As the core gets stronger begin to lift the knees up off the mat a few inches. Then press your torso back over your thighs and reach your hips up into the sky. The arms are strong and the shoulders press apart, providing space for your neck. Keep the knees somewhat soft, and reach the heels towards the back of your mat. Stay here for several breaths, and find some movement in the pose if that is what your body wants.

Three-Legged Dog


Start with the right foot. Inhale to reach the right leg straight up and back behind you. See if you can do this without bending the knee. Then bring your awareness back to your foundation. Press evenly through both palms and try your best to keep the shoulders squared towards the mat. Allow the grounded foot to reach into the earth. Maybe the heel touches the mat, maybe it doesn’t. Square the hips towards the mat, too, so that the outer point of your right hip is reaching to the side rather than directly up. Make sure that the top of the right thigh is facing down, with energy reaching all the way through the right leg. Finally, flex the right toes towards the face so that the pinky toe points down, and push back through your right heel.

Low Lunge


On an exhale pull the right knee towards the nose, shifting your weight forward so that the shoulders stack over the wrists and the space between the shoulder blades rounds. Lightly step the right foot down between the hands. Drop the back knee to the mat and untuck the toes. Press down into the space between the first and second toes to anchor the back leg and relieve any pressure on the knee. Take the time to set your right knee directly in front of your hip, and then stack your heel just beneath the knee. Press down into all four corners of this front foot and feel the sole activate as you begin to lift your torso. Start with taking both hands to the front knee, then, if you’re ready, take an inhale to sweep the arms up long, letting the shoulders stay soft.

Standing Forward Bend


From your lunge, tuck the back toes under and press through the ball of the foot to lift the knee up off of the mat. Begin to gently shift weight forward and back until you feel ready to step the left foot forward to meet the right. Step the feet hips distance apart. You can measure this by taking two fists between the arches of your feet, and allowing the ankles to brush up against the outer edges of the hands. Bend your knees enough to let your torso rest on top of your thighs, with the belly physically touching the quads. Drop your head completely, then take a deep breath and drop your head even more. With your upper body hanging there, reach for opposite elbows. Maybe you find small movements here; bouncing, swaying from side to side, or shaking the head yes and no.

Mountain Pose


Take as many breaths as you deem necessary to bring your body here. Start by bending the knees a little deeper and then begin rolling the body up. Press down through the soles of the feet and the thighs as you slowly restack the vertebrae, coming up to straight, and let your head be the very last thing to stack up on top of your shoulders. Notice again, your connection to your mat. Feel the soles of the feet soften as they press downward. Soften the knees, lengthen the low back and tailbone behind you, and try to stack your shoulders, hips, and knees over the heels. Lift through the chest and take the chin parallel to the ground, constantly reaching up through the crown of the head. After going back through the other side you'll find yourself back in downward dog.

Chair Pose


Feel the palms reach into the mat and inhale to lift the heels. With the exhale bend deeply through the knees, and at the very bottom of your breath step or lightly hop the feet to the hands. Take an expansive inhale to lift the torso up off the thighs and reach the arms forward. Exhaling, sink the hips back, bending the knees, and take the thighs as close to parallel to the mat as you can manage. Allow a soft arch to find its way into the low back. Gently press the soles of the feet apart so that your outer thighs turn on. Take a quick peek down and check if you can see your toes or not. If not, send more weight backward. Keep lifting through the chest, and keep breathing. Try to relax the shoulders away from the neck and release any clenching in your jaw.

Boat Pose


Sink the hips all the way down until the sitting bones touch the mat, all the while continuing to reach forward. Lean back, keeping the sway in the low back and the lift through the chest. Try to find a balance point resting on your sit bones. Press the belly button to the spine to activate the core as you lift the feet up. Take the shins parallel to the mat, and rest the calves in the palms of your hands like a shelf. You can also use a pulling movement on your calves to help keep your shoulders back and your chest up. If you experience any rounding in the low back bring the feet back down, tip the hips forward and lift the chest, then move forward again.

Bridge Pose


Bring the feet to touch back down to the mat and the palms behind the knees. Hold onto the legs as you roll down the spine onto your back, pulling your knees to chest as you go. Take a few breaths to rock softly from side to side. When you’re ready, place the soles of your feet back down onto the mat and bring your arms down by your sides, palms facing down. Bring your feet close enough so that you can just barely tickle the heels. Press into the soles of the feet, the palms, and the forearms, and with an inhale lift only the chest up off the mat. The tailbone remains grounded at first. Then slowly begin to lift the hips directly upward, as you reach your sternum towards your head and your knees away from you. See if you can release the glutes without dropping the hips. To come down lift the heels and lower the spine down as slowly as you can, taking a moment for your low back to melt once it touches back down.

Shavasana


FINALLY! This is what we’re here for. Allow your legs to stretch out straight, coming to lie comfortably on your mat. Feet and hands can be as wide apart as you wish. Let your whole self relax. Find stillness and softness. The eyes will sink deeper into their sockets and the space around the brow releases. The jaw and the neck soften. The shoulders and hips root into the mat. Let the mind be open, the heart be light, and the breath be full. Stay here for anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes. Just listen to your breath and be grateful for the fact that you have nothing else to worry about for right now.

If you’re really interested in getting back into and building your personal practice, come take a class with me at Joy Yoga Center. This month is all about getting back to the basics. With that in mind we have added some great beginner events to the schedule. There are several regularly scheduled Fundamentals of Yoga classes, as well as beginner workshops and a fundamentals package that’s perfect for getting back into the swing. Hope I’ll see you on the mat!

By Caty Christy

Yoga Pants provided by : Fractal 9

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