September marks National Yoga Month – a time to reflect on and cultivate gratitude for the countless benefits that yoga offers. As a yoga teacher, of course, I am excited to celebrate this time with the Sunny Team. Making yoga more accessible and sharing my practice with the SunnyFit community has truly been such a joy. As I use this time to reflect on what yoga means to me, I would like to share a few things that come to mind. My hope is that you can use my reflections to help guide your practice and find a deeper appreciation for what it means to step on your mat and flow. I invite you to focus on these intentions as you move through our 30 Days of Yoga, where we focus on learning a new pose each day of the month. Follow along, starting September 2!
Your Yoga Practice is Exactly That – a Practice!
You’re not going to be able to do the splits the first time you do yoga (being honest, I still can’t and maybe never will – and that’s okay!), but every time you drop in for yoga class is a chance to practice each pose (also known as asana) that is sequenced. You aren’t going to hit every pose in every class; some days are better than others. But there is always something to learn that you can apply during your next practice. Instead of focusing on making each asana perfect, focus on what feels good in your body. What modifications or props can you use that might allow you to get more out of the pose?
Being Mindful During Exercise is so Important
Yoga facilitates the transition from a wandering mind to a mindful embrace of the present moment. Listening to your body and cues from your yoga teacher requires you to be focused and aware of what is happening in the now. Focusing on using your breath as an anchor and pairing your breath with movement calls your mind back when your thoughts inevitably wander. This invites intention to your movement and gives it purpose, something you can apply to your other daily activities outside of the yoga studio.
Yoga is For Everyone
Take the idea that you have to be an ultra-flexible, acrobatic yogi and bury it. Yoga is for everyone, no matter what your body looks like or how flexible you are. As long as you are enjoying the process and listening to what your body needs, you’re doing it right. Be kind to yourself and appreciate all the amazing things your body is capable of.
Your Breath is Everything – Use it
Breath is life. And can also help you move through challenging poses with a little more ease. It’s normal to want to hold your breath when things get difficult, but breathing through those fiery asanas can bring some softness to balance out excess tension. As mentioned above, your breath can also serve as an anchor to the present moment. If you notice you start to get stuck in a thought spiral, gently guide your focus back to your breath and body.
Yoga Goes Far Beyond the Asanas
In Western culture, yoga is primarily focused on the physical practice of asanas. But it’s so much more than that! Yoga is also about ethics, breath, meditation, and spirituality. If this is something that interests you, I recommend taking a deep dive into The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali – it’s a great way to embody the practice of yoga both on and off your mat. If that’s not your cup of tea, yoga can still help you in ways beyond the physical body. You will become stronger and more flexible, sure, but you’ll also experience heightened concentration, mindfulness, and mental health.
30 Days of Yoga
Whether you’re a novice yogi or an arm balance queen, I invite you to take the next 30 days as an opportunity to focus on each daily pose individually. It might give you the opportunity to practice a pose that you want to improve, or maybe it provides a few quiet moments where you can focus on your breath and your body. I encourage you to do a short warm-up before getting into these asanas; you will be able to move through the poses with more ease and comfort.
Day 1: Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Begin in tabletop position. Bring your big toes together to touch, knees as wide as your yoga mat. Sink your hips back to your heels as your arms reach out long in front of you. Let your forehead rest on the mat and breathe deep into your belly. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 2: Sphinx (Salamba Bhujangasana)
Begin in tabletop position. Lower to your forearms, with your elbow stacked below your shoulder and your palms flat on your mat. Lift up and out of your shoulder joints as you broaden your collar bones and open your chest. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 3: Puppy (Uttana Shishosana)
Begin in tabletop position. Walk your arms towards the top of your mat as you keep your hips high. Keeping your arms straight, melt your heart towards your mat. Let your forehead rest on the mat. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 4: Cat/Cow (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana)
Begin in tabletop position. Inhale as you drop your belly, send your hips and gaze up towards the sky (cow). Exhale as you round your upper back, pointing your hips down towards the ground and tucking your chin towards your chest (cat). Flow through 3-5 rounds of breath.
Day 5: Balancing Table (Dandayamna Bharmanasana)
Begin in tabletop position. Inhale to reach your right arm forward and your left leg back. Keep your shoulders and hips square to your mat. Exhale to return to tabletop. Repeat on the opposite side, and flow back and forth with your breath, 3-5 times.
Day 6: Down Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Begin in tabletop position. Tuck your toes and lift your hips up, melting your heart back towards your thighs. Feel a grounding energy pulling down through your heels. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 7: Half Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Begin in Down Dog. Inhale as you lift your right leg up to the sky, exhale to bring your right ankle behind your left wrist, and place your shin on the mat. Extend your left leg out long behind you. Inhale to lengthen your spine, exhale to fold forward over your right leg, any amount. Listen to your body – if this is too intense for your hips or painful in your knees, modify it with a reclined pigeon (on your back). Hold for 3-5 deep breaths and repeat on the opposite side.
