Finding Balance: Fall Equinox Yoga Sequence

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With the autumnal equinox taking place on Sunday, there's no better time to bring some beautiful balance to our lives than the transition between Summer and Winter.

During the equinox, the sun shines directly on the equator, and the length of day and night is nearly equal. This balancing sequence will leave you feeling centered and ready to embrace the change in seasons.

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Downward Facing Dog Pose

Downward Facing Dog sets a strong tone for the sequence:

Begin on your hands and knees. Your wrists should be underneath your shoulders, and your knees should be underneath your hips.

Inhale as you tuck your toes under your heels. Then exhale to lift your hips, coming into an upside-down "V" shape called Downward Facing Dog.

Spread your fingers wide and create a straight line between your middle fingers and elbows. Work on straightening your legs and lowering your heels toward the ground. Relax your head between your arms and direct your gaze through your legs or up toward your belly button. Hold for five breaths.

Traditionally this pose is done during Sun Salutation A, so you can also come into it from Upward Facing Dog.

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Three-Legged Dog Pose

Three-Legged Dog Pose will challenge your stability while opening up tight hips:

From Downward Facing Dog, step both feet together so your big toes are touching.

Shift your weight onto your hands and your left foot equally and raise your right leg into the air. Try to keep your shoulders parallel with the ground and gaze at your left thigh or up toward your belly to help you stay balanced.

Stay here for five breaths, then lower your right leg down and switch sides.

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Warrior 1 Pose

Warrior 1 Pose will prep your legs and hips for all the tougher balancing poses on the way:

After Three-Legged Dog, move through a vinyasa (Four-Limbed Staff to Up Dog to Down Dog).

From Downward Dog, step your right foot forward between your hands. Turn your left heel in, press into your feet, and lift your torso up.

Lift your arms up and press your palms together. Draw your shoulder blades down toward your hips and gaze up at your hands.

Stay here for five breaths. Then come back to Downward Facing Dog, step your left foot forward, and do Warrior 1 on the other side.

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Half Moon Pose

Floating into Half Moon Pose will charge up your core, give a big stretch to your spine, and help you find balance:

From Warrior 1, open your hips, arms, and chest into Warrior 2.

Place your left hand on your left hip and stretch your right arm straight out, creating length through the right side of your body. Shift weight onto your right foot and lift your left foot up. Plant your right palm flat on the ground under your shoulder.

Distribute your weight evenly between your right hand and foot. Lift your left arm up and gaze toward your left hand. Hold for five breaths and then release the pose, coming into Downward Dog. Then try Half Moon on the left side.

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Warrior 3 Pose

Not only does Warrior 3 require strong focus and stability, but it also will help bring the fire to your core:

After Half Moon Pose, move through a vinyasa (Four-Limbed Staff to Up Dog to Down Dog).

From Downward Facing Dog, come into Warrior 1 with your right knee forward, lower your torso, and lift your left leg, bringing your body parallel with the ground.

Extend your hands out in front of you, pressing your palms together firmly. If it bothers your shoulders to press your hands together, separate your arms so they're shoulder-width apart. If extending your arms creates pain or pressure in your lower back, rest your hands on your hips.

Engage your abs, holding this position for five deep breaths. Then lower your left leg, returning to Warrior 1. Release your hands to the mat and come into Downward Dog. Step your left leg forward, coming into Warrior 1. Repeat Warrior 3 on the left side.

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Standing Hand to Big Toe Pose A

Standing Hand to Big Toe Pose A stretches the backs of both legs, while challenging your sense of balance. If you can't balance in the full expression of the pose with an extended leg, keep your knee bent:

Once you've completed Warrior 3, stand with both feet together for a quick Mountain Pose at the top of your mat.

Shift your weight onto your left leg and lift your right leg into the air. Hold onto your right big toe with the first two fingers and thumb of your right hand. Bring your left hand to your hip.

Keep the standing leg straight and straighten your right leg, keeping your torso upright. Stay here or, if this is easy, fold your torso forward over your extended leg.

Hold for five deep breaths and then switch sides.

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Wide Squat Pose

To prep for Crow Pose, Wide Squat Pose is the best way to open up your hips and get your legs ready to launch:

From Standing Hand to Big Toe Pose A, release your big toe. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Bend your knees and lower your hips toward the ground.

Bring your palms together at your heart center and firmly press your elbows against the inside of your knees. This will help to open your hips even farther. Shift weight onto your heels and lengthen the crown of your head toward the ceiling.

Hold the pose for five deep breaths.

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Crow Pose

To build up strength and move past the fear of balances, Crow Pose is a perfect asana:

From Wide Squat, place your palms firmly on the ground in front of you with fingers spread wide. Straighten your legs slightly and place your knees as high up onto your triceps as possible, toward your armpits.

Shift forward onto your hands, lean the weight of your knees into the backs of your arms, and lift your feet off the ground.

Touch your toes together and hold this arm balance for five breaths.

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Headstand

To a beginner, Headstand looks like a crazy balancing pose, but it's really about having a strong core and legs:

After having a few tries at Crow Pose, either jump or step back for your final vinyasa (Four-Limbed Staff to Up Dog to Down Dog).

Drop to your knees and place your clasped fingers and head on the floor at the top of your mat.

Straighten your legs and walk your feet toward your head. Bend one knee and tuck it into your chest.

Using your abs and hamstring flexibility, lift the other leg off the floor so both knees are tucked into your chest, so you're in a pose called Bound Headstand Prep: Tuck.

With complete control, slowly lift and straighten both legs up, coming into Bound Headstand. If balancing is hard, bend one knee and place the sole of your foot on a wall.

Hold for five breaths. Then slowly bend your knees into your chest, lower your feet to the floor, and rest in Child's Pose.

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Staff Pose

Staff Pose will give a big release to your back body and neck — it's a great move to practice after a Headstand:

After a lengthy Child's Pose, sit on your mat with both legs together. Place your palms flat on the floor beside your hips, actively pressing them into the ground.

Keep both arms as straight as possible and lengthen your spine, imagining it is a sturdy staff or cane someone would use to walk with. Roll your shoulders away from your ears and tuck your chin. Engage your leg muscles and flex your feet.

Stay here for five deep breaths, keeping your belly still, and then release.

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Seated Forward Bend

As the final posture before final relaxation, Seated Forward Bend seals in all the hard work you've put into your practice:

From Staff Pose, sit up just one inch taller, and make your spine as long as you can.

Slowly hinge at your hips, lowering your torso toward your thighs. Maintain a straight back and fold as far as you need to feel a nice stretch in your back and hamstrings. Don't worry about folding your body completely in half, unless this is comfortable for you.

Stay like this for five deep breaths.

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Savasana

As always, be sure to rest and enjoy a long Savasana:

Lie on your back and close your eyes. In order to relax and open your body fully, extend your arms a few inches away from the body, with the palms facing up. Put about 15 to 20 inches between your heels, allowing your feet to fall open with the toes pointing out. Actively shrug your shoulder blades down toward your hips. Lengthen through the spine as much as possible, relaxing your lower back toward the floor.

After you've found a comfortable position, stay here for as long as you want, around 10 minutes or more, if your schedule allows for it. If you're short on time, remain in Savasana at least until your heart rate slows down and your breath returns to its natural soothing rhythm.

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