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A Yoga Sequence to Train Your Brain to Relax

Hands and Knees Balance

When you’re ready, roll to one side to sit up and come to your hands and knees. Place your hands slightly in front of your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Bring your attention to your hands, allowing them to press into the earth. Let this keep you grounded and present. Softly bend your elbows. As you continue pressing, connect with the earth, seeing if you can feel the rebound of that connection all the way up through your body and to your tailbone and sitting bones. This pose helps to ground you, allowing you to trust the earth to support you. Next, imagine that you have your hand on your navel, supporting you from the underside of ?your body. Lightly lift your core up and in. This is called “navel support” and allows the spine to be long and supported, protecting and strengthening your lower back. Try to maintain this support throughout your practice. Inhale and raise your right arm and left leg into Hands and Knees ?Balance; now reach the two limbs in opposite ?directions. Navel support and the grounding of the opposite hand and leg pressing into the earth should keep you steady and even. Remain here for 5 breaths, and then exhale as you draw your extended arm and leg back down to the earth. Repeat on the other side.

Plank Pose

Step your feet back into Plank Pose.Your hands should be directly under your shoulders, and your body in one long, even line. Feel your hands pressing into the earth and the resulting rebound all the way through to your tailbone, ?and sense the connection from your feet to your head. The strength in this posture comes from your navel support. Keep your chest and collarbones wide. Be careful not to let your hips hang. Take 5 breaths here, focusing on your soft, easy Ujjayi Breathe.

Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Adho Mukha Svanasana
Come to your hands and knees. Keep your hands directly under your shoulders, and press them ?fully into the earth. Roll your toes under, bend your knees, and push back into Downward-Facing Dog Pose.From the firm press of your hands, see ?if you can draw your awareness all the way through to your sitting bones. Maintain your ?navel support; lengthen both sides of your waist. If you have tight hamstrings, feel free to bend your knees. Take 5 to 10 breaths here, feeling grounded through both hands and feet. From here, walk your hands to your feet or your feet ?to your hands. Inhale and come up to standing.

Warrior Pose II

Virabhadrasana II
Step out sideways on your mat so your feet are about 3 to 4 feet apart. Establish all the same grounding supports you used previously, including pressing your feet into the earth and maintaining navel support. Begin by spinning your right leg and foot out to the right. Turn your back leg and foot in a little bit. Line up your right heel with the arch of your left foot. Really plant onto the earth through your feet and legs. Inhale and reach your arms out to the sides; exhale and bend your right knee, and slide your right sitting bone toward your right foot. Be careful not ?to let your knee go past your ankle. Stay stable through your back leg—this is a strong and ?focused posture that requires you to remain in the present moment. Take 5 breaths here. Maintain the supports that keep you grounded. Inhale and push into the earth to straighten your ?right leg and come out of the posture. Exhale your way back to center. Repeat on your left side.

Extended Triangle Pose

Utthita Trikonasana
Spin the right leg and foot out again, taking the time to align your feet as they were in Warrior II. Inhale, press your feet into the earth, and reach your arms out to the sides. From the press of your feet, draw your awareness all the way through to the top of your head. As you exhale, use your navel support to keep your spine long and healthy. Lengthen your right side body out over your right leg and reach your right hand down toward a block or your shin. Let your ?left arm reach straight toward the sky. Take 5 breaths here, doing your best to maintain Ujjayi breath. To come up, inhale and push into the earth. Your exhale will bring you back to center. Repeat on your left side.

Tree Pose

To balance in a posture, it is helpful to be calm, steady, and focused. To begin, keep your gaze, or drishti, fixed on one point to steady yourself. Now press both feet firmly into the earth while drawing your awareness up to the crown of your head. Notice whether you were able to maintain navel support. Bring your right foot up and press it against your left leg. You can bring your foot above or below your knee (but never on it), and even keep your toes on the floor if need be. As you press your foot into your leg and press your leg back into your foot, you’ll create equal and opposing forces. Finally, press your palms ?together in front of your heart. You can stay here, or you can reach your arms up as if they were limbs on a tree growing toward the sun. Stay calm and steady by focusing on your drishti and your breath, even if your tree sways a little. Take 5 to 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Supported Shoulderstand, variation

Salamba Sarvangasana
Lie on your back with your feet on the earth and your feet and knees hip-distance apart. Inhale and press your feet down as you lift your hips. Roll onto your shoulder tops and place a block under your sacrum—the triangular bone at the base of your spine—at whatever height feels comfortable. Once you have the block situated, place your hands back on the floor alongside your body and press firmly into the earth. Draw the chin toward your chest and do not turn your head from side to side. On an exhalation, draw your right knee in toward your chest. Inhale and extend your right leg straight up. Take 3 to 5 breaths here. On the next exhale, draw your right knee back in. Inhale to bring your right foot back to the earth. Exhale to draw your left knee in toward your chest. Inhale and extend your left leg upward. Take 3 to 5 breaths here. Exhale to draw your left knee back in. Leave your left knee here and draw your right knee in to meet it. Both feet will be off the floor, so be sure that both hands and the block are supporting you. On the next inhale, extend both legs upward. Try to stay here for at least 5 breaths. To come down, draw both knees into your chest on an exhale. Inhale and place both feet back on the floor. Remove the block by pressing your feet down to lift your hips. Slowly lower back to the earth. Take a ?moment here to let your spine settle.

Corpse Pose

Lie on your back with your legs and arms extended, palms up. You can put a bolster under your knees for additional support. If Savasana isn’t comfortable, even with props, find a posture that you can relax in. Close your eyes or just soften and rest them. Spend 5 to 10 minutes here, allowing your body and mind to absorb the work that you’ve done.

Supine Twist

Draw your knees in toward your chest, place your right hand on your left knee, and extend your left arm straight out to the left. Inhale, and as you exhale, roll your knees to the right. Take 3 to 5 breaths here. Inhale and draw your knees back to center, and exhale as you squeeze them back in toward your chest. Inhale and reach for your right knee with your left hand. Extend your right arm out to the right and exhale your knees to the left. Take 3 to 5 breaths here. Inhale and bring your knees back to center; squeeze in one more time. Exhale and release your feet to the earth. When you reach through your extended arm, you are twisting deeper and bringing more breath into the lungs. This pose is also effective at relieving tension in the lower back, where many of us carry stress.

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