Of course yoga promotes flexibility and a sense of relaxation, but yoga can also be a highly strengthening practice. We can use asana to safely strengthen and tone our muscles with the help of proper alignment and anatomical accuracy. Building strength in our yoga practice requires the right sequence of postures that challenge us and help us build a little heat. Follow along with this yoga sequence for a little burn.
Downward facing dog (Adho mukha svanasana)
From your seat, come into a table top position, hands stacked underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips. Press into the palms and straighten your legs, creating an inverted V shape with your body. Straighten out through the spine and extend the hips toward the ceiling. Invite in gentle movement, straightening one leg and then the other. Find stillness and hold for five breaths.
Shift forward into high plank, palms underneath shoulders. Engage the core and press into the palms, puffing up between the shoulder blades and tuck our tailbone slightly under. Engage the entire body, holding for 5 breaths.
Sun Salutations (Suryka Namaskar)
From high plank, on an exhale lower halfway down through chaturanga and on an inhale come up into upward facing dog, opening up through the heart. Exhale shift back through a child's pose and back into downward facing dog.
Look between your hands and step or jump up to a forward fold. Inhale reach the arms overhead and come up to stand. Exhale fold over the legs once more. Inhale place the palms on the shins and straighten out the spine and then exhale plant the hands and step back to plank, lowering half way through chaturanga and repeating your vinyasa, meeting back in a downward facing dog and completing 3-5 rounds of sun salutations at your own pace, coming back to a downward facing dog when you are finished.
From downward facing dog, step your right foot forward between your hands. Plant your left foot on the mat at a 45 degree angle, shooting through the blade edge of the foot and on an inhale cartwheel your hands up into a WII position, a 90 degree bend in your right leg. Keep your arms at shoulder height, right arm forward, left arm behind you. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and gaze over your right finger tips, holding for 5 breaths.
Come through a high lunge, pivoting onto the toes of the left foot and bring your hands to heart center. Gaze at the ground in front of your right foot and shift your weight into the front foot. Slowly lift your left leg off the mat, keeping the foot flexed and the leg at hip height, hips squared to the mat. Keep your core engaged and gaze fixed at a steady spot on the ground. Hold for 5 breaths and slowly release back to a high lunge when you are finished. Transition through a vinyasa and repeat on the other side, coming down to a seat when you are finished.
From a seat, extend your legs out long in front of you, creating a “V” shape with your body. Extend the arms forward as you engage your core and lean back. You can bend your knees if you need to, keeping your shins parallel to the mat. Keep your feet flexed and breathe. Hold for 10 breaths, slowly coming out when you are finished and coming down onto your stomach.
From your belly, extend the arms back behind you. On an inhale, lift the chest, arms and legs off the mat, balancing on the hips bones. Engage the entire body as you breathe. Hold for 5 breaths, slowly coming down onto the mat when you are finished.
Extend your knees mats width apart and sit back on your heels. Reach your arms forward, planting your palms face down on the mat. Breathe deeply and slowly here, allowing your chest to release further into the mat with each exhale. Hold for 15 breaths.
Flip onto your back and extend your arms and legs out long on the mat, coming into savasana. Let go of any breath control or any attempt to control the mind and let your body soften. Stay here for around 7 minutes, slowly coming up to resume your day when you are finished.