The end of winter brings about so many rituals. We turn off the heat, throw open the windows and breathe in those first scents of spring-warm rain, budding tulips, grass greens and fresh soil. We fold up our wool sweaters and tuck them away, making room for bright prints, light knits and eventually-bathing suits! We dust, scrub and organize all the clutter that winter seems to collect to make room for the freshness and newness of spring.
There is no denying that a good spring cleaning can create calm and harmony within the home. So why not extend those positive vibes to the mind, body and soul? This series of easy-to-master yoga poses will provide you with a well-balanced 15 minute daily cleanse. And the best part is, you don’t even need to stand up to perform the sequence! Just find some floor space and enjoy your inner spring cleaning.
1. Bharadvaja's Twist (Seated Spinal Twist). Start off your spring practice with a seated spinal twist to stretch the spine, shoulders and hips, massage the abdominal organs, relive stress and improve digestion. For this twist, sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Shift towards the right, bend your knees and swing both legs to the left. Your feet should be lying on the floor outside of your left hip, with the left ankle resting on the arch of your right foot. Using your breath, inhale deeply and elongate the spine. As you exhale, twist your torso to the right. Be careful to keep your torso long and, if possible, keep your left buttock touching down on the ground. As you move towards the right, tuck your left hand under your right knee. Allow your right hand to rest next to your right hip. Let your gaze move with the pose, coming to rest beyond the line of your right shoulder. Breathe deeply, in and out through your nose, for five to ten breaths before turning back to the center. Stretch your legs long before taking the twist on the opposite side.
2. Marjaryasana and Bitilasana (Cat and Cow pose). These two poses work together and are great for relieving stress, tension and anxiety. They also establish ideal spinal alignment, strengthen and stretch the back and provide a gentle massage for the belly organs.
To start, come to a tabletop position, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. On the inhale, lift your head and tailbone, allowing your belly to dip towards the floor. On the exhale, tuck your tailbone, round your back towards the ceiling and drop your head so that your ears are almost between your biceps. Use the breath to move between these poses and let it be as fluid as possible. The breath will guide you! Repeat the movements at least ten times.
3. Balasana (Child’s pose). Child’s pose is important for stretching the hips, thighs and ankles; calming the brain; releasing stress; and awakening the mind. This pose also restores the body’s natural circulation. One tip-the longer you hold the pose, the greater its effects. So get comfortable and just breathe!To perform child’s pose, kneel on the floor, bring your knees together and bring your buttocks to your feet. Exhale slowly as you move the torso forward until the upper body is fully rested over your thighs and your forehead touched the mat. Breath control is important in child’s pose; try to breathe fully into the back on your torso and imagine your spine lengthening and widening with each inhalation.
4. Salabhasana (Locust pose). Locust is a necessary part of any cleansing sequence. This pose will energize and awaken the body, relieve constipation and indigestion, improve posture and help to alleviate stress. It will get you in shape for summer as well; locust strengthens the muscles of the spine, buttocks, arms and legs and stretches the shoulders, chest, belly and thighs.
Begin by lying facedown with your arms at your sides, legs long and feet pointed. As you press your legs down into the floor, inhale, and lift your head, shoulders, and arms. Work to extend your arms parallel to the floor and stretch back actively through your fingertips. Take five full breaths before lowering everything back to the floor. Repeat this pose three to five times, trying to extend the breath each time. Make it your goal to hold the pose for eight to ten full breaths. This pose can be intense, so if you experience any discomfort, try to send your breath to the sensitive spot. However, make sure to come out of the pose if you feel any pain.
5. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge pose). Bridge pose provides an incredible array of cleansing benefits. It calms the brain, alleviates stress, stimulates the abdominal organs, lungs and thyroid, rejuvenates tired legs, improves digestion and relieves anxiety, backaches and insomnia.
To safely perform you bridge, lay flat on your back with a folded blanket propped under your shoulders to protect your neck. Bend your knees and place both feet on the floor, with your heels, knees and hip bones in alignment. To find the best possible positioning, reach your arms alongside the body. If your fingertips graze against your heels, you should experience maximum stability and strength in the pose. As you exhale, actively press your feet and arms into the ground and begin lifting your tailbone up. ry not to clench your butt or low back—instead, focus on firming the body and lifting up until your thighs are close to parallel with the floor. Work to keep your thighs and feet parallel. Stay in the pose for 10 breaths before releasing with an exhalation, rolling the spine slowly down onto the floor. Take your bridge three times, extending the breath if possible as you perform each bridge.
6. Pavanmuktasana (Wind Releasing pose). Before taking your final relaxation, be sure to practice Pavanmuktasana. This pose will massage the colon and intestines to relieve the body of unwanted or excessive gases, which improves the digestive system immensely.
To start, lie on your back with arms and legs long. Raise your right knee up towards the chest and wrap both hands around your right knee. Gently pull your right knee in towards your chest and, if it is okay for your neck, raise your head towards your knee. Remember to keep the left leg long, with your thigh pressing into the floor and your left foot flexed. Breathe deeply and fully, allowing the breath to travel into to the belly, ribs and chest. After taking five to ten breaths, release the right knee and lower your head. After resting for a few breaths, take the entire sequence on the left side.
7. Savasana (Corpse pose). Make sure to end your practice with a relaxing Savasana. This pose removes hidden tensions, balances the body, facilitates a powerful blood flow, stimulates internal cleansing and magnifies the benefits of the postures that precede it. Although this pose will sound very simple to “master”, it may be difficult to ask your body and mind to consciously and thoroughly let go of all the layers of thoughts and feelings. If you get frustrated, don’t worry. With regular practice, we increase our abilities to more induce deep peace and relaxation for ourselves.
To begin, lie flat on your back with your arms and legs resting comfortably and extended long. Allow the palms to face upwards and turn the legs, ankles and feet slightly outward. If you feel uncomfortable, make slight adjustments. If you need support for your head, neck or legs, place a blanket in the appropriate location. You will want to find your foundation before working towards total release. When you find your position, close your eyes and gently guide your internal gaze to the place between your eyebrows. Relax your jaw and allow your breath to become rhythmic and natural. Focus on something that brings you peace and call upon a feeling of tranquility. Allow the body to find stillness. Let go. Don’t concern yourself with time too much-you can stay in this pose for two to thirty minutes! Just be careful to fully awaken the body and sense before getting up. You will want to move slowly from Savasana to a seated posture, perhaps with the eyes closed, to maintain peace and avoid shocking your nervous and muscular systems.