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Yoga Journal - - CONTENTS - By Heather Archer

Rise above stress and take change in stride with this se­quence for cultivating con­tent­ment from Mukti Yoga teacher Heather Archer.

WHEN LIFE EBBS AND FLOWS, it can be chal­leng­ing to stay con­nected to our­selves—par­tic­u­larly if we’re tempted to ig­nore or es­cape the neg­a­tive feel­ings that can come with change and up­heaval. Yet stay­ing with all of our mus­ings and phys­i­cal sen­sa­tions dur­ing times of change— wel­come or not—en­ables us to move with more equa­nim­ity through ups and downs.

When we ac­cept that we can’t al­ways con­trol ex­ter­nal sit­u­a­tions, it can be em­pow­er­ing and help us fo­cus on what we can con­trol: what goes on within us. What­ever you’re go­ing through, I hope this se­quence will help you trust that you can ride the waves of life with a feel­ing of con­tent­ment, know­ing that you have ev­ery­thing you need within you to move through changes and chal­lenges with grace.

PRAC­TICE TIPS 1 Be­fore you be­gin, find a quiet space and con­nect with your breath.

2 Set an in­ten­tion for this prac­tice: state it clearly and in the present tense.

3 Do 3 to 5 rounds of Sun or Moon Salu­ta­tions led by the breath. Then, come to Balasana (Child’s Pose) and move through the fol­low­ing se­quence.

1 KNEEL­ING BODY WAVE

From Balasana, keep your arms straight as you round your spine in a wave-like mo­tion. In­hale as you round for­ward in one fluid move­ment, melt­ing your hips to­ward your wrists and lift­ing your heart into a mod­i­fied Urd­hva Mukha Svanasana (Up­ward-Fac­ing Dog Pose) on your knees. Ex­hale; draw your navel in, keeping your arms straight as you flow back to Balasana. Re­peat one move­ment per breath, 5–21 times. On the last round, tuck your toes, lift your hips, and come to Down Dog.

2 DY­NAMIC MALASANA Gar­land Pose

Walk your feet for­ward, tak­ing them as wide as your mat, toes turned out. Lower your sit bones to­ward the floor, lift­ing your head, heart, and hands in An­jali Mu­dra (Sa­lu­ta­tion Seal). Press your el­bows into your in­ner knees and stay here for 3 breaths. Then, on an in­hala­tion, press into your feet to rise up to stand, stretch­ing your arms over­head. On your next ex­ha­la­tion, lower back down. Re­peat 5–21 times. On the last round, hold the full squat for 3 breaths, then step back to Down­ward-Fac­ing Dog Pose.

3 ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA, VARI­A­TION Down­ward-Fac­ing Dog Pose

Take your feet as wide as your mat, and walk your hands back a hand’s length, short­en­ing your Down Dog a bit. On an in­hala­tion, trans­fer more weight into your right hand; on your next ex­ha­la­tion, reach your left hand to the out­side of your right leg (above or be­low the knee). On each ex­ha­la­tion, deepen the twist; try to keep your hips level. Stay here for 3–5 breaths, then re­peat on the other side.

4 HUM­BLE WAR­RIOR

From Down Dog, step your right foot be­tween your hands and move your back (left) foot a few inches to the left, spin­ning your back heel into the earth. As you in­hale, reach your arms over­head. As you ex­hale, in­ter­lace your fin­gers be­hind your back and fold for­ward over your right leg, en­gag­ing your core on the way down. Con­tinue to ride the breath back up and down, re­peat­ing 5–21 times be­fore com­ing to Down­ward-Fac­ing Dog. Re­peat on the other side.

5 FORE­ARM PLANK WITH KNEE TAPS

From Down­ward-Fac­ing Dog, lower to your knees and fore­arms, keeping your el­bows in line with your shoul­ders. Press into your wrists, thumbs, and pointer fin­gers, step­ping one foot back, and then the other, into Fore­arm Plank. Broaden your col­lar­bones as you hug your outer arms in. In­hale here, and as you ex­hale, tap your knees to the mat. En­gage your lower belly by draw­ing your navel up­ward and in. On your next in­hala­tion, lift your in­ner thighs, re­turn­ing to Fore­arm Plank. Re­peat 5–21 times, tap­ping your knees to the earth on each ex­ha­la­tion. On the fi­nal tap, gen­tly lower your hips and belly to the mat.

6 SPHINX POSE

From your belly, make sure your shoul­ders are right above your el­bows and your fore­arms are par­al­lel with one an­other. (If there’s any ten­sion in your shoul­ders, slide your el­bows for­ward a bit more.) Press down into your el­bows to move your shoul­der blades down your back, length­en­ing your neck. With your legs hip-width apart, press your pelvis into the earth and lengthen your tail­bone down to­ward your heels. Roll your outer thighs down to­ward the earth and en­er­get­i­cally push your rib cage for­ward through your arms. Feel your lower back and sacrum broaden and lengthen. Stay here for 3–5 deep, fluid breaths.

7 SALABHASANA Lo­cust Pose, vari­a­tion

From your belly, place your chin or fore­head on your mat and in­ter­lace your fin­gers be­hind your back. Press down into the tops of your feet, en­gag­ing your legs. As you in­hale, lift your head and heart away from the earth, feel­ing your rib cage move for­ward and up as your shoul­der blades move down and to­ward one an­other. Keep your lower ribs and hips on the ground, gen­tly lift­ing and length­en­ing your hands away from your low back. Hold here for 3–5 breaths. Feel free to re­peat 2–3 times, lift­ing your heart and/ or legs away from the earth. Then, come into a wide-kneed Child’s Pose, fol­lowed by Down­ward-Fac­ing Dog.

