Vivaciousness in Vasisthasana

≤60 min. Strength and stability are called for the practice of side plank or Vasisthasana. Enjoy a playful and fun time on your mat as you build arm strength and explore a pose that requires open hips, steadiness and strength in arm balance, and length in the hamstrings. Even if the full pose feels inaccessible to you, there are so many variations and alternatives to explore. The sequence calls for are strength in adho mukha svanasana and palankasana, as well as standing poses such as virabhadrasana 2. Enjoy balance and hamstring poses such as uttitha trikonasana and ardha chandrasana. After vivacious vasisthasana alternatives, settle down and continue hip opening work in baby cradle and in seated poses such as ardha matsyendrasana and janu sirsasana. We close the practice in supta padangustasana variations and savasana. Thanks to so many friends who offered their time for the photos in this practice – also to Lula the cat that wanted to be part of the photo shoot as well!

Can’t get into a squat with your heels down?

≤45 min. Go from very accessible versions of childs pose, utkatasana (chair pose), virabhadrasana 1, and parsvottanasana to lengthen your soleus, stretch your calves, and open your hips so that malasana (squat variation) is accessible. Learn more about the biomechanics of the pose when you lie on your back and un-tuck your pelvis; in the prone squat you learn how to access the same. Using a towel, blanket, or yoga mat access greater dorsiflexion in your feet to make the connections to go deeper through chair pose toward a full squat. With a chair or something to hold onto, notice how you can engage the leg muscles in a wide stance squat. No longer will you be plopping or dropping yourself in the chair and trusting solely in your arm strength to get yourself out of a chair once your legs gained strength to engage in a deeper utkatasana and squat.

Mobilize tight calves and strengthen ankles

≤30 min. Walking, hiking and running require mobility in your feet. When your feet are bound in shoes all day and are only on flat surfaces, you need to engage the calf muscles and align the feet and ankles in a way to ensure that small cracks in the sidewalk or other uneven terrain are not injurious. This practice enables you to get mobility in your feet, learn different ways to stretch your calves, stretch and lengthen the top of the foot and internally and externally rotate the legs. Using a rolled sticky mat, towel or blanket and one yoga block you will focus on the back foot wherein the back heel tends to lift quickly without grounding the heel first, thereby tightening the calf and ankle muscles. Through explorations of internal rotation, external rotation and anatomic neutral foot positioning you will engage in a way to prepare your muscles for uneven surfaces that you are faced with in activities such as walking, hiking, jogging, and running.

Yoga modifications with a broken leg

≤15 min. Consider this practice with your doctor’s consent. When you are told that your leg should not bear any weight, you need to modify your yoga practice. Because of your yoga practice, many things that others have difficulty with and need help or special equipment to perform daily tasks such as putting on underwear, pants, socks and shoes fortunately will not be an issue for you. Yet as pain decreases and swelling reduces in the leg, other parts of your body start to feel the pain of not doing a yoga practice. In recovery I created different ways to practice yoga poses in a very safe manner – so can you. First you learn how to get on the floor and off the floor to come to a standing position without bearing any weight on the broken leg; because of your regular practice in yoga these moves are typically accessible. Seated forward bends, a restorative backbend (so important because the mid-thoracic becomes so tight), viparita karani (legs up the wall), a pigeon variation called Bridget's cross, twisting from upavistha konasana, and marichyasana, supta padangustasana, and of course savasana. When your doctor tells you to keep the weight off of one leg and you choose to hop around on the opposite leg you will soon discover that one leg becomes stronger as another weakens from no weight bearing; the asymmetry and misalignment resulting from standing on one leg requires a floor-based yoga practice of seated and supine poses to bring you back into alignment.

Flow with the breath — make your practice an offering

≤30 min. Svaha (pronounced swa ha) is an important mantra in yoga. There are many Sanskrit definitions of the word svaha as well as several different translations. For the purpose of this practice we can use svaha as a way to allow an easeful flow of the breath wherein the in-breath is “sva” (swa), the out-breath is “ha”. This is a mantra that is often associated with blessings, or offerings. In all yoga practice it is common to set an intention (aka Sankalpa) at the beginning of the practice. The intention can be a heart quality you would like to cultivate such as patience, generosity, forgiveness, gratitude, strength, or use the practice as your offering to a loved one or to one in need. As you maintain a steadiness and focus on the breath, you are able to maintain focus to your intention. In this practice forward bends, backbends, lateral stretches, and twists enable you to dive deeper into poses such as uttanasana, lunges, bhujangasana, uttitha parsvakonasana, marichyasana, and setubandha sarvangasana. Blocks are useful for the practice.

