‘Tis the season for grateful hearts and full bellies! This yoga sequence gives plenty of space to feel gratitude AND help with digestion, because, you know…seconds.
Open your heart and your hips to prepare you not only for your practice, but also for your day.
Begin seated in Baddha Konasana with the soles of your feet together and knees wide apart. Those with tight hips may prefer to sit on a block, and/or place blocks under their knees or thighs for support. Those with sensitive knees may prefer a blanket underneath their heels with the rest of the foot and toes on the ground.
Place your hands behind your back on tented fingertips. Inhale, lift and telescope your ribs. Exhale squeeze your shoulder blades and elbows towards each other behind your back. Broaden across your chest. Breathe into your front body and feel for expanding and opening up the heart space.
As you breathe into your heart, name three things you’re grateful for. Feel the visceral sensation of gratitude in your body.
Keep your legs the same. Either grab your ankles, or set your hands down on the mat in front of your shins. Inhale, relax your belly and lengthen your spine. Exhale, blow all of the air out – empty your lungs completely – on hold, suck the abdominal muscles and belly in as far as you can. Hollow out your belly and hold for as long as you comfortably can. Relax your belly before inhaling. Repeat five times. Feel for your rib cage expanding as you empty out your belly.
Uddiyana is wonderful for digestion and is best done on an empty stomach. This is great for helping to get your digestive system moving – especially to prepare for a big, delicious meal!
Cross your ankles, ground your palms, then roll over your shins into a tabletop position. Stack your shoulders over your wrists, and your hips above your knees.
Inhale, melt your belly towards the mat, reach your collarbones forward, tilt your sit bones up, and gaze up. Exhale, round your spine, pull your belly in towards your spine, press firmly down through your hands and tops of feet. Repeat three to five times to warm up your spine.
Once you’ve finished cat and cow, tuck your toes under and lift your hips towards the sky. Ground down through your knuckles and fingertips. Wrap your shoulders and broaden across your upper back. Draw your frontal ribs in. If your hamstrings are tight, it might feel better to bend your knees and tilt your sit bones up.
Step your right foot between your hands. Ground your left heel down and rise up to standing. Extend both legs. Find a neutral pelvis, then pancake your hands on top of your right thigh.
Inhale, stand tall and telescope your ribs up. Exhale, hinge from your hips and fold halfway down until your back is parallel to the floor. Press your hands into your right thigh. Spread your sit bones behind you and reach your collarbones forward. Pull your belly away from the ground to support your low back.
Feel for reaching your ribcage away from your hips. This pose is great for low back pain and can be used as a modification to full Pyramid for those with low back sensitivity or injury.
Lower your hands to the mat and set your back knee down. Inch your right foot across the mat and lower your right shin down to prepare for pigeon. Level out your pelvis and if your right hip is lifted any amount away from the floor, place something underneath your sit bone for support. A block can work, but if the space is smaller, use a folded blanket or a towel.
Inhale, elongate your spine. Exhale, lower your forearms to the mat and place your forehead down on stacked hands, stacked forearms, a block, or the mat.
Stay here for five or more breaths. Breathe into your hips and lower back. Invite in a sense of ease. If you feel struggle coming on, relax your neck and unclench your jaw.
To come out, place your hands down on the ground. Tuck your back toes under and step your right foot back to meet left in Downward Facing Dog. Repeat Pyramid with Back Traction and Pigeon on the left side.
From Downdog, lower your knees to the floor. Cross your ankles, and sit all the way back. Extend your legs straight out in front of you. Activate your quads by lifting your knee caps. Flex your toes back towards your shins.
Inhale, sit tall and lift your ribs away from your hips. Exhale, maintain lengthen in your spine as you fold forward. Walk your hands down as far as they can go, perhaps holding onto the edges of your feet if that is available.
Take five to ten breaths in this pose. Forward folds are naturally introspective. Most people naturally want to close their eyes as they move into forward folds. Close your eyes and tap into feeling. Name three more things or people that you are grateful for. Breathe that gratitude into your heart.
To come out, inhale and lift your chest. Exhale and rise up out of the pose.
Lie down on your back. Draw your right knee into your chest. Clasp your hands around your shin, or hold onto your thigh or clothing – whatever you can grab. Hug your right knee towards your right underarm. Inhale into your right side body. Exhale and squeeze your right knee into your right side body. Hold here for 3-5 breaths. Then, repeat on the other side.
This pose is great for compressing the ascending colon on the right side, and the descending colon on the left side. It’s great for digestion, and also helps to release the low back and hips.
Draw both knees into your chest. Roll over onto your right side. Reach your left arm overhead with your palm down towards the floor. Stack your hips, knees, and ankles. Then twist your rib cage open. If your left shoulder can easily rest on the mat while maintaining your hips and knees stacked, open your left arm out to the side. If not, keep your left arm overhead.
Inhale into your sacrum. Exhale relax your outer hips. Allow the twist to happen naturally, rather than forcing your body into the twist.
Hold for 5-10 breaths. Then, repeat on the other side.
Lie on your back. If your low back is sensitive or you want extra support today, place a bolster or a rolled up blanket under your knees. Widen your arms away from your body and rest the backs of your hands on the mat. Close your eyes.
Take a few deep breaths to settle into the shape. Then play a gratitude slideshow in your mind. See images of all of the people, places, and things that you are grateful for. Let this slideshow be as long as possible. Let the images come up in no particular order. Feel gratitude filling your heart. After a few minutes of seeing your gratitude slideshow, drop the visualization and let your mind rest on nothing at all. Stay in Savasana for five to ten minutes, or for as long as you’d like.
Take the energy of this practice with you throughout your day so that you can remain in a state of gratitude.