5 Yoga Poses To Help You Live With Ease & Grace

Have you ever met those enigmatic human beings who seem to exude a calm, alert presence? They seem to live with ease and grace in word and movement. These admirable souls aren't magic; they haven't been given a key to a secret door the rest of us are missing out on. They're aware. And they're practiced in it.

Avid yoga practitioners exemplify awareness beautifully. They're in tune, with the energy their brewing and emanating, and with the energy of those around them. They listen astutely, watch objectively, and live with a poetic gratitude.

With that in mind, I want to share five poses for awareness, remembering that any form of yoga is an excellent way to sharpen your alert presence. I would also bookend these poses with Easy Seat/Sukhasana and Corpse Pose/Savasana, where the emphasis is placed on being still and quietly aware. Enjoy them all, and take moments throughout your day to check in and be aware. Let this awareness draw you deeper into the present moment, more fully into the thrill of being!

Child's Pose/Balasana

A beautiful, introverted offering. Heels under hips, knees together for a bigger low back release, open wide for more opening. Rest with hands by your feet in a soft shoulder release and a deep nod of respect to yourself and to the earth on which you dwell. Become aware of how you treat yourself in your most tender moments. Are you able to be soft in taking care of yourself, encouraging and comforting when you need to be? Just observe.

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Pigeon/Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

For any knee or sensitive hip issues, this pose can be done lying on your back, crossing right ankle over thigh in a figure four position, reaching hands for the back of your left thigh if flexibility allows. This is also yummy on a wall.

From down dog, bring your right knee forward just outside your right wrist. The right shin does not have to be parallel to the top of the mat, if it feels better to line up your right heel in front of your left hip crease, take it. Tuck left toes and inch left leg back, keeping the hips facing forward, top of the left knee, thigh and foot rooting straight down, rather than sickeling off to either side. Use a block or blanket under right hip for support if needed, a block or bolster at the top of your mat to rest your head.

Observe any tension in your body. Soften where you can. Witness the thoughts that arise, any emotions that stir. The hips often carry the brunt of old emotional baggage, and like a basement, we sometimes throw what we'd like to forget down there, thinking it's forgotten. To truly move forward, we must clean out the basement. Merely be aware of what you'd like to release for good, in your mind, body or heart. Slowly grant permission to let go.

Headstand/Sirsasana

The king of all asanas! Fold up mat or place a thinly folded blanket down, come to hands and knees. Knees over hips, shoulders over wrists, lower elbows in place of wrists and interlace fingers. Gently place the crown of your head in the space between your palms, your fingers will support the back of your head. Root the forearms down as the shoulders soften away from your neck. Tuck toes and lift hips, walk the feet in and pause. Breathe here and become aware of whatever shifts occur in the mind, body and breath. This is a beautiful place to be, but if you wish to take it further, try lifting your right leg and keeping the hip square. Without hopping, push into your left toes as your right leg stretches further into the air and behind you, teetering your weight until the left foot rises. Pause in a split or engage the inner thighs and bring the feet together over your head.

This can also be practiced with the knees tucked into the chest and the feet lifted off the ground if the full expression isn't quite available yet.

This pose is a gift, a shift in perspective. Take the time to become aware of your reactions when life turns upside down, as it inevitably will.

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Supported Bridge/Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

A beautiful alternative for inversions and heart openers, this soft posture allows the heart to rest above the head, relaxing for the spine, calming for the mind. Place a block under your sacrum, align your feet just a few inches in front of your sitting bones, allow the body to feel heavy. Arms can go anywhere from above the head for a side body and clavicle opener, hands soft on the ribs to connect deeper to your breath, or by your sides, palms up or down.

Close the eyes and feel the breath. Become aware of both the logical and emotional aspects of you, the practical and the whimsical. Become aware of the dominant force, do you more readily listen to your head or your heart? Are you happy with this balance? What would you shift? Without needing answers, just allow yourself to remain in calm observation of what lies within.

Supine Twists/Supta Matsyendrasana

Start lying on your back, take right knee into your chest and gently roll onto your left hip, stacking right over left. You can place the right knee onto a block or blanket to support a more rigid spine. Open the right arm out like a T, or with a bent elbow like a cactus arm. Allow gravity and breath to take the weight of the shoulder closer to the earth with each exhale.

Breathing fully into your gut, become aware of what gnaws at you. What are your sources of anxiety? Your future based worries? Recognize the impossibility in living past one breath at a time, inhale into the moment, exhale to diminish the nerves in your solar plexus. Be kind to yourself, don't remove the gift of the present because you are worried about the future. It cannot possibly be controlled, so surrender and find a joy in just being here now.

Poses take on a special meaning to each of us, so in practicing these suggestions, open to your unique experience being alive, being in your body, breathing your breath, aware of the energy within. Become in awe of being you. All it takes is a little awareness.

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