Lumbar spine support in supine poses

≤30 min. In this gentle and slow yoga class we focus on the lumbar and the upper thoracic parts of the spine. This is a gentle supportive yoga class wherein the poses are held for 3-4 minutes; not quite as long as in a yin yoga class, but certainly long enough to draw our awareness slightly deeper into these parts of the spin. In the upper thoracic spine we often find that this kyphotic (e.g., rounded) curve seems quite inflexible when contrasted with the lumbar spine. We will hold the poses longer as we practice supine variations to poses such as sarvangasana, (alternatively legs up the wall), supta padangustasana, and supine twists. You will need a blanket and a block and we'll be starting by lying on our back. This practice was a Zoom yoga class held during the Indian celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi, wherein celebrations honor rejuvenation, rebirth, a fresh start, and new beginnings. As we begin to find more flexibility in the spine a felt sense of vitality and awakening.

Hamstring focus in forward bends

≤45 min. Follow this sequence to first engage the hamstrings by bending the knee to Forward folding asanas include parsvottanasana, twists such as parvrtta trikonasana, wide angle seated upavista konasana, and a sequence that takes you from dandasana to paschimottanasana. Allow this practice to take you deeper in forward folds in your standing, seated, and supine poses. This video was done well before Zoom yoga classes and video yoga classes were available and includes still photos strung together with voiceover instruction. Big thanks to those friends in Chicago and St. Petersburg Florida that helped me out by allowing photos of them in for this yoga practice to lengthen hamstrings by a variety of forward bends.

Strength first for Hip Mobility: Commit to Glow

≤45 min. Lunges with some twisting variations enable both hip strengthening and shoulder flexibility. In a virabhadrasana 1 variation you will get length on the sides of the body followed by arm movement to soften the upper trapezius for shoulder mobility and flexibility in the upper thoracic spine to facilitate deeper backbends from the pelvis to the crown of the head. With such focus on hip strength and mobility the posture sequence leads you to a standing balance flow - from virabhadrasana 3 supported variation to ardha chandrasana and to prasarita ardha chandrasana. Following the standing poses we will be seated for dandasana to stage 1 of paschimottanasana using a strap to keep tone in back muscles while lengthening and supporting the natural curves of the spine. In the supine poses maintain engagement of the legs while in supta padangustasana to continue the focus on the lumbar curve. Access your inner glow (often referred to as “tejas” by yogis) in a practice that encourages commitment to stronger poses. You may wish to use blocks and a strap to enable you to go deeper in these poses.

Sensitive Flow Starting with a Wide Foundation

≤60 min. Come to this practice prepared for more toe work in order to set a good foundation in standing poses and to provide for greater ease in balance postures. Start on hands and knees for some toe stretches in variations in vadrasana and supta virasana. Notice how alive and energized your toes get – these actions are said to support your arches, your ankles, and knees. Move on to standing poses such as virabhadrasana 2, parsvakonasana, prasarita padottanasana with variations to stage 1 of the pose (where the lumbar spine maintains its natural curve), uttitha trikonasana and test your balance after stimulating the toes in the earlier seated variations as you expand your vrksasana (tree pose). Many of the instructions and asana in the sequence will enable you to strengthen the lumbar curve as you bring more strength and awareness to the actions of the legs. You may want to have blocks, a rolled towel, and a strap to enable more fullness as we flow without force in this practice to encourage sensitivity and awareness to foundation, strength, and alignment in poses.

Spread your toes

≤15 min. Your feet provide a steady and strong foundation for yoga standing and balance poses. In beginner classes have you noticed that it is tough for some students to take off their socks because they are embarrassed by their toes? Toes that are tightly hugging each other and crowded get stuck and may suffer from too much time in high heels or shoes that don’t fit. Pain and swelling may develop, as as well misshaped toes. If you have a loss of function and control in your toes and you cannot move your toes independently – they all seem to move on command as a group, this practice may be for you. Practice of the movements in this video enables a spread of the toes and a strong, stable foundation. In addition improvements in alignment naturally result in standing poses as the toes become more sensitive and can coordinate more subtle information and alignment cues such as “press down through the four corners of the feet” or “root down the base of the big toe and the outer heel”. Naturally these strengthening and flexibility actions of the toes are important in walking and running because the toes assist in pushing off of the back foot. To spread your toes you will be threading the fingers of the opposite hand through the webbing between your toes – it is tough at first but give it time, and be gentle as you start to spread the connection and loosen things up. Yoga poses such as vajrasana, a variation of supta virasana, parsvottansana, and lunges are included. You may need a block, blanket, and a rolled sticky mat for the practice.

