By Yoga Journal
You've set your intentions for the new year. Now, it's time to keep them. That's where your yoga practice comes in handy.
"The new year represents an opportunity to make room for new experiences and points of view," says Desi Bartlett, a Vinyasa flow teacher in Santa Monica, California. "Yoga helps us shed the old ways of seeing things and invites in a renewed sense of strength and vitality to take on a new challenge, whether it's physical, mental or emotional."
Bartlett created this seven-pose sequence to help you say goodbye to the old and embrace the new in 2015. "I chose a sequence that leads up to Handstand," Bartlett says. "This pose allows you to turn your world sideways and upside down to see new perspectives."
Half Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Ardha Adho Mukha Svanasana
Begin with your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands on a wall at hip level, folding forward to bring your body to a 90-degree angle. Push your hands into the wall and lengthen your spine. Reach the crown of your head forward and your tailbone backward as you gently engage your core muscles. Enjoy this pose for 5-10 deep, slow Ujjayi breaths. Walk forward a little bit and slowly rise to standing to prepare for the next pose.
Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose, Variation
Utthita Hasta Padangustasana, Variation
Traditionally, this pose is practiced with the hand holding onto the foot. In this variation, you will begin standing and place the lifted foot onto the wall at hip height, making a 90-degree angle with your legs now. Send your tailbone down and try to level your hipbones, without pushing them forward or back. The pelvis should be neutral. Lift your arms overhead and relax the trapezius muscle. Enjoy 5-10 breaths on the right, then repeat the pose on the left. When you've completed both sides, turn away from the wall.
Warrior III Pose
With your back to the wall, lift one leg behind you, bringing your foot flat against the wall. Take a moment to get your bearings. Your body should be parallel to the ground. Strongly engage your standing leg and quadriceps. Keep your pelvis neutral and core active. Reach your arms and the crown of your head directly forward, so that your body looks like the letter "T." This pose is all about strength and charging into the future with bravery and confidence. Breathe into these feelings for 5-10 breaths on each side and enjoy your strength. To transition to the next pose, simply place your hands onto the ground on either side of your standing foot, then lift the standing foot to the wall as well.
Adho Mukha Vrksasana Prep
With both hands on the ground shoulder-width apart, press your palms down into the earth. Firm your upper arm muscles, and sense, see, and feel that the joints of your arms are in alignment. Your shoulder should be on top of your elbow and your elbow on top of your wrist. Your body is once again at a 90-degree angle, but now you are in an inversion. Your head is below your heart. Feel the exhilaration. Once you feel confident here, try lifting your right leg for 5-10 slow, deep breaths. Change legs and breathe deeply into the second side. When you are ready to come down, put both feet on the wall, then step one foot down, followed by the second foot. If you are ready for a full Handstand, you will slowly roll up to standing and face the wall. If you feel a sense of completion with your inversion practice, you can move on to Garland Pose (Malasana).
Adho Mukha Vrksasana
Begin facing the wall. Place your hands on the ground about 6-8 inches away from the wall, shoulder-width apart. Press your palms into the floor. Step your legs into a very short Downward-Facing Dog with one leg bent and the other leg straight. The bent leg is your "kicker." The "kicker" is the leg that will go up first. Take a deep breath in and, on your exhale, kick the bent leg up to the wall followed by the straight leg. If you feel confident enough not to use the wall, then it's simply be there as an emergency brake. You can tap the brake when necessary and mostly keep your feet off the wall. Try to build up to 10 slow deep breaths in Handstand. If you are a beginner, try a few seconds of feet off the wall and try to stay up for at least five breaths. To come down, simply let one foot come to the floor followed by the second foot. Transition right into a squat.
Bring your feet a little bit wider than hip-width apart and turn them out slightly. Sit down into a very deep squat. Point your knees over your ankles and feet. Extend the crown of your head as you lengthen your spine. This is a great pose for feeling the ground beneath your feet after a Handstand. The energy is "apana vayu," which literally translated means downward air, but we can simply think of it as grounding energy. Enjoy this pose for at least 1 minute as your body begins to settle.
Now that you have grounded your energy, have a seat. Sit up tall with your sit bones gently pressing into the earth. Relax your shoulders away from your ears. Close your eyes and direct your inner gaze to the third eye. Let your inner vision awaken as you breathe slowly and consider all of the different vantage points that you just enjoyed through this sequence. Now imagine that your vantage point is moving higher and higher, almost like that of an eagle. With a sense of clarity, look at your thoughts as one would look at clouds. They pass by and help to create the landscape, but they alone do not define the sky. Remember that you are not your thoughts; you are much more than that. Enjoy your expanded vision in the New Year.