by guest blogger Kathryn Budig, international yoga teacher and writer
It’s a new year and with that the promise of a new you. Intention-setting runs rapid as people mark up their resolution lists of how they will become the best version of themselves. Being a yoga teacher, I absolutely love seeing people set intention. Yogis (people who practice yoga) set intention at the beginning of every practice. It’s a way of keeping us inspired even when we don’t feel it, motivated even when we’d rather still be eating Christmas cookies, and disciplined when the sofa seems like a better landing pad then a yoga mat. Remember that the beginning is always the hardest and trying to figure out your path to health and fitness can be overwrought with options.
I’ve chosen four “New Year Jumpstart” poses from my Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga because each pose creates strength, confidence and potential. Physically speaking they will all make you stronger. Boat pose strengthens the core and hip flexor muscles, Side Plank stabilizes your shoulders while building muscle in your obliques and glutes. Wild Thing makes your arms and hips stronger while Handstand will make your entire body powerful like a superhero. Mentally, all of these poses will make you confident. They all strengthen the core which is the home base of our security and insecurities. When we make our core strong, everything else stacks neatly to create an empowered person. Kicking up into Handstand or flipping into Wild Thing takes some major cojones! If you can create these shapes in your body, you can handle anything or anyone off of the mat, as well.
Start seated with your knees bent. Keeping your spine long, lean back just far enough so your feet can float off the ground. Begin to straighten your legs together, making a V shape. Keep your arms extending forward and parallel to the ground. Stay balanced on the tripod of your tailbone and sit bones, chest lifted and gaze forward. Hold for 8 breaths and repeat 5 times.
*If this is too intense on your lower back, keep your knees bent and shins parallel to the ground, like this:
Begin in Plank Pose with your arms straight, shoulders over your wrists as if you were about to lower into a push-up. Bring your left palm to the center of your mat and roll onto the outer edge of your left foot. Stack your right foot on top of your left. Press deeply into your left palm to bring your shoulder away from your earlobe, and stack your right shoulder directly above your left. Engage your obliques by lifting and stacking your hips. Extend your right arm straight up and gaze sideways or upward. Hold for 5-8 breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.
*You can modify this pose by keeping the top leg foot on the ground with a bent knee in front of the bottom leg just like a kick stand. This will take some of the weight out of the base shoulder and allow you to get deeper into your core without stressing the arms.
Begin in Downward Facing Dog. Lift your right leg up into the air and rotate your hip open as you bend your knee. Pivot towards the outer edge of your left foot as you spiral your chest and pelvis to face the ceiling. Drop your right foot onto the floor behind you, landing on your foot or just the ball of your foot for a deeper backbend. Arch your chest and lift your right arm up. Extend it forward rotating the palm down to face the ground. Lift your hips and let your head hang with a soft gaze. Hold for 5-8 breaths and switch sides.
Begin in Downward Facing Dog. Shift your shoulders forward over your wrists and walk your feet several inches towards your hands. Lift your dominant leg up in the air and keep your gaze slightly past your fingertips. Keep your arms straight and firm your upper, outer arms to prevent buckling. Bend your other leg and begin hopping it forward to shift your hips up over your shoulders. Once your hips are over your shoulders, pull the second leg up to meet the other at the top.
*This takes time to kick all the way up, so practice the hops in the beginning. If you find this entirely too difficult try practicing Half Handstand on my Women’s Health Magazine blog.
Kathryn Budig is jet-setting yoga teacher who teaches online at Yogaglo. She is the Contributing Yoga Expert for Women’s Health Magazine, Yogi-Foodie for MindBodyGreen, creator of Gaiam’s Aim True Yoga DVD, co-founder of Poses for Paws, and author of Rodale’s The Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga. Follow her on Twitter; Facebook; or on her website. Come practice with Kathryn on retreat in February in Maui, Hawaii.