Vivaciousness in Vasisthasana

≤60 min. Strength and stability are called for the practice of side plank or Vasisthasana. Enjoy a playful and fun time on your mat as you build arm strength and explore a pose that requires open hips, steadiness and strength in arm balance, and length in the hamstrings. Even if the full pose feels inaccessible to you, there are so many variations and alternatives to explore. The sequence calls for are strength in adho mukha svanasana and palankasana, as well as standing poses such as virabhadrasana 2. Enjoy balance and hamstring poses such as uttitha trikonasana and ardha chandrasana. After vivacious vasisthasana alternatives, settle down and continue hip opening work in baby cradle and in seated poses such as ardha matsyendrasana and janu sirsasana. We close the practice in supta padangustasana variations and savasana. Thanks to so many friends who offered their time for the photos in this practice – also to Lula the cat that wanted to be part of the photo shoot as well!

Maintain or Repeatedly Create?

≤30 min. Do you come to the mat as a sort of self-imposed maintenance requirement? That’s how yoga practice and classes originally felt, but as I learned more of yoga philosophy it became clear that coming from a place of creating something new provided much more inspiration and enthusiasm. Explore in this practice a feeling of creating from the place of stability. Thanks to enthusiastic yoga students in Chicago and St. Petersburg, a wonderful variety of body types and ages express the poses in this sequence. A strap may be useful for some of the shoulder opening asana. This short 20 minute sequence includes variety and accessibility to the yoga poses. Poses include Utkatasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Uttitha Trikonasana, Prasarita Padottanasana, Gomukasana, Baddha Konasana, and Supta Padangusthasana.

Make the Connection: Strengthened Back Body = Elongated Front Body

≤30 min. Quadriceps feel tight? Perhaps too much time on the bike? Posterior muscles feeling like they could be stronger? Here are some yoga poses that will address both the anterior and posterior muscle chains. When we learn to make the connection we feel more power and that gives us a sense of freedom. Lunges, Eka Pada Bhekasana, Salabhasana, and Natarajasana are the focus of this practice. Use of the wall allows for a thigh stretch, and longer hold which makes Natarajasana so much more accessible -- try it out! Variations in your arm and head positions enable greater strength in the superior trapezius and latissimus dorsi in Salabhasana. If Eka Pada Bhekasana has been on your list of “least favorite yoga poses” don’t fret – we don’t hold it for long. This 20 minute sequence was part of a longer Zoom class which included sun salutations and lunge variations at the beginning of the sequence, and Viparita Karani and supported shoulder stand after the backbends mentioned above. Thanks to Blandine Calais-Germain and Ray Long for your patience and perseverance in teaching anatomy – you are an inspiration!

Boost Lymphatic Flow

≤45 min. Yoga practice incorporates movement to increase lymphatic flow. Areas focused are the inner groin and upper arm and armpit area. Explore and discover some variations to lunges, twists, side stretches, as well as poses that you do every practice such as adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog), uttitha trikonasana (triangle), uttanasana (standing forward bend) seated poses, inversions, and backbends to support circulation. Lymphatic system flow occurs in part by muscular contraction and expansion in the practice. The sequence promotes lymphatic drainage and may be beneficial in decreasing inflammation and increasing immunity. Much of the practice is restorative to benefit inguinal (inner groin) area as well as the armpit area; another area of concentration is the neck and abdomen, which is not the focus of this practice. Because lymph flows toward the heart, the theme of the practice is to maintain the brightness of the inner flame of the heart. Have 2 blocks and a blanket to assist in alignment while drawing you deeper into the poses.

Accessible Core Strength

≤15 min. Core strength is often misunderstood as tough workouts for “6 pack abs”. Yoga teaches us that core strength is not only the front body muscles such as the abdominals, but also side and back muscles that all support the mid-thoracic spine. This short, accessible practice brings your awareness to the full cast of supporting muscles in a supine and kneeling practice. Start by lying down with the knees bent to find what your “neutral” spine is. Strengthen the natural curve of the lumbar spine through leg actions. Continue in the practice with a neutral spine and without straining the back or creating tension in your neck. Maintain stability in the hips. These variations will serve to strengthen abdominal, side and back core muscles and serve as preparatory postures to complement muscular action for supta padangustasana and ustrasana. Thanks to Michael King for the inspiration.

