Doesn’t it feel oh-so-amazing to arrive on your yoga mat, inviting movement and mindfulness into your body? However, while our bodies are designed to move, movement in our daily routines is often the exception rather than the norm. Being mindful of our need for movement is the first step toward rectifying that, after which we can then focus on being mindful of our actual movements.
The sequence that follows is designed so that as you come into each pose, you can bring your awareness to the parts of the body where you feel sensation. From there, you can direct both your breath and your awareness to those regions and to the sensations you experience throughout the duration of the pose. This is one way to bring mindfulness to both moving and static poses. A habit of mindfulness is greatly beneficial when it comes to meeting our need for nourishing movement; mindfulness promotes optimal movement in daily life and can help us maintain independent movement throughout our lives.
This sequence takes about 15 minutes and targets the shoulders, hips, and side body. It serves equally well as a beginning for a longer practice or as a stand-alone. Because this is a short sequence, it offers an achievable way to incorporate some mindful movement into days that feel particularly hectic or overwhelming.
Perform all of the poses on the right side first, then on the left.
Deer Pose With Forward Fold
Start in an easy cross-legged seated position (sukhasana) with your left leg in front. Keep your left leg where it is for now, but internally rotate your right thigh and use your hands to guide it into a position that creates a near 90-degree angle in your knee with your toes pointing behind you. The goal is for your left shin to be parallel to the front of your mat and your weight to be equally distributed between both sit bones. This may never happen, however—so if you need to draw your left foot in closer to the pelvis, no problem!
If your body doesn’t love deer pose, remain in a cross-legged position with the left shin slightly farther away from the body than it would typically be in sukhasana (not touching the right leg). A blanket under your hips may make this option more comfortable.
Walk your hands out in front of your body, and fold directly forward, holding for five breaths. Then lengthen your spine from the sit bones to the crown of your head and come back to the starting position.
Stretch your left arm out to the side until your palm or fingertips are on the floor and your arm is straight. Reach your right arm up to the sky, with palm facing in toward you. As you breathe in, scrunch your right shoulder up by your ear, elevating your scapula.
As you breathe out, depress your scapula, softening the shoulder away from the ear, but keeping your arm lifted.
Repeat four more times. With every inhale, imagine your breath moving into the right side of your rib cage and the right side body elongating. With every exhale, imagine tension leaving the shoulder, back, and neck muscles. After your last exhale, keep your right arm reaching toward the ceiling for the next pose.
With your right arm reaching up and your left hand on the floor, as you breathe in, reach your right arm behind you diagonally toward the back right corner of the room.
As you breathe out, twist to the left, initiating the movement from your middle back, bringing your right arm parallel to and about a foot away from the left arm, fingertips or palm on the floor.
As you inhale again, reach your right arm up and back toward the right corner again, letting your heart open; then twist to the left again on your exhale, bringing your right fingertips or palm back to the floor. Do a total of five repetitions; then remain in the twist at the end of your last exhale.
From the twist to the left, walk your right fingertips forward (farther away from your body) until you feel a deep stretch along the right side of your body. Breathe in and out for five breaths, directing your breath to the right side of your body and noticing the ribs expanding with each inhale and releasing with each exhale. Remain in this position at the end of your last exhale.
From the lateral stretch, on your next inhale, reach your left arm out to the side. As you exhale, thread your left arm under your right, allowing your shoulder to come to the floor.
On your next inhale, lift your right arm up, and as you roll onto your back, arc it over your head and then rest it on the floor so that it extends out from the right side of the body (imagine that you’re drawing a rainbow with your right hand). Allow your legs to adjust as you move, perhaps moving your right leg even farther to the right and widening the space between your legs. Your knees are now bent at close to 90 degrees, and your arms form a straight line, extending out from their respective sides of the body into a T position.
Take five breaths with your heart open to the ceiling, noticing where you feel the breath go and where you feel the stretch—maybe above your right hip bone, maybe where the IT band inserts on the lateral side of the tibia (shin bone). Because this stretch can be felt at that insertion point, it is a popular stretch for runners.
After your last exhale, reach your right arm back up and over, plant your right hand under your right shoulder, and then mindfully, slowly, come up to a seated position in deer pose.
Modified Wild Thing
From deer pose, place your left hand a little less than a foot behind your left hip, fingertips pointing away from your hips. Reach your right arm straight out in front of you with the palm facing up. As you inhale, lift your right arm up and overhead toward the back of the room (with the palm now facing down) while lifting your hips off the floor. Take five breaths here; then release your hips back to the floor and bring both hands to rest in your lap.
Use your hands under your knees to guide them into a 90-degree bend with both feet flat on the floor and mat-width apart. Place your hands on the floor behind you, and as you inhale, let both knees fall gently to the right; as you exhale, lift both knees and let them fall gently to the left side. Repeat for a total of five breaths.
Then, come to deer pose with your right shin in front and repeat the sequence on the second side.
After completing this sequence on both sides, you can move on to sun salutations, a different vinyasa, or perhaps savasana.
May all of your movements be mindful.