You’re doing the best you can.
You’re trying to stay at home. You’re homeschooling the kids. You’re trying to keep working at your job, or you’re navigating the waters of having lost employment. You’re trying to remain upbeat and optimistic.
There’s a lot of juggling going on, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 25+ years in the health and fitness industry, it’s that the first ball we let drop is our own – our self-care.
Inertia is a Powerful Force
You may start each day with grand plans for a healthy dose of movement. You may have visions of a long, brisk walk. You may decide that today’s going to be the day you dust off the Bowflex or your dad’s ancient dumbbels in the basement. Whether it’s because you’ve run out of time, energy, or steam, or because your sense of overwhelm is holding you down like lead, perhaps you’re not taking as much care to get your body moving these days.
This has implications for your energy. Energy moves through the body freely when the body is open and unblocked. More energy begets more energy: once you’ve got it flowing, you’ll find yourself coming back
online; fully charged.
Yoga to Unlock Energy and Relieve Pressure
I’ve created the following yoga sequence precisely to help unlock energy and relieve the pressure you’re feeling in your head and heart, and that’s locked up inside your body. This sequence is simple, slow, and low-stress; designed to feel like an exhilarating and relaxing deep sigh.
And we could all use a deep sigh right about now.
So get down on the floor (you don’t even need a yoga mat) and do as many of these easy, feel-good postures as you can, for as long as it feels good.
Your Hips Hold Your Tension
Many yogis affirm that our hips are the spot in our body where we hold much of our emotional and spiritual tension. Whether that sounds plausible or far-fetched to you, there is simply no denying that hip opening yoga postures feel darn good.
So in this series, we’ll focus predominantly through the big hip joints, while also flowing through some spinal rolling. Let’s get your energy flowing again. You can complete the whole sequence in less than 30 minutes; a perfectly affordable amount of time to spend on yourself.
I’ve created short instructional videos for each couplet. I encourage you to linger in each pose of each sequence as long as you like (I move through them more quickly in the videos, in the interest of brevity). This
isn’t meant to be a heart-pumping workout. It’s an exercise in self-kindness; slow and gentle is the name of the game.
I hope it helps you feel better!
Warm-Up Yoga Sequence
- Spinal roll down
- Forward fold with dead hang
- Garland pose (or child’s pose)
- Spinal roll up
Repeat this sequence as many times as you like until your back and hips feel warm and juicy. Observe how the first round feels. Observe how this improves in the second round, the third, and so on.
On the spinal curls, imagine each of your spinal vertebrae rolling up, one at a time, like a string of pearls. Concentrate on moving each one independently of its neighbors.
In the forward fold, allow your head, shoulders, and arms to hang very heavily, as dead weight, enabling a sensation of traction within the spine.
In garland pose, press your knees out with your elbows, drop your tailbone toward the floor, and try to lift the crown of your head toward the ceiling. If garland pose is eluding you today, take child’s pose and settle right down into the floor. Be sure to emphasize the length of your spine by reaching the arms very far forward, and sending the hips very far back.
Lunge Sequence (front of hip)
- Upright reaching lunge
- Low lunge
In the upright version of the lunge, reach the same arm as the downward leg as high as you can. You may choose to lean away, to add more length to the stretch in the front hip.
In the low lunge, bring your arms to the inside of the forward leg. You can remain up on your hands with straight arms, or play around with bending your arms a bit to drop even lower. You may even be able to take your elbows to the floor. Don’t feel the need to push it. This is meant to be gentle.
Linger as long as you like in each lunge, repeating the sequence on the other side.
Frog Sequence (inside of hip)
- Frog pose
- Wide child’s pose
To get into frog pose, put your elbows on the floor, then take your knees wide, your ankles wide, and your toes wide (you may wish to double up the mat under your knees or put a pillow under each knee for comfort on a hard floor). Lightly press into your elbows to send your hips and tailbone slightly backward. It doesn’t take long for frog pose to feel intense. Come out of it when you’re ready for a break.
Then move into this very wide-legged version of child’s pose by shifting your weight slightly forward from frog pose, and bringing the tips of your toes together behind you. Keep the knees wide. Reach your arms as far out in front of you as you can. Settle your body into the floor in between your knees.
Repeat this sequence as many times as you like.
Pigeon sequence (side of hips)
- Half lotus
- Pigeon/Extended pigeon
Don’t worry if your half lotus or pigeon look a little rougher than what you see on Pinterest. You’re working with what your body is giving you today and that is perfectly enough. Concentrate on how it feels, on letting go of any “hold” though the hips, and in the breath.
Half lotus can be done with the ankle stacked up on the opposite knee, or for a little easier option (depending on how your hips and knees feel) take the ankle to the opposite calf. Can’t manage half lotus? Simply sit cross-legged with one leg folded in front of the other.
In pigeon pose, try your best to extend your leg as far back behind you as you can, allowing your kneecap and all five toenails to anchor to the floor. You can remain upright, fold down to your elbows, or bring your forehead to the floor.
Take your time allowing gravity to sink your pigeon ever-closer to the floor, then repeat on the other side.
Seated bends sequence (lower back, side of trunk)
- Head to knee forward bend
- Seated side bend
“Head to knee” is merely a suggestion. A directional aspiration, if you will. Your head does not need to make contact with your knee, but behave as if that’s your desired outcome.
You may find the seated side bend a little “sticky;” I do too. Don’t worry if you can’t get over very far. Rather than leaning to the side, imagine curling your trunk over in a C shape. Observe how your body is suspended by the muscles and connective tissue in your side trunk and see if, with each subsequent round, you can’t bend a little more.
Feel free to cycle back and forth between these two postures, and don’t forget to switch sides. Observe how one side feels compared to the other.
Spinal twist sequence
- Spinal curls
- Supine twist
Your spine has 33 individual vertebrae, 17 of which make up the mobile and bendy part of a healthy back. This final sequence is designed to deliver on the spinal suppleness that is your birthright.
As you curl your spine in and out, can you imagine all 5 of your lumbar (lower back) vertebrae and all 12 of your thoracic (middle and upper back) vertebrae moving, one at a time? Observe where you get stuck. On each subsequent curl, observe whether that stickiness begins to loosen up. Complete several rounds of these curls before moving to the twist.
Hug your knees into your chest and then simply allow your bent legs to fall to one side, while keeping your shoulders anchored square to the floor. The weight of your legs will help deepen into this very gentle spinal twist. Switch sides when it feels good.
One you’ve finished your sequences, lay quietly or come to seated, and simply observe how different your body feels, and how different you feel in your body. Then go about the business of managing the challenges of the current day, with renewed, flowing energy.