Slowly Flowing Asana – the water element

≤45 min. This practice includes poses to open the upper thoracic area to make room for more fullness in your breath. With the upper back open and greater side body length you will experience more fullness in twisting. Lunges, speed skater stretches, prasarita padottanasana, uttitha trikonasana, anjaneyasana, parsvottanasana and triag mukhaikapada paschimottanasana lead you to greater flexibility. Just like the element water moves so freely, this practice freely follows your own breath. As you know, water can be really forceful with a power so great that it can break through earthen dams but this practice is directed to the gentle and more tranquil flow that attunes to an inner liquidity; you're in touch with ease while transitioning from one pose to another. Please come to all fours position on your mat to start the practice. You will be using blocks and a blanket and strap; gather them together so they are close at hand.

Hip Attitude

≤45 min. Honestly this isn’t about being a hip yogi or a how-to video on developing a hipster attitude. What you will do is progress through poses that open your hips while you express the practice with an attitude of gratitude. We start with gentle hip openers on all fours before moving into variations of parighasana, then move on to work the back side of the leg: hamstrings, calf muscles, and ankle through downward dog variations and with toes on a rolled blanket. Have a tightly rolled blanket, two blocks and a strap to enhance your virabhadrasana 1, parsvottanasana, and uttanasana, and seated poses. To balance the practice with lengthening the front body you will be practicing some actions to open the upper back. How do to find the inspiration and freshness to practice this and other sequences? Like so many others, I’ve been inspired by Viktor Frankl in his writing about how to “choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance” (from his book Man’s Search for Meaning). Anusara Yoga ® recognizes the importance of attitude through the “3 A’s” of the practice; first and most importantly, is attitude. Although the alignment and physical actions often absorb us in the asana sequence, coming to the mat with an attitude of gratitude for all the teachings enables greater flow, ease and enjoyment. Teachings of Desiree Rumbaugh, Doug Keller, and Louise Hay inspired me so for this practice and sequence enabling a sense of freedom through open hips.

Pelvic Stability/Shoulder Flexibility

≤45 min. Pelvic stability and shoulder flexibility begin in this sequence with establishing a foundation in sukhasana while incorporating a few shoulder warmups and accessible twists. This gentle yoga practice follows seated shoulder warmups with standing positions to both engage the legs for pelvic openness while continuing the upper body focus on shoulder flexibility. An easy standing balance pose explores foot and ankle stability. There are tips and work-arounds for those of us who experience knee pain and cranky ankles in seated poses. You’ll also explore a breath practice wherein extended in-breath leads to a pause before the out-breath and after the exhale breath once again, a focus on the pause before inhalation. Your legs will engage fully in order to open the hips in standing, seated and supine poses. Poses that will enable you to go deeper in stretches of your hamstrings, calf and achilles are sequenced in a way as to flow easefully. It seems like all of us love to avoid some yoga poses, and for those of you (like me) that find gomukhasana at the top of that list, consider 2 tips to enable you to deepen into that pose – here is the spoiler: take the humerus of the lifted arm back with the opposite hand and secondly squeeze and let go with the hand of the lifted arm. Check it out – worked for me!

Practice for Vagal Tone

≤30 min. Yoga practice enable us to feel calm, and the vagus nerve is a big to trigger a relaxation response of the parasympathetic nervous system. Once activated, the practitioner often enjoys noticeable differences in anxiety, stress, and inflammation. This practice sequence includes lunges, twists, a Virabhadrasana 1 variation wherein we focus on the trapezius, setubhanda sarvangasana, hip and shoulder openers, and seated twists such as Marichyasana wherein use of the eye gaze is used to enable deeper cervical twists. Teachings from Deepak Chopra, Desirée Rumbaugh, Doug Keller, and Beth Spindler have drawn me to a deep interest in the vagus nerve and how we as yoga practitioners can incorporate asana to assist this cranial nerve in relaying important messages from and to the brain and respiratory, digestive, and nervous systems.

Potpourri of yoga poses for shoulders and hips

≤45 min. Gain strength in your foundation and open your shoulders and heart through this hybrid practice with plenty of variety that incorporates warmup poses including standing crescent, cat cow pelvic tilts, cat variations (bird dog pose), utkatasana, salambhasana with variations, bhujangasana, and supported virabhadrasana III. Standing poses include virabhadrasana II, utthitha parsvakonasana variation, and prasarita padottanasana with fingers interlaced. Warmup and standing poses will prepare you for deeper seated and supine poses including a marichyasana III preparatory pose, stage 1 of paschimottanasana, supta padottanasana, jathara parivartanasana, setubhanda sarvangasana, and of course savasana to assimilate and rest in the actions of the practice.