8 VIRAB­HADRASANA II War­rior Pose II

From Down Dog, step your right foot be­tween your hands. Align your right heel with your left arch (or heel, de­pend­ing on what’s com­fort­able), then spin your left heel into the earth. Sweep your left arm for­ward and up, flow­ing into War­rior II. As you ex­hale, sink a little deeper into your right knee, bend­ing it un­til it ap­proaches 90 de­grees. Reach your fin­ger­tips in both di­rec­tions and gaze softly over your right hand. Stay here for 3–5 breaths, feel­ing a sense of ease even as your body is chal­lenged.

9 UTTHITA PARSVAKONASANA Ex­tended Side An­gle Pose

From War­rior II, lengthen your waist for­ward and hug your right hip back and in­ward. On an ex­ha­la­tion, re­lease your right hand to your in­ner an­kle and your left arm up to­ward the sky, spin­ning the left side of your chest open to come into Utthita Parsvakonasana. Sim­ply ob­serve the sen­sa­tions in your body with­out judg­ing them. Be­fore re­leas­ing, take a deep breath. As you ex­hale, lower both hands to the in­side of your right foot. Then, lower your left knee to the mat.

10 UTTHAN PRISTHASANA Lizard Pose with quadri­ceps stretch

With your hands on the ground, slide your left knee back and heel-toe your right foot to­ward the outer edge of your mat. Bend your left knee and reach back with your right hand to grab your left foot. Hold here for 3–5 breaths, breath­ing deeply into any sen­sa­tions you feel, then re­lease and heel-toe your right foot back to the cen­ter of your mat. If you want a ham­string stretch, shift your hips back, straighten your right leg, and en­joy a few breaths in Hanu­manasana (Mon­key God Pose) be­fore com­ing into An­janeyasana (Low Lunge).

11 AN­JANEYASANA WITH GOMUKHASANA ARMS Low Lunge with Cow Face Pose arms

From Utthan Pristhasana, re­lease your left shin to the ground. In­hale, rais­ing your arms over­head. On an ex­ha­la­tion, bend your right el­bow and place your right palm be­tween your shoul­der blades. On an in­hala­tion, in­ter­nally ro­tate your left arm and bend your left el­bow, bring­ing the back of your palm up your back and clasp­ing your fin­ger­tips, if pos­si­ble. Hold here for 3–5 breaths, then move into Down­wardFac­ing Dog Pose. Re­peat poses 8–11 on the other side.

12 FULL BODY WAVE

From Down Dog, in­hale, press­ing up onto your toes. Draw your chin in, and round your spine (sim­i­lar to the flu­id­ity you cre­ated in Kneel­ing Body Wave). Keep your arms and legs straight as you move your hips to­ward your wrists and lift your heart, com­ing into a mod­i­fied Up­ward-Fac­ing Dog Pose. Keep in mind that in this vari­a­tion, your knees should never touch the floor. Re­peat one move­ment per breath—in­hal­ing to come for­ward and ex­hal­ing to move back, 5–21 times. Once you’ve fin­ished, rest in Balasana (Child’s Pose) for 3 breaths.

13 FROG POSE

From Balasana, rest on your fore­arms and be­gin to slide your knees open wide, stop­ping when you’ve reached the outer edge of your mat. Be sure to turn your feet out and slide them open un­til your an­kles and knees are in line—form­ing a 90-de­gree an­gle from your hips to your heels. (If your hips and torso are high off the ground, slide a block or bol­ster un­der your tummy and ribs for sup­port.) Re­lax into your hips and sur­ren­der here for at least a minute, al­low­ing sen­sa­tions, feel­ings, and thoughts to arise. To re­lease this pose, slide onto your tummy, stretch­ing your legs back be­hind you; rest here for 3 deep breaths.

14 DHANURASANA Bow Pose

From your belly, bend both of your knees and reach back to catch the tops of your feet, grab­bing your an­kles if pos­si­ble. Keep your knees hip-width apart, and hug your outer hips in to sup­port your lower back. As you in­hale, kick your feet into your hands and push down into your thighs, press­ing your pelvis into the earth. As you ex­hale, keep the back of your neck long, lift your heart, and lift your in­ner thighs off the mat if pos­si­ble. Hold here for up to 8 breaths, then re­lease on an ex­ha­la­tion. Rest your cheek on the mat for 3 deep breaths be­fore mov­ing into Down­wardFac­ing Dog Pose.

15 PI­GEON WITH BODY WAVE

In­hale your right leg into the air and flex your foot, then bring your right shin for­ward, align­ing your right knee with your right wrist and your right an­kle with your left wrist. With your fin­ger­tips un­der your shoul­ders, straighten your arms. In­hale; lift your heart and lengthen your waist. Ex­hale; bend your el­bows out to the side while fold­ing for­ward. Con­tinue mov­ing in a wave-like mo­tion, one move­ment per breath, 3–5 times. On the last round, stretch your arms out in front of you and hold for 10 breaths. Then, step back to Down Dog and re­peat on the other side.

16 UNI­VER­SAL TWIST

Lie on your back and hug your right knee into your chest. As you ex­hale, use your left hand to guide your knee across your body into a twist. (Your right shoul­der will most likely come off the ground as your left knee moves closer to the mat.) Let your right arm rest over­head or out to the side. Use ev­ery in­hala­tion to ex­pand your belly and lengthen your spine; use ev­ery ex­ha­la­tion to gen­tly deepen your twist. Stay here for 3–5 breaths and then switch sides. To fin­ish this prac­tice, lie in Savasana (Corpse Pose) for at least 5 min­utes, al­low­ing your­self to sink into the ocean of tran­quil­ity that is within you.

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