A 10-Pose Yoga Sequence To Balance Your Whole Body
Editor's note: The following is an excerpt adapted from Yoga for Life: A Journey to Inner Peace and Freedom by Colleen Saidman Yee. Atria Paperback Books.
In this sequence we are incorporating all categories of poses; we are trying to find balance between forward bends and backbends, closed twists, and open twists, inhalation and exhalation, internal rotation and external rotation — all of which are the balance of downward wind (apana), and upward wind (prana).
We practice the subtlety of relationships by keeping the recessive action alive while engaged in the dominant action.
Most Eastern modalities aim for the equanimity that lies somewhere between male and female, Yin and Yang, dark and light. The translation of Hatha is “sun and moon.” So Hatha yoga involves the heat of the sun coupled with the coolness of the moon. This practice leaves you with a residue of both, which creates a feeling of equanimity.
Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) With Side Bends
From a tabletop position, tuck your toes and pull your thighs strongly back. Straighten your arms. If you can’t straighten the arms, then bend your knees.
Shift your weight to your left foot and bend through your right knee and draw it over to the left for an opening at the left side of the body. Hold for 5 deep breaths and change sides to balance the other side of the body. Repeat for another 5 breaths.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Draw yourself forward into a plank position and lower slowly to your belly. Place your hands on either side of your body a few inches below your shoulders. Ground through the tops of your feet and pull your chest forward. Begin to straighten your arms and exhale to lower.
Repeat a few more times and hold for 2 breaths for each time. Straighten your arms a little more each time. Continue to reach your legs long and draw your chest forward. Exhale as you lower down and pull back to Downward Dog. Walk to the front of your mat and stand in Mountain Pose.
Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Take a giant step open to the right. Turn you left toes in 15 degrees and your right toes out 90 degrees. Reach your arms parallel to the floor. As you exhale place your right hand on a block on the outside of your right foot. If you don’t have a block, place your hand on your ankle.
Move your head and chest into a slight backbend and twist your torso toward the ceiling. Stay for 5 breaths and change sides. Turn your feet parallel to each other and take your hands to your hips.
Revolved Triangle (Parivrtta Trikonasana)
Turn your left toes in 45 degrees and your right toes out 90 degrees. Turn and face your right leg. Reach your left arm up alongside of your ear as you inhale. With as exhalation, place your left hand to the outside of the right foot on a block.
Ground your back heel firmly into the ground and lift your right arm toward the ceiling as an extension of the bottom arm and twist from the back heel through the crown of the head. Stay for five breaths. Come up. Turn your feet parallel and change sides. (Left side is pictured.)
Walk to the front of the mat, and walk back to Downward Facing Dog.
Modified Side Plank/Wild Thing (Camatkarasana)
On an inhale, draw yourself forward into a plank, then shift your weight onto your straight right arm and the outside of your right foot, stacking the left foot on top or your right. Exhale to extend your left hand toward the sky.
Next, step your left foot behind your right and lift your hips up as you extend the left arm overhead and at a diagonal. Keep opening up into this backbend for 5 breaths. Flip yourself back to Downward Dog and repeat on the other side. (Left side is pictured.)
Revolved Head-To-Knee Pose (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana)
Lower to your knees and swing your feet long in front of you. Fold your right leg deeply and open the knee out to the side. Spread your legs 100 degrees wide. Drop your left shoulder to the inside of your left thigh and reach your right arm up alongside of your ear.
Lean back and twist toward the ceiling, and continue to lengthen through both sides of your waist as your open your chest and drop your head into a backbend. Keep opening in this pose for 5 breaths and repeat on other side.
Bent Knee Seated Twist (Marichyasana III Variation)
Straighten your legs to Staff Pose. Fold your left leg deeply, and step your left foot in front of your left sit bone. Hug your left knee with your right arm, and turn to the left. Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Squat Pose (Malasana)
Come to a squat with your feet together and your knees wide. Draw your hands together in a prayer at your heart and use your elbows to press into the inner edges of the knees as you continue grounding through your heels.
You can put a blanket under your heels if they don’t touch the floor, or you can walk your feet a little bit wider. Take 5 breaths and then lower yourself back to a seated position.
Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana)
Spread your legs wide, press your legs into the ground and reach through your heels. Walk your hands forward any amount. Don't force or strain at all.
Hold for 8 breaths and use your hands to walk yourself back up. Sit in Staff Pose with your legs together. Take your fingertips to the floor alongside of your hips and lengthen through your waist.
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
As you exhale, fold yourself forward creating an elongation of the waist. Don’t go to your max. If your hamstrings are tight, then sit up on a blanket. Hold for 10 breaths.
Gallery Credit: Jenny Gorman
Colleen Saidman Yee, author of Yoga for Life, is an internationally respected yoga teacher and the owner of Yoga Shanti in Sag Harbor, Westhampton Beach, and Manhattan. For 30 years, she was a top global fashion model, represented by Elite and Ford Models. With Donna Karan and her husband, superstar yoga teacher Rodney Yee, Colleen created and runs the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program, utilized in healthcare facilities around the country.