Downward dog is a call to remain attentive to our inner wisdom, and at the same time, the stretch invigorates and enlivens, renewing our sense of wholeness.
Health benefits: Strengthens arms, wrists, legs and back, stretches shoulders, legs, and side bodies. Lymph circulation by the reversal of gravity is recharged
How to: From all fours, place your hands shoulder width apart and parallel. Place your index fingers parallel to one another and spread your fingers evenly. Keeping your hands steady, move your knees back four inches and tuck your toes under. Keeping your toes tucked under, and your hands steady, lift your knees and hips up and back. Push the hands down and forward, and extend your legs to straight. Keep your head relaxed, not pushing it toward the floor, nor lifting it away from the floor, and set your eyes on one place. Hold the pose and breathe. To come out, bend your knees and place them back to the floor, returning to all fours.
Note: If your legs are tight or your lower back rounds, bend your knees halfway to the floor. Without collapsing your armpits or the front of your body, keep your knees as wide as your ankles and widen your seat, working your legs toward being straight one breath, or one week, at a time.
This pose is outwardly beautiful. In this way, it is an expression of the beauty and gift of being embodied.
Health benefits: Diaphragm and lungs are stimulated, increased circulation to spinal discs, muscles, joints, nerve roots. All organs in the thoracic and abdominal cavity are massaged and stretched, increasing their efficiency. Improves indigestion, and aids in maintaining elasticity of lungs, ribs, intercostal muscles, and diaphragm
How to: Begin seated with your legs outstretched and parallel, and your torso upright. Bend your left knee and place the inner left heel against the outer left hip. Point your left foot straight back, top of the foot on the floor, toes un-tucked. Lean to your right side and bend your right knee. Point your right foot and grab a hold of your right ankle with your right hand. With your left hand, hold the underside of the right foot. Keep your right knee on the floor and your right foot active, as you lean to your right, and place the outer right foot on the very top of the left thigh in a half-lotus. The right knee should be on the floor. Bring the left hand to the top of the right knee and swing the left arm behind your back to grasp the right big toe from behind your back. Inhale and lengthen the spine, and as you exhale, turn the torso to the right. Keep the torso turning to the right, and look over the right shoulder. You may also keep the torso turning to the right and look over the left shoulder and slightly down. Hold the pose and breathe. To come out, inhale and return the torso to center, unhook the foot, unfold the legs. Switch sides.
Watch the how-to video for Bharadvajasana's Twist II
Half Seated Spinal Twist
With increased lung capacity, we breathe better – and when we breathe better, every sense is enlivened, from our intuition to our sense of smell and taste.
Level: Beginner/All levels
Health benefits: Diaphragm and lungs are stimulated, increased circulation to spinal discs, muscles, joints, and nerve roots. All organs in the thoracic and abdominal cavity are massaged and stretched, increasing their efficiency. Improves indigestion, abdominal muscles are strengthened, aids in maintaining elasticity of lungs, ribs, intercostal muscles, and diaphragm
How to: Begin seated with your legs outstretched and parallel, and your torso upright. Keep your left leg on the floor and bend your right knee. Place the sole of your right foot to the floor outside your knee. Bend your left knee and bring the heel of your left foot to your outer right hip. Point your left foot. Place your right hand on the floor behind you, just behind your right hip, and inhale your left arm vertical. Exhale and twist your torso to the right, bringing your left elbow to the outside of your right knee. Bend your left elbow and open your palm to the side. With your inhalation, lift and lengthen your spine, and on your exhalation, twist from the front to the back of your torso, and look over your right shoulder. To come out, inhale and return your torso to center. Switch sides.
Watch the how-to video for Half Seated Spinal Twist
This pose grounds us in the present moment, all the while growing in us mental and physical endurance to courageously persevere.
Level: All Levels
Health benefits: Increased blood flow to legs and spine, improves flat feet, can aid in digestive functioning, strengthens legs, back. stretches legs, spine.
How to: From standing, place your feet hip width apart and parallel. Keep your right foot firmly planted and take a generous step back with your left leg. Pivot your back heel to the floor and place your foot so that you could draw a line from your front heel to your back heel. Point your back toes out, slightly, about thirty degrees. Firm your legs evenly on all sides and up into your hips and lower back. Keeping your legs firm, turn your hips and torso to face your front leg. Keep your back heel planted and your back leg straight and strong as you bend your front knee over your front ankle bone. Keep your legs as they are and on an inhalation, lift your arms overhead and vertical. Look up past your thumbs. and breathe. To come out, lift your back heel and step forward again. Switch sides.
Note: If it is too challenging to have the back heel on the floor, keep the feet hip width apart and lift the back heel over the toe mounds. This will be less strenuous on the back knee and hips, as well. For balance, without moving your feet, hug your outer legs, from ankles to hips, into the centre line of your body.
