New Year, New You. Yeah, right… While the start of a New Year is typically seen as the time to invite change into our lives, very few of us are still working towards our goals come February. We make sweeping declarations that we will get that six pack or cut out carbs or take up underwater basket weaving, only to lose sight of those resolutions the moment life gets “busy.” I know. I’ve been there myself, especially when tangible change doesn’t appear by January 3rd.
So what is the secret to achieving your New Year’s resolutions? As you probably already know, there really is no top trick at all. Achieving our resolutions is all about staying committed, believing in ourselves, and then continually working like crazy until we finally reach our goals. Of course, it’s easier said than done. If you’re already struggling to stay committed to your New Year’s Resolutions, then this month’s yoga sequence is for you!
Arm Balances For Inner Strength
One of the reasons why I love yoga so much is because how we act on our mat directly correlates to how we act off of it. If we’re able to invite motivation and compassion into our yoga practice, then we will be able to embrace those same characteristics in our daily lives, too. This month’s yoga sequence will challenge you both mentally and physically through a series of poses that will fire up your inner strength. You’ll then be able to take that inner strength you cultivate in your yoga practice and use it to see your resolutions through!
Arm balances are one of my favorite ways to develop inner strength. The poses invite us to push ourselves beyond our perceived limitations; to stay persistent in the face of challenge; and to hold non-attachment to the results of our efforts. Not to mention, we often have to be okay with falling flat on our faces in order to later see our progress! For most of the poses in this sequence, you don’t need as much arm strength as you might think. It’s all about connecting to our core, lighting that inner fire and mentally being okay to fall. But remember, just like with your resolutions, don’t feel like you need to perfect the poses in only one day. Believe in yourself, keep practicing and stay committed, and you’ll be achieving your goals both on and off the mat in no time.
1. Easy Seated Pose
Come to a comfortable seated position and take a moment to connect with your breath. Set an intention to stay present as you transition into your practice. Stay here for as long as you need, noticing the rise of the inhale and the fall of the exhale.
2. Downward Dog to Plank Pose
Start in Downward Dog. Moving from your abs, inhale to come into Plank Pose. Keep the shoulder blades moving down and away from the spine. Feel lengthening in the spine as your head fires away from your neck and your heels push toward the back of the room. Activate thighs and core. Hold Plank Pose for five breaths. On the exhale, push back into Downward Dog. Hold for five breaths. Repeat Downward Dog to Plank Pose five times.
3. Classic Sun Salutations
Do three to five rounds of Classic Sun Salutations to warm up the body and get the blood circulating. Remember to allow the inhale or exhale of the breath to lead each movement.
[Find classic sun salutation tutorial here]
4. Lizard Pose
From Downward Dog, step the right foot to the outside of the right hand. Stay here, or bring both forearms to the floor. Keep the back thigh activated, and the core engaged. The left heel reaches back while the heart extends forward to lengthen the spine. With each exhale, sink a little deeper into the right hip. Hold for five breaths. Repeat on the left side.
5. Triangle Pose With Arms Extended
Walk or jump the feet apart approximately three to four feet. Turn the right toes out 90 degrees. Fully extend (without hyper-extending) through the front and back leg. Engage the quadriceps and lift up through the kneecaps. Inhale the arms up and reach forward with the right hand; exhale to hinge at the hips. Bring the front hand to the shin or pinky toe side of the front foot, raising the opposite arm high. Pause for five deep breaths. Inhale and extend the left arm overhead and bring the right arm up, as if you are squeezing a ball between the hands. Keep the core activated and the heart opening to the right. Hold for five breaths. Exhale to release. Repeat on the left side.
