Did you know that today, December 21st, is the shortest day of the year and marks the start of winter? Sometimes holiday cheer leads to holiday stress, especially when the days are short and the wintry weather is cold. During this time it is important to find time to breathe, set intentions, and stay active. Now we can find ways to celebrate ever lengthening days and return of sunshine! One of our intentions at Mexicali is to introduce a regular stretching flow into our daily routines to keep our minds and bodies flexible, and our stress levels low.
We find it’s best to take this time for yourself in the morning to start a positive intention for your day. Even if you don’t make it through all these poses before your morning coffee, we encourage you to grab your yoga mat or a recycled falsa blanket and start with an easy breathing exercise. The following is a simple 15 minute yoga flow that can help introduce some mindfulness into your mornings.
Movement One: Alternate Nostril Breathing or Nadi Sodhana
Length: Two Minutes (repeat 10 times)
Try to keep your mind focused on your breath. If you find yourself wandering off into the tasks that lay ahead of you for the day, center yourself back and breathe deep.
- Sit in a comfortable position and try to imagine the shape of your breath while you engage in this exercise.
- Close your right nostril with your right thumb and breathe in through your left nostril for 4 counts.
- Keep your right nostril closed and also close your left nostril while you hold your breath for 8 counts.
- Breathe in through your right nostril for 4 counts.
- Close both nostrils again and hold for 8 counts.
- Breathe out through your left nostril.
- Repeat the cycle until you feel ready to move on to the next movement
Movement Two: Sun Salutation or Surya Namaskar
Length: Three Minutes (repeat 3 times or more)
Sun Salutation is how most yoga practices begin. It’s best to start with these movements at the beginning of your practice to awaken your muscles and focus on your body.
- Start standing and take a breath in and release, bringing your hands to your heart.
- Breathe in, lifting your arms up and back, and gently press your hips forward.
- Breathe out, bending forward and placing your hands by your feet.
- Breathe in, take a halfway lift, bring your hands to shins or thighs and be sure your spine is flat and parallel to the floor.
- Breathe out and fold back down to the floor, placing your hands palm down and step back into plank pose, breathing in.
- Breathe out while lowering your knees, chest, and finally your forehead to the floor.
- Breathe in, rising up into Cobra, pressing your palms and legs to the earth, opening your chest to the horizon. Be careful not to strain your neck as you make this movement.
- Breathe out, tucking your toes underneath you and pushing against your palms, raising your hips up and back into Downward Facing Dog.
- Breathe in, step your right foot up between your hands or as far as your flexibility will allow. (Remember that yoga is not about straining to reach, but about how to concentrate on your breath through these exercises.)
- Breathe out and join your left foot to meet your right.
- Breathe in and rise to stand while lifting your hands to the sky.
- Breathe out, bring your palms together at your heart and repeat the movement.
- After three rounds take a short break (Savasana), collect and calm your breath.
Movement Three: Shoulderstand or Sarvangasana
Length: One Minute
This pose is beneficial for core strengthening, as well as balancing the thyroid gland which holds power over your metabolism and growth of the entire body. It can help calm your mind and relieve stress when practiced correctly. Here’s how to enter into it safely:
- Lie on your back with your feet together and arms at your side.
- To protect your neck, place a folded blanket beneath your shoulders (your neck should remain free).
- Carefully lift your legs skyward and place your hands on your hips.
- Concentrate on your breath and slowly walk your hands up the back toward your shoulder blades.
- The goal is to bring your chest to your chin while keeping your head relaxed on the floor.
- Release from this pose slowly and with care.
- Place your hands on the floor for support while bending your knees and slowly rolling your spine back down to the earth, one vertebra at a time.
Movement Four: Seated Forward Bend or Paschimottanasana
Length: Thirty Seconds
The seated forward bend is perfect to help digestion and fend off headaches. It is a powerful pose that can gently massage your internal organs and is particularly beneficial for the liver and spleen.
- Sit comfortably on the floor with your legs straight in front of you.
- Breathe in while lifting your arms overhead and make your spine long and tall (imagine a thread lifting the crown of your head).
- Breathe out while bending forward bringing your nose down to your knee and reaching your arms to cup your heels.
- If you can’t bend the whole way, just reach as far as you can without straining too hard. It’s ok to reach for your ankles or only bend halfway.
- Do your best to keep your legs straight without letting them bend up to meet your nose.
- Continue your breath and use it to lean deeper into the pose without forcing yourself.
Movement Five: Bow Pose or Dhanurasana
Length: Thirty Seconds
If you find yourself hunching throughout the day this pose will help open your chest and improve your posture. It is also excellent for releasing tension from any menstrual discomforts! (Moon cycle discomforts?) It’s great to transition into this movement from Cat and Cow Pose!
- Lay on your belly with your forehead on the floor.
- Breathe in, bend your knees, and reach back to your ankles.
- Breathe out, kicking your feet into your hands so your knees and chest lift off the floor (keep your knees hip-width apart).
- Breathe in, opening and expanding your chest, setting your gaze to the sky.
- Continue drawing slow breaths while you remain in this pose.
- Focus on pressing your belly to the earth and lifting your chest.
- To release, gently let go of your ankles and lower your legs and arms to the floor.
While you’re practicing these movements, keep in mind that they are meant to help relax your mind and body. If at any point you feel increased tension or anxiety, take a moment to pause on your breath. If you need to go back to the first movement and recenter yourself at any point during the flow, you can! It’s your body and your exercise after all.
If you don’t have your own Paper Star Lanterns to set the mood or a Recycled Falsa Blanket to assist you in some of these positions, be sure to add it to your last minute Mexicali Blues shopping list.