Watch the how-to video for Warrior I
The name alone suggests a coming out, a bright expression of aliveness and enthusiasm. Part arm balance and part front body opener, this pose is a serious combination of play and purpose, of boldness and believing.
Level: Beginner/All levels
Health benefits: Refinement of proprioception, strengthens shoulders, arms and wrists, back muscles, legs. stretches shoulders, front body, lungs stimulated, body heat increased, heart stimulated
How to: From side plank (see previous instructions) with the right hand and right foot on the floor, place the left hand on the hip and step left foot behind the right leg, with a bent knee. Keep your right hand firmly rooted on the floor, and take the top of your right shoulder back and beneath your chest. With your right leg straight and strong and your left foot flat on the floor, turn your hips toward the ceiling and lift your chest and front body up away from the floor. Curl your head back, opening your throat and extend your left arm up, over your ear and toward the floor. To come out, press firmly into your bottom hand to bring your hips to the left and back to side plank. Switch sides.
Watch the how-to video for Wild Thing
Spring is beckoning us to play and to call upon our reserve of inner strength to see what is possible to bring forth. This pose calls us to hold ourselves up and rise to any occasion, with faith and vigour.
Level: Beginner/All levels
Health benefits: Refinement of proprioception strengthens shoulders, arms and wrists, cardiac output is stimulated, and abs are active.
How to: From the top of a push-up with straight arms, fingers spread, index fingers parallel to one another, walk your right hand forward a palm's distance and bring your feet together. Keeping the feet together, roll to the outer edge of your right foot and your right hand, coming into a balance on your right side. Place your left hand on your left hip. Ground the bottom palm entirely, including the inner edge of the hand, and squeeze the inner edges of the feet together. Press down onto your bottom hand and lift your hips. Extend your left arm vertically and turn your head to look up past the top hand. To come out, return to the top of a push-up.
Note: If it is too challenging to balance with the feet together, bend your left knee and place the left foot flat on the floor in front of your body, toes pointing away from you to help you balance. Switch sides.
Watch the how-to video for Side Plank
This pose asks you to call on all your reserves to participate and boldly move forward. The season asks the same.
Health benefits: Strengthens shoulders and arms; cardiac output is stimulated; abs toned; thoracic cavity is compressed thereby stimulating the lungs; helps to prevent constipation
How to: From standing, bend your right knee and place your right ankle above left knee with your right knee pointing out. Bend both knees deeply and bring hips and knees in the same plane. Extend the torso forward and over the right shin. Bring your hands to the floor, outer shoulder width apart, with index fingers parallel and pointing straight ahead. Flex the right foot and hook the top of your right foot around your upper left arm as close to the armpit as possible. Keeping your right foot hooked, bend your elbows and look forward. Lean your body forward, placing more weight onto your hands and round your back, pulling your front ribs in. Lift your left foot off the floor. Keep looking straight ahead, as you extend your lifted left leg back and parallel to the floor. To come out, bring your back knee close to your body again and place both feet flat on the floor. Switch sides.
Watch the how-to video for Arm Balance
For some, the energy of spring can be enlivening, but also uprooting, even unsettling. This pose can help us playfully and patiently navigate the place between being and becoming.
Level: Beginner/All levels
Health benefits: Increased blood flow to legs and spine
How to: Stand with your feet parallel to one another, put your left hand on your left hip and transfer your weight onto your left foot. With your right hand, hold your right ankle from the inside of your leg. Point your right knee out to the side and place the sole of your right foot to the inside of your left leg, either above or below your knee, or as high as your upper inner thigh with your toes pointing down. Bring your hands together at your chest and steady your eyes in one spot at eye level. Inhale and reach your arms overhead, shoulder width apart or palms touching. Enjoy a full cycle of breath or more. To come out, exhale and lower your hands and your lifted foot. Switch sides.
Watch the how-to video for Tree Pose
Local yoga instructor extraordinaire Christine Price Clark shares nine poses to energize you this spring
Spring clean your mental clutter. Becoming quiet and still in a season when things are moving and growing can help attune us to the same rhythms as spring.
Level: Beginner/All levels
Health benefits: Reduces blood pressure, relaxation of nervous system, respiratory and metabolic rate slows, improves oxygen intake by slowing your breathing, can stimulate and cleanse the nasal passages
How to: Take a cross-legged seat with your knees wide and lower than your hips and pelvis. (Raise your hips by sitting on a blanket, pillow or block). Place your hands on the tops of your thighs and lengthen your spine. Take your shoulders back and place your upper arms alongside your side body. You may look straight ahead or keeping your chest lifted, bring your chin slightly toward your chest. Close your eyes. Remain seated and focus on your breath.