As the world wakes up to life and color, spring offers a great opportunity to feel freer and more open in your body. It feels natural to want to put yourself in harmony with what’s around you. All the stress of hunkering down against winter winds and the tension of driving through ice and snow melts away with the first warm, sunny days. Yoga can help you take that feeling deeper. As you move into your practice, think about how each pose can help clear the energy lines within the body—coordinating your breath with movement to renew and rejuvenate from the inside out.
Just as with traditional Chinese medicine, yoga considers the energy lines (Nadis) that carry vital forces (prana in Sanskrit) through you. Stress, injury or illness can block the path of that energy. So can environmental factors like weather and pollution as well as physical ones like poor diet and overwork. Fortunately, your yoga practice not only provides a calm place to meditate on the things that fatigue you and cause “dis-ease”, it’s also a physical way to open that energy flow again.
Prana is thought to flow through your body via the Nadis, which have a specific physical pathway. Chakras are located where Nadis meet and can also be balanced through your practice. So, yoga poses can help stimulate various points along those lines. For example, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose) opens the meridian that affects your skin and your immune system.
All of these physical balances combine to have a tremendous effect on your mental state. When your energy is flowing, you will feel more aligned mentally and physically. Here are some poses to try:
Benefits: This pose helps to strengthen your wrists, arms, and core, energizing your whole body in one asana.
Supta Padangushtasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose)
Benefits: By activating the hips, thighs, hamstrings, groins, and calves, this stretch opens the energy flow of the lower body and may help to address high blood pressure.
How to do it: Lie on your back with your head resting comfortably on the mat (or supported on a blanket) and legs extended straight. Exhale, bend your left leg and draw your knee down toward your torso. Hug it tightly to your body as you push into the floor with the back of your right leg. On an inhale, loop a strap around your left instep (or encircle your left big toe with your first two fingers and thumb). If using a strap, walk your hands up the strap as you extend your left leg. Starting with your foot parallel to the ceiling, move your hands down the strap slightly (or lightly pull your foot with fingers) and draw your leg closer to your body. Your leg should align with your left shoulder. Once comfortable, begin to lower your leg down to the floor, keeping both hips on the ground. Hold 30 seconds. Repeat with your right leg.
Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose)
Benefits: This whole body warming pose helps to strengthen your wrists, arms, shoulders, and core. It also improves balance and is great for the back and inner thigh.
How it's done: With your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly closer, bend over and place your hands on the mat behind your feet. Your fingers should be pointed forwards. Your thighs should be high on your triceps. Begin to "take a seat." As you lower your hips, your balance will shift and your feet will rise off the floor. Minding your lower back, begin to straighten your legs as much as possible (warm hammies help.)