By Tiffany Griffith, Contributing Blogger
Earth Day is a wonderful reminder to honor this beautiful planet that feeds and nurtures us. Practicing yoga in nature is a powerful way to connect with Mother Earth while centering and restoring your spirit.
Yoga is all about the flow. This flow is designed to move from one asana (pose) to another as slowly as possible. Imagine that you are submerged in a pool of honey. The strengthening benefits of yoga come from slow, controlled, intentional movements. In the balancing asanas you find below, you will feel the burn when you focus your attention on each muscle's deliberate, concentrated activation. The most important thing is to listen to your body and do what you can.
Begin by standing tall, shoulders back, in the aptly named mountain pose. Inhale your arms overhead, and swan dive with your exhale into a simple forward fold. Place your hands on the ground, lengthening the spine, and step your feet back into a plank position. Hold here and take several long, deep breaths, firing up your core. Picture your arms as strong as tree trunks with roots planted deep into the ground.
Lower your body down into a pushup position with elbows by your sides, chaturanga pose. You may take updog, or if your back is sensitive, prop yourself up on your elbows in sphynx pose.
Keeping your navel pulled in, and your hands and feet rooted into the ground, push your hips toward the sky into downward dog. Using your breath to guide you, repeat at least five sun salutations – offering love, gratitude, and healing to Mother Earth.
Tree, Airplane, to Crescent Lunge
Stand tall in mountain pose and shift your weight to your left foot – imagine thick, strong roots coming out of the bottom of your foot and securing you to the Earth. Slowly raise your right knee up to your chest and bring the sole of your right foot high into the left inner thigh for tree pose.
- Important – do not rest your foot on the knee. If you cannot get the sole of your foot up to the inner thigh, place it below the knee, or wherever is accessible to you.
- You may bring your hands together in a prayer position at your heart or stretch them high above and wave them like branches in the sky. Option to close your eyes here and breathe deeply.
When you're ready to come out of tree, pull your right knee back towards the midline and begin to kick your heel behind you. Point your arms back, engaging your back and triceps, and hinge forward from the hips. Your body will make the shape of a capital T. Airplane pose is a challenging balancing posture. If you fall out, simply try again.
As slow as this pool of honey will allow you to move, begin to transition into a lunge. Bend the left knee and lower your body down. Lower your right knee as softly as possible to the ground. Bend into your left knee and push your hips forward. This may be enough of a stretch for you. If you have it in you to go further, inhale your hands overhead, clasping them together and gently arch backward. Think of your arms pulling you up tall and then back, like bending over a beach ball. Imagine your heart opening and pulling up towards the sky for crescent lunge.
- Slowly return to a lunge position, step your right leg up to meet the left, and take a forward fold. Repeat on the other side. Continue this sequence three times to release and lubricate the joints in the hips, knees, and spine.
Boat, Low Boat, Bridge, to Wheel
Balance on your bum, lifting your feet off the ground. Straighten your back and puff up your chest, arms pointing out in front of you. Engage your core and straighten your legs as much as you can. Hold this boat pose for three deep, slow breaths.
Slowly lower your upper body and legs down until they hover just above the ground in low boat pose. This will be a challenge -- breathe through it! Pull your navel towards your spine and lift your legs and upper body up into boat pose. Repeat five to ten times.
- Lay on your back, put your feet flat on the ground, heels under your bum. With arms by your sides, push through your heels, activating the hamstrings and glutes, and lift the hips. Peel your spine off the floor one vertebra at a time from the tail bone to the neck.
If backbends are comfortable for you, you may roll your shoulders under you and clasp your hands together, opening the chest for bridge pose. Remember, your legs are like tree trunks, powerful and deeply rooted in the Earth. Lower down the way you went in – rolling your spine from neck to tailbone. Repeat three to five times.
If backbends are accessible to you and you want to level up from bridge, challenge yourself with wheel pose. Starting from the same position, place your hands next to your ears and peel your spine off the ground as you did in bridge. Push through your hands at the top and lift your head and chest toward the sky.
Savasana is the ultimate grounding pose. It's how we come back to our breath, body, and connection with nature. I love this variation because it is restorative with a gentle stretch yet comfortable enough to stay in for a long time. Lay on your back. Place one hand on your heart and one on the belly, with the soles of your feet touching and knees wide. Take a few minutes to breathe, marinating in your beautiful practice.
Bio: Tiffany has been practicing and sharing her passion for yoga for over thirteen years. She is a heartfelt and dedicated writer, advocating her love of yoga, health & wellness, meditation, and sustainable living. For more of her work, visit www.TiffanyGriffith.net.