Note: This article was featured on Seattle Yoga News. You can view the article plus many more here.

When we practice yoga, often we practice just the physical aspect, but yoga is so much more. It can be used as a means to connect you with yourself. We use the asanas as a tool to do so. While the physical aspect of yoga has been linked to improving the cardiovascular system, preventing injury, and building strength and flexibility (among others), there is no denying the emotional benefits our practice has on us. Whether we are looking to improve our health, looking to discover ourselves, or looking to find peace in the chaos in our lives, yoga can bring balance and healing to our hearts.

From my own experience, yoga has helped me re-open my heart and rediscover myself. I recently ended a long term relationship which took a toll on my heart and soul. I made compromises to areas I shouldn’t have. I tried to change who I was and what I wanted out of life to make it work. I lost a piece of myself trying to save the relationship. When it was all over, my heart hung heavier than it ever had before.

But there was a light at the end of this tunnel. From losing myself, I now had the opportunity to find myself. This would be my own adventure that would lead me to me. I began to dive deep into my practice, not just the physical aspect, but the emotional. What I’ve learned is that I still have much to learn, but as long as we stay open-minded and open-hearted in our journey, we can ultimately find our highest self.

The following sequence will allow you to be self-aware, allow you to conquer and embrace the new, and understand your body. Before starting the physical practice, study yourself. Start with the breath. Close your eyes and just breathe. Take this time to be mindful to yourself, your time, your practice. Let each breath be slower than the last. When ready, open your eyes.

Cat-Cow

  1. Start in table top position, take a moment to find yourself on your mat. Ensure that the shoulders are aligned over the wrist, hips over knees.
  2. As you inhale, press the mat away from you as you lift your chest and tailbone towards the sky. Let the belly sink towards the earth. Lift your head to look forward.
  3. As you exhale, round the spine, continue pressing the mat away as you tuck the chin towards your chest and tailbone in. Keep the belly drawn in.
  4. Repeat this sequence as needed

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Modified Gate Pose (Parighasana)

  1. From tabletop, lift your right leg to prepare our transition into Gate pose. Take a moment to find your balance on the mat. On exhale, lift your right hand towards the sky and open your heart. Turn your gaze to the sky as you open your heart. Hold this pose for 3-5 breaths.
  2. Return the right hand back to the earth, keep the right leg lifted to transition to our next pose.

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3-Legged Down Dog

  1. Take a moment to find your place on the mat, spread your fingers wide and .curl your left toes under your feet. On exhale, life your left knee and press the mat away from you with your hands. Extend your right leg up as you press away to 3-legged downward facing dog. Keep your shoulders and hips square breath. Hold for 3 breaths.

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Wild Thing (Camatkarasana)

(Proceed with caution)

  1. With the lifted right leg, bend the knee and begin to curl your back. The transition to Wild Thing from 3-legged down dog takes a little faith in yourself and a little bravery. Remember that you own both as we make this transition. With the bent right knee, allow your foot to fall behind you, off the mat if needed. Curl into your back bend and reach your right hand forward. Allow your heart and hips to open. Breathe for 3 breaths and embrace the wild thing you are.

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(Repeat this sequence on the opposite side.)

Head-Stand

(Proceed with caution, option to come into tripod headstand with knees bent or pose against a wall for assistance.)

  1. This final pose requires you to challenge your fears, understand your body, and open your mind. Start first with your legs hips widths apart. When coming into a head stand, first try to find the placement of your head to the earth where you will balance best (a little trick is to grab a block and balance it on your head. Where it balances is the spot you should aim.)
  2. Place your hands out to either side of your head (option to leverage support from your forearms and elbows by crossing your fingers behind your head.) Exhale and lengthen your spine while drawing one foot up (sometimes a little jump is needed). Draw your belly and extend your foot, become aware of the placement of your body to the earth.

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Don’t be afraid to fall, because you will many times. Instead, practice falling. When you fall, fall gracefully and pick yourself back up. Concentrate, be aware of your highest self, and balance will come.

Special shoutout to Danielle Sack of Sukha Design for the beautiful pictures. Please check out her site for more of her work!

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