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GAIAM Cargo Yoga Mat Bag

GAIAM Cargo Yoga Mat Bag
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GAIAM Cargo Yoga Mat Bag

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Heart-Centered Yoga Flow for New Beginnings

Creating a new pattern doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Fresh starts come in all sizes, from how you make your morning tea to how you make money. What’s cool is that small changes imprint and build patterns that train you for big changes. I'm sure that's not surprising, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded of important stuff that's obvious. Sometimes when we yearn for change, we become tactical. We literally sit and strategize. We research endlessly. We get very brainy and administrative about it all because being methodical seems like the smart way to go. Or at least that's been my default drill, and I'm sure I'm not alone. Other people don't contemplate. Instead of peering into the distance and figuring out a plan of attack, they jump right in to get things done. That strategy, or lack thereof, comes from impatience, frustration or both, and I have several folks on hand as examples. I'm certain experts in goal setting would say neither approach is ideal, so I'll spare you the pedagogy. I’m also sure, experts not needed, that there's a middle ground between those two approaches that employs both the mind (all that mental maneuvering, in the first example) and the body (immediate action without much thought, in the second). With that, it helps to know that your physical self is a conduit for your mental self (and vice versa). Jaw tight? You're probably tense. Curled in a ball all day? Bet you're bummed or emotionally exhausted. Conversely, if your body feels strong and lithe, that’s going to translate to confidence and a sense of power. In the spirit of harnessing the ever-present smarts of your body—and manipulating it for the better—I offer this heart-opening flow to help you build new beginnings. It might not spark instant change, but if you take to heart, pun intended, the “power prompts,” the experience will launch you in the right direction.

Six-step heart-opening yoga flow

This practice takes three minutes at its most streamlined. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4=""][/video]

1. Mountain Pose Variation

Stand comfortably, and as you inhale, reach your arms overhead. As you exhale, lower both arms to shoulder height and step your right foot back a comfortable distance. As you inhale, open your chest and right arm to the right, turning your head over your right shoulder, while your left arm reaches forward. As you exhale, step back to your starting point, and lower your arms. Repeat, leading with your left arm. Power prompt: Strive for expansiveness as you reach your arms up, out and back. You are metaphorically acknowledging the future (up), the present (out) and the past (back), all of which are critical to being able to create a new beginning.

2. Forward Fold to Lunge to Downward Dog

As you inhale, reach your arms overhead. As you exhale, bend your knees so you can tilt your pelvis forward and fold, hinging from your hips and dropping your fingers or hands to your mat or the ground. As you inhale, step your right leg back as far as you can so that you’re in a lunge. As you exhale, dip your back knee, and allow your torso to become more upright. Do this several times, then use an exhale to step back to downward dog. Power prompt: These shapes and actions are all about moving intentionally and feeling grounded. For example, lifting and lowering your back knee is simple—but you can cultivate a sense of strength from the revving motion.

3. Three-Legged Dog to Crescent Lunge Variation

As you inhale, lift your right leg as high as you can, activating your foot. As you exhale, step your right foot to your right hand so you can plant your sole, and on an inhale, lift your torso up and over your hips, with your arms alongside your ears. As you exhale, soften your shoulders and elbows so you can release your arms to shoulder height and press your chest forward and up, lifting your gaze. Hold this for as many breaths as feels comfortable, and then as you exhale, hinge forward from your hips, drop your hands under your shoulders and release your right foot under your right hip in order to land in a forward fold. Repeat step 2, leading with your left leg. Power prompt: Lifting your leg high creates space before you step forward; you can't move into something new without creating space for it. Simple as that. As you open your arms, shoulders and chest in the lunge, acknowledge the process of lifting your eyes. This heart-expanding position is the physical embodiment of drawing in energy so that you can move into the unknown.

4. Plank to Inchworm to Cobra to Tabletop

As you inhale, step both legs back into a plank. Keep a smooth steady breath. Stay with this even if or until you shake and feel fatigued. Then as you exhale, lower your knees and chest, followed by an inhale to lift your head and chest into a cobra shape. As you exhale, lower your chest and face, and then as you inhale, press to your hands and knees. Power prompt: Consider what went through your mind as you shook and began to fatigue. Acknowledge that moving toward the unfamiliar can feel uneasy and pursuit of it can tire you. When you feel fatigued, it's time to back off. You did that here, in particular releasing your heart; it applies to your new endeavors too. Then after releasing down, you drew your chest up and out; you moved from surrendering to leading with your heart. Let that inform you.

5. Boat

As you exhale, release to your seat, and then as you inhale, face the front of your mat and begin lifting your chest and drawing your ears up and away from your shoulders. As you exhale, settle into your seat and begin lifting your feet. Keep a smooth steady breath and consider lifting your feet higher, perhaps all the way to straightening your legs, so that your body forms a V-shape. Take as many breaths as you can, remaining until you feel muscular discomfort from the intense muscular engagement. Eventually, use an exhale to drop to your back. Power prompt: You are leading with your heart and powered (mostly) by your core in this shape. Acknowledge each, as each is critical to the overarching aspiration of this entire sequence. While you hold this powerful shape, either allow the general commitment to a new start root itself, or, if you have a specific goal in mind, commit yourself to it.

6. Final Rest

Give yourself a hug, knees toward chest, and then release into a comfortable position on your back and remain there for as long as you can. Power prompt: This is the time to passively allow your body and mind to assimilate all you just did. Let it happen, and witness what unfolds. Mitra Malek is a former Yoga Journal editor and has taught yoga regularly since 2006. Yoga has launched life changes for her, big and small, since she started practicing it in 2003—including creating the opportunity to write this piece.018713629159

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