Sequence reads from top left to right.
There are hundreds of yoga poses, each with specific alignment and a distinct purpose. The poses I have compiled in the sequence above will give you strength, serenity, flexibility, mobility and inspiration to take on whatever this year throws you with vigor. Hold each pose for 3-5 breaths and be sure to complete both sides of the body.
1. First, start in a quite seat, eyes closed. You can sit cross-legged or take Hero Pose (Virasana — pictured above) with the heels on either side of the sit bones and knees drawn in together.
Sit here as long as you like, simply watching your breath in and out through your nose with your mind's eye.
When you feel ready, come to stand at the top of your mat. Bring your hands to you heart, close you eyes again, and decide to dedicate the rest of your practice to someone else. Whoever else comes to mind. You can warm up your body with a few rounds of Sun Salutations.
2. From Mountain Pose (Tadasana) come to Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III) by leaning your torso forward as you lift the left leg up and behind you. Press through the sole of your foot and micro-bend the standing front knee slightly. Bring your hands to your heart and use them as a reminder to connect to your compassion in the year to come.
3. From Warrior III, you can lower your back foot to the mat and turn it in about 45 degrees. Extend your arms out to each side and come into Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) as a cultivation of inner strength. Make sure your knee is directly over your ankle and arms are engaged.
4. If Upward Bow/Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana) is in your practice, go for it. Otherwise, come into Bridge Pose for a modification. For Wheel Pose, come to lay on your back and bend the knees to draw the heels toward the hips. Place your palms on your meet on either side of your head with your fingers facing toward your shoulders. Keeping your knees hips-width apart, press into your palms and soles of the feet as you lift your pelvis skyward.
Here you'll instantly elevate your mood and add a soft cleansing pressure to your kidneys — the organs that remove all waste from the body. As you breathe, think about removing all tangible and intangible toxins.
To come out of Wheel or Bridge, lower slowly beginning at the base of the neck, one vertebrae at a time until your tailbone comes to the mat. Hug your knees into your chest and gently rock from side-to-side to massage out the lower back.
5. Next, come to a Forward Fold (Uttanasana), using whichever arm variation feels best for you (grabbing opposite elbows, etc.).
Use this pose to release your back as you start to turn your attention inward. If your hamstrings are tight, invite a bend into the knees to melt the heart closer to the tops of the thighs. Make sure to keep the back of your neck relaxed and your feet at hips-width distance apart.
6. Follow this with a Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana). Lie down flat and lift your feet over your head on an inhale, bringing your palms just above your sacrum, drawing the elbows in closer to the sides of your body. Exhale and extend the legs skyward, keeping the chin tucked and palms pressed into your back. Extend through the legs all the way out the soles of the feet.
Close your eyes and give both you and your dedication a gift of stillness here.
7. Finally, rest, either in Savasana or the seated meditation like the one we started in, or a combination of either. Do whatever the New You is calling for, and give away all your effort to your dedication. In doing so, you are planting the seeds for an awesome renewed YOU in the year to come.
Photos courtesy of the author