Day 8: Wild Thing (Camatkarasana)
Begin in Down Dog. Inhale your right leg up, exhale to open your hips to the side of your mat and flip your right leg over your left. Push your hips up towards the sky as you squeeze your glutes. Open your chest and point your right arm overhead. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 9: Fallen Triangle (Patita Tarasana)
Begin in Down Dog. Inhale your right leg up, exhale to bring your right knee in towards your chest, then shoot your leg out to the left side of your mat. Reach your left arm towards the sky as you send your gaze up. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 10: Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Begin standing with feet hip distance apart. Root down evenly through all four corners of your feet, with your chest open, hands by your side, and palms facing forward. Feel an upward current of energy lift through the front of your body and a grounding energy flowing down through the back of your body. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 11: Forward Fold/Ragdoll (Uttanasana)
Begin in Tadasana. Inhale to reach your arms toward the sky as you length your spine. Exhale to fold forward at the hips and keep your back flat (if you need to, create a generous, deep bend in your knees). Place your hands on the mat or clasp opposite elbows. Release your head, neck, and shoulders. Find stillness or sway from side to side. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 12: Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)
Begin in Down Dog. Inhale your right leg up, exhale to step your foot between your hands. Spiral your left foot out, so it’s at a 45 degree angle. Keep both hip bones pointing forward as you raise your arms up overhead. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 13: Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
Begin in Warrior I. Open your body to the left side of your mat, sending your arms in either direction, and spiraling on your back foot so your toes point towards the left side of the mat. Stack your shoulders over your hips, and send your gaze over the top of your right hand. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 14: Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)
Begin in Warrior II. Pivot on your back foot so both toes are pointing forward. Start to shift your weight into your front leg, and once you feel steady, lift off your back leg so your torso and lifted leg are parallel to the floor. Extend your arms overhead, but pull your shoulders back and down. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 15: Pyramid (Parsvottanasana)
Begin in Warrior II. Rotate on your back foot so both toes are pointing towards the top of your mat; straighten your front knee. Inhale to lengthen your spine, exhale to fold forward over your front leg as you maintain a flat back. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 16: High Crescent Lunge (Ashta Chandrasana)
Begin in Down Dog. Inhale your right leg up, exhale to step your right foot between your hands. Inhale to rise up as you keep your back knee lifted. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 17: Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana)
Begin in Warrior II. Straighten your front knee and bring the back of your hand to your shin as your fingertips lightly touch the ground. Extend your opposite arm up towards the sky, keeping your chest open and core activated. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 18: Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
Begin in Warrior II. Bring your right elbow to your right knee as you extend your left arm up and overhead. Press evenly through both feet and stay light on your elbow, with your core activated. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 19: Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana)
Begin in Warrior II. Start to shift your weight into your front leg and when your foundation feels stable, lift your back foot and open your hips and chest to the long edge of your mat. Reach one hand for the earth and the other to the sky. You can send your gaze up for a challenge, or toward the earth for more stability. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 20: Lizard (Utthan Pristhasana)
Begin in High Crescent. Plant your palms on the mat and heel-toe your foot towards the edge of your mat. Bring both hands to the inside of your leg. Drop your back knee to the mat. You can stay in this lifted position, or drop to your elbows for a deeper stretch. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 21: Crow (Bakasana)
Begin in a forward fold. Plant your palms on the mat and bring your knees to your triceps. Activate your core muscles and start to lift your legs off the floor, shifting your weight forward. If you aren’t quite ready to lift both feet off the ground, lift one foot, then the other, testing your arm balance. Send your gaze a few inches in front of you, and hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 22: Tree (Vrksasana)
Begin in Mountain Pose. Shift weight into your right foot, and bring the bottom of your left foot to your inner right thigh, inner shin, or with your toe tapping the ground. Inhale to lift your arms overhead, keeping your shoulders back and down. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 23: Chair (Utkatasana)
Begin in Mountain Pose. You can keep your feet hip distance apart, or bring the big toes together, leaving a small amount of space between the heels. Inhale to reach up and lengthen your spine, and exhale to sit your hips back any amount. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 24: Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Begin laying on your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat. Bring your arms down by your sides with your palms facing down. Inhale to lift your hips up off the mat, pushing through both heels evenly. Exhale to slowly lower, one vertebra at a time, until you are back in your starting position. Repeat for 3-5 rounds of breath.
Day 25: Cobra (Bhujangasana)
Begin laying on your belly, with your chin tucked and your hands planted on your mat on either side of your chest. Inhale to peel your chest off your mat, staying light on your hands and using your back muscles to lift. Exhale to return to your starting position. Repeat for 3-5 rounds of breath.
Day 26: Chaturanga Dhandasana
Begin in a high plank. Inhale to shift your chest forward past your hands. Exhale to bend your elbows and lower your body in a plank until you are hovering a few inches off your mat. Hold for 1-3 deep breaths.
Day 27: Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
Begin laying on your back with your knees pulled into your chest. Grab your shins, ankles, or arches with your hands but keep your shoulders and tailbone glued to your mat. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 28: Plow (Halasana)
Begin laying on your back with your arms by your sides, palms facing town. Exhale to lift both legs up towards the sky, eventually peeling the hips up off the mat (at this point you can support your hips with your hands). Mindfully begin to lower your toes to the floor behind your head and release your hands back to the mat. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 29: Reclined Butterfly (Supta Badha Konasana)
Begin laying on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the mat. Gently let your knees fall out to either side, bringing the soles of the feet together. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Day 30: Savasana
Begin laying on your back, legs out long, and arms by your sides with your palms facing up. Gently close your eyes and allow your body to completely melt into your mat. Remain in this position for 3-5 deep breaths, or as long as you would like.