Let’s spend this Fourth of July celebrating independence on two separate levels: our nation’s freedom as well as our individual independence—for without one, the other could not truly exist. When we couple this annual festivity with a little yoga, we can truly experience liberty and justice for all.
Standing postures are perfect for this holiday, as they were designed to cultivate strength and balance, two traits that foster personal independence. By connecting with the ground and deriving energy from the earth, we become empowered to stand firm on our own two feet (literally). When standing postures are practiced on a regular basis, the result is an energetically balanced person who is capable of tackling the world.
Since many of us will be seaside this Independence Day, this sequence is demonstrated directly in the sand—no yoga mat required! Practicing barefoot is crucial to grounding. It eliminates any and all barriers between you and the earth's nourishing energy, not to mention the fact that it will challenge your balance on a whole new level. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you!
If you don’t happen to find yourself at the beach this holiday, simply venture outside and find a soft spot in the grass. No matter where you are this Independence Day, make it a goal to channel personal independence by connecting with the earth.
After you have completed the following sequence on the right side of the body, repeat it in the same exact order on the left side. Be cognizant to hold each pose for the same amount of time on each side (5 to 10 breaths), ensuring a total body-balancing effect.
Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana)
Start in warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II) with the right foot in front. Slowly drop the left arm down so that the left hand rests on the outside of the left leg. On an inhale, bring the right arm up to the sky. Continue stretching the right arm up and back so that you are opening up the right side of the torso to the front of the space. Take several deep breaths here.
Side Angle Pose (Parsvakonasana)
From reverse warrior, slowly come back into warrior 2. Then, drop the right hand down to the inside of the right foot, fingertips on the ground. Extend the left arm up to the sky. Turn the neck and head to gaze up at the fingertips on the left hand. Take several deep breaths here.
Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
From side angle pose, slowly straighten the right leg and place the right fingertips outside of the right leg (on the ground, on the right shin, or on a block). Extend the left arm up to the sky. Try to imagine the body as being sandwiched between two panes of glass. In other words, don't lean the torso too much toward the front or the back side of the space. Take several deep breaths here.
Half-Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
From triangle pose, slowly start to bend the right knee, placing the right fingertips about 1 foot in front of the right foot. Slowly extend the left leg behind you while at the same time straightening the right leg. Once you find stability, open the torso to the left side of the space and extend the left arm up to the sky. Take several deep breaths here.
A note on switching sides:
Many people are surprised to find that they are stronger, or more flexible, on one side of the body than the other. This is due to a very common energy imbalance between the male and female sides. (The right side of the brain is linked with male energy, also known as Shiva, the sun, or yang. The left side is associated with female energy, also known as Shakti, the moon, or yin.)
Our unique combination of male/female energy not only dictates how the mind operates, but it affects the entire body as well. It directly correlates with our actions, which ultimately influences how we live our lives. Balancing postures are geared toward correcting this disparity by equally strengthening both hemispheres of the body.