Yoga can be a playful practice when you approach it with creativity. Using your imagination coupled with the wisdom of an ancient tradition, you can move your body to mimic the look, feel or essence of an enormous variety of animals, insects, plants, objects and sages of the ages. To welcome 2016, Yoga Teddy Bear has paired four poses with the four main elements on Earth – Fire, Air, Earth and Water.
1. Fire = Breath of Fire (Kapalabati Pranayama)
What better way to start the year than with focused breathing? Sit comfortably and put your hands on your belly. Breathe slowly and powerfully through your nose like a dragon breathing fire. Feel your belly get bigger with each inhale then smaller with each exhale. For kids over 12, add Kapalabati Pranayama to generate heat inside your body. Take a deep breath in. Breathe out through your nose in short, rapid breaths by flexing your tummy muscles. Don’t worry about breathing in – that happens naturally. Count 10 fire breaths then inhale deeply and relax. When you become adept at Breath of Fire, you might take as many as 108 breaths!
2. Air = Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
Eagle pose improves balance, stretches your hip flexors and relieves tension between your shoulder blades. Start by balancing on one foot. Cross your free leg over your standing leg and sit down a little, like a chair. Try to hook your toes behind your leg. Cross one arm over the other and touch your palms. Your body is coiled like an eagle getting ready to leap off a cliff and fly. Breathe deeply and focus on one point to help you balance. See if you can stay here for 8 long breaths or at least 30 seconds. When you unwind, pay attention to which arm and leg is on top. Then switch sides and spend an equal amount of time on your non-dominant side.
3. Earth = Wide Angle Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Many yoga poses can be associated with the earth, but we picked wide angle forward fold because it gives you a great hamstring stretch - something everyone in the modern world can use! Stand with your legs wide apart and all 10 toes pointing forward. Fold forward with a flat back and put your palms on the floor under your shoulders. Bend your elbows straight back and reach the top of your head toward the ground. If you’re up for an extra challenge, clasp your hands behind you and lift your arms up and over your head when you fold forward. Do it again with your hands clasped the other way.
4. Water = Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
Fish pose is a gentle backbend that can be as relaxing or as challenging as you want to make it. Lie on your back with your feet together. Tuck your hands under your seat. Press down into your elbows to lift your heart. Arch your spine like a hook is pulling up your chest. Rest the top of your head on the floor. Breathe deeply and stretch open your lungs. If you have a set of blocks, try supported fish. Put one block on the ground on the second-to-lowest setting, and the other block above it on the highest setting. When you lie down, position first block between your shoulder blades. Your head rests on the taller block. Breathe deeply and allow your chest to relax and open. Now you look like a really big fish!
From all of us at Yoga Teddy Bear, we wish you all the best in 2016. May you be happy. May you be safe. May you be healthy. May you live in peace.
Have a wonderful year… and happy yoga-ing!