This Mind-Clearing Yoga Sequence Is Perfect For The Inevitable Midweek Slump

Written by Andrea Marcum

Photo by Christine Love Hewitt

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If you woke up refreshed and feeling ready to take on the day, good for you! If you could use a little pick-me-up, keep reading.

There's nothing like a midweek slump to wear away at your willpower and your spirit. Fatigue and exhaustion are the culprits of ordering takeout, skipping your meditation, or consuming one too many of those delicious dark chocolate squares. When you're in the same place week after week, it's easy to wonder why. But if you can't address the root cause (you have kids, you have a demanding job—I get it!), there is something you can do. Whether you're on your mat or in your life, you can't expect things to change without first taking responsibility for yourself and your own environment. Inattention creates roadblocks, but personal accountability clears the way to transformation. Even if it's setting aside five minutes to do an energizing yoga sequence, it can make all the difference.

This sequence is designed to increase feelings of clarity in the mind by calling the body to attention and can be used for unblocking the mind or whenever you feel stuck. Follow me through the flow below:

1. Mountain pose

Blink your eyes open and allow an inhale to reach your arms up overhead (urdhva hastasana) as if you were brushing your fingertips against the ceiling.

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2. Forward fold

Exhale and fold at the hips, swan-diving forward. Feel a gentle corseting action in your core, supporting your lower back and hamstrings, as you fold in, chin toward the shins. Turn on the muscles in your legs by adding a bit of bend to your knees. Pay close attention so that you're not locking or forcing into your knees or creating sharp pain anywhere.

3. Half-lift

Inhale and look halfway up, extending your heart forward. Align fingertips next to your toes, or perhaps hands on the sides of the shins or a set of blocks for those of us on the tighter side. Exhale, and fold back in.

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4. Downward dog

Just step one foot and then the other back to downward-facing dog for our first round. Take six full cycles of breath here and nurture your sense of pratyahara (inward turn).

5. Plank pose

Inhale into plank (upper pushup position) for six slow breaths. Return to downward-facing dog.

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6. Plank pose to chaturanga

Once again, inhale into plank, this time placing your knees down a little bit farther back in space.

With your gaze a bit forward and your core-corset intact, begin to bend your elbows toward a low pushup (chaturanga). Keep your elbows close enough to your body that they brush but don't crush your ribs—think aerodynamic vs. flopping-out-to-the-side wings. Try to keep your belly off the ground for three to six cycles of breath—then lower down onto your stomach (unless you happen to be pregnant).

7. Locust pose

Facedown, interlace your hands just above your butt, or hold a strap or towel to afford yourself more space. As if standing on your hip bones, begin to lengthen into a backbend (shalabhasana). Drag your interlaced knuckles toward the back edge of your mat and encourage your chest and rib cage to extend toward the front edge, as they gently lift up off of your mat. Press down into the tops of your feet and energize your legs so much that your kneecaps (but not your feet) lift off the ground. Resist the temptation to whiplash into the neck. Let this be less about tossing your chin forward and more about appreciating the feeling of the imprint of your shoulder blades into your spine. Smile your collarbones away from the ground as you counteract hours of slumping behind the wheel and collapsing at your desk. Think elongating as opposed to hoisting high when it comes to your backbend. Your tailbone lengthens toward your feet, creating more and more distance between your bottom ribs and pelvis, as if administering a thoughtful dose of therapeutic traction. Stay here for three to six full cycles of breath and then release and make a pillow with your hands, resting your head to one side.

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8. Cobra pose

Remain on your belly and position your hands next to your floating ribs like you did in your chaturanga (low pushup). Keep your aerodynamic wings (elbows stay close toward your body) as you pull your chest through the gateway of your arms for cobra (bhujangasana).

9. Child's pose

From your cobra, shift your hips back to sit on your heels for child's pose (balasana).

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10. Repeat steps 1-6, skipping plank hold (No. 5).

From tadasana, inhale your arms up overhead. Exhale, swan-dive forward. Inhale, gaze up, heart extending forward. Exhale, step one leg, then the other back into your plank—take in an inhale here, and, with your knees down as we did earlier (or for some of you, knees off the ground this time), exhale and bend your elbows for chaturanga (low pushup).

11. Upward-facing dog

At the end of your exhale in chaturanga, lower to your belly. Then, pull through to cobra as you inhale. Those of you more familiar with this flow might choose to glide from chaturanga into upward-facing dog (urdhva mukha svanasana). This means (at least in theory) that your belly stays off the floor as you roll over to the tops of your feet for your inhaling backbend. It doesn't necessarily make anything more "advanced" or better to do up-dog instead of cobra; it's just a different option. As you pay close attention, one alternative may feel intuitively better to you than the other. To me that's a very sophisticated insight.

Once you repeat this flow a few times, end in a seated position thinking about how opening your front body gives you space clarity. End in gratitude.

Feeling tired? Check out this quick yoga video to beat fatigue.

Based on excerpts from Close to OM by Andrea Marcum. Copyright © 2018 by the author and reprinted by permission of St Martin’s Griffin.

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