School is starting up again, but even if you're not returning to classes, many of us look at the fall as a fresh start. Invite peace and tranquility into your brain and restore your mind with this 5-part yoga practice.
The asana child's pose (balasana), also known as "wisdom pose," connects your heart and your intuitive centers to the earth, from where we draw feminine energy as we seek inspiration and creativity.
How: Kneel with top of the feet to the floor. Knees can be together (thighs parallel) or wide. Sink your hips back to your heels. Take your chest to the floor in front of you. Arms can be outstretched a la "superman" or along your sides, toward your heels, palms up. Inhale to fill to your kidneys, and exhale to melt into the ground. Repeat for five breaths.
Aim to: Get your hips as low to your heels as possible; get your forehead and heart on the ground.
Locust pose (shalabhasana) strengthens your back and stimulates digestion ("fire in the belly"). Like child's pose, this will ground you during this earthy time of harvest, and in addition you'll begin to open your heart to new experiences.
How: Lay on your belly with arms to the sides, palms up, and toenails to the floor. On an exhale, press your hip bones into the ground. On an inhale, lift your feet and arms off the floor, keeping arms and legs parallel (not splaying) and somewhat straight (but not locked at the elbows and knees). On the exhale, lower your limbs to the earth. On the next inhale, lift legs and arms again as high as possible and gaze at the wall in front of you. Hold through four inhales and exhales, melting the hip bones on the exhales and lifting the straight (but not locked) limbs on the inhales.
Aim to: Shine your heart forward and up rather than just up. This is an extension of the spine as well as a baby backbend.
Now we'll get vertical with the tree pose (vrkasana) and begin to add in masculine (achieving) energy, as well as focus on balance and stillness.
How: Stand with feet hip-width apart, and align your knees over heels, hips over knees, shoulders over hips, and ears over shoulders. In an inhale, place your hands at prayer position at your heart (or raise overhead). Once you feel stable on both feet, exhale as you shift your weight into your right foot, imagining it having roots into the earth. On an inhale, raise your left foot and place it at your inside right ankle (or inside right thigh). Press foot into leg and leg into foot as you inhale and exhale deeply. Arms can be out to the side for balance. Find a drishti, a point on the floor in front of you, on which you can affix a soft gaze. Once you find stability, hold the pose for four more breaths, and on the last exhale gently place the left foot back to the ground. Repeat on the other side.
Aim to: Keep ears over shoulders over hips over heels. Keep spine long, reaching up, with pelvis tilting neither forward nor back.
Downward Facing Dog
Inversions — positions in which the heart is lower than the head — are great for shifting perspective and fostering mental clarity. Try downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana).
How: Start in child's pose and stretch your arms as far in front of you as you can, hands coming straight forward from your shoulders and fingers spread wide on the mat. With your hands and feet staying where they are, begin to lift your hips by straightening your legs as much you can. Bear down in your palms and reach your heels to the ground as you point your sitz bones to the sky. These competing forces — palms and soles pressing down as hips reach up — give length to your spine and spaciousness in your torso. Hold for five breaths.
Aim to: Position your biceps near your ears, rotating them toward the ceiling. Drop your heart toward the ground, looking to make a straight line from your palms to your tail bone, with no kink at the shoulder.
What better pose to end with than the one that is used in kindergarten classes everywhere? At school, it's called criss-cross-apple-sauce. In yoga, it's called easy pose (sukhasana).
How: Sit cross-legged. Elevate your hips just a tad higher than your knees by sitting on a folded blanket or block if necessary. Simultaneously root your lower spine and lift your mid and upper spine. Breathe deeply for five breaths, watching your breath move into and out of your nostrils.
Aim to: Keep the spot between your eyebrows directly over your heart, directly over your hips. Avoid tucking your pelvis forward. A very slight swayback is preferred.
Doing this quiet practice every morning before you start working will help you clear your mind and create a fresh start.