As the temperatures drop outside, it feels most essential to create more heat inside and not just in your home but in your bones and blood and body as well. Through a combination of vigorous movements and pranayama (breathing) exercises, this warming yoga sequence is sure to stoke your inner fire.
Unless otherwise noted, ujjai pranayama, victorious breathing is practiced throughout the sequence. Ujjai breathing is an equal inhale to exhale-matching in audibility, volume and duration. To do, slightly constrict the back of the vocal chords to create a whispery sound with the breath. It is considered a victorious breath because the sound of the breath is said to enable one to become present; as you focus on the sound of the breath you can get out of your head. Breathing in and out through the nose, the mouth stays closed in ujjai so that all the heat generated from the breath stays inside so you can heat yourself up and go deeper into your practice.
1. MODIFIED DOWNWARD-FACING DOG TO MODIFIED UPWARD-FACING DOG
- Come onto all fours with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Tuck your toes under and lift your hips, turning your body into a triangle with your hips as the highest point for downward-facing dog. Bend one knee, then the other, alternating a few times to stretch out your calves.
- Find stillness with both knees bent on the ground for modified downward dog, then shift forward to a plank pose, with your wrists directly under your shoulders.
- Keeping your knees on the ground, the balls of your feet on the ground and your arms straight, drop your hips slightly so you are in a modified upward-facing dog. Your shoulders should roll back to widen across your chest as you lift your head to look straight ahead.
- Lift your hips back to modified downward-facing dog with your knees bent.
- Continue alternating between the two, exhaling as you come forward to up dog and inhaling as you pull back to down dog. Repeat for at least 30 seconds or until you feel nice and warm.
2. ALTERNATING CRESCENT LUNGES
- From downward-facing dog, inhale as you lift your right leg up into the air, keeping your hips square to the ground.
- Exhale and step your right foot in between your hands to a low lunge. Inhale and lift your arms straight up alongside your ears to crescent lunge.
- Exhale and release your hands down around your right foot and step back to downward-facing dog. Repeat on the other side, this time stepping forward with your left foot.
- Continue alternating sides 8–10 times each, ending in downward-facing dog.
3. FLIPPED WRIST CAT/COW WITH BHASTRIKA BREATH
- From downward-facing dog, lower to all fours with your knees directly under your hips and your wrists directly under your hands. Flip your wrists so your fingertips point at your knees and press your entire hand into the ground.
- On an inhale, round your back toward the ceiling, drawing your belly toward your spine and your chin toward your chest to come into cat pose.
- On the exhale, arch your back into cow, lifting your gaze, the crown of your head and your butt into the air, widening the sits bones.
- Continue alternating between cat and cow with your breath until you have a good rhythm and can start to move faster.
- Now begin bhastrika, or bellows breath.* To do this, forcefully inhale and exhale, using your diaphragm as a pump. The breath should be rapid and sharp.
4. LOW SQUAT
- Stand up. Separate your feet wider than your hips and squat low, with your butt almost touching the ground. (If your heels lift, place a rolled blanket under your heels so there’s even weight in all four corners of both feet.) Sit tall so that your shoulders are over your hips and you’re not leaning too far forward.
- Raise your arms straight up overhead. Hold for at least 5 long breaths.
5. GODDESS SQUAT WITH HEEL LIFTS
- Press down into your feet to stand up. Keeping your feet wider than your hips, bend your knees so you are in a goddess squat, with your knees over your heels and your thighs parallel to the ground. Actively press your inner thighs back so your knees don’t buckle in. Reach your arms overhead.
- On an inhale, raise your heels up as high as possible. On the exhale, lower your heels back down.
- Repeat 8–10 times while staying low in your squat, knees bent as close to 90 degrees as possible.
6. WARRIOR II
- Stand up with your arms by your side. Step your feet about four feet apart. Turn your right toes out 90 degrees and your left toes in slightly.
- Lunge into your right leg, bringing your right thigh parallel to the ground and raising your arms out to the sides at shoulder height. Keep pressing into the outer edge of your left foot so as not to collapse into the instep and to keep the weight evenly balanced between the two legs.
- Gaze over the tips of your right fingers. Stay here for 5–10 breaths, then repeat on the left side.
7. TWISTING HERO’S POSE
- Kneel on the ground with your knees touching and your feet about hips’ distance apart, tops of your feet pressing into the ground.
- Sit back in between your feet and gently close your eyes. (If this is painful on your knees, place a yoga block, pillow or meditation cushion beneath your butt.)
- Place your right hand on your right shoulder and your left hand on your left shoulder. Twist to the left with a full inhalation, then swiftly twist to the right with a full exhalation. Shift to bhastrika again, forcefully inhaling and exhaling as you continue to twist back and forth for at least 50 breaths.
8. THUNDERBOLT POSE WITH TOE OPENING AND KAPALABHATI BREATH
- Come onto your hands and knees, then lift your hips into downward-facing dog. Pedal your feet out again to stretch the backs of your legs out.
- Once you feel fresh blood flowing down the backs of the legs, kneel back down. Bring your knees to touch, keep your toes tucked under and sit onto your heels. Raise your arms toward the sky, and shape your hands into little cups.
- Begin kapalabhati breathing, which is short, sharp exhalations out of the nose.* The inhalation is passive and automatically happens as a reflex from the forceful exhalation (like blowing your nose). Aim for 100 breaths. (If it becomes too intense on your feet, lift your seat away from your feet to a kneeling position for a few rounds and then return again.)
- Return to all fours, hands beneath your shoulders and knees beneath your hips. Now wriggle. Literally: Stir your hips in a clockwise direction, letting the spiral motion move up into your torso and back to your hips. Close your eyes and feel how your body wants to undulate and move in order to open up your sacrum and bring a greater sense of freedom and ease in your body. You can explore big wiggles/circles, small wiggles, slow undulations, fast gyrations, etc.
- Do this for as long as you’d like, then repeat, this time moving in a counter-clockwise direction.
*Do not practice bhastrika or kapalabhati breathing if you are pregnant, have high blood pressure, heart disease, epilepsy, seizures or if you experience any abdominal pain or anxiety.
About Danielle Karuna
As a former certified fitness trainer, Danielle has always been interested in movement and the human body’s capabilities. Danielle is an 800+ hour certified Jivamukti Yoga Teacher & a Lululemon Ambassador with a goal to share the gift of yoga and wellness with as many people as possible. Provita is the embodiment of this belief in the transformational and healing power of yoga, fitness and wellness.