Yoga Poses To Master This Spring
As we transition from winter to spring, we experience more hours of daylight, warmer temperatures and a sense of growth and renewal. The seasonal shift also brings feelings of energy and vitality while we move away from the darkness of winter. Looking for a way to prepare for the spring and deepen (or begin) your yoga practice? We asked Sally Smith, studio manager and teacher at Los Angeles’s Love Yoga, for some ways to honor the change of seasons on the mat. Sally is inspired by Katonah Yoga ®, a Hatha practice created by Nevine Michaan that blends Taoist theory, sacred geometries, meditation and pranayama. Read on for her five favorite yoga poses for spring!
By Stephanie Mace
1. Restorative Backbend (with two blocks)
Sit down on your mat and lay one block underneath your shoulder blades on its medium height, wide across the back. Place a second block on its medium or tall height underneath your head. Extend the legs out long in front of you or take the soles of the feet together and allow the knees to fall wide. Let the arms extend out to either side if you palms facing up. Breath deep.
I love starting with a restorative backbend so that I can first drop my attention inward and hone in on the breath. It’s a really nice way to create distance between myself and the external world. Use more blocks for a deeper backbend!
Lay down on your belly, reach the toes back long behind you. After finding length along the backside body, bend your knees and reach your arms back for your outer ankles. On your next inhale, kick the ankles back into the hands lifting your thighs and sternum off the ground. Keep the neck long. Breathe here letting the body rock back and forth with the breath.
Spring is the season of potential. In Katonah Yoga, we orient ourselves in time and space with the front-side body representing our future, our potential, anything that lies ahead. The backside body is our past, memories, and whatever happened before this moment. The left-side body stands for our thoughts, feelings, and emotions; our internal world, and the right side of the body represents everything going on outside of us; the external world. Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal, the beginning of a fresh cycle with so much potential lying ahead. In this pose you open up the front-side body by back-bending, pulling the lungs forward, and drawing the shoulder-blades down the back.
3. Standing Twist
From a standing forward fold, place one tall block on the ground directly underneath your nose. Place your left hand on the block, bend your left knee a lot, and extend your right finger tips up towards the ceiling. Eventually your shoulders will stack, and you should have a straight line of bone from your right wrist to your left. Vision turns up past the right fingertips. Take a big freestyle stroke with your right hand to replace the left on the block and switch sides.
Twists are incredibly detoxifying as they squeeze and release the organs, allowing fresh blood to circulate. Similar to a spring cleaning, we try to clean out the garbage from the past with hopes to move forward fresh and renewed. Lose the block and grab opposite ankles to make the twisting deeper. Swim from side to side!
Sit in a comfortable seated position. Extend both arms out to a “T,” and then bend both elbows, so that each hand makes a fit on its respective shoulder. Extend the elbows out at the level of the collarbones. This is a breathing technique where you will take short, sharp, inhales and exhales through the nose. On your first inhale, spin the torso and head to the left, and then exhale spinning to the right side. In, left, out, right. It’s helpful to close your eyes. Get to about 100 pumps, and then inhale, reach your arms up over head, hook the thumbs and hold the breath in. When you can’t hold the breath any longer, exhale the air out, releasing the arms down. Pause to notice the effects.
Pranayama practices are another way to flush out the body and detoxify. Because of the twisting element in this technique, you can continue to wring out the organs and rid yourself of any unwanted debris in the body. Physical or metaphorical, it’s helpful to really picture one or two things you want to release to help reign in this practice.
5. Rounded Plow
Lay down on your back, reach your legs over-head keeping the knees soft so that eventually they will fit directly into the armpit. Grab for the outside edges of both feet. Fold into yourself. Eventually once you get there, this is another incredibly restorative pose for longevity. However, its difficult for a lot of people to find, so if you’re working towards it, try a modified happy baby where you make the fit of knees into armpits and allow the back of the pelvis to come off the mat.
My favorite pose, and another pose about potential and the future. The front-side of the body consists of all the “bellies” of the body, so don’t be confused because it’s not a backbend. A belly of the body is any soft surface: the face, stomach, backs of the thighs, calves, and bottoms of feet. These are all the surfaces being exposed in plow pose. Allow yourself to go inward, to consider the future and how to get there. Come out of plow knowing what you want and ready to move forward into your potential.