Hamstrings tight? Take your legs up the wall

≤45 min. Viparita Karani or legs up the wall pose is an accessible restorative yoga asana. This practice starts with this calming pose and proceeds with approachable poses that allow for an all levels practice to build flexibility and strength. Customize the pose for you – move away from the wall and bend your knees if you are stiff, have low back concerns, tight hamstrings, etc. If you have more flexibility, have that back of the thighs closer to the wall. Sometimes you may experience tingling in the feet, if so bend your knees to bring your feet closer to your pelvis. Benefits of a regular practice of viparita karani are said to affect anxiety, headache, high and low blood pressure, insomnia, varicose veins, and menstrual cramps.

Knees don’t like pigeon pose?

≤30 min. Try these pigeon alternatives (aka eka pada raja kapotasana) variations. Tight hips require lots of "hip openers", and this is a favorite pose to lengthen the hip flexors. If you have unhappy knees in pigeon here are some standing, balancing, seated and supine poses that will give you greater freedom. A standing variation starts in chair pose to cross one ankle over the opposing knee. In seated pose you can get double the action by crossing the other leg over. This pose is known as also known as agnistambhasana or fire log pose. Lie on your back and simulate the hip opening by crossing one ankle of the knee and bring the knee toward the chest. This posture is also called thread the needle. Benefits include stretches to the gluteals and piriformis muscles, as well as extension of the psoas. Pigeon practice has shown to help urinary disorders, reduce or in some alleviate sciatic pain along with diminished lower back pain and stiffness.

Strong Neck & Shoulders

Strong Neck and Shoulders

≤15 min. As our online time increases our necks get tighter. These strengthening actions of the upper arms, shoulders and neck muscles are especially good to open the chest for a short afternoon yoga break. Through standing and supine poses as well as a twist you will be able to refresh and rejuvenate while gaining strength in areas of the upper body that we often overlook in daily yoga practice.

Open shoulders and discover truth – Satya

≤30 min. Yoga teaches us to be truthful to others -- and ourselves. As we practice observing specific physical actions in each asana, our enhanced understanding of the truth of our physical alignment and strength enables us to refine a truth that directs us on our spiritual path.

Contentment – Forward Bends

60 min. Explore standing and sitting forward bends in this practice of santosha or contentment. We twist, and work on challenging standing and seated poses to lengthen hamstrings and refine a lovely seated forward bend, upavista konasana.

Inner Cleansing – Saucha

45 min. Niyamas present a constant reminder to improve -- in the asana practice, but more importantly, off the mat. Enjoy this backbend practice where we work on drawing the heads of the arms back to open the area of the heart for a lovely bow, or dhanurasana.

Hybrid Practice

30 min. This potpourri of what I'd call my "must do every day" poses is called hybrid because in a short practice you can attend to lots of areas - hamstrings, lengthening the spine through twists and side stretches, and strength through standing poses.

Parsvakonasana

30 min. Who doesn't include this pose as part of their regular sequence? It is an all-time favorite standing pose amongst yogis because of all the hip opening benefits, shoulder work, and fabulous elongation of the side ribs.

Gomukasana

This short practice combines shoulder and hip opening standing poses as well as seated poses. Gomukasana is one of those poses that all of us like to avoid, but in this short practice, you will not be discouraged!

Astavakrasana

45 min. This practice explores a fabulous arm balance that requires strength, spinal flexibility, and of course open hips, which we have been working on in several practices so far. Enjoy this practice where you take yourself to perhaps a new pose or at least a different way of doing the pose, and create your own asana eye candy!

Parvrtta Trikonasana

30 min. Twisted Triangle is one pose we often love to avoid because it requires so many actions to prepare for it-- hamstrings, shoulders, balance, and twisting. This short sequence enables us to each of these actions to get to a deeper expression of the pose.

Ardha Chandrasana

30 min. A quick and energizing practice of standing poses to build strength. Enjoy this balance pose with stability and ease.

Triang mukhaikapada paschimottanasana

45 min. Lengthen hamstrings and quads in standing poses where we are drawing to the midline to open the hips for this seated forward bend.

Paschimottanasana

Paschimottanasana

30 min. Poses that lengthen the hamstrings and challenge us to go deeper into paschimottanasana take time. To get to the fullness of this seated forward bend, enjoy several standing poses to warm up and protect the spine while softening and turning inward.

Urdhva Dhanurasana

30 min. This quick sequence of backbends leading to urdhva dhanurasana enable a nice quad stretch through lunges, twists to lengthen the side body, and several poses to open your shoulders and create more flexibility in the upper thoracic spine.

Mermaid

45 Mermaid

45 min. Express your full heart in this steady and challenging sequence to work on the fullness of mermaid pose. Accessible and restorative backbends and hip openers lead the way to a pose of grace and stability.