There’s nothing better, really, after a long, long day than a little ten minute yoga sequence in which we can breathe, unwind (literally), and unburden our spine of all that compression we inflict upon it all day. Followed by a hot bath and a mug of almond-milk hot chocolate? Well, now you’re talking…
Let’s start this juicy post-work/post-long-day flow with a nice easy warm-up. After sitting on your mat for a moment — in any way that feels comfortable, grounding yourself, taking a few deep breaths — move to all fours, whenever you’re ready.
Inhale, lift the heart, the head and the tailbone; exhale and draw in the belly as you lift the spine toward the sky; let the head and tailbone drop, releasing the spine and getting all kinds of lovely space in there. Keep going, following the breath, five times or until you feel ready to move on.
Come back to neutral, inhale, then exhale down to child’s pose (Balasana). Take a few deep breaths, expand the spine, and get a little more space in there.
On the next inhale, draw yourself up into a modified plank pose, keeping the knees on the mat. Keep drawing the belly in, shoulders sliding down the back; keep one nice straight line. Exhale, hug the ribs with the elbows as you lower in one piece (as much as possible), all the way down to the mat.
Keep the hands beneath the shoulders, inhale, press the pubic bone into the mat and draw in the belly as you allow the heart to lift off the mat. Try to get the entire spine involved in this gentle baby cobra (Bhujangasana). Keep lifting up and, as you lift up, the spine will automatically start to move back. Inhale here. Exhale, come back down to the mat. Inhale, press with the hands, lifting up into modified plank. Exhale back into child’s pose. Go through this little sequence twice more. The last time you end up in child’s pose, inhale up onto all fours.
Extended Puppy Pose
As you exhale, keep the hips above the knees, and start to walk the hands out into Anahata Asana (melting heart, also called extended puppy pose). Let the heart lower as close as you can to the mat. You can rest the forehead or the chin on the mat, or just come to the forearms — as always, wherever you are is perfect! Stay here for two good breaths, next inhale, come back to all fours, exhale sit back on the heels.
Keeping your hands on the mat (if you like), inhale and tip backwards, letting the knees lift from the mat, stretching the fronts of the ankles. Take two deep breaths. Exhale, and come back to sitting on the knees.
Toe Stretch With Eagle
One more inhale and come to all fours. Tuck the toes and on an exhale, come up into downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Pedal the feet here, stretching the calves, hamstrings, and just letting the back decompress.
3-Legged Downward Dog
Bend the right knee, plant the foot on the floor (legs can be close together or spread slightly — whatever is comfortable). Inhale, lift the spine from the crown of the head, draw the belly in, lift the right arm. As you exhale and twist to the right and place that right hand behind you like a kickstand. Use the left arm to brace yourself against the right leg, twisting a bit more deeply (Marichasana).
Inhale sit a little taller, exhale twist a little deeper. Inhale, exhale back to center. Switch sides.
When you come to center this time, place the hands next to the hips or on the thighs. Inhale, stretch up from the crown of the head, exhale stretch forward into a forward fold (Paschimattanasana). Feel free to place some blankets or pillows under the knees if you feel stress around those ligaments. When you’ve stretched as far forward as you can with a straight spine, let the spine bend a bit. Let the hands come wherever you like, whatever is available to you, and relax. Breathe into the spine.
Bound Angle Pose
One more inhale, exhale a bit deeper, then inhale and come back to dandasana. Bring the soles of the feet together. Inhale, lift the spine, exhale, stretch forward into bound-angle pose (Baddha Konasana). Let the arms reach forward if you like, or support yourself wherever it’s comfortable.
Inhale, come back up, stretch the feet out, exhale, roll down onto the back, and give yourself a nice long stretch. Inhale and bend the knees, drawing the feet in. Roll the shoulders under your back. Exhale here. Inhale and press with the feet and the hands, letting the pelvis lift up toward the sky. Keep the feet parallel if you can (if your knees allow it — mine don’t) and try to keep the knees from splaying out. Activate the muscles in those inner thighs (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana).
Inhale here, exhale and roll down one vertebra at a time, as though you’re laying down a strand of pearls. Repeat twice more, following the breath. If you like, you can clasp the hands together beneath the hips, roll the shoulders under a bit more and come into a higher bridge. Exhale down and hug the knees into the chest by either hugging around the shins, or opening the legs slightly and hugging under the knees (or using a strap under the knees).
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