6. Half-Moon Pose
Move back into Triangle Pose on the right side. With the left hand resting on the left hip, bend into the front knee and bring the right hand about twelve inches in front of your right foot. The right hand should rest comfortably on the floor or a block. Exhale to push down into the right hand and foot. Lift up off the left foot, bringing the back leg parallel to the ground. Push through the back heel to keep the leg strong. When you’re ready, the left arm extends straight up overhead. Keep the standing leg strong while the upper torso rotates to the left. Hold for five breaths. Slowly release the back leg to come back to Triangle Pose. Repeat on the left side.
7. Dolphin Plank to Dolphin Pose
From Downward Dog, inhale to Plank Pose. Drop the forearms to the floor to come into Dolphin Plank. Elbows and hands stay shoulder-width apart. Core and inner thighs stay strong. Hold for five breaths. Inhale to walk the toes towards the forearms as far as possible, preferably bringing the hips to stack above the shoulders. Hold for five breaths. Exhale to step back to Dolphin Plank. Repeat five times.
8. Yogi Squat
Step your feet as wide as your mat. Bend your knees and lower the hips, sitting back into a squat pose. Try to keep the heels in firm contact with the mat. Inhale to lengthen the spine, exhale to sink deeper into the hips. Hold for five breaths.
9. Crow Pose
From Yogi Squat, firmly plant the hands on the mat about shoulder width apart. Spread the fingers and place equal weight into both hands. Tuck the knees high into the triceps while shifting your bodyweight onto your hands. Squeeze the inner thighs, lift the lower floating ribs, and squeeze the shoulder blades together. Begin to lean forward, keeping the gaze out in front of your hands. Play with lifting one or both feet off the ground. Continue to pull the shins up and try to straighten your arms as you play with keeping your balance.
10. Pigeon Pose
Start on all fours in Table Pose. Inhale the right leg forward, bringing the right knee behind your right hand. The right shin is working towards being parallel with the front edge of your mat, but it is perfectly fine to have the front heel closer to the groin. Inhale to square the hips and lengthen the spine; exhale to fold over the front shin. You should feel a deep stretch in the hips. Let go of any tension and allow your right hip to relax fully. Hold for five to ten breaths. Repeat on the other side.
11. Standing Pigeon Pose
From standing, cross the right ankle over the left thigh, just above the left knee. Exhale to bend into the standing leg and begin to squat. The lower you sink the hips back, the deeper the sensation in the hip. Hold for five breaths. Repeat on the other side.
12. Baby Flying Pigeon Pose
This is the most challenging pose of the sequence, so be sure to have fun with it! From Standing Pigeon Pose, drop the hands down to the ground. If you cannot firmly connect the hands with the ground, then stay here and continue opening up the hips. Otherwise, bend the knee deeper and shift the right shin high onto the triceps. Lock the right toes around the left bicep for support. Look forward and bend the elbows to bring your bodyweight forward. Play with lifting the left foot off the ground. Remember, it’s okay to fall! If you feel very comfortable in Baby Flying Pigeon, feel free to extend the left foot to come into full Flying Pigeon. After you’ve played around, be sure to switch legs and let the right foot fly! You’ll likely find one leg is easier than the other.
13. Reverse Table Top Pose
Backbends are great counterposes to arm balances. Begin in a seated position with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Take the hands several inches behind you, palms firmly planted on the ground, fingertips pointing towards your toes. Inhale to press into your hands and feet, lifting the hips up to come in line with shoulders and knees. Draw the shoulder blades together and open up through the chest. Activate the thighs and relax the buttocks. Keep the knees directly over the ankles and the wrists under the shoulders. Hold for five breaths.
The most important pose of any practice. Always make time to restore your body and assimilate new changes in Savasana, or Corpse Pose. Lie on your back, arms along your side, palms facing towards the ceiling. Allow the body to feel heavy as you let go of any effort or tension. Stay here for five to ten minutes, or as long as your body needs.
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About Casey Siemasko, RYT 200
Casey is a wandering yoga teacher currently calling Costa Rica “home.” She brings the world of transformational content marketing to yoga teachers and retreats around the world. Learn more about her work or follow her adventures as a nomadic yogi.